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The Haunted Man.

I.

The Mauvais Sujet.


SOME two or three weeks after the opening of the new organ, and whilst Beckside was still in the first flush of its pride as the only country chapel in the Duxbury Circuit that could boast of such a luxury, Jabe caught cold again, and was threatened with a return of his old throat complaint.  He was compelled therefore to stay indoors on the Sunday.  This of course went badly against the grain; and in order to keep the old man "ony bit loike," Ben and two or three others called after each service and gave a full and particular account of all that had taken place at the chapel, dwelling at length on the achievements of the new organ, and the wonderful way in which Mrs. Dr. Walmsley played it.

    As the time for the close of the evening service drew near, Jabe limped about in his parlour with his throat muffled up, fidgeting and talking impatiently to himself, and peeping every minute or two out of the corner of the window to see if the chapel was "loosing."  For the life of him he could not sit still.  One moment he was consulting the long-cased clock standing near the door that led into the shop, and comparing it carefully with his double-cased watch, and the next he was taking a sip at a jug of "balm tay" which stood on the oven-top.  Then he limped to the window again, and after getting as close to the wall as he could in order to see as far round the corner as possible, he stood there peeping slantwise up the hill to see if anyone were coming down it.  Every now and again he imagined he could hear the organ, and stood still in the middle of the floor to listen, although he knew, in spite of Jimmy Juddy's solemn declaration that he had heard it in their kitchen, that the chapel was too far away to allow of any such thing.  Then he began to snarl under his breath at the preacher, and went twice to examine the "plan" hanging behind the parlour door to make sure that the man appointed was not one of those longwinded ones.

    All at once, however, the front door was noisily burst open, and in rushed Sam Speck, almost out of breath in his haste to tell his somewhat remarkable tidings.

    "Wot dust think?  Whoa dust think's bin at chapil?" he cried excitedly.

    "Haa dew Aw knaaw?  Aw hevna, Aw knaaw that," and the Clogger looked and spoke as if Sam were responsible for his enforced absence, and had done him a grievous injury.

    But just then Lige came hurrying in almost as much out of breath as his forerunner, and as he stepped towards the hearthstone, he turned to Sam, and addressing him, said, just as if Jabe were not bursting with impatience and curiosity―

    "Well, wot dust think, naa?  Wot's he up tew, think's ta?"

    "Whoa?  Wot?  Wot are yo' meytherin' abaat?" demanded Jabe in fierce impatience.

    But before either Sam or Lige could answer, Nathan and Jethro stepped in, followed immediately by Long Ben.

    Jethro was the first to speak.  Ranging himself alongside Sam, and turning his head towards him whilst he warmed his hands at the fire behind him, he asked―

    "Well, wot's th' meeanin' on it, dust think?"

    And Sam, turning to face his interrogator, knit his brows sternly, and, tapping Jethro on the second button of his seedy Sunday coat, replied emphatically―

    "It meeans lumber; that wot it meeans.  If he isna efther some nowtiness, Aw'll—Aw'll eit my yed," and, giving the knocker-up a little push as if to add additional emphasis to a statement already overladen with that commodity, he stepped back, and, putting his hand under his coat tails, stared doggedly at Nathan.

    Jabe was "on tenter-hooks."

    "Wot's up?" he shouted huskily.  "Arr yo' aw gone dateliss?  Whoa arr yo' talkin' abaat?"

    "We're talkin' abaat Jooab, skinny Jooab," cried Sam.

    "Well, wot abaat him?"

    "He's bin ta th' chapel ta-neet; that's wot abaat him," and Sam glared at the sick Clogger as if defying him to contradict his statement.

    Now Job Sharples, the pig-dealer, had never been to chapel since that memorable meeting at which Jabe had so scornfully returned his niggardly sovereign for the renovation fund.  For years before this Job appeared to have been gradually losing first one and then another bond that bound him to better things, and this seemed to have been the last one, for though the renovated chapel had now been reopened some eighteen months, he had never put his head inside the doors, and had come to be regarded by the chapel-goers as entirely lost to them.

    Of late years, too, Job seemed to have come so entirely under the dominion of the vice of greed, and was so constantly engaged in deep, tortuous schemes for his own enrichment, that his neighbours had ceased to give him credit for disinterestedness even in the smallest things, and his most innocent actions were suspiciously scrutinised, under the conviction that, when properly understood, they would be seen to be parts of some deep design for accomplishing a selfish end.

