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´╗┐Title: Hetty Wesley
Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hetty Wesley" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



HETTY WESLEY.

by

ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH.



TO ANDREW LANG.  A GOOD CHAMPION OF HETTY.



CONTENTS.

BOOK I.

     PROLOGUE.

     CHAPTER I.

     CHAPTER II.

     CHAPTER III.

     CHAPTER IV.

     CHAPTER V.

     CHAPTER VI.

     CHAPTER VII.

     CHAPTER VIII.


BOOK II.

     CHAPTER I.

     CHAPTER II.

     CHAPTER III.

     CHAPTER IV.

     CHAPTER V.

     CHAPTER VI.


BOOK III.

     PROLOGUE.

     CHAPTER I.

     CHAPTER II.

     CHAPTER III.

     CHAPTER IV.

     CHAPTER V.

     CHAPTER VI.

     CHAPTER VII.

     CHAPTER VIII.

     CHAPTER IX.

     CHAPTER X.

     CHAPTER XI.

     CHAPTER XII.

     CHAPTER XIII.

     CHAPTER XIV.

     CHAPTER XV.

     CHAPTER XVI.


BOOK IV.

     CHAPTER I.

     CHAPTER II.

     CHAPTER III.

     CHAPTER IV.

     CHAPTER V.

     CHAPTER VI.

     CHAPTER VII.

     CHAPTER VIII.


CONCLUSION.

     CHAPTER I.

     CHAPTER II.

     EPILOGUE.



BOOK I.



PROLOGUE.


     "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world
      and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for
      his soul?"

At Surat, by a window of his private office in the East India
Company's factory, a middle-aged man stared out upon the broad river
and the wharves below.  Business in the factory had ceased for the
day: clerks and porters had gone about their own affairs, and had
left the great building strangely cool and empty and silent.
The wharves, too, were deserted--all but one, where a Hindu sat in
the shade of a pile of luggage, and the top of a boat's mast wavered
like the index of a balance above the edge of the landing-stairs.

The luggage belonged to the middle-aged man at the window: the boat
was to carry him down the river to the _Albemarle_, East Indiaman,
anchored in the roads with her Surat cargo aboard.  She would sail
that night for Bombay and thence away for England.

He was ready; dressed for his journey in a loose white suit, which,
though designed for the East, was almost aggressively British.
A Cheapside tailor had cut it, and, had it been black or gray or
snuff-coloured instead of white, its wearer might have passed all the
way from the Docks to Temple Bar for a solid merchant on 'Change--a
self-respecting man, too, careless of dress for appearance' sake, but
careful of it for his own, and as part of a habit of neatness.
He wore no wig (though the date was 1723), but his own gray hair,
brushed smoothly back from a sufficiently handsome forehead and tied
behind with a fresh black ribbon.  In his right hand he held a straw
hat, broad-brimmed like a Quaker's, and a white umbrella with a green
lining.  His left fingered his clean-shaven chin as he gazed on the
river.

The ceremonies of leave-taking were done with and dismissed; so far
as he could, he had avoided them.  He had ever been a hard man and
knew well enough that the clerks disliked him.  He hated humbug.
He had come to India, almost forty years ago, not to make friends,
but to make a fortune.  And now the fortune was made, and the room
behind him stood ready, spick and span, for the Scotsman who would
take his chair to-morrow.  Drawers had been emptied and dusted, loose
papers and memoranda sorted and either burnt or arranged and
docketed, ledgers entered up to the last item in his firm
handwriting, and finally closed.  The history of his manhood lay shut
between their covers, written in figures terser than a Roman classic:
his grand _coup_ in Nunsasee goods, Abdul Guffere's debt commuted for
500,000 rupees, the salvage of the _Ramillies_ wreck, his commercial
duel with Viltul Parrak . . . And the record had no loose ends.
He owed no man a farthing.

The door behind him opened softly and a small gray-headed man peered
into the room.

"Mr. Annesley, if I might take the liberty--"

"Ah, MacNab?"  Samuel Annesley swung round promptly.

"I trust, sir, I do not intrude?"

"'Intrude,' man?  Why?"

"Oh, nothing, sir," answered the little man vaguely, with a dubious
glance at Mr. Annesley's eyes.  "Only I thought perhaps--at such a
moment--old scenes, old associations--and you leaving us for ever,
sir!"

"Tut, nonsense!  You have something to say to me.  Anything
forgotten?"

"Nothing in the way of business, sir.  But it occurred to me--"
Mr. MacNab lowered his voice, "--Your good lady, up at the
burial-ground.  You will excuse me--at such a time: but it may be
years before I am spared to return home, and if I can do anything in
the way of looking after the grave, I shall be proud.  Oh no--" he
went on hurriedly with a flushed face: "for _love_, sir; for love, of
course: or, as I should rather say, for old sake's sake, if that's
not too bold.  It would be a privilege, Mr. Annesley."

Samuel Annesley stood considering his late confidential clerk with
bent brows.  "I am much obliged to you, MacNab; but in this matter
you must do as you please.  You are right in supposing that I was
sincerely attached to my wife--"

"Indeed yes, sir."

"But I have none of the sentiment you give me credit for.  'Let the
dead bury the dead'--that is a text to which I have given some
attention of late, and I hope to profit by it in--in the future."

"Well, God bless you, Mr. Annesley!"

"I thank you.  We are delaying the boat, I fear.  No"--as Mr. MacNab
made an offer to accompany him--"I prefer to go alone.  We have
shaken hands already.  The room is ready for Mr. Menzies, when he
comes to-morrow.  Good-bye."

A minute later Mr. MacNab, lingering by the window, saw him cross the
road to the landing-stage and stand for a moment in talk with the
Hindu, Bhagwan Dass.  Then his straw hat disappeared down the steps.
The boat was pushed off; and Bhagwan Dass, after watching it for a
while, turned without emotion and came strolling across to the
factory.

On board the _Albemarle_ Mr. Annesley found the best cabin prepared
for him, as became his importance.  He went below at once and was
only seen at meal-times during the short voyage to Bombay, a town
that of late years had almost eclipsed Surat in trade and importance.
Here Captain Bewes was to take in the bulk of his passengers and
cargo, and brought his vessel close alongside the Bund.  During the
three days occupied in lading and stowing little order was
maintained, and the decks lay open to a promiscuous crowd of coolies
and porters, waterside loafers, beggars and thieves.  The officers
kept an eye open for these last: the rest they tolerated until the
moment came for warping out, when the custom was to pipe all hands
and clear the ship of intruders by a general rush.

The first two days Mr. Annesley spent upon the poop, watching the mob
with a certain scornful interest.  On the third he did not appear,
but was served with _tiffin_ in his cabin.  At about six o'clock, the
second mate--a Mr. Orchard--sought the captain to report that all
was ready and waiting the word to cast off.  His way led past
Mr. Annesley's cabin, and there he came upon an old mendicant
stooping over the door handle and making as if to enter and beg; whom
he clouted across the shoulders and cuffed up the companion-ladder.
Mr. Orchard afterwards remembered to have seen this same beggar man,
or the image of him, off and on during the two previous days, seated
asquat against a post on the Bund, and watching the _Albemarle_,
with his crutch and bowl beside him.

When the rush came, this old man, bent and blear-eyed, was swept
along the gangway like a chip on the tide.  In pure lightness of
heart a sailor, posted at the head of the plank, expedited him with a
kick.  "That'll do for good-bye to India," said he, grinning.

The old man showed no resentment, but was borne along bewildered,
gripping his bowl to his breast.  On the quay's edge he seemed to
find his feet, and shuffled off towards the town, without once
looking back at the ship.



CHAPTER I.


"MILL--mill!  A mill!"

At the entrance of Dean's Yard, Westminster, a small King's Scholar,
waving his gown and yelling, collided with an old gentleman hobbling
round the corner, and sat down suddenly in the gutter with a squeal,
as a bagpipe collapses.  The old gentleman rotated on one leg like a
dervish, made an ineffectual stoop to clutch his gouty toe and wound
up by bringing his rattan cane smartly down on the boy's shoulders.

"Owgh!  Owgh!  Stand up, you young villain!  My temper's hasty, and
here's a shilling-piece to cry quits.  Stand up and tell me now--is
it Fire, Robbery, or Murder?"

The youngster pounced at the shilling, shook off the hand on his
collar, and darted down Little College Street to Hutton's Boarding
House, under the windows of which he pulled up and executed a
derisive war-dance.

     "Hutton's, Hutton's,
      Put up your buttons,
      Hutton's are rottenly Whigs--"

"Mill--mill!  Come out and carry home your Butcher Randall!
You'll be wanted when Wesley has done with him."

He was speeding back by this time, and flung this last taunt from a
safe distance.  The old gentleman collared him again by the entry.

"Stop, my friend--here, hold hard for a moment!  A fight, you said:
and Wesley--was it Wesley?"

The boy nodded.

"Charles Wesley?"

"Well, it wouldn't be Samuel--at _his_ age: now would it?"  The boy
grinned.  The Reverend Samuel Wesley was the respected Head Usher of
Westminster School.

"And what will Charles Wesley be fighting about?"

"How should I know?  Because he wants to, belike.  But I was told it
began up school, with Randall's flinging a book at young Murray for a
lousy Scotch Jacobite."

"H'm: and where will it be?"

The boy dropped his voice to a drawl.  "In Fighting-green, I believe,
sir: they told me Poets' Corner was already bespoke for a turn-up
between the Dean and Sall the charwoman, with the Head Verger for
bottle-holder--"

"Now, look here, young jackanapes--"  But young jackanapes, catching
sight of half a dozen boys--the vanguard of Hutton's--at the street
corner, ducked himself free and raced from vengeance across the yard.

The old gentleman followed; and the crowd from Hutton's, surging
past, showed him the way to Fighting-green where a knot of King's
Scholars politely made room for him, perceiving that in spite of his
small stature, his rusty wig and countrified brown suit, he was a
person of some dignity and no little force of character.  They read
it perhaps in the set of his mouth, perhaps in the high aquiline arch
of his nose, which he fed with snuff as he gazed round the ring while
the fighters rested, each in his corner, after the first round: for a
mill at Westminster was a ceremonious business, and the Head Master
had been known to adjourn school for one.

"H'm," said the newcomer; "no need to ask which is Wesley."

His eyes set deep beneath brows bristling like a wire-haired
terrier's--were on the boy in the farther corner, who sat on his
backer's knee, shoeless, stripped to the buff, with an angry red mark
on the right breast below the collar-bone; a slight boy and a trifle
undersized, but lithe, clear-skinned, and in the pink of condition; a
handsome boy, too.  By his height you might have guessed him under
sixteen, but his face set you doubting.  There are faces almost
uncannily good-looking: they charm so confidently that you shrink
from predicting the good fortune they claim, and bethink you that the
gods' favourites are said to die young: and Charles Wesley's was such
a face.  He tightened the braces about his waist and stepped forward
for the second round with a sweet and serious smile.  Yet his mouth
meant business.

Master Randall--who stood near three inches taller--though nicknamed
"Butcher," was merely a dull heavy-shouldered Briton, dogged, hard to
beat; the son of a South Sea merchant, retired and living at Barnet,
who swore by Walpole and King George.  But at Westminster these
convictions--and, confound it! they were the convictions of England,
after all--met with scurrilous derision; and here Master Randall
nursed a dull and inarticulate resentment in a world out of joint,
where the winning side was a butt for epigrams.  To win, and be
laughed at!  To have the account reopened in lampoons and witticisms,
contemptible but irritating, when it should be closed by the mere act
of winning!  It puzzled him, and he brooded over it, turning sulky in
the end, not vicious.  It was in no viciousness that he had flung a
book at young Murray's head and called him a lousy Jacobite, but
simply to provoke Wesley and get his grievance settled by
intelligible weapons, such as fists.

He knew his to be the unpopular side, and that even Freind, the Head
Master, would chuckle over the defeat of a Whig.  Outside of
Hutton's, who cheered him for the honour of their house, he had few
well-wishers; but among them was a sprinkling of boys bearing the
great Whig names--Cowpers, Sackvilles, Osborns--for whose sake and
for its own tradition the ring would give him fair play.

The second round began warily, Wesley sparring for an opening,
Randall defensive, facing round and round, much as a bullock fronts a
terrier.  He knew his game; to keep up his guard and wait for a
chance to get in with his long left.  He was cunning, too; appeared
slower than he was, tempting the other to take liberties, and,
towards the end of the round, to step in a shade too closely.  It was
but a shade.  Wesley, watching his eye, caught an instant's warning,
flung his head far back and sprang away--not quickly enough to avoid
a thud on the ribs.  It rattled him, but did no damage, and it taught
him his lesson.

Round 3.  Tempted in turn by his slight success, Randall shammed slow
again.  But once bitten is twice shy, and this time he overreached
himself, in two senses.  His lunge, falling short, let in the little
one, who dealt him a double knock--rap, rap, on either side of the
jaw--before breaking away.  Stung out of caution he rushed and
managed to close, but took a third rap which cut his upper lip.
First blood to Wesley.  The pair went to grass together, Randall on
top.  But it was the Tories who cheered.

Round 4.  Randall, having bought his experience, went back to sound
tactics.  This and the next two rounds were uninteresting and quite
indecisive, though at the end of them Wesley had a promising black
eye and Randall was bleeding at mouth and nose.  The old gentleman
rubbed his chin and took snuff.  This Fabian fighting was all against
the lighter weight, who must tire in time.

Yet he did not look like tiring, but stepped out for Round 7 with the
same inscrutable smile.  Randall met it with a shame-faced grin--
really a highly creditable, good-natured grin, though the blood about
his mouth did its meaning some injustice.  And with this there
happened that which dismayed many and puzzled all.  Wesley's fists
went up, but hung, as it were impotent for the moment, while his eyes
glanced aside from his adversary's and rested, with a stiffening of
surprise, on the corner of the ring where the old gentleman stood.
A cry went up from the King's Scholars--a groan and a warning.
At the sound he flung back his head instinctively--as Randall's left
shot out, caught him on the apple of the throat, and drove him
staggering back across the green.

The old gentleman snapped down the lid of his snuffbox, and at the
same moment felt a hand gripping him by the elbow.  "Now, how the--"
he began, turning as he supposed to address a Westminster boy, and
found himself staring into the face of a lady.

He had no time to take stock of her.  And although her fingers
pinched his arm, her eyes were all for the fight.

It had been almost a knock-down; but young Wesley just saved himself
by touching the turf with his fingertips and, resting so, crouched
for a spring.  What is more, he timed it beautifully; helped by
Randall himself, who followed up at random, demoralised by the happy
fluke and encouraged by the shouts of Hutton's to "finish him off."
In the fall Wesley had most of his remaining breath thumped out of
him; but this did not matter.  He had saved the round.

The old gentleman nodded.  "Well recovered: very pretty--very pretty
indeed!"  He turned to the lady.  "I beg your pardon, madam--"

"I beg yours, sir."  She withdrew her hand from his arm.

"If he can swallow that down, he may win yet."

"Please God!"

She stood almost a head taller than he, and he gazed up into a
singularly noble face, proud and strong, somewhat pinched about the
lips, but having such eyes and brows as belong to the few accustomed
to confront great thoughts.  It gave her the ineffable touch of
greatness which more than redeemed her shabby black gown and antique
bonnet; and, on an afterthought, the old gentleman decided that it
must have been beautiful in its day.  Just now it was pale, and one
hand clutched the silk shawl crossed upon her bosom.  He noted, too,
that the hand was shapely, though roughened with housework where the
mitten did not hide it.

She had scarcely glanced at him, and after a while he dropped his
scrutiny and gazed with her across the ring.

"H'm," said he, "dander up, this time!"

"Yes," the lady answered, "I know that look, sir, though I have never
seen it on _him_.  And I trust to see him wear it, one day, in a
better cause."

"Tut, madam, the cause is good enough.  You don't tell me I'm talking
to a Whig?--not that I'd dispute with a lady, Whig or Tory."

"A Whig?"  She fetched up a smile: she had evidently a reserve of
mirth.  "Indeed, no: but I was thinking, sir, of the cause of
Christ."

"Oh!" said the old gentleman shortly, and took snuff.

They were right.  Young Wesley stepped out this time with a honeyed
smile, but with a new-born light in his hazel eyes--a demoniac light,
lambent and almost playful.  Master Randall, caressed by them, read
the danger signal a thought too late.  A swift and apparently
reckless feint drew another of his slogging strokes, and in a flash
the enemy was under his guard.  Even so, for the fraction of a
second, victory lay in his arms, a clear gift to be embraced: a quick
crook of the elbow, and Master Wesley's head and neck would be snugly
in Chancery.  Master Wesley knew it--knew, further, that there was no
retreat, and that his one chance hung on getting in his blow first
and disabling with it.  He jabbed it home with his right, a little
below the heart: and in a second the inclosing fore-arm dragged limp
across his neck.  He pressed on, aiming for the point of the jaw; but
slowly lowered his hands as Randall tottered back two steps with a
face of agony, dropped upon one knee, clutching at his breast, and so
to the turf, where he writhed for a moment and fainted.

As the ring broke up, cheering, and surged across the green, the old
gentleman took snuff again and snapped down the lid of his box.

"Good!" said he; then to the lady, "Are you a relative of his?"

"I am his mother, sir."



CHAPTER II.


She moved across the green to the corner where Charles was coolly
sponging his face and chest over a basin.  "In a moment, ma'am!" said
he, looking up with a twinkle in his eye as the boys made way for
her.

She read the meaning of it and smiled at her own mistake as she drew
back the hand she had put out to take the sponge from him.  He was
her youngest, and she had seen him but twice since, at the age of
eight, he had left home for Westminster School.  In spite of the
evidence of her eyes he was a small child still--until his voice
warned her.

She drew back her hand at once.  Boys scorn any show of feeling, even
between mother and son; and Charles should not be ridiculed on her
account.  So he sponged away and she waited, remembering how she had
taught him, when turned a year old, to cry softly after a whipping.
Ten children she had brought up in a far Lincolnshire parsonage, and
without sparing the rod; but none had been allowed to disturb their
father in his study where he sat annotating the Scriptures or turning
an heroic couplet or adding up his tangled household accounts.

A boy pushed through the group around the basin, with news that
Butcher Randall had come-to from his swoon and wished to shake hands:
and almost before Charles could pick up a towel and dry himself the
fallen champion appeared with a somewhat battered grin.

"No malice," he mumbled: "nasty knock--better luck next time."

"Come, I say!" protested Charles, shaking hands and pulling a mock
face, "Is there going to be a next time?"

"Well, you don't suppose I'm _convinced_--" Randall began: but Mrs.
Wesley broke in with a laugh.

"There's old England for you!"  She brought her mittened palms
together as if to clap them, but they rested together in the very
gesture of prayer.  "'Won't be convinced,' you say? but oh, when it's
done you are worth it!  Nay--don't hide your face, sir!  Wounds for
an honest belief are not shameful, and I can only hope that in your
place my son would have shown so fair a temper."

"Whe-ew!" one of the taller boys whistled.  "It's Wesley's mother!"

"She was watching, too: the last two rounds at any rate.  I saw her."

"And I."

"--And so cool it might have been a dog-fight in Tuttle Fields.
Your servant, ma'am!"  The speaker made her a boyish bow and lifted
his voice: "Three cheers for Mrs. Wesley!"

They were given--the first two with a will.  The third tailed off;
and Mrs. Wesley, looking about her, laughed again as the boys,
suddenly turned shy or overtaken by a sense of delicacy, backed away
sheepishly and left her alone with her son.

"Put on your shirt," said she, and again her hand went out to help
him.  "I want you to take a walk with me."

Charles nodded.  "Have you seen Sam?"

"Yes.  You may kiss me now, dear--there's nobody looking.  I left him
almost an hour ago: his leg is mending, but he cannot walk with us.
He promises, though, to come to Johnson's Court this evening--I
suppose, in a sedan-chair--and greet your uncle Annesley, whom I have
engaged to take back to supper.  You knew, of course, that I should
be lodging there?"

"Sammy--we call him Sammy--told me on Sunday, but could not say when
you would be arriving here."

"I reached London last night, and this morning your uncle Matthew
came to my door with word that the _Albemarle_ had entered the river.
I think you are well enough to walk to the Docks with me."

"Well enough?  Of course I am.  But why not take a waterman from the
stairs here?"

"'Twill cost less to walk and hire a boat at Blackwall, if necessary.
Your father could give me very little money, Charles.  We seem to be
as poorly off as ever."

"And this uncle Annesley--" he began, but paused with a glance at his
mother, whose face had suddenly grown hot.  "What sort of a man is
he?"

"My boy," she said with an effort, "I must not be ashamed to tell my
child what I am not ashamed to hope.  He is rich: he once promised to
do much for Emmy and Sukey, and these promises came to nothing.
But now that his wife is dead and he comes home with neither chick
nor child, I see no harm in praying that his heart may be moved
towards his sister's children.  At least I shall be frank with him
and hide not my hope, let him treat it as he will."  She was silent
for a moment.  "Are _all_ women unscrupulous when they fight for
their children?  They cannot all be certain, as I am, that their
children were born for greatness: and yet, I wonder sometimes--"
She wound up with a smile which held something of a playful irony,
but more of sadness.

"Jacky could not come with you?"

"No, and he writes bitterly about it.  He is tied to Oxford--by lack
of pence, again."

By this time Charles had slipped on his jacket, and the pair stepped
out into the streets and set their faces eastward.  Mrs. Wesley was
cockney-bred and delighted in the stir and rush of life.  She, the
mother of many children, kept a well-poised figure and walked with
the elastic step of a maid; and as she went she chatted, asking a
score of shrewd questions about Westminster--the masters, the food,
the old dormitory in which Charles slept, the new one then rising to
replace it; breaking off to recognise some famous building, or to
pause and gaze after a company of his Majesty's guards.  Her own
masterful carriage and unembarrassed mode of speech--"as if all
London belonged to her," Charles afterwards described it--drew the
stares of the passers-by; stares which she misinterpreted, for in the
gut of the Strand, a few paces beyond Somerset House, she suddenly
twirled the lad about and "Bless us, child, your eye's enough to
frighten the town!  'Tis to be hoped brother Sam has not turned
Quaker in India; or that Sally the cook-maid has a beefsteak handy."

Mr. Matthew Wesley, apothecary and by courtesy "surgeon," to whose
house in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, they presently swerved aside,
had not returned from his morning's round of visits.  He was a
widower and took his meals irregularly.  But Sally had two covers
laid, with a pot of freshly drawn porter beside each; and here, after
Charles's eye had been attended to and the swelling reduced, they ate
and drank and rested for half an hour before resuming their walk.

So far, and until they reached the Tower, their road was familiar
enough; but from Smithfield onwards they had to halt and inquire
their way again and again in intervals of threading the traffic which
poured out of cross-streets and to and from the docks on their
right--wagons empty, wagons laden with hides, jute, scrap-iron,
tallow, indigo, woollen bales, ochre, sugar; trollies and
pack-horses; here and there a cordon of porters and warehousemen
trundling barrels as nonchalantly as a child his hoop.  The business
of piloting his mother through these cross-tides left Charles little
time for observation; but one incident of that walk he never forgot.

They were passing Shadwell when they came on a knot of people and two
watchmen posted at the corner of a street across which a reek of
smoke mingled with clouds of gritty dust.  Twice or thrice they heard
a crash or dull rumble of falling masonry.  A distillery had been
blazing there all night and a gang of workmen was now clearing the
ruins.  But as Charles and his mother came by the corner, the knot of
people parted and gave passage to a line of stretchers--six
stretchers in all, and on each a body, which the bearers had not
taken the trouble to cover from view.  A bystander said that these
were men who had run back into the building to drink the flaming
spirit, and had dropped insensible, and been crushed when the walls
fell in.  The boy had never seen death before; and at the sight of it
thrust upon him in this brutal form, he put out a hand towards his
mother to find that she too was swaying.

"Hallo!" cried the same bystander, "look out there! the lady's
fainting."

But Mrs. Wesley steadied herself.  "'Tis not _that_," she gasped,
at the same time waving him off; "'tis the fire--the fire!"
And stepping by the crossing she fled along the street with Charles
at her heels, nor ceased running for another hundred yards.
"You do not remember," she began, turning at length; "no, of course
you do not.  You were a babe, not two years old; nurse snatched you
out of bed--"

The odd thing was that, despite the impossibility, Charles seemed to
remember quite clearly.  As a child he had heard his sisters talk so
often of the fire at Epworth Rectory that the very scene--and
especially Jacky's escape--was bitten on the blank early pages as a
real memory.  He had half a mind now to question his mother about it
and startle her with details, but her face forbade him.

She recovered her colour in bargaining with a waterman at Blackwall
Stairs.  Two stately Indiamen lay out on the river below, almost
flank by flank; and, as it happened, the farther one was at that
moment weighing her anchor, indeed had it tripped on the cathead.
A cloud of boats hung about her, trailing astern as her head-sails
drew and she began to gather way on the falling tide.

The waterman, a weedy loafer with a bottle nose and watery blue eyes,
agreed to pull across for threepence; but no sooner were they
embarked and on the tide-way, than he lay on his oars and jerked his
thumb towards the moving ship.  "Make it a crown, ma'am, and I'll
overhaul her," he hiccupped.

Mrs. Wesley glanced towards the two ships and counted down threepence
deliberately upon the thwart facing her, at the same time pursing up
her lips to hide a smile.  For the one ship lay moored stem and stern
with her bows pointed up the river, and the other, drifting past, at
this moment swung her tall poop into view with her windows flashing
against the afternoon sun, and beneath them her name, the _Josiah
Childs_, in tall gilt letters.

"Better make it a crown, ma'am," the waterman repeated with a drunken
chuckle.

Mrs. Wesley rose in her seat.  Her hand went up, and Charles made
sure she meant to box the man's ears.  He could not see the look on
her face, but whatever it was it cowed the fellow, who seized his
oars again and began to pull for dear life, as she sat back and laid
her hand on the tiller.

"Easy, now," she commanded, after twenty strokes or so.  "Easy, and
ship your oar, unless you want it broken!"  But for answer he merely
stared at her, and a moment later his starboard oar snapped its
tholepin like a carrot, and hurled him back over his thwart as the
boat ran alongside the _Albemarle's_ ladder.

"My friend," said Mrs. Wesley coolly, "you have a pestilent habit of
not listening.  I hired you to row me to the _Albemarle_, and this, I
believe, is she." Then, with a glance up at the half-dozen grinning
faces above the bulwarks, "Can I see Captain Bewes?"

"Your servant, ma'am."  The captain appeared at the head of the
ladder; a red apple-cheeked man in shirt-sleeves and clean white
nankeen breeches, who looked like nothing so much as an overgrown
schoolboy.

"Is Mr. Samuel Annesley on board?"

Captain Bewes rubbed his chin.  He had grown suddenly grave.  "I beg
your pardon," said he, "but are you a kinswoman of Mr. Annesley's?"

"I am his sister, sir."

"Then I'll have to ask you to step on board, ma'am.  You may dismiss
that rascal, and one of my boats shall put you ashore."

He stepped some way down the ladder to meet her and she took his hand
with trepidation, while the _Albemarle's_ crew leaned over and
taunted the cursing waterman.

"There--that will do, my man.  I don't allow swearing here.
Steady, ma'am, that's right; and now give us a hand, youngster."

"Is--is he ill?" Mrs. Wesley stammered.

"Who?  Mr. Annesley?  Not to my knowledge, ma'am."

"Then he is on board?  We heard he had taken passage with you."

"Why, so he did; and, what's more, to the best of my knowledge, he
sailed.  It's a serious matter, ma'am, and we're all at our wits'
ends over it; but the fact is--Mr. Annesley has disappeared."



CHAPTER III.


That same evening, in Mr. Matthew Wesley's parlour, Johnson's Court,
Captain Bewes told the whole story--or so much of it as he knew.
The disappearance from on board his ship of a person so important as
Mr. Samuel Annesley touched his prospects in the Company's service,
and he did not conceal it.  He had already reported the affair at the
East India House and was looking forward to a highly uncomfortable
interview with the Board of Governors: but he was concerned, too, as
an honest man; and had jumped at Mrs. Wesley's invitation to sup with
her in Johnson's Court and tell what he could.

Mr. Matthew Wesley, as host, sat at the head of his table and puffed
at a churchwarden pipe; a small, narrow-featured man, in a
chocolate-coloured suit, with steel buttons, and a wig of
professional amplitude.  On his right sat his sister-in-law, her
bonnet replaced by a tall white cap: on his left the Captain in his
shore-going clothes.  He and the apothecary had mixed themselves a
glass apiece of Jamaica rum, hot, with sugar and lemon-peel.
At the foot of the table, with his injured leg supported on a
cushion, reclined the Reverend Samuel Wesley, Junior, Usher of
Westminster School, his gaunt cheeks (he was the plainest-featured of
the Wesleys) wan with recent illness, and his eyes fixed on Captain
Bewes's chubby face.

"Well, as I told you, Mr. Annesley's cabin lay beside my state-room,
with a window next to mine in the stern: and, as I showed Mrs. Wesley
to-day, my stateroom opens on the 'captain's cabin' (as they call
it), where I have dined as many as two dozen before now, and where I
do the most of my work.  This has three windows directly under the
big poop-lantern.  I was sitting, that afternoon, at the head of the
mahogany swing table (just as you might be sitting now, sir) with my
back to the light and the midmost of the three windows wide open
behind me, for air.  I had the ship's chart spread before me when my
second mate, Mr. Orchard, knocked at the door with word that all was
ready to cast off.  I asked him a few necessary questions, and while
he stood there chatting I heard a splash just under my window.
Well, that might have been anything--a warp cast off and the slack of
it striking the water, we'll say.  Whatever it was, I heard it,
turned about, and with one knee on the window-locker (I remember it
perfectly) took a glance out astern.  I saw nothing to account for
the sound: but I knew of a dozen things which might account for it--
anything, in fact, down to some lazy cabin-boy heaving the
dinner-scraps overboard: and having, as you'll understand, a dozen
matters on my mind at the moment, I thought no more of it, but turned
to Mr. Orchard again and picked up our talk.  To this day I don't
know that there was anything in the sound, but 'tis fair to tell you
all I can."--Captain Bewes took a sip at his grog, and over the rim
looked down the table towards Samuel, who nodded.

The Captain nodded back, set down his glass, and resumed.  "Quite so.
The next thing is that Mr. Orchard, returning to deck two minutes
later and having to pass the door of Mr. Annesley's cabin on his way,
ran against an old Hindu beggar crouching there, fingering the
door-handle and about to enter--or so Orchard supposed, and kicked
him up the companion.  He told me about it himself, next day, when we
found the cabin empty and I began to make inquiries.  'Now here,'
says you, 'here's a clue,' and I'm not denying but it may be one.
Only when you look into it, what does it amount to?  Mr. Annesley--
saving your presence--was known for a stern man: you may take it for
certain he'd made enemies over there, and these Hindus are the devil
(saving your presence again, ma'am) for nursing a grudge.  'Keep a
stone in your pocket seven years: turn it, keep it for another seven;
'twill be ready at hand for your enemy'--that's their way.  But, to
begin with, an old _jogi_ is nothing strange to meet on a ship before
she clears.  These beggars in the East will creep in anywhere.
And, next, you'll hardly maintain that an old beggarman ('seventy
years old if a day,' said Orchard) was going to take an active man
like Mr. Annesley and cram him bodily through a cabin window?
'Tis out of nature.  And yet when we broke into his cabin,
twenty-four hours later, there was not a trace of him: only his boxes
neatly packed, his watch hanging to the beam and just running down, a
handful of gold and silver tossed on to the bunk--just as he might
have emptied it from his pockets--nothing else, and the whole cabin
neat as a pin."

"But," objected Mr. Matthew Wesley, "if this _jogi_--or whatever you
call him--had entered the cabin for no good, he would hardly have
missed the money lying on the bunk."

"Sir, you must not judge these eastern mendicants by your London
beggars.  They are not thieves, nor avaricious, but religious men
practising self-denial, who collect alms merely to support life, and
believe that money so bestowed blesses the giver."

"A singularly perverted race!" was the apothecary's comment.

Captain Bewes turned towards Mr. Samuel, who next spoke from the
penumbra at the far end of the table.  "I believe, Captain," said he,
"that these mendicants are as a rule the most harmless of men?"

"Wouldn't hurt a fly, sir.  I have known some whose charity extended
to the vermin on their own bodies."

Mrs. Wesley sat tapping the mahogany gently with her finger-tips.
"To my thinking, the key of this mystery, if there be one, lies at
Surat.  My brother had powerful enemies: his letters make that clear.
We must inquire into _them_--their numbers and the particular grudge
they bore him--and also into the state of his mind.  He was not the
sort of person to be kidnapped in open day."

--"By a Thames waterman, for instance, madam?" said Captain Bewes,
jocularly, but instantly changed his tone.  "You suggest that he may
have disappeared on his own account?  To avoid his enemies, you
mean?"

"As to his motives, sir, I say nothing: but it certainly looks to me
as if he had planned to give you the slip."

"Tut-tut!" exclaimed Matthew.  "And left his money behind?
Not likely!"

"We have still his boxes to search--"

"Under power of attorney," Sam suggested.  "We must see about getting
it to-morrow."

"Well, madam"--Captain Bewes knocked out his pipe, drained his glass,
and rose--"the boxes shall be delivered up as soon as you bring me
authority: and I trust, for my own sake as well as yours, the
contents will clear up this mystery for us.  I shall be tied to my
ship for the next three days, possibly for another week--"

He was holding out his hand to Mrs. Wesley when the door opened
behind him, and Sally appeared.

"If you please," she announced, "there's a gentleman without, wishes
to see the company.  He calls himself Mr. Wesley."

"It cannot be Charles?"  Mrs. Wesley turned towards her son Sam.
"But Charles must be at Westminster and in bed these two hours!"

"Surely," said he.

"'Tis not young Master Charles, ma'am, nor anyone like him: but a
badger-faced old gentleman who snaps up a word before 'tis out of
your mouth."

"Show him in," commanded Matthew: and the words were scarcely out
before the visitor stood in the doorway.  Mrs. Wesley recognised him
at once as the old gentleman who had stood beside her that morning
and watched the fight.

"Good evening, ma'am.  I learned your address at Westminster: or, to
be precise, at the Reverend Samuel Wesley's.  You are he, I
suppose?"--here he swung round upon Sam--"Your amiable wife told me I
should find you here: and so much the better, my visit being on
family business.  Eh?  What?  I hope I'm not turning out this
gentleman?"--indicating Captain Bewes--"No?  Well, if you were
leaving, sir, I won't detain you: since, as I say, mine is family
business.  Mr. Matthew Wesley, I presume?"--with a quick turn towards
his host as Captain Bewes slipped away--"And brother of this lady's
husband?  Quite so.  No, I thank you, I do not smoke; but will take
snuff, if the company allows.  I have heard reports of your skill,
sir.  My name is Wesley also: Garrett Wesley, of Dangan, County
Meath, in Ireland: I sit for my county in Parliament and pass in this
world for a respectable person.  You'll excuse these details, ma'am;
but when a man breaks in upon a family party at this hour of the
night, he ought to give some account of himself."

Mrs. Wesley rose from her chair and dropped him a stately curtsey.
"The name suffices for us, sir.  I make my compliments to one of my
husband's family."

"I'm obliged to you, ma'am, and pleased to hear the kinship
acknowledged.  A good family, as families go, though I say it.
We have held on to Dangan since Harry Fifth's time; and to our name
since Guy of Welswe was made a thane by Athelstan.  We have a knack,
ma'am, of staying the course: small in the build but sound in the
wind.  It did me good, to-day, to see that son of yours step out for
the last round."

"Excuse me--" put in Samuel, pushing a candle aside and craning
forward (he was short-sighted) for a better look at the visitor.

"Ha?  You have not heard?  Well, well--oughtn't to tell tales out of
school, and certainly not to the Usher: but your mother and I, sir,
had the fortune, this morning, to witness a bout of fisticuffs--Whig
against Tory--and perhaps it will not altogether distress you to
learn that the Whig took a whipping.  I like that boy of yours,
ma'am: he has breed.  I do not forget"--with another bow--"his
mother's descent from the Annesleys of Anglesea and Valentia: but she
will forgive me that, while watching him, I thought rather of his
blood derived from my own great-great-grandfather Robert, and of our
common ancestors--Walter, the king's standard-bearer, Edward, who
carried the heart of the Bruce to Palestine--but I weary Mr. Matthew
perhaps?"

"Not at all, sir," the apothecary protested: rubbing a lump of sugar
on the rind of a lemon.  "You will suffer me to mix you a glass of
punch while I listen?  I am a practical man, who has been forced to
make his own way in the world, and has made it, I thank God.  I never
found these ancestors of any use to me; but if one of them had time
and leisure to carry the heart of the Bruce to Jerusalem I hope I
have the leisure to hear about it.  Did he return, may I ask?"

"He did not, sir.  The Saracens slew him before the Holy Sepulchre,
and in fact the undertaking was, as you would regard it,
unprofitable.  But it gave us the palmer-shells on our coat of arms--
argent, a cross sable, in each corner three escallops of the last.
I believe, ma'am, the coat differs somewhat in your husband's branch
of the family?"  He spread a hand on the table so that the
candle-light fell on his signet ring.

Mrs. Wesley smiled.  "We keep the scallops, sir."

"Scallops!"  grunted the apothecary.  "Better for you, Susanna, if
your husband had ever found the oyster!"

Garrett Wesley glanced at him from under his badger-gray brows.
"We may be coming to the oyster, sir, if you have patience.  Crest, a
wivern proper: motto, 'God is love.'  I am thinking, ma'am, a child
of yours might find some use for that motto, since children of my own
I have none."

"There could be none nobler, sir," Mrs. Wesley answered.

"'Tis his then, ma'am, if you can spare me your son Charles."

The lump of sugar dropped from old Matthew's fingers and splashed
into the tumbler, and with that there fell a silence on the room.
Samuel half rose from his couch and passed a nervous hand over his
thick black hair.  His purblind eyes sought his mother's; hers were
fastened on this eccentric kinsman, but with a look that passed
beyond him.  Her lips were parted.

"God is love," she repeated it, soft and low, but with a thrill at
which Garrett Wesley raised his head.  "If ever I had distrusted it,
that love is manifested here to-night.  There was a kinsman, sir,
from whom I hoped much for my son; to-day I learn that he is lost--
dead, most like--and those hopes with him.  He was my brother, and
God--who understands mothers, and knows, moreover, how small was ever
Samuel Annesley's kindness--must forgive me that I grieved less for
him than for Charles's sake.  The tale was brought us by the honest
man who has just left, and it is scarcely told when another kinsman
enters and lays his fortune in Charles's hands.  Therefore I thank
God for His goodness and"--her voice wavered and she ended with a
frank laugh at her own expense--"you, on your part, may read the
quality of the gratitude to expect from me.  At least I have been
honest, sir."

"Ma'am, I have lived long enough to value honesty above gratitude.
I make this offer to please myself.  The point is, Do I understand
that you accept?"

"As for that," she answered deliberately--and Sam leaned forward
again--"as for that, I am a married woman, and have learnt to submit
to my husband's judgment.  To be sure I have acquired some skill in
guessing at it."  She smiled again.  "My husband is no ordinary man
to jump at this offer.  He has three sons, besides his women folk--"

"Whom he neglects," put in Matthew.

"His dearest ambition is to see each of these three an accredited
servant of Christ.  He desires learning for them, and the priest's
habit, and the living God in their hearts.  It will appear strange to
you that he should rate these above wealth and a castle in Ireland
and a seat in Parliament; but in fact he would.  I know him.  Think
what you will of his ambition, it has this much of sincerity, that he
is willing to pinch and starve for it.  This, too, I have proved."

"You might add, mother," interposed Sam, "that he would like all
these the better with a little success to season them."

"No, I will add that he has perhaps enough respect for me to listen
to my entreaties and allow Charles to choose for himself.  And this
for the moment, sir, is all I can promise, though I thank you from
the bottom of my heart."

"Tut, woman!"  snapped the apothecary.  "Close with the offer and
don't be a fool.  My brother, sir, may be pig-headed--sit down,
Susanna!"

"You and I, sir," said Garrett Wesley, "as childless men, are in no
position to judge a parent's feelings."

"Children?  Let me tell you that I had a son, sir, and he broke my
heart.  He is in India now, I believe; a middle-aged rake.  I give
you leave to find and adopt _him_, so long as you don't ask me to see
his face again.  One was too many for me, and here's a woman with ten
children alive--Heaven knows how many she's buried--ten children
alive and half-clothed, and herself the youngest of twenty-five!"
He broke off and chuckled.  "Did you ever hear tell, sir, what old
Dr. Martin said after baptizing Susanna here?  Someone asked him
'How many children had Dr. Annesley?'  'I forget for the moment,'
said the doctor, but 'tis either two dozen or a quarter of a
hundred.'  And here's a woman, sir, with such a sense of her
offspring's importance that she higgles over accepting a fortune for
one of 'em!"

"Can you suffer this, ma'am?" Garrett Wesley began.  But the
apothecary for the moment was neither to hold nor to bind.

"Sam!  _You_ have a grain of sense in your head.  Don't sit there
mum-chance, man!  Speak up and tell your mother not to be a fool.
You are no child; you know your father, and that, if given one chance
in a hundred to act perversely, he'll take it as sure as fate.
For heaven's sake persuade your mother to use common caution and keep
his finger out of this pie!"

"Nay, sir," answered Sam, "I think she has the right of it, that my
father ought to be told; and that the chances are he will leave it to
Charles to decide."

Matthew Wesley flung up his hands.  "'Tis a conspiracy of folly!
Upon my professional word, you ought all to be strait-waistcoated!"
He glared around, found speech again, and pounced upon Sam.
"A pretty success _you've_ made of your father's ambitions--you, with
your infatuation for that rogue Atterbury, and your born gift of
choosing the cold side of favour!  You might have been Freind's
successor, Head Master of Westminster School!  Where's your
chance now?  You'll not even get the under-mastership, I doubt.
Some country grammar school is your fate--I see it; and all for lack
of sense.  If you lacked learning, lacked piety, lacked--"

"Excuse me, sir, but these are matters I have no mind to discuss with
you.  When Freind retires Nicoll will succeed him, and Nicoll
deserves it.  Whether I get Nicoll's place or no, God will decide,
who knows if I deserve it.  Let it rest in His hands.  But when you
speak of Bishop Atterbury, and when I think of that great heart
breaking in exile, why then, sir, you defeat yourself and steel me
against my little destinies by the example of a martyr."

He said it awkwardly, pulling the while at his bony knuckles; but he
said it with a passion which cowed his uncle for the moment, and drew
from his mother a startled, almost expectant, look.  Yet she knew
that Sam's eyes could never hold (for her joy and terror) the
underlying fire which had shone in her youngest boy's that morning,
and which mastered her--strong woman though she was--in her
husband's.  And this was the tragic note in her love for Sam--the
more tragic because never sounded.  Sam had learning, diligence,
piety, a completely honest mind; he had never caused her an hour's
reasonable anxiety; only--to this eldest son she had not transmitted
his father's genius, that one divine spark which the Epworth
household claimed for its sons as a birthright.  An exorbitant, a
colossal claim!  Yet these Wesleys made it as a matter of course.
Did the father know that one of his sons had disappointed it?
Sam knew, at any rate; and Sam's mother knew; and each, aware of the
other's knowledge, tried pitifully to ignore it.

Matthew Wesley bounced from his chair, unlocked the glazed doors of a
bookcase behind him and pulled forth a small volume.

"Here you have it, sir, '_Maggots: by a Scholar_'--that's my brother.
'_Poems on Several Subjects never before Handled,_'--that's the man
all over.  You may wager that if any man of sense had ever hit on
these subjects, my brother had never come within a mile of 'em.
Listen: 'The Grunting of a Hog,'  'To my Gingerbread Mistress,'
'A Box like an Egg,'  'Two Soldiers killing one another for a Groat,'
'A Pair of Breeches,'  'A Cow's Tail'--there's titles for you!
Cow's tail, indeed!  And here, look you, is the author's portrait for
a frontispiece, with a laurel-wreath in his hair and a maggot in
place of a parting!  'Maggots'!  He began with 'em and he'll end with
'em.  Maggots!"  He slammed the two covers of the book together and
tossed it across the table.

Mr. Garrett Wesley, during this tirade, had fallen back upon the
attitude of a well-bred man who has dropped in upon a painful family
quarrel and cannot well escape.  He had taken his hat and stood with
his gaze for the most part fastened on the carpet, but lifted now and
then when directly challenged by the apothecary's harangue.
The contemned volume skimmed across the table and toppled over at his
feet.  With much gravity he stooped and picked it up; and as he did
so, heard Mrs. Wesley addressing him.

"And the curious part of it is," she was saying calmly, "that my
brother-in-law means all this in kindness!"

"No, I don't," snapped Matthew; and in the next breath, "well, yes, I
do then.  Susanna, I beg your pardon, but you'd provoke a saint."
He dropped into his chair.  "You know well enough that if I lose my
temper, 'tis for your sake and the girls'."

"I know," she said softly, covering his hand with hers.  "But you
must e'en let us go our feckless way.  Sir,"--she looked up--
"must this decision be made to-night?"

"Not at all, ma'am, not at all.  The lad, if you will, may choose
when he comes of age; I have another string to my bow, should he
refuse the offer.  But meantime, and while 'tis uncertain to which of
us he'll end by belonging, I hope I may bear my part in his school
fees."

"But that, to some extent, must bind him."

"No: for I propose to keep my share of it dark, with your leave.
But you shall hear further of this by letter.  May I say, that if I
chose his father's son, I have come to-day to set my heart on his
mother's?  I wish you good night, ma'am!  Good night, sirs!"



CHAPTER IV.


In a corner of the Isle of Axholme, in Lincolnshire, and on the
eastern slope of a knoll a few feet above the desolate fenland, six
sisters were seated.  The eldest, a woman of thirty-three, held a
book open in her lap and was reading aloud from it; reading with
admirable expression and a voice almost masculine, rich as a
deep-mouthed bell.  And, while she read, the glory of the verse
seemed to pass into her handsome, peevish face.

Her listeners heard her contentedly--all but one, who rested a little
lower on the slope, with one knee drawn up, her hands clasped about
it, and her brows bent in a frown as she gazed from under her
sun-bonnet across the level landscape to the roofs and church-tower
of Epworth, five miles away, set on a rise and facing the evening
sun.  Across the field below, hemmed about and intersected with dykes
of sluggish water, two wagons moved slowly, each with a group of
labourers about it: for to-night was the end of the oat-harvest, and
they were carrying the last sheaves of Wroote glebe.  After the
carrying would come supper, and the worn-out cart-horse which had
brought it afield from the Parsonage stood at the foot of the knoll
among the unladen kegs and baskets, patiently whisking his tail to
keep off the flies, and serenely indifferent that a lean and lanky
youth, seated a few yards away with a drawing-board on his knee, was
attempting his portrait.

The girl frowned as she gazed over this group, over the harvesters,
the fens, the dykes, and away toward Epworth: and even her frown
became her mightily.  Her favourite sister, Molly, seated beside her,
and glancing now and again at her face, believed that the whole world
contained nothing so beautiful.  But this was a fixed belief of
Molly's.  She was a cripple, and in spite of features made almost
angelic by the ineffable touch of goodness, the family as a rule
despised her, teased her, sometimes went near to torment her; for the
Wesleys, like many other people of iron constitution, had a healthy
impatience of deformity and weakness.  Hetty alone treated her always
gently and made much of her, not as one who would soften a defect,
but as seeing none; Hetty of the high spirits, the clear eye, the
springing gait; Hetty, the wittiest, cleverest, mirthfullest of them
all; Hetty, glorious to look upon.

All the six were handsome.  Here they are in their order: Emilia,
aged thirty-three (it was she who held the book); Molly,
twenty-eight; Hetty, twenty-seven; Nancy, twenty-two, lusty,
fresh-complexioned, and the least bit stupid; Patty, nearing
eighteen, dark-skinned and serious, the one of the Wesleys who could
never be persuaded to see a joke; and Kezzy, a lean child of fifteen,
who had outgrown her strength.  By baptism, Molly was Mary; Hetty,
Mehetabel; Nancy, Anne; Patty, Martha; and Kezzy, Kezia.  But the
register recording most of these names had perished at Epworth in the
Parsonage fire, so let us keep the familiar ones.  Grown women and
girls, all the six were handsome.  They had an air of resting there
aloof; with a little fancy you might have taken them, in their plain
print frocks, for six goddesses reclining on the knoll and watching
the harvesters at work on the plain below--poor drudging mortals and
unmannerly:

     "High births and virtue equally they scorn,
      As asses dull, on dunghills born;
      Impervious as the stones their heads are found,
      Their rage and hatred steadfast as the ground."

