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Isaac's Fiddle.

I.

Rocks Ahead.


HO! ho! ho! hoo'll ha' me!  Hoo'll ha' me!  Hoo says hoo'll ha' me!" laughed Isaac to himself, as he walked down the "broo" homewards, on the night of Lizer's acceptance of him.

    His head rolled about, his hands were thrust deep into his greasy fustian trousers, and he seemed to walk on air; whilst every limb of his body appeared to be working on springs.  His delight was almost uncontrollable.

    When he had got past Long Ben's he stopped and looked up.  The sky was full of soft light, and though it was not yet dark, the stars seemed so close and bright that they appeared to challenge him, and so, lifting his head, he cried joyfully―

    "Capt?  Ay, Aw'st think yo' arr capt.  Aw'm capt mysel'!  Bud it's trew!  Hoo'll ha' me. Me! Aw tell yo'.  Hoo said hoo wod hersel'," and he burst out into a great triumphant laugh.

    A moment later he had reached his own little dwelling, the door of which he had left open on departing to see Lizer home.

    On the threshold he stopped and pointed to a flag a yard or two nearer the fireplace.

    "It wur theer," he cried, "just theer.  Hoo wur stonnin' o' thatunce," and the foolish fellow produced a grotesque imitation of Eliza's naturally graceful attitude.  "An' hoo said it hersel'.  An' hay, hoo did say it noice; hoo did fur shure."

    The house seemed strangely empty and unresponsive.  Isaac felt he must give expression to his feelings, and there was nobody to talk to.  Just then he spied the birdcage hanging in the inside of the chimney-jamb with its dropsical-looking occupant fast asleep.  Even a bird was better than nothing to tell his happiness to.

    "Naa, then," he cried, giving the cage a sharp rap.  "Wakken up, wilta.  Did t'yer what hoo said?  Tha owt to sing, mon!  Sing till tha brasts thisel'.  Hoo says hoo'll ha' me.  Bi th' mon, if hoo does Aw'll bey thi a new cage."

    The bird, startled out of its sleep, hopped clumsily into the middle of its little house, opened the eye nearest to Isaac with a startled protesting look, and then drowsily closing it again, dozed off once more to sleep.

    Isaac turned away and went and stood in the doorway.  By this time it was as dark as it ever would be that night, and the village sounded strangely still.  Leaning against the doorpost, Isaac glanced up and down the road two or three times as if seeking someone to whom to tell his great secret; but not a soul seemed to be stirring.

    Then he stepped out gently, closed the door after him, and, crossing the road, turned hurriedly into "Sally's Entry," and hastened through the mill yard and along the mill lane, and in a moment or two was standing under the lilac tree at the bottom of Jonas's garden.

    For several minutes he stood looking in a sort of triumphant ecstasy at the windows, first downstairs and then up.  He had never even heard of serenading, and couldn't have sung if he had, so he propped his chin on the flag fence under the lilac bush, and, looking from one window to another, he murmured thickly―

    "Tak' cur on her, Lord!  Tak' cur on her!  Tha's tan wun guardian hangil off me, bud Tha's gan mi anuther."

    Then he paused, and looking over his shoulder as if to answer some invisible objector, he went on.

    "Simple?  Aw know Aw'm a bit simple, bud hoo isna?  Hoo's as sharp as a weasel, an' as bonny as a rooase, and hoo says hoo'll ha' me, an' Aw cur fur nowt nor noabry if hoo does."  And suppressing with difficulty another great laugh, he moved away towards home, stopping every now and then as he went along, and glancing proudly back at Jonas's windows.

    His heart gave a little leap as he passed the Clog Shop, for he suddenly noticed by the starlight that Jabe was standing smoking at the shop door, and great as was his joy and confidence, the sight of that terrible form quite chilled him.

    He had not altogether recovered when he reached home, and on entering the cottage he carefully closed the door as if apprehensive that his master might be following him.

    Standing on the hearthstone, and looking round in the dim light, he noticed a little can of milk, and, picking it hastily up, he "swigged" away at it until the last drop was gone.

    As he put the can down again slowly and meditatively in the faint light he touched something that gave forth an indistinct strumming sound.  It was his old fiddle.

    The preoccupied look which had been on his face ever since he had seen his master vanished like magic, a gleam of eager joy came into his eyes, and, groping about on the table, first for the instrument and then for its bow, he cried delightedly

    "Hay! is that thee, owd lad?  Come here wi' thi," and snatching it up and holding it out eagerly, whilst his face beamed with admiration and gratitude, he cried―

    "Sithi!  If Aw didna want to play on thi Aw'd ha' thi framed.  Bless thi owd hert, dust know wot tha's dun?  Tha's getten me a sweetheart, mon!  Th' bonniest wench i' th' Clough.  Ay, or i' th' country oather.  Hay, bud thwart a grand un.  Aw nobbut gan three shillin' fur thi, bud Aw wodna tak' ten paand this varry minute."

    And then he grasped it again between his fists, and shook it as a sign of excessive affection, and holding his coat sleeve in its place by doubling his hand over it, he gently polished the already shining back, and looked as though he would kiss it.

    "Sithi," he cried at last, holding it out at arm's-length and gazing at it with ardent admiration, "Aw wodna part wi' thi fur aw th' instruments th' Clog Shop iver hed in it, an' wotiver comes an' wotiver goos, thee and me niver parts―niver, neaw niver!"

    Poor Isaac!  If he had known—but fortunately he did not.  And so, after polishing it and caressing it and doing all sorts of ridiculous things with it to show his affection, he finally put it tenderly away in the chimney-corner, and went to bed.

    Next morning, in spite of a restless, almost sleepless night, Isaac was in, if possible, higher spirits than ever.  Rising earlier than usual, he waylaid Old Jethro on his knocking-up rounds, and dragged him into the cottage to have a cup of hot coffee, and when the old man was departing he called him back, and with an air of mingled mystery and delight, said eagerly―

    "Jethro, afoor th' wik's aat yo'll yer summat.  An' it's trew, moind yo', every wod on it," and then darting indoors, he banged the door upon his old friend and set up another great laugh.

    Then he tried to engage the "throstle" in a whistling competition, but his own notes were so loud and shrill from sheer excess of happiness that the poor bird realised at once that he had no chance, and retiring from the contest, stood looking at Isaac in amazement and apparent perplexity.

    Ten minutes to six found our young clogger dodging up and down Mill Lane, in the hope of seeing, and maybe even speaking to his sweetheart, but when she at last appeared he had to resist a sudden temptation to run away.  And as Lizer caught sight of him, and actually left the two girls she was walking with and crossed the lane to speak to him, even the exhortation she gave him to "goa whoam, and donna mak' a foo' o' thisel'," failed to damp his joy, and he went down the "broo" again, struggling with a great desire to shout.

    At seven o'clock he went to the Clog Shop, and after opening the shutters and lighting Jabe's parlour fire and putting on the kettle, he sat down before the back window to work.

    But he was very restless.  Taking a partly-finished clog between his knees, he sat looking musingly at it and smiling every now and again at his evidently delightful thoughts.

    Presently he got up, threw open his window, and seeing a cluster of roses hanging over the window frame, he plucked one, and filling the bottom part of an old oil-can with water, stuck the flower in it and set it on the bench before him.  Then he began to work again in a sudden hurry, and as he worked he whistled.  Then the whistle grew into a hum, and in a few moments, in entire forgetfulness of everything but his own great happiness, he burst out singing— if singing it could be called.

    The sun was pouring its warm rays through the window and bathing him in golden light, the waving corn on the hillside beyond his master's garden seemed to smile with him, the birds were singing blithely in the trees that fringed the garden in evident sympathy, and all nature seemed to him to felicitate him on his great gladness.  The singer, though his tones were harsh and unmusical, had thrown back his head, and was almost shouting in the excess of his joy, when suddenly a whole shower of clog-tops came flying at his head.

    He stopped, and, with his mouth still open, turned in the direction from whence the missiles came, and lo! quite near to him was his dread master, standing glaring at him in the parlour doorway.

    Jabe was very scantily apparelled.  His stockings had been pulled hastily upon his legs, the feet part of them still flapping about.  His blue-striped shirt was stuffed hurriedly into his trousers, which were held in their place by a single brace, the remaining one hanging down behind and dangling about his legs.  He still wore his red-tasselled nightcap, and the face below that headdress was something terrible to behold in its indignant sternness.

    "Wot's to dew wi' thi, thaa yowling swelled yed?" he demanded in gruffest anger.

    Isaac felt a momentary shock at the sound of his master's voice, but his joy was so great that even this fearful apparition could not daunt him, and so, dropping the clog he was working upon, he rose hastily to his feet and cried―

    "Aw conna help it, mestur.  Aw'st brast if Aw dunna sing.  Hoo'll ha' me!  Hoo says hoo'll ha' me!"

    Jabe stood in the doorway glaring at his apprentice with fixed, stony gaze, but not a word did he utter.

    "Lizer, mestur!  Lizer Tatlock.  Hoo says hoo'll ha' me."

    Jabe's face became grimmer and stonier than ever, every muscle seeming to be perfectly rigid.

    "Hay, mestur, Lizer'ud mak' a—a—a—wheelbarrow sing.  Hoo'd mak' yo' sing if hoo said hood hev yo'."

    The grotesque figure in the doorway neither moved nor spoke, but still stood gazing in annihilating scorn on the poor apprentice.

    Presently the short leg gave a sort of premonitory jerk, the eyelids twitched rapidly, and at last, in tones of withering rebuke, the Clogger said―

    "Isaac, women's bin makkin' gradely men inta foo's iver sin' th' wold began, bud naa they've started a makkin' foo's inta bigger foo's.  Tha's bin totterin' upo' th' edge o' Bedlam iver sin' Aw know'd thi, an' th' fost bit of a wench as leuks at thi picks thi straight in."

    And drawing himself up to his full height, and putting on, if possible, a grimmer look, Jabe transfixed poor Isaac with a stony eye, and then solemnly stepped back into the parlour and banged the door.

    When Jabe came downstairs into the parlour, after completing his morning toilet, the look of stern anger had entirely disappeared from his rugged countenance, and a pleasant, even amused, expression had taken its place.

    The fact was that the indignation that made him look so terrible to poor Isaac had been almost entirely assumed, in conformity with the general principles of his workshop discipline.

