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 other 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
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
‘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
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 hadn yo' done wi’
Still there was no response. A paralysis silenced each
lip. None of the three possessed a heart that dared disclose
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,
‘Thank God, hoo’s weepin’!'
‘Let her weep,’ said Dr. Hale; ‘there’s no medicine like
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
‘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
‘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
‘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’,
‘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
‘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’
‘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 of?
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
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
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
‘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.
‘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 hed 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, a 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
‘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
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 fullness 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
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 of spring 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
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 that road afore.’
‘Nowe, lad! I’ve never lost a chilt afore.’
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
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
‘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 t’ace — 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 connot 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
‘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
‘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
‘Bless thee for that smile, lass. Thaa looks more
thisel naa. There’s naught like sunleet when it’s in a woman’s
‘Thaa means eyeleet,’ Miriam replied, with a gleam of
‘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
‘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
‘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
‘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
‘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
‘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.
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
‘Is that thee, Matt?’
‘Yi, lass, for sure it is. Who else should it be,
‘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
‘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
It was a comely picture which the little birds saw as they
twittered round and peeped through the ivy-covered easement 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
‘It’s grand, lass, isn’t it?’
‘Yi, Matt, it is forsure.’
‘And them hills — they’re awlus slumberin’, arn’t they?
Doesto know, I sometimes wish I could be as quiet as they are.
They fret noan; weet or line, it’s all th’ same to them.’
‘They’re a bit o’er quiet for me, lad. I'd rather hey 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 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,
‘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
fullness 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 cloughs 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
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
‘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
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, doting 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 than 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
‘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 gron-mother?’ 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,
But tears were streaming from Miriam’s eyes, and she answered
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
‘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
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 over-strained 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?’
‘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 down-stairs 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 —
‘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,
‘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
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
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.’
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’
‘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 dullness 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
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 grandmothers 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
‘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 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
‘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,
‘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
‘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,
‘Whatever wilto ax me next, lad?’ cried the worn-out and
perplexed old woman. ‘Come, shut up th’ Bible, and eat thi
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
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
‘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.
HOW MALACHI O’ TH’ MOUNT
WON HIS WIFE.
‘So yo’ want to know haa aw geet haud 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,
‘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
“‘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 fotched 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
‘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,
‘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
fotched 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,’
‘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
‘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 mysell
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,”
‘“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
‘“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
‘And did she strike you as she struck the tackler?’ asked Mr.
‘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
‘“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
‘“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
‘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,
‘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
‘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.
MR. PENROSE BRINGS HOME A
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’
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
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
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’
‘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.
‘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 l’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
‘Yi; hoo’d a lucky miss, an’ no mistak’. But happen hoo’d ha’
‘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 hed wed a doncin’ lass fro’ a
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? Gi’ me a lass as can strike up Hepzibab, 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
‘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
‘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
‘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
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
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
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
‘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
‘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.