    When Jabe, therefore, received the intelligence recorded above, it struck him exactly as it had struck the others; and so, after standing in the middle of the floor and gazing thoughtfully at Sam for a minute or more, he quietly dropped into a seat, and, setting his eloquent, short leg in rapid motion, stared first at Sam and then at Long Ben, as if in search of something in their faces that would give him a clue to this great mystery.

    "He's happen come ta yer th' horgin," remarked Nathan at last.

    Now, there was not a person in the company but believed that the new instrument was capable of even this miracle of attractiveness, especially as Job was an old bandsman, but after looking at the others for a while, Jabe shook his head, and the rest wagged theirs in reluctant rejection of the suggestion.

    "Aw'll tell yo' wot it is," cried Lige after another pause, "he's cumin' efther Phebe Green; that's wot he's efther."

    Several pairs of eyebrows were immediately raised, and Sam Speck was just about to make a remark evidently confirmatory of this view of the case, when Jabe, with his short leg moving at a frantic rate, interjected―

    "Talk sense, Liger.  Does a dog goa courtin' an owd cat efther he's worried wun of her kittlins?"

    The elevated eyebrows dropped as Jabe began to speak, and were knitted into momentary frowns of perplexity as he proceeded, but when he had done every face was clear again, and it was evident that Lige's suggestion was held to be an impossibility, for Job had, many years before, badly jilted Mrs. Green's younger sister Lydia, and almost broken her heart, and since then Phebe, who was more like Lydia's mother than her sister, had regarded Job with feelings of intensest dislike.

    From this point it became clear that Job's real reason for visiting the chapel would have to be given up, and so, as the cronies filled their pipes, and settled themselves round the parlour fire, the conversation turned upon the pig-dealer's character and life.

    After two or three unimportant remarks, Sam Speck ventured to say, solemnly nodding his head―

    "Ther's sum foak as is lost afoor they arr lost.  An' Jooab's wun on 'em."

    "Ther' worn't a dacenter young felley i' th' Clough when he wur a lad," said Ben gently.

    "An' naa ther' isn't a wur," added Lige with grim conviction.

    "Jooab," cried Jabe, rising from his seat and taking a "swig" at his "balm tay," "Jooab's tew men.  Ther's a sawft-herted, common-sense, music-luvin' and welly religious Jooab, an' ther's a snakin', grindin', splitfardin' Jooab.  An' wi' them tew—a—a—sperits feightin' togather i' wun skin, Jooab mun hev a ter'ble toime on it."

    Now there was a gradual change in Jabe's tone as he delivered this summary of the pig-dealer's character.  It went from sternness to apology, and from apology to sympathy as he proceeded, and so encouraged by the manifestation of a feeling something like his own, Long Ben broke in here.

    Leaning forward in his chair and waving his pipe by way of emphasis, he said―

    "If iver ther' wur an' owd hangil i' this wurld it wur that mon's muther."

    "It wur that," murmured two or three together, and then there was an impressive pause, and each seemed busy with his own thoughts.

    "Naa," said Lige at length, cocking his head at an argumentative angle, and evidently about to propound some abstruse problem, "has dun yo' mak' it aat, as owd saints loike Betsy hez sick childer as Jooab—an' he wur aw as hoo hed, tew?  Besoide," he went on, as the position opened out before him, "his fayther wur a gradely good chap, tew."

    Two or three sighed deeply, as if to show that they had often wrestled with the problem, but so far had reached no satisfactory solution.

    "It's horidginal sin; that's wot it is," said Jabe sententiously.  "Didn't Christ say as faythers 'ud be tewk fro' childer an' childer fro' payrunts at th' last day!  An' it is soa."

    "Thaa talks as if th' poor lad wur lost awready," said Long Ben, looking protestingly at his friend.

    "Lost?" cried Jabe excitedly; "when a mon gets to fifty-five—an's gooin' wur ivery day—if he isna awtert he ne'er will be."

    Ben turned and looked at the Clogger steadily with mingled reproach and indignation in his face, and then glancing away and leaning back in his chair, he said, in tones of slow, solemn conviction―

    "Jooab Sharples 'ull dee a convarted mon."

    Every eye turned for a moment on this venturesome prophet, and then as quickly turned away from him, and as nobody spoke, Ben went on―

    "Owd Betsy pruyed thaasands o' pruyers for her son, an' deed afoor her toime wi' meytherin' abaat him, an' as shure as there's a God aboon, them pruyers 'ull be answert."

    One or two seemed impressed by the solemnity of Ben's manner, and appeared half inclined to believe his prophecy.  Jabe himself shook his head, and of course Sam Speck did the same.