(The lines were Hetty's.) When the Wesleys descended and walked among
these churls, it was as beings of another race; imperious in pride
and strength of will.  They meant kindly.  But the country-folk came
of an obstinate stock, fierce to resent what they could not
understand.  Half a century before, a Dutchman, Cornelius Vermuyden
by name, had arrived and drained their country for them; in return
they had cursed him, fired his crops, and tried to drown out his
settlers and workmen by smashing the dams and laying the land under
water.  Fierce as they were, these fenmen read in the Wesleys a will
to match their own and beat it; a scorn, too, which cowed, but at the
same time turned them sullen.  Parson Wesley they frankly hated.
Thrice they had flooded his crops and twice burnt the roof over his
head.

If the six sisters were handsome, Hetty was glorious.  Her hair,
something browner than auburn, put Emilia's in the shade; her brows,
darker even than dark Patty's, were broader and more nobly arched;
her transparent skin, her colour--she defied the sunrays carelessly,
and her cheeks drank them in as potable gold clarifying their blood--
made Nancy's seem but a dairymaid's complexion.  Add that this
colouring kept an April freshness; add, too, her mother's height and
more than her mother's grace of movement, an outline virginally
severe yet flexuous as a palm-willow in April winds; and you have
Hetty Wesley at twenty-seven--a queen in a country frock and cobbled
shoes; a scholar, a lady, amongst hinds; above all, a woman made for
love and growing towards love surely, though repressed and thwarted.

Emilia read:

     "So spake our general mother, and, with eyes
      Of conjugal attraction unreproved,
      And meek surrender, half-embracing leaned
      On our first father; half her swelling breast
      Naked met his, under the flowing gold
      Of her loose tresses hid; he, in delight
      Both of her beauty and submissive charms,
      Smiled with superior love (as Jupiter
      On Juno smiles, when he impregns the clouds
      That shed May flowers), and pressed her matron lip
      With kisses pure.  Aside the Devil turned
      For envy, yet with jealous leer malign
      Eyed them askance; and to himself thus plained:--
     'Sight hateful, sight tormenting!' . . ."

Molly interrupted with a cry; so fiercely Hetty had gripped her wrist
of a sudden.  Emily broke off:

"What on earth's the matter, child?"

"Is it an adder?" asked Patty, whose mind was ever practical.
"Johnny Whitelamb warned us--"

"An adder?"  Hetty answered her, cool in a moment and deliberate.
"Nothing like it, my dear; 'tis the old genuine Serpent."

"What do you mean, Hetty?  Where is it?"

"Sit down, child, and don't distress yourself.  Having rendered
everybody profoundly uncomfortable within a circuit of two miles and
almost worried itself to a sun-stroke, it has now gone into the house
to write at a commentary on the Book of Job, to be illustrated with
cuts, for one of which--to wit, the War-horse which saith, 'Ha, ha,'
among the trumpets--you observe Johnny Whitelamb making a study at
this moment."

"I think you must mean papa," said Patty; "and I call it very
disrespectful to compare him with Satan; for 'twas Satan sister Emmy
was reading about."

"So she was: but if you had read Plutarch every morning with papa, as
I have, you would know that the best authors (whom I imitate)
sometimes use comparisons for the sake of contrast.  Satan, you
heard, eyed our first parents askance: papa would have stepped in
earlier and forbidden Adam the house.  Proceed, Emilia!  How goes
Milton on?--

     "Adam and Eve and Pinch-me
      Went to the river to bathe:
      Adam and Eve were drown'd,
      And who do you think was saved? . . ."

Molly drew her wrist away hurriedly.  "Hetty!" she cried, as Emilia
withdrew into her book in dudgeon.  "Hetty, dear! I cannot bear you
to be flippant.  It hurts me, it is so unworthy of you."

"Hurts you, my mouse?"--this was one of Hetty's tender, fantastic
names for her.  "Why then, I ask your pardon and must try to amend.
You are right.  I _was_ flippant; you might even have said vulgar.
Proceed, Emilia,--do you hear?  I beg your pardon.  Tell us more of
the Arch-Rebel--

     "And courage never to submit or yield
      And what is else not to be overcome . . ."

Say it over in your great voice, Emmy, and purge us poor rebels of
vulgarity."

"Pardon me," Emilia answered icily, "I am not conscious of being a
rebel--nor of any temptation to be vulgar."

Molly shot an imploring glance at Hetty: but it was too late, and she
knew it.

"Hoity-toity!  So we are not rebellious--not even Emilia when she
thinks of her Leybourne!"  Emilia bit her lip.  "Nor Patty when she
thinks of Johnny Romley?  And we are never vulgar?  Ah, but forgive
your poor sister, who goes into service next week!  You must allow
her to practise the accomplishments which will endear her to the
servants' hall, and which Mr. Grantham will pay for and expect.
Indeed--since Milton is denied us--I have some lines here; a petition
to be handed to mother to-night when she returns.  She may not grant
it, but she must at least commend her daughter's attempt to catch the
tone."  And drawing a folded paper from her waistband, she drawled
the following, in the broadest Lincolnshire accent:

      "_Hetty the Serving-maid's Petition to her Mother._"
       "Dear mother, you were once in the ew'n [oven],
        As by us cakes is plainly shewn,
        Who else had ne'er come arter:
        Pray speak a word in time of need,
        And with my sour-looked father plead
        For your distressed darter!"

Nancy and Kezzy laughed; the younger at the absurd drawl, which hit
off the Wroote dialect to a hair; Nancy indulgently--she was safely
betrothed to one John Lambert, an honest land-surveyor, and Mr.
Wesley's tyranny towards suitors troubled her no longer.  But the
others were silent, and a tear dropped on the back of poor Molly's
hand.

As Hetty took it penitently, Patty spoke again.  "You are wrong, at
all events," she persisted, "about papa's being in the house, for I
saw him leave it, more than half an hour ago, and walk off on the
Bawtry road."

"He has gone to meet mother, then," said Kezzy, "and poor Sander will
have to trudge the last two miles."

"Pray Heaven, then, they do not quarrel!" sighed Emilia, shutting the
book.

"My dear!" Hetty assured her, "that is past praying for.  She will be
weary to death; and he, as you know, is in a mood to-day!  Though you
thought it unfeeling, I rejoiced when he announced he was not riding
to Bawtry to meet her but would send Sander instead: for whatever
news she brought he would have picked holes in it and wrangled all
the way home.  But this is his masterpiece.  It contrives to get the
most annoyance out of both plans.  I often wonder"--here Hetty
clasped her knee again, and, leaning back against the turf, let her
eyes wander over the darkening landscape--"if our father and mother
love each other the better for living together in one perpetual rasp
of temper?"

"What is the hour?" asked Emilia.

Hetty glanced at the sun.

"Six, or a few minutes past."

"She cannot be here before half-past seven, and by then the moon will
be rising.  We will give her a regal harvest-supper, and enthrone her
on the last sheaf.  I have sent word to have it saved.  And there
shall be a fire, and baked potatoes."

Kitty clapped her hands.

"And," Hetty took up the tale, "she shall sit by the embers and tell
us all her wanderings, like Aeneas, till the break of morning.
But before we bid Johnny Whitelamb desist from drawing and build a
fire, let us be six princesses here and choose the gifts our mother
shall bring home from town."

"You know well enough she has no money to buy gifts," objected Patty.

"Be frugal, then, in wishing, dear Pat.  For my part, I demand only a
rich Indian uncle: but he must be of solid gold.  He should come to
us along the Bawtry road in a palanquin with bells jingling at the
fringes.  Ann, sister Ann, run you to the top of the mound and say if
you see such an uncle coming.  Moll, dear, 'tis your turn to wish."

"I wish," said Molly, "for a magic mirror."  Hetty gave a start,
thinking she spoke of a glass which should hide her deformity.
But Molly went on gravely.  "I should call it my Why Mirror, for it
would show us why we live as we do, and why mother goes ill-clothed
and sometimes hungry.  No, I am not grumbling; but sometimes I wish
to _know_--only to _know!_  I think my mirror would tell me something
about my brothers, and what they are to do in the world.  And I am
sure it would tell me that God is ordering this for some great end.
But I am weak and impatient, and, if I knew, I could be so much
braver!"  She ended abruptly, and for a moment or two all the sisters
were silent.

"Come, Nancy," said Hetty at length.  "Patty will wish for a harp,
for certain"--Patty's burning desire to possess one was as notorious
in the family as her absolute lack of ear for music--"and Emmy will
ask for a new pair of shoes, if she is wise."  Emilia tucked a foot
out of sight under her skirt.

"But I don't understand this game," put in Kezzy.  "A moment ago it
was _Blue Beard_, and now it seems to be _Beauty and the Beast_.
Which is it?"

"We may need Molly's mirror to tell us," Hetty answered lightly: and
with that she glanced up as a shadow darkened the golden sky above
the mound, and a voice addressed the sisters all.  "Good evening,
young ladies!"



CHAPTER V.


A broad-shouldered man looked down on them from the summit of the
knoll, which he had climbed on its westward side; a tradesman to all
appearance, clad in a dusty, ill-fitting suit.  So far as they could
judge--for he stood with the waning light at his back--he was not
ill-featured; but, by his manner of mopping his brow, he was most
ungracefully hot, and Molly declared ever afterwards that his thick
worsted stockings, seen against the ball of the sun, gave his calves
a hideous hairiness.  She used to add that he was more than half
drunk.  His manner of accosting them--half uneasy, half familiar--
froze the Wesley sisters.

"Good evening, young ladies!  And nice and cool you look, I will say.
Can any of you tell me if Parson Wesley's at home?"

"He is not," Emilia answered.  "He has gone towards Bawtry."

"Well now, that's what the maid told me at the parsonage: but I
thought, maybe, 'twas a trick--a sort of slip-out-by-the-back and
not-at-home to a creditor.  I've heard of parsons playing that game,
and no harm to their conscience, because no lie told."

"Sir!"  Emilia rose and faced him.

"Oh, no offence, miss! I believe _you_; and for that matter the
wench seemed fair-spoken enough, and gave me a drink of cider.
'Tis the matter of a debt, you see."  He drew a scrap of dirty
paper from his pocket.  "Twelve-seventeen-six, for repairs done to
Wroote Parsonage; new larder, fifteen; lead for window-casements,
eight-six; new fireplace to parlour, one-four-six: ancettera.
I'm a plumber by trade--plumber and glazier--and in business at
Lincoln.  William Wright's my name, and Right by nature."  Here he
grinned.  "Your father would have everything of the best; Epworth
tradesman not worth a damn, excuse me, and meaning no offence.
So he said, or words to that effect.  A very particular gentleman,
and his nose at the time into everything.  But a man likes to be
paid, you understand?  So, having a job down Owston way, I thought
I'd walk over and jog his reverence's memory."

"The money will be paid, sir, in due course, I make no doubt," said
Emilia bravely.  Some of her sisters were white in the face.
Hetty alone seemed to ignore the man's presence, and gazed over the
fields towards Epworth.

"Ah, 'in due course!'  Let me tell you, miss, that if all the money
owing to me was paid, I'd--I'd--"  He broke off.  "I have ambitions,
_I_ have: and a head on my shoulders.  London's the only place for a
man like me.  Gad, if _these_ were only full"--he slapped his
pockets--"there's no saying I wouldn't up and ask one of you to come
along o' me!  There's that beauty, yonder," he jerked his thumb at
Hetty.  "She's the pick.  My word, and you _are_ a beauty, bridling
to yourself there, and thinking dirt of me.  Go on, I like you for
it: you can't show too much spirit for William Wright."  Molly's hand
closed over Hetty's two, clasped and lying in her lap: Hetty sat
motionless as a statue.  "If only your father would trade you off
against an honest debt--But you're gentry: I knows the sort.
Well, well, 'tis a long tramp back to Owston: so here's wishing you
good night, missies all.  If I take back no money, and no pay but a
pint of sour cider, I've seen the prettiest picter in all
Lincolnshire; so we'll count it a holiday."

He was gone.  With the dropping of the sun a chilly shadow had fallen
on the mound, and for some moments the sisters remained motionless,
agonised, each in her own way distraught.

"The brute!" said Kezzy at length, drawing a long breath.

Hetty rose deliberately.  "Child," she said, and her voice was hard,
"don't be a goose!  The poor creature came for his money.  He had the
right to insult us."

She smoothed the dew from her skirt and walked swiftly down the
slope.

At the foot of it Johnny Whitelamb had risen and was holding his
drawing aslant, in some hope, perhaps, that the angle might correct
the perspective of old Mettle's portrait.  Certainly it was a
villainous portrait, as he acknowledged to himself with a sigh.
Parts of it must be rubbed out, and his right hand rummaged in his
pocket and found a crust.  But Johnny, among other afflictions,
suffered from an unconscionable appetite.  While he doubted where to
begin, his teeth met in the bread, and he started guiltily, for it
was more than half eaten when Hetty swooped down on him.

"Quick, Johnny! run you to the woodstack while I unpack the baskets.
Mother will be arriving in an hour, and we are to give her supper out
here, with baked potatoes.  Run, that's a good soul: and on your way
get Jane to give you a tin of oatmeal--tell her I must have it if she
has to scrape the bottom of the bin; _and_ a gridiron, _and_ a
rolling-pin.  We will have griddle-cakes.  Run--and whatever you do,
don't forget the rolling-pin!"

Johnny ran with long ungainly strides, his coat-tails flapping like a
scarecrow's.  The coat, in fact, was a cast-off one of Mr. Wesley's,
narrow in the chest, short in the sleeves, but inordinately full in
the skirts.  The Rector had found and taken Johnny from the Charity
School at Wroote to help him with the maps and drawings for his great
work, the _Dissertationes in Librum Jobi_, and in return the lad
found board and lodging and picked up what scraps he could of Greek
and Latin.  He wrote a neat hand and transcribed carefully; his
drawings were atrocious, and he never attempted a woodcut without
gashing himself.  But he kept a humble heart, and for all the family
a devotion almost canine.  To him the Rector, with his shovel-hat and
stores of scholarship, was a god-like man; with his air, too, of
apostolical authority--for Johnny, whom all Epworth set down as good
for nothing, reflected the Wesley notions of the Church's majesty.
In his dreams--but only in his dreams--he saw himself such a man, an
Oxford scholar, treading that beatific city of which the Rector
disclosed a glimpse at times; his brows bathed by her ineffable aura,
and he--he, Johnny Whitelamb--baptized into her mysteries, a
participant with the Rector's second son John, now at Christ Church--
of whom (he noted) the family spoke but seldom and with a constraint
which hinted at hopes too dear to be other than fearful.  Meanwhile
he did his poor tasks, stayed his stomach when he could, and rewarded
his employers with love.

He loved them all: but Hetty he worshipped.

He knew his place.  For an hour past he had been sitting, as became a
servant, beyond earshot of the sisters' talk, yet within call, should
they summon him.  Now the goddess had descended from her mountain
with a command, and he ran toward the woodstack as he would have run
and plunged into the water-dyke, had she bidden him.

He returned to find her waiting with her sleeves tucked above her
elbows.

"Oh, Johnny--I forgot the tinder-box!" she cried.

He dropped his burdens and produced it triumphantly from his tail
pocket.

"I thought of that!"

"But you must not!"--as he dropped on his knees and began to unbind
and break up the sticks.  "This is my business.  I am going into
service, in ten days--at Kelstein: and you must watch and tell me
what I do amiss."

She pulled the faggot towards her, broke up the sticks, and built the
fragments daintily into a heap, with a handful of dry leaves as
basis.  The twilight deepened around them as she built.  Next she
struck flint on steel, caught the spark on tinder, and blew.
Johnny watched the glow on her cheeks wakening and fading, and,
watching, fell into a brown study.

"There!" she exclaimed, straightening herself upon her knees as the
blaze caught.  "Is that a good omen for Kelstein?"

Her eyes were on the sticks, and in their crackling she did not
listen for his answer, but commanded him to take a pitcher of water
and pour, while she mixed and kneaded the meal.  To the making of
bread, cakes, pastry, Hetty brought a born gift; a hand so light,
quick, and cool, that Johnny could have groaned for his own fumbling
fingers.  A dozen cakes were finished and banked in the wood-ashes as
the fire died down to a steadily glowing mass.  By this time the
landscape about them lay flat to the eye and gray, touched with the
faint gold of moonrise, and just then Emilia called down from the
mound that the travellers were in sight on the Bawtry road.

The others ran to meet them: but Hetty remained by her task, silent,
and Johnny silent beside her.  Together they spread the two meals,
one beside the fire for the family, the other some fifty yards off
for the harvesters, now moving towards the rick-yard with the last
load.

Hetty was not her mother's favourite.  Emilia and Patty divided that
honour by consent, though the balance appeared now and then to
incline towards Patty.  But between Mrs. Wesley and her fairest
daughter there rested always a shadow of restraint, curious enough in
its origin, which was that they knew each other better than the rest.
Often and quite casually Hetty would guess some thought in her
mother's mind hidden from her sisters.  She made no parade of this
insight, set up no claim upon it; merely gave proof of it in passing,
and fell back on her attitude of guarded affection.  And Mrs. Wesley
seemed to draw back uneasily from these reflections of herself, and
take refuge in Patty, who, of all her children, understood her the
least.

So now when the others brought their mother to the feast in triumph,
Hetty swept her a curtsey with skirt held wide, then went straight
and kissed her on both cheeks.

"Ah, what a dear truant 'tis! and how good 'tis to have her home
again!"

She did not ask (as Nancy or Patty would assuredly have asked) what
had become of her father.  She noted, even in the half-light, a flush
on her mother's temples, and guessed at once that there had been a
duel of tempers on the road, and that, likely enough, papa had
bounced into the house in a huff.  The others had, in fact, witnessed
this exit.  Hetty, who divined it, went the swiftest way to efface
the memory.  She alone, on occasion, could treat her mother
playfully, as an equal in years; and she did so now, taking her by
the hand, and conducting her with mock solemnity to the seat of
honour.

"It _is_ good to be home," Mrs. Wesley admitted as they seated her,
dusted her worn shoes, and plied her with milk and hot griddle-cakes,
potatoes slit and sprinkled with salt upon appetising lumps of
butter.  She forgot her vexation.  Even the Wroote labourers seemed
less surly than usual.  One or two, as they gathered, stepped forward
to welcome her and wish her health before ranging themselves at their
separate meal: and soon a pleasant murmur of voices went up from
either group at supper in the broad meadow under the moon.

"But where have you left uncle Annesley?" asked Kezzy.  "And are we
all to be rich and live in comfort at last?"

Mrs. Wesley shook her head.  "He was not on board the _Albemarle_."
She told of her visit to the ship and the captain's story; adding
that their uncle's boxes, when handed over and examined, contained no
papers at all, no will, no bonds, not so much as a scrap to throw
light on the mystery.  And as they sat silent in dismay, she went on
to tell of Garrett Wesley and the fortune unexpectedly laid at
Charles's feet.

Emilia was the first to find speech.  "So," she commented bitterly
"yet another of our brothers is in luck's way.  Always our brothers!
Westminster and Oxford for them, and afterwards, it seems, a fortune:
while we sit at home in rags, or drudge and eat the bread of service.
Oh, why, mother?  You and we suffer together--do you believe it can
be God's will?"

Hetty drew a long breath.  "Perhaps," she said drearily, "Charles
will clothe us when he gets this money.  Perhaps he will even find us
wooers in place of those to whom papa has shown the door."

"I am not sure your father will allow Charles to accept," said Mrs.
Wesley gently; "though I may persuade him to let the lad decide for
himself when he comes of age.  Until then the offer stands open."

"I sometimes wonder," Emilia mused, "if our father be not staring
mad."

"Hush, child! That is neither for you to say nor for me to hear.
You know it has been almost a vow with him to dedicate your three
brothers to God's service."

"Charles might inherit Dangan Castle and serve God too.  There is no
law that an Irish squire must spend all his time cock-fighting."

"These vows!" murmured Hetty, flinging herself back in her favourite
attitude and nursing her knee.  "If folks will not obey Christ's
command and swear not at all, they might at least choose a vow which
only hurts themselves.  Now, papa"--Hetty shot a glance at her
mother, who felt it, even in the dusk, and bent her eyes on the
smouldering fire.  The girl had heard (for it was kitchen gossip)
that Mr. Wesley had once quarrelled with his wife over politics, and
left Epworth rectory vowing never to return to her until she
acknowledged William III. for her rightful king; nor indeed had
returned until William's death made the vow idle and released him.
"Now, papa"--after a pause--"has an unfortunate habit, like Jephthah,
of swearing to another's hurt.  For instance, since Sukey married
Dick Ellison, he seems to have vowed that none of us shall have a
lover; and, so, dear mother, you might have found us just now, like
six daughters of Jephthah, bewailing our fates upon a hill."

"He has no fault to find with my John Lambert," put in Nancy.

Hetty did not heed.  "I have no patience with these swearers.  A man,
or a woman for that matter, should have the courage to outbrave an
oath when it hurts the innocent.  Did God require the blood of
Jephthah's daughter? or of the sons of Rizpah?  Think, mother, if
this fire were lit in the fields here, and you sitting by it to scare
the beasts from your three sons!  I cannot like that David.
Saul, now, was a man and a king, every inch of him, even in his dark
hours.  David had no breeding--a pretty, florid man, with his curls
and pink cheeks; one moment dancing and singing, and the next weeping
on his bed.  Some women like that kind of man: but his complexion
wears off.  In the end he grows nasty, and from the first he is
disgustingly underbred."

"Hetty!"

"I cannot help it, mother.  Had I been Michal, and Saul's daughter,
and had seen that man capering before the ark, I should have scorned
him as she did."

And Hetty stood up and strode away into the darkness.

In the darkness, almost an hour later, Molly found her by the edge of
a dyke.  She had a handkerchief twisted between her fingers, and kept
wringing it as she paced to and fro.  Why had she given way to
passion?  Why, on this night of all nights, had she saddened her
mother?  And why by an outburst against David, of all people in the
world?

She could not tell.  When the temper is overcharged it overflows,
nine times out of ten, into a channel absurdly irrelevant.

What on earth had David to do with it?  She halted and laughed while
Molly entreated her.  In the dyke the black water crawled at her
feet, and upon it a star shone.

"Star Mary--_stella maris_, if only you will shine steadily and guide
me!  Kiss me now, and hear that I am sorry."

But it was Molly who, later that night, put out both arms in the bed
where they slept together: and with a wail which lasted until Hetty
enfolded her and held her close.

"I was dreaming,"  she muttered.  "I dreamt--of that man."



CHAPTER VI.


For six months of the year, sometimes for longer, the thatched
parsonage at Wroote rose out of a world of waters, forlorn as a
cornstack in a flood, and the Rector of Epworth journeyed between his
two parishes by boat, often in soaked breeches, and sometimes with a
napkin tied over his hat and wig.  But in this harvest weather, while
the sun shone and the meadow-breezes overcame the odours of damp
walls and woodwork, of the pig-sty at the back and of rotting weed
beyond, the Wesley household lived cheerfully enough, albeit pinched
for room; more cheerfully than at Epworth, where the more spacious
rectory, rebuilt by Mr. Wesley at a cost of 400 pounds, remained
half-furnished after fourteen years--a perpetual reminder of debt.

Here at any rate, although Wroote tithe brought in a bare 50 pounds a
year, they could manage to live and pay their way, and feel meanwhile
that they were lessening the burden.  For Dick Ellison, Sukey's
husband, had undertaken to finance Epworth tithe, and was renting the
rectory for a while with the purpose of bringing his father-in-law's
affairs to order--a filial offer which Mr. Wesley perforce accepted
while hating Dick from the bottom of his heart, and the deeper
because of this necessity.

Dick was his "wen," "more unpleasant to him than all his physic"--a
red-faced, uneducated squireen, with money in his pockets (as yet), a
swaggering manner due to want of sense rather than deliberate
offensiveness, and a loud patronising laugh which drove the Rector
mad.  Comedy presided over their encounters; but such comedy as only
the ill-natured can enjoy.  And the Rector, splenetic, exacting,
jealous of authority, after writhing for a time under Dick's candid
treatment of him as a child, usually cut short the scene by bouncing
off to his library and slamming the door behind him.

Even Mrs. Wesley detested her son-in-law, and called him "a coarse,
vulgar, immoral man "; but confessed (in his absence) that they were
all the better off for his help.  Ease from debt she had never known;
but here at Wroote the clouds seemed to be breaking.  Duns had been
fewer of late.  With her poultry-yard and small dairy she was earning
a few pounds, and this gave her a sense of helpfulness she had not
known at Epworth; a pound saved may be a pound gained, but a pound
earned can be held in the hand, and the touch makes a wonderful
difference.  The girls had flung themselves heartily into the
farm-work: they talked of it, at night, around the kitchen hearth
(for of the two sitting-rooms one had been given up to their father
for his library, and the other Hetty vowed to be "too grand for the
likes of dairy-women."  Also the marsh-vapours in the Isle of Axholme
can be agueish after sunset, even in summer, and they found the fire
a comfort).  Hetty had described these rural economies in a long
letter to Samuel at Westminster, and been answered by an "Heroick
Poem," pleasantly facetious:

     "The spacious glebe around the house
      Affords full pasture to the cows,
      Whence largely milky nectar flows,
       O sweet and cleanly dairy!"

     "Unless or Moll, or Anne, or you,
      Your duty should neglect to do,
      And then 'ware haunches black and blue
       By pinching of a fairy."

--With much in the same easy vein about "sows and pigs and porkets,"
and the sisters' housewifely duties:

     "Or lusty Anne, or feeble Moll,
        Sage Pat or sober Hetty."

And the sisters were amused by the lines and committed them to heart.

They had learnt of the pleasures of life mainly through books; and
now their simple enjoyment was, as it were, more real to them because
it could be translated into verse.  In circumstances, then, they were
happier than they had been for many years: nor was poverty the real
reason for Hetty's going into service at Kelstein; since Emilia had
been fetched home from Lincoln (where for five years she had been
earning her livelihood as teacher in a boarding-school) expressly to
enjoy the family's easier fortune, and with a promise of pleasant
company to be met in Bawtry, Doncaster and the country around Wroote.

This promise had not been fulfilled, and Emilia's temper had soured
in consequence.  Nor had the Rector's debts melted at the rate
expected.  The weight of them still oppressed him and all the
household: but Mrs. Wesley knew in her heart that, were poverty the
only reason, Hetty need not go.  Hetty knew it, too, and rebelled.
She was happy at Wroote; happier at least than she would be at
Kelstein.  She did not wish to be selfish: she would go, if one of
the sisters must.  But why need any of them go?

She asked her mother this, and Mrs. Wesley fenced with the question
while hardening her heart.  In truth she feared what might happen if
Hetty stayed.  They had made some new acquaintances at Wroote and at
Bawtry there was a lover, a young lawyer . . . a personable young
man, reputed to be clever in his profession. . . . Mrs. Wesley knew
nothing to his discredit . . . and sure, Hetty's face might attract
any lover.  So her thoughts ran, without blaming the girl, whose
heart she believed to be engaged, though she could not tell how
deeply.  But the Rector must be considered, and he had taken an
instant and almost frantic dislike for the youth.  There was nothing
unusual in this: for, like many another uxorious man (with all his
faults of temper he was uxorious), Mr. Wesley hated that anyone
should offer love to his daughters.  This antipathy of his had been a
nuisance for ten years past; since the girls were, when all was said,
honest healthy girls with an instinct for mating, and not to be
blamed for making their best of the suitors which Epworth and its
neighbourhood provided.  But since Sukey's marriage it had deepened
into something like a mania, and now, in Hetty's case, flared up with
a passion incomprehensible if not quite insane.  He declared his
hatred of lawyers--and certainly he had suffered at their hands: he
forbade the young man to visit the house, to correspond with Hetty,
even to see her.

Mrs. Wesley watched her daughter and was troubled.  The Rector's veto
had been effective enough once or twice with Hetty's sisters.
Emilia, on a visit with her uncle Matthew in London, had fallen
passionately in love with a young Oxonian named Leybourne.  But Sam's
wife had discovered something to his discredit and had spoken to Sam,
and Sam to the Rector.  The match was broken off, and Emilia
renounced her love, though she never forgave the mischief-maker.
Patty again had formed an attachment for John Romley, who had been a
pupil of Sam's, had afterwards graduated at Lincoln College, Oxford,
and was now the ambitious young master of the Free School at Epworth.
Again the Rector interfered, and Patty sighed and renounced her
romance.  Would Hetty, too, renounce and acquiesce?  Mrs. Wesley
doubted: nay, was even afraid.  Hetty alone had never been overawed
by her father, had never acknowledged the _patria potestas_ with all
its exorbitant claims.  She had never actually revolted, but she
defied, somehow, the spell he had cast upon the others: and somehow--
here was the marvel--Mrs. Wesley, who more than any other of the
family had yielded to the illusion and fostered it, understood Hetty
the better for her independence.  The others, under various kinds of
pressure, had submitted: but here was the very woman she might have
been, but for her own submission!  And she feared for that woman.
Hetty must leave Wroote, or there was no knowing how it might end.

"Mother, I believe you are afraid of what I may do."

Mrs. Wesley, incapable of a lie or anything resembling it, bent her
head.  "I have been afraid, once or twice," she said.

"So you send me away?  That seems to me neither very brave nor very
wise.  Will there be less danger at Kelstein?"

Her mother started.  "Does _he_ know of your going?  You don't tell
me he means to visit you there?"

"Forgive me, dearest mother, but your first question is a little
foolish--eh?"  Hetty laughed and quoted:

     "But if she whom Love doth honour
      Be conceal'd from the day--
      Set a thousand guards upon her,
      Love will find out the way."

She put up her chin defiantly.

"I wish, child, you would tell me if--if this is much to you," said
Mrs. Wesley wistfully, with a sudden craving to put her arms around
her daughter and have her confidence.

Hetty hesitated for a fatal moment, then laughed again.  "I am not a
child precisely; and we read one another, dear, much better than we
allow.  Your second question you have no right to ask.  You are
sending me away--"

"No right, Hetty?"

"You are sending me away," Hetty repeated, and seemed to be
considering.  After a pause she added slowly: "You others are all
under papa's thumb, and you make me a coward.  But I will promise you
this"--here her words began to drag--"and to strengthen me no less
than to ease your fears, I promise it, mother.  If the worst come to
the worst, it shall not be at Kelstein that I choose it, but here
among you all.  I think you will gain little by sending me to
Kelstein, mother: but you need not be afraid for me there."

"You speak in enigmas."

"And my tone, you would say, is something too theatrical for your
taste?  Well, well, dear mother, 'tis the privilege of a house with a
doom upon it to talk tragedy: for, you know, Molly declares we have a
doom upon us, though we cannot agree what 'tis.  I uphold it to be
debt, or papa's tantrums, or perhaps Old Jeffrey [apparently the
Wesley family ghost] but she will have it to be something deeper, and
that one day we shall awake and see that it includes all three."

"It appears to be my doom," said Mrs. Wesley, her face relaxing, "to
listen to a deal of nonsense from my daughters."

"And who's to blame, dear?  You chose to marry at twenty, and here
you have a daughter unmarried at seven and twenty.  Now I respect and
love you, as you well know: but every now and then reason steps in
and proves to me that I am seven years your senior--which is absurd,
and the absurder for the grave wise face you put upon it.  So come
along, sweet-and-twenty, and help me pack my buskins."  Hetty led the
way upstairs humming an air which (though her mother did not
recognise it) was Purcell's setting of a song in _Twelfth Night_:

     "Journeys end in lovers meeting,
      Every wise man's son doth know."



CHAPTER VII.


On the day fixed, and at nine in the morning, Dick Ellison, who had
promised to drive Hetty over to Kelstein, arrived with his gig.
Sukey accompanied him, to join in the farewells and spend a few hours
at the parsonage pending his return.

Now these visits of Sukey's were a trial to her no less than to her
mother and sisters.  She knew that they detested her husband, and
(what was worse) she had enough of the Wesley in her to perceive why
and how: nevertheless, being a Wesley, she kept a steady face on her
pain.  Stung at times to echo Dick's sentiments and opinions, as it
were in self-defence, she tried to soften them down and present them
in a form at least tolerable to her family.  It was heroic, but
uncomfortable; and they set aside the best parlour for it.

Sukey would have preferred the kitchen.  In person she was short and
plump, and her face expressed a desire to be cheerful.  She had
little or none of that grace by which her sisters walked in the
commonest cotton frocks as queens.  In childhood she had been noted
for her carelessness in attire, and now obediently flaunted her
husband's taste in bonnets.

Her headdress to-day had a dreadful coquettishness.  Dick had found
it at Lincoln and called on the company to admire.  It consisted of
three large mock water-lilies on a little mat of muslin, and was
perched on her piled hair so high aloft that their gaze, as they
scanned it, seemed to pass far over her head.  She longed to tear it
down, cast it on the floor, and be the Sukey they knew.

The plate of cake and biscuits on the table gave the parlour a last
funereal touch.  Dick was boisterously talkative.  The others
scarcely spoke.  At length Hetty, who had been struggling to swallow
a biscuit, and well-nigh choking over it, rose abruptly, kissed her
mother, and went straight to her father's room.

He sat at his writing-table, busy as usual with his commentary upon
the Book of Job.  At another table by the window Johnny Whitelamb
bent over a map, with his back to the light.  He glanced up as she
entered: she could not well read his eyes for the shadow, and perhaps
for some dimness in her own: but he rose, gathered his papers
together, and slipped from the room.

"Papa, Dick Ellison is in the parlour."

"So my ears inform me."

"He wishes to see you."

"Then you may take him my compliments and assure him that he will
not."

"But, papa, the gig is at the door.  I have come to say good-bye."

"Ah, in that case I will step out to the door and see you off; but I
will not be button-holed by Dick Ellison." He rose and stood eyeing
her, pinching his chin between thumb and forefinger.  "You have
something to say to me, I suspect."

"I am going to Kelstein," Hetty began firmly.  "I would like to obey
you there, sir, as the others do at home.  I do not mean outwardly:
but to feel, while I am absent, that I am earning--"  She paused and
cast about for a word.

"You will be earning, of course.  There is always satisfaction in
that."

"I am not thinking of money."

"Of my approval, then?  Your employer, Mr. Grantham, is an honest
gentleman: I shall trust his report of you."

"Papa, I came to beg you for more than that.  Will you not let me
feel that I am earning something more?--that if, as times goes on, my
conduct pleases you, you will be more disposed to consider--to grant
me--"

"Mehetabel!"

"I love him, papa!  I cannot help it.  Sir--!"

She put out both hands to him, her eyes welling.  But he had turned
sharply away from her cry, and strode across the room in his
irritation.  Her hands fell, and one caught at the edge of the table
for support while she leaned, bowing her head.

He came abruptly back.  "Are you aware, Mehetabel, that you have
proposed a bargain to me?  I do not bargain with my children:
I expect obedience.  Nor as a father am I obliged to give my reasons.
But since you are leaving us, and I would not dismiss you harshly,
let me say that I have studied this man for whom you avow a fondness;
and apart from his calling--which I detest--I find him vain, foppish,
insincere.  He has _levitas_ with _levitas_: I believe his heart to
be as shallow as his head.  I know him to be no fit mate for one of
my daughters; least of all for you who have gifts above your
sisters--gifts which I have recognised and tried to improve.
Child, summon your pride to you, and let it help your obedience."
He broke off and gazed out of the window.  "If," said he more softly,
"our fate be not offered to us, we must make it.  If, while our true
fate delays, there come to us unworthy phantoms simulating it, we
should test them; lest impatient we run to embrace vanity, and
betray, not our hopes alone, but the purpose God had in mind for us
from the beginning."

Hetty looked up.  She might have thought that she was twenty-seven,
and asked herself how long was it likely to be before a prince came
across those dreary fields to the thatched parsonage, seeking her.
But her heart was full of the man she loved, and she thought only
that her father did him bitter injustice.

She shivered and lifted her face.  "Good-bye, papa," she said coldly.

He kissed her on the cheek, and took a step to follow her to the
door; but thought better of it and returned to the window.  He heard
the door close upon her, and five minutes later saw her whisked away
in the gig by Dick Ellison's side.



CHAPTER VIII.


He continued to stare out of the window long after the gig had
disappeared over the low horizon: a small, nervous, indomitable
figure of a man close upon his sixty-second birthday, standing for a
while with his back turned upon his unwieldy manuscripts and his jaw
thrust forward obstinately as he surveyed the blank landscape.
He had the scholar's stoop, but this thrust of the jaw was habitual
and lifted his face at an angle which gave an "up-sighted" expression
to his small eyes, set somewhat closely together above a long
straight nose.  Nose, eyes, jaw announced obstinacy, and the eyes,
quick and fiery, warned you that it was of the aggressive kind which
not only holds to its purpose, but never ceases nagging until it be
attained.  In build he was lean and wiry: in carriage amazingly
dignified for one who (to be precise) stood but 5 feet 5 and a half
inches high.

His father had been a non-juring clergyman, one of the many ejected
from their livings on St. Bartholomew's Day, 1662; and he himself had
been educated as a Nonconformist at Mr. Morton's famous academy on
Newington Green, where Daniel Defoe had preceded him as a pupil, and
where he had heard John Bunyan preach.  At the conclusion of his
training there he was pitched upon to answer some pamphlets levelled
against the Dissenters, and this set him on a course of reading which
produced an effect he was far from intending: for instead of writing
the answer he determined to renounce Dissent and attach himself to
the Established Church.  He dwelt at that time with his mother and an
old aunt, themselves ardent Dissenters, to whom he could not tell his
design.  So he arose before daybreak one morning, tramped sixty miles
to Oxford, and entered himself at Exeter College as a poor scholar.
This was in August, 1683.

He took up his residence in Oxford with forty-five shillings in his
pocket.  He studied there five years, and during that time received
from his family and friends just five shillings; obtained his
Bachelor's degree, and departed seven pounds and fifteen shillings
richer than when he entered the University.  The winter of 1683 was a
hard beginning for a scholar too poor to buy fuel, the cold being so
severe in the Thames valley that coaches plied as freely on the river
from the Temple to Westminster as if they had gone upon the land.
Yet "I tarried," he afterwards wrote, "in Exeter College, though I
met with some hardships I had before been unacquainted with, till I
was of standing sufficient to take my Bachelor's degree; and not
being able to subsist there afterwards, I came to London during the
time of my Lord Bishop of London's suspension by the High Commission,
and was instituted into deacon's orders by my Lord Bishop of
Rochester, at his palace at Bromley, August 7th, 1688."

He had maintained himself by instructing wealthier undergraduates and
writing their exercises for them (as a servitor he had to black their
boots and run their errands); also by scribbling for John Dunton, the
famous London bookseller, whose acquaintance he had made during his
last year at Mr. Morton's.  With all this he found time and the will
to be charitable, and had visited the poor creatures imprisoned in
the Castle at Oxford--many for debt.  He lived to take the measure of
this kindness, and to see it repeated by his sons.

_Maggots: or Poems on Several Subjects never before Handled_ was no
very marketable book of rhymes.  Yet it served its purpose and helped
him, through Dunton, to become acquainted with a few men of letters
and learning.  He had something better, too, to cheer his start in
London.  Dunton in 1682 had married Elizabeth, one of the many
daughters of Dr. Samuel Annesley, the famous Dissenter, then
preaching at a Nonconformist church which he had opened in Little St.
Helen's, Bishopsgate.  Young Wesley, a student at Newington Green,
had been present at the wedding, with a copy of verses in his pocket:
and there, in a corner of the Doctor's gloomy house in Spital Yard,
he came on the Doctor's youngest daughter, a slight girl of fourteen,
seated and watching the guests.

She was but a child, and just then an unhappy one, though with no
childish trouble.  Minds ripened early in Annesley House, where
scholars and divines resorted to discuss the battle raging between
Church and Dissent.  Susanna Annesley had listened and brooded upon
what she heard; and now her convictions troubled her, for she saw, or
thought she saw, the Church to be in the right, and herself an alien
in her father's house, secretly rebellious against those she loved
and preparing to disappoint them cruelly.  She knew her father's
beliefs to be as strong and deep as they were temperately expressed.

So it happened that Samuel Wesley, halting awkwardly (as a
hobbledehoy will) before this slip of a girl and stammering some
words meant to comfort her for losing her sister, presently found
himself answering strange questions, staring into young eyes which
had somehow surprised his own doubts of Dissent, and beyond them into
a mind which had come to its own decision and quietly, firmly,
invited him to follow.  It startled him so that love dawned at the
same moment with a lesser shock.  He seated himself on the window
cushion beside her, and after this they talked a very little, but
watched the guests, feeling like two conspirators in the crowd,
feeling also that the world was suddenly changed for them both.

And thus it came about that Samuel Wesley dropped his pen, packed his
books, and tramped off to Oxford.  He was back again now, after five
years, with his degree, but no money as yet to marry on.  He started
with a curacy at 28 pounds a year; was appointed chaplain on board a
man-of-war, when his income rose to 70 pounds; and began an epic poem
on the Life of Christ, scribbling (since he had leisure) at the rate
of two hundred couplets a day; but soon returned to London, where he
obtained a second curacy and 30 pounds year.  His pen earned him
another 30 pounds, and on this he decided to marry.

Between him and Susanna Annesley there had been little talk of love,
but no doubt at all.  She was now close upon twenty, and ready to
marry him when he named the day.  So married they were, in 1689.
Less than a year later their first child, Samuel, was born in their
London lodgings, and soon after came an offer, from the Massingberd
family, through the Marquis of Normanby, of the living of South
Ormsby in Lincolnshire.  Thither accordingly they journeyed on
Midsummer Day, 1690, and there resided until the spring of 1697 in a
vicarage little better than a mud-built hut.  There Mrs. Wesley bare
Emilia, Susannah and Molly, besides other children who died in
infancy, and there the Rector put forth his _Life of our Blessed Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ.  A heroic poem in ten books_: besides such
trifles as "The Young Student's Library: containing Extracts and
Abridgments of the most Valuable Books printed in England and in the
Foreign Journals from the year '65 to this time.  To which is added
A New Essay upon all sorts of Learning."

Close by the parish church stood the Hall, the great house of the
Lord Marquis of Normanby who in 1694 made Mr. Wesley his domestic
chaplain.  The Marquis was a rake, and he and his mistresses gave the
poor clergyman many searchings of heart.  There was one who took
a fancy to Mrs. Wesley and would be intimate with her.  Coming home
one day and finding this visitor seated with his wife, Mr. Wesley
went up to her, took her by the hand and very fairly handed her out.
It cost him his living: but the Marquis, being what is called a good
fellow in the main, bore him no grudge; nay, rather liked his spirit,
and afterwards showed himself a good friend to the amount of twenty
guineas, to which the Marchioness (but this is more explicable) added
five from her own purse.

By good fortune the living of Epworth fell vacant just then, and in
accordance with some wish or promise of the late Queen Mary, to whom
he had dedicated his _Life of Christ_, Mr. Wesley was presented to
it, a decent preferment, worth about 200 pounds a year in the
currency of those times.  But by this time his family was large; he
was in debt; the fees to be paid before taking up the living ate
farther into his credit; a larger house had to be maintained, with
three acres of garden and farm-buildings; and his new parishioners
hated his politics and made life as miserable for him as they could.
They were savage fighters, but they found their match.  In 1702 they
set fire secretly to the parsonage-house, and burned down two-thirds
of it.  In the winter of 1704 they destroyed a great part of his crop
of flax.  This was the year of Blenheim, and upon news of the victory
Mr. Wesley sat down to commemorate it in heroic verse.  The poem
(published in the early days of 1705), if inferior to Mr. Addison's
on the same occasion, ran to five hundred and ninety-four lines, and
contained compliments enough to please the great Duke of
Marlborough, who sent for its author, rewarded him with the
chaplaincy of Colonel Lepelle's regiment, and promised him a
prebend's stall.  The Dissenters, who (with some excuse, perhaps)
looked upon Mr. Wesley as that worst of foes, a deserter from their
own ranks, using their influence in Parliament and at Court, had him
deprived of his regiment and denied the stall.  In April Queen Anne
dissolved Parliament, and in May the late Tory members for the county
of Lincoln, Sir John Thorold--and the Dymoke who then held--as his
descendant holds to-day--the dignity of Royal Champion, fought and
lost an election with the Whig candidates, Colonel Whichcott and
Mr. Albert Bertie.  The Dissenters of course supported these; and
Mr. Wesley, scorning insults and worse, the unpopular side: with what
results we may read in these extracts from letters to the Archbishop
of York.

                                       Epworth, June 7th, 1705.

     I went to Lincoln on Tuesday night, May 29th, and the election
     began on Wednesday, 30th.  A great part of the night our Isle
     people kept drumming, shouting, and firing of pistols and guns
     under the window where my wife lay, who had been brought to bed
     not three weeks.  I had put the child to nurse over against my
     own house; the noise kept his nurse waking till one or two in
     the morning.  Then they left off, and the nurse being heavy with
     sleep, overlaid the child.  She waked, and finding it dead, ran
     over with it to my house almost distracted, and calling my
     servants, threw it into their arms.  They, as wise as she, ran
     up with it to my wife and, before she was well awake, threw it
     cold and dead into hers.  She composed herself as well as she
     could, and that day got it buried.

     A clergyman met me in the castle yard and told me to withdraw,
     for the Isle men intended me a mischief.  Another told me he had
     heard near twenty of them say, "if they got me in the castle
     yard, they would squeeze my guts out."  My servant had the same
     advice.  I went by Gainsbro', and God preserved me.

     When they knew I was got home, they sent the drum and mob, with
     guns etc.  as usual, to compliment me till after midnight.
     One of them, passing by on Friday evening and seeing my children
     in the yard, cried out "O ye devils!  We will come and turn ye
     all out of doors a-begging shortly."  God convert them, and
     forgive them!

     All this, thank God, does not in the least sink my wife's
     spirits.  For my own, I feel them disturbed and
     disordered. . . .

The rebuilding of the parsonage and some unhappy essays in farming
his glebe had run the Rector still farther in debt: and now, not
satisfied with winning the election, his enemies struck at him
privily.  His next letter is dated not three weeks later from the
debtors' ward in Lincoln.

                             Lincoln Castle, June 25th, 1705.

     My Lord,--Now I am at rest, for I am come to the haven where I
     have long expected to be.  On Friday last (June 23rd), when I
     had been, in christening a child, at Epworth, I was arrested in
     my churchyard by one who had been my servant, and gathered my
     tithe last year, at the suit of one of Mr. Whichcott's relations
     and zealous friends (Mr Pinder) according to their promise when
     they were in the Isle before the election.  The sum was not
     thirty pounds, but it was as good as five hundred.  Now they
     knew the burning of my flax, my London journey, and their
     throwing me out of my regiment had both sunk my credit and
     exhausted my money.  My adversary was sent to, when I was on the
     road, to meet me, that I might make some proposals to him.
     But all his answer was that 'I must immediately pay the whole
     sum, or go to prison.'  Thither I went, with no great concern to
     myself: and find much more civility and satisfaction here than
     _in brevibus gyaris_ of my own Epworth.  I thank God, my wife
     was pretty well recovered and churched some days before I was
     taken from her; and hope she'll be able to look to my family, if
     they don't turn them out of doors as they have often threatened
     to do.  One of my biggest concerns was my being forced to leave
     my poor lambs in the midst of so many wolves.  But the great
     Shepherd is able to provide for them and to preserve them.
     My wife bears it with that courage which becomes her, and which
     I expected from her.

     I don't despair of doing some good here (and so I sha'n't quite
     lose the end of living), and it may be, do more in this new
     parish than in my old one: for I have leave to read prayers
     every morning and afternoon here in the prison, and to preach
     once a Sunday, which I choose to do in the afternoon when there
     is no sermon at the minster.  And I'm getting acquainted with my
     brother jail-birds as fast as I can; and shall write to London
     next post, to the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge,
     who, I hope, will send me some books to distribute among
     them. . . .

The next letter, dated from prison on September 12th, proves that he
had reasons only too good to be fearful.

     The other matter is concerning the stabbing of my cows in the
     night since I came hither, but a few weeks ago; and endeavouring
     thereby to starve my forlorn family in my absence; my cows being
     all dried by it, which was their chief subsistence; though I
     hope they had not the power to kill any of them outright. . . .

     The same night the iron latch of my door was twined off, and the
     wood hacked in order to shoot back the lock, which nobody will
     think was with an intention to rob my family.  My housedog, who
     made a huge noise within doors, was sufficiently punished for
     his want of politics and _moderation_, for the next day but one
     his leg was almost chopped off by an unknown hand.  'Tis not
     every one could bear these things; but, I bless God, my wife is
     less concerned with suffering them that I am in the writing, or
     than I believe your Grace will be in reading them. . . . Oh, my
     lord!  I once more repeat it, that I shall some time have a more
     equal Judge than any in this world.

     Most of my friends advise me to leave Epworth, if e'er I should
     get from hence.  I confess I am not of that mind, because I may
     yet do good there; and 'tis like a coward to desert my post
     because the enemy fire thick upon me.  They have only wounded me
     yet and, I believe, _can't_ kill me.  I hope to be home by
     Xmass.  God help my poor family! . . .

By the end of the year (the Archbishop and other friends assisting) a
good part of his debts had been paid and Mr. Wesley was at home
again.  From Epworth he refused to budge; and there, for three years
and more, the rage of his enemies slumbered and his affairs grew
easier.  John (if we do not count the poor infant overlaid) had been
the last child born before his imprisonment.  Now arrived Patty, in
the autumn of 1706, and Charles, in December, 1707.  A third was
expected, and shortly, when in the night of February 9th, 1709, the
parsonage took fire again and burned to the ground in fifteen
minutes.

