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  • 1857
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eloquence with mute attention and open ears; but with angry eyes, which glared found form one enraged parson to another, with wide-spread nostrils from which already burst forth fumes of indignation, and with many shufflings (sic) of the feet and uneasy motions of the body, which betokened minds disturbed, and hearts not at peace with all the world.

At last the bishop, who, of all the congregation, had been most surprised, and whose hair almost stood on end with terror, gave the blessing in a manner not at all equal to that in which he had long been practising it in his own study, and the congregation was free to go their way.

CHAPTER VII

THE DEAN AND CHAPTER TAKE COUNSEL

All Barchester was in a tumult. Dr Grantly could hardly get himself out of the cathedral porch before he exploded in his wrath. The old dean betook himself silently to his deanery, afraid to speak; and there sat, half stupefied, pondering many things in vain. Mr Harding crept forth solitary and unhappy; and, slowly passing beneath the elms of the close, could scarcely bring himself to believe that the words which he had heard had proceeded from the pulpit of the Barchester Cathedral. Was he again to be disturbed? Was his whole life to be shown up as a useless sham a second time? would he have to abdicate his precentorship, as he had his wardenship, and to give up chanting, as he had given up his twelve old bedesmen? And what if he did! Some other Jupiter, some other Mr Slope, would come and turn him out of St Cuthbert’s. Surely he could not have been wrong all his life in chanting the litany as he had done! He began, however, to have doubts. Doubting himself was Mr Harding’s weakness. It is not, however, the usual fault of his order.

Yes! All Barchester was in a tumult. It was not only the clergy who were affected. The laity also had listened to Mr Slope’s new doctrine, all with surprise, some with indignation, and some with a mixed feeling, in which dislike of the preacher was not so strongly blended. The old bishop and his chaplain, the dean and his canons and minor canons, the old choir, and especially Mr Harding who was at the head of it, had all been popular in Barchester. They had spent their money and done good; the poor had not been ground down; the clergy in society had neither been overbearing nor austere; and the whole repute of the city was due to its ecclesiastical importance. Yet there were those who had heard Mr Slope with satisfaction.

It is so pleasant to receive a fillip of excitement when suffering from the dull routine of everyday life! The anthems and Te Deums were in themselves delightful, but they had been heard so often! Mr Slope was certainly not delightful, but he was new, and, moreover, clever. They had long thought it slow, so said now may of the Barchesterians, to go on as they had done in their old humdrum way, giving ear to none of the religious changes which were moving the world without. People in advance of the age now had new ideas, and it was quite time that Barchester should go in advance. Mr Slope might be right. Sunday certainly had to been strictly kept in Barchester, except as regarded the cathedral services. Indeed the two hours between services had long been appropriated to morning calls and hot luncheons. Then Sunday schools; Sabbath-day schools Mr Slope had called them. The late bishop had really not thought of Sunday schools as he should have done. (These people probably did not reflect that catechisms and collects are quite hard work to the young mind as book-keeping is to the elderly; and that quite as little feeling of worship enters into one task as the other.) And then, as regarded that great question of musical services, there might be much to be said on Mr Slope’s side of the question. It certainly was the fact, that people went to the cathedral to hear the music &c &c.

And so a party absolutely formed itself in Barchester on Mr Slope’s side of the question! This consisted, among the upper classes, chiefly of ladies. No man–that is, no gentleman–could possibly be attracted by Mr Slope, or consent to sit at the feet of so abhorrent a Gamaliel. Ladies are sometimes less nice in their appreciation of physical disqualification; and, provided that a man speak to them well, they will listen, though he speak from a mouth never so deformed and hideous. Wilkes was most fortunate as a lover; and the damp, sandy-haired, saucer-eyed, red-fisted Mr Slope was powerful only over the female breast.

There were, however, one or two of the neighbouring clergy who thought it not quite safe to neglect the baskets in which for the nonce were stored the loaves and fishes of the diocese of Barchester. They, and they only, came to call on Mr Slope after his performance in the cathedral pulpit. Among them Mr Quiverful, the rector of Puddingdale, whose wife still continued to present him from year to year with fresh pledges of her love, and so to increase his cares and, it is to be hoped, his happiness equally. Who can wonder that a gentleman, with fourteen living children and a bare income of L 400 a year, should look after the loaves and fishes, ever when they are under the thumb of Mr Slope?

Very soon after the Sunday on which the sermon was preached, the leading clergy of the neighbourhood held high debate together as to how Mr Slope should be put down. In the first place he should never again preach from the pulpit of Barchester cathedral. This was Dr Grantly’s earliest dictum; and they all agreed, providing only that they had the power to exclude him. Dr Grantly declared that the power rested with the dean and chapter, observing that no clergyman out of the chapter had a claim to preach there, saving only the bishop himself. To this the dean assented, but alleged that contests on such a subject would be unseemly; to which rejoined a meagre little doctor, one of the cathedral prebendaries, that the contest must be all on the side of Mr Slope if every prebendary were always there ready to take his own place in the pulpit. Cunning little meagre doctor, whom it suits well to live in his own cosy house within Barchester close, and who is well content to have his little fling at Dr Vesey Stanhope and other absentees, whose Italian villas, or enticing London homes, are more tempting than cathedral stalls and residences!

To this answered the burly chancellor, a man rather silent indeed, but very sensible, that absent prebendaries had their vicars, and that in such case the vicar’s right to the pulpit was the same as that of the higher order. To which the dean assented, groaning deeply at these truths. Thereupon, however, the meagre doctor remarked that they would be in the hands of their minor canons, one of whom might at any hour betray his trust. Whereon was heard from the burly chancellor an ejaculation sounding somewhat like ‘Pooh, pooh, pooh!’ but it might have been that the worthy man was but blowing out the heavy breath from his windpipe. Why silence him at all, suggested Mr Harding. Let them not be ashamed to hear what any man might have to preach to them, unless he preached false doctrine; in which case, let the bishop silence him. So spoke our friend; vainly; for human ends must be attained by human means. But the dean saw a ray of hope out of those purblind old eyes of his. Yes, let them tell the bishop how distasteful to them was this Mr Slope: new bishop just come to his seat could not wish to insult his clergy while the gloss was yet fresh on his first apron.

Then up rose Dr Grantly; and, having thus collected the scattered wisdom of his associates, spoke forth with words of deep authority. When I say up rose the archdeacon, I speak of the inner man, which then sprang up to more immediate action, for the doctor had, bodily, been standing all along with his back to the dean’s empty fire-grate, and the tails of his frock coat supported over his two arms. His hands were in his breeches pockets.

‘It is quite clear that this man must not be allowed to preach again in the cathedral. We all see that, except our dear friend here, the milk of whose nature runs so softly, that he would not have the heart to refuse the Pope, the loan of his pulpit, if the Pope would come and ask it. We must not, however, allow the man to preach again here. It is not because his opinion on church matters may be different from ours–with that one would not quarrel. It is because he has purposely insulted us. When he went up into that pulpit last Sunday, his studied object was to give offence to men who had grown old in reverence to those things of which he dared to speak so slightingly. What! To come here a stranger, a young, unknown, and unfriended stranger, and tell us, in the name of the bishop, his master, that we are ignorant of our duties, old-fashioned, and useless! I don’t know whether to most admire his courage or his impudence! And one thing I will tell you: that sermon originated solely with the man himself. The bishop was no more a party to it than was the dean here. You all know how grieved I am to see a bishop in this diocese holding the latitudinarian ideas by which Dr Proudie has made himself conspicuous. You all know how greatly I should distrust the opinion of such a man. But in this matter I hold him to be blameless. I believe Dr Proudie has lived too long among gentlemen to be guilty, or to instigate another to be guilty, of so gross an outrage. No! That man uttered what was untrue when he hinted that he was speaking as the mouthpiece of the bishop. It suited his ambitious views at once to throw down the gauntlet to us–here within the walls of our own loved cathedral–here where we have for so many years exercised our ministry, without schism and with good repute. Such an attack upon us, coming from such a quarter, is abominable.’

‘Abominable,’ groaned the dean. ‘Abominable,’ muttered the meagre doctor. ‘Abominable,’ re-echoed the chancellor, uttering a sound from the bottom of his deep chest. ‘I really think it was,’ said Mr Harding.

‘Most abominable, and most unjustifiable,’ continued the archdeacon. ‘But, Mr Dean, thank God, that pulpit is still our own: your own, I should say. That pulpit belongs to the dean and chapter of Barchester Cathedral, and, as yet, Mr Slope is no part of that chapter. You, Mr Dean, have suggested that we should appeal to the bishop to abstain from forcing this man on us; but what if the bishop allow himself to be ruled by his chaplain? In my opinion, the matter is in our own hands. Mr Slope cannot preach there without permission asked and obtained, and let that permission be invariable refused. Let all participation in the ministry of the cathedral service be refused to him. Then, if the bishop choose to interfere, we shall know what answer to make to the bishop. My friend here has suggested that this man may again find his way into the pulpit by undertaking the duty of some of your minor canons; but I am sure that we may fully trust to these gentlemen to support us, when it is known that the dean objects to any such transfer.’

‘Of course you may,’ said the chancellor.

There was much more discussion among the learned conclave, all of which, of course, ended in obedience to the archdeacon’s commands. They had too long been accustomed to his rule to shake it off so soon; and in this particular case they had none of them a wish to abet the man whom he was so anxious to put down.

Such a meeting as that we have just recorded is not held in such a city as Barchester unknown and untold of. Not only was the fact of the meeting talked of in every respectable house, including the palace, but the very speeches of the dean, the archdeacon, and chancellor were repeated; not without many additions and imaginary circumstances, according to the tastes and opinions of the relaters.

All, however, agreed in saying that Mr Slope was to be debarred from opening his mouth in the cathedral of Barchester; many believed that the vergers were to be ordered to refuse him even the accommodation of a seat; and some of the most far-going advocates for strong measures, declared that this sermon was looked upon as an indictable offence, and that proceedings were to be taken against him for brawling.

The party who were inclined to him–the enthusiastically religious young ladies, and the middle-aged spinsters desirous of a move–of course took up his defence the more warmly on account of this attack. If they could not hear Mr Slope in the cathedral, they would hear him elsewhere; they would leave the dull dean, the dull old prebendaries, and the scarcely less dull young minor canons, to preach to each other; they would work slippers and cushions, and hem bands for Mr Slope, make him a happy martyr, and stick him up in some new Sion (sic) or Bethesda, and put the cathedral quite out of fashion.

