The Scowcroft Critics II.
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WILLIAM'S IDOL.

I.


IT had been a wet washing-day, and knowing full well all that that meant to his natty, house-proud little wife, Quiet William had consumed his "baggin" in discreet but highly characteristic silence.  He knew by many experiences that this was the one thing that was always too much for his wife's temper, and as he ate he glanced furtively at her from time to time as she went about clearing away with manifest impatience the last signs of the struggle through which she had passed during the day.

    It had always been one of William's boasts that he never knew when it was washing-day at his house, and Hannah, or "Tan," as she was always called, though she affected total indifference on the subject, was secretly very proud of this implied compliment, and exceedingly anxious to be always worthy of it.

    But when the rain pours down with steady, exasperating persistence all the day, and when the "copper" flue positively won't draw, and you have been compelled to use slack because that "gallons wastril" Toffy Joe has not brought the coals though they have been "ordert" nearly a week, and evening has come and the clothes hang about in a clammy fog, is it any wonder if you do feel "a bit nattered"?

    Oh! what a relief it would have been if Joe had brought the coals just then.  She could have "cooambed his yure for him" with completest satisfaction, and with even a gratifying sense that she was discharging a duty.

    But Joe hadn't come, and as for her husband, she might as well try to quarrel with the peggy-stick, as she nearly had done once that day, as attempt to get up a word-battle with him.  If he would only say one little word—anything would do—to set her off and open the valve that was confining all this suppressed and accumulated wrath.  But William wouldn't.  Of course he wouldn't.  He never did.  There was no satisfaction in a husband like that.  He wouldn't even look wrongly at her.  His face was as blank, as a dead wall.  Could anything be more aggravating?

    By this time William had finished his meal and drawn back his chair into its corner.  He knew just how it was with "Tan."  He wished in his very heart she wouldn't trouble so much about trifles.  What did it matter?  He had been thinking about her often during the day, and watching somewhat anxiously through the dirty mill windows for a change in the weather.  But it hadn't come, and he had returned home full of sympathy with his wife, but a sympathy not unmixed with apprehension.  In this state of mind he quietly glided his hand up the chimney jamb and took down from the mantelpiece a short black pipe, and began to charge it, glancing uneasily round as he did so, as if fearful of having been caught in the act.  Then he lighted a "spill" and applied it to the pipe; and then, after certain experimental puffs to make sure that all was right with his comforter, he drew two or three long, satisfying pulls, and quite unconsciously heaved a deep sigh of relief, looking as he did so with a look of complacent contentment at the red-hot spot in the top of the pipe bowl.

    It was a little thing, and might ordinarily have passed unnoticed, but to one who was vainly waiting for any sort of provocation it was more than sufficient.  Hannah was busy filling the "maiden" with clothes, but the moment her quick ear caught William's sigh she whisked round, and was about to challenge it.  But another thought struck her; her resentment deepened, and from irritable complaint she passed in thought to satire, and cried out, ironically, "Th-e-e-r! tha's some cumfort i' th' wold, hasn't tha', poor, ill-used craytur?"

    William was startled; he took the pipe slowly out of his mouth, and turning round to look at his wife, he cried in astonishment, "Tan!"

    "'Tan'!  Aye, it's aw Tan.  Aw th' trubble o' thi loife's cum fro' Tan, hesn't it?  Bud ne'er moind, tha's getten thi poipe, tha knows.  Thi own woife, as mauls an' slaves fur thi yer in an' yer aat's noawheer wheer thi poipe cums, is hoo?"

    William snatched the offending idol out of his mouth, and holding it down behind his hand as if to conceal it, cried in genuine distress, "Dust na loike it, wench?"

    "Loike it?  Oh, aye, Aw loike it, sure-li.  Aw conna help bud loike it when him as owt tak' cur on me thinks mooar o' it nur he does o' me."

    "Hannah!" cried William in shocked and distressed tones.

    "'Hannah'!  Dunna, 'Hannah' me, mon; tell th' trewth an' say 'Bacca! bacca!  Wot's a woife tew a mucky owd poipe?'  William Dyson, Aw've towd thi mony o toime thar't a slave tew it.  Thar't smookin' thi brains, an' thi temper, and thi soul away.  Bud Aw'll say me say if Aw dee fur it."

    As this torrent of raillery was being hurled at him William looked more and more amazed.  The words used by his overwrought little wife were of no moment to him, but the weary soreness of mind which their employment revealed seriously alarmed him, and he quietly slided the pipe back upon the mantelpiece and sank down into his chair.

    For a moment or two he looked earnestly at his wife, but perceiving that the pent-up fire had now spent itself and that "Tan" was already penitent, he turned and looked musingly into the fire-grate, whilst Hannah, snatching up her basket of clothes, whisked off into the scullery.

    She banged the door after her, but the latch did not catch, and so it remained just the least bit open, and William sat up in the attitude of listening, following and interpreting the various sounds and movements going on in the scullery.  First he heard the basket banged into two or three different places, as it evidently would not stand properly.  Then he heard a noisy rattle amongst the pots, and then a demonstrative scraping out of a porridge pan.  Presently there was a pause, and just as the silence was beginning to affect him he heard a sniff, and then another, and then a soft blowing of the nose, followed by a covering cough.  Then all was quiet again, and after a minute or two William heard a long sigh.  For some time he waited for his wife to come forth, and glanced every now and then toward the scullery door, but the disturbed woman gave no sign.  Presently he unclasped and drew off his clogs, removed his coat, looked at his fingers to make sure they were not greasy, and then, groping up the corner of the fireplace, he drew down a carefully preserved but venerable fiddle.

    Gently and cautiously, and with many a glance at the little door, he ran his hand over the strings, and screwed with expressive grimaces at the pegs.

    Then he paused again, took a long expostulating sort of look at the obdurate door, and then, lifting the fiddle to his chin, and drawing the bow across the strings gently, he played a few bars, and softly glided off into "Annie Lisle."

    This was the first tune William had ever learnt to play, and the one that first won him a smile from the pretty Hannah Grimshaw, in the days of auld lang syne.  As he played his eyes glistened and his lips moved; but, however eagerly he watched that green inner door, it would not open.  Then he ran off into snatches of old chapel tunes and anniversary anthems; and just as he was waxing warm with the ever green "How beautiful upon the mountains," the door gave way, and Hannah, with a chastened countenance, came forth carrying the porridge pan.  She brought it straight to the fireplace and perched it on the front bar.  Then she leaned her left arm on the mantelpiece and her head on her arm, and stood looking dreely down into the pan and stirring as for dear life.

    Then she paused a moment, and William, with a hungry coaxing look at her, glided off into Hannah's favourite revival tune, and then, as her face suddenly saddened, he blinked his eyes in the intensity of his earnestness, and bending eagerly over the instrument, and apparently putting all the music of his soul into it, there came trembling forth:


Though often here we're weary,
There is sweet rest above, &c., &c.


    Great tears swam into Hannah's already red eyes; she dropped back into a rocking-chair, covered her face with her hands, and sobbed unfeignedly, whilst the boiling porridge kept up a sort of bloberty-blob, bloberty-blob, blob, blob accompaniment to the music.

    William played on, apparently too absorbed in his occupation to notice his weeping wife.  But presently he paused and leaned back in his chair, and began to contemplate the floorboards above his bead, as though trying to think of another tune.  But the melody would not come, and so, after waiting a long time, ostentatiously oblivious the while of his wife's presence, he was just about to put the instrument away when Hannah got quietly up, took hold of the pan of porridge, lifted it gently upon the "hob," and then, looking intently down into its depths, she murmured, in a tone in which confession, apology, and caressing were curiously blended, "Hay, lad! ther's nowt loike the owd tunes, is ther?"

    And William, who had just found the peg he was groping for, hung the fiddle up, and then, slipping his hand along the mantelpiece to feel for his pipe again, answered gently, "Neaw."



II.


NOW this was by no means the first attack which old Hannah had made on her husband's besetment.  She had never really become reconciled to it, or at any rate she would never admit that she had.  But somehow William had got the idea that his little wife was not at bottom opposed to smoking, only she liked to have some handy subject for feminine raillery, and this was generally the easiest and most obvious point of attack.  And at first William was inclined to think that this was only another, though a somewhat more serious, outbreak of the same feeling, the additional severity of it being of course attributable to the wet washing-day, and his wife's consequent and very excusable irritation.  But somehow he didn't forget it as he generally did.  As a rule his wife's "bits o' flush," as he called them, were forgotten almost immediately, but for some reason or other this last incident refused to be thus ignored.

    Hitherto also his beloved fiddle, though brought in because of its tried influence on the temper of his wife, succeeded generally in dispelling gloom from his own mind and relieving it of all unpleasant recollections.  But for once even the fiddle failed.  Hannah was certainly kinder than usual after her outburst, so that there was nothing from that source to prevent him forgetting the late incident.  And yet for the life of him he couldn't.

    All next day, as he went about in the mill, his thoughts reverted with most unusual and distressing frequency to the occurrence of the previous night.  What could be the reason of it?  Did Hannah really dislike tobacco so much as that, and had she all these years been quietly enduring it with only occasional half-playful protests?  And if so, had he become such a callous wretch and so wrapped up in his pipe as never to have noticed what his poor wife was suffering?  Was tobacco so blinding and benumbing his perceptions that he could no longer read his wife's feelings, or was he growing so hardened as not to care what she felt?  If so, what a hard-hearted monster he was becoming!  And if the enslaving pipe was producing such blinding and searing influence on his mind, what must it be doing to his soul!

    Once started on this line of thought, William soon recalled a score of little unnoticed circumstances which he now saw were signs of spiritual decay.

    Things began to look very serious indeed.  "Tan" had always been much better than he, he well knew.  What if she had noticed his spiritual declension, and had been so troubled about it as eventually to lose her temper in warning him?  Had anybody in the world such a wife as he had?  Oh, what a sinner he must be to have treated her like this!

