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his own. He took his arm from round her waist, his arm that was trembling with a new delight, and let her go. She fled like a roe to her own chamber, and then, having turned the bolt, she enjoyed the full luxury of her love. She idolised, almost worshipped this man who had so meekly begged her pardon. And he was now her own. Oh, how she wept and cried and laughed, as the hopes and fears and miseries of the last few weeks passed in remembrance through her mind.

Mr Slope! That any one should have dared to think that she who had been chosen by him could possibly have mated herself with Mr Slope! That they should have dared to tell him, also, and subject her bright happiness to such a needless risk! And then she smiled with joy as she thought of all the comforts that she could give him; not that he cared for comforts, but that it would be so delicious for her to give.

She got up and rang for her maid that she might tell her little boy of his new father; and in her own way she did tell him. She desired her maid to leave her, in order that she might be alone with her child; and there, while he lay sprawling on the bed, she poured forth the praises, so unmeaning to him, of the man she had selected to guard his infancy.

She could not be happy, however, till she had made Mr Arabin take the child to himself, and thus, as it were, adopt him as his own. The moment the idea struck her she took the baby in her arms, and, opening her door, ran quickly down to the drawing-room. She at once found, by the step still pacing on the floor, that he was there; and a glance within the room told her that he was alone. She hesitated a moment, and then hurried in with her precious charge.

Mr Arabin met her in the middle of the room. ‘There,’ said she, breathless with her haste; ‘there, take him–take him and love him.’

Mr Arabin took the little fellow from her, and kissing him again and again, prayed God to bless him. ‘He shall be all as my own– all as my own,’ said he. Eleanor, as she stooped to take back her child, kissed the hand that held him, and then rushed back with her treasure to her chamber.

It was then that Mr Harding’s younger daughter was won for the second time. At dinner neither she nor Mr Arabin were very bright, but their silence occasioned no remark. In the drawing-room, as we have before said, she told Miss Thorne what had occurred. The next morning she returned to Barchester, and Mr Arabin went over with his budget of news to the archdeacon. As Dr Grantly was not there, he could only satisfy himself by telling Mrs Grantly how that he intended himself the honour of becoming her brother-in-law. In the ecstasy of her joy at hearing such tidings, Mrs Grantly vouchsafed him a warmer welcome than any he had yet received from Eleanor.

‘Good heavens!’ she exclaimed–it was the general exclamation of the rectory. ‘Poor Eleanor! Dear Eleanor. What monstrous injustice has been done her!–Well, it shall all be made up now.’ And then she thought of the signora. ‘What lies people tell,’ she said to herself.

But people in this matter had told no lies at all.

CHAPTER XLIX

THE BEELZEBUB COLT

When Miss Thorne left the dining-room, Eleanor had formed no intention of revealing to her what had occurred; but when she was seated beside her hostess on the sofa the secret dropped from her almost unawares. Eleanor was but a bad hypocrite, and she found herself quite unable to continue talking about Mr Arabin, as though he was a stranger, while her heart was full of him. When Miss Thorne, pursuing her own scheme with discreet zeal, asked the young widow whether, in her opinion, it would not be a good thing for Mr Arabin to get married, she had nothing for it but to confess the truth. ‘I suppose it would,’ said Eleanor, rather sheepishly. Whereupon Miss Thorne amplified on the idea. ‘Oh, Miss Thorne,’ said Eleanor, ‘he is going to be married. I am engaged to him.’

Now Miss Thorne knew very well that there had been no such engagement when she had been walking with Mrs Bold in the morning. She had also heard enough to be tolerably sure that there had been no preliminaries to such an engagement. She was, therefore, as we have before described, taken a little by surprise. But, nevertheless, she embraced her guest, and cordially congratulated her.

Eleanor had no opportunity of speaking another word to Mr Arabin that evening, except such words as all the world might hear; and these, as may be supposed, were few enough. Miss Thorne did her best to leave them in privacy; but Mr Thorne, who knew nothing of what had occurred, and another guest, a friend of his, entirely interfered with her good intentions. So poor Eleanor had to go to bed without one sign of affection. Her state, nevertheless, was not to be pitied.

The next morning she was up early. It was probable, she thought, that by going down a little before the usual hour of breakfast, she might find Mr Arabin alone in the dining-room. Might it not be that she would calculate that an interview would thus be possible? Thus thinking, Eleanor was dressed a full hour before the time fixed at the Ullathorne household for morning prayers. She did not at once go down. She was afraid to seem to be too anxious to meet her lover; though, heaven knows, her anxiety was intense enough. She therefore sat herself down at her window, and repeatedly looking at her watch, nursed her child till she thought she might venture forth.

When she found herself at the dining-room door, she stood a moment, hesitating to turn the handle; but when she heard Mr Thorne’s voice inside she hesitated no longer. Her object was defeated, and she might now go in as soon as she liked without the slightest imputation on her delicacy. Mr Thorne and Mr Arabin were standing on the hearth-rug, discussing the merits of the Beelzebub colt; or rather, Mr Thorne was discussing, and Mr Arabin was listening. That interesting animal had rubbed the stump of his tail against the wall of his stable, and occasioned much uneasiness to the Ullathorne master of the horse. Had Eleanor but waited another minute, Mr Thorne would have been in the stable.

Mr Thorne, when he saw his lady guest, repressed his anxiety. The Beelzebub colt must do without him. And so the three stood, saying little or nothing to each other, till at last the master of the house, finding that he could no longer bear the present state of suspense respecting his favourite young steed, made an elaborate apology to Mrs Bold, and escaped. As he shut the door behind him, Eleanor almost wished that he had remained. It was not that she was afraid of Mr Arabin, but she hardly yet knew how to address him.

He, however, soon relieved her from her embarrassment. He came up to her, and taking bother her hands in his, he said, ‘So, Eleanor, you and I are to be man and wife. Is it so?’

She looked up into his face, and her lips formed themselves into a single syllable. She uttered no sound, but he could read the affirmative plainly in her face.

‘It is a great trust,’ said he, ‘a very great trust.’

‘It is–it is,’ said Eleanor, not exactly taking what he had said in the sense that he had meant. ‘It is a very great trust, and I will do my utmost to deserve it.’

‘And I also will do my utmost to deserve it,’ said Mr Arabin very solemnly. And then, winding his arm round her waist, he stood there gazing at the fire, and she with her head leaning in his shoulder, stood by him, well satisfied with her position. They neither of them spoke, or found any want of speaking. All that was needful for them to say had been said. The yea, yea, had been spoken by Eleanor in her own way–and that way had been perfectly satisfactory to Mr Arabin.

And now it remained to them each to enjoy the assurance of the other’s love. And how great that luxury is! How far it surpasses any other pleasure which God has allowed to his creatures! And to a woman’s heart how doubly delightful!

When the ivy has found its tower, when the delicate creeper has found its strong wall, we know how the parasite plants grow and prosper. They were not created to stretch forth their branches alone, and endure without protection the summer’s sun and the winter’s storm. Alone they but spread themselves on the ground, and cower unseen in the dingy shade. But when they have found their firm supporters, how wonderful is their beauty; how all pervading and victorious!

What is the turret without its ivy, or the high garden wall without the jasmine which gives it its beauty and fragrance? The hedge without the honeysuckle is but a hedge.

There is s feeling still half existing, but now half conquered by the force of human nature, that a woman should be ashamed of her love till the husband’s right to her compels her to acknowledge it. We would fain preach a different doctrine. A woman should glory in her love; but on that account let her take the more care that it be such as to justify her glory.

