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  • 1861
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then he knew that he must prepare himself to make good a portion at least of that heavy payment. Why had he come to this horrid place? Had he not everything at home at Framley at which the heart of man could desire? No; the heart of man can desire deaneries–the heart, that is, of the man vicar; and the heart of the man dean can desire bishoprics; and before the eyes of the man bishop does there not loom the transcendental glory of Lambeth? He had owned to himself that he was ambitious; but he had to own to himself now that he had hitherto taken but a sorry path towards the object of his ambition. On the next morning at breakfast-time, before his horse and gig arrived for him, no one was so bright as his friend Sowerby. ‘So you are off, are you?’ said he.

‘Yes, I shall go this morning.’

‘Say everything that’s kind from me to Lufton. I may possibly see him hunting; otherwise we shan’t meet till the spring. As to my going to Framley, that’s out of the question. Her ladyship would look for my tail, and swear that she smelt brimstone. By-bye, old fellow!’

The German student when he first made his bargain with the devil felt an indescribable attraction to his new friend; and such was the case now with Robarts. He shook Sowerby’s hand very warmly, said that he hoped he should meet him soon somewhere, and professed himself specially anxious to hear how that affair with the lady came off. As he had made his bargain–as he had undertaken to pay nearly half a year’s income for his dear friend–ought he not to have as much value as possible for his money? If the dear friendship of this flash member of Parliament did not represent that value, what else did so? But then he felt, or fancied that he felt, that Mr Sowerby did not care for him so much this morning as he had done on the previous evening. ‘By-bye,’ said Mr Sowerby, but he spoke no word as to such future meetings, nor did he even promise to write. Mr Sowerby probably had many things on his mind; and it might be that it behoved him, having finished one piece of business, immediately to look for another.

The sum for which Robarts had made himself responsible–which he so much feared that he would be called upon to pay–was very nearly half a year’s income; and as yet he had not put by one shilling since he had been married. When he found himself settled in his parsonage, he found also that all the world regarded him as a rich man. He had taken the dictum of all the world as true, and had set himself to work to live comfortably. He had no absolute need of a curate; but he could afford the 70L–as Lady Lufton had said rather injudiciously; and by keeping Jones in the parish he would be acting charitably to a brother clergyman, and would also place himself in a more independent position. Lady Lufton had wished to see her pet clergyman well-to-do and comfortable; but now, as matters had turned out, she much regretted this affair of the curate. Mr Jones, she said to herself more than once, must be made to depart from Framley. He had given his wife a pony-carriage, and for himself he had a saddle-horse, and a second horse for his gig. A man in his position, well-to-do, as he was, required as much as that. He had a footman also, and a gardener and a groom. The two latter were absolutely necessary, but about the former there had been a question. His wife had been decidedly hostile to the footman; but in all such matters as that, to doubt is to be lost. When the footman had been discussed for a week it became quite clear to the master he also was a necessity.

As he drove home that morning he pronounced to himself the doom of that footman, and the doom also of that saddle-horse. They at any rate should go. And then he would spend no more money in trips to Scotland; and above all, he would keep out of the bedrooms of impoverished members of Parliament at the witching hour of midnight. Such resolves did he make to himself wearily how that 400L might be made to be forthcoming. As to any assistance in the matter from Sowerby–of that he gave himself no promise. But he almost felt himself happy again as his wife came out into the porch to meet him with a silk shawl over her head, and pretending to shiver as she watched him descending from his gig. ‘My dear old man,’ she said, as she led him into the warm drawing-room with all his wrappings still around him, ‘you must be starved.’ But Mark during the whole drive had been thinking too much of that transaction in Mr Sowerby’s bedroom to remember that he was cold. Now he had his arms round his own dear Fanny’s waist; but was he to tell her of that transaction? At any rate he would not do it now, while his two boys were in his arms, rubbing the moisture from his whiskers with his kisses. After all, what is there equal to coming home?

‘And so Lufton is here. I say, Frank, gently, old boy,’–Frank was his eldest son–‘you’ll have baby into the fender.’

‘Let me take baby; it’s impossible to hold the two of them, they are so strong,’ said the proud mother. ‘Oh, yes, he came home early yesterday.’

‘Have you seen him?’

‘He was here yesterday, with her ladyship; and I lunched there to-day. The letter came, you know, in time to stop the Merediths. They don’t go till to-morrow, so you will meet them after all. Sir George is wild about it, but Lady Lufton would have her way. You never saw her in such a state as she is.’

‘Good spirit, eh!’

‘I should think so. All Lord Lufton’s horses are coming, and he’s to be there till March.’

‘Till March!’

‘So her ladyship whispered to me. She could not conceal her triumph at his coming. He’s going to give up Leicestershire this year altogether. I wonder what has brought it all about?’ Mark knew very well what had brought it about; he had been made acquainted, as the reader has also, with the price which Lady Lufton had purchased her son’s visit. But no one had told Mrs Robarts that the mother had made her son a present of five thousand pounds.

‘She’s in a good humour about everything now,’ continued Fanny; ‘so you need say nothing at all about Gatherum Castle.’

