(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Hester Morley's promise. By Hesba Stretton"

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 



at jhttp : //books . qooqle . com/ 



NF.'A' NOVELS AT ALL THE LIBRARIES. 



THE QUEEN'S SHILLING. By Capt. Artki r Griffith-. 
A»*hor of " I'cccavi ; or Geoffrey SingletonV Mistake." 2 vo'.-. 
'"' ',>.ver a.vl tn^rtairiin?."' — Graphic. 

"A rial.y ^'I'y'! -v,ry Written with a good tlia! of hum v v ;r ar.u life." — 

/. tntnin*r. 

MIHAHDA: A Midsummer Madness- By Mortimer G>li.in<. 
Airhor of " S'juirj SilchesterN Whim, 5 ' &c. 3 vol-. 

BBESSAHT: A Eomance. JJy Jr-j.iAX Hawthorne. 2 vols. 
crown Svo. 

" Mr. Hawthorne*'-. b'sAr form-* a remarkable contrast, in point of power a:u: 
iiit/T/-^t, to the dreary ma\s of so-called romances through which the reviewer 
worK hi* way. An accomplished Native imparts to us, with the vivid an J 
viiforoir. handwhich characterises the be».t American writing, studies of individual 
humanity, which add to what universal interest they possess, a charm of their 
own ,. ..Will be pretty certain of meeting in this country a grateful and 

appreciative reception." — AtJtetueunt. 

*' Wonderfully powerful." — Literary Churchman. 

EF7IFS GAME: How she Loit and How she Won. \\\ Cecil 
Ci, avion. 2 vols. 

" A xirnple, pretty love story. It is well written. The characters move, and 
act, and above all, talk like human beings, and we have liked reading about 
them .";- Spa tatitr. 

" Mr. Clayton tells Kffic's little story in an agreeable, gentlemanlike manner." 
■ Hour. 

" A bright, sparkling, and clever story." — Echo. 



IIknry S. King & Co., 65 Cornhill, and 12 Paternoster Row. 



HESTER MORLEY'S PROMISE. 



HESBA STRETTON, 

Author of "The Doctor's Dilemma," &c, &c. 



VOL. II. 



LONDON : 
Henry S. King & Co., 65, Cornhill. 

1873. 

jSAa. a. J+Jti ■ 



[All rights Reserved.] 



\ 



CONTE'NTS. 

VOL. II. 



CHAPTER I. page 

Castles in the Air . i 

CHAPTER II. 
A First Charge 14 

CHAPTER III. 
In Succession 23 

CHAPTER IV. 
Miss Waldron's Counsel 33 

CHAPTER V. 
A Painful Discovery 44 

CHAPTER VI. 
Hester's Sanctuary 50 

CHAPTER VII. 
A Perilous Path 63 

CHAPTER VIII. 
A Husband for Hester 81 

CHAPTER IX. 
Consulting Carl 92 

CHAPTER X. 
How could it End? 103 

CHAPTER XI. 
A Direct Effort . . . 112 



IV CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XII. 
Something more than a Friend 121 

CHAPTER XIII. 
Ten Years After 131 

CHAPTER XIV. 
Her Husband's Hearth 145 

CHAPTER XV. 
The Old Nursery 154 

CHAPTER XVI. 
A Lesson for Hester 166 

CHAPTER XVII. 
A Munificent Gift 177 

CHAPTER XVIII. 
Blow after Blow 190 

CHAPTER XIX. 
Retribution Begun 205 

CHAPTER XX. 
A Pastoral Visit 219 

CHAPTER XXI. 
Another Pastoral Visit 232 

CHAPTER XXII. 
Heresy 246 

CHAPTER XXIII. 
Out of the Dark 255 

CHAPTER XXIV. 
Carl Bramwell's Farewell 263 



Hester Morley's Promise. 



CHAPTER I. 

CASTLES IN THE AIR. 

Now that Mr. Waldron had no other interests 
to engage him, he had leisure to give his whole 
attention to the affairs of the church ; and 
he soon came to the conclusion that the great 
age and growing infirmities of its old pastor 
demanded some efficient assistance in the 
performance of his duties. Since John Morley 
had withdrawn from all active participation 
in church matters, the whole power and in- 
fluence had fallen naturally into the hands of 
Mr. Waldron, who ruled without a voice being 
raised against him, or even a whispered murmur 
among his brethren, who looked up to him from 
afar off as to one who had an unquestionable 
authority. When, therefore, he proposed, in a 
church-meeting assembled especially for the 
purpose, that a colleague should be elected 

VOL. II. B 



2 Hester Morley's Promise. 

for Mr. Watson, adding, in a business-like 
manner, that he would pay him a salary 
from his own pocket, and not trouble the 
church with that charge, the proposition was 
carried unanimously and with applause; and 
the choice of the co-pastor was entrusted solely 
to him. Not solely to Mr. Waldron however. 
It was an all-important charge, and Miss 
Waldron felt that the chief responsibility rested 
upon her devoted shoulders, which bore some 
cross perpetually. In fact the church at Little 
Aston was governed by her through her father, 
though perhaps unconsciously so to him. She 
made the choice of a colleague a subject of 
prayer in all her meetings, and of very anxious 
thought in her own closet, whidi was a hand- 
some and luxuriously furnished dressing-room, 
where she could meditate for hours without 
risk of intrusion. It would not do to have 
a married minister, who might be under the 
legitimate domination of a wife; yet a young 
pastor was a somewhat dangerous creature 
to let loose in her fold of lambs. She balanced 
the disadvantages of both states with the 
most profound solicitude, but at length decided 
in favour of a young minister, wjho should 



Castles in the Air. 3 

be entirely free* from female influence ; the 
more so as she did not shrink from the neces- 
sity of keeping a more vigilant oversight of 
her own part of the flock. This decision was 
communicated to her father, but represented 
under quite a different phase ; and Mr. Waldron 
agreed with her, that they might do some 
untried but devoted young man an untold good, 
by introducing him into the ministry under 
their patronage. 

Not many days afterwards, Mr. and Miss 
Waldron found themselves at the entrance of 
a college, where the young ministers of their 
denomination were in training for the future 
discharge of the duties belonging to their office. 
It was a large, modern building in the suburbs 
of a busy manufacturing town, the distant hum 
of which blended with the quiet of a place of 
study. Of course it possessed none of the 
venerable associations of ancient colleges ; but 
there was a sober air of respectability and 
steady work about it, not altogether unlike 
the factories of the neighbouring town. Miss 
Waldron appeared to be in her proper element — 
to breathe her native air. No romance clustered 
about the place, but there was the clear fact 



4 IftsUr Jfcrb/s Promts*. 

of seventy or eighty students wrestling from 
morning till night and possibly from night 
till morning again, with those knotty problems 
of doctrine which exercised her own spirit. 
An atmosphere of controversy was wafted 
through the long corridors, into which study- 
doors opened on each side in regular ranks, A 
murmur of theological discussion, perceptible 
only to fine ears, breathed in the quiet air. 
Again Miss Waldron felt that by having been 
born a woman, she had missed her avocation. 
Here was her true home, and the pulpit was 
her sphere. 

The president of the college, the Rev. James 
Harvey, D.D., received the ex-member of 
parliament and his daughter, with a mingled 
deference and dignity due to their position and 
his own. They were old acquaintances, and 
could dispense with some of the formalities 
of strangers ; so that Mr. Waldron quickly 
opened to him the mission he had come upon, in 
behalf of the church at Little Aston. 

"I do not promise that it shall be a very 
great thing for a young man," he said. " I shall 
ask no assistance from the church. I do not 
think of offering a salary of more than a 



Castles in the Air. 5 

hundred a year, until I see how he suits me. 
But it will be an opening, and most probably 
would be the stepping-stone to another and 
wealthier church. A young minister, with 
my influence, might obtain a good charge in 
a year or two." 

" No doubt, no doubt, Mr. Waldron," replied 
Dr. Harvey. 

" We require," said Miss Waldron, thinking 
it was time for her to speak, " a young man of 
eminent piety, who will have no thought except 
for souls. He must be an interesting preacher, 
with a pleasant voice and choice language, but 
above all sound in doctrine. We want no 
German neology among us. We should like 
one, too, who could make himself a pleasing 
companion to my poor brother, who is still 
in the bondage of sin — one who would exert a 
wholesome influence over him; and as Robert is 
exceedingly fastidious, it is essential that he 
should be a gentleman, Dr. Harvey. It is still 
more important that he should not be self-willed 
and opinionative ; though he must not be weak- 
minded, or he will soon fall into the usual follies 
of a young pastor. He must be one who 
will look to us for guidance and companionship; 



6 Hester Morleys Promise. 

and who could visit at Aston Court upon suit- 
able terms." 

The last sentence was a little vague, and a 
young pastor might reasonably have demanded 
a definition of the words "suitable terms." 
But Doctor Harvey bowed low to Miss Waldron, 
and remarked, that it would be a singular 
advantage to any young man. He mused for 
some minutes, with his pen upon his lips, as 
if he were passing his seventy students in 
review before his mind's eye. His aspect 
remained grave and calculating ; but presently 
it brightened, and he nodded his head assent- 
ingly to his own thoughts. 

" I have two of our young men in my eye at 
this moment," he said, " either of whom might 
do well for you, if you could assure them leisure 
to complete their course of study at Little 
Aston." 

" Certainly," replied Miss Waldron; " we have 
a complete library which shall be at their 
disposal ; and I should myself take great inte- 
rest in their studies." 

" There is David Scott," pursued Dr. Harvey, 
" a fine logical and analytical mind, with the 
true ring of Calvin in it ; pure gold, sir, but 



Castles in the Air. 7 

• 

a little unrefined as yet. And there is Carl 
Bramwell. You recollect Charles Bramwell, 
our minister at Park Lane Chapel, and his 
father, old John Bramwell ? They are the 
father and grandfather of this young man. A 
good lineage, and a young fellow of great 
promise, but a little too much inclined to be 
speculative, if he has a fault. It would be 
the making of either of them to be under your 
eye for a year or two. We will go and visit 
them both in their studies, if you do not mind 
the trouble." 

Neither of them minded the trouble, and 
they rose to accompany the Doctor with 
alacrity. The profound ' tranquillity of the 
place, and the associations connected with it, 
brought an unusual thrill of excitement to 
Miss Waldron. She trod with a quicker step, 
and spoke in a lower key, as they passed by, 
one after another, the closed doors. At length 
Doctor Harvey paused at one, and turning 
to her, said, " David Scott," as he knocked a 
sounding knock upon the panel, and waited 
for a moment to hear the words " come in." 

" He is a trifle deaf," said the doctor, " but 
a fine fellow." 



V 



8 Hester Mor/ey's Promise. 

Miss Waldron felt a chill, which was not 
removed by the appearance of the student, 
a gaunt, awkward, ill-dressed lad from Scot- 
land, who stared at her with embarrassment, 
and was hardly able to respond coherently 
to the observations made to him by Doctor 
Harvey. Their visit lasted but a few minutes ; 
and Miss Waldron left the study, with a 
painful sense of discouragement 

" I am sure he will not do for us at all," 
she said, plaintively. 

" You ought to have seen him first in the 
pulpit," replied Doctor Harvey; "he is quite 
another being there, and handles his subject 
like a master. He will make a mark in the 
world by-and-by, I can assure you. But this 
is Carl Bramwell's room." 

The doctor knocked lightly, but received no 
answer. There was an unbroken silence within 
the study. Miss Waldron's spirits sank yet 
lower ; she felt doomed to disappointment 

" Bramwell must be absent," said the doctor ; 
" but we will just look in, and see his books." 

The young student was absent, but only 
in the sense of being absent in mind. He 
was seated on the low, broad window-sill, so 



Castles in the Air. 9 

absorbed in the study of a book which rested 
upon his knees, that he had neither heard 
the knock, nor the opening of the door. 
Miss Waldron had time to give him a 
lightning glance of criticism, and her heart 
leaped with joy, which sent the warm blood 
to her face. His features were those which 
come from a long line of thoughtful and 
educated men : the fine, thin, spiritual face 
of a born scholar, scarcely concealing the 
ardour with which his mind was now busily 
at work over some favourite study. He was 
young, certainly not more than four-and- 
twenty, and his figure was slight and delicate. 
Just now the sun shone aslant upon his head, 
and displayed a profile of perfect regularity, 
with the lips upon the point of parting with 
a smile of keen intellectual delight. Miss 
Waldron had found the goodly pearl she had 
been seeking. 

"Mr. Bramwell," said the doctor, laying 
his hand upon the shoulder of the student,' 
who started from his abstraction with a fine 
glow upon his face, " I knocked, and as you 
gave no answer I thought your room was 
vacant, and I took the liberty of introducing 



io Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

some friends to it, as the best in the college. 
Miss Waldron and Mr. Waldron." 

The well-known name carried no awe with 
it to the spirit of the young man, but he 
saluted the patron of the college and his 
daughter with an air of well-bred respect 
and welcome. He stepped aside for them 
to admire the view from his window ; and 
when either of them addressed him, he 
answered freely but modestly. 

" My time here is nearly finished," he 
said, in answer to a question of Miss Wal- 
dron's. "I shall have been in college three 
years, and shall have completed my course 
of study, so far. It has been a happy time 
to me." 

" Have you any church in prospect ?" she 
inquired, with a palpitating heart. 

" Not yet," he answered, smiling ; " but I 
am not anxious about it. The doctor has 
promised to interest himself for me when 
my time is up." 

"Would you be willing to give up the 
four or five months still belonging to you, 
and take a charge at once ?" inquired Doctor 
Harvey; and Miss Waldron felt strangely 



Castles in the Air. n 

disquieted as the student hesitated before 
replying. 

" I would rather not," he said, " but I 
would be governed by your advice. My 
examination in the London University will 
come off in six months or so, but I am 
pretty well prepared for it already. If you 
bade me go, doctor, I would go." 

"Would you object to a small country 
church ?" asked Miss Waldron, more anxious 
than ever to secure him. 

" Not at all," he said, " especially for my 
first charge." 

" Nor to a co-pastorate ?" inquired Mr. 
Waldron. 

"My colleague and I would both have to 
prove whether we suited one another," he 
answered. 

" Have you any mother or sister, who would 
wish to live with you ?" asked Miss Waldron, 
afraid that she should not secure him free 
from female influence. 

"I have one only, sister," answered Carl, 
smiling again, " and she is about to be married 
to a young surgeon of the name of Grant, who 
is settled at Little Aston, near your residence." 



12 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" Wc know him well," she replied, graciously. 
"So your sister is going to be married to Mr. 
Grant. Father, I am sure we may open our 
proposal to Mr. BramwelL His sister's resi- 
dence at Little Aston would be an inducement 
to him to come to us." 

Carl's face kindled and flushed as he in- 
stinctively caught at the meaning of Miss 
Waldron's words. To live for some years 
near to his sister and his friend, appeared 
the height of human happiness to him who 
had so often vainly longed for a home and 
domestic pleasures. With a small and pure 
church, into which no maxims or principles 
of the world could find an entry ; with a 
pleasant home in his sister's house, and the 
companionship of the two relatives dearest 
to him upon earth — he could have no desire 
of his heart ungratified. He heard Mr. 
Waldron and Doctor Harvey discoursing, 
but he hardly understood them. All he was 
sure of at the close of the interview was 
that a co-pastorate at Little Aston had been 
offered to him, and that his almost monastic 
study had been visited by a being who had 
looked at him with a gracious and pleasant 



Castles in the Air. 13 

smile, and spoken to him in a voice set to a 
softer key than the rough masculine tones 
of his fellow students. 

Carl Bramwell would have given his answer 
at once, but his cautious seniors insisted upon 
his taking a week to consider it He received 
two letters of ecstasy from Grant and his 
sister. Their marriage was to take place in 
a few weeks, after which he was to have his 
home with them. Until that event he was 
invited to stay at Aston Court itself, to be 
introduced under Mr. Waldron's auspices to the 
church, and to be initiated by him and Miss 
Waldron in the onerous duties of a pastor. 

It had occurred to Mr. Waldron, in connec- 
tion with their choice of this young student, 
that nowhere could be found a more suitable 
match for his little favourite, Hester. The 
red-haired Scotchman he had rejected in his 
own mind the moment he saw him ; but Carl 
Bramwell was certainly born for Hester, and 
she for him. He pleased himself with build- 
ing a few castles in the air, for even elderly 
men will be guilty of this folly at times, and 
when Carl came, he received him with an 
effusion of welcome. 



CHAPTER II. 

A FIRST CHARGE. 

Carl Bramwell quitted his calm student-life 
with a natural feeling of regret, but also with a 
glow of enthusiasm at the first view of the 
wide stream of human interests, with its restless 
tides, which was about to bear him he knew 
not whither. He went through all the usual 
emotions and sensations of one who is bidding 
adieu finally to the tranquillity of boyhood and 
study; but on the other hand he felt very 
intensely the fact that life was beginning for 
him in earnest, and he held his head erect, with 
a new sense of dignity and responsibility. He 
was about to take upon his own soul the care 
of other souls. An unutterable and solemn 
tenderness filled his heart as he thought of 
these human spirits, frail, wavering between 
evil and good, tempted, sad, palpitating with 
the first germs of immortality planted in the 
midst of many thorns. He prepared his heart 
beforehand for the love, half that of a mother, 
which a true pastor should feel for his church. 



A First Charge. 15 

How he would study his people ! how he 
would watch over them ! how quietly he would 
root up the choking thorns, and let the free air 
and sunshine play about the young buds of 
divine grace ! This life, with its long hot days 
and weary weeks of labour, would be a hun- 
dredfold more worthy of a man than the serene 
egotism of a study. 

There were other considerations which Carl's 
chivalrous ardour disdained to take account of. 
In the college he had been only one of seventy, 
each of whom had an equal claim to the 
attention bestowed upon them. He had had 
but the seventieth share of a pulpit. He had 
lived in a mass ; been spoken to, looked at, fed, 
and generally cared for, as only an item in a 
large sum total. Now he was about to become 
the chief person in a circle, which, however 
small and contracted, would invest every word 
and action of his with importance and meaning. 
In a small church the pastor is even more an 
individual set apart than in the churches of 
great towns. Every one of his scanty con- 
gregation would have a lively and minute 
interest in him personally. 

Of this future church of his, Carl knew two 



k 



1 6 Hester Morletfs Promise. 

persons exceedingly well by report, and had 
for some months taken an almost extravagant 
concern in them. Grant had written often 
about John Morley and Hester, and Carl's in- 
terest had been keenly excited. Now that he 
was on the point of being brought into so 
intimate a relationship with them, he read over 
again the letters which had put him into posses- 
sion of so much of their history. He found 
himself about to enter upon the stage of one of 
those romantic incidents which now and then 
are acted before us on our journey through life. 
He met with a very cordial welcome at Aston 
Court, and was more impressed and affected 
than he was himself aware of by the sudden- 
ness of the change from the bareness and 
inelegance of his college to the wealthy luxury 
of Mr. Waldron's mansion. All about him 
suited his somewhat delicate temperament, and 
chimed in with a somewhat hereditary refine- 
ment of taste. Robert Waldron seemed to 
him a finished gentleman ; and even Miss 
Waldron, to a young man who had known 
nothing of female society during many years, 
appeared pleasing and graceful. She had 
considerably modified her early rigour on the 



A First Charge. 17 

subject of dress, and assumed her dingy brown 
costume and unbecoming bonnet only when 
engaged in religious services. At home, and 
especially during the present epoch, she chose 
pretty colours and soft materials ; and even 
condescended to employ a number of worldly 
artifices for disguising the ravages of time. 

Yet towards Carl she adopted the tone of an 
elder sister, assuming a few years of seniority ; 
in some degree the most flattering and most 
beguiling manner of administering to a young 
man's self-love. He was very soon persuaded 
that Miss Waldron was one of the most charm- 
ing as well as the most saintly women of her 
times — only a grade or two below the perfection 
she sought to attain to. For she had confided 
to him also, that the sole object of her life was 
her own sanctification, and the welfare of her 
perishing fellow-creatures. 

Robert Waldron was uneasy about this new 
protigi of his sisters, with a sharp jealousy of 
his ten years' juniority, and the freshness of 
his manhood, which still wore the glory and 
brightness of a morning without clouds. The 
first moment in which his eye fell upon the 
clear-cut features and the scholarly refinement 

vol. 11. c 



1 8 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

of the young pastors face, and his ears heard 
the pleasant and pure utterance of his voice, he 
had instinctively, and with a tremor of dismay, 
pictured to himself Hester sitting in her seat at 
chapel, with her sweet, pale face, and her gray 
eyes, with the soul shining through them, lifted 
up in rapt attention to the preachers words. 
He hoped ardently that he was a fool, and he 
tested him. But Carl was no fool ; his mind 
was vigorous and cultivated, and his tact 
wonderful for a mere student. It was true that 
upon many points he was ignorant of the 
world's customs and usages ; but his very 
ignorance was a charm ; it was the pure 
innocence of a soul which had never looked 
into the muddy depths of worldly ways. Ro- 
bert could not help but like him ; yet he would 
gladly have sacrificed half his fortune to prevent 
Carl Bramwell becoming the co-pastor of the 
insignificant church at Little Aston. But fate 
and Miss Waldron were too strong for him. 

It was well for Robert's peace of mind that 
he did not happen to be present at a short 
conversation which had taken place a morning 
or two after Carl's arrival. The appointed 
time for introducing him to his future charge 



A First Charge. 19 

at a church-meeting was drawing near ; but 
until then Miss Waldron had guarded her new 
acquisition from the intrusion of any unsea- 
sonable visitor. This evening he was to be 
received as co-partner with Mr. Watson in the 
presence of the assembled church ; but early in 
the day a messenger arrived to say that the old 
minister was seized with an alarming access 
of his illness, and could not by any possibility 
leave his own chamber. 

"The meeting must proceed as arranged," 
said Miss Waldron, decisively. " There will be 
the more necessity for it, as Mr. Bramwell must 
at once take upon himself the duties of the 
pastorate." 

" And Hester Morley was to have been 
received into the church," observed Mr. Wal- 
dron. 

"So she was!" exclaimed Miss Waldron, 
with a pause of deliberation. " What is to be 
done now, father ?" 

Carl had heard this name spoken for the first 
time with a quickened pulse and more attentive 
ear; but he waited a moment or two for Mr. 
Waldron's answer, which did not come. 

" Who is Hester Morley ?" he asked, with a 



20 Hester Morley's Promise. 

slight hesitation in his manner, which escaped 
Miss Waldron's not very keen observation. It 
needed a very obvious emotion to be manifest 
to her rather dull sensibility. 

" She is a young girl in my Bible-class," she 
replied, with an air of humility, " over whom 
I have watched most anxiously. She is little 
more than a child, and worse than motherless. 
But that is a painful topic to us all. Mr. Wal- 
dron was to have given her the right hand 
of fellowship to-night, as next Sabbath is the 
ordinance." 

" But cannot Mr. Bramwell receive her into 
the church ?" suggested Mr. Waldron. 

" I think not," she said, hastily. " Hester is 
very much attached to Mr. Watson, and he 
to her. It would be unkind to him. No, no. 
That will not do." 

" I will see Mr. Watson and Hester in the 
course of the day," said Mr. Waldron. 

" No, no," she urged in a peremptory tone ; 
" it would divide the interest, and confuse Mr. 
Bramwell's thoughts, which should be centred 
on his own solemn obligations. Hester must 
wait." 

" I have heard something of her and of her 



A First Charge. 21 

father from Grant," said Carl, still speaking 
shyly, and glancing about him to see if Robert 
was anywhere within hearing. " They must be 
among the most interesting people in our 
church." 

"Well, I don't know," said Miss Waldron, 
rather sharply. " I think John Morley no more 
a Christian than any benighted heathen in 
foreign lands ; indeed, in my opinion, he is 
worse. Hester is a white-faced, thin, overgrown 
girl, with very little to say for herself. We do 
not see very much of either of them ; for, of 
course, they are in quite a different position to 
ours, and now that Hester is no longer a child, 
I do not know that it would be well for her 
to visit here. I daresay you will see John 
Morley to-night, and if you can bring him 
to any better state of mind, I shall rejoice 
greatly. You shall have my prayers in this, 
as in all your other important duties." 

She looked up into his face with a smile 
of sympathy and sisterly interest ; and the 
young man felt penetrated with a sense of 
gratitude to her. But it could not altogether 
blot out the thought of John Morley and his 
daughter, and the wonder whether Hester 



22 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

would not be admitted into the church that 
evening. As Miss Waldron had predicted, 
the mention of it only confused Mr. Bram well's 
mind, which would otherwise have been centred 
upon his own solemn obligations. He 
remembered how Grant had once said of John 
Morley, " He would perhaps show his heart to 
you, Carl ; but you will never come across him. ,, 
Yet he was now about to enter upon a definite 
relationship with this very man, which would 
give him almost a right to seek his confidence. 
As for Hester, he felt a little disappointed at 
the portrait Miss Waldron had sketched of her, 
and he could not help smiling at the different 
colours in which Grant had painted it. No 
doubt Miss Waldron was more correct than 
Grant. She had seen Hester grow up under 
her eyes, and had known her face well. It 
provoked him greatly that amid all the solemn 
thoughts of this epoch in his life, a shade 
of vexation should come across him as often 
as the idea of Hester intruded itself upon 
his busy brain. 



CHAPTER III. 

IN SUCCESSION. 

The church at Little Aston was by no means 
Carl Bramwell's ideal church. With the ex- 
ception of the Waldrons and Morleys, it 
consisted almost exclusively of very ordinary 
and vulgar persons, of little education and 
not over-enlightened religion. Their number 
was not so large as that of his fellow-students, 
every one of whose faces he could read as 
he preached to them. But these people 
looking at him were his souls. .Their eyes 
were the open windows of spirits who were 
to be led by him. A fine film of tears 
threw a hazy glory over them. He saw 
nothing of the smallness and commonness 
and vulgarity of this very common church, 
some of whom " served God/' as Carlyle says, 
" by laboriously selling a red herring. ,, Carl's 
blue eyes grew dim as he sat at Mr. Waldron's 
right hand in a square pew under the pulpit ; 
and he felt what an awful thing it is to take 
the care of souls. 



\ 



24 Hester Morleys Promise. 

He was so wrapt in this enthusiasm, that 
he neither heard Mr. Waldron speak, nor the 
congregation rise to their feet, until a voice 
close beside him, a voice soft and sweet and 
clear, suddenly rang through his trance and 
startled him as with an electric shock. It was 
nothing more than a voice starting the tune for 
the hymn about to be sung, but Carl turned his 
head quickly to the spot whence it sounded. 
He could not be mistaken as to who were the 
white-haired and sorrow-stricken man, and the 
young girl standing closely at his side ; and his 
own face flushed and burned with an uncon- 
. trollable emotion as he caught the glance of 
both their eyes. It was a hymn of welcome, 
and he could have wept, but for very shame- 
facedness, as he listened to it. 

His eyes were still dazzled, and his heart 
beating painfully, when, after Mr. Waldron had 
said what he had to say in introducing him to 
his Church, he was obliged to stand up alone 
and face his people, to give utterance to some 
of the feelings of his heart towards them. 
He was speaking with a simple eloquence and 
earnestness, when the vestry-door near to him 
was opened softly, and his friend Grant stepped 



In Succession. 25 

to Mr. Waldron's side, and whispered something 
in his ear. Carl paused, and Mr. WaJdron ad- 
dressed the meeting in a hurried and trembling 
voice. 

" Brethren," he said, " our dear old pastor, 
who has been very ill, as you all know, is now 
on the point of death, and he desires to see 
his young colleague immediately, with brother 
Morley and myself. The necessity is urgent, 
and we must leave you at once. Let some 
among you engage in prayer. 

A dead silence prevailed while Carl, with 
Mr. Waldron and John Morley quitted the 
lighted chapel and plunged into the darkness of 
the streets. To Carl it seemed more like one 
of the many dreams of his student-life than the 
sober reality that it was. His ecstasy of 
emotion was not yet over; the voices which 
had welcomed him were still ringing in his 
ears. Yet he was here in the unlit street, 
following in silence as Mr. Waldron walked 
before him, and with a second companion 
known only to him by his melancholy history. 
He was going too to witness the death of an 
old man, his co-pastor, whom he had never 
seen. It could be only a dream. If there were 



26 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

anything real in this night's experience, it was 
that his ears had heard a voice which would 
make his heart restless till he could hear it 
again. 

They soon reached the ministers little house, 
and saw one window brightly illuminated by 
the light which the dulled eyes of the dying 
often need as they go down into the valley of 
darkness. Carl shook off the enthralment and 
bewilderment of his fancies, and roused himself 
to realize the scene he was about to witness. 
Mr. Waldron knocked gently at the door, and 
it was opened in an instant by a woman who 
awaited their arrival. A line of light fell down 
the little garden they had crossed \ and for the 
first time Carl became aware that Grant was 
following them, and with him a slight girlish 
figure whose face was veiled. 

He had not time to see more, for Mr. 
Waldron and John Morley had gone on, and 
were already ascending the staircase. The 
chamber into which they entered was barely 
and scantily furnished, except with books, for 
it had evidently been the study of the dying 
man, as well as his bedroom. Their footsteps 
sounded loudly as they trode across the bare 



In Succession. 27 

and creaking boards. The curtains of faded 
chintz were drawn back from the bed, and the 
old ministers palsied head, propped up with 
pillows, was turned anxiously towards them. 
He fastened his glazing eyes upon Carl ; and 
the two other men also turned their gaze 
instinctively upon him. Mr. Waldron, in his 
hale and hearty old age, which as yet was only 
grey with the coming shadow; and John 
Morfey with his air of a century of suffering, 
which caused him to equal the dying man in 
his burden of years. These three old men 
faced him, and looked upon his youth with 
profound interest. Again he felt himself in a 
dream, and the silence grew intolerable to him. 
It was broken by the old pastor stretching out 
his withered and shaking hand to him, and 
breathing the word, "Brother." 

