lat ta-neet," said Sam Speck, turning the palms of his hands to the
Clog Shop fire and looking towards the window with a vain assumption
of indifference; "bud he allis is when yo' wanten him."
"'Specially upo' th' plan neet," added Lige the road-mender.
"Aw've noaticed it naa fur mony a ye'r."
"He does it o' pupuss," snapped Sam irritably; and then,
after a pause, he added, "He keeps a horse as is a disgrace to th'
village. As owd as Mathusalam an' as booany as a herrin'."
Now, Squire Taylor, the unlucky object of this abuse, was the
village greengrocer, who on Fridays became the village carrier, and
brought from Duxbury the various consignments of goods sent out to
Beckside. He was the usual medium of communication between
Beckside Methodism and its ecclesiastical chief, bringing the book
parcel once a month, and the new plans every quarter. These
plans were of course objects of great interest to the frequenters of
the Clog Shop, and so the night on which they arrived was always one
of great importance; and to sit waiting for Squire's arrival, and to
unite in denouncing his dilatory ways, became a regular part of the
On this occasion, however, the interest was greater than
usual, for it was the first plan after the reopening of the chapel,
and several times lately the "super" had dropped mysterious but
eagerly accepted hints about the new importance of Beckside, and his
intention to improve its pulpit supply.
Hitherto the position of the village amongst the other places
in the circuit had been a somewhat lowly one. It ranked
amongst the smallest, was supplied chiefly by the less distinguished
of the local preachers, and had for years been a sort of
starting-place for young aspirants to pulpit fame. In fact,
the "exhorters" so inevitably opened their commissions' at Beckside,
and received their first heckling in the Clog Shop parlour
afterwards, that the village had acquired amongst the preachers the
title of the "College," and many a luckless wight remembered it as
the scene of his first and last appearance in the pulpit.
Our Beckside friends were quite aware of their dubious
distinction, and whilst grimly satisfied to be "a terror to evil
doers," or those who couldn't do at all, they had long protested
against being practised upon by "ivvery Jack-i'-th'-box as thinks he
can preich." But now, of course, in the enlarged chapel,
things would be different, and the expected new plan would show them
in their true position.
"Plans," cried a stentorian voice outside, and the door was
burst hastily open. A small roll of papers came flying into
the shop, striking Isaac, the apprentice, on the head, and
rebounding, extinguished his candle, whilst a volley of more or less
uncomplimentary expletives was fired at the invisible and retreating
carrier by those around the Clog Shop fire.
"If Aw thowt he'd done that o' pupuss"―began the injured
Isaac, as he rose from his seat and commenced to relight his candle.
But Sam Speck had stepped across the shop, and, pushing the
apprentice on one side, he grabbed at the roll of plans, and
returned hastily to his seat.
Sam appeared to be about to open the roll himself, and, in
fact, had already commenced to do so, knowing only too well that if
it passed into Jabe's hands they would be some time before they got
any information, as the Clogger always held the parcel tight, and
would neither distribute the plans nor even read out the
appointments until he had carefully examined things for himself.
But as Sam hesitated, the Clogger reached out his hand with a
"When thaa gets my shop [appointment] tha'st dew my wark," he
said sternly, and Sam was constrained to surrender the parcel,
whilst the rest resigned themselves to wait as patiently as possible
until Jabe should have got through his characteristically deliberate
preliminaries and be ready to give them information.
A minute or two elapsed, during which Jabe was untying the
string round the plans, refilling his pipe, and searching for and
carefully cleaning his best spectacles. Then, adjusting the
glasses upon his nose with extraordinary care, he slowly opened the
crackling paper, and with a grossly overdone appearance of
indifference glanced all round the floral-border of the plan, ran
his eye leisurely down the column of the preachers' names, scanned
the notices, and even scrutinised the printer's name, just as if the
word Beckside did not appear on the sheet at all, and just as if
five intensely curious men were not waiting "on tenter-books" to
have the Beckside appointments read out to them.
At length the Clogger's eye wandered to that place low down
on the plan where he knew by long experience he would find the most
important of all place-names. And as he struck Beckside and
began to run his eye along the plan, he suddenly started to his
feet, crying, in tones of intensest amazement―
"Well, Aw'll be bothert!"
"Whey? Whey? Wot's up, Jabe?" cried one or two,
whilst Sam Speck tried to dodge round behind the Clogger, and look
over his shoulder. But the wiser ones sat still and said
"Wot's up?" shouted Jabe, swinging round out of Sam's reach,
and holding the plans high up. "Didn't Aw tell yo' as Beckside
wur summat naa? We'en getten a sthudent planned fuss Sunday."
Every man in the company seemed suddenly to become taller,
their faces assumed expressions of grave dignity, and every man
became clamorous for his own copy of the plan. Then Jabe
fetched Isaac's candle, and, curtly bidding that worthy to "Ger off
whoam," he brought it and fixed it in an old mill bobbin, to afford
extra light for the important business in hand. Returning to
their seats, and using, those in the chimney-nook the fire, and the
rest the lamp and candle, they were soon eagerly and silently
scrutinising the all-absorbing sheet.
"Ther's noabry else hez a sthudent bur uz and Duxbury," said
Long Ben, with his shaggy black beard nearly singeing in the fire.
"Neaw, that's it," replied Jabe; "they'n ne'er been planned
noawheer bud Duxbury afoor."
The rest lifted their heads and looked steadily at each other
to assist themselves in comprehending the full significance of this
great fact, and then Lige added emphatically―
"Wee'st ha' noa mooar hupstart exhausters here, yo'll see."
Then the other appointments were examined, and a somewhat
lengthy discussion arose as to whether Billy Fatcake, who had been
certainly quite welcome in former days, and Hallelujah Tommy, who
had the fatal misfortune to be a Clough Ender, were quite up to the
newly-acquired importance of Beckside. But the debate lost
much of its heat and asperity from the fact that the first
appointment had given a satisfaction which no ordinary matter could
Next day was Saturday, and by Sunday the Clog Shop magnates
had schooled themselves into a becoming modesty on the subject of
the new plan. The preacher for the day was a brother from an
adjoining circuit, a great crony of Jabe's, and consequently a
person of interest and influence to all the rest of the village.
"Dun yo' iver hev' ony sthudents at yore chapil?" asked Jabe,
as the pipes were being lighted after supper.
"Neaw; an' we dooan't want," was the answer, in sharp, raspy
tones, as if the question had touched a sore place.
All the Becksiders exchanged glances of surprise and concern.
"Whey not?" asked Jabe, in a slightly resentful tone.
"Whey not? When we goon ta th' chapil i' Sharpley we
goon fur t' yer th' gospil, and no' Greek and grammar and
There was a long pause, during which every man present stared
at the speaker with wide-opened eyes, and Sam and Lige turned and
nodded at each other in a manner expressive of unutterable things.
But the preacher broke in again―
"Them colleges 'ull be th' ruin o' Methodism, yo'll see.
They goon theer dacent, modest lads, an' afoor they'n bin theer mony
wik they're aw cooat and collar and white neck-clout. Thank
goodness! noabry ne'er shoved a grammar daan my throttle."
Now, it would have been impossible for the speaker to have
found better soil into which to drop his seeds of prejudice than
that provided in the minds of those to whom he was talking.
For if there was one thing upon which they were more completely
agreed than another, it was that pride was the blackest of all sins,
and especially so when it appeared in the pulpit, and they shared to
the full the common suspicion of their class against all
unsanctified learning. The speaker's words, therefore, came
like a heavy wet blanket upon the hopes and self-gratulations they
had indulged concerning the coming student, and when the preacher
departed he left behind him six depressed and sulky men.
When he had gone, and a gloomy quiet had settled on the
company, Long Ben broke silence for the first time that night by
staring hard at the oatcake-rack over his head and reciting as if he
had been saying a lesson―
"'Wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous, but who shall stand
Nobody seemed to understand what Ben's quotation had reference to,
but, as he was much given to such mysterious allusiveness, nobody
was greatly disturbed. Jabe, indeed, looked for a moment as though
he were going to ask a question, but repenting suddenly, he also
lapsed into despondent silence.
Several times that evening, and in the early days of the week
following, Ben tried to raise discussion on the subject of the
coming representative of the "Hinstitewshon," but without success.
Towards the end of the week certain mysterious hints began to be
dropped as to what would happen if the student turned out to be of
the character hinted at by last Sunday's preacher, and when it was
found that in consequence of an interesting domestic event at the
Fold Farm, and the absence of the doctor in London, the student
would have to be entertained somehow at the Clog Shop, every man who
was present when the arrangement was concluded looked at Jabe with
such expressive commiseration in his eyes that the old Clogger began
to feel something of the hallowed delights of minor martyrdom.
All day on Saturday Aunt Judy was busy "fettlin' up" at the
Cloggery in preparation for the advent of the stranger. Jabe
was manifestly depressed. He was also strangely uneasy.
He kept coming out of the shop into the parlour where Judy was busy,
without any visible reason for so doing; and at last, when his
sister began to tell him where he would find various eatables she
had provided for the week-end, he turned round as he was leaving the
parlour and snapped out with quite unaccountable temper―
"Dust think Aw'm gooin' to molly-coddle fur yond' chap fur
tew days? Aw'll ler him clem fust! Tha mun come an' feed
him thisel', if tha wants him feedin'."
Now Judy quite understood what was the matter with her
irascible brother, had been, in fact, expecting some such demand,
and had come prepared to stay. She knew that Jabe was secretly
in great fear of being left alone with the student. So she
hung her shawl behind the parlour door, and settled down as the
temporary mistress of the Clog Shop.
Meanwhile Jabe, though evidently relieved, was still very
uneasy. The statement of his friend from Sharpley as to
students in general had grievously disappointed him, but it was so
entirely in harmony with his own suspicions as to the ungodly
character of learning and its disastrous effects on religious life,
and so fully confirmed his opinions as to the "forradness" and "pompiousness"
of the rising generation, that he greatly feared it would turn out
to be only too true. If it did turn out so, he was morally
certain he would not be able to restrain himself all the time from
Saturday to Monday, but would be sure to explode upon the student.
And if he kept down his own chagrin, he would not be able to
restrain his friends, for they were already charged to the full with
anticipatory resentment, and were so well primed as to require very
little indeed to set them off.
But then the student was to be his guest, and a Lancashire
villager's ideas of hospitality are as high as those of the Arabs,
and it would be a most shocking thing to be entertaining a man and
"basting" him at the same time. The dilemma worried him, and
the whole thing created in his mind an impression distinctly
unfavourable to the coming visitor.
A little later, Sam Speck arrived, and was ordered, in tones
he knew better than to resist, to meet the coach and bring the
As the time of arrival drew near, Jabe seated himself in an
arm-chair, and in his shirt-sleeves and his best clothes waited the
great arrival, pulling nervously the while at a clean churchwarden.
"Aw reacon it 'ull be a mee-mawin' donned-up, grammarified
young sprig o' some sooart!" he said to Judy in tones of
depreciation, but before she could express her evidently different
opinion the front door opened and Sam Speck stepped over the sanded
floor, ushering in the student.
Jabe's fears were abundantly confirmed.
A tall, smart, well-dressed young cleric, with kid gloves, a
silk hat, irreproachable linen, and—saddest sign of ministerial
worldliness—a hair watch-chain with gold mountings, and a gold
locket that dangled itself aggressively before jabe's very eyes.
Jewellery in the pulpit was the most unendurable of all
things in Beckside, as more than one preacher had found to his cost,
and Jabe was telling himself that it was no use resisting the
inevitable, and that, guest or no guest, he would have to deliver
his soul, when the stranger stepped up to him with easy confidence
and shook him heartily by the hand, which still further confirmed
Jabe's conviction that he would have to do some painful taking down.
Then the student greeted Aunt Judy as Mrs. Longworth, and
thereby discovered Jabe's peculiar opinion of women, on which he
took Mrs. Judy's part, and became quite animated in his defence of
the gentler sex. Jabe had the utmost difficulty in preventing
himself from reminding this assured young man of his age, and by way
of avoiding it, pointed to the table, and invited his guest to
"Reich tew an' get yore baggin'."
Whilst the student ate, talking chiefly to Aunt Judy, and
getting thereby on most excellent terms with her, Jabe was quietly
taking stock of him—examining him slowly from head to foot a dozen
times, and coming back after each scrutiny to that ungodly gold
locket. Sam Speck, too, seemed in a meditative frame of mind,
and sat looking into the fire with a company smirk on his small
Then Long Ben came in, followed by Jethro and Lige, each man
nodding with a stiff "How do?" to the stranger, and then sidling off
into a chair, which was gradually turned round to an angle from
which the visitor could be furtively examined.
