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Author of "A FeUow of Trinity:' "The Junior Dean," "The Old
Maid's Sweetheart," Etc.



19 Union Square.

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Copyright, 1808, by

The Cleveland Publishing Company,

19 Union Square,

New York.

(AH right* reserved.)

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TO HIS own master:



The Bev. Thomas Bakister, M. A., was really a lucky
fellow. Providence bad been good to him all round.

It would be hard to give a list of the good things that a
Kind Hand — let us call it by the right name, not chauce or
Providence — had heaped upon this young man's head.

It had given him, to begin with, a good father, the Vicar
of a West Country parish; a good mother goes without
saying. What man ever did anything in the world, or was
worth anything, who hadn't a good mother?

The paternal living in the sweet West Country was a
poor living to be held by a poor man, and Tom Banister's
father had no private means; and he had by way of
compensation a large family.

He had no means whatever outside his profession. His
one aim in life, besides the duties of his sacred office, which
no man ever more conscientiously fulfilled, was to give his
sons an education befitting their station.

He had nothing else to give them.

There were five sous in that poor West Country Vicarage,
and, one by one, by dint of much self-denial — that seemed
to them in after-life, looking back to it across the years,
nothing short of heroic — they were sent out from the parent
nest equipped for the battle of life.

They knew something even at the time of the daily denial
of those gentle, self-less lives, and of the suffering, and
pinching, and scraping of those hard, hard times. They

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knew enough to thank God every day of their lives, when
they had grown to be men, for His unspeakable gift — the
gift of loving, self-denying parents.

Those who had borne the suffering and privation so
willingly were asleep now under the grass in the green
churchyard outside the Vicarage gate, where they had lived
and suffered.

All the sons who had once gathered round that frugal
board were provided for now — well provided for. The truth
of the old adage had been proved: the righteous had not
been forsaken for a single day, and his seed were certainly
not begging their bread.

Tom Banister, the youngest of the five stalwart sons,
was so fortunate as to win a sizarship at a college in Gam-
bridge, which we will call St. Botolph's, St. Botolph being
the patron saint of beggars and poor men. Not that there
were many poor men at St. Botolph/s in Tom Banister's
time. There was not an undergraduate among them who
wore such a threadbare coat as poor Tom, or eked out his
slender allowance with such painful economy and fore-

Oh, the humiliations and shifts of those early days!

It touched him, when a man, to look back on the humil-
iations of that bare student life, its hardships and priva-
tions; but it touched him more deeply to remember that,
wheu the struggle was over and he reaped the harvest of
those early trials, the generous father who had often sent
him his last shilling, when appealed to in some pressing
need was no longer there to see it.

When prosperity came to Tom Banister, it came with a
bound. It brought him quite early in his career, when
most men are content to be curates, a living — a comfortable
living to some men, a rich living to him. Providence did
not stop with the living. She had richer gifts in store, and
she gave him of her best — her very best. She gave him a

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lovely wife, and in due course she gave him two lovely

What more was there left for him to desire? What more
could Providence find to give him?

She had given him the unspeakable gift of love. With
this great gift were the lesser gifts of health and strength,
a handsome person, and a manly frame.

Nature had done her best for Tom Banister, and Fortune,
in happy emulation, had added her ample store.

There was not a single cloud on his fair horizQn. His
cup was quite full — dangerously full — full to the brim.

The living of Thorpe Regis in the West Country was a
town living. There was only one church in the town — the
parish church.

One church provided ample accommodation for the con-
gregation of St. Michael's, for Dissent had established a
firm foothold in Thorpe.

There were already five chapels belonging to different
denominations, and any day there might be a sixth. The
Christians of Thorpe Regis had a habit of quarrelling among
themselves, and breaking up into little factions, and setting
up rival conventicles.

Their quarrels had nothing to do with Tom Banister.
His congregation never quarrelled. They were quite a
happy family.

There were daily services in the parish church; that is,
prayers were read every day, and a sermon was preached
on Wednesday evenings, and there were early celebrations
on Sundays and saints' days. There were the usual parish
clubs and friendly societies, something going on every day
in the week: Bible-classes, or temperance meetings, or
Young Men's or Young Women's Associations, or Bands of
Hope, or mothers' meetings. There was always something
to keep a curate's zeal from flagging; in addition to all
these things there was the school.