Eleanor did glory in hers, and she felt, and had cause to feel, that it deserved to be held as glorious. She could have stood there for hours with his arm around her, had fate and Mr Thorne permitted it. Each moment she crept nearer to his bosom, and felt more and more certain that there was her home. What now to her was the archdeacon’s arrogance, her sister’s coldness, or her dear father’s weakness? What need she care for the duplicity of such friends as Charlotte Stanhope? She had found the strong shield that should guard her from all wrongs, the trusty pilot that should henceforward guide her through the shoals and rocks. She would give up the heavy burden of her independence, and once more assume the position of a woman, and the duties of a trusting and loving wife.

And he, too, stood there fully satisfied with his place. They were both looking intently on the fire, as though they could read there their future fate, till at last Eleanor turned her face towards his. ‘How sad you are,’ she said, smiling; and indeed his face was, if not sad, at least serious. ‘How sad you are, love!’

‘Sad,’ said he, looking down at her; ‘no, certainly not sad.’ Her sweet loving eyes were turned towards him, and she smiled softly as he answered her. The temptation was too strong even for the demure propriety of Mr Arabin, and, bending over her, he pressed his lips to hers.

Immediately after this, Mr Thorne appeared, and they were both delighted to hear that the tail of the Beelzebub colt was not materially injured.

It had been Mr Harding’s intention to hurry over to Ullathorne as soon as possible after his return to Barchester, in order to secure the support of his daughter in his meditated revolt against the archdeacon as touching the deanery; but he was spared the additional journey by hearing that Mrs Bold had returned unexpectedly home. As soon as he had read her note he started off, and found her waiting for him in her own house.

How much each of them had to tell the other, and how certain each was that the story which he or she had to tell would astonish the other!

‘My dear, I am so anxious to see you,’ said Mr Harding, kissing his daughter.

‘Oh, papa, I have so much to tell you!’ said the daughter, returning his embrace.

‘My dear, they have offered me the deanery!’ said Mr Harding, anticipating by the suddenness of the revelation the tidings which Eleanor had to give him.

‘Oh, papa,’ said she, forgetting her own love and happiness in her joy at the surprising news; ‘oh, papa, can it be possible? Dear, papa, how thoroughly, thoroughly happy that makes me!’

‘But, my dear, I think it best to refuse it.’

‘Oh, papa!’

‘I am sure you will agree with me, Eleanor, when I explain it to you. You know, my dear how old I am. If I live, I–‘

‘But, papa, I must tell you about myself.’

‘Well, my dear.’

‘I do wonder how you will take it.’

‘Take what?’

‘If you don’t rejoice at it, if it doesn’t make you happy, if you don’t encourage me, I shall break my heart.’

‘If that be the case, Nelly, I certainly will encourage you.’

‘But I fear you won’t. I do so fear you won’t. And yet you can’t but think I am the most fortunate woman living on God’s earth.’

‘Are you, dearest? Then I certainly will rejoice with you. Come, Nelly, come to me, and tell me what it is.’

‘I am going–‘

He led her to the sofa, and seating himself beside her, with both her hands in his. ‘You are going to be married, Nelly. Is not that it?’

‘Yes,’ she said, faintly. ‘That is if you will approve;’ and then she blushed as she remembered the promise which she had so lately volunteered to him, and which she had so utterly forgotten in making her engagement with Mr Arabin.

Mr Harding thought for a moment who the man could be whom he was to be called upon to welcome as his son-in-law. A week since he would have had no doubt whom to name. In that case he would have been prepared to give his sanction, although he would have done so with a heavy heart. Now he knew that at any rate it would not be Mr Slope, though he was perfectly at a loss to guess who could possibly have filled his place. For a moment he thought that the man might be Bertie Stanhope, and his very soul sank within him.

‘Well, Nelly?’

‘Oh, papa, promise me that, for my sake, you will love him.’

‘Come, Nelly, come; tell me who it is.’

‘But you will love him, papa?’

‘Dearest, I must love any one that you love.’ Then she turned he face to his, and whispered into his ear the name of Mr Arabin.

No man that she could have named could have more surprised or more delighted him. Had he looked round the world for a son-in-law to his taste, he could have selected no one whom he would have preferred to Mr Arabin. He was a clergyman; he held a living in the neighbourhood; he was of a set to which all Mr Harding’s own partialities most closely adhered; he was the great friend of Dr Grantly; and he was, moreover, a man of whom Mr Harding knew nothing but what he approved. Nevertheless his surprise was so great as to prevent the immediate expression of his joy. He had never thought of Mr Arabin in connection with his daughter; he had never imagined that they had any feeling in common. He had feared that his daughter had been made hostile to clergymen of Mr Arabin’s stamp by her intolerance of the archdeacon’s pretensions. Had he been put to wish, he might have wished for Mr Arabin for a son-in-law; but had he been put to guess, the name would never have occurred to him.

‘Mr Arabin!’ he exclaimed; ‘impossible!’

‘Oh, papa, for heaven’s sake don’t say anything against him! If you do love me, don’t say anything against him. Oh, papa, it’s done, and mustn’t be undone–oh, papa!’

Fickle Eleanor! Where was the promise that she would make no choice for herself without her father’s approval? She had chosen, and now demanded his acquiescence. ‘Oh, papa, isn’t he good? isn’t he noble? isn’t he religious, high-minded, everything that a good man possibly can be?’ and she clung to her father, beseeching him for his consent.

‘My Nelly, my child, my own daughter! He is; he is noble and good and high-minded; he is all that a woman can love and admire. He shall be my son, my own son. He shall be as close to my heart as you are. My Nelly, my child, my happy, happy child!’

We need not pursue the interview any further. By degrees they returned to the subject of the new promotion. Eleanor tried to prove to him, as the Grantlys had done, that his age could be no bar to his being a very excellent dean; but those arguments had now even less weight than before. He said little or nothing, but sat meditative. Every now and then he would kiss his daughter, and say, ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ or ‘very true,’ or ‘well, my dear, I can’t quite agree with you there,’ but he could not be got to enter sharply into the question of ‘to be or not to be’ dean of Barchester. Of her and her happiness, of Mr Arabin and his virtues, he would talk as much as Eleanor desired; and, to tell the truth, that was not a little; but about the deanery he would now say nothing further. He had got a new idea into his head–Why should not Mr Arabin be the new dean?

CHAPTER L

THE ARCHDEACON IS SATISFIED WITH THE STATE OF AFFAIRS

The archdeacon, in his journey into Barchester, had been assured by Mr Harding that all their prognostications about Mr Slope and Eleanor were groundless. Mr Harding, however, had found it very difficult to shake his son-in-law’s faith in his own acuteness. The matter had, to Dr Grantly, been so plainly corroborated by such patent evidence, borne out by such endless circumstances, that he at first refused to take as true the positive statement which Mr Harding made to him of Eleanor’s own disavowal of the impeachment. But at last he yielded in a qualified way. He brought himself to admit that he would at the present regard his past convictions as a mistake; but in doing this he so guarded himself, that if, at any future time, Eleanor should come forth to the world as Mrs Slope, he might still be able to say: ‘There, I told you so. Remember what you said and what I said; and remember also for coming years, that I was right in this matter–as in all others.’

