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It only seems like yestereve; I had been tired all day.
Oh mothers, mothers, wearily who move amid your flock !
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CHAPTER XIX.—THE CURATE OF ST. SWITHIN'S-IN-THE MARSH. THIRTY-FIVE years before the commencement of this story of Hilda Warleigh and her father's trust, there lived in a certain unremarkable village, in Midlandshire, a respectable, old-fashioned, country surgeon, who belonged to the now discarded school of medicine, which clang pertinaciously to phlebotomy and powerful aperients. He was a very good man-pious and scholarly in his way, and mildly addicted to literary pursuits. Rasselas was to him an unequalled composition; he read Pope and Goldsmith, and Thompson's Seasons, but could not quite make up his mind about Lord Byron, or the Waverley Novels. Wordsworth was, in his estimation, the prince of poets !
His name this rural practitioner, who had never revisited London after he had finished "walking the hospitals "—was John Barrows; he had married early and settled down in the country, in an agricultural district, "far from the madding crowd ”-very far, in those hnmdrum days, when there were few railways and no telegraph. From this marriage proceeded a goodly number of sons and daughters, who, however, all died young excepting three, notwithstanding their being well dosed with “Gregory's Powder," salts and senna, and an occasional Blue Pill, to say nothing of a prescribed diet of daily porridge, roast mutton, and rice-padding.
The three of the juvenile Burrows who survived childhood were a daughter and two sons, and it is the youngest of these two
boys with whom we are chiefly concerned. The elder lad was brought up to follow his father's profession, and, in due time, became his trusted assistant, and, finally, his successor. But the second, Walter, was early destined to “enter the Church"; he was of a gentle and docile disposition, very fond of his books, as his friends were often informed, and perfectly willing to follow the course of life which his parents had designed for him.
The doctor was too kind a man to be very arbitrary in the matter of fees, for the majority of his patients was of the poorer class, and as his own sickly family proved to be a rather expensive one, it followed that he was sometimes hardly pat to it in order to make both ends meet. Nevertheless, he managed to educate the boy Walter for the clerical profession, at the same time giving him fully to understand that he must not expect much, if any, parental assistance after he had passed his final examination, and entered Holy Orders. The old rector of the parish in which he had been born consented to give the young man a title, on condition of his receiving a nominal salary, which, however, could be eked out by his giving lessons to the sons of the only gentleman of property in the neighbourhood.
Walter Burrows had just taken priest's orders when the lads were sent to Rugby, at the instance of the head-master, who was their father's closest friend, and there were no other pupils offering in the retired district where he lived. Mr. Goodfellow, the rector, being himself troubled with impecuniosity and several extravagant, pleasure-loving sons, declined to give his curate more than twenty-five pounds; whereupon Walter, finding that sam quite in. sufficient as an income, resolved to push his fortunes in a wider sphere, and was lucky enough to secure a curacy in the East of London, with a stipend of eighty pounds per annum. And this seemed to him at the time quite a magnificent sam.
He had never been in London, but, once there, he felt sure of continuous promotion ; so he bade farewell to his friends in Midandshire in a buoyant frame of mind, preached his last sermon in the damp, dilapidated church in which he had been christened, wondering how many years would have to roll on their way before he preached in Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's, and took an affectionate leave of Mr. Goodfellow, who was very much "put out," because his curate, “such a very satisfactory young man,” insisted on following the example of housemaids, and bettering himself.
Walter Barrows entered upon his new duties, which he quickly found to be far heavier than those he had resigned, and living in London much more expensive than in the country; but there, in the blessed service of the poor, he first learned the responsibilities of the office he had somewhat lightly taken upon
himself. His incumbent was a man of languid temperament and delicate health, so that the carate came in for rather more than his share of ministerial toil and pastoral duty; the field of his labours was a large, densely-populated, squalidly poor, and most ungodly parish; yet there he grew to love his work, and to feel that all his powers, all his energies, all his time must be given to the fulfilment of the functions of his sacred calling. There were no City Missions, and no Evangelists in those dismal, but not so very remote days; there were few helpers, save a scanty staff of Sunday-school teachers, and the regular clergy had to do their work, for the most part, single-handed.
