A Diplomatic Reverse.
WEAK people are
great trials to their friends, and Long Ben was a frequent source of
anxiety to old Jabe. Ben was so easily moved, and so rash when
he was moved, that the Clogger told him every week of his life, "Thy
yed's as sawft as a fuz-baw " (ball).
In financial matters Jabe regarded him as utterly
incompetent. He was so open-handed towards the borrower, and
so patient and hopeful towards his debtors, that he was informed by
his chief mentor again and again, "Tha'll ne'er ha' nowt woll tha'rt
More than one Becksider had been disappointed of temporary
loans from Ben by the sudden and peremptory interference of the
Clogger, and Ben scarcely ever came to the Clog Shop without being
catechised as to the state of his account with this or that
slow-paying debtor. If Ben became reticent in any of these
matters Jabe at once took the alarm, and by threatening and
judicious "pumpings," and occasionally by plottings with Ben's wife,
ultimately got the truth out of him, and sometimes saved him from
Of late years, however, Ben, partly out of shy modesty, and
partly out of fear of the Clogger, had developed a quite crafty
slyness in his methods of rendering help to others.
"He's that fawse [cunning], wench," Jabe would confide to
Mrs. Ben in their consultations on the subject, "He'd diddle Owd
Scratch hissel', an' we ne'er knaw wot he's up to."
And the Clogger's difficulties were complicated by the view
he took of himself. He regarded himself as of a naturally hard
and unsympathetic disposition, with a terrible tendency towards
grasping greediness. Financial operations were therefore very
welcome to the old Adam in him, but very baneful, he feared, in
their effects on his spiritual life, so that when Ben's weaknesses
compelled him to act the part of an astute worldly-wise counsellor
to his friend, it was done at great risk to his own soul.
Under these circumstances it will be easily seen how grievous
a cross Ben's weaknesses were to poor Jabe. It must, however,
be stated, if we are to make a full and faithful record, that the
Clogger did not bear his cross either meekly or silently.
Jabe had been busy one day teaching his apprentice the art of
clog-sole shaping, and as the work had been trying to both his back
and his temper, he was resting and taking a quiet whiff, meditating
the while on a little problem which was just then exercising his
Four or five months before, Ralph Green, the cut-looker, had
died, leaving a wife and five children unprovided for. There
was the club money, of course, and Ralph, though delicate, had
managed to put a little into the savings bank at Duxbury; so that it
was well known that the bereaved family would be in no particular
need for a little time.
But time had travelled quickly, and Jabe, reckoning it up,
was startled to find that nearly five months had gone, and that
therefore it was high time to make some inquiry into the condition
of the family.
But Ben was in the way. If the subject were broached in
his presence he would be sure to go right off and do something
foolish, and something which, with his large family, he could ill
And then Mrs. Green was not exactly a persona grata.
She was a quiet, shy sort of woman. It was reluctantly granted
that, as a wife and mother, she was "reet enuff," but as a neighbour
she was close, reserved, and stiffly proud. Jabe, with the
rest of the villagers, felt this, and he had difficulty in
repressing a feeling of satisfaction that now, at anyrate, she would
be compelled to make friends of her neighbours.
At the same time, the Clogger justly surmised that, if help
were given to the cut-looker's family, considerable care would have
to be taken as to the mode of rendering it, or else it might be
And then, none of the Greens were "members," so that to the
strictly legal mind of the senior society steward there was a
difficulty in the way of helping them from the chapel poor's fund.
To further complicate matters, Jabe suspected himself of
disinclination to help this case of need, which was another
indication of the original desperateness of his nature, and entirely
shook his own confidence in his power to rightly judge the matter.
Altogether the subject provided a very neat problem, which
might have occupied two or three nights' discussion around the Clog
Shop fire, and have given opportunities for the display of those
fine forensic talents on which Jabe prided himself, but for that
irritating and humiliating weakness of Long Ben's.
By this time the Clogger's pipe was out, and hung negligently
between his lips, threatening every moment to drop to the ground.
The apprentice, standing almost up to the knees in clog-chips, was
perspiring over his work and inaudibly anathematising obdurate
clog-soles, when there was a murmur of young voices outside, the "sneck"
of the shop-door was gently and hesitatingly lifted, the door itself
slowly pushed open, and in came two children, a boy and a girl.
They carried a basket which seemed to contain something heavy, and
after carefully closing the door after them, they dropped their
burden upon the floor.
"Well, wot dun yo' want?" demanded Jabe, taking his pipe out
of his mouth, and scowling with a sternness he always assumed when
talking to children.
For a moment or two there was no answer; the boy looked at
the girl; and the girl, catching at her pinafore as if preparing to
cry, looked back at the boy.
Presently, however, the girl seemed to repent of her tears,
and making a resolute effort, which drove the blood from her thin
cheeks, she stammered―
"Dun yo' want to bey ony roppits [rabbits], Jabe?"
The Clogger rose to his feet, and seemed about to explode
upon his visitors, when the boy chimed in―
"Full-bred Spanish, yo' known; nineteen inches across th'
"Roppits! yo' wastrils," cried Jabe, in a grossly overdone
pretence of anger; "wot dew Aw want wi' roppits? Tak' 'em aat
o' th' place, or"―
But the girl plucked up courage, and dropping into a slightly
wheedling tone, she said―
"Yo' met bey 'em, Jabe, my— We wanten th' brass."
"Brass! Wot dun yo' want th' brass fur?"
But a look of sudden resoluteness came into the eyes of the
children, and the girl shook her head admonitorily at her brother,
and then answered―
"We conna tell thi, Jabe."
"Yo' conna tell," shouted the Clogger; "yo' meean yo' winna."
And then, suddenly, as if to surprise something out of them,
"Does yur muther knaw as yur sellin' 'em?"
Another look of caution shot into the girl's eyes, but before
she could speak the boy had answered, "Neaw."
"Neaw! Tha'rt a bonny mon ta cum sellin' roppits ba'at
tellin' thy muther," cried Jabe, addressing the boy as evidently the
But the sister had telegraphed some kind of warning to her
brother, and he stood and refused to answer a word. Then Jabe
tried several other questions without much success, and finally
"Naa, then, Aw'm just wantin' a pur [pair] o' roppits like
thoose," and he lifted the basket lid and glanced critically at the
occupants. "Aw've a hempty pig-hoile daan th' garden yond',
an' Aw want ta keep 'em in it; bud Aw'st bey noa roppits off childer
as corn't tell me wot they're goin' fur t' dew wi' th' brass."
The young rabbit-vendors breathed hard and looked at each
other in dire perplexity, and then the girl glanced apprehensively
at the apprentice, who, on perceiving that he was noticed, suddenly
resumed his clog-shaping with demonstrative haste.
"Here, Isaac!" cried Jabe. "Goa daan th' gardin' an'
mak' a place for these roppits i' th' pig-coite."
