The question had often been discussed by him to the furthest point possible (as he thought) for its consideration to be extended; and how was it that he found himself debating it at this time in its crudest form? He had long ago settled it to his own satisfaction, that his life was to be a lonely one through the world. Not for him were to be the pleasant cares of home or wife or child. Not for him was the tenderness of woman—not for him the babble of the little lips, every quiver of which is a caress. His work was sufficient for him, he had often said, and the contemplation of the possibility of anything on earth coming between him and his labours, filled him with alarm. He felt that if he were to cease to be absorbed in his work, he should be unfaithful to his trust. The only one that was truly faithful was the one who was ready to give up all to follow in the footsteps of the Master.

But being human and full of human sympathy, he had often felt a moment's envy entering the house of one of his friends who was married and become the father of children. The hundred little occurrences incidental to a household, where there was a nursery and a schoolroom, were marked by him—the clambering of little chubby legs up to the father's knee—the interpretation of the latest phrase that fell from baby lips—the charm of golden silk curls around an innocent child's face—all these and a score of other delights associated with the household had appealed to him, giving him an hour's longing at the time, and a tender recollection at intervals in after years.

“Not for me—not for me,” he had said. So jealous was he of his work that, as has been noted, the possibility of his becoming absorbed—even partially—by anything that was not directly pertaining to his work, was a dread to him. He set himself the task of crushing down within him every aspiration that might tend to interfere with the carrying out of the labour of his life, and he believed that, by stern and strict endeavour, he had succeeded in doing so.

Then why should he now find himself considering the question which he believed he had settled forever? Why should he now begin to see that the assurance that it was not good for a man to be alone was based upon a knowledge of men and was wise?

He found an apt illustration of the wisdom of the precept in the conduct of the girl who had shown such thoughtfulness in regard to him. “Mentem mortalia tangunt,” was the sors Virgiliana which came to his mind at the moment. He recognised the truth of it. A man was affected by the material conditions of his life. If the girl had not shown such thought for his comfort, he would well-nigh have been broken down by his exhausting labours of the day, followed up by an exhausting walk along the cliffs. He might not have returned to the house at which he was staying in time to dine, before setting out for a long drive to another place for an afternoon's meeting. So absorbed was he apt to be in his preaching that he became oblivious to every consideration of daily life. What were to him such trivial matters as eating and drinking at regular intervals? He neglected the needs of his body, and only when he had suffered for so doing did he feel that his carelessness was culpable. On recovering from its' immediate effects, however, he fell back into his old habits.

But now the thought that came to him was that he had need for someone to be by his side as (for example) Nelly Polwhele had been. He knew quite well, without having had the experience of married life, that if he had had a wife, he would not have been allowed to do anything so unwise as to walk straight away from the preaching to the cliffs, having eaten nothing since the early morning, and then only a single cake of bread. A good wife would have drawn him away from the people to whom he was talking, to the house where he was a guest, and when there have set about providing for him the food which he lacked and the rest which he needed to restore him after his arduous morning's work, so that he might set out for the afternoon's preaching feeling as fresh as he had felt in the morning.

He was grateful to the girl, not only for her attention to him, but also for affording him an illustration favourable to his altered way of looking at a question which he fancied had long ago been settled forever in his mind. (He had long ago forgiven the woman, who, in America, had taught him to believe that a life of loneliness is more conducive to one's peace of mind than a life linked to an unsympathetic companion.)

And having been led to such a conclusion, it was only reasonable that he should make a resolution that, if he should ever be so fortunate as to meet with a virtuous lady whom he should find to possess those qualities which promised most readily to advance the work which he had at heart, he would not be slow to ask her to be his companion to such an end.

This point settled to his satisfaction (as he thought), he mounted his horse, after a week's stay in the valley of the Lana, and made his way to the tinners of Camlin, twenty miles further along the coast Here he was received with open arms, and preached from his rock pulpit to thousands of eager men and women an hour after sunrise on a summer morning.

On still for another fortnight, in wilder districts, among people who rarely entered a church, and whom the church made no attempt to reach. These were the people for him. He was told that he was going forth to sow the seed in stony ground, but when he came and began to sow, he found that it fell upon fruitful soil. Here it was impossible for him to find a huge congregation, so scattered were the inhabitants. But this was no obstacle to him: he asked for no more than a group of hearers in every place, and by the time that night came he found that he had preached to thousands since sunrise. Beginning sometimes at five o'clock in the morning, he would preach on the outskirts of a village and hold a second service before breakfasting six miles away. It was nothing for him to preach half a dozen times and ride thirty miles in one of these days.

But as he went further and further on this wonderful itinerary of his, that sense of loneliness of which he had become aware at Porthawn seemed to grow upon him. During those intervals of silence which he spent on horseback, his feeling of loneliness appeared to increase, until at last there came upon him a dread lest he should affect his labours. He had a fear that a despondent note might find its way into his preaching, and when under such an influence he made a strong effort in the opposite direction, he was conscious of an artificial note; and, moreover, by the true instinct of the man who talks to men, he was conscious that it was detected by his hearers.

