‘Yo’re reet, lass; there is, an’ no mistak’.’
‘Can hoo play th’ pianer, thinksto?’
‘Can hoo dust one?’
‘Nowe, aw’ll warnd hoo cornd.’
‘Hoo thinks hersel’ aboon porritch, does yon lot.’
‘Dun yo’ think hoo can mak’ porritch?’ sneered Amos to the woman who passed the unkindly remark.
’Nowe, Amos, aw durnd. Yon lass’ll cost Penrose some brass. Yo’ll see if hoo doesnd.’
While this criticism was going on in the chapel yard, Mrs. Penrose was seated in the pew of Dr. Hale, somewhat bewildered and not a little overstrained. Here, too, poor woman, she was unconsciously giving offence, for on entering she had knelt down in prayer, Old Clogs declaring that ’hoo were on her knees three minutes and a hawve, by th’ chapel clock;’ while at the conclusion of the service, after the congregation were on their feet in noisy exit, her devotional attitude led others to brand her both as a ‘ritual’ and a ‘papist.’
During the afternoon there was a repetition of the morning’s ordeal, and at the service the young wife was again the one on whom all eyes were fixed, and of whom all tongues whispered. Never before had she been so called to suffer. If the keen glances of the congregation had been softened by the slightest sympathy she could better have stood the glare of curiosity; but no such ray of sympathy was there blended with the looks. Hard, cold, and critical—such was the language of every eye. Rehoboth hated what it called ’foreigners’—those who had been born and brought up in districts distant from its own. All strange places were Nazareths, and all strangers were Nazarenes, and the cry was, ‘Can any good thing come out therefrom?’ And to this question the answer was ever negative. Outside Rehoboth dwelt the alien. In course of years the prejudice towards the intruder submitted itself to the force of custom, and less suspicious became the looks, and less harsh the tongues. Even then, however, the old Rehobothite remained a Hebrew of Hebrews; while the others, at the best, were but proselytes of the gate. It was the first brunt of this storm of suspicion from which the minister’s wife was suffering, and she was powerless to stay it, or even allay its stress; nor could her husband come to her deliverance. Milly, however, like the good angel that she was, proved her friend in need, and all unconsciously, and yet effectively, turned the tide of cruel and inquisitorial scorn first of all into wonder and then into delight.
And it came about in this manner. As the congregation were leaving the chapel at the close of the afternoon service, and poor Mrs. Penrose, sorely bewildered, was jostled by the staring throng, Milly pushed her way with her crutch to the blushing woman, and, handing her a bunch of flowers, said:
‘See yo’, Mrs. Penrose, here’s a posy for yo’. Yo’re maister sez as yo’ like flaars, an’ aw’ve grow’d these i’ my own garden. Aw should ha’ brought ’em this mornin’, but aw couldn’t ged aat; an’ mi mother wouldn’t bring ’em for me, for hoo said aw mun bring ’em mysel.’