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  • 1861
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‘What on earth will her ladyship do now?’ said Lady Meredith, as she folded the paper, and replaced it in the envelope.

‘What had I better do, Justinia? how had I better tell her?’ And then the two ladies put their heads together, bethinking themselves how they might best deprecate the wrath of Lady Lufton. It had been arranged that Mrs Robarts should go back to the parsonage after lunch, and she had persisted in her intention after it had been settled that the Merediths were to stay over that evening. Lady Meredith now advised her friend to carry out this determination without saying anything about her husband’s iniquities, and then to send the letter up to Lady Lufton as soon as she reached the parsonage. ‘Mamma will never know that you received it here,’ said Lady Meredith. But Mrs Robarts would not consent to this. Such a course seemed to her to be cowardly. She knew that her husband was doing wrong; she felt that he knew it himself; but still it was necessary that she should defend him. However terrible might be the storm, it must break upon her own head. So she at once went and tapped at Lady Lufton’s private door; and as she did so Lady Meredith followed her.

‘Come in,’ said Lady Lufton, and the voice did not sound soft and pleasant. When they entered, they found her sitting at her little writing-table, with her head resting on her arm, and that letter which she had received that morning was lying open on the table before her. Indeed there were two letters now there, one from a London lawyer to herself, and the other from her son to that London lawyer. It needs only to be explained that the subject of those letters was the immediate sale of that outlying portion of the Lufton property in Oxfordshire, as to which Mr Sowerby once spoke. Lord Lufton had told the lawyer that the thing must be done at once, adding that his friend Robarts would have explained the whole affair to his mother. And then the lawyer had written to Lady Lufton, as was indeed necessary; but unfortunately Lady Lufton had not hitherto heard a word of the matter. In her eyes the sale of family property was horrible; the fact that a young man with some fifteen or twenty thousand a year should require subsidiary money was horrible; that her own son should have not written to her himself was horrible; and it was also horrible that her own pet, the clergyman whom she had brought there to be her son’s friend, should be mixed up in the matter; should be cognizant of it while she was not cognizant; should be employed in it as a go-between and agent in her son’s bad courses. It was all horrible, and Lady Lufton was sitting there with a black brow and an uneasy heart. As regarded our poor parson, we may say that in this matter he was blameless, except that he had hitherto lacked the courage to execute his friend’s commission.

‘What is it, Fanny?’ said Lady Lufton, as soon as the door was opened; ‘I should have been down in half an hour if you wanted me, Justinia.’

‘Fanny has received a letter which makes her wish to speak to you at once,’ said Lady Meredith.

‘What letter, Fanny?’ Poor Fanny’s heart was in her mouth; she held it in her hand, but had not yet quite made up her mind whether she would show it boldly to Lady Lufton. ‘From Mr Robarts,’ she said.

‘Well; I suppose he is going to stay another week at Chaldicotes. For my part I should be as well pleased;’ and Lady Lufton’s voice was not friendly, for she was thinking of the farm in Oxfordshire. The imprudence of the young is very sore to the prudence of their elders. No woman could be less covetous, less grasping than Lady Lufton; but the sale of a portion of the old family property was to her as the loss of her own heart’s blood.

‘Here is the letter, Lady Lufton; perhaps you had better read;’ and Fanny handed it to her, again keeping back the postscript. She had read and re-read the letter downstairs, but could not make out whether her husband had intended her to show it. From the line of the argument, she thought that he must have done so. At any rate he said for himself more than she could say for him, and so, probably, it was best that her ladyship should see it. Lady Lufton took it, and read it, and her face grew blacker and blacker. Her mind was set against the writer before she began it, and every word in it tended to make her feel more estranged from him. ‘Oh, he is going to the palace, is he? well; he must choose his own friends. Harold Smith one of the party! It’s a pity, my dear, he did not see Miss Proudie before he met you, he might have lived to be the bishop’s chaplain. Gatherum Castle! You don’t mean to tell me that he is going there? Then I tell you fairly, Fanny, that I have done with him.’

‘Oh, Lady Lufton, don’t say that,’ said Mrs Robarts, with tears in her eyes.

‘Mamma, mamma, don’t speak in that way,’ said Lady Meredith.

‘But, my dear, what am I to say? I must speak in that way. You would not wish me to speak falsehoods, would you? A man must choose for himself, but he can’t live with two different sets of people; at least, not if I belong to one and the Duke of Omnium to the other. The bishop going indeed! If there be anything that I hate is hypocrisy.’

‘There is no hypocrisy in that, Lady Lufton.’

‘But I say there is, Fanny. Very strange, indeed! “Put off his defence!” Why should a man need any defence to his wife if he acts in a straightforward way? His own language condemns him. “Wrong to stand out!” Now, will either of you tell me that Mr Robarts would really have thought it wrong to refuse that invitation? I say that is hypocrisy. There is no other word for it.’ By this time the poor wife, who had been in tears, was wiping them away and preparing for action. Lady Lufton’s extreme severity gave her courage. She knew that it behoved her to fight for her husband when he was thus attacked. Had Lady Lufton been moderate in her remarks, Mrs Robarts would not have had a word to say.

‘My husband may have been ill-judged,’ she said, ‘but he is no hypocrite.’

‘Very well, my dear, I dare say you know better than I; but to me it looks extremely like hypocrisy; eh, Justinia?’

‘Oh, mamma, do be moderate.’

‘Moderate! That’s all very well. How is one to moderate one’s feelings when one has been betrayed?’

‘You do not mean that Mr Robarts has betrayed you?’ said the wife.

‘Oh, no; of course not.’ And then she went on reading the letter: ‘”Seem to have been standing in judgement upon the duke.” Might he not use the same argument as to going into any house in the kingdom, however infamous? We must all stand in judgement one upon another in that sense. “Crawley!” Yes; if he were a little more like Mr Crawley it would be a good thing for me, and for the parish, and for you too, my dear. God forgive me for bringing him here; that’s all.’

‘Lady Lufton, I must say that you are very hard upon him–very hard. I did not expect it from such a friend.’

‘My dear, you ought to know me well enough to be sure that I shall speak my mind. “Written to Jones”–yes; it is easy enough to write to poor Jones. He had better write to Jones, and bid him do the whole duty. Then he can go on and be the duke’s domestic chaplain.’

‘I believe my husband does as much of his own duty as any clergyman in the whole diocese,’ said Mrs Robarts, now again in tears.

‘And you are to take his work in the school; you and Mrs Podgens. What with his curate and his wife and Mrs Podgens, I don’t see why he should come back at all.’

‘Oh, mamma,’ said Justinia, ‘pray, pray don’t be so harsh to her.’

‘Let me finish it, my dear;–oh, here I come. “Tell her ladyship my whereabouts.” He little thought you’d show me this letter.’

‘Didn’t he,’ said Mrs Robarts, putting out her hand to get it back, but in vain. ‘I thought it was for the best; I did indeed.’

‘I had better finish it now, if you please. What is this? How does he dare to send his ribald jokes to me in such a matter? No, I do not suppose I ever shall like Dr Proudie; I have never expected it. A matter of conscience with him! Well–well–well. Had I not read it myself, I could not have believed it of him. I would not positively have believed it. “Coming from my parish he could not go to the Duke of Omnium!” And it is what I would wish to have said. People fit for this parish should not be fit for the Duke of Omnium’s house. And I had trusted that he would have this feeling more strongly than any one else in it. I have been deceived –that’s all.’

‘He has done nothing to deceive you, Lady Lufton.’

‘I hope he will not have deceived you, my dear. “More money.” There is your letter, Fanny. I am very sorry for it. I can say nothing more.’ And she folded up the letter and gave it back to Mrs Robarts. ‘I thought it right to show it to you,’ said Mrs Robarts.

‘It did not much matter whether you did or not; of course I must have been told.’

‘He especially begs me to tell you.’

‘Why, yes; he could not very well have kept me in the dark on such a matter. He could not neglect his own work, and go and live with gamblers and adulterers at the Duke of Omnium’s without my knowing it.’ And now Fanny Robarts’s cup was full, full to overflowing. When she heard these words she forgot all about Lady Lufton, all about Lady Meredith, and remembered only her husband–that he was her husband, and, in spite of his faults, a good and loving husband;–and that other fact also she remembered, that she was his wife.

‘Lady Lufton,’ she said, ‘you forget yourself in speaking in that way of my husband.’

‘What!’ said her ladyship; ‘you are to show me such a letter as that, and I am not to tell you what I think?’

‘Not if you think such hard things as that. Even you are not justified in speaking to me in that way, and I will not hear it.’

‘Heighty-tighty!’ said her ladyship.

‘Whether or no he is right in going to the Duke of Omnium’s, I will not pretend to judge. He is the judge of his own actions, and neither you nor I.’

‘And when he leaves you with the butcher’s bill unpaid and no money to buy shoes for the children, who will be the judge then?’

‘Not you, Lady Lufton. If such bad days should ever come–and neither you nor I have a right to expect them–I will not come to you in my troubles; not after this.’

‘Very well, my dear. You may go to the Duke of Omnium if that suits you better.’

‘Fanny, come away,’ said Lady Meredith. ‘Why should you try to anger my mother?’

‘I don’t want to anger her; but I won’t hear him abused in that way without speaking up for him. If I don’t defend him, who will? Lady Lufton has said terrible things about him; and they are not true.’

‘Oh, Fanny!’ said Justinia.

‘Very well, very well!’ said Lady Lufton. ‘This is the sort of return one gets.’

‘I don’t know what you mean by return, Lady Lufton; but would you wish me to stand quietly by and hear such things said of my husband? He does not live with such people as you have named. He does not neglect his duties. If every clergyman were as much in his parish, it would be well for some of them. And in going to such a house as the Duke of Omnium’s it does make a difference that he goes there in company with the bishop. I can’t explain why, but I know that it does.’

‘Especially when the bishop is coupled with the devil, as Mr Robarts has done,’ said Lady Lufton; ‘he can join the duke with them and then they’ll stand for the three Graces, won’t they, Justinia?’ And Lady Lufton laughed a bitter little laugh at her own wit.

‘I suppose I may go now, Lady Lufton.’

‘Oh, yes; certainly, my dear.’

‘I am very sorry if I have made you angry with me; but I will not allow any one to speak against Mr Robarts without answering them. You have been very unjust to him; and even though I do anger you, I must say so.’

‘Come, Fanny, this is too bad,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘You have been scolding me for the last half-hour because I would not congratulate you on this new friend that your husband has made, and now you are going to begin it all over again. That is more than I can stand. If you have nothing else particular to say, you might as well leave me.’ And Lady Lufton’s face as she spoke was unbending, severe, and harsh. Mrs Robarts had never before been so spoken to by her old friend; indeed, she had never been so spoken to by any one, and she hardly knew how to bear herself.

‘Very well, Lady Lufton,’ she said; ‘then I will go. Good-bye.’

‘Good-bye,’ said Lady Lufton, and turning herself to her table she began to arrange her papers. Fanny had never before left Framley Court to go back to her own parsonage without a warm embrace. Now she was to do so without even having her hand shaken. Had it come to this, that there was absolutely to be a quarrel between them–a quarrel for ever?’

‘Fanny is going, you know, mamma,’ said Lady Meredith. ‘She will be home before you are down again.’

‘I cannot help it, my dear. Fanny must do as she pleases. I am not to be the judge of her actions. She has just told me so.’ Mrs Robarts had said nothing of the kind, but she was far too proud to point this out. So with a gentle step she retreated through the door, and then Lady Meredith, having tried what a conciliatory whisper with her mother would do, followed her. Alas, the conciliatory whisper was altogether ineffectual.

The two ladies said nothing as they descended the stairs, but when they had regained the drawing-room they looked with black horror into each other’s faces. What were they to do now? Of such a tragedy as this they had had no remotest preconception. Was it absolutely the case that Fanny Robarts was to walk out of Lady Lufton’s house as a declared enemy–she who, before her marriage as well as since, had been almost treated as an adopted daughter of the family?

‘Oh, Fanny, why did you answer my mother in that way?’ said Lady Meredith. ‘You saw that she was vexed. She had other things to vex her besides this about Mr Robarts.’

‘And would not you answer any one who attacked Sir George?’

‘No, not my own mother. I would let her say what she pleased, and leave Sir George to fight his own battles.’

‘Ah, but it is different with you. You are her daughter, and Sir George–she would not dare to speak in that way as to Sir George’s doings.’

‘Indeed she would, if it pleased her. I am sorry I let you go up there.’

‘It is as well that it should be over, Justinia. As those are her thoughts about Mr Robarts, it is quite as well that we should know them. Even for all that I owe to her, and all the love I bear to you, I will not come to this house if I am to hear my husband abused–not into any house.’

‘My dearest Fanny, we all know what happens when two angry people get together.’

‘I was not angry when I went up to her; not in the least.’

‘It is no good looking back. What are we to do now?’

‘I suppose I had better go home,’ said Mrs Robarts. ‘I will go and put my things up, and then I will send James for them.’

‘Wait till after lunch, and then you will be able to kiss my mother before you leave us.’

‘No, Justinia; I cannot wait. I must answer Mr Robarts by this post, and I must think what I have to say to him. I could not write that letter here, and the post goes at four.’ And Mrs Robarts got up from her chair, preparatory to her final departure.

‘I shall come to you before dinner,’ said Lady Meredith; ‘and if I can bring you good tidings, I shall expect you to come back here with me. It is out of the question that I should go away from Framley leaving you and my mother in enmity with each other.’ To this Mrs Robarts made no answer; and in a very few minutes afterwards she was in her own nursery, kissing her children, and teaching the elder one to say something about papa. But, even as she taught him, the tears stood in her eyes, and the little fellow knew that everything was not right. And there she sat till about two, doing little odds and ends of things for the children, and allowing that occupation to stand as an excuse to her for not commencing her letter. But then there remained only two hours to her, and it might be that the letter would be difficult in the writing–would require thoughts and changes, and must needs be copied, perhaps, more than once. As to the money, that she had in the house–as much, at least, as Mark now wanted, though the sending of it would leave her nearly penniless. She could, however, in case of personal need, resort to Davis as declared by him.

So she got out her desk in the drawing-room and sat down and wrote her letter. It was difficult though she found that it hardly took so long as she expected. It was difficult, for she felt bound to tell him the truth; and yet she was anxious not to spoil all his pleasure among his friends. She told him, however, that Lady Lufton was very angry, ‘unreasonably angry, I must say,’ she put in, in order to show that she had not sided against him. ‘And, indeed, we have quite quarrelled, and this has made me unhappy, as it will you, dearest; I know that. But we both know how good she is at heart, and Justinia thinks that she had other things to trouble her; and I hope it will all be made up before you come home; only, dearest Mark, pray do not be longer than you said in your last letter.’ And then there were three or four paragraphs about the babies, and two about the schools, which I may as well omit. She had just finished her letter, and was carefully folding it for its envelope, with the two whole five-pound notes imprudently placed within it, when she heard a footstep on the gravel path which led up from a small wicket to the front door. The path ran near the drawing-room window, and she was just in time to catch a glimpse of the last fold of a passing cloak. ‘It is Justinia,’ she said to herself; and her heart became disturbed at the idea of again discussing the morning’s adventure. ‘What am I to do,’ she had said to herself before. ‘If she wants me to beg her pardon? I will not own before her that he is in the wrong.’

And then the door opened–for the visitor made her entrance without the aid of any servant–and Lady Lufton herself stood before her. ‘Fanny,’ she said, ‘I have come to beg your pardon.’

‘Oh, Lady Lufton!’

‘I was very much distressed when you came to me just now;–by more things than one, my dear. But, nevertheless, I should not have spoken to you of your husband as I did, and so I have come to beg your pardon.’ Mrs Robarts was past answering by the time that this was said, at least in words; so she jumped up, and with her eyes full of tears, threw herself into her old friend’s arms. ‘Oh, Lady Lufton!’ she sobbed forth again.

‘You will forgive me, won’t you?’ said her ladyship, as she returned her young friend’s caress. ‘Well, that’s right. I have not been at all happy since you left my den this morning, and I don’t suppose you have. But, Fanny, dearest, we love each other too well, and know each other too thoroughly, to have a long quarrel, don’t we?’

‘Oh, yes, Lady Lufton.’

‘Of course we do. Friends are not to be picked up on the road-side every day; nor are they to be thrown away lightly. And now sit down, my love, and let us have a little talk. There, I must take my bonnet off. You have pulled the strings so that you have almost choked me.’ And Lady Lufton deposited her bonnet on the table, and seated herself comfortably in the corner of the sofa.

‘My dear,’ she said, ‘there is no duty which any woman owes to any other human being at all equal to that which she owes to her husband, and, therefore, you were quite right to stand up for Mr Robarts this morning.’ Upon this Mrs Robarts said nothing, but she got her hand within that of her ladyship’s, and gave it a slight squeeze.

‘And I loved you for what you were doing, all the time. I did, my dear, though you were a little fierce, you know. Even Justinia admits that, and she has been at me ever since you went away. And, indeed, I did not know that it was in you to look in that way out of those pretty eyes of yours.’

‘Oh, Lady Lufton!’

‘But I looked fierce enough myself, I dare say, so we’ll say nothing more about that; will we? But now, about this good man of yours.’

‘Dear Lady Lufton, you must forgive him.’

‘Well, as you ask me, I will. We’ll have nothing more said about the duke, either now or when he comes back; not a word. Let me see–he’s to be back;–when is it?’

‘Wednesday week, I think.’

‘Ah, Wednesday. Well, tell him to come and dine up at the house on Wednesday. He’ll be in time, I suppose, and there shan’t be a word said about this horrid duke.’

‘I am so much obliged to you, Lady Lufton.’

‘But look here, my dear; believe me he’s better off without such friends.’

‘Oh, I know he is; much better off.’

‘Well, I’m glad you admit that, for I thought you seemed to be in favour of the duke.’

‘Oh, no, Lady Lufton.’

‘That’s right, then. And now, if you’ll take my advice, you’ll use your influence, as good, dear sweet wife, as you are, to prevent his going there any more. I’m an old woman and he is a young man, and it’s very natural that he should think me behind the times. I’m not angry about that. But he’ll find that it’s better for him, better for him in every way, to stick to his old friends. It will be better for his peace of mind, better for his character as a clergyman, better for his pocket, better for his children, and for you–and better for his eternal welfare. The duke is not such a companion as he should seek;–nor, if he is sought, should he allow himself to be led away.’ And then Lady Lufton ceased, and Fanny Robarts kneeling at her feet sobbed, with her face hidden in her friend’s knees. She had not a word now to say as to her husband’s capability of judging for himself.

‘And now I must be going again; but Justinia has made me promise–promise, mind you, most solemnly, that I would have you back to dinner to-night,–by force if necessary. It was the only way I could make my peace with her; so you must not leave me in the lurch.’ Of course Fanny said that she would go and dine at Framley Court.

‘And you must not send that letter, by any means,’ said her ladyship, as she was leaving the room, poking with her umbrella at the epistle, which lay directed on Mrs Robarts’s desk. ‘I can understand well what it contains. You must alter it altogether, my dear.’ And then Lady Lufton left.

Mrs Robarts instantly rushed to her desk and tore open the letter. She looked at her watch and it was past four. She had hardly begun when the postman came. ‘Oh, Mary,’ she said, ‘do make him wait. If he’ll wait a quarter of an hour, I’ll give him a shilling.’

‘There’s no need of that, ma’am. Let him have a glass of beer.’

‘Very well, Mary; but don’t give him too much, for fear he should drop the letters about. I’ll be ready in ten minutes.’ And in five minutes she had scrawled a very different sort of letter. But he might want the money immediately, so she would not delay it a day.

CHAPTER VI

MR HAROLD SMITH’S LECTURE

On the whole the party at Chaldicotes was very pleasant and the time passed away quickly enough. Mr Robarts’s chief friend there, independently of Mr Sowerby, was Miss Dunstable, who seemed to take a great fancy to him, whereas she was not very accessible to the blandishments of Mr Supplehouse, nor more especially courteous to her host than good manners required of her. But then Mr Supplehouse and Mr Sowerby were both bachelors, while Mark Robarts was a married man. With Mr Sowerby Robarts had more than one communication respecting Lord Lufton and his affairs, which he would willingly have avoided had it been possible. Sowerby was one of those men who are always mixing up business with pleasure, and who have usually some scheme in their mind which requires forwarding. Men of this class have, as a rule, no daily work, no regular routine of labour; but it may be doubted whether they do not toil much more incessantly than those who have.

‘Lufton is so dilatory,’ Mr Sowerby said. ‘Why did he not arrange this at once, when he promised it? And then he is afraid of that old woman at Framley Court. Well, my dear fellow, say what you will; she is an old woman, and she’ll never be younger. But do write to Lufton, and tell him that this delay is inconvenient to me; he’ll do anything for you, I know.’ Mark said that he would write, and, indeed, he did so; but he did not at first like the tone of the conversation into which he was dragged. It was very painful to him to hear Lady Lufton called an old woman, and hardly less so to discuss the propriety of Lord Lufton’s parting with his property. This was irksome to him, till habit made it easy. But by degrees his feelings became less acute, and he accustomed himself to his friend Sowerby’s mode of talking.

