Clog Shop Chronicles V.
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"The Zeal of Thine House."

-I-

When Greek Meets Greek.


IN the September following Jimmy Juddy's wedding there was a change of superintendent ministers in the Duxbury Circuit.  It was the middle of October before the new preacher came to Beckside, his first visit having been reserved for the "Trust Sermons" Sunday.  He had come from a circuit near London, and had never been in Lancashire before, the only piece of information retailed about him being that he was a great chapel-builder.

    Such descriptions of the good man as had reached Beckside were strangely conflicting.  Some said he was a thorough gentleman and a polished speaker, others that he was rather too high and mighty for Lancashire.  In this division of circuit opinion Beckside realised its responsibility, and prepared itself to give the preacher a very careful hearing.

    The little he had heard of Beckside prepared the preacher for amusement, and he was a little nonplussed therefore when Jabe and Long Ben received him in the vestry with impenetrable and icy stolidity.  To counterbalance this, however, he was cheered when the service was over by Lige, the road-mender, who, in his Sunday attire, looked a very imposing person, and who met him at the bottom of the pulpit stairs, and exclaimed, "That's th' best sarmon we'n had i' this chapil for mony a ye'r."  And the minister did not know that Lige had expressed the same opinion of nearly every sermon he had heard for many years.

    It was Long Ben's turn to take the preacher that day, and that worthy over the after-dinner pipe imparted to his visitor as a profound secret the disturbing information that he would have to get a new steward in his place at Christmas.  Well, there was nothing remarkable in that piece of news, but it was impressed more than usually upon the "super's" mind by the peculiar action of Ben's plump, red-cheeked little wife, who happened to overhear the closing words of Ben's speech.  For she shut with a bang the drawer into which she was putting the tablecloth, shook her cap-strings quite violently, and then remarked, apparently to the big brass-clasped Bible on the drawer-top, and in a tone between amusement and irritation―

    "Hay, dear!  Owder and softer!"

    Now, the "super" was not quite sure in his own mind whether the remark, which he only imperfectly understood, applied to the good lady's husband or himself, and was glancing inquiringly from one to the other of them when Ben invited him to have a walk up to the Clog Shop.

    There, more pipes were smoked, though the minister was not a disciple of St. Nicotine; and when Sam Speck came in and took Ben out to hunt up some negligent Sunday School scholars, Jabe informed the "super" that after twenty-four years' service he had made up his mind "wilta shalta" [whether or not] to "cum aat at Christmas."

    This second resignation made the minister think he smelt a rat, and so he inquired whether there was anything wrong in the Church.

    "Neaw," Jabe replied, "we're reet enough, but Aw mean wot Aw say," and he puffed away and looked a very sphinx of stony mystery.

    The minister was a little annoyed, and went rather early to the Sunday School to inspect and address it.  When the children were being dismissed, Nathan, the smith, drew him into the vestry; and having carefully closed the door, informed him that he had been seven years in the office of chapel steward, and had only kept on holding the office to oblige the "supers" who had been there before the present one, but that now there were so many young ones coming up he should retire at the end of the year, especially as he wasn't very good at keeping accounts—and the new minister did not know, of course, that account-keeping was Nathan's hobby, and that it was his constant boast that he had never been more than nine-pence wrong in all these years.

    All this was perplexing, not to say irritating, to the minister, and when he reached his armchair at Ben's, he heaved a little sigh as he sat down.

    "Yo're siking [sighing], mestur," said Mrs. Ben.  "Is summut wrung wi' yo?"

    "No, I'm all right; but what are all these good men resigning for?"

    "Bless yo'; is that aw?  They allis [always] do it when a new mon comes.  Yo' munno tak' ony noatice on 'em; they'd be a fine sight mooar bothered nor yo' if yo' did."

    Then she bustled back into the kitchen, and Ben coming in from the garden, the minister heard him called "lump-yed," and told that it would "sarve him reet if he wor turn't aat."

    Now the "super" was a shrewd man, and laid these things up in his mind.

    After the evening service the minister went to the Clog Shop for supper, and was formally introduced to the members of the Club.

    When supper was over and the pipes were in full work, Jabe with a characteristic movement of his short leg, and an assumption of modesty which did not at all fit him, asked—

    "Well, wot dun yo' think of aar chapil, Mestur 'Shuper'?"  And every man in the company tried to imitate Jabe's expression of grateful modesty in anticipation of the only answer which could possibly be given.

    The new minister seemed most unaccountably embarrassed, and was about to give an evasive reply when old Lige burst out―

    "Yo 'hanna [have not] seen a prattier chapil i' yo'r life, naa, han yo'?"

    The minister smiled rather oddly, and did not quite succeed in keeping a contemptuous tone out of his voice as he inquired―

    "What style do you call it?"

    "Style! it's th' A1 style, an' nowt else," cried Lige excitedly, whilst the others held their pipes at arm's length, listening intently.

    The minister looked wicked, and there was the ghost of a scoff on his face as he asked—

    "Well, but is it classic, or Gothic, or what is it?"

    "G-o-t-h-i-c," shouted Lige with lofty indignation.  "Neaw, it isn't; it's gradely owd Lancashire, that's wot it is—wi' yo'r classics an' yo'r Gothics!"

    The minister laughed, and as he had over a mile to walk to catch the circuit conveyance at the four-road ends, he excused himself and went away.

    But he left behind him a most painful impression.  For the first time in its history the beauty of the Beckside tabernacle had been called into question, at anyrate by implication.  And the offence had been committed by the superintendent minister, of all persons!

    The talk in the Clog Shop parlour was long and very serious; and though Jabe kept up for some time a show of defence of the ecclesiastic, it was very half-heartedly done, and he admitted to Sam Speck when the rest were gone—

    "When he talked abaat his Gothics, thaa could 'a knocked me daan wi' a feather."

    Next day all Beckside knew that the minister had scoffed at the chapel; and the feeling of indignation was quickened when Silas, the chapel-keeper, made it known that when the minister came to the week-night service on the following Tuesday he had gone round the chapel laughing at the high-backed pews, putting his stick into the cracks in the gable wall, and talking of ventilation until Silas said—

    "Aw welly brast aat on him."

    Every time the "super" came to Beckside, he dropped hints about the chapel which conveyed the impression that he thought it past redemption.

    Then a local preacher told Sam Speck under an inviolable bond of secrecy that he had heard the "super" call the chapel a "ramshackle old building."  But as Sam always made mental reservations in favour of the Club in his promises of silence, this most offensive expression was soon common property.

    Under these circumstances, when the Annual Trustees' Meeting came to be held in the following January, feeling ran very high, and the minister, unconscious of the sentiments of his flock, very speedily made things worse.  The possibility of danger to their tabernacle put everything else out of the heads of the Church officers, and not a word was said on the question of resignations.  This was a time to "hold on," everybody felt.

    When the routine business of the meeting had been got through, the minister leaned back in his chair and said—

    "Well now, brethren, what about this building?  It was all right, I dare say, seventy or eighty years ago; but it won't do now.  It is behind the times.  What do you say to a new chapel?"

    Nobody spoke, but Long Ben and Nathan began to stare hard at the fire, and the rest became absorbed in some mysterious matter going on on the ceiling.

    The circuit steward from Duxbury, who had come with the minister, and was present as auditor of accounts, then took up the tale.

    "You know, brethren, this is a box; simply a box; and (with a very demonstrative sniff) a very musty box too."

    Nobody spoke.

    A non-resident Trustee, who had also come in the circuit conveyance, next broke in―

    "You know we must move with the times, friends.  What was good enough for our grandfathers is not good enough for us."

    Another long silence.

    "Come, friends," said the "super " in the chair; "What do you think?"

    No answer.

    "Will some one propose that we meet again this day three weeks to take into consideration the advisability of building a new chapel?"

    Another pause.

    Presently Jabe rose to his feet, turned slowly round, picked his hat off the peg above his head, and deliberately limped down the whole length of the vestry to the door amidst a dead silence.

    After another minute's pause Long Ben got up and went through exactly the same performance as his colleague, staring steadily before him as he marched out.  Then Lige followed, and then Sam Speck.  Only one local Trustee was left; and as the minister sat back in his chair, watching the scene with amazement, Nathan followed the rest.

    One behind another, like a procession of ducks, the Trustees made for the Clog Shop, and there held long and excited debate on the crisis.  Everybody agreed that Jabe's mode of treating the matter was the correct one, and did him credit.

    Presently the circuit trap was heard driving past.  This seemed a sort of relief, and crowding as far as possible into the Ingle-nook and lighting their pipes, the conspirators discussed the situation in all its bearings, whilst the firelight cast flickering shadows on their faces.

    The chapel was compared to other edifices of the kind in the neighbourhood, very much to its advantage.  Long Ben dwelt with affectionate pride on the labours of the committee who had cleaned and decorated it for Jimmy Juddy's wedding, and the "super" was denounced as a stuck-up cockney, a formalist, and finally by Sam Speck as a Puseyite—the last epithet being all the more popular because of its being only faintly understood and altogether inapplicable.

    The minister's talk about "Gothic" was held up to derision, and it was confidently prophesied that "he wouldn't stop his time aat."

    Presently Sam, who was in a state of mental elation in consequence of his late brilliant feat in nomenclature, asked from behind clouds of tobacco smoke, which rendered him invisible far into the chimney nook―

    "Well, wot mun we do?"

    This gave the conversation a new turn, and brought forth a number of extraordinary proposals.  None of them, however, met with general approbation, chiefly because of their inadequacy to express the seriousness of the occasion or the magnitude of the superintendent's transgression.

    At last, however, all criticism was silenced; and perfect, and, in fact, vociferous unanimity was secured, by the paralysing suggestion that Jabe should resign all his offices at once.

    Yes!  That would do.  Action so astounding would bring conviction even to the callous heart of the new "super."

    When it was first proposed as a bare possibility, Jabe, though he thought it not decent to say much, let it be seen that he regarded the suggestion as a truly heroic one, but when the others began to discuss it as a really practicable thing he was a little staggered, and left to himself would probably have been content with something less drastic.

    But he was the leader of the revolt—first in honour and first in danger.  Desperate diseases require desperate remedies; and so, though he postponed final decision as long as he could, the infectious confidence of his comrades stimulated him, and he was soon trying to wear modestly the honour of being the hero of the hour, and every now and again was dropping mysterious hints as to the startling effects of their coup on the offending dignitary.

