IT had been a wet
washing-day, and knowing full well all that that meant to his natty,
house-proud little wife, Quiet William had consumed his "baggin" in
discreet but highly characteristic silence. He knew by many
experiences that this was the one thing that was always too much for
his wife's temper, and as he ate he glanced furtively at her from
time to time as she went about clearing away with manifest
impatience the last signs of the struggle through which she had
passed during the day.
It had always been one of William's boasts that he never knew
when it was washing-day at his house, and Hannah, or "Tan," as she
was always called, though she affected total indifference on the
subject, was secretly very proud of this implied compliment, and
exceedingly anxious to be always worthy of it.
But when the rain pours down with steady, exasperating
persistence all the day, and when the "copper" flue
positively won't draw, and you have been compelled to use slack
because that "gallons wastril" Toffy Joe has not brought the coals
though they have been "ordert" nearly a week, and evening has come
and the clothes hang about in a clammy fog, is it any wonder if you
do feel "a bit nattered"?
Oh! what a relief it would have been if Joe had brought the
coals just then. She could have "cooambed his yure for him"
with completest satisfaction, and with even a gratifying sense that
she was discharging a duty.
But Joe hadn't come, and as for her husband, she might as
well try to quarrel with the peggy-stick, as she nearly had done
once that day, as attempt to get up a word-battle with him. If
he would only say one little word—anything would do—to set her off
and open the valve that was confining all this suppressed and
accumulated wrath. But William wouldn't. Of course he
wouldn't. He never did. There was no satisfaction in a
husband like that. He wouldn't even look wrongly at
her. His face was as blank, as a dead wall. Could
anything be more aggravating?
By this time William had finished his meal and drawn back his
chair into its corner. He knew just how it was with "Tan."
He wished in his very heart she wouldn't trouble so much about
trifles. What did it matter? He had been thinking about
her often during the day, and watching somewhat anxiously through
the dirty mill windows for a change in the weather. But it
hadn't come, and he had returned home full of sympathy with his
wife, but a sympathy not unmixed with apprehension. In this
state of mind he quietly glided his hand up the chimney jamb and
took down from the mantelpiece a short black pipe, and began to
charge it, glancing uneasily round as he did so, as if fearful of
having been caught in the act. Then he lighted a "spill" and
applied it to the pipe; and then, after certain experimental puffs
to make sure that all was right with his comforter, he drew two or
three long, satisfying pulls, and quite unconsciously heaved a deep
sigh of relief, looking as he did so with a look of complacent
contentment at the red-hot spot in the top of the pipe bowl.
It was a little thing, and might ordinarily have passed
unnoticed, but to one who was vainly waiting for any sort of
provocation it was more than sufficient. Hannah was busy
filling the "maiden" with clothes, but the moment her quick ear
caught William's sigh she whisked round, and was about to challenge
it. But another thought struck her; her resentment deepened,
and from irritable complaint she passed in thought to satire, and
cried out, ironically, "Th-e-e-r! tha's some cumfort i' th' wold,
hasn't tha', poor, ill-used craytur?"
William was startled; he took the pipe slowly out of his
mouth, and turning round to look at his wife, he cried in
"'Tan'! Aye, it's aw Tan. Aw th' trubble o' thi
loife's cum fro' Tan, hesn't it? Bud ne'er moind, tha's getten
thi poipe, tha knows. Thi own woife, as mauls an' slaves fur
thi yer in an' yer aat's noawheer wheer thi poipe cums, is hoo?"
William snatched the offending idol out of his mouth, and
holding it down behind his hand as if to conceal it, cried in
genuine distress, "Dust na loike it, wench?"
"Loike it? Oh, aye, Aw loike it, sure-li.
Aw conna help bud loike it when him as owt tak' cur on me thinks
mooar o' it nur he does o' me."
"Hannah!" cried William in shocked and distressed tones.
"'Hannah'! Dunna, 'Hannah' me, mon; tell th' trewth an'
say 'Bacca! bacca! Wot's a woife tew a mucky owd poipe?'
William Dyson, Aw've towd thi mony o toime thar't a slave tew it.
Thar't smookin' thi brains, an' thi temper, and thi soul away.
Bud Aw'll say me say if Aw dee fur it."
As this torrent of raillery was being hurled at him William
looked more and more amazed. The words used by his overwrought
little wife were of no moment to him, but the weary soreness of mind
which their employment revealed seriously alarmed him, and he
quietly slided the pipe back upon the mantelpiece and sank down into
For a moment or two he looked earnestly at his wife, but
perceiving that the pent-up fire had now spent itself and that "Tan"
was already penitent, he turned and looked musingly into the
fire-grate, whilst Hannah, snatching up her basket of clothes,
whisked off into the scullery.
She banged the door after her, but the latch did not catch,
and so it remained just the least bit open, and William sat up in
the attitude of listening, following and interpreting the various
sounds and movements going on in the scullery. First he heard
the basket banged into two or three different places, as it
evidently would not stand properly. Then he heard a noisy
rattle amongst the pots, and then a demonstrative scraping out of a
porridge pan. Presently there was a pause, and just as the
silence was beginning to affect him he heard a sniff, and then
another, and then a soft blowing of the nose, followed by a covering
cough. Then all was quiet again, and after a minute or two
William heard a long sigh. For some time he waited for his
wife to come forth, and glanced every now and then toward the
scullery door, but the disturbed woman gave no sign. Presently
he unclasped and drew off his clogs, removed his coat, looked at his
fingers to make sure they were not greasy, and then, groping up the
corner of the fireplace, he drew down a carefully preserved but
Gently and cautiously, and with many a glance at the little
door, he ran his hand over the strings, and screwed with expressive
grimaces at the pegs.
Then he paused again, took a long expostulating sort of look
at the obdurate door, and then, lifting the fiddle to his chin, and
drawing the bow across the strings gently, he played a few bars, and
softly glided off into "Annie Lisle."
This was the first tune William had ever learnt to play, and
the one that first won him a smile from the pretty Hannah Grimshaw,
in the days of auld lang syne. As he played his eyes glistened
and his lips moved; but, however eagerly he watched that green inner
door, it would not open. Then he ran off into snatches of old
chapel tunes and anniversary anthems; and just as he was waxing warm
with the ever green "How beautiful upon the mountains," the door
gave way, and Hannah, with a chastened countenance, came forth
carrying the porridge pan. She brought it straight to the
fireplace and perched it on the front bar. Then she leaned her
left arm on the mantelpiece and her head on her arm, and stood
looking dreely down into the pan and stirring as for dear life.
Then she paused a moment, and William, with a hungry coaxing
look at her, glided off into Hannah's favourite revival tune, and
then, as her face suddenly saddened, he blinked his eyes in the
intensity of his earnestness, and bending eagerly over the
instrument, and apparently putting all the music of his soul into
it, there came trembling forth:
Though often here we're weary,
There is sweet rest above, &c., &c.
Great tears swam into Hannah's already red eyes; she dropped
back into a rocking-chair, covered her face with her hands, and
sobbed unfeignedly, whilst the boiling porridge kept up a sort of
bloberty-blob, bloberty-blob, blob, blob accompaniment to the music.
William played on, apparently too absorbed in his occupation
to notice his weeping wife. But presently he paused and leaned
back in his chair, and began to contemplate the floorboards above
his bead, as though trying to think of another tune. But the
melody would not come, and so, after waiting a long time,
ostentatiously oblivious the while of his wife's presence, he was
just about to put the instrument away when Hannah got quietly up,
took hold of the pan of porridge, lifted it gently upon the "hob,"
and then, looking intently down into its depths, she murmured, in a
tone in which confession, apology, and caressing were curiously
blended, "Hay, lad! ther's nowt loike the owd tunes, is ther?"
And William, who had just found the peg he was groping for,
hung the fiddle up, and then, slipping his hand along the
mantelpiece to feel for his pipe again, answered gently, "Neaw."
NOW this was by
no means the first attack which old Hannah had made on her husband's
besetment. She had never really become reconciled to it, or at
any rate she would never admit that she had. But somehow
William had got the idea that his little wife was not at bottom
opposed to smoking, only she liked to have some handy subject for
feminine raillery, and this was generally the easiest and most
obvious point of attack. And at first William was inclined to
think that this was only another, though a somewhat more serious,
outbreak of the same feeling, the additional severity of it being of
course attributable to the wet washing-day, and his wife's
consequent and very excusable irritation. But somehow he
didn't forget it as he generally did. As a rule his wife's
"bits o' flush," as he called them, were forgotten almost
immediately, but for some reason or other this last incident refused
to be thus ignored.
Hitherto also his beloved fiddle, though brought in because
of its tried influence on the temper of his wife, succeeded
generally in dispelling gloom from his own mind and relieving it of
all unpleasant recollections. But for once even the fiddle
failed. Hannah was certainly kinder than usual after her
outburst, so that there was nothing from that source to prevent him
forgetting the late incident. And yet for the life of him he
All next day, as he went about in the mill, his thoughts
reverted with most unusual and distressing frequency to the
occurrence of the previous night. What could be the reason of
it? Did Hannah really dislike tobacco so much as that, and had
she all these years been quietly enduring it with only occasional
half-playful protests? And if so, had he become such a callous
wretch and so wrapped up in his pipe as never to have noticed what
his poor wife was suffering? Was tobacco so blinding and
benumbing his perceptions that he could no longer read his wife's
feelings, or was he growing so hardened as not to care what she
felt? If so, what a hard-hearted monster he was becoming!
And if the enslaving pipe was producing such blinding and searing
influence on his mind, what must it be doing to his soul!
Once started on this line of thought, William soon recalled a
score of little unnoticed circumstances which he now saw were signs
of spiritual decay.
Things began to look very serious indeed. "Tan" had
always been much better than he, he well knew. What if she had
noticed his spiritual declension, and had been so troubled about it
as eventually to lose her temper in warning him? Had anybody
in the world such a wife as he had? Oh, what a sinner he must
be to have treated her like this!