Dr and Mrs Proudie at once returned to London. They thought it expedient not to have to encounter any personal applications from the dean and chapter respecting the sermon till the violence of the storm had expended itself; but they left Mr Slope behind them nothing daunted, and he went about his work zealously, flattering such as would listen to his flattery, whispering religious twaddle into the ears of foolish women, ingratiating himself with the very few clergy who would receive him, visiting the houses of the poor, inquiring into all people, prying into everything, and searching with the minutest eye into all palatial dilapidation. He did not, however, make any immediate attempt to preach again in the cathedral.

And so all Barchester was by the ears.

CHAPTER VIII

THE EX-WARDEN REJOICES IN HIS PROBABLE RETURN TO THE HOSPITAL

Among the ladies in Barchester who have hitherto acknowledged Mr Slope as their spiritual director, must not be reckoned either the widow Bold, or her sister-in-law. On the first outbreak of the wrath of the denizens of the close, none had been more animated against the intruder than those two ladies. And this was natural. Who could be so proud of the musical distinction of their own cathedral as the favourite daughter of the precentor? Who would be so likely to resent an insult offered to the old choir? And in such matters Miss Bold and her sister-in-law had but one opinion.

This wrath, however, has in some degree been mitigated, and I regret to say that these ladies allowed Mr Slope to be his own apologist. About a fortnight after the sermon had been preached, they were both of them not a little surprised by hearing Mr Slope announced, as the page in buttons opened Mrs Bold’s drawing-room door. Indeed, what living man could, by a mere morning visit, have surprised them more? Here was the great enemy of all that was good in Barchester coming into their own drawing-room, and they had not strong arm, no ready tongue near at hand for their protection. The widow snatched her baby out of its cradle into her lap, and Mary Bold stood up ready to die manfully in that baby’s behalf, should, under any circumstances, such a sacrifice be necessary.

In this manner was Mr Slope received. But when he left, he was allowed by each lady to take her hand, and to make his adieux as gentlemen do who have been graciously entertained! Yes; he shook hands with them, and was curtseyed out courteously, the buttoned page opening the door, as he would have done for the best canon of them all. He had touched the baby’s little hand and blessed him with a fervid blessing; he had spoken to the widow of her early sorrows, and Eleanor’s silent tears had not rebuked him; he had told Mary Bold that her devotion would be rewarded, and Mary Bold had heard the praise without disgust. And how had he done all this? How had he so quickly turned aversion into, at any rate, acquaintance? How had he overcome the enmity with which those ladies had been ready to receive him, and made his peace with them so easily?

My readers will guess from what I have written that I myself do not like Mr Slope; but I am constrained to admit that he is a man of parts. He knows how to say a soft word in the proper place; he knows how to adapt his flattery to the ears of his hearers; he knows the wiles of the serpent and he uses them. Could Mr Slope have adapted his manners to men as well as to women, could he ever have learnt the ways of a gentleman, he might have risen to great things.

He commenced his acquaintance with Eleanor by praising her father. He had, he said, become aware that he had unfortunately offended the feelings of a man of whom he could not speak too highly; he would not now allude to a subject which was probably too serious for drawing-room conversation, but he would say, that it had been very far from him to utter a word in disparagement of a man, of whom all the world, at least the clerical world, spoke of so highly as it did of Mr Harding. And so he went on, unsaying a great deal of his sermon, expressing his highest admiration for the precentor’s musical talents, eulogising the father and the daughter and the sister-in-law, speaking in that low silky whisper which he always had specially prepared for feminine ears, and, ultimately, gaining his object. When he left, he expressed a hope that he might again be allowed to call; and though Eleanor gave no verbal assent to this, she did not express dissent; and so Mr Slope’s right to visit at the widow’s house was established.

The day after this visit Eleanor told her father of it, and expressed an opinion that Mr Slope was not quite so black as he had been painted. Mr Harding opened he eyes rather wider than usual when he heard what had occurred, but he said little; he could not agree in any praise of Mr Slope, and it was not his practice to say much evil of any one. He did not, however, like the visit, and simple-minded as he was, he felt sure that Mr Slope had some deeper motive than the mere pleasure of making soft speeches to two ladies.

Mr Harding, however, had come to see his daughter with other purpose than that of speaking either good or evil of Mr Slope. He had come to tell her that the place of warden in Hiram’s hospital was again to be filled up, and that in all probability he would once more return to his old house and his twelve bedesmen.

‘But,’ he said, laughing, ‘I shall be greatly shorn of my ancient glory.’

‘Why so, papa?’

‘This new act of parliament, that is to put us all on our feet again,’ continued he, ‘settles my income at four hundred and fifty pounds per annum.’

‘Four hundred and fifty,’ said she, ‘instead of eight hundred! Well; that is rather shabby. But still, papa, you’ll have the dear old house and garden?’

‘My dear,’ said he, ‘it’s worth twice the money;’ and as he spoke he showed a jaunty kind of satisfaction in his tone and manner, and in the quick, pleasant way in which he paced Eleanor’s drawing-room. ‘It’s worth twice the money. I shall have the house and the garden, and a larger income than I can possibly want.’

‘At any rate, you’ll have no extravagant daughter to provide for;’ and as she spoke, the young widow put her arm within his, and made him sit on the sofa beside her; ‘at any rate you’ll not have that expense.’

‘No, my dear; and I shall be rather lonely without her; but we won’t think of that now. As regards income I shall have plenty for all I want. I shall have my old house; and I don’t mind owning now that I have felt sometimes the inconvenience of living in a lodging. Lodgings are very nice for young men, but at my time of life there is a want of–I hardly know what to call it, perhaps not respectability–‘

‘Oh, papa! I’m sure there’s been nothing like that. Nobody has thought it; nobody in all Barchester has been more respected than you have been since you took those rooms in High Street. Nobody! Not the dean in his deanery, or the archdeacon at Plumstead.’

‘The archdeacon would not be much obliged to you if he heard you,’ said he, smiling somewhat at the exclusive manner in which his daughter confined her illustration to the church dignitaries of the chapter of Barchester; ‘but at any rate, I shall be glad to get back to the old house. Since I heard that it was all settled, I have begun to fancy that I can’t be comfortable without my two sitting-rooms.’

‘Come and stay with me, papa, till it is settled–there’s a dear papa.’

‘Thank ye, Nelly. But no; I won’t do that. It would make two movings. I shall be very glad to get back to my old men again. Alas! Alas! There have six of them gone in the few last years. Six out of twelve! And the others I fear have had but a sorry life of it there. Poor Bunce, poor old Bunce!’

Bunce was one of the surviving recipients of Hiram’s charity; and old man, now over ninety, who had long been a favourite of Mr Harding’s.

‘How happy old Bunce will be,’ said Mrs Bold, clapping her soft hands softly. ‘How happy they all will be to have you back again.’ You may be sure there will soon be friendship among them again when you are there.’

‘But,’ said he, half laughing, ‘I am to have new troubles, which will be terrible to me. There are to be twelve old women, and a matron. How shall I manage twelve women and a matron!’

‘The matron will manage the women of course.’

‘And who’ll manage the matron?’ said he.

‘She won’t want to be managed. She’ll be a great lady herself, I suppose. But, papa, where will the matron live? She is not to live in the warden’s house with you, is she?’

‘Well, I hope not, my dear.’

‘Oh, papa, I tell you fairly. I won’t have a matron for a new step-mother.’

‘You shan’t, my dear; that is if I can help it. But they are going to build another house for the matron and the women; and I believe they haven’t even fixed yet on the site of the building.’

‘And have they appointed the matron?’ said Eleanor.

‘They haven’t appointed the warden yet,’ replied he.

‘But there’s no doubt about that, I suppose,’ said his daughter.

Mr Harding explained that he thought there was no doubt; that the archdeacon had declared as much, saying that the bishop and his chaplain between them had not the power to appoint any once else, even if they had the will to do so, and sufficient impudence to carry out such a will. The archdeacon was of the opinion, that though Mr Harding had resigned his wardenship, and had done so unconditionally, he had done so under circumstances which left the bishop no choice as to his re-appointment, now that the affair of the hospital had been settled on a new basis by act of parliament. Such was the archdeacon’s opinion, and his father-in-law received it without a shadow of doubt.

Dr Grantly had always been strongly opposed to Mr Harding’s resignation of the place. He had done all in his power to dissuade him from it. He had considered that Mr Harding was bound to withstand the popular clamour with which he was attacked for receiving so large an income as eight hundred a year from such a charity, and was not even satisfied that his father-in-law’s conduct had not been pusillanimous and undignified. He looked also on this reduction of the warden’s income as a paltry scheme on the part of government for escaping from a difficulty into which it had been brought by the public press. Dr Grantly observed that the government had no more right to dispose of a sum of four hundred and fifty pounds a year out of the income of Hiram’s legacy, than of nine hundred; whereas, as he said, the bishop, dean and chapter clearly had a right to settle what sum should be paid. He also declared that the government had no more right to saddle the charity with twelve old women than with twelve hundred; and he was, therefore, very indignant on the matter. He probably forgot when so talking that government had done nothing of the kind, and had never assumed any such might or any such right. He made the common mistake of attributing to the government, which in such matters is powerless, the doings of parliament, which in such matters is omnipotent.

But though he felt that the glory and honour of the situation of warden of Barchester hospital was indeed curtailed by the new arrangement; that the whole establishment had to a certain degree been made vile by the touch of Whig commissioners; that the place with the lessened income, its old women, and other innovations, was very different from the hospital of former days; still the archdeacon was too practical a man of the world to wish that his father-in-law, who had at present little more than L 200 per annum for all his wants, should refuse the situation, defiled, undignified, and commission-ridden as it was.

Mr Harding had, accordingly, made up his mind that he would return to his old house at the hospital, and to tell the truth, had experienced almost a childish pleasure in the idea of doing so. The diminished income was to him not even the source of momentary regret. The matron and the old women did rather go against the grain; but he was able to console himself with the reflection, that, after all, such an arrangement might be of real service to the poor of the city. The thought that he must receive his re-appointment as the gift of the new bishop, and probably through the hands of Mr Slope, annoyed him a little; but his mind was set at rest by the assurance of the archdeacon that there would be no favour in such a presentation. The re-appointment of the old warden would be regarded by all the world as a matter of course. Mr Harding, therefore, felt no hesitation in telling his daughter that they might look upon his return to his old quarters as a settled matter.

‘And you won’t have to ask for it, papa.’

