Doxie Dent I.
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DOXIE DENT.

CHAPTER I.

THE CLOGGER AT BAY.


JABEZ LONGWORTH, clogger, woman-hater, Methodist steward, and general village oracle, sat one morning in the parlour adjoining the clog-shop meditatively eating his breakfast.  His reflections were evidently of a distracting character, and interfered with the progress of the meal.  As he took up the last spoonful of porridge and transferred it to his mouth his face puckered into frowns, and, arresting the spoon as it approached his lips and setting his teeth grimly, he growled out, "The brazzened bosom!"  Then he slowly swallowed the porridge, thinking rapidly the while, and at length, throwing the empty spoon down upon his plate with a sort of punctuating bang, he went on, "It sarves him reet!  He's wur nor hur! he is, fur sure."

    A moment later he turned his chair towards the fire and put out his hand towards the oven-top, and began to feel absently for his pipe.  As he did so his eye fell upon the steaming coffee-pot, and, suddenly remembering that he had had only one of the courses of his double-barrelled breakfast, he picked up the vessel and poured himself out a full cup.  As he turned to replace the coffee-pot on the hob, he paused a moment, took a long, comprehensive look round the room, and heaving a little sigh burst out, "Thank goodness there's wun haase i' Beckside az isna plagued wi' th' petticoat pestilence!  Neaw, nur ne'er will be woll Aw'm in it!"  And then he resumed his seat, flinging his expressive short leg over the other with an emphatic and conclusive jerk.  Just as he was taking a sampling sip at his cup the door opened, and in stepped his big, much enduring sister, Aunt Judy.

    "Aw've browt thi sum scratchings fur thi breakfast," she said, with a heavy sigh, as she approached the table.

    The clogger helped himself to the scratchings with an inarticulate grunt.

    "Hay dear!" began Judy, who evidently had something on her mind, and was in a fretful and despondent humour; but just then she caught sight of the long-settle, which was tumbled up as though some one had slept on it.  "Wot's ta dew wi' th' lung-settle?  Tha's bin sleepin' onit, an' thee wi' th' best feather bed i' Beckside upst'irs: a body 'ud think tha'd bin drunk an' aat aw neet.  Aw'm shawmed fur thi, Jabez."

    Jabe dipped his scratchings in the salt and grunted, "It's no me."

    "Then whoar is it?" demanded Judy sternly.

    "It's Sam; yond' bully-ragging huzzy locked him aat."

    "An' sarve him reet! that shop o' thine's woss nur ony ale-haase ov a neet!  Wot's he want going whoam at that time fur?"

    Jabe crammed the last of the scratchings into his mouth, and then turned away from the table.  As he did so he put out one hand to feel for his pipe, and stretching out the other he clenched his fist and shook it at his sister and cried fiercely, "Si thi, Judy, if Aw'd owe ta dew wi' yond' woman Aw'd welt her rig fur her! that's woe Aw'd dew."  And he crammed the tobacco savagely down into the bowl of his pipe and proceeded to light it.

    "Women!" he cried, dropping back into his chair and pouring out a volume of smoke, "women! wherever there's women there's bother.  Th' weaker sect!" he added, curling his lip with intensest sarcasm.  "Theyn played Owd Harry wi' th' strunger sect, that's aw az Aw know; bud theyn ne'er bamboozle me, thank goodness, an' they ne'er will dew noather.  Aw'll show 'em!"

    Now it so happened that the conversation had taken the most unfortunate of turns for poor Aunt Judy; she had come on a very delicate and difficult mission, and her little present of scratchings was intended to pave the way for her; and, lo! the conversation had taken a turn which made her errand more difficult than it might have been, which was unnecessary.  She wished she had never seen the crumpled long-settle, and turned away from it with a petulant gesture.  Then she took a long, wandering glance round the room, and, putting her feet upon the fender, looked dreamily into the fire.

    "Hay dear!" she murmured presently, with a most alarming sigh, "this is a weary wold."  And then, as she realised her feelings were getting the better of her, she hurried into the pantry to recover herself.  Presently she came back again, and, standing leaning over the fireplace, resumed her absorbed gaze into the fire.

    Now the clogger had been dimly conscious for some minutes that there was something not quite satisfactory about his sister, and so as she stood before him looking dejected and miserable he jerked out shortly, "Wot's up wi' thi?"

    Judy commenced to rock herself over the fireplace, and at last answered in a breaking voice, "Nowt."

    All the same the poor creature's rockings became more rapid and pronounced, and presently a great tear dropped upon the hot fire-irons and sent out a loud hiss.  And of all things Jabe hated tears, especially women's tears.  He pulled himself together in his chair, glared angrily at the moving form of his portly sister, and then said with stern deliberateness, "Judy, prating women's bad, an' schaming women's wur, bud the Lord deliver me fro yowling women."  And then, with a jesture of disgust, he rose to his feet, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and walked off towards the shop.

    But this did not suit Judy's purpose at all; the matter in her mind was too serious to admit of delay, and so she cried in fear and alarm: "Jabe, dunna, dunna goo.  Aw've summat to tell thi."

    Jabe, standing with the clog-shop door half open in his hand, demanded in his surliest tones, "Well, wot is it?"

    And Judy, dropping into a tone of dark mystery, cried, "Aw conna tell thi theer; shut th' dur an' cum here."

    Jabe let the door slip from his hand, and taking a step nearer, but still standing at a non-committal distance, he jerked out, "Well?"

    But now Judy's feelings suddenly overcame her, and she dropped her head on the arm that was leaning on the fireplace and began to sob.  Jabe glared at his sister in angry disgust, and after a muttered imprecation on all women he demanded in louder tones, "Wot is it, woman? aat wi' it."

    Judy only sobbed the louder, and presently groaned out, "This is a weary wold."

    "Confaand th' wold!  Aat wi' it, woman."

    After a moment or two of uneasy silence, the weeping woman turned her pathetic and tear-stained face to the clogger and stammered out, "Jabe, aar Tummas 'as brokken"; and then she fell back into a chair and began to cry afresh.

    Jabe's face suddenly straightened into excessive gravity; he lifted his hand nervously to feel for his coat collar, but as he had no such garment on at the moment, it dropped helplessly to his side again, and his loose, short leg began to move uneasily.

    "An' sarve him reet!" he cried presently, in a voice too full of wrath and scorn to be loud.  "Didn't Aw allis tell thi it 'ud cum to that?"

    Judy heaved a most appealing sigh, and groping in her pocket produced a letter which she held out to the clogger, crying as she did so in pleading tones, "Bud tha'll help 'em, Jabe lad, wiltna?"

    "Help 'em!"  Snatching the letter from his sister, the clogger threw it as far as he could across the room, and said bitterly, "Aw'll see 'em i' th' bastile (workhouse) fost!"

    "Bud there's aar Annie an' th' chilt; tha'll tak' pity upa them, sureli."

    "Help her!  Ay! Aw'll help her, Aw will that!  Hoo's made her bed, an' hoo mun lie on it."

    "Hoo nobbut wants uz to tak' th' chilt tin they getten streight ageean," persisted Judy.

    "Nobbut th' chilt!" mocked the slogger indignantly.  "Oh, neaw! nobbut th' chilt, th' thin end o' th' wedge!  Fost chilt an' then th' muther, an' then th' baancing blash-boggert ov a husband!  Not me, Judy! not me!"  He shook his head in knowing but resolute refusal.

    "Ther wur noabry loike aar Annie wi' thee, Jabe, wunce."

    "Naa then! noan o' that!  Aw whop Aw'st neer see ony on 'em ageean."  And he limped uneasily across the floor to the window, for Judy's last remark had evidently probed an old wound.

    "Nor even up aboon," murmured Judy; and she winced in anticipation of the explosion that she expected would follow.

    Jabe stood staring hard through the window to get his face under control, and at last he said:

    "Judy!  Aw tewk cur o' that wench loike a feyther; Aw'd 'a' made a lady on her if hoo'd 'a' let me.  Aw warnt her ageean yond' wastril toime an' toime ageean.  An' hoo desaved me an' cawd me everything hoo could lay her tongue tew, and then hoo left me an' went off wi' him.  Hoo's made her bed, Aw tell thi, an' hoo'st lie on it fur me."

    Then Judy rose to her feet and stepped towards the clog-shop door, for all the familiars used that mode of entrance to the parlour, the front door being only available on Sundays.  When she reached the door and was just passing out, she turned round and with solemn dignity said:

    "Jabez! aar Annie sarved me ten toimes wur nur hoo sarved thee: an' Awm nor a classleader nor a steward nor a superintender; Aw'm nobbut a poor, sinful woman.  Bud Aw'st need forgivin' sum day, an' Aw've furgeen aar Annie upo' my knees this varry morning.  Thaa con pleease thisel'; bur Aw'st send fur yond' chilt this varry day."

    And with a sort of I've-cleared-my-conscience cough Judy drew the door to and disappeared.

