Part 15 out of 18
nothing, as he said to himself when he tried to excuse himself, but
enough to turn her head, even if they did not reach her heart. Now, this
woman was a widow, and it came to be his duty to tell her that she was
so. What if she should claim from him now the love which he had so often
proffered to her! It was not that he feared that she would claim
anything from him at this moment--neither now, nor tomorrow, nor the
next day--but the agony of the present meeting would produce others in
which there would be some tenderness mixed with the agony; and so from
one meeting to another the thing would progress. But in this danger
before him, it was not of himself that he was thinking, but of her. How
could he assist her at such a time without doing her more injury than
benefit? And, if he did not assist her, who would do so? He knew her to
be heartless; but even heartless people have hearts which can be touched
and almost broken by certain sorrows. Her heart would not be broken by
her husband's death, but it would become very sore if she were utterly
neglected. He was now at the door, with his hand on the lock, and was
wondering why she should remain so long within without making herself
heard. Then he opened it, and found her seated in a lounge-chair, with
her back to the door, and he could see that she had a volume of a novel
in her hand. He understood it all. She was pretending to be indifferent
to her husband's return. He walked up to her, thinking that she would
recognise his step; but she made no sign of turning towards him. He saw
the motion of her hair over the back of the chair as she affected to
make herself luxuriously comfortable. She was striving to let her
husband see that she cared nothing for him, or for his condition, or for
his jealousy, if he were jealous--or even of his ruin. 'Mrs Broughton,'
he said, when he was close to her. Then she jumped up quickly, and
turned round facing him. 'Where is Dobbs?' she said. 'Where is Dobbs?'
'He is not here.'
'He is in the house, for I heard him. Why have you come back?'
Dalrymple's eye fell on the tattered canvas, and he thought of the
doings of the past month. He thought of the picture of the three Graces,
which was hanging in the room below, and he thoroughly wished that he
had never been introduced to the Broughton establishment. How was he to
get through his present difficulty? 'No,' said he, 'Broughton did not
come. It was Mr Musselboro whose steps you heard below.'
'What is he here for? What is he doing here? Where is Dobbs? Conway,
there is something the matter. Has he gone off?'
'Yes;--he has gone off.'
'No; he was not a coward;--not in that way.'
The use of the past tense, unintentional as it had been, told the story
to the woman at once. 'He is dead,' she said. Then he took both her
hands in his and looked into her face, without speaking a word. And she
gazed at him with fixed eyes, and rigid mouth, while the quick coming
breath just moved the curl of her nostrils. It occurred to him at that
moment that he had never before seen her so wholly unaffected, and had
never before observed that she was so totally deficient in all the
elements of real beauty. She was the first to speak again. 'Conway,' she
said, 'tell me all. Why do you not speak to me?'
'There is nothing further to tell,' he said.
Then she dropped her hands and walked away from him to the window--and
stood there looking out upon the stuccoed turret of a huge house that
stood opposite. As she did so she was employing herself in counting the
windows. Her mind was paralysed by the blow, and she knew not how to
make any exertion with it for any purpose. Everything was changed with
her--and was changed in such a way that she could make no guess as to
her future mode of life. She was suddenly a widow, a pauper, and utterly
desolate--while the only person in the whole world that she really
liked was standing close to her. But in the midst of it all she counted
the windows of the house opposite. Had it been possible for her she
would have put her mind altogether to sleep.
He let her stand for a few minutes and then joined her at the window.
'My friend,' he said, 'what shall I do for you?'
'Do?' she said. 'What do you mean by--doing?'
'Come and sit down and let me talk to you,' he replied. Then he led her
to the sofa, and as she seated herself I doubt whether she had not
almost forgotten that her husband was dead.
'What a pity it was to cut it up,' she said, pointing to the rags of
Jael and Sisera.
'Never mind the picture now. Dreadful as it is, you must allow yourself
to think of him for a few minutes.'
'Think of what! Oh, God! Yes. Conway, you must tell me what to do.
Was everything gone? It isn't about myself. I don't mind about myself. I
wish it was me instead of him. I do. I do.'
'No wishing is of any avail.'
'But, Conway, how did it happen? Do you think it is true? That man
would say anything to gain his object. Is he here now?'
'I believe he is here still.'
'I won't see him. Remember that. Nothing on earth can make me see
'It may be necessary, but I do not think it will be;--at any rate, not
'I will never see him. I believe that he has murdered my husband. I do.
I feel sure of it. Now I think of it I am quite sure of it. And he will
murder you too;--about that girl. He will. I tell you I know the man.'
Dalrymple simply shook his head, smiling sadly. 'Very well! You will
see. But, Conway, how do you know that it is true? Do you believe it
'I do believe it.'
'And how did it happen?'
'He could not bear the ruin that he had brought upon himself and you.'
'Then;--then--' She went no further in her speech; but Dalrymple
assented by a slight motion of his head, and she had been informed
sufficiently that her husband had perished by his own hand. 'What am I
to do?' she said. 'Oh, Conway, you must tell me. Was there ever so
miserable a woman! Was it--poison?'
He got up and walked quickly across the room and back again to the place
where she was sitting. 'Never mind about that now. You shall know all
that in time. Do not ask me any questions about that. If I were you I
think I would go to bed. You will be better there than up, and this
shock will make you sleep.'
'No,' she said. 'I will not go to bed. How should I know that that man
would not come and kill me? I believe he murdered Dobbs;--I do. You are
not going to leave me, Conway?'
'I think I had better, for a while. There are things which should be
done. Shall I send one of the women for you?'
'There is not one of them that cares for me in the least. Oh, Conway,
do not go; not yet. I will not be left alone in the house with him. You
will be very cruel if you go and leave me now--when you have so often
said that you--that you--that you were my friend.' And now, at last, she
began to weep.
'I think it will be best,' he said, 'that I should go to Mrs Van Siever.
If I can manage it, I will get Clara to come to you.'
'I do not want her,' said Mrs Broughton. 'She is a heartless cold
creature, and I do not want to have her near me. My poor husband was
ruined among them;--yes, ruined among them. It has all been done that
she may marry that horrid man and live here in this house. I have known
ever so long that he has not been safe among them.'
'You need fear nothing from Clara,' said Dalrymple, with some touch of
anger in his voice.
'Of course you will say so. I can understand that very well. And it is
natural that you should wish to be with her. Pray go.'
Then he sat beside her, and took her hand, and endeavoured to speak to
her so seriously, that she herself might become serious, and if it might
be possible, in some degree contemplative. He told her how necessary it
was that she should have some woman near her in her trouble, and
explained to her that as far as he knew her female friends, there would
be no one who would be so considerate with her as Clara Van Siever. She
at one time mentioned the name of Miss Demolines; but Dalrymple
altogether opposed the notion of sending for that lady--expressing his
opinion that the amiable Madalina had done all in her power to create
quarrels between Mrs Broughton and her husband and between Dobbs
Broughton and Mrs Van Siever. And he spoke his opinion very fully about
Miss Demolines. 'And yet you liked her once,' said Mrs Broughton. 'I
never liked her,' said Dalrymple with energy. 'But all that matters
nothing now. Of course you can send for her if you please; but I do not
think her trustworthy, and I will not willingly come in contact with
her.' Then Mrs Broughton gave him to understand that of course she must
give way, but that in giving way she felt herself to be submitting to
ill-usage which is the ordinary lot of women, and to which she, among
women, had been specially subjected. She did not exactly say as much,
fearing that if she did he would leave her altogether; but that was the
gist of he plaints and wails, and final acquiescence.
'And are you going?' she said, catching hold of his arm.
'I will employ myself altogether and only about your affairs, till I see
'But I want you to stay.'
'It would be madness. Look here;--lie down till Clara comes or till I
return. Do not go beyond this room and your own. If she cannot come this
evening I will return. Good-bye now. I will see the servants as I go
out, and tell them what ought to be told.'
'Oh, Conway,' she said, clutching hold of him again. 'I know that you
'I do not despise you, and I will be as good a friend to you as I can.
God bless you.' Then he went, and as he descended the stairs he could
not refrain from telling himself that he did in truth despise her.
His first object was to find Musselboro, and to dismiss that gentleman
from the house. For though he himself did not attribute to Mrs Van
Siever's favourite any of those terrible crimes and potentialities for
crime with which Mrs Dobbs Broughton had invested him, still he thought
it reasonable that the poor woman upstairs should not be subjected to
the necessity of either seeing him or hearing him. But Musselboro had
gone, and Dalrymple could not learn from the head woman-servant whom he
saw, whether before going he had told to anyone in the house the tale of
the catastrophe which had happened in the City. Servants are wonderful
actors, looking often as though they knew nothing when they knew
everything--as though they understood nothing, when they understood all.
Dalrymple made known all that was necessary, and the discreet upper
servant listened to the tale, with the proper amount of awe and horror
and commiseration. 'Shot hisself in the City;--laws! You'll excuse me,
sir, but we all know'd as master was coming to no good.' But she
promised to do her best with her mistress--and kept her promise. It is
seldom that servants are not good in such straits as that.
From Mrs Broughton's house Dalrymple went directly to Mrs Van Siever's,
and learned that Musselboro had been there about half an hour before,
and had then gone off in a cab with Mrs Van Siever. It was now nearly
four o'clock in the afternoon, and no one in the house knew when Mrs Van
Siever would be back. Miss Van Siever was out, and had been out when Mr
Musselboro had called, but was expected every minute. Conway therefore
said that he would call again, and on returning found Clara alone. She
had not then heard a word of the fate of Dobbs Broughton. Of course she
would go at once to Mrs Broughton, and if necessary stay with her during
the night. She wrote a line at once to her mother, saying where she was,
and went across to Mrs Broughton leaning on Dalrymple's arm. 'Be good to
her,' said Conway, as he left her at the door. 'I will,' said Clara. 'I
will be as kind as nature will allow me.' 'And remember,' said Conway,
whispering into her ear as he pressed her hand at leaving her, 'that you
are the all the world to me.' It was perhaps not a proper time for an
expression of love, but Clara Van Siever forgave the impropriety.
MISS VAN SIEVER MAKES HER CHOICE
Clara Van Siever did stay all night with Mrs Broughton. In the course
of the evening she received a note from her mother, in which she was
told to come home to breakfast. 'You can go back to her afterwards,'
said Mrs Van Siever; 'and I will see her myself in the course of the
day, if she will let me.' The note was written on a scrap of paper, and
had neither beginning nor end; but this was after the manner of Mrs Van
Siever, and Clara was not in the least hurt or surprised. 'My mother
will come to see you after breakfast,' said Clara, as she was taking her
'Oh, goodness! And what shall I say to her?'
'You will have to say very little. She will speak to you.'
'I suppose everything belongs to her now,' said Mrs Broughton.
'I know nothing about that. I never do know anything of mamma's money
'Of course she'll turn me out. I do not mind a bit about that--only I
hope she'll let me have some mourning.' Then she made Clara promise that
she would return as soon as possible, having in Clara's presence
overcome all that feeling of dislike which she had expressed to Conway
Dalrymple. Mrs Broughton was generally affectionate to those who were
near her. Had Musselboro forced himself into her presence, she would
have become quite confidential with him before he left her.
