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at any rate without remonstrance, to language
and stories more than sufficiently
broad and indecorous, found that Mr.
Ashurst civilly, but persistently, refused
their proffered hospitality, and in consequence
pronounced him "stuck-up." No
man was more free from class prejudices,
but he had been bred in old Somerset
country society, where the squirearchy
maintained an almost feudal dignity, and
his career in college had not taught him
the policy of being on terms of familiarity
with those whom Fortune had made his

So James Ashurst struggled on during
the first three months of his novitiate at
Helmingham, earnestly and energetically
striving to do his duty, with, it must be
confessed, but poor result. The governors
of the school had been so impressed by the
rector's recommendation, and by the testimonials
which the new master had submitted
to them, that they expected to find
the regeneration of the establishment would
commence immediately upon James Ashurst's
appearance upon the scene, and were
rather disappointed when they found that,
while the number of scholars remained
much the same as at the time of Dr.
Munch's retirement, the general dissatisfaction
in the village was much greater
than it had ever been during the reign of
that summarily-treated pedagogue. The
rector, to be sure, remained true to the
choice he had recommended, and maintained
everywhere that Mr. Ashurst had
done very well in the face of the greatest
difficulties, and would yet bring Helmingham
into notice. Notwithstanding constant
ocular proof to the contrary, the farmers
held that in the clerical profession, as in
freemasonry, there was a certain occult
something beyond the ordinary ken, which
bound members of "the cloth" together,
and induced them to support each other to
the utmost stretch of their consciencesa
proceeding which, in the opinion of free-
thinking Helmingham, allowed of a
considerable amount of elasticity.

At length the long looked for Easter tide
arrived, and James Ashurst hurried away
from the dull grey old midland-country
village, to the bright little Thames-bordered
town where lived his love. A wedding
with the church approach one brilliant
pathway of spring flowers, a honeymoon of
such happiness as one knows but once in a
lifetime, passed in the lovely lake country,
and then Helmingham again. But with a
different aspect. The old schoolhouse itself,
brave in fresh paint and new plaster, its
renovated diamond windows, its cleaned
slab, so classically eloquent on the merits
fundatoris nostri, let in over the porch, its
newly stuccoed fives' wall and fresh gravelled
playground; all this was strange but
intelligible. But James Ashurst could not
understand yet the change that had come
over his inner life. To return after a hard
day's grinding in a mill of boys to his own
rooms, was, during the first three months
of his career at Helmingham merely to exchange
active purpose for passive existence.
Now, his life did but begin when the
labours of the day were over, and he and
his wife passed the evenings together, in
planning to combat with the present, in
delightful anticipations of the future. Mr.
Ashurst unwittingly and without the least
intending it, had made a very lucky hit in
his selection of a wife, so far as the Helmingham
people were concerned. He was
"that bumptious" as they expressed it, or
as we will more charitably say, he was
so independent, as not to care one rap
what the Helmingham people thought
of anything he did, provided he had, as
indeed at that time he always hadfor he
was conscientious in the highest degree
the knowledge that he was acting rightly
according to his light. In a very few
weeks the sweetness, the quiet frankness,
the prepossessing charm of Mrs. Ashurst's
demeanour, had neutralised all the ill-
effects of her husband's three months'
previous career. She was a small-boned,
small-featured, delicate-looking little woman,
and, as such, excited a certain amount
of compassion and kindness amid the midland-
county ladies, who, as their husbands
said of them, "ran big." It was a positive
relief to one to hear her soft little treble
voice after the booming diapason of the
Helmingham ladies, or to see her pretty
little fat dimpled hands flashing here and
there in some coquetry of needle-work, after
being accustomed to looking on at the
steady play of particularly bony and knuckly
members, in the unremitting torture of
eminently utilitarian employment. High
and low, gentle and simple, rich and poor,
felt equally kindly disposed towards Mrs.
Ashurst. Mrs. Peacock, wife of Squire
Peacock, a tremendous magnate and squire
of the neighbouring parish, fell so much in
love with her that she made her husband
send their only son, a magnificent youth
destined eventually for Eton, Oxford,
Parliament, and a partnership in a brewery, to
be introduced to the Muses as a parlour-