She stared at him dismayed, remembering the man Wright and his threat.
“And upon that you judge me, without a hearing?” She let her arms drop beside her.
“Will you deny it? Will you deny you have been in the habit of meeting—no, I see you will not. Apparently Mrs. Grantham has dismissed you.”
“Sir, Mrs. Grantham has not dismissed me. I came away against her wish, because—”
“Well?” he waited, chewing his wrath.
It was idle now to say she had come meaning to confess. That chance had gone.
“I ask you to remember, sir, that I never promised not to meet him.” Since a fight it must be, she picked up all her courage for it. “I had no right to promise it.”
His mouth opened, but shut again like a trap. He had the self-control to postpone battle. “We will see about that,” he said grimly. “Meanwhile, please you mount behind me and ride.”
As they jogged towards Wroote, Hetty, holding on by her father’s coat, seemed to feel in her finger-tips the wrath pent up and working in his small body. She was profoundly dejected; so profoundly that she almost forgot to be indignant with William Wright; but she had no thought of striking her colours. She built some hope upon Sam, too. Sam might not take her part openly, but he at least had always been kind to her.
“Does Sam know?” she took heart to ask as they came in sight of the parsonage.
“Patty tells me he is here with his wife and little Philly.”
“I am glad to say that Patty is mistaken. They took their departure yesterday.”
“Oh, Hetty!” was all Molly could find to say, rushing into the back garret where Hetty stood alone, and clinging to her with a long kiss.
Hetty held the dear deformed body against her bosom for a while, then relaxing her arms, turned towards the small window in the eaves. “My dear,” she answered with a wry smile, “it had to come, you see, and now we must go through with it.”
“But who could have written that wicked letter? Mother will not tell us—even if she knows, which I doubt.”
“I fancy I know. And you must not exaggerate, even in your love for me. I don’t suppose the letter was wicked, though it may have been spiteful.”
“It accused you of the most dreadful things.”
“If it be dreadful to meet the man you love, and in secret, then I have been behaving dreadfully.”
“And that is just what I came home to confess.” She paused at the sight of Molly’s face. “What! are you against me too? Then I must fight this out alone, it seems.”
“Darling Hetty, you must not—ah, don’t look so at me!”
But Hetty turned her back. “Please leave me.”
“If you had only written—”
“That would take long to explain. I am tired, and it is not worth while; please leave me.”