Copyright
George MacDonald.

[Works] (Volume 3) online

. (page 1 of 35)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



i^itKimmc "K T.VK ocrm





BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

-=w*-

Uniform with this Volume.
MALCOLM.

THE MARQUIS OP LOSSIE.
DONAL GRANT.
CASTLE WARLOCK.
WHAT'S MINE'S MINE.
ST. GEORGE AND ST. MICHAEL.
ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

THE SEABOARD PARISH: A Sequel to "Annals of
a Quiet Neighbourhood."

WILFRED CUMBERMEDE: An Autobiographical

Story.

PAUL FABER, SURGEON.
THOMAS WINGFOLD, CURATE.
HOME AGAIN.
THE ELECT LADY.
THERE AND BACK.
FLIGHT OF THE SHADOW.



LONDON: KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & Co., LIP



NEIGHBOURHOOD



BY GEORGE MAC DONALD, LL.D.

AVTHOR OF " THE SEABOARD 1'ARISH," " WHAT'S MI.VE'S MINE," ETC.



NEW EDITION.



LONDON
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO. L TD

DRYDEN HOUSE, GERRARD STREET, W.



J T?i rights of translation and of reproduction art reserved.]



CONTENTS.



CHAP. rxc

I. DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION 1

II. MY FIRST SUNDAY AT MAR3HMAI.LOWS, l8

III. MY FIRST MONDAY AT MARSHM ALLOWS, ... 25

IV. THE COFFIN, 40

V. VISITORS FROM THE HALL. ... 54

VI. OLDTASTLE HALT, ....... 68

VII. THE BISHOP'S BASIN, 9!

VIII. WHAT I PREACHED 127

IX. THE ORGANIST '35

X. MY CHRISTMAS PARTY, ... . . 169

XI. SERMON ON GOD AN I* MAMMON, ... 190

XII. THE AVENUE, 233

XIII. YOUNG WEIR, ........ 244

XIV. MY PUPIL, 287

xv. DR DUNCAN'S STORY, . .... 303

XVI. THE ORGAN, 3^S

XVII. THE CHURCH-RATE, 334



765333



CONTENTS.



CHAP. PAGE

xviit. JUDY'S NEWS, 351

XIX. THE INVALID, 360

XX. MOOD AND WILL, 375

XXI. THE DEVIL IN THOMAS WEIR, .... 388

XXII. THE DEVIL IN CATHERINE WEIR, . . , 396

XXIII. THE DEVIL IN THE VICAR, 412

XXIV. AN ANGEL UNAWARES, 425

XXV. TWO PARISHIONERS, 434

XXVI. SATAN CAST OUT, . . . . . ... 447

XXVII. THE MAN AND THE CHILD, ..... 464

XXVIII. OLD MRS TOMKINS, . ... 477

XXIX. CALM AND STORM, ...... 496

XXX. A SERMON TO MYSELF, ..... 509

XXXI. A COUNCIL OF FRIENDS, ..... 530

XXXII. THE NEXT THING 544

XXXIII. OLD ROGERS'S THANKSGIVING. . , , 558

xxxiv. TOM'S STORY, 5 & 8



ANNALS OF
A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.



CHAPTER I.

DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.




I begin to tell you some of the things
I have seen and heard, in both of which 1
have had to take a share, now from the com-
pulsion of my office, now from the leading
of my own heart, and now from that destiny which, in-
cluding both, so often throws the man who supposed
himself a mere on-looker, into the very vortex of events
that destiny which took form to the old pagans as a gray
mist high beyond the heads of their gods, but to us is
known as an infinite love, revealed in the mystery of
man I say before I begin, it is fitting that, in the ab-
sence of a common friend to do that office for me, I
should introduce myself to your acquaintance, and I
hope coming friendship. Nor can there be any impro-
priety in my telling you about myself, seeing I remain



a ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

concealed behind my own words. You can never look
me in the eyes, though you may look me in the soul.
You may find me out, find my faults, my vanities, my
sins, but you will not see me, at least in this world. To
you I am but a voice of revealing, not a form of vision ;
therefore I am bold behind the mask, to speak to you
heart to heart ; bold, I say, just so much the more that
I do not speak to you face to face. And when we meet
in heaven well, there I know there is no hiding ; there,
there is no reason for hiding anything ; there, the whole
desire will be alternate revelation and vision.

