Royle returned to Beckside to live, it was generally understood that
she had had a misfortune, but that as it was something for which she
was more to be pitied than blamed no person with any "dacency "
would ever think of making inquiries about it. Besides,
everybody knew everything about everybody else in Beckside, and if
they only waited Barbara would "tell" of herself.
But she never did. And nothing could be gathered from
the little girl she brought back with her, who reminded the old
people so much of the Barbara of long ago.
She had lived in a big place a long way off, she said.
Her mother had told her that she had a "daddy," but she had never
seen him, and she was called Royle like her mother—and that was all
that could be elicited.
"When a child's cawd after its muther," drawled Long Ben,
picking a chip out of the Clog Shop fire and lighting his pipe with
it, "there's summat wrong wi' its fayther and"—
"If all t' childer i' Beckside as had faythers wi' summat
wrung abaat 'em had to be renamed after their mothers," interrupted
old Jabe the clogger, lifting a very red face from over a disabled
clog, "there'd be a bonny christenin' at your haase."
"An' I tell thee summat else," he continued, rising to his
feet and brandishing a well-worn knife; "if t' mon as talked abaat
puncing a chap when he wor daan 'ad cum to Beckside he'd find them
as 'ud do it to a woman."
Jabe's rejoinder being unusually fierce, even for him, it was
clear that he disapproved of curiosity in this direction, and that
the subject had better be dropped.
Dropped at the Clog Shop, it was soon dropped everywhere
else, for that establishment and its proprietor were the centres of
public opinion in the village.
Beckside scarcely was a village; it was just two or three
clusters of cottages, dotted here and there with bigger buildings
stationed on the left slope of the clough, having a little Methodist
chapel at one end of it and a mill at the other. There was no
street in the village, the road that ran slantwise down to the
Beck-bridge at the bottom of the clough and up again towards Knob
Top, as the farm on the opposite side of the clough was called,
being the only provision of the nature of streetage which Beckside
The Clog Shop stood on the left, just past the chapel, at the
point where the road turned down towards the Beck, so that it
commanded a full view of the road right down to the bridge, and it
was the main object in sight when you came up the road from the
bridge. The Clog Shop itself was merely a lean-to standing
against the end of Jabe's cottage, and having a big window facing
the road, and a little one looking into the garden behind. The
fireplace stood with its back to the cottage. Though of
comparatively modern construction it was very ancient in style, and
was as nearly like an oldtime ingle-nook as the imagination of Jabe
and the ingenuity of the local builder could produce. The
remains of two or three clog-benches and two long, low stools
provided the furniture of this primitive, cosy corner, which was all
the year round, and almost all the day long, occupied either by
customers who waited for clogs that were being "spetched," or by old
Becksiders, to whom it served as club-room and hotel.
Jabe himself was a bachelor and a confirmed woman-hater.
His apprentice for the time being was usually both cook and
housemaid, except when Aunt Judy came in to "fettle up."
"Independent o' boath men and women," Jabe used to say, with
a tremendous emphasis on the "and."
Jabe had a short leg and a long one, the shorter one being
used as a sort of indicator of feeling, much in the same way as a
dog uses his tail, and the sudden jerking out of the abbreviated
member and its being flung violently over the other was taken as an
unfailing sign that something was coming.
Barbara Royle had been one of Jab's special trials in days
gone by. A laughing, teasing, black-eyed beauty who, even
after her conversion, was suspected of "carrying on" with the lads,
she would come into the Clog Shop to have her clog mended as
demurely as she went to class, except that she was usually humming
some popular Sunday School tune.
"I want to be an angel," she was murmuring on one of these
occasions whilst Jabe put on her clog iron.
"Ay, but ther'll ha' to be a vast change if iver th'art an
angel, wench," said Jabe.
And there had been a change. Barbara had gone away from
Beckside, and was supposed to be doing well in a distant town.
Suddenly, however, she had returned—a sad-eyed, shrinking woman,
whose every action proclaimed that she wanted to be let alone.
"Goa when th'art axed," Jabe said to those who "thowt o'
cawin' on her," but as Barbara never asked anybody they had to be
content as they were. Jabe himself was strongly suspected of
having been to see Barbary, for Peter Twist, bending his head down
as he sat in the nook and speaking under his breath whilst Jabe
served a customer, communicated to two or three of the "chaps" that
owd Jabe had been to him to speak for a "couple o' looms " for
Barbara, and that when he came he looked as if he'd been skriking."
So Barbara was allowed to settle down quietly among her own.
She had no near relatives. The more distant ones had known
little about her whilst she was away, and kept carefully aloof when
she returned, and so she and her child were allowed to follow their
own devices and settle in a small cottage down by the Beck-bridge.
Except to gratify their curiosity, the Beck-side women had
taken no interest in Barbara, and only showed their nature by a
characteristic hardness to one who had seen misfortune. Some
of them, indeed, owed her a grudge of long standing for her flirting
triumphs of other days, and affected to be astonished when Jabe
received her as a full member of his "class."
"Barbary Ryle's Barbary Ryle," said Aunt Judy, who, in virtue
of her relationship to Jabe, was a sort of a leader of opinion
amongst the women; "Barbary Ryle's Barbary Ryle, an' if hoo isna
settin' her cap a sumbry afore hoo's bin here mony wik my name's not
As a matter of fact this was not Mrs. Judy's name at all.
She had been married for a few months only, and as her late husband
had been nobody in particular, people had never got into the habit
of calling her by his name. Surnames were always somewhat of a
difficulty in Beck-side. In most cases they were superfluous,
and were also considered to be pretentious, and so in the nature of
things it came about that Aunt Judy became known as Judy Jabe—the
Judy of Jabe.
Whether Barbara ever heard of Judy's prediction or not, she
seemed to take particular pains to avoid the society of men, and
when Ned Royle, the new overlooker, came to the mill, and Aunt Judy
and her gossips were "sartin sure" she'd try to catch him, they were
perplexed to find that Barbara avoided Ned even more carefully than
she did other men.
Ned turned out to be a Methodist, and one Monday night went
to the prayer-meeting. He must have been a little early, for
the room was empty. Presently the door opened, and Barbara
entered. But she stopped suddenly, turned deadly pale, and,
wheeling round, nearly flew down the chapel flags.
Long Ben met her rushing away, and declared over the Clog
Shop fire that night that it was a "regular queer do." "Aw
seed her go in, and Aw seed her come aat, and hoo' looked as if
hoo'd seen a boggart; and when Aw geet inta th' vestry, theer wor
Ned lookin' moar like a boggart nor even Barbary did."
Ned Royle was something of a mystery. The fact that he
bore the same surname as Barbara attracted no attention, for Royle
was the commonest surname in the district. Nobody seemed to
know where the new overlooker came from, although a slight
difference in his "twang" made it clear that he was not of Beckside
origin. The "super" had told Jabe that he had received a note
of removal for Ned, and that he had been a Sunday School teacher.
At the mill he was regarded somewhat suspiciously, as he had
introduced several useful but very unpopular changes. The fact
that he was a teetotaler was against him, and his neglect of the
flagrant weed disfranchised him as far as the Clog Shop Club was
He had joined the Sunday School, of which Jabe was perpetual
superintendent. Ned showed, however, a most decided preference
for teaching girls, but as such a thing was only allowed in cases of
emergency, his opportunities did not occur very often.
However, he was soon immensely popular with the "little wenches,"
and at tea-parties foraged for them in the provision room, and
waited upon them with untiring zeal. His special favourite was
little Emmie Royle, Barbara's daughter. The women said he was
simply kind to the child to get at the mother—an opinion openly
denied, but privately accepted by Jabe.
When, however, one dark Sunday afternoon as school was
"loosing," and Jabe was limping home a little behind the rest, he
saw little Emmie in front of him, and was just noticing how she
walked "straight" like her mother, when he saw a man start out of a
"ginnell," snatch Emmie up in his arms, kiss and hug her
passionately, and then, putting her tenderly down again, hurry away
in Jabe's direction. Jabe was excited, and had just prepared a
hot blast for this offender when, meeting him face to face, he
discovered it was Ned Royle, and that tears were in the man's eyes,
and he was visibly agitated.
Jabe's gruff "'Ow do" in return to Ned's salutation was
evidently intended to be addressed to the pole-star, judging by the
direction in which he looked as he uttered it. And the
following evening over the Clog Shop fire, Jabe, whilst not making
the slightest reference to what he had seen, expressed a very
decided opinion that "Yon mon 'as had childer of his own some time."
About this time the mill began to run short-time, and
eventually stopped altogether. Trade was bad, and hard times
were come again. Considerable surprise was expressed in
Beckside that Barbara Royle, one of the newest of the weavers,
should be almost the last to be stopped, and the women folk took it
as another sign that Ned was "after" Barbara.