'Mr Musselboro will be here directly,' said Mrs Van Siever, as she was
starting for Mrs Broughton's house. 'You had better tell him to come to
me up here; or, stop--perhaps you had better keep him here till I come
back. Tell him to be sure and wait for me.'
'Very well, mamma. I suppose he can wait below?'
'Why should he wait below?,' said Mrs Van Siever, very angrily.
Clara had made the uncourteous proposition to her mother with the
express intention of making it understood that she would have nothing to
say to him. 'He can come upstairs if he likes,' said Clara; 'and I will
go up to my room.'
'If you fight shy of him, miss, you may remember this--that you will
fight shy of me at the same time.'
'I am sorry for that, mamma, for I shall certainly fight shy of Mr
'You can do as you please. I can't force you, and I shan't try. But I
can make your life a burden to you--and I will. What's the matter with
the man that he isn't good enough for you? He's as good as any of your
own people ever was. I hate your new-fangled airs--with pictures
painted on the sly, and all the rest of it. I hate such ways. See what
they have brought that wretched man to, and the poor fool his wife. If
you go and marry that painter, some of these days you'll be very much
like what she is. Only I doubt whether he has got the courage enough to
blow his brains out.' With these comfortable words, the old woman took
herself off, leaving Clara to entertain her lover as best she might
Mr Musselboro was not long in coming, and, in accordance with Mrs Van
Siever's implied directions to her daughter, was shown up into the
drawing-room. Clara gave him her mother's message in a very few words.
'I was expressly told, sir, to ask you to stop, if it is not
inconvenient, as she very much wants to see you.' Mr Musselboro declared
that of course he would stop. He was only too happy to have the
opportunity of remaining in such delightful society. As Clara answered
nothing to this, he went on to say that he hoped that the melancholy
occasion of Mrs Van Siever's visit to Mrs Broughton might make a long
absence necessary--he did not, indeed, care how long it might be. He had
recovered now from that paleness, and that want of gloves and jewellery
which had befallen him on the previous day immediately after the sight
he had seen in the City. Clara made no answer to the last speech, but,
putting some things together in her work-basket, prepared to leave the
room. 'I hope you are not going to leave me?' he said, in a voice that
was intended to convey much of love, and something of melancholy.
'I am so shocked by what has happened, Mr Musselboro, that I am
altogether unfit for conversation. I was with poor Mrs Broughton last
night, and I shall return to her when mamma comes home.'
'It is sad, certainly; but what was there to be expected? If you'd only
seen how he used to go on.' To this Clara made no answer. 'Don't go
yet,' said he; 'there is something that I want to say to you. There is,
Clara Van Siever was a young person whose presence of mind rarely
deserted her. It occurred to her now that she must undergo on some
occasion the nuisance of a direct offer from him, and that she could
have no better opportunity of answering him after her own fashion than
the present. Her mother was absent, and the field was her own. And,
moreover, it was a point in her favour that the tragedy which had so
lately occurred, and to which she had just now alluded, would give her a
fair excuse for additional severity. At such a moment no man could, she
told herself, be justified in making an offer of his love, and therefore
she might rebuke him with the less remorse. I wonder whether the last
words which Conway Dalrymple had spoken to her stung her conscience as
she thought of this! She had now reached the door, and was standing
close to it. As Mr Musselboro did not at once, begin, she encouraged
him. 'If you have anything special to tell me, I will hear you,' she
'Miss Clara,' he began, rising from his chair, and coming into the
middle of the room. 'I think you know what my wishes are.' Then he put
his hand upon his heart. 'And your respected mother is the same way of
thinking. It's that that emboldens me to be so sudden. Not but what my
heart has been yours and yours only all along, before the old lady so
much as mentioned it.' Clara would give him no assistance, not even the
aid of a negative, but stood there quite passive, with her hand on the
door. 'Since I first had the pleasure of seeing you I have always said
to myself, "Augustus Musselboro, that is the woman for you, if you can
only win her." But there was so much against me--wasn't there?' She
would not even take advantage of this by assuring him that there
certainly always had been much against him, but allowed him to go on
till he should run out all the length of his tether. 'I mean, of course,
in the way of money,' he continued. 'I hadn't much that I could call my
own when your respected mother first allowed me to become acquainted
with you. But it's different now; and I think I may say that I'm all
right in that respect. Poor Broughton's going this way will make it a
deal smoother to me; and I may say that I and your mamma will be all in
all to each other now about money.' Then he stopped.
'I don't quite understand what you mean by all this,' said Clara.
'I mean that there isn't a more devoted fellow in all London than what I
am to you.' Then he was about to go down on one knee, but it occurred to
him that it would not be convenient to kneel to a lady who would stand
quite close to the door. 'One and one, if they're put together well,
will often make more than two. And so they shall with us,' said
Musselboro, who began to feel that it might be expedient to throw a
little spirit into his words.
'If you have done,' said Clara, 'you may as well hear from me for a
minute. And I hope you will have the sense to understand that I really
mean what I say.'
'I hope you will remember what are your mamma's wishes.'
'Mamma's wishes have no influence whatsoever with me in such matters as
this. Mamma's arrangements with you are for her own convenience, and I
am not party to them. I do not know anything about mamma's money, and I
do not want to know. But under no possible circumstances will I consent
to become your wife. Nothing that mamma could say or do would induce me
even to think of it. I hope you will be man enough to take this for an
answer, and say nothing more about it.'
'But, Miss Clara--'
'It's no good your Miss Claraing me, sir. What I have said to you may
be sure I mean. Good-morning, sir.' Then she opened the door, and left
'By Jove, she is a Tartar,' said Musselboro to himself, when he was
alone. 'They're both Tartars, but the younger is the worse.' Then he
began to speculate whether Fortune was not doing the best for him in so
arranging that he might have use of the Tartar-mother's money without
binding himself to endure for life the Tartar qualities of the daughter.
It had been understood that Clara was to wait at home till her mother
should return before she again went to Mrs Broughton. At about eleven
Mrs Van Siever came in, and her daughter intercepted her at the
dining-room door before she made her way upstairs to Mr Musselboro. 'How
is she, mamma?' said Clara with something of hypocrisy in her assumed
interest for Mrs Broughton.
'She is an idiot!' said Mrs Van Siever.
'She has had a terrible misfortune!'
'That is no reason why she should be an idiot; and she is heartless too.
She never cared a bit for him--not a bit.'
'He was a man whom it was impossible to care for much. I will go to her
'Where is Musselboro?'
'He is upstairs.'
'Mamma, that is quite out of the question. Quite. I would not marry
him to save myself from starving.'
'You do not know what starving is yet, my dear. Tell me the truth at
once. Are you engaged to that painter?' Clara paused a moment before she
answered, not hesitating as to the expediency of telling her mother any
truth on the matter in question, but doubting what the truth might
really be. Could she say that she was engaged to Mr Dalrymple, or could
she say that she was not? 'If you tell me a lie, miss, I'll have you put
out at once.'
'I certainly shall not tell you a lie. Mr Dalrymple has asked me to be
his wife, and I have made him no answer. If he asks me again I shall
'Then I order you not to leave this house,' said Mrs Van Siever.
'Surely I may go to Mrs Broughton?'
'I order you not to leave this house,' said Mrs Van Siever again--and
thereupon she stalked out of the dining-room and went upstairs. Clara
had been standing with her bonnet on, ready dressed to go out, and the
mother made no attempt to send the daughter up to her room. That she did
not expect to be obeyed in her order may be inferred from the first
words which she spoke to Mr Musselboro. 'She has gone off to that man
now. You are not good, Musselboro, at this kind of work.'
'You see, Mrs Van, he had the start of me so much. And then being at
the West End, and all that, gives a man such a standing with a girl.'
'Bother!' said Mrs Van Siever, as he quick ear caught the sound of the
closing hall-door. Clara had stood a minute or two to consider, and then
had resolved that she would disobey her mother. She tried to excuse her
own conduct to her own satisfaction as she went. 'There are some
things,' she said, 'which even a daughter cannot hear from her mother.
If she chooses to close the door against me, she must do so.'
She found Mrs Broughton still in bed, and could not but agree with her
mother that the woman was both silly and heartless.
'Your mother says that everything must be sold up,' said Mrs Broughton.
'At any rate you would hardly choose to remain here,' said Clara.
'But I hope she will let me have my own things. A great many of them
are altogether my own. I know there's a law that a woman may have her
own things, even though her husband has--done what poor Dobbs did. And I
think she was hard upon me about the mourning. They never do mind giving
credit for such things as that, and though there is a bill due to Mrs
Morell now, she has had a deal of Dobbs's money.' Clara promised her
that she would have mourning to her heart's content. 'I will see to that
myself,' she said.
Presently there was a knock at the door, and the discreet head-servant
beckoned Clara out of the room. 'You are not going away,' said Mrs
Broughton. Clara promised her that she would not go without coming back
again. 'He will be here soon, I suppose, and perhaps you had better see
him; though, for the matter of that, perhaps you had better not, because
he is so much cut up about poor Dobbs.' The servant had come to tell
Clara that the 'he' in question was at the present moment waiting for
her below stairs.
The first words which passed between Dalrymple and Clara had reference
to the widow. He told her what he had learned in the City--that
Broughton's property had never been great, and that his personal
liabilities at the time of his death were supposed to be small. But he
had fallen lately altogether into the hands of Musselboro, who, though
penniless himself in the way of capital, was backed by the money of Mrs
Van Siever. There was not doubt that Broughton had destroyed himself in
the manner told by Musselboro, but the opinion in the City was that he
had done so rather through the effects of drink than because of his
losses. As to the widow, Dalrymple thought that Mrs Van Siever, or
nominally, perhaps, Musselboro, might be induced to settle an annuity on
her, or she would give up everything quietly. 'Doubt whether your mother
is not responsible for everything that Broughton owed when he died--for
everything, that is, in the way of business; and if so, Mrs Broughton
will certainly have a claim on the estate.' It occurred to Dalrymple
once or twice that he was talking to Clara about Mrs Van Siever as
though he and Clara were more closely bound together than were Clara and
her mother; but Clara seemed to take this in good part, and was as
solicitous as was he himself in the manner of Mrs Broughton's interest.
Then the discreet head-servant knocked and told them that Mrs Broughton
was very anxious to see Mr Dalrymple, but that Miss Van Siever was on no
account to go away. She was up, and in her dressing-gown, and had gone
into the sitting-room. 'I will come directly,' said Dalrymple, and the
discreet head-servant retired.
'Clara,' said Conway, 'I do not know when I may have another chance of
asking for an answer to my question. You heard my question?'
'Yes, I heard it.'
'And will you answer it?'
'If you wish it, I will.'
'Of course I wish it. You understand what I said upon the door-step
'I don't think much of that; men say those things so often. What you
said before was serious, I suppose?'
'Serious! Heavens! Do you think that I am joking?'
'Mamma wants me to marry Mr Musselboro.'
'He is a vulgar brute. It would be impossible.'