And then on Saturday they went over to Barchester. Harold Smith during the last forty-eight hours had become crammed to overflowing with Sarawak, Labuan, New Guinea, and the Salomon Islands. As is the case with all men labouring under temporary specialities, he for the time had faith in nothing else, and was not content that any one near him should have any other faith. They called him Viscount Papua and Baron Borneo; and his wife, who headed the joke against him, insisted on having her title. Miss Dunstable swore that she would wed none but a South Sea Islander; and to Mark was offered the income and duties of Bishop of Spices. Nor did the Proudie family set themselves against these little sarcastic quips with any overwhelming severity. It is sweet to unbend oneself at the proper opportunity, and this was the proper opportunity for Mrs Proudie’s unbending. No mortal can be seriously wise at all hours; and in these happy hours did that usually wise mortal, the bishop, lay aside for awhile his serious wisdom.

‘We think of dining at five to-morrow, my Lady Papua,’ said the facetious bishop; ‘will that suit his lordship and the affairs of state? he, he, he!’ And the good prelate laughed at the fun. How pleasantly young men and women of fifty or thereabouts can joke and flirt and poke their fun about, laughing and holding their sides, dealing in little innuendoes and rejoicing in nicknames, when they have no Mentors of twenty-five or thirty years near them to keep them in order! The vicar of Framley might perhaps have been regarded as such a Mentor, were it not for that capability of adapting himself to the company immediately around him on which he so much piqued himself. He therefore also talked to my Lady Papua, and was jocose about the Baron–not altogether to the satisfaction of Mr Harold Smith himself. For Mr Harold Smith was in earnest, and did not quite relish these jocundities. He had an idea that he could in about three minutes talk the British world into civilizing New Guinea, and that the world of Barsetshire would be made to go with him by one night’s efforts. He did not understand why others should be less serious, and was inclined to resent somewhat stiffly the amenities of our friend Mark.

‘We must not keep the Baron waiting,’ said Mark, as they were preparing to start for Barchester.

‘I don’t know what you mean by the Baron, sir,’ said Harold Smith. ‘But perhaps the joke will be against you, when you are getting up in your pulpit to-morrow, and sending the hat round among the clod-hoppers of Chaldicotes.’

‘Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, eh, Baron?’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘Mr Robarts’s sermon will be too near akin to your lecture to allow of his laughing.’

‘If we can do nothing towards instructing the outer world till it’s done by the parsons,’ said Harold Smith, ‘the outer world will have to wait a long time, I fear.’

‘Nobody can do anything of that kind short of a member of Parliament and would-be minister,’ whispered Mrs Harold. And so they were all very pleasant together, in spite of a little fencing with edge-tools, and at three o’clock the cortege of carriages started for Barchester, that of the bishop, of course, leading the way. His lordship, however, was not in it.

‘Mrs Proudie, I’m sure you’ll let me go with you,’ said Miss Dunstable, at the last moment, as she came down the big stone steps. ‘I want to hear the rest of that story about Mr Slope.’ Now this upset everything. The bishop was to have gone with his wife, Mrs Smith, and Mark Robarts; and Mr Sowerby had so arranged matters that he could have accompanied Miss Dunstable in his phaeton. But no one ever dreamed of denying Miss Dunstable anything. Of course Mark gave way; but it ended in the bishop declaring that he had no special predilection for his own carriage, which he did in compliance with a glance from his wife’s eye. Then other changes of course followed, and, at last, Mr Sowerby and Harold Smith were the joint occupants of the phaeton. The poor lecturer, as he seated himself made some remark such as those he had been making for the last two days–for out of a full heart the mouth speaketh. But he spoke to an impatient listener. ‘D– the South Sea Islanders,’ said Mr Sowerby. ‘You’ll have it all your own way in a few moments, like a bull in a china-shop; but for Heaven’s sake let us have a little peace till that time comes.’ It appeared that Mr Sowerby’s little plan of having Miss Dunstable for his companion was not quite insignificant; and, indeed, it may be said that but few of his little plans were so. At the present moment he flung himself back in the carriage and prepared for sleep. He could further no plan of his by a tete-a-tete conversation with his brother-in-law. And then Mrs Proudie began her story about Mr Slope, or rather recommenced it. She was very fond of talking about this gentleman, who had once been her pet chaplain, but was now her bitterest foe; and in telling her story, she had sometimes to whisper to Miss Dunstable, for there were one or two fie-fie little anecdotes about a married lady, not altogether fit for young Mr Robarts’s ears. But Mrs Harold Smith insisted on having them out loud, and Miss Dunstable would gratify that lady in spite of Mrs Proudie’s winks.

‘What, kissing her hand, and he a clergyman!’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘I did not think they ever did such things, Mr Robarts.’

‘Still waters run deep,’ said Mrs Harold Smith.

‘Hush-h-h,’ looked, rather than spoke, Mrs Proudie. ‘The grief of spirit which that bad man caused me nearly broke my heart, and all the while, you know, he was courting–‘ and then Mrs Proudie whispered a name.

‘What, the dean’s wife?’ shouted Miss Dunstable, in a voice which made the coachman in the next carriage give a chuck to his horse as he overheard her.

‘The archdeacon’s sister-in-law!’ screamed Mrs Harold Smith.

‘What might he have not attempted next?’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘She wasn’t the dean’s wife then, you know,’ said Mrs Proudie, explaining.

‘Well, you are a gay set in the chapter, I must say,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘You ought to make one of them in Barchester, Mr Robarts.’

‘Only perhaps Mrs Robarts might not like it,’ said Mrs Harold Smith.

‘And then the schemes which he tried on with the bishop!’ said Mrs Proudie.

‘It’s all fair in love and war, you know,’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘But he little knew whom he had to deal with when he began that,’ said Mrs Proudie.

‘The bishop was too many for him,’ suggested Mrs Harold Smith, very maliciously.

‘The bishop was not, somebody else was; and he was obliged to leave Barchester in utter disgrace. He has since married the wife of some tallow-chandler.’

‘The wife!’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘What a man!’

‘The widow, I mean; but it’s all one to him.’

‘The gentleman was clearly born when Venus was in the ascendant,’ said Mrs Smith. ‘You clergymen usually are, I believe, Mr Robarts.’ So that Mrs Proudie’s carriage was by no means the dullest as they drove into Barchester that day; and by degrees our friend Mark became accustomed to his companions, and before they reached the palace he acknowledged to himself that Miss Dunstable was very good fun. We cannot linger over the bishop’s dinner, though it was very good of its kind; and as Mr Sowerby contrived to sit next to Miss Dunstable, thereby overturning a little scheme made by Mr Supplehouse, he again shone forth in unclouded good humour. But Mr Harold Smith became impatient immediately on the withdrawal of the cloth. The lecture was to begin at seven, and according to his watch that hour had already come. He declared that Sowerby and Supplehouse were endeavouring to delay matters in order that the Barchesterians might become vexed and impatient; and so the bishop was not allowed to exercise his hospitality in true episcopal fashion.

‘You forget, Sowerby,’ said Supplehouse, ‘that the world here for the last fortnight has been looking forward to nothing else.’

‘The world shall be gratified at once,’ said Mrs Harold, obeying a little nod from Mrs Proudie. ‘Come, my dear,’ and she took hold of Miss Dunstable’s arm, ‘don’t let us keep Barchester waiting. We shall be ready in a quarter of an hour, shall we not, Mrs Proudie?’ and so they sailed off.

‘And we shall have time for one glass of claret, said the bishop.

‘There; that’s seven by the cathedral,’ said Harold Smith, jumping up from his chair as he heard the clock. ‘If the people have come it would not be right in me to keep them waiting, and I shall go.’

‘Just one glass of claret, Mr Smith, and we’ll be off,’ said the bishop.

‘Those women will keep me half an hour,’ said Harold, filling his glass, and drinking it standing. ‘They do it on purpose.’

It was rather late when they all found themselves in the big room of the Mechanic’s Institute; but I do not know whether this on the whole did any harm. Most of Mr Smith’s hearers, excepting the party from the palace, were Barchester tradesmen with their wives and families; and they waited, not impatiently, for the big people. And then the lecture was gratis, a fact which is always borne in mind by an Englishman, when he comes to reckon up and calculate the way in which he is treated. When he pays his money, then he takes his choice; he may be impatient or not as he likes. His sense of justice teaches him so much, and in accordance with that sense he usually acts. So the people on the benches rose graciously when the palace party entered the room. Seats for them had been kept in the front. There were three arm-chairs, which were filled, after some little hesitation, by the bishop, Mrs Proudie, and Miss Dunstable–Mrs Smith positively declining to take one of them; though, as she admitted, her rank as Lady Papua of the islands did give her some claim. And this remark, as it was made quite out loud, reached Mr Smith’s ears as he stood behind a little table on a small raised dais, holding his white kid gloves; and it annoyed him and rather put him out. He did not like that joke about Lady Papua. And then the others of the party sat upon a front bench covered with red cloth. ‘We shall find this very hard and very narrow about the second hour,’ said Mr Sowerby, and Mr Smith on his dais again overheard the words, and dashed his gloves down to the table. He felt that all the room would hear it.

And there were one or two gentlemen on the second seat who shook hands with some of our party. There was Mr Thorne of Ullathorne, a good-natured old bachelor, whose residence was near enough to Barchester to allow of his coming in without much personal inconvenience; and next to him was Mr Harding, an old clergyman of the chapter, with whom Mrs Proudie shook hands very graciously, making way for him to seat himself close behind her if he would so please. But Mr Harding did not so please. Having paid his respects to the bishop he returned quietly to the side of his old friend Mr Thorne, thereby angering Mrs Proudie, as might easily be seen by her face. And Mr Chadwick also was there, the episcopal man of business for the diocese; but he also adhered to the two gentlemen above named. And now that the bishop and the ladies had taken their place, Mr Harold Smith hummed three times distinctly, and then began.

‘It was,’ he said, ‘the most peculiar characteristic of the present era in the British islands that those who were high placed before the world in rank, wealth, and education were willing to come forward and give their time and knowledge without fee or reward, for the advantage and amelioration of those who did not stand so high in the social scale.’ And then he paused for a moment, during which Mrs Smith remarked to Miss Dunstable that that was pretty well for a beginning; and Miss Dunstable replied, ‘that as for herself she felt very grateful to rank, wealth and education.’ Mr Sowerby winked to Mr Supplehouse, who opened his eyes very wide and shrugged his shoulders. But the Barchesterians took it all in good part and gave the lecturer the applause of their hands and feet. And then, well pleased, he recommenced–‘I do not make these remarks with reference to myself–‘

‘I hope he’s not going to be modest,’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘It will be quite new if he is,’ replied Mrs Smith.