    As the reader will have already guessed, the conversation just reported had reference to an early episode in the family history of the Longworths.  About twenty years before the time of which we write Jabe and Judy had been proud in the possession of a bright and clever younger sister.  At Jabe's expense she had received education much beyond what was possible to those of their class.  She had worked all those wonderful "samplers" which, framed in heavy rosewood, were still the chief ornaments of Judy's little cottage, and knew more wonderful and complicated stitches than any woman for miles around.  She was the chief treble singer in the choir, and the only person who could be trusted to bake the tea-party "bun loaf."  Her brother was inordinately proud of her, and came as near to compromising his already pronounced opinions on the woman question in her favour as he ever did in his life.  It was even rumoured in Beckside at one time that the minister, who was young for a "super," and a childless widower, was "makkin' up to her," and it was whilst the expectation of the news of this engagement was keenest in everybody's mind that there came to the village that frivolous and "impident cock-sparrow," the travelling draper's assistant from Duxbury.

    This young man was from Cumberland, and had been engaged to assist "owd Dyson," who for many years had come twice a week to Beckside and the surrounding villages retailing drapery, but who now was unequal to the journeys himself.  Jabe took a dislike to the young fellow from the first, and missed no opportunity of taking him down.  Aunt Judy went to the length of withdrawing her custom from him, and even did some little to influence Mrs. Ben Barber in the same direction.  When therefore, it was suddenly discovered that young Dent was making love to Annie, and that she was encouraging him, Jabe's wrath knew no bounds.  He stormed, he walked up and down the parlour calling the young draper all the opprobrious names he could think of, and threatening that if he saw him speaking to Annie again he would "bansil his hide fur him."  Then in his disgust he fell to mimicking a peculiar manner the young man had of carrying his left shoulder.  He satirised his unusual height and extreme thinness, and went through a savagely grotesque imitation of the way he dealt with his customers, until poor Annie was provoked into taking the young fellow's part and defying her relatives.

    Then it was discovered that young Dent was not a member of Society, was not even a Methodist, and, in truth, made light of religion altogether.  This last fact cooled Jabe somewhat, and he felt so absolutely sure his sister would not think seriously of marrying an utterly worldly man and a stranger, that he was inclined to think there was no need to be alarmed.  One morning, however, Aunt Judy came to the clog-shop with a fearful and alarmed look on her face.  Annie had just told her that she was going to be married almost immediately.  Once more Jabe lost control of himself; he limped off down to Judy's house, and burst in upon his frightened sister with most terrible denunciations.  After recovering herself a little, she replied in kind, and in the end the clogger had pronounced his final fiat:

    "Goa! thaa impident madam!  Goa thi ways!  Bud moind thi, th' day az tha drops th' Lung'orth name tha drops th' Lung'orth blood.  Moind that naa."

    And Annie had gone; not indeed immediately, for she spent several days more in her old home with Judy.  When at last she departed, and word came that she was married, Judy discovered that Annie had spent most of her time since Jabe's final pronouncement in rummaging the drawers and boxes of the house and appropriating everything movable that she could lay her hands on.  Nay, more: in one of the upstairs drawers the two of them had put their little savings together in an old purse; but Judy found that the purse was gone.

    Since that sad parting Jabe and his sister had scarcely heard of Annie, and when they did, it was some inflated piece of intelligence setting forth how wonderfully they were getting on, and in what fine style they were living.  The Dents had, however, led a wandering life, and Judy, who was generally the first to get the news, had heard of their living in this and then in that provincial town; but, finally, they had gone to London, and knowing how much this fact would impress the minds of the Becksiders, Annie had written a letter to Judy describing the grand style in which they were living and carefully detailing all the little attractions of their only child, who was about six years of age.  Since that time next to nothing had been heard of them, and Judy had long ago concluded that they had got too big to think of their poor relatives.

    In justice to both Judy and her irascible brother it is only fair to say that in their hearts they had been more than willing for years to come to a reconciliation; but the others gave no sign of relenting, and what messages had been received were so flippant in tone that the two had concluded that the Londoners were still obdurate.

    All at once this had come.  Annie had sent a most touching and pathetic letter, telling of their misfortune, and begging in words of penitent humility that the disgrace might be kept from the child, and that for a time her auntie would take her in.  Twice during that day Judy returned to the clog-shop to plead with her brother, but he remained cruelly obdurate; and so at last, heedless of what he might either say or do, she had got Mrs. Johnty Harrop to write a letter bidding her relatives send the child at once.


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CHAPTER II.

THE COMING OF DOXIE.


AUNT JUDY held an important position in Beckside; she was the self-appointed and unpaid village nurse.  In fact, a salaried nurse was unheard of amongst the villagers; when any one was seriously ill and needed attention, such service was usually rendered by the relatives and neighbours, with the assistance and under the superintendence of Jabe's big sister.  She lived in the old cottage, where all the present generation of that family had been born, and which had been left to her by her father.  She had a small annuity bequeathed to her by her husband, and this, together with a subsidy paid to her by the clogger in return for her services as non-resident housekeeper, enabled her to live in modest comfort.  She had her brother's love of authority, and this, with certain skill in the making of herb drink and other simple medicines, and her own big, tender heart, had gradually led her to adopt nursing as her sphere in life.  But her "professional" duties, of course, greatly interfered with her domestic arrangements, and she was so uncertain in her habits, and so often away from home, that she could never entertain visitors for any length of time.  When, therefore, friends did come to stay with her, it generally happened that the duty of entertaining them fell quite as much upon the clogger as upon Judy herself, and they usually ended by settling down at the clog-shop as in every sense the more attractive place.  But though all the world might come and welcome to the clog-shop fire, Jabe had decided views as to who should occupy the parlour and sit down to table with him; and as Judy was never certain at what hour she might be summoned to attend to some one, it was always necessary to get the clogger's consent before she could invite anybody to stay with her for a lengthened period.

    This, therefore, whilst it explains the object of Judy's interview with her brother, will enable the reader to enter into Jabe's feelings as he sat at his bench that morning.  The news about Annie was sufficient of itself to send him off into a long fit of abstraction, for he had dearly loved her, and did so still, in spite of the scorn with which he always received any reference to her.  But this additional item of the coming of Annie's daughter was a serious complication of the situation and worried him exceedingly.  Judy, as we have already intimated, visited him twice that day, but found him increasingly raspy and abusive, and to all his other friends he was taciturn and uncommunicative.

    As Judy went home from her second attack upon her obdurate brother, she met Sam Speck coming up the "broo," and immediately communicated to him the news.  Sam received the intelligence with interest, and with something more than resignation.  He had now a partner in distress.  The "wench" whom Judy was inviting was as near as she could reckon about fifteen years of age, and would prove in Sam's way of reckoning a sufficient "handful" for the clogger.  For years Jabe had chaffed and "bullyragged" him about his cowardly subjection to feminine tyranny, and had chuckled triumphantly about the freedom of the clog-shop from such exasperating and humiliating torments.  Anything and everything that wore a petticoat was an irritation to Jabe, and provoked his sarcasm or his abuse.  What would he do now?  And a wench of that age was such an uncertain quantity; you never knew whether to treat her as a woman or as a child.  Jabe would be in a "hotterin mafflement," that was certain.  Well, at any rate he would have more sympathy with him now, and that was something.  Meditating thus, Sam lounged into the clog-shop.
 

Sam lounged into the clog shop.

    He cast a quick glance at the clogger as he passed to the fireplace, and noted with satisfaction that his aspect was distinctly thundery.  He bent over the fire for a light, and his face had a smirk of satisfaction upon it.

    "Yore Judy's in a foine flutterment yond'."

    And Jabe lifted his head and glanced out of the window with a significant sniff, but never spoke.

    "Yore Annie's wench 'ull be a woman bi this welly."

    But the slogger went doggedly on with his work.

    Sam shifted his position, stretched his legs out on the old clog-bench near him, transferred his pipe to the other hand, and then resumed, "Wenches o' that age is awkerd to dew wi'."

    Jabe took another long look through the window, but did not reply; and so Sam changed his tune and said, with a demonstrative sigh, "Hay dear! ther's nowt bud bother wheer wimin is."

    Jabe lifted his head, and, taking another look through the window, answered with a slight sneer, "Ay, when them az hez 'em's wimin tew."

    "Ivverybody con deeal wi' th' divil bud them az hez him," responded Sam; "bud we shouldna whistle afoor we're aat o' th' wood."

    "Wot wood?  Wot's th' lumpyed talkie' abaat?" Jabe turned half round, and looked at his friend with a glance in which affected surprise and lofty disdain were curiously blended.

    But Sam had just got another idea.  Jabe was evidently vulnerable on this point; he had often bullied him on this question before all their friends, and had held him up again and again to scorn.  Now it was his turn, and he would make the most of it.  Yes, he would have Jabe "upo' th' stick" that very night, and would reserve and prepare himself for that occasion.  And so, when evening came, and the regular frequenters of the clog-shop had got to their places and were filling the shop with smoke, Sam, who had carefully chosen his place, and was almost invisible far into the Ingle-nook, waited for a pause in the conversation, and at length said, looking across at Long Ben the carpenter, "This is a wold o' changes, lad."  Then he winked a wink that puckered the whole of one side of his face, whilst with the other eye he glanced significantly at Jabe.