Jabe suppressed all murmurings in his presence by quoting the
text about the widow and the fatherless.
"Widow, indeed," sniffed Mary Meadows, an angular, hard-faced
old weaver of grasping habits. "Hoo's as mitch a widow as"—
But Jabe had jumped to his feet, and was kicking aside a
small heap of clog tops which had accumulated around his bench as if
he wanted to get at the speaker, and the look on his face was so
threatening that Mary forgot to pay for her new heel irons in her
haste to depart.
It was noticed also by the members of the Clog Shop Club, and
by several quite ordinary people as well, that Ned Royle, who had
nobody to keep but himself, was one of the first to feel the pinch
of the stoppage. What made it more perplexing was that Ned was
commonly supposed to have declined at least two offers of work since
the mill stopped, either of which was better than his present
situation. The widow with whom he lodged told Sam Speck, who,
of course, told all the Clog Shop cronies that Ned Royle was "fair
clemmin' hissel'," which reminded Long Ben that the "super" had
lately dropped into the habit of calling Ned Mister
Edward,—Jabe being the only person in the Methodist Society at
Beckside who was considered entitled to be called Mister, even by
the superintendent minister.
The Leaders' Meeting at Beckside was also mystified by the
fact that the minister always prevented them sending any help during
these bad times to Barbara Royle, assuring them with a confidence
which greatly excited curiosity that she was amply provided for.
And indeed it seemed so, for Barbara was in fact a liberal
contributor to the needs of the poor, and might often be seen coming
from cottages where poverty was known to exist.
Then the dreaded smallpox came to Beckside, and in a few days
poverty was lost sight of in the presence of this more terrifying
foe. In a short time half the houses in the hamlet had
patients in them. Then, although the welcome news came that
the mill was to be restarted, nothing could be done for lack of
hands, and strangers would not come near.
The doctor's assistant from Brogden came to live in the place
until the plague was over, and the Methodist superintendent was to
be seen in Beckside every day. Beyond these no stranger was to
be met with. The postman had caught the disease and died, and
no one could be got to regularly take his place. Vehicles,
instead of driving through Beckside, made a détour of nearly
two miles round by Stanger Bottom.
A heavy, oppressive silence hung over the place, broken only
by the sound of Long Ben's hammer as he worked almost night and day
making coffins. The Clog Shop became a sort of relief
committee-room, where the self-appointed committee-men sat all day
long discussing the situation, and fumigating themselves with
A peculiarity of the epidemic was that in Beckside, at
anyrate, it was commonest amongst the women, and so many other women
were needed to nurse them that a petticoat was scarcely ever seen
out of doors during the visitation.
"Has ta yerd as Barbary's little wench has getten it?" asked
Long Ben, opening the Clog Shop door one morning, and standing with
one hand on the latch, whilst the other held a piece of the now too
"Nay sure!" exclaimed Jabe, and putting on his big spectacles
he came to the shop-door, and stared down the street towards
Barbara's cottage, as if a sight of that building would help him to
realise what he had just heard.
As Jabe and Long Ben stood gazing down the road the minister
came round the corner.
"Moor trubbel, moor trubbel, sir," said Jabe, giving the
minister's hand a grip which made him wince.
"Who now?" asked the minister, with a jaded look.
"Little Emmie; Barbary's Emmie, you know," said Jabe.
"Ay, and her mother too," said Aunt Judy, as she passed into
Jabe's house, on one of her occasional "fettlin' up doos."
"Booath on 'em?" exclaimed Jabe and Ben together.
"Ay, booath on 'em. An', O Lord, who's to noss 'em,"
and poor, hard old Judy actually uttered something which would pass
for a sob.
The minister took refuge in his pocket-handkerchief.
Long Ben undisguisedly wept, and Jabe, looking down at Barbara's
pest-smitten cottage, blinked his eager eyes with a most suspicious
"Well, something must be done," said the minister, with a
sort of gasp in his voice. "I'll go and see."
"The Lord goa wi' you," said Jabe, "but there isn't a woman i'
t' place as can noss 'em."
"The minister started on his errand, and Jabe went back to
"Jabe! Jabe! does to see this?" It was Long Ben again,
and his face had a scared look as he held open the door.
Jabe was at his side as fast as a long leg and a short one
could carry him, and, following the direction of Ben's eyes, he saw
Ned Royle standing at Barbara's door.
"He met th' minister goin' daan," said Ben, "an' as soon as
he spok' to him Ned set off towart Barbary's. Then he stopt as
if he wor feart, and then he started again, and theer he is."
"Why doesn't he goa in?" asked Jabe.
"Hew con he goa in, an' 'imp a single mon? —see thee! see
thee! He is goin' in." And, to the utter amazement of
both, Ned, after hesitating some time and knocking repeatedly,
gently put his hand on the latch, opened the door, and passed
Ned's hand trembled, and his face was white and set as he
went in. The room he entered was neatly furnished and
spotlessly clean, but the fire was out and the room uninhabited.
Ned saw nothing. His head was down and his breath was coming
short and fast.
"Barbary, mun I cum in?" he asked, without looking up, but
there was no answer. Ned tried again, but without success.
Then he raised his head, looked about him, and finally glancing
round at a narrow, much bescrubbed and uncarpeted staircase in the
corner behind the door, he stepped towards it and timidly ascended.
He knocked again when he reached the bedroom door.
"Come in," said a faint voice, and Ned with a trembling hand
pushed open the door. He did not move, however, but looked
wistfully towards the pink and white bed curtains behind which
Barbara and little Emmie lay, he said in a humble pleading voice―
"It's me, Barbary, mun I cum in?"
No answer; only the occupants of the bed seemed to have
suddenly stopped breathing.
"Barbary! Barbary! let me cum in, will to?"
Still no answer, and at last Ned stepped into the middle of
"Barbary!" he said, "I dunnot ask thee to forgive me, but let
me noss thee an' Emmie till you're better, and then I'll goa away if
tha wants me."
There was a sudden movement in the bed, and one of the
occupants turned her face toward the wall and began to sob.
Ned moved gently nearer. Then he tenderly pushed aside
the curtains, and the next moment he had taken the plague-stricken
woman in his arms and was covering her fevered face with kisses.
"Does ta forgive me? Does ta, Barbary?" gasped Ned.
"Ay, lad!" was the reply slowly and faintly spoken, and then
the stricken woman laid her head on Ned's shoulder, and broke out
into long sobs of relief.
"Goa away, Ned; yo' shouldn't do that. Yo'll catch it,"
said little Emmie from the other side of the bed.
"Come here, Emmie," said Barbara from her pillow on the man's
broad breast. "Come here, wench; this is thi fayther."
When the minister returned to the Clog Shop, he found Jabe
and Long Ben in rather heated discussion.
"Haa does ta know as theayre worn't sumbry [somebody] else
theer?" Jabe was saying, " an' if tha objects why doesn't tha goa
"Haa con Aw goa wi' yon childer i' t' haase? retorted Ben.
"Brethren," said the minister, drawing the remains of a
disused clog-bench near the fire, "I should like to explain this
matter to you. Ned Royle is where he has the best right to be,
for he is Barbara's husband."
Jabe and his chum looked at each other in amazement.
"They were married at Duxbury," the minister went on, "and
were very happy until Ned took to drinking. He is of a very
excitable nature, though you wouldn't think it from the quietness of
his conduct since he came here. One night, after having
endured much provocation, Barbara spoke sharply to him. A
quarrel followed, and eventually Ned, losing all control of himself,
made a most violent assault upon his wife, and even in his frenzy
threw cradle and baby into the street. The magistrates took a
serious view of the case, and sent Ned to prison for some months.
"He came out of prison a changed man, and went right away
home to ask Barbara's forgiveness. But she had gone, and no
one knew where. Ned guessing that she had gone to her native
village, and feeling with increasing remorse the blackness of his
own conduct, gave up the idea of finding his wife and went away to a
distance and got work. Then he got converted at one of our
Missions, and engaged himself in good Christian work.
"But his heart was aching for his wife and child, and so
hearing of the vacancy at the mill here, he applied for the
situation, feeling that though he had forfeited all right to the
love of wife and child he would still watch over their welfare, and
perhaps some day win back their affection. He has never spoken
to Barbara until to-day—except in connection with the work at the
mill, and then in the fewest possible words; but just before the bad
times he bought the house in which Barbara lives, and Barbara has
been very much puzzled because old Croppy, the Brogden
rent-collector, refused to take any more rent, and told her she must
wait until the landlord asked for it.
"During the bad times Ned kept Barbara well supplied with
money, and has in many ways secretly furthered her interests.
As soon as the smallpox appeared, he came to me with a proposal for
getting his wife and child out of the place, but Barbara refused to
move, and now he has broken the ice and gone home to nurse them."
