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Title: Lancashire Idylls (1898)
Author: Mather, Marshall
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LANCASHIRE IDYLLS.


BY

MARSHALL MATHER,

AUTHOR OF

'LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF JOHN RUSKIN,'
'POPULAR STUDIES IN NINETEENTH CENTURY POETS,' ETC., ETC.


LONDON: FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.

AND NEW YORK.

1898.



INTRODUCTION.


While Edwin Waugh and Ben Brierley have done much to perpetuate
the rude moorland and busy factory life of Lancashire, little has
been done to perpetuate the stern Puritanism of the hill sects.

Among these sects there is a poetry and simplicity local in
character, yet delightful in spirit; and to recall and record it
is the aim of the following Idylls.

The provincialism of Lancashire varies with its valleys. It is
only necessary, therefore, to remark that as these Idylls are
drawn from a once famous valley in the North-east division of the
county, the provincialism is peculiar to that valley--indeed, it
would be more correct to say, to that section of the valley
wherein Rehoboth lies.



CONTENTS.


I. MR. PENROSE'S NEW PARISH:

  1. A MOORLAND MACHPELAH
  2. A CHILD OF THE HEATHER
  3. OWD ENOCH'S FLUTE


II. THE MONEY-LENDER:

  1. THE UTTERMOST FARTHING
  2. THE REDEMPTION OF MOSES FLETCHER
  3. THE ATONEMENT OF MOSES FLETCHER


III. AMANDA STOTT:

  1. HOME
  2. LIGHT AT EVENTIDE
  3. THE COURT OF SOULS
  4. THE OLD PASTOR


IV. SAVED AS BY FIRE


V. WINTER SKETCHES:

  1. THE CANDLE OF THE LORD
  2. THE TWO MOTHERS
  3. THE SNOW CRADLE


VI. MIRIAM'S MOTHERHOOD:

  1. A WOMAN'S SECRET
  2. HOW DEBORAH HEARD THE NEWS
  3. 'IT'S A LAD!'
  4. THE LEAD OF THE LITTLE ONE


VII. HOW MALACHI O' TH' MOUNT WON HIS WIFE


VIII. MR. PENROSE BRINGS HOME A BRIDE



I.

MR. PENROSE'S NEW PARISH.

  1. A MOORLAND MACHPELAH.
  2. A CHILD OF THE HEATHER.
  3. OWD ENOCH'S FLUTE.


LANCASHIRE IDYLLS.

I.

A MOORLAND MACHPELAH.


There was a sepulchral tone in the voice, and well there might be,
for it was a voice from the grave. Floating on the damp autumnal
air, and echoing round the forest of tombs, it died away over the
moors, on the edge of which the old God's-acre stood.

Though far from melodious, it was distinct enough to convey to the
ear the words of a well-known hymn--a hymn sung in jerky
fragments, the concluding syllable always rising and ending with a
gasp, as though the singer found his task too heavy, and was bound
to pause for breath.

The startled listener was none other than Mr. Penrose, the
newly-appointed minister, who was awaiting a funeral, long
overdue. Looking round, his already pale face became a shade paler
as he saw no living form, other than himself.

There he stood, alone, a stranger in this moorland haunt, amid
falling shadows and rounding gloom, mocked by the mute records and
stony memorials of the dead.

Again the voice was heard--another hymn, and to a tune as old as
the mossed headstones that threw around their lengthening shadows.

     'I'll praise my Maker--while I've breath,'

followed by a pause, as though breath had actually forsaken the
body of the singer. But in a moment or two the strain continued:

     'And when my voice--is lost in death.'

Whereon the sounds ceased, and there came a final silence, death
seeming to take the singer at his word.

As Mr. Penrose looked in the direction from which the voice
travelled, he saw a shovel thrown out of a newly-made grave,
followed by the steaming head and weather-worn face of old Joseph,
the sexton, all aglow with the combined task of grave-digging and
singing.

'Why, Joseph, is it you? I couldn't tell where the sound came
from. It seems, after all, the grave can praise God, although the
prophet tells us it cannot. Do you always sing at your work?'

'Partly whod. You see it's i' this way, sir,' said Joseph;
'grave-diggin's hard wark, and if a felley doesn'd sing a bit o'er
it he's like baan to curse, so I sings to stop swears. There's a
fearful deal o' oaths spilt in a grave while it's i' th' makin', I
can tell yo'; and th' Almeety's name is spoken more daan i' th'
hoile than it is up aboon, for all th' parson reads it so mich aat
of his book. But this funeral's baan to be lat', Mr. Penrose'; and
drawing a huge watch from his fob, he exclaimed: 'Another ten
minutes and there's no berryin' i' th' yard this afternoon.'

'I don't understand you, Joseph,' said Mr. Penrose wonderingly.

'We never berry here after four o'clock.'

'But there's no law forbidding a funeral at any hour that I know
of--is there?'

'There is wi' me. I'm maisther o' this berryin' hoile, whatever
yo' may be o' th' chapel. But they're comin', so I'll oppen th'
chapel durs.'

Old Joseph, as he was called, had been grave-digger at Rehoboth
for upwards of fifty years, and so rooted were his customs that
none cared to call them in question. For minister and deacons he
showed little respect. Boys and girls fled from before his shadow;
and the village mothers frightened their offspring when naughty by
threatening to 'fotch owd Joseph to put them in th' berryhoile.'
The women held him in awe, declaring that he sat up at night in
the graveyard to watch for corpse-candles. Even the shrewd and
hard-headed did not care to thwart him, preferring to be friends
rather than foes. Fathers, sons and sons' sons--generation after
generation--had been laid to rest by the sinewy arms of Joseph.
They came, and they departed; but he, like the earth, remained. A
gray, gaunt Tithonus, him 'only cruel immortality consumed.'

The graveyard at Rehoboth was his kingdom. Here, among the tombs,
he reigned with undisputed sway. Whether marked by lettered stone
or grassy mound, it mattered little--he knew where each rude
forefather of the hamlet lay. Rich in the family lore of the
neighbourhood, he could trace back ancestry and thread his way
through the maze of relationship to the third and fourth
generations. He could recount the sins which had hurried men to
untimely graves, and point to the spot where their bones were
rotting; and he could tell of virtues that made the memory of the
mouldering dust more fragrant than the sweetbriar and the rose
that grew upon the graves.

There was one rule which old Joseph would never break, and that
was that there should be no interments after four o'clock. Plead
with him, press him, threaten him, it was to no purpose; flinch he
would not for rich or for poor, for parson or for people. More
than once he had driven the mourners back from the gates, and one
winter's afternoon, when the corpse had been brought a long
distance, it was left for the night in a neighbouring barn. Upon
this occasion a riot was with difficulty averted. But old Joseph
stood firm, and at the risk of his life carried the day. This was
long years ago. Now, throughout the whole countryside it was known
that no corpse passed through Rehoboth gates after four o'clock.

       *       *       *       *       *

'You'll happen look in an' see th' owd woman afore yo' go wom','
said Joseph to Mr. Penrose, as the minister finished his entry of
the funeral in the chapel register, 'hoo's nobbud cratchenly
(shaky).'

Joseph and his wife lived in the lower room of a three-storied
cottage at the end of the chapel, the second and third stories of
the said cottage being utilized by the Rehoboth members as
Sunday-schools.

Entering, Mr. Penrose saw the old woman crouching over the hearth
and doing her best to feed the fast-dying fires of her vitality.
As she raised her wrinkled face, crowned with white hair and
covered with a coloured kerchief, a gray shawl wrapped round her
lean and stooping shoulders, she smiled a welcome, and bade him be
seated.

'So yo'n put away owd Chris,' she said, as soon as Mr. Penrose had
taken his seat by her side. 'Well, he were awlus one for sleepin'.
Th' owd felley would a slept on a clooas-line if he could a' fun
nowhere else to lay hissel. But he'll sleep saander or ever naa.
They'll bide some wakkenin' as sleep raand here, Mr. Penrose. Did
he come in a yerst, or were he carried?'

'He was carried,' answered the minister, somewhat in uncertainty
as to the meaning of the old woman's question.

'I were awlus for carryin'. I make nowt o' poor folk apein' th'
quality, and when they're deead and all. Them as keeps carriages
while they're wick can ride in yersts to their berryin' if they
like, it's nowt to me; but when I dee I's be carried, and noan so
far, noather.'

This moralizing on funerals by the sexton's wife was a new phase
of life to Mr. Penrose. He had never before met with anyone who
took an interest in the matter. It was true that in the city from
which he had lately come the question of wicker coffins and of
cremation was loudly discussed; but the choice between a hearse
and 'carrying' as a means of transit to the tomb never dawned on
him as being anything else than a question of utility--the
speediest and easiest means of transit.

After the deliverance of her mind on the snobbishness of poor
people in the use of the hearse, she continued:

'It'll noan be so long afore they've to carry me, Mr. Penrose. I
towd Joseph yesterneet that his turn 'ud soon come to dig my grave
wi' th' rest; and he said, "When thy turn comes, lass, I'll do by
thee as thou'd be done by."'

'And how would you be done by?' asked the minister.

'Well, it's i' this way, Mr. Penrose,' said the old woman. 'I want
a dry grave, wi' a posy growin' on th' top. I somehaa like posies
on graves; they mak' me think of th' owd hymn,

     '"There everlastin' spring abides,
     And never-witherin' flaars."'

Now, Mr. Penrose was one of the so-called theological young
bloods, and held little sympathy with Dr. Watts's sensuous views
of a future state. His common-sense, however, and his discretion
came to his rescue, and delivered him from a strong temptation to
blast the old woman's paradise with a breath of negative
criticism.

'There's a grave daan at th' bottom o' th' yard, Mr. Penrose,
where th' sunleet rests from morn till neet, an' I've axed Joseph
to lay me there, for it's welly awlus warm, and flaars grow from
Kesmas to Kesmas. Th' doctor's little lass lies there. Yo never
knowd her, Mr. Penrose. Hoo were some pratty, bless her! Did yo'
ever read what her faither put o'er th' top o' th' stone?'

Mr. Penrose confessed he was in ignorance of the epitaph over the
grave of the doctor's child. As yet the history and romance of the
graveyard were unknown to him.

'Well, it's this,' continued his informant:

     '"Such lilies th' angels gather for th' garden of God."

They'll never write that o'er me, Mr. Penrose. I'm nobbud a
withered stalk. Hoo were eight--I'm eighty. But for all that I
should like a flaar on mi grave, and Joseph says I shall hev one.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The autumn gave place to a long and cheerless winter, which all
too slowly yielded to a late and nipping spring. The wild March
wind swept across the moors, roaring loudly around the old
conventicle, chasing the last year's leaves in a mad whirl among
the rows of headstones, and hissing, as though in anger, through
the rank grasses growing on the innumerable mounds that marked the
underlying dead, and then careering off, as though wrathful at its
powerlessness to disturb the sleepers, to distant farmsteads and
lone folds where starved ewes cowered with their early lambs under
shivering thorns, and old men complained of the blast that roused
the slumbering rheum and played havoc with their feeble frames.
Scanty snow showers fell late under 'the roaring moon of
daffodil,' whitening the moorlands and lying glistening in the
morning light, to be gathered up by the rays of the sun that day
by day climbed higher in the cold blue of the sky of spring. Young
blades of green lay scattered like emerald shafts amid the tawny
wastes of the winter grass, and swelling branches told of a year's
returning life. Just as the golden chalice of the first crocus
opened on the graves of the Rehoboth burial-yard, the old woman at
the chapel-house died.

       *       *       *       *       *

The funeral was to take place at three o'clock, but long before
the hour old Joseph's kitchen was filled with a motley group of
mourners. They came from far and near, from moor and field, and
from the cottages over the way. Every branch of the family was
represented--sons and daughters, grandchildren, nephews and
nieces, even to babies in arms. As they straggled in, the women
attired in their best black, and the men wearing their top-hats (a
headgear worn by the Lancashire operative only on the state
occasion of funerals), it seemed as though old Joseph, like
Abraham, was the father of a race as the stars of heaven for
multitude, and as the sands by the seashore, innumerable.

An oppressive atmosphere filled the room, where, on a table under
the window, the open coffin rested, in which lay, exposed to all
eyes, the peaceful features and straightened limbs of the dead. As
the mourners entered they bent reverently over the corpse, and
moistened its immobile features with their tears, whispering
kindly words as to the appearance the old woman wore in death, and
calling to mind some characteristic grace and virtue in her past
life.

On another table was stacked a number of long clay pipes with
tobacco, from which the men assisted themselves, smoking with the
silence and stolidity of Indians, the women preserving the same
mute attitude, save for an occasional groan and suppressed
sigh--the feminine method in Lancashire of mourning for the dead.

The last mourners had long arrived, and the company was seated in
an attitude of hushed and painful expectancy for the officiating
minister. There was no sign, however, of his appearance; and the
mourners asked themselves in silence if he who was to perform the
final rites for the dead had forgotten the hour or the day.

The fingers of the old clock slowly crept along the dial-plate
towards four, the hour so relentlessly enforced for interments for
half a century by the sexton, who was now about to lay away his
own wife in the greedy maw of the grave. The monotonous
oscillation of the pendulum, sounding as the stroke of a passing
bell, gathered solemnity of tone in the felt hush that rested upon
all in the room--a hush as deep as that which rested upon the
dead. All eyes, under the cover of stealthily drooping lids, stole
glances at old Joseph, whose face fought hard to hide the emotions
running like pulsing tides beneath the surface. At last a woman,
whose threescore years and ten was the only warrant for her rude
interruption, exclaimed:

'Wheer's th' parson? Hes he forgetten, thinksto?'

'Mr. Penrose is ill i' bed,' replied old Joseph, 'but I seed Mr.
Hanson fra Burnt Hill Chapel, and he promised as he'd be here in
his place.'

The clock beat out its seconds with the same monotonous sound, and
the finger crept towards the fateful hour. Then came the wheeze
and whir preliminary to the strokes of four, conveying to familiar
ears that only eight more minutes remained. At this warning Joseph
arose from his seat, and, walking out into the graveyard, made
direct to an eminence overlooking the long trend of road, and,
raising one hand to shade his now failing sight, looked down the
valley to see if the minister was on his way to the grave. It was
in vain. Tears began to dim his sight, and for a moment the man
overcame the sexton. The struggle was but brief; in another moment
he was again the sexton. Returning to the cottage, he scarcely
reached the threshold before he cried out, with all the firmness
of his cruelly professional tones:

'Parson or no parson, aat o' this dur (door) hoo goes at four
o'clock.'

As the clock struck the fateful hour the old woman was carried to
her grave; and as they lowered her, Joseph, with uncovered head,
let fall the clods from his own hand, repeating, in a hoarse yet
tremulous voice, the words:

'Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.'

In another moment the old sexton reeled, and fell into the arms of
the men who stood near him. It was but a passing weakness, for he
soon pulled himself together, and accompanied the mourners to the
funeral tea, which was served in a neighbouring house.

Never afterwards, however, was old Joseph heard to rail at
mourners when late, or known to close the Rehoboth gates against
an overdue funeral.



II.

A CHILD OF THE HEATHER.


'What, Milly! Sitting in the dark?' asked Mr. Penrose, as he
entered the chamber of the suffering child, who was gazing through
the open window at the silent stars.

'I were just lookin' at th' parish candles, as my faither co's
'em; they burn breetsome to-neet, sir.'

'Looking at them, or looking for them?' queried the somewhat
perplexed divine. 'Can I bring the candles to you?'

'Yo' cornd bring 'em ony nearer than they are. They're up yon,
sithi,' and so saying the child pointed to the evening sky.

'So you call the stars "parish candles," do you?' smilingly
inquired Mr. Penrose. 'I never heard them called by that name
before.'

'It's my faither co's 'em "parish candles," not me,' said the
child.

'And what do you call them?'

'Happen if I tell yo' yo'll laugh at me, as my faither does.'

'No, I shall not. You need not be afraid.'

'Well, I co 'em angels' een (eyes).'

'A far prettier name than your father gives to them, Milly.'

'An' what dun yo' think hoo co's th' dew as it lies fresh on th'
moors in a mornin'?' asked the mother, who was sitting in one of
the shadowed corners of the room.

'I cannot say, I am sure, Mrs. Lord. Milly has such wonderful
names for everything.'

'Why, hoo co's it angels' tears, and says it drops daan fro' th'
een o' them as watches fro' aboon at the devilment they see on th'
earth.'

'Milly, you are a poetess!' exclaimed the delighted minister. 'But
do you really think the angels weep? Would it not destroy the joy
of that place where sorrow and sighing are no more?'

'Well, yo' see, it's i' this road, Mr. Penrose. They say as th'
angels are glad when bad folk turn good, and I suppose they'll
fret theirsels a bit if th' bad folk keeps bad; and there's mony
o' that mak' abaat here.'

Mr, Penrose was silent. Once more Milly was, unknown to herself
furnishing him with thoughts; for, again and again, from the
sickbed of this child had he gone forth with fresh fields of
revelation opening before him. True, the idea of heaven's grief at
earth's sin was not a pleasant one; but if joy at righteousness
and repentance, why not grief at wickedness and hardness of heart?

While thus musing in the quiet of the darkening chamber, Milly
turned from her contemplation of the stars with the somewhat
startling question:

'Mr. Penrose, dun yo' think there'll be yethbobs (tufts of
heather) i' heaven?'

'That's bothered her a deal latly,' broke in the mother, with a
choking voice. 'Hoo sez hoo noan cares for heaven if hoo cornd
play on th' moors, and yer th' wind, and poo yethbobs when hoo
gets there. What dun yo' think abaat it, Mr. Penrose?'

Mr. Penrose was not long from college, and the metaphysics and
dogmatics of the schools were more to his mind than the poetry and
religion of this moorland child. If asked to discourse on
personality, or expound the latest phase of German thought, he
would have felt himself at home. Here, however, he who was the
idol of the class-room sat silenced and foolish before a peasant
girl. True, he could enter into an argument for a future state,
and show how spiritual laws opposed the mundane imagination of the
child. But, after all, wherein was the use?--perhaps the child was
nearer the truth than he was himself. He would leave her to her
own pristine fancies.

In a moment Milly continued:

'Th' Bible says, Mr. Penrose, that i' heaven there's a street
paved wi' gowd (gold). Naa; I'd raither hev a meadow wi' posies,
or th' moors when they're covered wi' yethbobs. If heaven's baan
to be all streets, I'd as soon stop o' this side--though they be
paved wi' gowd an' o'.'

'Listen yo', how hoo talks, Mr. Penrose. Hoo's awlus talked i'
that feshion sin' hoo were a little un. Aar owd minister used to
co her "God's child."'

Mr. Penrose was a young man, and thought that 'Nature's child'
would be, perhaps, a more fitting name, but held his thought
unuttered. Wishing Milly and her mother a 'Good-night,' he
descended the old stone staircase to the kitchen, where Abraham
Lord sat smoking and looking gloomily into the embers of the fire.

'Has th' missus towd thee ought abaat aar Milly?' somewhat
sullenly interrogated the father.

'Nothing of any moment,' said Mr. Penrose. 'Of course she could
not; we were never together out of your daughter's presence.'

'Then aw'll tell thee. Milly's baan to-morn to th' infirmary to
hev her leg tan off.'

The strong man shook in the convulsive grip of his grief. No tears
came to his relief; the storm was deep down in his soul; outlet
there was none.

'Mr. Penrose,' said he, laying a hand on the minister's shoulder;
'Mr. Penrose, if I'd ha' known afore I were wed that gettin' wed
meant a child o' mine being tan fro' me and cut i' pieces by them
doctor chaps, I'd never ha' wed, fond o' Martha as I wor and am.
No, Mr. Penrose, I never would. They might tak' me, and do what
they'n a mind wi' me, at their butcherin' shops. But her--'

Here the strong man was swept by another convulsive storm of
feeling too deep for utterance. Subduing his passion by a supreme
effort of will, he continued:

'However, them as knows best says as it's her only chance, and I'm
noan goin' agen it. I shall go daan wi' her mysel' to-morn.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Milly, or 'th' little lass o' Lord's,' as the villagers called
her, was one of those phenomenal child personalities which now and
again visit this world as though to defy all laws of heredity, and
remind the selfish and the mighty of that kingdom in which the
little one is ruler. A bright, bonny, light-haired girl--the vital
feelings of delight pulsed through all her being. Born amid the
moorlands, cradled in the heather, nourished on the breezy heights
of Rehoboth, she grew up an ideal child of the hills. For years
her morning baptism had been a frolic across the dewy uplands;
and, evening by evening, the light of setting suns kindled holy
fires in her rapturous and wonder-filled eyes. The native heart,
too, was in touch with the native heath; for Milly's nature was
deeply poetic, many of her questions betraying a disposition and
sympathy strangely out of harmony with the kindly, yet rude, stock
from which she sprang. From a toddling child her eye carried
sunshine and her presence peace. Unconsciously she leavened the
whole village, and toned much of the harsh Calvinism that knit
together its iron creed. There was not one who did not in some way
respond to the magic of her voice, her mood, her presence. Even
Joseph softened as she stood by the yawning graves which he was
digging, and questioned him as to the dying and the dead. The old
pastor, Mr. Morell, stern man that he was, used to put his hand on
her head, and call her his 'Goldilocks'; and he had once been
heard to say, after leaving her, 'And a little child shall lead
them.' Though somewhat lonely, there was neither priggishness nor
precocity in her disposition; she was just herself--unspoiled from
the hands of God and of Nature.

Shortly after her twelfth birthday she was caught on the moors by
a heavy autumnal shower, and, unwilling to miss her ramble by
returning home, pursued her way drenched to the skin. A severe
illness was the consequence, an illness which left a weakness in
her knee, eventually incapacitating her for all exercise whatever,
and keeping her a prisoner to the house. The village doctor
laboured long, but in vain was all his skill. At last a specialist
from the great city beyond the hills was called, who ordered the
child to be removed to the Royal Infirmary, where care, skill, and
nourishment would all be within easy reach. So it came to pass one
summer morning, as the sun lighted up the wide moors, and the hum
of the factories in the valley began to be carried upwards towards
the heights, a little crowd of folks gathered round the door of
Abraham Lord's cottage to take a farewell of 'th' little lass.'
About eight o'clock the doctor drove up, and in a few moments
Milly was carried in his and her father's strong arms and gently
laid in the cushioned carriage, and then slowly driven away from
the home which now for the first time in her life she was leaving.
The eyes of the onlookers were as moist as the dewy herbage on
which they stood, and many a voice trembled in the farewell given
in response to Milly's 'Good-bye.'

Throughout the whole of that dark day Milly's mother never left
the cottage; and when her husband, weary and dispirited, returned
at nightfall, she could scarcely nerve herself to question him
lest some word of his should add another stab to her already
sorely wounded heart. When ten o'clock struck, and Abraham Lord
laid his hand on the key to shoot the lock for the night, he burst
into tears, and turning to his wife, said: 'Never, my lass, wi'
Milly on th' wrong side'; and for months the parents slept with an
unbarred door.

       *       *       *       *       *

'You have a remarkable patient in Milly Lord,' said Dr. Franks to
Nurse West one morning.

'I have indeed, doctor. I never met with another like her in all
my seven years' experience.'

'Does she talk much?'

'At times. But I should call her a silent child; at least, she
does not talk like other children. When she does talk it is to
make some quaint remark, or to ask some strange question.'

'Ah,' said the doctor, 'she's just asked me one. I referred her to
you and the chaplain. Religion, you know, is not much in my line.
But for all that, I must own it was a perplexing question.'

'Might I ask what it was, doctor?'

'Oh! she asked if I thought Jesus was sent here to suffer pain in
order that God might find out what pain was; and if so, was it not
queer that God should allow so much pain to exist. There now,
nurse, you have a problem. By the way, do you think the child
knows the limb has to be amputated?'

'She has guessed as much, doctor.'

'Does she seem to fear the operation?'

'Not at all. She talks as though it had to be. Do you think it
will be successful?'

Dr. Franks shrugged his shoulders, uttering no word by way of
reply.

'I should not like Milly to slip from us,' continued the nurse.

'Nor should I. We'll keep her if we can, and if she'll only help
us with a good heart we may possibly manage to pull her through.'

And with a mirthless laugh the doctor turned on his heel,
removing, when unobserved, his spectacles and wiping the moisture
from them and from his eyes.

From the day that Milly entered the great infirmary, the charm of
her childhood laid its spell upon all who came near her. Not only
was the gloomy ward brighter for her presence, but patients and
nurses were infected with her strange personality and undefinable
influence. Even the doctors lingered a moment longer at her
bedside, looking pensively into the light of those eyes whose
fires had been kindled under sunny skies, and at the beauty of
that face, kissed into loveliness by the wandering winds that
played around Rehoboth heights.

At last the morning of the operation came, and Milly was wheeled
into the theatre, where a crew of noisy students were joking and
indulging in the frolics which, from time immemorial, have been
the privilege of their order. As soon, however, as they caught
sight of the child every voice was hushed, and quietness
prevailed, for not a few already knew something of her winsomeness
and beauty. As she was placed on the operating-table the sunlight
fell through the lanthorn, and lighted up the golden clusters of
her hair, the welcome rays calling forth from her now pale
features a responsive smile. In another minute she lay peaceful
and motionless under the anæsthetic--a statue, immobile, yet
expressionful, as though carved by some master hand.

A burly-looking surgeon, with the sleeves of his operating coat
neatly turned up, approached the table on which Milly was
stretched, and in a business-like manner set about his task.
Carefully handling one of his cold and glittering instruments, he
paused; then bending himself over the patient, appeared as though
about to make the first incision, yet hesitated.

'What is the matter with old Rogers?' asked the students, under
their breath; and one or two of the doctors looked knowingly at
each other.

There was nothing the matter, however, with old Rogers for long.
He merely muttered something about it being a shame to cut into
such flesh as Milly's, and proceeded to go calmly through his
work, like the old hand that he was.

The operation was successful, and yet Milly seemed to make no
satisfactory progress. The old flow of life returned not, and a
settled gloom rested over her once merry heart. She was as one
suffering from an indefinable hunger; even she herself knew not
what it was she wanted. Unremitting was the attention shown,
nurses and doctors alike doing their utmost, even to works of
supererogation, on her behalf. Week by week her parents visited
her, while there was not a patient in the ward who would not have
sacrificed a half of her own chances of recovery, if by so doing
she could have ensured hers. All, however, seemed in vain; rally
she could not. The ward oppressed her, and the gloomy autumn
clouds that hung over the wilderness of warehouses upon which her
eye rested day by day canopied her with despair. She listened for
the wind--but all she heard was its monotonous hum along the
telegraph wires that stretched overhead. She looked for the
birds--but all she saw was the sooty-winged house-sparrow that
perched upon the eaves. She longed for the stars--but the little
area of sky that grudgingly spared itself for her gaze was oftener
clouded than clear as the night hour drew on. The truth was, she
was pining for her native heath; but she knew it not, nor did her
kindly ministrants.

In the next bed to Milly's lay a young woman slowly dying of an
internal malady, whose home, too, was far away among the moors,
and whose husband came week by week to visit her. On one of these
visits he brought with him a bunch of flowers--for the most part
made up of the 'wildings of Nature'--among which was a tuft of
heather in all the glory of its autumnal bloom. Turning towards
the sick child, the poor woman reached out her wasted arm, and
throwing a spray on to Milly's counterpane, said:

'Here, lass, I'll gi' thee that.'

In a moment Milly's eyes flashed light, and the bloom of the
moorland flower reflected itself in the blush of her cheeks.
Throwing up both hands, and wild with a tide of new life, she
cried:

'Nurse! nurse! Sithee--a yethbob--a yethbob!'

From that hour commenced Milly's convalescence. What medicine and
nursing failed to accomplish was carried to a successful issue by
'a tuft of heather.' For Milly did not die--indeed, she still
lives; and although unable to roam and romp the moors that lie in
great sweeps around her cottage home, she sits and looks at 'th'
angels' een'--as she still calls the stars--believing that in
those heavenly watchers are the eyes that slumber not, nor sleep.



III.

OWD ENOCH'S FLUTE.


It was a sunny afternoon in June, and old Enoch, sitting in the
shade of the garden bushes, called forth sweet tones from his
flute. No score was before him; that from which he played was
scored on his heart. Being in that sweet mood when

                 'Pleasant thoughts
     Bring sad thoughts to the mind,'

he was living over again, in the melodies that he played, his
chequered past. Forms moved before him to the music, and faces,
long since dust, smiled at him, and held converse with him, as the
plaintive notes rose and fell and died away. Winds, sweetened by
their sweep over miles of ling and herbage, and spiced with the
scents of the garden-flowers that like a zone of colour encircled
him, kissed his lips, and stole therefrom his melodies, bearing
them onwards to the haunts of the wild fowl, or letting them fall
where brooklets from the hills sang their silvery songs. Along the
path by which he sat, all fringed with London-pride, the leaves
spread dappled shadows--a mosaic of nature fit for the tread of
angels or the dance of fairy sprites. Beyond the fence that
fringed the little cottage rolled great waves of upland,
shimmering in the heat of the midsummer glare--that hot breathing
of the earth when wooed too fiercely by her wanton paramour, the
sun--while the horizon discovered lines of dreamy sweep all
crowned with haze, the vestibules to other hills grander and more
distant.

As the afternoon passed its golden hours, it passed them in
companionship with the notes of old Enoch's flute. Oblivious to
the time, oblivious to the surroundings, the musician heard not an
approaching step, nor knew that a listener stood behind the garden
bushes, with ear responsive to his melodies. How long he would
have played, how long his listener would have remained undiscovered,
it is hard to say--perhaps until the dews fell and the stars
glimmered. This was not to be, however, for forth from the cottage
door came his wife, who, with voice drowning the strain of the
flute, cried:

'Enoch, owd lad! dun yo' see th' parson?'

Ah, heedless Enoch! What was parson, what was wife to him? Was he
not soaring far above theologies and domesticities, over
continents traversed only by memory, amid ideals seen only with
the eye of hope? But a woman's voice!--what is there it cannot
shatter and dispel?

'Enoch! Enoch! dun yo' yer? Doesto see th' parson?'

'No, lass, I doan't,' said he, taking the flute from his lips.

'I welly think he's forgetten us this time, Enoch.'

'Nod he, lass; he's too fond o' thi butter-cakes and moufins
(muffins) to forgeet. He's some fond o' thi bakin', I con tell
thaa. Didn't he say as when he geet wed he'd bring his missis to
thee to larn haa to mak' bread?'

'Yi, he did, for sure!'

'And so he will,' said Mr. Penrose, stepping from behind the
garden bush. 'You see your husband is right, Mrs. Ashworth. I've
not forgotten it is baking-day, or that I was due at your house to
tea.'

'Theyer, Enoch, thaa sees what thi tootling on th' owd flute's
done for thee,' said the old woman, in her surprise and chagrin.
'Thaa cornd be too careful haa thaa talks. Thaa sees trees hes
yers as weel as stoan walls.'

'Ne'er mind, Mr. Penrose; I were nobbud hevin' her on a bit. Hoo
thinks a mighty lot o' parsons, I con tell yo'. Hoo's never reet
but when hoo's oather listenin' to 'em or feedin' 'em,' and the
old man quietly broke into a laugh.

'An' dun yo' know what he sez abaat parsons, Mr. Penrose? I mud as
weel tell tales abaat him naa he's started tellin' tales abaat
me.'

Mr. Penrose declared he had no idea what old Enoch's criticisms on
the members of the cloth were, but expressed a strong desire to be
made familiar with them.

'Weel,' continued Mrs. Ashworth, 'he sez as he never noather
flatters parsons nor women, for noather on 'em con ston' it. Naa,
then, what dun yo' mak' o' that?'

'He's very wise.'

'What saysto?'

'I only mean as far as the parsons are concerned. As to
women--why, I suppose I must be silent.'

'Ne'er mind, Mr. Penrose; tay's waitin', so come along. Yo' cornd
bridle women folks, and it's happen as weel yo' cornd; for if they
mutn't talk they'd scrat, and that 'ud be a deal wur.'

During tea Mr. Penrose apologized for hiding behind the bushes in
the garden while old Enoch was playing the flute: 'But,' continued
he, 'the airs were so sweet that it would have been a sin to mar
them by interruption.'

Upon hearing this Enoch's eye brightened, and a flush of pride
mantled on his cheek. These signs were at once detected by his
quick-eyed wife, who broke out in a triumphant voice:

'An' that's him as wouldn't flatter parsons an' women, cose, as he
sez, they cornd ston' it; and he's aside hissel cose yo've cracked
up his playin', Mr. Penrose.'

'All reet, owd lass,' good-humouredly retorted Enoch, looking love
through his mild blue eyes at his wife, who knew so well how to
defend her own, 'all reet; but if thaa durnd mind I'll tell Mr.
Penrose abaat Dickey o' Wams.'

'An' I'll tell him abaat Edge End "Messiah," and thi marlock wi'
th' owd piccolo.'

'Supposing I hear both stories,' said the minister. 'Then I can
apply both, and judge between you.'

'Oh! there's nowt in 'em,' replied Enoch. 'Sometimes, thaa knows,
when hoo's a bit fratchy, I plague her wi' tellin' o' Dickey o'
Wams, who wor talkin' abaat his wife's tantrums, when his maisther
stopped him and said, "Dickey, wherever did ta pike her up?" and
he said, "Oh, 'mang a lot more lumber up Stackkirk way."'

As this story was told with all the dry humour of which Enoch
possessed so large a share, both the old woman and Mr. Penrose
crowned it with a hearty laugh, the minister turning to his
hostess and saying:

'Now, Mrs. Ashworth, it's your turn. What about the Edge End
"Messiah"?'

'Mun I tell him, Enoch?'

'Yi, owd lass; id 'll pleeas thee, and noan hurt me. Brast (start)
off.'

'Well, yo' mun know, Mr. Penrose, they were givin' th' "Messiah"
at Edge End. Eh! dear, Enoch,' sighed the old woman, stopping
short in her story, 'it's thirty year sin' come next Kesmas.'

'Yi, lass, it is. There's some snow fallen sin' then.'

'There hes that, an' we've bed our share and o'. But, as I wor
tellin' yo', Mr. Penrose, they wor givin' th' "Messiah" at Edge
End, and bed just getten to "How beautiful are th' feet." Naa, it
wor arranged that aar Enoch mud play th' piccolo accompaniment,
and he started fairly weel. Happen he wor a bit flat, for th'
chapel wor very hot, an' most o' th' instruments aat o' pitch.
But, as I say, he started fairly weel, when th' conductor, a chap
fra Manchester, who thought he knew summat, said, "Hooisht,
hooisht!" But th' owd lad stuck to his tune. Then th' conductor
banged his stick on th' music, and, wi' a face as red as a
soudger's coite (soldier's coat), called aat agen, "Hooisht!
Doesto yer?--hooisht!" But he'd mistaan his mon, Mr. Penrose, for
Enoch nobbud stopped short to say, "Thee go on with thi
conductin'. If hoo'll sing I'll play." And hoo did sing an' o'.
An' Enoch welly blew his lips off wi' playin', I con tell thi.
But, somehaa or other, hoo never cared to come and sing i' these
parts after, and they never geet Enoch to tak' th' piccolo
accompaniment agen to "How beautiful are th' feet."'

'Nowe, an' they never will. I somehaa think I had summat to do wi'
spoilin' th' beauty of "their feet" that neet, Mr. Penrose, though
I've played in mony a oratory (oratorio) sin' then, an' mean to do
agen.'

After tea Enoch took Mr. Penrose for a stroll over the moors. The
sun was westering, and cool airs crept up from distant wilds,
playing softly as they swept among the long grasses, and leading
Enoch to say to Mr. Penrose, 'Theer's music for yo'.' The great
hills threw miles of shadow, and masses of fleecy clouds slowly
crossed the deepening blue like white galleons on a sapphire sea.
Along the crests of the far-off hills mystic colours were
mingling, deepening, and fading away--the tremulous drapery woven
by angel hands, behind which the bridegroom of day was hiding his
splendour and his strength. Soft herbage yielded to the tread, and
warm stretches of peaty soil lay like bars across the green and
gray and gold of what seemed to Mr. Penrose the shoreless waste of
moor. On distant hills stood lone farmsteads, their little windows
glowing with the lingering beams of the setting sun; the low of
kine, the bay of dog, and the shout of shepherd, softened into
sweetest sounds as they travelled from far along the wings of the
evening wind. It was the hour when Nature rests, and when man
meditates--if the soul of meditation be his.

