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   Chapter 6 WILLIE

Anna of the Five Towns By Arnold Bennett Characters: 32704

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Anna closed the bedroom door softly; through the open window came the tones of Cauldon Church clock, famous for their sonority, and richness, announcing eleven. Agnes lay asleep under the blue-and-white counterpane, on the side of the bed next the wall, the bed-clothes pushed down and disclosing the upper half of her night-gowned figure. She slept in absolute repose, with flushed cheek and every muscle lax, her hair by some chance drawn in a perfect straight line diagonally across the pillow. Anna glanced at her sister, the image of physical innocence and childish security, and then, depositing the candle, went to the window and looked out.

The bedroom was over the kitchen and faced south. The moon was hidden by clouds, but clear stretches of sky showed thick-studded clusters of stars brightly winking. To the far right across the fields the silhouette of Hillport Church could just be discerned on the ridge. In front, several miles away, the blast-furnaces of Cauldon Bar Ironworks shot up vast wreaths of yellow flame with canopies of tinted smoke. Still more distant were a thousand other lights crowning chimney and kiln, and nearer, on the waste lands west of Bleakridge, long fields of burning ironstone glowed with all the strange colours of decadence. The entire landscape was illuminated and transformed by these unique pyrotechnics of labour atoning for its grime, and dull, weird sounds, as of the breathings and sighings of gigantic nocturnal creatures, filled the enchanted air. It was a romantic scene, a romantic summer night, balmy, delicate, and wrapped in meditation. But Anna saw nothing there save the repulsive evidences of manufacture, had never seen anything else.

She was still horribly, acutely miserable, exhausted by the fruitless search for some solution of the enigma of sin-her sin in particular-and of redemption. She had cogitated in a vain circle until she was no longer capable of reasoned ideas. She gazed at the stars and into the illimitable spaces beyond them, and thought of life and its inconceivable littleness, as millions had done before in the presence of that same firmament. Then, after a time, her brain resumed its nightmare-like task. She began to probe herself anew. Would it have availed if she had walked publicly to the penitential form at the Communion rail, and, ranging herself with the working men and women, proved by that overt deed the sincerity of her contrition? She wished ardently that she had done so, yet knew well that such an act would always be impossible for her, even though the evasion of it meant eternal torture. Undoubtedly, as Mrs. Sutton had implied, she was proud, stiff-necked, obstinate in iniquity.

Agnes stirred slightly in her sleep, and Anna, aroused, dropped the blind, turned towards the room and began to undress, slowly, with reflective pauses. Her melancholy became grim, sardonic; if she was doomed to destruction, so let it be. Suddenly, half-glad, she knelt down and prayed, prayed that pride might be cast out, burying her face in the coverlet and caging the passionate effusion in a whisper lest Agnes should be disturbed. Having prayed, she still knelt quiescent; her eyes were dry and burning. The last car thundered up the road, shaking the house, and she rose, finished undressing, blew out the candle, and slipped into bed by Agnes's side.

She could not sleep, did not attempt to sleep, but abandoned herself meekly to despair. Her thoughts covered again the interminable round, and again, and yet again. In the twilight of the brief summer night her accustomed eyes could distinguish every object in the room, all the bits of furniture which had been bought from Hanbridge and with which she had been familiar since her memory began: everything appeared mean, despicable, cheerless; there was nothing to inspire. She dreamed impossibly of a high spirituality which should metamorphose all, change her life, lend glamour to the most pitiful surroundings, ennoble the most ignominious burdens-a spirituality never to be hers.