'It is impossible; but mamma is very obstinate. I have no fortune of my
own--not a shilling. She told me today that she would turn me out into
the street. She forbade me to come here, thinking I should meet you; but
I came, because I had promised Mrs Broughton. I am sure that she will
never give me one shilling.'
Dalrymple paused for a moment. It was certainly true that he had
regarded Clara Van Siever as an heiress, and had at first been attracted
to her because he thought it expedient to marry an heiress. But there
had since come something beyond that, and there was perhaps less of
regret than most men would have felt as he gave up his golden hopes. He
took her into his arms and kissed her, and called her his own. 'Now we
understand each other,' he said.
'If you wish it to be so.'
'I do wish it.'
'And I shall tell my mother today that I am engaged to you--unless she
refuses to see me. Go to Mrs Broughton now. I feel that we are almost
cruel to be thinking of ourselves in this house at such a time.' Upon
this Dalrymple went, and Clara Van Siever was left to her reflections.
She had never before had a lover. She had never had even a friend whom
she loved and trusted. Her life had been passed at school till she was
nearly twenty, and since then had been vainly endeavouring to
accommodate herself into the absolute power of a man who was nearly a
strange to her! But she did love him, as she had never loved anyone
else;--and then, on the other side, there was Mr Musselboro!
Dalrymple went upstairs for an hour, and Clara did not see him again
before he left the house. It was clear to her, from Mrs Broughton's
first words, that Conway had told her what had passed. 'Of course I
shall never seen anything more of either of you now?' said Mrs
'I should say that probably you will see a great deal of us both.'
'There are some people,' said Mrs Broughton, 'who can do well for their
friends, but can never do well for themselves. I am one of them. I saw
at once how great a thing it would be for both of you to bring you two
together--especially for you, Clara; and therefore I did it. I may say
that I never had it out of my mind for months past. Poor Dobbs
misunderstood what I was doing. God knows how far that may have brought
about what has happened.'
'Oh, Mrs Broughton!'
'Of course he could not be blind to one thing;--nor was I. I mention it
now because it is right, but I shall never, never allude to again. Of
course he saw, and I saw, that Conway--was attached to me. Poor Conway
meant no harm. I was aware of that. But there was the terrible fact. I
knew at once that the only cure for him was a marriage with some girl he
could respect. Admiring you as I do, I immediately resolved on bringing
you to together. My dear, I have been successful, and I heartily trust
that you may be happier than Maria Broughton.'
Miss Van Siever knew the woman, understood all the facts, and pitying
the condition of the wretched creature, bore all this without a word of
rebuke. She scorned to put out her strength against one who was in truth
REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Things were gloomy at the palace. It has already been said that for may
days after Dr Tempest's visit to Barchester the intercourse between the
bishop and Mrs Proudie had not been of a pleasant nature. He had become
so silent, so sullen, and so solitary in his ways, that even her courage
had been almost cowed, and for a while she had condescended to use
gentler methods, with the hope that she might thus bring her lord round
to his usual state of active submission; or perhaps, if we strive to do
her full justice, we may say of her that her effort was made
conscientiously, with the idea of inducing him to do his duty with
proper activity. For she was a woman not without a conscience, and by no
means indifferent to the real service which her husband, as bishop of
the diocese, was bound to render to the affairs of the Church around
her. Of her own struggles after personal dominion she was herself
unconscious; and no doubt they gave her, when recognised and
acknowledged by herself, many stabs to her inner self, of which no
single being in the world knew anything. And now, as after a while she
failed in producing any amelioration in the bishop's mood, her temper
also gave way, and things were becoming very gloomy and unpleasant.
The bishop and his wife were at present alone in the palace. Their
married daughter and her husband had left them, and the unmarried
daughter was also away. How far the bishop's mood may have produced this
solitude in the vast house I will not say. Probably Mrs Proudie's state
of mind may have prevented her from having other guests in the place of
those who had gone. She felt herself to be almost disgraced in the eyes
of all those around her by her husband's long absence from the common
rooms of the house and by his dogged silence at meals. It was better,
she thought, that they two should be alone in the palace.
Her own efforts to bring him back to something like life, to some
activity of mind if not body, were made constantly; and when she failed,
as she did fail day after day, she would go slowly to her own room, and
lock her door, and look back in solitude at all the days of her life.
She had agonies in these minutes of which no one near her knew anything.
She would seize with her arm the part of the bed near which she would
stand, and hold by it, grasping it, as though she were afraid to fall;
and then, when it was at the worst with her, she would go to her
closet--a closet that no eyes ever saw unlocked but her own--and fill
for herself and swallow some draught and then she would sit down with
the Bible before her, and read it sedulously. She spent hours every day
with her Bible before her, repeating to herself whole chapters, which
she knew almost by heart.
It cannot be said that she was a bad woman, though she had in her time
done an indescribable amount of evil. She had endeavoured to do good,
failing partly by ignorance and partly from the effects of an unbridled,
ambitious temper. And now, even amidst her keenest sufferings, her
ambition was by no means dead. She still longed to rule the diocese by
means of her husband, but was made to pause and hesitate by the unwonted
mood that had fallen upon him. Before this, on more than one occasion,
and on one very memorable occasion, he had endeavoured to combat her. He
had fought with her, striving to put her down. He had failed, and given
up the hope of any escape fro himself in that direction. On those
occasions her courage had never quailed for a moment. While he openly
struggled to be master, she could openly struggle to be mistress--and
could enjoy the struggle. But nothing like this had ever come upon him
She had yielded to it for many days, striving to coax him by little
softnesses of which she herself had been ashamed as she practised them.
They had served her nothing, and at last she determined that something
else must be done. If only for his sake, to keep some life in him,
something else must be done. Were he to continue as he was now, he must
give up the diocese, or, at any rate, declare himself too ill to keep up
the working of it in his own hands. How she hated Mr Crawley for all the
sorrow that he had brought upon her and her house!
And it was still the affair of Mr Crawley which urged her on to further
action. When the bishop received Mr Crawley's letter he said nothing of
it to her; but he handed it over to his chaplain. The chaplain, fearing
to act upon it himself, handed it to Mr Thumble, who he knew to be one
of the bishop's commission, and Mr Thumble, equally fearing
responsibility in the present state of affairs at the palace, found
himself obliged to consult Mrs Proudie. Mrs Proudie had no doubt as to
what should be done. The man had abdicated his living, and of course
some provision must be made for the services. She would again make an
attempt upon her husband, and therefore she went into his room holding
Mr Crawley's letter in her hand.
'My dear,' she said, 'here is Mr Crawley's letter. I suppose you have
'Yes,' said the bishop; 'I have read it.'
'And what will you do about it? Something must be done.'
'I don't know,' said he. He did not even look at her as he spoke. He
had not turned his eyes upon her since she had entered the room.
'But, bishop, it is a letter that requires to be acted upon at once. We
cannot doubt that the man is doing right at last. He is submitting
himself where his submission is due; but his submission will be of no
avail unless you take some action upon his letter. Do you not think that
Mr Thumble had better go over?'
'No, I don't. I think Mr Thumble had better stay where he is,' said the
'What, then, would you wish to be done?'
'Never mind,' said he.
'But, bishop, that is nonsense,' said Mrs Proudie, adding something of
severity to the tone of her voice.
'No, it isn't nonsense,' said he. Still he did not look at her, nor had
he done so for a moment since she had entered the room. Mrs Proudie
could not bear this, and her anger became stronger within her breast,
she told herself that she would be wrong to bear it. She had tried what
gentleness would do, and she had failed. It was now imperatively
necessary that she should resort to sterner measures. She must make him
understand that he must give her authority to send Mr Thumble to
'Why do you not turn round and speak to me properly?' she said.
'I do not want to speak to you at all,' the bishop answered.
This was very bad;--almost anything would be better than this. He was
sitting now over the fire, with his elbows on his knees, and his face
buried in his hands. She had gone round the room so as to face him, and
was now standing almost over him, but still she could not see his
countenance. 'This will not do at all,' she said. 'My dear, do you know
that you are forgetting yourself altogether?'
'I wish I could forget myself.'
'That might be all very well if you were in a position in which you owed
no service to anyone; or, rather, it would not be well then, but the
evil would not be so manifest. You cannot do your duty in the diocese if
you continue to sit there doing nothing, with your head upon your hands.
Why do you not rally, and get to your work like a man?'
'I wish you would go away and leave me,' he said.
'No, bishop. I will not go away and leave you. You have brought
yourself into such a condition that it is my duty as your wife to stay
by you; and if you neglect your duty, I will not neglect mine.'
'It was you that brought me to it.'
'No sir, that is not true. I did not bring you to it.'
'It is the truth.' And now he got up and looked at her. For a moment
he stood upon his legs, and then sat down again with his face turned
towards her. 'It is the truth. You have brought on me such disgrace that
I cannot hold up my head. You have ruined me. I wish I were dead; and it
is all through you that I am driven to wish it.'
Of all that she had suffered in her life this was the worst. She
clasped both her hands to her side as she listened to him, and for a
minute or two she made no reply. When he ceased from speaking he again
put his elbows in his knees and again buried his face in his hands. What
had she better do, or how was it expedient that she should treat him? At
this crisis the whole thing was so important to her that she would have
postponed her own ambition and would have curbed her temper had she
thought that by doing so she might in any degree have benefited him. But
it seemed to her that she could not rouse him by conciliation. Neither
could she leave him as he was. Something must be done. 'Bishop,' she
said, 'the words that you speak are very sinful, very sinful.'
'You have made them sinful,' he said.
'I will not hear that from you. I will not indeed. I have endeavoured
to do my duty by you, and I do not deserve it. I am endeavouring to do
my duty now, and you must know that it would ill become me to remain
quiescent while you are in such a state. The world around you is
observing you, and knows that you are not doing your work. All I want of
you is that you should arouse yourself, and go to your work.'
'I could do my work very well,' he said, 'if you were not here.'
'I suppose, then, you wish that I were dead?' said Mrs Proudie. To this
he made no reply, nor did he stir himself. How could flesh and blood
bear this--female flesh and blood--Mrs Proudie's flesh and blood? Now,
at last, her temper once more got the better of her judgment, probably
much to her immediate satisfaction, and she spoke out. 'I'll tell you
what it is, my lord, if you are imbecile, I must be active. It is very
sad that I should have to assume your authority--'
'I will not allow you to assume my authority.'
'I must do so, or else must obtain a medical certificate as to your
incapacity, and beg that some neighbouring bishop may administer the
diocese. Things shall not go on as they are now. I, at any rate, will do
my duty. I shall tell Mr Thumble that he must go over to Hogglestock,
and arrange for the duties of the parish.'
'I desire that you will do no such thing,' said the bishop, now again
looking up at her.
