Giving a Man Away.
WHEN Jimmy Juddy
left his sweetheart on the night of their engagement, he walked like
a man in a dream. He crossed the road into Mill Lane, which
ran parallel with the Clog Shop, and led down to the mill, and
thence on to Beck Bottom, where it joined the road to Clough End.
Jimmy passed the mill without noticing it, and never heard the two
or three "How do's" that were addressed to him by passers-by.
His head was bent, and he was muttering to himself.
Presently he entered the field beyond the mill, and
approached a clump of young trees in a corner at the side of the
lane. Here he dropped upon his knees under the shadow of the
trees, crying as he did so—
"Tha's done it, Lord, it's noabry but Thee—but it's
like Thee. Ay! it's like Thee. Aw've waited twelve ye'r
an' Aw gav' up hope lung sin, but Aw see naa 'at it is good boath to
hope and to wait for the salvation of the Lord."
Jimmy spent several minutes on this broken ejaculatory
prayer, and then quietly picking up his cans and brushes he made for
As he approached, new thoughts forced themselves upon him.
What would his mother and sister think of these things? Since
his disappointment of twelve years ago, he had given up all thought
of marriage, and latterly he had come to regard his duty to his
womankind as precluding it.
The state of his mind was very clearly understood by both
mother and daughter, and in their womanly inconsistency they began
to evince a most anxious desire that he should take to himself a
wife. But Jimmy was not deceived. He knew that the
certainty they felt of his remaining a bachelor encouraged them in
But his heart told him this was only one of the little
self-deceptions which do so much to sweeten life. He knew that
the reality would be terrible.
Moreover, though old Matty his mother was really healthier
than either he or his sister, they had persuaded themselves that her
heart was weak, and they had become fertile in inventing devices to
prevent her ever being suddenly startled.
This was an occasion, however, which taxed Jimmy's love-quick
inventiveness to its utmost. He knew how difficult it was to
conceal anything from them. One or other would find him out in
no time, and they both boasted they could read him "like a book."
It was no use, therefore, to attempt concealment; only he must break
the news gently, for the old woman's sake.
By this time he had reached their cottage, a little low house
standing between the mill lane and the Beck, and having a garden in
front that ran to a point at the bridge where the road crossed the
Hastily putting away his cans and brushes in the little
workshop behind the house, and washing himself, he hurried in, and
in his eagerness to get a lead in the conversation lest he should be
cornered, commenced at once—
"Well, Aw hau'n't finished after aw, but"—and then he broke
"Hay, muther, yo' do look bonny. Yo' getten younger.
If Aw wor a bit younger, Aw'd start o' Courtin' yo'."
"Bless thee, lad! tha's ne'er done nowt else sin' Aw know'd
thee," was the reply. But this turn to tenderness did not suit
Jimmy's purpose at all, so he sat down to his porridge, preparing to
"Hoo's spending a lot o' brass o' yon haase," he remarked.
"Hast yerd yet whoa hoo's goin' to have?" asked Alice, who
sat with her crutch by her side on the opposite side of the table.
Jimmy's heart gave a great leap.
"Have?" he cried, "hoo's having sumbry, that's sartin;
everybody's gettin' married na'adays. Aw'st be goin' off mysel'
some fine mornin'."
Jimmy had made so many threats of this kind to amuse his
mother that both women smiled with a sweet sense that their mirth
was safe, and Alice was encouraged to pursue the subject by
receiving a gentle kick on her crutch from Jimmy's foot under the
table. So she said in gentle raillery—
"Well, dunna brag sa mitch; its leap ye'r, tha knows."
"By th' mon it is!" exclaimed Jimmy, "Aw ne'er thowt o' that.
Aw'st ha' to look aat, Aw con see. Some on 'em 'll happen ax
But the effort to keep excitement out of his speech was a
little overdone, and Alice shot at him a glance of quick inquiry,
but his mother, noticing nothing, answered—
"Well, theer's plenty on 'em 'ud do that if they thowt ther
wor ony chance for 'em," and the old woman's face beamed with quiet
pride in her son's popularity as she continued, "But theer's nooan
on 'em good enough for aar Jimmy."
"Naa, mother, yo'll mak' him mooar consated nor he is," broke
in Alice, "but if ony on 'em axed him he couldn't say neaw,
especially if hoo wor owd or i' trouble."
Jimmy bent his head over his porridge, and gave another kick
under the table as he answered, in a shamed sort of way—
"Well, they'an axed me."
"Wot! Whoa?" cried both women at once.
Jimmy took a long, careful look at his mother and shook his
head with a smile as he answered—
"Ay; yo'd like to know, wodn't yo'?"
"Whoa is it? Hoo's an impident jade whoever hoo is,"
cried Alice with sudden misgiving, which brought fear into her face.
But Jimmy was watching his mother.
"Howd thy bother, Jimmy," she said, with a quiet smile, "th'
art nobbut gammin'."
And Jimmy felt like dropping through the floor as, watching
old Matty's face very narrowly, he answered, with an assumption of
nonchalance which was ridiculously overdone-
"It's reet. Aw've been axed this varry day."
There was a dead silence. Both women turned pale; the
older one gripped the arms of her chair, and Alice stood up and
leaned on her crutch.
At last the mother said, almost under her breath, "Whoa is
But Jimmy was alarmed. There was no reason that he
could see why his words should have produced so sudden a change.
So he got up and fussily rearranged his mother's chair cushions as
he answered, in a tone of gaiety—
"Nay; yo' mun guess."
Neither woman had any heart to do this, for though Jimmy's
words were innocent enough, his manner justified the gravest
conclusions. To gratify him they began to select. They
guessed all the marriageable women they could think of, eligible or
ineligible, but chiefly the latter.
"Neaw! neaw!" Jimmy cried, with growing excitement at each
"Well, whoa con it be?" cried Alice, in perplexity, the pain
at her heart making her doubly impatient; "Wheer has to bin to-day?"
"Aw've bin noawheer but th' Fowt."
A pale, sickly light shot across old Matty's face as
"It's not Beck—Becky o' Tom's, is it?"
Becky was the handsome, strapping, but somewhat aggressive,
maidservant at the Fold farm.
"Becky? Neaw," and Jimmy laughed and danced on the
sanded floor with gleeful anticipation of the next question, crying
as he did so, "Yore warm, muther; yo're warm."
"Jimmy!" cried Alice, "it's no"—but she stopped, and took a
long look at her brother's face, and then she turned and hugged her
mother and burst out in a great sob of relief as she cried—
"It is, mother! it is! it's Nancy."
Both these women knew of Jimmy's old-time attachment to
Nancy, and the look on his quiet face spoke so eloquently of the
love that had never been really dead, that they both felt glad for
his sake, but with a wistful, dumb sort of gladness.
