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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 169 pages of information about Lancashire Idylls (1898).

‘It’s happen one as you’d like to tell, lad,’ replied the old woman, softening.

‘Well, if we durnd tell yo’, yo’ll know soon enough, for it’s one o’ them secrets as willn’t keep—­will it, Miriam?’ asked Matt of his blushing wife.

But Miriam was silent, and refused to lift her face from the pattern of the plate over which she bent low.

‘Dun you think yor too owd to be a gronmother?’ asked Matt of his parent, growing in boldness as he warmed to his confession.

’If I were thee I’d ax mysel if I were young enugh to be a faither, that I would,’ said the old woman.

‘Well, I shall happen be one afore so long, shornd I, Miriam?’

But tears were streaming from Miriam’s eyes, and she answered not.

And then there dawned on the mind of Deborah the cause of her son’s confusion, and a light stole across the hard lines of her face as she said: 

‘Is that it, lad?  Thank God! thaa’rt in th’ covenant after all.’

III.

‘IT’S A LAD!’

‘Naa, Matt, put on thi coite and fotch th’ doctor, an tak’ care thaa doesn’t let th’ grass grow under thi feet.’

Matt needed no second bidding.  In a moment he was ready, and before the old nurse turned to re-ascend the chamber stairs the faithful fellow was on his way towards the village below.

It was a morning in November, and as Matt hurried along he passed many on their way to a day’s work at the Bridge Factory in the vale.  Most of them knew him, dark though it was, and greeting him, guessed the errand on which he raced.  Once or twice he collided with those who were slow to get out of his path, and almost overturned old Amos Entwistle into the goit as he pushed past him on the bank that afforded the nearest cut to the village.

‘Naa, lad, who arto pushin’ agen, and where arto baan i’ that hurry?  Is th’ haase o’ fire, or has th’ missus taan her bed?’

But Matt was beyond earshot before the old man finished his rude rebuke.

Throughout the whole of his journey Matt’s mind was a prey to wild and foreboding passion—­passion largely the product of a rude and superstitious mind.  Questions painful, if not foolish, haunted and tormented him.  Would Miriam die?  Had not the seven years of their past life been too happy to last?  Did not his mother once reverse the old Hebrew proverb, and warn him that a night of weeping would follow a morning of joy?  Would Heaven be avenged on his occasional fits of discontent, and grant him his wish for a child at the cost of the life of his wife?  He had heard how the Almighty discounted His gifts; how selfish men had to pay dearly for what they wrenched against the will of God.  As he hurried, these thoughts followed on as fleet feet as his own, and moaned their voices in his ears with the sounds of the wind.

It was not long before he reached Dr. Hale’s door, where he so lustily rung, that an immediate response was given to his summons, the man of science putting his head through the window and asking in peremptory tones who was there.

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