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   Chapter 21 No.21

A Girl of the People By L. T. Meade Characters: 6770

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06


Bet walked quickly through the streets. She pushed back her hair under her plaid shawl: her eyes looked bright, and her step was once more firm and erect.

"There are all kinds of love," she kept muttering to herself-"all kinds-there's the love that gives, and the love that gets. Seems to me that mine must be the love that gives."

A queer little smile came over her face as this thought entered her brain. She walked still more quickly, and clenched her strong hand, while resolution and the noble determination of self-sacrifice gave her a false strength. Bet was not ignorant of certain verses of the Bible. She had never read the Bible, for her mother's form of religion had rendered the idea of looking into its pages distasteful to her; but words from it had been quoted many times in her poor home, and one of its verses now floated into her memory: "Greater love hath no man than this-that a man lay down his life for his friend." The words brought with them a healing sense of comfort. She really did not know from where they were taken, but she found herself repeating them, and she knew that if she really agreed to marry Dent, she would give up far more than her life for Will. No questionings as to the right or the wrong of this action came to perplex her-she never for an instant supposed it possible that Will could prefer prison with the thought of her waiting for him at the end, to liberty with her lost to him forever. No, no; sailors, of all men, must be free-free as the wind or the air. Will must once more go where he pleased, and taste the briny ocean in salt spray on his lips. Confinement would kill a roving spirit like his. He would be sorry to have lost her-Bet; but by-and-bye he would find another lass to comfort him.

Just at present Bet had a sense of exaltation that caused her scarcely to feel any pain. The worst had now come and was over-her heart beat calmly; she had nothing further to dread; and she ran quickly up the stairs to Hester's room, and looked in with almost a bright face.

"I ha' come," she said, drawing her breath fast,-"Dent is found, Hetty, and Will will be free to-morrow night."

"Oh, how glad I am!" said Hester. She had been making up her fire and tidying the room before going to rest. She went straight up to Bet, now, and put one arm round her neck, and raised herself a little to kiss the taller girl.

"You'll be happy, yet, Bet," she said; "and God knows I'm glad of it." Bet did not respond to Hester's kiss. She held herself very erect, and looked down calmly into the singer's eager, enthusiastic face.

"It's a good thing Dent is found," she repeated. "I came to you Hetty, to ask you ef you'd help me to write a letter to Will. You're more of a scholard than I am, and I thought maybe atween us I might make my mind known to the lad."

"For sure, Bet, I'll help you to write," said Hester. "But ef Dent is found, and witnesses for Will, you'll see him in a few hours, honey; and it don't seem worth while to put into writing what can be told with the lips."

"I'll see Will to-morrow," repeated Bet, "for I'll be in the police-court; but, all the same, it's my mind to put a few words in writing, so that the lad may know clear what my meaning is. You'll help me, won't you, Hetty, seeing as you're more of a scholard than me?"

"To be sure I will," said Hester. And going to a drawer, she

took out a penny bottle of ink, an old pen, and a sheet or two of very thin, poor writing paper.

"Shall I write or will you?" she said, looking up at the girl, who stood still and upright in the middle of the room.

"Set down, Bet, dear, and take the pen in your own fingers-ef the letter's for Will, he'd like to have the writing yours. Set down, and I'll help you to spell out the words."

"No," said Bet; "I ain't a scholard, and my hand shakes. I'll say what's in my heart, and you'll write it for me, Hetty, dear."

She moved over now to the fireplace, and leaned one elbow on the tiny mantel-shelf; her face was quiet, but Hester could not help remarking the absence of hope in her eyes.

"Are you sure that Dent will appear in the witness box?" she asked. "Seems to me as if he'd scarce dare to; for he'll have to say how he come by the notes. You know, Bet, and so do I, that he's the real thief; and ef he appears to clear Will, seems to me he must confess his own share. Are you sure as he'll do it, Bet?"

"He told father so," replied Bet. "He's deep, and he'll find a way. He said as he'd do it for a price-it were a heavy one-he wouldn't do it for nought else; he named his price, and he promised that for that he'd clear Will."

"I don't see how he's to do it," repeated Hester, looking more and more dissatisfied. "Dent ain't the man to pop himself into the jail. And a price? You and Granger han't got any money. It's deceived you are, I fear me, Bet."

"No," said Bet-"the price is me-there ain't no deceit, and his meaning's quite plain. When Dent saves Will, he's to have me. I'm to wed him-them's the terms-there ain't no use argufying, Hester; but it's all plain-Dent will clear Will, and keep out of prison hisself, for he's as clever as he's bad. And I'm to be his wife. Now you write the letter."

"That I won't," said Hester, flinging down her pen. "Ef you think I'm going to break Will's heart, and yourn, too, you're fine and mistook. Dent is playing the fool on you, Bet Granger; and you're no true lass to give up Will on any terms."

Hester spoke with great vehemence and passion. She was horrified at what she considered sacrilege. She could not understand Bet. Rising from her seat, she pushed her writing materials away, and stooped over the hearth.

"There," she said, as she poked the little fire-"I'm glad as you has spoke out your mind. You hate Dent, and you'll marry him; and you'll give Will his liberty, but you'll break his heart. No, no-I won't write that letter."

"I'll do the best that I can myself," replied Bet. She was not the least angry or excited. She sat down by Hester's table, and taking up the pen dipped it in the ink, and with difficulty began to put her words on paper. Her head was bent low, and her hand labored; but she did not pause, nor glance again at Hester. Minutes passed into half-hours: one-two-three of these went by before Bet, with a burning flush on one cheek, and the other deadly white, finished her letter.

"There," she said. "You don't understand me, Hetty, but I ha' made it all clear to Will. Here's the letter. Seal it up for nought but him to see. When he's free to-morrow, give it to him, Hetty, and don't think harder than you can help of poor Bet Granger."

She laid the letter on the mantel-piece by Hester's side, wrapped her shawl again about her head, and went out.

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