    From this point, however, the conversation took a less interesting direction, stories of Job's meanness and hardness being related by one and another, and all seemed dubious about one or two instances of an opposite character related by Long Ben.  Presently they worked themselves back to the starting-point, and once more speculated, but without success, on the reasons for Job's unexpected presence at the chapel.

    On the following afternoon, as Jabe, not yet quite convalescent, sat musing and smoking in the inglenook, who should step into the shop but Job himself.

    He had not been inside the Clog Shop for over twelve months, and Jabe thought as he glanced up at him that his visitor did not look quite as well as usual.  There was a softness, somehow, about the red, sore eyes, and the face looked a trifle more pinched than usual.

    He came into the shop somewhat timidly, but that was characteristic, and so the Clogger eyed him askance and waited for him to speak.

    Job was evidently ill at ease.  He took his snuff in a decidedly nervous manner, glanced uneasily round the shop, stole a sly look at Jabe as if doubtful of his reception, and then moving towards the inglenook, and hesitating at the edge of a seat, he said―

    "Well, Aw yerd yond' horgin last neet."

    So that after all was Job's reason for going to chapel.  Jabe was a little disappointed, and answered gruffly―

    "Th' horgin's reet enuff."

    "Ay, an' hoo plays it weel," replied Job, with a little show of enthusiasm, and then he turned and glanced at a seat near him, as if waiting to be asked to occupy it.

    The erstwhile schoolmistress's musical ability requiring no defence, Jabe leaned back against the chimney-jamb and stared steadily into vacancy.

    Job made a movement as though he would sit down; but, changing his mind, he took another pinch of snuff and a sidelong glance at the owner of the shop.  Would Jabe never ask him to sit?  Evidently not.  The Clogger could not, or would not, see what his visitor wanted.  But Job had come for a serious talk, and felt he could not open his mind until he got comfortably seated.  So he turned and looked round again very significantly, but the Clogger would not respond.

    Then he propped himself awkwardly against the inglenook and blew his snuffy nose.  Then he resumed an upright attitude, took a step forward, picked up and began effusively to admire a pair of new clogs standing on the counter.  But even this did not move the stolid Clogger, and at last Job, dropping his voice, as became the nature of his question, asked―

    "Jabe, hast iver seen a boggart?"

    The Clogger laughed a hard, contemptuous laugh.  "Ay!" he cried, "Aw sees 'em ivery day."

    "Ay, bur gradely boggarts—sperits, thaa knaaws."

    "Aw knaaw nowt abaat 'em.  It's tew-legged boggarts, wi' clugs on, as Aw'm bothert wi'."

    Job took another cautious look round the shop, sighed a little, blew his nose again, picked up the short poker and tried to balance it on his finger, put it down carefully in the corner again, and then, leaning across and touching Jabe on the knee, he said, awesomely―

"Jabe, Aw sees 'em reglar."

    The Clogger laughed again; but a gleam of curiosity shot into his eye, and turning his head the least bit round towards his visitor, he cried―

    "Ay, ivery toime thaa leuks i' th' leukingglass, Aw reason."

    "Jabe," replied Job solemnly, and ignoring his friend's mocking tone, "Aw sees 'em ivery wik, owd lad.  Aw'm bewitched, an' it's killin' me."

    By this time it was evident that Job was very much in earnest, and the Clogger, in spite of himself, was compelled to turn and look at his companion.

    The man's face was drawn and white.  His eyes had a frightened, appealing look in them, and dank moisture was beginning to gather on his forehead.

    "Ger aat, thaa sawftyed!  Whoa dust see?" answered the Clogger, with an odd blending of impatience and curiosity.

    "Jabe, Aw sees—my—my—muther," and a choking sound like a smothered sob escaped the distressed man, and falling into a seat, he dropped his head into his hands and groaned.

    "Thi muther!  Well, tha'rt noa feart of her sureli?"

    "Jabe, thaa knaaws wot a bonny sweet face hoo uset have."

    "Well?"

    "It's noa loike that naa; it's dark an' fearsome, an' it sets me aw of a whacker.  An' Aw sweeats till th' bed swims."

    Jabe felt almost tempted to tell his visitor that it served him right, but the poor fellow's face told such a tale of anguish that he could not find in his heart to do so, and so he sat looking thoughtfully before him without speaking,

    "An,' Jabe," went on Job, in a pathetic voice little louder than a whisper, "Aw sees sumbry wur nor my muther."

    Jabe looked up with a large note of interrogation on his face, but he never spoke.