‘But she was very angry when she first heard it; was she not?’

‘Well, Mark, to tell the truth, she was; and we had quite a scene there up in her own room upstairs–Justinia and I. She had heard something else that she did not like at the same time; and then–but you know her way. She blazed up quite a lot.’

‘And said all manner of things about me.’

‘About the duke she did. You know she never did like the duke; and for the matter of that, neither do I. I tell you that fairly, Master Mark.’

‘The duke is not so bad as he’s painted.’

‘Ah, that’s what you say about another great person. However, he won’t come here to trouble us, I suppose. And then I left her, not in the best temper in the world; for I blazed up too, you must know.’

‘I am sure you did,’ said Mark, pressing his arm round her waist.

‘And then we were going to have a dreadful war, I thought; and I came home and wrote such a doleful letter to you. But what should happen when I had just closed it, but in came her ladyship–all alone, and–But I can’t tell you what she did or said, only she behaved beautifully; just like herself too; so full of love and truth and honesty. There’s nobody like her, Mark; and she’s better than all the dukes that ever wore–whatever dukes do wear.’

‘Horns and hoofs; that’s their usual apparel, according to you and Lady Lufton,’ said he, remembering what Mr Sowerby had said of himself.

‘You may say what you like about me, Mark, but you shan’t abuse Lady Lufton. And if horns and hoofs mean wickedness and dissipation, I believe it’s not far wrong. But get off your big coat and make yourself comfortable.’ And that was all the scolding that Mark Robarts got from his wife on the occasion of his great iniquity.

‘I will certainly tell her about this bill transaction,’ he said to himself; ‘but not to-day; not till after I have seen Lufton.’ That evening they dined at Framley Court, and there they met the young lord; they found also Lady Lufton still in high good-humour. Lord Lufton himself was a fine, bright-looking young man; not as tall as Mark Robarts, and with perhaps less intelligence marked on his face; but his features were finer, and there was in his countenance a thorough appearance of good-humour and sweet temper. It was indeed a pleasant face to look upon, and dearly Lady Lufton loved to gaze at it.

‘Well, Mark, so you have been among the Philistines?’ that was his lordship’s first remark. Robarts laughed as he took his friend’s hands, and bethought himself how truly that was the case; that he was, in very truth, already ‘himself in bonds under Philistian yoke’. Alas, alas, it is very hard to break asunder the bonds of the latter-day Philistines. When a Samson does now and then pull a temple down about their ears, is he not sure to be engulfed in the ruin with them? There is not horse-leech that sticks so fast as your latter-day Philistine.

‘So you have caught Sir George, after all,’ said Lady Lufton; and that was nearly all she said in allusion to his absence. There was afterwards some conversation about the lecture, and from her ladyship’s remarks it certainly was apparent that she did not like the people among whom the vicar had been lately staying; but she said no word that was personal to him himself, or that could be taken as a reproach. The little episode of Mrs Proudie’s address in the lecture-room had already reached Framley, and it was only to be expected that Lady Lufton should enjoy the joke. She would affect to believe that the body of the lecture had been given by the bishop’s wife; and afterwards, when Mark described her costume at that Sunday morning breakfast table, Lady Lufton would assume that such had been the dress in which she had addressed her faculties in public.

‘I would have given a five-pound note to have heard it,’ said Sir George.

‘So would not I,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘When one hears of such things described as graphically as Mr Robarts now tells it, one can hardly help laughing. But it would me great pain to see the wife of one of our bishops place herself in such a situation. For he is a bishop after all.’

‘Well, upon my word, my lady, I agree with Meredith,’ said Lord Lufton. ‘It must have been good fun. As it did happen, you know,–as the Church was doomed to disgrace,–I should like to have heard it.’

‘I know you would have been shocked, Ludovic.’

‘I should have got over it in time, mother. It would have been like a bull-fight, I suppose–horrible to see, no doubt, but extremely interesting. And Harold Smith, Mark; what did he do all the while?’

‘It didn’t take so very long, you know,’ said Robarts.

‘And the poor bishop,’ said Lady Meredith; ‘how did he look? I really do pity him.’

‘Well, he was asleep, I think.’

‘What, slept through it all?’ said Sir George.

‘It awakened him; and then he jumped up and said something.’

‘What, out loud, too?’

‘Only one word or so.’

‘What a disgraceful scene,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘To those who remember the good old man who was in the diocese before him, it is perfectly shocking. He confirmed you, Ludovic, and you ought to remember him. It was over at Barchester, and you went and lunched with him afterwards.’

‘I do remember; and especially this, that I never ate such tarts in my life, before or since. The old man particularly called my attention to them, and seemed remarkably pleased that I concurred in his sentiments. There are no such tarts as those going to the palace now, I’ll be bound.’

‘Mrs Proudie will be very happy to do her best for you if you will go and try,’ said Sir George.

‘I beg that he will do no such thing,’ said Lady Lufton; and that was the only severe word she said about any of Mark’s visitings. As Sir George Meredith was there, Robarts could say nothing then to Lord Lufton about Mr Sowerby and Mr Sowerby’s money affairs; but he did make an appointment for a tete-a-tete on the next morning.

