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Chapter 33


1. From Charles Wesley at Oxford to his brother John at Stanton in Gloucestershire.

January 20th, 1727.

Poor Sister Hetty! 'twas but a week before I left London that I knew she was at it. Little of that time you may be sure, did I lose, being with her almost continually; I could almost envy myself the doat of pleasure I had crowded within that small space. In a little neat room she had hired, did the good-natured, ingenuous, contented creature watch, and I talk, over a few short days which we both wished had been longer. As yet she lives pretty well, having but herself and honest W. W. to keep, though I fancy there's another a-coming. Brother Sam and sister are very kind to her, and I hope will continue so, for I have cautioned her never to contradict my sister, whom she knows. I'd like to have forgot she begs you'd write to her, at Mrs. Wakeden's in Crown Court, Dean Street, near Soho Square.

2. From Mary Wesley (Molly) to her brother Charles at Oxford (same date).

You were very much mistaken in thinking I took ill your desiring my sister Emily to knit you another pair of gloves. What I meant was to my brother Jack, because he gave her charge to look to my well-doing of his: but I desire you no more to mention your obligation to me for the gloves, for by your being pleased with them I am fully paid.

Dear brother, I beg you not to let the present straits you labour under to narrow your mind, or render you morose or churlish, but rather resign yourself and all your affairs to Him who best knows what is fittest for you, and will never fail to provide for whoever sincerely trusts in Him. I think I may say I have lived in a state of affliction ever since I was born, being the ridicule of mankind and reproach of my family; and I dare not think God deals hardly with me, and though He has set His mark upon me, I still hope my punishment will not be greater than I am able to bear; nay, since God is no respecter of persons, I must and shall be happier in that life than if I had enjoyed all the advantages of this.

My unhappy sister was at Wroote the week after you left us, where she stayed two or three days, and returned again to Louth without seeing my father. Here I must stop, for when I think of her misfortunes, I may say with Edgar, "O fortune! . . ."

3. From Mary Wesley to her brother John. Sent at the same date and under the same cover.

Though I have not the good fortune to be one of your favourite sisters, yet I know you won't grudge the postage now and then, which, if it can't be afforded, I desire that you will let me know, that I may trouble you no further. I am sensible nothing I can say will add either to your pleasure or your profit; and that you are of the same mind is evidently shown by not writing when an opportunity offered. But why should I wonder at any indifference shown to such a despicable person as myself? I should be glad to find that miracle of nature, a friend which not all the disadvantages I labour under would hinder from taking the pains to cultivate and improve my mind; but since God has cut me off from the pleasurable parts of life, and rendered me incapable of attracting the love of my relations, I must use my utmost endeavour to secure an eternal happiness, and He who is no respecter of persons will require no more than He has given. You may now think that I am uncharitable in blaming my relations for want of affection, and I should readily agree with you had I not convincing reasons to the contrary; one of which is that I have always been the jest of the family--and it is not I alone who make this observation, for then it might very well be attributed to my suspicion--but here I will leave it and tell you some news.

Mary Owran was married to-day, and we only wanted your company to make us completely merry; for who can be sad where you are? Please get Miss Betsy to buy me some silk to knit you another pair of gloves, and I don't doubt you will doubly like the colour for the buyer's sake.

My sister Hetty's child is dead, and your godson grows a lovely boy, and will, I hope, talk to you when he sees you: which I should be glad to do now.

4. From Martha Wesley (Patty) to her brother John.

Feb. 7th, 1727.

I must confess you had a better opinion of me than I deserved: for jealousy did indeed suggest that you had very small kindness for me. When you sent the parcel to my sister Lambert, and wrote to her and sister Emme, and not to me, I was much worse grieved than before. Though I cannot possibly be so vain as to think that I do for my own personal merits deserve more love than my sisters, yet can you blame me if I sometimes wish I had been so happy as to have the first place in your heart?

Sister Emme is gone to Lincoln again, of which I'm very glad for her own sake; for she is weak and our misfortunes daily impair her health. Sister Kezzy, too, will have a fair chance of going. I believe if sister Molly stays long at home it will be because she can't get away. It is likely in a few years' time our family may be lessened--perhaps none left but your poor sister Martha, for whose welfare few are concerned.

