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The History of David Grieve
by Mrs. Humphry Ward
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The boy knew that his uncle watched him—anxiously, as one watches something explosive and incalculable—and felt a sort of contempt for himself that nothing practical came of his own revolt and discontent. But he was torn with indecision. How to leave Louie—what to do with himself without a farthing in the world—whom to go to for advice? He thought often of Mr. Ancrum, but a fierce distaste for chapels and ministers had been growing on him, and he had gradually seen less and less of the man who had been the kind comrade and teacher of his early childhood. His only real companions during this year of moody adolescence were his books. From the forgotten deposit in the old meal-ark upstairs, which had yielded 'Paradise Lost,' he drew other treasures by degrees. He found there, in all, some tattered leaves—three or four books altogether—of Pope's 'Iliad,' about half of Foxe's 'Martyrs'—the rest having been used apparently by the casual nurses, who came to tend Reuben's poor mother in her last days, to light the fire—a complete copy of Locke 'On the Human Understanding,' and various volumes of old Calvinist sermons, which he read, partly because his reading appetite was insatiable, partly from a half-contemptuous desire to find out what it might be that Uncle Reuben was always troubling his head about.

As to 'Lias Dawson, David saw nothing of him for many long weeks after the scene which had led to the adventure of the Pool. He heard only that 'Lias was 'bad,' and mostly in his bed, and feeling a little guilty, he hardly knew why, the lad kept away from his old friend.

Summer and the early autumn passed away. October brought a spell of wintry weather; and one day, as he was bringing the sheep home, he met old Margaret, 'Lias's wife. She stopped and accosted him.

'Why doan't yo coom and see 'Lias sometimes, Davy, my lad? Yo might leeten him up a bit, an' he wants it, t' Lord knows. He's been fearfu' bad in his sperrits this summer.'

The lad stammered out some sheepish excuses, and soon made his way over to Frimley Moor. But the visits were not so much pleasure as usual. 'Lias was very feeble, and David had a constant temptation to struggle with. He understood that to excite 'Lias, to throw him again into the frenzy which had begotten the vision of the Pool, would be a cruel act. But all the same he found it more and more difficult to restrain himself, to keep back the questions which burnt on his tongue.

As for 'Lias, his half-shut eye would brighten whenever David showed himself at the door, and he would point to a wooden stool on the other side of the fire.

'Sit tha down, lad. Margret, gie him soom tay,' or 'Margret, yo'll just find him a bit oatcake.'

And then the two would fall upon their books together, and the conversation would glide imperceptibly into one of those scenes of half-dramatic impersonation, for which David's relish was still unimpaired.

But the old man was growing much weaker; his inventions had less felicity, less range than of old; and the watchful Margaret, at her loom in the corner, kept an eye on any signs of an undue excitement, and turned out David or any other visitor, neck and crop, without scruple, as soon as it seemed to her that her crippled seer was doing himself a mischief. Poor soul! she had lived in this tumult of 'Lias's fancies year after year, till the solid world often turned about her. And she, all the while, so simple, so sane—the ordinary good woman, with the ordinary woman's hunger for the common blessings of life—a little love, a little chat, a little prosaic well-being! She had had two sons—they were gone. She had been the proud wife 'o' t' cliverest mon atwixt Sheffield an Manchester,' as Frimley and the adjacent villages had once expressed it, when every mother that respected herself sent her children to 'Lias Dawson's school. And the mysterious chances of a summer night had sent home upon her hands a poor incapable, ruined in mind and body, who was to live henceforward upon her charity, wandering amid the chaotic wreck and debris of his former self.

Well, she took up her burden!

The straggling village on Frimley Moor was mainly inhabited by a colony of silk hand-loom weavers—the descendants of French prisoners in the great war, and employed for the most part by a firm at Leck. Very dainty work was done at Frimley, and very beautiful stuffs made. The craft went from father to son. All Margaret's belongings had been weavers; but 'Lias, in the pride of his schoolmaster's position, would never allow his wife to use the trade of her youth. When he became dependent on her, Margaret bought a disused loom from a cousin, had it mended and repaired, and set to work. Her fingers had not forgotten their old cunning; and when she was paid for her first 'cut,' she hurried home to 'Lias with a reviving joy in her crushed heart. Thenceforward, she lived at her loom; she became a skilled and favoured worker, and the work grew dear to her—first, because 'Lias lived on it, and, next, because the bright roses and ribbon-patterns she wove into her costly stuffs were a perpetual cheer to her. The moors might frown outside, the snow might drift against the cottage walls: Margaret had always something gay under her fingers, and threw her shuttle with the more zest the darker and colder grew the Derbyshire world without.

Naturally the result of this long concentration of effort had been to make the poor soul, for whom each day was lived and fought, the apple of Margaret's eye. So long as that bent, white form sat beside her fire, Margaret was happy. Her heart sank with every fresh sign of age and weakness, revived with every brighter hour. He still lorded it over her often, as he had done in the days of their prosperity, and whenever this old mood came back upon him, Margaret could have cried for pleasure.

The natural correlative of such devotion was a drying up of interest in all the world beside. Margaret had the selfishness of the angelic woman—everything was judged as it affected her idol. So at first she took no individual interest in David—he cheered up 'Lias—she had no other thought about him.

On a certain November day David was sitting opposite to 'Lias. The fire burnt between them, and on the fire was a griddle, whereon Margaret had just deposited some oatcakes for tea. The old man was sitting drooped in his chair, his chin on his breast, his black eyes staring beyond David at the wall. David was seized with curiosity—what was he thinking about?—what did he see? There was a mystery, a weirdness about the figure, about that hungry gaze, which tormented him. His temptation returned upon him irresistibly.

'Lias,' he said, bending forward, his dark cheek flushing with excitement, 'Louie and I went up, Easter Eve, to t' Pool, but we went to sleep an saw nowt. What was't yo saw, 'Lias? Did yo see her for sure?'

The old man raised his head frowning, and looked at the boy. But the frown was merely nervous, he had heard nothing. On the other hand, Margaret, whom David had supposed to be in the back kitchen, but who was in reality a few steps behind him, mending something which had gone wrong in her loom, ran forward suddenly to the fire, and bending over her griddle somehow promptly threw down the tongs, making a clatter and commotion, in the midst of which the cakes caught, and old 'Lias moved from the fender, saying fretfully,

'Yo're that orkard wi things, Margret, yo're like a dog dancin.'

But in the bustle Margaret had managed to say to David, 'Howd your tongue, noddle-yed, will yo?'

And so unexpected was the lightning from her usually mild blue eyes that David sat dumbfounded, and presently sulkily got up to go. Margaret followed him out and down the bit of garden.

And at the gate, when they were well out of hearing of 'Lias, she fell on the boy with a torrent of words, gripping him the while with her long thin hand, so that only violence could have released him. Her eyes flamed at him under the brown woollen shawl she wore pinned under her chin; the little emaciated creature became a fury. What did he come there for, 'moiderin 'Lias wi his divilments'? If he ever said a word of such things again, she'd lock the door on him, and he might go to Jenny Crum for his tea. Not a bite or a sup should he ever have in her house again.

'I meant no harm,' said the boy doggedly. 'It wor he towd me about t' witch—it wor he as put it into our yeds—Louie an me.'

Margaret exclaimed. So it was he that got 'Lias talking about the Pool in the spring! Some one had been 'cankin wi him about things they didn't owt'—that she knew—'and she might ha thowt it wor' Davy. For that one day's 'worritin ov him' she had had him on her hands for weeks—off his sleep, and off his feed, and like a blighted thing. 'Aye, it's aw play to yo,' she said, trembling all through in her passion, as she held the boy—'it's aw play to yo and your minx of a sister. An if it means deein to the old man hissel, yo don't care! "Margaret," says the doctor to me last week, "if you can keep his mind quiet he may hang on a bit. But you munna let him excite hissel about owt—he mun tak things varra easy. He's like a wilted leaf—nobbut t'least thing will bring it down. He's worn varra thin like, heart an lungs, and aw t' rest of him." An d' yo think I'st sit still an see yo murder him—the poor lamb—afore my eyes—me as ha got nowt else but him i' t' wide warld? No—yo yoong varlet—goo an ast soom one else about Jenny Crum if yo 're just set on meddlin wi divil's wark—but yo'll no trouble my 'Lias.'

She took her hands off him, and the boy was going away in a half-sullen silence, when she caught him again.

'Who towd yo about 'Lias an t' Pool, nobbut 'Lias hissel?'

'Uncle Reuben towd me summat.'

'Aye, Reuben Grieve—he put him in t' carrier's cart, an behaved moor like a Christian nor his wife—I allus mind that o' Reuben Grieve, when foak coe him a foo. Wal, I'st tell yo, Davy, an if iver yo want to say a word about Jenny Crum in our house afterwards, yo mun ha a gritstone whar your heart owt to be—that's aw.'

And she leant over the wall of the little garden, twisting her apron in her old, tremulous hands, and choking down the tears which had begun to rise. Then, looking straight before her, and in a low, plaintive voice, which seemed to float on hidden depths of grief, she told her story.

It appeared that 'Lias had been 'queer' a good while before the adventure of the Pool. But, according to his wife, 'he wor that cliver on his good days, foak could mak shift wi him on his bad days;' the school still prospered, and money was still plentiful. Then, all of a sudden, the moorland villages round were overtaken by an epidemic of spirit-rapping and table-turning. 'It wor sperrits here, sperrits there, sperrits everywhere—t' warld wor gradely swarmin wi 'em,' said Margaret bitterly. It was all started, apparently, by a worthless 'felly' from Castleton, who had a great reputation as a medium, and would come over on summer evenings to conduct seances at Frimley and the places near. 'Lias, already in an excitable, overworked state, was bitten by the new mania, and could think of nothing else.