    As he mashed his tea and cut his bread and butter a look of mischievous enjoyment gleamed out of the corners of his eyes, and now and then a soft relishful chuckle escaped him.  As he consumed his breakfast his merriment increased, and he more than once burst into a laugh, whilst he slapped his thigh in keenest enjoyment, his short leg becoming increasingly demonstrative as he mused.

    "Well dun, Isaac," he chuckled, "tha's byetten [beaten] th' fawsest woman i' Beckside aw ta Hinters.  Bi th' ferrups! bud hoo'll mak' a shindy abaat this."

    And then he rose from his chair, put on his leathern apron, lighted his pipe, and assuming once more a grim, surly air, walked into the shop.

    All that day poor Isaac was subjected to a constant fire of raillery.

    At one time the ridiculous and impudent presumption of "'prentice lads" and "little two-loom wayvers reaconing to cooart" was scoffed at.

    "Sich childer! wee'st ha' hawf-timers puttin' in th' axins next."

    Then the folly of marriage under any circumstances was set forth, and dwelt upon with becoming length and exhaustiveness.  Isaac's mentor then passed by a natural and easy transition to a diatribe on the ways and wiles of women.

    Soon the tormentor became ironical, and pretended to offer his misguided apprentice sincere commiseration on his reckless act and its terrible consequences, and finally he dropped into a humorous vein, and affected curiosity as to the art and mystery of courtship.

    All this Isaac bore with buoyant equanimity, having, in fact, anticipated something very much worse.  Late in the afternoon the unusually garrulous Clogger started a new line of thought.  He had been sitting in the inglenook chatting with Sam Speck, after baggin', and when his visitor had departed he still sat musing in the fireless corner.  All at once, however, he whisked round, and eyeing his apprentice with a look of stern reprobation, said―

    "Tha'rt a bonny mon ta steil anuther felley's wench, artna; an' thee a member tew."

    The self-complacent, almost consequential, simper which Isaac's plain face had worn most of the day suddenly vanished, and in its place came an expression of blank surprise and sorrow.  For, in all the hours of his happiness since Lizer's acceptance of him, strange though it may appear, he had never once thought seriously of Joe Gullett, and now that he was suddenly reminded of him, the sun of his gladness suffered an almost instantaneous eclipse.

    A customer came in just at that moment who had left a pair of clogs to be reclogged, which Jabe had decided were not worth it, and as this meant a battle royal, exactly to the pugnacious Clogger's heart, poor Isaac was left for a while to his own painful reflections.

    "Hay, dear!" he sighed forlornly, looking out through his little window, "happiness doesn't last lung!  Wheniver Aw wur a bit marlocky my muther uset say as Aw shud sewn hev' a clewt at th' t'other soide o' mi yed; an' it is sa."  And then after a moment or two of most melancholy musing, he groaned―

    "Poor Joe!"

    Presently he began to see himself as an interloper and thief.  He had stolen an old friend's sweetheart.  Basely stolen her!  And not fairly either.  Hadn't he employed the subtle and irresistible witchery of fiddling to accomplish his selfish purpose?  And he began to feel much as a person would do who had obtained some coveted possession by basely resorting to sorcery.

    But just then the memory of certain quite irresistible glances and certain most seductive tones which he had seen and heard the night before under the lilac tree came back to him, and sent such a sweet thrill through him that in a moment or two Isaac found himself contemplating a certain young clogger so bound in the enslavements of love that he had become utterly reckless of all moral or spiritual considerations whatsoever, and this, as it intensified his sense of guiltiness, compelled him to regard himself as a mass of meanness, selfishness, and treachery.

    Just as he felt himself sinking deeper and deeper into this slough of iniquity, he suddenly heard a loud whisper―

    "Isaac!"

    Isaac started guiltily, made a fussy pretence to be working, and then glanced furtively round to see who was calling him.

    It was Sam Speck.  Jabe was still engaged in a loud unsparing denunciation of the "scrattin' ways" of the owner of the condemned clogs, and so Sam had come in and taken his seat in the fireless inglenook without being noticed.  He was perched on the outermost edge of a superannuated clog bench, which now did duty as a fireside seat, and was leaning forward as far as he could so as to be able to whisper to Isaac without being heard.  And as Isaac glanced round in response to the call, he put his hand to his mouth and called out quickly―

    "Tha'll cop it, lad!  Bet Gullett's fair raving yond'!  Hoo says hoo'll leather thi," and then as the door banged to, and Jabe's customer, vanquished and humbled, left the shop, Sam turned round to conceal what he had been doing, and entered into conversation with his chief, whilst Isaac was left to his own tormenting reflections.

    Betty Gullett was the village termagant, and a terror to all peaceable people.  The one soft place in her heart was that filled by her son Joe, and Isaac suddenly realised that he had made a most formidable enemy, who would stick at nothing to accomplish her revenge.

    Isaac was not, of course, afraid of any mere physical castigation that might be in store for him, but in his excited fancy he saw himself attacked on the road, or outside the chapel, or even in his own house, by a fearful woman whose very husband had run away to America years ago to be out of reach of her tongue and temper.

    By this time he was in a cold sweat.  The hand that limply held the clog-top he was stitching positively shook, and his emotions were so distracting that he could neither work nor think.  He felt sick, and for the first time in his life he could not cry to relieve his distress.

    He had sat in his place fighting, now with a reproaching conscience and then with his own quaking fears, for some time, when presently he became dimly conscious that he was being made the subject of a muttered conversation in the inglenook.  And now Sam Speck and his gruff employer suddenly appeared to his distorted fancy as kind friends, instead of the cynical critics he had ever regarded them.  He would sooner face them a hundred times than endure one five minutes of Betty Gullett.

    Another moment, and in his anguish he would have got up and unbosomed himself to them, and thrown himself on their pity and protection; but just then others of the Clog Shop cronies came in, and Isaac, with a despairing gasp, shrank back into himself again.

    The hour that followed was probably the longest of Isaac's life.  Would "knocking off" time never come?  One five minutes he was working desperately; the next he was gazing out of his window with a woeful, desolate look.

    Oh, what a wretch he had been to steal another lad's wench!  What would people think of him?  He would never be able to hold his head up in Beckside again.  But he was being most deservedly punished.  Judgment had overtaken him with most exemplary swiftness; and as the squat form and red face of Mrs. Gullett rose before his mind, she appeared to him as an awful avenging sprite.  Then he fell to pitying himself as an unlucky wight, and a poor friendless orphan, and here relief would have come, for he felt he could cry but for the close proximity of so many unfeeling men.  Oh that he could be alone, just to relieve his heart, as he longed to do!

    And "at lung last" the old long-cased clock just inside the parlour door began to growl as an introduction to barking — that is striking; and by the time the latter operation was concluded, Isaac was out of the shop and hurrying down the "broo" to the little cottage where he knew he would be alone.

    And now an extraordinary thing happened.  As Isaac turned homewards, with his head down and his heart thumping at his side, he began to pray, and as he prayed he reached the cottage door and commenced fumbling in his pocket for the lever of the latch, which was the only form of key he used.  And if any curious reader interested in spiritualistic manifestations will make a journey to Beckside, the present occupant of the Clog Shop will tell him that just as he was putting the sneck into the door on that memorable evening, he distinctly heard a voice say to him, "Goa ta Lizer," and he will ask you, in a voice that rebukes all scepticism, "Wurn't that a hanser ta pruyer?"

    Answer or no, voice or no, it came to poor buffeted Isaac as a revelation.

    Of course!  Why had he never thought of it before?  Lizer was equal to anything—equal to anything—even to Betty Gullett.

    It took only a very few minutes for him to get some hasty apology for a supper.

    A great load had been taken off his mind.  Leaving Lizer to deal with his terrible she-enemy, and relying on old acquaintanceship and a close knowledge of Joe's disposition, he would do his best to conciliate his rival.  He would apologise.  If absolutely necessary, and Lizer didn't object, he would tell Joe the whole truth as to how he came to get Lizer at all, and surely that would pacify him.

    But his first duty was to see Lizer, and after Lizer, Joe.

    With these thoughts in his mind, he started for his sweetheart's house.  Perfectly satisfied and at ease as to Lizer's ability to deal with the greater enemy, he began to arrange in his mind his own interview with the injured Joe.  He grew surer and surer that he could mollify Joe.  He would seek him out immediately after seeing Lizer, and get it done with and off his mind.

    He hoped he would be able to find Joe.  It would be disappointing if he couldn't, or if Joe wouldn't talk to him when he did find him, but he would hope for the best.

    Hello!  Isaac had by this time nearly reached Tatlock's house, and was stepping forward at much more than his usual pace, when lo! right under the lilac tree, the scene of last night's great happiness, stood Joe himself.

    Isaac pulled up suddenly; his heart gave a great leap; he began to shake from head to foot.  Joe had seen him, and was actually coming towards him, so that the interview so eagerly desired a moment ago would be got over at once.  Isaac hesitated a moment, tried to move, but felt as if he could not; put his hand to his head, grabbed frantically at his cap, and the next moment, cap in hand, he was fleeing along Mill Lane as fast as his shaking legs could carry him.


――――♦――――
 
Isaac's Fiddle.

II.

Remorse.


DOWN the lane, through the mill yard and along Sally's Entry, rushed poor Isaac, evidently making for home.  As he neared that haven, however, he began to have misgivings as to its security as a place of refuge, and so, when he reached it, he rushed past and down the "broo" and over the bridge, turning to the right on the other side, and scudding along the path up the Beck side, glancing apprehensively around every few yards to see if he were being followed.

    When he had got some half a mile up the Clough he slackened pace, for no pursuer was in sight.  Then he sat down on the Beck side to get his breath, moaning and groaning in self-disgust and fear.  Then he grew quieter, and, as it was now nearly dark, he began to pick his way across the stones in the Beck, and to steal slowly but fearfully homeward.

    He hesitated for some time before approaching the cottage, but now the desire to see Lizer, and the fear of what she would say, first of his absence and then of his cowardly flight before his rival, were urging him forward as strongly as his fear of meeting Joe was holding him back.

    Very cautiously he approached the backyard wall in Shaving Lane.  Then he climbed clumsily over it into the disused hencote, where he would fain have rested; but by this time his concern about Lizer had grown so strong that he could not keep still, and in a few moments he had re-climbed the back wall, scudded along the lane again, and striking the footpath that led up into the Duxbury Road, he was soon stealing carefully past the chapel and the Clog Shop on his way to Tatlock's house.

    "Isaac!"

