Springhaven, by R. D. Blackmore

Chapter IV

And Her Faithful Chaplain

“I am not a man of the world, but a man of the Word,” said Parson Twemlow, the Rector of Springhaven; “and I shall not feel that I have done my duty unless I stir him up tomorrow. His valor and glory are nothing to me, nor even his value to the country. He does his duty, and I shall do mine. It is useless to talk to me, Maria; I never shall have such a chance again.”

“Well, dear, you know best,” replied Mrs. Twemlow; “and duty is always the highest and best and most sacred consideration. But you surely should remember, for Eliza’s sake, that we never shall dine at the Hall again.”

“I don’t care a snap for their dinners, or the chance of Eliza catching some young officer; and very few come while this peace goes on. I won’t shirk my duty for any of that.”

“Nothing would ever make you shirk your duty, Joshua. And I hope that you know me too well to suppose that I ever would dream of suggesting it. But I do want to see you a Canon, and I know that he begins to have influence in the Church, and therefore the Church is not at all the place to allude to his private affairs in. And, after all, what do we know about them? It does seem so low to be led away by gossip.”

“Maria,” said the Rector, severely sorry, “I must beg you to leave me to my conscience. I shall not refer to his private affairs. I shall put leading truths in a general way, and let him make the home application.”

“Put the cap on if it fits. Very well: you will injure yourself, and do no one any good. Lord Nelson won’t know it; he is too simple-minded. But Admiral Darling will never forgive us for insulting him while he is staying at the Hall.”

“Maria! Well, I have long given up all attempts at reasoning with you. If I see a man walking into a furnace, do I insult him by saying beware?”

“As I am beyond all reason, Joshua, it is far above me to understand that. But if you escape insulting him, what you do is far worse, and quite unlike a gentleman. You heap a whole pile of insults upon your own brother clergymen.”

“I do not at all understand you, Maria: you fly off in such a way from one thing to another!”

“Not at all. Anybody who is not above paying attention must understand me. When he is at Merton he goes to church, and his Rector is bound to look after him. When he is at sea, he has his Chaplain, who preaches whenever the weather permits, and dare not neglect his duties. But the strongest point of all is this — his very own father and brother are clergymen, and bound to do their best for him. All these you insult, and in so many words condemn for neglecting their duty, because you are unable to resist the pleasure of a stray shot at a celebrated man when he comes down here for hospitality.”

“My dear, you have put the matter in a new light,” said the Rev. Joshua Twemlow; “I would be the last man in the world to cast a slur upon any brother clergyman. But it is a sad denial to me, because I had put it so neatly, and a line of Latin at the end of it.”

“Never mind, dear. That will do for some one else who deserves it, and has got no influence. And if you could only put instead of it one of your beautifully turned expressions about our debt of gratitude to the noble defender of our country —”

“No, no, Maria!” said her husband, with a smile; “be content without pushing your victory further than Nelson himself would push it. It may be my duty to spare him, but I will not fall down and worship him.”

Joshua Twemlow, Bachelor of Divinity, was not very likely to worship anybody, nor even to admire, without due cause shown. He did not pretend to be a learned man, any more than he made any other pretense which he could not justify. But he loved a bit of Latin, whenever he could find anybody to share it with him, and even in lack of intelligent partners he indulged sometimes in that utterance. This was a grievance to the Squire of the parish, because he was expected to enjoy at ear-shot that which had passed out of the other ear in boyhood, with a painful echo behind it. But the Admiral had his revenge by passing the Rector’s bits of Latin on — when he could remember them — to some one entitled to an explanation, which he, with a pleasant smile, vouchsafed. This is one of the many benefits of a classical education.

But what are such little tags, compared with the pith and marrow of the man himself? Parson Twemlow was no prig, no pedant, and no popinjay, but a sensible, upright, honorable man, whose chief defect was a quick temper. In parish affairs he loved to show his independence of the Hall, and having a stronger will than Admiral Darling, he mostly conquered him. But he knew very well how far to go, and never pressed the supremacy of the Church beyond endurance.