‘–so much as to many noble and talented lords and members of the Lower House who have lately from time to time devoted themselves to this good work.’ And then he went through a long list of peers and members of Parliament, beginning, of course, with Lord Boanerges, and ending with Mr Green Walker, a young gentleman who had lately been returned by his uncle’s interference for the borough of Crewe Junction, and had immediately made his entrance into public life by giving a lecture on the grammarians of the Latin language as exemplified at Eton School. ‘On the present occasion,’ Mr Smith continued, ‘our object is to learn something as to those grand and magnificent islands which lie far away, beyond the Indies, in the Southern Ocean; the lands of which produce rich spices and glorious fruits, and whose seas are embedded with pearls and corals–Papua and the Philippines, Borneo and the Moluccas. My friends, you are familiar with your maps, and you know the track which the equator makes for itself through those distant oceans.’ And then many heads were turned down, and there was a rustle of leaves; for not a few of those ‘who stood not so high in the social scale’ had brought their maps with them, and refreshed their memories as to the whereabouts of those wondrous islands.

And then Mr Smith also, with a map in his hand, and pointing occasionally to another large map which hung against the wall, went into the geography of the matter. ‘We might have found that out from our atlases, I think, without coming all the way to Barchester,’ said that unsympathetic helpmate Mrs Harold, very cruelly–most illogically too, for there be so many things which we could find out ourselves by search, but which we never do find out unless they be specially told to us; and why should not this latitude and longitude of Labuan be one–or rather two of these things? And then, when he had duly marked the path of the line through Borneo, Celebes, and Gilolo, through the Macassar Strait and the Molucca passage, Mr Harold Smith rose to a higher flight. ‘But what,’ said he, ‘avails all that God can give to man, unless man will open his hand to receive the gift? And what is this opening of the hand but the process of civilization–yes, my friends, the process of civilization? These South Sea islanders have all that a kind Providence can bestow on them; but that all is as nothing without education. That education and that civilization it is for you to bestow upon them–yes, my friends, for you; for you, citizens of Barchester as you are.’ And then he paused again, in order that the feet and hands might go to work. The feet and hands did go to work, during which Mr Smith took a slight drink of water. He was now quite in his element, and had got into the proper way of punching the table with his fists. A few words dropping from Mr Sowerby did now and again find their way to his ears, but the sound of his own voice had brought with it the accustomed charm, and he ran on from platitude to truism, and from truism back to platitude, with an eloquence that was charming to himself.

‘Civilization,’ he exclaimed, lifting his eyes and his hands to the ceiling. ‘O Civilization–‘

‘There will not be a chance for us now for the next hour and a half,’ said Mr Supplehouse, groaning. Harold Smith cast one eye down at him, but it immediately flew back to the ceiling.

‘O Civilization! Thou that ennoblest mankind and makest him equal to the gods, what is like unto thee?’ Here Mrs Proudie showed evident signs of disapprobation, which, no doubt would have been shared by the bishop, had not that worthy prelate been asleep. But Mr Smith continued unobservant; or at any rate, regardless. ‘What is like unto thee? Thou art the irrigating stream which makest fertile the barren plain. Till thou comest all is dark and dreary; but at thy advent the noontide sun shines out, the earth gives forth her increase; the deep bowels of the rocks render up their tribute. Forms which were dull and hideous become endowed with grace and beauty, and vegetable existence rises to the scale of celestial life. Then, too, Genius appears clad in a panoply of translucent armour, grasping in his hand the whole terrestrial surface, and making every rood of earth subservient to his purposes;–Genius, the child of Civilization, the mother of the Arts!’ The last little bit, taken from the ‘Pedigree of Progress’, had a great success, and all Barchester went to work with its hands and feet;– all Barchester, except that ill-natured aristocratic front row together with the three arm-chairs at the corner of it. The aristocratic front row now felt itself to be too intimate with civilization to care much about it; and the three arm-chairs, or rather that special one which contained Mrs Proudie, considered that there was a certain heathenness, a papism sentimentality almost amounting to infidelity, contained in the lecturer’s remarks, with which she, a pillar of the Church, could not put up, seated as she was now in public conclave.

‘It is to civilization that we must look,’ continued Mr Harold Smith, descending from poetry to prose as a lecturer well knows how, and thereby showing the value of both–‘for any material progress in these islands; and–‘

‘And to Christianity,’ shouted Mrs Proudie, to the great amazement of the assembled people, and to the thorough wakening of the bishop, who, jumping up in his chair at the sound of the well-known voice, exclaimed, ‘Certainly, certainly.’

‘Hear, hear, hear,’ said those on the benches who particularly belonged to Mrs Proudie’s school of divinity in the city, and among the voices was distinctly heard that of a new verger in whose behalf she had greatly interested herself.

‘Oh, yes Christianity, of course,’ said Harold Smith, upon whom the interruption did not seem to have operated favourably.

‘Christianity and Sabbath-day observation,’ exclaimed Mrs Proudie, who, now that she had obtained the ear of the public, seemed well inclined to keep it. ‘Let us never forget that these islanders can never prosper unless they keep the Sabbath holy.’ Poor Mr Smith, having been so rudely dragged from his high horse, was never able to mount it again, and completed the lecture in a manner not at all comfortable to himself. He had there, on the table before him, a huge bundle of statistics, with which he had meant to convince the reason of his hearers, after he had taken full possession of their feelings. But they fell very dull and flat. And at the moment when he was interrupted, he was about to explain that that material progress to which he had alluded could not be attained without money; and that it behoved them, the people of Barchester before him, to come forward with their purses like men and brothers. He did also attempt this; but from the moment of that fatal onslaught from the arm-chair, it was clear to him, and to every one else, that Mrs Proudie was now the hero of the hour. His time had gone by, and the people of Barchester did not care a straw for his appeal. From these causes the lecture was over a full twenty minutes earlier than any one had expected, to the great delight of Messrs Sowerby and Supplehouse, who, on that evening, moved and carried a vote of thanks to Mrs Proudie. For they had gay doings yet before they went to their beds.

‘Robarts, here one moment,’ Mr Sowerby said, as they were standing at the door of the Mechanic’s Institute. Don’t go off with Mr and Mrs Bishop. We are going to have a little supper at the Dragon of Wantly, and, after what we have gone through, upon my word, we want it. You can tell one of the palace servants to let you in.’ Mark considered the proposal wistfully. He would fain have joined the supper party had he dared, but he, like many others of his cloth, had the fear of Mrs Proudie before his eyes. And a very merry supper they had; but poor Mr Harold Smith was not the merriest of the party.

CHAPTER VII

SUNDAY MORNING

It was, perhaps, quite as well on the whole for Mark Robarts, that he did not go to that supper party. It was eleven o’clock before they sat down and nearly two before the gentlemen were in bed. It must be remembered that he had to preach, on the Sunday morning, a charity sermon on behalf of a mission to Mr Harold Smith’s islanders; and, to tell the truth, it was a task for which he had now very little inclination. When first invited to do this, he had regarded the task seriously enough, as he always did regard such work, and he completed his sermon for the occasion before he left Framley; but, since that, an air of ridicule had been thrown over the whole affair, in which he had joined without much thinking of his own sermon, and this made him now heartily wish that he could choose a discourse upon any other subject. He knew well that the very points on which he had most insisted, were those which had drawn most mirth from Miss Dunstable and Mrs Smith, and had oftenest provoked his own laughter; and how was he now to preach on those matters in a fitting mood, knowing, as he would know, that these two ladies would be looking at him, would endeavour to catch his eye, and would turn him into ridicule as they had already turned the lecturer? In this he did injustice to one of those ladies unconsciously. Miss Dunstable, with all her aptitude for mirth, and we may almost fairly say for frolic, was in no way inclined to ridicule religion or say anything which she thought appertained to it. It may be presumed that among such things she did not include Mrs Proudie, as she was willing enough to laugh at that lady; but Mark, had he known her better, might have been sure that she would have sat out his sermon with perfect propriety.

As it was, however, he did feel considerable uneasiness; and in the morning, he got up early, with the view of seeing what might be done in the way of emendation. He cut out those parts which referred most specially to the islands,–he rejected altogether those names over which they had all laughed together so heartily,–and he inserted a string of genial remarks, very useful, no doubt, which he flattered himself would rob his sermon of all similarity to Harold Smith’s lecture. He had, perhaps, hoped, when writing it, to create some little sensation; but now he would be quite satisfied if it passed without remark. It had been arranged that the party at the hotel should breakfast at eight and start at half-past eight punctually, so as to enable them to reach Chaldicotes in ample time to arrange their dresses before they went to church. The church stood on the grounds, close to that long formal avenue of lime-trees, but within the front gate. Their walk, therefore, after reaching Mr Sowerby’s house, would not be long.

Mrs Proudie, who was herself an early body, would not hear of her guest–and he a clergyman–going out to the inn for his breakfast on a Sunday morning. As regarded that Sabbath-day journey to Chaldicotes, to that she had given her assent, no doubt with much uneasiness of mind; but let them have as little desecration as possible. It was therefore an understood thing that he was to return with his friends; but he should not go without the advantage of family prayers and family breakfast. And so Mrs Proudie on retiring to rest gave the necessary orders, to the great annoyance of her household.

To the great annoyance, at least, of her servants! The bishop himself did not make his appearance till a much later hour. He in all things now supported his wife’s rule; in all things now, I say; for there had been a moment, when in the first flush and pride of his episcopacy, other ideas had filled his mind. Now, however, he gave no opposition to that good woman with whom Providence had blessed him; and in return to his little personal comforts. With what surprise did the bishop now look back upon that unholy war which he had once been tempted to wage against the wife of his bosom? Nor did any of the Miss Proudies show themselves at that early hour. They, perhaps, were absent on a different ground. With them Mrs Proudie had not been so successful as with the bishop. They had wills of their own which became stronger and stronger every day. Of the three with whom Mrs Proudie was blessed one was already in a position to exercise that will in a legitimate way over a very excellent young clergyman in the diocese, the Rev. Optimus Grey; but the other two, having as yet no such opening for their powers of command, were perhaps a little too much inclined to keep themselves in practice at home. But at half-past seven punctually Mrs Proudie was there, and so was the domestic chaplain; so was Mr Robarts, and so were the household servants–all excepting one lazy recreant. ‘Where is Thomas?’ said she of the Argus eyes, standing up with her book of family prayers in her hand. ‘So please you, ma’am, Tummas be bad with the tooth-ache.’ ‘Tooth-ache!’ exclaimed Mrs Proudie; but her eyes said more terrible things than that. ‘Let Thomas come to me before church.’ And then they proceeded to prayers. These were read by the chaplain, as it was proper and decent that they should be; but I cannot but think that Mrs Proudie a little exceeded her office in taking upon herself to pronounce the blessing when the prayers were over. She did it, however, in a clear, sonorous voice, and perhaps with more personal dignity than was within the chaplain’s compass.