This kind of torturing self-accusation went on for days, and
poor William got no relief. He had not got far enough for the
desperate remedy of total abstinence from the weed, but he had got
far enough for any indulgence in it to make him miserable, so that
the "bacca" didn't taste the same, and he had to admit ruefully to
himself, "Aw con noather smook nor leeav it alooan."
And then William was a steadfast believer in Providence.
Every unusual occurrence was to him a sign of something, and so
when, on the following Sunday, the appointed preacher was not able
to attend through sickness, and had sent a "Primitive" to take his
place, William regarded it as nothing short of direct interference
of Providence when the preacher, taking for his text, "Little
children keep yourselves from idols," launched out into a terrible
tirade on the use of tobacco, and clinched his argument by relating
a thrilling incident about a man who had a dream in which the
recording angel stuck to it against all that he could say that his
name was not in the Book of Life. And at last, after reading
the record through for the fourth time, announced that the name was
there, but so hidden under tobacco smoke that it was scarcely
This was awful! Whatever doubt William might have had
as to the necessity of giving tobacco up was now dispelled, for this
remarkable change of preachers, bringing with it such an entirely
unexpected but richly-deserved message to him in his benighted
idolatry, left not the slightest doubt in his mind that "Providence"
was in it all.
He felt sorely in need of advice. But to whom should he
go? All his old friends smoked more than he did himself with
the exception of Miles, and Miles only abstained because he had
tried again and again and couldn't manage smoking. What should
he do? He longed to consult "Tan"; but he felt sure she would
pretend to like it out of pity for him, and she had already
expressed herself in trenchant terms about the sermon that had
disturbed him. So that she was clearly prejudiced and her
opinion was not to be relied upon.
Whilst he was debating these matters with himself and smoking
rather more than usual as an aid to reflection, but with a
consciousness of growing depravity, the prospect of help came from
an entirely unexpected quarter.
There was in connection with the chapel a Literary and Mutual
Improvement Society. It was only active during the winter
months, and seemed to hibernate in the summer.
It held fortnightly meetings, and was a sort of rendezvous
for all the irresponsible freelances and amateur critics of the
village. The majority of the members belonged to the chapel,
and consequently the meetings were held in the large back vestry at
the rear of that building. But it must not be supposed on this
account that the rulers of the synagogue approved of the
institution. To them it was anathema. Its very existence
presupposed dissent and tacit rebellion, and its continued
prosperity was a distinct menace to all proper authority.
However promising a young man was in the church he was given up by
the leaders immediately it was known that he had joined the "littery."
More than once the question had been seriously debated in private
whether a "mutualer" could be recognised as a member, and the fact
that such wild and treasonable ideas as report said were propagated
at the meeting should be spoken on Methodist premises was gall and
wormwood to the responsible heads of the church.
But what could they do? When the obnoxious society was
first formed, and permission was sought for holding the meetings on
Methodist premises, the trustees were horrified, and regarded the
suggestion as a deliberate insult. But when it turned out that
Adam o' th' Point, who had separated from "th' owd body" some time
before and had started an opposition service in "Joany's loft," was
offering the new society the use of his tabernacle, and that the
reckless spirits at the head of the new movement were so bent on
carrying out their purpose that they would go there if not
accommodated on their own premises, the trustees felt that they were
on the horns of a dilemma, and eventually consented to grant the use
of the room, relieving their minds afterwards by denouncing the
whole thing as a "Maantibank club."
Ever since then there had been wars and rumours of wars in
the chapel without end. Miles Grimshaw expressed his supreme
contempt for the intellectual endowments of the members on every
conceivable opportunity. Quiet William shook his head and
sighed sadly. Jimmy the Scutcher, after drawing out one of the
most enthusiastic of the advocates for the new society, and
listening with a show of friendly interest to the discussion of
various taking titles for the society, made an atrocious pun on the
mutual, calling it mewtual, and finally suggested that it
should be called the "Tom Cat Society," and all its literary
productions "pussy cat tails." But a crisis arose when one day
a beaming youth, swollen out with a sense of the importance of his
new dignity as secretary, came into the preacher's vestry and handed
the steward a pulpit notice announcing the opening soiree.
Jacky o' th' Gap peremptorily refused to have the paper "gees aat";
and when the second minister, who happened to be the preacher for
that morning, ventured to plead for the announcement, Jacky lost all
control of himself, and cried angrily, "Yo moind yore preiching, and
leeav theeas galivanting bermyeds fa, me."
The society was now in its third session, and was, perhaps,
all the more popular with the rank and file of the chapel-goers
because it was known to be so objectionable to the officials.
One Sunday morning, during William's painful mental struggles
about his beloved pipe, the preacher announced that on the following
Wednesday night an essay would be read at the Mutual Improvement
Society meeting on "Tobacco," which would be followed by open
The essayist on this occasion was to be Abram Briggs, whom
everybody knew as a violent teetotaler and anti-tobacconist, and so
the whole affair presented itself to William's mind as another
direct providential interference to meet his difficulties and bring
him to repentance. And so he felt bound to swallow all his
scruples and go and hear what could be said on the subject.
That very night his terrible brother-in-law Miles announced his
intention of going to the meeting, too, and "giving them 'Johnny
Raw's' belltinker," and as this threat spread rapidly through the
village everybody felt that such an occasion was not to be missed,
and so the affair promised to be a great success.
Once or twice only had the officials of the church patronised
these obnoxious meetings, but on this occasion, feeling that the
subject was a direct challenge to them, they all announced their
intention of being present, especially after they discovered that
Miles the redoubtable would actually enter the arena against the
This was certainly an opportunity not to be missed, and every
man smacked his lips and blinked his eyes in prospective enjoyment
of the "bancelling" the hapless essayist would receive.
On Wednesday morning, however, a most disappointing
announcement had to be made. Miles was ill, and as he had been
working the week before in a house where fever had since broken out,
the doctor feared he might have caught the infection, and
peremptorily forbade him to leave the house for three days lest he
should spread disease.
Poor Miles! It took him quite a quarter of an hour to
relieve his mind to the doctor and pour scorn on his regulations.
Then he sent a stern message to his brother-in-law William,
exhorting him on peril of certain terrible pains and penalties to
"Goa an' ston up fur thisel' at th' meeting," and another message
was sent to the essayist challenging him to postpone the meeting
until Mites was better, and thus secure for himself "th' best
letherin' thaa iver hed i' thi loife."
When the meeting came everybody spent the few minutes before
the business commenced lamenting the enforced absence of Miles.
Presently the essayist was called upon to read his paper, and as he
rose to do so Quiet William leaned abstractedly back against the
wall under the window, and closed his eyes to listen.
The reader began by stating that tobacco was not a product of
civilisation, but a noxious plant used by savages to poison snakes,
and introduced to the notice of Europeans by the debased and
irreclaimable Indians of the wild West. (Here William began to
feel heartily ashamed of himself.) The essential spirit of
tobacco, the essayist went on, was a deadly poison called nicotine,
one or two drops of which would poison a cat (William winced, and
felt that he was beginning to perspire). The reader next gave
a list of the diseases which were either originated or developed by
the deadly weed, and enlarged eloquently on its benumbing effect on
the brain and conscience, and William was conscious of several
mysterious pains in the head and stomach, and felt himself a
Then the essayist gave statistics to show how much money was
wasted on "this seductive but deadly plant" every year, with hints
of the good that might be done with such money if it were spent on
philanthropic objects, and then wound up with a highly rhetorical
declamation, in which the man who used tobacco was denounced as "a
sensualist, a spendthrift and a slave."
Whilst the essay was being read, Jacky o' th' Gap had
followed it by an energetic running comment, which gradually swelled
into one final explosive negative, and before the chairman could
invite any one to reply, Jacky was on his feet pouring out the vials
of his wrath upon both the paper and its bold author. But the
members of the society prided themselves on their familiarity with
the rules of debate, and several of them at once rose to order.
This only made Jacky the wilder and more incoherent, and after
lashing out on every side for several minutes he was suddenly called
to order by the chairman, and sat abruptly down in a pet, leaving a
feeling in the minds of the assembled company that he had certainly
not helped his own side.
Then two or three of the young orators of the society took up
cudgels in defence of the paper just read, and kept themselves so
well within the lines of fair argument that their very moderation
created an impression favourable to the essay; and as Jimmy the
Scutcher was absent and the redoubtable Miles sick, there was
positively nobody bold enough to represent the opposition except
poor William, and he hovered between a desire to get up and avow his
determination to eschew the wicked weed for ever, and a sneaking
inclination, coming, he knew, from the old Adam, to slink out of the
room on the very first opportunity.
At this trying moment a long-necked, rather
hysterical-looking youth, a big piecer at the mill, got up to make
his maiden effort in oratory. He had started with a sentence
which was a modified approval of the essay, and was just referring
to his notes for the next point amidst profound silence, when bang!
bang! came at the window outside, the top half of which was suddenly
swung open, and through the aperture thus made came the bristling
terrier head of Miles Grimshaw, muffled almost to the eyes in shawls
and "comfortables," and a moment later his high, strident voice was
heard crying, "Well, hez that meety (mighty) Giant getten his little
maase kilt yet? Yo' ninnyhommers, yo'! If yo'd set to
wark a huntin' some o' th' big rooarin' lions o' sins ith' wold
atsteead o' freetining a little maase of a sin like bacca, it 'ud
leuk o foine seet better on yo'.—Naa, then! naa, then!" He
broke off suddenly. "Leme be! leme be, wilta!" And at that
moment the shadow of a big female fell on the window, poor Miles
suddenly disappeared, and as the cold air came in through the
aperture the debaters had mental pictures of a little man being
carried off home, kicking and struggling like a rebellious baby, in
the arms of his buxom wife. There was no chance of any serious
argument after that. The meeting laughed and laughed again,
and every attempt to resume the debate was but the signal for a
fresh explosion. Then the people, feeling that the
entertainment was over, began to disperse, and in a few minutes poor
William was going moodily home, confessing to himself that he had
got "noa furruder," and fighting with a feeling of relief and unholy
satisfaction which he realised to be very wicked indeed.
