Thomas Wingfold, Curate - vol.2

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The next morning, as Wingfold ate his breakfast by an open window looking across the churchyard, he received a letter by the local post. It was as follows:--

"Dear Mr. Wingfold, I am about to take an unheard-of liberty, but my reasons are such as make me bold. The day may come when I shall be able to tell you them all. Meantime I hope you can help me. I want very much to ask your counsel upon a certain matter, and I cannot beg you to call, for my aunt knows nothing of it. Could you contrive a suitable way of meeting? You may imagine my necessity is grievous when I thus expose myself to the possible bitterness of my own after judgment. But I must have confidence in the man who spoke as you did yesterday morning. I am, dear Mr. Wingfold, sincerely yours, Helen Lingard.

"P.S.--I shall be walking along Pine Street from our end, at eleven o'clock to-morrow."

The curate was not taken with a great surprise. But something like fear overshadowed him at finding his sermons come back upon him thus. Was he, an unbelieving labourer, to go reaping with his blunt and broken sickle where the corn was ripest! But he had no time to think about that now. It was nearly ten o'clock, and she would be looking for her answer at eleven. He had not to think long, however, before he saw what seemed a suitable plan to suggest; whereupon he wrote as follows:

"Dear Miss Lingard, I need not say that I am entirely at your service. But I am doubtful if the only way that occurs to me will commend itself to you. I know what I am about to propose is safe, but you may not have sufficient confidence in my judgment to accept it as such.

"Doubtless you have seen the two deformed persons, an uncle and niece, named Polwarth, who keep the gate of Osterfield Park. I know them well, and, strange as it may seem, I must tell you, in order that you may partake of my confidence, that whatever change you may have observed in my public work is owing to the influence of those two, who have more faith in God than I have ever met with before. It may not be amiss to mention also that, although poor and distorted, they are of gentle blood as well as noble nature. With this preamble, I venture to propose that you should meet me at their cottage. To them it would not appear at all strange that one of my congregation should wish to see me alone, and I know you may trust their discretion. But while I write thus, with all confidence in you and in them, I must tell you that I have none in myself. I feel both ashamed and perplexed that you should imagine any help in me. Of all I know, I am the poorest creature to give counsel. All I can say for myself is that I think I see a glimmer of light, and light is light, through whatever cranny, and into whatever poverty-stricken chamber, it may fall. Whatever I see I will say. If I can see nothing to help you, I will be silent. And yet I may be able to direct you where to find what I cannot give you. If you accept my plan, and will appoint day and hour, I shall acquaint the Polwarths with the service we desire of them. Should you object to it, I shall try to think of another. I am, dear Miss Lingard, yours very truly, Thomas Wingfold."

He placed the letter between the pages of a pamphlet, took his hat and stick, and was walking down Pine Street as the Abbey clock struck eleven. Midway he met Helen, shook hands with her, and, after an indifferent word or two, gave her the pamphlet, and bade her good morning.

Helen hurried home. It had required all her self-command to look him in the face, and her heart beat almost painfully as she opened the letter.

She could not but be pleased--even more than pleased with it. If the secret had been her own, she thought she could have trusted him entirely; but she must not expose poor Leopold.

By the next post the curate received a grateful answer, appointing the time, and expressing perfect readiness to trust those whom he had tried.

She was received at the cottage door by Rachel, who asked her to walk into the garden, where Mr. Wingfold was expecting her. The curate led her to a seat overgrown with honeysuckle.

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