After a silence of some minutes Enoch turned to Mr. Penrose and
said:

'Jokin' aside, Mr. Penrose, that owd flute yo' yerd me playin'
this afternoon is a part o' my life. Let's sit daan i' this nook
and I'll tell yo' all abaat it. Three times in mi history it's bin
mi salvation. Th' first wor when I lost mi brass. We lived daan at
th' Brig then, and I ran th' factory. I wor thirty-five year owd,
and hed a tidy bit o' brass, when they geet me to put a twothree
hunderd in a speculation. Ay, dear! I wor fool enugh not to let
weel alone. I did as they wanted me. Me, and Bill Stott's faither,
and owd Jerry o' th' Moss went in together heavy, and we lost
every farthin'. I shall never forgeet it. It wor Sunday mornin'
when th' news coome fro' th' lawyer. I wor i' bed when th' missis
gav me th' letter, and I could tell by her face summat wor wrang.
"What is it, lass?" I axed. "What a towd thee it would be," hoo
said. "We are ruined." "Thaa never sez so!" I shaated. "It's paper
as says so," hoo said, "noan me," and hoo handed me th' lawyer's
letter. I tried to get aat o' bed, Mr. Penrose, but when I set mi
feet on th' floor, I couldn't ston'. "I've lost my legs, missis,"
I cried. "Nay, lad, thank God, thaa's getten thi legs yet; it's
thi brass thaa's lost!" I shall never forgeet those days. Then
came th' sale, and th' flittin', an' all th' black looks. Yo' know
yor friends when th' brass goes, Mr. Penrose. Poverty's a rare
hond for pikin' aat hypocrites. It maks no mistakes; it tells yo'
who's who. We'd scarce a friend i' those days. I wor weeks and
never held up mi yed, and noabry but th' missis to speak to. Then
it wor th' owd flute coome to mi help. I'd nobbud to tak' it up,
and put it to mi lips, and it ud begin to speyk. Yi, an' it cried
an' o', and took my sorrow on itsel, and shifted it away fro' me.
I've played o' th' neet thro' on these moors, Mr. Penrose, when I
couldn't sleep i' bed, or stay i' th' haas. It's a grond thing, is
music, when yo're brokken-hearted. If ever yo' marry and hev
childer, teach 'em music--a chap as con play con feight th' devil
so much better nor him as cornd.'

Old Enoch took his cap from his head, and wiped his brow, and
continued:

'Th' flute were my salvation agen, Mr. Penrose, when our lad deed.
He wor just one-and-twenty, and he's bin dead eighteen year. Brass
is nothin' when it comes to berryin' yor own, Mr. Penrose. Poverty
may touch a mon's pride, but death touches his heart. When yo' see
yor own go aat o' th' haas feet fermost, and yo' know it's for
good an' o', there's summat taan aat o' yo' that nothin' ever maks
up for at afterwards. I wor a long time afore I forgave th'
Almeety for takin' aar Joe. And all the time I owed Him a grudge,
and kep' on blamin' Him like; I got wurr and wurr, until I welly
went mad. Then I coome across th' old flute, and it seemed to say,
"I'll help thee agen." "Nay, owd brid," I said, "tha cornd. It's
noan brass this time, it's mi lad." And th' owd flute seemed to
say, "Try me." So I tuk it up, and put it to mi lips and blew--yi,
aat of a sad heart, Mr. Penrose--but it wor reet. Th' owd flute
gi' me back mi prayer--grace for grace, as yo' parsons say,
whatever yo' mean by't. And as I sat on th' bench i' th'
garden--same bench as yo' saw me sittin' on this afternoon--my
missis coome to th' dur, and hoo said, "Enoch, what doesto think?"
"Nay, lass," I said, "I durnd know." "Why," hoo says, "I think as
thaa's fotched aar Joe daan fro' heaven to hear thee playin'; he
seems nearer to me naa nor he ever did sin' he left us." And so,
ever afterwards, Mr. Penrose, when we want to feel aar Joe near
us, I just taks up th' flute and plays, and he awlus comes.'

Old Enoch paused, for his voice was thick, and with his
handkerchief he wiped away the moisture from his eyes.

In another minute he continued:

'Bud, Mr. Penrose, I'd a wurr trouble than oather o' those I've
towd yo' on. A twothree year sin' I wor a reprobate. I don't know
how it coom abaat, but somehaa I geet fond o' drink, and I tuk to
stopping aat late, and comin' wom' rough like, and turnin' agen
th' missus. They coom up to see me from Rehoboth, and owd Mr.
Morell prayed wi' me; but it wor all no use. Th' devil hissel wor
in me. They say, Mr. Penrose, as yo' durnd believe in a devil;
that yo' co evil a principle or summat of that sort. If thaa'd bin
like me thaa'd hev no doubts abaat a devil. I've felt him in me,
an' I've felt him tak' howd o' me and do as he'd a mind wi' me.
One day, when they'd crossed mi name off th' Rehoboth register,
and th' missus were sobbin' fit to break her heart, aw coom across
th' owd flute as aw were rootin' in a box for some medicine. There
it lay, long forgetten. As aw seed it, tears coom in my een. Aw
thought haa it bed helped mi when I lost o' mi brass, and when Joe
deed, and aw tuk it up and said, "Can ta help me naa, thinksto?"
An' aw put it together, and went aat on th' moors and began to
play; and fro' that hour to this aw've never wanted to sup a drop
o' drink. Naa, Mr. Penrose, yo' preachers talk abaat th' Cross,
and it's o' reet that yo' should; but yo' cannot blame me for
talkin' abaat my flute, con yo', when it's bin my salvation? And
whenever awm a bit daanhearted, or hardhearted, or fratchy wi' th'
missus, or plaguey wi' fo'k, aw goes to th' owd flute, and it
helps me o'er th' stile. But it's gettin' lat'; let's be goin'
wom'.'

Arriving at the cottage, Enoch told his wife how he had given Mr.
Penrose the history of his old flute, whereupon the good woman
wept and said:

'Him and me, Mr. Penrose, has many a time supped sorrow, but th'
owd flute has awlus sweetened aar cup, hesn't it, Enoch?'

'Yi, lass, it awlus hes.'

That night, before Mr. Penrose left the moorland cottage of the
Ashworths, old Enoch took up the flute tenderly, and, with a
far-off look in his eyes, commenced to play a plaintive air, which
the old woman told Mr. Penrose was to 'their Joe,' who was 'up
aboon wi' Jesus.' And as the minister descended the brow towards
his own home, the sweet, sad music continued to fall in dying
strains upon his ears; and that night, and many a night
afterwards, did he vex his brain to find out why redemption should
be wrought out by a flute, when the creed of Rehoboth was
powerless.



II.

THE MONEY-LENDER.

  1. THE UTTERMOST FARTHING.
  2. THE REDEMPTION OF MOSES FLETCHER.
  3. THE ATONEMENT OF MOSES FLETCHER.



I.

THE UTTERMOST FARTHING.


'Well! yo' and Jim may do as yo' like--but I'm noan baan to turn
aat o' th' owd Fold till I'm ta'en aat feet fermost.'

'Nay, gronny--don't tak' on so. Yo' cornd ston' agen law as haa it
be; a writ is a writ, and if yo' hevn't got brass it's no use
feightin'.'

'A, lass! I'm feared thaa's reet--naa-a-days them as has most gets
most, and their own way i' th' bargain.'

They were sitting over the hearth, the elder woman gazing wearily
into the dying embers of the fire, and nursing her chin on her
hand; while the younger, with her clog upon the rocker of a deal
cradle, gave to that ark of infancy the gentle and monotonous
movement which from time immemorial has soothed the restlessness
of child-life.

It was a pitiless night--a night the superstitious might well
associate with the portent of the downfall of the house around
which the storm seemed to rage. The rain beat upon the windows,
and the wind with its invisible arms clasped the old farmstead as
if to wrench it from its foundations and scatter broadcast its
gray stones over the wild moor on the fringe of which it stood.
Neither of the women, however, heeded the sweep of the tempest,
for their bosoms were racked by storms other than those of the
elements. With eyes heavy from pent-up floods of tears, and hearts
dark with foreboding, they listened for the footfall which both
knew would bring with it their impending fate.

'He's here,' said the old woman, quickly raising her head during
one of the lulls of the storm. Nor was she mistaken, for in a
moment the door was thrown open by a tall broad-shouldered man,
who, seizing the dripping cap from his head, flung it with an oath
into the farthest corner of the room.

'Then he'll noan give us another chonce, lad? But thaa cornd mend
it wi' swearin'--thaa nobbud makes bad worse by adding thy oaths
to his roguery.'

'Oaths, mother! Oaths didsto say? I can tell thee th' Almighty
sometimes thinks more o' oaths than prayers. Owd Moses'll say his
to-neet--but my oaths'll get to heaven faster.'

'Hooisht, Jim! hooisht! ne'er mind Moses and his prayers. What did
he say about th' mortgage?'

'Say! why he said he'd oather hev his brass at ten o'clock
to-morn, or skift us wi' law. And he'll do it--that he will.'

'A, lad--thaa says truth. Owd Moses'll keep his word; he never
lies when he threatens poor fo'k like us. But I never thought it
ud come to this. I could ha' liked to ha' deed in th' owd chamber
aboon, and left th' haas feet fermost when I left it for good.'
And the old woman rocked herself in her grief over the dying fire.

'Well, gronmother, wee'n all to dee, and I durnd know as it
matters where we dee as long as we're ready. It's where we're baan
to live as bothers me,' said the hard-headed daughter-in-law.

'I've lived my life, thaa sees, lass. I'm nobbud waitin' to go to
them as is gone afore; and I could ha' liked to foller them from
th' owd haas. And then thaa'rt noan o' th' owd stock, lass. Thy
folks ne'er rooted theirsels i' th' soil like mine. It's fifty
year come next Whisundy (Whitsuntide) since Jimmie's faither
brought me here; and as I come in by wedlock, I could ha' liked to
ha' gone out by berryin'.'

'Come, mother,' said the now subdued son, 'we'll find a home for
thee, and when thaa dees we'll put thee away. Durnd tak' on like
that.'

But the old woman heeded not the kindly words of her son. Her
thoughts were in the past, and she was reliving the years that
were gone. Gazing into the expiring embers, she saw the forms of
long ago; and talking first to herself, and then to her son and
his wife, she continued, in a crooning voice:

'It's fifty year come next Whisundy sin thi faither brought me
here, lad--fifty year, and it only seems like yesterday. We were
wed at th' owd church i' Manchester. Dan o' Nodlocks, as used to
live up at th' Chapel-hill, drove us there and back in his new
spring-cart; and what wi' gettin' there and being spliced, and
comin' wom' we were all th' day at th' job. Th' sun were just
showin' hissel o'er th' hill yonder when we started, and it were
goin' daan o'er th' moors when we geet back; and thi faither,
Jimmy, as he lifted me daan from th' cart and put me in th' porch
yonder, kissed me and said: "Sunshine aatside, Jenny, and sunshine
in." An' that's fifty year ago, lad, and I've never slept out o'
th' owd haas from that neet to this, and I durnd want to leave it
naa.'

'Well, durnd tak' on like that, mother; if tha' does thaa'll break
my heart. We shall happen stop yet, who knows?' and Jim almost
choked with the lie which he told in his wild anguish to stay the
torrent of his mother's grief.

But the crooning old woman heeded him not. With eyes fixed on the
fire she continued to read the horoscope of the past:

'We were some happy, those first years, I can tell thee. Then
little Billy wor born. Poor little Billy! Thaa's been a good lad,
Jim, but I often think what a good un little Billy would ha' been
if he'd lived! But he deed. Ay! I con remember it as though it
were nobbud yesterneet. It was abaat th' deead hour, and I wakened
up sudden-like, for summat towd me all were not reet wi' th' lad.
I made thi faither strike a leet, and then I see'd Billy's een
were set, and his little mouth twitchin'. Thi faither run off,
half dressed as he were, for th' doctor. But it wor no use; Billy
were going cowd in my arms when they both geet back. And then they
laid th' little lad aat in th' owd chamber, and I used to creep
upstairs when thi faither were in th' meadow, and talk to Billy,
and ax him to oppen his een. But it wor all no use, he never glent
at me agen. I never cried, lad--I couldn't. I felt summat wor taan
aat o' me,' and the old woman laid her hand on her heart. 'I was
empty-like; and then five years after, as I lay in bed in th' owd
chamber aboon--same chamber as Billy were laid out in--Mary o'
Sams, who had come to nurse me, said: "Thou mun look up, Jenny,
it's another lad," and she put thee in my arms, and then th'
warkin' went, and I were a happy woman again. I could ha' liked to
ha' kept little Billy, but Him aboon knows best: thaa's bin a good
lad to me, Jimmy.'

Tears began to stream from the eyes of Jimmy's wife; and stooping
down, she lifted her sleeping baby from its cradle, and hugged it
to her breast. The story of little Billy had, for the moment,
softened the heart of this practical and common-sense woman.

'That's reet, lass. Keep him close to thee, he'll need thee and
thaa'll need him afore yo're both done wi' th' world. Since thi
faither deed, Jimmy, I've felt to need thee more and more. It's
ten year this last back-end sin' we buried him. And it's nobbud
just like yesterday. He wor in th' barn when he wor taan,
sudden-like, with apoplex; and he never spoke, or knew me or you
at after. And he wor laid aat in th' owd chamber, too, where they
laid little Billy aat afore him, and where yo' wor born, lad. I
thought I should be laid aat there, and all, and I could ha' liked
it to be so. But I mun be off to bed, childer, it's gettin' lat'.
I shall sleep in th' owd chamber to-neet, wheresomever I sleep
to-morn.'

And so saying, the grandmother took her lamp, and climbed the worn
stone staircase to her room--a staircase trodden so many times in
changing moods of joy and sorrow, and with feet now gladsome and
now weary with honest toil and household care.



When Jimmy and his wife were alone, and the sound of the old
woman's voice no longer fell upon their ears, they realized, as
never before, the anguish of their surroundings. They were
spending their last night in what to one had been a life-long
home, and to the other a shelter of happiness for ten years of
married life. The story was a sad one, and yet, alas! not
uncommon. Crawshaw Fold--the old farmstead--dated back two hundred
years, and from the time of its erection to the present, had known
neither owners nor occupiers save those of the sturdy yeoman
family from which it took its name. It had been the boast of the
Crawshaws that no alien ever lorded it beneath their roof, or sat
as presiding genius at their hearth. They were proud to tell how
all the heirs of Crawshaw Fold only entered its portals by the
mystic gate of birth, nor departed until summoned by the passing
bell. But families, like individuals, grow old, and with the
course of years the richest blood runs thin. Bad seasons, which
are the friends of the money-lender and mortgagee, are the foes of
hereditary descent and family pride, and many are the escutcheons
erased and the lines of lineage broken by reverses wrought through
their fitful moods. The Crawshaws were no exception. A succession
of disasters on their little farmstead brought them to sore
straits, and for deliverance they sought help of one Moses
Fletcher, who advanced money on the deeds of the property. So bad
were the times that James Crawshaw was unable to meet the
interest, and on the morrow Moses was putting in force his claim.
This was the shadow that fell across the hearth--the despair that
was seated like a hideous ghoul by their fireside. In the morning
three generations of Crawshaw would be homeless.

'Well, lad,' said Jimmy's wife, 'it's no use lying daan to dee
afore one's time; there's this little un to fend for, and, as I
say, th' wick is o' more value than th' deeing. Th' owd Book says
as th' deead is to bury th' deead, but I'm noan deead yet.'

'Thaa'rt hard on th' owd woman, lass. It's nobbud natural as hoo
should want to lie daan and dee where all her folk has deed afore
her.'

'Nay, lad, I'm noan hard. Hoo'll go where we go, and we's be doin'
aar duty both to her and th' child here by workin' for 'em,
instead of frettin' and sobbin' as though all wor o'er.'

'Happen so; but thaa's more hope nor I hev. I durnd think th' sun
will ever shine again for us, lass.'

'Get away wi' thee! Th' sun 'll shine to-morn for them as has een
to see.'

Throughout this conversation the footfall of the old grandmother
was heard distinctly on the chamber floor above, for on reaching
her room she did not, as was her wont, seek at once the shelter of
her bed, but, placing the lamp on the table, commenced a fond and
farewell survey of the old chamber. Over the fireplace hung an old
sampler, worked by her deft fingers in girlhood's days--her maiden
name spelt out in now faded silks, with a tree of paradise on
either side and under it the date of a forgotten year; while an
old leather-cased Bible, in which were inscribed the epochs of the
family, lay open upon a chair.

Withdrawing her eyes from these, she slowly turned towards the
clothes-press, and, opening the oaken doors, looked at a suit of
black--'the Sunday best' of her dead husband, left undisturbed
since his sudden decease ten years before. Then, turning to a box
at the foot of the bed--that historic four-poster whereon the twin
messengers of birth and death had so often waited--she knelt and
raised the lid, looking into its secrets by the feeble ray emitted
from the lamp. What she saw therein we care not to tell. Our pen
shall not blur the bloom of that romance and association which for
her the years could not destroy. Enough that this was her ark,
within which were relics as precious as the budding rod and pot of
manna. She was low before her holy of holies--face to face with a
light which falls from the inalienable shrine of every woman who
has been wife and mother, who has loved a husband and carried a
child.

By this time the storm was over, and the winds, lately so
tempestuous, were gathered together and slept. A strange hush--a
hush as of appeased nature--rested like a benediction over the
house. The moon sailed along a swiftly clearing sky of blue, and
shot its silver shafts through the great cloud-bastions that still
barriered the horizon, and lighted up the chamber in which the old
woman was kneeling before her shrine. It was across these God sent
His kindly messenger with noiseless tread to bear her sore and
sorrowing soul 'where the wicked cease from troubling and the
weary are at rest.'

       *       *       *       *       *

At an early hour the minions of Moses Fletcher, the money-lender,
were hovering round Crawshaw Fold, not daring, however, to enter
until the fateful hour of ten. Jimmy, with his wife, sat before an
untasted breakfast, wondering how it was his mother was so late in
coming downstairs; and when at half-past eight there was no sign
of her appearance, he sent his wife, with a strong feeling of
foreboding, to find out the reason of the delay. Slowly she
climbed the stairs to awaken, as she supposed, the old woman for
the last tragic act of the drama. When she stood upon the
threshold of the chamber, however, she saw at a glance that a
kindly hand had drawn the curtain before the enactment of the
fateful and final scene. Calling her husband, he hurried to her
side; and, together, they raised Jenny from her kneeling posture
before the old chest, and laid her on the bed, thanking God that
for her the worst had been forestalled. Four days afterwards old
Jenny was carried out of the Fold, feet foremost; and, amid a
falling shower of snow, was laid away by the side of little Billy
and the good man with whom, for forty years, she had shared her
life. As the mourners returned, chilled by the winter's blast,
sleek Moses Fletcher crossed their path, an old woman flinging at
him the words:

'Thaa's had th' uttermost farthin', but thaa's God to square wi'
yet.'



II.

THE REDEMPTION OF MOSES FLETCHER.


Moses Fletcher was suffering from what the doctor called 'nervous
shock,' with sundry wounds of a severe nature received in an
attempt to rescue his dog in a canine _mêlée_.

He was a medium-sized man, with a hatchet face, lit by keen gray
eyes, small as a ferret's; and, by way of apology for a mouth,
displayed a thin lip-line which fell at either end with a cruel
and cynical curve.

As he lay in bed, with a face as white as the counterpane which
covered him, he now and again extended his bandaged hand to the
favourite hound that rested on a plaid shawl at his feet, calling
it by endearing names, and welcoming its warm and faithful
caresses.

The chamber was small, but cosy, with many evidences of comfort.
Trellised greenery looked in at him through the deep-splayed
windows, and tapped a welcome on the diamond panes. He had,
however, no ear for this salute. Nor did he eye with delight the
flowering geraniums that clustered so thickly in the pots filling
the sills. Nor did he even care for the great bars of sunlight
that fell in golden splendour across his bed, causing the old dog
to wink, and sneeze, and smile beneath their mellowing beams. No,
these were nothing to him; indeed, they never had been--he had
lived for years oblivious alike to tree and flower and sun.

On the walls of his bedroom hung a number of rude prints, chief
among which was a hideous representation of Jesus Christ driving
the money-changers out of the Temple--the man of gentleness being
represented as a stern, passionless Master, the strength of whose
person was thrown into a relentless face, and a mighty arm
wielding a massive whip. At this figure he often glanced, and now
and again a look of recognition seemed to steal over his features,
as though the essence of his religion was embodied in that act--a
gospel anodyne for a suffering soul.

By the side of his bed was a small table on which lay two books,
the one bound in morocco, the other in leather--a Bible and a
ledger--his sole literature during the weary hours of sickness,
and wittily denominated by his wife, 'the books of mercy and of
judgment.' Indeed, she often told him that he knew 'a deal more o'
th' book o' judgment than he did o' t'other'; and it was even so.

Moses languidly took up his Bible. It was a veritable study in
black and white, many passages being underscored, and many
remaining as unsoiled as though seldom read. Indeed, the Gospels
seldom had been read, while the imprecatory Psalms and the latter
part of the Epistle to the Romans were greasy and stained with oft
perusal. But there was a more remarkable feature about the Bible
than this--its margin was filled with a number of pen-and-ink
notes! figures and calculations of money advanced and interest
drawn and due; his clever, sarcastic wife calling this his
'reference Bible,' and sometimes telling him he was 'mighty i' th'
Scriptures' when his own interest was concerned.

He laid down the Bible and took up his ledger. Ah! how he knew
that book!--to him actually and literally a book of life. He knew
its every page, and every name that headed those pages. True,
Moses knew the generations of the patriarchs, the names of the
sons of Jacob, the chronologies of the Chronicles, but he knew the
families of Rehoboth better. These latter were engraved on the
palms of his hands, and written with corroding ink on the fleshly
tables of his heart. As he turned over the well-thumbed pages he
made many mental calculations, sometimes smiling and sometimes
sighing as his eye fell on an irreclaimable debt. Then, taking up
his pencil, he entered an account on the fly-sheet of the Bible,
and seemed satisfied when he discovered that his illness would not
involve him in the loss which he had anticipated; and smiling the
smile of selfish gain, he closed his eyes and slept.

Poor Moses Fletcher! For with all his riches he was poor--if being
a pauper in the sight of Heaven is to be poor. How he had lived to
make money, and, having made it, how terrible was the cost! Old
Mr. Morell once told him that the angels reversed his balance year
by year, writing in invisible ink against his material profits his
moral and spiritual depreciation. And yet there was one redeeming
feature in the character of Moses--he loved his dog. 'Captain,' as
the brute was called, kept one spot warm in his callous nature, a
little patch of vegetation on the bare surface of his granite
heart. The only noble acts in the life of Moses Fletcher were acts
wrought on behalf of this dog. Years ago he risked his life to
save it, when, as a whelp, mischievous boys sought to drown it in
the Green Fold Lodge; and only a week or two ago he rescued it
from the infuriated grip of a bull-terrier, at the expense of
injuries from which he was now slowly recovering. Wherever Moses
went he was followed by his dog; and if the dog was seen alone it
was known Moses was not far distant. Now, this dog had to suffer
for Moses' sins. It was, as Mr. Penrose used to say, 'a vicarious
dog'--the innocent bearing the sins of the guilty. Affectionate,
faithful, gentle, with no spice of viciousness in its nature, it
was none the less stoned by children and tormented by man and
woman alike. One of Moses' debtors, a stalwart quarryman, once
took it on the moors and sent it home with a spray of prickly
holly tied under its tail. On another occasion, an Irish labourer,
whom Moses put in the County Court, hurled a handful of quicklime
in its eye, by which its sight had been in part destroyed; and its
glossy skin was all patched with bare spots where outraged
housewives had doused it with scalding water.

'We cornd get at _him_,' they used to say, 'but we con get at his
dog, and mak' him smart i' that road.'

The last outrage, however, was by far the most brutal, and it came
about in this manner. It was County Court day at a small market
town over the hills, and Moses, accompanied by his dog, went with
his summonses. One of these was served against a man known as
'Oliver o' Deaf Martha's'--himself the owner of the most
belligerent dog in the neighbourhood--who, like Moses, never moved
without his canine friend. When his summons was heard judgment
went against him, and he was ordered to pay ten shillings a month
until the debt was wiped off. At this he uttered a curse,
muttering to Moses that he would be even with him, but little
thinking his chance would so soon come to hand. Passing out of the
Court into the street, he saw his own dog and that of Moses
snarling at one another, but harmlessly, as both were muzzled.
Taking a knife from his pocket, he cut the leather straps that
bound the mouth of his own dog, and, throwing it at the other,
bade it go to work with its worrying. It needed no second word of
encouragement; and in a moment, the other dog, handicapped by its
muzzle, was at the mercy of its foe. Over and over they rolled,
amid jeers, and cheers, and curses, worrying, foaming, and
choking, until at last the dog owned by Moses was _hors de
combat_, and helpless in the other's grip.

'Fair play!' cried some among the crowd. 'Cut t'other dog's
muzzle!' screamed others. 'Tak' thy dog off, Oliver,' urged a
youth, who saw the injustice of the fight. Yet none dared to
approach.

Suddenly, Moses appeared on the steps of the Court-house, and
seeing the peril of his much-loved dog, rushed into the fray,
defenceless as he was, and seizing his pet, tore it from the grip
of its opponent.

'At him!' cried Oliver, and in another moment Moses and his dog
were on the ground, and powerless beneath the attack of the
bull-terrier. Moses remembered no more. When he came to himself he
was lying in his bed, under the smart of the doctor's caustic and
his wife's fomentations.

'Is th' dog alive, missis?' was the first question he asked. And
when told that it was, he faintly breathed a 'Thank God!' and fell
away into another swoon.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Here's Mr. Penrose to see thee, Moses; mun I ax him up?'

'Thaa con do as thaa likes.'

'Come upstairs, Mr. Penrose; thaa con see him, he sez, if thaa
likes.'

'All right, Mrs. Fletcher; I'm coming,' and in a moment the
minister was at the bedside of the sick man.

Mr. Penrose and Moses were not the best of friends. Indeed, the
latter had threatened to gag the young preacher with the doctrinal
deeds of Rehoboth, and was only waiting his opportunity. Thus Mr.
Penrose hardly knew how to console this sick member of his flock,
and words refused to flow from his ministerial lips. After a
somewhat awkward pause, however, he ventured to remark:

'This is the second time, I suppose, you have risked your life on
behalf of Captain, Mr. Fletcher.'

'Yi, it is,' responded Mrs. Fletcher. 'He geet rheumatic fayver
six year sin', when he poo'd it aat o' Green Fowd Lodge; and now
he's getten welly worried to deeath by savin' it fro' that
bull-terrier o' Oliver's o' Deaf Martha's.'

'Ay! they'n welly done for us both this time, hevn't they,
Captain?' faintly said Moses, addressing the dog, and extending
his hand wearily for a canine caress. 'But aar time 'll come.
Wee'n nobbud to wait, and we'll mak' it even wi' 'em yet.'

'But you must not forget the Divine injunction, Mr. Fletcher.
"Avenge not yourselves; vengeance is Mine, I will repay."'

'Ay! bless yo',' interrupted the wife, 'they think as he's mad'
'em pay too mich already.'

'Who, Mrs. Fletcher?' asked the minister. 'The Almighty?'

'Nay; I mean our Moses there. They say as he's awlus makin' 'em
pay.'

'Thee howd thi tung. I know mi business baat bein' helped or
hindered by thee, or onybody else.'

This last with biting emphasis, as though to include the pastor.

Then, turning to Mr. Penrose, he continued:

'Hoo'd let 'em off if hoo'd her way, but that's noan o' my creed.'

'I think her creed is the better of the two, though, Mr. Fletcher.
If thine enemy hunger, give him--'

'A summons if he willn'd pay for what he gets.'

'Nay, the Bible does not say so.'

'Ne'er mind th' Bible--it's what aw say.'

After another painful pause, Mrs. Fletcher continued:

'Eh, Mr. Penrose, I do wish aar Moses 'ud find summat else to do
nor lendin' brass and collectin' debts. We haven't a friend i' th'
world naa, and we used never bein' baat. Mi own fo'k wernd look at
me naa, 'cose he caanty-courted aar Bella's husband.'

'Thee howd thi tung, aw tell thee. Aw know mi wark; and if fo'k
willn'd pay for what they get, then they mun be made to.'

'But supposing they cannot pay, Mr. Fletcher--what then?'

'What then? Then they mun go up yon,' and Moses extended his
bandaged hand in the direction of the Union workhouse.

'But you know there was One who said, "Give to him that asketh
thee, and from him that borroweth turn not away."'

'Yi, but He didn'd live at Rehoboth. Th' pulpit's th' place for
that mak' o' talk. It'll do for Sundo; but fo'k as hes their
livin' to ged want noan on't i' th' week.'

'But is getting a living more essential than doing right? If it
came to a choice between the two, which would you select?'

'Aw durnd know as that's ony business o' yours. Th' owd Book yo'
quote fro' says summat abaat a man stonnin' and falling to his own
Judge--doesn'd it?'

'Why keep all your kindness for your dog, Mr. Fletcher? Why not
extend the same acts of mercy to those who are of more value than
many dogs? If you did that your dog would not be your only friend,
nor would it be called upon to suffer for you as it does.'

'I durnd know, Mr. Penrose, as I want ony friends.'

'I think there's one Friend you cannot do without--the one you
recommended me to keep in the pulpit. Don't you think we need Him
in the home as well?'

'Ther's noabry kept Him aat o' aar haas, as I know on, hes ther,
Sally?' said Moses, turning to his wife.

'Doesto think 'at onybody's axed Him?' she replied. 'And if He
coome, what kind o' a welcome would He ged, thinksto? I know thaa
reckons to meet Him on a Sundo, and when thaa sits at "His table,"
as tha co's th' sacrament, and at th' deacons' meetings. But
that's abaat as mich on Him as yo' want, I think.'

Mr. Penrose stood up to leave, but, recollecting himself, he said:

'Shall I pray with you, Mr. Fletcher?'

To which he received the curt reply:

'Thaa con pleeas thisel.'

Mr. Penrose knelt by the bedside of the poor
mammon-worshipper--self-blinded and hardened by the god of this
world--and with a full soul cried:

'Merciful Father! Who hast forgiven so much, and in whose
continued forgiveness lies our only hope, inspire us with the
spirit of Thy forgiveness towards all men, and grant that Thy
great heart, which bears enmity towards none, may so warm these
selfish hearts of ours that we may not only love our neighbours
but our enemies, with the love wherewith we are loved. Pardon our
littlenesses, consume our selfishness, and fashion us after Him
whose strength bore all burdens, whose heart heard all entreaties,
and whose love went out alike to friend and foe. Amen.'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the golden autumn weather when Moses and his dog, for
the first time after the _mêlée_, turned out for an afternoon's
stroll. Both bore sore evidences of the severity of the struggle,
one being bandaged over his forehead, the other following with
tell-tale limp and disfigured coat.

Not caring to face the inquisitorial eye of the villagers, nor
hear the rude sarcasm and stinging wit which he knew they would
hurl at him from their tongues, Moses turned down a foot-road
leading from his garden to Folly Clough, and thus secured the
quiet ever found in those deeply-wooded seams that plough into the
very heart of the moors. Following the water-worn path which wound
in tortuous ascent under clustering trees and between slopes of
bracken, the two soon gained the head of the Clough, and climbed
towards the banks of the Green Fold Lodge, a stretch of water into
which drained the moisture of vast tracts of uplands, its overflow
rushing through flood-gates and pouring its volume through the
Clough to feed the factories below. Seating himself on the bank of
the Lodge, he recalled the day when he rescued his dog from its
chill deeps, and, turning to Captain, he said:

'It wor welly bein' thi grave once, owd lad. Aw wonder why it wor
aw saved thee. Thaa's getten many a lickin' (thrashing) sin' then
on my accaant.'

Whereupon the dog bounded round his feet, and held up its head for
one of those caresses which Moses was never known to extend save
to his dog.

As they rested together Moses continued:

'Thaas noan a bad sort, Captain; and thaa'd ha' done a deal more
good if aw'd a let thee. Thaa wor awlus fond o' childer', bud
they'd never let thee alone. It wor happen as weel if aw'd a bit
more o' thi spirit i' me, owd lad; but if there wor more fo'k like
thee there'd be less like me.'

And at this Captain wagged his tail with delight, and rubbed his
cold nose under the palm of Moses' hand.

'Aw've gin thee a bad name, owd mon, and they'n tried to hang thee
for't; but thaa'll happen do summat some day as they'll tee a
medal raand thi neck for, and when thaa'rt deead build thee a
moniment.'

And Moses actually laughed at his burst of mirth, which was of
rare occurrence in his taciturn life.

Moses' wit, however, was soon cut short, for he started and stayed
his monologue at the sight of a child sailing paper boats on the
opposite and deeper side of the reservoir,

'Why, yon's that little lad o' Oliver o' Deaf Martha's!' exclaimed
Moses to himself. 'What a foo' (fool) his mother mun be to let him
marlock on th' Lodge banks by hissel. By Guy! he's i' th' watter!'

At that moment Captain sprang up, and would have leapt after the
child, but Moses bade him lie still.

The dog, for the first time in its life, resented the command of
his master, and a low, ominous growl came from a mouth that
displayed a row of threatening teeth. At this Moses, for the first
time in his life too, raised his foot and kicked the brute he had
so lately been apostrophizing, and, seizing it by the collar, held
it to the spot.

'Thaa doesn't know whose bairn it is, Captain, or thaa'd never
trouble to go in after it. It's his whose dog welly worried thee
and me on th' Caanty Court day.'

But the instinct of Captain was nearer the thought of God than was
the moral nature of Moses, and, despite threat and cuff and kick,
the dog so dragged his collar that Moses, weak from his long
illness, felt he must either let go his hold or follow the leading
of the noble creature.

And now commenced a terrible struggle in the soul of Moses. He
turned pale, and great drops of sweat stood upon his brow, as he
felt himself in the grasp of a stronger and better nature than his
own. Looking round to see if his relentless act were watched, he
breathed more freely as he saw along the miles of moorland no sign
of human life. Only his eye, and the eye of Captain--and then he
realized that other Eye that filled all space--the Eye that looked
down from the cloudless light. Fiercely the struggle waged. The
voice of Moses cried out of the deeps of his own black heart, 'My
time has come, as I said it would.' But the words of Mr.
Penrose--heeded not when uttered--rang out clear and telling:
'Vengeance is Mine, _I_ will repay.'

'But is not _this_ God's vengeance?' replied the voice of the
lower man.

And then came the reply:

'Would God punish Oliver through his child as Oliver punished you
through your dog? Am I a man, and not God?'

Moses looked round, as though someone had spoken in his ear, and,
loosing his hold of Captain, muttered:

'Go, if thaa wants.'

A mighty bound, and Captain was in mid-stream, and with a few
strong and rapid strokes he reached the sinking child. But the
flood-gates were open, the reservoir was emptying its overflow
down the steep falls into the Clough fifty yards below, and child
and dog were slowly but unmistakably being carried towards the
gorge.

Again the struggle commenced, and once more Moses was the prey of
the relentless reasoners--Love and Self.

'A man's life is worth more than a dog's,' cried Self.

'And more than a child's?' asked Love.

'But it's Oliver o' Deaf Martha's child, is it not?'

'And your dog is seeking to save it.'

'Shamed by a dog!' All the remains of the nobleness so long
dormant in the nature of Moses--the passion, and valour, and love
which he had allowed to die down long, long ago--awakened into
life. For the first time for thirty years he forgot himself, and
with a great light breaking round him, and sounds of sweetest
music in his heart, he leapt into the Lodge, struck out for the
struggling dog and its fainting burden, and strengthened and
steadied both to land.