The single word, spoken in the thin and 
laboured voice of death, possessed a peculiar 
pathos, linking as it did the old man who 
was putting off his mortality, with his young 
successor rich in vigorous life. An eternal 
brotherhood linked all men together in an un- 
broken chain with the Divine Elder Brother, of 
whom they were both ambassadors. Carl's 



28 Hester Morleys Promise. 

eyes grew clear, and shone with the kindling of 
a chivalrous enthusiasm upon the three aged 
men who confronted him, 

" Yes," he said, grasping the chilly and 
wrinkled hand of the dying man in his own, 
" I am your brother ; and I am ready to take 
up your work when you lay it down. What is 
it you will have me do ? I have many years 
to live and work in yet" 

" There is Hester standing behind you," 
answered Mr. Watson. 

She had glided in with her noiseless step, 
and stood near to him, waiting to approach 
more closely the old minister. Mr. Waldron's 
features brightened for an instant, and Mr. 
Watson raised his head eagerly. 

"Come near to me, Hester," he said. " There 
is nothing that you may not hear. Wait a 
moment, all of you ; I have something to say 
to you." 

He lay still for a few minutes, collecting his 
thoughts; and Carl looked round the bare 
room, whose emptiness and bareness made 
more chilly the atmosphere of death. Was this 
to be the end of the career upon which he had 
entered this evening ? He did not dare to turn 



In Succession. 29 

his eyes to the place where Hester sat, beside 
the pillow of her old friend ; but he saw her, 
vaguely and indistinctly, bending over him 
and wiping the damp cold forehead with her 
handkerchief. There had been a thought of 
his own death all day in Carl's mind, as there 
is in every time of unusual agitation to a sen- 
sitive and visionary spirit; but it had not been 
a solitary and almost friendless death like this. 

" I must speak," said the minister in a sad, 
and well-nigh querulous voice ; " I have had 
very much to bear upon my soul because of my 
church. It has been a heavy charge; and 
there is a great deal to be done yet before it 
will be without spot or blemish. The task has 
been too hard for mo. I pray God you may 
be stronger for His service than I have been." 

"God looks upon your work with other 
eyes than yours," said Carl. "You will hear 
Him say, ' Well done, good and faithful 
servant : enter thou into the joy of thy 
Lord.'" 

The dim eyes brightened a little as Carl's 
voice repeated the familiar words ; but he 
shook his already trembling head, despond- 
ingly. 



X 



30 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" Nay, but I have not been faithful," he 
answered ; " I have been afraid to speak, and 
kept silence often and often against my con- 
science. Brethren, bear with me this once. 
I am more afraid of God than of you at this 
moment. Your divisions and your want of 
brotherly love have been a heavy burden upon 
me. Brother Waldron, there has been a canker- 
worm of worldly pride and self-will in your 
heart, which must needs be cast away. You 
have made us all feel it, — the church and me. 
You were too great a man for us ; there was no 
one to stand against you ; and I never dared to 
say it till now." 

His voice fell into almost inarticulate whis- 
pers, and he paused' for more strength. 
Perhaps never did a deacon feel more com- 
pletely confounded and thunderstruck beside 
his pastor's death-bed than did Mr. Waldron ; 
but it was not a time for him to protest against 
his judgment. 

" As for you, dear brother Morley," continued 
the painful voice, "you have been a continual 
sorrow and heaviness of heart to me. Look at 
what you are doing. You are throwing away 
your life, which ought to have been a blessing 



In Succession. 31 

to all about you. You have made Hester's life 
a grief to her." 

"It is not I who have done it," replied John 
Morley, with a quivering face. 

" Nay, but it is you," he urged ; " surely the 
past should be forgotten. I am very sorrowful 
for Hester ; she has had a sore burden to carry 
also. Will you not take it from her? Now 
you are all here, I commend her to you ; for in 
me she will lose a friend, and she cannot afford 
to lose any. She has been like a' very dear 
daughter unto me. You will all take care of 
Hester." 

He did not seem to expect any answer, but 
turned to Hester and smiled feebly upon her. 
A moment or two afterwards he resumed his 
speech. 

" My child," he said, " I was to have received 
you into my church to-day. Surely I may do 
it now in the presence of these witnesses. 
Hester, I give you the right hand of fellowship, 
in token that you are received into the church 
of Christ." 

He laid his right hand in hers, and closed his 
weary eyelids, sinking back, as if exhausted, 
upon his pillow. Grant, who had stolen un- 



32 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

perceived to the other side of the bed, placed 
his fingers upon his pulse, and made a sign to 
them to take Hester away. Carl bent down 
and put his mouth near to the ear of his dying 
colleague. 

" I will stay with you till the end," he said. 

" Ay, stay," he whispered; "I have need of 
you. I am afraid still." 

It was a long night, and Carl passed it in 
scarcely interrupted reverie as he watched the 
last ebb of life receding slowly from the heart 
of this stranger to whom he found himself 
united by so strong a tie. It was a night full 
of checks and chills upon his young enthusiasm. 
The charge, even of this humble church, had 
been too burdensome for its pastor. Towards 
the end he spoke often and incoherently of 
Hester, and was troubled for her, repeatedly 
recommending her to Grant and Carl. Then 
his voice sank into whispered murmurings, and 
breathed its last word in a tone which no ear 
could catch. Carl had become the sole pastor 
of the church at Little Aston. 



CHAPTER IV. 

MISS WALDRON'S COUNSEL. 

Breakfast was just finished, but the family 
had not yet dispersed, when Carl reached Aston 
Court next morning. There was a shade of 
embarrassment in Mr. Waldron's greeting, for he 
could not forget that this young man, who was 
under his patronage, had heard administered to 
him the sharpest rebuke it had ever been his lot 
to receive. Yet at bottom he was too true 
a man and too sincere a Christian to resent 
his dying pastors reproach. He shook Carl's 
hand therefore with more warmth than usual, 
and looked cordially into his worn face, which 
was weary with the watching and the medita- 
tions of the night. Robert, who had been 
about to quit the table, lingered to listen to 
his report ; with a secret impatience to hear 
what had occurred at the meeting the night 
before, and to ascertain whether Carl and 
Hester had yet seen one another. Miss Waldron 
was the first to inquire after the minister. 

VOL. II. D 



34 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" He is dead," answered Carl, with the 
brevity of emotion. 

" And what was the last utterance of our 
beloved pastor ?" she asked. She had rather 
looked down upon the meek and timid old man 
during his lifetime ; but she possessed the 
common and morbid curiosity for knowing the 
last words of the dying. 

" It was inarticulate," replied Carl, evasively ; 
" his voice failed him an hour or two before 
he died." 

" But," persisted Miss Waldron, " there must 
have been some last sayings which were 
articulate before he lost his voice. The last 
words of dying saints are very precious, and 
they should be made the property of the 
church." 

" He was speaking chiefly of two of the 
members of his church," said Carl, with reluct- 
ance ; " it was his dying charge to me as his 
successor. He committed to my care those for 
whom he felt the greatest anxiety." 

" And who might these be ?" asked Miss 
Waldron ; " two members of the church ! We 
can be of use to you here. You know nothing 
of your flock as yet ; but we know them. 



Miss Waldron! s Counsel. 35 

Whom did our dear pastor so specially com- 
mend to your charge ?" 

Carl looked round at each face with doubt 
and irresolution. If Miss Waldron had been 
alone he would not have hesitated to tell her 
all ; but how could he mention Jo&n Morley 
and Hester before Robert ? Mr. Waldron 
guessed the reason of his reluctance, and would 
not yield to avoiding the utterance of John 
Morley's name. 

" I can tell you, I believe," he said, address- 
ing his daughter ; " it would be Hester and her 
father." 

A rapid tremor of agitation ran though Robert 
Waldron's frame, and he rose hurriedly from his 
chair as if to leave them altogether; but he 
only walked to the window, and stood looking 
out upon the terrace before it. 

" But Hester is no member of the church," 
said Miss Waldron, almost peevishly; "and 
I want to- know how ever she came to be 
present at the church-meeting last night" 

" I gave her permission to be present," 
replied Mr. Waldron, in a mild, deprecating 
tone ; " and, my dear, Mr. Watson received 
her into the church last night before he 



^6 Hester Morletfs Promise. 

died. It was no doubt informal ; but I was 
present, and so were Mr. Bramwell and her 
father. There was something very affecting 
in it, I assure you." 

The tears stood in Mr. Waldron's eyes at 
the recollection. Everything which concerned 
Hester touched the softest part of his nature ; 
and Miss Waldron would have been struck with 
utter amazement at her father's folly, if she 
could for a moment have seen into the close 
recesses of his heart. 

" I never in all my life heard of such a thing," 
she exclaimed, pronouncing the words slowly, 
and with marked emphasis. "What could you 
all have been thinking of? Hester Morley at 
the death-bed of Mr. Watson ! That girl is 
the most singular person I ever met with. I do 
not consider her fit for church-membership, 
as yet. She has the most independent notions, 
and no clear faith in one doctrine. Poor girl ! 
She has grown up under great disadvantages." 

She stopped abruptly, for it was impossible 
to enumerate Hester's disadvantages before her 
brother, who was chafing and fuming inwardly, 
but who did not care to leave the room, as long 
as Hester was the topic of the conversation. 



Miss Waldron 9 s Counsel. 37 

" What disadvantages ?" asked Carl absently ; 
speaking only because Miss Waldron paused. 

She darted an apologetic and beseeching 
glance at Robert, who now turned round with 
a face dark with anger. 

"Mr. Bramwell," he said in a tone which 
startled Carl from his absence of mind, " I 
suppose it is your right to learn the domestic 
history of your people ; and I will leave you 
to hear that of the Morleys from my sister." 

He walked out of the room without giving 
Carl time to answer ; and Miss Waldron threw 
herself back in the chair, with her handkerchief 
to her eyes. Mr. Waldron, with an expression 
of shame and pain upon his face, was about 
to speak, when Carl interrupted him gently. 

"I know it all," he said; "I knew it long 
before I had any thought of coming here. Grant 
wrote to me, and told me all he then knew, at 
the time he was attending Mr. Robert Waldron 
in Mr. Morley's house, about nine months ago." 

Mr. Waldron regarded Carl with an air of 
profound astonishment, mingled with incredulity 
as to whether he had heard him aright ; and 
Miss Waldron dropped her handkerchief, and 
turned a bewildered gaze upon him. 



1 



38 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" Attending my son in John Morley's house !" 
ejaculated Mr. Waldron. "What did you say, 
Mr. Bramwell ? " 

"It cannot be a secret to you," answered 
Carl, taken by surprise himself. "Surely you 
knew it, Miss Waldron ? Your brother was 
almost murdered at the door of Mr. Morley's 
house about nine months ago." 

" Robert had an accident nine months ago," 
she said, " through which Mr. Grant nursed 
him ; but it was at Beckbury, twenty miles 
from here." 

" I have done wrong," cried Carl, with a look 
and tone of concern; "but it did not occur 
to me for an instant that you did not both 
know the facts. I knew that he wished the 
secret kept from the townspeople, which I very 
well understood. I beg of you not to betray 
my indiscretion to him. If you wish me to 
gain his esteem and friendship, it would only 
prejudice him against me." 

He spoke with extreme earnestness, and 
addressed himself rather to Mr. Waldron than 
to his daughter. With her he felt sure that he 
safe. 
But what is it ?" asked Mr. Waldron, with 



Miss Waldroris Counsel 39 

impetuosity ; " I must know the whole of it 
now. What did you say ? Robert almost 
murdered at John Morley's door ! " 

11 Grant can tell you all about it," said Carl ; 
" but if he will not, I will read his letter again, 
or put it into your hands, on condition that you 
do not betray either of us to your son. If 
I could see any good to result from letting him 
know of it, I would make no condition at all ; 
but I do not." 

" I will go and question Grant this moment," 
exclaimed Mr. Waldron, hurrying away with 
more than ordinary energy, and leaving his 
daughter alone with Carl. There had been 
very much to excite and trouble her in the 
foregoing conversation ; for Robert had already 
insinuated to her his own apprehensions relating 
to Carl and Hester. It had been done with 
caution and finesse, but there was a dread 
in the depths of her own heart with which 
it exactly coincided. It would be hard indeed 
if Carl were so soon to cease to belong exclu- 
sively to herself. He drew nearer to her, and 
appealed to her in a tone of earnest but 
deferential importunity. 

" Mr. Watson committed Hester Morley 



40 Hester Morley's Promise. 

to the care of Grant and myself," he said ; " but 
what can we do for her ? It is you who are so 
good, and to whom the Master has entrusted 
so many talents, who should be the friend 
of this lonely girl. I do not know what 
calamity Mr. Watson feared for her, but there 
seemed some special dread about her future. 
What could I do to protect her from sorrow 
and danger ? I will be indeed her friend, but 
you are wiser and better than me, a woman 
like herself; your heart has a purity and 
tenderness unknown to man. You will be 
her friend, even as you are already so gener- 
ously and so nobly mine ? " 

He spoke with eloquent warmth, and 
approached her so closely that his hand nearly 
touched hers. There was a peculiar fascina- 
tion about the mere presence of a young and 
pleasing woman, such as she appeared to 
him ; and this morning he felt more than 
usual the need of a woman's gentle ministry 
to chase away the gloomy impressions of the 
night 

" Ah !" sobbed Miss Waldron, with very real 
and very bitter tears, " I am so much your 
friend that I tremble for you ; so impulsive and 



Miss Waldroris Counsel. 41 

so inexperienced as you are. I am older than 
you, and have seen much, both in the church 
and the world. I foresee that you may attain 
to great eminence and usefulness ; but a single 
false step at the outset of your career may 
become your ruin. Be warned in time. I am 
frank with you because I feel a great regard for 
you. Leave the charge of poor Hester Morley 
to me, and do not take too great an interest 
yourself in her welfare. She is young and 
foolish, and might draw you into a difficulty it 
would be hard to escape from. ,, 

Miss Waldron succeeded in pronouncing 
these sentences in a tone penetrated with 
candour and a deep concern in him. The 
hot quick blood of his sensitive nature had 
mounted to his face, and a spark of almost 
angry resentment had kindled in his eyes ; but 
he could not steel himself against her agitation 
and tears. There was subtle, delicious flattery 
in this warm interest of a woman, his elder 
and superior, which compensated for the gall 
of the admonition. When she raised her eyes 
to him, sparkling through her tears, they met 
a glance in his which made her heart glow 
with a sensation altogether new to her. Her 



42 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

eyelids dropped, and her lips trembled ; but 
ahe mastered her emotion sufficiently to resume 
the conversation in a somewhat lighter tone. 

" I speak for your sake," she said. " Hester 
has a certain amount of beauty which would 
make it excusable for a man young as you are 
to be attracted by it But I know of no one so 
unsuitable to become a prominent member of 
any church, such as a minister's wife should be. 
Of course, some day you will fall in love and 
marry, but I trust not with Hester Morley. 
She is visionary and unsound in the faith ; she 
is not to be trusted. There is not the spirit of 
the daily cross in her. Though she is in the 
church, she belongs to the world. Her only 
friend is a frivolous Frenchwoman of the lower 
orders, a Papist ; and Hester herself owns that 
she makes no effort to convert her. She says 
that she is too old for change, and too dark to 
understand our pure and lofty creed. I shall 
insist, some day, upon bearing the bread of life 
to this famishing soul ; for Hester, who sees 
her frequently, does not feed her with a single 
crumb. You can judge how unfit she is for a 
post of honour in the vineyard. Therefore I 
warn you beforehand. ' As a jewel of gold in 



Miss Waldrotis Counsel. 43 

a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is 
without discretion.' " 

With this harsh quotation hurled at Hester, 
Miss Waldron concluded her admonition, and 
Carl remained silent Seeing the impression 
she had produced, she recommended him, with 
an air of sisterly sweetness, to seek some repose 
before entering on the necessary preparations 
for the services of his first Sunday as pastor of 
the church. Carl obeyed with alacrity, and 
shut himself up in his own room for the rest of 
the morning. 



/-«r 



CHAPTER V. 

A PAINFUL DISCOVERY. 

In the meantime Mr. Waldron was hastening 
with all speed to find Grant, before he left his 
lodgings to make his morning call upon his 
patients, whose number was increasing with fair 
rapidity under the prestige of Mr. Waldron's 
patronage. He burst upon him just as he was 
preparing to go out, and lost no time in beating 
about the bush. As a statesman Mr. Waldron 
had known no tactics, except that of asking 
straightforward and pungent questions, and he 
tried no other means now. Grant was as frank 
as himself; and having a greater respect for 
him than for his son, and being rather glad at 
Carl's inadvertence, he soon put Mr. Waldron 
into possession of all the facts he knew. 

" But what rancour there must be in John 
Morley's soul ! " cried Mr. Waldron, sinking 
into a chair, and resting both his hands upon 
the arms of it " I can barely credit it, Grant. 
Were you convinced then, both of you, that he, 

d nobody else, could have struck the blow ! " 



A Painful Discovery. 45 

" Is there any other man who owes him 
such a grudge ? " asked Grant, bluntly. 

" Oh, I don't know," he answered, in accents 
almost peevish, and with a gesture as if he 
would have nothing to do with it. " My son 
has wounded me to the very quick ; and I have 
ceased to seek out his faults. He will have to 
bear the consequences himself, here and here- 
after." 

His upright head sank a little on his breast ; 
and his eyes, bright and undimmed still, met 
Grant's regard ruthfully. 

"You are too hard upon him," said Grant, 
with an honest plainness which was as honey to 
Mr. Waldron. " I would stake my head that 
this is the only folly of which he has been 
guilty ; and he was little more than a boy when 
he fell into it. He was four years younger 
than I am ; and, dear me ! what I might have 
done if I'd been rich and idle and an only son, 
like him !" 

Mr. Waldron breathed more calmly, and the 
rigid muscles about his mouth relaxed into the 
expression which generally served him as a 
smile. But his mind instantly recurred to 
John Morley. 



46 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" Yet how could you account for him taking 
you into his own house ?" he asked 

" He could do nothing else/' answered 
Grant " I walked into the nearest house 
with your son in my arms, and Hester had 
let me in before he knew anything of it 
To screen himself he was obliged to let us 
remain. Neither of us believe that he had 
any previous design to attack him; but see- 
ing him sauntering about the street which 
he was forbidden to enter, John Morley 
was overcome by a sudden access of revenge 
and passion. A blow struck more warily must 
have killed him ; half an inch, ay, the tenth 
of an inch would have done it" 

"But what weapon did he use?" asked 
Mr. Waldron, shuddering. 

" Some days afterwards," he replied, " I 
saw in his workshop several iron bars, from 
a foot and a half to four feet in length. 
They are used for screwing up the binding- 
presses. If one of these happened to be at 
hand it would form a very likely weapon." 

"I am afraid it must be true," said Mr. 
Waldron. 

" I am sure of it," replied Grant 



A Painful Discovery. 47 

" But, how then ? " he exclaimed. " You 
choose this man for your friend, you visit 
him daily, believing him all the while to be 
a murderer!" 

" No more a murderer than you or I," said 
Grant, calmly. " I have studied John Morley ; 
he is as soft-hearted as a woman, always 
apt to be overwhelmed by the sin and misery 
of the world. To him there must be a con- 
stant pressure of despair from the thought of 
the sin and misery . of the wife he has loved 
and lost If he knew for certain that she 
was dead, half his burden would fall off. 
When he saw your son, a frenzy seized him, 
and I do not wonder at the blow he struck. 
In many countries it would pass for a 
virtue rather than a crime." 

" But he is a member of the church," said Mr. 
Waldron, " and attends the means of grace." 

" Just now," answered Grant, " a long walk 
every day would be the best means of grace 
for him, and it would do him more good to 
be a member of the Alpine Club. The truth 
is, he is crusted over with morbid melancholy 
amounting to monomania. Why, I should 
commit a score of murders if I lived, as he 



^Y 



48 Hester Morley's Promise. 

does, in the eternal gloom of that house! So 
would you, Mr. Waldron. 

" Hush! there he is," cried Mr. Waldron. 

In a window nearly oposite them could be 
seen the head of John Morley set in the 
blackened and decayed frame of the casement. 
He stood motionless, looking upwards with 
blank eyes which evidently saw nothing. The 
deep lines in his face seemed more furrowed 
than ever, and his whole aspect was one of 
grim and perpetual hopelessness. He glanced 
round once, and his eyes appeared to sweep the 
full range of their sight, as if searching for 
some object which he had lost, but which he 
had long since despaired of finding. Mr. Wal- 
dron watched him with painful and contend- 
ing emotions. 

" Grant," he said, " I'd give him half my 
possessions if they would do him any good. 
Yet he almost killed my son, my only boy ! 
I feel nearer hating him than I ever felt towards 
any man. You do not know how a father 
feels! Why, it was only last night I shook 
the hand that had been raised against my boy's 
life ! I hope I am a Christian. God deliver me 
His abundant grace from the devil ! But 



A Painful Discovery. 49 

to think what it would have been if Robert had 
been murdered, and I had never heard him 
speak again. He was such a good boy once, 
Grant ; a good, affectionate, conscientious boy 
was my Robert. Bob I called him then. And 
that man yonder had nearly killed him ! I wish 
he would take half my fortune, and go away 
out of the country. But to-morrow I shall see 
him at chapel, and next week he will stand 
beside me at the grave of our old pastor. I 
had better go home and think it all over 
quietly by myself ; and may God give me grace 
to prove myself a true Christian." 

He wrung Grant's hand convulsively, and 
took a last furtive glance at the gray, despair- 
ing face in the window opposite. Then he 
retraced his steps homewards, and, like Carl 
Bramwell, shut himself up in his room alone, 
to think over the discovery of John Morley's 
crime and Robert's danger. 



VOL. 11. 



CHAPTER VI. 

HESTER'S SANCTUARY. 

Miss Waldron took care that Carl should 
have no opportunity of seeing Hester again 
until some of the excitement of his new position 
had worn off, and until she had established a 
stronger influence over him. It was astonishing 
how great an effect her clever platitudes had 
upon him. She possessed the art of investing 
common-place observations with a seeming 
profundity which might easily have imposed 
upon an older man than Carl ; while at the 
same time she surrounded him with those 
thousand minute delicate attentions which lie 
only in the power of a woman. Once or twice 
she drove with him to John Morley's house, 
and waited in the carriage at the door while he 
made a pastoral call ; by which means she 
insured an extreme brevity of visit, and had 
the satisfaction of learning that Hester had not 
made her appearance. 

How long she could have maintained this 
careful line of conduct is uncertain, if Grant had 



Hesters Sanctuary. 51 

not been impatient to introduce Carl more 
familiarly to John Morley; and he took the 
first chance that presented itself. Carl naturally 
chose to see a good deal of his future brother- 
in-law; and though Grant was made welcome 
at Aston Court by all, even by Miss Waldron, 
who was fully awake to this weak point in her 
position, yet she could not forbid the young 
minister visiting him in his own rooms. A 
favourable opportunity occurred before long, 
when Grant invited him, without formality, to 
call upon John Morley. 

" I want you, if possible, to infuse a little 
hope into his nature," said Grant; "and then, 
if I could induce him to shut up shop an hour 
earlier, and take some healthy exercise instead 
of going to the prayer-meeting, we should 
make him a tenfold better Christian than he is. 
Don't you agree with me ?" 

" To be sure I do," answered Carl. 

" Miss Waldron wouldn't," said Grant, 
laughing ; " but it stands to sense that when a 
poor fellow's liver is as bad as a liver can be, 
he cannot be as good a Christian as he ought 
to be. I'll make you see that as plain as print, 
Carl, if you will only attend." 



52 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

"Hadn't we better see Mr. Morley first ?" 
suggested Carl. 

"Well, I'm ready," he answered. "I don't 
need a hat just to cross the street There, a 
customer has gone in — a rare bird opposite — 
but if you like we will go and see Hester first. 
I am quite at home over yonder." 

He proved the truth of his last words by 
entering the house without knocking at the 
door. The lobby had a damp earthy smell, at 
which he uttered a significant " Faugh !" He 
passed on without ceremony up the staircase to 
Hester's little sitting-room, the door of which 
was half open. It was the same homely, austere, 
bare room where Robert had passed his weary 
hours of convalescence. To Carl's student-eyes 
it was full of charms. The glitter of gilded 
bindings upon the bookshelves ; the pile of 
snowy work upon the table where Hester had 
been sewing with an open volume before her. 
A small thimble lay upon the page, so curious 
and rare a toy to Carl that he could not forbear 
to take it up and try it upon his own fingers, 
one after the other, until it fitted the least He 
wished that Miss Waldron would sometimes 
employ herself with sewing. The open book 



Hesters Sanctuary. 53 

was one of his special favourites ; and several 
others upon the shelves were well worth his 
own reading. He put his hat down on the 
table near to Hester's work, and regarded the 
whole with a singularly pleased smile upon his 
lips. There were no more than two chairs in 
the room, Hester's and another. He took the 
other, and looked across to her seat beside the 
white work and the open book and the thimble 
lying upon the page. Miss Waldron's kind 
admonitions were all lost upon him. 

He had been in the room, Hester's sanctuary, 
alone, for Grant had left him there while he 
went to seek for her. Grant was not actually 
away more than a minute, for he had gone only 
to the end of the long passage, to the door 
which connected the workroom with the dwell- 
ing, and there shouted to Lawson, in his loud, 
sonorous voice, to ask if she was up in the attic. 
Hester's own clear tone had answered, inviting 
him to come up to her. He went back to fetch 
Carl. 

" She says we are to go up to her," he an- 
nounced. 

"Who says ?" asked Carl, absently. 

"Who says?" echoed Grant; "good gracious, 



54 Hester Morley's Promise. 

Carl, what a dreamy fellow you are! Why, 
Hester says so, Hester Morley. I wonder at 
you. Come along with me." 

Carl followed him, almost with a guilty 
conscience, a sense of treachery and diso- 
bedience to Miss Waldron. Yet was it not 
decidedly his duty to become acquainted with 
Hester ? He would set so strict a guard over 
himself that he would not fall into the danger 
his kind sisterly friend apprehended. He knew 
indistinctly that they were passing through some 
remarkably dingy rooms, and up a narrow stair- 
case ; and then they came to a flood of sun- 
shine, and a glorified attic, with a young, lovely, 
graceful girl standing in the midst of the 
sunbeams, glowing and blushing with surprise, 
and looking into his face with shy, almost timid, 
gray eyes. It was time for Carl to shake off 
his absence of mind. It was perfectly necessary 
that he should conduct himself as a pastor. 
After uttering a few words, what he knew not, 
he looked round the curious apartment, and 
saw an undersized and withered-looking man 
standing behind Hester. When he met Carl's 
eyes he bowed profoundly, and with an ease 
that confounded the young scholar, who had 



Hester's Sanctuary. 55 

made no study of any mode of salutation. It 
was a full minute before he could venture to 
glance at Hester again, but when he did so, 
she had turned back to the binding-press in the 
window where Grant was looking carefully at 
her work. Carl drew a step or two nearer to 
them. 

" Mr. Bramwell," she said, " this is my own 
work. I have learned to gild the books after 
Lawson has bound them. This is Lawson, my 
father's bookbinder, and my oldest friend." 

Carl shook hands cordially with Lawson. 

" Mr. Grant ought not to have brought you 
up here the very first time," continued Hester, 
a little reassured. " I did not know you were 
with him, or I should have come downstairs to 
you." 

" I am very glad you did not know," said 
Carl, with difficulty. 

" I am not sure that I am altogether sorry," 
answered Hester, feeling a girlish sympathy 
with his evident embarrassment, and talking the 
more fluently because of it. "You know I 
have seen you several times already, though I 
have not spoken to you and I do not feel as if 
you were quite a stranger. Besides, Mr. Grant 



56 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

has talked to me a great deal about you and 
your sister. I know all about her ; and I do 
hope she will like me very much when she 
comes to live at Little Aston. 

Carl felt as if he should renounce his sister if 
she did not make Hester her chief friend, — after 
Miss Waldron, perhaps. 

" I think," said Hester, with a charming little 
toss of her head, " it is quite as well you should 
know at once that I belong to the working 
classes. Yes ; I work up here five or six hours 
a day, for poor Lawson's hand is not always 
steady enough for it I am not at all an idle 
elegant young lady ; Mr. Grant will tell you 
that. He sits by the press sometimes for a 
whole hour watching me." 

What would not Carl give for such a privi- 
lege ? He caught himself wondering whether 
he should ever do the same, and reproved 
himself sharply for it. 

" Hester looks upon me as an old married 
man," said Grant, with a laugh ; " and I believe 
I am the only one she .ever sees, except her 
father and Lawson." 

A flush crept slowly over Hester's face until 
it deepened into a crimson hue of shame, so 



Hesters Sanctuary. 57 

plain and so painful that both of them turned 
away on pretence of looking at the specimens of 
binding upon the walls. 

" She is as shy as a lapwing," whispered 
Grant in Carl's ear. " I ought not to have said 
it" 

" We will go downstairs now," said Hester, 
after a moment's pause ; and she took off her 
large apron, and smoothed down the sleeves 
which had been rolled up above her round and 
dimpled elbows. " My father will be very glad 
to see £ou, Mr. Bramwell. For the last three or 
four years Mr. Watson could not come often to 
see us, and my father receives no other visitors, 
except Mr. Grant" 

Carl followed her downstairs, wondering at 
his own silence and the difficulty he felt in 
speaking to her. Relief came to him in John 
Morley's presence, for the melancholy and re- 
served man brightened at the appearance of 
him and Grant. The fire and beauty of their 
early manhood, its freshness and buoyancy, had 
still a nameless charm for him in the midst of his 
disease and gloom. He listened to their keen 
lively conversation, and allowed himself to be 
drawn into its current. Carl was conscious of 



58 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

talking well and aptly, and of interesting his 
host; and he stayed so long' that Grant was 
compelled to leave him. He scarcely knew 
how he had the courage and resolution to say 
farewell at last ; but he awoke from a confused 
trance as his foot struck against the massive 
door-sill of the entrance-hall at Aston Court, 
and he felt that the next minute he should be 
in the presence of Miss Waldron. 