One night he and the Castleton medium fell talking about Jenny Crum, the witch of Kinder Scout, and her Easter Eve performances. The medium bet 'Lias a handsome sum that he would not dare face her. 'Lias, piqued and wrathful, and 'wi moor yell on board nor he could reetly stan,' took the bet. Margaret heard nothing of it. He announced on Easter Eve that he was going to a brother in Edale for the Sunday, and gave her the slip. She saw no more of him till the carrier brought home to her, on the Sunday morning, a starved and pallid object—'gone clean silly, an hutched thegither like an owd man o' seventy—he bein fifty-six by his reet years.' With woe and terror she helped him to his bed, and in that bed he stayed for more than a year, while everything went from them—school and savings, and all the joys of life.

'An yo'll be wantin to know, like t' rest o' 'em, what he saw!' cried Margaret angrily, facing round upon the boy, whose face was, indeed, one question.' "Margaret, did he tell tha what t' witch said to un?"—every blatherin idiot i' th' parish asked me that, wi his mouth open, till I cud ha stopped my ears an run wheniver I seed a livin creetur. What do I keer?—what doos it matter to me what he saw? I doan't bleeve he saw owt, if yo ast me. He wor skeert wi his own thinkins, an th' cowd gripped him i' th' in'ards, an twisted him as yo may twist a withe of hay—Aye! it wor a cruel neet. When I opened t' door i' t' early mornin, t' garden wor aw black—th' ice on t' reservoir wor inches thick. Mony a year afterwards t' foak round here ud talk o' that for an April frost. An my poor 'Lias—lost on that fearfu Scout—sleepin out wi'out a rag to cover him, an skeert soomhow—t'Lord or t'Devil knows how! And then foak ud have me mak a good tale out o' it—soomthin to gie 'em a ticklin down their backbane—soomthin to pass an evenin—Lord!'

The wife's voice paused abruptly on this word of imprecation, or appeal, as though her own passion choked her. David stood beside her awkwardly, his eyes fixed on the gravel, wherewith one foot was playing. There was no more sullenness in his expression.

Margaret's hand still played restlessly with the handkerchief. Her eyes were far away, her mind absorbed by the story of her own fate. Round the moorside, on which the cottage was built, there bent a circling edge of wood, now aflame with all the colour of late autumn. Against its deep reds and browns, Margaret's small profile was thrown out—the profile already of the old woman, with the meeting nose and chin, the hollow cheek, the maze of wrinkles round the eyes. Into that face, worn by the labour and the grief of the poor—into that bending figure, with the peasant shawl folded round the head and shoulders—there had passed all the tragic dignity which belongs to the simple and heartfelt things of human life, to the pain of helpless affection, to the yearning of irremediable loss.

The boy beside her was too young to feel this. But he felt more, perhaps, than any other lad of the moorside could have felt. There was, at all times, a natural responsiveness in him of a strange kind, vibrating rather to pain than joy. He stood by her, embarrassed, yet drawn to her—waiting, too, as it seemed to him, for something more that must be coming.

'An then,' said Margaret at last, turning to him, and speaking more quietly, but still in a kind of tense way, 'then, when 'Lias wor took bad, yo know, Davy, I had my boys. Did yo ever hear tell o' what came to 'em, Davy?'

The boy shook his head.

'Ah!' she said, catching her breath painfully, 'they're moast forgotten, is my boys. 'Lias had been seven weeks i' his bed, an I wor noan so mich cast down—i' those days I had a sperrit more 'n most. I thowt th' boys ud keer for us—we'd gien em a good bringin up, an they wor boath on 'em larnin trades i' Manchester. Yan evenin—it wor that hot we had aw t' doors an windows open—theer came a man runnin up fro t' railway. An my boys were kilt, Davy—boath on 'em—i' Duley Moor Tunnel. They wor coomin to spend Sunday wi us, an it wor an excursion train—I niver knew t' reets on 't!'

She paused and gently wiped away her tears. Her passion had all ebbed.

'An I thowt if I cud ha got 'em home an buried 'em, Davy, I could ha borne it better. But they wor aw crushed, an cut about, an riddlet to bits—they wudna let me ha em. And so we kep it fro 'Lias. Soomtimes I think he knows t' boys are dead—an then soomtimes he frets 'at they doan't coom an see him. Fourteen year ago! An I goo on tellin him they'll coom soon. An last week, when I towd him it, I thowt to mysel it wor just th' naked truth!'

David leant over the gate, pulling at some withered hollyhocks beside it. But when, after a minute of choking silence, Margaret caught his look, she saw, though he tried to hide it, that his black eyes were swimming. Her full heart melted altogether.

'Oh, Davy, I meant naw offence!' she said, catching him by the arm again. 'Yo're a good lad, an yo're allus a welcome seet to that poor creetur. But yo'll not say owt to trouble him again, laddie—will yo? If he'd yeerd yo just now—but, by t' Lord's blessin, he did na—he'd ha worked himsel up fearfu'! I'd ha had naw sleep wi him for neets—like it wor i' th' spring. Yo munna—yo munna! He's all I ha—his livin 's my livin, Davy—an when he's took away—why, I'll mak shift soomhow to dee too!'

She let him go, and, with a long sigh, she lifted her trembling hands to her head, put her frilled cap straight and her shawl. She was just moving away, when something of a different sort struck her sensitive soul, and she turned again. She lived for 'Lias, but she lived for her religion too, and it seemed to her she had been sinning in her piteous talk.

'Dinna think, Davy,' she said hurriedly, 'as I'm complainin o' th' Lord's judgments. They're aw mercies, if we did but know. An He tempers th' wind—He sends us help when we're droppin for sorrow. It worn't for nothin He made us all o' a piece. Theer's good foak i' th' warld—aye, theer is! An what's moor, theer's soom o' th' best mak o' foak gooin about dressed i' th' worst mak o' clothes. Yo'll find it out when yo want 'em.'

And with a clearing face, as of one who takes up a burden again and adjusts it anew more easily, she walked back to the house.

David went down the lane homewards, whistling hard. But once, as he climbed a stile and sat dangling his legs a moment on the top, he felt his eyes wet again. He dashed his hand impatiently across them. At this stage of youth he was constantly falling out with and resenting his own faculty of pity, of emotion. The attitude of mind had in it a sort of secret half-conscious terror of what feeling might do with him did he but give it head. He did not want to feel—feeling only hurt and stabbed—he wanted to enjoy, to take in, to discover—to fling the wild energies of mind and body into some action worthy of them. And because he had no knowledge to show him how, and a wavering will, he suffered and deteriorated.

The Dawsons, indeed, became his close friends. In Margaret there had sprung up a motherly affection for the handsome lonely lad; and he was grateful. He took her 'cuts' down to the Clough End office for her; when the snow was deep on the Scout, and Reuben and David and the dogs were out after their sheep night and day, the boy still found time to shovel the snow from Margaret's roof and cut a passage for her to the road. The hours he spent this winter by her kitchen fire, chatting with 'Lias, or eating havercakes, or helping Margaret with some household work, supplied him for the first time with something of what his youth was, in truth, thirsting for—the common kindliness of natural affection.

But certainly, to most observers, he seemed to deteriorate. Mr. Ancrum could make nothing of him. David held the minister at arm's-length, and meanwhile rumours reached him that 'Reuben Grieve's nevvy' was beginning to be much seen in the public-houses; he had ceased entirely to go to chapel or Sunday school; and the local gossips, starting perhaps from a natural prejudice against the sons of unknown and probably disreputable mothers, prophesied freely that the tall, queer-looking lad would go to the bad.

All this troubled Mr. Ancrum sincerely. Even in the midst of some rising troubles of his own he found the energy to buttonhole Reuben again, and torment him afresh on the subject of a trade for the lad.

Reuben, flushed and tremulous, went straight from the minister to his wife—with the impetus of Mr. Ancrum's shove, as it were, fresh upon him. Sitting opposite to her in the back kitchen, while she peeled her potatoes with a fierce competence and energy which made his heart sick within him, Reuben told her, with incoherent repetitions of every phrase, that in his opinion the time had come when Mr. Gurney should be written to, and some of Sandy's savings applied to the starting of Sandy's son in the world.

There was an ominous silence. Hannah's knife flashed, and the potato-peelings fell with a rapidity which fairly paralysed Reuben. In his nervousness, he let fall the name of Mr. Ancrum. Then Hannah broke out. 'Some foo',' she knew, had been meddling, and she might have guessed that fool was Mr. Ancrum. Instead of defending her own position, she fell upon Reuben and his supporter with a rhetoric whereof the moral flavour was positively astounding. Standing with the potato-bowl on one hip and a hand holding the knife on the other, she delivered her views as to David's laziness, temper, and general good-for-nothingness. If Reuben chose to incur the risks of throwing such a young lout into town-wickedness, with no one to look after him, let him; she'd be glad enough to be shut on him. But, as to writing to Mr. Gurney and that sort of talk, she wasn't going to bandy words—not she; but nobody had ever meddled with Hannah Grieve's affairs yet and found they had done well for themselves.

'An I wouldna advise yo, Reuben Grieve, to begin now—no, I wouldna. I gie yo fair noatice. Soa theer's not enough for t' lad to do, Mr. Ancrum, he thinks? Perhaps he'll tak th' place an try? I'd not gie him as mich wage as ud fill his stomach i' th' week—noa, I'd not, not if yo wor to ask me—a bletherin windy chap as iver I saw. I'd as soon hear a bird-clapper preach as him—theer'd be more sense an less noise! An they're findin it out down theer—we'st see th' back on him soon.'

And to Reuben, looking across the little scullery at his wife, at the harsh face shaken with the rage which these new and intolerable attempts of her husband to dislodge the yoke of years excited in her, it was as though like Christian and Hopeful he were trying to get back into the Way, and found that the floods had risen over it.