    "Whoa dust think Aw see, lad?"

    "Th' owd lad?"

    "Neaw; wur nor him, Jabe."

    "Wur nor him?  Thaa conna see nowt wur nor th' divil!"

    "Aw dew, Jabe!  Aw dew!" and Job shook his head with a weary, heartbroken moan.

    "Whey! whoa th' ferrups const see wur nor him?" cried Jabe in amazement.

    "Jabe,"—and here the speaker's voice became husky and thick with agitation,—"Aw sees Liddy."

    Jabe felt a cold chill run down his spine, and he was bound to admit to himself that if he had acted as Job had acted towards Lydia Scholes, the appearance of her spirit to him would be more terrible than a visit from his satanic majesty, and so he sat staring before him with an amazed and dumbfounded look.

    "Wot mun Aw dew, Jabe—wot mun Aw dew?"

    Oh, what a sermon Jabe could have preached just then on the expensiveness of sin and the certainty of retribution.  But for the life of him he could not compel himself to speak, and his long-pent-up anger with his hard, niggardly visitor was fast giving place to a feeling of deep pity.  But Job was speaking again.

    "My muther uset pray fur me, an' talk to me, an' coax me—hoo'd a laid daan her loife for me, an' naa hoo's turnt inta a fearsome boggart as freetens me loife aat, an' drives me maddlet.  An' Liddy!—they'll kill me, Jabe, they'll kill me."

    But Jabe could hold in no longer.

    "It's thi conscience, mon; it's thi bad loife.  Thaa mun repent, an' start o'doin' reet and give o'er scrattin' for brass, an' then th' boggarts 'ull leeav' thi.  Nay, they winna leeav' thi; bud th' boggarts 'ull be turnt inta guardian angils, an', insteead o' scarrin' thi, they'll tak' cur on thi an' comfort thi."

    Jabe having thus thawed at last, conversation became easy, and Job poured out the whole tale of his troubles to his companion, manifesting at one moment a desire to justify, or, at least, excuse himself, and the next accusing and condemning himself in unsparing terms as the author of much misery both to himself and others.

    Presently, relieved and comforted by the conversation, he rose to go.  When he reached the door he stood looking at and toying with the sneck for some time, and then turning back, he came to the fireplace again, and standing over the Clogger with fist clenched, and a face aflame with shame and bitter self-reproach, he cried―

    "Dust knaaw wot hell is, Jabe?  When a chap's badniss turns his blessed owd muther into a tormenting boggart, an' brings her aat o' heaven ta pester an' freeten him; an' when his sweetheart, as luved ivery hur o' his yed is driven aat of her restin'-place ta be a skriking ghooast tew him, that's hell.  An' that's wheer Aw am."

    And with a wild despairing gesture he fled from the shop.


――――♦――――
 
The Haunted Man.

II.

How the Boggarts were Laid.


JOB SHARPLES lived in the first house in Beckside, on the same side of the road as the chapel, and about a hundred yards higher up the "broo."  It was rather a large house for a solitary bachelor, being a good four-roomed structure, but old, and covered at both ends with ivy.  It had narrow windows, a quaint porch, and a forlorn and neglected garden.  The house had fallen into Job's hands some years before at a very low price, in consequence of the fact that old Tim Lindley, the original owner, had committed suicide in it, and a rumour, carefully encouraged after a while by the wily pig-dealer, had got afloat that Tim's ghost had been seen in it.  At the sale nobody would bid, and so it fell into Job's hands at less than half its value.  And as Jabe sat musing by the fire on all he had just heard, he could not but see in Job's recent experiences a strong confirmation of the doctrine of retribution in which he was so firm a believer.

    It was well known in the village, too, that old Betsy Sharples had done her very best to wean her son from his grasping tendencies, and that when she failed she had solemnly declared to Job that his money would not only never bring him happiness, but would eventually work him earthly shame and suffering and eternal misery.  And Jabe saw in Job's present condition a literal fulfilment of the old woman's prediction.

    The heartless way, also, in which, after several years' courtship, he had jilted one of the sweetest girls in the neighbourhood could never be forgotten by any Becksider, especially as everyone knew that he gave poor Lydia up because he thought he saw a chance of marrying money, a chance that, after all, he missed.  Poor broken-hearted Lydia, it was said, had, when goaded by Job's cold sneers, told him in a passion of tears that he had given her her death-blow, and that if she did die she would come back to him and spoil every pleasure he should ever have.  And it was told, too, that after he had left her, Lydia had repented and gone after him to ask his pardon, and to tell him as long as she lived she would pray for him, and that after her death she would watch over him, for, living or dying, she could never do anything but love him.