Should he tell her where he had been, or 
keep it a secret from her? He felt guilty 
enough to know that he had gone very near the 
folly against which she had so emphatically 
warned him. Yet he was a free man, in 
bondage to no one. But did not any friendship, 
and especially a friendship so close and discrimi- 
nating as Miss Waldron's, in some measure 
militate against freedom in its completeness ? 
Did he not owe a return of frankness and con- 
fidence to one who was so entirely, so sweetly 
open to him ? Yet, on the other hand, what 
had he to tell ? He could not confess that he had 
put his hat down on the table close to Hester's 
work, and tried her thimble on each of his own 
fingers. His veins tingled at the recollection. 
No ; there was nothing to say about his visit, 



Hesters Sanctuary. 59 

and it would only give rise to misapprehension 
in Miss Waldron's mind if he mentioned it. 

With this reflection, amounting almost to a 
resolution, he went on into the drawing-room, 
where the servant told him, volunteering the 
information with a covert smile, that he would 
find Miss Waldron. She greeted his arrival 
with the blandest of welcomes, and invited him 
to a seat upon an ottoman placed near her own 
lounging chair in front of a window. She was 
herself in the shade of the curtains, which shed 
a becoming hue over her somewhat faded face. 

" You have been absent for some time," she 
said, softly ; " it is more than an hour since I 
went to the library to look for the seventh 
volume of Kitto, and you were then gone 
away. Have you been making some visits 
among our people ?" 

" I went to see Grant," answered Carl, with 
an air of hesitation. 

" To be sure," she continued ; " I suppose he 
is now very busy with his preparations. Is 
there nothing I can do to help them on ? You 
know for your sister I should be delighted to do 
anything in my power ; only I suppose we shall 
lose you when she comes to Little Aston." 



60 Hester Morley' s Promise. 

Miss Waldron heaved a sigh, which spoke 
inexpressible things, and remained silently 
musing, with a sad eye fixed upon the future, 
for some moments. She then resumed her 
conversation rather abruptly. 

" Then you only went to see Mr. Grant," she 
said. 

" No, not exactly," stammered Carl ; " at 
least, I went only with the intention of seeing 
him, but he asked me to go across with him to 
Mr. Morley's. 

" Indeed !" said Miss Waldron, with a sig- 
nificant coldness in her tone ; and then she 
betook herself to silence, which extracted more 
information from Carl than the most persevering 
cross-examination would have done. 

"We went across," he said, in hurried 
accents ; " and as Mr. Morley was engaged, 
Grant took me upstairs into the workshop, 
where the binding is done. Hester was there, 
but we stayed only a few minutes, and then we 
came down to see Mr. Morley. He is, as 
Grant says, a singular study ; and it is possible 
that I may do him good." 

"And get harm to yourself," she replied, 
forebodingly. 



Hester's Sanctuary. 61 

"No, I think not," he said ; " but if it were 
so, should I do well to set my own welfare 
before his ? Ought I never to run any risk to 
myself for the sake of the souls of my people ? 
We applaud those who go into a plague-house 
at the peril of their own lives ; and should not 
I, in my ministry to others, sometimes lose sight 
of my own soul ?" 

He spoke with ardour and agitation, while 
Miss Waldron fixed upon him a dull gaze of 
wonder and disapprobation. 

" I do not agree with you," she said ; " no 
charge can be so important as that of our own 
soul. But I will pray for you that you may not 
be overtaken in a snare. Would it not be a 
help to you if we met one another at the throne 
of grace at some stated time ?" 

Carl was perplexed, and looked questioningly 
into Miss Waldron's face. 

" I scarcely understand," he said. 

" I mean, shall we appoint a season when we 

may both pray in our own closets, with the 

knowledge that the other is similarly engaged 

at the same moment ? It is a great help to 

those who try it" 

Carl shaded his eyes with his hand, and 



62 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

steadily studied the pattern of the carpet before 
he replied. A man of his age and temperament 
is often more bashful, not to say modest, than a 
woman of Miss Waldron's years and disposition. 
He did not raise his eyes, and he looked very 
much put out of countenance. 

" I think not," he murmured ; " there is such 
a solemn secrecy in prayer between God and 
our souls. I feel as if we ought to be alone 
before Him. Some may find it a help, but I 
think it would distract me." 

A silence of several minutes followed, which 
was becoming almost terrible to him ; when at 
last Miss Waldron broke it in tones of profound 
emotion, — 

"Still I will pray for you," she said, "and 
watch for your soul I proposed it for your 
sake only, that you might feel that you were 
not contending with the tempter alone. You 
are not alone, — you never will be while I 
remain your friend." 

She rose, sobbing, and retired, it may be 
supposed, to her closet ; leaving Carl in an un- 
comfortable state of doubt as to whether he had 
not behaved like a brute. 



CHAPTER VII. 

A PERILOUS PATH. 

The marriage of Grant with Carl's sister was 
celebrated as soon as they could enter into 
possession of their pleasant house on the road 
to Aston Court. It was within a few hundred 
yards of the park gates, and in the direct route 
between the Court and the town. As soon as 
Grant returned from the necessarily brief tour 
of a young country surgeon, Carl quitted Aston 
Court, and took up his permanent abode in 
their new home. 

Miss Waldron had manifested a very charm- 
ing interest in everything relating to Carl's 
sister; and had added several ornaments and 
luxuries to her dwelling, even before having 
seen her. Nothing could surpass the emphasis 
of her patronage and kindness to the young 
wife upon her entrance into her new sphere. 
Oddly enough, there was a superficial resem- 
blance between Annie Grant and Rose Morley, 
which struck painfully upon Mr. Waldron, 
though it escaped the observation of his 



64 Hester Morleys Promise. 

daughter. She possessed the same slight and 
girlish figure, and the same fair hair and blue 
eyes ; yet the similarity of circumstances and 
position, in the first pride and happiness of 
marriage, may have formed the chief resem- 
blance between them. The same impression 
was produced by her on the mind of Hester. 
She had not been witness to the gay and inno- 
cent importance of a young wife since she had 
seen it in her step-mother. The old memo- 
ries rushed back like a flood upon her, and the 
old sadness, which had been lighter of late, once 
more returned to her face. 

It is probable that John Morley himself 
was oppressed by this likeness ; for even his 
friendship for Grant and Carl, a passive, un- 
demonstrative sort of friendship, was not strong 
enough to induce him to traverse the market 
square of Little Aston, and approach the gates 
of Aston Court, in order to pay a wedding visit 
to the young doctor and his bride. Annie Grant 
went to see him, but her gay looks, her cheerful 
voice, and the bright colours of her dress, all 
jarred upon his morbid nature. After her 
visit, he had an access of melancholy which 
reacted upon Hester. They felt that they 



A Perilous Path. 65 

dwelt apart in a charmed circle, which they 
could not pass, and which no other could enter. 
Yet there was ohe other encircled by the same 
heavy chain who could no more escape from it 
than they could. Robert Waldron stood aloof 
from all the small festivities of the honeymoon ; 
and his obvious melancholy strengthened the 
link between him and Hester. These others, 
so glad and happy and hopeful, what had they 
in common with her? Their eyes were too 
dazzled with light to see clearly into the dark- 
ness where she and her father dwelt She loved 
them with a love which excluded envy, but fate 
placed her altogether apart from them all. 

She did not go so often as she might have 
done to Grant's house, or so often as Carl had, 
unconsciously to himself, hoped she would have 
done. He did not associate with her in the 
pleasant familiarity he had looked for. To be 
sure his actions were now free from the hourly 
scrutiny of Miss Waldron ; but her kindly sur- 
veillance was not at an end. The distance 
between the two* houses was not great, and 
there was no part of the town to traverse. She 
could come up in the most negligent and be- 
coming morning costume, or even with a shawl 

VOL. II. F 



66 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

thrown over her evening toilette, to spend only 
a few minutes with dear Mrs. Grant, at the most 
unexpected of hours. Her studies were grow- 
ing more profound than ever, and Carl's Hebrew 
and Greek were in perpetual request. She 
soon knew the place of every book upon his 
shelves better than he did, and often employed 
herself with setting them in order for him. 
He felt that he ought to be grateful, and he 
strove to be so. It was impossible for him not 
to be pleased and flattered. 

Robert Waldron did not miss seeing his 
advantage, and making the most of it Hester 
went the oftener to visit Madame Lawson, 
because she could take no pleasure in going to 
Grant's house ; and he did not fail to meet her 
there as often as he judged it prudent It had 
become an unnecessary thing to make any 
excuse for seeing her thus, as Hester had fallen 
into a habit of taking it tacitly for granted. 
In a place so small as Little Aston it required 
some tact to prevent their meetings becoming 
known ; but he was a master of ingenuity. 
Besides, the entrance to die court was not com- 
manded by any window, except those of the 
house where old Mr. Watson had used to live. 



* 



A Perilous Path. 67 

The few inmates of the court were working 
folks, who had enough to do to mind their own 
business; and the woman of the house he 
gained over by judicious presents. There was 
positively no danger, either to Hester or him, 
of their secret being betrayed. He considered 
himself advancing, with sure and steady pro- 
gress, towards his end. 

Hester's new melancholy was rather a soft 
and tender sadness than the old, hard, gloomy 
monotony of the continual weight of dejection. 
There is a moment in the early dawn when the 
growing light seems to tremble and draw back 
a little, as if it would fain linger longer in the 
dark mantle of the night. Such a moment had 
come to Hester. Her eyes had caught a light 
brightening on the horizon, and her heart had 
felt a glow of warmth reaching it; and for a 
moment or two longer she wished to keep her 
eyes closed, and take back the familiar chill 
to her heart. She knew herself no more. 
Caprices, foreign to her hitherto, had gained 
the mastery over her. Sometimes a passion of 
tears shook her; at others a vehement desire 
to exhaust herself by action, when the binding- 
press in the attic seemed like a refuge to her. 



68 Hester Morlefs Promise. 

The shrewd old Frenchwoman fancied she 
could read the girl's heart like an open book ; 
and a hundred cunning little wrinkles netted 
themselves about her eyes and lips. She 
assured milord Robert that before long it would 
be quite safe to tell Hester of his love. 

It was the hope, both of Mr. Waldron and 
Robert, that Grant's marriage might open the 
way naturally for once more inviting Hester 
to visit at Aston Court. The small festivities 
attending it might include her. When, there- 
fore, Miss Waldron announced her opinion that 
it would be but a graceful courtesy to invite 
Grant, his bride, and Carl to dinner, with some- 
thing of ceremony and state about it, Mr. 
Waldron gently insinuated that Hester, also, 
might be induced to join them, or rather that 
John Morley might listen to the invitation. 
Miss Waldron would probably have scouted 
the idea with indignation, had not Robert 
warmly seconded his father. She knew exactly 
how far she could venture in opposition to her 
brother ; and it was very plain that he had so 
set his heart upon this as to make contradiction 
dangerous. 

In consequence, Mr. Waldron was permitted 



A Perilous Path. 69 

to introduce the subject to John Morley, which 
he did in an informal manner at the close of a 
Sunday evening service, judging it best to take 
him utterly by surprise. Mr. Waldron had 
shaken hands with Hester, and looked into her 
face with one of his half-fatherly glances of 
affection, when he turned to John Morley with 
an air as if he had but just thought of the 
matter. 

" By-the-by, Mr. Morley," — he had dropped 
the epithet, brother, some time ago,—" Grant 
and our young minister, with Mrs. Grant, dine 
with us to-morrow. I think you ought to let 
my little friend Hester come with them. She 
wants some young society. Give me your 
promise that she shall come to-morrow." 

He waited with ill-concealed anxiety for the 
answer, and John Morley looked keenly but 
silently at him; longing to inquire whether 
Robert was at Aston Court, for he knew nothing 
of his movements, yet unable to bring his lips 
to pronounce his name. 

" Should you like to go, Hester ?" he asked. 

Hester's heart had bounded with mingle^ 
surprise and pleasure at Mr. Waldron's invita- 
tion. For the last week or two time had been 



V 



jo Hester Morley' s Promise. 

very monotonous and irksome to her, and she 
felt a girl's natural desire for some change. 
Besides, there was no shock to her in the idea 
of meeting Robert Waldron, whom she had 
seen so often of late. 

41 I should like it very much," she answered, 
" if you would not be grieved, father." 

"No, no," he said, hurriedly. "She shall 
come, Mr. Waldron ; she shall come." 

John Morley drew his daughter's hand 
through his arm, as they passed through the 
chapel porch, and looked down upon her ques- 
tioningly by the light of the lamp hanging over 
the entrance. 

" Hester," he said, with a new tone of tender- 
ness in his voice, " Hester, they invite you now 
to their parties. Is it that you are grown up 
into a woman ?" 

" I suppose so, father," she answered, half 
gaily and half sadly. 

" How old are you then, child ?" he asked. 

" I am nearly twenty," she replied. 

"Twenty!" echoed John Morley. "And I 
have taken no count of the years! Your 
mother was no older than you when I married 
her; and she has been dead these nineteen 



A Perilous Path. 71 

years. Have you any thought of being mar- 
ried, Hester ? " 

The question was put in simple seriousness, 
but in the tone rather of a friend, than of a 
father, who might expect to have a voice in 
the matter. Hester's hand trembled a little 
upon his arm, but he did not perceive it. 

" How should I, father," she said. 

"Ah! how should you ?" he repeated. "You 
see no one, and know no one. Yet, my child, 
I should like to know that you were happily 
married. When I think of it I feel that I 
have done you a great wrong. But you shall 
go this once to Aston Court. Have you any 
pretty dress you can wear, child ? " 

It was so extraordinary a thing for John 
Morley to concern himself in so frivolous a 
subject as dress, — his own or any one else's, — 
that Hester could scarcely believe she had 
heard him aright. Her wardrobe was scanty, 
for money was scarce, 'and becoming more so 
every month ; but she assured him, with an 
evasion very like a deviation from strict truth, 
that she should do very well. 

" Hester," he said, when they had reached 
a dark part of the street, and she could not 



72 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

see his face, though she could detect a sharp 
anguish in his voice, " do you know if his son 
is at home ? " 

"Yes," she answered softly, and pressing 
his arm to her side. 

"You will see him, and speak to him," he 
resumed. " I cannot. God forgive me in this, 
if I sin in it I believe it would kill me to 
meet either of them ; and I am not fit to die 
yet. But they say he is contrite and repentant. 
I give you my consent to see him." 

The confession that she had already 
seen him trembled upon Hester's lips; but 
the recollection of his prolonged agony of 
despair sealed them. If she had had anything 
definite to tell him about Rose she would have 
had the courage to do it ; but to say only that 
she was lost would be simply to awaken the 
sharpness of his grief again. She resolved to 
pursue her course of concealment, and to hide 
everything from him that could add to his 
sorrow. It was a perilous path for a young 
girl to choose. 

Robert heard that Hester was positively 
coming to Aston Court, with a delight which 
he could scarcely disguise Ever since he had 



A Perilous Path. 73 

come to the conclusion that she, and she alone, 
could satisfy his fastidious notions of what 
his wife must be, he had longed to avail him- 
self of the advantages his position and sur- 
roundings gave to him. Hitherto she had 
met him only in Madame Lawson's garret ; 
and he wished her to see him in his own 
sphere, — the master of a position which must 
dazzle her young mind. He contrasted with 
self-gratulation the sumptuous elegance and 
costly taste which he had introduced into his 
fathers mansion, with the bareness and poverty 
of her own home. All the next morning he 
sauntered about the handsome rooms, and the 
terraces, where still lingered much of beauty, 
even in the later days of autumn. He pleased 
himself with picturing Hester at his side, ex- 
pressing more by looks than words her shy 
pleasure in this loveliness and luxury. By a 
curious perversity of reasoning, he had begun to 
regard a marriage with her as a fitting com- 
pensation for the wrong he had been guilty of 
towards her family. He felt sure that he could 
make his father acknowledge the strength of his 
arguments ; but how could he convince John 
Morley ? He must secure Hester's love first. 



74 Hester Morleys Promise. 

The evening came, and the hour when 
Hester should arrive. Miss Waldron had 
sent a carriage to Grant's house, for Carl 
was suffering from a cold, which made it 
necessary to load him with most gentle at- 
tentions. She had, however, let Hester slip 
out of her mind ; and as Annie Grant and 
Carl had no knowledge of her accepted invi- 
tation, they had, of course, come without her. 
Robert felt a wrathful pang of disappointment ; 
though he was not altogether sorry that Carl 
and Hester had not been riding in the same 
carriage. Mr. Waldron himself was keenly 
disappointed. The night was dark and foggy, 
and Hester had no one to escort her through 
the lonely park. Miss Waldron said she was 
sorry, with a lurking smile of satisfaction, and 
busied herself to see that Carl had the warmest 
seat by the fire. Robert made no complaint, 
but went out quietly to order the carriage 
back to Little Aston, and at the moment that 
he passed through the hall, the large doors 
were thrown open by a servant, and Hester 
herself appeared upon the threshold 

She stood still for an instant, with a glance, 
half-frightened, into the great hall, which was 



A Perilous Path. 75 

brilliantly lit up. Her lips were slightly parted, 
and her breath came flutteringly with the speed 
at which she had been walking, and her large 
grey eyes were still deep and dark with t the 
darkness through which she had come. The 
night, with its thick fog, looked black behind 
her, while the coloured pavement of the hall 
and the stained glass of the lamp over her 
head, made the foreground rich in tone. The 
strong contrast of light and shadow, with 
Hester standing on the line which separated 
them, looking lonely, embarrassed, and timid, 
formed a perfect picture to Robert's eyes. He 
hurried forward to welcome her, and the ser- 
vant drew back respectfully. 

"Is it possible you have come all alone ?" 
he asked. 

" I had no one to come with me," she replied. 
" I went to Mrs. Grants, but she was gone. I 
was obliged to walk on alone or return home." 

" Did you wish to come so much ?" he said, 
lowering his voice. " Are you, then, glad to 
be here again, Hetty?" 

Her answer was not ready, and her eyes 
drooped till he could see the nervous quivering 
of the long eyelashes. 



76 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" I think I am," she said at last ; " I am not 
sure. In some things it seems scarcely right 
to be here; but still I am a little glad." 

The gladness was so qualified, and the 
qualification so conscientiously expressed, that 
Robert did not know what to reply. 

" Go and take off your shawl," he said, touch- 
ing it lightly with his hand ; " I will wait here 
for you, to take you into the drawing-room." 

He watched her intently as she followed his 
sister's maid up the broad low steps of the 
staircase with a subdued and quiet grace which 
was perfectly in tune with his matured taste. 
He paced up and down the hall, chafing at 
every moment she was away. There were 
twenty minutes yet till the hour for dinner, and 
he would keep her all to himself for that short 
period. Impatient as he was, he did not see 
her descend the staircase, and did not know 
she was close beside him, so noiseless was her 
approach, until she spoke in tremulous accents, 
and then he started violently. There was a 
scarcely-mastered excitement in herself which 
lent a colour to her cheek, and when she placed 
her hand upon his offered arm, he felt that it 
imiihlintf. 



A Perilous Path. 77 

" We will not go into the drawing-room just 
yet," he said. " I have a painting or two to 
show you." 

He led her into a room which had been built 
especially for his own use, since his return to 
Aston Court. It was lofty and spacious, and 
wainscoted throughout by carved panels of 
some light wood which had a pleasant lustre 
upon its surface. There were a few good 
pictures, and here and there a handsome cabi- 
net or bookcase. At one end was an organ 
which he had ordered to be made for this 
particular place, that the volume of sound 
should suit th$ space exactly; for he had 
become almost a master of music. A piano 
stood beside the organ. There was nothing 
of beauty or luxury lacking which his heart 
could desire; and over all a soft light was 
shed by shaded lamps. He led Hester to the 
hearth, and placed her in a low chair before 
the fire. There he stood, with his arm resting 
on the mantelpiece, looking down upon her 
drooping head and shy, almost awkward, atti- 
tude of embarrassment. How poorly she was 
dressed, in her gray stuff gown, with her sole 
ornament, a little silver brooch, fastening the 



t 



78 Hester Morley's Promise. 

collar round her graceful throat There was 
not a maidservant in the Court who could not 
have put on a smarter dress to go out on a 
visit. It would form an odd contrast with his 
sisters toilette, and the unfaded finery of the 
young wife. But he liked it well. The very 
poverty and simplicity of Hester's appearance 
was charming to him. Perhaps she guessed 
partly what he was thinking about as his down- 
ward gaze scrutinized her, for she glanced up 
to him with a smile of singular archness and 
sweetness. 

" I am not very fit for such a grand place," 
she said. 

Not fit for such a grand place! Robert's heart 
bounded, and the blood tingled through his 
veins. What did Hester mean, wont as she 
often was to betray her thoughts with innocent 
frankness ? Has she been thinking of herself 
as — as — ? Robert could not finish the sentence 
in his own mind. What should he say to her ? 
It would be something excessively significant, 
or excessively commonplace. How much dare 
he say to her ? 

The opportunity of saying anything was 
Matched from him ; for, while he hesitated, 



A Perilous Path. 79 

the door opened, and Mr. Waldron made his 
appearance. He did not see Hester until she 
rose from her low chair, and then he arrested 
himself with an exclamation of astonishment 

"Why, Robert! Why, Hester!" he ejacu- 
lated 

Robert was never at a loss as to what to say 
to his father, and now he found himself able to 
speak fluently. 

" I found Miss Morley just come in," he 
said ; " and as she was both cold and agitated 
by her lonely walk through the park, I brought 
her in here for a few minutes before taking her 
into the drawing-room." 

"Oh!" was all that Mr. Waldron could at 
first reply. He knew that his son must have 
seen Hester at the time that he was lying ill in 
John Morley's house ; but he had no idea that 
any intimacy could have been founded upon that 
ill-omened introduction. He recovered, how- 
ever, from his profound amazement enough to 
give Hester a most cordial welcome ; and then 
he conducted her himself to join the rest of the 
party. 

It was a more than usually pleasant evening 
both to Miss Waldron and Robert. She kept 



80 Hester Morley's Promise. 

possession of Carl, and paid him every possible 
attention ; while Robert scarcely quitted Hes- 
ters side. This devotion did not escape his 
sisters observation, but it served her purpose 
well ; and she could not descry any danger in 
it. It kept Carl away from Hester, and threw 
him solely upon her blandishments. Robert's 
delight in Hester increased hour after hour; 
and when the evening was ended, and she had 
gone away, this time in the carriage, which also 
contained Carl, he resolved to ask his father's 
counsel and consent to his marriage with John 
Morley's daughter before many more days had 
passed. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

A HUSBAND FOR HESTER. 

For several months past Mr. Waldron's first 
earthly wish had been, as we know, to see his 
son married. He was satisfied for his daughter 
to remain unmarried, as she adorned a single 
life by so much zeal and devotion ; and perhaps 
he was reconciled to it the more readily as his 
family name would not be transmitted through 
her to posterity. But already Robert had 
attained an age when a man grows more 
difficult to please, and more discriminating as 
to feminine perfections. Hester ought to have 
been a hundred-fold more flattered by his pre- 
ference than she could have been by the love of 
Carl Bramwell. Mr. Waldron's search after a 
daughter-in-law, whose price should be above 
rubies, was becoming an almost despairing 
pursuit; and Robert gave him no assistance. 
On the contrary, he appeared to be settling 
down into an indolent, self-indulgent bachelor- 
hood. The day following that on which he 
had found Hester seated at Robert's fireside, 

VOL. II. G 



82 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

with him leaning over her in a lover-like 
attitude that had struck him with amazement, 
the father and son walked out amicably together 
over the farm-lands belonging to Aston Court. 
Both felt that the time was come when they 
must speak to one another upon that which 
occupied their thoughts ; and Robert preferred 
doing so as far from the presence of Miss 
Waldron as possible. He accompanied his 
father to the end of a stubble-field, which was 
to lie fallow during the winter, and * then he 
commenced the conversation in as composed a 
tone as if he were making some agricultural 
observations. 

" I think, father," he said, " that it is time I 
married." 

Mr. Waldron planted his stick firmly into the 
soil, as if he intended it to take root there, and 
gazed anxiously into his son's face. 

11 To be sure, Robert ; to be sure," he cried. 

" You were surprised to find Hester alone 
with me yesterday," he continued. 

" I was," replied Mr. Waldron, briefly. 

" Father," he resumed, stammering a little, 
" it was not at all the first time I have seen her 
of late. We know one another very well. The 



A Husband for Hester. 83 

fact is I happened to meet with her in the 
house of an old Frenchwoman." 

" You don't mean the mother of John Morley's 
workman ?" interrupted Mr. Waldron. 

" Yes," said Robert ; " I have met her there 
many times during the last few months." 

" Robert," interrupted his father again, with 
an expression and tone the most severe he 
could assume towards him, " you cannot mean 
to tell me that you, a man of the world, know- 
ing how ready the world is to gossip, can have 
taken advantage of Hester's ignorance to draw 
her into a clandestine intercourse with you ?" 

" I have," owned Robert, in some confusion. 

" I wonder how you dare to confess it," con- 
tinued Mr. Waldron, leaning more heavily upon 
his stick, as if his son's words had wounded 
him deeply; "she is so simple, so unsuspecting! 
She did not know to what censure she exposed 
herself. Suppose your sister had found it out!" 

Mr. Waldron's face wore an aspect of real 
terror ; but Robert smiled a little to himself. 

" I took care that nobody should know," he 
said ; "you need not be afraid for Hester. But 
now you will not be surprised to hear me say 
that I love her more than any woman I ever 



84 Hester Morley's Promise. 

saw ; ay, more than I ever supposed I could 
love. It seems to me that there can be no 
love in the world like that I feel for my little 
Hetty." 

Robert's handsome face, with its new air of 
profound and passionate tenderness, looked 
handsomer than ever as he spoke ; and his 
father, regarding him fondly, fancied that any 
woman would forgive him any previous folly. 

" But have you forgotten the past," he said. 

" Forgotten it !" he exclaimed ; " have you or 
my sister suffered me to forget it ? Forget it ! 
Why I have only to look into Hester's face, 
with all its sweetness and beauty, and there I 
see my sin written legibly in its sad lines. 
How can I forget, when it is Hester herself I 
love, in spite of everything." 

" But what can be done ?" asked Mr. Wal- 
dron, despondingly. 

" I want to atone to her for all these years 
she has lost," he answered, with vehement ear- 
nestness. " I will make her after-life so bright 
that she shall forget all her early sorrow. I 
will lift her out of the miserable confined lot 
that is hers, and give her a rank and wealth 
she could never reach without me. If she were 



A Husband for Hester. 85 

but my wife I should have no fear for her 
happiness." 

" But it is morally impossible," objected Mr. 
Waldron ; " John Morley — " 

" He must consent," interrupted Robert, " if 
I only make sure of Hester. He is very poor, 
almost to bankruptcy. He is aging fast, and 
Hester's future must be an anxiety to him. He 
is already reconciled to you, and has allowed 
her to visit here, knowing that she must meet 
me. If you will only help me he will come 
round in time. He must — he shall." 

For a few minutes both father and son were 
plunged in profound thought The rooks flew 
heavily above their heads, disturbed by their 
presence, and manifesting their discontent by 
hoarse cawing. The young cattle came near 
enough to contemplate them with their brown 
eyes. There was a sharp struggle going on in 
Mr. Waldron's mind which was scarcely visible 
in his face, so long accustomed to hide his 
emotions. He was, as his old minister had 
told him, a proud man ; and he had sometimes 
regarded John Morley as a person in a very 
inferior position. John Morley was, in fact, 
nothing more than a tradesman, and one in 



L 



86 Hester Motleys Promise. 

difficult circumstances ; and it was his only son, 
his heir, who wished to bring the daughter of 
the poor bookseller into his wealthy family as 
his wife. Yet Hester was so pretty, so simple, 
so clever ; she was so good also, that, but for 
the accident of her birth, there could be no 
one more worthy of being his daughter-in-law. 
Besides, Robert was very obstinate if he was 
opposed. He would refuse to look out for a 
more suitable wife, if he should deny him his 
consent and assistance. 

" I talked about it with Mr. Watson before 
his death," said Robert, at last breaking through 
the silence, " and he said he did not see any 
insuperable difficulties, or any insurmountable 
objections in the way. He did not seem to see 
them so clearly as I did." 

"He was a timid man," replied his father, 
"and would agree to all you said. But how 
did he come to know of it before me ?" 

"He saw me once or twice follow Hester 
into the court," he answered, "and he had 
courage enough to speak very faithfully on the 
subject, I assure you. Well, he did not see 
why Hester should not in time become my 
wife. He . said, however, that it would be 



A Husband for Hester. 87 

more likely to come to pass if we only knew 
for certain that poor Rose was dead. It is 
my firm conviction that she is dead ; but I can 
get no proofs." 

" Robert," said Mr. Waldron, earnestly, " you 
are losing sight of John Morley's implacable 
hatred. Ah, my boy ! you kept from me the 
history of that blow which almost killed you 
last February. It was then you first saw 
Hester, and fell in love with her. I do not 
wonder at it But do you imagine that if he 
seeks your life, you can ever gain his consent 
or hers ?" 

" I think," answered Robert, " that his re- 
venge spent itself in that blow. He is a good 
man, a religious man. He was hurried by a 
sudden passion into the attempt to commit that 
crime; but as it failed, — luckily for me, — he 
soon repented of it, and was not sorry to ex- 
tend his kindness to me. We have now some- 
thing to forgive one another. I am more equal 
with him, and that is so much in my favour. 
Why else was he so hospitable and kind to- 
wards me? He visited me once, and spoke 
as a friend would have done. He knew 
Hester saw me often, and yesterday he allowed 




8$ Hester Morleys Promise. 

her to come once more to our house. I hardly 
dared to hope before; but now, with you to 
help me, I shall win Hester as my wife." 

