But Matt’s eyes were fixed on Miriam, until she, breaking through the orders of the doctor, said:
‘Matt, do look at th’ baby—it’s thine, thaa knows.’
And then Matt looked at the baby. For the first time in his life he looked at a new-born baby, and at a baby to whom he was linked by ties of paternity, and his heart went out towards the little palpitating prophecy of life—so long expected, and perfected at such a price. And he took it in his arms, while old Deborah said:
‘Thaa sees, lad, God’s not forgetten to be gracious. Th’ promise is still to us and aars.’
But Malachi’s wife sent Matt downstairs, saying:
‘We’n had enugh preachin’ and cryin’. Go and ged on wi’ thi wark. Th’ lass is on th’ mend, and hoo’ll do gradely weel.’
THE LEAD OF THE LITTLE ONE.
The child grew, and its first conquest was the heart of old Deborah. Before the little life she bowed, and what her Calvinistic creed was weak to do for her, a love for her grandson accomplished. Often and long would she look into his face as he lay in her arms, until at last she, too, caught the child-feature and the child-smile. Rehoboth said old Deborah was renewing her youth; for she had been known to laugh and croon, and more than once purse up her old lips to sing a snatch of nursery rhyme—a thing which in the past she had denounced as tending to ‘mak’ childer hush’t wi’ th’ songs o’ sin.’ The hard look died away from her eyes, and her mouth ceased to wear its sealed and drawn expression. The voice, too, became low and mellow, and her religion, instead of being that of the Church, was now that of the home.
One morning, while carrying the child through the meadows, she was overtaken by Amos Entwistle, who stopped her, saying:
‘Tak’ care, Deborah, tak’ care, or the Almeety will overthrow thi idol. Thaa’rt settin’ thi affections on things o’ th’ earth; and He’ll punish thee for it.’
‘An’ do yo’ co this babby one o’ th’ things o’ th’ earth?’ cried the old woman fiercely.
‘Yi, forsure I do. What else mut it be?’
‘Look yo’ here, Amos,’ said Deborah, raising the child in her arms so that her rebuker might look into its little features, ruddy and reposeful—features where God’s fresh touch still lingered; ’luk yo’ here. Han yo’ never yerd that childer’s angels awlus behold th’ face o’ their Faither aboon?’
’Eh! Deborah, lass, aw never thought as Mr. Penrose ud turn thi yed and o’. Theer’s a fearful few faithful ones laft i’ Zion naa-a-days. Bud aw tell thee, th’ Lord’ll smite thi idol, and it’ll be thro’ great tribulation that tha’ll enter th’ Kingdom.’
‘I’d ha’ yo’ to know, Amos Entwistle, that I’m noan in yor catechism class, an’ I’m noan baan to be. Yo’ can tak’ an’ praitch yor rubbidge somewheer else. Yo’ve no occasion to come to me, I con tell yo’.’ And then, looking down at the reposeful little face, she kissed it, and continued, ’Did he co thee an idol, my darlin’? Ne’er heed him, owd powse ud he is!’