house for the welcome of a servant is precious, and
now-a-days very rare.
And now Mrs Stone must have finished. I go into
the old church which looks as if it were quietly waiting
for its people. No. She has not done yet. Never
mind. How full of meaning the vaulted roof looks ! as
if, having gathered a soul of its own out of the genera-
tions that have worshipped here for so long, it had feel-
ing enough to grow hungry for a psalm before the end
of the week.
Some such half-foolish fancy was now passing through
my tranquillized mind or rather heart for the mind
would have rejected it at once when to my what shall
I call it ? not amazement, for the delight was too strong
for amazement the old organ woke up and began to
4S2 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
think aloud. As if it had been brooding over it all the
week in the wonderful convolutions of its wooden brain,
it began to sigh out the Agnus Dei of Mozart's twelfth
mass upon the air of the still church, which lay swept
and garnished for the Sunday. How could it be? I
know now ; and I guessed then ; and my guess was
right ; and my reader must be content to guess too. I
took no step to verify my conjecture, for I felt that I
was upon my honour, but sat in one of the pews and
listened, till the old organ sobbed itself into silence.
Then I heard the steps of the sexton's wife vanish from
the church, heard her lock the door, and knew that I
was alone in the ancient pile, with the twilight growing
thick about me, and felt like Sir Galahad, when, after
the " rolling organ-harmony," he heard " wings flutter,
voices hover clear." In a moment the mood changed ;
and I was sorry, not that the dear organ was dead for
the night, but actually felt gently- mournful that the won-
derful old thing never had and never could have a con-
scious life of its own. So strangely does the passion
which I had not invented, reader, whoever thou art that
thinkest love and a church do not well harmonize so
strangely, I say, full to overflowing of its own vitality,
does it radiate life, that it would even of its own super-
abundance quicken into blessed consciousness the inani-
mate objects around it, thinking what they would feel
had they a consciousness correspondent to their form,
were their faculties moved from within themselves in-
stead of from the will and operation of humanity.
I lingered on long in the dark church, as my reader
THE DEVIL IN THE VICAK. 4*3
knows I had done often before. Nor did I move from
the seat I had first taken till I left the sacred building.
And there I made my sermon for the next morning.
And herewith I impart it to my reader. But he need
not be afraid of another such as I have already given
him, for I impart it only in its original germ, its concen-
trated essence of sermon these four verses :
Had I the grace to win the grare
Of some old man complete in lore,
My face would worship at his face.
Like childhood seated on the floor.
Had I the grace to win the grace
Of childhood, loving shy, apart,
The child should find a nearer place,
And teach me resting on my heart.
Had I the grace to win the grace
Of maiden living all above.
My soul would trample down the base.
That the might have a man to love.
A grace I have no grace to win
Knocks now at my half-open door :
Ah, Lord of glory, come thuu in,
Thy grace divine is all and more.
This was what I made for myself. I told my people
that God had created all our worships, reverences, ten-
dernesses, loves. That they had come out of His
heart, and He had made them in us because they were
in Him first. That otherwise He would not have cared
to make them. That all that we could imagine of the
wise, the lovely, the beautiful, was in Him, only in-
finitely more of them than we could not merely imagine.
424 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
but understand, even if He did all He could to explain
them to us, to make us understand them. That in Him
was all the wise teaching of the best man ever known in
the world and more ; all the grace and gentleness and
truth of the best child and more ; all the tenderness and
devotion of the truest type of womankind and more ;
for there is a love that passeth the love of woman, not
the love of Jonathan to David, though David said so :
but the love of God to the men and women whom He
has made. Therefore, we must be all God's j and all
our aspirations, all our worships, all our honours, all our
loves, must centre in Him, the Best.
AN ANGEL UNAWARES.