    This kind of torturing self-accusation went on for days, and poor William got no relief.  He had not got far enough for the desperate remedy of total abstinence from the weed, but he had got far enough for any indulgence in it to make him miserable, so that the "bacca" didn't taste the same, and he had to admit ruefully to himself, "Aw con noather smook nor leeav it alooan."

    And then William was a steadfast believer in Providence.  Every unusual occurrence was to him a sign of something, and so when, on the following Sunday, the appointed preacher was not able to attend through sickness, and had sent a "Primitive" to take his place, William regarded it as nothing short of direct interference of Providence when the preacher, taking for his text, "Little children keep yourselves from idols," launched out into a terrible tirade on the use of tobacco, and clinched his argument by relating a thrilling incident about a man who had a dream in which the recording angel stuck to it against all that he could say that his name was not in the Book of Life.  And at last, after reading the record through for the fourth time, announced that the name was there, but so hidden under tobacco smoke that it was scarcely decipherable.

    This was awful!  Whatever doubt William might have had as to the necessity of giving tobacco up was now dispelled, for this remarkable change of preachers, bringing with it such an entirely unexpected but richly-deserved message to him in his benighted idolatry, left not the slightest doubt in his mind that "Providence" was in it all.

    He felt sorely in need of advice.  But to whom should he go?  All his old friends smoked more than he did himself with the exception of Miles, and Miles only abstained because he had tried again and again and couldn't manage smoking.  What should he do?  He longed to consult "Tan"; but he felt sure she would pretend to like it out of pity for him, and she had already expressed herself in trenchant terms about the sermon that had disturbed him.  So that she was clearly prejudiced and her opinion was not to be relied upon.

    Whilst he was debating these matters with himself and smoking rather more than usual as an aid to reflection, but with a consciousness of growing depravity, the prospect of help came from an entirely unexpected quarter.

    There was in connection with the chapel a Literary and Mutual Improvement Society.  It was only active during the winter months, and seemed to hibernate in the summer.

    It held fortnightly meetings, and was a sort of rendezvous for all the irresponsible freelances and amateur critics of the village.  The majority of the members belonged to the chapel, and consequently the meetings were held in the large back vestry at the rear of that building.  But it must not be supposed on this account that the rulers of the synagogue approved of the institution.  To them it was anathema.  Its very existence presupposed dissent and tacit rebellion, and its continued prosperity was a distinct menace to all proper authority.  However promising a young man was in the church he was given up by the leaders immediately it was known that he had joined the "littery."  More than once the question had been seriously debated in private whether a "mutualer" could be recognised as a member, and the fact that such wild and treasonable ideas as report said were propagated at the meeting should be spoken on Methodist premises was gall and wormwood to the responsible heads of the church.

    But what could they do?  When the obnoxious society was first formed, and permission was sought for holding the meetings on Methodist premises, the trustees were horrified, and regarded the suggestion as a deliberate insult.  But when it turned out that Adam o' th' Point, who had separated from "th' owd body" some time before and had started an opposition service in "Joany's loft," was offering the new society the use of his tabernacle, and that the reckless spirits at the head of the new movement were so bent on carrying out their purpose that they would go there if not accommodated on their own premises, the trustees felt that they were on the horns of a dilemma, and eventually consented to grant the use of the room, relieving their minds afterwards by denouncing the whole thing as a "Maantibank club."

    Ever since then there had been wars and rumours of wars in the chapel without end.  Miles Grimshaw expressed his supreme contempt for the intellectual endowments of the members on every conceivable opportunity.  Quiet William shook his head and sighed sadly.  Jimmy the Scutcher, after drawing out one of the most enthusiastic of the advocates for the new society, and listening with a show of friendly interest to the discussion of various taking titles for the society, made an atrocious pun on the mutual, calling it mewtual, and finally suggested that it should be called the "Tom Cat Society," and all its literary productions "pussy cat tails."  But a crisis arose when one day a beaming youth, swollen out with a sense of the importance of his new dignity as secretary, came into the preacher's vestry and handed the steward a pulpit notice announcing the opening soiree.  Jacky o' th' Gap peremptorily refused to have the paper "gees aat"; and when the second minister, who happened to be the preacher for that morning, ventured to plead for the announcement, Jacky lost all control of himself, and cried angrily, "Yo moind yore preiching, and leeav theeas galivanting bermyeds fa, me."

    The society was now in its third session, and was, perhaps, all the more popular with the rank and file of the chapel-goers because it was known to be so objectionable to the officials.

    One Sunday morning, during William's painful mental struggles about his beloved pipe, the preacher announced that on the following Wednesday night an essay would be read at the Mutual Improvement Society meeting on "Tobacco," which would be followed by open discussion.

    The essayist on this occasion was to be Abram Briggs, whom everybody knew as a violent teetotaler and anti-tobacconist, and so the whole affair presented itself to William's mind as another direct providential interference to meet his difficulties and bring him to repentance.  And so he felt bound to swallow all his scruples and go and hear what could be said on the subject.  That very night his terrible brother-in-law Miles announced his intention of going to the meeting, too, and "giving them 'Johnny Raw's' belltinker," and as this threat spread rapidly through the village everybody felt that such an occasion was not to be missed, and so the affair promised to be a great success.

    Once or twice only had the officials of the church patronised these obnoxious meetings, but on this occasion, feeling that the subject was a direct challenge to them, they all announced their intention of being present, especially after they discovered that Miles the redoubtable would actually enter the arena against the essayist.

    This was certainly an opportunity not to be missed, and every man smacked his lips and blinked his eyes in prospective enjoyment of the "bancelling" the hapless essayist would receive.

    On Wednesday morning, however, a most disappointing announcement had to be made.  Miles was ill, and as he had been working the week before in a house where fever had since broken out, the doctor feared he might have caught the infection, and peremptorily forbade him to leave the house for three days lest he should spread disease.

    Poor Miles!  It took him quite a quarter of an hour to relieve his mind to the doctor and pour scorn on his regulations.  Then he sent a stern message to his brother-in-law William, exhorting him on peril of certain terrible pains and penalties to "Goa an' ston up fur thisel' at th' meeting," and another message was sent to the essayist challenging him to postpone the meeting until Mites was better, and thus secure for himself "th' best letherin' thaa iver hed i' thi loife."

    When the meeting came everybody spent the few minutes before the business commenced lamenting the enforced absence of Miles.  Presently the essayist was called upon to read his paper, and as he rose to do so Quiet William leaned abstractedly back against the wall under the window, and closed his eyes to listen.

    The reader began by stating that tobacco was not a product of civilisation, but a noxious plant used by savages to poison snakes, and introduced to the notice of Europeans by the debased and irreclaimable Indians of the wild West.  (Here William began to feel heartily ashamed of himself.)  The essential spirit of tobacco, the essayist went on, was a deadly poison called nicotine, one or two drops of which would poison a cat (William winced, and felt that he was beginning to perspire).  The reader next gave a list of the diseases which were either originated or developed by the deadly weed, and enlarged eloquently on its benumbing effect on the brain and conscience, and William was conscious of several mysterious pains in the head and stomach, and felt himself a hardened backslider.

    Then the essayist gave statistics to show how much money was wasted on "this seductive but deadly plant" every year, with hints of the good that might be done with such money if it were spent on philanthropic objects, and then wound up with a highly rhetorical declamation, in which the man who used tobacco was denounced as "a sensualist, a spendthrift and a slave."

    Whilst the essay was being read, Jacky o' th' Gap had followed it by an energetic running comment, which gradually swelled into one final explosive negative, and before the chairman could invite any one to reply, Jacky was on his feet pouring out the vials of his wrath upon both the paper and its bold author.  But the members of the society prided themselves on their familiarity with the rules of debate, and several of them at once rose to order.  This only made Jacky the wilder and more incoherent, and after lashing out on every side for several minutes he was suddenly called to order by the chairman, and sat abruptly down in a pet, leaving a feeling in the minds of the assembled company that he had certainly not helped his own side.

    Then two or three of the young orators of the society took up cudgels in defence of the paper just read, and kept themselves so well within the lines of fair argument that their very moderation created an impression favourable to the essay; and as Jimmy the Scutcher was absent and the redoubtable Miles sick, there was positively nobody bold enough to represent the opposition except poor William, and he hovered between a desire to get up and avow his determination to eschew the wicked weed for ever, and a sneaking inclination, coming, he knew, from the old Adam, to slink out of the room on the very first opportunity.

    At this trying moment a long-necked, rather hysterical-looking youth, a big piecer at the mill, got up to make his maiden effort in oratory.  He had started with a sentence which was a modified approval of the essay, and was just referring to his notes for the next point amidst profound silence, when bang! bang! came at the window outside, the top half of which was suddenly swung open, and through the aperture thus made came the bristling terrier head of Miles Grimshaw, muffled almost to the eyes in shawls and "comfortables," and a moment later his high, strident voice was heard crying, "Well, hez that meety (mighty) Giant getten his little maase kilt yet?  Yo' ninnyhommers, yo'!  If yo'd set to wark a huntin' some o' th' big rooarin' lions o' sins ith' wold atsteead o' freetining a little maase of a sin like bacca, it 'ud leuk o foine seet better on yo'.—Naa, then! naa, then!"  He broke off suddenly. "Leme be! leme be, wilta!"  And at that moment the shadow of a big female fell on the window, poor Miles suddenly disappeared, and as the cold air came in through the aperture the debaters had mental pictures of a little man being carried off home, kicking and struggling like a rebellious baby, in the arms of his buxom wife.  There was no chance of any serious argument after that.  The meeting laughed and laughed again, and every attempt to resume the debate was but the signal for a fresh explosion.  Then the people, feeling that the entertainment was over, began to disperse, and in a few minutes poor William was going moodily home, confessing to himself that he had got "noa furruder," and fighting with a feeling of relief and unholy satisfaction which he realised to be very wicked indeed.