    At first it was decided that the awful act should take place on the "super's" next visit, an idea which Jabe strongly supported; but Sam Speck and old Lige contented that that was too long to wait, the moral effect of the deed depending on its following promptly on the occurrences of the night.

    Next day was the Duxbury market, and it was decided that Jabe should send all his books and other insignia of office, accompanied by a formal written resignation, by Squire Taylor's market cart in the early morning.

    Then the company dispersed; and Jabe, when the stimulating effects of friendly presences was withdrawn, found it strangely difficult to make up his mind about the note.  Writing was not the easiest thing in the world to him at any time, and composition generally took time, but this evening he was slower than usual.  A sudden thought about the dear old chapel, however, and the "super's" sacrilegious suggestions about it, brought the necessary resolution, and after spoiling several sheets of paper he finally produced the following laconic epistle—

        "SIR,—
                 "I resine all my offices.
                                      "Your brother in Christ,
                                                         "JABEZ LONGWORTH."

During the next two or three days the Clog Shop Club sat in almost perpetual committee.  Highly coloured pictures of the stunning effects of Jabe's resignation on the minister were painted by Sam Speck and Lige, and anticipations of what that dignitary would do were canvassed all day long by those who came and went from the Ingle-nook.

    Sam Speck expressed an intense desire to see the minister arrive "wi' his tail between his legs," as he phrased it; and, as the others shared his curiosity, and, with the exception of Lige, were their own masters, very little work was done for some days.

    But the "super" gave no sign.

    The Trustees' Meeting had been held on a Monday, and when Friday arrived and neither letter nor message had been received, and Jabe's books were still at Duxbury, everybody became very serious, and Jabe was evidently labouring under deep anxiety.  It was concluded at the Clog Shop on Saturday night that the "super" would be sending the books back together with a note by the local preacher who was coming on the morrow.

    When Sam suggested that a note would not do, and that in an affair of such magnitude nothing but a visit in person would suffice, he was somewhat seriously reproved by his elders, and reminded of his disqualification for sober counsels on the score of juvenility.

    The preacher arrived on Sunday morning, and was met by the stewards in the usual way, and when it was clear that he had brought neither books nor message, Long Ben looked anxiously at Jabe, who wheeled round in the vestry and limped out into a little back lane, and was absent from service for the first time for many years.

    This was probably as dark a day as the old Clogger had ever spent, and when the usual Sunday night deliberations in the parlour produced not a single ray of light, Jabe went to bed to spend a sleepless night.

    The next day he was snappish and bitterly sarcastic.  Customers did their business in the fewest possible words and departed; and the ingle-nook conspirators endured Jabe's temper very meekly, regarding it as a special and richly deserved judgment on themselves.

    By Wednesday Jabe's crustiness had gone, however, and the Clogger's aiders and abettors in rebellion noted with consternation that he had become excessively but sorrowfully amiable.  A patient, resigned, but terribly sad look sat on his face.  He sighed heavily every few minutes, and stuck to his work with a sort of dull desperation.

    On Thursday he positively refused to smoke; and on Friday, whilst he still sat on his bench, it was observed that he was constantly gazing through the window with a far-away look of melancholy on his face.

    Late on Friday he and Long Ben sat up in deep and secret conclave, and before daylight next morning Jabe had started to see the "super" at Duxbury.

    Now, the minister was a clever man, and prided himself on his knowledge of human nature.  His silence on the question that so greatly agitated the Beckside Trustees was the silence of policy, and a smile of triumph crossed his face as Jabe was ushered into his study on Saturday morning.

    "Good morning, Mr. Jabez.  Glad to see you!  Sit down, sir!"

    But Jabe, with a grave, sad face, remained standing, and overlooking the minister's outstretched hand, and too deeply troubled to notice his ill-concealed look of victory, he said―

    "Mestur 'Shuper,' Aw've done wrung."

    "Wrong, Mr. Jabez?  I hope not!  In what way?"

    "Aw've left a good shop [situation] and a grand Mestur, just because one of my workmates didn't agree wi' me."

    "I don't understand you."

    "Dunno yo'?  Well th' Lord's let me work for Him till Aw thowt He couldn't dew ba'at me, but He's shown me as He could.  He can dew better ba'at me nor Aw con dew ba'at Him, a fine sight."

    The minister began to have misgivings as to his skill in judging character.

    "Is it about the chapel?" he inquired gently.

    "Neaw.  It's abaat them books as Aw sent back.  Aw've come ta humble mysel' an' ta ax for t'books back, an' if my Heavenly Father 'ull forgive me this time aw th' 'supers' i' Methodism shanna drive me fro' my pooast ageean."

    The minister began to feel small.

    "Yo' see, Mestur, yo'rs is a changin' life.  Yo've seen hundreds o' chapels i' yo'r time, an' if God spares yo' yo'll see hundreds mooar.  But us at Beckside yond' hev' ony wun little Bethil ta think abaat, an' when yo'n been ta'n to a place as little childer, an' ne'er been noa wheer else mitch, an' when yo'n getten yo'r fost glimpse o' Calvary theer, an' aw th' peeps into th' New Jerusalem yo'n iver hed, why yo' luv' that spot, yo' know, an' theer's sum on us i' Beckside as luvs ivery stooan there is i' th' building, an' we'd dee for it if we mud" (must).

    "Mr. Jabez," interrupted the minister, gripping the Clogger's hard hand, whilst his eyes gleamed with unfamiliar tears, "Forgive me, sir, forgive me!  Would to God I loved Him and His cause as you do.  I honour you from my heart."

    And the minister asked Jabe to pray with him as a son would ask a father.  And then with wet eyes he went out and told his wife, and brought her in to see his latest teacher.  Then they both asked Jabe to stay to dinner, and the "super" sent for the circuit conveyance, and drove Jabe back to Beckside, charging him on the way to keep silence about his visit.

    When they reached the Clog Shop he went and saw Long Ben and Nathan, and it soon became known that all was well again, the minister cleverly contriving that it should be understood that Jabe had conquered him—as indeed he had.


――――♦――――

 
"The Zeal of Thine House."

-II-

"To Be, or Not to Be."


THE new "super," whose attack on the Beckside chapel has been recorded, was too wise a man to push his plans in the face of such determined opposition, and consequently abandoned the whole project; and it is only consistent with the nature of things that, when the minister had finally given up the idea, those who had so resolutely resisted began to see something in it.

    Jabe had poured scorn on the suggestion that the pews were not altogether what they ought to be, but somehow they never either looked or felt quite as cosy afterwards, and he caught himself very nearly admitting that they were deep and stiff-backed.

    Long Ben, who had been so proud of the work of the painting and decorating committee which "fettled up" the chapel for Jimmy Juddy's wedding, presently became troubled with inward doubts as to whether the result justified the effort, and Sam Speck had to be severely reproved for expressing the treasonable wish that the chapel didn't look quite so much like the mill engine-house.

    In proportion, however, as these doubts took root in their minds, each became more and more demonstrative in repelling attacks on the old building, and more and more emphatic in praising its many excellences.  At the same time each man was conscious of all uneasy suspicion of the loyalty of his friends in the matter.

    To have heard the conversation as they stood outside and watched Silas lock up on Sunday evening, you would have thought that their admiration of the edifice was higher than ever; for whilst before the "super's" ill-starred proposal the chapel came in for occasional commendation or defence, just as circumstances required, now there scarcely ever passed a Sunday night but, on their way to the Clog Shop parlour or home, some one of the officials would be sure to turn round just where he could get a last glimpse of the building and say―

    "Ther' isn't a cumfurtabler little chapil for twenty mile raand."

    All the same, a slow progress of disintegration was going on in the minds of these authorities, a process of which this excessive admiration was but too certain a sign.  The fact was the Becksiders had a great respect for the superintendent minister, whoever he might be, and the present one—the new chapel suggestion apart—was so popular with them all that unconsciously they had been deeply impressed by his opinion.  The way also in which he had borne himself when opposed, and the good sense he had displayed in not resenting opposition, commended him strongly to their judgments, and one or two of them had gone so far as to secretly regret the part they had played in his recent defeat.

    Not that anyone ever spoke of the matter.  The "super" regarded the question as closed, and apparently the officials did the same, but they were all nervously afraid of some one suddenly springing the question upon them again, and thus compelling them to avow their modified views.

    The lesser lights were particularly uncertain about Jabe.  Judged by his utterances, there wasn't the slightest chance of a new chapel whilst he lived, but they were not quite sure, some of them, that his loud protestations were not a trifle overdone, and they were strengthened in their suspicions by the Clogger's very apparent admiration of the "super."

    These feelings were deepened by the fact that Jabe announced to them, one evening, that the "super" had been an architect before he entered the ministry, and had built at least a score places of worship in the course of his public life.  Evidently Jabe and the preacher had been talking of chapel-building.

    One Sunday night a stray remark by that rash young man, Dr. Walmsley, gave Long Ben a long-looked-for opportunity, and five men stopped in the middle of long pulls at their pipes, and held their breaths, as Ben alluded for the first time openly to the forbidden subject in the presence of the minister.

    But the "super" knew his men by this time, and did not rise to the bait, and every listening smoker breathed a sigh of relief.

    When he had gone, and the company had settled down to the regular Sunday evening topic, and Lige had finished a highly-flattering criticism of the sermon, Jabe once more brought all talk to a standstill.  For, tilting back in his chair and balancing it on its back legs, in sublime indifference to the subject under discussion, he said, apparently to a half-consumed ham hanging on the joist near the door―

    "If ever we dew have a new chapil i' Beckside, yon's th' mon as Aw should loike ta build it."

    There was a long silence.  Not a word was said in reply, and when the conversation was resumed it was on the old topic of the evening's sermon.  All the same every man went away that night with the feeling that the new chapel was now at anyrate a possibility.

    Next week was the Circuit Quarterly Meeting, and as usual, Jabe, Long Ben, Nathan, and Sam attended as the representatives of Beckside.  Just before the meeting closed, the "super," with a palpably gratified air, announced that a very interesting communication was about to be made to the meeting, and called upon Brother Ramsden, of Clough End.

