Doxie Dent II.
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CHAPTER VI.

THE QUEEN OF THE CLOG-SHOP.


BEFORE Mrs. Dent had been many days in Beckside her daughter had obtained a complete ascendency over the clog-shop and all it contained.  There was no resisting her, especially as the clogger not only submitted to her rule himself, but took care that everybody else should do the same.

    One morning, about a week after his sister's advent, Jabe was sitting before a plate of porridge and consuming it with evident relish.

    "Hay, ther's nowt loike gradely owd Lankyshire porritch," he said, shooting a mischievous glance at Doxie from under his shaggy eyebrows.  "Noan o' your Lundun muffins fur me."

    Aunt Judy turned her head from her toast-buttering, and was just about to say something, when Doxie broke in with a little laugh and an exaggerated appearance of indifference.  "It's all fedge, Uncle Jybus; I don't think you are enjoying it a bit."  And then she watched him consuming the porridge with a peculiar intentness.
 

"Hay, ther's nowt loike gradely owd Lankyshire porritch."

    "Yi, bur Aw am!  Hay! it's sum an' good this is; it's bet-ter tin yewshall!  Ther isn't a woman i' Lundun con mak' porritch loike this."

    Aunt Judy was about to break in, but Doxie plucked hastily at her dress, and then, rising from the fender where she had been toasting some bread, she stood before her uncle, and said with smiling disdain, "Why, uncle! anybody could maike porridge."

    "Ay! that's it! they thinkn they con, bud let me tell yo', porritch-makkin' runs i' th' blood; thetn ta be Lankyshire born an' Lankyshire bred ta mak' porritch gradely.  Lundun women!"  The clogger threw back his head and curled his lip in contemptuous scorn of the resources of the benighted housekeepers of the great metropolis.

    "But, uncle, a London woman maide that."

    "Hay?  Wot? ger aat wi' yo'!  Ther' isn't a woman i' Lundun could mak' porritch loike this."

    "But, uncle, I made it."

    And then she stood back and watched with eager delight the clogger's expansive surprise.

    "Yes, and I'm going to maike it always now!  That is the only thing I couldn't do; but now I can do everything, and Aunt Judy need not come any more."

    This may be said to have been the formal commencement of Doxie's reign.  Aunt Judy was graciously dismissed, Dan the new apprentice was "collogued" into undertaking to clean the windows and light the fire, and the rest of the work she would let nobody do but herself.  And very soon she had made a wonderful change in the dingy old bachelor quarters of her unmanageable, woman-hating uncle.  Henceforth the clogger's meals became quite ceremonious affairs; he was not allowed to dispense with the tablecloth, even for so unconventional and hasty a refresher as supper, and as for coming to the table without washing his hands and putting on his coat, he never thought of it.  Then she began to interfere with his person, and even went so far as to insist on periodically trimming the straggling ends of his scanty whiskers.  She proved herself a little more clever than the average Beckside female in getting up "starched things," and after a prolonged resistance on his part, finally induced her uncle to take to wearing shirt-front and collar a little less formidable than those usually affected by gentlemen of his class in the village.  It was generally conceded, however, that her greatest triumph was scored when, after making a mysterious visit to Duxbury, she presented Jabe with a birthday present in the shape of a couple of plain and undeniably becoming black studs.  She had taken Sam Speck into her confidence about this, and was not to be deterred when he told her that her uncle would probably throw them upon the fire-back.  The cronies of the Ingle-nook were all told about the present, and they agreed with absolute unanimity that poor Doxie would be worsted for once.  And Jabe certainly had a severe struggle with himself on the following Sunday morning.  How many pointed and impressive addresses had he delivered from the Sunday-school desk on the sinfulness of "putting on goold and costly apparel!"  How frequently had he expressed himself in trenchant terms about any young preacher who came before the Beckside congregation with a "goold guard!"

    Now Beckside gentlemen were not easily got ready for chapel on a Sunday.  They could dress themselves in about a couple of minutes any other day, but it was quite a different thing on the Sabbath.  Then the living-room of the house was turned for a few terrible and electric moments into the gentleman's dressing-room, and the children and women of the house knew things were then in too critical a condition to admit of the least trifling.  Even Long Ben had been known to lose his temper on these occasions, and Aunt Judy generally left the clog-shop with a very ruffled countenance.

    And now for a couple of weeks Doxie had been the clogger's Sunday valet, and in his heart of hearts Jabe greatly enjoyed the change.  When he came downstairs on the morning upon which he knew he would be expected to wear the ungodly jewellery, he glanced at it with a timid, rueful look as he sidled off to his chair; but when the meal was over and his niece took the large front already decorated with the studs and approached her uncle for the purpose of finishing his toilet for him, he suddenly jibbed and savagely declared that he would stay at home all day before he would so disgrace himself.  But Doxie assured him that the trinkets were most becoming, and that she had seen many London gentlemen wearing them at church.  But that was an unfortunate stroke, and strengthened Jabe's resistance.  And then when every other argument failed the beguiling little schemer took her uncle's face between her hands and told him how much she loved him, and how proud she was of him, and how anxious to see him nice.  Then she told him that the studs had taken nearly all her pocket-money, but that she did not care a bit and would have given twice as much for them, they suited him so well, and then—well! and then she kissed him, and what could the poor man do?  When he went to the chapel that morning the studs were shining on his chest, and whilst Doxie looked proud and happy as she walked by his side Jabe was afflicted with a most painful self-consciousness, and had an air of surly touch-me-not defiance about him whenever he came into contact with any of his old friends.  A few weeks later Sam Speck appeared in the singing pew with at least three black studs in his shirt-front, and a fortnight later Lige, whose wife was not going to allow her husband, a "retired gentleman," to be outdone by anybody, wore an immense decoration about the size of a small brooch.

    Whilst these things were taking place, Jabe was undergoing strange gastronomical experiences.  His very limited dietary was being extended in all sorts of bewildering ways, and he sat down and dined day after day upon dishes that were fearfully and wonderfully made, and which a month or two earlier no power on earth could have induced him to touch.  Then the new housekeeper turned her restless attention to the rearrangement of the furniture, and Jabe never knew when he left the parlour after one meal where he would be expected to sit for the next.  One alteration, however, he greatly approved of.  Rummaging in her uncle's bedroom one day, Doxie came upon a small long-settle jammed away behind the great fourpost bed, and this she had brought downstairs, covered with bright new print, and placed in the parlour so that it screened any one sitting by the fire from the draught of the door.  This made the parlour so cosy that there was danger whilst the novelty of it lasted that it would lead to the partial desertion of the Ingle-nook.

    Doxie's next move was to get the house and premises repainted and papered.  It took one whole week of intermittent conflict to get the clogger to consent, and Doxie nearly lost her case by proposing to include the shop in her cleaning scheme.  Making a virtue of her consent to waive that part of the plan, she eventually had her way; and the clogger little knew when his niece was so attentive to him as he departed by the early coach to Duxbury to do some business in the morning and attend the Quarterly Meeting in the afternoon, that when he came back he would find the clog-shop resplendent in a new coat of whitewash.

    One day Doxie startled her uncle by proposing to wear clogs; other girls of her acquaintance did so, and why should not she?  The clogger derided the idea scornfully, but at the same time went off into a long disquisition on the superior comfort and warmth of the articles he manufactured as compared with the more pretentious and expensive boots.  Doxie's mother entered a mild protest, though not in her brother's presence, and Aunt Judy affected to be shocked at the idea.  All the same, for the next two days Isaac was engaged on an apparently "tickle" piece of work, about which he and his master held frequent and excited consultations, and on the third day, when she came downstairs, Doxie found the daintiest pair of clogs waiting for her that had ever been seen in Beckside.  They were voted quite equal to the wonderful pair in which Dicky Gee had won the great clog-dancing match some time before at Whipham.  They had the thinnest and curliest of soles, and the softest possible tops, that were tooled all over with fantastical designs, and ornamented with an amazing number of brass eyelet holes; the clasps were brass also, and engraved; the tongue of bright red leather, and the edges were faced with the same gorgeous decoration.
 

Isaac was engaged on an apparently "tickle" piece of work.