He carried, however, his concession so far as to bring himself to undertake to call at Eleanor’s house, and he did call accordingly, while the father and the daughter were yet in the middle of their conference. Mr Harding had had so much to hear and to say that he had forgotten to advertise Eleanor of the honour that awaited her, and she heard her brother-in-law’s voice in the hall, while she quite unprepared to see him.

‘There’s the archdeacon,’ she said, springing up.

‘Yes, my dear. He told me to tell you that he would come to see you; but, to tell the truth, I had forgotten all about it.’

Eleanor fled away, regardless of all her father’s entreaties. She could not now, in the first hours of her joy, bring herself to bear all the archdeacon’s retractions, apologies, and congratulations. He would have so much to say, and would be so tedious in saying it; consequently, the archdeacon, when he was shown into the drawing-room, found on one there but Mr Harding.’

‘You must excuse Eleanor,’ said Mr Harding.

‘Is anything the matter?’ asked the doctor, who at once anticipated that the whole truth about Mr Slope had at last come out.

‘Well, something is the matter. I wonder whether you will be much surprised?’

The archdeacon saw by his father-in-law’s manner that after all he had nothing to tell him about Mr Slope. ‘No,’ said he, ‘certainly not–nothing will ever surprise me again.’ Very many men nowadays, besides the archdeacon, adopt or affect to adopt the nil admirari doctrine; but nevertheless, to judge from their appearance, they are just as subject to sudden emotions as their grandfathers and grandmothers were before them.

‘What do you think Mr Arabin has done?’

‘Mr Arabin! It’s nothing about that daughter of Stanhope’s, I hope?’

‘No, not that woman,’ said Mr Harding, enjoying his joke in his sleeve.

‘Not that woman! Is he going to do anything about any woman? Why can’t you speak out if yo have anything to say? There is nothing I hate so much as these sort of mysteries.’

‘There shall be no mystery with you, archdeacon; though, of course, it must go no further at present.’

‘Well.’

‘Except Susan. You must promise me you’ll tell no one else?’

‘Nonsense!’ exclaimed the archdeacon, who was becoming angry in his suspense. ‘You can’t have any secret about Mr Arabin.’

‘Only this–that he and Eleanor are engaged.’

It was quite clear to see by the archdeacon’s face, that he did not believe a word of it. ‘Mr Arabin! It’s impossible!’

‘Eleanor, at any rate, has just told me so.’

‘It’s impossible,’ repeated the archdeacon.

‘Well, I can’t say I think it is impossible. It certainly took me by surprise; but that does not make it impossible.’

‘She must be mistaken.’

Mr Harding assured him that there was no mistake; that he would find, on returning home, that Mr Arabin had been at Plumstead with the express object of making to same declaration, that even Miss Thorne knew all about it; and that, in fact, the thing was as clearly settled as any such arrangement between a lady and a gentleman could be.

‘Good heavens!’ said the archdeacon, walking up and down Eleanor’s drawing-room. ‘Good heavens! Good heavens!’

Now, these exclamations certainly betokened faith. Mr Harding properly gathered from it that, at last, Dr Grantly did believe the fact. The first utterances clearly evinced a certain amount of distaste at the information he had received; the second, simply indicated surprise; and the tone of the third, Mr Harding fancied that he could catch a certain gleam of satisfaction.

The archdeacon had truly expressed the workings of his mind. He could not but be disgusted to find how utterly astray he had been in all his anticipations. Had he only been lucky enough to have suggested the marriage himself when he first brought Mr Arabin into the country, his character for judgment and wisdom would have received an addition which would have classed him at any rate next to Solomon. And why had he not done so? Might he not have foreseen that Mr Arabin would want a wife in the parsonage? He had foreseen that Eleanor would want a husband; but should he not also have perceived that Mr Arabin was a man much more likely to attract her than Mr Slope? The archdeacon found that he had been at fault, and of course could not immediately get over his discomfiture.

Then his surprise was intense. How sly the pair of young turtle doves had been with him. How egregiously they had hoaxed him. He had preached at Eleanor against her fancied attachment to Mr Slope, at the very time she was in love with his own protege, Mr Arabin; and had absolutely taken that same Mr Arabin into his confidence with reference to the dread of Mr Slope’s alliance. It was very natural that the archdeacons should feel surprise.

But there was also great ground for satisfaction. Looking at the match by itself, it was the very thing to help the doctor out of his difficulties. In the first place, the assurance that he should never have Mr Slope for his brother-in-law was in itself a great comfort. Then Mr Arabin was, of all men, one with whom it would best suit him to be utterly connected. But the crowning comfort was the blow that this marriage would give to Mr Slope. He had now certainly lost his wife; rumour was beginning to whisper that he might possibly lose his position in the palace; and if Mr Harding would only be true, the great danger of all would be surmounted. In such case it might be expected that Mr Slope would own himself vanquished, and take himself altogether away from Barchester. And so the archdeacon would again be able to breath the pure air.

‘Well, well,’ said he. ‘Good heavens! Good heavens!’ and the tone of the fifth exclamation made Mr Harding fully aware that content was reigning in the archdeacon’s bosom.

And then slowly, gradually, and craftily, Mr Harding propounded his own new scheme. Why should not Mr Arabin be the new dean?

Slowly, gradually, thoughtfully, Dr Grantly fell into his father-in-law’s views. Much as he liked Mr Arabin, sincere as he was in his admiration for that gentleman’s ecclesiastical abilities, he would not have sanctioned a measure which would have robbed his father-in-law of his fairly-earned promotion, were it at all practicable to induce his father-in-law to accept the promotion which he had earned. But the archdeacon had, on a former occasion, received proof of the obstinacy with which Mr Harding could adhere to his own views in opposition to the advice of all his friends. He knew tolerably well that nothing would induce the meek, mild man before him to take the high place offered to him, if he thought it wrong to do so. Knowing this, he also said to himself more than once; ‘Why should not Mr Arabin be dean of Barchester?’ it was at last arranged between them that they would together start to London by the earliest train on the following morning, making a little detour to Oxford on their journey. Dr Gwynne’s counsels, they imagined, might perhaps be of assistance to them.

These matters settled, the archdeacon hurried off, that he might return to Plumstead and prepare for his journey. The day was extremely fine, and he came into the city in an open gig. As he was driving up the High Street he encountered Mr Slope at a crossing. Had he not pulled up rather sharply, he would have run over him. The two had never spoken to each other since they had met on a memorable occasion in the bishop’s study. They did not speak now; but they looked at each other full in the face, and Mr Slope’s countenance was as impudent, as triumphant, as defiant as ever. Had Dr Grantly not known to the contrary, he would have imagined that his enemy had won the deanship, the wife, and all the rich honours, for which he had been striving. As it was he had lost everything that he had in the world, and had just received his conge from the bishop.

In leaving the town the archdeacon drove by the well-remembered entrance of Hiram’s hospital. There, at the gate, was a large, untidy, farmer’s wagon, laden with untidy-looking furniture; and there, inspecting the arrival, was good Mrs Quiverful–not dressed in her Sunday best–not very clean in her apparel–not graceful as to her bonnet and shawl; or, indeed, with many feminine charms as to her whole appearance. She was busy at domestic work in her new house, and had just ventured out, expecting to see no one on the arrival of the family chattels. The archdeacon was down upon her before she knew where she was.

