"Yo' men's noa feelin's."
The speaker was Lottie Speck, Sam's long, angular,
yellow-haired sister. She stood between the cupboard door and
the edge of the table, and had been for some moments looking
abstractedly through the front window.
"Wot's up wi' thi naa? " demanded Sam, who was busy mending a
"Ther's poor Sniggy yond', goin' abaat loike sumbry dateliss
sin' his muther deed, an' tha's niver bin th' mon az hes axed him ta
hev' a sooap o' tay wi' thi'. Neaw, nor even of a Sunday.
It wodna cap me if his trubbel druv him ta th' drink ageean; an' if
it dooas, he'll be wur nor iver."
Sam lifted his head from his fiddle with a look of dull
astonishment. This was never his hard, unsympathetic shrew of
a sister! Ask anybody to tea! Why he hadn't dared to do
such a thing for he couldn't tell how long. And the memory of
the last occasion on which he did so was even yet a vision of terror
to him. Whatever was coming over Lottie?
"Aw'll ax him ta-morn if thaa wants him," he said at length,
gazing at his sister in puzzled surprise.
"Me? Aw dunna want him!" and Lottie tossed her head in
lofty disdain. "Aw want noa felleys slotching abaat me, Aw con
tell thi." And Lottie began to examine herself critically in
the little looking-glass on the wall.
Sam said no more, but he resolved that if he had really
caught his sister in an unusually amiable mood he would make the
most of it whilst it lasted, and Sniggy should be invited on the
very next day.
But whatever could it mean? Was this nipping, harsh
sister of his, who ruled him with a rod of iron, and ordered him
about as if he had been a slave, relenting? Had he been
mistaken? Was there a soft place in that thin, bony body after
all? Well, he would hope so; and in better spirits than he had
felt for many a day, Sam hung his fiddle up and sauntered off to the
But even in the short distance between that great
establishment and his own cottage, Sam's surprise overcame him
again, and he whistled a long, low whistle of wonderment, and
stopped in the middle of the road to marvel.
Well, wonders never cease certainly, but this was the
greatest surprise of all, and Sam jerked his head in amazement and
resumed his journey.
But, somehow, he couldn't help having misgivings. He
was anxious enough to believe that this was the sign of a change in
Lottie, but it was really so entirely contradictory to her ordinary
manner and spirit that he couldn't believe in it, do what he would.
And as for lasting! Well, if Lottie held out for a week in her
present state of mind he would give women up as insoluble riddles,
as his great mentor declared they were.
Sam soon made it right with Sniggy. That worthy having
lost Old Molly, his mother, a few weeks before, felt very "looansome"
in his little cottage in the Brickcroft, and gratefully accepted any
offers of hospitality that were made to him.
Sniggy regarded the Specks as somewhat above him in the
social scale, and felt flattered by the invitation, but at the same
time he knew enough of Lottie to be greatly surprised at it, and
strolled down from the school on Sunday afternoon by Sam's side with
somewhat apprehensive feelings lest he should find she was not of
the same mind as her brother.
But Sam's sister received them with a manner as near to
graciousness as Sniggy had ever known her to show, and set before
them a tea which was in itself an additional welcome.
There was buttered toast and "pikelets," "pig-seause"
(brawn), pickled onions, and a currant fatcake, to say nothing of
such ordinary provisions as oatcake, white bread and butter, and
tea-cakes, and Sam, as he glanced at the overcrowded little table,
made up his mind that if Sniggy didn't come to tea pretty often in
the future it shouldn't be his fault.
And Lottie was so amiable with it all. A thrill of
horror went through Sam as Sniggy in his nervousness poured the tea
over the saucer edge and stained their best tablecloth, but to his
amazement Lottie treated it as of no moment whatever, and even
pretended to blame the shape of the old-fashioned cups for the
Sniggy had a good healthy appetite, and Sam feared he might
get into trouble about that, but his sister urged and better urged
their guest to eat, declaring, with much apparent concern, that he
must be badly, "peckin' at his meit loike a brid."
Sam was simply bewildered. What could it all mean?
But just at this moment, as he was hastily and somewhat fearfully
cramming the half of a pikelet into his mouth, his amazement was
intensified by his sister saying—
"Thaa mun cum ageean, Sniggy lad. If Aw'da brother as
wur woth owt, he'd a axed thi afoor naa, lung sin'."
Sniggy thanked her blunderingly, and seemed to think that a
feast like this was not a thing he could expect every day. At
last the tea was over, and they drew near to the fire.
Sniggy pulled out a short wood pipe and a steel tobacco-box,
and was proceeding to charge.
"Sam, wot arta dooin'? Tha'rt no' lettin' Sniggy use
his oan 'bacca, arta?" cried Lottie, as if that was a practice that
might obtain with common people, but was not to be thought of at all
in their house.
And Sam, wondering whether he were not dreaming, rose to get
his tobacco-box, only to discover that someone had already filled it
with a popular mixture just then coming into fashion.
But this was too much! Sam gave it up now, and simply
sat and smoked, trying to resolve that after this nothing in the
world should surprise him.
Presently he began to realise that he had never really heard
Sniggy talk before. Under Lottie's dexterous manipulation the
ex-pigeon-flyer was becoming quite a brilliant conversationalist,
and supplied his lady listener with more details of his mother's
last illness than had ever been given to the world before; and by
the time they had to go to chapel, Lottie and Sniggy were quite
As for Sniggy himself, he was quite uplifted, and went to the
chapel marvelling at the number of undiscovered saints there were in
the world, and the blindness and prejudice of those who had so long
and so persistently maligned Sam's sister.
And next Sunday the whole thing was repeated, only on an, if
possible, ampler scale. And even in the week between, Lottie
had been so unusually considerate, and spoken so often and so kindly
of Sniggy, that Sam was simply dazed as he thought of it.
But on that second Sunday night, as Sam lay pondering these
things in bed, a horrible idea all at once took possession of him.
That was it! He saw it all at once now. Why had he been
so "numb"? His sister was setting her cap at poor Sniggy!
Of course she was! What a "cawf-yed" he'd been not to see that
before. And as Sam tossed about in bed, and looked at this
great matter, his astonishment gave way to shame and anxiety.
What a terrible position it was for him!
No man who knew anything of Lottie would ever marry her.
And though she was his sister, he could not allow his friend Sniggy
to run his head into a noose without knowing what he was doing.
If Lottie married him she would, by her naggling ways, drive the
poor fellow to drink in no time, and in that case he would
be, in at least some measure, responsible.
On the other hand, had he not for years been hoping against
hope that his sister would marry, and thus set him free to do the
same? He had not dared to think of it seriously whilst he had
her to deal with, except on the solitary occasion when he had
desperately risked everything and proposed to "Nancy o' th' Fowt,"
only to be rejected; and even though his former experience of
married life had not been exactly encouraging, yet he would have
experimented again long ago but for his sister, and indeed, in some
sense, because of his sister, and in order to be rid of her.
It was a matter about which he could not very well consult
his friends, and yet if he did not, and Lottie actually accomplished
her purpose, they would never forgive him, especially if they
discovered that he had known it, and, in a sense, aided and abetted
All night long poor Sam tossed about, wrestling with his
great problem. Morning came, but no relief. For two or
three days Sam dogged Sniggy's footsteps, and hovered about him in a
most peculiar way, but could never make up his mind to speak.
On Friday night, however, as he returned from a little
journey, and called at home for his fiddle on his way to the Clog
Shop practice, he was surprised as he opened the door to find Sniggy
and Lottie sitting on the long settle very close together, and
evidently engaged in a very interesting confab. Sam uttered a
sudden and astonished "Hello!"
Lottie hastily left the long settle, and began to lecture Sam
in the old style about "comin' tumblin' inta th' haase loike a mad
bull," and Sniggy, looking somewhat relieved, rose to his feet and
announced that he must be going.
Sam was glad to go along with his friend, and when they were
approaching the Clog Shop door, he took a sudden and daring
resolution. Stepping into the Cloggery, and hastily putting
his fiddle down upon the counter, he hurriedly rejoined his
companion in the road, and took him into the fields, ostensibly for
a walk, but really to unburden his mind to him.
"It's varry gooid on thi, Sam lad!" said Sniggy, when the
great secret had been revealed, "bud tha's bin meytherin' thisel'
"Ther's noa weddin' fur me, lad;" and Sniggy slowly and
sorrowfully shook his head.
"Noa weddin'? Nowt o' t' sooart, mon. Thaa gets
good wages, an' tha's a haase aw ready. Aw'd be wed in a jiffy
if Aw wur i' thy place."
"Nay, thaa wodna."
"Sam, afoor Aw was convarted Aw did wrung."
"Aw uset marlock wi' Sally Shaw thaa knows."
"Aw'm feart Aw helped ta mak' her wot hoo is."
"Wot bi that?"
"Aw loike her yet, Sam," and Sniggy nearly broke down.
"Bud thaa conna merry her, hoo's a—a—a bad un!"
"Sam," and poor Sniggy set his teeth, and choked back a sob,
"if iver Aw wed Aw'st wed Sally. Aw'd nowt ta dew wi'th'
lumber hoo geet inta, bud it wur me as coaxed her away fro' th'
schoo', an' it aw started theer. An' if hoo comes back Aw'st
merry her, an' if hoo ne'er comes back Aw'st stop as Aw am."
Sam went away from that interview with a deeper and tenderer
attachment to the reclaimed pigeon-flyer than he had ever had
before, and it was as well he did, for the reception he met with at
home tried his loyalty to his friend to its utmost; and when on the
following Sunday he absolutely refused to bring Sniggy to tea any
more, and then, in his fear and flurry, blurted out that Sniggy
wouldn't come if he were asked, he was glad to get out of the house,
and at any rate postpone the consequences of this unexpected
Not to be baulked, however, of her purpose, on the following
morning Lottie made one of her infrequent attendances at morning
service, and managed to get hold of Sniggy as they were coming out
But Sniggy almost curtly declined her very warm invitation to
tea, and when Lottie, affecting great surprise, demanded to know the
reason, he became even more taciturn.
"Ay! tha's getten bet-ter feesh ta fry, Aw reacon. Soa
thaa con dew baat uz," she said with some asperity, as she stopped
opposite her own door.
Sniggy shyly hung his head in shame, but more for her than
for himself. So she misunderstood the action, and went on—
"Tha's na need ta leuk loike that; Aw know wot's i' th' rooad.
Tha's gettin' thick wi' them Horrocks wenches, Aw've yerd
Sniggy stood with his face looking back towards the chapel.
At last he turned, and looking steadily at Lottie, said, with a
significance that even a much duller person than Sam's sister could
not have misunderstood―
"Lottie, Aw'm no' meytherin' efther ony women, noather
Horrockses nor awmbry else. Aw'll ler them alooan if
they'll ler me alooan."