His face, dearer to Mr. Waldron even than 
that of his daughter, shone with more gladness 
and hope than had been seen upon it for many 
years. His father could object no longer, but 
gave his hand a warm and fervent grasp. 

" I will help you, my boy," he said ; " yet I 
had my own little scheme for Hester, and it 
is possible it may prove in your way now. 
The moment I set my eyes on young Bram- 
well, I thought he would make a good husband 
for the little girl. They were both so young, 
so good, and so handsome. Our family owes 
John Morley a compensation, and I fancied I 
had found it in him. I would have given her 
u wedding dowry that would have made them 
almost independent of his church, wherever he 
«\>es. Hut now I hope he will not be in your 
way. 11 

lla looked anxious lest he should himself 
have destroyed the chances of his son's happi- 
Etobert also was grave, counting up all 
nymptoms he had detected of love be- 
\t\ and Hester. They were very few, 



A Husband for Hester. 89 

almost none. It had not escaped his notice 
that his sister was making herself foolish, as 
he termed it, about the eloquent young 
preacher, ten years her junior, and he built 
some hopes upon that ; the more so as Carl came 
frequently to Aston Court, and spent a good 
deal of time with Miss Waldron. Under other 
circumstances he would probably have mani- 
fested his disapprobation of such an intimacy 
with unmistakable plainness, but he hailed it 
as a sign that Carl preferred his sister's mature 
piety to Hester's girlish prettiness; and he 
was more than content to let the intimacy run 
a smooth course. 

" I am not much afraid of him," he said ; " yet 
I should have been, quite as well pleased if you 
had chosen a more commonplace man for Little 
Aston." 

" I chose him for Hester," replied Mr. Wal- 
dron in a tone which betrayed a lingering re- 
luctance to abandon his favourite scheme ; " they 
are just suited for each other. I thought so last 
night. I wish you could give up this notion, 
Robert." 

" Never !" he exclaimed, vehemently. " I tell 
you I worship her. She is the only woman 



1 



90 Hester Morley's Promise. 

who can make me care for goodness or religion, 
or things of that sort. I have had enough to 
disgust me with it, but Hester makes it 
soothing and pleasant again. If I am ever 
to be anything but the idle, purposeless fellow 
I am, doing no good in life, it will be by win- 
ning Hester." 

Mr. Waldron sighed deeply, but he did not 
attempt to explain his sigh. Robert's state of 
mind was still, as it had always been, a grief 
to him; but he had come to the point of no 
longer pressing religious expostulation upon 
him. His sigh, however, included something 
more than that There was a misgiving in it 
lest Carl, whom he had brought to Little Aston 
for the very purpose, had not already gained 
possession of Hester's love. But deeper still 
lay an unconquerable dread that it would be 
impossible to overcome John Morley's instinct- 
ive repugnance to give his daughter to the 
man who had brought so indelible a stigma 
upon his name. Every one else might plead 
the youth and thoughtlessness of the college- 
lad, for Robert had been little more than that ; 
but could it be hoped for that the dishonoured 
husband should thus excuse him, or could ever 



A Husband for Hester. 91 

be brought to look upon his conduct as the 
careless folly of a boy who had not learned to 
master his passions ? They walked homewards 
in almost unbroken silence, and Mr. Waldron 
shut himself up in his private room to delibe- 
rate upon all the bearings of the matter. 



CHAPTER IX. 

CONSULTING CARL. 

The more Mr. Waldron considered the subject 
upon which Robert had consulted with him, the 
more dubious he grew as to the possibility of 
winning over John Morley, unless, indeed, 
Hester's own happiness should depend upon 
his consent. He endeavoured to place himself 
in the position of the dishonoured man ; but 
the power of seeing with other people's eyes 
cannot be acquired at the age of sixty-eight. 
He saw his son, handsome, accomplished, and 
rich, with a brilliant lot to offer ; and he could 
see Hester clearly, as a very eligible daughter- 
in-law in every respect, except by birth. There 
had been always a peculiar softness in his heart 
towards Hester, — an anticipatory tenderness, 
perhaps. He would like exceedingly to have 
her always near to him. But John Morley was, 
as he always had been, wrapped in an impene- 
trable mystery. He could no more understand 
him, members as they were of the same church, 
than Peter could understand his beloved brother 
Paul 



Consulting Carl. 93 

Mr. Waldron glanced but briefly towards the 
world, though, no doubt, it would have some- 
thing to say to such a marriage. Ten years 
ago its tongue had been busy with the story of 
Robert's sin ; and the world has a retentive 
memory for scandals. It would, perhaps, be 
easier to pacify John Morley himself than to 
satisfy its scruples, sometimes more exacting 
and delicate than those of an individual con- 
science. But Mr. Waldron was not accustomed 
to consider the world. He had long since 
turned his back upon it, and treated its opinions 
with contempt If he approved of the matter, 
and the church supported him, he could very 
well afford to leave all question of the world 
out of the transaction. 

To make sure of the pastor was one means 
of securing the approbation of the church. 
He did not wish to startle or shock that small 
congregation of faithful men over whom he and 
Carl Bramwell presided. They were a simple, 
uncultivated class, not accustomed to split 
straws, but it was within the bounds of possi- 
bility that they might be scandalized by his son's 
marriage with Hester Morley. There was a 
broad though undefined code of Christian 



96 Hester Morley's Promise. 

better than I can do. There is no burden of 
sin we may 1 not cast away before the face of 
the Father." 

" But are the consequences to remain ?" asked 
Mr. Waldron. " Is he always to bear the stigma 
of his sin ? Is he not free to act as if he had 
never been guilty ? Ought the transgression 
to be forgiven by every man as well as by 
God ?" 

Carl paused. There was a swift current of 
sympathy and love running clear and unob- 
structed through his young spirit which carried 
him irresistibly towards the side of mercy. He 
was as yet a mere student in human nature, 
and had had no actual wrestle with temptation. 
He had not seen sin face to face. At present 
it was a veiled and awful form for him ; he had 
not beheld its hideous features, and received the 
ineffaceable memory upon his heart. 

" ' None of the sins that he hath committed 
shall be mentioned unto him/" he said, in a 
lowered and reverent voice. 

"You yourself would act upon that?" pur- 
sued Mr. Waldron. " My son is the same in 
your eyes as though he never was guilty of 
this sin ?" 



Consulting Carl. 97 

"Perhaps not altogether that," answered 
Carl; "but who among us would enforce a 
penalty if God does not ? If He will make 
no more mention of his transgression, why 
should we ?" 

It was Mr. Waldron's turn to pause and 
reflect. His anxious face grew darker, and the 
knotted veins in his forehead became larger. 
He did not feel quite sure of Robert's repent- 
ance, though he longed to believe in it He 
wished to believe that his own prayers through 
so many years had not failed in the court of 
heaven. Perseverance in an earthly court must 
have prevailed before this. He argued illogi- 
cally. Because he had so earnestly prayed 
that his son might truly repent, his professed 
repentance must be sincere. 

" Mr. Barnwell," he said, suddenly, " what 
do you think of Hester Morley ?" 

If Carl had been asked unexpectedly what 
he thought of the cherubim, he could not have 
been more stupefied or at a loss. He gazed 
blankly at Mr. Waldron, and did not reply till 
that gentleman repeated the question. 

" Oh, I think she is very good," he answered, 
somewhat coldly; "she is a member of the 

VOL. II. H 



98 Hester Morley's Promise. 

church, and an excellent daughter. My sister 
is very much attached to her." 

" You have not seen much of her," remarked 
Mr. Waldron. 

" Very little," he replied. 

" Would it astonish you," said Mr. Wal- 
dron, hesitating; "would it shock you in any 
way, if you heard that my son, having seen her 
a good deal while he was ill this spring, was 
anxious, nay, bent upon making her his wife ?" 

"Impossible!" ejaculated Carl, starting from 
his seat as if he had been shot He took a hasty 
turn or two across his study, and then came 
back to his chair opposite his visitor. " I think 
I must have misunderstood you," he said, with 
a ghastly effort at a smile. " Did you say that 
Mr. Robert Waldron wishes to make the 
daughter of John Morley his wife ?" 

" Yes," replied Mr. Waldron, briefly. 

"It is impossible!" said Carl. "Your son's 
sin demands great charity from us; but he 
must not ask Hester to share the burden he 
has to bear all his life long. Oh, it would 
not be possible !" 

" But is my son never to marry ?" asked Mr. 
Waldron. 



Consulting Carl. 99 

" Yes," cried Carl. " Let him find some one 
with a spirit which would not be bowed down 
by such a burden. But Hester is too young, 
too ignorant of life, too simple-hearted. He 
would do well with a wife like his sister, strong 
in her own faith, and able to fight with him 
against his spiritual foes. Why should Hesters 
young and innocent heart be joined to one 
which must ever bear the sting of a sore re- 
pentance ?" 

" You are a young man, yourself," said Mr. 
Waldron, as Carl paused ; " a very young man. 
There are scores, hundreds of marriages, — 
ay, and happy ones, — where there has been 
an early folly like this. Hester would be rich, 
happy, and beloved. If John Morley should 
be reconciled to Robert, he would become a 
member of our church, and would be ready to 
take my place in it when I am gone. More- 
over, there was a something in Hester's manner 
last night which makes me hope that she is not 
averse to Robert. You may have seen it your- 
self — a pretty, pensive, gentle pleasure in listen- 
ing to him." 

"Yes," replied Carl, who had watched Hester 
furtively during the whole of the previous even- 



ioo Hester M or ley's Promise. 

ing, and who had seen every little gesture and 
every expression of enjoyment that had escaped 
her. 

" Then, if she loves him," resumed Mr. 
Waldron, " and if that folly of his youth should 
not be remembered against him now he is a 
man, I see no impediment to their marriage. 
I see in it rather a compensation for the past. 
If John Morley's poverty and shame have come 
from us, surely the honour of marrying his 
daughter into our family ought to balance it. 
Do you agree with me ?" 

Carl's restless hand moved absently among 
his papers. His face had grown pale, and his 
bright keen sight, dim. Until this moment 
he had looked at John Morley's misery from 
the outside. By temperament he was pro- 
foundly sympathetic, and was touched to the 
quick by the feelings of others. But by this 
very law of his nature he had regarded John 
Morley and his exaggerated grief from the 
point of view of the Waldrons, with whom he 
had been most closely associated. He had 
placed himself in the position of Robert, and 
pleaded for him all the excuses he would have 
sought for himself. But now he seemed to 



Consulting Carl. 101 

look into the very heart of John Morley, — that 
heart on fire, as Grant had once called it. That 
Hester Morley should love Robert Waldron ! 
That she should ever become his wife ! He 
pushed away the hair which had fallen over his 
forehead, and gazed fixedly at Mr. Waldron, 
who said, " Do you think with me ?" 

" I think," cried Carl, in an irrepressible 
frenzy, "that the idea is monstrous! There 
are some sins which cannot be forgotten. It 
would be a horrible thing, an unheard-of thing." 

" Perhaps you love Hester yourself," Mr. 
Waldron suggested. 

Carl hastened to regain his self-control. Mr. 
Waldron's face was one of sharp and anxious 
scrutiny ; and he did not wish to subject him- 
self to any more pointed questions. 

" I was thinking of her father only," he 
answered ; " I believe that to him it will appear 
more monstrous than it does to me." 

" Carl," said Mr. Waldron, in an accent of 
pity, " I like you ; ay, I honour and trust you. 
In bringing you here I thought it probable that 
you would love Hester. But this is my son's 
whole chance of happiness ; perhaps for the 
life to come as well as this. It may be his 



102 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

salvation. You possess a better and holier 
happiness. Promise me, at least, that you will 
not use your influence against him." 

" I have, perhaps, no right to influence her," 
answered Carl, sighing; "but I will commit 
her to His care who judges all men. If my 
prayers can shield her from peril, they shall 
not fail her." 

His heart sank a little after he had given this 
implied promise to stand aside while she was 
tempted with all that ambition and love could 
offer her. The sole weapons he could use in 
her defence were the prayers and teachings she 
would listen to from his mouth in the public 
services of the chapel. 



CHAPTER X. 

HO W COULD IT END? 

Scarcely had Mr. Waldron closed the house- 
door after himself, having considerately for- 
bidden Carl to quit his warm room, when a 
light rap at his study-door recalled Carl from 
his painful reflections upon the interview which 
had just ended. The second intruder was 
Annie, who carried a little work-basket in her 
hand, and came in boldly, with an air which 
plainly announced that she intended staying 
with him for a time. 

" Now, Carl," she said, " it is all nonsense you 
pretending you can study with that dreadful 
cold. My husband/' — she uttered the word 
with a little bridling of the head, which showed 
that the title was still a new one, — "has been 
called out, and does not expect to be home till 
late. He said I was to come here and sit 
with you, and you were on no account to leave 
this room till bedtime. So I am going to 
order tea up here, and we will have a nice, 
quiet, cosy evening together, you dear old boy." 



104 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

She rang for the servant to bring the tea- 
tray and bright brass kettle upstairs, and was 
very busy for a time in making the tea and 
toast by Carl's fire. He sat upon the hearth, 
watching her with dimmed eyes and a colour- 
less face. Annie was quick-sighted, and the 
weariness of his expression did not escape her. 

" Are you going to talk to me, Carl, or shall 
I talk to you ?" she asked. 

" I would a great deal rather you talked to 
me," he answered. 

" I shall not say anything very wise, and I 
shall gossip," she said, threateningly. 

Carl leaned back in his chair, and stretched 
his feet out towards the fire. He could not 
make conversation, even to Annie, that night. 
His mind was very busy, but very rambling, 
darting from one point to another of his inter- 
view with Mr. Waldron. Yet he was not sorry 
that Annie had invaded his solitude, and that 
her voice should prattle through the confusion 
of his thoughts. Now and then he caught a 
sentence of her lively gossip, and answered by 
a word or two. On her part she was weaving 
a very skilful and subtle web by which she 
might entrap his most secret sentiments ; but 



How could it end? 105 

she might as well have gone directly to her 
point, so insensible was he to her delicate hand- 
ling. 

" She is very fond of me," said Annie, in a 
tone of great significance ; and, as he was think- 
ing at the moment of Hester, the words startled 
him. " She said last night she loved me like a 
sister." 

" I am very glad to hear it," he answered, 
earnestly. 

" I wonder how old she is," remarked Annie. 

Carl knew to a day Hester's age. She was 
four years and three months younger than 
himself. He had seen the date of her 'birthday 
in a book which had been given to her years 
ago, but he did not give his sister the informa- 
tion she desired. 

"She perhaps looks younger than she is," 
said Annie ; " I think she is very good ; don't 
you, Carl ?" 

" Yes," he answered, in a very subdued tone. 

" And she thinks you," continued his sister, 
" the very best, the very first, the most eloquent 
of men and ministers. Of course I agreed with 
her, but she said I was never to tell you so, 
Carl." 



106 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

Carl's face grew crimson, and with the ges- 
ture most familiar to him, he shaded his eyes 
with his long hand ; there were tears, he 
could not tell why, standing in them. Annie 
nestled to his side, and laid her head upon his 
shoulder. 

" Dear old fellow," she said, " I daren't quite 
say that she is in love with you ; but she is not 
far from it. And I am not quite sure that I 
should like it altogether. She is not exactly 
what I fancied your wife would be. I should 
think she cannot be less than six or seven years 
older than you ; but she is very good and very 
rich, and her father is a great man among our 
people. Still I am not quite sure that I should 
like my brother Carl to become her husband." 

Carl had suffered too severe a shock that 
evening to be staggered by this one. The 
deep flush faded gradually away from his face, 
and the tears dried under his eyelids, but he 
could not command his voice sufficiently to 
speak to Annie. 

"So now," she said, kissing him affectionately, 
" your mind is prepared for it. I don't believe 
you have vanity enough for the notion to enter 
your head of itself, clever as you are. It would 



How could it end? 107 

be a very grand thing for you, but I don't 
exactly see how it would turn out in the end. 
You are very fond of her, Carl." 

" She is my friend,", he answered, with 
parched lips and dry throat. 

" Ah, yes !" said Annie, sagely ; "but every- 
body knows what such friendships generally 
come to. I don't mean, Carl, that you might 
not go on very comfortably as a friend ; but 
Miss Waldron will not. Mark my words, and 
make up your mind about it. Only if I were 
you, unless I really cared for her, I would not 
let her come here so often. I should think you 
could easily put a check upon that. It is not 
nice generally for men to marry women older 
than themselves, but she is everything else you 
like ; isn't she ? I wonder what Mr. Waldron 
and Mr. Robert will think of it !" 

Carl felt glad that his sister's head was still 
lying upon his shoulder, and that she could not 
see his face. A profound sense of the derision 
with which at times life seems to flout and make 
a mock at us, filled his mind, and he laughed a 
short hoarse laugh, which grated upon his 
sister's ear. 

"Why do you laugh, Carl ?" she asked. 



108 Hester Morleys Promise. 

" I was laughing at Mr. Waldron," he an- 
swered, checking himself. 

" Why," continued Annie, " would you really 
marry Miss Waldron if you were sure she 
would marry you ? I was talking to Hester 
this morning ; she came up here to fetch a 
book she had lent me, and I asked her if she 
had noticed anything peculiar in her manner 
last night." 

" What did she answer ?" asked Carl, with 
increasing interest. 

" She was shy, as she always is, of speaking 
out her mind ; but she said there was no doubt 
Miss Waldron was very fond of you." 

" Fond of me !" repeated Carl. " Did Hester 
say anything else ?" 

" She said what a pious woman Miss Waldron 
is," continued Annie ; " everybody says the 
same. But now, my dear boy, do not be rash 
in any way. I am a whole year older than you, 
and I'm married, you know ; so listen to what 
I have to say to you. A great many pious 
women are excessively disagreeable, I can tell 
you ; they are so good that it does not seem 
worth while to be amiable. They may have a 
good deal of treasure laid up, but they have no 



How could it end? 109 

small change for everyday use. One of your 
great divines said himself, that good nature was 
sometimes better than grace in a wife. Now I 
am afraid I have not so much treasure laid up 
as Miss Waldron, but I am not unpleasant to 
live with ; at least James says so. Don't be in 
any hurry, in any way." 

Carl fell into a train of troubled thoughts 
again. His friendship for Miss Waldron was 
pure and chivalrous, founded upon the gratitude 
he felt for her very gracious and flattering 
regard for himself. No idea that she cherished 
a sentiment one degree warmer than his own 
would ever have entered his mind, had not 
Annie placed it so plainly before him. But 
now that his eyes were opened he saw it 
distinctly, and knew that he could never be 
blind again. He passed in review the incidents 
of the preceding evening, and then his thoughts 
were brought round once more to the first 
painful subject which had occupied them. 

" Annie," he said, in a very low and troubled 
voice, " do you think it possible for Hester ever 
to love Robert Waldron ?" 

"It looked very like it last night, Carl," she 
answered, gravely. 



no Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

" But, good heavens ! " cried Carl, forgetting 
his disapprobation of any words at all ap- 
proaching the nature of an oath, " the thing is 
impossible." 

" I have been thinking about it all the morn- 
ing," resumed Annie, " and I partly understand 
how it can be. Hester has lived so apart from 
the world that she is still like a child in many 
things ; and, Carl, as for sin ! why, she looks 
at it as the angels might do. Of course we are 
bound to believe her corrupt and sinful, and all 
that sort of thing, I suppose ; but I say that 
Hester no more knows how to distinguish 
between sin and sin than an angel would. It 
is clear that Robert Waldron does not shock 
her in any way, but that she is rather attracted 
by him than otherwise. I saw her look at him, 
once or twice yesterday, with the open-eyed, 
wondering, unconscious gaze of a child. But 
at other times her eyes sank, and her face 
coloured when he was talking to her. I am 
afraid she might love him." 

" But what could be the end of it ?" asked 
Carl, in a sharp accent 

" Ah ! how could it end ?" repeated Annie. 

She raised her head from his shoulder, and 



How could it end? i 1 1 

turned her ear listening towards the window. 
There was a distant sound of hoof-beats coming 
on at a rapid rate, and a bright smile broke 
upon her face. She kissed Carl hastily, 
bidding him go to bed early that night, and 
left him to the undisturbed course of his 
meditations. 



CHAPTER XL 

A DIRECT EFFORT. 

From the time that Miss Waldron had become 
acquainted with the fact that a Popish French- 
woman dwelt in idolatrous darkness within 
sight of the very walls of the chapel, where the 
gospel was preached every Sunday, though in 
a language unknown to her, she had resolved 
upon making her the subject of one of those 
direct efforts which had often so signal an effect 
upon the poor women of her district and 
mothers meetings. She ordered from John 
Morley a packet of English tracts translated 
into French, and with these and a French Bible 
in her large satchel, she sallied forth, the morn- 
ing after her fathers interview with Carl, to 
seek the dwelling of the benighted foreigner. 

It was about midday, and Madame Lawley 
was regaling herself with a savoury ragout, 
highly-seasoned with garlic, which she was 
wont to have cooked in her landlady's oven. 
She had added to her repast a glass or two of 
good Burgundy, supplied to her by Robert 



A Direct Effort. 113 

Waldron, which she could only take at those 
meals when her son was absent, for fear of his 
discovering the secret of her distinguished 
visitor. She was in her most exhilarated mood. 
The noonday happened to be one of the rarely 
bright moments of November, and the high 
window of her garret caught the sunshine, while 
all the court below was in gloom. There was no 
fire in the grate, but a warm chaufferette, filled 
with wood-ashes from the oven, stood under 
her feet The three little bronze crucifixes over 
the empty fireplace shone full in the brightest 
of the sunbeams, and were the first objects 
upon which Miss Waldron's eyes fell as she 
entered the garret 

Miss Waldron had not the proficiency in 
French which her brother possessed. She had 
never been out of her native isle, and her 
father, entertaining a true old-fashioned British 
contempt of foreigners, had never invited any 
to his house. Her acquaintance with the 
language was, in consequence, almost limited 
to a perusal of Telemachus and the works of 
Madame de Genlis, which she had gone through 
with her dictionary and a master. Madame 
received her with a torrent of patois, of which 

vol. 11. 1 



n6 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

"He is my brother," she answered, slowly, 
and with some difficulty, as she pondered over 
a totally unprepared phrase. She had arranged 
beforehand a conversation Which ought to have 
proceeded like a catechism, but she was com- 
pletely thrown out. She stammered and hesi- 
tated, but at last she was compelled to put her 
question in a bald, unvarnished manner. "Does 
he meet a girl called Hester Morleyhere?" she 
asked. 

The smooth clean face of Madame assumed 
the innocence of a child, combined with virtuous 
indignation. She answered firmly in the nega- 
tive, with a gesture of utter repudiation; but 
Miss Waldron's aroused suspicions were not to 
be rocked to sleep again. Hester came here, 
and she had learned that Robert did so too. 
What could it mean ? Could it have any 
meaning but one ? 

" I am afraid/ ' she said, in very incorrect 
French, for she was agitated and her tongue 
tingled to speak in strong English, "that you are 
a very wicked woman. I knew you were a 
Papist and a Frenchwoman, but I am afraid 
you are worse. I came here with the purpose 
of doing you good, but I fear it is impossible. 



A Direct Effort. 117 

I shall speak about you to my father, Mr. 
Waldron, of Aston Court, who is a magistrate. ,, 

Madame Lawson could not understand many 
words of this speech, but she could see that 
her visitor was very greatly displeased. It 
occurred to her that she had come on a mission 
of suspicion and espionage, and she resolved to 
throw her off the scent. Her brown eyes, — eyes 
which betray nothing, met Miss Waldron' s gaze, 
and a sinister air of intelligence spread over her 
face. 

" Mademoiselle Hester comes to see me 
sometimes," she said, very distinctly, "but 
never, oh, never, when milord Robert comes. 
There is a young priest at .the chapel, where 
mademoiselle makes her prayers ; and in Eng- 
land the priests marry. He is very handsome 
and young, like Mademoiselle Hester. It is 
possible he may marry himself with her." 

Miss Waldron's heart sank very low. That 
such a calamity was possible she could not 
conceal from herself; but it had never been 
put into words and uttered in her hearing. 
She was lost in distressed and perplexed 
thought, not able to ply the old woman with 
clever questions. Madame regarded her with 



n8 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

a crafty smile. Grant had once brought Carl 
to see her, but the visit had made little im- 
pression upon her, except as awakening an 
odd interest in the priest who could marry if 
he chose. She was conscious that she had 
made a happy hit, though she did not know 
^exactly where it wounded. 

" Does Hester love the young priest ?" asked 
Miss Waldron at last, unable to cloak the en- 
quiry more skilfully. 

" It is necessary to love one's director," she 
answered, with a leer full of insinuation ; " and 
he is so handsome, like la petite. It is also 
his duty to love all his people." 

Both Madame and Miss Waldron had been 
too engrossed to catch the sound of the stair- 
case creaking under a footstep ; but at this 
moment a sallow and withered face, with two 
eyes set in it like burning lamps, appeared at 
the half-open door. Madame uttered a little 
scream, and dexterously snatched the bottle of 
Burgundy from the table, putting it by a 
sleight of hand, into its hiding-place under her 
bed. But the new comer paid no attention 
to her movements. He had taken off his old 
paper cap, and fastened upon Miss Waldron 



A Direct Effort. 119 

a gaze which did not permit his eyelids to 
wink. She experienced a very peculiar sen- 
sation of discomfort under the fixed scrutiny 
of these burning eyes. 

" It is my son, Madame," said Lawson's 
mother, introducing him with an air of cere- 
mony. 

" Can you speak English, my good man ? " 
inquired Miss Waldron. 

" Certainly," replied Lawson ; " but before 
we go any further, may I ask what your name 
is?" 

" Miss Waldron, of Aston Court," she said, 
with emphasis and dignity. 

"So I guessed," he cried, clenching his 
hands; "you are a lady, and I'd be sorry to 
frighten you. But it is as much as your life 
is worth to come here. I am Mr. Morley's 
workman, and love Miss Hester. I knew her 
mother and the second Mrs. Morley. Now 
you'll see you'd better not come here again. 
This is my house, and I will have nobody in 
it belonging to you or yours." 

" I came here to convert your mother," said 
Miss Waldron, with great courage. 

11 Then she must go unconverted," he said, 



120 Hester Morley's Promise. 

his tone rising to a higher pitch. " If you and 
yours are to go to heaven, then me and mine 
must go elsewhere. It is not safe for you 
here. John Morley and me are waiting, — wait- 
ing till the right time comes ; for there is 
deadly hatred betwixt us and you. You had 
better go at once, while I warn you. I'ma 
quiet man, but you had better go." 

His voice had risen shrilly with each sen- 
tence, till now it rang in her ears with a shriek, 
which the children at play below heard, and 
stopped suddenly to listen. Miss Waldron 
seized her satchel and fled ; and, as she hurried 
through the court, the window above was 
opened violently, and her loosened packet of 
tracts fluttered down about her like a flock of 
frightened doves. 



CHAPTER XII. 

SOMETHING MORE THAN A FRIEND. 

As Miss Waldron issued from the low passage 
leading to the court, Carl was hurrying past 
with long strides, and with his head bowed 
down as if heavy with momentous thoughts. 
She uttered a cry of joyful relief, and almost 
flung herself upon his arm. There was so 
evident a fright, both in her flurried manner 
and the startled expression on her face, that 
Carl gazed about him and peered down the 
narrow alley to ascertain the cause of it. * She 
sobbed hysterically ; and having sufficient pre- 
sence of mind to take advantage of the oppor- 
tunity, she did not attempt to control her 
agitation, as she must have done had she been 
compelled to pursue her way alone, or had she 
met any other acquaintance. She leaned 
heavily and helplessly upon the arm of the 
embarrassed Carl. The street was quiet, but 
he glanced up and down it with a feeling of 
dismay. There needed but one or two ob- 
servant passers-by to attract a whole crowd 



122 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

about them from the surrounding houses. The 
key of the chapel vestry was in his pocket, 
and the chapel was on the other side of the 
street. 

" Would you like to sit down for a few 
minutes in the vestry ? " he asked. 

" Oh, yes, yes ! " said Miss Waldron, be- 
tween her sobs. 

Carl led her across the street, and once 
again he cast a keen glance about him. There 
were only a few children to be seen at play. 
But no ; coming up the pavement was a light 
and tall figure, dressed in a soft gray dress 
which he knew very well to be Hester's. She 
was on the sunny side of the street, dazzled 
perhaps by the white wintry sunshine ; for she 
did not seem to see them in the shade, though 
he was a long time in fitting the key into the 
lock, in the hope that she would recognise 
them, and he could make a sign to her to come 
across to them. Miss Waldron did not see 
her. 

"There is Miss Morley," said Carl; " shall 
I run over and call her to come to you ?" 

"No," answered Miss Waldron, plainly 
enough, and without a sob this time ; " I 



Something more than a Friend. 123 

would much rather not see her at this moment. 
I have something very extraordinary to tell 
you, Carl." 

The name Carl seemed to fall from her lips 
unconsciously in her state of excitement; but 
he felt a nervous tremor at the sound of it. 
He opened the vestry door and went in, with 
Miss Waldron still supporting herself upon 
his arm. He placed her in his own chair be- 
side the table, and stood opposite to her before 
the empty fireplace. Above it hung usually 
the portrait of a distinguished divine of their 
denomination, in a full-bottomed wig and white 
bands, at the back of which was a small look- 
ing-glass, where the pastor of the church could 
take a stealthy glimpse of himself before as- 
cending the pulpit Carl had turned the por- 
trait with its face to the wall the preceding 
Sunday; and now, instead of the smooth and 
pious physiognomy of the eminent minister, he 
saw his own troubled features, with the straight 
eyebrows knitted and the lips pressed sternly 
together. Miss Waldron began to sob less 
deeply, but she sat with her head averted, and 
with an air of modest confusion which almost 
drove him frantic 



\ 



124 Hester Morley's Promise. 

" Do you feel better ?" he asked. " Can I do 
anything for you ?" 

" I am better," she answered, faintly ;' " in a 
minute or two I will tell you r.ll." 