At any rate she would tell her father in the morning that she was convicted of sin, and, however hopelessly, seeking salvation; she would tell both her father and Agnes at breakfast. The task would be difficult, but she swore to do it. She resolved, she endeavoured to sleep, and did sleep uneasily for a short period. When she woke the great business of the dawn had begun. She left the bed, and drawing up the blind looked forth. The furnace fires were paling; a few milky clouds sailed in the vast pallid blue. It was cool just then, and she shivered. She went to the glass, and examined her face carefully, but it gave no signs whatever of the inward warfare. She saw her plain and mended night-gown. Suppose she were married to Mynors! Suppose he lay asleep in the bed where Agnes lay asleep! Involuntarily she glanced at Agnes to certify that the child and none else was indeed there, and got into bed hurriedly and hid herself because she was ashamed to have had such a fancy. But she continued to think of Mynors. She envied him for his cheerfulness, his joy, his goodness, his dignity, his tact, his sex. She envied every man. Even in the sphere of religion, men were not fettered like women. No man, she thought, would acquiesce in the futility to which she was already half resigned; a man would either wring salvation from the heavenly powers or race gloriously to hell. Mynors-Mynors was a god!

She recollected her resolution to speak to her father and Agnes at breakfast, and shudderingly confirmed it, but less stoutly than before. Then an announcement made by Mr. Banks in chapel on the previous evening presented itself, as though she was listening to it for the first time. It was the announcement of a prayer-meeting for workers in the Revival, to be held that (Saturday) morning at seven o'clock. She instantly decided to go to the meeting, and the decision seemed to give her new hope. Perhaps there she might find peace. On that faint expectancy she fell asleep again and did not wake till half-past six, after her usual hour. She heard noises in the yard; it was her father going towards the garden with a wheelbarrow. She dressed quickly, and when she had pinned on her hat she woke Agnes.

'Going out, Sis?' the child asked sleepily, seeing her attire.

'Yes, dear. I am going to the seven o'clock prayer-meeting. And you must get breakfast. You can-can't you?'

The child assented, glad of the chance.

'But what are you going to the prayer-meeting for?'

Anna hesitated. Why not confess? No. 'I must go,' she said quietly at length. 'I shall be back before eight.'

'Does father know?' Agnes enquired apprehensively.

'No, dear.'

Anna shut the door quickly, went softly downstairs and along the passage, and crept into the street like a thief.

Men and women and boys and girls were on their way to work, with hurried clattering steps, some munching thick pieces of bread as they went, all self-centred, apparently morose and not quite awake. The dust lay thick in the arid gutters, and in drifts across the pavement; as the night-wind had blown it. Vehicular traffic had not begun, and blinds were still drawn; and though the footpaths were busy the street had a deserted and forlorn aspect. Anna walked hastily down the road, avoiding the glances of such as looked at her, but peering furtively at the faces of those who ignored her. All seemed callous-hoggishly careless of the everlasting verities. At first it appeared strange to her that the potent revival in the Wesleyan chapel had produced no effect on these preoccupied people. Bursley, then, continued its dull and even course. She wondered whether any of them guessed that she was going to the prayer-meeting and secretly sneered at her therefore.

When she had climbed Duck Bank she found to her surprise that the doors of the chapel were fast closed, though it was ten minutes past seven. Was there to be no prayer-meeting? A momentary sensation of relief flashed through her, and then she saw that the gate of the school-yard was open. She should have known that early morning prayers were never offered up in the chapel, but in the lecture-hall. She crossed the quadrangle with beating heart, feeling now that she had embarked on a frightful enterprise. The door of the lecture-hall was ajar; she pushed it and went in. At the other end of the hall a meagre handful of worshippers were collected, and on the raised platform stood Mr. Banks, vapid, perfunctory and fatigued. He gave out a verse, and pitched the tune-too high, but the singers with a heroic effect accomplished the verse without breaking down. The singing was thin and feeble, and the eagerness of one or two voices seemed strained, as though with a determination to make the best of things. Mynors was not present, and Anna did not know whether to be sorry or glad at this. She recognised that save herself all present were old believers, tried warriors of the Lord. There was only one other woman, Miss Sarah Vodrey, an aged spinster who kept house for Titus Price and his son, and found her sole diversion in the variety of her religious experiences. Before the hymn was finished a young man joined the assembly; it was the youth who had sat near Anna on the previous night, an ecstatic and na?ve bliss shone from his face. In his prayer the minister drew the attention of the Deity to the fact that although a score or more of souls had been ingathered at the first service, the Methodists of Bursley were by no means satisfied. They wanted more; they wanted the whole of Bursley; and they would be content with no less. He begged that their earnest work might not be shamed before the world by a partial success. In conclusion he sought the blessing of God on the revivalist and asked that this tireless enthusiast might be led to husband his strength: at which there was a fervent Amen.

