Part 5 out of 11
could not be spared; but Mrs Bold was to accompany them. It was
further agreed also, that they would lunch at the squire's house,
and return home after the afternoon service.
Wilfred Thorne, Esq., of Ullathorne, was the squire of St Ewold's;
or rather the squire of Ullathorne; for the domain of the modern
landlord was of wider notoriety than the fame of the ancient saint.
He was a fair specimen of what that race has come to in our days,
which a century ago was, as we are told, fairly represented by
Squire Western. If that representation be a true one, few classes
of men can have made faster strides in improvement. Mr Thorne,
however, was a man possessed of quite a sufficient number of
foibles to lay him open to much ridicule. He was still a bachelor,
being about fifty, and was not a little proud of his person. When
living at home at Ullathorne there was not much room for such
pride, and there therefore he always looked like a gentleman, and
like that which he certainly was, the first man in his parish. But
during the month or six weeks which he annually spent in London, he
tried so hard to look like a great man there also, which he
certainly was not, that he was put down as a fool by many at his
club. He was a man of considerable literary attainment in a certain
way and on certain subjects. His favourite authors were Montaigne
and Burton, and he knew more perhaps than any other man in his own
county, and the next to it, of the English essayists of the two
last centuries. He possessed complete sets of the 'Idler', the
'Spectator,' the 'Tatler,' the 'Guardian,' and the 'Rambler;' and
would discourse by hours together on the superiority of such
publications to anything which has since been produced in our
Edinburghs and Quarterlies. He was a great proficient in all
questions of genealogy, and knew enough of almost every gentleman's
family in England to say of what blood and lineage were descended
all those who had any claim to be considered as possessors of any
such luxuries. For blood and lineage he himself had a must profound
respect. He counted back his own ancestors to some period long
antecedent to the Conquest; and could tell you, if you would listen
to him, how it had come to pass that they, like Cedric the Saxon,
had been permitted to hold their own among the Norman barons. It
was not, according to his showing, on account of any weak
complaisance on the part of his family towards their Norman
neighbours. Some Ealfried of Ullathorne once fortified his own
castle, and held out, not only that, but the then existing
cathedral of Barchester also, against one Godfrey de Burgh, in the
time of King John; and Mr Thorne possessed the whole history of the
siege written on vellum, and illuminated in a most costly manner.
It little signified that no one could read the writing, as, had
that been possible, no one could have understood the language. Mr
Thorne could, however, give you all the particulars in good
English, and had no objection to do so.
It would be unjust to say that he looked down in men whose families
were of recent date. He did not do so. He frequently consorted with
such, and had chosen many of his friends from among them. But he
looked on them as great millionaires are apt to look on those who
have small incomes; as men who have Sophocles at their fingers'
ends regard those who know nothing of Greek. They might doubtless
be good sort of people, entitled to much praise for virtue, very
admirable for talent, highly respectable in every way; but they
were without the one great good gift. Such was Mr Thorne's way of
thinking on this matter; nothing could atone for the loss of good
blood; nothing could neutralise its good effects. Few indeed were
now possessed of it, but the possession was on that account the
more precious. It was very pleasant to hear Mr Thorne descant on
this matter. Were you in your ignorance to surmise that such a one
was of a good family because the head of his family was a baronet
of an old date, he would open his eyes with a delightful look of
affected surprise, and modestly remind you that baronetcies only
dated from James I. He would gently sigh if you spoke of the blood
of the Fitzgeralds and De Burghs; would hardly allow the claims of
the Howards and Lowthers; and has before now alluded to the Talbots
as a family who had hardly yet achieved the full honours of a
In speaking once of a wide spread race whose name had received the
honours of three coronets, scions from which sat for various
constituencies, some one of whose members had been in almost every
cabinet formed during this present century, a brilliant race such
as there are few in England, Mr Thorne called them all 'dirt'. He
had not intended any disrespect to these men. He admired them in
many senses, and allowed them their privileges without envy. He had
merely meant to express his feeling that the streams which ran
through their not veins were yet purified by time to that
perfection, had not become so genuine an ichor, as to be worthy of
being called blood in the genealogical sense.
When Mr Arabin was first introduced to him, Mr Thorne had
immediately suggested that he was one of the Arabins of Uphill
Stanton. Mr Arabin replied that he was a very distant relative of
the family alluded to. To this Mr Thorne surmised that the
relationship could not be very distant. Mr Arabin assured him that
it was so distant that the families knew nothing of each other. Mr
Thorne laughed his gentle laugh at this, and told Mr Arabin that
there was not existing no branch of his family separated from the
parent stock at an earlier date than the reign of Elizabeth; and
that therefore Mr Arabin could not call himself distant. Mr Arabin
himself was quite clearly an Arabin of Uphill Stanton.
'But,' said the vicar, 'Uphill Stanton has been sold to the De
Greys, and has been in their hands for the last fifty years.'
'And when it has been there one hundred and fifty, if it unluckily
remain there so long,' said Mr Thorne, 'your descendants will not
be a whit the less entitled to describe themselves as being of the
family of Uphill Stanton. Thank God, no De Grey can buy that--and,
thank God--no Arabin, and no Thorne, can sell it.'
In politics, Mr Thorne was an unflinching conservative. He looked
on those fifty-three Trojans, who, as Mr Dod tell us, censured free
trade in November 1852, as the only patriots left among the public
men of England. When that terrible crisis of free trade had
arrived, when the repeal of the corn laws was carried by those very
men whom Mr Thorne had hitherto regarded as the only possible
saviours of his country, he was for a time paralysed. His country
was lost; but that was comparatively a small thing. Other countries
had flourished and fallen, and the human race still went on
improving under God's providence. But now all trust in human faith
must for ever be at an end. Not only must ruin come, but it must
come through the apostasy of those who had been regarded as the
truest of true believers. Politics in England, as a pursuit for
gentlemen, must be at an end. Had Mr Thorne been trodden under foot
by a Whig, he could have borne it as a Tory and a martyr; but to be
so utterly thrown over and deceived by those he had so earnestly
supported, so thoroughly trusted, was more than he could endure and
live. He therefore ceased to live as a politician, and refused to
hold any converse with the world at large on the state of the
Such were Mr Thorne's impressions for the first two or three years
after Sir Robert Peel's apostasy; but by degrees his temper, as did
that of others, cooled down. He began once more to move about, to
frequent the bench and the market, and to be seen at dinners,
shoulder to shoulder with some of those who had so cruelly betrayed
him. It was a necessity for him to live, and that plan of his for
avoiding the world did not answer. He, however, had others around
him, who still maintained the same staunch principles of
protection--men like himself, who were too true to flinch at the
cry of a mob--had their own way of consoling themselves. They were,
and felt themselves to be, the only true depositories left of
certain Eleusinian mysteries, of certain deep and wondrous services
of worship by which alone the gods could be rightly approached. To
them and them only was it now given to know these things, and to
perpetuate them, if that might still be done, by the careful and
secret education of their children.
We have read how private and peculiar forms of worship have been
carried on from age to age in families, which to the outer world
have apparently adhered to the service of some ordinary church. And
so by degrees it was with Mr Thorne. He learnt at length to listen
calmly while protection was talked of as a thing dead, although he
knew within himself that it was still quick with a mystic life. Nor
was he without a certain pleasure that such knowledge though given
to him should be debarred from the multitude. He became accustomed
to hear, even among country gentlemen, that free trade was after
all not so bad, and to bear this without dispute, although
conscious within himself that everything good in England had gone
with his old palladium. He had within him something of the feeling
of Cato, who gloried that he could kill himself because Romans were
no longer worthy of their name. Mr Thorne had no thought of killing
himself, being a Christian, and still possessing his L 4000 a year;
but the feeling was not on that account the less comfortable.
Mr Thorne was a sportsman, and had been active though not
outrageous in his sports. Previous to the great downfall of
politics in his country, he had supported the hunt by every means
in his power. He had preserved game till no goose or turkey could
show a tail in the parish of St Ewold's. He had planted gorse
covers with more care than oaks and larches. He had been more
anxious for the comfort of his foxes than of his ewes and lambs. No
meet had been more popular than Ullathorne; no man's stables had
been more liberally open to the horses of distant men than Mr
Thorne's; no man had said more, written more, or done more to keep
the club up. The theory of protection could expand itself so
thoroughly in the practices of the country hunt! But the great ruin
came; when the noble master of the Barchester hounds supported the
recreant minister in the House of Lords, and basely surrendered his
truth, his manhood, his friends, and his honour for the hope of a
garter, then Mr Thorne gave up the hunt. He did not cut his
covers, for that would not have been the act of a gentleman. He did
not kill his foxes, for that according to his light would have been
murder. He did not say that his covers should not be drawn, or his
earths stopped, for that would have been illegal according to the
by-laws prevailing among country gentlemen. But he absented himself
from home on the occasions of every meet at Ullathorne, left the
covers to their fate, and could not be persuaded to take his pink
coat out of the press, or his hunters out of his stable. This
lasted for two years, and then by degrees he came round. He first
appeared at a neighbouring meet on a pony, dressed in his shooting
coat, as though he had trotted in by accident; then he walked up
one morning on foot to see his favourite gorse drawn, and when his
groom brought his mare out by chance, he did not refuse to mount
her. He was next persuaded, by one of the immortal fifty-three, to
bring his hunting materials over to the other side of the county,
and take a fortnight with the hounds there; and so gradually he
returned to his old life. But in hunting as in other things he was
only supported by the inward feeling of mystic superiority to those
with whom he shared the common breath of outer life.
Mr Thorne did not live in solitude at Ullathorne. He had a sister,
who was ten years older than himself, and who participated in his
prejudices and feelings so strongly, that she was a living
caricature of all his foibles. She would not open a modern
quarterly, did not choose to see a magazine in her drawing-room,
and would not have polluted her fingers with a shred of "The Times"
for any consideration. She spoke of Addison, Swift, and Steele, as
though they were still living, regarded De Foe as the best known
novelist of his country, and thought of Fielding as a young but
meritorious novice in the fields of romance. In poetry, she was
familiar with then names as late as Dryden, and had once been
seduced into reading the "Rape of the Lock"; but she regarded
Spenser as the purest type of her country's literature in this
line. Genealogy was her favourite insanity. Those things which are
the pride of most genealogists were to her contemptible. Arms and
mottoes set her beside herself. Ealfried of Ullathorne had wanted
no motto to assist him in cleaving to the brisket Geoffrey De
Burgh; and Ealfried's great grandfather, the gigantic Ullafrid, had
required no other arms than those which nature gave him to hurl
from the top of his own castle a cousin of the base invading
Norman. To her all modern English names were equally insignificant.
Hengist, Horsa, and such like, had for her the only true savour of
nobility. She was not contented unless she could go beyond the
Saxons; and would certainly have christened her children, had she
had children, by the names of the ancient Britons. In some respects
she was not unlike Scott's Ulrica, and had she been given to
cursing, she would certainly have done so in the names of Mista,
Skogula, and Zernebock. Not having submitted to the embraces of any
polluting Normans, as poor Ulrica had done, and having assisted no
parricide, the milk of human kindness was not curdled in her bosom.
She never cursed, therefore, but blessed rather. This, however, she
did in a strange uncouth Saxon manner, that would have been
unintelligible to any peasants but her own.