They sat on each side of the fire, and made the painter sit
down on his favourite low stool between them and tell them all about
As Jimmy talked with glowing face and brightening eyes, they
laughed, rather loud laughs for them, laughs which had odd catches
in them, and which once or twice nearly ended in sobs. Whilst
Jimmy was looking up into either of their faces they smiled with
hard-forced but very passable smiles, but if he turned to speak more
particularly to one, the one not addressed turned her face hastily
and brushed away a tear.
Jimmy talked much about the goodness of God, and God moving
in mysterious ways, and they answered "Ay, lad!" And then he
talked about it always being darkest before daylight, and they
smiled and nodded and said "Ay" again, but it almost choked them,
for a future without Jimmy would be perpetual midnight at Beck
The painter was so radiant, so eloquent on the subject of
Nancy, and so constantly blending all his utterances with
ejaculations of praise to God, that the women seemed for a time to
catch his spirit, and drank Nancy's health with quite a respectable
show of gladness in warm, home-made elderberry wine, which smelt
strongly of cloves.
But somehow old Matty tired sooner than usual that night, and
after conducting family prayers herself, she rose to retire.
"Well, good neet, lad! Hay! who'd a thowt o' this when
tha went aat this morning? But we doan't know what a day nor
an haar may bring forth. Good neet, an' God bless thee."
When she had reached the top of the stairs, however, Jimmy
called to her, and as she stood with one hand on the bedroom
door-latch whilst she held a candle in the other, he told her about
Nancy saying she wanted mother and daughter more than she wanted the
son, and as Jimmy laughed old Matty laughed,—quite a demonstrative
attempt for so quiet a person,—but when her bedroom door had been
closed behind her the wreathed smile disappeared, darkness and tears
came into those old eyes, and the face became white and woeful as
she dropped heavily on her knees, crying under her breath as she did
"Aw connot do it, Lord; Aw connot do it. Lord, help
me." And then, after a long pause, "Thy will—Aw dunnut mean
it, but Aw'll say it till Aw con mean it—Thy will be done."
Beckside was amazed when the name of Nancy's bridegroom
became known, as it did next day, and for a time the verdict seemed
The surprise was so complete as to be aggressive and awaken
resentment. And then everybody felt that it was so natural a
thing to have come about that their never having thought of it was a
reflection on their intelligence. But this was only momentary;
very quickly the current set steadily in favour of the arrangement,
and in twenty-four hours Jimmy and his bride were more popular than
they had ever been in their lives.
The Clog Shop cronies gave Jimmy "a wiggin'" for what they
called his "fawseniss," and would perhaps have kept up a show of
disapproval but that a better occupation was found for them.
On the second day after the engagement, Jabe, happening to
look up from his work at the click of Nancy's garden gate, saw that
young lady and Aunt Judy, with shawls over their heads, making for
the Clog Shop with "serious business" writ large on their faces.
"Jabez," began Judy, as soon as they were inside, assuming an
attitude of uncompromising non-surrender, and giving her brother his
full name, as she always did when very much in earnest, "Aw want to
knaw wheer this poor wench is for t' be married?"
This was said with slow and weighty deliberation, and Jabe,
lifting his head, asked "Wheer?"
"Ay, wheer? Hoo wor chesened at th' chapel, and hoo's
bin browt up at th' chapel, an' hoo wor born agean at th' chapel,
an' aw her fowks is buried i' th' chapel yard, an' Aw reacon hoo'll
ha' ta goa to a church two mile away wheer hoo's ne'er bin in her
life to be married."
"An' sarve her reet if hoo's soft enough ta get married,"
said Jabe; but though the words were rough the sound was not very
"Wot Aw want for t' know is why hoo conna be married at th'
chapel?" demanded Judy.
"'Cause hoo conna."
"Why, Jabe?" chimed in Nancy.
"'Cause it's no licensed."
"An' why isn't it licensed? Wot's trustees doin' not ta
hav' it licensed all these years?" asked Judy.
"'Cause it'll cost ta mitch."
"Haa mitch will it cost?" asked Nancy again.
But something had just entered Jabe's head. He sat
straight up on his stool and looked directly through the window as
if he were thinking rapidly. Presently he answered, looking
hard and musingly now at Nancy―
"Bless thee, wench, Aw dunnut knaw. But," and here he
leaped to his feet and smote his hard fist on the counter, as he
cried: "Aw'll tell thee wot. Tha shall be wed at th'
chapel, if th' licence cosses [costs] twenty paand!"
Three days later Jabe and Long Ben sat at the Clog Shop fire
in their Sunday best, reporting to the assembled magnates the result
of their excursion to Duxbury.
The short of it was that the chapel was to be licensed
forthwith, and all would be in time for Nancy's wedding. The
deputation, big with the importance of their mission and contact
with authority, legal and ecclesiastical, were unusually
The "super" had informed them that it was customary to
present a Bible and Hymn-Book to the first couple married in the
chapel. That was considered a most becoming idea, and was
enthusiastically adopted for the approaching occasion.
Then Long Ben mentioned that the "super" said he thought the
chapel ought to be cleaned and decorated, and in a short time a
scheme was sketched for the whitewashing, painting, and cleaning of
the chapel by a band of volunteers superintended by Ben himself.
Then it was suggested that all the Sunday School scholars
should attend the ceremony, the girls to be dressed in their white
anniversary frocks, but as the married men present hesitated to
commit themselves before consultation with their home-rulers, this
question was deferred.
When conversation began to flag, and Ben had glanced once or
twice window-wards as if meditating departure, Sam Speck, who, as
the most juvenile member of the Club, was considered to have a
somewhat dangerous inclination to novelties, asked whether it was
not customary to have music at weddings.
Jabe had "ne'er yerd on't." Ben thought he had "read
about it i' th' papper," and Jethro, the knocker-up, gave it as his
opinion that "they on'y hed music when royalty were married."
But Sam stuck to his point, calculating with cunning confidence that
an opportunity for the band to display its talents would greatly
tempt the members of that organisation, and he was right, and easily
carried the day.
But what sort of music was it to be? Sam had heard
something about wedding marches; but marches were worldly, and
nothing but sacred music could be played in the chapel.
Lige, the road-mender, suggested his invariable selection for
all times and seasons, "There'll be no mooar sorra there," but as
Jabe vetoed that as inappropriate, Long Ben named the hymn―
"Two are better far than one,
For counsel or for fight."
to the tune Asylum. But nobody supported the idea, and
at length Jonas Tatlock, the leader of both band and chapel choir,
was sent for, and by the time he had smoked two pipes at a furious
rate, arguing and demonstrating all the time, he had convinced the
company that the "Hallelujah Chorus," which they had been rehearsing
intermittently for years, was the correct thing, and it was resolved
to go into hard practice at once.
Never a brighter day dawned than the one on which Jimmy and
Nancy were to be married. All nature smiled, and human nature,
at any-rate in Beckside, put on its very best. The Amateur
Painting Committee had done its work, and the chapel was resplendent
and very redolent of whitewash and paint. Nancy's Sunday
School class, in their white frocks, and carrying "posies," occupied
the front pew. The band had taken possession of the singing
pew in the left hand corner, and overflowed into the adjoining pews,
as on "Sarmon" days. The villagers, even including Job
Sharples, had packed every available inch of space, the gallery
being reserved for the children. The registrar was in the
vestry, and the "super" was walking about in the aisles exchanging
greetings with his people.
