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The Memory of the Just.

I.

A Father's Honour.


"PUZZLES! they arr that!  They're Chinese puzzles, women arr!  It teuk th' 'owd lad' ta foind th' fost on 'em aat, an' it tak's him ta dew it yet.  Some on 'em's simple an' some on 'em's sawft, bud then aw tremenjous deep."

    The speaker, of course, was Jabe.  Raising himself up to straighten his back as he stood with braces hung down at his side, over the clog-shaping bench, and using the last half-finished sole to emphasise his observations, he was addressing himself apparently to vacancy, for the rest of the company were sitting deep into the Ingle, and were invisible behind clouds of smoke.

    "Wot does thaa know abaat women?" came from somewhere behind the smoke-cloud, in tones very like those of the erstwhile road-mender and recent bridegroom, Lige.

    "Aw know wun on 'em as hez made a sawft yed sawfter lattly."

    There was a sort of sputter of laughter in the nook, and the voice of Sam Speck cried delightedly—

    "Goo' lad, Jabe!  By gum—that's a nobbler fur thee, Liger!"

    But Lige was very easy-going in these days of his prosperity, and was, moreover, interested in the topic which had provoked the Clogger's tirade, and so he brought the conversation back by observing—

    "Thaa happen feart her, Jabe.  Women wants handlin' gently, than knows."

    "Feart her?  Aw will fear her if hoo comes ony of her stuck-up ways wi' me.  Aw tell thi they'r clemmin' i' th' haase, and hoo comes an' slaps her brass daan i' th' frunt o' me as if hoo hed a milliond."

    "Ay, an' they sticken ta they'r oan pew, an' pay fur it.  An' they spend as mitch brass i' donning up th' owd chap's grave as 'ud keep wun on 'em—partly wot," added Sam Speck sternly.

    After a short pause, Lige observed reflectively—

    "Well, if ther' is a grave i' that yard as owt ta be kept noice it's owd Abil's; it 'ull be a lung toime afoor ther's another loike him i' Beckside.

    But Jabe was out of all patience, and all the more so as he was somewhat uneasy in his own mind.

    "Ha' some sense, will yo'!" he cried.  Tummy Nibble towd me hissel' as aw th' butcher's meit they iver han is tewpennorth o' liver at th' wik end, an' a pennorth o' cratchins o' Wednesdays.  An' wun Setterday when he awsed ta give Jinny a bit o' briskit as he couldna sell, hoo threw it back i' th' cart an' welly slapped him i' th' face."

    "It's pride! sinful pride, an' nowt else," cried Sam with stern indignant emphasis, and Jabe thus encouraged, proceeded—

    "Dun yo' know haa it is as they cum'n ta th' chapel wun at wunce naa?  It's 'cause they'n nobbut wun bonnet between 'em.  An' aar Judy says as that's bin awtered an' awtered till it winna awter.  Isn't that pride?"

    And Lige sighed and shook his head, as a sign that he would be very reluctant indeed to believe the charge.  And the Clogger, though he sat down in the circle of smoke and lighted his pipe, still showed where his thoughts were by the uneasy motions of his short leg.

    The subjects of this conversation were two middle-aged females named Horrocks, who were generally known as "Rhoda an' Jinny Abil"—Abel being the name of their father, now long deceased.

    They lived in what had once been the prettiest cottage in Beckside.  It stood in the midst of a rather large garden just beyond the schoolhouse, going up the "broo" to Knob Top.  Unlike most of the other cottages in the hamlet it was built of stone, and the windows, where climbing plants did not prevent, were rimmed round with a framework of whitewash.  The ground rose at the back and screened the cottage from the east wind, and for many years the neatly-kept little house, with its gay and fruitful garden, had been a grateful sight to any one entering Beckside from that end of the village.

    Old Abel, who built and owned it, was a mason by trade, and one of the mainstays of the chapel in the days when Jabe and his friends were young.  He was a man of high character and gentle, kindly ways.  His goodness seemed to shine out of his ruddy face, and he was known as one of the most upright and honourable men in the community.  He was the associate and coadjutor of Jabe's father, John Longworth, and when he died he was so sincerely respected and beloved that the chapel people had by special contributions erected what was even in Jabe's later days by far the most pretentious tombstone in the graveyard.  And when old John Longworth, declaring that he couldn't think of a text of Scripture, or a verse of a hymn, good enough to express the virtues of their departed friend, finally wrote out in his painful roundhand for the stone-carver's instruction, "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright," everybody felt that John had been specially guided and had made the only adequate selection.

    Old Abel left three children, a son and two daughters, and these, though quiet retiring people, followed in their father's footsteps, at any rate so far as a deep attachment to the chapel and an interest in its welfare were concerned.

    The son, Abel the younger, was the mill joiner, and Rhoda and Jinny were weavers, and so they were regarded as pretty well off, though now and again the extra sharp ones of the village pretended to have noticed odd and unexpected signs of pinching and even poverty about them.

    Then young Abel died, and the girls were left behind.  They owned the house they lived in, and had three looms each at the mill, and so must still have a good income; but notwithstanding all this they did not seem really comfortable, and every now and again little incidents occurred which made people wonder whether "Abil wenches" were really as well off as they were supposed to be, and as they always took pains to appear to be.

    The one weakness of these two plain women was their quiet pride in their father's memory, together with the manifestation of that pride in fastidious and unremitting care for his grave.  The stone was always kept scrupulously clean, and the little flower-bed before it always showed that careful and loving hands constantly tended it.

    Now, it was a moot point in Beckside theology whether it was quite right to show excessive interest, especially of the mournful kind, in graves, there being a sort of feeling that people ought to rejoice at the translation of their friends, especially if they were uncommonly good.  And so the conduct of "Abil wenches" attracted more notice than it ordinarily would have done, and it was feared that they were giving way to the "sorrow of the world."

    It was noticed also that the two women had aged very rapidly since their brother's death, and the most diligent care on their part did not conceal the fact that they were getting poorer.  Rhoda, the eldest, had begun to look quite old, and there were already indications of a premature breaking up of her constitution.  At the same time she became shyer, and gradually changed from a calm, self-possessed Lancashire lass into a fretful, jaded, worn-looking and suspicious woman.

    Then she became unable to work at the mill, and the burden of maintenance fell entirely on the younger and less energetic Jinny.

    And now, as their poverty had an explainable cause, and could no longer be matter of doubt, tentative offers of help were made, but in every case they were hotly and almost fiercely rejected, as if, in fact, poverty were a terrible crime which they would rather die than confess to.

    The night before the one on which our story opens, Jabe had been holding his class.

    It was ticket night, and the leader, when receiving the class moneys after the minister's departure, left Jinny's lying on the table, and detained Jinny herself in conversation until the rest were gone, when he picked up the shilling and was quietly slipping it into her hands again.  But she would not understand, and when the Clogger was compelled—not too gently, it is to be feared—to explain that he couldn't allow her to pay, as he felt sure she couldn't afford, Jinny flushed, and then turning white with fear and resentment, cried, eyeing Jabe over with keen suspicion as she did so—

    "Haa does thaa know we're poor?  Whoas towd thi?"

    "Know?  Aw con see, woman, sureli!" cried Jabe, with rising choler.

    "See!  Ay, tha'rt allis pooakin' thi nooase inta sumbry's business.  But let me tell thi, Abil Horrocks allis held his yed up i' th' wold, an' his dowters art na goin fur t' disgrace his name.  Moind that, naa!"

    Jabe's feelings were divided between anger at the woman's obstinacy and pride, and a strong secret sympathy with her feelings about her father, and the respect that should be shown to his memory, and so he said, half apologetically

    "Well, wench, Aw meant noa harm."

    "Well, then, ler uz alooan, an' tell t'othcrs ta ler uz alooan.  We'en getten ta tak' cur o' my fayther's name, and we'll dew it—ay, dew it if we dee dewing it"—and then Jinny burst into tears and hurried out of the vestry.

    But she did not go home.  She walked up the road a little way, and turned into a by-lane, where she slowly dried her tears.  Then when she thought Jabe would be gone she came back to the chapel.  It was a cloudy night, with an intermittent moon, and putting her clog toe into a hole in the wall, Jinny, as if she were accustomed to enter the graveyard that way, climbed quickly over, and was soon kneeling by her father's tombstone.