Many years before Moses had been immersed in the baptistery at
Rehoboth by the old pastor, Mr. Morell. He stepped into those
waters as Moses Fletcher, and he was Moses Fletcher when he came
up out of them, despite the benediction breathed on his dedicated
soul. But on this autumn afternoon Moses Fletcher--the cruel,
exacting, self-righteous Moses Fletcher--was buried in baptism,
and there stepped out of those moorland waters another man,
bearing in his arms a little child.



III.

THE ATONEMENT OF MOSES FLETCHER.


On the evening of the day following the rescue of Oliver o' Deaf
Martha's child, Moses Fletcher was walking over the moors towards
his own home, a great peace possessing his soul, and a buoyant
step bearing him through a new world. Above him the mellow moon of
September dreamed in blue distances, the immensities of which were
measured by innumerable constellations. Around, the great hills
loomed dark in shadow, and bulked in relief against the far-off
horizon of night. Along the troughs and gullies lay streaks of
white fog, ever shaping themselves into folds and fringes, and,
like wraiths, noiselessly vanishing on the hillside; while over
all rested a great stillness, as though for once the fevered earth
slept in innocence beneath the benediction of that world so vast,
so high, and yet so near. Many a time, amid such surroundings, had
Moses traversed the same path. Never before, however, had he
passed through the same world. To him it was a new heaven and a
new earth, for he carried with him a new soul.

Crossing the stretch of hill on the crest of which lay the
Rehoboth burial-ground, Moses made his way to the stone wall
fencing in that God's acre, and paused to lean his arms on its
rude and irregular coping. There stood the old chapel, square and
gaunt, its dark outline clearly cut against the moonlit sky, each
window coldly gleaming in the pale light, while the scattered
headstones, sheeted in mist, stood out like groups of mourners
mute in their sorrow over the dead. Below lay the village--that
little tragic centre of life and death--half its inhabitants in
sleep, hushed for a few brief hours in their humble moorland
nests. The fall of waters from the weir at the Bridge Factory came
up from the valley in dreamy cadences; a light dimly burned in old
Joseph's window; and a meteor swept with a mighty arc the western
sky. The soul of Moses Fletcher was at peace.

He sprang with a light step over the low wall of boundary, and
crossed the wave-like mounds that heaved as a grassy sea, and
beneath which lay the unlettered dead, the long grasses writhing
and clinging to his feet, as though loath to let him escape the
dust upon which they fed and grew so rank. Heedless of their
greedy embrace, he walked with long stride towards the lower end
of the yard, until he stood before a gray and lichen-covered slab,
on which were letters old and new. There, by the moonlight, he
read the record of a baby boy of two, carrying back the reader
forty years. Above it was the name of a father, dead these ten
years, and between these, all newly cut, were the lines:

                JINNY CRAWSHAW,

     WIFE OF THE ABOVE, WHO DEPARTED THIS
                     LIFE,
              -----        -----

For some moments Moses stood before the stone; then, taking the
hat from his head, he knelt down on the cold grass and, kissing
the newly-cut name, he vowed a vow. If, with the power of his
Master, whom he had only just begun to serve, he could have raised
the sleeper, as Lazarus and the widow's son and the ruler's little
child were raised, then the great grief of his heart would have
disappeared. But he could not--the past, _his_ past, was
irrevocable. But there were the living--Jim Crawshaw, his wife,
his babe--these were still within his reach of recompense. And
again he vowed his vow, and the still night air carried it far
beyond the distant stars to where He sits who knows the thoughts
and tries the reins of men.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Thaa'rt lat' to-neet, Moses; where hasto bin?'

'Nowhere where thaa couldn't go wi' me, lass,' and so saying,
Moses kissed his wife, an act which he had dexterously and
passionately performed several times since his immersion in the
Green Fold Lodge on the previous day.

'Whatever's come o'er thee, Moses? Thaa fair maks me shamed. It's
thirty year an' more sin' thaa kissed me. Hasto lost thi yed?'

'Yi, lass, but I've fun mi heart,' and he again clasped his
startled wife, and grew young in his caresses.

'I thought thaa kept thi luv for Captain, Moses. But I durnd mind
goin' hawves wi' th' owd dog. I awlus said that a chap as could
luv a dog hed summat good abaat him somewhere--and thaa's luved
Captain sum weel.'

'And others a deal too little, lass. But all that's o'er'--and
Moses burst into tears.

'Nay, lad--forshure thaa'rt takken worse. Well, I never seed thee
cry afore. Mun I ged thee a sooap o' summat hot, thinksto? or mun
I run for th' doctor?' and Mrs. Fletcher looked at her husband
with a scared and troubled face.

'Why, lass, I've been cryin' all th' day--and that's why I've bin
so long away fro' thee--I didn'd want to scare thee. I cornd help
but cry. I tell thee I've fun mi heart.'

And Moses again sobbed like a child.

That night, when his wife was in bed, and Captain slept soundly on
the rug in front of the fire, Moses opened a safe that stood in
the corner of the room, and, taking therefrom a bundle of deeds,
selected one docketed 'Crawshaw Fold.' He then took from a drawer
a number of agreements, and carefully drew forth those which gave
him his hold on the Crawshaws. These he enclosed with the deeds in
a large blue envelope, and in a clerkly hand addressed them, with
a note, to James Crawshaw. After this he knelt down, and, as he
prayed, Captain came and laid his head upon the clasped hands of
his master.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Good-mornin', Abram. Hasto ought fresh daan i' th' village?'

'Plenty, Enoch; hasto yerd naught?'

'Nowe; I hevn't bin daan fro' th' moors sin' Sundo.'

'Then yo've yerd naught abaat Moses Fletcher?'

'Nowe; nor I durnd want. When yo' cornd yer owt good abaat a mon
yo'd better yer naught at all.'

'But I've summat good to tell thee abaat owd Moses.'

'Nay, lad, I think nod. Th' Etheop cornd change his skin, nor th'
leopard his spots.'

'But Moses hes ged'n aat o' his skin, and changed it for a gradely
good un and o'.'

'And what abaat his spots, Abram?'

'Why, he's weshed 'em all aat in th' Green Fowd Lodge wi' savin'
Oliver o' Deaf Martha's little un.'

Enoch whistled the first bar or two of an old tune, and stood
silent in thought, and then exclaimed:

'Well, aw'v yerd o' th' seven wonders, but if what thaa sez is
true, it mak's th' eighth.'

'Yi, owd mon, but there's a bigger wonder nor that. He's gi'n Jim
Crawshaw th' deeds o' Crawshaw Fowd, and towd him as he can pay
him back when he geds th' brass.'

'Abram, thaa'rt gammin'.'

'Jim Crawshaw towd me this mornin', and I seed th' deeds wi' mi
own een in his hond, and read th' letter Moses bed written.'

At this moment Mr. Penrose came along the field-path, and joined
the two men. He, too, was strangely excited about Moses Fletcher,
and, guessing what was uppermost in the minds and conversation of
the two men, at once heartily joined them.

'God moves in a mysterious way, doesn'd He, Mr. Penrose?' said old
Enoch.

'He does indeed, Enoch. Here I've been trying to convert Moses
with my preaching, and the Almighty sets aside His servant, and
converts the sinner by means of a dog and a little child. After
all, there's something can get at the heart besides theology and
philosophy. The foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of
man.'

'Then yo' think he's convarted, Mr. Penrose?'

'Well, if the New Testament test is a true one, he is, for he is
indeed bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.'

'He is so,' said Enoch, 'it what Abram sez is true. I awlus towd
my missus that whenever Moses gave his furst hawve-craan it 'ud be
his fust stride towards th' kingdom o' grace; but if he's gin Jim
Crawshaw his deeds back he's getten a deal further into th'
kingdom nor some o' us.'

Mr. Penrose attempted to continue the conversation, but in vain,
for a lump rose in his throat, and the landscape was dimmed by the
moisture he could not keep back from his eyes. And as with the
pastor, so with his companions. A great joy filled all their
hearts--a joy too deep for words, but not for tears.

In a little while Mr. Penrose said:

'Moses called to see me last night to ask for re-admission into
the Church. He wants me to baptize him next Sunday afternoon week,
and would like to give his testimony.'

'But he were baptized thirty year sin' by Mr. Morell,' said Abram.
'Why does he want dippin' o'er agen?'

'Because, as he says, he never received his testimony before last
Monday, when he saved Oliver's child from drowning.'

'An' are yo' baan to baptize him?' asked Enoch.

'Why not? If the deacons are willing, I shall be only too glad.'

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the first Sunday afternoon in October, and along a dozen
winding moorland paths there came in scattered groups the
worshippers to the Rehoboth shrine. Old men and women, weary with
the weight of years, renewed their youth as they drew near to what
had been a veritable sanctuary amid their care and sorrow and sin;
while manhood and womanhood, leading by the hand their little
ones, felt in their hearts that zeal for the house of prayer so
common to the dwellers in rural England. Long before the hour of
service the chapel-yard was thronged, and from within came the
sounds of stringed instruments as they were tuned to pitch by the
musicians, who had already taken their place in the singing-pew
beneath the pulpit, which stood square and high, canopied with its
old-fashioned sounding-board and cornice of plain deal. There was
'owd Joel Boothman,' who had played the double bass for half a
century, resining his bow with a trembling hand; and Joe and
Robert Hargreaves fondly caressing their 'cellos. Dick o'
Tootershill and his two sons were delicately touching the
trembling strings of their violins; and Enoch was polishing,
beneath the glossy sleeve of his 'Sunday best,' 'th' owd flute'
which had been his salvation.

In a few minutes Mr. Penrose ascended the pulpit. Never before was
there such a congregation to greet him; and as the people rose to
join in singing the old tune, Devizes, the worm-eaten galleries
trembled and creaked beneath the mass of worshippers. Then
followed prayer and the lessons, the hymn before the address being

     'Come, ye that love the Lord.'

With a great swell of harmony from five hundred voices, whose
training for song had been the moors, the words of Dr. Watts went
up to heaven, and when the second verse was reached--

     'Let those refuse to sing,
     Who never knew our Lord,'

little Milly, who had hobbled to chapel on her crutch, turned to
Abraham Lord, and said:

'Sithee, owd Moses is singing, faither.'

And it was even so. Poor Moses! for so many years a mute
worshipper, and whose voice had been raised only to harry and
distress, no longer was silent in the service of song.

Mr. Penrose's address was brief. Taking for his text, 'The Son of
Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost,' he said:

'It was the best in man that was longest in being discovered. That
which was lost was not the false man, but the true man--the
heavenly. We were none of us vile in the sight of God, because God
saw Himself in us. It was this God-self in us that was lost to us.
Not knowing it to be the hidden root of our true life, we did not
claim our dignity, nor walk as became the sons of God. A man who
lost the sense of his freedom, though free, would be fettered
still. A man whose sense of beauty was lost would be as in a
desert in the paradise of God. A lost sense of freedom meant a
slavish mind, and a lost sense of beauty meant a prosaic mind, no
matter how free the man, nor how beautiful his environment. So men
had lost the sense of their sonship. They did not know their royal
descent, their kinship with the Father, and therefore they did not
act as became sons. A lost sense of relationship begat in them
disobedience and alienation. They possessed gold, but were content
with brass; and instead of iron they built with clay. The eternal
and abiding was in them, but _lost_ to them, covered with
incrustations of self and buried deep beneath the lesser and the
meaner man. There were times in a man's life when the better
nature gave hints of its existence. The mission of Christ was to
awaken these hints. He came to tell them they were men, that they
were souls, that they were sons and not servants, friends and not
enemies of God. When He stirred these powers in men He stirred the
lost. He set it before the eye of man, and made man see what he
had within him, what he was _really_, and at the _root_ of his
being--a man, a Son of Man, a Child of God. How hard this was only
Christ knew. Spiritually, men put themselves, through spiritual
ignorance, in false relations. This wrong relationship lay at the
root of all disorder. It was the secret of discomfiture, misery
and sin. Men were not lost in badness, not lost in sin, but lost
to that which when discovered to them made their badness
unbearable--in other words, "took away their sin." Lost souls,
damned souls, souls in hell--as the theologians termed them--were
simply souls lost to their right relationship. And the work of
Christ was to find _in_ men, and find out _for_ men, what this
right relationship was. This was what was meant in the text, the
Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. Their
friend Moses Fletcher had found something in himself. He had found
love, and courage, and a sense of goodness. These had been
discovered to him by the One who was always revealing the good in
us if we would but let Him, and if we would but open our eyes to
see. He, Moses Fletcher, had seen the good, and believed in it,
and he was saved because he allowed the good to move and have its
being in him. It was his better self, so long unknown to himself,
so long lost in him, and to him, that awoke and led him to save
Oliver o' Deaf Martha's child. When he plunged into the Green Fold
Lodge he found what had been so long lost to him: he found
himself. Then was fulfilled the saying, "He that loseth his life
shall save it." That was salvation. Moses was now a saved man
because he had found the sane and whole part of his nature. The
Divine in him had been awakened. He was at last true to the law of
his being.'

Then, closing his Bible, he asked Moses Fletcher to give his
'testimony.'

Standing up, and with tremulous tones, which none recognised as
the once harsh voice of Moses, he said:

'Yo' happen willn't let me co yo' friends because I've bin an
enemy to so mony on yo'! But Him as they co'd a friend o'
publicans and sinners hes made me His friend, and He's made me a
friend on yo' all. I know haa yo' all hated me, and I gave yo'
good cause for doin' so. But He's put His love i' me, and naa owd
Moses 'll never trouble ony on yo' ony more. Owd Moses lies i'
Green Fold Lodge yonder, and he'll stop theer; it's time he wor
done wi'. An' if you'll try me as God's baan to try me, aw think
you'll happen larn to love me as I know I'm loved aboon.'

As he sat down many in the large congregation would fain have
risen and grasped him by the hand, but propriety forbade.

In another minute Mr. Penrose came out of the vestry prepared for
the rite of immersion, and Moses was a second time baptized in
Rehoboth.

As he stepped out of the waters a cloud passed from before the
October sun, and a flood of light poured through the open window
above the baptistery, while a white dove from the neighbouring
farm perched for a moment on the wooden sill. Then Milly once more
turned to her father and said:

'Yon's th' brid, faither, but I don't yer th' voice!'

'What voice?' whispered Abraham Lord.

'Why, faither, thaa knows--"This is My beloved Son."'

But Moses heard that voice in his heart.



III.

AMANDA STOTT.

  1. HOME.
  2. LIGHT AT EVENTIDE.
  3. THE COURT OF SOULS.
  4. THE OLD PASTOR.


I.

HOME.


She saw from afar the light of her cottage home, and her heart
misgave her. It was not wrath she feared; for had the relentless
anger of a parent awaited her, her step would have been braver,
and her spirit more defiant. But she knew she was forgiven. The
feeble ray emitted from the lamp in the far-off gable was the
beacon of her forgiveness--the proof that love's fire still burned
brightly. This it was that daunted her: she feared the scorch of
its healing flame.

She had travelled far, having crossed the moors from Burnt Gap,
climbing the ridge as the heavens began to kiss the earth with the
peace of sunset. A lingering glory was then haunting the summits
and crests and cairn-crowned hills that shut in the quiet of
Rehoboth and forming an almost impassable rampart to those who,
from the farther side, sought its shelter ere the close of day. As
she then lifted her eyes to these many-coloured fires lighted by
His hand who setteth His glory in the heavens, they had seemed to
burn in wrath; while the great moors, dark in the foreground,
raised themselves like barriers--uplands of desolation, across
which no path of hope stretched its trend for returning feet.

As the girl climbed the Scar Foot the western sky was toning down
to grays, while beyond, and seen through an oval-shaped rift in
their sombre colours, lay a distant streak of amber that, moment
by moment, slowly disappeared under the closing lids of evening
cloud--the eye of weary day wooed to slumber by the hush of
illimitable sweeps of moor. Even so would Amanda fain have closed
her eyes and sunk to rest amid the purple clouds of heather that,
like a great sky, lay for miles around her feet.

Passing through Nockcliffe plantation, a half-mile of woodland
that straggled along the steep sides of a clough, a drop of rain
fell between the branches and coursed down her cheek--a cheek
fevered from want of tears, and flaming with a sense of shame.
Then a low wind blew--a mere sob, but so preludious, so
prophetic!--followed by a silence that discovered, as never
before, the sense of her own loneliness, and in which she heard
the tread of her own light footfall over the moss and herbage of
the path she travelled.

Emerging from the plantation, an angry gust, laden with cold
drops, dashed itself in her face, and she knew from the
weather-lore which she, as a child of the hills, had learned in
past years, that a wild night was between her and the house whose
shelter she sought in her despair.

Phenomenally rapid was the onrush of the storm. At first the rain
fell in short and sudden showers, driven from angry clouds eager
for some atmospheric change whereby to be relieved of their
pent-up burden. Then the wind, as though in answer to the prayer
of the clouds, changed its course and stilled its moaning, and the
sky 'wept its watery vapours to the ground.'

When Amanda stood upon the fringe of the great moss that stretched
for three miles between the Scars and Rehoboth her spirit sank
within her. The season had been dry, and she knew the path by
instinct; but the storm and the darkness seemed like twin enemies
determined to bar her advance. She felt that Nature was her foe,
even as man had been, and as Rehoboth would be when it knew of her
return. Why did the rain hiss, and dash its cold and stinging
showers in her face? Why did it saturate her thin skirts so that
they, in chill folds, wrapped her wasted frame and clung cruelly
to her weary limbs to stay her onward travel? And why that
strange, weird sound--the sound muttered by miles of herbage when
beaten down by rain--the swish and patter and sigh of the long
grass and of the bracken, as they bent beneath the continuous
fall, and rose in angry protest, to fling off their burden on each
other, or shake it to the ground? Then a mute sympathy sprang up
in her desolate heart as she grew incorporate into this
storm-swept, helpless vegetation, and she felt that she, too, like
it, was the helpless prey of angry forces.

The moss traversed, the twinkling lights of Rehoboth broke the
darkness. Yes, the old chapel was illuminated, the windows of that
rude structure glowing with warmth and life; and as she passed the
graveyard a hymn, only too well known to her in the happy days of
the past, reached her ears. Once this had been her sanctuary, a
shelter, a home, where as a happy girl she had sung that very
strain--then a house of prayer, now a temple of judgment. And she
grew rebellious as she saw in her mind the hard faces of its
worshippers, and realized that nothing unholy or unclean must
enter there. The native instinct, however, was too strong; and
passing through the gate, and stealthily crossing the sea of
graves, she paused to peep through the window, and, unobserved,
took in the scene. The old faces--Enoch, and Abraham, and Moses
Fletcher, and Malachi o' th' Mount, and Simon o' Long John's. Yes,
the old faces as she knew them five years ago--the old faces, all
save one. Where was the saintly Mr. Morell? In his place sat a
young man whom she knew not.

Hastening on, she climbed Pinner Brow, on the summit of which
lay her home. As she scaled the height the beacon in her
mother's gable told she was not forgotten. Then it was she
trembled. A rebuke--a curse--a refusal; these she could face.
But forgiveness--welcome--love--_never_! She turned to fly.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Amanda!'

'Mother!'

The great, good God had ordained that the despairing girl should
fly into the arms of the one who had not forgotten, and who felt
she had nothing to forgive. Amanda found herself in the stillest
and strongest of all havens--the haven of a mother's breast.

In another moment Amanda permitted her mother to lead her as that
mother had been wont to lead her when the warm, strong hand of the
parent was a guiding touch--a magnet of love amid the dangers of
an early life--and when, as now, there was but one shelter of
safety--the home.

No sooner did the two women stand in the light and warmth of the
kitchen-hearth, than the elder fell on the neck of the younger,
and kissed the cold, rain-washed face of her child, with a love
grown fierce by years of hopeless hope and unrequited longing.
Once again those arms, thin and weak with age, grew strong; and in
the resurrection of a mighty passion, all the old womanhood and
motherhood of the parent renewed their youth, and filled out the
shrunken and decrepit form until she stood majestic in the
strength of heaven. To those who had been wont to see Amanda's
mother bent and crushed with years and sorrow, the woman that now
stood in the firelight would not have been recognised as Mrs.
Stott. Once the fairest and most lithesome girl in Rehoboth, the
pride of the village, the sought of many suitors, the proud wife
of Sam Stott of th' Clowes, and the still prouder mother of
Amanda, who matched her alike in beauty and in sprightliness, she
had long been a prey to the sling and arrows of outrageous
fortune. Years had played sad havoc with her, her money taking
wings, her husband dying, and her last hope failing in the hour of
need. Now she was herself again under the renewing hand of love.

As soon as Amanda recovered from the shock of her mother's
appearance, and felt the warmth of her welcome, she gently, yet
determinately, released herself and cried:

'Durnd, mother, durnd! I'm noan come wom' to be kissed nor
forgiven. I've nobbud come wom' to dee.'

'What saysto, lass?' exclaimed Mrs. Stott. 'Come wom' to dee? Nay,
thaa's bin deead long enugh a'ready; it's time thaa begun to live,
and thank God thaa's come back to live at wom'.'

The girl shook her head, a stony stare in her eye, her mouth drawn
into a hard and immobile line. And then, in cold tones, she
continued:

'Nay, mother; I've hed enugh o' life. I tell thee I've come wom'
to dee.'

'Amanda,' sobbed the mother, 'if thaa taks on like that thaa'll
kill me. Thaa's welly done for me a'ready, but I con live naa
thaa's come back, if thaa'll nobbud live an' o', and live wi' me.
Sit thee daan. There's th' owd cheer (chair) waiting for thee.
It's thi cheer, Amanda; awlus wor, and awlus will be. Sit thee
daan. It looks some onely (lonely) baat thee.'

There stood Amanda's chair, the chair of her girlhood, the chair
in which she had sung through the long winter nights, in which her
deft fingers had wrought needlework, the envy of Rehoboth. The old
arms mutely opened as though to welcome her; the rockers, too,
seemed ready to yield that oscillation so seductive to the jaded
frame. And the trimmings! and the cushion! the same old pattern,
somewhat faded, perhaps, but as warm and cosy as in the days of
yore. It was the chair, too, at which she used to kneel, the chair
that had so often caught the warm breath from her lips as she had
whispered, 'Our Father, which art in heaven.' But had she not
forfeited her right to that chair? Of that throne of sanctity she
felt she was now no longer queen. And again, as her mother pressed
her to take her appointed place, she shook her head, her heart
steeled with pride and shame, the hardest of all bonds to break
when imprisoning a human soul.

The poor mother stood at bay--at cruel bay. She had used the
mightiest weapon upon which she could lay her hand, and it had
seemed to shiver in the conflict. But love's armoury is not easily
depleted, and love's spirit is quick to return to the charge.
There was still left to her the warmth of a bosom in which long
years before Amanda had gently stirred, and from which she had
drawn her first currents of life; and once more the mother clasped
her girl, and pressed her lips on the sin-stained face.

'Durnd kiss me, mother,' cried the affrighted girl, stepping back;
'durnd kiss me. Thaa munnot dirty thy lips wi' touchin' mine. If
thaa knew all, thaa'd spurn me more like.'

''Manda,' replied the woman, in the desperation of her love, 'I'll
kiss thee if thaa kills me for't. I connot help it; thaa'rt mine.'

'I wor once, I wor once, but nod now.'

'Yi! lass, but thaa art. Thaa wor mine afore th' devil geet howd
on thee, and thaa's bin mine all th' time he's bed thee, and now
he's done wi' thee, I mean to keep thee all to mysel.'

And afresh the mother bathed the still beautiful face of Amanda
with her tears.

But Amanda was firm. Old as her mother was, she knew that mother's
innocence, and shrank from the thought that one so pure, so
womanly, should hang on those lips so sorely blistered by the
breath of sin; and, once more stretching out her arm, she said:

'Durnd touch me, mother--durnd!'

''Manda,' cried the mother, defiantly and grandly, all the passion
of maternity rising in her heart, ''Manda, thaa cornd unmother me.
I carried thee and suckled thee and taught thee thi prayers in
that cheer, and doesn'd ta think as Him we co'd "Aar Faither" is
aar Faither still?'

'Happen He's yours, mother; but He's noan o' mine.'

'Well, 'Manda, if thaa'rt noan His child, thaa'rt mine, and naught
shall come 'tween me and thee.'

'And dun yo' mean to say that yo' love me as mich naa, mother, as
when aw wor a little un?' asked the girl, her steely eyes
moistening, and the firm line of her drawn mouth tremulous with
rising emotion.

'Yi, lass, and a thaasand times more. Thaa wants more luv' naa nor
then--doesn't ta? And hoo's a poor mother as connot give more when
more's wanted. I'm like th' owd well up th' hill yonder--th'
bigger th' druft (drought) th' stronger th' flow. Thi mother's
heart's noan dry, lass, tho' thi thirst's gone; and I'll luv' thee
though thaa splashes mi luv' back in mi face, and spills it on th'
graand.'

And a third time the woman fell on the girl's neck, and kissed her
flesh into flame with the passion of her caress.

'Durnd, mother! durnd!' said Amanda. 'Blame me, if yo' like; curse
me, if yo' like. But luv' I connot ston'; it drives me mad.'

'Nay, lass; luv' noan drives folk mad. It's sin as does that. As
Mr. Penrose towd 'em at Rehoboth t'other Sunday, it were luv' as
saved th' world, and not wrath; and they say they are baan to
bring him up at th' deacons' meeting abaat it. But he's reet. It's
luv' as saves. It's saved thee to me; it's kept mi heart warm, and
it's kept that lamp leeted every neet for five year.' And then,
seeing tears slowly stealing down her daughter's face, the old
woman said: 'I think we mud as weel put th' leet aat naa thaa's
comed wom', 'Manda?' and as the girl gave no more evidence of
resistance, the mother went to the window, turned down the lamp,
and drew the blind, saying, 'He's answered mi prayers.'

At the going out of that light there went out in Amanda's heart
the false fires of lust and pride and defiance, and in their place
was kindled the light of repentance--of forgiveness and of love.
For five years that faithfully-trimmed lamp told the whole
countryside that Widow Stott was not forgetful of her own; and
when once or twice rebuked by some of the Rehoboth deacons at the
premium which she seemed to put on sin by thus inviting a
wanderer's return, she always replied:

'Blame Him as mak's a woman so as hoo cornd forget her child.'

Now that the lamp was out a flutter of excitement was passing
through the village, Milly Lord being the first to discover it.
She, poor girl! was sitting at her little window listening to the
beat of the rain, and the swish of the grasses that grew in her
garden below--sitting and wondering how it was there were no
'angel een' looking down at the earth, and keeping her eye fixed
on the gable light of Mrs. Stott's lone homestead. Suddenly this
light disappeared. If the sun had gone out at noonday Milly would
not have been more startled. Night after night she had watched
that light, and night after night she had heard her mother tell
the oft-repeated story of Amanda's fall. Once, indeed, Milly
startled her mother in its repetition by saying:

'Happen, if I hadn't lost mi leg, mother, I should ha' sinned as
Amanda did.'

And then Milly's mother drew the girl close to her heart, and
thanked God for a lamb safe in the fold. No wonder when Milly saw
the light go out that she cried:

'Mother! mother! Amanda Stott's come wom'!'

'Whatever will hoo say next?' gasped Mrs. Lord.

'I tell yo' Amanda's come wom'. Th' leet's aat--thaa con see for
thisel!' and the girl was beside herself with excitement.

'So it is,' said Mrs. Lord. 'Bud it's noan Amanda; it's happen her
mother as is takken bad. Awl put o' mi things, and run up and
see.'

Hurrying up the Pinner Brow, it was not long before Mrs. Lord
reached the home of Amanda, and raising the latch, with the
permission which rural friendship grants, she saw the daughter and
mother together on the so long lonely hearth. Taken aback, and
scarcely knowing how to remove the restraint which the sudden
interruption was imposing, she fell upon the instinct of her
heart, and said:

'Well, I never! if our Milly isn't reet! Hoo said as how hoo
know'd Amanda bed come back. Hoo seed th' leet go aat and co'd aat
at th' top o' her voice, "Amanda's come back." Hoo remembers thee,
Amanda, an' hoo's never stop't talkin' abaat thee. Tha'rt eight
year owder nor hoo is--poor lass! hoo's lost her leg sin' thaa
seed her. It wor a bad do, aw con tell thee; but hoo's as lively
as a cricket, bless her! and often talks abaat thee, and wonders
where thaa'd getten to. Let's see, lass, it's five years sin thaa
left us, isn't it?' And then, remembering the whole story of
Amanda, which in her excitement she had forgotten, and the great
trouble and the great joy which that night fought for supremacy in
the little moorland home, she stopped, and with a tear-streamed
face rushed up to Amanda, and said: 'What am I talkin' abaat,
lass? I'd clean forgetten,' and then she, too, imprinted on
Amanda's lips a caress of welcome.

It was late that night when Milly asked her father to go up Pinner
Brow and fetch her mother home. When he reached the house he found
the two women and the girl upon their knees, for Milly's mother
was a good woman, and to her goodness was added a mother's heart.
Her own sorrow had taught her to weep with those who weep, and a
great trial through which she had passed in her girlhood days, and
through which she had passed scathless, led her to look on Amanda
with pitying love. Abraham paused upon the threshold as he heard
the sound of his wife's voice in prayer, and when, half an hour
afterwards, they together descended the brow towards their home,
he said:

'Thaa sees, lass, Milly's angel een wor on th' watch a'ter all.'

'Yi,' said his wife, 'and they see'd a returnin' sinner. But hoo's
safe naa; hoo's getten back to her mother, and hoo's getten back
to God.'

'Where hes hoo bin, missus, thinksto?'

'Nay, lad, I never ax'd her. I know where hoo's getten to, and
that's enugh. I'm noan one for sperrin (asking questions) baat th'
past.'

'But they'll be wantin' to know up at th' chapel where hoo's bin.'

'They'll happen do more good by doin' by Amanda as th' Almeety
does.'

'Doesto mean i' His judgments?'

'Nowe! theer's summat more wonderful nor them.'

'What doesto mean?'

'I mean His FORGEETFULNESS.'



II.

LIGHT AT EVENTIDE.


While Amanda's return aroused the curiosity of Rehoboth, it drew
few callers to the cottage on Pinner's Brow. Not that the
villagers were all wanting in kindliness, but Amanda's mother,
being a woman of strong reserve, had fenced herself off from much
friendly approach; while the nature of the trouble through which
she was now passing was felt by the rude moorlanders to impose
silence, and deter them from all open signs of sympathy.

Apart from Mrs. Lord and a girl friend or two of Amanda's, the joy
of return was pent up in the heart of the mother--a joy which she,
poor thing, would fain have sought to share with others had not
delicacy of instinct and sense of shame forbade. She felt it to be
indeed hard that she could not go among her neighbours and friends
and say, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my child which was
lost.'

But the mother's joy was also mixed with the alloy of Amanda's
despair. On the day after the return, the girl had taken to her
bed; and despite a mother's love and Mrs. Lord's kind counsel and
cheery words, Amanda went down into the valley of the shadow.
Seldom speaking, save to reiterate the statement that she had come
home to die, and that all was dark, she lay anticipating the hour
when, as she said, 'the great God would punish her according to
her sins.' This idea had taken fast hold of her mind: she was
going to hell to burn for ever and for ever, and she would only
get her deserts; she had sinned--she must suffer.

With the strain of constant watching, and the long hours of
solitude, and the nightmare of her girl's damnation hanging over
her yearning heart, the poor mother's condition verged on madness,
until at last she summoned courage to ask Mr. Penrose to call and
drop some crumbs of his Gospel of comfort and love at the bedside
of her child; for, as she said to Mrs. Lord, 'even the dogs eat of
the crumbs that fall from the master's table.' The truth was that
hitherto Mr. Penrose had not cared to risk the scandal which he
knew would be created in the village by a visit on his part to
Amanda Stott. When, however, he received his summons from the
mother, and a sharp reprimand from Dr. Hale, who told him that a
minister was as free to visit without risk to his character as a
doctor, he resolved to throw aside proprieties and obey the call.

As Mr. Penrose was walking up Pinner Brow, towards the house of
Mrs. Stott, he unexpectedly met Amos Entwistle, the senior
superintendent of the Sunday-school, and known to the children as
'Owd Catechism,' because of his persistent enforcement of the
Church tenets on their young minds.

'Good a'ternoon, Mr. Penrose. And what may bring yo' in this
direction?'

'I'm looking after some of my sheep, Amos.'

'Not th' black uns, I hope.'

'No! I am looking after the hundredth--the one that went astray.'

'Better leave her alone, Mr. Penrose. There's an owd sayin' i'
these parts that yo' cornd go into th' mill baat gettin' dusted.
That means in yur talk that yo' cornd touch pitch baat gettin'
blacked. If thaa goes to Mrs. Stott's they'll say thaart goan for
naught good. If thaa wur a married mon, naa, and bed childer, it
'ud happen be different; but bein' single, thaa sees, th' aatside
o' yon threshold is th' reight side for such as thee and me.'

(Amos, be it known, was an old bachelor of over seventy years of
age.)

'Nonsense, Amos; you are reversing the teaching of the Master. He
went after the sinner, did He not?'

'Yi, He did; and He lost His repetation o'er it. They co'd Him a
winebibber, and a friend o' all maks o' bad uns. I couldn't like
'em to say th' same abaat thee. Rehoboth 'ud noan ston' it, thaa
knows.'

Mr. Penrose did not know whether to laugh or to be serious.
Seeing, however, that Amos was in no laughing mood, he turned
somewhat sharply on the old man, and said:

'The Stotts are in trouble, and they ask for my presence,
Good-afternoon; I'm going.'

'Howd on a bit,' said Amos, still holding the minister by the
lapel of his coat. 'Naa listen to me. If I were yo' I wouldn't go.
Th' lass hes made her bed; let her lie on't. Durnd yo' risk yor
repetation by makkin' it yasier, or by takkin' ony o' th' thorns
aat o' her pillow. Rehoboth Church is praad o' her sheep; and it
keeps th' black uns aatside th' fold, and yo'll nobbud ged blacked
yorsel if yo' meddle wi' 'em. But young colts 'll goa their own
gait, so pleeas yorsel.'

At first Mr. Penrose was inclined to think twice over the old
Pharisee's advice; but, looking round, he saw Mrs. Stott's sad
face in her cottage doorway, and her look determined his advance.
In a moment reputation and propriety were forgotten in what he
felt were the claims of a mother's heart and the sufferings of an
erring soul.

'Ay, Mr. Penrose, I'm some fain to see yo',' cried the poor woman,
as the minister walked up the garden-path. 'Amanda's baan fast,
and hoo sez 'at it's all dark.' And then, seizing Mr. Penrose's
hand, she cried: 'Yo' durnd think hoo's damned, dun yo'?'

For years the sound of that mother's voice as she uttered those
words haunted Mr. Penrose. He heard it in the stillness of the
night, and in the quiet of his study; it came floating on the
winds as he walked the fields and moors; and would sound in
mockery as he, from time to time, declared a Father's love from
the old pulpit at Rehoboth. What cruel creed was this, prompting a
mother to believe that God would damn the child whom she herself
was forced, out of the fulness of her undying love, to take back
into her house and into her heart?

As the minister and Mrs. Stott sat down in the kitchen, the poor
woman, in the depths of her despair, again raised her eager face
and asked:

'But yo' durnd think Amanda's damned, dun yo'?'

'No, I do not, Mrs. Stott.'

This was too much for the mother; and now that the highest
passions in her soul received the affirmative of one whom she
looked up to as the prophet of God, she felt her girl was safe.
The fire of despair died out of her eyes, quenched in the tears of
joy, and she realized, as never before, that she could now love
God because God had spared to her, and to Himself, her only child.

'But, Mr. Penrose, Amanda says _it's all dark_. Dun yo' think yo'
could lift th' claads a bit?'

'Well, we'll do our best; but to the One who loves her the
darkness and the light are both alike.'

And with these words on his lips, he followed the mother to where
the sick girl lay.