    The young clogger nearly jumped out of his skin.  The voice came from somewhere behind him, and as he remembered the voice he suddenly realised that he must have passed Lizer somewhere and never seen her.  The girl was standing with a shawl over her head, under the hedge of a garden, and he must have almost touched her as he passed.

    She was evidently shaking with quiet laughter, and began to question him quite innocently as to where he had been, and why he had passed her "sa independent."

    Now Isaac had vowed half a dozen times within the half-hour that no power under the sun should ever induce him to tell Lizer why he had so ignominiously fled, and so in a clumsy fashion he tried to fence.  And Lizer only laughed a soft delightful sort of laugh, and pretended to be quite satisfied with his lame and contradictory explanation.

    But, somehow,—Isaac never could understand how it came about,—ten minutes later, as they stood once more under the lilac, he was telling his sweetheart, without ever being asked to do so, all that he had suffered during the day, not omitting his terror of Mrs. Gullett, and his sudden flight from the presence of Joe.

    Sad to relate, Lizer laughed, and not a mere good-behaviour laugh either.  Under a surface of demure sobriety, even Isaac could see that she was secretly revelling in amusement and delight.  She enjoyed his description of his many misgivings and heartrendings; she enjoyed even more his terror of Mrs. Gullett; but when it came to his pathetic and sympathy-seeking account of his flight from Joe, the hard-hearted little "hussy" could no longer control herself, and broke out into a long rippling laugh—a laugh which made her little body shake all over, and even brought tears of delight into her eyes.

    Isaac felt chagrined, and had to struggle more than once to overcome that unfortunate tendency of his to tears.  And then Lizer seemed to understand, and lightly changed her manner, so that by the time they parted that night she had somehow contrived to inspire her lover with some of her own contempt for the terrible Betty, and had also impressed upon him the necessity of doing all he could to comfort the forlorn Joe.

    Now this last idea was so much in harmony with his own feelings that Isaac readily promised and resolutely determined to carry it out.  But though he told himself twenty times a day how eager he was to meet young Gullett, it was odd that no opportunity seemed to present itself, and when it came to actually setting out to look for Joe, it was astonishing how many things came to prevent him, and how easily he allowed himself to be overcome by them.  Saturday night came, and he had not even seen his rival.  Moreover, do as he would, he could not get over his terror of the terrible Betty, and every time the Clog Shop door opened he gave a nervous start, and held his breath in torturing suspense until he heard the actual voice of the new-comer and was reassured.  Not once in those days did he dare turn round to see who the visitor might be.

    Saturday and Sunday nights were regarded as the great courting nights in Beckside, and Isaac spent the whole of the former evening in most delightful intercourse with his lady-love, and was in a seventh heaven of delight.

    Next morning, however, there came a change.  Isaac had for some few weeks now been taking the violin part in the singing-pew, but that morning as he went into school Lizer's youngest brother, Jacky, stopped him, and told him that his father wished him to keep away from the singing-pew that day.  That sounded ominous, and Isaac became at once very uneasy.

    When chapel commenced he saw with alarm that Joe's place amongst the singers was vacant, as was also that of Sophia Gullett, Joe's sister.

    A minute later, Isaac felt a "crill" run down his spine as Mrs. Gullett, accompanied by her only son, stalked into the pew immediately in front of his.  Twice, at least, during the singing of the first hymn Mrs. Gullett turned half round, and stared coolly and contemptuously at poor Isaac, each time sending him into a cold sweat.

    Then in the prayer Isaac heard Joe sigh, and this made him feel worse than ever.  Once he caught Sophia looking at him as if he were some awful monster, and the sorrowful reproachfulness of her glance as she turned away nearly brought the ever-ready tears into his eyes.

    Oh dear! what a miserable fellow he was!  But it was only another illustration of his master's oft-repeated proverb that "the way of transgressors is hard."  As the service proceeded, Joe kept sighing, and every sigh seemed to go through the unhappy Isaac, his only consolation in these painful moments being to take long reassuring looks at his sweetheart.

    The service seemed a terrible length, and towards the end of it another tormenting thought took possession of him.  Mrs. Gullett would be sure to attack him when the service was over, perhaps in the very chapel itself.  There was nothing for it but to go out before the service closed.  But no; that would be to openly manifest his cowardice, and Lizer wouldn't like that.

    What must he do?  They were singing the last hymn.  Another moment and it would be too late.  The music stopped, and the people began to kneel.

    Now for it!  Isaac slid his hand softly down over the side of the pew door.  He partly opened the door.  Mrs. Gullett was moving.  He grabbed at his Sunday "crow" (hat), rose softly to his feet, and made a rush.

    Alas! alas! the matting outside the door had puckered, and as poor Isaac started down the narrow aisle, his Sunday boot caught in a fold, and he went sprawling full length on the floor.

    How he got up, and out, and home that day he never knew.  And in the afternoon the chaff to which he was subjected nearly drove him, as he said, "maddlet."  To make matters worse, Lizer seemed actually to have enjoyed his ignominious downfall, and did nothing but titter and laugh as he poured out to her the tale of his woes.  Nay, to crown all, as he was leaving her that night she gave him a sharp little lecture, and bade him "be a gradely mon, an' nor a dateliss gawmlin."

    Another miserable night for poor Isaac, and next day the attack was renewed.

    As soon as he got to his work in the morning old Jabe began to "bullyrag" him as a disturber of divine worship, and an enemy of the church's peace; and later in the day, Sam Speck, in a loud voice, informed the Clogger that Joe Gullett was "takkin' lessons i' boxin' off little Eli."

    By evening, Isaac, made desperate from sheer misery, was driven to the resolution to end the matter one way or the other.  All the night, therefore, after ceasing work, he was hunting for Joe.  He dared not go to the house, but he visited every other place where it was at all likely that his rival might be found, but all to no purpose.  Then he went and hid himself in a dark corner, opposite Joe's residence, to watch for him coming home.  But though he watched long and anxiously until one by one every light in the Gullett house had been extinguished, no Joe turned up, and the suffering lad had perforce to go home and brood over his sorrows.

    During that long night, as he lay tossing about in bed, alternately lamenting his fate and praying for help and deliverance, a great thought came to him.  It made him sick as he faced it, but slowly it took an inexorable grip of him, and after fighting with it for an hour or more, he realised that the path of duty had been laid before him and that there was no escape.

    As soon as it grew light enough he got up and fetched his fiddle upstairs, and then lay back in bed looking lovingly at it and groaning, and every now and again drawing the bow gently across the strings in an absent, pensive sort of way.

    Then he got out of bed again and went downstairs, returning almost immediately with some rubbing cloths and a bottle of little Eli's wonderful furniture polish.

    Then sitting on the bedside in his shirt,—he had never possessed a night-shirt,—he began to take the fiddle to pieces and clean and polish it, part by part.  Carefully and lovingly putting it together again, and replacing an imperfect string, he then began to play, slowly and pensively at first, but as his interest in the music deepened he grew earnest and then excited, until, as he finished an encore on his mother's favourite tune, he suddenly discovered that it was almost time to be at work.  So, hastily dressing, he took the instrument downstairs again, hung it carefully in its place, and then standing away from it and looking sorrow-looking fully at it, he cried hoarsely―

    "Aw conna help it, lad!  Aw'm shawmed to leuk at thi, bud Aw conna, conna help it."

    And then he turned hastily away, and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, hurried out to his work.


――――♦――――
 
Isaac's Fiddle.

III.

The Sacrifice.


TWICE that day Isaac saw Joe Gullett, and Joe saw him, but now, strange to say, the youth who was supposed to be almost thirsting for poor Isaac's blood hurried away before Isaac could get near him.

    But Isaac was not to be baulked.  Having once realised that the step he contemplated was inevitable, he watched eagerly for his opportunity.

    He happened to be getting in the Clog Shop coals that afternoon, and so as the mill was "loosing" he spied Sophia Gullett going home from her work.

    Isaac dared not wait to think, and without a moment's hesitation he darted across the road.

    The girl pulled up as he drew near, and hastily drew her shawl more tightly round her arms,

    "S'phia," began Isaac, with an attempt at a coaxing smile, "wilt dew summat for me?"

    Sophia, who had had in her secret heart a sort of fancy for Isaac for herself, and therefore felt the more aggrieved at the choice he had made, drew a step back, and then asked, with a tentative inflexion in her voice―

    "Wot is it?"

    Isaac felt the unspoken rebuff, but dared not draw back now, and so, with quivering lips, he stammered―

    "Aw want ta speik ta your Joe ta-neet.  Wilt ax him ta cum daan ta aar haase?  Do, wench, wilta?"

    Sophia was tender-hearted, and felt herself giving way, but remembering the necessity of being loyal to her brother, she tossed her head again, dodged past Isaac, and started homewards, simply saying as she did so, with a look that gave, Isaac no clue whatever as to her intention―

    "Happen Aw will, an' happen Aw winna."

    The young clogger went back to his coal-carrying very despondently.  There was no knowing what Sophia would do, and it seemed very probable that he would not get rest to his troubled mind that night, in spite of all his resolutions and efforts.

    However, when work was over he made for home.  There he busied himself "fettlin' up" the house.  Then he fetched in a couple of bottles of little Eli's famous "Yarb beer," and then taking down his fiddle, he laid it tenderly on the table and sat down to wait.

    He had set the door open that he might see anyone who passed, and moving his chair so as to command as much of the road as possible without being too conspicuous, he began his watch.

    But the time passed and no Joe appeared.  Isaac began to fidget.  Several times he was on the point of picking up his violin, but restrained himself.  Then he began to walk about the house.  Then, as impatience and excitement grew upon him, he tried to whistle and even to sing, but there was no heart in his effort, and his music soon ceased.

    Presently he sauntered to the door, and, putting on a laboured look of indifference, stood propping the doorway with his elbows.  Still no Joe, and it began to grow dark.  He had not explained his last night's absence to Lizer, and this was evidently going to be a second wasted evening.

    To a girl of Lizer's spirit this was a serious thing.  Oh, what an unlucky wretch he―

    Ah!  Sure enough, right up the "broo" was coming the long-expected Joe, but he was sauntering along as if he were going nowhere.  Isaac's heart went thump! thump!  His legs began to tremble.  An almost irresistible desire to flee, or to go inside and bolt the door, came over him, but struggling earnestly against it, he held his post.

    Joe drew nearer, and Isaac had a good view of him.  He appeared to be just taking an easy evening stroll.  His mouth was puckered as if he were softly whistling, and he was turning his head and glancing at the housetops, first on one side of the street, and then on the other, as though he were looking for a stray pigeon, or were interested in smoky chimneys.