When he was out of her sight, he fell into a boundless perplexity. Perhaps she was right, after all. Mr. Ancrum was a meddler and he an ass. When next he saw David, he spoke to the boy harshly, and demanded to know where he went loafing every afternoon. Then, as the days went on, he discovered that Hannah meant to visit his insubordination upon him in various unpleasant ways. There were certain little creature comforts, making but small show on the surface of a life of general abstinence and frugality, but which, in the course of years, had grown very important to Reuben, and which Hannah had never denied him. They were now withdrawn. In her present state of temper with her better half, Hannah could not be 'fashed' with providing them. And no one could force her to brew him his toddy at night, or put his slippers to warm, or keep his meals hot and tasty for him, if some emergency among the animals made him late for his usual hours—certainly not the weak and stammering Reuben. He was at her mercy, and he chafed indescribably under her unaccustomed neglect.

As for Mr. Ancrum, his own affairs, poor soul, soon became so absorbing that he had no thoughts left for David. There were dissensions growing between him and the 'Christian Brethren.' He spoke often at the Sunday meetings—too often, by a great deal, for the other shining lights of the congregation. But his much speaking seemed to come rather of restlessness than of a fall 'experience,' so torn, subtle, and difficult were the things he said. Grave doubts of his doctrine were rising among some of the 'Brethren'; a mean intrigue against him was just starting among others, and he himself was tempest-tossed, not knowing from week to week whether to go or stay.

Meanwhile, as the winter went on, he soon perceived that Reuben Grieve's formidable wife was added to the ranks of his enemies. She came to chapel, because for a Christian Brother or Sister to go anywhere else would have been a confession of weakness in the face of other critical and observant communities—such, for instance, as the Calvinistic Methodists, or the Particular Baptists—not to be thought of for a moment. But when he passed her, he got no greeting from her; she drew her skirts aside, and her stony eye looked beyond him, as though there were nothing on the road. And the sharp-tongued things she said of him came round to him one by one. Reuben, too, avoided the minister, who, a year or two before, had brought fountains of refreshing to his soul, and in the business of the chapel, of which he was still an elder, showed himself more inarticulate and confused than ever. While David, who had won a corner in Mr. Ancrum's heart since the days of their first acquaintance at Sunday-school—David fled him altogether, and would have none of his counsel or his friendship. The alienation of the Grieves made another and a bitter drop in the minister's rising cup of failure.

So the little web of motives and cross-motives, for the most part of the commonest earthiest hue, yet shot every here and there by a thread or two of heavenlier stuff, went spinning itself the winter through round the unknowing children. The reports which had reached Mr. Ancrum were true enough. David was, in his measure, endeavouring to 'see life.' On a good many winter evenings the lad, now nearly fifteen, and shooting up fast to man's stature, might have been seen among the topers at the 'Crooked Cow,' nay, even lending an excited ear to the Secularist speakers, who did their best to keep things lively at a certain low public kept by one Jerry Timmins, a Radical wag, who had often measured himself both in the meeting-houses and in the streets against the local preachers, and, according to his own following, with no small success. There was a covered skittle-ground attached to this house in which, to the horrid scandal of church and chapel, Sunday dances were sometimes held. A certain fastidious pride, and no doubt a certain conscience towards Reuben, kept David from experimenting in these performances, which were made as demonstratively offensive to the pious as they well could be without attracting the attention of the police.

But at the disputations between Timmins and a succession of religious enthusiasts, ministers and others, which took place on the same spot during the winter and spring, David was frequently present.

Neither here, however, nor at the 'Crooked Cow' did the company feel the moody growing youth to be one of themselves. He would sit with his pint before him, silent, his great black eyes roving round the persons present. His tongue was sharp on occasion, and his fists ready, so that after various attempts to make a butt of him he was generally let alone. He got what he wanted—he learnt to know what smoking and drinking might be like, and the jokes of the taproom. And all by the help of a few shillings dealt out to him this winter for the first time by Reuben, who gave them to him with a queer deprecating look and an injunction to keep the matter secret from Hannah. As to the use the lad made of them, Reuben was as ignorant as he was of all other practical affairs outside his own few acres.



CHAPTER VII

Spring came round again and the warm days of June. At Easter time David had made no further attempts to meet with Jenny Crum on her midnight wanderings. The whole tendency of his winter's mental growth, as well perhaps of the matters brutally raised and crudely sifted in Jerry Timmins's parlour, had been towards a harder and more sceptical habit of mind. For the moment the supernatural had no thrill in it for an intelligence full of contradictions. So the poor witch, if indeed she 'walked,' revisited her place of pain unobserved of mortal eye.

About the middle of June David and his uncle went, as usual, to Kettlewell and Masholme, in Yorkshire, for the purpose of bringing home from thence some of that hardier breed of sheep which was required for the moorland, a Scotch breed brought down yearly to the Yorkshire markets by the Lowland farmers beyond the border. This expedition was an annual matter, and most of the farmers in the Kinder Valley and thereabouts joined in it. They went together by train to Masholme, made their purchases, and then drove their sheep over the moors home, filling the wide ferny stretches and the rough upland road with a patriarchal wealth of flocks, and putting up at night at the village inns, while their charges strayed at will over the hills. These yearly journeys had always been in former years a joy to David. The wild freedom of the walk, the change of scene which every mile and every village brought with it, the resistance of the moorland wind, the spring of the moorland turf, every little incident of the road, whether of hardship or of rough excess, added fuel to the flame of youth, and went to build up the growing creature.

This year, however, that troubling of the waters which was going on in the boy was especially active during the Masholme expedition. He kept to himself and his animals, and showed such a gruff unneighbourly aspect to the rest of the world that the other drivers first teased and then persecuted him. He fought one or two pitched battles on the way home, showed himself a more respectable antagonist, on the whole, than his assailants had bargained for, and was thenceforward contemptuously sent to Coventry. 'Yoong man,' said an old farmer to him once reprovingly, after one of these "rumpuses," 'yor temper woan't mouldy wi keepin.' Reuben coming by at the moment threw an unhappy glance at the lad, whose bruised face and torn clothes showed he had been fighting. To the uncle's mind there was a wanton, nay, a ruffianly look about him, which was wholly new. Instead of rebuking the culprit, Reuben slouched away and put as much road as possible between himself and Davy.

One evening, after a long day on the moors, the party came, late in the afternoon, to the Yorkshire village of Haworth. To David it was a village like any other. He was already mortally tired of the whole business—of the endless hills, the company, the bleak grey weather. While the rest of the party were mopping brows and draining ale-pots in the farmers' public, he was employing himself in aimlessly kicking a stone about one of the streets, when he was accosted by a woman of the shopkeeping class, a decent elderly woman, who had come out for a mouthful of air, with a child dragging after her.

'Yoong mester, yo've coom fro a distance, hannot yo?'

The woman's tone struck the boy pleasantly as though it had been a phrase of cheerful music. There was a motherliness in it—a something, for which, perhaps all unknown to himself, his secret heart was thirsting.

'Fro Masholme,' he said, looking at her full, so that she could see all the dark, richly coloured face she had had a curiosity to see; then he added abruptly, 'We're bound Kinder way wi t' sheep—reet t'other side o' t' Scout.'

The woman nodded. 'Aye, I know a good mony o' your Kinder foak. They've coom by here a mony year passt. But I doan't know as I've seen yo afoor. Yo're nobbut a yoong 'un. Eh, but we get sich a sight of strangers here now, the yan fairly drives the tother out of a body's mind.'

'Doos foak coom for t' summer?' asked David, lifting his eyebrows a little, and looking round on the bleak and straggling village.

'Noa, they coom to see the church. Lor' bless ye!' said the good woman, following his eyes towards the edifice and breaking into a laugh, ''taint becos the church is onything much to look at. 'Taint nowt out o' t' common that I knows on. Noa—but they coom along o't' monument, an' Miss Bronte—Mrs. Nicholls, as should be, poor thing—rayder.'

There was no light of understanding in David's face, but his penetrating eyes, the size and beauty of which she could not help observing, seemed to invite her to go on.

'You niver heerd on our Miss Bronte?' said the woman, mildly. 'Well, I spose not. She was just a bit quiet body. Nobbody hereabouts saw mich in her. But she wrote bukes—tales, yo know—tales about t' foak roun here; an they do say, them as has read 'em, 'at they're terr'ble good. Mr. Watson, at t' Post Office, he's read 'em, and he's allus promised to lend 'em me. But soomhow I doan't get th' time. An in gineral I've naw moor use for a book nor a coo has for clogs. But she's terr'ble famous, is Miss Bronte, now—an her sisters too, pore young women. Yo should see t' visitors' book in th' church. Aw t' grand foak as iver wor. They cooms fro Lunnon a purpose, soom ov 'em, an they just takes a look roun t' place, an writes their names, an goos away. Would yo like to see th' church?' said the good-natured creature—looking at the tall lad beside her with an admiring scrutiny such as every woman knows she may apply to any male. 'I'm goin that way, an it's my brother 'at has th' keys.'

David accompanied her with an alacrity which would have astonished his usual travelling companions, and they mounted the straggling village street together towards the church. As they neared it the woman stopped and, shading her eyes against the sunlight, pointed up to it and the parsonage.