For that minute or two Carl set himself to 
conquer his impatience and irritation. Why 
should he feel so different to-day from what he 
had felt only the day before yesterday ? She 
was his friend still ; and he had only heard 
Annie's partial, and no doubt absurd, notion 
that she was something more than a friend. A 
true friendship between man and woman ought 
to be able to bear a greater shock than the 
misapprehension and misconstruction of others. 
He almost detested himself for the ready and 
ridiculous vanity which had caused him to give 
credence to the story; yet the hot blood 
mounted to his beating temples as he caught a 
sidelong glance from Miss Waldron. 

" Carl," she said, in a voice as if it was still 
necessary to gasp for breath at each word, " I 
may call you Carl now, I think." 

What could he answer ? He bowed his 
head gravely, but without raising his eyes from 
the floor. 

" I am a little older than you," she continued. 



Something more than a Friend. 125 

with a frank air, "and I am so used to hear 
your dear sister call you Carl. That is how I 
have slipped into it. To call you Mr. Bram- 
well now would seem formal. I am thankful it 
is only you who have seen my agitation. It is 
foolish and silly, I know, but then I am nothing 
but a weak foolish woman." 

" You have been very much alarmed," re- 
marked Carl, falteringly. 

" Oh, exceedingly !'" exclaimed Miss Wal- 
dron, her hand pressed upon her heart ; " and I 
am so grateful to the Providence which sent 
you here at this moment. It is but another 
proof that our steps are all numbered." 

On his part Carl felt no particular thankful- 
ness for having been found on the spot at that 
special moment ; but he rebuked the thought 
as it suggested itself to him. 

" I must tell you all," said Miss Waldron, 
" but to you only. It must be a secret between 
us two. I would not have my father made 
uneasy for the world ; and if I need any counsel 
or protection, you will give me both. I can 
count upon you, dear Carl." 

41 Certainly," he replied. 

Miss Waldron's narrative contained several 



126 Hester Morley's Promise. 

details not to be found in the preceding chap- 
ter, all tending to cast a lustre on her own 
conduct, such as might be supposed by an 
uncharitable spirit to have existed only in her 
own imagination. She omitted also the men- 
tion of Madame's suggestion with respect to 
Carl himself, though she was tearfully eloquent 
in connection with her suspicions concerning 
her brother and Hester being in the habit of 
seeing one another in the old Frenchwoman's 
garret Here Carl possessed a knowledge of 
which Miss Waldron was ignorant; and no- 
thing appeared more probable to him than that 
Robert Waldron had seized upon any opportu- 
nity of meeting Hester. But that she should 
consent to these clandestine interviews was a 
sure, convincing proof that he had won her 
affection ; and she had fallen into the snare 
through dread of her father. Could this be 
the sorrow which old Mr. Watson had foreseen 
for Hester? Had he received some hint of 
the miserable attachment she had formed ? 
What could he do in the matter ? 

With his darkened face reflected in the little 
sacred mirror, Carl let these first thoughts run 
riot in his brain, while Miss Waldron meandered 



Something more than a Friend. 127 

on in a gently purling stream of sentiment, 
which, to speak the truth, did more credit to 
her heart than her head, and which murmured 
idly against Carl's ear as a brook laps un- 
heeded against the granite base of a rock. He 
had no notion of what she was saying. He 
was dethroning the image of Hester from its 
pure, sweet, girlish supremacy, and setting it 
beside the image of Robert Waldron. The 
mere thought of such a union shocked him. 
He turned away from it with revulsion, as if it 
were a crime. It flashed suddenly across him 
that Hester had been intended for him ; he 
knew it, and felt sure of it. Their spirits were 
of one kind ; their hearts beat with the same 
pulse. If she had only waited a little longer 
before surrendering the treasure of her love ! 
But she had cast away her pearls, and had no 
longer any to bestow upon him to whom they 
would have been wealth beyond price. 

Carl suffered more intense pain this morning 
than he had done the night before while 
listening to Mr. Waldron. There had been 
the consolation of doubt then, but there was 
none now. Hester met Robert clandestinely, 
and it must be because she loved him. 



128 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

" I ought not to have been alarmed, even 
then," said Miss Waldron ; " I ought to have 
stayed myself upon a promise." 

" Certainly," replied Carl, not hearing what 
she said. 

" But I am only a feeble woman," she con- 
tinued ; " we are not like you others, with your 
strong minds. I am afraid you will despise me 
for the future." 

She had never before pleaded her feminine 
feebleness, but now she looked up to him with 
an appealing and helpless gaze. From Hester's 
eyes such a glance would have penetrated the 
profoundest depths of his heart ; but from Miss 
Waldron it had no such effect. 

"Despise you!" he said. "Oh, no! why 
should I ? No doubt you had cause for 
alarm." 

" And you will esteem me, and — and care 
for me as much as ever?" she asked, with a 
recurring sob. 

"To be sure," he replied; "why do you 
trouble yourself afresh, Miss Waldron ? There 
is no more cause for fear. As soon as you feel 
yourself equal to the exertion, I will see you 
safe home." 



Something more than a Friend. 129 

" Carl," she said, in a bashful and hesitating 
tone, "if you really feel that we are friends, 
and especially now we have a secret between 
us, and I have only you to look to for advice 
and protection, I wish you would leave off 
calling me Miss Waldron. You may call me 
by my name, Sophia." 

" But nobody calls you Sophia," exclaimed 
Carl, with alarmed earnestness. 

"But I will allow you to do so," she answered, 
condescendingly ; " it is less distant, and more 
friendly. To the rest of the world I remain 
Miss Waldron ; to you I am Sophia." 

Carl murmured his thanks indistinctly. It 
needed a great effort to save him from a lack of 
courtesy. But she was a good woman, a mem- 
ber of his church, a lady, and the daughter of 
his patron. All these titles gave her so many 
claims to his respect ; and even if it were true, 
as Annie had intimated, that she distinguished 
him with her preference, that was no reason 
whatever why he should treat her with impo- 
liteness or ill-temper. There was a mingled 
sense of shame and sorrow for her which lent 
to his manner a sufficient gentleness to blind 
Miss Waldron's eyes, already dazzled with self- 

VOL. II. K 



130 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

importance. She intimated that she was now 
ready to undertake the walk home; and leaning 
confidingly, but not too heavily, upon his arm, 
they traversed together the watchful streets of 
Little Aston and the glades of the park, while 
unutterable sentiments filled the heart of Sophia 
Waldron. 



CHAPTER XIII. 
TEN YEARS AFTER. 

• 

It was a noticeable sight, and one fraught with 
tacit inferences, which had greeted Hester's 
eyes as she turned the corner of the street 
and saw Carl and Miss Waldron about to enter 
the chapel vestry upon a day and hour when 
there was neither a public service nor a more 
private meeting of any kind. She had not 
chosen to recognise them ; for the question 
asked by Annie, whether she had not observed 
something peculiar in Miss Waldron's manner 
towards Carl, had been rankling in her mind 
ever since; and the pain it created there set 
her on her guard, both against herself and 
them. She was in a transition state of moods 
and emotions, of which she could not breathe 
a word to any one. From the first moment 
her eyes had looked upon Carl's face, with its 
fine, clear, happy, and good aspect, so differing 
in its charm from the handsomer features of 
Robert Waldron, she had felt that there were 
other classes of men in the world than those 



132 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

she had met in her narrow sphere. Hitherto 
she had found no man stronger in nature than 
herself; for in her heart of hearts Hester knew 
herself less weak in the presence of trial and 
temptation than any of the people about her, 
with the exception, perhaps, of Grant. She 
was, though Mr. Waldron and Robert did not 
suspect it, little pliable to outer influences, and 
not easily moulded into a form foreign to her- 
self. But Carl was stronger than she. She 
looked up to him from beneath the long fringe 
of her brown eye-lashes, mentally acknowledg- 
ing him her superior. Sunday after Sunday 
she listened to him critically, and never caught 
a false tone or an affected one. She found 
her mind pondering over his thoughts, and con- 
fessing her belief in them. She began to feel 
as if she was his sole listener ; the congrega- 
tion might be there, but they could not com- 
prehend him as she did. 

A very sweet and subtle impression had 
taken hold of her, that Carl had been more 
eloquent for her than for any one else in his 
church. Now and then, when he had allowed 
his genius a higher flight than ordinary, and 
had soared far above the heads of his simple 



Ten Years After. 133 

flock, his kindled eye had sought hers, and held 
it in a fascinated gaze, while he elaborated and 
concluded his thought ; and there had seemed 
a secret understanding between them, more 
perfect than that of words. But now Hester 
discovered that there was a second listener, 
with whom, perhaps, Carl had a still more 
intimate and delicate unison ; who might have 
the privilege of suggesting the themes of his 
eloquence, and who certainly could converse 
with him familiarly about his sermons. When 
Annie had plainly hinted at Miss Waldron's 
preference for her brother, Hester, yielding to a 
very natural and feminine feeling of jealousy, 
had observed that she was a very pious wo- 
man. It was all she could say. To her Miss 
Waldron had ceased to be imposing or clever, 
and she had never appeared engaging. Hester 
scarcely cared to put herself into comparison 
with her on the score of beauty ; and she felt 
that she was her superior mentally. But in 
goodness ? In the one thing needful to a good 
man like Carl, how far she fell behind the 
acknowledged saint of the Church at Little 
Aston ! 

Hester humiliated herself all that afternoon ; 



134 Hester Morley's Promise. 

and, in consequence, was not so pleasant a 
companion to Lawson as usual. She set vigo- 
rously to work to root out the tares from her 
heart, one of them being her young love for 
Carl. She made a number of vows, every one 
difficult of performance. Her busy hands did 
not pause because of the inward storm ; but 
Lawson saw more, than one tear stealing down 
her cheeks as she smoothed the gold leaf with 
her delicate fingers. He was himself excited, 
and could scarcely refrain from telling Hester 
of the occurrence of the morning. But her 
cloudy brow, and her mouth set into a firm line 
of decision and of secret conflict, silenced him. 
During the last few months she had grown out 
of the pensive and almost timid child into a 
mistress, who was gentle and gracious in her 
manner it was true, but who knew her own 
dignity and upheld it. When she spoke to him 
this afternoon, her voice was set in a clear 
but mournful key; and her words were few. 
Lawson did not dare to tell her how he had 
encountered Miss Waldron in his mothers 
room, and had forbidden her ever to intrude 
there again. He would leave it for Madame to 
relate in her own way. 



Ten Years After. 135 

At six o'clock Hester descended from the 
work-room and made tea for her father, still 
busy with herself. She could not decide 
whether she would go to the week-night 
service at chaf>el, or stay at home to pursue 
her melancholy task of rooting up the tares. 
She debated the point until it was almost too 
late, and then she dressed herself in a panic, 
and sped in frantic haste up the dark street. 
The fine morning had merged into an evening 
of thick, cold rain, which was falling heavily, 
and splashed upon the pavement as she hurried 
along. Scarcely a creature was to be seen. 
Here and there a resolute worshipper, like 
herself, was trudging along under a wet um- 
brella, but she knew that the congregation 
would be a small one. And then it all at once 
occurred to her, with a chill colder than the 
rain, that very probably Carl himself would be 
absent, as he was not very well. She stopped 
at the door to regain her breath, and to listen 
if she could hear his voice within. Two or 
three persons passed her ; one of them a poor 
woman shabbily dressed in a widow's garb, who 
paused to look inquisitively at her from under 
her rusty crape veil. Then Hester went in, 



136 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

caught for a moment the full, grave, searching 
gaze of Carl from his low reading-desk, and 
going on to her accustomed seat, she sank upon 
her knees, with a strange, almost intolerable, 
sense of pain. 

For once Hester did not hear a word of 
Carl's sermon, though she caught the sadness 
and unwonted languor of his voice. As she 
left the chapel she saw the carriage from Aston 
Court still waiting at the door, though Mr. 
and Miss Waldron were already seated in it. 
She crossed over the street, and hid in the 
archway of the court opposite, simply to wound 
herself with the sight of Carl driving away with 
her rival. While she stood in the rain and the 
darkness, he would be whirled off in comfort 
and luxury. Hester felt for the first time how 
poor she was. Miss Waldron was rich as well 
as good, and Carl had made a wise choice. 
The worldly sneer had scarcely risen to her 
lips when she shrank from it instinctively, and 
drove the suspicion back to the unworthy 
regions from whence it had come to assail her. 
She watched the little congregation dropping 
away by twos and threes; and she suddenly 
recalled to mind a childish play of the lost 



Ten Years After. 137 

Rose, who had often amused her by watching 
the creeping sparks die out of a smouldering 
piece of paper. Why did the memory of Rose 
return to her now ? Carl was just coming out 
of chapel, the last of all, and ran through the 
rain to the carriage, into which he sprang 
with the freedom and familiarity of one quite 
at home with those inside. She saw it roll 
away down the street, and then she prepared 
to follow, slowly and sorrowfully, through the 
beating of the storm. 

But had Carl been the last to leave the 
chapel, where a few lamps were still burning, 
though they were being put out one by one ? 
Hester cast a last look towards it, and saw 
the poor widow in her shabby mourning, sitting 
desolately upon one of the steps of the portico. 
She was in a mood for lingering. She was 
in a mood, too, for pity and compassion to- 
wards any form of suffering. There was also 
a fine, and very insidious sense of pleasure in 
the idea of engaging in some good work, while 
Miss Waldron was wrapped in luxury and 
enjoyment. She would be, for the moment, 
beating her on her own ground. Hester re- 
crossed the street. The stranger was crouch- 



138 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

ing upon the lowest step, with the rain driving 
full upon her. She seemed to have reached 
this place, and then fallen, for she was lying 
along the stone in an attitude of complete 
helplessness. Hester stooped, and laid her 
hand gently on her shoulder. 

u Are you ill ?" she asked, in soothing tones. 
" You must not lie here in the rain. If you 
tell me where your home is, I will take you 
there under my umbrella." 

To walk through the wet streets with a 
friendless and poverty-stricken stranger on her 
arm would be a vast triumph over Miss Wal- 
dron in her carriage, with Carl by her side. 

The woman shuddered, and shrank from the 
light touch of Hester's hand, crouching lower 
and lower upon the ground. She had looked 
up from under the veil at Hester's face, upon 
which the lamp still lit in the entrance of the 
chapel was shining. Then she gave utterance 
to a sob, a suppressed cry, a moan wrung 
from the extreme anguish of a suffering spirit 
She stretched out her hand towards Hester, 
but did not touch her, in a mute gesture which 
awoke within her a vague alarm. 

'• Speak to me," cried Hester : " are you ill ? 
What can I do for you ? " 



Ten Years After. 139 

As she spoke the last light was extinguished 
in the chapel, and the outer doors were closed 
and fastened by some person within. The 
noise seemed to arouse the stranger. She 
rose to her feet, but staggered, and fell back 
against one of the large, square pillars of the 
portico. 

The continued silence and the agitation of 
this woman gave a shape to Hesters vague 
suspicions. A quick terror and chill ran 
through her frame. The darkness which now 
gathered about them was a welcome veil ; a 
screen behind which might be acted scenes 
that must shun the day. The rain also, and 
the emptiness of the street, seemed to draw 
closer the curtain which ought to conceal the 
wretched creature at her side. 

" Tell me only who you are," she whispered, 
in a tone of mingled pity and terror. 

" Hester ! " moaned the shadow, which she 
could scarcely distinguish in the dense dark- 
ness of the night ; and there was no need for 
any other word to pass through the faltering 
lips. 

Hester sank down upon the steps, and 
with blank, bewildered eyes, gazed into the 



140 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

blackness which hemmed them in. The poor 
lost Rose had come back at last ! The sinful 
woman whom she had urged Robert Waldron 
to seek out, and whose mysterious disappear- 
ance had been a continual care to her. Her 
father's wife stood beside her! She felt her 
cheeks burn and her veins tingle. Now she 
had a vision of her sin which she had never 
had before. For a few minutes her woman's 
heart, — a heart which had known womanhood 
but for a little time, — cried out in strong con- 
demnation of the sinner, as well as the sin. 
She felt that she could not forgive her all at 
once; nor speak to her any words except 
those of a righteous anger and abhorrence. 
She knew now that she ought not to have 
married her father at all, unless she had felt 
for him such a love as would have lifted her 
up for ever out of reach of the temptation by 
which she had fallen. 

Yet, thought Hester, after the first par- 
oxysm was over, had not God brought them 
together thus, on the very threshold of His 
own house of prayer, to teach her that if He 
did not cast her out, neither ought she, who 
might herself be tempted, and who was not 



Ten Years After. 141 

without sin ? She bowed her head upon her 
hands, and a passionate prayer went up from 
her burdened heart for help and wisdom in 
this hour of extreme need. 

" What am I to do with you ? " she asked, 
speaking at last to the silent and, motionless 
figure at her side, — standing there like a voice- 
less ghost from some other world, which could 
utter no word until a question was put to it. 

"Oh Hester!" she cried, "I could live no 
longer without seeing you and my home. 
You cannot think what it is to be away ten 
years, and never hear a word, not a syllable, of 
those who belong to you. Would my husband 
forgive me do you think ? Only so far as to 
let me hear him say so before I die ? I cannot 
live very long. Is he less angry with me ? 
Does he ever speak of me ?" 

" No," said Hester ; " he has not forgiven 
you. He never mentions your name." 

" Oh, my God !" wailed the lost woman ; 
11 but I must get his forgiveness before I die. 
What is to become of me ? I want to hide 
somewhere ; anywhere out of Robert's reach. 
He is trying to find me ; and I vowed to God 
when I left him that I would never, never look 



k 



142 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

upon his face again. Do you know why ? God 
keep you ever from a repentance like mine. 
Shelter me somewhere, little Hetty ; hide me. 
You promised once that you would be always 
like my own daughter to me. Hester, you 
could not turn away from your mother, how- 
ever sinful she had been." 

The doleful words were wailed into Hester's 
ear, as she still gazed into the darkness. Rose 
had crept towards her, and stolen her arms 
round her waist She did not push away the 
clinging arms, but she could not answer. 

" I am very young still," murmured Rose ; 
" no older than Miss Waldron, who was at 
chapel just now. I thought your father would 
be there, and I should see how changed he was. 
I am going to die, Hester. Yesterday the doctor 
in London said there was no hope for me ; so 
I resolved to come back home, to you and my 
husband. He is a just man, and a merciful man. 
He cannot help but forgive me before I die I 
believe that Jesus has pardoned all my sins." 

In the voice of Rose, which was one to be 
remembered for a lifetime, there was a tone of 
hope as she spoke the last sentence, and she 
pressed her arms more closely about Hester. 



Ten Years After. 143 

" Yes," she said ; " I was very wretched, and 
I thought, when I did not see your father to- 
night, had I not better go back to London, and 
end my life quickly as women like me do. But 
then the preacher spoke, and a strange, strange 
peace entered into me. He looked towards me, 
where I sat behind you, Hetty, and he said, 
'Our souls have no sins which the charity of 
Christ cannot cover.' Then I resolved to trust 
myself to the charity of Christ, and to yours, 
little Hetty." 

Her voice was lost in sobs, long-drawn and 
painful, and her head sank upon Hester's lap. 
Hester's hand fell softly, with its cold touch, 
upon the fevered forehead. 

" If Christ will receive you," she said, with a 
thrill of awe as she looked up into the dark sky, 
as though she half expected to see a light from 
heaven breaking through the black clouds, 
" who am I that I should cast you off ? I will 
give you shelter for this night at least." 

Yet she did not move, nor help Rose to rise, 
but let her still lie there sobbing, with her face, 
which no eye could have seen, buried in her 
lap, as if she would fain hide it even from the 
night. H ester was thinking of Robert Waldron, 



144 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

in his luxurious home, repenting with a com- 
fortable penitence, which left him free for many- 
pleasures, and which was scarcely more than a 
welcome gloom, where he could withdraw when 
the brightness of his life wearied him. But 
this misery, this poverty-stricken, ill clad, friend- 
less, dying misery, was the true result of the sin 
of which both had been alike guilty. She 
shuddered, and Rose felt it ; for she loosed her 
clinging arms, and would have fallen lower at 
her feet, had not Hester's hand pressed her 
head down gently upon its resting-place, as a 
mother's hand caresses the bowed head of a 
sorrowful child. She had forgotten the cold 
and the rain, or felt them only as fitting better 
this dreary hour than light and cloudless skies 
would have done. But now her hand fell upon 
the wet clothes of the woman whom she had 
promised to shelter, a woman upon whom the 
doom of death had been passed. She lifted 
Rose up tenderly, and drew her trembling arm 
through her own. No eye saw them. Not 
one of their town's-people met them in the 
deserted street. In the darkness and dreari- 
ness of a winter's night Rose Morley returned 
to her husband's house. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

HER HUSBANDS HEARTH. 

There was on the left hand of the house-door 
an empty room which was rarely entered, and 
Hester left Rose there until her father and the 
young girl whom she kept as her only servant 
should be gone to bed. It was already near 
the hour when John Morley retired to his own 
chamber, where he sometimes read or wrote 
until later on in the night. Hester took off 
her wet cloak, and went into the room where 
he was sitting alone. There was a newly- 
quickened love mingled with a dread of him, 
stirring in her heart. The gray, despairing 
face, and the silvery hair of her father touched 
her to the quick this evening. She stood 
behind him for a minute or two, and then laid 
her hand, which had so lately rested upon 
Rose's forehead, upon the snow-white head. 
It was the very attitude and caress of Rose 
herself on that day, now many years ago, which 
had never died out of John Morley's memory ; 
and he laid his head down upon the desk 

VOL. II. U 



146 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

before him, with a sigh of profound regret 
and despair. 

" Father," cried Hester, earnestly, and kneel- 
ing down beside . him, " is there nothing that 
can make you happy ? . Is there nothing that 
could happen to bring you comfort ? " 

John Morley shook his head in silence. 

" But this is horrible," she said. " Surely, 
surely God never meant you to pass your life 
in a grief like this. Surely He has kept some 
consolation in His hands for you." 

" All things are possible with Him/' he 
answered ; " but yet holier men than I have 
passed through long lives under blacker clouds 
than mine. There was Cowper. God has not 
smitten me with an Egyptian gloom like his. 
For me there is a hope in the world to come, 
where the weary are at rest." 

" But is there no hope for you sooner ?" 
asked Hester. " Is there nothing which would 
make you glad ?" 

" Nothing !" he replied. " I have a habit of 
sorrow now, Hester, and I cannot shake it off. 
It is a poisoned garment, if you will, but to 
tear it off would tear my living flesh. No, no ! 
There is no more gladness for me in life." 



Her Husband's Hearth. 147 

Could she tell to him her heavy secret ? An 
unutterable terror seized upon her at the very- 
thought. She remembered the moment when 
her father, with the glare of madness and 
suicide in his eyes, had awakened her from the 
profound sleep \)f childhood, telling her it was 
better to die than to live. She recollected the 
stealthy, murderous blow which had nearly 
killed Robert Waldron. Her heart failed her. 
Overhead was that closed room, which had 
been a constant testimony against Rose ; and ' 
now Hester involuntarily held her breath and 
listened, as if she heard some sound there. 
John Morley listened also ; but there was 
nothing to be heard, as there never had been 
since Rose had fled. He sighed weariedly, 
and turned over the leaves of the book without 
reading them. The striking of the house-clock 
seemed welcome to him ; and he bade Hester 
good-night, and left her. alone in the gloomy 
room. 

Hester waited until she heard him lock his 
chamber door, and then she fetched Rose to 
the warmth of the fire still burning in the grate. 
In the dark room Rose had not realized that 
she was indeed once more in her husband's 



148 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

house. But this was his hearth. Here was 
his chair standing where it had been used to 
stand in her days of innocence, gone for ever. 
There was his open book, with the leaves still 
fluttering as if they felt the movement of his 
fingers. This was the light he kad been read- 
ing by, and the air he had breathed. It was 
her husband's hearth, and she had been a curse 
to it. She was come back to it in secret, and 
with trembling. She felt now how impossible 
it would be to face him, to look into his eyes, 
and to hear his voice. She glanced about her 
for some refuge to hide herself in — herself, a 
scared, abject, frightened wretch, who ought to 
steal away into some hole to die alone and 
unseen. Her wild despairing gaze round her 
husband's room met the sweet, grave, compas- 
sionate eyes of Hester. 

" Sit here, poor mother," she said, drawing 
nearer the fire her own mother's chair, which 
in the lost days Rose had always given up for 
her little step-daughter. She sank down upon 
it, her lips moving without a sound, and her 
white face turned towards Hester. Hester had 
not seen it before. It was the same face as 
that of the gay young girl she had once been ; 



Her Husband's Hearth. 149 

but that face disfigured and marred and aged 
by shame. The soft lines were hardened, and 
the brightness had grown dim, and the fresh- 
ness had become sullied and tarnished. Hester 
could not bear to look at it ; and as she moved 
to and fro, ministering to her sore necessities, 
she did so with averted and downcast eyes. 

The hours of the night wore away very 
slowly. Sometimes Rose fell into a feverish 
slumber, broken with sobs and starts. She 
would not go to bed, and Hester did not urge 
it What she was to do with her, Hester did 
not know ; and while she watched her uneasy 
rest, she tried to shape out some plan for her 
future life. To seek any home for her in Little 
Aston would be madness, as every one would 
know her and the story of her shame. To 
send her away, whom she had so earnestly and 
so long sought to find, seemed impossible, ten 
times impossible, if, as she said, there was no 
hope of her life. It would be practicable 
enough to keep her in her father's house, 
for John Morley's automatic habits could be 
counted upon to a moment. There were rooms 
in his house which he had never entered within 
her memory, and which he would never think 




150 Hester Morleys Promise. 

of visiting. The cost of her maintenance there 
would be less than anywhere else, and money 
was very scarce with them. But she recoiled 
from the idea of suffering her to dwell by 
stealth and unforgiven in her husband's house, 
to sleep under the same roof. Hester recalled 
her father's* melancholy cry, "She will never 
sleep under my roof again." Moreover, now 
she guessed somewhat more clearly the heinous- 
ness of Rose s guilt. She could not keep her 
unknown to her father, in the shelter of his 
dishonoured home. 

From time to time Rose woke up and mur- 
mured little scraps of her sad history. She 
had taken no special care to conceal the traces 
of her flight, yet it had happened so that she 
had left Falaise and wandered into a remote 
country district, where she had lived cheaply, 
as one can do in France, for some years upon 
the money which was in her possession. When 
it was gone she had entered into a situation as 
lady's-maid, and so returned with the family to 
England, three years ago. She had always 
passed as a widow. Her last situation she had 
given up only two months before ; and since 
then she had been living in poor and solitary 



Her Husband's Hearth. 151 

lodgings in London, with no society but the 
memory of the past ; which had grown day by 
day into stronger force, until it had driven her 
back to Little Aston in the forlorn hope of 
casting herself upon her husband's forgiveness. 
Hester shook her head sadly at these last 
words. There was no chance, whatever, that 
John Morley would forgive her. 

" You do not yet know what you have done," 
she said, with unconscious severity. " If you 
could see him you would know better what he 
has to forgive. He may forgive you before 
you die. But I dare not tell him that you are 
here ; I dare not mention your name to him." 

" But it is so many years ago!" cried Rose, 
clasping her thin hands together. 

" Many years ago !" echoed Hester ; " no ; 
it has been every day of those ten years. The 
grief has been new every morning. Ah ! I 
understand it better now. Every day he has 
felt himself deserted and betrayed. Oh, my 
father ! my poor father ! " 

She covered her face with her hands as if 
she could no longer endure the sight of her 
who had wfought her fathers misery. But a 
slight sound caused her to look up. Rose was 



152 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

wrapping round her the shabby cloak, still 
damp and soiled from the rain of the evening. 
Her wan face was flushed, and her eyes, burn- 
ing with inward fever, had lost their former 
distress. 

" I am going away," she said, " and I will not 
come back till I crawl here dying. I must see 
him again, and hear him say he forgives me ; 
and if he sees me dying at his feet, he will 
say it. But I will go away for a little while, 
Hetty." 

" But where will you go ?" asked Hester. 

" Oh, I don't know," she cried, wringing her 
hands ; " why does God let women as wretched 
and lonely as me live ? I could never put an 
end to myself, for I'm afraid to die. And now 
I shall go away, and it will come creeping on 
and on, and I shall know it is there, and there 
will not be a voice to speak gently to me. Oh, 
little Hetty, cannot you help me ?" 

" Yes," answered Hester, taking her bonnet 
and cloak from her feeble hands ; " I will help 
you. If my father ever heard you had been 
ill in misery and solitude, it would only add to 
his pain. You must stay somewhere near to 
me, poor mother, so that I can nurse you and 



Her Husband's Hearth. 153 

comfort you. Think of God rather than of my 
father. You have separated yourself from him, 
but you have not separated yourself for ever 
from God. You belong to Him still." 

In tones as soft and soothing as those a 
mother uses to a suffering child, Hester spoke 
these words to Rose. She placed the poor 
forlorn creature in her mother's chair again, 
and smoothed gently the locks of light hair, 
now thin and gray, which had fallen in dis- 
order over her face. Rose slumbered again 
fitfully, crying out in her dreams for her hus- 
band's forgiveness. Once or twice Hester 
started with terror, thinking she heard his step 
upon the stairs; but the dreary night wore 
away without surprise. As soon as the late 
dawn began to glimmer upon the uncurtained 
window, she awoke Rose and took her lip-stairs 
to her own room, where she would be safe from 
all eyes. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE OLD NURSERY. 

It was as Hester drew up the window-blind in 
her own room, and her eye fell upon the melan- 
choly-looking outbuilding opposite it,. that a 
practicable plan for the shelter of Rose presented 
itself to her. The old nursery, which at some 
remote date in the past had perhaps been the 
scene of childish sports and laughter, would be 
a refuge well fitted for her safety and conceal- 
ment. Still she resolved within herself to ask 
her father's consent, though her habitual in- 
dependence of action might very well have 
acquitted her conscience from the necessity of 
seeking it. She wished to feel that she had his 
sanction. She thought that at some future 
season it would prove a consolation to him to 
know that he had himself given a refuge and 
shelter to Rose. 