Somehow it was difficult to get a conversation started; and
though the student, having finished tea and declined an invitation
to "smook," drew briskly up to the fire and plunged at once into the
most popular Methodist topics of the hour, he was unable to get on,
his companions sitting there in impenetrable silence, and
answering—when they answered at all—in freezing monosyllables.
At length, after a depressing pause, Long Ben asked a
question which set the student off describing the "institution" and
its ways. He waxed eloquent on the learning and ability of the
tutors, told stories of the college prayer-meeting, and gave several
instances of success achieved by his fellow-students on their
Every man in the company was listening intently, expecting
every next word to contain some allusion to the student's own
oratorical triumphs. But though they waited with studiously
stolid faces, the expected reference never came, and they were not
able to detect the note of conceit they were all confidently
"An' dun yo' ne'er ha' noa convarsions?" asked Long
Ben at last.
"Y-e-s," said the student, suddenly very sober; "but not so
many as I should like." And he flushed slightly and coughed
apologetically, whilst every man in the company seemed lost in
far-off contemplation. But the student had scored his first
"Tell uz abaat some of yore good toimes," said Aunt Judy,
coming forth from the scullery, where it was not supposed she had
"Well, I haven't had many conversions, I'm sorry to say," was
the answer, with a shadow on the speaker's face, and a little sigh,
"but I had one little bit of encouragement about two months ago.
I was out from college, and had to walk in the afternoon to a place
across some fields. As I went along with a friend we overtook
a poor woman who looked very wretched. I got into conversation
with her about good things, and when we parted I invited her to come
to the evening service. She did so, to my surprise, and,
ah—well, she was converted that night, and then she told me she had
been a bad woman, and was on her way to drown herself when I spoke
The tale was rather lamely told, but to those listening to
it, its halting style greatly enhanced its value.
"Han yo' yerd owt o' th' woman sin'?" asked Ben, with shining
"Yes," said the student hesitatingly; "she sent me a chain
made out of her own hair, and with a locket on it containing a
little copy of my text on that evening."
"An' is that it yo' han on?" asked Jabe.
"Yes," said the student; and the Clogger began to vow
vengeance on his friend from Sharpley.
When they left that night every man in the company shook
hands with the stranger, and the good man did not know how great a
compliment they were paying him by so doing. His appearance
certainly had prejudiced them to begin with, but his frank, hearty,
unassuming manner had severely shaken those prejudices.
Jabe had already thawed considerably, and before they retired
he had waxed quite confidential, as the young preacher listened with
evident appreciation to all the details of the rebuilding of their
Next morning, however, the Clogger's hopes were somewhat
dashed when he found his guest carefully conning a manuscript as he
waited for breakfast. A more disturbing sign could not well
have appeared, for Beckside could not away with "parrotty papper" in
the pulpit. The consequence was, therefore, that Jabe drew
into his shell again, and the student was chilled.
And the morning's sermon, though it was far from the least
suspicion of paraded learning, deepened the Clogger's discontent.
It was far too pat and glib for so young a man. Hesitancy and
confusion would have been more becoming, and Lige expressed the
opinions of most of the recognised sermon testers when he shook the
preacher by the hand at the bottom of the pulpit stairs, and said,
loud enough for all to hear―
"If tha'll put a bit mooar ginger into that sarmon, it 'ull
be a fizzer."
But, then, as he saw Long Ben nodding emphatic endorsement
from the side pew, and Nathan and Sam grinning approvingly from
behind the choir curtains, Lige lost his head and added the reckless
and dangerously compromising statement―
"Tha'll be fit fur t' preich aar Sarmons some day if tha goes
That was the worst of Lige, he never knew when to stop.
What was the use of putting such an utterly unlikely idea into the
young man's head. Only very great men indeed preached the
Sermons, and even they felt it to be a great honour. Besides,
wasn't pride the one deadly danger of the class to which the student
belonged, and wasn't it the sacred duty of all experienced
Christians to do their very utmost to keep it out of the hearts of
those so tempted?
So Lige was in disgrace all day, and Jabe felt it to be his
bounden duty to remove any vain hope which might have sprung up in
the young man's heart by telling him of all the illustrious stars
who had officiated at those memorable annual celebrations.
The evening sermon tasted better. It was freer, warmer,
simpler,—a plain gospel appeal in fact; and when the preacher in the
after-meeting told, in husky tones, the story of his own conversion,
the character of students had been redeemed in Beckside, and the
anxious responsibles who gathered in Jabe's parlour felt as nearly
contented as it was possible to do under the circumstances.
Just as they were drawing up to the table for supper, a timid
knock was heard at the front door, and Judy hastened to open it.
After a minute or two's earnest whispering, she came hurrying back,
crying, "Howd on a minute," and turning to the student, she
"Ther's a wench here wants her babby kessening. Yo'd
better dew it afoor yo' begin."
"Oh, but I can't! I daren't!" cried the student in
alarm. "I'm not ordained, you know; I really cannot."
"Of course he conna," said Jabe oracularly, and rising from
his seat, he limped to the door to inspect the applicant. Aunt
Judy tried to intercept him, but he dodged her, and was soon heard
speaking in stern, hard words to the invisible mother.
"Whether yo' con kessen gradely childer or not, yo' conna
kessen yond'," he said to the student as he resumed his seat a
moment later at the table, flashing at the same time a look of
peculiar significance at Long Ben, who hung his head.
The student blushed as the meaning of the Clogger's words
dawned upon him, and a very awkward pause ensued.
Anxious to find a topic on which conversation could be safely
started again, the young preacher glanced up towards the joists, and
noticing an odd-shaped green baize bag hanging there, he asked―
"That isn't a bass viol, is it?"
"If yo' guessen ageean yo'll guess wrung," answered Jabe,
following the direction of the student's eyes.
"Then I suppose you play it, do you, Mr. Longworth? "
Every mouth stopped eating, and every eye was turned upon
Jabe as he answered with an elaborate affectation of indifference―
"Ther's noabry else played on't for this last thurty ye'r, at
The student expressed his delight, acknowledged he could
fiddle a bit himself, and Jethro, Nathan, and Sam Speck hastily
finished their supper, and went off to fetch their instruments, so
that in a few moments the preacher had his choice of three.
The student certainly could fiddle, and he knew all the good
tunes,—i.e. the old tunes, "tunes as wur tunes," as Jethro, the
greatest of the Beckside musical authorities, declared. Then
he played one or two new tunes, which were received with
carefully-guarded approval. And then Jethro and Sam Speck gave
their visitor a sample of Beckside "Sarmons" music, and then another
and another, until the evening seemed gone in no time, and it became
unmistakably evident, by the way she poked at the fire, and
ostentatiously brought clog-chips from the workshop and piled them
on the parlour hob, that Aunt Judy thought it was time for them to
But again that timid knock came at the front door, and Judy,
with a startled exclamation, hurried, as fast as her bulky form
would allow her, to open it. Then an excited but whispered
conversation was heard going on outside, and presently Judy came
back with desperate resolution written on her face. She
hastened across the parlour into the scullery, and in a moment came
out with a white china basin filled with water, which she placed on
a table before the student.
"Mestur" she cried in agitated tones, "that poor wench at th'
dur has a babby as hoo shouldn't have. Bud hoo were browt up i'
aar schoo', and her muther lies i' th' chapil yard. Hoo knows
hoo's dun wrung, bud hoo doesn't want fur t' dew wrung to her babby.
An' hoo's bin to th' Brogden vicar, and he winna kessen it; and
hoo's tramped aw th' way to th' Hawpenny Gate, an' he winna; bud,
Mestur, Aw think Him as yo' bin preichin' abaat ta-neet 'ud dew it
if He wur here, an' wot He could dew yo' con dew, and chonce it."
There was a sob and a rustle at the door, and a pale,
shamefaced factory girl stepped forward, unwrapping as she did so a
bundle containing a five-weeks-old baby, and sobbing audibly the
"Look at it, Mestur," she cried, holding out her little one.
"It's as bonny as ony o' them 'at Jesus tewk in His arms," and then,
pressing closer and almost forcing the baby upon him, she pleaded―
"Tak' it, Mestur, tak' it. Aw know Aw'm aat o'
th' kingdom o' God, but Aw dunnot want mi babby to be."
In a moment the student, with face all awork, had snatched
the wee thing from its pleading mother, and was offering a simple
prayer for it as he held it in his arms. Then he sprinkled it
in the "Blessed Names," and, still holding it, prayed again,—prayed
for babe and mother too,—and then, as he handed the infant back, his
eyes wet with tears, he stooped down and tenderly kissed it.
"God bless yo' fur that" cried the agitated mother; "an'
ha'iver lung yo' live, an' wheriver yo' goa, yo' con remember as
there's wun poor woman as 'ull allis be prayin' for yo', if hoo is
nowt but a nowty factory wench an' a woman as is a sinner."
And then she hugged her little one to her breast, and again
blessing the student, departed; and Jabe, with face struggling
between embarrassment and joy, and tears that wouldn't keep back,
seized the student by the hand, and, wringing it until he winced
again, he cried―
"If we liven till next Wis-sunday, yo'st preich th' Sarmons!"
The Black Sheep.
SCHOOL was being held in
the new schoolroom one hot Sunday afternoon some months after the
reopening of the chapel.
The superintendent was temporarily absent, and Lige, who was
taking his place, though he frowned dreadfully in rather grotesque
imitation of his great model, had none of the terrors for juvenile
minds with which Jabe inspired them, and so the order of the school
was scarcely what it ought to have been.
The boys in the Testament classes were pitching their voices
high, and fiercely competing as to who should read loudest, the work
being done with a peculiar intonation supposed to be the correct
thing by all Beckside juveniles.
In the mixed and rather crowded infant class, whilst a few
were giving the teacher languid attention and some were fast asleep,
two were standing behind the teacher and helping each other to drink
out of a small bottle containing that best wine of Beckside
childhood—Spanish juice water. Three more were trying to get
sound out of a wicken whistle they had made by a peculiar method of
treating the bark of a certain soft wood, and started guiltily when
the desired sound unexpectedly came.
The top classes of youths and maidens, though removed from
each other by the width of the school, were contriving to hold such
communications as only the mystic telegraphy of youth admits, and
the little girls were making pocket-handkerchief rabbits, retrimming
each other's hats, and glancing longingly every now and again
towards the desk, impatient for the moment of release.
Presently a little door leading out of the chapel vestry
opened, and in walked Jabe, Ben, and Nathan the smith. None of
these gentlemen could ever be charged with lack of seriousness in
facial expression, but now, as they appeared, their countenances
were positively alarming in owlish portentousness. Jabe limped
to the desk, with slow, impressive manner; and after heaving a deep
sigh and glancing nervously towards the young men's class, he rang
the bell and cried―
"Silence, childer! Put th' beuks away;" and the sad
sternness of his tone caused several of the teachers and most of the
elder scholars to glance up inquiringly at him.
When the box-seats had all been filled with books, and two
small boys had been "seaused" on the ears for banging the lids, Jabe
rang the bell again. He really seemed very uncomfortable, and
mopped his face and nearly bald head with a great red cotton
handkerchief, whilst Ben and Nathan, seated behind him, held down
their heads with a fidgety, apprehensive look.
"Aw ne'er thowt Aw should iver see this day," began the
Clogger, shaking his head and looking round on the upturned faces;
and Ben and Nathan groaned sympathetically.
"Aw've bin th' shuper o' this schoo' for welly thirty ye'r,
bud Aw ne'er thowt we should come to this."
By this time every eye in the school was upon him; even the
infants, who understood little of what was being said, realised that
there was a new and significant tone in Jabe's voice, and stopped
their pranks to listen.
After another pause and another laborious employment of his
handkerchief,—for heat and excitement were both telling upon him,—he
seemed to get the better of his feelings, and changing his voice to
sudden sternness, he demanded—
"Whoa wur it as blacked his face an' went a pace-eggin' [mumming]
last Yester [Easter], and welly feart owd Nanny aat of her wits?"
Some dozen small boys immediately answered, "Luke Yates"; and
there were signs of unwonted excitement in the young men's class.
"An' whoa wur it as went riding th' Stang up Slakey Broo just
afoor last Wis-Sunday?"