    Then Lydia, after wearing away almost to a skeleton, had left Beckside for a change of air, and since then, with the exception of her sister, Phebe Green, nobody knew what had become of her, and if Phebe knew, she never told.  This was now nearly twenty years ago, and beyond a rumour that she had died in the Manchester Infirmary, nobody knew anything about her.

    But, of course, as Jabe sat musing on these things by the fire, he realised that there could now be no doubt as to Lydia's whereabouts.  If her ghost had appeared to the hardened Job, she must be dead, and that settled the matter.  As he reflected on these things, his blood boiled with indignation at the pig-dealer's harshness towards his gentle sweetheart.  But then, as he recalled Job's haggard face and wild, despairing looks, he melted again, and felt deeply sorry for the man.

    That night he paid a visit to Job, and after trying to comfort the unhappy man, he preached him a very earnest and plain-spoken little sermon, exhorting him to mend his ways and return to chapel, and then perhaps the "boggarts" would trouble him no more.  At the same time Jabe took care not to stay too long, for though he greatly honoured the two dead women, he had no desire to meet them again, especially in Job's company.

    And Job seemed disposed to listen to his friend's counsel, and became most regular in his attendance at the chapel.

    Then he took a pew—a whole pew—though there was nobody to occupy it but himself.  His contributions to the collections were noticeably generous, and he began to put out feelers in the direction of returning to the band.  At the same time he improved visibly in health, and appeared passably cheerful, spending at least one night a week at the Clog Shop fire.  But after a little time less satisfactory signs began to show themselves.  He sub-let part of the pew he had taken, began to give coppers again at the collections, and was commonly reported to have dealt in the old harsh fashion with a tenant who was behind with her rent.

    Two or three times Jabe attacked him about these signs of lapsing, and told him again and again that half-measures would not do, and that a man like him must be everything or nothing.  But Job apparently took no notice, and was evidently fast returning to his old hard ways, when one morning, before the Clogger was up, he presented himself at the Clog Shop, and with wild eyes and pallid cheeks, and hands that shook when he tried to use them, he cried as he met the Clogger at the foot of the stairs—

    "Jabe, Jabe, they've bin ageean!"

    "Didn't Aw tell thi!" cried the Clogger.  "They're sewer ta come; tha'll ha' noa peace till thaa turns o'er gradely."

    "Bud Aw hev turnt o'er!  Aw come ta th' chapil reglar, an' Aw gees i' th' c'llection, an"'—

    "Wot's that?" shouted Jabe with disdainful impatience.  "Tha'll ha' ta turn o'er gradely, an' goa ta th' penitent form, an' jine th' class, an' give o'er money-grubbin', an' mak' it up ta them as tha's chizelled, an' be a gradely Christian."

    "Chizelled!  Aw hevna— Aw shanna ha' ta pay back, shall Aw?"  And Job opened his mouth, and gazed at the Clogger with surprise and terror in his eyes.

    "If thaa wants peace wi' God an' th' boggarts, tha'll ha' ta undew aw th' herm tha's done, as fur as thaa con," reiterated Jabe emphatically, for he realised that no half-measures would suffice with the pig-dealer.

    Job sat for a long time after this, moaning and groaning, and evidently hard hit indeed.  Nobody ever charged him with real dishonesty, but he himself knew how much there was in his life that would require to be undone, if this was the only condition on which he could have rest; and as his memory brought back to him case after case of hard dealing and mean trickery, he writhed on his seat in remorse and fear.

    Presently he rose to his feet.

    "Aw darr na sleep i' yond' haase anuther neet!  Aw darr na!  Hay, dear!  Wot mun Aw dew?"

    Then he left, and during the day Jabe obtained temporary lodgings for the miserable man.  The following Sunday there were two large pieces of silver in the collection-box, and Job even stayed to the Sunday night prayer-meeting.

    Then he took to frequenting the Clog Shop nearly every day, and adopted such a humble and conciliatory tone towards those who usually gathered there, that they soon made him feel at home amongst them, and missed him when he was absent.  He began also to recover his health and lightness of spirit.

    And so two months passed on, and though Jabe still held stoutly to his contention that Job would never get peace until he "gan in gradely," yet he was fain to acknowledge that there was an immense improvement in his pupil all round.