Presently the vestry door opened, and the registrar beckoned
the minister. Arrived in the little sanctum, the "super" found
an old woman with a black poke bonnet, and a face almost as white as
the frill in her bonnet front.
"Good morning, Mrs. Crawshaw; this is a happy day for you,"
said the minister.
"Happy! My heart's welly broken; but he's bin a good
lad, an' Aw've come to give him away."
"To give him away, Mrs. Crawshaw?"
"Ay; Aw've nowt else to give her."
"But it is the lady who is given away, you know, not the
But just then there was a commotion in the chapel. The
bridal party was coming. There were no cabs in Beckside, and
even the very respectable thought it no dishonour to walk to their
wedding, and at that moment the weddingers were coming arm in arm up
the hill, and the front of the somewhat long procession had reached
the chapel door. The minister hastened to his place within the
communion-rail, and amid a buzz of excitement the party walked up
Jimmy, with a huge blush-rose in his coat, looked warm, but
quiet and radiantly happy. Nancy, flushed and proud as any
duchess, glanced around as she reached the communion-rail as if in
search of something, but the minister was commencing, so she had to
give attention to the business in hand.
When they had got about halfway through the service, and the
happy couple stood with clasped hands, there was an interruption.
The vestry door opened, and Jimmy's mother, calling out "Wait
a minute," hobbled to the front, and, placing her hands on the heads
of the bride and bridegroom, cried out―
"God bless thee, lad! May thy childer be as good to
thee as tha's been to me. God bless thee, Nancy. God's
gien thee a good 'art an' a bonny face, and thy fayther's gienthee
th' farm, but Aw'm givin' thee aw as Aw have. God bless yo'
There was a perfect chorus of quavering "Amens," accompanied
by a display of handkerchiefs and a wiping of eyes, for this staid,
still old woman, who during a lifetime had never spoken in chapel
before,—not even at those great Beckside institutions, the
Love-feasts,—had touched a chord in every heart.
Then the service was finished, and the "super," in a neat
speech, presented the Bible and Hymn-Book to the happy pair, after
which the people clapped, and the boys in the gallery set up a
thunderous stamping. Then the bridal party adjourned to the
vestry to sign the register, during which there was such a tuning of
instruments and resining of fiddle-bows as was not heard even at the
anniversary in Beckside.
Jonas Tatlock, mounted on a high stool at one corner of the
singing pew, watched the vestry door as for dear life, and as it
opened he cried excitedly—
"Naa, lads, brast aat — Wun, two, three, fower!"
And they did "brast aat." Handel's grand chorus
probably never received so entirely original a rendering, and it
certainly was never produced with more whole-hearted earnestness and
meaning than by the perspiring, but joyful, Beckside band.
Tatty Entwistle's Return.
A STERN, lowering
look sat on the minister's face as he lifted the Clog Shop latch.
He had come to Beckside on very serious business. That very
forenoon a woman, agitated and tearful, and with a slight bruise on
her forehead, had called at the manse in Duxbury, and had complained
that her husband had struck her, and that she could no longer live
with him. And this husband turned out to be none other than
Nathan Entwistle, the Beckside blacksmith, who was chapel steward
and trustee in the Beckside Methodist Church.
The good "super" was grievously shocked. A humane and
chivalrous man himself, he was scandalised to think of such an act
being committed by a church steward. What a disgrace it would
be if it got abroad. What a scandal would be caused, and what
injury would be done to the name of religion! The thing must be
hushed up and the two brought together again; and if that could not
be brought about, then such measures of discipline must be taken as
would make it clear to all outsiders that the Church condemned,
repudiated, and punished such conduct.
What a beast that Nathan must be! And he had always
thought him such a quiet, decent fellow. And so deeply
attached to the cause, too! He was very much afraid that the
morals of these rough north-country folk were very lax. It was
very painful, but he must do his duty. Unless Nathan repented
and made full amends, he must be expelled, if only as a warning to
the rest. And even if Nathan was contrite, he must be relieved
of his offices. Such conduct could not be passed over.
He must be faithful at all costs.
These were the thoughts which were passing through the
minister's mind as the venerable horse he hired jogged lazily along
towards Beckside. As he entered the village, the glances and
nods and winks which the villagers made to each other as he passed
them confirmed him in his fears that the thing had become a public
scandal; and so, after putting up his horse at the Fold farm, he
came across to the Clog Shop in a stern and resolute frame of mind.
Long Ben and the Clogger, who were alone, rose with joyous
surprise at this unexpected call, but the look on the minister's
face checked them.
"Well, brethren, this is a serious matter," he said, with a
sigh, as he pulled off his gloves and stuffed them into his overcoat
pocket, and then turning up his coat tails sat cautiously down on an
old clogging-bench near the fire.
The faces of the two friends formed themselves into notes of
interrogation. They glanced with quick inquiry at their
visitor, and then at each other, and then Jabe inquired―
"Wot dew yo' meean, Mester ' Shuper'?"
"I mean about Nathan. Such conduct is infamous for a
Christian man, and a member, too. But you don't mean to say
you know nothing about it?"
"We knaw nowt wrung abaat Nathan," said Jabe slowly and
decisively, "and wot's mooar, there's noabry can tell nowt nother."
"If they'll speik th'truth," added Ben, whose face wore an
emphatic and almost defiant indorsement of Jabe's remark.
"But haven't you heard? Is it possible you don't know
what he has done?"
"He's dun nowt as he needs ta be shawmed on, Aw'll back,"
cried the Clogger doggedly.
"Ashamed," cried the "super," beginning to feel that Beckside
morality was laxer even than he had expected. "It's not a
matter for shame, it's a matter for punishment. The law of the
land punishes it, and the Church certainly cannot be below that.
If all I hear be true, we shall be compelled to expel him."
"Hexpel! Ay, yo'll ha' plenty of hexpellin' ta dew if
yo' starten wi' Nathan. Yo'll ha' t' hexpel us aw woll yo're
"But, Mr. Jabez, it is a misdemeanour; you cannot know what
he has done, to talk like that."
"Well, wot has he done?" shouted the Clogger
petulantly, whilst both his face and that of Ben became dark with
"Done? Why, he has struck his wife."
The anger-puckers suddenly straightened themselves out on the
faces of the two friends. An amused mischievous light leapt
into their eyes, and after a momentary effort to control themselves
they burst into a low chuckling laugh.
The "super " was indignant. Had these men no sense of
shame in them? And, besides, their laughter was insulting.
"An' han yo' cummed aw th' way fro' Dux-bury abaat that?"
asked Jabe, when he could check himself.