Again came the answer from at least twice as many juveniles
Then Jabe, raising his voice, and almost shouting in angry
"An' whoa wur it as ran a race fur brass yesterday amung
bettors an' gamblers an' pidgin-flyers?"
Grand unanimous chorus of small boys "Luke Yates."
And then Jabe raised his eyes from the scholars and looked
round at the windows and walls, and apostrophising them, cried, with
a break in his voice—
"An' his fayther wur a local preicher!"
A young fellow in the first class, with short red hair, brown
laughing eyes, and a mischievous mouth, suddenly dropped his head,
and all his classmates glanced at him with painful interest.
After another pause of most uncomfortable stillness, Jabe
"We'en done aw as we con fur him. We'en talked to him,
an' we'en prayed wi' him. Bud we conna goa on no longer o'
thisunce. Aw ne'er thowt Aw should live to see a scholar o'
this schoo' turnt aat. Bud Aw have. An' Aw feel that ill
abaat it Aw could start o' skriking."
Jabe's quivering chin fell on his breast for a moment, and
then raising his head and looking at the red-haired youth, he said
in a husky, tremulous voice—
"Tak' thi cap, an' away wi' thi."
Luke sat perfectly still, and his generally merry, impudent
face became suddenly white and drawn.
"Dust yer me? Away wi' thi," shouted Jabe more sternly,
stretching out his hand and pointing towards the door.
Long Ben, from behind, gasped, "Lord, help him," and Nathan
was rubbing one side of his head, as he generally did under unusual
Jabe's own face was a struggle between stern resolution and
something very close to tears, whilst the youth addressed, after
hesitating a moment, slowly rose to his feet, and, with a sickly
attempt at a laugh, reached his cap from the peg over his head and
strode towards the door.
As he was turning round the corner of the last form, however,
an irresistible fit of his old mischievousness seemed to seize him
suddenly, and turning defiantly round, and facing the whole school,
he made a grotesquely elaborate bow and cried, "Gooid-day, and gooid
shuttance," and then shooting a quick, stealthy glance at the
teacher of the lowest girls' class, who was, perhaps, the only
person in the school who was not watching his departure, and whose
fine little head was bowed, whilst two round spots of flaming
feeling glowed on cheeks of marble, he hastily opened the door and
Now, nobody noticed Luke's quick glance, neither did anybody
notice the white flame-spotted cheeks of the young person towards
whom he threw it. And if they had noticed it, nobody, in
Beckside at any rate, would have been surprised; for Leah Barber,
Ben's eldest daughter, was the one person in the school who would be
certain to endorse the superintendent's action.
Leah was a quiet, staid little Puritan, almost prudish in her
manner, but with an intense attachment to the chapel, and a
whole-hearted interest in its affairs. She had little in
common with the girls of her age, and her name was generally omitted
from the flirtation gossip so popular with her sex.
When Billy Botch began to "shape" for the ministry, one or
two had suggested the suitability of a match between Leah and the
young preacher; but Billy went away without giving any sign, and
everybody knew without being told that, whatever she felt, nobody
was ever likely to get anything out of Leah. The Beckside
youths stood in awe of her; the one or two rash spirits who had
ventured to approach her with amatory intentions suddenly repented
of their attempts; and Jack Westhead, the latest of her wouldbe
lovers, declared, after the second experiment, "Hoo isna a flesh an'
blooid wench at aw, hoo's a lump o' icet."
Besides, she was so mature and serious in all her deportment,
and seemed so entirely given up to chapel and school affairs, that
she appeared to have neither time nor inclination for the ordinary
interests of maidenhood.
The peculiar expression on her face, therefore, as the
disgraced Luke disappeared through the school door, was just such as
everyone would expect; and those who retained any lingering sympathy
for the banished scholar, knew perfectly well that it was useless to
go to her for support.
It was a pity she was so cold, and that her standard of
conduct was so exacting, for outwardly she was very attractive.
The smooth roundness of youth softened a face that would otherwise
have been almost severe. She had features of faultless
regularity, was a trifle above medium height, and had limbs that
were nearly perfect in their modelling. Every movement was
graceful, and would have been more so but for that restrainedness
which ruled the spirit that governed them. Her skin was marble
white, and her full, dark eyes, screened by long eyelashes, would
have been dangerous gifts indeed to a girl of a different spirit.
She dressed with almost Quaker-like plainness, but had her full
share of that air of superiority which such plainness sometimes
gives to those who practise it. Nobody could have passed her
as she walked home from school that hot afternoon without noticing
her, but he who looked twice would also think twice before
needlessly accosting her.
In Long Ben's parlour, where tea was always laid on Sundays
in honour of the day, nothing was talked about but the event which
had taken place at school. Ben himself, divided between a
judgment which endorsed Jabe's action and a tender heart which
regretted it, said little. Mrs. Ben held forth very earnestly
on the subject, holding up the abandoned Luke as a terrible warning
to Ben, junior, and his twin-brother Andrew; whilst the two younger
girls raked their memories for bygone transgressions of the wretched
Luke, which they retailed with unconscious but impressive
But Leah said not a word, although, as she never said much,
nobody noticed the omission.
Ben's workshop stood end on to Sally's Entry, a short cut to
the mill, and faced the road. Next to the shop came the
woodyard, which was separated from the house and garden by a flag
fence, backed up by a row of shrubs. The house stood back from
the workshop, having a small garden in front and a larger one
The front garden was given up to flowers, and as Leah was
chief gardener, and had a weakness for old-fashioned flowers, the
whole patch was on this particular Sunday one mass of bloom.
Just after sunset, and whilst long red rays were contending
for mastery with the encroaching twilight, Leah sauntered aimlessly
out of the front door, and began to pick here and there a faded
leaf, and now an over-spent bloom, from her beloved flowers.
Presently she got down to within a yard or so of the gate, and stood
in the soft twilight with her back to the woodyard, looking
pensively down on a bed of snapdragon. She was just stooping
down to examine them more closely, when there came from somewhere
behind her a loud, but slightly hesitant, whisper―
But she did not move, and, but for the sudden setting of her
face, it might have been concluded that she had not heard. She
stooped a little lower, until her face nearly touched the taller of
the flowers, and seemed to be absorbed in studying them.
"Leah! "—clearer this time, and yet it had a penitent,
coaxing sound in it.
Still she kept her face over the flowers, and only a slight
quiver in her lissom fingers showed that she knew she was being
"L-e-a-h!"—this time drawn out with most plaintive anxiety.
Leah paused a moment, raised herself, glanced cautiously at
the house windows, hesitated for a while, and then stooped down
again over the flowers as though she had heard nothing. Again
came the thick loud whisper
"Leah! come i' the' yard! If thaa doesn't, Aw'll come
The stooping maiden's face flushed a little. Then she
raised herself, turned round, and, moving slightly nearer to a
sweetbriar bush against the flag fence, said, in cold, severe tones,
looking across the woodyard, and speaking apparently into vacancy―
"Tha's dun me a gooid turn fur wunce, Luke."
A red head and a pair of roguish brown eyes shot up from
behind the flags, and Luke Yates asked dubiously—
"Aw've bin forgettin' mysel', an' desavin' my payrunts, an'
hurtin' my sowl, an' tha's cur't me."
"Well, bud come i' the' yard a minute. Aw want t' tell
"Thaa towd me aw as Aw want ta know when thaa went aat o' th'
"Well, it's thy fawt."
Leah frowned, but avoiding the eyes gleaming so eagerly at
her from behind the briar bush branches, she asked, with both
surprise and resentment in her tone―
"My fawt? Wot dust meean?"
"Aw meean Aw could be a saint if tha'd ha' me, bud Aw'st goa
ta Owd Harry if thaa winna."
"If thaa winna be a Christian ta get me, tha winna be wun
when thaa hes getten me."
"Thaa wants me ta be a hypocryte then?"
But Leah had already repented of going so far. She had
meant to be both cold and brief with Luke, and he was already
getting the better of her, as he always did in argument. She
felt also that he had caught her, and placed her at a disadvantage,
and so, drawing herself up and making an effort, which even her
self-restraint could not conceal, she said―
"Luke, tha's disgraced thisel'; tha's disgraced th' schoo',
but tha shall never disgrace me."
And then, after a moment's pause—"Aw wuish thi weel"—and here
her voice became just the least bit unsteady—"an' Aw've tried ta
think weel on thi, bud they mun be noa mooar on it. Gooid-neet,
an'—an' God save thi soul."
And as tears were rushing into her eyes she turned hurriedly
away, and in a moment more was indoors.
Half an hour later Leah stood in the darkness, looking out
through the bedroom window with a far-off wistful look.
Presently she lighted a candle, took a little key from her pocket,
and opening a small rosewood box which she reached down from the
drawer top, took out a little paper parcel containing a small box
made of sea-shells, such as can now be bought at any watering-place
for a few coppers, but then somewhat of a rarity in a place like
It was only a cheap little toy which a rough lad had bought
some four years before on his first and only trip to the "sayside,"
and which he had kept until it was sadly tarnished before he
mustered courage to give it to her. She was in short frocks
then, and very shy, but she had kept it all this time as her one
earthly treasure, and had lately had many "fightings within" about
the possible sinfulness of keeping it, especially as story after
story of Luke's pranks came to her.
But now she stood looking at it with unwonted softness in her
beautiful eyes. Suddenly she made a sort of grab at it as if
intending to destroy it, but she only took it in her hands and
turned it over and over. Then with a quick start she threw it
on the bed, and stood back as if it had suddenly become a venomous
reptile seeking to wound her.
After standing there and looking at it, half in fear and half
in covetous desire, she took it up again, kissed it hastily, as if
afraid of being caught in the act, hurriedly dropped it into their
rosewood case, and then turned abruptly to the window and stood
looking long and silently out, heaving many long soft sighs as she
Then she backed away from the window, and sat down on the
bed; and presently sliding softly to her knees, and burying her
beautiful face in her hands, she cried―
"O Lord, Aw darr na loike him, but it conna be wrung to pray
fur him. If Tha'll save his soul Thaa can give him to onybody
Thaa loikes. O Lord, save him."
Meanwhile the event of the day was being discussed in all its
bearings at the Clog Shop, or, rather, in the Clog Shop garden, for
the heat was so stifling that the chairs had been taken to the back
door, where, in the long Sabbath evening, Luke and his
transgressions were comprehensively considered.
Sam Speck, in his shirt-sleeves, emphatically approved of
Jabe's action in the matter. Nathan and Jonas talked more
mildly, but, nevertheless, heartily supported him. Long Ben
said little. He never could be relied upon where firmness was
required; but as he was not quite so mysterious and circuitous in
his conversation as he generally became when in reluctant dissent,
it was concluded that he agreed as much as he could be expected to
Jabe, so far from being elated by the commendations he
received, accepted them somewhat restively, and it was clear that he
was far from being at ease with himself. He was constantly bringing
the conversation back to the subject of Luke, and though nobody
questioned what he had done, his every word had a defensive and
almost apologetic tone about it.
All this time Lige the road-mender had been sitting with his
back against the rain-tub, puffing out volumes of smoke at express
rate, whilst he was evidently giving more than usual attention to
The fact that he had never spoken was not noticed, especially
as his opinions, loudly and frequently repeated though they were,
were not generally regarded as of much importance, being almost
always feeble reflections of Sam Speck's or Jabe's.
Great, therefore, was the amazement of all when, just at the
close of one of Jabe's most successful efforts at
self-justification, Lige suddenly rose to his feet. Standing
before the Clogger, and stretching forth his hand in emphatic
gesticulation, whilst his face looked fierce and excited, he cried,
glaring almost savagely at Jabe―
"It's th' biggest blunder tha's iver made."
The whole thing was so sudden, and the source from whence it
came was so unusual, that all eyes were suddenly turned on Lige in
astonishment, and Jabe's jaw dropped with significant bewilderment.
"Naa, Aw meean it," shouted the excited Lige. "If some
o' yo' owd bachelors hed a lad or tew o' yur own, yo' wouldna be sa
keen at bullocking other foakses."
Then everybody suddenly remembered that Lige's only child was
a long-absent prodigal, wandering nobody knew where, and there was a
rapid softening of scowling faces and a nervous clearing of throats.
But Jabe, with much more inward agitation than he cared to
show, and most unusually sensitive to criticism, replied―
"Whey, he wur feightin' nobbut last neet; feightin' wi' Bob
Tommy as is big eneugh ta eight [eat] him."
This seemed to incense Lige more than ever, and, almost
flying at Jabe, he cried―
"An' dost know wot he wur feightin' abaat?"
