John Wesley sat alone in the room, thinking his thoughts. They were not unhappy, though tinged with a certain mournfulness at times. The mournful tinge was due to the reflection that once more he must reconcile himself to live alone in the world. For a brief space he had had a hope that it might be given to him to share the homely joys of his fellow-men. He now saw that it was not to be; and he bowed his head to the decree of the Will which he knew could not err.

Alone? How could such a reflection have come to him? How could he who sought to walk through the world with the Divine companionship of the One to whom he trusted to guide his steps aright feel lonely or alone?

This was the thought that upheld him now. He could feel the hand that he knew was ever stretched out to him. He touched it now as he had touched it before, and he heard the voice that said:

“I have called ye friends.”

He was happy—as happy as the true man should be who knows that the woman whom he loves is going to be made happy. He now perceived that everything had been ordered for the best, this best being the ultimate happiness of the woman whom he loved. He now saw that although he might strive to bring happiness to her, he might never succeed in doing so. Even if she had loved him her quick intelligence could not fail to whisper to her what the people around them would be saying out loud—that John Wesley had married the daughter of a humble fisherman of Cornwall, and that that was no match for him to make. She would hear it said that John Wesley, who was ever anxious for the dignity of the Church to be maintained, had shown himself to be on the level with my lord's greasy, sottish chaplain, who had showed himself ready to marry my lady's maid when commanded to do so by his master, when circumstances had made such an act desirable.

Would such a young woman as Nelly Polwhele be happy when now and again she should hear these whispers and the consciousness was forced upon her that John Wesley was believed to have made a fool of himself?

But even to assume what her thoughts would be was to assume that she had loved him, and this she had never done. He was convinced that she had never ceased to love the man to whom she had given her promise. To be sure, she had told him when they had been together on the cliffs that someone else had come into her life. But that he believed to be only a passing fancy of hers. It was impossible that such a young woman, having given her promise to so fine a fellow as Captain Snowdon, should allow his place in her heart to be taken by anyone else.

He wondered if the Squire had a son as well as daughters. Nelly had talked to him often enough about the young ladies, but not a word had she breathed about a young gentleman. If there was a son, would it be beyond the limits of experience that this village girl should be captivated by his manners—was it beyond the limits of experience that the young man might have been fascinated by the beauty of the girl and so have talked to her as such young men so often did, in a strain of flattery that flattered the poor things so that they were led to hope that an offer of marriage was approaching?

He resolved to make enquiry on this point from Nelly herself should she still maintain that her affection had changed. But meantime——

His lucubrations were interrupted by the sudden return of Captain Snowdon. He was plainly in a condition of great excitement. His coat was loose and his neckerchief was flying.

“We are too late, Mr. Wesley,” he cried. “We are too late. The girl has given both of us the slip. I called at the cottage to fetch her hither. I did not find her at home. This is what was put into my hand.”

He thrust out a piece of paper with writing upon it.

I cannot stay—I dare not stay any longer where I am forced to see you every day, and am thus reminded of my promise which I know I cannot now keep. Please try not to follow me; 'twould be of no use. I must be apart from you before I make up my mind. I am very unhappy, and I know that I am most unhappy because I have to give pain to one who is the best of men.


“You have read it?” cried Snowdon. “I had no notion that her whimsies would carry her so far. Oh, she is but a girl after all—I tell you that she is no more than a girl.”

“She is a girl, and I think that she is the best that lives, to be a blessing to a good man's life,” said Wesley, returning the letter to his trembling hand.

“The best? The best? She has made a fool of the man who would have died to save her from the least hurt, and you call her the best!” he cried, walking to and fro excitedly, crumpling up the letter with every stride.

“She is the best,” said Wesley. “Sir, cannot you see that those lines were written by a woman who is anxious to be true to herself? Cannot you see that her sole fear is that she may do an injustice to the man who loves her?”

“You see things, sir, that none other can see; I am but a plain man, Mr. Wesley, and I can see naught in this letter save the desire of a fickle young woman to rid herself of a lover of whom she has grown weary. Well, she has succeeded—she has succeeded! She exhorts me not to follow her. She need not have been at the trouble to do so: I have no intention of following her, even if I knew whither she has gone. Have you any guess as to the direction she has taken? Not that I care—I tell you, sir, I have no desire to follow her. Who do you suspect is her lover?”

“Mr. Snowdon,” said Wesley, “her lover stands before me in this room. The poor child has had her doubts, as any true girl must have when she thinks how serious a step is marriage, and the best way that you can dissipate such doubts is to show to her that you have none.'Tis left for you to prove yourself a true man in this matter, Captain Snowdon, and I know that, being a true man, you will act as a true man should act.”

“I know not what you would suggest, sir, but I can promise you that if you hint that I should seek to follow her, you make a mistake,” said Snowdon.

“She may go whithersoever she pleases. I have no mind to be made a fool of a second time by her. I have some self-respect still remaining, let me tell you, Mr. Wesley.”