    She looked up for the moon, but it was hidden for a moment behind a cloud, and she knelt there in an attitude of prayer, but though her lips moved rapidly, not a sound came from them.  Presently she became more excited, and at length, turning her face up passionately to the clouds, she cried, clenching her hands with intense resolution—

    "They shanna know, fayther; they shall niver know."

    At that moment the moon came into sight for a moment, and, as its pale, cold beams fell on the stone, Jinny lifted her head and looked at it.  Then she got up and dusted the already spotless surface just where it was lettered, much as another woman would have cleaned an expensive piece of pottery or a large mirror.  And then she put one arm over the top of it, and stooping down, she read the precious lines once more, and then, still hanging over it, she fondly kissed the letters, and, turning her white face up till the moonlight fell across it and made it almost ghastly in its paleness, she cried, with a sudden burst of tears—

    "It's theer yet, fayther!  An' they shanna tak' it off.  They can murther uz if they'n a moind, but they shanna tak' it off.  Thaa wur parfect; than wur hupright; let clubs an' accaant beuks say wod they'n a moind."

    When Jinny reached home that night, she found her sister huddling over a very small slack fire, and trying to get some little heat into her thin shrunken limbs.

    Rhoda did not move when her sister entered, but when Jinny had drawn her chair beside her, and told the story of her interview with Jabe, she broke out—

    "We'est ne'er dew it, wench!  Summat's bin tellin' me as we shanna for mony a wik.  We'en scratted an' we'en clemm't ta clew it, an' we shanna dew it efther aw."

    Jinny muttered something.

    "Nobbut ten paand!  It met as weel be a hunderd, wench.  We'est ne'er raise it.  Aw'm deein'; Aw know Aw'm deein'; an' then my fayther's stooan 'ull be a lyin' stooan for iver an' iver."  And poor Rhoda beat on the sanded floor with her feet, and rocked herself in an agony of tearless grief.

    After a while she stopped suddenly, a look of resolution that was almost fierce came into her eyes, and, after wrestling with deep feeling for a moment or two more, she jumped to her feet, and, clenching her fist and stamping emphatically on the floor, she cried—

    "Bud we mun, Jinny, we mun!  Aw conna dee till it's done.  We'll sell ivery stick we han bud we'll dew it."  And then clasping her hands together, and holding them over her head, whilst a look of tender melting love came into her eyes, she cried—

    "An' then, fayther, we'est see yo'—'wheer the wicked cease fro' troublin', an' the weary are at rest.'  An' then yo'll know as we tewk cur o' yo'r name.  An' that 'ull be heaven fur uz.  Ay! that 'ull be heaven for uz."

    But next day, and many days after, poor Rhoda kept her bed.  At first Jinny was able to leave her and go to the mill, but presently she grew feebler, and at the same time so excitable, that it was not safe to leave her, and Jinny had to stay at home and nurse her.  Neighbours came to offer help, but they were suspiciously and almost rudely repulsed by Jinny, in a perfect fever of fear and apprehension; and day after day she watched over her dying sister, and lived no one knew how.


――――♦――――
 
The Memory of the Just.

II.

Owd Croppy's Errand.


SEVERAL, anxious consultations were held at the Clog Shop about the Horrockses, but the only result of them was that Dr. Walmsley went to the cottage, and insisted, almost by on seeing the invalid.  And the doctor reported that though there was no particular evidence of disease in the patient, and no very clear sign of poverty in the house, yet the woman was evidently dying, and dying of weakness and trouble.

    Jabe was nearly beside himself, and made all sorts of wild suggestions for compelling the Horrockses to open their minds.  At last one night, as Long Ben was going home from the usual rendezvous, he saw a woman, with a shawl over her head, standing hesitantly at the garden gate of his house.

    "Is that thee, Ben?" she asked timidly, as he came up.

    "Ay; is that thee, Jinny?"

    "Ay!  Ben, aar Rhoda wants thi."

    "Naa?"

    "Ay, naa.  An' fur marcy's sake come."

    Ben closed the gate and went along with poor Jinny.  They walked rapidly but silently towards Abel's cottage.

    "Is hoo wur?" asked the carpenter, as they neared the Beck bridge.

    "Wur?  Ay, hoo's deein', Ben," and Jinny burst into a cry that was somehow too terrible for tears.

    When they reached the cottage, they found Rhoda sitting up in bed, and evidently waiting for them.  Her face was haggard and pale, but her eyes were bright with excitement.

    Ben sometimes did a little furniture brokering, and so, as he began to inquire after Rhoda's health, she impatiently waved the subject aside, as if it were too trivial, and began—

    "Ben, Aw want thi to tell me haa mitch theas bits o' things o' aars are woth."

    Ben looked round, seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then answered—

    "Aw durn't know; wot art botherin' abaat?  Wot dust want to sell 'em fur?"

    But Jinny, stepping behind, pulled his coat tail, and so Ben, guessing that he was required to humour the patient, went on with a sudden assumption of business shrewdness—

    "Haa mitch dust want fur 'em?"

    Ben expected that Rhoda would begin to "haggle" with him, but instead of that she leaned forward with eager eyes and lips dry from excitement, and cried, "Ten paand.  They're woth ten paand, arna they?"

    Now, seeing that the dying woman really wanted to sell, Ben would probably have agreed if the sum demanded had been double what it was, and so he answered promptly—

    "Ay, Aw'll gi' thi ten paand an' chonce it."

    Rhoda put out a thin blue-lined hand, and cried, "Tak' 'em then, an' gi' me th' brass."

    "Brass?  Aw hevna getten it wi' me.  Dust want it naa?"

    "Naa!  Ay, naa!  Aw'm deein', mon.  Naa!  Naa!!"  And the excited woman wrung her hands in intense impatience.

    "Aw con fotch it thi, if tha's a moind," said Ben hesitatingly, and knowing full well that he hadn't half the sum, and couldn't think where to procure it at that late hour.

    "Fotch it, then.  Fotch it, an' be slippy, mon!  Or else Aw'st be deead afoor it comes."  And with a gleam of eager joy that did not appear to Ben to be quite sane, she went on "Just let me get a seet on it an' howd it in my hond fur wun little minute, an' then, an' then—Aw'll—


'Clap my glad wings and sooar away,
 An' mingle with the blaze of day.'"


And flinging up her arms and falling back on her pillow, she lay there panting and exhausted.

    Jinny made attempts to soothe her sister.  Tucking the bedclothes around her and shaking up the pillow, and wetting her lips with cold tea, she crooned over her in an anxious endeavour to calm the sufferer's agitation.

    After a few minutes of apparent unconsciousness, the sick one suddenly opened her eyes, and sat bolt upright again.  Seeing Ben still standing there, she put out her open hand as if to receive something, and cried―

    "Hast getten it, lad?  Give it me; give it me!"

    "Tak' thi toime, woman; he's gooin' fur it naa!" said Jinny coaxingly.

    "Toime!  Aw've toime fur nowt.  Fotch it, Ben; fur marcy's sake fotch it.  Aw'st dee ba'at knowing it's paid if thaa doesna."

    And then, checking herself suddenly, she gazed at Ben with the searching, suspicious look he had so often seen in these women's faces of late years.

    On Rhoda promising to be still and quiet, Ben and Jinny went downstairs.

    "Does hoo oft wandther loike that?" asked Ben softly as they reached the lower room.

    "Wandther?  Hoo's no' wandthering, Ben;" and then, in an agony of fear and anxiety too stern and imperious to conceal, she cried—

    "We mun hev' it, mon; chuse wheer it comes fro'.  Hoo conna dee till hoo knows it's reet, or if hoo dees ba'at knowing ther'll be a ghooast i' Beckside, fur hoo'll niver rest in her grave."

    The look of tortured fear on poor Jinny's face went to Ben's heart, and in an impulse of wonder and pity he cried, though he would have given his ears to recall the word when it had gone—

    "Wot dun yo' want it fur?"

    Jinny stopped her wailing, and shot into Ben's face another of those terrified, suspicious looks he had grown familiar with, and after studying his face for a moment or two, and appearing to be relieved by what she saw, she at length said—

    "Aw conna tell thi, Ben; Aw wouldna tell thi to save my soul.  An' if iver thaa knaws, tha'll wuish thaa hadna known.  But thaa shanna know!  Noabry shall iver know."  And for a moment Jinny looked as fierce as her sister.

    Ben was puzzled and distressed, but realising both the uselessness and the unkindness of pressing the matter, he hastened away to find the money.

