as delicately as a rich capitalist might have done! For errors of this sort is he to be the victim of mob- outrage? Is he to be denied even the privilege of defending himself? Are those who have the hearts of men in their breasts (and Mr. Helstone—say what you will of him—has such a heart) to be reviled like malefactors because they stand by him—because they venture to espouse the cause of one against two hundred?’

‘Come—come now—be cool,’ said Mr. Yorke, smiling at the earnestness with which Shirley multiplied her rapid questions.

‘Cool! Must I listen coolly to downright nonsense—to dangerous nonsense? No. I like you very well, Mr. Yorke, as you know; but I thoroughly dislike some of your principles. All that cant—excuse me, but I repeat the word—all that cant about soldiers and parsons is most offensive in my ears. All ridiculous, irrational crying up of one class, whether the same be aristocrat or democrat—all howling down of another class, whether clerical or military—all exacting injustice to individuals, whether monarch or mendicant—is really sickening to me: all arraying of ranks against ranks, all party hatreds, all tyrannies disguised as liberties, I reject and wash my hands of. You think you are a philanthropist; you think you are an advocate of liberty; but I will tell you this—Mr. Hall, the parson of Nunnely, is a better friend both of man and freedom than Hiram Yorke, the Reformer of Briarfield.’

From a man, Mr. Yorke would not have borne this language very patiently, nor would he have endured it from some women; but he accounted Shirley both honest and pretty, and her plain-spoken ire amused him; besides, he took a secret pleasure in hearing her defend her tenant, for we have already intimated he had Robert Moore’s interest very much at heart; moreover, if he wished to avenge himself for her severity, he knew the means lay in his power: a word, he believed, would suffice to tame and silence her, to cover her frank forehead with the rosy shadow of shame, and veil the glow of her eye under down- drooped lid and lash.

‘What more hast thou to say?’ he inquired, as she paused, rather it appeared to take breath, than because her subject or her zeal was exhausted.

‘Say, Mr. Yorke!’ was the answer, the speaker meantime walking fast from wall to wall of the oakparlour. ‘Say? I have a great deal to say, if I could get it out in lucid order, which I never can do. I have to say that your views, and those of most extreme politicians, are such as none but men in an irresponsible position can advocate; that they are purely opposition views, meant only to be talked about, and never intended to be acted on. Make you Prime Minister of England to-morrow, and you would have to abandon them. You abuse Moore for defending his mill: had you been in Moore’s place you could not with honour or sense have acted otherwise than he acted. You abuse Mr. Helstone for everything he does: Mr. Helstone has his faults: he sometimes does wrong, but oftener right. Were you ordained Vicar of Briarfield, you would find it no easy task to sustain all the active schemes for the benefit of the parish planned and persevered in by your predecessor. I wonder people cannot judge more fairly of each other and themselves. When I hear Messrs. Malone and Donne chatter about the authority of the Church, the dignity and claims of the priesthood, the deference due to them as clergymen; when I hear the outbreaks of their small spite against Dissenters; when I witness their silly, narrow jealousies and assumptions; when their palaver about forms, and traditions, and superstitions is sounding in my ear; when I behold their insolent carriage to the poor, their often base servility to the rich, I think the Establishment is indeed in a poor way, and both she and her sons appear in the utmost need of reformation. Turning away distressed from minster- tower and village-spire—ay, as distressed as a churchwarden who feels the exigence of white-wash, and has not wherewithal to purchase lime—I recall your senseless sarcasms on the “fat bishops,” the “pampered parsons,” “old mother church,” etc. I remember your strictures on all who differ from you, your sweeping condemnation of classes and individuals, without the slightest allowance made for circumstances or temptations; and then, Mr. Yorke, doubt clutches my inmost heart as to whether men exist clement, reasonable, and just enough to be entrusted with the task of reform. I don’t believe you are of the number.’

‘You have an ill opinion of me, Miss Shirley. You never told me so much of your mind before.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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