    Amongst other things, Job had tried to get upon good terms with Phebe Green, the mangle-woman, and elder sister of his old-time sweetheart, Lydia.  But though he was very persistent and patient, Phebe would have nothing to do with him, and repelled all his advances with cold and undisguised suspicion.

    By this time it had got well on into autumn, and the Clog Shop fire had a large circle of visitors round it every night.

    One evening Job was missing, and though it was known that he had gone to Lamb Fold to "stick a pig" early in the afternoon, no one knew whether he had returned or not.

    Two or three of the early birds had departed, and Jabe, Sam, and Long Ben were seated deep in the inglenook, the flickering chip fire fitfully lighting up their faces as they discussed the approaching Christmas festivities.

    Suddenly there was a dull, heavy thud at the door, and then, as they looked alarmedly at each other, all was still again.  It was too late for boyish tricks.  What could it be?

    "Wot th' ferrups is that?" cried Sam in startled tones.  But though they all held their breath, and listened, nobody answered.  Presently Jabe rose to his feet, and limped cautiously towards the door.  He stood a moment to look at it.  It was still fast, and nothing unusual could be seen.

    Then he jerked the door open and stepped back, partly to avoid any sudden attack, and partly to get the advantage of the light.  Nothing could be seen, but, as he was about to take a step forward, a heavy groan came from somewhere near the door, and Jabe jumped back in a fright.

    Sam and Ben came gingerly up to his side, and stood looking in the direction of Jabe's gaze.

    Another groan! and evidently very near.  Then Jabe, whose scepticism on the subject of boggarts was being severely shaken, thought he saw something dark on the ground inside the outer door.

    He drew a deep sigh, glanced awesomely around, assured himself that his companions were still by his side, and was just putting forward his short leg, when a woeful voice wailed out piteously—

    "Aw've seen 'em ageean, Jabe.  Ageean!  Ageean!"

    Now the Clogger had kept Job's secret perfectly, and neither Sam nor Ben knew anything of what had happened.  So with frightened starts they stepped back, and looked with scared faces at Jabe.

    That worthy returned their look with interest, and then, snatching at the only candle that was burning, he brought it forward, and, stooping down, peered earnestly at the heap behind the door.  There, all huddled together, lay the unhappy Job.

    "Save me, Jabe!  Save me, fur God's sake!" he cried.  "Aw've seen 'em ageean."

    Jabe turned round, put the candle on the little counter, laid down his expired pipe, and then going forward, gripped the miserable Job by the back of his coat-collar, raised him slowly to his feet, and led him into the dim light.

    Job had a bruise on his forehead, and his nose was bleeding a little, whilst his face was white and haggard.

    "Wotiver's to dew wi' thi, lad?" cried the Clogger.

    But Job's head dropped upon his chest, and staggering towards the fire, he fell heavily into a seat.  Then bending forward and propping his head upon his hands, he burst into a cry and sobbed as if his heart would break.

    It eventually transpired that he had been to Lamb Fold, and was returning home after dark, thinking of anything except his recent troubles, when suddenly, just as he got down the Clough "bonk," and stepped upon the cinder path along the Beckside, there—right before him—stood the two ghostly forms he had learned to fear so much.

    Maddened and desperate, Job went from fear to frenzy, and darted recklessly at the spectres, and as they vanished before him, he fell headlong into the Beck, bruising his face on a stone, and getting his clothes soaked with muddy water.

    How he scrambled out and got into Shaving Lane he was never able to tell, and he had not much more idea as to how he had reached the Clog Shop.

    As he sat there, wet and bruised, and almost ghastly, he would have been a heartless man who had not pitied him.  Everything that could be done to soothe and relieve him was done.  Jabe found him some old clothes, and insisted on his changing his wet garments.  Long Ben slipped off to fetch some of his wife's famous coltsfoot wine, to which was added a few drops of a mysterious mixture of magical power, concocted by little Eli—rumour said in the dead of night—and called by him "Number Seven," which had never been known to fail in casting off the effects of a chill if taken in time.  Sam, with a little rag and warm water, carefully washed the unfortunate man's wound, preparatory to applying a green wax plaster—also the invention of the aforesaid little Eli.

    But even when these things were accomplished, Job seemed ill at ease.  His eyes wandered wildly about the room; he started violently at every sound; and when it was mildly suggested that he should go to his lodgings and sleep, he became terribly alarmed, and utterly refused to go anywhere by himself.

    Ultimately it was decided that he should sleep with the Clogger, but as he was still too excited to rest, he sat cowering by the fire, whilst Jabe related to Ben and Sam all that was necessary to enable them to understand the case.  The two stayed until a very late hour, and when they had departed, and Jabe had administered another dose of coltsfoot wine and "Number Seven," he put the still excited man to bed, and lay down by his side.