    Now to the uninitiated it will doubtless appear that it is not possible to make clogs look pretty, but any Lancashire man or woman can tell you that they are sometimes the very daintiest of foot coverings; and when Doxie put them up on the clog bench and showed them to her uncle, with the neatest little ankle above them you ever saw, none but a hopelessly prejudiced person would have denied that they became their wearer perfectly.  Isaac was mightily proud of these masterpieces of his art, and got into serious trouble with his lively sweetheart by indiscreetly enthusiastic descriptions of them.  The fact is, they were much too grand to wear, and after the first fancy had died away Doxie was only too glad to facilitate a general forgetfulness of them as soon as possible.

    Meanwhile her undeniable prettiness, her high spirits, her charming freshness and naďveté of manner, together with a most unconventional naturalness and a rare gift of mimicry, were making her increasingly popular, and filling her uncle with a pride in her which with all his mannerisms he could not conceal.

    "Aw conna tell wheer hoo gets it fra," said Lige one day after Doxie had been convulsing them with a most realistic imitation of last Sunday's preacher and had disappeared into the parlour.

    "Tha conna? wheer's thi een, mon?" replied Sam, looking across the nook with surprise not unmixed with contempt.

    "Neaw, Aw conna, con thaa?" And Lige looked quite defiant.

    "A moudywarp (mole) could see that."

    "Well, Aw conna.  Wheer does hoo get it?"

    Sam jerked his left thumb over his shoulder into the corner of the Ingle-nook where Jabe was silently smoking, and answered, "Whey theer, men, fur sewer."

    Jabe's face assumed a weak, self-conscious smile, and he became suddenly absorbed in the processes of combustion going on in the bowl of his pipe.  Lige, looking very incredulous and indignant, disdained to see the slightest similarity, and was just going to say so when Jethro the knocker-up broke in

    "Ther's wun Lungworth az hoo favvors, at ony rate."

    "Whoa's that?" demanded the clogger sharply.

    "Thi muther."

    Jabe, who had bent forward slightly with the evident intention of pouncing upon Jethro if he guessed incorrectly, fell quietly back, the flicker of a gratified smile played about the corner of his mouth, and he stared before him in placid content; Jethro's testimony was butter and honey to him.

    Lige was simply outraged; in his judgment there could not possibly be a greater difference between two persons than there was between Doxie and her uncle, and to see that ridiculous old man calmly assuming that the dainty and altogether delightful girl was like him stirred Lige's bile; it was miserable, doting hypocrisy.  "Whey!" he gasped, "wheer's yore een? wheer is ther ony Lungworth abaat hur?"

    "Wheer?" cried the clogger fiercely.  "Wheer is ther owt else?  Hoo's Lungworth inside an' aat, Lungworth fro th' top ov her yed to th' end ov her tooes, Lungworth i' ivery limb ov her body an' ivery drop of her blood; that's wot hoo is, an' onybody bud a lumpyed could see it tew."

    Lige jerked his head back in a hopeless, despairing way, and abandoned the subject, but listened with malicious curiosity a few days later when Doxie suddenly asked the minister whether he did not think that she was like her uncle.  The preacher was about to reply with astonishment that he had never thought of such a thing; but catching a look of almost silly self-complacency on the clogger's face he hesitated, pretended to scrutinise both the faces under discussion, and then evaded the question by saying that family likenesses were very interesting studies.

    "Loikenisses!" cried Jabe, who had of late developed an extraordinary interest in the subject, "it's fair cappin'.  See yo'! maw muther 'ull ne'er be deead w'oll that wench is aloive; hoo's as straight loike her as wun pey's loike another."

    "Ay, an' if hoo favvors thi muther hoo favvors thee――" began Lige sarcastically.

    "Thee shur up!  Thaa favvors a grinnin' jackass, that's wot thaa favvors."  And poor Lige relapsed into silence.

    A day or two after this discussion Jabe and Lige were seated at the shop fire smoking.  It was a fine evening, and the last of the mill-hands had gone past the shop, and the flags outside were quiet again, when suddenly Lige cried, "Huish!"  Both men took their pipes out of their mouths, and turned their heads doorwards to listen.  There was an approaching hum of voices, and a clatter of clogs on the cobble-stones, and all at once the door was burst open, and in rushed Doxie, looking like the proverbial drowned rat, and dripping from head to foot with dirty water.

    "Wot the fer—"  But Doxie, who was evidently very excited about something, broke in.  Drawing herself up to her tallest height and curling her lips with disdain, whilst her eyes flashed with fiery indignation, she cried:

    "Uncle Jybus, the Beckside boys are keds―mean, cowardly keds!"  And she threw back her head, and stamped her foot until the water from her boots splashed into Lige's face.
 

"Uncle Jybus, the Beckside boys are keds!"

    "Laws a massy, wench!" cried the clogger, rising hastily and limping towards her.  "Yo'n bin i' th' beck!  Wotiver han yo' bin dooin'?"

    But Doxie's mind was occupied with something much more important than her own condition, and so, stepping back out of his reach until she had said her say, she cried:

    "No, Uncle Jybus, I've not been in the beck I've been in the mill-dam—the boys wouldn't get him aout, so a girl had to do it."

    And there she stood, the very picture of outraged indignation.

    The clogger was nearly frantic; he caught the angry and dripping girl by the arm, and hastened with her into the parlour, shouting in a terrified voice to Lige to fetch Aunt Judy.  As he laid her down on the long settle he heard Sam's voice in the shop, and called to that worthy to go for the doctor.

    "Uncle Jybus, don't be silly!" cried Doxie and then, suddenly rising from the settle, she slipped her dress off, and before the clogger could stop her had rushed upstairs.  In a few moments Judy and Doxie's mother arrived, followed immediately by others, and whilst Nancy from the farm opposite hastened to the bedroom, Jabe vainly tried to quiet himself and get some sort of idea of what had occurred.

    Everybody began to tell him at once, for the shop was full by this time, and one or two had got as far as the parlour.  But at that moment the doctor came, and Jabe hurried him upstairs with all sorts of incoherent and contradictory exhortations.  As soon as he had looked at the case Dr. Walmsley called downstairs for brandy, and Jabe, with pitiable moans and face all a-work, pushed money into a big boy's hand and hastened him off to the public-house.  Then Aunt Judy came downstairs in a great hurry for hot water, and her agitated brother scalded her hands by precipitately turning the boiler-tap before she was ready for him.  The next ten minutes were terrible to the clogger; the brandy had arrived, the hot water had been carried upstairs, and he was limping backwards and forwards across the parlour floor in intensest impatience, when suddenly a clear voice called downstairs, "Uncle Jybus!"

    A gush of emotion rushed into the clogger's face, and hastening to the stair-foot he cried, "Wot! wot, wench?"

    "Aunt Judy has spoilt your best Sunday dickey."

    And Jabe with shining eyes and shaking lips burst out, "Bless the Lord!" though we suppose the ejaculation must be taken as an expression of gratitude and relief rather than as a note of joy for the soiling of a garment of which he was now so proud.

    In a short time the doctor returned to the parlour and announced that the patient was not in any danger, but would probably be all right after a basin of gruel and a good night's rest.  Then Jabe's friends began to gather, all filled with wonder, for it appeared that Doxie had jumped into the mill-dam and rescued a boy from drowning; and though the clogger and his friends marvelled greatly at her daring act, their deepest astonishment was reserved for the, to them unheard of, wonder—a girl who could swim.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VII.

MYSTERIOUS OCCURRENCES.


A GIRL who could swim! and, more astounding still, a girl who, upon a sudden emergency, had coolness and nerve enough to use her unwomanly acquirement with the utmost promptitude!  If an hour ago any one had told the clog-shop cronies that such a thing was possible, he would have been laughed at for his pains; and here was the thing actually accomplished before their very eyes.  The circle round the fire was unusually large, and Jabe basked in the rays of a dazzling, vicarious popularity.  Doxie's triumph was his, and he leant his back against the chimney-jamb, pursed out his lips, and gazed steadfastly at the top of a pile of owler-wood clog blocks with a look of complacent pride, whilst Jethro gave the details of this astonishing achievement.