Mrs Proudie was rather stern at breakfast, and the vicar of Framley felt an unaccountable desire to get out of the house. In the first place she was not dressed with her usual punctilious attention to the proprieties of her high situation. It was evident that there was to be a further toilet before she sailed up the middle of the cathedral choir. She had on a large loose cap with no other strings than those which were wanted of tying it beneath her chin, a cap with which the household and the chaplain were well acquainted, but which seemed ungracious in the eyes of Mr Robarts, after all the well-dressed holiday doings of the last week. She wore also a large, loose, dark-coloured wrapper, which came well up round her neck, and which was not buoyed out, as were her dresses in general, with an under mechanism of petticoats. It clung to her closely, and added to the inflexibility of her general appearance. And then she had encased her feet in large carpet slippers, which no doubt were comfortable, but which struck her visitor as being strange and unsightly. ‘Do you find difficulty in getting your people together for early morning prayers?’ she said, as she commenced her operations with the teapot.

‘I can’t say that I do,’ said Mark. ‘But then we are seldom so early as this.’

‘Parish clergymen should be early, I think,’ said she. ‘It sets a good example in the village.’

‘I am thinking of having morning prayers in the church,’ said Mr Robarts.

‘That’s nonsense,’ said Mrs Proudie, ‘and usually means worse than nonsense. I know what that comes to. If you have three services on a Sunday and domestic prayers at home, you do very well.’ And so saying she handed him his cup.

‘But I have not three services on Sunday, Mrs Proudie.’

‘Then I think you should have. Where can the poor people be so well off on Sundays as in church? The bishop intends to express a very strong opinion on this subject in his next charge; and then I am sure you will attend to his wishes.’ To this Mark made no answer, but devoted himself to his egg.

‘I suppose you have not a very large establishment at Framley?’ asked Mrs Proudie.

‘What, at the parsonage?’

‘Yes; you live at the parsonage, don’t you?’

‘Certainly–well; not very large, Mrs Proudie; just enough to do the work, make things comfortable, and look after the children.’

‘It is a very fine living,’ said she; ‘very fine. I don’t remember that we have anything so good ourselves,–except at Plumstead, the archdeacon’s place. He has managed to butter his bread very well.’

‘His father was bishop of Barchester.’

‘Oh, yes, I know all about him. Only for that he would barely have risen to archdeacon, I suspect. Let me see; yours is 800 pounds, is it not, Mr Robarts? And you such a young man! I suppose you have insured your life highly.’

‘Pretty well, Mrs Proudie.’

‘And then, too, your wife had some little fortune, had she not? We cannot all fall on our feet like that; can we, Mr White?’ and Mrs Proudie was an imperious woman; but then so also was Lady Lufton; and it may therefore be said that Mr Robarts ought to have been accustomed to feminine domination; but as he sat there munching his toast he could not but make a comparison between the two. Lady Lufton in her little attempts sometimes angered him; but he certainly thought, comparing that lady and the clerical together, that the rule of the former was the lighter and the pleasanter. But then Lady Lufton had given him a living and a wife, and Mrs Proudie had given him nothing. Immediately after breakfast Mr Robarts escaped to the Dragon of Wantly, partly because he had had enough of the matutinal Mrs Proudie, and partly also in order that he might hurry his friends there. He was already becoming fidgety about the time, as Harold Smith had been on the preceding evening; and he did to give Mrs Smith credit for much punctuality. When he arrived at the inn he asked if they had done breakfast, and was immediately told that not one of them was yet down. It was already half-past eight, and they ought to be now under weigh on the road. He immediately went to Mr Sowerby’s room, and found that gentleman shaving himself. ‘Don’t be a bit uneasy,’ said Mr Sowerby. ‘You and Smith shall have my phaeton, and those horses will take you there in an hour. Not, however, but what we shall all be in time. We’ll send round to the whole party and ferret them out.’ And then Mr Sowerby, having evoked manifold aid with various peals of the bell, sent messengers, male and female, flying to all the different rooms.

‘I think I’ll hire a gig and go over at once,’ said Mark. ‘It would not do for me to be late, you know.’

‘It won’t do for any of us to be late; and it’s all nonsense about hiring a gig. It would be just throwing a sovereign away, and we should pass you on the road. Go down and see that the tea is made, and all that; and make them have the bill ready; and, Robarts, you may pay it too, if you like it. But, I believe we may as well leave that to Baron Borneo–eh?’ And then Mark did go down and make the tea, and he did order the bill; and then he walked about the room, looking at his watch, and nervously waiting for the footsteps of his friends. And as he was so employed, he bethought himself whether it was fit that he should be so doing on a Sunday morning; whether it was good that he should be waiting there, in painful anxiety, to gallop over a dozen miles in order that he might not be too late with his sermon; whether his own snug room at home, with Fanny opposite to him, and his bairns crawling on the floor, with his own preparations for his own quiet service, and the warm pressure of Lady Lufton’s hand when that service should be over, was not better than all this. He could not afford not to know Harold Smith, and Mr Sowerby, and the Duke of Omnium, he had said to himself. He had to look to rise in the world, as other men did. But what pleasure had come to him as yet from these intimacies? How much had he hitherto done towards his rising? To speak the truth he was not over well pleased with himself, as he made Mrs Harold Smith’s tea and ordered Mr Sowerby’s mutton-chops on that Sunday morning.

At a little after nine they all assembled; but even then he could not make the ladies understand that there was any cause for hurry; at least Mrs Smith, who was the leader of the party, would not understand it. When Mark again talked of hiring a gig, Miss Dunstable indeed said that she would join him; and seemed to be so far earnest in the matter that Mr Sowerby hurried through his second egg in order to prevent such a catastrophe. And then Mark absolutely did order the gig; whereupon Mrs Smith remarked that in such case she need not hurry herself; but the waiter brought up word that all the horses of the hotel were out, excepting one pair, neither of which could go in single harness. Indeed, half of their stable establishment was already secured by Mr Sowerby’s own party. ‘Then let me have the pair,’ said Mark, almost frantic with delay.

‘Nonsense, Robarts; we are ready now. He won’t want them, James. Come, Supplehouse, have you done?’

‘Then I am to hurry myself, am I?’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘What changeable creatures you are! May I be allowed half a cup of tea, Mr Robarts?’ Mark, who was now really angry, turned away to the window. There was no charity in these people, he said to himself. They knew the nature of his distress, and yet they only laughed at him. He did not, perhaps, reflect that he had assisted in the joke against Mr Harold Smith on the previous evening. ‘James,’ said he turning to the waiter, ‘let me have that pair of horses immediately, if you please.’

‘Yes, sir, round in fifteen minutes, sir: only Ned, sir, the post-boy, sir; I fear he’s at his breakfast, sir; but we’ll have him here in less than no time, sir!’ But before Ned and the pair were there, Mrs Smith had absolutely got her bonnet on, and at ten they started. Mark did share the phaeton with Harold Smith, but the phaeton did not go any faster than the other carriages. They led the way, indeed, but that was all; and when the vicar’s watch told him that it was eleven, they were still a mile from Chaldicotes gate, although the horses were in lather of steam; and they had just only entered the village when the church bell ceased to be heard.

‘Come, you are in time, after all,’ said Harold Smith. ‘Better time than I was last night.’ Robarts could not explain to him that the entry of a clergyman into church, of a clergyman who is going to assist in the service, should not be made at the last minute, that it should be staid and decorous, and not done in scrambling haste, with running feet and scant breath.

‘I suppose we’ll stop here, sir,’ said the postillion, as he pulled up his horses short of the church-door, in the midst of the people who were congregating together ready for the service. But Mark had not anticipated being so late, and said at first that it was necessary that he should go on to the house; then, when the horses had again begun to move, he remembered that he could send for his gown, and as he got out of the carriage he gave his orders accordingly. And now the other two carriages were there, and so there was a noise and confusion at the door–very unseemly, as Mark felt it; and the gentlemen spoke in loud voices, and Mrs Harold Smith declared that she had no Prayer-Book, and was much too tired to go in at present; she would go home and rest herself, she said. And two other ladies of the party did so also, leaving Miss Dunstable to go alone;–for which, however, she did not care one button. And then one of the party, who had a nasty habit of swearing, cursed at something as he walked in close to Mark’s elbow; and so they made their way up the church as the Absolution was being read, and Mark Robarts felt thoroughly ashamed of himself. If his rising in the world brought him in contact with such things as these, would it not be better for him that he should do without rising? His sermon went off without any special notice. Mrs Harold Smith was not there, much to his satisfaction; and the others who were did not seem to pay any special attention to it. The subject had lost its novelty; except with the ordinary church congregation, the farmers and labourers of the parish; and the ‘quality’ in the squire’s great pew were content to show their sympathy by a moderate subscription. Miss Dunstable, however, gave a ten-pound note, which swelled up the sum total to a respectable amount–for such a place as Chaldicotes.

‘And now I hope I may never hear another word about New Guinea,’ said Mr Sowerby, as they clustered round the drawing-room fire after church. ‘That subject may be regarded as killed, eh, Harold?’

‘Certainly murdered last night,’ said Mrs Harold, ‘by that awful woman, Mrs Proudie.’

‘I wonder you did not make a dash at her and pull her out of the arm-chair,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘I was expecting it, and thought that I should come to grief in the scrimmage.’

‘I never knew such a brazen-faced thing before,’ said Miss Kerrigy, a travelling friend of Miss Dunstable’s.

‘Nor I–never; in a public place, too,’ said Dr Easyman, a medical gentleman, who also often accompanied her.

‘As for brass,’ said Mr Supplehouse, ‘she would never stop at anything for want of that. It is well that she has enough, for the poor bishop is but badly provided.’

‘I hardly heard what it was she did say,’ said Harold Smith; ‘so I could not answer her, you know. Something about Sundays, I believe.’

‘She hoped you would not put the South Sea Islanders up to Sabbath travelling,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘And specially begged that you would establish Lord’s-day schools,’ said Mrs Smith; and then they all went to work, and picked Mrs Proudie to pieces from the top ribbons of her cap down to the sole of her slipper.

‘And then she expects the poor parsons to fall in love with her daughters. That’s the hardest thing of all,’ said Miss Dunstable. But, on the whole, when our vicar went to bed, he did not feel that he had spent a profitable Sunday.