'Noa, it's not a beauty, isn't our church. They do say our parson ud like to have it pulled clean down an a new one built. Onyways, they're goin to clear th' Brontes' pew away, an sich a rumpus as soom o' t' Bradford papers have bin makin, and a gradely few o' t' people here too! I doan't know t' reets on 't missel, but I'st be sorry when yo conno see ony moor where Miss Charlotte an Miss Emily used to sit o' Sundays—An theer's th' owd house. Yo used to be 'lowed to see Miss Charlotte's room, where she did her writin, but they tell me yo can't be let in now. Seems strange, doan't it, 'at onybody should be real fond o' that place? When yo go by it i' winter, soomtimes, it lukes that lonesome, with t' churchyard coomin up close roun it, it's enoof to gie a body th' shivers. But I do bleeve, Miss Charlotte she could ha kissed ivery stone in 't; an they do say, when she came back fro furrin parts, she'd sit an cry for joy, she wor that partial to Haworth. It's a place yo do get to favour soomhow,' said the good woman, apologetically, as though feeling that no stranger could justly be expected to sympathise with the excesses of local patriotism.

Did th' oother sisters write books?' demanded David, his eyes wandering over the bare stone house towards which the passionate heart of Charlotte Bronte had yearned so often from the land of exile.

'Bless yo, yes. An theer's mony foak 'at think Miss Emily wor a deol cliverer even nor Miss Charlotte. Not but what yo get a bad noshun o' Yorkshire folk fro Miss Emily's bukes—soa I'm towd. Bit there's rough doins on t' moors soomtimes, I'll uphowd yo! An Miss Emily had eyes like gimlets—they seed reet through a body. Deary me,' she cried, the fountain of gossip opening more and more, 'to think I should ha known 'em in pinafores, Mr. Patrick an aw!'

And under the stress of what was really a wonder at the small beginnings of fame—a wonder which much repetition of her story had only developed in her—she poured out upon her companion the history of the Brontes; of that awful winter in which three of that weird band—Emily, Patrick, Anne—fell away from Charlotte's side, met the death which belonged to each, and left Charlotte alone to reap the harvest of their common life through a few burning years; of the publication of the books; how the men of the Mechanics' Institute (the roof of which she pointed out to him) went crazy over 'Shirley'; how everybody about 'thowt Miss Bronte had bin puttin ov 'em into prent,' and didn't know whether to be pleased or pique; how, as the noise made by 'Jane Eyre' and 'Shirley' grew, a wave of excitement passed through the whole countryside, and people came from Halifax, and Bradford, and Huddersfield—aye, an Lunnon soomtoimes '—to Haworth church on a Sunday, to see the quiet body at her prayers who had made all the stir; how Mr. Nicholls, the curate, bided his time and pressed his wooing; how he won her as Rachel was won; and how love did but open the gate of death, and the fiery little creature—exhausted by such an energy of living as had possessed her from her cradle—sank and died on the threshold of her new life. All this Charlotte Bronte's townswoman told simply and garrulously, but she told it well because she had felt and seen.

'She wor so sma' and nesh; nowt but a midge. Theer was no lasst in her. Aye, when I heerd the bell tolling for Miss Charlotte that Saturday mornin,' said the speaker, shaking her head as she moved away towards the church, 'I cud ha sat down an cried my eyes out. But if she'd ha seen me she'd ha nobbut said, "Martha, get your house straight, an doan't fret for me!" She had sich a sperrit, had Miss Charlotte. Well, now, after aw, I needn't go for t' keys, for th' church door's open. It's Bradford early closin day, yo see, an I dessay soom Bradford foak's goin over.'

So she marched him in, and there indeed was a crowd in the little ugly church, congregated especially at the east end, where the Brontes' pew still stood awaiting demolition at the hands of a reforming vicar. As David and his guide came up they found a young weaver in a black coat, with a sallow oblong face, black hair, high collars, and a general look of Lord Byron, haranguing those about him on the iniquity of removing the pews, in a passionate undertone, which occasionally rose high above the key prescribed by decorum. It was a half-baked eloquence, sadly liable to bathos, divided, indeed, between sentences ringing with the great words 'genius' and 'fame,' and others devoted to an indignant contemplation of the hassocks in the old pews, 'the touching and well-worn implements of prayer,' to quote his handsome description of them, which a meddlesome parson was about to 'hurl away,' out of mere hatred for intellect and contempt of the popular voice.

But, half-baked or no, David rose to it greedily. After a few moments' listening, he pressed up closer to the speaker, his broad shoulders already making themselves felt in a crowd, his eyes beginning to glow with the dissenter's hatred of parsons. In the full tide of discourse, however, the orator was arrested by an indignant sexton, who, coming quickly up the church, laid hold upon him.

'No speechmakin in the church, if you please, sir. Move on if yo're goin to th' vestry, sir, for I'll have to shut up directly.'

The young man stared haughtily at his assailant, and the men and boys near closed up, expecting a row. But the voice of authority within its own gates is strong, and the champion of outraged genius collapsed. The whole flock broke up and meekly followed the sexton, who strode on before them to the vestry.

'William's a rare way wi un,' said his companion to David, following her brother's triumph with looks of admiration. 'I thowt that un wud ha bin harder to shift.'

David, however, turned upon her with a frown. ''Tis a black shame,' he said; 'why conno they let t' owd pew bide?'

'Ah, weel,' said the woman with a sigh, 'as I said afore, I'st be reet sorry when Miss Charlotte's seat's gone. But yo conno ha brawlin i' church. William's reet enough there.'

And beginning to be alarmed lest she should be raising up fresh trouble for William in the person of this strange, foreign-looking lad, with his eyes like 'live birds,' she hurried him on to the vestry, where the visitors' books were being displayed. Here the Byronic young man was attempting to pick a fresh quarrel with the sexton, by way of recovering himself with his party. But he took little by it; the sexton was a tough customer. When the local press was shaken in his face, the vicar's hireling, a canny, weather-beaten Yorkshireman, merely replied with a twist of the mouth,

'Aye, aye, th' newspapers talk—there'd be soombody goin hoongry if they didn't;' or—' Them 'at has to eat th' egg knaws best whether it is addled or no—to my thinkin,' and so on through a string of similar aphorisms which finally demolished his antagonist.

David meanwhile was burning to be in the fray. He thought of some fine Miltonic sayings to hurl at the sexton, but for the life of him he could not get them out. In the presence of that indifferent, sharp-faced crowd of townspeople his throat grew hot and dry whenever he thought of speaking.

While the Bradford party struggled out of the church, David, having somehow got parted from the woman who had brought him in, lingered behind, before that plain tablet on the wall, whereat the crowd which had just gone out had been worshipping.

EMILY, aged 29.

ANNE, aged 27.

CHARLOTTE, in the 39th year of her age.

The church had grown suddenly quite still. The sexton was outside, engaged in turning back a group of Americans, on the plea that visiting hours were over for the day. Through the wide-open door the fading yellow light streamed in, and with it a cool wind which chased little eddies of dust about the pavement. In the dusk the three names—black on the white—stood out with a stern and yet piteous distinctness. The boy stood there feeling the silence—the tomb near by—the wonder and pathos of fame, and all that thrill of undefined emotion to which youth yields itself so hungrily.

The sexton startled him by tapping him on the shoulder. 'Time to go home, yoong man. My sister she told me to say good neet to yer, and she wishes yo good luck wi your journey. Where are yo puttin up?'

'At the "Brown Bess,"' murmured the boy ungraciously, and hurried out. But the good man, unconscious of repulse and kindly disposed towards his sister's waif, stuck to him, and, as they walked down the churchyard together, the difference between the manners of official and those of private life proved to be so melting to the temper that even David's began to yield. And a little incident of the walk mollified him completely. As they turned a corner they came upon a bit of waste land, and there in the centre of an admiring company was the sexton's enemy, mounted on a bit of wall, and dealing out their deserts in fine style to those meddling parsons and their underlings who despised genius and took no heed of the relics of the mighty dead. The sexton stopped to listen when they were nearly out of range, and was fairly carried away by the 'go' of the orator.

'Doan't he do it nateral!' he said with enthusiasm to David, after a passage specially and unflatteringly devoted to himself. 'Lor' bless yo, it don't hurt me. But I do loike a bit o' good speakin, 'at I do. If fine worrds wor penny loaves, that yoong gen'leman ud get a livin aisy! An as for th' owd pew, I cud go skrikin about th' streets mysel, if it ud do a ha'porth o' good.'

David's brow cleared, and, by the time they had gone a hundred yards further, instead of fighting the good man, he asked a favour of him.

'D'yo think as theer's onybody in Haworth as would lend me a seet o' yan o' Miss Bronte's tales for an hour?' he said, reddening furiously, as they stopped at the sexton's gate.

'Why to be sure, mon,' said the sexton cheerily, pleased with the little opening for intelligent patronage. 'Coom your ways in, and we'll see if we can't oblige yo. I've got a tidy lot o' books in my parlour, an I can give yo "Shirley," I know.'

David went into the stone-built cottage with his guide, and was shown in the little musty front room a bookcase full of books which made his eyes gleam with desire. The half-curbed joy and eagerness he showed so touched the sexton that, after inquiring as to the lad's belongings, and remembering that in his time he had enjoyed many a pipe and 'glass o' yell' with 'owd Reuben Grieve' at the 'Brown Bess,' the worthy man actually lent him indefinitely three precious volumes—'Shirley,' 'Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography,' and 'Nicholas Nickleby.'

David ran off hugging them, and thenceforward he bore patiently enough with the days of driving and tramping which remained, for the sake of the long evenings when in some lonely corner of moor and wood he lay full length on the grass revelling in one or other of his new possessions. He had a voracious way of tearing out the heart of a book first of all, and then beginning it again with a different and a tamer curiosity, lingering, tasting, and digesting. By the time he and Reuben reached home he had rushed through all three books, and his mind was full of them.