    Doxie, it appeared, had been making a call upon the Yateses at Beckbottom, and of course had to pass through the mill-yard as she returned.  It was about the time that the hands were leaving work.  The footpath skirted one corner of the reservoir, and formed the bank of the dam; near the corner a long pipe, or series of pipes, ran out into the middle of the reservoir. The bank near the pipes was generally fenced off to keep out intruders, but on this particular day the engineers had been doing some repairs to the valves that worked the pipes, and had not finished when the mill stopped for the day, and so they had left the fencing reared against the boiler-house wall, thinking that no harm could be done in one night.  They had scarcely gone, however, when some of the boys employed at the mill came along, and, seeing their opportunity, were playing Blondin upon the big pipes not many minutes after the engineers had left.  Just as Doxie came up to the corner, a cry of "Heigh, lads!" was raised, and the fireman came rushing out of the engine-house, shouting and threatening as he came along.  The boys on the pipes turned to come back, but the one nearest the end, having farther to go than the rest, made the greater haste, with the consequence that, in stepping over a joint, he caught his foot, and with a startled cry fell into the dam.  Doxie screamed, the fireman threw up his arms in alarm and rushed away after a rope, and the rest of the boys turned tail and fled; for they knew the mill-dam better than Doxie, and were fully aware that their comrade was not in any great danger.  And now the frightened girl's fear gave way to amazed indignation.  She glanced hastily at the runaways, then turned to look at the drowning boy, then back at the fugitives, and then, before anybody could stop her, or, indeed, comprehend what she was doing, she slipped off her shawl, ran nimbly along the pipes, and dropped into the water.  In a moment or two she had dragged the struggling lad near enough to the side of the dam to enable him to find his feet and walk out.  It was really not much of a rescue, except for the fact that a girl had made it; she only had to swim some three or four yards, but she was the only person there who did not know the depth of the dam, and we must give her credit at any rate for her heroic intentions.

    All this and much more was told by the enthusiastic admirers who gathered round the clog-shop fire, and Jabe listened as to sweetest music.  In the midst of the conversation, however, the parlour door opened gently, and Doxie's mother, with mystery and importance on her face, beckoned to Jabe.

    "She wants Sam," she whispered, when the clogger had got near enough to hear; and Jabe, surprised and a little piqued, glanced surlily at his lieutenant, and jerked his thumb over his shoulder.

    "Wot lad wur it?" he asked, as he resumed his seat after the parlour door had closed, and suddenly remembered a question he had been on the point of asking several times before.

    "Whoa wur it?  Well, tha met know that baat axin'," answered Lige.

    "Well, whoa?"

    "Whoa's i' aw th' lumber az goos on abaat here?"

    "No' th' little twin?"

    "It wur noabry else."

    Jabe threw up his head and elevated his eyebrows, as if to show that though he ought to be surprised, he was not, and then glanced round from one of his companions to the other, that he might receive their ample confirmations of his own feelings.

    "If that young wastril dees in his bed Aw'm a Dutchman," he said at length with intense conviction.

    "That sooart niver does dee, they liv'n to spite folk," added Nathan the smith.

    "It licks me wheer he gets it," pondered Jabe.

    "An' me tew," sighed Jethro, who had his own reasons for perplexity about the vagaries of heredity.

    And as the conversation maundered fitfully on and became less and less interesting, Jabe began to cast impatient glances towards the parlour door; and when at length it opened and Sam came sauntering into the shop he looked so self-satisfied and even conceited that Jabe became instantly angry, and though consumed with curiosity as to what Doxie had wanted Sam for, he put on an air of ostentatious indifference and tried to continue the suspended conversation in supreme unconsciousness of his presence.  To increase his vexation the assembled company seemed to think that the occasion demanded a prolonged sitting, and even his most palpable hints were disregarded.  Then Aunt Judy called him into the parlour and explained that Doxie was now fast asleep and must not be awakened, and so he must get his friends to depart as quietly as possible, and be careful to make no noise when he went to bed.  He asked his sister what the girl had wanted Sam for, but he could not help seeing that she evaded the question, and as Doxie's mother at that moment came softly downstairs the two women departed, and Jabe had to go back to the Ingle-nook without having satisfied his curiosity.

    One by one his friends departed, and at last the clogger was alone and began to prepare for retiring.  After making up the fire in case of emergency and saying his prayers on the hearthstone, the clogger began to steal softly upstairs.  He winced and uttered smothered anathemas as the stairs most aggravatingly creaked under his weight, then he started and fell clumsily against the stair-rail as one of Doxie's kittens, with a spit and a sputter, whisked suddenly past him, and nearly jumped out of his skin as the old long-cased clock at the head of the stairs commenced to strike.

    A step or two more and he stood at Doxie's bedroom door, which was partly closed.  He held his breath and listened.  All was perfectly still, and as he was too far away from the bed to hear the occupant's breathing a sense of eerie quiet came over him, and with a nervous glance around he turned and crept up the three remaining steps to his own room.  All his life Jabe had been accustomed to go to bed in the dark, but to-night, although he had company in the house, he felt strangely timid.  He had just groped to the nail where his old verge watch usually hung, and was fumbling for his watchkey when suddenly he heard a most unearthly P-e-u-g-heugh!

    The key dropped from his nerveless hand, his heart seemed to have suddenly come into his mouth, and he peered through the gloom, afraid of what he might see.  Then he remembered the young cat, and, calling himself an "owd numyed," he stooped down to feel on the floor for his key.

    P-e-u-g-h, wa-u-c-h!  Whatever could it be?  It certainly could not be the cat, for unless he was very much mistaken the sound came from Doxie's room, and he had seen the pussy go downstairs.  Something was the matter with his niece: either she was choking or dreaming or had gone off into convulsions.  But danger to her was more terrible than to himself; and so, though he went cold all over and began to perspire profusely, he ventured towards the opposite door.  He stood listening intently for some time, and then, as he heard nothing, he cautiously pushed open the door until he could see the dim outline of the bed.  As far as he could make out all seemed right.

    Then he took a step forward and put his head into the room.  "Doxie," he cried in a loud whisper, "mun Aw cum in?"

    No answer.

    "D-o-x-i-e!"

    Still no answer.

    Perplexed and yet emboldened he stepped up to the bedside and bent over.  There lay Doxie, calm and still, and apparently breathing easily.  He stood looking at her intently for a moment, tried to swallow some uncomfortable something in his throat and only partly succeeded, bent down as if about to kiss her, then wavered and drew back, and finally, after a sigh and another long look, he limped softly away.  It took him some minutes to calm himself, but presently he began to prepare to get into bed.  He had undressed and was standing in his shirt listening once more when he was startled again by that indescribable sound.

    With a cry and a leap in spite of his lameness, he sprang to the stairhead, and as he did so a light, silvery laugh broke upon his ear, and Doxie cried out, "What's the metter, Uncle Jybus?"

    "Matter!  Boggarts is th' matter!  Owd Nick's th' matter!  We'er bewitched, wench!  Han yo yerd nowt?"

    "O uncle, what a goose you are!  Bring a light and come here."

    Jabe did as he was told, though not exactly without tremors; and when he returned and entered his niece's bedroom, he found her sitting up in bed and blinking her eyes at the light.  She looked undeniably pretty in her white nightdress and long flowing hair; but if Jabe had been less disturbed he would have noticed that her face was flushed a little and there was laughter in her eyes.

    "Whatever is the metter, uncle?"

    "Matter! han yo' yerd nowt?"

    "Heard what?"

    "A saand loike a hundred ghooasts skriking.  It fair crilled me, an' set me aw ov a whacker."

    "Was it anything like this?"  And the wicked little tormentor turned her head away and bent down over the bedclothes on the other side, and then suddenly whisking round again with a long black thing held to her lips, she sent forth a sound so weird and awesome that Jabe declared afterwards he hoped he would never hear the like of it again.  And then it all came back to the clogger: the long black thing was a clarionet which Luke Yates had offered to lend Doxie as a means of inducing her to visit his wife.  She had been to fetch it, and was returning when the drowning incident occurred.  In the excitement of the rescue she had forgotten exactly what she had done with it, and had sent Sam Speck to find it for her.  Sam had not succeeded without difficulty, for the instrument had been picked up and carried away; he had recovered it eventually, and brought it according to Doxie's express directions straight to her, avoiding the shop by using the front door of the house.  It happened that she was awake after a first sleep when the clogger went upstairs to bed, and noting the clumsy care he was taking to avoid making any noise, the idea had come into her head to try to frighten him, with such results as we already know.  The latter part of this explanation was given afterwards; but as Jabe stood by his niece's bed and looked at the clarionet, he perfectly understood both how she had become possessed of it, and how it was that as her unaccustomed lips played upon it he did not recognise the sound.

    Jabe looked very sour at first, and was inclined to resent the trick; but when she put her lips to the mouthpiece and produced once more the indescribable sounds that had alarmed him so much, the arch look on her face and the infectious fun in her eyes were too much for him, and five minutes later he was sitting by the bedside, and giving her an impromptu lesson in the art of playing it.