His wife, who was one of the Carnes of Carne Castle, some few miles to the westward, encouraged him strongly in holding his own when the Admiral strove to override him. That was her manner of putting the case; while Admiral Darling would rather have a score of nightmares than override any one. But the Carnes were a falling as much as the Darlings were a rising family, and offense comes down the hill like stones dislodged by the upward traveller. Mrs. Twemlow knew nothing she disliked so much as any form of haughtiness; it was so small, so petty, so opposed to all true Christianity. And this made her think that the Darlings were always endeavoring to patronize her — a thing she would much rather die than put up with.

This excellent couple had allowed, however, their only son Erle, a very fine young man, to give his heart entirely to Faith Darling, the Admiral’s eldest daughter, and to win hers to an equal extent; and instead of displaying any haughtiness, her father had simply said: “Let them wait two years; they are both very young, and may change their minds. If they keep of the same mind for two years, they are welcome to one another.”

For a kinder-hearted man than Admiral Darling never saw the sun. There was nothing about him wonderful in the way of genius, heroism, large-mindedness, or unselfishness. But people liked him much better than if he combined all those vast rarities; because he was lively, genial, simple, easily moved to wrath or grief, free-handed, a little fond, perhaps, of quiet and confidential brag, and very fond of gossip.

“I tell you,” he said to Lord Nelson now, as they walked down the hill to the church together that lovely Sunday morning, “you will not have seen a finer sight than our fishermen in church — I dare say never. Of course they don’t all go. Nobody could expect it. But as many as a reasonable man could desire come there, because they know I like it. Twemlow thinks that they come to please him; but he finds a mighty difference in his congregation when I and my daughters are out of the parish. But if he goes away, there they are all the same, or perhaps even more, to get a change from him. That will show which of us they care about pleasing.”

“And they are quite right. I hate the levelling system,” the hero of the Nile replied. “A man should go to church to please his landlord, not to please the parson. Is the Chaplain to settle how many come to prayers?”

“That is the right way to look at the thing,” said the larger-bodied Admiral; “and I only wish Twemlow could have heard you. I asked him to dine with us yesterday, as you know, because you would have done him so much good; but he sent some trumpery excuse, although his wife was asked to come with him. She stopped him, no doubt; to look big, I dare say; as if they could dine with a Lord Nelson every day!”

“They can do that every day, when they dine with a man who has done his duty. But where is my pretty godchild Dolly? Horatia seems too long for you. What a long name they gave me! It may have done very well for my granduncle. But, my dear Lingo, look sharp for your Dolly. She has no mother, nor even a duenna — she has turned her off, she said yesterday. Your daughter Faith is an angel, but Dolly —”

“My Dolly is a little devil, I suppose! You always found out everything. What have you found my Dolly at? Perhaps she got it at her baptism.” A word against his pet child was steel upon flint to Admiral Darling.

“I am not concerned with your opinion,” Lord Nelson answered, loftily. “But Horatia Dorothy Darling is my godchild by baptism, and you will find her down in my will for a thousand pounds, if she behaves well, and if it should please the Lord to send me some of the prize-money I deserve.”

This was announced in such a manner, with the future testator’s useful eye bearing brightly on his comrade, and his cocked hat lifted as he spoke of the great Awarder of prizes, that no one able to smile could help a friendly and simple smile at him. So Admiral Darling forgot his wrath, which never had long memory, and scorning even to look round for Dolly, in whom he felt such confidence, took the mighty warrior by the good arm and led him toward the peaceful bells.

“Hurry; we shall be late,” he said. “You remember when we called you ‘Hurry,’ because of being always foremost? But they know better than to stop the bells till they see me in the church porch. Twemlow wanted to upset that, for the parsons want to upset everything. And I said: ‘Very well; then I shall square it by locking the gate from your shrubbery. That will give me five minutes to come down the hill.’ For my grandfather put up that gate, you must know, and of course the key belongs to me. It saves Twemlow a cable’s-length every time, and the parsons go to church so often now, he would have to make at least another knot a month. So the bells go on as they used to do. How many bells do you make it, Mr. Nelson?”

“Eight bells, sir,” Lord Nelson replied, saluting like the middy in charge of the watch. And at this little turn they both laughed, and went on, with memory of ancient days, to church.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31