‘Certainly not, my dear. There is no ground on which I could ask for any favour from the bishop, whom, indeed, I hardly know. Nor would I ask a favour, that granting of which might possibly be made a question to be settled by Mr Slope. No,’ said he, moved for a moment by a spirit very unlike his own, ‘I certainly shall be very glad to go back to the hospital; but I should never go there, if it were necessary that my doing so should be the subject of a request to Mr Slope.’

This little outbreak of her father’s anger jarred on the present tone of Eleanor’s mind. She had not learnt to like Mr Slope, but she had learnt to think that he had much respect for her father; and she would, therefore, willingly use her efforts to induce something like good feeling between them.

‘Papa,’ said she, ‘I think you somewhat mistake Mr Slope’s character.’

‘Do I?’ said he, placidly.

‘I think you do, papa. I think he intended no personal disrespect to you when he preached the sermon which made the archdeacon and the dean so angry.!’

‘I never supposed that he did, my dear. I hope I never inquired within myself whether he did or no. Such a matter would be unworthy of any inquiry, and very unworthy of the consideration of the chapter. But I fear he intended disrespect to the ministration’s of God’s services, as conducted in conformity with the rules of the Church of England.’

‘But might it not be that he thought it his duty to express his dissent from that which you, and the dean, and all of us here approve?’

‘It can hardly be the duty of any young man rudely to assail the religious convictions of his elders of the church. Courtesy should have kept him silent, even if neither charity nor modesty could do so.’

‘But Mr Slope would say that on such a subject the commands of his heavenly Master do not admit of his being silent.’

‘Nor of being courteous, Eleanor?’

‘He did not say that, papa.’

‘Believe me, my child, that Christian ministers are never called on by God’s word to insult the convictions, or even the prejudices, of their brethren; and that religion is at any rate not less susceptible to urbane and courteous conduct among men, than any other study which men take up. I am sorry to say that I cannot defend Mr Slope’s sermon in the cathedral. But come, my dear, put on your bonnet, and let us walk round the dear old gardens at the hospital. I have never yet had the heart to go beyond the court-yard since we left the place. Now I think I can venture to enter.’

Eleanor rang the bell, and gave a variety of imperative charges as to the welfare of the precious baby, whom, all but unwillingly, she was about to leave for an hour or so, and then sauntered forth with her father to revisit the old hospital. It had been forbidden ground to her as well as to him since the day on which they had walked forth together from its walk.

CHAPTER IX

THE STANHOPE FAMILY

It is now three months since Dr Proudie began his reign, and changes had already been affected in the diocese which show at least the energy of an active mind. Among other things, absentee clergymen have been favoured with hints much too strong to be overlooked. Poor dear old Bishop Grantly had on this matter been too lenient, and the archdeacon had never been inclined to be severe with those who were absent on reputable pretences, and who provided for their duties in a liberal way.

Among the greatest of the diocesan sinners in this respect was Dr Vesey Stanhope. Years had now passed since he had done a day’s duty; and yet there was no reason against his doing duty except a want of inclination on his own part. He held a prebendal stall in the diocese; one of the best residences in the close; and the two large rectories of Crabtree Canonicorum, and Stogpingum. Indeed, he had the cure of three parishes, for that of Eiderdown was joined to Stogpingum. He had resided in Italy for twelve years. His first going there had been attributed to a sore throat; and that sore throat, though never repeated in any violent manner had stood him in such stead, that it had enabled him to live in easy idleness ever since.

He had now been summoned home,–not indeed, with rough violence, or by any peremptory command, but by a mandate which he found himself unable to disregard. Mr Slope had written to him by the bishop’s desire. In the first place, the bishop much wanted the valuable co-operation of Dr Vesey Stanhope in the diocese; in the next, the bishop thought it his imperative duty to become personally acquainted with the most conspicuous of his diocesan clergy; then the bishop thought it essentially necessary for Dr Stanhope’s own interests, that Dr Stanhope should, at any rate for a time, return to Barchester; and lastly, it was said that so strong a feeling was at the present moment evinced by the hierarchs of the church with reference to the absence of its clerical members, that it behoved Dr Vesey Stanhope not to allow his name to stand among those which would probably in a few months be submitted to the councils of the nation.

There was something so ambiguously frightful in this last threat that Dr Stanhope determined to spend two or three summer months at his residence in Barchester. His rectories were inhabited by his curates, and he felt himself from disuse to be unfit for parochial duty; but his prebendal home was kept empty for him, and he thought it probable that he might be able now and again to preach a prebendal sermon. He arrived, therefore, with all his family at Barchester, and he and they must be introduced to my readers.

The great family characteristic of the Stanhopes might probably be said to be heartlessness; but the want of feeling was, in most of them, accompanied by so great an amount of good nature that their neighbours failed to perceive how indifferent to them was the happiness and well-being of those around them. The Stanhopes would visit you in your sickness (provided it were not contagious), would bring you oranges, French novels, and the last new bit of scandal, and then hear of your death or your recovery with an equally indifferent composure. Their conduct to each other was the same as to the world; they bore and forbore: and there was sometimes, as will be seen, much necessity for forbearing: but their love among themselves rarely reached above this. It is astonishing how much each of the family was able to do, and how much each did, to prevent the well-being of the other four.

For there were five in all; the doctor, namely, and Mrs Stanhope, two daughters, and one son. The doctor, perhaps, was the least singular and most estimable of them all, and yet such good qualities as he possessed were all negative. He was a good looking rather plethoric gentleman of about sixty years of age. His hair was snow white, very plentiful, and somewhat like wool of the finest description. His whiskers were large and very white, and gave to his face the appearance of a benevolent sleepy old lion. His dress was always unexceptionable. Although he had lived so many years in Italy it was invariably of a decent clerical hue, but it never was hyperclerical. He was a man not given to much talking, but what little he did say was generally well said. His reading seldom went beyond romances and poetry of the lightest and not always most moral description. He was thoroughly a bon vivant; an accomplished judge of wine, though he never drank to excess; and a most inexorable critic in all affairs touching the kitchen. He had had much to forgive in his own family, since a family had grown up around him, and had forgiven everything–except inattention to his dinner. His weakness in that respect was now fully understood, and his temper but seldom tried. As Dr Stanhope was a clergyman, it may be supposed that his religious convictions made up a considerable part of his character; but this was not so. That he had religious convictions must be believed; but he rarely obtruded them, even on his children. This abstinence on his part was not systematic, but very characteristic of the man. It was not that he had predetermined never to influence their thoughts; but he was so habitually idle that his time for doing so had never come till the opportunity for doing so was gone forever. Whatever conviction the father may have had, the children were at any rate but indifferent members of the church from which he drew his income.

Such was Dr Stanhope. The features of Mrs Stanhope’s character were even less plainly marked than those of her lord. The far niente of her Italian life had entered into her very soul, and brought her to regard a state of inactivity as the only earthly good. In manner and appearance she was exceedingly prepossessing. She had been a beauty, and even now, at fifty-five, she was a handsome woman. Her dress was always perfect: she never dressed but once in the day, and never appeared till between three and four; but when she did appear, she appeared at her best. Whether the toil rested partly with her, or wholly with her handmaid, it is not for such a one as the author to imagine. The structure of her attire was always elaborate, and yet never over laboured. She was rich in apparel, but not bedizened with finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail to attract notice, but they did not look as though worn with that purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her constructions, and never condescended to construct a decoration. But when we have said that Mrs Stanhope knew how to dress, and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none. It was something, indeed, that she did not interfere with the purposes of others. In early life she had undergone great trials with reference to the doctor’s dinners; but for the last ten or twelve years her eldest daughter Charlotte had taken that labour off her hands, and she had had little to trouble her;–little, that is, till the edict for this terrible English journey had gone forth; since, then, indeed, her life had been laborious enough. For such a one, the toil of being carried from the shores of Como to the city of Barchester is more than labour enough, let the cares of the carriers be ever so vigilant. Mrs Stanhope had been obliged to have every one of her dresses taken in from the effects of the journey.

Charlotte Stanhope was at this time about thirty-five years old; and, whatever may have been her faults, she had none of those which belong particularly to old young ladies. She neither dressed young, nor talked young, nor indeed looked young. She appeared to be perfectly content with her time of life, and in no way affected the grace of youth. She was a fine young woman; and had she been a man, would have been a very fine young man. All that was done in the house, and that was not done by servants, was done by her. She gave the orders, paid the bills, hired and dismissed the domestics, made the tea, carved the meat, and managed everything in the Stanhope household. She, and she alone, could ever induce her father to look into the state of his worldly concerns. She, and she alone, could in any degree control the absurdities of her sister. She, and she alone, prevented the whole family from falling into utter disrepute and beggary. It was by her advice that they now found themselves very unpleasantly situated in Barchester.

So far, the character of Charlotte Stanhope is not unprepossessing. But it remains to be said, that the influence which she had in her family, though it had been used to a certain extent for their worldly well-being, had not been used to their real benefit, as it might have been. She had aided her father in his indifference to his professional duties, counselling him that his livings were as much as his individual property as the estates of his elder brother were the property of that worthy peer. She had for years past stifled every little rising wish for a return to England which the doctor had from time to time expressed. She had encouraged her mother in her idleness in order that she herself might be mistress and manager of the Stanhope household. She had encouraged and fostered the follies of her sister, though she was always willing, and often able, to protect her from their probable result. She had done her best, and had thoroughly succeeded in spoiling her brother, and turning him loose upon the world an idle man without a profession, and without a shilling that he could call his own.

Miss Stanhope was a clever woman, able to talk on most subjects, and quite indifferent as to what the subject was. She prided herself on her freedom from English prejudice, and she might have added, from feminine delicacy. On religion she was a pure freethinker, and with much want of true affection, delighted to throw out her own views before the troubled mind of her father. To have shaken what remained of his Church of England faith would have gratified her much; but the idea of his abandoning his preferment in the church had never once presented itself to her mind. How could he indeed, when he had no income from any other sources?

But the two most prominent members of the family still remain to be described. The second child had been christened Madeline, and had been a great beauty. We need not say had been, for she was never more beautiful than at the time of which we write, though her person for many years had been disfigured by an accident. It is unnecessary that we should give in detail the early history of Madeline Stanhope. She had gone to Italy when seventeen years of age, and had been allowed to make the most of her surpassing beauty in the saloons of Milan, and among the crowded villas along the shores of the Lake of Como. She had become famous for adventures in which her character was just not lost, and had destroyed the hearts of a dozen cavaliers without once being touched in her own. Blood had flowed in quarrels about her charms, and she heard of these encounters with pleasurable excitement. It had been told of her that on one occasion she had stood by in the disguise of a page, and had seen her lover fall.