When the minister finished there was a long silence in the
Clog Shop, broken only by a sudden falling together of the chips in
"That's wot I calls Ned's Atonement," said Jabe at last,
looking hard into the fire.
"Yes, and his At-one-ment too," said the minister.
was at a discount in the Beckside shops. The largest window
was that of the Clog Shop, a short low casement, which made up for
lack of height by a quite abnormal width. No partition or
curtain separated the window from the shop, except a strong board
cocked slantwise at the inside edge of the window bottom which just
enabled old Jabe to see over it, and keep an eye on the doings of
the world outside.
The window bottom was generally strewn with wax ends, clog
irons, small tins of dubbin, bundles of white leather whip-lashes
for children's tops, and clog soles in various stages of
preparation. Of ready-made boots or clogs there was not a
And yet there was, for in the very middle of the window,
standing on a little platform a few inches high, stood a pair of
handsome specimens of the clogger's craft. Except that there
was generally a pretty thick coat of recent dust upon them, these
clogs were always in a high state of polish. The soles had
been varnished, the clasps glittered in a state of quite arrogant
brassiness, and the tops were resplendent with innumerable coats of
blacking. Woe to the hapless apprentice who smeared those
varnished soles with blacking, or left a speck of dimness on the
Now, the casual visitor who came to Beckside doubtless
concluded that these resplendent clogs were trade emblems, insignia
of the craft.
He was mistaken. To have made a pair of clogs on stock
or for mere show would have been to make a concession to new-fangled
ways of which the old Clogger was incapable. No, these clogs
had a history which I am now about to relate.
Jabe once had an apprentice called Billy—an undersized,
sickly-looking little fellow with unmanageable dark hair, black
twinkly eyes, and a low, broad forehead.
Now, all Jabe's apprentices were supposed to have done well
after they left his training—in fact there was a feeling in the
minds of the Clog Shop Club that the art of clog-making depended for
its maintenance, as far as Lancashire was concerned, on the
accomplished exponents of it who were turned out from Beckside.
Yet whilst they sat at his bench, Jabe's "lads" were always
"leather-yeds," "numskulls," and the like. And the last one
was always the worst.
But Billy seems to have been exceptionally "num," and was
emphatically informed about a score times per day—
"Tha'll never mak' a clogger as lung as tha'rt wik."
One evening, owing to some mental abstraction on Jabe's part,
the usual terms of raillery were wanting, and once or twice he spoke
quite civilly to his apprentice.
This produced a marked effect on Billy, who grew quite
light-hearted and had commenced to sing, when Sam Speck from the
chimney corner recommended him to "goo i' th' next street."
Nothing abashed, Billy continued his tune, and at last, forgetting
altogether the presence of Sam in the corner, he turned round upon
his bench under the back window, and called across the shop—
"Aw say, mestur, do yo' think Aw'st [I shall] ever be able to
mak' a pair?"
In an instant Jabe was himself again, and realising the
danger of further neglect of duty, he replied—
"Thee mak' a pair! Thee! Why, tha conna mak' a
wax end gradely yet. T'ony thing as ever tha'll be able to mak'
'ull be a-a-a-botch."
There was a great roar from the chimney corner.
"Good, Jabe; good! By gum, that's a good un," and Sam
smacked his thigh in delight.
Billy flushed, and as he bent over his work a great tear
splashed down into the sprig-box before him.
Now, "botch" was quite an unusual word in Beckside, but it
sounded so expressive, and seemed so exactly to fit the case, that
it was regarded as one of Jabe's greatest inspirations in
nomenclature, and when Sam began to call the poor little apprentice
Billy Botch, everybody else fell in with the habit, and Billy Botch
he continued to be.
The lad was really troublesome. His over-anxious desire
to please made him nervous, and he was constantly blundering, but he
was so evidently proud of a place in the great cloggery, so humble
and penitent when he had failed, and so anxious to make up for his
deficiency by harder work, that although Jabe called him "num-yed"
twenty times a day, and informed him that "all thy fingers is
thoombs" about the same number of times, he hadn't the heart to turn
Billy was worse than an orphan. He was the only child
of the village sot. His mother was dead, and Billy and his
father lived alone. The drunkard, once a respectable man, had
starved and almost killed his wife, and since her death had
alternately petted and abused his son. A soft-hearted,
harmless man to everybody but his own. And Jabe stuck to Billy
all the more on this account, especially after he discovered that
neither abuse nor sympathy would induce the lad to say a word
against his father.
Billy was rather a timid boy, but on two occasions he had
come to his work with a bloody nose, the result of an attack upon
some boyish slanderer of his parent, and once, indeed, a dark rumour
spread through Beckside that Billy had lifted his hand to throw a
clog sole at his master for a similar offence, but as no member of
the Club knew anything about it, and the suggestion was so wildly
improbable in itself, nobody ever seriously believed it.
One day Sam Speck had been chaffing Billy about his size.
"Mon," he said, leaning his back against the chimney breast,
and stretching himself out upon the bench, "tha grows less.
There'll be nowt left but thy clugs sum-day."
Billy began a reply which threatened to end in a whimper,
when Jabe gruffly ordered him to "pike off whoam, and see as tha
cums i' time i' t' mornin'."
When he had gone, Jabe put out the brown snuffless candle
which was his speciality in dips, drew up to the fire, and filled
For a time there was silence, and then Sam, removing his pipe
from his mouth, and nodding emphatically as he looked first at Jabe
and then at Long Ben, as if to defy even their combined
"It's trew! Th' little chap does grow less."
"It's moar nor we can say for thy tongue," rejoined Jabe.
There was an inarticulate grunt of amusement from Long Ben
far into the ingle-nook, and then a sudden straightening of his face
into portentous seriousness and sudden conviction, and he leaned his
long body forward and said—
"Aw'll tell thi wot it is, Jabe, that lad's clemm't."
A few days later Billy came to his work limping badly, and
making strenuous efforts to conceal his condition.
"Wot's up wi' thi naa?"
"Nowt! why, tha limps like a three-legged donkey. Wot's
to do wi' thi?"
"Aw tumbled ont' fender and hurt mysel'."
"Cum here and let's look at it."
Slowly and very reluctantly Billy came towards the fire, and,
holding up a skinny, blue-hued leg, exposed a frightful bruise.
"That's niver a faw; that's a punce. Whoa punced thi?"
"Whoa punced thi, Aw tell thi?"
"No—noabry " (nobody).
Jabe jumped to his feet. "If tha tells me a lie Aw'll
knock thi daan."
By this time Jabe was looking very terrible, and stood over
Billy with an unfinished clog sole ready to strike.
The clogger's hand dropped to his side instantly, and
flinging his weapon back upon the heap it belonged to, he sat down
and began glowering into the fire.
That night there was a long confabulation in the ingle-nook,
and all next day Sam Speck was running to and from the Clog Shop
every few minutes with a look of dark mystery on his face.
In the evening, getting as far into the chimney as they
could, and speaking under their breath, Jabe, Sam, and Long Ben had
a secret consultation. At the usual time Billy, rising from
his bench at the back window, pulling off his apron, and blowing out
his candle, was making for home.
"Naa, wheer art goin'?" demanded Jabe in his raspiest voice.
"Whoam, for sure," answered Billy in dull surprise.
"Theer's going to be a halteration between thee and me," and
Jabe pursed out his lips, knitted his shaggy brow, and jerked his
short leg across the other in a manner that brought a dingy patch of
colour to Billy's cheek.
"Why, wot have Aw dun?" he was beginning, when Jabe broke in
more sternly than ever—
"Aw'm abaat tiret o' thy gallus ways, so Aw'm goin' ta have
thi livin' in."
"Livin' in?" murmured Billy in perplexity.
"'Avin' thy meit here and sleepin'," said Ben from behind a
cloud of tobacco smoke far into the chimney.
A momentary flush of joy suffused Billy's dirty cheek, and
then it vanished, and in its place came a hard, desperate
"Aw conna live in; thank yo' kindly, mestur."
"Tha means tha winna," snarled Jabe.
"He's none goin' ta knock it off thy wages, tha knows,"
explained Ben, with a coaxing cadence in his voice.
Billy only shook his head.
"Aw conna leave my fayther," he said at last.
"Thy fayther!" cried Jabe, with a look of infinite disgust.
"It's abaat toime tha did," chimed in Sam from the other
chimney corner. "He's left thi fur wiks togather, and he's
clemm't thi, and he's threshed thi, and welly [nearly] broken thi
leg. A bonny fayther he is!" he added scornfully, after a
"But Aw conna leave him," said Billy, with a weary shake of
"Then tha other leaves him or me" shouted Jabe,
jumping to his feet and shaking his clenched and waxy fist at Billy.
After an awkward pause, Long Ben asked gently—
"Why conna tha leave thy fayther, lad?"
