Here Mr. Wright interrupted firmly. “Bless your heart, Mr. Ellison, I quite see. I’ve made a mistake this morning.”
“No offence, you understand.”
“No offence at all. It turns out I’ve given the wrong man a ducking.”
“It can easily be set right. Some day when you’re sober. Good morning!”
William Wright went his way whistling. Dick Ellison stared along the causeway after him.
“Low brute!” he said musingly. “If she’s to marry a fellow like that, Sukey shan’t visit her. I’m sorry for the girl too.”
Beyond the hedge, in a corner of the kitchen-garden, Johnny Whitelamb lay in his wet clothes with his face buried in a heap of mown grass. He had failed, and shamefully, after preparing himself for the interview by pacing (it seemed to him, for hours) the box-bordered walks which Molly had planted with lilies and hollyhocks, pinks and sweet-williams and mignonette. It was high June now, and the garden breaking into glory. He had tasted all its mingled odours this morning while he followed the paths in search of Hetty; and when at length he had found her under the great filbert-tree, they seemed to float about her and hedge her as with the aura of a goddess. He had delivered his message, trembling: had watched her go with firm step to the sacrifice. And then—poor boy—wild adoration had filled him with all the courage of all the knights in Christendom. He alone would champion her against the dragon. . . . And the dragon had flung him into the ditch like a rat! He hid his face in the sweet-smelling hillock.
For years after, the scent of a garden in June, or of new-mown hay, caused him misery, recalling this the most abject hour of his life.
Six weeks later Mr. Wesley married William Wright and Hetty in the bare little church of Wroote. Her sisters (among them Patty, newly returned from Kelstein) sat at home: their father had forbidden them to attend. A fortnight before they had stood as bridesmaids at Nancy’s wedding with John Lambert, and all but Molly had contrived to be mirthful and forget for a day the shadow on the household and the miserable woman upstairs. Hetty had no bridesmaids, no ringing of bells. The church would have been empty, but for a steady downpour which soaked the new-mown hay, and turned the fields into swamps, driving the labourers and their wives, who else had been too busy, to take recreation in a ceremony of scandal. For of course the whole story had been whispered abroad. It was to keep them away that the Rector had chosen a date in the very middle of the hay-harvest, and they knew it and enjoyed his discomfiture. He, on his part, when the morning broke with black and low-lying clouds, had been tempted to read the service in the parlour at home; but his old obstinacy had asserted itself. Hetty’s feelings he did not consider.