Several men prayed, and a pause ensued, all still kneeling.

Then the minister said in a tone of oily politeness:

'Will a sister pray?'

Another pause followed.

'Sister Tellwright?'

Anna would have welcomed death and damnation. She clasped her hands tightly, and longed for the endless moment to pass. At last Sarah Vodrey gave a preliminary cough. Miss Vodrey was always happy to pray aloud, and her invocations usually began with the same phrase: 'Lord, we thank Thee that this day finds us with our bodies out of the grave and our souls out of hell.'

Afterwards the minister gave out another hymn, and as soon as the singing commenced Anna slipped away. Once in the yard, she breathed a sigh of relief. Peace at the prayer-meeting? It was like coming out of prison. Peace was farther off than ever. Nay, she had actually forgotten her soul in the sensations of shame and discomfort. She had contrived only to make herself ridiculous, and perhaps the pious at their breakfast-tables would discuss her and her father, and their money, and the queer life they led.

If Mynors had but been present!

She walked out into the street. It was twenty minutes to eight by the town-hall clock. The last workmen's car of the morning was just leaving Bursley: it was packed inside and outside, and the conductor hung insecurely on the step. At the gates of the manufactory opposite the chapel, a man in a white smock stood placidly smoking a pipe. A prayer-meeting was a little thing, a trifle in the immense and regular activity of the town: this thought necessarily occurred to Anna. She hurried homewards, wondering what her father would say about that morning's unusual excursion. A couple of hundred yards distant from home she saw, to her astonishment, Agnes emerging from the front-door of the house. The child ran rapidly down the street, not observing Anna till they were close upon each other.

'Oh, Anna! You forgot to buy the bacon yesterday. There isn't a scrap, and father's fearfully angry. He gave me sixpence, and I'm going down to Leal's to get some as quick as ever I can.'

It was a thunderbolt to Anna, this seemingly petty misadventure. As she entered the house she felt a tear on her cheek. She was ashamed to weep, but she wept. This, after the fiasco of the prayer-meeting, was a climax of woe; it overtopped and extinguished all the rest; her soul was nothing to her now. She quickly took off her hat and ran to the kitchen. Agnes had put the breakfast-things on the tray ready for setting; the bread was cut, the coffee portioned into the jug; the fire burned bright, and the kettle sang. Anna took the cloth from the drawer in the oak dresser, and went to the parlour to lay the table. Mr. Tellwright was at the end of the garden, pointing the wall, his back to the house. The table set, Anna observed that the room was only partly dusted: there was a duster on the mantelpiece; she seized it to finish, and at that moment the kitchen clock struck eight. Simultaneously Mr. Tellwright dropped his trowel, and came towards the house. She doggedly dusted one chair, and then, turning coward, flew away upstairs; the kitchen was barred to her since her father would enter by the kitchen door.

She had forgotten to buy bacon, and breakfast would be late: it was a calamity unique in her experience! She stood at the door of her bedroom, and waited, vehemently, for Agnes's return. At last the child raced breathlessly in; Anna flew to meet her. With incredible speed the bacon was whipped out of its wrapper, and Anna picked up the knife. At the first stroke she cut herself, and Agnes was obliged to bind the finger with rag. The clock struck the half-hour like a knell. It was twenty minutes to nine, forty minutes behind time, when the two girls hurried into the parlour, Anna bearing the bacon and hot plates, Agnes the bread and coffee. Mr. Tellwright sat upright and ferocious in his chair, the image of offence and wrath. Instead of reading his letters he had fed full of this ineffable grievance. The meal began in a desolating silence. The male creature's terrible displeasure permeated the whole room like an ether, invisible but carrying vibrations to the heart. Then, when he had eaten one piece of bacon, and cut his envelopes, the miser began to empty himself of some of his anger in stormy tones that might have uprooted trees. Anna ought to feel thoroughly ashamed. He could not imagine what she had been thinking of. Why didn't she tell him she was going to the prayer-meeting? Why did she go to the prayer-meeting, disarranging the whole household? How came she to forget the bacon? It was gross carelessness. A pretty example to her little sister! The fact was that since her birthday she had gotten above hersen. She was careless and extravagant. Look how thick the bacon was cut. He should not stand it much longer. And her finger all red, and the blood dropping on the cloth: a nice sight at a meal! Go and tie it up again.

