Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope

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  • 1861
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Framley Parsonage

by Anthony Trollope





When young Mark Robarts was leaving college, his father might well declare that all men began to say all good things to him, and to extol his fortune in that he had a son blessed with an excellent disposition. This father was a physician living at Exeter. He was a gentleman possessed of no private means, but enjoying a lucrative practice, which had enabled him to maintain and educate a family with all the advantages which money can give in this country. Mark was his eldest son and second child; and the first page or two of this narrative must be consumed in giving a catalogue of the good things which chance and conduct together had heaped upon this young man’s head.

His first step forward in life had arisen from his having been sent, while still very young, as a private pupil to the house of a clergyman, who was an old friend and intimate friend of his father’s. This clergyman had one other, and only one other, pupil–the young Lord Lufton; and between the two boys, there had sprung up a close alliance. While they were both so placed, Lady Lufton had visited her son, and then invited young Robarts to pass his next holidays at Framley Court. This visit was made; and it ended in Mark going back to Exeter with a letter full of praise from the widowed peeress. She had been delighted, she said, in having such a companion for her son, and expressed a hope that the boys might remain together during the course of their education. Dr Robarts was a man who thought much of the breath of peers and peeresses, and was by no means inclined to throw away any advantage which might arise to his child from such a friendship. When, therefore, the young lord was sent to Harrow, Mark Robarts went there also.

That the lord and his friend often quarrelled, and occasionally fought,–the fact even that for a period of three months they never spoke to each other–by no means interfered with the doctor’s hopes. Mark again and again stayed a fortnight at Framley Court, and Lady Lufton always wrote about him in the highest terms. And then the lads went together to Oxford, and here Mark’s good fortune followed him, consisting rather in the highly respectable manner in which he lived, than in any wonderful career of collegiate success. His family was proud of him, and the doctor was always ready to talk of him to his patients; not because he was a prize-man, and had gotten a scholarship, but on account of the excellence of his general conduct. He lived with the best set–he incurred no debts–he was fond of society, but able to avoid low society–liked his glass of wine, but was never known to be drunk; and above all things, was one of the most popular men in the University. Then came the question of a profession for the young Hyperion, and on this subject Dr Robarts was invited himself to go over to Framley Court to discuss the matter with Lady Lufton. Dr Robarts returned with a very strong conception that the Church was the profession best suited to his son.

Lady Lufton had not sent for Dr Robarts all the way from Exeter for nothing. The living of Framley was in the gift of Lady Lufton’s family, and the next presentation would be in Lady Lufton’s hands, if it should fall vacant before the young lord was twenty-five years of age, and in the young lord’s hands if it should fall afterwards. But the mother and the heir consented to give a joint promise to Dr Robarts. Now, as the present incumbent was over seventy, and as the living was worth 900 pounds a year, there could be no doubt as to the eligibility of the clerical profession. And I must further say, that the dowager and the doctor were justified in their choice by the life and principles of the young man–as far as any father can be justified in choosing such a profession for his son, and as far as any lay impropriator can be justified in making such a promise. Had Lady Lufton had a second son, that second son would probably have had the living, and no one would have thought it wrong;–certainly not if that second son had been such a one as Mark Robarts.

Lady Lufton herself was a woman who thought much on religious matters, and would by no means have been disposed to place any one in a living, merely because such a one had been her son’s friend. Her tendencies were High Church, and she was enabled to perceive that those of young Mark Robarts ran in the same direction. She was very desirous that her son should make an associate of his clergyman, and by this step she would ensure, at any rate, that. She was anxious that the parish vicar should be one with whom she could herself fully co-operate, and was perhaps unconsciously wishful that he might in some measure be subject to her influence. Should she appoint an elder man, this might probably not be the case to the same extent; and should her son have the gift, it might probably not be the case at all. And, therefore, it was resolved that the living should be given to young Robarts.

He took his degree–not with any brilliancy, but quite in the manner that his father desired; he then travelled for eight or ten months with Lord Lufton and a college don, and almost immediately after his return home was ordained.

The living of Framley is in the diocese of Barchester; and, seeing what were Mark’s hopes with reference to that diocese, it was by no means difficult to get him a curacy within it. But this curacy he was not allowed long to fill. He had not been in it above a twelvemonth, when poor old Dr Stopford, the then vicar of Framley, was gathered to his fathers, and the full fruition of his rich hopes fell upon his shoulders.

But even yet more must be told of his good fortune before we can come to the actual incidents of our story. Lady Lufton, who, as I have said, thought much of clerical matters, did not carry her High Church principles so far as to advocate celibacy for the clergy. On the contrary, she had an idea that a man could not be a good parish parson without a wife. So, having given to her favourite a position in the world, and an income sufficient for a gentleman’s wants, she set herself to work to find him a partner in those blessings. And here also, as in other matters, he fell in with the views of his patroness–not, however, that they were declared to him in that marked manner in which the affair of the living had been broached. Lady Lufton was much too highly gifted with woman’s craft for that. She never told the young vicar that Miss Monsell accompanied her ladyship’s married daughter to Framley Court expressly that he, Mark, might fall in love with her; but such was in truth the case.

Lady Lufton had but two children. The eldest, a daughter, had been married some four or five years to Sir George Meredith, and this Miss Monsell was a dear friend of hers. And now looms before me the novelist’s great difficulty. Miss Monsell–or rather, Mrs Mark Robarts–must be described. As Miss Monsell, our tale will have to take no prolonged note of her. And yet we will call her Fanny Monsell, when we declare that she was one of the most pleasant companions that could be brought near to a man, as the future partner of his home, and owner of his heart. And if high principles without asperity, female gentleness without weakness, a love of laughter without malice, and a true loving heart, can qualify a woman to be a parson’s wife, then Fanny Monsell qualified to fill that station. In person she was somewhat larger than common. Her face would have been beautiful but that her mouth was large. Her hair, which was copious, was of a bright brown; her eyes also were brown, and, being so, were the distinctive feature of her face, for brown eyes are not common. They were liquid, large, and full either of tenderness or of mirth. Mark Robarts still had his accustomed luck, when such a girl as this was brought to Framley for his wooing. And he did woo her–and won her. For Mark himself was a handsome fellow. At this time the vicar was about twenty-five years of age, and the future Mrs Robarts was two or three years younger. Nor did she come quite empty-handed to the vicarage. It cannot be said that Fanny Monsell was an heiress, but she had been left with a provision of some few thousand pounds. This was so settled, that the interest of his wife’s money paid the heavy insurance on his life which young Robarts effected, and there was left to him, over and above, sufficient to furnish his parsonage in the very best style of clerical comfort, and to start him on the road of life rejoicing.

So much did Lady Lufton do for her protege, and it may well be imagined that the Devonshire physician, sitting meditative over his parlour fire, looking back, as men will look back on the upshot of their life, was well contented with that upshot, as regarded his eldest offshoot, the Rev. Mark Robarts, the vicar of Framley.

But little has been said, personally, as to our hero himself, and perhaps it may not be necessary to say much. Let us hope that by degrees he may come forth upon the canvas, showing to the beholder the nature of the man inwardly and outwardly. Here it may suffice to say that he was not born heaven’s cherub, neither was he born a fallen devil’s spirit. Such as his training made him, such he was. He had large capabilities for good–and aptitude also for evil, quite enough; quite enough to make it needful that he should repel temptations as temptation only can be repelled. Much had been done to spoil him, but in the ordinary acceptation of the word he was not spoiled. He had too much tact, too much common sense, to believe himself to be the paragon which his mother thought him. Self-conceit was not, perhaps, his greatest danger. Had he possessed more of it, he might have been a less agreeable man, but his course before him might on that account have been the safer. In person he was manly tall, and fair-haired, with a square forehead, denoting intelligence rather than thought, with clear, white hands, filbert nails, and a power of dressing himself in such a manner that no one should ever observe of him that his clothes were either good or bad, shabby or smart.

Such was Mark Robarts when at the age of twenty-five, or a little more, he married Fanny Monsell. The marriage was celebrated in his own church, for Miss Monsell had no home of her own, and had been staying for the last three months at Framley Court. She was given away by Sir George Meredith, and Lady Lufton herself saw that the wedding was what it should be, with almost as much care as she had bestowed on that of her own daughter. The deed of marrying, the absolute tying of the knot, was performed by the Very Reverend the Dean of Barchester, an esteemed friend of Lady Lufton’s. And Mrs Arabin, the dean’s wife, was of the party, though the distance from Barchester to Framley is long, and the roads deep, and no railway lends its assistance. And Lord Lufton was there of course; and people protested that he would surely fall in love with one of the four beautiful bridesmaids, of whom Blanche Robarts, the vicar’s second sister, was by common acknowledgement by far the most beautiful. And there was there another and a younger sister of Mark’s–who did not officiate at the ceremony, though she was present–and of whom no prediction was made, seeing that she was then only sixteen, but of whom mention is made here, as it will come to pass that my readers will know her hereafter. Her name was Lucy Robarts. And then the vicar and his wife on their wedding tour, the old curate taking care of the Framley souls the while. And in due time they returned; and after a further interval, in due course a child was born to them; and then another; and after that came a period at which we will begin our story. But before doing so, may I not assert that all men were right in saying all manner of good things as to the Devonshire physician, and in praising his luck in having such a son?

‘You were up at the house to-day, I suppose,’ said Mark to his wife, as he sat stretching himself in an easy chair in the drawing-room, before the fire, previously to his dressing for dinner. It was a November evening, and he had been out all day, and on such occasions the aptitude for delay in dressing is very powerful. A strong-minded man goes direct from the hall door to his chamber without encountering the temptation of the drawing-room fire.

‘No; but Lady Lufton was down here.’

‘Full of suggestions in favour of Sarah Thompson?’

‘Exactly so, Mark.’

‘And what did you say about Sarah Thompson?’

‘Very little as coming from myself: but I did hint that you thought, or that I thought you thought, that one of the regular trained schoolmistresses would be better.’

‘But her ladyship did not agree?’

‘Well, I won’t exactly say that;–though I think that perhaps she did not.’