CHAPTER VIII

GATHERUM CASTLE

On the Tuesday morning Mark did receive his wife’s letter, and the ten-pound note, whereby a strong proof was given of the honesty of the post-office people in Barsetshire. That letter, written as it had been in a hurry, while Robin post-boy was drinking a single mug of beer,–well, what of it if he half filled a second time?—was nevertheless eloquence of his wife’s love and of her great triumph. ‘I have only half a moment to send the money,’ she said, ‘for the postman is here waiting. When I see you, I’ll explain why I am so hurried. Let me know you get it safe. It is all right now, and Lady Lufton was here not a minute ago. She did not quite like it; about Gatherum Castle, I mean; but you’ll hear nothing about it. Only remember that you must dine at Framley Court on Wednesday week. I have promised that for you. You will, won’t you, dearest? I shall come and fetch you away if you attempt to stay longer than you have said. But I’m sure you won’t. God bless you, my own one! Mr Jones gave us the same sermon he preached the second Sunday after Easter. Twice in the same year is too often. God bless you! The children are quite well. Mark sends you a big kiss.—Your own F.’

Robarts, as he read this letter and crumpled the note up into his pocket, felt that it was much more satisfactory than he deserved. He knew that there must have been a fight, and that his wife, fighting loyally on his behalf, had got the best of it; and he knew also that her victory had not been owing to the goodness of her cause. He frequently declared to himself that he would not be afraid of Lady Lufton; but nevertheless these tidings that no reproaches were to be made to him afforded him great relief. On the following Friday they all went to the duke’s, and found that the bishop and Mrs Proudie were there before them; as were also sundry other people, mostly of some note either in the estimation of the world at large or that of West Barsetshire. Lord Boanerges was there, an old man who would have his own way in everything, and who was regarded by all men–apparently even the duke himself–as an intellectual king, by no means of the constitutional kind–as an intellectual emperor, rather, who took upon himself to rule all questions of mind without the assistance of any ministers whatever. And Baron Brawl was of the party, one of Her Majesty’s puisne Judges, as jovial a guest as ever entered a county house; but given to be rather sharp withal in his jovialities. And there was Mr Green Walker, a young but rising man, the same who lectured not long since on a popular subject to his constituents at the Crewe Junction. Mr Green Walker was a nephew of the Marchioness of Hartletop, and the Marchioness of Hartletop was a friend of the Duke of Omnium’s. Mr Mark Robarts was certainly elated when he ascertained who composed the company of which he had been so earnestly pressed to make a portion. Would it have been wise in him to forgo this on account of the prejudices of Lady Lufton?

As the guests were so many and so great, the huge front portals of Gatherum Castle were thrown open and the vast hall, adorned with trophies–with marble busts from Italy and armour from Wardour Street–was thronged with gentlemen and ladies, and gave forth unwonted echoes to many a footstep. His grace himself, when Mark arrived there with Sowerby and Miss Dunstable–for in this instance Miss Dunstable did travel in the phaeton, while Mark occupied a seat in the dicky–his grace himself was at this moment in the drawing-room and nothing could exceed his urbanity.

‘Oh, Miss Dunstable!’ he said, taking that lady by the hand, and leading her up to the fire, ‘now I feel for the first time that Gatherum Castle has not been built for nothing.’

‘Nobody ever supposed it was, your grace,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘I am sure the architect did not think so when his bill was paid.’ And Miss Dunstable put her toes on the fender to warm them with as much self-possession as though her father had been a duke also, instead of a quack doctor.

‘We have given the strictest orders about the parrot–,’ said the duke.

‘Ah! but I have not brought him after all;’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘–and I have had an aviary built on purpose,–just such as parrots are used to in their own country. Well, Miss Dunstable, I do call that unkind. Is it too late to send for him?’

‘He and Dr Easyman are travelling together. The truth was, I could not rob the doctor of his companion.’

‘Why? I have had another aviary built for him. I declare, Miss Dunstable, the honour you are doing me is shorn of half its glory. But the poodle–I still trust in the poodle.’

‘And your grace’s trust shall not in that respect be in vain. Where is he, I wonder?’ And Miss Dunstable looked round as though she expected that somebody would certainly have brought her dog in after her. ‘I declare I must go and look for him,–only think if they were to put him among your grace’s dogs,–how his morals would be destroyed!’

‘Miss Dunstable, is that intended to be personal?’ but the lady had turned away from the fire, and the duke was able to welcome his other guests. This he did with much courtesy. ‘Sowerby,’ he said, ‘I am glad you have survived the lecture. I can assure you I had fears for you.’

‘I was brought back to life after considerable delay by the administration of tonics at the Dragon of Wantly. Will your grace allow me to present to you Mr Robarts, who on that occasion was not so fortunate. It was found necessary to carry him off to the palace, where he was obliged to undergo very vigorous treatment.’ And then the duke shook hands with Mr Robarts, assuring him that he was most happy to make his acquaintance. He had often heard of him since he came into the county; and then he asked after Lord Lufton, regretting that he had been unable to induce his lordship to come to Gatherum Castle.

‘But you had a diversion at the lecture, I am told,’ continued the duke. ‘There was a second performance, was there not, who almost eclipsed poor Harold Smith?’ And then Mr Sowerby gave an amusing sketch of the little Proudie episode.

‘It has, of course, ruined your brother-in-law for ever as a lecturer,’ said the duke, laughing.

‘If so, we shall feel ourselves under the deepest obligations to Mrs Proudie,’ said Mr Sowerby. And then Harold Smith himself came up and received the duke’s sincere and hearty congratulations on the success of his exercise at Barchester. Mark Robarts had now turned away, and his attention was suddenly arrested by the loud voice of Miss Dunstable, who had stumbled across some very dear friends in her passage through the rooms, and who by no means hid from the public her delight upon the occasion.

‘Well–well–well!’ she exclaimed, and then she seized upon a very quiet-looking well-dressed, attractive young woman who was walking towards her, in company with a gentleman. The gentleman and lady, as it turned out, were husband and wife. ‘Well–well–well! I hardly hoped for this.’ And then she took hold of the lady and kissed her enthusiastically, and after that grasped both the gentleman’s hands, shaking them stoutly.

‘And what a deal I shall have to say to you!’ she went on. ‘You’ll upset all my other plans. But, Mary, my dear, how long are you going to stay here? I go–let me see–I forget when, but it’s all put down in a book upstairs. But the next stage is at Mrs Proudie’s. I shan’t meet you there, I suppose. And now, Frank, how’s the governor?’ The gentleman called Frank declared that the governor was all right–‘mad about the hounds, of course, you know.’

‘Well, my dear, that’s better than the hounds being mad about him. But talking of hounds, Frank, how badly they manage their foxes at Chaldicotes! I was out hunting all one day–‘

‘You out hunting!’ said the lady called Mary.

‘And why shouldn’t I go out hunting? I’ll tell you what, Mrs Proudie was out hunting too. But they didn’t catch a single fox; and, if you must have the truth, it seemed to me to be rather slow.’

‘You were in the wrong division of the county,’ said the gentleman called Frank.

‘Of course I was. When I really want to practise hunting I’ll go to Greshambury; not a doubt about that.’

‘Or go to Boxall Hill,’ said the lady; ‘you’ll find quite as much zeal there as at Greshambury.’

‘And more discretion, you should add,’ said the gentleman.

‘Ha! Ha! Ha!,’ laughed Miss Dunstable; ‘your discretion indeed! But you have not told me a word about Lady Arabella.’

‘My mother is quite well,’ said the gentleman.

‘And the doctor? By the by, my dear, I’ve had such a letter from the doctor; only two days ago. I’ll show it to you upstairs to-morrow. But, mind, it must be a positive secret. If he goes on in this way he’ll get himself into the Tower or Coventry, or a blue-book, or some dreadful place.’

‘Why? what has he said?’

‘Never mind, Master Frank; I don’t mean to show you this letter, you may be sure of that. But if your wife will swear three times on a poker and tongs that she won’t reveal, I’ll show it to her. And you are quite settled at Boxall Hill, are you?’

‘Frank’s horses are settled; and the dogs nearly so,’ said Frank’s wife; ‘but I can’t boast much of anything else yet.’

‘Well, there’s a good thing coming. I must go and change my things now. But, Mary, mind you get near me this evening; I have such a deal to say to you.’ And then Miss Dunstable marched out of the room.

All this had been said in so loud a voice that it was, as a matter of course, overheard by Mark Robarts–that part of the conversation of course I mean which had come from Miss Dunstable. And then Mark learned that this was young Frank Gresham of Boxall Hill, son of old Mr Gresham of Greshambury. Frank had lately married a great heiress; a greater heiress, men said, even than Miss Dunstable; and as the marriage was hardly as yet more than six months old the Barsetshire world was still full of it.

‘The two heiresses seem to be very loving, don’t they?’ said Mr Supplehouse. ‘Birds of a feather flock together, you know. But they did say some little time ago that young Gresham was to have married Miss Dunstable herself.

‘Miss Dunstable! why, she might almost be his mother,’ said Mark.

‘That made little difference. He was obliged to marry money, and I believe there is no doubt that he did at one time propose to Miss Dunstable.’

‘I have a letter from Lufton,’ Mr Sowerby said to him the next morning. ‘He declares that the delay was all your fault. You were to have told Lady Lufton before you did anything, and he was waiting to write about it till he heard from you. It seems that you never said a word to her ladyship on the subject.’

‘I never did, certainly. My commission from Lufton was to break the matter to her when I found her in a proper humour for receiving it. If you knew Lady Lufton as well as I do, you would know that it is not every day that she would be in a humour for such things.’

‘And so I was to be kept waiting indefinitely because you two between you were afraid of an old woman! However, I have not a word to say against her, and the matter is settled now.’

‘Has the farm been sold?’

‘Not a bit of it. The dowager would not bring her mind to suffer such profanation for the Lufton acres, and so she sold five thousand pounds out of the funds and sent the money to Lufton as a present;–sent it to him without saying a word, only hoping that it would suffice for his wants. I wish I had a mother, I know.’