"Certainly! and I am pained and humiliated to see that you
think so lightly of the matter. It may be Beckside morality,
but it is not mine, and it's not the morality of the New Testament
But even this sharp sally could not disturb the serene good
temper into which the two cronies had laughed themselves, and after
enjoying another broad grin, Jabe said―
"Bless yo', Mester 'Shuper,' yo' dooan't knaw Beckside yet,
an' Aw'm feart yo' dooan't knaw women fooak nother. Naa, tak'
yo'r coit off and hang it upo' that peg on th' parlour dur, an' come
an' sit yo' daan, woll Aw tell yo' a thing or two."
After getting the minister an old leathern cushion to lean
his back upon against the chimney jamb, he continued―
"Women, Mestur 'Shuper,' are loike dogs; the woss yo' sarve 'em
the better they loike yo.' Han yo' niver noaticed as aw th'
scamps i' th' country has good wives as 'ull welly dee for 'em?
But if yo' foind a felley as is a gradely dacent chap, a bit better
nor common, he's sartin to be henpecked. Well, its o' thatunce
wi' Nathan. Hoo's a dacent hardworkin' woman, but that
nattering, an' unyessy, an' discontented, ther's noa biding near
her. A felley as has lived wi' her i' this loife 'ull need noa
purgatory i' th' next, Aw con tell yo.'"
Having thus got fairly going, Jabe proceeded at length to
give the minister a full and particular account of the marital
experiences of poor Nathan, interspersed with sententious
moralisings on the ways and wiles of women.
Nathan, it appeared, had been married into the teens of
years. He and his wife were both members of the Church at the
time of their marriage, but about three years after Nathan fell into
drinking habits, driven to it, Jabe averred, by the "nattering" of
his wife. However that may have been, in Nathan's drunken days
Tatty was a model wife, patient and still-tongued, loyal to her
husband, and ready to quarrel with anybody who spoke a word against
the blacksmith. Everything that womanly ingenuity could devise
was done by Tatty to shield her husband and preserve his character.
During this time, also, she was most diligent at all the
means of grace, took great interest in all chapel affairs, and
prayed incessantly at class and prayer meetings for her husband's
After a while, Nathan came to his senses, chiefly through the
good offices of the Clogger and his friends. Tatty was, of
course, greatly delighted and thankful, and Nathan was never tired
of proclaiming how much he owed to the patience and kindness of his
wife in his wild days.
Gradually Nathan was drawn into Church work, and as he could
write better than most of his associates, was installed chapel
steward, which office he had held ever since. But as Nathan's
zeal waxed warm, Tatty's grew cold. It soon required all
Nathan's persuasive powers to keep her going to chapel at all.
She ceased altogether to attend class and prayer meetings, and
whilst willing for Nathan to attend the sanctuary, she ceased to see
any particular reason for doing so herself.
In course of time she discovered that Nathan had too much to
do at the chapel. As they had no living children, she
complained of her loneliness, and in swearing, nagging tones rated
Nathan, saying again and again, "Tha'rt allis aat o' th' haase."
The Clog Shop, however, became her most particular aversion.
Its owner and his friends were denounced without measure or mercy,
and though Nathan was one of the least regular visitors to this
favourite village resort, he came in for more abuse about it than
all the other transgressors put together.
Nathan played the bass viol in the band, which, of course,
brought that cherished institution into ill repute with his wife,
and latterly the practice nights before the "Sarmons" had been times
of tribulation for the blacksmith. More than once he had found
the strings of his instrument cut when he reached it down from the
joists to take it to the practice, and when, on the third occurrence
of the kind, he bluntly charged his wife with doing the damage, she
flew into a "tantrum," flounced out of the house, and went away to
Duxbury to her sister's.
Poor Nathan, deeply attached to his wife, and full of
grateful memories of her bygone faithfulness, was perplexed and
alarmed when she did not come home that night. And next
morning he was at Duxbury by breakfast-time, humbly begging Tatty's
pardon and coaxing her to come back again.
But something of the same kind occurred again not long after,
and Mrs. Nathan went off again; and since then, at every little
tiff, Tatty might be seen sitting like a statue at the far end of
the coach on her way to Duxbury, and Nathan was certain to follow in
a few hours or days at most, to get forgiven and bring her back.
Of course such proceedings soon became common property, and
whenever Nathan's wife was absent from home, the blacksmith was
quizzed by his customers at the smithy as to when he was going to
fetch her back.
Another element of difficulty between the two and, perhaps at
bottom the cause of all the rest, was that they were childless.
Three of their four little ones had died in infancy, and the
fourth—little Nathan, a wee fragile bit of humanity—lived to be
about four years of age and then quietly faded out.
Some time before his death, however, Nathan had taken him
into the smithy one afternoon against his wife's wishes, and whilst
there the little fellow trod upon the head of a long-shafted hammer,
which tilted up quickly and struck the little fellow on the temples.
He dropped on the floor like a dead thing, and Nathan with a wild
cry snatched him up and carried him into the cottage. He soon
recovered, and seemed all right; the doctor, in fact, said that he
was very little the worse, but as he died about a month after,
although the doctor scoffed at the idea of the accident having
anything to do with the child's decease, its mother evidently had
her own opinion on the subject, and in moments of anger of late had
darkly hinted that but for Nathan she might still have had "one
comfort i' loife."
To a man pining for child-love, this was hard to endure, and
on the day of the now notorious quarrel, Tatty, carried beyond all
restraint, had openly charged her husband with responsibility for
the death of the little one. Nathan, smarting with a sense of
cruel injustice and white with indignation, lost all control of
himself, and struck his wife a smart slap on the face. Upon
which Tatty had taken her usual excursion, adding this time, the
serious step of going to tell the minister.
This, and much more, was told to the "super" as he sat
toasting his shins before the Clog Shop fire, and by the time that
Jabe had finished, he had veered round decisively to Nathan's side
of the question, and proposed to go down to the smithy and offer
Nathan his sympathy, suggesting also that he should go and persuade
Tatty to return home.
"Yo' mun dew nowt o' th' sooart. Let her bide, an' come
whoam when hoo's ready. An' leave Nathan to uz; we'll poo' him
through, yo'll see."
When the minister had gone, the two stewards fell into close
consultation on the case in hand, and decided that this time,
instead of avoiding the subject carefully, out of respect to
Nathan's feelings, they would wait their opportunity and persuade
him to bring things to a crisis by letting his wife stay away until
she came back of her own accord.
Two or three nights later, Nathan sauntered into the Clog
Shop in that restless, absent manner which always came upon him when
his wife was away. Jabe, still at his bench, followed the
blacksmith with his eyes as he passed up the shop, and having
previously resigned his position of chief spokesman to Ben for this
occasion only, he motioned to him that now was the time, and then
turned round again and went on with his work with much unnecessary
Ben silently handed his tobacco-box to the newcomer.
The two smoked on for some moments without speaking; and then Ben
leaned forward out of the nook and said in a low voice, which was
not quite so steady as it ought to have been―
"We've bin killin' a pig; wilt come an' ha' thy dinner wi' us
Nathan's lip quivered, tears swam in his eyes, and he stared
steadily before him without speaking.