‘I am sure she did not. When she has a point to carry, she is very fond of carrying it.’

‘But, you see, in this affair of the school she is thinking more of her protege than she does of the children.’

‘Tell her that, and I am sure she will give way.’ And then again they were both silent. And the vicar having thoroughly warmed himself, as far as this might be done by facing the fire, turned round and began the operation a tergo.

‘Come, Mark, it is twenty minutes past six. Will you go and dress?’

‘I’ll tell you what, Fanny: she must have her way about Sarah Thompson. You can see her to-morrow and tell her so.’

‘I am sure, Mark, I would not give way, if I thought it wrong. Nor would she expect it.’

‘If I persist this time, I shall certainly have to yield the next; and then the next may probably be more important.’

‘But if it’s wrong, Mark?’

‘I didn’t say it was wrong. Besides, if it is wrong, wrong in some infinitesimal degree, one must put up with it. Sarah Thompson is very respectable; the only question is whether she can teach.’

The young wife, though she did not say so, had some idea her husband was in error. It is true that one must put up with wrong, with a great deal of wrong. But no one need put up with wrong that he can remedy. Why should he, the vicar, consent to receive an incompetent teacher for the parish children, when he was able to procure one that was competent? In such a case–so thought Mrs Robarts to herself–she would have fought the matter out with Lady Lufton. On the next morning, however, she did as she was bid, and signified to the dowager that all objections to Sarah Thompson would be withdrawn.

‘Ah! I was sure he would agree with me,’ said her ladyship, ‘when he learned what sort of person she is. I know I had only to explain;’–and then she plumed her feathers, and was very gracious; for to tell the truth, Lady Lufton did not like to be opposed in things which concerned the parish nearly.

‘And, Fanny,’ said Lady Lufton, in her kindest manner, ‘you are not going anywhere on Saturday, are you?’

‘No, I think not.’

‘Then you must come to us. Justinia is to be here, you know,’ Lady Meredith was named Justinia–‘and you and Mr Robarts had better stay with us till Monday. He can have the little book-room all to himself on Sunday. The Merediths go on Monday; and Justinia won’t be happy if you are not with her.’ It would be unjust to say that Lady Lufton had determined not to invite the Robartses if she were not allowed to have her own way about Sarah Thompson. But such would have been the result. As it was, however, she was all kindness; and when Mrs Robarts made some little excuse, saying that she was afraid she must return home in the evening, because of the children, Lady Lufton declared that there was room enough at Framley Court for baby and nurse, and so settled the matter in her own way, with a couple of nods and three taps of her umbrella. This was on a Tuesday morning, and on the same evening, before dinner, the vicar again seated himself in the same chair before the drawing-room fire, as soon as he had seen his horse led into the stable.

‘Mark,’ said his wife, ‘the Merediths are to be at Framley on Saturday and Sunday; and I have promised that we will go up and stay over till Monday.’

‘You don’t mean it! Goodness gracious, how provoking!’

‘Why? I thought you wouldn’t mind it. And Justinia would think it unkind if I were not there.’

‘You can go, my dear, and of course will go. But as for me, it’s impossible.’

‘But why, love?’

‘Why? Just now, at the school-house, I answered a letter that was brought to me from Chaldicotes. Sowerby insists on my going over there for a week or so; and I have said that I would.’

‘Go to Chaldicotes for a week, Mark?’

‘I believe I have even consented to ten days.’

‘And be away two Sundays?’

‘No, Fanny, only one. Don’t be so censorious.’

‘Don’t call me censorious, Mark; you know I am not so. But I am so sorry. It is just what Lady Lufton won’t like. Besides, you were away in Scotland two Sundays last month.’

‘In September, Fanny. And that is being censorious.’

‘On, but Mark, dear Mark; don’t say so. You know I don’t mean it. But Lady Lufton does not like those Chaldicotes people. You know Lord Lufton was with you the last time you were there; and how annoyed she was!’

‘Lord Lufton won’t be there with me now, for he is still in Scotland. And the reason why I am going is this; Harold Smith and his wife will be there, and I am very anxious to know more of them. I have no doubt that Harold Smith will be in the government some day, and I cannot afford to neglect such a man’s acquaintance.’

‘But, Mark, what do you want of any government?’

‘Well, Fanny, of course I am bound to say that I want nothing; neither in once sense do I; but, nevertheless, I shall go and meet Harold Smith.’

‘Could you not be back before Sunday?’

‘I have promised to preach at Chaldicotes. Harold Smith’s going to lecture at Barchester, about the Australasian archipelago, and I am to preach a charity sermon on the same subject. They want to send out more missionaries.’

‘A charity sermon at Chaldicotes!’

‘And why not? The house will be quite full, you know! And I dare say that the Arabins will be there.’

‘I think not; Mrs Arabin may get on well with Mrs Harold Smith, though I doubt that; but I’m sure she’s not fond of Mr Smith’s brother. I don’t think she would stay at Chaldicotes.’

‘And the bishop will probably be there for a day or two.’

‘That is much more likely, Mark. If the pleasure of meeting Mrs Proudie is taking you to Chaldicotes, I have not a word more to say.’

‘I am not a bit more fond of Mrs Proudie than you are, Fanny,’ said the vicar, with something like vexation in the tone of his voice, for he thought that his wife was hard upon him. ‘But it is generally thought that a parish clergyman does well to meet his bishop now and then. And as I was invited there, especially to preach while all these people are staying at the place, I could not well refuse.’ And then he got up, and taking his candlestick, escaped to his dressing-room.

‘But what am I to say to Lady Lufton?’ his wife said to him in the course of the evening.

‘Just write her a note, and tell her that you find I had promised to preach at Chaldicotes next Sunday. You’ll go of course?’

‘Yes; but I know she’ll be annoyed. You were away the last time she had people there.’

‘It can’t be helped. She must put it down against Sarah Thompson. She ought not to expect to win always.’

‘I should not have minded it, if she had lost, as you call it, about Sarah Thompson. That was a case in which you ought to have had your own way.’

‘And this other is a case, in which I shall have it. It’s a pity that there should be such a difference; isn’t it?’

Then his wife perceived that, vexed as she was, it would be better that she should say nothing further; and before she went to bed, she wrote the note to Lady Lufton, as her husband recommended.



It will be necessary that I should say a word or two of some of the people named in the few preceding pages, and also of the localities in which they lived. Of Lady Lufton herself enough, perhaps, has been written to introduce her to my readers. The Framley property belonged to her son; but as Lufton Park–an ancient ramshackle place in another county–had heretofore been the family residence of the Lufton family, Framley Court had been apportioned to her for her residence for life. Lord Lufton himself was still unmarried; and as he had no establishment at Lufton Park–which indeed had not been inhabited since his grandfather died–he lived with his mother when it suited him to live anywhere in that neighbourhood. The widow would fain have seen more of him than he allowed her to do. He had a shooting lodge in Scotland, and apartments in London, and a string of horses in Leicestershire–much to the disgust of the country gentry around him, who held that their own hunting was as good as any that England could afford. His lordship, however, paid his subscription to the East Barsetshire park, and then thought himself at liberty to follow his own pleasure as to his own amusement.

Framley itself was a pleasant country place, having about it nothing of seigneurial dignity or grandeur, but possessing everything necessary for the comfort of country life. The house was a low building of two stories, built at different periods, and devoid of all pretensions to any style of architecture; but the rooms, though not lofty, were warm and comfortable, and the gardens were trim and neat beyond all others in the county. Indeed, it was for its gardens only that Framley Court was celebrated. Village there was none, properly speaking. The high road went winding about through the Framley paddocks, shrubberies, and wood-skirted home fields, for a mile and a half, not two hundred yards of which ran in a straight line; and there was a cross-road which passed down through the domain, whereby there came to be a locality called Framley Cross. Here stood the ‘Lufton Arms’, and here at Framley Cross, the hounds occasionally would meet; for the Framley woods were drawn in spite of the young lord’s truant disposition; and then, at the Cross also, lived the shoemaker, who kept the post-office.

Framley church was distant from this just a quarter of a mile, and stood immediately opposite to the chief entrance to Framley Court. It was but a mean, ugly building, having been erected about a hundred years since, when all churches then built were made to be mean and ugly; nor was it large enough for the congregation, some of whom were thus driven to the dissenting chapels, the Sions and Ebenezers, which had got themselves established on each side of the parish, in putting down which Lady Lufton thought that her parson was hardly as energetic as he might be. It was, therefore, a matter near to Lady Lufton’s heart to see a new church built, and she was urgent in her eloquence both with her son and with the vicar, to have this good work commenced.

Beyond the church, but close to it, were the boy’s school and girl’s school, two distinct buildings, which owed their erection to Lady Lufton’s energy; then came a neat little grocer’s shop, the neat grocer being the clerk and the sexton, and the neat grocer’s wife the pew-opener in the church. Podgens was their name, and they were great favourites with her ladyship, both having been servants up at the house. And here the road took a sudden turn to the left, turning, as it were, away from Framley Court; and just beyond the turn was the vicarage, so that there was a little garden path running from the back of the vicarage grounds into the churchyard, cutting the Podgens into an isolated corner of their own;–from whence, to tell the truth, the vicar would have been glad to banish them and their cabbages, could he have had the power to do so. For has not the small vineyard of Naboth been always an eyesore to neighbouring potentates?

The potentate in this case had as little excuse as Ahab, for nothing in the parsonage way could be more perfect than his parsonage. It had all the details requisite for the house of a moderate gentleman with moderate means, and none of those expensive superfluities which immoderate gentlemen demand, or which themselves demand immoderate means. And then the gardens and paddocks were exactly suited to it; and everything was in good order;–not exactly new, so as to be raw and uncovered, and redolent of workmen; but just at that era of their existence in which newness gives way to comfortable homeliness.