‘You must come down and see my nags, Mark; they came to-day. The Merediths will be off at twelve, and then we can have an hour together.’ Mark said he would, and then went home with his wife under his arm.

‘Well now, is not she kind?’ said Fanny, as soon as they were out on the gravel together.

‘She is kind; kinder than I can tell you at present. But did you ever know anything so bitter as she is to the poor bishop? And really the bishop is not so bad.’

‘Yes; and I know something more bitter; and that is what she thinks of the bishop’s wife. And you know, Mark, it was so unladylike, her getting up in that way. What must the people at Barchester think of her?’

‘As far as I could see, the people of Barchester liked it.’

‘Nonsense, Mark; they could not. But never mind that now. I want you to own that she is good.’ And then Mrs Robarts went on with another long eulogy on the dowager. Since that affair of the pardon-begging at the parsonage, Mrs Robarts hardly knew how to think well enough of her friend. And the evening had been so pleasant after that dreadful storm and threatenings of hurricanes; her husband had been so well received after his lapse of judgement; the wounds that had looked so sore had been so thoroughly healed, and everything was so pleasant. How all of this would have been changed had she known of that little bill! At twelve the next morning the lord and the vicar were walking through the Framley stables together. Quite a commotion had been made there, for the larger portion of those buildings had been of late years seldom been used. But now all was crowding and activity. Seven or eight precious animals had followed Lord Lufton from Leicestershire, and all of them required dimensions that were thought to be rather excessive by the Framley old-fashioned groom. My lord, however, had a head man of his own who took the matter quite into his own hands. Mark, priest as he was, was quite worldly enough to be fond of a good horse; and for some little time allowed Lord Lufton to decant on the merit of this four-year-old filly, and that magnificent Rattlebones colt, out of a Mousetrap mare; but he had other things that lay heavy on his mind, and after bestowing half an hour on the stud, he contrived to get his friend away to the shrubbery walks.

‘So you have settled with old Sowerby,’ Robarts began by saying.

‘Settled with him; yes, but do you know the price?’

‘I believe that you have paid five thousand pounds.’

‘Yes, and about three before; and that is a matter in which I did not really owe one shilling. Whatever I do in future, I’ll keep out of Sowerby’s grip.’

But you don’t think he was unfair to you.’

‘Mark, to tell you the truth, I have banished the affair from my mind, and don’t wish to take it up again. My mother has paid the money to save the property, and of course I must pay her back. But I think I may promise that I will not have any more money dealings with Sowerby. I will not say that he is dishonest, but at any rate he is sharp.’

‘Well, Lufton; what will you say when I tell you that I have put my name to a bill for him, for four hundred pounds?’

‘Say; why I should say–; but you’re joking; a man in your position would never do such a thing.’

‘But I have done it.’ Lord Lufton gave a long low whistle.

‘He asked me the last night that I was there, making a great favour of it, and declaring that no bill of his had ever been dishonoured.’

Lord Lufton whistled again. ‘No bill of his dishonoured! Why, the pocket-books of the Jews are stuffed full of his dishonoured papers! And you have really given him your name for four hundred pounds?’

‘I have certainly.’

‘At what date?’

‘Three months.’

‘And have you thought where you are to get the money?’

‘I know very well that I can’t get it, not at least by that time. The bankers must renew it for me, and I must pay it be degrees. That is, if Sowerby really does not take it up.’

‘It is just as likely he will take up the National Debt.’ Robarts then told him about the projected marriage with Miss Dunstable, giving it as his opinion that the lady would probably accept the gentleman.

‘Not at all improbable,’ said his lordship, ‘for Sowerby is an agreeable fellow; and if it be so, he will have all that he wants for life. But his creditors will gain nothing. The duke, who has his title-deeds, will doubtless get his money, and the estate will in fact belong to the wife. But the small fry, such as you, will not get a shilling.’ Poor Mark! He had an inkling of this before; but it had hardly presented itself to him in such certain terms. It was then, a positive fact, that in punishment for his weakness in having signed the bill he would have to pay, not only four hundred pounds, but four hundred pounds with interest, and expenses of renewal, and commission and bill stamps. Yes; he had certainly got among the Philistines during his visit to the duke. It began to appear to him pretty clearly that it would have been better for him to have relinquished altogether the glories of Chaldicotes and Gatherum Castle.

And now, how was he to tell his wife?