     On Wednesday last, at half an hour after eleven at night, in a
     quarter of an hour's time or less, my house at Epworth was
     burned down to the ground--I hope by accident; but God knows
     all.  We had been brewing, but had done all; every spark of fire
     quenched before five o'clock that evening--at least six hours
     before the house was on fire.  Perhaps the chimney above might
     take fire (though it had been swept not long since) and break
     through into the thatch.  Yet it is strange I should neither see
     nor smell anything of it, having been in my study in that part
     of the house till above half an hour after ten.  Then I locked
     the doors of that part of the house where my wheat and other
     corn lay, and went to bed.

     The servants had not been in bed a quarter of an hour when the
     fire began.  My wife being near her time, and very weak, I lay
     in the next chamber.  A little after eleven I heard "Fire!"
     cried in the street, next to which I lay.  If I had been in my
     own chamber, as usual, we had all been lost.  I threw myself out
     of bed, got on my waistcoat and nightgown, and looked out of
     window; saw the reflection of the flame, but knew not where it
     was; ran to my wife's chamber with one stocking on and my
     breeches in my hand; would have broken open the door, which was
     bolted within, but could not.  My two eldest children were with
     her.  They rose, and ran towards the staircase, to raise the
     rest of the house.  There I saw it was my own house, all in a
     light blaze, and nothing but a door between the flame and the
     staircase.

     I ran back to my wife, who by this time had got out of bed,
     naked, and opened the door.  I bade her fly for her life.
     We had a little silver and some gold--about 20 pounds.
     She would have stayed for it, but I pushed her out; got her and
     my two eldest children downstairs (where two of the servant were
     now got), and asked for the keys.  They knew nothing of them.
     I ran upstairs and found them, came down, and opened the street
     door.  The thatch was fallen in all on fire.  The north-east
     wind drove all the sheets of flame in my face, as if
     reverberated in a lamp.  I got twice to the step and was drove
     down again.  I ran to the garden door and opened it.  The fire
     there was more moderate.  I bade them all follow, but found only
     two with me, and the maid with another in her arms that cannot
     go; but all naked.  I ran with them to an outhouse in the
     garden, out of the reach of the flames; put the least in the
     other's lap; and not finding my wife follow me, ran back into
     the house to seek her, but could not find her.  The servants and
     two of the children were got out at the window.  In the kitchen
     I found my eldest daughter, naked, and asked her for her mother.
     She could not tell me where she was.  I took her up and carried
     her to the rest in the garden; came in the second time and ran
     upstairs, the flame breaking through the wall at the staircase;
     thought all my children were safe, and hoped my wife was some
     way got out.  I then remembered my books, and felt in my pocket
     for the key of the chamber which led to my study.  I could not
     find the key, though I searched a second time.  Had I opened
     that door, I must have perished.

     I ran down and went to my children in the garden, to help them
     over the wall.  When I was without, I heard one of my poor
     lambs, left still above-stairs, about six years old, cry out,
     dismally, "Help me!" I ran in again, to go upstairs, but the
     staircase was now all afire.  I tried to force up through it a
     second time, holding my breeches over my head, but the stream of
     fire beat me down.  I thought I had done my duty; went out of
     the house to that part of my family I had saved, in the garden,
     with the killing cry of my child in my ears.  I made them all
     kneel down, and we prayed to God to receive his soul.

     I tried to break down the pales, and get my children over into
     the street, but could not; then went under the flame and got
     them over the wall.  Now I put on my breeches and leaped after
     them.  One of my maidservants that had brought out the least
     child, got out much at the same time.  She was saluted with a
     hearty curse by one of the neighbours, and told that we had
     fired the house ourselves, the second time, on purpose! I ran
     about inquiring for my wife and other children; met the chief
     man and chief constable of the town going from my house, not
     towards it to help me.  I took him by the hand and said "God's
     will be done!"  His answer was, "Will you never have done your
     tricks?  You fired your house once before; did you not get
     enough by it then, that you have done it again?"  This was cold
     comfort.  I said, "God forgive you!  I find you are chief man
     still."  But I had a little better soon after, hearing that my
     wife was saved; and then I fell on mother earth and blessed God.

     I went to her.  She was alive, and could just speak.
     She thought I had perished, and so did all the rest, not having
     seen me nor any share of eight children for a quarter of an
     hour; and by this time all the chambers and everything was
     consumed to ashes, for the fire was stronger than a furnace, the
     violent wind beating it down on the house.  She told me
     afterwards how she escaped.  When I went first to open the
     back-door, she endeavoured to force through the fire at the
     fore-door, but was struck back twice to the ground.  She thought
     to have died there, but prayed to Christ to help her.  She found
     new strength, got up alone and waded through two or three yards
     of flame, the fire on the ground being up to her knees.  She had
     nothing on but her shoes and a wrapping gown, and one coat on
     her arm.  This she wrapped about her breast, and got through
     safe into the yard, but no soul yet to help her.  She never
     looked up or spake till I came; only when they brought her last
     child to her, bade them lay it on the bed.  This was the lad
     whom I heard cry in the house, but God saved him almost by a
     miracle.  He only was forgot by the servants, in the hurry.
     He ran to the window towards the yard, stood upon a chair and
     cried for help.  There were now a few people gathered, one of
     whom, who loves me, helped up another to the window.  The child
     seeing a man come into the window, was frightened, and ran away
     to get to his mother's chamber.  He could not open the door, so
     ran back again.  The man was fallen down from the window, and
     all the bed and hangings in the room where he was were blazing.
     They helped up the man a second time, and poor Jacky leaped into
     his arms and was saved.  I could not believe it till I had
     kissed him two or three times.  My wife then said unto me,
    "Are your books safe?"  I told her it was not much, now she and
     all the rest were preserved. . . .

     Mr. Smith of Gainsborough, and others, have sent for some of my
     children. . . . I want nothing, having above half my barley
     saved in my barns unthreshed.  I had finished my alterations in
     the _Life of Christ_ a little while since, and transcribed three
     copies of it.  But all is lost.  God be praised!

     I hope my wife will recover, and not miscarry, but God will give
     me my nineteenth child.  She has burnt her legs, but they mend.
     When I came to her, her lips were black.  I did not know her.
     Some of the children are a little burnt, but not hurt or
     disfigured.  I only got a small blister on my hand.
     The neighbours send us clothes, for it is cold without them.

The child (Kezzy) was born and lived.  The Rectory was rebuilt within
a year, at a cost of 400 pounds.  The day after the fire, as he
groped among the ruins in the garden, Mr. Wesley had picked up a torn
leaf of his Polyglot Bible, on which these words alone were legible:
_Vade; vende omnia quot habes; et attolle crucem, et sequere me_.
He had come to Epworth a poor man: and now, after fifteen years, he
stood as poor as then; poorer, perhaps.  He had served his
parishioners only to earn their detestation.  But he stood unbeaten:
and as he stared out of his window there gripped him--not for the
first time--a fierce ironical affection for the hard landscape, the
fields of his striving, even the folk who had proved such good
haters.  _Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and
thou shalt eat the herb of the field_--ay, and learn to relish it as
no other food.  _In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till
thou return unto the ground_.  Ah, but to go and surrender that
ground to others--there lay the sting!  With him, as with many
another true man disappointed in his fate, his hopes passed from
himself to fasten the more eagerly on his sons.  He wanted them to be
great and eminent soldiers of Christ, and he divined already that, if
for one above the others, this eminence was reserved for John.
But he wanted also a son of his loins to succeed him at Epworth, to
hold and improve what painful inches he had gained; and again he
could only think of John.  Could a man devote his life to this
forsaken parish and yet be a light set on a hill for the world?
Had not his own life taught the folly of that hope?

He sighed and turned from the window.  He had quite forgotten Hetty.

He stepped to the door to summon Johnny Whitelamb: but the sound of
voices drew him across the passage to the best parlour, and there at
the threshold his eyes fell on Sukey's headdress.

"Susannah!"

"Yes, father."  Sukey stepped forward to be kissed.

"Take off that--that _thing_!"

"Yes, father."  She untied the strings obediently.

"If your husband chooses to dress and carry you about the country
like a figure of fun, I cannot prevent him.  But in my house remember
that I am your father, and take my assurance that, although Jezebel
tired her head, she had the saving grace of not looking like a fool."

Mr. Wesley turned on his heel and strode back to his books.


"Why don't you stand up to him?" asked Mr. Dick Ellison suddenly, on
the road to Kelstein.

"To father?"   Hetty came out of her day-dreams with a start.

"Yes: you've been having a tiff this morning, anyone can see.
Young man is poison to him, hey?  Why don't you take a leaf out of my
book?  'Paternal authority'--and a successor of the apostles into the
bargain--that's his ground.  Well, I don't allow him to take it.
'Beggars can't be choosers' is mine, and I pin him to it.  Oh, yes,
_I'm_ poison to him, but it does him good.  'That cock won't crow,'
I say.  He's game enough on his own dunghill, but a high-blooded lass
like you ought to be his master by this time.  Hint that you'll cut
the painter, kick over the traces--you needn't _do_ it, y'know.
Threaten you'll run and join the stage--nothing unlikely in that--
and, by George, it'd bring him up with a clove hitch!  Where's your
invention?"

Hetty gazed at the horse's ears and considered.  "It's easy for you,
Dick, who have nothing in common with him, not even affection."

"Oh, I like the old fellow well enough, for all his airs with me,"
said Mr. Dick Ellison graciously.

"If they annoyed you more, you might understand him better--and me,"
replied Hetty.

Silence fell between them again and the gig bowled on.



BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.


The frozen canal ran straight towards the sunset, into a flooded
country where only a line of pollard willows, with here and there an
alder, marked the course of its left bank.  But where Hetty waited
the banks were higher, and the red ball on the horizon sent a level
shaft down the lane between them.

She was alone.  Indeed, the only living creature within sight was a
red-breast, hunched into a ball and watching her from a wintry willow
bough; the only moving object a windmill half a mile away across the
level, turning its sails against the steel-gray sky--so listlessly,
they seemed to be numbed.

She had strapped on a pair of skates--clumsy homemade things, and a
birthday present from Johnny Whitelamb, who had fashioned them with
pains, the Epworth blacksmith helping.  Hetty skated excellently
well--in days, be it understood, before the cutting of figures had
been advanced to an art with rules and text-books.  But as the poise
and balanced impetus came natural to her, so in idle moments and
casually she had struck out figures of her own, and she practised
them now with the red-breast for spectator.  She was happy--her
bosom's lord sitting lightly on his throne--and all because of two
letters she pulled from her pocket and re-read in the pauses of her
skating.

The first was from her mother at Wroote, and told her that to-day or
to-morrow her father would be arriving at Kelstein with her sister
Patty.  Hetty had been expecting this for some weeks.  At Christmas
(it was now mid-January) the Granthams had written praising her, and
this had given Mr. Wesley the notion of proffering yet another of his
daughters.  Two days after receiving the letter he had ridden over to
Kelstein with the proposal.  Patty was the one chosen (Hetty could
guess why), and poor Patty knew nothing of it at the time: but Mrs.
Grantham had accepted almost effusively, and she was to come.
In what capacity? Hetty wondered.  She herself taught the children,
and she could think of no other post in the household not absolutely
menial.  Was it selfish of her to be so glad? For one thing Patty had
fewer whimsies than the rest of her sisters and, likely enough, would
accept her lot as a matter of course.  She seldom wept or grumbled:
indeed Hetty, before now, had found her patience irritating.  But to
have Patty's company now seemed the most delightful thing in the
world; to fling her arms around somebody who came from home!

The most delightful?  Hetty turned to the second letter--and with
that looked up swiftly as her ear caught the ringing sound of skates,
and a young man descended, as it were, out of the sun's disc and came
flying down the long alley on its ray.  She put out both hands.
He swooped around her in a long curve and caught them and kissed her
as he came to a standstill, panting, with a flush on each handsome
cheek.

"Hetty!"

No answer to this but a sound like a coo of rapture.  He is, as we
should think, a personable young fellow, frank, and taking to the
eye, though his easy air of mastery provokes another look at Hetty,
who is worth ten of him.  But to her he is a young god above whom the
stars dance.  Splendid creature though she be, she must comply with
her sex which commands her to be passive, to be loved.  With his arm
about her she shuts her eyes and drinks delicious weakness; with a
sense of sinking through space supported by that arm--not wholly
relying on him as yet, but holding her own strength in reserve, if he
should fail her.

"I have raced."

She laughed.  "I bargained for that.  We have so little time!"

"How long?"

"Mrs. Grantham expects me back in an hour at latest.  Father and
Patty will be arriving before supper, and there are the children to
be put to bed."

"Let us go up the canal, then.  I have a surprise for you."

They took hands--both her hands in his, their arms held crosswise to
their bodies--and struck out, stroke for stroke.  By the third stroke
they were swinging forward in perfect rhythm, each onrush held long
and level on the outside edge and curving only as it slackened.
The air began to sing by Hetty's temples; her skates kept a humming
tune with her lover's.  The back of his hand rested warm against her
bosom.

"You skate divinely."

She scarcely heard.  The world slipped past and behind her with the
racing trees: she was a bird mated and flying into the sunset.
Ah, here was bliss!  Awhile ago she had been faint with love, as
though a cord were being tightened around her heart: it had been hard
for her to speak, hard even to draw breath.  Now her lungs opened,
the cord snapped and broke with a sob; and, as the sun's rim dipped,
she flew faster, urgent to overtake and hold it there, to stay its
red glint between the reed-beds, its bloom of brown and purple on the
withered grasses.  The wind of her skirt caught up the dead leaves
freshly scattered on the ice and swept them along with her, whirling,
like a train of birds.  But, race as she would, the sun sank and the
shadow of the world crept higher behind her shoulder.  The last gleam
died; and, lifting her eyes, Hetty saw over its grave, poised in a
clear space of sky, the sickle moon.

She tried to disengage her hand, to point to it: but as his eyes
sought hers with a question, she let it lie and nodded upwards
instead.  He saw and understood, and with their faces raised to it
they held on their flight in silence: for lovers may wish with the
new moon, but the first to speak will have wished in vain.

A tapping, as of someone hammering upon metal, sounded from a clump
of willows ahead and upon their right.  A woman's voice joined in
scolding.  This broke the spell; and with a laugh they disengaged
hands, separated, and let their speed bear them on side by side till
it slackened and they ran to a halt beside the trees.

A barge lay here, hopelessly frozen on its way up the canal.  On its
deck a woman, with arms akimbo, stood over a man seated and tinkering
at a kettle.  She nodded as they approached.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, sir--you and the lady."

Hetty looked at her lover.

"It's all right," he explained: "only a surprise of mine, which seems
to have missed fire.  I had planned a small picnic here and this good
woman was to have had a dish of tea ready for you--"

"How was I to know that man of mine had been fool enough to fill the
kettle before tramping off to the 'Ring of Bells'?" the good woman
broke in.  "Lord knows 'tisn' his way to be thoughtful, and when he
tries it there's always a breakage.  When I'd melted the ice, the
thing began to leak like a sieve; and if this tinker fellow hadn't
come along--by Providence, as you may call it--though I'd ha' been
obliged to Providence for a quicker workman--"

Hetty was not listening.  Her eyes had caught the tinker's, and the
warm blood had run back from her face: for he was the man who had
startled the sisters on the knoll, that harvest evening.

He nodded to her now with an impudent grin.  "Good evening, missy!
If I'd known the job was for Miss Wesley, I'd ha' put best speed into
it: best work there is already."

"Hallo! Do you know this fellow?" her lover demanded.

"'Fellow'--and a moment back 'twas 'tinker'!  Well, well, a man must
look low and pick up what he can in these times, 'specially when his
larger debtors be so backward--hey, miss?  Why, to be sure I know
Miss Wesley: a man don't forget a face like hers in a hurry.  Glad to
meet her, likewise, enjoyin' herself so free and easy.  Shall I tell
the old Rector, miss, next time I call, how well you was lookin', and
in what company?"

Hetty saw her lover ruffling and laid a hand on his arm.

"Tuppence if you please, ma'am, and I'll be going.  William Wright
was never one to spoil sport: but some has luck in this world and
some hasn't, and that's a fact."  He grinned again as he pocketed the
money.

"If you don't take your impudent face out of this, I'll smash it for
you," spoke up the young man hotly.

The plumber's grin widened as, slinging his bag of tools over his
shoulder, he stepped on to the frozen towpath.  "Ah, you're a
bruiser, I dare say: for I've seen you outside the booth at Lincoln
Fair, hail-fellow with the boxing-men on the platform.  And a buck
you was too, with a girl on each arm; and might pass, that far from
home, for one of the gentry, the way you stood treat.  But you're
not: and if missy ain't more particular in her bucks, she'd do better
with a respectable tradesman like me.  As for smashing of faces, two
can play at that game, belike: but William Wright chooses his time."

He was lurching away with a guffaw; for the tow-path here ran within
two furlongs of the high road, and a man upon skates cannot pursue
across _terra firma_.

But he had reckoned without Hetty, who had seated herself on the edge
of the barge and who now shook her feet free of Johnny Whitelamb's
rough clamps, and, springing from the deck to the towpath, took him
by the collar as he turned.

"Go!" she cried, and with her open palm dealt him a stinging slap
across the cheek.  "Go!"

The man put up his hand, fell back a moment with a dazed face, and
then without a word ran for the highway, his bag of tools rattling
behind him.

Never was route more ludicrously sudden.  Even in her wrath Hetty
looked at her lover and broke into a laugh.

"Let me skate up the canal and head him off," said he.  "Half a mile
will give me lead enough to slip out of these things and collar him
on the highway."

"He is not worth it.  Besides, he may not be going towards Kelstein:
in this light we cannot see the road or what direction he takes.
Let him be, dear," Hetty persuaded, as the old woman called out from
her cabin that the kettle boiled.  "Our time is too precious."

Then, while he yet fumed, she suddenly grew grave.

"Was it truth he was telling?"

"Truth?" he echoed.

"Yes: about Lincoln Fair?"

"Oh, the boxing-booth, you mean?  Well, my dear, there was something
in it, to be sure.  You wouldn't have me be a milksop, would you?"

"No-o," she mused.  "But I meant what he said about--about those
women.  Was that true?"

He was on the point of answering with a lie; but while he hesitated
she helped him by adding, "I am not a child, dear.  I am
twenty-seven, and older than you.  Please be honest with me, always."

He was young, but had an instinct for understanding women.
He revised the first lie and rejected it for a more cunning one.
"It was before I met you," he said humbly.  "He made the worst of it,
of course, but I had rather you knew the truth.  You are angry?"

Hetty sighed.  "I am sorry.  It seems to make our--our love--
different somehow."

The bargewoman brought out their tea.  She had heard nothing of the
scrimmage on the bank, so swiftly had it happened and with so few
words spoken.

"Halloa--is the tinker gone?  And I'd cut off a crust for him.
Well, I can eat it myself, I suppose; and after all he was low
company for the likes of you, though any company comes well to folks
that can't pick and choose."  In the act of setting herself on the
cabin top she sat up stiffly and listened.

"There's a horse upon the high road," she announced.

"A highwayman, perhaps, if all company's welcome to you."

"He won't come this way," said the woman placidly.  "I loves to lie
close to the road like this and see the wagons and coaches rolling by
all day: for 'tis a dull life, always on the water.  Now you wouldn't
believe what a pleasure it gives me, to have you two here a-lovering,
nor how many questions I'd put if you'd let me.  When is it to be, my
dear?"--addressing Hetty--"But you won't answer me, I know.
You're wishing me farther, and go I will as soon as you've drunk your
tay.  Well, sir, I hope you'll take care of her: for the pretty she
is, I could kiss her myself.  May I?" she asked suddenly, taking
Hetty's empty cup; and Hetty blushed and let her.  "God send you
children, you beauty!"

She paused with a cup in either hand, and in the act of squeezing
herself backwards through the small cabin-door.  "La, the red you've
gone! I can see it with no help more than the bit of moon.  'Tis a
terrible thing to be childless, and for that you can take my word."
Wagging her head she vanished.

Left to themselves the two sat silent.  The sound of the horse's
hoofs died away down the road towards Kelstein.  Had Hetty known, her
father was the horseman, with Patty riding pillion behind him.
Over the frozen floods came the note of a church clock, borne on the
almost windless air.

"Five o'clock?" Hetty sprang up.  "Time to be going, and past."

"You have not forgiven me," he murmured.

"Indeed, yes."  She was, after all, a girl of robust good sense, and
could smile bravely as she put an illusion by.  "To be loved is
marvellous and seems to make all marvels possible: but I was wrong to
expect--this one.  And if, since knowing me--"

"You have taught me all better things."  He knelt on the ice at her
feet and began to fasten her skates.  "Let me still be your pupil and
look up to you, as I am looking now."

"Ah!" she pressed her palms together, "but that is just what I need--
to know that we are both better for loving.  I want to be sure of
that, for it makes me brave when I think of father.  While he forbids
us, I cannot help doubting at times: and then I look into myself and
see that all the world is brighter, all the world is better since I
knew you.  O my love, if we trust our love, and help one another!--"
Her rich voice thrilled and broke as she leaned forward and laid a
hand on his forehead.

"See me at your feet," he whispered, looking up into eyes divinely
dewy.  "I am yours to teach: teach me, if you will, to be good."

They rose to their feet together--he but an inch or so the taller--
and for a moment, as he took her in his arms, she held back, her
palms against his shoulders, her eyes passionately seeking the truth
in his.  Then with a sob she kissed him and was gone.

For a moment she skated nervelessly, with hanging arms.  But,
watching, he saw her summon up her strength and shoot down the
glimmering ice-way like a swallow let loose from his hand.  So swift
was her flight that, all unknowing, she overtook and passed the
travellers jogging parallel with her on the high road; and had
reached Kelstein and was putting her two small charges to bed, when
her father's knock sounded below stairs.

Mr. and Mrs. Grantham, though pompous, were a kindly pair: and Mrs.
Grantham, entering the library where Mr. Wesley and his daughter
awaited her, and observing that the girl seemed frightened or
depressed (she could not determine which), rang the bell at once and
sent a maid upstairs for Hetty.

Hetty entered with cheeks still glowing and eyes sparkling; went at
once to her father and kissed him, and running, threw her arms around
Patty, who responded listlessly.

"She needs Kelstein air," explained Mr. Wesley.  "I protest it seems
to agree with _you_, Mehetabel."

"But tell me all the news, father," Hetty demanded, with an arm about
her sister's waist and a glance at Mrs. Grantham, which asked pardon
for her freedom.

"Your sister shall tell it, my dear," answered that good woman,
"while I am persuading your father to sup with us.  I have given them
a room together," she explained to Mr. Wesley.  "I thought it would
be pleasanter for them."

"You are kindness itself, madam."

Hetty led the way upstairs.  "It is all strange at first, dear: I
know the feeling.  But see how cosy we shall be."  She threw the door
open, and showed a room far more comfortably furnished than any at
Wroote or Epworth.  The housemaid, who adored Hetty, had even lit a
fire in the grate.  Two beds with white coverlets, coarse but
exquisitely clean, stood side by side--"Though we won't use them
both.  I must have you in my arms, and drink in every word you have
to tell me till you drop off to sleep in spite of me, and hold you
even then.  Oh, Patty, it is good to have you here!"

But Patty, having untied the strings of her hat, tossed it on to the
edge of her bed and collapsed beside it.

"I wish I was dead!" she announced.



CHAPTER II.


John Romley was the cause of her exile.  This young man had been a
pupil of the Rector's, and studied divinity with him for a while
before matriculating at Lincoln College, Oxford; where in due course
he took his degree, and whence he returned, in deacon's orders, to
take charge of the endowed school at Epworth and to help in the
spiritual work of the parish.  Mr. Wesley's experience of curates had
been far from happy, but Romley promised to be the bright exception
in a long list of failures.  (It was he who discovered and introduced
Johnny Whitelamb to the household.) He was sociable; had pleasant
manners, a rotund figure not yet inclining to coarseness, a pink and
white complexion, and a mellifluous tenor voice.  To his voice, alas!
he owed most of his misfortunes in life.

The Rector had no high opinion of his brains: but tolerated him, and
at first looked on leniently enough when he began to pay his
addresses to Patty.  Indeed the courtship proceeded to the gentle
envy of her sisters until one fatal night when Romley, in the rectory
parlour at Wroote, attuned his voice to sing the _Vicar of Bray_.
In his study Mr. Wesley heard it.  He, of all men, was no Vicar of
Bray, albeit he had abjured Dissent: but he felt his cloth insulted,
and by this fribble of his own order.  It was treason in short, and
he bounced into the parlour as Mr. Romley carolled:

     "When gracious Anne became our Queen,
       The Church of England's glory,
      Another face of things was seen,
       And I became a Tory;
      Occasional Conformists base--"

There was a scene, and it ended in Romley being shown the door and
Patty forbidden to have speech with him.  Actually she had not set
eyes on him since that night: but the Rector unaccountably omitted to
forbid their corresponding.  Now Patty, the most literally minded of
her sex, had a niggling obstinacy in pursuit of her ends.  She would
obey to a hair's breadth: but, nothing having been said about
letters, letters passed.  Piecing the truth together from her
incoherent railings, Hetty learned that the Rector had happened upon
a scrap of Romley's handwriting, had lost his temper furiously and
given sentence of banishment.

Patty in love showed none of her sister's glorious fervour: but
stared obtusely, even sulkily, when Hetty hinted at her own secret
and, pressing her waist, spoke of love with fearless elation, yet as
of a sacred thing.

"Oh, you're too poetical for me!" she interrupted.

This was depressing.

"And I wish I was in my grave," added Patty, looking like a martyr in
a wet blanket.

Thinking to put spirit into her, Hetty became more explicit and
proved that love might find out a way between Epworth and Kelstein--
nay, even spoke of her own clandestine meeting that very afternoon.
Her cheeks glowed.  Nor for a minute did she observe that Patty,
listless at the beginning of the tale, was staring at her with round
eyes.

"You mean to tell me that you meet him!"

"Why, of course I do."

"But father forbade it!"

"To be sure he did."

"Then all I can say is"--Patty rose to her feet in the strength of
her disapproval--"that I call it disgraceful, and I'm perfectly
ashamed of you!"

"But, good Heavens! he forbade you to see Romley."

"But not to write."

"O-o!" Hetty mused with her pretty mouth shaped to the letter.
"And now, I suppose, he has forbidden that too?"

"Of course he has."

"And are you going to obey?"

"Of course I am."

It was Hetty's turn to stare wide-eyed.  "You are going to give
Romley up?" she asked very slowly.

"Yes, yes, yes--and I wish I was in my grave!"  Patty collapsed again
dismally, but sat upright after a moment.  "As for your behaviour,
'tis positively wicked, and I think father ought to be told of it!"

Hetty put out both hands; but instead of shaking her sister (as she
was minded to do) she let the open palms fall gently upon her
shoulders and looked her in the face.

"Then I advise you not to tell him, dear.  For in the first place it
would do no good."

"Do no good?"

"Well, then, it would make no difference."

"You mean to--run away--with him?" gasped Patty, her eyes
involuntarily turning towards the window.

The glance set Hetty's laughter rippling.  "Pat--Pat! don't be a
goose.  I shall not run away with him from this house.  I promised
mother."

"You--promised--mother!" Patty was reduced to stammering echoes.

"Dear me, yes.  You must not suppose yourself the only one of her
children she understands."  Hetty, being human, could not forgo this
little slap.  "Now wash your face, like a good girl, and come down to
supper: and afterwards you shall tell me all the news of home.
There's one thing"--and she eyed Patty drolly--"I can trust you to be
accurate."

"Do you mean to tell me that you can look father in the face--"
But here Patty broke off, at the sound of hoofs on the gravel below.

"There will be no need," said Hetty quietly, "if, as I think, he is
mounting Bounce to ride home."

"Bounce?  How did you know that Bounce brought us?"--for Bounce was
Mrs. Wesley's nag, and the Rector usually rode an old gray named
Mettle, but had taken of late to a filly of his own breeding.

"I ought to remember Bounce's shuffle," answered Hetty.  "Nay, I
should have recognised it on the road two miles back if--if I hadn't
been--"

She came to a full stop, in some confusion.  Nevertheless she was
right; and the girls arrived downstairs to learn from Mrs. Grantham
that their father had ridden off, declining her offer of supper and
scoffing at her fears of highwaymen.

And the days went by.  Hetty could not help telling herself that
Patty was a disappointment.  But she was saved from reflecting on it
overmuch: for Mrs. Grantham (after forty years of comfort without
one) had conceived a desire to be waited on and have her hair dressed
by a maid, and between Mrs. Grantham's inability to discover
precisely what she wanted done by Patty, and Patty's unhandiness in
doing it, and Mrs. Grantham's anxiety to fill up Patty's time, and
Patty's lack of inventiveness, the pair kept Hetty pretty constantly
near her wit's end.

Concerning her lover she attempted no more confidences.  But, alone,
she pondered much on Patty's reproof, which set her arguing out the
whole case afresh.  For, absurd though its logic was, it had touched
her conscience.  Was it conscience (she asked herself) or but the old
habit of trembling at her father's word, which kept her so uneasy in
disobeying him?

She came to no new conclusion; for a sense of injustice gave a twist
to her thinking from the start.  All his daughters held Mr. Wesley in
awe: they never dreamed, for instance, of comparing their lovers with
him in respect of dignity or greatness.  They assumed that their
brothers inherited some portion of that greatness, but they required
none in the men to whom they were ready to give their hands; nay,
perhaps unconsciously rejoiced in the lack of it, having lived with
it at home and found it uncomfortable.

They were proud of it, of course, and knew that they themselves had
some touch of it, if but a lunar glow.  They read the assurance in
their mother's speech, in her looks; and, moving among the Epworth
folk as neighbours, yet apart, they had acquired a high pride of
family which derived nothing from vulgar chatter about titled, rich
and far-off relatives; but, taking ancestry for granted, found
sustenance enough in the daily life at the parsonage and the letters
from Westminster and Oxford.  Aware of some worth in themselves, they
saw themselves pinched of food, exiled from many companions, shut out
from social gatherings for want of pocket-money and decent attire,
while amid all the muddle of his affairs their father could tramp for
miles and pledge the last ounce of his credit to scrape a few pounds
for John or Charles.  They divined his purpose: but they felt the
present injustice.

They never regarded him as just.  And this was mainly his own fault,
or at least the fault of his theory that women, especially daughters,
were not to be reasoned with but commanded.  Hetty, for example, had
an infinite capacity for self-sacrifice.  At an appeal from him she
would have surrendered, not small vanities only, but desires more
than trivial, for the brothers whom in her heart she loved to
fondness.  But the sacrifice was ever exacted, not left to her
good-nature; the right word never spoken.

And now, under the same numbing deference, her mother had failed her
at a moment when all her heart cried out in its need.  Hetty loved
her lover.  Perhaps, if allowed to fare abroad, consort with other
girls, and learn, with responsibility, to choose better, she had
never chosen this man.  She had chosen him now.  Poor Hetty!

But that she did wrong to meet him secretly her conscience accused
her.  She had been trained religiously.  Had she no religion, then,
upon which to stay her sense of duty?

Where a mother has failed, even the Bible may fail.  Hetty read her
Bible: but just because its austerer teaching had been bound too
harshly upon her at home, she turned by instinct to the gentler side
which reveals Christ's loving-kindness, His pity, His indulgence.
All generous natures lean towards this side, and to their honour, but
at times also to their very great danger.  For the austerity is meant
for them who most need it.  Also the austere rules are more definite,
which makes them a surer guide for the soul desiring goodness, but
passionately astray.  It spurns them, demanding loving-kindness; and
discovers too late that loving-kindness dictated them.



CHAPTER III.


Two mornings after Patty's arrival, Hetty sat in the schoolroom
telling a Bible story to her pupils, George Grantham and small
Rebecca; the one aged eight, the other barely five.  They were by no
means clever children; but they knew a good story when they heard
one, and Hetty held them to the adventures of Joseph and his
Brethren, although great masses of snow were sliding off the roof,
and every now and then toppling down past the window with a rush--
which every child knows to be fascinating.  For the black frost had
broken up at last in a twelve hours' downfall of snow, and this in
turn had yielded to a soft southerly wind.  The morning sunshine
poured in through the school-room window and took all colour out of
the sea-coal fire.

"One night Joseph dreamed a dream which he told next morning to his
brothers.  And his dream was that they were all in the harvest-field,
binding sheaves: and when Joseph had bound his sheaf, it stood
upright, but the other sheaves around slid and fell flat, as if they
were bowing on their faces before it.  When he told this, it made his
brothers angry, because it seemed to mean that he would be a greater
man than any of them."

"I don't wonder they were angry," broke in George, who was the
Granthams' son and heir, and had a baby brother of whom he tried hard
not to be jealous.  "Joseph wasn't the oldest, was he?"

"No: he was the youngest of all, except Benjamin."

"And even if he dreamed it, he needn't have gone about bragging.
It was bad enough, his having that coat of many colours.  I say, Miss
Wesley--you're not a boy, of course--but how would _you_ feel if your
father made everything of one of your brothers?"

"I wonder if he dreamed it on a Friday?" piped Rebecca.

"Why, child?"

"Because Martha says"--Martha was the Granthams' cook--"that Friday's
dream on Saturday told is bound to come true before you are old."

"We shall find out if it came true.  Go on, Miss Wesley."

"But if it _was_ Friday's dream," Rebecca persisted, "and he wanted
it to come true, he couldn't help telling it."

"Couldn't help being a sneak, I suppose you mean!"

A sound outside the window cut short this argument.  All glanced up:
but it came this time from no avalanche of snow.  Someone had planted
a ladder against the house, and the top of the ladder was scraping
against the window-sill.

"Too short by six feet," Hetty heard a voice say, and held her
breath.  The ladder was joggled a little and fixed again.  Footsteps
began to ascend it.  A face and a pair of broad shoulders rose into
sight over the sill.  They belonged to William Wright.

"I--I think, dears, we had better find some other room."

Hetty had sprung up and felt herself shaking from head to foot.
For the moment he was not looking in, but stood at the top of the
ladder with his head thrown back, craning for a view of the
water-trough under the eaves.

"About two feet to the right," he called to someone below.  "No use
shifting the ladder; 'twon't reach.  Stay a minute, though--I don't
believe 'tis a leak at all.  Here--"

He felt the closed window with the palm of his hand, then peered
through it into the room; and his eyes and Hetty's met.

"Well, I do declare!  Good morning, miss: 'tis like fate, the way I
keep running across you.  Now would you be so kind as to lift the
latch on your side and push the window gently?  The frame opens
outwards and I want to steady myself by it."

She obeyed, and was turning haughtily to follow the children when
George, who loitered in the doorway watching, called out:

"Is he coming into the room, Miss Wesley?"

She glanced over her shoulder and halted.  The man clearly did not
mean to enter, but had scrambled up to the sill, and balanced himself
there gripping the window-frame and leaning outwards at an angle
which made her giddy.  The sill was narrow, too, and sloping.
She caught her breath, not daring to move.

He seemed to hear her, for he answered jocularly: "'Tis to be hoped
the hinges are strong--eh, missy?--or there's an end of William
Wright."

"Do, please, be careful!"

"What's that to you?  You hate me bad enough.  Look here--send the
child out of the room and give me a push: a little one'd do, and
you'll never get a better chance."

Still she held her breath; and he went on, gazing upwards and
apparently speaking to the eaves.

"Not worth it, I suppose you'll say?--Don't you make too sure.
Now if I can get my fingers over the launder, here--"  He worked his
way to the right, to the very edge of the sill, and reached sideways
and upwards, raising himself higher and higher on tip-toe.  Hetty
heard a warning grunted from below.

"No use," he announced.  "I can't reach it by six inches."

"What are you trying to do?"  Hetty asked in a low voice, with a hand
over her heart.

"Why, there's a choke here--dead leaves or something--and the
roof-water's running down the side of the house."

She glanced hurriedly about the room, stepped to the fireplace and
picked up a poker--a small one with a crook at the end.  "Will this
help?" she asked, passing it out.

"Eh? the very thing!"  He took it, and presently she heard it
scraping on the pipe in search of the obstruction.  "Cleared it, by
Jingo! and that's famous."  He lowered himself upon the flat of his
broad soles.  "You ought to ha' been a plumber's wife.  My! if I had
a headpiece like that to think for me--let alone to look at!"

"Give me back the poker, please."

"No tricks, now!"  He handed it back, chuckled, and lowering himself
back to the topmost rung of the ladder, stood in safety.  "You're as
white as a sheet.  Was you scared I'd fall?  Lord, I like to see you
look like that! it a'most makes me want to do it again.  Look here--"

"For pity's sake--"

Was the man mad?  And how was it he held her listening to his
intolerable talk?  He was actually scrambling up to the sill again,
but paused with his eyes on hers.  "It hurts you?  Very well, then, I
won't: but I owe you something for that slap in the face, you know."

"You deserved it!" Hetty exclaimed, flushing as she recoiled from
terror to unreasonable wrath, and at the same moment hating herself
for arguing with him.

"Did I?  Well, I bear ye no malice.  Go slow, and overlook offences--
that's William Wright's way, and I've no pride, so I gets it in the
end.  Now some men, after being treated like that, would have sat
down and wrote a letter to your father about your goings-on.
I thought of it.  Says I, 'It don't take more than a line from me,
and the fat's in the fire.'  Mind, I don't say that I won't, but I
ha'n't done it yet.  And look here--I'm a journeyman, as you know,
and on the tramp for jobs.  I push on for Lincoln this afternoon; and
what I say to you before leaving is this--you're a lady, every inch.
Don't you go and make yourself too cheap with that fella.  He's a
pretty man enough, but there ain't no honesty in him."

He was gone.  Hetty drew a long breath.  Then, having waited while
the ladder too was withdrawn, she fetched back the children and set
them before their copy-books.

"_Honesty is the best policy_."--She saw Master George fairly started
on this text, with his head on one side and his tongue working in the
corner of his mouth; and drawing out paper and ink began to write a
letter home.

"Dear Mother--," she wrote, glanced at George's copy-book, then at
the window.  Five minutes passed.  She started and thrust pen and
paper back into the drawer.  Patty must write.



CHAPTER IV.


1.  From the Rev.  Samuel Wesley to his son John, at Christ Church,
Oxford.

                                       Wroote, January 5, 1725.

     Dear Son,--Your brother will receive 5 pounds  for you next
     Saturday, if Mr. S. is paid the 10 pounds he lent you; if not, I
     must go to H.  But I promise you I shan't forget that you are my
     son, if you do not that I am:

                                       Your affectionate father,
                                           Samuel Wesley.

2.  From the same to the same.

                                       Wroote, January 26, 1725.

     Dear Son,--I am so well pleased with your decent behaviour, or
     at least with your letters, that I hope I shall not have
     occasion to remember any more some things that are past; and
     since you have now for some time bit upon the bridle, I'll take
     care hereafter to put a little honey upon it as oft as I am
     able.  But then it shall be of my own _mero motu_, as the last
     5 pound was; for I will bear no rivals in my kingdom.

     I did not forget you with Dr. Morley, but have moved that way as
     much as possible; though I must confess, hitherto, with no great
     prospect or hopes of success.  As for what you mention of
     entering into Holy Orders, it is indeed a great work; and I am
     pleased to find you think it so, as well as that you do not
     admire a callow clergyman any more than I do.

     And now the providence of God (I hope it was) has engaged me in
     such a work wherein you may be very assistant to me, I trust
     promote His glory and at the same time notably forward your own
     studies; for I have some time since designed an edition of the
     Holy Bible, in octavo, in the Hebrew, Chaldee, Septuagint and
     Vulgar Latin, and have made some progress in it: the whole
     scheme whereof I have not time at present to give you, of which
     scarce any soul yet knows except your brother Sam.

     What I desire of you in this article is, firstly, that you would
     immediately fall to work, read diligently the Hebrew text in the
     Polyglot, and collate it exactly with the Vulgar Latin, which is
     in the second column, writing down all (even the least)
     variations or differences between them.  To these I would have
     you add the Samaritan text in the last column but one, which is
     the very same with the Hebrew, except in some very few places,
     only differing in the Samaritan character (I think the true old
     Hebrew), the alphabet whereof you may learn in a day's time,
     either from the Prolegomena in Walton's Polyglot, or from his
     grammar.  In a twelvemonth's time, sticking close to it in the
     forenoons, you will get twice through the Pentateuch; for I have
     done it four times the last year, and am going over it the
     fifth, collating the Hebrew and two Greek, the Alexandrian and
     the Vatican, with what I can get of Symmachus and Theodotian,
     etc.  Nor shall you lose your reward for it, either in this or
     the other world.

     In the afternoon read what you will, and be sure to walk an
     hour, if fair, in the fields.  Get Thirlby's Chrysostom
     _De Sacerdotio_; master it--digest it.  I like your verses on
     Psalm lxxxv., and would not have you bury your talent.  All are
     well and send duties.

     Work and write while you can.  You see Time has shaken me by the
     hand, and Death is but a little behind him.  My eyes and heart
     are now almost all I have left; and bless God for them.  I am
     not for your going over-hastily into Orders.  When I am for your
     taking them, you shall know it.

                                       Your affectionate father,
                                           Sam. Wesley.


3.  From Mrs. Wesley to her son John.

                                       February 25th, 1725.

     Dear Jackey,--I was much pleased with your letter to your father
     about taking Orders, and like the proposal well; but it is an
     unhappiness almost peculiar to our family that your father and I
     seldom think alike.  I approve the disposition of your mind and
     think the sooner you are a deacon the better, because it may be
     an inducement to greater application in the study of practical
     divinity, which I humbly conceive is the best study for
     candidates for Orders.  Mr. Wesley differs from me, and would
     engage you (I believe) in critical learning; which, though
     accidentally of use, is in no wise preferable to the other.
     I dare advise nothing: God Almighty direct and bless you!
     I long to see you.  We hear nothing of Hetty, which gives us
     some uneasiness.  We have all writ, but can get no answer.
     I wish all be well.  Adieu.

                                           Susanna Wesley.


4.  From the Rev. Samuel Wesley to his son John.

                                       Wroote, March 13, 1724-5.

     Dear Son,--I have both yours, and have changed my mind since my
     last.  I now incline to your going this summer into Orders.
     But in the first place, if you love yourself or me, pray
     heartily.  I will struggle hard but I will get money for your
     Orders, and something more.  Mr. Downes has spoken to Mr. Morley
     about you, who says he will inquire of your character.

    "Trust in the Lord, and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed."
     This, with blessing, from your loving father,

                                           Samuel Wesley.


5.  From Emilia Wesley to her brother John.

                                       Wroote, April 7th, 1725.

     Dear Brother,--Yours of March 7th I received, and thank you for
     your care in despatching so speedily the business I desired you
     to do.  It is the last of that kind I shall trouble you with.
     No more shall I write or receive letters to and from that
     person.  But lest you should run into a mistake and think we
     have quarrelled, I assure you we are perfect friends; we think,
     wish and judge alike, but what avails it?  We are both
     miserable.  He has not differed with my mother, but she loves
     him not, because she esteems him the unlucky cause of a deep
     melancholy in a beloved child.  For his own sake it is that I
     cease writing, because it is now his interest to forget me.

     Whether you will be engaged before thirty or not, I cannot
     determine; but if my advice be worth listening to, never engage
     your affections before your worldly affairs are in such a
     position that you may marry very soon.  The contrary practice
     has proved very pernicious in our family; and were I to live my
     time over again, and had the same experience as I have now, were
     it for the best man in England, I would not wait one year.
     I know you are a young man, encompassed with difficulties, that
     has passed through many hardships already, and probably must
     pass through many more before you are easy in the world; but,
     believe me, if ever you come to suffer the torment of a hopeless
     love, all other afflictions will seem small in comparison of it.
     And that you may not think I speak at random, take some account
     of my past life, more than ever I spoke to anyone.

     After the fire, when I was seventeen years old, I was left alone
     with my mother, and lived easy for one year, having most
     necessaries, though few diversions, and never going abroad.
     Yet after working all day I read some pleasant book at night,
     and was contented enough; but after we were gotten into our
     house, and all the family were settled, in about a year's time I
     began to find out that we were ruined.  Then came on London
     journeys, Convocations of blessed memory, that for seven years
     my father was at London, and we at home in intolerable want and
     affliction.  Then I learnt what it was to seek money for bread,
     seldom having any without such hardships in getting it that much
     abated the pleasure of it.  Thus we went on, growing worse and
     worse; all us children in scandalous want of necessaries for
     years together; vast income, but no comfort or credit with it.
     Then I went to London with design to get into some service,
     failed of that, and grew acquainted with Leybourne.  Ever after
     that I lived in close correspondence with him.  When anything
     grieved me, he was my comforter; and what though our affairs
     grew no better, yet I was tolerably easy, thinking his love
     sufficient recompense for the absence of all other worldly
     comforts.  Then ill fate, in the shape of a near relation, laid
     the groundwork of my misery, and--joined with my mother's
     command and my own indiscretion-broke the correspondence between
     him and I [_sic_].

     That dismal winter I shall ever remember; my mother was sick,
     confined even to her bed, my father in danger of arrests every
     day.  I had a large family to keep, and a small sum to keep it
     on; and yet in all this care the loss of Leybourne was heaviest.
     For nearly half a year I never slept half a night, and now,
     provoked at all my relations, resolved never to marry.
     Wishing to be out of their sight, I began first to think of
     going into the world.  A vacancy happening in Lincoln boarding
     school, I went thither; and though I had never so much as seen
     one before, I fell readily into that way of life; and I was so
     pleased to see myself in good clothes, with money in my pocket,
     and respected in a strange manner by everyone, that I seemed
     gotten into another world.

     Here I lived five years and should have done longer, but the
     school broke up; and my father having got Wroote living, my
     mother was earnest for my return.  I was told what pleasant
     company was at Bawtry, Doncaster, etc., and that this addition
     to my father, with God's ordinary blessing, would make him a
     rich man in a few years.  I came home again, in an evil hour for
     me.  I was well clothed, and, while I wanted nothing, was easy
     enough.  But this winter, when my own necessaries began to decay
     and my money was most of it spent, I found what a condition I
     was in--every trifling want was either not supplied, or I had
     more trouble to procure it than it was worth.

     I know not when we have had so good a year, both at Wroote and
     Epworth, as this year; but instead of saving anything to clothe
     my sister or myself, we are just where we were.  A noble crop
     has almost all gone, beside Epworth living, to pay some part of
     those infinite debts my father has run into, which are so many
     (as I have lately found out) that were he to save 50 pounds a
     year he would not be clear in the world this seven years.
     One thing I warn you of: let not my giving you this account be
     any hindrance to your affairs.  If you want assistance in any
     case, my father is as able to give it now as any time these last
     ten years; nor shall we be ever the poorer for it.  We enjoy
     many comforts.  We have plenty of good meat and drink, fuel,
     etc.; have no duns, nor any of that tormenting care to provide
     bread which we had at Epworth.  In short, could I lay aside all
     thoughts of the future, and be content with three things, money,
     liberty, and clothes, I might live very comfortably.  While my
     mother lives I am inclined to stay with her; she is so very good
     to me, and has so little comfort in the world beside, that I
     think it barbarous to abandon her.  As soon as she is in heaven,
     or perhaps sooner if I am quite tired out, I have fully fixed on
     a state of life; a way indeed that my parents may disapprove,
     but that I do not regard.  And now:

          "Let Emma's hapless case be falsely told
           By the rash young, or the ill-natured old."

     You, that know my hard fortune, I hope will never hastily
     condemn me for anything I shall be driven to do by stress of
     fortune that is not directly sinful.  As for Hetty, we have
     heard nothing of her these three months past.  Mr. Grantham, I
     hear, has behaved himself very honourably towards her, _but
     there are more gentlemen besides him in the world_.

     I have quite tired you now.  Pray be faithful to me.  Let me
     have one relation I can trust: never give any hint to anyone of
     aught I write to you: and continue to love,

                          Your unhappy but affectionate sister,
                                           Emilia Wesley.


6.  From the Rev.  Samuel Wesley to his son John.

                                       Wroote, May 10, 1725.

     Dear Son,--Your brother Samuel, with his wife and child, are
     here.  I did what I could that you might have been in Orders
     this Trinity; but I doubt your brother's journey hither has, for
     the present, disconcerted our plans, though you will have more
     time to prepare yourself for Ordination, which I pray God you
     may, as I am your loving father,

                                       Samuel Wesley.


7.  From Mrs. Wesley to her son John.

                                       Wroote, June 8th, 1725.

     Dear Son,--I have Kempis by me; but have not read him lately.
     I cannot recollect the passages you mention; but believing you
     do him justice, I do positively aver that he is extremely wrong
     in that impious, I was about to say blasphemous, suggestion that
     God, by an irreversible decree, has determined any man to be
     miserable, even in this world.  His intentions, as Himself, are
     holy, just and good; and all the miseries incident to men here
     or thereafter spring from themselves.

