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As I shall never see fifty again, I have out-lived
a great many things; and, among them,
nothing more decidedly than my belief in
the Highest Testimonials. Time was when
they had their value in my eyes: when
my husband's new curate, with his credentials
attested by "three beneficed clergymen,"
or my new cook, coming with an
excellent character from her last place, were
received, on the strength of those documents,
with the most unsuspecting confidence, which
it took repeated failures to shake or overthrow.
Repeated failures, however, did at
last overthrow it; and "not all the king's
horses, nor all the king's men"—not all the
beneficed clergymen, nor all the conscientious
witnesses in the worldcould restore
to me my lost faith, or set it up again.

A Scotch curate once came to Lightlands,
my husband's parish. We had had a great
many curates in succession before he arrived,
and only one of whom we could approve, and
he was not recommended by any one. The
Scotch gentleman's card was inscribed with
the words The Reverend Knox Soundwell,
B.A., and we relied entirely on his testimonials.

When Mr. Knox Soundwell first came to
Lightlands, I do really think that the great
Reformer, whose name he bore, could not
have exhibited a more irrepressible zeal
than he. Lightlands (although there is, as
I have before explained, plenty of life in
it)* is a dull parish in some respects; and
it would take a great deal to make any
one in it, from Mr. Fielder, our head
parishioner, down to John Drant, the clerk,
do more than stare at any innovation or
invention whatever, short, perhaps of the
elevation of the Host, or the introduction
of green vestments. Therefore, such a slight
matter as the appearance of Mr. Soundwell
in his surplice, instead of a gown, when
he ascended the pulpitin which, by the
way, he seemed to think himself very much
superior to his rector, whose gown had grown
rusty with servicemade little or no impression
on the congregation; neither did his
turning to the east, while repeating the
creed; nor the cut of the waistcoat which
he displayed at morning calls, or evening
tea-drinkings. But, when he showed a disposition
to confess Mrs. Fielder, and the youngest
of John Drant's daughtersa dressmaker,
whose principal known sin was the wearing
of red flowers (artificial) in her Sunday
bonnetthe parish manifested some signs
of not being altogether stupid or blind.
Mr. Fielder ceased to ask the curate to the
cosy suppers at Hill Farm, and John Drant
confided to me, that he thought "Master,"
meaning my husband, "hadn't got a young
gentleman as would suit him." My husband
mentioned the young gentleman's
testimonials; but John shook his head, and

* See Number 462.

But Mr. Knox Scundwell was not
thorough, in any respect: and, seeing that
the parish did not appreciate his new fangles,
or depreciate his rector's old ones, he
gradually abandoned his straight-cut waistcoats,
the pulpit surplice, and the confessional;
once more resumed the suppers at Hill Farm,
and appeared in a fair way of regaining the
confidence of honest John Drant.

Somehow, notwithstanding this, I liked
him less than ever. I said to myself, "if
Mr. Soundwell had believed in his waistcoat,
his white surplice, and his confessional, he
would not so soon have given them up." I
began to be afraid that he shifted with the
wind too easily, and that we had by no
means seen the worst of him. This suspicion
turned out to be perfectly correct; for, before
many more months were over, my husband
discovered such grave faults in him, that he
was dismissed.

I have stated that Mr. Soundwell was not
thorough in any respect: but I spoke hastily.
He left Lightlands thoroughly in debt; not
only to good-natured Mr. Wheatear (who
could not get back the twenty pounds he lent
him, without the smart application of a
lawyer's letter), but to poor old Mrs. Fuller,
his laundress and landlady; of whose praises
he had always been very profuse, and who,
simple old soul, could not understand such
conduct from so fine-spoken a gentleman:
who had a liberal stipend, over £100 a-year,
and some private means besides. Perhaps,
his bill (also for a long time left unpaid) for
wine, ale, and spirits, might have suggested a