Margaret Oliphant, The Perpetual Curate: Ch. 24

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"I don't know what Jack's return may do," said Mr Wentworth, "but I hope you don't imagine it was Gerald who caused my father's illness. You know better, at least," said the indignant Curate, looking at the hero on the sofa. That interesting reprobate lifted his eyes with a covert gleam of humour to the unresponsive countenance of his brother, and then he stroked his silky beard and sighed.

"My dear aunt, Frank is right," said Jack, with a melancholy voice. "I have not concealed from you that my father has great reason to be offended with me. I have done very much the reverse of what I ought to have done. I see even Frank can't forgive me; and I don't wonder at it," said the prodigal, "though I have done him no harm that I know of;" and again the heir of the Wentworths sighed, and covered his face for a moment with his hand.

"Oh, Frank," cried Miss Dora, with streaming eyes—"oh, my dear boy!—isn't there joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth? You're not going to be the wicked elder brother that grudged the prodigal his welcome—you're not going to give way to jealousy, Frank?"

"Hold your tongue, Dora," said the iron-grey sister; "I daresay Frank knows a great deal better than you do; but I want to know about Gerald, and what is to be done. If he goes to Rome, of course you will take Wentworth Rectory; so it will not be an unmingled evil," said Miss Leonora, biting her pen, and throwing a keen glance at the Curate of St Roque's, "especially as you and we differ so entirely in our views. I could not consent to appoint anybody to Skelmersdale, even if poor Mr Shirley were to die, who did not preach the Gospel; and it would be sad for you to spend all your life in a Perpetual Curacy, where you could have no income, nor ever hope to be able to marry," she continued steadily, with her eyes fixed upon her nephew. "Of course, if you had entered the Church for the love of the work, it would be a different matter," said the strong-minded aunt. "But that sort of thing seems to have gone out of fashion. I am sorry about Gerald—very sorry; but after what I saw of him, I am not surprised; and it is a comfort to one's mind to think that you will be provided for, Frank." Miss Leonora wrote a few words of the letter as she finished this speech. What she was saying in that epistle was (in reference to the gin-palace) that all discouragements were sent by God, and that, no doubt, His meaning was, that we should work all the harder to make way against them. After putting down which encouraging sentiment, she raised her eyes again, and planted her spear in her nephew's bosom with the greatest composure in the world.

"My Perpetual Curacy suits me very well," said Mr Wentworth, with a little pride; "and there is a good deal to do in Carlingford. However, I did not come here to talk about that. The Rector is going to put up an iron church in my district," said the young man, who was rather glad of a subject which permitted a little of his indignation to escape. "It is very easy to interfere with other people's work." And then he paused, not choosing to grumble to an unsympathetic audience. To feel that nobody cares about your feelings, is better than all the rules of self-control. The Perpetual Curate stopped instinctively with a dignified restraint, which would have been impossible to him under other circumstances. It was no merit of his, but he reaped the advantage of it all the same.

"But oh, my dear," said Miss Dora, "what a comfort to think of what St Paul says—'Whether it be for the right motive or not, Christ is still preached.' And one never knows what chance word may touch a heart," said the poor little woman, shaking her limp curls away from her cheeks. "It was you being offended with him that made dear Jack think of coming to us; and what a happiness it is to think that he sees the error of his ways!" cried poor Miss Dora, drying her tears. "And oh, Frank, my dear boy, I trust you will take warning by your brother, and not run into temptation," continued the anxious aunt, remembering all her troubles. "If you were to go wrong, it would take away all the pleasure of life."

"That is just what I was thinking," said aunt Cecilia from her easy-chair.