A few years passed by, and Walter Burrows had ceased altogether to dream of Archdeaconries and prebendal stalls; but when his incumbent, after a lingering illness, died, he did venture to hope that the modest preferment he asked for would not be denied him. The parishioners loved him and he loved them, and an earnest petition, numerously signed, was duly forwarded to the proper authorities, praying that the Rev. Walter Burrows might be inducted to the living, then vacant, and showing how faithfully and satisfactorily he had served in the parish, in which he was so much beloved. More than half the parishioners, including many Dissenters, chiefly Baptists and Methodists, signed the memorial ; and it was most ardently hoped that the appeal would be successful. But, alas! patronage came in the way; the Bishop was quite convinced that the curate was the proper person to succeed the departed Vicar of St. Swithin's-in-the-Marsh; but the disposal of the benefice was not in his hands, he greatly regretted his inability to comply with the wishes of the parishioners, and-in fact—the nomination had already taken place, the incumbency having been promised for some months past to a protégé of the gentleman to whom the next presentation belonged. He would, however, keep Mr. Burrows in his mind, and present him to the next suitable living which fell vacant in the diocese.
And the Bishop might have kept his word, for he was a man of some discrimination, and knew that Walter Burrows would not only be the right man in the right place at St. Swithin's, but that his was certainly the prior claim and could not conscientiously be ignored ; although, in a legal point of view, the patron and his cousin had the best of it. But the Bishop died before the opportunity for which he was waiting presented itself, and the carate remained the curate still; he stayed on at St. Swithin-in the-Marsh, being in truth the sole pastor of the people among whom he ministered; the vicar, a lazy, supercilious man, who never cared to exert himself, willingly receiving the emolument, while Burrows, quite as willingly, did the work. And as years
passed on he came to love that work so well, and to feel so happy in that corner of the Lord's vineyard which had fallen to his share, that he altogether ceased to trouble bimself about preferment, and was well content to live and die carate of St. Switkin's.
But that was not to be! Walter Burrows, little as he guessed it, was wanted elsewhere, and he must needs go forth and find a fresh field of labour. It had been a sultry summer, and cholera, which had threatened the year before, broke out in good earnest at the East-end; in a short time the bills of mortality were something startling, and the devoaring pestilence raged week after week, mowing down old and young and filling the graveyards with frightfal rapidity. The vicar, who was really just then in very feeble health, fled with his family to the Highlands of Scotland, at the first note of alarm; the curate remained at his post doing his best, though singlehanded. From earliest morning till past midnight he was with the dying and the dead, hurrying from one sick-bed to another, or burying one after another the corpses brought in all haste for interment. The neighbouring clergy were in no better case; there were adjoining parishes in even worse condition than St. Swithin's !
At last, when autumn was nearing the confines of early winter, the plague began to abate, and the mortality rapidly decreased ; the doctors and all the workers in that infested district began to hope that the worst was over, and some of those who had quitted their daties ventured to return. Just as Mr. Burrows had made ap his mind that he would, if possible, take a short holiday and recruit his shattered forces by a fortnight at the seaside, he fell ill, with all the unmistakeable symptoms of the fatal disease, and exhausted and reduced as he was, soon was at death's door. And yet be did not die, though he lingered long on the verge of dissolation ; his case was a peculiar one, and presented such strangely exceptional phases that several medical men from a distance volunteered their services.
One of these gentlemen, a Dr. Trueman, from the West-end, was a physician of wide repute, and was, moreover, a truly kind and Christian man. He became deeply interested in his patient, so much so, that he covenanted with himself, under God's blessing, to restore him to health again. Bat not to his pristine strength and vigour. The curate had had a hard fight for life, and he had been overwrought for months. He lived, too, in a low and marshy district, and so far from faring sumptuously every day, he had very often been content to fare poorly enough that he might have it in his power honestly to help those who were poorer off than himself. Dr. Trueman held a private consultation with Mr. Barrows' landlady, and he found that his patient had kept more