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tian, what, my dear friend, would you propose to gain by this victory, but an amazing weight of responsibility?
for I maintain,” added the young man, recovering his habitual good-humour and vivacity, “that in so doing you bind yourself, as a man of principle, to make up, by your own proper exertions, all the deficiencies which you shall have thus occasioned not only in my labours, but in those, also, of my pious coadjutor.”
Mr. Parnel was going to make some reply; but Ed. mund plainly told him that, if he pleased, they would call another cause.
Francis Parnel left Edmund's lodgings in no very good humour; and these young men did not meet again for several months. At the end of this period, Dr. Fieldhouse died; and the parishioners (without the knowledge of Edmund) applied in a body to the patron, to give the benefice to their beloved curate. It seems, however, that the living, which was in the gift of the ather of the young nobleman with whom Mr. Parnel had travelled, had long been destined for the tutor; and, in less than a week after the death of the old rector, Edmund was informed that his former friend had been presented with
The benefice was a large and very valuable one, and a curate had always been kept; Edmund was warmly attached to his people, and was, he hoped, in the way of doing good: he therefore resolved not to leave his curacy, unless dismissed by his rector, although he feared that there might be some points on which they would
He determined, however, to try submission and patience in those things about which his conscience was not concerned: and he made these resolutions from motives of piety only.
Mr. Parnel gave up his former living, which was but inconsiderable in point of emolument, and was inducted into his new one, before he gave any hints to Edmund concerning his intentions with respect to the curacy. In the mean time, there was in his own mind a violent contest on the subject. He knew how greatly his parishioners loved Mr. Stephens, for he had heard of their application in his favour; he was sensible, also, that Edmund was his superior in eloquence, in ability, and in a fine exterior; and he felt that he could not bear to be
thus excelled in the very place where he wished to be the person of most consequence. In the mean time, the huinble deportment of Edmund, who did not at all presume on his former friendship, left him nothing to complain of; he was also fully assured of his great usefulness. The struggle, therefore, in his mind was powerful: previous friendship and Christian feelings were engaged in a hard contest with vanity and selfishness. But the latter at length prevailed: and when Edmund called
upon him at his new abode, he told him that he should have no occasion for his further services in the curacy.
Edmund was thunderstruck. He grew pale and then red. He had now been the nursing-father of these poor people for nearly five years; he loved many individuals, and was in return beloved by all who knew him; he had enjoyed many sweet seasons in their society; he had been present during many of their scenes of joy and sorrow, and had proved their comforter under affliction, their faithful friend in times of adversity, and prudent guide in seasons of prosperity. Between himself and many individuals of this parish there existed the strongest tie which is to be met with on earth: he had been made the spiritual father of many; and his children in Christ were ready, had it been necessary, to lay down their lives for him. But now, all these strong and tender ties were to be suddenly and forcibly broken. And by whom broken? By a friend, a brother. Edmund felt that within him which would not permit him to speak. He arose, bowed, walked into the hall, took up his hat, and hastened to his lodgings; where we shall leave him, to return to Mr. Parnel, who, as soon as his friend had retired, sat down to write to a young man, with whom he had become intimate at college, probably thinking that by stating his conduct in a fair light to another, he should be able to still the tumults of his own conscience.
In this letter, he pictured himself (according to his usual mode of speaking) as a person who had, throughout life, hitherto, been placed in circumstances peculiarly arduous. He represented himself as living in a populous manufacturing town, whose inhabitants consisted of persons generally occupied in trade, some of whom, having acquired large fortunes, had, in conse
quence, risen into higher life, though they were still influenced by the contracted views of their former condition. The general mass of the population he described, as consisting of zealous and hot-headed enthusiasts on the one hand, and on the other, of persons who knew as little of religion as the savages of the desert; nor did he fail to add, that during many months past it had been his painful lot to stand alone among these people as the only representative of true religion. Various were the fiery ordeals through which, according to his own account, he had had to pass, and numerous the scoffs and railleries which he had endured; and if he did not add that he had fought a good fight, it was, perhaps, because he was aware that it was not altogether graceful for a man to praise himself.
The latter part of this letter was, however, that which included the most important particulars, and was worded as follows.