Other village at Framley there was none. At the back of the Court, up one of those cross-roads, there was another small shop or two, and there was a very neat cottage residence, in which lived the widow of a former curate, another protege of Lady Lufton’s; and there was a big, staring, brick house, in which the present curate lived; but this was a full mile distant from the church, and farther from Framley Court, standing on that cross-road which runs from Framley Cross in a direction away from the mansion. This gentleman, the Rev Evan Jones, might from his age, have been the vicar’s father; but he had been for many years curate at Framley; and though he was personally disliked by Lady Lufton, as being Low Church in his principles, and unsightly in his appearance, nevertheless, she would not urge his removal. He had two or three pupils in that large brick house, and, if turned out from these and from his curacy, might find it difficult to establish himself elsewhere. On this account mercy was extended to the Rev E Jones, and, in spite of his red face and awkward big feet, he was invited to dine at Framley Court, with his plain daughter, once in every three months.

Over and above these, there was hardly a house in the parish of Framley, outside the bounds of Framley Court, except those of farmers and farm labourers; and yet the parish was of large extent.

Framley is in the eastern division of the county of Barsetshire, which, as all the world knows, is, politically speaking, as true blue a county as any in England. There have been backslidings even here, it is true; but then, in what county have there not been such backslidings? Where, in these pinchbeck days, can we hope to find the old agricultural virtue in all its purity? But among these backsliders, I regret to say, that men now reckon Lord Lufton. Not that he is a violent Whig, or perhaps that is a Whig at all. But he jeers and sneers at the old county doings; declares, when solicited on the subject, that, as far as he is concerned, Mr Bright may sit for the county, if he pleases; and alleges, that being unfortunately a peer, he has no right ever to interest himself in the question. All this is deeply regretted, for, in the old days, there was no portion of the county more decidedly true blue than the Framley district; and, indeed, up to the present day, the dowager is able to give an occasional helping hand.

Chaldicotes is the seat of Nathaniel Sowerby, Esq, who, at the moment supposed to be now present, is one of the members for the Western Division of Barsetshire. But this Western Division can boast none of the fine political attributes which grace its twin brother. It is decidedly Whig, and is almost governed in its politics by one or two great Whig families. It has been said that Mark Robarts was about to pay a visit to Chaldicotes, and it has been hinted that his wife would have been as well pleased had this not been the case. Such was certainly the fact; for she, dear, prudent, excellent wife as she was, knew that Mr Sowerby was not the most eligible friend in the world for a young clergyman, and knew, also, that there was but one other house in the whole county the name of which was so distasteful to Lady Lufton. The reasons for this were, I may say, manifold. In the first place, Mr Sowerby was a Whig, and was seated in Parliament mainly by that great Whig autocrat the Duke of Omnium, whose residence was more dangerous even than that of Mr Sowerby, and whom Lady Lufton regarded as an impersonation of Lucifer upon earth. Mr Sowerby, too, was unmarried–as indeed, also, was Lord Lufton, much to his mother’s grief. Mr Sowerby, it is true, was fifty, whereas the young lord was as yet only twenty-five, but, nevertheless, her ladyship was becoming anxious on the subject. In her mind every man was bound to marry as soon as he could maintain a wife; and she held an idea–a quite private tenet, of which she was herself but imperfectly conscious–that men in general were inclined to neglect this duty for their own selfish gratifications, that the wicked ones encouraged the more innocent in this neglect, and that many would not marry at all, were not unseen exercised against them by the other sex. The Duke of Omnium was the head of all such sinners, and Lady Lufton greatly feared that her son might be made subject to the baneful Omnium influence, by means of Mr Sowerby and Chaldicotes. And then Mr Sowerby was known to be a very poor man, with a very large estate. He had wasted, men said, much on electioneering, and more on gambling. A considerable portion of his property had gone into the hands of the duke, who, as a rule, bought up everything around him that was to be purchased. Indeed, it was said of him by his enemies, that so covetous was he of Barsetshire property, that he would lead a young neighbour on to his ruin, that he might get his land. What–oh! what if he should come to be possessed in this way of any of the fair acres of Framley Court? What if he should become possessed of them all? It can hardly be wondered at that Lady Lufton should not like Chaldicotes.

The Chaldicotes set, as Lady Lufton called them, were in every way opposed to what a set should be according to her ideas. She liked cheerful, quiet, well-to-do peaple, who loved their Church, their country, and their Queen, and who were not too anxious to make noise in the world. She desired that all the farmers round her should be able to pay their rents without trouble, that all the old women should have warm flannel petticoats, that the working men should be saved from rheumatism by healthy food and dry houses, that they should all be obedient to their pastors and masters– temporal as well as spiritual. That was her idea of loving her country. She desired also that the copses should be full of pheasants, the stubble-field of partridges, and the gorse covers of foxes; in that way, also, she loved her country. She had ardently longed, during the Crimean War, that the Russians might be beaten–but not by the French, to the exclusion of the English, as had seemed to her to be too much the case; and hardly by the English under the dictatorship of Lord Palmerston. Indeed, she had had but little faith in that war after Lord Aberdeen had been expelled. If, indeed, Lord Derby could have come in! But now as to this Chaldicotes set. After all, there was nothing so very dangerous about them; for it was in London, not in the country, that Mr Sowerby indulged, if he did so indulge, his bachelor malpractices. Speaking of them as a set, the chief offender was Mr Harold Smith, or perhaps his wife. He also was a member of Parliament, and, as many thought, a rising man. His father had been for many years a debater in the House, and had held high office. Harold, in early life, had intended himself for the Cabinet; and if working hard at his trade could ensure success, he ought to obtain it sooner or later. He had already filled more than one subordinate station, had been at the Treasury, and for a month or two, at the Admiralty, astonishing official mankind by his diligence. Those last-named few months had been under Lord Aberdeen, with whom he had been forced to retire. He was a younger son, and not possessed of any large fortune. Politics, as a profession, was, therefore, of importance to him. He had in early life married a sister of Mr Sowerby; and as the lady was some six or seven years older than himself, and had brought with her but a scanty dowry, people thought that in this matter Mr Harold Smith had not been perspicacious. Mr Harold Smith was not personally a popular man with any party, though some judged him to be eminently useful. He was laborious, well-informed, and, on the whole, honest; but he was conceited, long-winded, and pompous.

Mrs Harold Smith was the very opposite of her lord. She was a clever, bright woman, good-looking for her time of life–and she was now over forty–with a keen sense of all the world’s pleasures. She was neither laborious, nor well-informed, nor perhaps altogether honest–what woman ever understood the necessity or recognised the advantage of political honesty? But then she was neither dull nor pompous, and if she was conceited, she did not show it. She was a disappointed woman, as regards her husband; seeing that she had married him on the speculation that he would at once become politically important; and as yet Mr Smith had not quite fulfilled the prophecies of his early life.

And Lady Lufton, when she spoke of the Chaldicotes set, distinctly included, in her own mind, the Bishop of Barchester, and his wife and daughter. Seeing that Bishop Proudie was, of course, much a man addicted to religion and to religious thinking, and that Mr Sowerby himself had no particular religious sentiments whatever, there would not at first sight appear to be ground for much intercourse, and perhaps there was not much of such intercourse; but Mrs Proudie and Mrs Harold Smith were firm friends of four or five years standing–ever since the Proudies came into the diocese for the bishop was usually taken to Chaldicotes whenever Mrs Smith paid her brother a visit. Now Bishop Proudie was by no means a High Church dignitary, and Lady Lufton had never forgiven him for coming into that diocese. She had, instinctively, a high respect for the episcopal office; but of Bishop Proudie himself she hardly thought better than she did of Mr Sowerby, or of that fabricator of evil, the Duke of Omnium. Whenever Mr Robarts would plead that in going anywhere he would have the benefit of meeting the bishop, Lady Lufton would slightly curl her upper lip. She could not say in words that Bishop Proudie–bishop as he certainly must be called–was no better than he ought to be; but by that curl of her lip she did explain to those who knew her that such was the feeling of her heart.

And then it was understood–Mark Robarts, at least, had so heard, and the information soon reached Framley Court–that Mr Supplehouse was to make one of the Chaldicotes party. Now Mr Supplehouse was a worse companion for a gentleman, young, High Church, conservative county parson than even Harold Smith. He also was in Parliament, and had been extolled during the early days of the Russian War by some portion of the metropolitan daily press, as the only man who could save the country. Let him be in the ministry, the Jupiter had said, and there would be some hope of reform, some chance that England’s ancient glory would not be allowed in these perilous times to go headlong into oblivion. And upon this the ministry, not anticipating much salvation from Mr Supplehouse, but willing as they usually are, to have the Jupiter at their back, did send for that gentleman, and gave him some footing among them. But how can a man to save a nation, and to lead a people, be content to fill the chair of an under-secretary? Supplehouse was not content, and soon gave it to be understood that his place was much higher than any yet tendered to him. The seals of high office, or war to the knife, was the alternative which he offered to a much-belaboured Head of Affairs–nothing doubting that the Head of Affairs would recognize the claimant’s value, and would have before his eyes a wholesome fear of the Jupiter. But the Head of Affairs, much belaboured as he was, knew that he might swing his tomahawk. Since that time he had been swinging his tomahawk, but not with so much effect as had been anticipated. He also was very intimate with Mr Sowerby, and was decidedly one of the Chaldecotes set. And there were many others included in the stigma whose sins were political or religious than moral. But they were gall and wormwood to Lady Lufton, who regarded them as children of the Lost One, and grieved with a mother’s grief when she knew that her son was among them, and felt all a patron’s anger when she heard that her clerical protege was about to seek such society. Mrs Robarts might well say that Lady Lufton would be annoyed.

‘You won’t call at the house before you go, will you?’ the wife asked on the following morning. He was to start after lunch on that day, driving himself in his own gig, so as to reach Chaldicotes, some twenty-four miles distant, before dinner.

‘No, I think not. What good should it do?’

‘Well, I can’t explain; but I think I should call; partly, perhaps, to show her that, as I had determined to go, I was not afraid of telling her so.’

‘Afraid! That’s nonsense, Fanny. I’m not afraid of her. But I don’t see why I should bring down upon myself the disagreeable things she will say. Besides, I have not time. I must walk up and see Jones about his duties; and then, what with getting ready, I shall have enough to do to get off in time.’