“You may be sure that no advice to sacrifice it will come from me, sir,” said Wesley. “Oh, Mr. Snowdon, did not you come to me an hour ago to ask me to be your friend in this matter? Did you not ask me to give my advice to the young woman of whom we have been speaking? Was not that because you believed that my advice would be right?”

“I know that it would have been right, Mr. Wesley; but now——”

“If you could trust to me to give her good advice, why cannot you prove that this was your hope, by hearkening to the advice which I am ready to give to you?”

The big man, who was standing in the middle of the room, had made several passionate attempts to speak, but none of them could be called successful. When Wesley had put his last question, he tried to frame a reply. He put out an arm with an uplifted forefinger and his lips began to move. Not a word would come. He looked at Wesley straight in the face for a long time, and then he suddenly turned away, dropped into the nearest chair, and bent his head forward until his chin was on his hand, and he was gazing at the floor.

Wesley let him be. He knew something of men and their feelings, as well as their failings.

There was a long silence before the man arose and came to him, saying in a low voice:

“Mr. Wesley, I will trust to your judgment. I will do whatsoever you bid me.”

Wesley grasped him by the hand.

“I had no doubt of you, my friend,” he said. “I felt that any man whom Nelly Polwhele loved——”

“Ay, loved—loved!” interjected Snowdon.

“Loves—loves—in love there is no past tense,” said Wesley. “She loved you, and she loves you still—she will love you forever. You will come with me, and I know that mine will be the great happiness of bringing you together. What greater happiness could come to such as I than this which, by the grace of Heaven, shall be mine?”

“She gave you her confidence? You know whither she has fled?”

Wesley shook his head.

“She told me nothing; remember that I have not seen her since you returned to her,” he said. “But I think that I can say whither she has gone.'Tis but six or seven miles from here. Have you heard of Ruthallion Mill?”

The mariner struck the palm of his left hand with his right fist. The blow had weight enough in it to make the casements quiver.

“Wherefore could I not have thought of the Mill?” he cried.' “I was fool enough to let a thought of Squire Trevelyan's Court come into my mind.”

“I have no doubt that we shall find her at the Mill,” said Wesley. “The miller has been a second father to her, and, besides, he has a daughter. 'Tis to friends such as these that she would go for succour and sympathy in her hour of trouble.” Captain Snowdon mused for a moment.

“How do I know that they will be on my side, Mr. Wesley?” he asked. “They may reckon that she has been ill-used—that she has a right to change her mind and to choose whomsoever she will.”

“Mr. Snowdon,” said Wesley, “it doth not need that one should be possessed of a judgment beyond that of ordinary people to decide the right and the wrong of this affair in which we all take a huge interest. Come, sir, let us prepare for the best and not for the worst. What, are you a master-mariner and yet have not learned that the best way to stamp out a mutiny is by a display of promptitude. Let us lose no time over the discussion of what the result of our action may be—let us act at once.”

He went to the door..

“Nay, sir; but you are a sick man—how will you make this journey?” said Snowdon.

“I am no longer a sick man,” said Wesley. “I would not give a second thought to the setting out upon a journey to the Mill on foot. But there will be no need for this. Mr. Hartwell will lend us his light cart; it will hold three.”

“Three? But we are but two, sir.”

“Ay, Mr. Snowdon—only two for the journey to the Mill; but we shall need an extra seat for our return.”

A few words to Mr. Hartwell and his easy running waggon was at the door. The drive through the valley of the Lana on this lovely afternoon had an exhilarating effect upon Captain Snowdon, for Wesley took care that their conversation should be-on topics far removed from their mission at this time. He wished to be made acquainted with his companion's views respecting many matters of the Orient. Was it possible that the Jesuits had sent missionaries to the Indies and even to China? Had Captain Snowdon had any opportunity of noting-the result of their labours? Had Captain Snowdon learned if the Jesuits discountenanced any of the odious native customs such as the burning of widows—the throwing of infants into the sacred river of Ganges? Or did the missioners content themselves with simple preaching?

The journey to the Mill was all too short to allow of Captain Snowdon's answering more than a few of the questions put to him by the discreet Mr. Wesley, and it was not until they were turning down the little lane that the ship-master came to an abrupt end of his replies, and put the nervous question to his companion:

“Shall we find her here, or have we come on a wild-goose chase?”

In a few minutes they were in her presence—almost in her presence; they caught sight of her flying through the inner door when they entered the Mill room.

The miller, in his shirtsleeves and wearing his working apron, gave a loud laugh and shouted “Stop thief!” but his daughter and her mother were looking grave and tearful. They moved to the door by which Nelly had made her escape, but checked themselves and returned to greet Wesley and Snowdon. They hoped that the sun had not been overwarm during the drive through the valley, and that Mr. Wesley had fully recovered from his sickness.

The miller came to the point with his usual directness.

“You have come to carry the girl home with you, I doubt not?” he said; and forthwith his wife and daughter made for the door.

Captain Snowdon looked ill at ease. He glanced toward the outer door.

