THE RECTORY DRAWING-ROOM.
The call was upon his curate. It was years since he had entered the rectory. The people who last occupied it, he had scarcely known, and even during its preparation for Wingfold he had not gone near the place. Yet of that house had been his dream as he stood in his mare’s stall, and it was with a strange feeling he now approached it. Friends generally took the pleasanter way to the garden door, opening on the churchyard, but Mr. Bevis went round by the lane to the more public entrance.
All his years with his first wife had been spent in that house. She was delicate when he married her, and soon grew sickly and suffering. One after another her children died as babies. At last came one who lived, and then the mother began to die. She was one of those lowly women who apply the severity born of their creed to themselves, and spend only the love born of the indwelling Spirit upon their neighbors. She was rather melancholy, but hoped as much as she could, and when she could not hope did not stand still, but walked on in the dark. I think when the sun rises upon them, some people will be astonished to find how far they have got in the dark.
Her husband, without verifying for himself one of the things it was his business to teach others, was yet held in some sort of communion with sacred things by his love for his suffering wife, and his admiration of her goodness and gentleness. He had looked up to her, though several years younger than himself, with something of the same reverence with which he had regarded his mother, a women with an element of greatness in her. It was not possible he should ever have adopted her views, or in any active manner allied himself with the school whose doctrines she accepted as the logical embodiment of the gospel, but there was in him all the time a vague something that was not far from the kingdom of heaven. Some of his wife’s friends looked upon him as a wolf in the sheepfold; he was no wolf, he was only a hireling. Any neighborhood might have been the better for having such a man as he for the parson of the parish—only, for one commissioned to be in the world as he was in the world!—why he knew more about the will of God as to a horse’s legs, than as to the heart of a man. As he drew near the house, the older and tenderer time came to meet him, and the spirit of his suffering, ministering wife seemed to overshadow him. Two tears grew half-way into his eyes:—they were a little bloodshot, but kind, true eyes. He was not sorry he had married again, for he and his wife were at peace with each other, but he had found that the same part of his mind would not serve to think of the two: they belonged to different zones of his unexplored world. For one thing, his present wife looked up to him with perfect admiration, and he, knowing his own poverty, rather looked down upon her in consequence, though in a loving, gentle, and gentlemanlike way.