He paid his visit to Mr Jones, the curate, feeling no qualms of conscience there, as he rather boasted of all the members of Parliament he was going to meet, and of the bishop who would be with them. Mr Evan Jones was only his curate, and in speaking to him on the matter he could talk as though it were quite the proper thing for a vicar to meet his bishop at the house of a county member. And one would be inclined to say it was proper: only why could he not talk of it in the same tone to Lady Lufton? And then, having kissed his wife and children, he drove off, well pleased with his prospect for the coming ten days, but already anticipating some discomfort on his return.

On the three following days, Mrs Robarts did not meet her ladyship. She did not exactly take any steps to avoid such a meeting, but she did not purposely go up to the big house. She went to her school as usual, and made one or two calls among the farmers’ wives, but put no foot within the Framley Court grounds. She was braver than her husband, but even she did not wish to anticipate the evil day. On the Saturday, just before it began to get dusk, she was thinking of preparing for the fatal plunge, her friend, Lady Meredith, came to her.

‘So, Fanny, we shall again be so unfortunate to miss Mr Robarts,’ said her ladyship.

‘Yes. Did you ever know anything so unlucky? But he had promised Mr Sowerby before he heard you were coming. Pray do not think that he would have gone away had he known it.’

‘We should have been sorry to keep him from so much more amusing party.’

‘Now, Justinia, you are unfair. You intend to imply that he has gone to Chaldicotes, because he likes it better than Framley Court; but that is not the case. I hope Lady Lufton does not think that it is.’

Lady Meredith laughed as she put her arm round her friend’s waist. ‘Don’t lose your eloquence in defending him to me,’ she said. ‘You’ll want all that for my mother.’

‘But is your mother angry?’ asked Mrs Robarts, showing by her countenance how eager she was for true tidings on the subject.

‘Well, Fanny, you know her ladyship as well as I do. She thinks so very highly of the vicar of Framley, that she does begrudge him to those politicians at Chaldicotes.’

‘But, Justinia, the bishop will be there, you know.’

‘I don’t think that that consideration will reconcile my mother to the gentleman’s absence. He ought to be very proud, I know, to find that he is so much thought of. But come, Fanny, I want you to walk back with me, and you can dress at the house. And now we’ll go and look at the children.’

After that, as they walked together to Framley Court, Mrs Robarts made her friend promise that she would stand by her if any serious attack were made on the absent clergyman.

‘Are you going up to your room to dress?’ said the vicar’s wife, as soon as they were inside the porch leading into the hall. Lady Meredith immediately knew what her friend meant, and decided that the evil day should not be postponed. ‘We had better go in and have it over,’ she said, ‘and then we shall be comfortable for the evening.’

So the drawing-room door was opened, and there was Lady Lufton alone on the sofa.

‘Now, mamma,’ said the daughter, ‘you mustn’t scold Fanny much about Mr Robarts. He has gone to preach a charity sermon before the bishop, and under those circumstances, perhaps, he could not refuse.’ This was a stretch on the part of Lady Meredith–put in with much good-nature, no doubt; but still a stretch; for no one had supposed that the bishop would remain at Chaldicotes for the Sunday.

‘How do you do, Fanny?’ said Lady Lufton, getting up. ‘I am not going to scold her; and I don’t know how you can talk nonsense, Justinia. Of course we are very sorry not to have Mr Robarts; more especially as he was not here the last Sunday that Sir George was with us. I do like to see Mr Robarts in his own church, certainly; and I don’t like any other clergyman there as well. If Fanny takes that for scolding, why–‘

‘Oh! no, Lady Lufton; and it’s so kind of you to say so. But Mr Robarts was so sorry that he had accepted this invitation to Chaldicotes, before he heard that Sir George was coming, and–‘

‘Oh, I know that Chaldicotes has great attractions which we cannot offer,’ said Lady Lufton.

‘Indeed, it was not that. But he was asked to preach, you, know; and Mr Harold Smith–‘ Poor Fanny was only making it worse. Had she been worldly wise, she would have accepted the little compliment implied in Lady Lufton’s first rebuke, and then have held her peace.

‘Oh, yes! The Harold Smiths! They are irresistible, I know. How could any man refuse to join a party, graced both by Mrs Harold Smith and Mrs Proudie–even though his duty should require him to stay away?’

‘Now, mamma–‘

‘Well, my dear, what am I to say? You would not wish me to tell a fib. I don’t like Mrs Harold Smith–at least, what I know of her; for it has not been my fortune to meet her since her marriage. It may be conceited; but to own the truth, I think that Mr Robarts would be better off with us at Framley than with the Harold Smiths at Chaldicotes–even though Mrs Proudie be thrown into the bargain.’

It was nearly dark, and therefore the rising colour in the face of Mrs Robarts could not be seen. She, however, was too good a wife to hear these things said without some anger within her bosom. She could blame her husband in her own mind; but it was intolerable to her that others should blame him in her hearing.

‘He would undoubtedly be better off,’ she said; ‘but then, Lady Lufton, people can’t always go exactly where they will be best off. Gentlemen sometimes think–‘

‘Well–well, my dear, that will do. He has not taken you, at any rate; and so we will forgive him.’ And Lady Lufton kissed her. ‘As it is,’ and she affected a low whisper between the two young wives ‘as it is, we must e’en put up with poor Evan Jones. He is to be here to-night, and we must go and dress to receive him.’

And so they went off. Lady Lufton was quite enough at heart to like Mrs Robarts all the better for standing up for her absent lord.



Chaldicotes is a house of much more pretension than Framley Court. Indeed, if one looks at the ancient marks about it, rather than at those of the present day, it is a place of very considerable pretension. There is an old forest, not altogether belonging to the property, but attached to it, called the Chase of Chaldicotes. A portion of this forest comes up close behind the mansion, and of itself gives a character and celebrity to the place. The Chase of Chaldicotes–the greater part of it, at least–is, as all the world knows, Crown property, and now, in these utilitarian days, is to be deforested. In former times it was a great forest, stretching half across the country, almost as far as Silverbridge; and there are bits of it, here and there, still to be seen at intervals throughout the whole distance; but the larger remaining portion, consisting of aged hollow oaks, centuries old, and wide-spreading withered beeches, stands in the two parishes of Chaldicotes and Uffley. People still come from afar to see the oaks of Chaldicotes and to hear their feet rustle among the thick autumn leaves. But they will soon come no longer. The giants of past ages are to give way to wheat and turnips; a ruthless Chancellor of the Exchequer, disregarding old associations and rural beauty, requires money returns from the lands; and the Close of Chaldicotes is to vanish from the earth’s surface.

Some part of it, however, is the private property of Mr Sowerby, who hitherto, through all his pecuniary distresses, has managed to save from the axe and the auction-mart that portion of his paternal heritage. The house of Chaldicotes is a large stone building, probably of the time of Charles the Second. It is approached on both fronts by a heavy double flight of stone steps. In the front of the house a long, solemn, straight avenue through a double row of lime-trees, leads away to lodge-gates, which stand in the centre of the village of Chaldicotes; but to the rear the windows open upon four different vistas, which run down through the forest: four open green rides, which all converge together at a large iron gateway, the barrier which divides the private grounds from the Chase. The Sowerbys, for many generations, have been rangers of the Chase of Chaldicotes, thus having almost as wide an authority over the Crown forest as over their own. But now all this is to cease for the forest will be disforested.

It was nearly dark when Mark Robarts drove up through the avenue of lime-trees to the hall-door; but it was easy to see that the house, which was dead and silent as the grave through nine months of the year, was now alive in all its parts. There were lights in many of the windows, and a noise of voices came from the stables and servants were moving about, and dogs barked, and the dark gravel before the front steps was cut up with many a coach-wheel.

‘Oh, is that you, sir, Mr Robarts?’ said a groom, taking the parson’s horse by the head, and touching his own hat. ‘I hope I see your reverence well?’

‘Quite well, Bob, thank you. All well at Chaldicotes?’

‘Pretty bobbish, Mr Robarts. Deal of life going on here now, sir. The bishop and his lady came this morning.’

‘Oh–ah–yes! I understand they were to be here. Any of the young ladies?’

‘One young lady. Miss Olivia, I think they call her, your reverence.’

‘And how’s Mr Sowerby?’

‘Very well, your reverence. He, and Mr Harold Smith, and Mr Fothergill–that’s the duke’s man of business, you know–is getting off their horses now in the stable-yard there.’

‘Home from hunting–eh, Bob?’

‘Yes, sir, just home, this minute.’ And then Mr Robarts walked into the house, his portmanteau following on a foot-boy’s shoulder.

It will be seen that our young vicar was very intimate at Chaldicotes; so much so that the groom knew him, and talked to him about the people in the house. Yes; he was intimate there; much more than he had given the Framley people to understand. Not that he had wilfully and overtly deceived any one; not that he had ever spoken a false word about Chaldicotes. But he had never boasted at home that he and Sowerby were near allies. Neither had he told them how often Mr Sowerby and Lord Lufton were together in London. Why trouble women with such matters? Why annoy so excellent a woman as Lady Lufton? And then Mr Sowerby was one whose intimacy few young men would wish to reject. He was fifty, and had lived, perhaps, not the most salutary life; but he dressed young, and usually looked well. He was bald, with a good forehead, and sparkling moist eyes. He was a clever man, and a pleasant companion, and always good-humoured when it so suited him. He was a gentleman, too, of high breeding and good birth, whose ancestors had been known in that county–longer, the farmers around would boast, than those of any other landowner in it, unless it be the Thornes of Ullathorne, or perhaps the Greshams of Greshambury–much longer than the De Courcys of De Courcy Castle. As for the Duke of Omnium, he, comparatively speaking, was a new man. And then he was a member of Parliament, a friend of some men in power, and of others who might be there; a man who could talk about the world as one knowing the matter of which he talked. And moreover, whatever might be his ways of life at other times, when in the presence of a clergyman he rarely made himself offensive to clerical tastes. He neither swore, nor brought his vices on the carpet, nor sneered at the faith of the Church. If he was no Churchman himself, he at least knew how to live with those who were.