TWO or three
weeks passed away, during which William was slowly relapsing into
his old habits and his old contentment therewith.
In fact, as he sat musing by the fire and sucking away at his
"comforter" of an evening, it seemed to him somehow that his pipe
tasted sweeter than ever, and he was compelled to admit that the
mental struggles through which he had recently passed gave an added
relish to the enchanting weed. Hannah, too, had never said a
single word against his habit since the scene recorded in our first
chapter, and had even brought home a new spittoon without the
lecture which generally accompanied any such expenditure.
One day, however, William was suddenly and most unexpectedly
awakened out of his sinful peace. It occurred at the
missionary meeting, always a great institution at Scowcroft.
The deputation—a real live missionary—had made a most
eloquent speech, during the deliverance of which William's
intentional shilling had gradually grown first to eighteen-pence and
then to a florin, and when at last the speaker sat down after a most
touching appeal for help, William felt that nothing less than
half-a-crown would do justice to the occasion.
Before the glow of fervour which the missionary's speech
enkindled had had time to cool, the chairman called upon the curate
to address the meeting. Now this was an entirely new item in
the programme. The curate was new to Scowcroft, and had shown
himself so very friendly to the chapel people that Jacky o' th' Gap
had taken it upon himself to invite him to the missionary meeting.
The vicar, who was regarded as "a dacent chap, bud terrible
standoffish," was away, and so Mr. Bransom had nobody to consult,
and had cheerfully accepted Jacky's invitation.
To William all this was pure delight, and so when the curate
rose he quietly hugged himself with pleasure, and settled himself
down in his seat for another good time.
In a moment or two the young priest was speaking on
self-sacrifice, and began in what William regarded as quite a
Methodist sort of way to show how much people spent on luxuries, and
how comparatively little they gave to philanthropic objects.
William felt a cold chill creep down his back, and he looked
round with an uneasy glance to see whether everybody was not looking
at him as the guilty culprit, whilst a little tin canister and a
short brier pipe rose like ghosts before him, and an old brass box
containing thick twist deep down in his pocket began to feel very
hot, as if even in that snug retreat it was blushing. Somehow
the curate had a most awkward way of putting things—no wrapping the
thing up at all; and William positively caught him looking straight
at him as he was saying some of his most pointed things. This
was no sort of missionary speech. It would certainly spoil the
collection. Besides, it was so personal. William's
indignation was fast getting the better of him. Then his
thoughts took another turn. It was strange that the curate
should be at this missionary meeting of all others when the vexed
question of tobacco or no tobacco was still under debate in
William's mind. Stranger still that he should select this
particular kind of argument, and talk about giving up little
indulgences for the sake of others. It was Providence and
nothing else! God was still wrestling with the hardened
Ephraim, who was so entirely given up to his idols. Oh, what
an extravagant wretch he was! Blowing money into the air that
might be the means of saving some poor little black wench.
(Somehow, William always thought of the heathen as little black
wenches, perhaps because he had once had a little wench of his own;
only, instead of being black, she was very fair—too fair, indeed,
for health and life.)
The curate was still talking and still appealing for more
self-sacrifice. Oh, why didn't he stop, or change the subject?
William was nearly beside himself, and when at last the young
parson, with just the slightest possible break in his voice,
appealed for self-sacrifice "just for the love of Jesus," William
had great difficulty in preventing himself "brastin' aat o' shriking,"
and heaved a sigh and choked back a sob as the speaker resumed his
And now the battle had all to be fought over again, and
William regarded himself as roused for the last time from his false
peace, and with one final chance before him. How could he be a
Christian and cling so to his pipe? It was impossible.
It wouldn't bear thinking of, and the big, tender-hearted man went
out of the chapel with a terrible load of guilt on his soul.
He did not smoke that night, but sat musing by the fire long
after Hannah had gone to bed, and finally he followed her with the
great question still unsettled.
Next day William was absent-minded and gloomy all day.
When asked his opinion of the missionary meeting he endorsed the
universal verdict as to the missionary's address, but found it
difficult to speak with unqualified approval of the curate's
deliverance. He could not rest in the house that night, and at
last got a richly-deserved taste of Hannah's tongue, "trapesin' in
an' aat loike a maddlin'."
Then he sat down by the fire, but as he began to fear that
"Tan" would notice his distraught air and abstinence from the pipe,
he sidled off into the lanes for an uneasy stroll.
For a time he walked up and down muttering to himself and
praying, and presently he wandered across the croft and over the
bridge into the wooded lanes on the other side of the canal.
Then he strolled back, and stood leaning over the parapet of the
bridge, and looking into the muddy waters below.
There was a waning moon, and in its light William stood
peering down upon the waters in anxious thought.
He heaved a great sigh, and put his hand into his
coat-pocket. Then he hesitated, stood staring down the canal
at a grimy coal-barge lying alongside the mill engine-house.
Then he sighed again, and with a desperate effort thrust his hand
into his pocket and drew it out full.
For a moment or two he stood in the moonlight, looking
steadily and sadly at the things he held in his hand.
There was the little tin canister, there was the brass
tobacco-box, and there was his old and beloved pipe. William
laid them carefully on the parapet and stood looking at them
intently. Then he looked hastily round to see if there was
anybody near, and then glanced up at the moon as if objecting to be
so spied upon. In a little while he picked up his pipe, and
handling it with great affection he turned it over and over again,
examining with strange fondness a crack which he had repaired
himself long ago. Then he laid it down carefully on the bridge
again, and picking up the little brass box he opened it and took a
long relishful sniff at its fragrant contents. Closing the lid
presently with a loud snap, he commenced rubbing the box on his
thigh to make it shine still more. Then he put it down
alongside the pipe and canister, and heaving a deep sigh stood
looking wistfully at them.
Presently he sighed again, took another look round as if he
would have been glad of an interruption, and then, gathering the
treasures once more into his great hand, he held them out over the
dim waters below. Then he drew his arm back again and
hesitated. "Th' little wenches! Th' little black
wenches," he murmured, thickly; "they're sunbry's little Hannahs if
they arrna moine. Lord help me! Lord help me!" and as he
thus prayed he thrust his arm slowly over the parapet and held his
treasures over the water again. Then he shut his eyes very
tightly, paused a moment waveringly, sighed again, and slowly opened
Flop! Flop! went the pipe and box and canister into the
canal. William stood for a moment peering through the pale
moonlight at the little widening rings on the water, and then, with
a sigh that was almost a sob, turned hurriedly towards home.
By the time he reached his own house he had partly recovered
himself, and was fast overcoming his regret at parting with his
treasures, and he did so the more easily, as he not only began to
feel a comfortable sense of moral elation at the sacrifice he had
made, but commenced also to be apprehensive as to how he would deal
with his wife. She would be sure to notice if he did not take
his nightcap pipe, and he was not sure that, in spite of all her
recent denunciations of tobacco, she would allow his sudden and
complete abstinence to go unchallenged.
He knew also that he would have a very rough handling from
his cronies at the chapel; but as he was often in disgrace with
them, he felt less concerned about that than otherwise lie might
But however unsuspecting Hannah might have been, her
husband's manner would have aroused curiosity in the most
indifferent mind. He sidled into the house humming a tune with
a busy sort of drone in it. Then he took down the violin and
began to play, running, however, from one tune to another in a most
erratic and confusing sort of way.
Then he started a conversation, but he talked so rapidly and
incoherently, and so entirely unlike his own laconic style, that
that alone would have been sufficient to excite suspicion in a far
duller person than his sharp little wife. Presently he took
his clogs off, and made off upstairs to bed in his stocking feet,
for slippers were quite uncommon luxuries to Scowcroft males.
When he had got upstairs old Hannah stood listening on the
hearthstone at the creaking of the boards over her head under
William's enormous weight. She was evidently thinking rather
than listening, and in a moment or two she turned with one of her
characteristic jerks, and drawing a low stool from under the table
she stepped upon it and began exploring the mantelpiece end just
where William's smoking materials were kept. They were all
Then she leaned over and searched a little three-cornered
shelf in the chimney corner, but nothing satisfactory could she
find. Then she got down from her perch, put the stool away in
an absent pondering way, stood for a time looking fixedly into the
fire, and then with an "Hay mi," "Hay dear mi," she proceeded to
join her husband. No word or hint did Hannah give of her
discovery, but William was kept awake for an hour or two that night
with the disturbing certainty that his wife had found him out.
Several days passed, during which William went through all
the stages of experience to which those who make such
self-sacrifices are subject. At first he was buoyed up by an
elevating sense of moral victory. Then he suddenly discovered
that this was spiritual pride, a worse sin even than smoking.
Then the colour seemed to fade out of his sacrifice, and he felt
inclined to despise his own heroic act, and to think cynically of
the romantic appearance his actions had for a time assumed in his
Oddly enough, for two or three days he felt no great desire
for the foresworn weed, and was surprised and very inconsistently
disappointed at the ease with which he had conquered it after all.
A few days more, he told himself, and he would be entirely
free from the appetite, and, strange to say, he did not feel half as
elated at the prospect as he knew he ought to be. Then his
friends found him out, and the obstinacy aroused by their rough and
unsparing chaff carried him over several more days. By this
time he felt that the struggle was practically over, and he was
greatly surprised, if not disappointed, that he had got through the
crisis so easily.
For three or four days now he had had practically no desire
at all for his old idol, and was beginning to despise the hold which
he had imagined it had obtained over him.
Meanwhile, Hannah was greatly exercised about the matter.
Really she did not care a jot whether her husband smoked or not,
only she must have something to "read off abaat" occasionally.