     Your brother has brought us a heavy reckoning for you and
     Charles.  God be merciful to us all! Dear Jack, I earnestly
     beseech Almighty God to bless you.  Adieu.

                                           Susanna Wesley.


8.  From the Rev. Samuel Wesley to his son John.

                                       Bawtry, September 1st, 1725.

     Dear Son,--I came hither to-day because I cannot be at rest till
     I make you easier.  I could not possibly manufacture any money
     for you here sooner than next Saturday.  On Monday I design to
     wait on Dr. Morley, and will try to prevail with your brother to
     return you 8 pounds with interest.  I will assist you in the
     charges for Ordination, though I am just now struggling for
     life.  This 8 pounds you may depend on the next week, or the
     week after.

                                           S. Wesley.


9.  From the same to the same.

                                       Gainsborough, Sept. 7th, 1725.

     Dear Son John,--With much ado, you see I am for once as good as
     my word.  Carry Dr. Morley's note to the bursar.  I hope to send
     you more, and, I believe, by the same hand.  God fit you for
     your great work.  Fast--watch--pray--endure--be happy; towards
     which you shall never want the ardent prayers of your
     affectionate father,

                                           S. Wesley.

On Sunday, September 19th, 1725, John Wesley, being twenty-two years
old, was ordained deacon by Dr. John Potter, Bishop of Oxford, in
Christ Church Cathedral.



CHAPTER V.


Of the letters received from home by him during the struggle to raise
money for his Ordination fees, the above are but extracts.  Let us go
back to the month of May, and to Kelstein.

"Patty dear," asked Hetty one morning, "have you heard lately of John
Romley?"

She was sitting up in bed with a letter in her hand.  It had come
yesterday; and Patty, brushing her hair before the glass, guessed
from whom.  She did not answer.

"He is at Lincoln; he has gone to try for the precentorship of the
cathedral," Hetty announced.

"You know perfectly well that we do not correspond.  I have too much
principle."

"I know, dear," sighed Hetty, with her eyes fixed meditatively upon
her sister's somewhat angular back.  "I hope he is none the worse for
it: for I have my reasons for wishing to think of him as a good man."
Patty paused with brush in air, her eyes on Hetty's image in the
glass; but Hetty went on inconsequently: "But surely you get word of
him, now and then, in those letters from home which you hide from me?
Patty, I am a stronger woman than you: and you may think yourself
lucky I haven't put you through the door before this, laid violent
hands on the whole budget, and read them through at my leisure.
You invite it, too, by locking them up; which against a determined
person would avail nothing and is therefore merely an insult, my
dear."

"You know perfectly well why I do not show you my letters.  They are
all crying out for news of you--mother, and Emmy and Molly: even poor
honest Nan breaks off writing about John Lambert and when the wedding
is to be and what she is to wear, and begs to hear if there be
anything wrong.  And all I can answer is, that you are well, with a
line or two about the children.  They must think me a fool, and it
has kept me miserable ever since I came.  But more I _will_ not say.
At least--"  She seemed about to correct herself, but came to an
abrupt halt and began brushing vigorously.  Hetty could not see the
flush on her sallow face.

"Dear old Molly!"  Hetty murmured the name of her favourite sister.
"But I could not write without telling her and loading her poor
conscience."

"Much you think of conscience, with a letter from him in your hand at
this minute!"

"But I do think of conscience.  And the best proof of it is, I am
going home."

"Going home!"  Patty faced about now, and with a scared face.

"Yes."  Hetty put her feet out of bed and sat for a moment on the
edge of it.  "Mrs. Grantham paid me my wages yesterday, and now I
have three pounds in my pocket.  I am going home--to tell them."

"You mean to tell them!"

"Not a doubt of it.  But why look as if you had seen a ghost?"

"And what do you suppose will happen?"

"Mother and Molly will cry, and Emmy will make an oration which I
shall interrupt, and Kezzy will open her eyes at such a monster, and
father will want to horsewhip me, but restrain himself and turn me
from the door.  Or perhaps he will lock me up--oh Patty, cannot you
see that I'm weeping, not joking?  But it has to be done, and I am
going to be brave and do it."

"Very well, then.  Now listen to me.--You cannot."

"Cannot?  Why?"

"There's no room, to begin with--not a bed in the house.  Sam and his
wife are there, and the child, on a visit."

"Sam there!  And you never told me.--Oh, Pat, Pat, and I might have
missed him!"  She sprang up from the bed and began her dressing in a
fever of haste.

"But what will you do?"

"Go home and find Sam, of course."

"I don't see how Sam can help you.  He did not help Emmy much: and
his wife will be there, remember."

There was no love lost between Sam's sisters and Sam's wife--a
practical little woman with a sharp tongue and a settled conviction
that her husband's relatives were little better than lunatics.
She understood the Rectory's strict rules of conduct as little as its
feckless poverty (for so she called it).  That a household which held
its head so high should be content with a parlour furnished like a
barn, sit down to meals scarcely better than the day-labourers' about
them, and rest ignored by families of decent position in the
neighbourhood, puzzled and irritated her.  "Better he paid his debts
and fed his children," was her answer when Sam put in a word for his
father's spiritual ambitions.  Her slight awe of the Wesleys'
abilities--even _she_ could not deny them brains--only drove her to
entrench herself more strongly behind her practical wisdom; and she
never abandoned her position (which had saved her in a thousand
domestic arguments) that her sisters-in-law had been trained as
savages in the wilds.  She had a habit of addressing them as
children: and her interference, some years before, between Emilia and
young Leybourne, had been conducted by letter addressed to Mr. and
Mrs. Wesley and without pretence of consulting Emilia's feelings.

Hetty pondered this for a moment, but without pausing in her
dressing.

"Besides," urged Patty, "they may be gone by this time.  Mother did
not say how long the visit was to last; only that Sam had brought his
bill for Jacky and Charles, and it is enormous.  Father will be in
the worst possible temper."

"Of all the wet blankets--" began Hetty, but was interrupted by the
ringing of a bell in the corner above her bed.  It summoned her to
run and dress Rebecca, who slept in a small room opening out of Mrs.
Grantham's.

Hetty departed in a whirl.  Patty stood considering.  "She never
would!  'Tis a mercy sometimes she doesn't mean all she says."

But this time Hetty meant precisely what she said.  Having dressed
Rebecca, she suddenly faced upon Mrs. Grantham, who stood watching
her as she turned back the bed-clothes to air, and folded the child's
nightdress.

"With your leave, madam, I wish to go home to-day."

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated Mrs. Grantham.  "You must be mad."

"I know how singular you must think it: and indeed I am very sorry to
put you out.  Yet I have a particular reason for asking."

"Quite impossible, Miss Wesley."

But, as Mr. Grantham had afterwards to tell her, a householder has no
means in free England of coercing a grown woman determined to quit
the shelter of his roof and within an hour.  The poor lady was
nonplussed.  She had not dreamed that life's tranquil journey lay
exposed to a surprise at once so simple and so disconcerting, and in
her vexation she came near to hysterics.

"What to make of your sister, I know not," she cried, twenty minutes
later, seating herself to have her hair dressed by Patty.

"Her temper was always a little uncertain," said Patty sagely.
"I think father spoilt her by teaching her Greek and poetry and such
things."

"Greek!  You don't tell me that Greek makes a person want to walk out
of a comfortable house at a moment's notice and leave my poor
darlings on the stream!"

"Oh, no," agreed Patty.  "You will not allow it, of course?"

"Perhaps you'll tell me how to prevent it?  In all my life I don't
remember being so much annoyed."

So Hetty had her way, packed a small bundle, and was ready at the
gate for the passing of the carrier's van which would set her down
within a mile of home.  She had acted on an impulse, unreasoning, but
not to be resisted.  She felt the crisis of her life approaching and
had urgent need, before it came on her, to make confession and
cleanse her soul.  She knew she was hurrying towards a tempest; but,
whatever it might wreck, she panted for the clear sky beyond.  In her
fever the van seemed to crawl and the miles to drag themselves out
interminably.

She was within a mile of her journey's end when a horseman met and
passed the van at a jog-trot.  Hetty glanced after him, wrenched open
the door and sprang out upon the road with a cry--

"Father!"

Mr. Wesley heard her and turned his head; then reined up the filly
and came slowly back.  The van was at a standstill, the driver
craning his head and staring aft in wholly ludicrous bewilderment.

"Dropped anything?" he asked, as Hetty ran to him.  She thrust the
fare into his hand without answering and faced around again to meet
her father.

He came slowly, with set jaws.  He offered no greeting.

"I was expecting this," he said.  "Indeed, I was riding to Kelstein
to fetch you home."

"But--but why?" she stammered.

"Why?"  A short savage laugh broke from him, almost like a dog's
bark; but he held his temper down.  "Because I do not choose to have
a decent household infected by a daughter of mine.  Because, if
sisters of yours must needs be exposed to the infection, it shall be
where I am present to watch them and control you.  I have received a
letter--"

She stared at him dismayed, remembering the man Wright and his
threat.

"And upon that you judge me, without a hearing?"  She let her arms
drop beside her.

"Will you deny it?  Will you deny you have been in the habit of
meeting--no, I see you will not.  Apparently Mrs. Grantham has
dismissed you."

"Sir, Mrs. Grantham has not dismissed me.  I came away against her
wish, because--"

"Well?" he waited, chewing his wrath.

It was idle now to say she had come meaning to confess.  That chance
had gone.

"I ask you to remember, sir, that I never promised not to meet him."
Since a fight it must be, she picked up all her courage for it.
"I had no right to promise it."

His mouth opened, but shut again like a trap.  He had the
self-control to postpone battle.  "We will see about that," he said
grimly.  "Meanwhile, please you mount behind me and ride."

As they jogged towards Wroote, Hetty, holding on by her father's
coat, seemed to feel in her finger-tips the wrath pent up and working
in his small body.  She was profoundly dejected; so profoundly that
she almost forgot to be indignant with William Wright; but she had no
thought of striking her colours.  She built some hope upon Sam, too.
Sam might not take her part openly, but he at least had always been
kind to her.

"Does Sam know?" she took heart to ask as they came in sight of the
parsonage.

"Sam?"

"Patty tells me he is here with his wife and little Philly."

"I am glad to say that Patty is mistaken.  They took their departure
yesterday."



CHAPTER VI.


"Oh, Hetty!" was all Molly could find to say, rushing into the back
garret where Hetty stood alone, and clinging to her with a long kiss.

Hetty held the dear deformed body against her bosom for a while, then
relaxing her arms, turned towards the small window in the eaves.
"My dear," she answered with a wry smile, "it had to come, you see,
and now we must go through with it."

"But who could have written that wicked letter?  Mother will not tell
us--even if she knows, which I doubt."

"I fancy I know.  And you must not exaggerate, even in your love for
me.  I don't suppose the letter was wicked, though it may have been
spiteful."

"It accused you of the most dreadful things."

"If it be dreadful to meet the man you love, and in secret, then I
have been behaving dreadfully."

"O-oh!"

"And that is just what I came home to confess." She paused at the
sight of Molly's face.  "What!  are you against me too?  Then I must
fight this out alone, it seems."

"Darling Hetty, you must not--ah, don't look so at me!"

But Hetty turned her back.  "Please leave me."

"If you had only written--"

"That would take long to explain.  I am tired, and it is not worth
while; please leave me."

"But you do not understand.  I had to come, although for the time
father has forbidden us to speak with you--"

Hetty stepped to the door and held it open.  "Then one of his
daughters at any rate shall be dutiful," she said.

Molly flung her an imploring look and walked out, sobbing.

"Is Hetty not coming down to supper?" Emilia asked in the kitchen
that evening.  Mrs. Wesley with her daughters and Johnny Whitelamb
supped there as a rule when not entertaining visitors.  The Rector
took his meals alone, in the parlour.

"Your father has locked her in.  Until to-morrow he forbids her to
have anything but bread and water," answered Mrs. Wesley.

"And she is twenty-seven years old," added Molly.

All looked at her; even Johnny Whitelamb looked, with a face as long
as a fiddle.  The comment was quiet, but the note of scorn in it
could not be mistaken.  Molly in revolt!  Molly, of all persons!
Molly sat trembling.  She knew that among them all Johnny was her one
ally--and a hopelessly distressed and ineffective one.  He had turned
his head quickly and leaned forward, blinking and spreading his
hands--though the season was high summer--to the cold embers of the
kitchen fire; his heart torn between adoration of Hetty and the old
dog-like worship of his master.

"Molly dear, she has deceived him and us all," was Mrs. Wesley's
reproof, unexpectedly gentle.

"For my part," put in Nancy comfortably, "I don't suppose she would
care to come down.  And 'tis cosy to be back in the kitchen again,
after ten days of the parlour and Mrs. Sam.  Emmy agrees, I know."

But Emmy with fine composure put aside this allusion to her pet foe.
"Molly and Johnny should make a match of it," she sneered.
"They might set up house on their belief in Hetty, and even take her
to lodge with them."

John Whitelamb sprang up as if stung; stood for a moment, still with
his face averted upon the fire; then, while all stared at him, let
drop the arm he had half-lifted towards the mantel-shelf and relapsed
into his chair.  He had not uttered a sound.

Mrs. Wesley had a reproof upon her tongue, and this time a sharp one.
She was prevented, however, by Molly, who rose to her feet, tottered
to the door as if wounded, and escaped from the kitchen.

Molly mounted the stairs with bowed head, dragging herself at each
step by the handrail.  Reaching the garrets, she paused by Hetty's
door to listen.  No light pierced the chinks; within was silence.
She crept away to her room, undressed, and lay down, sobbing quietly.

Her sobs ceased, but she could not sleep.  A full moon strained its
rays through the tattered curtain, and as it climbed, she watched the
panel of light on the wall opposite steal down past a text above the
washstand, past the washstand itself, to the bare flooring.  "God is
love" said the text, and Molly had paid a pedlar twopence for it,
years before, at Epworth fair--quite unaware that she was purchasing
the Wesley family motto.  She heard her mother and sisters below bid
one another good night and mount to their rooms.  An hour later her
father went his round, locking up.  Then came silence.

Suddenly she sat up in her bed.  She had heard--yes, surely--Hetty's
voice.  It seemed to come from outside, close below her window--
Hetty's ordinary voice, with no distress in it, speaking some words
she could not catch.  She listened.  Actual sound or illusion, it was
not repeated.  She climbed out of bed and drew the curtain aside.
Bright moonlight lay spread all about the house and, beyond, the
fenland faded away to an unseen horizon as through veils of gold and
silver, asleep, no creature stirring on the face of it.

She let drop the corner of the curtain and on the instant caught it
back again.  A dark form, quick and noiseless, slipped past the
shadow by the yard-gate.  It was Rag the mastiff, left unchained at
night: and as he padded across the yard in the full moonlight, Molly
saw that he was wagging his tail.

She watched him to his kennel; stepped to her door, lifted the latch
cautiously and stole once more along the passage to Hetty's room.

"Hetty!" she whispered.  "Hetty dear!  Were you calling?  Is anything
wrong?"  She shook the door gently.  No answer came.  Mr. Wesley had
left the key in the lock after turning it on the outside: and still
whispering to her sister, Molly wrenched it round, little by little.
No one stirred below-stairs: no one answered within.  She pushed the
door open an inch or two, then wider, pausing as it creaked.
A draught of the warm night wind met her as she slipped into the
room, and--her fingers trembling and missing their hold--the door
fell to behind her, almost with a slam.

She stood still, her heart in her mouth.  In her ears the noise was
loud enough to awake the house.  But as the seconds dragged by and
still no sound came from her father's room, "Hetty!" she whispered
again.

Her eyes were on the bed as she whispered it, and in the pale light
the bed was patently empty.  Still she did not comprehend.  Her eyes
wandered from it to the open window.

When she spoke again it was with the same low whisper, but a whisper
which broke as she breathed it to follow where it might not reach.

"What have they done to you?  My darling, God watch over you now!"

She crept back to her room and lay shivering, waiting for the dawn.



BOOK III.



PROLOGUE.


In a chilly dawn, high among the mountains to the north of Berar, two
Britons were wandering with an Indian attendant.  They came like
spectres, in curling wreaths of mist that magnified their stature;
and daylight cowed each with the first glimpse of his comrade's face,
yellow with hunger and glassy-eyed with lack of sleep.  They were, in
fact, hopelessly lost.  They had spent the night huddled together on
a narrow ledge, listening hour by hour to the sound of water tumbling
over unknown precipices; and now they moved with painful cramped
limbs, yet listlessly, being past hope to escape or to see another
dawn.

The elder Briton was a Scotsman, aged fifty or thereabouts, a clerk
of the H.E.I.C.; the younger an Englishman barely turned twenty, an
officer in the same company's service.  They hailed from Surat, and
had arrived in Berar on a trade mission with an escort of fifty men,
of whom their present attendant, Bhagwan Dass, was the solitary
survivor; and this came of believing that a "protection" from the
Nizam would carry them anywhere in the Nizam's supposed dominions,
whereas the _de facto_ rulers of Berar were certain Mahratta
chieftains who collected its taxes and who had politely forwarded the
mission into the fastnesses of the mountains.  There, at the ripe
moment, the massacre had taken place, Mr. Menzies and young Prior
escaping on their hill-ponies, with Bhagwan Dass clutching at Prior's
stirrup-leather.  The massacre having been timed a little before
nightfall, darkness helped them to get clear away; but Menzies, by
over-riding his little mare, flung her, an hour later, with a broken
fetlock, and Prior's pony being all but dead-beat, they abandoned the
poor brutes on the mountain-side, took to their feet and stumbled on
until the setting of the young moon.  With the first light of dawn
they had roused themselves to start anew, lingering out the agony:
for the slopes below swarmed with enemies in chase, and even if a
village lurked in these heights the inhabitants would give no help,
being afraid of their Mahratta masters.

They had crossed a gully through which a mountain runlet descended,
unrolling a ribbon of green mossy herbage on its way, and slipping
out of sight over the edge of a precipice of two hundred feet or so.
Beyond this the eye saw nothing but clouds of mist heaving and
smoking to the very lip of the fall.  Young Prior halted for a moment
on the farther slope to take breath, and precisely at that moment
something happened which he lived to relate a hundred times and
always with wonder.  For as his eye fell on these clouds of mist, a
beam of light came travelling swiftly down the mountain and pierced
them, turning them to a fierce blood-red; next, almost with an
audible rush, the sun leapt into view over the eastern spurs: and
while he stared down upon the vapours writhing and bleeding under
this lance-thrust of dawn--while they shook themselves loose and
trailed away in wreaths of crimson and gold and violet, and deep in
the chasms between them shone the plain with its tilled fields and
villages--a cry from Bhagwan Dass fetched him round sharply, and he
beheld, a few yards above him on the slope, a man.

The man sat, naked to the waist, at the entrance of a low cave or
opening in the hillside.  He seemed to be of great age, with a calm
and almost unwrinkled face and gray locks falling to his shoulders,
around which hung a rosary of black beads, very highly polished and
flashing against the sun.  From the waist down he was wrapped in a
bright yellow shawl, and beside him lay a crutch and a wooden bowl
heaped with rice and conserves.

Before the two Britons could master their dismay, Bhagwan Dass had
run towards the cave and was imploring the holy man to give them
shelter and hiding.  For a while he listened merely, and his first
response was to lift the bowl and invite them with a gesture to stay
their hunger.  Famished though they were, they hesitated, and reading
the reason in their eyes, he spoke for the first time.

"It will not harm you," said he in Hindustani: "and the villagers
below bring me more than I can eat."

From the moment of setting eyes on him--Prior used to declare--a
blessed sense of protection fell upon the party; a feeling that in
the hour of extreme need God had suddenly put out a shield, under the
shadow of which they might rest in perfect confidence.  And indeed,
though they knew the mountain to be swarming with their enemies, they
entered the cave and slept all that day like children.  Whether or no
meanwhile their enemies drew near they never discovered: but Prior,
awaking towards nightfall, saw the hermit still seated at the
entrance as they had found him, and lay for a while listening to the
click of his rosary as he told bead after bead.

He must, however, have held some communication with the unseen
village in the valley: for three bowls of milk and rice stood ready
for them.  They supped, forbearing--upon Bhagwan Dass's advice--to
question him, though eager to know if he had a mind to help them
further, and how he might contrive it.  Until moonrise he gave no
sign at all; then rising gravely, crutch and bowl in hand, stepped a
pace or two beyond the entrance and whistled twice--as they supposed
for a guide.  But the only guides that answered were two small
mountain foxes--a vixen and her half-grown cub--that came bounding
around an angle of the rock and fawned about his feet while he
caressed them and spoke to them softly in a tongue which none of the
party understood.  And so they all set out, turning their faces
westward and keeping to the upper ridges; the foxes trotting always a
few paces ahead and showing the way.

All that night they walked as in a dream, and came at daybreak to a
ledge with a shrine upon it, and in the shrine a stone figure of a
goddess, and below the ledge--perhaps half a mile below it--a village
clinging dizzily to the mountain-side.--There was no food in the
shrine, only a few withered wreaths of marigolds: but the holy man
must have spoken to his foxes, for at dawn a priest came toiling up
the slope with a filled bowl so ample that his two arms scarcely
embraced it.  The priest set down the food, took the hermit's
blessing and departed in silence: and this was the only human
creature they saw on their journey.  Not for all their solicitation
would the hermit join them in eating: and at this they marvelled most
of all: for he had walked far and moderately fast, yet seemed to feel
less fatigue than any of them.  That night, as soon as the moon rose,
he started afresh with the same long easy stride, and the foxes led
the way as before.

The dawn rose, but this time he gave no signal for halting: and the
cool of morning was almost ended when he led them out through the
last broken crests of the ridge and, pointing to a broad plain at
their feet, told them that henceforward they might fare in safety.
A broad road traversed the plain, and beside it, some ten to twelve
miles from the base of the foothills, twinkled the white walls of a
rest-house.

"There," said he, pointing, "either to-day or to-morrow will pass the
trader Afzul Khan: and if indeed ye come from Surat--"

His mild eyes, as he pointed, were turned upon Menzies, who broke out
in amazement: "For certain Afzul Khan is known to us, as debtor
should be to creditor.  But how knowest _thou_ either that he passes
this way or that we come from Surat?"

"It is enough that I know."

"Either come with us then," Menzies pressed him, "and at the
rest-house Afzul Khan shall fill thy bowl with gold-dust; or remain
here, and I will send him."

"Why should he do aught so witless?"

Menzies laughed awkwardly.  "Though money be useless to thee, holy
man, I dare say thy villagers might be the gladder for it."

The hermit shook his head.

"Anyhow," broke in Prior, addressing Menzies in English, "we must do
_something_ for him, if only in justice to some folks who will be
glad enough to see us back alive."

"My friend here," Menzies interpreted, "has parents living, and is
their only son.  For me, I have a wife and three children.  For their
sakes, therefore--"

But the hermit put up a hand.  "Something I did for their sakes,
giving you back to the chains they will hang upon you.  It was
weakness in me, and no cause for thanks."  He turned his begging bowl
so that it shone in the sun: an ant clung to it, crawling on its
polished side.  "If ye have sons, I may live belike to see them pass
my way."

"That is not likely."

"Who knows?"  The old man's eyes rested on Bhagwan Dass.
"Unlikelier things have befallen me while I sat yonder.  See--" he
turned the bowl in his hand and nodded towards the ant running hither
and thither upon it.  "What happens to him that would not likewise
happen if he stood still?"

"There is food at the rest-house,"  Menzies persisted; "but I take it
you can find food on your way back, even though since starting we
have seen none pass your lips: and that is two days."

"It will be yet two days before I feast again: for I drink not save
of the spring by which you found me, and I eat no food the taste of
which I cannot wash from me in its water."

Menzies and Prior eyed one another.  "Cracked as an old bell!" said
the younger man in English, and laughed.

"Is it a vow?" Menzies asked.

"It is a vow."

"But tell me," put in Prior, "does the water of your spring differ
from that of a thousand others on these hills?"

"The younger sahib," answered the hermit, "understands not the
meaning of a vow; which a man makes to his own hurt, perhaps, or to
the hurt of another, or it may even be quite foolishly; but thereby
he stablishes his life, while the days of other men go by in a flux
of business.  As for the water of my hillside," he went on with a
sharp change of voice and speaking, to their amazement, in English,
"have not your countrymen, O sahibs, their particular springs?
Churchman and Dissenter, Presbyterian and Baptist--count they not
every Jordan above Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus?"

He turned and walked swiftly from them, mounting the slope with swift
loose strides.  But while they stared, Bhagwan Dass broke from them
and ran in pursuit.

"Not without thy blessing!  O Annesley sahib, go not before thou hast
blessed me!"

Two days later, at sunset, a child watching a little below the
hermit's spring saw him limp back to it and drink and seat himself
again at the entrance of the cave; and pelted down to the village
with the news.  And the hill-people, who had supposed him gone for
ever, swarmed up and about the cave to assure themselves.

"Alas!" said the holy man, gazing out upon the twilight when at
length all had departed, leaving him in peace.  "Cannot a man be
anywhere alone with God?  And yet," he added, "I was something
wistful for their love."



CHAPTER I.


"_To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have
rebelled against him: neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord
our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us.  O Lord, correct
me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to
nothing_."

The voice travelled down the great nave of Lincoln Cathedral, and, as
it came, the few morning worshippers--it was a week-day--inclined
their faces upwards: for it seemed to pause and float overhead and
again be carried forward by its own impulse, a pure column of sound
wavering awhile before it broke and spread and dissolved into
whispers among the multitudinous arches.  To a woman still kneeling
by a pillar close within the western doorway it was as the voice of a
seraph speaking with the dawn, fresh from his night-watch over earth.
She had been kneeling for minutes, and still knelt, but she could not
pray.  She had no business to be there.  To her the sentences carried
no message; but the voice smiting, pure and cold, across the hot
confusion in her brain, steadied her while it terrified.

Yet she knew the voice well enough.  It was but John Romley's.
The Dean and Chapter wanted a precentor, and among a score of
candidates had selected Romley and two others for further trial.
This was his chance and he was using it; making the most of it, too,
to the mingled admiration and disgust of his rivals listening in the
choir beside him.

And she had dressed early and climbed to the cathedral, not to pray,
but to seek Romley because she had instant need of him; because,
though she respected his character very little, he was the one man in
the world who could help her.  She had missed him at the door.
Entering, she learned from a verger that he was already robing.
Then the great organ sounded, and from habit she dropped on her
knees.

John Romley, unseen in the choir, was something very different from
John Romley in private life with his loose face and flabby handshake.
Old Mr. Wesley had once dismissed him contemptuously as _vox et
praeterea nihil_: but disembodied thus, almost a thing celestial, yet
subtly recalling home to her and ties renounced, the voice shook
Hetty's soul.  For it came on her as the second shock of an ambush.
She had climbed to the cathedral with but half of her senses awake,
drowsed by love, by the long ride in the languorous night wind, by
the exhaustion of a long struggle ended, by her wondering
helplessness on arriving--the chill sunlight, the deserted street,
the strange voice behind the lodging-house door, the unfamiliar
passage and stairs.  She had lived a lifetime in those hours, and for
the while Wroote Parsonage lay remote as a painful daily round from
the dream which follows it.  Only the practical instinct, as it were
a nerve in the centre of her brain, awake and refusing to be drugged,
had kept sounding its alarm to rise and seek Romley; and though at
length she obeyed in a panic, she went as one walking in sleep.
The front of the cathedral, as she came beneath its shadow, overhung
her as a phantom drawn upon the morning sky, its tall towers
unsubstantial, trembling against the light, but harmless even should
they fall upon her.  She entered as one might pass through a paper
screen.

The first shock came upon her then.  She passed not out of sunlight
into sunlight, but out of sunlight into a vast far-reaching,
high-arching gloom, which was another world and another life; the
solemn twilight which her upbringing had taught her to associate with
God.  Once before in her life, and once only, she had stood within
the minster--on her confirmation day, when she had entered with her
hand in her mother's.  Her eyes sought and found the very place where
she had sat then among the crowd of girl-candidates, and a ghost in a
white frock sat there still with bowed head.  She remembered the very
texture and scent of that white frock: they came back with the awe,
the fervour, the passionate desire to be good; and these memories
cried all in her ears, "What have you to do with that child?
Which of you is Hetty?  You cannot both be real."

They sang in her ears while she questioned the verger about Romley.
He had to repeat his answers before she thanked him and turned
towards one of the lowest seats.  She did not repent: she was not
thinking of repentance.  She loved, she had given all for love, and
life was fuller of beautifying joy than ever it had been even on that
day of confirmation: but beneath the joy awoke a small ache, and with
the ache a certain knowledge that she might never sit beside the
child in white, never so close as to touch her frock; that their
places in this building, God's habitation, were eternally separate.

Then the organ ceased, and the voice began to speak.  And the voice
uttered promise of pardon, but Hetty heard nothing of the words--only
the notes.

"_And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in
the cool of the day: and A dam and his wife hid themselves from the
presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden_."

Less terrible this voice was; a seraph's rather, at the lodge-gate,
welcoming the morn.  Yet Hetty crouched by her pillar, afraid.
For the day he welcomed was not _her_ day, the worship he offered was
not _her_ worship; for _her_ a sword lay across the gate.

Her terror passed, and she straightened herself.  After all, she did
not repent.  Why should she repent?  She was loved; she loved in
return, utterly and without guile, with a love which, centred upon
one, yet embraced all living creatures.  Nay, it embraced Heaven, if
Heaven would accept it.  And why not?

"_Wherefore let us beseech him_," said the voice, "_to grant us true
repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him
which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter
may be pure and holy_ . . ."

"Pure and holy"--but she desired no less, and out of her love.
She wanted to be friends with all at home, to go to them fearlessly
and make them understand her as she understood them, and to be good
all the days of her life.  "True repentance"?  Why repent? . . .
Ah, yes, of course: but God was no haggler over hours.  In an hour or
two . . . "That those things may please him which we do at this
present--"  She caught at her heart now as the terror--a practical
terror this time--returned upon it.  At all costs she must find John
Romley after service, though indeed there was little danger of
missing him, for he, no doubt, would be seeking her.

Her mind was clear now.

She lay in wait for him as he stepped out under the great porch, with
a clean surplice on his arm.  He paused there with a smile on his
face, glanced up at the blue sky, clapped on his hat, and descended
the steps gaily, whistling a phrase from the _Venite exultemus_; too
far preoccupied to recognise Hetty, until she stepped forward and
almost laid a hand on his arm.

"Miss Mehetabel!"

Plainly, then, he was not seeking her.

"You in Lincoln?  This is a surprise--a pleasant surprise, indeed!"

"But I came in search of you.  I have been waiting--"  She nodded her
head towards the porch.

"Eh?  You heard?  'Twas not altogether a breakdown, I hope?  You must
allow for some nervousness--did you detect it?  No?  Well, I don't
mind owning to you I was nervous as a cat: but there, if you didn't
detect it I shall flatter myself I did passably."  He laughed,
evidently on the best terms with himself.  His breath smelt of beer.
"The Rector is with you, of course?"

"My father?  But, Mr. Romley, I don't think you understand--"

"I shall do myself the pleasure of calling on him this morning.
Nothing could have happened better, and I'm in luck's way to-day, for
certain.  It seems the Dean and Chapter require a certificate from
him--a testimonial--just a line or two, to say that I'm a decent
respectable fellow.  We have not been friends of late--I hope Miss
Patty keeps pretty well, by the way--but he won't deny me that small
favour.  You were not seeking me on her account?" he added, by an
afterthought.  "Patty?"  She uttered her sister's name to gain time,
for in truth she was bewildered, alarmed.

He nodded.  "We are not allowed to correspond, as you know.  But she
must keep up her heart: your father will come round when he sees me
precentor.  'Tis a good opening.  We must allow for the Rector's
crotchets (you'll excuse me, I feel sure): but give him time, I say--
give him time, and he'll come round right and tight."

"My father is not with me.  Oh, Mr. Romley, you have heard, surely? I
was told--but there, you have the licence."

"The licence!  What licence?"  He stared at her.

Her heart sank.  Here was some horrible mistake.  She bethought
herself of his careless habits, which indeed were notorious enough in
and about Wroote and Epworth.  "It must be among your letters--have
you neglected them lately?  Ah, think--think, my friend: for to me
this means all the world."

"Upon my word of honour, Miss Hetty, I don't understand one word
you're saying.  Come, let us have it clear.  What brings you to
Lincoln?  The Rector is not with you.  Who, then?"

"We came here last night--early this morning, rather--"

"'We'?"

"I have left home.  You know what we intended?  But my father locked
me up.  I had tried to be open with him, and he would listen to
nothing.  So--as everything was ready--and you here with the
licence--"

John Romley stepped back a pace.  It is doubtful if he heard the last
words.  His eyes were round in his head.

"You are here--with--_him_!"  He gasped it in an incredulous whisper.
For a moment in her earnestness she met his stare.  Then her hands
went up to her face.  "You?  You?" he repeated slowly.  His eyes
shrank from her face and wandered helplessly over the smoke, over the
red roofs of the town below them.

"But we came to get married!"  She plucked her hands away from her
face and stepped close to him, forcing his reluctant eyes to meet
hers.  Her cheeks flamed: he groaned at the sight of her beauty.
"But we came to get married!  John, there is nothing--surely
nothing?--that with your help cannot be set right?  Ah, I forget--by
marrying us you will offend father, and you find now that you want
this favour of him.  John, it cannot be _that_--you cannot be playing
so cruel a trick for _that_--and after your promise?  Forgive me if I
am selfish: but think what I am fighting for!"

"It will cost me the precentorship," answered he slowly, "but I
hadn't given a thought to that."

"It shall cost you nothing of the kind.  After all, father is juster
to others than to me.  I will write--we will both write: I will tell
him what you risked to save his daughter.  Or, stay: any clergyman
will do, will he not?  We need only the licence.  You shall risk
nothing: give me only the licence and I will run and find one."

"Dear Miss Hetty, I made no promise.  I have no licence.  None has
reached me, nor word of one."

"Then he must have it!  He told me--that is, I understood--"
She broke off with a laugh most pitiful in John's ears, though it
seemed to reassure her.  "But how foolish of me!  Of _course_ he must
have it.  And you will come with me, at once?  At the least you are
willing to come?"

"Surely I will come."  John's face was gloomy.  "Where are the
lodgings?"

"I cannot tell you the name of the street, but I can find them.
John, you are an angel!  And afterwards I will sit and tell you about
Patty to your heart's content.  We can be married in the parlour, I
suppose?  Or must it be in church?  I had rather--far rather--it were
in church if you could manage that for us: but not to lose time.
Perhaps we can find a church later in the day and get permission to
go through the service again.  I daresay, though, he has it all
arranged--he said I might leave it to him.  You won't tell him, John,
what a fright I have given myself?"

So her tongue ran on as they descended the hill together.
John Romley walked beside her stupidly, wondering if she were in
truth reassured or chattering thus to keep up her hopes.  They might,
after all, be justified: but his forebodings weighed on his tongue.
Also the shock had stunned him and all his wits seemed to be buzzing
loose in his head.

They did not notice, although they passed it close, a certain
signboard over a low-browed shop half-way down the street.
Afterwards Hetty remembered passing the shop, and that its one window
was caked with mud and grimed with dust on top of the mud.  She did
not see a broad-shouldered man in a dirty baize apron seated at his
work-bench behind the pane.  Nor after passing the shop did she turn
her head: but walked on unaware of an ill-shaven face thrust out of
its doorway and staring after her.


William Wright sat at his bench that morning, fitting a leather
washer in a leaky brass tap.  In the darkest corner at the back of
the shop his father--a peevish old man, well past seventy--stooped
over a desk, engaged as usual in calculating his book-debts, an
occupation which brought him no comfort but merely ingrained his bad
opinion of mankind.  Having drunk his trade into a decline, and being
now superannuated, he nagged over his ledgers from morning to night
and snatched a fearful joy in goading William to the last limit of
forbearance.  William, who had made himself responsible for the old
man's debts, endured him on the whole very creditably.  "Here's a bad
'un," "Here's a bad 'un," piped the voice from time to time.

William trimmed away at his washer.

"Hello! Who's been putting this in the ledger?" The old man held up a
thin strip of leather.  "Oh, Willum, here's a very bad 'un!"

"What name?" asked William indifferently, without turning his head.

"Wesley, Reverend Samuel--Wroote and Epworth Rectory--
twelve-seventeen-six.  Two years owing, and not a stiver on account.
Oh, a poisonous bad 'un!"

"That's all right!"

"Not a stiver on account!"

"All right, I tell you.  There won't be any paying on account with
that bill: it'll be all or nothing.  All, perhaps; and, if so,
something more than all"--he laid down his clasp-knife and almost
involuntarily put a hand up to his cheek--"but nothing, most like.
I put that slip of leather there to remind me, but I don't need it.
'Twelve-seventeen-six'--better scratch it off."

"'Scratch it off'?  Scratch off twelve-seventeen-six!"  Old Wright
spun round on his stool.  But William sat gazing out of the window.
He had picked up his knife again, but did not at once resume work.

The next thing old Wright heard was the clatter of a knife on the
bench.  William sprang up as it dropped, crept swiftly to the shop
door, and stood there craning his head into the street and fumbling
with his apron.

"What's the matter?  Cut yourself?  It don't want a doctor, do it?"

William did not answer: suddenly he plucked off his apron, flung it
backwards into the shop, and disappeared into the street.  The old
man tottered forward, picked it off the floor and stood examining it,
his mouth opening and shutting like a fish's.



CHAPTER II.


"'Brought him'!  Who told you to bring him?"

Hetty's lover faced her across the round table in the lodging-house
parlour.  The table was spread for two, and Hetty's knife and plate
stood ready for her with a covered dish before it.  He had
breakfasted, and their entrance surprised him with an empty pewter in
his hand, his chair thrust back sideways from the table, his legs
extended towards the empty fire-place, and his eyes bent on his
handsome calves with a somewhat moody frown.

"Who told you to bring him?"

John Romley stood in the doorway behind Hetty's shoulder.  She turned
to him bravely and quietly, albeit with the scare in her face.

"I ought not to have brought you in like this.  You will not mind
waiting outside, will you?--a minute only--while I explain--"

Romley bent his head and walked out, closing the door.

"Dear"--Hetty turned--"you must forgive me, but I could not rest
until I had brought him."

He had risen, and stood now with his face averted, gazing out of the
window where a row of clouts and linen garments on a clothes-line
blocked the view of an untidy back-yard.  He had known that this
moment must come, but not that it would take him so soon and at
unawares.  He let his anger rise while he considered what to answer;
for a man in the wrong will miss no excuse for losing his temper.

Hetty waited for a moment, then went on--"And I thought you had given
him the licence: that is what made me so anxious to find--"

A noise in the passage cut short her excuses: a woman's laugh.
Hetty knew of two women only in the house--the landlady who
had opened the door last night and a pert-looking slatternly servant
she had passed at the foot of the stairs on her way to the cathedral.
She could not tell to which of these the voice belonged: but the
laugh and the jest it followed--though she had not caught it--were
plainly at John Romley's expense, and the laugh was horrible.

It rang on her ears like a street-door bell.  It seemed to tear down
the mystery of the house and scream out its secret.  The young man at
the window turned against his will and met Hetty's eyes.  They were
strained and staring.

She put out her hand.  "Where is the licence?" she asked.  "Give it
to me."

The change in her voice and manner confused him.  "My dear child,
don't be silly," he blundered.

"Give me the licence."

"Tut, tut--let us understand one another like sensible folks.
You must not treat me like a boy, to be bounced in this fashion by
John Romley."  He began to whip up his temper again.  "Nasty tippling
parson! I've more than a mind to kick him into the street."

Her eyes widened on his with growing knowledge, growing pain: but
faith lived in them yet.

"I thought you had given him the licence, to be ready for us.
Yes, yes--you did say it!" Her hand went up to her bosom for his last
letter, which she had worn there until last night.  Then she
remembered: she had left it upstairs.  Having him, she had no more
need to wear it.

He read the gesture.  "You are right, dear, and I forgot.  I _did_ say
so, because I believed by the time the words reached you--or
thereabouts, at any rate--"

"Then _you_ have it.  Give it to me, please," she commanded.

He stepped to the fire-place, unable to meet her eye.  "You hurried
me," he muttered: "there was not time."

For a moment she spread out both hands as one groping in the dark:
then the veil fell from her eyes and she saw.  The truth spoke to her
senses first--in the sordid disarray of breakfast, in the fusty smell
of the room with its soiled curtains, its fly-blown mirror, its
outlook on the blank court.  A whiff of air crept in at the open
window--flat, with a scullery odour which sickened her soul.  In her
ears rang the laugh of the woman in the passage.

"What have you done?  What have you done to me?"

She crouched, shivering, like some beautiful wild creature entrapped.
He faced her again.  Her eyes were on his, but fastened there now by
a shrinking terror.

"Hetty!"

She put up a hand and turned her face to the wall, as if to shut out
him and the light.  He stepped to her, caught her by the wrist and
forced her round towards him.  At the first touch he felt her wince.
So will you see a young she-panther wince and cower from her tamer's
whip.

Yet, although she shuddered, she could not drag her hand away.
He was her tamer now: and as he spoke soothingly and she grew
quieter, a new faith awoke in her, yet a faith as old as woman; the
false imperishable faith that by giving all she binds a man as he has
bound her.

With a cry she let her brow sink till it touched his breast.
Then, straightening herself, she gripped him by both shoulders and
stared close into his eyes--clinging to him as she had clung that
evening on the frozen canal, but with a face how different!

"But you mean no harm?  You told me a falsehood"--here he blinked,
but she went on, her eyes devouring his--"but you told it in
kindness?  Say you mean no harm to me--you will get this licence
soon.  How soon?  Do not be angry--ah, see how I humble myself to
you!  You mean honestly: yes, yes, but say it! how soon?"

"Hetty, I'll be honest with you.  One cannot get a licence in a day."

"And I will be patient--so patient!  Only we must leave this horrible
house: you must find me a lodging where I can be alone."

"Why, what's the matter with this house?"  He tried a laugh, and the
result betrayed him.

Her body stiffened again.  "When did you apply for the licence?" she
demanded.  "How long since?"

He tried to shuffle.  "But answer me!" she insisted, thrusting him
away.  And then, after a pause and very slowly, "You have not applied
at all," she said.  "You are lying again. . . . God forgive you."
She drew herself up and for an instant he thought she was going to
strike him; but she only shivered.  "I must go home."

"Home!" he echoed.

"And whither but home?"--with a loathing look around her.

"You will not dare."

In all this pitiful scene was nothing so pitiful as the pride in
which she drew herself up and towered over the man who had abased
her.  Yet her voice was quiet.  "That you cannot understand is worst
of all.  I feared sin too little: but I can face the consequences.
I fear them less than--than--"

A look around her completed the sentence eloquently enough.  As she
stood with her hand on the door-latch that look travelled around the
sordid room and rested finally on him as a piece of it.  Then the
latch clicked, and she was gone.

She stood in the passage by the foot of the staircase.  Half-way up
the servant girl was stooping over a stair-rod, pretending to clean
it.  Hetty's wits were clear.  She reflected a moment, and mounted
steadily to her room, crammed her poor trifles into her satchel, and
came down again with a face of ice.

The girl drew aside, watching her intently.  But--on a sudden
impulse--"Miss--" she said.

"I beg your pardon!" Hetty paused.

"I wouldn't be in a hurry, miss.  You can master him, if you try--you
and the parson: and the worst of 'em's better than none.  And you
that pretty, too!"

"I don't understand you," answered Hetty coldly, and passed on.

John Romley was patrolling the pavement outside.  She forced up a
smile to meet him.  "There has been some difficulty with the
licence," said she, and marvelled at her own calmness.  "I am sorry,
John, to have brought you here for nothing.  He hid it from me--in
kindness: but meanwhile I am going back."  With this brave falsehood
she turned to leave him, knowing that he believed it as little as
she.

He too marvelled.  "Is it necessary to go back?"

"It is necessary."

"Then let me find you some conveyance."  But he saw that she wished
only to be rid of him, and so shook hands and watched her down the
street.

"The infernal hound!" he said to himself; and as she passed out of
sight he turned to the lodging-house door and entered without
knocking.

He emerged, twenty minutes later, with his white bands twisted, his
hat awry, and a smear of blood on the surplice he carried--altogether
a very unclerical-looking figure.  On the way back to his inn he kept
looking at his cut knuckles, and, arriving, called for a noggin of
brandy.  By midday he was drunk, and at one o'clock he was due to
appear at the Chapter House.  The hour struck: but John Romley sat on
in the coffee-room staring stupidly at his knuckles.

And all this while in the lodging-house parlour sat or paced the man
who has no name in this book.  He also was drinking: but the
brandy-and-water, though he gulped it fiercely, neither unsteadied
his legs nor confused his brain.  Only it deadened by degrees the
ruddy colour in his face to a gray shining pallor, showing up one
angry spot on the cheek-bone.  Though he frowned as he paced and
muttered now and again to himself, he was not thinking of John
Romley.

Some men are born to be the curse of women and, through women, of the
world.  Despicable in themselves they inherit a dreadful secret
before which, as in a fortress betrayed to a false password, the
proudest virtue hauls down its flag, and kneeling, proffers its keys.
Doubtless they move under fate to an end appointed, though to us they
appear but as sightseers, obscure and irresponsible, who passing
through a temple defile its holies and go their casual ways.
We wonder that this should be.  But so it is, and such was this man.
Let his name perish.



CHAPTER III.


Late that evening and a little after moonrise, Johnny Whitelamb,
going out to the woodstack for a faggot, stood still for a moment at
sight of a figure half-blotted in the shadow.

"Miss Hetty--oh, Miss Hetty!" he called softly.

Hetty did not run; but as he stepped to her, let him take her hands
and lifted her face to the moonlight.

"What are they doing?" she whispered.

Johnny was never eloquent.  "They are sitting by the fire, just as
usual," he answered her, but his voice shook over the words.

"Just as usual?" she echoed dully.  "Mother and the girls, you mean?"

"Yes: the Rector is in his study.  I have not seen him to-day: only
the mistress has seen him."  He paused: Hetty shivered.  She was weak
and woefully tired: for, excepting a lift at Marton and a second in a
wagon from Gainsborough to Haxey, she had walked from Lincoln and had
been walking all day.

"I cannot tell what mistress thinks," Johnny went on: "the others
talk to each other--a word now and then--but she sits looking at the
fire and says nothing.  I think she means to sit up late to-night.
Else why did she send me out for another faggot?" he asked, in his
simple, puzzled way.  "But oh, Miss Hetty, she will be glad you've
come back, and now we can all be happy again!"

She waved a hand feebly.  "Fetch Molly to me."

By the pallor of her brow in the moonlight he made sure she was near
to fainting: and, indeed she was not far from it.  He ran and burst
in at the kitchen-door impetuously; but meeting the eyes of the
family, surprised--as well they might be--by the violence of his
entry and his scared face, he became suddenly and absurdly
diplomatic, crossed to Molly and whispered, as Mrs. Wesley turned her
eyes from the fire.

"But where is the faggot?" she demanded.

"I--I forgot it," stammered Johnny and was for returning to fetch it.
Molly rose.

"Hetty is outside," she announced.

For a second or two there was silence.  Mrs. Wesley turned to her
crippled daughter.  "You had best bring her in.  The rest of you, go
to bed."

They obeyed at once and in silence.  Johnny, too, stole off to his
mattress in the glass-doored cupboard under the stairs.

When Molly returned, leading in her sister, Mrs. Wesley was seated by
the fire alone.  Mother and daughter looked into each other's eyes.
In silence Hetty stepped forward and dropped into the chair a minute
ago vacated by Kezzy.  But for the ticking of the tall clock there
was no sound in the kitchen.

Mrs. Wesley read Hetty's eyes; read the truth in them, and something
else which tied her tongue.  She made no offer to rise and kiss her.

"You are hungry?" she asked after a while, and Molly pushed forward a
plate of biscuits.  Hetty ate ravenously for a minute (for
twenty-four hours not a morsel of food had passed her lips and she
had walked close on thirty miles) and then pushed away the plate in
disgust.  Her eyes still sought her mother's; they neither pleaded
nor reproached.

Yet Mrs. Wesley spoke, when next she spoke, as if choosing to answer
a plea.  "Your father does not know of your return.  You may sleep
with Molly to-night."  She bent over the hearth and raked its embers
together.  Molly laid a hand lightly on Hetty's shoulder, then
slipped it under the crook of her arm, and lifted and led her from
the kitchen.

Hetty went unresisting.  When they reached the bedroom she halted and
stared around as one who had lost her bearings.  She winced once and
shook as Molly's gentle fingers began to unfasten her bodice, but
afterwards stood quite passive and suffered herself to be undressed
as a little child.  Molly unlaced her shoes.  Molly brought cool
water in a basin, bathed her face and hands, braided her hair--the
masses of red-brown hair she had been used to admire and caress,
passing a hand over them as tenderly as of old; then knelt and washed
the tired feet, and wiped them, feeling the arch of the instep with
her bare hand and chafing them to make sure they were dry--so cold
they were.