    After crossing the bridge in profound agitation, he remembered Lige's many offers of help if he ever needed it, and turned in by the Brickcroft corner, and stopped at the road-mender's door.  He raised the latch, but the door would not open; and he then remembered that Lige and his wife had gone to Duxbury about the sale of a piece of property, and had announced their intention of staying the week-end.

    Where must he go next?  He had not more than three pounds in his pocket.  He shrank from exciting the dangerous curiosity of Sam Speck about the matter, and so, after many a misgiving, he turned up the "broo" toward the Clog Shop, preparing to make a clean breast of everything, and induce the Clogger to join him in his strange speculation.

    Jabe's face as Ben told his story was a study.  First it was mockingly scornful.  Then, when the money question was raised, it became a picture of unconvincible obstinacy.  Then, as Ben detailed the painful agitation of the women, Jabe's eyes began to blink rapidly, and he blew his nose with most unnecessary violence, and finally every other expression was swallowed up in one of open-eyed and wondering curiosity, as Ben described with significant nods and winks the strange enigmatical hints which had dropped from the women, and the air of mystery with which the whole question seemed enveloped.

    And this provided Ben with a way of escape, for Jabe's chronic anger with Ben for his "sawftniss," and his indignation with the women for their pride, were both forgotten in the presence of an object which excited at once genuine anxiety and keen, wondering curiosity.

    But, unfortunately, Jabe had very little ready money in the house—less than two pounds, in fact—having that day paid a heavy bill for "owler" wood.

    Ben seemed inclined to rest awhile and discuss the situation, but Jabe positively could not sit still, and in a few moments they were on their way to Nathan's.

    Nathan had gone to the Clog Shop, Tatty said, but as they had not met him, it was certain he must have made a call somewhere.  When they reached the smithy yard gate, and were standing and discussing where Nathan would most likely be, they heard a panting gasp behind them, and the agitated voice of "Jinny Abil" cried—

    "Hast getten it, Ben?"  And then, as if unable to control her feelings, she stood back, and, wringing her hands, cried―

    "Oh, dunna say thaa hasna! for God's sake, dunna say that! "

    "Dunna, wench; dunna," said Ben soothingly. "Aw'm gooin' efther it naa."

    "Then thaa hasna getten it!  Oh, efther aw theeas ye'rs, efther aw theeas ye'rs," and Jinny wrung her hands again in helpless, piteous despair.

    She continued clasping her hands and twisting her body as if in intense pain, until Jabe could bear it no longer, and so, hastily drawing Ben aside, he whispered—

    "Tak' her whoam.  Aw'll goa and get it somewheer."

    Ben turned round to persuade Jinny to go home with him, but he was saved the trouble, for all at once the distressed woman burst out—

    "Hoo's gooin'!  Hoo's gooin'?  Hoo'll be deein' bi hersel'," and with another piteous wail she darted off down the hill towards home.

    Ben, after another hasty word with his friend, followed closely behind.

    "Mun Aw tell her Aw've getten th' brass?" he asked as they went along.

    "Bud thaa hasna."

    "Neaw, bud Aw shall hev' i' th' morn."

    "Morn!" was the almost fierce reply; "hoo wants ta see it.  See it afore hoo dees.  Hoo could dee an' be dun wi' it, then.  Ay! an' soa could Aw, an' be thankful."

    They had just reached the bridge.  The waters of the Beck were brawling over the stones underneath, the stone parapet was bathed in moonlight, and not a soul was in sight.

    "Jinny," said Ben, stopping suddenly, and speaking with great impressiveness, "wot's aw this meean?  Ther's summat wrung; naa wot is it?  Owd Abil's childer doesna need ta want nowt i' Beckside sureli."

    But at the mention of her father's name Jinny gave another bitter cry, and started once more for home.

    When she reached the cottage, Jinny passed right upstairs, but Ben remained standing before the expiring fire, and waiting a summons to the bed-chamber, listening one moment to the sounds above, and the next to everything outside that suggested the coming of the Clogger.

    Presently he was relieved to hear someone approaching the house, but the next moment his pleasure was dashed by the discovery that it was not the irregular click-clack of a clog, but the duller thud of a boot that he heard, which made him aware that the new-comer could not be the Clogger.

    A peculiar, sharp, single tap on the door announced the presence of "Owd Croppy," the Brogden and Duxbury rent and debt collector.  Whatever could he be doing in Beckside at this time of night?

    He stared when Ben opened the door, and looked impatient and disappointed, as if he had something to communicate which was very good and which he longed to utter.

    "Hello!" he cried; "wheer arr they?  Wheer's Rhoda?  Wheer's Jinny?"

    A sudden seriousness came over the old collector as he learned the facts of the case and the condition of poor Rhoda.

    "Well," he said, after ruminating with pursed lips for a moment or two, and following Ben's example by speaking under his breath, "Aw mun see 'em!  Aw've getten some news as winna keep! "

    "Howd on," replied Ben, holding up his hands deprecatingly and still speaking in a whisper, "it met kill 'em, or"—and then he paused, and as all the stray words and unintentional hints the women had dropped came back to him all at once, he continued—"or else cure 'em.  By th' mon, Croppy, th' Lord's sent thee here ta-neet."

    Croppy wasn't at all sure of this.  His face seemed to say that he was much more accustomed to commissions from an opposite source, but before he could answer Jinny came hurrying downstairs.

    She uttered a despairing cry as she saw the debt collector.

    "Wot!  Awready!  Thaa met a letten her dee fost.  Wun on us 'ud a getten aat on it at ony rate.  But thaa shall be paid.  Aw'll pay thi if Aw hev ta sell th' last rag o' my back.  An' then Aw'll goa to th' bastile an' dee.  Ay, an' be rare an' fain ta dee tew!"

    "Jinny," cried Croppy, ashamed for once of his profession, "Aw hev'na come abaat brass.  Aw've come wi' some queer news.  Good news tew, Aw darr say!"

    Just then the high ringing voice of the feverish sufferer upstairs was heard.  "Jin ler him come up; ler him come up, Jin."

    Jinny stepped to the bottom of the stairs and told her sister who the visitor was.

    "Dust think Aw conna yer whoa it is?  He met a waited till Aw wur cowd, bud ler him come up."

    Jinny beckoned Croppy to follow her, and they both ascended to the bedroom.

    At this moment Jabe gently raised the latch.  Ben could see at a glance that he had not been successful.  He motioned the Clogger to be silent, and then drew him out of the house again and expressed his conviction that they wouldn't be needed any more that night.  But Jabe was hard to convince.  His curiosity was so thoroughly aroused that it took all Ben's arguments and persuasions to induce him to leave the sisters until the morning; and but for the fact that he had no money to offer them, he would undoubtedly have held out.  It was late, however; Croppy's business was evidently very important, and might take a long time, and so, with a painful and snappish reluctance, Jabe at last consented, and the two, after shouting "Gooidneet!" up the stairs, and getting a reassuring "Gooid-neet" in Jinny's own voice in reply, made their way across the bridge and up the "broo."


――――♦――――
 
The Memory of the Just.

III.

Joy Cometh in the Morning.


NEXT morning Jabe had Ben up earlier than usual, and the two made their way to the Horrockses.  To their surprise, the curtains were drawn up and the door was open.

    Jabe's nervousness made him bashful, and so he stopped on the threshold and knocked.

    Hurried feet came noisily downstairs, and as soon as she saw them, Jinny, who had a dishevelled and up-all-night appearance, cried out, whilst tears of evident joy welled up into her eyes—

    "Hay, chaps, come in; bless yo', come in.  Aw feel as if it wur th' resurrection mornin', an' Aw'd just come aat of a grave.  Bless th' Lord Bless th' Lord!"

    And, as Jabe and Ben looked at each other in astonishment, Jinny's cry was feebly repeated upstairs—"Bless th' Lord!  Bless th' Lord!"

    "Wotiver's ta dew, wench?" cried Jabe, in amazement.

    "Ta dew?  Ther's iverything ta dew.  Summer i' th' middle of winter; midsummer in November.  It's heaven upo' 'arth; heaven upo' 'arth!"

    "Whey, wotiver's happened?" and Ben lifted his eyebrows and looked at Jabe, and muttered under his breath, "Th' poor crayter's gooan off it."

    "Ler me tell 'em, Jin—ler me tell 'em.  Bless th' Lord!" came feebly downstairs.

    "Yo'll ha' ta goa upst'irs, chaps," said Jinny, actually smiling.  "Hoo allis hed her own rooad, yo' known."