    And the nearer he came to Isaac the more engrossed he seemed to be in his elevated studies.  He was now only a few yards away, but was apparently entirely oblivious of Isaac's presence.

    The supreme moment had come.  It was now or never, Isaac felt.  And so, assuming an air of most careless unconcern, strangely unlike his actual feelings, he finally managed to squeeze out―

    "Heaw dew, Joe?"

    Joe did not stop, though he slackened speed somewhat.  He brought his eyes slowly back from their distant occupation; an awkward smile flickered at one corner of his mouth.  He shot a shy glance at his rival, and then quickly transferring his gaze to the housetops once more, he answered―

    "Heaw dew?"

    Then there was a pause, and Joe, to Isaac's horror, seemed to be moving on again; and so, with another great effort, he forced out the profound remark―

    "Ther's a deeal o' midges abaat ta-neet."

    But even this bold advance did not entirely arrest the progress of the tantalising Joe.  He paused uncertainly, swung uneasily round on one leg, and at length answered very slowly―

    "Ay."

    And then he stopped, and the two stood with half the road between them, but for a minute or more neither of them spoke.

    Presently Isaac tried again.  With a sigh, and a painful effort, he ventured―

    "Eli's tarrier's kilt a rotten [rat] ta-day."

    "Aw've yerd sa."

    And still the two were no nearer, and watching them standing awkwardly talking at each other from that distance, it would have been difficult to decide which was more uneasy.

    After a while, Isaac stepped timidly down from the doorstep, and taking one stride nearer to his rival, made another remark about as interesting as those above recorded.  Then, as he made a monosyllabic reply, Joe took a little step towards Isaac, and stood hesitating in the road.  And so they went on, moving almost inch by inch nearer to each other, making casual and inane remarks about anything that occurred to them, until they were actually close together.

    And then a spirit of dumbness seemed to have seized upon both of them, and whilst Joe looked up the road very dreely and hummed a tune, Isaac looked down the hill and seemed to be making a special study of the schoolhouse beyond the bridge.

    Then Joe made his first voluntary remark, and though it was as little connected with the subject in both their minds as any of his own remarks had been, Isaac plucked up wonderfully, and at last, making a desperate plunge, he cried with quite unnecessary excitement―

    "Joe, halt seen my throstle?"

    Joe never had, and so a minute later he was standing in the house, waiting whilst Isaac found a candle with which more effectually to exhibit his feathered friend.  The candle having been lighted, and the poor bird wakened up to be inspected, Joe passed encomiums upon it, which were a clumsy compromise between polite approval of the throstle and protest against too great familiarity with its unpardoned proprietor.

    When at length ornithology had been exhausted as a topic of conversation, Isaac turned round and thrust a chair forward, so that Joe, if he wished, could sit down.  But he, somehow, could not ask him to do so.

    Then he placed the candle on the table, carefully setting it so that it would show off the fiddle that was lying there.  Then he espied the two bottles of "yarb beer," and with a sudden but very hollow show of cheerfulness, he gaily opened them, and handed a foaming pint pot to Joe.

    But a sudden fit of taciturnity, and even melancholy, seemed to have seized Joe.  For though he dropped into the chair near him, he heaved a most lugubrious sigh, and tragically waved the beer away, as though it were trifling with his lacerated feelings to offer it.

    Isaac had a sudden return of his sense of guiltiness, and stood looking at his visitor with mournful eyes.

    "Joe," he said presently in a low, husky voice.

    "Wot?" came heavily and reluctantly from the afflicted youth.

    "Aw allis loiked thee, Joe."

    But Joe heaved another deep sigh, and sadly shook his head.

    After another long silence, during which Isaac stood at the far side of the table, now shutting his eyes tightly as if in prayer, and now looking earnestly from the fiddle to Joe, and then from Joe to the fiddle again, he screwed his body about as if thereby to force the words out, and said in a voice the tremor of which was more eloquent than any words―

    "Aw've wuished mony a toime as thee an' me wur bruthers, Joe."

    Joe suddenly bent forward, and dropping his elbows on his knees, buried his head in his hands and uttered an awful groan.

    Isaac stood looking wistfully at him for a moment or two, and then in a most pathetically coaxing tone he said―

    "Less be friends, Joe."

    Joe shook his head in a wearily decided manner, and heaved another sigh.

    Isaac waited a little while, and then went on, still more anxiously―

    "Joe, if tha'll be friends, dust know wot Aw'll dew?"

    Isaac evidently expected that curiosity, at any rate, would make Joe speak, but he was disappointed, for he only shook his head more sadly and decidedly than ever.

    "Aw'll gi' thi th' preciousest thing Aw hev' i' th' wold, Joe."

    Joe raised himself slowly up, and leaned back in his chair, and partly because he felt he must say something, and partly because curiosity was, after all, beginning to assert itself within him, he said, with exaggerated indifference and melancholy―

    "Dunna meyther me."

    But Isaac was by this time desperate.  He had worked himself up to this point of excitement, and felt that he must end it now or never, and so, seizing his cherished instrument and thrusting it feverishly into Joe's hands, he cried―

    "Aw'll gi' thi me fid—fiddle, Joe," and the poor fellow burst into a passion of tears—for it was like parting with life itself.

    Joe sat leaning back in his chair, and looking at the joists above his head for quite a long time.  Then he suddenly rose to his feet, and awkwardly thrusting out his hand, he stammered in choking tones―

    "Shak' hons, Isaac!"

    Anyone could see by the way it was done that these two village lads had had little practice in this form of salutation, but as they stood together on that old sanded floor, in the dim candle-light, gripping each other's hands and looking into each other's eyes, they entered silently into a bond which neither time nor trial has been able to break.

    "Aw winna tak' thi fiddle, lad," faltered Joe with his hand still in Isaac's, "bud Aw'll tak' thee.  Ay, an' Aw'm suman' praad to tak' thi tew.  After wot tha's dun ta-neet, Aw dunna Wunder as Lizer loikes thi.  Aw'm glad tha's getten her—a—partly wot."

    And in this strange interview this was the only mention made of the subject of their differences.  And when, as Isaac saw his friend home, they came unexpectedly upon Lizer, and in the fulness of their hearts told her all that had taken place, the bewitching little besom called Joe a "lumpyed" in such a delightful sort of way, and gave him such a tap on the cheek where any but a Lancashire lass might have given him a kiss, that Joe, when he left the courters, went home as nearly reconciled to his fate as could well be expected.


――――♦――――
 
The Harmonium.

I.

An Apple of Discord.


JABE and Long Ben had been spending a week at the seaside for the first time in their lives.  Excursions of this nature were in those days very rare amongst Beckside folk, and this was brought about by Lige, the road-mender.  That worthy and his wife, now retired and living comfortably in a little cottage near the "Beck," had evidently determined to enjoy themselves for the rest of their lives, and so gave way to habits which occasioned their friends much concern.

    Amongst other questionable tendencies, they grew fond of making little excursions abroad on visits to friends and the like.

    This was all very delightful to Lige himself, although he took his pleasure somewhat fearfully.  He was troubled on every new adventure of the kind with painful misgivings as to the righteousness of such conduct, and vainly attempted to square matters with his plain-spoken conscience by extraordinary contributions to the chapel collections.

    When, therefore, Jane Ann had proposed to him to go to "th' sayside," he had had a somewhat painful struggle; and, in fact, even when he had got to the watering-place, and was enjoying himself to the full, he had moments of such painful self-reproach, that he hit upon the ingenious expedient of trying to persuade the grave heads of the church at Beckside to join them in their dubious pleasure; and thus, by obtaining official sanction for his frivolities, to relieve himself of at least some of the responsibility for them.

    And so Jane Ann, of whose penmanship Lige was most inordinately proud, had written a long letter, enlarging, not upon the worldly attractions of the place, but upon the marvellous eloquence of the preacher at the Methodist Chapel, and the beauty of certain new tunes which were being sung there, and closing with a most urgent request that Lige's friends would join them for a few days.

    But Lige, uneasy and impatient though he was, had to wait several days for a reply, for so grave and altogether unusual a matter was not to be settled all at once.

    Seaside visitation was, according to Beckside standards, a somewhat questionable practice.  It savoured of pampering self-indulgence.  It was extravagant and worldly, and was generally regarded as a sign of ostentation and frivolity.  It was some time, therefore, before the two friends could find an excuse for the journey which satisfied themselves and those about them.  What made it worse, Sam Speck had not been invited, and he was very stern and uncompromising in his maintenance of the orthodox Beckside view of the case, and came down upon any weak argument advanced by Jabe or Ben in favour of the excursion, or any such-like worldly vanities, with unexampled fierceness, and contrived to obtain the at any rate partial support of Nathan, Jonas, Jethro, and the rest.

    Sam's position was made the stronger by the fact that both the Clogger and his friend found themselves surprisingly inclined to accept Lige's invitation, but were very much ashamed at being so weak and frivolous.

    At last, however, Sam went too far one night, and so goaded the wavering Clogger, that he suddenly arose from his seat and announced his intention of going, whatever either Sam or anybody else might say.

    Of course, if Jabe went, Ben must go too; and as Mrs. Ben rather encouraged the idea, and Jabe's mode of settling the discussion transferred the moral responsibility of the whole expedition to the Clogger's shoulders, Ben plucked up courage, and away they went.

    When they arrived at their destination, they were shocked to find Lige so evidently carried away by his frivolous surroundings that he met them at the station wearing a straw hat and a thin alpaca jacket, and flourishing a rakish-looking cane.  And the light-hearted manner in which their old friend walked them into lodgings of awe-inspiring grandeur, as if it were an everyday matter to him, quite took their breath away.

    Well, they had spent a busy and very happy week, and, having got their faces most satisfactorily tanned, were returning on the 'bus from Duxbury to Beckside.

    There was only room for one on the driver's box, and the 'bus was kept standing several minutes at the bottom of Station Road whilst Jabe and his friend settled which of them should occupy the coveted seat.  Ordinarily, neither of them would have cared to travel outside, but on this occasion they were both of one mind, and neither would give way for the other—and neither would confess that the real reason of this obstinacy was an intense desire to catch the very first possible glimpse of dear old Beckside.

    As the reader will guess, Jabe was the successful candidate for the outside berth; and Ben, when he got inside, went up to the far end of the vehicle and took his seat by the window, in order to have the next best possible view to Jabe's.

