By this time they were close to the garden gate.
“Is that you, Jack?” Charles’s voice hailed over the dark hedge of privet.
The pair came to a halt. Hetty’s eyes were fastened imploringly on her brother. He did not see them. If he had, it would have made no difference. He pitied her, but in his belief her repentance was not thorough: he had no right to invite her past the gate.
“Good-bye,” he whispered.
She understood. With a sob she bent her face and kissed him and was gone like a ghost back into the darkness.
Charles met him at the gate. “Hallo,” said he, “surely I heard voices? With whom were you talking?”
“Hetty?” Charles let out a whistle. “But it is about her I wanted to speak, here, before you go indoors. I say—where is she? Cannot we call her back?”
“No: we have no right. To some extent I have changed my mind about her: or rather, she has forced me to change it. Her soul is hardened.”
“By whose fault?”
“No matter by whose fault: she must learn her responsibility to God. Father has been talking with you, I suppose.”
“Yes: he is bitterly wroth—the more bitterly, I believe, because he loves you better than any of us. He says you have him at open defiance. ‘Every day,’ he cried out on me, ’you hear how he contradicts me, and takes your sister’s part before my face. And now comes this sermon! He rebukes me in the face of my parish.’ Mind you, I am not taking his part: if you stand firm, so will I. But I wanted to tell you this, that you may know how to meet him.”
For a while the brothers paced the dark walls in silence. Under the falling dew the scent of honeysuckle lay heavy in the garden. Years later, in his country rides, a whiff from the hedgerow would arrest Charles as he pondered a hymn to the beat of his horse’s hoofs, and would carry him back to this hour. John’s senses were less acute, and all his thoughts for the moment turned inward.
“I have done wrong,” he announced at length and walked hastily towards the house.
In the hall he met his father coming out. “Sir,” he said, “I have behaved undutifully. I have neglected you and set myself to contradict you. I was seeking you to beg your forgiveness.”
To his amazement the Rector put a hand on either shoulder, stooped and kissed him.
“It was a heavy sorrow to me, Jack. Now I see that you are good at bottom; and to-morrow, if you wish, you shall write for me. Nay, come into the study now, and see the work that is ready for you.”
In the light of the study lamp John saw that his father’s eyes were wet.
Late in September, having been chosen to preach on St. Michael’s Day in St. Michael’s Church the sermon annually delivered by a Fellow of Lincoln, John travelled up to Oxford, whither Charles followed him a week or two later, to take up his residence in Christ Church, and be matriculated on the first day of the October term.