Doxie Dent III.
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CHAPTER X.

A GREAT EVENT.


NOW Andrew's removal to Beckbottom was a direct consequence of his interference with the mission service.  Long Ben, his father, had gone home that night in the very worst of tempers.  He would have been the most tolerant and considerate of all Andrew's critics if the lad had not been his own son, but that made all the difference; and as this was only another and somewhat stronger provocation added to a long list, he came down upon the offender with unusual fierceness.  Mrs. Ben, too, who had received an account of the occurrence from Andrew's twin brother Ben, who was as great a comfort to her as Andrew was a trial, was very angry, and as Leah her married daughter happened to come in whilst she was listening to her favourite son's story, and immediately took up cudgels for Andrew, the two were engaged in a long and acrimonious wrangle when the father came in.  Andrew, too, generally so silent when his own conduct was under discussion, for once hotly and indignantly defended himself, and was consequently embroiled in a wordy warfare with his brother.  But Ben junior was no match for "the little twin" when he cared to exert himself, and so, feeling worsted in the battle, he grew passionate and ended by striking his opponent to the ground.  This brought things to a crisis, and Leah, who had a feeling that justice had never been done to Andrew, whilst young Ben was "marred" by his mother, waxed very angry indeed, and at last announced that Andrew should not be put upon by any of them, but that she would find him a home herself and take him away from their persecutions.  It was some days before the arrangements were carried out; but as the two lads quarrelled every time they met, and their mother's life was made miserable by them, she finally consented to Leah's offer, and so the disturber of the family went to live with his sister.

    Of course this change greatly pleased the clogger; he told himself again and again that he was an "owd numyed" to take any notice of such a mere boy-and-girl acquaintance as that existing between his niece and Andrew, but all the same he was so gratified with the removal that he came very near to forgiving the lad for the scene at the chapel.  Beckbottom was nearly a mile from the village; and though Doxie went pretty often to see Leah, especially after the baby which was named after her came, yet as she generally went in the middle of the afternoon, when Andrew was at work, Jabe was quite content that she should do so.  The poor fellow did not know that these two met somehow at least once a week, and slowly glided into a close, fast friendship.  Jabe was perhaps all the more deceived because Andrew shortly after his removal ceased to come to chapel and presently took to going all the way to the Halfpenny Gate to sit under the ministry of a remarkable young preacher there.  After a while, however, the minister had a call, and removed, and one day disagreeing with what his successor taught, Andrew got up and contradicted him before the whole congregation, and was expelled from the chapel by the deacons.

    For some time after this he worshipped nowhere, and talked very strangely indeed to Doxie and his sister when they remonstrated with him.  They did their best to persuade him to return to the Methodists, but on that point he was very decided.  Then the vicar of Brogden, who was getting old, engaged a curate, and this active young man not only attracted a great many of the young people to the church, but presently carried dismay and disgust into the Methodist camp by commencing Sunday evening services in the school-house.  And Andrew became one of the curate's most ardent admirers, and acted as a sort of self-appointed churchwarden for the young innovator, giving out hymn-books, showing people to their seats, and even ringing the school-house bell for the service.  This made him more unpopular than ever at the clog-shop, and widened the breach between him and his family; his twin brother Ben, who was now a member and secretary of the Sunday school, being especially fierce in his denunciations of him as a disgrace to the family.  Very soon the acquaintance between the curate and his ex-Methodist supporter ripened into close friendship, and Andrew got into the way of visiting the cleric at his lodgings and borrowing and greedily devouring his books.  But that also came to an abrupt end.  The curate as he grew more and more friendly became less and less discreet, and from speaking patronisingly of other religions he soon went on to sneer at and deride them.  Andrew, having a deep respect for all ministers of religion, listened with surprise; but as his friend's remarks were shrewdly blended with indirect compliments to his superior intelligence, he swallowed them and began to think much as the curate thought.

    One day, however, there came a sudden rupture.

    "You know, Andrew," drawled the curate, "no intelligent people go to chapel; I've met several ex-Methodists in the Church, people who have been brought up at chapel, but who left it when they came to think for themselves."

    As this was a sort of compliment to his own superior culture, Andrew nodded sagaciously, and the curate was encouraged to proceed.

    "The fact is, it's ignorance that takes folk to these conventicles, crass ignorance."

    Andrew nodded again, but not quite so decidedly.

    "They can all be little gods and masters there, you know, and that's what many of them like."

    Andrew opened his eyes, and a curious light came into them; but the curate was admiring a beautifully worked slipper on his neat little foot and so did not notice.

    "I'm sorry for your father, Andrew; he seems a decent chap of his sort.  But as for that old clogger and his gang, they are simply humbugs, you know—canting, place-seeking humbugs!"

    But Andrew had risen to his feet, his deep eyes flashing, and great, cord-like veins standing out upon his brow.

    "You cad!" he cried; "you slippery, slimy snake in the grass!  Why, parson, there's more religion in old Jabe's little finger than there is in all your deceitful body―― Good God! is there no religion anywhere?"  And, with this somewhat contradictory exclamation, Andrew rushed to the door, banged it angrily after him, and the curate saw him there no more.


"You cad! You slippery snake in the grass!"

    Now the true nature of this interview was never related in Beckside, and as the curate found plenty of people ready without provocation to say and hear the worst things possible of Andrew, he went about calling him a viper, and vaguely hinting at the awful things he could have said about "the little twin" if he would.  This view of the case being the only one that obtained, Leah and Doxie soon had conveyed to them an awful story about Andrew, and were confirmed in their belief of it by the close silence of the culprit himself.  The two had grown into the habit of regarding themselves as having a special responsibility for the lad.  Leah had nobody else to whom she could talk on the subject, and so in all her anxieties she made a confidante of Doxie, with the result that the girl's mind was constantly being exercised on the subject, and she was imperceptibly slipping into the habit of thinking about him much and often.

    And so the time passed away; summer and winter, and summer and winter again, glided past without any particular change in the relations to one another of the various persons whose doings are here recorded.  Doxie rapidly developed into a bright, winsome, and striking village queen, the idol of her uncle and the pride and delight of all her friends.  And by this time also she had become an object of almost painful interest to the village young men, most of whom were content to admire her at a distance or at most to hang about whenever she appeared in public, humbly offering their bashful rustic adoration and timidly "letting I dare not wait upon I would."  Dan the apprentice was the chief of these, and though somewhat younger than his competitors he outdid them all in the wholeheartedness of his devotion and the doglike meekness with which he attended to all the wishes of his mistress.  Away from the clog-shop, however, he was a perfect terror, and was ready at any time to engage in pugilistic encounter any other swain of any age or size who might be ill-advised enough to chaff him about his inamorata, or worse still to pretend to any attachment to her.

    The mill manager's son also, a young man of about five-and-twenty, but who looked, with his long, thin face and effeminate appearance, about eighteen, was one of her train, and was flattering himself that he had no serious competitor until he one day discovered that the curate went frequently to the cloggery and was on terms of intimacy with Doxie such as he could not pretend to.  This set him almost wild for a few days, and Doxie received two or three anonymous and poetical missives warning her of the peril of slighting "silent but deathless love"; and Sam Speck, chuckling as he watched Doxie's ready blushes, told a very well authenticated rumour over the clog-shop fire that "young Herbert," as he was called, had challenged the curate to a duel.  And all these things, as Doxie was manifestly heart-whole, greatly delighted the old clogger, and no one was readier than he to hear the many stories which Sam brought to the shop of the "carryings on" of the various swains who at one time or another chose to regard themselves as in love with his niece.

