The grievance of her life was Matt’s marriage with an alien; for Miriam was a child of the Established Church. Great, too, was the grievance that no children gladdened the hearth of the unequally yoked couple; and this the old woman looked on as the curse of the Almighty in return for her son’s disobedience in sharing his lot with the uncovenanted.
And yet Matt loved his mother; not, however, as he loved his wife, for whom he held a tender, doating love, which the old woman was quick to see, though silent to resent, save when she said that ‘Matt were fair soft o’er th’ lass.’ Nothing so pleased him as to be able to respect his mother’s wish without giving pain to his wife. Always loyal to Miriam, he sought to be dutiful to Deborah, and, though the struggle was at times hard and taxing, few succeeded better in holding a true balance of behaviour between the twin relations of son and husband.
Now that Miriam had confided to him her secret, he felt sure his mother’s anger would be somewhat turned away when she, too, shared it. And all through the afternoon service he moved restlessly, eager for the hour when, at her own fireside, he could convey the glad news to her ears.
And when that hour came, it came all too soon, for never were Matt and Miriam more confused than when they faced each other at the tea-table of Deborah. A painful repression was on them; ominous silence sealed their lips, and they flushed with a heightened colour. Matt’s carefully-prepared speech forsook him—all its prettiness and poetry escaped beyond recall; and Miriam was too womanly to rescue him in his dilemma.
‘It’s some warm,’ said Matt, drawing his handkerchief over his heated brow.
‘Aw durnd know as onybody feels it but thisel, lad,’ replied his mother; ‘but thaa con go i’ th’ garden, if thaa wants to cool a bit. Tea’s happen made thee sweat.’
Then followed another painful pause, in which Miriam unconsciously doubled up a spoon, on seeing which the old woman reminded her that her ‘siller wurnd for marlockin’ wi’ i’ that fashion’; and no sooner had she administered this rebuke than Matt overturned his tea.
‘Are yo’ two reet i’ yor yeds (heads)?’ snapped his mother. ‘Yo’ sit theer gawmless-like, one on yo’ breakin’ th’ spoons, and t’other turnin’ teacups o’er. What’s come o’er yo’?’
‘Mother,’ stammered Matt, ‘Miriam has summat to tell yo’.’
‘Nay, lad, thaa may tell it thisel,’ said Miriam.
‘Happen thaa cornd for shame, Miriam,’ stammered Matt.
’I durnd know as I’ve ought to be ashamed on, but it seems as though thaa hedn’t th’ pluck.’
The old woman grew impatient, and, supposing she was being fooled, rose from the table, and said:
‘I want to know noan o’ your secrets. I durnd know as I ever axed for ’em, and if yo’ wait till aw do, I shall never know ’em.’
‘It’s happen one as yo’d like to know, though, mother.’