"Aw—Aw promised my muther Aw wouldn't, when hoo deed," and
Billy burst into a great sob.
No more was said to Billy on the question of living in, but
from that time things began to occur which prevented him from being
spared about meal times, and accepting the evident intention of
Jabe, he found himself provided
with food at the shop, but at liberty to go home whenever he
Some time after this Billy was converted, and began to take
an eager boyish interest in all chapel affairs. He grew fond
of reading, was made school librarian, and revelled in the somewhat
heavy literature of the vestry cupboards. Then he fell into
the habit of "setting" the preachers home after evening service, and
had not been entirely able to conceal from them his own aspirations.
One day a letter came to the Clog Shop which Billy read in a
flutter of delight and dismay. It was a request from a sick
local preacher that he would take the service at Beckside on the
following Sunday night.
Billy was in a fever. He had several discourses
prepared, and had frequently rehearsed them in the clough lanes, but
now when the opportunity came his heart failed.
Besides, he had never dreamed of commencing at Beckside.
How would Jabe take it? His contempt for young men's "forradness"
was well known, and then his master and Long Ben were the stewards
at the chapel, and there was no telling what view they might take of
the case, especially as Billy had no proper authorisation.
All day on Friday and also on Saturday Billy was brooding
over the coming ordeal, and watching for a favourable opportunity of
telling the Clogger. But none occurred, and Billy went home on
Saturday night with his fearful secret locked in his own breast.
Sleep was impossible, and when Sunday came he went to chapel
with the fixed resolution of telling his master after the service.
But the preacher was billeted with Jabe that day, and being an old
friend would stay to tea. So Billy's last chance was gone.
As the stumpy fingers of the hair-of-the-head clock hanging
in the chapel vestry drew near to six, there was anxiety in the
minds of those who occupied the apartment. Long Ben was
watching the clock and gently rocking his long body to and fro as a
vent for his nervousness. Jabe strode from end to end of the
vestry with his most pronounced unevenness of gait, and Jonas
Tatlock the "leading singer" sat at the end of the table tapping
impatiently on it with his finger ends, and glancing expectantly
every now and again at the door.
"He doesn't use be'en this lat!" said Long Ben
"He's ne'er bin nowt else sin' Aw knowed him," snapped Jabe,
glad of an outlet for his growing wrath, "but we'st begin at toime,
preicher or no preicher."
"Whoa'll begin?" asked Long Ben cautiously.
"Whoa? Why, thee."
"Me, Aw oppened aat t' last toime."
"Tha did nowt at sooart."
"Ya, bur 'ee did," Jonas broke in.
Jabe was just preparing a fearful blast for these contrary
spirits when the door was opened, and Billy, as white as the vestry
wall, stepped in.
"Wot's tha want?" cried Jabe at the intruder.
"Aw've come to tak' t' sarvice," stammered Billy.
There was a dead silence. Jabe stood glaring at his
apprentice in speechless amazement. Jonas became deeply
absorbed in his tune-book, and Long Ben fixed his eyes upon the
ceiling as if he expected some explanation from it.
"Out of the mouths o' babes," he murmured at last, drawing
out the "babes" as long as possible in a sort of pathetic emphasis.
The fiery eye which Jabe had fixed on Billy was now turned
upon Ben, who seemed under the glance to become lankier than ever.
After transfixing him for some time with a terrific glare,
Jabe turned suddenly on his heel, snatched his hat from the peg
against the wall, and exclaiming mockingly, "Then tha can coodle thy
ba-abes," limped into the chapel with his short nose very high in
In a few moments he was followed by Billy and the rest, and a
buzz of suppressed astonishment arose as the young clogger walked
into the pulpit.
Billy trembled until the pulpit wax candles shook in their
sockets. Then in a husky, tremulous voice he gave out the
hymn. The former part of the service was got through without
anything that needs comment, except that Long Ben, who was not
usually very demonstrative in his worship, kept up a constant fire
of responses during the prayer. There had never, within living
recollection, been any moment of stillness in that chapel so awful
as that in which Billy prepared to announce his text.
"Prepare to meet thy God," read the preacher.
A long pause, in which Long Ben, sitting near the vestry
door, declared afterwards he heard every tick of the vestry clock.
"Prepare to meet thy God," repeated Billy.
The superintendent minister had a way of announcing his text
twice before he began to preach, and so, detecting an ambitious
imitation, Sam Speck gave a significant and resounding sniff from
behind the choir curtain.
"Prepare to meet thy God," reiterated the preacher with a
perceptible quaver in his voice.
Another painful pause and a silence that was deathly, broken
at last by Jabe in the back pew throwing his expressive leg about,
and kicking the pew front as he groaned audibly, and in a tone of
The young women tittered, the boys in the gallery
over Jabe's head suspended their preparations for fun, and were
breathlessly attentive. All over the chapel there was a
bending down of bonnets, and Jonas in the singing pew began to clear
his throat to start a verse. Then Billy, gripping the sides of
the pulpit to hold himself up, began—
"Christian brethren, along the path of life there are many strange
meetings. . . ."
Having got started, the preacher divided his sermon into the
orthodox three parts and an application. When he had been going
several minutes he seemed to get the upper hand of his work. There
were a few people, at any rate, who were all eye and ear. The
exhortation proved to be longer than the sermon, and when Billy sat
down bathed in perspiration there was many a shining face and not a
few glistening eyes in the little Beckside congregation.
On Sunday nights the Clog Shop Club sat in Jabe's parlour. The day's
sermons were, of course, the chief subjects of discussion, but the
debate was conducted by a strict and well-understood method.
Supper of oatcake, cheese, and small beer or coffee having been
partaken of, the critics drew round the fire. It would have been
nothing short of a misdemeanour for any one to have broached the
sermon during supper,—only strangers ever attempted it,—and for any
one to have led off the conversation without waiting for Jabe would
have been simply rank treason. When the pipes had been
lighted, and no sound could be heard except the regular p't, p't of
the smokers' lips as they poured forth expanding columns of smoke,
Jabe would turn to Long Ben and commence the discussion with the
"Well, wot dost reacon off yon mon?"
On the night of Billy's sermon, however, there was a hitch.
P't, p't, went the pipes—Jabe was a long time beginning.
P't, p't, p't, but he never spoke. Two or three of the cronies
fidgeted in their chairs.
"Little David wi' a sling an' a stoan," said Long Ben at last, in a
hesitant, musing way.
"Ay, an' plenty thick-yed Goliaths to throw 'em at," answered Jabe.
The chairs creaked loudly, and Jonas had a fit of coughing.
Another long silence. Jabe's rejoinder gave
no clue whatever as to his mental whereabouts on the subject of the
evening, and the first thing to do was to solve that problem.
So Sam Speck presently tried the other side, but very cautiously—
"It tak's moar nor memory to mak' a preicher."
"That's why they wouldn't ha' thee, Aw reacon," said Jabe—in
allusion to a long bygone attempt of Sam's to get upon the Plan.
Sheepish grins flitted for a moment on two or three countenances,
and Jonas' cough came on again, and after a time he said: "This
'bacca's mortal strung."
It was no use. The conversation would not flow—Jabe could not
be drawn; and in spite of several attempts to start other topics,
the conversation hung fire. The Club broke up earlier than
usual therefore, and Jabe was left to himself. As he was
filling his pipe with the nightcap charge, however, the parlour door
opened an inch or two, and Long Ben, holding the door open without
coming into sight, said with unnecessary loudness—
"Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man," and bang went the
door, and Ben's long steps were heard retreating down the road.
The night following, however, the ice was broken, and after Sam had
retailed all the gossip of Beckside relating to Billy's sermon, and
Jabe had elicited from his cronies by such tortuous byways of
conversation as were peculiar to them that they were pleased with
the effort, Jabe dropped his mask, and whilst sternly repressing all
extravagance of praise, he conceded in what was regarded as one of
his few weak moments that "Th' lad met [might] mak' a hexhorter i'
But Billy improved rapidly, was made a local preacher, became in
request, and was, withal, exceedingly studious and modest.
The "super" had been "planned" all day at Beckside one Sunday, and
though not billeted with Jabe, he was known to have visited him and
had a long conversation during the day.
The gathering in the parlour was therefore unusually large at night
in expectation of news. Supper over and the pipes lighted, Jabe,
leaning back in his chair until it stood on its back legs only, and
looking hard at the brass candlesticks on the high mantelpiece,
puffed out a volume of smoke and remarked in the most indifferent
voice he could command —
"Th' 'super's ' wot Aw caw a far-seein' mon."
Six pipes were taken out of six mouths, and six
pairs of inquiring eyes were turned on Jabe, but nobody spoke.
Somewhat disconcerted at not receiving the spoken question, Jabe
"A gradely commonsense chap."