And without waiting for a reply he moved off quickly towards
The sufferings of poor Sam for the next few days are better
imagined than described.
The Old Love.
IT was Duxbury
Wakes week, and of late years this great festival had come to be
regarded as, more or less, a holiday for the whole surrounding
district; and in spite of many and portentous harangues from the
Sunday-school desk against it, every year found an increasing number
of Becksiders making it an excuse for recreation and jaunting.
The old 'bus ran from Beckside twice every day during that
week, to say nothing of the Clough End waggonette, which came
through the village and picked up passengers.
Of course the magnates of the Clog Shop couldn't have been
induced to go to Duxbury that week on any account whatever.
Not for worlds would they expose themselves to the suspicion of
hankering after the flesh-pots of Egypt.
About the middle of the particular Wakes week we are speaking
of, Sam Speck suddenly missed his now almost inseparable friend
Sniggy, and grew, in consequence, somewhat uneasy.
He knew the kind of time Sniggy used to have in former days
at these wicked Wakes. And he had heard him say that, since
his conversion, he was always glad when the fair was over. But
this year Sniggy had lost his mother, and was "daan i' th' maath" in
consequence. People in his condition often took to drink for
the sake of relief and company, and Sam was afraid lest, in his
sorrow and loneliness, Sniggy had yielded to temptation.
He determined, therefore, to look him tip. He called at
Sniggy's house, and tried the door. It was fast, and Sam's heart
sank a little.
"Hast seen owt o' Sniggy lattly?" he asked one of his
friend's former companions, who stood in a dirty-looking doorway
"Ay! Aw seed him on th' Wakes graand at Duxb'ry
yesterd'y, bud Aw fancy he didna coom back last neet;" and there was
a gleam of unholy satisfaction in the man's bleary eye.
Sam walked back into the road, and up the "broo" to the Clog
Shop, in a very miserable state of mind; and Jabe, when he heard the
tidings, was scarcely less affected.
After a lengthy conversation, Sam offered to go to Duxbury in
search of Sniggy, but Jabe was by no means sure that this might not
be a sly dodge on Sam's part to get an excuse for a peep at Vanity
Fair, and so peremptorily dismissed the idea.
Just then Sam caught sight of Long Ben going past, and
hurrying to the door, he called him in.
Ben proved "awkert." He had more faith in Sniggy than
that, and didn't think it necessary to "meyther." That was
always the way with Ben—he always went "collywest" to everybody
else, and would "sit an' grin woll his haase wur brunnin'."
Next morning Sam arrived at the Clog Shop with the tidings
that Sniggy had been home, but had gone off again, presumably to
Duxbury, before daylight.
Jabe felt very ill at ease, and the holiday feeling which
seemed to be in the air affected him with a strange restlessness.
So, later in the day, he was standing at his shop door when the 'bus
from Duxbury pulled up in the triangle. He watched the
passengers alight, in the hope that Sniggy would be amongst them.
But only three persons got out, and they were all women; and
Jabe had turned his eyes in another direction, and was watching a
slater at work on the Fold Farm roof, when a voice he knew said,
close at his side—
"Jabe, Aw want ta speik ta thi."
It was Lottie Speck, one of the passengers who had just
alighted. Jabe eyed her over slowly and sourly, but did not
offer to move or speak.
"Jabe, Aw've summat ta say ta thi."
"Well, wot is it?"
"Aw conna talk ta thi here; goa i' th' shop an' Aw'll tell
Slowly, and with evident reluctance, Jabe led the way to the
inglenook, but neither sat down himself nor invited his visitor to
Lottie Speck never brought good tidings, and he had enough to
think about that was troublesome without anything more.
"Jabe, Aw've bin ta Duxb'ry."
"Ay! Owder an' madder."
Lottie closed her eyes in expression of her willingness to
endure even worse abuse than this if the Clogger was cruel enough to
inflict it upon her. After a pause, she went on―
"Aw seed summat as thaa owt ta yer abaat at wunce."
Jabe looked impatiently out of the window, as if he neither
wanted Lottie nor her communication.
"It made me fair whacker when Aw seed it."
Still the Clogger would not speak.
"Hay, dear! this is a wicked wold," and Lottie heaved a pious
"Well, wot is it, woman? Aat wi' it," snapped the
"Jabe, Aw seed Sniggy Parkin talkie' tew a bad woman."
Jabe's heart sank within him, and he felt like crying, but he
would not show it to this creature, and so, glancing at her with
annihilating fierceness, he demanded―
"Well, wot's that ta dew wi' thi."
Lottie was staggered.
"Me? Nowt. Bud he's a member, isn't he?" she
cried, at a loss for the moment what to say.
Jabe's anger was fast getting the better of him. If
Lottie did not go, he would be saying something he should be sorry
"Lottie," he cried, "if tha'll give o'er melling [meddling]
wi' other foak, an' leuk a bit bet-ter efther thisel', it 'ull leuk
a foine seet bet-ter on thi." And after another pause he
turned his back on his visitor, and, stepping over towards the other
side of the shop, added gruffly—
"Tha'd bet-ter be piking."
Lottie, staggered and nonplussed by the Clogger's unusually
surly manner, and yet resolved to brave it out, drew herself up to
her full height, and began—
"Foaks as winks at other foaks' nowtiness"—But she got no
further, for Jabe made a rush at her, and what he really intended to
have done it would be impossible to say, for Lottie nimbly slipped
to the door, and, giving it a spiteful bang after her, disappeared,
and the Clogger stood breathless and angry in the middle of his shop
Later on, in the same day, Jabe and Sam had another
consultation. Lottie, defeated in her purpose with Jabe, had
had her revenge on her hapless brother, and Sam, though in no way
abating his concern about Sniggy, had a chastened and pensive look.
Eventually it was decided that Sam should go in the evening
to Lige the road-mender's, who lived on the edge of the Brickcroft,
and from this vantage point watch for the fallen Sniggy's return.
About ten o'clock he came hurrying into the Clog Shop with a
pale and woebegone look. He was evidently full of some
sorrowful tidings, but seeing that one or two of the cronies were
still there, he suddenly checked himself, and tried to look easy.
But the Clogger was not deceived. Neither was he
content to wait. The strain he had borne that day made him
excessively irritable, and so, recklessly ignoring all
considerations of caution, he demanded—
"Well! wot is it?"
Sam was terrified; he dodged behind Long Ben and began to
motion to Jabe not to speak. But the Clogger was beyond all
possibility of care now.
"Wor art pace-eggin' theer at? Aat wi' it, if tha's owt
Long Ben and Jethro, who were the two present, turned round
and looked at Sam, and though he did his best to appear unconcerned
it was an utter failure, and a minute later they had brought him
into the little circle and were demanding to know what was the
Sam was bursting to tell the news, but he was also very much
afraid of complicating matters. However, as everybody seemed
to be waiting for him, and Jabe showed ominous signs of impatience,
he blurted out―
"Sniggy's cum whoam."
"Well, wot bi that?" asked Jethro, who, of course, knew
nothing of what had previously occurred, but could see that
something more than common was involved.
"An' he's browt a woman wi' him—an' a chilt."
A sharp cry escaped the Clogger, and even Ben looked
"Art thaa sewer?"
"Aw seed em' cum, an' goa i' th' haase; aw three on 'em."
The friends gazed at each other with shocked and sorrowful
looks, but for a time nobody spoke.
At last Long Ben rose to his feet, and as it was evident
where he was going, Jabe cried—
"Howd on. Aw'll goa wi' thi."
Ben hesitated, and evidently thought that he had better go
alone, but the Clogger looked so very anxious that he hadn't the
heart to object, although Jabe himself admitted afterwards that it
was an unwise thing to do.
A few minutes later the two approached Sniggy's cottage.
They could see the flicker of the firelight on the
window-blind, but there was no other sign of illumination.
Ben knocked, and immediately opened the door.
As he did so a woman, sitting before the fire, and evidently
rocking a little child to sleep, turned her head towards them
hastily, and then as hastily turned it away again.
"Wheer's Sniggy?" asked Ben, holding the door in his hand.
"He's nor in," replied the woman, still concealing her face.
"Haa lung will he be afoor he's back?"
"He's noa comin' back here ta-neet," was the reply.
The two visitors breathed sighs of relief, and began to feel
a little like intruders, and so, with an awkward "Gooid-neet," they
As they ascended the "broo," Sam Speck met them, all hurried
and out of breath.
"He's yond'," he cried, suddenly discovering them in the
"At th' shop."
The three walked quickly up the little hill, and checking
themselves as they drew near the Cloggery, they entered as
unconcernedly as was possible under the circumstances.
"Hello, Snig!" said Sam, who was first, evidently with a
desire to make the ex-pigeon-flyer feel at his ease.
But Jabe was too anxious for any subterfuge. Walking up
to the fire, and fixing Sniggy with his eye, he demanded—
"Wheer's thaw bin aw wik?"
Sniggy looked up quietly, glanced round to see who the others
were, and then, pointing with the stem of his pipe to the empty
stools, he said―
"If yo'll sit yo' daan Aw'll tell yo' aw abaat it."
The three men sank into seats, and after waiting until they
were seated and smoking, he commenced―
"Yo' known, chaps, as Aw uset be thick wi' Sally Shaw?"
"Well?" (from Jabe).
"Well, when Aw geet convarted Aw wanted her to jine tew, an'
"Well, Aw gan o'er gooin' wi' her."
"An' Aw started o' pruyin' fur her—fur, hay, chaps, Aw did
"Christians conna merry wi'"—Jabe was commencing, but Ben
stopped him, and Sniggy proceeded.
"Well, mooar Aw prayed th' wur hoo went, an' at th' lung last
hoo geet i' trubbel, an' went away."
And then Sniggy's voice quavered, and he paused, and shaking
his head earnestly, he cried―
"Hay, bud Aw did loike her."
"Well, an' wot then?"
"Well, Aw wur that ill off abaat her Aw could hardly 'bide.
Aw kept on pruyin' yo' known, bud Aw ne'er yerd nowt on her.
An' then my owd muther deed, an' Aw felt mooar looansomer nor iver.
Well, o' Tuesday, as we wur hevin' aar breakfast i' th' shop, Aw
yerd Alice Varlet' tellin' Peggy Bobby as hoo seed Sally upo'
Duxb'ry Wakes graand, an' hoo wur wi' a minadgerie chap, an' leuked
badly an' ill off. Hay, chaps! it went through me loike a
shot. Aw couldna rest, Aw couldna sleep when neet coom.
An' soa th' fost thing i' th' mornin' Aw went off fur t' seek her.