CHAPTER X

LUCY ROBARTS

And now, how was he going to tell his wife? That was the consideration heavy on Mark Robarts’s mind when last we left him; and he turned the matter over in his thoughts before he could bring himself to a resolution. At last he did so, and one may say that it was not altogether a bad one, if only he could carry it out. He would ascertain in what bank that bill of his had been discounted. He would ask Sowerby, and if he could not learn from him, he would go to the three banks in Barchester. That it had been taken to one of them he felt tolerably certain. He would explain to the manager his conviction that he would have to make good the amount, his inability to do so at the end of three months, and the whole state of his income; and then the banker would explain to him how the matter might be arranged. He thought that he could pay 50L every three months with interest. As soon as this should have been concerted with the banker, he would let is wife know all about it. Were he to tell her at the present moment, while the matter was all unsettled, the intelligence would frighten her into illness. But on the next morning there came to him tidings by the hands of Robin postman, which for a long while upset all his plans. The letter was from Exeter. His father had been taken ill, and had very quickly been pronounced to be in danger. That evening–the evening on which his sister wrote–the old man was much worse, and it was desirable that Mark should go off to Exeter as quickly as possible. Of course he went to Exeter–again leaving the Framley souls at the mercy of the Welsh Low Churchman. Framley is only four miles from Silverbridge, and at Silverbridge he was on the direct road to the West. He was, therefore, at Exeter before nightfall on that day. But, nevertheless, he arrived there too late to see his father again alive. The old man’s illness had been sudden and rapid, and he expired without again seeing his eldest son. Mark arrived at the house of mourning just as they were learning to realize the full change in their position.

The doctor’s career had been on the whole successful, but nevertheless, he did not leave behind him as much money as the world had given him credit for possessing. Who ever does? Dr Robarts had educated a large family, had always lived with every comfort, and had never possessed a shilling but what he had earned himself. A physician’s fees come in, no doubt, with comfortable rapidity as soon as rich old gentlemen and middle-aged ladies begin to put their faith in him; but fees run out almost with equal rapidity when a wife and seven children are treated to everything that the world considers most desirable. Mark, as we have seen, had been educated at Harrow and Oxford, and it may be said, therefore, that he had received his patrimony early in life. For Gerald Robarts, the second brother, a commission had been bought in a crack regiment. He also had been lucky, having lived and become a captain in the Crimea; and the purchase-money was lodged for his majority. And John Robarts, the youngest was clerk in the Petty Bag Office, and was already assistant private secretary to Lord Petty Bag himself–a place of considerable trust, if not hitherto of large emolument: and on his education money had been spent freely, for in these days a young man cannot get into the Petty Bag Office without knowing at least three modern languages; and he must be well up in trigonometry too, in Bible theology, or in one dead language–at his option. And the doctor had four daughters. The two elder were married, including that Blanche with whom Lord Lufton was to have fallen in love at the vicar’s wedding. A Devonshire squire had done this in the lord’s place; but on marrying her it was necessary that he should have a few thousand pounds, two or three perhaps, and the old doctor had managed that they should be forthcoming. The elder sister had not been sent away from the paternal mansions quite empty handed. There were, therefore, at the time of the doctor’s death, two children left at home, of whom one only, Lucy, the younger will come much across us in the course of our story.

Mark stayed for ten days at Exeter, he and the Devonshire squire having been named as executors in the will. In this document it was explained that the doctor trusted that providence had been made for most of his children. As for his dear son Mark, he said, he was aware that he need be under no uneasiness. On hearing this read Mark smiled sweetly, and looked very gracious; but, nevertheless, his heart did sink somewhat within him, for there had been a hope that a small windfall, coming now so opportunely, might enable him to rid himself at once of that dreadful Sowerby incubus. And then the will went on to declare that Mary, and Gerald, and Blanche, had also, by God’s providence, been placed beyond want. And here, looking into the squire’s face, one might have thought that his heart fell a little also; for he had not so full a command of his feelings as his brother-in-law, who had been so much more before the world. To John, the assistant private secretary, was left a legacy of a thousand pounds; and to Jane and Lucy certain sums in certain four per cents., which were quite sufficient to add an efficient value to the hands of those young ladies in the eyes of the most prudent young would be Benedicts. Over and beyond this there was nothing but the furniture, which he desired might be sold, and the proceeds divided among them all. It might come to sixty or seventy pounds a piece, and pay the expenses incidental on is death. And then all men and women there and thereabouts said that old Dr Robarts had done well. His life had been good and prosperous, and his will was just. And Mark, among others, so declared–and was so convinced in spite of his own little disappointment. And on the third morning after the reading of the will Squire Crowdy, of Creamclotted Hall, altogether got over his grief, and said that it was all right. And then it was decided that Jane should go home with him–for there was a brother squire who, it was thought, might have an eye to Jane;–and Lucy, the younger, should be taken to Framley Parsonage. In a fortnight from the receipt of that letter, Mark arrived at his own house with his sister Lucy under his wing.

All this interfered greatly with Mark’s wise resolution as to the Sowerby incubus. In the first place, he could not get to Barchester as soon as he had intended, and then an idea came across him that possibly it might be well that he should borrow the money of his brother John, explaining the circumstances, of course, and paying him due interest. But he had not liked to broach the subject when they were there in Exeter, standing, as it were, over their father’s grave, and so the matter was postponed. There was still ample time for arrangement before the bill would come due, and he would not tell Fanny till he had made up his mind what that arrangement would be. It would kill her, he said to himself over and over again, were he to tell her of it without being able to tell her also that the means of liquidating the debt were to be forthcoming.