'You may be sure that I shall,' said Mrs Proudie, and then she left the
He did not even yet suppose that she would go about his this work at
once. The condition of his mind was in truth bad, and was becoming
worse, probably, from day to day; but still he did make his calculations
about things, and now reflected that it would be sufficient if he spoke
to his chaplain tomorrow about Mr Crawley's letter. Since the terrible
scene that Dr Tempest had witnessed, he had never been able to make up
his mind that some great step was necessary. There were moments in which
he thought that he would resign his bishopric. For such resignation,
without acknowledged incompetence on the score of infirmity, the
precedents were very few; but even if there were no precedents, it would
be better to do that then to remain where he was. Of course there would
be disgrace. But then it would be disgrace from which he could hide
himself. Now there was equal disgrace; and he could not hide himself.
And then such a measure as that would bring punishment where punishment
was due. It would bring his wife to the ground--her who had brought him
to the ground. The suffering should not be all his own. When she found
that her income, and her palace, and her position were all gone, then
perhaps she might repent the evil that she had done him. Now, when he
was left alone, his mind went back to this, and he did not think of
taking immediate measures--measures on that very day--to prevent the
action of Mr Thumble.
But Mrs Proudie did take immediate steps. Mr Thumble was at this moment
in the palace waiting for instructions. It was he who had brought Mr
Crawley's letter to Mrs Proudie, and she now returned to him with that
letter in her hand. The reader will know what was the result. Mr Thumble
was sent off to Hogglestock at once on the bishop's old cob, and--as
will be remembered, fell into trouble on the road. Late in the
afternoon, he entered the palace yard having led the cob by the bridle
the whole way home from Hogglestock.
Some hour or two before Mr Thumble's return Mrs Proudie returned to her
husband, thinking it better to let him know what she had done. She
resolved to be very firm with him, but at the same time she determined
not to use harsh language if it could be avoided. 'My dear,' she said,
'I have arranged with Mr Thumble.' She found him on this occasion
sitting at his desk with papers before him, with a pen in his hand; and
she could see at a glance that nothing had been written on the paper.
What would she have thought had she known that when he placed the sheet
before him he was proposing to consult the archbishop as to the
propriety of his resignation! He had not, however, progressed so far as
to write even the date of his letter.
'You have done what?' said he, throwing down his pen.
'I have arranged with Mr Thumble as to going out to Hogglestock,' she
said firmly. 'Indeed he has gone already.' Then the bishop jumped up
from his seat, and rang the bell with violence. 'What are you going to
do?' said Mrs Proudie.
'I am going to depart from here,' he said. 'I will not stay here to be
the mark of scorn for all men's fingers. I will resign the diocese.'
'You cannot do that,' said his wife.
'I can try, at any rate,' said he. Then the servant entered. 'John,'
said he, addressing the man, 'let Mr Thumble know the moment he returns
to the palace I wish to see him here. Perhaps he may not come to the
palace. In that case let word be sent to his house.'
Mrs Proudie allowed the man to go before she addressed her husband
again. 'What do you mean to say to Mr Thumble when you see him?'
'That is nothing to you.'
She came up to him and put her hand upon his shoulder, and spoke to him
very gently. 'Tom,' she said, 'is that the way in which you speak to
'Yes, it is. You have driven me to it. Why have you taken upon
yourself to send that man to Hogglestock?'
'Because it was right to do so. I came to you for instructions, and you
would give none.'
'I should have given what instructions I pleased in proper time. Thumble
shall not go to Hogglestock next Sunday.'
'Who shall go, then?'
'Never mind. Nobody. It does not matter to you. If you will leave me
now I shall be obliged to you. There will be an end of all this very
Mrs Proudie stood for a while thinking what she would say; but she left
the room without uttering another word. As she looked at him a hundred
different thoughts came into her mind. She had loved him dearly, and she
loved him still; but she knew now--at this moment felt absolutely
sure--that by him she was hated! In spite of all her roughness and
temper, Mrs Proudie was in this like other women--that she would fain
have been loved had it been possible. She had always meant to serve him.
She was conscious of that; conscious also in a way that, although she
had been industrious, although she had been faithful, although she was
clever, yet she had failed. At the bottom of her heart she knew that she
had been a bad wife. And yet she had meant to be a pattern wife! She had
meant to be a good Christian; but she had so exercised her Christianity
that not a soul in the world loved her, or would endure her presence if
it could be avoided! She had sufficient insight to the minds and
feelings of those around her to be aware of this. And now her husband
had told her that her tyranny to him was so overbearing that he must
throw up his great position, and retire to an obscurity that would be
exceptionally disgraceful to them both, because he could no longer
endure the public disgrace which her conduct brought upon him in his
high place before the world! Her heart was too full for speech; and she
left him, very quietly closing the door behind her.
She was preparing to go up to her chamber, with her hand on the
banisters and with her foot upon the stairs, when she saw the servant
who had answered the bishop's bell. 'John,' she said, 'when Mr Thumble
comes to the palace, let me see him before he goes to my lord.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said John, who well understood the nature of those
quarrels between his master and his mistress. But the commands of the
mistress were still paramount among the servants, and John proceeded on
his mission with the view of accomplishing Mrs Proudie's behests. Then
Mrs Proudie went upstairs to her chamber, and locked her door.
Mr Thumble returned to Barchester that day, leading the broken-down
cob; and a dreadful walk he had. He was not good at walking, and before
he came near Barchester had come to entertain a violent hatred for the
beast that he was leading. The leading of a horse that is tired, or in
pain, or even stiff in his limbs, is not pleasant work. The brute will
not accommodate his paces to the man, and will contrive to make his head
very heavy on the bridle. And he will not walk on the part of the road
which the man intends for him, but will lean against the man, and will
make himself altogether disagreeable. It may be understood, therefore,
that Mr Thumble was not in a good humour when he entered the palace
yard. Nor was altogether quiet in his mind as to the injury which he had
done to the animal. 'It was the brute's fault,' said Mr Thumble. 'It
comes generally of not knowing how to ride 'em,' said the groom. For Mr
Thumble, though he often had a horse out of the episcopal stables, was
not ready with his shillings to the man who waited upon him with the
He had not, however, come to any satisfactory understanding respecting
the broken knees when the footman from the palace told him that he was
wanted. It was in vain that Mr Thumble pleaded that he was nearly dead
with fatigue, that he had walked all the way from Hogglestock and must
go home to change his clothes. John was peremptory with him, insisting
that he must wait first upon Mrs Proudie and then wait upon the bishop.
Mr Thumble might perhaps have turned a deaf ear to the latter command,
but the former was one which he felt himself bound to obey. So he
entered the palace, rather cross, very much soiled as to his outer man;
and in this condition went up a certain small staircase which was
familiar to him, to a small parlour which adjoined Mrs Proudie's room,
and there awaited the arrival of the lady. That he should be required to
wait some quarter of an hour was not surprising to him; but when half an
hour was gone, and he remembered himself of his own wife at home, and of
the dinner which he had not yet eaten, he ventured to ring the bell. Mrs
Proudie's own maid, Mrs Draper by name, came to him and said that she
had knocked twice at Mrs Proudie's door and would knock again. Two
minutes after that she returned, running into the room with her arms
extended, and exclaiming, 'Oh heavens, sir; mistress is dead!' Mr
Thumble, hardly knowing what he was about, followed the woman into the
bedroom, and there he found himself standing awe-struck before the
corpse of her who had so lately been the presiding spirit of the palace.
The body was still resting on its legs, leaning against the end of the
side of the bed, while one of the arms was close clasped round the
bed-post. The mouth was rigidly close, but the eyes were open as thought
staring at him. Nevertheless there could be no doubt from the first
glance that the woman was dead. He went up close to it, but did not dare
to touch it. There was no one there as yet but he and Mrs Draper;--no
one else knew what had happened.
'It's her heart,' said Mrs Draper.
'Did she suffer from heart complaint?' he asked.
'We suspected it, sir, though nobody knew it. She was very shy of
talking about herself.'
'We must send for the doctor at once,' said Mr Thumble. 'We had better
touch nothing till he is here.' Then they retreated and the door was
In ten minutes everybody in the house knew it except the bishop; and in
twenty minutes the nearest apothecary with his assistant were in the
room, and the body had been properly laid upon the bed. Even then the
husband had not been told--did not know either his relief or his loss.
It was now past seven, which was the usual hour for dinner at the
palace, and it was probable that he would come out of his room among the
servants, if he were not summoned. When it was proposed to Mr Thumble
that he should go in and tell him, he positively declined, saying that
the sight which he had just seen and the exertions of the day together,
had so unnerved him, that he had not physical strength for the task. The
apothecary, who had been summoned in a hurry, had escaped, probably
being equally unwilling to be the bearer of such a communication. The
duty therefore fell to Mrs Draper, and under the pressing instance of
the other servants she descended to her master's room. Had it not been
that the hour of dinner had come, so that the bishop could not have been
left much longer to himself, the evil time would have been still
She went very slowly along the passage, and was just going to pause ere
she reached the room when the door was opened and the bishop stood close
before her. It was easy to be seen that he was cross. His hands and face
were unwashed and his face was haggard. In these days he would not even
go through the ceremony of dressing himself before dinner. 'Mrs Draper,'
he said, 'why don't they tell me that dinner is ready? Are they going to
give me any dinner?' She stood a moment without answering him, while the
tears streamed down her face. 'What is the matter?' said he. 'Has your
mistress sent you here?'
'Oh laws!' said Mrs Draper--and she put out her hands to support him if
such support should be necessary.
'What is the matter?' he demanded angrily.
'Oh, my lord--bear it like a Christian. Mistress isn't no more.' He
leaned back against the door-post and she took hold of him by the arms.
'It was the heart, my lord. Dr Filgrave hisself has not been yet; but
that's what it was.' The bishop did not say a word, but walked back to
his chair before the fire.
The bishop when he had heard of the tidings of his wife's death walked
back to his seat over the fire, and Mrs Draper, the housekeeper came and
stood over him without speaking. Thus she stood for ten minutes looking
down at him and listening. But there was no sound; not a word, nor a
moan, nor a sob. It was as though he also were dead, but that a slight
irregular movement of his fingers on the top of his bald head, told her
that his mind and body were still active. 'My lord,' she said at last,
'would you wish to see the doctor when he comes?' She spoke very low and
he did not answer her. Then, after another minute of silence, she asked
the same question again.
'What doctor?' he said.
'Dr Filgrave. We sent for him. Perhaps he is here now. Shall I go and
see, my lord?' Mrs Draper found that her position there was weary and
she wished to escape. Anything on his behalf requiring trouble or work
she would have done willingly; but she could not stand there for ever,
watching the motion of his fingers.
'I suppose I must see him,' said the bishop. Mrs Draper took this as an
order for her departure, and crept silently out of the room, closing the
door behind her with the long protracted elaborate click which is always
produced by an attempt at silence on such occasions. He did not care for
noise or for silence. Had she slammed the door he would not have
regarded it. A wonderful silence had come upon him which for the time
almost crushed him. He would never hear that well-known voice again!
He was free now. Even in his misery--for he was very miserable--he
could not refrain from telling himself that. No once could now press
uncalled-for into his study, contradict him in the presence of those
before whom he was bound to be authoritative, and rob him of all his
dignity. There was no one else of whom he was afraid. She had at least
kept him out of the hands of other tyrants. He was now his own master,
and there was the feeling--I may not call it of relief, for as yet
there was more of pain in it than of satisfaction--a feeling as though
he had escaped from an old trouble at a terrible cost of which he could
not as yet calculate the amount. He knew that he might now give up all
idea of writing to the archbishop.