III.


TWO or three weeks passed away, during which William was slowly relapsing into his old habits and his old contentment therewith.

    In fact, as he sat musing by the fire and sucking away at his "comforter" of an evening, it seemed to him somehow that his pipe tasted sweeter than ever, and he was compelled to admit that the mental struggles through which he had recently passed gave an added relish to the enchanting weed.  Hannah, too, had never said a single word against his habit since the scene recorded in our first chapter, and had even brought home a new spittoon without the lecture which generally accompanied any such expenditure.

    One day, however, William was suddenly and most unexpectedly awakened out of his sinful peace.  It occurred at the missionary meeting, always a great institution at Scowcroft.

    The deputation—a real live missionary—had made a most eloquent speech, during the deliverance of which William's intentional shilling had gradually grown first to eighteen-pence and then to a florin, and when at last the speaker sat down after a most touching appeal for help, William felt that nothing less than half-a-crown would do justice to the occasion.

    Before the glow of fervour which the missionary's speech enkindled had had time to cool, the chairman called upon the curate to address the meeting.  Now this was an entirely new item in the programme.  The curate was new to Scowcroft, and had shown himself so very friendly to the chapel people that Jacky o' th' Gap had taken it upon himself to invite him to the missionary meeting.  The vicar, who was regarded as "a dacent chap, bud terrible standoffish," was away, and so Mr. Bransom had nobody to consult, and had cheerfully accepted Jacky's invitation.

    To William all this was pure delight, and so when the curate rose he quietly hugged himself with pleasure, and settled himself down in his seat for another good time.

    In a moment or two the young priest was speaking on self-sacrifice, and began in what William regarded as quite a Methodist sort of way to show how much people spent on luxuries, and how comparatively little they gave to philanthropic objects.

    William felt a cold chill creep down his back, and he looked round with an uneasy glance to see whether everybody was not looking at him as the guilty culprit, whilst a little tin canister and a short brier pipe rose like ghosts before him, and an old brass box containing thick twist deep down in his pocket began to feel very hot, as if even in that snug retreat it was blushing.  Somehow the curate had a most awkward way of putting things—no wrapping the thing up at all; and William positively caught him looking straight at him as he was saying some of his most pointed things.  This was no sort of missionary speech.  It would certainly spoil the collection.  Besides, it was so personal.  William's indignation was fast getting the better of him.  Then his thoughts took another turn.  It was strange that the curate should be at this missionary meeting of all others when the vexed question of tobacco or no tobacco was still under debate in William's mind.  Stranger still that he should select this particular kind of argument, and talk about giving up little indulgences for the sake of others.  It was Providence and nothing else!  God was still wrestling with the hardened Ephraim, who was so entirely given up to his idols.  Oh, what an extravagant wretch he was!  Blowing money into the air that might be the means of saving some poor little black wench.  (Somehow, William always thought of the heathen as little black wenches, perhaps because he had once had a little wench of his own; only, instead of being black, she was very fair—too fair, indeed, for health and life.)

    The curate was still talking and still appealing for more self-sacrifice.  Oh, why didn't he stop, or change the subject?  William was nearly beside himself, and when at last the young parson, with just the slightest possible break in his voice, appealed for self-sacrifice "just for the love of Jesus," William had great difficulty in preventing himself "brastin' aat o' shriking," and heaved a sigh and choked back a sob as the speaker resumed his seat.

    And now the battle had all to be fought over again, and William regarded himself as roused for the last time from his false peace, and with one final chance before him.  How could he be a Christian and cling so to his pipe?  It was impossible.  It wouldn't bear thinking of, and the big, tender-hearted man went out of the chapel with a terrible load of guilt on his soul.

    He did not smoke that night, but sat musing by the fire long after Hannah had gone to bed, and finally he followed her with the great question still unsettled.

    Next day William was absent-minded and gloomy all day.  When asked his opinion of the missionary meeting he endorsed the universal verdict as to the missionary's address, but found it difficult to speak with unqualified approval of the curate's deliverance.  He could not rest in the house that night, and at last got a richly-deserved taste of Hannah's tongue, "trapesin' in an' aat loike a maddlin'."

    Then he sat down by the fire, but as he began to fear that "Tan" would notice his distraught air and abstinence from the pipe, he sidled off into the lanes for an uneasy stroll.

    For a time he walked up and down muttering to himself and praying, and presently he wandered across the croft and over the bridge into the wooded lanes on the other side of the canal.  Then he strolled back, and stood leaning over the parapet of the bridge, and looking into the muddy waters below.

    There was a waning moon, and in its light William stood peering down upon the waters in anxious thought.

    He heaved a great sigh, and put his hand into his coat-pocket.  Then he hesitated, stood staring down the canal at a grimy coal-barge lying alongside the mill engine-house.  Then he sighed again, and with a desperate effort thrust his hand into his pocket and drew it out full.

    For a moment or two he stood in the moonlight, looking steadily and sadly at the things he held in his hand.

    There was the little tin canister, there was the brass tobacco-box, and there was his old and beloved pipe.  William laid them carefully on the parapet and stood looking at them intently.  Then he looked hastily round to see if there was anybody near, and then glanced up at the moon as if objecting to be so spied upon.  In a little while he picked up his pipe, and handling it with great affection he turned it over and over again, examining with strange fondness a crack which he had repaired himself long ago.  Then he laid it down carefully on the bridge again, and picking up the little brass box he opened it and took a long relishful sniff at its fragrant contents.  Closing the lid presently with a loud snap, he commenced rubbing the box on his thigh to make it shine still more.  Then he put it down alongside the pipe and canister, and heaving a deep sigh stood looking wistfully at them.

    Presently he sighed again, took another look round as if he would have been glad of an interruption, and then, gathering the treasures once more into his great hand, he held them out over the dim waters below.  Then he drew his arm back again and hesitated.  "Th' little wenches!  Th' little black wenches," he murmured, thickly; "they're sunbry's little Hannahs if they arrna moine.  Lord help me!  Lord help me!" and as he thus prayed he thrust his arm slowly over the parapet and held his treasures over the water again.  Then he shut his eyes very tightly, paused a moment waveringly, sighed again, and slowly opened his hand.

    Flop!  Flop! went the pipe and box and canister into the canal.  William stood for a moment peering through the pale moonlight at the little widening rings on the water, and then, with a sigh that was almost a sob, turned hurriedly towards home.

    By the time he reached his own house he had partly recovered himself, and was fast overcoming his regret at parting with his treasures, and he did so the more easily, as he not only began to feel a comfortable sense of moral elation at the sacrifice he had made, but commenced also to be apprehensive as to how he would deal with his wife.  She would be sure to notice if he did not take his nightcap pipe, and he was not sure that, in spite of all her recent denunciations of tobacco, she would allow his sudden and complete abstinence to go unchallenged.

    He knew also that he would have a very rough handling from his cronies at the chapel; but as he was often in disgrace with them, he felt less concerned about that than otherwise lie might have done.

    But however unsuspecting Hannah might have been, her husband's manner would have aroused curiosity in the most indifferent mind.  He sidled into the house humming a tune with a busy sort of drone in it.  Then he took down the violin and began to play, running, however, from one tune to another in a most erratic and confusing sort of way.

    Then he started a conversation, but he talked so rapidly and incoherently, and so entirely unlike his own laconic style, that that alone would have been sufficient to excite suspicion in a far duller person than his sharp little wife.  Presently he took his clogs off, and made off upstairs to bed in his stocking feet, for slippers were quite uncommon luxuries to Scowcroft males.

    When he had got upstairs old Hannah stood listening on the hearthstone at the creaking of the boards over her head under William's enormous weight.  She was evidently thinking rather than listening, and in a moment or two she turned with one of her characteristic jerks, and drawing a low stool from under the table she stepped upon it and began exploring the mantelpiece end just where William's smoking materials were kept.  They were all gone!

    Then she leaned over and searched a little three-cornered shelf in the chimney corner, but nothing satisfactory could she find.  Then she got down from her perch, put the stool away in an absent pondering way, stood for a time looking fixedly into the fire, and then with an "Hay mi," "Hay dear mi," she proceeded to join her husband.  No word or hint did Hannah give of her discovery, but William was kept awake for an hour or two that night with the disturbing certainty that his wife had found him out.

    Several days passed, during which William went through all the stages of experience to which those who make such self-sacrifices are subject.  At first he was buoyed up by an elevating sense of moral victory.  Then he suddenly discovered that this was spiritual pride, a worse sin even than smoking.  Then the colour seemed to fade out of his sacrifice, and he felt inclined to despise his own heroic act, and to think cynically of the romantic appearance his actions had for a time assumed in his mind.

    Oddly enough, for two or three days he felt no great desire for the foresworn weed, and was surprised and very inconsistently disappointed at the ease with which he had conquered it after all.

    A few days more, he told himself, and he would be entirely free from the appetite, and, strange to say, he did not feel half as elated at the prospect as he knew he ought to be.  Then his friends found him out, and the obstinacy aroused by their rough and unsparing chaff carried him over several more days.  By this time he felt that the struggle was practically over, and he was greatly surprised, if not disappointed, that he had got through the crisis so easily.

    For three or four days now he had had practically no desire at all for his old idol, and was beginning to despise the hold which he had imagined it had obtained over him.