At breakfast, with lowered eyelids and a 
voice which betrayed her intense anxiety, she 
made her request to John Morley. 

" I met a poor woman last night at chapel," 



The Old Nursery. 155 

she said, "a stranger in the town, without 
friends. She has been a lady's maid for some 
years, but she is now in great destitution. She 
thinks of getting her living by needlework, but 
she can scarcely do more than earn bread by 
that. I wish we could help her, father." 

" It is very little that we can do/' he said, 
mournfully. 

" Yes, we can do a great deal," she answered; 
" what she dreads most is associating with 
drunken and ignorant poor people. I don't 
think poverty is so bad in itself; but it is bad 
when you are compelled to live among low 
people. I don't mind being poor in the least, 
while we are together, father." 

" What can we do for her then, Hester ? " 
asked John Morley. 

" There is the old nursery in the yard," she 
said, with a feeling of desperate resolve ; " it is 
only filled with rubbish now, but there is a good 
grate in it, and the roof is whole. If a few 
panes were put into the window, and I found 
some old furniture for it, it would be quite a 
home for the poor creature. We might even 
ask a small rent for it, if you thought that was 
best." 



156 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

" Hester !" ejaculated her father, in a tone of 
reproach. 

" Then I may do it," she answered, eagerly. 
" Oh, you will never repent it, dear father. 
You do not know what good may come of it. 
She will never come into your way, poor thing ! 
You will never see her, I am sure ; for she is 
afraid of being seen. She has been very 
unhappy in her marriage, and she is afraid of 
ever meeting her husband agaia No; you will 
never see her." 

Hester was speaking to herself rather than to 
him, in a manner which might well have excited 
his suspicions. But John Morley saw nothing 
of her agitation ; he was plunged into more 
personal and more perplexing contemplations. 

" Hester," he said, " I am in sore need of 
money. We must raise near upon ^200 before 
the beginning of next week. I have some 
heavy bills to meet." 

For some years past John Morley's method 
of conducting his business had been by drawing 
bills, which always came due long before he 
had the money to meet them. Hester had 
been very early initiated into these anxieties. 

" How can we do it ?" she asked, with some 



The Old Nursery. 157 

natural disquietude at the mention of a sum so 
large. 

" There is but one way that I can see," he 
answered; "we must mortgage the house. Yet 
it is the only property I could leave to you if I 
died ; and it came to me with your mother. 
Everything has gone wrong with me since I 
lost her. I would not do anything with it 
without your consent, Hester." 

" Don't think of me, father," she said, "and 
don't trouble about me. If that is the only 
thing we can do, let us do it at once. Who 
would lend us the money upon the house ?" 

" I don't know," he replied, with a helpless 
shake of the head. 

"Father," she continued, with a beating 
heart, " I know who would do it, and it might 
be kept a secret, so that all the town may not 
talk about it Will you let me tell the person 
I am thinking of ?" 

" Who is it ?" he asked, in a low voice. 

" Mr. Waldron," answered Hester. 

" Mr. Waldron !" he repeated ; " I could not 
receive any favour from him. It would be like 
taking money for my — Oh, Hester, life is very 
hard!" 



158 Hester Morleys Promise. 

She understood his half-uttered sentence 
perfectly ; and her heart ached for him and the 
broken-spirited, desolate woman hidden away 
from his sight. 

"It would be no favour," she said earnestly ; 
" we should pay the interest of the money, or 
he should have the house. You should not see 
him yourself, but I will in your place. You 
could write to him, you know, and I will take 
your letter, and explain everything to him. He 
would not think he was doing you any favour ; 
I will take care of that Then nobody would 
know except ourselves and him." 

" I cannot make out how the business has 
fallen away so much," sighed John Morley. 

Any one seeing his melancholy and abstracted 
face, and hearing the mournful tones of his 
voice, would very easily have understood why 
customers were few and their visits brief in 
John Morley's shop. No one chooses to do 
his shopping where he meets with a face and 
voice adapted to a house of mourning. Hester 
understood it better than her father, but she 
could not make it plain to him. She knew, too, 
that he tacitly agreed to her plan, and she said 
no more about it. For the rest of the day she 



The Old Nursery. 159 

was busy over the more pressing duty of 
getting Rose's refuge ready before night-fall. 
When it was over she lit a fire in the grate so 
long empty and cold. The nursery looked but 
a poor place after all her care. The walls were 
discoloured and stained, and the rafters of the 
sloping roof were black with age. There was 
a little bed in one corner, with the softest 
mattress and pillows off Hester's own bed- 
stead. Two chairs stood one on each side of 
the narrow fire-place, with a small round table 
between them. It all looked bare, dingy, and 
forlorn. In the solitude of her long lonely 
hours the occupant of this room would have 
time for repentance ; but there seemed no place 
for atonement and reparation. What could she 
do in this poor refuge and hiding-place ? In 
the dusk of the evening Hester led her step- 
mother to the only home she could provide for 
her. Rose stood motionless in the centre of 
the little room, looking about it with searching 
and troubled eyes. 

" It is the best I can do," said Hester 
anxiously ; "we are very poor." 

" Poor !" echoed Rose. 

She said no more, and her face grew paler 



160 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

and more troubled ; but afterwards there rested 
upon her worn features an expression of so- 
lemnity amounting almost to dignity, such as 
had never been seen upon them in her bright 
girlish days. 

" God bless you, Hetty," she cried ; " you 
are better than a daughter to me. This is the 
place where I am to die, seeing you to the last ; 
and your father. He cannot be relentless, 
when you are so good. Oh, my darling, my 
darling ! you are like an angel from heaven to 
me." 

She flung herself on her knees, and threw 
her arms around Hester, with tears of profound 
anguish, and sobs such as might be wrung from 
tortured lips. 

When Hester quitted the old nursery, Rose 
waited for some minutes without stirring, in the 
attitude of one who listens eagerly. Then very 
cautiously she stole to the door, and opened it 
a little way to look out into the yard. The 
house opposite seemed to tower above her very 
high and very black in the darkness, with one 
window lighted up in the highest story of the 
gable to the right, and another on the ground 
floor of the gable to the left. She knew their 



The Old Nursery. 161 

meaning well. Lawson was still at work in his 
attic, and her husband was sitting in his old 
place with his books about him. She could 
remember him so well ; the thick brown hair 
just catching a tinge of silver, and the studious 
handsome face which had been wont to brighten 
with a smile as sudden as a flash of lightning 
when he met her eye — a rare smile, reserved 
exclusively for her. She wondered to herself 
whether he had ever smiled so upon his 
daughter. Since she had seen Hester, she had 
felt a little more comforted about her husband, 
and a little less remorseful. He had not been 
so deserted or so lonely as she had pictured to 
herself. He had watched his child growing up 
at his side. There came a pang, an unreason- 
able pang, amounting almost to jealousy, at the 
thought that he had grown forgetful of her and 
her sin in the companionship of Hester. In 
the brief space of her married life she had 
fostered a profound jealousy of Hesters mother. 
And now, as she looked down into the yard 
towards the lighted window behind which he 
was sitting, an unconquerable longing seized 
her to steal down the crazy staircase, and in 
amongst the blackened stems of the lilacs and 

VOL, II. M. 



1 62 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

the dwarfed laburnums, to look once more 
upon her husband, whose love she had bartered 
for the boyish passion of Robert Waldron. 

She listened again, but there was no move- 
ment, no sign of life in the yard below. On 
the other side of the house lay the street and 
the town and the busy world of which she had 
taken her last farewell. For to venture out 
into these streets and to show her familiar face 
among the townspeople would be to banish 
herself for ever from the home where she had 
come to die. Was she positively come to die 
here ? Was she never more to sleep on any 
other bed but this until she fell into the last 
awful unbroken sleep ? Were these walls and 
this narrow court the only spot of the wide 
world on which her eyes were ever to look 
again ? She stretched out her arms, and raised 
her bent figure to its fullest height She felt 
no pain, nothing but the feebleness, often worse 
than pain, which is the result of long mental 
suffering. The London physician had perhaps 
been deceived by her symptoms, which, possibly, 
she had exaggerated to him. She might live 
many years yet. But to live — what was that ? 
To die was dreadful ; but she could not choose 



The Old Nursery. 163 

to live. She tried to send back her thoughts 
to the time when she fancied she had loved 
another better than her husband ; but it was 
in vain. The thought of John Morley was 
there quick and poignant in her inmost soul ; 
but Robert Waldron was forgotten. She must 
see her husband. 

Still she lingered and listened, watching the 
gleam, through the uncurtained window, and the 
black naked boughs of the trees standing out 
clearly against its feeble light She turned 
back and looked at her own faded face in a 
small glass which hung against the wall, over a 
little toilet-table. If her husband could only 
see it, and read in it the story of her bitter re- 
pentance, would he not forgive her ? But how 
much would his forgiveness mean ? Was it 
possible that he could be reconciled to her ? 
That he could receive her again ? Call her his 
wife, and restore her to her forfeited place ? 
No, no ; that could never be. He might look 
upon her again, and pardon her if she were in 
the hour of death. But if life were strong 
within her, and many years lay before her, 
would he not spurn her from him, and refuse 
to lay his finger to her burden of shame ? 



164 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

At length she hurried down the steps and 
into the dreary little garden. She crept 
stealthily towards the window, lest she should 
enter into the revealing light, and her husband 
should lift up his eyes and see her standing 
without in the chill of the wintry night. Her 
face, wan, faded, and withered, approached 
cautiously the uncurtained panes. The room — 
she had seen that last night, with its ten years 
of added dinginess and decay ; but who was 
this aged man, with a head bowed and white 
with years, who was bending over her husband's 
desk, and turning, from time to time, anxiously 
to the great account-books she had hated years 
ago ? Her husband could not yet be fifty years 
old, a man in the full vigour and strength of 
life. The lamp beside him was covered with a 
shade which cast a gloom over the rest of the 
room, while it threw a full light upon him. 
The thin, shrivelled hands, the rounded 
shoulders, the grey and hollow features, the 
white hair — Rose saw them as in a dream. 
He got up at last, pushing away his books, and 
took his stand upon the hearth, with his back 
to the fire, and his full face turned towards her. 
She drew back with a creeping thrill of terror. 



The Old Nursery. 165 

" Hester," she heard him say, " I have finished 
my letter to Mr. Waldron. But if it were not 
for your sake, I would sooner let things take 
their course than ask him to lend me money. 
Ay, I would sooner die !" 

Rose waited to hear no more. She cast one 
terrified glance at her husband, and then she 
fled back in a panic of fear to her hiding-place. 

" Oh, what have I done ?" she cried, in a 
frightened whisper, speaking as if some one was 
near enough to hear her. " He was a good man, 
and a prosperous man ! I did not know what 
I should do. God forgive me ! He never will ; 
but God, in His great mercy, forgive me!" 

She counted no more upon her husband's 
forgiveness. What there was in his face she 
did not know, but it had cast out all hope from 
her heart. For the first time, looking into the 
deep gulf of her husband's wrongs, she knew 
that it must be for ever fixed between her and 
him. Perhaps in the last hour he might lay his 
hand in hers, and let her feel its warm forgiving 
clasp, as she went down into the dark valley of 
separation; but only in that supreme moment 
of death. Life, if she lived, must be a per- 
petual banishment from his presence. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

A LESSON FOR HESTER. 

The next morning, Hester, with her father's 
letter in her hand, wended her way slowly 
across the park to Aston Court. She felt a 
natural reluctance to the merest chance of 
meeting Robert Waldron, towards whom her 
feelings had undergone a great revulsion. 
Until now he had claimed from her an 
undefined and rather pleasant pity, mingled 
with admiration. If Carl had not come into 
her narrow world, her sentiment for Robert 
would have bordered upon a girl's first love for 
a seeming hero ; and her heart, free and tender, 
might have centred in him its interests, and 
possibly its affections. But with Rose at home, 
with this dark sad shadow at her side, she 
recoiled from the idea of seeing him again for 
the first time. To her infinite relief she just 
caught a glimpse of him leaving the park on 
horseback by another route. Mr. Waldron 
then would be alone, and she could ask him 
not to let his son know of the transaction. She 



A Lesson for Hester. 167 

quickened her steps, and took the nearest way 
to the room where he was generally to be found 
in the morning. It led past the window of the, 
breakfast-room, where Hester saw a vision of 
Miss Waldron sitting near the fire, and Carl 
in close conversation with her. She nodded 
to Carl, whose face was turned towards the 
window, and hurried on. Mr. Waldron was at 
that moment walking along the farthest end of 
the terrace, and Hester started to run after 
him. The colour which this exercise brought 
to her pale cheeks gave her the beauty she 
lacked; and as Mr. Waldron turned sharply 
round, he acknowledged to himself that 
Robert's love had sufficient excuse. To Hes- 
ter's extreme astonishment, he drew her into 
his arms, and imprinted a solemn kiss upon her 
glowing face. She had not the faintest idea 
that he was saluting her for the first time as 
the daughter of whom he had fondly dreamed 
these last two years. 

" My dear," he said, drawing her hand upon 
his arm, and covering it with his own, " I was 
just thinking of you. You are often in my 
thoughts, Hester, — how often you would be 
surprised to know." 



1 68 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

No opening could be more propitious. In a 
few incoherent sentences Hester stammered out 
the purpose of her visit, as she walked down 
the terrace, leaning upon his arm. He opened 
the folding doors of his room, and led her into 
it, seating her in a chair close to his own, 
and regarding with delight her downcast face, 
and her long eyelashes now beaded with tears. 
Nothing could have pleased him more ; no 
overture could have come more opportunely. 
At the very moment when he was planning 
some mode of approach to John Morley, he 
had himself sent Hester to ask his help. 

" Hester," he said, " your father has given 
me the greatest pleasure I have known for a 
long while. I am right glad he did not go to 
anybody else. What ! are we not brothers ? 
Have we not been members of the same church 
these thirty years? He has acted like a 
Christian in coming to me. I will return at 
once with you to your home. This is the right 
thing. I find great pleasure in this." 

He rubbed his hands heartily, looking down 
upon Hester with a smile of appropriation. 
Already he was thinking of what house would 
be near enough to Aston Court, where he could 



A Lesson for Hester. 169 

bask a little in the freedom and gentleness of 
her presence whenever he grew slightly weary, 
as he did sometimes, of his daughter's piety. 

" I was very much afraid of coming," said 
Hester, with a sigh of relief, and raising her 
eyes to his with a smile that enchanted him. 
His daughter-in-law promised fair to become 
his idol. 

" Afraid of me ! " he repeated, his austere 
face beaming with pleasure ; " whatever could 
make the poor child afraid of me ? Am I so 
very terrible to you, Hester ?" 

"Oh, no!" she said; "but you are the 
greatest man I ever have to speak to ; and I 
don't know anybody else who would have been 
bold enough to come to you as I have." 

"Bold!" cried Mr. Waldron ; "she calls 
herself bold! And asks simply for two hun- 
dred pounds ! I wish it was two thousand, 
and you should have it at once. Come, let us 
go to your father, and set this business to rights. 
But as for a mortgage on his house, that is all 
nonsense." 

"We must not go to him," said Hester, 
earnestly ; " and he will never consent to take 
any money from you except upon a mortgage, 



170 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

for which he will pay interest I know my 
father, and he will not listen to any other pro- 
posal. He would put his affairs into some 
lawyers hands immediately." 

" But what then does he want me to do ?" 
asked Mr. Waldron, disappointed. 

" He has written to you," she answered, "and 
given a fair statement of his debts. What 
I want is to ask you to advance any sum of 
money you think will bring us through our 
difficulties ; though I am sure I don't see how 
they can end." 

She spoke very dejectedly, and Mr. Waldron 
longed to tell her what a brilliant lot lay at her 
feet for her acceptance. But he dared not do it 
yet He opened John Morleys letter, and read 
it carefully, seeing from it far more clearly than 
the writer how complicated his embarrassments 
were. He determined to avail himself of this new 
confidence established between him and Hester, 
in order to advance the happiness of his son. 

" I must deliberate over this," he said, " and 
I shall want you to come up again several times, 
I dare say. You may take the money home 
with you at once ; but still there will be papers 
to draw up, and I should like to know more 



A Lesson for Hester. , 171 

about your affairs, as far as your father chooses 
to confide them to me. You will not dislike 
coming several times ?" 

" Oh, I shall like it," she said, frankly ; " I 
would spare my father any trouble that I could 
bear for him." 

There was a fond and truthful devotion in 
Hester's manner which penetrated to Mr. Wal- 
dron's heart; and a treacherous doubt crossed 
it as to whether his daughter was really as 
devoted to him. 

" And you are very poor, Hester ?" he said. 

" Very poor," she answered, gravely. 

" You would like to be rich ?" he asked. 

" Dearly," she answered ; " I should like to 
be as rich as you are, Mr. Waldron. I like a 
house as large and grand as this, and 1 think I 
could spend my money like any lady in the 
land." 

" Like any other lady," he corrected. 

" No," she said, " I am no lady. I belong 
quite to the working-classes." 

If she belonged to the working-classes, Mr. 
Waldron wished that all the other ladies of his 
acquaintance, including his daughter, did the 
same. When the interview came to an end, he 



172 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

insisted upon taking her to see Miss Waldron, 
and himself conducted her to the breakfast- 
room, where she still was, though she was alone, 
Carl having taken his departure. Hester was 
not sorry to see Miss Waldron, as a new in- 
terest centred in her, now that she had to 
regard her as Carl's possible future wife. She 
was received with a distant condescension in- 
tended to keep her in her place, which Miss 
Waldron was afraid of her forgetting, since she 
had been invited to dinner at Aston Court. 
More than this, there was rankling in her mind 
a suspicion almost amounting to conviction 
about Robert's meetings with her in Madame 
Lawson's garret, in spite of that old lady's 
denials. Her father also seemed disposed to 
make too much of John Morley's daughter. It 
was one of the greatest disadvantages of their 
denomination that social distinctions were apt 
to be overlooked among the members of a 
church. Both Mr. Waldron and Hester seemed 
to ignore them ; and it was high time to set 
her down a little. At the bottom of all lay a 
terrible doubt of Carl, who did not go on 
exactly as she wished, and who had never once 
set her heart beating by calling her Sophia. 



A Lesson for Hester. 1 73 

" I am very much occupied with a bazaar," 
she said, after a freezing salutation; "and I 
have no doubt you can assist me in the plainer 
work. I will give you some to take home with 
you." 

" I am afraid I shall have no time," she 
answered ; " though, indeed, I thought of 
asking you if you could not find me some 
sewing to do at home. I mean for payment. 
I shall want a little money soon, and I cannot 
ask my father for any." 

Her thoughts were running on the fresh 
burden she had added to the charge of their 
household expenditure. Rose would have all 
her time unoccupied; and Hester knew well 
how pacifying it is to a woman's spirit to have 
woman's work in her fingers. Besides, so far 
as her strength would permit, it would be only 
right for Rose to do something towards earning 
her own living. Hester had grown up in the 
practical school of poverty ; so she asked Miss 
Waldron for work, and the payment for it, quite 
naturally, and with no overweening sentimental 
emotion. 

" I intend to ask Mrs. Grant as well," she 
continued ; " but I am afraid she will not have 



174 Hester Morley's Promise. 

much to give me, as she has all her wedding 
clothes still unworn. But perhaps she will 
know of somebody else. I shall want a con- 
stant supply," she added reflectively, " and it 
will be beautifully done." 

To Miss Waldron an acknowledgment and 
request like these were a confession of immea- 
surable inferiority. She almost wondered to 
see Hester comfortably seated in her presence; 
and she cast a cold supercilious eye upon her 
dress which was plain and worn, but, in some 
manner, in perfect keeping with the sweet face 
of the wearer. She answered in a tone of stiff 
patronage, which marked the vast distance 
between them. 

" I will see what I can do to assist you, 
Hester Morley," she said ; " I have no doubt 
this is sent for your good, to humble you and 
prove you. I trust you are profiting by this 
discipline." 

" I hope I am," she replied, simply. " I 
should be very miserable indeed if I did not 
believe that God sent all my troubles to do me 
good in the end. As to being poor, I dare not 
murmur at that, for Christ was poorer than I 
am. 



A Lesson for Hester. 1 75 

Miss Waldron held her peace for a moment, 
and felt disquieted. If poverty were no infe- 
riority, what advantage had she over Hester ? 

" You are only a child yet," she said, after a 
brief pause ; " you are but a babe in spiritual 
things, and must still be fed with milk." 

" Do you consider poverty milk for babes ?" 
asked Hester, with a smile. 

"I cannot jest upon solemn subjects," an- 
swered Miss Waldron, sternly; "but I will see 
what I can do to assist you, and I will send 
you a parcel by one of the servants to-morrow. 
You must excuse me now, for I am very busily 
engaged." 

Thus dismissed, Hester took her leave. 
Miss Waldron felt happier and more reassured. 
She had not quite known the extent of John 
Morley's poverty ; but now it had assumed a 
magnitude sufficient to form an insurmountable 
barrier between Carl and Hester. Very few 
young pastors, without private means, could 
afford the luxury of a portionless wife. But it 
was quite necessary to make Hester feel her 
position, for there had been a freedom in her 
manner which, more than ever, grated upon 
Miss Waldron's dignity now. She retired to 



176 Hester Morley's Promise. 

her dressing-room, and ordered her maid to 
bring out the summer dresses which she had 
cast off, with sundry other articles no longer 
suitable for her own wear. The selection she 
made was not such as to excite the silent re- 
sentment and envy of her attendant. They 
would convey, she thought, a valuable lesson to 
Hester. To do her justice, she was not in the 
least aware of the full measure of her imper- 
tinence ; for, to her, Hester was still only a 
young girl, and the daughter of one of their 
tradespeople who had solicited her for work. 
But she was quite willing to humble her and 
bring down her pride. Having completed her 
selection, she ordered her maid to make them 
up into a parcel and to convey them to Miss 
Morley the next time the carriage drove into 
Little Aston. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

A MUNIFICENT GIFT. 

Unfortunately for Miss Waldron, it happened 
that when the Aston Court coachman handed 
her parcel out to Hester's little servant, who 
carried it upstairs to her small sitting-room, 
Annie Grant was there, eagerly discussing with 
Hester how she could find some suitable work 
for her. They opened Miss Waldron's packet 
at once, and regarded its contents with as- 
tonished and incredulous eyes. Instead of the 
sewing they expected, they found, first, an old 
brown terry- velvet bonnet, of a fashion which 
had prevailed several years before ; below that 
a soiled and tumbled dress of some thin mate- 
rial, and a white muslin pelerine which had 
been a good deal mended In addition to this 
munificent gift there were several scraps of 
ribbons, some very large old collars, an odd 
. flower or two, and a pair of black silk mittens. 
A note accompanied them, expressing Miss 
Waldron's hope that Hester Morley would find 
these articles of clothing useful to her. 

VOL. II. N 



178 Hester Morleys Promise. 

Annie Grant possessed sufficient penetration, 
and had seen enough of Miss Waldron, not to 
accQrd to her quite as unhesitating an admira- 
tion as the general public of Little Aston. She 
was of a quick, fiery disposition, and not at all 
disposed to submit tamely, either for herself or 
others, to the insolence or assumption of any 
one. When she saw the tears start to Hester's 
eyes, and her lips tremble with words she would 
not speak, her own indignation broke out. • 

" Never ! " she exclaimed. " I never saw or 
heard or dreamed of such a thing in my whole 
life ! What does the woman mean ? How 
dare she do such a thing ? Hester, what is the 
meaning of it ?" 

" I asked her for some sewing," said Hester, 
her lips quivering still, " and she has sent me 
this." 

" Oh !" cried Annie, " I only wish she had 
brought them herself. I wonder how she could 
venture to do such a thing ! But she counted 
upon you never telling anybody else; upon no 
one hearing of it." 

" I never should," said Hester. 
" I am glad I was here," continued Annie ; 
"very glad! I only wish her father and 



A Munificent Gift. 179 

brother knew ! Marry Carl, indeed ! No, not 
if she had ten times her money : the mean, 
insolent, purse-proud, creature ! Hester, you 
shall give them to me. It Would, only aggra- 
vate you to keep them in your own sight. Let 
your girl carry them up to our house at once." 

" Don't you think we had better keep it a 
secret ?" asked Hester. 

" Keep it a secret!" responded Annie; " I 
could not keep it James will know, and Carl. 
I should like him to hear what his grand 
friend has done. I shall take them away with 
me ; they don't belong to you, for I suppose 
you won't keep them as a gift. Just look at 
them, Hester." 

She turned over the things strewed upon the 
table, with gestures and exclamations of indig- 
nant excitement The insult rankled in her 
mind the more for the outward composure of 
Hester's manner. She wished to hear her speak 
with some of her own vehement resentment; but 
she was quiet, wounded to the quick, perhaps, 
but so silent that Annie could not rouse her to 
utter any words of reproach. 

Very shortly Annie went home, followed by 
the servant bearing Miss Waldron's parcel. 



180 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

She was burning for some opportunity of 
making manifest her anger to the author of it, 
and she possessed too little worldly prudence to 
conceal it upon any ground of expediency. 
Carl was not at home, nor her husband. She 
carried the parcel into her own room, and con- 
templated the contents afresh. An excellent 
thought struck her, and she immediately re- 
solved to put it into execution. 

Without a moment's pause for consideration, 
Annie arrayed herself in the cast-off finery 
which Miss Waldron had selected for conveying 
a useful lesson to Hester. She put on the 
shabby and crumpled dress, too short for her, 
and in consequence, much too short for Hester, 
who was taller than either of them. Over that 
she threw the yellow and darned muslin tippet, 
with one of the largest collars, which reached to 
the tip of her shoulders ; and she fastened to it 
the scraps of old ribbon and the odd flowers. 
Upon her head she placed the long poked 
bonnet, which almost concealed her face ; and 
then she drew upon her hands the lace mittens. 
A more singular apparition than her own 
reflection in her glass had never met her eyes, 
and she burst into an uncontrollable fit of 



A Munificent Gift. 181 

laughter at the sight of it. The distance be- 
tween their own house and the park-gates was 
but short, and she was about to make a call 
upon Miss Waldron. If either Mr. Waldron or 
Robert should happen to be present, she would 
say nothing, and leave Miss Waldron to explain 
as she could the remarkable figure she presented; 
but if she should be alone — why then — 

Annie sped along quickly towards Aston 
Court, escaping all observation till she came to 
the park-gates. Once within them she con- 
sidered herself safe, and she could walk more 
quietly. What should she say to Miss Wal- 
dron if she found her alone ? Annie did not 
feel as if she should be at any loss for words ; 
but then what would be the end of it ? Very 
likely Miss Waldron for her own sake would 
keep the secret, but there could never be any 
cordiality or friendliness between them again. 
Not that she shrank from this mode of revenge 
in the least. She could not help laughing out 
aloud as she imagined Miss Waldron's con- 
sternation and chagrin upon recognising her 
valuable gift to Hester coming up to view 
again in so unexpected a manner. Would it 
not be best to say nothing at all, and leave her 



182 Hester Mot ley's Promise. 

dress silently to rebuke and confound the im- 
pertinence of the giver ? It was possible that 
it would be the most effectual and the most 
pardonable mode of reproof. 

Her mind was busily discussing the subject, 
when she saw, not very far off, her husband and 
Robert Waldron coming to meet her. There 
was neither time nor a way for retreat. Grant 
catching sight of a singular person coming 
towards him with a figure and carriage like his 
wife, arrested his progress for a moment, with 
an exclamation of doubt and surprise. Robert 
Waldron, whose sight was longer and keener 
than his, recognised Annie perfectly. 

"It is Mrs. Grant," he said, quickening his 
steps. 

" But what is the matter with her ? " asked 
Grant. " She does not look like herself." 

She was so unlike herself, that, as she came 
nearer, Robert could scarcely restrain the 
ejaculation of surprise which rose to his lips. 
Grant did not attempt to restrain his. 

" Annie ! " he exclaimed, " is it really you ? 
Where are you going to ? What in the world 
has happened to you ?" 

" I am going to call upon Miss Waldron," 



A Munificent Gift. 183 

she answered, with an hysterical laugh. For 
an instant a wild doubt crossed her husband's 
mind as to whether she had not lost possession 
of her reason, and he looked steadily into her 
excited face. 

" Annie," he said, " what is the matter ?" 

This simple question was put by him so 
gravely, that Annie was more and more 
hysterically affected. He drew her arm into 
his own, and led the way towards the lodge. 

" We had better go in," he said to Robert ; 
" we can get water for her there, and the 
lodge-keeper will leave us her room for a few 
minutes." 

Before long, Annie had recovered her com- 
posure, and sat, feeling very much subdued, on 
the settle in the lodge, while her husband and 
Robert Waldron waited for her complete re- 
covery. She was crying now, but a word 
. might send her off into laughter again ; and she 
wiped away her tears, and drank little sips of 
water from the glass her husband held to her 
lips. Robert could not determine to go while 
the mystery of her conduct remained unsolved ; 
for his eye recognised some of the shabby 
finery she wore as having once belonged to his 



184 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

sister, and he felt that he must learn the 
meaning of it. 

" I was going to see Miss Waldron," repeated 
Annie at last, as soon as she could command 
her voice. 

" But in these rags !" said Grant. " My dear 
Annie, do control yourself, and satisfy me that 
you are in a sound mind." 

Annie hesitated, and looked towards Robert, 
but he would not go away. 

" These rags," he said, adopting Grant's 
word, " once belonged to my sister, I am sure ; 
and there is some mystery belonging to them. 
Dear Mrs. Grant, I beg of you to let me hear 
the explanation." 

"You will never believe me," cried Annie, 
all her indignation reviving ; " but she posi- 
tively sent these old things this morning as 
a gift to — guess who to ?" 

" Not to you," said Grant, with an unpleasant 
smile. 

