They never regarded him as just. And this was mainly his own fault, or at least the fault of his theory that women, especially daughters, were not to be reasoned with but commanded. Hetty, for example, had an infinite capacity for self-sacrifice. At an appeal from him she would have surrendered, not small vanities only, but desires more than trivial, for the brothers whom in her heart she loved to fondness. But the sacrifice was ever exacted, not left to her good-nature; the right word never spoken.
And now, under the same numbing deference, her mother had failed her at a moment when all her heart cried out in its need. Hetty loved her lover. Perhaps, if allowed to fare abroad, consort with other girls, and learn, with responsibility, to choose better, she had never chosen this man. She had chosen him now. Poor Hetty!
But that she did wrong to meet him secretly her conscience accused her. She had been trained religiously. Had she no religion, then, upon which to stay her sense of duty?
Where a mother has failed, even the Bible may fail. Hetty read her Bible: but just because its austerer teaching had been bound too harshly upon her at home, she turned by instinct to the gentler side which reveals Christ’s loving-kindness, His pity, His indulgence. All generous natures lean towards this side, and to their honour, but at times also to their very great danger. For the austerity is meant for them who most need it. Also the austere rules are more definite, which makes them a surer guide for the soul desiring goodness, but passionately astray. It spurns them, demanding loving-kindness; and discovers too late that loving-kindness dictated them.
Two mornings after Patty’s arrival, Hetty sat in the schoolroom telling a Bible story to her pupils, George Grantham and small Rebecca; the one aged eight, the other barely five. They were by no means clever children; but they knew a good story when they heard one, and Hetty held them to the adventures of Joseph and his Brethren, although great masses of snow were sliding off the roof, and every now and then toppling down past the window with a rush— which every child knows to be fascinating. For the black frost had broken up at last in a twelve hours’ downfall of snow, and this in turn had yielded to a soft southerly wind. The morning sunshine poured in through the school-room window and took all colour out of the sea-coal fire.
“One night Joseph dreamed a dream which he told next morning to his brothers. And his dream was that they were all in the harvest-field, binding sheaves: and when Joseph had bound his sheaf, it stood upright, but the other sheaves around slid and fell flat, as if they were bowing on their faces before it. When he told this, it made his brothers angry, because it seemed to mean that he would be a greater man than any of them.”