Ben took several long draws at his pipe, and then, touching
Nathan gently on the knee, he said soothingly―
"Every heart knoweth its own bitterness."
Nathan seemed shaken by a sort of internal convulsion.
He bent forward, propped his chin on his knees, and sat staring into
the fire, whilst great tears splashed down upon the chip ashes at
Jabe, at his bench, had suddenly stopped working, and was
holding his breath to listen, though his eyes were still fixed on
Presently Nathan faltered: "Hay, bud Aw dew loike aar Tatty.
Aw'll fetch her whoam i' th' morn."
"Tha'll dew nowt o' th' sooart," shouted Jabe from his bench;
and, dropping further pretence of work, he threw down his hammer,
and, unable any longer to keep out of the business, came and joined
them at the fire, and plunged at once into hot discussion on the
hitherto forbidden topic.
Ben and he insisted that Nathan had made his own trouble by
always being so anxious to get his wife back; that he would have no
peace of his life until she was cured of this habit, and that as she
was "a dacent woman enough i' mooast things," it was his duty to
make one supreme effort to bring her to her senses. They
prophesied that she would be sure to come back soon, and that, if
once she had to come of her own accord, there would be an end to her
vagaries, at anyrate in that direction.
Nathan took a great deal of persuading, and both his advisers
realised that their task was only commenced, for, as Jabe said, the
blacksmith would "tak' a lot o' keeping to it."
And indeed he did. Lonely at home, save for the
occasional presence of a girl who came to do the housework, he spent
his evenings at the Clog Shop, and often when the rest had left for
the night all the arguments had to be gone over again, and all the
objections once more answered.
Slowly Nathan settled down to a doggèd endurance of his
troubles, praying almost night and day that the Lord would forgive
him for his part in the trouble, and soften the heart of his absent
wife toward him.
Meanwhile Tatty gave no sign, and as everybody avoided naming
her to the blacksmith, he did not even hear the bits of news of her
that did reach the village.
It was reported at the Clog Shop that Tatty was looking "ter'ble
bad"; and whilst some of the cronies cried, "Sarve her reet," Long
Ben remarked softly, "Hoo'll be whoam afoor lung, yo'll see."
One night Nathan, heavy of heart and out of love with all the
world, pulled the sneck out of his cottage door and strolled wearily
towards his favourite resort.
As he approached, he heard a number of voices raised in
animated discussion, and, opening the door, he came upon a rather
There, on a clog stool behind the counter, sat Lige, the
road-mender, with a face beaming with mystery, importance, and
delight, holding on his knees a bundle of old clothes containing a
very young baby; and standing over him, scarcely less excited, were
several others of the Clog Shop fraternity.
"Aw wor comin' whoam fro' my wark up th' Brogden Loan [Lane],
an' Aw yerd it skriking i' th' hedge bottom," cried Lige, in answer
to Nathan's look of amazement.
"It'll be some poor wench's chance-chilt, Aw reacon," said
Long Ben, in pitying tones.
"It's a bonny un, chuse wot it is," said Jabe, with unwonted
music in his voice as he turned back the edge of the old Paisley
shawl in which it was wrapped, and looked intently into its face.
The child gazed up at him with owl-like solemnity, and then
puckered its mouth as if it would have spoken if it could, and the
hard, crusty, misogamous old Clogger beamed upon it with delight as
"Bless thi, tha'rt ta pratty for a chance-chilt."
Just then Nathan came round the corner of the counter, and
bent down over the baby. After gazing at it a moment he
stepped back, and surveying the little bundle of rags and humanity,
"Wot art goin' ta dew wi' it, Liger?"
Before we could answer, Jabe broke in―
"Aar Judy can tak' cur on it ta-neet, and i' th' morning
Aw—Aw—reacon it'll ha' ta be ta'n to th' bastile [workhouse]."
There was silence for a moment or two, every man looking a
strong protest, but feeling that he could think of no better thing
"Has ony on yo' ony idea whoase it is? asked Nathan, still
looking hard at the little one, which was just beginning to cry.
"It's noabry's abaat here," said Sam Speck, who, through his
sister Lottie, knew all the secrets of the village.
"Then, Aw'll have it," cried Nathan, and before Lige could
object he had snatched the baby from his knee, and was dandling it
up and down to stop its crying.
"Thee tak' it?" objected Lige, taken aback, and not too
pleased to be thus summarily robbed of his treasure; "wi' thy wife"―
But he stopped, and could have bitten his tongue off as he
remembered what he was saying; but Nathan took it up.
"Ay! wife or noa wife, Aw'll tak' it. Aw mun ha' summat
i' th' haase ta talk to."
Others were raising objections, but a new idea had evidently
struck Long Ben, and, motioning and winking at the rest, he gently
encouraged Nathan in his purpose, and in a few moments a small
procession started for the smithy, led by the blacksmith proudly
carrying his new-found joy.
Arrived at the cottage, Nathan held the baby whilst Lige went
upstairs to fetch the long-disused cradle, and Sam Speck put a pan
of milk on the fire to provide the little one with food.
In a few minutes Long Ben turned up, bringing his buxom wife,
who, after expressing lofty scorn of the blundering ways of men
folk, took the baby from Nathan, and, after cuddling and kissing it,
pulled out a bundle of old baby clothes, and soon had it washed,
dressed, fed, and asleep in the cradle.
When the others departed, they left Nathan pulling the cradle
string and humming "Rock of Ages," as he had done so often in days
gone by, and musing pathetically over his former experiences, now so
vividly brought back to his mind. It was arranged that Mrs.
Ben should fetch the baby presently for the night, until some other
arrangement could be made.
Nobody claimed the little one, and Nathan, to his great
delight, remained in undisturbed possession of it. The baby
came on famously, and crept so deep into Nathan's heart that Mrs.
Ben began to fear it would take the place of the absent Tatty.
One night Ben was the victim of a severe curtain lecture, and next
day being market day, Mrs. Ben set off in the coach to Duxbury.
After doing her business, she made her way into a quiet part
of the town, and in a few moments was sitting talking confidentially
with Nathan's wife.
Tatty, looking thin and pensive, made all sorts of inquiries
about Beckside and its doings, but carefully avoided any reference
to the smithy.
Mrs. Ben tried several times to draw her, but it was of no
avail, until at last, growing desperate, she blurted out―
"Hast yerd wot yo're Nathan's getten?"
"Whey, he's getten a babby."
Tatty turned and looked with a long, wistful, sidelong glance
at her friend, and then with a great sigh changed the subject, and
could not be brought back to it.
But Mrs. Ben knew what she was about, and next night after
dark, the tall, wan form of Tatty Entwistle might have been seen
stealing down the darker side of the Beckside road toward the
The blacksmith's shop stood sideway on to the road, and the
cottage was behind it, facing into the smithy yard, Tatty stole
quietly up amongst heaps of old iron, cart hoops, and disabled
agricultural implements, and was soon at the side of the house.
