|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||The Christmas Motto|
Fifteen months later Hetty was standing alone in her London lodgings. She was gazing at a note which the postman had just delivered. It read : ' When you get this I shall le ott my way to America. My money is only frittering away in London. You had letter go lack to the old dynamiter.'1
The fifteen months in London had robbed her of her rosy cheeks. She could no longer be the village belle. She had learned much, too, for sorrow is a clever teacher, and she had tasted misery. He had not been kind to her, but she loved Irm and clung to him, and now he was gone she was so alone and helpless she sank on her bed swooning.
"When the landlady found her she was still lying there. The old woman, scenting mischief, looked round for the cause ; then seeing the letter, she read it. ¡She roused the poor girl roughly.
' Did he leave you any money ?' she said. ' Oh, I don't know. I suppose not,' sobbed Hetty. ' "Well, you're a nice one, you are, and owin' me money too. You don't know, don't you. , "Well, have ye got any julery?' shrieked the vulturous old harpy, deter- mined to bleed this trembling victim.
' I must write home,' said Hetty faintly
between her sobs. ' I must write to mother
at Byllbridge, that's where I came from. Mother'll forgive me ; but I don't know whether she's alive. I've never heard from her since.'
' Oh no, ye don't stay here eatin' my vittles wile- ye carry on yer correspondí enees into, the country... Let me see what you've got ?.'
The old beldame found enough.on inspec- tion-to war-rant her- in turning oütl.:Hetty next morning with a small bundle of clothes and 5s. in money. When she had sold the dresses," she said she would still be the loser by several pounds, and Hetty was too be- wildered to defend herself or dispute.
'» The- poor girl found herself in Lonond . streets alone that raw November morning ;
this then. was. the end of h er dreams. It
was very cold, and though it was raining, . she walked all the way to the station that . she might save her little stock of money.
She held .the two half-crowns in her hand, lest she might lose them. It was fearful to . her to be alone in London, friendless among
the millions, and with no money. She tried
to think !what she could do if she was rob-
bed and compelled to stay there. She could think of nothing. Her only hope was to get to Byllbridge, back to the old folks to beg to be forgiven, and so to meet again in the old country scenes and be happy in the routine of the quiet cottage.
When she reached the station she found that the money she had would not take her to Byllbridge. ' I have'nt got any more,' she said, and looked so white and piteous
that the clerk volunteered the information
that it would carry her to Malcombe. ' That's only 20 miles short, isn't it,' he said.
¡She said ' Yes, she thought so ' ; and began to pluck up hope again, but when she got to Malcombe the few nerveless enquiries she made failed to get her any assistance to Byllbridge fifteen miles across the moors.
Now she was clear of London and down
among the trees and moors again, she grew timid. The country air, the quiet, and the green hills, recalled the past so clearly ; she was not so much afraid to be moneyless here, but everything revived the old life ; in just such a place she might meet Jane or "William, now she was so near them she trembled.
Someone of whom she made enquiries told her they wanted a girl at the parsonage ; she grasped at the chance for she was tired and broken down. A few ingenious stories and she was engaged, and settled at the Malcombe Eectory.
A month of service passed, and it was now Christmas Eve. A week of snow had
been followed by mild days. The skies were dull ; but it was almost a balmy
Christmas. On the hills the snow still lodged in sheltered spots-little white mounds, fast growing transparent and watery. The roads were deep in mud, the flowers were gone, the hedges and trees were bare. The winter winds had strewed the dead leaves everywhere.
Hetty's heart was as dolorous as the brown, dismantled woods, and the deserted, misty moors. She was recalling her past Christmases-the last amid London gaieties, the last but one at Byllbridge. Tes, it was the Christmas at Byllbridge she longed for. Her heart was aching for the old folks whose love she had lost ; yet she
dared not write to them. Now she had a home she was less hopeless and wretched, and she was afraid to attempt to see them.
¿Che kind old heart of Jane Hutton she was sure of ; but she remembered William's anger that night on Byllbridge Moors. She felt she had done him a great injury. She was very sorry. She longed to feel his kind hand on her head again ; but she had no clear thoughts, no bense of what to do or say ; she always acted blindly. If she could see them again, she thought, perhaps they would take her back, and make her the happy pet she had once been. She longed for it ; but was afraid.