How was it possible that such a one as our vicar should not relish the intimacy of Mr Sowerby? It might be very well, he would say to himself, for a woman like Lady Lufton to turn up her nose at him–for Lady Lufton, who spent ten months of the year at Framley Court, and who during those ten months, and for the matter of that, during the two months also which she spent in London, saw no one out of her own set. Women did not understand such things, the vicar said to himself; even his own wife–good, and nice, and sensible, and intelligent as she was–even she did not understand that a man in the world must meet all sorts of men; and that in these days it did not do for a clergyman to be a hermit. ‘Twas thus that Mark Robarts argued when he found himself called upon to defend himself before the bar of his own conscience for going to Chaldicotes and increasing his intimacy with Mr Sowerby. He did know that Mr Sowerby was a dangerous man; he was aware that he was over head and ears in debt; and that he had already entangled young Lord Lufton in some pecuniary embarrassment; his conscience did tell him that it would be well for him, as one of Christ’s soldiers, to look out for companions of a different stamp. But, nevertheless, he went to Chaldicotes, not satisfied with himself indeed, but repeating to himself a great many arguments why he should be so satisfied.

He was shown into the drawing-room at once, and there he found Mrs Harold Smith, with Mrs and Miss Proudie, and a lady whom he had never before seen, and whose name he did not at first hear mentioned.

‘Is that Mr Robarts?’ said Mrs Harold Smith, getting up to greet him, and screening her pretended ignorance under the veil of darkness. ‘And have you really driven over four-and-twenty miles of Barsetshire roads on such a day as this to assist us in our little difficulties? Well, we can promise you gratitude at any rate.’ And then the vicar shook hands with Mrs Proudie, in that deferential manner which is due from a vicar to his bishop’s wife; and Mrs Proudie returned the greeting with all that smiling condescension which a bishop’s wife should show to a vicar. Miss Proudie was not quite so civil. Had Mr Robarts been still unmarried, she also would have smiled sweetly; but she had been exercising her smiles on clergymen too long to waste them now on a married parish parson.

‘And what are the difficulties, Mrs Smith, in which I am to assist you?’

‘We have six or seven gentlemen here, Mr Robarts, and they always go hunting before breakfast, and they never come back–I was going to say–till after dinner. I wish it were so, for then we should not have to wait for them.’

‘Excepting Mr Supplehouse, you know,’ said the unknown lady, in a loud voice.

‘And he is generally shut up in the library, writing articles.’

‘He’d be better employed if he were trying to break his neck like the others,’ said the unknown lady.

‘Only he would never succeed,’ says Mrs Harold Smith. ‘But perhaps, Mr Robarts, you are as bad as the rest; perhaps you too, will be hunting to-morrow.’

‘My dear Mrs Smith!’ said Mrs Proudie, in a tone denoting slight reproach, and modified horror.

‘Oh! I forgot. No, of course, you won’t be hunting, Mr Robarts; you’ll only be wishing that you could.’

‘Why can’t he?’ said the lady with a loud voice.

‘My dear Miss Dunstable! A clergyman hunt, while he is staying in the same house with the bishop? Think of the proprieties!’

‘Oh–ah! The bishop wouldn’t like it–wouldn’t he? Now, do tell me, sir, what would the bishop do to you if you did hunt?’

‘It would depend on his mood at the time, madam,’ said Mr Robarts. ‘If that were very stern, he might perhaps have me beheaded before the palace gates.’

Mrs Proudie drew herself up in her chair, showing that she did not like the tone of the conversation; and Miss Proudie fixed her eyes vehemently on her book, showing that Miss Dunstable and her conversation were both beneath her notice.

‘If these gentlemen do not mean to break their necks to-night,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, ‘I wish they’d let us know it. It’s half-past six already.’ And then Mr Robarts gave them to understand that no such catastrophe would be looked for that day, as Mr Sowerby and the other sportsmen were within the stable-yard when he entered the door.

‘Then, ladies, we may as well dress,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. But as she moved towards the door, it opened, and a short gentleman, with a slow, quiet step, entered the room; but was not yet to be distinguished through the dusk by the eyes of Mr Robarts. ‘Oh! bishop, is that you?’ said Mrs Smith. ‘Here is one of the luminaries of your diocese.’ And then the bishop, feeling through the dark, made his way up to the vicar and shook him cordially by the hand. He was delighted to meet Mr Robarts at Chaldicotes, he said, quite delighted. Was he not going to preach on behalf of the Papuan Mission next Sunday? Ah! so he was, the bishop had heard. It was a good work, an excellent work!’ And then Dr Proudie expressed himself as much grieved that he should not remain at Chaldicotes, and hear the sermon. It was plain that the bishop thought no ill of him on account of his intimacy with Mr Sowerby. But then he felt in his own heart that he did not much regard the bishop’s opinion.

‘Ah, Robarts, I’m delighted to see you,’ said Mr Sowerby, when they met on the drawing-room rug before dinner. ‘You know Harold Smith? Yes, of course you do. Well, who else is there? Oh! Supplehouse. Mr Supplehouse, allow me to introduce to you my friend Mr Robarts. It is he who will extract the five-pound note out of your pocket next Sunday for these poor Papuans whom we are going to Christianize. That is, if Harold Smith does not finish the work out of hand at his Sunday lecture. And, Robarts, you have seen the bishop, of course:’ this he said in a whisper. ‘A fine thing to be a bishop, isn’t it? I wish I had half your chance. But, my dear fellow, I’ve made such a mistake. I haven’t got a bachelor parson for Miss Proudie. You must help me out, and take her into dinner.’ And then the great gong sounded, and off they went in pairs.

At dinner Mark found himself seated between Miss Proudie and the lady whom he had heard named as Miss Dunstable. Of the former he was not very fond, and, in spite of his host’s petition, was not inclined to play bachelor parson for her benefit. With the other lady he would willingly have chatted during the dinner, only that everybody else at table seemed to be intent on doing the same thing. She was neither young, nor beautiful, nor peculiarly ladylike; yet she seemed to enjoy a popularity which must have excited the envy of Mr Supplehouse, and which certainly was not altogether to the taste of Mrs Proudie–who, however, feted her as much as did the others. So that our clergyman found himself unable to obtain more than an inconsiderable share of the lady’s attention.

‘Bishop,’ said she, speaking across the table, ‘we have missed you all day! we have had no one on earth to say a word to us.’

‘My dear Miss Dunstable, had I known that–But I really was engaged on business of some importance.’

‘I don’t believe in business of importance; do you, Mrs Smith?’

‘Do I not?’ said Mrs Smith. ‘If you were married to Mr Harold Smith for one week, you’d believe in it.’

‘Should I, now? What a pity I can’t have that chance of improving my faith! But you are a man of business also, Mr Supplehouse; do they tell me.’ And she turned to her neighbour on her right hand.

‘I cannot compare myself to Mr Harold Smith,’ said he. ‘But perhaps I may equal the bishop.’

‘What does a man do, now, when he sits himself down to business? How does he set about it? What are his tools? A quire of blotting paper, I suppose, to begin with?’

‘That depends, I should say, on his trade. A shoemaker begins by waxing his thread.’

‘And Mr Harold Smith–?’

‘By counting up his yesterday’s figures, generally, I should say; or else by unrolling a ball of red tape. Well-docketed papers and statistical facts are his forte.’

‘And what does a bishop do? Can you tell me that?’

‘He sends forth to his clergy either blessings or blowings-up, according to the state of his digestive organs. But Mrs Proudie can explain all that to you with the greatest accuracy.’

‘Can she now? I understand what you mean, but I don’t believe a word of it. The bishop manages his own affairs himself, quite as much as you do, or Mr Harold Smith.’

‘I, Miss Dunstable?’

‘Yes, you.’

‘But I, unluckily, have not a wife to manage them for me.’

‘Then you should not laugh at those who have, for you don’t know what you may come to yourself, when you’re married.’

Mr Supplehouse began to make a pretty speech, saying that he would be delighted to incur any danger in that respect to which he might be subjected by the companionship of Miss Dunstable. But before he was half through it, she had turned her back upon him, and began a conversation with Mark Robarts.

‘Have you much work in your parish, Mr Robarts?’ she asked. Now, Mark was not aware that she knew his name or the fact of his having a parish, and was rather surprised by the question. And he had not quite liked the tone in which she had seemed to speak of the bishop and his work. His desire for her further acquaintance was therefore somewhat moderated, and he was not prepared to answer her question with much zeal.

‘All parish clergymen have plenty of work, if they choose to do it.’

‘Ah, that is it; is it not, Mr Robarts? If they choose to do it? A great many do–many that I know, do; and see what a result they have. But many neglect it–and see what a result they have. I think it ought to be the happiest life that a man can lead, that of a parish clergyman, with a wife and family and a sufficient income.’

‘I think it is,’ said Mark Robarts, asking himself whether the contentment accruing to him from such blessings had made him satisfied on all points. He had all these things of which Miss Dunstable spoke, and yet he had told his wife, the other day, that he could not afford to neglect the acquaintance of a rising politician like Harold Smith.

‘What I find fault with is this,’ continued Miss Dunstable, ‘that we expect clergymen to do their duty, and don’t give them a sufficient income–give them hardly any income at all. Is it not a scandal that an educated gentleman with a family should be made to work half his life, and perhaps the whole, for a pittance of seventy pounds a year!’ Mark said that it was a scandal, and thought of Mr Evan Jones and his daughter; and thought also of his own worth, and his own house, and his own nine hundred a year.

‘And yet clergymen are so proud–aristocratic would be a genteel word, I know–that you won’t take the money of common, ordinary people. You must be paid from land and endowments, from tithe and church property. You can’t bring yourself to work for what you earn, as lawyers and doctors do. It is better that curates should starve than undergo such ignominy as that.’

‘It is a long subject, Miss Dunstable.’

‘A very long one; and that means that I am not to talk any more about it.’

‘I did not mean that exactly.’

‘Oh, but you did, though Mr Robarts. And I can take a hint of that kind when I get it. You clergymen like to keep those long subjects for your sermons, when no one can answer you. Now if I have a longing heart’s desire for anything at all in this world, it is to be able to get up into a pulpit, and preach a sermon.’

‘You can’t conceive how soon that appetite would pall upon you, after its first indulgence.’

