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leaves seemed almost transparent,—you must
have envied the rector his little parsonage
house at the foot of the hill, and sighed that
fate had not given you a hundred a year and
clerical contentment, instead of that ugly,
pen-making, Times-reading,
everlasting-correspondence situation in Lombard Street.

But men must sink very low, indeed, before
they arrive at despair. There is an end to
everything, even to ignorance. Among the
smock-frocked and fur-capped Robins of
Babbleton there were a few good heads.
Moreover, the vicar and a few other gentlemen
wisely thought that it was absurd to complain
of ignorance without teaching people to know
better, and that it was useless to teach reading
to boys and girls if they were to have no
books to read as men and women.

For the vicar was one of those men, who
believe that forced knowledge is no knowledge,
and that, in order to teach people at all,
you must make them feel an interest in
their lesson. Accordingly, when Lady Bella
Sandwichisles, of Ojibby Park, published her
volume of "Hymns for the Working Classes, to
be sung during labour," he did not subscribe
for innumerable packets at thirteen to the
dozen; believing, perhaps, that it was quite
enough for people to mind the work they were
engaged in, and that mechanically squalling
out a few very bad verses is apt to conduce to
the ridicule rather than the exaltation of
religion. Nor had he much faith in the mental
instruction derived from little books in shilling
packets of "thirteen different sorts." He
never recollected, himself, as a boy or a young
man, deriving much edification or entertainment
from such literature, and he was liberal
enough to believe that human nature is much
the same in all classes, and that many of the
so-called attempts to reduce knowledge to
the capacity of the lower classes, really consist
in destroying capacity altogether, and in
leaving it to die for want of proper and
appetizing nourishment.

He was a good, sensible man, was the
Reverend James St. John, and although he
did not belong to the Reverend Epitaph
Bronze's "set," and did not join the Episcopal
Protection Amalgation, even his bishop dared
not to find fault with his teaching or his
practice. He was one of those independent
thinkers who believe that a bishop may
by some remote possibility do wrong, that
a capitular body is an incubus, and that
the Church would be none the worse for
a little reformation. He did not believe in
sublime austerity or liturgical minuteness,
and yet his sermons were always impressive,
and the service well and quietly
performed. Although his church was in bad
architectureas bad as plain red brick and
stone corners could makeit he did not sigh
for Kentish ragstone and stained pine. He
even contented himself with reserving the
baptisms and churchings till service was over,
believing that forced attention to a service
in which people have no direct interest, must
be at least of limited utility.

Great things often have a very small origin;
and, although the Book Club, which the
Rector ultimately established in Babbleton,
could not exactly be called a great
undertaking, its effects were such as those who
recollected the dozen and a half small volumes
on a shelf in the school-room, from which it
commenced, could scarcely have anticipated.
He had great faith in pictures and picture-books,
and when he came to the parish of
Babbleton, he hung the school-room with
coloured prints and maps, until children's
ideas of a tiger or a cameleopard, or of St.
Paul's and the Monument, grew astonishingly
distinct. With some of the older children, the
pictures were equally useful. The beautiful
history of Joseph and his Brethren never
made so deep an impression, as when the
gaily-coloured plates were brought out, and
explained in connection with the text they
illustrated. When was indignation against
the wicked brothers so vehement, as when
the picture showed poor Joseph, young, weak,
and half-stripped of his clothing, forced down
into the pit by his strong, hardy brothers?
When was the retribution of his story better
felt, than when the children saw him dressed
in the richly-coloured robes of an Eastern
envoy? How often did a difficulty vanish,
when the object was placed before the eyes
of children whom no description could have
edified? How did the demand for Christmas-pieces
increase, especially when the vicar gave
pictorial prizes for good writing, in the shape
of twelve prints from the Life of Christ?

There were plenty of prejudiced, poor-law
guardians who believed in flogging rather
than in pictures, and who, sooth to say,
were better capable of appreciating the one
than the other. Some of these people took
a low standard, and believed that if a
boy, on being asked how many wives King
Henry the Eighth had, answered six, it
was enough to expect; and that the knowledge
that the world was made in six days,
and that there were ten commandments,
was a quota of religious instruction beyond
which it was almost dangerous to proceed.
Another party thought that pictures and
picture-books were luxuries of education, and
ought only to be thumbed by babies who
tumbled about velvet-pile carpets. Others
held, that the only knowledge of natural
history necessary for such children, was the
capability to hold a horse, carry wash to a
pig, or beat a refractory donkey. But they
failed to carry conviction to the mind of the
vicar, and the Babbleton children gained
fresh ideas and fresh books at the same time,
while the little school library was continually
augmented by the kind gifts of the more
enlightened people in the neighbourhood.

There were plenty of districts surrounding
Babbleton, which were quite as badly off in
an intellectual point of view. But the main