I am now getting old faster and faster. I cannot
help my gray hairs, nor the wrinkles that gather so slowly
yet ruthlessly ; no, nor the quaver that will come in my
voice, nor the sense of being feeble in the knees, even
when I walk only across the floor of my study. But I
have not got used to age yet. I do not feel one atom
older than I did at three-and- twenty. Nay, to tell all
the truth, I feel a good deal younger. For then I only
felt that a man had to take up his cross ; whereas now I
feel that a man has to follow Him ; and that makes an
unspeakable difference. When my voice quavers, I feel
that it is mine and not mine ; that it just belongs to me
like my watch, which does not go well now, though it
went well thirty years ago not more than a minute out
in a month. And when I feel my knees shake, I think
of them with a kind of pity, as I used to think of an old
mare of my father's of which I was very fond when I was
a lad, and which bore me across many a field and over
many a fence, but which at last came to have the same



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



weakness in her knees that I have in mine ; and she
knew it too, and took care of them, and so of herself, in
a wise equine fashion. These things are not me or /,
if the grammarians like it better, (I always feel a strife
between doing as the scholar does and doing as other
people do;) they are not me, I say ; I hare them and,
please God, shall soon have better. For it is not a
pleasant thing for a young man, or a young woman
either, I venture to say, to have an old voice, and a
wrinkled face, and weak knees, and gray hair, or no hair
at all. And if any moral Philistine, as our queer Ger-
man brothers over the Northern fish-pond would call
him, say that this is all rubbish, for that we are old, I
would answer: " Of all children how can the children of
God be old ?"

So little do I give in to calling this outside of me,
me, that I should not mind presenting a minute descrip-
tion of my own person such as would at once clear me
from any suspicion of vanity in so introducing myself.
Not that my honesty would result in the least from
indifference to the external but from comparative indif-
ference to the transitional ; not to the transitional in
itself, which is of eternal significance and result, but to
the particular form of imperfection which it may have
reached at any individual moment of its infinite pro-
gression towards the complete. For no sooner have I
spoken the word ttw, than that nou> is dead and another
is dying ; nay, in such a regard, there is no n:w only a
past of which we know a little, and a future of which we
know far less and far more. But I will not speak at all



4 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

of this body of my earthly tabernacle, for it is on the
whole more pleasant to forget all about it. And be-
sides, I do not want to set any of my readers to whom I
would have the pleasure of speaking far more openly
and cordially than if they were seated on the other side
of my writing-table I do not want to set them wonder-
ing whether the vicar be this vicar or that vicar ; or
indeed to run the risk of giving the offence I might
give, if I were anything else than " a wandering voice."

I did not feel as I feel now when first I came to this
parish. For, as I have said, I am now getting old very
fast, True, I was thirty when I was made a vicar, an
age at which a man might be expected to be beginning
to grow wise ; but even then I had much yet to learn.

I well remember the first evening on which I wan-
dered out from the vicarage to take a look about me
to find out, in short, where I was, and what aspect the
sky and earth here presented. Strangely enough, I had
never been here before ; for the presentation had been
made me while I was abroad. I was depressed. It
was depressing weather. Grave doubts as to whether I
was in my place in the church, would keep rising and
floating about, like rain-clouds within me. Not that I
doubted about the church ; I only doubted about my-
self. " Were my motives pure ?" " What were my
motives?''' And, to tell the truth, I did not know what
my motives were, and therefore I could not answer
about the purity of them. Perhaps seeing we are in this
world in order to become pure, it would be expecting
too much of any young man that he should be abso-



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



lutely certain that lie was pure in anything. But the
question followed very naturally : " Had I then any
right to be in the Church to be eating her bread and
drinking her wine without knowing whether I was fit to
do her work 1 ?" To which the only answer I could find
was, " The Church is part of God's world. He makes
men to work ; and work of some sort must be done by
every honest man. Somehow or other, I hardly know
how, I find myself in the Church. I do not know that I
am fitter for any other work. I see no other work to
do. There is work here which I can do after some
fashion. With God's help I will try to do it well."

This resolution brought me some relief, but still I was
depressed. It was depressing weather. I may as well
say that I was not married then, and that I firmly be-
lieved I never should be married not from any ambi-
tion taking the form of self-denial ; nor yet from any
notion that God takes pleasure in being a hard master ;
but there was a lady Well, I ivi/l be honest, as I would
be. I had been refused a few months before, which I
think was the best thing ever happened to me except
one. That one, of course, was when I was accepted.
But this is not much to the purpose now. Only it was
depressing weather.