Without a word she left the room to obey. Of course she had no defence. Agnes, her tears falling, pecked her food timidly like a bird, not daring to stir from her chair, even to assist at the finger.

'What did Mr. Mynors say?' Tellwright inquired fiercely when Anna had come back into the room.

'Mr. Mynors?' she murmured, at a loss, but vaguely apprehending further trouble.

'Did ye see him?'

'Yes, father.'

'Did ye give him my message?'

'I forgot it.' God in heaven! She had forgotten the message!

With a devastating grunt Mr. Tellwright walked speechless out of the room. The girls cleared the table, exchanging sympathy with a single mute glance. Anna's one satisfaction was that, even if she had remembered the message, she could not possibly have delivered it.

Ephraim Tellwright stayed in the front parlour till half-past ten o'clock, unseen but felt, like an angry god behind a cloud. The consciousness that he was there, unappeased and dangerous, remained uppermost in the minds of the two girls during the morning. At half-past ten he opened the door.

'Agnes!' he commanded, and Agnes ran to him from the kitchen with the speed of propitiation.

'Yes, father.'

'Take this note down to Price's, and don't wait for an answer.'

'Yes, father.'

She was back in twenty minutes. Anna was sweeping the lobby.

'If Mr. Mynors calls while I'm out, you mun tell him to wait,' Mr. Tellwright sai

d to Agnes, pointedly ignoring Anna's presence. Then, having brushed his greenish hat on his sleeve he went off towards town to buy meat and vegetables. He always did Saturday's marketing himself. At the butcher's and in the St. Luke's covered market he was a familiar and redoubtable figure. Among the salespeople who stood the market was a wrinkled, hardy old potato-woman from the other side of Moorthorne: every Saturday the miser bested her in their higgling-match, and nearly every Saturday she scornfully threw at him the same joke: 'Get thee along to th' post-office, Master Terrick:[1] happen they'll give thee sixpenn'orth o' stamps for fivepence ha'penny.' He seldom failed to laugh heartily at this.

At dinner the girls could perceive that the shadow of his displeasure had slightly lifted, though he kept a frowning silence. Expert in all the symptoms of his moods, they knew that in a few hours he would begin to talk again, at first in monosyllables, and then in short detached sentences. An intimation of relief diffused itself through the house like a hint of spring in February.

These domestic upheavals followed always the same course, and Anna had learnt to suffer the later stages of them with calmness and even with impassivity. Henry Mynors had not called. She supposed that her father had expected him to call for the answer which she had forgotten to give him, and she had a hope that he would come in the afternoon: once again she had the idea that something definite and satisfactory might result if she could only see him-that she might, as it were, gather inspiration from the mere sight of his face. After dinner, while the girls were washing the dinner things in the scullery, Agnes's quick ear caught the sound of voices in the parlour. They listened. Mynors had come. Mr. Tellwright must have seen him from the front window and opened the door to him before he could ring.

'It's him,' said Agnes, excited.

'Who?' Anna asked, self-consciously.

'Mr. Mynors, of course,' said the child sharply, making it quite plain that this affectation could not impose on her for a single instant.

'Anna!' It was Mr. Tellwright's summons, through the parlour window. She dried her hands, doffed her apron, and went to the parlour, animated by a thousand fears and expectations. Why was she to be included in the colloquy?

Mynors rose at her entrance and greeted her with conspicuous deference, a deference which made her feel ashamed.