C'mjtVf EELING rather more than the usual reaction
I ?|ll so well-known to clergymen after the con-
i E$8|jg centrated duties of the Sunday, I resolved
on Monday to have the long country walk I
had been disappointed of on the Saturday previous. It
was such a day as it seems impossible to describe except
in negatives. It was not stormy, it was not rainy, it was
not sunshiny, it was not snowy, it was not frosty, it was
not foggy, it was not clear, it was nothing but cloudy
and quiet and cold and generally ungenial, with just a
puff of wind now and then to give an assertion to its
ungeniality. I should not in the least have cared to tell
what sort the day was, had it not been an exact repre-
seutalion of my own mind. It was not the day that
made me such as itself. The weather could always
easily influence the surface of my mind, my external
mood, but it could never go much further. The small-
426 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
est pleasure would break through the conditions that
merely came of such a day. But this morning my whole
mind and heart seemed like the day. The summer was
thousands of miles off on the other side of the globe.
Ethelwyn, up at the old house there across the river,
seemed millions of miles away. The summer might
come back ; she never would come nearer : it was
absurd to expect it. For in such moods stupidity con-
stantly arrogates to itself the qualities and claims of
insight. In fact, it passes itself off for common sense,
making the most dreary ever appear the most reason-
able. In such moods a man might almost be persuaded
that it was ridiculous to expect any such poetic absurdity
as the summer, with its diamond mornings and its opal
evenings, ever to come again ; nay, to think that it ever
had had any existence except in the fancies of the human
heart one of its castles in the air. The whole of life
seemed faint and foggy, with no red in it anywhere ; and
when I glanced at my present relations in Marshmal-
lows, I could not help finding several circumstances to
give some appearance of justice to this appearance of
things. I seemed to myself to have done no good. I
had driven Catherine Weir to the verge of suicide, while
at the same time I could not restrain her from the con-
templation of some dire revenge. I had lost the man
upon whom I had most reckoned as a seal of my minis-
try, namely, Thomas Weir. True there was Old Rogers ;
but Old Rogers was just as good before I found him.
I could not dream of having made him any better. And
so I went on brooding over all the disappointing por
AN ANGKL UNAWARES. 427
lions of my labour, all the time thinking about myself,
instead of God and the work that lay for me to do in
the days to come.
" Nobody," I said, " but Old Rogers understands me.
Nobody would care, as far as my teaching goes, if an-
other man took my place from next Sunday forward.
And for Miss Oldcastle, her playing the Agtius Dei on
Saturday afternoon, even if she intended that I should
hear it, could only indicate at most that she knew how
she had behaved to me in the morning, and thought she
had gone too far and been unkind, or perhaps was afraid
lest she should be accountable for any failure I might
make in my Sunday duties, and therefore felt bound to
do something to restore my equanimity."
Choosing, though without consciously intending to do
so, the dreariest path to be found, I wandered up the
side of the slow black river, with the sentinel pollards
looking at themselves in its gloomy mirror, just as I was
looking at myself in the mirror of my circumstances.
They leaned in all directions, irregular as the headstones
in an ancient churchyard. In the summer they looked
like explosions of green leaves at the best ; now they
looked like the burnt-out cases of the summer's fire-
works. How different, too, was the river from the time
when a whole fleet of shining white lilies lay anchored
among their own broad green leaves upon its clear
waters, filled with sunlight in every pore, as they them-
selves would fill the pores of a million-caverned sponge !
But I could not even recall the past summer as beau-
tifxil. I seemed to can- for nothing. The first miserable
42S ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGUBOD RHOOD.
afternoon at Marshmallows looked now as if it had been
the whole of my coming relation to the place seen
through a reversed telescope. And here I was in it
The walk along the side was tolerably dry, although
the river was bank-full. But when I came to the bridge
I wanted to cross a wooden one I found that the
approach to it had been partly undermined and carried
away, for here the river had overflowed its banks in one
of the late storms ; and all about the place was still very
wet and swampy. I could therefore get no farther in
my gloomy walk, and so turned back upon my steps.
Scarcely had I done so, when I saw a man coming
hastily towards me from far upon the straight line of the
river walk. I could not mistake him at any distance.
It was Old Rogers. 1 felt both ashamed and comforted
when I recognized him.
" Well, Old Rogers," I said, as soon as he came within
hail, trying to speak cheerfully, " you cannot get much
farther this way without wading a bit, at least"
" I don't want to go no farther now, sir. I came to
" Nothing amiss, I hope 1 "
" Nothing as I knows on, sir. I only wanted to have
a little chat with you. I told master I wanted to leave
for an hour or so. He allus lets me do just as I like."