As soon as Isaac had disappeared on his invented errand, Jabe
demanded the price of the wonderful Black Spanishes, and on having
two shillings each tentatively quoted to him, he pulled two
half-crowns out of his pocket, and balancing them on his fingers, he
"Naa, then; wot dun yo' want th' brass fur?"
The children hesitated, looked longingly at the coins and
then at each other, heaved great, anxious sighs, and then the girl
"Will yo' tell onybody, Jabe?"
"Tell onybody? Not me," cried Jabe, in a tone expressive of
the utter impossibility of such a thing.
There was another pause, and then the girl drew a long
breath, hesitated, took a step nearer the old Clogger, and then
giving way suddenly, she fell forward with her head on his breast,
"We want to give it my muther fur th' rent."
No Becksider of any experience would have believed it, but it
is nevertheless true, that Jabe did not remove the little hot face
that was buried in his bosom, and it was also true that whilst he
was speaking to the brother, blushing and ashamed of his sister's
tears, but hovering perilously near them himself, Jabe's arm somehow
strayed round to the other side of the sobbing child, and as he
talked he drew her tightly to him and held her there.
"Haa dust knaw thy muther conna pay th' rent hersel'?" he
asked, looking at the boy, and speaking in tones of most unnecessary
"'Cause Owd Croppy came for it yesterday, an' he sauced my
muther, an' aar Lizer theer sleeps wi' my muther, an' hoo says hoo
wur skrikin' welly aw neet."
As the reader will have surmised, Jabe's juvenile visitors
were the children of Widow Green, and the interview just described
brought painfully home to the Clogger the state of affairs at the
So with a brief, brusque admonition to secrecy, Jabe
dismissed the children, and adjourned to the parlour for tea,
previously telling the apprentice to take great care of the rabbits
for a day or two.
Over tea and the pipe that followed, Jabe matured his plans
with difficulty. It was very provoking not to be able to take
Ben into his confidence, and he resolved to punish that troublesome
weakling by keeping him out of the affair altogether.
Only Ben was much more ingenious and inventive than the
Clogger, and Jabe sorely needed a suggestion or two from him as to
the quietest and most roundabout way of conveying the assistance to
be rendered. Invention, in fact, was not Jabe's strong point,
and he knew it, and so he was still chasing through his brain ideas
that refused to be caught when the cronies began to assemble for the
For a time he sat at his bench and took no part in the
conversation. Presently, however, he pulled off his apron for
the night, and joined the circle round the fire.
"Has ony on yo' yerd has Phebe Green's goin' on?" he asked,
with a laborious attempt at indifference which excited more
curiosity than his most anxious tones could have done, and
unfortunately woke up Long Ben, who seemed to be dozing far into the
But nobody seemed to know anything, and Nathan the smith
declared that "They met be clemmin' i' th' haase for owt as they
towd onybody"; and Sam Speck said he "couldn't abide sitch fawse
Jabe undertook a feeble defence of the widow, all the time
keeping a vigilant eye on Long Ben, who manifested a most
satisfactory lack of interest. In fact, Ben only seemed to
really wake up when Sniggy Parkin came in and announced that he was
going to "tak' cur" (care) of his "owd woman," and, for a start, "Th'
mangle's for sale!"
Now the sale of Molly's mangle was a matter of public
interest. Wringing- machines were scarce in Beckside.
Johnty Harrop's wife had got one, of course, and so had Jimmy
Juddy's Nancy, and one or two others of the upper ten, but for the
rest everybody took their clothes to the public mangles.
Until recently there had been two in the village,—one owned
by Blind Alice, and patronised by the more respectable of the
Becksiders, and Molly Parkin's in the Brick-croft, supported by the
democracy. But some weeks before Blind Alice had been taken to
the Asylum, and her mangle removed to Clough End.
The sale of Molly's machine therefore would create a sort of
public crisis. It was agreed on all hands that the Brick-croft
mangle must not leave the village, and Long Ben seemed so absorbed
in the situation, and its possible developments, that Jabe rejoiced
to think that Widow Green would drop for the time out of his
thoughts. Meanwhile, what must be done for the Greens?
The next night proved so very wet that nobody turned up at
the Clog Shop except Sam Speck. But Sam was clearly
"Hoo keeps hersel' to hersel'; leave her to hersel'," was his
Then Jabe opened his mind more fully, but though they talked
for a long time, the two schemers could invent nothing better than a
tortuous and involved system of subsidies to be given as occasion
offered under various elaborate pretexts. When they parted
neither was quite satisfied with the outcome of their consultation,
and Jabe was more and more irate at Ben for his unavailability.
That same night, wet though it was, Ben paid a visit to Phebe
"Arta' in, Phebe?" he asked, opening the door a little, and
"Ay," said a somewhat weary voice, and the carpenter stepped
inside, and reared his big umbrella on the slop-stone to drip.
"Childer, reitch a cheer," said Phebe, and when Ben had taken
his seat, and given a sour-sweet to each of the children, he stole a
quiet look round the house, and then glanced shyly at the widow.
She looked older and sadder than of yore, Ben noted with a pang, and
there was that harassed look which sorrow never brings to the face
except when blended with worry.
"Phebe, thee an' me's allis been thick, 'anna we?" he
ventured at last.
"Ay," said Phebe, but there was suspicion and rising
resistance in her tones.
"Well, Aw want thi ta dew me a favour, ay, an' aw Beckside
tew, if thaa will."
"Wot dust want?" asked the widow, still cautious and icy.
"Why, we're goin' t' be ba'at a mangle i' Beckside, an' Aw
thowt sum on us met bey it in if thaa'd tak' it fur a bit, an' work
it fur th' good o' th' village, thaa knaws."
Phebe, a tall, severe-looking woman, stood looking down upon
Ben, white and motionless as a statue, and then the fountains of the
deep seemed suddenly to open within her, and with a passionate cry
she staggered to a seat, and leaning her head on the table, she
"O Lord, Thaa art 'the Father of the fatherless, and
the Husband of the widow'! just when Aw were at th' fur end Thaa's
sent me deliverance."
Presently her agitation subsided, and, looking up at the
carpenter, she cried: "It's just loike thee, Ben Barber, bud thy
wife an' childer 'ull ne'er want for nowt as long as theer's a God
"Aw see nowt ta tak' on o' that rooad abaat," said Ben, with
a look of surprise which was not perhaps perfectly sincere.
"If owd Molly's mangle went aat o' th' village it 'ud be Dicky Pink
wi' aw th' Beckside cleean clooas. Th' childer 'till be able
ta turn fur thi,"
"But," he continued, suddenly assuming a brisk business air
to bring Phebe back to commercial matters, and with a thought also
of saving her pride, "tha'll ha' ta dew aar manglin' fur nowt fur a
month or tew if thaa wants th' mangle fur thy own."