Aw wur seekin' her tew days, an' this efthernoon, just when Aw wur
thinkin' o' givin' it up, Aw yerd a woman shaat aat 'Snig!
Snig!' an' Aw turnt me raand an' it wur her."
Then Sniggy paused, and looked round on the company, as if
expecting them to look as delighted as he had evidently been
Nobody spoke, however, and so presently he resumed his story.
"Hoo coom up lowfing, shy-loike, yo' known, bud when hoo geet
cluse tew me, hay, chaps, hoo did leuk miserable!"
The listeners looked as if that was about the only becoming
thing they had heard of her, and disappointed again in his bid for
sympathy, Sniggy proceeded—
"Hoo axed me if Aw wur na gooin' fur t' pay fur a drink fur
her. An' Aw leuks at her, an' Aw says, 'Neaw, wench, neaw!'
"An' then hoo leuked at me, solemn-loike, an' hoo says, 'Arta
religious yet, Snig?'
"'Ay,' Aw says. An' wot dust think hoo did, Sam?"
"Hoo tewk howd o' booath my honds, o' thisunce, an' hoo says,
reglar wild-loike, 'Thank God! thank God!'" and Sniggy looked about
on his friends with shining, tearful face.
Presently he resumed—
"An' then Aw tewk her tew a cook-shop, and as we wur goin'
hoo stops an' hoo leuks at me solemn-loike, for a great while, an'
then hoo brasts aat o' skriking, an' hoo says, 'Snig,' hoo says, 'Aw
wuish Aw wur religious!'
"Aw wur i' th' street, men, bud Aw couldna help it, soa Aw
just bells aat, 'Hallelujah!' an' th' foak aw turnt raand an'
starred at me as if Aw'd gooan off it."
Sniggy was so absorbed in recalling to his mind the scene he
was describing, that he forgot to proceed, until presently Sam said―
"Well, an' wot then?"
"Wot then?" cried Sniggy, astonished at the question; and
then recollecting himself, he proceeded—
"Whey, Aw browt her whoam wi' me, an' hoo's i' th' haase naa.
An' Aw'm goin' t' lodge wi' Bob Turner till we getter marrit."
There was no more to be said. Jabe and his friends were
more proud of their recruit than they had ever been, and were
profoundly touched by his simple story.
"Bud, dust think hoo's gradely repented, lad?" said the
Clogger with gentle dubiousness.
"Repented? Ay, wot else? Isn't that wot Aw prayed
"An' thaa thinks as hoo's come back i' answer ta prayer, does
"Aw dew that! Doan't yo'?"
And Jabe, with a great tear on each cheek, put his hand
gently on Sniggy's shoulder, and said―
"Aw dew, lad! Aw dew!"
And a month later Sniggy and Sally were married at the
chapel, and a little while after they applied for the post of
chapel-keepers on the understanding that there was to be no pay
—"Just ta' mak' up fur th' past," said Sally.
A Lawyer's Letter.
road-mender, was in the "doldrums." His open-air occupation
exposed him to the exigencies of climate, and so, driven indoors by
stress of weather, he had as usual spent most of a certain very wet
afternoon at the Clog Shop.
For a man of his volatile temperament he had had very little
to say all afternoon, and even when Isaac brought "baggin'" for Jabe
and him, and arranged it on one of the old clog benches which served
as inglenook stools, Lige only seemed faintly interested.
As nobody else was about, Jabe had departed so far from his
usual custom as to make remarks once or twice about Lige's unusual
flatness, but they evoked no response. These old cronies had
long ago got past the stage when persons feel it necessary to
maintain conversation whilst together, and so there were several
long silences whilst tea was being consumed.
Presently, as Jabe was crowding into his mouth an enormous
piece of toast, Lige suddenly leaned forward, and scowling with a
look of relentless resolution, tapped the Clogger's knee with his
teacup by way of punctuating every word he was uttering, and said—
"If hoo awses [offers] ageean, Aw'll—Aw'll leeave th'
Jabe, with butter-smeared lips, slowly consumed his toast
without deigning even to look at Lige, who still remained in the
attitude he had assumed when speaking, and continued to glare
fiercely at his friend.
Then the Clogger tucked into his mouth-corner the last bit of
toast, took a gulp at his tea, reached out for another slice of
toast, and leaning back and thoughtfully examining it, as if
doubtful about the way it had been buttered, remarked, with a jerk
of his short leg—
"Th' clug's upo' th' t'other fooat if Aw know owt abaat it."
"Ay, theer thaa gooas," cried Lige impatiently; "a chap met
as weel try to get warm ale aat of a alicker [vinegar] barril as get
a bit o' comfort aat o' thee."
Jabe took a long pull at his teacup, and then holding it from
him, and looking intently into the cup-bottom, said—
"It's no' comfort as thaa wants; it's a cleawt o' th'
soide o' th' yed. If tha'd let th' woman alooan hoo'd let thi
"Well of aw th' aggravatin' haands"— cried Lige; but his
feelings were too much for him, and he sat up and stared at the
tantalising Jabe with amazement, indignant protest, reproachful
expostulation, and a shade of guilty self-consciousness chasing each
other on his face.
Jabe went on munching at his toast in calculated unconcern,
and carefully avoided the road-mender's eye, whilst Lige, continuing
his amazed and indignant look, at length gasped out—
"Tha'll threeap me daan as Aw want th' woman next."
And Jabe, with a look of most provoking placidity, went on
slowly eating and drinking, and saying by his whole manner more
plainly than words would have expressed it that that was exactly
what he did think—which, of course, only made Lige the more
uneasy and angry.
The fact was that the poor road-mender was not as consistent
and steadfast a supporter of his great chief on the vexed question
of women as that worthy could have desired, and this was therefore
one of his modes of inflicting punishment. As a general thing
Lige out-Heroded Herod in his scorn of the sex, but there were
certain more or less frequent and regular backslidings, during which
he was absent for days together from the Clog Shop, and was heard of
in the direction of "th' Hawpenny Gate," where a certain lady
leech-keeper resided, and after some four or five days he would
suddenly turn up again, having a ruffled and irritable air about
him, but with a new and quite suggestive readiness to abuse and
scoff at the slavery of married life.
On these occasions, too, he would drop darkly mysterious
hints about the "fawseniss" of women and their "invayglin'" ways,
with oblique references to the fable of the spider and the fly, and
it was easy to see that he wished it to be inferred that he "could a
tale unfold," if he chose, from the standpoint of the fly, and that
he was himself an unwilling victim of female beguilement, and only
preserved his liberty by constant heroic efforts and by marvels of
But, like many other innocent martyrs, Lige found that his
friends were unsympathetic and unbelieving, and even—such is the
perverseness of human nature—undertook to defend the female he
professed to be afraid of from his insinuations.
Now, these occasional lapses into amatory weakness had been
going on intermittently for some eighteen months, Lige's sentiments
running the whole gamut of feeling from uncompromising misogamy to
ardent love-sickness every two or three months. And the Clog
Shop cronies took a sort of unhallowed delight in watching the
mental and conversational contortions of their friend in his
laborious efforts to convince them that he was a victim to be pitied
rather than a backslider to be blamed.
Now, it was perfectly well known to all the chief spirits of
the Clog Shop that Lige's only reason for remaining unmarried was
that the lady of his second choice objected on the very unromantic
ground that the road-mender couldn't afford to keep her. In
fact, she had stated as much in the plainest possible Beckside
English to her ardent suitor, and the verdict of the Clog Shop was:
"Hoo's a sensible body—for a woman."
But Lige scorned to attribute so sordid a motive to the lady
of his heart, and, moreover, was known to be exceedingly sensitive
on the question of his poverty. No one would ever have guessed
from his manner that he was not as well off as any of his chums.
He talked sometimes of projects involving what would be to him
impossible sums of money, and always included himself in any scheme
which might be under discussion as at least equal to the rest in
worldly resources; and they, although grimly, almost savagely,
intolerant of everything savouring of hypocrisy, actually became his
accomplices in this work of self-deception, and would have lost
confidence in themselves for ever if by even the slightest and most
indirect reference they had shown that they were aware of any
difference between him and them.
At the same time it is not to be supposed that they let him
alone on this question of his weak leaning towards possible
matrimony; but they confined themselves to charging him with
desertion of his friends, and hypocrisy in his attitude towards the
other sex, and persistently refused to believe that the lady had
made any overtures to him on her own initiative, or in fact any
overtures at all. And though scrupulously avoiding the least
hint as to the real reason, they did not spare him on others, such,
for instance, as his personal appearance and idiosyncrasies, Sam
Speck being specially severe on him for his lack of manners.
The conversation with which this chapter opens is but a
sample of many such between Lige and his friends. On this
occasion, however, a diversion occurred which for a time put Lige's
matrimonial leanings out of everybody's mind. Whilst Jabe and
the road-mender were sitting thus over tea, Lige restive and
indignant, and the Clogger doggèd and aggressively sarcastic, the
shop door opened, and Peter the postman sauntered slowly up to the
fire and began to fill his short black pipe. He had finished
his long morning round some time before, and was now on his way to
commence the night collection.
"Does oather o' yo' chaps know awmbry caw'd E. Howarth?" he
asked, as he stooped to get a light at the fire.
"Thaa meeans Harry Howarth o' th' Brickcroft," said Jabe,
"Nay, Aw dunno; that's 'Haitch' than knows, an' this is 'Hee.'
Besides, it's a lawyer's letter, an' Harry ne'er gets inta ony
lumber. He's as quiet as an owd sheep."
"A lawyer's letter?" cried Jabe; "less lewk at it."
Peter produced the letter—a long, blue packet, with a
terribly legal look about it, and embossed on the back, Briggs,
Barber, and Briggs, Solicitors, Whipham."
On the other side it was directed to Mr. E. Howarth,
Beckside, Brogden, near Duxbury.
Jabe read the name on the back of the envelope several times
over, and then turned the packet over and scrutinised the
directions. Then he limped across the shop for his spectacles,
carefully rubbed them on his red cotton handkerchief, put them on,
and once more examined the missive back and front. Then he
held it at arm's-length, and looking thoughtfully at it, murmured
"Hee Howarth! Hee Howarth! Whoaiver is it fur?"
"It meeans trubbel fur sumbry, that's sartin," said Lige.
"Less leuk at it."
He knew it was useless to hope to obtain possession of the
packet, and so he contented himself with stepping upon a stool and
looking over the Clogger's shoulder.
"Th' felley con wroite at ony rate," he commented, scanning
the directions with knitted brows.