    In obedience, therefore, to these directions, the Clogger and his friend made their way to the bedroom, where they found Rhoda still in bed, but looking like a transfigured being.

    "Sit yo' daan," she said, as they entered, and then she looked from one to the other with eager, beaming eyes, and burst out, "Bless th' Lord!  Bless th' Lord!"

    When they were seated, and were looking hard at the sick woman in whom so strange a transformation had taken place, she suddenly turned in her bed, and looking at Jabe, demanded—

    "Jabe, wot wur it as yo' put upo' my fayther's stooan?"

    "'Mark the perfect man and behold the upright,'" said Jabe.

    "An' wor it trew?  Wor he parfect an' upright?  Wor he?"

    "He wur that," answered Ben fervently.

    "A foine seet better nor ony 'at's abaat naa," added Jabe as a clincher.

    "Bless th' Lord!  He wur!  He wur!" And the two women looked at each other, apparently gloating over the words they had heard.

    Then Rhoda's face suddenly darkened again.  She seemed to be collecting her powers for a difficult task, and at last she said impressively—

    "Jabe, iver sin th' wik efther it wur put up we'en bin feart it wur a lyin' stooan."

    "Naay, Aw ne'er wur," cried Jinny, through glistening tears.

    "Whey, it wur thee," cried Rhoda in astonishment.  "Aw knew betther aw th' toime."

    "Naay, it wur thee; no' me."

    But just then Ben chimed in: "If iver a grave-stooan i' this wold towd trew, it wur that."

    "Trew?  It wur na hawf trew eneuff," added Jabe emphatically.

    Rhoda paused in a listening attitude, as if she were hearing enthralling music, and presently she went on—

    "Th' wik efther th' stooan were put up, a felley cum fro' Duxbury an' said as th' club beuks as my fayther used t' have wur wrung, an' hed bin fur mony a munth."

    "Wrung?" cried both men at once, in amazed indignation.

    "Ay, wrung!  An' if Aw hedna bin i' th' haase aar Abil 'ud a felled him.  But Aw sattled Abil a bit, an' then th' chap axed him fur t' goa ta Duxbury an' see th' beuks fur hissel'."

    There was a sound of long, laborious breath being drawn, and Jabe and his friend looked at each other in fierce indignation.

    "Well," Rhoda proceeded, "he went, an' when he coom back he wur loike a deead un.  He sat daan afoor th' feire an' started a whackering and skriking an' couldna tell us a thing.  Well, at th' lung last, he said as it were trew, an' mi fayther 'ud bin takkin' th' club brass for ye'rs."

    Rhoda paused for a moment to give her hearers time to realise the awful communication she had made.  Then she wiped her perspiring face with a spotted cotton handkerchief, and, leaning towards the Clogger, whose short leg had already kicked the bed-stock several times, she went on—

    "Sithi, Jabe; Aw could ha' torn aar Abil to pieces when he said that."  And then, after a moment's silence, "Poor lad, it kilt him."

    "Well, yo' known," she proceeded, after a moment's mournful thought, "we couldna believe it of aar fayther, but Abil stuck aat as it wur trew, an' we wur that feart on it gettin' aat we darrna speik abaat it ta awmbry.  So we morgiged th' haase an' paid it,—welly sixty paand,—an' th' felley said as he'd keep it quiet."

    "Thaa lumpyed! whey didn't thaa cum an' tell me?" interrupted Jabe in stern indignation.

    "Aw know'd it wur wrung aw th' toime, an' Aw wouldna hev' agreed ta pay it, chuse wot they'd said, ony fur that text upo' th' gravestooan," answered Rhoda.  And then, after another pause, she proceeded—

    "Well, six munths efther, th' felley coom an' said as they'd fun' some mooar aat.  Hay, Ben, Aw thowt as mi hest 'ud a bust.  We prayed till we couldna pray, an' we skriked till we wur blind.  An' aw th' toime foak were talkin' abaat th' grave-stooan, an' sayin' has trew it wur.  An' we knowed as it wur aarsel's, but we couldna prove it, an' we wur feart aat of aar wits on it bein' fun' aat.

    "Well, we borrad th' second lot o' brass off Owd Croppy at a big interest, an' wot wi' th' debt an' wot wi' th' interest we'en bin payin' it off iver sin'.  It kilt aar Abil, an' it wur killin' me.  Th' last ten paand we couldna raise; we'en bin tryin' for welly tew ye'r.  An' Croppy saused uz ivery toime he coom.  An' we wur that feart of owt cumin' aat, as we darrna leuk poor.  An' then Aw geet badly, an' Aw wur feart o' deein' afoor it wur paid.  It ud aw a come aat if Aw hed, happen.  But Aw, couldna keep up.  Aw felt Aw wur dun fur.  An' Aw wur welly crazy maddlet ta get th' brass, an' save my fayther's name."

    Then she paused for a moment, out of breath.  Both Ben and Jinny began to exhort her to rest a little, but she stopped them with an impatient gesture and proceeded—

    "At last aar Jin an' me made it up as hoo should goa i' lodgings, or else to th' bastile, when Aw wur deead, an' sell aw th' furniture ta pay wi'.  Aw couldna dee, yo' known, till mi fayther's name wur saved—an' it is saved naa.  Bless th' Lord!"

    "Thi fayther's name ne'er wanted savin'," jerked out Jabe; "bud goa on an' finish this nominny."

    "Well," resumed Rhoda, "when Aw know'd Aw wur struck wi' death, Aw felt Aw couldna goa till Aw know'd as it wur aw reet an' safe.  An' soa Aw sent fur thee, Ben, last neet.  Thaa allis hed a koind hert, lad.  An' thaa cum, an' went away ta fetch th' brass, and when Aw wur waitin' upst'irs fur thi ta cum back, Aw yerd Owd Croppy daanst'irs, and then he cum up.  An' hay, Aw wur feart!  But he said as he'd some news fur me.  Aw didn't want ony news, but Aw darrna say so.  Soa he cum an' he stood jist where tha'rt sittin' naa, Ben, an' he leuked at me, an' he said, 'Amos Bobby wur kilt this mornin'.'

    "Amos wur my fayther's pardner i' th' club stewardship, thaa knows.  Well, Aw thowt as they'd fun' summat else aat, an' Aw skriked aat, but Croppy said as when he wur deein' Amos sent fur him an' towd him he'd summat ta get off his soul afore he faced his Maker.  An' wot dun yo' think it wur?"

    Both men were watching Rhoda with a stern eagerness that was painful, but neither spoke.

    "He towd Croppy as he'd awtered th' beuks ta pay his dog-runnin' debts, an' then when my fayther deead suddin he couldna foind th' brass, an' soa he leet it goa upo' th' deead mon.  An' soa, yo' see, his name's saved at last.  Hay, Aw know'd it couldna be mi fayther; bud we'en saved his name!  We'en saved his name!  And naa Aw con goa ta me grave contented."

    But she didn't.  At first it seemed very doubtful whether she would rally, but the vindication of her father's honour, and the removal of her own intolerable burden, seemed to give her new life, and in a short time she was going to the mill again, looking younger and stronger than she had done for years.


――――♦――――
 
Isaac's Angel.

I.

Love and Music.


ISAAC, the Clogger's apprentice, sat at his work before the back window of the shop one balmy day in the early summer.  He had opened the window, thereby letting in the scent of wallflowers and the hum of bees.

    Jabe was out, for it was the first working day after the Whitsuntide holidays, and the Clogger, though he would certainly not have admitted the fact, was feeling the effects of the holiday and the school treat, and so, being in no humour for work, had gone down to Long Ben's to "sattle up" about the previous day's proceedings.

    And Isaac seemed to have caught some of the restlessness of his master, and was getting on very slowly with his work.

    He held a clog-top between his knees, and was making a show of stitching it, but when he had drawn the tatching ends through their holes, and stretched out his arms to pull them tight, he kept them thus extended, and sat gazing out of the window with a far-away, melancholy, and dispirited look on his face.

    Then as he sat gazing out of the window at the tree-tops on the ridge of the Clough, he would every now and again heave a heavy sigh, then start suddenly as he discovered that he was idling, and hurriedly resume his stitching, casting as he did so furtive glances towards the inglenook, where Sam Speck sat enjoying a meditative pipe.

    Presently Isaac's sighs became quite demonstrative, and were evidently somewhat artificially produced for the purpose of attracting attention.  If so, they entirely failed, for Sam, half-asleep, was not in the least affected by them.  A few minutes later Sam began to nod, which seemed to quite disturb poor Isaac.  Then his pipe dropped out of his mouth, and that awoke him, and as he was picking it up, Isaac, to prevent him dozing off again, broke out—

    "Sam!"

    "Wot?"

    "Aw've yerd bet-ter hanthums tin that we hed o' Sunday neet."

    "Wot's thaa know abaat hanthums?"

    Isaac seemed not to hear this rough answer, and proceeded—

    "Aw loiked it weel enuff i' perts, bud Aw thowt as th' solo spilet it, thaa knows."

    "Spilet it, thaa bermyed, whey it wur the best pert on it."

    Isaac seemed very uncomfortable, and the face that gazed out through the window looked quite wretched.

    "Ay!  Aw darr say it's reet enuff if it 'ud bin sung owt like"—and Isaac stole a long sly look at Sam.

    "Sung! whey, it wur sung grand!  He's a throit like a throstle, Joe hes."

    A spasm of pain shot across Isaac's homely countenance, as if Sam's words were so many twists of a thumbscrew or other dreadful instrument of torture.  For a moment or two he seemed unable to speak.  His lips tightened, and then suddenly relaxed and quivered, and as he gazed abstractedly at the distant treetops once more, something very like tears swam into his eyes.

    Presently, with a manifest effort, he asked—

    "Did—did—t'other singers loike th' solo?"

    "Aw reacon thaa meeans did Lizer Tatlock loike it?  Well, hoo did.  Hoo gan him some peppermint humbugs when it wur o'er."

    Isaac went very red about the neck and ears.  His eyes filled again, and looking with a sort of desperation through his tears at the distant trees once more, he said slowly and falteringly, and in a tone which even the most credulous would have found it difficult to believe in—

    "Aw cur nowt abaat Lizer Tatlock."

    Sam laughed—a great, ironical, unbelieving laugh.  "Neaw," he cried, "an' tha'rt no' jealous o' Joe, arta?  Oh neaw! sartinly not!" and Sam grinned again in relish of his own rough irony.

    There was another pause, during which Isaac was evidently trying to get himself well in hand again, but in spite of all he could do a great tear splashed down upon his hand as he was boring a hole in the clog-top with his awl.

    Now Sam saw this tear, and it was the first indication he had had of the depth of Isaac's feelings on the matter of their conversation, and so, after watching the apprentice meditatively for some time, he changed his tone and said, with an assumption of stern impatience—

    "Whey doesn't thaa shape, mon, an' get th' wench if thaa wants her?  Hoo conna be so bad to pleeas when hoo tak's up wi' Joe."

    Isaac took another long stare through the window, and then, speaking like a man who was absorbingly preoccupied, he murmured dejectedly—

    "Joe's bet-ter leukin' nor me, an' mooar of a scholard—beside his singin'" and then, after a pondering, dreamy pause, "Hay!  Lizer does loike music."

    "Hoo wouldna be Jonas's wench if hoo didna," cried Sam; "but whey doesn't thaa start o' singin'?"

    And Isaac, with a despondent shake of the head and a voice of profound melancholy, replied—

    "Aw conna sing a nooat, Sam."

    Sam sat up, as if to think more rapidly, seemed about to speak once or twice, and then checked himself; but at length he suggested, though not very confidently—

    "Start o' playin' then, mon.  Thaa met ger i' th' band, thaa knows, an' that 'ud fotch her off her pierch."

    An eager light came into Isaac's eyes.  This was evidently what he would like most of all, but a moment later he shook his head sadly and said—

    "Aw'm sitchen a numyed, thaa knows, Sam; besides, whoa'd larn me?"

    Sam evidently agreed with Isaac as to his lack of power to acquire knowledge, but he also sympathised with him in his trouble, and so he said at last—

    "Well, if thaa loikes fur t' try th' voiolin, Aw'll larn thi."

    Isaac accepted this with great eagerness and many clumsy expressions of gratitude.  And in response to it Sam offered to get him a fiddle and allow him to pay for it as he was able, which, as Isaac was poor and had a sick mother, was a great relief to him.

    Then there came the question as to where the practising should take place.  Sam was so dubious about his pupil that he insisted on the lessons being given secretly.  They couldn't be given at his house, for his tyrant housekeeper and sister would not, he knew, tolerate them for an hour.

    After much discussion, a disused hencote at the bottom of the yard wherein Isaac's mother's cottage stood, and which belonged to the cottage, was decided upon, and it was arranged that lessons should commence at once.

    Many and many a time did poor Sam repent of his bargain during the next few months, for Isaac fully justified his own account of himself, and proved a most trying pupil.

    In course of time, however, some little progress was made, and almost every night during the following winter any person going down Shaving Lane would have heard certain peculiar sounds coming from the outbuildings abutting upon the lane, and if they had peeped, as more than one curious Becksider did, through one of the many holes in the wall, they would have seen a tall, long-necked youth, with very short hair, mending a broken string, or resining a fiddle-bow, or producing, with fearful facial contortions and grotesque protrusions of tongue, certain weird, indescribable sounds, which every now and again very distantly suggested a tune.

    As the springtime came round again the practices became more frequent, and Sam was sometimes on the point of giving his pupil up altogether, and sometimes prophesied that he would "mak' a fiddler efther aw."

    One day, however, Sam effected his grand coup.  It was the second practice night at the Clog Shop preparatory to the "Sarmons," and things could not be said to be going at all well.  The instrumentalists struggled bravely with the new piece of anthem music, but when at last they had got through it, every man finished with that irritated and discouraged feeling so usual in the earlier stages of musical preparation.  This was Sam's opportunity.

    "Aw'll tell yo' wot it is, chaps," he cried, straightening himself and brandishing his fiddle-bow to emphasise his argument, "th' fost fiddles isna strung enuff, an' wot's mooar, they ne'er han bin strung enuff sin owd Job gan up."

    "They makken neyse [noise] enuff, at ony rate," snarled Jabe from behind his 'cello; "it's no neyse we wanten, it's music."

    "Yo' conna foind fiddlers upo' ivery hedge backin," said Jethro impressively.

    "We met ax fat Joss," suggested Jonas the leader.

    "Wot!  Theer's noa ale-hawse fiddler goin' fur t' play i' aar chapil," cried Jabe, with fierce resolution.

    There was a pause, broken by the strumming of strings in process of tuning, and then Sam said as carelessly as he could—

    "We met tak' a young un an' larn him."

    "Ay," retorted Jabe sarcastically, "we did that when we teuk thee, an' a bonny bargin thaa wur tew."

    But the others, who evidently thought there was something to be said for Sam's suggestion, looked at him as if expecting him to proceed, and when he did not, Jonas, as leader, demanded—

    "Aat wi' it, Sam; wot art dreivin' at?"

    Sam became all at once deeply engrossed in tightening his fiddle-bow, and as he bent his head over it he said, in a low, hesitant tone—

    "Isaac con fiddle a bit."

    "That wastril!" cried Jabe, rising to his feet in supreme indignation; and in a moment everybody was speaking at once, and all agreed in denouncing the idea as absurd in the extreme.  But Sam stuck to his point, and after a long strenuous argument, which sadly interfered with the practice, reluctant and tentative consent was given for Isaac to come to the next practice and try.

    When Sam late that night communicated the intelligence to his pupil in the hencote, Isaac was overjoyed.

    "Hay, lad," he cried, "when hoo sees me stonnin' i' th' band at th' Sarmons, an' fiddlin' away loike—loike—winkin'—wot'll hoo think on me then?"

    And Sam, though with certain misgivings, catching for the moment some of Isaac's enthusiasm, replied—

    "Joe Gullett's dun fur ony minit."

    It was a trying ordeal through which poor Isaac passed next day.  All day long Jabe was lecturing him on the difficulties of the task he was undertaking, and the utter impossibility of his being able to play creditably alongside such accomplished exponents of the art as the members of the band.  And when the evening came, and eight sternly-critical judges listened to Isaac's initiatory performance with heads held sideways and nodding marks of time, the verdict, though not definite and final, was anything but hopeful.  At any rate, when the practice was over, and Isaac, after waiting for the verdict for a long time, at last rose to go, he asked, with his hand on the latch—"Mun Aw cum ageean?"

    Nobody seemed inclined to answer, until Jonas, who as leader was expected to reply, answered somewhat surlily—

    "Thaa con pleeas thisel'."