    When the doctor came to visit his patient next morning he found her up and dressed, and as bright and merry as ever.  As he entered he was greeted with an unearthly, ear-splitting s-q-u-a-k, and turning towards the fireplace he found Doxie seated in the short, high-backed long-settle, red in the face, and with puffed out cheeks vainly endeavouring to produce something like a proper note from the clarionet.
 

He found Doxie endeavouring to produce a proper note from the clarionet.


    Meanwhile the other chief actor in the scene at the reservoir was receiving very different treatment from that meted out to Doxie.  He was as unpopular as the clogger's niece was popular.  It was not merely that he was "nowt," that was a common complaint amongst Beckside boys and natural, and its inevitableness made it endurable, whilst its universality made it in some sense understandable; but this boy was incomprehensible.  Everybody found him interesting, most of them painfully so, but nobody found him satisfactory.  The clog-shop oracles disliked him chiefly perhaps because he made their tentative diagnoses of his character look ridiculous, and belied all their predictions.  His companions—if he could be said really to have such—were tantalised by the fact that though the smallest boy of his age in the village he was out of all comparison the most commanding and resourceful, and whenever he was "aw reet," and chose to assert his ascendency, boy life was worth living in the village; but as he was seldom "aw reet" for many days together, there were great dreary blanks in the lives of his followers, and Beckside became a waste, howling wilderness.  The schoolmistress confided to her friend, the doctor's wife, that for days together she had scarcely patience to speak to him, and was constantly praying for the day to come when his schooling would be ended; and then he would suddenly make her an answer revealing a true inwardness and power of seeing through things which made her turn her head away and feel as though she wanted to cry with mournful delight.  Long Ben, his father, was secretly afraid of him; the minister's references to mysterious crosses always seemed to him to be expressions of pastoral sympathy with him in his fatherly trials, and he spent much of his time raking up memories of his own boyhood, and comparing them with the vagaries of his son, in order to settle with himself whether the latter were not the penalties in kind for the former.  Mrs. Ben had a theory of her own upon the matter, and imparted to her particular friends certain strictly private details of mysterious events which occurred to her in the days immediately preceding the birth of the twins, especially elaborating a passage of arms which she had with a gypsy woman who was "impident," and who went away muttering some most awful and incomprehensible words.

    Andrew, as he was called, had been to the penitent form at the chapel three times.  On the first two occasions he had enjoyed an instant rehabilitation of reputation, but on the third he was left severely to himself, and it was only regarded as in strict keeping with his character that his third attempt at reformation lasted longer than either of the others.  Nobody liked to teach him in the Sunday school, but that was quite as much because of the "aggravatin'" questions he would ask and the malicious persistence with which he would stick to them as it was because of any ordinary misbehaviour.  He was never still for two minutes together in school on Sundays, and yet his knowledge of Scripture was not only wide, but very complete, and he seemed to have a special capacity for remembering details.  He divided the preachers into two classes: to the one he listened sometimes with contemptuous toleration, and sometimes with restive and indignant impatience; and to the other he paid an attention that was almost more than flattering, and could recite long extracts from the sermons of some of the great pulpit princes of the day.  Everything that was print and came within his reach he had read, and he could reel off from memory whole paragraphs of Macaulay's "Essays."  His very language was bookish, and it was one of his many peculiarities that when most excited his utterances had least of dialect in them.  Since leaving school he had been at nearly every occupation that Beckside and its neighbourhood provided, but he had never stuck to any business more than a few weeks.  He got on best at the mill, and whenever he was sent home from other situations he found refuge there.

    At Beckside a high forehead was taken as the outward and visible sign of intellect; but Andrew could scarcely be said to have any brow at all, for his thick black hair came to within speaking distance of his equally thick eyebrows, and except that his forehead was somewhat broader than common it was in danger of being lost sight of altogether.  The sedate people of the village doubted whether he was altogether compos mentis; but little Eli the herbalist, who, though a somewhat questionable character, was admitted to be a knowing sort of person, declared that he had more brains than "aw Beckside put togather."  The boy was an undersized, sallow-faced little fellow, with deep, fathomless black eyes and a mouth and chin that forbade liberties.  In temper he was notoriously impulsive and uncertain, and had the reputation of being fickle; but every now and again he surprised those who studied him by sudden fits of industry and painstaking patience.  He loved his married sister to distraction, and despised with equal ardour all other members of the sex.  Nobody in Beckside pretended to understand him, least of all his parents, and therefore everybody agreed in disliking him; but even his severest censor admitted in him a fierce and intolerant love of truth.  In a word, Andrew was, according to common-sense Lancashire ways of thinking, impossible.  All the practical qualities seemed somehow to have been left out of him, and those who knew him best prophesied ominously of his future.  You never knew where you had him, and his conduct was a long succession of disappointments.

    This, then, was the youth Doxie had pulled out of the dam and was now anxious to visit, and the above description is a summary of the information Jabe gave his niece over the dinner-table when she announced her intention of going to see him immediately after she had washed up the pots.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VIII.

DOXIE AT CLASS.


"GOOD afternoon, Mrs. Barber; I have come to see how Endy is."  And Doxie dressed in her Sunday best, and looking very bright and winsome, smiled gaily into Mrs. Ben's face as she opened the door.

    "He's theer; he con speik fur hissel'."  And Andy's mother led the way into the house with a stern and sadly reproachful look on her usually cheerful countenance.

    Doxie felt embarrassed; there was an air of depression and gloom about the parlour, in spite of the hot, piled up fire, that chilled her.  Andrew was evidently in deepest disgrace.  He was seated close to the fire, with a thick quilt of patchwork drawn tightly round his lower limbs; a heavy shawl round his shoulders, bandages that were so numerous as to make his neck look as thick as the rest of his body under his chin, and a red cotton handkerchief, the ends of which met in a great knot on his crown, and gave him the appearance of having horns round his head.  Very little of his face was visible, but what there was had an expression of comic wretchedness and sulky resignation on it that secretly tickled Doxie immensely.


He was seated close to the fire.


    "Well, Endy, I'm sorry to see you so poorly," she said, struggling to keep a straight face.

    Andy's mother uttered a long, dismal groan.

    "Are you very bed, Endy?"

    Another fearful groan from Mrs. Ben.

    It was all Doxie could do to prevent herself from laughing outright; but Andy neither moved nor spoke.

    "The way of transgressors is hard," quoted the mother in solemn, impressive tones.

    Doxie turned her face away, and noticing a chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, dropped into it.  Mrs. Ben moved about her duties for a moment or two, during which her visitor was nerving herself to look at the grotesque culprit opposite, and just as she was venturing to raise her eyes, Mrs. Ben came to the side of her chair, and with a portentous face glancing across at her son, but speaking to Doxie, she said, "Wheer wod 'is sowl ha' bin if yo' hedn't a poo'd him aat?"

    "But, Mrs. Barber, it wasn't very deep, you――" began Doxie; but the mother gave you her a secret nudge, and went on:

    "An' wot becomes o' childer az breiks they payrunts' herts?"

    Doxie felt that Mrs. Ben was expecting sympathy from her, and so, with a faint little sigh, she looked across at the muffled boy and slowly shook her head; and then, as another thought struck her, she asked: "But what is he muffled up like thet for?  Has he caught cold?"

    "Cowd! ha could he be i' that wayter aw that toime baat catching cowd?  Aw'm tryin' to sweeat it aat on him.  Aw'd bile him if Aw cud sweeat th' bad aat on him, that's wot Aw'd dew."

    Doxie felt her interest in the culprit reviving.  She had, perhaps, more than her share of woman's eccentric taste for unsatisfactory characters, and had come for the purpose of studying this strange example of all a boy ought not to be; but though Andy had muttered something in reply to his mother's last remark, it was clear that he had no intention of taking further part in the conversation, and so, after lingering for decency's sake a few minutes longer, Doxie presently rose to go.

    "He's a weary handful, he is that, wench," whispered Mrs. Ben impressively, as she let her visitor out.  "If nobbut he wur i' heaven aat o' th' rooad!  Good day, wench, an' thank yo' koindly."

    As she went up the "broo" Doxie did not know whether to be amused or disappointed.  As soon, however, as she saw her uncle, the comic side of the subject got the better of her, and with somebody to talk to she soon became quite animated in her descriptions of the absurd appearance of Andy and the lugubrious solemnity of his mother.