    Of late, however, he had begun to grow very uneasy.  The curate was really very "forrad"; he never came to the shop itself, but always knocked at the parlour door, and occasionally he had been there for some time before the clogger had any idea of his presence.  His reverence developed quite a sudden and astonishing taste for music, but instead of joining the village band at the shop, as any decent man would only be too anxious to do, he confined his practices to little duets with Doxie in the inner room, she taking the clarionet and he the flute.  Jabe also discovered a most extraordinary number of books lying about the house, and grew accustomed, on asking whose they were, to the invariable answer, given with a roguish twinkle in her eye, "The curate's."


His reverence developed a sudden taste for music.

    "Uncle, why don't we have harvest festivals at the chapel?" asked Doxie one evening just after her nineteenth birthday.

    "Hey? wot?  Huz?  A sallery show i' aar chapil! not if Aw know it."

    "Why not?  They are very beautiful and appropriate, and the curate is going to have one." (Doxie had almost lost her cockneyism by this time.)

    "Ay! it's loike him, wi' his penny whissel an' luv tales, an' lung cooat laps, aw feather an' flaance and floppery!"

    "And he asked me to go and play for him, and I promised."

    "Wot, yo'!  Yo' play at a Sunday flaar show!  Yore grandfather 'ud turn in his grave if he yerd on it.  Bud, lewk here, young woman, wot's he cum snuffling an' sniftering abaat here fur, wi' his tootlin' whissel, that's wot Aw want to know?"

    Doxie laughed quietly, and went off to bed.

    But Jabe could not get the subject out of his mind, and the more he thought about it the more serious did it seem to be.  The harvest festival was only a trick to get Doxie to church, and thus have more opportunities for laying siege to her affections.  Two or three days later Aunt Judy dropped a hint as to what she was hearing about their niece and the young cleric, and had her head bitten off as a reward; and Sam Speck, who had been in the habit of joking on the subject for some time, suddenly found that his witticisms were unpalatable and had better be dropped.  Jabe's uneasiness was further increased by an apparent change in Doxie herself.  She grew a little pensive and absent-minded, and once or twice he surprised her seated in the parlour in the gloom of the evening in a deep brown study.  And the clogger went back into the shop without disturbing her and presently delivered himself to the assembled company of some dangerous sentiments on the subject of curates.

    On the following Sunday Jabe came downstairs in a very discontented frame of mind, and at once commenced to grumble at the super for having planned them so unattractive a preacher as "owd Willie Wragge."  Lige called on his way to the chapel, and as he was generally the easiest of critics Doxie was surprised to hear him express himself in much the same terms as her uncle.  This particular preacher had not been to Beckside during the four years of her residence there, and she was just a little curious to see and hear the man who was so objectionable to the authorities, especially as he was to be their guest that day.

    The preacher was a little late, and when he came into the pulpit he looked flurried, as though his reception in the vestry had not been particularly flattering.  He was a little man, prematurely aged, with silvery hair and a pensive, care-worn look.  His manner was timid and deprecatory, and his voice so low that Doxie could scarcely catch the number of the hymn.  The service was just what had been predicted: the man in the pulpit never really got possession of his congregation, the children were restless, the music seemed slow and draggy, and Jabe grunted and groaned so often during the sermon that it was a relief in that respect when it was over.

    Jabe put it down to the natural contrariness of women that his niece that day surpassed herself in her position of hostess.  She fussed about the shy old preacher as though she had known and loved him for years.  She drew him out of his shell, and made him talk until the clogger could scarcely believe that the beaming face that smiled on Doxie was that of the driest of all their locals.  In the evening service Jabe was compelled to observe that his niece was listening to the preacher as though he were a very Demosthenes, and when they got home again she hovered about the visitor's chair, and pressed him to eat as if he had been the anniversary minister or the missionary deputation.  Then she went into the back garden and brought a great bunch of flowers and asked the unpopular preacher to accept of them; and to crown all—Jabe could hardly believe his ears as she spoke—she actually offered to walk up the hill with the old man and see him a little way towards home, as it was so very fine a night.

    When they had gone Jabe had no words for anybody; his niece's conduct that day had been simply inexplicable!  She could not be so much interested in such an insignificant and dreary old man as that.  He was so puzzled that he got up and began to limp about whilst the others talked.  As he walked he drew near to the window and, lifting his head to look over the blind, he stood still, petrified with horror, for there posting up the "broo" was the curate; and it came into his mind in a flash that he was going in the same direction as the one taken by Doxie and the old man, and that this was a ruse on the part of his niece to get a meeting which had doubtless been arranged beforehand.  Jabe could scarcely speak for a few moments, and when he did, it was in so surly a tone and with such evident lack of connexion with the conversation that the others saw the clogger was out of sorts somehow, and presently took their departure.

    Meanwhile, Doxie and the old preacher were climbing the hill, and when they got to the steepest part of it she drew close to her companion, gently took his limp arm and slid it through her own, and then, bending towards him with a grave, earnest face, she said, "Mr. Wragge, I should like to tell you something."

    "Indeed, miss, what is it?"  And the old man looked up into her face as though he were expecting a reproof.

    "You've been a messenger of God to me to-day."

    A sudden spasm passed over Wragge's face, a wistful, pathetic look came into his eyes, and with an eager, hungry tone he said, "Don't mock me, miss."

    "Mock you, sir!  I couldn't; I honour you.  I love you.  You have brought the great light to me to-day!"

    "Indeed, miss, how?"  And absorbed as she was in her own burning thoughts, Doxie could not help noticing the intense eagerness of the old man.

    "Well, you know, I've been thinking about conversion a great deal lately, but I was so stupid I could not understand about repentance and regeneration and all that, you know; but you showed us to-night that it was all in the will, our own will; and when you described our beautiful Saviour standing on that mountain and saying, 'Ye will not come unto Me,' I felt as if I could just see Him, and all my heart went out to Him."

    "And do you feel that feeling still, my dear,—that love, I mean?"  And the hungry longing in the old man's eyes was most touching.

    "Yes! oh yes!  A deep, sweet, beautiful love."

    Wragge stood there in the deepening twilight, evidently unable to speak; his whole frame seemed shaken by some great emotion and at last he said in thick, choking tones, "Thirty-eight years have I preached, and longed as no man ever longed for fruit!"  And then, lifting his eyes toward heaven, he paused a moment and went on in a voice that grew loud and full as he spoke, "Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."

    Doxie could see that the old man in his ecstasy had forgotten her presence for a moment; but when he turned to her a face brimming with tears and the glow of a great joy she bent over him and, as reverently as a nun would salute a sacred relic, kissed him on the cheek with a fervent, "God bless you!" and departed.

    Whilst this scene, so important to both concerned in it, was taking place, Jabe was nursing his wrath against the curate for trifling with his "little wench," as he called her.  But as his thoughts dwelt on the subject they took an even bitterer turn, and he realised that the sweet child whose innocent naturalness had so captivated him was, after all, only a cheap, shallow flirtation-loving woman, now she had grown up.  The thought was almost unbearable, and as he turned it over again and again he grew sad as well as angry, and his heart was hot within him.

    Presently the door opened and Doxie stepped into the parlour.  In his brooding he had forgotten to get a light, and sat in darkness, and when Doxie came to him and touched him he had to check himself lest he should say something cruel.