'Hum!' the old man growled, but he was obviously content. 'I gave Anna a message for ye yesterday, Mr. Mynors, but her forgot to deliver it, wench-like. Ye might ha' been saved th' trouble o' calling. Now as ye're here, I've summat for tell ye. It 'll be Anna's money as 'll go into that concern o' yours. I've none by me; in fact, I'm a'most fast for brass, but her 'll have as near two thousand as makes no matter in a month's time, and her says her 'll go in wi' you on th' strength o' my recommendation.'

This speech was evidently a perfect surprise for Henry Mynors. For a moment he seemed to be at a loss; then his face gave candid expression to a feeling of intense pleasure.

'You know all about this business then, Miss Tellwright?'

She blushed. 'Father has told me something about it.'

'And are you willing to be my partner?'

'Nay, I did na' say that,' Tellwright interrupted. 'It 'll be Anna's money, but i' my name.'

'I see,' said Mynors gravely. 'But if it is Miss Anna's money, why should not she be the partner?' He offered one of his courtly diplomatic smiles.

'Oh-but--' Anna began in deprecation.

Tellwright laughed. 'Ay!' he said, 'why not? It 'll be experience for th' lass.'

'Just so,' said Mynors.

Anna stood silent, like a child who is being talked about. There was a pause.

'Would you care for that arrangement, Miss Tellwright?'

'Oh, yes,' she said.

'I shall try to justify your confidence. I needn't say that I think you and your father will have no reason to be disappointed. Two thousand pounds is of course only a trifle to you, but it is a great deal to me, and-and--' He hesitated. Anna did not surmise that he was too much moved by the sight of her, and the situation, to continue, but this was the fact.

'There's nobbut one point, Mr. Mynors,' Tellwright said bluntly, 'and that's the interest on th' capital, as must be deducted before reckoning profits. Us must have six per cent.'

'But I thought we had settled it at five,' said Mynors with sudden firmness.

'We 'n settled as you shall have five on your fifteen hundred,' the miser replied with imperturbable audacity, 'but us mun have our six.'

'I certainly thought we had thrashed that out fully, and agreed that the interest should be the same on each side.' Mynors was alert and defensive.

'Nay, young man. Us mun have our six. We're takkin' a risk.'

Mynors pressed his lips together. He was taken at a disadvantage. Mr. Tellwright, with unscrupulous cleverness, had utilized the effect on Mynors of his daughter's presence to regain a position from which the younger man had definitely ousted him a few days before. Mynors was annoyed, but he gave no sign of his annoyance.

'Very well,' he said at length, with a private smile at Anna to indicate that it was out of regard for her that he yielded.

Mr. Tellwright made no pretence of concealing his satisfaction. He, too, smiled at Anna, sardonically: the last vestige of the morning's irritation vanished in a glow of triumph.

'I'm afraid I must go,' said Mynors, looking at his watch. 'There is a service at chapel at three. Our Revivalist came down with Mrs. Sutton to look over the works this morning, and I told him I should be at the service. So I must. You coming, Mr. Tellwright?'

'Nay, my lad. I'm owd enough to leave it to young uns.'

Anna forced her courage to the verge of rashness, moved by a swift impulse.

'Will you wait one minute?' she said to Mynors. 'I am going to the service. If I'm late back, father, Agnes will see to the tea. Don't wait for me.' She looked him straight in the face. It was one of the bravest acts of her life. After the episode of breakfast, to suggest a procedure which might entail any risk upon another meal was absolutely heroic. Tellwright glanced away from his daughter, and at Mynors. Anna hurried upstairs.

'Who's thy lawyer, Mr. Mynors?' Tellwright asked.

'Dane,' said Mynors.

'That 'll be convenient. Dane does my bit o' business, too. I'll see him, and make a bargain wi' him for th' partnership deed. He always works by contract for me. I've no patience wi' six-and-eight-pences.'

Mynors assented.

'You must come down some afternoon and look over the works,' he said to Anna as they were walking down Trafalgar Road towards chapel.

'I should like to,' Anna replied. 'I've never been over a works in my life.'

'No? You are going to be a partner in the best works of its size in Bursley,' Mynors said enthusiastically.

'I'm glad of that,' she smiled, 'for I do believe I own the worst.'