    Two days later, as Doxie was leaving the chapel yard, where she had been visiting Sniggy Parkin's wife, who was ill, she happened to glance up the road towards Duxbury as she approached the gate, and observed Andy coming down the hill.  His appearance reminded her of the slouching youths she had occasionally seen in London.  Not a single garment he wore seemed to fit him, and he was a striking contrast to most of the village folk; for she had noticed again and again that though Becksiders as a rule looked neat and becoming in their everyday clothes, they seemed awkward and ill at ease in their Sunday best.  Andy looked as awkward as the worst of them, though his garments were much too shabby to be taken for Sunday ones.  Not a single garment seemed to fit; his trousers hung in baggy puckers about his feet, and, as if to compensate for their excessive length, his coat-sleeves were a couple of inches too short, and showed his wrist-bands whilst his head was nearly buried in an old billy-cock that might easily have been his father's.  As he approached, Doxie noticed that he was walking with his head down, and was evidently pre-occupied, for he was muttering to himself in a rapid, jerky manner, and had evidently not seen her.  She drew the gate to as he came up, and with this as a sort of defence she leaned over and challenged him.

    "Is that you, Endy?"

    Andy pulled up suddenly, looked vacantly round for a moment, and then noticing the speaker, he drew together his thick brows with a scowl and answered: "Ay, it's me!  Me—a brand—a brand plucked from the burning."

    "But it wasn't burning you were plucked from; it was drowning."

    "Girl!" and Andrew clenched his fist and held it out sternly, "it was burning! everlasting burning! hell fire burning!"

    With an amused expression Doxie tossed back her hair and folded her white arms over the gate: Andrew was interesting, after all.

    "Why, Endy, you talk like a preacher."

    "Priecher!  Aw'm a prodigal! a hypocryte! a double-dipped Judas! that's wot Aw am."

    Now Doxie always found the tendency of her Beckside friends to drop into theological phraseology somewhat confusing; but as Andy's tragic look and manner were very entertaining, she dropped into a sympathetic tone and said, with a hypocritical little sigh, "Are you so very bed, Endy?"

    "Bad!" and now for the first time she saw how intensely in earnest he was.  "Bad!" and for the next minute or more Andrew poured out such a tale of self-accusatory lamentation, expressed in such long, exaggerated scriptural quotations, that Doxie was quite appalled.

    "Never mind, Endy," she replied; "you'll soon be all right again."  As she spoke she opened the gate and stepped to his side.  "Don't take on, poor boy!"  And she leaned towards him in such a soothing manner, and smiled into his eyes with such touching sympathy, that any ordinary boy would have been comforted; but Andrew only drew absently away from her and went on with his self-denunciations.

    Doxie was inclined to be piqued; she was quite old enough to be aware of the influence of her personality upon the opposite sex, but it was painfully clear to her that Andrew was impervious to it, and was only concerned about his own spiritual troubles.  Presently she had an inspiration; she really knew very little of Methodism and its peculiar institutions, but since her coming to Beckside she had formed certain decided ideas about some of its arrangements, and so she turned suddenly round to her companion and asked, "Endy, why don't you go to class?"

    "Class!" shouted Andrew, as he sprang farther from her; "that's it! they winnat ha' me!  Aw've bin, an' they winnat ha' me!  They'n cast me aat! cast me aat! an' Aw desarve it, an' mooar! ten toimes mooar!"

    Doxie was clearly out of her depth; this was a kind of trouble she had never met before and did not understand.  She stood looking at her companion a little while, then she sighed in a helpless sort of way, glanced down the road, turned hesitatingly towards her companion, and then, touching the top button of his coat with a caressing little movement, she said coaxingly, "Tell me all about it, Endy."

    Andrew looked as if he thought that would be a useless occupation, but after glancing towards the village in the same direction as Doxie had looked a moment before, he heaved a heavy sigh and told his tale.

    He was bad—awfully, irretrievably bad; he had been "browt in" three times, and now had upon his soul all the accumulated guilt of a triple backsliding.  All his friends regarded his recent drowning as an act of aggravated depravity, and he himself felt it to be a manifestation of special mercy intended for the purpose of giving him one last chance.  He had resolved to "turn o'er gradely," and had gone to class as a commencement.  But Jabe had declared he would have "noa wibble-wobble wastrils theer."  And so he was cast out of the synagogue, rejected of God and men, a wanderer, like Cain, on the face of the earth.

    All this sounded to Doxie very melodramatic, and but for the deep, sad earnestness in Andrew's eyes she would have laughed.  Her own religious education had been of a miscellaneous and eclectic character, in consequence partly of the frequent changes of residence she had made, and the religious jargon of her uncle and his friends was so much Greek to her, whilst the various phases of religious life experienced and confessed by her Beckside acquaintances utterly bewildered her.  It seemed to her, however, that if Andrew was the harum-scarum scapegrace she had always been given to understand he was, this present distress of his ought to be regarded as a hopeful sign and encouraged, and she was at a loss to comprehend why her uncle should have refused to allow him to return to his neglected class.  She began to pity Andrew, and to feel her interest in his character deepening; if only he would show the slightest sign that he felt her personality, she could have taken up his cause and championed it valiantly, but to him she was obviously only the "instriment" by whom divine forbearance had been shown, and he gave not the least evidence of his consciousness of the charms of her sex.

    When he had done, she offered him her sympathy and urged him to try her uncle once more; but the lad only shook his head, and went off into another long description of his own lost and rejected condition.  Presently they parted, and as she came down the hill Doxie happened to glance towards the garden behind her uncle's house, and there, glaring fiercely over the palings, stood the clogger, stern, rigid, and wrathful.  He had evidently seen her talking to Andrew, and she knew by his look what to expect.  She felt a little resentful, and her sympathy for the boy she had left deepened.  But beyond a sour look and a gruff reply as she spoke to him in passing through the shop, Jabez made no allusion to what he had seen, and it was only by his taciturnity over the tea-table that she could judge he was displeased.

    Next day, as Jabe and Sam were sitting over the fire, Doxie joined them and produced her clarionet, upon which she began to play as best she could.

    "Uncle," she said presently, removing the instrument from her lips and looking musingly at the fire, "what do they do at class-meetings?"

    Jabe looked surprised, but leaning back against the chimney-jamb and removing his pipe from his lips, he replied, "Oh! they sing'n an' talk an' pray."

    "What do they talk about?"

    "Ther sowls."

    Doxie put the clarionet to her lips absently, and then removing it again said, "I should like to go to class, I think."

    An amused expression came upon Sam's small face; but before he could speak the clogger, with a slow shake of the head, answered, "Classes is nobbut fur Christians."

    "Well, I'm a Christian, ain't I?"

    Jabe looked puzzled.  What embarrassing questions this girl did ask, and how woefully ignorant she was of theology!

    "He meeans members, yo' known, member o' Society," said Sam.

    "All right, I'll be a member."

    An exclamation of surprise and remonstrance broke from the clogger, and he flung his short leg over the other and pulled at his pipe excitedly.

    He would have told anybody else that men were lost sinners, "born in sin and shaper in iniquity," that they would have to come under conviction and repent and go to the penitent form before they were fit for class; but somehow he felt that these pet phrases did not fit Doxie.  A momentary misgiving as to the infallibility of his cherished theological convictions passed through his mind, to be replaced almost instantly by a rebuking sense of his own cowardice now that his affections were involved in the matter.  "Ger on wi' yo're playin', woman," he growled uneasily.

    "But I should like to go, really."

    "Yo'll ha to speik, yo' known, if yo' dew," said Sam, with an amused twinkle in his eye.

    "Speak? what for? what about? what shall I have to say?"

    "Tell yore expeeryunce."

    "Experience! what is thet?  I haven't any; I never hed."  And the girl looked somewhat woe-begone.

    "Shur up wi' thi, lumpyed!" cried Jabe testily to Sam; but just then the door opened and two of the cronies came in, upon which Doxie beat a retreat into the parlour, and Sam chuckled to himself as he realised the fix his old friend would be in if his niece persisted.