For is it not depressing when the rain is falling, and
the steam of it is rising] when the river is crawling
along muddily, and the horses stand stock-still in the
meadows with their spines in a straight line from the
ears to where they fail utterly in the tails ? I should
only put on goloshes now, and think of the days when I



6 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOTTRHOOD.

despised damp. Ah ! it was mental waterproof that I
needed then ; for let me despise damp as much as J
would, I could neither keep it out of my mind, nor help
suffering the spiritual rheumatism which it occasioned.
Now, the damp never gets farther than my goloshes and
my Macintosh. And for that worst kind of rheumatism
I never feel it now.

But I had begun to tell you about that first evening.
I had arrived at the vicarage the night before, and it
had rained all day, and was still raining, though not so
much. I took my umbrella and went out.

For as I wanted to do my work well (everything tak-
ing far more the shape of work to me, then, and duty,
than it does now though, even now, I must confess
things have occasionally to be done by the clergyman
because there is no one else to do them, and hardly
from other motive than a sense of duty, a man not
being able to shirk work because it may happen to be
dirty) I say, as I wanted to do my work well, or rather,
perhaps, because I dreaded drudgery as much as any
poor fellow who comes to the treadmill in consequence
I wanted to interest myself in it ; and therefore I would
go and fall in love, first of all, if I could, with the
country round about. And my first step beyond my
own gate was up to the ankles in mud.

Therewith, curiously enough, arose the distracting
thought how I could possibly preach two good sermons
a Sunday to the same people, when one of the sermons
was in the afternoon instead of the evening, to which
latter I had been accustomed in the large town in which



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



I had formerly officiated as curate in a proprietary chapel
I, who had declaimed indignantly against excitement from
without, who had been inclined to exalt the intellect at
the expense even of the heart, began to fear that there
must be something in the darkness, and the gas-lights,
and the crowd of faces, to account for a man's being
able to preach a better sermon, and for servant girls pre-
ferring to go out in the evening. Alas ! I had now to
preach, as I might judge with all probability beforehand,
to a company of rustics, of thought yet slower than of
speech, unaccustomed in fact to think at all, and that in
the sleepiest, deadest part of the day, when I could
hardly think myself, and when, if the weather should be
at all warm, I could not expect many of them to be
awake. And what good might I look for as the result
of my labour 1 How could I hope in these men and
women to kindle that fire which, in the old days of the
outpouring of the Spirit, made men live with the sense
of the kingdom of heaven uoout them, and the expecta-
tion of something glorious at hand just outside that
invisible door which lay between the worlds ?

I have learned since, that perhaps I overrated the
spirituality of those times, and underrated, not being
myself spiritual enough to see all about me, the spiritu-
ality of these times. I think I have learned since, that
the parson of a parish must be content to keep the
upper windows of his mind open to the holy winds and
the pure lights of heaven ; and the side windows of tone,
of speech, of behaviour open to the earth, to let forth
upon his fellow-men the tenderness and truth which



ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

those upper influences bring forth in any region exposed
to their operation. Believing in his Master, such a ser-
vant shall not make haste ; shall feel no feverous desire
to behold the work of his hands ; shall be content to be as
his Master, who waiteth long for the fruits of His earth.

But surely I am getting older than I thought; for I
keep wandering away from my subject, which is this, my
first walk in my new cure. My excuse is, that I want
my reader to understand something of the state of my
mind, and the depression under which I was labouring.
He will perceive that I desired to do some work worth
calling by the name of work, and that I did not see how
to get hold of a beginning.

I had not gone far from my own gate before the rain
ceased, though it was still gloomy enough for any
amount to follow. I drew down my umbrella, and be-
gan to look about me. The stream on my left was so
swollen that I could see its brown in patches through
the green of the meadows along its banks. A little in
front of me, the road, rising quickly, took a sharp turn
to pass along an old stone bridge that spanned the
water with a single fine arch, somewhat pointed ; and
through the arch I could see the river stretching away
up through the meadows, its banks bordered with pol-
lards. Now, pollards always made me miserable. In
the first place, they look ill-used ; in the next place, they
look tame ; in the third place, they look very ugly. I
had not learned then to honour them on the ground
that they yield not a jot to the adversity of their circum-
stances ; that, if they must be pollards, they still will be



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



trees ; and what they may not do with grace, they will
yet do with bounty ; that, in short, their life bursts forth,
despite of all that is done to repress and destroy their
individuality. When you have once learned to honour
anything, love is not very far off; at least that has
always been my experience. But, as I have said, I had
not yet learned to honour pollards, and therefore they
made me more miserable than I was already.