    This gentleman, who was to Clough End what Jabe was to Beckside, and who had been, for him, unusually quiet all evening, with a look of immense importance, rose at the call of the chairman, and after justifying his reputation for jocularity by a number of more or less appropriate witticisms, formally asked the permission of the meeting to build a new chapel at Clough End.

    "An' Aw whop (hope)," he concluded, "as it 'ull stir aar Beckside friends up ta get aat o' yond' owd barn o' theirs."

    All eyes were at once turned towards the Clogger and his friends, but Jabe closed his mouth very tightly, pursed his lips, and looked across the room into vacancy; and the others feeling, as Sam Speck afterwards admitted, "as if cowd wayter wur runnin' daan my back," shot glances of quick inquiry at Jabe, and imitated his look of stern gravity, as if in rebuke of the frivolity of the speech to which they had just listened.

    The Clough Enders, who had to pass through Beckside on their way home, got into the coach with the Clogger and his friends, and were, of course, full of their new scheme.  Soon they drew Long Ben—as a practical man—into the discussion of a draft plan of the proposed structure which they had brought with them.

    This was too much for Sam and Nathan, whose curiosity proved stronger than their dignity, but Jabe with folded arms sat bolt upright in the far corner of the vehicle, not deigning to notice the plans or show the slightest interest in the conversation.

    There was always a full attendance round the Clog Shop fire on the evening of the Quarterly Meeting, and on this occasion every possible seat was occupied.  Jimmy Juddy, Sniggy Parkin, the Doctor, and even retiring Ned Royle, being there to hear the news.

    The air with which the Clogger walked through the shop into the parlour to change his Sunday coat announced more plainly than words that there was something unusual to tell, and the company present was preparing itself for a feast of succulent intelligence and discussion when Sam Speck, who had stayed behind to say "Good neet" to the Clough Enders, suddenly burst into the shop and spoilt all by blurting out in excited eagerness―

    "Chaps! th' Clough Enders is goin' to hev' a new chapil."

    Instead of the sensation he expected Sam received a decided snub.  The news he brought was unwelcome, but his manner of serving it up was inexcusable.  Matters of this kind were not to be flung at them as if they were mere items of ordinary gossip, and so instead of looking at each other in amazement, as Sam had expected, they carefully avoided catching each other's eyes, and sat looking into the fire with a decidedly non-commital look on their faces.

    At this moment Jabe reappeared, and everybody felt that now the subject would receive becoming treatment.  But first the Clogger held a consultation with his apprentice on some matter of business, and the company was divided between impatience to hear his story and admiration of his artistic sang froid.

    Then he sauntered idly to his seat by the fire, and commenced to charge his pipe, attempting as he did so to start a discussion on the probable age of the vehicle in which he had just travelled.  But nobody assisted him, though all admired his magnificent self-possession.

    The pipe duly lighted, he at length commenced his regular description of the events of the day.  But he was most aggravatingly deliberate.  Not a detail was omitted, though he must have seen with what impatience his needless elaboration was received.

    Then he diverged into a discussion with Sam Speck as to whether the average contribution per member from Brogden had been 1s. 4½d. or 1s. 5½d., and when the latter figure was eventually accepted he branched off, for the special edification of Sniggy, into an exhaustive description of the financial system of averages which obtained in the circuit.

    The company listened with growing but carefully-concealed impatience to this digression, marvelling uncharitably at Sniggy's lack of comprehension, and all looked relieved and hopeful when, with a long-drawn "Well," Jabe prepared to resume the main current of his story.

    But just at that moment his pipe went out, and every man in the company watched with painful interest as, after trying three matches, he finally discovered that the fuel was exhausted, and proceeded with exasperating deliberateness to refill and relight it.

    As a rule the members of the Club were proud of the prodigious memory of their chief, but for once they could have wished it had been a little less tenacious and precise, for the speeches of the officials seemed long and tedious affairs indeed as Jabe reported them.

    At last, however, the statement for which every one was waiting with a burning impatience could no longer be withheld, and so propping himself against the shoulder of the Ingle-nook, and drawing it out as if it were a hardship to have to give such an utterly unimportant detail, he said―

    "An' then Hallelujah Tommy said summat abaat a new chapil at Clough End.  But Awne'er tak's mitch heed ta wot that gaumless says."

    But nobody was deceived by this painful pretence of indifference, and in a moment or two Sam set every tongue wagging, and got rid himself of much pent-up excitement by crying―

    "Ay! an' it's ta hev' churchified windows, an' a pinnicle."

    Soon the discussion waxed hot, the interest being intensified by the fact that though they were only discussing the Clough End chapel, a far more important question was felt to be in the background.

    By long-established custom the Club sat an hour longer than usual on Quarterly Meeting nights; but though it was late when they began to separate, Long Ben, often one of the first to leave, lingered behind, and when he and the Clogger were alone and had sat for some minutes silently looking at the dying chip embers in the fire, he turned to Jabe and said, with an anxious sigh,―

    "Aw'm feart wee'st ha' ta give in, lad."

    And the sigh which accompanied the Clogger's reluctant "Ay" was longer drawn and deeper than Ben's.

    It was customary in the week of the Quarterly Meeting to hold a united fellowship meeting instead of the ordinary classes, and at such gatherings Silas, the chapel-keeper, was generally a prominent figure.  But the night after the events just described Silas was dumb, and neither long pauses nor nods, nor even nudges, had any effect.

    "Th' dumb divil's getten howd of sum folk," said Jabe significantly, as he, Ben, and Silas were passing along the side of the chapel homewards.  But Silas only held his sharp, sallow face a little higher, and gazed sideways at the rising moon.

    As they were turning the corner to the front of the chapel, however, Jabe pulled up, and whipping round at Silas in the rear, he demanded sternly―

    "Wot's up wi' thee?"

    "Up!" shouted Silas, a look of fierce aggressiveness springing into his face; "Up!" he repeated, and seizing his companions by the arms he pulled them back into the little graveyard and cried―

    "We're goin' t' have a new chapil, Aw ye'r."

    "Well! wot if we are?" demanded Jabe.

    "Well, if there's a new chapil ther'll be a—a," and Silas's voice became tremulant, "there'll be a new chapil-keeper, that's aw."

    The two leaders looked Silas over slowly from head to foot with a mournfully curious look.

    "Dunna meyther thysel', lad," said Ben soothingly, as he put his hand gently on Silas' shoulder.

    "Meyther mysel'!" cried the chapel-keeper almost in a scream, and springing away from Ben's touch, "Aw've ta'n cur of this chapil for welly forty ye'r, an' Aw'm th' poorest mon among yo', but Aw've ne'er ta'n a brass fardin o' wages aw th' toime.  Wot have Aw done that fur?  Wot have Aw lived i' th' little damp chapil-haase fur aw this toime?"

    The leaders moved uncomfortably, and had a guilty, self-reproachful look.

    "Dunna, Silas! dunna, lad!" said Ben, in a mournful, coaxing tone.

    "Dunna!" shouted the agitated apparitor, and, pointing to a grave close under the chapel wall, he continued in high, protesting tones―

    "Sithee, my owd mother lies theer, an' aar Kitty, an' little Laban, an' yond"'—pointing across towards the boundary wall—"yond' lies my own bonny Grace an' her little un.  An'," he continued, wheeling round, "here's thy fayther, Jabe, as poo'ed mi aat o' th' Beck when Aw were draandin', and theer's owd Juddy, as poo'ed me aat o' the horrible pit an' the miry clay.  Ay," he went on, standing up and wildly waving his hands around him, "they're aw here.  An' Aw live wi' 'em, an' they live wi' me.  An' when Aw feels looansome an' daan i' th' maath, Aw comes aat here an' sits me daan an' sings aw by mysel'—


'Come, let us jine our friends above
 That hev obtained the prize.'


    An' Aw'st ne'er leave 'em.  Aw'st ne'er leave 'em till Aw goa an' see 'em gradely."

    And, out of breath with his exertion and excitement, the poor chapel-keeper sank back and propped himself against a gravestone.

    By this time Ben was in tears, and Jabe, trying ineffectually to swallow something, looked first at one grave Silas had pointed out, and then at another, with a miserable convicted look on his face and certain strange twitches about his mouth.

    "We met poo' it daan, an' rebuild it, thaa knaws," suggested Ben hesitatingly, from behind his pocket-handkerchief.

    "Ay! for sure," chimed in Jabe.

    "Poo' it daan!" cried Silas, in new agitation; "that's woss nor aw.  Sithee, Jabe, Aw'll show thee summat as thaws ne'er seen afoor.  Aw nobbut fun it aat mysel' t'other day."

    And, taking Jabe by the elbow, he led him forward to where, close to the ground, in a dark corner all green and mouldy, was a stone in the wall.  Then he plucked a handful of grass and briskly rubbed the face of the stone, and then, striking a match and holding it near the stone, he made Jabe kneel down and examine it, pointing as he did so to certain indistinct marks on the face of the stone.

    "Con ta read it?" he queried eagerly, but Jabe did not answer; but, kneeling on the grass, he kept looking carefully at the scratches until they slowly formed themselves into a scrawling legend, evidently made by the point of some sharp instrument―



    Jabe continued to scrutinise the inscription, which was very faint, and had evidently been hastily done, until Ben came and knelt at his side and assisted in the work of decipherment.

    "It's reet," said Silas, when at length they rose to their feet.  "It's just loike his writing i' the burrying-book."

    The three men stood looking down at the stone, and presently Silas resumed―

    "Naa, that's it.  Thy fayther 'ud nobbut be a lad when he put that in—just convarted, Aw reacon, an' thaa talks o' poo'in it daan, does to?"

    "An'"—throwing open a window as he spoke―"yon's th' owd poopit as Adam Clarke preached in, an' Sammy Bradburn.  Aw reacon thaa'll poo' that daan.  An' yond's th' penitent-form [communion-rail], wheer thee an' me, an' sum 'at's up aboon, fan peace i' th' Great Revival.  Thaa'll be poo'in' that daan, wilta?  Well, yo' con dew as you'n a mind, but t'owd Book says, 'Thy servants shall take pleasure in her stones and favour the dust thereof.'  An' Aw dew!  Aw dew!"

    And, leaning his dark face against the old wall caressingly, as a child to its parent, he concluded―

    "Aw love every stoaan in it, ay, an' th' varry dust we're treidin' on."