    It was, perhaps, as well they were parted, for as they drew near home, certain painful misgivings began to exercise their minds.  What had hppened to the dear old place in their careless and unnecessary absence?  They were both sure they would find something wrong.  And only justly so, either.  They had been gadding about and seeing wonderful things, and wickedly enjoying themselves without stint, whilst the chapel had been left to take care of itself—or what might turn out even worse than that, to be managed by rash and inexperienced hands.

    It would not have greatly surprised Ben to find his children all ill of fever, or his shop burned down.  And Jabe was by no means sure that he should find the chapel where he left it, and all right.  Ah! how wicked they had been!  Why, the very evening of their arrival at the watering-place, as they were walking on the sands, Lige, the trifler, had gaily challenged Long Ben to a game at "Aunt Sally"; and Jabe was convinced that, but for his own indignant protest, Ben would have accepted, and the world would have had the scandalous spectacle of two pillars of the church throwing sticks at a big, hideous-looking wooden image with a pipe in its mouth.

    On the other hand, Jabe was very uneasy lest Ben should, after all, know what he did whilst Ben and Lige were having their photos taken; and the uneasy Clogger realised that he would never be able to hold his head up in Beckside again if it got out that he had had his "bumps" felt by an itinerant phrenologist.

    Neither of these men had ever been a week out of Beckside in his life before, and as the coach drew near the village they grew quite nervous and apprehensive as to what might have happened during their absence, their fears being all intensified by the painful recollections of the thoughtless and wicked gaiety in which they had been indulging.

    When the 'bus reached the top of the hill, and was going down into the village, Jabe heaved a great sigh, and Long Ben, with his nose flattened against the coach window, had difficulty in keeping back his tears.

    And after all nothing had happened.  The chapel stood just where they had left it, and looked bonnier than ever.  The buzz of the mill could be distinctly heard, and over that the c-h-e-e-t, c-h-e-e-t of the saws from Ben's sawpit; and when the conveyance stopped, and Isaac, Sam Speck, Nathan, and Jethro came rushing out to meet them, overwhelming them with questions and chaff about their sunburnt faces, Jabe, standing off from the group, and looking round with unwonted seriousness on his face, cried out―

    "Th' sayside's reet enuff fur them as loikes it, but Beckside's good enuff fur me."

    And Long Ben, turning his back to the group of friends, and looking very earnestly at the mill chimney, whilst he vainly tried to straighten a quivering face, responded―

    "Ay, lad; ther's noa place loike whoam, is ther'?"

    Safe home again, both our friends felt inclined to laugh at the fear that had spoilt the pleasure of the return journey, but almost immediately other thoughts began to trouble them.  Jabe wondered whether Ben really did know about that phrenologist, and Ben felt himself going red about the ears as he thought of the dreadful possibility of Jabe blurting out the truth about the "Aunt Sally."

    These things were too shameful even to be discussed by them, and so, though they had abundant opportunity as they came home of entering into a compact, neither of them had ventured to suggest it to the other.  Fortunately Lige had stayed behind a little longer, and so could not expose them; but what if he came home and in his garrulous way blurted out the whole story?

    At the Clog Shop that night there was, of course, a full assemblage, and as Jabe and Ben described what they had seen, and marked the effect of it on the company present, they forgot their pricks of conscience, and were very soon on the best of terms both with themselves and each other.

    Jabe, of course, was the chief spokesman, and he sat in his shirt-sleeves with a new long pipe before him, smoking a wonderful brand of tobacco to which Lige had introduced him, and enlarging on all they had seen and heard.  He dismissed the ordinary attractions of the place in a very summary manner, although Ben confessed afterwards that he "fair crilled" as Jabe mentioned "Aunt Sally" a second time.  And when Jabe paused for a moment to relight his pipe, Ben seemed inclined to take up and continue the story, for he drawled―

    "An' ther' wur wun o' them—them bumpfeelin' chaps—an'"―

    But here Jabe broke in with most unwonted haste―

    "Th' Ranters wur howdin' camp-meetin's upo' th' sonds; an' hay, wot singin'!"

    Having thus got the conversation into smooth waters again, Jabe passed on to what he knew would be more interesting to the company, and described the big chapel they had attended, and the preachers, and the music; and the company noted with interest that, instead of describing the leaders of the music as the singers, he called them the "kire," and even the singing-pew itself was denominated the "horkester"—which were regarded as signs that even the sturdy ecclesiastical conservatism of Jabe had been relaxed by his short sojourn abroad.

    "Haa mony wur ther' i' th' band?" asked Jethro at this point.

    "Band? thaa lumpyed; it wur a horgin."

    Sam Speck, who, with the memory of his late ill-treatment on his mind, had hitherto manifested an ostentatiously supercilious indifference, now suddenly woke up, and glancing significantly at young Luke Yates, who sat near him, leaned his head against the chimney, and winking mysteriously at Jonas Tatlock, said quietly―

    "Ay! bands is gooin' aat o' fashion fur chapils."

    "Soa mitch wur fur th' chapils, then," retorted Jabe with emphasis.

    Sam and his friends glanced at each other again, and the conversation seemed somehow to have got stranded.

    "We went to th' Independent Chapil i' th' afternoon; it wur th' Sarmons,"—said Long Ben at length,—"an' talk abaat singin'"— But Ben could find no words in which to express his admiration, and so he nodded with most eloquent suggestiveness at Jonas.

    "Wur ther'a band theer?" asked Sam, whose mind seemed somehow to run very oddly on this subject.

    "Neaw; ther'  wur a harmonion."

    Sam's eyes sparkled, and after turning and looking significantly over his shoulder at those who sat nearest to him, he drew a long breath, and asked quietly―

    "An' th' music wur tiptop, thaa says?"

    "It wur that," replied the carpenter, putting as much weight into his words as he could make them carry.

    Sam was conscious that Jabe was studying him curiously, and so he moved restlessly in his seat.  Then, after a pause, be dropped his voice somewhat, and remarked with a very awkward attempt at indifference―

    "That's wot we wanton here."

    Ben opened his eyes a little, and then, looking at Sam interrogatively, he asked―

    "Uz! wot dun we want?"

    Sam cast another look at those nearest to him, and then, wincing as if in anticipation of a blow, he said softly―

    "A harmonion."

    Everyone in the company shot a quick glance at Jabe, and as quickly turned away again, whilst the possessors of those eyes held their breath as if anticipating an explosion.  But the Clogger neither moved nor spoke.  His rugged face became a shade sterner, but for any other sign he gave he might never have heard Sam's remark.

    The silence that followed was most unpleasant, and so, to relieve it, Long Ben looked across at Sam, and asked―

    "Wot dun we want wi' a harmonion?"

    Sam stole another quick glance at Jabe, whose silence was more ominous than any speech, and answered sulkily―

    "Well, we dew.  Th' Clough Enders hez wun, an' th' Brogdeners hez wun, and they'n tew at Duxbury Schoo'."

    Sam sat like a naughty boy expecting a box on the ear.  And the rest of the company stole shy, quick glances at the Clogger, whose silence under these conditions was a sort of slow torture.  Presently Ben went on―

    "Dust know what harmonions cosses?" (costs).

    "Cosses?  Ay!" replied the now desperate Sam.  "We can hev a gradely good un wi' six stops in fur ten paand, an' Jimmy Juddy says he'll gi' tew towart it."

    Then two or three others added details, and for the next few minutes they talked eagerly, but somewhat nervously, on the subject, evidently unconscious of the fact that in every word uttered they were betraying themselves to the silent and inscrutable Clogger.

    In the discussion thus initiated, it gradually became clear that, immediately after the departure of Jabe and Ben for "th' sayside," Sam and Luke Yates had begun to carry out a long-cherished plan of agitating for a modern musical instrument for the chapel.  The suggestion had met with more encouragement than they had expected—Jethro, the knocker-up, being their only serious opponent; and, as he was not of much account, and was clearly prejudiced, they had, by the time the two excursionists returned, nearly perfected their scheme.

    Amongst other things, they had got a lot of tentative promises that nearly covered the proposed outlay, and an illustrated price-list of very attractive looking instruments.

    At this point, Sam produced from his pocket a gorgeous catalogue, with one of the leaves carefully turned down, and, opening the book at this particular page, he looked anxiously round for someone to whom to present it.

    But, though they had all examined it several times a day for the last few days, they seemed to have suddenly lost all interest in the matter, and shrank from accepting Sam's offer under the stern eye of the terrible Clogger.  Sam bent forward and nervously thrust the catalogue towards Long Ben, but that worthy looked straight before him and absolutely ignored the document.  Sam was visibly agitated, and would gladly have put the list back in his pocket, but he either could not or dared not, and so he held it out hesitantly and looked at it a long time, conscious that everyone was watching him, and finally, making a desperate effort, he got up, strode across to where Jabe was sitting, and, pointing with his finger at a picture of a very imposing looking instrument, he cried

    "That's it, sithi.  Wee'st ha' sum music when we getten that."

    Jabe was sitting with his short leg flung carelessly over the other against the opposite side of the chimney-jamb, and to everybody's surprise he put out his hand, and in a listless, indolent fashion took hold of the catalogue and glanced at the indicated picture.

    Then, still holding the list between his thumb and finger, he lolled back lazily, and fixing his eye on a thick cobweb in the corner of a walled-up side window, he said, with a slow impressive shake of the head―

    "Aw'll tell yo' wot, chaps; we liven i' wunderful toimes."

    Everybody was surprised and mystified, and whilst one or two of the conspirators began to show an inclination to hopefulness, the more experienced hung their heads apprehensively.

    Nobody replied to Jabe's enigmatical remark, and so in a moment or two he shook his head more seriously than ever, and still contemplating the cobweb, added―

    "Wunderful toimes."

    But, even then, nobody responded, and the older ones present glanced pityingly at Sam.

    "Iverything's dun by machinery naa-a-days," continued Jabe, putting on a look of carefully simulated wonder.  "We'en spinnin' machines, an' weyvin' machines, an' sewin' machines, an' weshin' machines, an' naa, bi th' ferrups, we'en getten warshippin' machines," — and absorbed with the contemplation of all these modern marvels, Jabe stared at the cobweb in rapt astonishment.

    "Machines?" began Sam indignantly, but two or three put out their hands and checked him, whilst the Clogger, still gazing at the spider's habitation, went on with slow and painful deliberateness―

    "Wee'st ha' prayin' machines an' preichin' machines next.  Naa, if nobbut some handy chap 'ud mak' a machine fur turnin' sawft gawmliss bluffinyeds inta gradely felleys, Aw'd bey wun mysel'.  Ther'd be plenty o' wark fur it i' Beckside."