    Ben, who had not yet found his cue, sighed sympathetically with a half-expectant "Ay."

    "An' cappin' changes tew," persisted Sam and he nodded his head sagaciously.  "They arr that—mooast on 'em!"

    Sam drew a few long, reflective pulls from his pipe, and then, leaning forward and putting as much serious sympathy into his voice as he could command at the moment, he said, "There's a change coming to th' clug-shop."

    Jabe, who was standing at the counter and cutting out clog-tops, here began to give some directions to his apprentice in a loud, hurried tone.

    "I' th' clug-shop!  Wot soort o' changes?" asked Ben, as soon as the clogger paused.

    "A wench!"

    "A sarvent lass, dust mean?"

    "A sarvent lass!" cried Sam, in high disdain.  "A missis, mooar loike; a high stepper—a Lundun wench wi' frills an' flaances an' stroiped stockin's an'foine cockney talk!"

    An illuminating grin passed over Ben's countenance, and his eyes twinkled with fun.  He had already heard the news from Judy, and now fully comprehended what Sam was after.  He sat musing for a moment, then stole a sly glance at the silent clogger; at last, heaving a sigh of prodigious length, as an expression of profoundest sympathy with his unfortunate friend, he said:

    "Them Lundun wenches is ter'ble forrat."

    "Ay," sighed Sam, with exaggerated impressiveness; "theyn tongues loike razzors."

    "An' they don thersel's up loike pace-eggers."

    "An' they conna eight wot we eightn."  This from Lige, the ex-road-mender.
 

"Wot sort o' changes?" asked Ben.

    For ten minutes more the confederates went on with their comments, but the clogger was not to be drawn.  He kept his lips tightly closed, and gleams of wrath shot every now and again from under his shaggy eyebrows; but never a word would he speak, and Sam went home very disappointed with the result of his attack.  Nevertheless Jabe was a long time in getting to sleep that night, and next morning as Judy was leaving him after discharging her duties he called her back.

    "Si thi," he cried, fiercely shaking his fist at her, "if thaa brings ony missnancified powsement of a wench here, Aw'll—Aw'll chuck her i' th' beck, an' thee efther her; soa moind that naa."

    A week later it was known in Beckside that Judy's sister's daughter was coming, and would, in fact, arrive next day; and though the story of the failure of Annie's husband was a sufficiently interesting topic of conversation, it was almost forgotten in the curiosity shown to see a real London "wench."

    Jabe, however, manifested complete indifference on the subject, and even went so far as to pretend not to know when the visitor was coming.  All the same, as the time of arrival drew near he grew most unusually fidgety.

    Sam and Lige strolled in during the afternoon with the object of having a good view of the coming wonder, from the safe vantage-point of the clog-shop window and also, it must be admitted, of enjoying the meeting between Judy's guest and the clogger.  Jabe began to be very restless; twice he sat down to his work near the window, and each time relinquished it in a pet and resumed his place by the fire.  Then he began to tidy up the little counter, humming fitfully an old tune; but upon Sam making a remark which showed that he thought his friend was making ready for the new-comer, he suddenly abandoned his task and went and sat down again in the chimney nook.  Next he tried to start conversation on two or three utterly uninteresting topics, and when he could got no satisfactory response, and noticed that Sam grinned every now and again in a most suspicious but wholly unexplainable way, he called that worthy a "gibbering numyed" and resumed his work once more.  Just then the coach was heard coming clattering down the "broo," and a moment later it had stopped in the triangle opposite the shop.  Sam and Lige immediately hastened to the outside of the counter, and with heads close together stood watching for the first glimpse of the new arrival.

    "Si thi, Jabe! theer hoo is!  Hay, by gum! si thi, mon, si thi!  Hoo's a switcher."

    But Jabe would not even lift his head.

    As the passengers alighted, they turned and looked towards the cloggery, evidently expecting its owner to appear; then Aunt Judy climbed slowly down the coach steps, and turned in the same direction, whilst a tall, fair girl who followed her moved her head half round and glanced shyly about.  The coach drove away, and Judy, after another pensive look towards her brother's residence, taking hold of one end of a big box, and motioning Nathan the smith, who was a passenger, to take the other, moved off towards her own home.

    For the next half-hour or so Sam and Lige held forth on the attractions of the girl who had just arrived, making as often as they dare oblique references as to what they would have done if they had had so attractive a relative.  But the clogger neither moved nor spoke, and only gave indication of feeling by smiting away most unmercifully at an obdurate piece of leather.  It was Sam's tea-time, and as he was in disgrace at home, he had need to be punctual, and so began to make off.  As he reached the door he turned aside and took another peep through the window, and very hastily drew back.

    "By gum, Jabe, they here! they here!"  And he hopped hurriedly back to the fireplace, for, tea or no tea, he must see this out.

    Jabe's face twitched rapidly, and he began once more to belabour the leather.  The door opened, and in walked Judy, a little out of breath and visibly nervous, followed by the girl.

    "This is hur, Jabe," she said, gently pushing the girl before her into the shop.  The clogger went on banging at his leather as if he had never heard.

    "Jabe!  Jabe! this is hur."  But the clogger took not the slightest notice, and Sam and Lige held their breath as they watched the scene from the shadow of the Ingle-nook.

    The visitor took the matter into her own hands.  She stepped round the end of the counter, avoided with a graceful little motion that quite won Sam's heart the heap of clog-tops on the floor, and coming close up to her sphinx-like uncle held up her face and turned to the clogger two pretty pink lips to be kissed.

    Sam was nearly bursting with excitement to see the crabby old clogger who scoffed at all "sawftness" and hated anything in petticoats kissing a pretty girl was the sight of a lifetime, and he silently hugged himself to keep down his feelings.

    For the first time Jabe seemed to become conscious of the presence of his niece.  He gave a guilty little start, glanced in something very like terror at the sweet face so confidingly turned up to his, turned his head away, hesitated, and went a shade paler, and then, hastily drawing the back of his hand over his mouth, he bent over meekly, received the proffered salute, and hastily wiping his mouth again, went on with his work; whilst Sam and his chum breaking into broad grins, stared amazedly at each other, and dropped into their seats, fairly overcome.

    A moment later their attention was once more attracted by what was going on in the shop.  Judy, to break the ice, had commence to give her brother some details of their niece's journey, when suddenly a clear, girlish voice broke in: "And oh! Uncle Jybus, there was a fat man with three dogs all tied to strings."  Off the girl plunged into a long and excited description of a funny incident she had met with on her journey.  She opened her great gray eyes and spread out her hands to aid her in depicting the scene; then she showed a row of faultless white teeth, and rippled out merry little laughs as she outlined the fat man's grotesque appearance; next she spread out her skirts in a most bewitching manner to give some idea of the proportions of her corpulent subject; and when at last, out of breath and excited, she described the final catastrophe of the fat man measuring his full length on the platform of the station, whilst his dogs yelped and howled and tugged at their strings and got more and more entangled, her pale face was red with merry blushes, and her long eyelashes wet with tears of laughter.

    Sam and Lige listened like men enchanted the pretty grace of her movements, her fine-sounding cockney accent, her perfect naturalness, and the abandon of her acting were all so new and delightful to them that when she finished her story they burst into a long, loud laugh.

    Jabe mumbled something about "numyeds," but turned away his face to conceal a relishful smirk, and then, putting on a look of terrible sternness, he looked at his niece with his fiercest glance, and demanded, "Wot's thi name?"

    "My name's Charlotte; but father calls me Doxie, Uncle Jybus."

    "Doxie?  Wot the hangment mak' of a name's that?"

    "Oh! I like it, and so does mother!  Don't you, Uncle Jybus?"

    But Jabe turned away to his work with an incomprehensible grunt, and Sam and Lige suddenly remembered tea.

    When they had got outside, however, Sam turned to the still grinning Lige, and said impressively, as he punctuated every word with his forefinger on the ex-road-mender's breast: "Liger, owd Jabe's pipe's put aat!  It's petticut guverment at th' clug-shop fro naa—that's wot it is!"

    And Lige drew his brows together, and staring from under them into vacancy, he nodded his head with looks of sagacious comprehension, and departed.


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CHAPTER III.

THE CAPITULATION OF JABE.


ON the night of Doxie's arrival in Beckside Jabe held out more fiercely than ever on his favourite topic.  His niece's coming provided him with an excellent opportunity, and he made the most of it.

    "Women!" he cried indignantly: "ther born contrairy.  Wotivver yo' tell 'em ta dew, they goo an' dew collywest."

    This, of course, had reference to Judy's obstinate persistence in receiving the girl in spite of his repeated protests.

    "Ay! it's a bit awkert fur thee," said Sam, in affected sympathy.

    "Me?  Hoo'll ha' nowt ta dew wi' me, Aw'll tak' cur o' that!  Aw'll show her."  And he threw back his head in indignant defiance of Doxie in particular and all other women in general.

    "Hoo's noice sooart o' ways wi' her, tew," said Lige, after a slight pause.

    "Ways!  Aw'll give her ways!  Hoo'll come nooan of her connifogeling dodges wi' me, Aw'll tell thi.  Yo' sawftyeds hez aw bin collogued wi' women's ways; but Aw'll show yo'!"

    Poor Jabe! he kept up this show of defiance all night, and even condescended to mimic the new-comer's manner for the entertainment of his associates; and if this boisterous language was meant to cover a masterly retreat, it was neither too soon nor too violent, for in a short time he found himself in a parlous condition indeed.

    For the next two days he saw little of his niece, but on the third morning, when he went into the shop after breakfast, he found her perched on a stool, and telling the apprentices a story which, with the novel attractiveness of the teller, was so absorbing that they did not notice the entrance of their dread master, and had to be roused out of their enchantment by the sudden blast of his wrath.  Jabe had two apprentices at this period, for Isaac was nearly out of his time, and his successor had just been installed.  But from that hour they led him a weary life.  It was easy for him to assume his old ascendency when they were alone, but the moment Doxie appeared they had eyes and ears for nothing else, and government, except in so far as it is represented by abusive language, may be said to have ceased to exist in the clog-shop.  Then Doxie took to talking to Sam Speck, and telling him secrets; and Sam was henceforth to be found at the shop at any and every hour when there was the least chance of the "Lundun wench" being around.

    One day, about a week after her arrival, Doxie came to the cloggery as usual and announced to her uncle that she was going to stay to tea with him.  And though this was the first time she had really made any overture of a particular kind to him, and the moment therefore when he could put his foot down once for all, the clogger simply muttered a sort of surly grunt to himself, heaved a little sigh, and tamely went on with his work.  Presently Doxie adjourned to the parlour to prepare the coming meal, and Jabe could hear her rattling the pots and singing as though in triumph over her first victory.  Then she called him to tea, and before he could sit down she delivered him a little lecture upon the way in which, as she could see from the teapot, his tea had been usually brewed, and carefully instructed him in the latest London style of doing it; and Jabe listened, or pretended to do so, meekly replying, "Ay."

    Just as he was drawing his chair up to the table, the girl stopped him, and, with a prettily affected sternness, demanded to know whether Beckside gentlemen usually took tea in their shirt sleeves and without washing; and Jabe, the valiant, unconquerable Jabe, champion of freedom and defender of north country ways, muttered something about forgetting, and limped humbly off into the scullery to wash, calling at the parlour door on his way back to put on his coat.
 

Before he could sit down she delivered him a little lecture.

    Throughout the meal Doxie rattled and talked to her taciturn uncle in the gayest manner, and he, furtively watching her every movement from under his thick eyebrows, made no response except an occasional inexplicable grunt.  He was not giving in, he told himself; no, he was not to be bamboozled; but all the same the tea lasted twice as long as when he was alone, and even when it was over he lingered to light his pipe, dropping into a chair for a moment to hear her finish a characteristically graphic description of going out to tea in London with her mother.

    Doxie was certainly very unlike an ordinary Lancashire girl.  Her features were fairly regular, and her complexion almost colourless, and there was nothing remarkable about her face when it was at rest; but it rarely was at rest.  When she spoke, every word was accompanied by corresponding changes of expression, which, though slight in themselves, gave charm and piquancy to her face; even when she was only listening to you, the quick-changing light in her great gray eyes, the rising and lowering of her finely pencilled eyebrows, and the constant play of varied expression around her large but mobile mouth were so attractive, that as you watched her you were in danger of forgetting what you were saying.  When she became animated, as she did upon the slightest occasion, her feelings expressed themselves through every limb; and, as all her motions had a strange, subtle grace, she was then an enchanting thing to look at.  Doxie's hair was of a dull, commonplace brown, but so abundant that no ordinary chenille net, such as was worn by girls at that time, would hold it, and it hung in thick clusters down her back.  Tall for her age, her many-flounced dress-skirt was, according to Beckside fashion, disgracefully short, and her long, striped stockings, though in the height of fashion in London at that period, shocked the susceptibilities of Aunt Judy and her lady friends.

    The night of the tea Jabe held forth at the clog-shop fire on the weakmindedness of parents towards their children, especially those who had only one child.  From that he passed on to the frivolous vanity of townsfolk in the matter of dress.  Then he came by easy process to the wiles and weaknesses of women, finishing with a terrible tirade against Aunt Judy for introducing into Beckside such a fearful example of "proide an' peertniss" as this newly arrived niece.  But Sam Speck took particular note that, except for the last sentence, Jabe did not directly denounce the new-comer.

    Thenceforward Doxie came more and more to the clog-shop, until, by the end of another week, she had established herself there altogether, except that she went home early in the evening and always slept at her aunt's.  And now Jabe's troubles began in earnest.  Early and late the shop was the scene of most disgraceful "carryings on."  Sam Speck came to the Ingle-nook every morning as soon as Doxie arrived, and could not be driven away; whilst the quiet of the place was broken every few minutes by his irritating laughter at some word or deed from the "wench."  The most provoking part was that, whenever he was recovering from one of the outbursts, he was sure to turn round and glance most significantly at the clogger, to see how he was taking it.  As to the apprentices, Jabe was simply at his wits' end.  If Doxie was near them, they could not be kept at work in the daytime, and it was equally difficult to get them away when "knocking off" time came at night.  At her slightest wish they would jump up from their seats, getting into each other's way in their haste to serve her, and neither their master's strong language nor his even more terrible glare had any effect.  Jabe hated cats almost more than he hated women, but one day Doxie appeared at the clog-shop with two kittens in her arms which she had begged from a boy who was going to drown them.  A burst of wrath escaped the clogger as he saw what was being brought to him; but when she came round the corner and opened her arms to show him her treasures, asking him whether they were not dear little things, Jabe glanced helplessly at the pussies, gave a dismal groan, and turned away to resume his work.  The sputtering, smothered laugh which came at that moment from the Ingle-nook where Sam and Lige were smoking was unbearably tantalising; but if those two unsympathetic merry-makers had seen the poor clogger standing helplessly upon his bedroom floor in the dead of night, with one loudly mewing little wretch in his hand and the other clinging nervously to his shirt tail and lifting up its voice on high, they would have had cause for jubilation.
 

Jabe gave the fiddle a hasty kick.

    A day or two later as Jabe was just finishing for the third time a rasping assurance to the new apprentice that he would "ne'er mak' a clugger wo'll tha'll wik," a sudden sharp cry, followed by a loud bang and a boom, was heard coming from the parlour, and the old man jumped to his feet crying, "Lord, a massy! wot's that?"  Then he limped hastily across the shop floor, and burst into the parlour to behold Doxie rising hastily to her feet with a great bump on her forehead, whilst Jabe's cherished and incomparable bass-viol lay in pieces at her feet.

    "O uncle!  I'm sorry!  I am sorry!"

    But Jabe gave the fiddle a hasty kick with his foot, and seizing the trembling girl by the arm he dragged her to the window.  "Maw wench! maw wench!" he cried, in great distress; and then, as Doxie suddenly turned pale and was about to fall, he caught her tenderly in his arms and cried with face all a-work to his apprentices, "Fetch Judy! fetch th' doctor!  Hoo's deein'!  Oh! hoo's deein'."

    But Doxie recovered herself and stopped the frightened lads, declaring she was all right; and then she tried to laugh and got away from her uncle, and, dropping into a chair, drew a long breath.

    "O uncle! heaw bad of me!  You cannot forgive me neaw, can you?  I shall never, never forgive myself."

    For answer, Jabe got up and, giving another vicious kick at the fiddle, went off into the pantry to fetch some goose-grease for the girl's bruised forehead.  Putting a little of it on the end of a not too clean finger, and placing one arm round her neck, with infinite gentleness he anointed the throbbing wound.

    "Oh, that is nice!" she gasped; and then, throwing her soft arms round the clogger's neck, and pressing her face against his, she burst into a long, relief-ful sob.

    Jabe bore this "cuddlin"' with remarkable fortitude, and to judge by his looks would have endured more; but presently his niece let him go, and once more began to express her contrition.  But he noisily broke in upon her confessions, picked up the broken viol, tossed it upon the long-settle, and then commenced to lecture her.  He began cautiously enough, for this was confessedly a type of character with which he was not familiar.  Soon, however, he discovered that his niece, so far from being unduly alarmed, was rather enjoying his tirade; and now, sure of his ground, he launched out in his own inimitable style.  The recklessness of young people in the presence of danger, the fearful consequences that might have ensued from the accident, the risk of permanent disfigurement she had run, the wisdom of taking heed to her elders, were all descanted upon with due length and seriousness, the whole discourse being finished off with a few pungent sentences on the folly and wilfulness of all women, especially of young ones.

    Doxie listened to the deliverance with ever increasing delight.  She had not before heard her uncle "read off," as Sam would have said.  Her eyes, out of which the tears of penitence had scarcely departed, shone with eager fun; her nods followed the clogger's points as though she were supplying the emphasis; and when at last he concluded, she burst out into a long, delighted laugh.  From that moment Jabe was unmuzzled.  Hitherto some ideas of old-fashioned hospitality had restrained him; but the accident of the bass-viol at least had this good about it, that it assured him he was free to talk as he pleased, so far as his niece was concerned.

    His views about her sex greatly amused Doxie, and when she discovered that he had opposed her coming and regarded her presence as a trial from which he hoped speedily to be delivered, she laughed more than ever; and whenever she was in danger of getting dull, though to give the girl her due that was not often, she would go into the shop, and, sitting cross-legged on a stool by the side of Sam or Lige, would make a remark which she knew beforehand would set her uncle off, and then sit and hug herself, laughing with keenest delight.

    In a few days Doxie was the most popular person in Beckside.  Her striking appearance and dress, her high spirits and frank, open manners, her remarkable gift of mimicry, and a certain indefinable daintiness of person, made her exceedingly attractive to the simple villagers, and every day Jabe was treated to numerous compliments about "yore Annie's wench."  To all these the clogger replied with loud scoffs and ironical sneers.

    "Yo' en ta live wi folk ta know 'em," he would cry; and then with a significant sniff he would add, "An' then yo' dunna know 'em —if the'r women."

    Now and again Doxie would overhear these choice sentiments; but she only laughed the more merrily, and prophesied that her uncle would end by marrying a widow.  "Mother says such people alwiys do."

    One morning, however, she came to the shop with a cloud on her face.  "O uncle, isn't it a shaime?" she cried, as soon as she caught sight of him.

    "Wot's up naa?" he growled, in his surliest tones.

    "I've to go home the daiy after to-morrow isn't it dreadful?"

    "Thank the Lord fur that burst out Jabe.  Wee'st ha' peace an' quiteniss once mooar."

    This brought the light back into Doxie's eyes, and as the fun gleamed through a little tear she said coaxingly, "But ain't you sorry a little bit, uncle, just a little, neaw?"

    "Sorry!  Aw am that!  As sorry as a felley az gets aat o' Bedlam."

    "But you'll miss me when I'm gone, won't you, uncle?"

    "Miss yo'!  Aw shall that!  Loike Billy Twitters said to th' bums when he paid 'em aat."

    This kind of raillery went on the whole day, and at night Jabe, with an exaggerated air of joyousness, boasted over the shop fire of his coming deliverance; and though thereby he was confessing to having suffered more than he would have previously admitted, yet, regardless of consistency and everything else, he did his best to convince his friends that he was unfeignedly glad of his approaching escape from petticoat persecution.  His recent experience seemed to have aggravated unnecessarily his dislike for the opposite sex, and before the evening was over he had out-heroded Herod in his denunciations of their ways.

    Next morning, when Doxie came as usual, he was worse than ever.  "Only one day more!  Oh, what a blessin'!"  Doxie seemed inclined to cry, and could not manage even a smile.  Jabe seemed encouraged by these signs, and surpassed himself in highly coloured descriptions of the peace and comfort he was so eagerly anticipating.  But had his niece been less preoccupied with her own regrets, she might have noticed how keenly he was watching her from under his shaggy brows.

    Doxie spent the greater part of the day in making farewell calls, but just before tea-time she came back to her uncle's looking sad and tired, and quietly commenced to make the tea.  Jabe drew up to the table with a sly leer on his face, and in a moment or two gave vent to a dry chuckle.

    "Oh, you nawsty, wicked, hard-hearted man, you!  When I do go I'll never, never come back, so there!"  But in spite of herself there was a gleam of fun behind her sorrowful looks, and the clogger chuckled again.

    "Ain't you a little bit sorry, uncle—just a little bit?"

    And the clogger gave his head a series of very emphatic shakes, and cried, "Not me!  Not me!"

    "What did you maike me love you for then?"  And Doxie's mouth began to droop at the corners.

    Jabe gave another loud, rough laugh; but if his niece had been more observant, she might have noted that it was a mirthless exercise.  For a moment there was a pause; Doxie looked steadily and musingly at her uncle, and then, as the tears came in spite of her, she dropped her head upon her arms and said, as she began to cry quietly, "I didn't know you liked the fiddle so much, uncle."

    Jabe was surprised; a gleam as of sudden enlightenment shot into his eyes.  "Fiddle!" he cried, with the utmost contempt; "wot's th fiddle getten to dew wi' it?"

    "I'm sure it's the fiddle," sobbed Doxie.

    "Confaand th' fiddle!"  And Jabe looked really angry for a moment.

    But just then Aunt Judy came in, and seeing her favourite in tears, and being at that moment wrought up to a high point of emotion at the prospect of parting with the girl who had so entwined herself around her heart, she drew herself up, fixed a stern eye upon her brother, and for full five minutes poured out a long-accumulated flood of indignant reproach upon him.  Jabe listened to his sister's tirade with a face of exasperating blandness.  "Mon!" she cried, "tha'rt nowt! that's wot thaa art! tha'rt nowt!"

    Jabe threw his expressive leg over the other and laughed.

    "Hert! tha's noa hert! thaa river hed!  Thaa wur born baat, it's my belief."

    Again the clogger laughed.

    "Tha's lived bi thisel', an' tha'll dee bi thisel', an' not a sowl i' th' wold ull cur fur thi."

    "Yes they will, uncle; I will, I will!"  And Doxie, flinging her arms around him, chair back and all, dropped her pretty head on his bosom and sobbed as though her heart would break.

    Jabe sat imprisoned in his chair, and looking like a man undergoing a painful operation, whilst his little red eyes shone with a strange moisture; yet never a word did he speak.  Judy looked down on the pair with wondering perplexity.  Presently she drew Doxie away, and bade her prepare to pack her box for going.  Left to himself, the clogger seemed unusually restless.  He tried to smoke, but the pipe went out as often as he lighted it.  Then he stood up and took a long, meditative look out of the window; and finally, feeling more and more uncomfortable, he sauntered into the shop.  Yet when his friends assembled they found him moody and unsociable, and when Sam, by way of feeler, expressed regret at the approaching departure of Doxie, the clogger exploded into one of his most violent outbursts, and altogether made himself so disagreeable that his companions were fain to let him alone in silence.  But this displeased him more than ever, and turning his attention to the hapless apprentices he gave them a most uncomfortable time of it.

    Next morning Jabe was astir earlier than usual, and seemed more irritable even than on the previous evening.  Judy was so busy getting her niece ready for departure, that she could not come to the shop, and so he was left to prepare his breakfast for himself.  Twice he went into the parlour to do so, but on each occasion he fell into a brown study, and finally wandered back into the shop.

    Presently word came from the cottage that the box was ready and somebody must go to fetch it.  Sam and Isaac started at once, and in a few minutes came back with the package.  A little later Aunt Judy and Doxie, both seeming very miserable, arrived to wait for the coach; and Jabe, carefully avoiding his niece's eye, sat down to his work, trying to look as though nothing unusual was happening.  Then the coach was heard coming up the brow, and Doxie turned and gazed distressfully at her uncle; but he would not see her.  The conveyance stopped opposite the shop, and Sam and Isaac came forward to carry out the box.

    "Wheer 't gooin' wi' that box?"
 

"Wheer t' gooin' wi' that box?"

    It was Jabe who was speaking; he had risen to his feet, and stood glaring at Sam as though he had caught him in the act of stealing it.

    "Aw'm takkin' it to th' cooach fur shure."

    "Clap it daan."

    "Bud t' cooach is here."

    "Clap it daan, Aw tell thi."

    "Bud th' wench conna goo baat hur box."

    "Th' wench is no gooin'."

    "No gooin'?"

    "Neaw, nur th' box nother."

                       *                              *                              *                              *

    "Naa then! arr yo' gooin' t' be theer aw day?" shouted Billy from the coach box.

    "Ay, an' aw neet tew," bawled Jabe in reply.

    "Jabez, art maddlet?  Let th' wench goo!" cried Judy, in sore amazement.

    "Judy," replied the clogger, turning to his sister and speaking in slow, deliberate tones, "that wench is wheer hoo's stoppin'; hoo coom ta pleease thee, an' hoo'll stop ta pleease me."  Then as Doxie flung her arms about his neck, the rugged old clogger drew her gently to his side, and looking round defiantly at the astonished company he cried, with a quaver in his voice, "Aw've fun wun bit a gradely womanhood i' th' wold, an' Aw'm goin' t' stick tew it—bless her!"


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IV.

AN IRRESISTIBLE AMBASSADRESS.


WHILST the events recorded in the last chapter were taking place at the clog-shop, a woman was seated before a small fire in the dingy back room of a London lodging-house.  She was respectably dressed, and had a comfortable, cared for air about her; but her face showed unmistakable signs of recent and severe suffering.  She had turned her back to the table, on which were the remains of a spare breakfast, and was sitting looking sadly and dreamily into the fire.  She held in her hand a letter, and glanced absently at it every now and again.  The woman was Doxie's mother, and the letter was the one informing her why her daughter had not started for home that day.  She held it loosely between her fingers, and turned it over with mingled feelings.