Nathan, man-like, had lighted the lamp, but had forgotten to draw
Tatty drew softly near, stole along the house side until she
was close to the window, and then, standing on a broken pulley,
which enabled her to see over the curtain, she peered round the
corner of the window into the house.
There sat Nathan in the rocking-chair, with the baby in his
arms, talking to it as he rocked it. Her heart smote her as
she saw how thin her husband's face had become, but that pain gave
way to another of a quite different kind as she saw how happy he
seemed to be with the little one.
It began to rain, but Tatty never felt it. Presently
the baby dozed off, and Nathan put it into its cradle and made it
cosy. The cradle stood where she could see all this, and as
she watched there came into her eyes that hunger of child-love which
only a childless mother knows.
Then Nathan took something down from the mantelpiece, and
began to look earnestly at it, whilst the firelight flickered up
into his face. It was a little glass photo of Tatty, taken at
the last Brogden wakes, and the watching woman almost cried out as
she saw him looking at it so intently.
Suddenly he fell to his knees with the likeness still in his
hands, and though she could not quite hear what he said, yet the way
he held up the little photo as if showing it to his Maker told her
all she wanted to know.
Then Nathan got up, and after glancing at the cradle he put
on his coat and went out. Tatty crept back into the shade of
the coal house to avoid being seen as her husband crossed the yard.
When she was sure he had gone, she stepped out of her hiding-place,
picked up a bit of old iron, which she could see on the ground by
the light through the window, and inserting it into the hole of the
sneck, gently lifted the latch and went inside.
The first thing she did was to go to the mantelpiece and make
sure that it was her likeness that Nathan had been looking at.
Then she turned to the cradle, half smiled as she noted how clumsily
the baby had been put into it, and then, turning down the coverlet,
she stood looking down on the sleeping infant.
It was certainly pretty. What if it had crept into her
place in Nathan's heart! Oh, what a fool she had been, and
what a sinner too!
But just then a step at the door made her start. A
smothered exclamation told her that Nathan had returned. But
she did not move. Her back was to him, but she felt he was
looking at her. There they both stood for quite a long time,
until at last, slightly turning towards him, she asked―
"Whoa's is this babby, Nathan?"
"Tha'rt no' it's fayther."
"Neaw, bud Aw'm goin' to be, if God helps me."
There was silence again for most of a minute, and then Tatty
turned her back full upon her husband again, and dropping her head,
"Aw—Aw'll be its muther, if tha'll let me."
Then she heard a sob behind her, felt herself being drawn
down into a chair, and in a moment more was held fast in the tight,
silent embrace of the now happy blacksmith.
Hours after, as Nathan was picking up the cradle to carry it
upstairs, baby and all, he noticed that the child's clothes had been
changed, and it was wearing the night-gown of the little Nathan they
had lost. As he made toward the staircase, his wife said
"Has t'baby a name, Nathan?"
"Neaw, no' yet."
"Then we'll caw him Nathan, shall us?"
And that was how Tatty Entwistle came home.
Coals of Fire.
figures sat toasting themselves at the Clog Shop fire. Long
Ben occupied the Ingle-nook nearest the door, and Sam Speck the
other, whilst Jabe and Jethro, the knocker-up, were in front.
A heavy thaw was going on outside, and the fire was therefore so
large that those who did not enjoy the shelter of the nook, were, as
Jethro remarked, "frizzled o' wun side an' frozzen o' t'other."
Evidently something serious was under discussion.
Jabe's bristly brows were drawn together, his lips pursed out
grimly, and his tell-tale leg was riding up and down over the end of
the other knee at a furious rate. Sam's small face seemed to
have sharpened under some internal feeling, and Jethro sat in his
favourite attitude, with his chin propped on his knees, glowering
into the fire. Long Ben's flabby and hairy face was drawn up
into that pathetic pucker suggestive of imminent weeping, which it
always assumed when anything mentally disagreed with him.
"Ther'll be a ter'ble judgment for aw this," said Jethro,
moving his head round solemnly in his knee-propped hands.
"Well, if there isna, Aw'st give o'er believin' i'
Providence, that's aw abaat it," said Sam, with great emphasis.
"Dunna thee meyther thysel'," answered Jabe. "Aw've lived a
good while naa, an' Aw ne'er seed it miss yet. If ther's owt
trew i' th' Bible it's th' owd text, 'Be sure your sin will find you
out,' an' it allis does—an' especially sins o' this soart."
"Why, dust think as th' Almighty's wuss daan o' this mak' o'
sins nor ony other?" asked Jethro.
"Aw meean to say as Aw've known a tooathre [two or three]
chaps i' my time as hez played fawse wi' women, but Aw hav'n't known
wun case wheer it didn't cum back on 'em ten times wus. Neaw,"
he added, after a moment's reflection, "not th' odd un."
The general principle laid down by Jabe obtained unanimous
acceptance in Beckside, but this particular application of it was
new, and so his friends sat in silence for a few moments meditating
on the law thus expounded, and ransacking their memories for
examples confirmatory or otherwise.
"If Jimmy Juddy hed as mitch pluck as a maase" (mouse), began
Sam presently—but just then the shop door opened, and in stepped a
man, stamping his slushy clogs as he did so. He was a stumpy
fellow with a rough red face, a slight cast in one eye, and a fringe
of straight red hair under his chin.
Jabe and Jethro, as soon as they saw who the visitor was,
made pantomimic facial signals to those in the nook, and looked hard
for a moment at each other, and then at their pipe bowls.
"Cowd neet, chaps," said the last comer, but nobody spoke,
and Sam muttered something under his breath about "impidence."
"Hast ony 'bacca?" said the stranger to Jabe, pulling out his
pipe; but Jabe, usually generous in his distribution of dark shag,
neither moved nor spoke.
The intruder perched himself on the protruding end of the
bench on which Long Ben sat, and after glancing round with a
slightly perplexed look slapped Jabe on the sleeve and said, with a
show of triumph―
"Naa, tha sees; wheer should Aw ha' been if Aw'd wed yond'
wench? Aw should a' leuked weel wi' a paralysed wife,
shouldn't Aw? Aw wor nobbut just i' time, tha sees; bud maa
But he never finished his tale of self-gratulation, for he
was suddenly seized from behind by the coat collar, jerked to his
feet, and then lifted up and thrown across the Clog Shop counter, as
a schoolmaster throws a boy over a bench, and Long Ben, with white,
quivering face and blazing eyes, stood over him, and picking up an
unfinished clog sole held him tightly down, and belaboured him,
schoolmaster fashion, until he kicked and bellowed and even cursed.
Laying on until the victim's howl became a shriek, Ben
suddenly stopped, opened the shop-door, and flung the sufferer out
into the dark road, where he landed in a heap of slushy snow.
Quietly closing the door and putting down the catch, so that
the offender could not return, Ben lounged back to his seat in the
nook in a somewhat breathless condition.
