Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/396

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354
E. W. BARNES.

discord of the elements without, and the monotonous ticking of the old clock, which had grown aged with the time-worn habitation in which it had stood for nearly a century. Page after page, glowing with his own deep earnestness of spirit, and the rich imagery which the study of the Sacred Volume and of classic lore had taught him, was filled, and at length the young rector rose wearily from his desk, and pressing his hand to his aching brow, walked to the window, and, for the first time, seemed quite aware of the rude conflict amid the elements of the outward world. Shading his eyes from the light, he peered out through the shattered casement. “What a night,” thought he, “for the poor and homeless! and ah! how many among my parishioners must feel this keen and cutting blast through the crevices in their wretched dwellings! Would that I could provide for each a comfortable shelter from the storm; but, alas! my miserable pittance!—what does it more than keep together the mortal body and the immortal soul?”

With a sigh he turned away, and drawing his chair in front of the fire, he stirred the expiring embers, and sat gazing abstractedly into them, while his thoughts dwelt upon the different allotments of good and ill which fall to the share of human destiny. He had seen the honest and deserving poor baffled in every effort to advance, bravely buffeting the billows of misfortune, with scarce a gleam of hope to cheer them on, yet blessing God daily and hourly in their hearts for the good things they received; and he had seen the wealthy revelling in their luxury, thankless and thoughtless, closing the ear to the appeals of starving poverty, and forgetful even of Him whose bounty they enjoyed. Then came his thoughts down to a narrower sphere, and dwelt on his own personal history. Far back his memory bore him to the days of early childhood, to its poverty and its privations. Then came the labours and struggles necessary to bear him through the years of his college life, upheld by the resolution to develop by culture the powers of a naturally fine and vigorous intellect.

Re-perusing, line by line, the pages of his past existence, and suffering a tear occasionally to fall,—prompted by bitter Memory, as if to blot out the record she had made,—the young rector sat in