My father has been at Louth to see sister Wright, who by good providence was brought to bed two days before he got thither; which perhaps might prevent his saying what he otherwise might have said to her; for none that deserves the name of man would say anything to grieve a woman in a condition where grief is often present death to them. I fancy you have heard before now that her child is dead.

Of these letters but a faint echo reached Hetty as she lay in her bed at Louth--a few words transcribed by Charles from the one (No. 2) received by him, and sent with his affectionate inquiries. He added that Molly had also written to Jack, but to what effect he knew not; only that Jack, after reading it in his presence, had 'pish'd' and pocketed it in a huff.

She lay in a darkened room, with her own hopes at their darkest--or rather, their blankest. She had journeyed to Wroote, and from her humble lodging there had written an honest letter to her father, begging only to see her mother or Molly, promising to hold no communication with them if he refused. He had refused, in a curt note of three lines. From Wroote she returned to Louth, to face her trouble alone; for the preliminaries of selling the Lincoln business had brought old Wright's creditors about her husband's ears like a swarm of wasps. Until then they had waited with fair patience: but no sooner did he make a perfectly honest move towards paying them off in a lump than the whole swarm took panic and he was forced to decamp to London to escape the sponging-house. There Uncle Matthew came to the rescue, satisfied immediate claims, and guaranteed the rest. But meanwhile Hetty's child--a boy, as she had prayed--was born, and died on the third day after birth.

She hardly dared to think of it--of the poor mite and the hopes she had built on him. As she had told Charles, she was sorry, but not penitent--at least not wholly penitent. Once she had been wholly penitent: but the tyrannous compulsion of her marriage had eased or deadened her sense of responsibility. Henceforth she had no duty but to make the best of it. So she told herself, and had conscientiously striven to make the best of it. She had even succeeded, up to a point; by shutting herself within doors and busily, incessantly, spinning a life of illusion. She was a penitent--a woman in a book-- redeeming her past by good conduct. The worst of it was that her husband declined to help the cheat. He was proud of her, honest man! and had no fancy at all for the role assigned to him, of "all for love, and the world well lost." That she refused to be shown off he set down to sulkiness; and went off of an evening to taverns and returned fuddled. She studied, above all things, to make home bright for him, and ever met him with a smile: and this was good enough, yet not (as it slowly grew clear to her) precisely what he wanted. So she had been driven to build fresh hopes on the unborn babe. He would make all the difference: would win his father back, or at worst give her own life a new foundation for hope. Her son should be a gentleman: she would deny herself and toil and live for him.

And now God had resumed His gift, and her life was blank indeed. She might have another--and another might die. She had never supposed that this one could die, and its death gave her a dreadful feeling of insecurity--as if no child of hers could ever be reared. What then? The prospect of pardon by continued good conduct seemed to her shadowy indeed. Something more was needed. Yes, penitence was needed; real penitence: urgently, she felt the need of it and yet for the life of her could not desire it as she knew it ought to be desired.

She turned from the thought and let her mind dwell on the sentence or two quoted by Charles from Molly's letter. They were peevish sentences, and she did not doubt that the letter to John had been yet more peevish. Life had taught her what some never learn, that folks are not to be divided summarily into good and bad, right and wrong, pleasant and unpleasant. Men and women are not always refined or ennobled by unmerited suffering. They are soured often, sometimes coarsened. Hetty loved Molly far better than she loved John: but in a flash she saw that, not Molly only, but all her sisters who had suffered for John's advancement, would exact the price of their sacrifices in a consuming jealousy to be first in his favour. She saw it so clearly that she pitied him for what would worry him incessantly and be met by him with a patient conscientiousness. He would never understand--could never understand--on what these jealous sisters of his based their claims.

She saw it the more closely because she had no care of her own to stand first with him. She smiled and stretched out an arm along the pillow where the babe was not. Then suddenly she buried her face in it and wept, and being weak, passed from tears into sleep.

Arthur Quiller-Couch