Or nothing is, or Jove, from thee.
Whether various Nature’s play,
Or she, renversed, thy will obey,
And to rebel man declare
Famine, plague or wasteful war . . .
No evil can from Thee proceed;
’Tis only suffered, not decreed. . . .”
He gazed from the careful handwriting to the horizon beyond his window. Why had he fished out the poem from its drawer? She, the writer—his child—was a wanton.
Hetty had found a patch of ragged turf and mallow where the woodstack hid her from the parsonage windows; and sat there in the morning sun—unconsciously, as usual, courting its full rays. Between her and the stack the ground was bare, strewn with straw and broken twigs. She supposed that her father would send for her soon: but she was preparing no defence, no excuses. She hoped, indeed, that the interview would be short, but simply because the account she must render to him seemed trivial beside that which she must render to herself. Her eyes watched the hens as they scratched pits in the warm dust, snuggled down and adjusted and readjusted their wing-feathers. But her brain was busied over and over with the same thought—“I am now a bad woman. Is there yet any way for me to be good?”
Yet her wits were alert enough. She heard her father’s footstep on the path twenty yards away, guessed the moment which would bring him into sight of her. Though she did not look up, she knew that he had come to a halt. She waited. He turned and walked slowly away. She knew why he had faltered. Her mind ran back to the problem. “I am a bad woman. Is there any way for me to be good?”
Half an hour passed. Emilia came round the rick, talking to herself, holding a wooden bowl from which she had been feeding the chickens. She came upon Hetty unawares and stood still, with a face at first confused, but gradually hardening.
“Sit down, Emmy.” Hetty pointed to a faggot lying a few paces off.
“You may sit down: near enough to listen—”
I and sorrows sit;
Here is my throne, let Emmy bow to it.’
“You were reciting as you came along.” She raised her eyes with a grave smile. “Shall I tell you your secret?”
“What secret?” asked Emilia, reddening in spite of herself.
“Oh, I have known it a long while! But if you want me to whisper it, you must come closer. Nay, my dear, I know very little of the stage—perhaps as little as you: but, from what I have read, it will bring you close to creatures worse than I.”
Emilia was scared now. “Who told you? Have you heard from Jacky?— no, he couldn’t, because—”
“—Because you never told him, although you may have hinted at it. And if you told him, he would laugh and call it the ambition of a girl who knows nothing of the world.”