'Shirley' and 'Nicholas Nickleby' were the first novels of modern life he had ever laid hands on, and before he had finished them he felt them in his veins like new wine. The real world had been to him for months something sickeningly narrow and empty, from which at times he had escaped with passion into a distant dream-life of poetry and history. Now the walls of this real world were suddenly pushed back as it were on all sides, and there was an inrush of crowd, excitement, and delight. Human beings like those he heard of or talked with every day—factory hands and mill-owners, parsons, squires, lads and lasses—the Yorkes, and Robert Moore, Squeers, Smike, Kate Nickleby and Newman Noggs, came by, looked him in the eyes, made him take sides, compare himself with them, join in their fights and hatreds, pity and exult with them. Here was something more disturbing, personal, and stimulating than that mere imaginative relief he had been getting out of 'Paradise Lost,' or the scenes of the 'Jewish Wars'!

By a natural transition the mental tumult thus roused led to a more intense self-consciousness than any he had yet known. In measuring himself with the world of 'Shirley' or of Dickens, he began to realise the problem of his own life with a singular keenness and clearness. Then—last of all—the record of Franklin's life,—of the steady rise of the ill-treated printer's devil to knowledge and power—filled him with an urging and concentrating ambition, and set his thoughts, endowed with a new heat and nimbleness, to the practical unravelling of a practical case.

They reached home again early on a May day. As he and Reuben, driving their new sheep, mounted the last edge of the moor which separated them from home, the Kinder Valley lay before them, sparkling in a double radiance of morning and of spring. David lingered a minute or two behind his uncle. What a glory of light and freshness in the air—what soaring larks—what dipping swallows! And the scents from the dew-steeped heather—and the murmur of the blue and glancing stream!

The boy's heart went out to the valley—and in the same instant he put it from him. An indescribable energy and exultation took possession of him. The tide of will for which he had been waiting all these months had risen; and for the first time he felt swelling within him the power to break with habit, to cut his way.

But what first step to take? Whom to consult? Suddenly he remembered Mr. Ancrum, first with shame, then with hope. Had he thrown away his friend? Rumour said that things were getting worse and worse at chapel, and that Mr. Ancrum was going to Manchester at once.

He ran down the slopes of heather towards home as though he would catch and question Mr. Ancrum there and then. And Louie? Patience! He would settle everything. Meanwhile, he was regretfully persuaded that if you had asked Miss Bronte what could be done with a creature like Louie she would have had a notion or two.



CHAPTER VIII

'Reach me that book, Louie,' said David peremptorily; 'it ull be worse for yo if yo don't.'

The brother and sister were in the smithy. Louie was squatting on the ground with her hands behind her, her lips sharply shut as though nothing should drag a word out of them, and her eyes blazing defiance at David, who had her by the shoulder, and looked to the full as fierce as she looked provoking.

'Find it!' was all she said. He had been absent for a few minutes after a sheep that had got into difficulties in the Red Brook, and when he returned, his volume of Rollin's 'Ancient History'—'Lias's latest loan—which he had imprudently forgotten to take with him, had disappeared.

David gave her an angry shake, on which she toppled over among the fallen stones with an exasperating limpness, and lay there laughing.

'Oh, very well,' said David, suddenly recovering himself; 'yo keep yor secret. I'st keep mine, that's aw.'

Louie lay quiet a minute or two, laughing artificially at intervals, while David searched the corners of the smithy, turning every now and then to give a stealthy look at his sister.

The bait took. Louie stopped laughing, sat up, put herself straight, and looked about her.

'Yo hain't got a secret,' she said coolly; 'I'm not to be took in wi snuff that way.'

'Very well,' said David indifferently, 'then I haven't.'

And sitting down near the pan, he took out one of the little boats from the hole near, and began to trim its keel here and there with his knife. The occupation seemed to be absorbing.

Louie sat for a while, sucking at a lump of sugar she had swept that morning into the omnium gatherum of her pocket. At last she took up a little stone and threw it across at David.

'What's yor silly old secret about, then?'

'Where's my book, then?' replied David, holding up the boat and looking with one eye shut along the keel.

'Iv I gie it yer, an yor secret ain't wo'th it, I'll put soom o' that watter down yor neckhole,' said Louie, nodding towards the place.

'If yo don't happen to find yorsel in th' pan fust,' remarked David unmoved.

Louie sucked at her sugar a little longer, with her hands round her knees. She had thrown off her hat, and the May sun struck full on her hair, on the glossy brilliance of it, and the natural curls round the temples which disguised a high and narrow brow. She no longer wore her hair loose. In passionate emulation of Annie Wigson, she had it plaited behind, and had begged an end of blue ribbon of Mrs. Wigson to tie it with, so that the beautiful arch of the head showed more plainly than before, while the black eyes and brows seemed to have gained in splendour and effectiveness, from their simpler and severer setting. One could see, too, the length of the small neck and of the thin falling shoulders. It was a face now which made many a stranger in the Clough End streets stop and look backward after meeting it. Not so much because of its beauty, for it was still too thin and starved-looking for beauty, as because of a singular daring and brilliance, a sense of wild and yet conscious power it left behind it. The child had grown a great piece in the last year, so that her knees were hardly decently covered by the last year's cotton frock she wore, and her brown sticks of arms were far beyond her sleeves. David had looked at her once or twice lately with a new kind of scrutiny. He decided that she was a 'rum-looking' creature, not the least like anybody else's sister, and on the whole his raw impression was that she was plain.

'How'll I know yo'll not cheat?' she said at last, getting up and surveying him with her arms akimbo.

'Can't tell, I'm sure,' was all David vouchsafed. 'Yo mum find out.'

Louie studied him threateningly.

'Weel, I'd be even wi yo soomhow,' was her final conclusion; and disappearing through the ruined doorway, she ran down the slope to where one of the great mill-stones lay hidden in the heather, and diving into its central hole, produced the book, keenly watched the while by David, who took mental note of the hiding-place.

'Naw then,' she said, walking up to him with her hands behind her and the book in them, 'tell me yor secret.'

David first forcibly abstracted the book and made believe to box her ears, then went back to his seat and his boat.

'Go on, can't yo!' exclaimed Louie, after a minute, stamping at him.

David laid down his boat deliberately.

'Well, yo won't like it,' he said; 'I know that. But—I'm off to Manchester, that's aw—as soon as I can goo; as soon as iver I can hear of onything. An I'm gooin if I don't hear of onything. I'm gooin onyways; I'm tired o' this. So now yo know.'

Louie stared at him.

'Yo ain't!' she said, passionately, as though she were choking.

David instinctively put up his hands to keep her off. He thought she would have fallen upon him there and then and beaten him for his 'secret.'

But, instead, she flung away out of the smithy, and David was left alone and in amazement. Then he got up and went to look, stirred with the sudden fear that she might have run off to the farm with the news of what he had been saying, which would have precipitated matters unpleasantly.

No one was to be seen from outside, either on the moor path or in the fields beyond, and she could not possibly have got out of sight so soon. So he searched among the heather and the bilberry hummocks, till he caught sight of a bit of print cotton in a hollow just below the quaint stone shooting-hut, built some sixty years ago on the side of the Scout for the convenience of sportsmen. David stalked the cotton, and found her lying prone and with her hat, as usual, firmly held down over her ears. At sight of her something told him very plainly he had been a brute to tell her his news so. There was a strong moral shock which for the moment transformed him.

He went and lifted her up in spite of her struggles. Her face was crimson with tears, but she hit out at him wildly to prevent his seeing them. 'Now, Louie, look here,' he said, holding her hands, 'I didna mean to tell yo short and sharp like that, but yo do put a body's back up so, there's no bearin it. Don't take on, Louie. I'll coom back when I've found soomthin, an take yo away, too, niver fear. Theer's lots o' things gells can do in Manchester—tailorin, or machinin, or dress-makin, or soomthin like that. But yo must get a bit older, an I must find a place for us to live in, so theer's naw use fratchin, like a spiteful hen. Yo must bide and I must bide. But I'll coom back for yo, I swear I will, an we'll get shut on Aunt Hannah, an live in a little place by ourselves, as merry as larks.'

He looked at her appealingly. Her head was turned sullenly away from him, her thin chest still heaved with sobs. But when he stopped speaking she jerked round upon him.

'Leave me behint, an I'll murder her!'

The child's look was demoniacal. 'No, yo won't,' said David, laughing. 'I' th' fust place, Aunt Hannah could settle a midge like yo wi yan finger. I' th' second, hangin isn't a coomfortable way o' deein. Yo wait till I coom for yo, an when we'st ha got reet away, an can just laugh in her face if she riles us,—that'll spite her mich moor nor murderin.'

The black eyes gleamed uncannily for a moment and the sobbing ceased. But the gleam passed away, and the child sat staring at the moorland distance, seeing nothing. There was such an unconscious animal pain in the attitude, the pain of the creature that feels itself alone and deserted, that David watched her in a puzzled silence. Louie was always mysterious, whether in her rages or her griefs, but he had never seen her sob quite like this before. He felt a sort of strangeness in her fixed gaze, and with a certain timidity he put out his arm and laid it round her shoulder. Still she did not move. Then he slid up closer in the heather, and kissed her. His heart, which had seemed all frostbound for months, melted, and that hunger for love—home-love, mother-love—which was, perhaps, at the very bottom of his moody complex youth, found a voice.

'Louie, couldn't yo be nice to me soomtimes—couldn't yo just take an interest, like, yo know—as if yo cared a bit—couldn't yo? Other gells do. I'm a brute to yo, I know, often, but yo keep aggin an teasin, an theer's niver a bit o' peace. Look here, Loo, yo give up, an I'st give up. Theer's nobbut us two—nawbody else cares a ha'porth about the yan or the tother—coom along! yo give up, an I'st give up.'

He looked at her anxiously. There was a new manliness in his tone, answering to his growing manliness of stature. Two slow tears rolled down her cheeks, but she said nothing. She couldn't for the life of her. She blinked, furiously fighting with her tears, and at last she put up an impatient hand which left a long brown streak across her miserable little face.