And now I must say a word about Lucy Robarts. If one might only go on without those descriptions how pleasant it would be! But Lucy Robarts has to play a forward part in this little drama, and those who care for such matters must be made to understand something of her form and likeness. When last we mentioned her as appearing, though not in any promising position, at her brother’s wedding, she was only sixteen; but now, at the time of her father’s death, somewhat over two years having since elapsed, she was nearly nineteen. Laying aside for the sake of clearness that indefinite term of girl–for girls are girls from the age of three up to forty-three, if not previously married–dropping that generic word, we may say that then, at that wedding of her brother, she was a child; and now, at the death of her father, she was a woman. Nothing, perhaps, adds so much to womanhood, turns the child so quickly into a woman, as such death-bed scenes as these. Hitherto but little has fallen to Lucy to do in the way of woman’s duties. Of money transactions she had known nothing, beyond a jocose attempt to make her annual allowance of twenty-five pounds cover all her personal wants–an attempt which was made jocose by the loving bounty of her father. Her sister, who was three years her elder–for John came in between them–had managed the house; that is, she had made the tea and talked to the housekeeper about the dinners. But Lucy had sat at her father’s elbow, had read to him of evenings when he went to sleep, had brought him his slippers and looked after the comforts of his easy chair. All this she had done as a child; but when she stood at the coffin head, and knelt at the coffin side, then she was a woman.

She was smaller in stature than either of her three sisters, to all of whom had been acceded the praise of being fine woman–a eulogy which the people of Exeter, looking back at the elder sisters, and the general remembrance of them which pervaded the city, were not willing to extend to Lucy. ‘Dear–dear!’ had been said of her; ‘poor Lucy is not like a Robarts at all; is she, now, Mrs Pole?’–for as the daughters had become fine women, so had the sons grown into stalwart men. And then Mrs Pole had answered: ‘Not a bit; is she, now? Only think what Blanche was at her age. But she has fine eyes, for all that; and they do say she is the cleverest of them all.’ And that, too, is so true a description of her that I do know that I can add much to it. She was not like Blanche; for Blanche had bright complexion, and a fine neck, and a noble bust, et vera incessu patuit Dea–a true goddess, that is, as far as the eye went. She had a grand idea, moreover, of an apple-pie, and had not reigned eighteen months at Creamclotted Hall before she knew all the mysteries of pigs and milk, and most of those appertaining to cider and green cheese.

Lucy had no neck at all worth speaking of,–no neck, I mean, that ever produced eloquence; she was brown, too, and had addicted herself in nowise, as she undoubtedly should have done, to larder utility. In regard to the neck and colour, poor girl, she could not help herself; but in that other respect she must be held as having wasted her opportunities. But then what eyes she had! Mrs Pole was right there. They flashed upon you, not always softly; indeed not often softly if you were a stranger to her; but whether softly or savagely, with a brilliancy that dazzled you as you looked at them. And who shall say of what colour they were? Green, probably, for most eyes are green–green or grey, if green be thought uncomely for an eye-colour. But it was not their colour, but their fire, which struck one with such surprise.

Lucy Robarts was thoroughly a brunette. Sometimes the dark tint of her cheek was exquisitely rich and lovely, and the fringes of her eyes were long and soft, and her small teeth, which one so seldom saw, were white as pearls, and her hair, though short, was beautifully soft–by no means black, but yet of so dark a shade of brown. Blanche, too, was noted for fine teeth. They were white and regular and lofty as a new row of houses in a French city. But then when she laughed she was all teeth; as she was all neck when she sat at the piano. But Lucy’s teeth!—it was only now and again, when in some sudden burst of wonder she would sit for a moment with her lips apart, that the fine finished lines and dainty pearl-white colour of that perfect set of ivory could be seen. Mrs Pole would have said a word of her teeth also, but that to her they had never been made visible. ‘But they do say that she is the cleverest of them all,’ Mrs Pole had added, very properly. The people of Exeter had expressed such an opinion, and had been quite just in doing so. I do not know how it happens, but it always does happen, that everybody in every small town knows which is the brightest-witted in every family. In that respect Mrs Pole had only expressed public opinion, and public opinion was right. Lucy Robarts was blessed with an intelligence keener than that of her brothers and sisters.

‘To tell the truth, Mark, I admire Lucy more than I do Blanche.’ This had been said by Mrs Robarts within a few hours of her having assumed that name. ‘She’s not a beauty, I know, but yet I do.’

‘My dearest Fanny!’ Mark had answered in a tone of surprise.

‘I do then; of course people won’t think so; but I never seem to care about regular beauties. Perhaps I envy them too much.’ What Mark said next need not be repeated, but everybody may be sure that it contained more gross flattery for his young bride. He remembered this, however, and had always called Lucy his wife’s pet. Neither of the sisters had since been at Framley; and though Fanny had spent a week at Exeter on the occasion of Blanche’s marriage, it could hardly be said that she was very intimate with them. Nevertheless, when it became expedient that one of them should go to Framley, the remembrance of what his wife had said immediately induced Mark to make the offer to Lucy; and Jane, who was of a kindred soul with Blanche, was delighted to go to Creamclotted Hall. The acres of Heavybed House, down in that fat Totnes country, adjoined those of Creamclotted Hall, and Heavybed House still wanted a mistress.