Mark found it impossible at the moment to make any remark upon what had been told him, but he felt a sudden qualm of conscience and a wish that he was back at Framley instead of Gatherum Castle at the present moment. He knew a good deal respecting Lady Lufton’s income and the manner in which it was spent. It was very handsome for a single lady, but then she lived in a free and open-handed style; her charities were noble; there was no reason why she should save money, and her annual income was usually spent within the year. Mark knew this, and he knew also that nothing short of an impossibility to maintain them would induce her to lessen her charities. She had now given away a portion of her principal to save the property of her son–her son, who was so much more opulent than herself–upon whose means, too, the world made fewer effectual claims. And Mark knew, too, something of the purpose for which this money had gone. There had been unsettled gambling claims between Sowerby and Lord Lufton, originating in affairs of the turf. It had now been going on for four years, almost from the period when Lord Lufton had become of age. He had before now spoken to Robarts on the matter with much bitter anger, alleging that Mr Sowerby was treating him badly, nay, dishonestly–that he was claiming money that was not due to him; and then he declared more than once that he would bring the matter before the Jockey Club. But Mark, knowing that Lord Lufton was not clear-sighted in these matters, and believing it to be impossible that Mr Sowerby should actually endeavour to defraud his friend, had smoothed down the young lord’s anger, and remonstrated him to get the case referred to some private arbiter. All this had afterwards been discussed between Robarts and Mr Sowerby himself, and hence had originated their intimacy. The matter was so referred, Mr Sowerby naming the referee; and Lord Lufton when the matter was given against him, took it easily. His anger was over by that time. ‘I’ve been clean done among them,’ he said to Mark, laughing; ‘but it does not signify; a man must pay for his experience. Of course, Sowerby thinks it all right; I am bound to suppose so.’ And then there had been some further delay as to the amount, and part of the money had been paid to a third person, and a bill had been given, and Heaven and the Jews only knew how much money Lord Lufton had paid in all; and now it was ended by his handing over to some wretched villain of a money-dealer, on behalf of Mr Sowerby, the enormous sum of five thousand pounds, which had been deducted from the means of Lady Lufton!

Mark, as he thought of all this, could not but feel a certain animosity against Mr Sowerby–could not but suspect that he was a bad man. Nay, must he not have known that, he was very bad? And yet he continued walking with him through the duke’s grounds, still talking about Lord Lufton’s affairs, and still listening with interest to what Sowerby told him of his own. ‘No man was ever robbed as I have been,’ said he. ‘But I shall win through yet, in spite of them all. But those Jews, Mark!’–he had become very intimate with him in these latter days–‘whatever you do, keep clear of them. Why, I could paper a room with their signatures; and yet I never had a claim upon one of them, though they always have claims in me!’

I have said that this affair of Lord Lufton’s was ended, but it now appeared to Mark that it was not quite ended. ‘Tell Lufton, you know,’ said Sowerby, ‘that every bit of paper with his name has been taken up, except what that ruffian Tozer has. Tozer may have one bill, I believe,–something that was not given up when it was renewed. But I’ll make my lawyer Gumption get that up. It may cost ten pounds or twenty pounds, not more. You’ll remember that when you see Lufton, will you?’

‘You’ll see Lufton, in all probability, before I shall.’

‘Oh, did not I tell you? He’s going to Framley Court at once; you’ll find him there when you return.’

‘Find him at Framley?’

‘Yes; this little cadeau from his mother has touched his filial heart. He is rushing home to Framley to pay back the dowager’s hard moidores in soft caresses. I wish I had a mother; I know that.’ And Mark still felt that he feared Mr Sowerby, but he could not make up his mind to break away from him.

And there was much talk of politics just then at the castle. Not that the duke joined in with any enthusiasm. He was a Whig–a huge mountain of a colossal Whig–all the world knew that. No opponent would have dreamed of tampering with his Whiggery, nor would any brother Whig have dreamed of doubting it. But he was a Whig who gave very little practical support to any set of men, and very little practical opposition to any other set. He was above troubling himself with such sublunar matters. At election time he supported, and always carried, Whig candidates; and in return he had been appointed lord lieutenant of the county by one Whig minister, and had received the Garter from another. But these things were a matter of course to a Duke of Omnium. He was born to be a lord lieutenant and a Knight of the Garter. But not the less on account of his apathy, or rather quiescence, was it thought that Gatherum Castle was a fitting place in which politicians might express to each other their present hopes and future aims, and concoct together little plots in a half-serious and half-mocking way. Indeed it was hinted that Mr Supplehouse and Harold Smith, with one or two others, were at Gatherum for this express purpose. Mr Fothergill, too, was a noted politician, and was supposed to know the duke’s mind well; and Mr Green Walker, the nephew of the marchioness, was a young man whom the duke desired to have brought forward. Mr Sowerby also was the duke’s own member, and so the occasion suited well for the interchange of a few ideas.

The then prime minister, angry as many men were with him, had not been altogether unsuccessful. He had brought the Russian war to a close, which, if not glorious, was at any rate much more so than Englishmen at one time ventured to hope. And he had had wonderful luck with that Indian Mutiny. It is true that many of those even who voted with him would declare that this was in no way attributable to him. Great men had risen in India and done all that. Even his minister there, the Governor whom he had sent out, was not allowed in those days any credit for the success which was achieved under his orders. There was great reason to doubt the man at the helm. But nevertheless he had been lucky. There is no merit in a public man like success! But now, when the evil days were wellnigh over, came the question whether he had not been too successful. When a man has nailed fortune to his chariot-wheels he is apt to travel about in rather a proud fashion. There are servants who think that their masters cannot do without them; and the public also may occasionally have some such servant. What if this too successful minister were one of them! And then a discreet, commonplace, zealous member of the Lower House does not like to be jeered at, when he does his duty by his constituents and asks a few questions. An all-successful minister who cannot keep his triumph to himself, but must needs drive about in a proud fashion, laughing at commonplace zealous members–laughing even occasionally at members who are by no means commonplace, which is outrageous!—may it not be as well to ostracize him for a while?’

‘Had we not better throw in our shells against him?’ says Mr Harold Smith.

‘Let us throw in our shells by all means,’ says Mr Supplehouse, mindful of the Juno of his despised charms. And when Mr Supplehouse declares himself an enemy, men know how much it means. They know that that much-belaboured head of affairs must succumb to the terrible blows which are now in store for him. ‘Yes, we will throw in our shells.’ And Mr Supplehouse rises from his chair with gleaming eyes. ‘Has not Greece as noble a son as him? Aye, and much nobler, traitor that he is. We must judge a man by his friends,’ says Mr Supplehouse; and he points away to the East, where our dear allies the French are supposed to live, and where our head of affairs is supposed to have too close intimacy.

They all understand this, even Mr Green Walker. ‘I don’t know that he is any good to any of us at all, now,’ says the talented member for the Crewe-Junction. ‘He’s a great deal too uppish to suit my book; and I know a great many people that think so too. There’s my uncle–‘

‘He’s the best fellow in the world,’ said Mr Fothergill, who felt, perhaps, that that coming revelation about Mr Green Walker’s uncle might not be of use to them; ‘but the fact is one gets tired of the same man always. One does not like his partridge every day. As for me, I have nothing to do with it myself; but I would certainly like to change the dish.’

‘If we’re merely to do as we are bid, and have no voice of our own, I don’t see what’s the good of going to the shop at all,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘Let’s have a change, then,’ said Mr Sowerby. ‘The matter’s pretty much in our own hands.’

‘Altogether,’ said Mr Green Walker. ‘That’s what my uncle always says.’

‘The Manchester men will only be too happy for the chance,’ said Harold Smith.

‘And as for the high and dry gentlemen,’ said Mr Sowerby, ‘it’s not very likely that they will object to pick up the fruit when we shake the tree.’

‘As to picking up the fruit, that’s as may be,’ said Mr Supplehouse. Was he not the man to save the nation? and if so, why should he not pick up the fruit himself? Had not the greatest power in the country pointed him out as such a saviour? What though the country at the present moment needed no more saving, might there not, nevertheless, be a good time coming? Were there not rumours of other wars still prevalent?—if indeed the actual war then going on was being brought to a close without his assistance by some other species of salvation? He thought of that country to which he had pointed, and of that friend of his enemies, and remembered that there might be still work for a mighty saviour. The public mind was now awake, and understood what it was about. When a man gets into his head an idea that the public voice calls for him, it is astonishing how great becomes his trust in the wisdom of the public. Vox populi, vox Dei. ‘Has it not been so always?’ he says to himself, as he gets up and as he goes to bed. And then Mr Supplehouse felt that he was the master mind there at Gatherum Castle, and that those there were all puppets in his hands. It is such a pleasant thing to feel that one’s friends are puppets, and that the strings are in one’s own possession. But what if Mr Supplehouse himself were a puppet? Some months afterwards, when the much-belaboured head of affairs was in very truth made to retire, when unkind shells were thrown against him in great numbers, when he exclaimed, ‘Et tu, Brute!’ till the words were stereotyped upon his lips, all men in all places talked much about the great Gatherum Castle confederation. The Duke of Omnium, the world said, had taken into his high consideration the state of affairs, and seeing with his eagle’s eye that the welfare of his countrymen at large required that some great step should be initiated, he had at once summoned to his mansion many members of the Lower House, and some also of the House of Lords,–mention was here especially made of the all-venerable and all-wise Lord Boanerges; and men went on to say that there, in deep conclave, he had made known to them his views. It was thus agreed that the head of affairs, Whig as he was, must fall. The country required it, and the duke did his duty. This was the beginning, the world said, of that celebrated confederation, by which the ministry was overturned, and–as the Goody Twoshoes added–the country saved. But the Jupiter was not far wrong. All the credit was due to the Jupiter–in that, as in everything else.

In the meantime the Duke of Omnium entertained his guests in the quiet princely style, but did not condescend to have much conversation on politics either with Mr Supplehouse or with Mr Harold Smith. And as for Lord Boanerges, he spent the morning on which the above-mentioned conversation took place in teaching Miss Dunstable to blow soap-bubbles on scientific principles.

‘Dear, dear!’ said Miss Dunstable, as sparks of knowledge came flying in upon her mind. ‘I always thought that a soap-bubble was a soap-bubble, and I never asked the reason why. One doesn’t, you know, my lord.’

‘Pardon me, Miss Dunstable,’ said the old lord, ‘one does; but nine hundred and ninety-nine do not.’

‘And the nine hundred and ninety-nine have the best of it,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘What pleasure can one have in a ghost after one has seen the phosphorus rubbed on?’

‘Quite true, my dear lady. “If ignorance be bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” It all lies in the “if”.’

Then Miss Dunstable began to sing:-

‘”Did I not own Jehovah’s power
How vain were all I know.”‘

‘Exactly, exactly, Miss Dunstable,’ said his lordship; ‘but why not own the power and trace the flower as well? Perhaps one might help the other.’ Upon the whole, I am afraid that Lord Boanerges got the best of it. But, then, that is his line. He has been getting the best of it all his life.

It was observed by all that the duke was especially attentive to young Mr Frank Gresham, the gentleman on whose wife Miss Dunstable seized so vehemently. This Mr Gresham was the richest commoner in the county, and it was rumoured that at the next election he would be one of the members for the East Riding. Now the duke had little or nothing to do with the East Riding, and it was well known that young Gresham would be brought forward as a strong Conservative. But, nevertheless, his acres were so extensive and his money so plentiful that he was worth a duke’s notice. Mr Sowerby, also, was almost more than civil to him, as was natural, seeing that this very young man by a mere scratch of his pen could turn a scrap of paper into a bank note of almost fabulous value.

