Father and mother laughed a bit, and called it child’s nonsense; but they was willing enough for all that, for William was a likely chap, and would be well-to-do when his good father died, which I am sure I never wished nor prayed for. All the trouble come from his going to Somerset to learn farming, for his uncle that was there was a Roman, and he taught William a good deal more than he set out to learn, so that presently nothing would do but William must turn Roman Catholic himself. I didn’t mind, bless you. I never could see what there was to make such a fuss about betwixt the two lots of them. Lord love us! we’re all Christians, I should hope. But father and mother was dreadful put out when the letter come saying William had been ‘received’ (like as if he was a parcel come by carrier). Father, he says—
’Well, Kate, least said soonest mended. But I had rather see you laid out on the best bed upstairs than I’d see you married to William, a son of the Scarlet Woman.’
In my silly innocence I couldn’t think what he meant, for William’s mother was a decent body, who wore a lilac print on week-days and a plain black gown on Sunday for all she was a well-to-do farmer’s wife, and might have gone smart as a cock pheasant.
It was at tea-time, and I was a-crying on to my bread-and-butter, and mother sniffing a little for company behind the tea-tray, and father, he bangs down his fist in a way to make the cups rattle again, and he says—
’You’ve got to give him up, my girl. You write and tell him so, and I’ll take the letter as I go down to the church to-night to practice. I’ve been a good father to you, and you must be a good girl to me; and if you was to marry him, him being what he is, I’d never speak to you again in this world or the next.’
‘You wouldn’t have any chance in the next, I’m afraid, James,’ said my mother gently, ’for her poor soul, it couldn’t hope to go to the blessed place after that.’
‘I should hope not,’ said my father, and with that he got up and went out, half his tea not drunk left in the mug.
Well, I wrote that letter, and I told William right enough that him and me could never be anything but friends, and that he must think of me as a sister, and that was what father told me to say. But I hope it wasn’t very wrong of me to put in a little bit of my own, and this is what I said after I had told him about the friend and sister—
‘But, dear William,’ says I, ’I shall never love anybody but you, that you may rely, and I will live an old maid to the end of my days rather than take up with any other chap; and I should like to see you once, if convenient, before we part for ever, to tell you all this, and to say “Good-bye” and “God bless you.” So you must find out a way to let me know quiet when you come home from learning the farming in Somerset.’
And may I be forgiven the deceitfulness, and what I may call the impudence of it! I really did give father that same letter to post, and him believing me to be a better girl than I was, to my shame, posted it, not doubting that I had only wrote what he told me.