But at that moment in walked Sam Speck. Peter the
postman, when in difficulties about the ownership of a letter, often
resorted to that fountain of local knowledge, the Clog Shop, for
help, and so Sam was not greatly surprised to find his comrades thus
engaged. Lige's elevated position, however, struck him as
irregular, and as indicative of something interesting, and so, as
the road-mender held the point of vantage over the Clogger's
shoulder, Sam, when the situation had been explained to him, bent
down upon his haunches, and whilst Jabe and Lige were scrutinising
the directions he was examining the embossed stamp on the under
side. A look of alarm came into his eyes, and he gave vent to
a prolonged whistle, as he discovered that the letter emanated from
"By gum, lads, there's sumbry in for it! Hee Howarth.
Hee Howarth," he went on, scratching his head and knitting his
brows, "Hee How— Whey, Lige, thaa bermyed, it's thee."
Lige started with a short cry. The letter slipped from
Jabe's suddenly nerveless fingers and fluttered to the ground, and
both the Clogger and the postman turned quickly round and stared at
Lige in fear and sorrow.
Lige dropped from the stool and sat down with a sudden flop,
and, shrinking back as if he were afraid of the letter making for
him, cried out—
"It isna me! It isna me! Aw've
done nowt. Aw hav'na! Aw hav'na!!"
There was a moment of awful stillness, and then Sam Speck
stooped and picked up the now terrifying letter, and carefully read
the directions once more.
"Ay! " he said, with a great sigh; "it's reet!"
"Hee, that's 'Elijah,' an' 'Howarth'—it's thee, lad," and the
tone of the remark conveyed the idea that Sam felt that some awful
mysterious trouble had overtaken his old friend.
With another heavy sigh, Sam held out the letter to Lige, but
the road-mender shrank back on his stool as if afraid of being
burned, and wildly waving his hands, he cried—
"It isna me! It isna"—And then with a pathetic
break in his voice—"Haa con to say soa, Sam?"
Just then Long Ben entered, and having been made acquainted
with the trouble in hand, he stood and looked at Lige with the same
pitiful commiseration in his eyes that showed in the faces of the
Then he took the letter and examined it carefully.
"Briggs, Barber, and Briggs," he cogitated, and then he
stopped and his jaw dropped. The look of pity in his eyes
deepened into alarm, and he suddenly checked himself of an intention
to speak, for he had just remembered that Mr. Barber, the senior
living partner of the firm from which the letter had come, was the
clerk to the magistrates at Whipham. A deep sigh escaped him,
and he held out the letter to the frightened Lige.
But the poor road-mender shrank away from it, and burying his
head in his hands, groaned out a sort of smothered sob. The
rest stood looking at Lige with disturbed and anxious faces, and at
last Jabe burst out—
"Liger, hast bin foomart huntin'?"
"Neaw! neaw! " cried Lige intensely; "Aw've bin noawheer, an'
Aw've done nowt to noabry."
Jabe paused a minute, eyeing the road-mender meditatively the
while, and then remembering one of Lige's youthful besetments, he
"Hast bin pooachin' then?"
"Neaw; Aw've bin noawheer, Aw tell thi," and Lige gave vent
to another dismal groan.
"Give o'er wi' thi, Lige," cried Jabe, now nearly as agitated
as his friend. "Sithi, lad. Wheer thaa goas, Aw goa; an' aw th'
lyin' lawyers i' Lancashire shanna hurt thi."
"Haa yo' meyther," broke in Peter the postman; "it's happen
nubbut a jury summons or a subpeeny."
"Nay," said Jabe, with a perplexed sigh, "th' bobbies
[police] brings them, thaa knows."
But the suggestion of other causes for lawyers' letters than
transgression of the law opened a new field of speculation, and so
Sam Speck brightened up suddenly and cried—
"It's happen a fortin as sumbry's left thi, Lige."
But Lige only shook his head wearily, and groaned again.
Then Long Ben drew Jabe aside and whispered—
"Dust think he's paid his rates?"
But Ben was a poor whisperer, and before Jabe could reply
Lige groaned out from between his fingers—
"Aw pay 'em i' th' rent."
This state of things was fast becoming unbearable. Jabe
especially seemed scarcely able to control himself, and so he cried,
though not without secret misgivings—
"Lige, ger up wi' thi an' oppen this letter. If thaa
doesn't Aw'st oppen it mysel'."
"Tak' it aat o' my seet!" cried Lige, with a fresh gesture of
Jabe took hold of the letter.
"It's nowt," he cried, with an affectation of contempt which
he did not quite feel; but he lingered a long time with the packet,
handling it with great care and turning it over and over again, and
it would have been difficult to say whether fear or curiosity was
stronger in him.
Then he examined the flap of the envelope, and remarked that
if it had had "owt woth owt" in it, it would have been sealed.
After toying with it a moment or two longer, he stepped across the
shop floor and lighted a candle, and then selecting very
deliberately one of his knives, and carefully cleaning it, he picked
up the candle, brought it near the fire, gave it to the postman to
hold, and making a sudden dash, cut open the letter.
Now it is quite certain that the Clogger did not really
comprehend one word of the document the first time he read it.
His business seems to have been to discover not what it was, but
what it was not, and this he managed so successfully that he turned
round to his woebegone friend, and cried with a sudden accession of
"Ger up, thaa ninny hommer, ther's nowt to be feart on here."
Lige did not move, but only emitted a slightly lighter groan,
but Long Ben and Sam drew nearer, and looking over the Clogger's
shoulder, prompted and corrected as he read out as follows, much as
if he were a town crier:—
"To MR. ELIJAH
(Another groan from the poor road-mender.)
"SIR,—Our late client,
Mr. Abram Howarth, who died recently in this town, left a will in
which you are named sole executor and legatee. If you will
call at our office on Saturday morning between ten and one, we shall
be pleased to explain the will and take your esteemed commands
"We are, dear Sir, your obedient servants,
It is beyond the power of the present reporter to describe
the faces of the little company when Jabe finished reading. He
took off his glasses and blinked his grey eyes at Ben in speechless
wonder, and Ben returned the look with a dull, uncomprehending
stare. The postman burst into a loud laugh, and Sam Speck,
after looking from one to the other of his friends to make sure that
they had heard, suddenly pushed Ben aside, and standing over the
still bent form of Lige, smote him heavily between the shoulders,
"Speik, mon! Didn't Aw tell thi it wur a fortin?"
It was some time before the road-mender could realise the
meaning of the letter, and when he did, he stood up and gazed
abstractedly into the fire, apparently oblivious both of the
congratulations that were offered to him, and the wild guesses in
which his comrades indulged as to the amount of the legacy.
After the excitement had abated somewhat, they found their
accustomed places round the fire, and the pipes having been lighted,
the situation was discussed in all its bearings. Lige said
very little for the first hour or so, but he amply atoned for his
silence afterwards by monopolising nearly all the conversation.
Then the talk turned upon the old man who had died, and whom
most of the company remembered with recollections the reverse of
pleasant. Lige confessed that he had only seen his deceased
relative some half a dozen times, and had not exchanged twenty words
with him in his life. Nobody knew anything good of him, saving
always this last most commendable act of his. Then guesses
were made as to the probable amount of the bequest, and memories
were raked to recall the various small properties which it was known
the old man had purchased during his lifetime.
Sam Speck, who seemed to be touched with a little envious
jealousy of Lige's newly-acquired importance, opined that most of
the property had "summat on it," and might not realise much after
all; but Jabe, after a cold, withering look at the evil-minded
detractor, turned to Lige, and said―
"It's a lung loan [lane] as niver hes a turn, lad; if tha'rt
woth a penny tha'rt woth a paand a wik," and had the sum been a
million a week Jabe could not have made a more impressive mouthful
of it. Then the conversation took a practical turn, and as
Lige did not seem to have quite recovered his fear of the lawyers,
it was arranged that two of his friends should accompany him next
morning to Whipham; and retribution now overtook the envious Sam,
for he was omitted from this important deputation, though he was
admittedly Lige's very closest friend.
Lige lived on the edge of the Brickcroft, and, of course,
went home the same way as Ben.
When they had parted at the carpenter's gate, and Ben had
reached his own front door, he heard Lige, who had suddenly turned
back, calling him. When they met at the garden gate Lige
seemed to have forgotten what he wanted to say. He stood back
a moment, looked round on the dim outlines of the buildings about
him, and then said, though not as indifferently as he intended—
"Ben, when my owd woman deed and hoo worn't i' th' club, an'
Aw'd nowt ta bury her wi', an' when Aw went raand after th' buryin'
ta ax them foak ta gi' me toime an' Aw'd pay 'em, they aw said as a
chap 'ud bin afoor me, an' paid 'em aw. Dust know whoa that
Ben seemed suddenly to have become intensely interested in a
little dim far-away star, the only one visible that cloudy night,
and so he answered, with a fair pretence of preoccupation—
"Nay! Haa dew Aw know?"
Then Lige took another look round at the shadowy building,
and went on—
"An' when Aw wur aat o' wark for eighteen wik, an' wur feart
o' my loife o' being turnt aat o' th' haase fur rent, an' when Aw
started o' rooad-mendin' fur th' parish, an' began a shapin' fur t'
pay my back rent up, Owd Croppy towd me as it 'ud bin paid ivery wik.
Thaa doesn't know whoa did that, Aw reacon?"
"Nay, Liger; dunno! Thi brass is makkin' thee
suspeecious. Howd thi bother, mon!"
"Bother! Ay, ther'll be some bother, Aw con tell thi,
if this comes aat reet. Ben Barber 'ull ha' to build a new
haase fur Mestur Hee. An' ov a Setterday mornin', when
Ben Barber has na getten paid fur his wark an' conna foind wages fur
his men, th' fat 'ull be i' th' feire if he doesna ger it off Mestur
Hee. Naa, moind thi, fro' this day henceforth an' for
iver—a-a—partly wot, Ben Barber's banker's Mestur Hee—Mestur Hee."
And with a glow of triumph at his own brilliant effort, Lige
plunged into the darkness and disappeared.
Next morning three solemn-looking figures, dressed in
funereal black, and with long grave faces to match, stood by the
Clog Shop door waiting for the Duxbury coach. Their three hats
all belonged to the same bygone period of fashion, and Lige's had a
most suggestive and transient shininess about it. His best
coat also was distinguished from the others by a more pronounced
greenness of colour, and this was made the more noticeable by the
fact that Jonas Tatlock's trousers, which had been lent to the new
man of property for this great occasion, were nearly new and of a
As the coach came into sight, Sam Speck joined the company.
He seemed to have got over his pique, and was inclined to chaff.
He called Lige "Mestur Howarth," and then on sudden
recollection tried "Mestur Hee," but neither this, nor his warning
that it was Duxbury Wakes, and they were not to "chuck th' fortin
away at ghooast shows and hot pey staws" before they came home,
raised a smile, and the coach moved off presently carrying three men
with faces of owlish solemnity.
