[wick-ed hands have pierced and
nailed him, pierced and nailed him to
but no description can give a proper idea of the effect. When I was last in Battersby church there was a harmonium played by a sweet-looking girl with a choir of school children around her, and they chanted the canticles to the most correct of chants, and they sang Hymns Ancient and Modern; the high pews were gone, nay, the very gallery in which the old choir had sung was removed as an accursed thing which might remind the people of the high places, and Theobald was old, and Christina was lying under the yew trees in the churchyard.
But in the evening later on I saw three very old men come chuckling out of a dissenting chapel, and surely enough they were my old friends the blacksmith, the carpenter and the shepherd. There was a look of content upon their faces which made me feel certain they had been singing; not doubtless with the old glory of the violoncello, the clarinet and the trombone, but still songs of Sion and no new fangled papistry.
The hymn had engaged my attention; when it was over I had time to take stock of the congregation. They were chiefly farmers—fat, very well-to-do folk, who had come some of them with their wives and children from outlying farms two and three miles away; haters of popery and of anything which any one might choose to say was popish; good, sensible fellows who detested theory of any kind, whose ideal was the maintenance of the status quo with perhaps a loving reminiscence of old war times, and a sense of wrong that the weather was not more completely under their control, who desired higher prices and cheaper wages, but otherwise were most contented when things were changing least; tolerators, if not lovers, of all that was familiar, haters of all that was unfamiliar; they would have been equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practised.
“What can there be in common between Theobald and his parishioners?” said Christina to me, in the course of the evening, when her husband was for a few moments absent. “Of course one must not complain, but I assure you it grieves me to see a man of Theobald’s ability thrown away upon such a place as this. If we had only been at Gaysbury, where there are the A’s, the B’s, the C’s, and Lord D’s place, as you know, quite close, I should not then have felt that we were living in such a desert; but I suppose it is for the best,” she added more cheerfully; “and then of course the Bishop will come to us whenever he is in the neighbourhood, and if we were at Gaysbury he might have gone to Lord D’s.”
Perhaps I have now said enough to indicate the kind of place in which Theobald’s lines were cast, and the sort of woman he had married. As for his own habits, I see him trudging through muddy lanes and over long sweeps of plover-haunted pastures to visit a dying cottager’s wife. He takes her meat and wine from his own table, and that not a little only but liberally. According to his lights also, he administers what he is pleased to call spiritual consolation.