He had seated himself on the trunk of a fallen tree on the edge of the wood, and he had a feeling that he was not alone. The Summer ever seemed to him to be a spiritual essence—a beautiful creature of airy flashing draperies, diffusing perfumes a& she went by. He had known the joy of her companionship for several years, for no man had ampler opportunities of becoming acquainted with the seasons in all their phases.

There was the sound of abundance of life in the woods behind him, and around the boles of the scattered trees in front of him the graceful little stoats were playing. At his feet were scattered all the wild flowers of the meadow. Where the earth was brown under the trees, myriads of fairy bells were hanging in clusters, and in the meadow the yellow buttercups shone like spangles upon a garment of green velvet. He was not close enough to the brink of the cliffs to be able to see the purple and blue and pink of the flowers scattered among the coarse herbage of the rocks. But the bank of gorse that flowed like a yellow river through the meadow could not be ignored. In the sunlight it was a glory to see.

The sky was faintly grey, but the sea was of the brightest azure—the pure translucent blue of the sapphire, and it was alive with the light that seemed to burn subtly within the heart of a great jewel. But in the utter distance it became grey until it mingled imperceptibly with the sky.

The poet-preacher saw everything that there was to be seen, and his faith was upheld as it ever was, by the gracious companionship of nature, and he cried now:

“Oh, that a man could speak to men in the language of the Summer!”

Why could not all eyes of men look forth over that sea to where the heaven bowed down and mingled with it? Why could not men learn what was meant by this symbol of the mystic marriage of heaven and earth? Why should they continue to refuse the love which was offered them from above?

Everything that he saw was a symbol to him of the love of which he was the herald—the love which is followed by a peace that passeth all understanding. He was conscious of this peace leaning over him with outstretched wings, and he felt that the answer to his prayer had come. He would make no further attempt to solve the difficulties which had perplexed him. The voice that breathed the message that soothed him was the same that Elijah heard, and it said:

“Rest in the Lord, and He shall direct thy ways.”

He remained there for another hour, and then rose and made his way slowly toward the village.

The meadow track led to a broad gap in the hedge of gorse, and just as he had passed through, he was aware of the quick pattering of a galloping horse on the short grass behind him, and before he had time to turn, the horseman had put his mount to the hedge, making a clear jump of it.

“What, ho!” cried the man, apparently recognising Wesley before the horse's feet had reached the ground. “What, ho!” and he pulled the animal to its haunches.

Wesley saw that he was Parson Rodney, the good-humoured Rector who had spoken to him when he had been on the road with Nelly six weeks before.

“Ho, Mr. Wesley, I had heard that you were returning to us,” he cried. “Is it your thought that at Monday's Assize you will run a better chance if you are found in good company? What, sir, never shake your head in so gloomy a fashion. The Prophet Pritchard may be wrong. I was thinking of him when I came upon a clump of guzzlers reeling along the road an hour ago—reeling along with the buttercups as yellow as gold under their feet, and the sunlight bringing out all the scents of the earth that we love so well—I thought what a pity 'twould be if the world should come to an end when all her creatures are so happy!”

“Pardon me, Reverend sir,” said Wesley. “But I have at heart too much sorrow to enjoy any jest, least of all one made upon a matter that seems to me far too solemn for jesting.”

“Pshaw! Mr. Wesley, what is there serious or solemn in the vapourings of a jackanapes?” cried the other. “What doth a parson of our church—and a learned parson into the bargain—a Fellow of his College—not a dunce like me—what, I say, doth such an one with the maunderings of a vain and unlettered bumpkin whom his very godfathers and godmothers made a mark for ridicule when they had him christened Richard—Richard Pritchard?”

“Ah, sir,” said Wesley, “you witnessed what you did an hour ago on the roadside—you saw what I saw, and yet you can ask me why I should be troubled. Were not you troubled, Mr. Rodney?”

“Troubled? Oh, ay; my horse became uneasy when one of the drunken rascals yelled out a ribald word or two across the hedge—I am very careful of my horse's morals, sir; I never let him hear any bad language. When we are out with the hounds I throw my kerchief over his ears when we chance to be nigh the Master or his huntsmen. That is why I laid over the rascal's shoulders with my crop, though the hedge saved them from much that I intended. Trust me, Mr. Wesley, that is the way such fellows should be treated, and as for this Pritchard—faugh! a horsewhip on his back would bring him to his senses, though as a Justice of the Peace, I would be disposed to let this precious water-finder find what the nature of a horse-pond is like. Why, in Heaven's name, do you trouble yourself about him?”

“It was I who gave him countenance at first, sir. He made profession to me and I trusted him. I fear that the work on behalf of which I am very jealous may suffer through his indiscretion.”

“His indiscretion? your indiscretion, you surely mean, Mr. Wesley.”

“I accept your correction, sir.”

“Look ye here, Mr. Wesley, I have more respect for you, sir, than I have for any man of our cloth—ay, even though he may wear an apron and lawn sleeves. I know that as a clergyman I am not fit to black your shoes, but I am equally sure that as a man of the world, with a good working knowledge of human nature, I am beyond you; and that is why I tell you that this movement of yours has—well, it has too much movement in it to prove a lasting thing. You have never ridden to hounds or you would know that 'tis slow and steady that does it. If you keep up the pace from the start, you will be blown before the first half-hour is over, and where will you be when you have a double ditch to hop over? Why, you'll be up to your neck in the mire of the first. Mr. Wesley, there are a good many ditches to be got over in the life of a beneficed clergyman of your Church and mine; and, my word for it, you would do well to take them slowly, and reserve your strength. You want to go too fast ahead—to rush your hedges—that's how the thorns in the flesh thrive, and this Pritchard is only one of the many thorns that will make your life wearisome to you, and bring your movement to an end. You have never said a hard word about me, Mr. Wesley, though you had good reason to do so; and I have never said aught but what is good about you.”

