Изображения страниц

ever a little explanation, which can so very generally clear up misunderstandings, put matters straight, and it was agreed that on future occasions theological, and, indeed, all learned topics should be avoided; and, as the rector apologized, the curate took the hint, and resolved to no more expose that ignorance which even Gamaliels might at times send forth to the world. He had, in the heat of discussion, and when personally attacked, made allusion to the Eastern proverb, that " the most noxious insects crawl to the summit of the highest towers ;" but he was sorry in his heart that he had so severely hit the man of Brazenose.

Now, there were three things of which the frost-bitten spinsters were particularly fond, whist, rum-punch, and divinity; and he, henceforth determined, whenever a controversial fit seized him, to make a call on those ladies, and discuss baptismal regeneration, or predestination, subjects on which they were very fluent, and on which they would continue to argue from sun-rise to sun-set.

Long-continued friendships beget familiarity, and the merry joke is often and harmlessly indulged in.

Between the squire and parson juxta-residence and a reciprocity of feeling on most concerns had, by long continuance, built up a friendliness, which promised a structure never to be sapped.

Godfrey was aware that the rector never preached his own compositions, and many a bit of raillery he ventured to throw out on this fact. But what matter if the rector did not. In that little study of his, full of antiquated tomes, where the arachnidæ were year after year undisturbed, and on whose dusty table were a few volumes apparently more read than any others—such as a very venerable copy of a work exulting in large black and red letters on the very long title page, professing to treat on “Y Sportis and Pastymes of ye Englishe, and on Arte of Venerie," "Somerville's Chase," "Fistiana,” the “Oxford” and “ Racing Calendars,” with two or three other, whose names we forget. Yes! in that little study, a huge blackened oakchest on whose panels were roughly engraved acorns, and trees, and beasts, and flowers,

and each corner supported fantastically by a naked cupid, on whose rotund stomach and fat cheeks two centuries had worked no reductive change, had long occupied its position, and been the custody of moth-eaten treasures. It was choked full of sermonsmany written by the uncle of the present incumbent, and many willed to him by very considerate clergy “ere they gave their enemies the slip for ever.”

Now, this chest contained such a goodly number that it would have been absolutely absurb and ridiculous in him to have written more. On particular occasions, it is true, he reduced ove from some of the dusty books which he had merely to open; but he could read his late relation's hand very fluently, and when cuffed and collared, they did very well. Occasionally would Godfrey, when they chanced to meet in the Church-yard ere service began, quietly say, in the tone of Sir Roger de Coverley—“Well, parson, who preaches to-day—the Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. South, or your deceased uncle ?"

“My uncle this morning; my hearers

understand him better than prelatical preachers,” laughingly would the rector reply.

If it were a stormy Sunday, or if from any like cause there was only a thin congregation, he made his uncle's discourse still more brief, by turning over two leaves instead of one, doubtless remembering the truth of the Father, “ Non effundas sermonem ubi non est auditus."

In this sketch of the rector of Elleringay, much may have been told that cannot be deemed recommendatory to one entrusted with the discharge of spiritual functions. True ! But amongst his many acknowledged failings he had many real virtues. There circled round that heart such a catholicity of open and generous feeling, that it extended to every one within his sphere. If it could not be said of him as of Berkeley, that he had “every virtue under heaven,” there was an overflowing kindness in the natural man, which shone through his character, and was perceptible to any one, and these inherent qualities made even the severe censor soften down into forgiveness, and



review his failings with lenity. Though he might not, like Zaccheus, have given all his possessions to the needy, yet in disposition Harlewin or Leofric were not more charitable. Never had pining penury been known to depart from his door unrelieved-never had the hand been withheld where want had solicited, and though he utterly detested pharasaical donation, yet there was not a cottage in Elleringay which could not testify to his custom of doing good by stealth. He was an eloquent proof of the poet's declaration that “none are all evil,” an example that goodness and error may be mixed up with each other.

The self-righteous might flourish over him the scourge of indignant censure, and priestly railers denunciate his follies, but haply he had redeeming qualities which such accusers might not possess. It is the system that should be blamed and not the man ; that condition of things by which the aforesaid uncle was enabled to transmit as an heirloom the spiritual charge over men's consciences. For the sacred office his reverence

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »