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Shirley

3. Mr. Yorke
Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the
state of things within as on the state of things without and around us. I make this
trite remark, because I happen to know that Messrs Helstone and Moore trotted
forth from the mill-yard gates at the head of their very small company, in the best
possible spirits. When a ray from a lantern (the three pedestrians of the party
carried each one) fell on Mr. Moore's face, you could see an unusual, because a
lively, spark dancing in his eyes, and a new-found vivacity mantling on his dark
physiognomy; and when the rector's visage was illuminated, his hard features
were revealed all agrin and ashine with glee. Yet a drizzling night, a somewhat
perilous expedition, you would think were not circumstances calculated to enliven
those exposed to the wet and engaged in the adventure. If any member or
members of the crew who had been at work on Stilbro' Moor had caught a view
of this party, they would have had great pleasure in shooting either of the leaders
from behind a wall: and the leaders knew this; and the fact is, being both men of
steely nerves and steady beating hearts, were elate with the knowledge.
I am aware, reader, and you need not remind me, that it is a dreadful thing for a
parson to be warlike; I am aware that he should be a man of peace. I have some
faint outline of an idea of what a clergyman's mission is amongst mankind, and I
remember distinctly whose servant he is, whose message he delivers, whose
example he should follow; yet, with all this, if you are a parson-hater, you need
not expect me to go along with you every step of your dismal, downward-tending,
unchristian road; you need not expect me to join in your deep anathemas, at
once so narrow and so sweeping, in your poisonous rancour, so intense and so
absurd, against 'the cloth;' to lift up my eyes and hands with a Supplehough, or to
inflate my lungs with a Barraclough, in horror and denunciation of the diabolical
rector of Briarfield.
He was not diabolical at all. The evil simply was - he had missed his vocation. He
should have been a soldier, and circumstances had made him a priest. For the
rest, he was a conscientious, hard-headed, hard-handed, brave, stern,
implacable, faithful little man; a man almost without sympathy, ungentle,
prejudiced, and rigid; but a man true to principle, honourable, sagacious, and
sincere. It seems to me, reader, that you cannot always cut out men to fit their
profession, and that you ought not to curse them because their profession
sometimes hangs on them ungracefully. Nor will I curse Helstone, clerical
Cossack as he was. Yet he was cursed, and by many of his own parishioners, as
by others he was adored - which is the frequent fate of men who show partiality
in friendship and bitterness in enmity, who are equally attached to principles and
adherent to prejudices.
Helstone and Moore, being both in excellent spirits, and united for the present in
one cause, you would expect that, as they rode side by side, they would
converse amicably. Oh no! These two men, of hard, bilious natures both, rarely
came into contact but they chafed each other's moods. Their frequent bone of
contention was the war. Helstone was a high Tory (there were Tories in those
 
 
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