"He wur feightin' th' biggest bully i' Brogden Clough 'cause
he caw'd thee a limping Methody."
There was a hasty dropping of heads, partly in startled
self-consciousness, and partly in sympathy with the badly hit
Lige glared round upon the company, as if challenging the
next to come on, and as nobody responded, he cried―
"Which o' yo' wur browt up wi' a druffen [drunken] step-fayther?
Which o' yo' hed ta feight his fayther ta save his muther fro'
brokken boanes afore he wur fifteen ye'r owd? Aw'd ha' sum
sense if Aw wur yo'!"
And then, exhausted by his very unusual effort, and alarmed
all at once at his own temerity, Lige sank back against the
rain-tub, with a look in which defiance and apology were curiously
It was some time before the conversation flowed freely again.
Lige's outburst not only let loose feelings which had been
resolutely held back in Jabe's mind ever since Luke's expulsion, but
it greatly disturbed the rest, and Jabe noticed with a pang that
Long Ben seemed to want to get away, and, in fact, did depart as
soon as he could. When he had gone the Clogger became morose
and raspy, and though Lige made several overtures for
reconciliation, Jabe maintained an air of injured dignity towards
him. This sent poor Lige home also; and very soon the party
melted away, and Jabe was left alone to torment himself with
On his way home Long Ben was full of commiseration for the
disgraced Luke, and began to accuse himself of helping to drive him
to the bad.
There was no half-way house in the Beckside system of ethics,
and the boys of the school who showed no inclination to profit by
their religious privileges were all described as being on their way
"ta th' gallus"; and so by the time Ben reached home he could
already see the unhappy Luke sitting in a condemned cell, and
accusing him of driving him to his doom. It was a relief,
therefore, to get indoors, for his wife, though given to gentle
raillery, was clearheaded and safe in her judgments, and would be
almost certain to give him her opinion before she retired to rest.
But he found Mrs. Ben in a brown study, from which she awoke
and glanced at him with a discontented and troubled look as he spoke
Without replying to an unimportant remark, she arose, and
going into the cellar, drew him a pot of foaming dandelion beer.
After taking a long swig at it, Ben held the half-empty pot at
arm's-length, and making circles with it in the air to rouse its
life, he remarked―
"Aw wunder wot yond' wastril thinks of hissel' ta-neet?"
There was no answer, but Mrs. Ben's round face, although
almost invisible in the shade, was puckered into ominous frowns.
Ben waited a while, but as his wife did not respond, he
"Aw'm feart he'll come ta sum lumber afoor lung."
"It'll be woss fur thee if he does," jerked out Mrs. Ben
Ben caught his breath. He had expected that his wife
would relieve the pressure of the anxiety he was beginning to feel,
and lo! here she was adding heavily to it.
But surely she was only trying to frighten him; and so, with
an awkward attempt at indignation, to conceal his uneasiness, he
"Wot'll it be woss fur me fur? Wot have Aw ta dew wi'
Mrs. Ben bent forward and looked dreely at the long-cased
clock against the opposite wall, and said very quietly―
"'Cause aar Leah loikes him."
The Course of True Love.
NOW the word "loike"
has undergone a curious reversal or intensification of meaning in
its use amongst Lancashire villagers, especially compared with the
stronger word "love."
The natural reticence of the North-countryman leads him to
avoid the use of "love" whenever possible; and in Lancashire, "loike,"
the weaker word, has come to be most commonly used about amatory
matters, and expresses the strongest possible affection.
When, therefore, Mrs. Barber employed this term about her
daughter's sentiments towards Luke Yates, there was no room for
doubt as to what she meant by it. And if there had been, Mrs.
Ben's manner as she made the statement with which the last chapter
closed removed any such possibility.
Poor Ben was simply overwhelmed. Amazement, alarm, and
profound perplexity took possession of him, and he sat upright in
his chair and stared blankly before him in the uttermost
It was the last thing in the world he would have expected—so
wildly improbable, in fact, that if even his wife had stated it to
him under any other circumstances he would have laughed at its utter
He reflected also, when he recovered a little from his first
amazement, on what he knew of the quiet intensity underlying the
surface stillness of his eldest daughter's nature, and did not need
to be told that, if such an affection had really taken possession of
her, neither her own judgment nor any other influences in the world
whatsoever would upset it.
But a union between Leah and Luke was an utter impossibility.
They had not a single thing in common,—were, in fact, at extreme
opposites in almost all their tastes and sympathies; and how Leah
had ever brought herself to give a second thought to such a wild
scapegrace he could not imagine.
Besides, what would people think? The utter incongruity
of the thing would only make it the more exciting and interesting as
a subject of gossip; and Ben already heard the rasping voice of Jabe
uttering choice pieces of crabbed, sententious philosophy on his
favourite subject—the ways and wiles of women.
These and many other like thoughts rushed through the
slow-moving mind of the carpenter with most unwonted rapidity, and
the more he thought the more entangled and terrible did the dilemma
appear; and at length he turned his eyes back upon his wife and
gazed at her with helpless stupidity.
But Mrs. Ben was almost as dumbfounded as her husband, and
returned his stare with her round face longer than Ben had ever seen
it, and a look of appealing helplessness in her eyes that went to
his very heart.
At length, to break a silence which was fast becoming
unbearable, he stammered out "Tha'rt dreamin', woman."
"Aw wish to God Aw wur," was the reply, in a wailing tone
that drove the iron deeper into Ben's soul.
"Haa hast fun it aat?"
"Aw wur gooin' past her chamber dur an' Aw yerd her prayin'.
An', oh! if thaa 'ad yerd her, Ben"—and the distressed mother broke
into sobs that nearly drove Ben wild.
The parents sat up long that night, talking in fitful
snatches of their trouble, and at length Ben took off his Sunday
coat, and dropping down in front of his arm-chair, began the usual
evening prayer. Like many other such petitions, it had become
of late years almost entirely an intercession for the children, who
were named to God in turn, but to-night, when Ben came to his
firstborn and had stammered out, "An', Heavenly Fayther, bless
Le――," he broke down, and the two knelt sobbing together on the
hearthstone with their newest sorrow weighing heavily on their
It goes without saying that neither the carpenter nor his
wife slept much that night, for added to all the other difficulties
of the case was the fact that they were both somewhat afraid of
their quiet daughter, and neither could see how they were going to
approach her on the subject.
"Well, ther's wun consolation," said Mrs. Ben, as they were
dressing in the morning.
"Hoo may breik her hert abaat it, bud hoo'll ne'er merry him
if he isn't religious."
But Ben, though not so quick and observant as his wife, had a
deeper knowledge of his daughter's nature, and remarked―
"Aar Leah's th' sooart as 'ull merry a chap to save him—ay,
if hoo deed fur it."
The sigh with which Mrs. Ben responded spoke more eloquently
than words could do of her entire endorsement of Ben's opinion now
that it had been placed before her, and the two left their bedroom
to face the battle of life encumbered by a very heavy anxiety.
They struggled hard to keep up appearances, especially before
Leah, and she, going about her duties as usual, though they watched
her with love's keen closeness, gave not the slightest sign that
anything was the matter.
But the shock of the discovery and the suspense together were
telling very heavily on both the carpenter and his wife, so much so
that Ben's looks and manner awakened the curiosity and concern of
the Clogger, and placed Ben in an awkward dilemma. If he went
to the Clog Shop he was in momentary dread of a straight question
which he could not evade, and if he stayed away it was absolutely
certain that Jabe would come in search of him and institute rigorous
inquisition. The Clogger was already in a state of most
restless curiosity, though there was no evidence that he had any
suspicion of the cause. Any hour, however, he might take it
into his knotty old head to put Ben through a searching
cross-examination, or to sound Mrs. Ben on the cause of her
husband's depressed and sickly look. To add to Ben's distress,
his wife began to press him to speak to Leah about the matter; and
though at first he nearly lost his temper, and utterly refused to do
anything of the kind, yet the growing restlessness of the mother and
his own anxieties compelled him to admit that the thing must be done
Then he delayed and postponed the terrible task on the ground
of lack of proper opportunity, every time being the wrong time; and
once, when a chance of unusual favourableness presented itself, he
got so very flurried and hastened from Leah's presence so abruptly
as to make the quiet maiden open her eyes in momentary surprise.
But Leah was too much occupied with her own affairs to give
much thought to her father. Her heart was fighting a severe
battle with her principles, and giving her an altogether
uncomfortable time. Ever since that sad Sunday she had been
reproaching herself, not for dismissing her clandestine lover, but
for not giving him his congé [Ed.―Formal or authoritative
permission to depart] more kindly.
She could never admit in her most secret heart that there was
any excuse for Luke's conduct, but she began to remind herself that
he had had a harsh stepfather, and a sickly mother, who had now been
dead for some two years, and that since then he had lived in
lodgings. It had only been by a doggèd pertinacity which would
not be rebuffed that her lover had got on even speaking terms with
her since they had been grown up. And then Luke, though
disreputable, was very popular somehow with the young women of the
village, and might have had many a girl whom she knew.
Besides, there must be some good somewhere in a lad who gave such a
decided preference to a quiet, religious girl like herself.
Altogether Leah's mind was greatly disturbed, and to make
matters worse, Luke, the irrepressible, who could not be snubbed or
shaken off either by coldness or ill-treatment, had taken her at her
word for the first time and was keeping carefully out of the way.
And worst of all, he had never been to chapel since the day he was
expelled from the school. Twice indeed she had seen him pass
the house, but he never even turned his head that way.
One evening, about this time, she was sitting in the parlour
skinning rhubarb for rhubarb wine, and meditating abstractedly on
her peculiar situation, when the front door opened and in stepped
Now, Ben had told himself twenty times that all he needed was
a proper opportunity of speaking with his daughter, and that the
fates were most strangely against him; nevertheless, when he thus
came suddenly upon a chance that was unexceptionable, his heart
dropped into his clogs, and he would doubtless have retreated but
for the fact that it seemed difficult to do so without appearing
remarkable, and so, after a guilty start and a moment of hesitation,
he sauntered awkwardly into his chair and took refuge in his pipe.
It was Providence. There was nothing for it but to have
it out with Leah; but when—whilst he was still meditating how to
begin—Sally Meadows, one of Leah's fellow Sunday-school teachers,
opened the front door and asked Leah to go for a walk, Ben became
quite earnest in urging her to accept. Leah quietly excused
herself, however; and Ben sank back into his chair with a faint look
of disappointment and even irritation on his face.
A minute or two later Leah opened the front door to relieve
the air of the room; and Ben got up a little debate with himself as
to whether it would be proper to discuss such delicate matters as
were in his mind with an open door, but he could not quite convince
himself that the interview ought to be postponed, and so, after
fidgeting in his chair and furtively eyeing Leah over until he had
taken a complete inventory of her garments, he finally coughed,
cleared his throat, turned his head round and glanced uneasily
through the window, and then commenced—
"Thaa leuks badly, wench. Artna weel?"
"Yi, Aw'm reet enuff," answered Leah, composedly, but with an
alert little glance at her father out of the corner of her eye.
"Then thaa must be i' luv. Hast started o' cooartin'?"
Ben said this with an attempt at jocularity, but a slight
choking sound in his throat betrayed him to Leah's anxious ears, and
in a moment her white face had become a rich crimson. She felt
she was blushing, and betraying herself, which only made the colour
deepen on her face and neck, and she made a feeble little effort to
"Eh, fayther, haa yo' talk. Yo' mak' me goa red."
"Wheer ther's smook ther's feire," said Ben, still keeping up
a show of fun, but with strange nippings about the heart.
Leah started to her feet with confusion and fear.
Another moment and she would have to choose between an impossible
falsehood and an equally impossible confession. The picture
she had conjured up in her mind of her father's horror, if ever he
discovered to whom she had given her heart, filled her with dismay.
There was nothing for it but to flee. In another moment she
would have been safe in her bedroom, but Ben suddenly crossed the
floor, dropped heavily into the mother's chair by her side, and
"Leah, my hert tells me as ther's summat wrung. Naa,
wot is it, wench, wot is it?"
Leah worshipped her father, and this unwonted tenderness in
his tone moved her profoundly. She went white to the lips,
gasped a little for breath, her head fell on her heaving bosom, she
began to pick nervously at the hem of her apron, but never a word
could she get out.