When Ben had gone, having in leaving bound Phebe over to
strict secrecy for a few days, the widow's children were amazed to
see their staid, emotionless mother kiss them impulsively all round,
with a series of hugs for the podgy baby, and caught some of their
mother's gladness when they heard her say―
"Thank God, wee'st be able ta pay aar rooad naa, ay, an' put
a bit of a stooan on yer fayther's grave an' aw."
Next night Jabe made a visit to the widow's with his first
subsidy in his pocket, and was both surprised and encouraged by a
new softness in Phebe's manner.
"Hay!" he said, looking significantly at the two children
with whom he had negotiated the purchase of the animals, "we 'an had
sum wark wi' yon roppits. They'll dreive me off mi yed if Aw
keep 'em mitch longer. Sithee, Jack! If tha'll fotch 'em
back tha'st have 'em for nowt, an' Aw'll give thi summat fur t' tak'
'em aat o' mi seet."
This speech, of course, had a very lively effect on young
Jack's spirits, but quite a contrary one apparently on those of his
mother, who thus learnt for the first time to whom the creatures had
A frosty silence followed. Jabe had an uneasy sense of
having blundered somehow, and so presently, discarding the
subterfuges for which he felt so ill-fitted, he said, with a sigh of
"Well, wench, haa ar'ta goin' on?"
"Pratty weel," said Phebe shyly; "wi' God's help an' my
naybors' Aw think wee'st pull through."
The reply finished in so cheerful a tone, and Phebe herself
looked so easy, that Jabe suspected there must be some recent cause
for it, and beat about the bush for information. But it was no
use, and so he retired in the hope of gleaning something at the Clog
But nobody responded to his very palpable leadings, and Long
Ben's conduct was so unexceptionable as to disarm all suspicion of
Jabe was so ill-satisfied with the result of his first visit
that he went to the widow's again the next night, but though Phebe
was out and Jabe used his utmost artifices with the children, he got
"noa furrader," as he grumblingly admitted to himself going home.
Next day he went again, resolving to have no more evasions,
but to compel Phebe to accept his help, and even if necessary to
scold her for her sinful pride. But though Phebe was very
kind, and even talkative for her, it was evident that she suspected
his errand, and was bent on thwarting him, and so after staying a
very long time he abandoned the entire scheme in sheer bad temper,
and spitefully banged the door as he went out.
But next day the mangle was removed to Phebe's, and before
night everybody knew of the new arrangements.
Jabe heard of it very early, of course, and sat over his work
preparing for Long Ben the best "dressin' dawn" he ever had in his
life. But Ben evidently thought discretion the better part of
valour, and did not turn up, for he knew that Jabe would suspect him
of having arranged the matter.
Besides the absence of Ben, the conduct of the rest of the
Clog Shop cronies was irritating. Jabe sat at his seat before
the window some time after his ordinary hour for adjournment, and
toiled on in moody unsociability, but the others—Sam Speck, Lige,
and Nathan the smith—got as far as they could into the inglenook,
and were whispering and breaking into sudden explosions of laughter,
which they made great haste to suppress.
Jabe concluded they were rejoicing over the way in which Ben
had out-manoeuvred him, and bore it with ill-smothered wrath.
When Lige and Nathan had gone, the Clogger drew up to the fire, and
Sam, whose face wore a broad grin, at once looked preternaturally
grave, but after struggling with himself for a few moments, overcome
by irresistible inward merriment, he burst into an uproarious laugh.
The look Jabe cast on him would have frozen any mirth,
however, and so, as soon as he could make a straight face, he leaned
forward and said―
"Dust knaw wot they're sayin' abaat thi?"
"Aw nayther knaw nor care," snapped the Clogger, looking
fiercely into the fire.
"They say"—but Sam got up and prepared for sudden exit, as he
said it—"they say as thaws started o' courtin' Phebe Green;" and
away Sam rushed, waking the echoes by his explosions of laughter as
he crossed the road for home.
THE Clogger sat
at a table under his parlour window with Fleetwood's Life of
Christ open before him as a writing-pad, a very short stumpy pen
in his hand, smudges of ink on his fingers and lips, and an
irritated, indignant look on his rugged countenance.
Seated in a chair beside him, and bending so intently over
him as to seriously incommode him, and thus intensify his anger, was
a long, thin-faced woman of nearly his own age, who wore under her
shawl the "brat" of the ordinary card-room factory-hand, which still
had traces of cotton "rovings" upon it. This was Rachel
Walmsley, Jabe's cousin, a widow who lived by herself in one of the
small cottages between the chapel and the Fold farm.
The two were occupied in writing a letter, which was a very
serious business, as the Clogger hated writing, and Rachel could not
even read. The letter was intended for the widow's only son
Richard, a young doctor in London. Rachel usually wrote about
once in three months, using Jabe as an amanuensis, and the
composition of the letter generally produced a fierce conflict
between the two.
Jabe, to whom the task was utterly abhorrent, was always
bitterly sarcastic about some of the things dictated to him, and
immovably obstinate about others, whilst Rachel was tormented with
the suspicion that Jabe was not quite as scholarly as he pretended
to be, and that her instructions to him were freely translated, and
often cruelly abbreviated, by the penman to save trouble. The
writing of this letter, therefore, was generally the occasion of a
battle royal, out of which Jabe usually came with a complete loss of
temper and self-respect, vowing with fierce resolution, "Aw'll niver
write anuther woll my heart's warm."
On the present occasion, however, the letter was of more than
usual interest, and Rachel was therefore more than usually trying,
and Jabe was already in a high fever of irritation and disgust.
"Theer," exclaimed the widow, as Jabe, having over-dipped his
pen, made a black spot on the letter, and then tried to remove it by
using the end of his finger as a blotting-pad, "that's th' third
blotch ta-neet, wun upo' ivery. That's a bonny letter to goa
to a Lundon doctor, isn't it?"
"Haa con Aw help it wi' thee mauling abaat me?" shouted Jabe.
"Tha mak's me aw of a whacker" (shake).
"Whacker? Ay! that's thy ill-temper. Tha ne'er
had a grain of patience sin' Aw knowed thi."
"Temper? Of aw th' aggravatin'"—
But the Clogger stopped, took off his spectacles, laid down
his stumpy pen, moved his chair from the table, and relighting an
unfinished pipe, puffed away in grim silence, his weak member
rocking up and down over the knee of the other leg at a frantic
Rachel, knowing well with whom she had to do, and quite
accustomed to demonstrations of this kind, waited quietly for some
time, during which Jabe, sitting with his back to her, gave vent
every now and then to an angry snort. At length she said
"Aar Rutchart [Richard] thinks a seet o' thee, Jabe."
Another snort from the Clogger, and a resumption of violent
"He'll be whoarn afoor lung, naa, and ther'll be noabry
praader on him nor thee, Jabe."
The smoke began to puff from Jabe's pipe in short, rapid
"Didn't tha read as he wor thinkin' o' settlin' amung his own
fouk i' Beckside, Jabe?"