In fact, she had so long been accustomed to tobacco that she was
surprised to find how much she missed it herself. And if she
missed it, what must her husband be passing through! Nobody
knew better than she how dearly he loved his pipe, and although, of
course, she took care not to let him see it, and kept him in his
place out of sheer force of habit, yet she loved her big, quiet,
tender-hearted husband with intense affection, and was ready to cut
her tongue out when she found that its wicked wagging had deprived
him of one of his few earthly indulgences. For several days
now, therefore, she had been narrowly watching William, and
inflicting on herself all sorts of mental castigations.
Sixpence per week! she said to herself; that was all he ever spent.
What was that if it really did give him the pleasure it seemed to
do? And then she went back over all the years of their married
life, and recalled the numberless sacrifices, great and small, he
had made for her and for their one child now in heaven. She
reminded herself also of the many nights on which he had sat up
nursing little Hannah during her illness, and the delight which the
little angel took in seeing her father puff away at his pipe.
Then she compared William to all the other men she knew, and
especially to Silas Shaw, for whom she had once nearly given William
up in their courting days, but who was now a rough, drunken, canal
boatman. Oh, what a wicked woman she had been, and how keenly
she watched William during those days of his abstinence!
One day as she was musing on these things the greengrocer
came to the door, and Hannah, hastily wiping away a tear with the
corner of her apron, went out to make her purchases. The
hawker was a youthful member of the "Mutual," and a violent
"Well, Hannah, is he stickin' yet?" he cried, as she came to
the cart side.
"Stickin'! Wot art talkin' abaat?" she demanded, with
unusual asperity, although she knew quite well to whom the young
fellow was alluding.
"Abaat yore William. He's gan o'er smookin', Aw yer, an
Aw whop (hope) he's owdin' aat. The 'Mutuals' dun sum good yo'
"Aw wish th' 'Mutual' an' aw th' bermyeds as goos tew it wur
at th' bottom o' th' say, so theer." And Hannah looked
fiercer than the hawker had ever seen her do in her life.
"Whey, Hannah," he cried, "wot's up? Aw thowt yo'
wanted yore William ta give up."
"Tha thowt wrung then! Awd rayther he smooked till he
wur black i' th' face, an' if ho doesna tak to'ot ageean, Aw'll—Aw'll
"Bud, Hannah, it's wasteful, yo' known, blowing good brass
int' th' urr" (air).
"He nubbut smooked tew aance a wik, tha lumpyed," this with
almost blazing indignation.
"Tew aance! Well, that's sixpence a wik, a' sixpence a
wik for forty yer cums ta"—but he never finished his arithmetic, for
Hannah was back on the doorstep, and, drawing herself up to her very
fullest height, which was not very high after all, she delivered her
final philippic: "Aw tell thi Aw durn't cur ha' mitch it is; if it
gan him as mitch cumfort as it seems ta ha' done, it's abaat th'
cheppest mak o' cumfort as Aw've iver yerd on. An' if he
doesn't start a' smookin' afore th' wik's as Aw'll—Aw'll mak him!"
And retiring as red as a turkey cock, and in imminent danger of
sudden tears, she banged the door angrily in the greengrocer's face
and left him to himself.
Now the same day William had had a very worrying time at the
mill. Everything had gone wrong with him. Early in the
morning a loom had broken down, and whilst he was "fettlin" it he
turned round and discovered suddenly that there was an enormous
"float" on the other loom. And so for hours that day he had
only had part of his looms going.
Towards three in the afternoon, however, things began to get
right again, and when at last he was able to stand up and stretch
himself, he sighed with a big sigh of relief as he glanced down the
alley and saw all his looms at work once more. Then all at
once there came upon him an intense longing for his pipe. It
was very sudden and unexpected, but most unaccountably strong.
In five minutes he wanted a pipe worse than he ever remembered to
have wanted one in his life. He sent up hastily a little
prayer for help, but somehow he found that their was no heart in his
petition. He tried to resist the feeling—he couldn't smoke in
the mill in any case. He struggled to shake it off and forget
it, but there it was. Then he began to look at the clock over
the weaving shed door, and tried to think of his pleasant little
house, and how nice it would be to rest there when six o'clock came.
But into the picture of restful comfort his fancy painted, there
somehow floated a little brass tobacco-box and a most tempting
little pipe. Oh, what should he do? Tobacco he must have
by some means. More than once the impulse came to him to go
down the loom alley to Pee Walker and borrow a quid and try to chew;
but that he had always held was so much worse than smoking that
common consistency compelled him to resist the desire. It was
a long, terrible afternoon, and when six o'clock came William went
home still struggling with a fierce desire for his old comforter.
Hannah received him with quite unusual kindness, and brought
out what was in those days a very rare delicacy, only procurable at
the grocer's, and carefully reserved for Sundays—a pot of marmalade;
and the helping she gave him made him absolutely certain that
something was going to happen.
But, strange to say, the wonderful marmalade was rather
insipid for once, and even a little hot fat-cake which Hannah
produced out of the oven about half-way through the meal failed to
appease the longing of the poor weaver. Indeed, he was glad
when the meal was over, and turned away from the table feeling that
he ought to be an exceedingly happy and grateful man, and he wasn't.
Oh! what a poor, weak thing he must be, and how basely ungrateful.
Then Hannah began to clear away the tea-things, and presently
she thrust the little table close to his chair, closer, in fact,
than usual, and William leaned his elbow upon it, and sat looking
wearily into the fire and fighting with his craving for the weed.
Once he thought Hannah was poking about strangely near him, but
glancing round with his eyes without moving his head he found that
she was just disappearing into the back-scullery.
Then he sighed again and moved his elbow. What was
that? Not surely the smell of tobacco to tempt him still
further? He sniffed again. It was strangely like it.
Yes! there it was, unmistakable this time. He moved his elbow
again; it seemed to strike something hard. He sat up and took
a good look at the table. Yes, there it was close to him—a tin
canister with a pot nob screwed in upon the lid, just like his old
one, and full of most tempting dark shag, and there by its side was
a new churchwarden pipe.
William positively went cold. He saw through it all in
a moment. This was his little wife's way of expressing
repentance, and William felt he would like to smoke just to show her
that all was well.
But he dare not, and the more he longed for it the more he
felt he dare not. And as he sat there, one moment looking
longingly at the objects of temptation, and the next turning his
back to them and gazing into the fire, Hannah came out of the back
kitchen. As she passed towards the fire she glanced sharply at
the table and noticed that her gifts had not been touched, and then,
leaning forward over the fire, she began to poke it very vigorously,
glancing every now and again stealthily at William's unusually
Presently she reached a candle from the mantelpiece, and
setting it down near the tobacco she drew her chair up to the table,
put on her spectacles, and made a sort of show of darning stockings.
Two or three times she glanced at the tobacco, and then again
at her husband; and presently she said in soft, coaxing tones, as if
she had not previously noticed his abstinence, "Artna' gooin' furt
William started from his reverie, flushed a little, rubbed
his big fat face, and then said, Smookin's sinful, wench."
"Wot?" cried Hannah, sternly, "has thaa started o'
strainin' at a gnat an' swallerin' a camil? Awm shawmed fur
William's eyes opened slowly in mystified astonishment.
"Hannah! " he cried, "Aw thowt thaa didn't loike me furt
"Aye, thart allis thinkin' some lumber. Dust think Aw
should a' letten thee smook aw theeas yers if Aw hedn't loiked it?
Thaa's smooked lung enuff ta pleeas thisel', tha'll ha' ta smook ta
pleeas me naa," and, pushing her hand across the table, she slid the
tobacco and pipe towards him.
But William didn't offer to take them. He somehow felt
he could not. And so, as he sat there glowering into the fire,
Hannah resumed: "Naa, Aw'll tell thi wot. Aw'm gooin' t' have
tew aances a wik off Noah, an' if thaa doesn't smook it, Aw'll smook
The mental picture of his fastidious little wife with a
churchwarden pipe was too much for William, and he burst into a
great laugh. As it subsided, Hannah gave the tobacco canister
another push, but William did not heed her.
After that they sat for several minutes in silence, and at
length Hannah said, in a soft, restrained voice, "Aar Hannah used
loike ta see thi smook didn't hoo, lad?"
William winced, and a vision of a little fairy child who used
to climb up on his knees and light his pipe for him, and then ripple
off into a merry little laugh, which he would have given worlds to
hear again, came before him and his eyes grew dim.
"Dust remember haa hoo browt thi poipe ta cumfort thi that
neet thi muther deed?" Hannah went on softly, looking at her
work through glasses that were getting very misty.
"Dunna, Hannah, dunna," cried William, putting out his hands.
But Hannah got softly up, and pulling out the stool again
reached up to the mantelpiece and brought down a long vase-shaped
vessel of brown clay. It was full of pipe-lights, and as she
put it on the table she said gently, "Aar Hannah towd me th' wik
afoor hoo deed ta allis keep it full o' spills fur her daddy's poipe,
an Aw hev done ever sin'. Bud haa con Aw du that if tha' niver
There was a long silence, during which William, though he, of
course, saw the weakness of his wife's argument, seemed strangely
moved, and glanced wistfully at the tobacco.
"Bud smookin' sa wasteful, tha' knows, Tan."
"Wasteful! Them as talks abaat it being wasteful spends
twice as mitch up a watch guards an' 'dickies' an' foine clooas."
Then she rose and went off into the scullery again, and when she
returned William was seated with the churchwarden held out before
him, amid clouds of wreathing smoke, with a look of placid
satisfaction on his face which even an anchorite could not have
GRIMSHAW, dressed in the
seedy, black, greasy-at-elbows-and-knees which had in its better
days done duty as his semi-clerical Sunday best, came hurrying, with
his coat-tails flying, down Cinder Hill Lane and along the croft,
with amazement and consternation expressed on every feature of his
"Wotiver's ta dew, lad?" cried his big, round wife, coming
out of the scullery, with a dish in one hand and a towel in the
other, and gazing at him in wonder as he stood panting on the
"Ta dew! ivery thing's ta dew! Th' divil's brokken
lose, th' Church is disgraced! A good mon's gooan wrung, an' a
dacent woman an' her dowters turn't into th' street!" and Miles
nearly broke down as he spoke.