    Next morning there was a solemn consultation at the Clog Shop.  Sam Speck, having seen Ben going into that establishment, came hurrying across the road from his own cottage, with the remains of his breakfast in his hand, and a great idea struggling for an opportunity of expressing itself in his mind.

    As Sam entered, Jabe was just finishing his account of the weary night he had spent with Job, who had at last dropped off into sleep and must not on any account be awakened.

    "An' Aw'll tell thy, summat," said the Clogger in conclusion, and looking with earnest conviction at Long Ben; "if they' isna a hawteration afoor lung, they'll be anuther mon fur th' 'sylum."

    "Poor felley," said Ben softly; "hedn't thaa better send fur th' doctor?"

    "It's a soul-doctor an' not a body-doctor as he wants," replied Jabe.

    This was Sam's opportunity.  Crowding the last piece of buttered oatcake hastily into his mouth, and thrusting his head in between his two friends, he swallowed the food, and said at last—

    "If yo' tew han owt abaat yo', yo'll cure him yorsel's."

    But Jabe was in no mood for trifling.

    "Wot's th' lumpyed meytherin' abaat naa," he cried, casting a withering look at Sam, and limping off into the parlour to listen at the foot of the stairs, and ascertain whether Job were still sleeping.

    Sam waited, secure in his confidence in his great idea, until Jabe came back, and then putting on a look of greatest gravity, and using his forefinger to emphasise what he was saying, he asked—

    "Yo' tew's th' yeds o' th' church, arna yo'?"

    "Well, wot bi that?"

    "Well, doesn't th' owd Beuk say as th' elders is ta cast aat divils?"

    "Thaa doesn't caw Liddy an' Owd Betsy divils, sureli?"

    "Neaw; bud they're boggarts, an' that's th' same thing?"

    "Well, o' aw th' bletherin' leatheryeds—Sithi'!  Aw wodna cast 'em aat if Aw could!  They're dewin' him good, mon!  Mooar good nor they iver did woll they wur wik.  They're savin' his sowl, mon."

    "Well, they're takkin' a rough wey o' dewin' it, that's aw as Aw hev' ta say."

    "We met hev' a bit of a pruyer-meetin' fur him, at ony rate," suggested Ben quietly; but just then Job began to stir about upstairs, and Jabe hurried off to attend to him, and the other two departed, Sam still confident that his plan for Job's recovery was the only likely one.

    A day or two later the suggested prayer-meeting was held, Job himself being present, and responding very loudly to every petition at all applicable to his particular case.  And whether it was the prayer-meeting, or the influence of his own fears, or both combined, sure enough Job was at the penitent form on the following Sunday night.

    It was a long and desperate struggle, and when the after-meeting broke up about half-past nine at night, though Job declared that he felt a "foine soight leeter," the professional judges of this kind of thing could scarcely be said to be satisfied, and Jabe voiced the feelings of more than one when he said—

    "He'll tak' noa harm fur being i' pickle a bit."

    From that time, however, there was a very marked change in the poor pig-dealer.  He joined Jabe's class, bought a new fiddle, and assisted the band at the Christmas tea-party, reduced the rents of several of his poorer tenants, and gratified the housewives living on his property so thoroughly in the matter of repairs and fresh wall-paper, that they became loud in his praises, and declared that he was "gradely convarted."

    Then he had the cheap little tombstone on his mother's grave replaced by a marble one with gold lettering, the only one of its kind in the chapel-yard, and Jabe and his friends were divided between intense pride and delight in the new stone, and misgivings as to whether Job was not "showing off."

    Then he gave up what remained to him of his original business, and made it over to a former assistant who was poor and struggling.  So great, in fact, was the change in him that the very children noticed it, and the harsh, unsympathetic old pig-dealer and landlord became a popular favourite with them.

    But perhaps the most remarkable of all his achievements was his success with Phebe Green.  He not only got on speaking terms with her, but, by obtaining a situation for little Jacky in Duxbury, he seemed quite to have won the mother over, and became so intimate with her that he was once caught by Sam Speck actually turning the mangle; and as Job's amorous disposition was well known, it was confidently predicted that it would "end up in a weddin'."

    Early in the following spring Job ventured to go back and live in his own cottage; and as he was growing visibly stouter and younger-looking, it was concluded that he had effectually got rid of his gruesome visitors.