'What-Price's do you mean?'

She nodded.

'Ah!' he exclaimed, and seemed to be thinking. 'I wasn't sure whether that belonged to you or your father. I'm afraid it isn't quite the best of properties. But perhaps I'd better say nothing about that. We had a grand meeting last night. Our little cornet-player quite lived up to his reputation, don't you think?'

'Quite,' she said faintly.

'You enjoyed the meeting?'

'No,' she blurted out, dismayed but resolute to be honest.

There was a silence.

'But you were at the early prayer-meeting this morning, I hear.'

She said nothing while they took a dozen paces, and then murmured, 'Yes.'

Their eyes met for a second, hers full of trouble.

'Perhaps,' he said at length, 'perhaps-excuse me saying this-but you may be expecting too much--'

'Well?' she encouraged him, prepared now to finish what had been begun.

'I mean,' he said, earnestly, 'that I-we-cannot promise you any sudden change of feeling, any sudden relief and certainty, such as some people experience. At least, I never had it. What is called conversion can happen in various ways. It is a question of living, of constant endeavour, with the example of Christ always before us. It need not always be a sudden wrench, you know, from the world. Perhaps you have been expecting too much,' he repeated, as though offering balm with that phrase.

She thanked him sincerely, but not with her lips, only with the heart. He had revealed to her an avenue of release from a situation which had seemed on all sides fatally closed. She sprang eagerly towards it. She realised afresh how frightful was the dilemma from which there was now a hope of escape, and she was grateful accordingly. Before, she had not dared steadily to face its terrors. She wondered that even her father's displeasure or the project of the partnership had been able to divert her from the plight of her soul. Putting these mundane things firmly behind her, she concentrated the activities of her brain on that idea of Christ-like living, day by day, hour by hour, of a gradual aspiration towards Christ and thereby an ultimate arrival at the state of being saved. This she thought she might accomplish; this gave opportunity of immediate effort, dispensing with the necessity of an impossible violent spiritual metamorphosis. They did not speak again until they had reached the gates of the chapel, when Mynors, who had to enter the choir from the back, bade her a quiet adieu. Anna enjoyed the service, which passed smoothly and uneventfully. At a Revival, night is the time of ecstasy and fervour and salvation; in the afternoon one must be content with preparatory praise and prayer.

That evening, while father and daughters sat in the parlour after supper, there was a ring at the door. Agnes ran to open, and found Willie Price. It had begun to rain, and the visitor, his jacket-collar turned up, was wet and draggled. Agnes left him on the mat and ran back to the parlour.

'Young Mr. Price wants to see you, father.'

Tellwright motioned to her to shut the door.

'You'd best see him, Anna,' he said. 'It's none my business.'

'But what has he come about, father?'

'That note as I sent down this morning. I told owd Titus as he mun pay us twenty pun' on Monday morning certain, or us should distrain. Them as can pay ten pun, especially in bank notes, can pay twenty pun, and thirty.'

'And suppose he says he can't?'

'Tell him he must. I've figured it out and changed my mind about that works. Owd Titus isna' done for yet, though he's getting on that road. Us can screw another fifty out o' him, that 'll only leave six months rent owing; then us can turn him out. He'll go bankrupt; us can claim for our rent afore th' other creditors, and us 'll have a hundred or a hundred and twenty in hand towards doing the owd place up a bit for a new tenant.'

'Make him bankrupt, father?' Anna exclaimed. It was the only part of the ingenious scheme which she had understood.

'Ay!' he said laconically.

'But--' (Would Christ have driven Titus Price into the bankruptcy court?)

'If he pays, well and good.'

'Hadn't you better see Mr. William, father?'

'Whose property is it, mine or thine?' Tellwright growled. His good humour was still precarious, insecurely re-established, and Anna obediently left the room. After all, she said to herself, a debt is a debt, and honest people pay what they owe.

It was in an uncomplaisant tone that Anna invited Willie Price to the front parlour: nervousness always made her seem harsh and moreover she had not the trick of hiding firmness under suavity.

'Will you come this way, Mr. Price?'