‘That would depend upon whether I could get people to listen to me. It does not pall upon Mr Spurgeon, I suppose.’ Then her attention was called away by some question from Mr Sowerby, and Mark Robarts found himself bound to address his conversation to Miss Proudie. Miss Proudie, however, was not thankful, and gave him little but monosyllables for his pains.

‘Of course you know Harold Smith is going to give us a lecture about these islanders.’ Mr Sowerby said to him, as they sat round the fire over their wine after dinner. Mark said that he had been so informed, and should be delighted to be one of the listeners.

‘You are bound to do that, as he is going to listen to you the day afterwards–or, at any rate, to pretend to do so, which is as much as you will do for him. It’ll be a terrible bore–the lecture, I mean, not the sermon.’ And he spoke very low in his friend’s ear. ‘Fancy having to drive ten miles after dusk, and ten miles back, to hear Harold Smith talk for two hours about Borneo! One must do it, you know.’

‘I dare say it will be very interesting.’

‘My dear fellow, you haven’t undergone so many of these things as I have. But he’s right to do it. It’s his line of life; and when a man begins a thing he ought to go on with it. Where’s Lufton this time?’

‘In Scotland, when I last heard from him; but he’s probably at Melton now.’

‘It’s deuced shabby of him, not hunting here in his own county. He escapes all the bore of going to lectures, and giving feeds to the neighbours; that’s why he treats us so. He has no idea of his duty, has he?’

‘Lady Lufton does all that, you know.’

‘I wish I’d a Mrs Sowerby here to do it for me. But then Lufton has no constituents to look after–lucky dog! By the by, has he spoken to you about selling that outlying bit of land of his in Oxfordshire? It belongs to the Lufton property, and yet it doesn’t. In my mind it gives more trouble than it’s worth.’ Lord Lufton had spoken to Mark about this sale and had explained to him that such a sacrifice was absolutely necessary, in consequence of certain pecuniary transactions between him, Lord Lufton and Mr Sowerby. But it was found impracticable to complete the business without Lady Lufton’s knowledge, and her son had commissioned Mr Robarts not only to inform her ladyship, but to talk her over and to appease her wrath. This commission he had not yet attempted to exercise, and it was probable that this visit to Chaldicotes would not do much to facilitate the business.

‘They are the most magnificent islands under the sun,’ said Harold Smith to the bishop.

‘Are they, indeed!’ said the bishop, opening his eyes wide, and assuming a look of intense interest.

‘And the most intelligent people.’

‘Dear me!’ said the bishop.

‘All they want is guidance, encouragement, instruction–‘

‘And Christianity,’ suggested the bishop.

‘And Christianity, of course,’ said Mr Smith, remembering that he was speaking to a dignitary of the Church. It was well to humour such people, Mr Smith thought. But the Christianity was to be done in the Sunday sermon, and was not part of his work.

‘And how do you intend to begin with them?’ asked Mr Supplehouse, the business of whose life it had been to suggest difficulties.

‘Begin with them–oh–why it’s very easy to begin with them. The difficulty is to go on with them, after the money is all spent. We’ll begin by explaining to them the benefits of civilization.’

‘Capital plan!’ said Mr Supplehouse. ‘But how do you set about it, Smith?’

‘How do we set about it? How did we set about it with Australia and America? It is very easy to criticize; but in such matters the great thing is to put one’s shoulder to the wheel.’

‘We sent our felons to Australia,’ said Supplehouse, ‘and they began to work for us. And as to America, we exterminated the people instead of civilizing them.’

‘We did not exterminate the inhabitants of India,’ said Harold Smith, angrily.

‘Nor have we attempted to Christianize them, as the bishop so properly wishes to do with your islanders.’

‘Supplehouse, you are not fair,’ said Mr Sowerby, ‘neither to Harold Smith nor to us–you are making him rehearse his lecture, which is bad for him; and making us hear the rehearsal, which is bad for us.’

‘Supplehouse belongs to a clique which monopolises the wisdom of England,’ said Harold Smith, ‘or, at any rate, thinks that it does. But the worst of them is that they are given to talk leading articles.’

‘Better that, than talk articles which are not leading,’ said Mr Supplehouse. ‘Some first-class official men do that.’

‘Shall I meet you at the duke’s next week, Mr Robarts?’ said the bishop to him, soon after they had gone into the drawing-room. Meet him at the duke’s!—the established enemy of Barsetshire mankind, as Lady Lufton regarded his grace! No idea of going to the duke’s had ever entered our hero’s mind; nor had he been aware that the duke was about to entertain anyone.

‘No, my lord, I think not. Indeed, I have no acquaintance with his grace.’

‘Oh–ah! I did not know. Because Mr Sowerby is going; and so are the Harold Smiths, and I think, Mr Supplehouse. An excellent man is the duke;–that is, as regards the county interests,’ added the bishop, remembering that the moral character of his bachelor grace was not the very best in the world. And then his lordship began to ask some questions about the church affairs of Framley, in which a little interest as to Framley Court was also mixed up, when he was interrupted by a rather sharp voice, to which he instantly attended.

‘Bishop,’ said the rather sharp voice; and the bishop trotted across the room to the back of the sofa, on which his wife was sitting. ‘Miss Dunstable thinks that she will be able to come to us for a couple of days, after we leave the duke’s.’

‘I shall be delighted above all things,’ said the bishop, bowing low to the dominant lady of the day. For be it known to all men, that Miss Dunstable was the great heiress of that name.

‘Mrs Proudie is so very kind as to say that she will take me in, with my poodle, parrot, and pet old woman.’

‘I tell Miss Dunstable that we shall have quite room for any of her suite,’ said Mrs Proudie. ‘And that it will give us no trouble.’

‘”The labour we delight in physics pain”‘ said the gallant bishop, bowing low, putting his hand upon his heart. In the meantime Mr Fothergill had got hold of Mark Robarts. Mr Fothergill was a gentleman and a magistrate of the county, but he occupied the position of managing man on the Duke of Omnium’s estate. He was not exactly his agent; that is to say, he did not receive his rents; but he ‘managed’ for him, saw people, went about the county, wrote letters, supported the electioneering interest, did popularity when it was too much trouble for the duke to do it himself, and was, in fact, invaluable. People in West Barsetshire would often say that they did not know what on earth the duke would do, if it were not for Mr Fothergill. Indeed, Mr Fothergill was useful to the duke.

‘Mr Robarts,’ he said, ‘I am very happy to have the pleasure of meeting you–very happy indeed. I have often heard of you from our friend Sowerby.’ Mark bowed, and said that he was delighted to have the honour of making Mr Fothergill’s acquaintance. ‘I am commissioned by the Duke of Omnium,’ continued Mr Fothergill, ‘to say how glad he will be if you will join his grace’s party at Gatherum Castle next week. The bishop will be there, and indeed nearly all the whole set who are here now. The duke would have written when he heard that you were to be at Chaldicotes; but things were hardly quite arranged then, so his grace has left it for me to tell you how happy he will be to make your acquaintance in his own house. I have spoken to Sowerby,’ continued Mr Fothergill, ‘and he very much hopes that you will be able to join us.’

Mark felt that his face became red when this proposition was made to him. The party in the county to which he properly belonged–he and his wife, and all that made him happy and respectable–looked upon the Duke of Omnium with horror and amazement; and now he had absolutely received an invitation to the duke’s house! A proposition was made to him that he should be numbered among the duke’s friends!

And though in one sense he was sorry that the proposition was made to him, yet in another he was proud of it. It is not every young man, let his profession be what it may, who can receive overtures of friendship from dukes without some elation. Mark, too, had risen in the world, as far as he had yet risen, by knowing great people; and he certainly had an ambition to rise higher; but he undoubtedly had a feeling that the paths most pleasant for a clergyman’s feet were those which were trodden by the great ones of the earth. Nevertheless, at the moment he declined the duke’s invitation. He was very much flattered, he said, but the duties of the parish would require him to return from Chaldicotes to Framley.

‘You need not give an answer to-night, you know,’ said Mr Fothergill. ‘Before the week is past, we will talk it over with Sowerby and the bishop. It will be a thousand pities, Mr Robarts, if you will allow me to say so, that you should neglect such an opportunity of knowing his grace.’

When Mark went to bed, his mind was still set against going to the duke’s; but, nevertheless, he did feel that it was a pity that he should not do so. After all, was it necessary that he should obey Lady Lufton in all things?



It is no doubt very wrong to long after a naughty thing. But nevertheless we all do so. One may say that hankering after naughty things is the very essence of the evil into which we have been precipitated by Adam’s fall. When we confess that we are all sinners, we confess that we all long after naughty things. And ambition is a great vice–as Mark Antony told us a long time ago–a reference to his own advancement, and not to the advancement of others. But then, how many of us are there who are not ambitious in this vicious manner? And there is nothing viler than the desire to know great people–people of great rank, I should say; nothing worse than the hunting of titles and worshipping of wealth. We all know this, and say it every day of our lives. But presuming that a way into the society of Park Lane was open to us, and a way also into that of Bedford Row, how many of us are there who would prefer Bedford Row, because it is so vile to worship wealth and title?

I am led into these rather trite remarks by the necessity of putting forward some sort of excuse for that frame of mind in which the Rev Mark Robarts awoke on the morning after his arrival at Chaldicotes. And I trust that the fact of his being a clergyman will not be allowed to press against him unfairly. Clergymen are subject to the same passions as other men; and, as far as I can see, give way to them, in one line or another, almost as frequently. Every clergyman should, by canonical rule, feel a personal disinclination to a bishopric; but yet we do not believe that such personal disinclination is generally very strong. Mark’s first thoughts when he woke on that morning flew back to Mr Fothergill’s invitation. The duke had sent a special message to say how peculiarly glad he, the duke, would be to make acquaintance with him, the parson! How much of this message had been of Mr Fothergill’s own manufacture, that Mark Robarts did not consider. He had obtained a living at an age when other young clergymen are beginning to think of a curacy, and he had obtained such a living as middle-aged parsons in their dreams regard as a possible Paradise for their old years. Of course he thought that all these good things had been the results of his own peculiar merits. Of course he felt that he was different from other parsons–more fitted by nature for intimacy with great persons, more urbane, more polished, and more richly endowed with modern clerical well-to-do aptitudes. He was grateful to Lady Lufton for what she had done for him; but perhaps not so grateful as he should have been.