    When her husband had first communicated to her the condition of their affairs he had, of course, made the best of it, and had suggested that if they could manage to get Doxie out of the way for a little while until things got settled again, she would probably escape all the unpleasantness, and know nothing of what had taken place when she returned.  For some time Mrs. Dent had been longing for the opportunity to become reconciled to her people, but hitherto she had felt too much condemned for her own conduct to attempt any approach, unless she could be assured that her brother and sister were of similar mind.  She discovered, however, that her husband was not at all prepared to allow Doxie to go to Beckside, and it was only under the pressure of their misfortunes that he brought himself to make the suggestion.  She found the writing of the letter, humble though it had to be, comparatively pleasant, and the prospect of a possible reconciliation to her friends helped considerably to soften the severity of the sufferings which her husband's circumstances had brought upon her.  Aunt Judy's prompt and simply affectionate reply further relieved the situation, and in the preparations for Doxie's visit and the anticipations connected with it she forgot for the time her own grief.  She had never before been separated from her only child, yet she had such confidence that Doxie's sunny temper and winsomeness would pave the way to the reconciliation she longed for, that she parted with her daughter with something very like eagerness.

    But since the day upon which she saw her child off at the station Mrs. Dent's sorrows had multiplied.  Her husband confessed that things were worse than he had at first supposed, and one sad day the bailiffs came to mark the goods of their pretty little home.  Then everything had been sold, and they had come into these shabby lodgings.  What would Doxie think when she came into them?  Then in her wretchedness the lessons of earlier and happier days came back to her, and poor Annie spent many of her lonely hours in that little back room in prayer.

    Her husband was as miserable as she was, and she suspected that he was pining for his child.  One morning when she awoke she found to her surprise that he was not in bed at her side.  Where had he gone?  Sometimes he rose before her and lighted the fire, but the fire was untouched.  She dressed hastily and looked about her.  His boots and overcoat were gone also.  Then her eye fell upon a little packet on the table.  Her heart gave a great jump, and with a cry of bitter distress she snatched it up and began to examine it.  It contained her husband's watch and chain and about twenty-five shillings.  Underneath these was a little note, at which she eagerly caught, but dared not open.  "O Lord, ha' marcy! ha' marcy!" she cried, as she wrung her hands and crushed the note in them.  Then she sat down, and, after sobbing a moment or two, opened the letter.  This is what she read:


DEAR ANNIE,―I cannot bear it any longer.  If I stay here I shall do away with myself.  Sell the watch and chain and do the best you can.  As soon as I have money I will send you some; but you will not see me until I have a home to give you again.  God bless you, my dear lass, and our bonnie Doxie!
                                                                        T
HOMAS.


    Short as it was, Mrs. Dent did not read the whole of the letter at once.  Every sentence brought a fresh burst of tears, and it was some time before she comprehended all it meant.  She did not blame her husband; in fact, that view of the case never occurred to her.  But she intensely pitied him.  For days she had watched him suffering under her very eyes, and in one sense his departure was a relief.  At length she got up and walked about the room.  Presently her agitation subsided, and she began to think calmly what she was to do.  Then she remembered that Doxie was returning that day, and this broke her down again.  For over an hour she wandered about the room in agonised perplexity.  Suddenly she remembered that, put away in a box, she had five or six pounds about which her husband knew nothing.  It was so small a sum that until lately she had not thought of telling her husband about it, and since they had come into the lodgings she had decided to keep it until the day of emergency.  Now she reproached herself with the thought that, if she had told her husband, he might not have left her.  This made her think of her failing, a liking for secret saving, and it brought back to her mind the old purse which she had carried away from home in the long, long ago, and all other feelings were for the moment lost in a deep remorse.  Again and again she thought she could hear her oracular brother saying in his stern way, "Be sure your sin will find you out."

    Poor Annie! it was a bitter moment.  Just then a clock on the stairs struck two, and she was suddenly reminded that in an hour or two Doxie would be there.  Oh! what was she to do?  What would Doxie say when she found that her father was gone?  Yet she must be stirring; and so, absently getting ready, she went to the station to meet the train.  The day passed; through trains from Lancashire were not so numerous as they are now, but, having nothing else to do, and fearing almost to be alone, Mrs. Dent stayed and met them all as they came in.  The last train arrived, and still no Doxie.  She grew alarmed, and all other troubles were for the moment forgotten in anxiety about the one whom she longed and yet dreaded to see.  A porter suggested that she should telegraph to Beckside; but telegrams were much dearer then than now, and she knew there was no telegraph office at Beckside.

    Mrs. Dent did not go to bed that night, and was at the station early next morning to seek her child.  There she learnt that two trains had come in during the night; she had not thought of that contingency, and was nearly distracted at the possibility of having missed her child.  The friendly porter suggested that she should go home and see whether Doxie had arrived during her absence.  It was a long way to her lodgings, but Annie did not feel the distance.  When she arrived, she found the room still empty, and as a cry escaped her, and she was dropping into a chair in sheer despair, her eye fell upon a letter propped up against the little clock on the mantelpiece.  It was in Doxie's handwriting, and she kissed it and sobbed again for relief as she turned it over and over.  When she found strength to read the letter, it contained the story of Uncle Jabez' sudden and peremptory refusal to let Doxie return, and concluded with an urgent request that she might be allowed to stay longer.  It was this letter, with its comforting and yet perplexing contents, which was in Annie's hands when we introduced her to our readers in that little back sitting-room.

    The first feeling in Mrs. Dent's mind as she read the letter had been one of intense relief at the safety of her daughter, and that was deepened as she gratefully realised that at least for awhile longer Doxie would be in comfort and safety.  Presently into her mind came a deep, overpowering longing.  Doxie's previous letters had been much longer than this one, and were full of most entertaining particulars about Beckside, and all the delights she was enjoying; yet none of them had stirred her mother's heart as this had done.  For a few minutes she felt as though she must get up and set off to her village home, if she had to walk every step of the way.  She could imagine her irascible elder brother suddenly putting his foot down, and refusing to let his niece return.  The clog-shop, their own little cottage, and the little chapel came vividly before her mind, and she could see herself standing in a Sunday-school class and singing "God moves in a mysterious way."  For a little time the feeling in her heart was almost unbearable.  Presently she slipped down upon her knees, and although her thoughts did not form themselves into definite prayer, she remained there quietly weeping, and somehow deriving comfort and hope from the exercise.

    A soft peace seemed to steal slowly over her heart as she knelt, and when at last she rose to her feet, her face, though pale and tearful, had a look of resignation and tranquillity.  She now found herself ready to face the situation.  She herself had sent for Doxie, but that was because she felt she could not remain longer without exciting suspicion.  Now Providence had intervened, and the very thought of that gave her courage and strength.  Soon she had her plans formed, and proceeded to act on them with the energy of her practical nature.

    All her efforts were exerted to discover, without giving grounds for suspicion, where her husband was.  She proceeded very cautiously.  She had no mistrust of him.  She knew that he was of an active and enterprising nature, and would not be long before he obtained some kind of employment.  But day succeeded day, and she gleaned nothing about the absent man, although she used every means she could think of to obtain information.  Then she began to be depressed, and had to fight night and day with a great longing to see her child; and this was strengthened when in her next letter Doxie wrote an impulsive little sentence which revealed that she was becoming home-sick.  But now the possibility of her coming home suddenly seemed to frighten the poor mother; with a great effort she sat down and wrote a letter in which she informed her daughter that they were expecting to remove into a new house, and that she had better stay until the bustle was over.

    Meanwhile things were going on much as usual at Beckside.  Doxie, now that she had discovered her uncle's feelings towards her, would gladly have entered into more affectionate relationship with him; but she soon found that he had relapsed almost instantly into his old manner, and repulsed her tentative caresses with all the old gruffness, and received all her endearing words with impatient scorn.  She found, however, that he grew more and more impatient of her absences from the clog-shop, and became quite testy if she omitted to take any of her meals with him.  A day or two after his peremptory stopping of her departure he began to speak of himself in depreciatory and abusive terms as an "owd sawftyed," and sought, whenever Doxie was present, to convey the idea that he had only relented out of foolish and weak-minded pity, and that he had already most completely repented of it.  Then he slid into the habit of constant self-pity, affecting to regard himself as the victim of most mysterious and undeserved misfortunes.  "Plagues o' Egypt!" he would say with expressive elevations of the eyebrows, "th' trials o' Jooab! the'r' nowt tew it."  Both Doxie and all others who heard him were left to interpret for themselves what the "it" meant.

    As the days grew into weeks and Doxie still remained, Aunt Judy began to grow uneasy.  It would be a great wrench to her whenever "th' little wench" left them, but every day she could see that Doxie was getting a stronger hold upon her uncle's affections, and there was no telling what outrageous thing he might do if the parting was deferred much longer.  It would not surprise her, in fact, if he refused to let her return home at all.  Then it occurred to Judy that her sister was strangely easy about the continued absence of the child.  Had the girl been hers, she reasoned, she would have had her home long ago.  She made no account of children staying so long in strangers' houses, it made them discontented with their own.  Then the letter about the removal came, and it struck Judy as being rather strange that the Dents should remove twice in less than three months.  The next letter that Doxie received contained a sentence which made her aunt's heart sink and opened her eyes.  It was only a word or two, but to Judy it was a covert, yet none the less distinct, bid for reconciliation.  "Oh how I should like to peep just for once at the dear old home!" wrote Annie.  Judy felt a sinking, as she phrased it afterwards, and in a few minutes she had come perilously near to guessing the truth.