    Deeply moved by what they had heard, the two leaders somewhat hastily bade Silas "Good neet," and as they were going down the broo "each turned round and took a long, lingering look at the edifice they had just been discussing, sighing heavily the while; and that same week, without any spoken word having been used, but by such processes as were perfectly understood amongst them, it penetrated into the minds of the Beckside Methodists that whatever else was done there would be no new chapel.


――――♦――――

 
"The Zeal of Thine House."

-III-

Of His Necessity.


LONG BEN, Jabe, and the "super," with their heads close together, were bending over certain hasty lead-pencil drawings, engrossed in earnest conversation.

    "Howd! howd," cried the Clogger, interrupting the minister, "Yo' munna talk like that.  Th' on'y chance o' gerrin' it through 'ull be fur t' keep them names aat.  If yo' talken abaat Roman ex's [esques] and Gothics to aar chaps yo'll ruin th' job, an' wee'st ha' wark enew as it is."

    "Aw think we'd better let th' owd winders a' be," chimed in Ben; "bud yo' con mak' a fancy frunt if yo'n a moind.  On'y dooan't caw it by ony fancy names."

    "Very good," said the "super," with a sigh of disappointment.  "I'll do the best I can, and you must pave the way for me."

    "An' they' mun be noa steeples, nur pinnacles, nur hangels' yeds, nur Chineese wark abaat it," persisted Jabe.  And, as the "super" nodded slowly, Ben gently added, "An' we mun ha' noa thrutchin, an' wilta-shalta wark.  If they winna they winna, and we ar'na' fur t' hurt even 'one o' these little ones.'"  And the tremolo cadence of anxiety in the carpenter's voice disarmed a momentary irritation in the minister's mind.

    This conversation took place on a Sunday afternoon.  The two officials having made up their minds that, though the old building must be preserved, some heed must be paid to the wishes of those who pressed for improvement, had requested an interview with their ecclesiastical chief, of which the words recorded above were the closing parts.

    They had explained to him the exact situation, and after a stealthy visit to the chapel ostensibly to address the scholars, but really to survey the premises, the "super" had hastily sketched a plan which had the tentative support of his subordinates, the understanding being that he was to prepare detailed drawings and submit the whole scheme to a meeting of trustees, Jabe and Ben undertaking to prepare the way as best they could.

    Now, since the memorable scene in the chapel-yard, Silas, only an occasional visitor before, had taken to attending regularly at the Clog Shop, evidently apprehensive lest, in his absence, some conspiracy might be hatching for the injury of his beloved chapel.  And as Sam Speck had recently taken to openly advocating a new building, thereby manifesting a dangerous independence of judgment, the Clog Shop confabulations often developed into stand-up forensic fights between the two, the other members of the party only making occasional contributions to the debates.

    On the Sunday night in question, the discussion on the "super's" sermon lasted rather longer than usual, a passing reference of his to Socinianism having produced itching curiosity on the part of the irresponsibles, and evasion and impenetrable mystery on the part of those who were generally recognised as authorities.

    Presently, however, Long Ben, who was generally supposed to dislike the subject of the new chapel as provocative of strong words and stronger emotions, actually introduced the question himself.

    Sam Speck, astonished at this manoeuvre, and hoping, though with misgivings, that he had made a convert, at once launched out in commendation of the enterprise and pluck of the Clough Enders, and the grandeur of their new building, at least as far as its plans were concerned.

    Of course Silas, the chapel-keeper, at once accepted the challenge, and was soon giving Sam a Roland for his Oliver.

    To the surprise of everybody, Long Ben and Jabe immediately took sides with Silas, and out-Heroded Herod in their denunciation of any idea of erecting a new sanctuary.

    Sam was dumbfounded, and Silas, whose only reliable supporters hitherto had been Lige and Jethro, rejoiced over the new converts with many a quiet chuckle.  Sam looked crestfallen, and Jonas Tatlock and Nathan the smith, his chief supporters, frowned and looked at each other in sympathetic resentment.

    Presently Long Ben, contemplating with peculiar steadiness the candle on the table, and with the most guileless expression of countenance he could command, remarked―

    "Th' Independents hez a gradely nice chapil at th' Hawpenny Gate."

    "Ay," added Jabe reflectively, as if the idea were perfectly new to him, "specially sin' it wur rebuilt."

    As nobody followed this subtle lead, Ben resumed―

    "Le'ss see; when wur it fettlet up?"

    "Nine ye'r sin', cum th' frost of February," said Lige, who prided himself on chronology.

    Nobody, however, seemed to take any particular interest in the matter, for the Halfpenny Gate was four miles away, and the chapel only an Independent one, and Jethro was just beginning to hum a tune preparatory to
starting a hymn, singing being not an uncommon practice when topics of interest were scarce, when Jabe observed―

    "It wur th' poorest chapil i' th' countryside afoor it wur enlarged."

    "Soa it wur, lad," replied Ben, apparently only just remembering the fact, and then, after another pause, he went on―

    "Aw'm nor i' favour of new patches upo' owd clogs as a general thing, but it's aw reet i' sum cases, and saves boath brass an' fawin' aat."

    Now, Sam Speck, indignant at the unusually emphatic manner in which the recognised heads had opposed his new building scheme, was giving but a sulky and indifferent ear to the conversation, but happening to lift his head at this moment, he caught a gleam in Ben's eye which came as a revelation to him, and catching at the suggestion hidden under Ben's last remark, he cried out suddenly―

    "That's it!  By th' mon, that's it!  Chaps, we'll enlarge th' owd 'un!"

    And those crafty schemers, Jabe and Ben, affected to consider this as a totally new idea.  They tilted back their chairs and studied the joists intently, and then slowly shook their heads, as if to say that they thought very little of the scheme, and, at anyrate, saw serious difficulties.

    And their attitude had exactly the effect they expected.  Gentle opposition only wedded Sam the faster to his idea, and made him the more fruitful of arguments in favour of it.

    Silas also—a much more serious difficulty than Sam—was deceived by the manoeuvre, and, as the only person present who knew the exact measurements, supplied details which strongly confirmed Sam's proposal, and very soon found himself getting angry at the inconvinceableness of the arch-conspirators.

    At length, after long argument, Jabe, in dubious, hesitant tones, admitted that "Ther' met be summat in it," and with that the assembly dissolved, Sam full of the double glory of invention and conquest in argument, and the two stewards demurely content.

    The following Friday the "super" held the Trustees' Meeting and expounded his scheme.  The old building was to be left intact, except that the front was to be taken out and brought forward, thus giving about forty extra sittings in the chapel.  The vestry at the back was to be pulled down and a schoolroom erected in its place.  The old woodwork of the chapel was to be removed into the school, but the pulpit and communion-rail were to be left intact; and when, after describing his scheme in outline, the "super" unfolded a number of beautifully drawn and coloured plans ("as good as picters," according to Sam Speck), and invited examination, seven self-consciously important men drew up to the table and proceeded to scrutinise the designs with as much of the air of experts as they could manage to put on.  They hung long and lovingly over the "picters," and when the "super" returned that night to Duxbury he had full authority to proceed, and left behind him a body of men who spent the rest of the evening marvelling at the extent and versatility of his gifts.

    A day or two later completed plans were sent, and lay on the Clog Shop counter for public inspection, and for the next fortnight Beckside Methodism sat in almost perpetual committee over these latest examples of the minister's skill.  By the end of that time, there was scarcely a person concerned even remotely in the matter who had not given judgment in favour of the scheme.  There was one exception, however, and though it would ordinarily have been regarded as of little moment, yet after what had passed in the graveyard, Jabe and Ben were honestly distressed at the ominous absence of Silas.

    The "super" was coming over to a public meeting for the purpose of raising funds on the Friday, and Wednesday night had arrived, but the chapel-keeper had given no sign.  Glowing descriptions of the new designs had been given him by those who knew nothing of what had occurred between him and the leaders.  Twice, after putting the plans in a conspicuous place on the counter, Jabe had sent for Silas on some invented business in order to draw him into a criticism of the scheme, but without success, and to have directly broached the question would have been to court failure.

    Thursday, the day before the great meeting, arrived, and no satisfactory evidence was forthcoming as to Silas's attitude.  In the quietest part of the afternoon of that day, however, whilst Jabe was busy upon a new pair of clogs, Silas suddenly presented himself.  He wanted a clog-iron on, and he wanted it on in a great hurry, and, catching sight out of the corner of his eye of the plans, he turned his face toward the opposite wall, and became intensely interested in a quite venerable advertisement of patent blacking.

    Jabe took most extraordinary pains with that clog-iron, and succeeded in making the operation last quite a long time.  In the meantime, Silas, affecting the most restless impatience, fidgeted every moment about the shortness of time.

    Presently Jabe began dropping hints, and putting leading questions, but Silas would not be caught, and when the iron had been replaced, and another one that Jabe discovered to be "loosening" had been made secure, and the repairing process could no longer be prolonged, he handed back the clog to its owner with a petulant jerk.

    Silas, on his side, now that the opportunity of departure was provided, seemed suddenly to have been seized with a fit of lingering, and manifested a reluctance to depart strangely inconsistent with his former feverish impatience.

    At this moment a new idea occurred to Jabe, and, catching sight of a pair of clogs, evidently waiting to be taken home, he cried out―

    "Hay, dear! that lump-yed of a Isaac's goan to his tay ba'at takkin' Jethro's clugs wi' him.  Sit thi daan, Silas, an' moind th' shop woll Aw nip daan an' tak' em.  Th' owd lad conna cum aat till he gets 'em."

    Silas, forgetting his previous haste, complied with ill-disguised alacrity, and almost before Jabe had closed the shop-door, he was bending eagerly over the erstwhile invisible plans.  He had a good long look at them, for Jabe was an unconscionable time away, and when he did return he found the plans apparently as he had left them, and Silas still engrossed in the subject of patent blacking.

    Jabe attempted to draw the chapel-keeper into conversation again, but without success.  Silas remembered his forgotten haste, and departed with demonstrations of impatience, leaving the Clogger wrestling with a sense of defeat.

    In the evening Silas joined the company round the fire, and appeared very attentive when anything referring to the renovation scheme was introduced; and, when he had departed, Ben nodded his head sagaciously across the fireplace at his friend, and re-marked―

    "He's cumin' raand nicely, tha sees."

    The following night the great meeting was to be held.  The "super" was to take the chair, and for some days consultations had been held, challenges given, and thinly-veiled exhortations addressed by the Becksiders one to another with a view to promoting liberality.