As a politician, Miss Thorne had been so thoroughly disgusted with
public life by base deeds long antecedent to the Corn Law question,
that that had but little moved her. In her estimation her brother
had been a fast young man, hurried away by a too ardent temperament
into democratic tendencies. Now happily he was brought to sounder
views by seeing the iniquity of the world. She had not yet
reconciled herself to the Reform Bill, and still groaned in spirit
over the defalcations of the Duke as touching the Catholic
Emancipation. If asked whom she thought the Queen should take as
her counsellor, she would probably have named Lord Eldon; and when
reminded that that venerable man was no longer present in the flesh
to assist us, she would probably have answered with a sigh that
none now could help us but the dead.
In religion, Miss Thorne was a pure Druidess. We would not have it
understood by that, that she did actually in these latter days
assist at any human sacrifices, or that she was in fact hostile to
the Church of Christ. She had adopted the Christian religion as a
milder form of the worship of her ancestors, and always appealed to
her doing so as evidence that she had no prejudices against reform,
when it could be shown that reform was salutary. This reform was
the most modern of any to which she had as yet acceded, it being
presumed that British ladies had given up their paint and taken to
some sort of petticoats before the days of St Augustine. That
further feminine step in advance which combines paint and
petticoats together, had not found votary in Miss Thorne.
But she was a Druidess in this, that she regretted she knew not
what in the usages and practices of her Church. She sometimes
talked and constantly thought of good things gone by, though she
had but the faintest idea of what those good things had been. She
imagined that a purity had existed which was now gone; that a piety
had adorned our pastors and a simple docility our people, for which
it may be feared history gave her but little true warrant. She was
accustomed to speak of Cranmer as though he had been the firmest
and most simple-minded of martyrs, and of Elizabeth as though the
pure Protestant faith of her people had been the one anxiety of her
life. It would have been cruel to undeceive her, had it been
possible; but it would have been impossible to make her believe
that the one was a time-serving priest, willing to go any length to
keep his place, and that the other was in heart a papist, with this
sole proviso, that she should be her own pope.
And so Miss Thorne went on sighing and regretting, looking back to
the divine right of kings as the ruling axiom of a golden age, and
cherishing, low down in the bottom of her hearts of hearts, a dear
unmentioned wish for the restoration of some exiled Stuart. Who
would deny her the luxury of her sighs, or the sweetness of her
In her person and her dress she was perfect, and well she knew her
own perfection. She was a small elegantly made old woman, with a
face from which the glow of her youth had not departed without
leaving some streaks of a roseate hue. She was proud of her colour,
proud of her grey hair which she wore in short crisp curls peering
out all around her face from the dainty white cap. To think of all
the money that she spent in lace used to break the heart of poor
Mrs Quiverful with her seven daughters. She was proud of her teeth,
which were still white and numerous, proud of her bright cheery
eye, proud of her short jaunty step, and very proud of the neat,
precise, small feet with which those steps were taken. She was
proud also, ay, very proud, of the rich brocaded silk in which it
was her custom to ruffle through her drawing-room.
We know what was the custom of the lady of Branksome--
"Nine and twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome Hall."
The lady of Ullathorne was not so martial in her habits, but hardly
less costly. She might have boasted that nine-and-twenty silken
shirts might have been produced in her chamber, each fit to stand
alone. The nine-and-twenty shields of the Scottish heroes were less
independent, and hardly more potent to withstand any attack that
might be made on them. Miss Thorne when fully dressed might be said
to have been armed cap-a-pie, and she was always fully dressed, as
far as was ever known to mortal man.
For all this rich attire Miss Thorne was not indebted to the
generosity of her brother. She had a very comfortable independence
of her own, which she divided among juvenile relatives, the
milliners, and the poor, giving much the largest share to the
latter. It may be imagined, therefore, that with all her little
follies she was not unpopular. All her follies have, we believe,
been told. Her virtues were too numerous to describe, and not
sufficiently interesting to deserve description.
While we are on the subject of the Thornes, one word must be said
of the house they lived in. It was not a large house, nor a fine
house, nor perhaps to modern ideas a very commodious house; but by
those who love the peculiar colour and peculiar ornaments of
genuine Tudor architecture it was considered a perfect gem. We beg
to own ourselves among the number, and therefore take this
opportunity to express our surprise that so little is known by
English men and women of the beauties of English architecture. The
ruins of the Colosseum, the Campanile at Florence, St Mark's,
Cologne, the Bourse and Notre Dame, are with our tourists as
familiar as household words; but they know nothing of the glories
of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire. Nay, we much question
whether many noted travellers, many who have pitched their tents
perhaps under Mount Sinai, are not still ignorant that there are
glories in Wiltshire, Dorsetshire and Somersetshire. We beg that
they will go and see.
Mr Thorne's house was called Ullathorne Court, and was properly so
called; for the house itself formed two sides of a quadrangle,
which was completed in the other two sides by a wall about twenty
feet high. This was built of cut stone, rudely cut indeed, and now
much worn, but of a beautiful rich tawny yellow colour, the effect
of that stonecrop of minute growth, which it had taken three
centuries to produce. The top of this wall was ornamented by huge
round stone balls of the same colour as the wall itself. Entrance
into the court was had through a pair of iron gates, so massive
that no one could comfortably open or close them, consequently they
were rarely disturbed. From the gateway two paths led obliquely
across the court; that to the left reaching the hall-door, which
was in the corner made by the angle of the house, and that to the
right leading to the back entrance, which was at the further end of
the longer portion of the building.
With those who are now adept at contriving house accommodation, it
will militate much against Ullathorne Court, that no carriage could
be brought to the hall-door. If you enter Ullathorne at all, you
must do so, fair reader, on foot, or at least in a bath-chair. No
vehicle drawn by horses ever comes within that iron gate. But this
is nothing to the next horror that will encounter you. On entering
the front door, which you do by no very grand portal, you find
yourself immediately in the dining-room. What--no hall? exclaims my
luxurious friend, accustomed to all the comfortable appurtenances
of modern life. Yes, kind sir; a noble hall, if you will but
observe it; a true old English hall of excellent dimensions for a
country gentleman's family; but, if you please, no dining-parlour.
But Mr and Miss Thorne were proud of this peculiarity of their
dwelling, though the brother was once all but tempted by his
friends to alter it. They delighted in the knowledge that they,
like Cedric, positively dined in their true hall, even though they
so dined tete-a-tete. But though they had never owned, they had
felt and endeavoured to remedy the discomfort of such an
arrangement. A huge screen partitioned off the front door and a
portion of the hall, and from the angle so screened off a second
door led into a passage, which ran along the larger side of the
house next to the courtyard. Either my reader or I must be a bad
hand at topography, if it be not clear that the great hall forms
the ground-floor of the smaller portion of the mansion, that which
was to your left as you entered the iron gate, and that it occupies
the whole of this wing of the building. It must be equally clear
that it looks out on a trim mown lawn, through three quadrangular
windows with stone mullions, each window divided into a larger
portion at the bottom, and a smaller portion at the top, and each
portion again divided into five by perpendicular stone supporters.
There may be windows which give a better light than such as those,
and it may be, as my utilitarian friend observes, that the giving
of light is the desired object of a window. I will not argue the
point with him. Indeed I cannot. But I shall not the less die in
the assured conviction that no sort of description of window is
capable of imparting half as much happiness to mankind as that
which has been adopted at Ullathorne Court. What--not an oriel?
says Miss Diana de Midellage. No, Miss Diana; not even an oriel,
beautiful as is an oriel window. It has not about it so perfect a
feeling of quiet English homely comfort. Let oriel windows grace a
college, or the half public mansion of a potent peer; but for the
sitting room of quiet country ladies, of ordinary homely folk,
nothing can equal the square mullioned windows of the Tudor
The hall was hung round with family female insipidities by Lely,
and unprepossessing male Thornes in red coats by Kneller; each
Thorne having been let into a panel in the wainscoting in the
proper manner. At the further end of the room was a huge
fire-place, which afforded much ground of difference between the
brother and sister. An antiquated grate that would hold about a
hundred weight of coal, had been stuck on the hearth, by Mr
Thorne's father. This hearth had of course been intended for the
consumption of wood fagots, and the iron dogs for the purpose were
still standing, though half buried in the masonry of the grate.
Miss Thorne was very anxious to revert to the dogs. The dear good
old creature was always to revert to anything, and had she been
systematically indulged, would doubtless in time have reflected
that fingers were made before forks, and have reverted accordingly.
But in the affairs of the fire-place, Mr Thorne would not revert.
Country gentlemen around him, all had comfortable grates in their
dining-rooms. He was not exactly the man to have suggested a modern
usage; but he was not so far prejudiced as to banish those which
his father had prepared for his use. Mr Thorne had, indeed, once
suggested that with very little contrivance the front door might
have been so altered, as to open at least into the passage; but on
hearing this, his sister Monica, such was Miss Thorne's name, had
been taken ill, and had remained so for a week. Before she came
down stairs she received a pledge from her brother that the
entrance should never be changed in her lifetime.
At the end of the hall opposite to the fire-place a door led into
the drawing-room, which was of equal size, and lighted with
precisely similar windows. But yet the aspect of the room was very
different. It was papered, and the ceiling, which in the hall
showed the old rafters, was whitened and finished with a modern
cornice. Miss Thorne's drawing-room, or, as she always called it,
withdrawing-room, was a beautiful apartment. The windows opened on
to the full extent of the lovely trim garden; immediately before
the windows were plots of flowers in stiff, stately, stubborn
little beds, each bed surrounded by a stone coping of its own;
beyond, there was a low parapet wall, on which stood urns and
images, fawns, nymphs, satyrs, and a whole tribe of Pan's
followers; and then again, beyond that, a beautiful lawn sloped
away to a sunk fence, which divided the garden from the park. Mr
Thorne's study was at the end of the drawing-room, and beyond that
were the kitchen and the offices. Doors opened into both Miss
Thorne's withdrawing-room and Mr Thorne's sanctum from the passage
above alluded to; which, as it came to the latter room, widened
itself so as to make space for the huge black oak stairs, which led
to the upper region.
Such was the interior of Ullathorne Court. But having thus
described it, perhaps somewhat too tediously, we beg to say that it
is not the interior to which we wish to call the English tourist's
attention, though we advise him to lose no legitimate opportunity
of becoming acquainted with it in a friendly manner. It is the
outside of Ullathorne that is so lovely. Let the tourist get
admission at least into the garden, and fling himself on that soft
award just opposite to the exterior angle of the house. He will
there get the double frontage, and enjoy that which is so
lovely--the expanse of architectural beauty without the formal
dullness of one long line.
It is the colour of Ullathorne that is so remarkable. It is all of
that delicious tawny hue which no stone can give, unless it has on
it the vegetable richness of centuries. Strike the wall with your
hand, and you will think that the stone has on it no covering, but
rub it carefully, and you will find that the colour comes off upon
your finger. No colourist that ever yet worked from a palette has
been able to come up to this rich colouring of years crowding
themselves on years.
Ullathorne is a high building for a country house, for it possesses
three stories; and in each storey, the windows are of the same sort
as that described, though varying in size, and varying also in
their lines athwart the house. Those of the ground floor are all
uniform in size and position. But those above are irregular both in
size and place, and this irregularity gives a bizarre and not
unpicturesque appearance to the building. Along the top, on every
side, runs a low parapet, which nearly hides the roof, and at the
corners are more figures of fawns and satyrs.