Arrived at Whipham, an argument arose as to who should lead
the way into the office. Lige seemed astonished that the
question should be raised at all, and looking at the Clogger with an
injured, reproachful look, he demanded—
"Wot hast come fur if tha winna leead up?"
"It's no' my fortin," protested Jabe indignantly. "It's
thee they wanton, nor uz." And he might have been disavowing a
great crime to judge by the earnestness of his protestation.
Lige took a long, hesitant look: from one to the other of his
friends, then turned and gazed earnestly at the green baize inner
door of the office; then glanced apprehensively up and down the
street, and finally cried, with desperate resolution—
"Aw'st no' goa in fost for noather on yo'. Aw'll lose
th' fortin fost."
After a few minutes more of wrangling, during which Lige
became more and more terrified at the thought of facing the lawyer,
and more and more reckless as to what became of the fortune, Jabe
suddenly broke away from the other two, and began limping up the
steps so earnestly that they only caught him as he was pushing open
the dingy green door.
"Is th' mestur in?" he demanded, glaring fiercely at the
"Yes, sir," said a fussy penman, whom Lige immediately began
to regard with strong suspicion. "Have you an appointment?"
"Neaw; we wanten t' see th' mestur." And then, turning
half round to Lige, he demanded, "Where's th' letter, Liger?"
The clerk glanced at the packet. "Oh, come this way,
"Mr. Howarth, of Beckside, sir," he called out, raising his
voice a little, and addressing some invisible personage.
It took a little time to get the three villagers piloted
round desk ends, through counter flaps, and behind dirty red
curtains, and when it was successfully accomplished, and they stood
before the great Mr. Barber, Lige, at any rate, looked as if he were
come to make confession of some awful crime, whilst Jabe took off
his hat and rubbed his perspiring face and head with his red
The lawyer began by addressing Jabe as Mr. Howarth, and when
that error had been corrected, and Lige had been dragged to the
front like a reluctant culprit, the business began. It was
soon made clear that there was no doubt about the reality of Lige's
good fortune. He actually was sole heir of the late Abram
Howarth, his uncle. The estate consisted chiefly of small
properties, mostly in or about Brogden Clough, and would bring in
about twenty-five shillings per week. There would be certain
formalities to be gone through, probate, etc., would have to be
paid, and then Mr. Barber told Lige he would be able to enter into
formal possession of a nice little inheritance. Mr. Barber was
also happy to tell Mr. Howarth that there was a good round sum of
hard cash in the Duxbury Bank, which would pay all expenses and
leave a comfortable margin.
By this time Lige began to feel his new importance, and
talked with most surprising freedom to the solicitor. The
lawyer congratulated Lige again, and cracked a little joke, at which
Jabe and Long Ben smiled with dignified condescension, and Lige
As they were leaving, Mr. Barber called them back.
"If you want a little cash for immediate use, you know, Mr.
Howarth," he began; but Lige received a sharp kick on the right foot
from Jabe, and a gentle nudge on the left elbow from Ben, and so,
without giving the least sign that he understood, he answered, as if
cash were the very last thing in the world he either needed or cared
"Neaw, neaw! toime enuff ta bother wi' that when Aw've getten
And then Lige had a sudden sense of having outwitted a man of
law, and was so elated thereat, that, as he was going through the
outer office, he turned, and, surveying the clerks with a glance of
magnificent condescension, he asked—
"Which o' yo' chaps wor it as wrate that letter ta me?"
"I, sir," said the fussy clerk who had introduced them to the
lawyer, and who evidently saw signs of a tip.
"Thee, wor it! Well, th' next toime as tha sends me a
letter, send it ta 'Liger Howarth,' an' nooan o' thi 'Mestur Hee's';"
and with a glance of mingled scorn and warning, Lige followed his
friends into the street.
A Question of Conscience.
THERE was no help
for it. Sam Speck was being driven into cynicism in spite of
himself. It was his duty, he knew, to fight against the
tendency, and he did so, but sometimes circumstances seemed
altogether too strong for him. Here was a case in point.
He thought he knew his old friend Lige. He boasted, in fact,
that he could read him like a book. Nothing, he thought, would
ever change Lige much; and here, as soon as ever there was a
prospect of an improvement in his financial position, he was
becoming sly and mysterious, and was changing from the most
open-hearted and least worldly of spirits, to a calculating,
reticent, and money-loving soul.
Lige's sudden enrichment was, of course, the chief topic of
conversation round the Clog Shop fire, but Sam marked with concern
that whilst the road-mender was ready enough to hear others discuss
his prospects, he said very little about them himself, and it was
not until about nine o'clock in the evening, when the company was
largest and discussion most stimulating, that Lige opened his mind
about his future intentions at all. When thus temporarily
elated by congratulations and encouragements, Lige would assert
vociferously what he intended to do, but Sam observed with
misgivings that he not only made no allusions to his intentions next
morning, but could not be drawn to speak about them at all.
For instance, Lige had been apprehensive for some time that
his "rheumatiz " would before long prevent him working, and compel
him to relinquish his situation; and now, when he had ample means to
keep him without work, he seemed to have become suddenly very much
in love with it. Two or three times Sam had turned the
conversation so as to bring this question to the front, and under
the influence of popular opinion Lige had resolved to give up his
employment. On one or two occasions he had got excited about
the matter, and had openly declared, "Aw'll niver breik another
stooan woll Aw'm wik." But next morning Sam had discovered him
hammering away as usual on a heap of stones, or digging clumps of
weeds out of the gutters.
And now Lige had actually come into possession of his
fortune, and Sam had been with him to make the final call upon the
lawyer at Whipham, and to bring his cash and deposit it in the
It was long past noon by the time they had finished their
business, and Sam was hungry. Two or three times he had
dropped palpable hints about his condition, but Lige only seemed to
understand when the hints became plain unvarnished avowals of
hunger; and, even then, instead of taking him to a decent inn, Lige
led him off to an old-fashioned cookshop, and ordered, as if he had
been calling for turtle soup, "Tew plates o' tatey pie—big uns."
And Sam noticed, as a painful confirmation of his fears, that though
the road-mender had twenty pounds to his certain knowledge in a
little bag in his left-hand pocket, yet he paid for the repast out
of the few spare pence he carried in the other pocket.
After dinner, as they had to wait a couple of hours for the
coach, they walked about the town and inspected the shops. Sam
pulled up before every clothier's shop he came to, but neither broad
hints nor excessive commendation of certain patterns of cloth and
suits of clothes had the least effect on Lige; and when Sam,
exercised in his mind about the rapid deterioration and threatened
spiritual destruction of a man who had grown miserly on the very
first day of his affluence, pointedly admired a certain stylish
overcoat and recommended its prompt purchase, Lige seemed to become
suddenly suspicious and sly, and wriggled out of making the purchase
on some most trivial pretext. And, of course, Sam could not
tell his friend plain out that his best clothes had been green and
shabby for years.
All these things were very depressing to our mercurial
friend; but when he discovered that Lige was going back to Beckside
on the day when he had come into formal possession of his
inheritance, and with twenty pounds sterling in his pocket, without
taking even so much as half a pound of tobacco back to his friends
at the Clog Shop wherewith to celebrate the occasion, he came
dangerously near to wishing that his old friend had remained poor,
and was almost thankful that the fortune had not come to himself to
tempt him. Two or three times, as they travelled home on the
coach, he glanced thoughtfully at the road-mender's face, and was
almost certain that he perceived signs there that the hardening
process had already begun.
Sitting at the Clog Shop fire that night, Sam kept a careful
watch on Lige, making as he did so many pessimistic notes on the
weakness of human nature.
Lige received the congratulations of his friends with a
becoming show of meekness, took all chaff in good part, and even
joked himself about his good luck; but, for all that, Sam could see
that he was a changed man, and was fast becoming grasping and
As the evening went on, Sam resolved that he would remain
behind and inform Jabe of his suspicions. But the rest would
not go. Lige—an early riser, and therefore one of the first to
depart of an evening—would not go, and Long Ben, who was supposed to
live in wholesome fear of his wife, seemed also reluctant to leave;
and when Sam remarked, as a kind of suggestive hint, that it was "toime
to be piking," he was provoked and perplexed to see both Lige and
the carpenter deliberately commence recharging their pipes.
To make it worse, as he had himself started the movement for
home, he found himself obliged in common consistency to follow it
up, and so, after standing about for a little time, and going to the
door and then coming back again some two or three times, he was
reluctantly compelled to depart, leaving Lige sitting in most
aggravating contentment by the fire.
When he reached his own door, which was on the other side of
the road going to the mill, he still felt uneasy, and most
unaccountably, curious, and when he saw Long Ben leave the Clog Shop
a minute or two later, and realised that now Lige and Jabe would be
alone, it was all he could do to restrain himself from going back
and bursting in upon them, excuse or no excuse,
Meanwhile Jabe and Lige sat quietly smoking in the inglenook,
Lige having a very abstracted look on his face. The Clogger
eyed him over with quiet interest, two or three times, as if
speculating as to what was going on in his mind; but neither spoke.
Presently, however, Lige leaned back in the nook, and putting his
feet on the bench on which he sat, he asked, taking his pipe out of
his mouth, and putting his head slightly on one side in an
"Naa, has mitch a wik dust think a chap loike me owt ta give
"Wot!" cried the Clogger, with a curl of his lip, "is thi
brass brunnin' thi pockets aat awready?"
"Aw'd rayther it ud brun my pocket nor freeze my soul," was
After a moment's silence, Jabe said―
"Th' Jews uset give a tenth."
"Haa mitch is a tenth o' twenty-five shillin'?" was the next
"Hawf a craan." [Half a crown]
And now it was time for Lige's lip to curl, and it did so
until he looked positively fierce with scorn.
"Aw allis thowt them Jews wur skinny uns —but that cops
aw—the greedy wastrils."
"Whey, wot does thaa think foak owt ta give?" asked Jabe, in
"T'oan hawf bi' th' t'other, fur sure" (a fair half), was the
Jabe burst into a great laugh—a laugh which somehow had
to be very loud in order to prevent it becoming something quite
different. In the midst of it, however, a thought seemed to
strike him, and, bending forward, he asked very seriously―
"Thaa's browt sum brass whoam wi' thi taday, hast na?"
"Ay," said Lige; "twenty paand," and he hit the outside of
his trousers-pocket to indicate that he had it with him.
"Thaa'd better leeave it wi' me ta tak' cur on fur thi."
Now, though he made this proposal very seriously, the Clogger
did not really expect that Lige would comply; and so he was a little
taken aback when the road-mender drew a greasy bag out of his pocket
and handed it to him.