    It was getting dark on the Friday evening as the "super" reached the top of the hill going down to the village, and his reverence was just tightening rein to steady his steed down the rough incline when a man came out from behind a gatepost and cried, looking cautiously round as he did so, "Whey!"

    It was Long Ben, and as he came close to the trap the "super" noticed a look of apprehensive caution on his face.  After the heartiest of greetings, and another anxious glance towards the village, he said, dropping his voice almost to a whisper―

    "He's bin agate on me ageean; he winna le' me gie nowt."

    "Who won't?" asked the "super."

    "Whey, him!" jerking his thumb in the direction of the Clog Shop.  "He says Aw'm nobbut fur t' gie five paand!"  And Ben's long face lengthened considerably with an injured, resentful expression.

    "Well, can you afford more, Mr. Barber?" asked the "super," who knew enough to justify the question.

    "Affooard!  Wot's affooarding to dew wi' it?" cried Ben, now fairly roused.  "This is fur th' Lord's haase, isn't it?  Aw mun affooard, an' Aw will, fur oather him or yo'!"

    "Well, but, with your family, Mr. Barber"―

    "Family! that's just it.  Dew yo' think my childer 'ud loike fur t' goa theer, an' gie nowt towart th' fettlin' on it?  Neaw, neaw, mestur, we'est dew it if we 'an ta clem [starve] fur it!"

    "And does Mr. Jabez want to stop you?"

    "Stop us?  Ay, does he.  He says as if Aw give a hawpenny mooar nur five paand he'll stop th' job."

    "Well, what do you want me to do?"

    "Aw've getten a bit of a plan fur chettin' him, if yo'll help me."

    "Well, what is it?"

    "When yo' begin ta read aat th' subscriptions yo' mun read aat ' Ben Barber, five paand,' an' then a bit efther yo' can say, 'A Friend, twenty paand,' dun yo' see, an' theer's th' brass," and Ben handed the minister five five-pound notes.

    A few minutes later the "super" and Ben entered the Clog Shop in company, and Jabe seeing them together, glared fiercely at Ben and demanded―

    "Weer'st bin?"

    But Ben merely sauntered to his seat with his hands in his pockets, and began humming a tune.

    "Tum, tum, tum," cried Jabe, mocking the carpenter's music, and evidently in the worst of humours; "tha's summat ta 'turn, turn' abaat, tha has."  And eyeing him with a look of mingled suspicion and disgust, he suddenly demanded―

    "Hast browt that writin' papper?"

    "Hey, neaw!" cried Ben in sudden remembrance; "Aw'd cleean forgetten it," and he hurried off homeward.

    Jabe watched him disappear with distrustful, uneasy looks, and then, turning with a heavy sigh to the minister, he cried despairingly―

    "Aw'st ne'er mak' nowt on him, Aw con see.  Aw've bin trying forty ye'r, an' Aw'm furder off nor ivver!" and then on sudden recollection he changed his tone and said, "But Aw want ta hev a word wi' yo', Mestur Shuper, afoor we goa."

    "Proceed, Mr. Steward."

    "Naa, when yo' starten a talkin' abaat brassta-neet, yon sawft ninny 'ull be up on his feet an' givin' away his childer's meit afoor we know wheer we are.  Well, Aw'm gooin' fur t' stop him.  As soon as yo'n oppened aat, yo mun read aat, 'Jabez Longworth, twenty-five paand,' an' then, afoor he has time fur t' speik, yo' mun say, 'Ben Barber, twenty-five paand.'  An' if yon mon gets up on his lung legs yo' mun stop him, an' if he gets up twenty toimes yo' mun stop him,—and theer's th' brass."  And Jabe handed fifty pounds to the minister in gold and notes.

    The "super," touched, amused, and a little embarrassed by the conflicting confidences of these two friends, was about to reply, when Ben returned with the writing materials, and all three adjourned to the chapel.

    A goodly company had assembled, and, after a formal opening, the minister proceeded in a clear and forcible speech to explain the scheme and solicit subscriptions.

    "I have received one or two subscriptions already," he said, "which I will read:―

    "Mr. Benjamin Barber, five pounds.

    "A Friend, twenty pounds."

    There was an exclamation of smothered wrath from Jabe, but the minister proceeded:―

    "Mr. Jabez Longworth, twenty-five pounds.

    "Mr. Benjamin Barber, twenty-five."

    The meeting looked mystified.  Two subscriptions in one name sounded very odd.  Long Ben sat in his side pew with his eyes closed, and his face void of all expression, and Jabe, after emitting from tightly-pursed lips certain indescribable sounds, suddenly rose to his feet, and glaring over the heads of the people, across the whole length of the chapel, exclaimed, shaking a podgy finger at Ben—

    "Thaa thinks thaws dun it this toime, dust na?  Bud Aw'll be straight wi' thee yet, tha long lump-yed, thaa."

    The minister was shocked at this very unparliamentary language, and was about to intervene when his attention was diverted by a scuffling sound in one of the middle pews, where Sam Speck and Nathan seemed to be having some trouble with Silas the chapel-keeper, who was tightly jammed between them.

    More subscriptions began to come in.  Dr. Walmsley, in his own and his "dear wife's" name, offered a thankoffering for a good mother, followed by smaller gifts from the ladies themselves.  Then came Jonas Tatlock and Johnty Harrop, followed by poor Phebe Green from the mangle-house, who wanted "to thank God for being a friend to the widow and sending her some more friends."

    "Ten paand, Mestur Shuper," shouted Nathan the smith, still embarrassed by that mysterious conflict in the middle pew.

    "An' me ten," chimed in Sam Speck, apparently out of breath from the same cause.

    Then a sudden hush fell on the assembly as Sniggy Parkin stood up, in evident emotion.

    "Aw—aw hevn't getten gradely straight yet, friends," he stammered, "bud if yo'll trust me twelve months Aw'll gee two paand ten fur th' schoo'-missis, God bless her" — (loud Amens)—"an' two paand ten fur this blessed owd place wheer Jesus washed my sins away."

    Then came smaller contributions from others of the reformed Brick-crofters, each accompanied by some rudely-tender reference to "th' schoo'-missis."

    A pause followed, and Lige, the road-mender, started off singing, "Ther'll be na mooar sorra theer."

    And when that was got through, Job Sharples, the niggardly pig-dealer, rose.  There was breathless silence as he opened his pew door and walked up to the communion-rail, behind which the minister sat, and put down on the table a coin.

    Then he smiled patronisingly on the minister, and walked back to his seat.  Several persons rose in their seats and leaned over to see what the coin was.  "A sovereign," passed in whispers round the chapel, and expressive looks were exchanged.

    As the whispers reached the back pew Jabe rose from his seat, paused to draw himself to his very fullest height, and then kicking savagely at the disobedient pew door, he limped down the whole length of the chapel, took the coin from the table, and, stepping with a haughty mien to Job's seat, he placed the coin on the narrow book-rest with a loud click, saying as he did so, in tones of inexpressible scorn and irony, "Thaa conna affooard it, Job," and then, with his nose very much in the air, he limped back to his pew.

    A second time, at a moment of intense interest, that mysterious noise came from Sam Speck's pew, and taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Job snatched his cap from one of the pegs against the wall and hurried out.

    A few more subscriptions were now announced, including quite reckless sums from Jethro and Lige, and once more that unruly disturbance in Sam Speck's neighbourhood broke out.  A sharp sound, like the rending of cloth, was heard, and Silas, the chapel-keeper, with a flapping rent in one of his coat-sleeves, came struggling out of the pew, having evidently escaped with difficulty from the restraining hands of Sam and Nathan.

    With his long, thin hair waving about, and excitement and triumph in his look, he rushed up to the table, and dragging out of his pocket a large tobacco-box, he opened the lid and emptied the contents before the minister.  It was a strange collection.  There were several dim and dirty threepenny and fourpenny pieces, a number of green-mouldy coppers, two crowns, a few other odd silver coins, and three little greasy packets containing a half-sovereign each.

    "They say Aw munna give nowt 'cause Aw'm sa poor," he cried, in his wild way.  "They say as they'll send it back if Aw dew.  Did th' Lord stop th' poor widow fro' givin' 'cause hoo wur poor?  Did He send her mite back?  Neaw!  An' He winna send mine back, if they dew.  It wur aw as hoo had, and He took it; an' it's aw as Aw have, an' He'll tak' mine.  An' Aw daar ony on yo' to stop me."  And poor Silas sank sobbing upon the communion cushion.

    "Friends," said the minister, with wet eyes and shaking voice, "Silas, like the widow, has given more than we all, for he has given of his necessity."


――――♦――――

 
"The Zeal of Thine House."

-IV-

Raising the Wind.


THE Clogger sat in a high-backed arm chair, very close to the parlour fire.  He had a huge "comforter" round his neck, the ends of which passed up over his ears and met in a knot at the top of his head.  One side of his face was swollen.  Though the weather was cold, he was without a coat, for Beckside gentlemen seldom wore their coats indoors; but his shoulders were covered by a heavy shawl.  He had on his knee a jug containing ale-posseta very popular local cure for colds—and near him, on the oven top, another jug containing "cumfrey tay."

    He held his head a little on one side in a pensive manner, and had a pathetic, self-pitying expression on his face.  He had got wet through two or three times lately whilst out begging for the chapel, and this was the result.  He had now had several days of invalidism, which had tried his temper very severely, and at last had reduced him to pensive and sorrowful resignation.

    "Aw've towd thi mony a toime as Aw shouldn't be a lung liver," he said, in melancholy, whining tones, to Aunt Judy, who was nursing him.  "An' tha sees Aw'm reet.  Aw'st dee abaat th' same age as my muther did."

    "Dee?  Ger aat wi' thi, tha owd mollycoddle.  Yo' felleys is so feast if owt ails yo'."

    "Judy," he replied, shaking his head with profound solemnity, "yo'r Jabe's dun."  And then, after another pause and a sob, which he did not even try to conceal, "Aw'st ne'er see th' chapil oppened aat."

    Judy was in difficulties.  She did not in the least share the patient's fears, but she knew that to refuse to believe in them would only make things worse.  So she tried to get up an argument with him on the comparative virtues of ale-posset and "cumfrey tay," and roundly declared, in the hope of arousing a spark of the old combativeness, that the preference of men-folk for ale-posset was a suspicious circumstance to her.