    For the next hour or so the clogger was very uneasy and snappish.  He had not the courage to forbid the proposed visit of his niece, but all the same he felt it was shamefully irregular, and was also conscious that in her presence he would not be quite at home with his work as leader.  Somehow he had a presentiment that she might attempt to speak, and a cold chill went down his back as he thought of the frank, uncompromising things she might say.  Or it was quite as likely that the irrepressible fun of her nature might lead her to see the comic side, if there was one, of the meeting; and if it did—but that was too awful a contingency to contemplate.  At last an idea occurred to him, and though it wanted half an hour to class-time he hastened to carry it out.  He would go to class as he was, and without his second best coat or his book, and evade his mischievous niece in that way.  No sooner thought of than done.  He sauntered quietly to the door, opened it with the most careless look he could assume, limped carefully over the step, and was just closing the door after him when the parlour door opened, and there stood Doxie dressed and ready for the meeting.

    "Uncle, you are forgetting your book," she cried, as she handed it to him; and then, glancing at his attire, "and you are never going to meeting with your shop coat!  Oh, you careless man! what would become of you if I were not here?"

    Jabe wished from the bottom of his heart that she were not there; but before he could speak she had pushed him into the parlour and was reaching his other coat for him.  He was just boiling over; he simply could not talk to his members with her laughing eyes watching him he must stop her at any cost.  But just then Doxie brought the coat, and, helping him on with it, she put her warm face over his shoulder until he could feel the velvet touch of her cheek against his, and said in her most wheedling tones, "I shall hear your experience, sha'n't I, uncle.  Oh! I shall enjoy it, I know I shall."

    What could the clogger do after that?  The puckers on his face went off in a reluctant, protesting grin, and with a helpless sigh he allowed himself to be led off to the meeting.  Doxie chattered away in the gayest manner as they went up the "broo," but her uncle only answered in surly grunts.

    Now this was the very first private meeting that Doxie had ever attended, and as she approached the vestry she became conscious of sudden soberness.  The night was warm and bright, but as she entered the room a chilly feeling came over her.  Though they were somewhat early, two women had already taken their places on the side bench and were sitting stiff and motionless, with their eyes fixed on the floor.  They did not move their heads even when she and her uncle entered; but when the clogger, after hanging up his hat, pulled out a large red cotton handkerchief, and spreading it upon the floor knelt upon it at the side of the table, giving vent as he did so to a sighing groan, the women responded with softer sighs, which were evidently meant to be sympathetic.  Doxie felt distinctly depressed; and as others now began to arrive, dropping on their knees and imitating Jabe's lugubrious groan as they did so, the atmosphere became chillier than ever, and she felt as if she dare not move.  She sat at the fireplace end of the bench and farthest away from the door, and between her and the entrance was a row of members.  Some of them were contemplating the floor with sad, restrained looks; the males had cocked their heads back against the wall and had their faces turned towards the ceiling; but their eyes were tightly shut, and every now and again one of them would emit a half-articulate groan, to which the others would make a faint echo.

    But at that moment her uncle gave out the hymn and glanced round gravely towards Jethro, who was sitting next to Doxie, evidently inviting him to start the tune.  The knocker-up was not quite ready, and so Jabe, who was leaning, with his back against the chimneypiece, shot out his strong leg towards the table some two yards away, as though he were taking a running jump, and, swinging forward upon it, he started off in a high key just as he reached the top of his swing, "Sol-jers of Chri-i-st, a-a-rise!"

    The rest promptly rose to their feet and joined in, but Doxie's sense of the ridiculous was tickled as she observed that Jethro and Lige, who were the representatives of an older order of things, disdained the use of hymn-books and, turning their backs to the company, sang with their faces towards the wall and their eyes closed, whilst Jabe and Sniggy Parkin beat time with their hymn-books and feet.  Doxie rather enjoyed the brisk old "Cranbrook" tune, but the prayer and the responses to it were all so mournful that they brought back the gloomy feeling and made her repent that she had come.  Then Jabe told his experience, and his niece was disappointed again, for the clogger was embarrassed by her presence and had not liberty.  Then they sang a verse of a hymn, and as they repeated the last line Jabe limped over and stood right before Job Sharples.

    "Naa, Joab, haa is it wi' thee?"

    Job heaved a long sigh, and the rest emitted long, attenuated echoes of it.  He thanked God for "wot he wor an wheer he wor."  He'd had "ups an' daans, bud noa ins an' aats."  He'd had his "trubbles an' trials, but the Lord had pooed him through," etc., etc.  Although this was quite a new experience to Doxie, she began to feel tired of it and counted the members present to see how soon it would be over.  Then Jabe passed on to "owd Murry Jane."

    This woman was in Doxie's eyes one of the most uninteresting persons in the village.  When invited to tell her experience, she drew her thin black shawl tight around her, rose slowly to her feet, nipped her eyes close together as if in pain, and then reeled off two or three of the phrases that had been used by Job and the leader.  But all at once she dropped into narrative, and Doxie pricked her ears to listen.  Some weeks before Mary Jane's last lodger had left her without paying his score, and she had been reduced to the direst straits.  Willy Everything the shop-keeper had "sauced" her and refused to trust her any more.  She had been so reduced that she had not a penny to pay her class money, and the devil had tempted her to stay away.  She had yielded to the temptation and had felt all the worse in consequence.  Then the enemy had accused her of robbing the Lord to feed herself, and she had been very "ill off an' daancast."  But at last, after wrestling with her enemy on her knees, she had received strength and had cried in her desperation, "Brass or noa brass, Aw'st goo to mi class"; and so the Lord had delivered her, as "He allis hed dun, bless His name!"

    Mary Jane was in tears before she got halfway through this testimony, and when at last she fell back into her seat, there was a loud hum of smothered and quavering responses, and Doxie with shining eyes felt inclined to rush over and hug the dear old woman.

    "Thaa owd lumpyed!" burst out the clogger in choking tones, "hast noa mooar sense nor tak' ony noatice o' him!  He's th' fayther o' lies, woman!  Si thi! if iver tha mentions brass i' this class agean, an' if iver tha stops away cause tha hez noan, Aw'll cross thi name off th' bewks, that's wot Aw'll dew!—Naa, Liger, haa is it wi' thi?"

    Lige and the woman who followed were as stale to Doxie as Jabe and Job had been, and she was just beginning to feel impatient for the close when a diversion occurred.  A verse had been sung, and the leader had moved on to Nancy of the Fold, when a footfall was heard on the step outside, the door opened, and in stepped, though very sheepishly, Andrew Barber.  Doxie gave an involuntary start, and the others raised their drooping eyes; a deadly silence fell upon the room, when suddenly Jabe wheeled round, and, facing the intruder, demanded in sternest tones, "Wot's browt thee here?"

    Andrew stood, cap in hand, in the doorway, with a half-desperate, half-appealing look on his face, and presently he said, "Aw meean it this toime, Jabe; Aw dew fur sewer."
 

Andrew stood, cap in hand, in the doorway.

    "Ay, an' Aw meean it!" shouted the clogger, limping angrily into the middle of the room.  "Th' class wun wik an' th' Loan-end t'other may dew fur sum folk, bur it winna dew fur me; get aat o' mi seet, thaa gallons wastril, thaa!"

    The "Loan-end" was the rendezvous of the village roughs; and though Andrew was bad enough, this was an exaggeration of his wickedness that rather disturbed Lige, and so that worthy moved uneasily in his seat, and at last ventured, "Let th' lad cum in wi' thi."

    In a moment Jabe had whipped round, and, fixing upon the shrinking speaker an annihilating glare, he demanded, "Dew Aw leead this class or thee?"

    Lige stole a sheepish glance at Doxie and then stared stolidly at the window opposite, and the electric silence was softly broken by Jethro, who, rubbing his bare chin nervously, murmured, "Try, try, try agean."

    "Try!" retorted the clogger hotly, "hev'n't Aw tried him three toimes?  He's a Reuben—a blash-boggart Balaam, as wake as wayter, that's wot he is!"

    Another awkward pause followed, during which Doxie could hear her heart beat, and Jabe was just turning round to fall upon the hapless boy in the doorway, when Jethro, with another awkward rub at his chin, muttered, "Seventy toimes seven."

    An audible murmur of approval came from two or three; but as Jabe turned to look at them, those who were thus incriminated bent their heads, and so he was compelled to fall back on Jethro.  "Speik aat, mon, speik aat! dunna sit chunnering theer loike a grinning jackass; oppen thi maath."

    But Jethro had no more to say, and so, after waiting for a moment or two, the clogger turned to Andrew and demanded sternly, "Art gooin' or thaa artna?"

    Andrew drew himself up a little and looked so disappointed and sad that Doxie's heart went out to him.  Then he raised his hand to his head and put on his cap, saying in slow, sorrowful tones as he did so: "Aw thowt as if yo'd 'a' hed pity on me, they met a bin a chonce fur me wi' God; bud naa――"  But here he broke down, and putting his hand to his eyes to hide the shame of tears, he opened the door and was gone.

