The sunlight was in his room when he awoke. He had a sense of refreshment. A weight seemed lifted off his heart. He remembered how he had awakened the previous morning in the same bed with a feeling of perplexity. He had found it impossible to make up his mind as to the course he should pursue in regard to Pritchard. He had been fearful of being led to rebuke a man who might have been made the means of leading even one sinner to repentance. He asked himself if he differed as much from that man as the average churchman did from himself in his methods. He knew how grievous he regarded the rebukes which he had received from excellent clergymen who looked on his field preaching with the sternest disapproval; and who then was he that he should presume to rebuke a man who had been led by his zeal beyond what he, Wesley, thought to be the bounds of propriety?

He had felt great perplexity on awakening on that Sunday morning; but he had been given help to see his way clearly on that morning of mist, and now he felt greatly at ease. He had nothing to reproach himself with.

He recalled all the events of the day before—all that his eyes had seen—all that his ears had heard; and now that he had no further need to think about Pritchard, it was surprising how much he had to recall that had little to do with that man. He himself felt somewhat surprised that above all that had been said to him during the day the words that he should dwell longest upon were a few words that had fallen from Mr. Hartwell. He had hinted to Mr. Hartwell that John Bennet had acted so grossly in regard to him, through a mad jealousy; and Mr. Hartwell, hearing this, had lifted up his hands in amazement, and said:

“Absurdity could go no further!”

When Hartwell said those words Wesley had not quite grasped their full import; his attention had been too fully occupied with the further extravagance which he had witnessed on the part of Pritchard. But now that his mind was at ease he recalled the words, and he had sufficient selfpossession to ask himself if his host considered that the absurdity was to be found in Bennet's fancying that he, Wesley, was his rival. If so, was the absurdity to be found in the fancy that such a young woman could think of him, Wesley, in the light of a lover; or that he should think of the young woman as a possible wife?

He could not deny that the thought of Nelly Polwhele as his constant companion had more than once come to him when he was oppressed with a sense of his loneliness; and he knew that when he had got Mr. Hartwell's letter calling him back to Porthawn he had felt that it might be that there was what some men called Fate, but what he preferred to call the Hand of God, in this matter. Was he being led back to have an opportunity of seeing her again, and of learning truly if the regard which he thought he felt for her was to become the love that sanctified the marriage of a man with a woman?

Well, he had returned to her, and he had seen (as he fancied) her face alight with the happiness of his return. For an hour he had thought of the gracious possibility of being able to witness such an expression upon her face any time that he came from a distant preaching. The thought was a delight to him. Home—coming home! He had no home; and surely, he felt, the longing for a home and a face to welcome him at the door was the most natural—the most commendable—that a man could have. And surely such a longing was not inconsistent with his devotion to the work which he believed it was laid upon him to do while his life lasted.

He had seen her and talked with her for a short time, and felt refreshed by being under the influence of her freshness. But then he had been forced to banish her from his mind in order to give all his attention to the grave matter which had brought him back to this place. He had walked by her side through the mist the next day, and never once had he allowed the thought of her to turn his eyes away from the purpose which had called him forth into the mist of the morning. He thought of her thoughtfulness in the matter of the mariner's compass with gratitude. That was all. His heart was full of his work; there was no room in it for anything else.

But now while he sat up in the early sunshine that streamed through his window he felt himself free to think of her; and the more he thought of her the more he wondered how he could ever have been led to believe what he had already embodied in a book respecting the advantages of celibacy for the clergy. A clergyman should not only have a knowledge of God; a knowledge of man was essential to success in his calling; and a knowledge of man meant a wide sympathy with men, and this he now felt could only be acquired by one who had a home of his own. The influence of the home and its associations could not but be the greatest to which a man was subject. The ties that bind a man to his home were those which bind him to his fellow-men. The res angusta domi, which some foolish persons regarded as detrimental to a man's best work, were, he was now convinced, the very incidents which enabled him to do good work, for they enabled him to sympathise with his fellows.