    There was a sudden sputter of half-amused, half-angry laughter, which relieved the tension somewhat.  Two or three slily drew the backs of their hands across their mouths as if they had just tasted something enjoyable but forbidden, and Sam was lifting his head to reply, when Jabe went on once more in a humorously sarcastic tone―

    "A harmonion, eh?  We'd better send for lame Joe, an' start a concerteena band, or else a singin'-pew full o' lads wi' tin whistles an' Jews' harps."

    Sam Speck, goaded to desperation, set his teeth, and, clenching his fist, brought it down heavily on the bench before him, crying in indignant anger—

    "Well, we'en getten th' brass, an' wee'st ha' wun, chuse wot thaa says."

    Jabe's face became suddenly very stern.  The amused, contemptuous look upon it vanished, and, pursing his lips, and drawing together his brows, he said, with slow weighty emphasis―

    "As lung as ther's a fiddle-string i' Beckside, or a felley as can start a chune [tune], ther'll be noa harmonion i' aar chapil."

    The countenances of Sam's supporters dropped visibly, and a glint of unholy fire shot into several eyes, and as Long Ben noted this he chimed in soothingly―

    "We met use it fur th' schoo', thaa knows.  We'en bin rayther hard up sometimes lattly."

    But the possibility of Ben's defection from his side roused Jabe, and so, jumping to his feet, he shouted in his excitement―

    "Ther'll be noa barril-orgins—baat handle—i' that schoo' woll Aw'm alive," and then, after a pause—"Neaw, an' if yo' getten wun efther Aw'm gooan, bi th' mop' Aw'll cum back to yo'."

    As Jabe sank back into his seat, glaring relentless resolution all around, a spirit of sulky depression seemed to fall on the company; and what should have been a highly enjoyable evening proved so disappointing, that the friends began to depart quite early, whilst those who remained looked more and more dismal.

    Scarcely had the last man except Ben departed when Jabe rose to his feet, and, glaring at the companion of his recent jaunt, he cried in bitter distress―

    "This is wot comes o' thi sayside maantibankin'.  Didn't Aw tell thi haa it 'ud be?"  And then, sinking into his seat again with a face all a-work, he cried with added bitterness―

    "Aw wuish th' sayside 'ud bin at Jericho, Aw dew, fur shure."

    Now, as Ben had gone to the watering-place quite as much because he thought Jabe wanted to go, but would not go alone, as because he fancied the excursion himself, and as all the warnings and misgivings had been uttered by himself, as far as he could remember, and had been received by his friend with fine scorn, he was somewhat surprised to have this charge hurled at him, but he knew his man too well to reply just then.  And so, after sitting and smoking in silence for a long time, he said soothingly―

    "Ne'er moind, lad; ther'll be noa harmonions i' heaven."

    "Neaw, nor saysides noather," grunted Jabe.


――――♦――――
 
The Harmonium.

II.

The Trustees' Meeting.


IT is perhaps necessary to explain that the musical service at the Beckside Chapel was conducted on rather free-and-easy principles.  The choir was a fairly stable quantity, but the instrumental part of the service was somewhat carelessly managed.  To begin with, there was only room for about four instruments in the singing-pew, and as Nathan's "'cello" was regarded as indispensable, it only left three places for all the rest.  These places were filled by any members of the band who took it into their heads to attend and bring their instruments—as far, at any rate, as the limited accommodation would allow.  Jonas Tatlock always kept his violin at chapel to be ready for those odd occasions when no other fiddler turned up, but the music of this instrument was usually provided by Jimmy Juddy, or Isaac the apprentice, or both.  The "'cello" and the two violins were regarded as all that were absolutely necessary for an ordinary service, but on Sunday evenings, and on all special occasions, the instruments would be reinforced by, an additional "'cello," Peter Twist's clarinet, and occasionally by a double bass, or even Jethro's trombone.

    When, therefore, on the very Saturday night that Jabe and his friend departed for the seaside, Sam Speck sprang upon the company assembled at the Clog Shop his revolutionary proposal to introduce a harmonium into the chapel, all the instrumentalists regarded it as a direct attack upon their order, and resented it accordingly.

    "If we getten a harmonion ther'll be noa raam fur fiddles," objected Jimmy Juddy, toying with one of Jabe's hammers.

    "Fiddles, thaa lumpyed! wee'st want noa fiddles when we getten a harmonion," said Sam, looking pityingly on Jimmy for his lack of comprehension.

    "Dust meean to say as if th' harmonion gooas in aw th' t'other instruments 'ull ha' to cum aat?" demanded Jethro in painful surprise.

    "Ay, fur shure!  Wot else?"

    Now, up to this point there had been a disposition to at any rate give the question a fair hearing, but now, seeing that, like Othello's, their occupation would be gone, those in the company who were accustomed to play in the chapel at once went over to the opposition.  One or two, however, found their positions somewhat difficult.  Jonas, for instance, who, as leader of both band and choir, was an important person, whilst conscious of a desire to experiment with a new instrument, felt that his own beloved fiddle would be displaced, and that his protégé and future son-in-law, Isaac, would be reduced to the rank of an unimportant private member, and so he wavered, and with him were Jimmy Juddy and one or two others.

    On the other hand, Jethro, the knocker-up, in the absence of his great leader, maintained a fierce and uncompromising opposition, and so it happened that far into that night the Clog Shop resounded with the noise of argumentative battle, and on the very Sunday when Jabe and Long Ben were luxuriating in the clover of grand preaching and grander singing, the church they had left behind was agitated with conflict.

    All through the following week the battle had continued, and consequently, on their return, the Clogger and his friend found the society divided into two compact and fiercely belligerent parties, Sam Speck's being numerically and forensically the stronger, and Jethro's making up in obstinacy what it lacked in numbers and logic.

    The return of the two excursionists meant, of course, a sudden accession of strength to the weaker party, and on the Sunday night after their arrival the Clog Shop parlour was the scene of one of the fiercest word-battles that even it had ever known.

    Jabe had no great difficulty with his revolted lieutenant Sam.  It was comparatively easy by characteristic torrents of raillery and satire to silence him.  But there was a new combatant in the field on this particular night—no less a person, in fact, than Ben's son-in-law, Luke Yates.  And the cool, adroit, and aggravatingly polite style of this young man's arguments provoked the irate Clogger almost beyond endurance.  The fiercer and more boisterous Jabe became in argument, the quieter and more conciliatory were Luke's replies, so that the Clogger was angered, not only by the cogency of Luke's reasoning, but also by the consciousness that his own methods were clumsy in comparison, and that his favourite weapon of abuse was grossly unfair.

    Every now and again during the debate Long Ben would interject some softening remark, which, though exactly what everybody expected of him, seemed on this occasion to be unusually irritating to his friend; the truth being that Jabe felt that the arguments which were steadily undermining his own position would be sure to be producing the same effect on Ben's mind, and he knew only too well that eventually Ben would go over to the other side if only in the interests of peace.  Moreover, Luke was Ben's son-in-law, and Jabe felt that Ben's pride in the young man's debating power would lay him open to easy conviction.

    Besides all this, Jabe, as the conflict continued, began to have an uneasy feeling that more was involved in the dispute than the question of the harmonium, and he found himself struggling with a consciousness that this was the first indication that the day of his absolute reign in the Beckside Church was over, and that in Luke Yates the Methodist people would before very long recognise a leader more suited to modern ideas, and, withal, altogether more capable than himself.  The Clogger, therefore, rallied all his resources.  Abuse, scorn, satire, and threatenings were all employed without measure or mercy; and when these failed, he fell back on inscrutable and obstinate silence, and pretended to regard the harmonium agitation as the offspring of feather-brained and utterly worthless individuals, of whom no serious notice need be taken.

    But as time passed, Jabe gradually discovered that he was more alone in this matter than he had expected to be.  The doctor and his wife were both in favour of the new instrument, the erstwhile schoolmistress, in fact, having gone so far as to promise to play it when it was introduced into the chapel.  The young people of the Society were all enthusiastic about it, and even such staunch supporters of old-established ways as Aunt Judy and Long Ben wavered most disgracefully.

    On Thursday, Lige returned, and though, as a rule, the Clogger had no great respect for the old road-mender's judgment, yet in his present circumstances he was glad of the slightest support, and looked quite eagerly for Lige's arrival.

    Alas! alas!  Before he had even seen Lige, or had had the least opportunity of sounding him on the question, he received the disheartening intelligence that his old friend was an enthusiastic supporter of the popular proposal.

    Jabe had one hope left.  The "super" would, of course, support him in his defence of established institutions, and as that gentleman was to preach at Beckside on the following Sunday, and was appointed to be entertained at the Clog Shop, the Clogger comforted himself with the hope that help was at hand, and that the representative of law and authority would stand firmly by him.

    But, somehow, when the super came, Jabe could not for the life of him introduce the subject, and the minister, who, unknown to our old friend, had been fully enlightened as to the state of affairs, was almost as anxious to hear as Jabe was to speak.  But although during the day they discussed every possible subject concerning the chapel, and the super deftly led up to musical matters several times, Jabe always avoided them, and the evening service was over and the minister was finishing his supper in the Clog Shop parlour before the subject he had been waiting for all day was introduced.

    The other occupants of the parlour were Long Ben, Lige, and Jethro, but even now the Clogger seemed to have no intention of introducing the subject which was uppermost in everybody's mind.

    "Han yo' yerd abaat th' bother as we han here, Mestur Shuper," asked Ben hesitantly, tilting back his chair, and puffing out a huge mouthful of smoke.

    "Bother?  Bother at Beckside!  I hope not," replied the minister evasively, but with a sufficiently passable show of surprise to hoodwink the listeners.

    "Ay!" cried the Clogger contemptuously, but with a nervous little laugh; "a storm in a tay-pot, sureli."

    "A bother?  A storm?  What is the matter?" asked the super, putting on an even greater look of astonishment.

    "Dunna meyther," replied Jabe, with an impatient jerk of the head, whilst his demonstrative leg began to rock excitedly over the other, "it's nobbut childer wark."

    "Childer wark?  It's babby wark," cried Jethro, leaning forward, and putting out his chin with a grim, pugnacious expression which looked very strange on his gentle old face.

    "Ay! but wot Aw want to know is which is th' babbies?" retorted Lige doggedly.