"Miles!" cried Mrs. Grimshaw, standing in stern anxiety over
her husband, who had dropped into a chair, "tha'll be gooin' off
i' sum o' them figgaries o' thine, as sewer as Awm a livin' woman.
Be quiet wi' thi, an' tell me wot it's aw abaat."
"Abaat! it's abaat starvashun an' ruin, an' disgrace to th'
Church! that's wot it's abaat!" And Miles rose to his feet and
glared fiercely at his wife, whilst a tear stood on his faded cheek,
and his wide mouth worked in pathetic twitches.
Dinah looked very grave by this time, and standing back a
little and balancing herself uneasily she demanded: "Miles Grimshaw,
arty goin' ta tell me wet's ta dew or tha artna?"
"Wot's ta dew?" and Miles glanced at his wife as if she had
been the cause of the great disaster. "Whey, Jacky o' th'
Gap's gotten th' bums in—that's wot's ta dew." And
having at last got rid of his awful news, Miles sank back into his
chair, whilst his wife limply dropped into another.
There was silence for a moment or two, during which Dinah sat
looking at her husband with a stunned and bewildered expression, but
Miles could not bear his wife's sad look.
"Dunna, woman! dunna stur (stare) o' thatunce," he cried, and
then rising and walking about excitedly in front of the fire,
clasping his hands together and wringing them in acute distress, he
wailed: "Oh, Jacky! Ah owd friend! mi owd friend Jacky!" and,
groaning like a man in an agony, he stamped on the sanded floor.
But Dinah was Quiet William's sister in more senses than one,
and so after sitting in a dazed, helpless manner in her chair for a
few moments, during which she contrived to get out of her husband in
a disjointed sort of way some few particulars of the great calamity,
she quickly rose, put away her pot and towel, and leaving the
washing-up to take care of itself, she put on her outer garments,
selecting by some odd sort of instinct her black ones, as if for a
funeral, and in a few moments was hurrying, as fast as her ponderous
proportions would permit, up the lane towards Cinder Hill Farm,
sighing and crying and quietly praying for her friends as she went.
Arrived at the farm Dinah made her way to the back-door.
Opening it softly, she crossed the scullery towards the big kitchen.
Pushing the door open before her without knocking, she drew back for
a moment with a start, for there, seated comfortably by the fire,
smoking a short clay pipe, was the smug-faced, bullet-headed Nat
Ogden, the bailiff.
Ignoring Nat's offensively familiar nod, and turning her eyes
away from him with cold severity, she asked, in a husky voice, "Wheer
But before Nat could answer Dinah heard a step and a startled
cry behind her, and turning quickly round she caught a tall,
worn-looking woman in her arms, and silently hugged her to her
breast. They stood there for several minutes without speaking,
and then Dinah began to stroke gently the head that was buried in
her bosom. "Poor wench! Poor wench!" crooned Dinah,
glancing sympathetically down on the sobbing woman, "bud th' Lord
knows, wench—th' Lord"—but just then the face on her breast was
lifted suddenly, and with hot, flaming cheeks the stricken woman
cried out vehemently, "It's nor him, wench; it's no Jacky, Awll tak
me deein ooath it's nor him." At that moment there was another
wail, and a fair-haired girl with red, swollen eyes and quivering
lips came rushing in from somewhere, and seizing Dinah's free arm,
cried: "Neaw, Dinah! Neaw! It's no' my fayther.
Tell'em aw sooa. Tell aw as knows uz it's nor him. He
wodna hurt a maase, Dinah."
"Neaw, wench, he wodna Aw know; he wodna," murmured Dinah,
soothingly; and then she stopped, and looking round inquiringly she
cried, "Bud wheer is he; wheer is the poor lad?"
"Huish! Huish cried both women at once, and dragging
her further away, and pointing to a door close to where they had
been standing, the younger woman cried: "He's i' th parlour, Dinah,
an' he'll noather cum aat, nor speik nor eight (eat). Oh, wot
mun we dew, Dinah; wot mun we dew?"
Dinah soothed the distressed woman, who seemed more concerned
about the effect of the trouble upon Jacky than anything else, as
best she could.
"Yo mun leuk up, bless yo," she said. "God's up aboon,
yo known; sooa leuk up. It's allis darkist afoor dayleet.
God bless yo booath, an' poor Jacky, tew," and, with another loving,
mother-like hug and a long, clinging kiss to each, she left them.
Meanwhile, Miles stood staring, first at the fire and then
out of the window, quite unable to keep himself still under the
disturbing influence of his own thoughts. But it was not in
his nature to remain alone and in silence under such circumstances,
and so in a few moments he went out to consult with the only one of
his cronies available at that hour of the day—Noah the grocer.
Noah was cutting and weighing thick twist into half-ounces,
but when Miles had communicated to him the sad news they adjourned
into the little parlour next to the shop, and for the next two hours
discussed the painful subject in all its bearings.
As it drew near to six o'clock Miles returned home, and,
having drawn from his wife the scanty additional details of the sad
event she had to offer, he snarled and grumbled at her because she
could tell no more, but seemed greatly disturbed by the information
that Jacky would see nobody.
As he mused on these doings, watching impatiently for the
mill to stop in order that the question might be discussed in full
council, Noah joined him with a long clay pipe and sat down to wait
for the approaching consultation.
Quiet William was the first to arrive. He had heard
something of the trouble in the mill, and came hastily to get the
details. Raising the latch he held the door a little way open,
and looked searchingly into the faces of Miles and Noah and, finding
there abundant confirmation of his fears, he heaved a heavy sigh,
stepped inside softly, closed the door after him, and went and sat
down very close to the fire without saying a word. He had
scarcely got seated when Jimmy the Scutcher arrived. Before
entering, Jimmy had taken a hasty peep over the window curtain, and
when he saw the long faces of his friends, his own assumed a most
peculiar expression. The side with the expressive eye in it
puckered up as if in extreme pain, whilst the other side assumed a
portentous length and gravity. Jimmy, too, had heard the news
in the factory, and had knocked down the "little sewer" who brought
him the intelligence.
For a long time nobody spoke, but at last Noah got up and
knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and the others watched the
operation with a painful, abstracted sort of curiosity. Then
as he refilled it he remarked, slowly, "Poor Jacky! he wur niver
mitch of a manager."
Now Noah, though much better off than the rest of his
associates, was never regarded as of very much account, his opinions
being mostly very mild reflections of the emphatic ones of Miles,
and the sentiment he had just given utterance to had been expressed
times without number in bygone days by the excitable tailor, between
whom and Jacky no uninitiated one would have guessed there was
anything more than ordinary friendship, for they were too much alike
to get on well together. But now, though Noah's tone was not
in the least censorious, but rather apologetic, Miles jumped to his
feet, and, glaring at Noah, cried in bitterest sarcasm, "That's it.
Gooa on! The poor felley's daan, sa, give him a punce" (kick).
Noah stopped in the midst of lighting his pipe, and looking
at Miles in alarm and deprecation, whilst the pipe-light burned its
way perilously near to his fingers, he began meekly, "Aw nobbut
"Thaa nobbut said! Neaw; bud if th' poor lad ud a bin
here, tha darna a said 'chirp.' He's mooar brains i' his
little finger nor sum on uz hez in arr yeds, but just 'cause he
conna bring his moind daan to chalking cubburd durs, and keeping
Tommy bewks, he conna, m-a-n-i-d-g-e," and Miles put unutterable
scorn and mockery into his pronunciation of the last word.
Quiet William heaved a great sigh.
In a moment Miles had jerked himself round, and was demanding
fiercely, "Wor art thaa siking at? It 'ud leuk better
on thi if tha'd oppen thi maath an' say summat atsteed a smirching
and sniftering theer."
Miles's tirade, though it did not appear to affect William in
the least, had a moving effect on the mind of Jimmy the Scutcher,
and he just seemed to be about to say something when his daughter
opened the door, and without looking at him called into the room, "Fayther,
yo're ta cum to yo're baggin."
But Jimmy, though still in his greasy mill clothes, loftily
and ungraciously waved his hand for the girl to be gone, and in a
moment they were alone again and in silence.
Then two or three of the less important of the chapel people
came in, and as they had many questions to ask and many remarks to
make, conversation soon became general. It was all, however,
extremely sympathetic towards Jacky, for the slightest hint of blame
was at once pounced upon by Miles, and the person who uttered it had
a very bad five minutes.
Presently Jimmy was sent for once more, but again he waved
his hand imperiously, and the messenger departed as she came.
As the door closed Quiet William lifted his head, and glancing up at
the clock over the mantelpiece softly remarked, "It's toime fur t'
It was prayer-meeting night, a fact everybody present had
until that moment forgotten, and when they were thus reminded nobody
heeded. And Miles probably voiced the feelings of the whole
company when he said, with a heavy sigh, "Awve na hert fur meetin's
The others sighed in sympathetic endorsement, and just when a
stranger would have thought the subject had been dropped—especially
considering that neither Jimmy nor William had had tea or were
washed and dressed for a meeting—William looked once more fixedly at
the clock, and asked in the same low tones as before, "Wot's
Nobody replied, and the before-mentioned stranger might have
concluded that nobody had heeded William's remark; but in a few
moments the big man began to sidle towards the door, and presently
disappeared. Nobody seemed to notice his departure, but in a
minute or so Jimmy the Scutcher, dirty and "linty" as he was, got up
and followed, and nobody needed to be told that he had not gone home
to tea. After another brief interval, Noah and the others left
one by one, and at last Miles, now entirely alone, looked resignedly
round the room, and, picking up his hat, departed to join the rest
at the meeting.