She had in some ways, and at certain periods of his life, been very good
to him. She had kept his money for him and made things go straight, when
they had been poor. His interests had always been her interests. Without
her he would never have been a bishop. So, at least, he told himself
now, and so told himself probably with truth. She had been very careful
of his children. She had never been idle. She had never been fond of
pleasure. She had neglected no acknowledged duty. He did not doubt that
she was now on her way to heaven. He took his hands from his head, and
clasping them together, said a little prayer. It may be doubted whether
he quite knew for what he was praying. The idea of giving up her soul,
now that she was dead, would have scandalised him. He certainly was not
praying for his own soul. I think that he was praying that God might
save him from being glad that his wife was dead.
But she was dead--and, as it were, in a moment! He had not stirred out
of that room since she had been there with him. Then there had been
angry words between them--perhaps more determined enmity on his part
than ever had existed; and they had parted for the last time with bitter
animosity. But he told himself that he had certainly been right in what
he had done then. He thought he had been right then. And so his mind
went back to the Crawley and Thumble question, and he tried to alleviate
the misery which the last interview with his wife now created by
assuring himself that he at least been justified in what he had done.
But yet his thoughts were very tender to her. Nothing reopens the
springs of love so fully as absence, and no absence so thoroughly as
that which must needs be endless. We want that which we have not; and
especially that which we never can have. She had told him in the very
last moments of her presence with him that he was wishing she were dead,
and he had made no reply. At the moment he had felt, with savage anger,
that such was his wish. Her words had now come to pass, and he was a
widower--and he assured himself that he would give all that he possessed
in the world to bring her back again.
Yes, he was a widower, and he might do as he pleased. The tyrant was
gone, and he was free. The tyrant was gone, and the tyranny had
doubtless been very oppressive. Who had suffered as he had done? But in
thus being left without his tyrant he was wretchedly desolate. Might it
not be that the tyranny had been good for him?--that the Lord had known
best what wife was fit for him? Then he thought of a story which he had
read--and had well marked as he was reading--of some man who had been
terribly afflicted by his wife, whose wife had starved him and beaten
him and reviled him; and yet this man had been able to thank God for
having mortified him in the flesh. Might it not be that the
mortification which he himself had doubtless suffered in his flesh had
been intended for his welfare, and had been very good for him? But if
this were so, it might be that the mortification was now removed because
the Lord knew that his servant had been sufficiently mortified. He had
not been starved or beaten, but the mortification had been certainly
severe. Then there came these words--into his mind, not into his
mouth--'The Lord sent the thorn, and the Lord has taken it away. Blessed
be the Lord.' After that he was very angry with himself, and tried to
pray that he might be forgiven. While he was so striving there came a
low knock at the door, and Mrs Draper again entered the room.
'Dr Filgrave, my lord, was not at home,' said Mrs Draper; 'but he will
be sent the moment when he arrives.'
'Very well, Mrs Draper.'
'But, my lord, will you not come out to dinner? A little soup, or a
morsel of something to eat, and a glass of wine, will enable your
lordship to bear it better.' He allowed Mrs Draper to persuade him, and
followed her into the dining-room. 'Do not go, Mrs Draper,' he said; 'I
would rather that you should stay with me.' So Mrs Draper stayed with
him, and administered to his wants. He was desirous of being seen by as
few eyes as possible in these first moments of his freedom.
He saw Dr Filgrave twice, both before and after the doctor had been
upstairs. There was no doubt, Dr Filgrave said, that it was as Mrs
Draper had surmised. The poor lady was suffering, and had for years been
suffering, from heart-complaint. To her husband she had never said a
word on the subject. To Mrs Draper a word had been said now and again--a
word when some moment of fear would come, when some sharp stroke of
agony would tell of danger. But Mrs Draper had kept the secret of her
mistress, and none of the family had known that there was aught to be
feared. Dr Filgrave, indeed, did tell the bishop that he had dreaded all
along exactly that which had happened. He had said the same to Mr
Rerechild, the surgeon, when they two had had a consultation at the
palace on the occasion of a somewhat alarming birth of a grandchild. But
he mixed up this information with so much medical Latin, and was so
pompous over it, and the bishop was so anxious to be rid of him, that
his words did not have much effect. What did it all matter? The thorn
was gone, and the wife was dead, and the widower must balance his gain
and the loss as best he might.
He slept well but when he woke in the morning the dreariness of his
loneliness was very strong on him. He must do something, and must see
somebody, but he felt that he did not know how to bear himself in his
new position. He must send of course for his chaplain, and tell his
chaplain to open all letters and to answer them for a week. Then he
remembered how many of his letters in days of yore had been opened and
answered by the helpmate, who had just gone from him. Since Dr Tempest's
visit he had insisted that the palace letter-bag should always be
brought in the first instance to him--and this had been done, greatly to
the annoyance of his wife. In order that it might be done the bishop had
been up every morning an hour before the usual time; and everybody in
the household had known why it was so. He thought of this now as the bag
was brought to him on the first morning of his freedom. He could have it
where he pleased now--either in his bedroom or left for him untouched on
the breakfast-table till he should go to it. 'Blessed be the name of the
Lord,' he said as he thought of all this; but he did not stop to analyse
what he was saying. On this morning he would not enjoy his liberty, but
desired that the letter-bag might be taken to Mr Snapper, the chaplain.
The news of Mrs Proudie's death had spread all over Barchester on the
evening of its occurrence, and had been received with that feeling of
distant awe which is always accompanied by some degree of pleasurable
sensation. There was no one in Barchester to lament a mother, or a
sister, or a friend who was really loved. There were those, doubtless,
who regretted the woman's death--and even some who regretted it without
any feeling of personal damage done to themselves. There had come to be
around Mrs Proudie a party who thought as she thought on church matters,
and such people had lost their head, and thereby their strength. And she
had been staunch to her own party, preferring bad tea from a low-church
grocer, to good tea from a grocer who went to the ritualistic church or
to no church at all. And it is due to her to say that she did not forget
those who were true to her--looking after them mindfully where looking
after might be profitable, and fighting their battles where fighting
might be more serviceable. I do not think that the appetite for
breakfast of any man or woman in Barchester was disturbed by the news of
Mrs Proudie's death, but there were some who felt that a trouble had
fallen on them.
Tidings of the catastrophe reached Hiram's Hospital on the evening of
its occurrence--Hiram's Hospital, where dwelt Mr and Mrs Quiverful with
all their children. Now Mrs Quiverful owed a debt of gratitude to Mrs
Proudie, having been placed in her present comfortable home by that
lady's patronage. Mrs Quiverful perhaps understood the character of the
deceased woman, and expressed her opinion respecting it, as graphically
did anyone in Barchester. There was the natural surprise felt at the
Warden's Lodge in the Hospital when the tidings were first received
there, and the Quiverful family was at first too full of dismay,
regrets, and surmises to be able to give themselves impartially to
criticism. But on the following morning, conversation at the
breakfast-table naturally referring to the great loss which the bishop
had sustained, Mrs Quiverful thus pronounced her opinion of her friend's
character: 'You'll find that he'll feel it, Q.,' she said to her
husband, in answer to some sarcastic remark made by him as to the
removal of the thorn. 'He'll feel it, though she was almost too many for
him while she was alive.'
'I daresay he'll feel it at first,' said Quiverful; 'but I think he'll
be more comfortable than he has been.'
'Of course he'll feel it, and go on feeling it till he dies, if he's the
man I take him to be. You're not to think that there has been no love
because there used to be some words, that he'll find himself the happier
he can do more things as he pleases. She was a great help to him, and he
must have known that she was, in spite of the sharpness of her tongue.
No doubt her tongue was sharp. No doubt she was upsetting. And she could
make herself a fool too in her struggles to have everything her own way.
But, Q., there were worse women than Mrs Proudie. She was never one of
your idle ones, and I'm quite sure that no man or woman ever heard her
say a word against her husband behind his back.'
'All the same, she gave him a terribly bad life of it, if all is true
that we hear.'
'There are men who must have what you call a terribly bad life of it,
whatever way it goes with them. The bishop is weak, and he wants
somebody near to him to be strong. She was strong--perhaps too strong;
but he had his advantage of it. After all I don't know that his life has
been so terribly bad. I daresay he's had everything very comfortable
about him. And a man ought to be grateful for that, though very few men
Mr Quiverful's predecessor at the Hospital, old Mr Harding, whose
halcyon days in Barchester had been passed before the coming of the
Proudies, was in bed playing cat's-cradle with Posy seated on the
counterpane, when tidings of Mrs Proudie's death were brought to him by
Mrs Baxter. 'Oh, sir,' said Mrs Baxter, seating herself on a chair by
the bed-side. Mr Harding liked Mrs Baxter to sit down, because he was
almost sure on such occasions to have the advantage of a prolonged
'What is it, Mrs Baxter?'
'Is anything the matter?' And the old man attempted to raise himself in
'You mustn't frighten grandpa,' said Posy.
'No, my dear; and there isn't nothing to frighten him. There isn't
indeed, Mr Harding. They're all well at Plumstead, and when I heard from
the missus at Venice, everything was going on well.'
'But what is it, Mrs Baxter?'
'God forgive all her sins--Mrs Proudie ain't no more.' Now there had
been a terrible feud between the palace and the deanery for years, in
carrying on which the persons of the opposed households were wont to
express themselves with eager animosity. Mrs Baxter and Mrs Draper never
dared speak to each other. The two coachmen each longed for an
opportunity to take the other before the magistrate for some breach of
the law of the road in driving. The footmen abused each other, and the
grooms occasionally fought. The masters and mistresses contented
themselves with simple hatred. Therefore it was not surprising that Mrs
Baxter in speaking of the death of Mrs Proudie, should remember first
'Mrs Proudie dead!' said the old man.
'Indeed, she is, Mr Harding,' said Mrs Baxter, putting both her hands
together piously. 'We're just as grass, ain't we, sir! An dust and clay
and flowers of the field?' Whether Mrs Proudie had most partaken of the
clayey nature or of the flowery nature, Mrs Baxter did not stop to
'Mrs Proudie dead!' with a solemnity that was all her own. 'Then she
won't scold the poor bishop any more.'
'No, my dear; she won't scold anybody any more; and it will be a
blessing for some, I must say. Everybody is always so considerate in
this house, Miss Posy, that we none of us know nothing about what that
'Dead!' said Mr Harding again. 'I think, if you please, Mrs Baxter, you
shall leave me for little time, and take Miss Posy with you.' He had
been in the city of Barchester some fifty years, and here was one who
might have been his daughter, who had come there scarcely ten years
since, and who had now gone before him! He had never loved Mrs Proudie.
Perhaps he had come as near to disliking Mrs Proudie as he had ever come
to disliking any person. Mrs Proudie had wounded him in every part that
was most sensitive. It would be long to tell, nor need it be told now,
how she had ridiculed his cathedral work, how she had made nothing of
him, how she had despised him, always manifesting her contempt plainly.