Fanny was delighted when the news reached her. It would of course be proper that one of his sisters should live with Mark under their present circumstances, and she was happy to think that that quiet little bright-eyed creature was to come and nestle with her under the same roof. The children should so love her–only not quite so much as they loved mamma; and the snug little room that looks out over the porch, in which the chimney never smokes, should be made ready for her; and she should be allowed her share of driving the pony–which was a great sacrifice of self on the part of Mrs Robarts–and Lady Lufton’s best good-will should be bespoken. In fact, Lucy was not unfortunate in the destination that was laid out for her. Lady Lufton had of course heard of the doctor’s death, and had sent all manner of kind messages to Mark, advising him not to hurry home by any means until everything was settled at Exeter. And then she was told of the new-comer that was expected in the parish. When she heard that it was Lucy, the younger, she was satisfied; for Blanche’s charms, though indisputable, had not been altogether to her taste. If a second Blanche were to arrive there what danger might there not be for young Lord Lufton! ‘Quite right,’ said her ladyship, ‘just what he ought to do. I think I remember the young lady; rather small, is she not, and very retiring?’

‘Rather small and very retiring. What a description!’

‘Never mind, Ludovic; some young ladies must be small, and some at least ought to be retiring. We shall be delighted to make her acquaintance.’

‘I remember your other sister-in-law very well,’ said Lord Lufton. ‘She was a beautiful woman.’

‘I don’t think you will consider Lucy a beauty,’ said Mrs Robarts.

‘Small, retiring, and–‘so far Lord Lufton had gone, when Mrs Robarts finished by the work ‘plain’. She had liked Lucy’s face, but she had thought that others probably did not think so.

‘Upon my word,’said Lady Lufton, ‘you don’t deserve to have a sister-in-law. I remember her very well, and can say that she is not plain. I was very much taken with her manner at your wedding, my dear, and thought more of her than I did of the beauty, I can tell you.’

‘I must confess I do not remember her at all,’ said his lordship. And so the conversation ended. And then at the end of the fortnight Mark arrived with his sister. They did not reach Framley till long after dark–somewhere between six and seven–and by this time it was December. There was snow on the ground, and frost in the air, and no moon, and cautious men when they went on the roads had their horses’ shoes socked. Such being the state of the weather, Mark’s gig had been nearly filled with cloaks and shawls when it was sent over to Silverbridge. And a cart was sent for Lucy’s luggage, and all manner of preparations had been made. Three times had Fanny gone herself to see that the fire burned brightly in the little room over the porch, and at the moment that the sound of the wheels was heard she was engaged in opening her son’s mind as to the nature of an aunt. Hitherto papa and mamma and Lady Lufton were all that he had known, excepting, of course, the satellites of the nursery. And then in three minutes Lucy was standing by the fire. Those three minutes had been taken up by embraces between the husband and wife. Let who would be brought as a visitor to the house, after a fortnight’s absence, she would kiss him before she would welcome anyone else. But then she turned to Lucy, and began to assist her with her cloaks.

‘Oh, thank you,’ said Lucy; ‘I’m not cold,–not very at least. Don’t trouble yourself: I can do it.’ But here she had made a false boast, for her fingers had been so numbed that she could not do or undo anything. They were all in black, of course; but the sombreness of Lucy’s clothes struck Fanny much more than her own. They seemed to have swallowed her up in their blackness, and to have made her almost an emblem of death. She did not look up, but kept her face turned towards the fire, and seemed almost afraid of her position.

‘She may say what she likes, Fanny,’ said Mark, ‘but she is very cold. And so am I,–cold enough. You had better go up with her to her room. We won’t do much in the dressing way to-night; eh, Lucy?’ In the bedroom Lucy thawed a little, and Fanny, as she kissed her, said to herself that she had been wrong as to that work ‘plain’. Lucy, at any rate, was not plain.

‘You’ll be used to us soon,’ said Fanny, ‘and then I hope we shall make you comfortable.’ And she took her sister-in-law’s hand and pressed it. Lucy looked up at her, and her eyes were then tender enough. ‘I am sure I shall be happy here,’ she said, ‘with you. But–but–dear papa!’ And then they got into each other’s arms, and had a great bout of kissing and crying. ‘Plain,’ said Fanny to herself, as at last she got her guest’s hair smoothed, and the tears washed from her eyes–‘plain! She has the loveliest countenance that I ever looked at in my life!’

‘Your sister is quite beautiful,’ she said to Mark, as they talked her over alone before they went to sleep that night.

‘No, she’s not beautiful; but she’s a very good girl, and clever enough, too, in her sort of way.’

‘I think her perfectly lovely. I never such eyes in my life before.’

‘I’ll leave her in your hands, then; you shall get her a husband.’

‘That mayn’t be so easy. I don’t think she’d marry anybody.’

‘Well, I hope not. But she seems to me to be exactly cut out for an old maid;–to be Aunt Lucy for ever and ever to your bairns.’