After the first little start of surprise, the assembled
friends had watched Ben's proceedings with considerable
satisfaction, and now—though not a muscle of their faces moved—they
listened to the evicted visitor's curses outside without a single
sign that they heard; and the next remark that was made was on a
totally different subject, which gives an opportunity of explaining
the meaning of what had just happened.
The man whose ignominious expulsion has been described lived
at the other—that is, the Mill Lane—end of the irregular little row
of cottages in which the Clog Shop stood. He kept a sort of
store, and, disclaiming all such distinctions as usually obtain
amongst tradesmen, seemed to have adopted the most profitable
branches of each business, and was something of a grocer, something
of a draper, did a little in the hardware and ironmongery, with a
blending of chemistry, butchering, greengrocery, and tailoring.
It was even darkly hinted in certain quarters that he was not above
a little illicit trade in clogs.
The building he occupied had been left to him by his father,
but so disposed of that he could neither sell nor forfeit it.
For a short time the father of the present occupant had got the
premises licensed, under the name of the Bull Inn; but as Beckside
could not sustain two public-houses, and the Bridge Inn was well
established, the speculation failed, but ever afterwards the
villagers associated the owners with this unfortunate venture, and
so the present occupant was known, not as Hiram Crompton, but as
Hiram Bull, or, by the older people, as Hiram Bill Bull.
Hiram possessed strong, rude health, which gave him a good
flow of animal spirits, and developed in him the habit of loud,
blustering laughter; but that this was not good nature was made
abundantly clear by the fact that he manifested an unscrupulous
directness as to his own interests, a total disregard for the
feelings and interests of others, and a keen enjoyment of misfortune
or suffering in his fellow-mortals.
There was also a certain rough smartness about him and a
sublime self-confidence, which made the oracular Jabe say again and
again that "Brains is nowt wheer brazzenness cums."
Some time before the episode above described, Alice Crawshaw,
Jimmy Juddy's sister, who at that period was a sweet, fair-haired
girl of about four-and-twenty, amazed everybody by accepting an
offer of marriage from Hiram.
That Jimmy disapproved of the union goes without saying.
There was a series of painful scenes at Beck Bottom, first between
Jimmy and Hiram, and then between Jimmy and his sister, but Hiram
carried the day, and Alice seemed infatuated. In his loud way
the storekeeper was proud of his conquest, but more because it was a
triumph over others than because he had any extraordinary attachment
Becksiders never became reconciled to the arrangement, for
every few days some new story of Hiram's greed or cruelty was
circulated, and people pitied Alice when it was known that the
wedding-day was fixed, and the bride-elect was making her
wedding-dress and bespeaking the guests.
One night about this time Long Ben went to the Clog Shop with
a face that was a flag of distress. Jabe, who was alone,
perceived it, and knew better than to ask any questions.
Presently, after many relightings of a pipe, which somehow would not
keep in, Ben applied a blazing chip to his clay, and remarked,
between the resultant puffs in his slow way―
"'Bill Bull' 'ull ne'er be deead while his son lives."
It sounded as though he had finished, but Jabe knew better,
and so commenced picking wax from his horny fingers, and Ben pulled
a nail out of his pocket and poked it down the still refractory
pipe-bowl as he resumed―
"Aw seed him clippin' (embracing) Tom Plum's widder o'er th'
caanter as Aw went past this forenoon."
An exclamation broke from Jabe's lips, but he checked himself
as Ben continued.
"Tha'll see, there'll be noa weddin' at th' Beck Bottom
And so it proved. For though poor Tom Bibby, generally
known as Tom Plum, had only been dead a few weeks, Hiram had already
shown quite extraordinary energy in obtaining the widow's smile, and
as Tom had left her £1200 nobody looked far for the reason.
Alice Crawshaw heard of the matter pretty early, of course, but
laughed at the idea of it, and went gaily on with her bridal
She wanted a little dress lining of some sort one day, and
slipped up to Hiram's as the nearest shop to procure it,
After a little playful talk during her selection of the
material, she turned to go, when Hiram called her back and said with
"Ther' mun be noa moat marlocking between thee an' me, Alice.
Aw'm goin' t' marry Tilly Plum next week."
Alice gasped, but the entrance of a customer set Hiram off in
a garrulous conversation with the last arrival, and poor Alice, with
white face and whiter lips, held her hand to her side and fled home.
A few days later Hiram and Tilly went away to be married, and
returned home on what should have been Alice's wedding-day.
Alice had never been seen in the village since.
Quiet Jimmy, her brother, not yet recovered from the disgrace
of his dismissal from the mill, went about with his head down, and
old Matty, their mother, had fainted in the class-meeting, and Long
Ben had had to take her home in his spring cart.
Next morning news passed from loom to loom in the mill
weaving-shed that the doctor had been seen going in great haste to
Beck Bottom, and by noon everybody knew that Alice Juddy had had a
This last event was the one under discussion when Hiram
entered the Clog Shop, and the details now given will explain what
then took place,
But Hiram continued to prosper, and the prophecies with which
this story commenced remained unfulfilled. But they were not
forgotten. Hiram was not the sort of person to hide his light
under a bushel, and every now and again some fresh act of hard,
brazen greed brought him vividly before people's minds, and evoked
fresh crops of fateful prediction.
Then Tilly died, and Hiram, after making a scene of
blubbering emotion at the grave which caused Silas the chapel-keeper
to declare, "Aw welly picked him into th' hoile," dismissed the
mourners without the customary tea, and was seen out the same
evening at his favourite sport of rabbit-shooting.
In a few weeks the storekeeper brought another wife home, a
stranger, but as he was disappointed in his expectation that she was
well off,—her money going from her on her re-marriage,—she was, as
Jabe put it, "nattered to deeath i' noa time."
Then Hiram by some trickery got possession of a bit of land
at the end of Long Ben's property, and immediately set up a most
unscrupulous claim as to the right of light, and proceeded on
resistance to put up "spite and malice boards" outside Ben's end
windows. This drove the quiet carpenter into most distasteful
litigation, from which he finally withdrew at the eleventh hour,
leaving Hiram to gloat over an expensive victory.
Besides these more prominent episodes, "Th' Bull," as he was
now invariably called, kept himself in people's minds by numberless
acts of petty cheating and oppression, aggravating the feeling
against him until the Clog Shop Club gave up prediction in despair;
and Sam Speck became so cynical in his remarks about Providence,
that Jabe declared it was "nowt short o' blasphemious."
Then Hiram began to gamble, and became the chief patron of
the pigeon-flyers and foot-racers who frequented the Bridge Inn,
greatly angering Jabe and his friends by exploiting one of the most
promising youths at the Sunday School, and turning him into a
sprint-runner under the title of "the Lancashire Deerfoot."
When Jimmy Juddy was married, and came with his sister and
mother to live at the Fold farm, Hiram had the effrontery to try to
patch up the long estrangement, but Jimmy's wife undertook the
matter, and so "cooamed his yure" (hair) for him that he was glad to
get away, and revenged himself by mocking poor Alice's lameness as
she went past on her crutch.