    At any rate Annie was in a much humbler mood than usual, and evidently would like an invitation to come home.  Yes! and Doxie had been sent to Beckside as a peacemaker.  Judy smiled to think how effectually her niece had done her work.  But what had brought about this remarkable change?  As she turned the thing over and over in her mind, and recalled all the circumstances of the case, she came to the conclusion that the Dents were in trouble and needed friends.

    "Haa mitch lunger art goin' t' keep yond' wench?" she asked, turning round and looking at her brother as she was leaving the clog-shop parlour next morning.

    "Me?  Me keep her!  Well, that's a good un!"  And the clogger stared at Judy and laughed with an elaborate affectation of amazement.

    "Then hoo'd bet-ter goo next wik, aar Annie 'ull be fret-tin'."

    "The sewner the better."

    It was no use talking to Jabe, and Aunt Judy lapsed into her own uneasy musings and departed.  But a day or two later Judy discovered that Doxie herself was beginning to grow restless, and without much trouble she ascertained that the girl was longing to see her parents.  At the same time she could not get rid of the feeling that something was wrong in London.  For two more days she brooded over these things, and then went to consult her unfailing friend, Mrs. Ben, the carpenter's wife.  That good woman recommended that Doxie should be told, and left to settle the matter with her uncle.  But Judy shrank from that course, and so they consulted the carpenter.  After tantalising his wife by a long and provoking pause, during which he did nothing but stare before him, and puff away at his pipe, Ben advised that Annie should be sent for, and introduced into the clog-shop unexpectedly.  Judy was not very confident of either of these courses, and took more time to reflect.  Then the matter settled itself.

    Next morning Doxie was somewhat late in starting for the clog-shop, and consequently was still in the house when the postman came.  Hitherto Judy had contrived more by luck than anything else to get her letters when Doxie was absent, and thus she got to know their contents before she showed them to her niece.  But this morning the girl herself went to the door, and handed the letter to her aunt with a look on her face that showed the elder woman that it would be cruel to keep the news from her.  Moreover, Judy was not good at reading writing, though she had so far managed with Mrs. Johnty Harrop's help to get to know the contents of the letters before Doxie learnt of their arrival.  The letter when opened proved to be so long and so closely written, and Doxie looked so very impatient, that Judy handed it to her to read, though not without misgiving.  Doxie had not commenced to read aloud, but was just glancing over the first few lines when she uttered a cry of alarm and went exceedingly pale.  Then she read on without in the least heeding Judy's eager enquiries, and again a cry of pain escaped her.  "O mother! dear, dear mother!" she cried, and as her eyes filled with great tears she read hungrily on.

    "Wot is it, wench? wot is it?" cried Judy in terror; but Doxie stepped mechanically back, as though to get out of her aunt's reach, and went on reading greedily.

    "O father! father!" she cried with a fresh burst of weeping, and once more resumed her perusal of the painful missive.

    It was the full utterance of poor Annie's heart.  Lonely, miserable, and sick at heart, she had at last become desperate, and throwing discretion to the winds had written to her sister a full statement of their recent troubles and her present miserable condition.  Doxie read it through with tear-blinded eyes, and then when she had finished she stepped back, and putting her hand to her side she cried out piteously, "O auntie, I shall die!"  For fully half a minute she stood looking wildly at her aunt, and then suddenly rushing to the door she darted off up the hill to the clog-shop.

    "Come back wi' thi, come back," cried Judy; but the fleeing girl was already half-way up the "broo."  "It's happen better sa," murmured Judy, as she realised how hopeless was the task of catching her niece, and then she went indoors again and waited developments with a heavily beating heart.

    Meanwhile Doxie had burst in upon the clogger like a whirlwind.  He was seated by the fire talking to Sam, but in a moment she had caught him round the neck and was pouring into his bewildered ear the whole distressful tale.  All that took place at that memorable interview has never been known, for even Sam saw that it was something very serious and discreetly took himself off.  Half an hour later, however, Doxie left the shop with a new light in her eyes and ten pounds in gold in her hands, and that day a registered letter was sent to London with full directions for the lonely watcher there to come to Beckside at once.

    The next two days passed over very slowly, and it would have been difficult to say whether Doxie or her uncle was more restless.  On the morning of the third day the post brought the expected letter, and a little later Doxie and her aunt started in the coach to meet Annie.  Jabe ate no dinner that day, and as the time for the arrival of the coach drew near he became painfully agitated.

    "Aw've seen th' owd lad i' monny a pucker," Sam Speck confided to Lige and Ben that night, "bud Aw ne'er seed him nowt loike that."
 

"Aw've seen the old lad i' mony a pucker . . . . bud aw ne'er seen him nowt loike that."

    Five minutes before its usual time the coach was heard coming rumbling down the "broo."  The clogger was as pale as death.  A moment later the door was burst open and a bright, eager voice cried, "Here she is, uncle! here she is!"  But she was not there, she was only getting out of the coach.

    Jabe rose to his feet, and his legs positively shook under him.  Without turning his head he glanced out of the window towards the coach.  He was dimly conscious of two female figures coming towards the door, and then he heard Judy's voice saying, "Here hoo is, Jabe."

    A pale, trembling woman, with a haggard, sorrow-stricken face, moved slowly towards the counter, and Jabe, tardily lifting his eyes, looked into the face of his sister.  The silence of that moment was deathly.

    "Well, lad," stammered the sister.

    And Jabe, trying vainly to keep control over a quivering mouth, faltered out, "Well."

    There the two stood opposite one another, but not venturing to look at each other, and Doxie, who was watching with eager eyes, was about to burst in with some impetuous remark, when Jabe took a slow step towards his sister, and held out a stiff hand.  Annie snatched at it eagerly, and if she had been a lady would doubtless have put it to her lips; but being only a Lancashire woman after all, she gripped it as with the grip of death, and held it over the counter.

    "O Jabe, Jabe!" she cried, in tones of bitter penitence, "I've been a great sinner."  And Jabe turned his head hastily towards the window, and replied fervently, "It's nowt towart wot Aw've bin."   And Doxie, to whom these things were not only altogether incomprehensible, but also altogether out of place in a glad reunion, put her red lips together, and making a grotesque and lugubrious face at her uncle, murmured in exact imitation of the new Brogden curate's tones, "So are we all, all miserable sinners."  And as the clogger began to laugh through his tearful eyes, she cried, in her imperious, though to him always delightful, way, "And now, uncle, we are all going to stay for ' baggin.'


Polly, put the kettle on,
And we'll all have tea."


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER V.

UNBLUSHING HYPOCRISY.


NOW the little black door that divided the clog-shop from the parlour was about as plain and uninteresting a construction as ever filled an aperture, but on the night of Annie Dent's return to Beckside it came in for an amount of interested attention that would have filled with pride a much more pretentious article of the kind.

    Sam Speck, who came into the shop just as the tea-things were beginning to rattle in the parlour, eyed it over from his place at the fire with a most curious and impatient stare.  Next he went and sat down beside the new apprentice, who was working at the back window, and, whilst he asked fitful questions of that worthy every now and then, he scarcely attended at all to the answers, but became absorbed again in his contemplation of the door.  Presently he got up and walked up and down the shop, stopping each time and scrutinising the latch as he passed.  Then he took a long, abstracted stare into the fire, and, finally, unable to bear it any longer, he affected to remember something which he ought to have told the clogger earlier in the day, and enquired earnestly from Isaac whether he thought there would be anything wrong in him knocking at the parlour door and speaking to Jabe about it whilst it was in his mind.  Isaac did not think there would, and so Sam stepped over and was just about to tap, when his heart suddenly failed him, and he hastened on tip-toes back to the fireplace.  After a moment or two, however, he tried again, yet once more hesitated; but this time without leaving his place before the terrible door.  Then he began to make all kinds of grotesque faces at the door, and sudden stabs at it as though he was only wavering as to where exactly he should assault it.  Finally, however, he pulled himself together, and doubling his fist tightly gave a distinct knock.

    "Oh, it's yo', is it?  Aw wur just wantin' ta spick ta Jabe a minit," he cried, in sudden confusion as Doxie opened the door.

    "Naa then, gawmliss, cum here wi' thi," cried Jabe from the far end of the parlour.

    But no, Sam could not stay; he must "be goin'"; he wouldn't keep Jabe "a minit."  Doxie caught him by the arm and began to pull him into the room; but it was only after a prolonged struggle that he allowed himself to be overcome.  And when he did enter, his astonishment to see strangers present was something wonderful to behold, and was only eclipsed by the amazement he exhibited when it was made clear to him that the stranger was the long-lost Annie.  So surprised in fact was he, that his sidling into a chair and his subsequent lighting of his pipe can only be put down to extreme absent-mindedness produced by the bewildering nature of the experiences he was passing through.