"Naa, Aw'll tell thee wot, Rachel," cried the Clogger, rising
to his feet and limping to the table, "Aw'st finish this letter, if
it dreives me maddlet; but, mind thee, Aw'st write noa mooar,
nayther fur thee nor yo'r Rutchart."
And with a visage of adamantine resolution, the Clogger
picked up his pen and sat down again before "Fleetwood," demanding
snappishly as he did so―
"Wot's th' next?"
"Tell him fur t' moind wot he's doin' wi' them Lundon
wenches. They're a fawse lot, an'"―
"But Aw've towd him that awready."
"Naa, thaa hezna."
"Then Aw said it th' last toime."
"Ay, bud that's three munths sin', thaa knows."
"Three munths? Whey, Aw've towd him that i' ivery
letter Aw've written this last five ye'r. Dust think th' lad's
"Hay, bud it 'ud be an awful thing, Jabez, if he browt a
forriner ta Beckside."
"Lundoners ar'na forriners, tha lump-yed. Thaa'll be
cawin' th' 'super' a forriner next, 'cause he cums fro' Lundon."
"Tell him theer's sum gradely nice wenches i' Beckside, an'"—
"Beckside!" shouted the Clogger, rising out of his chair once
more in amazement and indignation. "Dust think there's ony
wench i' Beckside as is fit for a Lundon doctor? He'll live in
a big haase, woman, wi' a brass knocker upo' th' dur, an' a sarvant
lass, an' he'll want a wife as can talk fine and play th' pianney
and visit th' quality."
For a moment a look of exulting pride stood on the faded face
of the widow, but it disappeared instantly, and in its place came a
look of alarm, which developed rapidly into intense anxiety.
She leaned back in her chair, her thin face became ashy pale, and at
last she said, quietly and huskily―
"His muther 'till shawm [shame] him, then?"
Jabe banged the pen down on the book before him, and cried
out in exasperated, despairing tones―
"Hay, dear!" and then, suddenly turning on Rachel, he
continued, "If yo'r Dick's iver shawmed of his muther, th' Longworth
blood's bred aat on him, that's aw! Shawmed of his muther!
His muther's a meytherin' owd maddlin', iver ta think o' sitch a
But the thought was evidently a new one to Rachel, and
rapidly took root in her mind. She became so occupied with it,
in fact, that Jabe had no further difficulty in getting his task
finished, and was too rejoiced thereat to notice the deeply pensive
look on his cousin's face.
Rachel had called at the Clog Shop on her way home from the
mill, and when she reached her own cottage the shadow caused by the
words of Jabe deepened on her face, and tears dropped upon the
highly-polished fire-irons as she made and lighted the fire.
When she sat down to tea, it proved a long and melancholy meal.
She had been made a widow by a mill accident some twenty
years before, and had been left with one child, a bright little
fellow of six. Several offers of marriage had been made to
her, but she had peremptorily refused all, and lived alone with her
child, who spent his time at Aunt Judy's when his mother was at the
Richard had grown up a fine sharp boy, of more than ordinary
promise; and so when he was about fourteen, and had long been
pestering his mother to allow him to go to work like other boys,
Rachel had got Jabe to write to her brother-in-law, a tradesman in
Manchester, to inquire if he knew of an opening for the lad.
James Walmsley came to see Richard and his own old home at
Beckside, took a great fancy to his fatherless nephew, and finally
took him back with him. But, instead of finding him a
situation, he had sent him to school again, and kept him there.
Then he discovered that Dick had a strong wish to be a
doctor; and so, after many consultations with Rachel, he was sent to
a college, and after a successful career had qualified some three
years previous to the time of which we write, and the letter to
which the one which had caused Jabe so much trouble was the reply
had informed his mother that he was going a long sea voyage as a
ship's surgeon, and that on his return he intended to come back to
his native village and try to establish a practice in the
Now, all this had been marrow and fatness to the widow.
She had feared he would never come back and settle among his own.
Years ago, when on one of his rare visits she had hinted at it,
Uncle James had shaken his head and quoted the text about the
prophet in his own country.
And then she was haunted by a terrible dread of his marrying
some "forriner," and thus putting another barrier between them.
But the fact that her heart's idol would not be the same simple,
merry boy she had given up long ago with such terrible pangs, but a
fine gentleman with "quality" ways and refined tastes, had never
presented itself to her exactly as it did as the result of Jabe's
She was no sort of companion for a gentleman, she saw
instantly, and she did not hide from herself that she would probably
be a serious hindrance to him in society, and also, by her unfitness
to manage his house and preside at his table, drive him into that
very matrimonial market from which she longed to keep him.
For over twenty years she had worked and screwed and waited,
sustained always by the dream of a strong, clever, prosperous son to
love her and do her honour, and now the dream vanished into thin
air. When he became a medical student she had given up all
hope of his ever settling in his native village, and now, when her
dearest wish was about to be fulfilled, and her boy was coming home,
she felt she must begin a remorseless process of self-undeception
and give up all she had lived for.
She blamed herself for not having thought of all this before.
She understood now why "Rutchart " had pressed her so often in his
letters of late to give up going to the mill. He had told her
over and over again, in words that were milk and honey to her, that
he was not of the marrying sort; and now he would be compelled to
wed because his mother was not fit to manage a house with a brass
knocker on the door and a "sarvant lass" in the kitchen.
It was a long, sad evening for poor Rachel, and when she
retired to rest it was but to toss and roll about in perplexity and
Next night, however, Jabe noticed her pass the shop with a
firmness of gait which was expressive of some change for the better
in her mental condition, and after partaking of tea she fettled up
the house rather more carefully than usual, and went out to "class."
Coming down the "broo" from the meeting, she invited the
schoolmistress to make one of her occasional calls. The call
included a "soop o' tay" and a bit of apple pasty.
Whilst they were sitting at the table Rachel said suddenly―
"Larnin's a foine thing, miss."
"Yes," said the mistress, wondering what was the precise
purpose of the remark.
"Haa owd 'an folk fur t' be afoor they stoppen larnin'?"
"The younger the better, of course; but people are never too
old to learn, you know, Mrs. Walmsley."
"Ay, but yo' conna teitch an owd dog ony new tricks."
"Oh yes, we may all learn. 'Where there's a will
there's a way,' you know."
But whilst the mistress was wondering what the conversation
was intended to lead up to, Rachel suddenly changed the topic by
"Are yo' comfortable, lodging wi' Bob Turner?"
"Well, fairly comfortable; they do their best for me."
"Wod yo' like fur t' stop wi' me if Aw gav' up goin' to th'
Rachel's house was a tempting little nest of a place, almost
painfully clean, better furnished than most, and surrounded back and
front with an old-fashioned little garden which had often excited
Miss Redford's envy.
Rachel watched her visitor's face very narrowly as she asked
her question, and saw instantly how welcome the change would be; and
so without waiting for her reply she said―
"Aw want yo' ta cum an' live wi' me, an' atsteead o' payin'
me owt, yo'n ta larn me ta be a lady."