    Of course Isaac continued to attend, but his case was never regarded as a hopeful one.  Just when he ought to have been showing most improvement he became somehow most stupid, and his inclusion in the band for the great "Sarmons" day was an unsettled question to the very last.  In fact, had it not been that Long Ben and Jethro discovered that Isaac did not dream of being left out, but was looking forward to his first public appearance with an eagerness they could not bear to disappoint, it is absolutely certain that Jabe would have had his way and the young clogger would have been summarily dismissed.

    A week before the great event Jonas undertook to give Isaac a little private instruction, to prevent a fiasco at the last, and the only point in this arrangement that struck Isaac was that he had become a pupil of "Lizer's" father, and might even meet her in the house when he went for his lessons.

    But the young lady was somehow always absent, and eventually he began to regard this as a fortunate circumstance, as his appearance in the band on the great Sunday would be all the greater surprise to her.

    There was one drawback, however, to the completeness of Isaac's joy on the occasion.  It was an unwritten law in Beckside that everybody with any pretence to respectability—at any rate every young person—must appear on Whit Sunday in new clothes, and had Isaac been able to add this additional glory to the triumphs of the day, his cup would have been about full.  But his mother's illness had made that impossible.  He would have to wear his old suit on this greatest occasion of his life, and just on the top of one knee his trousers had had to be darned, and the darn would be shockingly conspicuous, and he would sit where everybody could see him.  But even this great difficulty did not daunt him.  He got a new "dicky," a new bright blue necktie, with white spots in it, and a new billy-cock, and sat up until long after midnight in the hencote going over again and again the pieces to be played on the glorious morrow, finally going to bed to think and dream and do everything except sleep.

    The Sunday proved wonderfully fine, though hot, and a great crowd assembled.

    Very shyly poor Isaac insinuated himself into the vestry appropriated for the use of the band, and turned red and pale and pale and red again as he followed the procession of instrumentalists into the chapel.

    Isaac was placed at the corner of the Communion rail, with Sam Speck at one side of him and Jimmy Juddy at the other.  The players had their backs to the congregation, and their faces towards the stage on which sat rows of girls in white.  In the bottom row, but on the other side of the pulpit from Isaac, sat Eliza Tatlock, whose dancing black eyes and arch roguish face had entirely bewitched the poor apprentice.

    Having found out exactly where she was, Isaac began to make every possible use of his great opportunity.  When he commenced to tune his fiddle, it was done pointedly at her, as if the exercise were a tribute to her beauty, rather than a mere musical preliminary.  When the hymn was given out, and the band stood up and struck off with the tune, every stroke of Isaac's fiddle-bow which could possibly be made to do so went in Eliza's direction, and in all the succeeding parts of the service Isaac played palpably, and most enthusiastically, at the queen of his heart.  Sad to say, though he never took his eyes from her except to look at his notes during the whole service, the hard-hearted beauty never deigned him so much as a single glance, whilst he twice caught her smiling in the direction of Joe Gullett.

    Except for this circumstance, Isaac was perfectly satisfied with the service, and felt it, therefore, a great compliment when, immediately after dinner, Jonas Tatlock came down to him, and drilled him for a whole hour in his part for the evening service.

    And poor Isaac did not know that this was done to appease the wrath of the Clogger, who was denouncing his apprentice in most violent language, and insisting on his being kept out of the evening's performance.

    But the morning's service was merely a skirmish, and even the afternoon was not regarded by the band as of much importance, as they took but a very secondary part in it.  The grand display, of course, was always reserved for night, and as the time drew near Isaac made his way in a high state of nervous perspiration to the band vestry.

    Had he been less preoccupied he might have noticed that his fellow-players all looked at him with cold averted faces, except Sam Speck, who looked so bad that Isaac asked him if he'd got the "toothwarch."

    Presently the Clogger entered the vestry.  "Sithi'," he cried, as soon as he caught sight of his apprentice, "it's aither neck or nowt wi' thee ta-neet.  If thaa shapes ta-neet loike thaa did this mornin' Aw'll—Aw'll brast thi fiddle fur thee."

    Isaac smiled sheepishly, and tried to imagine how ashamed of himself his master would be when the service was over.

    In a few moments they adjourned to the chapel, and Isaac, glancing up, saw that "Lizer" was there, looking as saucy and wicked as ever, and that Joe Gullett had changed places, and was just at Lizer's feet.

    The great musical event of the day was the anthem of the evening service, and Isaac, turning round for an instant, saw all the musical critics of Brogden, Clough End, Halfpenny Gate, and the neighbourhood, sitting behind him with uncompromising faces.

    At last the anthem was called for, and the band and choir stood up to perform.  Just as Isaac was settling his fiddle to his chin he caught sight of Lizer looking straight at him.  He felt that look right down to his toes.  Now for it!  The music commenced, and in a moment or two Isaac was sawing away for dear life, glancing every bar or two towards his lady-love to see how she was taking it.  He saw her frown once.  Then she blushed, and smiled very strangely.  Then she went red again, and then, after biting her lip for a time, she presently laughed outright, and Isaac, excited almost beyond himself, put all he knew into the last grand fortissimo, and sat down, feeling that his work was done and his victory complete.

    But somehow the band was very badly behaved that evening.  Even Jabe was muttering and setting his teeth about something all through the sermon, and the rest hung down their heads and scowled; and when the last hymn came they played as if all life had gone out of them.

    Isaac was surprised and grieved, and made up his mind to admonish his seniors gently when he got into the vestry.  He had done his part.  What was the matter with all the rest of them?

    As the congregation dispersed, the band played a selection, and Isaac, in the confidence of a great sense of victory, extemporised a little, putting in several fine grace notes; and congratulated himself that everybody was noticing him, as indeed they were.  He almost blushed as he discovered going out that all the musical critics in the congregation were looking at him in wonder, and, he doubted not, in envy too.

    Poor Isaac! scarcely had he got inside the vestry when Jabe, almost purple with wrath, fell furiously upon him.

    "Thee play!" he cried indignantly.  "Ther's as mitch music i' thee as they' is in a cracked weshing-mug!  Dun?  Tha's spilt the best hanthum we'en iver hed, an' th' collection's daan three paand; that's wot tha's done!  Pike off whooam, thaa scraping scarrcrow thaa!"

    And glaring angrily at him, whilst the rest looked on with pained, resentful looks, Jabe pointed to the door, and stood in the middle of the vestry, waiting for him to depart.

    And as if that were not enough, as he was going dejectedly down the "broo" towards home, who should pass him but the laughing, teasing "Lizer," talking with suspicious confidence to Joe Gullett.


――――♦――――
 
Isaac's Angel.

II.

No Place like Home.


ISAAC and his mother lived in the last of three irregular little one-storey cottages at the corner of Shaving Lane.  He had got within a few steps of home when the teasing "Lizer" and her companion, Joe Gullett, passed him.

    When he saw them thus in company, and heard the young lady's titter, he nearly stopped.  A great lump came into his throat, and he struggled vainly to keep back hot, angry tears.  Absorbed in watching his rival, he forgot to look where he was going, and a moment later he had stumbled over the remains of an ancient kerbstone, and his fiddle went flying from under his arm and clattering along the road, whilst Isaac himself went sprawling into the ditch.

    He was up again in an instant with a great slit in his trousers, just across the top of the knee where they had been darned.  He was covered all over with dust, and felt that he had scraped the skin off his shin.  But that was nothing to the anger and bitter shame that raged within him as "Lizer" and Joe, just as they were turning the corner of Shaving Lane, looked at him.  Concern and sympathy shot into "Lizer's" dark eyes, but at that instant Joe made some remark, which Isaac did not hear, but which set "Lizer" off giggling, and even after they had disappeared round the corner Isaac could hear her rippling laugh.

    Sore, ashamed, and bitterly angry with all the world, Isaac picked up his instrument and walked slowly towards the house, knocking the dust off his clothes as he went, and struggling hard to keep back tears of pain and anger.

    He steadied himself for a moment ere he opened the cottage door, waited until he could command his countenance, and then quietly lifted the latch.

    The cottage was poorly furnished but spotlessly clean, and on the far side of the fireplace stood an old four-post bedstead carefully hung with pink and white bed-hangings of ancient pattern.  Isaac never looked at the bed.  He took off his hat and laid it on the edge of an old chest, ready to be taken up into the attic when he retired to rest.  Then he carefully put away his fiddle in a little green bag and hung it in the chimney corner nearest the bed.  Then he sat down before the fire and made a show of poking it, though the evening was most uncomfortably warm.  In a moment or two he got up, walked to the window, and appeared to be interested in examining a couple of potted plants.