He had been even driven to rebuke her, and it had perhaps been the only
personal rebuke which he had ever uttered in Barchester. But now she was
gone; and he thought of her simply as an active pious woman, who had
been taken away from her word before her time. And for the bishop, no
idea ever entered Mr Harding's mind as to the removal of a thorn. The
man had lost his life's companion at that time of life when such a
companion is most needed; and Mr Harding grieved for him with sincerity.
The news went out to Plumstead Episcopi by the postman, and happened to
reach the archdeacon as he was talking to his rector at the little gate
leading into the churchyard. 'Mrs Proudie is dead!' he almost shouted,
as the postman notified the fact to him. 'Impossible!'
'It be so for zartain, yer reverence,' said the postman, who was proud
of his news.
'Heavens!' ejaculated the archdeacon, and then hurried in to his wife.
'My dear,' he said--and as he spoke he could hardly deliver himself of
the words, so eager was he to speak them--'who do you think is dead?
Gracious heavens! Mrs Proudie is dead!' Mrs Grantly dropped from her
hand the teaspoonful of tea that was just going into the pot, and
repeated her husband's last words. 'Mrs Proudie dead?' There was a
pause, during which they looked into each other's faces. 'My dear, I
don't believe it,' said Mrs Grantly.
But she did believe it very shortly. There were no prayers at Plumstead
rectory that morning. The archdeacon immediately went out into the
village, and soon obtained sufficient evidence of the truth of that
which the postman had told him. Then he rushed back to his wife. 'It's
true,' he said. 'It's quite true. She's dead. There's no doubt about
that. She's dead. It was last night about seven. That was when they
found her, at least, and she may have died about an hour before.
Filgrave says not more than an hour.'
'And how did she die?'
'Heart-complaint. She was standing up, taking hold of the bedstead, and
so they found her.' Then there was a pause, during which the archdeacon
sat down to his breakfast. 'I wonder how he felt when he heard it?'
'Of course he was terribly shocked.'
'I've no doubt he was shocked. Any man would be shocked. But when you
come to think of it, what a relief!'
'How can you speak of it in that way?' said Mrs Grantly.
'How am I to speak of it in any other way?' said the archdeacon. 'Of
course I shouldn't go and say it out in the street.'
'I don't think you ought to say it anywhere,' said Mrs Grantly. 'The
poor man no doubt feels about his wife in the same way that anybody else
'And of any other poor man has got such a wife as she was, you may be
quite sure that he would be glad to get rid of her. I don't say that he
wished her to die, or that he would have done anything to contrive her
'Gracious, archdeacon; do pray hold your tongue.'
'But it stands to reason that her going will be a great relief to him.
What has she done for him? She has made him contemptible to everybody in
the diocese by her interference, and his life has been a burden to him
through her violence.'
'Is that the way you carry out your proverb De mortuis?' asked Mrs
'The proverb of De mortuis is founded on humbug. Humbug out of doors is
necessary. It would not do for you and me to go into the High Street
just now and say what we think about Mrs Proudie; but I don't suppose
that kind of thing need to be kept up in here--so uncomfortable that I
cannot believe that anyone will regret her. Dear me! Only to think that
she has gone! You may as well give me my tea.'
I do not think that Mrs Grantly's opinion differed much from that
expressed by her husband, or that she was, in truth, the least offended
by the archdeacon's plain speech. But it must be remembered that there
was probably no house in the diocese in which Mrs Proudie had been so
thoroughly hated as she had been at the Plumstead rectory. There had
been hatred in the deanery; but the hatred at the deanery had been mild
in comparison with the hatred at Plumstead. The archdeacon was a sound
friend; but he was also a sound enemy. From the very arrival of the
Proudies at Barchester, Mrs Proudie had thrown down her gauntlet to him,
and he had not been slow in picking it up. The war had been internecine,
and each had given the other terrible wounds. It had been understood
that there should be no quarter, and there had been none. His enemy was
now dead, and the archdeacon could not bring himself to adopt before his
wife the namby-pamby everyday decency of speaking well of one of whom he
had ever thought ill, or expressing regret when no regret could be felt.
'May all her sins be forgiven her,' said Mrs Grantly. 'Amen,' said the
archdeacon. There was something in the tone of his Amen which thoroughly
implied that it was uttered only on the understanding that her departure
from the existing world was to be regarded as an unmitigated good, and
that she should, at any rate, never come back again to Barchester.
When Lady Lufton heard the tidings, she was not so bold in speaking of
it as was her friend the archdeacon. 'Mrs Proudie dead!,' she said to
her daughter-in-law. This was some hours after the news had reached the
house, and when the fact of the poor lady's death had been fully
recognised. 'What will he do without her?'
'The same as other men do,' said the young Lady Lufton.
'But, my dear, he is not the same as other men. He is not at all like
other men. No doubt she was a virago, a woman who could not control her
temper for a moment! No doubt she had led him a terrible life! I have
often pitied him with all my heart. But, nevertheless, she was useful to
him. I suppose she was useful to him. I can hardly believe that Mrs
Proudie is dead. Had he gone, it would have seemed so much more natural.
Poor woman. I daresay she had her good points.' The reader will be
pleased to remember that the Luftons had ever been strong partisans on
the side of the Grantlys.
The news made its way even to Hogglestock on the same day. Mrs Crawley,
when she heard it, went out after her husband, who was in the school.
'Dead!' he said in answer to her whisper. 'Do you tell me that the woman
is dead?' Then Mrs Crawley explained that the tidings were credible.
'May God forgive her all her sins,' said Mrs Crawley. 'She was a violent
woman, certainly, and I think that she misunderstood her duties; but I
do not say that she was a bad woman. I am inclined to think that she was
earnest in her endeavours to do good.' It never occurred to Mr Crawley
that he and his affair, had, in truth, been the cause of her death.
It was thus that she was spoken of for a few days; and the men and women
ceased to speak much of her, and began to talk of the bishop instead. A
month had not passed before it was surmised that a man so long
accustomed to the comforts of married life would marry again; and even
then one lady connected with low-church clergymen in and around the
city was named as a probable successor to the great lady who was gone.
For myself I am inclined to think that the bishop will for the future be
content to lean upon his chaplain.
The monument that was put up to our friend's memory in one of the aisles
of the choir of the cathedral was supposed to be designed and executed
in good taste. There was a broken column, and on the column simply the
words 'My beloved wife!' Then there was a slab by the column, bearing
Mrs Proudie's name, with the date of her life and death. Beneath this
was the common inscription:-
'Requiescat in pace.'
THE OBSTINACY OF MR CRAWLEY
Dr Tempest, when he heard the news, sent immediately to Mr Robarts,
begging him to come over to Silverbridge. But this message was not
occasioned solely by the death of Mrs Proudie. Dr Tempest had also heard
that Mr Crawley had submitted himself to the bishop, that instant
advantage--and, as Dr Tempest thought,--unfair advantage--had been taken
of Mr Crawley's submission, and that the pernicious Mr Thumble had been
at once sent over to Hogglestock. Had these palace doings with reference
to Mr Crawley been unaccompanied by the catastrophe which had happened,
the doctor, much as he might have regretted them, would probably have
felt that there was nothing to be done. He could not in such case have
prevented Mr Thumble's journey to Hogglestock on the next Sunday, and
certainly he could not have softened the heart of the presiding genius
at the palace. But things were very different now. The presiding genius
was gone. Everybody at the palace would be for a while weak and
vacillating. Thumble would be then thoroughly cowed; and it might at any
rate be possible to make some movement in Mr Crawley's favour. Dr
Tempest, therefore, sent for Mr Robarts.
'I'm giving you a great deal of trouble, Robarts,' said the doctor; 'but
then you are so much younger than I am, and I've an idea that you would
do more for this poor man than anyone else in the diocese.' Mr Robarts
of course declared that he did not begrudge his trouble, and that he
would do anything in his power for the poor man. 'I think that you
should see him again, and that you should then see Thumble also. I don't
know whether you can condescend to be civil to Thumble. I could not.'
'I am not quite sure that incivility would not be more efficacious.'
'Very likely. There are men who are deaf as adders to courtesy, but who
are compelled to obedience at once by ill-usage. Very likely Thumble is
one of them; but of that you will be the best judge yourself. I would
see Crawley first, and get his consent.'
'That's the difficulty.'
'Then I should go without his consent, and I would see Thumble and the
bishop's chaplain Snapper. I think you might manage just at this moment,
when they will all be abashed and perplexed by this woman's death, to
arrange that simply nothing shall be done. The great thing will be that
Crawley should go on with the duty till the assizes. If it should happen
that he goes into Barchester and is acquitted, and comes back again, the
whole thing will be over, and there will be no further interference in
the parish. If I were you, I think I would try it.' Mr Robarts said that
he would try it. 'I daresay Mr Crawley will be a little stiff-necked
'He will be very stiff-necked with me,' said Mr Robarts.
'But I can hardly think that he will throw away the only means he has of
supporting his wife and children, when he finds that there can be no
occasion for his doing so. I do not suppose that any person wishes him
to throw up his work now that the poor woman has gone.'
Mr Crawley had been almost in good spirits since the last visit which Mr
Thumble had made him. It seemed as though the loss of everything in the
world was in some way satisfactory to him. He had now given up his
living by his own doing, and had after a fashion acknowledged his guilt
by this act. He had proclaimed to all around him that he did not think
himself to be any longer fit to perform the sacred functions of his
office. He spoke of his trial as though a verdict against him must be
the result. He knew that in going into prison he would leave his wife
and children dependent on the charity of their friends--on charity which
they must condescend to accept, though he could not condescend to ask
it. And yet he was able to carry himself now with a greater show of
fortitude than had been within his power when the extent of his calamity
was more doubtful. I must not ask the reader to suppose that he was
cheerful. To have been cheerful under such circumstances would have been
inhuman. But he carried his head on high, and walked firmly, and gave
his orders with a clear voice. His wife, who was necessarily more
despondent than ever, wondered at him--but wondered in silence. It
certainly seemed as though the very extremity of ill-fortune was good
for him. And he was very diligent with his school, passing the greater
part of the morning with his children. Mr Thumble had told him that he
would come on Sunday, and that he would then take charge of the parish.
Up to the coming of Mr Thumble he would do everything in the parish that
could be done by a clergyman with a clear spirit and a free heart. Mr
Thumble should not find that spiritual weeds had grown rank in the
parish because of his misfortunes.