"Jabe, owd lad," he said softly, "Aw hevna spent a penny o'
my fortin yet, an' Aw'm no' goin' ta dew till th' Lord's hed the
fost pick. Ther's twenty paand i' that bag, an' Aw want th'
trustees ta bey a new coffee-pot fur th' Communion table—solid goold
if it 'ull reich tew it!"
Jabe stared at his friend in amazement; but Lige was
"When Aw wur th' poor steward twenty ye'r sin', an' th' plate
box wur kept at aar haase, aar Jane uset say, when hoo wur cleanin'
th' vessils, as if hoo had th' brass hoo'd tak' cur as they shouldna
put 'th' best wine o' th' kingdom' into a pewter pot as if it were
sixpenny ale. An' iver sin' hoo deed Aw've bin livin' i'
hoapes o' seeing her ageean; an' up yond' wheer hoo is they known
abaat this fortin o' moine, an' aar Jane's tellin' 'em aw 'He'll be
gettin' summat gradely ta put th' wine in, yo'll see.' An' if
Aw donna, Jabe, Aw darna face her up, an' that's God's trewth, lad."
The Clogger had no answer to an argument like this. He
stared before him, and sniffed and cleared his throat, and in the
end had to get up and turn his back on his companion.
When he recovered himself, he said―
"Aw ne'er yerd o' noa goold Communion sarvices. They
allis user silver. Bud thaa con bey a woll set, thaa knows."
And so it was settled; and as Lige left the Cloggery he was
astonished at the Clogger, who actually took him by the hand and
gave it a limp, timid sort of shake, as if he were unable to resist
doing so, and yet felt ashamed of it, murmuring huskily, as he did
"God bless thi, lad! Aw dunno think thi brass 'ull
When Sam Speck heard of Lige's proposal his feelings were
very much divided. He was inclined to feel injured that Lige
had not taken him into his confidence about the matter, and yet he
felt so ashamed of himself for having harboured suspicions of his
friend that he refused himself the pleasure of rating Lige about it
as a sort of penance. Still, there was one thing that greatly
exercised his mind. Why did not Lige give up his employment?
He talked of doing so, vowed again and again he would do it, fixed
the time for so doing more than once, and yet every morning found
him going forth, as usual, with pick and shovel and long-shafted
hammer, to his work.
A week or two passed, and still no signs of Lige's
retirement, and at last, unable longer to endure, Sam opened out
upon his friend as they sat by the Clog Shop fire―
"Tha'rt a bonny mon to be takkin' th' meit aat o' foak's
Lige looked up in wonder. He had a feeling that somehow
the relations between him and his friend were not so cordial as they
used to be, but he could think of no cause for it, and so he
answered rather curtly―
"Naa wot's up wi' thi?"
Sam cocked his elbow on his knee and steadied his pipe in his
mouth, and then, removing it for a moment, went on—
"A chap as hez twenty-five shillin' a wik comin' in, an' a
hunderd paand i' th' bank, leuks well breiking stooans an' fillip'
cart-ruts, and takkin' wage as other foaks are starvin' fur."
Lige winced, but he wasn't going to be taught his duty by so
comparatively juvenile a person as Sam, and so he replied―
"Aw reacon thaa wants th' job thisel'! Thaa leuks loike
a felley as is starvin', sureli."
"Aw tell thi," persisted Sam, "as there's three on 'em as Aw
know on as is waitin' fur th' shop [situation], an' it's nowt bud
Sam spoke with warmth, and the situation was getting somewhat
strained, and so Long Ben, from the inside corner of the nook,
chimed in, to create a diversion—
"Hast bin to th' Hawpenny Gate lately, Liger?"
But this subject seemed to be quite as troublesome to Lige as
the one Sam had started, and so, to escape further banterings, he
remembered "a bit of a arrand," and disappeared, leaving Sam
receiving a mild reproof from the carpenter.
But Lige could not quite get rid of the question Sam had thus
pointedly raised, and as he stood next day on the top of a heap of
stones, a little higher up the road than the chapel, he mused
thoughtfully on the previous night's conversation.
The fact was, now that he had the chance of giving up work
altogether, he discovered an interest in it which he had never
realised before, and found himself strangely reluctant to change.
And then he was more jealous of any tendency to get vain because of
his riches than ever Sam could be for him, and suspected himself of
all sorts of grasping propensities, and was rather glad therefore to
continue his work as a means of keeping the natural man in
The point raised by Sam had never occurred to him, and he at
once began to feel very guilty about it. Then the remembrance
of Ben's interjected question came back to him. Away from the
curious eyes of his associates he could afford to think as long and
as freely as he liked on the matter, and a smirk of satisfaction
came upon his face as he realised that his change of fortune had
immensely improved his matrimonial prospects.
But all at once the smile vanished from his lips. A
look of perplexity came into his plain old face, as if he were
trying to recall something that eluded his pursuit. Then his
face became portentously long, a deep sigh escaped him, and, limply
dropping his hammer, he got down from the stone heap and propped
himself against the wall to think. But the more he thought the
worse he became. He passed his hands over his brow, rubbed
uneasily at his stubbly chin, scratched both sides of his head at
once, and wriggled and twisted as if in the grip of someone who was
torturing him. Then he stepped into the middle of the road,
looked dazedly round at the horizon with a helpless, appealing sort
of look, and a moment later he plunged off down the "broo" in a walk
which only just escaped being a trot.
He was making, of course, for the Clog Shop, and as he
reached it, he burst open the door, and, ignoring the fact that Jabe
was serving a customer, cried excitedly―
"Whey, Jabe, the fortin isna moine."
Now the customer was a new-comer in the village, and was
rashly attempting to banter the Clogger about the price charged for
clogging—a thing which every Becksider knew better than do—and she
had consequently stirred up the old Adam in him. And so he
replied in his crustiest tones―
"Whoas else is it, thaa lumpyed?"
But seeing that Lige was very much excited, lie added more
"Goa an' sit daan wi' thi."
But Lige was too distressed to sit, and so, staring wildly at
Jabe, he cried out, almost in tears—
"Hey, mon, it's hers."
Jabe now realised that the matter was serious; and so,
entirely ignoring the astounded customer, he put on his spectacles,
and, carefully surveying the road-mender, demanded―
"Hers, Aw tell thi," shouted Lige, almost beside himself.
"Jane Ann's, thaa knows. Hast forgotten as hoo wur his chance-chilt.
It's hers, mon. It's no' moine at aw."
Jabe carefully counted out the change for the customer, and
then actually came round the corner of the counter to open the door
for her. Then he carefully closed it, walked back to his place
again, and turning round, looked Lige steadily in the face.
The fact was that, for once, speech had entirely forsaken the
old Clogger. The Jane Ann alluded to was the very
leech-keeping woman whom Lige had been so unsuccessfully wooing, and
whose origin had been almost forgotten at the end of her forty odd
years of life; and when Jabe really grasped the whole situation as
it spread itself before his mind, it simply took away both breath
Presently, more to relieve the tension than with any idea
that he was helping matters, he said―
"Haa can it be hers when it wur left ta thee?"
And Lige replied as Jabe knew he would, when he said―
"Hers! It is hers. Hoo's his dowter, mon!"
Jabe's perplexity was so sore that it galled and vexed him,
and so he replied hotly―
"Wot's left ta thee's thine, isn't it, thaa numskull?"
But Lige was indignant with an indignation curiously blended
with reluctance, and so he replied, as if there was some sort of
melancholy gratification to be got out of making the facts look as
inexorable as possible―
"Her fayther robbed her, an' naa Aw mun rob her—is that what
With a gesture of despairing anger, Jabe turned his back on
his friend, and limping heavily to the fire, dropped down upon a
stool, looking the very picture of helpless distress, and in a
moment or so Lige joined him, looking if possible more miserable
After sitting staring into the fire for a long time, Jabe in
surly tones ordered Isaac to fetch Long Ben. This was no time
for half-measures. Jabe was on the rack, and if he felt like
that, what must Lige be enduring.
It seemed as though Ben would never come, although he had
started the moment he was summoned. But when he did arrive,
and had been put in possession of the facts of the case, the look on
his face banished from Jabe's heart any hope that his more
resourceful friend would be able to find a way out.
There the three sat. Each man knew how easy and natural
it would be to take the way of the world and its legal sanctions,
and be satisfied, or at most make some little allowance to the
neglected and overlooked daughter. But each man saw also the
inexorable requirements of righteousness, and to say that they
quailed before it is but to say that they were men.
"He happen hed some reeason fur no' leeavin' it to her," said
Jabe at length, more to start discussion than from any faith in his
"Hoo ne'er did nowt to hurt him in her loife," said Lige
sternly, "nobbut keepin' on livin'."
"Well, thaa con give her summat—soa mitch a wik, or summat."
"Ay, or else mak' a will an' leeave it aw tew her," added
Lige lifted up a haggard face and asked quietly―
The countenances of the two friends dropped again, and there
was a long silence. At last Lige lifted his head and asked,
with an effort—
"Which on yo's goin' to the lawyer's wi' me i' th' morn?"
A startled look came into Jabe's eyes. He jumped to his
"Liger," he cried, with intense earnestness, "promise me tew
things. Fost, as tha'll wait a wik afoor thaa does owt; an'
second, as tha'll no' mention it to a soul till th' wik's up.
A week's respite seemed a little heaven to Long Ben, and so
he earnestly supported Jabe's request; and truth to tell, poor Lige
was not unwilling to postpone so momentous a decision. Then
Ben said he must go back to work, and Lige decided to do the same,
and as he passed the shop window with strained and heavy look, Jabe,
gazing sorrowfully after him, murmured―
"God help thi, Liger! Tha'rt poor an' owd an' simple,
bud if thaa comes aat o' this o' th' reet soide, tha'll be th' best
mon amung uz."
How the New Plate was Bought.
THERE was no more
work for poor Lige that day. He tried; but he found himself
pausing every few moments, and in his still bent position staring at
the stones under his feet, in set, absorbed preoccupation.
Before he had been at work half an hour, he stopped and
started for the Clog Shop once more, and was soon laying before Jabe
some new aspect of the case. After a while he returned to his
employment, but in a few minutes he was again in consultation with
his friend. This sort of thing was repeated three or four
times as the day went on.
On one of these interviews, just as Lige was returning to his
work again, he suddenly turned back, and leaning his body over the
counter until his mouth nearly touched the Clogger's ear, he charged
him in a thick dramatic whisper to keep the whole thing from "th'
chaps," and especially from Sam Speck.
As evening drew near, Lige's excitement became almost
uncontrollable. He was afraid to stay at the Clog Shop lest he
should be compelled to confess his trouble to someone, and yet he
was afraid to be alone and have to fight his mental conflicts by
himself. And somehow, though he felt sure his friends would
all advise him to let things alone, he was more confident of his
power to resist temptation when in company than when alone.