    But even this did not succeed, and Jabe was commencing to give some directions as to the disposal of his worldly possessions, when Judy had a sudden inspiration, and broke in—

    "Hast yerd wot Sue Johnty's bin propoasin'?"

    "Neaw, wench," replied the Clogger, but with just the faintest gleam of curiosity in his eye. "Aw've noa interest i' warldly things naa."

    "Hoo says hoo can see a hunderd paand in it, at ony rate," said Judy, stealing a sly look at her brother's face, and knowing that if anything could rouse him it would be the chance of hearing of means to raise money for the chapel renovation scheme.

    "Well, hoo's a loikely wench is Susy," Jabe replied.  "Wot's hoo been sayin'?"

    "Hoo wants us to have a buzaar."  And Judy gave a sort of anticipatory wince, and shot a glance of quick apprehension at the Clogger, as she dropped out the last word.

    "Wot?" shouted Jabe, jumping to his feet, and upsetting the jug of ale-posset as he did so.  And for the next five minutes poor Judy had poured upon her a torrent of abuse and reproach.

    The attack would doubtless have lasted longer than it did but for the fact that Jabe's excitement burst a huge gumboil and effectually closed his mouth for the time, and the doctor, coming in a little later, found him faint and exhausted, but still "breathing out threatenings."

    For the next three days Jabe sat in semi-state in his parlour, passing through the various stages of convalescence, and telling over and over again the story of Sue Johnty's wicked and worldly proposal, and though many disagreed with him, and some had even given a conditional adhesion to Mrs. Johnty's scheme, nobody dared to say so in the Clogger's presence.

    Jabe had never seen a bazaar, but he regarded them as the last sign of worldliness and pride in a church, and declared again and again during those days of convalescence—

    "Aw'd sooner see th' bums [bailiffs] i' th' chapel fur debt nur pay it off wi' brass fro' Vanity Fair."

    This episode seemed also to increase his animosity towards the opposite sex.

    "Women an' trubbel cam' into th' warld together, an' they'n bin together ivver sin'; bud Aw'll watch 'em at this."

    But poor Jabe was only human, and turned pale with a sense of approaching discomfiture as on the first day after he resumed work he lifted his head and saw the schoolmistress (now Mrs. Dr. Walmsley), Nancy of the Fold farm, and the irresistible Mrs. Johnty Harrop approaching the shop.

    It was a long tussle in the parlour that afternoon, and when the ladies retired they had a subdued and resigned air about them which seemed to indicate defeat, but it was only the meekness of a great sense of victory, for that very night Jabe, by tortuous and difficult processes, understood only by the initiated, caused it to be known that he was sacrificing his principles for peace sake, and that the bazaar would be held.

    In a few days all Beckside was working and begging for the sale.  It was intended to be held in the following February, and as the time of opening drew near, the whole neighbourhood became excited about it.  Church people from Brogden offered to help, and the families of the two brothers who owned the Beckside Mill took hearty interest in the enterprise.

    Jabe and his confederates became positively nervous about it.  A bazaar had never been held nearer than Duxbury, and our friends had many misgivings.  Most of the arrangements were in the hands of the ladies, and one or two of them were wilful and quite irresistible women, who did not even consult the dignitaries of the Clog Shop, and every few hours Sam Speck brought tidings of fresh arrangements of an utterly unheard-of character, until, when the Sunday before the great event arrived, Jabe was almost ill with suppressed excitement.

    The sale was to last two days, and the local preacher who was appointed on the preceding Sunday brought a note from the "super" containing hints for the management of the affair.  At the close of the note he remarked that as the schoolhouse where the bazaar was to be held was over the Beck-bridge, and rather lonely, it would be well to get someone to stay in the building all night, as a protection against fire or thieves.

    This suggestion was a perfect boon.  After having had to stand aside and act as mere camp-followers in the affair, the Clog Shop authorities suddenly found themselves in charge of an important department, and proceeded to discuss the situation with undisguised relish.

    As soon as the question was raised there were numerous volunteers, and it seemed at one time as if there was going to be difficulty in settling who should have the honour of defending the schoolhouse—Sam Speck, whose father had been a parish constable, and had bequeathed an old truncheon to his son, and Lige the road-mender, who often at the Clog Shop fire told remarkable stories about his achievements as gamekeeper's substitute in days gone by, being the most clamorous.

    As the debate proceeded, however, it widened out somewhat, and in a short time the bazaar was forgotten in the breathless interest with which the circle listened to stories of footpads, burglars, and highway robbers.

    By this time Sam and Lige seemed to show some uneasiness.  From thieves the conversation seemed to pass quite naturally to ghosts, and by the time that Jonas Tatlock had told once more his never-failing story of the sexton who fell asleep one night in Brogden Church, and was awakened by a ghost which touched his hair, leaving a white tuft amidst a plentiful shock of brown, every person present was most satisfactorily thrilled, and the sudden falling together of the embers in the fire sent a shock through the whole company.

    In the silence that followed every man seemed to be inwardly resolving to swallow his own preferences and to waive any claim he might have to the hitherto coveted honour.  And so, when conversation on the immediate question was resumed, Sam and Lige found that all competition for the perilous honour they claimed had ceased, and they were likely to be left in unchallenged possession.

    Then Sam became suddenly generous, and intimated that he really didn't mind very much if anybody particularly wanted the honour.

    But nobody did, and some hints dropped by Lige about the dangers to his "asthmatic" in being out late were ignored; in fact, the more generous Sam and his companion showed themselves, the more self-sacrificing became the rest of the company, and Sam, at anyrate, went home that night anathematising his own long tongue.

    But real self-sacrifice brings its own reward, and so the valiant volunteer guardsmen were comforted next day by the discovery that they had achieved fame as heroic spirits.  All day on Monday they were receiving offers of loans of firearms of almost every style and age, whilst bludgeons and cudgels were tendered wholesale, and Micky Hollows, from the Gravel Hole, offered an ingenious man-trap with powerful springs of his own invention.

    This popularity, of course, had its effect on the two daring spirits, and when the policeman sauntered into the Clog Shop on Monday night, and volunteered to assist them, his offer was slightingly — almost scornfully declined.

    The next day, "Poncake Tuesday," was the opening of the bazaar.  All passed off well in spite of the fuming and agitation of Jabe, and when the first day's proceedings were over, and it was announced that £93, 17s. had been taken, everybody went home tired but happy.

    As the buyers and sellers dispersed, much interest was excited by the arrival of Sam and Lige to mount guard over the building and its valuable contents.  Sam carried a thick cudgel over his shoulder, and a pistol sticking out of each pocket, whilst Lige had an old gun, one of his own long-handled stone-breaking hammers, and an old-fashioned powder-flask, whilst he led by a chain Long Ben's big yard dog "Tenter."  Feeling that admiring and even envious eyes were upon them, the watchmen marched towards the stove in the middle of the schoolhouse, and very self-consciously proceeded to arrange their weapons in order.

    When the general public had gone, Jabe, Ben, and a few of the others stayed behind with the watchers, and smoked a social pipe whilst they recounted the successes of the day.  When they talked of going, Sam, who seemed somehow to have laid in quite a stock of new or revised stories, began to tell them faster than ever, putting into the relation rather more than his usual animation.  Then he invited them to taste a brew of hot coffee, which he proceeded to make; and so it was past midnight when the last lingerers departed, and the valiant defenders of church property were left alone.

    For a time they stood in the road listening to the retreating footsteps and voices of their friends, and then to the banging of doors which followed, but in a minute or two all was quiet, and an eerie stillness seemed to be in the black darkness.

    So the watchmen went inside for the comfort and company of the dog.  Then they smoked, glancing uneasily up at the high windows every now and again, and holding their breath to listen at the slightest sound.

    After a while Sam began to examine his weapons, and showed unmistakable signs of nervousness, while Lige took frequent pulls at a large can of warm ale, which was kept in condition by standing near the stove.  The dog stretched himself out on the floor to sleep.

    Presently Lige began to nod, which made Sam quite angry, and he tried to draw him into conversation.  But it was no use; the road-mender was overpowered, and was sinking every minute or two into slumber, in spite of his own and Sam's efforts to keep him awake.

    The stove was a closed one.  They had been recommended for safety's sake to use a lantern instead of a naked light, and so the room was almost dark, and the articles that hung about made all sorts of strange deep shadows, and assumed all sorts of suggestive and terrifying shapes.

    Sam grew so apprehensive that he dared not look round.  It was the very longest night he had ever spent.  How cold it was getting, and how awesomely quiet.  Would morning never—Bang!

    Sam must have been dozing, but this bang brought him instantly to his feet.  He snatched up the pistols, held them straight over his head, shut his eyes, and fired.  One of the pistols kicked and hurt him, and he jumped back and yelled.

    The shots were followed by the furious barking of the dog, and by Lige falling from his seat and lying on his back, where he remained shouting, "Murther!  Thieves!  Fire!"

    Then the dog, frantic with excitement, jumped at Sam, who sprang back and fell over the small table on which the lantern was standing, and extinguished the only light they had.

    "Help!  Murther!" shouted Sam.

    "Fire!  Fire!" shouted Lige, and then they both lay panting on the floor in the powder smoke until the dog ceased barking, and all was still again.

    Presently they heard a scraping sound on the walls outside, which set the dog barking again, and then there was a bang at one of the high windows.  A minute later, Sam, venturing to lift up his head, saw a man with a lantern trying to open the window.

    "Thieves!  Help!" shouted Sam agaip, and began to grope on the floor for a weapon, the dog the while going nearly frantic.  All at once the window flew open, a puff of cold air entered the room, and the thin, squeaky voice of Jethro the knocker-up was heard crying—

    "Sam!  Liger! wotiver's to dew?  Are yo' kilt?"

    In a few minutes Jethro had lowered his lantern into the room on the end of his handkerchief, and by its light Sam rescued Lige from the débris and opened the door, when it appeared that Jethro, getting up early to prepare for his rounds, had remembered the lonely watchers, and had made them a can of hot coffee, but that in the darkness he had stumbled against the door with the butt-end of his knocking-up stick, and had made the sharp bang which had startled Sam so terribly.