    "What, uncle! moping in the dark; I'm ashamed of you, and this beautiful Sabbath evening too!  You mustn't be gloomy to-night; I'm happy! happier than ever I was before.  And, oh, uncle, I've such a secret to tell you before I go to bed!"

    Jabe gave an inarticulate grunt, and turned away his head, whilst Doxie, without noticing him, hurried off to get the lamp.

    As she was lighting it she held the match to the wick, and said brightly: "Isn't he a dear old man, Uncle Jabez?  I quite love him."

    "Oh, the deceit of this frivolous, giddy girl!  Did she think to turn it off like that?  Jabe could hardly bear it, and at last he growled, in his surliest tones, "It's nor owd felleys as is dear—as yo' caw it; it's young uns, if Aw know owt."

    "Young ones!  Oh dear, no!  All the really nice men I know are old men.  You, for instance, and old Mr. Wragge."

    Oh, the little hypocrite! how could she be so deceitful!  But he would hold his tongue, and see what she would say.

    Doxie drew the window blind, took off her hat, and then, noticing that her uncle's pipe lay on the floor where he had dropped it during his recent painful reverie, she picked it up and, gently scolding him for his unsociability, she filled it herself and then held a light whilst he sulkily and silently began to smoke.  As she bent over him with a second spill, for the pipe did not "go" the first time, Jabe noticed that there were some unusual signs about her.  She had a flushed look, and there were marks suspiciously like tear-marks on her cheeks, whilst a soft, deep light beamed from under her long, delicate lashes.  Something evidently had taken place whilst she was out, and something that had caused her deep emotion.  Could it be that the curate had been actually making love to her and that the vain little creature had been silly enough to believe him?

    "Uncle, why don't you talk?  Are you poorly?"

    The clogger muttered something about being "reet enuff."

    "You grumpy old man! you don't deserve to hear my secret; but I'm so happy I cannot keep it.  Shall I tell you now?"

    Jabe's answer was surlier than ever: "She could pleeas hersel'," and as he said it he hoped most heartily that she would not tell him, for he was sure he should not be able to control himself.  Pain, disappointment, and anger were struggling together within him, and he was certain if he spoke he should commit himself, and even though she appeared so frivolous and thoughtless he could not bear to hurt her.  Doxie was perplexed a little, and disappointed that her uncle was so taciturn and incurious.

    "You contrary man! you know you want to know what it is; but I wouldn't tell you to-night, only I must.  Come here now," and she got up and came to his chair-side.  "Don't look at me!  I'm going to whisper; turn your head away."

    If his life had depended upon it Jabe could not have resisted the pleading, playful tone in which this was said; and so, with a sinking heart and fully preparing himself for a revelation which he felt would for ever alter his feeling for this bright young idol of his, he turned his head stiffly and with a beating heart waited the dread revelation.  It was a long time coming.  He felt his niece's hair on his cheek and the warm glow of her face against his, and at last a pair of faltering lips touched his ear and a soft, thrilling voice whispered something.

    "Wot?" and the clogger sprang to his feet and spreading his hands in sheer amazement he cried again, "wot did yo' say?"

    And Doxie, with burning blushes and drooping eyes, caught him by the neck and whispered once more, "I've given my heart to God to-night."

    With a sudden revulsion of feeling the old man took his niece in his arms, and thrusting his rugged face into hers he hugged her in a passion of tumultuous, overpowering joy, and sobbed out, "Maw wench! maw wench! maw bonny, bonny wench!"


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XI.

AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE.


NEVER was bearer of good news prouder of his errand or more anxious to impart his story than was Jabez Longworth the morning after his idolised niece's conversion.  Dan had scarcely got the shop door opened, when the clogger stationed himself at it with his before-breakfast pipe in his mouth, on the lookout for any one important enough to hear the great tidings.  Twice he stepped forward upon the cobble-stone pavement and glanced across towards Sam Speck's dwelling, and when upon the third attempt he observed his friend on the doorstep, industriously brushing his Sunday coat previous to putting it away, he waited until Sam caught sight of him, and then, with two imperious waves of his churchwarden, summoned him to his side.

    Sam's surprise and delight were sweet as honey to the old man; but when, after reflecting upon what he had just heard for a moment or two, Sam lifted his eyes from the clog on his right foot, and with a scowl of conviction asserted that he had "expected nowt else," he had "seen it cumin' fur monny a wik," his claim to superior penetration was snubbed by the clogger, who turned on his heel and limped into the parlour to breakfast.

    But Sam was too much interested to be thus rebuffed, and so, whilst Jabe and his niece were sitting over the morning meal, he joined them in the parlour.  He came in with his ordinary morning greeting to the young mistress, and became at once most unwontedly interested in her two cats, which he began to stroke most tenderly.  When Doxie lifted her head, however, to look at him, she found that he was gazing at her with a look of wonderful interest, but immediately dropped his eyes and went on with his attentions to her pussies.  Getting tired of this, however, he crossed over to the drawers, from the top of which he took her clarionet and began to examine it, as though he had never seen so curious a musical instrument before; and again as Doxie looked at him, she caught the same strange scrutiny, which upon discovery into an inane and embarrassed laugh.  Then the inscrutable Sam sauntered to the window, and with his back to the table indulged in a broad grin and several mysterious and emphatic nods.  At this moment, however, Jabe was called into the shop, and Sam, seeming to be very alarmed at the prospect of being left alone with the mistress of the house, suddenly remembered that his own breakfast would be waiting for him, and followed the clogger.  Just as he got to the door he had a sudden accession of courage, and hastily closing it he stepped back on tiptoes, as though he had something to communicate which the clogger must on no account hear; and drawing up to the chair on which Doxie was sitting, and bending over her, he whispered as he jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the shop, "He's as praad as a dug wi' tew tails; it wodna cap me if owd Wragge hed to preich aar sarmons efther this."  With which mysterious communication and an elaborate and complicated wink he hastened away.

    An hour or so afterwards, as Doxie went about her domestic duties, she was conscious that somebody in the shop was hesitantly toying with the "sneck," and presently the door creaked, and the long, thin face of old Lige came cautiously round the corner.  On being noticed, however, the face disappeared, and with the partly opened door as a sort of screen for his bashfulness, the ex-road-mender repeated:


Come on, my pardner in distress,
My cumrade threw this wilderniss.


    But I'm not 'in distress,' Lijah.  I'm happy! oh, so happy!  Aren't you coming in?"

    Lige accepted the invitation, and stole slowly and shyly towards the empty fireplace.  There he stood for a moment, evidently trying to remember some more appropriate hymn-book quotation than the one he had just used; and in a moment or two he cleared his voice, projected his chin, shut his eyes tightly, and began to sing in a tremulous voice, that grew steadier as he proceeded:


O happy day that fixed my ch'ice
On Thee, my Saviour an' my God!


    Before the old man had got through his verse, Doxie, with quavering voice but shining eyes, joined him in the song, and as they grew louder and louder Jabe came hurrying in from the shop and introduced his rough baritone; and when after singing through two verses they paused at the end of the second chorus, they were all surprised to hear, coming faintly from the shop and mingled with the tap-tap of the clog hammers, the last line of the chorus.

    Doxie was the first who heard the sound of this echo from the shop; but next moment a blush of pleasure suffused her face, and stepping hastily to the door she cried, "God bless you for that!  Sing it again, Isaac; sing it again, Dan!"