"Won't you say your prayers, dear?"

Hetty shook her head.

"Then at least you shall kneel by me, and I will pray for both."

Molly's arm was about her.  She obeyed and with her waist so
encircled knelt by the bed.  And twice Molly, not interrupting her
prayer, pressed the waist close to her side, and once lifted her lips
and kissed the side of the brow.

They arose at length, the one confirmed now and made almost fearless
by saintliness and love.  But the other, creeping first into the
narrow bed, shrank away towards the wall and lay with her eyes fixed
on it and staring.

"No, darling," whispered Molly, "when you were strong and I was weak
you used to comfort me.  I am the strong one now, and you shall not
escape me so!"

And so it was.  Her feeble arms had suddenly become strong.
They slid, the one beneath Hetty's shoulder, the other across and
below her bosom, and straining, not to be denied, they forced her
round.  Wide-eyed still, Hetty gazed up into eyes dark in the
moonlight, but conquering her, piercing through all secrets.  Her own
brimmed suddenly with tears and she lay quiet, her soul naked beneath
Molly's soul.

"Ay, let them come--let them come while I hold you!"

While Hetty lay, neither winking nor moving, the big drops
overbrimmed at the corners of each eye and trickled on the pillow.
As one fell, another gathered.  Silent, unchecked, they flowed, and
Molly bent and watched them flowing.

"A little while--a little while!" moaned Hetty.

"I will hold you so for ever."

"No--yet a little while, though you know not what you are holding."

"Were it a thousand times worse than I think, I am holding my
sister."

"To-morrow--"

"We will bear it together." Molly smiled, but very faintly.
"You forget that I shall never marry--that I shall always need you to
care for.  All my life till now you have protected me: now I shall
pay back what I owe."

"Ah, you think I fear father?  Molly, I do not fear father at all.
I fear myself--what I am."  And still staring up Hetty whispered a
horrible word.

"Oh hush, hush!"  Molly laid a swift hand over her lips, and for a
while there was silence in the room.

"So make the most of me now," Hetty murmured, "while you have me to
hold, dear; for what I am is not mine to give."

"Hetty!" Molly drew back.  "You will not go--to _him_--again?"

"If he will marry me.  I do not think he will, dear: I do not think
he has the courage.  But if he calls me, I will go humbly,
thankfully."

"And if not--"

Hetty turned her face aside: but after a moment she looked up,
staring, as before.  There were no tears in her eyes now.

"I do not know."  She was silent awhile, then went on slowly.
"But if any honest man will have me, I vow before God to marry him.
Yes, and I would take his hand and bless it for so much honour, were
he the lowest hind in the fields."

Molly choked down a cry and held her breath.  Her arms slipped from
around the dear body she could have saved from fire, from drowning,
from anything but this.  This pair had loved and honoured each other
from babyhood: the heart of each had been a shrine for the other,
daily decked with pretty thoughts as a shrine with flowers in season.
All that was best they had brought each other: how much at need they
were ready to give God alone knew.  And now, by the law which in Eden
divided woman from man, the basest stranger among the millions of men
held the power denied to Molly, the only salvation for Hetty's need.
"What I am is not mine to give"--for a minute Molly bowed over her
sister, helpless.

"But no," she cried suddenly, "that is wicked! It would be a thousand
times worse than the other, however bad.  You shall take no such
oath!  You did not know what it meant.  Hetty, Hetty, take it back!"

She flung herself forward sobbing.

"I have said it," Hetty answered quietly.  The two lay shuddering,
breast to breast.


Downstairs a sad-eyed woman sat over the dead fire.  She heard a
chair pushed back in the next room, and trembled.  By and by she
heard her husband trying the bolts of the doors and window-shutters.
He looked into the kitchen and, finding her there seated with the
lamp beside her, withdrew without a word.  She had not raised her
head.  His footsteps went up the stair slowly.

For another hour, almost, she sat on, staring at the gray ashes: then
took the lamp and went shivering to her room.



CHAPTER IV.


The worst (or perhaps the best) of a temper so choleric as Mr.
Wesley's is that by constant daily expenditure on trifles it fatigues
itself, and is apt to betray its possessor by an unexpected lassitude
when a really serious occasion calls.  A temper thoroughly cruel
(which his was not) steadily increases its appetite: but a temper
less than cruel, or cruel only by accident, will run itself to a
standstill and either cry for a strong whip or yield to the
temptation to defer the crisis.

On this Mrs. Wesley was building when she broke to her husband the
news of Hetty's return.  He lifted himself in his chair, clutching
its arms.  His face was gray with spent passion.

"Where is she?"

"She has gone for a walk, alone," she answered.  She had, in truth,
packed Hetty off and watched her across the yard before venturing to
her husband's door.

"So best."  He dropped back in his chair with a sigh that was more
than half composed of relief.  "So best, perhaps.  I will speak to
her later."

He looked at his wife with hopeless inquiry.  She bowed her head for
sign that it was indeed hopeless.

Now Molly had sought her mother early and spoken up.  But Molly (who
intended nothing so little) had not only made herself felt, for the
first time in her life, as a person to be reckoned with, but had also
done the most fatally foolish thing in her life by winding up with:
"And we--you and father and all of us, but father especially--have
driven her to it!  God knows to what you will drive her yet: for she
has taken an oath under heaven to marry the first man who offers, and
she is capable of it, if you will not be sensible."

--Which was just the last thing Hetty would have forbidden her to
tell, yet just the last thing Hetty would have told, had she been
pleading for Molly.  For Hetty had long since gauged her mother and
knew that, while her instinct for her sons' interests was well-nigh
impeccable, on any question that concerned her daughters she would
blunder nine times out of ten.

So now Mrs. Wesley, meaning no harm and foreseeing none, answered her
husband gravely, "She has told me nothing.  But she swears she will
marry the first man who offers."

The Rector shut his mouth firmly.  "That decides it," he answered.
"Has she gone in search of the fool?"

But this was merely a cry of bitterness.  As Mrs. Wesley stole from
the room, he opened a drawer in his table, pulled out some sheets of
manuscript, and gazed at them for a while without fixing his
thoughts.  He seldom considered his daughters.  Women had their place
in the world: that place was to obey and bear children: to carry on
the line for men.  It was a father's duty to take care that their
husbands should be good men, worthy of the admixture of good blood.
The family which yielded its daughters to this office yielded them as
its surplus.  They did not carry on its name, which depended on its
sons. . . . He had three sons: but of all his daughters Hetty had
come nearest to claim a son's esteem.  Something masculine in her
mind had encouraged him to teach her Latin and Greek.  It had been an
experiment, half seriously undertaken; it had come to be seriously
pursued.  Not even John had brought so flexible a sense of language.
In accuracy she could not compare with John, nor in that masculine
apprehension which seizes on logic even in the rudiments of grammar.
Mr. Wesley--a poet himself, though by no means a great one--had
sometimes found John too pragmatical in demanding reasons for this
and that.  "Child," he had once protested, "you think to carry
everything by dint of argument; but you will find how little is ever
done in the world by close reasoning": and, turning to his wife in a
pet, "I profess, sweetheart, I think our Jack would not attend to the
most pressing necessities of nature unless he could give a reason for
it."  To Hetty, on the other hand, beauty--beauty in language, in
music, in all forms of art, no less than the beauty of a spring day--
was an ultimate thing and lay beyond questions: and Mr. Wesley,
though as a divine he checked her somewhat pagan impulses and
recalled them to give account of their ground of choice, as a scholar
could not help admiring them.  For they seldom led her to choose
wrongly.  In Hetty dwelt something of the Attic instinct which, in
days of literary artifice and literary fashions from which she could
not wholly escape, kept her taste fresh and guided her at once to
browse on what was natural and health-giving and to reject with
delicate disgust what was rank and overblown.  Himself a sardonic
humorist, he could enjoy the bubbling mirth with which she discovered
comedy in the objects of their common derision.  Himself a hoplite in
study, laborious, without sense of proportion, he could look on and
smile while she, a woman, walked more nimbly, picking and choosing as
she went.

The manuscript he held was a poem of hers, scored with additions and
alterations of his own, by which (though mistakenly) he believed he
had improved it: a song of praise put in the mouth of a disciple of
Plato: its name, "Eupolis, his Hymn to the Creator."  As he turned
the pages, his eyes paused and fastened themselves on a passage here
and there:

     "Sole from sole Thou mak'st the sun
      On his burning axles run:
      The stars like dust around him fly,
      And strew the area of the sky:
      He drives so swift his race above,
      Mortals can't perceive him move:
      So smooth his course, oblique or straight,
      Olympus shakes not with his weight.
      As the Queen of solemn Night
      Fills at his vase her orb of light--
      Imparted lustre--thus we see
      The solar virtue shines by Thee.
      EIRESIONE! we'll no more
      For its fancied aid implore,
      Since bright _oil_ and _wool_ and _wine_
      And life-sustaining _bread_ are Thine;
     _Wine_ that sprightly mirth supplies,
      Noble wine for sacrifice. . . ."

The verses, though he repeated them, had no meaning for him.
He remembered her sitting at the table by the window (now surrendered
to Johnny Whitelamb) and transcribing them into a fair copy, sitting
with head bent and the sunlight playing on her red-brown hair: he
remembered her standing by his chair with a flushed face, waiting for
his verdict.  But though his memory retained these visions, they
carried no sentiment.  He only thought of the young, almost boyish,
promise in the lines:

     "Omen, monster, prodigy!
      Or nothing is, or Jove, from thee.
      Whether various Nature's play,
      Or she, renversed, thy will obey,
      And to rebel man declare
      Famine, plague or wasteful war . . .
      No evil can from Thee proceed;
     'Tis only suffered, not decreed. . . ."

He gazed from the careful handwriting to the horizon beyond his
window.  Why had he fished out the poem from its drawer?  She, the
writer--his child--was a wanton.



CHAPTER V.


Hetty had found a patch of ragged turf and mallow where the woodstack
hid her from the parsonage windows; and sat there in the morning
sun--unconsciously, as usual, courting its full rays.  Between her
and the stack the ground was bare, strewn with straw and broken
twigs.  She supposed that her father would send for her soon: but she
was preparing no defence, no excuses.  She hoped, indeed, that the
interview would be short, but simply because the account she must
render to him seemed trivial beside that which she must render to
herself.  Her eyes watched the hens as they scratched pits in the
warm dust, snuggled down and adjusted and readjusted their
wing-feathers.  But her brain was busied over and over with the same
thought--"I am now a bad woman.  Is there yet any way for me to be
good?"

Yet her wits were alert enough.  She heard her father's footstep on
the path twenty yards away, guessed the moment which would bring him
into sight of her.  Though she did not look up, she knew that he had
come to a halt.  She waited.  He turned and walked slowly away.
She knew why he had faltered.  Her mind ran back to the problem.
"I am a bad woman.  Is there any way for me to be good?"

Half an hour passed.  Emilia came round the rick, talking to herself,
holding a wooden bowl from which she had been feeding the chickens.
She came upon Hetty unawares and stood still, with a face at first
confused, but gradually hardening.

"Sit down, Emmy."  Hetty pointed to a faggot lying a few paces off.

Emilia hesitated.

"You may sit down: near enough to listen--"

                     'Here I and sorrows sit;
      Here is my throne, let Emmy bow to it.'

"You were reciting as you came along."  She raised her eyes with a
grave smile.  "Shall I tell you your secret?"

"What secret?" asked Emilia, reddening in spite of herself.

"Oh, I have known it a long while! But if you want me to whisper it,
you must come closer.  Nay, my dear, I know very little of the
stage--perhaps as little as you: but, from what I have read, it will
bring you close to creatures worse than I."

Emilia was scared now.  "Who told you?  Have you heard from Jacky?--
no, he couldn't, because--"

"--Because you never told him, although you may have hinted at it.
And if you told him, he would laugh and call it the ambition of a
girl who knows nothing of the world."

"I will not starve here.  And now that this--this disgrace--"

"Father would think it no less disgrace to see you an actress.
Listen: a little while ago he came this way, meaning to curse me, but
he turned back and did not.  And now you come, and are confused, and
I read you just as plainly.  While my wits are so clear I want to say
one or two things to you.  Yesterday--only yesterday--I left home for
ever, and here I am back again.  I have been wicked, you say, and
there is nothing sinful in becoming an actress.  Perhaps not: yet I
am sure father would think it sinful--even more selfishly sinful than
my fault, because it would hurt the careers of Jacky and Charles; and
that, as you know, he would never forgive."

"Who are you, to be lecturing me?"

"I am your sister, who has done wrong: I have tasted bitter fruit and
must go eating it all my life.  But it is fruit of knowledge--ah,
listen, Emmy!  If you do this and become famous, the greater your
fame, the greater the injury; or so father would hold it, and perhaps
our brothers too.  Hetty can be hidden and forgotten in a far country
parish.  But can Jacky become a bishop, having an actress for
sister?"

"You are sudden in this thought for your brothers."

"It is not of them I am thinking.  I say that if you succeed you will
lose father's forgiveness and always carry with you this sorrowful
knowledge.  Yet I would bid you go and do it; for to be great is
worth much cost of sorrow, and sorrow might even increase your
greatness.  But have you that strength?  And if you should not
succeed?--We know nothing of the world: all our thoughts of it come
out of books and dreaming.  You imagine yourself treading the boards
and holding all hearts captive with your voice.  So I used to imagine
myself slaying dragons.  So, only yesterday, I believed--"

She sat erect with a shiver.  "To wake and find all your dreams
changed to squalor, and for you no turning back!  Have you the
strength, Emmy--to go forward and change that squalor back again by
sheer force into beautiful dreams?  Have you the strength?"
She gazed at Emilia and added musingly, "No, you have not the
strength.  You will stay on here in the cage, an obedient woman, your
talent repressed to feed the future of those grand brothers of ours
who take all we give, yet cannot help us one whit.  They take it
innocently; they do not know; and they are dear good fellows.
But they cannot help.  I only have done what may injure them--though
I do not think it will: and when father came along the path just now,
he was thinking of them rather than of me--of me only as I might
injure them."

She was right indeed.  Mr. Wesley had left the house thinking of her:
but a few steps had called up the faces of his sons, and by habit,
since he thought of them always on his walks.  His studies put aside,
to think of them was his one recreation.  Coming upon Hetty, he had
felt himself taken at unawares, and retreated.

"--And when he turned away," Hetty went on, "I understood.  And I
felt sorry for him; because all of a sudden it came to me that he may
be wiser than any of us, and one day it will be made plain to us,
what we have helped to do--or to spoil."

"Here is someone you had better be sorry for," said Emilia, glancing
along the path at the sound of footsteps and catching sight of Nancy.
"She has made up her mind that John Lambert will have no more to do
with us now; and the wedding not a month away!"

Sure enough, Nancy's eyes were red, and she gazed at Hetty less with
reprobation than with lugubrious reproach.

"Then she knows less of John Lambert than I do," said Hetty; "and
still less how deep he is in love with her.  Nancy dear," she asked,
"was he to have walked over this morning?"

"He was coming from Haxey way," wailed Nancy.  "He was to have been
here at ten o'clock and it is past that now.  Of course he has heard,
and does not mean to come."

Hetty choked down an exceeding bitter sob.

"Anne--sister Anne," she answered in her old light manner, though she
desired to be alone and to weep: "go, look along the road and say if
you see anyone coming!"

Nancy turned away, too generous to upbraid her sister, but hotly
ashamed of her and her lack of contrition, and indignantly sorry for
herself.  Nevertheless she went towards the gate whence she could see
along the road.

"It seems to me," said Emilia, "that you are scarcely awake yet to
your--your situation."

She was trying to recover her superiority, which Hetty had shaken by
guessing her secret.

"Oh, yes I am," Hetty answered.  "But my time may be short for
talking: so I use what ways I can to make my sisters listen.  Hark!"

"He is coming!" Nancy announced, running towards them from the gate.
Honest love shone in her eyes.  "He is coming--and there is someone
with him!"

"Who?" asked Emilia.  Hetty's eyes put the same question, far more
eagerly.  She rose up: her face was white.

"I don't know.  He--they--are half a mile away.  Yet I seem to know
the figure.  It is odd now--"

Hetty put out a hand and leaned it against the wood-stack to steady
herself.  The sharpened end of a stake pierced her palm, but she did
not feel it.

"Is it--is it--"  Her lips worked and formed the words, inaudibly.

"Run and look again," commanded Emilia.

But Hetty turned and walked swiftly away.  Could it be _he_?  No--and
yet why not?  Until this moment she had not known how much she built
upon that chance.  She loved him still: at the bottom of her heart
most tenderly.  She had reproached herself, saying that her desire
for him had nothing to do with love--was no genuine impulse to
forgive, but a selfish cowardly longing to be saved, as only he could
save her.  She was wrong.  She desired to be saved: but she desired
far more wildly that he should play the man, justify her love and
earn forgiveness.  She had--and was, alas! to prove it--an almost
infinite capacity to forgive.  She, Hetty, of the reckless wit and
tongue--she would meet him humbly--as one whose sin had been as deep
as his . . .

Was it he?  If so, she would beg his pardon for thoughts which had
accused him of cowardice. . . .

She could not wait for the truth.  So much joy it would bring, or so
deep anguish.  She walked away blindly towards the fields, not once
looking back.


"So there you're hiding!" cried John Lambert triumphantly, saluting
Nancy with a smacking kiss on either cheek, and in no way
disconcerted by Emilia's presence.

Nancy pushed him away, but half-heartedly.

"No, you mustn't!" she protested, and her face grew suddenly tragic.

"Oh, I forgot for the moment!" John Lambert tried to look doleful.
He was an energetic young land-surveyor, with tow-coloured hair and a
face incurably jolly.

"You have heard, then?" asked Emilia.

"Why, bless you, your father was around to see me at eight o'clock
yesterday morning, or some such hour.  He must have saddled at once.
He's a stickler, is the Rector.  'Young Mr. Lambert,' says he, very
formal, or some such words, 'I regret to say I must retract my
permission that you should marry into my family, as doubtless you
will wish to be released of your troth.'  'Hallo!' says I, a bit
surprised, but knowing his crotchets: 'Why, what have I been doing?'
'Nothing,' says he.  'Then what has _she_ been up to?'"--this with a
wink at Emilia--"'Nothing,' says he again, and pours out the whole
story, or so much of it as he knew and guessed, and winds up with
'I release you,' and a bow very formal and stiff.  'How about Miss
Nancy?' I asked; 'does she release me too?'  'I haven't asked her,'
he says, and goes on that he is not in the habit of being guided by
his daughters.  To which I replied: 'Well, I am--by one of 'em,
anyhow--or hope to be.  And, if you don't mind, I'll step round
to-morrow at the hour she expects me.  I'd do it this moment if I
hadn't a job at Bawtry.  And I'm sorry for you, Rector,' I said,
'but if you think it makes a penn'orth of difference to me apart from
that, you're mistaken.'  And so we parted."

"Have you thought of the consequences?" Nancy demanded, tearful, but
obviously worshipping this very ordinary young man.

"No, I haven't."

"She is back again."

"Oh, is she? Then she found him out quick.  Poor Hetty! She must be
in a taking too!"  His face expressed commiseration for a moment, but
with an effort, and sprang back to jollity as a bow is released from
its cord.  "Curious, how quickly a bit of news like that gets about!
I picked up with a man on the road--said his name was Wright and he
comes from Lincoln--a decent fellow--tradesman--plumber, I think.
At all events he knows a deal about you, and began, after a while,
pumping me about your sister.  I saw in a moment that he had heard
something, and gave him precious little change for his money.
Talked as if he knew more than I did, if only he cared to tell: but
of course I didn't encourage him."

"Wright?--a plumber from Lincoln?" Emilia faltered, and her eyes met
Nancy's.

"That's it.  He had business with your father, he said.  In fact I
left him on his way to knock at the door."

The two sisters remembered the man on the knoll, and his bill.
They were used to duns.

Emilia's eye signalled that John Lambert was to be kept away from the
house at all costs; nor did she breathe freely until she saw the
lovers crossing the fields arm-in-arm.



CHAPTER VI.


"And my business is important.  William Wright is the name, and you'd
better say that I come from Lincoln direct."

The answer came back that Mr. Wesley would see Mr. Wright in his
study; and thither accordingly Mr. Wright lurched, after pulling out
a red handkerchief and dusting his boots on the front doorstep.
At his entrance Johnny Whitelamb rose, gathered up some papers and
retired.  The Rector looked up from his writing-table, at the same
moment pushing back and shutting the drawer upon Hetty's manuscript,
which he had again been studying.

"Good morning, Mr. Wright.  You have come about your bill, I suspect:
the amount of which, if I remember--"

"Twelve-seventeen-six."

The Rector sighed.  "It is extremely awkward for me to pay you just
now.  Still, no doubt you find it no less awkward to wait: and since
you have come all the way from Lincoln to collect it--"

"Steady a bit," Mr. Wright interrupted; "I never said that.  I said
I'd come direct from Lincoln."

Mr. Wesley looked puzzled.  "Pardon me, is not that the same thing?"

"No, it ain't.  I'd be glad enough of my little bit of money to be
sure: but there's more things than money in this world, Mr. Wesley."

"So I have sometimes endeavoured to teach."

"There's more things than money," repeated Mr. Wright, not to be
denied: for it struck him as a really fine utterance, with a touch of
the epigrammatic too, of which he had not believed himself capable.
In the stir of his feelings he was conscious of an unfamiliar
loftiness, and conscious also that it did him credit.  He paused and
added, "There's darters, for instance."

"Daughters?"  Mr. Wesley opened his eyes wide.

"Darters." Mr. Wright nodded his head slowly and took a step nearer
to the table.  "Has Missy come back?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

"If you mean my daughter Mehetabel--yes, she has returned."

"I saw her in Lincoln only yesterday morning.  She didn't see me; but
having (as you might say) my suspicions, I follered her: and I saw
enough to make a man feel sore--leastways when he takes an interest
in a young lady as I do in Miss Hetty.  For, saving your presence,
sir, you've a good-looking bunch, but she's the pick.  'Tis a bad
business--a very bad business, Mr. Wesley.  What, may I ask, are you
going to do about it?"

"You certainly may _not_ ask, Mr. Wright."  The danger-signal
twinkled for a moment under the Rector's brows; but he repressed it
and turned towards a cupboard in the wall, where in a drawer lay
fifteen pounds, ten of which he had designed to send to Oxford.
"Twelve pounds seventeen shillings and sixpence, I think you said?"

"Never mind the bill, sir, for a moment.  And about Miss Hetty I'll
ask ye no questions if you forbid it: but something I came to say,
and it'll have to be said.  First of all I want to be clear with you
that I had no hand in this affair.  On the contrary, I saw it coming
and warned her against the fellow."

"I have not the least need of your assurance.  I did not even know
you were acquainted--"

"No, you don't need it; but I need to give it.  _Very_ well: now
comes my point.  Here's a young lady beautiful as roses, _and_ that
accomplished, _and_ that thoroughbred she makes an honest tradesman
feel like dirt to look upon her.  Oh, you needn't to stare, sir!
William Wright knows breeding when he sees it, in man or beast; and
as for feeling like dirt, why there's a sort of pleasure in it, if
you understand me."

"I do not."

"No: I don't suppose you do.  You're not the sort of man to feel like
dirt before anyone--not before King George on his throne.  But you
may take my word for it there's a kind of man that likes it: when he
looks at a woman, I mean.  'Take care, my lady,' I said; 'you're
delicate and proud now, and as dainty as a bit of china.  But once
you fall off the shelf--well, down you go, and 'tis all over but the
broom and the dust-heap.  There you'll lie, with no man to look at
you; worse than the coarsest pint-pot a man will drink out of.'
You understand me now, Mr. Wesley?"

"I do, sir, to my sorrow, but--"

"But that's just where you're wrong--you _don't_!" Mr. Wright cried
triumphantly, and pursued with an earnestness which held Mr. Wesley
still in his chair.  "I'll swear to you, sir, that if I could have
stopped this, I would: ay, though it killed my only chance.  But I
couldn't.  The thing's done.  And I tell you, sir"--his face was
flushed now, and his voice shaking--"broken as she is, I do worship
Miss Hetty beyond any woman in the world.  I do worship her as if she
had tumbled slap out of heaven.  I--I--there you have it, any way: so
if you'll leave talking about the little account between us--"

Mr. Wesley stood up, drew out his keys, opened the cupboard and began
counting the sum out upon the table.

"You misunderstand me, sir: indeed you do!" Mr. Wright protested.

"Maybe," answered the Rector grimly.  "But I happen to be consulting
my own choice.  Twelve pounds seventeen and sixpence, I think you
said?  You had best sit down and write out a receipt."

"But why interrupt a man, sir, when he's thinking of higher things,
and with his hand 'most too shaky to hold a pen?"

The Rector walked to the window and stood waiting while the receipt
was made out: then took the paper, went to the cupboard and filed it,
locked the door and resumed his seat.

"Now, sir, let me understand your further business.  You desire, I
gather, to marry my daughter Mehetabel?"

Mr. Wright gasped and swallowed something in his throat.  Put into
words, his audacity frightened him.  "That's so, sir," he managed to
answer.

"Knowing her late conduct?"

"If I didn't," Mr. Wright answered frankly, "I shouldn't ha' been
fool enough to come."

"You are a convinced Christian?"

"I go to church off and on, if that's what you mean, sir."

"'Tis not in the least what I mean, Mr. Wright."

"There's no reason why I shouldn't go oftener."

"There is every reason why you should.  You are able to maintain my
daughter?"

"I pay my way, sir; though hard enough it is for an honest tradesman
in these times."  Insensibly he dropped into the tone of one pressing
for payment.  The Rector regarded him with brows drawn down and the
angry light half-veiled, but awake in his eyes now and growing.
Mr. Wright, looking up, read danger and misread it as threatening
_him_.  "Indeed, sir," he broke out, courageously enough, "I feel for
you: I do, indeed.  It seems strange enough to _me_ to be standing
here and asking you for such a thing.  But when a man feels as I do
t'ards Miss Hetty he don't know himself: he'll go and do that for
which he'd call another man a fool.  Kick me to doors if you want to:
I can't help it.  All I tell you is, I worship her from the top of
her pretty head to her shoe-strings; and if she were wife of mine she
should neither wash nor scrub, cook nor mend; but a room I would make
for her, and chairs and cushions she should have to sit on, and books
to read, and pens and paper to write down her pretty thoughts; and
not a word of the past, but me looking up to her and proud all the
days of my life, and studying to make her comfortable, like the lady
she is!"

During this remarkable speech Mr. Wesley sat without a smile.  At the
end of it, he lifted a small handbell from the writing-table and rang
it twice.

Mr. Wright made sure that this was a signal for his dismissal.
He mopped his face.  "Well, it can't be helped.  I've been a fool, no
doubt: but you've had it straight from me, as between man and man."

He picked up his hat and was turning to go, when the door opened and
Mrs. Wesley appeared.

"My dear," said the Rector, "the name of this honest man is Wright--
Mr. William Wright, a plumber, of Lincoln.  To my surprise he has
just done me the honour of offering to marry Mehetabel."

Mrs. Wesley turned from the bowing Mr. Wright and fastened on her
husband a look incredulous but scared.

"I need scarcely say he is aware of--of the event which makes his
offer an extremely generous one."

The signal in the Rector's eyes was blazing now.  His wife rested her
hand on a chair-back to gain strength against she knew not what.
Mr. Wright smiled, vaguely apologetic; and the smile made him look
exceedingly foolish; but she saw that the man was in earnest.

"I think," pursued Mr. Wesley, aware of her terror, aware of the pain
he took from his own words, but now for the moment fiercely enjoying
both--"I think," he pursued slowly, "there can be no question of our
answer.  I must, of course, make inquiry into your circumstances, and
assure myself that I am not bestowing Mehetabel on an evil-liver.
Worthless as she is, I owe her this precaution, which you must
pardon.  I will be prompt, sir.  In two days, if you return, you
shall have my decision; and if my inquiries have satisfied me--as I
make no doubt they will--my wife and I can only accept your offer and
express our high sense of your condescension."

Mr. Wright gazed, open-mouthed, from husband to wife.  He saw that
Mrs. Wesley was trembling, but her eyes held no answer for him.
He was trembling too.

"You mean that I'm to come along?" he managed to stammer.

"I do, sir.  On the day after to-morrow you may come for my answer.
Meanwhile--"

Mr. Wright never knew what words the Rector choked down.  They would
have surprised him considerably.  As it was, reading his dismissal in
a slight motion of Mrs. Wesley's hand, he made his escape; but had to
pull himself up on the front doorstep to take his bearings and assure
himself that he stood on his feet.



CHAPTER VII.


     "She graced my humble roof and blest my life,
      Blest me by a far greater name than wife;
      Yet still I bore an undisputed sway,
      Nor was't her task, but pleasure, to obey;
      Scarce thought, much less could act, what I denied.
      In our low house there was no room for pride:" etc.
           The Rev. Samuel Wesley's Verses of his Wife.

     "It is an unhappiness almost peculiar to our family that your
      father and I seldom think alike. . . ."

     "I am, I believe, got on the right side of fifty, infirm and
      weak; yet, old as I am, since I have taken my husband 'for
      better, for worse,' I'll take my residence with him: where he
      lives, I will live: and where he dies, will I die: and there
      will I be buried.  God do so unto me and more also, if aught
      but death part him and me."
                             Mrs. Wesley's Letters.

Mrs. Wesley guessed well enough what manner of words her husband had
choked down.  She stood and watched his face, waiting for him to lift
his eyes.  But he refused obstinately to lift them, and went on
rearranging with aimless fingers the pens and papers on his
writing-table.  At length she plucked up her courage.  "Husband," she
said, "let us take counsel together.  We are in a plight that wrath
will not cure: but, be angry as you will, we cannot give Hetty to
this man."

It needed but this.  He fixed his eyes on hers now, and the light in
them first quivered, then grew steady as a beam.  "Did you hear me
give my promise?" he demanded.

"You had no right to promise it."

"I do not break promises.  And I take others at their word.  Has she,
or has she not, vowed herself ready to marry the first honest man who
will take her; ay, and to thank him?"

"She was beside herself.  We cannot take advantage of such a vow."

"You are stripping her of the last rag of honour.  I prefer to credit
her with courage at least: to believe that she hands me the knife and
says, 'cut out this sore.'  But wittingly or no she has handed it to
me, and by heaven, ma'am, I will use it!"

"It will kill her."

"There are worse things than death."

"But if--if the _other_ should seek her and offer atonement--"

Mr. Wesley pacing the room with his hands beneath his coat-tails,
halted suddenly and flung up both arms, as a man lifts a stone to
dash it down.

"What!  Accept a favour from _him_!  Have you lived with me these
years and know me so little?  And can you fear God and think to save
your daughter out of hell by giving her back her sin, to rut in it?"

Mrs. Wesley shook her head helplessly.  "Let her be punished, then,
in God's natural way!  Vengeance is His, dear: ah, do not take it out
of His hands in your anger, I beseech you!"

"God for my sins made me her father, and gave me authority to
punish."  He halted again and cried suddenly, "Do you think this is
not hurting me!"

"Pause then, for it is His warning.  Who _is_ this man?  What do you
know of him?  To think of him and Hetty together makes my flesh
creep!"

"Would you rather, then, see her--"  But at sound of a sobbing cry
from her, he checked the terrible question.  "You are trying to
unnerve me.  'Who is he?' you ask.  That is just what I am going to
find out."  At the door he turned.  "We have other children to think
of, pray you remember.  I will harbour no wantons in my house."



CHAPTER VIII.


At first Hetty walked swiftly across the fields, not daring to look
back.  "Is it he?" she kept asking herself, and as often cried out
against the hope.  She had no right to pray as she was praying: it
was suing God to make Himself an accomplice in sin.  She ought to
hate the man, yet--God forgive her!--she loved him still.  Was it
possible to love and despise together?  If he should come. . . .
She caught herself picturing their meeting.  He would follow across
the fields in search of her.  She would hear his footstep.  Yet she
would not turn at once--he should not see how her heart leapt.
He would overtake her, call her by name. . . . She must not be proud:
just proud enough to let him see how deep the wrong had been.
But she would be humble too. . . .

She heard no footsteps.  No voice called her.  Unable to endure it
longer, she came to a standstill and looked back.  Between her and
the parsonage buildings the wide fields were empty.  She could see
the corner of the woodstack.  No one stood there.  Away to the left
two figures diminished by distance followed a footpath arm-in-arm--
John Lambert and Nancy.

A great blackness fell on her.  She had no pride now; she turned and
went slowly back, not to the parsonage, but aslant by the bank of a
dyke leading to the highroad along which, a few hours ago, she had
returned so wearily.  She must watch and discover what man it was who
had come with John Lambert.

Before she reached the low bridge by the road, she heard a tune
whistled and a man's footfall approaching--not _his_.  She supposed
it to be one of the labourers, and in a sudden terror hid herself
behind an ash-bole on the brink.

The man went by, still whistling cheerfully.  She peered around the
tree and watched him as he retreated--a broad-shouldered man,
swinging a cudgel.  A hundred yards or less beyond her tree he
halted, with his back to her, in the middle of the road, and stayed
his whistling while he made two or three ludicrous cuts with his
cudgel at the empty air.  This pantomime over, he resumed his way.

She recognised him by so much of his back as showed over the dwarf
hedge.  It was William Wright.

Was it _he_, then, who had come with John Lambert?  Hetty sat down by
the tree, and, with her eyes on the slow water in the dyke, began to
think.

To be sure, this man might have come to Wroote merely for his money.
Yet (as she firmly believed) it was he who had written the letter
which in effect had led to her running away.  He might have used the
debt to-day as a pretext.  His motive, she felt certain, was
curiosity to learn what his letter had brought about.

She bore him no grudge.  He had fired the train--oh, no doubt!
But she was clear-sighted now, saw that the true fault after all was
hers, and would waste no time in accusing others.  Very soon she
dismissed him from her mind.  In all the blank hopelessness of her
fall from hope she put aside self-pity, and tasked herself to face
the worst.  To Emilia and Nancy she had spoken lightly, as if
scarcely alive to her dreadful position, still less alive to her sin.
They had misunderstood her: but in truth she had spoken so on the
instinct of self-defence.  Real defence she had none.

She knew she had none.  And let it be said here that she saw no
comfortable hope in religion.  She had listened to a plenty of
doctrine from her early childhood: but somehow the mysteries of God
had seldom occupied her thoughts, never as bearing directly on the
questions of daily life.  If asked, for example, "did she believe in
the Trinity?" or "did she believe in justification by faith?" she
would have answered "yes," without hesitating for a moment.  But in
fact these high teachings lay outside her private religion, which
amounted to this--"God is all-seeing and omnipotent.  To please Him I
must be good; and being good gives me pleasure in turn, for I feel
that His eye is upon me and He approves.  He is terribly stern: but
all-merciful too.  If, having done wrong, I go to Him contritely, and
repent, He will give me a chance to amend my ways, and if I honestly
strive to amend them, He will forgive."  In short--and perhaps
because the word "Father" helped to mislead--she had made for herself
an image of God by exalting and magnifying all that she saw best in
her parents.  And this view of Him her parents had confirmed
insensibly, in a thousand trifles, by laying constant daily stress
upon good conduct, and by dictating it and judging her lapses with an
air of calm authority, which took for granted that what pleased them
was exactly what would please God.

So now, having done that which her mother and father could not
forgive, at first she hardly dared to hope that God could by any
means forgive it.  In the warm sunlight of loving she had seen for a
while that her father and mother were not always wise; nay, long
beforehand in her discontent she had been groping towards this
discovery.  But now that the sunshine had proved a cruel cheat, she
ran back in dismay upon the old guide-posts, and they pointed to a
hell indeed.

She had been wicked.  She craved to be good.  She remembered Mary
Magdalene, whom Christ had forgiven, and caught at a hope for
herself.  But why had Christ forgiven Mary?  Because she had been
sorry, and turned and walked the rest of her life in goodness?
Because He had foreseen her long atonement?  So Hetty believed.
For her, too, then the way back to forgiveness lay through conduct--
always through conduct; and for her the road stretched long, for not
until death could she reach assurance.  Of a way to forgiveness
through faith (though she must have heard of it a hundred times) she
scarcely thought; still less of a way through faith to instant
assurance.  To those who have not travelled by that road its end--
though promised on the honour of God and proclaimed incessantly by
those who have travelled and found it--seems merely incredible.
Hardly can man or woman, taught from infancy to suspect false guides,
trust these reports of a country where to believe and to have are
one.

Hetty sat by the tree and saw the road beyond her, that it was steep
and full of suffering.  But for this she did not refuse it: she
desired it rather.  She saw also, that along it was no well of
forgiveness to refresh her; the thirst must endure till she reached
the end and went down in darkness to the river.  This, too, she must
endure, God in mercy helping her.  What daunted her was conscience
whispering that she had as yet no right to that mercy, no right even
to tread the road.  For though her sin was abhorrent, in her heart
she loved her fellow-sinner yet.  A sound of hoofs aroused her.
Still screened by her tree, she saw her father trot by on the filly.
In spite of the warm settled weather he carried his cloak before him
strapped across the holsters.  His ride, therefore, would be a long
one; to Gainsborough at least--or to Lincoln?

She lifted her head and sat erect in a sharp terror.  Was her father
going to seek _him_?  She had not thought of this as possible.
And if so--

Leaping up she ran into the open and gazed after him, as though the
sight of his bobbing figure could resolve her crowding surmises.
For a minute and more she stood, gazing so; and then, turning, was
aware of her mother coming slowly towards her across the wide field.

A number of shallow ditches, dry at this season, crossed the fields
in parallels; and at each of these Mrs. Wesley picked up her skirts.
"How young she is!" was Hetty's thought as she came nearer, and it
rose--purely from habit--above her own misery.  Hetty was one of
those women who admire other women ungrudgingly.  She knew herself to
be beautiful, yet in her eyes her mother had always the mien of a
goddess.

For her mother's character, too, she had the deepest, tenderest
respect.  But it was the respect of a critic rather than of a child,
and touched with humorous wonder.  She knew her firmness of judgment,
her self-control, her courage in poverty, the secret ardent piety
illuminating her commonest daily actions; she knew how perfectly
designed that character was for masculine needs, how strong for
guidance the will even in yielding--but alas! how feeble to help a
daughter!

"Your father is riding to Lincoln," said Mrs. Wesley as she drew
near.  Hetty scanned her closely, but read no encouragement in her
face.  She fell back on the tone she had used with Emilia and Nancy;
knowing, however, that this time it would not be misunderstood.
"I saw that he had taken his cloak with him," she answered.
"Be frank with me, mother.  You would be frank, you know, with Jacky
or Charles, if they were in trouble; whereas now you are not looking
me in the face, and your own is white."

Mrs. Wesley did not answer, but walked with Hetty back to the tree
and, at a sign, seated herself on the bank beside her, with her eyes
on the road.

"I have been sitting here for quite a long time," began Hetty, after
a pause, and went on lightly.  "Before father passed a tradesman went
by--a man called Wright."  She paused again as Mrs. Wesley's hands
made an involuntary movement in her lap.  "He has a bill against
father; he called with it on the evening you came back from London.
Is father riding after him to pay it?"

"What do you know of that man?" Mrs. Wesley muttered, with her head
turned aside and her hands working.

"Very little; yet enough to suspect more than you guess," said Hetty
calmly.

But her mother showed her now a face she had not looked to see.

"You know, then?--but no, you cannot!"

It was Hetty's turn to show a face of alarm.  "What is it, dear? I
thought--indeed I know--he had a notion about me--how I was
behaving--and wrote a letter to father.  But that cannot matter now.
Is there anything worse?  I understood he had merely an account
against father; an ordinary bill.  It _is_ something worse--oh, tell
me!  Father is riding after him!  I see it in your face.  What is
this trouble which I have added to?"

"The debt is paid, I believe," answered Mrs. Wesley; but she shook as
she said it.

"Yet father is riding after him.  What is the matter?  Let me see
your eyes!"

But her mother would not.  In the long silence, looking at her,
slowly--very slowly--Hetty understood.  After understanding there
followed another long silence, until Hetty drew herself up against
the bole of the tree and shivered.

"Come back to the house, mother.  You had best take my arm."



CHAPTER IX.


Mr. Wesley slept that night at Lincoln, and rode back the next
afternoon, reaching Wroote a little before nightfall.  After stabling
the filly he went straight to his study.  Thither, a few minutes
later, Mrs. Wesley carried his supper on a tray.  He kissed her, but
she saw at once from his manner that he would not talk, that he
wished to be alone.

Hetty and Molly sat upstairs in the dusk of the garret, speaking
little.  Molly had exhausted her strength for the while and argued no
more, but leaned back in her chair with a hand laid on Hetty's
forehead, who--crouching on the floor against her knee--drew down the
nerveless fingers, fondled them one by one against her cheek, and
kissed them, thinking her own thoughts.

Downstairs a gloom, a breathless terror almost, brooded over the
circle by the kitchen hearth.  They knew of Hetty's probable fate--
the sentence to be pronounced to-morrow; they had whispered it one to
another, and while they condemned her it awed them.

Soon after nine Johnny Whitelamb came in from the fields where for
two hours he had been walking fiercely but quite aimlessly.
Great drops of sweat stood out on his temples, over which his hair
fell lank and clammy.  His shoes and stockings were dusted over with
fine earth.  He did not speak, but lit his candle and went off to his
bed-cupboard under the stairs.

Before ten o'clock the rest of the family crept away to bed.
Mr. Wesley sat on in his study.  This was the night of the week on
which he composed his Sunday morning's sermon.  He wrote at it
steadily until midnight.

Next morning, about an hour after breakfast, Mrs. Wesley heard the
hand-bell rung in the study--the sound for which (it seemed to her)
she had been listening in affright for two long days.  She went at
once.  In the passage she met Johnny Whitelamb coming out.

"I am to fetch Miss Hetty," he whispered with a world of dreadful
meaning.

But for once Johnny was not strictly obedient.  Instead of seeking
Hetty he went first across the farmyard and through a small gate
whence a path took him to a duck-pond at an angle of the kitchen
garden, and just outside its hedge.  A pace or two from the brink
stood a grindstone in a wooden frame; and here, on the grindstone
handle, sat Molly watching the ducks.

"He has sent for her," announced Johnny, and glanced towards the
kitchen-garden.  "Is she there?"

Molly rose with a set face.  She did not answer his question.

"You must give me ten minutes," she said.  "Ten minutes; on no
account must you bring her sooner."

She limped off towards the house.

So it happened that as Mr. and Mrs. Wesley stood and faced each other
across the writing-table they heard a gentle knock, and, turning with
a start, saw the door open and Molly walk boldly into the room.

"We are busy," said the Rector sharply, recovering himself.  "I did
not send for you."

"I know it," Molly answered; "but I am come first to explain."

"If you are here to speak for your sister, I wish to hear no
explanations."

"I know it," Molly answered again; "but I need to give them; and,
please you, father, you will listen to me."

Mr. Wesley gasped.  Of all his daughters this deformed one had
rendered him the most absolute obedience; of her alone he could say
that, apart from her bodily weakness, she had never given him a
moment's distress.  In a family where high courage was the rule her
timidity was a by-word; she would turn pale at the least word of
anger.  But she was brave now, as a dove to defend her brood.

"You are using a secret"--her voice trembled, but almost at once grew
steady again--"a secret between me and Hetty which I had no right to
betray.  If I told it to mother, it was because she seemed to doubt
of Hetty's despair; because I believed, if only she knew, she would
come to Hetty and help her--the more eagerly the worse the need.
Mother will tell you that was my only reason.  I was very foolish.
Mother would not help: or perhaps she could not.  She went straight
to you with the tale--this poor pitiful tale of an oath taken in
passion by the unhappiest girl on earth.  Yes, and the dearest, and
the noblest! . . . But why do I tell you this?  You are her father
and her mother, and it is nothing to you; you prefer to be her
judges.  Only I say that you have no right to my secret.  Give it
back to me!  You shall not use it to do this wickedness!"

"Molly!"  The last word fairly took Mrs. Wesley's breath away; she
glanced at the Rector; but the explosion she expected hung fire,
although he was breathing hard.

Molly, too, was panting, but she went on recklessly.  "Yes; a
wickedness!  She swore it, but she did not mean it.  Even had she
meant it, she was not responsible. . . . No, mother, you need not
look at me so.  I have been thinking, and father shall hear the truth
for once.  Had he been kind--had he even been just--Hetty had never
run away.  Oh, sir, you are a good man! but you are seldom kind, and
you are rarely just.  You plan what seems best to you--best for Sam
and Jacky and Charles--best for us too, maybe.  But of us, apart from
your wishes, you never think at all.  Oh, yes again, you are good;
but your temper makes life a torture--"

"Silence!"  Mr. Wesley thundered out suddenly.

But the thunder did not affect Molly one whit.

"You may do what you will to me, sir; but you have heard the truth.
You are a tyrant to those you love: and now in your tyranny you are
going to do what even in your tyranny you have never done before--a
downright wickedness.  Thwarted abroad, you have drunk of power at
home till you have come to persuade yourself that our souls are
yours.  They are not.  You may condemn Hetty to misery as you have
driven--yes, driven--her to sin: but her soul is not yours and this
secret of hers is mine not yours!"

But here standing beside the table she began to sway, then to sob and
laugh unnaturally.  Mrs. Wesley, instantly composed at sight of a
physical breakdown, stepped to her and caught her by both wrists, but
not before she had pointed a finger point-blank at her father's gray
face.

"But--but--he is ridiculous!" she gasped between her short outcries.
"Look at him!  A ridiculous little man!"

Her mother took her by both shoulders and forced her from the room,
almost carried her upstairs, dashed cold water over her face and left
her to sob out her hysterics on her bed.  It had been a weak,
undignified exit: but those last words, which she never remembered to
have uttered, her father never forgot.  In all the rest of her short
life Molly never had a sign from him that he remembered her outbreak.
Also he never again spoke a harsh word to her.


While her mother bent over her, waiting for the attack to subside, a
knock sounded below stairs.  Molly heard it, raised herself on the
bed for a moment, staring wildly, then sank back helpless, and her
moaning began afresh.

Mrs. Wesley turned her face away quickly; and with that her gaze,
passing out through the garret window, fell on a figure crossing the
yard towards the house.

It was Hetty, moving to the sacrifice.  And below, on the other side
of the house, the man was knocking to claim her.

For a moment Mrs. Wesley felt as one in a closing trap.  It was she,
not Hetty, upon whom these iron teeth of fate were meeting; and
Hetty, the true victim, had become part of the machine of punishment.
The illusion passed almost as quickly as it had come, and with a
glance at the figure on the bed she hurried downstairs, in time to
meet Hetty at the back door.

As she opened it she heard William Wright's footstep in the passage
behind, and his shuffling halt outside the study door, while Jane,
the servant, rapped for admittance.

Hetty, too, heard it, and bent her head.

"We had best go in at once," Mrs. Wesley suggested, desperately
anxious now to come to the worst and get it over.

Hetty bent her head again and followed without a word.  The two men
were standing--the Rector by his writing-table, Mr. Wright a little
inside the door.  He drew aside to let the two ladies pass and
waited, fumbling with his hat and stick and eyeing the pattern of the
carpet.  There was no boldness about him.  It seemed he dared not
look at Hetty.

"Ah!" Mr. Wesley cleared his throat.  "There is no reason, Mr.
Wright, why we should protract a business which (as you may guess)
must needs be extremely painful to some of us here.  I have made
inquiries about you and find that, though not well-to-do, you bear
the reputation of an honest man, even a kind one.  It appears that at
great cost to yourself you have made provision for an aged father,
going (I am told) well beyond the strict limits of a son's duty.
Filial obedience--"  The Rector's eyes here fell upon Hetty and he
checked himself.  "But I will not enlarge upon that.  You ask to
marry my daughter.  She is in no position to decline your offer, but
must rather accept it and with thanks, in humility.  As her father I
commend her to your love and forbearance."

There was silence for a while.  Mr. Wright lifted his head: and now
his culprit's look had vanished and in its place was one of genuine
earnestness.

"I thank ye, sir," he said; "but, if 'tis no liberty, I'd like to
hear what Miss Hetty says."  Hetty, too, lifted her eyes and for the
first time since entering rested them on the man who was to be her
husband.  Mrs. Wesley saw how they blenched and how she compelled
them to steadiness; and turned her own away.

"Sir," said Hetty, "you have heard my father.  Although he has not
chosen to tell you, I am bound; and must answer under my bond unless
he release me."

"For your salvation, as I most firmly believe, I refuse to release
you," said the Rector.

"Then, sir," she continued, still with her eyes on William Wright,
"under my bond I will answer you.  If, as I think, those who marry
without love sin against God and themselves, my father is driving out
sin by sin.  I cannot love you: but what I do under force I will do
with an honest wish to please.  I thank you for stooping to one whom
her parents cast out.  I shall remember my unworthiness all the more
because you have overlooked it.  You are all strange to me.  Just now
I shrink from you.  But you at least see something left in me to
value.  Noble or base your feeling may be: it is something which
these two, my parents who begat me, have not.  I will try to think it
noble--to thank you for it all my days--to be a good wife."