As is so often the case, she had married the very worst of those who sought her hand. Why she had chosen Paulo Neroni, a man of no birth and no property, a mere captain in the pope’s guard, one who had come up to Milan either simply as an adventurer or as a spy, a man of harsh temper and oily manners, mean in figure, swarthy in face, and so false in words as to be hourly detected, need not now be told. When the moment for doing so came, she had probably no alternative. He, at any rate, had become her husband; and after a prolonged honeymoon among the lakes, they had gone together to Rome, the papal captain having vainly endeavoured to induce his wife to remain behind him.

Six months afterwards she arrived at her father’s house a cripple and a mother. She had arrived without even notice, with hardly clothes to cover her, and without one of those many ornaments which had graced her bridal trousseaux. Her baby was in the arms of a poor girl from Milan, whom she had taken in exchange for the Roman maid who had accompanied her thus far, and who had then, as her mistress said, become homesick and had returned. It was clear that the lady had determined that there should be no witness to tell stories of her life in Rome.

She had fallen, she said, in ascending a ruin and had fatally injured the sinews of her knee; so fatally, that when she stood she lost eight inches of her accustomed height; so fatally, that when she essayed to move, she could only drag herself painfully along, with protruded hip and extended foot in a manner less graceful than that of a hunchback. She had consequently made up her mind, once and for ever, that she would never stand, and never attempt to move herself.

Stories were not slow to follow her, averring that she had been cruelly ill-used by Neroni, and that to his violence had she owed her accident. Be that as it may, little had been said about her husband, but that little had made it clearly intelligible to the family that Signor Neroni was to be seen and heard of no more. There was no question as to re-admitting the poor ill-used beauty to her old family rights, no question as to adopting her infant daughter, beneath the Stanhope roof tree. Though heartless, the Stanhopes were not selfish. The two were taken in, petted, made much of, for a time all but adored, and then felt by the two parents to be great nuisances in the house. But in the house the lady was, and there she remained, having her own way, though that way was not very comfortable with the customary usages of an English clergyman.

Madame Neroni, though forced to give up all motion in the world, had no intention whatever of giving up the world itself. The beauty of her face was uninjured, and that beauty was of a peculiar kind. Her copious rich brown hair was worn in Grecian bandeaux round her head, displaying as much as possible of her forehead and cheeks. Her forehead, though rather low, was very beautiful from its perfect contour and pearly whiteness. Her eyes were long and large, and marvellously bright; might I venture to say, bright as Lucifer’s, I should perhaps best express the depth of their brilliancy. They were dreadful eyes to look at, such as would absolutely deter any man of quiet mind and easy spirit from attempting a passage of arms with such foes. There was talent in them, and the fire of passion and the play of wit, but there was no love. Cruelty was there instead, and courage, a desire for masterhood, cunning, and a wish for mischief. And yet, as eyes, they were very beautiful. The eyelashes were long and perfect, and the long steady unabashed gaze, with which she would look into the face of her admirer, fascinated while it frightened him. She was a basilisk from whom an ardent lover of beauty could make no escape. Her nose and mouth more so at twenty-eight than they had been at eighteen. What wonder that with such charms still glowing in her face, and with such deformity destroying her figure, she should resolve to be seen, but only to be seen reclining on a sofa.

Her resolve had not been carried out without difficulty. She had still frequented the opera at Milan; she had still been seen occasionally in the saloons of the noblesse; she had caused herself to be carried in and out from her carriage, and that in such a manner as in no wise to disturb her charms, disarrange her dress, or expose her deformities. Her sister always accompanied her and a maid, a manservant also, and on state occasions, two. It was impossible that her purpose could have been achieved with less: and yet, poor as she was, she had achieved her purpose. And then again the more dissolute Italian youths of Milan frequented the Stanhope villa and surrounded her couch, not greatly to her father’s satisfaction. Sometimes his spirit would rise, a dark spot would show itself on his cheek, and he would rebel; but Charlotte would assuage him with some peculiar triumph of her culinary art, and all again would be smooth for a while.

Madeline affected all manner of rich and quaint devices in the garniture of her room, her person, and her feminine belongings. In nothing was this more apparent than in the visiting card which she had prepared for her use. For such an article one would say that she, in her present state, could have but small need, seeing how improbable it was that she should make a morning call; but not such was her own opinion. Her card was surrounded by a deep border of gilding; on this she had imprinted, in three lines:-

La Signora Madeline
Vesey Neroni.
– Nata Stanhope.

And over the name she had a bright gilt coronet, which certainly looked very magnificent. How she had come to concoct such a name for herself it would be difficult to explain. Her father had been christened Vesey, as another man is christened Thomas; and she had no more right to assume it than would have the daughter of a Mr Josiah Jones to call herself Mrs Josiah Smith, on marrying a man of the latter name. The gold coronet was equally out of place, and perhaps inserted with even less excuse. Paul Neroni had not the faintest title to call himself a scion of even Italian nobility. Had the pair met in England Neroni would probably have been a count; but they had met in Italy, and any such pretence on his part would have been simply ridiculous. A coronet, however, was a pretty ornament, and if it could solace a poor cripple to have such on her card, who could begrudge it to her?

Of her husband, or of his individual family, she never spoke; but with her admirers she would often allude in a mysterious way to her married life and isolated state, and, pointing to her daughter, would call her the last of the blood of the emperors, thus referring Neroni’s extraction to the old Roman family from which the worst of the Caesars sprang.

The ‘Signora’ was not without talent, and not without a certain sort of industry; she was an indomitable letter writer, and her letters were worth the postage: they were full of wit, mischief, satire, love, latitudinarian philosophy, free religion, and, sometimes, alas! loose ribaldry. The subject, however, depended entirely on the recipient, and she was prepared to correspond with any one, but moral young ladies or stiff old women. She wrote also a kind of poetry, generally in Italian, and short romances, generally in French. She read much of a desultory sort of literature, and as a modern linguist had really made great proficiency. Such was the lady who had now come to wound the hearts of the men of Barchester.

Ethelbert Stanhope was in some respects like his younger sister, but he was less inestimable as a man than she was as a woman. His great fault was an entire absence of that principle which should have induced him, as the son of a man without fortune, to earn his own bread. Many attempts had been made to get him to do so, but these had all been frustrated, not so much by idleness on his part, as by a disinclination to exert himself in any way not to his taste. He had been educated at Eton, and had been intended for the Church, but had left Cambridge in disgust after a single term, and notified to his father his intention to study for the bar. Preparatory to that, he thought it well that he should attend a German university, and consequently went to Leipzig. There he remained two years, and brought away a knowledge of German and a taste for the fine arts. He still, however, intended himself for the bar, took chambers, engaged himself to sit at the feet of a learned pundit, and spent a season in London. He there found that all his aptitudes inclined him to the life of an artist, and he determined to live by painting. With this object he retired to Milan, and had himself rigged out for Rome. As a painter he might have earned his bread, for he wanted only diligence to excel; but when at Rome his mind was carried away by other things: he soon wrote home for money, saying that he had been converted to the Mother Church, that he was already an acolyte of the Jesuits, and that he was about to start with others to Palestine on a mission for converting Jews. He did go to Judea, but being unable to convert the Jews, was converted by them. He again wrote home, to say that Moses was the only giver of perfect laws to the world, that the coming of the true Messiah was at hand, that great things were doing in Palestine, and that he had met one of the family of Sidonis, a most remarkable man, who was now on his way to Western Europe, and whom he had induced to deviate from his route with the object of calling at the Stanhope villa. Ethelbert then expressed his hope that his mother and sisters would listen to this wonderful prophet. His father he knew could not do so from pecuniary considerations. This Sidonia, however, did not take so strong a fancy to him as another of that family once did to a young English nobleman. At least he provided him with no hope of gold as large as lions; so that the Judaised Ethelbert was again obliged to draw on the revenues of the Christian Church.

It is needless to tell how the father swore that he would send no more money and receive no Jew; nor how Charlotte declared that Ethelbert could not be left penniless in Jerusalem; and how ‘La Signora Neroni’ resolved to have Sidonia at her feet. The money was sent, and the Jew did come. The Jew did come, but he was not at all to the taste of ‘la Signora’. He was a dirty little old man, and though he had provided no golden lions, he had, it seems, relieved young Stanhope’s necessities. He positively refused to leave the villa till he got a bill from the doctor on his London bankers.

Ethelbert did not long remain a Jew. He soon reappeared at the villa without prejudices on the subject of his religion, and with a firm resolve to achieve fame and fortune as a sculptor. He brought with him some models which he had originated at Rome, and which really gave much fair promise that his father was induced to go to further expense in furthering these views. Ethelbert opened an establishment, or rather took lodgings and workshop, at Carrara, and there spoilt much marble, and made some few pretty images. Since that period, now four years ago, he had alternated between Carrara and the villa, but his sojourns at the workshop became shorter and shorter, and those at the villa longer and longer. ‘Twas no wonder; for Carrara is not a spot in which an Englishman would like to dwell.

When the family started for England he had resolved not to be left behind, and with the assistance of his elder sister had earned his point against his father’s wishes. It was necessary, he said, that he should come to England for orders. How otherwise was he to bring his profession to account?

In personal appearance Ethelbert Stanhope was the most singular of beings. He was certainly very handsome. He had his sister Madeline’s eyes without their stare, and without their hard cunning cruel firmness. They were also very much lighter, and of so light and clear a blue as to make his face remarkable, if nothing else did so. On entering a room with him, Ethelbert’s blue eyes would be the first thing you would see, and on leaving it almost the last thing you would forget. His light hair was very long and silky, coming down over his coat. His beard had been prepared in the holy land, and was patriarchal. He never shaved, and rarely trimmed it. It was glossy, soft, clean, and altogether not unprepossessing. It was such that ladies might desire to reel it off and work it into their patterns in lieu of floss silk. His complexion was fair and almost pink, he was small in height, and slender in limb, but well-made, and his voice was of particular sweetness.manner and dress he was equally remarkable. He had none of the mauvaise honte of an Englishman. He required no introduction to make himself agreeable to any person. He habitually addressed strangers, ladies as well as men, without any such formality, and in doing so never seemed to meet with rebuke. His costume cannot be described, because it was so various; but it was always totally opposed in every principle of colour and construction to the dress of those with whom he for the time consorted.