Her acquaintance with Dr Grantly or his family were very slight indeed. The archdeacon, as a matter of course, knew every clergyman in the archdeaconry; it may almost be said the diocese, and had some acquaintance, more or less intimate, with their wives and families. With Mr Quiverful he had been concerned on various matters of business; but of Mrs Q. he had seen very little. Now, however, he was in too gracious a mood to pass her by unnoticed. The Quiverfuls, one and all, had looked for the bitterest hostility from Dr Grantly; they knew his anxiety for Mr Harding should return to his old home at the hospital, and they did not know that a new home had been offered to him at the deanery. Mrs Quiverful was therefore not a little surprised and not a little rejoiced also, at the tone at which she was addressed.

‘How do you do, Mrs Quiverful?–how do you do?’ said he, stretching his left hand out of the gig, as he spoke to her. ‘I am very glad to see you employed in so pleasant and useful a manner; very glad indeed.’

Mrs Quiverful thanked him, and shook hands with him, and looked into his face suspiciously. She was not sure whether the congratulations and kindness were or were not ironical.

‘Pray tell Mr Quiverful from me,’ he continued, ‘that I am rejoiced at his appointment. It is a comfortable place, Mrs Quiverful, and a comfortable house, and I am very glad to see you in it. Good-bye, good-bye.’ And he drove on, leaving the lady well-pleased and astonished at his good nature. On the whole things were going well with the archdeacon, and he could afford to be charitable to Mrs Quiverful. He looked forth from his gig smilingly on all the world, and forgave every one in Barchester their sins, excepting only Mrs Proudie and Mr Slope. Had he seen the bishop, he would have felt inclined to pat even him kindly on the head.

He determined to go home by St Ewold’s. This would take him some three miles out of his way; but he felt that he could not leave Plumstead comfortably without saying one word of good fellowship to Mr Arabin. When he reached the parsonage the vicar was still out; but, from what he had heard, he did not doubt but that he would meet him on the road between their two houses. He was right in this, for about halfway home, at a narrow turn, he came upon Mr Arabin, who was on horseback.

‘Well, well, well, well,’ said the archdeacon loudly, joyously, and with supreme good humour; ‘well, well, well, well; so, after all, we have no further cause to fear Mr Slope.’

‘I hear from Mrs Grantly that they have offered the deanery to Mr Harding,’ said the other.

‘Mr Slope has lost more than the deanery, I find,’ and then the archdeacon laughed jocosely. ‘Come, come, Arabin, you have kept your secret well enough. I know all about it now.’

‘I have had no secret, archdeacon,’said the other with a quiet smile. ‘None at all–not for a day. It was only yesterday that I knew my own good fortune, and to-day I went over to Plumstead to ask your approval. From what Mrs Grantly has said to me, I am led to hope that I shall have it.’

‘With all my heart, with all my heart,’ said the archdeacon cordially, holding his friend by the hand. ‘It’s just as I would have it. She is an excellent young woman; she will not come to you empty-handed; and I think she will make you a good wife. If she does her duty by you as her sister does by me, you’ll be a happy man; that’s all I can say.’ And as he finished speaking, a tear might have been observed in each of the doctor’s eyes.’

Mr Arabin warmly returned the archdeacon’s grasp, but he said little. His heart was too full for speaking, and he could not express the gratitude which he felt. Dr Grantly understood him as well as though he had spoken for an hour.

‘And mind, Arabin,’ said he, ‘no one but myself shall tie the knot. We’ll get Eleanor out to Plumstead, and it shall come off there. I’ll make Susan stir herself, and we’ll do it in style. I must be off to London to-morrow on special business. Harding goes with me. But I’ll be back before your bride has got her wedding-dress ready.’ And so they parted.

On his journey home the archdeacon occupied his mind with preparations for the marriage festivities. He made a great resolve that he would atone to Eleanor for all the injury he had done her by the munificence of his future treatment. He would show her what was the difference in his eyes between a Slope and an Arabin. On one other thing also he decided with a firm mind: if the affair of the dean should not be settled in Mr Arabin’s favour, nothing should prevent him putting a new front and bow-window to the dining-room at St Ewold’s parsonage.

‘So we’re sold after all, Sue,’ said he to his wife, accosting her with a kiss as soon as he entered his house. He did not call his wife Sue above twice or thrice in a year, and these occasions were great high days.

‘Eleanor has had more sense then we gave her credit for,’ said Mrs Grantly.

And there was great content in Plumstead rectory that evening; and Mrs Grantly promised her husband that she would now open her heart, and take Mr Arabin into it. Hitherto she had declined to do so.

CHAPTER LI

MR SLOPE BIDS FAREWELL TO THE PALACE AND ITS INHABITANTS

We must now take leave of Mr Slope, and of the bishop, and of Mrs Proudie. These leave-takings in novels are as disagreeable as they are in real life; not so sad, indeed, for they want the reality of sadness; but quite as perplexing, and generally less satisfactory. What novelist, what Fielding, what Scott, what George Sand, or Sue, or Duncan, can impart an interest to the last chapter of his fictitious history? Promises of two children and superhuman happiness are of no avail, nor assurance of extreme respectability carried to an age far exceeding that usually allotted to mortals. The sorrows of our heroes and heroines, they are you delight, oh public! their sorrows, or their sins, or their absurdities; not their virtues, good sense, and consequent rewards. When we begin to tint our final pages with couleur de rose, as in accordance with fixed rule we must do, we altogether extinguish our own powers of pleasing. When we become dull we offend your intellect; and we must become dull or we should offend your taste. A late writer, wishing to sustain his interest to the last page, hung his hear at the end of the third volume. The consequence was, that no one should read his novel. And who can apportion out and dovetail his incidents, dialogues, characters, and descriptive morsels, so as to fit them all exactly into 439 pages, without either compressing them unnaturally, or extending them artificially at the end of his labour? Do I not myself know that I am at this moment in want of a dozen pages, and that I am sick with cudgelling my brains to find them? And then when everything is done, the kindest-hearted critic of them all invariably twit us with the incompetency and lameness of our conclusion. We have either become idle and neglected it, or tedious and over-laboured it. It is insipid or unnatural, over-strained or imbecile. It means nothing, or attempts too much. The last scene of all, as all last scenes we fear must be:

‘Is second childishness, and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’

I can only say that if some critic, who thoroughly knows his work, and has laboured on it till experience has made him perfect, will write the last fifty pages of a novel in the way they should be written. I, for one, will in future do my best to copy the example. Guided by my own lights only, I despair of success.

For the last week or ten days, Mr Slope had seen nothing of Mrs Proudie, and very little of the bishop. He still lived in the palace, and still went through his usual routine work; but the confidential doings of the diocese had passed into other hands. He had seen this clearly, and marked it well; but it had not much disturbed him. He had indulged in other hopes till the bishop’s affairs had become dull to him, and he was moreover aware that, as regarded the diocese, Mrs Proudie had checkmated him. It has been explained, in the beginning of these pages, how three or four were contending together as to who, in fact, should be bishop of Barchester.
Each of them had now admitted to himself (or boasted to herself) that Mrs Proudie was victorious in the struggle. They had gone through a competitive examination of considerable severity, and she had come forth the winner, facile princeps. Mr Slope had, for a moment, run her hard, but it was only for a moment. It had become, as it were, acknowledged that Hiram’s hospital should be the testing point between them, and now Mr Quiverful was already in the hospital, the proof of Mrs Proudie’s skill and courage.