    Meanwhile, Hannah was greatly exercised about the matter.  Really she did not care a jot whether her husband smoked or not, only she must have something to "read off abaat" occasionally.  In fact, she had so long been accustomed to tobacco that she was surprised to find how much she missed it herself.  And if she missed it, what must her husband be passing through!  Nobody knew better than she how dearly he loved his pipe, and although, of course, she took care not to let him see it, and kept him in his place out of sheer force of habit, yet she loved her big, quiet, tender-hearted husband with intense affection, and was ready to cut her tongue out when she found that its wicked wagging had deprived him of one of his few earthly indulgences.  For several days now, therefore, she had been narrowly watching William, and inflicting on herself all sorts of mental castigations.  Sixpence per week! she said to herself; that was all he ever spent.  What was that if it really did give him the pleasure it seemed to do?  And then she went back over all the years of their married life, and recalled the numberless sacrifices, great and small, he had made for her and for their one child now in heaven.  She reminded herself also of the many nights on which he had sat up nursing little Hannah during her illness, and the delight which the little angel took in seeing her father puff away at his pipe.  Then she compared William to all the other men she knew, and especially to Silas Shaw, for whom she had once nearly given William up in their courting days, but who was now a rough, drunken, canal boatman.  Oh, what a wicked woman she had been, and how keenly she watched William during those days of his abstinence!

    One day as she was musing on these things the greengrocer came to the door, and Hannah, hastily wiping away a tear with the corner of her apron, went out to make her purchases.  The hawker was a youthful member of the "Mutual," and a violent anti-tobacconist.

    "Well, Hannah, is he stickin' yet?" he cried, as she came to the cart side.

    "Stickin'!  Wot art talkin' abaat?" she demanded, with unusual asperity, although she knew quite well to whom the young fellow was alluding.

    "Abaat yore William.  He's gan o'er smookin', Aw yer, an Aw whop (hope) he's owdin' aat.  The 'Mutuals' dun sum good yo' seen."

    "Aw wish th' 'Mutual' an' aw th' bermyeds as goos tew it wur at th' bottom o' th' say, so theer."  And Hannah looked fiercer than the hawker had ever seen her do in her life.

    "Whey, Hannah," he cried, "wot's up?  Aw thowt yo' wanted yore William ta give up."

    "Tha thowt wrung then!  Awd rayther he smooked till he wur black i' th' face, an' if ho doesna tak to'ot ageean, Aw'll—Aw'll start mysel'."

    "Bud, Hannah, it's wasteful, yo' known, blowing good brass int' th' urr" (air).

    "He nubbut smooked tew aance a wik, tha lumpyed," this with almost blazing indignation.

    "Tew aance!  Well, that's sixpence a wik, a' sixpence a wik for forty yer cums ta"—but he never finished his arithmetic, for Hannah was back on the doorstep, and, drawing herself up to her very fullest height, which was not very high after all, she delivered her final philippic: "Aw tell thi Aw durn't cur ha' mitch it is; if it gan him as mitch cumfort as it seems ta ha' done, it's abaat th' cheppest mak o' cumfort as Aw've iver yerd on.  An' if he doesn't start a' smookin' afore th' wik's as Aw'll—Aw'll mak him!" And retiring as red as a turkey cock, and in imminent danger of sudden tears, she banged the door angrily in the greengrocer's face and left him to himself.

    Now the same day William had had a very worrying time at the mill.  Everything had gone wrong with him.  Early in the morning a loom had broken down, and whilst he was "fettlin" it he turned round and discovered suddenly that there was an enormous "float" on the other loom.  And so for hours that day he had only had part of his looms going.

    Towards three in the afternoon, however, things began to get right again, and when at last he was able to stand up and stretch himself, he sighed with a big sigh of relief as he glanced down the alley and saw all his looms at work once more.  Then all at once there came upon him an intense longing for his pipe.  It was very sudden and unexpected, but most unaccountably strong.  In five minutes he wanted a pipe worse than he ever remembered to have wanted one in his life.  He sent up hastily a little prayer for help, but somehow he found that their was no heart in his petition.  He tried to resist the feeling—he couldn't smoke in the mill in any case.  He struggled to shake it off and forget it, but there it was.  Then he began to look at the clock over the weaving shed door, and tried to think of his pleasant little house, and how nice it would be to rest there when six o'clock came.  But into the picture of restful comfort his fancy painted, there somehow floated a little brass tobacco-box and a most tempting little pipe.  Oh, what should he do?  Tobacco he must have by some means.  More than once the impulse came to him to go down the loom alley to Pee Walker and borrow a quid and try to chew; but that he had always held was so much worse than smoking that common consistency compelled him to resist the desire.  It was a long, terrible afternoon, and when six o'clock came William went home still struggling with a fierce desire for his old comforter.

    Hannah received him with quite unusual kindness, and brought out what was in those days a very rare delicacy, only procurable at the grocer's, and carefully reserved for Sundays—a pot of marmalade; and the helping she gave him made him absolutely certain that something was going to happen.

    But, strange to say, the wonderful marmalade was rather insipid for once, and even a little hot fat-cake which Hannah produced out of the oven about half-way through the meal failed to appease the longing of the poor weaver.  Indeed, he was glad when the meal was over, and turned away from the table feeling that he ought to be an exceedingly happy and grateful man, and he wasn't.  Oh! what a poor, weak thing he must be, and how basely ungrateful.

    Then Hannah began to clear away the tea-things, and presently she thrust the little table close to his chair, closer, in fact, than usual, and William leaned his elbow upon it, and sat looking wearily into the fire and fighting with his craving for the weed.  Once he thought Hannah was poking about strangely near him, but glancing round with his eyes without moving his head he found that she was just disappearing into the back-scullery.

    Then he sighed again and moved his elbow.  What was that?  Not surely the smell of tobacco to tempt him still further?  He sniffed again.  It was strangely like it.  Yes! there it was, unmistakable this time.  He moved his elbow again; it seemed to strike something hard.  He sat up and took a good look at the table.  Yes, there it was close to him—a tin canister with a pot nob screwed in upon the lid, just like his old one, and full of most tempting dark shag, and there by its side was a new churchwarden pipe.

    William positively went cold.  He saw through it all in a moment.  This was his little wife's way of expressing repentance, and William felt he would like to smoke just to show her that all was well.

    But he dare not, and the more he longed for it the more he felt he dare not.  And as he sat there, one moment looking longingly at the objects of temptation, and the next turning his back to them and gazing into the fire, Hannah came out of the back kitchen.  As she passed towards the fire she glanced sharply at the table and noticed that her gifts had not been touched, and then, leaning forward over the fire, she began to poke it very vigorously, glancing every now and again stealthily at William's unusually perturbed face.

    Presently she reached a candle from the mantelpiece, and setting it down near the tobacco she drew her chair up to the table, put on her spectacles, and made a sort of show of darning stockings.

    Two or three times she glanced at the tobacco, and then again at her husband; and presently she said in soft, coaxing tones, as if she had not previously noticed his abstinence, "Artna' gooin' furt smook, lad?"

    William started from his reverie, flushed a little, rubbed his big fat face, and then said, Smookin's sinful, wench."

    "Wot?" cried Hannah, sternly, "has thaa started o' strainin' at a gnat an' swallerin' a camil?  Awm shawmed fur thi!"

    William's eyes opened slowly in mystified astonishment.

    "Hannah! " he cried, "Aw thowt thaa didn't loike me furt smook?"

    "Aye, thart allis thinkin' some lumber.  Dust think Aw should a' letten thee smook aw theeas yers if Aw hedn't loiked it?  Thaa's smooked lung enuff ta pleeas thisel', tha'll ha' ta smook ta pleeas me naa," and, pushing her hand across the table, she slid the tobacco and pipe towards him.

    But William didn't offer to take them.  He somehow felt he could not.  And so, as he sat there glowering into the fire, Hannah resumed: "Naa, Aw'll tell thi wot.  Aw'm gooin' t' have tew aances a wik off Noah, an' if thaa doesn't smook it, Aw'll smook it mysel'.

    The mental picture of his fastidious little wife with a churchwarden pipe was too much for William, and he burst into a great laugh.  As it subsided, Hannah gave the tobacco canister another push, but William did not heed her.

    After that they sat for several minutes in silence, and at length Hannah said, in a soft, restrained voice, "Aar Hannah used loike ta see thi smook didn't hoo, lad?"

    William winced, and a vision of a little fairy child who used to climb up on his knees and light his pipe for him, and then ripple off into a merry little laugh, which he would have given worlds to hear again, came before him and his eyes grew dim.

    "Dust remember haa hoo browt thi poipe ta cumfort thi that neet thi muther deed?"  Hannah went on softly, looking at her work through glasses that were getting very misty.

    "Dunna, Hannah, dunna," cried William, putting out his hands.

    But Hannah got softly up, and pulling out the stool again reached up to the mantelpiece and brought down a long vase-shaped vessel of brown clay.  It was full of pipe-lights, and as she put it on the table she said gently, "Aar Hannah towd me th' wik afoor hoo deed ta allis keep it full o' spills fur her daddy's poipe, an Aw hev done ever sin'.  Bud haa con Aw du that if tha' niver smooks?"

    There was a long silence, during which William, though he, of course, saw the weakness of his wife's argument, seemed strangely moved, and glanced wistfully at the tobacco.

    "Bud smookin' sa wasteful, tha' knows, Tan."

    "Wasteful!  Them as talks abaat it being wasteful spends twice as mitch up a watch guards an' 'dickies' an' foine clooas."  Then she rose and went off into the scullery again, and when she returned William was seated with the churchwarden held out before him, amid clouds of wreathing smoke, with a look of placid satisfaction on his face which even an anchorite could not have begrudged him.


――――♦――――
 
JACKY'S TROUBLE.


MILES GRIMSHAW, dressed in the seedy, black, greasy-at-elbows-and-knees which had in its better days done duty as his semi-clerical Sunday best, came hurrying, with his coat-tails flying, down Cinder Hill Lane and along the croft, with amazement and consternation expressed on every feature of his speaking face.