Such is Ullathorne House. But we must say one word of the approach
to it, which shall include all the description which we mean to
give of the church also. The picturesque old church of St Ewold's
stands immediately opposite to the iron gates which open into the
court, and is all but surrounded by the branches of lime trees,
which form the avenue leading up to the house from both sides.
This avenue is magnificent, but it would lose much of its value in
the eyes of many proprietors, by the fact that the road through it
is not private property. It is a public lane between hedgerows,
with a broad grass margin on each side of the road, from which the
lime trees spring. Ullathorne Court, therefore, does not stand
absolutely surrounded by its own grounds, though Mr Thorne is owner
of all the adjacent land. This, however, is the source of very
little annoyance to him. Men, when they are acquiring property,
think much of such things, but they who live where their ancestors
have lived for years, do not feel the misfortune. It never occurred
to either Mr or Miss Thorne that they were not sufficiently
private, because the world at large might, if it so wished, walk or
drive by their iron gates. That part of the world which availed
itself of the privilege was however very small.
Such a year or two since were the Thornes of Ullathorne. Such, we
believe, are the inhabitants of many an English country home. May
it be long before their number diminishes.
MR ARABIN READS HIMSELF IN AT ST EWOLD'S
On the Sunday morning the archdeacon with his sister-in-law and Mr
Arabin drove over to Ullathorne, as had been arranged. On their way
thither the new vicar declared himself to be considerably disturbed
in his mind at the idea of thus facing his parishioners for the
first time. He had, he said, been always subject to mauvaise honte
and an annoying degree of bashfulness, which often unfitted him for
any work of a novel description; and now he felt this so strongly
that he feared he should acquit himself badly in St Ewold's
reading-desk. He knew, he said, that those sharp little eyes of
Miss Thorne would be on to him, and that they would not approve.
All this the archdeacon greatly ridiculed. He himself knew not, and
had never known, what it was to be shy. He could not conceive that
Miss Thorne, surrounded as she would be by the peasants of
Ullathorne, and a few of the poorer inhabitants of the suburbs of
Barchester, could in any way affect the composure of a man well
accustomed to address the learned congregations of St Mary's at
Oxford, and he laughed accordingly at the idea of Mr Arabin's
Thereupon Mr Arabin commenced to subtilise. The change, he said,
from St Mary's to St Ewold's was quite as powerful on the spirits
as would be that from St Ewold's to St Mary's. Would not a peer
who, by chance of fortune, might suddenly be driven to herd among
the navvies be as afraid of the jeers of his companions, as would
any navvy suddenly exalted to a seat among the peers? Whereupon the
archdeacon declared with a loud laugh that he would tell Miss
Thorne that her new minister had likened her to a navvy. Eleanor,
however, pronounced such a conclusion unfair; a comparison might be
very just in its proportions which did not at all assimilate the
things compared. But Mr Arabin went in subtilising, regarding
neither the archdeacon's raillery nor Eleanor's defence. A young
lady, he said, would execute with most perfect self-possession a
difficult piece of music in a room crowded with strangers, who
would not be able to express herself in any intelligible language,
even on any ordinary subject and among her most intimate friends,
if she were required to do so standing on a box somewhat elevated
among them. It was all an affair of education, and he at forty
found it difficult to educate himself now.
Eleanor dissented on the matter of the box; and averred she could
speak very well about dresses, or babies, or legs of mutton from
any box, provided it were big enough for her to stand upon without
fear, even though all her friends were listening to her. The
archdeacon was sure she would not be able to say a word; but this
proved nothing in favour of Mr Arabin. Mr Arabin said that he would
try the question out with Mrs Bold, and get her on a box some day
when the rectory might be full of visitors. To this Eleanor
assented, making condition that the visitors should be of their own
set, and the archdeacon cogitated in his mind, whether by such a
condition it was intended that Mr Slope should be included,
resolving also that, if so, the trial should certainly never take
place in the rectory drawing-room at Plumstead.
And so arguing, they drove up to the iron gates of Ullathorne
Mr and Miss Thorne were standing ready dressed for church in the
hall, and greeted their clerical visitors with cordiality. The
archdeacon was an old favourite. He was a clergyman of the old
school, and this recommended him to the lady. He had always been an
opponent of free trade as long as free trade was an open question;
and now that it was no longer so, he, being a clergyman, had not
been obliged, like most of his lay Tory companions, to read his
recantation. He could therefore be regarded as a supporter of the
immaculate fifty-three, and was on this account a favourite with Mr
Thorne. The little bell was tinkling, and the rural population were
standing about the lane, leaning on the church stile, and against
the walls of the old court, anxious to get a look at their new
minister as he passed from the house to the rectory. The
archdeacon's servant had already preceded them thither with the
They all went together; and when the ladies passed into the church
the three gentlemen tarried a moment in the lane, that Mr Thorne
might name to the vicar with some kind of one-sided introduction,
the most leading among his parishioners.
'Here are our churchwardens, Mr Arabin; Farmer Greenacre and Mr
Stiles. Mr Stiles has the mill as you go into Barchester; and very
good churchwardens they are.'
'Not very severe, I hope,' said Mr Arabin: the two ecclesiastical
officers touched their hats, and each made a leg in the approved
rural fashion, assuring the vicar that they were glad to have the
honour of seeing him, and adding that the weather was very good for
the harvest. Mr Stiles being a man somewhat versed in town life,
had an impression of his own dignity, and did not quite like leaving
his pastor under the erroneous idea that he being a churchwarden
kept the children in order during church time. 'Twas thus he
understood Mr Arabin's allusion to his severity, and hastened to
put matters right by observing that 'Sexton Clodheave looked to the
younguns, and perhaps sometimes there maybe a thought too much
stick going on during sermon.' Mr Arabin's bright eye twinkled as
he caught that of the archdeacon; and he smiled to himself as he
observed how ignorant his officers were of the nature of their
authority, and of the surveillance which it was their duty to keep
even over himself.
Mr Arabin read the lessons and preached. It was enough to put a man
a little out, let him have been ever so used to pulpit reading, to
see the knowing way in which the farmers cocked their ears, and set
about a mental criticism as to whether their new minister did or
did not fall short of the excellence of him who had lately departed
from them. A mental and silent criticism it was for the existing
moment, but soon to be made public among the elders of St Ewold's
over the green graves of their children and forefathers. The
excellence, however, of poor old Mr Goodenough had not been
wonderful, and there were few there who did not deem that Mr Arabin
did his work sufficiently well, in spite of the slightly nervous
affection which at first impeded him, and which nearly drove the
archdeacon beside himself.
But the sermon was the thing to try the man. It often surprises us
that very young men can muster courage to preach for the first time
to a strange congregation. Men who are as yet little more than
boys, who have but just left, what indeed we may not call a school,
but a seminary intended for their tuition as scholars, whose
thoughts have been mostly of boating, cricketing, and wine parties,
ascend a rostrum high above the heads of the submissive crowd, not
that they may read God's word to those below, but that they may
preach their own word for the edification of their hearers. It
seems strange to us that they are not stricken dumb by the new and
awful solemnity of their position. How am I, just turned
twenty-three, who have never yet passed then thoughtful days since
the power of thought first came to me, how am I to instruct these
grey beards, who with the weary thinking of so many years have
approached so near the grave? Can I teach them their duty? Can I
explain to them that which I so imperfectly understand, that which
years of study may have made so plain to them? Has my newly acquired
privileges, as one of God's ministers, imparted to me as yet any
fitness for the wonderful work of a preacher?
It must be supposed that such ideas do occur to young clergymen,
and yet they overcome, apparently with ease, this difficulty which
to us appears to be all but insurmountable. We have never been
subjected in the way of ordination to the power of a bishop's
hands. It may be that there is in them something that sustains the
spirit and banishes the natural modesty of youth. But for ourselves
we must own that the deep affection which Dominie Sampson felt for
his young pupils has not more endeared him to us than the bashful
spirit which sent him mute and inglorious from the pulpit when he
rose there with the futile attempt to preach God's gospel.
There is a rule in our church which forbids the younger order of
our clergymen to perform a certain portion of the service. The
absolution must be read by a minister in priest's orders. If there
be no such minister present, the congregation can have the benefit
of no absolution but that which each may succeed in administering
to himself. The rule may be a good one, though the necessity for it
hardly comes home to the general understanding. But this
forbearance on the part of youth would be much more appreciated if
it were extended likewise to sermons. The only danger would be that
the congregation would be too anxious to prevent their young
clergymen from advancing themselves to the ranks of the ministry.
Clergymen who could not preach would be such blessings that they
would be bribed to adhere to their incompetence.
Mr Arabin, however, had not the modesty of youth to impede him, and
he succeeded with his sermon even better than with the lessons. He
took for his text two verses out of the second epistle of St John:
'Whosoever trangresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,
hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ he hath
both the Father and Son. If there come any unto you and bring you
not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him
God speed.' He told them that the house of theirs to which he
alluded was this their church in which he now addressed them for
the first time; that their most welcome and proper manner of
bidding him God speed would be their patient obedience to this
teaching of the gospel; but that he could put forward no claim to
such conduct on their part unless he taught them the great
Christian doctrine of works and faith combined. On this he
enlarged, but not very amply, and after twenty minutes succeeded in
sending his new friends home to their baked mutton and pudding well
pleased with their new minister.
Then came the lunch at Ullathorne. As soon as they were in the hall
Miss Thorne took Mr Arabin's hand, and assured him that she
received him into her house, into the temple, she said, in which
she worshipped, and bade him God speed with all her heart. Mr
Arabin was touched, and squeezed the spinster's hand without
uttering a word in reply. Then Mr Thorne expressed a hope that Mr
Arabin found the church easy to fill, and Mr Arabin having replied
that he had no doubt he should do so as soon as he had learnt to
pitch his voice to the building, they all sat down to the good
things before them.
Miss Thorne took special care of Mrs Bold. Eleanor still wore her
widow's weeds, and therefore had about her that air of grave and
sad maternity which is the lot of recent widows. This opened the
soft heart of Miss Thorne, and made her look on her young guest as
though too much could not be done for her. She heaped chicken and
ham upon her plate, and poured out for her a full bumper of port
wine. When Eleanor, who was not sorry to get it, had drunk a little
of it, Miss Thorne at once essayed to fill it again. To this
Eleanor objected, but in vain. Miss Thorne winked and nodded and
whispered, saying that it was the proper thing and must be done,
and that she knew all about it; and so she desired Mrs Bold to
drink it up, and mind any body.
'It is your duty, you know, to support yourself,' she said into the
ear of the young mother; 'there's more than yourself depending on
it;' and thus she coshered up Eleanor with cold fowl and port wine.
How it is that poor men's wives, who have no cold fowl and port
wine on which to be coshered up, nurse their children without
difficulty, whereas the wives of rich men, who eat and drink
everything that is good, cannot do so, we will for the present
leave to the doctors and mothers to settle between them.