All this did not break Mr Slope’s spirit, because he had other hopes. But, alas, at last there came to him a note from his friend Sir Nicholas, informing him that the deanship was disposed of. Let us give Mr Slope his due. He did not lie prostrate, under this blow, or give himself to vain lamentations; he did not henceforward despair of life, and call upon gods above and gods below to carry him off. He sat himself down in his chair, counted out what monies he had in hand, for present purposes, and what others were coming to him, bethought himself as to the best sphere for his future exertions, and at once wrote off a letter to a rich sugar- refiner’s wife in Baker Street, who, as he well knew, was much given to the entertainment and encouragement of serious young evangelical clergymen. He was again, he said, ‘upon the world, having found the air of a cathedral town, and the very nature of cathedral services, uncongenial to his spirit’; and then he sat awhile, making firm resolves as to his manner of parting from the bishop, and also as to his future conduct.

‘At last he rose, and twitched his mantle blue, To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new.’

Having received a formal command to wait upon the bishop, he rose and proceeded to obey it. He rang the bell and desired the servant to inform his master that if it suited his lordship, he, Mr Slope, was ready to wait upon him. The servant, who well understood that Mr Slope was no longer in the ascendant, brought back a message, saying that, ‘his lordship desired that Mr Slope would attend him immediately in his study.’ Mr Slope waited about ten minutes more to prove his independence, and then went into the bishop’s room. There, as had expected, he found Mrs Proudie, together with her husband.

‘Hum, ha–Mr Slope, please take a chair,’ said the gentleman bishop.

‘Pray be seated, Mr Slope,’ said the lady bishop.

‘Thank ye, thank ye,’said Mr Slope, and walking round to the fire, he threw himself into one of the arm-chairs that graced the hearth-rug.

‘Mr Slope,’ said the bishop, ‘it has become necessary that I should speak to you definitively on a matter that has for some time been pressing itself on my attention.’

‘May I ask whether the subject is in any way connected with myself?’ said Mr Slope.

‘It is so–certainly,–yes, it certainly is connected with yourself, Mr Slope.’

‘Then, my lord, if I may be allowed to express a wish, I would prefer that no discussion on the subject should take place between us in the presence of a third party.’

‘Don’t alarm yourself, Mr Slope,’ said Mrs Proudie, ‘no discussion is at all necessary. The bishop merely intends to express his own wishes.’

‘I merely intend, Mr Slope, to express my own wishes–no discussion will be at all necessary,’ said the bishop, reiterating his wife’s words.

‘That is more, my lord, than we any of us can be sure of,’ said Mr Slope; ‘I cannot, however, force Mrs Proudie to leave the room; nor can I refuse to remain here, if it be your lordship’s wish that I should do so.’

‘It is certainly his lordship’s wish,’said Mrs Proudie.

‘Mr Slope,’ began the bishop, in a solemn, serious voice, ‘it grieves me to have to find fault. It grieves me much to find fault with a clergyman; but especially so with a clergyman in your position.’

‘Why, what have I done amiss, my lord?’ demanded Mr Slope, loudly.

‘What have you done amiss, Mr Slope?’ said Mrs Proudie, standing erect before the culprit, and raising that terrible forefinger. ‘Do you dare to ask the bishop what you have done amiss? does not your conscience–‘

‘Mrs Proudie, pray let it be understood, once for all, that I will have no words with you.’

‘Ah, sire, but you will have words,’ said she; ‘you must have words. Why have you had so may words with that Signora Neroni? Why have you disgraced yourself, you a clergyman, by constantly consorting with such a woman as that–with a married woman–with one altogether unfit for a clergyman’s society?’

‘At any rate, I was introduced to her in your drawing-room,’ returned Mr Slope.

‘And shamefully you behave there,’ said Mrs Proudie, ‘most shamefully. I was wrong to allow you to remain in the house a day after what I then saw. I should have insisted on your instant dismissal.’

‘I have yet to learn, Mrs Proudie, that you have the power to insist either on my going from hence or on my staying here.’

‘What!’ said the lady; ‘I am not to have the privilege of saying who shall and who shall not frequent my own drawing-room! I am not to save my servants and dependents from having their morals corrupted by improper conduct! I am not to save my own daughters from impurity! I will let you see, Mr Slope, whether I have the power or whether I have not. You will have the goodness to understand that you no longer fill any situation about the bishop; and as your room will be immediately wanted in the palace for another chaplain, I must ask you to provide yourself with apartments as soon as may be convenient to you.’

‘My lord,’ said Mr Slope, appealing to the bishop, and so turning his back completely on the lady, ‘will you permit me to ask that I may have from your own lips and decision that you may have come to on this matter?’

‘Certainly, Mr Slope, certainly,’ said the bishop; ‘that is but reasonable. Well, my decision is that you had better look for some other preferment. For the situation which you have lately held I do not think you are well suited.’

‘And what, my lord, has been my fault?’

‘That Signora Neroni is one fault,’ said Mrs Proudie; ‘and a very abominable fault she is; very abominable, and very disgraceful. Fie, Mr Slope, fie! You an evangelical clergyman indeed!’

‘My lord, I desire to know for what fault I am turned out of your lordship’s house.’

‘You hear what Mrs Proudie says,’ said the bishop.

‘When I publish the history of this transaction, my lord, as I decidedly shall do in my own vindication, I presume you will not wish me to state that you have discarded me at your wife’s bidding –because she has objected to my being acquainted with another lady, the daughter of one of the prebendaries of the chapter?’

‘You may publish as you please, sir,’ said Mrs Proudie. ‘But you will not be insane enough to publish any of your doings in Barchester. Do you think I have not heard of your kneelings at that creature’s feet–that is if she has any feet–and of your constant slobbering over her hand? I advise you to beware, Mr Slope, of what you do and say. Clergymen have been unfrocked for less than what you have been guilty of.’

‘My lord, if this goes on I shall be obliged to indict this woman– Mrs Proudie I mean–for defamation of character.’

‘I think, Mr Slope, you had better now retire,’ said the bishop. ‘I will enclose to you a cheque for any balance that may be due to you; and, under the present circumstances, it will of course be better for all parties that you should leave the palace at the earliest possible moment.’

‘If, however, you wish to remain in this neighbourhood,’ said Mrs Proudie, ‘and will solemnly pledge yourself never again to see that woman, and will promise also to be more circumspect in your conduct, the bishop will mention your name to Mr Quiverful, who now wants a curate at Puddingdale.
The house is, I imagine, quite sufficient for your requirements: and there will moreover by a stipend of fifty pounds a year.’

‘May God forgive you, madam, for the manner in which you have treated me,’ said Mr Slope, looking at her with a very heavenly look; ‘and remember this, madam, that you yourself may still have a fall;’ and he looked at her with a very worldly look. ‘As to the bishop, I pity him!’ And so saying, Mr Slope left the room. Thus ended the intimacy of the Bishop of Barchester with his confidential chaplain.

Mrs Proudie was right in this; namely, that Mr Slope was not insane enough to publish to the world any of his doings in Barchester. He did not trouble his friend Mr Towers with any written statement of the iniquity of Mrs Proudie, or the imbecility of her husband. He was aware that it would be wise in him to drop for the future all allusions to his doings in the cathedral city. Soon after the interview just recorded, he left Barchester, shaking the dust off his feet as he entered the railway carriage; and he gave no longing lingering look after the cathedral towers, as the train hurried him quickly out of their sight.