    Nothing loth, the two young cloggers burst forth once more, and Doxie chimed in, and then the others; and when at last they finished, Jabe and Lige suddenly began to look very self-conscious, and slunk off into the shop as though they had been caught in a reprehensible frolic.

    But Dan almost repented of his sympathetic singing an hour or two afterwards, for whilst he was busy at his work at the back window, and was meditatively reckoning up his savings in view of a cheap trip to Manchester, he heard his name softly called, and, lo! there was the young mistress sitting on the edge of the old stool he was himself occupying.  She bent forward until her fair face was quite close to his, and then in low, thrilling tones told him of her great happiness and began to ask whether he would not like to be converted.  Dan could easily have disposed of the question if anybody else had asked it; but this animated, smiling, fair-haired young person at his side seemed to have a witch's power over him, and he was disgusted to find himself crying before she had been talking more than a moment or two.  She did not say much, but poor Dan could not shake it off; and the next Sunday he was at the penitent form, and was more than repaid for all he had passed through by the warm and joyful manner in which Doxie received him on the Monday morning.  Dan's example, moreover, proved contagious, and within the next fortnight several of his chums came "under conviction" and were led to the place of mercy.

    A little later on in the forenoon of the day after Doxie's conversion, Aunt Judy came over to the cloggery, and hearing the news, which was conveyed to her in a whisper by Lige, who was still in the Ingle-nook, she went in to Doxie, and in her quiet fashion took her niece round the neck and softly kissed her; a thing she had not done more than once or twice since the girl's settlement in the village.

    When dinner was over that same day, the clogger lingered in the parlour over an extra pipe, a sure sign to Doxie that he had something he wished to say, but could not get out.

    "Ther's summat abaat Lung Ben az Aw can niver understond," he said at last, looking with an excellent assumption of perplexity at a brass candlestick on the mantelpiece.

    "What's that, uncle?  He's a dear good man."

    Jabe took another long draw at his pipe, staring hard the while at the candlestick, and then went on: "He's sitchen a way wi' women, they nearly aw meeten wi' him."

    Doxie, who was dusting the drawers, stopped a moment to hear; but when he had finished she burst into a merry, mischievous laugh, and said, "Oh! you crafty old schemer!  No, Mr. Longworth!  I'm going to your class, and no other."


"No, Mr. Longworth! I'm going to your class, and no other."

    Jabe's countenance fell visibly; he puffed away for some little time at his pipe, and then he asked, "Bud wot abaat speikin'? ween noa dumb disciples i' my class, yo' known."

    "Oh, I shall speak! I want to speak; I'm just longing for the time to come, that I may tell them all how delightful I feel."

    Jabe felt that he ought to have been very grateful to hear his niece talk like this, but as a matter of fact he was not, and would have given a good deal to have been able to persuade her to go to Long Ben's class; presently he gave the matter up, and resigned himself to making the best of it.

    The very next day, as Jabe was piling some clog soles into a little stack just close to the parlour door, he caught the sound of a strange voice speaking with his niece, and as the parlour door was partially open because of the heat he made no scruple to listen.  He soon discovered that the voice was that of the curate, and before he had listened a minute he heard Doxie plunging off in her lively and very natural way into the story of her conversion.  Presently she paused, and the curate made some reply which the clogger did not catch, but which immediately set Doxie off, declaring that she was sure of it, she felt so happy, so very, very happy.  Again the listener missed the cleric's answer, but he almost hugged himself with glee as he heard his niece proposing to play "O happy day" on the clarionet.  Then Jabe heard the tune called "quaint but melodious," and a moment later the front door was closed, and, stepping back into the middle of the shop in a bent position, the clogger enjoyed to his heart's content the spectacle of the clergyman hurrying away down the "broo" as fast as he could go.

    The pile of clogs had to be finished by Dan, for the clogger was so delighted by what he had seen and heard that he had to go over and fetch Sam Speck to hear all about it; and when the discussion ended it was teatime, and Jabe spent the rest of the day in retailing to all comers the wonderful story of Doxie's discomfiture of the curate.

    The summer seemed very reluctant to leave that year, and the early days of September were as warm as any of the previous months.  During her four years' residence with her uncle Doxie had gradually transformed the end of the back garden nearest the house into a pretty flower garden, and now in these hot evenings it was her delight to sit out on an old bench which had its back to the next garden and enjoy the soft evenings.  As she was thus engaged late one Saturday afternoon, with her cats at her feet and her clarionet lying on the seat, she heard a challenging sort of cough, and glancing up caught sight of a tall young fellow, who was leaning on the fence which separated the garden from the footpath, and eyeing her intently.

    "Is that you, Ben?" she said graciously.  "Isn't it hot?"

    Young Ben Barber admitted absently that it was "rayther warm," and then looked significantly at the fence he was standing against as if waiting for an invitation to jump over it.  Doxie, however, did not choose to ask him, but contented herself with calling his attention to the dahlias which his mother had given her, and which were now in full bloom.  Ben was evidently not greatly interested in flowers just then, so he returned a monosyllabic answer and glanced up and down the footpath upon which he was standing and then bent forward and looked over the fence again.  Doxie was without hat to shade her face, and so she bowed her head over the fancy needlework on her lap in order to hide a knowing smile.

    Young Ben glanced up and down the footpath again and then across at Doxie, then up towards the wood on the edge of the hill and back at Doxie once more, and then he asked, "Wodn't it be better if yo' hed a soide gate to this garden?"

    "What for?" and Doxie looked up as demurely as possible.

    "Then yo' could cum aat up 'oth foot-pad baat goin' through t'shop."

    Doxie's head was down over her work again, but just when Ben began to think she was not going to answer him she looked up and with blandest innocence replied, "Yes; but a way out is a way in, you know, Ben."

    Ben looked discouraged; he stared hard across the garden to see whether he could gather anything from Doxie's face; but her head was down again, and he saw nothing except the great masses of her golden hair.  Presently he said in injured tones, "Folk cud ger in if they wanted, gate or noa gate.  Aw could jump o'er this hedge mysel'."

    "By you wouldn't, Ben, would you? not unless you were invited."

    He felt sure she was mocking him, and laughing at him; but he was desperate by this time, and so he answered, "Ay, bur Aw'm never axed."

    And then of course Doxie had to do the polite thing, and a moment later the young carpenter had swung his long legs over the fence and was standing in front of Doxie.  He was really a well-made young fellow, lithe and strong and sinewy; his face was homely, but it was honest, and quite manly looking whiskers already fringed the edges of his jaws; and as it was Saturday afternoon he had his last year's Sunday clothes on.  He was a serious young man, in very good repute amongst his own kind; he carried his head a little on one side, and his hair was always trimly kept; in fact, Ben was the embodiment of juvenile village respectability, and Doxie, when she did think about him, wondered that she liked him so little.

    No sooner, however, had he got into the garden than he began to wish himself out of it.  It really felt very awkward to stand there opposite this ravishing but most provokingly cool young lady, who, when she did lift her eyes, seemed to look him through, and at the same time to create the uneasy suspicion that underneath her calm innocence she was laughing at him.  Ben had never felt so clumsily tall in his life; his long legs were like badly managed stilts under him, he seemed to have at least half a dozen arms, each of which was always doing some unaccountably awkward thing, and though he felt absolutely certain that his neat black tie had been pulled awry when he vaulted the fence, he dared not for the life of him feel to see if it was so.  He changed the leg he was leaning upon, put his hands into his pockets, and said that it was "hot"; then suddenly remembering that it was not respectful to stand thus in the presence of a lady, he hastily took his hands out of the pockets and transferred them to the lapels of his coat, changing back to the other leg again as he did so, and remarking, "ter'ble hot."

