North and South (Chapter 4, page 4 of 7)

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Chapter 4

'Margaret, dear!' said he, drawing her closer, 'think of the
early martyrs; think of the thousands who have suffered.' 'But, father,' said she, suddenly lifting up her flushed,
tear-wet face, 'the early martyrs suffered for the truth, while
you--oh! dear, dear papa!' 'I suffer for conscience' sake, my child,' said he, with a
dignity that was only tremulous from the acute sensitiveness of
his character; 'I must do what my conscience bids. I have borne
long with self-reproach that would have roused any mind less
torpid and cowardly than mine.' He shook his head as he went on.
'Your poor mother's fond wish, gratified at last in the mocking
way in which over-fond wishes are too often fulfilled--Sodom
apples as they are--has brought on this crisis, for which I ought
to be, and I hope I am thankful. It is not a month since the
bishop offered me another living; if I had accepted it, I should
have had to make a fresh declaration of conformity to the Liturgy
at my institution. Margaret, I tried to do it; I tried to content
myself with simply refusing the additional preferment, and
stopping quietly here,--strangling my conscience now, as I had
strained it before. God forgive me!' He rose and walked up and down the room, speaking low words of
self-reproach and humiliation, of which Margaret was thankful to
hear but few. At last he said, 'Margaret, I return to the old sad burden we must leave
Helstone.' 'Yes! I see. But when?' 'I have written to the bishop--I dare say I have told you so, but
I forget things just now,' said Mr. Hale, collapsing into his
depressed manner as soon as he came to talk of hard
matter-of-fact details, 'informing him of my intention to resign
this vicarage. He has been most kind; he has used arguments and
expostulations, all in vain--in vain. They are but what I have
tried upon myself, without avail. I shall have to take my deed of
resignation, and wait upon the bishop myself, to bid him
farewell. That will be a trial, but worse, far worse, will be the
parting from my dear people. There is a curate appointed to read
prayers--a Mr. Brown. He will come to stay with us to-morrow.
Next Sunday I preach my farewell sermon.' Was it to be so sudden then? thought Margaret; and yet perhaps it
was as well. Lingering would only add stings to the pain; it was
better to be stunned into numbness by hearing of all these
arrangements, which seemed to be nearly completed before she had
been told. 'What does mamma say?' asked she, with a deep sigh.

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