Another long silence; and then Sam Speck, looking
across at Jonas as if addressing him particularly, said—
"Queen Anne's deead."
Foiled again, Jabe went on another tack, and
after a suitable pause remarked, with the same exaggerated
assumption of indifference—
"Aar Billy's bin axed to preich t' charity sarmons at Clough End."
Now, most of those present were already in possession of this piece
of information, and as every one felt that this was only preliminary
skirmishing, which was being unnecessarily prolonged, they still
maintained their taciturnity.
Jabe fidgeted in his chair, threw his short leg
over one arm of it, then took it down again, and at last, turning to
his nearest neighbour, who happened to be Long Ben, he said—
"Th' 'super' wants aar Billy to cum aat."
"Aat into t' ministry, does tha mean?"
There; the cat was out of the bag now, and in a few minutes they
were talking one against the other in a manner bewildering to any
but a native Becksider.
Sam Speck had "expected nowt else sin' he preiched his fust sarmon."
Jonas told Jabe: "Tha'll see that lad Cheermon of a District afore
Lige (Elijah), the road-mender, wanted to know "wot th' circuit ud
think o' Beckside when it turn't aat a 'traveller,'" and Long Ben
sat back in his chair with an exhausted pipe between his lips and
beamed in silent satisfaction.
When the conversation was loudest, and two or three had risen to
their feet to get a better hearing, the door opened and in walked
In a moment there was a great hush, and those who were standing
slunk back into their chairs as if they had been suddenly detected
Billy looked round with curiosity and surprise.
"What is the matter?" he asked; for he had been out preaching, and
had not yet dropped back into his work-a-day vernacular.
Jabe was informed afterwards that it would have
been more becoming if he had held his tongue on this occasion, a
criticism which his own judgment endorsed, but he was excited, and
so he blurted out—
"Th' 'super' says tha hes to goa aat."
The colour went from Billy's cheek. The
hand which rested on Jonas' chair shook. A soft light came
into his eyes, and he sank quickly into a seat. But nothing
could be got out of him. As the others talked with a rude
eloquence about his future, Billy looked steadily and abstractedly
into the fire, a sadness settling on his face which cast its chill
over all the company. When they were all gone except Ben,
Jabe, who was evidently waiting, turned to his apprentice and
"Well; has tha nowt to say abaat it?"
"Mestur," was the reply in tones of anguish, "even if Aw wor fit Aw
"Tha conna goa! Wot's to hinder thi?"
Billy was still gazing into the fire.
"Ay! why conna tha goa, lad?" added Ben.
"Aw conna tak' my fayther wi' me," was the slow reply in tones of
"Whoso loveth father or mother more than Me," cried Jabe, in evident
pain and anger.
"If my fayther were a gradely mon," began Billy again, and then he
bent his head down upon his knees and heaved a heavy, struggling
sob, for he was relinquishing the one great dream of his life.
Billy's father, it should be said, had been converted under one of
his son's sermons, and for more than a year had kept himself
respectable. But a few weeks before the night we are speaking of he
had broken out again, to Billy's great grief. Moreover, steady or
otherwise, he was no longer able to sustain himself.
Next day Jabe was unusually quiet, and when
Billy, who had been quite as dull as his master, was leaving for the
night, Jabe called him back and said, in a voice subdued with
"Howd on, lad. Aw want thee."
Rising from his bench, he went and locked the
shop door, and then pulling Billy down upon a stool inside the
ingle, he said in a choking voice—
"Will tha goa, lad, if Aw'll tak' cur on him?"
They were only simple Lancashire men, those two; but they fell into
each other's arms, and when they parted Jabe had arranged for "t'owd
chap" to live with him, and Billy was pledged to offer himself as a
candidate for the mission-field, for it was understood that his
heart was set upon that kind of work.
Billy became a candidate for the Wesleyan ministry, was accepted,
and, as there was great demand for men just then, was appointed
immediately to the West Indies.
The day of the young missionary's departure from Beckside was one of
the most memorable in the history of the village. The farewell
really began the day before. Billy, having finished his packing and
made his last calls, felt the time hang heavily on his hands, and so
sat down at his old bench by the back window to make one last pair
As he was getting towards the end of his work a great lunge came
against the shop door. Jabe, who generally disdained to leave his
bench for any such purpose, jumped up hastily and opened the door. As he did so a huge chest, apparently borne by invisible hands, but
really held up from the outermost end by Long Ben, came sailing into
the shop, and was suddenly dropped with a bang upon the floor
opposite the fireplace.
Although only early autumn, a chip fire was burning, and Ben, after
taking his breath, made a pretence of warming his hands as he said,
looking up the shop towards Billy.
"Theer, Aw reacon that 'll be big enough for thee."
Now, as nearly all Billy's belongings had already
been packed, this box seemed to the young missionary to be a kind of
"day behind the fair" sort of thing, but he was soon undeceived, for
before he could speak Sam Speck, who had been sitting in the nook
for some time with a mysterious and somewhat impatient air upon him,
suddenly ducked down, and dragging a carefully wrapped parcel from
under the stool he had been sitting on, cried—
"Theer, if them blacks starts on thi, give 'em a taste of thooas,"
and loosing the string he revealed a pair of silver-mounted pistols,
which even then were antique, but were Sam's dearest bits of earthly
All this had evidently been arranged, for whilst Sam was still
speaking Aunt Judy came in with her arms laden with homemade hosiery
of the very thickest Beckside make: a number of pairs of stockings,
a "comforter" of bewildering length, a heap of mittens of almost all
colours and patterns, and a long, red, knitted nightcap with a big
bobbing tassel at the top of it.
"Why, Judy," cried Sam, "India's a whot country; he'll ne'er need
"Good cloas keeps th' heat aat as well as t' cowd," answered Judy, a
little dashed at this failure of her grand coup.
Then others came. Jonas brought a pedigree fiddle, which had been
his grandfather's, and had made music at innumerable local "sarmons"
Presently the box was full, and Ben began to rearrange the articles
for their long journey.
Jabe insisted on helping him, and the two bent double over the side
of the huge case, seemed to take most excessive pains to see that
all was safe. And it was only when Billy stood in a West Indian
mission-house, with the thermometer at over 90°, and held two greasy
money-bags containing gold in his hands, that he understood the
sweet kindness of this mysterious packing.
Next morning the Clog Shop was occupied very early by six
solemn-looking men dressed in their Sunday best. An extra coach had
been chartered to take them to Duxbury, whence the new railway was
to carry Billy and his belongings to London.
Billy's father, in a state of nervous collapse, sat looking on at
the preparations in a dazed manner. Jabe was scarcely less
disturbed, though he attempted to get up a conversation on the state
of the high roads they were going to travel on, just to conceal his
own condition—a device that deceived nobody. Billy's successor was
stationed in the road to give the signal when the coach and cart for
the luggage hove in sight.
"It's cummin'," shouted the new apprentice at last.
"It's cummin'," passed from lip to lip, and then with a white face
and lips all awork, Jabe limped to the door and locked it, and the
company, without any prompting but instinct, fell to their knees.
One after the other the humble souls commended their "lad" to "Him
who holds the winds in His fists." And then Billy prayed a broken,
hesitant, mixed sort of prayer, beginning with the
minister's English and ending in the Lancashire 'prentice boy's
broad dialect, with a great sob for the last "Amen."
"Tak' care o' my owd fayther, my dear, dead muther's husband. Tak'
care, O Lord, o' my second fayther, and all my dear owd frien's, and
if we never meet again below, may we all meet in he-e-e-ven and 'niver, niver part again.'"
Then they dried their eyes and went to the coach. All Beckside was
ready by this time, for Ned Royle had stopped the mill for half an
hour to give Billy a good send off.
Then all the Clog Shop cronies got inside the coach as solemnly as
if they had been going to a funeral, and as a big cheer went up from
the crowd Billy bade farewell to his native village.
It was a mournful company that gathered round the Clog Shop fire
that night. Everybody was dull and weary as well as sad. Presently
the shop-door opened, and a man came in.
"Is them clogs dun?" asked the newcomer.
"Wot clogs?" said Jabe, in no mood for mundane matters.
"Them as Billy said he'd finish fur me afore he went."
Jabe looked at the customer with a long, steady
stare, during which it was evident something was passing in his
mind. At last going to Billy's bench and picking up a pair of
new clogs, he put them on the little counter. The man was
picking them up, but Jabe snatched at them before him, and holding
them at a safe distance from the customer, he asked—
"Is thoas 'em?"
Then Jabe drew a long breath, and, surveying the
would-be purchaser from head to foot, he said—
"An' has tha th' impidence to want t' last pair o' clogs as aar
Billy iver made or
iver will mak'?"
The man was speechless with astonishment.
"Sithee," Jabe continued, "theer isna brass enoo i' all Lancashire,
neaw, nor i' all England, to buy them clogs."