    Doxie went suddenly cold all over, an exclamation of protesting pity broke from her.  She started to her feet after the retreating youth; but at that moment the gentle, nervous Jethro sprang up and blocked her way, and as she sank back in angry grief into her seat, the knocker-up stepped over to the table against which the irate clogger was standing, and, striking it heavily with his clenched fist, he cried vehemently: "It's wrung, Jabez! it's hard-herted, self-richusniss, it's pharasee-wark!  Wod Him as stood up fur th' bad woman 'a' dun it?  Wod Him as lewked at Peter 'a' dun it?  Dust caw this strengthenin' th' weak hands an cunfurmin' th' feeble knees?  Aw'm shawmed fur thi, Jabez, Aw'm shawmed fur thi."  And as Jethro sank back into his seat, Doxie, who was still standing, caught him impulsively round the neck, and pressing her wet cheek to his she cried, "Bless you, Jethro!  God bless you!"


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IX.

A DISTURBER OF THE PEACE.


IT was impossible to continue the class-meeting after the scene described in the last chapter; and though Jabe gave out a hymn, it dragged heavily, and everybody seemed glad when it was finished.  Luckily and yet surprisingly to Doxie the clogger brought his usual associates back with him to the shop, even Jethro coming with the rest.  Around the fire they resumed the discussion of the event that had just taken place, and Doxie in the parlour could hear their voices raised in excited debate.  For herself she was full of sympathy with Andrew and of concern as to what he might do.  She also felt that what had taken place had left upon her mind a distinct dislike for the class, and she found herself vowing that nothing should ever induce her to become a member.

    As for the clogger, he had all the surliness of a man who has done wrong, but wishes to convince himself that he has not, and he was secretly very uneasy as to the impression Doxie had gained of the meeting.  He longed to see her a member: but he realised that the events of the evening were not likely to have prejudiced her towards his favourite institution, and this made him unable to forgive Andrew.  He would have laughed at the idea of being in any sense jealous of the lad, and yet he was quite disturbed at seeing Doxie and him so friendly.  He suspected now, when he came to think of everything, that Doxie had wanted to go to class because she had some idea that Andrew might turn up, and this hardened him still more.  The impetuous way in which Doxie had acted towards Jethro after his daring speech also annoyed him, he could scarcely tell why.  Moreover, Jethro's hot words had moved him more than he cared to admit; but as they made him look unjust in his own eyes, he liked the lad no better for that.  Long Ben, Andrew's father, was present at the Ingle-nook discussion; and when Jabe discovered that his old friend was greatly disturbed at what had taken place, he felt angrier than ever with Andrew as the cause of all these troubles.  One thing was clear to him, Doxie must never be allowed to come under the influence of such a youth, and so he must be increasingly watchful to prevent them meeting oftener than was absolutely unavoidable.

    It was several days before Jabe could muster courage to discuss the matter with Doxie; but when he did so, and allowed her to do most of the talking, he soon found that his fears were justified.  She was ready to champion the cause of Andrew to any length, and she was not prepared to hear anything said in favour of his own cherished class-meeting.

    As the days passed over one by one, and she did not see the boy, Doxie grew anxious about him, and every day found her more in sympathy with him and more concerned as to the consequences of his rejection.  At last she did see him; but the occasion, whilst it somewhat allayed her fears, altogether upset her ideas of him and filled her with wonder.

    A great noise burst suddenly upon her ears one night as she sat softly playing on her clarionet, and, rushing to the window and lifting the corner of the blind, she saw a crowd of youths and young men, evidently absorbed in some most entertaining sport.  They had a donkey in the midst of them, and its rider, who was evidently the leader of the sports, presently turned his head so that she could see his face.  It was Andrew; and she learnt immediately that he was "riding the stang" for Simeon Slack, who was suspected of conjugal unfaithfulness.  At any rate it was quite evident that his heart was not broken, and if only her uncle had had the discretion to say nothing, she would probably have seen that her sympathy had been to a large extent wasted.  But Jabe did not do that; he saw the stang rider, and came hurrying into the parlour to show him to Doxie, and she, as he expatiated on his own superior penetration in detecting the changeful and unreliable character of Andrew, hardened into a stronger endorsement of the boy than ever.

    So the summer passed quickly away, and the winter came, and Andrew, who seemed for lack of success in any other calling to have settled down into a common mill-hand, passed his sixteenth birthday, and was much the same inscrutable, unsatisfactory character as he had always been; and though he and Doxie met oftener than most people supposed, she confessed to herself that she knew no more of him than she had done at the first, and had a chronic but shy grievance against him because he still remained impervious to the influence of her sex, and showed not the least inclination to admire her in the sense she was now old enough to desire.  It astonished her also to discover that, so far from resenting the popular estimate of his character, Andrew seemed to agree with it, and once or twice expressed himself in what was to her awful language on the subject of original depravity, using his own fallen and hardened condition as the most apposite illustration he could think of.

    Meanwhile she had made considerable progress in learning to play the clarionet, which Luke Yates had now formally presented to her, and had fallen into the habit of joining Jabe and his fellow musicians at their intermittent band-practices.  Her uncle was, of course, mightily proud of this accomplishment, and conceived the bold idea of introducing her into the band itself.  But the case was beset with difficulty.  To do so would be to go contrary to all the prejudices and pet opinions of his life.  A woman in a band of men performers was an outrageous thing, and for a female to play in public, and on so odd an instrument for women's use as a clarionet, was terrible to contemplate.  Then Jabe hit upon an expedient.  The piano, then very scarce in the locality and also very costly, was a lady's instrument; he would buy her a piano for her Christmas-box, and then she could accompany them at all their practices, and even play at tea-meetings and the like.  But unfortunately Doxie was used to pianos, and there was no novelty in playing one, and so after two or three wrangles with her, he had to give in and let her go her own way.  Still, now that the idea had once got possession of his mind, he could not easily abandon it; and as he found that Doxie would rather like to assist them, he set to work to try to arrange it, though he was sorely embarrassed by the thought of his own inconsistency.
 

She had made considerable progress in learning to play the clarionet.

    He sat with two others in the Ingle-nook one sharp, cold night just before Christmas, and as he sucked away at his pipe, and the flickering blaze of the fire played on his face, he looked musingly at the burning chips for some time, and then, shaking his head seriously, said, "Aw dunna loike it! it's no dacent."

    Long Ben lifted his eyes and glanced at the clogger with lazy curiosity, and Sam, sitting far into the nook, with his head propped against the chimney back, moved just far enough to bring the speaker within the range of his vision and then demanded, "Wot's no dacent?"

    "Aar Doxie playin' i' th' band."

    Now the idea of Doxie becoming a regular member of the musical circle had never entered Sam's head, but as Jabe well knew he was ready to defend anything that she did without question, especially if it was condemned by her uncle; and so, as the clogger expected, he now burst out indignantly, "Bur hoo will play 'ith the band Aw'll tell thi!"

    Jabe stared across the fire at his opponent with a carefully simulated look of shocked surprise, and then asked, "Bur not regler?"

    And Sam returned the look with interest, and answered, "Ay, regler."

    "But hoo winna goo aat a Kessmassin?"

    "Hoo'l goo aat a Kessmassin—ah, if hoo's a moind."

    "An' play at th' schoo' tay-party?"

    "An' play at th' schoo' tay-party,"

    "An' th' sarmons?"

    "An' th' sarmons."

    Jabe fell back against the chimney jamb in a pretended collapse of outraged astonishment; then he began to pull furiously at his pipe, contemplating the while the dim shapes of some clog patterns hanging against the opposite wall.  In a moment or two he sighed, and shaking his head pityingly said, "Thaa ne'er hed noa manners, Sam; that's wo'st o' being browt up in a village."

    "An' wheer wur thaa browt up?"

    The clogger treated this question with silent contempt, and was just throwing a handful of chips upon the fire when Ben remarked dreamily, "Ther's a deeal o' body in a clarionet; it fills up sa weel."

    Now the clogger was really much more anxious about what might be Ben's view of the case than he was as to Sam's, and so after a deliberate pause he replied with an air of reluctant concession, "It's a yewsful instriment reet enuff, fuller an' mooar solemmer tin a fiddle."