She held out her hand.  As Mr. Wright extended his, coarse and not
too clean, she touched it with her finger-tips and faced her father,
waiting his word of dismissal.

But the Rector was looking at his wife.  For a moment he hesitated;
then, stepping forward, drew her arm within his, and the pair left
the room together.



CHAPTER X.


William Wright stared at the door as it closed upon them.  Hetty did
not stir.  To reach it she must pass him.  She stood by the
writing-table, her profile turned to him, her body bent with a great
shame; suffering anguish, yet with an indignant pride holding it down
and driving it inward as she repressed her bosom's rise and fall.
Even a callous man must have pitied her; and William Wright, though a
vulgar man, was by no means a callous one.

"Miss Hetty--" he managed to say, and was not ashamed that his voice
shook.

She did not seem to hear.

"Miss Hetty--"  His voice was louder and he saw that she heard.
"There's a deal I'd like to say, but the things that come uppermost
are all foolish.  F'r instance, what I most want to say is that I'm
desperate sorry for you.  And--and here's another thing, though 'tis
even foolisher.  When I came to speak to your father, day before
yestiddy, the first thing he did was to pay me down every penny he
owed me--not that I was thinking of it for one moment--"

She had turned her head away at first, yet not as if refusing to
listen: but now from a sudden stiffening of her shoulders, he saw
that he was offending.

"Nay, now," he persisted, "but you must hear me finish.  I want you
to know what I did with it.  I went home with it jingling in my
pocket, and called out my father and spread it on the counter before
him.  'Look at it,' I said, and his eyes fairly glistened.
'And now,' I said, 'hear me tell you that neither you nor I touches a
penny of it.'  I took him up the hill to the cathedral and crammed it
into a box there.  For the touch of it burned my fingers till I got
rid of it, same as it burned your father's.  The old man fairly
capered to see me and cried out that I must be mad.  'Think so?' said
I, 'then there's worse to come.'  I led him home again, went to my
drawerful of savings, and counted out the like sum to a penny.
'That's towards a chair for her,' said I; 'and that's towards a sofy;
and there's for this, and there's for that.  If she will condescend
to the likes of me, like a queen she shall be treated while I have
fingers to work.'  That's what I said, Miss Hetty: and that's what I
want to tell you, foolish as you'll think it, and rough belike."

She turned suddenly upon him with swimming eyes.

"'Condescend'?"  she echoed.

He nodded.  "That's so: and like dirt you may treat me.  You did
once, you know.  I'd like it to go on."

She spread her hands vaguely.  "Why _will_ you be kind to me?  When--
when--"

"When you'd far liefer have every excuse to hate the sight of me.
Oh, I understand!  Well, I'd even give you that, if it pleased you,
and I could."

She looked at him now, long and earnestly.  Her next question was a
strange one and had little connection with her thoughts.

"Did you sign that letter?"

"What letter?"

"The one you sent to father."

He fingered his jaw in a puzzled way.  "I never sent any letter to
your father.  Writing's none so easy to me, though sorry I am to say
it."

"Then it must have been--"  Light broke on her, but she paused and
suppressed Patty's name.

"I like you," she went on, "because you speak honestly with me."

"Come, that's better."

"No: I want you to understand.  It's because your honesty makes me
able to be honest with you."  She drew herself up to the height of
her superb beauty and touched her breast.  "You see me?" she asked in
a low, hurried voice.  "I am yours.  My father has said it, and I
repeat it, adding this: I make no bargain, except that you will be
honest.  I am to be your wife: use me as you will.  All that life
with you calls to be undergone, I will undergo: as his drudge to the
hind in the fields I offer myself.  Nothing less than that shall
satisfy me, since through it--can you not see?--I must save myself.
But oh, sir! since something in me makes you prize me above other
women, even as I am, let that compel you to be open with me always!
When, as it will, a thought makes you turn from me--though but for a
moment--do not hide it.  I would drink all the cup.  I must atone--
let me atone!"

She walked straight up to him in her urgency, but suddenly dropped
her arms.  He stared at her, bewildered.

"I shall have no such thoughts, Miss Hetty."



CHAPTER XI.


Beyond the kitchen-garden a raised causeway led into the Bawtry road,
between an old drain of the Tome River and a narrower ditch running
down to the parsonage duck-pond.  The ditch as a rule was dry, or
almost dry, being fed through a sluice in the embankment from time to
time when the waters of the duck-pond needed replenishing.

Half an hour later, as William Wright--who had business at Bawtry--
left the yard by the small gate and came stepping briskly by the
pond, Johnny Whitelamb pushed through the hedge at the end of the
kitchen-garden, attempted a flying leap across the ditch and
scrambled--with one leg plastered in mud to the knee--up to the
causeway, where he stood waving his arms like a windmill and uttering
sounds as rapid as they were incoherent.

The plumber, catching sight of this agitated figure on the path
ahead, stood still for a moment.  He understood neither the noises
nor the uncouth gestures, but made sure that some accident had
happened.

"Here, what's wrong?" he demanded, moving on and coming to a halt
again in front of Johnny.

But still Johnny gurgled and choked.  "You--you mustn't come here!"

"Eh, why not? What's doing?"

"You mustn't come here.  You _sha'n't_--it's worse than murder!
P-promise me you won't come here again!"

Mr. Wright began to understand, and his eye twinkled.  "Who's to
prevent it, now?"

"_I_ will, if you w-won't listen to reason.  You are killing her,
between you: you don't know w-what wickedness you're doing.
She's--she's an angel."

"Bravo, my lad!  So she is, every inch of her."  The plumber held out
his hand.

Johnny drew his away indignantly and began to choke again.
"She's not for you.  It'll all come right if you stay away.
P-promise me you'll stay away!

"There I don't agree with you."

"C-can you fight?"

"A bit.  Here, keep on your coat, boy, and don't be a fool.
Hands off, you young dolt!"

There was barely room on the causeway for two to pass.  As Mr. Wright
thrust by, Johnny snatched furiously at his arm and with just enough
force to slew him round.  Letting go, he struck for his face.

The plumber had no wish to hurt the lad.  Being a quick man with his
fists, he parried the blow easily enough.

"No more of this!" he shouted, and as Johnny leapt again, hurled him
off with a backward sweep of his wrist.

He must have put more weight into it than he intended.  Johnny, flung
to the very edge of the causeway, floundered twice to recover his
balance; his feet slipped on the mud, and with hands clutching the
air he soused into the water at Mr. Wright's feet.

"Hallo!" called out a cheerful voice.  "Whar you two up to?"

Dick Ellison was coming down the causeway towards the house, somewhat
advanced in liquor, though it wanted an hour of noon.  Wright, who
knew him only by sight, did not observe this at once.  "Come and
help," he answered, dropping on his knees by the brink and offering
Johnny a hand.

Johnny declined it.  He was a strong swimmer, and in a couple of
strokes regained the bank and scrambled to firm ground again,
dripping from head to heel and looking excessively foolish.

"Wha's matter?" demanded Mr. Ellison again.

"Nothing he need be ashamed of," answered Mr. Wright.  "Here, shake
hands, my boy!"

But Johnny dropped his head and walked away, hiding tears of rage and
shame.

"Sulky young pig," commented Mr. Ellison, staring blearily after him.
A thought appeared to strike him.--"Blesh me, you're the new
son-'law!"

"Yes, sir: Miss Hetty has just honoured me with her consent."

"Consent?  I'll lay she had to!  Sukey--tha's my wife--told me you
were in the wind.  _I_ said the old man's wrong--all right, patching
it up--Shtill--"  He paused and corrected himself painfully.
"_Still_, duty to c'nsult family; 'stead of which, he takes law in's
own hands.  Now list'n this, Mr.--"

"Wright."

"Qui-so."  He pulled himself together again.  "_Quite_ so.  Now _I_
say, it's hard on the jade.  _You_ say, 'Nothing of the sort: she's
made her bed and must lie on it.'"

"No, I don't."

"I--er--beg your pardon?  You must allow me finish my argument.
_I_ say, 'Look here, I'm a gentleman: feelings of a gentleman'--
_You're_ not a gentleman, eh?"

"Not a bit like one," the plumber agreed cheerfully.

"Tha's what I thought.  Allow me to say so, I respect you for it--for
speaking out, I mean.  Now what I say is, wench kicks over the
traces--serve her right wharrever happens: but there's _family_ to
consider--"

Here Mr. Wright interrupted firmly.  "Bless your heart, Mr. Ellison,
I quite see.  I've made a mistake this morning."

"No offence, you understand."

"No offence at all.  It turns out I've given the wrong man a
ducking."

"Eh?"

"It can easily be set right.  Some day when you're sober.  Good
morning!"

William Wright went his way whistling.  Dick Ellison stared along the
causeway after him.

"Low brute!" he said musingly.  "If she's to marry a fellow like
that, Sukey shan't visit her.  I'm sorry for the girl too."


Beyond the hedge, in a corner of the kitchen-garden, Johnny Whitelamb
lay in his wet clothes with his face buried in a heap of mown grass.
He had failed, and shamefully, after preparing himself for the
interview by pacing (it seemed to him, for hours) the box-bordered
walks which Molly had planted with lilies and hollyhocks, pinks and
sweet-williams and mignonette.  It was high June now, and the garden
breaking into glory.  He had tasted all its mingled odours this
morning while he followed the paths in search of Hetty; and when at
length he had found her under the great filbert-tree, they seemed to
float about her and hedge her as with the aura of a goddess.  He had
delivered his message, trembling: had watched her go with firm step
to the sacrifice.  And then--poor boy--wild adoration had filled him
with all the courage of all the knights in Christendom.  He alone
would champion her against the dragon. . . . And the dragon had flung
him into the ditch like a rat!  He hid his face in the sweet-smelling
hillock.

For years after, the scent of a garden in June, or of new-mown hay,
caused him misery, recalling this the most abject hour of his life.



CHAPTER XII.


Six weeks later Mr. Wesley married William Wright and Hetty in the
bare little church of Wroote.  Her sisters (among them Patty, newly
returned from Kelstein) sat at home: their father had forbidden them
to attend.  A fortnight before they had stood as bridesmaids at
Nancy's wedding with John Lambert, and all but Molly had contrived to
be mirthful and forget for a day the shadow on the household and the
miserable woman upstairs.  Hetty had no bridesmaids, no ringing of
bells.  The church would have been empty, but for a steady downpour
which soaked the new-mown hay, and turned the fields into swamps,
driving the labourers and their wives, who else had been too busy, to
take recreation in a ceremony of scandal.  For of course the whole
story had been whispered abroad.  It was to keep them away that the
Rector had chosen a date in the very middle of the hay-harvest, and
they knew it and enjoyed his discomfiture.  He, on his part, when the
morning broke with black and low-lying clouds, had been tempted to
read the service in the parlour at home; but his old obstinacy had
asserted itself.  Hetty's feelings he did not consider.

The congregation pitied Hetty.  She, with Molly to help, had been the
parish alms-giver, here and at Epworth; and though the alms had been
small, kind words had gone with the giving.  Of gratitude--active
gratitude--they were by race incapable: also they were shrewd enough
to detect the Wesley habit of condescending to be kind.  She belonged
to another world than theirs: she was a lady, blood and bone.
But they were proud of her beauty, and talked of it, and forgave her
for the sake of it.

They hated the Rector; yet with so much of fear as kept them huddled
to-day at the west end under the dark gallery.  A space of empty pews
divided them from Mrs. Wesley, standing solitary behind her daughter
at the chancel step.

"O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an
excellent mystery that in it is signified and represented the
spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: look
mercifully upon these thy servants. . . ."

A squall of rain burst upon the south windows, darkening the nave.
Mrs. Wesley started, and involuntarily her hands went up towards her
ears.  Then she remembered, dropped them and stood listening with her
arms rigid.


Under a penthouse in the parsonage yard, Molly and Johnny Whitelamb
watched the downpour, and the cocks and hens dismally ruffling under
shelter of the eaves.

"She was the best of us all, the bravest and the cleverest."

"She was like no one in the world," said Johnny.

"And the most loyal.  She loved me best, and I have done nothing for
her."

"You did what you could, Miss Molly."

"If I were a man--Oh, Johnny, of what use are my brothers to me?"

Johnny was silent.

"The others were jealous of her.  She could no more help excelling
them in wit and spirits than she could in looks.  None of them
understood her, but I only--and you, I think, a little."

"It was an honour to know her and serve her.  I shall never forget
her, Miss Molly."

"_We_ will never forget her--we two.  When the others are not
listening we will talk about her together and say, She did this or
that; or, Just so she looked; or, At such a time she was happy.
We will recollect her sayings and remind each other.  Oh, Hetty!
dear, dear Hetty!"

Johnny was fairly blubbering.  "But she will visit us sometimes.
Lincoln is no great distance."

Molly shook her head disconsolately.  "I do not think she will come.
Father will refuse to see her.  For my part, after the wickedness he
has committed this day--"

"Hush, Miss Molly!"

"Is it not wrong he is doing?  Is it not a wicked wrong?  Answer me,
John Whitelamb, if we two are ever to speak of her again."
She glanced at his face and read how terribly old fidelity and new
distrust were tearing him between them.  "Ah, I understand!" she
said, and laid a hand on his coat-sleeve.


The service over and the names signed in the vestry, Mr. Wesley
marched out to the porch for a view of the weather.  Half a score of
gossips were gathered there among the sodden graves awaiting the
bridal party.  They gave back a little, nudging and plucking one
another by the arm.  For all the notice he took of them they might
have been tombstones.

The rain had ceased to fall, and though leaden clouds rolled up from
the south-west, threatening more, a pale gleam, almost of sunshine,
rested on the dreary landscape.  The Rector nodded his head and
strode briskly down the muddy path.  The newly married pair followed
at a respectful distance, Mrs. Wesley close behind.  Hetty showed no
sign of emotion.  She had given her responses clearly and audibly
before the altar, and she bore herself as bravely now.

As they entered the house the Rector turned and held out his hand to
the bridegroom.  "You will not find us hospitable, I fear.  But there
are some refreshments laid in the parlour: and my wife will see that
you are served while I order the gig.  Your wife will have time to
say farewell to her sisters if she chooses.  As I may not see her
again, I commit her to your kindness and God's forgiveness."

"At least you will bless her, husband!" entreated Mrs. Wesley.
But he turned away.

Twenty minutes later bridegroom and bride drove southward towards
Lincoln, under a lashing shower and with the wind in their faces.



CHAPTER XIII.


A few words will tie together the following letters or extracts from
letters.  John was ordained on September 19th.  A few weeks later he
preached his first sermon at South Leigh, a village near Witney and
but a few miles out of Oxford.  He and Charles visited Wroote that
Christmas, and on January 11th he preached a funeral sermon at
Epworth for John Griffith, a hopeful young man, the son of one of his
father's parishioners, taking for his theme 2 Samuel xii. 23,
"But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast?  Can I bring him back
again?  I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me "--a text
obvious enough.  He returned for the beginning of the Oxford Lent
Term, having had no sight of Hetty.  His chances of a fellowship at
Lincoln College had long been debated, and on March 17th he was
elected.  Meanwhile Charles had passed out of Westminster with a
studentship to support him at Christ Church, the college his brother
was leaving.

The first letter--from Patty--bears no date, but was written from
Wroote about the time of John's ordination.

     From Martha (Patty) Wesley to her brother John

     Dear Brother,--I believe it is above half a year since I wrote
     to you, and yet, though it is so long since, you never were so
     good as to write to me again; and you have written several times
     since to my sisters, but have perfectly neglected your loving
     sister Martha, as if you had not known there was such a person
     in the world; at which I pretended to be so angry that I
     resolved I would never write to you more.  Yet my anger soon
     gave way to my love, as it always does whenever I chance to be
     angry with you.  But you only confirm me in the truth of an
     observation I have since made; which is, that if ever I love any
     person very well, and desire to be loved by them in return--as,
     to be sure, whoever loves desires to be loved--I always meet
     with unkind returns.  I shall be exceedingly glad if you get the
     Fellowship you stand for; which if you do, I shall hope that one
     of the family besides my brother Sam will be provided for.
     I believe you very well deserve to be happy, and I sincerely
     wish you may be so both in this life and the next.

     For my own particular I have long looked upon myself to be what
     the world calls ruined--that is, I believe there will never be
     any provision made for me, but when my father dies I shall have
     my choice of three things--starving, going to a common service,
     or marrying meanly as my sisters have done: none of which I
     like, nor do I think it possible for a woman to be happy _with a
     man that is not a gentleman_, for he whose mind is virtuous is
     alone of noble kind.  Yet what can a woman expect but misery?
     My brother Ellison wants all but riches; my brother Lambert, I
     hope, has a little religion; poor brother Wright has abundance
     of good-nature, and, I hope, is religious; and yet sister Hetty
     is, I fear, entirely ruined, though it is not her husband's
     fault.

     If you would be so good as to let me hear from you, you would
     add much to my satisfaction.  But nothing can make me more than
     I am already, dear brother, your sincere friend and loving
     sister
                                       Martha Wesley.

     P.S.--I hope you will be so kind as to pardon the many faults in
     my letter.  You must not expect I can write like sister Emily or
     sister Hetty.  I hope, too, that when I have the pleasure of
     seeing you at Wroote you will set me some more copies, that I
     may not write so miserably.


From Samuel Wesley to his son John

                                       Wroote, March 21, 1726.

     Dear Mr. Fellow-Elect of Lincoln,--I have done more than I could
     for you.  On your waiting on Dr. Morley with this he will pay
     you 12 pounds.  You are inexpressibly obliged to that generous
     man.  We are all as well as can be expected.  Your loving
     father,
                                       Samuel Wesley.

From the same to the same

                                       Wroote, April I, 1726.

     Dear son John,--I had both yours since the election.  The last
     12 pounds pinched me so hard that I am forced to beg time of
     your brother Sam till after harvest to pay him the 10 pounds
     that you say he lent you.  Nor shall I have so much as that
     (perhaps not 5 pounds) to keep my family till after harvest; and
     I do not expect that I shall be able to do anything for Charles
     when he goes to the University.  What will be my own fate before
     the summer is over God only knows.  _Sed passi graviora_.
     Wherever I am, my Jack is Fellow of Lincoln.  All at present
     from your loving father,
                                       Samuel Wesley.

From John Wesley to his brother Samuel

                                       Lincoln College, Oxon.,
                                       April 4, 1726.

     Dear Brother,--My father very unexpectedly, a week ago, sent me
     a bill on Dr. Morley for 12 pounds, which he had paid to the
     Rector's use at Gainsborough; so that now all my debts are paid,
     and I have still above 10 pounds remaining.  If I could have
     leave to stay in the country till my college allowance
     commences, this money would abundantly suffice me till then.

     I never knew a college besides ours whereof the members were so
     perfectly well satisfied with one another, and so inoffensive to
     the other part of the University.  All the Fellows I have yet
     seen are both well-natured and well-bred; men admirably disposed
     as well to preserve peace and good neighbourhood among
     themselves as to preserve it wherever else they have any
     acquaintance.  I am, etc.
                                         John Wesley.

The next, addressed also to Sam, shows him making provision for
Charles's entrance at Christ Church:

     My mother's reason for my cutting off my hair is because she
     fancies it prejudices my health.  As to my looks, it would
     doubtless mend my complexion to have it off, by letting me get a
     little more colour, and perhaps it might contribute to my making
     a more genteel appearance.  But these, till ill health is added
     to them, I cannot persuade myself to be sufficient grounds for
     losing two or three pounds a year.  I am ill enough able to
     spare them.

     Mr. Sherman says there are garrets, somewhere in Peckwater, to
     be let for fifty shillings a year; that there are some honest
     fellows in college who would be willing to chum in one of them;
     and that, could my brother but find one of these garrets, and
     get acquainted with one of these honest fellows, he might
     possibly prevail on him to join in taking it; and then if he
     could but prevail upon some one else to give him 7 pounds a year
     for his own room, he would gain almost 6 pounds a year clear, if
     his rent were well paid.  He appealed to me whether the proposal
     was not exceedingly reasonable?  But as I could not give him
     such an answer as he desired, I did not choose to give him any
     at all.

     Leisure and I have taken leave of one another.  I propose to be
     busy as long as I live, if my health is so long indulged me.
     In health and sickness I hope I shall ever continue with the
     same sincerity, your loving brother,
                                       John Wesley.


From Samuel Wesley to his son John

                                       April 17, 1726.
     Dear Son,--I hope Sander will be with you on Wednesday morn,
     with the horses, books, bags, and this.  I got your mother to
     write the inclosed (for you see I can hardly scrawl), because it
     was possible it might come to hand on Tuesday; but my head was
     so full of cares that I forgot on Saturday last to put it into
     the post-house.  I shall be very glad to see you, though but for
     a day, but much more for a quarter of a year.  I think you will
     make what haste you can.  I design to be at the "Crown," in
     Bawtry, on Saturday night.  God bless and send you a prosperous
     journey to your affectionate father,
                                       Samuel Wesley.

The day after receiving this John and Charles set out and rode down
to Lincolnshire together.



CHAPTER XIV.


"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will
also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither
will your Father forgive your trespasses."

John Wesley laid his Bible down beside him on the rustic seat under
the filbert-tree, and leaned back against the trunk with half-closed
eyes.  By and by he frowned, and the frown, instead of passing, grew
deeper.  His sermons, as a rule, arranged themselves neatly and
rapidly, when once the text was chosen: but to-day his thoughts ran
by fits and starts, and confusedly--a thing he abhorred.

In truth they kept harking back to the text, "For if ye forgive men
their trespasses. . . ."  He had chosen it with many searchings of
heart, for he knew that if he preached this sermon it would
exasperate his father.  Had he any right, knowing this, to preach it
from his father's pulpit?  After balancing the _pro's_ and
_contra's_, he decided that this was a scruple which his Christian
duty outweighed.  He was not used to look back upon a decision once
taken: he had no thought now of changing his mind, but the prospect
of a breach with his father unsettled him.

While he pondered, stabbing the turf with his heel, Molly came
limping along the garden-path.  Her face was white and drawn.
She had been writing for two hours at her father's dictation, and
came now for rest to the seat which she and Hetty had in former days
made their favourite resort.

Seeing it occupied, she paused in the outer shade of the great
branches.

"You are thinking out your sermon?" she asked, smiling.

He nodded.  "You seem tired," he remarked, eyeing her; but he did not
rise or pick up his Bible to make room for her.

"A little," she confessed; "and my ears are hot.  But Charles very
good-naturedly left his _De Oratore_--on which I heard him say he was
engaged--to relieve me.  Johnny Whitelamb had to finish colouring a
map."

"I don't think Charles needs much persuasion just now to leave his
studies."

"He will not require them if he is to be an Irish squire."

"You count upon his choosing that?"  John's frown grew deeper.

"Not if you dissuade him, Jack."

"I have not even discussed it with him.  Once or twice on our way
down he seemed to be feeling his way to a confidence and at the last
moment to fight shy.  No doubt he knows my opinion well enough.
'What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his
own soul?'  But why should my opinion have so much weight with him?"

For a moment Molly considered her brother's cold and handsome young
face.  She put out a hand, plucked a twig from a low drooping bough,
and peeling the gummy rind, quoted softly:

     "'Why do you cross me in this exigent?'
      'I do not cross you; but I will do so.'"

"If I remember," mused John, "that is what Shakespeare makes Octavius
say to Mark Antony before Pharsalia."

She nodded.  "Do you know that you always put me in mind of Octavius.
You are so good-looking, and have the same bloodless way of following
your own path as if you carried all our fates.  Sometimes I think you
_do_ carry them."

"I thank you."  He made her a mock bow.

"And I still think it was kind of Charles to come to my rescue; for I
was tired."  She glanced at the seat and he picked up his book.
"No; you are composing a sermon and I will not interrupt you.
But you must know that father expected you to help him this morning,
and was put out at hearing that you had walked off."

"He and I have not agreed of late, and are likely to agree still less
if I preach this sermon--as I shall."

"What is the subject?"

"I have not thought of a title yet; but you may call it 'Universal
Charity,' or (better perhaps) 'The Charity due to wicked persons.'"

"You mean Hetty?"  She limped close to him.  "Hetty may have done
wickedly, but she is _not_ a wicked person, as you might have
discovered had you let Universal Charity alone and practised it in
particular, for once, by going to visit her.  It is now close on four
months that you and Charles have been home, and from here to Lincoln
is no such great distance."

"You are a sturdy champion," he answered, eyeing her up and down.
"As a matter of fact you are right, though you assert it rashly.
How are you sure that I have not visited Hetty, seeing that three
times I have been absent from home and for some days together?"

Molly winced.  "The worse reproach to all of us, that her only
champion was the weakling whom you all scorn!  You do not understand
weakness, Jack.  As for my knowing that you had not visited her,
Johnny Whitelamb took his holiday a fortnight ago and trudged to
Lincoln to see her.  She is living behind a dingy little shop with
her husband, and his horrible old father, who drinks whatever he can
filch from the till.  They wink at it so long as he does not go too
far; but William is trying to find him lodgings at Louth, which was
his old home, and hopes to sell up the business and move to London
with Hetty, to try his fortune.  Uncle Matthew has written to her,
and will help them to move, I believe.  And there was a baby coming,
but mercifully something went wrong, poor mite!  All this news she
sent by Johnny, who reports that she is brave and cheerful and as
beautiful as ever--more beautiful than ever, he said--but she talked
long of you and Charles, and is said to have seen neither of you."

"So Whitelamb is in the conspiracy?  Since you have so much of his
confidence, you might warn him to be careful.  Doubts of our father's
wisdom must unsettle him woefully.  I do not ask to join the
alliance, but it may please you to know that in my belief Hetty has
been treated too fiercely for her deserts, and in my sermon I intend
to hint at this pretty plainly."

Molly stared.  "Dear Jack, it--it is good to have you on our side.
But what good can a sermon do?"

"Not much, I fear.  Still a testimony is a testimony."

"But the folks will know you are speaking of her."

"I mean them to."

"But--but--"  Molly cast about, bewildered.

"I am venturing something," John interrupted coldly, "by testifying
against my father.  It is not over-pleasant to stand up and admit
that in our own family we have sinned against Christ's injunction to
judge not."

"I should think not, indeed!"

"Then you might reasonably show a little more pleasure at finding me
prepared, to that extent, to take your side."

Molly gasped.  His misunderstanding seemed to her too colossal to be
coped with.  "It will be a public reproach to father," she managed to
say.

"I fear he may consider it so; and that is just my difficulty."

"But what good can it do to Hetty?"

"I was not, in the first instance, thinking of Hetty, but rather
using her case as an example which would be fresh in the minds of all
in the building.  Nevertheless, since you put the question, I will
answer, that my argument should induce our mother and sisters, as
well as the parish, to judge her more leniently."

"The parish!" murmured Molly.  "I was not thinking of _its_
judgment,  And I doubt if Hetty does."

"You are right.  The particular case--though unhappily we cannot help
dwelling on it--is merely an illustration.  We, who have duties under
Christ to all souls in our care, must neglect no means of showing
them the light, though it involve mortifying our own private
feelings."

Molly, who had been plucking and twisting all this while the twig
between her fingers, suddenly cast it on the ground and hobbled away.

John gazed after her, picked up the book and set it down again.
The sermon came easily now.

Having thought it out and arranged the headings in his mind, he
returned to the house and wrote rapidly for two hours in his bedroom.
He then collected his manuscript, folded it neatly, scribbled a note,
and called down the passage to the servant, Jane, whom he heard
bustling about the parlour and laying dinner.  To her he gave the
note and the sermon, to be carried to his father; picked up a crust
of bread from the table; and a minute later left the house for a long
walk.


Returning a little before supper-time, he found the manuscript on the
table by his bedside.  No note accompanied it; there were none of the
usual pencil-marks and comments in the margin.  The Rector had
restored it without a word.

For a moment he was minded to go and seek an interview; but decided
that, his resolution being fixed, an interview would but increase
pain to no purpose.  He washed and went down to the parlour, walking
past the door of the study, in which his father supped alone.

Next morning being Saturday, Mr. Wesley walked over to Epworth, to a
room above a chandler's shop, where he and John lodged in turn as
they took Epworth duty on alternate Sundays.  The Rectory there was
closed for the time and untenanted, the Ellisons having returned some
months before to their own enlarged and newly furnished house.
There, to be sure, a lodging might have been had at no cost, and
Sukey offered it as in duty bound.  She knew very well, however, that
neither her father nor John could stomach being a guest of Dick's.
The invitation was declined, and she did not press it.

So on Sunday, August 28th, Mr. Wesley took the services at Epworth
while John stayed at home and preached his sermon in Wroote church.

From the pulpit he looked straight down into the tall Rectory pew,
and once or twice his eyes involuntarily sought its occupants.
Once, indeed, he paused in his discourse.  It was after the words--
"We are totally mistaken if we persuade ourselves that Christ was
lenient towards sin.  He made no hesitation in driving the
money-changers from His Father's temple even with a whip.  But He
discriminated between the sin and the sinner.  The fig-tree He
blasted was one which, bearing no fruit, yet made a false show of
health: the Pharisees He denounced were men who covered rottenness
with a pretence of religion; the sinners He consorted with had a
saving knowledge of their vileness.  Sin He knew to be human and
bound up in our nature: all was pardonable save the refusal to
acknowledge it and repent, which is the sin against the Holy Ghost
testifying within us.  If we confess our sins not only is He faithful
and just to forgive them, but He promises more joy in Heaven over our
repentance than over ninety-and-nine just persons which need no
repentance.  And why?  Because, as David foretold, a broken spirit is
God's peculiar sacrifice: 'a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou
wilt not despise.'  Yet we in this parish have despised it.
With sorrow I admit before you that in the household to which you
should reasonably look for example and guidance, it has been
despised.  What then?  Are we wiser than Christ, or more absolute?"

He paused.  His mother sat stiff and upright with her eyes bent on
the ground.  Only Charles and Molly looked up--she with a spot of red
on either cheek, he with his bright pugnacious look, his nostrils
slightly distended scenting battle with delight.  Emilia and Patty
were frowning; Kezzy, who hated all family jars, fidgeted with her
prayer-book.

The sermon ended and the benediction pronounced, he fetched from the
vestry the white surplice in which he had read the prayers, and came
back to the pew in which the family waited as usual for the rest of
the congregation to leave the church.  Mrs. Wesley took the surplice,
as she invariably took her husband's, to carry it home and hang it in
the wardrobe.  They walked out.  A fortnight before, his sisters had
begun to discuss his sermon and rally him upon it as soon as they
found themselves in the porch.  To-day they were silent: and again at
dinner, though John and his mother made an effort to talk of trivial
matters, the girls scarcely spoke.  Charles only seemed in good
spirits and chattered away at ease, glancing at his brother from time
to time with a droll twinkle in his eye.

Early next morning John set out for Epworth, having promised to
relieve his father and visit the sick and poor there during the week.
At Scawsit Bridge he met the Rector returning.  The two shook hands
and stood for a minute discussing some details of parish work: then
each continued on his way.  Not a word was said of the sermon.



CHAPTER XV.


John remained at Epworth until Thursday evening.  Dark was falling
when he set out to tramp back to Wroote, but the guns of a few late
partridge-shooters yet echoed across the common.  A little beyond
Scawsit Bridge a figure came over the fields towards him, walking
swiftly in the twilight--a woman.  He drew aside to let her pass; but
in that instant she stretched out both hands to him and he recognised
her.

"Hetty!"

She dropped her arms.  "Are you not going to kiss me, Jack?  Do you,
too, cast me off?"

"God forbid!" he said, and lifted his face; for she was the taller by
two inches.  With a sob of joy she put out both hands again and drew
his lips to hers, a palm pressed on either cheek.

"But what are you doing here?" he asked.

"My husband has business at Haxey.  We came from Lincoln this
morning, and just before sunset I crept over for a look at the house,
hoping for a glimpse of you and Charles.  They will not have me
inside, Jack: father will not see me, and has forbidden the others.
But I saw Johnny Whitelamb.  He told me that Charles was indoors, at
work transcribing for father, and not easily fetched out; but that
you were expected home from Epworth to-night.  So I came to meet you.
Was I running?  I dare say.  I was thirsty to see your face, dear,
and hear your voice."

"We have all dealt hardly with you, Hetty."

"Ah, let that be! I must not pity myself, you understand? Indeed,
dear, I was not thinking of myself.  If only I could be invisible,
and steal into the house at times and sit me down in a corner and
watch their faces and listen!   That would be enough, brother: I
don't ask to join in that life again--only to stand apart and feed my
eyes on it."

"You are not happy, then?"

"Happy?" She mused for a while.  "My man is kind to me: kinder than I
deserve.  If God gives us a child--"  She broke off, lowered her eyes
and stammered, "You heard that I had--that one was born!  Dead.
He never breathed, the doctor told me.  I ought to be glad, for _his_
sake--and for William's--but I cannot be."

"It was God's goodness.  Look at Sukey, now; how much of her time her
children take up."

She drew back sharply and peered at him through the dusk.

"Now that time is restored to you," he went on, "you have nothing to
do but to serve God without distraction, till you are sanctified in
body, soul and spirit."

"Jacky, dear," she asked hoarsely, "have they taught you at Oxford to
speak like that?"

He was offended, and showed it.  "I have been speaking up for you;
too warmly for my comfort.  Father and mother, and indeed all but
Molly, will have it that you talked lightly to them; that your
penitence was feigned.  I would not believe this, but that, as by
marriage you redeemed your conduct, so now you must be striving to
redeem your soul.  If you deny this, I have been in error and must
tell them so."

For a while she stood considering.  "Brother," she said, "I will be
plain with you.  Since this marriage was forced upon me, I have
tried--and, please God, I will go on trying--to redeem my conduct.
But of my soul I scarcely think at all."

"Hetty, this is monstrous."

"I pray," she went on, "for help to be good.  With tears I pray for
it, and all day long I am trying to be good and do my duty.  As for
my soul, sometimes I wake and see the need to be anxious for it, and
resolve to think of it anxiously: but when the morning comes, I have
no time--the day is too full.  And sometimes I grow rebellious and
vow that it is no affair of mine: let them answer for it who took it
in charge and drove me to tread this path.  And sometimes I tell
myself that once I had a soul, and it was sinful; but that God was
merciful and destroyed it, with its record, when He destroyed my
baby.  The doctor swore to me that it never drew a separate breath;
no, not one.  Tell me, Jack!  A child that has never breathed can
know neither heaven nor hell--questions of baptism do not touch it--
it goes out of darkness into darkness and is annihilated.  Is that
not so?  So I assure myself, and sometimes I think that by the same
stroke God wiped out the immortal part of me with its sins, that my
body and brain go on living, but that the soul of your Hetty will
never come up for judgment, for it has ceased to be."

"Monstrous!"

"You understand," she went on wearily, "that this is but one of my
thoughts.  My heart denies it whenever I long to creep back to Wroote
and listen to the old voices and be a child once more.  But I am
showing you what is the truth--that upon one plea or another I put my
soul aside and excuse myself from troubling about it."

"Sadder hearing there could not be.  You have an imperishable soul,
and owe it a care which should come before your duty even to your
husband."

"Ah, Jack, you may be a very great man: but you do not understand
women!  I wonder if you ever will?  For now you do not even begin to
understand."

He would have answered in hot anger, but a noise on the path
prevented him.  Four sportsmen came wending homeward in the dusk,
shouldering their guns and laughing boisterously.  In the loudest of
the guffaws he recognised the voice of Dick Ellison.

"Hallo!"  The leader pulled himself up with a chuckle.
"Here's pretty goings-on--the little parson colloguing with a wench!
Dick, Dick, aren't you ashamed of your relatives?"

"Ashamed of them long ago," stuttered Dick, lurching forward.  He had
been making free with the flask all day.  "Who is it?" he demanded.

"Come, my lass--no need to be shy with me!  Let's have a look at your
pretty face."  The fellow plucked at Hetty's hood.  John gripped his
arm, was flung off with an indecent oath, and gripped him again.

"This lady, sir, is my sister."

"Eh?"  Dick Ellison peered into Hetty's face.  "So it is, by Jove!
How d'ye do, Hetty?"  He turned to his companion.  "Well, you've made
a nice mistake," he chuckled.

The man guffawed and slouched on.  In two strides John was after him
and had gripped him once more, this time by the collar.

"Not so fast, my friend!"

"Here, hands off!  This gun's loaded.  What the devil d'you want?"

"I want an apology," said John calmly.  "Or rather, a couple of
apologies."  He faced the quartette: they could scarcely see his
face, but his voice had a ring in it no less cheerful than firm.
"So far as I can make out in this light, gentlemen, you are all
drunk.  You have made one of those foolish and disgusting mistakes to
which men in liquor are liable: but I should suppose you can muster
up sense enough between you to see that this man owes an apology."

"What if I refuse?"

"Why then, sir, I shall give myself the trouble to walk beside you
until your sense of decency is happily restored.  If that should not
happen between this and your own door, I must leave you for the night
and call upon you to-morrow."

"This is no tone to take among gentlemen."

"It is the tone you oblige me to take."

"Come away, Jack!"  Hetty besought him in a whisper: but she knew
that he would not.

"Surely," he said, "after so gross an offence you will lose no more
time in begging my sister's pardon?"

"Look you now, master parson," growled the offender, "you are thin in
the legs, but I am not too drunk to shoot snipe."  With his gun he
menaced John, who did not flinch.

But here Dick Ellison interposed.  "Don't be a fool, Congdon!  Put up
your gun and say you're sorry, like a gentleman.  Damme"--Dick in his
cups was notoriously quarrelsome and capricious as to the grounds of
quarrel--"she's my sister, too, for that matter.  And Jack's my
brother: and begad, he has the right of it.  He's a pragmatical
fellow, but as plucky as ginger, and I love him for it.  Fight him,
you'll have to fight me--understand?  So up and say you're sorry,
like a man."

"Oh, if you're going to take that line, I'm willing enough."
Mr. Congdon shuffled out an apology.

"_That's_ right," Dick Ellison announced.  "Now shake hands on it,
like good fellows.  Jack's as good a man as any of us for all his
long coat."

"Excuse me," John interrupted coldly, "I have no wish to shake hands
with any of you.  I accept for my sister Mr. Congdon's assurance that
he is ashamed of himself, and now you are at liberty to go your way."

"At liberty!" grumbled one: but, to Hetty's surprise, they went.
Jack might not understand women: he could master men.  For her part
she thought he might have shaken hands and parted in good-fellowship.
She listened to the sportsmen's unsteady retreat.  At a little
distance they broke into defiant laughter, but discomfiture was in
the sound.

"Come," said John.  She took his arm and they walked on together
towards Wroote.

For a while neither spoke.  Hetty was thinking of a story once told
her by her mother: how that once the Rector, then a young man, had
been sitting in Smith's Coffee House in the City and discussing the
_Athenian Gazette_ with his fellow-contributors, when an officer of
the Guards, in a box at the far end of the room, kept interrupting
them with the foulest swearing.  Mr. Wesley called to the waiter to
bring a glass of water.  It was brought.  "Carry this," he said
aloud, "to that gentleman in the red coat, and desire him to rinse
his mouth after his oaths."  The officer rose up in a fury, with hand
on sword, but the gentlemen in his box pulled him down.  "Nay,
colonel, you gave the first offence.  You know it is an affront to
swear before a clergyman."  The officer was restrained.  Mr. Wesley
resumed his talk.  And her mother went on to tell that, years after,
when the Rector was in London attending Convocation, a gentleman
stopped him one day as he crossed St. James's Park.  "Do you know me,
Mr. Wesley?"  "Sir, I have not that pleasure."  "Will you know me,
then, if I remind you that once, in Smith's Coffee House, you taught
me a lesson?  Since that time, sir, I thank God I have feared an oath
and everything that is offensive to the Divine Majesty.  I rejoiced,
just now, to catch sight of you, and could not refrain from
expressing my gratitude."

And John inherited this gift of mastery.  He could not understand
women, nor could she ever understand him: but she felt that the arm
she held was one of steel.  To what end she and her sisters and her
mother had been sacrificed she could not yet divine: but the
encounter by the bridge had reawakened the Wesley pride in her, and
she walked acquiescent in a fate beyond her ken.  She knew, too, that
he had dismissed the squabble from his mind and was thinking of her
confession and her soul's danger.  But here she would not help him.

"You have heard," she asked, "that we are leaving Lincoln?"

This was news to him.

"Yes; my husband thinks of opening a business in London: but first he
must sell the shop and effects and pension off his father into
lodgings at Louth.  That is the old man's native home, and he wishes
to end his days there.  He is loth to leave the business; but truly
he has brought it low, and we must move if William is to make his
fortune."

"Moving to London will be a risk, and a heavy expense."

"Uncle Matthew is helping us, and it is settled that we move in the
autumn.  We go into lodgings at first, and shall live in the humblest
way while we look about us for a good workshop and premises."

"Do you and your husband's father agree?"

"I at least try to please him.  You would not call him a pleasant old
man: and of course he charges this new adventure down to my
influence, whereas it is entirely William's notion.  I have had
nothing to do with it beyond enlisting Uncle Matthew's help."

John glanced at her as though to read her face in the darkness.
"Was that also William's notion?" he asked.

But here again he betrayed his ignorance.  True woman, though she may
have ceased to love her husband, or may never have loved him, will
cover his weakness.  "We have our ambitions, Jack, although to you
they seem petty enough.  You must make William's acquaintance.
He has a great opinion of you.  I believe, indeed, he thinks more of
you than of me.  And if he wishes to leave Lincoln for London, it is
partly for my sake, that I may be happier in a great city where my
fault is not known."

"If, as it seems, he thinks of your earthly comfort but neglects your
soul's health, I shall not easily be friends with him."

By this time they were close to the garden gate.

"Is that you, Jack?" Charles's voice hailed over the dark hedge of
privet.

The pair came to a halt.  Hetty's eyes were fastened imploringly on
her brother.  He did not see them.  If he had, it would have made no
difference.  He pitied her, but in his belief her repentance was not
thorough: he had no right to invite her past the gate.

"Good-bye," he whispered.

She understood.  With a sob she bent her face and kissed him and was
gone like a ghost back into the darkness.

Charles met him at the gate.  "Hallo," said he, "surely I heard
voices?  With whom were you talking?"

"With Hetty."

"Hetty?" Charles let out a whistle.  "But it is about her I wanted to
speak, here, before you go indoors.  I say--where is she?  Cannot we
call her back?"

"No: we have no right.  To some extent I have changed my mind about
her: or rather, she has forced me to change it.  Her soul is
hardened."

"By whose fault?"

"No matter by whose fault: she must learn her responsibility to God.
Father has been talking with you, I suppose."

"Yes: he is bitterly wroth--the more bitterly, I believe, because he
loves you better than any of us.  He says you have him at open
defiance.  'Every day,' he cried out on me, 'you hear how he
contradicts me, and takes your sister's part before my face.  And now
comes this sermon!  He rebukes me in the face of my parish.'
Mind you, I am not taking his part: if you stand firm, so will I.
But I wanted to tell you this, that you may know how to meet him."

For a while the brothers paced the dark walls in silence.  Under the
falling dew the scent of honeysuckle lay heavy in the garden.
Years later, in his country rides, a whiff from the hedgerow would
arrest Charles as he pondered a hymn to the beat of his horse's
hoofs, and would carry him back to this hour.  John's senses were
less acute, and all his thoughts for the moment turned inward.

"I have done wrong," he announced at length and walked hastily
towards the house.

In the hall he met his father coming out.  "Sir," he said, "I have
behaved undutifully.  I have neglected you and set myself to
contradict you.  I was seeking you to beg your forgiveness."

To his amazement the Rector put a hand on either shoulder, stooped
and kissed him.

"It was a heavy sorrow to me, Jack.  Now I see that you are good at
bottom; and to-morrow, if you wish, you shall write for me.
Nay, come into the study now, and see the work that is ready for
you."

In the light of the study lamp John saw that his father's eyes were
wet.



CHAPTER XVI.


Late in September, having been chosen to preach on St. Michael's Day
in St. Michael's Church the sermon annually delivered by a Fellow of
Lincoln, John travelled up to Oxford, whither Charles followed him a
week or two later, to take up his residence in Christ Church, and be
matriculated on the first day of the October term.

John had deferred his journey to the last moment, in order to stand
godfather to Nancy's healthy firstborn.  John Lambert--honest man and
proud father--had honoured the event with a dinner, and very nearly
wrecked his own domestic peace by sending out the invitations in his
own hand and including Mr. and Mrs. Wright.  For weeks after, Nancy
shuddered to think what might have happened if Hetty and her father
had come face to face at the ceremony or the feast.  By good luck--or
rather by using her common sense and divining the mistake--Hetty
refused.  Her husband, however, insisted on attending, and she let
him go.  With _his_ presence the Rector could not decently quarrel.

"But look here," said he, "I am getting tired of the line the old man
takes.  It wasn't in our bond: he waited to spring it on me after the
wedding.  If I can overlook things, he should be able to, and I've a
mind to tell him so."  He urged her to come.  But Hetty pleaded that
she could not; it was now past the middle of September, and her baby
would be born early in the new year.  "Well, well," he grumbled, "but
'tis hard to have married a lady, and a beauty to boot, and never a
chance to show her."  The speech was gracious after his fashion, as
well as honest: but she shivered inwardly.  For as time wore on, she
perceived this desire growing in him, to take her abroad and display
her with pride.  Failing this, he had once or twice brought his own
cronies home, to sit and smoke with him while he watched their uneasy
admiration and enjoyed the tribute.  She blamed herself that she had
not been more genial on those occasions; but in truth she dreaded
them horribly.  By sheer force of will she had managed hitherto, and
with fair success, to view her husband as a good honest man, and
overlook his defects of breeding.  In her happiest moods she almost
believed in the colours with which (poor soul, how eagerly!) she
decked him. But she could not extend the illusion to his friends.
"You shall show _him_ off," she pleaded, meaning the unborn babe.
"We will show him off together."  But her face was white.

So William Wright had gone alone to the christening feast, and there
John Wesley had met him for the first time, and talked with him, and
afterwards walked home full of thought.  For, in truth, Hetty's
husband had drunk more of John Lambert's wine than agreed with him,
and had asserted himself huskily, if not aggressively, under the cold
eye of Mr. Wesley senior.  John, as godfather, had been called upon
for a speech, and his brother-in-law's "Hear, hear" had been so
vociferous that while his kinsfolk stole glances at one another as
who should say, "But what can one expect?" the Rector put out a hand
with grim mock apprehension and felt the leaded window casements.
"I'll mend all I break, and for nothing," shouted Mr. Wright
heartily: and amid a scandalised silence Charles exploded in merry
laughter, and saved the situation.

For a fortnight after his return to Oxford, college work absorbed all
John's leisure: but he found time as a matter of course to meet
Charles on his arrival at the Angel Inn, and took him straight off to
Christ Church to present him to the Senior Censor.  Next day he
called to find his brother installed in Peckwater, on the topmost
floor, but in rooms very much more cheerful than the garret suggested
by Mr. Sherman.  Charles, at any rate, was delighted with them and
his sticks of furniture, and elated--as thousands of undergraduates
have been before his day and since--at exchanging school for college
and qualified liberty and the dignity of housekeeping on one's own
account.

"_Est aliquid quocunque loco, quocunque recessu_," he quoted, and
showed John with triumph the window seat which, lifted, disclosed a
cupboard to contain his wine, if ever he should possess any.

"Are you proposing to become a wine-bibber in your enthusiasm?" asked
John.

Charles closed the lid, seated himself upon it, drew up his legs, and
gazed out across the quadrangle.  He had made a friend or two already
among the freshmen, and this life seemed to him very good.

"My dear Jack, you would not have me be a saint all at once!"

John frowned.  "You do not forget, I hope, in what hope you have been
helped to Christ Church?"

Charles sat nursing his knees.  A small frown puckered his forehead,
but scarcely interfered with the good-tempered smile about his mouth.

"Others beside my father have helped or are willing to help.
See that letter?"--he nodded towards one lying open on the table--
"It is from Ireland.  It has been lying in the porter's lodge for a
week, and my scout brought it up this morning."

John picked it up, smiling at his boyish air of importance.  "Am I to
read it?"

Charles nodded, and while his brother read, gazed out of window.
The smile still played about his mouth, but queerly.

"It is a handsome offer," said John slowly, and laid the letter down.
"Have you taken any decision?"

"Father leaves it to me, as you know," Charles answered and paused,
musing.  "I suppose, now, ninety-nine out of a hundred would jump at
it."

"Assuredly."

"Somehow our family seems to be made up of odd hundredths.  You, for
example, do not wish me to accept."

"I have said nothing to influence your choice."

"No, my dear Jack, you have not.  Yet I know what you think, fast
enough."

John picked up the letter again and folded it carefully.

"An estate in Ireland; a safe seat in the Irish Parliament; and
money.  Jack, that money might help to make many happy.  Think of our
mother, often without enough to eat; think of father's debts.
He knows I would pay them," said Charles.

"And yet he has not tried to influence your choice."

"He's a Trojan, Jack; an old warhorse.  You have cause to love him,
for he loves you so much above all of us--and you know it--that, had
the choice been offered you, he'd have moved heaven and earth to
prevent your accepting a fortune."