It is well known that the family of the Slopes never starve; they always fall on their feet like cats, and let them fall where they will, they live on the fat of the land. Our Mr Slope did so. On his return to town he found that the sugar-refiner had died, and that the widow was inconsolable; or, in other words, in want of consolation. Mr Slope consoled her, and soon found himself settled with much comfort in the house in Baker Street. He possessed himself, also before long, of a church in the vicinity of the New Road, and become known to fame as one of the most eloquent preachers and pious clergymen in that part of the metropolis. There let us leave him.

Of the bishop and his wife very little further need be said. From that time forth nothing material occurred to interrupt the even course of their domestic harmony. Very speedily, a further vacancy on the bench of bishops gave Dr Proudie the seat in the House of Lords, which he at first so anxiously longed for. But by this time, he had become a wiser man. He did certainly take his seat, and occasionally registered a vote in favour of Government view on ecclesiastical matters.

But he had thoroughly learnt that his proper sphere of action lay in close contiguity with Mrs Proudie’s wardrobe. He never again aspired to disobey, or seemed even to wish for autocratic diocesan authority. If ever he thought of freedom, he did so, as men think of the millennium, as of a good time which may be coming, but which nobody expects to come in their day. Mrs Proudie might be said still to bloom, and was, at any rate, strong; and the bishop had no reason to apprehend that he would be speedily visited with the sorrows of a widower’s life.

He is still bishop of Barchester. He has so graced that throne, that the Government has been adverse to translate him, even to higher duties. There may he remain, under safe pupilage, till the new-fangled manners of the age have discovered him to be superannuated, and bestowed on him a pension. As for Mrs Proudie, our prayers for her are that she may live for ever.

CHAPTER LII

THE NEW DEAN TAKES POSSESSION OF THE DEANERY AND THE NEW WARDEN OF THE HOSPITAL

Mr Harding and the archdeacon together made their way to Oxford, and there, by dint of cunning argument, they induced the Master of Lazarus also to ask himself this momentous question: ‘Why should not Mr Arabin be Dean of Barchester?’ He of course, for a while tried his hand at persuading Mr Harding that he was foolish, over-scrupulous, self-willed, and weak-minded; but he tried in vain. If Mr Harding would not give way to Dr Grantly, it was not likely that he would give way to Dr Gwynne; more especially now that so admirable a scheme as that of inducting Mr Arabin into the deanery had been set on foot. When the master found that his eloquence was vain, and heard also that Mr Arabin was about to become Mr Harding’s son-in-law, he confessed that he also would, under such circumstances, be glad to see his old friend and protege, the fellow of his college, placed in the comfortable position that was going a-begging.

‘It might be the means, you know, Master, of keeping Mr Slope out,’ said the archdeacon with grave caution.

‘He has no more chance of it,’ said the master, ‘that our college chaplain. I know about it than that.’

Mrs Grantly had been right in her surmise. It was the Master of Lazarus who had been instrumental in representing in high places the claims of Mr Harding had from the Government; and he now consented to use his best endeavours towards getting the offer transferred to Mr Arabin. The three of them went on to London together, and there they remained a week, to the great disgust of Mrs Grantly, and most probably also of Mrs Gwynne. The minister was out of town in one direction, and his private secretary in another. The clerks who remained could do nothing in such a matter as this, and all was difficulty and confusion. The two doctors seemed to have plenty to do; they bustled here and they bustled there, and complained at their club in the evenings that they had been driven off their legs; but Mr Harding had no occupation. Once or twice he suggested that he might perhaps return to Barchester. His request, however, was peremptorily refused, and had nothing for it but to while away his time in Westminster Abbey.

At length an answer from the great man came. The Master of Lazarus had made his proposition through the Bishop of Belgravia. Now the bishop, tough but newly gifted with his diocesan honours, was a man of much weight in the clerico-political world. He was, if not as pious, at any rate as wise as St Paul, and had been with so much effect all things to all men, that though he was great among the dons of Oxford, he had been selected for the most favourite seat on the bench by a Whig Prime Minister. To him Dr Gwynne had made known his wishes and his arguments, and the bishop had made them known to the Marquis of Kensington Gore. The marquis, who was Lord High Steward of the Pantry Board, and who by most men was supposed to hold the highest office out of the cabinet, trafficked much in affairs of this kind. He not only suggested the arrangement to the minister over a cup of coffee, standing on a drawing-room rug in Windsor Castle, but he also favourably mentioned Mr Arabin’s name in the ear of a distinguished person.

And so the matter was arranged. The answer of the great man came, and Mr Arabin was made Dean of Barchester. The three clergymen who had come up to town on this important mission dined together with great glee on the day on which the news reached them. In a silent manner, they toasted Mr Arabin with full bumpers of claret. The satisfaction of all of them was supreme. The Master of Lazarus had been successful in his attempt, and success is dear to us all. The archdeacon had trampled upon Mr Slope, and had lifted to high honours the young clergyman whom he had induced to quit the retirement and comfort of the university. So at least the archdeacon thought; though, to speak sooth, not he, but circumstances had trampled on Mr Slope. But the satisfaction of Mr Harding was, of all perhaps, the most complete. He laid aside his usual melancholy manner, and brought forth little quiet jokes from the utmost mirth of his heart; he poked fun at the archdeacon about Mr Slope’s marriage, and quizzed him for his improper love for Mrs Proudie. On the following day they all returned to Barchester.

It was arranged that Mr Arabin should know nothing of what had been done till he received the minister’s letter from the hands of his embryo father-in-law. In order that no time be lost, a message had been sent to him by the preceding night’s post, begging him to be at the deanery at the hour that the train from London arrived. There was nothing in this which surprised Mr Arabin. It had somehow got about through all bah that Mr Harding was the new dean, and all Barchester was prepared to welcome him with pealing bells and full hearts. Mr Slope had certainly had a party; there had certainly been those in Barchester who were prepared to congratulate him on his promotion with assumed sincerity, but even his own party were not broken-hearted by his failure. The inhabitants of the city, even the high-souled ecstatic young ladies of thirty-five, had begun to comprehend that their welfare and the welfare of the place, was connected in some mysterious manner with the daily chants of the bi-weekly anthems. The expenditure of the palace had not added greatly to the popularity of the bishop’s side of the question; and, on the whole, there was a strong reaction. When it became known to all the world that Mr Harding was to be the new dean, all the world rejoiced heartily.

Mr Arabin, as we have said, was not surprised at the summons which called him to the deanery. He had not as yet seen Mr Harding since Eleanor had accepted him, nor had he seen him since he had learnt of his future father-in-law’s preferment. There was nothing more natural, more necessary, than that they should meet each other at the earliest possible moment.

Mr Arabin was waiting at the deanery parlour when Mr Harding and Dr Grantly were driven up from the station.

There was some excitement in the bosoms of them all, as they met and shook hands; but far too much to enable either of them to begin his story and tell it in a proper equable style of narrative. Mr Harding was some minutes quite dumbfounded, and Mr Arabin could only talk in short, spasmodic sentences about his love and good fortune. He slipped in, as best he could, some sort of congratulation about the deanship, and then went on with his hopes and fears–hopes that he might be received as a son, and fears that he hardly deserved such good fortune. Then he went back to the dean; it was the most thoroughly satisfactory appointment, he said, of which he had ever heard.

‘But! But! But–‘ said Mr Harding; and then failing to get any further, he looked imploringly at the archdeacon.

‘The truth is, Arabin,’ said the doctor, ‘that, after all you are not destined to be the son-in-law to a dean. Nor am I either: more’s the pity.’

Mr Arabin looked to him for explanation. ‘Is not Mr Harding to be the new dean?’