" No, not me, but to Hester Morley," she 
answered. 

" Hester Morley ! " echoed Grant, while 
Robert's face grew dark as he waited for 
Annie's answer. 



A Munificent Gift. 185 

" I was there when they came/' she said, 
"with a note from Miss Waldron, hoping Hester 
could make use of them. Just look at them. 
Look at this bonnet." 

She took it off her head and held it at arm's 
length, laughing and catching her breath in sobs 
at the same moment. Robert snatched it from 
her, and crushed it out of all shape under his 
foot. 

" Hester ! " he said ; " good heavens ! I can 
scarcely believe what you say. Why, Hester 
is to be my wife, if I can win her by any means; 
and you tell me these things were sent to her 
by my sister!" 

" Your wife !" exclaimed Annie. 

"Yes," he answered, curbing a little his 
passion; "I have loved Hester ever since Grant 
here carried me into John Morley's house ; or, 
at any rate, ever since I first saw her there. 
Does it surprise you ? It ought not. My 
father feels no surprise." 

" Does he know ?" asked Grant, in a voice of 
concern. 

" Yes, and consents to it, — is anxious for it," 
said Robert "Why! what is there strange 
about it ? You know her, both of you ; what 



1 86 Hester Morlefs Promise. 

is there to surprise you in the fact that I love 
her ?" 

" Oh, nothing !" they both answered in one 
breath ; and then all three were silent, none of 
them looking at the others. Annie was quite 
calm now, and ready to submit to any of her 
husband's directions. He said, gravely, she 
must give up her intended visit to Miss Wal- 
dron, and that she could wait where she was, 
while he fetched her one of her own hats and 
cloaks. 

Robert stayed behind with her, but Annie 
did not enter into conversation with him; and 
he felt embarrassed by her silence. Very few 
words passed between them before Grant's 
return, but he shook hands heartily with her 
before she left. 

" I like you, and I thank you very much for 
what you had intended to do," he said, and 
he turned his steps homewards ; while Grant 
accompanied Annie back safely to her own 
house. 

Carl listened in silence to the story of 
Annie's escapade, but it touched and made to 
vibrate painfully many chords in his nature. 
His friend Miss Waldron had been gradually 



A Munificent Gift 187 

losing some of the brightness of the halo with 
which she had crowned herself ; but this im- 
pertinence towards Hester appeared to show 
him the shallowness of her heart Those who 
demand little homage for themselves, require 
the whole world to acknowledge the superiority 
of those they love. He was too deeply 
wounded by her conduct to speak' of it, even 
to his sister, but he could ask a question about 
Hester. 

" Are they so very poor, then ? " he said. 

u So poor," answered Annie, " that she asked 
Miss Waldron and me if we could give her any 
work to do." 

" Yet Heste* has just taken in a poor 
woman," observed Grant, " and fitted up a little 
out-building at the back of the house for her. 
She asked me to go to see her yesterday. A 
poor creature. I found her almost frightened 
to death by some London fellow, who told her 
her lungs were almost gone. I don't believe it. 
I dare say it is she who wants the sewing, for 
she must live." 

" But why should not Hester tell us so ?" 
asked Annie. 

"There is some mystery about it," he replied; 



1 88 Hester Morley's Promise. 

"the woman has evidently been an educated 
woman. I asked her age particularly, and she 
said she was thirty-four. She seemed op- 
pressed by a peculiar kind of fear which I could 
not account for. I have my suspicions." 

" What are they ? " asked Carl, looking up 
eagerly. 

Grant leaned over the table towards him, 
and lowered his voice to a whisper which 
would have been inaudible to the keenest ear 
outside the room. 

"That this woman is no other than John 
Morley's lost wife," he said. " Mark you, it is 
no more than a suspicion, and it must be sacred 
with us. But if it be so — " 

" Then God bless and help Hester ! " cried 
Carl, rising suddenly, and making his escape to 
his study. 

The conjecture just thrown out by Grant, 
which had struck his mind with the force of 
truth, moved Carl's heart to its depths. The 
thought of Hester very poor, and asking for 
work from Miss Waldron and Annie, had been 
enough in itself to awaken the most chivalrous 
sympathies of his nature; but if Grant's sus- 
picions were true, what a story hung upon it ! 



A Munificent Gift. 189 

He pictured to himself John Morley, lost and 
buried in gloom, with his dreary house peopled 
by memories which were half a shame and 
half "a sorrow; and this pale, lost shadow, 
haunting, unknown to him, the home of her 
happier days, but separated from him, not by 
walls merely, but by an impassable abyss which 
she dared not attempt to cross. And going 
from one to the other was Hester, speaking with 
the same tone, and looking with the same 
tenderness upon each of them. If he had but 
the right to share her secret ! If he could only 
strengthen and uphold her when her spirit 
failed her along the straight and difficult path ! 
Underneath all these thoughts which stirred 
him there was a disguised and subtle under- 
current of emotion. If Hester had found and 
received to a shelter near herself, the lost Rose, 
would it be possible for her ever to become 
Robert Waldron's wife ? 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

BLOW AFTER BLOW. 

Miss Waldron heard no more of her gift to 
Hester. By one common consent, arrived at 
by different processes, all those who had become 
acquainted with the circumstance permitted it 
to drop into apparent oblivion. Hester knew 
nothing of Annie's plan of revenge which had 
been prematurely nipped ; and as she never 
mentioned Miss Waldron's present again, Annie 
did not care to speak of it. She could not but 
acknowledge that her husband and Carl were 
right when they said that the whole thing must 
be suffered to pass, and that it would be danger- 
ous to make an enemy of Miss Waldron. But 
she was glad Robert knew, exceedingly glad. 
She had no doubt it would come out some day 
or other from his lips, and cover his sister with 
confusion. In the meantime it was very 
difficult to maintain a pleasant and cordial 
demeanour towards her, when she came to see 
her and Carl so often. . 

This action of Miss Waldron had thrown 



Blow after Blow. 191 

difficulties into the paths of all. To Hester it 
made it a far from easy task to go to Aston 
Court, as she felt herself compelled to, in 
order to finish the business arrangements 
with Mr. Waldron, who had insisted upon 
advancing a sum of ^500 instead of ^200, 
which would set John Morley clear from his 
liabilities for about twelve months to come. 
Robert, on his part, found it so hard to keep 
this secret, and restrain his wrath, that he was 
not sorry when some pressing business de- 
manded his presence in London ; though it 
prevented him seeing Hester upon her rare 
visits to his father. 

But for Carl the difficulty was tenfold. He 
had now been pastor of the church at Little 
Aston for more than six months ; and Miss 
Waldron began to be impatient at the slowness 
of his comprehension with respect to the marks 
of preference she showered upon him. She had 
become at last aware of a growing coldness 
in Annie Grant's manner, which was at once 
unaccountable and unpardonable, seeing that 
both Grant and Carl were under the patronage 
of her family. She could not brook any 
caprices in her inferiors; but it was necessary to 



2i6 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

If you could see her now, would you dare to 
ask me to be your wife ? " 

To Hester the image of Rose was very 
present ; but to Robert it was a memory of so 
many years past, and so unwelcome an intruder, 
that he could not summon it readily to his 
mind. As he had told Hester, he felt assured 
that she was dead, for such lost ones seldom 
live without giving some sign of their existence. 
But there was something in Hester's tone and 
face which made his heart die within him. It 
was not that she was indignant or impassioned. 
There was rather a tranquil yet intense pity 
for him, which placed her at an immeasurable 
height above him. 

"O Hetty," he cried, "little Hetty, is it 
quite impossible for me to win your love ?" 

" Why do you ask me ? " she said, in a 
troubled voice. " It is impossible ; you must 
know it to be impossible. Oh, why did you ever 
think of such a thing ? How could you ever 
think of it?" 

They stood for a minute or two in silence, 
her calm, compassionate eyes shining upon him 
from across the great gulf between him and her. 
" Besides all this," said a voice in his inmost 



Retribution Begun. 217 

soul, "between us and you, there is a great 
gulf fixed : so that they which would pass from 
hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us 
that would come from thence." 

" Hester," he cried again, " have pity upon 
me. This is my punishment indeed." 

" I am very sorry for you," answered her 
pitiful voice; "but you ought to have felt at 
first that it would be impossible. My father 
would rather go down, down to the very depths 
of poverty than see me here. Good-bye. I 
can never come again." 

He had thrown himself upon a chair, and 
hidden his face from the steady reproachful 
compassion of her look ; and she lingered for a 
minute looking sorrowfully at him, and around 
the room she should enter no more. This life 
of wealth and ease would have been very 
pleasant ; even the brief snatches she had seen 
of it had been an enjoyment to her. She was 
growing a little weary of the long daily 
struggle, and the sordid cares of poverty. If 
things had been different, what a glory it would 
have been to John Morley to see his daughter 
the mistress of Aston Court! But it was im- 
possible now. 



218 Hester Morley's Promise. 

Robert Waldron heard her murmur good- 
bye once more, but he did not raise his head. 
She lingered still, as if searching for some word 
to comfort him, but there was none which her 
lips could utter. He listened to her footfall 
across the floor to the glass-doors opening upon 
the terrace, but he could not believe that she 
was going to leave him. He raised his head in 
time to catch a last glance of her pitying face, 
and her gesture of farewell ; and then Hester 
was lost to him. He did not think of following 
her. Eleven years ago, he had bartered for 
the pleasures of sin for a season, the happiness 
he craved in vain to-day. 



CHAPTER XX. 

A PASTORAL VISIT. 

It is impossible to describe the disappoint- 
ment of Mr. Waldron, when, after an hour's 
absence, he returned to the house, and found 
Robert alone and Hester gone. Robert told 
him of his rejection with a suppressed 
mournfulness which troubled his father's heart 
more than the most vehement expressions of 
grief. Mr. Waldron felt a little mortified that 
Hester's conscience should be more sensitive 
than his own. If he, a deacon of the church, 
had considered his son's early error atoned 
for, and consigned to oblivion, why should 
this young girl set up her childish judgment 
against his ? Yet in his heart of hearts he 
knew that she was right. Robert, even in 
the first shock and agony of his disappoint- 
ment, acknowledged the same. It was in 
truth a greater shock to him than it ought 
to have been; for in spite of all his doubts 
and hesitations, there had really been a well- 
grounded assurance in his mind that Hester 



220 Hester Morleys Promise. 

would not reject him, with all his advantages ; 
but she had now done it in such a manner 
as to pluck up every root of hope. She had 
said it was impossible with such utter decision, 
blended with an inexpressible pity, — a pity 
which he felt keenly could never grow into 
love, — that he knew he must never again 
approach her, or address himself to her, upon 
this subject. He loved her more passionately 
than before, but a dull despair had joined itself 
to his passion. Those pangs of punishment 
without which, she had said, he could not 
repent, had already come upon him. 

This state of mind, a novel one to Robert 
Waldron, might have proved salutary, but for 
the intervention of his sister, who, while 
rejoicing that Hester had declined the honour 
offered to her, could not forgive her for its 
rejection. When Mr. Waldron announced to 
her that Hester had positively refused her 
brother, she could not refrain her tongue from 
a spiteful little speech, uttered in Robert's 
hearing. 

" Don't talk to me about Hester Morley's 
scruples," she said ; " I know her too well. 
It is because we have chosen a handsome boy 



A Pastoral Visit. 221 

for our pastor that she has said No to 
Robert" 

" What do you mean ?" asked Mr. Waldron, 
whose chagrin was only second to his son's. 

"I mean," she answered, "that Carl Bram- 
well is in love with her, and she with him. 
I have suspected it for some time; and he 
confessed it to me only the other evening. If 
we had invited David Scott to the church at 
Little Aston, Hester Morley would have been 
only too proud to accept Robert." 

Neither Mr. Waldron nor Robert felt quite 
sure of this; yet the poisoned shaft entered 
into their hearts. Mr. Waldron's thoughts 
turned with regret to the day when among 
the seventy students at the college he had 
selected this polished and scholarly young man 
to become the successful rival of his son. He 
could not help being fond of Carl, and he had 
had in the beginning, a scheme for furthering 
a love-match between him and his favourite, 
Hester. But that was before he had ever 
thought of her as his own possible future 
daughter, and now he could only be sorry that 
he had chosen him for the pastor of their 
little church. 



222 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

As for Hester, she retraced her steps home- 
wards, after her interview with Robert, in a 
strange mood of bewilderment and conflicting 
feelings. The fine old park, fresh clothed in 
the beauty of spring, lay around her ; and 
she could scarcely realize the fact that she 
had just refused to become mistress of it, and 
of the great mansion belonging to it, which 
was the grandest place she had ever seen. 
The larch-trees were fringed and tasselled with 
green leaflets, with a crimson cone here and 
there amongst them ; and the noble, smooth- 
limbed beeches were white with their satin 
leaf-buds. The scent of violets hidden about 
the roots of the trees, and of cowslips nodding 
among the grass, was wafted past her upon 
the soft breeze. High over head rose the sky, 
higher and serener than in winter, and a few 
cool gray clouds floated across it. How 
different was all this to the close street, and 
the gloomy walls, and the dusky windows of 
her home ! Hester sighed heavily, and there 
was a multitude of regrets in her sigh. Alas ! 
for the time that had gone by, and the 
ineffaceable sin which had been stamped upon 
it for ever ! 



A Pastoral Visit 223 

She knew by the deep trouble of her own 
heart, that she could have loved Robert Wal- 
dron ; and for the sake of the love which 
might have been, a fine, sweet sense of 
tenderness softened her spirit towards him. 
The days came back to her vividly when she 
had loved him with the full-hearted ardour of 
a child ; and if he had only remained good 
and true, so would she have loved him now. 
She began to see the nature of his punishment ; 
and to feel something of its weight. She 
wished passionately that he had never seen 
her — but there, again, his own disobedience 
had wrought out its own consequences. If 
he had been true to his word, it was possible 
that he might never have met with her ; it 
was certain that there would not have been 
the familiarity between them which had been 
brought about by their frequent meetings at 
Madame Lawson's. He must have been in 
love with her all that time, thought Hester ; 
and her face crimsoned at the thought. 

She had no one to tell of what had befallen 
her that morning, — of the vision which had 
opened suddenly to her, but from which she 
had turned steadfastly away. It would be 



224 Hester Morley's Promise. 

impossible to speak of it to her father, and 
still more so to Rose. She had not seen much 
of Annie lately, and this was not a secret to 
tell to a woman whose husband and brother 
shared every thought. So she was obliged to 
hide it away during the daytime, while she 
went about her work ; and at night she 
pondered over it unhealthily, contrasting what 
was with what might have been. 

It was impossible for Carl not to see upon 
Hester's face a deeper shadow than that which 
had rested upon it for some time before the 
evening, now several weeks ago, which they 
had spent together at Aston Court He had 
not been so often at John Morleys house of 
late; but Grant told him that something was 
amiss with Hester, and that if she did not rally 
quickly, she would have to leave home, which 
she had never left before, for change of air. 
He had said the same to Hester herself, and 
given her a great dread. For how could she 
leave home now above all other times, when 
Rose was a pensioner upon her ? 

Carl argued with himself that it was his 
duty as a pastor to visit Hester, and he would 
do so as a pastor merely. He was a little 



A Pastoral Visit. 225 

petulant when Annie inquired where he was 
going, and how long he would be. His mind 
was so intently fixed upon the duty he was 
about to perform, that he knew nothing of 
what was passing around him, until he found 
himself in Hester's little sitting-room upstairs. 
It was the second time only, that he had been 
permitted to penetrate to this room. He was 
excited by it, why, he could scarcely tell. All 
here belonged to Hester; the books, the little 
desk, the work-basket, — no hand but hers 
touched them. He caught a momentary 
glimpse of a mysterious shadow flitting past 
the dim casement in the old nursery opposite 
the window. It was not Hester's figure 
but that of the strange unknown woman, 
of whom Grant had whispered his suspicion. 
Would Hester speak of her to him ? for he 
was come as her pastor, her guide, and adviser, 
with more influence and authority than an 
ordinary friend. 

Asking himself very anxiously this question, 
for in the answer to it lay the possibility of a 
very close intimacy between them, he turned 
round upon hearing the lifting of the latch, and 
met Hester face to face. They spoke to one 

vol. 11. Q 



5- TCl 



Hi* sir 



bt sas. 






\ 



*<-X.\ 'it iS*I r^x^TJZ^L "E ST IS i T<£=^t"nT XT lis 

- »». — ■*•■ 

*lftr.cjt irs+K ztjfztl mil nr mcsruLnr^ ys: x 

m .Ci. \vjc&ttl<£ ^rri^rrs==rrrt°TT: zuzr arr dk> 
v>*rx i-siir^u^: ^iiUL .la:*^ retSL r^escsrs 

„-*/, ><*r 5tOt r^ liccii rersr re irie z? frv^ 

I >av* r>%r. thinking r=ch cc ycc IsreZyr 

v. ^'i fci Ia.%t. \p^ik:n^ in. short se^rexes in- 
tf/2t/i <vf t;v; rounded phrases he had intended 
l// employ, ' You were committed to my charge. 
/ }»/V/e a right to speak. You are in great 
wtrrow. When I look down upon you in 
(S\*%\Ai your fact is pale and sad. You do not 
*iny 9 m y(Ai used to do. I know your life is 
lonely, and very full of cares. But God has 
ordained it, and He is infinite Love. We also 



A Pastoral Visit. 227 

love you; Annie, and Grant, and I. Why are 
you so cast down and disquieted ? Is it any- 
thing you can tell to me?, I might be able to 
help you. Is there nothing I can do for you ?" 

" Oh, I have been very miserable ! " said 
Hester, with a sharp accent of pain in her 
voice. 

" There will come a change," answered Carl ; 
" ( though heaviness may endure for a night, joy 
cometh in the morning/ " 

" The morning is very long in coming," she 
said, sighing mournfully. 

"It may seem so," he continued, " it may 
even be so, but it is coming surely and steadily. 
You are weary now, till your heart faints within 
you, but it will not be for ever. Cannot you 
tell me your new trouble ?" 

" Yes," answered Hester, acting upon a 
sudden impulse to confide in him, though she 
had resolved to bear her burden alone. • It was 
growing too heavy for her now, and her spirit 
was beginning to fail. "Yes, I will tell you, 
and you can help me. Do you see the door 
and window opposite ? There is a little room 
there, and some weeks ago my father gave me 
his permission to let a poor woman come and 



228 Hester Morleys Promise. 

live in it. She is very poor and very ill. Mr. 
Grant has seen her." 

" He told me so," said Carl. 

" He believed she was not likely to recover 
at first," continued Hester, " but she is getting 
better now ; not so strong that she can ever go 
away, and yet not so ill that she is near death. 
What am I to do ? She has no friend in the 
world except me; not a creature to care for 
her, or help her. But we are so poor, and I 
am afraid sometimes that we shall be obliged 
to leave this house altogether ; then what is to 
become of her ? " 

" You are meeting trouble half-way now," he 
answered cheerfully. 

Hester drew closer to him, with a frightened 
face, and whispered her next few sentences. 

" Hush ! It is Rose Morley, my father's wife. 
You have heard of her ? My father never sees 
her ; she runs no risk of him seeing her. If I 
had not known she would be safe I never dare 
have taken her in. She was utterly homeless 
and friendless, and I brought her here to die, as 
we both thought. You know my father nearly 
killed Robert Waldron at our own door ? But 
now we know she may perhaps Hvq years and 



A Pastoral Visit. 229 

years : think what that means. Did I do right 
to take her in ? Ought I to have turned her 
away into the world ill, ' even dying as we 
thought ? Do you think my father will not be 
glad at the last, when he comes to know ?" 

" God bless you, Hester," cried Carl, laying 
his hand upon hers, which still rested upon the 
table, as if she needed that support to keep her 
from trembling too greatly. 

" You don't know what it is like to go from 
my father's presence to hers," resumed Hester. 
"Sometimes I wonder why God lets such things 
come to pass, and I have hard thoughts of 
Him. That is the worst of all. Don't be 
shocked with me, but after all, Rose does not 
seem so very wicked, nor Robert Waldron. 
She is very penitent: really, truly penitent, and 
bears her punishment well ; but she is solitary 
and very sorrowful. Will you sometimes come 
to see her ? You can come as a minister with- 
out any one being surprised ; but you must not 
be too harsh to her. Will you help me by 
doing this for her ? " 

" Help you ! " said Carl ; " I would give my 
life for you." 

He scarcely knew what he was saying, and 



230 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

she did not seem to notice it Once more he 
saw the pale face behind the dim casement 
opposite. Hester also saw it, and the tears 
stood in her eyes. 

"No one knows it but me, and now you," she 
said. "It has been too heavy a burden for me 
to bear alone. I am not very old yet, but I 
feel old, older than almost any one I know ; a 
great deal older than Lawson's mother. I sup- 
pose it is the anxiety ; and now I have more 
than ever. Mr. Grant said I must leave home; 
but how can I ever leave home ? There was 
my father first, and now there is Rose as well. 
You must come and see her for yourself." 

" We will go at once," he answered ; yet he 
lingered, and looked into her face with the 
colour mounting upon his own, and an expres- 
sion of utter anxiety coming across it. He had 
a word or two to say, which, left unspoken, 
would make this interview, sought by him, 
altogether unsatisfactory and incomplete. He 
hesitated and stammered, then reproached his 
coward courage, and spoke hastily. 

" I am your pastor, your soul is committed to 
me. You said just now that Robert Waldron 
did not seem wicked, — that was your own word 



A Pastoral Visit. 231 

— not wicked in your eyes. Do you know that 
he loves you ? 

" Yes," she replied, the crimson flush man- 
tling her cheeks as well as his, " he told me 
so ; but Rose is living near me. What could 
I say to him ? I could never, never become 
his wife." 

" Thank God !" cried Carl. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

ANOTHER PASTORAL VISIT. 

Carl followed Hester down stairs, and across 
the court, which seemed dark to him, for the 
glass in the window of the old nursery was 
scarcely transparent, and shed but little light on 
the outside staircase leading up to it Hester 
opened the door quietly, and Carl had time 
to see Rose before she was aware of their 
entrance. She was leaning languidly back in 
a cushioned and padded chair by the fire, the 
light of which fell upon her worn and colour- 
less face, and the thin fair hair pushed back 
carelessly from it. Her eyes were shut, and 
the whole aspect of the wan woman was one 
of complete dejection and of banishment from 
every gladness in life. At the sound of voices 
she sprang up with a glance of terror which 
showed how she lived in hourly dread of 
discovery. There was something inexpressibly 
forlorn in the peculiarity of her circumstances, 
which touched Carl's heart to the core. He 
clasped her emaciated hand in his own, and 



Another Pastoral Visit. 233 

pressed it with a warmth and heartiness which 
he had not ventured to bestow upon Hesters. 

" Do you know who I am?" asked Rose, 
looking him searchingly in the face with her 
dim blue eyes. 

" Hester has trusted me with all your 
history," he answered. " I am come to see 
you, and I shall come often, to make your life 
here less solitary. No one else knows; we 
alone have your secret." 

" I am only afraid of two persons finding 
it out too soon," replied Rose, drearily ; " my 
husband, and one other ; you know who I 
mean. He was trying to find me, and I felt 
as if I could do nothing else but come here. 
Do you think he will ever guess that I am 
here ?" 

" Never !" replied Carl, emphatically. 

" Hester tells me he has never married," 
said Rose, a glimmer of satisfaction dawning 
upon her face; "I am sorry for that. If he had 
a wife he would not be troubled about me. But 
even if he did not try to find me, I could not 
go away from here. I cannot tell you what 
it is to think of leaving my home again ; it 
is the only home I have, and Hester has 



234 Hester Morleys Promise. 

promised I shall stay in it. It is more lonely 
than you can think ; I am here, day and night, 
all alone, yet I would not go away for the 
world. I know my husband will forgive me 
some time, and be very sorry for me. I have 
often wished for some clergyman to talk to; for 
there 'are hundreds and thousands of questions 
keep coming into my poor head. I am not very 
clever, but, perhaps, you will answer some of 
these questions. Only you are a very young 
man, and you do not know much of life yet" 

" Perhaps not," answered Carl gently ; "but 
I know something of God." 

Rose looked again steadily into his face, 
which wore an air of grave yet tender 
reverence even for her, a lost and wretched 
woman. Her heart was sick for some com- 
munion with one who had authority to speak 
of God ; that heart-sickness which forms the 
secret strength of the priesthood in every age ; 
and Carl, with his noble and thoughtful face, 
and his keen eyes bent with unspoken com- 
passion upon her, seemed like a messenger 
come from God to her. 

" I think I could speak better to you alone," 
said Rose. 



Another Pastoral Visit. 235 

Hester left them at once, and Carl, taking 
the only other chair which was in the little 
room, seated himself opposite Rose. She did 
not seem in any hurry to begin the conversa- 
tion with him, but sat playing listlessly with 
her work which lay upon her lap ; and he 
waited patiently for her to ask him some of 
the questions which troubled her. 

" I have something to tell you that I dare 
not tell Hester," she said at last, her head 
drooping and her cheeks flushing a little ; " she 
is "like an angel almost, as innocent and 
ignorant. Sometimes 1 wish she was more 
like other girls ; but she has always been 
quite alone, and grown up very strange. Oh, 
she is strange, is Hetty! I suppose I have 
done something towards it. Are you a friend 
of hers ?" 

" To be sure I am," answered Carl, smiling 
to himself; for she was not looking towards 
him, but gazing into the fire before her. 

" Then perhaps you will know why I feel 
a very, very long way off from her," she said, 
wistfully. " I love her more than I can tell, but 
she is as far away as if she were one of the 
stars. I can talk to you better than to her. 



236 Hester Morleys Promise. 

I am afraid to tell her all my secret ; yet why 
I do not know. Why should I be afraid of 
little Hetty?" 

Carl looked again at her with a glance of 
profound sorrow. He could have told her that 
it was her own sense of sin and shame which 
raised the barrier between her and Hester, but 
he did not. She seemed to catch his meaning 
from his silence ; for she bowed her head, and 
burst into an agony of weeping. 

" Oh, I know, I know ! " she sobbed, when she 
had ceased to weep ; "but how then can I come 
before God ? How can I help being horribly 
afraid of Him ?" 

" Because God knows all your life," answered 
Carl, tenderly ; " and because His perfect 
holiness is consistent with perfect mercy. We 
can only know in part, and forgive in part; 
but He has that complete knowledge of you, 
that you can have no thought hidden from Him. 
Therefore you can go to Him speechlessly, 
without drawing back, as you do from Hester." 

" Do you think my husband will ever forgive 
me ?" she asked. 

" Only in part," said Carl, with deeper 
tenderness; "you must not hope for more. In 



Another Pastoral Visit. 237 

this, as in everything else, man can only copy 
God very imperfectly. He will forgive you, it 
may be, in the hour of his death, or yours ; 
but not before. There is a reproach and 
dishonour which cannot be wiped away/' 

" But what is to become of me ?" cried Rose, 
wringing her hands in a paroxysm of grief and 
despair ; " how am I to lead this horrible life ? 
It would be better for me to die ; a hundred 
times better. Oh, you don't know what it is ! " 

" Is it much happier for Hester or your 
husband ?" asked Carl, reproachfully ; " and 
they have been guilty of no sin." 

" No," she exclaimed, turning quickly upon 
him ; "and why does God let them suffer for 
my folly? Why did not God strike me dead, 
before I brought all this evil upon them ? 
They have done no wrong, yet they are as 
miserable as I am." 

" I spoke rashly," he said ; " they are far 
happier than you. Hester at least is not 
unhappy in herself. There is no anguish like 
the memory of sin." 

" That is true," she moaned ; " I could bear 
anything better than that. I remember the 
time when I did not think myself a sinner. 



238 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

T remember telling Miss Waldron I kept all 
Gods commandments. I was a poor, silly 
young thing then ; I know better now." 

There was a painfully pathetic mournfulness 
in this confession, which Rose made in an 
abstracted and dreamy tone, as if she had lost 
herself in the recollection of those innocent 
days. 

Carl did not break in upon her thoughts ; 
and the silence prolonged itself for several 
minutes. 

" Do you know I have not quite made up 
my mind about telling you my secret/' she 
said, when she roused herself to the conscious- 
ness of his presence. " I am afraid you will 
tell Hester, and she will be farther off from 
me than ever. Do you think she will ?" 

" Tell me what it is," he answered, gently ; 
"and if I think she will, I will keep it from 
her." 

" Oh ! " she said, shrinking and trembling, 
while her face burned, " I have never told 
anybody who knows my history. They believe 
that I am a widow ; everybody believed it ; 
and that my little girl is an orphan. I called 
her Hester because — ah! I scarcely know why 



Another Pastoral Visit. 239 

— Hester was the name I loved best; and I 
fancied somehow that she would come hpme to 
live with the first Hester. But now I dare not 
tell her." 

" Where is your little girl ?" asked Carl, in a 
quiet and soothing voice. 

" She was born in France," she answered ; 
" I left Falaise, and went on and on through 
the country, not caring much, till I came to 
a little country convent, where there was a 
hospital for the country people, — for the old, 
and sick, and children, something like the work- 
houses here; but not quite the same, because 
the sisters were the nurses ; and there my 
little child was born. They did not want to 
christen her Hester, but they did it at last, only 
they added Maria to it ; Hester Maria ; and 
they kept us there for six months. It was a 
very strange six months. I felt happier than I 
did before, and thought oftener of God, and 
His Son, Jesus Christ. But I never told the 
sisters about myself ; and after a while I knew 
I must do something to get my own living and 
the baby's. They found me a place as lady's 
maid, in a Catholic family, and I had to leave 
my baby at the convent, and go away to Paris. 



240 Hester Morleys Promise. 

Then I changed into an English family ; and 
after six years, I agreed to come back to Eng- 
land. I saw him, you know who, once in Paris, 
but he did not see me, and I felt quite faint. 
If Td fainted he would have known who it 
was. So I came back to England." 

" And your little girl ?" said Carl again. 