    A few minutes later the conversation in the parlour was interrupted by a most violent poking and banging in the neighbourhood of the chimney-back, and this being followed by laborious and protracted fits of coughing, Sam who was now beginning to feel at home, leaned forward to Doxie and with a broad grin on his countenance jerked his head in the direction of the parlour door, and said, "It's owd Lige."

    The ex-road-mender having been duly ushered into the room and introduced to the guest of the evening, was just beginning some reminiscences of the days when Doxie's mother was a wench, when the new apprentice put his shock head into the parlour, and cried, with a somewhat scared look as he glanced at his master, "Yo're wanted."

    "Whoa wants me?" demanded the clogger indolently.

    The apprentice stepped back a little, and seemed to be holding a hurried though excited conversation with some one in the shop, when the clogger, evidently identifying the whisperers, called out, "Naa then, lumpyeds, come here wi' yo'."  And then there was more whispering, and Doxie went to the door and cried, as she turned and looked at the clogger, "It's only Ben and Nathan, uncle."

    But by this time Doxie had caught the spirit of the scene, and so, drawing herself up to her greatest height and holding herself as stiffly as she possibly could, she ceremoniously led these last two worthies in, and bringing them suddenly to a standstill before her uncle, she waved her hand like a master of ceremonies, and said with a little bow, "Mr. Barber—Mr. Longworth; Mr. Longworth—Mr. Barber; mother—Mr. Barber; Mr. Barber—mother."  This ceremony having been duly performed, she marched in stateliest fashion back to the parlour door to wait the next arrival, upon which Sam burst into a loud roar of delighted laughter and Jabe relaxed into an amused grin.  Two or three other visitors, all declaring that they had dropped in on quite other business, and all immensely surprised to see Doxie's mother, having been ushered in by the stately Doxie, conversation began to flow more easily, and even the timid and pensive guest of the evening became a little animated.

    Several references having been made in the course of the conversation to London and London life, Sam Speck's small face gradually assumed a critical and disputatious expression, and at last, confident of his safety in the fact that he was only repeating sentiments he had heard Jabe and Ben utter again and again, he screwed his head to one side, and glancing for a moment at Doxie, turned, and looking musingly into the fire, said:

    "Ay, Lundun's a weary place, they tell me."  To his astonishment Jabe turned his head and growled out, "Wot's than know abaat Lundun?"
 

"Wot's than know abaat Lundun?"

    But Sam was not to be silenced, and so, after another long stare into the fire, he resumed: "It's full o' sin an' nowtiness if Aw know owt."

    "London, Mr. Speck!  London!  London's full of nice, good people, I can tell you," broke in Doxie impulsively.  "Why, mother lives in London; is she bad?  And father"—here her voice broke a little—"father lives in London, and he's not bad, is he?"

    All the men present were of the opinion that the last example of London rectitude was, to say the least, unfortunate, for in their opinion Thomas Dent was bad decidedly; but they dare not say so in the presence and under the light of those indignant gray eyes, and so they held their peace, and an awkward silence followed.

    Aunt Judy broke in by saying it was time to be going, and she and her sister began to prepare for departure, whilst Doxie, after kissing all her relatives, made a low bow, and put her hands to her lips in an altogether bewitching fashion to the men present, and went upstairs to bed.

    That night, sitting over the fire in the old home, Doxie's mother told her sister all the story of her recent troubles, and finished up with an item that was new.  Her husband had emigrated.  The night before she left London she had received a long letter from him, in which he informed her that he had met with an old acquaintance of years ago who was going out to seek a fortune in the Australian gold diggings; and who had offered to pay the passage if he would go with him for company.  He had not been able to get any employment, and so had decided to accept the offer, and when that letter reached her he would be already on the deep.  Then followed a long and roseate description of the success he was going to make and of the grand reunion they would have in the near future; for of course he would not be long in Australia before he had made a fortune.  The letter concluded with a few words of pathetic farewell, and a message of love to Doxie.  Judy was indignant, and was just about to speak her mind about her brother-in-law's desertion of wife and child, when she discovered that Annie was in no mood to hear her husband abused, and spoke of him in the tenderest tones.

    Next morning this item of intelligence was conveyed to the clogger, and Judy was surprised to note that whilst her brother curled his lip scornfully at her recital of "Tummas's" protestations of affection for his wife and child, he seemed strangely unmoved at the prospect of having Doxie and her mother to keep.

    In a few days all the sad story was known to the villagers, and much sympathy was expressed for the two who had come to live amongst them under such painful circumstances.  The usual frequenters of the clog-shop, however, soon found that it was needful to be cautious in expressing their opinions in the presence of Jabe.  He never alluded to the matter himself, except in the most distant way, and even then in the fewest possible words.  By some means or other also, he made them understand that Doxie was still under the delusion that her father was all he should be, and they gathered that he strongly desired that she should remain in that state of mind.  It was rather hard upon them they felt, for the topic was of such exceptional interest, and their opinions on the matter were so pronounced, that it would have provided food for endless discussions.  Still, nobody was prepared to brave the clogger, and so the subject had to be discussed, if at all, under most restraining circumstances and in any but the right places.

    One day, however, Doxie introduced the subject herself.  Sam and Jabe were sitting in the Ingle-nook enjoying their after-dinner pipe, when she sauntered in from the parlour and came and sat down by her uncle's side.  Sam, deep in the chimney, was puffing quietly away at his pipe, and feasting his eyes on the fresh young beauty before him, when she began to move her leg somewhat after the manner of her uncle, whilst a far-away look came over her face.

    "Mr. Sam," she said, glancing dreamily at him, "won't it be grand when father comes home with all that gold!"

    "Ay, when――!" Sam was beginning, but to his astonishment, he received a savage kick from Jabe's longer leg and broke clumsily down, leaving the sentence unfinished.  He was fairly puzzled.  For himself he had had dreams not so long ago of going to these same far off goldfields and coming back rich enough to buy all Brogden Clough, and the subject was still a tempting one to him.  But so far as he understood, his cue was to disbelieve in these grand dreams, at any rate so far as Doxie's father was concerned.  Whilst he was still wondering what Jabe's meaning might be, Doxie, who fortunately had been too absorbed in her own thoughts to notice either the kick or the hiatus in his reply, commenced again.

    "Wouldn't you like to go and get your fortune, Mr. Sam?"

    "Aw should that," said Sam energetically and then he checked himself, not knowing what he was expected to do.

    "I've heard father say that men sometimes find their fortunes in a month or two.  Have you heard that, Mr. Sam?"

    Thus appealed to on a subject upon which he was better posted than any man in Beckside, Sam hesitated for a moment, and then, resenting Jabe's mysteriousness, he broke through all caution and launched out into a ten minutes' summary of all he had heard and read of the wonderful treasures to be found at the Antipodes.

    Doxie listened with parted lips and widely opened eyes to the story, and then sent a shock through poor Sam by turning to her uncle and asking eagerly, "And wouldn't you like to go, Uncle Jybus?"

    Sam felt himself wading in bottomless deeps of bewilderment as Jabe, without removing his pipe from his mouth, answered in a dull mutter, "If Aw wur a bit yunger."

    Sam was simply dumfounded.  Was this the man who had always so caustically mocked at his tentative hints and plainer statements of the glories of the land of gold?  Was this the man who always championed the cause of the sod on which they stood, and quoted so unctuously the proverb about the rolling stone?

    But the surprises of the day were not yet over for our friend.  In the evening, sitting in the very place in which he had listened eagerly to Doxie's excited utterances about Australia, Jabe started a discussion on shipwrecks, and palpably led up to the question of the possibilities of the return of Doxie's father.

    Sam, expecting to receive as much open encouragement as the clogger ever gave to those who agreed with him in his arguments, predicted that "Tummas would be home in five years 'as sure as heggs is heggs.'"  And to his utter amazement Jabe turned upon him a look of supreme contempt, as much as to say that though he was expressing the veriest nonsense, it really was not worth while to contradict him.

    Repenting, however, a moment later, the clogger turned to his friend and asked with a snarl, "Hez thaa iver known ony as az gooan aat yond'?"

    "Ay, lots," jerked out Sam, beginning to get resentful.

    "An' has mony on 'em coom back?"  The clogger glared into Sam's face and waited impatiently for his reply.

    And Sam nearly lost his temper and began to justify his position still further; one or two others supported him, and very soon Jabe was getting the worst of the battle.

    "Mon," cried Lige at last as a clincher, "th' divil's childer hez th' divil's luck.  Tummas's soort allis comes whoam."

    And then Jabe rose to his feet and, with something deeper in his voice than any mere fear of defeat in argument, he snatched his pipe from his mouth and shaking it defiantly at the last speaker he cried fiercely, "He con cum back fifty toimes if he's a moind, bud hee'st neer ha' yond' little wench."

           *                           *                           *                           *                           *

    "Si thi," said Sam to Long Ben as they went home that night, "Aw'm fair byetten wi' yond' mon."

    Ben looked as though he thought that not at all unlikely, and then he asked, "Wot's up naa?"

    "Wot's up! he talks to yond' wench as if he wanted her fayther ta cum whoam."

    "Hay, men!" replied Ben, as he turned down the "broo."  "He'd go ta Australly an' fotch him whoam if hoo axed him."



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