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The Sexton’s Hero” is a short novel written by Elizabeth Gaskell, known as the writer of the Victorian era.
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The afternoon sun shed down his glorious rays on the grassy churchyard, making the shadow cast by the old yew-tree under which we sat, seem deeper and deeper by contrast. The everlasting hum of myriads of summer insects made luxurious lullaby.
Of the view that lay beneath our gaze, I cannot speak adequately. The foreground was the grey-stone wall of the vicarage-garden; rich in the colouring made by innumerable lichens, ferns, ivy of most tender green and most delicate tracery, and the vivid scarlet of the crane’s -bill, which found a home in every nook and crevice – and at the summit of that old wall flaunted some unpruned tendrils of the vine, and long flower-laden branches of the climbing rose-tree, trained against the inner side. Beyond, lay meadow green, and mountain grey, and the blue dazzle of Morecambe Bay, as it sparkled between us and the more distant view.
For a while we were silent, living in sight and murmuring sound. Then Jeremy took up our conversation where, suddenly feeling weariness, as we saw that deep green shadowy resting-place, we had ceased speaking a quarter of an hour before.
It is one of the luxuries of holiday-time that thoughts are not rudely shaken from us by outward violence of hurry and busy impatience, but fall maturely from our lips in the sunny leisure of our days. The stock may be bad, but the fruit is ripe.
‘How would you then define a hero?’ I asked.
There was a long pause, and I had almost forgotten my question in watching a cloud-shadow floating over the far-away hills, when Jeremy made answer:
‘My idea of a hero is one who acts up to the highest idea of duty he has been able to form, no matter at what sacrifice. I think that by this definition, we may include all phases of character, even to the heroes of old, whose sole (and to us, low) idea of duty consisted in personal prowess.’
‘Then you would even admit the military heroes?’ asked I.
‘I would; with a certain kind of pity for the circumstances which had given them no higher ideas of duty. Still, if they sacrificed self to do what they sincerely believed to be right, I do not think I could deny them the title of hero.’
‘A poor, unchristian heroism, whose manifestation consists in injury to others!’ I said.
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