‘And so she shall, with all my heart. But I don’t think she will, very long. I have no doubt she will be hard to please; but if I were a man I should fall in love with her at once. Did you ever observe her teeth, Mark?’

‘I don’t think I ever did.’

‘You wouldn’t know whether any one had a tooth in their head, I believe.’

‘No one except you, my dear; and I know all yours by heart.’

‘You are a goose.’

‘And a very sleepy one; so, if you please, I’ll go to roost.’ And thus there was nothing more said about Lucy’s beauty on that occasion.

For the first two days Mrs Robarts did not make much of her sister-in-law. Lucy, indeed, was not demonstrative; and she was, moreover, one of those few persons–for they are very few–who are contented to go on with their existence without making themselves the centre of any special outward circle. To the ordinary run of minds it is impossible not to do this. A man’s own dinner is to himself so important that he cannot bring himself to believe that it is a matter utterly indifferent to every one else. A lady’s collection of baby-clothes, in early years, and of house linen and curtain-fringes in later life, is so very interesting to her own eyes, that she cannot believe but what other people will rejoice to behold it. I would not, however, be held to regarding this tendency as evil. It leads to conversation of some sort among people, and perhaps to a kind of sympathy. Mrs Jones will look at Mrs White’s linen chest, hoping that Mrs White may be induced to look at hers. One can only pour out of a jug that which is in it. For the most of us, if we do not talk of ourselves, or at any rate of the individual circles of which we are the centre, we can talk of nothing. I cannot hold with those who wish to put down the insignificant chatter of the world. As for myself, I am always happy to look at Mrs Jones’s linen, and never omit an opportunity of giving her the details of my own dinners. But Lucy Robarts had not this gift. She had come there as a stranger into her sister-in-law’s house, and at first seemed as though she would be contented in simply having her corner in the drawing-room and her place at the parlour table. She did not seem to need the comforts of condolences and open-hearted talking. I do not mean to say that she was moody, that she did not answer when she was spoken to, or that she took no notice of the children; but she did not at once throw herself and all her hopes and sorrows into Fanny’s heart, as Fanny would have had her do.

Mrs Robarts herself was what we call demonstrative. When she was angry with Lady Lufton she showed it. And as since that time her love and admiration for Lady Lufton had increased, she showed that also. When she was in any way displeased with her husband, she could not hide it, even though she tried to do so, and fancied herself successful;–no more than she could hide her warm, constant, overflowing woman’s love. She could not walk through a room laughing on her husband’s arm without seeming to proclaim to every one there that she thought him the best man in it. She was demonstrative, and therefore she was the more disappointed in that Lucy did not rush at once with all her cares into her open heart. ‘She is so quiet,’ Fanny said to her husband.

‘That’s her nature,’ said Mark. ‘She always was quiet as a child. While we were smashing everything, she would never crack a teacup.’

‘I wish she would break something now,’said Fanny, ‘and then perhaps we should get to talk about it.’ But she did not on this account give over loving her sister-in-law. She probably valued her the more, unconsciously, for not having those aptitudes with which she herself was endowed. And then after two days, Lady Lufton called; of course it may be supposed that Fanny had said a good deal to her new inmate about Lady Lufton. A neighbour of that kind in the country exercises so large an influence upon the whole tenor of one’s life, that to abstain from such talk is out of the question. Mrs Robarts had been brought up almost under the dowager’s wing, and of course she regarded her as being worthy of much talking. Do not let persons on this account suppose that Mrs Robarts was a tuft-hunter, or a toad-eater. If they do not see the difference, they have yet got to study the earliest principles of human nature.

Lady Lufton called, and Lucy was struck dumb. Fanny was particularly anxious that her ladyship’s first impression should be favourable, and to effect this, she especially endeavoured to throw the two together during that visit. But in this she was unwise. Lady Lufton, however, had woman-craft enough not to be led into any egregious error by Lucy’s silence. ‘And what day will you come and dine with us?’ said Lady Lufton, turning expressly to her old friend Fanny.

‘Oh, do you name the day. We never have many engagements, you know.’

‘Will Thursday, do Miss Robarts? You will meet nobody you know, only my son; so you need not regard it as going out. Fanny here will tell you that stepping over to Framley Court is no more going out, than when you go from one room to another in the parsonage. Is it, Fanny?’ Fanny laughed, and said that stepping over to Framley Court certainly was done so often that perhaps they did not think so much about it as they ought to do.

‘We consider ourselves as a sort of happy family here, Miss Robarts, and are delighted to have the opportunity of including you in the menage.’ Lucy gave her ladyship one of her sweetest smiles, but what she said at that moment was inaudible. It was plain, however, that she could not bring herself even to go as far as Framley Court for her dinner at present. ‘It was very kind of lady Lufton,’she said to Fanny; ‘but it was so very soon, and–and if they would only go without her, she would be so happy.’ But as the object was to go with her–expressly to take her there–the dinner was adjourned for a short time–sine die.

