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The Minister's Charge   By: (1837-1920)

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Anne Folland, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team










On their way back to the farm house where they were boarding, Sewell's wife reproached him for what she called his recklessness. "You had no right," she said, "to give the poor boy false hopes. You ought to have discouraged him that would have been the most merciful way if you knew the poetry was bad. Now, he will go on building all sorts of castles in the air on your praise, and sooner or later they will come tumbling about his ears just to gratify your passion for saying pleasant things to people."

"I wish you had a passion for saying pleasant things to me, my dear," suggested her husband evasively.

"Oh, a nice time I should have!"

"I don't know about your nice time, but I feel pretty certain of my own. How do you know Oh, do get up, you implacable cripple!" he broke off to the lame mare he was driving, and pulled at the reins.

"Don't saw her mouth!" cried Mrs. Sewell.

"Well, let her get up, then, and I won't. I don't like to saw her mouth; but I have to do something when you come down on me with your interminable consequences. I dare say the boy will never think of my praise again. And besides, as I was saying when this animal interrupted me with her ill timed attempts at grazing, how do you know that I knew the poetry was bad?"

"How? By the sound of your voice. I could tell you were dishonest in the dark, David."

"Perhaps the boy knew that I was dishonest too," suggested Sewell.

"Oh no, he didn't. I could see that he pinned his faith to every syllable."

"He used a quantity of pins, then; for I was particularly profuse of syllables. I find that it requires no end of them to make the worse appear the better reason to a poet who reads his own verses to you. But come, now, Lucy, let me off a syllable or two. I I have a conscience, you know well enough, and if I thought But pshaw! I've merely cheered a lonely hour for the boy, and he'll go back to hoeing potatoes to morrow, and that will be the end of it."

"I hope that will be the end of it," said Mrs. Sewell, with the darkling reserve of ladies intimate with the designs of Providence.

"Well," argued her husband, who was trying to keep the matter from being serious, "perhaps he may turn out a poet yet. You never can tell where the lightning is going to strike. He has some idea of rhyme, and some perception of reason, and yes, some of the lines were musical. His general attitude reminded me of Piers Plowman. Didn't he recall Piers Plowman to you?"

"I'm glad you can console yourself in that way, David," said his wife relentlessly.

The mare stopped again, and Sewell looked over his shoulder at the house, now black in the twilight, on the crest of the low hill across the hollow behind them. "I declare," he said, "the loneliness of that place almost broke my heart. There!" he added, as the faint sickle gleamed in the sky above the roof, "I've got the new moon right over my left shoulder for my pains. That's what comes of having a sympathetic nature."

The boy was looking at the new moon, across the broken gate which stopped the largest gap in the tumbled stone wall. He still gripped in his hand the manuscript which he had been reading to the minister.

"There, Lem," called his mother's voice from the house, "I guess you've seen the last of 'em for one while. I'm 'fraid you'll take cold out there 'n the dew. Come in, child."

The boy obeyed. "I was looking at the new moon, mother. I saw it over my right shoulder. Did you hear hear him," he asked, in a broken and husky voice, "hear how he praised my poetry, mother?"

"Oh, do make her get up, David!" cried Mrs... Continue reading book >>

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