He was habitually addicted to making love to ladies, and did so without scruple of conscience, or any idea that such a practice was amiss. He had no heart to touch himself, and was literally unaware that humanity was subject to such infliction. He had not thought much about it; but, had he been asked, would have said, that ill-treating a lady’s heart meant injuring her promotion in the world. His principles therefore forbade him to pay attention to a girl, if he thought any man was present whom it might suit her to marry. In this manner, his good nature frequently interfered with his amusement; but he had no other motive in abstaining from the fullest declaration of love to every girl that pleased his eye.

Bertie Stanhope, as he was generally called, was, however, popular with both sexes; and with Italians as well as English. His circle of acquaintance was very large, and embraced people of all sorts. He had not respect for rank, and no aversion to those below him. He had lived on familiar terms with English peers, German shopkeepers, and Roman priests. All people were nearly alike to him. He was above, or rather below, all prejudices. No virtue could charm him, no vice shock him. He had about him a natural good manner, which seemed to qualify him for the highest circles, and yet he was never out of place in the lowest. He had no principle, no regard for others, no self-respect, no desire to be other than a drone in a hive, if only he could, as a drone, get what honey was sufficient for him. Of honey, in his latter days, it may probably be presaged, that he will have but short allowance.

Such was the family of the Stanhopes, who, at this period, suddenly joined themselves to the ecclesiastical circle of Barchester close. Any stranger union, it would be impossible perhaps to conceive. And it was not as though they all fell down into the cathedral precincts hitherto unknown and untalked of. In such case no amalgamation would have been at all probable between the new comers and either the Proudie set or the Grantly set. But such was far from being the case. The Stanhopes were all known by name in Barchester, and Barchester was prepared to receive them with open arms. The doctor was one of the prebendaries, one of her rectors, one of her pillars of strength; and was, moreover, counted on, as a sure ally, both by Proudies and Grantlys.

He himself was the brother of one peer, and his wife was the sister of another–and both these peers were lords of whiggish tendency, with whom the new bishop had some sort of alliance. This was sufficient to give to Mr Slope high hope that he might enlist Dr Stanhope on his side, before his enemies could out-manoeuvre him. On the other hand, the old dean had many many years ago, in the days of the doctor’s clerical energies, been instrumental in assisting him in his views as to preferment; and many many years ago also, the two doctors, Stanhope and Grantly, had, as young parsons, been joyous together in the common rooms of Oxford. Dr Grantly, consequently, did not doubt but that the new comer would range himself under his banners.

Little did any of them dream of what ingredients the Stanhope family was now composed.

CHAPTER X

MRS PROUDIE’S RECEPTION–COMMENCED

The bishop and his wife had only spent three or four days in Barchester on the occasion of their first visit. His lordship had, as we have seen, taken his seat on his throne; but his demeanour there, into which it had been his intention to infuse much hierarchical dignity, had been a good deal disarranged by the audacity of his chaplain’s sermon. He had hardly dared to look his clergy in the face, and to declare by the severity of his countenance that in truth he meant all that his factotum was saying on his behalf; nor yet did he dare throw Mr Slope over, and show to those around him that he was no party to the sermon, and would resent it.

He had accordingly blessed his people in a shambling manner, not at all to his own satisfaction, and had walked back to his palace with his mind very doubtful as to what he would say to his chaplain on the subject. He did not remain long in doubt. He had hardly doffed his lawn when the partner of all his toils entered his study, and exclaimed even before she had seated herself–

‘Bishop, did you ever hear a more sublime, more spirit-moving, more appropriate discourse than that?’

‘Well, my love; ha-hum-he!’ The bishop did not know what to say.

‘I hope, my lord, you don’t mean to say you disapprove?’

There was a look about the lady’s eye which did not admit of my lord’s disapproving at that moment. He felt that if he intended to disapprove, it must be now or never; but he also felt that it could not be now. It was not in him to say to the wife of his bosom that Mr Slope’s sermon was ill-timed, impertinent and vexatious.

‘No, no,’ replied the bishop. ‘No, I can’t say I disapprove–a very clever sermon and very well intended, and I dare say will do a great deal of good.’ This last praise was added, seeing that what he had already said by no means satisfied Mrs Proudie.

‘I hope it will,’ said she. ‘I am sure it was well deserved. Did you ever in your life, bishop, hear anything so like play-acting as the way in which Mr Harding sings the litany? I shall beg Mr Slope to continue a course of sermons on the subject till all that is altered. We will have at any rate, in our cathedral, a decent, godly, modest morning service. There must be no more play-acting here now;’ and so the lady rang for lunch.

This bishop knew more about cathedrals and deans, and precentors and church services than his wife did, and also more of the bishop’s powers. But he thought it better at present to let the subject drop.

‘My dear,’ said he, ‘I think we must go back to London on Tuesday. I find that my staying here will be very inconvenient to the Government.’

The bishop knew that to this proposal his wife would not object; and he also felt that by thus retreating from the ground of battle, the heat of the fight might be got over in his absence.

‘Mr Slope will remain here, of course,’ said the lady.

‘Oh, of course,’ said the bishop.

Thus, after less than a week’s sojourn in his palace, did the bishop fly from Barchester; nor did he return to it for two months, the London season being then over. During that time Mr Slope was not idle, but he did not again assay to preach in the cathedral. In answer to Mrs Proudie’s letters, advising a course of sermons, he had pleaded that he would at any rate wish to put off such an undertaking till she was there to hear them.

He had employed his time in consolidating a Proudie and Slope party–or rather a Slope and Proudie party, and he had not employed his time in vain. He did not meddle with the dean and chapter, except by giving them little teasing intimations of the bishop’s wishes about this and the bishop’s feelings about that, in a manner which was to them sufficiently annoying, but which they could not resent. He preached once or twice in a distant church in the suburbs of the city, but made no allusion to the cathedral service. He commenced the establishment of the ‘Bishop of Barchester’s Sabbath-day Schools,’ gave notice of a proposed ‘Bishop of Barchester Young Men’s Sabbath Evening Lecture Room,’–and wrote three or four letters to the manager of the Barchester branch railway, informing him how anxious the bishop was that the Sunday trains should be discontinued.

At the end of two months, however, the bishop and the lady reappeared; and as a happy harbinger of their return, heralded their advent by the promise of an evening party on the largest scale. The tickets of invitation were sent out from London–they were dated from Bruton Street, and were dispatched by the odious Sabbath-breaking railway, in a huge brown paper parcel to Mr Slope. Everybody calling himself a gentleman, or herself a lady, within the city of Barchester, and a circle of two miles round it, was included. Tickets were sent to all the diocesan clergy, and also to many other persons of priestly note, of whose absence the bishop, or at least the bishop’s wife, felt tolerably confident. It was intended, however, to be a thronged and noticeable affair, and preparations were made for receiving some hundreds.

And now there arose considerable agitation among the Grantleyites whether or not they would attend the bidding. The first feeling with them all was to send the briefest excuses both for themselves and their wives and daughters. But by degrees policy prevailed over passion. The archdeacon perceived that he would be making a false step if he allowed the cathedral clergy to give the bishop just ground of umbrage. They all met in conclave and agreed to go. The old dean would crawl in, if it were but for half an hour. The chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, prebendaries, and minor canons would all go, and would take their wives. Mr Harding was especially bidden to go, resolving in his heart to keep himself removed from Mrs Proudie. And Mrs Bold was determined to go, though assured by her father that there was no necessity for such a sacrifice on her part. When all Barchester was to be there, neither Eleanor nor Mary Bold understood why they should stay away. Had they not been invited separately? And had not a separate little note from the chaplain couched in the most respectful language, been enclosed with the huge episcopal card?

And the Stanhopes would be there, one and all. Even the lethargic mother would so far bestir herself on such an occasion. They had only just arrived. The card was at the residence waiting for them. No one in Barchester had seen them; and what better opportunity could they have of showing themselves to the Barchester world? Some few old friends, such as the archdeacon and his wife, had called, and had found the doctor and his eldest daughter; but the elite of the family were not yet known.

The doctor indeed wished in his heart to prevent the signora from accepting the bishop’s invitation; but she herself had fully determined that she would accept it. If her father was ashamed of having his daughter carried into a bishop’s palace, she had no such feeling.

‘Indeed, I shall,’ she said to her sister who had greatly endeavoured to dissuade her, by saying that the company would consist wholly of parsons and parsons’ wives. ‘Parsons, I suppose, are much the same as other men, if you strip them of their black coats; and as to their wives, I dare say they won’t trouble me. You may tell papa I don’t mean to be left at home.’

Papa was told, and felt that he could do nothing but yield. He also felt that it was useless of him now to be ashamed of his children. Such as they were, they had become such under his auspices; as he had made his bed, so he must lie upon it; as he had sown his seed, so must he reap his corn. He did not indeed utter such reflections in such language, but such was the gist of his thoughts. It was not because Madeline was a cripple that he shrank from seeing her made one of the bishop’s guests; but because he knew that she would practise her accustomed lures, and behave herself in a way that could not fail of being distasteful to the propriety of Englishwomen. These things had annoyed but not shocked him in Italy. There they had shocked no one; but here in Barchester, here among his fellow parsons, he was ashamed that they should be seen. Such had been his feelings, but he repressed them. What if his brother clergymen were shocked! They could not take it from his preferment because the manners of his married daughter were too free.

La Signora Neroni had, at any rate, no fear that she would shock anybody. Her ambition was to create a sensation, to have parsons at her feet, seeing that the manhood of Barchester consisted mainly of parsons, and to send, if possible, every parson’s wife home with a green fit of jealousy. None could be too old for her, and hardly any too young. None too sanctified, and none too worldly. She was quite prepared to entrap the bishop himself, and then to turn up her nose at the bishop’s wife. She did not doubt of success, for she had always succeeded; but one thing was absolutely necessary, she must secure the entire use of a sofa.

The card sent to Dr and Mrs Stanhope and family, had been sent in an envelope, having on the cover Mr Slope’s name. The signora soon learnt that Mrs Proudie was not yet at the palace, and that the chaplain was managing everything. It was much more in her line to apply to him than to the lady, and she accordingly wrote to him the prettiest little billet in the world. In five lines she explained everything, declared how impossible it was for her not to be desirous to make the acquaintance of such persons as the bishop of Barchester and his wife, and she might add also of Mr Slope, depicted her own grievous state, and concluded by being assured that Mrs Proudie would forgive her extreme hardihood in petitioning to be allowed to be carried to a sofa. She then enclosed one of her beautiful cards. In return she received as polite an answer from Mr Slope–a sofa should be kept in the large drawing-room, immediately at the top of the grand stairs, especially for her use.