Ben, with shaking hand, laid down his pipe, drew his chair
nearer to hers, and Leah trembled to feel her father's arm slowly
stealing round her slim waist. Lancashire folk are always very
sparing of caresses and tender words, and Leah never remembered her
father treating her like this before. She struggled feebly to
escape, but he held her tight, drew her still closer to him, and
"Aw dunna want to meddle, thaa knows, bud tha'rt t' leet o'
my een, wench. Wot's up wi' thee?"
A convulsive shudder went through Leah's frame; she made a
supreme effort, turned her face, white but resolute, to her father,
and looking him full in the face, said—
"Fayther, Aw'm niver goin' fur t' merry. Niver! soa
dunna fret abaat me," and then with a sudden wrench she tore herself
from her father's grasp and fled to her own little bedroom.
Ben heaved a great sigh, fell back into his chair, and
groaning, "Lord, help us," closed his eyes in troubled reflection.
He had got more out of his daughter than he expected, and
what he had learnt confirmed his worst apprehensions.
Just at that moment he heard the garden gate click and a
limping footstep come up the garden. Then the door opened, and
Jabe, looking very resolute and aggressive, stepped across the
"Oh, tha'rt theer arta? Wot art mopesin' i' th' haase
fur?" he demanded, glaring fiercely at his friend, but Ben only
handed the tobacco-box and sat staring before him.
Jabe suspected that Ben's continued depression had a
financial origin, and he glanced round the room and through the door
into the kitchen in search of Mrs. Ben, who was always his chief
supporter in his periodical attacks upon the carpenter for allowing
people to get into his debt. But his ally was nowhere to be
seen, and Jabe was constrained to go to the battle alone.
After puffing away in grim silence for a few moments, staring hard
the while at a fancy shoehorn hanging at the side of the
mantelpiece, he demanded, without deigning to turn his head—
"Haa lung is it sin' Jerry Mopper paid thee owt?"
"Setterday," was all the response Ben gave.
"Haa mitch does that leave?"
Jabe turned his head half round for a moment, and an
expression of surprise escaped him, and then he relapsed once more
into an earnest contemplation of the shoe-horn. If Jerry
Mopper had at last paid off his long-standing account, Ben could not
be troubled about finances. But Ben had never before even
attempted to conceal any other of his troubles from him. His
curiosity increased, and with it came a feeling of resentment
softened by a vague apprehension of some unknown calamity impending
over the Barbers. And so the two sat in silence, each
apparently oblivious of the other's presence, Ben longing to unbosom
himself, and yet terrified at the thought of such a thing, and Jabe
piqued, puzzled, and increasingly uneasy at his friend's most
The silence continued, and the shoe-horn would have blushed
if it could under the fierce, annihilating stare of the Clogger.
At last, however, Jabe could hold no longer, and rising to his feet,
still glaring at the shoe-horn, he cried, with scornful sarcasm—
"Ther's ta mitch neyse here fur me. Aw'll goa wheer
it's quieter," and with his nose very high in the air he stalked
stiffly out of the house.
Left to himself, Ben was more miserable than ever. And
though he followed the Clogger after awhile to the shop, and tried
to atone for his conduct by taking some interest in the
conversation, yet being compelled to leave early lest Jabe should
reopen the inquisition, he went away, feeling that for the first
time for nearly thirty years a shadow had come between him and his
Several weeks passed after this, and still there was no
change in the situation, except that Luke, the cause of all the
trouble, had removed to Clough End to lodge, although he still
worked at the mill. Meanwhile Leah went about her work just as
usual, but although Ben noticed it, and took it as a hopeful sign,
Mrs. Ben's sharper eyes showed her that her daughter was still
feeling her trouble.
She grew paler still, and very nervous. Her mother
would come upon her gazing out of the window with a painfully
abstracted look, and once she caught her hurriedly wiping her eyes.
Anxious for her daughter's health, Mrs. Barber now began to invent
errands for Leah which would take her into the open air, and
comforted herself with the thought that it seemed like doing Leah
One evening later in the summer Leah had been sent to Lamb
Fold with a basket of fruit and eggs for her grandmother. Lamb
Fold was on the hill on the other side of the Beck, and the road to
it ran along Shaving Lane, and over a plank bridge a quarter of a
mile higher up the Clough than the village.
The evening was soft and calm, and Leah, as she returned, was
beginning to forget herself in the sweet stillness about her.
Just as she had reached the home side of the plank a stick snapped
just before her, and lifting her head quickly, she found herself
face to face with Luke, who had evidently been crouched behind a
gate-post and perhaps waiting for her.
Leah started with a bitter cry, and looked hastily about for
a way of escape, but Luke was too quick for her, and stepping
between her and the little bridge, effectually barred the passage in
A flash of haughtiness came into the girl's eyes, and she
lifted them to Luke's face as if to annihilate him.
But Luke's face was such a roguish, laughing, irresistible
one, and withal had at any an rate such an appearance of open
frankness, that the moment her eyes and his met, her anger began to
fade, and a helpless, almost foolish feeling took possession of her.
"Wot dust want?" she asked faintly, as if out of breath.
"Want, wench? Aw want thee," and then suddenly seeming
to see more in his own words than he had intended, he went on.
"Ay, that's just wot Aw dew want, ta mak' me a gradely mon. If
Aw hed thee, Aw could be a dacent chap. Aw could be a Methody;
ay, if tha'd a moind thaa could mak' me into a, a—cherubim," and
Luke laughed at the unexpected brilliance of his own fancy.
There was a momentary pause, and then Leah said—
"Aw yer tha's started o' drinkin'."
Luke seemed to be about to deny this, but a second thought
striking him, he said—
"An' wot if Aw hev? Aw've nowt else ta dew wi' my
brass. Aw've noa whoam ta goa tew an' noa muther and noa
sister nor noabry."
Quick stabs of pity and self-reproach pricked at Leah's
tender heart. She paused a moment to obtain control of
herself, and then she said as calmly as she was able—
"If thaa wants me, whey dust keep gettin' i' sich lumber?"
"Lumber? it's nowt but marlockin'. Thaa talks as if it
wur lyin' or thievin', or summat,"and Luke put on an excellent
imitation of injured innocence. Leah felt herself giving way,
and taking alarm thereat, she said—
"Aw've towd thi mony a toime as Aw shanna merry onybody as
isn't a Christian. Aw darna if Aw wanted."
And now Luke seemed to be really annoyed.
"Ay," he cried, "if Aw'd start o' sniggering, an' pooin' a
fiddle face, an' gooin' up to th' penitent form, tha'd ha' me.
Bud, Leah," he cried, flaming up and looking really handsome, Leah
thought, in his indignation,—"Aw'd dew fur thee wot Aw wouldna dew
fur aw th' wold beside. Aw'd work fur thee, Aw'd slave fur
thee, Aw'd dee fur thee, bud Aw winna be a hypocryte even fur
thee. If Aw'm iver convarted it ull be a gradely convarsion,
wun as Aw should be satisfied wi' mysel', an' not a woman-catching
But Leah scarcely heard the last sentences. Her woman's
pride was touched, and so, drawing herself up with a look of proud
disdain, she asked in cold surprise―
"Wot art botherin' abaat, then?"
But Luke's excitement had vanished as quickly as it came, and
dropping once more into his old wheedling tones,—the most dangerous
of all his moods to Leah,—he said earnestly—
"Leah! Aw loike thi that weel, Aw'm feart o' mysel'.
When Aw see thi Aw want ta goa reet off to th' penitent form to get
thi. An' that ud be wuss nor aw. Leah, little, bonny,
breet-eed Leah, tak' me as Aw am."
As Luke spoke, and his passion increased, he drew gradually
nearer to her, and as he finished he suddenly raised his arms, and
in another moment would have had her in his embrace, but just then a
couple of strollers came round the top corner of the lane, and Leah,
seeing them, stepped back just in time, as she thought, to save
appearances, whilst Luke, suddenly checking himself, and realising
that he must not compromise his sweetheart in the eyes of the
villagers, jumped the hedge, scudded off into the fields behind, and
A New Finger in the Pie.
NOW the couple
whose sudden appearance round the corner of Shaving Lane had brought
Luke and Leah's interview to such an abrupt termination, happened to
be Johnty Harrop and his wide-awake little wife, whom our readers
have met before in these chronicles. Johnty, of course, saw
nothing, and was not even aware of Leah's presence in the lane until
they actually met her on the way home, when the unsuspecting
"Minder" glanced at her and remarked, when she had passed, that Leah
was losing her good looks.
But Mrs. Johnty had seen, trust her for that, and was so
absorbed in what she had observed, that she did not seem to hear
what her husband was saying. She was amazed. The little
scene was a revelation to her. As the next-door neighbour of
the Barbers, she saw a good deal of them, and, being a kind little
soul, had got of late somewhat deep into Mrs. Ben's confidence.
They had talked over the flag fence of the front garden, and over
the low wall at the back, and once or twice of late Mrs. Ben had
dropped hints about being worried about Leah; and Susy, whilst very
sympathetic, had felt that her friend's anxiety was oddly out of
proportion to any change she could perceive in Leah. And the
thing, though she had not dwelt much upon it, had puzzled her.
Now it was clear as noonday. She only knew Luke by
sight, but she was well aware of his reputation, and realised what
an inappropriate match it would be, and what scandal would be caused
in the village if it ever came to anything.
And with Susy to think was to act. Her sympathies went
out strongly towards Mrs. Ben and her husband, though she was young
enough to feel very tenderly towards Leah. She wondered how
much Mrs. Ben knew. Had she any idea that her daughter was
thus entangled? And especially did she know to whom Leah had
given her heart? Or was she only uneasy about Leah's manner
and sickly looks? She must be careful if she tried to help
them lest she did more harm than good; and having not so very long
since had secrets of her own, she felt she must be as kind and
helpful as possible to such a "noice quiet wench" as Leah. At
anyrate she would keep the secret, unless she found she could use it
to good purpose, and in the meantime she would get all the
information she could.
It seemed difficult to do anything with the Barbers at
present, so she would begin on the easier task of getting to know
something definite about Luke. Her unsuspicious husband was,
of course, easily drawn, and before she got home from their little
stroll she had ascertained his view of the case as far as Luke was
Johnty commenced by calling Luke a "gallus young wastril," at
which, of course, Susy was not surprised, though she affected to be.
On being deftly led out into particulars, however, the Minder became
very hazy, and, after contradicting himself several times, he
"He's nor a gradely bad un, thaa knows; nowt o' th' sooart.
Bud he's that mischeevious."
"Wot's he dew at th' shop [mill]? " asked Susy.
"He's a mechanic."
"Then he'll mak' good wages, winnot he?"
"Oh ay, an' he owt dew. He's nobbut twenty-one, but
he's th' best mechanic abaat th' place."
"It's a pity he wur turnt aat o' th' schoo'; he'll happen goa
"Nay, nor him. He's plenty o' sense, Luke has, on'y
he's so gammy wi' it. As for them owd jockeys at th' Clog
Shop, they durn't know ivverything by a foine soight. But," he
went on, suddenly remembering himself, "what dust want to know fur?"
But Susy very easily put Johnty off, and went to bed to make
plans for extending the range of her inquiries.
During the next few days she gathered a great deal of
information. By assuming tentatively a censorious tone towards
Luke, and commending the action of the Sunday-school authorities,
she drew out of her unsuspecting neighbours many interesting
particulars. Luke was, a "wik un if iver ther' war wun,"
"a marlockin', pace-eggin' young imp," and so on. Some of the
victims of Luke's mischievous pranks used language that ought not to
have been employed to a lady, and which of course cannot be written
down here. It was clear that Luke was the ringleader of all
the mischief and practical joking in the neighbourhood, and a very
sad character altogether. When questioned, however, on the
more strictly moral aspects of Luke's character, her informants
showed considerable hesitation and difference of opinion, and most
agreed that the expulsion from the school was an extreme step.
Now Mrs. Johnty had more than her share of woman's secret
admiration for a young fellow who was "lively," and had herself
suffered much by misrepresentation. She really could get at
nothing very wicked in Luke's character, and so before long she had
conceived quite a prejudice in his favour, and was beginning to
range herself on his side.
At last she found herself in conversation with old Mary Jane,
with whom Luke had lodged previous to his recent removal to Clough
End. She overtook the old woman coming from the mangle, and
carried her basket for her. As they approached Susy's house
she invited her in to rest and have "a sooap o' tay," which
invitation Mary Jane promptly accepted.
"Yo'll ha' some peace naa yond' wild good-fur-nowt's left, Aw
reacon, Murry Jane," Susy began, watching her visitor as she did so.
"Peace! wot dust meean? Whoa art talkin' abaat?"