    There the conversation ended; but next day early, Sam made it his business to interview Doxie and inform her that they wished her to join the band, and she, nothing loath, consented, and the same evening Jabe, assisted by the puzzled yet contented Sam, poured scorn upon the scruples raised by Aunt Judy and Doxie's mother.

    "I'm in the bend now," said Doxie with a proud little toss of her head the next time she met Andrew.

    "Band? wot band?"  And to her astonishment he looked horrified.

    "Uncle's bend!  I'm going to plaiy in it alw'ys now.  Why not?"

    "Yo! yo! in a man's band!"

    "Yes!  Uncle says I may.  Why not?"

    Andrew opened his mouth, looked her slowly over from head to foot, and then with a gasp of shocked indignation he cried, "Aw'd as sewn 'a' thowt o' seein' ye in a alehaase!"

    Up to this time there had always been an air of condescending though gentle patronage in Doxie's manner towards this odd youth; but now his words touched her pride because they seemed to reflect upon her delicacy, and so she answered hotly, "I don't know thet it's any business of yours; I shell do as I like," and left him.

    All the same, she was conscious of a curiously heightened respect for Andrew, and it took her some time to feel comfortable at the practices.  In a few weeks, however, an event occurred which, whilst it greatly increased her interest in Andrew, brought that youth into greater disrepute with the chapel people than ever.  Revival services were being held in several of the adjacent villages, and presently the enthusiasm reached Beckside, and nothing would satisfy Lige and Sam Speck but the commencement of like meetings at their own place of worship.  After a series of long wrangles in the Ingle-nook and a consultation with the super, it was decided to invite a certain popular lay mission preacher from a distance to come and conduct services in Beckside.

    Doxie was quite interested; she had never seen anything of the kind before, and as the preacher was to be entertained at the clog-shop she looked forward to his coming with curiosity and delight.  When he arrived, however, she took an instant and very pronounced dislike to the man.  He was tall and spare, with a long, inquisitive nose and brusque, domineering ways.  He took possession of the whole house, and ordered her uncle and his friends about in a way that piqued Doxie intensely; and everything he said and did seemed to grate upon her feelings.  He was by turns morosely solemn and coarsely flippant.  He called her beloved clarionet a "wooden whistle," and told her roughly that there was "nowt fur th' sowl i' them things"; and when he discovered that she was not a member he affected to be shocked, and forthwith regarded her as one of the sinners who would have to be "brought in."  His conduct in the house, however, was mildness itself in comparison to what he did and said at the chapel; and after hearing him on the Sunday and being badgered by him to "come out," she informed her uncle that she did not intend to go to any other of the services.  But Jabe seemed so very disappointed at her attitude, that she gave him an impulsive little kiss and told him that she would listen to the man for ever rather than see him wearing such a melancholy face.  After the first few nights she ventured to think that she might stay at the after meetings, and was prompted all the more to do this because she observed that Andrew was attending regularly, and she was curious to know what effect the services were having on him.

    The mission was not a success, and towards the end of the second week the preacher began to abuse the Church and its officers as the causes of the failure, using such strange, rough language that Doxie felt her indignation rising.  Then the missioner began in coarse and lurid terms to depict the awful condition and ultimate fate of dead Churches and unrepentant sinners.  Almost immediately, however, he wandered off into a pointless and ridiculous story, which made Doxie blush, though it raised a laugh in the chapel.  This sort of thing seemed to the man in the pulpit to take better with his congregation than some of his more serious utterances, and he at once commenced a second anecdote.  He had just got to what should have been the point of the story, and the irresponsibles were already breaking into anticipatory grins, when Doxie was startled to hear another voice, and raising her slightly bowed head she beheld Andrew standing in the aisle and shaking his clenched fist at the preacher in solemn denunciation, whilst there rang through the chapel a passionate but imperious "Silence!"

    Yes, there stood Andrew with white, drawn face and flashing eyes, trembling all over with righteous indignation, and before any one could stop him, he cried fiercely: "You blab-mouth! you blaspheming hypocrite! you desecrater of a holy place and a holy calling! come down!  Come down, I say; and may God have mercy on your silly, sinful soul!"
 

"You blab-mouth! you blaspheming hypocrite!"

    It was an awful moment.  The man in the pulpit flushed with anger and then turned pale with cowardly shame; the clogger turned his head about with a dazed, bewildered expression, and Doxie, quivering from head to foot, rose to her feet and stood staring at the speaker with wide-eyed wonderment, which was suddenly changed into a look of intense admiration.  Then there was a rush.  Long Ben and Sniggy Parkin were seen to leave their pews and make a dash at the interrupter; Ben grabbed his still indignant son and began to push him angrily towards the door, whilst Doxie, unable to hold in any longer, clenched her little hand and shaking it in impotent rage shrieked out, "Shaime on you!  Shaime on you! he's right! he's right! "  And then bursting into tears fell back into her seat.

    In a moment more all was confusion.  The preacher came down from the pulpit and was soon surrounded by a company of sympathising friends; others, more in sympathy with Andrew, rose from their pews and went out; Jabe, helplessly divided in feeling, walked slowly and hesitantly up the aisle; and Doxie, glad to find the way clear, hastened out of the chapel and rushed off in search of Andrew.

    That ended the mission; the preacher, declaring that nothing would ever induce him to come to Beckside again, departed early next morning in spite of the many assurances he received that nobody sympathised with Andrew's strange action.  As for the clogger, although he was capable of doing the same sort of thing himself, and, in fact, had done in days gone by, he allowed himself to be carried away by the indignation of the others, and soon joined in denouncing Andrew as cordially as the rest, always taking care, however, that his words were never heard by Doxie.  The fact was that Doxie's interference in the matter prejudiced him still further against Andrew, and drove him over to the enemy; all the more so, as Jabe soon found that the boy's own father was as strong as anybody in his condemnation of what had taken place.

    For the next two days nothing was talked of at the clog-shop but Andrew's unheard-of interruption, and the clogger was troubled because, do what he would, he could not keep Doxie out of the discussion.  She dared not face the whole company when it assembled at night, but during the day she could scarcely rest in the parlour whenever she thought there was an opportunity of convincing and converting an opponent.  It amazed her that anybody should even attempt to defend the preacher; the deep reverence of her fresh young nature was outraged.  She would not stop to argue; she felt that his ribaldry was wrong, and she could not understand that anybody wearing the same human nature as herself could feel otherwise.  As she argued, her flashing eyes, her pretty, animated gestures, the rapid changes of expression that chased one another over her mobile face, and the whole-hearted, earnestness she put into the effort made her a very serious opponent.  Sam Speck capitulated at once, and as long as she confined herself to appeals to their native sense of reverence she carried the rest with her, for Lancashire people have that instinct very strong in their natures, however odd their ways of manifesting it.  But as soon as Doxie mentioned Andrew she lost all the ground she had gained, and might have been arguing with blocks of stone.  Andrew was incomprehensible.  All the principles upon which they worked when they wanted to understand people were at fault when applied to him, and this they resented more than they would have resented great faults.  But Doxie understood him; that is, she understood this particular action of his, and rejoiced in it.  Her heart went out towards him; he and she had one thing in common, and that a matter in which they were alone.  She was proud of him, and, when she came to think of it, she was also a little proud of herself for feeling so.

    "It was braive of you, Endrew! it was noble!  Oh! I could have hugged you for it!" she cried in her impetuous way when she met him.

    Any other boy would have flushed with pleasure at Doxie's rash little outburst, but Andrew never seemed to notice it.  He stood there looking dubiously and waveringly at her, and then grinding his heel deeper into the road he asked, "Did yo' understand me?"

    "I did, Endrew! I did!  I just felt as you did, exactly."

    Andrew looked her over again with a curious mournful gaze, and then he said, "You must be a strange, queer wench!"

    "Strange! why?"  And Doxie looked a little surprised and hurt.

    "'Cause Aw'm strange—an' bad!"  And Andrew looked mournful and depressed.

    "Well, if you were bad the other night, and that man was good, I'm bad, and I don't want to be good, so there!"

    "If yo' gooa on loike that, yo'll be a wastril―a―an' a backslider, loike me!"

    "Well, I will be!  I'd rather be!  I should like to be a backslider!—ah —what is a backslider Andrew?"

    Andrew was shocked, and tried to explain, and Doxie said she understood, but still preferred being in the same category with him.  And so he gave up trying to teach her, and they parted.  A few days later Doxie learned that he had gone to live with his married sister at Beckbottom.



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