He was disappointed in himself—humiliated. How was it that for years he had been able to throw off this feeling of walking alone, through the world, or making no effort to throw it off, to glory in it, as it were—to feel all the stronger because of it, inasmuch as it could not come without bringing with it the reflection that he—he alone—had been chosen to deliver the message to the multitudes—the message of Light to the people that walked in darkness?

He could not understand how the change had come about in him, and not being able to understand it, he felt the more humiliated.

And then, one day, riding slowly along the coach road, he saw a young woman standing waiting for a change of horses for her post chaise at the door of a small inn.

He started, for she had fair hair and a fresh face whose features bore some resemblance to those of Nelly Polwhele—he started, for there came upon him, with the force of a revelation, the knowledge that this was the companionship for which he was longing—that unconsciously, she had been in his thoughts—some way at the back of his thoughts, to be sure, but still there—that, only since he had been her companion had his need for some sweet and helpful companionship become impressed upon him..

He rode on to his destination overwhelmed by the surprise at the result of this glimpse which had been given to him into the depths of his own heart. The effect seemed to him as if with the sight of that stranger—that young woman on the roadside—a flash of lightning had come, showing him in an instant what was in the depths of his heart.

He tried to bring himself to believe that he was mistaken.

“Impossible—impossible!” he cried. “It is impossible that I should be so affected—a village girl!... And I did not talk with her half a dozen times in all!... Kind, thoughtful, with tact—a gracious presence, a receptive mind.... Ah, it was she undoubtedly who set me thinking—who made me feel dissatisfied with my isolation, but still.. . oh, impossible—impossible!”

And, although a just man, the thoughts that he now believed himself to have in regard to Nelly Polwhele were bitter rather than sweet. He began to think that it was too bold of her—almost immodest—to make the attempt to change the whole course of the life of such a man as he was. He had once courted the lonely life, believing it to be the only life for such as he—the only life that enabled him to give all his thoughts—all his strength—oh, all his life—all his life—to the work which had been appointed for him to do in the world of sinners; but lo! that child had come to him, and had made him feel that he was not so different from other men.

Under the influence of his bitterness, he resented her intrusion, as it were. Pshaw! the girl wras nothing. It was only companionship as a sentiment that he had been longing for; he had a clear idea of the companionship that he needed; but he had never thought of the companion. It was a mere trick of the fancy to suggest that, because the young woman had sent his thoughts into a certain groove, they must of necessity be turned in the direction of the young woman herself.

He soon found, however, that it is one thing for a man to prove to the satisfaction of his own intelligence that it would be impossible that he should set his heart on a particular young woman, but quite another to shut her out from his heart. He had his heart to reckon with, though he did not know it.

Before the day had passed he had shut the doors of his heart, and he believed that he had done right. He did not know that he had shut those doors, not against her, but upon her.

Like all men who have accomplished great things in the world, he was intensely human. His sympathy flowed forth for his fellow-men in all circumstances of life. But he did not know himself sufficiently well to understand that what he thought of with regret as his weaknesses, were actually those elements wherein lay the secret of his influence with men.

He had just succeeded, he fancied, in convincing himself that it was impossible he could ever have entertained a thought of Nelly Polwhele as the one who could afford him the companionship which he craved, when a letter came to him from Mr. Hartwell, whom he had appointed the leader of the class which he had established at Porthawn, entreating him to return to them, as they were in great distress and in peril of falling to pieces, owing to the conduct of one of their members, Richard Pritchard by name.

Could he affirm that the sorrow which he felt on receiving this news was the sum of all the emotions that filled his heart at that moment?

He laid down the letter, saying,

“It is the Lord's doing.”

And when he said that, he was thinking, not of the distress in which his children at Porthawn found themselves by reason of Richard Pritchard, but of the meaning of the summons to himself.

“It is the trial to which my steadfastness is to be put,” he said. “I am not to be allowed to escape without scathe. Why should I expect to do so when others are tried daily? There can be no victory without a battle. The strength of a man is developed by his trial. I am ready. Grant me grace, O Lord, to sustain me, and to keep my feet from straying!”

He prepared himself for this journey back to Porthawn, and he was presently amazed (having been made aware of his own weakness) to find himself thinking very much less about himself and scarcely at all about Nelly Polwhele, nor that the chance of seeing her again had, without the least expectation on his part, came to him. He found himself giving all his thoughts to the question of his duty. Had he been over-hasty in accepting the assurances of all these people at Porthawn to whose souls peace had come through his preaching? Was he actuated solely by a hope to spread abroad the Truth as he had found it, or had a grain of the tares of Self been sown among the good seed? Had there been something of vanity in his desire to increase the visible results of his preaching?

