« PreviousContinue »
Jerusalem can now refuse to come forward in the battles of righteousness, and to combat 'the wicked principles of Dissent, which have a direct tendency to destroy Christianity itself, and to abolish true religion from the face of the earth;'* I therefore shall comply with your request, and will send my sermon to the press to-morrow."
"Huzza!" shouted Dr. Birch, brimfull with joy, "Huzza! Mother Church for ever! Long live the noble vicar of Tuddington!"
My friends began now to show so much excitement, that I thought it prudent to bring our conference to an end; and it having been settled that Dr. Birch's curate should read the afternoon service without any sermon, we all adjourned to the vicarage to an orthodox dinner of roast beef, plum-pudding, and capons, to which, by particular desire of Dr. Birch, Churchwarden Stubbs was invited.- "He is an honest, merry fellow," whispered the doctor; "he hates the schismatics, and they hate him. There are not many such in parish; you must encourage him."
The whole congregation had assembled in the churchyard, and were waiting to see us come out, though we had been a long time in the vestry. This was quite unexpected, and though they made way for us to pass to the vicarage, we had to walk through a brood of adders, if I may judge by the
*Letters of L. S. E. page 33.
hissing with which some of the lads and apprentices honoured us in our journey homewards. "Make way for the successors of the apostles," said a jackanapes in derision.-" Make way for Judas Iscariot!" shouted another.-" Fall down and worship the beast," said a third." Hats off to Dr. Babylon," was the insulting expression of a tall journeyman mason as Dr. Birch passed in his scarlet robe; and he made the boys take off their hats, "and show a proper respect to the Whore of Rome."
We got safe through this persecution; and as they did not pelt or jostle us, as I feared they would, we were not much the worse when we reached the vicarage. The doctor was in the highest spirits. "He was heartily glad that the blister had drawn ; they had a doctor in the parish that knew how to cure the Thompsonian disease."
We dined early, as some of the party had to ride home many miles after dinner. Mr. Screw and Stubbs were the laymen, the rest of the party was clerical. I will not enter into details of our symposium; you may easily suppose that it was orthodox and refreshing. The clergy paid me very high compliments, and said that I was raised up to be the ruin of Dissent. Dr. Birch, full of glee, said he would give me a title," Schismaticomastix," or the Scourge of the Dissenters, which was much approved by my learned and reverend brothers, and my health was drunk in bumpers
with this new addition. I was somewhat perplexed what to do with Stubbs, for it must be confessed he got too much wine, and he had to traverse all the town before he could reach his house. There was, however, no helping it, so I sent him home in the evening in the care of my man John; but at the fishmonger's corner in the Market-place, where there is generally a collection of idle people, Stubbs fell down, and rolled into the gutter before they could fairly get him on his legs again, not without the laughter and ridicule of the spectators, who, when they saw Stubbs rolling home covered with mud, cried out "There goes Mr. Gatherdirt, prime minister of Mr. Gathercoal!"
Doctor Birch, as is too often the case with him, did not retire to rest in full possession of his masterly intellects. We had to put him to bed without much assistance from himself.
Thus ended this great day, and here I must conclude this letter.
Your affectionate Brother, &c.
FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
ON Monday morning I was very anxious to
learn the effect produced by my sermon.
therefore, as breakfast was over, and Dr. Birch was fairly on his nag on his way home, I went into the town to Timson, the bookseller, whose shop is the bazaar of all our local politicians. I had, however, scarcely closed the iron gate of my front garden, when lo! and behold, up started Father Oddy from the stone bench, which is on the outer side of my wall. The old man is generally to be seen here every fine day enjoying the sunshine, and giving a Puritanical lecture to any one that will listen to him. On this occasion, however, I am sure he was watching me, for the weather was cloudy, and he pounced on me as soon as I had shut the gate. He had his staff in his hand, and he took off his old-fashioned broad-brimmed hat, as he always does when he speaks to me. "Put on your hat, Master Prynne," said I, " put on your hat; it does not suit grey hairs to be uncovered."- "If you were speaking of grey hairs, Mr. Vicar," began Oddy, with a most determined Conventicle aspect," if you were talking of grey hairs, the
Scripture telleth us in a certain place of an old man, who said, 'Ye shall bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave,' and you seem inclined, Sir, to try what you can do to bring me to my coffin; for if grief can kill a man, I might have received my death-blow yesterday. I have had many afflictions in my time, Master Vicar, but none like this, I assure you. All night long have I been tossing on my bed, without once closing mine eyes for grief, and for thinking of the mischief which has come upon us. Well-a-day! well-a-day! to think that good Mr. Thompson should have been so short a time in his grave, and that this sorrow should have come from his pulpit, where, for twenty years, there has been heard the Word of the truth of the Gospel, and the declaration of the great mystery of godliness to the consolation of many of Zion's pilgrims. Oh, Master Gathercoal, if you had said your lesson any where but in that pulpit-it's this which cuts my heart when I think of it; but, however, there is nothing certain in this world but death and sorrow, and I may say with the Psalmist, I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.' Well, well! we are caught in a net, and are doubtless reproved for our sins; and so the wild boar is sent to root up our vineyard, and the locust to consume our green fields. There is much wailing in Tuddington, Mr. Vicar; the saints are in tribulation;