“Why not?” the old man urged. “It would save my hiring a carekeeper, and tide me over until I bring back Patty with me, as I hope to do. Besides, after travelling in those wilds I shall want to return and find the house cheerful: and I know I can depend on you for that.”
“And I promise that you shall have it. Send me but word of your coming, and all shall be ready for you that you require.”
“But you will not take up your abode there?”
She shook her head again, still smiling: but the smile had lost connection with her thoughts. She was listening for her husband’s unsteady step and praying God to detain it.
“But why not?” Uncle Matthew persisted. “It is not for lack of good will, I know. Your husband can spare you for a few days: or for that matter he might come with you and leave the house at night to young Ritson.” This was Mr. Wright’s apprentice, the same that had fetched him out of the “King’s Oak “; an exemplary youth, who slept as a rule in a garret at the top of the house.
“Tom Ritson is not lodging with us just now: we have found a room for him two doors away.” She had, indeed, packed off the youth at the first sign of his master’s returning madness: but, lest Uncle Matthew should guess the true reason, she added, “Women in my state take queer fancies—likes and dislikes.”
The old man eyed her for a while, then asked abruptly, “Is your husband drinking again?”
“How—what makes you—I don’t understand,” she stammered. Do what she might she could not prevent the come-and-go of colour in her face.
“Oh, yes you do. Tut, tut, my dear! I’ve known it every whit as long as you. Look here; would you like me to put off my journey for a few days?”
“On no account. There’s not the least reason, I assure you, uncle.”
He seemed content with this and talked for a little while of the journey and his plans. He had warned nobody at Epworth. “I intend it for a surprise,” he explained; “to learn with my own eyes how they are faring.” Emilia and Kezzy were at home now upon a holiday: for some months they had been earning their livelihood at Lincoln as teachers in a boarding-school kept by a Mrs. Taylor. He might even make a trip to Scarborough, to drink the waters there. He was gravely kind, and promised to deliver all Hetty’s messages to her sisters.
“Well, well,” he said as he rose to go, “so you won’t come to me?”
“Nevertheless I shall leave word that the house is to be open to you—in case of need.” He looked at her meaningly, kissed her on the forehead, and so took his leave.
At the street door he paused. “And that poor soul is childless,” he muttered. “She that should have been a noble mother of soldiers!”
From Mrs. Wesley to her son John.
Epworth, July 12th, 1731.