‘It appears not,’ said the archdeacon. Mr Arabin’s face fell a little, and he looked from one to the other. It was plainly to be seen from them both that there was no cause for unhappiness in the matter, at least not of an unhappiness to them; but there was as yet no clarification of the mystery.

‘Think how old I am,’ said Mr Harding imploringly.

‘Fiddlestick!’ said the archdeacon.

‘That’s all very well, but it won’t make a young man of me,’ said Mr Harding.

‘And who is to be the dean?’ asked Mr Arabin.

‘Yes, that is the question,’ said the archdeacon. ‘Come, Mr Precentor, since you obstinately refuse to be anything else, let us know who is to be the man. He has got the nomination in his pocket.’

With eyes brim full of tears, Mr Harding pulled out the letter and handed it to his future son-in-law. He tried to make a little speech, but failed altogether. Having given up the document, he turned round to the wall, feigning to blow his nose, and then sat himself down on the old dean’s dingy horse-hair sofa. And here we find it necessary to bring our account of the interview to an end.

Nor can we pretend to describe the rapture with which Mr Harding was received by his daughter. She wept with grief and with joy; with grief that her father should, in his old age, still be without that rank and worldly position, which, according to her ideas, he had so well earned; and with joy that he, her darling father, should have bestowed on that other dear one the good things of which he himself would not open his hand to take possession. And her, Mr Harding again showed his weakness. In the melee of the exposal of their loves and reciprocal affection, he found himself unable to resist the entreaties of all parties that his lodgings in the High Street should be given up. Eleanor would not live in the deanery, she said, unless her father lived there also. Mr Arabin would not be dean, unless Mr Harding would be co-dean with him. The archdeacon declared that his father-in-law should not have his own way in everything, and Mrs Grantly carried him off to Plumstead, that he might remain there till Mr and Mrs Arabin were in a state to receive him at their own mansion.

Pressed by such arguments as these, what could a weak man do but yield?

But there was yet another task which it behoved Mr Harding to do before he could allow himself to be at rest. Little has been said in these pages of the state of those remaining old men who had lived under his sway at the hospital. But not on this account must it be presumed that he had forgotten them, or that in their state of anarchy and in their want of government he had omitted to visit them. He visited them constantly, and had latterly given them to understand that they would soon be required to subscribe their adherence to a new master. There were now but five of them, one of them not having been but quite lately carried to his rest–but five of the full number, which had hitherto been twelve, and which was now to be raised to twenty-four, including women. Of these old Bunce, who for many years, had been the favourite of the late warden, was one; and Abel Handy, who had been the humble means from driving that warden from his home, was another.

Mr Harding now resolved that he himself would introduce the new warden to the hospital. He felt that many circumstances might conspire to make the men receive Mr Quiverful with aversion and disrespect; he felt also that Mr Quiverful might himself feel some qualms of conscience if he entered the hospital with an idea that he did so in hostility to his predecessor. Mr Harding therefore determined to walk in, arm in arm, with Mr Quiverful, and to ask from these men their respectful obedience to their new master.

On returning to Barchester, he found that Mr Quiverful had not yet slept in the hospital house, or entered on his new duties. He accordingly made known to that gentleman his wishes, and his proposition was not rejected.

It was a bright clear morning, though in November, that Mr Harding and Mr Quiverful, arm in arm, walked through the hospital gate. It was one trait in our old friend’s character that he did nothing with parade. He omitted, even in the more important doings of his life, that sort of parade by which most of us deem it necessary to grace our important doings. We have housewarmings, christenings, and gala days; we keep, if not our own birthdays, those of our children; we are apt to fuss ourselves, if called upon to change our residences, and have, almost all of us, our little state occasions. Mr Harding, had no state occasions. When he left his old house, he went forth from it with the same quiet composure as though he were merely taking his daily walk; and now that he re-entered it with another warden under his wing, he did so with the same quiet step and calm demeanour. He was a little less upright than he had been five years, nay, it was nearly six years ago; he walked perhaps a little slower; his footfall was perhaps a thought less firm; otherwise one might have same that he was merely returning with a friend under his arm.

This friendliness was everything to Mr Quiverful. To him, even in his poverty, the thought that he was supplanting a brother clergyman so kind and courteous as Mr Harding, had been very bitter. Under his circumstances it had been impossible for him to refuse the proffered boon; he could not reject the bread that was offered to his children, or refuse to ease the heavy burden that had so long oppressed that poor wife of his; nevertheless, it had been very grievous to him to think that in going to the hospital he might encounter the ill will of his brethren in the diocese. All this Mr Harding had fully comprehended. It was for such feelings as these, for the nice comprehension of such motives, that his heart and intellect were peculiarly fitted. In most matters of worldly import the archdeacon set down his father-in-law as little better than a fool. And perhaps he was right. But in some other matters, equally important if they be rightly judged, Mr Harding, had he been so minded, might with as much propriety have set down his son-in-law for a fool. Few men, however, are constituted as was Mr Harding. He had that nice appreciation of the feelings of others which belongs of right exclusively to women.

Arm in arm they walked into the inner quadrangle of the building, and there the five old men met them. Mr Harding shook hands with them all, and then Mr Quiverful did the same. With Bunce Mr Harding shook hands twice, and Mr Quiverful was about to repeat the ceremony but the old man gave him no encouragement.

‘I am very glad to know that at last you have a new warden,’ said Mr Harding in a very cheery voice.

‘We be very old for any change,’ said one of them; ‘but we do suppose it be all for the best.’

‘Certainly–certainly, it is for the best,’ said Mr Harding. ‘You will again have a clergyman of your own church under the same roof with you, and a very excellent clergyman you will have. It is a great satisfaction to me to know that so good a man is coming to take care of you, and that it is no stranger, but a friend of my own, who will allow me from time to time to come in and see you.’

‘We be thankful to your reverence,’ said another of them.

‘I need not tell you, my good friends,’ said Mr Quiverful, ‘how extremely grateful I am to Mr Harding for his kindness to me,–I must say his uncalled for, his unexpected kindness.’

‘He be always very kind,’ said a third.

‘What I can do to fill the void which he left here, I will do. For your sake and my own I will do so, and especially for his sake. But to you who have known him, I can never be the same well-loved friend and father that he has been.’

‘No, no, sir,’ said old Bunce, who hitherto had held his peace; ‘no one can be that. Not if the new bishop sent a hangel to us from heaven. We doesn’t doubt you’ll do your best, sir, but you’ll not be like the old master; not to us old ones.’

‘Fie, Bunce, fie! how dare you talk in that way!’ said Mr Harding; but as he scolded the old man he still held him by his arm, and pressed it with warm affection.

There was no getting any enthusiasm in the matter. How could five old men tottering away to their final resting-place be enthusiastic on the reception of a stranger? What could Mr Quiverful be to them, or they to Mr Quiverful? Had Mr Harding indeed come back to them, some last flicker of joyous light might have shone forth on their aged cheeks; but it was in vain to bid them rejoice because Mr Quiverful was about to move his fourteen children from Puddingdale into the hospital house. In reality they did no doubt receive advantage, spiritual as well as corporal; but this they could neither anticipate nor acknowledge.

It was a dull affair enough, this introduction of Mr Quiverful; but still it had its effect. The good which Mr Harding intended did not fall to the ground. All the Barchester world, including the five old bedesmen, treated Mr Quiverful with the more respect, because Mr Harding had thus walked in arm in arm with him, on his first entrance to his duties.