    "Gently, gentlemen, gently!" said the minister.  "Someone tell me what is the matter, please."

    "Matter?" cried Jabe, rising to his feet in his excitement, and holding his pipe away from him in one hand, whilst he gesticulated tragically with the other, "ther's a lot o' gawmliss young wastrils, just aat o' petticuts, an' they wanten ta rule th' church; that's wot's th' matter."

    An exclamation of dissent escaped Long Ben, and Lige and Jethro both rose to their feet, and began to talk excitedly.

    The super, putting out his hands, cried, "Sit down, gentlemen, please.  Now, Mr. Jabez, what is the matter?"

    "Matter?" shouted Jabe, rising to his feet again, in spite of the minister's injunction.  "Mun Aw ax yo' wun queshten?"

    "Well, what is it?"

    "Han' yo' iver yerd better music i' ony chapil yo'n iver been in, nor wot yo' yer when yo' cum ta Beckside?  Tell me that."

    "It is very good; very good," answered the super diplomatically.

    "Well, then, wot 'ud aar music be baat fiddles an' 'cellos?"

    "Ah! indeed!" still more cautiously.

    "Well!" and here he drew himself up to his full height, and stepping back to get more room for the sweep of his gesticulating arm, shouted more excitedly than ever, "they wanten awthem grand owd instriments turnin' aat, ta mak' room fur a yowling, squawking buzz-box as they cawn a H-A-R-M-O-N-I-O-N," and putting all the scorn that was in him into his pronunciation of the name of the object of his indignation, Jabe sank into his seat exhausted by his effort.

    It was fully five minutes before the super could get a word in again, for Lige, roused by the Clogger's attack, began pouring out his wrath upon "owd-fashioned stick-i'-th'-muds" until Jethro was provoked to make an unusually fierce reply for him, and Long Ben felt constrained to get up and stand between them for fear of worse happening.

    At last, however, the combatants paused for breath, and the super said conciliatorily―

    "But harmoniums are very useful instruments, you know, Mr. Jabez, and quite fashionable nowadays."

    "Fashionable!" began Jabe, with curling lip but before he could get any further, Jethro stepped up to the super, and touching him challengingly on the shoulder, demanded―

    "Is they' ony harmonions mentioned i' th' Bible? Tell me that."

    "No; and, for that matter, fiddles are not"―

    "No fiddles?  Wot does stringed instriments meean, if it doesn't meean fiddles?  Tell me that naa?"

    Now, during the preceding week, the super had received a respectful and courteously-worded note from Luke Yates, informing him that some of the friends at Beckside wished to present a harmonium to the chapel, and asking to be informed if the trustees would accept of such a gift; and, with this in his pocket, and the evidences of strong feeling before his eyes, he scarcely knew what to do.

    At last, however, seeing no chance of rational discussion, he suggested―

    "Well, this is a matter for the trustees, you know; shall I call a meeting of the Trust?"

    Long Ben shook his head, and sighed.  Lige eagerly approved, and Jethro as eagerly opposed.  In this dilemma the super turned to Jabe, who was sitting back in his chair, sulkily nursing his short leg.

    "Yo' can caw as mony as yo'n a moind," he replied, "an' we can pleease aarsel's whether we goa or not."

    "Well, perhaps, it will be better to have one, and thresh the matter out," and with that the super rose to go, and Jabe, who had of late fallen into the habit of seeing the minister a little way on his journey, sat obstinately in his chair and stared hard at the joists above his head.

    It was nearly three weeks before the meeting could be held, and during that time the relationships existing between the chief actors in this little drama were somewhat severely strained, and many and long were the word-battles that were fought.

    The night of the meeting proved to be soaking wet, and consequently no trustees from a distance attended, and this terrible question was therefore left to be settled by the men on the spot.

    For two or three days previously Sam Speck had been "drawin' in his horns," as Jethro termed it, and had made great efforts to come to an understanding with his deserted leader, but all to no purpose.  On any other subject Jabe would talk with something approaching his old familiarity, but immediately the harmonium was mentioned he closed up like an oyster, put on a look of impenetrable mystery, and would not utter a single word.

    Long Ben, too, had tried to bring about some sort of a compromise, but as he had not given his friend that whole-hearted support which Jabe thought he had a right to expect, the Clogger kept him resolutely at arm's-length.

    All the local trustees except one were present in the vestry some minutes before the meeting began, and when the super arrived and looked round the room he saw at a glance how the matter was likely to be settled.

    Jabe and Jethro represented the full strength of the "Noes"; Sam Speck and Nathan the "Ayes"; whilst Long Ben and Jonas, sitting close together, represented the "cross-bench mind," but with strong leanings towards Sam's party.

    "Now, Mr. Speck," said the minister, after the meeting had been formally opened, "you have this matter in hand, I suppose; let us hear what you have to propose."

    Sam, with many a halt and many a bungle, and many nervous glances at his great opponent, expounded his scheme in detail, and finished by informing the meeting that the money to purchase the instrument was ready as soon as the trustees would accept it.

    Then Long Ben gently suggested that the matter be deferred until after "th' next Sarmons," but, though Jabe neither moved nor spoke, the rest signified that they preferred an immediate settlement of the question.

    Then as Jabe, in spite of nods and winks from Jonas opposite, and hard nudges from the knocker-up at his side, would not speak, Jethro, who was boiling over with excitement, made a long, rambling, but fairly complete statement of the case for the opposition, and was just finishing with an appeal that threatened to become pathetic, to "stick to th' good owd ways," when the door opened, and in walked Lige.

    Somehow the road-mender's appearance just at this stage of the proceedings brought a sudden check to the discussion.  There was no use in further argument.  The case was settled, for Lige was more unswerving in his advocacy of the new instrument than Sam himself.

    "Aar clock's slow," he said, in answer to the pulling out of two or three big verge watches.

    And then there was a short pause, and, after waiting a moment or two, the super turned round in his chair, and looking at the Clogger, said―

    "Now, Mr. Jabez, what do you think about the matter?"

    Jabe, whose active leg was the only thing that moved about him, sat with his head tilted back against the wall and his eyes on the ceiling, and, as the super's question reached him, he jerked out—"Yo' known," and then was dumb again.

    Every attempt on the part of the minister to provoke discussion failed, and a most uncomfortable feeling pervaded the whole meeting.

    "Well, gentlemen," said the minister at last, "we must get on.  Will somebody move a resolution?"

    After another long pause, Lige jerked out―

    "Ay!  Aw'll pro-poase it."

    "But what will you propose?"

    "As we han a harmonion."

    "That is, that we accept the offer of Mr. Speck and others to present a harmonium to the chapel."

    "Ay!"

    "Anyone second this?"

    A pause longer than ever followed, but at last Nathan said timidly―

    "Aw'll second it."

    "Has anyone anything to say before the resolution is put?"

    Still nobody spoke, and the super was just proceeding to take the fateful vote when Long Ben jumped excitedly to his feet, and looking across at Jabe, cried, with a pathetic break in his voice―

    "Speik, mon, wilta?"

    But the Clogger sat like a statue—silent, sphinx-like, inexorable.

    Just then a new thought seemed to strike the perplexed super, and looking round, he asked—

    "Why shouldn't you have both kinds of instruments, gentlemen?  It doesn't follow that because you have a harmonium you can't have the others too, if you like."

    Light seemed to break across the faces of the two waverers, Ben and Jonas, and after looking at the super to make sure that they had heard aright, Ben asked―

    "Whey, will they goa togather?"

    "Of course they will; and one will help and improve the other," was the reply.

    This seemed to have a decisive effect on Ben and his companion, and Jonas said somewhat eagerly―

    "Tak' th' vooate then."

    The super hesitated, and turned once more to look at Jabe, but his face was as relentless as ever.  And so the resolution was put.  Everybody voted for it except Jabe and Jethro, and when the super announced the result, Ben heaved a great sigh, glanced wistfully at Jabe, and sighed again.

    Some arrangements having been made for the immediate introduction of the new instrument, the meeting broke up, and a group of very serious-looking men made their way along the side of the chapel to the road in front.  Jabe was leading the procession, and as he reached the road he suddenly turned round, and looking earnestly at the chapel, said in a dry, choking voice

    "Th' day as a harmonion goas inta that chapil, Jabez Longworth comes aat on it for iver."

    Without waiting for a reply, he limped rapidly off home; and although he had ordered Isaac to have the fire lighted before he came back in preparation for the usual evening's conversation, nobody joined him, and for almost the only occasion of its kind in his life Jabe sat the evening out in the inglenook absolutely alone.


――――♦――――
 !
The Harmonium.

III.

The Angels' Song.


NOW that they had gained their victory, the advocates of the new harmonium seemed strangely slow in accomplishing their purpose; and those who had voted at the memorable Trustees' Meeting not only rebuked all attempts at congratulation, but showed a most remarkable testiness on the subject, and could only be induced to discuss it when absolutely necessary.

    Several earnest attempts were also made to bring the Clogger to a better mind, and the date of the introduction of the new instrument was deferred again and again.

    Meanwhile Jabe maintained a dignified silence on the matter, and when compelled to allude to it he did so in the fewest possible words; and it was noted as an ominous sign that instead of being explosive and vehement, his remarks sounded sad and resigned.  But when, in their desire to win him over, anyone actually compelled him to show his mind, it was found that he remained solidly and stubbornly obstinate.

    After several postponements, therefore, it was felt that the matter could no longer be delayed, and Long Ben reluctantly consented to go and examine the singing-pew to see what would be required in the way of structural alterations in order to accommodate the coming instrument.

    But although Sam Speck and Lige were both there next morning to assist him, the carpenter did not turn up, and when they went down to the shop in search of him, nobody knew where he was.

    Another and yet another appointment had to be made, and it was only on the third occasion that Ben presented himself.

    And when he did come, he seemed very half-hearted about the matter, and but for Sam's persistence he would have gone away again without settling anything.

    By dint of much pressure and prompting, however, they at length got him to work, but even then he was provokingly absent-minded.  He measured the place that would have to be cleared to make room for the harmonium three times, and then if Sam had not taken down the measurements they would have been no further on with their business.  After looking abstractedly around, and vainly trying to start discussions on other matters, Ben began absently to measure again.

    "Wot th' ferrups arta doin'?" cried Sam, in vexed surprise.

    Ben stopped, looked inquiringly at Sam for a moment, discovered what he had done, and then, turning round with an impatient gesture, cried―

    "Confaand th' harmonion!  Aw wuish Owd Scratch hed it."