At any rate he was not Lady Lufton’s servant, nor even her dependant. So much he had repeated to himself on many occasions, and had gone so far as to hint the same idea to his wife. In his career as parish priest he must in most things be the judge of his own actions–and in many also it was his duty to be the judge of those of his patroness. The fact of Lady Lufton having placed him in the living, could by no means make her the proper judge of his actions. This he often said to himself; and he said as often that Lady Lufton certainly had a hankering after such a judgement-seat.

Of whom generally did prime ministers and official bigwigs think it expedient to make bishops and deans? Was it not, as a rule, of those clergymen who had shown themselves able to perform their clerical duties efficiently, and able also to take their place with ease in society? He was very well off certainly at Framley; but he could never hope for anything beyond Framley, if he allowed himself to regard Lady Lufton as a bugbear. Putting Lady Lufton and her prejudices out of the question, was there any reason why he ought not to accept the duke’s invitation? He could not see that there was any such reason. If any one could be a better judge on such a subject than himself, it must be his bishop. And it was clear that the bishop wished him to go to Gatherum Castle.

The matter was still left open to him. Mr Fothergill had especially explained that; and therefore his ultimate decision was as yet within his own power. Such a visit would cost him some money, for he knew that a man does not stay at great houses without expense; and then, in spite of his good income, he was not very flush of money. He had been down this year with Lord Lufton in Scotland. Perhaps it might be more prudent for him to return home. But then an idea came to him that it behoved him as priest to break through that Framley thralldom under which he felt that he did to a certain extent exist. Was it not the fact that he was about to decline this invitation from fear of Lady Lufton? and if so, was that a motive by which he ought to be actuated? It was incumbent on him to rid himself of that feeling. And in this spirit he got up and dressed.

There was hunting again on that day; and as the hounds were to meet near Chaldicotes, and to draw some converts lying on the verge of the chase, the ladies were to go in carriages through the drives of the forest, and Mr Robarts was to escort them on horseback. Indeed it was one of those hunting days got up rather for the ladies than for the sport. Great nuisances they are to steady, middle-aged hunting men; but the young fellows like them because they have thereby an opportunity of showing all their sporting finery, and of doing a little flirtation on horseback. The bishop, also, had been minded to be of the party; so, at least, he had said on the previous evening; and a place in one of the carriages had been set apart for him; but since that, he and Mrs Proudie had discussed the matter in private, and at breakfast his lordship declared that he had changed his mind.

Mr Sowerby was one of those men who are known to be very poor–as poor as debt can make a man–but who, nevertheless, enjoy all the luxuries which money can give. It was believed that he could not live in England out of jail but for his protection as a member of Parliament; and yet it seemed that there was no end to his horses and carriages, his servants and retinue. He had been at this work for a great many years, and practice, they say, makes perfect. Such companions are very dangerous. There is no cholera, no yellow-fever, no small-pox, more contagious than debt. If one lives habitually among embarrassed men, one catches it to a certainty. No one had injured the community in this way more fatally than Mr Sowerby. But still he carried on the game himself; and now, on this morning, carriages and horses thronged at his gate, as though he were as substantially rich as his friend the Duke of Omnium.

‘Robarts, my dear fellow,’ said Mr Sowerby, when they were well under way down one of the glades of the forest,–for the place where the hounds met was some four or five miles from the house of Chaldicotes,–‘ride on with me a moment. I want to speak to you. And if I stay behind we shall never get to the hounds.’ So Mark, who had come expressly to escort the ladies, rode on alongside Mr Sowerby in his pink coat.

‘My dear fellow, Fothergill tells me that you have some hesitation about going to Gatherum Castle.’

‘Well, I did decline, certainly. You know I am not a man of pleasure as you are. I have some duties to attend to.’

‘Gammon!’ said Mr Sowerby; and as he said it, he looked with a kind of derisive smile into the clergyman’s face.

‘It is easy enough to say that, Sowerby; and perhaps I have no right to expect that you should understand me.’

‘Ah, but I do understand you; and I say that it is gammon. I would be the last man in the world to ridicule your scruples about duty, if this hesitation on your part arose from any such scruple. But answer me honestly, do you not know that such is not the case?’

‘I know nothing of the kind.’

‘Ah, but I think you do. If you persist in refusing this invitation will it not be because you are afraid of making Lady Lufton angry? I do not know what there can be in that woman that she is able to hold both you and Lufton in leading-strings.’ Robarts, of course denied the charge, and protested that he was not to be taken back to his parsonage by any fear of Lady Lufton. But though he made such protest with warmth, he knew that he did so ineffectually. Sowerby only smiled, and said that the proof of the pudding was in the eating.

‘What is the good of a man keeping a curate if it be not to save him from that sort of drudgery?’ he asked.

‘Drudgery! If I were a drudge how could I be here to-day?’

‘Well, Robarts, look here. I am speaking now, perhaps, with more of the energy of an old friend than circumstances fully warrant; but I am an older man than you, and as I have a regard for you I do not like to see you throw up a good game when it is in your hands.’

‘Oh, as far as that goes, Sowerby, I need hardly tell you that I appreciate your kindness.’

‘If you are constant,’ continued the man of the world, ‘to live at Framley all your life, and to warm yourself in the sunshine of the dowager there, why, in such case, it may perhaps be useless for you to extend the circle of your friends; but if you have higher ideas than those, you will be very wrong to omit the present opportunity of going to the duke’s. I never knew the duke go so much out of his way to be civil to a clergyman as he has done in this instance.’

‘I am sure I am very much obliged to him.’

‘The fact is, that you may, if you please, make yourself popular in the county; but you cannot do it by obeying Lady Lufton’s behest. She is a dear old woman, I am sure.’

‘She is, Sowerby; and you would say so, if you knew her.’

‘I don’t doubt it; but it would not do for you or me to live exactly according to her ideas. Now, here, in this case, the bishop of the diocese is to be one of the party, and he has, I believe, expressed a wish that you should be another.’

‘He asked me if I were going.’

‘Exactly; and Archdeacon Grantly will also be there.’

‘Will he?’ asked Mark. Now, that would be a great point gained, for Archdeacon Grantly was a close friend of Lady Lufton.

‘So I understand from Fothergill. Indeed, it will be very wrong of you not to go, and I tell you plainly; and what is more, when you talk about your duty–you having a curate as you do have–why, it is gammon.’ These last words he spoke looking back over his shoulder as he stood up in his stirrups, for he had caught the eye of the huntsman, who was surrounded by his hounds, and was now trotting on to join him. During a great portion of the day, Mark found himself riding by the side of Mrs Proudie, as that lady leaned back in her carriage. And Mrs Proudie smiled on him graciously, though her daughter would not do so. Mrs Proudie was fond of having an attendant clergyman; and as it was evident that Mr Robarts lived among nice people–titled dowagers, members of Parliament, and people of that sort–she was quite willing to install him as a sort of honorary chaplain pro tem.

‘I’ll tell you what we have settled, Mrs Harold Smith and I,’ said Mrs Proudie to him. ‘This lecture at Barchester will be so late on Saturday evening, that you had all better come and dine with us.’ Mark bowed and thanked her, and declared that he should be very happy to make one of such a party. Even Lady Lufton could not object to this, although she was not especially fond of Mrs Proudie.

‘And then they are to sleep at the hotel. It will really be too late for ladies to think of going back so far at this time of the year. I told Mrs Harold Smith, and Miss Dunstable, too, that we could manage to make room at any rate for them. But they will not leave the other ladies; so they go to the hotel for the night. But, Mr Robarts, the bishop will never allow you to stay at the inn, so of course you will take a bed at the palace.’

It immediately occurred to Mark that as the lecture was to be given on Saturday evening, the next morning would be Sunday; and, on that Sunday, he would have to preach at Chaldicotes. ‘I thought they were all going to return the same night,’ said he.

‘Well, they did intend it; but you see Mrs Smith is afraid.’

‘I should have to be back here on the Sunday morning, Mrs Proudie.’

‘Ah, yes, that is bad–very bad indeed. No one dislikes any interference with the Sabbath any more than I do. Indeed, if I am particular about anything it is about that. But some works are works of necessity, Mr Robarts; are they not? Now you must necessarily be back at Chaldicotes on Sunday morning!’ And so the matter was settled. Mrs Proudie was very firm in general in the matter of Sabbath-day observances; but when she had to deal with such persons as Mrs Harold Smith, it was expedient that she should give way a little. ‘You can start at noon as it’s daylight, you know, if you like it, Mr Robarts,’ she said.

There was not much to boast of as to the hunting, but it was a very pleasant day for the ladies. The men rode up and down the grass roads through the chase, sometimes in the greatest possible hurry as though they never could go quick enough; and then the coachmen would drive very fast also, though they did not know why, for a fast pace of movement is another of those contagious diseases. And then again the sportsmen would move at an undertaker’s pace, when the fox had traversed and the hounds would be at a loss to know which was the hunt and which was the heel; and then the carriages would go slowly, and the ladies would stand up and talk. And then the time for lunch came; and altogether the day went pleasantly enough.

‘And so that’s hunting, is it?’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘Yes, that’s hunting,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘I did not see any gentlemen do anything that I could not do myself, except there was one young man slipped off into the mud; and I shouldn’t like that.’

‘But there was no breaking of bones, was there, my dear?’ said Mrs Harold Smith.

‘And nobody caught any foxes,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘The fact is, Mrs Smith, that I don’t think much more of their sport than I do of their business. I shall take to hunting a pack of hounds myself after this.’

‘Do, my dear, and I’ll be your whipper-in. I wonder whether Mrs Proudie would join us.’

‘I shall be writing to the duke to-night,’ said Mr Fothergill to Mark, as they were all riding up to the stable-yard together. ‘You will let me tell his grace that you will accept his invitation –will you not?’

‘Upon my word, the duke is very kind,’ said Mark.