Theologians do not, any more than other people, feel grateful to those who have shown them to be in the wrong; but Wesley had nothing but the kindliest feelings for Nelly Polwhele for having unwittingly led him to see that the train of reasoning which he had pursued in his book was founded upon an assumption which was in itself the result of an immature and impersonal experience of any form of life except the Academic, and surely such a question as he had discussed should be looked at from every other standpoint than the Academic.

Most certainly he was now led to think of the question from very different standpoints. He allowed his thoughts to wander to the girl herself. He thought of her quite apart from all womankind. He had never met any young woman who seemed to possess all the charms which endear a woman to a man. She was bright as a young woman should be, she was thoughtful for the needs of all who were about her, she had shown herself ready to submit to the guidance of one who was older and more experienced than herself. He could not forget how she had promised him never again to enter the playhouse which had so fascinated her. Oh, she was the most gracious creature that lived—the sweetest, the tenderest, and surely she must prove the most devoted!

So his imagination carried him away; and then suddenly he found himself face to face with that phrase of Mr. Hartwell's “Absurdity could go no further.”

And then, of course, he began to repeat all the questions which he had put to himself when he had started on his investigations into the matter. Once more he said:

Where lies the source of all absurdities?

And equally as a matter of course he was once again led in the direction that his thoughts had taken before until he found himself enquiring if the world held another so sweet and gracious and sympathetic.

It was not until he was led once more to his starting-point that he began to feel as he had never done before for those of his fellow-men who allowed themselves to be carried away by dwelling on the simplest of the questions which engrossed him.

“'Tis a repetition of yesterday morning,” said he. “We set out pleasantly enough in the mist, and after an hour's profitless wandering we found ourselves at the point whence we had started—ay, and the young woman was waiting for us there in person.”

Was that morning's wandering to be typical of his life? he wondered. Was he to be ever straying along a misty coast, and evermore to be finding himself at the point whence he had started, with Nelly Polwhele waiting for him there?

An absurdity, was it?

Well, perhaps—but, after all, should he not be doing well in asking Mr. Hartwell what had been in his mind when he had made use of that phrase?

Mr. Hartwell had undoubtedly something in his mind, and he was a level-headed man who had accustomed himself to look at matters without prejudice and to pronounce an opinion based on his common sense. It might be that he could see some grave reason why he, Wesley, should dismiss that young woman forever from his thoughts—forever from his heart.

But, of course, he reserved to himself the right to consider all that Mr. Hartwell might say on this matter, and—if he thought it right—to exercise his privilege of veto in regard to his conclusions. He was not prepared to accept the judgment of Mr. Hartwell without reserve.

Following this line of thought, he quickly saw that whatever Mr. Hartwell might have to say, and however his conclusions might be put aside, it would be necessary for him, Wesley, to acquaint all those men who were associated with him in his work with his intention of marrying a certain young woman. There were his associates in London, in Bristol, in Bath, and above all there was his brother Charles. Would they be disposed to think that such a union would be to the advantage or to the detriment of the work to which they were all devoted?

The moment he thought of his brother he knew what he might expect. Up to that moment it had really never occurred to him that any objection that might not reasonably be overruled, could be offered to his marrying Nelly Polwhele. But so soon as he asked himself what his brother would say when made aware of his intention, he perceived how it was conceivable that his other friends might agree with Mr. Hartwell. For himself, he had become impressed from the first with some of those qualities on the part of Nelly Polwhele which, he was convinced, made her worthy of being loved by the most fastidious of men. He had long ago forgotten that she was only the daughter of a fisherman, and that she owed her refinement of speech to the patronage of the Squire's daughters whose maid she had been.

But what would his brother say when informed that it was his desire to marry a young woman who had been a lady's maid? Would not his brother be right to assume that such a union would be detrimental to the progress of the work in which they were engaged? Had they not often talked together deploring how so many of their brethren in the Church had brought contempt upon their order through their loss of self-respect in marrying whomsoever their dissolute patrons had ordered them to marry? What respect could anyone have for his lordship's chaplain who was content to sit at the side table at meals and in an emergency discharge the duties of a butler, and comply without hesitation to his lordship's command to marry her ladyship's maid, or, indeed, any one of the servants whom it was found desirable to have married?