" But how did you know where to find me ? "
" I saw you come this way. You passed me right on
the bridge, and didn't see me, sir. So says I to myself
( Old Rogers, summat 's amiss wi' parson to-day. He
AN ANUKL UNAWARES. 429
never went by me like that afore. This won't do. You
just go and see.' So I went home and told master, and
here I be, sir. And I hope you're noways offended
with the liberty of me."
" Did I really pass you on the bridge?" I said, unable
to understand it
" That you did, sir. I knowed parson must be a
goodish bit in his own in'ards afore he would do that"
" I needn't tell you I didn't see you, Old Rogers."
" I could tell you that, sir. I hope there 's nothing
gone main wrong, sir. Miss is well, sir, I hope 1 "
" Quite well, I thank you. No, my dear fellow, no-
thing 's gone main wrong, as you say. Some of my run-
ning tackle got jammed a bit, that 's all. I 'm a little
out of spirits, I believe."
" Well, sir, don't you be afeard I 'm going to be
troublesome. Don't think I want to get aboard your
ship, except you fling me a rope. There's a many things
you mun ha' to think about that an ignorant man like
me couldn't take up if you was to let 'em drop. And
being a gentleman, I do believe, makes the matter worse
betuxt us. And there 's many a thing that no man can
go talkin' about to any but only the Lord himself. Still
you can't help us poor folks seeing when there 's summat
amiss, and we can't help havin' our own thoughts any
more than the sailor's jackdaw that couldn't speak.
And sometimes we may be nearer the mark than you
vould suppose, for God has made us all of one blood,
" What Off you driving at, Old Rogers?" I suid with
430 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
a smile, which was none the less true that I suspected
he had read some of the worst trouble of my heart. For
why should I mind an honourable man like him know-
ing what oppressed me, though, as things were, I cer-
tainly should not, as he said, choose to tell it to any but
" I don't want to say what I was driving at, if it was
anything but this that I want to put to the clumsy
hand of a rough old tar, with a heart as soft as the pitch
that makes his hand hard to trim your sails a bit, sir,
and help you to lie a point closer to the wind. You 're
not just close-hauled, sir."
" Say on, Old Rogers. I understand you, and I will
listen with all my heart, for you have a good right to
And Old Rogers spoke thus :
" Oncet upon a time, 1 made a voyage in a merchant
barque. We were becalmed in the South Seas. And
weary work it wur, a doin' of nothin' from day to day.
But when the water began to come up thick from the
bottom of the water-casks, it was wearier a deal. Then
a thick fog came on, as white as snow a'most, and we
couldn't see more than a few yards ahead or on any side
of us. But the fog didn't keep the heat off; it only made
it worse, and the water was fast going done. The short
allowance grew shorter and shorter, and the men, some
of them, were half-mad with thirst, and began to look
bad at one another. I kept up my heart by looking
ahead inside me. For days and days the fog hung about
us as if the air had been made o' flocks o' wool. The
AN ANGEL UNAWARES. 431
captain took to his berth, and several of the crew to
their hammocks, for it was just as hot on deck as any-
where else. The mate lay on a sparesail on the quarter-
deck, groaning. I had a strong suspicion that the
schooner was drifting, and hove the lead again and
again, but could find no bottom. Some of the men got
hold of the spirits, and that didn't quench their thirst
It drove them clean mad. I had to knock one of them
down myself with a capstan bar, for he ran at the mate
with his knife. At last I began to lose all hope. And
still I was sure the schooner was slowly drifting. My
head was like to burst, and my tongue was like a lump
of holystone in my mouth. Well, one morning, I had
just, as I thought, lain down on the deck to breathe my
last, hoping I should die before I went quite mad with
thirst, when all at once the fog lifted, like the foot of a
sail. I sprung to my feet. There was the blue sky
overhead ; but the terrible burning sun was there. A
moment more and a light air blew on my cheek, and,
turning my face to it as if it had been the very breath of
God, there was an island within half a mile, and I saw
the shine of water on the face of a rock on the shore.