Mr. Penrose had often heard of Amanda Stott, and of that face of
hers which had been both her glory and her shame. Now, as he
looked upon it for the first time, he saw, as in a glass, the
reflection of a character and a life. There was the gold and the
clay. The brow and eyes were finely shaped and lustrous, giving to
the upper half of the face grandeur and repose, but the mouth and
chin fell off into a coarser mould, and told of a spirit other
than that so nobly framed under the rich masses of her dark hair.
It was a face with a fascination--not the fascination of evil, but
of struggle--a face betraying battle between forces pretty evenly
balanced in the soul. But there was victory on it. Mr. Penrose saw
it, read it, understood it. There were still traces of the
scorching fire; these, however, were yielding to the verdure of a
new life; the garden, which had been turned into a wilderness, was
again blossoming as the rose.

'Amanda, here's Mr. Penrose to see thee. I've bin tellin' him it's
all dark to thee. It is, isn't it?'

But Amanda turned her head towards the wall, and answered not.

'Amanda!' said the mother, in tones that only once or twice, and
that in the great crises of maternity, fall from woman's
lips--'Amanda, speyk. Tell him what's botherin' thee.'

But the girl was silent.

Mr. Penrose was silent also, and nothing was heard in the room
save the tremulous beat of an old watch that hung over the
chimney-shelf--one of the memorials of a husband and father long
since taken, and now almost forgotten.

At last Amanda, without turning her face towards the pastor, said:

'Sir, I'm a sinner--a lost sinner.'

'No, you are not,' replied Mr. Penrose.

And overawed and astonished with the boldness of his statement, he
relapsed into silence.

Amanda turned and looked at him clearly and unflinchingly, and
cried:

'How dare yo' say that?'

'Because you've repented,' was the quiet reply.

'Haa do yo' know I've repented?'

'Because repentance is to come home; and you've come home, have
you not?'

'Repentance is to come wom'?' slowly repeated the girl, as though
some ray of light was penetrating the darkness. 'Repentance is to
come wom', sen yo'?'

'Yes.'

And then Mr. Penrose repeated the words: 'And he arose and came to
his home; and when he was a great way off his father saw him and
ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him.'

'Aw dare say; that's what mi mother did to me on th' neet I come
wom'. But mi mother's noan God, is hoo?'

'No; but if you had had no God, you could not have had a mother.
You tell me your mother kissed you. Did you not feel God's kiss in
that which your mother gave you?'

The girl shook her head; the pastor needed to make his message
more plain.

'It's in this way, you know,' continued Mr. Penrose. 'If there
were no rain in the heavens there would be no springs in the
valleys, would there? The well is filled because the clouds send
down their showers; and so it is with love. Your mother's heart is
full of love because God, who Himself is love, fills it. Your
mother stands to you for God, and she is most like God when she is
doing most for you; and when she kissed you and took you back
again home, she was only doing what God made her do, and what God
did Himself to you through her.'

'But theer's summat else beside forgiveness, Mr. Penrose. I feel
I've lost summat as I con never ged agen. I know I've getten back
wom', but I haven't getten back what awv' lost.'

'You may have it back, though, if it's worth having back. There
was One who came to seek that which was lost. You are like the
woman who lost one of her pieces of silver; but she found it
again, and what you have lost Jesus will find and restore to you.'

'But theer's th' past, Mr. Penrose, as well as th' lost. It's all
theer afore me. Aw see it as plain as aw see yon moors through th'
window, only it's noan green and breet wi' sunshine--it's dark.'

'If God forgets the past, Amanda, why should you recall it? Look
out through that window again. There's a cloud just dying away on
the horizon yonder. Do you see it? It is changing its colour and
losing its shape, and in a moment it will be gone. Watch it! It is
almost gone. See! now it _is_ gone--gone where? Gone into the
light of that sun which is making the moors so green and bright.
Now that is what God is doing with your past--with what you call
your sins--blotting them out like a cloud. It is God's mercy that
stands like the everlasting hills, and it is our sinfulness and
our past that pass away like clouds. As you look at those hills
you must think of His mercy, and as you watch those vanishing
clouds you must think of your past.'

Once more there was silence in the sick-chamber, and the little
watch ran its race with the beating, flickering pulse of Amanda.
The girl turned her face towards the window that overlooked the
moors, and begged her mother to open it so that she might again
feel the cool airs that swept across their heathery wastes.

Mrs. Stott at once unhasped the casement, and a tide of life came
stealing in, noiselessly lifting the curtains, and cooling the
hectic flame that glowed on Amanda's wasted cheeks, and bearing,
too, on its waves fragrances that recalled a long-lost paradise,
and sounds--the echo of days when no discordant note marred the
music of her life. These moorland breezes--how redolent, how
murmurous of what had been! In a few moments Amanda closed her
eyes, the wind caressing her into peacefulness and singing her to
slumber.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the hour before dawn--the dark hour when minutes walk with
leaden feet and the departing vapours of night lay chilliest
finger on the sick and dying, and on those who watch at their
side. From the mantelshelf the lamp emitted its feeble rays, dimly
lighting the lonely chamber, and holding, as with uncertain hand,
the shadows which crowded and cowered in the distant corners and
recesses of the room, and throwing into Rembrandtesque the pallid
face of the wakeful mother, and the flushed and fevered face of
the slumbering child. The little watch beat bravely to the march
of time, eager to keep pace with that never-flagging runner; while
the quick and feeble breathing of the girl told how she was fast
losing in the race with the all-omnipotent hours. On a small table
stood two phials, in which were imprisoned dull-coloured liquids,
powerless, despite their supposed potency, to stay the hunger of
the disease so rapidly consuming the patient; and by their side
was a plate of shrivelled fruit, the departing lusciousness of
which had failed to tempt an appetite in her whose mouth was baked
with the fever that fed on its own flame. There, gathered into a
few cubic feet of space, met the great triune mystery of night, of
suffering, of sin--the unfathomable problems of the universe;
there God, the soul, and destiny, together and in silence, played
out their terribly real parts.

As Mrs. Stott looked at her daughter tossing in restless sleep,
the natal hour came back to her, and in memory she again travailed
in birth. She recalled the joy of the advent of that life now so
fast departing, and tried to say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' The words died
on her lips. Had it been a blessed thing on the part of God to
give to her a child who brought disgrace on her family name? And
now that her child was restored, with a possibility of redeeming
the past, was it a blessed thing of God to take her? As these
hideous thoughts chased one another through her over-wrought mind,
they seemed to embody themselves in the terrible shadows that
leapt and fought like demons on the wall, mere mockeries of her
helplessness and despair.

Her eye, however, fell on the Bible, and taking it up and opening
it at random, she read, 'Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in
the day of Jerusalem. O daughter of Babylon, who art to be
destroyed, happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little
ones against the stones.' Hurriedly turning over the leaves, her
eyes again fell upon words that went like goads into her heart:
'Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for
light but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day,
because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb.'

'What!' cried she, the old Calvinist life reasserting itself in
her soul--'what! have the curses o' God getten howd o' me?'

       *       *       *       *       *

'Mother!'

It was the voice of Amanda, and its sound called back the ebbing
tides of maternity as the clear notes of a bugle rally the
dispirited and flying forces on an undecided field.

'Mother, will yo' draw that blind?'

'What doesto want th' blind drawin' for, Amanda?'

'I want to see th' morn break.'

'Whatever for, lass?' asked Mrs. Stott, as she drew the cord with
tremulous hand.

For a few minutes the girl looked out at the distant horizon with
a breaking light in her own eyes. Then, taking her mother's hand,
she said:

'Dun yo' see that rim o' gowd (gold) on the hills yonder?'

'Yi, lass; forsure I do. What abaat it?'

'Watch it, mother! See yo', it geds broder--more like a ribbin--a
brode, yollow ribbin, like that aw wore i' mi hat when I were a
little lass. Yo' remember, durnd yo'?--I wore it one charity
sarmons.'

'Aw remember, Amanda,' said the parent, choking with the
reminiscences of the past which the old hat and its yellow ribbon
aroused.

'Naa see, mother,' continued the girl, her eye fixed on the
opening sky; 'it's like a great sea--a sea o' buttercups, same as
used to grow in owd Whittam's field when yo' couldn't see grass
for flaars.'

'Yi, lass, I see,' sobbed Mrs. Stott.

'And thoose claads, mother! See yo' haa they're goin'. And th'
hills and moors? Why I con see them plainer and plainer! Haa grond
they are! They're awlus theer. Them, Mr. Penrose said, stood for
God's love, didn't he, mother?--and them claads as are lifting for
my sins.'

'Yi, lass; he did, forsure.'

The dawn advanced, and before its majestic march there fled the
shadows of night that for such long hours had made earth desolate.
In the light of this dawn were seen those infinite lines of
strength which rose from broad and massive bases, and, sweeping
upwards, told of illimitable tracts beyond--mighty waves on the
surface of the world's great inland seas, on whose crests sat the
green and purple foam of herbage, and in whose hollows lay the
still life of home and pasture. Silent, changeless, secure,
perpetual sublimity rested on their summits, and unbroken repose
lay along their graceful sweeps. They were the joy-bearers to the
poor child of sorrow, who with eager eye looked out on their
morning revelations. To her the mountains had brought peace.

That day was a new day to Amanda--a birthday--a day in which she
realized the all-embracing strength and sufficiency of a Divine
love. As the hours advanced the clouds gathered and showers fell,
only, however, to be swept away by the wind, or dissolved into the
light of the sun. These ever-changing, ever-dissolving,
many-coloured vapours were watched by Amanda, who now saw in them
the fleeting and perishable sins of her past life, and again and
again, as one followed the other into oblivion, she would breathe
a sigh of relief, and then allow her eyes to rest on the great
hills that changed not, and which seemed to build her in with
their strength.

From that day forward a great trust came upon her. She ceased to
fret, and never again recalled what had been. Just as the chill of
winter is forgotten in the glory of the springtide, and just as
the child in the posied meadow sports in unconsciousness of the
nipping frost that a few weeks before forced the tears to his
eyes, so Amanda, playful, gladsome, and full of wonder in the new
world in which she found herself, knew no more her old self, nor
remembered any more her old life. The day had broken and the
shadows flown, and God's child was like a young hart on the
mountains of Bether.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Mother, dun yo' think they'd put my name on th' Church register
agen at Rehoboth?'

'I cornd say, mi Jass, I'm sure. But why doesto ax me?'

'Becose I should like to dee a member of th' owd place. Yo' know I
were a member once. Sin' I've been lyin' here I've had some
strange thoughts. Dun yo' know, I never belonged to God then as I
do naa, for all I were baptized and a communicant. It's queer,
isn't it?'

'Ey, lass; thaa'd better tell that to Mr. Penrose. I know naught
abaat what yo're talkin' on. Bud it does seem, as thaa ses, quare
that thaa belongs more to God naa nor thaa did when thaa went
away.'

'Nay, mother, it's noan exactly as yo' put it. I durnd mean as
God's changed; it's me as has changed, durnd yo' see? I never knew
or loved Him afore, and I know and love Him naa.'

That afternoon, when Mr. Penrose called, Amanda's mother told him
all her daughter had said, and made known to him as the pastor of
the Church the request for readmission and the administration of
the sacrament.

Mr. Penrose, however, shook his head. As far as he was concerned,
no one would have been more willing. But the deacons ruled his
Church, and many of them were hard and exacting men--men with the
eye and heart of Simon of old, who, while they would welcome
Christ to meat, would put the ban upon 'the woman who was a
sinner.' Nor dared Mr. Penrose administer the sacrament to one
whose membership was not assured, for he ministered to those of a
close sect, and a close sect of the straitest order. As the mother
pleaded for her child, he saw rising before him a difficulty of
which he had often dreamed, but never before faced--a difficulty
of ministering to a Church fenced in by deeds, the letter of which
he could not in his inner conscience accept.

The mother was importunate, however, and eventually the pastor
promised to bring the matter before his deacons.

What the decision of these deacons was will be told in another
Idyll of Rehoboth.



III.

THE COURT OF SOULS.


'I'm noan for bringin' th' lass back into th' Church. Hoo's noan
o'er modest, or hoo would never ax us to tak' her back.'

'Same here, Amos! What does hoo want amang dacent Christian fo'k?'
And so saying, Elias Bradshaw opened a large pocket-knife and
closed it again with a sharp click, and then toyed with it in his
hand.

'It wur bad enugh for th' owd woman to tak' her back wom', but if
we tak' her back into th' Church we's be a thaasand times wur,'
continued Amos.

'But surely,' pleaded Mr. Penrose, 'if the angels welcome a
returning sinner, might we not venture to do the same?'

'We're noan angels yet, Mr. Penrose,' replied Amos. 'It'll be time
enugh to do as th' angels do when we live as th' angels live; an'
I raither think as yo'd clam if yo' were put o' angels' meat. Ony
road, ye con try it if yo' like; it'll save us summat i' th'
offertory if yo' do.'

'Come, Amos, thaa's goin' a bit too fur,' interrupted Abraham
Lord. 'If yo're baan to insult th' parson, yo've no need to insult
them as is up aboon--"ministerin' sperits," as th' apostle cos
em.'

'We know thaa'rt no angel, Amos, baat thi tellin' us,' said
Malachi o' th' Mount. 'And it ever they shap thee into one thaa'll
tak' some tentin!' (minding).

'I durnd know as I want to be one afore mi time, Malachi: an' I'm
noan baan to do as they do till I ged amang 'em. I'd as soon pool
a warp ony day as play a harp; but when th' Almeety skifts me fro'
th' Brig Factory to heaven, mebbe I'll shap as weel at a bit o'
music as ony on yo'.'

'Wilto play thi music o'er sich as Amanda, thinksto?' asked old
Malachi.

'Thee mind thi business, Malachi. When th' Almeety maks me an
angel, I'll do as th' angels do. But noan afore, noather for yo',
nor Amanda Stott, nor Mr. Penrose, nor onybody else, so naa thaa
knows.'

'Spokken like a mon,' assented Elias Bradshaw. 'Stick to thi text,
Amos.'

'And yet, after all,' said Dr. Hale, 'I think we ought to receive
Amanda back again into our communion. The only One who ever
forgave sins drew no line as to their number, nor shade as to
their degree.'

'But durnd yo' think, doctor, that if we do as yo' want us we's be
turnin' th' Church into a shoddy hoile?' asked Elias Bradshaw.

'There are no shoddy souls,' said the doctor.

'No,' continued Mr. Penrose; 'it was not shoddy that Christ came
to seek and save.'

'Who wur it said th' gate were strait and th' road narro'?' cried
out an old man who was always known by the name of 'Clogs.'

'That's no reason why yo' should want to turn th' gate into a
steele-hoile (stile), is it?' retorted Malachi.

'Gate or steele-hoile, it's narro'; and that's enugh for me, an'
it were noan us ut made it narro'; it wur th' Almeety Hissel','
replied Clogs.

'At any rate, He made it wide enough for Amanda,' said Dr. Hale,
'and that is the matter we are now considering.'

'I'm noan so sure o' that, doctor. There's a good bit o' Scripter
agen yo' if yo' come to texes.'

'Then so much the worse for Scripture,' was the unguarded, yet
honest, retort of Mr. Penrose; and Dr. Hale laid a kind hand on
the young minister's shoulder to restrain his haste.

'It seems to me,' said Elias Bradshaw, 'as Mr. Penrose spends a
deal too mich time in poolin' up the stumps and makin' th' strait
gate into a gap as ony rubbige con go thro'. I could like to yer
him preych fro' the fifteenth verse o' th' last chapter i'
Revelation. I once yerd a grond sarmon fro' that text i' th'
pulpit up aboon here; and when it were oer, Dickey o' Sams o' the
Heights went aat o' th' chapel, and tried to draan hissel' i'
Green Fold Lodge. Naa, that's what I co powerful preychin'!'

'Pardon me, Mr. Bradshaw. We are not here to discuss the merits of
preaching. We are here to consider the request of Amanda Stott--'

'An' axin' yor pardon, Mr. Penrose, that's whod I wur comin' to.
I'm noan a fancy talker like yo'. Aw never larned to be, and I'm
noan paid to be. Whod I wur baan to say, if you'll nobbud let me,
wur this: As Jesus Christ wur a deal more particular who He leet
in than who He kept aat. That's all.'

'But who did He keep out?' asked Dr. Hale.

'Haa mony, thinksto, did He leet in, doctor? I could welly caant
um o' on both mi hands.'

'It seems to me yo' want to mak' saints as scarce as white crows,'
said Abraham Lord.

'Nay, Abram; we want to keep th' black 'uns aat o' th' nests.'

'Then yo' mud as weel fell th' rookery,' was Abraham's sharp
retort, which called forth a hearty laugh.

'If I read th' Bible reet,' said Amos Entwistle, returning to the
fray, 'if I read th' Bible reet, a felley once coome to Jesus
Christ an' axed Him if mony or few wur saved; and all he geet for
an answer wur, "Thee mind and geet saved thisel'; it'll tak' thee
all thy time wi'out botherin' abaat others." An' I think it'll
tak' us all aar time baat botherin' abaat Amanda Stott. I move as
we tak' no more notice on her axin' to come back amang us. It's
geddin' lat, an' my porritch is waitin' for me at wom'.'

This was more than Mr. Penrose could bear, and rising to his feet,
he asked, in suppressed tones, that the matter under discussion
might receive the care and wisdom and mercy that a soul demanded
from those who held in their hands the shaping of its earthly
destiny; and then, in a voice stifled with emotion, he ventured to
draw the contrast between the last speaker, who would fain hurry,
for the sake of an evening meal, decisions that had to deal with
the peace of a repentant girl, and He who, in the moments of
bodily hunger, putting aside the refreshment brought by His
disciples, said, 'I have meat to eat that ye know not of.'

Nor did Mr. Penrose plead in vain. Those who listened to him were
moved by his words, and Amos Entwistle sat down, to utter no
further word against Amanda.

From this time the tone of the discussion changed. Not that Mr.
Penrose devoutly listened; indeed, he was listless, only
recovering himself, now and again, as some striking sentence, or
scrap of rude philosophy, fell on his indifferent ear. Leaning
back in his chair, his eye rested on the hard features of the men
sitting on either side of the deacons' table. They were men of
grit, men of the hills, men whose religious ancestry was right
royal. Their fathers had fayed out well the foundations on which
the old chapel stood, and hewn the stones, and reared the walls,
and all for love--and after the close of hard days of toil. They
were men who knew nothing of moral half-lights--there were no
gradations in their sense of right and wrong. Sin was sin, and
righteousness was righteousness--the one night and the other day.
They drew a line, narrow and inflexible, and knew no debatable
zone where those who lingered were neither sinners nor saints. And
so with the doctrines they held. Severity characterized them.
Justice became cruelty, and faith superstition. They knew nothing
of progressive revelations. The old Sinaitic God still ruled; the
mountain was still terrible, and dark with the clouds of wrath.
Fatherhood in the Deity was an unknown attribute, and tenderness a
note never sounded in the creed they held. They had been bred on
meat, and they were strong men. They knew nothing of the tender
tones of Him whose feet became the throne of the outcast. Their
God was a consuming fire.

As Mr. Penrose looked into their faces, many bitter thoughts
poisoned the waters of his soul. He thought of Simon the Pharisee;
he thought, too, of St. Dominic; and of Calvin with the cry for
green wood, so that Servetus might slowly burn. He thought, too,
of the curse of spiritual pride--pride that enthroned men as
judges over the destiny of their fellows, and damned souls as
freely and as coolly as a commander marched his forlorn hope into
the yawning breach. And then, realizing that among such his lot
was thrown--realizing also the dead hand that rested on his
teaching and preaching--his heart went down into a sea of
hopelessness, and he felt the chill of despair.

The gong of the chapel clock announced the hour of nine, in thin,
metallic beats, and looking up, he noted the swealing tapers in
the candelabra over his head. In his over-wrought, nervous
condition, he imagined he saw in one of the flickering, far-spent
lights the waning life of Amanda Stott, and the horrible thought
of eternal extinction at death laid its cold hand on the larger
hope which he was struggling to keep aflame in his darkening soul.
Turning his glances towards the pulpit that rose gaunt and square
above the deacons' pew, and over which hung the old sounding-board,
as though to mock the voices, now for ever silent, that from time
to time had been wont to reverberate from its panels, he began to
wonder whether the message the Church called revelation was not,
after all, as vain as 'laughter over wine'; and as he looked on
the frowning galleries and the distant corners of the chapel,
gloomy and fearsome--the high-backed pews, peopled with shadows
thrown from the waning lights--he felt the force of the words of
one of his masters: 'What shadows we are, and what shadows we
pursue.'

Suddenly he was recalled to his position as the pastor of the
church by the voice of old Enoch, mellow as the tones of the flute
on which he so often tuned his soul in moods of sorrow and sin.
How long Enoch had been talking Mr. Penrose knew not; but what he
heard in the rude yet kindly vernacular of the moors was:

'Let's show mercy, lads! Noan o' us con howd up aar yeds baat it.
Him as has put us here expects us to show yon lass o' Stott's same
as He's shown to us Hissel'. There's one bit o' readin' i' th' New
Testament as noan o' yo' has had owt to say abaat--I mean where
th' Lord tells o' th' two debtors. Th' fust geet let off; but when
he wouldn't let his mate off, it were a sore job for him. Durnd
yo' think as th' Almeety cares as mich abaat us as we care for aar
childer? I somehaa thinks He does. Didn't him as played on th'
harp say, "Like as a faither pitieth his childer, so th' Lord
pitieth them that fear Him"? An' him as said that had a bad lad
an' o'--an' didn't he say he'd raither ha' deed than th' lad? Aw
welly think as th' Almeety con find room for Amanda, and if He
con, I think we mud be like to thrutch (push) her into Rehoboth.
Let's mak' room for her, hoo'l happen not want it so long; and
when hoo's gone we's noan be sorry we took her in; who knows but
what we shall be takin' in the Lord Hissel? I'm no scholard, but
I've read abaat 'em takin' in angels unawares; and th' Lord said
if we took onybody in ut wur aat i' th' cowd, we wur takin' Him
in. If we shut Amanda out we's mebbe shut Him aat, and if He's
aatside, them as is inside will be on th' wrang side. Coome, lads,
let's show mercy.'

There were other voices, however, besides Enoch's, and speakers as
apt at quotation from the Scriptures as he. Indeed, the Bible was
torn into shreds of texts, and--the letter so re-patched as to
destroy the pattern wrought by its great principles of mercy and
love. The grand words--righteousness, grace, law, were clashed,
and wildly rung, like sweet bells jangled out of tune, and the
court of souls resembled the vindictiveness of Miltonic demons
rather than the seat of those who claimed to represent Him who
said: 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.' When the vote was
taken the door was shut against Amanda.

Passing out of the dimly-lighted chapel into the blackness of the
night, Dr. Hale took the arm of the young minister, saying:

'Let me guide you, Mr. Penrose. I know these roads by instinct.'

'Yes, doctor, I not only need your guidance, but that of someone
else. Black as the night is, it isn't so black as the souls of
those benighted inquisitors we've left behind us. There are stars
behind those clouds; but there are none hidden behind the murky
creed of the deacons of Rehoboth. Do they expect me, doctor, to
carry their decision to Mrs. Stott and her daughter?'

'I believe they do. Hard messages, you know, must be delivered
both by ministers and doctors. It is my lot sometimes to tell
people that their days are numbered, when I would almost as soon
face death myself.'

'Well, I have made up my mind, doctor, to face the resignation of
Rehoboth rather than carry their heartless decision to Amanda.'

'Wait until morning, and then come on to my house and consult with
old Mr. Morell; he is staying with me for a day or two. You never
met with him. Perhaps he can guide, or at any rate help you.
Wisdom lies with the ancients, you know.'

'But are not the men who have refused admission to Amanda the
spiritual children of Mr. Morell? If his preaching has brought
about what we have seen and heard to-night, what guidance or help
can I get from him?'

'Just so,' said the doctor. 'I was not thinking of that. It's true
he was pastor here for over forty years, and our deacons are his
spiritual offspring. For all that, the old man's heart is right if
his head is wrong; and, after all, it's the heart that rules the
life.'

'Nay! no heart could thrive on a creed such as Rehoboth's. Why,
God's heart would grow Jean on it.'

'But Mr. Morell's heart is not lean, Mr. Penrose. It is not, I
assure you,' emphasized the doctor, as his companion uttered a
sceptical grunt. 'He is tenderness incarnate. You know _one_ good
thing came out of Nazareth, despite the scepticism of the
disciple.'

'Certainly a good thing did come out of Nazareth; but Nazareth,
bad as it was, was not a Calvinistic creed. I very much question
whether the creed of Rehoboth can preserve a tender heart.'

'Come and see,' laconically replied Dr. Hale.

'Very well, then, I'll treat my scepticism honestly. I will come
and see. To-night the hour is too late. I will look in to-morrow
morning.'

Mr. Penrose continued his homeward walk, conscious of the first
symptoms of the reaction which follows hours of tension such as
those through which he had just passed. He was limp. Morally as
well as physically his nerve was gone. He thought of the Apostle
who fought with beasts at Ephesus, and envied him his combatants.
His fretful impatience with those who differed from him
theologically rose to a tide of insane hatred, and he lost himself
in a passion against his deacons as bitter as that which they had
shown towards Amanda Stott and himself.

Entering his lodgings, and lighting his lamp, he threw himself on
the couch, resenting in bitterness of spirit the limitations of
creeds, and the exactions imposed on men who, like himself, were
called to minister to brawling sects. Thrice he sat down at his
desk; thrice he wrote out his resignation, and thrice he committed
it to the flames. Then, recalling the words of an old college
professor who often used to tell his students that the second
Epistle of the Corinthians was the ministerial panacea in the hour
of depression, he took up his Testament and read:

_'Ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in
necessities, in distress ... by pureness, by knowledge, by
long-suffering, by kindness, by love unfeigned, by the Holy Ghost,
by the word of truth, by the power of God.'_

And there came on the young pastor a spirit of power, and of love,
and of a new mind, and he slept.



IV.

THE OLD PASTOR.


On the following morning Mr. Penrose set out to call on the old
pastor at the house of Dr. Hale, conjuring up as he went pictures
of the man whom he knew only by report, and, as he deemed,
exaggerated report too. To Rehoboth people Mr. Morell was a
prodigy--a veritable prophet of the Most High; and his successor's
sojourn was not a little embittered by the disparaging contrasts
so frequently drawn between the old order and the new. To be for
ever told the texts from which Mr. Morell used to preach, to hear
in almost every house some pet saying or scrap of philosophy wont
to fall from his lips, to be asked, if not bidden, by the deacons
to tread in the footprints of one who was believed to wear the
seven-league boots, became intolerable; and had not discretion
guarded the speech of Mr. Penrose, many a time his language of
retort would have been strange to covenanted lips. Often, too, he
asked himself what manner of man he must be who nursed and reared
this narrow sect of the hills--a sect setting judgment before
mercy, and law before love--a sect narrowing salvation to units,
and drawing the limit line of grace around a fragment of mankind.

On his arrival at Dr. Hale's, however, a surprise greeted him, and
as he responded to the old pastor's outstretched hand, he knew he
met with one in whom firm gentleness and affable dignity were the
chief charm of character. There was not, as he anticipated,
coarse, crass assertiveness--a semi-cultured man whose narrow
creed joined hands with barren intelligence. Far otherwise; he
stood before one whose presence commanded reverence, one at whose
feet he felt he must bow.

Mr. Morell was tall and erect, with a fine Greek head whose crown
of snowy hair lent dignity to a face sunny with the light of
kindness, while every line of expression, those soul-inscriptions
written by the years on the plastic flesh, told of thought and
culture. The accent, too, was finished, and every gesture betrayed
refinement and ease.

At first the conversation was restrained, for both men
instinctively felt that between them lay a gulf which it would be
difficult to bridge; but, as Dr. Hale played well the part of
middleman, the ministers were drawn out towards each other, and in
a little while struck mutual chords in one another's hearts.

During the morning the two men talked of art, of philosophy, and
of history, the discussion of these calling out a light of
intelligence and rapture on the old man's face. When, however, the
graver questions of theology were broached, his voice became hard
and inflexible, a shadow fell, and the radiancy of the man and
scholar became lost in the gloom of the divine.

Whenever Mr. Penrose ventured to hint on some phase of the broader
theology, the old man was provoked to impatience; and when he went
so far as to quote Browning, and declare that--

     'The loving worm within its clod
     Were diviner than a loveless god
       Amid his worlds,'

a gleam of fire shot from the mild eye of Mr. Morell, significant
as a storm-signal across a sea of glass.

The younger man was often taken at disadvantage, for, while he was
in touch with modern thought, he did not possess the old
dialectician's skill. Once, as Mr. Penrose remarked that science
was modifying theology, Mr. Morell, detecting the flaw in his
armour, thrust in his lance to the hilt by replying that science
and Calvinism were logically the same, with the exception that,
for heredity and environment, the Calvinist introduced grace.

Whereupon Mr. Penrose cried with some vehemence:

'No, no, Mr. Morell! that will not do. I cannot accept your
statement at all.'

'Can't you?' said the old man, rising from his chair, the war
spirit hardening his voice and flaming in his eye. 'Can't you?
What says science of the first hundred men which will pass you, if
you take your stand in the main thoroughfare of the great city
over the hills yonder? Watch them; one is drunk, another is linked
arm in arm with his paramour, a third is handcuffed, and you can
see by the conduct of him who follows that he is as reckless of
life as though the years were for ever. Why these? Ask science,
and it answers _election_--the election of birth and circumstance.
Ask Calvinism, and it, too, answers election--the election of
decrees.'

'But science does not do away with will, Mr. Morell.'

'Well, then, it teaches its impotence, and that is the same thing.
It bases will on organization, and traces conduct to material
sources. Huxley tells us the salvation of a child is to be born
with a sound digestion, and Calvinism says the salvation of a
child is to be born under the election of grace. Logically, the
basis of both systems is the same; the sources of life differ,
that is all. One traces from matter, the other from mind--from the
mind and will of the Eternal.'

'But science fixes it for earth only--you fix it for eternity,'
suggestively hinted the younger man.

'Yes, you are right, Mr. Penrose; we do.'

'Then a man is lost because he cannot be saved, and punished for
things over which he had no control?'

'Ask science,' was the curt reply.

'Well, Mr. Morell, I will ask science, and science will yield
hope. Science says, take a hundred men and a hundred women, and
let them live on a fruitful island and multiply, and in four
generations you will have an improved stock--a stock freer from
atavism, hysteria, anomalies, and insanities. Science holds out
hope; you don't. You say God's will and decrees are eternal, and
what they were a thousand ages since they will be a thousand ages
to come. Science does eventually point to a new heaven and new
earth, but Calvinism throws no light across the gloom.'

The old man quietly shifted his ground by asking his opponent if
he ever asked himself why he did, and why he did not, do certain
things.

'I suppose the reason is because of my choice, is it not?'

'And what governs choice--or, if you like, will?'

'I do, myself.'

'Who are you, and what part of you governs it? Will cannot govern
Will, can it? And can you divorce will from personality?'

'Tennyson answers your question, Mr. Morell.

     '"Our wills are ours, we know not how,"

that is the mystery of existence.

     '"Our wills are ours, to make them Thine,"

that is the mystery of salvation.'

'Then, Mr. Penrose, I ask you--why don't we make our wills God's?'

Mr. Penrose was silent, and then he made a slip, and played into
his opponent's hands by saying:

'My faith in a final restitution meets that difficulty. We shall
all be God's some time; His love is bound to conquer.'

'Suppose what you call Will defies God's love, what then?'

'It cannot.'

'Then it is no longer will.'

'Cannot you conceive of Will winning Will?'

'I can conceive of Will, as you define it, defying Will, and that
for ever. But we escape your contradictions; we accept the fact
that some men are under a Divine control they cannot resist--'

'Then you both agree as to the principle,' broke in Dr. Hale; 'you
are both Calvinists, with this difference: you, Mr. Morell, say
only the few will be called; Mr. Penrose, here, says all will be
called. Let us go in for the larger hope.'

'You are right, doctor. I am a Calvinistic Universalist,' cried
Mr. Penrose in triumph.

And Mr. Morell was bound to admit the doctor had scored.

It was not long, however, before Mr. Penrose found a spring of
tenderness hidden beneath the crust of Calvinism that lay around
the old man's soul, and on which were written in fiery characters
the terrors of a merciless law. And the rod that smote this rock
and tapped the spring was none other than the story of Amanda's
return and repentance, told in part by Dr. Hale and in part by the
young pastor himself.

As the story was unfolded, the old man evinced much feeling, often
raising his hand to shade fast-filling eyes, or to brush away the
tears that fell down his furrowed face. They told him of Amanda's
silence as to the past, and he commended her for it, remarking to
Mr. Penrose that the true penitent seldom talked of the yesterdays
of sin; they told him how she counted herself unworthy of home and
of love, seeking blame and not welcome from the mother to whom she
had returned, and he declared it to be a token of her call; they
told him of the great light and peace that fell on her as she
rested on the goodness of God, and they heard from him the echo of
his Master's words over Mary--'She hath loved much, for she hath
had much forgiven'; and then they told him of her desire for the
restoration of her name on the Rehoboth register, and he was
silent--and for some minutes no sound disturbed his reverie.

That silence was God's speaking hour. Within the old pastor's soul
a voice was whispering before which the thunderings of the creed
of a sect were hushed. He, poor man, knew full well that it was a
voice which had long striven to make itself heard--a still, small
voice that would neither strive nor cry--a haunting voice, a voice
constant in its companionship during his later years. How often he
would fain have listened to it! But he dared not, for was it not a
contradictory voice? Did it not traverse the letter which he had
sworn to uphold and declare? What if the voice were the voice of
God? No! It could not be. God spoke in His Book. It was plain.
Wayfaring men might read, and fools had no need to err. But was
God's voice for ever hushed? Had He had no message since the seal
was fixed to the Canon of Scripture? What if that which he heard
was one of those messages concerning which Christ said, 'I have
many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.' Had the
_now_ in his life passed? Had the _then_ come when a fuller
revelation was about to be vouchsafed? Nay! even the Apostle--the
man inspired--only knew in part. Why should he, then, try to pry
into the clouds and darkness that were round about the awful
throne? And yet in Him who sat on that throne was no darkness at
all. Supposing the feelings struggling in his heart now were rays
of light from Him--rays seeking to pierce the clouds, and bring
more truth--truth which, in his highest moments, he had dreamed
of, but never dared to follow. Was not Dr. Hale right after all?
Was it not better to trust what we knew to be best in us, and
follow the larger rather than the lesser hope?

And so, in the silence, the two voices reasoned in the soul of Mr.
Morell.

In a little while Mr. Morell, roused from his reverie, turned to
the young pastor, and said:

'Your poet is right, Mr. Penrose. The loving worm within its clod
is diviner than a loveless god amid his worlds. Let us go as far
as the chapel.'

As they walked along the narrow, winding roadways, broken by
projecting gables, and fenced by irregular rows of palisades, the
old pastor began to re-live the long-departed days. Objects, once
familiar, on which his eye again rested, restored faded and
forgotten colours, and opened page after page in the books of the
past. Many cottages mutely welcomed him, their time-stained walls
memorials of generations with whom he held sacred associations.
There was the Old Fold Farm, with its famous fruit-trees, on
which, in spring evenings, he used to watch the blanching blossoms
blush beneath the glowing caress of the setting sun; and Alice o'
th' Nook's garden, with its beds of camomile, the scent of which
brought back, as perfumes are wont to, forms and faces long since
summoned by the 'mystic vanishers.' There, too, stood the old
manse--now tenantless--so long the temple of his studies and
domesticities, the shrine of joys and sorrows known to none save
himself. How the history of a life lay hidden there, each wall
scored with fateful characters, decipherable only to the eye of
him who for so many ears sought the shelter which they gave.