'Yo havn't got no trade,' she said. 'Yo'll be clemmed.' David withdrew his arm, and gulped down his rebuff. 'No, I sha'n't,' he said. 'Now you just listen here.' And he described how, the day before, he had been to see Mr. Ancrum, to consult him about leaving Kinder, and what had come of it.

He had been just in time. Mr. Ancrum, worn, ill, and harassed to death, had been cheered a little during his last days at Clough End by the appearance of David, very red and monosyllabic, on his doorstep. The lad's return, as he soon perceived, was due simply to the stress of his own affairs, and not to any knowledge of or sympathy with the minister's miseries. But, none the less, there was a certain balm in it for Mr. Ancrum, and they had sat long discussing matters. Yes, the minister was going—would look out at Manchester for an opening for David, in the bookselling trade by preference, and would write at once. But Davy must not leave a quarrel behind him. He must, if possible, get his uncle's consent, which Mr. Ancrum thought would be given.

'I'm willing to lend you a hand, Davy,' he had said, 'for you're on the way to no trade but loafing as you are now; but square it with Grieve. You can, if you don't shirk the trouble of it.'

Whereupon Davy had made a wry face and said nothing. But to Louie he expressed himself plainly enough.

'I'll not say owt to oather on 'em,' he said, pointing to the chimneys of the farm, 'till the day I bid 'em good-bye. Uncle Reuben, mebbe, ud be for givin me somethin to start wi, an Aunt Hannah ud be for cloutin tin him over the head for thinkin of it. No, I'll not be beholden to yan o' them. I've got a shillin or two for my fare, an I'll keep mysel.'

'What wages ull yo get?' inquired Louie sharply.

'Nothin very fat, that's sure,' laughed David. 'If Mr. Ancrum can do as he says, an find me a place in a book-shop, they'll, mebbe, gie me six shillin to begin wi.'

'An what ull yo do wi 'at?'

'Live on't,' replied David briefly.

'Yo conno, I tell yo! Yo'll ha food an firin, cloos, an lodgin to pay out o't. Yo conno do 't—soa theer.'

Louie looked him up and down defiantly. David was oddly struck with the practical knowledge her remark showed. How did such a wild imp know anything about the cost of lodging and firing?

'I tell yo I'll live on't,' he replied with energy; 'I'll get a room for half a crown—two shillin, p'r'aps—an I'll live on sixpence a day, see if I don't.'

'See if yo do!' retorted Louie, 'clemm on it more like.'

'That's all yo know about it, miss,' said David, in a tone, however, of high good humour; and, stretching one of his hands down a little further into his trousers pocket, he drew out a paper-covered book, so that just the top of it appeared. 'Yo're allus naggin about books. Well; I tell yo, I've got an idea out o' thissen ull be worth shillins a week to me. It's about Benjamin Franklin. Never yo mind who Benjamin Franklin wor; but he wor a varra cute soart of a felly; an when he wor yoong, an had nobbut a few shillins a week, he made shift to save soom o' them shillins, becos he found he could do without eatin flesh meat, an that wi bread an meal an green stuff, a mon could do very well, an save soom brass every week. When I go to Manchester,' continued David emphatically, 'I shall niver touch meat. I shall buy a bag o' oatmeal like Grandfeyther Grieve lived on, boil it for mysel, wi a sup o' milk, perhaps, an soom salt or treacle to gi it a taste. An I'll buy apples an pears an oranges cheap soomwhere, an store 'em. Yo mun ha a deal o' fruit when yo doan't ha meat. Fourpence!' cried Davy, his enthusiasm rising, 'I'll live on thruppence a day, as sure as yo're sittin theer! Seven thruppences is one an nine; lodgin, two shillin—three an nine. Two an three left over, for cloos, firin, an pocket money. Why, I'll be rich before yo can look roun! An then, o' coorse, they'll not keep me long on six shillings a week. In the book-trade I'll soon be wuth ten, an moor!'

And, springing up, he began to dance a sort of cut and shuffle before her out of sheer spirits. Louie surveyed him with a flushed and sparkling face. The nimbleness of David's wits had never come home to her till now.

'What ull I earn when I coom?' she demanded abruptly.

David stopped his cut and shuffle, and took critical stock of his sister for a moment.

'Now, look here, Louie, yo're goin to stop where yo are, a good bit yet,' he replied decidedly. 'Yo'll have to wait two year or so—moor 'n one, onyways,' he went on hastily, warned by her start and fierce expression. 'Yo know, they can ha th' law on yo,' and he jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the farm. 'Boys is all reet, but gells can't do nothink till they're sixteen. They mun stay wi th' foak as browt 'em up, an if they run away afore their sixteenth birthday—they gets put in prison.'

David poured out his legal fictions hastily, three parts convinced of them at any rate, and watched eagerly for their effect on Louie.

She tossed her head scornfully. 'Doan't b'lieve it. Yo're jest tellin lees to get shut o' me. Nex summer if yo doan't send for me, I'll run away, whativer yo may say. So yo know.'

'Yo're a tormentin thing!' exclaimed David, exasperated, and began savagely to kick stones down the hill. Then, recovering himself, he came and sat down beside her again.

'I doan't want to get shut on yo, Louie. But yo won't understand nothin.'

He stopped, and began to bite at a stalk of heather, by way of helping himself. His mind was full of vague and yet urgent thoughts as to what became of girls in large towns with no one to look after them, things he had heard said at the public-house, things he had read. He had never dreamt of leaving Louie to Aunt Hannah's tender mercies. Of course he must take her away when he could. She was his charge, his belonging. But all the same she was a 'limb'; in his opinion she always would be a 'limb.' How could he be sure of her getting work, and who on earth was to look after her when he was away?

Suddenly Louie broke in on his perplexities.

'I'll go tailorin,' she cried triumphantly. 'Now I know—it wor t' Wigsons' cousin Em'ly went to Manchester; an she earned nine shillin a week—nine shillin I tell yo, an found her own thread. Yo'll be takin ten shillin, yo say, nex year? an I'll be takin nine. That's nineteen shillin fur th' two on us. Isn't it nineteen shillin?' she said peremptorily, seizing his arm with her long fingers.

'Well, I dessay it is,' said David, reluctantly. 'An precious tired yo'll be o' settin stitchin mornin, noon, an neet. Like to see yo do't.'

'I'd do it fur nine shillin,' she said doggedly, and sat looking straight before her, with wide glittering eyes. She understood from David's talk that, what with meal, apples, and greenstuff, your 'eatin' need cost you nothing. There would be shillings and shillings to buy things with. The child who never had a copper but what Uncle Reuben gave her, who passed her whole existence in greedily coveting the unattainable and in chafing under the rule of an iron and miserly thrift, felt suddenly intoxicated by this golden prospect of illimitable 'buying.' And what could possibly prevent its coming true? Any fool—such as 'Wigson's Em'ly'—could earn nine shillings a week at tailoring; and to make money at your stomach's expense seemed suddenly to put you in possession of a bank on which the largest drawings were possible. It all looked so ingenious, so feasible, so wholly within the grip of that indomitable will the child felt tense within her.

So the two sat gazing out over the moorland. It was the first summer day, fresh and timid yet, as though the world and the sun were still ill-acquainted. Down below, over the sparkling brook, an old thorn was quivering in the warm breeze, its bright thin green shining against the brown heather. The larches alone had as yet any richness of leaf, but the sycamore-buds glittered in the sun, and the hedges in the lower valley made wavy green lines delightful to the eye. A warm soft air laden with moist scents of earth and plant bathed the whole mountain-side, and played with Louie's hair. Nature wooed them with her best, and neither had a thought or a look for her.

Suddenly Louie sprang up.

'Theer's Aunt Hannah shoutin. I mun goo an get t' coos.'

David ran down the hill with her.

'What'll yo do if I tell?' she inquired maliciously at the bottom.

'If yo do I shall cut at yance, an yo'll ha all the longer time to be by yoursen.'

A darkness fell over the girl's hard shining gaze. She turned abruptly, then, when she had gone a few steps, turned and came back to where David stood whistling and calling for the dogs. She caught him suddenly from behind round the neck. Naturally he thought she was up to some mischief, and struggled away from her with an angry exclamation. But she held him tight and thrust something hard and sweet against his lips. Involuntarily his mouth opened and admitted an enticing cake of butter-scotch. She rammed it in with her wiry little hand so that he almost choked, and then with a shrill laugh she turned and fled, leaping down the heather between the boulders, across the brook, over the wall, and out of sight.

David was left behind, sucking. The sweetness he was conscious of was not all in the mouth. Never that he could remember had Louie shown him any such mark of favour.

Next day David was sent down with the donkey-cart to Clough End to bring up some weekly stores for the family, Hannah specially charging him to call at the post-office and inquire for letters. He started about nine o'clock, and the twelve o'clock dinner passed by without his reappearance.

When she had finished her supply of meat and suet-pudding, after a meal during which no one of the three persons at table had uttered a word, Louie abruptly pushed her plate back again towards Hannah.

'David!' was all she said.

'Mind your manners, miss,' said Hannah, angrily. 'Them as cooms late gets nowt.' And, getting up, she cleared the table and put the food away with even greater rapidity than usual. The kitchen was no sooner quite clear than the donkey-cart was heard outside, and David appeared, crimsoned with heat, and panting from the long tug uphill, through which he had just dragged the donkey.

He carried a letter, which he put down on the table. Then he looked round the kitchen.

'Aunt's put t' dinner away,' said Louie, shortly, ''cos yo came late.'

David's expression changed. 'Then nex time she wants owt, she can fetch it fro Clough End hersel,' he said violently, and went out.

Hannah came forward and laid eager hands on the letter, which was from London, addressed in a clerk's hand.

'Louie!' she called imperatively, 'tak un out soom bread-an-drippin.'