Next morning Long Ben had orders to make a little stand, and when it
was finished the last specimens of Billy's handicraft were placed on
the top of it.
And that is the story of Billy Botch.
"Hanging his Hat Up."
THE doctor had
given "Owd 'Siah " (Josiah) up, and humanity and ordinary
neighbourliness, to say nothing of higher considerations, required a
becoming manifestation of concern on the part of Becksiders.
But it was uncommonly difficult to do—in fact, it required constant
self-repression to conceal the presence of quite opposite feelings;
and when Sam Speck related to Jabe and Long Ben how that the
doctor—a rather hot-headed young fellow—had stamped his foot and
sworn because he had not been sent for sooner, declaring at the same
time that nothing could save the patient now, the news was received
with looks which came suspiciously near to malicious satisfaction.
This neglect to call in the doctor was so exactly
characteristic of "Owd 'Siah" and his miserliness that its fatal
termination was recognised as retributive, and everybody in Beckside
believed in retribution.
Old Josiah had begun life as a farm-labourer. Then he
got on to keeping a few cows. Then he had taken Gravel Hole
farm, and one day he surprised everybody by buying—actually buying
outright—a small milk-farm called the Fold, which stood on the
opposite side of the road to the Clog Shop as you turned the corner
to go down to the Beck.
But thrift had degenerated into penuriousness, and then into
miserliness, and finally into every kind of meanness in 'Siah.
He gave up his pew at the chapel, and sat on the free seats.
He was only present on Sundays when there was no collection. A
fourpenny bit was the highest contribution he had ever been known to
give to any subscription, and when he withdrew from the Beckside
string and reed band Sam Speck declared he "gien up fiddlin' to save
th' expense o' rozzin." When his wife died, Aunt Judy declared
that she had been "nattered to death wi' his cluseness." His
two sons had both run away from home, and were dead, and his only
daughter Nancy had left home and was a weaver at the mill.
When 'Siah died, though every tongue was still in the
presence of death, and the women all sighed as they talked of it,
from sheer force of habit, nobody pretended to any particular
regret, and some, ignoring the immediate cause, expressed their
satisfaction that Nancy would be "weel off naa."
When at the tea after the funeral old Jabe absent-mindedly
started "Praise God, from whom," etc., instead of "Be present at,"
etc., nobody saw the grim humour, except perhaps the young doctor,
who went out rather hastily with a very red face.
Nancy was just bordering on thirty, a rather tall, straight
young person, whose homely, comfortable face was sharpened by a hard
line or two about the mouth. Everybody had sided with her in
her rebellion against her father, and everybody felt a sort of
relief from moral responsibility when it became known that her
father had not carried his resentment to his grave, but had left her
Before old Josiah had been long dead, people began to
speculate about Nancy's future husband; for though they had treated
with mild surprise the fact that such a "likely wench" had not got
married whilst she was a mere weaver, now she had become a freehold
farmer single blessedness was not to be thought of. With "beeasts"
to care for and a farm to manage, marriage was at once a necessity
and a duty.
A few weeks after the funeral Aunt Judy was "takkin' a soop
o' tay" with Nancy, but though full of the subject of the young
woman's future, she feared to venture far until assured that it
would be agreeable. She led several times, but Nancy somehow
would not follow.
"Ay, well!" she said with quite a demonstrative sigh, looking
steadily into the fire, "life's full o' changes, wench. We
doan't knaw wot a daa nor an haar may bring forth, as th' Beuk
"Neaw," said Nancy in a most provoking non-committal tone.
"An' there'll be moar changes afoor t'year's aat," hinted
Judy with the smallest catch of significance in her tone.
"Aw reacon ther' will," asserted Nancy, but she went no
"Well! Aw mun goa, wench," said Judy, rising from her seat.
"Tha mun keep thy 'art up, tha knows. Ay, dear," she
continued, fixing her eye on the wooden partition near the door she
was approaching, and looking directly at something she saw there,
"Aw see thy fayther's owd hat's hanging on t'peg here yet," and
then, with a significant sidelong glance at Nancy, "Aw expect
there'll be a young felley's billycock hanging up theer afoor we're
mitch owder. But mind wot th' art doin', wench. Aw
expect tha'll no spend thy haupenny at fust staw'."
"Neaw, neaw, Aunt Judy. The mon as hangs his hat up o'
that peg 'ull ha' to be a mon, Aw con tell yo'." And
Nancy smiled a quiet, humouring smile as she opened the door for
Judy, as if hastening her departure.
After Judy had gone the quiet smile still lingered on Nancy's
face, and she sat down before the fire, and was soon in a brown
Very soon all kinds of rumours flew about Beckside about
Nancy's matrimonial prospects, and as there was a rather large
proportion of eligible bachelors and widowers, the supposed
competitors for her hand were many.
Now it was Luke Knowles who was the happy man. He was
"rather owd," but, as a substantial yeoman, was in every way
suitable; and then it was Billy Bumby, the coal-dealer, who was the
only man in Beckside who had shares in a bank. But as Billy
kept flying pigeons (that is, homers), it was a moot point whether
Nancy wouldn't be rather bemeaning herself; for though Billy was
very well off, to keep pigeons was to be a publican and a sinner.
Then it was confidently stated that the young doctor was
"after" Nancy, and a day or two later the doctor was supplanted by
"the mestur's" son from the mill.
Now, as old Jabe was a confirmed bachelor, and at all times
cynical and abusive on the subject of women; as Sam Speck (who was
in matters of opinion a mere echo of Jabe) was a widower, whose
marital experiences were supposed to have given him ample grounds
for sympathising with Jabe's extreme views; and as Long Ben was
known to everybody as a woeful example of the henpecked husband, it
will be supposed that the Clog Shop Club took little or no interest
in Nancy's prospects.
And perhaps under ordinary circumstances it would not have
done. But, then, Nancy's farm stood nearly opposite the Clog
Shop door, and the front of the house, as well as one end, and the
road leading down the Fold to the farm premises were right before
you, a little to the right as you looked through the Clog Shop
window, and could even be easily seen as you sat by the shop fire.
Besides, Nancy had long been a member of Jabe's class, and
was the leading "seconds" singer in the chapel choir, which, of
course, laid some responsibility on our friends as to her future
Whatever the reason, Nancy's prospects were a matter of
curious interest at the cloggery. Never a trap turned the
corner into "the Fowt"; never a creak was heard at Nancy's garden
gate; never a bang of her front door, but the old Clogger lifted his
bald, grey-fringed head over the low board that separated the window
bottom from the shop, and Sam Speck stepped nimbly to the window end
nearest the counter to look.
Sam, as a sort of henchman to Jabe, always spent a
considerable amount of time at the Clog Shop, but about the period
of which I write he seemed to be constantly there. He also
took to slipping on his "Saturday efternoon" coat on ordinary days,
and greatly scandalised his sister by putting on "shoon" which were
always supposed to be especially reserved for Sundays and festivals.
Sam was a short, small-made, but very "natty" man, and always
neat in his appearance. Just at this time, however, he became
quite vain, but was so busy gathering and discussing the village
gossip about Nancy and her future, and so animated, not to say
excited, in his discussion of it, that the change in his get-up
passed unnoticed by his chums.
Early one afternoon, when Jabe had just finished his
after-dinner pipe and resumed his work, Sam sat on the end of the
long stool that jutted out from the Ingle-nook, lost in profound
Presently he began to hug his knees with his hands, leaning
back as he did so, and looking at Jabe as if he were making some
intricate calculation of which Jabe was the subject. At length
"Hoo's mooar nor an ordinary wench, hoo is."
"Who art talkin' abaat?" asked Jabe gruffly.
"Aw'm talkin' abaat 'Siah's Nancy, an' wot Aw say is as hoo's
mooar nor a common woman."
This was said with such unnecessary warmth that Jabe took a
sort of hesitant glance at Sam as he asked--
"Whoa said hoo worn't?"
"Th' felley as hes her 'ull have a fortin in his wife
as well as wi' her," continued Sam meditatively and ignoring
"Tak' her thysel', then," was the rejoinder.
"Well," he replied, hesitating as if he knew he was giving
himself away, but didn't see how to avoid it, "Aw met dew wor."
"Wot!" shouted the Clogger, enlightened at last, and rising
to his feet in his indignation and scorn. "Th'art theer are
to? thaa yorney!" "At thy age tew," he continued after a
"Aw'm nooan sa owd," snapped the would-be bridegroom,
suddenly sensitive on the point of age. "Aw'm twenty year
younger nor thee."
"Ay, an' a hundred year i' sense Aw wop [hope], thaa
meytherin' owd maddlin' thaa."
Finding no sympathy or even encouragement to talk, Sam left
in a huff, and for the rest of the week the Clog Shop saw him not.
