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CHAPTER I.

CONCERNING THE COUNTRY PARSON'S LIFE.

HIS is Monday morning. It is a beautiful sunshiny morning early in July. I am sitting on the steps that lead to my door,

somewhat tired by the duty of yesterday, but feeling very restful and thankful.

Before me there is a little expanse of the brightest grass, too little to be called a lawn, very soft and mossy,

and

very carefully mown. It is shaded by three noble beeches, about two hundred years old. The sunshine around has a green tinge from the reflection of the leaves. Double hedges, thick and tall, the inner one of gleaming beech, shut out all sight of a country lane that runs hard by: a lane into which this gravelled sweep of would-be avenue enters, after winding deftly through evergreens, rich and old, so as to make the utmost of its little length. On the side furthest from the lane, the miniature lawn opens into a garden of no great extent, and beyond the garden you see a green field sloping upwards to a wood which bounds the view. One half of the front of the house is covered to the roof by a climbing rose-tree, so rich now with cluster roses that you see only the white soft masses of fragrance. Crimson roses and fuchsias cover half-way up

a little

the remainder of the front wall; and the sides of the flight of steps are green with large-leaved ivy. If ever there was a dwelling embosomed in great trees and evergreens, it is here. Everything grows beautifully: oaks, horse-chestnuts, beeches : laurels, yews, hollies; lilacs and hawthorn trees. Off way on the right, graceful in stem, in branches, in the pale bark, in the light-green leaves, I see my especial pet, a fair acacia. This is the true country ; not the poor shadow of it which

you

have near great and smoky towns. That sapphire air is polluted by no factory chimney. Smoke is a beauty here, there is so little of it : rising thin and blue from the cottage ; hospitable and friendly-looking from the rare mansion. The town is five miles distant: there is not even a village near. Green fields are all about: hawthorn hedges and rich hedge-rows : great masses of wood everywhere. But this is Scotland : and there is no lack of hills and rocks, of little streams and waterfalls ; and two hundred yards off, winding round that churchyard whose white stones you see by glimpses through old oak-branches, a large river glides swiftly by.

It is a quiet and beautiful scene; and it pleases me to think that Britain has thousands and thousands like it. But of course none, in my mind, equal this: for this has been my home for five years.

I have been sitting here for an hour, with a book on my knee ; and upon that a piece of paper, whereon I have been noting down some thoughts for the sermon which I hope to write during this week, and to preach next Sunday in that little parish-church of which you can see a corner of a gable through the oaks which surround the churchyard. I have not been able to think very connectedly, indeed : for two little feet have been pattering round me, two little hands pulling at me occasionally, and a little voice entreating that I should come and have à race upon the green. Of course I went: for like most men who are not very great or very bad, I have learned, for the sake of the little owner of the hands and the voice, to love every little child. Several times, too, I have been obliged to get up and make a dash at a very small weed which I discerned just appearing through the gravel; and once or twice my man-servant has come to consult me about matters connected with the garden and the stable. My sermon will be the better for all these interruptions. I do not mean to say that it will be absolutely good, though it will be as good as I can make it; but it will be better for the races with my little girl, and for the thoughts about my horse, than it would have been if I had not been interrupted at all. The Roman Catholic Church meant it well; but it was far mistaken when it thought to make a man a better parish priest by cutting him off from domestic ties, and quite emancipating him froin all the little worries of domestic life.

That might be the way to get men who would preach an unpractical religion, not human in interest, not able to comfort, direct, sustain through daily cares, temptations, and sor

But for preaching which will come home to men's business and bosoms; which will not appear to ignore those things which must of necessity occupy the greatest part of an ordinary mortal's thoughts; commend me to the preacher who has learned by experience what are human ties, and what is human worry.

It is a characteristic of country life, that living in the country you have so many cares outside. In town, you have nothing to think of (I mean in the way of little material matters) beyond the walls of your dwelling. It is

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not your business to see to the paving of the street before your door; and if you live in a square, you are not indi. vidually responsible for the tidiness of the shrubbery in its centre. When you come home, after the absence of a week or a month, you have nothing to look round upon and see that it is right. The space within the house's walls is not a man's proper province. Your library table and your books are all the domain which comes within the scope of your orderly spirit. But if you live in the country, in a house of your own with even a few acres of land attached to it, you have a host of things to think of when you come home from your week's or month's absence : you have an endless number of little things worrying you to take a turn round and see that they are all as they should be. You can hardly sit down and rest for their tugging at you. Is the grass all trimly mown? Has the pruning been done that you ordered ? Has that rose-tree been trained ? Has that bit of fence been mended? Are all the walks perfectly free from weeds? Is there not a gap left in box-wood edgings ? and are the edges of all walks through grass sharp and clearly defined ? Has that nettly corner of a field been made tidy? Has any one been stealing the fruit ? Have the neighboring cows been in your clover? How about the stable?-any fractures of the harness ? — any scratches on the carriage ? — anything amiss with the horse or horses ? All these, and innumerable questions more, press on the man who looks after matters for himself, when he arrives at home.

Still, there is good in all this. That which in a desponding mood you call a worry, in a cheerful mood you think a source of simple, healthful interest in life. And there is one case in particular, in which I doubt not the

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