The thing was done every day; that was what made it so deplorable, he and his brother had agreed; and in consequence day by day the influence of the clergy was declining. Was he then prepared to jeopardise the work to which he had set his hand by such a union as he was contemplating?

He sprang to his feet from where he had been sitting by the window.

“Heaven forgive me for having so base a thought!” he cried. “Heaven forgive me for being so base as to class the one whom I love with such creatures as his patron orders his chaplain to marry! She is a good and innocent child, and if she will come to me I shall feel honoured. I shall prove to all the world that a woman, though lowly-born, may yet be a true helpmeet for such as I. She will aid me in my labours, not impede them. I know now that I love her. I know now that she will be a blessing to me. I love her, and I pray that I may ever love her truly and honestly.”

It was characteristic of the man that the very thought of opposition should strengthen him. An hour earlier he had been unable to assure himself that his feeling for her was love, but now he felt assured on this point: he loved her, and he had never before loved a woman. She was the first fruit of his mission to Cornwall. She had professed the faith to which even he himself had failed to attain until he had been preaching for years. Bound to her by a tie that was the most sacred that could exist between a man and a woman, his most earnest hope was to hold her to him by another bond whose strands were interwoven with a sympathy that was human as well as divine. His mind was made up at last.

He was early at breakfast with his host, but he did not now think it necessary to ask Mr. Hartwell what he had meant by his reference to the absurdity of John Bennet's jealousy. The morning gave promise of a day of brilliant sunshine and warmth. There was nothing sinister in the aspect of the sun, such as had been noted on the previous day.

“Ah, sir,” said Hartwell, “you came hither with a blessing to us all, and you will leave with a sense of having accomplished by the exercise of your own judgment far more than we looked for at such a time. The boats have put out to the fishing ground once more, and the dread that seemed overhanging our poor friends sank with the setting sun last evening.”

“Not to me be the praise—not to me,” said Wesley, bowing his head in all humility. After a few moments he raised his head quite suddenly, saying:

“You have referred to my judgment, dear friend; I wonder if you think that in many matters my judgment is worthy to be depended on?”

“Indeed, sir, I know of no man in the world whose judgment in all reasonable matters I would accept sooner than yours,” replied Hartwell. “Why, Mr. Wesley, who save you would have foreseen a way of avoiding the trouble which threatened us by such means as you adopted? Were not we all looking for you to administer a rebuke to the man whose vanity carried him so far away from what we held to be discreet? Was there one of us who foresaw that the right way of treating him was to let him alone?”

“I dare not say that 'twas my own judgment that guided me,” said Wesley. “But—I hope, friend Hartwell, that I shall never be led to take any step that will jeopardise your good opinion of my capacity to judge what course is the right one to pursue in certain circumstances.”

“Believe me, Mr. Wesley, after the events of yesterday I shall not hesitate to say that you were in the right and I in the wrong, should I ever be disposed to differ from you on a matter of moment. But I cannot think such a difference possible to arrive,” said Hartwell.

“Differences in judgment are always possible among good friends,” said Wesley.

“I should like to have a long talk with you some day, Mr. Wesley, on the subject of the influence of such powers as are at the command of Pritchard,” said Hartwell. “Are they the result of sorcery or are they a gift from above? I have been thinking a great deal about that trance of his which we witnessed. How was it possible for him to foresee the place and the form of that wreck, think you?”

“Howsoever his powers be derived,” replied Wesley, “the lesson that we must learn from his case is that we cannot be too careful in choosing our associates. For myself, I have already said that I mistrusted him from the first, as I should any man practising with a divining rod.”

“We should have done so, too, sir, only that we had become so accustomed to his water-finding, it seemed as natural to send for him when sinking a well as it was to send for the mason to build the wall round it when the water was found.”