    Then he began to "fettle up" his house.  He had large new windows put in the front.  The outhouses were repaired, and Lige, who seemed to have taken the pig-dealer under his special protection, spent much of his time assisting him to weed and restore the long-neglected garden.  And, of course, no stronger confirmation could be given of the idea that Job was going to marry the mangle-woman.

    And Phebe's conduct seemed to give further support to this view.  She certainly no longer shunned her old-time enemy; and when quizzed about him, she laughed in a very significant sort of way, and said in her own peculiar manner that "them as lives th' lungest 'ull see th' mooast."

    Of course Job himself did not escape chaff on the subject, and those who treated him to it were encouraged by the discovery that he rather seemed to like it.  For years he had been hankering after a wife, but hitherto his preference had always been given to women "wi' an owd stockin'," and in those days he probably never even thought of Phebe.  She was poor, and had four children, one of whom was an invalid, but more than all he knew that the motherly sister of his old sweetheart, Lydia, would have scorned him in spite of his money.

    But now everything was changed.  He could help a brave woman who was making an heroic struggle.  Her children with his money behind them would make something out; and, helping her, Job would be helping himself to popular appreciation, a thing he greatly coveted in these latter days.  And, besides all this, to help Phebe was about the only means left to him of making atonement for his conduct to the gentle Lydia.

    Job did not conceal from himself, either, that Phebe, though proud and close, was a clever, managing woman, and would be a great help to him in the plans he had formed for the future.

    All these things, therefore, made the village talk very pleasant to Job, and he redoubled his efforts to ingratiate himself into Phebe's favour.

    For four months now he had seen no "boggarts," and declared almost every day at the Clog Shop that he had never known what life was until now.

    One evening in the early summer, after a hard day's work in his garden, he had seated himself on the little side-seat in the porch at the front of his house, and with a pot of nettle-beer at one side of him and his snuff-box in his hand was musing on his future, and his possible chances of winning Phebe.  The look on his face told plainly how pleasant were his thoughts.  The air was laden with the scent of wallflowers and early roses, and musical with the songs of the birds.  All nature seemed to smile upon him, and as he looked around at the bright flowers and white-blossomed hedges, he heaved a great sigh of contentedness, and murmured softly—

    "Hay!  God's good!  God's varry good!"

    As Job sat musing thus, a woman stole out of the mangle-house at the bottom of the village, and, turning into Shaving Lane, crossed the stile, and began climbing slowly up the hill towards the Duxbury Road.  She was of about medium height, with small regular features, soft dark eyes, and a clear white skin.  Evidently she was about thirty-seven years of age, and a fair example of that type of Lancashire woman who is fairer at forty than at twenty.

    She looked a little nervous and preoccupied, and every now and again a soft warm light rose into her eyes and made her face look tender and sweet.

    When she got over the stile into the road, a little above Job's house, she paused and glanced rather anxiously about her.  Then she sought the shelter of the high hedge, and stole quietly down towards the cottage with her heart beating almost into her mouth.

    When she got close to the house she stopped, and after looking cautiously around again, she bent her head, and peeping through the hedge, caught sight of Job sitting in the porch.

    Her eyes suddenly filled with tears, tears all shining with the light of a joy that was almost holy.

    She put her hand on her beating heart, and sighed, and then bent down and peeped again—a good, careful look this time.

    Then she took a step nearer, and touched the gate with a hand that trembled so that it shook.

    "Job!"

    The musing pig-dealer started with a terrified cry.  The colour left his face.  He rose to his feet hastily, and opened his mouth to shriek, but just then the gate clanked, and in another moment two soft plump arms were thrown around him, a hot tearful face was laid against his, and a low eager voice cried-

    "Bless thi, lad!  Aw knowed tha'd cum reet!  God does answer pruyer!  Bless thi!  Bless thi, lad!"

    "Liddy!  Liddy!!" cried Job, almost beside himself.  "It's no' thee!  Tha'rt no' wik!  Hay, wench!  W-e-n-c-h."  And Job folded his arms around his long-lost love, and hugged her to his heart.

    Yes, it was Lydia.  She had not died after all, but had been in service in London, and kept up secret communication with her sister Phebe.  She had waited in prayerful faith and hope all these years, and at last, at her sister's instigation, had come home to her heart's only love.

    And there they sat in the little porch, laughing and crying together, and making mutual confessions and vows for a happier future, and as the sun dropped behind Wardle Hill and the birds ceased their songs, poor Job at last found peace and all the wealth of a woman's unwearying love.




THE END






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