These were his daily questionings and soulsearching, and they had been ever present with him since he had put his hand to the plough. He was ever apt to accuse himself of vainglory—of a lack of that spirit of humility which he felt should enter into every act—every thought of his life. He thought of himself as the instrument through which his Master spake to His children. Should the harp vaunt itself when a hand sweeps over its strings, making such music as forces those who hear to be joyful or sad? Should the trumpet take credit to itself because through its tubes is blown the blast that sends an army headlong to the charge?

After his first preaching in the valley of the Lana, hundreds of those who heard him had come to him making a profession of the Faith that he preached. He asked himself now if it was not possible that he had been too eager to accept their assurance. He had had his experiences of the resultat the emotions of his listeners being so stirred by his preaching that they had come to him with the same glad story; but only to become lukewarm after a space, and after another space to lapse into their former carelessness. The parable of the Sower was ever in his mind. The quick upspring-ing of the seed was a sign that it had fallen where there was no depth of earth. And this sowing was more hopeless than that on stony ground—than that among thorns.

He feared that he had been too hasty. He was a careless husbandman who had been too ready to assume that a plentiful harvest was at hand, because he had sown where there was no depth of earth. He should have waited and watched and noted every sign of spiritual growth before leaving the field of his labours.

These were some of his self-reproaches which occupied all his thoughts while making his return journey to Porthawn, thus causing all thought of Nelly Polwhele to be excluded from his mind. He had caught a glimpse of the Lana winding its way through the valley before he had a thought of her, and then it was with some bitterness that he reflected that, all unknown to himself, he had shortened his stay in this region because he had had an instinct that a danger would threaten him if he were to remain. Instinct? Now he was dealing with a force that was wholly animal—wholly of the flesh, and the flesh, he knew, was waging perpetual war with the things that appertained to the spirit.

He urged his horse onward. Whatever danger might threaten himself by his returning to this region, he would not shrink from it; what was such a danger compared with that threatening the edifice of Faith which he had hoped had been built up in the midst of the simple people of the land?

He urged his horse forward, and on the afternoon of the second day of his journey he was within a few hours' journey of Ruthallion Mill. He meant to call at the Mill, feeling sure that he would get from the miller a faithful and intelligent account of all that had happened during the three weeks of his absence from this neighbourhood. Miller Pendelly, once the champion of the old system of lifeless churchgoing, had become the zealous exponent of the new. He was the leader of the little band that formed the nucleus of the great organisation of churchmen who, under the teaching of Wesley, sought to make the Church the power for good among the people that it was meant to be. Jake Pullsford, who had spread the story of Wesley's aims among his friends before the preacher had appeared in Cornwall, had given evidence of the new Light that had dawned upon him when he had heard Wesley at Bristol. Both these were steadfast men, not likely to cause offence, and if Wesley had heard any report of their falling short of what was expected of them he would have been more than disappointed.

It was through Richard Pritchard, the professional water-finder, that offence had come or was likely to come, Mr. Hartwell's letter had told him. He remembered the man very clearly. He had had some conversation with him, and Jake had satisfied him as to the sincerity of his belief. He had never been otherwise than a clean-living man, and he had studied many theological works. But he had not impressed Mr. Wesley as being a person of unusual intelligence. His remarkable calling and the success with which he practised it all through the West had caused Him to appear in the eyes of the people of the country as one possessing certain powers which, though quite legitimate, being exercised for good, were bordering on the supernatural. Wesley now remembered that he had had some doubt as to the legitimacy of the man's calling. Believing, as he did, so fully in the powers of witchcraft, he had a certain amount of uneasiness in accepting as a member of the little community which he was founding, a man who used the divining rod; but the simplicity of Pritchard and his exemplary character, were in his favour, so much as to outweigh the force of. Wesley's objection to his mode of life.

Now, as he guided his horse down the valley road, he regretted bitterly that he had allowed his misgivings to be overcome so easily. Like all men who have accomplished great things in the world, the difficulties which occasionally beset him were due to his accepting the judgment of others, putting aside his own feelings or tendencies, in certain matters. The practice of the virtue of humility, in regard to his estimation of the value of his own judgment, had cost him dearly upon occasions.

It was all the more vexatious to reflect that the man through whom the trouble (whatever it might be) was impending, was the last one in the world from whom any trouble might reasonably be looked for. This was probably the first time in his life that he had reached any prominence in the little circle in which he lived. To be allowed to remain in the background, seemed to be his sole aspiration. His fear of giving offence to anyone seemed to be ever present with him, and his chief anxiety was to anticipate an imaginary offence by an apology. How a man who was so ludicrously invertebrate should become a menace to the stability of a community that included such robust men as the miller, the carrier, and the smith, to say nothing of Farmer Tregenna and Mr. Hartwell, the mine owner, was more than Wesley could understand. It was this element of mystery that caused him to fear that Pritchard had all along been an agent of the Enemy—that his noted successes with the divining rod were due to his connection with the Powers of Darkness, and that his getting within the fold of the faithful was, after all, only what might have been expected from one whose tactics were devised for him by the Old Serpent—the origin of every evil since the expulsion from Paradise.

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