Chapter XLI: The Clouds grow Darker

“I was about sixteen.”

“Then you were always—inclined that way?” She found some difficulty in conveying her meaning in polite tones.

“Yes; I received a call when I was very young. I became one of the elect at an early age.”

“And which are the elect?” his ward asked demurely.

“The members of the Community of the Primitive Trinitarians—or, at least those of them who frequent Purbrook Street Chapel. I hold that the ministers in the other chapels that I have attended do not preach the unadulterated Word, and have therefore missed the narrow path.”

“Then,” said Kate, “you think that no one will be saved except those who frequent the Purbrook Street Chapel?”

“And not all of them—no, nor one in ten,” the merchant said confidently, and with some approach to satisfaction. “Heaven must be a very small place,” Kate remarked, as she rose from the table.

“Are you going out?”

“I was thinking of having a stroll in the wood.”

“Think over a text as you walk. It is an excellent commencement of the day.”

“What text should I think of?” she asked, standing smiling in the doorway, with the bright sunshine bursting in behind her.

“‘In the midst of life we are in death,'” he said solemnly. His voice was so hollow and stern that it struck a chill into the girl’s heart. The effect was only momentary, however. The day was so fine, and the breeze so fresh, that sadness was out of the question. Besides, was not her deliverance at hand! On this of all mornings she should be free from vague presentiments and dim forebodings. The change in her guardian’s manner was an additional cause for cheerfulness. She almost persuaded herself that she had misconstrued his words and his intentions upon the preceding day.

She went down the avenue and had a few words with the sentry there. She felt no bitterness against him now—on the contrary, she could afford to laugh at his peculiarities. He was in a very bad humour on account of some domestic difficulties. His wife had been abusing him, and had ended by assaulting him. “She used to argey first, and then fetch the poker,” he said ruefully; “but now it’s the poker first, and there ain’t no argeyment at all.”

Kate looked at his savage face and burly figure, and thought what a very courageous woman his wife must be.

“It’s all ’cause the fisher lasses won’t lemme alone,” he explained with a leer. “She don’t like it, knock me sideways if she do! It ain’t my fault, though. I allers had a kind o’ a fetchin’ way wi’ women.”

“Did you post my note?” asked Kate.

“Yes, in course I did,” he answered. “It’ll be in Lunnon now, most like.” His one eye moved about in such a very shifty way as he spoke that she was convinced that he was telling a lie. She could not be sufficiently thankful that she had something else to rely upon besides the old scoundrel’s assurances.

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