    "Wotiver's ta dew, lad?" cried his big, round wife, coming out of the scullery, with a dish in one hand and a towel in the other, and gazing at him in wonder as he stood panting on the door-mat.

    "Ta dew! ivery thing's ta dew!  Th' divil's brokken lose, th' Church is disgraced!  A good mon's gooan wrung, an' a dacent woman an' her dowters turn't into th' street!" and Miles nearly broke down as he spoke.

    "Miles!" cried Mrs. Grimshaw, standing in stern anxiety over her husband, who had dropped into a chair, "tha'll be gooin' off i' sum o' them figgaries o' thine, as sewer as Awm a livin' woman.  Be quiet wi' thi, an' tell me wot it's aw abaat."

    "Abaat! it's abaat starvashun an' ruin, an' disgrace to th' Church! that's wot it's abaat!"  And Miles rose to his feet and glared fiercely at his wife, whilst a tear stood on his faded cheek, and his wide mouth worked in pathetic twitches.

    Dinah looked very grave by this time, and standing back a little and balancing herself uneasily she demanded: "Miles Grimshaw, arty goin' ta tell me wet's ta dew or tha artna?"

    "Wot's ta dew?" and Miles glanced at his wife as if she had been the cause of the great disaster.  "Whey, Jacky o' th' Gap's gotten th' bums in—that's wot's ta dew."  And having at last got rid of his awful news, Miles sank back into his chair, whilst his wife limply dropped into another.

    There was silence for a moment or two, during which Dinah sat looking at her husband with a stunned and bewildered expression, but Miles could not bear his wife's sad look.

    "Dunna, woman! dunna stur (stare) o' thatunce," he cried, and then rising and walking about excitedly in front of the fire, clasping his hands together and wringing them in acute distress, he wailed: "Oh, Jacky!  Ah owd friend! mi owd friend Jacky!" and, groaning like a man in an agony, he stamped on the sanded floor.

    But Dinah was Quiet William's sister in more senses than one, and so after sitting in a dazed, helpless manner in her chair for a few moments, during which she contrived to get out of her husband in a disjointed sort of way some few particulars of the great calamity, she quickly rose, put away her pot and towel, and leaving the washing-up to take care of itself, she put on her outer garments, selecting by some odd sort of instinct her black ones, as if for a funeral, and in a few moments was hurrying, as fast as her ponderous proportions would permit, up the lane towards Cinder Hill Farm, sighing and crying and quietly praying for her friends as she went.

    Arrived at the farm Dinah made her way to the back-door.  Opening it softly, she crossed the scullery towards the big kitchen.  Pushing the door open before her without knocking, she drew back for a moment with a start, for there, seated comfortably by the fire, smoking a short clay pipe, was the smug-faced, bullet-headed Nat Ogden, the bailiff.

    Ignoring Nat's offensively familiar nod, and turning her eyes away from him with cold severity, she asked, in a husky voice, "Wheer arr they?"

    But before Nat could answer Dinah heard a step and a startled cry behind her, and turning quickly round she caught a tall, worn-looking woman in her arms, and silently hugged her to her breast.  They stood there for several minutes without speaking, and then Dinah began to stroke gently the head that was buried in her bosom.  "Poor wench!  Poor wench!" crooned Dinah, glancing sympathetically down on the sobbing woman, "bud th' Lord knows, wench—th' Lord"—but just then the face on her breast was lifted suddenly, and with hot, flaming cheeks the stricken woman cried out vehemently, "It's nor him, wench; it's no Jacky, Awll tak me deein ooath it's nor him."  At that moment there was another wail, and a fair-haired girl with red, swollen eyes and quivering lips came rushing in from somewhere, and seizing Dinah's free arm, cried: "Neaw, Dinah!  Neaw!  It's no' my fayther.  Tell'em aw sooa.  Tell aw as knows uz it's nor him.  He wodna hurt a maase, Dinah."

    "Neaw, wench, he wodna Aw know; he wodna," murmured Dinah, soothingly; and then she stopped, and looking round inquiringly she cried, "Bud wheer is he; wheer is the poor lad?"

    "Huish!  Huish cried both women at once, and dragging her further away, and pointing to a door close to where they had been standing, the younger woman cried: "He's i' th parlour, Dinah, an' he'll noather cum aat, nor speik nor eight (eat).  Oh, wot mun we dew, Dinah; wot mun we dew?"

    Dinah soothed the distressed woman, who seemed more concerned about the effect of the trouble upon Jacky than anything else, as best she could.

    "Yo mun leuk up, bless yo," she said.  "God's up aboon, yo known; sooa leuk up.  It's allis darkist afoor dayleet.  God bless yo booath, an' poor Jacky, tew," and, with another loving, mother-like hug and a long, clinging kiss to each, she left them.

    Meanwhile, Miles stood staring, first at the fire and then out of the window, quite unable to keep himself still under the disturbing influence of his own thoughts.  But it was not in his nature to remain alone and in silence under such circumstances, and so in a few moments he went out to consult with the only one of his cronies available at that hour of the day—Noah the grocer.

    Noah was cutting and weighing thick twist into half-ounces, but when Miles had communicated to him the sad news they adjourned into the little parlour next to the shop, and for the next two hours discussed the painful subject in all its bearings.

    As it drew near to six o'clock Miles returned home, and, having drawn from his wife the scanty additional details of the sad event she had to offer, he snarled and grumbled at her because she could tell no more, but seemed greatly disturbed by the information that Jacky would see nobody.

    As he mused on these doings, watching impatiently for the mill to stop in order that the question might be discussed in full council, Noah joined him with a long clay pipe and sat down to wait for the approaching consultation.

    Quiet William was the first to arrive.  He had heard something of the trouble in the mill, and came hastily to get the details.  Raising the latch he held the door a little way open, and looked searchingly into the faces of Miles and Noah and, finding there abundant confirmation of his fears, he heaved a heavy sigh, stepped inside softly, closed the door after him, and went and sat down very close to the fire without saying a word.  He had scarcely got seated when Jimmy the Scutcher arrived.  Before entering, Jimmy had taken a hasty peep over the window curtain, and when he saw the long faces of his friends, his own assumed a most peculiar expression.  The side with the expressive eye in it puckered up as if in extreme pain, whilst the other side assumed a portentous length and gravity.  Jimmy, too, had heard the news in the factory, and had knocked down the "little sewer" who brought him the intelligence.

    For a long time nobody spoke, but at last Noah got up and knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and the others watched the operation with a painful, abstracted sort of curiosity.  Then as he refilled it he remarked, slowly, "Poor Jacky! he wur niver mitch of a manager."

    Now Noah, though much better off than the rest of his associates, was never regarded as of very much account, his opinions being mostly very mild reflections of the emphatic ones of Miles, and the sentiment he had just given utterance to had been expressed times without number in bygone days by the excitable tailor, between whom and Jacky no uninitiated one would have guessed there was anything more than ordinary friendship, for they were too much alike to get on well together.  But now, though Noah's tone was not in the least censorious, but rather apologetic, Miles jumped to his feet, and, glaring at Noah, cried in bitterest sarcasm, "That's it.  Gooa on!  The poor felley's daan, sa, give him a punce" (kick).

    Noah stopped in the midst of lighting his pipe, and looking at Miles in alarm and deprecation, whilst the pipe-light burned its way perilously near to his fingers, he began meekly, "Aw nobbut said―"

    "Thaa nobbut said!  Neaw; bud if th' poor lad ud a bin here, tha darna a said 'chirp.'  He's mooar brains i' his little finger nor sum on uz hez in arr yeds, but just 'cause he conna bring his moind daan to chalking cubburd durs, and keeping Tommy bewks, he conna, m-a-n-i-d-g-e," and Miles put unutterable scorn and mockery into his pronunciation of the last word.

    Quiet William heaved a great sigh.

    In a moment Miles had jerked himself round, and was demanding fiercely, "Wor art thaa siking at?  It 'ud leuk better on thi if tha'd oppen thi maath an' say summat atsteed a smirching and sniftering theer."

    Miles's tirade, though it did not appear to affect William in the least, had a moving effect on the mind of Jimmy the Scutcher, and he just seemed to be about to say something when his daughter opened the door, and without looking at him called into the room, "Fayther, yo're ta cum to yo're baggin."

    But Jimmy, though still in his greasy mill clothes, loftily and ungraciously waved his hand for the girl to be gone, and in a moment they were alone again and in silence.

    Then two or three of the less important of the chapel people came in, and as they had many questions to ask and many remarks to make, conversation soon became general.  It was all, however, extremely sympathetic towards Jacky, for the slightest hint of blame was at once pounced upon by Miles, and the person who uttered it had a very bad five minutes.

    Presently Jimmy was sent for once more, but again he waved his hand imperiously, and the messenger departed as she came.  As the door closed Quiet William lifted his head, and glancing up at the clock over the mantelpiece softly remarked, "It's toime fur t' meetin'."

    It was prayer-meeting night, a fact everybody present had until that moment forgotten, and when they were thus reminded nobody heeded.  And Miles probably voiced the feelings of the whole company when he said, with a heavy sigh, "Awve na hert fur meetin's ta-neet."

    The others sighed in sympathetic endorsement, and just when a stranger would have thought the subject had been dropped—especially considering that neither Jimmy nor William had had tea or were washed and dressed for a meeting—William looked once more fixedly at the clock, and asked in the same low tones as before, "Wot's meetin's fur?"

    Nobody replied, and the before-mentioned stranger might have concluded that nobody had heeded William's remark; but in a few moments the big man began to sidle towards the door, and presently disappeared.  Nobody seemed to notice his departure, but in a minute or so Jimmy the Scutcher, dirty and "linty" as he was, got up and followed, and nobody needed to be told that he had not gone home to tea.  After another brief interval, Noah and the others left one by one, and at last Miles, now entirely alone, looked resignedly round the room, and, picking up his hat, departed to join the rest at the meeting.