An exclamation of surprise and amusement broke from the
mistress's lips, but before she could reply Rachel had drawn her
chair up close to her, and was pouring into her ears the perennial
story of "aar Rutchart," adding, however, this time, several fresh
items about his approaching home-coming, her own dislike of "forriners,"
and especially "forrin" women, and her desire to "fettle" herself
up, so as to have some hope of keeping house for the doctor.
They talked for a long time, the schoolmistress evidently
shrinking from the proposed task, and also objecting strenuously to
the other terms of the arrangement. But Rachel would have her
"Yo' mun larn me my manners, an' haa ta talk foine and ta
read an' write, an' yo' mun show me haa to tittivate th' haase up
an' mak' it a bit loike a Lundon haase," persisted the older woman;
and in the end, without the least faith as to the result, and with
an uneasy sense of the ridiculous in the matter, Miss Redford
consented to join Rachel in her little home.
Now, nobody was surprised when Rachel left the mill.
Some even expressed the opinion that she ought to have done it long
since, as it was well known she had saved a "tidy bit."
Everybody approved also of her taking the schoolmistress to live
with her, for, in the opinion of Beckside, nothing was too good for
that young lady. Of course, the precise purpose of the new
arrangement was carefully concealed, and it was only when it began
to bear unexpected kinds of fruit that the neighbours remarked upon
One Sunday morning Rachel appeared at chapel with a
gorgeously-bound hymn-book, which she made a show of using during
the singing, and Sam Speck actually stopped in the middle of a fine
bass run as his eyes fell on the widow using a hymn-book as big as
the pulpit one, but much handsomer, and pretending to read it
through gold-rimmed spectacles.
A week or two later she appeared in that surest sign of
feminine greatness, a watered silk dress, to which was added a
little later a fashionable mantle.
But the climax of outrageous innovation was reached when
Rachel began to call her neighbours "Mister" and "Missis," and to
speak in a ridiculous mixture of dialect and "fine talk."
Now, it must not be supposed that the schoolmistress was
responsible for all this. She saw it with pain and shame.
When the widow persisted in her first proposals Miss Redford had
acquiesced in the hope of being able in a quiet way to render her
friend some assistance, or at anyrate to prevent her exposing
herself to ridicule.
But she was soon in deep water. Rachel gave up learning
to write after the third lesson, and proved but slow in acquiring
power to read. In the art of making a fair show in the flesh,
however, she effectually proved her true womanhood by comprehending
and carrying out with astounding aptitude the gentle hints given by
Before long, indeed, she got out of leading-strings
altogether, took to going to Duxbury every week, where she bought
her own garments, and was able to study at first hand the manners of
the ladies she met with, and even produced afterwards slightly
grotesque imitations of their toilets.
The mistress's efforts were confined almost entirely to
checking Rachel's immoderate zeal, though once she went the length
of openly opposing the purchase of an outrageous bonnet which a
Duxbury milliner had called "so ladylike." They disagreed most
of all, perhaps, on questions of colour. Miss Redford's
diplomatic resources were strained to the utmost to prevent glaring
offences, and she was driven back more frequently than she liked
upon her one argument that never failed, "I'm sure the doctor
wouldn't like it."
It must not be supposed that Beckside was indifferent to
these things. They were intermittently absorbing themes of
conversation. At the mangle-house, which was to Beckside women
what the Clog Shop was to the men, Rachel's sudden rush into fashion
was constantly canvassed and unhesitatingly condemned, and her
"manners" and newly-adopted modes of speech called forth all Lottie
Speck's unrivalled powers of mimicry.
At the Clog Shop the subject was discussed under
difficulties, for Rachel was the Clogger's cousin, and for a time it
was not known how he regarded the matter, whilst Jabe himself was
too much disgusted to allude to it. Hints, however, were
constantly being thrown out, and when one night Jabe said a word or
two which seemed to invite discussion on the subject, he was told so
many things that he boiled over with indignation.
Next day he called on the widow with his temper very
insecurely under control. As he opened the door and stepped as
usual over the threshold he noticed with rising scorn that the once
carefully sanded floor was now covered with new carpet.
"Ay!" he began in withering tones. But before he could
proceed he was met with the startling rebuke―
"Jabez Longworth, you should knock when you comes into
Arrested thus suddenly in his progress, and overwhelmed with
what he saw and heard, Jabez stood in the middle of the room and
glared around in speechless astonishment. Slowly his gaze
focused itself upon Rachel, and transfixing her with an annihilating
glare, he cried―
"Tha pride-brussen, mee-mawin, feathercock owd maddlin, tha,
root's up with thi?"
But Rachel was on her dignity, and so, bridling up, she
returned his fiery glare with interest, and replied, betraying her
excitement by dropping into dialect―
"If thaa's ony manners thaa'll take thy cap off i' fouk's
The Clogger stood back a step, surveyed Rachel slowly and
deliberately from head to foot, and then with a tremendous thump on
the table with his horny fist, he cried―
"Ay, Aw'll tak' my cap off an' mysel' tew."
"An', Rachel," he continued, after a moment's pause, "thaa
niver hed much sense, but sin' thaa sowd thy sowl to warldly pride
thaa's lost root bit thaa hed. Good mornin', Missis
Walmsley," and, taking off his cap, he made her an elaborate
mock bow, and stalked haughtily out of the house.
But Rachel was not to be turned from her purpose. Her
dread of being an embarrassment to her son, and her fear of driving
him into marriage with a daughter of the Philistines, acted as a
stimulant to her energies, but whilst she certainly advanced rapidly
in some things, her language was a bewildering medley, and her
Sunday outfit was fearfully and wonderfully made.
At last there came a letter from the young doctor to say that
he had landed at Southampton, and was going to London for a few
days, but would be home in about a week. Rachel heard the
schoolmistress read of the going to London with a pang, but soon
forgot it in the excitement of preparation to welcome her boy.
Then came a second letter to say that Richard would reach
Duxbury Station by the 4.19 train on Thursday, and for two nights
poor Rachel never slept. Every few minutes she was asking her
lodger if she thought "the doctor," as Miss Redford always called
him, would like this or that article of dress or furniture, and the
young lady was glad to have that opportunity of correcting several
things which offended her taste.
On the subject of personal adornment, however, the elder
woman was still untractable; and though the mistress's influence
secured the omission of the more glaring ornaments, the proud mother
was still more than sufficiently gorgeous when she started off, in a
trap specially hired from Duxbury, to meet her son.
Now that the time had come she felt little of the elation she
had expected, but in its place a nervous apprehension she found it
difficult to account for. She was now certain that her boy
would be too grand a fellow to care much for a factory-hand mother,
whom he had only seen twice during the last seven years, and that
since mixing in such grand society there would be nothing in
Beckside to satisfy him.
Would he admire her plum-coloured satin dress in which she
was meeting him? She was sure Miss Redford had been mistaken
in recommending that plain shawl instead of the grand mantle.