And then Miss Thorne was great about teeth. Little Johnny Bold had
been troubled for the last few days with his first incipient
masticator, and with that freemasonry which exists between ladies,
Miss Thorne became aware of the fact before Eleanor had half
finished her wing. The old lady prescribed at once a receipt which
had been much in vogue in the young days of her grandmother, and
warned Eleanor with solemn voice against the fallacies of modern
'Take his coral, my dear,' said she, 'and rub it well with
carrot-juice; rub it till the juice dries on it, and then give it
to him to play with--'
'But he hasn't got a coral,' said Eleanor.
'Not got a coral!' said Miss Thorne, with almost angry vehemence.
'Not got a coral!--How can you expect that he should cut his teeth?
Have you got Daffy's Elixir?'
Eleanor explained that she had not. It had not been ordered by Mr
Rerechild, the Barchester doctor whom she employed; and then the
young mother mentioned some shockingly modern succedaneum, which Mr
Rerechild's new lights had taught him to recommend.
Miss Thorne looked awfully severe. 'Take care, my dear,' said she,
'that the man knows what he is about; take care he doesn't destroy
your little boy. 'But'--and her voice softened into sorrow as she
said it, and spoke more in pity than in anger--'but I don't know
who there is in Barchester now that you can trust. Poor dear old Dr
'Why, Miss Thorne, he died when I was a little girl.'
'Yes, my dear, he did, and an unfortunate day it was for
Barchester. As to those young men that have come up since' (Mr
Rerechild, by the by, was quite as old as Miss Thorne herself),
'one doesn't know where they came from or who they are, or whether
they know anything about their business or not.'
'I think there are very clever men in Barchester,' said Eleanor.
'Perhaps there may be; only I don't know them; and it's admitted on
all sides that medical men aren't now what they used to be. They
used to be talented, observing, educated men. But now any
whipper-snapper out of an apothecary's shop can call himself a
doctor. I believe no kind of education is now thought necessary.'
Eleanor was herself the widow of a medical man, and felt a little
inclined to resent all these hard sayings. But Miss Thorne was so
essentially good-natured that it was impossible to resent anything
she said. She therefore sipped her wine and finished her chicken.
'At any rate, my dear, don't forget the carrot-juice, and by all
means get him a coral at once. My grandmother Thorne had the best
teeth in the county, and carried them to the grave with her at
eighty. I have heard her say it was all the carrot-juice. She
couldn't bear the Barchester doctors. Even poor Dr Bumpwell didn't
please her.' It clearly never occurred to Miss Thorne that some
fifty years ago Dr Bumpwell was only a rising man, and therefore as
much in need of character in the eyes of the then ladies of
Ullathorne, as the present doctors were in her own.
The archdeacon made a very good lunch, and talked to his host about
turnip-drillers and new machines for reaping; while the host,
thinking it only polite to attend to a stranger, and fearing that
perhaps he might not care about turnip crops on a Sunday, mooted
all manner of ecclesiastical subjects.
'I never saw a heavier lot of wheat, Thorne, than you've got there
in the field beyond the copse. I suppose that's guano,' said the
'Yes, guano. I get it from Bristol myself. You'll find you often
have a tolerable congregation of Barchester people out here, Mr
Arabin. They are very fond of St Ewold's, particularly of an
afternoon, when the weather is not too hot for a walk.'
'I am under an obligation to them for staying away today, at any
rate,' said the vicar. 'The congregation can never be too small for
a maiden sermon.'
'I got a ton and a half at Bradley's in High Street,' said the
archdeacon, 'and it was a complete take in. I don't believe there
was five hundred-weight of guano in it.'
'That Bradley never has anything good,' said Miss Tborne, who had
just caught the name during her whisperings with Eleanor. 'And such
a nice shop as there used to be in that very house before he came.
Wilfred, don't you remember what good things old Ambleoff used to
'There have been three men since Ambleoff's time,' said the
archdeacon, 'and each as bad as the other. But who gets it for you
at Bristol, Thorne?'
'I ran up myself this year and bought it out of the ship. I am
afraid as the evenings get shorter, Mr Arabin, you'll find the
reading desk too dark. I must send a fellow with an axe and make
him lop off some of those branches.'
Mr Arabin declared that the morning light at any rate was perfect,
and deprecated any interference with the lime trees. And then they
took a stroll out among the trim parterres, and Mr Arabin explained
to Mrs Bold the difference between a naiad and a dryad, and dilated
on vases and the shapes of urns. Miss Thorne busied herself among
the pansies; and her brother, finding it quite impracticable to
give anything of a peculiarly Sunday tone to the conversation,
abandoned the attempt, and had it out with the archdeacon about the
At three o'clock they again went into church; and now Mr Arabin
read the service and the archdeacon preached. Nearly the same
congregation was present, with some adventurous pedestrians from
the city, who had not thought the heat of the mid-day August sun
too great to deter them. The archdeacon took his text from the
Epistle of Philemon. 'I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I
have begotten in my bonds.' From such a text it may be imagined the
kind of sermon which Dr Grantly preached, and on the whole it was
neither dull, nor bad, nor out of place.
He told them it had become his duty to look about for a pastor for
them; to supply the place of one who had been long among them; and
that in this manner he regarded as a son him whom he had selected,
as St Paul had regarded the young disciple whom he sent forth. Then
he took a little merit to himself for having studiously provided
the best man he could without reference to patronage or favour; but
he did not say that the best man according to his views was he who
was best able to subdue Mr Slope, and make that gentleman's
situation in Barchester too hot to be comfortable. As to the bonds,
they had consisted in the exceeding struggle which he had made to
get a good clergyman for them. He deprecated any comparison between
himself and St Paul, but said that he was entitled to beseech them
for their good will towards Mr Arabin, in the same manner that the
apostle had besought Philemon and his household with regard to
The archdeacon's sermon, text, blessing and all, was concluded
within the half hour. Then they shook hands with their Ullathorne
friends, and returned to Plumstead. 'Twas thus that Mr Arabin read
himself in at St Ewold's.
MR SLOPE'S MANAGES MATTERS VERY CLEVERLY AT PUDDINGDALE
The next two weeks passed pleasantly enough at Plumstead. The whole
party there assembled seemed to get on well together. Eleanor made
the house agreeable, and the archdeacon and Mrs Grantly seemed to
have forgotten her injury as regarded Mr Slope. Mr Harding had his
violoncello, and played to them while his daughters accompanied
him. Johnny Bold, by the help either of Mr Rerechild or else by
that of his coral and carrot-juice, got through his teething
troubles. There had been gaieties too of all sorts. They had dined
at Ullathorne, and the Thornes had dined at the rectory. Eleanor
had been duly put to stand on her box, and in that position had
found herself quite unable to express her opinion on the merits of
flounces, such having been the subject given to try her elocution.
Mr Arabin had of course been much in his own parish, looking to the
doings at his vicarage, calling on his parishioners, and taking on
himself the duties of his new calling. But still he had been every
evening at Plumstead, and Mrs Grantly was partly willing to agree
with her husband that he was a pleasant inmate in a house.
They had also been at a dinner party at Dr Stanhope's, of which Mr
Arabin had made one. He also, moth-like, burnt his wings in the
flames of the signora's candle. Mrs Bold, too, had been there, and
had felt somewhat displeased with the taste, want of taste she
called it, shown by Mr Arabin in paying so much attention to Madame
Neroni. It was as infallible that Madeline should displease and
irritate the women, as that she should charm and captivate the men.
The one result followed naturally on the other. It was quite true
that Mr Arabin had been charmed. He thought her a very clever and a
very handsome woman; he thought also that her peculiar afflictions
entitled her to the sympathy of all. He had never, he said, met so
much suffering joined to such perfect beauty and so clear a mind.
'Twas thus he spoke of the signora coming home in the archdeacon's
carriage; and Eleanor by no means liked to hear the praise. It was,
however, exceedingly unjust of her to be angry with Mr Arabin, as
she had herself spent a very pleasant evening with Bertie Stanhope,
who had taken her down to dinner, and had not left her side for one
moment after the gentlemen came out of the dining-room. It was
unfair that she should amuse herself with Bertie and yet begrudge
her new friend his licence of amusing himself with Bertie's sister.
And yet she did so. She was half angry with him in the carriage,
and said something about meretricious manners. Mr Arabin did not
understand the ways of women very well, or else he might have
flattered himself that Eleanor was in love with him.
But Eleanor was not in love with him. How many shades there are
between love and indifference, and how little the graduated scale
is understood! She had now been nearly three weeks in the same
house with Mr Arabin, and had received much of his attention, and
listened daily to his conversation. He had usually devoted at least
some portion of his evening to her exclusively. At Dr Stanhope's he
had devoted himself exclusively to another. It does not require
that a woman should be in love to be irritated at this; it does not
require that she should even acknowledge to herself that it was
unpleasant to her. Eleanor had no such self-knowledge. She thought
in her own heart it was only on Mr Arabin's account that she
regretted that he could condescend to be amused by the signora. 'I
thought he had more mind,' she said to herself, as she sat watching
her baby's cradle on her return from the party. 'After all, I
believe Mr Stanhope is the pleasanter man of the two.' Alas for the
memory of poor John Bold! Eleanor was not in love with Bertie
Stanhope, nor was she in love with Mr Arabin. But her devotion to
her late husband was fast fading, when she could revolve in her
mind, over the cradle of his infant, the faults and failings of
other aspirants to her favour.
Will any one blame my heroine for this? Let him or her rather thank
God for all His goodness,--for His mercy endureth for ever.
Eleanor, in truth, was not in love; neither was Mr Arabin. Neither
indeed was Bertie Stanhope, though he had already found occasion to
say nearly as much as that he was. The widow's cap had prevented
him from making a positive declaration, when otherwise he would
have considered himself entitled to do so on a third or fourth
interview. It was, after all, but a small cap now, and had but
little of the weeping-willow left in its construction. It is
singular how these emblems of grief fade away by unseen gradations.
Each pretends to be the counterpart of the forerunner, and yet the
last little bit of crimped white crape that sits so jauntily on the
back of the head, is as dissimilar to the first huge mountain of
woe which disfigured the face of the weeper, as the state of the
Hindoo is to the jointure of the English dowager.
But let it be clearly understood that Eleanor was in love with no
one, and that no one was in love with Eleanor. Under these
circumstances her anger against Mr Arabin did not last long, and
before two days were over they were both as good friends as ever.
She could not but like him, for every hour spent in his company was
spent pleasantly. And yet she could not quite like him, for there
was always apparent in his conversation a certain feeling on his
part that he hardly thought it worth his while to be in earnest. It
was almost as though he were playing with a child. She knew well
enough that he was in truth a sober thoughtful man, who in some
matters and on some occasions could endure an agony of earnestness.
And yet to her he was always gently playful. Could she have seen
his brow once clouded she might have learnt to love him.
So things went on at Plumstead, and on the whole not unpleasantly,
till a huge storm darkened the horizon, and came down upon the
inhabitants of the rectory with all the fury of a water-spout. It
was astonishing how in a few minutes the whole face of the heavens
was changed. The party broke up from breakfast in perfect harmony;
but fierce passions had arisen before the evening, which did not
admit of their sitting at the same board for dinner. To explain
this, it will be necessary to go back a little.
It will be remembered that the bishop expressed to Mr Slope in his
dressing-room, his determination that Mr Quiverful should be
confirmed in his appointment to the hospital, and that his lordship
requested Mr Slope to communicate this decision to the archdeacon.