On Monday, however, he was back in his place, and confided to
Jabe and "Owd Lige " over the fire that "Marriage wor a big risk
efter aw. Them's t'best off as hes nowt to do wi' it."
This and his resumption of clogs and ordinary wearing apparel
created the suspicion that Sam had "axed" Nancy and had been
refused, which was confirmed by Aunt Judy, who was supposed to be in
Nancy's confidence, and who reported that Sam had been in Nancy's on
Sunday afternoon and had "cum away wi' a flea in his ear."
A few days after Sam's discomfiture, and whilst he still wore
a pensive and chastened air, Job Sharples sidled into the Clog Shop.
Job was a sharp-nosed man with a hard little mouth and red eyes that
were suggestive of chronic catarrh. He had a clean-shaven
face, was quite fifty years of age, and was a pork-butcher and
cattle-jobber by trade. He took snuff, and had a hesitating
manner, which was supposed to conceal a doggèd, tenacious will.
He stood for a few moments before the short counter
pretending to take a survey of the contents of the window bottom,
but in reality he was counting Nancy's cows as they were being
driven into the Fold to milk. Presently he remarked―
"Them clugs Aw had t'other day has split, Jabe."
"T'other day," cried Jabe, always on the alert where Job was
concerned, and never greatly in love with him; "it's six munths sin
tha had 'em if it's a day."
"Eh, is it so lung?" replied the visitor, whose cue it was to
conciliate rather than provoke. "Haa toime flies!"
"But," he added, unable entirely to repress his natural weakness, "nowt
lasses [lasts] naa as it used do."
Saying this he sauntered to the fireplace, and was soon
comfortably seated on one of the stools. Then he began to
balance the poker on one of his fingers, whilst Jabe, with a
darkening countenance, became suddenly very violent amongst his
tools, banging them about and making a most unnecessary clatter.
Job waited a moment or two, took another pinch, and then,
setting the poker carefully into one corner as he spoke, said―
"Aw reacon tha knows Aw've bowt Sally's haases."
"Ay!" answered Jabe shortly, and in a tone of strong
reluctance, as though he were acknowledging something to which he
objected, but which he could not help.
Job took up a handful of chips from the corner, sprinkled
them slowly on the fire, dusted his hands one against the other, and
then proceeded in a conciliatory tone of voice―
"Aw'm nooan so badly off, tha knows, Jabe, for a Becksider."
Now the pig-dealer was noted for a constant cry of poverty,
and Jabe was therefore uncertain whether to take this unwonted
admission as a mark of special confidence or as an introduction to
something yet to come, so he was silent.
Job blew his nose, scraped together the chips scattered on
the hearthstone with his feet, walked to the end of the counter
nearest the window, and took another long look at Nancy's house and
Walking back to the fire, but sitting down on the stool
nearest to Jabe, he leaned forward and said in a low coaxing tone―
"Dost think Owd 'Siah's property had owt on it?"
And Jabe laid up mental lacerations for himself by answering―
"Aw knaw nowt abaat it."
"Less see. They'n five caas, an' a bullock ha' na
they?" And the clogger suffered further inward humiliation as
"Aw tell thi Aw knaw nowt abaat it."
"Naa, Jabe, nooan o' thy fawseniss."
But Jabe had perjured himself sufficiently, and commenced
hammering an obstreperous clog top as though he would knock a hole
Job had recourse to the snuff-box again, and turning to the
fire sat looking into it and ruminating deeply. Then he got up
once more, stepped behind the counter and over to the clog-cutting
bench, which stood against the wall at Jabe's right hand.
Sitting down uneasily on this he said in a loud whisper―
"Jabe, owd lad, Aw'm goin' to put up for Nancy."
Jabe looked dangerously like hitting Job's bullet head with
his hammer, but he checked himself, and was about to speak, when a
new idea seemed to strike him, and after clearing his throat he
said, with a very poor attempt at a smile―
"Tha'll ha' to be sharp abaat it."
That was enough; and whilst the Clogger was struggling with
the fear that he had added fresh sin to his soul, Job was pressing
him with eager questions―
"Wot dost meean by that? Whoa's t'others? Am Aw i'
time, dost think?"
"Th'art i' time if tha goas naa," was the answer.
Job started to his feet to go. At the door, however, he
hesitated, took another long look at the Fold through the window,
playing nervously the while with the latch. At last he said―
"Hoo's a soft-spokken soart o' wench, isn't hoo, Jabe?"
"Soa, soa," was the reply.
The pig-dealer slowly opened the door and stepped into the
road. In a moment he was back, however―
"'Siah left it aw to her, didn't he, Jabe?"
"Whoa else could he leave it tew?"
Away went Job, sidling past the window, and going a few steps
up the road before he crossed it, so as not to appear to be going
direct; whilst Jabe, dropping his hammer, rose to his feet and stood
back a little, so that he might see his visitor go into Nancy's
without being seen himself.
Just as Job reached the garden gate Sam Speck stepped into
the Clog Shop.
"Hay!" cried Jabe in a stage whisper, "cum here; sithee!
sithee!" and pointing through the window at Job fumbling with a
refractory gate latch, he drew Sam behind the counter and into the
shade where he could see without being seen.
By this time the pig-dealer had reached Nancy's door, and
when he was admitted Jabe began to hop on his unequal legs about the
"Aw wodn't ha' missed this; Aw wodn't ha' missed this for aw
t' brass owd 'Sian ever had."
Sam seemed to enjoy the situation quite as much as Jabe,
though probably for a different reason, and when in a few minutes
they saw Job emerge from Nancy's door and stalk down the short
garden path, looking so abstractedly before him that he nearly fell
over the gate, and then from their vantage point, standing back, saw
Nancy's comely face, all beaming with fun, peep out from behind the
curtain at the retreating form of her would-be husband, the two sat
down and guffawed and grinned with unalloyed satisfaction—Jabe
taking off his apron and adjourning to the chimney corner to discuss
the matter in all its details.
Something strange must have been in the air that day, for,
drawn by some occult influence, first one and then another of the
Clog Shop cronies dropped in until the ring round the fire was
complete, and the host had to tell his tale over again each time a
Job being heartily disliked by nearly all Becksiders, his
discomfiture was the tit-bit of every feast of gossip for some time,
and, in fact, it was only forgotten when another piece of news had
put it out of people's heads.
Soon after the event just recorded, there sprang up in the
village a rumour that Nancy was going to be married. Nobody
seemed to know how it had originated, but Jimmy Juddy (Jimmy, son of
George), who was only an occasional occupant of the Ingle-nook
stools, happened to be there when Sam Speck brought the news to the
Clog Shop, and he immediately adduced confirmatory evidence in the
fact that he had just come from the Fold, and had received orders to
"fettle th' place up inside and aat, upstirs an' daan."
But who was the happy man? And here rumour was
absolutely silent. That there was to be a wedding was now
certain, for Aunt Judy had taxed Nancy with it, and she had not
denied it, but all attempts to get at the name of the bridegroom had
Once, indeed, when Aunt Judy and Sally Walters had cornered
Nancy, and there did not seem any possible escape for her, she
evaded it by saying, as Judy reported, that "Hoo worn't gradely
sure; hoo hadn't axed him yet," but as this was clearly a joke
nobody paid much heed to it.
Sam Speck declared himself out of all patience with Jimmy
Juddy, because night after night during his labours at Nancy's,
where he must perforce be in constant contact with that lady, he
assured the members of the club that he'd "nayther seen nowt nor
This was all the more remarkable because, though the men
spoke of Jimmy as soft-hearted, he was known to be a great favourite
with women: his quiet, almost womanly, ways procuring for him a
great share of the feminine confidences of the locality. Jabe
and the rest, though not so severe on Jimmy as Sam, yet were fain to
confess that he certainly hadn't made the most of his opportunities.
But it was like Jimmy. He was too mild for anything,
and whilst all gave him more than the average share of personal
affection most were ready to subscribe to Jabe's oft-repeated
declaration that "He'd a getten on better i' life if he'd had a bit
mooar spunk in him." Jimmy was a social failure; beginning
life with something more than average opportunities he had made
nothing at all out. A middle-sized, mild-mannered fellow, with
an arm partly disabled by rheumatism, he was already going down the
hill of life, in spite of hard work and a great personal popularity.
He began life as the bookkeeper at the mill, which gave him a
status amongst the better end of the Beckside population, especially
as he would do their private bookkeeping for them. At that
time he was considered to have excellent prospects, and no one was
surprised when a boy-and-girl courtship sprang up between him and 'Siah's
But one day Jimmy was dismissed without notice, and no
explanation of the matter was forthcoming, either from the masters
or from the bookkeeper himself, but it was said that old 'Sian had
put his foot down concerning Nancy and Jimmy, and I am now revealing
for the first time a secret when I state that Jimmy in a painful
interview would give no explanation to Nancy, and so there was an
end, too, of that.