But, at anyrate, she had her gold guard on, and so she arrived at
the station in a flurry of anxious misgivings.
Rachel had all a countrywoman's dread of trains, and stood a
long way back when the express came in. In a moment she saw
her son. Oh, what a fine fellow! What a fine beard he
had grown! Here he comes! He has seen her, but after a
hasty glance he looks farther down the platform. He doesn't
know her! Then he turns toward her again. She starts
forward with a cry, and in a moment he has hugged her to his heart.
But after a long, hearty embrace the young doctor holds her
from him, glances perplexedly at her grand outfit, and seems uneasy
and a shade disappointed, she fears. During the ride home,
though he talked freely as of old, he seemed to be always looking at
some part of her apparel, and appeared a trifle flat and
disappointed, and even, she thought, distant.
But in a few moments Rachel had something else to think
about. The day had been very warm, but during the last hour it
had become sultry and thundery. Just as they were reaching the
top of the hill out of Duxbury the rain began to fall, and in a few
minutes it was pouring down. Rachel had "forgotten" her
umbrella—that is, she had left it at home, because it was not fine
enough. The doctor's had been left behind with his luggage, to
come by Squire Taylor's cart. There was no shelter near, and
the driver had scarcely any wraps. Such as he had were hastily
dragged from under the seat, and wrapped round her shoulders, but,
in spite of all, the poor widow reached home in a drenched and
The schoolmistress met them at the door, and exclaimed as she
saw their soaked clothes, but as it was still raining heavily they
made haste to get indoors, and the doctor insisted that "mother"
should go and change at once.
But in the bedroom another scene took place. Rachel was
disappointed and thoroughly out of temper, and obstinately insisted
on putting on her watered silk. But the schoolmistress, having
taken her measure of the doctor, insisted that the widow's ordinary
black stuff was the proper thing, and was so firm that Rachel had
most unwillingly to give in. By the time she was ready to go
down again she felt sick of the whole affair, and more than a little
ashamed, and came into the wee parlour with a very penitent look on
The doctor was stooping down pulling on an elastic-sided boot
as she entered, but on hearing her footsteps he lifted his head.
A look of surprised delight suddenly shone on his bronzed face, and
jumping forward he seized her in his great arms, and giving her a
tremendous hug, he cried, dropping quite naturally into the purest
"Hay! Aw'd a fine lady i' th' trap wi' me. But
this is my gradely owd muther!"
SPECK had often
complained that there had been an oversight in the building of the
Clog Shop. There ought to have been a window in the gable end
of it, for that would have commanded a view of the road up past the
chapel, and have immensely enhanced the value of the Clog Shop as a
coign of vantage from which to supervise the public life of the
And on the night of the young doctor's return, Sam
particularly felt the absence of this outlook. It was too wet
to stand about outside, and too soon after his arrival to make a
decent excuse for calling, and yet Sam was consumed with curiosity
to see the doctor. Lige, the road-mender, driven in from his
work by the rain, was also at the cloggery, and these two—Sam in his
character of cynic, and Lige from sheer depression of spirits—were
prophesying the certainty of the doctor's unapproachableness and
pride, and prophesying all the more doggedly as their vaticinations
produced very welcome declarations of an opposite character from
As the evening drew on the company increased, and whilst some
expressed themselves hopefully, the majority of the cronies belied
themselves by endorsing Long Ben's dictum that "We conna expect owt
Jabe, however, stoutly held out, and whilst admitting the
force of Ben's argument as to the length of time the boy had been
absent, the character of the society in which he had mixed, and the
appearance he would have to keep up if he meant to succeed as a
doctor, he still expressed unbounded confidence in Richard, and
predicted that they would find that he had not changed in the least.
In spite of all that Jabe could say, however, the company
took a desponding view of the case, and Lige, the oldest person
present, related numerous instances of persons who had left Beckside
poor and unknown, and who either never acknowledged in after days
the place whence they had sprung, or else returned occasionally and
patronised the villagers with most offensive condescension.
To crown all, Jethro, the knocker-up, recalled the well-known
instance of Tommy Royle, who, when he had risen to the dignity of
mayor of a distant borough, brought his grand wife and a party of
Corporation friends to see his birthplace, and made fun of the
village and its inhabitants, even going to the length of chaffing
Jethro himself, for the amusement of his fine friends, about the
importance of Beckside, and Jethro's thin voice assumed its deepest
possible tones as he impressively added, "Ten ye'r after, he wor i'
th' bastile" [workhouse].
The relation of this oft-repeated tale in the present
circumstances seemed to have a damping effect on the confidence even
of Jabe, who relapsed under it into pensive silence, and as there
was a long pause,—the most painful of all things to Sam Speck,—he
broke it by smiting his thigh and crying in tones of unalterable
"If Aw'd twenty childer, Aw'd keep 'em aw a-whoam [at home],
if we'd to eight [eat] porritch, and porritch to it."
Long Ben, as the family man of the party, seemed to dissent
from this view of the case, but was so slow in replying that Jabe
was just taking his pipe out of his mouth to answer, when the shop
door sprang violently open, a tall figure rushed through the
doorway, and putting a hand on the little counter and clearing it at
a jump, alighted on a heap of clog chips on the other side.
Turning to the company, the young doctor—for it was he—cried out in
tones welcome as music to those who heard them—
"Hay, chaps, has are yo' aw?" and in a moment he was taking
them by the hands and shaking them two at a time, and then beginning
again and shaking again, he cried—
"Hay! bud Aw am fain to see yo' aw."
The effect was magical. Jabe straightened himself up
and glanced proudly round on the rest. Sam and Lige looked
embarrassed, but very happy. Jethro turned into the corner on
the far side of the fireplace and blew his nose, and Long Ben had
recourse to a dirty red cotton handkerchief. As it was summer
time, there was no fire in the Ingle-nook, but the cronies sat in a
circle round it as though it had been the depth of winter.
Room was made for "Rutchart," and he was speedily installed
as the guest of the evening. In the excitement of greeting,
most of the pipes had gone out, and there was a general refilling as
an introduction to proper conversation.
As soon as the doctor perceived this he cried, "Howd on,
chaps," and diving into the pockets of a long loose coat, he
produced a handful of gigantic foreign cigars and handed them round,
crying as he did so—
"Noa pipes ta-neet. Th' mon as starts a pipe while
theer's ony o' these left, Aw'll—Aw'll chuck him i' th' Beck!"
This terrible threat was quite unnecessary, however, cigars
being at all times scarce things in Beckside, and foreign ones
almost unknown, and in a few moments seven round red spots gleamed
fitfully in the deepening twilight.
Yes, Richard Walmsley had come back to Beckside absolutely
uncorrupted. He had the same merry twinkle in his eye, the
same low but hearty laugh, and the same frank, open honesty in
speech and act as he ever had. He talked about his voyage, and
described the places he had seen and the adventures he had
experienced, and passed for a moment under a cloud when, in answer
to questions, his information about Methodist mission-stations
proved to be scanty and bald.
