He paused. His mother sat stiff and upright with her eyes bent on the ground. Only Charles and Molly looked up—she with a spot of red on either cheek, he with his bright pugnacious look, his nostrils slightly distended scenting battle with delight. Emilia and Patty were frowning; Kezzy, who hated all family jars, fidgeted with her prayer-book.
The sermon ended and the benediction pronounced, he fetched from the vestry the white surplice in which he had read the prayers, and came back to the pew in which the family waited as usual for the rest of the congregation to leave the church. Mrs. Wesley took the surplice, as she invariably took her husband’s, to carry it home and hang it in the wardrobe. They walked out. A fortnight before, his sisters had begun to discuss his sermon and rally him upon it as soon as they found themselves in the porch. To-day they were silent: and again at dinner, though John and his mother made an effort to talk of trivial matters, the girls scarcely spoke. Charles only seemed in good spirits and chattered away at ease, glancing at his brother from time to time with a droll twinkle in his eye.
Early next morning John set out for Epworth, having promised to relieve his father and visit the sick and poor there during the week. At Scawsit Bridge he met the Rector returning. The two shook hands and stood for a minute discussing some details of parish work: then each continued on his way. Not a word was said of the sermon.
John remained at Epworth until Thursday evening. Dark was falling when he set out to tramp back to Wroote, but the guns of a few late partridge-shooters yet echoed across the common. A little beyond Scawsit Bridge a figure came over the fields towards him, walking swiftly in the twilight—a woman. He drew aside to let her pass; but in that instant she stretched out both hands to him and he recognised her.
She dropped her arms. “Are you not going to kiss me, Jack? Do you, too, cast me off?”
“God forbid!” he said, and lifted his face; for she was the taller by two inches. With a sob of joy she put out both hands again and drew his lips to hers, a palm pressed on either cheek.
“But what are you doing here?” he asked.