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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." —
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.
" 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."
" A bright, sparkling, and clever story." — Echo.
IIknry S. King & Co., 65 Cornhill, and 12 Paternoster Row.
HESTER MORLEY'S PROMISE.
Author of "The Doctor's Dilemma," &c, &c.
Henry S. King & Co., 65, Cornhill.
jSAa. a. J+Jti ■
[All rights Reserved.]
CHAPTER I. page
Castles in the Air . i
A First Charge 14
In Succession 23
Miss Waldron's Counsel 33
A Painful Discovery 44
Hester's Sanctuary 50
A Perilous Path 63
A Husband for Hester 81
Consulting Carl 92
How could it End? 103
A Direct Effort . . . 112
Something more than a Friend 121
Ten Years After 131
Her Husband's Hearth 145
The Old Nursery 154
A Lesson for Hester 166
A Munificent Gift 177
Blow after Blow 190
Retribution Begun 205
A Pastoral Visit 219
Another Pastoral Visit 232
Out of the Dark 255
Carl Bramwell's Farewell 263
Hester Morley's Promise.
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
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
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
" 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-
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
" 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
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."
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
"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
" 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
" 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
" Nor to a co-pastorate ?" inquired Mr.
"My colleague and I would both have to
prove whether we suited one another," he
" 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.
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
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
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
" And Hester Morley was to have been
received into the church," observed Mr. Wal-
"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
" 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
" 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
"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.
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
" 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
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
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
The dim eyes brightened a little as Carl's
voice repeated the familiar words ; but he
shook his already trembling head, despond-
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
" 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
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
" 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
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
" 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.
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
" 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
" 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
" I can tell you, I believe," he said, address-
ing his daughter ; " it would be Hester and her
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.
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
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-
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
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.
" 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
" 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
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-
" 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.
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 ?"
"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
" She says we are to go up to her," he an-
"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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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,
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
"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.
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
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
" 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
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
" 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 ?"
" 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
A Perilous Path. 77
" We will not go into the drawing-room just
yet," he said. " I have a painting or two to
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
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
" I am not very fit for such a grand place,"
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-
Robert was never at a loss as to what to say
to his father, and now he found himself able to
" 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
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
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
" I think, father," he said, " that it is time I
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
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-
" 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
" 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
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
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
" 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,
" Never !" he exclaimed, vehemently. " I tell
you I worship her. She is the only woman
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-
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.
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
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
" 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
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
" 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.
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-
" 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
" 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.
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.
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-
" 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
" I am very glad to hear it," he answered,
" 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,
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
" 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
"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
" What did she answer ?" asked Carl, with
" 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
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
" 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
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
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
" 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-
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
"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
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
" 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
" 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
" And you will esteem me, and — and care
for me as much as ever?" she asked, with a
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
" 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
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
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
" 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,
" 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
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,
" 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
156 Hester Mor ley's Promise.
" Hester !" ejaculated her father, in a tone of
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
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
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.
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
" 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
"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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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
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
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
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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
"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
" No, not me, but to Hester Morley," she
" Hester Morley ! " echoed Grant, while
Robert's face grew dark as he waited for
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
" 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
" 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
" 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
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
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
" 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 ?"
"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
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
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 ?
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-
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.
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
" 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
" 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
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
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
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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
" 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
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
" Thank God !" cried Carl.
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
" 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,"
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
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
Carl did not break in upon her thoughts ;
and the silence prolonged itself for several
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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,
" Has she been happy where she is ?" asked
" 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.
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
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
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
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
"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, —
John Morley sat down, and Hester crept
closer to him, and pressed his hand tightly in
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
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
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
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
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,
" 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.
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
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.