Now it was well-nigh impossible to get Quiet William to take
any public part in the affairs of the church. Only on very
rare occasions had he ever even led the prayer-meeting, but on this
sad night, without consulting anybody, he took charge of the
proceedings. Everybody present prayed, but nobody made any
definite reference to the one thing that lay heavily on their
hearts. When he was concluding William seemed suddenly to get
"liberty." Whilst only using language of studied generality,
it was evident to all that he was thinking chiefly of their friends
at Cinder Hill Farm. When he came to "Aw—aw, them that are i'
trubbel," his voice faltered; but he got over it, and with uplifted
hands and glowing, intense faith he prayed until those who were not
entirely overcome by the simple petition listened with the feeling
that they were following one inspired. And when the long,
impassioned prayer was over, Abram Briggs, as he went out at the
door wiping his eyes, turned to the equally affected Noah, and said,
earnestly, "Sum rooad aat ull be fun fur Jacky after this, tha'll
see." And Noah, turning and looking earnestly at Abram, said
in tones of solemn conviction, "If ther isna, they isna a God,
LATER on that night William, Miles and
Jimmy might have been seen plodding their way through the mud along
Cinder Hill Lane to the Farm. Their purpose was to see Jacky
at all costs. But they did not succeed. He would not see
anybody, and Mrs. Jacky and her daughter stood before the
parlour-door and tearfully entreated the deputation not to persist
in its purpose. In a long conversation, during which William
did nothing but shake his head, and the rest of the party, including
the women, had to exert all their powers to keep Miles from
quarrelling with the obnoxious bailiff, they elicited all that was
at present known by the women on the subject. It was the bank
that had taken such sudden action. The local manager had been
dismissed unexpectedly, and for some reason instant action had been
commenced against two or three overdrawn debtors, amongst whom was
the unfortunate Jacky.
That was all the women had to tell, and even that information
had not been obtained from the farmer himself, but from the bailiff
As they were departing, after offering a few clumsy words of
consolation to the women, it was noticed that William was missing,
and looking round and stepping back into the kitchen they espied
William kneeling at the inexorable parlour-door, behind which was
the heart-broken Jacky; and before they could speak they heard him
repeating, in a loud voice and with his mouth to the keyhole, "When
thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the
rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the
fire thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon
For the next two days little was talked about in Scowcroft
but Jacky's trouble. Miles and his friends went about with sad
faces and bowed heads, and seemed to find their only comfort in
getting together in the evenings, and smoking and sighing and saying
nothing—for all the world like Job's friends without Job, and
with-but also their obstinate views about the government of God.
In their hearts they all feared that Jacky had not been the best of
business men, but they were ready to fall upon and rend any
incautious person who ventured, however distantly, to hint at such a
thing. They knew, also, that there had been a mortgage on the
farm when Jacky took it from his father, and though Jacky had never
exactly hinted at financial difficulty, and his wife and daughter
always held their heads rather high, yet it was an open secret
amongst them that their friend's worldly position had never been as
easy and secure as appearances would seem to have indicated.
Of course Dame Rumour was busy in these days, and Jacky's
companions were hurt and stung every few hours by some fresh and
unjustifiable story. It was confidently stated that Jacky had
not been solvent for a dozen years, and evil-minded ones added
significantly, "An' him preiching loike a bishop aw th' toime."
Miles went in pursuit of his calling to the farm adjoining
Jacky's, but when he had got the coat he had to turn taken to
pieces, and was sitting cross-legged on the large table under the
kitchen window tacking it together, old Garlick, the farmer, came in
and at once introduced the topic of the hour. To his surprise
Miles, who had generally a very decided opinion on almost any
subject that could be introduced to him, and was always ready at any
moment to state and defend that opinion, and pour scathing ridicule
upon any contrary one for any length of time, was on this occasion
simply dumb. Nothing that Garlick could say had any effect in
inducing him to talk.
"Well," grunted the farmer, in his wheezy way, as he stood
with his back to the fire and his hands behind him, looking uneasily
at the tailor, "Awst be sorry ta see Jacky sowd up, that's sartin,
and Awm thankful aboon abit as he doesn't belong ta aar
Now, if the slow-minded Garlick intended this as a means of
making Miles say or do something he succeeded; for the tailor
suddenly sent the coat he was stitching flying into the window
bottom, and then spinning himself quickly round he jumped from the
table, stepped hastily to the door, made a gesture as of a man
casting the dust off his feet, and before anybody could stop him he
was plunging through the mud in his working slippers towards home.
The Garlicks kept Miles's boots in the hope that he would be
compelled to go back for them. But though when they finally
sent them home they sent also an apologetic message, old Garlick's
coat has never been finished turning to this day.
If there was any person in Scowcroft who could be said to
derive real satisfaction from the rumours that were going about it
was that singular individual Reuben Tonge, the sandman. As has
been already hinted in a previous chapter, Reuben had been brought
up a Methodist, and at one time bade fair to be a shining light at
the chapel. But he had a very proud, imperious temper, and
when Annie Clarkson rather lightly jilted him and soon after married
one of his companions, Jacky o' th' Gap, he had left the chapel,
become a backslider and a keen-tongued scoffer at religion, so that
the sudden dishonour of his erstwhile successful rival must be
supposed to have been particularly gratifying to him. He heard
the news amongst the earliest, and laughed a great, hoarse laugh.
And when the person who told him the tidings had left him, he still
stood in the back-lane where the communication had been made,
looking musingly at the ground, and evidently in deep thought.
Presently, he lifted his head, looked round for a moment, gave vent
to a queer sound which even the experienced "Pablo" could not quite
understand, and then giving his dingy steed a familiar knock with
his whip, he said, "Another canting Methody, Pablo! Another
canting Methody!" and then lifting his head he sent ringing down the
lane, his ancient cry, "Weshing up mugs, stew mugs. Whaite
sand an' rubbin stoan."
Later in the same Saturday afternoon, it was discovered that
Quiet William was not to be found, and it was concluded by his
friends that he was making another attempt to see the unhappy Jacky.
This turned out to be correct, and about six o'clock he was seen to
turn the corner from Cinder Hill Farm, and presently he entered his
brother-in-law's house. In a few minutes all the friends had
gathered to hear the news.
Yes, William had seen their old friend, and the picture he
drew of Jacky's haggard look and hollow, weary eyes brought lumps
into their throats and drew heavy sighs from all present.
William brought also brief but authentic particulars of the
trouble. In short, it amounted to this, that unless Jacky
could find £500 within the next few days he would be sold up and
turned into the lane.
Jacky couldn't see where he could get one-tenth of the money,
though it was an open secret that he had befriended many an
unfortunate acquaintance in similar difficulties, probably to his
own hurt. Nat Ogden and his assistants were to commence
marking the goods for the sale on the following Monday morning.
The big man told his story very slowly, with many sighs and pauses,
and when he had done a feeling of helpless dumbness fell on the
company, and the smoke poured out of the smokers' lips in thick,
"Poor felley! Poor, poor felley groaned Noah.
"Aye, God help him," responded Abram Briggs.
"An' uz," groaned Noah.
"Aye, an' uz tew," sighed Abram.
Jimmy the Scutcher sat behind a thick cloud of smoke,
evidently trying to control his very peculiar countenance. At
last, taking his pipe out of his mouth, and speaking in his hardest
tones, he remarked, "A penn'orth a help's woth a paand o' pity."
"Pity!" cried Miles, starting as if he had been stung, and
almost shrieking in his excitement, "Is they a mon here as wodna
give his last shillin' to save him?"
Every face in the company looked an emphatic endorsement of
Miles's demand, and every eye was turned with a sort of challenge in
it upon the Scutcher.
Jimmy was, as usual, entirely unmoved, but in a moment or
two, fixing his off eye keenly on Miles, whilst the rest listened
intently, he rose to his feet, and striking the table with a mighty
thump, cried, "Daan wi' thi brass, then."
Now the idea behind this challenge was so entirely new, that
the men who heard Jimmy's words sat looking at him with half-opened
mouths and eyes full of astonishment and perplexity; for they were
all poor men, and the times were none of the best.
For some time nobody spoke, but presently Miles jumped to his
feet, clambered hurriedly up the stairs behind the door, and was
immediately heard walking about on the floor above and opening and
shutting drawers and boxes. Then he returned, nearly missing
his footing as he came down. His eyes shone with excitement as
he came into the light again. He was pale, and his
tightly-drawn lips twitched with emotion. He had a greasy
black book in his hand. It was the pass-book of the Wallbury
Penny Bank, and contained entries of the rare and scanty savings of
a lifetime. Stepping forward he banged it defiantly down on
the table, and looking eagerly at Jimmy, cried, "Ther's forty-wun
paand odd theer; naa folla' thi leeader."
Jimmy, who had evidently planned something of the kind and
come prepared, put his left hand into his inside coat-pocket and
produced a book similar to Miles's, and throwing it carelessly down
on the top of Miles's, he said quietly, "Aw theers—sixty-seven mooar."
No painter on earth could have painted Quiet William's face
at this moment. Surprise, delight, gratitude and a blending of
embarrassment were mingled strangely upon it. But at last,
giving way to the tears that couldn't be kept back, he stammered
out, "Aw—Aw—hay' na brass; bud Aw—Aw—Aw—con morgige th' haase."
And this was a trying moment for prudent Noah. He moved
uneasily in his chair, coughed nervously, blinked his small eyes
with curious rapidity, and then said, "We'er nobbut lannin'
(lending) it Aw reacon?"
Miles gave a violent start, a blaze of indignation flashed
into his face, and he was just about to explode on the unfortunate
Noah, when Jimmy sprang up, and stopped him with an imperious
gesture. He knew, as they all did, that Noah was better off
than the rest of them, and could help substantially if he would.
He was, therefore, a person to be managed in this difficult
business, and so, standing in front of the excited Miles, he turned
to Noah, and said, "Of course, we'er aw lannin' it. Dust think
Jacky ud tak' it off uz ony other rooad?"