‘He is very anxious to know you, I can assure you,’ said Fothergill. What could a young flattered fool of a parson do, but say that he would go? Mark did say that he would go; and in the course of the evening his friend Mr Sowerby congratulated him, and the bishop joked with him and said that he knew that he would not give up good company so soon; and Miss Dunstable said she would make him her chaplain as soon as Parliament would allow quack doctors to have such articles–an allusion which Mark did not understand, till he learned that Miss Dunstable was herself the proprietress of the celebrated Oil of Lebanon, invented by her late respected father, and patented by him with such wonderful results in the way of accumulated fortune; and Mrs Proudie made him quite one of their party, talking to him about all manner of Church subjects; and then at last, even Miss Proudie smiled on him, when she learned that he had been thought worthy of a bed at the duke’s castle. And all the world seemed to be open to him.

But he could not make himself happy that evening. On the next morning he must write to his wife; and he could already see the look of painful sorrow which would fall upon Fanny’s brow when she learned that her husband was going to be a guest at the Duke of Omnium’s. And he must tell her to send him money, and money was scarce. And then, as to Lady Lufton, should he send her some message, or should he not? In either case he must declare war against her. And then did he not owe everything to Lady Lufton? And thus in spite of all his triumphs he could not get himself to bed in a happy frame of mind.

On the next day, which was Friday, he postponed the disagreeable task of writing. Saturday would do well; and on Saturday morning, before they all started for Barchester, he did write. And his letter ran as follows:-

‘Chaldicotes, November, 185-

‘You will be astonished when I tell you how gay we all are here, and what further dissipations are in store for me. The Arabins, as you supposed, are not of our party; but the Proudies are–as you supposed also. Your suppositions are always right. And what will you think when I tell you that I am to sleep at the palace on Saturday? You know that there is to be a lecture in Barchester on that day. Well; we must all go, of course, as Harold Smith, one of our set here, is to give it. And now it turns out that we cannot get back to the house the same night because there is no moon; and Mrs Bishop would not allow that my cloth should be contaminated by an hotel;–very kind and conscientious, is it not?

‘But I have a more astounding piece of news for you than this. There is to be a very great party at Gatherum Castle next week, and they have talked me over into accepting an invitation which the duke sent expressly to me. I refused at first; but everybody here said that my doing so would be so strange; and then they all wanted to know my reason. When I came to render it, I did not know what reason I had to give. The bishop is going, and he thought it very odd that I should not go also, seeing that I was asked. I know that my own darling will think, and I know that she will not be pleased, and I must put off my defence till I return to her from this ogre-land–if ever I get back alive. But joking apart, Fanny, I think that I should have been wrong to stand out, when so much was said about it. I should have been seeming to take upon myself to sit in judgement upon the duke. I doubt if there be a single clergyman in the diocese, under fifty years of age, who would have refused the invitation under such circumstances–unless it be Crawley, who is so mad on the subject that he thinks it almost wrong to take a walk out of his own parish. I must stay at Gatherum Castle over Sunday week–indeed, we only go there on Friday. I have written to Jones about his duties. I can make it up to him, as I know he wishes to go to Wales at Christmas. My wanderings will all be over then, and he may go for a couple of months if he pleases. I suppose you will take my classes in the school on Sunday, as well as your own; but pray make them have a good fire. If this be too much for you, make Mrs Podgens take the boys. Indeed I think that will be better.

‘Of course you will tell her ladyship of my whereabouts. Tell her from me, that as regards the bishop, as well as regarding another great personage, the colour has been laid on perhaps a little too thickly. Not that Lady Lufton would ever like him. Make her understand that my going to the duke’s house has almost become a matter of conscience with me. I have not known how to make it appear that it would be right for me to refuse, without absolutely making a party matter of it. I saw that it would be said, that I, coming from Lady Lufton’s parish, could not go to the Duke of Omnium’s. This I did not choose.

‘I find that I shall want a little money before I leave here, five or ten pounds–say ten pounds. If you cannot spare it, get it from Davis. He owes me more than that, a good deal. And now, God bless and preserve you, my love. Kiss my darling bairns for papa, and give them my blessing.
‘Always and ever your own,

And then there was written, on an outside scrap, which was folded round the full-written sheet of paper. ‘Make it as smooth at Framley Court as possible.’ However strong, and reasonable, and unanswerable the body of Mark’s letter may have been, all his hesitation, weakness, doubt, and fear, were expressed in that short postscript.



And now, with my reader’s consent, I will follow the postman with that letter to Framley; not by its own circuitous route indeed, or by the same mode of conveyance; for that letter went into Barchester by the Courcy night mail-cart, which, on its road, passed through the villages of Uffey and Chaldicotes, reaching Barchester in time for the up-mail from London. By that train, the letter was sent towards the metropolis as far as the junction of the Barset branch line, but there it was turned in its course, and came down again by the main line as far as Silverbridge; at which place, between six and seven in the morning, it was shouldered by the Framley footpost messenger, and in due course delivered at the Framley Parsonage exactly as Mrs Robarts had finished reading prayers to the four servants. Or, I should say rather, that such would in its usual course have been that letter’s destiny. As it was, however, it reached Silverbridge on Sunday, and lay there till the Monday, as the Framley people have declined their Sunday post. And then again, when the letter was delivered at the parsonage, on that wet Monday morning, Mrs Robarts was not at home. As we are all aware, she was staying with her ladyship at Framley Court.

‘Oh, but it’s mortial wet,’ said the shivering postman as he handed in that and the vicar’s newspaper. The vicar was a man of the world and took The Jupiter.

‘Come in, Robin postman, and warm theeself awhile,’ said Jemima the cook, pushing a stool a little to one side, but still well in front of the big kitchen fire.

‘Well, I dudna jist know how it’ll be. The wery ‘edges ‘as eyes and tells on me in Silverbridge, if I so much as steps to pick up a blackberry.’

‘There hain’t no hedges her, mon, nor yet no blackberries; so sit thee down and warm theeself. That’s better nor blackberries, I’m thinking,’ and she handed him a bowl of tea with a slice of buttered toast. Robin postman took the proffered tea, put his dripping hat on the ground, and thanked Jemima cook. ‘But I dudna jist know how it’ll be;’ said he, ‘only it do pour so tarmation heavy.’ Which among us, O my readers, could have withstood that temptation?

Such was the circuitous course of Mark’s letter; but as it left Chaldicotes on Saturday evening and reached Mrs Robarts on the following morning, or would have done but for the intervening Sunday, doing all peregrinations during the night, it may be held that its course of transport was not inconveniently arranged. We, however, will travel by a much shorter route. Robin, in the course of his daily travels, passed, first the post-office at Framley, then Framley Court back entrance, and then the vicar’s house, so that on this wet morning Jemima cook was not able to make use of his services in transporting the letter back to her mistress; for Robin had got another village before him, expectant of his letters.

‘Why didn’t thee leave it, mon, with Mr Applejohn at the Court?’ Mr Applejohn was the butler who took the letter-bag. ‘Thee know’st as how missus was there.’ And then Robin, mindful of the tea and toast, explained to her courteously how the law made it imperative on him to bring the letter to the very house that was indicated, let the owner of the letter be where she might; and he laid down the law very satisfactorily with sundry long-worded quotations. Not to much effect, however, for the housemaid called him an oaf; and Robin would decidedly have had the worst of it had not the gardener come in and taken his part. ‘They woman knows nothin’, and understands nothin’,’ said the gardener. ‘Give us hold of the letter. I’ll take it up to the house. It’s the master’s fist.’ And then Robin postman went on one way, and the gardener, he went the other. The gardener never disliked an excuse for going to the Court gardens, even on so wet a day as this.

Mrs Robarts was sitting over the drawing-room fire with Lady Meredith, when her husband’s letter was brought to her. The Framley Court letter-bag had been discussed at breakfast; but that was now nearly an hour since, and Lady Lufton, as was her wont, was away in her own room, writing her own letters, and looking after her own matters: for Lady Lufton was a person who dealt in figures herself, and understood business almost as well as Harold Smith. And on that morning she also had received a letter which had displeased her not a little. Whence arose the displeasure neither Mrs Robarts nor Lady Meredith knew; but her ladyship’s brow had grown black at breakfast time; she had bundled up an ominous-looking epistle in her bag, without speaking of it, and had left the room immediately that breakfast was over.

‘There’s something wrong,’ said Sir George.

‘Mamma does fret herself so much about Ludovic’s money matters,’ said Lady Meredith. Ludovic was Lord Lufton–Ludovic Lufton, Baron Lufton of Lufton, in the county of Oxfordshire.

‘And yet I don’t think Lufton gets much astray,’ said Sir George, as he sauntered out of the room. ‘Well, Justy; we’ll put off going then till to-morrow; but remember, it must be the first train.’ Lady Meredith said she would remember, and then they went into the drawing-room, and there Mrs Robarts received her letter. Fanny, when she read it, hardly at first realised to herself the idea that her husband, the clergyman of Framley, the family clerical friend of Lady Lufton’s establishment, was going to stay with the Duke of Omnium. It was so thoroughly understood at Framley Court that the duke and all belonging to him, was noxious and damnable. He was a Whig, he was a bachelor, he was a gambler, he was immoral in every way, he was a man of no Church principle, a corrupter of youth, a sworn foe of young wives, a swallower up of small men’s patrimonies; a man whom mothers feared for their sons, and sisters for their brothers; and worse again, whom fathers had cause to fear for their daughters, and brothers for their sisters;–a man who, with his belongings, dwelt, and must dwell, poles asunder from Lady Lufton and her belongings! And it must be remembered that all these evil things were fully believed by Mrs Robarts. Could it really be that her husband was going to dwell in the halls of Apollyon, to shelter himself beneath the wings of this very Lucifer? A cloud of sorrow settled upon her face, and then she read the letter again very slowly, not omitting the tell-tale postscript.

‘Oh, Justinia!’ at last she said.

‘What, have you got bad news, too?’

‘I hardly know how to tell you what has occurred. There; I suppose you had better read it;’ and she handed her husband’s epistle to Lady Meredith–keeping back, however, the postscript.