"Whey, that Luke. He led yo' a bonny life Aw reacon."
Mary Jane's mouth had opened in astonishment and perplexity
at Susy's words, but it suddenly closed like a trap, her lips
tightened, and pausing with the teacup in one hand and the saucer in
the other, she said slowly—
"If them as runs him daan and turns him aat wur hawf as gooid,
they'd be a foine soight better 'an they are."
"Hay, Murry Jane, has yo' talken. Whey, they aw say as
he's a hard-herted young wastril."
"Hard-herted! Sithee, wench, his hert's as sawft as a
woman's. When Aw wur badly with pains Aw've seen him stop'
o'er me, an' skrike loike a chilt. He's bowt me mony an' mony
a bottle o' Eli's drops."
"Aw reacon he paid yo' weel," said Mrs. Johnty, suspecting a
possible mercenary motive for the old woman's praises and regrets.
"Paid me! Ay, he did that! Bud Aw'd ha' kept him
fur nowt if he'd ha' stopped. He wur a foine soight better tew
me nor me own, Aw con tell thi."
"Bud wot did he leeave th' village fur?" asked Susy.
Mary Jane paused a moment, dropped into a low, confidential
tone, and proceeded―
"Aw'll tell thi, wench. He ne'er thowt they'd a turnt
him aat o' th' schoo'. An' when they did, he wur that takken
to, he wur fair shawmed of hissel'. He wur that ill off abaat
it, he couldn't abide. It mak's me badly to think has he
leuked when he thowt Aw wurn't watching him."
"It's a wunder he's ne'er started o' cooartin'—bud whoa'd hev
him?" remarked Susy.
"Hev him? Bless thi, they wur niver off th' dur-step,
if they thowt he wur abaat. An' Aw' durn't wonder, if they
know'd him as weel as Aw dew, they'd ha' bin feightin' fur him."
Much more to the same purpose was said, and when Mary Jane
resumed her journey home, with two of Susy's hot tea-cakes in her
clothes-basket, she left behind her a little woman who was almost as
stout a supporter of Luke as she was herself. Still, in such a
case, in which there was so pronounced a difference of opinion in
the village, it was necessary to be very careful, and to get all the
light possible, and so she decided that she must get acquainted
somehow with Luke himself, and make a personal study of him.
But how? She did not see her way at all at first, and it was a
day or two before she could decide what to do.
One evening, however, when Johnty came home from his work, he
found his little wife in a state of impatience and distress.
Her sewing machine had broken down. Such implements were
comparatively rare at that time, and there was no person in Beckside
or the neighbourhood who could be called in to do repairs.
Hitherto Johnty, who, as a minder, had considerable knowledge of
machinery, had served his wife's purpose, and of course, as soon as
he had had his "baggin'," he had to set to work on the broken sewing
machine. In a few minutes all was apparently right again, and
Susy set to work afresh. Most provokingly the machine went
wrong again, and as often as Johnty repaired it, so often did it
break down again after a minute or two's working.
"Is they' noabry else abaat as understands sewing machines?"
asked Susy at last in a well-dissembled tone of despair.
Johnty could think of nobody, and laughed when Susy suggested Nathan
"Is ther' noabry at th' shop [mill] as is handy an' cliver?"
she asked, with a show of great impatience.
"Neaw," answered her husband,—considering slowly as he
spoke,—"noabry bud Luke Yates."
"Him!" cried Susy, with apparently most genuine scorn.
But presently, after suggesting two or three improbable persons, she
said, with a clever simulation of reluctance—
"Well, Aw mun hev it done, chuse haa. Bring him tew his
baggin' ta-morra neet. He winna eight [eat] us, Aw reacon."
Johnty promised to do so. Next night Luke was brought,
and though shy and awkward at first, the beguiling chatter of the
Minder's wife soon set him at his ease, and he laughed and joked and
told stories until the disabled machine seemed in danger of being
Presently, however, Johnty suggested an examination, and Luke
brought all his mechanical resources to bear on the matter.
Now, Johnty could not for the life of him see that the young
mechanic had done anything to the machine but what he had already
done himself. But, strange to say, it worked without the
slightest inclination to relapse, and the audacious Susy actually
chaffed her husband on his deplorable lack of skill. This, of
course, had its effect on Luke, who stayed on and chatted, and still
stayed, until Susy really couldn't send him away without supper.
And as the meal was a very tasty one and very much to Johnty's
tooth, he ate it and joked about it, and then actually went and saw
Luke part of the way home to Clough End without even the glimmer of
an idea that his wife had been, as he would have termed it,
Susy's mind was now made up. She had taken her measure
of Luke, and honestly liked him. If possible, he should have
his rights in popular esteem at any rate. The Barbers should
know what he was like.
"My machine's aw reet naa," she said to Leah's mother over
the flag fence the following night. "Aar Johnty browt Luke
Yates tew it, an' he put it reet in a jiffy,—hay, but he's a cliver
lad wi' his fingers."
Mrs. Ben gave a slight start, and glanced suspiciously at
Susy, whose face at that moment would have disarmed a detective.
"He's cliver at aw mak' o' mischief, Aw know that," was the
"Ay! Aw reacon soa," sighed Mrs. Johnty in affected
sympathy with her neighbour. "Bud yo'd ne'er think soa.
A dacenter behaved lad Aw wouldna wish to see i' my haase."
Mrs. Ben was listening with an almost painful interest, and
the crafty Susy continued with studious deliberateness—
"Ther's wun thing abaat him; he burs na malice. He spak'
weel o' booath Jabe an' yore Ben last neet. Them's foine
dahlias o' yo'rs, Ellen."
"Ay," sighed Mrs. Ben, glancing indifferently at the flowers;
"bud they say as he's a weary bad un."
"He's nobbut a bit gallus, full o' gam an' sich loike,"
replied Susy, tossing her head with careless impatience. "Aw
wouldna give a bodle fur a young felley as hadn't a bit in him; but
Aw mun be goin' i' th' haase."
"Aw'm feart he'll turn aat badly," replied Mrs. Barber
anxiously, and stepping nearer to the fence, as if by that means to
detain her neighbour.
"Well, Aw dur tak' him; so theer," rejoined Susy with
sudden energy. "He's gooid wages, an' aar Johnty says as he'll
be th' yed mechanic afoor lung, and owd Murry Jane says as he's
better tew her nor her own. An' that's gooid enuff fur me.
Gooid-neet, wench," and, with this last heavy shot, Susan retreated
indoors, with a conviction that she had not entirely laboured in
And she was right, for Mrs. Ben, ready to do anything to
relieve the tension of anxiety, soon instituted inquiries on her own
account, and told all she discovered to her husband, only to find
out, from a slip in Ben's speech, that he had been at the same
employment, and was well up in all the details of Luke's character
As the carpenter sat thinking by the fireside, just before
retiring to rest one night, Mrs. Ben came and sat opposite to him,
and, whilst darning away at a heap of stockings, began to collect
her thoughts, with a view of coming to some understanding, if
"Ben, dust think aar Leah's getten th' decline?" she said,
looking up at him anxiously.
Ben winced, for this was the very question he was trying to
settle for himself at the moment his wife spoke. But now he
belied his own apprehensions by answering shortly―
"Hoo will be afoor lung if things doesn't awter;" and there
was a moan in Mrs. Ben's usually cheery tones.
But Ben saw no way out of the difficulty, so he sat in
silence and stared sadly before him.
They sat in the candle-light for a long time without
speaking, and then Ben said―
"If hoo has him wee'st lose her, and if hoo doesn't have him
wee'st lose her. Hay, dear, my hert's welly brokken!"
The mother began to sob quietly, and Ben looked at her with a
strong inclination to do the same.
The difficulty to them was very real. They could have
brought themselves, and in fact had brought themselves, to accept
Luke as a member of their own family, but when all personal likes
and dislikes had been got over there remained still the religious
aspect of the case. The command was to them clear and
unalterable that neither they nor theirs were to be unequally joked
together with unbelievers. How could they fly in the face of a
plain Divine precept, and how could they expect to prosper if they
did? They could retire from the case, of course, and leave
Leah to bear the onus of it herself, but that would be exposing her
to a great temptation, and laying upon her a grave responsibility.
As it was, they did share her burden, and were resolved to do so to
the end. Ben, indeed, thought desperately more than once of
breaking away from all religious scruples and commanding his
daughter to marry Luke, thus taking the whole responsibility on
himself, and saving Leah's soul at the expense of his own. But
this mood passed also, and after another long silence Mrs. Ben said―
"Young wenches allis feels as they wanten ta dew wot they're
towd they manna dew. It's happen o' thatunce wi' aar Leah.
When hoo knows hoo can pleease hersel' hoo'll happen nor be so keen
"Ellen," replied Ben, "tha knows aar Leah better tin that.
If hoo geet wed an' lost her soul, Aw should feel as if Aw'd
scrambled inta heaven o'er her distruction. Tha can pleease
thisel', but moind thi, if owt comes on it, Aw want th' blame ta faw
on uz an' nor on her."
And so the conversation ended, but next day, as Leah seemed
rather paler than usual, her mother resolved that she should know
their minds on the subject whatever the consequences. But
humble people have often to resort to strange awkward ways of
expressing themselves when the matter is one on which they feel
deeply, and so as she was sending Leah out on a few errands, she
"An' caw at Jabe's an' see if aar Simeon's clogs is done;
an', fur goodness sake, wench, donna leuk sa mitch loike a lump o'
stoan! Thaa mak's me fair miserable. If thaa wants Luke,
tak' him, and ha' done wi' it," and before the startled girl could
answer she had pushed her out of the door into the front garden that
she might not see her mother's painful breakdown.
Now, this was perhaps the most important communication that
Ellen Barber had ever made to her daughter, and it may seem that she
did it in a very clumsy way. But it was her way. Awkward
and bungling it may have been, but its awkwardness was the measure
of its eloquence, and to Leah it spoke of a great effort, and a
great sacrifice, which were the expressions of a wonderful love.
Leah was profoundly moved, and had to linger in the garden
with her head down among the flowers for some time before she dared
to go forth on her business. She put a severe restraint upon
herself as she went about the village, and it was quite necessary,
for rumours that she was "in decline" had been commonly circulated,
and gave her acquaintances a painful sort of interest in looking at
When her errands were done and she was approaching home, she
turned in at the end of Shaving Lane nearly opposite her father's
workshop, and in a few minutes was standing near the autumn-tinted
hedge, on the very spot where she had had her last interview with
Luke. With her back to the lane, and her face looking up the
Clough, she gave full play to her thoughts.
The law as to marriage with unbelievers, which, according to
Beckside canons of interpretation, meant all non-church members, was
clear and uncompromising, and the more she thought of it the clearer
and more inexorable it became, and never in the whole of the
terrible struggle through which she was now passing did she allow
that to be obscured for so much as a moment. That by accepting
Luke she would be breaking this law, was distinctly recognised.
On the other hand, her heart was as full as ever of a deep
and quenchless love for Luke. How it came there she could not
imagine. It had been a constant amazement to herself, and more
than once she had tried to convince herself that it was Providence.
Then she realised that the thought was a snare of the devil, and
resolutely repressed it and cast it out of her heart. For some
time after their last interview she did not admit to herself even
the possibility of renewing the intercourse. Her remembrance
of how soon she might have yielded to the impassioned Luke
But she had scarcely seen Luke since that last struggle.
Oh, where was he! And then she was startled to discover that
the suggestion that he did not care a great deal for her gave her
much strange pain. And then, though she had not seen much of
her lover, she had heard, and what she had heard deepened her
distress. She could not forget the rumour about Luke beginning
to drink, and she recalled with fresh pain the remembrance that when
she charged him with it he had not denied it. More recently
she had been told that there had been an atheist lecturer at Clough
End, and that conspicuous amongst the little handful who went to
hear him was Luke. He had several times, in pleading with her,
threatened to "run th' country," and only yesterday she had heard
that he was preparing to emigrate to America. What if she had
driven him to this? And what if he went away from Beckside and
got amongst wild, lawless people at the ends of the earth?
Oh, if only they had never turned him out of the school!
Surely, with all his associations and attachments to the chapel and
chapel folk, it might not have been difficult to draw him in.
But she knew by this time that Luke, under all his frolicsomeness,
had a proud heart, and a strong, masterful will, and that he would
probably never come back to the chapel unless she took him.