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It was not a Board school; it was an old-fashioned
National school, where the Bible was read and taught in
the old-fashioned way. It wasn't read only; it was taught,
and the curate had to spend one hour of his busy day in
teaching it. Model-drawing and perspective and the piano
were not in the curriculum; the budding agricultural
mind was sufficiently exercised in grasping, in a feeble,
rudimentary way, the three R's, and in stumbling through
the Church Catechism.

What^with visiting the sick, teaching the children, at-
tending the meetings, and taking the daily services, the
work of the curate of St. Michael's was cut out. If he
did his duty he would not have a minute to himself all the

Tom Banister had been particularly lucky in his curates;
it was nothing new for him to be lucky; it would have
been an exception to the rule if anything had gone wrong
with him.

He had been so fortunate as to keep one curate four
years — an exemplary young man, who had done all, and
more than all, he was required to do; who had never neg-
lected a single duty during all these busy months and
years, and had contrived to put in not a few works of super-

He had his reward in due time.

When a vacancy occurred in the living of the adjoining
village of Thorpe St. Mary, the Bishop of the diocese
offered it to Banister's hard-working curate, and the Rec-
tor of Thorpe Regis had to look out for a successor. He
promptly advertised in the Guardian for a curate. No
doubt if the Guardian had been in existence in St. Paul's
days, he would have made his wants known through that
excellent medium, when Barnabas had quarrelled with
Him and Mark had turned away from the work.

It did not occur to Tom Banister as it occurs to thin-

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skinned people in the present day, that it was humiliating
to advertise for a curate. He had advertised often enough
for a curacy in those old days, and be still recollected the
avidity with which he used to read through the list of
" Wanted" in the columns of the Guardian.

Other curates read them with avidity now, and the re-
sult of their reading caused his post-bag to overflow for
several mornings qfjber his advertisement had appeared.

The answers to this advertisement were a considerable
source of trouble to the Rector of St. Michael's. His
correspondents were so full of "views/' He hadn't any
" views" in particular himself, except to do his duty accord-
ing to his lights, and teach the old-fashioned doctrine of
the Church of England.

From among the mass of correspondence he chose a
young man who hadn't any " views,'' or, at least, he didn't
mention them.

Perhaps he did not choose wisely.

He was hampered all the time with a dreadful suspicion
that, according to the old rhyme, he should

" Go round the wood, and round the wood,
And pick the crooked stick at last."

Morally he did pick the crooked stick.

He had offered a title for Holy Orders, and the candi-
date he selected in due course offered himself to the
Bishop of the diocese for ordination.

Then came the rub.

Stephen Dash wood, the candidate selected, was a Uni-
versity man, who had taken a good degree in the Natural
Science Tripos; he had taken a First Class, he had done
exceptionally well. It is not an easy Tripos to take a
First in: many of the best men, the very best men, the
shining lights of the age, have only taken a Second Class;
the subjects it embraces are so many, and so wide, practi-

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cally it has no limits; and Stephen Dashwood, who had
applied to Tom Banister for a title of Orders, for a curacy
on a paltry stipend of one hundred pounds a year, had
taken a First Class!

Why did he choose the Church? Why didn't he stick
to his science?

There was yet time for him to go back; a stumbling-
block had already been thrown across the threshold he was
so anxious to cross.

When he applied to his tutor for the customary docu-
ments to send to the Bishop's chaplain, college testimonials
were refused to him.

He wrote to Tom Banister apprising him of the fact.
The letter written under such humiliating circum-
stances touched him deeply.

Tom remembered his own youth, and he had a very
tender heart. He wrote at once to Dashwood's tutor for
an explanation of the reasons for the usual testimonials
being withheld.

He received a reply by return of post — a courteous cut-
and-dried reply — stating that Mr. Dashwood had not kept
the requisite number of college chapels, had not presented
himself at the Lord's Table at the prescribed periods, had
been "sent down" two terms, and had not during his resi-
dence at the University given unmixed satisfaction to the
college authorities, and, under these circumstances, they
felt themselves fully justified in taking the extreme meas-
ure of placing a bar across the threshold of his profes-
sional career.