He swung round, dropping his feet to the floor, and eyed his brother
quizzically.

"Upon my word," he went on, "this thing annoys me.  I've a mind to--"
Here he dived a hand into his breeches pocket and fished out a
shilling.  "We'll settle it here and now, and you shall be witness.
Heads for Dangan Castle and Parliament House; tails for poverty!"

He spun the coin and slapped it down on his knee.  His hand still
covered it.

--"Come Jack, stand up and be properly excited."

"Nay," said John; "would you jest with God's purpose for you?"

"I have seen you open the Bible at random and take your omen from the
first words your eyes light on.  Yet I never accused you of jesting
with Holy Writ.  Cannot God as easily determine the fall of a coin?"

He withdrew his hand, and drew a deep breath.  "Tails!" he announced,
and faced his brother, smiling.  "I am in earnest," he said.
"But if you prefer the other way--"

He stepped to the shelf, took down his Bible and opened it, not
looking himself, but holding the page under his brother's eyes.

"Well, what does it say?" he asked.

"It says," John answered, "'Let the high praises of God be in their
mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand.'"

Charles closed the Bible and restored it to its shelf; then faced his
brother again, still with his inscrutable smile.



BOOK IV.



CHAPTER I.


"I never knew you were such a needlewoman, Hetty.  It has been
nothing but stitch-stitch for these two hours--and the same
yesterday, and the day before.  See, the kettle's boiling.  Lay down
your sewing, that's a dear creature; make me a dish of tea; and while
you're doing it, let me see your eyes and hear your voice."

Hetty dropped her hands on her lap and let them rest there for a
moment, while she looked across at Charles with a smile.

"As for talking," she answered, "it seems to me you have been doing
pretty well without my help."

Charles laughed.  "Now you speak of it, I _have_ been rattling on.
But there has been so much to say and so little time to say it in.
Has it occurred to you that we have seen more of each other in these
seven days than in all our lives before?"

Seven days ago, while staying with his brother Sam at Westminster, he
had heard of her arrival in London and had tramped through the slushy
streets at once to seek her out at her address in Crown Court, Dean
Street, Soho.  She had welcomed him in this dark little second-floor
room--dwelling-room and bedroom combined--in which she was sitting
alone; for her husband spent most of the day abroad on the business
which had brought them to London, either superintending the
alterations in the unfurnished premises he had hired in Frith Street
for his shop and the lead-works by which he proposed to make his
fortune, or in long discussions at Johnson's Court with Uncle
Matthew, who was helping with money and advice.  The lodgings in
Crown Court were narrow enough and shut in by high walls.  But Hetty
had not inhabited them two hours before they looked clean and
comfortable and even dainty.  Her own presence lent an air of
distinction to the meanest room.

Her face, her voice, her regal manners, her exquisitely tender smile,
came upon Charles with the shock of discovery.  These two had not
seen one another for years.  The date of this first call was December
22nd: then and there--with a shade of regret that in a few days he
must leave London to pay Wroote a visit before his vacation closed--
Charles resolved that she should not spend her Christmas uncheered.
On Christmas Day he had carried her off with her husband to dine at
Westminster with Mr. and Mrs. Sam Wesley.  Mr. Wright had been on his
best behaviour, Mrs. Sam unexpectedly gracious, and the meeting
altogether a great success.  Charles had walked home with the guests,
and had called again the next afternoon.  He could see that his
visits gave Hetty the purest delight, and now that they must end, he,
too, realised how pleasant they had been, and that he was going to
miss them sorely.

"Only seven days?" he went on, musing.  "I can hardly believe it; you
have let me talk at such length--and I have been so happy."

Hetty clapped her hands together--an old girlish trick of hers.
"It's I that have been happy!  And not least in knowing that you will
do us all credit."  She knit her brows.  "You are different from all
the rest of us, Charles; I cannot explain how.  But, sure, there's a
Providence in it, that you, who are meant for different fortunes--"

"How different?"

"Why, you will take our kinsman's offer, of course.  You will move in
a society far above us--go into Parliament--become a great
statesman--"

"My dear Hetty, what puts that into your head?  I have refused."

"Refused!"  She set down the kettle and gazed at him.  "Is this
John's doing?" she asked slowly.

"Why should it be John's doing?"  He was nettled, and showed it.
"I am old enough to make a choice for myself."

She paid no heed to this disclaimer.  "They are perfectly ruthless,"
she went on.

"Who are ruthless?"

"Father and John.  They would compass heaven and earth to make one
proselyte; and the strange thing to me is that John at least does it
in a cold mechanical way, almost as if his own mind stood outside of
the process.  Father is set on his inheriting Wroote and Epworth
cures, John on saving his own soul; let them come to terms or fight
it out between them.  But how can it profit Epworth or John's soul
that they should condemn _you_, as they have condemned mother and all
of us, to hopeless poverty?  What end have they in view?  Or have
they any?  For what service, pray, are you held in reserve?"
She paused.  "Somehow I think they will not wholly succeed, even
though they have done this thing between them.  You will fall on your
feet; your face is one the world will make friends with.  You may
serve their purpose, but something of you--your worldly happiness,
belike--will slip and escape from the millstones which have ground
the rest of us to powder."

She picked up the kettle again and turned her back upon him while she
filled the tea-pot at the small table.  For the first time in their
talks she had spoken bitterly.

"Nevertheless, I assure you, I refused of my own free will."

"Is there such a thing as free will in our family?  I never detected
it.  As babes we were yoked to the chariot to drag Jack's soul up to
the doors of salvation.  I only rebelled, and--Charles, I am sorry,
but not all penitent."

He ignored these last words.  "You are quoting from Molly, I think.
She and Jack seldom agree."

"Because, dear soul, she reads that Jack despises while he uses her.
He looks upon her as the weak one in the team; he doubts she may
break down on the road, and she, too, looks forward to it, though not
with any fear."

"For some reason, father allows her to talk to him as no one else
does--not even mother.  Do you know that one day last summer father
and I were discussing Jack and the chance of his ever settling at
Epworth; for this is in the old man's thoughts now, almost day and
night.  We were in the study by the window, and Molly at the table
making a fair copy of the morning's work on Job; we did not think she
heard us.  All of a sudden she looked up and quoted 'Doth the hawk
fly by _thy_ wisdom and stretch her wings toward the south?'
I supposed she was repeating it aloud from her manuscript, but father
knew better and swung round upon her.  'Do you presume, then, to know
whither or how far Jack will fly?' he demanded.  She turned a queer
look upon him, not flinching as I expected, and 'I shall see him,'
she answered, using Balaam's words; 'I shall see him, but not now: I
shall behold him, but not nigh.'  And with that she dropped her head
and went on quietly with her writing.  As for father, if you'll
believe me, it simply dumbfounded him; he hadn't a word!"

"And I will tell you why.  Once on a time that weak darling stood up
for me to his face.  She would not tell me what happened.  But I
believe that ever since father has been as nearly afraid of her as of
anyone in the world. . . . And now I want a promise.  You say you
have been happy in these talks of ours; and heaven knows I have been
happier than for many a long day.  Well, I want you to tell Molly
about me--alone, remember--for of them all she only tried to help me,
and believes in me still."

"Why, of course I shall."

"And," Hetty smiled, "they have no poet among them now.  You might
send me some of your verses for a keepsake."

Charles grew suddenly red in the face.  "Why--who told you?" he
stammered.

"Oh, my dear," she laughed merrily, "one divines it! the more easily
for having known the temptation."

He had set down his tea-cup and was standing up now, in his young
confusion fingering the sewing she had laid aside.

"What is this you are doing?" he asked, with his eyes on the
baby-linen; and though he uttered the first question that came into
his head, and merely to cover his blushes, as he asked it the truth
came to him, and he blushed more redly than ever.

Hetty blushed too.  She saw that he had guessed at length, but she
saw him also clothed in a shining innocence.  She felt suddenly that,
though she might love him better, there were privacies she could not
discuss with Charles as with John.  And for the moment Charles seemed
to her the more distant and mysterious of the two.

What she answered was--"We shall be following you back to
Lincolnshire in a few days.  I am to stay at Louth, in the house
where William has found lodgings for his father--who was born at
Louth, you know, and has now determined to end his days there.
William will not be with me at first; he has to wind up the business
at Lincoln and looks for some unpleasantness, as he has made himself
responsible for all the old man's debts.  I may even find my way to
Wroote before facing Louth."

"To Wroote?"

"As a moth to the old cruel flame, dear.  They will not take me in:
but I know where to find a bedroom.  Women have curious fancies at
times; and I feel as if I may die very likely, and I want to see
their faces first."

She stepped to him and kissed him hurriedly, hearing her husband's
step on the stairs.  "Remember to speak with Molly!"



CHAPTER II.


EXTRACTED FROM THE WESLEY CORRESPONDENCE.

1.  From Charles Wesley at Oxford to his brother John at Stanton in
Gloucestershire.

                                       January 20th, 1727.
     Poor Sister Hetty! 'twas but a week before I left London that I
     knew she was at it.  Little of that time you may be sure, did I
     lose, being with her almost continually; I could almost envy
     myself the doat of pleasure I had crowded within that small
     space.  In a little neat room she had hired, did the
     good-natured, ingenuous, contented creature watch, and I talk,
     over a few short days which we both wished had been longer.
     As yet she lives pretty well, having but herself and honest
     W. W. to keep, though I fancy there's another a-coming.
     Brother Sam and sister are very kind to her, and I hope will
     continue so, for I have cautioned her never to contradict my
     sister, whom she knows.  I'd like to have forgot she begs you'd
     write to her, at Mrs. Wakeden's in Crown Court, Dean Street,
     near Soho Square.

2.  From Mary Wesley (Molly) to her brother Charles at Oxford (same
date).

     You were very much mistaken in thinking I took ill your desiring
     my sister Emily to knit you another pair of gloves.  What I
     meant was to my brother Jack, because he gave her charge to look
     to my well-doing of his: but I desire you no more to mention
     your obligation to me for the gloves, for by your being pleased
     with them I am fully paid.

     Dear brother, I beg you not to let the present straits you
     labour under to narrow your mind, or render you morose or
     churlish, but rather resign yourself and all your affairs to Him
     who best knows what is fittest for you, and will never fail to
     provide for whoever sincerely trusts in Him.  I think I may say
     I have lived in a state of affliction ever since I was born,
     being the ridicule of mankind and reproach of my family; and I
     dare not think God deals hardly with me, and though He has set
     His mark upon me, I still hope my punishment will not be greater
     than I am able to bear; nay, since God is no respecter of
     persons, I must and shall be happier in that life than if I had
     enjoyed all the advantages of this.

     My unhappy sister was at Wroote the week after you left us,
     where she stayed two or three days, and returned again to Louth
     without seeing my father.  Here I must stop, for when I think of
     her misfortunes, I may say with Edgar, "O fortune! . . ."

3.  From Mary Wesley to her brother John.  Sent at the same date and
under the same cover.

     Though I have not the good fortune to be one of your favourite
     sisters, yet I know you won't grudge the postage now and then,
     which, if it can't be afforded, I desire that you will let me
     know, that I may trouble you no further.  I am sensible nothing
     I can say will add either to your pleasure or your profit; and
     that you are of the same mind is evidently shown by not writing
     when an opportunity offered.  But why should I wonder at any
     indifference shown to such a despicable person as myself?
     I should be glad to find that miracle of nature, a friend which
     not all the disadvantages I labour under would hinder from
     taking the pains to cultivate and improve my mind; but since God
     has cut me off from the pleasurable parts of life, and rendered
     me incapable of attracting the love of my relations, I must use
     my utmost endeavour to secure an eternal happiness, and He who
     is no respecter of persons will require no more than He has
     given.  You may now think that I am uncharitable in blaming my
     relations for want of affection, and I should readily agree with
     you had I not convincing reasons to the contrary; one of which
     is that I have always been the jest of the family--and it is not
     I alone who make this observation, for then it might very well
     be attributed to my suspicion--but here I will leave it and tell
     you some news.

     Mary Owran was married to-day, and we only wanted your company
     to make us completely merry; for who can be sad where you are?
     Please get Miss Betsy to buy me some silk to knit you another
     pair of gloves, and I don't doubt you will doubly like the
     colour for the buyer's sake.

     My sister Hetty's child is dead, and your godson grows a lovely
     boy, and will, I hope, talk to you when he sees you: which I
     should be glad to do now.

4.  From Martha Wesley (Patty) to her brother John.

                                       Feb. 7th, 1727.

     I must confess you had a better opinion of me than I deserved:
     for jealousy did indeed suggest that you had very small kindness
     for me.  When you sent the parcel to my sister Lambert, and
     wrote to her and sister Emme, and not to me, I was much worse
     grieved than before.  Though I cannot possibly be so vain as to
     think that I do for my own personal merits deserve more love
     than my sisters, yet can you blame me if I sometimes wish I had
     been so happy as to have the first place in your heart?

     Sister Emme is gone to Lincoln again, of which I'm very glad for
     her own sake; for she is weak and our misfortunes daily impair
     her health.  Sister Kezzy, too, will have a fair chance of
     going.  I believe if sister Molly stays long at home it will be
     because she can't get away.  It is likely in a few years' time
     our family may be lessened--perhaps none left but your poor
     sister Martha, for whose welfare few are concerned.

     My father has been at Louth to see sister Wright, who by good
     providence was brought to bed two days before he got thither;
     which perhaps might prevent his saying what he otherwise might
     have said to her; for none that deserves the name of man would
     say anything to grieve a woman in a condition where grief is
     often present death to them.  I fancy you have heard before now
     that her child is dead.

Of these letters but a faint echo reached Hetty as she lay in her bed
at Louth--a few words transcribed by Charles from the one (No. 2)
received by him, and sent with his affectionate inquiries.  He added
that Molly had also written to Jack, but to what effect he knew not;
only that Jack, after reading it in his presence, had 'pish'd' and
pocketed it in a huff.

She lay in a darkened room, with her own hopes at their darkest--or
rather, their blankest.  She had journeyed to Wroote, and from her
humble lodging there had written an honest letter to her father,
begging only to see her mother or Molly, promising to hold no
communication with them if he refused.  He had refused, in a curt
note of three lines.  From Wroote she returned to Louth, to face her
trouble alone; for the preliminaries of selling the Lincoln business
had brought old Wright's creditors about her husband's ears like a
swarm of wasps.  Until then they had waited with fair patience: but
no sooner did he make a perfectly honest move towards paying them off
in a lump than the whole swarm took panic and he was forced to decamp
to London to escape the sponging-house.  There Uncle Matthew came to
the rescue, satisfied immediate claims, and guaranteed the rest.
But meanwhile Hetty's child--a boy, as she had prayed--was born, and
died on the third day after birth.

She hardly dared to think of it--of the poor mite and the hopes she
had built on him.  As she had told Charles, she was sorry, but not
penitent--at least not wholly penitent.  Once she had been wholly
penitent: but the tyrannous compulsion of her marriage had eased or
deadened her sense of responsibility.  Henceforth she had no duty but
to make the best of it.  So she told herself, and had conscientiously
striven to make the best of it.  She had even succeeded, up to a
point; by shutting herself within doors and busily, incessantly,
spinning a life of illusion.  She was a penitent--a woman in a book--
redeeming her past by good conduct.  The worst of it was that her
husband declined to help the cheat.  He was proud of her, honest man!
and had no fancy at all for the _role_ assigned to him, of "all for
love, and the world well lost."  That she refused to be shown off he
set down to sulkiness; and went off of an evening to taverns and
returned fuddled.  She studied, above all things, to make home bright
for him, and ever met him with a smile: and this was good enough, yet
not (as it slowly grew clear to her) precisely what he wanted.
So she had been driven to build fresh hopes on the unborn babe.
_He_ would make all the difference: would win his father back, or at
worst give her own life a new foundation for hope.  Her son should be
a gentleman: she would deny herself and toil and live for him.

And now God had resumed His gift, and her life was blank indeed.
She might have another--and another might die.  She had never
supposed that this one could die, and its death gave her a dreadful
feeling of insecurity--as if no child of hers could ever be reared.
What then?  The prospect of pardon by continued good conduct seemed
to her shadowy indeed.  Something more was needed.  Yes, penitence
was needed; _real_ penitence: urgently, she felt the need of it and
yet for the life of her could not desire it as she knew it ought to
be desired.

She turned from the thought and let her mind dwell on the sentence or
two quoted by Charles from Molly's letter.  They were peevish
sentences, and she did not doubt that the letter to John had been yet
more peevish.  Life had taught her what some never learn, that folks
are not to be divided summarily into good and bad, right and wrong,
pleasant and unpleasant.  Men and women are not always refined or
ennobled by unmerited suffering.  They are soured often, sometimes
coarsened.  Hetty loved Molly far better than she loved John: but in
a flash she saw that, not Molly only, but all her sisters who had
suffered for John's advancement, would exact the price of their
sacrifices in a consuming jealousy to be first in his favour.
She saw it so clearly that she pitied him for what would worry him
incessantly and be met by him with a patient conscientiousness.
He would never understand--could never understand--on what these
jealous sisters of his based their claims.

She saw it the more closely because she had no care of her own to
stand first with him.  She smiled and stretched out an arm along the
pillow where the babe was not.  Then suddenly she buried her face in
it and wept, and being weak, passed from tears into sleep.



CHAPTER III.


Molly's protest against the tyranny of home had long since passed
into a mere withholding of assent.  She went about her daily task
more dutifully than ever.  She had always been the household drudge:
but now she not only took over all the clerical work upon the
_Dissertationes in Librum Jobi_ (for the Rector's right hand was
shaken by palsy and the drawings occupied more and more of Johnny
Whitelamb's time); she devised new schemes for eking out the family
income.  She bred poultry.  With Johnny's help--he was famous with
the spade--she added half an acre to the kitchen garden and planted
it.  The summer of 1727 proved one of the rainiest within men's
memory, and floods covered the face of the country almost to the
Parsonage door.  "I hope," wrote the Rector to John on June 6th,
"I may be able to serve both my cures this summer, or if not, die
pleasantly in my last dike."  On June 21st he could "make shift to
get from Wroote to Epworth by boat."  Five days later he was twisted
with rheumatism as a result of his Sunday journey to Epworth and
back, "being lamed with having my breeches too full of water, partly
with a downpour from a thunder-shower, and partly from the wash over
the boat.  Yet I thank God I was able to preach here in the
afternoon.  I wish the rain had not reached us on this side Lincoln,
but we have it so continual that we have scarce one bank left, and I
can't possibly have one quarter of oats in all the levels; but thanks
be to God the field-barley and rye are good.  We can neither go afoot
nor horseback to Epworth, but only by boat as far as Scawsit Bridge
and then walk over the common, though I hope it will soon be better."

That week the floods subsided, and on July 4th he wrote again:
"My hide is tough, and I think no carrion can kill me.  I walked
sixteen miles yesterday; and this morning, I thank God, I was not a
penny worse.  The occasion of this booted walk was to hire a room for
myself at Epworth, which I think I have done.  You will find your
mother much altered.  I believe what would kill a cat has almost
killed her.  I have observed of late little convulsions in her very
frequently, which I don't like."

This report frightened John, who wrote back urgently for further
particulars.  Mrs. Wesley had indeed fallen into a low state of
health, occasioned partly (as Kezzy declared in a letter) by "want of
clothes or convenient meat," partly by the miasma from the floods.
Ague was the commonest of maladies in the Isle of Axholme, and even
the labourers fortified themselves against it with opium.

"Dear son John," replied the Rector sardonically, "we received last
post your compliments of condolence and congratulation to your mother
on the supposition of her near approaching demise, to which your
sister Patty will by no means subscribe; for she says she is not so
good a philosopher as you are, and that she can't spare her mother
yet, if it please God, without great inconveniency.  And indeed,
though she has now and then some very sick fits, yet I hope the sight
of you would revive her.  However, when you come you will see a new
face of things, my family being now pretty well colonised, and all
perfect harmony--much happier, in no small straits, than perhaps we
ever were in our greatest affluence."

Molly, while she helped to cook the miserable meals which could not
tempt her mother's appetite, or looked abroad upon the desolate
floods, saw with absolute clearness that this apparent peace was but
the peace of exhaustion.  Yet it was true that--thanks to her--the
pinch of poverty had relaxed.  The larger debts were paid: for some
months she had not opened the door to a dunning tradesman.
The floods, as by a miracle, had spared her crops and she had a
scheme for getting her surplus vegetables conveyed to Epworth market.
Already she had opened up a trade in fowls with a travelling dealer.
"Molly," wrote her father, "miraculously gets money even in Wroote,
and has given the first fruit of her earning to her mother, lending
her money, and presenting her with a new cloak of her own buying and
making, for which God will bless her."

Her secret dissent did not escape the Rector's eye, so alert for
every sign of defiance: but in his expanding sense of success he let
it pass.  There was another, however, who divined it and watched it
anxiously day after dreary day, for it answered a trouble in his own
breast.

Johnny Whitelamb was now almost a man grown: but what really
separated him from the Johnny Whitelamb of two years ago was no
increase in stature or in knowledge.  That which grew within him, and
still grew, defying all efforts to kill it, was--a doubt.  It had
been born in him--no bigger then than a grain of mustard-seed--on the
day when he sought Hetty to send her to the house where William
Wright waited for her answer.  Until then the Rector had been to him
a divine man, in wisdom and goodness very little lower than the
angels.  And now--

He fought it hard, at first in terror, at length in cold desperation.
But still the doubt grew.  And the worst was that Molly guessed his
secret.  He feared to meet her eye.  It seemed to him that he and she
were bound in some monstrous conspiracy.  He spent hours in wrestling
with it.  At times he would rise from table on some stammered excuse,
rush off to the fields and there, in a hidden corner, fall on his
knees and pray, or even lie at full length, his face hidden in the
grasses, his body writhing, his ungainly legs twisting and
untwisting.  And still the doubt grew.

Everything confirmed it.  He saw the suffering by which mother and
daughters were yoked.  He noted the insufficient food, the thin
clothing, the wan cheeks, the languid tread.  He no longer took these
for granted, but looked into their causes.  And the Rector's
blindness to them, or indifference, became a terror to him--a thing
inhuman.

He began to think him mad.  Worse, he began to hate him: he, Johnny
Whitelamb, who had taken everything at his hands--food, clothing,
knowledge, even his faith in God!  He accused himself for a monster
of ingratitude, whose sins invited the sky to fall and blot him out.
And still he could not meet Molly's eyes; still, in spite of checks
and set-backs, the doubt grew.

It was almost at its worst one morning in late August, when the
Rector invited him to lay by his drawings and walk beside him as far
as Froddingham, where he had business to transact.  (It was to pay
over 5 pounds, and meet a note given by him in the spring to keep
Charles in pocket-money.)  Had Johnny been in a more charitable mood,
the accent in which the old man proffered the invitation would have
struck him as pathetic.  For the Rector it was indeed a rare
confession of weakness.  But three weeks before his purblind nag
Mettle had stumbled, flung him, trailed him a few yards on the ground
with one foot in the stirrup, and come to a standstill with one hoof
planted blunderingly on his other foot.  It had been a narrow escape,
had caused him excruciating pain, and he limped still.  To walk, even
with a stick, was impossible.  But the money must be paid at
Froddingham and he would trust no messenger.  So he mounted the mare,
Bounce, and set forth at a foot-pace, with Johnny striding alongside
and noting how the white palsied hand shook on the rein.
Johnny noted it without pity: for the doubt was awake and clamorous.
If ever he hated his benefactor, he hated him that morning.

The morning was gray, with a blusterous south-west wind of more than
summer strength; and the floods had subsided, but the Trent, barely
contained within its banks, was running down on a fierce ebb-tide.
They reached Althorpe, and while waiting for the horse-boat to cross
to Burringham, Johnny found time to wonder at the force of two or
three gusts which broke on the lapping water and drove it like white
smoke against the bows of a black keel, wind-bound and anchored in
mid-channel about fifty yards down-stream.

It turned out that the ferryman, who worked the horse-boat with his
eldest son, had himself walked over to Bottesford earlier in the
morning: and Johnny felt some uneasiness at finding his place
supplied by a boy scarcely fourteen.  Mr. Wesley, however, seemed in
no apprehension, but coaxed Bounce to embark and stood with her
amidships, holding her bridle, as the boat was pushed off.
Johnny took his seat, fronting the elder lad, who pulled the stern
oar.

They started in a lull of the wind.  Johnny's first thought of danger
had never been definite, and he had forgotten it--was busy in fact
with the doubt--when, half-way across, one of the white squalls
swooped down on them and the youngster in the bows, instead of
pulling for dear life, dropped his oar with a face of panic.

Johnny felt the jerk, heard the Rector's cry of warning, and in two
seconds (he never knew how) had leapt over the stern oar, across the
thwarts, past the kicking and terrified Bounce--with whom the Rector
was struggling as she threatened to leap overboard--and reached the
bows in time to snatch the oar as it slipped over the side.  But it
had snapped both the thole-pins short off in their sockets and was
useless.  The boat's nose fell off and they were swept down towards
the anchored hulk below.  Johnny could only wait for the crash, and
he waited: and in those few instants--the doubt being still upon
him--bethought him that likely enough the Rector could not swim, or
would be disabled by his lameness.  And . . . was he sorry?  He had
not answered this question when the crash came--the ferry-boat
striking the very stem of the keel, her gunwale giving way to it with
a slow grinding noise, then with a bursting crack as the splinters
broke inwards.  As it seemed to him, there were two distinct bumps,
and between them the boat filled slowly and the mare slid away into
the water.  He heard voices shouting on board the keel.  The water
rose to his knees and he sank in it, almost on top of Mr. Wesley.
At once he felt the whirl of the current, but not before he had
gripped the Rector's collar.  The other hand he flung up blindly.
By Providence the keel was freighted with sea-coal and low in the
water, and as the pair slid past, Johnny's fingers found and gripped
the bulwark-coaming.  So for a half-minute he hung--his body and the
Rector's trailing out almost on the surface with the force of the
water, his arm almost dislocated by the strain--until a couple of
colliers came running to help and hauled them on board, the Rector
first.  They had gripped the small boy as the boat sank, and he stood
in the bows scared and dripping, but otherwise nothing the worse.
His brother, it appeared, could swim like a fish and was already a
good hundred yards downstream, not fighting the current, but edging
little by little for the home shore.  And astern of him battled the
mare.

The colliers had a light boat on deck, but with it even in calm water
they could have done little to help the poor creature, and on such a
stream it was quite useless.  They stood watching and discussing her
as she turned from time to time, either as the tide carried her or in
vain, wild efforts to stem it: the latter, probably, for after some
ten minutes (by which time her head had diminished to a black speck
in the distance) she seemed to learn wisdom from the example of the
swimmer ahead, resisted no longer, and was finally cast ashore and
caught by him more than half a mile below.

Johnny, seated on the grimy deck, heard the colliers discussing her
struggles, but took no concern in them.  His eyes were all for the
Rector, who, after the first fit of coughing, lay and panted against
his knees, with gaze fastened on the steel-gray sky above.

He had saved his life.  But had he really desired to?  The action had
been instinctive merely: and a moment before he had been speculating
on the Rector's death, assenting, almost hoping!  Had he translated
that assent into deed--had he been given time to obey the wicked
whisper in his heart--he would now be the blackest criminal under
heaven.  God had interposed to save him from this: but was he any the
less a sinner in intent?

How had he come to harbour the thought?  For now again it was to him
unthinkable as of old--yet in his madness he had thought it.
There abode the memory, never to be escaped.  He looked down on the
venerable face, the water-drops yet trickling from the brow, usually
tinted with exposure to sun and wind but now pale as old ivory.
The old adoration, the old devotion surged back into Johnny's heart,
the tide rose to his eyes and overflowed.  "My master!" he groaned,
"my master!" and a tear fell upon Mr. Wesley's hand.

Whether or not this aroused him, the old man sat up at once and
looked about him.  He showed no emotion at all.

"Where is the mare?" he asked.

One of the keelmen pointed down-stream, and the little party stared
after her in silence until she staggered up the bank.

"All saved?" asked Mr. Wesley again.  "My friends, before you put me
ashore, I will ask you to kneel with me and give thanks for God's
mercy to me a sinner."  The men stared at him and at one another, not
a little embarrassed.  But seeing the Rector and Johnny already on
their knees in the grime, they pulled off their caps sheepishly and
knelt: and after a moment the frightened youngster in the bows
followed suit.

"Almighty God, who aforetime didst uphold Thy great apostle in
shipwreck and bring him safe to land, and hast now again interposed
an arm to succour two of this company and me, the unworthiest of
Paul's successors; though our merits be as nothing in comparison with
his, and as nothing the usefulness whereto Thou hast preserved us, we
bless Thee that Thy mercy is high and absolute, respecting not
persons; we thank Thee for giving back the imperfect lives Thou
mightest in justice have brought to an end; and we entreat Thee for
grace so to improve the gift as through it to receive more fitly the
greater one of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our soul's
Saviour.  Amen.".

He knelt for a minute, praying silently; then arose, dusted his knees
and professed himself ready to be rowed ashore.  The keelmen slid
their deck-boat overside, and presently all embarked and were tided
back to shore, the boat taking ground about fifty yards above the
bend where Bounce stood shivering, caked in mud to her withers.

The Rector thanked the keelmen in few words while Johnny ran to fetch
the mare.  They were pulling back when he returned with her.
The elder lad invited Mr. Wesley to the ferryman's cottage, to sit
and dry his clothes: but he declined.

Johnny helped him to remount.  Scarcely a word passed on their
homeward way beyond a comment or two on poor Bounce, who had strained
her near shoulder in her plunging battle for life and was all but
exhausted.  At the Parsonage door they parted, still in silence, and
Johnny led the mare off to stable.  He did not know if Mr. Wesley had
observed his emotion, and his own heart was too full of love and
remorse for any words.

But an hour later word came to him by Kezzy that her father wished to
speak with him in the study.  He went at once, wondering, and found
the Rector seated as usual before his manuscripts, but alone.

"My lad," he began kindly, "you saved my life to-day."

Johnny attempted to speak, but could not.

"I know what you would say.  We owe one another something, eh?
But this is a debt which I choose to acknowledge at once.  None the
less I wish you to understand that although your conduct to-day
hastens my proposal, it has been in my head for some time.
Whitelamb, would you like to go to Oxford?"

Johnny gasped.  "Sir--sir!" he stammered.

Mr. Wesley smiled.  "I will speak to Jack.  I think it can be managed
if he will take you for his pupil, as no doubt he will.  You cannot
well be poorer than I was on the day when I entered my name at Exeter
College.  There, go away and think it over!  There's no hurry, you
understand: if you are to go, I must first of all hammer some Greek
into you--eh?  What is it?"

For Johnny had cast himself on his knees, and was sobbing aloud.

At supper Molly, to whom her mother had whispered the news, announced
it to her sisters, who knew only of the accident and Johnny's hand in
the rescue.

"Yes," said she, "we are all proud of him, and shall be prouder
before long, when he goes to Oxford!"

"Why to Oxford?" asked Patty, not comprehending, and sought her
mother's eyes for the interpretation.  Mrs. Wesley smiled.

"Why, to be a great man," Molly went on; "perhaps in time as
great as Jack or Charles."  Johnny, in his usual seat by the
chimney-corner, detected the challenge in her tone, but did not look
up.

"Is it true?" persisted Patty.  He stared into the fire, blushing
furiously.

"It is true." Mrs. Wesley rose, and stepping to him laid a hand on
his straggling dark hair.  "What is more, he has deserved it, not
to-day only but by his goodness over many years.  The Lord shall be
his illumination," she said gravely, quoting the motto of the
University which (amazing thought!) was to be _his_ University.
"May the light of His countenance rest upon you, dear son."

She had never called him by that title before.  He caught her hand
and for the moment, in the boldness of a great love, clasped it
between his own.  Now he could look across at Molly: and she nodded
back at him, her eyes brimful--but behind her tears they gave him
absolution and released him from the doubt.



CHAPTER IV.


This was at the close of August, 1728, and the Rector's letter
entreating his good offices for Johnny Whitelamb reached John Wesley
on the eve of his taking Priest's Orders, for which he was then
preparing at Oxford.  He was ordained priest on September 22nd, and a
week later had news from William Wright in London that Hetty's third
child was born--and was dead.

This is how the father announced his loss:

     "To the Revd.  Mr. John Wesley, Fellow in Christ Church College,
      Oxon"

John smiled at the superscription, inaccurate in more ways than one.

     "Dear Bro: This comes to Let you know that my wife is brought to
      bed and is in a hopefull way of Doing well but the Dear child
      Died--the Third day after it was born--which has been of great
      concerne to me and my wife She Joyns With me In Love to your
      selfe and Bro: Charles.  From Your Loveing Bro: to Comnd--
                                       Wm. Wright.

     "P.S.  I've sen you Sum Verses that my wife maid of Dear Lamb
      Let me hear from one or both of you as Soon as you think
      Convenient."

And these are Hetty's verses inclosed.

     A Mother's Address to Her Dying Infant

     "Tender softness, infant mild,
      Perfect, purest, brightest Child!
      Transient lustre, beauteous clay,
      Smiling wonder of a day!
      Ere the last convulsive start
      Rend thy unresisting heart,
      Ere the long-enduring swoon
      Weigh thy precious eyelids down,
      Ah, regard a mother's moan!
      --Anguish deeper than thy own.

     "Fairest eyes, whose dawning light
      Late with rapture blest my sight,
      Ere your orbs extinguish'd be,
      Bend their trembling beams on me!

     "Drooping sweetness, verdant flower
      Blooming, withering in an hour,
      Ere thy gentle breast sustain
      Latest, fiercest, mortal pain,
      Hear a suppliant!  Let me be
      Partner in thy destiny:
      That whene'er the fatal cloud
      Must thy radiant temples shroud;
      When deadly damps, impending now,
      Shall hover round thy destin'd brow,
      Diffusive may their influence be,
      And with the blossom blast the tree!"

Mr. Wright inclosed these verses complacently enough.  Poetry in his
eyes was an elegant accomplishment vaguely connected with scholarship
and gentility: and he took pride in possessing a wife who, as he more
than once assured his cronies in the parlour of the "Turk's Head" at
the end of the street, could sit down and write it by the yard.

To please Hetty he read them through, pronounced them very pretty,
and folded up the paper, remarking, "I'll send it off to your brother
John.  He likes this sort of thing, and when he learns 'twas written
in your weak state he'll think it wonderful."

Of the anguish in the closing lines his eye detected, his ear heard,
nothing.

Yet it was an anguish which daily touched despair in Hetty's heart.
God had laid a curse on her, and would not be placated by the good
behaviour on which she had built her hopes.  She had borne three
children, and not one had He suffered to live for a week.  No matter
how many she might bear, the same fate stood ready for them.  Nor was
this all.  She saw Him smiting, through these innocent babes, at her
husband's love.  Little by little she felt it relaxing and sinking
through carelessness into neglect: and the whole scheme of her
atonement rested on his continuing fondness.  She had never loved
him, but his love was, if not infinitely precious, of infinite moment
to her.  She needed it to sustain her and keep her in the right way.
She omitted no small attentions which might make home pleasant to
him.  She kept the house bright (they had moved into Frith Street and
lived over the shop), and unweariedly coaxed his appetite with her
cookery, in which--and especially in pastry-making--she had a born
gift.  The fumes of the lead-works at the back often took her own
appetite away and depressed her spirits, but she never failed to
rouse herself and welcome him with a smile.  Also (but this was to
please herself) sometimes by a word of advice in the matter of toilet
or of clothes, oftener by small secret attentions with the needle,
she had gradually reformed his habits of dress until now he might
pass for a London tradesman of the superior class, decently attired,
well shaven and clean in his person.  He resigned himself to these
improvements with much good-nature and so passed through his
metamorphosis almost without knowing it.  She practised small
economies too; and he owned (though he set it down to his own
industry) that his worldly affairs were more prosperous than ever
they had been before his marriage.  But the fumes of the lead-works
affected _his_ appetite, too, and his spirits: and when these flag a
man has an easy and specious remedy in brandy-and-water.  By and by
it became a habit with him, when his men ceased work, to stroll down
to the "Turk's Head" for a "stiffener" before his meal.  The men he
met there respected him for a flourishing tradesman and flattered
him.  He adored his wife still.  In his eyes no woman would compare
with her.  But there was no denying he felt more at home in company
which allowed him to tell or listen to a coarse story and stretch his
legs and boast at his ease.

He was not aware of any slackening in affection.  But Hetty noted it
and fought against it, though with a sinking heart.  She had counted
on this babe to draw him back--if not to her, then at least to home.
When told that it was dead, on an impulse she had turned her face at
once to him and with a heart-rending look appealed for his
forgiveness.  He did not understand.  Yet he behaved well, stroking
her head and saying what he could to comfort her.

She was convinced now that she lay under God's curse, and by and by
her weak thoughts connected this curse with her father's displeasure.
If she could move her father to relent, it might be lifted from her.
And so after many weeks of brooding she found courage to write this
letter:

From Hetty to her Father

     Honoured Sir,--Although you have cast me off and I know that a
     determination once taken by you is not easily moved, I must tell
     you that some word of your forgiving is not only necessary to
     me, but would make happier the marriage in which, as you
     compelled it, you must still (I think) feel no small concern.
     My child, on whose frail help I had counted to make our life
     more supportable to my husband and myself, is dead.  Should God
     give and take away another, I can never escape the thought that
     my father's intercession might have prevailed against His wrath,
     which I shall then, alas! take to be manifest.

     Forgive me, sir, that I make you a party in such happiness (or
     unhappiness) as the world generally allows to be, under God, a
     portion for two.  But as you planted my matrimonial bliss, so
     you cannot run away from my prayer when I beseech you to water
     it with a little kindness.  My brothers will report to you what
     they have seen of my way of life and my daily struggle to redeem
     the past.  But I have come to a point where I feel your
     forgiveness to be necessary to me.  I beseech you, then, not to
     withhold it, and to believe me your obedient daughter,
                                       Mehet. Wright.

The Answer

     Daughter,--If you would persuade me that your penitence is more
     than feigned, you are going the wrong way to work.  I decline to
     be made a party to your matrimonial fortunes, as you claim in
     what appears to be intended for the flower of your letter; and
     in your next, if you would please me, I advise you to display
     less wit and more evidence of honest self-examination.
     To that--which is the beginning of repentance--you do not appear
     to have attained.  Yet it would teach you that your troubles, if
     you have any, flow from your own sin, and that for any
     inconveniences you may find in marriage you are probably as much
     to blame (at the very least) as your honest husband.
     Your brothers speak well of him, and I shall always think myself
     obliged to him for his civilities to you.

     But what are your troubles?  You do not name them.  What hurt
     has matrimony done you?  I know only that it has given you a
     good name.  I do not remember that you were used to have so
     frightful an idea of it as you have now.  Pray be more explicit.
     Restrain your wit if you wish to write again, and I will answer
     your next if I like it.  Your father,
                                       S. Wesley.

On receiving this Hetty could not at once bethink her of having given
any cause of offence.  But she had kept a rough copy of her letter,
and on studying it was fairly shocked by its tone, which now seemed
to her almost flippant.

She marvelled at her maladroitness, which was the more singular
because she had really written under strong emotion.  She did not
even now guess the secret of her failure; which was, that she had
written entreating forgiveness of one whom she had not wholly
forgiven.  Nevertheless she tried again.

Hetty to her Father

     Honoured Sir,--Though I was glad, on any terms, of the favour of
     a line from you, yet I was concerned at your displeasure on
     account of the unfortunate paragraph which you are pleased to
     say was meant for the flower of my letter.  I wish it had not
     gone, since I perceive it gave you some uneasiness.

     But since what I said occasioned some queries, which I should be
     glad to speak freely about, I earnestly beg that the little I
     shall say may not be offensive to you, since I promise to be as
     little witty as possible, though I can't help saying you accuse
     me of being too much so; especially these late years past I have
     been pretty free from that scandal.

     You ask me what hurt matrimony has done me, and whether I had
     always so frightful an idea of it as I have now?
     Home questions, indeed! and I once more beg of you not to be
     offended at the least I can say to them, if I say anything.

     I had not always such notions of wedlock as now, but thought
     that where there was a mutual affection and desire of pleasing,
     something near an equality of mind and person, either earthly or
     heavenly wisdom, and anything to keep love warm between a young
     couple, there was a possibility of happiness in a married state;
     but when all, or most of these, were wanting, I ever thought
     people could not marry without sinning against God and
     themselves.

     You are so good to my spouse and me as to say you shall always
     think yourself obliged to him for his civilities to me.  I hope
     he will always continue to use me better than I deserve in one
     respect.

     _I think exactly the same of my marriage as I did before it
     happened_; but though I would have given at least one of my eyes
     for the liberty of throwing myself at your feet before I was
     married at all, yet, since it is past and matrimonial grievances
     are usually irreparable, I hope you will condescend to be so far
     of my opinion as to own that, since upon some accounts I am
     happier than I deserve, it is best to say little of things quite
     past remedy, and endeavour, as I really do, to make myself more
     and more contented, though things may not be to my wish.

     Though I cannot justify my late indiscreet letter, yet I am not
     more than human, and if the calamities of life sometimes wring a
     complaint from me, I need tell no one that though I bear I must
     feel them.  And if you cannot forgive what I have said, I
     sincerely promise never more to offend by saying too much; which
     (with begging your blessing) is all from your most obedient
     daughter,
                                       Mehetabel Wright.



CHAPTER V.


You who can read between the lines of these letters will have
remarked a new accent in Hetty--a hard and bitter accent.  She will
suffer her punishment now; but, even though it be sent of God, she
will appeal against it as too heavy for her sin.

Learn now the cause of it and condemn her if you can.

At first when her husband, at the close of his day's work, sidled off
to the "Turk's Head," she pretended not to remark it.  Indeed her
fears were long in awaking.  In all her life she had never tasted
brandy, and knew nothing of its effects.  That Dick Ellison fuddled
himself upon it was notorious, and on her last visit to Wroote she
had heard scandalous tales of John Romley, who had come to haunt the
taverns in and about Epworth, singing songs and soaking with the
riff-raff of the neighbourhood until turned out at midnight to roll
homeward to his lonely lodgings.  She connected drunkenness with
uproarious mirth, boon companionship, set orgies.  Of secret unsocial
tippling she had as yet no apprehension.

Even before the birth of his second child the tavern had become
necessary to Mr. Wright, not only at the close of work, but in the
morning, between jobs.  His workmen began to talk.  He suspected them
and slid into foolish, cunning tricks to outwit them, leaving the
shop on false excuses, setting out ostentatiously in the wrong
direction and doubling back on the "Turk's Head" by a side street.
They knew where to find him, however, when a customer dropped in.

"Who sent you here?" he demanded furiously, one day, of the youngest
apprentice, who had come for the second time that week to fetch him
out of the "King's Oak."  (He had enlarged his circle of taverns by
this time, and it included one half of Soho.)

"Please you, I wasn't sent here at all," the boy stammered.  "I tried
the 'Turk's Head' first and then the 'Three Tuns.'"

"And what should make you suppose I was at either?  Look here, young
man, the workshop from Robinson down"--Robinson was the foreman--"is
poking its nose too far into my business.  If this goes on, one of
these days Robinson will get his dismissal and you the strap."

"It wasn't Robinson sent me, sir.  It was the mistress."

"Eh!"  William Wright came to a halt on the pavement and his jaw
dropped.

"Her uncle, Mr. Matthew, has called and wants to see you on
particular business."

The business, as it turned out, was merely to give him quittance of a
loan.  The sum first advanced to them by Matthew Wesley had proved
barely sufficient.  To furnish the dwelling-rooms in Frith Street he
had lent another 10 pounds and taken a separate bond for it, and
this debt Hetty had discharged out of her household economies,
secretly planning a happy little surprise for her husband; and now in
the hurry of innocent delight she betrayed her sadder secret.

She had as yet no fear of him, though he was afraid of her.  But at
sight of him as he entered, all the joy went out of her announcement.

He listened sulkily, took the receipt, and muttered some ungracious
thanks.  Old Matthew eyed him queerly, and, catching a whiff of
brandy, pulled out his gold watch.  The action may have been
involuntary.  The hour was half-past ten in the morning.

"Well, well--I must be going.  Excuse me, nephew Wright; with my
experience I ought to have known better than to withdraw a busy man
from his work."

He glanced at Hetty, with a look which as good as asked leave for a
few words with her in private.  But Mr. Wright, now thoroughly
suspicious, did not choose to be dismissed in this fashion.  So after
a minute or two of uneasy talk the old man pulled out his watch
again, excused himself, and took his departure.

"Look here," began Mr. Wright when he and Hetty were left alone:
"You are taking too much on yourself."

He had never spoken to her quite so harshly.

"I am sorry, William," she answered, keeping her tears well under
control.  For months she had been planning her little surprise, and
its failure hurt her cruelly.  "I had no thought of displeasing you."

"Oh, I daresay you meant it for the best.  But I choose to be master
in my own house, that's all.  Another time, if you have more money
than you know what to do with, just come and consult me.  I've no
notion of being made to look small before your uncle, and I don't
stomach it."

He turned away growling.  He had spoken only of the repaid loan, but
they both knew that this had nothing to do with his ill temper.

At the door he faced round again.  "What were you talking about when
I came in?" he asked suspiciously.

"Uncle was congratulating us.  He is delighted to know that the
business is doing so well and complains that he seldom gets sight of
you nowadays, your hands are so full."

"And pray what the devil has it to do with him, how I spend my time?"
He pulled himself up on the oath, and seeing her cheek flush, he too
reddened, but went on, if anything, more violently.  "You've a trick
in your family of putting your fingers into other folks' pies: you're
known for it.  There's that Holy Club I hear about.  Your clever
brothers can't be content, any more than your father, to let honest
folks alone, but are for setting right the whole University of
Oxford.  I warn you, that won't do with me.  'Live and let live' is
my motto: let me alone and I'll let you alone.  You Wesleys think
mightily of yourselves; but you're neither king nor Parlyment, and
that I'll have you learn."

It was not a dignified exit and he knew it: by brooding over it
through the afternoon his temper grew more savage.  That evening he
spent at the "Turk's Head" and slouched home at midnight divided
between contrition and bravado.

Hetty was in bed, pretending sleep.  Had she known it, a word from
her might have mended matters.  Even had he found her in tears there
was enough good nature in the man to have made him relent.

At sight of her beautiful face he felt half-inclined to awake her and
have the quarrel cleared up.  But, to begin with, he was not wholly
certain of his sobriety.  And she, too, distrusted it.  He had
wounded her family pride, to be sure: but what really kept her silent
was the dread of discovering him to be drunk and letting him see that
she had discovered it.

Yet she had great need of tears: for on more than one account she
respected her husband, even liked him, and did most desperately long
to be loved by him.  After all, she had borne him children: and since
they had died he was her only stay in the world, her only hope of
redemption.  Years after there was found among her papers a
tear-blotted sheet of verses dating from this sorrowful time: and
though the sorrow opens and shows ahead, as in a flash, the contempt
towards which the current is sweeping her, you see her travel down to
it with hands bravely battling, clutching at the weak roots of love
and hope along the shore:

     "O thou whom sacred rites design'd
      My guide and husband ever kind,
      My sovereign master, best of friends,
      On whom my earthly bliss depends:
      If e'er thou didst in Hetty see
      Aught fair or good or dear to thee,
      If gentle speech can ever move
      The cold remains of former love,
      Turn thou at last-my bosom ease,
      Or tell me _why_ I fail to please.

     "Is it because revolving years,
      Heart-breaking sighs, and fruitless tears
      Have quite deprived this form of mine
      Of all that once thou fancied'st fine?
      Ah no! what once allured thy sight
      Is still in its meridian height.
      Old age and wrinkles in this face
      As yet could never find a place;
      A youthful grace informs these lines
      Where still the purple current shines,
      Unless by thy ungentle art
      It flies to aid my wretched heart:
      Nor does this slighted bosom show
      The many hours it spends in woe.

     "Or is it that, oppress'd with care,
      I stun with loud complaints thine ear,
      And make thy home, for quiet meant,
      The seat of noise and discontent?
      Ah no!  Thine absence I lament
      When half the weary night is spent,
      Yet when the watch, or early morn,
      Has brought me hopes of thy return,
      I oft have wiped these watchful eyes,
      Conceal'd my cares and curb'd my sighs
      In spite of grief, to let thee see
      I wore an endless smile for thee.

     "Had I not practised every art,
      To oblige, divert and cheer thy heart,
      To make me pleasing in thine eyes,
      And turn thy house to paradise,
      I had not ask'd 'Why dost thou shun
      These faithful arms, and eager run
      To some obscure, unclean retreat,
      With vile companions glad to meet,
      Who, when inspired by beer,
      can grin At witless oaths and jests obscene,
      Till the most learned of the throng
      Begins a tale of ten hours long
      To stretch with yawning other jaws,
      But thine in rapture of applause?'