She was perfectly certain he had a good heart, and good principles,
as far as mere morality went, though morality apart from grace was
of little account in Beckside theology. In fact it was
generally regarded as a dangerous form of worldly pride and
By this time her agitation became so uncontrollable that she
feared to be suddenly discovered by a passer-by, and so, yielding to
her own restlessness, she crossed the plank bridge, and walked
slowly up the field walk to Lamb Fold. There she turned back,
and as the body turned the mind did the same, and she went once more
over all the arguments for and against accepting Luke.
As she returned to the place she had left half an hour
before, she began to recall stories of female self-sacrifice of
which she had read in the books of the Sunday-school library, but
could not remember a case in the least like her own. Once more
Luke's spiritual condition came before her, and the terrible risk of
sending him adrift on the world in his present reckless and
Then the thought of self-sacrifice for a beloved one, the
sweetest thought that ever touches the deep heart of woman, came
once more into her mind, and seemed sweeter and more beautiful than
ever. And at last, leaning heavily against the stone gate-post
near her, and, dropping her head on the crossbar of the gate, she
"Is it my soul fur his, Lord? Then let it be his.
If Tha'll let me bring him safe to heaven, Thaa can shut th' dur
ageean me—if—if—if Thaa con."
And then the passion subsided. A calm almost more
terrifying to Leah than her former agitation took possession of her,
and she went home convinced that she was going to commit the
unpardonable sin, but that she was going to save Luke.
Two days later she had consented to marry him.
Better Than Her Fears.
BUT Leah's battle
was not over when she had given her consent to marry. The
stony calm which existed within her from the time she decided to
accept Luke until the moment when she told him so, or, perhaps, more
exactly, the moment she was alone after she had told him so,
vanished as quickly as it came, and for the next day or two she
would have given worlds to recall her consent.
But Luke evidently knew with whom he had to deal, and for a
lovesick swain showed a most singular reluctance to see his
sweetheart. He was "ter'ble busy," he explained hurriedly,
when Leah, four or five days after her consent, sought him out.
He had been "puttin' th' axins in" for the marriage, and would be
compelled to be absent a good deal just now in order to conform to
the law with regard to the question of residence. It was only
years later that Leah learned that they had been married by special
Besides, Luke urged, he was "up to th' een i' furnishing, an'
hadn't toime for nowt."
Then he took to sending little notes to her, using Johnty
Harrop the "minder" as his messenger, and Leah, remembering his
schoolboy handwriting, was astonished at the bold, dashing
caligraphy of the missives, and half suspected him of employing an
amanuensis. And yet she didn't see how he could.
The marriage was, of course, a profound secret, and Luke
seemed to take a most characteristic pleasure in the fact that the
affair was to be, in appearance at any rate, an elopement. On
the few occasions when they did get conversation together, Leah was
so preoccupied with desire to draw back from her promise that she
never thought of inquiring what arrangements Luke was making as to
house, furniture, etc., and Luke, as she pressed him for release,
generally sought safety in flight, and brought the interview to an
Consequently, when they got into the week on the Saturday of
which the wedding was to take place, Leah literally knew nothing of
what would be done when the ceremony was over, and was still so
preoccupied with her own internal conflict that scarcely a thought
of the future passed through her mind.
The Friday came, the last day of Leah's maidenhood. She
was to meet her lover that night at the end of her father's
woodshed, and all day long she was collecting her little personal
possessions together one minute, and rehearsing the last passionate
appeal she intended to make to Luke for release the next; and as
evening drew near her agitation became almost painful, and the hour
of tryst seemed as though it would never come.
Presently, however, she stole out of the back door, trying to
nerve herself for what she knew would be a severe struggle, and was
just stepping softly towards the yard through the darkness when she
heard herself called. She stopped. It was not Luke's
voice; it was a woman's. Before she could speak she heard a
light footfall near her, and an instant later Mrs. Johnty Harrop's
plump little arms were thrown around her, a letter was thrust into
her hand, a hot little face, wet with sympathetic tears, was pressed
against hers, and a caressing voice murmured, "God bless thi, wench!
tha's nowt to fear," then the arms unentwined themselves, there was
a flutter of receding skirts, and in a moment Leah was alone again.
A minute or two later she was up in her own little bedroom,
reading Luke's letter with the aid of a candle.
The epistle was rather longer than usual. It stated
that Luke found that it would be impossible to carry out their
arrangements, except by going himself to Whipham on Thursday
afternoon. He had therefore done so. She was to follow
by Saturday morning's coach to Duxbury, and then by train to Whipham,
where he would meet her. Some other directions were given, and
then the letter concluded—
"Keep your heart up, my bonny wench. In a week's time
you shall be prouder of being Leah Yates than ever you were of being
Leah read this communication over and over again, and dwelt
with a wistful, clinging feeling upon the closing sentences.
She discovered now, for the first time, that she had never really
believed that Luke would give her up, or even consent to a
postponement, and she was alarmed to find also that there was
something in her which would have made her feel disappointed if he
She felt, also, as if there was a sort of fate—she dared not
call it Providence—in the affair, and that she was being swept on
with the current of things in spite of herself, and it somehow
relieved and comforted her to think so.
But why did she dwell so lovingly on the latter part of the
letter? Somehow during all her struggles she had felt a
strange faith in Luke in spite of all, and those last words of his
seemed to promise that he was going to give her a sweet surprise.
"God grant it might be so!"
And then she began to wonder where she was going to live.
Probably not in Beckside, and under all the circumstances she felt
it was better so, though it was an additional pang to be separated
from her beloved ones.
This was her last night in the old home, the only home she
had ever had, and she began to look round with a strange, softly
sorrowful look. She stole into her father's bedroom, and stood
long before an old daguerreotype portrait of him hanging over the
drawers. Then she stole downstairs, and as the front room was
empty, she took refuge in it, whilst her feelings rose and fell with
the different articles that she looked so wistfully at. She
found an old leather-bound Bible, familiar to her from earliest
infancy, and kissed it again and again with choking sobs. Then
she fell on her knees on the spot where her father always knelt at
family prayer, and laying her cheek on the well-worn cushion of the
arm-chair, she began to sob again with a violence that was almost
hysterical. How long she knelt there, in the dim candle-light,
she never knew, but presently a voice cried in tones of alarm
"Leah, what's to dew?"
And the portly form of her mother stood over her in
Leah still hugged the cushion for a moment, and then, with a
last impassioned kiss, she rose to her feet and faced her parent.
"Muther," she said, with grave, sad face, "Aw'm goin' t'
leeave yo' aw i' th' morning. Aw'm goin' to save Luke, if Aw'm
lost mysel' fur it. Aw conna help it, muther."
Mrs. Ben took her daughter quietly in her arms and held her
there in a long, clinging embrace, and at length she murmured―
"Goa wheer thaa will, wench, an' dew wet thaa will, tha'll
allis be aar Leah to uz, an' ther'll allis be a whoam fur thi here
woll [whilst] thi fayther an' me lives."
And then Ben came in and had to be told. He dropped
into his chair, and then down upon his knees, and— But there
are some scenes even in Beckside history too sacred for strange eyes
to look upon.
Next morning, Leah, dressed in her ordinary Sunday clothes,
took her seat in the Duxbury coach. By her own choice she went
alone, and sat as deep in the coach as she could get, trembling and
quietly weeping, though her heart felt cold and hard as stone.
The train from Duxbury to Whipham was late that day, and it
was half-past eleven before it pulled up at the station. Luke
was there, dressed with a quiet, good taste, which even Leah, in her
agitation, could not help noticing with a momentary pride.
Then they hurried into a cab. Luke seemed sadly extravagant,
she thought. This was the first cab she had ever ridden in,
and as the parish church was close at hand, they could have walked
in five minutes easily.
As she walked up the aisle, Leah thought she caught a glimpse
of a bonnet she knew, but she had other things to think of.
The service was commencing. Dear! dear! was this the
garrulous, graceless Luke. Even in the cab he had not been
able to repress his overflowing fun, but here before this
silver-haired old vicar he was sobriety itself. Yes, sober and
something more, for if ever a man went with all his heart into the
solemn covenant of matrimony that man was Luke Yates. Leah was
puzzled, yet deeply gratified.
And then it was over, and almost before the minister had said
"Amen!" this dreadful Luke threw his arm round her and actually
broke out into a great sob; and whilst the first tears she had ever
seen there stood brimming in his eyes, he cried, to the amazement of
both Leah and the vicar, and the intense amusement of the old
"Aw've getten thi. Aw've getten thi. Thank God!
Aw've getten thi!"
Then they adjourned to the vestry, and were preparing to sign
the register when the door opened, and the best little bonnet in
Beckside, surmounting the merry face of Mrs. Johnty Harrop, appeared
in the aperture. The lively little woman seized Leah and
kissed her as though she would never cease. Behind Susy came
the "Minder" himself—sheepish and bashful. He was just
beginning to wish Leah many happy re――" when Susy cried, "Johnty!"
and the poor Minder broke down and stammered a sort of apology, but
was afraid to attempt any further compliment.
The register got signed, the Minder and his wife witnessing,
and then they went out, and that reckless Luke put them into a cab
again, Johnty mounting the box-seat, and they were driven off to a
quiet hotel, and there, behold! was a small but frighteningly
elegant wedding-breakfast, which Leah felt almost afraid to taste as
she thought of its probable cost.
Breakfast over, Johnty and his wife must go, and, of course,
the bridal pair would see them off. Just as the train moved
out, Susy leaned out of the window and cried to Leah―
"Aw winna say 'Gooid-day,' wench, Aw'st happen see thi ageean
And she looked so very arch and mysterious as she said it,
that Leah was compelled to think that it was welcome news, and felt
better after it.
Now all these things had been done so rapidly and in such a
whirl of excitement that Leah had caught some of the infection of
it, and felt somehow a most unusual elation, so much so, that when
she began to rebuke Luke for his extravagance in cabs, etc., and
that triumphant young man pulled a crooked penny out of his pocket,
and wickedly declared that it was all he had in the world, Leah had
a sudden rush of pride and trust in her new husband, snatched the
penny from his hand, and threw it as far as ever she could over the
railings, never even stopping to see it flop into the river.
Then they walked about the town viewing the places of
interest, Leah trying to look as little like a bride as she could,
and Luke doing his best to make everybody see that he was a happy
As the afternoon wore on and the excitement subsided
somewhat, Leah's anxiety returned, and all the things that she
wanted to know began to clamour in her mind.
"Luke," she said, stopping suddenly in a quiet walk on the
edge of the public park and looking gravely at her husband, "tha's
towd me nowt abaat nowt yet. Isn't it toime thaa oppened thi
"Hay! Aw'll tell thi owt as iver thaa wants to know.
Naa, start off. Wot's th' fust thing?"
"Wheer are we going fur t' live?"
"Live? Whey, i' Beckside; wheer else?"
Leah was startled a little. In thinking of her future,
so far as she had thought at all, she had somehow imagined herself
living away from her native village, and thus escaping some of the
consequences of her daring act. But to think she was going
back to face it all out amongst those who knew her took her breath
away, and so she faltered faintly—
"I' Beckside! Wheerabaats?"
"I' th' bonniest little haase i' th' Clough."
Luke spoke these words as though they were a quotation from
somebody else, and Leah suddenly remembered that in the only lover's
walk she had ever taken with Luke they had passed the cottage of
Jimmy Juddy, then just emptied, and which had stood empty ever
since, and so she said—
"No' Jimmy Juddy's owd haase, at th' Beckbottom?"
A rush of sweet feeling came upon Leah. Her face
softened; gratification at discovering that a carelessly dropped
word of hers had been treasured up by her lover, and woman's pride
in the dear little house and garden, which everybody admired,
struggled through the veil of her natural reserve, and the light in
her eyes was abundant reward to the keenly observant man by her
By this time the early November day was closing in, and the
bridal pair made their way to the station en route for Beckside.
As they went along it began to rain and blow, and when they arrived
at Duxbury it was as wild and dark a night as Leah had ever been out
However were they going to get home? The walk at any
time would have been quite as much as she could manage, but after
such a day, and in such a drenching rain, it seemed madness to
Luke, however, seemed very cheerful about the matter, and
laughed at her fears, and when the train stopped, he led the way to
a side gate of the station, and before she had time to think, she
was safe inside a covered conveyance, and bowling away through wind
and rain towards Beckside.
How reckless Luke was with his money! He might have
come into a fortune by the way he threw it about. This would
be an additional task to the heavy one she had already undertaken,
for unless she economised she could see they would soon be ruined.
