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ing the same remedy, he might probably do the old man a service: and with this view he entered into discourse with him.
The old man informed him that he had the charge of the cattle in that park; that his lord was a minor; that the mansion-house had been long vacant, and was to remain so during the minority—and when Mr. Eliot hinted, that he thought he might be useful to him with respect to the complaint in his eyes, the old man thanked him cordially, and invited him to his house, which, he said, was in the dingle on the other side the road.
Mr. Eliot waited till the old man, whose name was James Trowers, had inspected the cattle; and then accompanied him to his cottage, which was a neat abode, on the side of the glen, and beautifully situated among weeping rills and shadowy bowers.
In this cottage Mr. Eliot found the whole of the old man's family, consisting of his wife, a daughter who was a widow, and two grandchildren. There was no appearance of the want of earthly goods in this family, but a great evidence of the absence of heavenly knowledge: on which account Mr. Eliot resolved to improve his acquaintance with this little household, for the purpose, if possible, of finding an opportunity of ministering to their acquaintance with divine things: with this view, therefore, he consented to accept of the old woman's invitation to partake of a dish of boiled bacon and potatoes.
Thus began an intercourse between Mr. Eliot and these peasants which seemed agreeable to both parties; for, upon his rising to take leave, and promising to come again as soon as he had prepared some salve and other medicines for the old man's disease in his eyes, great joy was expressed by all the inhabitants of the cottage.
When Mr. Eliot reached his lodgings, he found his cousins waiting tea for him in considerable perturbation of spirits; neither could they be satisfied, till assured by him that they had not done any thing which had given him offence.
"Cousin Clinton," he answered, "and cousin Esther,if I am to remain under your roof, you must understand, that I must go out and come in as I please; and I must have no waiting of dinner or keeping of meals for me z
And one thing more I must say, that whenever you bring people into the house for the purpose of praising me, I shall certainly take myself off: for I will not be aiding or abetting, or in any way partaking of, the heathenish custom which seems to prevail among you of setting up idols and worshipping them. I have some apprehension that you forget the commandment—' Thou shalt have none other gods but me.'"
"But, cousin, good cousin," said Miss Clinton, "if the world is impressed with an idea of your worth and extraordinary usefulness, how am I to prevent the expression of such conviction?"
"How V said Mr. Eliot; "why, tell them that they are in error; that I am one of the least in the kingdom of heaven, and altogether an unprofitable servant."
"Dear Mr. Eliot," said Miss Esther, "we cannot speak what we do not think."
"Then, for the love of Heaven, cousin Esther," said the old gentleman, somewhat peevishly, "do make haste, and endeavour to get more rational thoughts."
The elder Miss Clinton having discernment enough to see that the matter could not well be pressed any further at present, gave another turn to the conversation by asking the old gentleman if his tea was agreeable, and if he would choose another lump of sugar.
From that time, the Misses Clinton having, as they feared, run a considerable risk of offending their relation, whose generous payment they found exceedingly convenient, took more care how they forced company into his presence, or how they touched upon a point, on which they considered him if not altogether deranged, yet not entirely rational: in consequence of which, Mr. Eliot, being left more to himself, became more reconciled to his situation. He went out and came in when he chose, and employed his time to his own satisfaction. It was not long before he made himself acquainted with all the public charities in the town and neighbourhood, which he not only largely assisted, but in the management of which he took such a part as the former managers were desirous he should. He assisted the minister, for whom he began to feel a sincere friendship, in setting on foot one or two new plans for doing good; in addition to which he became exceedingly assiduous in visiting the poor from house to house, administering to their spiritual and bodily necessities. He was a constant visitor in James Trowers's family; and whenever he had a mind to enjoy the beauties of nature, and study the Book of God among the glorious works of the Creator, he would take his meals with this obscure family, never, however, quitting them without leaving behind him some mark of his bounty greatly above the expectations or wishes of those who had entertained him. His success in the treatment of the poor man's diseased eyes was so considerable, that the family attributed to him a much greater degree of skill in such matters than he possessed: and hence they were rendered more willing to take his judgment in matters of a different nature.
In these various employments passed Mr. Eliot's first autumn and winter in England, during which he offered many and many earnest prayers for the welfare of his little flock in India.