And here in their new abode we will leave Mr and Mrs Quiverful and their fourteen children. May they enjoy the good things which Providence has at length given to them!

CHAPTER LIII

CONCLUSION

The end of a novel, like the end of a children’s dinner-party, must be made up of sweetmeats and sugar-plums. There is now nothing else to be told but the gala doings of Mr Arabin’s marriage, nothing more to be described than the wedding dresses, no further dialogue to be recorded than that which took place between the archdeacon who married them, and Mr Arabin and Eleanor who were married. ‘Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?’ and ‘Wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together according to God’s ordinance?’ Mr Arabin and Eleanor each answered, ‘I will’. We have no doubt that they will keep their promises; the more especially as the Signora Neroni had left Barchester before the ceremony was performed.

Mrs Bold had been somewhat more than two years a widow before she was married to her second husband, and little Johnnie was then able with due assistance to walk on his own legs into the drawing-room to receive the salutations of the assembled guests. Mr Harding gave away the bride, the archdeacon performed the service, and the two Miss Grantlys, who were joined in their labours by other young ladies of the neighbourhood, performed the duties of bridesmaids with equal diligence and grace. Mrs Grantly superintended the breakfast and bouquets and Mary Bold distributed the cards and cake. The archdeacon’s three sons had also come home for the occasion. The eldest was great with learning, being regarded by all who knew him as a certain future double first. The second, however, bore the palm on this occasion, being resplendent in his new uniform. The third was just entering the university, and was probably the proudest of the three.

But the most remarkable feature in the whole occasion was the excessive liberality of the archdeacon. He literally made presents to everybody. As Mr Arabin had already moved out of the parsonage of St Ewold’s, that scheme of elongating the dining-room was of course abandoned; but he would have refurnished the whole deanery had he been allowed. He sent down a magnificent piano by Erard, gave Mr Arabin a cob which any dean in the land might have been proud to bestride, and made a special present to Eleanor of a new pony chair that had gained a prize in the Exhibition. Nor did he even stay his hand here; he bought a set of cameos for his wife, and a sapphire bracelet for Miss Bold; showered pearls and workboxes on is daughters, and to each of his sons he presented a cheque for 20 pounds. On Mr Harding he bestowed a magnificent violoncello with all the new-fashioned arrangements and expensive additions, which, on account of these novelties, that gentleman could never use with satisfaction to his audience or pleasure to himself.

Those who knew the archdeacon well, perfectly understood the cause of his extravagance. ‘Twas thus that he sang his song of triumph over Mr Slope. This was his paean, his hymn of thanksgiving, his loud oration. He had girded himself with his sword, and gone forth to the war; now he was returning from the field laden with the spoils of the foe. The cob, the cameos, the violoncello and the pianoforte, were all as it were trophies reft from the tent of his now conquered enemy.

The Arabins after their marriage went abroad for a couple of months, according the custom in such matters now duly established, and then commenced their deanery life under good auspices. And nothing can be more pleasant than the present arrangement of ecclesiastical affairs in Barchester. The titular bishop never interfered, and Mrs Proudie not often. Her sphere is more extended, more noble, and more suited to her ambition than that of a cathedral city. As long as she can do what she pleases with the diocese, she is willing to leave the dean and chapter to themselves. Mr Slope tried his hand at subverting the old-established customs of the close, and from his failure she has learnt experience. The burly chancellor and the meagre little prebendary are not teased by any application respecting Sabbath-day schools, the dean is left to his own dominions, and the intercourse between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Arabin is confined to a yearly dinner by each to the other. At these dinners Dr Grantly will not take a part; but he never fails to ask for and receive a full account of all that Mrs Proudie does or says.

His ecclesiastical authority has been greatly shorn since the palmy days in which he reigned supreme as mayor of the palace to his father, but nevertheless such authority as is now left to him he can enjoy without interference. He can walk down High Street of Barchester without feeling that those who see him are comparing his claims with those of Mr Slope. The intercourse between Plumstead and the deanery is of the most constant and familiar description. Since Eleanor has been married to a clergyman, and especially to a dignitary of the church, Mrs Grantly has found many more points of sympathy with her sister; and on a coming occasion, which is much looked forward to by all parties, she intends to spend a month or two at the deanery. She never thought of spending a month in Barchester when little Johnny Bold was born!

The two sisters do not quite agree on matters of church doctrine, though their differences are of the most amicable description. Mr Arabin’s church is two degrees higher than that of Mrs Grantly. This may seem strange to those who will remember that Eleanor was once accused of partiality to Mr Slope; but it is no less the fact. She likes her husband’s silken vest, she likes his adherence to the rubric, she specially likes the eloquent philosophy of his sermons, and she likes the red letters in her own prayer-book. It must not be presumed that she has a taste for candles, or that she is at all astray about the real presence; but she has an inkling that way. She sent a handsome subscription towards certain very heavy legal expenses which have lately been incurred in Bath, her name of course not appearing; she assumes a smile of gentle ridicule when the Archbishop of Canterbury is named, and she has put up a memorial window in the cathedral.

Mrs Grantly, who belongs to the high and dry church, the high church as it was some fifty years since, before tracts were written and young clergymen took upon themselves the highly meritorious duty of cleaning churches, rather laughs at her sister. She shrugs her shoulders, and tells Miss Thorne that she supposes Eleanor will have an oratory in the deanery before she has done. But she is not on that account a whit displeased. A few high church vagaries do not, she thinks, sit amiss on the shoulders of a young dean’s wife. It shows at any rate that her heart is in the subject; and it shows moreover that she is removed, wide as the poles asunder, from the cesspool of abomination in which it was once suspected that she would wallow and grovel. Anathema maranatha! Let anything be held as blessed, so that that be well cursed. Welcome kneelings and bowings, welcome matins and complines, welcome bell, book, and candle, so that Mr Slope’s dirty surplices and ceremonial Sabbaths be held in due execration!

If it be essentially and absolutely necessary to choose between the two, we are inclined to agree with Mrs Grantly that the bell, book, and candle are the lesser evil of the two. Let it however be understood that no such necessity is admitted in these pages.

Dr Arabin (we suppose he must have become a doctor when he became a dean) is more moderate and less outspoken on doctrinal points than his wife, as indeed in his station it behoves him to be. He is a studious, thoughtful, hard-working man. He lives constantly at the deanery and preaches nearly every Sunday. His time is spent in sifting and editing old ecclesiastical literature and in producing the same articles new. At Oxford he is generally regarded as the most promising clerical ornament of the age. He and his wife live together in perfect mutual confidence. There is but one secret in her bosom which he has not shared. He has never yet learned how Mr Slope had his ears boxed.

The Stanhopes soon found that Mr Slope’s power need no longer operate to keep them from the delight of their Italian villa. Before Eleanor’s marriage they had all migrated back to the shores of Como. They had not been resettled long before the signora received from Mrs Arabin a very pretty though very short epistle, in which she was informed of the fate of the writer. This letter was answered by another, bright, charming, and witty, as the signora’s always were; and so ended the friendship between Eleanor and the Stanhopes.

One word of Mr Harding, and we have done.

He is still Precentor of Barchester, and still pastor of the little church of St Cuthbert’s. In spite of what he has so often said himself, he is not even yet an old man. He does such duties as fall to his lot well and conscientiously, and is thankful that he has never been tempted to assume others for which he might be less fitted.

The Author now leaves him in the hands of his readers; not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he strives to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn

THE END