It will also be remembered that the archdeacon had indignantly
declined seeing Mr Slope, and had, instead, written a strong letter
to the bishop, in which he all but demanded the situation of warden
for Mr Harding. To this letter the archdeacon received an immediate
formal reply from Mr Slope, in which it was stated, that the bishop
had received and would give his best consideration to the
The archdeacon felt himself somewhat checkmated by this reply. What
could he do with a man who would neither see him, nor argue with
him by letter, and who had undoubtedly the power of appointing any
clergyman he pleased? He had consulted with Mr Arabin, who had
suggested the propriety of calling in the aid of the master of
Lazarus. 'If,' said he, 'you and Dr Gwynne formally declare your
intention of waiting upon the bishop, the bishop will not dare to
refuse to see you; and if two such men as you see him together, you
will probably not leave him without carrying your point.'
The archdeacon did not quite like admitting the necessity of his
being backed by the master of Lazarus before he could obtain
admission into the episcopal palace of Barchester; but still he
felt that the advice was good, and he resolved to take it. He wrote
again to the bishop, expressing a hope that nothing further would
be done in the matter of the hospital, till the consideration
promised by his lordship had been given, and then sent off a warm
appeal to his friend the master, imploring him to come to Plumstead
and assist in driving the bishop into compliance. The master had
rejoined, raising some difficulty, but not declining; and the
archdeacon again pressed his point, insisting on the necessity for
immediate action. Dr Gwynne unfortunately had the gout, and could
therefore name no immediate day, but still agreed to come, if it
should be finally found necessary. So the matter stood, as regarded
the party at Plumstead.
But Mr Harding had another friend fighting the battle for him,
quite as powerful as the master of Lazarus, and this was Mr Slope.
Though the bishop had so pertinaciously insisted on giving way to
his wife in the matter of the hospital, Mr Slope did not think it
necessary to abandon the object. He had, he thought, daily more and
more reason to imagine that the widow would receive his overtures
favourably, and he could not but feel that Mr Harding at the
hospital, and placed there by his means would be more likely to
receive him as a son-in-law, than Mr Harding growling in opposition
and disappointment under the archdeacon's wing at Plumstead.
Moreover, to give Mr Slope due credit, he was actuated by greater
motives even than these. He wanted a wife, and he wanted money, but
he wanted power more than either. He had fully realised the fact
that he must come to blows with Mrs Proudie. He had no desire to
remain in Barchester as her chaplain. Sooner than do so, he would
risk the loss of his whole connection with the diocese. What! Was
he to feel within him the possession of no ordinary talents; was he
to know himself to be courageous, firm, and, in matters where his
conscience did not interfere, unscrupulous; and yet be contented to
be the working factotum of a woman-prelate? Mr Slope had higher
ideas of his own destiny. Either he or Mrs Proudie must go to the
wall; and now had come the time when he would try which it would
The bishop had declared that Mr Quiverful should be the new warden.
As Mr Slope went down stairs prepared to see the archdeacon if
necessary, but fully satisfied that no such necessity would arise,
he declared to himself that Mr Harding should be warden. With the
object of carrying this point he rode over to Puddingdale, and had
a further interview with the worthy expectant of clerical good
things. Mr Quiverful was on the whole a worthy man. The impossible
task of bringing up as ladies and gentlemen fourteen children on an
income which was insufficient to give them with decency the common
necessities of life, had had an effect upon him not beneficial
either to his spirit, or his keen sense of honour. Who can boast
that he would have supported such a burden with a different result?
Mr Quiverful was an honest, pain- staking, drudging man; anxious,
indeed, for bread and meat, anxious for means to quiet his butcher
and cover with returning smiles the now sour countenance of the
baker's wife, but anxious also to be right with his own conscience.
He was not careful, as another might be who sat on an easier
worldly seat, to stand well with those around him, to shun a breath
which might sully his name, or a rumour which might affect his
honour. He could not afford such niceties of conduct, such moral
luxuries. It must suffice for him to be ordinarily honest according
the ordinary honesty of the world's ways, and to let men's tongues
wag as they would.
He had felt that his brother clergymen, men whom he had known for
the last twenty years, looked coldly on him from the first moment
that he had shown himself willing to sit at the feet of Mr Slope;
he had seen that their looks grew colder still, when it became
bruited about that he was to be the bishop's new warden at Hiram's
hospital. This was painful enough; but it was the cross which he
was doomed to bear. He thought of his wife, whose last new silk
dress was six years in wear. He thought of all his young flock,
whom he could hardly take to church with him on Sundays, for there
was not decent shoes and stockings for them all to wear. He thought
of the well-worn sleeves of his own black coat, and of the stern
face of the draper from whom he would fain ask for cloth to make
another, did he not know that the credit would be refused him. Then
he thought of the comfortable house in Barchester, of the
comfortable income, of his boys sent to school, of the girls with
books in their hands instead of darning needles, of his wife's face
again covered with smiles, and of his daily board again covered
with plenty. He thought of all these things; and do thou also,
reader, think of them, and then wonder, if thou canst, that Mr
Slope had appeared to him to possess all those good gifts which
would grace a bishop's chaplain. 'How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.'
Why, moreover, should the Barchester clergy have looked so coldly
on Mr Quiverful? Had they not all shown that they regarded with
complacency the loaves and fishes of their mother church? Had they
not all, by some hook or crook, done better for themselves than he
had done? They were not burdened as he was burdened. Dr Grantly had
five children, and nearly as many thousands a year on which to feed
them. It was very well for him to turn up his nose at a new bishop
who could do nothing for him, and a chaplain who was beneath his
notice; but it was cruel in a man so circumstanced to set the world
against the father of fourteen children because he was anxious to
obtain for them an honourable support! He, Mr Quiverful, had not
asked for the wardenship; he had not even accepted it till he had
been assured that Mr Harding had refused it. How hard then that he
should be blamed for doing that which not to have done would have
argued a most insane imprudence!
Thus in this matter of the hospital poor Mr Quiverful had his
trials; and he had also his consolations. On the whole the
consolations were the more vivid of the two. The stern draper heard
of the coming promotion, and the wealth of his warehouse was at Mr
Quiverful's disposal. Coming events cast their shadows before, and
the coming event of Mr Quiverful's transference to Barchester
produced a delicious shadow in the shape of a new outfit for Mrs
Quiverful and her three elder daughters. Such consolations come
home to the heart of a man, and quite home to the heart of a woman.
Whatever the husband might feel, the wife cared nothing for the
frowns of the dean, archdeacon, or prebendary. To her the outsides
and insides of her husband and fourteen children were everything.
In her bosom every other ambition had been swallowed up in that
maternal ambition of seeing them and him and herself duly clad and
properly fed. It had come to that with her that life had now no
other purpose. She recked nothing of the imaginary rights of
others. She had no patience with her husband when he declared to
her that he could not accept the hospital unless he knew that Mr
Harding had refused it. Her husband had no right to be Quixotic at
the expense of fourteen children. The narrow escape of throwing
away his good fortune which her lord had had, almost paralysed her.
Now, indeed, they had received the full promise not only from Mr
Slope, but also from Mrs Proudie. Now, indeed, they might reckon
with safety on their good fortune. But what if it all had been
lost? What if her fourteen bairns had been resteeped to the hips in
poverty by the morbid sentimentality of their father? Mrs Quiverful
was just at present a happy woman, but yet it nearly took her
breath away when she thought of the risk they had run.
'I don't know what your father means when he talks so much of what
is due to Mr Harding,' she said to her eldest daughter. 'Does he
think that Mr Harding would give him L 450 out of fine feeling? And
what signifies it when he offends, as long as he gets the place? He
does not expect anything better. It passes me to think how your
father can be so soft, while everybody around him is so griping.'
This, while the rest of the world was accusing Mr Quiverful of
rapacity for promotion and disregard for his honour, the inner
world of his own household was falling foul of him, with equal
vehemence, for his willingness to sacrifice their interest to a
false feeling of sentimental pride. It is astonishing how much
difference the point of view makes in the aspect of all that we
Such was the feelings of the different members of the family at
Puddingdale on the occasion of Mr Slope's second visit. Mrs
Quiverful, as soon as she saw his horse coming up the avenue from
the vicarage gate, hastily packed up her huge basket of needlework,
and hurried herself and her daughter out of the room in which she
was sitting with her husband. 'It's Mr Slope,' she said. 'He's come
to settle with you about the hospital. I do hope we shall now be
able to move at once.' And she hastened to bid the maid of all work
to go to the door, so that the welcome great man might not be kept
Mr Slope thus found Mr Quiverful alone. Mrs Quiverful went off to
her kitchen and back settlements with anxious beating heart, almost
dreading that there might be some slip between the cup of her
happiness and the lip of her fruition, but yet comforting herself
with the reflection that after what had taken place, any such slip
could hardly be possible.
Mr Slope was all smiles as he shook his brother clergyman's hand,
and said that he had ridden over because he thought it right at
once to put Mr Quiverful in possession of the facts of the matter
regarding the wardenship of the hospital. As he spoke, the poor
expectant husband and father saw at a glance that his brilliant
hopes were to be dashed to the ground, and that his visitor was now
there for the purpose of unsaying what on his former visit he had
said. There was something in the tone of the voice, something in
the glance of the eye, which told the tale. Mr Quiverful knew it
all at once. He maintained his self-possession, however, smiled
with a slight unmeaning smile, and merely said that he was obliged
to Mr Slope for the trouble he was taking.
'It has been a troublesome matter from first to last,' said Mr
Slope; 'and the bishop has hardly known how to act. Between
ourselves--but mind this of course must go no farther, Mr
Mr Quiverful said of course that it should not. 'The truth is, that
poor Mr Harding has hardly known his own mind. You remember our
last conversation, no doubt.'
Mr Quiverful assured him that he remembered it very well indeed.
'You will remember that I told you that Mr Harding had refused to
return to the hospital.'
Mr Quiverful declared that nothing could be more distinct in his
'And acting on this refusal I suggested that you should take the
hospital,' continued Mr Slope.
'I understood you to say that the bishop had authorised you to
offer it to me.'
'Did I? Did I go so far as that? Well, perhaps it may be, that in
my anxiety on your behalf I did commit myself further than I should
have done. So far as my own memory serves me, I don't think I did
go quite so far as that. But I own I was very anxious that you
should get it; and I may have said more than was quite prudent.'
'But,' said Mr Quiverful, in his deep anxiety to prove his case,
'my wife received as distinct a promise from Mrs Proudie as one
human being could give to another.'
Mr Slope smiled, and gently shook his head. He meant that smile for
a pleasant smile, but it was diabolical in the eyes of the man he
was speaking to. 'Mrs Proudie!' he said. 'If we are to go to what
passes between the ladies in these matters, we shall really be in a
nest of troubles from which we shall never extricate ourselves. Mrs
Proudie is a most excellent lady, kind-hearted, charitable, pious,
and in every way estimable. But, my dear Mr Quiverful, the
patronage of the diocese is not in her hands.'
Mr Quiverful for a moment sat panic-stricken and silent. 'Am I to
understand, then, that I have received no promise?' he said, as
soon as he had sufficiently collected his thoughts.
'If you will allow me, I will tell you exactly how the matter
rests. You certainly did receive a promise conditional on Mr
Harding's refusal. I am sure you will do me the justice to remember
that you yourself declared that you could accept the appointment on
no other condition than the knowledge that Mr Harding had declined
'Yes,' said Mr Quiverful; 'I did say that, certainly.'
'Well; it now appears that he did not refuse it.'
'But surely you told me, and repeated it more than once, that he
had done so in your hearing.'
'So I understood him. But it seems I was in error. But don't for a
moment, Mr Quiverful, suppose that I mean to throw you over. No.
Having held out my hand to a man in your position, with your large
family and pressing claims, I am not now going to draw it back
again. I only want you to act with me fairly and honestly.'
'Whatever I do, I shall endeavour at any rate to act fairly,' said
the poor man, feeling that he had to fall back for support on the
spirit of martyrdom within him.
'I am sure you will,' said the other. 'I am sure you have no wish
to obtain possession of an income which belongs by all rights to
another. No man knows better than you do Mr Harding's history, or
can better appreciate his character. Mr Harding is very desirous of
returning to his old position, and the bishop feels that he is at
the present moment somewhat hampered, though of course he is not
bound, by the conversation which took place on the matter between
you and me.'
'Well,' said Mr Quiverful, dreadfully doubtful as to what his
conduct under such circumstances should be, and fruitlessly
striving to harden his nerves with some of that instinct of
self-preservation which made his wife so bold.
'The wardenship of this little hospital is not the only thing in
the bishop's gift, Mr Quiverful, nor is it by many degrees the
best. And his lordship is not the man to forget any one whom he has
once marked with approval. If you would allow me to advise you as a
'Indeed I shall be grateful to you,' said the poor vicar of
'I should advise you to withdraw from any opposition to Mr
Harding's claims. If you persist in your demand, I do not think you
will ultimately succeed. Mr Harding has all but a positive right to
the place. But if you will allow me to inform his lordship that you
decline to stand in Mr Harding's way, I think I may promise
you--though, by the bye, it must not be taken as a formal
promise--that the bishop will not allow you to be a poorer man than
you would have been had you become warden.'
Mr Quiverful sat in his arm chair silent, gazing at vacancy. What
was he to say? All this that came from Mr Slope was so true. Mr
Harding had a right to the hospital. The bishop had a great many
good things to give away. Both the bishop and Mr Slope would be
excellent friends and terrible enemies to a man in his position.
And then he had no proof of any promise; he could not force the
bishop to appoint him.
'Well, Mr Quiverful, what do you say about it?'
'Oh, of course, whatever you think, Mr Slope. It's a great
disappointment, a very great disappointment. I won't deny that I am
a very poor man, Mr Slope.'
'In the end, Mr Quiverful, you will find that it will have been
better for you.'
The interview ended in Mr Slope receiving a full renunciation from
Mr Quiverful of any claim he might have to the appointment in
question. It was only given verbally and without witnesses; but
then the original promise was made in the same way.
Mr Slope assured him that he should not be forgotten, and then rode
back to Barchester, satisfied that he would now be able to mould
the bishop to his wishes.
FOURTEEN ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF MR QUIVERFUL'S CLAIMS
We have most of us heard of the terrible anger of a lioness when,
surrounded by her cubs, she guards her prey. Few of us wish to
disturb the mother of a litter of puppies when mouthing a bone in
the midst of her young family. Medea and her children are familiar
to us, and so is the grief of Constance. Mrs Quiverful, when she
first heard from her husband the news which he had to impart, felt
within her bosom all the rage of a lioness, the rapacity of the
hound, the fury of the tragic queen, and the deep despair of a
Doubting, but yet hardly fearing, what might have been the tenor of
Mr Slope's discourse, she rushed back to her husband as soon as the
front door was closed behind the visitor. It was well for Mr Slope
that he had so escaped,--the anger of such a woman, at such a
moment, would have cowed even him. As a general rule, it is highly
desirable that ladies should keep their temper; a woman when she
storms always makes herself ugly, and usually ridiculous also.
There is nothing so odious to man as a virago. Though Theseus loved
an Amazon, he showed his love but roughly; and from the time of
Theseus downward, no man ever wished to have his wife remarkable
rather for forward prowess than retiring gentleness.
Such may be laid down as a general rule; and few women should allow
themselves to deviate from it, and then only on rare occasions. But
if there be a time when a woman may let her hair to the winds, when
she may loose her arms, and scream out trumpet-tongued to the ears
of men, it is when nature calls out within her not for her own
wants, but for the wants of those whom her womb has borne, whom her
breasts have suckled, for those who look to her for their daily
bread as naturally as man looks to his Creator.
There was nothing poetic in the nature of Mrs Quiverful. She was
neither a Medea nor a Constance. When angry, she spoke out her
anger in plain words, and in a tone which might have been modulated
with advantage; but she did so, at any rate, without affectation.
Now, without knowing it, she rose to a tragic vein.
'Well, my dear; we are not to have it.' Such were the words with
which her ears were greeted when she entered the parlour, still hot
from the kitchen fire. And the face of her husband spoke even more
plainly than his words:--"E'en such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone, Drew Priam's curtain in
the dead of night."
'What!' said she,--and Mrs Siddons could not have put more passion
into a single syllable,--'What! Not have it? Who says so?' And she
sat opposite to her husband, with her elbows on the table, her
hands clasped together, and her coarse, solid, but once handsome
face stretched over it towards him.
She sat as silent as death while he told his story, and very
dreadful to him her silence was. He told it very lamely and badly,
but still in such a manner that she soon understood the whole of
'And so you have resigned it?' said she.
'I have had no opportunity of accepting it,' he replied. 'I had no
witnesses to Mr Slope's offer, even if that offer would bind the
bishop. It was better for me, on the whole, to keep on good terms
with such men than to fight for what I should never get!'
'Witnesses!' she screamed, rising quickly to her feet, and walking
up and down the room. 'Do clergymen require witnesses to their
words? He made the promise in the bishop's name, and if it is to be
broken I'll know the reason why. Did he not positively say that the
bishop had sent him to offer you the place?'
'He did, my dear. But that is now nothing to the purpose.'
'It is everything to the purpose, Mr Quiverful. Witnesses indeed!
And then to talk of your honour being questioned because you wish
to provide for fourteen children. It is everything to the purpose;
and so they shall know, if I scream it into their ears from the
town cross of Barchester.'
'You forget, Letitia, that the bishop has so many things in his
gift. We must wait a little longer. That is all.'
'Wait! Shall we feed the children by waiting? Will waiting put
George and Tom, and Sam, out into the world? Will it enable my poor
girls to give up some of their drudgery? Will waiting make Bessy
and Jane fit even to be governesses? Will waiting pay for the
things we got in Barchester last week?'
'It is all we can do, my dear. The disappointment is as much to me
as to you; and yet, God knows, I feel it more for your sake than my
Mrs Quiverful was looking full into her husband's face, and saw a
small hot tear appear on each of those furrowed cheeks. This was
too much for her woman's heart. He also had risen, and was standing
with his back to the empty grate. She rushed towards him, and
seizing him in her arms, sobbed aloud upon his bosom.
'Yes, you are too good, too soft, too yielding,' she said at last.
'These men, when they want you, they use you like a cat's-paw; and
when they want you no longer, they throw you aside like an old
shoe. This is twice they have treated you so.'
'In one way this will be for the better,' argued he. 'It will make
the bishop feel that he is bound to do something for me.'
'At any rate, he shall hear of it,' said the lady, again reverting
to her more angry mood. 'At any rate he shall hear of it, and that
loudly; and so shall she. She little knows Letitia Quiverful, if
she thinks I will sit down quietly with the loss after all that
passed between us at the palace. If there's any feeling within her,
I'll make her ashamed of herself,'--and she paced the room again,
stamping the floor as she went with her fat heavy foot.
'Good heavens! What a heart she must have within her to treat in
such a way as this the father of fourteen unprovided children!'
Mr Quiverful proceeded to explain that he didn't think that Mrs
Proudie had anything to do with it.
'Don't tell me,' said Mrs Quiverful; 'I know more about it than
that. Doesn't all the world know that Mrs Proudie is bishop of
Barchester, and that Mr Slope is merely her creature? Wasn't it she
that made me the promise just as though the thing was in her own
particular gift? I tell you, it was that woman who sent him over
here to-day because, for some reason of her own, she wants to go
back on her word.'
'My dear, you're wrong--'
'Now, Q, don't be so soft,' she continued. 'Take my word for it,
the bishop knows no more about it than Jemima does.' Jemima was the
two-year old. 'And if you'll take my advice, you'll lose no time in
going over and seeing him yourself.'
Soft, however, as Mr Quiverful might be, he would not allow himself
to be talked out of his opinion on this occasion; and proceeded
with much minuteness to explain to his wife the tone in which Mr
Slope had spoken of Mrs Proudie's interference in diocesan matters.
As he did so, a new idea gradually instilled itself into the
matron's head, and a new course of action presented itself to her
judgement. What if, after all, Mrs Proudie knew nothing of this
visit of Mr Slope's? In that case, might it not be possible that
that lady would still be staunch to her in this matter, still stand
her friend, and, perhaps, possibly carry her through in opposition
to Mr Slope? Mrs Quiverful said nothing as this vague hope occurred
to her, but listened with more than ordinary patience to what her
husband had to say. While he was still explaining that in all
probability the world was wrong in its estimation of Mrs Proudie's
power and authority, she had fully made up her mind as to her
course of action. She did not, however, proclaim her intention. She
shook her head continuously, as he continued his narration; and
when he had completed she rose to go, merely observing that it was
cruel, cruel treatment. She then asked if he would mind waiting for
a late dinner instead of dining at their usual hour of three, and,
having received from him a concession on this point, she proceeded
to carry her purpose into execution.
She determined that she would at once go to the palace; that she
would do so, if possible, before Mrs Proudie could have had an
interview with Mr Slope; and that she would be either submissive,
piteous and pathetic, or indignant violent and exacting, according
to the manner in which she was received.
She was quite confident in her own power. Strengthened as she was
by the pressing wants of fourteen children, she felt that she could
make her way through legions of episcopal servants, and force
herself, if need be, into the presence of the lady who had so
wronged her. She had no shame about it, no mauvaise honte, no dread
of archdeacons. She would, as she declared to her husband, make her
wail heard in the market-place if she did not get redress and
justice. It might be very well for an unmarried young curate to be
shamefaced in such matters; it might be all right that a smug
rector, really in want of nothing, but still looking for better
preferment, should carry out his affairs decently under the rose.
But Mrs Quiverful, with fourteen children, had given over being
shamefaced, and, in some things, had given over being decent. If it
were intended that she should be ill used in the manner proposed by
Mr Slope, it should not be done under the rose. All the world would
know of it.
In her present mood, Mrs Quiverful was not over careful about her
attire. She tied her bonnet under her chin, threw her shawl over
her shoulders, armed herself with the old family cotton umbrella,
and started for Barchester. A journey to the palace was not quite
so easy a thing for Mrs Quiverful as for our friend at Plumstead.
Plumstead is nine miles from Barchester, and Puddingdale is but
four. But the archdeacon could order round his brougham, and his
high-trotting fast bay gelding would take him into the city within
the hour. There was no brougham in the coach-house of Puddingdale
Vicarage, no bay horse in the stables. There was no method of
locomotion for its inhabitants but that which nature had assigned
Mrs Quiverful was a broad heavy woman, not young, nor given to
walking. In her kitchen, and in the family dormitories, she was
active enough; but her pace and gait were not adapted for the road.