I cried out, ' Land on the weather-quarter ! Water in
sight ! ' In a moment more a boat was lowered, and in
a few minutes the boat's crew, of which I was one, were
lying, clothes and all, in a little stream that came down
from the hills above. There, Mr Walton! that's what I
wanted to say to you."
This is as near the story of my old friend as my
limited knowledge of sea affairs allows me to report it.
432 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
"I understand you quite, Old Rogers, and I thank
you heartily," I said.
" No doubt," resumed he, " King Solomon was quite
right, as he always was, I suppose, in what he said, for
his wisdom mun ha' laid mostly in the tongue right, I
say, when he said, ' Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for
thou knowest not what a day may bring forth ; ' but I
can't help thinking there 's another side to it I think
it would be as good advice to a man on the other tack,
whose boasting lay far to windward, and he close on a
lee-shore wi' breakers it wouldn't be amiss to say to
him, ' Don't strike your colours to the morrow ; for thou
knowest not what a day may bring forth.' There 's just
as many good days as bad ones ; as much fair weather
as foul in the days to come. And if a man keeps up
heart, he 's all the better for that, and none the worse
when the evil day does come. But, God forgive me !
I 'm talking like a heathen. As if there was any chance
about what the days would bring forth. No, my lad,'*
said the old sailor, assuming the dignity of his superior
years under the inspiration of the truth, " boast nor trust
nor hope in the morrow. Boast and trust and hope in
God, for thou shalt yet praise Him, who is the health of
thy countenance and thy God."
I could but hold out my hand. I had nothing to say.
For he had spoken to me as an angel of God.
The old man was silent for some moments : his emo-
tion needed time to still itself again. Nor did he return
to the subject He held out his hand once more, say-
AN ANGEL UNAWARES.
" Good day, sir. I must go back to my work."
" I will go back with you," I returned.
And so we walked back side by side to the village,
but not a word did we speak the one to the other, till we
shook hands and parted upon the bridge, where we had
first met. Old Rogers went to his work, and I lingered
upon the bridge. I leaned upon the low parapet, and
looked up the stream as far as the mists creeping about
the banks, and hovering in thinnest veils over the surface
of the water, would permit Then 1 turned and looked
down the river crawling on to the sweep it made out of
sight just where Mr Brownrigg's farm began to come
down to its banks. Then I looked to the left, and
there stood my old church, as quiet in the dreary day,
though not so bright, as in the sunshine : even the graves
themselves must look yet more " solemn sad " in a
wintry day like this, than they look when the sunlight
that infolds them proclaims that God is not the God of
the dead but of the living. One of the great battles
that we have to fight in this world for twenty great
battles have to be fought all at once and in one is the
battle with appearances. I turned me to the right, and
there once more I saw, as on that first afternoon, the
weathercock that watched the winds over the stables at
Oldcastle Hall. It had caught just one glimpse of the
sun through some rent in the vapours, and flung it acros^
to me, ere it vanished again amid the general dinginess
of the hour.
HAVE said, near the beginning of my story,
that my parish was a large one : how is it
that I have mentioned but one of the great
families in it, and have indeed confined my
recollections entirely to the village and its immediate
neighbourhood 1 Will my reader have patience while I
explain this to him a little? First, as he may have
observed, my personal attraction is towards the poor
rather than the rich. I was made so. I can generally
get nearer the poor than the rich. But I say generally,
for I have known a few rich people quite as much to
my mind as the best of the poor. Thereupon, of course,
their education would give them the advantage with me
in the possibilities of communion. But when the heart
is right, and there is a good stock of common sense as
well, a gift predominant, as far as I am aware, in no
one class over another, education will turn the scale
TWO PARISHIONERS. 435
very gently with me. And then when I reflect that
some of these poor people would have made nobler
ladies and gentlemen than all but two or three I know,
if they had only had the opportunity, there is a reaction
towards the poor, something like a feeling of favour
because they have not had fair play a feeling soon
modified, though not altered, by the reflection that they
are such because God who loves them better than we
do, has so ordered their lot, and by the recollection that
not only was our Lord himself poor, but He said the
poor were blessed. And let me just say in passing that
I not only believe it because He said it, but I believe it
because I see that it is so. I think sometimes that the
world must have been especially created for the poor,
and that particular allowances will be made for the rich
because they are born into such disadvantages, and with
their wickednesses and their miseries, their love of
spiritual dirt and meanness, subserve the highest growth
and emancipation of the poor, that they may inherit
both the earth and the kingdom of heaven.