    Now it was well-nigh impossible to get Quiet William to take any public part in the affairs of the church.  Only on very rare occasions had he ever even led the prayer-meeting, but on this sad night, without consulting anybody, he took charge of the proceedings.  Everybody present prayed, but nobody made any definite reference to the one thing that lay heavily on their hearts.  When he was concluding William seemed suddenly to get "liberty."  Whilst only using language of studied generality, it was evident to all that he was thinking chiefly of their friends at Cinder Hill Farm.  When he came to "Aw—aw, them that are i' trubbel," his voice faltered; but he got over it, and with uplifted hands and glowing, intense faith he prayed until those who were not entirely overcome by the simple petition listened with the feeling that they were following one inspired.  And when the long, impassioned prayer was over, Abram Briggs, as he went out at the door wiping his eyes, turned to the equally affected Noah, and said, earnestly, "Sum rooad aat ull be fun fur Jacky after this, tha'll see."  And Noah, turning and looking earnestly at Abram, said in tones of solemn conviction, "If ther isna, they isna a God, that's aw."



II.


LATER on that night William, Miles and Jimmy might have been seen plodding their way through the mud along Cinder Hill Lane to the Farm.  Their purpose was to see Jacky at all costs.  But they did not succeed.  He would not see anybody, and Mrs. Jacky and her daughter stood before the parlour-door and tearfully entreated the deputation not to persist in its purpose.  In a long conversation, during which William did nothing but shake his head, and the rest of the party, including the women, had to exert all their powers to keep Miles from quarrelling with the obnoxious bailiff, they elicited all that was at present known by the women on the subject.  It was the bank that had taken such sudden action.  The local manager had been dismissed unexpectedly, and for some reason instant action had been commenced against two or three overdrawn debtors, amongst whom was the unfortunate Jacky.

    That was all the women had to tell, and even that information had not been obtained from the farmer himself, but from the bailiff and others.

    As they were departing, after offering a few clumsy words of consolation to the women, it was noticed that William was missing, and looking round and stepping back into the kitchen they espied William kneeling at the inexorable parlour-door, behind which was the heart-broken Jacky; and before they could speak they heard him repeating, in a loud voice and with his mouth to the keyhole, "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."

    For the next two days little was talked about in Scowcroft but Jacky's trouble.  Miles and his friends went about with sad faces and bowed heads, and seemed to find their only comfort in getting together in the evenings, and smoking and sighing and saying nothing—for all the world like Job's friends without Job, and with-but also their obstinate views about the government of God.  In their hearts they all feared that Jacky had not been the best of business men, but they were ready to fall upon and rend any incautious person who ventured, however distantly, to hint at such a thing.  They knew, also, that there had been a mortgage on the farm when Jacky took it from his father, and though Jacky had never exactly hinted at financial difficulty, and his wife and daughter always held their heads rather high, yet it was an open secret amongst them that their friend's worldly position had never been as easy and secure as appearances would seem to have indicated.

    Of course Dame Rumour was busy in these days, and Jacky's companions were hurt and stung every few hours by some fresh and unjustifiable story.  It was confidently stated that Jacky had not been solvent for a dozen years, and evil-minded ones added significantly, "An' him preiching loike a bishop aw th' toime."

    Miles went in pursuit of his calling to the farm adjoining Jacky's, but when he had got the coat he had to turn taken to pieces, and was sitting cross-legged on the large table under the kitchen window tacking it together, old Garlick, the farmer, came in and at once introduced the topic of the hour.  To his surprise Miles, who had generally a very decided opinion on almost any subject that could be introduced to him, and was always ready at any moment to state and defend that opinion, and pour scathing ridicule upon any contrary one for any length of time, was on this occasion simply dumb.  Nothing that Garlick could say had any effect in inducing him to talk.

    "Well," grunted the farmer, in his wheezy way, as he stood with his back to the fire and his hands behind him, looking uneasily at the tailor, "Awst be sorry ta see Jacky sowd up, that's sartin, and Awm thankful aboon abit as he doesn't belong ta aar church."

    Now, if the slow-minded Garlick intended this as a means of making Miles say or do something he succeeded; for the tailor suddenly sent the coat he was stitching flying into the window bottom, and then spinning himself quickly round he jumped from the table, stepped hastily to the door, made a gesture as of a man casting the dust off his feet, and before anybody could stop him he was plunging through the mud in his working slippers towards home.  The Garlicks kept Miles's boots in the hope that he would be compelled to go back for them.  But though when they finally sent them home they sent also an apologetic message, old Garlick's coat has never been finished turning to this day.

    If there was any person in Scowcroft who could be said to derive real satisfaction from the rumours that were going about it was that singular individual Reuben Tonge, the sandman.  As has been already hinted in a previous chapter, Reuben had been brought up a Methodist, and at one time bade fair to be a shining light at the chapel.  But he had a very proud, imperious temper, and when Annie Clarkson rather lightly jilted him and soon after married one of his companions, Jacky o' th' Gap, he had left the chapel, become a backslider and a keen-tongued scoffer at religion, so that the sudden dishonour of his erstwhile successful rival must be supposed to have been particularly gratifying to him.  He heard the news amongst the earliest, and laughed a great, hoarse laugh.  And when the person who told him the tidings had left him, he still stood in the back-lane where the communication had been made, looking musingly at the ground, and evidently in deep thought.  Presently, he lifted his head, looked round for a moment, gave vent to a queer sound which even the experienced "Pablo" could not quite understand, and then giving his dingy steed a familiar knock with his whip, he said, "Another canting Methody, Pablo!  Another canting Methody!" and then lifting his head he sent ringing down the lane, his ancient cry, "Weshing up mugs, stew mugs.  Whaite sand an' rubbin stoan."

    Later in the same Saturday afternoon, it was discovered that Quiet William was not to be found, and it was concluded by his friends that he was making another attempt to see the unhappy Jacky.  This turned out to be correct, and about six o'clock he was seen to turn the corner from Cinder Hill Farm, and presently he entered his brother-in-law's house.  In a few minutes all the friends had gathered to hear the news.

    Yes, William had seen their old friend, and the picture he drew of Jacky's haggard look and hollow, weary eyes brought lumps into their throats and drew heavy sighs from all present.

    William brought also brief but authentic particulars of the trouble.  In short, it amounted to this, that unless Jacky could find £500 within the next few days he would be sold up and turned into the lane.

    Jacky couldn't see where he could get one-tenth of the money, though it was an open secret that he had befriended many an unfortunate acquaintance in similar difficulties, probably to his own hurt.  Nat Ogden and his assistants were to commence marking the goods for the sale on the following Monday morning.  The big man told his story very slowly, with many sighs and pauses, and when he had done a feeling of helpless dumbness fell on the company, and the smoke poured out of the smokers' lips in thick, jerky volumes.

    "Poor felley!  Poor, poor felley groaned Noah.

    "Aye, God help him," responded Abram Briggs.

    "An' uz," groaned Noah.

    "Aye, an' uz tew," sighed Abram.

    Jimmy the Scutcher sat behind a thick cloud of smoke, evidently trying to control his very peculiar countenance.  At last, taking his pipe out of his mouth, and speaking in his hardest tones, he remarked, "A penn'orth a help's woth a paand o' pity."

    "Pity!" cried Miles, starting as if he had been stung, and almost shrieking in his excitement, "Is they a mon here as wodna give his last shillin' to save him?"

    Every face in the company looked an emphatic endorsement of Miles's demand, and every eye was turned with a sort of challenge in it upon the Scutcher.

    Jimmy was, as usual, entirely unmoved, but in a moment or two, fixing his off eye keenly on Miles, whilst the rest listened intently, he rose to his feet, and striking the table with a mighty thump, cried, "Daan wi' thi brass, then."

    Now the idea behind this challenge was so entirely new, that the men who heard Jimmy's words sat looking at him with half-opened mouths and eyes full of astonishment and perplexity; for they were all poor men, and the times were none of the best.

    For some time nobody spoke, but presently Miles jumped to his feet, clambered hurriedly up the stairs behind the door, and was immediately heard walking about on the floor above and opening and shutting drawers and boxes.  Then he returned, nearly missing his footing as he came down.  His eyes shone with excitement as he came into the light again.  He was pale, and his tightly-drawn lips twitched with emotion.  He had a greasy black book in his hand.  It was the pass-book of the Wallbury Penny Bank, and contained entries of the rare and scanty savings of a lifetime.  Stepping forward he banged it defiantly down on the table, and looking eagerly at Jimmy, cried, "Ther's forty-wun paand odd theer; naa folla' thi leeader."

    Jimmy, who had evidently planned something of the kind and come prepared, put his left hand into his inside coat-pocket and produced a book similar to Miles's, and throwing it carelessly down on the top of Miles's, he said quietly, "Aw theers—sixty-seven mooar."

    No painter on earth could have painted Quiet William's face at this moment.  Surprise, delight, gratitude and a blending of embarrassment were mingled strangely upon it.  But at last, giving way to the tears that couldn't be kept back, he stammered out, "Aw—Aw—hay' na brass; bud Aw—Aw—Aw—con morgige th' haase."

    And this was a trying moment for prudent Noah.  He moved uneasily in his chair, coughed nervously, blinked his small eyes with curious rapidity, and then said, "We'er nobbut lannin' (lending) it Aw reacon?"

    Miles gave a violent start, a blaze of indignation flashed into his face, and he was just about to explode on the unfortunate Noah, when Jimmy sprang up, and stopped him with an imperious gesture.  He knew, as they all did, that Noah was better off than the rest of them, and could help substantially if he would.  He was, therefore, a person to be managed in this difficult business, and so, standing in front of the excited Miles, he turned to Noah, and said, "Of course, we'er aw lannin' it.  Dust think Jacky ud tak' it off uz ony other rooad?"

    "Jacky," cried William, in sudden concern, "Jacky must know nowt abaat it till it's dun."

    But Jimmy stopped him with another masterful and impatient wave of his hand, and stood facing Noah, evidently waiting for that worthy's contribution.  There was a long pause, during which Miles was fidgetting behind Jimmy, but at last Noah said, hesitatingly, "Well, awst ston me corner?"

    The only other person present was Abram Briggs, and as he was notoriously henpecked, nobody was surprised when he announced, "Awst ha' to see aar Martha abaat it."

    Then they fell into a discussion as to how the thing should be managed.  They were a long way as yet from the five hundred pounds required, but it was eventually decided to hand the matter over to Noah, who, though he hadn't a banking account, was, after all, a man of business; and when they separated later on, everybody looked as though a great load had been lifted from their minds.



III.


MEANWHILE a very different scene was being enacted at Reuben Tonge's house in Lark Lane.  The weather, cold and raw all day, had turned to rain at night, and Reuben, having had his "baggin" and made Pablo comfortable for the night, proceeded to make up a good fire, and clearing his table, pulled out a couple of dirty account-books, and sitting down before them was soon engrossed in their contents.  Reuben, though his dress and appearance were mean enough, and his occupation poor, was quite a capitalist in his way.  He did a little select and very secret business as a money-lender, confining his operations to places and people outside Scowcroft.  He was also virtual owner of two or three of the canal coal-barges, and dabbled a little in mortgages and ground-rents.  His recent effort in connection with his daughter and the Scowcroft mill had quite disorganised his arrangements, and he was considerably overdrawn at the bank.  It was necessary, therefore, that he should look well after his affairs and pull himself round as quickly as possible.  He was, as will have been seen, a man of strong deep nature, but he had allowed himself to be warped and injured by his early disappointment in love.  Jacky o' th' Gap had, he concluded, beaten him in the fight for Annie, because he was supposed to have money, and therefore since that time Reuben had bent all his energies upon the acquirement of wealth.  He had neglected himself, allowed his nature to harden and sour, and was now at the end of thirty years, in possession of considerable means, whilst his successful rival was bankrupt, and would in a few days be without so much as a covering for his head.  Reuben was thinking of all these things as he balanced his books, and was disappointed to find that he was not happier for the reflection.  He had dreamed of this day of triumph for years, and now that it had actually come, he could not honestly say that it gave him much satisfaction.  He had stopped for a moment, and, with his face turned to the fire and his pen between his lips, he was looking meditatively at the sputtering coals.  Just then a knock came at the door, and Reuben turned his head to listen.  The knock was low and timid, and the sandman, after staring hard at the door and listening for a moment, concluded that it must be a beggar, and so resumed his bookkeeping.  He had re-dipped his pen, and was just about to make another entry, when the knock came again, louder than before, but still timid and hesitant.  Reuben gave an impatient grunt, and went hastily to see who was there.  Throwing back the catch over the "sneck," and opening the door hastily, he bent his head, and with knitted brows peered crossly into the darkness.  The visitor was a woman, tall and respectably dressed, and Reuben recognised her at once, and his heart began to beat.

    "Whoa is it?  What dust want?" he demanded, gruffly, pretending not to recognise her.  The woman waited for a moment, evidently expecting that the sandman would see who she was, but as he didn't or wouldn't, she said, faintly, "It's me, Reubin."

    "Thee!  An' whoa the ferrups art thaw, comin' at this toime at neet?"

    But the woman, disappointed and disheartened at not being recognised, and unable to find further language, stood mutely in the dark.

    Reuben waited a moment or two, and then, as no response came to his rough question, he bent down, and knitting his brows again, as if vainly attempting to read his visitor's countenance, he cried, more roughly than ever, "Whoa are-ta?  Cum in a' show thi'sel if tha wants summat," and, turning round, he led the way to the fire, and the woman shrinkingly followed him.

    As the door swung to behind her, she stepped abashed and confused upon a piece of old sacking which served the sandman for a doormat, and stood timidly waiting once more to be identified.

    "Oh! It's thee,' is it?" cried Reuben, pretending suddenly to recognise her; and a pang went to his heart as he took in the dejected and sorrowful expression of a face that had once been so bright and sweet.  But, heeding not his own heart, and dropping into a hard, mocking tone, he went on: "But thar't mistan wench.  Tha doesn't want me, tha doesn't know me tha knows; tha hasn't known me for monny a yer."

    The suffering woman shook for a moment with feeling, and dropped her head, whilst shame and resentment struggled within her to overcome an evidently great purpose and defeat her errand.  Presently she obtained a little self-mastery, and said, quietly, "Th' Reubin Tonge as Aw knowed, wi' aw is fawts, wur genrus."

    Reuben burst into a great laugh.

    "Genrus!  Oh, aye!" he cried.  "Mooar Methody cant.  Then thar't beggin' arty?"

    Reuben pretended to suppose that his visitor was canvassing for subscriptions; but the woman was overwrought; and, catching at his last words, whilst her brimming cup of bitterness at last overflowed, she burst into a passion of tears, and cried, "Aye, Reubin, Aw'm beggin'."

    The sandman was stirred to the depths of his being.  He was not usually affected by women's tears, but this woman had never been like the rest of her sex to him.  But he would not show his feeling.  He laughed again, louder and more harshly than ever, and cried, in feigned astonishment, "Wot!  Jacky o' th' Gap woife beggin' off a poor owd sond-knocker!  Preichin Jacky woife beggin' of wun o' th' scum?"

    But the agitated woman was too desperate now to be influenced by taunts, however cutting, and so she cried, wringing her thin hands, "Aye, Reubin, beggin', weer i' troubbel, Reubin.  Weer i' trouble," and, leaning over, the stricken woman dropped her head upon the drawers standing near to her, and began to sob if her heart would break.

    Reuben, greatly disturbed in spite of himself, turned his back on his visitor and began to glower sulkily at the fire.  But in a moment the weeping woman was by his side, and whilst the tears rained down her pale cheeks, and disfigured a face that was still very comely, she cried with humility, almost abject, "Help uz, Reubin—help uz, fur sake o'-o'-o'-owd toimes."

    But poor Annie had touched the wrong chord this time.  "Owd toimes," sneered the sandman, "which owd toimes?  Th' toime as tha' left me stonnin' three haars i' th' rain woll thaa wur marlocking wi' Jacky i' yore parlour?  Th' toime as thaa sniggered and snurched as thaa druv past me owd sand-cart an' thee peerched up in Jacky's new trap?  Th' toime as thaa threaped Jacky's sister daan, as tha' wurna' gooin' wi' me, an' niver hed dun?  Is them th' toimes as tha' wants me ta think abaat?" and for the moment Reuben was really bitter.

    Mrs. Jacky heaved a great sobbing sigh, and was just about to reply when Reuben resumed, almost savagely: "Thaa'd a' hed me if ther hedna' a' been ony Jacky abaat; bud a sondmon wur noawheer wheer a farmer cum.  Well, tha wanted thi farmer and tha's getten thi farmer.  Tha's made thi bed; tha mun shift ta lie on it sum rooad."

    This was all very cruel, and the suffering woman shivered as the hard words fell on her like so many blows.  She felt if she spoke just then she would ruin her case, so her hand dropped to her side again and she stood quietly crying.  And her silence and his own sudden remorse irritated Reuben more than her words had done, and so, with a curl of his masterful lip, he went on scornfully: "A Methbody with bums in, an' a preicher, tew, if he'd a' stopped a' whoam an' moinded his wark atstead o' gaddin' abaat—."

    "Reubin!" screamed the goaded woman, turning fiercely round with anger and defiance blazing through her tears, "Dunna darr ta say a wo'd ageean Jacky.  Sithi Aw'll say it naa, ith' wo'st trubble Awve ever hed.  Ther' isn't a Mon in Scoweroft parish as can howd a candle tew him.  Theer'!" and here the maddened woman drew herself up in passionate disdain.  "Thee! tha artna fit ta woipe his shoon an' niver wur.  If Aw hed to dew it ageean Awd tak' him if he hadna' a rag ta his back—bless him!" and breaking down with sudden tears, she gave the man near her a push, and suddenly rushing to the door was gone before he could prevent her.



IV.


WHEN Mrs. Jacky left him on that dismal Saturday night Reuben stood on the hearthrug for a long time like a man in a dream.  He had had the revenge he had waited for for years, and the taste of it was positively bitter to him.  All that was good in him commended Annie for what she had said and done, and this made him bitterly angry with himself.  He never imagined that Jacky's wife would have taken his words as she had done.  Least of all did he expect she would have left him with her errand unaccomplished, and the sandman actually caught himself sighing.  He moved about the house absently for some time, and then sat down to his accounts again.  But he could not give his mind to them.  The haggard, tearful face of the woman he had once loved with all the strength of his deep nature haunted him, and blurred the figures as he looked at them.  These books had diverted his mind and given him relief and pleasure many a time before, but now their charm was entirely gone, and he presently shut them up with a petulant snap, and putting them hastily away went and stood in the doorway, listening to the dripping of the rain.

    Where was she?—that pale, sad woman he had so ruthlessly driven from his door?  Then he moved uneasily, and presently went out into the broken-down old stable to see that Pablo was comfortable for the night.  Somehow the silent presence of his old companion soothed him, so he lingered over his work, pausing every now and again to listen to the rain and wonder where Annie was.  Then he stroked and patted his pony until that sagacious animal looked round inquiringly as if wondering what this unwonted gentleness would lead to.  Presently, moving his hand from Pablo's back, where he had been tenderly examining a raw place, Reuben began to Pat his ragged neck, and then, as he turned to go, he said, "Pablo, thee an' me durnt breik th' Sabbath mitch, but weest ha ta dew it ta-morn, Awm thinkin'," and then as he moved to the door, he added, "if it is breikin' it."