When, having followed the road, I stood at last on
the bridge, and, looking up and down the river through
the misty air, saw two long rows of these pollards dimin-
ishing till they vanished in both directions, the sight of
them took from me all power of enjoying the water be-
neath me, the green fields around me, or even the old-
world beauty of the little bridge upon which I stood,
although all sorts of bridges have been from very infancy
a delight to me. For I am one of those who never get
rid of their infantile predilections, and to have once
enjoyed making a mud bridge, was to enjoy all bridges
for ever.

I saw a man in a white smock-frock coming along the
road beyond, but I turned my back to the road, leaned
my arms on the parapet of the bridge, and stood gazing
where I saw no visions, namely, at those very poplars.
I heard the man's footsteps coming up the crown of the
arch, but I would not turn to greet him. I was in a
selfish humour if ever I was ; for surely if ever one man
ought to greet another, it was upon such a comfortless
afternoon. The footsteps stopped behind me, and I
heard a voice :



IO ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

" I beg yer pardon, sir ; but be you the new vicar 1 "

I turned instantly and answered, " I am. Do you
want me 1 "

" I wanted to see yer face, sir, that was all, if ye '11
not take it amiss."

Before me stood a tall old man with his hat in his
hand, clothed as I have said, in a white smock-frock.
He smoothed his short gray hair with his curved palm
down over his forehead as he stood. His face was of
a red brown, from much exposure to the weather.
There was a certain look of roughness, without hardness,
in it, which spoke of endurance rather than resistance,
although he could evidently set his face as a flint. His
features were large and a little coarse, but the smile that
parted his lips when he spoke, shone in his gray eyes as
well, and lighted up a countenance in which a man might
trust.

" I wanted to see yer face, sir, if you '11 not take it
amiss."

" Certainly not," I answered, pleased with the man's
address, as he stood square before me, looking as modest
as fearless. " The sight of a man's face is what every-
body has a right to ; but, for all that, I should like to
know why you want to see my face."

" Why, sir, you be the new vicar. You kindly told
me so when I axed you."

" Well, then, you'll see my face on Sunday in church
that is, if you happen to be there."

For, although some might think it the more dignified
way, I could not take it as a matter of course that he



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION. II

would be at church. A man might have better reasons
for staying away from church than I had for going, even
though I was the parson, and it was my business. Some
clergymen separate between themselves and their office
to a degree which I cannot understand. To assert the
dignities of my office seems to me very like exalting my-
self ; and when I have had a twinge of conscience about
it, as has happened more than once, I have then found
comfort in these two texts : "The Son of man came not
to be ministered unto but to minister ; " and " It is
enough that the servant should be as his master."
Neither have I ever been able to see the very great
difference between right and wrong in a clergyman, and
right and wrong in another man. All that I can pretend
to have yet discovered comes to this : that what is right
in another man is right in a clergyman ; and what is
wrong in another man is much worse in a clergyman.
Here, however, is one more proof of approaching age.
I do not mean the opinion, but the digression.

" Well, then," I said, " you '11 see my face in church
on Sunday, if you happen to be there."

" Yes, sir ; but you see, sir, on the bridge here, the
parson is the parson like, and I 'm Old Rogers ; and I
looks in his face, and he looks in mine, and I says to
myself, ' This is my parson.' But o' Sundays he 's
nobody's parson ; he 's got his work to do, and it mun
be done, and there's an end on't."

That there was a real idea in the old man's mind was
considerably clearer than the logic by which he tried to
bring it out.



12 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

" Did you know parson that 's gone, sir ?" he went on.