Louie put some on a plate, and went out with it to the cowhouse, where David sat on a stool, occupying himself in cutting the pages of a number of the Vegetarian News, lent him in Clough End, with trembling hands, while a fierce red spot burnt in either cheek.

'Tak it away!' he said, almost knocking the plate out of Louie's hands; 'it chokes me to eat a crumb o' hers.'

As Louie was bearing the plate back through the yard, Uncle Reuben came by.' What's—what's 'at?' he said, peering shortsightedly at what she held. Every month of late Reuben's back had seemed to grow rounder, his sight less, and his wits of less practical use.

'Summat for David,' said Louie, shortly, ''cos Aunt Hannah woan't gie him no dinner. But he woan't ha it.'

Reuben's sudden look of trouble was unmistakable. 'Whar is he?'

'I' th' coo-house.'

Reuben went his way, and found the dinnerless boy deep, or apparently deep, in recipes for vegetable soups.

'What made yo late, Davy?' he asked him, as he stood over him.

David had more than half a mind not to answer, but at last he jerked out fiercely, 'Waitin for th' second post, fust; then t' donkey fell down half a mile out o' t' town, an th' things were spilt. There was nobody about, an' I had a job to get 'un up at a'.'

Reuben nervously thrust his hands far into his coat-pockets.

'Coom wi me, Davy, an I'st mak yor aunt gie yer yor dinner.'

'I wouldn't eat a morsel if she went down on her bended knees to me,' the lad broke out, and, springing up, he strode sombrely through the yard and into the fields.

Reuben went slowly back into the house. Hannah was in the parlour—so he saw through the half-opened door. He went into the room, which smelt musty and close from disuse. Hannah was standing over the open drawer of an old-fashioned corner cupboard, carefully scanning a letter and enclosure before she locked them up.

'Is 't Mr. Gurney's money?' Reuben said to her, in a queer voice.

She was startled, not having heard him come in, but she put what she held into the drawer all the more deliberately, and turned the key.

'Ay, 't is.'

Reuben sat himself down on one of the hard chairs beside the table in the middle of the room. The light streaming through the shutters Hannah had just opened streamed in on his grizzling head and face working with emotion.

'It's stolen money,' he said hoarsely. 'Yo're stealin it fro Davy.'

Hannah smiled grimly, and withdrew the key.

'I'm paying missel an yo, Reuben Grieve, for t' keep o' two wuthless brats as cost moor nor they pays,' she said, with an accent which somehow sent a shiver through Reuben. 'I don't keep udder foaks' childer fur nothin.'

'Yo've had moor nor they cost for seven year,' said Reuben, with the same thick tense utterance. 'Yo should let Davy ha it, an gie him a trade.'

Hannah walked up to the door and shut it.

'I should, should I? An who'll pay for Louie—for your luvely limb of a niece? It 'ud tak about that,' and she pointed grimly to the drawer, 'to coover what she wastes an spiles i' t' yeer.'

'Yo get her work, Hannah. Her bit and sup cost yo most nothin. I cud wark a bit moor—soa cud yo. Yo're hurtin me i' mi conscience, Hannah—yo're coomin atwixt me an th' Lord!'

He brought a shaking hand down on the damask table-cloth among the wool mats and the chapel hymn-books which adorned it. His long, loose frame had drawn itself up with a certain dignity.

'Ha done wi your cantin!' said Hannah under her breath, laying her two hands on the table, and stooping down so as to face him with more effect. The phrase startled Reuben with a kind of horror. Whatever words might have passed between them, never yet that he could remember had his wife allowed herself a sneer at his religion. It seemed to him suddenly as though he and she were going fast downhill—slipping to perdition, because of Sandy's six hundred pounds.

But she cowed him—she always did. She stayed a moment in the same bent and threatening position, coercing him with angry eyes. Then she straightened herself, and moved away.

'Let t' lad tak hisself off if he wants to,' she said, an iron resolution in her voice. 'I told yo so afore—I woan't cry for 'im. But as long as Louie's here, an I ha to keep her, I'll want that money, an every penny on't. If it bean't paid, she may go too!'

'Yo'd not turn her out, Hannah?' cried Reuben, instinctively putting out an arm to feel that the door was closed.

'She'd not want for a livin,' replied Hannah, with a bitter sneer; 'she's her mither's child.'

Reuben rose slowly, shaking all over. He opened the door with difficulty, groped his way out of the front passage, then went heavily through the yard and into the fields. There he wandered by himself for a couple of hours, altogether forgetting some newly dropped lambs to which he had been anxiously attending. For months past, ever since his conscience had been roused on the subject of his brother's children, the dull, incapable man had been slowly reconceiving the woman with whom he had lived some five-and-twenty years, and of late the process had been attended with a kind of agony. The Hannah Martin he had married had been a hard body indeed, but respectable, upright, with the same moral instincts as himself. She had kept the farm together—he knew that; he could not have lived without her, and in all practical respects she had been a good and industrious wife. He had coveted her industry and her strong will; and, having got the use of them, he had learnt to put up with her contempt for him, and to fit his softer nature to hers. Yet it seemed to him that there had always been certain conditions implied in this subjection of his, and that she was breaking them. He could not have been fetching and carrying all these years for a woman who could go on wilfully appropriating money that did not belong to her,—who could even speak with callous indifference of the prospect of turning out her niece to a life of sin.

He thought of Sandy's money with loathing. It was like the cursed stuff that Achan had brought into the camp—an evil leaven fermenting in their common life, and raising monstrous growths.

Reuben Grieve did not demand much of himself; a richer and more spiritual nature would have thought his ideals lamentably poor. But, such as they were, the past year had proved that he could not fall below them without a dumb anguish, without a sense of shutting himself out from grace. He felt himself—by his fear of his wife—made a partner in Hannah's covetousness, in Hannah's cruelty towards Sandy's children. Already, it seemed to him, the face of Christ was darkened, the fountain of grace dried up. All those appalling texts of judgment and reprobation he had listened to so often in chapel, protected against them by that warm inward certainty of 'election,' seemed to be now pressing against a bared and jeopardised soul.

But if he wrote to Mr. Gurney, Hannah would never forgive him till her dying day; and the thought of making her his enemy for good put him in a cold sweat.

After much pacing of the upper meadows he came heavily down at last to see to his lambs. Davy was just jumping the wall on to his uncle's land, having apparently come down the Frimley path. When he saw his uncle he thrust his hands into his pockets, began to whistle, and came on with a devil-may-care swing of the figure. They met in a gateway between two fields.

'Whar yo been, Davy?' asked Reuben, looking at him askance, and holding the gate so as to keep him.

'To Dawson's,' said the boy, sharply.

Reuben's face brightened. Then the lad's empty stomach must have been filled; for he knew that 'Dawsons' were kind to him. He ventured to look at him more directly, and, as he did so, something in the attitude of the proud handsome stripling reminded him of Sandy—Sandy, in the days of his youth, coming down to show his prosperous self at the farm. He put his large soil-stained hand on David's shoulder.

'Goo yor ways in, Davy. I'll see yo ha your reets.'

David opened his eyes at him, astounded. There is nothing more startling in human relations than the strong emotion of weak people.

Reuben would have liked to say something else, but his lips opened and shut in vain. The boy, too, was hopelessly embarrassed. At last, Reuben let the gate fall and walked off, with downcast head, to where, in the sheep-pen, he had a few hours before bound an orphan lamb to a refractory foster-mother. The foster-mother's resistance had broken down, she was lying patiently and gently while the thin long-legged creature sucked; when it was frightened away by Reuben's approach she trotted bleating after it. In his disturbed state of feeling the parallel, or rather the contrast, between the dumb animal and the woman struck home.



CHAPTER IX

But the crisis which had looked so near delayed!

Poor Reuben! The morning after his sudden show of spirit to David he felt himself, to his own miserable surprise, no more courageous than he had been before it. Yet the impression made had gone too deep to end in nothingness. He contracted a habit of getting by himself in the fields and puzzling his brain with figures—an occupation so unfamiliar and exhausting that it wore him a good deal; and Hannah, when he came in at night, would wonder, with a start, whether he were beginning 'to break up.' But it possessed him more and more. Hannah would not give up the money, but David must have his rights. How could it be done? For the first time Reuben fell to calculation over his money matters, which he did not ask Hannah to revise. But meanwhile he lived in a state of perpetual inward excitement which did not escape his wife. She could get no clue to it, however, and became all the more forbidding in the household the more she was invaded by this wholly novel sense of difficulty in managing her husband.

Yet she was not without a sense that if she could but contrive to alter her ways with the children it would be well for her. Mr. Gurney's cheque was safely put away in the Clough End bank, and clearly her best policy would have been to make things tolerable for the two persons on whose proceedings—if they did but know it! —the arrival of future cheques in some measure depended. But Hannah had not the cleverness which makes the successful hypocrite. And for some time past there had been a strange unmanageable change in her feelings towards Sandy's orphans. Since Reuben had made her conscious that she was robbing them, she had gone nearer to an active hatred than ever before. And, indeed, hatred in such a case is the most natural outcome; for it is little else than the soul's perverse attempt to justify to itself its own evil desire.

David, however, when once his rage over Hannah's latest offence had cooled, behaved to his aunt much as he had done before it. He was made placable by his secret hopes, and touched by Reuben's advances—though of these last he took no practical account whatever; and he must wait for his letter. So he went back ungraciously to his daily tasks. Meanwhile he and Louie, on the strength of the great coup in prospect, were better friends than they had ever been, and his consideration for her went up as he noticed that, when she pleased, the reckless creature could keep a secret 'as close as wax.'

The weeks, however, passed away, and still no letter came for David. The shepherds' meetings—first at Clough End for the Cheshire side of the Scout, and then at the 'Snake Inn' for the Sheffield side—when the strayed sheep of the year were restored to their owners, came and went in due course; sheep-washing and sheep-shearing were over; the summer was halfway through; and still no word from Mr. Ancrum.