Then he was afraid, too, that "th' chaps" would by some means
get the secret out of Jabe, or even out of Long Ben, though he had
much more confidence in the latter than in the former. And so
he wanted to be near at hand, that his presence might be a restraint
on the Clogger.
Altogether Lige was in a most restless state of mind, and
throughout the early part of the evening was passing in and out of
the Clog Shop every few minutes, one moment raising some new point
with the Clogger, and the next charging him by most solemn warnings
not to let anybody even suspect what was the matter. Then he
would be seen posting off in haste for home, which he never reached,
and a few minutes later he would come hurrying up the hill with the
inspiration of some totally new phase of the case within him.
Strange to say, the peppery Clogger bore it all with a
patience that was quite remarkable. But the fact was, the
problem so entirely absorbed his own thoughts, that he answered
Lige's questions and instructions in a dazed mechanical sort of way.
As the road-mender was stretching over the counter, and
warning Jabe, for at least the fifth time, of the danger of letting
Sam know anything about it, a sharp voice suddenly broke on his ear,
and Lige, hastily straightening himself, turned round to face the
very person he was speaking of.
Lige made his face as straight as he could, and tried to look
easy and unconcerned; but it was a complete failure. Sam saw
instantly that something of very unusual interest was affecting his
friend, and also that Lige was very anxious to conceal it from him.
Sam promptly suggested a "smook," and Lige was so afraid of
crossing him that he agreed, and sat down to the first pipe he had
tried that day. He perched himself for a few moments on a
stool, where he could keep his eye on both Sam and the Clogger, and
thus prevent any secret signalling between them.
Presently, however, Sam drew him into conversation, and the
two got gradually farther and farther into the inglenook, until the
Clogger could not hear what they were saying. Then they
dropped their voices still lower, and Jabe was tantalised by the
feeling that the lowering of their voices meant the deepening of
their interest in the subject under discussion, of which he could
not hear a word.
All at once, however, there was an amazed cry from out of the
nook, and Sam could be seen standing up, and looking excitedly from
Lige to Jabe, and from Jabe back to Lige, as though he could not
decide which of them was the more demented. Then he began to
laugh—an ironical unbelieving sort of snigger.
"Give it up, hay!" he cried. "Aw'm loike as if Aw seed
And then, taking his breath for a moment, and eyeing the
road-mender slyly over, he shook his head in a waggish sort of way,
saying, as he did so―
"Hay, Liger, tha'rt an owd brid tew!"
"Aw see nowt else fur it," sighed Lige, ignoring Sam's
chaffing tone, and evidently very miserable.
Sam whisked round in a manner expressive at once of
impatience and intolerance of contradiction.
"Dunna meyther, mon. Wot's thine's thine, isna it?"
"Aw tell thi it isna moine: it's hers; an' Aw'm robbin'
th' woman, an' nowt else."
There was an exclamation from Jabe at his bench, and
petulantly flinging down his tools, he came and joined the others at
the fire, and for the next hour the whole question was threshed out
Sam was incredulous, then angry and abusive, and finally he
settled down into doggèd, unconvincible opposition, declaring again
and again that Lige's proposed surrender of his "fortin" was "fair
flyin' i' th' face o' Providence."
Jabe said comparatively little. The crisis was beyond
him. He longed with all his heart to find some way of dealing
with the matter less drastic than the extreme step of surrendering
the whole property. But all his efforts so far had been vain,
and so he listened to Sam much more carefully than usual, in the
hope that he might be able to suggest something that would relieve
And Sam, when once he had become convinced that Lige was
serious, certainly was ingenious in his suggestions, though Jabe was
shocked to find how little scruple he seemed to have about the
spirit of the moral law.
To every one of Sam's ideas, however, Lige opposed the same
relentless answer, and Jabe never acknowledged truth more
reluctantly than he did on this occasion, when his conscience pulled
one way and his interest in his friend the other.
Presently the company began to assemble for the evening, and
it turned out to be, perhaps, the longest night ever spent round the
Clog Shop fire. Everything was dull and flat; so much so, in
fact, that the more casual of the attendees moved homewards very
early, and by nine o'clock Jabe and Lige, Long Ben and Sam, had the
inglenook to themselves.
To Jabe the situation was fast becoming unbearable. He
marvelled at and secretly gloried in Lige's uncompromising attitude;
but he felt somehow that the actual performance of this act of
sacrifice was intolerable to him. He was distressed, also, at
the effect the struggle was having upon his old friend. He
looked aged and haggard. The old wrinkles on his face seemed
suddenly to have been reinforced by a number of new ones, whilst the
veins on his forehead stood out in alarming prominence.
Under these circumstances he felt that Lige ought to be taken
care of by somebody. He had not been really home all the day,
although he had started half a dozen times. He had eaten
nothing, and if he went home to a cold house, and then supperless to
bed, the consequences might be serious.
Jabe waited, therefore, until Ben had drawn the old
road-mender into conversation, and then, taking Sam aside, he
instructed him to go and spend the night with "th' owd lad," and any
other nights possible whilst Lige remained in this disturbed
When Sam, who fell into the scheme somewhat reluctantly, had
coaxed Lige to go, Jabe and Ben leaned forward on their seats, with
elbows on knees and arm-propped chins, discussing with an
earnestness that was almost grim the crisis that had just arisen.
When Jabe described the doggedness of Lige's adherence to his own
view of the case, and the immovability of his purpose to carry out
what he felt to be right, the two looked at each other with shining
eyes which expressed a sort of holy delight in their old friend that
no possible circumstance would have compelled them to acknowledge in
"Aw wuish we'd ne'er yerd of his plaguey fortin," said Jabe
at length, with a perplexed sigh.
"Ay," was Ben's response. "If he'd ne'er a hed it he'd
ne'er a missed it. But it's hard wark givin' up aw his little
plans an' schames."
"Ay; an' he'll ha' to keep on workin' tew," sighed Jabe.
There was a long silence. The fire fell together, and
they both turned abstractedly to look at it. Some internal
commotion seemed to be going on in Ben, and at last, standing up and
shaking his fist at Jabe as if he were Lige's cruel oppressor, he
cried, with a sudden fierce gush of tears―
"He'll no' wark noa mooar, fortin or noa fortin."
Jabe sat glowering into the red fire with a look which was an
emphatic endorsement of Ben's declaration. Ben stooped for a
clog-chip and relighted his pipe, and then he said―
"It'll be hard wark givin' up his new haase an' aw th' things
he wur goin' ta dew."
"Hay, mon," answered the Clogger, "it's no' that he's
botherin' abaat. It's th' Communion plate. He thinks
mooar o' that nor aw th' t'other put together."
"Aw believe thi, lad," murmured Ben, after musing on the
information for a minute.
Another long silence ensued, and after a while Jabe, who was
unusually subdued for him, knitted his brows, and looking up at his
"Well, is ther' nowt we con dew?"
"We met get th' lawyer's opinion abaat it," said Ben
"Neaw! neaw! yo' known wheer yo' begin wi' them chaps, but yo'
niver known wheer yo' stop."
"Well," sighed Ben presently, "Aw con think o' nowt else."
"Neaw," said Jabe disappointedly, "that's loike thee.
Thaa con think fast enough if it's ony lumber tha'rt up tew.
Bud thaa con think o' nowt when tha'rt wanted."
Ben as a rule took no heed to his friend's railings, but
to-night, chafing under a sense of powerlessness, he answered
"Well, thee think o' summat then?"
"Ay," snarled the Clogger, "me ageean. A bonny
lot o' numyeds yo'd be baat me."
Ben sighed again, slowly knocked the ash out of his pipe, and
said, as he rose to go―
"Theer's nobbut wun thing left as Aw con see."
"Wot's that?" asked Jabe, subdued again by Ben's grave tone.
"Th' owd Beuk says as 'Unto the righteous there ariseth light
in the darkness,' an' we'en getten ta wait till it does," and with
another sigh Ben sauntered off home.
The clogging business suffered during the next three days.
Jabe found it simply impossible to give his mind to his work.
To make matters worse, Lige, after two or three attempts, had given
up the idea of working until some settlement was arrived at, and
wandered in and out of the Clog Shop all day long, alternately
anathematising a fate that compelled him to make so momentous a
decision, and praying under his breath for Divine guidance.
Sam Speck, in his character as Lige's keeper, scarcely ever
left him, and kept up also a persistent assault on the position Lige
had taken up on the question of his inheritance. To Sam that
position was simply ridiculous. If the money was properly and
legally left to him, what right had he to bother any further about
it? And as for Lige's notion that Jane Ann, the leech-woman,
was the rightful owner, Sam simply laughed at it.
"Whey, mon! t'oan hawf th' brass i' th' country 'ud ha' to
swop hons if thot wor th' way o' doin' it. Ha' some sense, mon!
Tha'rt goin' dateliss."
As for Lige, it was simply pitiable to see him. He
forgot his half-weekly shave. His face wore a worried, almost
haunted look, and his eyes were faded and watery in the morning, and
bright and restless in the evening. Every few hours the
arguments pro and con were rehearsed again by himself and some one
or other of those in the secret, but always with the same result,
and the Clogger grew peevish under the continued strain.
Every night since the discovery of Lige's dilemma, the four
who knew of it remained behind after the others had gone, and went
over the whole question again from beginning to end, but with a
disheartening lack of definite result.
"Aw'll tell thi wot it is," cried Sam Speck, at the close of
one of his many attacks upon Lige's position, "it's nowt else but a
judgment on her. Hoo turned up her nooase at thi, an' wo'dn't
ha' thi at ony price. Well, hoo's cut her oan throttle—an'
sarve her reet."
This certainly was a new idea, and Jabe and Ben were inclined
to see something in it; but Lige only shook his head and groaned―
"Hoo's his dowter, an' wotiver hoo does conna mak' her
onybody else's dowter." And with a face of deepening gloom he
bent over the fire as if he were cold.
But the idea had set Long Ben thinking, and after a more or
less sleepless night he was at the Clog Shop before Jabe had
finished his breakfast, with at any rate a gleam of light in his
Now Jabe had felt from the beginning that if ever a solution
of the difficulty was reached it would have to come from Ben, and so
he sat up in his arm-chair in the parlour and set his loose leg
a-going in eager anticipation the moment he set his eyes on the
"Aw think wee'st ha' rain," began Ben, trying to look easy,
and glancing carelessly through the parlour window.
"Ler it rain!" exclaimed Jabe impatiently. "Wot dust
"Naa, Aw wur nobbut wondering whether we met square this
thing"—and Ben put his hands behind him and turned his back to the
"Goa on!" rasped out Jabe, scarcely able to contain himself.
