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WILLIAM BLAKE.

CHAPTER I.

A Sunday Unimproved.

Look to thy actions well :
For churches are either our heaven or hell."

GEORGE HERBERT.

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The population of Great Staunton amounted to six hundred persons; but, on the bright July Sunday which commences story, the congregation attending divine service at the parish church consisted of some thirty persons, besides the school children.

In the reading-desk might have been seen a fine hearty-looking gentleman, about sixty years of age, whose life seemed to have been passed in the fields, more than in the study, the cottage, or the church. Small trace was there of thought, either upon his features, or in his manner; and the clear, manly style in which he read the general confession seemed to express an approval and confidence in the truth

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and excellence of what he was saying, rather than any bumiliation of spirit, or any deep sense of the sins and spiritual necessities of himself and his flock.

Whilst the rector was thus occupied, those of his parishioners who were present might have been seen in various postures and situations, through the church. A few labourers stood leaning over the high pew sides with their heads upon their arms; the women sat, quietly listening; and the farmers sat, or stood, as they liked best. One thing only was certain, that no one knelt but the clergyman ; and that no one responded, except the clerk and the school children. And so the service proceeded, until the Psalms, during which some stood, and some sat, gradually composing themselves after their churchward walk, for the Lessons, during which, owing to the work of Saturday, and the heat of Sunday, as they would have maintained, a large proportion of this small proportion of the people of Great Staunton were asleep.

At the close of the Litany, a twang and moan sounded from the gallery, upon which, some of the men rose, and, turning their backs upon the Communion Table and the clergyman, gazed vacantly up whilst the band, by means of violin, bassoon, and hautboy, went over and over some verses of the old version. The poor thought it very fine, but received no benefit from it, and took no interest in it: the farmers' daughters occasionally smiled, and looked at each other; and the only entirely

imperturbed and imperturbable persons seemed the clergyman and the farmers.

At last came the sermon, and in it there was nothing to blame, and nothing to praise. Any heathen philosopher might have used it after cutting out a few names and allusions; and, as far as Church doctrine was concerned, any dissenter might have preached it.

Then, after the peace of God had been pronounced upon

those whose consciences were altogether untroubled, and whose cares were those upon which that peace

does not descend, the congregation departed, and in two minutes the church was empty.

The most important farmers in the place, however, stayed behind a minute or two in the porch, in order to greet each other, and their rector. They had not to wait long for Mr. Eccles-he was with them in a trice; and “Good day, Mr. do, Mr. So-and-so?'- - Fine morning!?? .“ Famous weather for the wheat!" and similar observations, formed the staple of the conversation which took place on the way between the porch and the churchyard-gate.

One family, in particular, occupied Mr. Eccles' attention. An elderly man, with his wife and two fine lads, nearly of an age, waited for a respectable, but somewhat heavy phaeton; and, meantime, seemed occupied in pointing out various objects to a pale, thin youth, who had evidently come from London, on a visit.

How d'ye “Hey day, Mr. Blake! you have brought us down a Londoner to spy out the land,” said the good-natured rector. “And what do you think, Sir, of our country? You don't see such crops everywhere, do you? Come down to my house whilst you're here, and I shall show you a few beasts that you'll have, one of these days, at Smithfield.”

“He don't know much about beasts, Sir,” replied Mr. Blake; “ I don't think he can tell wheat from oats, till they are threshed out. But, perhaps, he'll learn a thing or two, before he returns, to astonish the cockneys with.” “Well, but you have not told me who

your

friend is, Mr. Blake. But here's your carriage, so I won't keep you any longer.”

“A cockney nephew, Sir! a cockney nephew !" shouted Mr. Blake, as he turned his steady old horse away from the church.

It was a sweet drive to the old Moat House ; for the landlord would not suffer the trees to be lopped or thinned in his boundary hedges, and the elms feathered down over the bank, and threw shadows on the turf sides of the lane, which moved gently to and fro, and made the sunlight play along the ground.

The Moat House was an old pile of timbers and plaster, quaintly figured with scrolls, medallions, and various patterns. Some of the mullioned windows remained, and some were gone. It had, evidently, seen better days, but it was a house to interest and please any man of taste or education.

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