In most cases it would have been an insuperable bar, and
a useful and honorable profession would have been closed
against him.

Banister thought he knew his man; and he knew some-
thing of the even-handed justice of alma mater. He remem-
bered his own old college days. He sent the tutor's letter

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off by the next post to his would-be curate, and requested
an explanation of the charges brought against him.

He got the explanation by return.

Such a thorough, open, candid, outspoken confession,
made by one erring human creature to another, he had
never read. It shamed him to his very soul that such a
eonfession should have been made to him.

And, after all, what were the youthful follies that Dash-
wood confessed?

Banister had been guilty of them all in his time; and
he could name men of his own year whose souls were dyed
with sins — real sins, ten thousand times deeper than these
youthful excesses — who had contrived to keep their chapels,
and had been dismissed by alma mater with a benediction
accrediting them with eminent Christian graces, and wit-
nessing that they had led virtuous lives, and had been dili-
gent students in many branches of knowledge.

He could recall dozens of these virtuous youths, who had
squandered their money in wicked and foolish excesses,
and wasted their terms, taking Poll degrees, and coming
out at the tail of the Third Glass — and his man had taken
a First in a Tripos.

He was deeply moved by Stephen Dashwood's manly,
straightforward letter. The confession of weakness and
folly was so frank, and there was no justification pleaded.
He had not, he stated in his letter to Banister, in those
thoughtless college days any intention whatever of enter-
ing the Church as a profession. In fact, there were ob-
stacles in the way. He had, like many other students of
science, scruples and doubts — serious doubts. Thank
Heaven they were all cleared away now, and he had come
to his right mind. While they were still with him he
could not conscientiously approach the Lord's Table.
The call had not come to him until later, when those
stormy undergraduate days were over. It had come to

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him at his mother's death. He had promised her, at
her dying request, that he would consecrate all the powers
God had given him to His service. The call had come to
him at this solemn time, clear and imperative and unmis-
takable. It had come to him with such insistence that he
had thrown aside all worldly considerations, and risen up
at once to follow the Master who had so distinctly called

No one could have read that deeply moving letter and
doubted the sincerity of Stephen Dash wood's conversion.

Banister sent his letter to the Bishop's chaplain, and
the Bishop accepted him without further question. Two
days after his ordination Dash wood came to Thorpe Regis
as the curate of St. Michael's.



Tom Banister's wife never could understand why,
with so many applications for the vacant curacy from
men with unexceptional characters and quite immaculate
University careers, her husband should have gone out of
his way to pick a black sheep.

" I wonder what your new curate will be like, Tom,"
Mrs. Banister said at lunch on the day when Dashwood was
expected; " will he be very wicked-looking, and frighten
the congregation into fits?"

Mrs. Banister had an exaggerated way of putting things.

"Why should he be at all wicked-looking, darling?"
asked the Rector.

He always called his lovely wife " darling," and the name
suited her. It suited her to use the expressive phrase of
colloquial slang, down to the ground.

She was as lovely now as the day lie married her, seven

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years ago, when she was the acknowledged belle of the
country, and — which was saying a great deal — she was as
sweet as she was lovely. He coilld not have found a better
name for her than " darling."

" Oh, because he's got such a bad character. He couldn't
be such a black sheep without showing it. I expect he'll
have a sinister expression — I wonder what a sinister ex-
pression is like? — and I shouldn't be surprised if he had
horns some where."

" Darling, you'll frighten the children if you say such
things. Just look at Poppy's face! "

Poppy's face was worth looking at. It was the exact
counterpart of her beautiful mother's, only it was smaller
and rounder and pinker. Not very much pinker. There
was the flush of the wild-rose on Mrs. Tom Banister's
cheeks that beat all the rouge in the world, but Poppy's
eyes were bluer and rounder, and the hair was a paler
flaxen. It was such pretty fluffy flaxen hair, and it
framed her dear soft little pink face in an aureole of shin-
ing gold.

The blue eyes were opened now to their widest; they
were quite round with wonder.

