They were not only the gossips of the village who judged that the fact of Addicehead’s being a garrison town had something to do with the fate that had befallen her; a fate by which, in its very spring-time, when its flowers were loveliest, and hope was strongest for its summer, her life was changed into the dreary wind-swept, rain-sodden moor. The man who can accept such a sacrifice from a woman,—I say nothing of wiling it from her—is, in his meanness, selfishness, and dishonour, contemptible as the Pharisee who, with his long prayers, devours the widow’s house. He leaves her desolate, while he walks off free. Would to God a man like the great-hearted, pure-bodied Milton, a man whom young men are compelled to respect, would in this our age, utter such a word as, making “mad the guilty,” if such grace might be accorded them, would “appal the free,” lest they too should fall into such a mire of selfish dishonour!
The devil in Catherine Weir.
About this time my father was taken ill, and several journeys to London followed. It is only as vicar that I am writing these memorials—for such they should be called, rather than annals, though certainly the use of the latter word has of late become vague enough for all convenience—therefore I have said nothing about my home-relations; but I must just mention here that I had a half-sister, about half my own age, whose anxiety during my father’s illness rendered my visits more frequent than perhaps they would have been from my own. But my sister was right in her anxiety. My father grew worse, and in December he died. I will not eulogize one so dear to me. That he was no common man will appear from the fact of his unconventionality and justice in leaving his property to my sister, saying in his will that he had done all I could require of him, in giving me a good education; and that, men having means in their power which women had not, it was unjust to the latter to make them, without a choice, dependent upon the former. After the funeral, my sister, feeling it impossible to remain in the house any longer, begged me to take her with me. So, after arranging affairs, we set out, and reached Marshmallows on New Year’s Day.
My sister being so much younger than myself, her presence in my house made very little change in my habits. She came into my ways without any difficulty, so that I did not experience the least restraint from having to consider her. And I soon began to find her of considerable service among the poor and sick of my flock, the latter class being more numerous this winter on account of the greater severity of the weather.