And now the day of the party had arrived. The bishop and his wife came down from town, only on the morning of the eventful day, as behoved such great people to do; but Mr Slope had toiled day and night to see that everything should be in right order. There had been much to do. No company had been seen in the palace since heaven knows when. New furniture had been required, new pots and pans, new cups and saucers, new dishes and plates. Mrs Proudie had first declared that she would condescend to nothing so vulgar as eating and drinking; but Mr Slope had talked, or rather written her out of economy!–bishops should be given to hospitality, and hospitality meant eating and drinking. So the supper was conceded; the guests, however, were to stand as they consumed it.

There were four rooms opening into each other on the first floor of the house, which were denominated the drawing-rooms, the reception-room, and Mrs Proudie’s boudoir. In olden days one of these had been Bishop Grantly’s bed-room, and another his common, sitting-room and study. The present bishop, however, had been moved down into a back parlour, and had been given to understand that he could very well receive his clergy in the dining-room, should they arrive in too large a flock to be admitted to his small sanctum. He had been unwilling to yield, but after a short debate had yielded.

Mrs Proudie’s heart beat high as she inspected her suite of rooms. They were really very magnificent, or at least would be so by candlelight; and they had nevertheless been got up with commendable economy. Large rooms when full of people, and full of light look well, because they are large, and are full, and are light. Small rooms are those which require costly fittings and rich furniture. Mrs Proudie knew this, and made the most of it; she had therefore a huge gas lamp with a dozen burners hanging from each of the ceilings.

People were to arrive at ten, supper was to last from twelve to one, and at half-past one everybody was to be gone. Carriages were to come in at the gate in the town and depart at the gate outside. They were desired to take up at a quarter before one. It was managed excellently, and Mr Slope was invaluable.

At half-past nine the bishop and his wife and their three daughters entered the great reception-room, and very grand and very solemn they were. Mr Slope was down-stairs giving the last orders about the wine. He well understood that curates and country vicars with their belongings did not require so generous an article as the dignitaries of the close. There is a useful gradation in such things, and Marsala at 20s a dozen did very well for the exterior supplementary tables in the corner.

‘Bishop,’ said the lady, as his lordship sat himself down, ‘don’t sit on that sofa, if you please; it is to be kept separate for a lady.’

The bishop jumped up and seated himself on a cane-bottomed chair. ‘A lady?’ he inquired meekly; ‘do you mean one particular lady, my dear?’

‘Yes, bishop, one particular lady,’ said his wife, disdaining to explain.

‘She has got no legs, papa,’ said the youngest daughter, tittering.

‘No legs!’ said the bishop, opening his eyes.

‘Nonsense, Netta, what stuff you talk,’ said Olivia. ‘She has got legs, but she can’t use them. She has always to be kept lying down, and three or four men carry her about everywhere.’

‘Laws, how odd!’ said Augusta. ‘Always carried about by four men! I’m quite sure I wouldn’t like it. Am I right behind, mama? I feel as if I was open;’ and she turned her back to her anxious parent.

‘Open! To be sure you are,’ said she, ‘and a yard of petticoat strings hanging out. I don’t know why I pay such high wages to Mrs Richards, if she can’t take the trouble to see whether or no you are fit to be looked at,’ and Mrs Proudie poked the strings here, and twitched the dress there, and gave her daughter a shove and a shake, and then pronounced it all right.

‘But,’ rejoined the bishop, who was dying with curiosity about the mysterious lady and her legs, ‘who is it that is to have the sofa? What is her name, Netta?’

A thundering rap at the front door interrupted the conversation. Mrs Proudie stood up and shook herself gently, and touched her cap on each side as she looked in the mirror. Each of the girls stood on tiptoe, and re-arranged the bows on their bosoms; and Mr Slope rushed up stairs three steps at a time.

‘But who is it, Netta?’ whispered the bishop to his youngest daughter.

‘La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni,’ whispered back the daughter; ‘and mind you don’t let any one sit upon the sofa.’

‘La Signora Madeline Vicinironi!’ muttered, to himself, the bewildered prelate. Had he been told that the Begum of Oude was to be there, or Queen Pomara of the Western Isles, he could not have been more astonished. La Signora Madeline Vicinironi, who, having no legs to stand on, had bespoken a sofa in his drawing-room!–who could she be? He however could now make no further inquiry, as Dr and Mrs Stanhope were announced. They had been sent on out of the way a little before the time, in order that the signora might have plenty of time to get herself conveniently packed into the carriage.

The bishop was all smiles for the prebendary’s wife, and the bishop’s wife was all smiles for the prebendary. Mr Slope was presented, and was delighted to make the acquaintance of one of whom he had heard so much. The doctor bowed very low, and then looked as though he could not return the compliment as regarded Mr Slope, of whom, indeed, he had heard nothing. The doctor, in spite of his long absence, knew an English gentleman when he saw him.

And then the guests came in shoals; Mr and Mrs Quiverful and their three grown daughters. Mr and Mrs Chadwick and their three daughters. The burly chancellor and his wife and clerical son from Oxford. The meagre little doctor without encumbrance. Mr Harding with Eleanor and Miss Bold. The dean leaning on a gaunt spinster, his only child now living with him, a lady very learned in stones, ferns, plants, and vermin, and who had written a book about petals. A wonderful woman in her way was Miss Trefoil. Mr Finnie, the attorney, with his wife, was to be seen, much to the dismay of many who had never met him in a drawing-room before. The five Barchester doctors were all there, and old Scalpen, the retired apothecary and toothdrawer, who was first taught to consider himself as belonging to the higher orders by the receipt of the bishop’s card. Then came the archdeacon and his wife, with their elder daughter Griselda, a slim pale retiring girl of seventeen, who kept close to her mother, and looked out on the world with quiet watchful eyes, one who gave promise of much beauty when time should have ripened it.

And so the room became full, and knots were formed, and every new comer paid his respects to my lord and passed on, not presuming to occupy too much of the great man’s attention. The archdeacon shook hands very heartily with Dr Stanhope, and Mrs Grantly seated herself by the doctor’s wife. And Mrs Proudie moved about with well regulated grace, measuring out the quantity of her favours to the quality of her guests, just as Mr Slope had been doing with the wine. But the sofa was still empty, and five-and-twenty ladies and five gentlemen had been courteously warned off it by the mindful chaplain.

‘Why doesn’t she come?’ said the bishop to himself. His mind was so preoccupied with the signora, that he hardly remembered how to behave himself en bishop.

At last a carriage dashed up to the hall steps with a very different manner of approach from that of any other vehicle that had been there that evening. A perfect commotion took place. The doctor, who heard it as he was standing in the drawing-room, knew that his daughter was coming, and retired to the furthest corner, where he might not see her entrance. Mrs Proudie parked herself up, feeling that some important piece of business was in hand. The bishop was instinctively aware, that La Signora Vicinironi was come at last, and Mr Slope hurried to the hall to give his assistance.

He was, however, nearly knocked down and trampled on by the cortege that he encountered on the hall steps. He got himself picked up as well as he could, and followed the cortege up stairs. The signora was carried head foremost, her head being the care of her brother and an Italian man-servant who was accustomed to the work; her feet were in the care of the lady’s maid and the lady’s Italian page; and Charlotte Stanhope followed to see that all was done with due grace and decorum. In this manner they climbed easily into the drawing-room, and a broad way through the crowd having been opened, the signora rested safely on her couch. She had sent a servant beforehand to learn whether it was a right or a left hand sofa, for it required that she should dress accordingly, particularly as regarded her bracelets.

And very becoming her dress was. It was white velvet, without any other garniture than rich white lace worked with pearls across her bosom, and the same round the armlets of her dress. Across her brow she wore a band of red velvet, on the centre of which shone a magnificent Cupid in mosaic, the tints of whose wings were of the most lovely azure, and the colour of his chubby cheeks the clearest pink. On the one arm which her position required her to expose she wore three magnificent bracelets, each of different stones. Beneath her on the sofa, and over the cushion and head of it, was spread a crimson silk mantle or shawl, which went under her whole body and concealed her feet. Dressed as she was and looking as she did, so beautiful and yet so motionless, with the pure brilliancy of her white dress brought out and strengthened by the colour beneath it, with that lovely head, and those large bold bright staring eyes, it was impossible that either man or woman should do other than look at her.

Neither man nor woman for some minutes did do other.

Her bearers too were worthy of note. The three servants were Italian, and though perhaps not peculiar in their own country, were very much so in the palace at Barchester. The man, especially attracted notice, and created a doubt in the mind of some whether he were a friend or a domestic. The same doubt was felt as to Ethelbert. The man was attired in a loose-fitting common black cloth morning coat. He had a jaunty well-pleased clean face, on which no atom of beard appeared, and he wore round his neck a loose black silk neckhandkerchief. The bishop assayed to make him a bow, but the man, who was well-trained, took no notice of him, and walked out of the room, quite at his ease, followed by the woman and the boy.

Ethelbert Stanhope was dressed in light blue from head to foot. He had on the loosest possible blue coat, cut square like a shooting coat, and very short. It was lined with silk of azure blue. He had on a blue satin waistcoat, a blue handkerchief which was fastened beneath his throat with a coral ring, and very loose blue trousers which almost concealed his feet. His soft glossy beard was softer and more glossy than ever.

The bishop, who had made one mistake, thought that he also was a servant, and therefore tried to make way for him to pass. But Ethelbert soon corrected the error.

CHAPTER XI

MRS PROUDIE’S RECEPTION–CONCLUDED

‘Bishop of Barchester, I presume?’ said Bertie Stanhope, putting out his hand, frankly; ‘I am delighted to make your acquaintance. We are in rather close quarters here, a’nt we?’

In truth they were. They had been crowded up behind the head of the sofa: the bishop in waiting to receive his guest, and the other in carrying her; and they now had hardly room to move themselves.

The bishop gave his hand quickly, and made a little studied bow, and was delighted to make–. He couldn’t go on, for he did not know whether his friend was a signor, or a count, or a prince.

‘My sister really puts you all to great trouble,’ said Bertie.

‘Not at all!’ the bishop was delighted to have the opportunity of welcoming the Signora Vicinironi–so at least he said–and attempted to force his way round to the front of the sofa. He had, at any rate, learnt that his strange guests were brother and sister. The man, he presumed, must be Signor Vicinironi–or count, or prince, as it might be. It was wonderful what good English he spoke. There was just a twang of foreign accent, and no more.

