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reader of simple and natural tastes (and such may all my readers be) has experienced, if he be a country parson not too rich or great, the benefit of these gentle counterirritants. It is when you come home, leaving your wife and children for a little while behind you. It is autumn: you are having your holiday : you have all gone to the sea-side. You have been away two or three weeks; and you begin to think that you ought to let your parishioners see that you have not forgotten them. You resolve to go home for ten days, which shall include two Sundays with their duty. You have to travel a hundred and thirty miles. So on a Friday morning you bid your little circle good-bye, and set off alone. It is not, perhaps, an extreme assumption that you are a man of sound sense and feeling, and not a selfish, conceited humbug: and, the case being so, you are not ashamed to confess that you are somewhat saddened by even that short parting; and that various thoughts obtrude themselves of possible accident and sorrow before you meet again. It is only ten days, indeed : but a wise man is recorded to have once advised his fellow-men in words which run as follows, * Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. And as you sail along in the steamer, and sweep along in the train, you are thinking of the little things that not without tears bade their governor farewell. It was early morning when you and as you proceed on your solitary journey, the sun ascends to noon, and declines towards evening. You have read your newspaper: there is no one else in that compartment of the carriage: and hour after hour you grow more and more dull and downhearted. At length, as the sunset is gilding the swept harvest-fields, you reach the quiet little railway station among the hills. It is wonderful to see it. There is no village: hardly a dwelling in sight: there are rocky-hills all round; great trees; and a fine river, by following which the astute engineer led his railway to this seemingly inaccessible spot. You alight on that primitive platform, with several large trees growing out of it, and with a waterfall at one end of it: and beyond the little palisade, you see your trap (let me not say carriage), your man-servant, your horse, perhaps your pair. How kindly and pleasant the expression even of the horse's back! How unlike the bustle of a railway station in a large town! The train goes, the brass of the engine red in the sunset; and you are left in perfect stillness. Your baggage is stowed, and you drive away gently. It takes some piloting to get down the steep slope from this out-of-the-way place. What a change from the thunder of the train to this audible quiet! You interrogate your servant first in the comprehensive question, if all is right. Relieved by his general affirmative answer, you descend into particulars. Any one sick in the parish? how was the church attended on the Sundays you were away? how is Jenny, who had the fever ; and John, who had the paralytic stroke? How are the servants ? how is the horse ; the cow; the pig; the dog? How is the garden progressing? how about fruit ; how about flowers ? There was an awful thunderstorm on Wednesday: the people thought it was the end of the world. Two bullocks were killed : and thirteen sheep. Widow Wiggins' son had deserted from the army, and had come home. The harvest-home at such a farm is to-night: may Thomas go? What a little quiet world is the country parish: what a microcosm even the country parsonage! You are interested and pleased : you are getting over your stupid feeling of
depression. You are interested in all these little matters, not because you have grown a gossiping, littleminded man ; but because you know it is fit and right and good for you to be interested in such things. You have five or six miles to drive: never less : the scene grows always more homely and familiar as you draw nearer home. And arrived at last, what a deal to look
What a welcome on the servants' faces: such a contrast to the indifferent looks of servants in a town. You hasten to your library-table to see what letters await you: country folks are always a little nervous about their letters, as half expecting, half fearing, half hoping, some vague, great, undefined event. the snug fire: the chamber so precisely arranged, and so fresh-looking: you remark it and value it fifty times more amid country fields and trees than you would turning out of the manifest life and civilization of the city street You are growing cheerful and thankful now; but before it grows dark, you must look round out of doors: and that makes you entirely thankful and cheerful. Surely the place has grown greener and prettier since you saw it last! You walk about the garden and the shrubbery: the gravel is right, the grass is right, the trees are right, the hedges are right, everything is right. You go to the stable-yard : you pat your horse, and pull his ears, and enjoy seeing his snug resting-place for the night. You
into the cowhouse, now growing very dark: you glance into the abode of the pig : the dog has been capering about you all this while. You are not too great a man to take pleasure in these little things. And now when you enter your library again, where your solitary meal is spread, you sit down in the mellow lamplight, and feel
quite happy. How different it would have been to have walked out of a street-cab into a town-house, with nothing beyond its walls to think of !
This is so sunshiny a day, and everything is looking so cheerful and beautiful, that I know my present testimony to the happiness of the country parson's life must be received with considerable reservation. Just at the present hour, I am willing to declare that I think the life of a country clergyman, in a pretty parish, with a well-conducted and well-to-do population, and with a fair living, is as happy, useful, and honourable as the life of man can be. Your work is all of a pleasant kind; you have, generally speaking, not too much of it; the fault is your own if you do not meet much esteem and regard among your parishioners of all degrees; you feel you are of some service in your generation : you have intellectual labours and tastes which keep your mind from growing rusty, and which admit you into a wide field of pure enjoyment: you have pleasant country cares to divert your mind from head-work, and to keep you for hours daily in the open air, in a state of pleasurable interest ; your little children grow up with green fields about them and
pure air to breathe : and if your heart be in your sacred work, you feel, Sunday by Sunday and day by day, a solid enjoyment in telling your fellow-creatures the Good News you are commissioned to address to them, which it is hard to describe to another, but which you humbly and thankfully take and keep. You have not, indeed, the excitement and the exhilaration of commanding the attention of a large educated congregation : those are reserved for the popular clergyman of a city parish. But then, you are free from the temptation to attempt the unworthy arts of the clap-trap moborator, or to preach mainly to display your own talents and eloquence; you have striven to exclude all personal ambition; and, forgetting yourself or what people may think of yourself, to preach simply for the good of your fellow-sinners, and for the glory of that kind Master whom you serve. And around you there are none of those heart-breaking things which must crush the earnest clergyman in a large town: no destitution ; poverty, indeed, but no starvation : and, although evil will be wherever man is, nothing of the gross, daring, shocking vice, which is matured in the dens of the great city. The cottage children breathe a confined atmosphere while within the cottage ; but they have only to go to the door, and the pure air of heaven is about them, and they live in it most of their waking hours. Very different with the pale children of a like class in the city, who do but exchange the infected chamber for the filthy lane, and whose eyes are hardly ever gladdened by the sight of a green field. And when the diligent country parson walks or drives about his parish, not without a decided feeling of authority and ownership, he knows every man, woman, and child he meets, and all their concerns and cares. Still, even on this charming morning, I do not forget, that it depends a good deal upon the parson's present mood, what sort of account he may give of his country parish and his parochial life. If he have been recently cheated by a well-to-do farmer in the price of some farm produce ; if he have seen a humble neighbour deliberately forcing his cow through a weak part of the hedge into a rich pasture-field of the glebe, and then have found him