    There was plenty of both room and shade on the seat where Doxie was sitting, but she never asked him to join her; and so at last realising that he would have to do what he had come to do without encouragement, he stepped aside a little and, leaning sideways against the old rain tub, stood looking down on the only woman he had ever fancied and was not sure he could have.  The silence began to grow embarrassing, and so, at last, poking nervously at his eye-tooth with the point of his forefinger, he said, "Aw'st be aat o' me toime at Kessmus."

    "Indeed you'll be quite a man, then, won't you, Ben?"


"Indeed you'll be quite a man, then, won't you, Ben?"

    Now there was both interest and gladness in Doxie's tones; oh, why was he so miserably afraid that she was only "gammin'" him?  Besides, he had been a man for some time as far as he knew.  Oh! what a torment she was!

    "Aw'm gooin' pardners wi' my fayther when Aw'm loose," was his next observation; and he had the courage to watch her as he spoke.

    But he might as well have looked anywhere else for anything he could gather.  She looked up with polite interest and cried, "Oh, I aw glad!"

    There was an old lilac tree between him and the seat on which Doxie was sitting, so he stood upright again, put his hand on one of the thick branches, and taking a step nearer remarked, "Aw've saved abaat forty paand."

    "How rich you must feel!  But you were always a saver, weren't you?  And I suppose you will want it all when you go into business."

    That was the longest speech she had made yet, and it sounded kind, if only he was not so much afraid she was laughing at him.  At any rate he felt encouraged, and as her last remark left a nice opening he said, "Ay; bur Aw'm no gooin' t' spent it up 'oth bizniss."

    "Indeed!"

    "Neaw; Aw'm goin' t' build a haase wi' it, an' a noice 'un tew."  And with a timid little plunge he passed the tree as he spoke and dropped down into Doxie's garden seat.

    Apparently she did not notice his change of position, neither did she seem disposed to pursue the house question; so after a long silence Ben leaned back against the arm of the old seat and asked, "Haa's yur fayther gerrin' on at th' goold mines?"

    Doxie, looking relieved at the change of topic, lifted her head and replied that the last news they had was very encouraging.

    "Hee'll be cumin' back wi' a big fortin sum day afoor lung."  And Ben drew a little farther up the seat as he spoke.

    Without apparently noticing his movement, Doxie looked round brightly and said, "Do you think he will, Ben?"

    "He will that; they aw dew a—a―a—partly whot."

    "That would be grand, wouldn't it, Ben?"  And she looked before her at the dahlias with a musing, happy smile.

    But Doxie went on this voyage to dreamland alone, Ben had something nearer home to think of; and so, as she sat musing, he gradually hitched himself a little nearer, and then, taking up Doxie's clarionet and holding it carelessly in his hands, he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and looking up at his fair young companion, he dropped into a husky, confidential tone and said hesitantly, "Doxie, mun Aw goo wi' Yo'?"

    Doxie came back from her reverie with a start.  "Go, Ben? how?  Oh! but I'm not going.  Father says he is coming back before long."

    Ben sat up with a gesture of angry impatience: would she never be serious about anything?  Then he dropped back with his arms on his knees again, and cried in a voice between annoyance and entreaty, "Naa then!  Yo' known wot Aw meean.  Will yo' goo wi' me?"

    "But I'm not going!  I'm――"

    But with another impatient gesture Ben broke in, "Aw meean, will yo' goo wi' me?  Will yo' walk aat wi' me?  Cooartin', yo' known."

    "Ben!" and as Doxie rose and stood before him in the full flush of an apparently genuine surprise, her bungling lover felt that she was more beautiful than he had ever seen her and more incomprehensible.  She was some time before she resumed her ordinary demeanour; but at last she said, as she began to move towards the back door of the house: "O Ben, don't be foolish!  There are plenty of nice girls about who would like to be the bird for that wonderful cage you are going to make; but I could never be the one –never!"  And then as she drew near to the door she paused a moment, and looking at him, a tender, sympathising light came into her eyes, and turning round she smiled and said "Good-night, Ben.  Don't think any the worse of yourself," and after another little sigh, "or me," and with a familiar nod, she left him in the garden.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XII.

A WOMAN!


NOW, the clogger's joy at the conversion of his niece was heightened by the confident expectation that now at any rate there would be an end to the embarrassments and inconsistencies into which her extreme unconventionality had led him; to his distress, however, he soon discovered that his troubles had only just commenced.  He was surprised to find that after attending either his or Long Ben's class once or twice, the youths who had been "browt in" as a result of Doxie's impulsive attack upon Dan began to fall off, and when he demanded from his apprentice an explanation he was informed that they would rather have a class to themselves.  Such a revolutionary idea aroused all the clogger's scorn, and after severely "heckling" poor Dan for some minutes he demanded, "An' if we are na good enough to leead yo', who is?" and he gasped with opened mouth and amazement too extreme for expression as Dan made the utterly paralysing answer, "Miss Doxie."

    When at last Jabe did recover power of speech, he threatened Dan with most terrible penalties if he as much as hinted at the thing to his niece, and it was only his extraordinary apprehensions on this point that reconciled him to the super's suggestion that young Luke Yates should have a class-book given to him as a means of gathering in these youths.

    The same week Doxie volunteered to teach in the Sunday school.  That seemed innocent enough, and just what he had thought of suggesting to her himself; but a fortnight's experience of the experiment greatly shook his confidence.  Doxie was simply disorganising the school.  She had taken the class above the infants which contained both boys and girls of about seven years of age.  The teachership of this class was often vacant, for it was of necessity a large one, and it was more than the average teacher could do to keep order, to say nothing of giving a lesson.  Before Doxie had been in the class many minutes, however, every eye was upon her and some thirty little mouths were partly opened in wonder at the strange, graphic, realistic way in which she explained the old stories of the Bible.  She had the histrionic gift, and being quite free from self-consciousness and thoroughly acquainted with, and interested in, the more romantic scenes of Bible history, she made them live before her small audience until, long, before the lesson was over, the children in the adjoining class were standing on the form and leaning upon the unwilling shoulders of her scholars and drinking in every word she uttered whilst Doxie herself, unconscious of everything but what she was doing, was swaying her lithe little body and changing her expressive face every moment to suit the incident she was relating.

    This threatened to be a more serious difficulty than the former one; but as soon as Doxie found that she was exciting the anger of the teachers in other classes, and disorganising the school, she took the thing into her own hands and insisted on having a separate room for her class so as not to interfere with the rest.  She soon, however, found that she was getting to like the work, and as for the children, they simply clamoured after her, so much so that she asked permission to hold a meeting on a week-night with them.  This could not be granted without consideration; but when the super came to the week-night service he commended what she had done, and took the breath of Sam and the rest away as he called her new venture a catechumen class.  That awful word "catechumen" Jabe could not stand; it sounded strange and "new fangled," and even heretical.  It had a suspiciously Popish ring about it, and he became very uneasy.  Lige seemed to share his misgivings, and so after debating the matter in the Ingle-nook and being laughed at with superior scorn by Sam Speck, the two old men determined to see and hear for themselves.  On the night of Doxie's third meeting, therefore, they secreted themselves in the vestry and waited until the meeting had been opened, and then stepped softly out to the schoolroom door and listened.  Jabe could scarcely believe his ears.  There was his favourite parable of the good Samaritan not only modernised out of all recognition, but actually and in a hasty though very scandalous way dramatised in his own schoolroom.  He sighed heavily and nudged Lige to come away; but the ex-road-mender could not only hear, he could see, and with his eyes to the chink near the door hinges he was so lost to sense of time and place that when the haughty Levite turned away, and was passing on, he cried out in his excitement, "Thaa wastrill, thaa!" and then suddenly realised where he was.  Before they could beat a retreat Doxie had discovered them, and the indignity of their situation was so strong that they went off with humbled and rebuked looks, and were fain to keep silence as to what they had seen.

