BETWEEN the first four of French's periods of foreign service he had three sojourns in England. In 1859-61, as we have seen, he was Curate at Clifton. After his breakdown in the Derajat, he was six years at home. For a time he served as Curate at Beddington, Surrey, of which parish the venerable Dr. Marsh was Rector; where one of his fellow-workers was George Maxwell Gordon, afterwards so well known as the Pilgrim Missionary of the Punjab, who owed some at least of the inspiration that sent him abroad to his colleague's devotion to the missionary cause. This was one of the happiest episodes of French's life. The companionship of the aged Rector, of his saintly daughter, Miss Catherine Marsh, and of other members of their family circle, was a privilege of the highest kind.
In 1864 French became Incumbent of St. Paul's, Cheltenham, and for four years he ministered to a large population with untiring assiduity. He was always ready, besides, to go as a "deputation" for the C.M.S. to different parts of England, so far as his parochial duties allowed; and this work much refreshed him, though he sometimes complained sadly that the company at meals before or after the missionary meeting would talk about any subject rather than Missions--a fact familiar to all who have engaged in deputation work, though less noticeable now than it was before knowledge of the field was so widely diffused. But, although the C.M.S. claimed the best energies he could spare from his parish, he could not limit his sympathies even to the Society he loved. Unlike most of the Cheltenham clergy, but like one of them, Mr. Fenn, he gave also his support to the S.P.G.
But, whatever might be French's official duties, a student he would always be; and in the one year 1868 his diaries are stated by his biographer to have contained extracts from books he was reading, which are thus mentioned without any definite order: Homer, Chrysostom, Charles of Bala, Gerlach, Charnock, Hugh Macmillan, Life of Lacordaire, McCheyne, Pusey, Carlyle, Milman, A. Monod, Hengstenberg, Carter of Clewer, Spenser's Faerie Queen, Livy, Propertius, Burke, Bunsen, Niebuhr, Bengel, Berridge, Fletcher of Madeley.
All this while, however, he was conscious that India was still calling to him. Dr. Kay, one of his closest friends, who had been Principal of Bishop's College at Calcutta, assured him that, after his last experience, he ought not to go out again; but words from Robert Clark, the leading C.M.S. missionary in the Punjab, were more to his mind: "If those who ought to go won't, then those who ought not must!" And the year 1869 saw French once more on the way to India.
It may as well be added here that when he again returned to England after his next period abroad, he was for three years Rector of St. Ebbe's, Oxford, a parish which had been served by F. W. Robertson, Bishop Baring, Bishop Waldegrave, and Dean Barlow.