‘Look to your sister, take her in instantly,’ he turned and fled as a man might flee for his life, while Althea threw herself on the cold ground, moaning and sobbing like a creature mortally hurt. I took her in my arms and raised her up, asking her, all amazed, was that indeed Andrew? but she did nothing but wring her hands and implore me to follow him and fetch him back; and I had much trouble to persuade her that was useless and hopeless for us at that hour of the night. At last she was won to rise and return to the house; and we both found it a difficult matter to get in where we had got out easily enough; which Mr. Truelocke, I doubt not, would have moralized in his pleasant way into a sort of holy parable. But I have not that gift, and I suppose ’twas the hope in Althea’s breast and the fear in mine which had raised our powers for a moment and made a hard thing easy.
[Illustration: ‘Look to your sister, take her in instantly.’]
When we had recovered a little, and had got safely to my room, Althea recollected herself and told me every word that had passed; and we both agreed that Andrew was running himself into new and strange dangers in pursuance of what he held as a Divine call. I noted it as a new thing in Althea, that she could no longer scoff at this belief of his in the inward heavenly voice that must be obeyed; but this matter was very terrible to us; and we talked of it till daylight, without coming to any conclusion as to what we were best to do about it.
HOW A STRANGE MESSENGER BROUGHT US NEWS OF ANDREW.
And now we had a time of unceasing disquiet. It was soon noised abroad that the heir to the Grange was missing, and his house and lands left masterless; and there presently appeared first one and then another of the Goldings, far-off kinsmen of Andrew; these persons came to the house to examine it, and talked much with the Standfasts; also they tried to find out what my sister and I knew of Andrew’s doings; some of them went to York to talk with Aunt Golding’s lawyer; and it was not hard to see that they would have been glad to get certain news of Andrew’s death. This made their coming hateful to us; but the house not being our own, we could not shut them out. We did what we could to get news of Andrew; but there was small comfort in the scanty intelligence we could glean, since it all pointed to his having indeed gone up to London, and having preached woe and judgment on his way thither.
And had it not been that we sometimes got comfortable letters from Mr. Truelocke, telling of his quiet untroubled life in the Dale country, I had now been unhappy enough; for we were ever hearing tales of the evil handling of all kinds of Dissenters; even young maidens and little children being pelted, whipped, and chained for the crime of being of Quaker parentage and belief, while hundreds of Nonconformists of that sort and other sorts were thrown into prison and left there. I suppose it was the mad doings of the Fifth Monarchy men, as folks called them, which stirred up such a persecuting spirit; so at least said the people of our village, who now began to come about us again, with some show of former kindness; but they proved very Job’s comforters to us, by reason of the frightful stories they loved to retail.