    But a week or two later the clogger's trials were completed by a circumstance so ominous of terrible possibilities that all other misgivings were swallowed up in the concern awakened.  The curate had started penny readings on Saturday nights in the schoolhouse, and though he had not come near her for some time, the need for her clarionet in his little orchestra and his knowledge of her undoubted histrionic gifts induced him to put his scruples in his pocket and solicit her assistance.  Doxie fell in with the proposal with alacrity, and undertook to read a selection from Longfellow at the next meeting.  She read the closing part of the lover's errand in "Miles Standish," and in her own enjoyment of the scene she was depicting, put in gesture and graphic vocal modulation until, when she had finished, the little school-house rang and rang again with applause.  Doxie, sitting on the platform amongst the other performers, rose and bowed to the still resounding plaudits, and just as she was resuming her seat her eye caught a sharp, keen face lighted with two black, deep-set eyes; there was no approval on that countenance, and Doxie forgot all the joy of the moment as she realised that one person at any rate disapproved of her appearance on a platform.

    Now Jabe had not known that his niece was going to give a reading when she went out that night; but he heard all about it long before she returned, for she called for a little while at her Aunt Judy's cottage on her way.

    "Cum in, Miss Maantibank!  Miss Kattykewmin Maantibank!  Soa this is wot kattykewmin means, is it!  Play-actin' an' pace-eggin'!'  And the clogger looked fiercely scornful as he limped up and down in the parlour.

    "Why, uncle, what's the matter?  I've only been reading a little nice poetry."

    "Poo-etry!  Poo-etry!" And Jabe's projecting lips, and scowling brow expressed unutterable scorn.  "Aw tell yo' it's maantibankin'!  It's play-actin', it's nowt else."  And he brought his fist down upon the table with such a terrific bang that the little volume which was the cause of all this abuse and which Doxie had just laid down fairly danced again.

    Doxie stood a moment gazing musingly into the fire, and then she said: "Why, uncle, you don't think it is really wrong, do you?"  And as she spoke the vision of the frowning face in the schoolhouse came back to her and made her tones unusually anxious.

    "Wrung!  Is lyin' wrung?  Is thievin' wrung?  Is drunkenniss wrung?  Ther's nowt wrung naa-a-days wi' young folk."


"Wrung!  Is lyin' wrung?  Is thievin' wrung?  Is drunkenniss wrung?
 Ther's nowt wrung naa-a-days wi' young folk."

    Doxie put her foot gently upon the fender, with her eyes still gazing abstractedly into the fire, and at length she said slowly, "Well, I don't think it's wrong myself, uncle――"

    But then the clogger flung himself into his chair, and casting his short yet eloquent leg over the other he began to rock it excitedly, and interrupting his niece he burst out: "Oh, neaw neaw! young folk niver is wrung.  They know sartinly they know."

    Doxie waited until he had finished, and then changing the foot that rested on the fender she said, turning a somewhat pensive face to him: "If I'd known, I wouldn't have displeased my dear old uncle for twenty penny readings."

    Jabe's short leg suddenly stopped its erratic movements, his jaw dropped, the puckers faded out of his face, he began to feel very mean and cruel, and presently, after blowing his nose violently, he said apologetically:

    "Whey dunna yo' hev yur penny readings in aar own schoo' if yo' wanten 'em?"

    And Doxie moved nearer to him, and brushing back his dishevelled hair softly and shyly kissed him.



    Now the stern, disapproving face that had disturbed Doxie so much at the penny readings was that of Andrew Barber, and when the entertainment was over, instead of making straight off home as he usually did, he stood against the low stone wall opposite the schoolhouse to watch for her appearance.  The lamp over the school door shone dimly upon him, and in the faint light you could see that Andrew had changed of late.  There was still the old carelessness of dress and the hat that looked too big for him; but the hair that overhung his wide brow had receded under his hat and revealed a broad, expansive forehead, under which gleamed the same restless, piercing black eyes.  The face, too, had become manly and studious looking, and but for the aggressive chin the whole countenance would have indicated a thoughtful, intellectual, young man.  Even in the shade against the wall it was easy to see that Andrew was moved; his thin lips, always mobile and expressive, were tightly drawn together, his eyes glowed like flames, and his hands were closely clasped behind him.

    Presently there was a movement amongst the loiterers standing round the schoolhouse door, and a moment later Doxie emerged accompanied by the curate.  Andrew scarcely saw the minister, his eyes were fixed on Doxie, and though he could see little but the top part of her face he watched her keenly until, walking at the curate's side, she crossed the bridge and began to ascend the "broo" for home.  There was no lamp in the road, and but for the lights from cottage windows he would have lost sight of her long before he did; and as it was she was only visible as she passed some house; but he watched her until she had quite disappeared, and then with a curious little sigh he stepped over the stile and turned his steps along the footpath towards Beckbottom.

    Before he had gone many yards, however, he stopped, and turning half round and gazing abstractedly towards the "broo" he cried in deep amazement and with but the faintest taint of dialect, "Why she's a woman! a beautiful woman!"  And then after a pause during which he was still staring through the darkness in the direction in which Doxie had disappeared, as though expecting to find some solution of this amazing problem, he went on in tones of even greater astonishment, "She understands Longfellow better than I do myself; and can read it better!"  After standing there several moments longer, during which the beck at his feet was giving forth a sleepy rubble rubble, as it dragged its sluggish way along, he heaved a great bewildered sigh and musingly resumed his journey.  A hundred yards farther on he pulled up again.  "She's beautiful!" he cried, peering round into the darkness, as if demanding some explanation of this paralysing phenomenon.  "Little Doxie Dent a beautiful woman!"

    Almost unconsciously he resumed his journey once more, slowly at first and then faster and faster, as though trying to keep pace with his rushing thoughts; but suddenly he pulled up.  "An' what if she is a woman? what if she is beautiful?  What is that to thee, Andy?  What is that to thee?"  No answer being forthcoming either from the dark, overhanging clouds above him or the idle, murmuring beck, Andrew went murmuring on again.  A little farther on he came to the foot-bridge where he must cross the stream to his sister's house; here he checked himself and turned back.  When he reached the nearest stile he turned round again, and then just as he approached the bridge once more he stopped, and after thinking a moment he doubled his fist and shaking it at some invisible opponent, he cried in low intense tones, "No! Andrew Barber, no!  All the spoilt greatness of the world has been spoilt by women!  All the stopped careers have been stopped by women!  Humanity is your sweetheart.  Your downtrodden fellow-men are your wife and mother and sister and brother.  You've put your hand to the plough, Andy! and you cannot, you shall not, turn back."

    With this melodramatic yet terribly serious apostrophe to himself, Andrew crossed the little bridge and went indoors; but in spite of the vow just made, his thoughts went back again to the girl he had seen at the schoolhouse, and though he took up a book, he saw nothing except a wealth of wonderful golden hair, an animated face, and certain eloquent and bewitching gestures, with the wall of the schoolhouse as a background, and a round of applause as a finale.