This Christmas Eve she was shopping in the streets of the little town, when, looking through the window of a shop, she saw Jane Hutton. Older-but hearty and gentle, as of old. Her heart beat so rapidly that she could only lean agairst the window. Jane came out. bhe was almost past her, when she gasped, ' Mother ! ' In a moment the kind woman had the sobbing girl in her
An hour, later she left her, saying, ' Stay where you are, Hetty, dear. I'll talk to William, and come to see you. Never fear, you shall come back to us, if I can manage
When Jinny returned to Byllbridge that night she did not, however, feel so self-con- fident ; she decided to ask Will to-morrow. Christmas Day, she thought, would be best -at any rate, it postponed the trouble. As she touched the door of their cottage, Wil-
liam called from inside
' Wait a bit, Jinny.'
A minute later he let her in.
' I was just standing on the chair,.nailing the motto up over the door,' he said.
He had been decorating the room.
.'Where did you get the motto, William?' ' Down town, at Mrs. Hibberd's.. Ah, it's . .a. fine text, Jinny:-" Peace qn Earth, Good- will to Men." It's a noble wish, after all! Better than Merry Christmas to you, and Happy New Tear to the other. It wishes Peace all over the earth, and Goodwill to all mankind alike. I wish to God everyone would act up to it, and show some goodwill to the men and women that need it, even if they only do it once a year on Christmas Day. Most of them, when they say it, mean Peace to my family, and Goodwill and a good dinner to my personal friends; the rest of the world, miserable, or ragged, or hungry-" Stay as you are " Bah ! Jinny, I've an idea. We must get at least one poor wretch who needs comforting down from London every year.'
. Jinny trembled with apprehension and nervousness. She had Hetty's name on her lips, but she faltered. William had never mentioned Hetty since she left them, and he had grown since then so stern and rigid in many wrays that she postponed the task. It did not matter. The waif from London was already out on. the moors, walking fast through the wet and the mist, towards him.
Poor Hetty was found out. She reached home happy with good Jane Hutton's kind goodbye, only to meet virtuè in arms against her. Her mistress discharged her in a storm of indignation.
' I have just heard who you are,' she said. ' Pack up your clothe» and leavé this house immediately. Oh, you shameless creature. The lies you have told me. To think I have
had you about the place all this mouth, contaminating my people. The mistresBiof a man in London. I can imagine what you came down here for. Take your money and be off. Don't let me see you again .
Hetty was always frightened and be- wildered by abuee. She said nothing, but
went out m1o the dark, cold night. She I had but one idea-to get home to Mother j Jane. lhere were no trains ; it was eieren j o'clock at night, and she started for the j moors. She had not forgotten the way. I
The rhines were full of water, and the moors were wet and boggy. Her boots were soon wet through, and the mist soaked her shawl. She slipped into a hole where they had been cutting peat. Several times she missed the main track, and narrowly es- caped a plunge in the overflowing dykes.. But she was very miserable, and^ she kept on walking to escape her thoughts. If she could only reach Byllbridge, and fall downs in the cottage porch she would be content. At six o'clock on Christmas morning she was near the. town. She reached the little wooden bridge where her fate had been de- cided once before. But she did not remem- ber it, she was so weary.
' Ah, God,' she said, 'perhaps he won't
let me in after all.'
The wooden bridge was drier than the ground, so she lay down-she was too tired to go on. She slept two hours and awoke shivering, roused by the bells ringing in Christmas. She could not see the church in the fog, it was still dark. She crept through the town and reached the cottage unnoticed.
The sight of the well-remembered home^ was too much for her ; all the sorrow of the days that lay between her happy girlhood
and this sad return seemed to rise in her throat and choke her. It was once her acknowledged right to enter, and love waited within, but now ? She pushed open the door, she saw them both start up from the table, then sobbing and exhausted she sank on her knees and buried her face on a chair.
* "William,' began Jinny pleadingly, as she placed her hand on her husband's shoulder.
' Jane, I cannot-Give her some money. Take her away for God's sake,' he said.
But Jinny would not leave him. He had.
never refused her.
'Will, she suffered in London too. You. said yesterday
He glanced at the motto remembering what he had said. It was a hard moment,. and he hesitated, at last he said,
' So it should be, Jinny dear-1 PEACE ON EA3ÍTH, GOODWILL TO ALL MANKIND.' 'Hetty,. we must start afresh, my dear.'