All this was years ago, and since then much had happened.
Jimmy was considered to have wiped out his disgrace by rescuing a
little piecer from the top room of the mill during a fire at the
risk of his own life. On this occasion the excitement of his
effort, and the drenching he got with the water used for
extinguishing the flames, threw him into bed with rheumatic fever,
and permanently injured his health, unfitting him for hard work.
Then the smallpox came, and Jimmy, who had become a sort of
handy man—whitewasher, jobbing painter, and even chimney-sweep for
those sufficiently well off to afford the luxury—served as Long
Ben's assistant in coffin-making and undertaking until he went down
himself with the plague, and barely escaped with life.
Altogether, Jimmy's had been a sad career; but he was a cheerful,
willing, kindly fellow, and in a quiet way a general favourite,
whilst his old mother and paralysed sister simply worshipped him.
Jimmy was busy cleaning, whitewashing, and painting Nancy's
premises for several clays, and at last worked his way down into the
front kitchen, which for general convenience had been left to the
last. The kitchen had formerly been larger, but it was now
divided into two, the end nearest the Clog Shop being partitioned
off to make a small "best parlour." Attached to the partition
was a thick peg, ornamented at the front with a short cow's horn.
"Mun Aw tak' this peg daan?" asked the painter as he prepared
to paint the partition.
"Neaw, tha marmot. Th' mon as is comin' here 'ull want
to hang his hat theer," replied Nancy.
Now, Jimmy had been several times on the point of sounding
Nancy on the mystery of her approaching marriage, and here was a
direct challenge. But after stealing a long sidelook at her,
and forming his lips two or three times as if to speak, he lapsed
into silence and went quietly on with his work.
During his labour at the Fold he had not seen much of the
proprietor, but now as he was in the general living place they
seemed constantly together, and anybody but Jimmy would have noticed
that though she bustled about a great deal Nancy was really doing
next to nothing, and was constantly hovering about him in a quite
suggestive way. Once or twice, indeed, in explaining her
wishes, she had come very close to him, and had brushed his
whitewash-spotted cheek with her frizzy brown hair.
But Jimmy was used to women, and his mind was rather
preoccupied by a little domestic anxiety of his own, and so he
thought nothing about it.
A stranger listening to their fragments of conversation would
have thought that Nancy was trying to draw Jimmy, but the poor
fellow saw nothing, and the questions he had previously asked were
intended more to furnish information for the Clog Shop inquisitors
than to gratify his own curiosity, though that was not quite
It drew near to tea time, and Nancy became really busy; in
fact, Jimmy could not help noticing that her preparations were much
too extensive for a party of one. She had brought in a great
piece of cheese, toasted several slices of bread, reached down a
plateful of oatcake from the rack over her head, and was searching
the depths of a cupboard for what turned out to be a large pot of
blackberry jam, when the painter began wiping his brushes on the
edge of his paint can, saying as he did so―
"Aw'll goa to my baggin [tea], an' cum agean i' t' morn."
"Tha'll do nowt o' t' soart; corn't tha see Aw'm makkin' sum
tay, tha'll ha' to finish taneet. Dost think Aw want thi here
Jimmy looked surprised, but the women were all kind to him,
so he resigned himself to the inevitable.
When they had "said a blessin'," and Jimmy was pouring his
tea out of his cup into his saucer, as was the correct thing at
Beckside, he nearly upset it upon his paint-stained trousers as
Nancy abruptly commenced―
"Tha hasn't axed me whoa Aw'm goin' t' have?"
The painter smiled sheepishly, and answered, "Neaw."
Somehow the pause that followed felt rather awkward, and it
struck Jimmy that his silence might be taken for lack of interest,
so he ventured―
"Noabry [nobody] seems to know whoa it is."
"Let 'em find it aat then," was the reply, and Nancy's eyes
began to dance with fun. Jimmy was stuck again, but as Nancy
seemed to be expecting him to go on, he said―
"He's not a stranger, is he?"
"Neaw, he'er [he was] born i' th' clough."
"But not a Becksider?"
"Ya,—a Becksider," and Nancy laughed out.
"Has ta known him lung?"
"Ya, aw my life."
Jimmy felt uneasy, and would gladly have stopped—he scarce
knew why; but Nancy was so evidently pleased to be questioned, and
so openly invited him by her manner to go on, that there was no help
for it. So he resumed―
"Do Aw knaw him?"
This question really did seem to disturb Nancy, for a crumb
went down the wrong throat as she swallowed her tea and led to a
violent fit of coughing, and the painter felt absolutely compelled
to get up and slap her between her shapely shoulders to help her.
When she had recovered and heaped Jimmy's plate with muffins
again, she came back to the interrupted conversation with―
"Well, Aw doan't think tha does knaw him gradely; at ony
rate, tha doesn't think mitch abaat him."
Jimmy was simply bewildered. It wasn't like Nancy to
have anything to do with a doubtful character, so at last he said―
"Well, Aw wop he's a gradely mon."
"Gradely!" and her flashing eyes suddenly softened into a
strange tenderness. "He is that. He's a hero!"
"Th' woman's i' luv wi' him at ony rate," thought the
painter. But Nancy hadn't done.
"He's wun o' them scarce chaps as conna get on for helpin'
other folk ta get on." And there was a curious break in her
voice, and she got up to seek something on the high mantelpiece
which she never found.
"A-y," said Jimmy, with slow incredulity, and he began to run
his mind over all the eligible Beckside males who could be said in
any sense to be heroic.
"A hero, tha says?" he queried.
"Ay, as owt to 'a lied t' Royal Society's medal mooar nor
wunce to my knowledge. He's no mitch to look at, and he's
welly [nearly] lame wi' th' rheumatiz; Aw—aw"—and there were tears
in Nancy's voice—"Aw'd rayther have him nor t' Prince o' Wales."
Jimmy was sitting straight up in his chair, and looking at
her as if he had fears for her reason. He had heard many
women's confidences before now, but this—. But Nancy was
"He's clemm't hissel' for mony a year for th' sake of an owd
craytur and her badly dowter at th' Beck Bottom yond."
But Jimmy had jumped to his feet, his mouth wide open, and
his face bathed in sudden perspiration, whilst the smothered, buried
but ever living, love of a lifetime came welling up in his heart.
"Nancy! Nancy! tha doesn't mean me?"
And there the two stood: Nancy with blushing, tearful face
buried in her hands; and Jimmy looking about him as if he were
expecting an earthquake.
Then he took a step or two back, and shaking his head with
solemn earnestness, said―
"Neaw, neaw, Nancy! Aw'm fain to see th'art same as tha
allis were; but it munno be, it munno be?"
"Why munno it be?" she said, lifting her head out of her
hands with a look of sudden fear and anger.
"Tha'rt young and bonny, an' weel off, and Aw'm poor, and my
arm's welly stiff wi' rheumatism, an' Aw's soon be dun for."
"If tha talks like that abaat bein' dun for, Aw'll—Aw'll
smack thi i' th' faace," and Nancy really looked like doing it.
"Then theer's my owd muther, and aar Alice, an'—"
"Well, Aw want them mooar nor Aw want thee," and Nancy looked
quite triumphant at her own double-barreled retort. There was
silence, during which Jimmy stepped slowly backward.
"Tha knows, Nancy, if theer wor nowt else, theer wor that
other thing tha knows on."
"It's past twelve ye'r sin', as tha tow'd me when Aw geet
sacked [discharged], niver to think o' thee till Aw'd cleared mysel';
an' Aw niver have, tha knows."
"Cleared thysel'! Cleared thysel'!" and Nancy flew
across the floor and seized him by the shoulder as she cried:
"Jimmy, tha knows; an' Watty knows; an' when he left for
Australia a fortnit sin', he told me in this varry kitchen as tha's
carried his shawm [shame] for twelve ye'r to save him fro' jail, and
his wife and childer fro' th' bastile [workhouse]. Aw've never
thowt o' noabry else, an' when Aw yerd that Aw said Aw'd mak' thi
ha' me. An' Aw will! Aw will!"
And the push she gave him by way of emphasis sent him
spinning against the cupboard door.
What they said and did after that is nothing to you and me,
gentle reader, but they talked a long time, a great happiness
filling poor Jimmy's heart, such as he had never felt before.
When he rose to go, for there was no chance of being able to
finish that night, Nancy called him back.
"Jimmy," she said.
"Tha's never kissed me yet."
Kissing was reserved for children at Beckside, and was, at
the best of times, a very rare thing, but Jimmy made up for twelve
years of enforced and bitter abstinence before he let his sweetheart
Once more Jimmy began to collect his paint cans to depart.
"Is that t' hat tha allis wears?"
"Hang it up o' that peg then."