     "Deprived of freedom, health and ease,
      And rivall'd by such _things_ as these,
      Soft as I am, I'll make thee see
      I will not brook contempt from thee!
      I'll give all thoughts of patience o'er
      (A gift I never lost before);
      Indulge at once my rage and grief
      Mourn obstinate, disdain relief,
      Till life, on terms severe as these,
      Shall ebbing leave my heart at ease;
      To thee thy liberty restore
      To laugh, when Hetty is no more."

One morning William Wright awoke out of stertorous sleep with a heavy
sense of something amiss, and opened his eyes to find Hetty standing
beside the bed in nightgown and light wrapper, with a tray and pot of
tea which she had stolen downstairs to prepare for him.  After a
second or two he remembered, and turned his face to the wall.

"No," said she, "you had better sit up and drink this, and we can
talk honestly.  See, I have brought a cup for myself, too."

She drew a small table close to the bed, and a chair, poured out the
tea and seated herself--all with the least possible fuss.

"I suppose you know," she began, "that you struck me last night?"

His hand trembled as he took the cup, and again he turned away his
eyes.

"You were drunk," she went on.  "You called me by an evil name, too--
a name I once called myself: but a name you would not have called me
in your sober senses.  At least, I think not.  Tell me--and remember
that you promised always to answer honestly: you would not have
called me so in your sober senses?  You do not think of me so?"

He set down the cup and stretched out a hand.

"My lass"--the words seemed to choke him.

"For I am not _that_.  You married me knowing the worst; and ever
since I have been a true wife to you.  Well, I see that you are
sorry.  And you struck me, on the breast.  I have a bruise there;
but," she went on in a level lifeless tone, "there is no child to see
his father's mark.  You are sorry for that, too.  But I understand,
of course, that you were drunk.  Many times now you have come home
drunk, and next morning I pretended not to know it.  I must not
pretend now, since now to be clear about it is my only chance of
comfort and your only chance of self-respect."

He groaned.

"Lass, I could cut my hand off for it!  When a man gets overtaken--"

"No, no," her voice suddenly grew animated; "for God's sake, William,
don't cry over it!  You are not a David."  She shivered, as a trick
of memory brought back to her the night in the harvest field when she
had broken out in wrath against her least admired of Biblical
heroes--the same night on which she had first set eyes on this man,
whose ring and whose bruise she wore.

"Do not use cheating words, either," she went on.  "You were not
overtaken by liquor; you went out to meet it, as you have gone night
after night.  Call it by the straight name.  Listen: I like you well
enough, William, to help you, if I can--indeed, I have tried.
But there seems to be something in drink which puts aside help: the
only fighting of any worth must come from the man himself--is it not
so?"

"I have fought, lass."

"Drink up your tea, my man, and fight it again!  Come home to me
earlier, and with a firmer step, and each night will be a victory,
better worth than all the cries and sobbings in the world."

He gazed at her stupidly as she put out a hand and laid it gently on
his wrist.  He covered his eyes.

"I--struck--you!" he muttered.

She winced.  Startled by the sudden withdrawal of her touch, he
lowered his hand and looked at her.  Her eyes, though brimming, met
his steadily.

"Tears are for women," she said.  "I must cry a little: but see, I am
not afraid."

For some months after this he fought the drink; fought it steadily.
With Christmas came a relapse, through which she nursed him.  To her
dismay she found the fit, during the few days that it lasted, more
violent than before, and thought of the house swept and garnished and
the devil returning with others worse than himself.  Her consolation
was that at his worst now he seemed to turn to her, and depend on
her--almost to supplicate--for help.  The struggle left them both
exhausted: but he had not attempted to beat her this time.  She tried
to persuade herself that this meant amendment, and that the outbreaks
would grow rarer and at length cease altogether.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1731 his health improved, and
with it his kindness to her.  Indeed, she had not been so near
happiness (or so she told herself) since her wedding day.
Another child was coming.  Hope, so often cut down, grew again in her
heart.  And then--

One forenoon in the second week of June--a torrid, airless day--he
came home reeling.  For the moment a black fear fell on her that she
would be too weak to wrestle with this attack; but she braced herself
to meet it.

The next day her uncle called.  He was about to start on a
long-planned journey to Epworth, taking his man with him; and having
lately parted with his housekeeper, he had a proposal to make; that
Hetty should sleep at Johnson's Court and look after the house in his
absence.

She shook her head.  Luckily her husband was out, drinking fiercely
at some tavern, as she very well knew; but anything was better than
his encountering Uncle Matthew just now.

"Why not?" the old man urged.  "It would save my hiring a carekeeper,
and tide me over until I bring back Patty with me, as I hope to do.
Besides, after travelling in those wilds I shall want to return and
find the house cheerful: and I know I can depend on you for that."

"And I promise that you shall have it.  Send me but word of your
coming, and all shall be ready for you that you require."

"But you will not take up your abode there?"

She shook her head again, still smiling: but the smile had lost
connection with her thoughts.  She was listening for her husband's
unsteady step and praying God to detain it.

"But why not?" Uncle Matthew persisted.  "It is not for lack of good
will, I know.  Your husband can spare you for a few days: or for that
matter he might come with you and leave the house at night to young
Ritson."  This was Mr. Wright's apprentice, the same that had fetched
him out of the "King's Oak "; an exemplary youth, who slept as a rule
in a garret at the top of the house.

"Tom Ritson is not lodging with us just now: we have found a room for
him two doors away."  She had, indeed, packed off the youth at the
first sign of his master's returning madness: but, lest Uncle Matthew
should guess the true reason, she added, "Women in my state take
queer fancies--likes and dislikes."

The old man eyed her for a while, then asked abruptly, "Is your
husband drinking again?"

"How--what makes you--I don't understand," she stammered.  Do what
she might she could not prevent the come-and-go of colour in her
face.

"Oh, yes you do.  Tut, tut, my dear! I've known it every whit as long
as you.  Look here; would you like me to put off my journey for a few
days?"

"On no account.  There's not the least reason, I assure you, uncle."

He seemed content with this and talked for a little while of the
journey and his plans.  He had warned nobody at Epworth.  "I intend
it for a surprise," he explained; "to learn with my own eyes how they
are faring."  Emilia and Kezzy were at home now upon a holiday: for
some months they had been earning their livelihood at Lincoln as
teachers in a boarding-school kept by a Mrs. Taylor.  He might even
make a trip to Scarborough, to drink the waters there.  He was
gravely kind, and promised to deliver all Hetty's messages to her
sisters.

"Well, well," he said as he rose to go, "so you won't come to me?"

"I cannot."

"Nevertheless I shall leave word that the house is to be open to
you--in case of need."  He looked at her meaningly, kissed her on the
forehead, and so took his leave.

At the street door he paused.  "And that poor soul is childless," he
muttered.  "She that should have been a noble mother of soldiers!"



CHAPTER VI.


From Mrs. Wesley to her son John.

                                       Epworth, July 12th, 1731.

     My brother Wesley had designed to have surprised us, and had
     travelled under a feigned name from London to Gainsborough; but
     there, sending his man for guide out to the Isle the next day,
     the man told one that keeps our market his master's name, and
     that he was going to see his brother, which was the minister at
     Epworth.  The man he informed met with Molly in the market about
     an hour before my brother got thither.  She, full of news,
     hastened home and told us her uncle Wesley was coming to see us;
     but we could hardly believe her.  'Twas odd to observe how all
     the town took the alarm and were upon the gaze, as if some great
     prince had been about to make his entry.  He rode directly to
     John Dawson's [this refers to a local inn]: but we had soon
     notice of his arrival, and sent John Brown with an invitation to
     our house.  He expressed some displeasure at his servant for
     letting us know of his coming: for he intended to have sent for
     Mr. Wesley to dine with him at Dawson's and then come to visit
     us in the afternoon.  However, he soon followed John home, where
     we were all ready to receive him with great satisfaction.

     His behaviour among us was perfectly civil and obliging.
     He spake little to the children the first day, being employed
     (as he afterwards told them) in observing their carriage and
     seeing how he liked them: afterwards he was very free, and
     expressed great kindness to them all.

     He was strangely scandalised at the poverty of our furniture,
     and much more at the meanness of the children's habit.
     He always talked more freely with your sisters of our
     circumstances than with me; and told them he wondered what his
     brother had done with his income, for 'twas visible he had not
     spent it in furnishing his house, or clothing his family.

     We had a little talk together sometimes, but it was not often we
     could hold a private conference, and he was very shy of speaking
     anything relating to the children before your father, or indeed
     of any other matter.  I informed him, as far as I handsomely
     could, of our losses, etc., for I was afraid that he should
     think I was about to beg of him; but the girls, I believe, told
     him everything they could think on.

     He was particularly pleased with Patty; and one morning, before
     Mr. Wesley came down, he asked me if I was willing to let Patty
     go and stay a year or two with him at London?  "Sister," says
     he, "I have endeavoured already to make one of your children
     easy while she lives, and if you please to trust Patty with me,
     I will endeavour to make her so too."  Whatever others may
     think, I thought this a generous offer, and the more so, because
     he had done so much for Sukey and Hetty.  I expressed my
     gratitude as well as I could, and would have had him speak with
     your father, but he would not himself--he left that to me; nor
     did he ever mention it to Mr. Wesley till the evening before he
     left us.

     He always behaved himself very decently at family prayers, and
     in your father's absence said grace for us before and after
     meat.  Nor did he ever interrupt our privacy, but went into his
     own chamber when we went into ours.

     He staid from Thursday to the Wednesday after, then he left us
     to go to Scarborough, from whence he returned the Saturday
     se'nnight, intending to stay with us a few days; but finding
     your sisters gone the day before to Lincoln, he would leave us
     on Sunday morning, for he said he might see the girls before
     they--he and Patty--set forward for London.  He overtook them at
     Lincoln, and had Mrs. Taylor, Emily, Kezzy, with the rest, to
     supper with him at the Angel.  On Monday they breakfasted with
     him; then they parted, expecting to see him no more till they
     came to London, but on Wednesday he sent his man to invite them
     to supper at night.  On Thursday he invited them to dinner, at
     night to supper, and on Friday morning to breakfast, when he
     took his leave of them and rode for London.  They got into town
     on Saturday about noon, and that evening Patty writ me an
     account of her journey.

     Dear Jackey, I can't stay now to talk about Hetty, but this-I
     hope better of her than some others do.  I pray God to bless
     you.  Adieu.
                                       S. W.

Hetty had been warned that her uncle and Patty would arrive on the
Saturday.  She did not expect them before evening; nevertheless, in
the forenoon she sallied out, and stopping in the market on her way
to buy a large bunch of roses, walked to Johnson's Court, where the
door was opened to her by her own cook-maid--a fearless, middle-aged
Scotswoman who did not mind inhabiting an empty house, and whom she
had sent to Uncle Matthew on the eve of his departure, as well to get
her out of the way as to relieve him of his search for a carekeeper.

Janet noted that her mistress's face was pale and her eyes
unnaturally bright with want of sleep, but held her tongue, being
ever a woman of few words.  Together the two dressed the table and
set out the cold viands in case the travellers should arrive in time
for dinner.  The rest of the meal would be sent in at a few minutes'
notice from the tavern at the entrance of the court.

Having seen to these preparations and paid a visit of inspection to
the bedrooms, she set out on her way back to Frith Street just as St.
Dunstan's clock was striking eleven.  She left, promising Janet to
return before nightfall.

Night was dusking down upon the narrow court as she entered it again
out of the rattle of Fleet Street.  She had lost her springy gait,
and dragged her legs heavily under the burden of the unborn child and
a strain which during the past four or five days had become a
physical torture.  She came out of her own thoughts with an effort,
to wonder if the travellers had arrived.

Her eyes went up to the windows of Uncle Matthew's parlour: and,
while they rested there, the room within of a sudden grew bright.
Janet had entered it with a lamp, and, having set it down, came
forward to draw the curtains and close the shutters.  At the same
moment in the other window an arm went up to the curtain and the slim
figure of Patty stood dark against the lamplight.  She stood for a
moment gazing out upon the court; gazing, as it seemed to Hetty,
straight down upon her.  Hetty came to a halt, crouching in the dusk
against the wall.  Now that she knew of their arrival she had no wish
to greet either her sister or her uncle: nay, as her own dark shadow
overtook her--the thought of the drunkard at home in the lonely
house--she knew that she could not climb to that lighted room and
kiss and welcome them.

As her sister's hand drew the curtain, she turned and sped back down
the court.  She broke into a run.  The pedestrians in the dim streets
were as ghosts to her.  She ought not to have left him.  Heaven alone
knew how long this fit would last; but while it lasted her place was
beside him.  Twice, thrice she came to a dead stop, and panted with
one hand at her breast, the other laid flat against a house-wall or
the closed shutters of a shop, and so supporting her.  Men peered
into her face, passed on, but turned their heads to stare back at
her, not doubting her a loose woman the worse for drink, but pierced
with wonder, if not with pity, at her extraordinary beauty.
She heeded them not, but always, as soon as she caught her breath
again, ran on.

She turned the corner of Frith Street.  Heaven knows what she
expected to see--the house in a blaze, perhaps: but the dingy
thoroughfare lay quiet before her, with a shop here and there casting
a feeble light across the paving-stones.  The murmur of the streets,
and with it all sense of human help within call, fell away and were
lost.  She must face the horror alone.

The house was dark--all but one window, behind the yellow blind of
which a light shone.  She drew out her latchkey and at first fumbled
at the opening with a shaking hand.  Then she recalled her courage,
found the latch at once, slipped in the key and pushed the door open.

No sound: the stairs stretched up before her into pitchy darkness.
She held her breath; tried to listen.  Still no sound but one in her
ears--the thump-thump of her own overstrained heart.  She closed the
door as softly as she could, and mounted the first flight.

Hark! the sound of a step above, followed by a faint glimmer of
light.  At the turn of the stairs she looked up and faced him.
He stood on the landing outside their bedroom door, with a candle
held aloft.  His eyes were blazing.

He must be met quietly, and quietly she went up.  "See how quick I
have been!" she said gaily, and her voice did not shake.  She passed
in by the open door.  He followed her stupidly and set the candle
down.

"They have arrived," she said, drawing off her mittens.  Her eyes
travelled round the room to assure her that no weapon lay handy,
though for her own sake she had no wish to live.

"Come here," he commanded thickly.

"Yes, dear: what is it?"

"Where have you been?"

"Why, to Johnson's Court, as you know."

"Conspiring against me, eh?"  He pushed his face close to hers: his
reeking breath sickened her: but she smiled on, expecting him to
strike.

"Come here!"--though she was close already.  "Stand up.  I'll teach
you to gossip about me.  You and your gentry, my fine madam.
I'll teach you--I'll teach you!"

He struck now, blow after blow.  She turned her quivering shoulders
to it, shielding the unborn child.

He beat her to her knees.  Still she curved her back, holding her
arms stiffly before her, leaving her head and neck exposed.
Would the next blow kill her? She waited.

The table went over with a crash, the light with it.  He must have
fallen across it: for, an instant later, she heard the thud of his
head against the floor.

It seemed to her that she crouched there for an endless while,
waiting for him to stir.  He lay close beside her foot.

Her heel touched him as she rose.  She groped for the tinder-box,
found the candle, lit it, held it over him.

A trickle of blood ran from his right temple, where it had struck
against the bed-post.  His eyes were closed.  She loosened his
collar, put forth all her strength--her old maiden strength for a
moment restored to her--and lifted him on to the bed.

By and by his lips parted in a sigh.  He began to breathe heavily--to
sleep, as she thought.  Still the blood trickled slowly from his
temple and on to the pillow.  She stepped to the water-jug, dipped
her handkerchief in it, and drawing a chair to the bedside, seated
herself and began to bathe the wound.

When the bleeding stopped, as the touch of cold water appeared to
soothe him, she fetched a towel and pressed it gently about his neck
and behind his ears.  He was sleeping now: for he smiled and muttered
something.  Almost she thought it was her own name.

Still she sat beside him, her body aching, her heart cold; and
watched him, hour after hour.



CHAPTER VII.


"And my brothers visit her?"

Twilight with invisible veils closed around Epworth, its parsonage,
and the high-walled garden where Molly, staff in hand, limped to and
fro beside Johnny Whitelamb--promoted now to be the Reverend John
Whitelamb, B.A.  He had arrived that afternoon, having walked all the
way from Oxford.

--"Whenever they visit London," he answered.

"Charles, you know, upheld her from the first; and John has come to
admit that her sufferings have lifted her above man's judgment.
They talk with her as with their equal in wit--"

"Why, and so she is!"

"No doubt: but it does not follow that John would acknowledge it.
They report their Oxford doings to her, and their plans: and she
listens eagerly and advises.  To me the strange thing is, as she
manages it, that her interest does not tie her down to sharing their
opinions.  She speaks always as a looker-on, and they recognise this.
She keeps her own mind, just as she has always held to her own view
of her marriage.  I have never heard her complain, and to her husband
she is an angel: yet I am sure (without being able to tell you why)
that her heart condemns your father and will always condemn him."

"She knows what her punishment has been: we can only guess.  Does the
man drink still?"

"Yes; he drinks: but she is no longer anxious about him.  Your Uncle
Matthew told me that in his first attacks he used to be no better
than a madman.  Something happened: nobody seems to know precisely
what it was, except that he fell and injured his head.  Now the
craving for drink remains, but he soaks harmlessly.  No doubt he will
kill himself in time; meanwhile even at his worst he is tractable,
and obeys Hetty like a child.  To do the man justice, he was always
fond of her."

"Poor Hetty!"

"John has spoken to her once or twice about her soul, I believe: but
he does not persist."

"H'm," said Molly, "you had better say that he is biding his time.
John always persists."

"That's true," he owned with a laugh: "but I have never known him so
baffled to all appearance.  The fact is, she cannot be roused to any
interest in herself.  Of others she never ceases to think.  It was
she, for instance--when I could not afford to buy myself a gown for
ordination--who started the notion of a subscription in the family."
He was wearing the gown now, and drew it about him with another
laugh.  "Hence the majestic figure I cut before you at this moment."

"But we all subscribed, sir.  You shall not slight my poor offering--
all made up as it was of dairy-pence."

"Miss Molly, all my life is a patchwork made up of kind deeds and
kind thoughts from one or other of you.  You do not believe--"

"Nay, you love us all, John.  I know that well enough."

For some reason a silence fell between them.  Molly broke it with a
laugh, which nevertheless trembled a little.  "Then your gown should
be a patchwork, too?"

"Why to be sure it is," he answered gravely; "and I wish the world
could see it so, quartered out upon me like a herald's coat, and each
quartering assigned--that is Mr. Wesley's, and that your mother's,
and that, again, your brother John's--"

"And the sleeve Miss Molly's: I will be content with a sleeve.
Only it must have the armorial bearings proper to a fourth daughter,
with my simple motto--'Butter and New-laid Eggs.'"

The sound of their merriment reached Mrs. Wesley through an open
window, and in the dim kitchen Mrs. Wesley smiled to herself.

"But," objected he, "the sleeve will not do.  I do not wear my heart
upon my sleeve, Molly."  She turned her head abruptly.  For the first
time in his life he had dared to call her Molly, and was trembling at
his boldness.  At first he took the movement for a prompt rebuke:
then, deciding that she had not heard, he was at once relieved and
disappointed.

But be sure she had heard.  And she was not angry: only--this was not
the old Johnny Whitelamb, but another man in speech and accent, and
she felt more than a little afraid of him.

"Tell me more of Hetty," she commanded, and resting one hand on her
staff pointed to the south-west, where, over the coping of the wall,
out of a pure green chasm infinitely deep between reddened clouds of
sunset, the evening star looked down.

He knew the meaning of the sudden gesture.  Had not Hetty ever been
her Star?

"She is beautiful as ever.  You never saw so sad a face: the sadder
because it is never morose."

"I believe, John, you loved her best of us all."

"I worshipped her.  To be her servant, or her dog, would have been
enough for me.  I never dared to think of her as--as--"

--"As you thought, for example, of her crippled sister, whom you
protected."

"Molly!" He drew back.  "Ah, if I dared--if I dared!" she heard him
stammer, and faced him swiftly, with a movement he might have misread
for anger, but for the soul shining in her eyes.

"Dare, then!"

"But I am penniless," said he, a few moments later.  For him the
heavens still spun and the earth reeled: but out of their turmoil
this hard truth emerged as a rock from the withdrawing flood.

"God will provide for us.  He knows that I cannot wait--and you--you
must forget that I was unmaidenly and wooed you: for I _did_, and
it's useless to deny it.  But I have known--known--oh, for ever so
long!  And I have a short while to be happy!"

Either he did not hear or he let slip her meaning.  His eyes were on
the star, now almost level with the wall's coping.

"And this has come to me: to me--that was once Johnny Whitelamb of
the Charity School!"

"And to me," she murmured; "to me--poor Grizzle, whom even her
parents despised.  The stars shine upon all."

"I remember," he said, musing, "at Oxford, one night, walking back to
college with your brother John.  We had been visiting the prisoners
in Bocardo.  As we turned into the Turl between Exeter and Jesus
colleges there, at the end of the street--it is little more than a
lane--beyond the spire of All Saints' this planet was shining.
John told me its name, and with a sudden accord we stood still for a
moment, watching it.  'Do you believe it inhabited?' I asked.
'Why not?' he said.  'Then why not, as this world, by sinners: and if
by sinners, by souls crying for redemption in Christ?'  'Ay,' said
he,' for aught we know the son of God may pass along the heavens
adding martyrdom to martyrdom, may even at this moment be bound on a
cross in some unseen planet swinging around one in this multitude of
stars.  But,' he broke off, 'what have we to do with this folly of
speculation?  This world is surely parish enough for a man, and in it
he may be puzzled all his days to save his own soul out of the many
millions.'"

"And father," murmured Molly, "designs him to take Epworth cure!
But why are you telling me this?"

"Because I see now that if God's love reaches up to every star and
down to every poor soul on earth, it must be something vastly simple,
so simple that all dwellers on earth may be assured of it, as all who
have eyes may be assured of the planet yonder; and so vast that all
bargaining is below it, and they may inherit it without considering
their deserts.  Is not God's love greater than human?  Yet, see, this
earthly love has come to me--Johnny Whitelamb--as to a king.  It has
taken no account of my worth, my weakness: in its bounty I am
swallowed up and do not weigh.  To dream of it as holding tally with
me is to belittle and drag it down in thought to something scarcely
larger than myself.  I share it with kings, as I share this star.
Can I think God's love less magnificent?"

But Molly shrank close to him.  "Dear, do not talk of these great
things: they frighten me.  I am so small--and we have so short a
while to be happy!"



CHAPTER VIII.


Samuel Wesley to the Lord Chancellor.

                                   Westminster, January 14th, 1733-4.

     My Lord,--The small rectory of Wroote, in the diocese and county
     of Lincoln, adjoining to the Isle of Axholme, is in the gift of
     the Lord Chancellor, and more then seven years since it was
     conferred on Samuel Wesley, Rector of Epworth.  It lies in our
     low levels, and is often overflowed--four or five years since I
     have had it; and the people have lost most or all the fruits of
     the earth to that degree that it has hardly brought me in fifty
     pounds per annum, _omnibus annis_, and some years not enough to
     pay my curate there his salary of 30 pounds a year.

     This living, by your lordship's permission and favour, I would
     gladly resign to one Mr. John Whitelamb, born in the
     neighbourhood of Wroote, as his father and grandfather lived in
     it, when I took him from among the scholars of a charity school,
     founded by one Mr. Travers, an attorney, brought him to my
     house, and educated him there, where he was my amanuensis for
     four years in transcribing my _Dissertations on the Book of
     Job_, now well advanced in the press; and drawing my maps and
     figures for it, as well as we could by the light of nature.
     After this I sent him to Oxford, to my son John Wesley, Fellow
     of Lincoln College, under whom he made such proficiency that he
     was the last summer admitted by the Bishop of Oxford into
     Deacon's Orders, and placed my curate in Epworth, while I came
     up to town to expedite the printing my book.

     Since I was here I gave consent to his marrying one of my seven
     daughters, and they are married accordingly; and though I can
     spare little more with her, yet I would gladly give them a
     little glebe land at Wroote, where I am sure they will not want
     _springs of water_.  But _they_ love the place, though I can get
     nobody else to reside on it.  If I do not flatter myself, he is
     indeed a valuable person, of uncommon brightness, learning,
     piety and indefatigable industry; always loyal to the King,
     zealous for the Church, and friendly to our Dissenting Brethren;
     and for the truth of this character I will be answerable to God
     and man.  If therefore your lordship will grant me the favour to
     let me resign the living unto him, and please to confer it on
     him, I shall always remain your lordship's most bounden, most
     grateful, and most obedient servant,

                                       Samuel Wesley, Sen.

The Lord Chancellor complied: and so, in February, with an income of
but fifty pounds a year, increased to seventy by Mr. Wesley's
kindness, but in good heart and hope and such love as can only be
between two simple hearts that have proved each other, John
Whitelamb and Molly took possession of the small parsonage.

They were happy: and of their happiness there is no more to be said,
save that it was brief.  In the last days of October Molly's child
was born, and died: and a few hours later while the poor man held her
close, refusing to believe, with a sigh Molly's spirit slipped
between his arms and went to God.

To God?  It tore the man up by the roots, and the root-soil
of his faith crumbled and fell with the moulds upon her coffin.
He went from her graveside back to the house and closed the door.
Mrs. Wesley had urged him to return with the family to Epworth, and
John, who had ridden from Oxford to preach the funeral sermon, shook
him by the hand and added his persuasions.  But the broken husband
thanked him shortly, and strode away.  He had sat through the sermon
without listening to a word: and now he went back to a house lonely
even of God.

He and Molly had been too poor to keep a servant: but on the eve of
her illness a labourer's wife had been hired to do the housework and
cook the meals.  And seeing his lethargy, this sensible woman,
without asking questions, continued to arrive at seven in the morning
and depart at seven in the evening.  He ate the food she set before
him.  On Sunday he heard the bell ringing from his church hard by.
But he had prepared no sermon: and after the bell had ceased he sat
in his study before an open book, oblivious.

Yet prayer was read, and a sermon preached, in Wroote Church that
day.  John Wesley had walked over from Epworth; and when the bell
ceased ringing, and the minutes passed, and still no rector appeared,
had stepped quietly to the reading-desk.

After service he walked across to the parsonage, knocked gently at
the study door and entered.

"Brother Whitelamb," he said, "you have need of us, I think, and I
know that my father has need of you.  To-morrow I return to Oxford,
and I leave a letter with him that he will wish to answer.  Death has
shaken him by the hand and it cannot guide a pen: he will be glad to
employ his old amanuensis.  What is more, his answer to my letter
will contain much worth your pondering, as well as mine, for it will
be concerned with even such a spiritual charge as you have this day
been neglecting."

"Brother Wesley," answered the widower, looking up, "you have done a
kind deed this morning.  But what was your text?"

"My text was, 'Son of man, behold I take from thee the desire of
thine eyes with a stroke: yet shalt thou not mourn or weep, neither
shall thy tears run down.'"

"I love you, brother: you have ever been kind indeed to me.  Yet you
put it in my mind at times, that the poor servant with one talent had
some excuse, if a poor defence, who said 'I know thee, that thou art
a hard man.'"

"Do I reap then where I have not sown, and gather where I have not
strewn?"

"I will not say that.  But I see that others prepare the way for you
and will do so, as Charles prepared it at Oxford: and finding it
prepared, you take command and march onward.  You were born to take
command: the hand of God is evident upon you.  But some grow faint by
the way and drop behind, and you have no bowels for these."

Silence fell between them.  John Whitelamb broke it.  "I can guess
what your father's letter will be--a last appeal to you to succeed
him in Epworth parish.  Do you mean to consent?"

"I think not.  My reasons--"

"Nay, it is certain you will not.  And as for your reasons, they do
not matter: they may be good, but God has better, who decides for
you.  Yet deal gently with the old man, for you are denying the
dearest wish of his heart."

"May I tell him that you will come?"

"I will come when he sends for me."

Mr. Wesley's message did not arrive until a good fortnight later,
during which time John Whitelamb had fallen back upon his own sorrow.
He resumed his duties, but with no heart.  From the hour of his
wife's death he sank gradually into the rut of a listless parish
priest--a solitary man, careless of his dress as of his duties, loved
by his parishioners for the kindness of his heart.  They said that
sorrow had broken him; but the case was worse than this.  He had lost
assurance of God's goodness.

He could not, with such a doubt in his heart, go to his wife's family
for comfort.  He loved them as ever; but he could not trust their
love to deal tenderly with his infidelity.  No Wesley would ever have
let a human sorrow interfere with faith: no Wesley (it seemed to him)
would understand such a disaster.  It was upon this thought that he
had called John a hard man.  He recognised the truth and that he was
but brittle earthenware beside these hammered vessels of service.

Nevertheless, when in obedience to Mr. Wesley's message he presented
himself at Epworth, he was surprised by the calm everyday air with
which the old man received him.  He had expected at least some word
of his grief, some fatherly pressure of the hand.  There was none.
He knew, to be sure, that old age deadened sensibility.  But, after
all, his dear Molly had been this man's child, if not the
best-beloved.

"Son Whitelamb, my hand is weary, and there is much to write.
Help me to my dearest wish on earth--the only wish now left to me:
help me that Jack may inherit Epworth cure when I am gone.  Hear what
he objects: 'The question is not whether I could do more good there
or here in Oxford, _but whether I could do more good to myself_;
seeing wherever I can be most holy myself, there I can most promote
holiness in others.  But I can improve myself more at Oxford than at
any other place.'  The lad must think I forget my logic.  See you, he
juggles me with identical propositions!  First it is no question of
doing good to others, but to himself; and anon when he does most good
to himself he will do most good to others.  Am I a dead dog, to be
pelted with such sophisms?  Son Whitelamb, is your pen ready?"

"Of what avail is it?" John Whitelamb asked himself.  "These men,
father and son, decide first, and, having decided, find no lack of
arguments.  It is but pride of the mind in which they clothe their
will.  Moreover, if there be a God, what a vain conflict am I aiding!
seeing that time with Him is not, and all has been decided from the
beginning."

Yet he took down the answer with his habitual care, glancing up in
the pauses at the old face, gray and intense beneath the dark
skull-cap.  The letter ended:

"If you are not indifferent whether the labours of an aged father for
above forty years in God's vineyard be lost, and the fences of it
trodden down and destroyed; if you have any care for our family,
which must be dismally shattered as soon as I am dropped; if you
reflect on the dear love and longing which this dear people has for
you, whereby you will be enabled to do God the more service; and the
plenteousness of the harvest, consisting of near two thousand souls,
whereas you have not many more scholars in the University; you may
perhaps alter your mind, and bend your will to His, who has promised,
if in all our ways we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths."



CONCLUSION.



CHAPTER I.


"Unto him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the
ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness."

All the world has heard how John Wesley rode, eight years later, into
Epworth; and how, his father's pulpit having been denied to him, he
stood outside upon his father's tomb and preached evening after
evening in the warm June weather the gospel of Justification by Faith
to the listening crowd.  Visitors are shown the grit slab, now recut
and resting on a handsome structure of stone, but then upon plainest
brickwork; and are bidden to notice, in the blank space below the
words "Their works do follow them," two rough pieces of ironstone
which mark where the preacher's feet rested.

Eight evenings he preached from it, and on the third evening chose
for his text these words: "Unto him that worketh not, but believeth
on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for
righteousness."

Under a sycamore by the churchyard wall at a little distance from the
crowd a man stood and listened--a clergyman in a worn black gown, a
man not old in years but with a face prematurely old, and shoulders
that already stooped under the burden of life--John Whitelamb.
He watched between fear and hope to be recognised.  When the preacher
mounted the slab, stroked back his hair and, turning his face towards
the sycamore, fixed his eyes (as it seemed) upon the figure beneath
it, he felt sure he had been recognised: a moment later he doubted
whether that gaze had passed over him in forgetfulness or contempt.

He felt himself worthy of contempt.  They had been too hard for him,
these Wesleys.  They had all departed from Epworth, years before, and
left him, who had been their brother, alone with his miserable
doubts.  No letters, no message of remembered affection or present
good will, ever came from them.  He had been unfaithful to his
religion: they had cast him off.  For seven years he had walked and
laboured among the men and women here gathered in the midsummer dusk:
but the faces to which he had turned for comfort were faces of the
past--some dead, others far away.

So the preacher's voice came to him as one rending the sepulchre.
"Son of man, can these bones live?"  Yes, the bones of Christ's
warrior beneath the slab--laid there to rest in utter weariness--were
stirring, putting forth strength and a voice that pierced his living
marrow.  Ah, how it penetrated, unlocking old wells of tears!

He listened, letting his tears run.  Only once did he withdraw his
eyes, and then for a moment they fell on John Romley, loitering too,
on the outskirts of the crowd by the churchyard gate and plainly in
two minds about interfering.  Romley was curate of Epworth now,
delegate of an absentee sporting rector: and had in truth set this
ball rolling by denying John Wesley his pulpit.  He had miscalculated
his flock; this stubborn English breed, so loyal in enmity, loving
the memory of a foe who had proved himself a man.  He watched with a
loose-lipped sneer; too weak to conquer his own curiosity, far too
weak to assert his authority and attempt to clear the churchyard of
that "enthusiasm" which he had denounced in his most florid style
last Sunday, within the church.

John Whitelamb's gaze travelled back to the preacher.  Up to this he
had heard the voice only, and the dead man in his grave below
speaking through that voice.  Now he listened to the words.  If the
dead man spoke through them, what a change had death wrought--what
wisdom had he found in the dust that equals all!  What had become of
the old confident righteousness, the old pride of intellect?
They were stripped and flung aside as filthy rags.  "Apart from faith
we do not count.  We _are_ redeemed: we _are_ saved.  Christ has made
with us no bargain at all except to believe that the bargain is
concluded.  What are we at the best that He should make distinctions
between us?  We are all sinners and our infinitesimal grades of sin
sunk in His magnificent mercy.  Only acknowledge your sin: only admit
the mercy; and you are healed, pardoned, made joint heirs with
Christ--not in a fair way to be healed, not going to be pardoned in
some future state; but healed, pardoned, your sins washed away in
Christ's blood, actually, here and now."

He heard men and women--notorious evil-livers, some of them--crying
aloud.  Ah, the great simplicity of it was beyond him!--and yet not
perhaps beyond him, could he believe the truth, in the bygone years
never questioned by him, that Jesus Christ was very God.

He waited for the last word and strode back to his lonely home with a
mind unconvinced yet wondering at the power he had witnessed, a heart
bursting with love.  He sat down to write at once: but tore up many
letters.  With Christ, to believe was to be forgiven.  If Christ
could not be tender to doubt, how much less would John Wesley be
tender?  It was not until Friday that he found courage to dispatch
the following:

     Dear Brother,--I saw you at Epworth on Tuesday evening.
     Fain would I have spoken to you, but that I am quite at a loss
     to know how to address or behave to you.

     Your way of thinking is so extraordinary that your presence
     creates an awe, as if you were an inhabitant of another world.
     God grant you and your followers may always have entire liberty
     of conscience.  Will you not allow others the same?

     Indeed I cannot think as you do, any more than I can help
     honouring and loving you.  Dear sir, will you credit me?
     I retain the highest veneration and affection for you.
     The sight of you moves me strangely.  My heart overflows with
     gratitude; I feel in a higher degree all that tenderness and
     yearning of bowels with which I am affected towards every branch
     of Mr. Wesley's family.  I cannot refrain from tears when I
     reflect, This is the man who at Oxford was more than a father to
     me; this is he whom I have heard expound, or dispute publicly,
     or preach at St. Mary's, with such applause; and--oh, that I
     should ever add--whom I have lately heard preach at Epworth, on
     his father's tombstone!

     I am quite forgot.  None of the family ever honour me with a
     line.  Have I been ungrateful? I have been passionate, fickle, a
     fool; but I hope I never shall be ungrateful.

     Dear sir, is it in my power to serve or oblige you in any way?
     Glad I should be that you would make use of me.  God open all
     our eyes and lead us into truth wherever it be!
                                       John Whitelamb.

The answer was delivered to him that same evening.  It ran:

     Dear Brother,--I take you at your word, if indeed it covers
     permission to preach in your church at Wroote on Sunday morning
     next.  I design to take for text--and God grant it may be
     profitable to you and to others!--"Ask, and it shall be given
     you."



CHAPTER II.


From Epworth John Wesley rode on to Sheffield, and then southward
through Coventry, Evesham and Painswick to Bristol, preaching as he
went, sometimes thrice a day: from Bristol to Cardiff and back; and
so, on Sunday evening, July 18th, towards London.  On Tuesday morning
he dismounted by the door of the Foundry, having left it just two
months before.

To his surprise it was opened by Hetty: but at once he guessed the
reason.

"Mother?"

"Hist!  The end is very near--a few hours perhaps."  She kissed him.
"I have been with her these five days, taking turns with the others.
They are all here--Emmy and Sukey and Nancy and Pat.  Charles cannot
be fetched in time, I fear."

"He was in North Wales when he last wrote."

"Listen!"--a sound of soft singing came down the stairway.
"They are singing his hymn to her: she begs us constantly to sing to
her."

     "Jesu, Lover of my soul,
        Let me to thy bosom fly
      While the nearer waters roll--"

Sang the voices overhead as John followed his sister into the small
sitting-room.

"What do the doctors say?"

"There is nothing to be said.  She feels no pain; has no disease.
It is old age, brother, loosening the cords."

"She is happy?"

"Ah, so happy!"  Hetty's eyes brimmed with tears and she turned away.

"Sister, that happiness is for you too.  Why have you, alone of us,
so far rejected it?"

"No--not now!" she protested.  "Speak to me some other time and I
will listen: not now, when my body and heart are aching!"

Her sisters sang:

     "Other refuge have I none;
        Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
      Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
        Still support and comfort me!
      All my trust on Thee is stay'd,
        All my help from Thee I bring:
      Cover my defenceless head
        With the shadow of Thy wing!"

She stepped to the door with a feeble gesture of the hands.  She knew
that, worn as he was with his journey, if she gave him the chance he
would grasp it and pause, even while his mother panted her last, to
wrestle for and win a soul--not because she, Hetty, was his sister;
simply because hers was a soul to be saved.  Yes, and she foresaw
that sooner or later he would win: that she would be swept into the
flame of his conquest: yet her poor bruised spirit shrank back from
the flame.  She craved only to be let alone, she feared all new
experience, she distrusted even the joy of salvation.  Life had been
too hard for Hetty.

He followed her up the stairs to his mother's room, and entering
commanded his sisters with a gesture to sing the hymn to an end.
They did so.  Mrs. Wesley lay propped on the pillows, her wasted face
turned to the light, a faint smile on her lips.  For a little while
after the hymn ended she lay silent with no change on her face.
They doubted if she saw John or, seeing, had recognised him.
But by and by her lips moved and she murmured his name.

"Jacky!"

He stepped to the bedside, and with his hand covered the transparent
hand with its attenuated marriage ring.

"I like them--to sing to me," she whispered.  "When--when I am
released--sing--a psalm of praise to God.  Promise me."

He pressed her hand for reply, and her eyes closed peacefully.  She
seemed to sleep.

It was not until Friday that the end came.  Shortly before eleven
that morning she waked suddenly out of slumber with lips muttering
rapidly.  They, bending close, caught the words  "Saviour--dear
Saviour--help--at the last."  By the time they had summoned John,
though the muttering continued, the words were unintelligible: yet
they knew she was praising God.

In a little while the voice ceased and she lay staring calmly
upwards.  From three to four o'clock the last cords were loosening.
Suddenly John arose, and lifting his hand in benediction, spoke the
words of the Commendatory Prayer: "O Almighty God, in whom do live
the spirits of just men made perfect, after they are delivered from
their earthly prison; we humbly commend the soul of this Thy servant,
our dear Mother, into Thy hands, as into the hands of a faithful
Creator and most merciful Saviour, most humbly beseeching Thee that
it may be precious in Thy sight. . . ."

It was Hetty who bent low, took the inert hand, and after listening
for a while laid it softly down on the coverlet.  All was over: yet
she listened until the voices of the watchers, released by her
signal, rose together--

     "Hark! a voice divides the sky--
      Happy are the faithful dead
      In the Lord who sweetly die--"

She raised her face as if to entreat for yet a moment's respite.
But their faces were radiant, transfigured with the joy of their
faith.  And then suddenly, certainly, in their rapture she saw the
purpose and end of all their common sufferings; want, hunger, years
of pinching and striving, a thousand petty daily vexations, all the
hardships that had worn her mother down to this poor corpse upon the
bed, her own sorrowful fate and her sisters' only less sorrowful--all
caught up in the hand of God and blazing as a two-edged sword of
flame.  Across the blaze, though he was far away, she saw the
confident eyes of Charles smiling as at a prophecy fulfilled.
But the hand outstretched for the sword was John's, claiming it by
right indefeasible.  She, too, had a right indefeasible: and before
the sword descended to cleave the walls of this humble death chamber
and stretch over England, her heart cried and claimed to be pierced
with it.  "Let it pierce me and cut deep, for my tears, too, have
tempered it!"

From the Journal of Charles Wesley for the year 1750:

     "March 5th.  I prayed by my sister Wright, a gracious, tender,
      trembling soul; a bruised reed which the Lord will not break.

     "March 14th.  I found my sister Wright very near the haven"; and
      again on Sunday, the 18th: "Yet still in darkness, doubts and
      fears, against hope believing in hope.

     "March 21St.  At four I called on my brother Wright, a few
      minutes after her spirit was set at liberty.  I had sweet
      fellowship with her in explaining at the chapel those solemn
      words, 'Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon
      withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thy everlasting light,
      and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.'

     "March 26th.  I followed her to her quiet grave, and wept with
      them that weep."



EPILOGUE.


Early in December, 1803, in the cool decline of a torrid day, a small
British force--mixed regulars and sepoys--threaded its way among the
mountains of Berar.  It moved slowly and with frequent halts, its
pace regulated by the middle of the column, where teams of men panted
and dragged at the six guns which were to batter down the hill
fortress of Gawul Ghur: for roads in this country there were none,
and all the long day ahead of the guns gangs laboured with pick and
shovel to widen the foot-tracks leading up to the passes.

Still farther ahead trudged and halted the 74th regiment, following a
squadron of the 19th Light Dragoons, and now and again the toilers on
the middle slope, taking breath for a new effort and blinking the
sweat from their eyes, would catch sight of a horseman on a ridge far
overhead, silhouetted against the pale blue sky for a moment while he
scanned a plateau or gully unseen by them.  Now and again, too, in
such pauses, the clear air pulsed with the tramp of the rearguard in
the lower folds of the hills--sepoys and comrades of the 78th and
94th.

Though with arms, legs and loins strained almost to cracking, the men
worked cheerfully.  Their General had ridden forward with his staff:
they knew that close by the head of the pass their camp was already
being marked out for them, and before sleeping they would be fed as
they deserved.

They growled, indeed, but good-humouredly, when, for the tenth time
that day, they came to the edge of a gully into which the track
plunged steeply to mount almost as steeply on the farther side: and
their good humour did them the more credit since the General had
forbidden them to lock the wheels, on the ground that locking shook
and weakened the gun-carriages.

With a couple of drag-ropes then, and a dozen men upon each, digging
heels in the slope, slipping, cursing, back-hauling with all their
weight, the first gun was trailed down and run across the gully.
As the second began its descent a couple of horsemen came riding
slowly back from the advance-guard and drew rein above the farther
slope to watch the operation.

About a third of the way down, the track, which trended at first to
the left, bent abruptly away to the right, from the edge of a low
cliff of rock; and at this corner the men on the drag-ropes must
also fling themselves sharply to the right to check the wheels on
the verge of the fall.  They did so, cleverly enough: but almost on
the instant were jerked out of their footholds like puppets.
Amid outcries of terror and warning, the outer wheel of the gun broke
through the crumbling soil on the verge, the ropes flew through their
hands, tearing away the flesh before the flesh could cast off its
grip; and with a clatter of stones the gun somersaulted over the
slope.  With it, caught by the left-hand rope before he could spring
clear, went hurling a man.  They saw his bent shoulders strike a slab
of rock ripped bare an instant before, and heard the thud as he
disappeared.

As they ran to view the damage, the two riders came cantering across
the gully and joined them.  By good fortune, at the base of the rock
there welled a tiny spring and spread itself in a miniature bog
before making up its mind to leap down the mountain-side and feed the
infant waters of the Taptee.  Into this plashy soil the gun had
plunged and the carriage lay some yards away up-ended on a broken
wheel, but otherwise uninjured.  Beside the carriage, when the
General reached it, an artillery sergeant and three of the team of
No. 2 gun were lifting the injured man.

"Badly hurt?"

The sergeant saluted.  "We doubt it's over with him, sir.  His back's
broken, seemingly."

The General turned away to examine the face of the cliff, and almost
at once gave vent to a low whistle.

"See here, Ellerton, the rock is caverned and the gun must have
broken through the roof.  It doesn't look to me like a natural
cavern, either.  Hi! half a dozen of you, clear away this rubbish and
let me have a nearer look."

The men turned to and heaved away the fallen stones under which the
water oozed muddily.

"Just as I thought!  Nature never made a hole like this."

An exclamation interrupted him.  It came from one of the relief party
who had clambered into the cavern and was spading there in the loose
soil.

"What is it?"

"A skeleton, sir!--stretched here as natural as life."

The General dismounted and clambered to the entrance, followed by his
staff officer.  As they reached it, the man stooped again and rose
with something in his hand.

"Eh?  A begging-bowl?"

"Not a doubt of it," said the staff officer, as his chief passed it
to him.  He examined it, turning it slowly over in his hands.
"It's clear enough, though curious.  We have struck the den of some
old hermit of the hills, some holy man--"

"Who pitched his camp here for the sake of the water-spring, no
doubt."

"Queer taste," said the staff officer sagely.  "I wonder how the
deuce he picked up his food."

"Oh, the hill-men hereabouts will travel leagues to visit and feed
such a man."

"That doesn't explain why his bones lie unburied."

"No." The General mused for a moment.  "Found anything else?" he
demanded sharply.

The searchers reported "Nothing," and wished to know if they should
bring the skeleton out into the light.

"No: cover him up decently, and fall in to limber up the gun!"
He took his horse's bridle and walked back to the group about the
injured man.

"Who is he?"

He was told, a corporal of the 94th who had volunteered for the gun
team two days before.  The sergeant who reported this added
diffidently, "He had half a dozen of his religious mates in the team.
He's a Wesleyan Methodist, sir, begging your pardon."

"Are you one?"

The sergeant saluted.

"He was the best man in his company and--and," he added with a touch
of awe, "he was converted by Charles Wesley himself--at Bristol in
'eighty, so he's told us--and him aged but sixteen."

The General bent with sudden interest as the dying man opened his
eyes.  After scanning his face for a moment or two he said gently:

"My man, they tell me you knew Charles Wesley."

The corporal painfully bent his brows, on which the last sweat was
gathering.  "Is that--the General?" he gasped with a feeble effort to
salute.  Then his brain seemed to clear suddenly and he answered, not
as soldier to commanding officer, but as man to man.  "He converted
me.  Praise be to God!"

"You are going to him.  You know?"

The corporal nodded.

"And you may take him a message from me: for he once did me a
handsome turn, too--though not in that way.  You may tell him--for I
watched you with the guns to-day--that I pass you for a good soldier.
You may tell him and his brother John that I wish to command no
better followers than theirs.  Now, is there anything I can do for
you?"

The man looked up into the eyes of the sergeant bending over him,
muttered a word or two, slowly drew his palm up to his forehead; and
so, with the self-same salute, parted from his earthly captain and
met his eternal Captain in Heaven.

"What did he say?" asked the General.

"He was wishful not to be put away without a hymn, sir," answered the
sergeant, drawing himself erect to "Attention" and answering
respectfully through his captain who had drawn near, having limbered
up his gun.

The General nodded and turned away to watch the lowering of the
remaining guns.  A new track had been cut and down it they were
trailed without accident.  One by one they crossed the gully.
Then the rear regiments hove in sight with the ambulance.  The dead
man was lifted in and his carrying-party, Wesleyans all, fell into
rank behind the light wagon as that, too, moved on.

"Ellerton," said the General suddenly as he gazed after them,
"did you hear what I said to that poor fellow just now?"

"Yes, General, and wondered."

"It was true, though.  If it hadn't been for Charles Wesley, I should
never be here commanding these troops.  Wesley or Wellesley, sir--
spell the name as you will: the man who adopted my great-grandfather
spelt it Wesley: and he moved heaven and earth to make Charles Wesley
his heir before he condescended to us.  The offer stood open for
years, but Charles Wesley refused it.  I never heard why."

What--the hymn-man?"

"Even so.  Odd story, is it not?"

The man who was to be the great Duke of Wellington stared for a
moment, lost in thought, at his rear-guard mounting the farther slope
of the gully.  And as the British guns rolled onward into the dusk,
back from the glimmering pass were borne the words of Wesley,
Handel's music wafting them on its majestic wings:

     "Rejoice, the Lord is King!
        Your Lord and King adore:
      Mortals, give thanks and sing
        And triumph evermore.
      Lift up your heart, lift up your voice--
        Rejoice! again I say, Rejoice!"





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