David, full of annoyance and disappointment, was seething with fresh plans—he and Louie spent hours discussing them at the smithy—when suddenly an experience overtook him, which for the moment effaced all his nascent ambitions, and entirely did away with Louie's new respect for him.

It was on this wise.

Mr. Ancrum had left Clough End towards the end of June. The congregation to which he ministered, and to which Reuben Grieve belonged, represented one of those curious and independent developments of the religious spirit which are to be found scattered through the teeming towns and districts of northern England. They had no connection with any recognised religious community, but the members of it had belonged to many—to the Church, the Baptists, the Independents, the Methodists. They were mostly mill-hands or small tradesmen, penetrated on the one side with the fervour, the yearnings, the strong formless poetry of English evangelical faith, and repelled on the other by various features in the different sects from which they came—by the hierarchical strictness of the Wesleyan organisation, or the looseness of the Congregationalists, or the coldness of the Church. They had come together to seek the Lord in some way more intimate, more moving, more effectual than any they had yet found; and in this pathetic search for the 'rainbow gold' of faith they were perpetually brought up against the old stumbling-blocks of the unregenerate man,—the smallest egotisms, and the meanest vanities. Mr. Ancrum, for instance, had come to the Clough End 'Brethren' full of an indescribable missionary zeal. He had laboured for them night and day, taxing his sickly frame far beyond its powers. But the most sordid conspiracy imaginable, led by two or three of the prominent members who thought he did not allow them enough share in the evening meetings, had finally overthrown him, and he had gone back to Manchester a bitterer and a sadder man.

After he left there was an interregnum, during which one or two of the elder 'Brethren' taught Sunday school and led the Sunday services. But at last, in August, it became known in Clough End that a new minister for the 'Christian Brethren' had come down, and public curiosity in the Dissenting circles was keen about him. After a few weeks there began to be a buzz in the little town on the subject of Mr. Dyson. The 'Christian Brethren' meeting-room, a long low upper chamber formerly occupied by half a dozen hand-looms, was crowded on Sundays, morning and evening, not only by the Brethren, but by migrants from other denominations, and the Sunday school, which was held in a little rickety garret off the main room, also received a large increase of members. It was rumoured that Mr. Dyson was specially successful with boys, and that there was an 'awakening' among some of the lowest and roughest of the Clough End lads.

'He ha sich a way wi un,' said a much-stirred mother to Reuben Grieve, meeting him one day in the street, 'he do seem to melt your varra marrow.'

Reuben went to hear the new man, was much moved, and came home talking about him with a stammering unction, and many furtive looks at David. He had tried to remonstrate several times on the lad's desertion of chapel and Sunday school, but to no purpose. There was something in David's half contemptuous, half obstinate silence on these occasions which for a man like Reuben made argument impossible. To his morbid inner sense the boy seemed to have entered irrevocably on the broad path which leadeth to destruction. Perhaps in another year he would be drinking and thieving. With a curious fatalism Reuben felt that for the present, and till he had made some tangible amends to Sandy and the Unseen Powers for Hannah's sin, he himself could do nothing. His hands were unclean. But some tremulous passing hopes he allowed himself to build on this new prophet.

Meanwhile, David heard the town-talk, and took small account of it. He supposed he should see the new-comer at Jerry's in time. Then if folk spoke true there would be a shindy worth joining in. Meanwhile, the pressure of his own affairs made the excitement of the neighbourhood seem to him one more of those storms in the Dissenting tea-cup, of which, boy as he was, he had known a good many already.

One September evening he was walking down to Clough End, bound to the reading-room. He had quite ceased to attend the 'Crooked Cow.' His pennies were precious to him now, and he saved them jealously, wondering scornfully sometimes how he could ever have demeaned himself so far as to find excitement in the liquor or the company of the 'Cow.' Half-way down to the town, as he was passing the foundry, whence he had drawn the pan which had for so long made the smithy enchanted ground to him, the big slouching appprentice who had been his quondam friend and ally there, came out of the foundry yard just in front of him. David quickened up a little.

'Tom, whar are yo goin?'

The other looked round at him uneasily.

'Niver yo mind.'

The youth's uncouth clothes were carefully brushed, and his fat face, which wore an incongruous expression of anxiety and dejection, shone with washing. David studied him a moment in silence, then he said abruptly—

'Yo're goin prayer-meetin, that's what yo are.'

'An if I am, it's noa consarn o' yourn. Yo're yan o' th'unregenerate; an I'll ask yo, Davy, if happen yo're goin town way, not to talk ony o' your carnal talk to me. I'se got hindrances enough, t' Lord knows.'

And the lad went his way, morosely hanging his head, and stepping more rapidly as though to get rid of his companion.

'Well, I niver!' exclaimed David, in his astonishment. 'What's wrong wi yo, Tom? Yo've got no more spunk nor a moultin hen. What's getten hold o' yo?''

Tom hesitated a moment. 'Th' Lord!' he burst out at last, looking at Davy with that sudden unconscious dignity which strong feeling can bestow for the moment on the meanest of mortals. 'He's a harryin' me! I haven't slep this three neets for shoutin an cryin! It's th' conviction o' sin, Davy. Th' devil seems a howdin me, an I conno pull away, not whativer. T' new minister says, 'Dunnot yo pull. Let Jesus do't all.' He's strang, He is. 'Yo're nobbut a worm.' But I've naw assurance, Davy, theer's whar it is—I've naw assurance!' he repeated, forgetting in his pain the unregenerate mind of his companion.

David walked on beside him wondering. When he had last seen Tom he was lounging in a half-drunken condition outside the door of the 'Crooked Cow,' cracking tipsy jokes with the passers-by.

'Where is the prayer-meetin?' he inquired presently.

'In owd Simes's shed—an it's late too—I mun hurry.'

'Why, theer'll be plenty o' room in old Simes's shed. It's a fearfu big place.'

'An lasst time theer was na stannin ground for a corn-boggart; an I wudna miss ony o' Mr. Dyson's prayin, not for nothin. Good neet to yo, Davy.'

And Tom broke into a run; David, however, kept up with him.

'P'raps I'll coom too,' he said, with a kind of bravado, when they had passed the bridge and the Kinder printing works, and Clough End was in sight.

Tom said nothing till they had breasted a hill, at the top of which he paused panting, and confronted David.

'Noo yo'll not mak a rumpus, Davy,' he said, mistrustfully.

'An if do, can't a hundred or two o' yo kick me out?' asked David, mockingly. 'I'll mak no rumpus. P'raps yor Mr. Dyson'll convert me.'

And he walked on laughing.

Tom looked darkly at him; then, as he recovered his wind, his countenance suddenly cleared. Satan laid a new snare for him—poor Tom!—and into his tortured heart there fell a poisonous drop of spiritual pride. Public reprobation applied to a certain order of offences makes a very marketable kind of fame, as the author of Manfred knew very well. David in his small obscure way was supplying another illustration of the principle. For the past year he had been something of a personage in Clough End—having always his wits, his book-learning, his looks, and his singular parentage to start from.

Tom—the shambling butt of his comrades—began to like the notion of going into prayer-meeting with David Grieve in tow; and even that bitter and very real cloud of spiritual misery lifted a little.

So they marched in together, Tom in front, with his head much higher than before; and till the minister began there were many curious glances thrown at David. It was a prayer-meeting for boys only, and the place was crammed with them, of all ages up to eighteen.

It was a carpenter's workshop. Tools and timber had been as far as possible pushed to the side, and at the end a rough platform of loose planks had been laid across some logs so as to raise the preacher a little.

Soon there was a stir, and Mr. Dyson appeared. He was tall and loosely built, with the stoop from the neck and the sallow skin which the position of the cotton-spinner at work and the close fluffy atmosphere in which he lives tend to develop. Up to six months ago, he had been a mill-hand and a Wesleyan class-leader. Now, in consequence partly of some inward crisis, partly of revolt against an 'unspiritual' superintendent, he had thrown up mill and Methodism together, and come to live on the doles of the Christian Brethren at Clough End. He had been preaching on the moors already during the day, and was tired out; but the pallor of the harsh face only made the bright, commanding eye more noticeable. It ran over the room, took note first of the numbers, then of individuals, marked who had been there before, who was a new-comer. The audience fell into order and quiet before it as though a general had taken command.

He put his hands on his hips and began to speak without any preface, somewhat to the boys' surprise, who had expected a prayer. The voice, as generally happens with a successful revivalist preacher, was of fine quality, and rich in good South Lancashire intonations, and his manner was simplicity itself.

'Suppose we put off our prayer a little bit,' he said, in a colloquial tone, his fixed look studying the crowded benches all the while. 'Perhaps we'll have more to pray about by-and-by.... Well, now, I haven't been long in Clough End, to be sure, but I think I've been long enough to get some notion of how you boys here live—whether you work on the land, or whether you work in the mills or in shops—I've been watching you a bit, perhaps you didn't think it; and what I'm going to do to-night is to take your lives to pieces—take them to pieces, an look close into them, as you've seen them do at the mill, perhaps, with a machine that wants cleaning. I want to find out what's wrong wi them, what they're good for, whose work they do—God's or the devil's ... First let me take the mill-hands. Perhaps I know most about their life, for I went to work in a cotton-mill when I was eight years old, and I only left it six months ago. I have seen men and women saved in that mill, so that their whole life afterwards was a kind of ecstasy: I have seen others lost there, so that they became true children of the devil, and made those about them as vile and wretched as themselves. I have seen men grow rich there, and I have seen men die there; so if there is anything I know in this world it is how factory workers spend their time—at least, I think I know. But judge for yourselves—shout to me if I'm wrong. Isn't it somehow like this?'

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