    "Why, Leah," he said, lifting his face on which the old look of amazement had reappeared, "Doxie Dent's a woman!"

    And Leah raised her head a moment from her sewing, looked at Andrew with a searching glance, and then, dropping her head again, and smiling knowingly to herself, she replied, "Ay, wot else?"

    But when Andrew had gone to bed, Leah, who was waiting for her husband's return from Duxbury, still sat musing before the fire.  Andrew's astonishment at his discovery entertained her vastly, and she smiled to herself again and again.  At last, however, she rose to her feet and looked at the clock, and as it still wanted some minutes to the time at which Luke had promised to be back, she stood gazing absently into the fire.  As she mused, her smooth white face grew graver and graver, and at last she said softly, "If owt i' this wo'ld con save him, that will."  And as the garden gate clicked at that moment, she turned with a bright glance to greet her husband.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XIII.

A POLITICAL MEETING.


ABOUT this time a perceptible change began to manifest itself in the public life of Beckside.  Hitherto its remoteness had sheltered it from the agitations of the day; but Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill had made many of our friends voters [Ed.―the Reform Act 1867, which effectively gave the vote to the working classes].  A new and very advanced newspaper, called the Duxbury Gazzette, and sold at a penny, began to circulate freely in the neighbourhood, and the clog-shop discussions, which had hitherto been confined to religious and purely local matters, were suddenly extended to high political affairs, such as the Irish Church question, education reform, the ballot, and the strained relations between capital and labour.  Jabe and Long Ben, following the habit of the older Methodists, looked askance upon all these things, but the younger men discussed them whether or no in the Ingle-nook, and many fierce and terrible word battles took place.  And one day there came the paralysing news that Beckside was to have a political meeting.

    The curate had discovered, or thought he had, that Beckside was conservative, and so he had ventured to arrange for a meeting in the schoolhouse on the Irish Church question.  Sam Speck read the announcement out of the Duxbury Gazette at the clog-shop fire, and next day bills proclaiming the fixture appeared on the walls.  Jabe and Ben shook their heads over it; but Sam, Luke Yates, and all the younger men, even including Nathan the smith and quiet Jimmy Juddy, were intensely interested.  The curate's meeting was, of course, in opposition to the disestablishment, and this put the clogger in a quandary; for though he strongly disapproved of this sudden political fever which had come to the village, and scoffed at and ridiculed in his own peculiar way Sam's pretensions to political knowledge, in his inmost heart he was with him on this particular question; and Sam was shrewd enough to discover that, in spite of his jibes and scoffs, he was really on his side.  Sam had read in his new oracle, the Duxbury Gazette, several accounts of meetings in which the Church party had been discomfited on their own platform, and it was the secret desire of his heart that some such thing should take place at Beckside.  There was a difficulty, however, as to how it was to be done.  If Jabe had been enthusiastic, there might have been a prospect of fun; but the most they could expect of him was that he would attend the meeting—a thing which was as yet very doubtful.  There was nobody else in the village of any forensic pretensions, except it might be Luke Yates; and he, though enthusiastic enough, was no better instructed on the subject than the rest of them.  For lack of any one better equipped, however, Luke was eventually pressed into the service; and Sam and Nathan spent every evening between the time of this decision and the night of the meeting, at Beckbottom, comparing notes with their advocate, and posting him up on the latest phases of the case as far as they understood them.

    At last the day of the meeting came.  Some time before the hour fixed the little schoolhouse was filled, and the curate did not know whether to be pleased or alarmed when he saw it; for the company was made up chiefly of Dissenters.  Jabe and Ben had come, after all; and Sam was not without hope that, even if Luke failed to make an impression, the excitement of the occasion would be too much for the clogger, and he would be on his feet before he knew where he was; and if he did――.  But Sam only allowed his imagination to revel in the prospect, and hugged himself in delighted anticipation.

    Presently the meeting was opened, and Sam overheard Jabe calling the attention of Ben to the awful fact that they hadn't even "axed a blessin'."  The chairman was a local and somewhat unpopular landowner, and the rugged faces in the audience grew sterner as he took his place.  Then the speaker of the evening, a travelling agent of some political society, was announced, and began to speak.  He had not been talking long before it began to be manifest that he understood his work, and the silence grew stiller and stiller as he proceeded.  Jabe seemed profoundly impressed, and followed every word with blinking eyes, which at the most telling points were changed into nods of approval.  Sam became very uneasy, and in a few minutes was beginning to wish he had never brought his old friend.  One thing, however, became very clear, namely, that there was nobody in Beckside who could be put up to answer so powerful an advocate.  Then the silence began to be broken by low grunts of approval; once there was something approaching to a cheer; and when after talking for about fifty minutes the orator sat down, the meeting burst into ringing applause.

    "It's noa use taklin' a felley loike yond'," whispered Luke to Sam; and Sam ducked his head into his hands, and wished himself away.

    Just then, however, the chairman announced that the speaker had kindly offered to answer questions; but before he had done speaking he was interrupted by the voice of the clogger crying out in stern disgust, "Let's goo whoam."

    But here the curate interposed; the meeting would not like to disperse without passing a resolution, and he therefore moved one, strongly condemning the unrighteous attempt to rob the Irish Church of its legitimate possessions.  This was immediately seconded, and those who were of Sam's way of thinking turned and nodded to one another as much as to say, "Well, at any rate, we can vote against it."  The chairman rose to put the resolution, Sam and his party ducked their heads under a sense of discomfiture, the silence in the room was almost painful, when suddenly a clear, ringing voice from the back of the schoolhouse cried, "Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question?"

    Everybody turned hastily round to see who the bold intruder might be, and Sam and his supporters looked at each other in utter amazement, for the speaker was Andrew Barber.  Long Ben groaned in distress and shame, and the clogger's leg began to work at a frantic rate.

    "Yes, certainly; come forward, young man."  And whilst Andrew, cool apparently as the proverbial cucumber, stepped to the platform, the speaker of the evening got up and said how thankful he was to find young, enquiring minds in Beckside, and how much he hoped that the young man would not be embarrassed or interrupted.

    Standing there as easily as though he were at home on a platform, Andrew asked his question, and did so in civil and courteous terms.  A sudden change came over the lecturer's face, and he requested somewhat confusedly that the question might be repeated.  Slowly, and with the utmost respectfulness, Andrew repeated his question; and as he did so a gleam of light passed over several countenances, and people began to sit up with quickened interest.  The lecturer in reply made a five minutes' speech full of compliments to Andrew, but containing little of the nature of an answer.  Andrew quietly repeated his question.  Once more the visitor essayed a reply, but it was more evasive and roundabout than the last.  "Can this gentleman answer my question, or can he not?" demanded Andrew; and the audience cheered.  "If the gentleman cannot or will not answer my question, I will answer it myself."

    "No! no! no speeches!" cried the curate and the chairman together but the meeting was excited.  "Ler him talk!  Fair play!  Ler him speik!"  And as it was evident by this time that the feeling had risen very high, the chairman reluctantly consented, and Andrew began.  One by one, in slow, deliberate, but quite masterly fashion for so young a man, Andrew took up the lecturer's points and answered them, and by this time wonder and delight sat on the faces of all the Dissenters present.  Then Andrew branched off into a simple history of the question, and gave such an array of astounding figures that the hearers listened with amazement, and the speaker and his friends on the platform winced and grumbled and protested.  At length, however, the speaker dropped his argumentative style, and in a five minutes' inflated, rhetorical, and amateurish peroration, proclaimed the glories of religious freedom and equality, and sat down.  It was a moment or two before the meeting realised itself; but when it did so, there burst forth such a peal of hand-clapping and stamping as that schoolhouse had probably never been the scene of before.  The lecturer rose to reply; but nobody was in a humour for that, and a rush was made for the door.  As soon as they got outside, a call was raised for Andrew; but he had already disappeared.