"Jacky," cried William, in sudden concern, "Jacky must know
nowt abaat it till it's dun."
But Jimmy stopped him with another masterful and impatient
wave of his hand, and stood facing Noah, evidently waiting for that
worthy's contribution. There was a long pause, during which
Miles was fidgetting behind Jimmy, but at last Noah said,
hesitatingly, "Well, awst ston me corner?"
The only other person present was Abram Briggs, and as he was
notoriously henpecked, nobody was surprised when he announced, "Awst
ha' to see aar Martha abaat it."
Then they fell into a discussion as to how the thing should
be managed. They were a long way as yet from the five hundred
pounds required, but it was eventually decided to hand the matter
over to Noah, who, though he hadn't a banking account, was, after
all, a man of business; and when they separated later on, everybody
looked as though a great load had been lifted from their minds.
MEANWHILE a very
different scene was being enacted at Reuben Tonge's house in Lark
Lane. The weather, cold and raw all day, had turned to rain at
night, and Reuben, having had his "baggin" and made Pablo
comfortable for the night, proceeded to make up a good fire, and
clearing his table, pulled out a couple of dirty account-books, and
sitting down before them was soon engrossed in their contents.
Reuben, though his dress and appearance were mean enough, and his
occupation poor, was quite a capitalist in his way. He did a
little select and very secret business as a money-lender, confining
his operations to places and people outside Scowcroft. He was
also virtual owner of two or three of the canal coal-barges, and
dabbled a little in mortgages and ground-rents. His recent
effort in connection with his daughter and the Scowcroft mill had
quite disorganised his arrangements, and he was considerably
overdrawn at the bank. It was necessary, therefore, that he
should look well after his affairs and pull himself round as quickly
as possible. He was, as will have been seen, a man of strong
deep nature, but he had allowed himself to be warped and injured by
his early disappointment in love. Jacky o' th' Gap had, he
concluded, beaten him in the fight for Annie, because he was
supposed to have money, and therefore since that time Reuben had
bent all his energies upon the acquirement of wealth. He had
neglected himself, allowed his nature to harden and sour, and was
now at the end of thirty years, in possession of considerable means,
whilst his successful rival was bankrupt, and would in a few days be
without so much as a covering for his head. Reuben was
thinking of all these things as he balanced his books, and was
disappointed to find that he was not happier for the reflection.
He had dreamed of this day of triumph for years, and now that it had
actually come, he could not honestly say that it gave him much
satisfaction. He had stopped for a moment, and, with his face
turned to the fire and his pen between his lips, he was looking
meditatively at the sputtering coals. Just then a knock came
at the door, and Reuben turned his head to listen. The knock
was low and timid, and the sandman, after staring hard at the door
and listening for a moment, concluded that it must be a beggar, and
so resumed his bookkeeping. He had re-dipped his pen, and was
just about to make another entry, when the knock came again, louder
than before, but still timid and hesitant. Reuben gave an
impatient grunt, and went hastily to see who was there.
Throwing back the catch over the "sneck," and opening the door
hastily, he bent his head, and with knitted brows peered crossly
into the darkness. The visitor was a woman, tall and
respectably dressed, and Reuben recognised her at once, and his
heart began to beat.
"Whoa is it? What dust want?" he demanded, gruffly,
pretending not to recognise her. The woman waited for a
moment, evidently expecting that the sandman would see who she was,
but as he didn't or wouldn't, she said, faintly, "It's me, Reubin."
"Thee! An' whoa the ferrups art thaw, comin' at this
toime at neet?"
But the woman, disappointed and disheartened at not being
recognised, and unable to find further language, stood mutely in the
Reuben waited a moment or two, and then, as no response came
to his rough question, he bent down, and knitting his brows again,
as if vainly attempting to read his visitor's countenance, he cried,
more roughly than ever, "Whoa are-ta? Cum in a' show thi'sel
if tha wants summat," and, turning round, he led the way to the
fire, and the woman shrinkingly followed him.
As the door swung to behind her, she stepped abashed and
confused upon a piece of old sacking which served the sandman for a
doormat, and stood timidly waiting once more to be identified.
"Oh! It's thee,' is it?" cried Reuben, pretending suddenly to
recognise her; and a pang went to his heart as he took in the
dejected and sorrowful expression of a face that had once been so
bright and sweet. But, heeding not his own heart, and dropping
into a hard, mocking tone, he went on: "But thar't mistan wench.
Tha doesn't want me, tha doesn't know me tha knows;
tha hasn't known me for monny a yer."
The suffering woman shook for a moment with feeling, and
dropped her head, whilst shame and resentment struggled within her
to overcome an evidently great purpose and defeat her errand.
Presently she obtained a little self-mastery, and said, quietly, "Th'
Reubin Tonge as Aw knowed, wi' aw is fawts, wur genrus."
Reuben burst into a great laugh.
"Genrus! Oh, aye!" he cried. "Mooar Methody cant.
Then thar't beggin' arty?"
Reuben pretended to suppose that his visitor was canvassing
for subscriptions; but the woman was overwrought; and, catching at
his last words, whilst her brimming cup of bitterness at last
overflowed, she burst into a passion of tears, and cried, "Aye,
Reubin, Aw'm beggin'."
The sandman was stirred to the depths of his being. He
was not usually affected by women's tears, but this woman had never
been like the rest of her sex to him. But he would not show
his feeling. He laughed again, louder and more harshly than
ever, and cried, in feigned astonishment, "Wot! Jacky o' th'
Gap woife beggin' off a poor owd sond-knocker! Preichin Jacky
woife beggin' of wun o' th' scum?"
But the agitated woman was too desperate now to be influenced
by taunts, however cutting, and so she cried, wringing her thin
hands, "Aye, Reubin, beggin', weer i' troubbel, Reubin. Weer i'
trouble," and, leaning over, the stricken woman dropped her head
upon the drawers standing near to her, and began to sob if her heart
Reuben, greatly disturbed in spite of himself, turned his
back on his visitor and began to glower sulkily at the fire.
But in a moment the weeping woman was by his side, and whilst the
tears rained down her pale cheeks, and disfigured a face that was
still very comely, she cried with humility, almost abject, "Help uz,
Reubin—help uz, fur sake o'-o'-o'-owd toimes."
But poor Annie had touched the wrong chord this time. "Owd
toimes," sneered the sandman, "which owd toimes? Th' toime as
tha' left me stonnin' three haars i' th' rain woll thaa wur
marlocking wi' Jacky i' yore parlour? Th' toime as thaa
sniggered and snurched as thaa druv past me owd sand-cart an' thee
peerched up in Jacky's new trap? Th' toime as thaa threaped
Jacky's sister daan, as tha' wurna' gooin' wi' me, an' niver hed
dun? Is them th' toimes as tha' wants me ta think abaat?" and
for the moment Reuben was really bitter.
Mrs. Jacky heaved a great sobbing sigh, and was just about to
reply when Reuben resumed, almost savagely: "Thaa'd a' hed me if
ther hedna' a' been ony Jacky abaat; bud a sondmon wur noawheer
wheer a farmer cum. Well, tha wanted thi farmer and tha's
getten thi farmer. Tha's made thi bed; tha mun shift ta lie on
it sum rooad."
This was all very cruel, and the suffering woman shivered as
the hard words fell on her like so many blows. She felt if she
spoke just then she would ruin her case, so her hand dropped to her
side again and she stood quietly crying. And her silence and
his own sudden remorse irritated Reuben more than her words had
done, and so, with a curl of his masterful lip, he went on
scornfully: "A Methbody with bums in, an' a preicher, tew, if he'd
a' stopped a' whoam an' moinded his wark atstead o' gaddin' abaat—."
"Reubin!" screamed the goaded woman, turning fiercely round
with anger and defiance blazing through her tears, "Dunna darr
ta say a wo'd ageean Jacky. Sithi Aw'll say it naa, ith' wo'st
trubble Awve ever hed. Ther' isn't a Mon in Scoweroft parish
as can howd a candle tew him. Theer'!" and here the maddened
woman drew herself up in passionate disdain. "Thee! tha artna
fit ta woipe his shoon an' niver wur. If Aw hed to dew it
ageean Awd tak' him if he hadna' a rag ta his back—bless him!" and
breaking down with sudden tears, she gave the man near her a push,
and suddenly rushing to the door was gone before he could prevent
WHEN Mrs. Jacky
left him on that dismal Saturday night Reuben stood on the hearthrug
for a long time like a man in a dream. He had had the revenge
he had waited for for years, and the taste of it was positively
bitter to him. All that was good in him commended Annie for
what she had said and done, and this made him bitterly angry with
himself. He never imagined that Jacky's wife would have taken
his words as she had done. Least of all did he expect she
would have left him with her errand unaccomplished, and the sandman
actually caught himself sighing. He moved about the house
absently for some time, and then sat down to his accounts again.
But he could not give his mind to them. The haggard, tearful
face of the woman he had once loved with all the strength of his
deep nature haunted him, and blurred the figures as he looked at
them. These books had diverted his mind and given him relief
and pleasure many a time before, but now their charm was entirely
gone, and he presently shut them up with a petulant snap, and
putting them hastily away went and stood in the doorway, listening
to the dripping of the rain.
Where was she?—that pale, sad woman he had so ruthlessly
driven from his door? Then he moved uneasily, and presently
went out into the broken-down old stable to see that Pablo was
comfortable for the night. Somehow the silent presence of his
old companion soothed him, so he lingered over his work, pausing
every now and again to listen to the rain and wonder where Annie
was. Then he stroked and patted his pony until that sagacious
animal looked round inquiringly as if wondering what this unwonted
gentleness would lead to. Presently, moving his hand from
Pablo's back, where he had been tenderly examining a raw place,
Reuben began to Pat his ragged neck, and then, as he turned to go,
he said, "Pablo, thee an' me durnt breik th' Sabbath mitch, but
weest ha ta dew it ta-morn, Awm thinkin'," and then as he moved to
the door, he added, "if it is breikin' it."
