feel them. And if you cannot forgive what I have said, I
sincerely promise never more to offend by saying too much; which
(with begging your blessing) is all from your most obedient
You who can read between the lines of these letters will have remarked a new accent in Hetty—a hard and bitter accent. She will suffer her punishment now; but, even though it be sent of God, she will appeal against it as too heavy for her sin.
Learn now the cause of it and condemn her if you can.
At first when her husband, at the close of his day’s work, sidled off to the “Turk’s Head,” she pretended not to remark it. Indeed her fears were long in awaking. In all her life she had never tasted brandy, and knew nothing of its effects. That Dick Ellison fuddled himself upon it was notorious, and on her last visit to Wroote she had heard scandalous tales of John Romley, who had come to haunt the taverns in and about Epworth, singing songs and soaking with the riff-raff of the neighbourhood until turned out at midnight to roll homeward to his lonely lodgings. She connected drunkenness with uproarious mirth, boon companionship, set orgies. Of secret unsocial tippling she had as yet no apprehension.
Even before the birth of his second child the tavern had become necessary to Mr. Wright, not only at the close of work, but in the morning, between jobs. His workmen began to talk. He suspected them and slid into foolish, cunning tricks to outwit them, leaving the shop on false excuses, setting out ostentatiously in the wrong direction and doubling back on the “Turk’s Head” by a side street. They knew where to find him, however, when a customer dropped in.
“Who sent you here?” he demanded furiously, one day, of the youngest apprentice, who had come for the second time that week to fetch him out of the “King’s Oak.” (He had enlarged his circle of taverns by this time, and it included one half of Soho.)
“Please you, I wasn’t sent here at all,” the boy stammered. “I tried the ‘Turk’s Head’ first and then the ‘Three Tuns.’”
“And what should make you suppose I was at either? Look here, young man, the workshop from Robinson down”—Robinson was the foreman—“is poking its nose too far into my business. If this goes on, one of these days Robinson will get his dismissal and you the strap.”
“It wasn’t Robinson sent me, sir. It was the mistress.”
“Eh!” William Wright came to a halt on the pavement and his jaw dropped.
“Her uncle, Mr. Matthew, has called and wants to see you on particular business.”
The business, as it turned out, was merely to give him quittance of a loan. The sum first advanced to them by Matthew Wesley had proved barely sufficient. To furnish the dwelling-rooms in Frith Street he had lent another 10 pounds and taken a separate bond for it, and this debt Hetty had discharged out of her household economies, secretly planning a happy little surprise for her husband; and now in the hurry of innocent delight she betrayed her sadder secret.