“ You have not forgotten Edmund Stephens, of Hall, a fine looking fellow, and by no means a dull one. Do you know, that when I stepped into old Dr. Fieldhouse's place, I found Edmund in the curacy, in which he had been fixed ever since his ordination. You cannot but remember our former intimacy. I should have rejoiced to serve him. But there is a wildness, an enthusiasm, a contempt of order about him, which rendered it wholly impracticable for me to retain him in his situation: justice to my own character, justice to my own people, made it impossible. I had previously, as soon indeed as I had a hint that I was destined to succeed to the rectory, taken the precaution to reason with Edmund about his inconsistencies; but I was not attended to. I had, therefore, no alternative, when I came into possession, but to dismiss him. It gave me exquisite pain ; it was, indeed, a severe trial to me. I can give you no idea of what I suffered on the occasion : for, after all, he is a good fellow, and I have known him long. I must do without a curate till Stephens is provided for elsewhere. In the mean time, be on the look out for me, for the duty will be too hard for me in the long run, though I shall probably be able to get on for some months to come,” &c. &c.
When Mr. Parnel had dispatched this epistle, he still
found himself so uneasy, that he rushed into company, and there endeavoured to obtain further relief by striving to make his story good among his worldly acquaintance. Nevertheless, although there were some present who seemed to approve of what he had done, poor Francis Parnel could find no peace, and he returned to his house more unhappy than ever. The conscience of this
young man was not entirely silenced, and its whisperings during that evening, and as he lay awake on his bed, were such as he was hardly able to endure.
Several days passed, and Mr. Parnel heard no more of Edmund. He spent part of this time at his father's house in a distant part of the country; and when he returned home, he was prevented by his pride from enquiring after him till the afternoon, when his clerk came to give bim notice of a funeral; at the same time adding that a neighbouring clergyman would have been obtained to perform the duty, had not the rector unexpectedly returned.
“ Where is the curate then?” returned Mr. Parnel. Why cannot Mr. Stephens attend? Is he gone out of town without informing me?"
“0, Sir!” exclaimed the clerk, “have you not heard? I greatly fear that we shall never see the blessed face of Mr. Stephens any more."
Mr. Parnel started, and felt as if an arrow had transfixed his heart. “What!” he said, “is Edmund gone?”
“ Not yet, Sir,” replied the clerk; “not yet, we
Mr. Parnel demanded an explanation, and awaited it as he would the stroke of death.
“Sir," replied the clerk, “ have you not heard that he broke blood-vessel a few days since, and his life is despaired of?"
“Impossible!” said Mr. Parnel: “ for who, then, has done the occasional duty during my absence?”
The clerk mentioned the name of the clergyman who had been provided to assist
brother! Edmund!” said Mr. Parnel, at that moment awakened from his long dream of vanity and selfishness, and suddenly recovering all the vigour of the Christian character, as his better feelings returning, rushed tumultu
ously into those channels from which his pride had forced them, “ Ob! my brother! Oh! my Edmund!”
More be could not say. But he had taken his hat, and was hastening to the well-known lodgings, when his course being arrested by the funeral procession, he was compelled to endure the anguish of committing a human creature, though a stranger, to the dust, at the moment when his feelings were racked by the apprehension of soon witnessing the death of one whom he had formerly loved as a brother, and lately treated as an enemy.
The sad report was not without foundation. Edmund had indeed broken a blood-vessel, and there was little hope of his life.
After having received the notice of dismissal from his curacy, he had returned home in great agitation of mind, and shut himself up for a while in his own apartments, where he no doubt used the means appointed by the Almighty for obtaining consolation: for he was enabled to summon the family together at the usual hour; and while reading and praying with them, appeared to be so perfectly calm, that Mrs. Goodman, his landlady, who had known him from a child, and who had been in the habit of watching every change in his fine countenance with something like a mother's tenderness, entertained not the least apprehension that any thing had happened to disturb him. In the middle of the night, however, this good woman was called to his chamber, where she found him bathed in the blood which he had thrown from his stomach.
Edmund had never enjoyed confirmed health, although his complexion usually displayed a beautiful freshness; and more than once, when a child, his aunt had been alarmed by strong symptoms of this very complaint, the violence of which now threatened the speedy dissolution of his frame.
From the moment of this attack he had been unable to leave his bed, and was ordered to be kept in a state of the most undisturbed quiet.
The report that he had received a dismissal from his curacy only the very day before his illness, was soon spread abroad, and every one about him attributed the accident to the agitation of his mind on the occasion.