    As he did so, a dismal chirp was heard just above his head, and a young "throstle" in a little cage hanging against the window-jamb began to show signs of recognition and gladness.  But even this did not interest him, and instead of giving the expectant bird a responsive whistle, he stood blankly staring at it, as if it had committed some shocking crime, and then abstractedly turned away again and sat down once more by the fire.

    All this time, as Isaac was well aware, a pair of anxious, pain-faded eyes had been watching him from the bed, and as they watched they grew darker and more distressful, and when he finally sat down before the fire, evidently very unhappy, the sad eyes grew softer, a melting light came into them, and many a wistful glance was cast towards him.

    No sign or sound was there beside.  Isaac was still in dreamland, and a dark and dreary dreamland it must have been, to judge by his face and the gloomy stillness in which he sat.

    Presently there was a movement in the bed, accompanied by a groan which the sufferer tried hard but vainly to suppress.  She now lay on her back gazing earnestly at the joists above her head, and after a pause she said in a low, gentle voice—

    "Hay, Aw'm a praad woman ta-day."

    But Isaac neither moved nor spoke, and so after another pause, she went on―

    "Sum women's sons 'as bin i' th' ale-haase an' th' skittle alley an' tossin' an' swurrin' [swearing] aw day, an' moine's bin playin' hanthums at th' annivarsary.  Bless th' Lord!"

    Isaac gave a gasp, and a great gush of tears rose into his eyes, but he never spoke.

    The sufferer on the bed was listening intently, and waiting for him to speak, but as he did not, she began to prepare her next remark; looking steadily at the joists, and apparently absorbed in conversation with the Great Unseen, she moved her twisted hands and said―

    "Ay, Lord, th' herps of goold an' th' angils' singin' 'ull be varry grand, bud—Aw'd rayther yer aar Isaac playin' i' th' annivarsary."

    And then she added in a soft, apologetic undertone—

    "Yo' mun excuse me, Lord; Aw'm his mother."

    Isaac was crying now.  Not with the hot, hard tears of disappointment and shame, but the soft, gentle overflowings of relief and sympathy.  He sat for some time undisguisedly wiping his eyes and sighing.  Then he resumed his steady stare into the fire, but never a word did he speak,

    "Aw reacon Aw'st ne'er yer na mooar hanthums till Aw get to the bet-ter land," murmured the sufferer on the bed, still apparently speaking to the Unseen or to herself.

    And now for the first time Isaac turned and glanced towards his mother, but almost immediately resumed his glowering into the fire.

    "Ne'er moind," came from the bed again.  "Ther's plenty as hez yerd him play, if Aw hevna.  Bud Aw'st be a hangil afoor lung, wi' wings an' noa rheumatiz, an' Aw'st goa to aw th' Sarmons as aar Isaac plays at."

    And the afflicted one turned over on her side with her face to the wall, and shut her eyes as if in pain.

    At this Isaac turned again and looked towards his mother, and once more resumed his gazing in the fire.  Then he looked again with a wistful, anxious look.  A long pause followed, and at length the young clogger rose to his feet and reached out his hand for his violin.  He tuned it in a slow, absent sort of manner.  Then he drew the bow across the strings aimlessly, and at last, turning his back towards the bed, he began to play, carefully and nervously at first, but soon with confidence and then with abandon, and with an accuracy and skill which would have greatly astonished his tutors and fellow-bandsmen.  Finally he finished up with a grand, triumphant flourish.

    During the playing of this anthem Isaac's mother did not move, and even when he had finished she gave no sign at all.  Isaac stood for a moment expecting her to say something, and when she did not, he grew uneasy, and crept round the foot of the bed, with the fiddle still at his chin, to steal a look at her.  Still she neither moved nor spoke.  Had she gone to sleep whilst he played?  He stepped nearer, passed the scullery door, stole along the other side of the bed, stooped over and looked down.  And there lay a woman with a face worn with long and terrible suffering, but which now shone with a light that was scarcely earthly, whilst the pillow under her cheek was wet with gracious tears.  As he bent over her she moved and opened her eyes.  Then she smiled.  Such a smile!  Isaac had never seen anything like it before.

    "Haa's yo'r pain, muther?" he asked, for the sake of saying something.

    "Pain, lad?  Aw know nowt abaat pain!  Aw'm i' heaven.  Hay, Isaac!  Aw've bin i' heaven."

    A great glow of comfort and gladness suddenly gushed into Isaac's heart, and, partly to hide his emotion and partly to continue his mother's pleasure, he perched himself on the edge of the bed and played one of the anniversary hymns.  When that was finished he played another, and then a third, and by this time his mother was sitting up and watching him in the twilight with admiring and grateful eyes.

    When he had finished he walked back to his place by the now dead fire.  A great peace was in his heart.  He had found a vocation, and even his expulsion from the band began to look a less dreadful thing to him.

    Then he got his mother a little food, and went out and fetched a jug of skimmed milk, and with that in one hand and a piece of oatcake in the other he sat down at the bedside to talk.

    "Hay, Isaac; thaa hez capt me ta-neet," began his mother.  "Aw ne'er thowt as thaa could play loike that."

    "Aw'll gi' yo' sum mooar when Aw've hed mi supper," said the easily-encouraged fiddler.

    "Nay, lad, tha'rt tired ta-neet."

    "Tired?  Aw cud play aw neet!"  And, putting down his empty milk-basin, he picked up his fiddle, though it was now quite dusk, and said—

    "Naa, muther, what wed yo' loike?"

    The bedridden woman seemed to hesitate.  Then she looked at her son through the gloaming, and said—

    "Yo' grand players dunno bother wi' childer's tunes, dun yo'?"

    The subtle flattery of these words was like healing balm to Isaac's sore heart, and he said cheerfully—

    "Childer's tunes?  Ay, wot yo' loike, if Aw know it?"

    "Can thaa play, 'Aw want to be a hangil'?  When Aw uset t' yer that Aw could fair yer th' angils singin' and see 'em comin' tew me."

    Of course Isaac knew that tune, and so he began to play, whilst his mother fell back on her pillow to listen.  When he had got through the simple little melody he commenced again, and then again, and at last, after a particularly loud and flourishing wind up, he dropped upon the bed, crying,—

    "Well, muther, will that dew?"

    By this time it was so dark that he could not see his mother's face, except by going close to her.  And as he bent over her he thought she looked almost beautiful, and an impulse came over him to kiss her.  But he had never done such a thing in his life that he could remember, and blushed at his own thought.

    Just then his mother moved.

    "Huish!" she cried in subdued, reverent tones; "they're theer!  They're theer, Isaac!"

    And then she closed her eyes again, and sighed, and smiled, and Isaac crept off the bed and stood in the darkness alone.

    Then he slipped off his boots, and was creeping up into his little attic, when a soft voice said, "Isaac!"

    "Wot?"

    "Wilta bring th' angils tew me ageean some day?"

    "Ay, muther; ivery day if yo'n a moind an' if fiddlin' 'ull dew it."

    And with that he climbed his little ladder, and crept into his bed a comforted and even thankful young man.

    Next day was the school treat, and of course a holiday, but Isaac had no heart for the festivities, and shrank timidly from the chaff he knew would be dealt out to him.  So he stayed at home.  All morning he was "fettlin' up" the little cottage, although it was already spotless, and in the afternoon, whilst the scholars were enjoying themselves in the Fold Farm field, Isaac was playing to his mother.  Though the cottage door was kept open because of the heat, he kept carefully out of sight, and watchfully avoided both seeing and being seen.

    When he retired that night, he spent a long time before he went to sleep picturing to himself the ordeal he would have to pass through on the morrow at the Clog Shop, and it took all the comfort he had got from his mother's appreciation to nerve him to face the fiery trial.

    But the anticipation proved as usual worse than the reality.  Jabe treated him with a dignified indifference, never even alluding to Sunday, and the other frequenters of the Clog Shop seemed more inclined to pity than to scold him.

    For the next two months Isaac spent most of his spare time at his mother's bedside, and the fiddle was in constant use, although Isaac had often to confess to himself that he had never played the anthem so well as he did on that first sad night.

    But now other things began to trouble him.  He thought he perceived a change in his mother, and at last he mustered courage to ask the doctor about it.

    "She might linger for some time," was the doctor's verdict, "but at longest she will scarcely see the next winter through."