" No," I answered

" Oh, sir ! he wur a good parson. Many 's the time
he come and sit at my son's bedside him that 's dead
and gone, sir for a long hour, on a Saturday night, too.
And then when I see him up in the desk the next mor-
nin', I 'd say to myself, ' Old Rogers, that 's the same
man as sat by your son's bedside last night. Think o'
that, Old Rogers !' But, somehow, I never did feei
right sure o' that same. He didn't seem to have the
same cut, somehow ; and he didn't talk a bit the same.
And when he spoke to me after sermon, in the church-
yard, I was always of a mind to go into the church
again and look up to the pulpit to see if he war really
out ov it ; for this warn't the same man, you see. But
you'll know all about it better than I can tell you, sir.
Only I always liked parson better out o' the pulpit, and
that 's how I come to want to make you look at me, sir,
instead o' the water down there, afore I see you in the
church to-morrow mornin'."

The old man laughed a kindly laugh ; but he had set
me thinking, and I did not know what to say to him all
at once. So after a short pause, he resumed

" You '11 be thinking me a queer kind of a man, sir,
to speak to my betters before my betters speaks to me.
But mayhap you don't know what a parson is to us poor
folk that has ne'er a friend more larned than theirselves
but the parson. And besides, sir, I 'm an old salt, an
old man-o'-war's man, and I Ve been all round the
world, sir ; and I ha' been in all sorts o' company,



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



pirates and all, sir ; and I aint a bit frightened of a par-
son. No ; I love a parson, sir. And I '11 tell you for
why, sir. He 's got a good telescope, and he gits to the
masthead, and he looks out. And he sings out, ' Land
ahead!' or 'Breakers ahead!' and gives directions ac-
cordin'. Only I can't always make out what he says.
But when he shuts up his spyglass, and comes down the
riggin', and talks to us like one man to another, then I
don't know what I should do without the parson. Good
evenin' to you, sir, and welcome to Marshmallows."

The pollards did not look half so dreary. The river
began to glimmer a little ; and the old bridge had be-
come an interesting old bridge. The country altogether
was rather nice than otherwise. I had found a friend
already ! that is, a man to whom I might possibly be
of some use; and that was the most precious friend I
could think of in my present situation and mood. I
had learned something from him too ; and I resolved to
try all I could to be the same man in the pulpit that I
was out of it. Some may be inclined to say that I had
better have formed the resolution to be the same man
out of the pulpit that I was in it. But the one will go
quite right with the other. Out of the pulpit I would
be the same man I was in it seeing and feeling the
realities of the unseen ; and in the pulpit I would be the
same man I was out of it taking facts as they are, and
dealing with tilings as they show themselves in the
world.

One other occurrence before I went home that even-
ing, and I shall close the chapter. I hope I shall not



14 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.

write another so dull as this. I dare not promise,
though ; for this is a new kind of work to me.

Before I left the bridge, while, in fact, I was con-
templating the pollards with an eye, if not of favour, yet
of diminished dismay, the sun, which, for anything I
knew of his whereabouts, either from knowledge of the
country, aspect of the evening, or state of my own feel-
ings, might have been down for an hour or two, burst
his cloudy bands, and blazed out as if he had just risen
from the dead, instead of being just about to sink into
the grave. Do not tell me that my figure is untrue, for
that the sun never sinks into the grave, else I will retort
that it is just as true of the sun as of a man ; for that no
man sinks into the grave. He only disappears. Life is
a constant sunrise, which death cannot interrupt, any
more than the night can swallow up the sun. " God is
not the God of the dead, but of the living - } for all live
unto him."

Well, the sun shone out gloriously. The whole sweep
of the gloomy river answered him in gladness ; the wet
leaves of the pollards quivered and glanced ; the
meadows offered up their perfect green, fresh and clear
out of the trouble of the rain j and away in the distance,
upon a rising ground covered with trees, glittered a
weathercock. What if I found afterwards that it was
only on the roof of a stable ? It shone, and that was
enough. And when the sun had gone below the horizon,
and the fields and the river were dusky once more, there
it glittered still over the darkening earth, a symbol of
that faith which is " the evidence of things not seen,"



DESPONDENCY AND CONSOLATION.



and it made my heart swell as at a chant from the pro-
phet Isaiah. \Yhat matter then whether it hung over a
stable-roof or a church-tower?

I stood up and wandered a little farther off the
bridge, and along the road. I had not gone far before
I passed a house, out of which came a young woman
leading a little boy. They came after me, the boy
gazing at the red and gold and green of the sunset
sky. As they passed me, the child said

" Auntie, I think I should like to be a painter."

" Why V returned his companion.

" Because, then," answered the child, " I could help
God to paint the sky."

What his aunt replied I do not know ; for they



Online LibraryGeorge MacDonald[Works] (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 35)