On the summit of the hill in front of him was the chapel, its
sagging roof silhouetted against the blue of the morning sky, the
tombstones, irregular and rude, rising from the billowy sea of
grave-mounds that lay around their base. Beyond him, in grandly
distant sweeps, rose the moors. How well he knew all their
contours, their histories, their names! How familiar he used to be
with all their moods--moods sombre and gladsome--as now they were
capped with mist, now radiant in sunlight, their sweeps dappled
with cloud shadows, moving or motionless, or white in the broad
eye of day. Thus it was, within the distance of a half-mile walk,
his past life, like an open scroll, lay before him; and he
remarked to Mr. Penrose that he had that morning found the book of
memory to be a book of life and a book of judgment also.

As the three men passed through the chapel-gates they were met by
old Joseph, who was hearty in his welcome of Mr. Morell.

'Eh! Mr. Morell,' he said, grasping his hand in a hard and earthy
palm, 'aw'm some fain to see yo'. We've hed no gradely preachin'
sin yo' left Rehoboth. This lad here,' pointing to Mr. Penrose,
'giz us a twothree crumbs betimes; but some on us, I con tell yo',
are fair clamming for th' bread o' life. None o' yo'r hawve-kneyded
duf (dough), nor your hawve-baked cakes, wi' a pinch o' currants
to fotch th' fancy tooth o' th' young uns. Nowe, but gradely
bread, yo' know.'

Mr. Morell tried to check the brutal volubility and plain-spokenness
of Joseph, but in vain. He continued the more vehemently.

'It's all luv naa, and no law. What mak' o' a gospel dun yo' co it
when there's no law, no thunerins (thunderings), Mr. Morell, no
leetnins? What's th' use o' a gospel wi'out law? No more use nor a
chip i' porritch. Dun yo' remember that sarmon yo' once preached
fro' "Jacob have I luved, but Esau have I hated"? It wur a grand
un, and Owd Harry o' th' Brig went straight aat o' th' chapel to
th' George and Dragon and geet drunk, 'cose, as he said, he mud as
well ged drunk if he wor baan to be damned, as be damned for
naught. Amos Entwistle talks abaat that sarmon naa, and tells bits
on it o'er to th' childer i' th' catechism class, and then maks
'em ged it off by heart.'

How long old Joseph would have continued in this strain it is hard
to say, had not Mr. Morell, who did not seem to care to hear more
of his pulpit deliverance of other days, silenced him by demanding
the vestry keys.

As the three men entered the vestry a close, damp atmosphere smote
them--an atmosphere pervading all rooms long shut up from air, and
with foundations fed by fattened graves.

Nor was the vestry itself more inviting. Gloomy and low-ceiled,
the plaster of its walls, soddened and discoloured from the
moisture of the moors, lay peeling off in ragged strips, while its
oozing floor of flags seemed to tell of sweating corpses in their
narrow beds beneath.

Through a small window, across which a spider had woven its web, a
shaft of sunlight lay tremulous with the dance of multitudinous
motes; and, falling on the dust-covered table, lighted up with its
halo a corroded pen and stained stone jar, half filled with
congealed ink.

On the right of this window stood a cupboard, with its panels of
dark oak, behind which lay the parchments and papers of the
Rehoboth Church--parchments and papers whose inscriptions were
fast fading, whose textures were fast rotting--companioning in
their decay the decay of the creeds they sought to preserve and
proclaim.

It was to this cupboard Mr. Morell turned, taking therefrom two
time-stained, leather-bound volumes--the one a record of the
interments of the past hundred years, the other containing the roll
of Rehoboth communicants since the establishment of the Church.
Laying the former aside, he took up the latter with a tenderness
and devoutness becoming one who was touching the sacred books of
some fetish of the East. It was, indeed, to him a book to be
reverenced; and as he slowly and sadly turned over its time-stained
pages, his eye rested on many names entered in his own small
handwriting--names which carried him back to companionship with
lives for ever past. Some he had known from birth to death,
blessing them in their advent, and committing them at the grave to
Him who is the sure and certain hope. There were those, too, whom
he piloted along the rocky coasts of youth--those with whom he once
wept in their shadowed homes, and from whom he never withheld his
joy in their hour of triumph. As name after name met his eye, it
was as though he travelled the streets of a ruined city--a city
with which in the days of its glory he had been familiar.
Memories--nothing but memories--greeted him. He heard voices, but
they were silent; he saw forms, but they were shadowy.

As he turned over page after page he read as never before the
record of his half-century's pastorate--his moorland ministry
among an ever-changing people, and there passed before him the
pageant of a life--not loud in blare, nor brilliant in colour--but
sombre, stately, and true.

Continuing to turn over the pages, he came to where a black line
was drawn across the name of Amanda Stott, and where against the
cancelled name a word was written as black as the ink with which
it was inscribed.

Again there came a pause. Long and tearfully the old pastor looked
at that name disfigured, as she, too, who bore it had been, by the
hand of man. Then, taking up the corroded pen and filling it, he
re-wrote the name in the space between the narrow blue-ruled
lines, and, looking up with smiling face, said:

'Yet there is room.'

And the shaft of sunlight that fell in through the cobwebbed
window of the Rehoboth vestry lay on the newly-inscribed name, as
though heaven sealed with her assent the act of the old man who
felt himself the servant of the One who said, 'I will in no wise
cast out.'



IV.

SAVED AS BY FIRE


It was a narrow, gloomy yard, paved with rough flags dinted and
worn by the wheels of traffic and the tread of many feet. On one
side stood the factory, cheerless and gray, with its storied
heights, and long rows of windows that on summer evenings flamed
with the reflected caresses of the setting sun, and in the shorter
days of winter threw the light of their illuminated rooms like
beacon fires across the miles of moor. Flanking the factory were
sheds and outbuildings and warehouses, through the open doors of
which were seen skips and trollies and warps, and piles of cloth
pieces ready for the market in the great city beyond the hills.
Within a stone's-throw the sluggish river crept along its
blackened bed, no longer a stream fresh from the hills, but foul
with the service of selfish man.

It was breakfast hour, and the monotonous roar of machinery was
hushed, no longer filling the air with the pulsations of mighty
manufacture. The thud of the ponderous engines had ceased; the
deafening rattle of the looms was no more heard; a myriad spooming
spindles were at rest. A dreamy sound of falling waters floated
from the weir, and the song of birds in a clump of stunted trees
made music in the quiet of the morning light--it was Nature's
chance to teach man in one of the brief pauses of his toil, had he
possessed the ear to hearken or the heart to understand.

Beneath the shelter of a 'lean-to' a group of men sat, hurriedly
gulping their morning meal, finding time, all the same, for loud
talk and noisy chaff. They were prosaic, hard-faced men, with
lines drawn deeply beneath their eyes, and complexions sallow,
despite the breezes of the hills among which they were reared.
From childhood they had been the slaves of labour; the bread they
ate was earned by sweat and sorrow, while their spare hours were
given to boisterous mirth--the rebound of exacting toil. Two or
three were conning the betting news in a halfpenny paper of the
previous evening, and talking familiarly of the chances of the
favourites, while others disputed as to sentiments delivered in
the last great political speech.

In one corner sat Amos Entwistle, the butt of not a little mirth
from a half-dozen sceptics who had gathered round him. They
addressed him as 'Owd Brimstone,' and made a burlesque of his
Calvinistic faith, one going so far as to call him 'a glory bird,'
while another declared he was 'booked for heaven fust-class baat
payin' for his ticket.'

'Why should he pay for his ticket,' asked an impudent-looking
youth, 'when th' Almeety's gan it him? Th' elect awlus travels for
naught, durnd they, Amos?'

'Thaa's more Scripture larning abaat thee nor I thought thaa had,'
said Amos, withdrawing his wrinkled face from the depths of a can
out of which he was drinking tea. 'But it's noan knowledge 'at
saves, Dan; th' devils believe and tremble.'

'But I noan tremble, Amos; I geet too mich brimstone i' yon fire
hoile to be flayed at what yo' say is "resarved" for them as isn't
called.'

(Dan's occupation was to feed the boiler fires.)

'If thaa'rt noan flayed, that doesn't say thaa hasn't a devil,'
replied Amos, again raising the can to his lips.

'Well, I'm noan to blame if a' cornd help miself, am I?'

But Amos remained silent.

'Aw say, Amos,' said a thoughtful-looking man, 'aw often wonder if
thaa'll be content when thaa geets up aboon to see us lot in
t'other shop.'

'Yi! and when we ax him, as th' rich mon axed Lazarus, for a sooap
(drink) of summat cool, it'll be hard lines, wirnd (will not) it,
owd lad, when thaa cornd help us?' asked the man who sat against
him.

'Happen it will,' replied Amos. 'But thaa knows there'll be no
sharin' baggin (tea or refreshment) there. Them as hed oil
couldn't gi' it to them as hed noan.'

'Then thaa'll not come across the gulf and help us, Amos?'

'Nowe!' cried Dan. 'He'd brun (burn) his wings if he did.'

And at this all laughed, save the thoughtful man who put the first
question to the old Calvinist.

'Thaa knows, Amos,' said he, 'I look at it i' this way. Supposin'
th' factory geet o' fire this mornin', an' yo' hed th' chance o'
savin' that lass o' mine that back-tents for yo', yo'd save her,
wouldn't yo'?'

'Yi, lad, if I'd th' _chance_,' replied Amos.

'Then haa is it yo're so mich better nor Him, as yo' co th'
Almeety, for yo' reckon He'll noan save some o' us?'

'I tell thee I'd save th' lass if I hed th' chance. We con nobbud
do what we're permitted to do. We're only instruments in th'
Almeety's honds.'

'But isn't th' Almeety His own Measter?'

'So He is, but His ways are past findin' out.'

'An' thaa means to say thaa'd save my lass, and th' Almeety
wouldn't save me?'

'It's decrees, thaa knows, lad, it's decrees,' said Amos, unshaken
by the argument of his friend.

'Then there's summat wrang with th' decrees, that's all, Amos.
There's been a mistak' somewhere.'

'Hooist, lad! hooist! durnd talk like that. Woe to th' mon that
strives wi' his Maker.'

'If thi Maker's th' mon thaa maks Him aat to be, I'm noan
partic'lar abaat oather His woes or His blessin's.'

'No more am I,' cried Dan, as he stood up and stretched himself
with a yawn. 'We mud as well mak' most o' life if we're booked for
t'other shop, though mine's a warm un i' this world, as yo' all
know.'

'It is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God
that showeth mercy,' said Amos, in solemn tones.

And the whistle sounded for the renewal of work, and the men
dispersed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The clock in the factory yard pointed to the hour of ten, and four
hundred toilers were sweating out their lives in one of
Manufacture's minting-shops of wealth. Overhead the shafting ran
in rapid revolutions, communicating its power and speed by lengths
of swaying, sagging belts to the machinery that stood so closely
packed on the vibrating floors, and between which passed, and
behind which stood, the operatives, unconscious of danger, and
with scarce a care than how to keep pace with the speed of steam
and the flying hours. Every eye was strained, and every nerve as
highly strung as the gearing of the revolving wheels, the keen
glances of the overlookers seeing to it that none paused until the
hour of release.

The atmosphere was heavy, the temperature high, and flecks of
'fly' floated on the stifling air, wafted by the breath born of
whirring wheels, and finding rest on the hair of women and the
beards of men until the workers looked as though they were
whitened by the snows of a premature decay.

Women and girls sang snatches of songs, and bits of old familiar
airs, with no accompaniment but the roar and rattle around, their
voices unheard save when some high-pitched note was struck; and
others found odd moments when by lip-signs and dumb show they
communicated with their fellow-workers.

Men and women, boys and girls, passed and repassed one another in
narrow alleys and between revolving machinery, crushing together
without sense of decency, and whispering hastily in one another's
ear some lewd joke or impure word, the moisture from their warm
flesh mingling with the smell of oil and cotton, and their
semi-nude forms offering pictures for the realistic pen of a Zola
or a Moore.

It was but one of the laps in the great race of competition where
steam contends with human breath, and iron is pitted against flesh
and blood. Over the hills were other factories where the same race
was going on, where other masters were competing, and other hands
were laying down life that they themselves and their little ones
might live--examples of the strange paradox that only those can
save their lives who lose them. Outside was pasturage and
moorlands, and the dear, sweet breath of heaven, the flowers of
the field, the song of birds, the yearning bosom of Nature warm
with love towards her children. Yet here, within, was a reeking
house of flesh--not the lazar ward of the city slum, but the
sweating den of a competitive age.

In the top story of the factory Amos was walking to and fro among
his roving frames, and dividing his time between hurried glances
at his workers and a small greasy tract he held in his hand,
entitled 'An Everlasting Task for Arminians.' Turning aside for a
moment to drive some weary operative with a word as rough as a
driver uses to his over-driven horse, he would return to the
'Everlasting Task,' and cull some choice sentence or read some
twisted text used to buttress up the Calvinistic creed. Reading
aloud to himself the words--'Real Christian charity is swallowed
up in the Will of God, nor is it in its nature to extend itself
one step beyond, nor desire one thing contrary to, the glory of
Jehovah. All the charity we possess beyond this may be properly
called fleshly charity'--he lifted his eyes to see two of his
'back-tenters' playing behind the frames, and his real Christian
charity displayed itself in pulling their ears until they tingled
and bled, and in freely using his feet in sundry kicks on their
shins. And yet, wherein was this man to blame? Was he not what
commerce and Calvinism had made him?

The finger of the clock in the factory yard was creeping towards
the hour of eleven, when a smell, ominous to every old factory
hand, was borne into the nostrils of Amos. In a moment his
'Everlasting Task' was thrust into his shirt-breast, and he ran
towards the door from which the stairway of the room descended.

No, he was not mistaken, the smell was the smell of fire, and
scarcely had he gone down a half-dozen steps before he met a man
with blanched face, who barely found breath to say:

'Th' scutchin' room's ablaze.'

Amos carried a cool head. His religion had done one thing for him:
it had made him a fatalist, and fatalists are self-contained.

In a moment he took in the whole situation. He knew that the
stairways would act as a huge draught, up which the flames from
the room below would bellow and blaze. He knew, too, that all way
of escape being cut off below, screaming women and girls, maddened
with fright, would rush to the topmost room of the mill, where
probably they would become a holocaust to commerce. He knew, too,
that those who sought the windows and let themselves down by ropes
and warps would lose their presence of mind, and probably fall
mangled and broken on the flag floor of the yard, sixty or seventy
feet below. All this passed through his mind ere the old watch in
his fob had marked the lapse of five seconds.

In a moment his resolve was taken. He went back to the roving-room
with steady step, and a face as calm as though he were standing in
the light of a summer sun. By the time he reached the room the
machinery was beginning to slow down, and a mad stampede was being
made by the hands towards the door.

Raising his arm, he cried:

'Go back, lasses; there's no gate daan theer. Them of us as 'as to
be brunt will be brunt, and them of us as is to escape will ged
off wi' our lives. Keep cool, lasses; we'll do our best; and
remember 'at th' Almeety rules.'

One thing turned out in the favour of Amos and of his rovers. The
mad rush from below poured into the room under him, and not, as he
expected, into his own, the lower room being one where there was a
better chance of escape. Seeing this, he barred up his own doorway
to prevent the girls and women swarming below, where they would
have made confusion worse confounded. Then he beat out one of the
windows, and proceeded to fix and lower a rope by way of escape.

'Now then, lasses,' said he, having rapidly completed his task,
'th' little uns fust,' and in a moment a girl of twelve was
swinging seventy feet in the air, while a crowd of roaring
humanity below held its breath, and gazed with dilating eyes on
the child who hung between life and death. In a minute more the
spell of silence broke, and a roar, louder than before, told that
the little one had touched earth without injury, save hands all
raw from friction with the rope along which she had slidden.

Child after child followed; then the women were taken in their
turn, and lowered safely into the factory yard.

By the time it came to the turn of Amos, the roar of the fire
sounded like the distant beating of many seas along a rock-bound
coast. The hot breath was ascending, and thin tongues of flame
began to shoot through the floor of the room where he stood. The
pungent smell of burnt cotton stung his nostrils and blinded his
eyes with pain, and the atmosphere was fevered to such a degree
that with difficulty he drew his breath.

His turn had come, but was he the last in the room? Something told
him that he was not, that he must look round and satisfy himself,
otherwise his duty was unfulfilled.

The tongues of flame became fiercer; he saw them running along the
joints of the boarding, and feeding on the oil and waste which had
accumulated there for years. He felt his hour was come. But he was
calm. God ruled. No mistake could be made by the Almighty--nor
could any mistake be made by himself, for was he not under Divine
guidance?

Calmly he walked along the length of the room, stepping aside to
escape the flame, and searching behind each roving-frame in his
walk, as though to assure himself that no one remained unsaved.

Coming to the last frame, he saw the fainting form of one of his
back-tenters, the very child whose ears he had so savagely pulled
but an hour before.

There she lay, with her pallid, pinched face across her arm, the
flames creeping towards her as though greedy to feed themselves on
her young life.

In an instant Amos stepped towards the child and raised her in his
arms, intending to return to the window and so seek escape. He was
too late, however; a wall of fire stretched across the room, and
he felt the floor yielding beneath his feet.

He was still calm and self-contained. He thought of Him who was
said to dwell in devouring flames, and was Himself a consuming
fire. He thought of the three Hebrew youths and the sevenfold-heated
furnace. He thought of the One who was the wall of fire to His
people, and he was not afraid.

On swept the blaze. In a few moments he knew the roof must follow
the fast-consuming floor. Still he was calm. He stepped on to one
of the stone sills to secure a moment's respite, and he cried in
an unfaltering voice, 'The Lord reigneth. Let His will be done.'

Frantic efforts were being made by the crowd below to recall Amos,
who had been seen to disappear from the window into the room. His
name was shouted in wild and entreating cries, and men reared
ladders, only to find them too short, while women threw up their
arms and fell fainting in excitement on the ground.

On swept the flame. Still Amos held his own on the stone ledge.
Grand was his demeanour--erect, despite his seventy years,
clasping with a death grip the fainting child. All around him was
smoke and mingling fire; but the Lord reigned--what He willed was
right; in Him was no darkness at all.

Suddenly he lifted his eyes, and saw above him a manhole that led
into the roof. In a moment he sprang along the frames, and passed
in with his burden, and beat his way through the slates which in
another minute were to fall in with the final collapse of the old
factory.

Creeping along the ridge, he made his way towards the great
chimney-shaft that ran up at one end of the building, and bidding
the girl, who by contact with the air was now conscious, cling to
his neck, the old man laid hold of the lightning-rod, and began
his dangerous descent to the ground.

But he knew no fear; there was no tremor in his muscles; steadily
he descended, feeling that God held his hands, and he told his
Rehoboth friends afterwards, when he recounted his escape, that he
felt the angels were descending with him.

When he reached the ground amid wild and passionate cries of joy,
he disengaged the child from his neck, and wiping his face with
the sleeve of his shirt, said:

'The Lord's will be done.'

Dr. Hale, who was standing by the side of Mr. Penrose, and who
heard the saying of old Amos, turned and said:

'Calvinism grows strong men, does it not?'

'Yi, doctor, yo're reet,' exclaimed old Joseph; 'theer's no
stonning agen God's will.'



V.

WINTER SKETCHES.

  1. THE CANDLE OF THE LORD.
  2. THE TWO MOTHERS.
  3. THE SNOW CRADLE.



I.

THE CANDLE OF THE LORD.


Through the summer months the old Bridge Factory stood in ruins;
the only part that remained intact being the tall chimney-shaft,
down which Amos Entwistle had brought the fainting child from out
the flames. The days were long and the weather warm, and the
inhabitants of Rehoboth spent the sunny hours in wandering over the
moors, never dreaming of hard times and the closing year. A few of
the more frugal and thrifty families had secured employment in a
neighbouring valley, returning home at the week end. The many,
however, awaited the rebuilding of the mill and the recommencement
of work at their old haunt. But when the autumn set in chill and
drear, and the October rains swept the trees and soaked the
grass--when damp airs hung over the moors morning by morning, and
returned to spread their chill canopy at eventide--faces began to
wear an anxious look, and hearts lost the buoyancy of the idle
summer hours.

There is always desolation in the late autumn on the moors. The
great hills lose their bold contours, now dying away in a cold
gray of sky, through which a blurred sun sheds his watery ray;
while the bracken, with its beaten fronds, and the heather with
its disenchanted bloom, change the gorgeous carpet of colour into
wastes and wilds of cheerless expanse. The wind sobs as though
conscious of the coming winter's stress--sad with its prophecy of
want, and cold, and decay. Little rivulets that ran gleaming like
silver threads--the Pactolian streams of childhood's home and
lover's whisperings--now swell and deepen and complain, as though
angry with the burdens of the falling clouds. Bared branches and
low-browed eaves weep with the darkened and lowering sky, and
withered leaves beat piteously at the cottage windows they once
shadowed with their greenery, or lie limp and clayey on the
roadside and the path. Then, in the silent night, there falls the
first rime, and in the morning is seen the hoary covering that
tells of the year's ageing and declining days. At the corner of
the village street the hoarse cough is heard, and around the
hearth the children gather closely, no longer sporting amid the
flowers, or peopling the cloughs with fairy homes. A dispiriting
hand tones down the great orchestra of Nature, and all her music
is set to a minor key, her 'Jubilate' becoming a threnody--a great
preludious sob.

It was in autumn hours such as these--and only too well known in
Rehoboth--that old Mr. Morell used to discourse on the fading
leaf, and tell of a harvest past and a summer ended, and bid his
flock so number their days that they might apply their hearts unto
wisdom. It was now, too, that the dark procession used to creep
more frequently up the winding path to the Rehoboth grave-yard,
and the heavy soil open oftener beneath old Joseph's spade, and
the voice of the minister in deeper and more measured tones repeat
the words, 'We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain
we can carry nothing out.' It was now also that the feeble and the
aged shunned the darkening shadows of the streets, and crept and
cowered over the kindling hearth in the sheltered home. In
Rehoboth October and November were ever drear; and now that the
old Bridge Factory was in ruins, and work scarce and food scant,
the minds of the people were overcast with what threatened to be
the winter of a discontent.

On an afternoon in mid-November, Mr. Penrose forsook his study for
what he hoped might be an exhilarating walk across the gloomy
moors. The snow--the first snow--was beginning to descend, gently
and lazily, in pure, feathery flakes, remaining on earth for a
moment, and then merging its crystals into the moisture that lay
along the village street.

Turning a corner, he met Dr. Hale, who, after a hearty greeting,
said:

'What is this I hear about your resignation, Mr. Penrose?'

'I don't know what you've heard, doctor, but I am resigning.'

'Nonsense! Running away from ignorance, eh? What would you say if
I ran away from disease?'

'Canst thou minister to a mind diseased?' was Mr. Penrose's sharp
retort.

'No, I cannot. But you can, and it's your duty to do so.'

'You're mistaken, doctor. I cannot go to the root of the moral
disease of Rehoboth. If it were drink, or profligacy, or greed, I
might; but self-righteousness beat Jesus, and no wonder it beats
me.'

Taking Mr. Penrose by the arm, Dr. Hale said:

'You see that falling snow. Why does it disappear as soon as it
touches earth?'

'Because the earth is higher in temperature than the snow, and
therefore melts it,' replied the young man, wondering at the
sudden change in the conversation.

'And if it keeps on falling for another hour, why will it cease to
disappear? Why will it remain?' continued the doctor.

'Because its constant falling will so cool the earth that the
earth will no longer melt it,' said Mr. Penrose, growing impatient
with his examination in the rudiments of science.

'Well said, my friend. And therein lies a parable. You think your
teaching falls to disappear. No; it falls to prepare. You must
continue to let it fall, and finally it will remain, and lodge
itself in the minds of your people. There, now, I have given you
one of the treasures of the snow. But here's old Moses.
Good-morning, Mr. Fletcher; busy as usual?'

'Yi, doctor, aw'm findin' these clamming fowk a bit o' brass.'

'How's that, Moses?' asked the minister.

'Why, yo' know as weel as aw do, Mr. Penrose. Sin' I yerd yo' talk
abaat Him as gies liberally, I thought aw'd do a bit on mi own
accaant.'

'There, now,' said Dr. Hale, 'the snow is beginning to stay, is it
not?'

As the doctor and Moses said 'Good-day,' the pastor continued his
walk in a brooding mood, scarce lifting his head from the ground,
on which the flakes were falling more thickly and beginning to
remain. Lost in thought, and continuing his way towards the end of
the village, he was startled by a tapping at the window of Abraham
Lord's cottage, and, looking up, he saw Milly's beckoning hand.

Passing up the garden-path and entering the kitchen, he bade the
girl a good-afternoon, and asked her if she were waiting for the
'angel een.'

'Nay,' said Milly; 'I'm baan to be content wi' th' daawn (down)
off their wings to-day.'

'So you call the snow "angels' down," do you?'

'Ey, Mr. Penrose,' cried her mother. 'Hoo's names for everythin'
yo' can think on. Hoo seed a great sunbeam on a bank of white
claads t' other day, and hoo said hoo thought it were God Hissel',
because th' owd Book said as He made th' clouds His chariot.'

'But why do you call the snow "angels' down," Milly?'

'Well, it's i' this way, Mr. Penrose,' replied the girl. 'I've sin
th' birds pool th' daawn off their breasts to line th' nest for
their young uns. And why shouldn't th' angels do th' same for us?
Mi faither says as haa snow is th' earth's lappin', and keeps all
th' seeds warm, and mak's th' land so as it 'll groo. So I thought
happen it wur th' way God feathered aar nest for us. Dun yo' see?
It's nobbud my fancy.'

'And a beautiful fancy, too, Milly.'

And all that waning afternoon, as Mr. Penrose climbed the hills
amid the falling flakes, he thought of Milly's quaint conceit, and
looking round amid the gathering gloom, and seeing the great
stretch of snowy covering that now lay on the undulating sweeps,
he asked himself wherein lay the difference between the vision of
John the Divine when he saw the angels holding the four winds of
heaven, and Milly when she saw the angels giving of their warmth
to earth in falling flakes of snow.

As the darkness deepened, Mr. Penrose--fearless of the storm, and
at home on the wilds--made his way towards a lone farmstead known
as 'Granny Houses,' and so-called because of an old woman who
lived there, and who, by keeping a light in her window on dark
winter nights, guided the colliers to a distant pit across the
moors. She was the quaint product of the hills and of Calvinism,
but shrewd withal, and of a kind heart. Indeed, the young minister
had taken a strong liking to her, and frequently called at her
far-away home.

'Ey, Mr. Penrose, whatever's brought yo aat a neet like this?' she
cried, as the preacher stood white as a ghost in the doorway of
the farmstead. 'Come in and dry yorsel. Yo're just i' time fur
baggin (tea), and there's noan I'm as fain to see as yo'.'

'Thank you, Mrs. Halstead; I'm glad to be here. It's a grand
night.' And looking through the open doorway at the great expanse
of snow-covered moor, he said, 'What a beautiful world God's world
is--is it not?'

'I know noan so mich abaat its beauty, but I know its a fearful
cowd (cold) world to-neet. Shut that dur afore th' kitchen's
filled wi' snow. When yo're as owd as me yo'll noan be marlockin'
i' snow at this time o' neet. What's life to young uns is death to
owd uns, yo' know. But draw up to th' fire. That's reet; naa then,
doff that coite, and hev a soup o' tay. An' haa 'n yo' laft 'em
all daan at Rehoboth? Clammin', I reckon.'

'You're not far from the word, Mrs. Halstead. Many of them don't
know where to-morrow's food and to-morrow's fire is coming from.'

'Nowe, I dare say. Bud if they'd no more sense nor to spend their
brass in th' summer, what can they expect? There's some fo'k think
they can eyt their cake and hev it. But th' Almeety doesn't bake
bread o' that mak'. He helps them as helps theirsels. He gay' five
to th' chap as bed five, and him as bed nobbud one, and did naught
wi' it--why, He tuk it fro' him, didn't He? I'll tell yo' what it
is, Mr. Penrose, there's a deal o' worldly wisdom i' providence.
Naa come, isn't there?'

Mr. Penrose laughed.

'Theer's that Oliver o' Deaf Martha's. Naa, I lay aught he's noan
so mich, wi' his dog-feightin' and poachin'. His missis wur up
here t'other day axin' for some milk for th' childer. An' hoo said
ut everybody wur ooined (punished for want of food) at their house
but Oliver an' th' dog. Theer's awlus enugh for them.'

'Yes, I believe that is so.'

'It wur that dog as welly killed Moses Fletcher, wurnd it?'

'I think it was,' replied Mr. Penrose.

'And haa is owd Moses sin yo' dipped him o'er agen? It 'll tak'
some watter and grace to mak' him ought like, I reckon. But they
tell me he's takken to gien his brass away. It 'll noan dry th'
een o' th' poor fo'k he's made weep, tho'--will it, Mr. Penrose?'

'Perhaps not, Mrs. Halstead; but Moses is an altered man.'

'And noan afore it wur time. But what's that noise in th' yard? It
saands like th' colliers. What con they be doin' aat o' th' pit at
this time? They're noan off the shift afore ten, and it's nobbud
hawve-past six.'

In another moment the door of the cottage was thrown open and a
collier entered, white with falling snow, and breathless. When he
had sufficiently recovered, he said:

'Gronny, little Job Wallwork's getten crushed in th' four-foot,
and it's a'most up wi' him. They're bringin' on him here.'

'Whatever wilto say next, lad? Poor little felley, where's he
getten hurt? On his yed?'

'Nay; he's crushed in his in'ards, and he hasnd spokken sin'.
They're carryin' him on owd Malachi's coite' (coat).

A sound of shuffling feet was heard in the snow, and four men,
holding the ends of a greatcoat, bore the pale-faced, swooning boy
into the glare of Mrs. Halstead's kitchen. His thin features were
drawn, and a clayey hue overspread his face--a hue which, when she
saw with her practised eye, she knew was the shadow of the
destroyer.

'Poor little felley!' she cried; 'and his mother a widder an'
all.'

And then, bending down over the settle whereon they had placed the
mangled lad, she pressed her lips on the pale brow, clammy with
the ooze of death--lips long since forsaken by the early blush of
beauty, yet still warm with the instinct which in all true women
feeds itself with the wasting years. Tears fell from her
eyes--tears that told of unfathomed deeps of motherhood, despite
her threescore years and ten; while with lean and tremulous hand
she combed back the dank masses of hair that lay in clusters about
the boy's pallid face. Her reverence and love thus manifested--a
woman's offering to tortured flesh in the dark chamber of
pain--she unbuckled the leathern strap that clasped the little
collier's breeches to his waist, and, with a touch gentle enough
to carry healing, bared the body, now discoloured and torn, though
still the veined and plastic marble--the flesh-wall of the human
temple, so fearfully and wonderfully made.

The boy lay immobile. Scarce a pulse responded to the old woman's
touch as she placed the palm of her hand over the valve of his
young life. Nor did her fomentations rouse him, as feebler grew
the protest of the heart to the separation of the little soul from
the mangled body. At last the watchers thought the wrench was
over, and Death the lord of life.

Then the clayey hue, so long overshadowing the face, faded away in
the warmth of a returning tide of life, as a gray dawn is suffused
by sunrise. The beat became stronger and more frequent, there was
a movement in the passive limbs, and, opening his eyes dreamily,
then wonderingly, and at last consciously, the lad looked into the
old woman's face and said:

'Gronny!'

'Yi! it's Gronny, lad. And haa doesto feel?'

The boy tried to move, and uttered a feeble cry of pain.

'Lie thee still, lad. Doesto think thaa can ston this?' and the
old woman laid another hot flannel on the boy's body.

At first he winced, and a look of terrible torture passed over his
face. Then he smiled and said:

'Yi! Gronny, aw can bide thee to do ought.'

Mr. Penrose, helpless and silent, stood at the foot of the settle
on which lay the dying boy, the colliers seeking the gloomy
corners of the large kitchen, where in shadow they awaited in rude
fear the death of their little companion. The old woman, cool and
self-possessed, plied her task with a tenderness and skill born of
long years of experience, cheering with words of endearment the
last moments of the sufferer.

The boy's rally was brief, for internal hæmorrhage set in, and
swiftly wrought its fatal work, sweeping the vital tide along
channels through which it no longer returned to the fount of life,
and leaving the weary face with a pallor that overmastered the
flush that awhile before brought a momentary hope. His eyes grew
dim, and the light from the lamp seemed to recede, as though it
feared him, and would elude his gaze. The figures in the room
became mixed and commingled, and took shapes which at times he
failed to recognise. Then a sensation of falling seized him, and
he planted his hands on the cushion of the settle, as though he
would stay his descent.

Looking at Mr. Penrose through a ray of consciousness, he said:

'Th' cage is goin' daan fearfo quick. Pray!'

The old woman caught the word, and, turning to the minister, she
said:

'He wants thee to mak' a prayer.'

Mr. Penrose drew nearer to the boy, and repeated the grand
death-song of the saints: 'Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me,
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.'

The boy shook his head--for him the words had no meaning. Then,
raising himself, he said:

'Ax God O'meety to leet His candle. I'm baan along th' seam, an'
it's fearfo dark!'

To Mr. Penrose the words were strange, and, turning to the
colliers, he asked them what the boy wanted.

Then Malachi o' the Mount came towards the minister and said:

'Th' lad thinks he's i' th' four-foot seam, and he connot find his
road, it's so dark, and he wants a leet--a candle, yo' know, same
as we use in th' pit. He wants the Almeety to leet him along.'

Still Mr. Penrose was in darkness.

Then the boy turned to old Malachi, and, with a farewell look of
recognition and a last effort of speech, said:

'Malachi, ax Him as is aboon to leet His great candle, and show me
th' road along th' seam. It's some fearsome and dark.'

And Malachi knelt by the side of the lad, and, in broken accents
and rude vernacular, said:

'O God O'meety, little Job's baan along th' four-foot seam, an' he
connot see his gate (way). Leet Thy candle, Lord--Thy great
candle--and mak' it as leet as day for th' lad. Leet it, Lord, and
dunnot put it aat till he geds through to wheere they've no need
o' candles, becose Thaa gies them th' leet o' Thysel.'

The prayer over, every eye was turned to the boy, on whose face
there had broken a great light--a light from above.



II.

THE TWO MOTHERS.


The royal repose of death reigned over the features of little Job
as his mother entered the kitchen of the Granny Houses Farm. She
had been summoned from Rehoboth by a collier, fleet of foot, who,
as soon as the injured boy was brought to the pit-bank, started
with the sad news to the distant village. No sooner did the woman
catch the purport of the news, than she ran out wildly into the
snowy air--not waiting to don shawl or clogs, but speeding over
the white ground as those only speed who love, and who know their
loved ones are in need.

A wild wind was blowing from the north, and the fleecy particles
fell in fantastic whirls and spirals, to drift in treacherous
banks over the gullies and falls that lay along the path; while
here and there thin black lines, sinuous in their trend, told
where moorland waters flowed, and guided the hurrying mother to
her distant goal. The groaning trees, tossed by the tempest, flung
off showers of half-frozen flakes, that falling on her flaming
cheeks failed to cool the fever of her suspense, while the
yielding snow beneath her feet became a tantalus path, delaying
her advance, and seeming to make more distant her suffering child.

Ploughing her way through the Green Fold Clough, she climbed the
steeps at the further end, and stood, breathless, on the bank of
the great reservoir that lay dark in the hollow of the white
hills. Her heart beat savagely and loud--so loud that she heard it
above the din of the storm; and cruel pain relentlessly stabbed
her heaving side, while her breath was fetched in quick
respirations.

As she thus stood, tamed in her race of love by the imperative
call of exhausted nature, Dr. Hale loomed through the snowy haze,
and, reading instinctively who she was and whither she was bound,
proffered his assistance for the remaining half of the journey.

He had not walked with her for many yards before he saw her
exposed condition. Her hair was flying in frozen tresses about her
unshawled bosom, and no outer covering protected her from the
chill blast.

'Mrs. Wallwork,' said he, 'you ought not to be crossing the moors
a night like this, uncovered as you are. You are tempting Nature
to do her worst with you, you know.'

'Ne'er heed me, doctor. It's mi lad yon aw want yo' to heed. I
shall be all reet if he's nobbud reet. I con walk faster if yo'
con,' and so saying, the jaded woman sprang, like a stung horse,
under the spur of love.

'But I have two lives to think of,' replied Dr. Hale, 'both
mother's and son's.'