" I had scarcely ever seen her," continued 
Rose's wailing voice, " but then I paid the good 
sisters for her board, and brought her back with 
me. She is a pretty little thing"; but so quiet, 
so sage and still. She is like the sisters them- 
selves ; you would say she never played or 
laughed. I was obliged to put her into a school 
in London, and she could never have any 
holidays, for I had no home, and neither of us 
have a single friend in the world. She has 
never been away from that school for four 
years, and it is in a close street in London. 
She does not know what it is to love a father 
or mother like other little children. Oh, why 
did not God strike me dead ? And now her 
last half-year has not been paid, and they will 
be cruel to my poor little Hester. I know 
what many schools are. They won't send her 
out into the streets, but they will make a 



Another Pastoral Visit 241 

drudge and a victim of her, to bear everybody's 
faults. Oh, I know how my little one is suffer- 
ing ; but if God would only let me die, I am 
sure my husband would let Hester have her 
to live with her. Don't you think he would ? 
He is a good man." 

She buried her face in her hands, and broke 
again into a passion of tears. Carl deliberated 
for some minutes before attempting to offer her 
any consolation ; and then he laid his hand 
softly upon her arm. 

" Take comfort," he said ; " I have formed a 
plan for your little girl, your Hester. She shall 
be mine. I will adopt her as my own until 
Hester herself can take charge of her." 

" What is it you said ?" asked Rose, incredu- 
lously ; and raising her tearful face to look at 
him. 

" I will regard your little Hester as my own 
child," he answered; "I am rich enough for that 
You need not trouble yourself any more about 
her. She shall be my charge." 

" But you live here in Little Aston," she 
said, her face still clouded with incredulity and 
anxiety, " you cannot bring her here. I would 
rather she died, the poor little thing, than ever 

vol. u. R 



242 Hester Morley's Promise. 

see her father. She believes her father is dead, 
and in heaven — in heaven! Oh! I could not 
bear that she should ever know different. No, 
no ; you cannot take charge of my little Hester, 
living here." 

" Has she been happy where she is ?" asked 
Carl. 

" Oh, as happy as a little creature can be at 
school," said Rose, " but not as happy as she 
was with the good sisters. She has been there 
four years, and she knows no other kind of life. 
Only if her bills are not paid, I know what sort 
of taunts she will have to bear, and that makes 
me suffer. I earn all the money I can by sew- 
ing, but I do not quite keep myself: and how 
can I get enough to pay for her ? And she 
wants new frocks and other clothes, and shoes. 
What can I do ? Whatever can I do ?" 

She dropped her face again helplessly upon 
her hands, while Carl deliberated once more. 

There seemed nothing he could do, except 
engage to pay the expenses of the forlorn, de- 
serted little child, in her dreary school-home in 
London. It was true that he could not bring 
her to Little Aston, as in the first moment 
he had thought of doing, where she could be 



Another Pastoral Visit. 243 

placed under Annie's care. The secret was 
not his own ; it belonged to the poor mother, 
who dreaded that the child should ever dis- 
cover she had a father not in heaven. He did 
not even know whether it would be well to 
confide it to Hester ; it would only add to her 
cares and difficulties. There was nothing to be 
done at present but to pay the debts already 
accumulated, and to leave the child at school, 
until he could see more plainly how he could 
make her life happier. 

" I suppose we must leave her where she is," 
he said, as soon as he had come to this conclu- 
sion, " but if you will give me the address I will 
write to-night, and ask the mistress of the 
school to send her account to me. You shall 
see it, and tell me if it is correct, and then 
you need feel no further uneasiness. I came 
in order to see if I could give you any com- 
fort, any help. I am very glad to do this." 

He spoke in a tone of such heart-felt sym- 
pathy, that Rose could not doubt, his sincerity. 
She flung herself on her knees before him, and 
when he would not suffer her to kiss his hands, 
she sank down on the ground, crouching at his 
feet. He raised her up, spoke a few kindly 



244 Hester Morley' s Promise. 

words to her, and then, seeing her agitation 
and trouble to be very great, he left her, and 
groped his way across the dark court into 
John Morley's house. 

He did not see Hester again alone, for it was 
tea-time, and she was making tea for her father 
in his gloomy room, which, for this one hour of 
the day, put oh a more home-like aspect than 
at any other. Carl sat down with them, and 
lost no movement or glance of Hester's, though 
his eyes were seldom turned directly to her. A 
strong current of happiness ran through his 
whole being. There was a mutual secret and 
a mutual sympathy between them which must 
draw them very closely together in the future. 
John Morley asked him some indifferent ques- 
tion with regard to the poor woman he had 
been to visit, and he answered at random, his 
thoughts being fixed upon Hester. A gleam 
of light, strangely sweet and sad, flashed across 
John Morley's gray face, as he looked up at 
hearing Carl's irrelevant answer, and saw him 
gazing at his daughter. There was no one 
else in Hester's little world, thought the father, 
whom she could marry. 

A little later ]ohxa Morley accompanied Carl 



Another Pastoral Visit. 245 

to chapel, where there was a meeting, and 
walking side by side with him, put his arm 
affectionately through his. A rare token of 
friendship from a man like him. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

HERESY. 

There were, however, rocks ahead in the 
hitherto smooth tack of Carl's life-voyage. He 
had been sensitive enough to feel an immediate 
change in the atmosphere of Aston Court, and 
he had attributed it to his own confession to 
Miss Waldron. But there was also rankling in 
Mr. Waldron's mind the suspicion, introduced 
to it by his daughter, that Carl had dealt un- 
fairly with regard to Hester and Robert It 
happened, naturally, that he visited John 
Morley's house more than usual after his first 
interview with Rose; and the church was at 
no loss to account for it. Many a hint and 
allusion among the chapel people as to their 
young minister soon needing a house of his 
own, made Mr. Waldron wince sharply. He 
was convinced that Robert would never stay 
in the neighbourhood should Hester become 
Carl's wife. Without intention, he grew cool 
towards him, and Carl was not slow in with- 
drawing from his former familiar intimacy with 
his patron. 



Heresy. itf 

But there was a more perilous rock ahead 
than the mere darkening of the great man's 
countenance. It will be difficult to give Miss 
Waldron credit for conscientiousness in what is 
about to be narrated, but it is necessary to do 
so. Like the best and wisest amongst us, she 
was self-deceived at times, and saw through the 
fog of her own feelings. She believed herself 
to possess a keen eye for the faintest speck of 
heresy. To her purged sight it was needful 
that the sun itself should shine without spots. 
Now, like most young men of his age and 
genius, Carl's creed was not as firmly rooted 
and as artistically pruned as that of elder men ; 
though he had gone diligently through a system 
of divinity, and knew very well how to argue for 
the peculiar tenets of their sect. But Miss 
Waldron discovered traces of suspicious latitu- 
dinarianism, which it was not difficult to ac- 
count for. Carl had German proclivities and 
relations, for had he not been positively named 
after a German friend and fellow-student of his 
father's, who was probably inoculated with Ger- 
man errors ? It became her painful duty to 
the church to point out these erroneous tenets. 
If rationalism found its way among the simple 



248 Hester Morletfs Promise. 

flock at Little Aston, she and her father alone 
would be responsible. 

Amongst the churches, no burr sticks so close 
as the charge of heterodoxy. Sunday after 
Sunday she watched with a sharp eye for Carl's 
German predilections, and hinted her doubts 
and objections to her father, till even he, shrewd 
though he was, began to listen with lessening 
confidence to his eloquent sermons. Though 
liberal to an extreme in politics, Mr. Waldron 
was a strong conservative in religion, and ad- 
mitted but few to the franchise of the New 
Jerusalem. He took the alarm himself, and 
the suspicion spread through the church like a 
slow fever. It was found out that the younger 
members of the congregation were asking 
questions which it was difficult if not impossible 
to answer. The fledglings, who had nestled 
contentedly under the safe wings of old 
Mr. Watson, were beginning to stir and try 
their own frail pinions. The mere phrase 
" German rationalism " was a bugbear to the 
church, though they knew no more of it than of 
the differential calculus. There was, perhaps, 
just foot-hold for the charge of heterodoxy. 
Carl was at the time crossing the debateable 



Heresy. 249 

ground which every thoughtful spirit has to 
traverse, and he needed large and charitable 
sympathy from his fellow-pilgrims. Many a 
soul is driven from the fold by the foolish 
sparrings of its fellows. 

It was one Sunday evening, after Carl had 
seemed to forget the beaten tracks, well trodden 
by his predecessors, and had ventured upon 
newer and fresher pasturage for his flock, that 
Miss Waldron spoke out openly. 

" I begin to think," she said, solemnly, " that 
we should have done better for the church by 
choosing David Scott. I am sure Carl Bram- 
well's doctrine is not sound." 

" His sermon to-night was very fine," said 
Mr. Waldron, in a tone of regret. 

" But dangerous ; the more dangerous for its 
eloquence," continued Miss Waldron. " He 
preached works without faith." 

" The other day you said he preached faith 
without works," observed Robert, with a sneer, 
partly at his sister, and partly at Carl. 

" I am sure I don't know what he believes," 
she answered, peevishly ; " he teaches first 
one thing, and then the opposite. All I know 
is, that the females in my classes are quite 



250 Hester Morley's Promise. 

unsettled. I have already detected the So- 
cinian heresy in one or two of them." 

" My dear," suggested Mr. Waldron, " he 
cannot be heterodox in every direction." 

"I don't know that," she argued; "when an 
intellect is once perverted, it runs greedily in 
the way of any error. But I am in great 
distress of mind; and I am sure we ought to 
call a church-meeting about it An awful 
responsibility rests upon us; in one sense the 
church is in our keeping." 

Mr. Waldron mused a little while with an 
expression of embarrassment and pain upon his 
face. His daughter had reached this point 
by little and little, with here a word and 
there a word, until he was really disturbed 
about the church ; though he felt an inward 
shame of his disquietude. The coolness 
between himself and Carl had been gradually 
increasing; for the latter, with all a young 
mans dread of sycophancy and servility, had 
met Mr. Waldron's change of manner with a 
distance and reserve equal to his own. He 
had been even a little too independent of his 
patron in his arrangements with respect to the 
church ; and Mr. Waldron had felt chafed and 



Heresy. 251 

angry. He came to the conclusion that a 
church-meeting would do no harm ; and the 
responsibility and burden would be partly 
taken off his shoulders. Carl consented to 
summon it, but declined to be himself present 

Upon the occasion of this meeting, to the 
great wonder of the little church, the tall, thin, 
bent form of John Morley, whose voice had 
been silent so many years, rose up in its dark 
corner, and his tones, slow and tardy in their 
utterance, as that of a man long unused to 
speech, sounded solemnly through the little 
chapel. 

"You are about to do a great wrong, 
brethren," he said. " This pastor of ours is a 
young man, younger than any man among us. 
His mind is more active than ours, and more 
open to mental and spiritual influences. 
What if he should venture sometimes upon 
unknown seas ? I know him well, and I can 
answer for him that there is no desire in his 
heart so strong as to know the truth ; and that 
the truth should make him free. We do not 
ourselves know all the truth ; we can but 
make guesses at it And shall not he make 
his guesses also! Even if he were in error, 



252 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

would it not be wiser, better, — more like 
Christ, who did not cast away Peter, though 
he said to Him, ' Thou savourest not the 
things that be of God, but the things that be 
of men/ — would it not be more like Him 
to restore our pastor, in a spirit of meekness, 
from any error into which he may have fallen ? 
I say, brethren, pray for him as much and as 
often as ye please ; but do not set upon him, in 
the very outset of his career, the brand of 
heresy. You may make him what he is not, — 
a heretic." 

John Morley sat down, and Hester crept 
closer to him, and pressed his hand tightly in 
her own. 

Miss Waldron also moved nearer her 
father's side, and pushed him on with her 
elbow. She was pale, and her lips moved 
with nervous twitchings. She was not at all 
sure what her father would say ; and every 
eye was rivetted upon him. The decision 
rested with him alone. 

" Brethren/' he said, " you have heard 
Brother Morley state that we are, all of us, 
mere guessers at truth. What ? Have we 
not then the open Bible in our hands ? And 



Heresy. 253 

have we not, for our better instruction in 
its mysteries, the Commentary and Institutes 
of Calvin ? Have we no carefully digested 
system of theology, in which our students are 
well grounded before they are sent forth as 
the commissioned overseers of God's people ? 
The best thing that Brother Morley can say 
is that our pastor is making guesses at truth ! 
But can we trust our souls to a guesser only? 
Is not that like the blind leading the blind ? 
True, he is younger than we are ; but we look 
upon him as one wiser, better instructed than 
we ; one whose whole time and talents are 
consecrated to the study of religious truths. 
We bring our souls, weary and fretted with 
the world, to be comforted and nourished by 
him, whom we set apart from the vexations 
of worldly labour. We commit our youth, and 
our children to his teaching. How easily 
could he insinuate error into our unguarded 
souls, and the souls of our children. There is 
danger for a church when its leader and 
teacher is no more than a guesser at truth." 
Mr. Waldron said a good deal more than 
he intended ; but it was so long since he 
had had the chance of a wrestle with John 



254 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

Morley, that he warmed to it, as the heart of 
an old soldier warms at the voice of a foe. 
He expected his speech to bring his opponent 
to his feet again, as in old times ; but John 
Morley sat still, his white head bowed, and 
his face turned away from his brethren : the 
brief flame, having flickered, had gone out. 
The next speaker followed emphatically upon 
Mr. Waldron's side ; and at the close of the 
meeting, which lasted double its ordinary time, 
it was all but formally decided that Carl was 
too deeply tainted with heresy to be fit for 
the pastorate of the small church at Little 
Aston. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

OUT OF THE DARK. ' 

It would be utterly impossible to describe the 
agony and dismay of Carl at the conduct of his 
church in bringing the charge of heresy against 
him. They pronounced him to have been 
found wanting in the most vital point. He 
had given himself with unchecked ardour and 
vigour to his work. He had felt a glow of 
inextinguishable exultation in calling himself a 
Christian minister. He had thrown over all 
the littlenesses and follies and blemishes of 
his church a glow of spiritual interest and 
romance. He had clipped for it the wings of 
his ambition, which had been stretched for a 
higher sphere than Little Aston. He had 
thought of it, cared for it, dreamed for it, 
studied it, as a young husband cares for and 
studies his bride. And now ! Scarcely a year 
had elapsed since he had espoused her in all 
her meanness and poverty, and she had turned 
against him as one unfit to be her head. 

There was not even a division of opinion in 



/^m 



256 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

the church. One and all had followed in the 
wake of Mr. Waldron, who had been betrayed 
into a course from which he could not retreat 
with dignity ; though he longed for the church 
to assert its own independence, and to drive 
him from his position. On the contrary, every- 
body agreed with him. He even began to 
suspect that his daughter had been using him 
as a cat's-paw ; and in his quickened shrewdness 
he fancied the offence Carl was being punished 
for was very far removed from heresy. It 
weighed very heavily with him, that the young 
minister should quit his first charge with the 
stigma of unsound doctrine attaching to him. 

For it soon came to that Carl, with the 
generous impatience of youth, would not stay 
with his church if it turned cold ungrateful 
looks upon him. He sent in his resignation, 
in a letter written in bitter sorrow and hot 
anger, as a lover might bid farewell to a faithless 
mistress. He must leave Annie and Grant, he 
must leave even Hester. He must throw him- 
self afresh upon the world, dishonoured by no 
slight dishonour. From his earliest boyhood 
he had been set apart and trained for the 
istry, to which his father and his father's 



Out of the Dark. 257 

father had belonged, and now he was declared 
unworthy of his office ! He did not know how 
to turn himself to any other pursuit It was 
even possible, for any calamity seemed possible 
after this, that he might come to be in want of 
bread. The prospect, looked at in the brightest 
light, was but dismal : looked at from the 
sombre gloom of his spirits, it was desperate. 
With the loss of his reputation for orthodoxy, 
he seemed to have lost everything. 

The church was then meeting for the re- 
ception of his resignation, and he was deeply 
sunk in melancholy musing, when his study- 
door softly opened, and he could scarcely give 
credence to his own senses. There stood John 
Morley, breathless and palpitating, with an air 
of self-amazement and fear upon his face. He 
looked in at Carl, as if he were in a dream ; 
but the gripe he gave to his outstretched hand 
was anything but doubtful or nerveless. 

" I could not stay after your letter was read," 
said John Morley. " Do you know all that is 
likely to befall you ? Do you know what reports 
will go out against you to the other churches ? " 

" I foresee all," answered Carl, with a pro- 
found sigh, which was almost a sob. 

vol. 11. s 



258 Hester M or ley's Promise. 

" Are you prepared to enter some other 
denomination ?" he asked. " You would be 
welcomed among many ; but they would not be 
the people of your fathers." 

" No," he answered, with an aspect of sad 
resolution. " I cannot change the creed I 
received from my forefathers. I must remain 
among my own people, even if I cease to be 
a minister among them." 

" Then what will become of you ? How will 
you live ?" asked John Morley. 

" God knows," said Carl, almost with a smile. 

"My boy," continued John Morley, sadly, 
" ten years ago I was comparatively a rich man, 
and I wish I were so still, for your sake. But 
I have few possessions now except debts and 
my Hester. Still, give an ear to me. If you 
should be put out of the ministry, thfcre could 
be no occupation more suited to you than mine. 
You may be a student and a scholar, if you are 
a bookseller. Nay, you may yourself become 
a writer of books. Come to me, then. My 
business was once good enough, and in young 
hands, like yours, it would thrive again. Do 
not despise it, Carl. It seems to me as if you 
might lift me out out of my Slough of Despond. 



Out of the Dark. 259 

But this is only if you should fail in getting 
another charge. I trust another pulpit will 
soon be given to you." 

John Morley had spoken hurriedly and 
stammeringly, and Carl had kept silent in 
amazement. But when he ended, and stretched 
out his trembling hand to him, Carl caught it 
eagerly, and bowed down his head upon it to 
hide his tears. 

"Despise it!" he cried; "your home would 
be like a heaven to me. You love me then ? 
You would take me as your son ?" 

"With all my heart, my boy," said John 
Morley, laying his other hand tenderly upon 
the young man's head. 

"And I accept your offer with all my heart," 
said Carl, after a brief silence. " You know I 
believe myself called by God to this ministry ; 
but if He gives me no place in another church, 
I will return here gladly, as freely to you as to 
a father. We will confront the world together; 
and it will go hard with me indeed, if I do not 
win bread for you and Hester, as well as for 
myself." 

A brighter look was upon John Morley's 
face than Carl had ever seen there. He asked 



260 Hester Morley's Promise. 

him to walk home with him, as if he shrank 
from traversing a second time the streets to 
which he had been so long a stranger; and 
Carl accompanied him in a trance of mingled 
joy and sadness. The dark gables of John 
Morley's house, standing out against the dark- 
ness of the sky, possessed a new beauty for him. 
Even the dismal sitting-room, with its worn-out 
furniture, had a glory about it He could very 
well pass a blissful life here with Hester. The 
future was no longer so dreary and blank to 
him ; for if he were compelled to relinquish 
the lawful ambition of his calling, here would be 
his happiness as well as scope for his scholarly 
pursuits. He was already painting the coming 
years in bright colours, while he watched John 
Morley light his lamp, when he saw him casting 
an anxious and nervous glance at the black 
panes of the uncurtained window. 

" Carl," he whispered, as if fearful of being 
overheard by some one without. "I have a 
fancy some nights of a face which looks in 
upon me out of the dark. I have never spoken 
of it to Hester, lest a child like her should be 
frightened. But look now at yonder corner." 

Carl looked earnestly, and detected in the 



Out of the Dark. 261 

thick darkness of the night, the wan outline of 
Rose's face, far enough from the casement to be 
only a dim and indistinct sketch. But it was 
there, with far-off eyes, gazing in upon her 
husband. A thrill of dread and compassion for 
them both ran through him. If John Morley 
should only resolve to verify for himself the 
reality of this haunting face, what would happen ? 
He fixed his eyes more keenly upon the appari- 
tion, and advanced a step or two nearer the 
window, and it vanished suddenly into the 
darker shades of the night 

" Do you see anything ?" asked John Morley, 
eagerly. 

" There is nothing," answered Carl, the pre- 
varication jarring upon his delicate sense of 
truth ; " but you should have a curtain to this 
window. These fancies are not good for you." 

"Nay, I like the night to stare in upon me," 
he replied gloomily. " I wonder, at times, if it 
sees any creature as like itself as I am ; neither 
sun nor stars in many days appearing, and no 
small tempest lying on me. No, no. Let that 
face, as well as the night, stare in to see what 
sort of a wretch lives here." 

He sat down on his own chair, with his gray 



262 Hester Marleys Promise. 

face half turned from the window, and the full 
light of the lamp falling upon it He sank into 
a long, dreamy fit of reverie, while Carl watched 
anxiously the black, blank casement beyond 
him. The pale shadow of John Morley's wife 
looked in no more ; but Carl, before going 
away, resolved to warn Rose of the risk she 
ran in thus venturing to gaze in upon the 
hearth she had forsaken and lost for ever. 



s\ 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

CARL BRAMWELLS FAREWELL. 

Mr. Waldron's first action, after having per- 
formed the painful duty of reading to the 
church Carl's resignation, was to write at once 
to Dr. Hervey, the principal of the college, and 
entreat him to do all in his power to procure 
the young discarded minister a new charge. 
He found it a very difficult matter to explain 
his own conduct ; but what is there that cannot 
be explained, almost to satisfaction, when it is a 
self-explanation which is given ? Carl's heresy 
dwindled down into certain refinements of theo- 
logical and metaphysical distinctions too abstruse 
for the simple church, which could only digest 
the food of babes. Nothing would give Mr. 
Waldron greater pleasure than to see Carl in a 
position where his active and energetic mind 
could find more congenial hearers ; and if the 
doctor could hit upon any plan for advancing 
his interests, he would do anything in his power 
to further them. 

In the meantime, David Scott came down to 



264 Hester Marleys Promise. 

take Carl's place in the pulpit, and to be patron- 
ized by Miss Waldron ; while he stood on one 
side, and saw David drive away in her carriage, 
and himself only acknowledged by a freezing 
bow, strangled in its birth. Carl laughed at 
times, and chafed at times; and then repented 
of both natural emotions, with a sincere effort 
to gain the mastery over nature. Annie felt 
the same, and yielded without any attempt at 
all to conquer herself; she only longed for some 
opportunity of speaking with feminine fidelity to 
her former friend. Robert came no more to 
Grant's house, though he was cordial with Grant 
himself, when he met him. 

It became a question with Carl whether he 
should not at once accept John Morley s offer. 
He had so modest an opinion of himself that it 
did not seem beneath him to condescend to the 
business of a bookseller; and he spent the 
greater portion of his time in John Morleys 
house, with the idea that he was learning some- 
thing of it He drew closer to every member 
of the isolated household. Once again, as she 
went about the house, Hester sang gravely, 
but sweetly, songs which stirred his heart with 
the most delicious tremour. A blessed calm 




Carl BramwelVs frarewelL 265 

visited the desolate home. Even John Morley's 
worn face and sunken eyes seemed to catch a 
reflection of the pervading peace ; as if he had 
at last consented to a truce with his tormenting 
memories. Carl began to think that his pastor- 
ate was there, and that the little flock given 
into his care numbered only John Morley and 
Hester, and the lost and banished one, hidden 
from the sight of all men. 

But before long, in the midst of this slumber 
of ambition, came a more important call than 
before for Carl. There was a great spring 
gathering of their denomination in London, and 
Mr. Waldron was to take the chair at the chief 
public meeting. In his palmiest days at Aston 
Court, Carl would never have dreamed of being 
present as a speaker at this meeting, where the 
greatest of their preachers would occupy the 
platform. But his friend, Dr. Hervey, who had 
been one of the appointed speakers, was seized 
with a sudden illness a day or two before, and 
sent for Carl. He told him what he wished to 
say, and started him off at once for London. 

Carl achieved one of those brilliant and dan- 
gerous successes which occasionally fall to the 
lot of young orators. He took the meeting by 



266 Hester Morleys Promise. 

storm, and made every speech succeeding his 
fall flat upon the excited minds of the audience. 
Miss Waldron, who held a prominent place on 
the platform, drew her veil over her face, and 
wept some of the bitterest tears of her life. 
When the etiquette of the meeting permitted it, 
all the speakers crowded round Carl, whose 
father had been known to most of them, and 
congratulated him upon his triumph. Mr. 
Waldron shook hands with him publicly, and 
was loudly cheered for doing so. There was 
no longer a fear for Carl's future ; and his 
heterodoxy was forgiven and forgotten on the 
spot. 

Carls absence from Little Aston, which he 
had supposed would be only for three or four 
days, prolonged itself into weeks. Sunday after 
Sunday he was called upon to supply some 
pulpit in London and the neighbourhood. It 
ended in his being invited to become co-pastor 
of one of the first and richest churches in 
London, whose minister was beginning to fail 
under the burden of his work. He accepted 
the offer only on condition that for six months 
he should be among them as a candidate 
merely, that they might judge whether he 



Carl BramwelVs Farewell. 267 

merited the brand of heresy. For it was pos- 
sible, he said, that his views of truth, differing 
somewhat from the traditional theology, might 
fall under their censure, as at Little Aston. 

He went home at last, but only for a few 
days. There was a conflict in his mind as to 
whether he should yet utter his love to Hester, 
or wait until his own future was sure. Unfor- 
tunately and unwisely he decided upon keeping 
silence. He believed that Hester would feel 
too greatly divided between her duties to her 
father and Rose, and to him. She had asked 
him once, in a tone of trouble and supplication, 
not to let Grant talk any more about her leaving 
home. It would be impossible to do so, she 
added, hurriedly, for many years to come, if the 
time ever came. Carl's sensitive nature fancied 
there was a dread in her mind lest he should 
say anything to disturb her peace ; and he 
resolved to say nothing till he could say all. 

Among the farewells he had to take none 
was so painful as parting with Rose. Her 
life was so sad, so solitary, and so peculiar, that 
it drew his chivalrous and tender heart very 
closely to her. The bond between them had 
something of the sacred relationship of a priest 



/-^* 



268 Hester Morley's Promise. 

towards a penitent, whom he may absolve or 
condemn. She saw no one else but him and 
Hester; and she naturally leaned more upon 
him than upon a fellow-woman. Hester was the 
daughter of the husband she had betrayed, and 
she dared not reveal to her all the remorseful 
memories which oppressed her broken spirit. 

" I have something to tell you," said Carl, as 
the best consolation he could give her when he 
was about to leave her in circumstances so 
desolate ; " I have seen your child, your little 
Hester ; and now I am going to live in London 
she shall come very often to my house." 

"God bless you !" cried Rose, sobbing. "But 
what is to become of me when you are gone ? 
I feel at times as if I must force my way to my 
husband, and let him strike me dead if he will. 
I don't know whether I am doing right to be so 
near to him without him knowing it." 

" You must be patient," said Carl, pitifully ; 
" you must not tempt him to revenge. Do you 
not know how he nearly murdered Robert 
Waldron at his own door, and he would have 
died in the street if my brother Grant had not 
found him ? Do you wish him to be hurried 
into murder ? Be patient, and leave yourself 



Carl BramweWs Farewell. 269 

in Hester's hands. She knows her father better 
than we do ; she loves him more ; she will not 
lose the right time, if it ever come, of confessing 
all to him. Trust yourself to Hester." 

" But how can I be patient ? " she exclaimed, 
her pale face growing paler. " I think day and 
night that I shall never hear his voice speaking 
to me again. Perhaps even in heaven, where 
you tell me there is a place even for me, I shall 
be nowhere near him; and it may be that 
through all eternity I shall never hear him say, 
* I forgive you/ Ah ! you cannot tell what it 
is, you and Hester, who all your lives long 
have lived as if you looked up into the face of 
God Himself, and who have no pardon to seek 
but His, and He has little to forgive. Every 
night I lie awake and think that death will 
surely come before I hear him forgive me." 

" These are only fancies," said Carl, gently ; 
"you are likely to live many years. Your 
illness is passing away, Grant says. But there 
is a nearer hope for you perhaps. As soon as 
I can offer Hester and her father a home with 
me, I shall ask her to be my wife ; I shall ask 
her father to give her to me. Do you think 
they will consent ? " 



270 Hester Mor ley's Promise. 

" Consent ! " repeated Rose. " She loves you, 
and he thinks of you as a son, she says." 

"Then," continued Carl, his face flushing 
with anticipated joy ; " as soon as he is happy 
once more, when a portion of gloom passes 
away from his life, we can turn his thoughts to 
you ; and perhaps, who can tell ? your forgive- 
ness may be fuller than we hope for now. 
Why! when Hester becomes my wife the 
whole of life will be turned to gladness." 

He felt as if the whole world would be made 
partakers of the joy he looked forward to. At 
the least all his world would be illuminated and 
warmed by it ; and in the new summer which 
would begin for John Morley it might not be 
impossible to bring about a perfect recon- 
ciliation between him and Rose. The glow of 
his hope fell for a brief season upon her heart ; 
but it died away, and left a more chilly dark- 
ness behind it, when Carl was gone, and she 
knew that it would be very long before she 
could see him again. 

At the request of David Scott, and with 
the hearty approbation of Mr. Waldron, Carl 
preached once more to his first church before 
leaving Little Aston for London. He knew it 



Carl BramwelVs Farewell. 271 

well now, with all its foibles and littlenesses. 
It was no longer an assembly of angels. But it 
was with a larger charity that he bade it a last 
farewell. It had already repented of its un- 
faithfulness and unkindness, and looked back 
regretfully on its short-lived union with its 
eloquent young pastor; but the tie had been 
broken by itself, and could never be re-knit. 
Mr. Waldron felt it, and did not hold his head 
as erect, or sing with so much energy and 
freedom as usual ; while his daughter listened 
for the last time to Carl with conflicting 
emotions of exultation and chagrin. 



END OF VOL. II. 



~l 



<—