    The next day nearly all the goods were disposed of.  The handsome total of £204 was realised, and the graver spirits of the Clog Shop were of opinion that it was worth while to have had the bazaar, if only for its chastening effects on the irrepressible Sam.

    But Sam and Lige escaped more easily than they otherwise would have done, because another matter attracted public attention.  The bazaar had made Beckside popular, and the struggles of the villagers with their chapel scheme evoked sympathy in quite unexpected quarters.

    One day the younger of the two gentlemen who owned the mill sent for Jabe to the office, and proposed to him, by the help of a party of musical friends from Duxbury, to give a grand concert in a temporarily empty warehouse belonging to the mill.  The proceeds were to go to the renovation fund.  As soon as the scheme was described to him Jabe saw in it a grand opportunity for the Beckside string band to display its talents, but the master, after long and skilful fencing, managed to convince the Clogger that, however desirable, this was scarcely practicable.

    When Jabe announced the arrangements to his friends he was almost unanimously reproached for never having proposed that their band should give concerts.  They might have had the schoolhouse for the asking.  But when it was clear that he had actually discussed the question of the band assisting at the forthcoming performance, and had allowed himself to be beaten, he was regarded as having seriously compromised himself.

    The concert promised to be a very grand affair, and, to crown all, the day but one before it was to take place the master brought news that the famous Madame Bona, a great professional lady singer, who happened to be singing at Whipham, a town a few miles the other side of Duxbury, had sent a special message to say that she had heard of the Beckside concert and its object, and would like to sing at it without fee.

    This being noised abroad the fame of the lady created quite a rush for tickets, and when the evening arrived the big warehouse, swept out and decorated for the occasion, was crammed.  The reserved seats were filled with the local gentry, many of whom had never even seen Beckside before, and on the front row of the cheaper seats sat the members of the Clog Shop Club.

    The small but select band from Duxbury came in for very severe criticism indeed from these authorities.  Jethro, as chief, sat bolt upright with his eyes closed, every now and then making expressive grimaces as the performers offended his delicate ear; and, when the overture was finished, Sam Speck leaned backward to a Duxbury man who was sitting behind, and pointing at Jonas Tatlock, whispered—

    "Ther's a mon theere as 'ud fiddle the'r yeds off."

    After three or four pieces had been got through, a rustle in the front seats and a general buzz of excitement announced the advent of the great singer.  Most of the Clog Shop cronies stood up to see her come in; and when she did so each turned and looked at his neighbour with a surprised and shocked expression, for the lady was in evening dress.

    It was the first time most of them had seen a lady thus attired, and it so irresistibly suggested the theatre, and other wicked places, that Jabe and Ben sat suddenly down and buried their faces—hot with shame—in their hands, whilst the rest looked at each other with embarrassment.

    But the lady began to sing; and as her full, rich tones rolled down the room even Jabe lifted his head to listen, carefully avoiding, however, looking at the singer.  In a moment or two he began to frown, and, finally, turning to Jethro, he cried in a loud, angry whisper―

    "What's hoo mee-mawin abaat?"

    "Huish, mon," cried Jethro, who was as perplexed as his friend, but had his reputation to think of.  "Aw fancy yon's that new Tonic Sol-fa as thaws yerd abaat."

    But Jabe only shook his head in weary disapproval, and though the "quality" applauded the Italian song, and even the crowd clapped, the chapel authorities received it in frigid silence.

    One or two band selections having been played, a well-known and somewhat old-fashioned violin solo was given, which, as it came within the range of their own knowledge, received from the village critics a modified approval.

    Then the lady appeared again and sang an English love-song, and, though its sentiments made Jabe's lip curl, its music found a way to his heart, and he led off the clapping for their bench.  The others somewhat coldly joined in, and Sam Speck stood bolt upright and stared at the singer with all his eyes, although she was, according to Beckside standards, undressed.

    Towards the close of the concert the lady sang once more, and was rapturously encored.  When she responded it was noticed that she was without music, and signalled to the accompanist that she would dispense with his assistance.  What was she going to do?  Every eye in the great throng was upon her; even the bench of critics was compelled to look at her.

    And there she stood.  Something seemed to be moving her, and she tried to commence but could not.  Then she folded her hands behind her, school girl fashion, threw back her beautiful head, and a moment later there came warbling through the hot air the old familiar strains of Beckside's favourite Sunday School hymn—


"Around the throne of God in heaven,
 Thousands of children stand."


    The audience was spellbound;. and as the singer sang on, a great flush of feeling passed over hundreds of faces in the cheaper seats, and all were listening entranced, when suddenly the thin, shrill voice of Jethro pierced the air with a vibrant, long drawn out "G-l-o-r-y!"

    The singer faltered; tears suddenly swam into her eyes; she stopped, swept a long, low curtsey, and hurriedly retired—whilst the backbenches, led by Jethro, took up the broken refrain and sang it to the end.

    The reserved seats even had been touched by this unrehearsed item, and as the assembly broke up the only topic of conversation was the great singer's last song, and her unheard-of breakdown.

    The Clogger and his friends filed off, duck fashion, to the shop, each man feeling as he wiped his eyes that they had something worth talking about for once.  The pipes had all been charged, and Jethro was just opening the conversation, when a carriage was heard to stop outside.  The door opened; a rustle of silk and a waft of scent came floating into the shop, and the great Madame Bona swept towards the Ingle-nook.

    "Well, gentlemen; how did you like my song?" she asked, still manifesting signs of emotion.

    "God bless yo'!" shouted two or three at once.

    "God bless you, for you taught it me," replied the singer.

    Every man rose to his feet in amazement.

    "Yes, old friends, you taught it me.  And in my strange life now, that and other things you taught me, keep me from going entirely wrong.  I've heard of your sacrifices for the dear old chapel, and I want you to know that there are others out in the great world who love it too, and will thank God for it for ever."

    And slipping a heavy purse into Jabe's trembling hand, she made another sweeping curtsey, crying, as she did so, "God bless you, and God bless the chapel!"—and was gone.


――――♦――――

 
"The Zeal of Thine House."

-V-

At Last!


DURING the renovation of the chapel the Clog Shop became a sort of General Office.  The Building Committee, which had been formed by a strictly temporary enlargement of the Trustees' Meeting, was supposed to meet in Jabe's parlour every Friday evening, but in reality it could never be said to have suspended its sittings, and the Friday night meetings became mere perfunctory ceremonies which formally closed the week's work.

    The "super" had informed them that to be strictly in order all decisions must be confirmed by the Trustees, and the fortnightly meeting of that body, though brief, was a solemnly important affair, and invested the members of it with much of the same sense of dignified responsibility that supports the Lords Commissioners when delivering the Royal Assent which makes a mere "Bill" an Act of Parliament.

    Now, Silas the chapel-keeper had been made a committee-man, and had not the least idea of allowing his office to become a sinecure.  Sometimes, indeed, his functions seemed in danger of clashing the one with the other, the chapel-keeper getting in the way of the committee-man or vice versâ, which led to some mental perturbation.

    Silas, however, had an adequate idea of what was required of him, and, as he had also much leisure and more zeal, he was a most prominent member of the Building Board.  Vested with his new authority, he became a sort of self-appointed inspector of works of the most lynx-eyed and incorruptible character, and a thorn in the side of the workmen.

    On that memorable Monday morning when Long Ben and his workmen arrived on the premises to commence operations, they found Silas waiting for them at the gate dangling his keys in his hand, and evidently fully sensible of the honour and responsibility vested in him.

    As he inserted the key into the front door, he turned round and eyed the two tool-laden apprentices with suspicious and admonitory looks as he said―

    "Naa, yo' lads, nooan o' yo'r gams.  Yo're no' gooin'in to a menadgerie or a alehaase, mind yo'."

    When they began the work of removing the front pews Silas found himself in difficulties.  If he stood by and watched the workmen, every stroke of the hammer sent a thrill through him, and their light-hearted manner made his blood boil, but if he left them he was tortured with apprehensions of the sacrilege they might be committing.

    Presently in the pleasant excitement of the work one of the boys began to hiss a tune through his teeth, and in a few moments the hiss grew into a whistle.

    "Wot!" shouted Silas, coming in from the graveyard, and glaring fiercely at the offender whistling.  "Thaa gaumless wastril, dust know wheer thaa art?"

    A day or two later, as a high wind was blowing and the chapel became very draughty, the other apprentice ventured to put on his cap, and was unconscious of the enormity of his crime until the cap was sent flying from his head, and Silas stood over him shaking his fist and shouting―

    "For shawm o' thysel.  Wheer hast bin browt up?" and then turning to the other workmen, who were sheepishly removing their head coverings, he gave them an up-to-date exposition of the awful examples of Uzzah and the rash men of Bethshemesh.

    Later on Silas was haunted with suspicion that smoking occasionally took place in the vestry, and had elaborated the most ingenious plan for discovering the offender when a much more serious difficulty presented itself.

    When the bricklayers arrived one morning to commence pulling down the back premises preparatory to building the new schoolroom, Silas discovered that Pot Dick, an avowed sceptic from Brogden, was amongst the number.  He saw him arrive with silent amazement, and as Dick was passing round towards the back of the chapel to commence work, Silas stopped him―

    "Wot!  Thee!  Sithee, if thaa puts a finger upo' thuse owd stooans Aw'll—Aw'll chuck thi o'er that waw."

    As Silas was slight and painfully thin, and Pot Dick a burly sixteen-stoner, this terrible threat only made the bricklayer smile.

    But at that moment Long Ben appeared on the scene, and the outraged chapel-keeper at once attacked him.  Ben seemed inclined to argue the point, and so Silas fetched Jabe and Sam Speck, and, after a long wrangle, he carried his point, and the master bricklayer was requested to remove the obnoxious workman.

    Encouraged by this victory, the chapel-keeper stood guard over his beloved charge, and so lectured and badgered the workmen that Ben's position as chief contractor became a very difficult one indeed.

    As the new part of the building began to rise on its foundations, Silas also took upon himself the role of chief exhibitor; and getting possession somehow of a number of technical building terms, he amazed and mystified the villagers by entirely incomprehensible descriptions, in which pullasthurs (pilasters), mullions, corbills (corbels), and cornishes frequently appeared, whilst strange visitors went away profoundly impressed with the transcendent abilities of "Aar artchitect."