‘So you have the East Barsetshire hounds at Boxall Hill; have you not,’ said the duke.

‘The hounds are there,’ said Frank. ‘But I am not the master.’

‘Oh! I understood–‘

‘My father has them. But he finds Boxall Hill more centrical than Greshambury. The dogs and horses have to go shorter distances.’

‘Boxall Hill is very centrical.’

‘Oh, exactly!’

‘And your young gorse coverts are doing well?’

‘Pretty well–gorse won’t thrive everywhere, I find. I wish it would.’

‘That’s just what I say to Fothergill; and then where there’s much woodland you can’t get the vermin to leave it.’

‘But we haven’t a tree at Boxall Hill,’ said Mr Gresham.

‘Ah, yes; you’re new there, certainly; you’ve enough of it at Greshambury in all conscience. There’s a larger extent of wood there than we have; isn’t there, Fothergill?’ Mr Fothergill said that the Greshambury woods were very extensive, but that, perhaps, he thought–

‘Oh, ah! I know,’ said the duke. ‘The Black Forest in its old days was nothing to Gatherum woods, according to Fothergill. And then, again, nothing in East Barsetshire could be equal to anything in West Barsetshire. Isn’t that it; eh, Fothergill?’ Mr Fothergill professed that he had been brought up in that faith and intended to die in it.

‘Your exotics at Boxall Hill are very fine, magnificent!’

‘I’d sooner have one full-grown oak standing in its pride alone,’ said young Gresham, rather grandiloquently, ‘than all the exotics in the world.’

‘They’ll come in due time,’ said the duke.

‘But the due time won’t be in my days. And so they’re going to cut down Chaldicotes Forest, are they, Mr Sowerby.’

‘Well, I can’t tell you that. They are going to disforest it. I have been ranger since I was twenty-two, and I don’t yet know whether that means cutting down.’

‘Not only cutting down, but rooting up,’ said Mr Fothergill.

‘It’s a murderous shame,’ said Frank Gresham; ‘and I will say one thing, I don’t think any but a Whig government would do it.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ said his grace. ‘At any rate, I’m sure of this,’ he said, ‘that if a Conservative government did do so, the Whigs would be just as indignant as you are now.’

‘I’ll tell you what you ought to do, Mr Gresham,’ said Sowerby; ‘put in an offer for the whole of the West Barsetshire Crown property; they will be very glad to sell it.’

‘And we should be delighted to welcome you on this side of the border,’ said the duke. Young Gresham did feel rather flattered. There were not many men in the county to whom such an offer could be made without an absurdity. It might be doubted whether the duke himself could purchase the chase of Chaldicotes with ready money; but that he, Gresham, could do so–he and his wife between them–no man did doubt. And then Mr Gresham thought of a former day when he had once been at Gatherum Castle. He had been poor enough then, and the duke had not treated him in the most courteous manner in the world. How hard it is for a rich man not to lean upon his riches! harder, indeed, than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

All Barsetshire knew–at any rate all West Barsetshire–that Miss Dunstable had been brought down in those parts in order that Mr Sowerby might marry her. It was not surmised that Miss Dunstable herself had had any previous notice of this arrangement, but it was supposed that the thing would turn out as a matter of course. Mr Sowerby had no money, but then he was witty, clever, good-looking, and a member of Parliament. He lived before the world, represented an old family, and had an old place. How could Miss Dunstable possibly do better? She was not so young now, and it was time that she should look about her. The suggestion, as regarded Mr Sowerby, was certainly true, and was not the less so as regarded some of Mr Sowerby’s friends. His sister, Mrs Harold Smith, had devoted herself to the work, and with this view had run up a dear friendship with Miss Dunstable. The bishop had intimated, nodding his head knowingly, that it would be a very good thing. Mrs Proudie had given her adherence. Mr Supplehouse had been made to understand that it must be a case of ‘Pawn off’ with him, as long as he remained in that part of the world; and even the duke himself had desired Mr Fothergill to manage it.

‘He owes me an enormous sum of money,’ said the duke, who held all Mr Sowerby’s title-deeds, ‘and I doubt whether the security will be sufficient.’

‘Your grace will find the security quite insufficient,’ said Mr Fothergill; ‘but nevertheless it would be a good match.’

‘Very good,’ said the duke. And then it became Mr Fothergill’s duty to see that Mr Sowerby and Miss Dunstable became man and wife as speedily as possible. Some of the party, who were more wide awake than others, declared that he had made the offer; others that he was just going to do so; and one very knowing lady went so far at one time as to say that he was making it that moment. Bets also were laid as to the lady’s answer, as to the terms of the settlement, and as to the period of the marriage–of all which poor Miss Dunstable of course knew nothing. Mr Sowerby, in spite of the publicity of his proceedings, proceeded in this matter very well. He said little about it, to those who joked with him, but carried on the fight with what best knowledge he had in these matters. But so much it is given to us to declare with certainty, that he had not proposed on the evening previous to the morning fixed for the departure of Mark Robarts. During the last two days Mr Sowerby’s intimacy with Mark had grown warmer and warmer. He had talked to the vicar confidentially about the doings of these bigwigs now present at the castle, as though there were no other guests there with whom he could speak in so free a manner. He confided, it seemed, much more in Mark than in his brother-in-law, Harold Smith, or in any of his brother members of Parliament, and had altogether opened his heart to him in this affair of his anticipated marriage. Now Mr Sowerby was a man of mark in the world, and all this flattered our young clergyman not a little. On that evening before Robarts went away Sowerby asked him to come up to his bedroom when the whole party was breaking up, and there got him into an easy chair while he, Sowerby, walked up and down the room.

‘You can hardly tell, my dear fellow,’ said he, ‘the state of nervous anxiety in which this puts me.’

‘Why don’t you ask her and have done with it? She seems to me to be fond of your society.’

‘Ah, it is not that only; there are wheels within wheels;’ and then he walked once or twice up and down the room, during which Mark thought that he might as well go to bed.

‘Not that I mind telling you everything,’ said Sowerby. ‘I am infernally hard up for a little ready money, just at the present moment. It may be, and indeed I think it will be, the case that I shall be ruined in this matter for the want of it.’

‘Could not Harold Smith give it to you?’

‘Ha, ha, ha! you don’t know Harold Smith. Did you ever hear of his lending a man a shilling in his life?’

‘Or Supplehouse?’

‘Lord love you. You see me and Supplehouse together here, and he comes and stays at my house, and all that; but Supplehouse and I are no friends. Look you here, Mark–I would do more for your little finger than for his whole hand, including the pen which he holds in it. Fothergill indeed might–but then I know Fothergill is pressed himself at the present moment. It is deuced hard, isn’t it? I must give up the whole game if I can’t put my hand upon L400, within the next two days.’

‘Ask her for it, herself.’

‘What, the woman I wish to marry! No, Mark, I’m not quite come to that. I would sooner lose her than that.’ Mark sat silent, gazing at the fire and wishing that he was in his own bedroom. He had an idea that Mr Sowerby wished him to produce the L400, and he knew also that he had not L400 in the world, and that if he had he would be acting very foolishly to give it to Mr Sowerby. But, nevertheless, he felt half fascinated by the man, and half afraid of him.

‘Lufton owes it to me to do more than this,’ continued Mr Sowerby, ‘but then Lufton is not here.’

‘Why, he has just paid five thousand pounds to you.’

‘Paid five thousand pounds to me! Indeed he has done no such thing; not a sixpence of it came into my hands. Believe me, Mark, you don’t know the whole of that yet. Not that I mean to say a word against Lufton. He is the soul of honour; though so deucedly dilatory in money matters. He thought he was right all through that affair, but no man was ever so confoundedly wrong. Why, don’t you remember that that was the very view you took yourself.’

‘I remember saying that I thought he was mistaken.’

‘Of course he was mistaken. And dearly that mistake cost me. I had to make good the money for two or three years. And my property is not like his–I wish it were.’

‘Marry Miss Dunstable, and that will set it all right for you.’

‘Ah! so I would if I had this money. At any rate I would bring it to the point. Now, I tell you what, Mark, if you’ll assist me at this strait I’ll never forget it. And the time will come round when I may be able to do something for you.’

‘I have not got a hundred, no, not fifty pounds by me in the world.’

‘Of course you’ve not. Men don’t walk about the streets with L400 in their pockets. I don’t suppose there is a single man here in the house with such a sum at his banker’s, unless it is the duke.’

‘What is it you want, then?’

‘Why, your name, to be sure. Believe me, my dear fellow, I would not ask you really to put your hand into your pocket to such a tune as that. Allow me to draw on you for that amount at three months. Long before that time I shall be flush enough.’ And then, before Mark could answer, he had a bill stamp and pen and ink out on the table before him, and was filling in the bill as though his friend had already given his consent.

‘Upon my word, Sowerby, I had rather not do that.’

‘Why? what are you afraid of?’–Mr Sowerby asked this very sharply. ‘Did you ever hear of my having neglected to take up a bill when it fell due?’ Robarts thought that he had heard of such a thing; but in his confusing he was not exactly sure, and so he said nothing.

‘No, my boy; I have not come to that. Look here: just you write, “Accepted, Mark Robarts,” across that, and then you shall never hear of the transaction again; and you will have obliged me for ever.’

‘As a clergyman it would be wrong of me,’ said Robarts.

‘As a clergyman! Come, Mark. If you don’t like to do as much as that for a friend, say so; but don’t let me have that sort of humbug. If there be one class of men whose names would be found more frequent on the backs of bills in the provincial banks than another, clergymen are that class. Come, old fellow, you won’t throw me over when I am so hard pushed.’ Mark Robarts took the pen and signed the bill. It was the first time in his life that he had ever done such an act. Sowerby then shook him cordially by the hand, and he walked off to his own bedroom a wretched man.

CHAPTER IX

THE VICAR’S RETURN

The next morning Mr Robarts took leave of all his grand friends with a heavy heart. He had lain awake half the night thinking of what he had done and trying to reconcile himself to his position. He had not well left Mr Sowerby’s room before he felt certain that at the end of three months he would again be troubled about that 400L. As he went along the passage, all the man’s known antecedents crowded upon him much quicker than he could remember them when seated in that arm-chair with the bill stamp before him, and the pen and ink ready to his hand. He remembered what Lord Lufton had told him–how he had complained of having been left in the lurch; he thought of all the stories current throughout the entire country as to the impossibility of getting money from Chaldicotes; he brought to mind the known character of the man, and