    Poor Isaac!  It was hard work playing with this fear on his mind.  He had got so used to his mother being in bed, that it seemed as if she always had been there, and always would be.  What should he do if she were taken?  There would be nobody to live for and nobody to play for then.  Life would be a blank.

    One night, some three weeks after Isaac's consultation with Dr. Walmsley, he had been kept rather later than usual at the Clog Shop by pressure of business.  When he got home he found his mother strangely changed.  She seemed greatly oppressed with the heat and very restless.  By this time Isaac's faith in the power of his fiddle was almost boundless, and so in a few minutes he was sitting in his old place by the bedside and fiddling away at the simple melodies his mother liked.  For a time the music seemed to excite rather than soothe.  She sat up two or three times and looked at him earnestly, and then fell back with a gasp on her pillow.  This alarmed Isaac more than he cared to show, and he glided off into Sunday-school tunes, carefully reserving his one unfailing little hymn until the last.

    "Arr they comin', muther?" he said, in a loud whisper, as he reached the end of "The realms of the blest," and a faint voice replied—

    "Bless thi, lad!  Bless thi!"

    Isaac tried another tune, and then a third.

    "Con yo' see 'em, muther?"

    "Bless thi, lad!" came back through the twilight in a faint gasp.

    As he played "There is a happy land," Isaac inwardly resolved that if he did not get a more satisfactory answer from his mother next time, he would plunge right away into the irresistible "I want to be an angel," and when he got through the tune and bent forward, he noticed that his mother was sitting up, and leaning towards him, and gazing at him with a strange intentness.

    "Con yo' see 'em yet?" he asked, in hushed tones.

    The suffering woman bent farther forward and took his face between her hands, and, looking with burning gaze into his eyes, she said earnestly—

    "See 'em!  Well, Aw con see wun on 'em at ony rate.  Aw th' angils i' heaven arna as bonny to me as my oan fiddlin' clogger lad; an' they hevna done mooar fur me, nayther."

    Isaac was startled.  It was a most unusual action on the part of his mother, and her words were more strange than her deeds.  But for all that those words sent a warm gush into his heart, and so, to relieve his feelings, he dashed off once more into "I want to be an angel."

    Before he had got through, his mother had dropped back upon her pillow, and Isaac, taking this for a good sign, began again.  Then he tried a third and even a fourth tune, and when at last he stopped, he discovered that his mother was asleep.  Softly putting his fiddle away, and lighting a candle, he approached the bedside.  His mother was apparently in deep slumber, but such a peaceful, happy sleep it seemed.  She almost seemed to be smiling, and once more the temptation to kiss the pain-worn face came to the bashful lad, but only to be resisted, as before.

    Then he stole off to bed, and when, next morning, he came to the bedside to greet his parent, he found that she had had her desire, and gone to see the angels.  Isaac stood for a moment stunned; then, uttering a great, dreadful cry, he flew off to the Clog Shop.

    Jabe, Aunt Judy, and Sam Speck were soon on hand to render all possible help, and deep, though almost wordless, sympathy.  Three days later, his mother was laid in the chapel yard, and Isaac, refusing several rudely-tender offers of at least temporary lodgings, went back to live by himself in his mother's cottage.

    For a whole month he never touched his fiddle, but spent his spare time gathering together the few little knick-knacks belonging to his mother, and arranging and rearranging them in an old box covered with wall-paper.

    One sultry evening he felt more pensive than usual.  Somehow the box failed to interest him for once, and he wandered about the house in a restless, uneasy manner.

    Presently he turned towards the mantelpiece, and, after hesitating a moment, reached down his fiddle, and drew the bow gently across the strings.  The instrument gave forth a most plaintive note.  That touched him.  He felt his hand shake, and so, with a heavy sigh, he put the fiddle back into its bag and hung it up again.

    But he was now more restless than ever.  He went to the open door and stood looking moodily up and down the road.  Then he came back and stood in the middle of the floor.  A feeling of intolerable loneliness came over him.  He looked round the room again and again as if seeking someone, and then, drawing a long breath, he moaned out, "Aw am looansome"; and then, after a pause, "Aw wuish mi muther's angels 'ud come."

    And as he stood there in his misery, a thought suddenly struck him.

    "They'll happen come if Aw play," he cried, and snatched down his fiddle.  "Hoo'll happen come hersel'.  Hay, Aw wuish hoo wod, bless her!"

    Then he commenced to play.  The twilight was just gathering in, and but for the open door the small-windowed house would have been almost in darkness.

    As Isaac played, his spirits rose.  He began to think that perhaps the angels would come, and so he played on and felt relieved and cheered.  Tune after tune was gone through, the music moving the lonely, fretful heart of the young clogger, until it grew strangely light and warm.  As he played, he glanced round into the darker corners of the room as if expecting to see someone.  Still he played, getting lighter-hearted and more hopeful almost every moment.  Just as he was turning upon what he had reserved as usual for the last, a shadow fell across the doorway.  He did not see it for a moment, and had got into the second line of his tune, when, turning towards the doorway, he stopped suddenly, and cried, in undisguised astonishment

    "Lizer!

    Yes, there she was.  The same black-eyed, bewitching beauty upon whom he had once so fondly looked with hope.  But her face was grave—a strange thing indeed for her.  She also seemed a little shy and embarrassed.

    "Ay, it's me, lad," she said, in answer to Isaac's startled question; and even he could not help noticing that there was a tone of kindness and sympathy in her voice.

    Isaac pointed to a chair, but she blushed and shook her head, glancing the while at the door as if meditating flight.

    Isaac noted this, and was just about to beg her not to go so soon, when she stopped him by asking―

    "Artna looansome livin' here by thisel'?"

    "Hay, Aw am that," said Isaac, and the look he cast at her would have melted a heart of stone.

    There was an awkward pause, during which Eliza was drawing figures on the sanded floor with the iron of a dainty clog.

    "Wot wur that thaa wur playin'?" she asked, although the wicked puss knew as well as he did.

    "'Aw want to be a hangil,' my muther's tune, thaa knows."

    "Did thi mother loike it?"

    "Ay, hoo did that; hoo uset say it browt th' angils tew her.  Aw thowt it 'ud happen bring 'em to me."

    There was another long pause, and more clog-iron sketching on the floor.  Presently, after looking at him steadily for a moment, she resumed her drawing, saying as she did so―

    "Wot dust want angils fur?"

    "'Cause Aw'm sa looansome.  They uset comfort my muther, and they'd happen comfort me."

    The pause that followed was longer than ever, and by the way Eliza kept glancing towards the door, Isaac expected every moment to see her dart away through it and vanish.  But presently she bent her pretty head, and a great blush began to rise up her white neck―

    "Aw wuish Aw wur a hangil," she stammered, and then snatching up her little white apron, she hid her hot face in it and seemed about to begin to cry.

    But even then the stupid Isaac could not see, and so, looking up with dull astonishment, he asked―

    "Wot does thaa want ta be a hangil fur?"

    But Eliza was already trembling with the thought of her own boldness, and so there came out of the crumpled apron the single word—

    "Nowt."

    And then the slow lover seemed to guess something, only it was altogether too wonderful and astonishing to be true; but presently he ventured—

    "Thaa could be mooar nor a hangil ta me if thaa nobbut wod."

    "Wot?"

    "A woife."

    And "Lizer" didn't "fly up," as he had expected; she didn't even run away.  She just stood there and cried, and seemed to be waiting to be taken possession of.  And at last Isaac ventured; but how it was done, and how Eliza responded is really too private a matter to be detailed in print.

    An hour later, Isaac stood at Jonas Tatlock's garden gate, talking brightly to his sweetheart, even then scarcely able to believe in his luck.

    "Lizer," he said, "Aw allis thowt as thaa looked daan o' me an' loufed at me."

    "Aw'st louf at thi ageean mony a toime afoor Aw've dun wi' thi," was the saucy reply.

    "Bud, Lizer, did thaa cum ta see me ta-neet 'cause thaa yerd Aw wur looansome?"

    "Neaw."

    "Wot then?"

    "Well, thaa knows, when thi muther deed, foak were aw saying haa thaa'd tan cur o' thi muther an' fiddled to her aw neet o'er?"

    "Well, wot bi that?"

    Lizer hesitated, looked down into Isaac's homely face for a moment, and then gazing right before her, said hesitatingly—

    "Well, thaa knows, Aw thowt as a lad as teuk cur of an owd woman 'ud happen tak' cur of a young un tew."

 



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