‘Do you like Barchester on the whole?’ asked Bertie.

The bishop, looking dignified, said that he did like Barchester.

‘You’ve not been here very long, I believe,’ said Bertie.

‘No–not long,’ said the bishop, and tried again to make his way between the back of the sofa and a heavy rector, who was staring over it at the grimaces of the signora.

‘You weren’t a bishop before, were you?’

Dr Proudie explained that this was the first diocese he had held.

‘Ah–I thought so,’ said Bertie; ‘but you are changed about sometimes, a’nt you?’

‘Translations are occasionally made,’ said Dr Proudie; ‘but not so frequently as in former days.

‘They’ve cut them all down to pretty nearly the same figure, haven’t they?’ said Bertie.

To this the bishop could not bring himself to make any answer, but again tried to move the rector.

‘But the work, I suppose, is different?’ continued Bertie. ‘Is there much to do here at Barchester?’ This was said exactly in the tone that a young Admiralty clerk might use in asking the same question of a brother acolyte in the Treasury.

‘The work of a bishop of the Church of England,’ said Dr Proudie, with considerable dignity, ‘is not easy. The responsibility which he has to bear is very great indeed.’

‘Is it?’ said Bertie, opening wide his wonderful blue eyes. ‘Well; I never was afraid of responsibility. I once thought of being a bishop myself.’

‘Had thought of being a bishop?’ said Dr Proudie, much amazed.

‘That is, a parson–a parson first, you know, and a bishop afterwards. If I had once begun, I’d have stuck to it. But, on the whole, I like the Church of Rome the best.’

The bishop could not discuss the point, so he remained silent.

‘Now, there’s my father,’ continued Bertie; ‘he hasn’t stuck to it. I fancy he didn’t like saying the same thing so often. By the bye, bishop, have you seen my father?’

The bishop was more amazed than ever. Had he seen his father? ‘No,’ he replied; he had not yet had the pleasure; he hoped he might; and, as he said so, he resolved to bear heavy on that fat, immoveable rector, if ever he had the power of doing so.

‘He’s in the room somewhere,’ said Bertie, ‘and he’ll turn up soon. By the bye, do you know much about the Jews?’

At last the bishop saw a way out. ‘I beg your pardon,’ said he; ‘but I’m forced to go round the room.’

‘Well–I believe I’ll follow in your wake,’ said Bertie. ‘Terribly hot, isn’t it?’ This he addressed to the fat rector with whom he had brought himself into the closest contact. ‘They’ve got this sofa into the worst possible part of the room; suppose we move it. Take care, Madeline.’

The sofa had certainly been so placed that those who were behind it found great difficulty in getting out;–there was but a narrow gangway, which one person could stop. This was a bad arrangement, and one which Bertie thought it might be well to improve.

‘Take care, Madeline,’ said he; and turning to the fat rector, added, ‘Just help me with a slight push.’

The rector’s weight was resting on the sofa, and unwittingly lent all its impetus to accelerate and increase the motion which Bertie intentionally originated. The sofa rushed from its moorings, and ran half-way into the middle of the room. Mrs Proudie was standing with Mr Slope in front of the signora, and had been trying to be condescending and sociable; but she was not in the very best of tempers; for she found that whenever she spoke to the lady, the lady replied by speaking to Mr Slope. Mr Slope was a favourite, no doubt; but Mrs Proudie had no idea of being less thought of than the chaplain. She was beginning to be stately, stiff, and offended, when unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train, and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture. Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open, flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves;–a long ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet, and still clung to the vile wheel on which the sofa moved.

So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemated stories, show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small spark is applied to the treacherous fusee–a cloud of dust arises to the heavens–and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and ugly fragments.

We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised. We know too what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield. As Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs Proudie look on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her train.

‘Oh, you idiot, Bertie!’ said the signora, seeing what had been done, and what were the consequences.

‘Idiot,’ re-echoed Mrs Proudie, as though the word were not half strong enough to express the required meaning; ‘I’ll let him know -;’ and then looking round to learn, at a glance, the worst, she saw that at present it behoved her to collect the scattered debris of her dress.

Bertie, when he saw what he had done, rushed over the sofa, and threw himself on one knee before the offended lady. His object, doubtless, was to liberate the torn lace from the castor; but he looked as though he were imploring pardon from a goddess.

‘Unhand it, sir!’ said Mrs Proudie. From what scrap of dramatic poetry she had extracted the word cannot be said; but it must have rested on her memory, and now seemed opportunely dignified for the occasion.

‘I’ll fly to the looms of the fairies to repair the damage, if you’ll only forgive me,’ said Ethelbert, still on his knees.

‘Unhand it, sir!’ said Mrs Proudie, with redoubled emphasis, and all but furious wrath. This allusion to the fairies was a direct mockery, and intended to turn her into ridicule. So at least it seemed to her. ‘Unhand it, sir!’ she almost screamed.

‘It’s not me; it’s the cursed sofa,’ said Bertie, looking imploringly in her face, and holding both his hands to show that he was not touching her belongings, but still remaining on his knees.

Hereupon the signora laughed; not loud, indeed, but yet audibly. And as the tigress bereft of her young will turn with equal anger on any within reach, so did Mrs Proudie turn upon her female guest.

‘Madam,’ she said–and it is beyond the power of prose to tell of the fire that flashed from her eyes.

By this time the bishop, and Mr Slope, and her three daughters were around her, and had collected together the wide ruins of her magnificence. The girls fell into circular rank behind their mother, and thus following her and carrying out the fragments, they left the reception-rooms in a manner not altogether devoid of dignity. Mrs Proudie had to retire to re-array herself.

As soon as the constellation had swept by, Ethelbert rose from his knees, and turning with mock anger to the fat rector, said: ‘After all it was your doing, sir–not mine. But perhaps you are waiting for preferment, and so I bore it.’

Whereupon there was a laugh against the fat rector, in which both the bishop and the chaplain joined; and thus things got themselves again into order.

‘Oh, my lord, I am so sorry for this accident,’ said the signora, putting out her hand so as to force the bishop to take it. ‘My brother is so thoughtless. Pray sit down, and let me have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. Though I am so poor a creature as to want a sofa, I am not so selfish as to require it all.’ Madeline could always dispose herself so as to make room for a gentleman, though, as she declared, the crinoline of her lady friends was much too bulky to be so accommodated.

‘It was solely for the pleasure of meeting you that I have had myself dragged here,’ she continued. ‘Of course, with your occupation, one cannot even hope that you should have time to come to us, that is, in the way of calling. And at your English dinner-parties all is so dull and so stately. Do you know, my lord, that in coming to England my only consolation has been the thought that I should know you;’ and she looked at him with the look of a she-devil.

The bishop, however, thought that she looked very like an angel, and accepting the proffered seat, sat down beside her. He uttered some platitude as to this deep obligation for the trouble she had taken, and wondered more and more who she was.

‘Of course you know my sad story?’ she continued.

The bishop didn’t know a word of it. He knew, however, or thought he knew, that she couldn’t walk into a room like other people, and so made the most of that. He put on a look of ineffable distress, and said that he was aware how God had afflicted her.

The signora just touched the corner of her eyes with the most lovely of pocket-handkerchiefs. Yes, she said–she had been very sorely tried–tried, she thought, beyond the common endurance of humanity; but while her child was left to her, everything was left. ‘Oh! My lord,’ she exclaimed, ‘you must see the infant–the last bud of a wondrous tree: you must let a mother hope that you will lay your holy hands on her innocent head, and consecrate her for female virtues. May I hope it?’ said she, looking into the bishop’s eye, and touching the bishop’s arm with her hand.

The bishop was but a man, and said she might. After all, what was it but a request that he would confirm her daughter?–a request, indeed, very unnecessary to make, as he should do so as a matter of course, if the young lady came forward in the usual way.

‘The blood of Tiberius,’ said the signora, in all but a whisper; ‘the blood of Tiberius flows in her veins. She is the last of the Neros!’

The bishop had heard of the last of the Visigoths, and had floating in his brain some indistinct idea of the last of the Mohicans, but to have the last of the Neros thus brought before him for a blessing was very staggering. Still he liked the lady: she had a proper way of thinking, and talked with more propriety than her brother. But who were they? It was now quite clear that that blue madman with the silky beard was not a Prince Vicinironi. The lady was married, and was of course one of the Vicinironis by right of the husband. So the bishop went on learning.

‘When will you see her?’ said the signora with a start.

‘See whom?’ said the bishop.

‘My child,’ said the mother.

‘What is the young lady’s age?’ asked the bishop.

‘She is just seven,’ said the signora.

‘Oh,’ said the bishop, shaking his head; ‘she is much too young–very much too young.’

‘But in sunny Italy you know, we do not count by years,’ and the signora gave the bishop one of her very sweetest smiles.

‘But indeed, she is a great deal too young,’ persisted the bishop; ‘we never confirm before–‘

‘But you might speak to her; you might let her hear from your consecrated lips, that she is not a castaway because she is a Roman; that she may be a Nero and yet a Christian; that she may owe her black locks and dark cheeks to the blood of the pagan Caesars, and yet herself be a child of grace; you will tell her this, won’t you, my friend?’

The friend said he would, and asked if the child could say her catechisms.

‘No,’ said the signora, ‘I would not allow her to learn lessons such as those in a land ridden by priests, and polluted by the idolatry of Rome. It is here, here in Barchester, that she must first be taught to lisp those holy words. Oh, that you could be her instructor!’

Now, Dr Proudie certainly liked the lady, but, seeing that he was a bishop, it was not probable that he was going to instruct a little girl in the first rudiments of her catechism; so he said he’d send a teacher.

‘But you will see her yourself, my lord?’

The bishop said he would, but where should he call.

‘At papa’s house,’ said the signora, with an air of some little surprise at the question.

The bishop actually wanted the courage to ask her who was her papa; so he was forced at last to leave her without fathoming her mystery. Mrs Proudie, in her second best, had now returned to the rooms, and her husband thought it as well that he should not remain in too close conversation with the lady whom his wife appeared to hold in such slight esteem. Presently he came across his youngest daughter.

‘Netta,’ said he, ‘do you know who is the father of that Signora Vicinironi?’

‘It isn’t Vicinironi, papa,’ said Netta; ‘but Vesey Neroni, and she’s Dr Stanhope’s daughter. But I must go and do the civil to Griselda Grantly; I declare nobody has spoken a word to the poor girl this evening.