'Mine's naught, doctor, when he's i' danger. Who bothers their
yeds abaat theirsels when them as they care more for are i' need?
Let's hurry up, doctor.'

And again she sprang forward, to struggle with renewed effort
through the yielding snow. Then, turning towards her companion,
she cried:

'Where wur he hurt, doctor? Did they tell yo'?'

But the doctor was silent.

Seizing his arm with eager grip, she continued:

'Dun yo' think he's livin', doctor? Or is he deead? Did they say
he wur deead?'

'We must be patient a little longer,' was the doctor's kind reply.
'See! there's the light in the window of Granny Houses!'

And there shone the light--distant across the fields, and blurred
and indistinct through the falling snow. Without waiting to find
the path, the mother ran in a direct line towards it, scaling the
walls with the nimbleness of youth, to fall exhausted on the
threshold of the farmstead.

Raising herself, she looked round with a blank stare, dazed with
the glow of the fire and the light of the lamp. In the further
corners of the room, and away from each other, sat the old woman
and Mr. Penrose and Malachi o' the Mount, while on the settle
beneath the window lay the sheeted dead.

'Where's th' lad?' cried the mother, the torture of a great fear
racking her features and agonizing her voice.

There was no reply, the three watchers by the dead helplessly and
mutely gazing at the snow-covered figure that stood beneath the
open doorway within a yard of her child.

'Gronny, doesto yer? Where's my lad? And yo', Malachi--yo' took
him daan th' shaft wi' yo'; what ban yo' done wi' him?'

Still there was no response. A paralysis silenced each lip. None
of the three possessed a heart that dared disclose the secret.

Seeing the sheeted covering on the settle, the woman, with frantic
gesture, tore it aside, and when her eye fell on the little face,
grand in death's calm, a great rigor took hold of her, and then
she became rigid as the dead on whom her gaze was fixed.

In a little while she stooped over the boy, and, baring the cold
body, looked long at the crushed and discoloured parts, at last
bending low her face and kissing them until they were warm with
her caress. Then old granny, turning round to Mr. Penrose,
whispered:

'Thank God, hoo's weepin'!'

'Let her weep,' said Dr. Hale; 'there's no medicine like tears.'

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, long after the snow had ceased to fall, and the
tempestuous winds with folded wings were hushed in repose, and
distant stars glittered in steely brightness, the two women,
holding each other's hand, sat over the hearth of the solitary
moorland farmstead. They were widows both, and both now were
sisters in the loss of an only child.

Granny, as she was called, bore that name not from relationship,
but from her kindliness and age. It was the pet name given to her
by the colliers to whom she so often ministered in their risks and
exposures at the adjacent pit. Into her life the rain had fallen.
After fifteen years of domestic joy, her only child, a son, fell
before the breath of fever, and in the shadow of that loss she
ever since walked. Then her husband succumbed to the exposure of a
winter's toil, and now for long she had lived alone. But as she
used to say, 'Suppin' sorrow had made her to sup others' sorrow
with them.' Her cup, though deep and full, had not embittered her
heart, but led her to drink with those whose cup was deeper than
her own. The death of little Job had rolled away the stone from
the mouth of the sepulchre of her own dead child; and as she held
the hand of the lately-bereaved mother she dropped many a word of
comfort.

'I'll tell thee what aw've bin thinkin',' said the old woman.

'What han yo' bin thinkin', Gronny?'

'Why, I've bin thinkin' haa good th' Almeety is--He's med angels
o' them as we med lads.'

'I durnd know what yo' mean, Gronny.'

'Why, it's i' this way, lass; my Jimmy and yor little Job wur aar
own, wurnd they?'

'Yi, forsure they wur.'

'We feshioned 'em, as the Psalmist sez, didn't we?'

'Thaa sez truth, Gronny,' wept the younger woman.

'And we feshioned 'em lads an' o'.'

'Yi, and fine uns; leastways, my little Job wur--bless him.'

And the mother turned her tearful eyes towards the settle whereon
lay the corpse.

'Well, cornd yo' see as God hes finished aar wark for us, and what
we made lads, He's made angels on?'

'But aw'd sooner ha' kept mine. Angels are up aboon, thaa knows;
an' heaven's a long way off.'

'Happen noan so far as thaa thinks, lass; and then th' Almeety
will do better by 'em nor we con.'

'Nay, noan so, Gronny. God cornd love Job better nor I loved him.'

'But he willn't ged crushed in a coile seam i' heaven; naa, lass,
will he?'

'Thaa's reet, Gronny, he willn't. But if He mak's us work here,
why does He kill us o'er th' job, as he's killed mi little lad?'

'Thaa mun ax Mr. Penrose that, lass; I'm no scholard.'

'Aw'll tell thee what it is, Gronny. It noan seems reet that thee
and me should be sittin' by th' fire, and little Job yonder cowd
i' th' shadow. Let's pool up th' settle to th' fire; he's one on
us, though he's deead.'

'Let him alone, lass; he's better off nor them as wants fire;
there's no cowd wheer he's goan.'

Rising from her chair, and turning the sheet once more from off
the boy's face, the mother said:

'Where hasto goan, lad? Tell thi mother, willn't taa?' And then,
looking round at the old woman, she said, 'Doesto think he yers
(hears) me, Gronny?'

'Aw welly think he does, lass; but durnd bother him naa. He's
happen restin', poor little lad; or happen he's telling them as is
up aboon all abaat thee--who knows?'

'Aw say, Gronny, Jesus made deead fo'k yer Him when He spok',
didn't He?'

'Yi, lass, He did forsure.'

'Who wur that lass He spok' to when He turned 'em all aat o' th'
room, wi' their noise and shaatin'?'

'Tha means th' rich mon's lass, doesndto?'

'Yi! Did He ever do ought for a poor mon's lass?'

'He did for a poor woman's lad, thaa knows--a widder's son--one
like thine.'

'But he's noan here naa, so we's be like to bide by it, ey, dear?
Mi lad! mi lad!'

'Don't tak' on like that, lass; noather on us 'll hev to bide
long. It's a long road, I know, when fo'k luk for'ards; but it's
soon getten o'er, and when thaa looks back'ards it's nobbud short.
I tell thee I've tramped it, and I durnd know as I'm a war woman
for the journey. It's hard wark partin' wi' your own; but then
theer's th' comfort o' havin' had 'em. I'd rayther hev a child and
bury it, nor be baat childer, like Miriam Heap yonder.'

'Aw dare say as yo're reet, Gronny; aw's cry and fret a deal over
little Job, but then aw's hev summat to think abaat, shornd I? Aw
geet his likeness taken last Rehoboth fair by a chap as come in a
callivan (caravan), and it hengs o'er th' chimley-piece. But aw's
noan see th' leet in his een ony more, nor yer his voice, nor tak'
him wi' me to th' chapel on Sundos,' and the woman again turned to
the dead boy, and fondly lingered over his familiar features,
weeping over them her tears of despair.

'Come, lass, tha munn't tak' on like that. Sit yo' daan, an' I'll
tell yo' what owd Mr. Morell said to me when mi lad lay deead o'
th' fayver, and noan on 'em would come near me. He said I mut
(must) remember as th' Almeety had nobbud takken th' lad upstairs.
But aw sez, "Mr. Morell, theer's mony steps, an' I cornd climb
'em." "Yi," sez he, "theer is mony steps, but yo' keep climbin' on
'em every day, and one day yo'll ged to th' top and be i' th' same
raam (room) wi' him." An', doesto know, every time as I fretted
and felt daan, I used to think o' him as was upstairs, and
remember haa aw wur climbin' th' steps an' gettin' nearer him.'

'But yo've noan getten to th' top yet, Gronny.'

'No, aw hevn't, but aw'm a deal nearer nor aw wur when he first
laft me. An' doesto know, lass, aw feel misel to be gettin' so
near naa that aw can welly yer him singin'. There's nobbud a step
or two naa, and then we's be i' th' same raam.'

'An' is th' Almeety baan to mak' me climb as mony steps as thaa's
climbed afore I ged into th' same raam as He's takken little Job
too, thinksto?'

'Ey, lass. Aw durnd know; but whether thaa's to climb mony or few
thaa'll hev strength gien thee, as aw hev.'

'Aw wish God's other room wurnd so far off, Gronny--nobbud t'other
side o' th' wall instead o' th' story aboon. Durnd yo'?'

'Nay, lass; they're safer upstairs. Thaa knows He put's 'em aat o'
harm's way.'

'But aw somehaa think aw could ha' takken care o' little Job a bit
longer. And when he'd groon up, thaa knows, he could ha' takken
care o' me.'

'Yi, lass; we're awlus for patchin' th'Almeety's work; and if He
leet us, we's mak' a sorry mess on it and o'.'

'Well, Gronny, if I wur God Almeety I'd be agen lettin' lumps o'
coile fall and crush th' life aat o' lads like aar Job. It's a
queer way o' takkin 'em upstairs, as yo' co it.'

'Hooisht! lass, thaa mornd try to speerit through th' clouds that
are raand abaat His throne. He tak's one i' one way, an another i'
another; but if He tak's em to Hissel they're better off than
they'd be wi' us.'

'Well, Gronny, aw tell thee, aw cornd see it i' that way yet;' and
again the mother caressed the body of her son.

Once more she turned towards the old woman, and said:

'Aw shouldn't ha' caared so mich, Gronny, if he'd deed as yor lad
deed--i' his own bed, an' wi' a fayver; bud he wur crushed wi' a
lump o' coile! Poor little lad! Luk yo' here!' and the mother
bared the body and showed the discoloured parts.

'Did ta' ever see a child dee o' fayver, lass?'

'Not as aw know on. Aw've awlus bin flayed, and never gone near
'em.'

'Thaa may thank God as thy lad didn't dee of a fayver. Aw's never
forgeet haa th' measter and I watched and listened to aar lad's
ravin's. Haa he rached aat wi' his honds, and kept settin' up and
makin' jumps at what he fancied he see'd abaat him; and when we
co'd him he never knowed us. Nowe, lass, he never knowed me until
one neet he seemed to come to hissel, and then he looked at me and
said, "Mother!" But it wur all he said--he never spok' at after.'

'Yi; but yo' see'd yur lad dee--and mine deed afore I could get to
him.'

'That is so, lass! but as aw stood an' see'd mine deein', I would
ha' gien onything if I could ha' shut mi een, or not bin wi' him.
I know summat as what Hagar felt when hoo said, "Let me not see
th' deeath o' th' child"--I do so.'

The younger woman wept, and the tears brought relief to her
pent-up heart. She had found a mother's ear for her mother's
sorrow; and the after-calm of a great grief was now falling over
her. She leaned her aching head on the shoulders of the older and
stronger woman by whose side she sat, and at last her sorrow
brought the surcease of sleep. The fire threw its fitful flicker
on her haggard face, lighting up in strange relief the lines of
agony and the moisture of the freshly fallen tears. Now and again
she sobbed in her slumber--a sob that shook her soul--but she
slept, and sleep brought peace and oblivion.

'Sleep on, lass, sleep on, and God ease thi poor heart,' said the
old Granny, as she held the woman's hand in hers. 'Thaa's hed both
thi travails naa; thaa's travailed i' birth, and thaa's travailed
i' deeath, like mony a poor soul afore thee. There wur joy when
thaa brought him into th' world, and theer's sorrow naa he's goan
aat afore his time. Ey, dear! A mother's life's like an April
morn--sunleet and cloud, fleshes o' breetness, and showers o'
rain.'

And closing her eyes, she, too, slept. And in that lone outlying
fold, far away in the snowy bosom of the hills, there was the
sleep of weariness, the sleep of sorrow, and the sleep of death.
And who shall say that the last was not the kindliest and most
welcome?



III.

THE SNOW CRADLE.


As Mr. Penrose and Malachi o' th' Mount closed the door of Granny
Houses on the sorrowing widowed mother, there opened to them a
fairy realm of snow. Stepping out on its yielding carpet of
crystals, they looked in silent wonder at the fair new world,
where wide moors slept in peaceful purity, and distant hills
lifted their white summits towards the deep cold blue of the
clearing sky. Steely stars glittered and magnified their light
through the lens of the eager, frosty air, and old landmarks were
hidden, and roads familiar to the wayfarer no longer discovered
their trend. Little hillocks had taken the form of mounds, and
stretches of level waste were swept by ranges of drift and
shoulders of obstructing snow.

No sooner did Mr. Penrose look out on this new earth than a
feeling of _lostness_ came on him, and, linking his arm in that of
the old man, he said:

'Can you find the way, Malachi?'

'Wheer to, Mr. Penrose?'

'Why, to Rehoboth, of course. Where else did you think I wanted to
go at this time of night?'

'Nay, that's what I wur wonderin' when yo' axed me if I knew th'
way,' replied the old man.

'Oh! I beg your pardon; I thought perhaps the snow might throw you
off the track.'

'Throw _me_ off th' track, an' on these moors and o'? Nowe, Mr.
Penrose, I hevn't lived on 'em forty years for naught, I con tell
yo'.'

'But when you cannot see your way, what then?'

'Then I walks by instink.'

And by instinct the two men crossed the wastes of snow towards the
Green Fold Clough, through which gorge lay the path that led to
the village below.

Just as they traversed the edge of the Red Moss, old Malachi broke
the silence by saying:

'Well, Mr. Penrose, what do yo' think o' yon?'

'Think of what, Malachi?' asked the perplexed divine, for neither
of them, for some moments, had spoken.

'Think o' yon lad as has getten killed, and o' his mother?'

There are times when a man dares not utter his deepest feelings
because of the commonplace character of the words through which
they only can find expression. If Malachi had asked Mr. Penrose to
write the character of God on a blackboard before a class of
infants, he would not have been placed in a greater difficulty
than that now involved by the question of Malachi. Already his
mind was dark with the problem of suffering. Little Job's cry for
'the candle of the Almeety' had reached depths he knew not were
hidden in his heart; while the look in the mother's face, as she
stood snow-covered in the doorway of the farmstead, and as the
firelight lent its glare to her blanched and pain-wrought face,
continued ceaselessly to haunt him. And now Malachi wanted to know
what he thought of it all! How could he tell him?

Finding Mr. Penrose remained silent, Malachi continued: 'Yon
woman's supped sorrow, and no mistak'. Hoo buried her husband six
months afore yon lad wur born. Poor little felley! he never know'd
his faither.'

'Ah! I never knew that. Then she _has_ supped sorrow, as you call
it.'

'Owd Mr. Morell used to say as he could awlus see her deead
husband's face i' hers until th' child wur born, and then it left
her, and hoo carried th' face o' th' little un hoo brought up. But
it'll be a deead face hoo'll carry in her een naa, I'll be bun
for't.'

'How was it his mother sent him to work in the pit?--such a
dangerous calling, and the boy so young.'

'You'll know a bit more, Mr. Penrose, when yo've lived here a bit
longer. His fo'k and hers hev bin colliers further back nor I can
remember; and they noan change trades wi' us.'

'But why need he go to work so young?' asked the minister.

Malachi stopped and gazed in astonishment at the minister, and
then said:

'I durnd know as he would ha' worked in th' pit, Mr. Penrose, if
you'd ha' kep' him and his mother and o'. But fo'k mun eat, thaa
knows. Th' Almeety's gan o'er rainin' daan manna fro' heaven, as
He used to do in th' wilderness.'

Mr. Penrose did not reply.

'Yo' know, Mr. Penrose,' continued Malachi, 'workin' in a
coile-pit is like preychin': it's yezzy (easy) enugh when yo' ged
used to 't. An' as for danger--why, yo' connot ged away fro' it.
As owd Amos sez, yo're as safe i' one hoile (workshop) as
another.'

'Yes; that's sound philosophy,' assented Mr. Penrose.

'Mr. Morell once tell'd us in his preychin' abaat a chap as axed a
oracle, or summat, what kind of a deeath he would dee; and when he
wur towd that he would happen an accident o' some sort, they
couldn't geet him to shift aat o' his garden, for fear he'd be
killed. But it wur all no use; for one day, as he wur sittin'
amang his flaars, a great bird dropped a stooan, and smashed his
yed. So yo' see, Mr. Penrose, if yo've to dee in th' pulpit yo'll
dee theer, just as little Job deed i' th' coile-pit.'

As Malachi delivered himself of this bit of Calvinistic
philosophy, a sound of voices was borne in on the two men from the
vale below, and looking in the direction whence it came, the old
man and Mr. Penrose saw a group of dark figures thrown into relief
on the background of snow.

The sounds were too distant to be distinctly heard, but every now
and then there was mingled with them the short, sharp bark of a
dog.

'I welly think that's Oliver o' Deaf Martha's dog,' excitedly
cried Malachi. 'Surely he's noan poachin' a neet like this? He's
terrible lat' wi' his wark if he is.'

'If I'm not mistaken, that is Moses Fletcher's voice,' replied Mr.
Penrose. 'Listen!'

'You're reet; that's Moses' voice, or I'm a Jew. What's he doin'
aat a neet like this, wi' Oliver's dog? I thought he'd bed enough
o' that beast to last his lifetime.'

The two men were now leaning over a stone wall and looking down
into the ravine below. Suddenly Malachi pricked up his ears, and
said:

'An' that's Amos's voice an' all. By Guy, if it hedn't bin for
Oliver o' Deaf Martha's I should ha' said it wur hevin' a
prayer-meetin' i' th' snow. What's brought owd Amos aat wi'
Moses--to say naught o' th' dog?'

Just then an oath reached the ears of the listening men.

'No prayer-meeting, Malachi,' said Mr. Penrose, laughing.

'Nowe--nobbud unless they're like Ab' o' th' Heights, who awlus
swore a bit i' his prayers, because, as he said, swearin' wur
mighty powerful. But him as swore just naa is Oliver hissel--I'll
lay mi Sunday hat on't.'

By this time the moving figures on the snow were approaching the
foot of the hill whereon the two men stood, and Malachi, raising
his hands to his mouth, greeted them with a loud halloo.

Immediately there came a reply. It was from Oliver himself, in a
loud, importuning voice:

'Han yo' fun him?'

'Fun who?' asked Malachi.

'Why, that chilt o' mine! Who didsto think we wur lookin' for?'

'Who knew yo' were lookin' for aught but--'

'Which child have you lost?' cried Mr. Penrose, for Oliver had a
numerous family.

'Little Billy--him as Moses pooled aat o' the lodge.'

'Come along, Malachi, let us go down and help; it's a search
party.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Everybody in Rehoboth knew little Billy o' Oliver's o' Deaf
Martha's. He was a smart lad of eight years, with a vivid
imagination and an active brain. His childish idealism, however,
found little food in the squalid cottage in which he dragged out
his semi-civilized existence; but among the hills he was at home,
and there he roamed, to find in their fastnesses a region of
romance, and in their gullies and cloughs the grottoes and falls
that to him were a veritable fairy realm. Child as he was, in the
summer months he roamed the shady plantations, and sailed his chip
and paper boats down their brawling streams, feeding on the nuts
and berries, and lying for hours asleep beneath the shadows of
their branching trees. He was one of the few children into whose
mind Amos failed to find an inlet for the catechism; and once,
during the past summer, he had blown his wickin-whistle in
Sunday-school class, and been reprimanded by the superintendent
because he gathered blackberries during the sacred hours.

A few days previous to his disappearance in the snow he had heard
the legend of Jenny Greenteeth, the haunting fairy of the Green
Fold Clough, and how that she, who in the summer-time made the
flowers grow and the birds sing, hid herself in winter on a shelf
of rock above the Gin Spa Well, a lone streamlet that gurgled from
out the rocky sides of the gorge. The story laid hold of his young
mind, and under the glow of his imagination assumed the
proportions of an Arabian Nights' wonder. He dreamed of it by
night, and during the day received thrashings not a few from his
zealous schoolmaster, because his thoughts were away from his
lessons with Jenny Greenteeth in her Green Fold Clough retreat. On
this, the afternoon of the first snowfall of the autumn, there
being a half-holiday, the boy determined once more to explore the
haunts of the fairy; and just as Mr. Penrose turned out of his
lodgings to kill the prose of his life, which he felt to be
killing him, Oliver o' Deaf Martha's little boy turned out of his
father's hovel to feed the poetry that was stirring in his
youthful soul. The north wind blew through the rents and seams of
his threadbare clothing; but its chill was not felt, so warm with
excitement beat his little heart. And when the first flakes fell,
he clapped his hands in wild delight, and sang of the plucking of
geese by hardy Scotchmen, and the sending of their feathers across
the intervening leagues.

Poor little fellow! His was a hard lot when looked at from where
Plenty spread her table and friends were manifold. But he was not
without his compensations. His home was the moors, and his parent
was Nature. He knew how to leap a brook, and snare a bird, and
climb a tree, and shape a boat, and cut a wickin-whistle, and many
a time and oft, when bread was scarce, he fed on the berries that
only asked to be plucked, and grew so plentifully along the sides
of the great hills.

The dusk was falling, and the snow beginning to lie thick, as
he entered the dark gorge of the Clough; but to him darkness
and light were alike, and as for the snow, it was more than a
transformation-scene is to the petted child of a jaded civilization.
He watched the flakes as they came down in their wild race from
the sky, and saw them disappear on touching the stream that ran
through the heart of the Clough. He gathered masses of the flaky
substance in his hand, and, squeezing them into balls, threw them
at distant objects, and then filled his mouth with the icy
particles, and revelled in the shock and chill of the melting
substance between his teeth as no connoisseur of wine ever
revelled in the juices of the choice vintages of Spain and France.
Then he would shake and clap his hands because of what he called
the 'hot ache' that seized them, only to scamper off again after
some new object around which to weave another dream of wonder.

The dusk gave place to gloom, and still faster fell the snow,
white and feathery, silent and sublime. The child felt the charm,
and began to lose himself in the impalpable something that, like a
curtain of spirit, gathered around. He, too, was now as white as
the shrubs through which he wended his way, and every now and then
he doffed his cap, and, with a wild laugh of delight, flung its
covering of snow upon the ground. Then, out of sheer fulness of
life and rapport with the scene, he would rush for a yard or two
up the steep sides of the Clough and roll downwards in the soft
substance which lay deeply around.

The gloom thickened and nightfall came, but the snow lighted up
the dark gorge, and threw out the branching trees, the tall trunks
of which rose columnar-like as the pillars of some cathedral nave.
Did the boy think of home--of fire--of bed? Not he! He thought
only of Jenny Greenteeth, the sprite of the Clough, and of the Gin
Spa Well, above which she was said to sleep; and on he roamed.

And now the path became narrower and more tortuous, while on the
steep sides the snow was gathering in ominous drifts. Undaunted he
struggled on, knee-deep, often stumbling, yet always rising to
dive afresh into the yielding element that lay between himself and
the enchanted ground beyond. In a little time he came to a great
bulging bend, around the foot of which the waters flowed in sullen
sweeps. Here, careful as he was, he slipped, and lay for a moment
stunned and chilled with his sudden immersion. Struggling to the
bank, he regained his foothold, and, rounding the promontory of
cliff which had almost defeated his search, he turned the angle
that hid the grotto, and found himself at the Gin Spa Well.

He heard the 'drip, drip' of falling waters as they oozed from out
their rocky bed, and fell into one of those tiny hollows of nature
which, overflowing, sent its burden towards the stream below. He
looked above, and saw the fabled ledge--its mossy bank all
snow-covered--with the entrance to Jenny Greenteeth's chambers
dark against the white that lay around. Tired with the search, yet
glad at heart with the find, he climbed and entered, the
somnolence wrought by the snow soon closing his eyes, and its
subtle opiate working on his now wearily excited brain. There he
slept--and dreamed.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as Mr. Penrose and Malachi reached the search party, and
heard how the boy had been missing since the afternoon, the
minister suggested they should search the Clough, as it was his
favourite haunt. His advice was at first unheeded, Oliver
declaring he had been taken off in a gipsy caravan, and Amos
capping his suspicion by speaking of the judgments of the Almighty
on little lads who gathered flowers on Sunday, and blew
wickin-whistles in school, and refused to learn their catechism.
Second thoughts, however, brought them over to Mr. Penrose's mind,
and they set out for the Clough.

The descent was far from easy, the banks being steep, and
treacherous with their covering of newly-fallen snow. Once or
twice Amos, in his declaration of the Divine will, nearly lost his
footing, and narrowly escaped falling into the defile, the
entrance to which they sought to gain. Oliver manifested his
anxiety and parental care in sundry oaths, while Moses Fletcher,
who had loved the child ever since saving him from the Lodge, said
little and retained his wits.

When the search party entered the heart of the Clough, Oliver's
dog began to show signs of excitement, that became more and more
noticeable as they drew near to the Gin Spa Well. Here the brute
suddenly stopped and whined, and commenced to wildly caper.

'Th' dog's goin' mad,' said Amos.

'It's noan as mad as thee, owd lad,' replied Moses. 'I'll lay
ought we'n noan so far fro' th' chilt.'

'It is always wise to stop when a dog stops,' assented the
minister.

'Yi; yo' connot stand agen instink,' said Malachi.

'Good lad! good lad! find him!' sobbed Oliver to his dog; and the
brute again whined and wagged its tail and ran round and between
the legs of the men.

'There's naught here,' impatiently cried Amos.

I'll tak' a dog's word agen thine ony day, owd lad,' said Moses.

'Well, thaa's no need to be so fond o' th' dog. It once welly
worried thi dog, and thee into th' bargain.'

'Yi; it's bin a bruiser i' id time, an' no mistak'; but it's
turned o'er a new leaf naa--and it's noan so far off th' child;'
and Malachi, too, commenced to encourage it in its search.

'It looks to me as th' child's getten up theer somehaa;' and so
saying, Moses pointed to the ledge of rock where Jenny Greenteeth
was said to slumber through the winter's cold.

'What mut th' child ged up theer for?' asked Amos. 'Thaa talks
like a chap as never hed no childer.'

At this rebuff Moses was silent; for not only was he a childless
man, but until the day he saved the very child they were now
seeking from the Green Fold Lodge, children had been nothing to
him. Now, however, he had learned to love them, and none better
than the little lost offspring of Oliver o' Deaf Martha's.

While the two men were wrangling, Mr. Penrose stepped aside and
commenced the climb towards the ledge. The snow lay white and
undisturbed on the shelving surface, and there was no sign of
recent movements. Looking round, he discovered the mouth of the
recess. There it stood, black and forbidding. In another moment
the minister stooped down and looked in; but all was dark and
silent, nor did he care to go further along what to him was an
unknown way.

'Have any of you a light?' asked he of the men below; and Malachi
handed him his collier's candle and matches, with which he
commenced to penetrate the gloom.

It was a small cavernous opening out of which, in years past, men
had quarried stone. Damp dripped from the roof, and ran down its
seamed and discoloured sides. Autumn leaves, swept there by the
wind, strewed its uneven floor, and lay in heaps against the
jutting angles. A thin line of snow had drifted in through the
mouth, and ran like a river of light along the gloomy entrance, to
lose itself in the recesses beyond.

The feeble flicker of the candle which Mr. Penrose held in his
hand flung hideous shadows, and lighted up the cave dimly enough
to make it more eerie and grotesque. The minister had not searched
long before he was startled by a cry--a faint and childish cry:

'Arto Jenny Greenteeth?'

'No, my boy; I'm Mr. Penrose.'

'It's noan th' parson aw want; aw want th' fairy.'

And then the chilled and startled boy was carried down to the men
below.

In a moment Oliver o' Deaf Martha's seized his boy and wrapped him
in the bosom of his coat, hugging and kissing him as though he
would impart the warmth of his own life to the little fellow.

'It's noan like thee to mak' a do like that, Oliver,' said Amos,
unmoved, 'but thaa shaps (shapes) weel.' And as the child began to
cry and struggle, Amos continued, 'Sithee! he's feeard on thee.
He's noan used to it. He thinks he ought to hev a lickin' or
summat.'

But Oliver continued his caresses.

'Well, Oliver, I've never sin thee takken th' road afore.'

'Nowe, lad! I've never lost a chilt afore.'



VI.

MIRIAM'S MOTHERHOOD.

  1. A WOMAN'S SECRET.
  2. HOW DEBORAH HEARD THE NEWS.
  3. 'IT'S A LAD!'
  4. THE LEAD OF THE LITTLE ONE.



I.

A WOMAN'S SECRET.


On a little mound, within the shadow of her cottage home, and
eagerly scanning the moors, stood Miriam Heap. An exultant light
gleamed in her dark eyes, and her bosom rose and fell as though
swept with tumultuous passion. Ever womanly and beautiful, she
was never more a queen than now, as the wind tossed the raven
tresses of her crown of hair, and wrapped her dress around the
well-proportioned limbs until she looked the draped statue of a
classic age. There was that, too, within her breast which filled
her with lofty and pardonable pride, for she awaited her husband's
return to communicate to him the royal secret of a woman's life.

Miriam and Matthias--or Matt, as she called him--had been
seven years married, the only shadow of their home being its
childlessness. Matt's prayers and Miriam's tears brought no
surcease to this sorrow, while the cruel superstition that dearth
of offspring was the curse of heaven and the shame of woman,
rested as a perpetual gloom over the otherwise happy home.

Of late, however, the maternal hope had arisen in the heart of
Miriam; nor was the hope belied. To her, as to Mary of old, the
mystic messengers had whispered, and He with whom are the issues
of life had regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. That of
which she so long fondly dreamed, and of late scarce dared to
think of, was now a fact, and a great and unspeakable joy filled
her heart.

As yet her secret was unshared. Even her husband knew it not, for
Matt was away in a distant town, fitting up machinery in a
newly-erected mill. Miriam felt it to be as hard to carry alone
the burden of a great joy as the burden of a great sorrow. But she
resolved that none should know before him, whose right it was to
first share the secret with herself; so she kept it, and pondered
over it in her heart.

And now Matt was on his homeward journey, and Miriam knew that
shortly they would be together in their cottage home. How should
she meet him, and greet him, and confess to him the joy that
overwhelmed her? What would he say? Would he love her more, or
would the advent of the little life divide the love hitherto her
undisputed own? Was the love of father towards mother a greater
and stronger and holier love than that of husband towards wife? or
did the birth of children draw off from each what was before a
mutual interchange? Thus she teased her throbbing brain, and vexed
her mind with questions she knew not how to solve. And yet her
woman's instincts told her that the new love would weld together
more closely the old, and that she and Matt would become one as
never before. And then a dim memory of a sentence in the old creed
came upon her--something about 'One in three and three in one,
undivided and eternal'--but she knew not what she thought.

As Miriam stood upon the little mound within the shadow of her
roof-tree, eagerly scanning the moors for Matt's return, cool airs
laden with moorland scents played around her, and masses of snowy
cloud sailed along the horizon, flushing beneath the touch of the
after-glow with as pure a rose as that mantling on her womanly
face. The blue distances overhead were deepening with sundown, and
the great sweeps of field and wild were sombre with the hill
shadows that began to fall. In a copse near where she stood a
little bird was busy with her fledglings, and from a meadow came
the plaintive bleat of a late yeaned lamb. From the distant
village the wind carried to her ears the cry of an infant--a cry
that lingered and echoed and started strange melodies in the
awakening soul of Miriam. Child of the hills as she was, never
before in all her thirty years of familiarity with them, and
freedom among them, had she seen and felt them as now. A great and
holy passion was upon her, and she took all in through the medium
of its golden haze. The early flowers at her feet glowed like
stars of hope and promise--and the bursting buds of the trees told
of spring's teeming womb and dew of youth; while the shadow of her
cottage gable and chimney--falling as it did across the little
mound on which she stood--recalled to her the promises of Him who
setteth the solitary in families.

Then she returned to herself, and to her new and opening world of
maternity. No longer would she be the butt at which the rude,
though good-natured, jests of her neighbours were thrown, for she
too would soon hold up her head proudly among the mothers of
Rehoboth. And as for Matt's mother--fierce Calvinist that she was,
and whom in the past she had so much feared--what cared she for
her now? She would cease to be counted by her as one of the
uncovenanted, and told that she had broken the line of promise
given to the elect. How well she remembered the night when the old
woman, taking up the Bible, read out aloud: 'The promise is unto
you, and to your children,' afterwards clinching the words by
saying: 'Thaa sees, Miriam, thaas noan in it, for thaa's no
childer'; and how, when she gently protested, 'But is not the
promise to all that are afar off?' the elect sister of the church
and daughter of God destroyed her one ray of hope by saying: 'Yi!
but only to as mony as the Lord aar God shall co.' And Matt--poor
Matt--across whom the cold shadow had so long lain, and which,
despite his love of her, would creep now and again like a cloud
over the sunshine of his face--Matt, too, would be redeemed from
his long disappointment, and renewed in strength as he saw a
purpose in his life's struggle, even the welfare of his posterity.
These thoughts, and many others, all passed through Miriam's mind
as she stood looking out from the mound upon the sundown moors.

Dreaming thus, she was startled by a well-known voice; and looking
in the direction whence the sound came, she saw her husband in the
distance beckoning her to meet him. Nor did she wait for his
further eager gesticulations, but at once, with fleet foot,
descended the slope, towards the path by which he was approaching.

Ere she reached him, however, she realized as never before the
secret she was about to confide, and for the first time in her
life became self-conscious. How could she meet Matt, and how could
she tell him? In a moment her naturalness and girlish buoyancy
forsook her. She was lost in a distrait mood. Joy changed to
shyness; a hot flush, not of shame, but of restraint, mounted her
cheeks. Then she slackened her pace, and for a moment wished that
Matt could know all apart from her confession.

To how many of nervous temperament is self-consciousness the bane
of existence--while the more such try to master it, the more
unnatural they become! It separates souls, begetting an aloofness
which, misunderstood, ends in mistrust and alienation; and it lies
at the root of too many of the fatal misconceptions of life. There
are loving hearts that would pay any price to be freed from the
self-enfolding toils that wrap them in these crisis hours. And so
would Miriam's, for she felt herself shrink within herself at the
approach of Matt. She knew nothing of mental moods, never having
heard of them, nor being able to account for, or analyze, them.
All she knew, poor girl, was that for the first time in her life
she was not herself; and as she responded to Matt's warm greeting,
she felt she was not the wife, nor the woman, who but a few weeks
ago had so affectionately farewelled him, and who but a few
moments ago so longed for his return.

Nor was Matt unconscious of this change, for as soon as the
greeting was over he said, with tones of anxiety in his voice:

'What ails thee, my lass?'

'Who sez as onnythin' ails me?' was her reply, but in a tone of
such forced merriment that Matt only grew the more concerned.

'Who sez as onnything ails thee?' cried he. 'Why those bonny een
o' thine--an' they ne'er tell lies.'

Miriam was walking at his side, her dark eyes seeking the ground,
and half hidden by the droop of their long-fringed lids. Indeed,
she was too timid to flash their open searching light, as was her
wont, into the face of Matt; and when she did look at him, as at
times she was forced to, the glance was furtive and the gaze
unsteady.

'Come, mi bonny brid (bird),' said her husband, betraying in his
voice a deeper concern, 'tell thi owd mon what's up wi thee. I've
ne'er sin thee look like this afore. Durnd look on th' grass so
mich. Lift that little yed (head) o' thine. Thaa's no need to be
ashamed o' showing thi face--there's noan so mony at's better
lookin'--leastways, I've sin noan.'

Miriam was silent; but as Matt's hand stole gently into hers, and
she felt the warm touch of his grasp, her heart leapt, and its
pent-up burden found outlet in a sob. Then he stayed his steps,
and looked at her, as a traveller would pause and look in
wonderment at the sudden portent in the heavens of a coming storm,
and putting his hand beneath the little drooping chin, he raised
the pretty face to find it wet with tears.

'Nay! nay! lass, thaa knows I conrot ston salt watter, when it's
i' a woman's een.

But Miriam's tears fell all the faster

'I'll tell yo' what it is, owd lass. I shornd hev to leave yo'
agen,' and his arm stole round the little neck, and he drew the
sorrowful face to his own, and kissed it. 'But tell yor owd mon
what's up wi yo'.'

'Ne'er mind naa, Matt; I'll--tell--thee--sometime,' sobbed the
wife.

'But I mun know naa, lass, or there'll be th' hangments to play.
I'll be bun those hens o' Whittam's hes been rootin' up thi flaars
in th' garden. By gum! if they hev, I'll oather neck 'em, or mak'
him pay for th' lumber (mischief).'

'Nowe, lad--thaa'rt--mista'en--Whittam's hens hesn't bin i' th'
garden sin' thaa towd him abaat 'em last.'

'Then mi mother's bin botherin' thee agen,' said Matt, in a sharp
tone, as though he had at last hit upon the secret of his wife's
sorrow.

'Wrang once more,' replied Miriam, with a light in her eye; and
then, looking up at her husband with a gleam, she said: 'I durnd
think as thi mother'll bother me mich more, lad.'

'Surely th' old lass isn't deead!' he cried in startled tones. And
then, recollecting her treatment of Miriam, he continued: 'But I
needn't be afeard o' that, for thaa'll never cry when th' old girl
geets to heaven. Will yo', mi bonnie un?'

'Shame on thee, Matt,' said Miriam, smiling through her tears.

'Bless thee for that smile, lass. Thaa looks more thisel naa.
There's naught like sunleet when it's in a woman's face.'

'Thaa means eyeleet,' Miriam replied, with a gleam of returning
mirth.

'Ony kind o' leet, so long as it's love-leet and joy-leet, and i'
thi face, an o'. But thaa's noan towd me what made thee so feeard
(timid) when aw met thee.'

By this time Matt and his wife were on the threshold of their
cottage, and the woman's heart beat loudly as she felt the moment
of her great confession was at hand.

'Naa, come, Merry' (he always called her Merry in the higher
moments of their domestic life)--'come, Merry, no secrets, thaa
knows. There's naught ever come atween thee and me, and if I can
help, naught ever shall.'

Miriam started, and once more wondered if the little life of which
Matt as yet knew nothing would come in between herself and him,
and divide them; or whether it would bind more closely their
already sacred union.

'Naa, Merry,' continued he, seating himself in the rocking-chair,
or 'courtin'-cheer,' as he called it, and drawing his blushing,
yielding wife gently on his knee, 'naa, Merry, whod is it?'

'Cornd ta guess?' asked she, hiding her face on his shoulder.

'Nowe, lass; aw've tried th' hens and mi mother, and aw'm wrang i'
both, an' aw never knew aught bother thee but t' one or t' other
on 'em. Where mun I go next?'

Again there were tears in Miriam's eyes, and with one supreme
effort she raised her blushing face from Matt's shoulder to his
bushy whiskers, and burying her rosy lips near his ear, whispered
something, and then sank on his breast.

Then Matt drew his wife so closely to him that she bit her lips to
stifle the cry of pain that his love-clasp brought; and when he
let her go, it was that he might shower on her a rain of kisses,
diviner than had ever been hers in the seven happy years of their
past wedded life. For some minutes Matt sat with Miriam in his
arms, a spell of sanctity and silence filling the room. In that
silence both heard a voice--a little voice--preludious of the
music of heaven, and they peopled the light which haloed them with
a presence, childlike and pure. Then it was that Miriam looked up
at her husband and said:

'Th' promise is not brokken, thaa sees, after all. It's to us and
to aar childer, for all thi mother hes said so mich abaat it.'

'Ey, lass,' replied he, his manhood swept by emotion, 'o' sich is
the kingdom o' heaven.'

And a gleam of firelight fell on the darkening wall, and lit up an
old text which hung there, and they both read, 'Children are a
heritage from God.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'An' arto baan to keep it a secret, lass?' asked Matt, when once
the spell of silence was broken.

'Why shouldn't I? There's no one as aw know as has any reet to
know but thee.'

'But they'll noan be so long i' findin' it aat. Then they'll never
let us alone, lass. There'll be some gammin', aw con tell thee.'

'I'm noan feared on 'em, Matt. I con stan' mi corner if thaa con.'

'Yi, a dozen corners naa, lass. Thaa knows it used to be hard
afore when they were all chaffin' me at th' factory, but they can
talk their tungs off naa for aught I care. But they'll soon find
it aat.'

'None as soon as thaa thinks, Matt. They've gan o'er sperrin
(being inquisitive) long sin', and when they're off th' scent
they're on th' wrang scent.'

'Aw think aw'd tell mi mother, lass, if aw were thee.'

'Let her find it aat, as t'others 'll hev to do.'

'As thaa likes, lass. But thaa knows hoo's fretted and prayed and
worrited hersel a deal abaat thee for mony a year. And if hoo deed
afore th' child were born we sud ne'er forgive aarsels.'

'Thaa'rt mebbe reet, lad. It'll pleaz her to know, and hoo's bin a
good mother to thee.'

'Yi. Hoo's often said as if hoo could nobbud be a gron'mother
hoo'd say, as owd Simeon said, "Mine een hev sin Thy salvation."'

'Well, we'll go up and see her when th' chapel loses to-morrow
afternoon. Put that leet aat, lad; it's time we closed aar een.'

Matt turned down the lamp, and shot the bolt of his cottage door,
and followed his wife up the worn stone stairway to the room
above, to rest and await the dawning of the Sabbath.

That night, as the moonbeams fell in silver shafts through the
little window, and filled the chamber with a haze of subdued
light, a mystic presence, unseen, yet felt, filled all with its
glory. The old four-poster rested like an ark in a holy of
holies, its carved posts of oak gleaming as the faces of watching
angels on those whose weary limbs were stretched thereon. The
rugged features of Matt were touched into grand relief, his hair
and beard dark on the snowy pillow and coverlet on which they
lay. On his strong, outstretched arm reposed she whom he so
dearly, and now so proudly, loved, her large, lustrous eyes
looking out into the sheeted night, her pearly teeth gleaming
through her half-opened lips, from which came and went her breath
in the regular rhythm and sweetness of perfect health. Long after
her husband slept she lay awake, silently singing her own
'Magnificat'--not in Mary's words, it is true, but with Mary's
music and with Mary's heart.

And then she slept--and the moonbeams paled before the sunrise,
and the morning air stirred the foliage of the trees that kissed
the window-panes, and little birds came and sang their matins, and
another of God's Sabbaths spread its gold and glory over the hills
of Rehoboth.



II.

HOW DEBORAH HEARD THE NEWS.


It was Sabbath on the moors--on the moors where it was always
Sabbath.

Old Mr. Morell used to say, 'For rest, commend me to these eternal
hills;' and so Matt Heap thought as he threw open his chamber
casement and looked on their outline in the light of morning
glory. Their majesty and strength were so passionless, their
repose so undisturbed. How often he wondered to himself why they
always slept--not the sleep of weariness, but of strength! And how
often, when vexed and jaded, had he shared their calm as his eyes
rested on them, or as his feet sought their solitudes! How they
stirred the inarticulate poetry of his soul! At times he found
himself wondering if their sweeping lines were broken arcs of a
circle drawn by an infinite hand; and anon, he would ask if their
mighty mounds marked the graves of some primeval age--mounds
raised by the gods to the memory of forces long since extinct.

As Matt looked at these hills, there rolled along their summits
snowy cumuli--billowy masses swept from distant cloud tempests,
and now spending their force in flecks of white across the blue
sky-sea that lay peaceful over awakening Rehoboth. A fresh wind
travelled from the gates of the sun, laden with upland sweets, and
mellowing moment by moment under the directer rays of the eastern
king; while the sycamores in the garden, as if in playful protest,
bent before the touch of its caress, only to rise and rustle as,
for the moment, they escaped the haunting and besetting breeze,
lending to their protest the dreamy play of light and shade from
newly-unsheathed leaves. There was a strange silence, too--a
silence that made mystic music in Matt's heart--a silence all the
more profound because of the distant low of oxen, and the strain
of an old Puritan hymn sung by a shepherd in a neighbouring field.
Matt's heart was full, and, though he knew it not, he was a
worshipper--he was in the spirit on the Lord's Day.

'Is that thee, Matt?'

'Yi, lass, for sure it is. Who else should it be, thinksto?'

'Nay, I knew it were noabry but thee; but one mun say summat, thaa
knows. What arto doin' at th' winder? Has th' hens getten in th'
garden agen?'

'Nowe, not as aw con see.'

'Then what arto lookin' at? Thaa seems fair gloppened
(surprised).'

'I'm nobbud lookin' aat a bit. It's a bonny seet and o', I can
tell thee.'

'Thaa's sin' it mony a time afore, lad, hesn't ta? Is there aught
fresh abaat it?'

'There's summat fresh i' mi een, awm thinkin'. Like as I never
seed th' owd country look as grand as it looks this morn.'

'Aw'll hev a look wi' thee, Matt; ther'll happen be summat fresh
for my een and o'.'

And so saying, Miriam crept to his side and, in unblushing
innocence, took her stand at the window with Matt.

It was a comely picture which the little birds saw as they
twittered round and peeped through the ivy-covered casement where
Matt and Miriam stood framed in the morning radiance and in the
glow of domestic love--she with loose tresses lying over her bare
shoulders, all glossy in the sunshine, her head resting on the
strong arm of him who owned her, and drew her in gentle pride to
his beating heart--the two together looking out in all the joy of
purity and all the unconscious ease of nature on the sun-flooded
moors.

'It's grand, lass, isn't it?'

'Yi, Matt, it is forsure.'

'And them hills--they're awlus slumberin', am't they? Doesto know,
I sometimes wish I could be as quiet as they are. They fret noan;
weet or fine, it's all th' same to them.'

'They're a bit o'er quiet for me, lad. I'd rather hev a tree
misel. It tosses, thaa knows, and tews i' th' tempest, and laughs
i' th' sunleet, and fades i' autumn. It's some like a human bein'
is a tree.'

'An' aw sometimes think there's summat very like th' Almeety i'
th' hills.'

'Doesto, Matt? Ey, aw shouldn't like to think He were so far off
as they are, nor as cowd (cold) noather.'

'Nay, lass, they're noan so far off. Didn't owd David say, "As th'
mountens are raand abaat Jerusalem, so th' Lord is raand abaat His
people"?'

'He did, forsure. But didn't he say that a good man were like a
tree planted by th' brookside?'

'Yi; and he said summat else abaat a good woman, didn't he,
Miriam?'

'What were that, lad?'

'Why, didn't th' owd songster say, "Thy wife shall be as a
fruitful vine by th' sides o' thine house, and thi childer like
olive plants raand abaat thy table"?'

Miriam blushed, and held up her lips to be kissed; nor did Matt
faintly warm them with his caresses.

       *       *       *       *       *

That afternoon, as Matt and Miriam walked down the field-path
towards the Rehoboth shrine, they wondered how it was that so much
praise was rendered to the Almighty outside the temple made with
hands. Both of them had been taught to locate God in a house.
Rehoboth chapel was His dwelling-place--not the earth with the
fulness thereof, and the heavens with their declaration of glory.
Yet, somehow or other, they felt to-day that moor and meadow were
sacred--that their feet trod paths as holy as the worn stone aisle
of the conventicle below. The airs of spring swept round them,
carrying notes from near and far--whisperings from the foliage of
trees, and cadences from moors through whose herbage the wind
lisped, and from doughs down which it moaned. Early flowers vied
with the early greenery carpeting the fields, and the grass was
long enough to wave in shadow and intermingle its countless
glistening blades. Then their hearts went out towards Nature's
harmonies; and tears started to Miriam's eyes as the larks dropped
their music from the sunny heights. Now they passed patient oxen
looking out at them with quiet, impressive eyes, and the plaintive
bleat of the little lambs still brought many a throb to Miriam's
heart.

Turning down by the Clough, they met old Enoch and his wife, who,
though on their way to Rehoboth, were so full of the spirit of the
hour and the season that they thought little of the bald ritual
and barn-like sanctuary that was drawing their steps.

'This is grond, lad,' said Enoch to Matt, as he threw back his
shoulders to take a deep inspiration of the moorland air. 'It's
fair like a breath o' th' Almeety.'

'Yi; it's comin' fro' th' delectable mountains, for sure it is.
I'm just thinkin' it's too fine to go inside this afternoon.'

'I'll tell thee what, Matt, I know summat haa that lad Jacob felt
when he co'd th' moorside th' gate o' heaven.'

'Ey, bless thee, Enoch, it wernd half as grand as this!' said his
wife, as she plucked a spray of may blossom from a hawthorn that
overarched the path through the Clough.

'Mebbe not, lass; but aw know summat haa he felt like.'

'Did it ever strike thee, Enoch, that there were a deal o'
mountain climbin' among th' owd prophets--like as they fun th'
Almeety on th' brow (hill)?'

'Aw never made much o' th' valleys, lad. Them as lived in 'em hes
bin a bad lot. We may well thank God as we live up as high as we
do. But I'll tell yo' what--we're baan to be lat' for the service.
Step it aat, lasses.'

On reaching the chapel yard, they found Amos Entwistle dismissing
his catechism class with a few words of warning as to deportment
during service, whilst old Joseph was busy cuffing the unruly lads
whose predilections for dodging round the gravestones overcame the
better instinct of reverence for the day and for the dead. Mr.
Penrose was just entering the vestry, and discordant sounds came
through the open door as of stringed instruments in process of
tuning.

The congregation was soon seated--a hardy race, reared on the
hills, and disciplined in the straitest of creeds. Stolid and
self-complacent, theirs was an unquestioning faith, accepting, as
they did, the Divine decrees as a Mohamedan accepts his fate. What
was, was right--all as it should be; elect, or non-elect, according
to the fore-knowledge, it was well. Sucking in their theology with
their mothers' milk, and cradled in sectarian traditions, they
loved justice before mercy, and seldom walked humbly before God.
And yet these Rehoboth mothers had borne and reared a strong
offspring--children hard, narrow, and self-righteous, yet of firm
fibre, and of real grit withal.

The mothers of Rehoboth were famous women, and bore the names of
the great Hebrew women of old. Among them were Leahs, Hannahs,
Hagars, and Ruths, yet none held priority to Deborah Heap, the
mother of Matt. Tall, gaunt, iron-visaged, with crisp, black locks
despite her threescore years, she was a prophetess among her
kindred--mighty in the Scriptures, and inflexible in faith.

Hers was the illustrious face of that afternoon's
congregation--the face a stranger would first fasten his eye on,
and on which his eye would remain; a face, too, he would fear.
History was writ large on every line, character had set its seal
there, and a crown of superb strength reposed on the brow. She
guarded the door of her pew, which door she had guarded since her
husband's death; and her deep-set eyes, glowing with suppressed
passion, never flinched in their gaze at the preacher. Now and
again the thin nostrils dilated as Mr. Penrose smote down some of
her idols; but for this occasional sign her martyrdom was mute and
inexpressive.

No one loved Deborah Heap, although those who knew her measured
out to her degrees of respect. She was never known to wrong friend
or foe; and yet no kindly words ever fell from her lips, nor did
music of sympathy mellow her voice. Her life had been unrelieved
by a single deed of charity. She was, in old Mr. Morell's
language, 'a negative saint.' Mr. Penrose went further, and called
her 'a Calvinistic pagan.' But none of these things moved her.

The grievance of her life was Matt's marriage with an alien; for
Miriam was a child of the Established Church. Great, too, was the
grievance that no children gladdened the hearth of the unequally
yoked couple; and this the old woman looked on as the curse of the
Almighty in return for her son's disobedience in sharing his lot
with the uncovenanted.

And yet Matt loved his mother; not, however, as he loved his wife,
for whom he held a tender, doating love, which the old woman was
quick to see, though silent to resent, save when she said that
'Matt were fair soft o'er th' lass.' Nothing so pleased him as to
be able to respect his mother's wish without giving pain to his
wife. Always loyal to Miriam, he sought to be dutiful to Deborah,
and, though the struggle was at times hard and taxing, few
succeeded better in holding a true balance of behaviour between
the twin relations of son and husband.

Now that Miriam had confided to him her secret, he felt sure his
mother's anger would be somewhat turned away when she, too, shared
it. And all through the afternoon service he moved restlessly,
eager for the hour when, at her own fireside, he could convey the
glad news to her ears.

And when that hour came, it came all too soon, for never were Matt
and Miriam more confused than when they faced each other at the
tea-table of Deborah. A painful repression was on them; ominous
silence sealed their lips, and they flushed with a heightened
colour. Matt's carefully-prepared speech forsook him--all its
prettiness and poetry escaped beyond recall; and Miriam was too
womanly to rescue him in his dilemma.

'It's some warm,' said Matt, drawing his handkerchief over his
heated brow.

'Aw durnd know as onybody feels it but thisel, lad,' replied his
mother; 'but thaa con go i' th' garden, if thaa wants to cool a
bit. Tea's happen made thee sweat.'

Then followed another painful pause, in which Miriam unconsciously
doubled up a spoon, on seeing which the old woman reminded her
that her 'siller wurnd for marlockin' wi' i' that fashion'; and no
sooner had she administered this rebuke than Matt overturned his
tea.

'Are yo' two reet i' yor yeds (heads)?' snapped his mother. 'Yo'
sit theer gawmless-like, one on yo' breakin' th' spoons, and
t'other turnin' teacups o'er. What's come o'er yo'?'

'Mother,' stammered Matt, 'Miriam has summat to tell yo'.'

'Nay, lad, thaa may tell it thisel,' said Miriam.

'Happen thaa cornd for shame, Miriam,' stammered Matt.

'I durnd know as I've ought to be ashamed on, but it seems as
though thaa hedn't th' pluck.'

The old woman grew impatient, and, supposing she was being fooled,
rose from the table, and said:

'I want to know noan o' your secrets. I durnd know as I ever axed
for 'em, and if yo' wait till aw do, I shall never know 'em.'

'It's happen one as yo'd like to know, though, mother.'

'It's happen one as you'd like to tell, lad,' replied the old
woman, softening.

'Well, if we durnd tell yo', yo'll know soon enough, for it's one
o' them secrets as willn't keep--will it, Miriam?' asked Matt of
his blushing wife.

But Miriam was silent, and refused to lift her face from the
pattern of the plate over which she bent low.

'Dun you think yor too owd to be a gronmother?' asked Matt of his
parent, growing in boldness as he warmed to his confession.

'If I were thee I'd ax mysel if I were young enugh to be a
faither, that I would,' said the old woman.

'Well, I shall happen be one afore so long, shornd I, Miriam?'

But tears were streaming from Miriam's eyes, and she answered not.

And then there dawned on the mind of Deborah the cause of her
son's confusion, and a light stole across the hard lines of her
face as she said:

'Is that it, lad? Thank God! thaa'rt in th' covenant after all.'



III.

'IT'S A LAD!'


'Naa, Matt, put on thi coite and fotch th' doctor, an tak' care
thaa doesn't let th' grass grow under thi feet.'

Matt needed no second bidding. In a moment he was ready, and
before the old nurse turned to re-ascend the chamber stairs the
faithful fellow was on his way towards the village below.

It was a morning in November, and as Matt hurried along he passed
many on their way to a day's work at the Bridge Factory in the
vale. Most of them knew him, dark though it was, and greeting him,
guessed the errand on which he raced. Once or twice he collided
with those who were slow to get out of his path, and almost
overturned old Amos Entwistle into the goit as he pushed past him
on the bank that afforded the nearest cut to the village.

'Naa, lad, who arto pushin' agen, and where arto baan i' that
hurry? Is th' haase o' fire, or has th' missus taan her bed?'

But Matt was beyond earshot before the old man finished his rude
rebuke.

Throughout the whole of his journey Matt's mind was a prey to wild
and foreboding passion--passion largely the product of a rude and
superstitious mind. Questions painful, if not foolish, haunted and
tormented him. Would Miriam die? Had not the seven years of their
past life been too happy to last? Did not his mother once reverse
the old Hebrew proverb, and warn him that a night of weeping would
follow a morning of joy? Would Heaven be avenged on his occasional
fits of discontent, and grant him his wish for a child at the cost
of the life of his wife? He had heard how the Almighty discounted
His gifts; how selfish men had to pay dearly for what they
wrenched against the will of God. As he hurried, these thoughts
followed on as fleet feet as his own, and moaned their voices in
his ears with the sounds of the wind.

It was not long before he reached Dr. Hale's door, where he so
lustily rung, that an immediate response was given to his summons,
the man of science putting his head through the window and asking
in peremptory tones who was there.

'It's me, doctor--me--Matt, yo' know--Matt Heap--th' missis is i'
bed, and some bad an' o'. Ne'er mind dressin'. Come naa;' and the
half-demented man panted for breath.

'I'll be with you in a minute, Matt. Don't lose your head, that's
a good fellow,' and so saying, the doctor withdrew to prepare for
the journey.

To Matt, the doctor's minute seemed unending. He shuffled his feet
impatiently along the gravel-path, and beat a tattoo with his
fingers on the panels of the door, muttering under his breath
words betraying an impatient and agitated mind; and when at last
the doctor joined him, ready for departure, the strain of suspense
was so great that both tears and sobs wrung themselves from his
overstrained nature.

The two men walked along in silence, Matt being too timid to
question the doctor, the doctor not caring to give Matt the chance
of worrying him with foolish fears. Now and again Matt in his
impatience tried to lead the doctor into a run, but in this the
self-possessed man checked him, knowing that he covered the most
ground who walked with an even step. For a little time Matt
submitted to the restraint without a murmur. At last, however, his
patience failed him, and he said:

'Do yo' never hurry, doctor?'

'Sometimes, Matt'

'And when is those times, doctor?

'They're bad times, Matt--times of emergency, you know.'

'An' durnd yo' think my missis is hevin' a bad time up at th'
cottage yonder? I welly think yo' might hurry up a bit, doctor.
You'll geet paid for th' job, yo' know. I'm noan afraid o' th'
brass.'

Dr. Hale laughed at the importunity of Matt, but knowing the
doggedness of the man, somewhat quickened his steps, assuring his
impatient companion that all would be well. The doctor soon,
however, regretted his easy-going optimism, for on mounting the
brow before the cottage, Malachi o' th' Mount's wife met him, and
running out towards him, said:

'Hurry up, doctor; thaa'rt wanted badly, I con tell thee. Hoo's
hevin' a bad time on't, and no mistak'.'

It did not take the doctor long to see that his patient was in the
throes of a crisis, and with a will he set about his trying work,
all the more confident because he knew the two women by his side
were experienced hands--hands on whom he could rely in hours of
emergency such as the one he was now called to face.

As for Matt, he sat in the silent kitchen with his feet on the
fender and an unlighted pipe between his teeth. The morning sun
had long since crossed the moors, but its light brought no joy to
his eyes--with him, all was darkness. He heard overhead the
occasional tread of the doctor's foot, and the movements of the
ministering women, while occasionally one of them would steal
quietly down for something needed by the patient above. Between
these breaks--welcome breaks to Matt--the silence became
distressful, and the suspense a burden. Why that hush? What was
going on in those fearful pauses? Could they not tell him how
Miriam was? Was he not her husband, and had he not a right to know
of her who was his own? By what right did the women--good and kind
though they were--step in between himself and her whom he loved
dearer than life? And as these questions pressed him he rose to
climb the stairway and claim a share in ministering to the
sufferings of the one who was his own. But when he reached the
foot he paused, his nerve forsook him, and he trembled like a leaf
beneath the breeze. Straining his ear, he listened, but no sound
came save a coaxing and encouraging word from the old nurse, or a
brief note of instruction from Dr. Hale. Should he call her by her
name? Should he address her as Merry, the pet name which he only
addressed to her? He opened his lips, but his tongue lay heavy. He
could scarcely move it, and as he moved it in his attempt to
speak, he heard its sound as it parted from, or came in contact
with, the dry walls of his mouth. How long he could have borne
this suspense it would be hard to say, had he not heard his
mother's voice at the kitchen-door calling.

'Is that yo', mother?' said Matt, dragging himself from the foot
of the stairway leading to the chamber above. 'Is that yo'?'

'Ey, Matt, whatever's to do wi' thee; aw never see thee look like
that afore. Is Miriam bad, or summat?'

'Nay, mother, they willn't tell me. But go yo' upstairs, and when
you've sin for yorsel come daan and tell me.'

Old Deborah took her son's advice, and went upstairs to where the
suffering woman lay pale and prostrate. She saw, by a glance at
the doctor's face, that he was more than anxious, while the mute
signs of the nurse and Malachi o' th' Mount's wife confirmed her
worst suspicions.

During his mother's absence there returned on Matt the horrible
suspense which her visit had in part enabled him to throw off.
Once more he felt the pressure of the silence, and the room in
which he sat became haunted with a terrible vacancy--a vacancy
cold and shadowy with an unrelieved gloom. There all round him
were the familiar household gods; there they stood in their
appointed places, but where was the hand that ruled them, the
deity that gave grace to that domestic kingdom of the moors? He
looked for the shadow of her form as it was wont to fall on the
hearth, but there was only a blank. He lent his ear to catch the
voice so often raised in merry snatch of song, but not the echo of
a sound greeted him. There was a room only, swept and garnished,
but empty. Then he thought of the great drama of life which was
being enacted in the chamber overhead, and he asked himself why
the hours were so many and why they walked with such leaden feet.
There was she, his Merry, torn between the forces of life and
death, giving of her own that she might perpetuate life, and
braving death that life might be its lord--there was she, fighting
alone! save for the feeble help of science and the cheer and
succour of kindly care, while he, strong man that he was, sat
there, powerless, his very impotence mocking him, and his groans
and anguish but the climax of his despair.

In a little while Matt's mother came downstairs with hopelessness
written on every line of her hard face.

'Thaa'll hev to mak' up thi mind to say good-bye to Miriam, lad.
Hoo's noan baan to howd aat much longer. Hoo's abaat done, poor
lass!'

'Yo' mornd talk like that to me, mother, or I'll put yo' aat o'
the haase. I'm noan baan to say good-bye to Merry yet, by ---- I'
ammot!'

'Well, lad, thaa's no need to be either unnatural nor blasphemous
o'er th' job. What He wills, He wills, thaa knows; and if thaa
willn't bend, thaa mun break.'

'But I'll do noather, mother. Miriam's noan baan to dee yet, I con
tell yo'.'

Just then Dr. Hale descended from the chamber, and beckoning Matt,
whispered in his ear that he deemed it right to tell him that he
feared the worst would overtake his wife, and that she would like
to see him.

The words came to Matt as the first great blow of his life. True,
he had anticipated the worst; but now that it came it was tenfold
more severe than his anticipation. Looking at Dr. Hale with eyes
too dry for tears, he said:

'Aw connot see her, doctor; aw connot see her. Yo' an' th' women
mun do yor best; and don't forget to ax the Almighty to help yo'.'
And so saying, Matt went out in despair into the wild November
day.

As he rushed into the raw air the wind dashed the rain in his face
as though to beat him back within his cottage home. Heedless of
these, however, he pressed forward, wild with grief, seeking to
lose his own madness amid the whirl and confusion of the storm.
Low-lying, angry clouds seethed round the summits of the distant
hills, and mists, like shrouds, hung over the drear and leafless
cloughs. The moorland grasses lay beaten and colourless--great
swamps--reservoirs where lodged the moisture of a long autumn's
rain, while the roads were limp and sodden, and heavy for the
wayfarer's foot. But Matt was heedless of these; and striking a
drift path that crossed the hills, he followed its trend. Along it
he walked--nay, raced rather, like a man pursued. And pursued he
was; for he sought in vain to escape the passions that preyed on
him, tormenting him. Sorrow, anguish, death; these were at his
heels; and, worse than all, he thought his dying wife was
following him, pleading for his return. Why had he forsaken her?
Was it not cowardice--the cowardice and selfishness of his grief?
Once or twice a fascination took hold of him, and, despite the
terror that awed him, he threw a glance over his shoulder to see
if after all he were pursued by the shadow he so much feared to
meet. Then the wind began to utter strange sounds--wailings and
lamentations--its burden being a wild entreaty to return; and once
he thought he heard an infant's cry, and he paused in his despair.

A steep and rugged path lay before him--a path that led under
trees whose swaying branches flung off raindrops in blinding
showers, and a gleam of light shot shaft-like from a rift in the
sombre clouds, and falling across his feet, led him to wonder how
heaven could shed a fitful smile on sorrow like his own.

Familiar with the moods of nature, he deemed the hour to be that
of noon; nor was he mistaken, for the sky began to clear, and with
the light came the return to a calmer mind. He now, for the first
time, realized the folly--probably the disaster--of his flight.
Might he not be needed at the cottage? Was not his dying wife's
prayer for his presence and succour? Had not an unmanly
selfishness led him to play the coward? Thoughts like these led
him to marshal his resolves, and turn his steps towards the valley
below.

No sooner did he do this than a strong self-possession came to
him, and swift was his return. The clouds were now parting, and as
they chased one another towards the distant horizon, the sun--the
watery November sun--shone out in silver upon the great stretch of
moorland, and lit it up like a sea of light. Little globes of
crystal glistened on the hedgerows, and many-coloured raindrops
glowed like jewelled points on the blades of green that lay about
his feet. A great arch of sevenfold radiance spanned the valley,
based on either side from the twin slopes, and reaching with its
crown to the summit of the skies. It was now a passage from Hebrew
tradition came to his mind, and he thought of him of whom the poet
wrote, 'and as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him.'

And yet his heart failed him as he drew within sight of the
cottage door. Was it the house of life, or the house of death?--or
was it the house where death and life alike were victorious? He
paused, and felt the blood flow back to its central seat, while
his bones began to shake, and his heart was poured out like water.
But the battle was won, though the struggle was not over, and he
pressed on towards his home.

The first thing he saw on entering the door was Dr. Hale seated
before a cup of steaming tea, with a great weariness in his eye,
who, when he saw Matt, threw a look of rebuke, and in somewhat
stern tones said:

'You can go upstairs, Matt, if you like; it's all over.'

With a spasm in his throat Matt was about to ask what it was that
was all over; but he was forestalled by old Malachi's wife, who,
pushing her head through the staircase doorway into the room,
cried:

'It's a lad, Matt, and a fine un an' o'!'

'Hang th' lad!' cried Matt; 'how's Miriam?'

'Come and see for thisel; hoo's bin waitin' for thee this hawve
haar.'

With a bound or two Matt cleared the stairway and stood by the
side of Miriam.

There she lay, poor girl! limp and exhausted, wrapped in her old
gown like a mummy, her long, wet hair, which was scattered in
tresses on the pillow, throwing, in its dark frame, her face into
still greater pallor.

'Thaa munnot speak, Miriam,' said the nurse in a low tone. 'If
thaa moves tha'll dee. Thaa can kiss her, Matt; but that's all.'

Matt kissed his wife, and baptized her with his warm tears.

'And hesn't thaa getten a word for th' child, Matt?' cried old
Deborah, who sat with a pulpy form upon her knees before the fire.
'It's thy lad and no mistak'; it favours no one but thisel. Look
at its yure (hair), bless it!' And old Deborah stooped over it and
wept. Wept--which she had never done since her girlhood's days.

But Matt's eyes were fixed on Miriam, until she, breaking through
the orders of the doctor, said:

'Matt, do look at th' baby--it's thine, thaa knows.'

And then Matt looked at the baby. For the first time in his life
he looked at a new-born baby, and at a baby to whom he was linked
by ties of paternity, and his heart went out towards the little
palpitating prophecy of life--so long expected, and perfected at
such a price. And he took it in his arms, while old Deborah said:

'Thaa sees, lad, God's not forgetten to be gracious. Th' promise
is still to us and aars.'

But Malachi's wife sent Matt downstairs, saying:

'We'n had enugh preachin' and cryin'. Go and ged on wi' thi wark.
Th' lass is on th' mend, and hoo'll do gradely weel.'



IV.

THE LEAD OF THE LITTLE ONE.


The child grew, and its first conquest was the heart of old
Deborah. Before the little life she bowed, and what her
Calvinistic creed was weak to do for her, a love for her grandson
accomplished. Often and long would she look into his face as he
lay in her arms, until at last she, too, caught the child-feature
and the child-smile. Rehoboth said old Deborah was renewing her
youth; for she had been known to laugh and croon, and more than
once purse up her old lips to sing a snatch of nursery rhyme--a
thing which in the past she had denounced as tending to 'mak'
childer hush't wi' th' songs o' sin.' The hard look died away from
her eyes, and her mouth ceased to wear its sealed and drawn
expression. The voice, too, became low and mellow, and her
religion, instead of being that of the Church, was now that of the
home.

One morning, while carrying the child through the meadows, she was
overtaken by Amos Entwistle, who stopped her, saying:

'Tak' care, Deborah, tak' care, or the Almeety will overthrow thi
idol. Thaa'rt settin' thi affections on things o' th' earth; and
He'll punish thee for it.'

'An' do yo' co this babby one o' th' things o' th' earth?' cried
the old woman fiercely.

'Yi, forsure I do. What else mut it be?'

'Look yo' here, Amos,' said Deborah, raising the child in her arms
so that her rebuker might look into its little features, ruddy and
reposeful--features where God's fresh touch still lingered; 'luk
yo' here. Han yo' never yerd that childer's angels awlus behold
th' face o' their Faither aboon?'

'Eh! Deborah, lass, aw never thought as Mr. Penrose ud turn thi
yed and o'. Theer's a fearful few faithful ones laft i' Zion
naa-a-days. Bud aw tell thee, th' Lord'll smite thi idol, and
it'll be thro' great tribulation that tha'll enter th' Kingdom.'

'I'd ha' yo' to know, Amos Entwistle, that I'm noan in yor
catechism class, an' I'm noan baan to be. Yo' can tak' an' praitch
yor rubbidge somewheer else. Yo've no occasion to come to me, I
con tell yo'.' And then, looking down at the reposeful little
face, she kissed it, and continued, 'Did he co thee an idol, my
darlin'? Ne'er heed him, owd powse ud he is!'

Before nightfall Deborah's encounter with Amos was the talk of
Rehoboth, and it was freely reported that the old woman had become
an infidel. Whether the cause of her infidelity resulted from Mr.
Penrose's preaching or the advent of her grandchild was a disputed
point. Old Amos declared, however, 'that there were a bit o' both
in it, but he feared th' chilt more than th' parson.'

Deborah's first great spiritual conflict--as they called it in
Rehoboth--was when her grandchild cut its first teeth. The eye of
the grandmother had been quick to note a dulness and sleepiness in
the baby--strange to a child of so lively and observant a
turn--and judging that the incisors were parting the gums, she
wore her finger sore with rubbing the swollen integuments.

One morning, as she was continuing these operations, she felt the
child stiffen on her knee, and looking, saw the little eyes glide
and roll as though drawn by a power foreign to the will. A
neighbour, who was hastily called, declared it to be convulsions,
and for some hours the little life hung in the balance. It was
during these hours that Deborah fought her first and only great
fight with Him whom she had been taught to address as 'th'
Almeety.'

Ever since her conflict with Amos, she could not free her mind
from superstitious thoughts about 'the idol.' Did she love the
child overmuch, and would her over-love be punished by the child's
death? She had heard and read of this penalty which the Almighty
imposed upon those who loved the creature more than the Creator;
and she, poor soul, to hinder this, had tried to love both the
Giver and the gift. Nay, did she not love the Giver all the more,
because she loved the gift so much? This was the question that
vexed her. Why had God given her something to love if He did not
mean her to love it?--and could she love too much what God had
given? Once she put this question to Mr. Penrose, and his reply
lived in her mind: 'If there is no limit to God's love of us, why
should we fear to love one another too dearly or too well?' But
now the test had come. The child was in danger; a shadow fell on
the idol. Was it the shadow of an angry God--a God insulted by a
divided love?

It was in the torturing hold of questions such as these that she
once more met Amos, who, laying the flattering unction to his soul
that he could forgive his enemies, struck a stab straight at her
heart by saying:

'Well, Deborah, th' chilt's dying, I yer. I towd thee he would.
Th' Almeety goes hawves wi' no one. He'll hev all or noan.'

'What! doesto mak' aat He's as selfish as thisel, Amos? Nay, I mun
hev a better God nor thee.'

'Well, a' tell thee, He's baan to tak' th' lad, so thaa mut as
weel bow to His will. Them as He doesn't bend He breaks.'

'Then He'll hev to break me, Amos; for aw shall never bend, aw con
tell thee.' And the old woman stiffened herself, as though in
defiance of the Providence which Amos preached.