This was all that they said at that time touching the remarkable incidents of the week. Both of them seemed to regard the case of Pritchard as closed, although they were only in the morning of the day which the man had named in his prediction. Mr. Hartwell even assumed that his guest would be anxious to set out on his return to the west before noon, and he was gratified when Wesley asked for leave to stay on for a day or two yet.

Wesley spent an hour or two over his correspondence, and all the time the matter which he had at heart caused him to lay down his pen and lie back in his chair, thinking, not upon the subject of his letters, but upon the question of approaching Nelly Polwhele, and upon the question of the letter which he would have to write to his brother when he had seen the girl; for whether she accepted him or refused him, he felt that it was his duty to inform his brother as to what had occurred.

The result of his meditations was as might have been expected. When a man who is no longer young gives himself up to consider the advisability of offering marriage to a young woman with whom he has not been in communication for much more than a month, he usually procrastinates in regard to the deciding scene. Wesley felt that perhaps he had been too hasty in coming to the conclusion that a marriage with Nelly would bring happiness to them both. Only a few hours had elapsed since he had, as he thought, made up his mind that he loved her. Should he not refrain from acting on such an impulse? What would be the consequence if he were to ask the young woman to be his wife and find out after a time that he should not have been so sure of himself? Surely so serious a step as he was contemplating should be taken with the utmost deliberation. He should put himself to the test. Although he had been looking forward to seeing the girl this day, he would not see her until the next day—nay, he was not confident that he might not perceive that his duty lay in waiting for several days before approaching her with his offer.

That was why, when he left the house to take the air, he walked, not in the direction of the village, where he should run the best chance of meeting her, but toward the cliffs, which were usually deserted on week days, except by the Squire's grooms, who exercised the horses in their charge upon the fine dry sand that formed a large plateau between the pathway and the struggling trees on the outskirts of Court Park.

He went musing along the cliff way, thinking of the contrast between this day and the previous one—of the contrast between those sparkling waves that tossed over each other in lazy play, and the slime and ooze which had lain bare and horrid with their suggestions of destruction and disaster. It was a day such as one could scarcely have dreamt of following so sinister a sunset as he had watched from this place. It was a day that made him glad that he had not uttered a harsh word in rebuke of the man who had troubled him—indeed he felt most kindly disposed toward Pritchard; he was certainly ready to forgive him for having been the means of bringing him, Wesley, back to this neighbourhood.

He wondered if it had not been for Pritchard, would he have returned to Ruthallion and Porthawn. Was the affection for Nelly, of which he had become conscious during his journeying in the west, strong enough at that time to carry him back to Porthawn, or had it matured only since he had come back to her?

He wondered and mused, strolling along the path above the blue Cornish waters. Once as he stood for a while, his eyes looked longingly in the direction of the little port. He felt impatient for more than a few moments—impatient that he should be so strict a disciplinarian in regard to himself. It was with a sigh he turned away from where the roofs of the nearest houses could just be seen, and resumed his stroll with unfaltering feet. He had made his resolution and he would keep to it.

But he did not get further than that little dip in the cliffs where he had once slept and awakened to find Nelly Polwhele standing beside him. The spot had a pleasant memory for him. He remembered how he had been weary when he had lain down there, and how he had risen up refreshed.

Surely he must have loved her even then, he thought. What, was it possible that he had known her but a few days at that time? His recollection of her coming to him was as that of someone to whom he had been attached for years.

He smiled as he recalled the tale which he had once read of the magician Merlin, who had woven a bed of rushes for the wife of King Mark, on which she had but to lie and forthwith she saw whomsoever she wished to see. Well, here he was in the land of King Mark of Cornwall, and there was the place where he had made his bed....

He had been contemplating the comfortable hollow between the rocks, thinking his thoughts, and he did not raise his eyes for some time. When he did he saw Nelly Polwhele coming toward him, not along the cliffs, but across the breadth of moorland beyond which was the Court Park.

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