At length the summer arrived; and Mrs. Essington, calling one afternoon to drink tea with the Misses Clinton, brought much religious intelligence from Town, where she had been spending the last few months. Her accounts consisted of anecdotes of various anniversaries of religious meetings which she had attended; descriptions of the preachers most in fashion; sudden and wonderful conversions, which were to be attributed to this sermon, or to that conversation, of some eminent character; accounts of remarkable natives from the South Seas, from Africa, or from Tartary; with other matters to the same purport: all of which she mixed up with so many fashionable turns of speech, and so evident a desire to exalt self, as the person who had seen, heard, and experienced more than ever had been seen, heard, or experienced before, that Mr. Eliot sat very uneasily on his chair, inwardly praying that this female, who possessed such powers of elocution, and seemed to have so much knowledge, might cease to be as the bones which shake, and rattle, and produce uncertain sounds, and become, through the power of the Spirit, a truly regenerated creature.
While Mrs. Essington was thus holding forth concrr
ing the wonders which she herself had lately heard and seen, Mr. Sandford came in to announce to Mr. Eliot, that he expected some eminent Christian characters from London in a few days, and that he should avail himself of their presence and assistance to celebrate the anniversary of a little Missionary Society, which had been established in the town about two years, and which he described as being in so very languishing a condition, as to require all the aids which the friends of missions could give it.
Without waiting for Mr. Eliot's observations on this communication, Mrs. Essington laid her hand upon Mr. Sandford's arm: "And you are come, I know you are, Mr. Sandford," said she, "to ask Mr. Eliot's assistance on the platform 1 Yes, you may shake your head, Mr. Eliot," she added, laughing; "but you will not be let off. A speech we must and will have from you: it is what the whole town expects. We shall take no denial: we must hear something about that dear little flock in the wilderness, and about your poor converts, and what you did for them, and all that. It is of no use to refuse: I absolutely won't come to the meeting unless you speak. And, more than that, Mr. Sandford, I will fit up the old theatre, and will have a dilletante, play, or concert, or some such thing, got up for the very day, and that out of pure spite; if you don't prevail on Mr. Eliot to speak. And so now you know what you have to trust to."
"Your threat does not alarm us at all, Mrs. Essington," said Mr. Sandford, good-humouredly; "for I cannot suppose that you would be able to persuade any body to attend your play, who would be likely to visit our meeting."
"Notwithstanding which," said Mrs. Essington, "I really do think you had better not try me. I can be very spiteful when I am offended—nobody more so. But now, my good Mr. Eliot, you will not refuse me; I am sure you will not. You will let us have your speech; I am sure you will. There's a good man: he does not refuse; he does not say a word against it. Put his name down, Mr. Sandford, in your list of speakers. You have your rough copy, your ebauche, in your pocket; and it runs thus—'Mr. Essington in the chair.' Of all people in the world, you always put Essington in the chair, though Heaven knows why: however, so it always has been. 'Augustus Essington, Esq. &c. &c. in the chair: business commenced by the Rev. Mr. Sandford: motion proposed by Mr. Anthony Beverly; seconded by the celebrated James Eliot, Esq. from Bengal: and so on." Then comes Mr. So and So, from London, and from New Zealand, and from no one knows where, or indeed much regards it, provided we can muster enough of talent, and peculiarity, and so forth. Well, I hope with all my heart you will have a full meeting; and if you don't make an enemy of me, I will crowd Essington House with visitors out of the four neighbouring counties, in order to fill your room with beauty and fashion."
"And pray," said Mr. Sandford, "what have beauty and fashion to do at missionary meetings V
"I have no objection to see beauty in such places," remarked Mr. Eliot; "but we might dispense with the presence of fashion."
"O! you Goth! you Vandal!" said Mrs. Essington. "Have fashionable people no souls? Are they to be excluded from all religious meetings 1 Why, Mr. Eliot, you have lived in the jungles till you are become a perfect savage."
"I cannot think, Mrs. Essington," said Mr. Eliot, "that religious people ought to have any thing to do with fashion."
"An open attack upon me, I protest," said Mrs. Essington. "Miss Clinton, Miss Esther, do you sit by and allow this? O my spring fashions! What shall I do with them 1 Must I pack them up and send them back to town? Do decide for me, Mr. Sandford. Must a fashionable woman be a cast-away 1"
"You have put a more serious question, Mrs. Essington, than you are aware of," said Mr. Sandford. "And you must permit me to answer it from Scripture—Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Rom. xii. 2.)
Mrs. Essington sat fidgetting in her chair till Mr. Sandford had ceased speaking; after which, looking se