    Never in the whole of its wonderful history had the clog-shop been so full as it was on the evening on which Andrew thus routed the curate and his politicians.  It seemed as if every responsible male in the village was there, and the noise and clamour were deafening.  Sam Speck, with his hat cocked at the back of his head, went about from one to the other, taking his friends by the buttonhole and demanding sternly whether he hadn't "allis telled thi they wer summat more nor common i' that lad," in sublime indifference to the fact that his prognostications of former days had always been of a very different kind.  Lige sat leaning on his stick, looking about him in dazed wonderment, and announcing every now and again that he was "fair gloppened"; whilst Jethro, the knocker-up, who ought to have been in bed by this time, drew first one and then another into the corner on the door side of the inglenook, and informed them, "When Aw yerd that slip of a lad bullockin' them swells, it fair crilled me to th' booan."

    The clogger himself was in a dilemma.  The trouncing of the intruder was exactly to his mind, and he felt a quite unholy gratification that it had been done so neatly and so effectually by one of their own Beckside boys.  There was something within him that wanted to break out in proud exultation; and if it had been any other lad, he couldn't have restrained himself.  On the other hand, he suddenly recalled his old-time dislike of this queer boy; and when he came to think of it, the cleverness he had shown that night had something positively uncanny about it.  How did it happen that this youth, who had once had so unsavoury a reputation that he could not live under such a roof as Long Ben's, and who had now for some time been almost forgotten by the villagers, should suddenly bring himself into evidence in this startling way?  And where was Long Ben? why wasn't he listening to and sharing his son's triumph?  The fact that he had gone home instead of coming to the cloggery on such a night as this was a very ominous circumstance now he came to think of it; and putting himself in Ben's place, and trying to realise the thing from his standpoint, there came back to his mind all the deep-rooted suspicion of mere demagogues and agitators which he and Ben had shared together, and, in fact, inherited from the Methodists of the generation before them.  These feelings and memories made him unusually silent; and though he listened attentively to all that was said, his mind somehow persisted in reverting to his friend the carpenter, and to the disturbed and saddened feelings with which he feared he had gone home.

    It was next day at noon before Ben appeared at the clog-shop, and when he did so Jabe's experienced eye detected at once that there was sorrow in the heart of his friend.

    "Well, th' Barbers hez come aat fur wunce at ony rate," said the clogger, as his friend lighted his after-dinner pipe; but Ben was not responsive.  They puffed away in silence one against the other for some moments, and then Jabe went on: "Tha ne'er towd uz az tha wur rearin' a cuckoo amung them young spadgers o' thine," and then with a laugh of conviction, "an' it con sing tew."  Ben's pipe had gone out, but he sat chewing at the mouthpiece and glowering earnestly at the fire; and just when Jabe was preparing to stir him up by another remark, he snatched his pipe out of his mouth, and, leaning forward, cried, though in a voice that grew fierce in its intensity as he proceeded, "Dunna thee tell me abaat God answerin' pruyer ony mooar," and then with a rush of despairing vehemence, "Aw tell thi it's no' trew!"


"Dunna thee tell me abaat God answerin' pruyer ony mooar."

    "Ben! Ben!" and the clogger's tones were heavy with solemn wondering reproach.

    "Did Abraham pray fur Hishmal? did Issac pray fur Heesaw? did David pray fur Absalum? an' whot coom of it aw?  It's no trew, Aw tell thi! it's no trew!" and hastily dashing his pipe to the ground and the angry tears from his eyes, Ben got up and walked out of the shop.

    But before the excitement occasioned by Andrew's astonishing appearance at the schoolhouse had subsided, another and more wonderful discovery still was made.  The popularity of the new Duxbury Gazette had been brought about largely by the appearance in its columns of a number of very popular and biting articles on current topics by a contributor signing himself "The Lamplighter."  These were looked for eagerly by most of the readers, and those weeks when there was no contribution by the person named were regarded as blanks.  At the clog-shop these productions were read with avidity and discussed night after night; Sam Speck had, in fact, acquired quite a new importance, in both his own eyes and those of the frequenters of the cloggery, by his masterly public reading of the all-attractive productions, especially as he grew to feel that at least some moiety of the glory which they imparted belonged to him as the channel through which they reached the Beckside public.  On the Friday night after the scene at the school, the article in the Gazette was of more than usual interest, as it made one or two references to the Beckside political meeting.  Sam had read it in his very best manner, and was turning the paper over to glance at other news, when Johnty Harrop started once more a discussion which took place now every time "The Lamplighter" appeared.  Who was the person so signing himself?  Johnty was stating with his usual decidedness his oft-repeated opinion that it was nobody in that neighbourhood, and could only be some very clever person in Manchester or even in London, when there was a sudden "Well, Aw'll be bother't!" from Sam.  Every eye was at once turned enquiringly upon him; but all that Sam could do was to whisk the paper down to his side, and cry in amazement, "Well, Aw'll goo ta Hanover!"

    "Wot's th' lumpyed up tew?" grunted Jabe from deep in the Ingle-nook; but, ignoring so trivial a question, Sam strode across the fireplace, and, tapping Johnty on the shoulder, he cried, "Tha wants ta know whoa 'Th' Lamplighter ' is, does ta? tha wants ta know whoa's written aw them articles, does ta?  Well, hearken here."  And drawing himself up in the full consciousness of the glory that the paragraph he was about to read would give him, he commenced:


SPECIAL NOTE TO OUR READERS.


    We have been besieged for some time with enquiries as to the identity of our valued contributor "The Lamplighter"; but hitherto we have not been able to gratify this very natural curiosity.  At last, however, we have received the consent of the writer to allow his real name to be divulged, and we have pleasure in announcing that the brilliant young politician who so effectually disposed of a certain itinerant Irish Church advocate at Beckside the other night and "The Lamplighter " are the same person.  Mr. Barber having accepted the appointment of Secretary to the Duxbury Spinners' and Minders' Association, will henceforth reside in Duxbury, and continue the valuable contributions which have so delighted our numerous readers.




    Perfect stillness reigned in the cloggery for a moment or two after Sam had finished, and then there burst forth a chorus of long, amazed whistles, followed by another pause; and then the babel recommenced, and for the next quarter of an hour everybody was speaking at once.  Jabe called Sam a whole string of abusive names, and utterly refused to believe the news; and it was only when the paper had been carefully spread out before him and he had examined it for himself that he gave in.  The younger men were full of elation and enthusiasm, and the elder ones simply sat there and stared at each other.  Then Long Ben came in, and was told; and so great and contagious was the pride and triumph of the noisier ones, that for a moment even he looked uplifted, and Jabe, on seeing this, cast off all the restraints of consistency, and openly boasted of Beckside as a nursery of greatness.  So great, in fact, was his pride and delight, that he presently limped off into the parlour and communicated the astounding intelligence to Doxie, who, not having read "The Lamplighter's" contributions, seemed to her uncle strangely unimpressed by the news.



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