A walk into Barchester and back in the middle of an August day
would be to her a terrible task, if not altogether impracticable.
There was living in the parish about half a mile from the vicarage
on the road to the city, a decent, kindly farmer, well to do as
regards this world, and so far mindful of the next that he attended
his parish church with decent regularity. To him Mrs Quiverful had
before now appealed in some of her more pressing family troubles,
and had not appealed in vain. At his door she now presented
herself, and, having explained to his wife that most urgent
business required her to go at once to Barchester, begged that
Farmer Subsoil would take her thither in his tax-cart. The farmer
did not reject her plan; and, as soon as Prince could be got into
his collar, they started on their journey.
Mrs Quiverful did not mention the purpose of her business, nor did
the farmer alloy his kindness by any unseemly questions. She merely
begged to be put down at the bridge going into the city, and to be
taken up again at the same place in the course of two hours. The
farmer promised to be punctual to his appointment, and the lady,
supported by her umbrella, took the short cut to the close, and in
a few minutes was at the bishop's door.
Hitherto she had felt no dread with regard to the coming interview.
She had felt nothing but an indignant longing to pour forth her
claims, and declare her wrongs, if those claims were not fully
admitted. But now the difficulty of her situation touched her a
little. She had been at the palace once before, but then she went
to give grateful thanks. Those who have thanks to return for
favours received find easy admittance to the halls of the great.
Such is not always the case with men, or even women, who have
favours to beg. Still less easy is access for those who demand the
fulfilment of promises already made.
Mrs Quiverful had not been slow to learn the ways of the world. She
knew all this, and she knew also that her cotton umbrella and all
but ragged shawl would not command respect in the eyes of the
palace servants. If she were too humble, she knew well that she
would never succeed. To overcome by imperious overbearing with such
a shawl as hers upon her shoulders, and such a bonnet on her head,
would have required a personal bearing very superior to that which
nature had endowed her. Of this also Mrs Quiverful was aware. She
must make it known she was the wife of a gentleman and a clergyman,
and must yet condescend to conciliate.
The poor lady knew but one way to overcome these difficulties at
the very threshold of her enterprise, and to this she resorted. Low
as were the domestic funds at Puddingdale, she still retained
possession of a half-crown, and this she sacrificed to the avarice
of Mrs Proudie's metropolitan sesquipedalian serving-man. She was,
she said, Mrs Quiverful of Puddingdale, the wife of the Rev. Mr
Quiverful. She wished to see Mrs Proudie. It was indeed quite
indispensible that she should see Mrs Proudie. James Fitzplush
looked worse than dubious, did not know whether his lady were out,
or engaged, or in her bed-room; thought it most probable that she
was subject to one of these or to some cause that would make her
invisible; but Mrs Quiverful could sit down in the waiting-room,
while inquiry was being made of Mrs Proudie.
'Look here, man,' said Mrs Quiverful; 'I must see her;' and she put
her card and half-crown--think of it, my reader, think of it; her
last half-crown--into the man's hand, and sat herself down on a
chair in the waiting-room.
Whether the bribe carried the day, or whether the bishop's wife
really chose to see the vicar's wife, it boots not now to inquire.
The man returned, and begging Mrs Quiverful to follow him, ushered
her into the presence of the mistress of the diocese.
Mrs Quiverful at once saw that her patroness was in a smiling
humour. Triumph sat throned upon her brow, and all the joys of
dominion hovered about her curls. Her lord had that morning
contested with her a great point. He had received an invitation to
spend a couple of days with the archbishop. His soul longed for the
gratification. Not a word, however, in his grace's note alluded to
the fact that he was a married man; and, if he went at all, he must
go alone. This necessity would have presented an insurmountable bar
to the visit, or have militated against the pleasure, had he been
able to go without reference to Mrs Proudie. But this he could not
do. He could not order his portmanteau to be packed, and start with
his own man, merely telling the lady of his heart that he would
probably be back on Saturday. There are men--may we not rather say
monsters?--who do such things; and there are wives--may we not
rather say slaves?--who put up with such usage. But Dr and Mrs
Proudie were not among the number.
The bishop with some beating about the bush, made the lady
understand that he very much wished to go. The lady, without any
beating about the bush, made the bishop understand that she
wouldn't hear of it. It would be useless here to repeat the
arguments that were used on each side, and needless to record the
result. Those who are married will understand very well how the
battle was lost and won; and those who are single will never
understand it till they learn the lesson which experience alone can
give. When Mrs Quiverful was shown into Mrs Proudie's room, that
lady had only returned a few minutes from her lord. But before she
left him she had seen the answer to the archbishop's note written
and sealed. No wonder that her face was wreathed with smiles as she
received Mrs Quiverful.
She instantly spoke of the subject which was so near the heart of
her visitor. 'Well, Mrs Quiverful,' said she, 'is it decided yet
when you are to move to Barchester?'
'That woman', as she had an hour or two since been called, became
instantly re-endowed with all the graces that can adorn a bishop's
wife. Mrs Quiverful immediately saw that her business was to be
piteous, and that nothing was to be gained by indignation; nothing,
indeed, unless she could be indignant in company with her
'Oh, Mrs Proudie,' she began, 'I fear we are not to move to
Barchester at all.'
'Why not?' said the lady sharply, dropping at a moment's notice her
smiles and condescension, and turning with her sharp quick way to
business which she saw at a glance was important.
And then Mrs Quiverful told her tale. As she progressed in the
history of her wrongs she perceived that the heavier she leant upon
Mr Slope the blacker became Mrs Proudie's brow, but that such
blackness was not injurious to her own cause. When Mr Slope was at
Puddingdale vicarage that morning she had regarded him as the
creature of the lady-bishop; now she perceived that they were
enemies. She admitted her mistake to herself without any pain or
humiliation. She had but one feeling, and that was confined to her
family. She cared little how she twisted and turned among these
new-comers at the bishop's palace as long as she could twist her
husband into the warden's house. She cared not which was her friend
or which was her enemy, if only she could get this preference which
she so sorely wanted.
She told her tale, and Mrs Proudie listened to it almost in
silence. She told how Mr Slope had cozened her husband into
resigning his claim, and had declared that it was the bishop's will
that none but Mr Harding should be warden. Mrs Proudie's brow
became blacker and blacker. At last she started from her chair, and
begging Mrs Quiverful to sit and wait for her return, marched out
of the room.
'Oh, Mrs Proudie, it's for fourteen children--for fourteen
children.' Such was the burden that fell on her ear as she closed
the door behind her.
MRS PROUDIE TAKES A FALL
It was hardly an hour since Mrs Proudie had left her husband's
apartment victorious, and yet so indomitable was her courage that
she now returned thither panting for another combat. She was
greatly angry with what she thought was his duplicity. He had so
clearly given her a promise on this matter of the hospital. He had
been already so absolutely vanquished on that point. Mrs Proudie
began to feel that if every affair was to be thus discussed and
battled about twice and even thrice, the work of the diocese would
be too much even for her.
Without knocking at the door she walked quickly into her husband's
room and found him seated at his office table, with Mr Slope
opposite to him. Between his fingers was the very note which he had
written to the archbishop in her presence--and it was open! Yes, he
had absolutely violated the seal which had been made sacred by her
approval. They were sitting in deep conclave, and it was too clear
that the purport of the archbishop's invitation had been absolutely
canvassed again, after it had been already debated and decided on
in obedience to her behests! Mr Slope rose from his chair, and
bowed slightly. The two opposing spirits looked each other fully in
the face, and they knew that they were looking each at an enemy.
'What is this, bishop, about Mr Quiverful?' said she, coming to the
end of the table and standing there.
Mr Slope did not allow the bishop to answer, but replied himself.
'I have been out to Puddingdale this morning, ma'am, and have seen
Mr Quiverful. Mr Quiverful has abandoned his claim to the hospital,
because he is now aware that Mr Harding is desirous to fill his old
place. Under these circumstances I have strongly advised his
lordship to nominate Mr Harding.'
'Mr Quiverful has not abandoned anything,' said the lady, with a
very imperious voice. 'His lordship's word has been pledged to him,
and it must be respected.'
The bishop still remained silent. He was anxiously desirous of
making his old enemy bite the dust beneath his feet. His new ally
had told him that nothing was more easy for him than to do so. The
ally was there now at his elbow to help him, and yet his courage
failed him. It is so hard to conquer when the prestige of the
former victories is all against one. It is so hard for the cock who
has once been beaten out of his yard to resume his courage and
again take a proud place upon a dunghill.
'Perhaps I ought not to interfere,' said Mr Slope, 'but yet--'
'Certainly you ought not,' said the infuriated dame.
'But yet,' continued Mr Slope, not regarding the interruption, 'I
have thought it my imperative duty to recommend to the bishop not
to slight Mr Harding's claims.'
'Mr Harding should have known his own mind,' said the lady.
'If Mr Harding be not replaced at the hospital, his lordship will
have to encounter much ill will, not only in the diocese, but in
the world at large. Besides, taking a higher ground, his lordship,
as I understood, feels it to be his duty to gratify, in this
matter, so very worthy a man and so good a clergyman as Mr
'And what is to become of the Sabbath-day school, and of the Sunday
services in the hospital?' said Mrs Proudie, with something very
nearly approaching to a sneer on her face.
'I understand that Mr Harding makes no objection to the Sabbath-day
school,' said Mr Slope. 'And as to the hospital services, that
matter will be best discussed after his appointment. If he has any
personal objection, then, I fear, the matter must rest.'
'You have a very easy conscience in such matters, Mr Slope,' said
'I should not have an easy conscience,' he rejoined, 'but a
conscience very far from being easy, if anything said or done by me
should lead the bishop to act unadvisedly on this matter. It is
clear that in the interview I had with Mr Harding, I misunderstood
'And it is equally clear that you have misunderstood Mr Quiverful,'
said she, not at the top of her wrath. 'What business have you at
all with these interviews? Who desired you to go to Mr Quiverful
this morning? Who commissioned you to manage this affair? Will you
answer me, sir?--who sent you to Mr Quiverful this morning?'
There was a dead pause in the room. Mr Slope had risen from his
chair, and was standing with his hand on the back of it, looking at
first very solemn and now very black. Mrs Proudie was standing as
she had at first placed herself, at the end of the table, and as
she interrogated her foe she struck her hand upon it with almost
more than feminine vigour. The bishop was sitting in his easy chair
twiddling his thumbs, turning his eyes now to his wife, and now to
his chaplain, as each took up the cudgels. How comfortable it would
be if they could fight it out between them without the necessity of
any interference on his part; fight it out so that one should kill
the other utterly, as far as the diocesan life was concerned, so
that he, the bishop, might know clearly by whom it behoved him to
be led. There would be the comfort of quiet in either case; but if
the bishop had a wish as to which might prove the victor, that wish
was certainly not antagonistic to Mr Slope.
'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know', is an
old saying, and perhaps a true one; but the bishop had not yet
realised the truth of it.
'Will you answer me, sir?' she repeated. 'Who instructed you to
call on Mr Quiverful this morning?' There was another pause. 'Do
you intend to answer me, sir?'