“I know it, sir. Others have called me a busybody—some a charlatan.”

“They were fools. You are the most admirable thing in the world, sir—a zealous parson; but a thoroughbred horse is not the best for daily use; a little blood is excellent, but not too much. Your zeal will wear you out—ay, and it will wear your listeners out sooner. You cannot expect to lead a perpetual revival, as people call it, and that's why I am convinced that the humdrum system, with a stout woollen petticoat here and a bottle of sound port there, is the best for the parsons and the best for the people.”

“Your views are shrewd, and I dare not at this moment say that they are not justifiable. But for myself—sir, if God gives me strength, I shall not slacken the work with which I believe He hath entrusted me—until our churches are filled with men and women eager in their search after the Truth.”

“If all your friends were like you, the thing might be accomplished, Mr. Wesley; but the breakdown of your methods—your Methodism—will come through your introduction of the laity as your chief workers. You will find yourself face to face with Pritchards, and the last state of the people will be, as it is now, worse than the first. You may have done some good since you came here to preach a month ago, but you have—unwittingly, I say—done great mischief. My parishioners were heretofore living quite comfortably, they were satisfied with my ministrations, such as they were. I have heard it said that a healthy man does not know that he has any liver or spleen or vitals within his body: 'tis only the sick that have that knowledge. Well, the same is true in respect to their souls. Sir, there was not a man of my flock that knew he had a soul. There was a healthy condition of things for you!”

“Sir, I entreat of you not to mock!”

“I am not mocking, friend Wesley. What have people in the state of life to which the majority of my parishioners have been called, to do with the state of their souls? There should be a law that no man below the Game Law qualification shall assume that he has a soul.”

“I cannot listen further to you, Mr. Rodney.”

“Nay, Mr. Wesley, whatever you be, I'll swear that you are no coward: you will not run away by reason of not agreeing with an honest opponent—and I am not an opponent—I am only an honest friend. I say that my people were simple, homely people who respected me because I never wittingly awoke a man or woman who went asleep in my church, and because I never bothered them with long sermons, when they could hear their Sunday dinners frizzling in their cottages—they respected me for that, but more because they knew I had a sound knowledge of a horse, a boat, a dog and a game-cock.”

“Mr. Rodney——”

“Pshaw, Wesley, have you not eyes to see that the Church of England exists more for the bodies than the souls of the people? I would rather see a good, sturdy lot of Englishmen in England—good drinkers of honest ale, breeders of good fat cattle, and growers of golden wheat—honest, hard swearers of honest English oaths, and with selfrespect enough to respect their betters—I would rather have them such, I say, than snivelling, ranting Nonconformists, prating about their souls and showing the whites of their eyes when they hear that an educated man, who is a gentleman first and a parson afterwards, follows the hounds, relishes a main in the cockpit, and a rubber of whist in the rectory parlour and preaches the gospel of fair play for ten minutes in his pulpit, and the rest of the twenty-four hours out of it.”

“And I, Mr. Rodney, would rather hear of the saving of a sinner's soul by a Nonconformist ranter, Churchman though I be, than see the whole nation living in comfortable forgetfulness of God.”

Parson Rodney laughed.

“I will give you another year of riding to and fro and telling the peasantry that they have souls,” he said. “You will not make us a nation of spiritual hypochondriacs, Mr. Wesley. For a while people will fancy that there is something the matter with them, and you'll hear a deal of groaning and moaning at your services; but when the novelty of the thing is gone, they will cease to talk of their complaints. Englishmen are stronger in their bodies than in their souls, and the weaker element will go to the wall, and your legs will be crushed against that same wall by the asses you are riding. Why, already I know that you have suffered a bruise or two, through the shambling of that ass whose name is Pritchard. The unprofitable prophet Pritchard. A prophet? Well, 'tis not the first time that an ass thought himself a prophet, and began to talk insolently to his master. But Balaam's animal was a hand or two higher than his brother Pritchard; when he began to talk he proved himself no ass, but the moment the other opens his mouth, he stands condemned. Lay on him with your staff, Mr. Wesley; he has sought to make a fool of you without the excuse that there is an angel in your way. I have half a mind to give his hide a trouncing myself to-morrow, only I could not do so without giving a cut at you, who are, just now, holding on by his tail, hoping to hold him back in his fallow, and, believe me, sir, I respect you with all my heart, and envy your zeal. Good-day to you, Mr. Wesley; I hope I may live to see you in good living yet; if you worry to a sufficient degree the powers that be, they will assuredly make you a Dean, hoping that in a Cathedral Close, where everything slumbers, you will fold your hands and sleep comfortably like the rest. I doubt if you would, sir. But meantime if you will come to my humble rectory this evening, I can promise you a Tubber with a good partner, and a bottle of Bordeaux that the King of France might envy, but that has paid no duty to the King of England.”

“I thank you for your invitation, sir; but you know that I cannot accept it.”

“I feared as much, sir. But never mind, I hope that I shall live until you are compelled to accept my offer of hospitality to you as my Bishop.”

He waved his hand, and gave his horse, who had never heard his master talk for so long a time at a stretch and whose impatience had for some time given way to astonishment, a touch with the spur. Wesley watched him make a beautiful jump over the gate that led into the park, beyond which the rectory nestled on the side of a hill among its orchards.

He turned with a sigh to the cliff path leading beyond the village to where Mr. Hartwell's house stood, separated from the beach only by a wall of crags, and a few rows of weather-beaten trees, all stretching rather emaciated arms inland.

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