36.The Journey of Hope
A LONG, lonely journey, with sadness in the heart; away from the familiar to the
strange: that is a hard and dreary thing even to the rich, the strong, the
instructed; a hard thing, even when we are called by duty, not urged by dread.
What was it then to Hetty? With her poor narrow thoughts, no longer melting into
vague hopes, but pressed upon by the chill of definite fear, repeating again and
again the same small round of memories--shaping again and again the same
childish, doubtful images of what was to come--seeing nothing in this wide world
but the little history of her own pleasures and pains; with so little money in her
pocket, and the way so long and difficult. Unless she could afford always to go in
the coaches--and she felt sure she could not, for the journey to Stoniton was
more expensive than she had expected--it was plain that she must trust to
carriers' carts or slow waggons; and what a time it would be before she could get
to the end of her journey! The burly old coachman from Oakbourne, seeing such
a pretty young woman among the outside passengers, had invited her to come
and sit beside him; and feeling that it became him as a man and a coachman to
open the dialogue with a joke, he applied himself as soon as they were off the
stones to the elaboration of one suitable in all respects. After many cuts with his
whip and glances at Hetty out of the corner of his eye, he lifted his lips above the
edge of his wrapper and said, "He's pretty nigh six foot, I'll be bound, isna he,
"Who?" said Hetty, rather startled.
"Why, the sweetheart as you've left behind, or else him as you're goin' arter--
which is it?"
Hetty felt her face flushing and then turning pale. She thought this coachman
must know something about her. He must know Adam, and might tell him where
she was gone, for it is difficult to country people to believe that those who make a
figure in their own parish are not known everywhere else, and it was equally
difficult to Hetty to understand that chance words could happen to apply closely
to her circumstances. She was too frightened to speak.
"Hegh, hegh!" said the coachman, seeing that his joke was not so gratifying as
he had expected, "you munna take it too ser'ous; if he's behaved ill, get another.
Such a pretty lass as you can get a sweetheart any day."
Hetty's fear was allayed by and by, when she found that the coachman made no
further allusion to her personal concerns; but it still had the effect of preventing
her from asking him what were the places on the road to Windsor. She told him
she was only going a little way out of Stoniton, and when she got down at the inn