"It's daddy's black sheep we are talking about, Poppy,"
Mrs. Tom explained. " Haven't you seen their dear black
faces and their little horns?"

" Bighorns," corrected Poppy; "great — big — big horns! "

" Black face, black nose, black eyes, black feet! Ba,
ba, black sheep!" added Tommykin, who was a small
edition of Poppy, only pinker and rounder and curlier.

The Rector drove over in the dog-cart to the railway
station two miles off, to meet his new curate, and Mrs. Tom
and the children accompanied him to the Rectory gate.

"Not now, Poppy; not now, Tommykin!" said the
Rector as he drove off, nodding to the children on the
path, who were stretching out their little arms to be lifted

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up on the seat beside him. " Not now; daddy's going to
fetch the black sheep !"

He heard their voices crying after him down the road,
" Bring him back soon, dada! Ba, ba, black sheep!"

It was not difficult to identify the new curate among
the little crowd of passengers that came into Thorpe
Station by the afternoon train.

Banister saw him the moment the train stopped, as he
stepped out of a third-class carriage. The new curate
ought to have looked around for his Rector, who he knew
very well was coming to meet him; but he did nothing of
the kind. He stood at the door of the third-class carriage
and lifted out an innumerable quantity of bundles and
baskets, and finally he helped out a young woman encum-
bered with a baby and a birdcage.

He held the baby while she got the birdcage out of the
carriage, and collected together her miscellaneous lug-

He was still holding the baby when Banister came up
to him on the platform, and he had to change the baby
from the right arm to the left before he could shake hands
with him.

He was a tall, slender young man, rather stooping in his
gait, with a plain, sallow face and thin, clear-cut, nervous
lips; but he had the kindest eyes that Tom had ever seen,
eyes that looked straight out at him with a look that he
could almost feel.

No; he was not disappointed in his man.

" Now, is there anything more I can do for you?" the
curate said, when the first greeting was over.

He was not addressing his Sector; he was speaking to
the woman whose baby he still held.

She was a young thing, and evidently not used to travel-
ing; and she stood on the platform in the midst of her
numerous impedimenta, flushed and bewildered, and mak-
ing no effort to take her baby from the curate's arms.

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" I expected my husband would be here to meet me," she
said, looking helplessly around at the fast-disappearing
crowd. " He said he would be here, and bring a donkey
and cart for the things. "

" Have you far to go? " asked the Eector.

He felt he must say something, and put an end to this
absurd situation.

" About three miles, sir," answered the woman dropping
a curtsey, but making no attempt to take the baby. " My
husband's got a situation at Meadowsweet Farm, Mr. Giles's
place, and he's sent for me an' the things. He ought by
rights to be here to meet me."

Meadowsweet Farm was in Tom Banister's parish, and
he remembered that he had heard that Giles had recently
taken on a fresh laborer, and that a cottage about a mile
the other side of Thorpe Regis was being done up for the
man's wife and family, who were coming to him from
another part of the country.

This, then, was the man's wife, and the new equate was
holding the family.

He was not holding all the family; there was a bird in
a big wicker cage, tied up in a colored pocket-handker-
chief, and there was a cat in a basket, trying very hard to
get out, and there was no husband and no donkey-cart to
meet them.

The woman was very near crying. She had no money,
and she had nowhere to go; and she stood pale and be-
wildered among her humble penates, looking helplessly
around the deserted platform.

The station was quite deserted now, with the exception
of the little group among the woman's shabby nondescript
luggage. The porters were grinning behind their trucks,
and the station-master was watching them from the door
of his private office, and the new curate was holding the

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It was a most undignified situation.

" I will drive over to Mr. Giles's as I go back," said Ban-
ister, "and ask him to send a cart to fetch you."

"Does it lie in our way?' said Dashwood eagerly.
" How very fortunate! It'll be quite as easy to take the
woman up, and drop her at her own door. She's had a
long journey already, and with all these things!"

He looked down at the bundles and baskets on the
platform as he spoke; the cat had already got her head
out of one of them, and was struggling wildly to get free.

"I don't think there's room for all this luggage,"

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsTono-Bungay → online text (page 1 of 25)