    When the front window was nearly finished Silas made a grand discovery, and for several days every person visiting the building was taken across the road to get a view of the window, and was then informed under inviolable bonds of secrecy, "They tell me as that winder's pure Gostic.  Brogdin Church winder's a sky-leet to it."

    To the workmen, however, Silas became a perfect terror.  If they inadvertently trod on a grave or laid anything upon the packing-sheets covering the pulpit and communion-rail, he was down upon them with unexampled fierceness; and a joiner who absently began singing "Rule Britannia" was not allowed to forget his enormous transgression for weeks.

    At last the badgered labourers began to resent these things.  Murmurs broke out, protests were made, and one Saturday, after paying the wages, Long Ben adjourned to the Clog Shop in a very perplexed frame of mind.

    He sighed heavily as he sank into his accustomed seat and began to fill his pipe, but as the others were deep in a discussion as to whether Sovrenity (Sovereignty) or Wheat and Tares would be the best tune to commence with on the opening day, he was unheeded.

    In a few moments, however, unable longer to contain himself, he burst out―

    "Aw'll tell yo' wot it is, chaps.  If iver th' chapel's ta be oppened aat, t'o'll ha' ta muzzil yond' awd crater i' th' chapil yard."

    Every eye was turned instantly on the speaker, and as he leaned back in the chimney-nook with a decided "I've had my say and mean it" look on his face, Jabe drawled out as he poked his little finger into the bowl of his pipe―

    "Ay, rots is allis daan o' tarriers."

    Ben vouchsafed no reply; he was too busy with his own thoughts.  At length he observed―

    "Wee'st ha' to get him aat o' th' rooad some rooad."

    "Ay!" said two or three at once, and laughed incredulously at the absurdity of such an idea.

    "Aw shouldn't loike fur t' be th' mon ta mention sitchen a thing to him," said Sam Speck.

    "Yo' couldn't poo' him aat o' Beckside just naa wi' horses an' cheynes" (chains), said Jabe with deep conviction.

    "But there are other reasons why he should be got away at once," broke in the doctor, who was present.  Everybody turned to look at the speaker interrogatively, and Long Ben asked somewhat eagerly―

    "Wot dun yo' meean, doctor?"

    "I mean that unless he gets a complete change at once we shall lose him."

    There was a long pause, during which surprise deepened into anxiety on every face as they looked meaningly at each other, and Ben's gradually assumed a very conscience-stricken expression.

    But just then Silas appeared on the scene, and though to those who had heard the doctor's statement he looked more worn and haggard than ever, he at once commenced an animated discussion on the to him obnoxious proposal to put a patent ventilator on the roof.

    In the midst of the debate the doctor rose to go, and Jabe and Ben followed him out.

    "Dun yo' meean it, doctor?" asked Ben anxiously when they got outside.

    "About Silas?  I do mean it.  It is a very serious case.  It is only his interest in that old building that is keeping him up."

    Ben heaved a great sigh, and began to pull his straggling beard very nervously, whilst Jabe, turning his head away and gazing far away up the hill, asked in a husky voice―

    "Dun yo' think as th' owd chapil-haase 'as hed owt to dew wi' it?"

    "Think?  I'm sure of it."

    The two stewards shot quick glances at each other, and instantly dropped their eyes to the ground, and as they stood there rubbing the dust with uneasy feet, remembrances of Silas' long and voluntary services and of appeals he had made for improvements in his little cottage came home to them, and added bitterness to the sorrow of the moment.

    At last Jabe broke out―

    "He mun goa, chuse wot he says and chuse wot it cosses (costs).  He mun be ta'n away if he winna goa."

    To this the other two agreed, and Jabe and Ben went back to the shop.

    Next morning Silas was not in his usual place at the schoolhouse, which was the temporary place of worship, and it was soon known that he was in bed, with the doctor attending him.  He seemed to rally, however, about Tuesday, and after the weeknight service Jabe and Ben went to have their tussle with the patient, taking the minister and the doctor with them.

    The chapel-keeper heard the proposal with intense indignation, and refused peremptorily to have the question discussed.  When, however, the doctor and the minister had spoken seriously to him, and he began to fear having to give way, he lost his temper, accused Ben of interested motives, called him a "fawse owd schamer," and then gave himself away by threatening him with all sorts of dire vengeance when he came back.

    Ben endured his chastisement with great meekness, and said coaxingly―

    "If tha'll goa to th' sayside we'll say no mooar abaat th' ventilator, an' tha'st tak' a pictur' o' th' chapil wi' thi.  Sam Speck shall goa wi' thi fur company, an' tha'st come back i' toime fur th' oppenin' aat."

    Visiting the "sayside" was not so common in Lancashire in those days, and Silas and his friend were the only Becksiders who enjoyed the luxury that season; but neither the distinction thus achieved nor the load of little comforts that were heaped upon him to take with him, nor all the promises of his friends to write to him compensated, in Silas' mind, for his painful separation from his beloved charge.

    All the day before his departure he followed Long Ben about, instructing, cautioning, and even threatening him, until Ben was glad when evening came; and next morning the coach was kept standing some time outside the chapel, whilst Silas gave his final directions.

    A few days later Jabe sat dozing in the Ingle-nook, with Ben as his only companion.

    "There's twenty-five paand wrung between thee an' me," said the carpenter.

    Jabe responded with an unintelligible grunt.

    "Aw think Aw've fun a way o' squaring it," continued Ben.  "Th' doctor says he'll gie me ten paand and Nancy-o'-th'-Fowt 'ull gie me anuther, an' wi' that twenty-five th' job's dun."

    "Wot's dun?  Wot art talkin' abaat?" cried Jabe, waking up and rubbing his eyes.

    "Pooin' Silas' haase daan, an' buildin' a betther afore he comes whoam," was the reply.

    Jabe stopped in the middle of a vast yawn, transfixed Ben with his eyes, as if to look him through, and sat gazing thus at him whilst the whole project was passing in review before his mind.  He saw at once the discrepancy between Ben's figures and the probable cost of the new cottage, and did not need the least hint as to how Ben, who would of course build it, meant to make up the deficiency.

    With this exception the proposal was exactly to his mind; and so after stipulating that the matter should be kept out of the weekly letter to Silas, so that "Th' owd lad can come back to a grand surprise," he gave his consent to the scheme, and, in fact, came so near to paying Ben a compliment for his thoughtfulness that that worthy had some difficulty in concealing his surprise.

    In course of time the chapel drew near to completion.  The date of the opening was fixed.  Band practices in preparation for the great event were in full swing, and Ben was pushing rapidly on with Silas' cottage.  Letters of painful elaborateness were received weekly from the absentees, which, whilst they contained innumerable questions about the progress of the renovation, very pointed and peremptory messages to the committee, and impatient demands as to when they might come home, gave only the most cursory information about the patient.

    At last, word was sent that Silas might return, and two days later the old coach landed him and Sam at the chapel gate, where a knot of Beckside worthies had gathered to welcome them.  Silas had to be helped out, and a glance of sad meaning passed round as the onlookers scanned his yellow face.

    But Silas scarcely saw them.  Disengaging himself from Sam's arm, and waving his friends back for a moment he leaned on his stick, and, standing in the middle of the road, drew a long, heavy breath, as his shining eyes feasted themselves on the now finished chapel front.

    "H-a-y, bud isn't it grand!" he cried out at length, and then, dropping his stick and waving his hands over his head, he cried, "'Beautiful for situation, the jye of the whole earth is Mount Zion.'  Hay, chaps! Clough End's a coil hoile [coal house] to it."

    Then he entered the chapel yard, passing his new cottage without noticing it, and after looking eagerly and delightedly at everything, he turned to the graves, and cried as if addressing the occupants―

    "John Longworth!  Juddy!  Mother!  Wot dun yo' think o' this?  It's welly as foine as yo'r own place, isn't it?  'Beautiful for situation, the jye of the whole earth is Mount Zion.'"

    But Silas' excitement had exhausted him; and as he sank down upon a gravestone, Long Ben came forward and led him towards his house.

    Aunt Judy and Mrs. Johnty Harrop were in possession, and whilst they had polished up all the old bits of furniture that were worth keeping, and had arranged them as nearly as possible in the old places, they had added a great many new things, and waited to have their reward in seeing Silas' surprise.

    When he approached the house and first realised what had been done, his face was a picture.  Perplexity, astonishment, and delight followed each other on his withered face, and passing inside he dropped into a big arm-chair, the gift of the schoolmistress, and burst into sobs, crying out through his tears―

    "'Mooar nor we can ask or think.'  'Mooar nor we can ask or think.'"

    The opening service was a never-to-be-forgotten triumph.  The Chairman of the District preached.  The band achieved its most complete success.  The anthem given by the united band and choir filled the preacher with most satisfactory astonishment, and all the visitors, with the exception of a few envious Clough Enders, expressed their admiration of the improvements.

    After the evening service the "super" announced that the collections had far exceeded expectations, and that, in fact, the chapel was opened without a penny of debt upon it, at which glad tidings congregation and choir, and band and committee, and all combined sent up such a Doxology that Jethro declared —and surely we could have no better judge―

    "Aw thowt Aw wur flooatin' into heaven."

    And Jethro was nearly a prophet for others, at anyrate, if not for himself, for when the congregation was dispersing Aunt Judy came hurrying into the vestry and beckoned Jabe and his co-steward out.  Silas, it appeared, had been quite carried away by the last Doxology, and the excitement had been too much for him, so that, after opening the doors for the people to pass out, he hurried to his cottage and fell down in a dead swoon.

    The doctor, who was, of course, on the premises, was in almost instant attendance, but from the first gave little hope.  And Jabe and the rest passed in a moment from elevated delight to fear and sorrow.  Silas was laid on a long settle, and everything that could be suggested was got or done to relieve him.

    After half an hour's anxious waiting he moved a little, and presently opened his eyes.  But, instead of noticing any one, he fixed his gaze on the opposite wall.

    Suddenly his countenance brightened.  He moved his hand as though he would have pointed, and cried―

    "Hay, wot a big 'un!  This is niver aar chapil!"

    And then he paused, and presently broke out again―

    "Bless thi, Grace!  Has thaa come to th' oppenin'?  An' yo', muther?  An' yo', John Longworth?  Wait till they oppen th' dur.  Naa, then! naa, then!" and as he spoke Silas' chapel doors did open, and the dear old saint entered into the joy of his Lord.







THE END



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