The wind still swirled and whistled about the coach, and the rain
beat against the little window, but Luke and Leah sat in darkness
and silence except for occasional laconic remarks about the storm.
They seemed to be going very slowly, and though they must be
getting near their journey's end, and had already passed one or two
lighted houses, even the reckless Luke dared not venture to look
A sudden drop made Leah aware that she was going down into
Beckside and getting near her new home.
What sort of place would it be? She nearly smiled as
she imagined her lively husband selecting and arranging furniture,
and prepared herself for almost anything that might present itself
in the way of ridiculous and even outrageous contrivances. But
she would bear it all. Luke should see what religion could do
for those who had it, and with a temperament such as his she was
sure that submissive gentleness would be best. She was
resolved that she would make the very best of what he had provided,
and try to use this as one of the means of bringing him to God.
Just then the coach stopped, and in a moment the door was
opened, and she was nearly lifted out by her excited and eager
husband. The rain was still pouring down, and the cottage
door, standing open a few yards down the garden, sent forth a most
welcome and alluring light.
"Run, wench, run!" cried Luke. and Leah, in dread of the
rain, made all the haste she could. As she stepped into the
doorway, who should rush forward to meet her but Mrs. Johnty Harrop.
"Here thaa art, wench, at last! Come in wi' thi," she
cried, with face abeam with gladness.
Leah stepped across the threshold, took a hasty glance round,
and then stood stock-still in amazement and alarm,
Coming in thus from the rain and the inky darkness, with a
mind prepared for almost anything except finery, the sight that met
Leah's eyes quite overpowered her.
She took in the situation in a moment. Luke had
evidently got acquainted somehow with the Harrops, and had taken
Mrs. Johnty into his confidence, and the result was one of the
bonniest and most cosy-looking little houses that Leah had ever
Such a fire this wild night, and such resplendent fire-irons!
And what armchairs and rockers and fancy cushions! And, oh,
what drawers! And what a hearthrug! And of all the fancy
clocks— But poor Leah could only stand and look round dumbfounded.
But at that moment Luke came in behind her, and drawing her
forward and down into the rocking-chair, he cried, "Theer!" and
stood back to watch her.
Leah glanced wonderingly round again, and was just about to
speak, when she caught sight of a picture hanging over the
mantelpiece. Something familiar about it arrested her eyes,
and she rose out of her seat to examine it. What was it but a
picture of the old Beckside Chapel before the alterations! It
was framed in rosewood, and looked as if it had been drawn and
coloured by someone whose heart was in his work. An artist
would have seen many faults, doubtless, but to Leah it was just
perfect, and great tears welled up into her eyes as she gazed at it.
Suddenly she wheeled round to speak to Luke, who was deep in
whispered converse with Mrs. Johnty at the door going into the back
kitchen, but as she did so, her eyes caught another picture on the
wall opposite, and, stepping across to it, she discovered a
representation in oil of her father's house and premises. It
was a rude attempt, shockingly out of perspective, —the brickwork
was very red, and the mortar lines were very white, whilst the
garden was a most startling green,—but Leah saw no fault in it at
all; and after gazing fondly up at it for a time, she sat quietly
down again with a melting heart and pale but smiling lips.
Then Mrs. Johnty invited Leah upstairs, to take her things
off, she said, but really that she might exhibit to her all the
grandeur of her little home. Leah was quietly delighted, and
grew softer and tenderer as she looked about. She had never
seen anything like it; and when she had finished her tour of
inspection, concluding with another loving look at the pictures, she
turned to Luke, who had just come in from the back kitchen, and
said, in her grave way—
"Luke, tha's capped me mony a toime, bud this beeats aw.
Hast paid fur it?"
Luke's face lighted up with that roguish look, so frightening
and still so fascinating to Leah, and he answered, reaching out his
arm to snatch hold of her as he did so—
"Paid for it? Neaw. Aw've getten it aw on th'
In another moment he would have had her in his arms, but she
glided away, and Mrs. Johnty coming in, cried—
"Naa then! Noa clippin' afoor foak. Aw'm 'shawmed
fur thee, Leah."
"It wurna me," cried Leah, and the rest laughed derisively;
and then Johnty came in from the back kitchen hot and red with
making toast, and they sat down to tea.
During the meal Mrs. Johnty gave Leah a full and particular
account of the whole scheme of house furnishing, and wickedly
pretended to be afraid to tell what it had cost. And when Leah
in growing alarm pressed her, she presented the bills all duly and
They sat for some time after that, until Johnty became quite
sentimental, and told about his own wedding-day, and would have
enlarged still more upon his domestic experiences, but that Susy,
with the air of a woman of sixty, told her husband, "We'd better be
piking off whoam; young foak are best by thersel's."
When the Harrops had gone, Luke and Leah went all over the
house again, and Luke explained everything, and exhibited his
various purchases, with all their marvels of contrivance and
convenience, until Leah was quite overpowered, and her heart was
full of the sweet music of the thought that this was Luke's mode of
telling her how he loved her.
When they had gone through everything again, and were just
about to sit down, she turned to Luke with a sweetly sad and yet
earnest smile, and, touching him on his arm,—the first sign of a
caress she had ever given him,—said, as she did so―
"Hay, lad! Aw should be th' praadest wench i'
Lancashire toneet if on'y tha wur convarted."
Luke laughed an odd catchy sort of a laugh, and if Leah had
been a little more observant she might have noticed a strange light
in his brown eyes, but she did not, for the answer he made gave her
room she thought for far more serious reflection.
"Convarted!" he cried. "Hay! Aw'st happen convart
thee afoor Aw've done."
And Leah sent up a little prayer that she might be
strengthened and saved from so great a fall.
Presently they began preparing for retiring, and Leah, after
another proud yet somewhat pensive look round her little domestic
palace, was making for the staircase, when Luke, who was looking
very much at home in the easy-chair, called out—
"Aw thowt tha caw'd thisel' religious."
"Weel, Aw am, Aw whop" (hope), and she turned to look at him
with a glance of inquiry.
"Religious foak han family prayers, hanna they?"
"A-y," said Leah faintly and with sudden loss of breath, and
as she sank down on a chair wondering what was coming next, Luke got
up and opened a drawer, brought out a new Family Bible, and handing
it to her, said―
"Here! Tha'd ha' made a rare parson if tha'd bin a mon."
Leah took the book in a dazed sort of manner, and sat still
with it on her lap with feelings too deep for utterance.
After a few moments' silence, however, she opened the book
and began to read a psalm. Then she slid to her knees.
Luke followed, and she began to pray.
Hesitantly, blunderingly, at first she spoke, but soon, as
the thought of her husband's condition, and the responsibilities she
had undertaken, filled her mind, she expressed her desires more
freely; and if she had not been so fully occupied she might have
observed that her young husband breathed out more than once sounds
that were strangely like "Amens!"
Next morning, as she went about her new domestic duties,
constantly discovering fresh evidences of the lavish manner in which
Luke had provided for her, her mind was distracted by wondering how
they would spend Sunday. She ought to go to chapel, but she
dared not face it. She could go with Luke, but she had no hope
that he would care to meet the people.
What was her duty? Ought she to take up her cross and
go alone, whatever the consequences, and thus give her husband to
see that she was beginning as she intended to go on; or ought she to
stay at home with him, and try to restrain him from going off into
bad company, as she felt sure she could do if she chose? Then
she might gradually wean him from his dangerous associations, and
some day, perhaps, she might coax him back to chapel.
A little before chapel time Luke came downstairs dressed in
his Sunday best.
"Come, wench, artna gettin' ready?" he cried in mild
"Ready? Wot fur? Wheer are we goin'?"
"Goin'? Whey to th' chapil, arna we?"
And Leah sat down and cried, a soft sweet little cry it was
in which her heart overflowed in thankful surprise and relief.
She could face the chapel folk easily now; and in a few minutes they
were crossing the fields in the shy November sunlight, Leah feeling
as proud of her husband as he evidently was of her.
There was a buzz of sensation as they entered the little
sanctuary, followed by much whispering, and when Long Ben, looking
depressed and nervous, opened the vestry door for the preacher to
pass into the pulpit, and caught sight of them, he stood for a
moment transfixed, and then hastily closed the door, and it was far
on in the service before he mustered courage to come into his own
When the service was over, Ben came down the chapel and
mutely shook hands with them; the juvenile Barbers somewhat shyly
followed him, and gathering round Leah, asked all sorts of
embarrassing questions, while Luke stood by with growing delight as
he listened to his young wife's brave answers.
At the evening service Luke and Leah turned up again, and to
everybody's astonishment, and most of all to Leah's, Luke insisted
on staying to the prayer-meeting.
As the meeting proceeded there was a mysterious pantomimic
display going on over the heads olf the kneeling worshippers.
Jonas Tatlock and Sam Speck were standing up and nodding their heads
to Lige the road-mender, who sat near the young couple, pointing
significantly at them as they did so. But Lige shook his head
and jerked his thumb behind him towards Jabe in the back pew.
Presently Sam left his seat, and going on tiptoe to the Clogger's
pew, he leaned over and whispered―
"Artna goin' ta speik ta yond' lad?"
"Goa thisel'," was the somewhat sulky rejoinder, for Jabe was
suffering inward torment. "It 'ud leuk better if thaa went;
thaa turnt him aat, thaa knows."
"Weel, Aw shanna;" and considering that they were in a
prayer-meeting, the Clogger's tone was simply shocking.
After another unsuccessful attempt, Sam went back to his
seat, and the meeting closed somewhat prematurely.
Meanwhile Long Ben, sitting in his pew, had made up his mind
to a great deed. As soon as Leah had gone on Saturday morning,
he went up to the Clog Shop and told his old friend what was taking
place that day, and it was some time before he could make Jabe
believe what he said. When he did realise it, however, all the
stiffness which had come between them of late melted away in an
instant, and though the fact was shown by neither word nor act, Ben
knew that he had, if possible, a deeper place than ever in his old
friend's love and care.
Ben, therefore, secure in the support of Jabe, hastened out
of the chapel the back way as the meeting was dispersing, and
stopping the young couple as they came out, he said—
"Yo' tew mun come daan ta aar haase."
To Leah's surprise, Luke seemed glad of the invitation, and
his face did not change in its happy look even when Jabe and Sam
Speck were invited.
Beyond a long careful look at her daughter as she shyly
entered, Mrs. Ben gave no signs of any unusual feeling, and in a few
minutes they were all seated comfortably round the supper-table.
Comfortably, that is, as far as mere accommodation was concerned,
for in every other respect the gathering was a failure, and
everybody seemed awkward and taciturn.
The food was eaten almost in silence. A few words were
said about the sermon and the weather, but nobody made even the
faintest allusion to the great event that was uppermost in
Luke, however, seemed to be eating rapidly, but it was more
as a stimulating accompaniment to his own very active thoughts than
because of any particular relish for the food.
Just as they were about to return thanks, Luke lifted his
head, and looking towards the Clogger, said—
"Jabe, Aw want ta thank thi fur turnin' me aat o' th' schoo'."
Everybody looked up in astonishment, but as nobody spoke,
Luke went on―
"Aw ne'er know'd haa mitch Aw loiked it till then, bud that
made me think, Aw con tell yo'! Ay, an' feel tew! That
schoo' and this wench"— laying his hand gently on Leah's
shoulder—"has saved my soul."
Leah started up, with a glad, eager cry.
"Ay, wench!" Luke went on, looking down upon her with a
burning glance, "tha's saved mi soul. Aw allis loiked thi, and
the moor religious thaa wur, the moor Aw loiked thi. Aw dunno
say as thaa did reet i' th' sight o' God wi' takkin' me, bud thaa
did it. An' when Aw seed thi riskin' thi soul ta save me, it
fairly knocked me o'er. Bud, wench, Aw'm convarted.
Aw've bin convarted welly a fortnit, an' if God helps me, tha'st ha'
the best husband i' Beckside. Bless thi! Bless thi!"
The scene that followed baffles description. Whether
poor Ben, or his wife, or the still Leah, or Luke himself, was most
excited, it would be difficult to say, but for the next two hours
tongues were going and joys were being reciprocated until everybody
felt young and bright again.
When at last the company began to break up, Jabe, who had
been strangely silent all evening, drew Luke aside into a corner,
and said in a subdued voice―
"Dost smook, lad?"
"Ay! A bit."
"Ther's a seeat fur thi at th' Clog Shop feire ony toime
tha's a moind ta come."
And that being as near to an acknowledgment of mistake as
Jabe could ever be expected to come, no more was ever said between
them about Luke's expulsion.