'Why, Deborah, thaa'rt wur nor a potsherd. Thaa knows thi Bible:
"Let the potsherds strive wi' th' potsherds; but woe to th' mon
that strives wi' his Maker."'

'Well, I'm baan to wrostle wi' Him, an' if He flings me aw shannot
ax yo' to pick me up, noather.'

'Thaa mun say, "Thy will be done," Deborah.'

'Nowe! never to th' deeath o' yon chilt.'

'Doesto say thaa willn't?'

'Yi, Amos, aw do!'

Then Amos turned away, groaning in spirit at the rebellious hearts
of the children of men.

The child came safely through the convulsions, however, and as the
sharp edges of the little teeth gleamed through the gums, the old
woman would rub her finger over them until she felt the smart, and
with tearful eye thank God for the gift He had spared, as well as
for the gift He had granted--little dreaming that as she nursed
her treasure she nursed also her mentor--one who, though in the
feebleness of infancy, was drawing her back to a long-lost
childhood, and bidding return to her the days of youth.

The old grandmother now became the light of Matt and Miriam's
home. Instead of paying the occasional visit at her house, she was
ever at theirs--indeed, she could not rest away from the child.
Miriam long since had ceased to fear her. 'The little un,' as she
used to tell Matt, 'had drawed th' owd woman's teeth;' to which
Matt used to reply, 'Naa, lass, the teeth's there, but hoo's gi'en
o'er bitin'.'

Not infrequently, both son and daughter would rally her on the
many indulgences she granted the child, and Matt often told her
that what 'he used to ged licked for, th' chilt geet kissed for.'
Mr. Penrose, too, ventured to discuss theology with Matt in the
old woman's presence, and she no longer eyed him with angry fire
as he discoursed from the Rehoboth pulpit on the larger hope. As
for Amos Entwistle, he continued to prophesy the death of the
child, and when it still lived and throve, in spite of his
prediction, he contented himself by saying that 'Deborah hed
turned the Owd Testament blessin' into a curse.'

       *       *       *       *       *

On Sunday afternoons Matt and Miriam would leave the boy at his
grandmother's while they went to the service at Rehoboth. Then it
was the old woman took down the family Bible, and showed to him
the plates representative of the marvels of old. These began to
work on the child's imagination; and once, when the book lay open
at Revelation, he fastened his little eyes on a hideous
representation of the bottomless pit.

'What's that, gronny?' said he, pointing to the picture.

'That, mi lad, is th' hoile where all th' bad fo'k go.'

'Who dug it? Did owd Joseph, gronny?'

'Nowe, lad; owd Joseph nobbud digs hoiles for fo'k's bodies. That
hoile is fer their souls.'

'What's them, gronny?'

'Nay, lad! A connot tell thee reet--but it's summat abaat us as we
carry wi' us--summat, thaa knows, that never dees.'

'And why do they put it in a hoile, gronny? Is it to mak' it
better?'

'Nay, lad; they put it i' th' hoile because it's noan good.'

'Then it's summat like mi dad when I'm naughty, an' he says he'll
put me i' th' cellar hoile.'

'But he never does--does he, lad?' asked the grandmother
anxiously.

'Nowe, gronny. He nobbud sez he will.' And then, after a pause, he
continued, 'But, gronny, if God sez He'll put 'em in He'll do as
He sez--willn't He?'

'Yi, lad; He will, forsure.'

'An' haa long does He keep 'em in when He gets 'em theer? Till
to-morn t'neet?'

'Longer lad.'

'Till Kesmas?'

'Yi, lad.'

'Longer nor Kesmas?'

'Yi, lad. But ne'er heed. Here's summat to eat. Sithee, I baked
thee a pasty.'

'I noan want th' pasty, gronny. I want to yer abaat th' hoile. Haa
long does God keep bad fo'k in it?'

'Ey, lad. I wish thaa'd hooisht! What doesto want botherin' thi
little yed wi' such like talk?'

'Haa long does He keep 'em i' th' hoile?' persistently asked the
boy.

'Well, if thaa mun know, He keeps 'em in for ever.'

'An' haa long's that, gronny? Is it as long as thee?'

'As long as me, lad! Whatever doesto mean?'

'I mean is forever as long as thaa'rt owd? Haa owd arto, gronny?'

'I'm sixty-five, lad.'

'Well, does He keep 'em i' the hoile sixty-five years?'

'Yi, lad. He does, forsure. But thi faither never puts thee i' th'
cellar hoile when thaa's naughty, does he?'

'Nowe. I tell thee he nobbud sez he will,'

'By Guy, lad! If ever he puts thee i' th' cellar hoile--whether
thaa'rt naughty or not--thaa mun tell me, and I'll lug his yed for
him.' And the old woman became indignant in her mien.

'But if God puts fo'k i' th' hoile, why shuldn't mi faither put me
i' th' hoile? It's reet to do as God does--isn't it, gronny?'

'Whatever wilto ax me next, lad?' cried the worn-out and perplexed
old woman. 'Come, shut up th' Bible, and eat thi pasty.'

But the little fellow's appetite was gone, and as he fell asleep
on the settle his slumber was fitful, for dark dreams disturbed
him--he had felt the first awful shadow of a dogmatic faith.

Nor was old Deborah less disturbed. Sitting by the fire, with one
eye on the child and the other on her Bible, the gloomy shadows of
a shortening day creeping around her, she, too, with her mind's
eye, saw the regions of woe--the flaming deeps where hope comes
never. What if that were her grandchild's doom!--her grandchild,
whose father she would smite if even for a moment he shut his
little son up in the cellar of his home! How her heart loathed the
passion, the cruelty, that would wreak such an act! And yet He
whom she called God had reserved blackness and darkness for ever
for the disobedient and rebellious.

Horror took hold of her, and the sweat moistened her brow. The
firelight played on the curls of the sleeping boy, and she started
as she thought of that other fire that was never quenched, and she
rose and shook her clenched hand at heaven as the possibility of
the singeing of a single hair of the child passed through her
mind.

For a time Deborah stood alone, without a God, the faith in which
she had been trained, and in which she had sheltered in righteous
security, shrinking into space until she found herself in the void
of a darkness more terrible than that of the pit which she had
been speaking of to the child. She saw how that hitherto she had
only believed she believed, and that now, when her soul was
touched in its nether deeps, she had never believed at all in the
creed which she had fought for and upheld with such bitterness.
There, in the twilight of that Sabbath evening, she uttered what,
to Rehoboth, would have been a terrible renunciation, just as a
lurid beam shot its level fire across the moors, and as the sun
went down, leaving her in the horror of a great darkness.

And then, in the gathering gloom, was heard the voice of the child
calling:

'Gronny! Gronny!'

'Well, mi lad, what is't?'

'Gronny, I don't believe i' th' hoile.'

'Bless thee, my darlin'--no more do I.'

'I durnd think as God ud send me where yo' an' mi dad wouldn't let
me go--would He, gronny?'

'Nowe, lad, He wouldn't, forsure.'

And then, lighting the lamp, and turning with the old superstition
to her Bible to see what the law and the testimony had to say as
she opened it at random, her eyes fell on the words: 'If ye, then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how
much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to
them that ask Him.'

That afternoon, when Matt and Miriam returned from Rehoboth, they
found old Deborah less than the little child she watched over; for
she, too, had not only become as a little child, but, as she said,
least among the little ones.



VII.

HOW MALACHI O' TH' MOUNT WON HIS WIFE.


'So yo' want to know haa aw geet hand o' my missus, dun yo', Mr.
Penrose? Well, if hoo'll nobbud be quiet while aw'm abaat it,
aw'll tell yo'.'

And so saying, Malachi drew his chair to the fire, and blew a
cloud of tobacco-smoke towards the rows of oat-cakes that hung on
the brade fleygh over his head.

'It's forty year sin' I furst wore shoe-leather i' Rehoboth, Mr.
Penrose.'

'Nay, lad, it's noan forty year whol Candlemas. It were February,
thaa knows, when thaa come; and it's nobbud October yet. An' thaa
didn't wear shoon noather, thaa wore clogs--clogs as big as boats,
Mr. Penrose; an' they co'd him Clitter-clatter for a nickname.
Hasto forgetten, Malachi?'

'Aw wish thaa wouldn't be so plaguey partic'lar, lass, an' let a
felley get on wi' his tale,' said Malachi to his wife. And then,
turning to Mr. Penrose, he continued: 'Aw were tryin' to say as it
were forty year sin' I come to Rehoboth.'

'Forty year come Candlemas, Malachi.'

'Yi, forty year come Candlemas. Aw were bred and born aboon
Padiham, an' aw come to th' Brig Factory as cut-looker, an' never
laft th' job till aw went to weighin' coil on th' pit bonk.'

'All but that eighteen month thaa were away i' Yorksur, when th'
cotton panic were on, thaa knows, lad.'

'Yi, lass, aw know. Naa let me ged on wi' mi tale. Well, as aw
were sayin', Mr. Penrose, I come in these parts as cut-looker at
th' Brig Factory, and th' fust lass as brought her piece to me
were Betty yonder.'

'Thaa'rt wrang agen, Malachi. Th' fust lass as brought her piece
to thee were Julia Smith. Aw remember as haa hoo went in afore me,
as though it were nobbud yester morn.'

'Well, never mind, thaa wur t' fust I seed, an' that's near enugh,
isn't it, Mr. Penrose?'

The minister nodded, and smiled at old Betty, who so jealously
followed the story of her husband's early life.

'Well, when hoo put her piece daan afore me, I couldn't tak' mi
een off her. Aw were fair gloppent (taken by surprise), an' aw did
naught but ston' an' stare at her.

'"What arto starin' at?" hoo said, flushin' up to her yure (hair).

'"At yo'," I said, as gawmless as a nicked goose.

'"Then thaa'd better use thi een for what th'art paid for, an'
look at them pieces i'stead o' lookin' at lasses' faces."

'And hoo walked aat o' th' warehaase like a queaan. An' dun yo'
remember, Betty, haa th' young gaffer laffed at me, an' said as aw
could noan play wi' th' likes o' yo'?'

'Yi, aw remember, Malachi; but ged on wi' yor tale. Mr. Penrose
here is fair plagued.'

'Indeed, I'm not. Go on, Malachi. Take your own time, and tell
your story in your own fashion.'

'Aw will, Mr. Penrose, if hoo'll nobbud let me. Betty were a
four-loom weyver; and i' those days there wernd so many lasses as
could tackle th' job. An' th' few that could were awlus piked up
pratty quick for wives--for them as married 'em had no need to
work theirsels, and had lots o' time on their hands for laking
(playing) and such-like. Bud that wernd th' reason aw made up to
Betty. It wernd th' looms that fetched me; it were her een.
There's some breetness in 'em yet; bud yo' should ha' sin 'em
forty years sin'! They leeted up her bonnie cheeks like dewdrops
i' roses; an' noabry 'at looked i' them could see ought wrang i'
'em.'

'Malachi, if thaa doesn't hold thi tung I'll smoor (smother) thee
wi' this stockin'. Thaa'rt as soft as when thaa were a lad;' and
the old woman held up the article of clothing that she was darning
in her hand, and shook it in a threatening manner at her eloquent
spouse.

'In a bit, Mr. Penrose, I geet as I couldn't for shame to look
into Betty's een at all; an' then aw took to blushin' every time
hoo come i' th' warehouse wi' her pieces, an' when hoo spoke, aw
trembled all o'er like a barrow full o' size. One day hoo'd a
float in her piece, and aw couldn't find it i' mi heart to bate
her. And when th' manager fun it aat, he said if I'd gone soft
o'er Betty, it were no reason why aw should go soft o'er mi wark,
and he towd me to do mi courtin' i' th' fields and not i' th'
factory. But it were yeasier said nor done, aw can tell yo', for
Betty were a shy un, and bided a deal o' gettin' at.

'There used to be a dur (door) leadin' aat o' th' owd warehaase
into th' weyvin' shed, an' one day aw get a gimlik an' bored a
hoile so as aw could peep thro' an' see Betty at her wark. It
wernd so often as aw'd a chance, bud whenever th' manager's back
were turned, an' aw were alone, I were noan slow to tak' my
chance. It were wheer I could just see Betty at her looms. Bless
thee, lass, aw think aw can see thee naa, bendin' o'er thi looms
wi' a neck as praad as a swan's, thi fingers almost as nimble as
th' shuttle, an' that voice o' thine treblin' like a brid!'

'Do ged on wi' yor tale, Malachi; what does Mr. Penrose want to
know abaat lasses o' forty year sin'? He's geddin' one o' his
own--and that's enough for him, aw'm sure.'

'Aw nobbud want him to know that there were bonnie lasses i' aar
time as well as i' his--that were all, Betty.'

'Well, ged on wi' yo', an' durnd be so long abaat it, Malachi.'

'One day, Mr. Penrose, as aw were peepin' through th' hoile i' th'
warehaase dur at Betty, aw could see that there were summat wrong
wi' one o' th' warps, for hoo were reachin' and sweatin' o'er th'
loom, an' th' tackler were stannin' at her side, an' a deal too
near and o' for my likin', aw con tell yo'.

'Just as hoo were stretchin' her arm, and bendin' her shoulders to
get owd o' th' ends, the tackler up wi' his an' clips her raand
th' waist.

'Well, hoo were up like a flesh o' greased leetnin', and fetched
him a smack o'er th' face as made him turn the colour o' taller
candles. Yo' remember that, Betty, durnd yo'?

'Yi! aw remember that, Malachi,' said the old woman, proudly
recalling the days of her youthful prowess; 'there were no man 'at
ever insulted me twice.'

'When aw see th' tackler put his arm raand Betty, I were through
th' dur and down th' alley wi' a hop, skip and jump, and hed him
on th' floor before yo' could caant twice two. We rowl'd o'er
together, for he were a bigger mon nor me, an' I geet my yed
jowled agen th' frame o' th' loom. But I were no white-plucked un,
an' aw made for him as if aw meant it. He were one too mony,
however, for he up wi' his screw-key and laid mi yed open, an'
I've carried this mark ever sin'.' And the old man pointed to a
scar, long since healed, in his forehead. 'Then they poo'd us
apart, an' said we mutn't feight among th' machinery, so we geet
up an' agreed to feight it aat i' th' Far Holme meadow that neet,
an' we did. We fought for over hawve an haar, summat like fifteen
raands, punsin' and o' (kicking with clogs). As aw told yo', he
were th' bigger mon; bud then aw hed a bit o' science o' mi side,
an' I were feytin' for th' lass aw luved, an' when he come up for
th' fifteenth time, I let drive atween his een, and he never seed
dayleet for a fortnit.'

'An' thaa were some stiff when it were all o'er, Malachi,' said
Betty.

'Yo're reet, lass! Aw limped for more nor a week, but aw geet
thee, an' aw meant it, if aw'd had to feight fifteen raands
more--'

'So, like the knights of olden time, Malachi, you fought for your
fair lady and won her.'

'Nay, Mr. Penrose, you morn'd think he nobbud won me wi' a feight;
he'd summat else to do for me beside that. Aw noan put mysel up
for a boxin' match, aw con tell yo'.'

'Nowe, Mr. Penrose, th' feight were nobbud th' start like. It were
sometime afore th' job were settled. Yo' see, I were a shy sort o'
a chap and back'ard like at comin' for'ard. One day, haaever,
Molly o' th' Long Shay come up to me when th' factory were losin',
and hoo said, "Malachi, arto baan to let Amos Entwistle wed that
lass o' Cronshaw's? for if thaa art thaa'rt a foo' (fool). Thaa'rt
fond o' her, and hoo's fond o' thee. If hoo's too praad to ax thee
to be her husband hoo's noan too praad to say 'Yea' if tha'll
nobbud ax her to be thi wife."

'Molly o' Long Shay were noan sich a beauty, bud aw felt as aw
could aw liked to ha' kuss'd her that day, an' no mistak'.

'"Ey, Molly," aw said, "if aw thought thaa spok' truth, aw'd see
Betty to-neet."

'"See her, mon," hoo said, "an' get th' job sattled."

'Well, yo' mun know, Mr. Penrose, that Betty's faither were fond
o' rootin' i' plants, an' as aw'd a turn that way mysel I thought
aw'd just walk up as far as his haase, and buy a twothree, and try
and hev a word wi' Betty i' th' bargain. So aw weshed mysel, and
donned mi Sunday best, and went up.

'When aw geet theer, Betty were i' th' garden by hersel, as her
faither were gone to a deacons' meetin' at Rehoboth.

'"What arto doin' up here, Malachi?" hoo sez.

'"I've nobbud come up to see thi faither abaat some flaars," aw
stuttered.

'"He'll noan be up for an hour or two yet," hoo said. "He's gone
to Rehoboth. Is it a flaar as aw con get for thee?"

'"Yi!" aw sez, "yo' con get me th' flaar aw want."

'"Which is it?" said hoo. "Is it one o' those lilies mi faither
geet fro' th' hall?"

'"Nowe," aw said; "it didn't come fro' th' hall; it awlus grow'd
here."

'"Well, if thaa'll tell me which it is, thaa shall hev it; where
abaats is it?"

'Mr. Penrose, did yo' ever try an' shap' your mouth to tell a lass
as yo' luved hir?'

Mr. Penrose remained silent.

'Well, if ever yo' did, then yo' know haa aw felt when hoo axed me
where th' flaar were as aw wanted. Aw couldn't for shame to tell
her. Then hoo turned on me an' said:

'"If thaa'll tell me where the flaar is I'll give it thee, but
don't stand grinnin' theer."

'Then aw plucked up like. Aw said: "Aw think thaa knows where th'
flaar is, Betty. An' as thaa said I mun hev it, I'll tak' it." And
I gave her a kuss on th' cheek 'at were nearest to me.'

'And did she strike you as she struck the tackler?' asked Mr.
Penrose.

'Did hoo strike me--? Nowe; hoo turned t'other cheek and geet a
better and longer kuss nor th' first.'

'So that is how Malachi won you, is it, Betty? The story is worth
a chapter in a novel.'

'Nay, aw wernd so easily won as that, Mr. Penrose. There were
summat else i' th' way, and aw welly thought once he'd ha' lost
me.'

'And what was that?'

'Well, yo' see,' said Malachi, 'Betty were a dipper, an' I were a
sprinkler. And when I axed th' old mon for Betty he said as
dippin' and sprinklin' wouldn't piece up. And then hoo were a
Calvin an' I were a Methody, and that were wur and wur.

'Th' owd mon stood to his gun, and wouldn't say "Yez" till I gave
in; an' aw stood to mi gun, and to Betty an' o', an' towd her
faither 'at aw were as good as ony on 'em. One day th' lass come
to me wi' tears in her een, and said:

'"Malachi, didsto ever read Solomon's Song?"

'"Yi, forsure aw did. Why doesto ax me that question?"

'"Doesto remember th' seventh verse o' th' last chapter?" hoo
said.

'"Aw cannot say as 'ow I do. What is it?"

'"It's that," said hoo, puttin' her little Bible i' my hand.

'And when I tuk it aw read, "Many waters cannot quench love."

'"Well," aw sez, "what abaat that?"

'"Why," hoo cried, "thaa'rt lettin' Rehoboth waters quench thine."

'"Haa doesto mean?" aw axed.

'"Why, thaa willn't be dipped for me."'

Here Mr. Penrose broke into a hearty laugh, and complimented
Betty, telling her she was the sort of woman to make 'converts to
the cause.' Then old Malachi put on his wisest look, and
continued:

'Mr. Penrose, aw mut as weel tell yo' afore yo' get wed, that it's
no use feightin' agen a woman. They're like Bill o' th' Goit's
donkey, they'll goa their own gate, an' th' more yo' bother wi'
'em th' wur they are. A mon's wife mak's him. Hoo shap's
everythin' for him, his clooas, his gate, and his religion an' o'.
Talk abaat clay i' th' honds o' th' potter, why it's naught to a
man i' th' honds o' his missus.'

'So you were baptized for the love of Betty, were you, Malachi?'

'Yi; bud I were no hypocrite abaat it, for aw told her aw should
never be a Calvin, an' aw never have bin. Doesto remember what
thaa said, Betty, when aw tell'd thee aw should never be a
Calvin?'

'Nay, aw forget, lad; it's so long sin'.'

'Bud aw haven't forgetten. Thaa said, "Never mind, thaa's no need
to tell mi faither that; thaa can keep it to thisel." Aw'll tell
yo' what, Mr. Penrose, a woman's as deep as th' Longridge pit
shaft.'

'Well, thaa's never rued o'er joinin' Rehoboth, Malachi.'

'I've never rued o'er weddin' thee, lass; an' aw think if thaa'd
gone to a wur place nor Rehoboth aw should ha' followed thee.
Leastways, I shouldn't ha' liked thee to 'a' tempted me.'

'But thaa's not tell'd him all, Malachi.'

'Nowe, lass, aw hevn't, but aw will. Have yo' seen yon rose-tree
that grows under the winder--that tree that is welly full durin'
th' season?'

The minister nodded.

'Well, when aw fetched her fro' her faither, hoo said aw mun tak a
flaar an' o', as aw coomd for one on th' neet as aw geet her. So
aw took one o' th' owd felley's rose-trees, an' planted it under
aar winder theer, and theer it's stood for nigh on forty year,
come blow, come snow, come sun, come shade, an' the roses are
still as fresh an' sweet as ever. An' so art thaa, owd lass,' and
Malachi got up and kissed into bloom the faded, yet healthy, cheek
of Betty, his conquest of whom he had just narrated to Mr.
Penrose, and whom he still so dearly loved.



VIII.

MR. PENROSE BRINGS HOME A BRIDE.


When Rehoboth heard of the coming marriage of Mr. Penrose many
were its speculations on the woman he was taking for wife. Amos
Entwistle said 'he'd be bun for't that th' lass wouldn't be baat
brass noather in her pocket nor in her face'; to which old Enoch's
wife replied that 'hoo'd need both i' Rehoboth, where they fed th'
parson on scaplins (stone chippings), and teed his tung with
deacons' resolutions.'

Milly wondered 'if th' lass 'ud be pratty,' and 'what colour her
een 'ud be'; while old Joseph declared 'hoo'd be mighty
high-minded, but that hoo were comin' to wheer hoo'd be takken
daan a bit.'

The most philosophic judgment was that of Malachi o' th' Mount,
who, turning on Amos one evening in the chapel yard, said:

'Look here, owd lad; it were yor pleasure to stop single; it were
mine to get wed. We both on us pleeased aarsels; let th' parson do
th' same. He'll noan ax thee to live wi' th' lass; he'll live wi'
her hissel. Then let him pleease hissel.'

One or two of the women vexed themselves as to whether she would
be a Martha or a Mary; and when Deborah Heap was appealed to she
said, 'Let's hope hoo'll be a bit o' both.'

Old Joseph, overhearing this last remark, injected his venom by
hinting that 'no doubt hoo'd be a Mary, but that th' maister at
whose feet hoo'd sit would be a different sort to Him as went to
Bethany.'

Then it was Abraham Lord's wife suggested that Joseph should 'find
th' parson a pair o' wings, so as he might mate hissel wi' a
angel, for she was sure naught less 'ud suit Rehoboth fo'k.' And
Oliver o' Deaf Martha's wife climaxed the discussion by saying,
'if that were bein' a parson's wife, hoo'd rather be where hoo
were, although their Oliver did tak' drink and ooine (punish)
her.'

'I'll tell thee what, lad,' said Mrs. Lord to her husband on the
night of the chapel yard conclave--'I'll tell thee what. I feel
fair grieved for that lass th' parson's wed. They'n mad' up their
minds they'll never tak' to her; and there's no changin' th' mind
o' Rehoboth.'

'But we'll tak' to her, mother,' cried Milly, crossing, with her
crutch, from the window at which she had been sitting, to take her
place at her mother's side. 'We'll tak' to her; aw con luv onybody
'at Mr. Penrose luves.'

'Bless thee, lass! aw beleeve thaa con. An' we will tak' to her,
as thaa sez. Fancy thee leavin' me to get wed, an' livin' i' a
strange place, and all th' fo'k set agen thee afore they see thee!
It mak's mi heart fair wark (ache).'

'But thaa knows, misses, hoo'll happen not tak' to thee an' Milly.
Hoo'll happen be a bit aboon yo'--high-minded like.'

'Hoo'll tak' to Milly if hoo's takken to Mr. Penrose, lad; thaa'll
see if hoo doesn't. Didn't he read a bit aat o' one o' her letters
where hoo said hoo were fain longin' to see Milly becose hoo liked
th' flaars an' stars an' sich like?'

'Yi; he did forsure.'

'Aw know hoo'll tak' to me, mother. An' if hoo doesn't, I'll mak'
her, that's all.'

'Aw don't somehaa think 'at Mr. Penrose ud wed a praad woman,
Abram. Do yo'?'

'I durnd think he would, lass. Bud then th' best o' men mak'
mistakes o'er th' women they wed.'

'Yi; they say luv's gawmless; but aw welly think Mr. Penrose knows
what he's abaat.'

'Th' Lord help him, if he doesn't! They say a mon hes to ax his
wife if he's to live.'

'Aw yerd Amos say t'other day, faither, that a chap hed to live
thirty year wi' a woman afore he know'd he were wed.'

'Did th' owd powse say that, lass?' cried Milly's mother. 'I
nobbud wish I'd yerd him. He's lived more nor thirty year baat
one, an' a bonny speciment he is. Bud it's a gradely job for th'
woman 'at missed him. He were welly weddin' Malachi o' th' Mount's
wife once over.'

'Yi; hoo'd a lucky miss, an' no mistak'. But happen hoo'd ha'
snapped him.'

'Never, lad. There's some felleys that no woman can shap', and
Amos is one o' em.'

'Aw towd him, faither, that yo' know'd yo' were wed, and yo'd
nobbud been agate seventeen year.'

'An' what did he say to that, Milly?' asked her mother.

'Why, he towd me aw know'd too mich.'

And at this both Abraham and his wife joined in hearty laughter.

'When does Penrose bring his wife to Rehoboth, missis?'

'Saturday neet. We's see her for th' fust time o' Sunday mornin'.
Hoo's baan to sit wi' Dr. Hale.'

'There'll be some een on her, aw bet,' said Abraham.

'Wernd there, just. Poor lass! I could fair cry for her when aw
think abaat it. An' away fro' her mother, an' o'.'

'But then hoo'll hev her husband, wernd hoo?' asked Milly.

'For sure hoo will; bud he'll be i' th' pulpit, and not agen her
to keep her fro' bein' 'onely like.'

'Ey, mother, aw sometimes think it must be a grand thing for a
woman to see her felley in a pulpit.'

'Don't thee go soft on parsons, lass,' said her father.

       *       *       *       *       *

If there had been no other welcome to the minister's wife on her
Sabbath advent at Rehoboth, there was the welcome of Nature--the
welcome born of the bridal hour of morn with moorland, when the
awakening day bends over, and clasps with its glory the underlying
and far-reaching hills. From out a cloudless sky--save where
wreaths of vapour fringed the rounding blue--the sun put forth his
golden arms towards the heathery sweeps that lay with their
rounded bosoms greedy for his embrace, and gave himself in
wantonness to his bride, kissing her fair face into blushing
loveliness, and calling forth from the womb of the morning a
myriad forms of life. Earth lay breathless in the clasp of
heaven--they twain were one, perfect in union, and in spirit
undivided. Rehoboth was seductive with a sweetness known only to
the nuptials of Nature in a morning of sunshine on the moors.

It wanted two hours before service, and the young wife was
wandering among the flowers of the garden of the manse that was to
be her home, her spouse seated at his study window intent on the
manuscript of his morning's discourse. Intent? Nay, for his eye
often wandered from the underscored pages to the girl-wife who
glided with merry heart and lithe footstep from flower to flower,
her skirts wet as she swept the dew-jewels that glistened on the
lawn and borders of the gay parterres. She, poor girl! supposing
herself unwatched, drank deeply of the morning gladness, her
joyous step now and again falling into the rhythmic movements of a
dance. She even found herself humming airs that were not
sacred--airs forbidden even on weekdays in the puritanic precincts
of Rehoboth--airs she had learned in the distant city once her
home. Was she not happy? and does not happiness voice itself in
song? And is not the song of the happy always sacred--and sacred
even on the most sacred of days?

Alas! alas! little did the young wife know the puritanic mood of
Rehoboth. Behind the privet hedge fencing off the paradise, on
this good Sunday morning, lurked Amos Entwistle.

The old man, hearing the voice on his way to Sunday-school,
stopped, and, peeping through the fence, saw what confirmed his
bitterest prejudices against the woman whom Mr. Penrose had
married; and before a half-hour was passed every teacher and
scholar in Rehoboth school was told that 'th' parson bed wed a
doncin' lass fro' a theyater.'

Standing in his desk before the first hymn was announced, Amos
cried in loud tones:

'Aw seed her mysel donce i' th' garden, on God's good Sunday morn.
I seed her donce like that brazened (impudent) wench did afore
King Herod, him up i' his study-winder skennin' at her when he
ought to ha' bin sayin' o' his prayers. An' aw yerd her sing some
mak' o' stuff abaat luv, and sich like rubbidge. What sort o' a
wife dun yo' co that? G' me a lass as can strike up _Hepzibah_,
and mak' a prayer. It's all o' a piece--short weight i' doctrin',
and falderdals i' wives.'

And as Amos finished the delivery of this sentiment, and held the
open hymn-book in his hand, he reached over to administer a blow
on the ears of a child who was peeping through the window at a
little bird trilling joyously on the deep-splayed sill outside.

During the pause between the close of Sunday-school and the
commencement of morning service, congregation and scholars
darkened the chapel yard in gossiping groups, each on the tiptoe
of curiosity to catch a first glimpse of the bride of their
pastor. All eyes were turned towards the crown of the hill which
led up from the manse, and on which Mr. Penrose and his wife would
first be seen. More than once an approaching couple were mistaken
for them, and more than once disappointment darkened the faces of
the waiting folk. With some of the older members weariness
overcame curiosity, and they entered the doors, through which came
the sound of instruments in process of tuning, while Amos
Entwistle, cuffing and driving the younger scholars into the
chapel, upbraided the elder ones by asking them 'if th' parson
were the only chap as hed ever getten wed?'

At last the well-known form of the preacher was silhouetted on the
brow of the hill, and by his side the wife whose advent had
created such a prejudice and distaste, unknown though she was,
among these moorland folks. The murmur of announcement ran round,
and within, as well as without, all knew 'th' parson's wife wor
amang 'em.'

As the couple entered the chapel yard the people made way,
ungraciously somewhat, and shot the young bride through and
through with cruel stares. Mr. Penrose greeted his congregation
with a succession of nervous nods, jerky and strained, his wife
keeping her eyes fixed on the gravestones over which she was led
to the chapel doors.

'Sithee! hoo's getten her yers pierced,' said a loudly-dressed
girl, a weaver at the factory in the vale.

'Yi; an' hoo wears droppers an' o',' replied the friend whom she
addressed.

'Ey! haa hoo does pinch,' critically remarked Libby Eastwood, the
dressmaker of the village.

'Nay, Libby; yon's a natural sized waist--hoo's nobbud small made,
thaa sees,' said the woman to whom the remark had been made.

'Well, aw'd ha' donned a bonnet on a Sunday.'

'Yi; so would I. An' a married woman an' o'--aw think hoo might be
daycent.'

'Aw'll tell thee what, Mary Ann--there's a deal o' mak' up i' that
yure (hair), or aw'm mista'en.'

'Yo're reet, lass; there is, an' no mistak'.'

'Can hoo play th' pianer, thinksto?'

'Can hoo dust one?'

'Nowe, aw'll warnd hoo cornd.'

'Hoo thinks hersel' aboon porritch, does yon lot.'

'Dun yo' think hoo can mak' porritch?' sneered Amos to the woman
who passed the unkindly remark.

'Nowe, Amos, aw durnd. Yon lass'll cost Penrose some brass. Yo'll
see if hoo doesnd.'

While this criticism was going on in the chapel yard, Mrs. Penrose
was seated in the pew of Dr. Hale, somewhat bewildered and not a
little overstrained. Here, too, poor woman, she was unconsciously
giving offence, for on entering she had knelt down in prayer, Old
Clogs declaring that 'hoo were on her knees three minutes and a
hawve, by th' chapel clock;' while at the conclusion of the
service, after the congregation were on their feet in noisy exit,
her devotional attitude led others to brand her both as a 'ritual'
and a 'papist.'

During the afternoon there was a repetition of the morning's
ordeal, and at the service the young wife was again the one on
whom all eyes were fixed, and of whom all tongues whispered.
Never before had she been so called to suffer. If the keen
glances of the congregation had been softened by the slightest
sympathy she could better have stood the glare of curiosity; but
no such ray of sympathy was there blended with the looks. Hard,
cold, and critical--such was the language of every eye. Rehoboth
hated what it called 'foreigners'--those who had been born and
brought up in districts distant from its own. All strange places
were Nazareths, and all strangers were Nazarenes, and the cry
was, 'Can any good thing come out therefrom?' And to this
question the answer was ever negative. Outside Rehoboth dwelt the
alien. In course of years the prejudice towards the intruder
submitted itself to the force of custom, and less suspicious
became the looks, and less harsh the tongues. Even then, however,
the old Rehobothite remained a Hebrew of Hebrews; while the
others, at the best, were but proselytes of the gate. It was the
first brunt of this storm of suspicion from which the minister's
wife was suffering, and she was powerless to stay it, or even
allay its stress; nor could her husband come to her deliverance.
Milly, however, like the good angel that she was, proved her
friend in need, and all unconsciously, and yet effectively,
turned the tide of cruel and inquisitorial scorn first of all
into wonder and then into delight.

And it came about in this manner. As the congregation were leaving
the chapel at the close of the afternoon service, and poor Mrs.
Penrose, sorely bewildered, was jostled by the staring throng,
Milly pushed her way with her crutch to the blushing woman, and,
handing her a bunch of flowers, said:

'See yo', Mrs. Penrose, here's a posy for yo'. Yo're maister sez
as yo' like flaars, an' aw've grow'd these i' my own garden. Aw
should ha' brought 'em this mornin', but aw couldn't ged aat; an'
mi mother wouldn't bring 'em for me, for hoo said aw mun bring 'em
mysel.'

Mrs. Penrose could not translate the vernacular in which the child
spoke, but she could, and did, translate the gift; and tears came
into her eyes as she reached out her hand to take from the
crippled girl the big bunch of roses, tiger-lilies and hollyhocks
which Milly extended towards her. There was a welcome in the
flowers of Rehoboth, if not in the people, thought she; and, at
any rate, one little soul felt warmly towards her.

As Mrs. Penrose looked at the blushing flowers and caught the
scents that stole up from them, and as she looked at the little
face on which suffering had drawn such deep lines--a little face
that told of pity for the lonely bride--a home feeling came over
her, and she felt that there was another in Rehoboth, as well as
her husband, by whom she was loved. To Mrs. Penrose little Milly's
gift made the wilderness to rejoice and the desert to blossom as
the rose; and, stooping, she kissed the child, while her tears
fell fast and starred the flowers she held in her hand.

That kiss, and the tears, won half the hearts of the Rehoboth
congregation.

'Hoo's a lady, whatever else hoo is,' said an old woman; 'an' if
hoo's aboon porritch, hoo's none aboon kissin' a poor mon's
child.'

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening, as Mr. Penrose walked with his wife along the path
of the old manse garden, he turned to her, saying:

'This has been a trying Sunday, little woman.'

'Yes; but I've got over it, thanks to that little lame girl. It
was her nosegay that brought me through, Walter, and that little
face of hers, so full of kindly concern and pity. You don't know
how hard my heart was until she came to me--hard even against you
for bringing me here.'

'And you kissed Milly, didn't you, Lucy?'

'Yes. I didn't do wrong, did I?'

'No. That kiss of yours has touched hearts my theology cannot
touch. You are queen here now.'

'Yours--and always!'

Then he drew her to his side, and kissed her as she had kissed
Milly, and on lips as sweet and rosy as the petals that fell at
their feet.


THE END.


BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD.





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