But the cronies noted with grim satisfaction that the doctor
spoke seldom and always very modestly of himself. Uneasy about
his ignorance of missions in the presence of experts, he hastened
back to his hospital days, and described scenes which were most
satisfactorily blood-curdling. Then he said a few rather lame
words about being glad to be in Beckside again, his confusion as he
expressed himself being regarded as in the highest degree becoming.
Conversation afterwards became general, and at length,
glancing hastily at a real gold watch which made Sam Speck's mouth
water, he asked leave to retire, bargaining as he did so for a
permanent place in the company, which was of course rapturously
granted to him.
"Didn't Aw tell thi?" shouted Jabe, smiting Ben heartily
between the shoulders, "th' Longworth blood breeds true, thaa sees."
"Aw thowt he'd a' bin a bit mooar of a gentleman," said Sam
Speck, in a tone of dubious regret, and evidently forgetting his
former and quite opposite fears.
"Gentleman!" shouted six voices at once, and Sam was glad to
vanish, and escape the storm he had raised.
"Naa, Jonas," cried Jabe, as the company moved towards the
door, "tha knows wot hymn we mun oppen aat wi' o' Sunday morning?"
Jonas looked a moment at the Clogger in perplexity, and then
"Oh ay! But what if the preicher winna have it?"
"Have it? He'll ha' ta have it!"
And accordingly on the following Sabbath morning, with a full
attendance of the choir and a quite unusual congregation, the
Becksiders gave their old-time Sunday School scholar a most
characteristic welcome, singing as he stood by his proud mother's
"And are we yet alive
And see each other's face?"
Now, Dr. Walmsley was not an exceptionally clever man.
He had got the ordinary surgeon's qualifications, and had passed his
examinations respectably; and that was all. But you couldn't
have convinced Beckside of that. The postman had shown Sam
Speck a letter, on the envelope of which was the doctor's name with
no less than seven mysterious and imposing letters behind it—a fact
which was duly communicated to the authorities at the Clog Shop, and
discussed at becoming length. Clever or not, young Richard was
soon as popular as either his mother or uncle could wish. He
greeted the young men who had been boys with him as "owd lad," and
called the girls by their Christian names.
He took the chair at the "Sarmons" tea-party, and the
villagers laughed and cried together as he spoke in simple language
of the days of "Auld Lang Syne." Jabe, as senior
superintendent, lifted his head almost out of his very high shirt
collar as he announced that "Dr. Walmsley" had undertaken to "teich
th' little wenches" whilst the schoolmistress was away on her
Now, the Beckside neighbourhood, even if you included the
whole of the Clough, embracing Brogden parish and Clough End, was
not exactly a happy hunting-ground for an aspirant to medical fame.
The inhabitants were mostly of tough constitution, and regarded
hardness and stoical endurance of small ills as so indispensable a
virtue that their applications for professional assistance were
comparatively rare, and always reluctant. Besides this, they
showed a marked preference for contraband, or, at any rate,
irregular forms of doctoring.
Every housewife of any pretensions was something of a
herbalist, and every cottage ceiling was adorned with numerous brown
paper bags containing "yarbs" supposed to be potent for life or
death; and there was no more important person in the village than
Little Eli, who lived in Shaving Lane, and who, whilst doing a
little occasional business as a barber, maintained himself chiefly
by collecting, drying, and preserving herbs, and retailing certain
mysterious but potent salves, ointments, and drops prepared
For some years Eli had had no more constant customer than
Rachel Walmsley, who prided herself on being a sort of valuable
walking advertisement of the efficacy of Eli's celebrated "pain"
drops, which she took as a cure for her rheumatism. But when
the doctor had been at home a week or two, Eli lost his largest
consumer, for Rachel, anxious for her son's future success, and
scheming constantly to promote it, suddenly realised that Eli was an
enemy and a stone of stumbling in her son's path.
"Aw'm fain aar Rutchart's come whoam," she would say, "if
it's nowt but what he's done fur my pains." And when the
person to whom she was speaking asked the question she intended them
to ask, she would reply—
"Hay, wench, theer's nowt loike a gradely doctor efther aw.
Aw've ta'n [taken] gallons upo' gallons o' Eli's drops, an' wot
better wur Aw? But th' fust bottle aar Rutchart gave me cured
me—a—a—partly—wot." And then, after a pause, she would add, in
an impressive whisper, "They tell me as Eli's toothwarch pills is
nowt bud cobbler's wax."
After shaking a loose leg for several weeks, the doctor began
to "shape" at practising. As his mother's house was small and
low even for Beckside, and there was no suitable one empty, Jabe
offered his parlour for temporary use, and Long Ben painted a neat
board, on which was inscribed, "WALMSLEY, SURGEON."
The doctor busied himself in sending to London for his remaining
belongings and certain necessities of his profession, and when these
arrived and were arranged on shelves in the parlour, with just the
slightest bit of ostentation, the habitués of the Clog Shop
were invited to inspect the extemporised surgery, and listened,
open-mouthed, as the doctor explained the uses of the instruments
Jethro, the knocker-up, was regarded as a benefactor when,
after a preliminary cough or two, he asked to be treated for "th'
asthmatic." Then a bad cut on Ben's finger was submitted, and
the way the doctor's deft fingers bathed and bandaged it made a
profound impression. Then Sam Speck wanted a large wart
removed from inside one of his fingers, and the howl he set up when
the doctor, with a comprehensive wink at the company, dropped a drop
of some terrible fiery fluid upon it, completed their satisfaction.
Very soon the young physician was getting a fair amount of
practice, and so, after a serious consultation, to which Jabe and
Aunt Judy were called, it was decided that a piece of land opposite
the chapel should be bought, and Long Ben was requisitioned to
prepare plans; and presently, after much profound debate both at the
cottage and the Clog Shop, the house began to rise upon its
But Rachel realised now more clearly than ever that she could
never take the place of the doctor's lady, and so she began to cast
about to get him wisely married. The doctor must get "in" with
the "quality," and so she thought of going to Brogden Church; but
her fear of Jabe and also of her son compelled her to abandon that
idea. Money was a sine quâ non she felt in this case,
but she realised with distress that she had no connections with the
upper-ten in the neighbourhood, and no means of establishing such
Then she remembered, and was astonished she had so long
forgotten it, that one of the ladies whose acquaintance she had made
at Duxbury on her fashion-studying expeditions had two daughters,
and in a few days she had them over to spend the week-end with her.
But Richard, though gallant enough to the maidens whilst they
stayed, openly ridiculed both their dress and their manners when
they had gone.
Next she thought of asking the schoolmistress, who on
Richard's advent had gone back to Bob Turner's, whether she had any
eligible friends whom she could invite to Beckside, and was busy
maturing this idea in her mind when Aunt Judy came in one day,
evidently laden with important news.