Next day about noon, though, the weather was still
threatening, Reuben, in a shaky-looking old trap, not much more
respectable than his sand-cart, left home on a journey, apparently
to Wallbury. But, after making a call there, he travelled
onward to other places, and when they returned, late that evening,
though the pony looked tired, Reuben had a much more cheerful air
than when he left in the earlier part of the day.
Pablo did not even then seem to have quite recovered his
astonishment at being taken out on a Sunday, but his surprise was
still greater when he found himself, in spite of an almost
unalterable precedent to the contrary, actually making his way to
Wallbury again early on Monday morning.
They put up as usual at the "Black Lad," and whilst Pablo
munched his corn, his master rapidly made his way down Coalgate to
The Town Hall clock chimed a quarter to ten as he went along,
and, discovering that he was somewhat early, Reuben checked himself,
and dropped into a quiet saunter. As he turned the corner of
the street and came in sight of the bank, he suddenly pulled up, and
gave a low whistle of astonishment, for there, right under the gas
lamp opposite the bank door, stood Miles, William and Noah,
evidently waiting for the bank to open. Reuben looked for the
moment annoyed and disappointed, but another thought seemed to
strike him, and the next moment he had dodged into a convenient
passage, and from this vantage-point he stood looking at his
acquaintances with a puzzled, and not too amiable expression on his
strong, rough face.
Now the circumstance which interfered with Reuben's procedure
requires some little explanation. The fact was that the
friends had discovered that after all they could do £300 was the
very utmost they could raise in this emergency. Quiet William
had then proposed that Noah should go over to Wallbury and see if
the bank manager could be induced to accept a smaller sum, and the
grocer had agreed. But by Sunday night his courage had failed
him, and he had conceived a most unaccountable dread of the manager.
And so, as a last resource, Miles and William had undertaken to
accompany him and see what could be done.
They were none of them much acquainted with the ways of
banks, and so, being all exceedingly uneasy and impatient, they had
left Scowcroft by seven o'clock in the morning, and had reached the
bank before nine, only to discover that they were an hour too early.
There was nothing for it, therefore, but to wait, and so they had
been standing under the lamp for the last hour.
At last, just as the clock struck ten, a sprightly young
clerk flung open the doors, and the three Scowcrofters, intimidated
by the clerk's manner and overawed by the grandeur of the place,
stepped nervously in, and falteringly asked to see the manager.
He had not arrived, but would be there in a, few minutes, and
the clerk showed them into a private room, and shut the door upon
them. Then the friends took their hats off—they were all
dressed in their Sunday best—and seated themselves on the very outer
edge of their chairs. Miles gazed round with undisguised
curiosity and wonder. Noah sat looking earnestly into his hat
as he held it in his hand, and Quiet William sighed deeply, and
moved his lips in silent prayer.
They all started as if caught in some dishonourable act when
the door suddenly opened and the manager entered. Then they
all rose from their seats in embarrassment and bade the official a
curt and awkward "good morning."
"Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" said the manager,
putting away his umbrella, and hanging his hat up, as if this
dreadful business of theirs was the commonest thing on earth.
And then William looked at Noah, and Miles did the same, and added
an energetic nod; but Noah seemed tongue-tied, and looked helplessly
at William. Miles could hold in no longer, and so stepping
forward and putting a shaky hand on the manager's table he said,
"We're comin' abaat that bother o' Jacky o' th' Gap's."
"Jacky o' th' Gap," murmured the bank official in perplexity.
"Oh, ah! the Cinder Hill Farm affair, I suppose?"
"Aye! that's it," cried Miles, now fairly at liberty. "Yo'n
made a mistak', mestur; yo'n sent trubbel to wun o' th' dacentest
chaps i' Lancyshire," and Miles made the manager's pens jump on the
inkstand as he brought his fist down on the table with an emphatic
"No doubt! No doubt!" said the manager, a little
startled by the tailor's energetic manner. "But unfortunately
that won't pay the bank's claims; will it, gentlemen?"
"Wot will then?" demanded Miles, now quite courageous; "if
it's ony good tew yo' ther's wun or tew on uz here as 'ull foind
three hunderd paand," and the way Miles quoted the figure ought to
have filled the bank man's mind with visions of untold gold.
But somehow it did not. He gave a slightly impatient
gesture, and trying to keep a contemptuous look out of his face he
shook his head and said, "No use whatever, gentlemen—no use at all."
Quiet William groaned audibly and sighed under his breath,
"Lord help us!" Noah glanced up at Miles with an "I-told-you-so"
sort of look, and Miles, goaded by a sense of failure, was just
about to make an indignant reply, when the door opened and in
stepped Reuben Tonge.
"Hello!" he cried, affecting extreme astonishment at the
sight of them, "wot's yo' chaps doin' here?"
None of them replied. Reuben Tonge was the sworn enemy
of the chapel and had been for many years. Moreover, he was
specially bitter against "Preiching Jacky," as he sneeringly called
their friend, and had been ever since Jacky's marriage.
This was certainly not the man to be taken into their
confidences, and, in fact, his sudden appearance was regarded by
each of them as a bad omen, and they realised keenly how he must be
gloating over Jacky's ruin and their own great trouble.
So nobody spoke, and Reuben, after looking anxiously from one
to the other, asked, "Aw reacon you cum'n abaat Jacky han yo?"
And whilst Miles glared sullen defiance at the sandman, and
Noah hung his head shyly, Quiet William, who had more exact
knowledge of Reuben, and especially of some of his recent acts than
the others, proceeded to tell him their business. And as
William in his gentle way told the story of their sorrowful sympathy
with Jacky, their anxiety for the honour of the church, and their
proposed sacrifice of all their little savings, the manager's eyes
grew misty, and even hard Reuben had to turn his shoulder to the
speaker and gaze steadily at the frosted window.
When William had finished and fallen back into his seat,
Reuben turned again, and looking them over calculatingly for a
moment, said, "Well, it's a rum un, this is; Aw've come on th'
same busniss mysel'."
The three men looked at him with fresh astonishment, and so
he proceeded: "It's reet. Aw've come abaat nowt else"; and
then, going over and touching Miles on the buttonhole, he said, "Naa
leuk here. Aw dew a bit o' businiss wi' theeas fowk.
Gooa yo're ways whoam, an' leeave it to me."
The three friends hesitated; but on the manager assuring them
that the affair would not suffer in the hands of their odd
neighbour, they reluctantly departed.
It was a melancholy walk home for this disappointed
deputation. Miles was full of hope one moment and full of fear
the next; Noah maintained an unalterable tone of despondency; but
William seemed quietly, but immovably, hopeful.
Reuben had told them he would see them later in the day, and
so they kept together and lingered at Miles's in most restless
impatience. About three o'clock Reuben drove up to the door in
his jingling old conveyance, and by his side sat a clerk from the
bank—a sign which William regarded as most distinctly hopeful.
"Naa, then," cried Reuben, brusquely, "jump in, an' come on
to the farm."
Pablo never had a heavier load in the old trap in all his
memory, and he puffed and panted up the Cinder Hill in anything but
an amiable mood.
When they arrived Reuben bade the clerk go first into the
house, and when a moment or two later he returned bringing Nat Ogden
with him, Reuben, who had never been in the house for over thirty
years, led the way into the kitchen. But the sudden and
unexpected removal of the bailiff had caused excitement within, and
when they entered the kitchen they found Jacky standing on the
hearthrug, and his wife and daughter clinging to his arms and crying
for relief and joy.
"Thar't a bonny mon!" cried Reuben in assumed indignation, as
soon as he put eyes on Jacky.
"Reuben!" cried Mrs. Jacky, suddenly stepping between her
husband and the sandman, "tha munna say a word! Aw'll darr thi
t' say it! "
Miles was stepping forward, but before he could speak Reuben
turned fiercely on Mrs. Jacky, and, pointing at her husband, cried,
"Dust know wot he's dun?"
"Aw durnt cur wot he's dun! He's dun nowt!
Nowt! Aw tell thi."
"Dust know haa he's getten inta this lumber?"
"Neaw, nor Aw durnt cur! He's dun nowt wrong Aw'm
"He's getten i' this mess wi' being bun (bound) fur that
foine cousin o' thine az runaway last Wissun Day. An' 'cause
he gan his wod, he'd nooa mooar sense nor pay, the foo him!"
And Reuben turned and looked at Jacky with a look in which scornful
reproach seemed to be struggling with something very like
So that was the explanation of the unexpected distraint—Jacky,
to save his wife's family pride, had, unknown to her, and, of
course, to the rest of his friends, been bound for a cousin of
hers—a showy, plausible, but untrustworthy farmer at Sniggleton—and
when he disappeared suddenly, as the other bonds could not pay,
Jacky had overdrawn an already unsatisfactory account at the bank.
Things had gone badly with him since, and then when the old bank
manager was found to be defaulting and was suddenly replaced,
Jacky's account proved on examination to be so unsatisfactory that
summary proceedings had at once been commenced. The scene that
followed is quite beyond the descriptive powers of the present
chronicler, and so we leave the rejoicing friends to their gladness.
Reuben Tonge, it appeared, had spent Sunday afternoon in getting at
the facts in his own peculiar way, as to the original cause of
Jacky's trouble, sorely disturbing the mind of the new bank manager
by interviewing him on the Sabbath Day, and the sandman greatly
enjoyed the grimace with which the mercurial Miles received this
last item of information. Still everybody expressed great
gratitude to Reuben for his help, and especially for the fact that
Jacky's character and the church's honour had been saved.
"Pablo," said Reuben that night, as he foddered his pony and
mused over the events of the day, "wun or tew moaar things loike
we'en hed to-day an' them Methodys 'ull convart thy old mestur."
And Pablo looked as if he had not the slightest objection.