'I think, Mrs Proudie, that under all the circumstances it will be
better for me not to answer such a question,' said Mr Slope. Mr
Slope had many tones in his voice, all duly under his command;
among them was a sanctified low tone, and a sanctified loud tone;
and he now used the former.
'Did anyone send you, sir?'
'Mrs Proudie,' said Mr Slope, 'I am quite aware how much I owe to
your kindness. I am aware also what is due by courtesy from a
gentleman to a lady. But there are higher considerations than
either of those, and I hope I shall be forgiven if I now allow
myself to be actuated solely by them. My duty in this matter is to
his lordship, and I can admit of no questioning but from him. He
has approved of what I have done, and you must excuse me if I say,
that having that approval and my own, I want none other.'
What horrid words were these which greeted the ear of Mrs Proudie?
The matter was indeed too clear. There was premeditated mutiny in
the camp. Not only had ill-conditioned minds become insubordinate
by the fruition of a little power. The bishop had not yet been
twelve months in this chair, and rebellion had already reared her
hideous head within the palace. Anarchy and misrule would quickly
follow, unless she took immediate and strong measures to put down
the conspiracy which she had detected.
'Mr Slope,' she said, with slow and dignified voice, differing much
from that which she had hitherto used, 'Mr Slope, I will trouble
you, if you please, to leave the apartment. I wish to speak to my
Mr Slope also felt that everything depended on the present
interview. Should the bishop now be repetticoated, his thraldom
would be complete and for ever. The present moment was peculiarly
propitious for rebellion. The bishop had clearly committed himself
by breaking the seal of the answer to the archbishop; he had
therefore fear to influence him. Mr Slope had told him that no
consideration ought to induce him to refuse the archbishop's
invitation; he had therefore hoped to influence him. He had
accepted Mr Quiverful's resignation, and therefore dreaded having
to renew that matter with his wife. He had been screwed up to the
pitch of asserting a will of his own, and might possibly be carried
on till by an absolute success he should have been taught how
possible it was to succeed. Now was the moment for victory or rout.
It was now that Mr Slope must make himself master of the diocese,
or else resign his place and begin his search for fortune again. He
saw all this plainly. After what had taken place any compromise
between him and the lady was impossible. Let him once leave the
room at her bidding, and leave the bishop in her hands, and he
might at once pack up his portmanteau and bid adieu to episcopal
honours, Mrs Bold, and the Signora Neroni.
And yet it was not so easy to keep his ground when he was bidden by
a lady to go; or to continue to make a third in a party between
husband and wife when the wife expressed a wish for a tete-a-tete
with her husband.
'Mr Slope,' she repeated, 'I wish to be alone with my lord.'
'His lordship has summoned me on most important diocesan business,'
said Mr Slope, glancing with uneasy eye at Dr Proudie. He felt that
he must trust something to the bishop, and yet that trust was so
woefully misplaced. 'My leaving him at the present moment is, I
'Do you bandy words with me, you ungrateful man?' said she. 'My
lord, will you do me the favour to beg Mr Slope to leave the room?'
My lord scratched his head, but for the moment said nothing. This
was as much as Mr Slope expected from him, and was on the whole,
for him, an active exercise of marital rights.
'My lord,' said the lady, 'is Mr Slope to leave this room, or am
Here Mrs Proudie made a false step. She should not have alluded to
the possibility of retreat on her part. She should not have
expressed the idea that her order for Mr Slope's expulsion could be
treated otherwise than by immediate obedience. In answer to such a
question the bishop naturally said in his own mind, that it was
necessary that one should leave the room, perhaps it might be as
well that Mrs Proudie did so. He did say so in his own mind, but
externally he again scratched his head and again twiddled his
Mrs Proudie was boiling over with wrath. Alas, alas! could she but
have kept her temper as her enemy did, she would have conquered as
she had ever conquered. But divine anger got the better of her, as
it has done of other heroines, and she fell.
'My lord,' said she, 'am I to be vouchsafed an answer or am I not?'
At last he broke his deep silence and proclaimed himself a
Slopeite. 'Why, my dear,' said he, 'Mr Slope and I are very busy.'
That was all. There was nothing more necessary. He had gone to the
battle-field, stood the dust and heat of the day, encountered the
fury of the foe, and won the victory. How easy is success to those
who will only be true to themselves!
Mr Slope saw at once the full amount of his gain, and turned on the
vanquished lady a look of triumph which she never forgot and never
forgave. Here he was wrong. He should have looked humbly at her,
and with meek entreating eye had deprecated her anger. He should
have said by his glance that he asked pardon for his success, and
that he hoped forgiveness for the stand which he had been forced to
make in the cause of duty. So might he perchance have somewhat
mollified that imperious bosom, and prepared the way for future
terms. But Mr Slope meant to rule without terms. Ah, forgetful,
inexperienced man! Can you cause that little trembling victim to be
divorced from the woman who possesses him? Can you provide that
they shall be separated at bed and board? Is he not flesh of her
flesh and bone of her bone, and must he not so continue? It is very
well now for you to stand your ground, and triumph as she is driven
ignominiously from the room; but can you be present when those
curtains are drawn, when that awful helmet of proof has been tied
beneath the chin, when the small remnants of the bishop's prowess
shall be cowed by the tassel above his head? Can you then intrude
yourself when the wife wishes 'to speak to my lord alone?'
But for the moment Mr Slope's triumph was complete; for Mrs Proudie
without further parley left the room, and did not forget to shut
the door after her. Then followed a close conference between the
new allies, to which was said much which it astonished Mr Slope to
say and the bishop to hear. And yet the one said it and the other
heard it without ill will. There was no mincing of matters now. The
chaplain plainly told the bishop that the world gave him credit for
being under the governance of his wife; that his credit and
character in the diocese was suffering; that he would surely get
himself into hot water if he allowed Mrs Proudie to interfere in
matters which were not suitable for a woman's powers; and in fact
that he would become contemptible if he did not throw off the yoke
under which he groaned. The bishop at first hummed and hawed, and
affected to deny the truth of what was said. But his denial was by
silence and quickly broke down. He soon admitted by silence his
state of vassalage, and pledged himself with Mr Slope's assistance,
to change his courses. Mr Slope did not make out a bad case for
himself. He explained how it grieved him to run counter to a lady
who had always been his patroness, who had befriended him in so
many ways, who had, in fact, recommended him to the bishop's
notice; but, as he stated, his duty was now imperative; he held a
situation of peculiar confidence, and was immediately and
especially attached to the bishop's person. In such a situation his
conscience required that he should regard solely the bishop's
interests, and therefore he had ventured to speak out.
The bishop took this for what it was worth, and Mr Slope only
intended that he should do so. It gilded the pill which Mr Slope
had to administer, and which the bishop thought would be less
bitter than that other pill which he had been so long taking.
'My lord,' had his immediate reward, like a good child. He was
instructed to write and at once did write another note to the
archbishop accepting his grace's invitation. This note Mr Slope,
more prudent than the lady, himself took away and posted with his
own hands. Thus he made sure that this act of self-jurisdiction
should be as nearly as possible a fait accompli. He begged, and
coaxed, and threatened the bishop with a view of making him also
write at once to Mr Harding; but the bishop, though temporarily
emancipated from his wife, was not yet enthralled to Mr Slope. He
said, and probably said truly, that such an offer must be made in
some official form; that he was not yet prepared to sign the form;
and that he should prefer seeing Mr Harding before he did so. Mr
Slope, might, however, beg Mr Harding to call upon him. Not
disappointed with his achievement Mr Slope went his way. He first
posted the precious note which he had in his pocket, and then
pursued other enterprises in which we must follow him in other
Mrs Proudie, having received such satisfaction as was to be derived
from slamming her husband's door, did not at once betake herself to
Mrs Quiverful. Indeed for the first few moments after her repulse
she felt that she could not again see that lady. She would have to
own that she had been beaten, to confess that the diadem had passed
from her brow, and the sceptre from her hand! No, she would send a
message to her with the promise of a letter on the next day or the
day after. Thus resolving, she betook herself to her bed-room; but
here she again changed her mind. The air of that sacred enclosure
restored her courage, and gave her some heart. As Achilles warmed
at the sight of his armour, as Don Quixote's heart grew strong when
he grasped his lance, so did Mrs Proudie look forward to fresh
laurels, as her hey fell on her husband's pillow. She would not
despair. Having so resolved, she descended with dignified mien and
refreshed countenance to Mrs Quiverful.
This scene in the bishop's study took longer in the acting than in
the telling. We have not, perhaps, had the whole of the
conversation. At any rate Mrs Quiverful was beginning to be very
impatient, and was thinking that farmer Subsoil would be tired of
waiting for her, when Mrs Proudie returned. Oh! Who can tell the
palpitations of that maternal heart, as the suppliant looked into
the face of the great lady to see written there either a promise of
a house, income, comfort, and future competence, or else the doom
of continued and ever increasing poverty. Poor mother! Poor wife!
There was little there to comfort you!
'Mrs Quiverful,' thus spoke the lady with considerable austerity,
and without sitting down herself. 'I find that your husband has
behaved in this matter in a very weak and foolish manner.'
Mrs Quiverful immediately rose upon her feet, thinking it
disrespectful to remain sitting while the wife of the bishop stood.
But she was desired to sit down again, and made to do so, so that
Mrs Proudie might stand and preach over her. It is generally
considered an offensive thing for a gentleman to keep his seat
while another is kept standing before him, and we presume the same
law holds with regard to ladies. It often is so felt; but we are
inclined to say that it never produces half the discomfort or half
the feeling of implied inferiority that is shown by a great man who
desires his visitor to be seated while he himself speaks from his
legs. Such a solecism in good breeding, when construed into English
means this: "The accepted rule of courtesy in the world require
that I should offer you a seat; if I did not do so, you would bring
a charge against me in the world of being arrogant and
ill-mannered; I will obey the world; but, nevertheless, I will not
put myself on an equality with you. You may sit down, but I won't
sit with you. Sit, therefore, at my bidding, and I'll stand and
talk to you."
This was just what Mrs Proudie meant to say; and Mrs Quiverful,
though she was too anxious and too flurried thus to translate the
full meaning of the manoeuvre, did not fail to feel its effect. She
was cowed and uncomfortable, and a second time essayed to rise from
'Pray be seated, Mrs Quiverful, pray keep your seat. Your husband,
I say, has been most weak and most foolish. It is impossible, Mrs
Quiverful, to help people who will not help themselves. I much fear
that I can now do nothing for you in this matter.'
'Oh! Mrs Proudie--don't say so,' said the poor woman, again jumping
'Pray be seated, Mrs Quiverful. I much fear that I can do nothing
further for you in this matter. Your husband has, in a most
unaccountable manner, taken upon himself to resign that which I was
empowered to offer him. As a matter of course, the bishop expects
that his clergy shall know their own minds. What he may ultimately
do--what we may finally decide on doing--I cannot say. Knowing the
extent of your family--'
'Fourteen children, Mrs Proudie, fourteen of them! and hardly
bread--barely bread! It's hard for the children of a clergyman,
it's hard for one who has always done his duty respectably!' Not a
word fell from her about herself; but the tears came running down
her big coarse cheeks, on which the dust of the August road had
left its traces.
Mrs Proudie has not been portrayed in these pages as an agreeable
or amiable lady. There has been no intention to impress the reader