'Yes,' he said with ingratiating, eager compliance. Dusk was falling, and the room in shadow. She forgot to ask him to take a chair, so they both stood up during the interview.

'A grand meeting we had last night,' he began, twisting his hat. 'I saw you there, Miss Tellwright.'


'Yes. There was a splendid muster of teachers. I wanted to be at the prayer-meeting this morning, but couldn't get away. Did you happen to go, Miss Tellwright?'

She saw that he knew that she had been present, and gave him another curt monosyllable. She would have liked to be kind to him, to reassure him, to make him happy and comfortable, so ludicrous and touching were his efforts after a social urbanity which should appease; but, just as much as he, she was unskilled in the subtle arts of converse.

'Yes,' he continued, 'and I was anxious to be at to-night's meeting, but the dad asked me to come up here. He said I'd better.' That term, 'the dad,' uttered in William's slow, drawling voice, seemed to show Titus Price in a new light to Anna, as a human creature loved, not as a mere gross physical organism: the effect was quite surprising. William went on: 'Can I see your father, Miss Tellwright?'

'Is it about the rent?'

'Yes,' he said.

'Well, if you will tell me--'

'Oh! I beg pardon,' he said quickly. 'Of course I know it's your property, but I thought Mr. Tellwright always saw after it for you. It was he that wrote that letter this morning, wasn't it?'

'Yes,' Anna replied. She did not explain the situation.

'You insist on another twenty pounds on Monday?'

'Yes,' she said.

'We paid ten last Monday.'

'But there is still over a hundred owing.'

'I know, but-oh, Miss Tellwright, you mustn't be hard on us. Trade's bad.'

'It says in the "Signal" that trade is improving,' she interrupted sharply.

'Does it?' he said. 'But look at prices; they're cut till there's no profit left. I assure you, Miss Tellwright, my father and me are having a hard struggle. Everything's against us, and the works in particular, as you know.'

His tone was so earnest, so pathetic, that tears of compassion almost rose to her eyes as she looked at those simple na?ve blue eyes of his. His lanky figure and clumsily-fitting clothes, his feeble placatory smile, the twitching movements of his long red hands, all contributed to the effect of his defencelessness. She thought of the test: 'Blessed are the meek,' and saw in a flash the deep truth of it. Here were she and her father, rich, powerful, autocratic; and there were Willie Price and his father, commercial hares hunted by hounds of creditors, hares that turned in plaintive appeal to those greedy jaws for mercy. And yet, she, a hound, envied at that moment the hares. Blessed are the meek, blessed are the failures, blessed are the stupid, for they, unknown to themselves, have a grace which is denied to the haughty, the successful, and the wise. The very repulsiveness of old Titus, his underhand methods, his insincerities, only served to increase her sympathy for the pair. How could Titus help being himself any more than Henry Mynors could help being himself? And that idea led her to think of the prospective partnership, destined by every favourable sign to brilliant success, and to contrast it with the ignoble and forlorn undertaking in Edward Street.

She tried to discover some method of soothing the young man's fears, of being considerate to him without injuring her father's scheme.

'If you will pay what you owe,' she said, 'we will spend it all, every penny, on improving the works.'

'Miss Tellwright,' he answered with fatal emphasis, 'we cannot pay.'

Ah! She wished to follow Christ day by day, hour by hour-constantly to endeavour after saintliness. What was she to do now? Left to herself, she might have said in a burst of impulsive generosity, 'I forgive you all arrears. Start afresh.' But her father had to be reckoned with.......

'How much do you think you can pay on Monday?' she asked coldly.

At that moment her father entered the room. His first act was to light the gas. Willie Price's eyes blinked at the glare, as though he were trembling before the anticipated decree of this implacable old man. Anna's heart beat with sympathetic apprehension. Tellwright shook hands grimly with the youth, who re-stated hurriedly what he had said to Anna.

'It's o' this'n,' the old man began with finality, and stopped. Anna caught a glance from him dismissing her. She went out in silence. On the Monday Titus Price paid another twenty pounds.

[1] Terrick: a corruption of Tellwright.

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