Mrs Proudie had died on the Tuesday--that having been the day of Mr
Thumble's visit to Hogglestock--and Mr Robarts had gone over to
Silverbridge, in answer to Dr Tempest's invitation, on the Thursday. He
had not, therefore, the command of much time, it being the express
object to prevent the appearance of Mr Thumble at Hogglestock on the
next Sunday. He had gone to Silverbridge by railway, and had, therefore,
been obliged to postpone his visit to Mr Crawley till the next day; but
early on the Friday morning he rode over to Hogglestock. That he did not
arrive there with a broken-kneed horse, the reader may be quite sure. In
all matters of that sort, Mr Robarts was ever above reproach. He rode a
good horse, and drove a neat gig, and was always well-dressed. On this
account Mr Crawley, though he really liked Mr Robarts, and was thankful
to him for many kindnesses, could never bear his presence with perfect
equanimity. Robarts was no scholar, was not a great preacher, had
obtained no celebrity as a churchman--had, in fact, done nothing to
merit great reward; and yet everything had been given to him with an
abundant hand. Within the last twelvemonth his wife had inherited Mr
Crawley did not care to know how many thousand pounds. And yet Mr
Robarts had won all that he possessed by being a clergyman. Was it
possible that Mr Crawley should regard such a man with equanimity?
Robarts rode over with a groom behind him--really taking the groom
because he knew that Mr Crawley would have no one to hold his horse for
him--and the groom was the source of great offence. He come upon Mr
Crawley standing at the school door, and stopping at once, jumped off
his nag. There was something in the way in which he sprang out of the
saddle and threw the reins to the man, which was not clerical to Mr
Crawley's eyes. No man could be so quick in the matter of a horse who
spent as many hours with the poor and with the children as should be
spent by a parish clergyman. It might be probable that Mr Robarts had
never stolen twenty pounds--might never be accused of so disgraceful a
crime--but, nevertheless, Mr Crawley had his own ideas, and made his own
'Crawley' said Robarts, 'I am so glad to find you at home.'
'I am generally to be found in the parish,' said the perpetual curate of
'I know you are,' said Robarts, who knew the man well, and cared nothing
for his friend's peculiarities when he felt his own withers to be
unwrung. 'But you might have been down at Hoggle End with the
brickmakers, and then, I would have had to go after you.'
'I should have grieved--' began Crawley; but Robarts interrupted him at
'Let us go for a walk, and I'll leave the man with the horses. I've
something special to say to you, and I can say it better out here than
in the house. Grace is quite well, and sends her love. She is growing to
look so beautiful!'
'I hope she may grow in grace with God,' said Mr Crawley.
'She is as good a girl as ever I knew. By-the-bye, you had Henry
Grantly over here the other day?'
'Major Grantly, whom I cannot name without expressing my esteem for him,
did do us the honour of calling upon us not very long since. If it be
with reference to him that you have taken this trouble--'
'No, no; not at all. I'll allow him and the ladies to fight out that
battle. I've not the least doubt in the world how that will go. When I'm
told that she made a complete conquest of the archdeacon, there cannot
be any doubt about that.'
'A conquest of the archdeacon!'
But Mr Robarts did not wish to have to explain anything further about
the archdeacon. 'Were you not terribly shocked, Crawley,' he asked,
'when you heard of the death of Mrs Proudie?'
'It was sudden and very awful,' said Mr Crawley. 'Such deaths are
always shocking. Not more so, perhaps, as regards the wife of a bishop.,
than with any other woman.'
'Only we happen to know her.'
'No doubt the finite and meagre nature of our feelings does prevent us
from extending our sympathies to those whom we have not seen in the
flesh. It should not be so, and would not with one who had nurtured his
heart with the proper care. And we are prone to permit an evil worse
than that to canker our regards and to foster and to mar our
solicitudes. Those who are in high station strike us more by their joys
and sorrows than do the poor and lowly. Were some young duke's wife,
wedded but the other day, to die, all England would put on a show of
mourning--nay, would feel some true gleam of pity; but nobody cares for
the widowed brickmaker seated with his starving infant on his cold
'Of course we hear more of the big people,' said Robarts.
'Ay; and think more of them. But do not suppose, sir, that I complain
of this man or that woman because his sympathies, or hers, runs out of
that course which my reason tells me they should hold. The man with whom
it would not be so would simply be a god among men. It is in his
perfection as a man that we recognise the divinity of Christ. It is in
the imperfection of men that we recognise our necessity for a Christ.
Yes, sir, the death of the poor lady at Barchester was very sudden. I
hope that my lord bears with becoming fortitude the heavy misfortune.
They say that he was a man much beholden to his wife--prone to lean upon
her in his goings out and comings in. For such a man such a loss is more
dreadful than for another.'
'They say she led him a terrible life, you know.'
'I am not prone, sir, to believe much of what I hear about the
domesticities of other men, knowing how little any other man can know of
my own. And I have, methinks, observed a proneness in the world to
ridicule that dependence on a woman which every married man should
acknowledge in regard to the wife of his bosom, if he cant trust her as
well as love her. When I hear jocose proverbs spoken as to men such as
that in this house the grey mare is the better horse, or that in that
house the wife wears that garment which is supposed to denote virile
command, knowing that the joke is easy, and that meekness in a man is
more truly noble than the habit of stern authority, I do not allow them
to go far with me in influencing my judgment.'
So spoke Mr Crawley, who never permitted the slightest interference with
his own word in his own family, and who had himself been a witness of
one of those scenes between the bishop and his wife in which the poor
bishop had been so cruelly misused. But to Mr Crawley the thing which he
himself had seen under such circumstances was as sacred as though it had
come to him under the seal of confession. In speaking of the bishop and
Mrs Proudie--nay, as far as was possible in thinking of them--he was
bound to speak and to think as though he had not witnessed that scene in
the palace study.
'I don't suppose that there is much doubt as to her real character,'
said Robarts. 'But you and I need not discuss that.'
'By no means. Such discussion would be both useless and unseemly.'
'And just at present there is something else that I specially want to
say to you. Indeed, I went to Silverbridge on the same subject
yesterday, and have come here expressly to have a little conversation
'If it be about affairs of mine, Mr Robarts, I am indeed troubled in
spirit that so great labour should have fallen upon you.'
'Never mind my labour. Indeed your saying that is a nuisance to me,
because I hoped that by this time you would have understood that I
regard you as a friend, and that I think nothing any trouble that I do
for a friend. You position just now is so peculiar that it requires a
great deal of care.'
'No care can be of any avail to me.'
'There I disagree with you. You must excuse me, but I do; and so does
Dr Tempest. We think that you have been a little too much in a hurry
since he communicated to you the result of our first meeting.'
'As how, sir?'
'It is, perhaps, hardly worth while for us to go into the whole
question; but that man, Thumble, must not come here on next Sunday.'
'I cannot say, Mr Robarts, that the Reverend Mr Thumble has recommended
himself to me strongly either by his outward symbols of manhood or by
such manifestation of inward mental gifts as I have succeeded in
obtaining. But my knowledge of him has been so slight, and has been
acquired in a manner so likely to bias me prejudicially against him,
that I am inclined to think my opinion should go for nothing. It is,
however, the fact that the bishop has nominated him to do this duty; and
that, as I have myself simply notified my decision to be relieved from
the care of the parish, on account of certain unfitness of my own, I am
the last man who should interfere with the bishop in the choice of my
'It was her choice, not his.'
'Excuse me, Mr Robarts, but I cannot allow that assertion to pass
unquestioned. I must say that I have adequate cause for believing that
he came here by his lordship's authority.'
'No doubt he did. Will you just listen to me for a moment? Ever since
this unfortunate affair of the cheque became known, Mrs Proudie has been
anxious to get you out of the parish. She was a violent woman, and chose
to take this matter up violently. Pray hear me out before you interrupt
me. There would have been no commission at all but for her.'
'The commission is right and proper and just,' said Mr Crawley, who
could not keep himself silent.
'Very well. Let it be so. But Mr Thumble's coming over here is not
proper or right; and you may be sure the bishop does not wish it.'
'Let him send any other clergyman whom he may think more fitting,' said
'But we do not want him to send anybody.'
'Somebody must be sent, Mr Robarts.'
'No, not so. Let me go over and see Thumble and Snapper--Snapper, you
know, is the domestic chaplain; and all that you need do is to go on
with your services on Sunday. If necessary, I will see the bishop. I
think you may be sure that I can manage it. If not, I will come back to
you.' Mr Robarts paused for an answer, but it seemed for a while that
all Mr Crawley's impatient desire to speak was over. He walked on
silently along the lane by his visitor's side, and when, after some five
or six minutes, Robarts stood still in the road, Mr Crawley even then
said nothing. 'It cannot be but that you should be anxious to keep the
income of the parish for your wife and children,' said Mark Robarts.
'Of course, I am anxious for my wife and children,' Crawley answered.
'Then let me do as I say. Why should you throw away a chance, even if
it be a bad one? But here the chance is all in your favour. Let me
manage it for you at Barchester.'
'Of course I am anxious for my wife and children,' said Crawley,
repeating his words; 'how anxious, I fancy no man can conceive who has
not been hear enough to absolute want to know how terrible is its
approach when it threatens those who are weak and who are very dear!
But, Mr Robarts, you spoke just now of the chance of the thing--the
chance of your arranging on my behalf that I should for a while longer
be left in the enjoyment of the freehold of my parish. It seemeth to me
that there should be no chance on such a subject; that in the adjustment
of so momentous a matter there should be a consideration of right and
wrong, and no consideration of aught beside. I have been growing to
feel, for some weeks past, that circumstances--whether through my fault
or not is an outside question as to which I will not further delay you
by offering even an opinion--that unfortunate circumstances have made me
unfit to remain here as guardian of the souls of the people of this
parish. Then there came to me the letter from Dr Tempest--for which I am
greatly beholden to him--strengthening me altogether in this view. What
could I do then, Mr Robarts? Could I allow myself to think of my wife
and my children when such a question as that was before me for self-
'I would--certainly,' said Robarts.
'No sir! Excuse the bluntness of my contradiction, but I feel assured
that in such emergency you would look solely to duty--as by God's help I
will endeavour to do. Mr Robarts, there are many of us who in many
things are much worse than we believe ourselves to be. But in other
matters, and perhaps of larger moment, we can rise to ideas of duty as
the need for such ideas comes to us. I say not this at all as praising
myself. I speak of men as I believe that they will be found to be;--of
yourself, of myself, and of others who strive to live with clean hands
and a clear conscience. I do not for a moment think that you would
retain your benefice at Framley if there had come upon you, after much
thought, an assured conviction that you could not retain it without
grievous injury to the souls of others and grievous sin to your own.
Wife and children, dear as they are to you and to me--as dear to me as
to you--fade from the sight when the time comes for judgment on such a
matter as that!' They were standing quite still now, facing each other,
and Crawley, as he spoke with a low voice, looked straight into his
friend's eyes, and kept his hand firmly fixed on his friend's arm.
'I cannot interfere further,' said Robarts.
'No--you cannot interfere further.' Robarts, when he told the story of
the interview to his wife that evening, declared that he had never heard
a voice so plaintively touching as was the voice of Mr Crawley when he
uttered those last words.
They turned back to the servant and the house almost without a word, and
Robarts mounted without offering to see Mrs Crawley. Nor did Mr Crawley
ask him to do so. It was better now that Robarts should go. 'May God
send you through all your troubles,' said Mr Robarts.
'Mr Robarts, I thank you warmly for your friendship,' said Mr Crawley.
And then they parted. In about half an hour Mr Crawley returned to the
house. 'Now for Pindar, Jane,' he said, seating himself at his old desk.