    And as Sam stared at him in indignant astonishment, he cried―

    "Yo'll ha' ta dew this job baat me.  My hert aches.  Aw th' harmonions as iver wur made isna as mitch ta me as yond' owd chap i' th' Clug Shop," and choking back a sob, he gave another gesture of repudiation, and walked hurriedly out of the chapel.

    Lige also showed great uneasiness.  In one of the earlier discussions on the now painful subject Jabe had dropped a remark which showed that he regarded all this trouble as the result of their "gallivantin' at th' sayside," and, as the road-mender knew that he was primarily responsible for this, it gave him great unrest.

    Jonas Tatlock went even further, and openly recanted, and would have had the subject dropped; and one or two others gradually lost all interest in the affair, only Sam and Luke Yates keeping up even a show of enthusiasm.

    Then the conscience-smitten conspirators discovered, or thought they discovered, that Jabe was not looking well, and it was confidently stated that he was fretting.  As if to confirm this, it was made known in the village one Saturday that Jabe was in bed with a bad cold.  And everybody knew it must be a bad cold indeed to have kept the Clogger in his room.

    Then the cold developed into a sore throat, and the sore throat into a quinsy, and Aunt Judy, on guard, refused to allow even his closest friends to see him, lest he should talk and thus make matters worse.

    This illness spread dismay in the ranks of Jabe's opponents.  Even some of the younger folk seemed anxious to disown any desire for the unfortunate harmonium, and Jethro went about declaring―

    "If yond' owd chap dees, Aw'll smash th' harmonion wi' my knockin'-up stick," whilst others prophesied that the instrument would never get into the chapel after all.

    Sam Speck, however, still held out, and so, apparently, did Luke Yates, the latter, in fact, being strengthened in his persistence by the support of his gentle young wife, who was passionately fond of music.  The contract for the necessary alterations in the singing-pew had been given, on Ben's defection, to Tommy o' th' Top, a Clough End carpenter; and one evening when Luke went home to Beckbottom, and was sitting over his "baggin'," Leah, who had taken her chair near the door, and was sewing something she seemed afraid of being seen by her teasing husband, said―

    "Aw seed 'Tommy o' th' Top' goa past taday.  Wur he goin' to th' chapel, dust think?"

    "Aw noather knaaw nor cur," answered Luke rather gruffly.

    "Luke, wotiver's ta dew wi' thi?  Dustna want th' harmonion?"

    "Aw wuish th' harmonion wur smashed ta flinders."

    "Luke!"

    "Aw dew; it's makkin' me fair badly, an' if owt happens ta yond' owd chap"— But Luke got up hastily, and hurried into the back kitchen, and Leah heard a great deal of mysterious coughing and throat-clearing before he came back again.

    A day or two later, however, it was known that Jabe's quinsy had burst, and that all immediate danger was over.  Three days later Aunt Judy called at Ben's shop, and announced that Jabe wanted to see the carpenter, and in a moment or two Ben was striding away as fast as his long legs would carry him towards the Clog Shop.  Passing through the shop, he paused at the parlour door, and gently opened it.

    "Is that thee, Ben?" came in feeble tones from the parlour.

    "Ay, lad.  Mun Aw come in?"

    "Ay."

    And Ben found his old friend propped up in the bed with a huge comforter round his neck, a Paisley shawl upon his shoulders, and a red-tasselled nightcap on his head.

    As he caught sight of the carpenter, he put out his hand, and gripping Ben's big palm tightly, he cried, whilst a big tear stood in the corner of his eye―

    "Hay, lad!  Aw'm fain ta see thi."

    "An' Aw'm fain to see thee, owd lad; God b-l-e-s-s thi!" and the two shook hands, with a long clinging clasp, and gazed eagerly into each other's eyes.

    After a while Ben began to tell his friend all the news he could think of, carefully avoiding, of course, the forbidden subject.

    But Jabe seemed very apathetic about matters, and had an absent, far-away look that alarmed Ben most seriously.

    "Sit thi daan, lad," he said at length; "Aw've summat to tell thi."

    Ben did as he was bidden, and then Jabe wiped his face with his big red pocket-handkerchief, and began in tones so serious as to greatly distress his friend.

    "Ben, lad, Aw've hed a dreeam."

    "A dreeam?"

    "Ay! an' Aw'st ne'er forget it as lung as Aw'm wik.  Ben, Aw've been i' heaven."

    Ben didn't like this at all; people who dreamed of heaven— But Jabe was proceeding―

    "Hay, lad! but it wur a graand place!  Ther' wur gardins and flaars an' hangils, and aw mak' o' graand things. An', Ben,"—and here Jabe dropped his voice into a solemn whisper,—"Aw seed Him.  Aw did!  Aw seed Him.  Hay, it wur glorious;" and, overcome with the memory, Jabe sat looking before him with a rapt face, as if the grand vision were still before his eyes.  After a moment's pause, he wiped his pale face again, and went on―

    "An' when aw th' angils seed HIM they began a-singin'—an' singin'—an' singin'.  Hay, Ben, thaa ne'er yerd nowt loike it.  An' sum o' th' angils were playin' herps, and sum wur blowin' trumpits.  Hay, it wur graand, Aw con tell thi," and once more the sick man paused and wiped his face.  Then he went on―

    "An' aw o' th' wunce aw th' angils wi' herps an' trumpits geet togather, an' flew away aat o' my seet.  But wot capt me, th' music didna stop!  Soa Aw went a bit narer, an' then Aw seed just a tooathre singin' an' playin' by theersel's.  But they hedna ony herps thaa knows, an' still Aw could yer th' music.  Soa Aw went a bit narer, an' then a bit narer, and then Aw seed as they hed summat i' th' middle on 'em, an' wun o' th' noicest o' th' angils wur playin' on it.  An' just then they seed me, an' they aw smilt at me, an' flew up an' cum towart me, an' when they flew up Aw seed th' music, an' wot dust think it wur?"

    "Aw dunno knaaw," muttered Ben, divided between wonder at Jabe's story and fear lest it should be a warning of his speedy departure.

    "Ben," said Jabe, in husky tones, leaning forward and grasping his friend's hand again, "it wur a harmonion."

    But just at this point there was an interruption.  Aunt Judy came back, and, glancing critically at her brother's face, announced that he'd been "meytherin' hissel'," and somewhat summarily sent Ben out.  As he was going out, however, Jabe called him back, and, looking at him with a gleam of the old spirit in his eye that did Ben good to see, he said―

    "Naa, then!  Not a chirp o' this till Aw con cum aat mysel'."

    During the days that followed first one and then another of Jabe's friends came to see him, and both they and the Clogger were greatly puzzled to know how it was that nobody ever mentioned the harmonium.

    Jabe, lying in bed and castigating himself for his sinful obstinacy, was also trying to prepare himself to endure the hateful instrument on his first appearance at chapel.  For the silence of his friends on the subject left him no room for doubting that the change had been made whilst he had been in bed.  Whilst they, knowing nothing of his altered mind, had already abandoned all idea of getting the instrument.

    The Sunday week after Jabe's relation of his wonderful dream to Ben, the Clogger received permission to go out, and, of course, going out meant to him going to chapel.  His official duties had been for the time relegated to Ben and Nathan, and so he walked straight to his seat, nerving himself as he did so to endure the sight of the offensive harmonium.

    For some time he knelt in his place in silent praise to God for his recovery.  Then he groped under his little green cushion for his hymn-book and Bible, and, placing these in front of him, lifted his head and took his first steady look towards the singing-pew.

    What was the matter?  Nothing seemed changed. No!  Everything was just as it was when last he took part in worship.

    Ah! what next?  Instead of at most two instruments at the morning service there were six or seven—'cellos, fiddles, a trombone, and even Long Ben with the double bass.  Whatever did it all mean?

    But just then the preacher came into the pulpit and gave out the number of the hymn.  It sounded familiar, and whilst he was trying to remember what hymn it was, the instruments began to play the tune over.  There was no doubt about that, it was Cranbrook, and as Jabe sat in perplexity with his unopened hymn-book in his hand, the choir arose and sang out―


"And are we yet alive
 And see each other's face."


    And Jabe, lifting his head, caught Sam Speck staring hard at him over the singing-pew curtain and singing with all his might.

    Then it appeared to the old Clogger that everybody was looking at him, and singing at him in pure joy at his recovery.  What a sinner he had been to quarrel with friends like these!

    How he got through that service Jabe never knew, but when it did conclude, before anybody could move from their seats he had opened his pew door, and was limping excitedly down the aisle.

    When he reached the front he stood on tiptoes looking over the singing-pew curtain in vain search for the terrible instrument.

    Then he suddenly lifted his head, and staring wonderingly at Sam Speck, he cried―

    "Wheer is it?"

    "Wheer's wot?"

    "Th' harmonion."

    "We hanna getten wun."

    "Haa's that?"

    And then there was a pause, and Sam Speck turned and looked at Long Ben, and Ben looked at Lige, and they both looked back at Sam, and so that worthy leaned over the curtain and cried―

    "We wanten th' harmonion, bud we wanten yo' mooar."

    Jabe suddenly went very pale, his hand shook, his face began to quiver painfully, and dropping his head upon his chest, he turned round and walked straight towards the chapel door.

    Before passing out, however, he stopped, and turning round and lifting his head, he looked the smiling congregation in the face, and shouted―

    "Aw said ther' shouldna be a harmonion i' this chapil, an' ther' shanna."

    This was a bolt from the blue indeed.  Surprise, perplexity, and keen disappointment appeared on many a face; and as Jabe limped off home, the rest, standing in little groups outside, were asking each other what this harsh and unnecessary outbreak might mean, and the prevailing opinion as they parted was that the old man's brain had been affected by his recent illness.

    A few days later mysterious things began to be whispered about.  The super, Long Ben, Jabe, and a strange gentleman had been seen going one forenoon to the chapel, and it was known that they had spent over an hour there.

    And then several mysterious marks appeared on the chapel walls in the singers' corner, and one Sunday it was discovered that all the seats and fixtures had been removed from that particular part of the edifice, whilst an announcement was made from the pulpit that for the next two Sundays the services would be held in the schoolroom.

    It was evident by this time that something very strange was going on, and also that several people were already in the secret.  And when the third Sunday came, and the people gathered in the chapel, they found the singers' corner occupied by a beautiful little pipe-organ―




"THE GIFT OF JABEZ LONGWORTH."



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