    Next day about noon, though, the weather was still threatening, Reuben, in a shaky-looking old trap, not much more respectable than his sand-cart, left home on a journey, apparently to Wallbury.  But, after making a call there, he travelled onward to other places, and when they returned, late that evening, though the pony looked tired, Reuben had a much more cheerful air than when he left in the earlier part of the day.

    Pablo did not even then seem to have quite recovered his astonishment at being taken out on a Sunday, but his surprise was still greater when he found himself, in spite of an almost unalterable precedent to the contrary, actually making his way to Wallbury again early on Monday morning.

    They put up as usual at the "Black Lad," and whilst Pablo munched his corn, his master rapidly made his way down Coalgate to the bank.

    The Town Hall clock chimed a quarter to ten as he went along, and, discovering that he was somewhat early, Reuben checked himself, and dropped into a quiet saunter.  As he turned the corner of the street and came in sight of the bank, he suddenly pulled up, and gave a low whistle of astonishment, for there, right under the gas lamp opposite the bank door, stood Miles, William and Noah, evidently waiting for the bank to open.  Reuben looked for the moment annoyed and disappointed, but another thought seemed to strike him, and the next moment he had dodged into a convenient passage, and from this vantage-point he stood looking at his acquaintances with a puzzled, and not too amiable expression on his strong, rough face.

    Now the circumstance which interfered with Reuben's procedure requires some little explanation.  The fact was that the friends had discovered that after all they could do £300 was the very utmost they could raise in this emergency.  Quiet William had then proposed that Noah should go over to Wallbury and see if the bank manager could be induced to accept a smaller sum, and the grocer had agreed.  But by Sunday night his courage had failed him, and he had conceived a most unaccountable dread of the manager.  And so, as a last resource, Miles and William had undertaken to accompany him and see what could be done.

    They were none of them much acquainted with the ways of banks, and so, being all exceedingly uneasy and impatient, they had left Scowcroft by seven o'clock in the morning, and had reached the bank before nine, only to discover that they were an hour too early.  There was nothing for it, therefore, but to wait, and so they had been standing under the lamp for the last hour.

    At last, just as the clock struck ten, a sprightly young clerk flung open the doors, and the three Scowcrofters, intimidated by the clerk's manner and overawed by the grandeur of the place, stepped nervously in, and falteringly asked to see the manager.

    He had not arrived, but would be there in a, few minutes, and the clerk showed them into a private room, and shut the door upon them.  Then the friends took their hats off—they were all dressed in their Sunday best—and seated themselves on the very outer edge of their chairs.  Miles gazed round with undisguised curiosity and wonder.  Noah sat looking earnestly into his hat as he held it in his hand, and Quiet William sighed deeply, and moved his lips in silent prayer.

    They all started as if caught in some dishonourable act when the door suddenly opened and the manager entered.  Then they all rose from their seats in embarrassment and bade the official a curt and awkward "good morning."

    "Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" said the manager, putting away his umbrella, and hanging his hat up, as if this dreadful business of theirs was the commonest thing on earth.  And then William looked at Noah, and Miles did the same, and added an energetic nod; but Noah seemed tongue-tied, and looked helplessly at William.  Miles could hold in no longer, and so stepping forward and putting a shaky hand on the manager's table he said, "We're comin' abaat that bother o' Jacky o' th' Gap's."

    "Jacky o' th' Gap," murmured the bank official in perplexity.  "Oh, ah! the Cinder Hill Farm affair, I suppose?"

    "Aye! that's it," cried Miles, now fairly at liberty.  "Yo'n made a mistak', mestur; yo'n sent trubbel to wun o' th' dacentest chaps i' Lancyshire," and Miles made the manager's pens jump on the inkstand as he brought his fist down on the table with an emphatic thump.

    "No doubt!  No doubt!" said the manager, a little startled by the tailor's energetic manner.  "But unfortunately that won't pay the bank's claims; will it, gentlemen?"

    "Wot will then?" demanded Miles, now quite courageous; "if it's ony good tew yo' ther's wun or tew on uz here as 'ull foind three hunderd paand," and the way Miles quoted the figure ought to have filled the bank man's mind with visions of untold gold.

    But somehow it did not.  He gave a slightly impatient gesture, and trying to keep a contemptuous look out of his face he shook his head and said, "No use whatever, gentlemen—no use at all."

    Quiet William groaned audibly and sighed under his breath, "Lord help us!" Noah glanced up at Miles with an "I-told-you-so" sort of look, and Miles, goaded by a sense of failure, was just about to make an indignant reply, when the door opened and in stepped Reuben Tonge.

    "Hello!" he cried, affecting extreme astonishment at the sight of them, "wot's yo' chaps doin' here?"

    None of them replied.  Reuben Tonge was the sworn enemy of the chapel and had been for many years.  Moreover, he was specially bitter against "Preiching Jacky," as he sneeringly called their friend, and had been ever since Jacky's marriage.

    This was certainly not the man to be taken into their confidences, and, in fact, his sudden appearance was regarded by each of them as a bad omen, and they realised keenly how he must be gloating over Jacky's ruin and their own great trouble.

    So nobody spoke, and Reuben, after looking anxiously from one to the other, asked, "Aw reacon you cum'n abaat Jacky han yo?"

    And whilst Miles glared sullen defiance at the sandman, and Noah hung his head shyly, Quiet William, who had more exact knowledge of Reuben, and especially of some of his recent acts than the others, proceeded to tell him their business.  And as William in his gentle way told the story of their sorrowful sympathy with Jacky, their anxiety for the honour of the church, and their proposed sacrifice of all their little savings, the manager's eyes grew misty, and even hard Reuben had to turn his shoulder to the speaker and gaze steadily at the frosted window.

    When William had finished and fallen back into his seat, Reuben turned again, and looking them over calculatingly for a moment, said, "Well, it's a rum un, this is;  Aw've come on th' same busniss mysel'."

    The three men looked at him with fresh astonishment, and so he proceeded: "It's reet.  Aw've come abaat nowt else"; and then, going over and touching Miles on the buttonhole, he said, "Naa leuk here.  Aw dew a bit o' businiss wi' theeas fowk.  Gooa yo're ways whoam, an' leeave it to me."

    The three friends hesitated; but on the manager assuring them that the affair would not suffer in the hands of their odd neighbour, they reluctantly departed.

    It was a melancholy walk home for this disappointed deputation.  Miles was full of hope one moment and full of fear the next; Noah maintained an unalterable tone of despondency; but William seemed quietly, but immovably, hopeful.

    Reuben had told them he would see them later in the day, and so they kept together and lingered at Miles's in most restless impatience.  About three o'clock Reuben drove up to the door in his jingling old conveyance, and by his side sat a clerk from the bank—a sign which William regarded as most distinctly hopeful.

    "Naa, then," cried Reuben, brusquely, "jump in, an' come on to the farm."

    Pablo never had a heavier load in the old trap in all his memory, and he puffed and panted up the Cinder Hill in anything but an amiable mood.

    When they arrived Reuben bade the clerk go first into the house, and when a moment or two later he returned bringing Nat Ogden with him, Reuben, who had never been in the house for over thirty years, led the way into the kitchen.  But the sudden and unexpected removal of the bailiff had caused excitement within, and when they entered the kitchen they found Jacky standing on the hearthrug, and his wife and daughter clinging to his arms and crying for relief and joy.

    "Thar't a bonny mon!" cried Reuben in assumed indignation, as soon as he put eyes on Jacky.

    "Reuben!" cried Mrs. Jacky, suddenly stepping between her husband and the sandman, "tha munna say a word!  Aw'll darr thi t' say it! "

    Miles was stepping forward, but before he could speak Reuben turned fiercely on Mrs. Jacky, and, pointing at her husband, cried, "Dust know wot he's dun?"

    "Aw durnt cur wot he's dun!  He's dun nowt!  Nowt!  Aw tell thi."

    "Dust know haa he's getten inta this lumber?"

    "Neaw, nor Aw durnt cur!  He's dun nowt wrong Aw'm sartin."

    "He's getten i' this mess wi' being bun (bound) fur that foine cousin o' thine az runaway last Wissun Day.  An' 'cause he gan his wod, he'd nooa mooar sense nor pay, the foo him!"  And Reuben turned and looked at Jacky with a look in which scornful reproach seemed to be struggling with something very like admiration.

    So that was the explanation of the unexpected distraint—Jacky, to save his wife's family pride, had, unknown to her, and, of course, to the rest of his friends, been bound for a cousin of hers—a showy, plausible, but untrustworthy farmer at Sniggleton—and when he disappeared suddenly, as the other bonds could not pay, Jacky had overdrawn an already unsatisfactory account at the bank.  Things had gone badly with him since, and then when the old bank manager was found to be defaulting and was suddenly replaced, Jacky's account proved on examination to be so unsatisfactory that summary proceedings had at once been commenced.  The scene that followed is quite beyond the descriptive powers of the present chronicler, and so we leave the rejoicing friends to their gladness.  Reuben Tonge, it appeared, had spent Sunday afternoon in getting at the facts in his own peculiar way, as to the original cause of Jacky's trouble, sorely disturbing the mind of the new bank manager by interviewing him on the Sabbath Day, and the sandman greatly enjoyed the grimace with which the mercurial Miles received this last item of information.  Still everybody expressed great gratitude to Reuben for his help, and especially for the fact that Jacky's character and the church's honour had been saved.

    "Pablo," said Reuben that night, as he foddered his pony and mused over the events of the day, "wun or tew moaar things loike we'en hed to-day an' them Methodys 'ull convart thy old mestur."

    And Pablo looked as if he had not the slightest objection.



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