But I have been once more wandering from my sub-
Thus it was that the people in the village lying close
to my door attracted most of my attention at first ; of
which attention those more immediately associated with
the village, as, for instance, the inhabitants of the Hall,
came in for a share, although they did not belong to the
Again, the houses of most of the gentlefolk lay con-
siderably apart from the church and from each other.
436 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
Many of them went elsewhere to church, and I did not
feel bound to visit those, for I had enough to occupy me
without, and had little chance of getting a hold of them
to do them good. Still there were one or two families
which I would have visited oftener, I confess, had I been
more interested in them, or had I had a horse. There-
fore, I ought to have bought a horse sooner than I did.
Before this winter was over, however, I did buy one,
partly to please Dr Duncan, who urged me to it for the
sake of my health, partly because I could then do my
duty better, and partly, I confess, from having been very
fond of an old mare of my father's, when I was a boy,
living, after my mother's death, at a farm of his in
B shire. Happening to come across a gray mare very
much like her, I bought her at once.
I think it was the very day after the events recorded
in my last chapter that I mounted her to pay a visit to
two rich maiden ladies, whose carriage stopped at the
Lych-gate most Sundays when the weather was favour-
able, but whom I had called upon only once since I
came to the parish. I should not have thought this visit
worth mentioning, except for the conversation I had
with them, during which a hint or two were dropped
which had an influence in colouring my thoughts for
some time after.
I was shown with much ceremony by a butler, as old
apparently as his livery of yellow and green, into the
presence of the two ladies, one of whom sat in state
reading a volume of the Spectator. She was very tall,
and as square as the straight long-backed chair upon
TWO PARISHIONER*. 437
which she sat A fat asthmatic poodle lay at her feet
upon the hearth-rug. The other, a little lively gray-
haired creature, who looked like a most ancient girl
whom no power of gathering years would ever make old,
was standing upon a high chair, making love to a demo-
niacal-looking cockatoo in a gilded cage. As I entered
the room, the latter all but jumped from her perch with
a merry though wavering laugh, and advanced to meet
" Jonathan, bring the cake and wine," she cried to
the retreating servant.
The former rose with a solemn stiff-backedness, which
was more amusing than dignified, and extended her hand
as I approached her, without moving from her place.
"We were afraid, Mr Walton," said the little lady,
" that you had forgotten we were parishioners of yours."
" That I could hardly do," I answered, " seeing you
are such regular attendants at church. P.ut I confess I
have given you ground for your rebuke, Miss Crowther.
I bought a horse, however, the other day, and this is
the first use I have put him to."
" We "re charmed to see you. It is very good of you
not to forget such uninteresting girls as we are."
" You forget, Jemima," interposed her sister, in a
feminine bass, " that time is always on the wing. I
should have thought we were both decidedly middle-
aged, though you are the elder by I will not say how
" All but ten years, Hester. I remcml>er rocking yon
in vour cradle scores of times. But somehow, Mr Wai-
438 ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBOURHOOD.
ton, I can't help feeling as if she were my elder sister.
She is so learned, you see ; and I don't read anything
but the newspapers."
" And your Bible, Jemima. Do yourself justice."
" That 's a matter of course, sister. But this is not the
way to entertain Mr Walton."
" The gentlemen used to entertain the ladies when 1
was young, Jemima. I do not know how it may have
been when you were."
" Much the same, I believe, sister. But if you look
at Mr Walton, I think you will see that he is pretty much
entertained as it is."
" I agree with Miss Hester," I said. " It is the duty
of gentlemen to entertain ladies. But it is so much the
kinder of ladies when they surpass their duty, and con-
descend to entertain gentlemen."
" What can surpass duty, Mr Walton ? I confess I do
not agree with your doctrines upon that point. v
" I do not quite understand you, Miss Hester," I
"Why, Mr Walton I hope you will not think me
rude, but it always seems to me and it has given me
much pain, when I consider that your congregation is