Dr Stanhope! Dr Vesey Stanhope! Dr Vesey Stanhope’s daughter, of whose marriage with a dissolute Italian scamp he now remembered to have heard something! And that impertinent blue cub who had examined him as to his episcopal bearings was old Stanhope’s son, and the lady who had entreated him to come and teach her child the catechism was old Stanhope’s daughter! The daughter of one of his own prebendaries! As these things flashed across his mind, he was nearly as angry as his wife had been. Nevertheless he could not but own that the mother of the last of the Neros was an agreeable woman.

Dr Proudie tripped out into the adjoining room, in which were congregated a crowd of Grantlyite clergymen, among whom the archdeacon was standing pre-eminent, while the old dean was sitting nearly buried in a huge armchair by the fire-place. The bishop was very anxious to be gracious, and, if possible, to diminish the bitterness which his chaplain had occasioned. Let Mr Slope do the fortiter in re, he himself would pour in the suaviter in modo.

‘Pray don’t stir, Mr Dean, pray don’t stir,’ he said, as the old man essayed to get up; ‘I take it as a great kindness, your coming to such an omnium gatherum as this. But we have hardly got settled yet, and Mrs Proudie has not been able to see her friends as she would wish to do. Well, Mr Archdeacon, after all, we have not been so hard upon you at Oxford.’

‘No,’ said the archdeacon; ‘you’ve only drawn our teeth and cut out our tongues; you’ve allowed us still to breathe and swallow.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ laughed the bishop; ‘it’s not quite so easy to cut out the tongue of an Oxford magnate,–and as for teeth,–ha, ha, ha! Why, in the way we’ve left the matter, it’s very odd if the heads of colleges don’t have their own way quite as fully as when the hebdomadal board was in all its glory; what do you say, Mr Dean?’

‘An old man, my lord, never likes changes,’ said the dean.

‘You must have been sad bunglers if it is so,’ said the archdeacon; ‘and indeed, to tell the truth, I think you have bungled it. At any rate, you must own this; you have not done the half what you boasted you would do.’

‘Now, as regards your system of professors–‘ began the chancellor slowly. He was never destined to get beyond the beginning.

‘Talking of professors,’ said a soft clear voice close behind the chancellor’s elbow; ‘how much you Englishmen might learn from Germany; only you are all too proud.’

The bishop looking round, perceived that abominable young Stanhope had pursued him. The dean stared at him, as though he was some unearthly apparition; so also did two or three prebendaries and minor canons. The archdeacon laughed.

‘The German professors are men of learning,’ said Mr Harding, ‘but–‘

‘German professors!’ groaned out the chancellor, as though his nervous system had received a shock which nothing but a week of Oxford air would cure.

‘Yes,’ continued Ethelbert; not at all understanding why a German professor should be contemptible in the eyes of an Oxford don. ‘Not but what the name is best earned at Oxford. In Germany the professors do teach; at Oxford, I believe they only profess to do so, and sometimes not even that. You’ll have those universities of yours about your ears soon, if you don’t consent to take a lesson from Germany.’

There was no answering this. Dignified clergymen of sixty years of age could not condescend to discuss such a matter with a young man with such clothes and such a beard.

‘Have you got good water out at Plumstead, Mr Archdeacon?’ said the bishop by way of changing the conversation.

‘Pretty good,’ said the archdeacon.

‘But by no means so good as his wine, my lord,’ said a witty minor canon.

‘Nor so generally used,’ said another; ‘that is for inward application.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ laughed the bishop, ‘a good cellar of wine is a very comfortable thing in a house.’

‘Your German professors, sir, prefer beer, I believe,’ said the sarcastic little meagre prebendary.

‘They don’t think much of either,’ said Ethelbert; ‘and that perhaps accounts for their superiority. Now the Jewish professor -‘

The insult was becoming too deep for the spirit of Oxford to endure, so the archdeacon walked off one way and the chancellor another, followed by their disciples, and the bishop and the young reformer were left together on the hearth-rug.

‘I was a Jew once myself,’ said Bertie.

The bishop was determined not to stand another examination, or be led on any terms into Palestine; so he again remembered that he had to do something very particular, and left young Stanhope with the dean. The dean did not get the worst of it, for Ethelbert gave him a true account of his remarkable doings in the Holy Land.

‘Oh, Mr Harding,’ said the bishop, overtaking the ci-devant warden; ‘I wanted to say one word about the hospital. You know, of course, that it is to be filled up.’

Mr Harding’s heart beat a little, and he said that he had heard so.

‘Of course,’ continued the bishop; ‘there can be only one man whom I could wish to see in that situation. I don’t know what your own views may be, Mr Harding–‘

‘They are very simply told, my lord,’ said the other; ‘to take the place if it be offered me, and to put up with the want of it should another man get it.’

The bishop professed himself delighted to hear it; Mr Harding might be quite sure that no other man would get it. There were some few circumstances which would in a slight degree change the nature of the duties. Mr Harding was probably aware of this, and would, perhaps, not object to discuss the matter with Mr Slope. It was a subject to which Mr Slope had given a good deal of attention.

Mr Harding felt, he knew not why, oppressed and annoyed. What could Mr Slope do to him? He knew that there were to be changes. The nature of them must be communicated to the warden through somebody, and through whom so naturally as the bishop’s chaplain. ‘Twas thus that he tried to argue himself back to an easy mind, but in vain.

Mr Slope in the mean time had taken the seat which the bishop had vacated on the signora’s sofa, and remained with that lady till it was time to marshal the folk to supper. Not with contented eyes had Mrs Proudie seen this. Had not this woman laughed at her distress, and had not Mr Slope heard it? Was she not an intriguing Italian woman, half wife and half not, full of affectation, airs, and impudence? Was she not horribly bedizened with velvet and pearls, with velvet and pearls, too, which had been torn off her back? Above all, did she not pretend to be more beautiful than her neighbours? To say that Mrs Proudie was jealous would give a wrong idea of her feelings. She had not the slightest desire that Mr Slope should be in love with herself. But she desired the incense of Mr Slope’s spiritual and temporal services, and did not choose that they should be turned out of their course to such an object as Signora Neroni. She considered also that Mr Slope ought in duty to hate the signora; and it appeared from his manner that he was very far from hating her.

‘Come, Mr Slope,’ she said, sweeping by, and looking all that she felt; ‘can’t you make yourself useful? Do pray take Mrs Grantly down to supper.’

Mrs Grantly heard and escaped. The words were hardly out of Mrs Proudie’s mouth, before the intended victim had stuck her hand through the arm of one of her husband’s curates, and saved herself. What would the archdeacon have said had he seen her walking down stairs with Mr Slope?

Mr Slope heard also, but was by no means so obedient as was expected. Indeed, the period of Mr Slope’s obedience to Mrs Proudie was drawing to a close. He did not wish yet to break with her, nor to break with her at all, if it could be avoided. But he intended to be master in that palace, and as she had made the same resolution, it was not improbable that they might come to blows.

Before leaving the signora he arranged a little table before her, and begged to know what he should bring her. She was quite indifferent, she said–nothing–anything. It was now she felt the misery of her position, now that she must be left alone. Well, a little chicken, some ham, and a glass of champagne.

Mr Slope had to explain, not without blushing for his patron, that there was no champagne.

Sherry would do just as well. And then Mr Slope descended with the learned Miss Trefoil on his arm. Could she tell him, he asked, whether the ferns of Barsetshire were equal to those of Cumberland? His strongest worldly passion was for ferns–and before she could answer him he left her wedged between the door and the sideboard. It was fifty minutes before she escaped, and even then unfed.

‘You are not leaving us, Mr Slope,’ said the watchful lady of the house, seeing her slave escaping towards the door, with stores of provisions held high above the heads of the guests.

Mr Slope explained that the Signora Neroni was in want of her supper.

‘Pray, Mr Slope, let her brother take it to her,’ said Mrs Proudie, quite out loud. ‘It is out of the question that you should be so employed. Pray, Mr Slope, oblige me; I am sure Mr Stanhope will wait upon his sister.’

Ethelbert was most agreeably occupied in the furthest corner of the room, making himself both useful and agreeable to Mrs Proudie’s youngest daughter.

‘I couldn’t get out, madam, if Madeline were starving for her supper,’ said he; ‘I’m physically fixed, unless I could fly.’

The lady’s anger was increased by seeing that her daughter had gone over to the enemy; and when she saw, that in spite of her remonstrances, in the teeth of her positive orders, Mr Slope went off to the drawing-room, the cup of her indignation ran over, and she could not restrain herself. ‘Such manners I never saw,’ she said, muttering. ‘I cannot, and will not permit it;’ and then, after fussing and fuming for a few minutes, she pushed her way through the crowd, and followed Mr Slope.

When she reached the room above, she found it absolutely deserted, except for the guilty pair. The signora was sitting very comfortably up for her supper, and Mr Slope was leaning over her and administering to her wants. They had been discussing the merits of Sabbath-day schools, and the lady suggested that as she could not possibly go to the children, she might be indulged in the wish of her heart by having the children brought to her.

‘And when shall it be, Mr Slope?’ said she.

Mr Slope was saved the necessity of committing himself to a promise by the entry of Mrs Proudie. She swept close up to the sofa so as to confront the guilty pair, stared full at them for a moment, and then said as she passed on to the next room, ‘Mr Slope, his lordship is especially desirous of your attendance below; you will greatly oblige me if you will join him.’ And so she stalked on.

Mr Slope muttered something in reply, and prepared to go down stairs. As for the bishop’s wanting him, he knew his lady patroness well enough to take that assertion at what it was worth; but he did not wish to make himself the hero of a scene, or to become conspicuous for more gallantry than the occasion required.

‘Is she always like this?’ said the signora.

‘Yes–always–madam,’ said Mrs Proudie, returning; ‘always the same–always equally adverse to the impropriety of conduct of every description;’ and she stalked back through the room again, following Mr Slope out of the door.

The signora couldn’t follow her, or she certainly would have done so. But she laughed loud, and sent the sound of it ringing through the lobby and down the stairs after Mrs Proudie’s feet. Had she been as active as Grimaldi, she could probably have taken no better revenge.

‘But she’s lame, Mrs Proudie, and cannot move. Somebody must have waited upon her.’

‘Lame,’ said Mrs Proudie; ‘I’d lame her if she belonged to me. What business had she here at all?–such impertinence–such affectation.’

In the hall and adjacent rooms all manner of cloaking and shawling