“How oft have I not told her that a judgment would fall upon her for the heartburnings that she brought about—all through her kindness o' heart?” continued the miller. “Poor daughter! But they all go through the same course, Captain, of that you may be assured, albeit I doubt not that you think that so dread a case as yours has never been known i' the world before. When the marriage day draws nigh, the sweetest and the surest of them all has a misgiving. Don't be too ready to blame them, sir. The wonder is that when she sees so many errors hurried into under the name of marriage, any maid can bring herself to take upon her the bondage.” Captain Snowdon nodded sideways and looked shyly down.

“Nature is stronger than experience, miller,” said Wesley. “I am bold enough to think that you could give Mr. Snowdon a pinch of your experience in your garden, after you have told Nelly that I seek a word with her here. I am pretty certain that I shall have completed my task before your experiences as a married man are exhausted.”

“Right, sir,” said the miller. “Captain, I show you the door in no inhospitable spirit. I'll join you in the turning of a pinion.”

Captain Snowdon seemed pleased to have a chance of retiring, returning to the open air; he hurried out by one door, while the miller went through the other and shouted for Nelly. His wife's remonstrance with him for his unfeeling boisterousness reached Wesley, who was now alone in the room.

He was not kept long waiting. Nelly entered, the miller leading her by the hand, and then walking slowly to the outer door..

“My dear, you know why I have come hither,” said Wesley, taking her hand in both of his own. “You asked for my counsel once, and I gave it to you. I could only give it to you at that time in a general way. I had not seen the man to whom you had given your promise; but having seen him, and knowing what manner of man he is—and I am something of a judge of a man's character—I feel that I would be lacking in my duty to you, dear child, if I were to refrain from coming to you to plead for—for your own happiness.”

“Have I forfeited all your esteem by my behaviour, sir?” she cried, still holding his hand and looking at him with piteous eyes. “Do you think of me as a light-minded girl, because I confessed to you—all that I did confess?”

“I have never ceased to think of you with affection,” he said.

“Ah! the affection of a man who is esteemed by all the world, for a poor girl who touched the hem of his life, and then passed away never to be seen by him again.”

She spoke in a curious tone of reproach. He looked at her, asking himself what she meant.

“Child, child, you little know how I have thought of you,” he said slowly. “Do you believe that the path of my life has been so gilded with sunshine that I take no count of such hours as we passed together when we walked through the valley, side by side—when we sat together on the cliffs?”

She gave a little cry of joy and caught up his hand and kissed it.

He was startled. He turned his eyes upon her. She was rosy red. Her head was bowed.

In that instant he read her secret.

There was a long silence. Only occasionally a little sob came from her.

“Child,” he said in a low voice. “Child, you have been very dear to me.”

She looked up with streaming eyes.

“Say those words again—again,” she cried in faltering tones.

“They are true words, my dear,” he said. “The life which it has been decreed that I shall lead must be one of loneliness—what most men and all women call loneliness. Such joys of life as love and marriage and a home can never be for me. I have given myself over body and soul to the work of my Master, and I look on myself as separate forever from all the tenderness of life. They are not for me.”

“Why should they not be for you? You have need of them, Mr. Wesley?”

“Why should they not be for me, do you ask?” he cried. “They are not for me, because I have been set to do a work that cannot be done without a complete sacrifice of self. Because I have found by the bitterest experience, that so far as I myself am concerned—I dare not speak for another—these things war against the Spirit. If I thought it possible that a woman should be led to love me I would never see her again.”

“Oh, do not say that—do not say that!” she said piteously.

“I do say it,” he cried. “Never—never—never would I do so great an injustice to a woman as to marry her. I tell you that I would think of it as a curse and not a blessing. I know that I have been appointed to do a great work, and I am ready, with God's help, to trample beneath my feet everything of life that would turn my thoughts from that work. The words are sounding in my ear day and night—day and night, 'If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters—yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my Disciple.'”

He stood away from her, speaking fervently. His face, pale by reason of his illness, had become paler still: but his resolution had not faltered, his voice had not broken.

She had kept her eyes fixed upon him. The expression upon her face was one of awe.

She shuddered when he took a step toward her and held out a thin white hand to her. She touched it slowly with her own.

“Nelly,” he said, “there is a joy in self-sacrifice beyond any that the world can give. I look on you as one of my children—one of that Household of Faith who have told me that they had learned the Truth from my lips. My child, if you were called on to make any great sacrifice for the Truth, would you not make it? Although I may seem an austere man to you, I do not live so far apart from those who are dear to me as to be incapable of sympathising with them in all matters of their daily life. I think you knew that or you would not have confessed to me that you fancied your love had suffered a change.”

She rose from her chair, and passed a hand wearily across her face.

“A fancy—it was a fancy—a dream—oh, the most foolish dream that ever a maiden had,” she said. “Has it ever been known that a maiden fancied she loved the shadow of a dream when all the time her heart was given to a true man?”

“Dear child, have you awakened?” he asked.

“My dreaming time is past,” she replied.

“I may bid Captain Snowdon to enter?” he said.

“Not yet—not yet—I must be alone; I will see him in another hour.”

He kissed her on the forehead, and went with unfaltering feet into the sunshine.


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