But I cannot express equal satisfaction in regard to everything that Mr Brownrigg took upon his own responsibility, as my reader will see. He, and another farmer, his neighbour, had been so often re-elected churchwardens, that at last they seemed to have gained a prescriptive right to the office, and the form of election fell into disuse; so much so, that after Mr Summer’s death, which took place some year and a half before I became Vicar of Marshmallows, Mr Brownrigg continued to exercise the duty in his own single person, and nothing had as yet been said about the election of a colleague. So little seemed to fall to the duty of the churchwarden that I regarded the neglect as a trifle, and was remiss in setting it right. I had, therefore, to suffer, as was just. Indeed, Mr Brownrigg was not the man to have power in his hands unchecked.
I had so far recovered that I was able to rise about noon and go into my study, though I was very weak, and had not yet been out, when one morning Mrs Pearson came into the room and said,—
“Please, sir, here’s young Thomas Weir in a great way about something, and insisting upon seeing you, if you possibly can.”
I had as yet seen very few of my friends, except the Doctor, and those only for two or three minutes; but although I did not feel very fit for seeing anybody just then, I could not but yield to his desire, confident there must be a good reason for it, and so told Mrs Pearson to show him in.
“Oh, sir, I know you would be vexed if you hadn’t been told,” he exclaimed, “and I am sure you will not be angry with me for troubling you.”
“What is the matter, Tom?” I said. “I assure you I shall not be angry with you.”
“There’s Farmer Brownrigg, at this very moment, taking away Mr Templeton’s table because he won’t pay the church-rate.”
“What church-rate?” I cried, starting up from the sofa. “I never heard of a church-rate.”
Now, before I go farther, it is necessary to explain some things. One day before I was taken ill, I had had a little talk with Mr Brownrigg about some repairs of the church which were necessary, and must be done before another winter. I confess I was rather pleased; for I wanted my people to feel that the church was their property, and that it was their privilege, if they could regard it as a blessing to have the church, to keep it in decent order and repair. So I said, in a by-the-by way, to my churchwarden, “We must call a vestry before long, and have this looked to.” Now my predecessor had left everything of the kind to his churchwardens; and the inhabitants from their side had likewise left the whole affair to the churchwardens. But Mr Brownrigg, who, I must say, had taken more pains than might have been expected of him to make himself acquainted with the legalities of his office, did not fail to