MR CRAWLEY'S LAST APPEARANCE IN HIS OWN PULPIT
No word or message from Mr Crawley reached Barchester throughout the
week, and on the Sunday morning Mr Thumble was under a positive
engagement to go out to Hogglestock, and to perform the services of the
church. Dr Tempest had been quite right in saying that Mr Thumble would
be awed by the death of his patroness. Such was altogether the case, and
he was very anxious to escape from the task he had undertaken at her
instance, if it were possible. In the first place, he had never been a
favourite with the bishop himself, and had now, therefore, nothing to
expect in the diocese. The crusts and bits of loaves and the morsels of
broken fishes which had come his way had all come from the bounty of Mrs
Proudie. And then, as regarded this special Hogglestock job, how was he
to get paid for it? Whence, indeed, was he to seek repayment for the
actual money which he would be out of pocket in finding his way to
Hogglestock and back again? But he could not get to speak to the bishop,
nor could he induce anyone who had access to his lordship to touch upon
the subject. Mr Snapper avoided him as much as possible; and Mr Snapper,
when he was caught and interrogated, declared that he regarded the
matter as settled. Nothing could be in worse taste, Mr Snapper thought,
than to undo, immediately after the poor lady's death, work in the
diocese which had been arranged and done by her. Mr Snapper expressed
his opinion that Mr Thumble was bound to go to Hogglestock; and, when Mr
Thumble declared petulantly the he would not stir a step out of
Barchester, Mr Snapper protested that Mr Thumble would have to answer
for it in this world and in the next if there was no services at
Hogglestock on that Sunday. On the Saturday evening Mr Thumble made a
desperate attempt to see the bishop, but was told by Mrs Draper that the
bishop had positively declined to see him. The bishop himself probably
felt unwilling to interfere with his wife's doings so soon after her
death! So Mr Thumble, with a heavy heart, went across to the 'Dragon of
Wantly', and ordered a gig, resolving that the bill should be sent to
the palace. He was not going to trust himself again on the bishop's cob!
Up to Saturday evening Mr Crawley did the work of the parish, and on the
Saturday evening he made an address to his parishioners from his pulpit.
He had given notice among the brickmakers and labourers that he wished
to say a few words to them in the schoolroom; but the farmers also heard
of this and came with their wives and daughters, and all the brickmakers
came and most of the labourers were there, so that there was no room for
them in the schoolhouse. The congregation was much larger than was
customary even in the church. 'They will come,' he said to his wife, 'to
hear a ruined man declare his own ruin, but they will not come to hear
the word of God.' When it was found that the persons assembled were too
many for the school-room, the meeting was adjourned to the church, and
Mr Crawley was forced to get into his pulpit. He said a short prayer,
and then he began his story.
His story as he told it then shall not be repeated now, as the same
story has been told too often already in these pages. Surely it was a
singular story for a parish clergyman to tell himself in so solemn a
manner. That he had applied the cheque to his own purposes, and was
unable to account for its possession of it, was certain. He did not know
when or how he had got it. Speaking to them then in God's house he told
them that. He was to be tried by a jury, and all he could do was to tell
the jury the same. He would not expect the jury to believe him. The jury
would, of course, believe only that which was proved to them. But he did
expect his old friends at Hogglestock, who had known him so long, to
take his word as true. That there was no sufficient excuse for his
conduct, even in his own sight, this, his voluntary resignation of his
parish, was, he said, sufficient evidence. Then he explained to them, as
clearly as he was able, what the bishop had done, what the commission
had done, and what he had done himself. That he spoke no word of Mrs
Proudie to that audience need hardly be mentioned here. 'And now,
dearest friends, I leave you,' he said, with that weighty solemnity
which was so peculiar to the man, and which he was able to make
singularly impressive even on such a congregation as that of
Hogglestock, 'and I trust that the heavy burden but pleasing burden of
the charge which I have had over you may fall into hands better fitted
than mine have been for such work. I have always known my own unfitness,
by reason of the worldly cares with which I have been laden. Poverty
makes the spirit poor, and the hands weak, and the heart sore--and too
often makes the conscience dull. May the latter never be the case with
any of you.' Then he uttered another short prayer, and, stepping down
from the pulpit, walked out of the church, with his weeping wife hanging
on his arm, and his daughter following them, almost dissolved in tears.
He never again entered that church as the pastor of the congregation.
There was an old lame man from Hoggle End leaning on his stick near the
door as Mr Crawley went out, and with him was his old lame wife. 'He'll
pull through yet,' said the old man to his wife; 'you'll see else. He'll
pull through because he's so dogged. It's dogged as does it.'
On that night the position of the members of Mr Crawley's household
seemed to have changed. There was something almost of elation in his
mode of speaking, and he said soft loving words, striving to comfort his
wife. She, on the other hand, could say nothing to comfort him. She had
been averse to the step he was taking, but had been unable to press her
objection in opposition to his great argument as to duty. Since he had
spoken to her in that strain which he had used with Robarts, she also
had felt that she must be silent. But she could not even feign to feel
the pride which comes from the performance of a duty. 'What will he do
when he comes out?' she said to her daughter. The coming out spoken of
her was the coming out of prison. It was natural enough that she should
feel no elation.
The breakfast on Sunday morning was to her, perhaps, the saddest scene
of her life. They sat down, the three together, at the usual hour--nine
o'clock--but the morning had not been passed as was customary on
Sundays. It had been Mr Crawley's practice to go into the school from
eight to nine; but on this Sunday he felt, as he told his wife, that his
presence would be an intrusion there. But he requested Jane to go and
perform her usual task. 'If Mr Thumble should come,' he said to her, 'be
submissive to him in all things.' Then he stood at his door, watching to
see at what hour Mr Thumble would reach the school. But Mr Thumble did
not attend the school on that morning. 'And yet he was very express to
me in his desire that I would not meddle with the duties,' said Mr
Crawley to his wife as he stood at the door--'unnecessarily urgent, as I
may say I thought at the time.' If Mrs Crawley could have spoken out her
thoughts about Mr Thumble at that moment, her words would, I think have
surprised her husband.
At breakfast there was hardly a word spoken. Mr Crawley took his crust
and ate it mournfully--almost ostentatiously. Jane tried and failed, and
tried to hide her failure, failing in that also. Mrs Crawley made no
attempt. She sat behind her teapot, with her hands clasped and her eyes
fixed. It was as though some last day had come upon her--this, the first
Sunday of her husband's degradation.
'Mary,' he said to her, 'why do you not eat?'
'I cannot,' she replied, speaking not in a whisper, but in words which
would hardly get themselves articulated. 'I cannot. Do not ask me.'
'For the honour of the lord, you will want the strength which bread can
give you,' he said, intimating to her that he wished her to attend the
'Do not ask me to be there, Josiah. I cannot. It is too much for me.'
'Nay, I will not press it,' he said. 'I can go alone.' He uttered no
word expressive of a wish that his daughter should attend the church;
but when the moment came, Jane accompanied him. 'What shall I do,
mamma?' she said, 'if I find that I cannot bear it?' 'Try to bear it,'
the mother said. 'Try for his sake. You are stronger than I am.'
The tinkle of the church bell was heard at the usual time, and Mr
Crawley, hat in hand, stood ready to go forth. He had heard nothing of
Mr Thumble, but had made up his mind that Mr Thumble would not trouble
him. He had taken the precaution to request his churchwarden to be early
at the church, so that Mr Thumble might encounter no difficulty. The
church was very near to the house, and any vehicle arriving might have
been heard had Mr Crawley watched closely. But no one had cared to watch
Mr Thumble's arrival at the church. He did not doubt that Mr Thumble
would be at the church. With reference to the school, he had had some
But just as he was about to start he heard the clatter of a gig. Up came
Mr Thumble to the door of the parsonage, and having come down from his
gig was about to enter the house as though it were his own. Mr Crawley
greeted him in the pathway, raising his hat from his head, and
expressing a wish that Mr Thumble might not feel himself fatigued with
his drive. 'I will not ask you into my poor house,' he said, standing in
the middle of the pathway; 'for that my wife is ill.'
'Nothing catching, I hope?' said Mr Thumble.
'Her malady is of the spirit rather than of the flesh,' said Mr Crawley.
'Shall we go to the church?'
'Certainly--by all means. How about the surplice?'
'You will find, I trust, that the churchwarden has everything in
readiness. I have notified him expressly your coming, with the purport
that it may be so.'
'You'll take part in the service, I suppose?' said Mr Thumble.
'No part--no part whatever,' said Mr Crawley, standing still for a
moment as he spoke, and showing plainly by the tone of his voice how
dismayed he was, how indignant he had been made, by so indecent a
proposition. Was he giving up his pulpit to a stranger for any reason
less cogent than one which made it absolutely imperative of him to be
silent in that church which had so long been his own?
'Just as you please,' said Mr Thumble. 'Only it's rather hard lines to
have to do it all myself after coming all the way from Barchester this
morning.' To this Mr Crawley condescended to make no reply whatever.
In the porch of the church, which was the only entrance, Mr Crawley
introduced Mr Thumble to the churchwarden, simply by a wave of the hand,
and then passed on with his daughter to a seat which opened upon the
aisle. Jane was going on to that which she had hitherto always occupied
with her mother in the little chancel; but Mr Crawley would not allow
this. Neither to him nor to any of his family was there attached any
longer the privilege of using the chancel of the church of Hogglestock.
Mr Thumble scrambled into the reading-desk some ten minutes after the
proper time, and went through the morning service under, what must be
admitted to be, serious difficulties. There were the eyes of Mr Crawley
fixed upon him throughout the work, and a feeling pervaded him that
everybody there regarded him as an intruder. At first this was so strong
upon him that Mr Crawley pitied him, and would have encouraged him had
it been possible. But as the work progressed, and as custom and the
sound of his own voice emboldened him, there came to the man some
touches of the arrogance which so generally accompanies cowardice, and
Mr Crawley's acute ear detected the moment when it was so. An observer
might have seen that the motion of his hands was altered as they were
lifted in prayer. Though he was praying, even in prayer he could not
forget the man who was occupying the desk.
Then came the sermon, preached very often before, lasting exactly
half-an-hour, and then Mr Thumble's work was done. Itinerant clergymen,
who preach now here and now there, as it had been the lot of Mr Thumble
to do, have at any rate this relief--that they can preach their sermons
often. From the communion-table Mr Thumble had stated that, in the
present peculiar circumstances of the parish, there would be no second
service at Hogglestock for the present; and this was all he said or did
peculiar to the occasion. The moment of the service was over and he got
into his gig, and was driven back to Barchester.
'Mamma,' said Jane, as they sat at dinner, 'such a sermon I am sure was
never heard in Hogglestock before. Indeed, you can hardly call it a
sermon. It was downright nonsense.'
'My dear,' said Mr Crawley energetically, 'keep your criticisms for
matters that are profane; then, though they be childish and silly, they
may at least be innocent. Be critical of Eurypides, if you must be
critical.' But when Jane kissed her father after dinner, she, knowing
his humour well, felt assured that her remarks had not been taken
altogether in ill part.