This last offence was still burning in the breasts of the
confederates of the cloggery, when most startling news came to
Beckside. Old Croppy, the Brogden rent and debt collector,
brought it, and told it to the first person he met, who happened to
be Sam Speck.
Without waiting for full details, Sam hurried to the Clog
Shop and electrified Jabe by opening the door and shouting: "It's
cum at last," and then rushed out to fetch Ben, picking up Jethro as
It was a proud moment for Sam, and after banging the door to,
and setting his back against it, as if afraid someone would escape
before he could tell his tale, he exclaimed: "'Th' Bull's' busted."
After a moment's pause to get his breath, he descended to
such details as he knew. Hiram had embarked some three years
before in a coal-mine speculation at Yardley Woods, beyond Duxbury.
Suddenly there had been a collapse, and as his co-speculators were
men of no substance, and the liability was unlimited, the creditors,
who had been shamefully robbed, came down on Hiram.
Croppy's report turned out to be substantially correct, and
when the sale came every member of the Club attended, and seemed to
derive grim satisfaction from watching the gradual despoilment of
the oppressor's residence.
Hiram himself was there in his shirt sleeves, pretending to
render obsequious assistance to the auctioneer and his clerks, and
laughing his hoarse laugh over sundry jokes of his own.
Towards evening, however, he grew quiet, and a haggard, desperate
look sat on his face.
When the sale was over there was an adjournment to the usual
council chamber. There was only a small, make-believe fire, as
it was early summer, but the friends gathered round it from sheer
force of habit, and soon every available seat was occupied, and the
Clog Shop full of smoke. Everybody saw retribution in the
circumstances of the day; everybody admitted the ampleness of the
"judgment"; and everybody had his own particular wise saw or text of
Scripture to confirm his opinion.
"We con run fast and run fur, as wun o' th' owd ministers
used for t' say," said Lige, the road-mender, "bud theer's Wun aboon
as 'owds th' reins, and He can bring us daan ta aar marraboanes ony
minnit, if it suits Him."
"Ay," sighed four or five, through pipe-embarrassed lips, and
the irrepressible Sam gave a new turn to the conversation by
"Aw wundur wot he'll dew for a bed taneet; he'll ha' ta lie
upo' th' boards, Aw'm thinkin'."
A rather lengthy silence followed, during which each seemed
to be occupied with his own particular mental picture of the ruined
man in the empty house.
Long Ben, who had never spoken during the discussion, now
began to manifest signs of uneasiness. After puffing out
several volumes of smoke in rapid succession, he heaved a deep sigh,
and then said meditatively―
"He used dew my sums for mi at th' schoo'."
"Ay, an' he's bin doin' sums for folk ever sin', as plenty
knows ta their sorra," rejoined Sam, and the rest, attracted by the
first word not condemnatory which had been spoken of Hiram that
night, turned their eyes on Ben in mild surprise.
Ben fidgeted in his seat; and just when the inquiring eyes
were turning away from him, he brought them back with wide open
astonishment as he murmured―
"When Aw wor i' bed wi' th' maysles, he brought me a brid's
neest wi' four eggs in—just ta bree-breeten me up a bit," and Ben's
voice quivered most strangely as he recalled this boyhood
"He's moastly spent his time robbin' neeses (nests) sin' he
grew up," said Sam again.
Ben made an impatient gesture with his pipe, and Jabe, his
eyes gleaming with a look of injured justice, said―
"Why, tha'll want ta whitewesh owd Scratch next."
There was an awkward pause, and presently Ben took his pipe
out of his mouth, carefully and deliberately reared it in the
extreme corner of the nook, and then, rising to his full height, and
buttoning his coat as a preparation for departure, he said―
"Chaps, wot yo' say's reet enouff, bud Wun as yo' aw know
said, 'If thy enemy hunger, feed him,' and Ben Barber's no' goin' t'
sleep in a warm bed to neet while wun of his fellers lies o' bare
boards. Neaw, not even if his name's Hiram Bull."
With an agitated gesture Ben strode to the door. As he
got opposite the window, however, he suddenly pulled up, whilst the
rest all heard the Fold farm garden gate click.
Ben, peering through the dusty glass, made an exclamation
which instantly brought every man in the shop to his side, and,
following the direction of his eyes, they saw Jimmy Juddy looking
cautiously up and down to see that nobody was about. Then he
stepped lightly back into the house, and almost instantly returned
carrying a single bed and a pillow, whilst Alice stole quietly after
him carrying in her free hand a basket of provisions.
Not a man in the shop drew his breath as Jimmy and his sister
crossed the triangle toward Hiram's; but when they had passed, every
man turned and looked into his neighbour's face with an expression
on his own of wonder, admiration, and rising shame.
"Naa, that is religion," cried Long Ben at last,
struggling to keep back a rush of tears, and then flinging open the
door, and crying in a choking voice, "Aw'll ne'er be byetten
(beaten) wi' a lame woman," he plunged into the twilight in the
direction of home.
Hiram, under the combined influence of drink and desperation,
was attempting to sing a public-house song, accompanied by two
pigeon-flyers who had come to offer him a bed for the night, when
Jimmy and his sister, white and trembling, knocked at his door.
"Cum in," he shouted, and Jimmy stepped into the middle of
the almost empty room and threw down the bed and pillow, whilst
Alice, her heart beating almost into her ears, followed him.
"It's nobbut a flock un, but tha'rt welcome to it, Hiram,"
stammered Jimmy, straightening himself, and Alice added, "An' heer's
a tooathre vittles fer—fer th' sake o' owd toimes!" And then
she broke down and began to cry.
And then there came a bang at the half-opened door, and Jabe
came limping in with a three-legged table, followed by Lige carrying
some fire-irons and an old copper kettle. Sam Speck came next
with a collection of crockery, and in a minute or two afterwards
Long Ben brought a hand cart on which was a wooden bedstead which he
had actually taken from under one of his own children.
By this time Hiram's sporting friends had sidled off, and
Hiram was sitting leaning his head on one arm, which was laid across
the arm of his chair. One or two spoke to him, but he never
answered; and so, at a signal from Jabe, the visitors stole quietly
away, and Hiram was alone with the tokens of a human kindness in
which he had never believed.
Early next morning Jethro going his knocking-up rounds, found
the storekeeper pulling down the "spite and malice boards" outside
Ben's side windows. And on the following Sunday he slunk into
chapel after the service had commenced and crept into Silas' box
behind the door. Next week he was seen helping Silas to clean
the chapel out, and it soon began to be prophesied that Alice
Crawshaw and he would marry after all.
But they never did, for Jimmy's gentle sister died next year,
and Hiram almost immediately emigrated, carrying with him one
strange piece of luggage: a woman's crutch. Ever since then
the collection at the "Sarmons" has been helped up by a bank order
from the States, with which there always comes an unsigned note,
inscribed "IN MEMORY OF