"Well, tha'll dew ba'at th' Duxbury dowdies naa," began the
"Judy Longworth, thaa'll have a nickname fur th' Almighty
afoor lung! Dowdies! But wot shall Aw dew ba'at 'em
"Cause your Rutchart's fun' one nearer whoam, and a fine seet
"Nearer whoam?" cried Rachel, turning pale. "Whativer
"Well, if tha'd oppen thy een thaa'd see. If it had bin
a lad o' mine Aw should ne'er ha' needed onybody fur t' tell me.
Aw should ha' fun' it aat a munth sin'."
Now, as Aunt Judy was quite as curious as Rachel and almost
as interested in the doctor's future, but had only been in
possession of her great secret some ten minutes, it is to be feared
that her statement was somewhat unscrupulous. But if she
exaggerated for effect, she certainly had her reward; for Rachel
went white to her lips, put her hand to her heart, winced with a
sudden twinge of her old "pains," and with terrible visions of
Richard eloping with a factory girl, she fell back into her chair,
crying, half in tears—
"Hay, wench, thaa's set me aw of a whacker! Speik,
"Speik! Dust meean ta say as thaa's lived i' th' same
haase wi' him an' doesn't knaw as he's i' luv wi' th' schoo'missis?"
The look on Rachel's face as she slowly grasped the situation
baffles description. Amazed at the character of the news, and
confounded by the fact that whilst she had been anticipating remote
dangers she had never seen the nearer and more likely one, she was
stunned, and sat looking at Judy dumbfounded.
Judy, in calm enjoyment of the effect she had produced, was
just preparing to make a remark as a means of setting Rachel off
again, when she was spared the trouble, for Miss Redford herself
suddenly opened the door and stepped into the house, her pale face
evidently flushed with pleasant excitement.
Before she could speak, however, Rachel started to her feet,
and with red angry face almost screamed out—
"Stop wheer yo' are! Haa con yo' for shawm ta show yo'r
face here? Pike aat o' th' haase, an' niver darken that dur
But the schoolmistress didn't hear the rest, having hastily
retreated with surprise and distress on her face.
Aunt Judy called her back, but she sped on; so in hot
indignation Judy turned upon Rachel, voicing the popular local
opinion, and declaring "Hoo's as good as yo'r Dick ony day"—the
"Dick" being a title never applied to the doctor, except in
This only inflamed poor Rachel the more; and for some minutes
the battle raged hot and fierce, until at last, no match for the
redoubtable Judy in word-warfare, and already condemned at the bar
of her own conscience, she lapsed into silence, and allowed her
visitor to retire with the honours of the conflict.
Now it happened that Judy was right, and the doctor had asked
for an interview with Miss Redford, taking no pains to conceal his
purpose in so doing, and so, as the prospect was very sweet to her,
the mistress was in a flutter of happy feeling when she called upon
The reception she met with rudely opened her eyes, and
prompted her, after a severe struggle, to decline the proffered
honour; and next day young Richard went back from the place of
rendezvous a rejected man.
The mistress knew better than most people how deep and
all-absorbing was Rachel's love for her son, and convinced herself
that it was her duty to make the sacrifice for the mother's sake,
and so in declining the doctor she did not even encourage his urgent
supplication for a possible hope in the future.
That night the doctor went home a miserable man, and found,
without particularly noticing it, a still more miserable woman.
Rachel knew that Miss Redford would have been an ideal wife; but she
had no money, and in Rachel's opinion that was a fatal objection.
She was greatly exercised, especially as a fairly healthy conscience
did its duty, and the doctor grew gloomier every day.
One night, after an unavailing attempt to move Miss Redford,
or to get any explanation out of her, the doctor came home very
late. He looked weary, and scarcely answered Rachel's
inquiries, and the distressed mother went to bed to toss about and
cry and pray.
Next day Richard went off to Duxbury, and did not return
until the third night. He seemed more cheerful, however, and
Rachel began to hope the worst might be over; when, to her dismay,
he began to tell her of an assistant's place in Manchester that was
vacant, and carried with it the chance of a partnership. Poor
Rachel was at her wits' end, and to make things worse a neighbour
brought her intelligence that the schoolmistress had given notice to
The same morning Aunt Judy went to the Clog Shop, muttering
and shaking her head as she walked. Having beckoned the
Clogger into the parlour, where he followed her very leisurely, for
it would never do to show any great concern about a woman's
communications, Judy opened her budget by saying—
"Jabe, Aw've summat on my moind."
Jabe grunted with apparent unconcern, but in a few moments he
was eagerly looking into his sister's face as she detailed the
memorable interview in which she had taken a part.
When she had finished and received emphatic admonition to say
"nowt to noabry," she departed, and Jabe, after a vain attempt to
resume work, put off his apron, and putting on his most
uncompromising look, marched off to interview Rachel. She was
almost glad to see him, and listened with chastened manner to his
utterances. He certainly did not spare her, and when he left,
the air seemed to be clearer, and Rachel began to see her way.
Next day, with a subdued and wistful look on her face, she
made her way to the little schoolhouse, timing her visit so as to
arrive just as the scholars were "loosing." The mistress,
perched on a high stool at a desk, blushed quickly as she caught
sight of her visitor, and Rachel, stepping timidly up, said in
penitent, apologetic tones—
"Will yo' speik to me?"
For answer the mistress leaned over and kissed her.
Rachel was much moved, and for a few moments neither of the
women spoke. Then Rachel took an aimless sort of look round
the school, and dropping her head much as a guilty schoolgirl might
have done, said very softly—
"Aw ax yer pardon."
Tears came into the mistress's eyes, and she bowed her head
on the desk and sobbed quietly.
There was another long silence, and then Rachel, still
standing by the high desk, faltered—
"Yo'—yo' can hev him if yo' want."
The schoolmistress shook her still bowed head very
"Hay, bud yo' mun hev him."
Another shake of the head, another sob, and another painful
Rachel sighed heavily, took a long troubled glance round the
school again, and finally said, chokingly—
"Aw conna have him if yo' dunna."
But still the schoolmistress did not speak, and the older
woman, clinging to the edge of the desk, continued—
"Aw know Aw've done wrung, but if ivver yo're a hen wi' one
chick yo'rsel' yo'll forgie me. Hay! dew have him,
And as she pleaded thus, she timidly slid her hand across the
desk until it touched the little white hand of the mistress, and
patting it coaxingly, she resumed—
"Aw gan his fayther up ta God twenty-two ye'r sin', an' Aw'll
give him up ta yo'—if—yo'll hev him."
And then her head dropped upon the desk, and she began to sob
as if her heart would break.
The schoolmistress tried to comfort her, and so the ice was
broken, and they talked, and Rachel pleaded so urgently that when
they left the school Miss Redford had consented to receive another
visit from the doctor.
Next day all Beckside knew that young Richard was to marry
their beloved schoolmistress.