"Lige 'ull be here in a jiffy."
Ben glanced out of the window again, looked demurely round
the room, and then said―
"Thaa knows Jane Ann, dust na?"
"Ay! wot bi that?" and the Clogger looked as though he would
have liked to drag the slowly flowing words out of Ben's hesitating
"Is hoo a dacent woman, dust think?" was Ben's next venture.
"Ay! hoo's reet enuff. Goa on, mon. Wot art
dreivin' at?" and Jabe's short leg was riding up and down with
Ben looked round the house again, rolled his carpenter's
apron round his waist, and proceeded―
"He's promised no' ta speik abaat it fur a wik, hasna he?"
"Well, well!" and Jabe had to seize hold of the chair-arms to
keep down his irritation at Ben's deliberateness.
"If hoo could be getten ta hev him afoor th' wik's aat"―
Jabe jumped to his feet with a shout, and giving Ben a push
which nearly caused him to sit down on the parlour fire, he cried―
"By gum, tha's getten it, lad!"
Then he stood back, and was evidently thinking rapidly.
"Howd on!" he cried suddenly, raising his hand as if he were
signalling. "Hoo'd happen throw him o'er when hoo geet howd o' th'
"Wot! When hoo knowed wot he'd done fur her?
Beside, we met happen guard ageean that."
"By axin' her if hoo'd owt ageean him but his pawverty."
"An' wot then?"
"Well, if hoo hadna, we met tell her as he's better off nor
he uset be."
The Clogger eyed Ben over with an eager, gloating sort of
look, and then, slapping him on the shoulder, he broke through the
principles of a lifetime by giving expression to feelings of
unfeigned and proud admiration of his friend―
"Ben thaa licks Owd Scratch fur schamin'—thaa does, for
But, though this was Ben's plan in outline, there were
details wherein he saw possible difficulties, and so, sitting down,
he and Jabe went over them one by one, enlarging and perfecting the
"When mun we start?" asked Ben at last.
"The sewner the better," was the emphatic reply.
"Then tha'd better pike off ta-day."
"Me! me goa! Wot th' ferrups art talkin' abaat, Ben?"
"Well, thaa knows her, an' Aw dunno."
"Bud Aw'm an owd bachelor. Aw know nowt abaat women,
an' Aw dunno want t' dew nother. Tha'rt maddlet, mon."
But Ben stuck to his point, and it soon began to be clear
that there was no other way out of the difficulty. Jabe at
first refused peremptorily. He stormed. He called Ben
all the usual names of opprobrium, and invented several new ones for
the occasion. Lige's fortune might go to Hanover for him.
And he got angrier and angrier as the inevitableness of Ben's
suggestion became clearer to him.
Ben, relying on his old friend's strong attachment to Lige,
and his general willingness to help anyone in need, held quietly to
his point, and at last, after the longest and toughest struggle
these two old gladiators ever had together, Ben departed, leaving
Jabe vowing more vociferously than ever that he would not go a yard,
but feeling certain all the same that he would go.
And sure enough early in the afternoon of that same day the
trees and hedges along the lanes to the Halfpenny Gate beheld the
fierce woman-hating old Clogger limping doggedly along on an errand
of love, and he who never courted fair woman for himself was
actually going a-wooing for another.
The details of that memorable interview have never been fully
divulged by either of the parties who shared it, but sufficient is
known for the purposes of this story.
Jane Ann received Jabe quite effusively, and, though they
were but slightly acquainted, insisted on his having tea with her.
Jabe persistently declared his inability to stay, as was the proper
thing to do in the Clough, and several times tried to bring round
the conversation to the subject of his visit. But Lige seemed
so unimportant a person to the leech-woman in comparison with her
present guest that she could not be induced to talk about him, and
was demonstrative enough in her attentions to make the Clogger feel
uneasy and suspicious. When tea-time came Jabe had not even
mentioned his real business, and so was compelled, in spite of
himself, to accept Jane Ann's most pressing invitation, and he sat
at the table in a state of nervous apprehension lest someone should
suddenly open the door and find him in this most compromising
Towards the end of the meal he managed to introduce Abram
Howarth's name, and discovered that his hostess knew all about the
matter. She seemed strangely unconcerned about it, Jabe
thought, and even then he could obtain no clue as to her feelings
about poor Lige.
What the Clogger suffered in the interest of his friend that
day will never be known, but presently, excited and afraid for
himself, and anxious to get the interview over, but dodged and
eluded by Jane Ann at every turn, he eventually grew desperate and
blurted out the whole truth, and threw himself and his friend on the
The leech-keeper suddenly became very quiet and hurried into
the back-yard—to feed the hens, she said; but really to conceal very
genuine emotion and to collect her thoughts.
When she came back her manner towards the Clogger had
undergone a decided change, and she raised no objection to his
Jabe was not quite satisfied, for though the lady now seemed
willing, and almost eager, to see Lige, she would give no promise as
to how she would treat him, and absolutely refused to bind herself
in any way. At the same time, as Jabe seemed so anxious, she
allowed him to conclude that the road-mender would not suffer by
being left in her hands.
The expedition was not wholly satisfactory, Jabe mused as he
went home. And Long Ben's mode of receiving his account of it
tended to confirm this impression. But there was nothing for
it now but to go on with the scheme, and the next question was how
they were to deal with Lige.
This proved by no means an easy problem, but at last they
decided that, whilst concealing Jabe's visit from him, they would
persuade him to go and see Jane Ann first instead of the lawyer, and
they would for his own sake encourage him to act as soon as the
week's grace was up.
Lige was surprised and suspicious when that very evening they
put on an air of reluctant resignation as if already accepting the
inevitable, and he began to feel very lonely as he found them
disposed to push him on in his resolution instead of trying to
dissuade him as heretofore. For some time he held out
resolutely against going to see Jane Ann at all, and declared he
would hand everything over to the lawyer, and "ha' dun wi' it."
But eventually the dexterously managed pressure of his friends
prevailed, and the course they recommended was decided upon.
Two days yet remained of the terrible week, and the way Lige
seemed to be suffering as the time drew nearer made Jabe and Ben
feel very guilty, whilst at the same time it gave encouragement to
Sam to think that his arguments were prevailing. Of course,
Sam knew nothing of Jabe's visit to the Halfpenny Gate, and Jabe and
the carpenter found his ignorance very useful to their scheme.
All morning on the day after the expiration of the week, Lige
sat groaning and sighing over the Clog Shop fire, wishing he had
never been born, and denouncing the departed Abram as if he had done
him some deadly injury.
He seemed to grow more settled towards noon, and having dined
at the Clog Shop, he hurriedly started off home, and half an hour
afterwards, carefully dressed, and wearing once more Jonas's
"blacks," he made his way on his fateful errand.
He went very slowly, and stopped and talked to himself and
prayed in the quiet lanes, but at length he dragged his reluctant
legs to the cottage of his lady-love, and knocked and entered
without waiting for permission―
"Well, haa arta, wench?" he asked in a low sad voice that
failed to conceal his agitation.
Jane Ann was ironing, and glancing carelessly up, she
"Aw'm reet enuff."
Lige was trembling now, but Jane Ann didn't appear to notice.
Neither did she ask him to sit down, and so from sheer weakness he
moved towards a chair, and dropping into it, faltered faintly―
"Aw want ta speik ta thi, Jane Ann."
"Then donna! Aw've towd thi afoor, an' Aw meean it."
Lige's pale face became ashy as he answered―
"It's no' that, wench, this toime. Aw've cum ta speik
abaat thi fayther."
"Tha's no need; tha con tell me nowt good abaat him."
"Thaa knows as he's deead, Aw reacon?"
"Ay!" and the tone of the admission sounded as if she were
reluctant to admit even so much.
"Dust know whoa he left his brass tew?"
"Ay," and Jane Ann went to change her flatiron at the fire,
showing by her whole manner that she wished him to understand that
the subject was distasteful to her.
But Lige was in it now, and intended to make an end.
"Well, it's no' moine, thaa knows; it's thoine," he said,
leaning forward on his stick.
"It isna moine, an' Aw shanna hev it."
"Bud thaa mun hev it; thaa'll ha' ta hev it,"
and Lige became momentarily quite aggressive.
"Shall Aw?" And Jane Ann tossed her head defiantly, and
began to rub her flat-iron on the smoothing blanket.
There was silence for a moment, for Lige was quite
nonplussed. At last he said coaxingly―
"Jane Ann, it isna my fawt as he left it ta me. Aw knew
nowt abaat it till efther he wor deead."
"Whoa said it wur?"
"Well, tak' it then, will ta?
Then Jane Ann wheeled round, and, looking Lige steadily in
the face, said, holding the iron away from her―
"Liger Howarth, Aw'st never tak' a hawpenny on it if thaa
talks till t' Judgment Day. Soa theer!"
Lige was amazed and distressed, and all the more so as he
felt the old Adam in him rejoicing over Jane Ann's obstinacy.
He sat looking at the flat-irons in the bars of the fire for some
time, and then he asked, hesitantly, as if ashamed of the suggestion
"Well, wilt tak' th' hawf on it!"
"Aw tell thi, Aw winna tak' a fardin."
There was another uncomfortable pause, and then Lige
"Wilt tak' them tew haases at th' bottom o' th' gate yond'?"
Then Jane Ann seemed really angry, and replied―
"Aw've towd thi wunce fer aw, Aw'st ha' nowt, an' if
thaa conna be said tha'd better be shuntin'."
Lige was abashed. He sat for a long time trying to
think of something else to propose, but as nothing came, he rose
reluctantly to leave, saying, as he did so―
"Well, Aw'll be goin'. But Aw'll gi' thi a fortnit to
think abaat it, and then Aw'll come ageean."
"If thaa gi'es me twenty ye'r, it 'ull mak' noa difference,"
and Jane Ann rubbed resolutely at her ironing-cloth.
Lige moved slowly to the door, unwilling to go, but afraid to
stay. He was just raising the latch and clearing his throat
for a last word, when Jane Ann, with a face hot with ironing, and
perhaps also with something else, bent low over her work, and said
more softly than she had yet spoken―
"Ther's wun thing Aw'll hev, if tha'll ax me."
Lige brightened up and turned back into the house again, and
There is really no more to be told. Lige the
road-mender had never had any attractions for Jane Ann, and Lige,
her father's heir and her supplanter, had become an object of
aversion. But the Lige whose simple honesty and rare
conscientiousness had prompted him to make so great a sacrifice for
justice and righteousness' sake became suddenly very noble in her
eyes, and the road-mender went back to Beckside an accepted suitor
and a very happy man. And the first business of Jane Ann after
she came to Beckside to live was to order the new Communion plate
for the chapel.