CHAPTER XI

GRISELDA GRANTLY

It was nearly a month after this that Lucy was first introduced to Lord Lufton, and then it was brought about only by accident. During that time Lady Lufton had been often at the parsonage, and had in a certain degree learned to know Lucy; but the stranger in the parish had never yet plucked up courage to accept one of the numerous invitations that had reached her. Mr Robarts and his wife had frequently been at Framley Court, but the dreaded day of Lucy’s initiation had not yet arrived. She had seen Lord Lufton in church, but hardly as to know him, and beyond that she had not seem him at all. One day, however,–or rather, one evening, for it was already dusk–he overtook her and Mrs Robarts on the road walking towards the vicarage. He had his gun on his shoulder, three pointers were at his heels, and a game-keeper followed a little in the rear.

‘How are you Mrs Robarts?’ he said, almost before he had overtaken them. ‘I have been chasing you along the road for the last half-mile. I never knew ladies walk so fast.’

‘We should be frozen if we were to dawdle about as you gentlemen do,’ and then she stopped and shook hands with him. She forgot at the moment that Lucy and he had not met, and therefore she did not introduce them.

‘Won’t you make me known to your sister-in-law!’ said he taking off his hat, and bowing to Lucy. ‘I have never yet had the pleasure of meeting her, though we have been neighbours for a month or more.’ Fanny made her excuses and introduced them, and then they went on till they came to Framley Gate, Lord Lufton talking to them both, and Fanny answering for the two, and there they stopped for a moment.

‘I am surprised to see you alone,’ Mrs Robarts had just said; ‘I thought that Captain Culpepper was with you.’

‘The captain has left me for this one day. If you’ll whisper, I’ll tell you where he has gone. I dare not speak it out loud, even to the woods.’

‘To what terrible place can he have taken himself? I’ll have no whispering about such horrors.’

‘He has gone to–to–but you’ll promise not to tell my mother?’

‘Do you promise then?’

‘Oh, yes! I will promise, because I am sure Lady Lufton won’t ask me as to Captain Culpepper’s whereabouts. We won’t tell; will we Lucy?’

‘He has gone to Gatherum Castle for a day’s pheasant-shooting. Now, mind you must not betray us. Her ladyship supposes that he is shut up in his room with a toothache. We did not dare to mention the name to her.’ and then it appeared that Mrs Robarts had some engagement which made it necessary that she should go up and see Lady Lufton, whereas Lucy was intending to walk on to the parsonage alone.

‘And I have promised to go to your husband,’ said Lord Lufton; ‘or rather to your husband’s dog, Ponto. And I will do two other good things–I will carry a brace of pheasants with me, and protect Miss Robarts from the evil spirits of the Framley roads.’ And so Mrs Robarts turned at the gate, and Lucy and his lordship walked off together. Lord Lufton, though he had never before spoken to Miss Robarts, had already found out that she was by no means plain. Though he had hardly seen her except at church, he had already made himself certain that the owner of that face must be worth knowing, and was not sorry to have the present opportunity of speaking to her. ‘So you have an unknown damsel shut up in your castle,’ he had once said to Mrs Robarts. ‘If she be kept a prisoner much longer, I shall find it my duty to come and release her by force of arms.’ He had been there twice with the object of seeing her, but on both occasions Lucy had managed to escape. Now we may say she was fairly caught, and Lord Lufton, taking a pair of pheasants from the gamekeeper, and swinging them over his shoulder, walked off with his prey. ‘You have been here a long time,’ he said, ‘without our having had the pleasure of seeing you.’

‘Yes, my lord,’ said Lucy. Lords had not been frequent among her acquaintance hereto.

‘I will tell Mrs Robarts that she has been confining you illegally, and that we shall release you by force or stratagem.’

‘I-I-I have had a great sorrow lately.’

‘Yes, Miss Robarts; I know you have; and I am only joking, you know. But I do hope that now you will be able to come among us. My mother is so anxious that you should do so.’

‘I am sure she is very kind, and you also–my lord.’

‘I never knew my own father,’ said Lord Lufton, speaking gravely. ‘But I can well understands what a loss you have had.’ And then, after pausing a moment, he continued, ‘I remember Dr Robarts well.’

‘Do you, indeed?’ said Lucy, turning sharply towards him, and speaking now with some animation in her voice. Nobody had yet spoken to her about her father since she had been at Framley. It had been as though the subject was a forbidden one. And how frequently is this the case? When those we love are dead, our friends dread to mention them, though to us who are bereaved no subject would be so pleasant as their names. But we rarely understand how to treat our own sorrow or those of others.

There was once a people in some land–and they may be still there for what I know–who thought it sacrilegious to stay the course of a raging fire. If a house were being burned, burn it must, even though there were facilities for saving it. For who would dare to interfere with the course of the god? Our idea of sorrow is much the same. We think it wicked, or at any rate heartless, to put it out. If a man’s wife be dead, he should go about lugubrious with long face, for at least two years, or perhaps with full length for eighteen months, decreasing gradually during the other six. If he be a man who can quench his sorrow–put out his fire as it were–in less time than that, let him at any rate not show his power!

‘Yes, I remember him,’ continued Lord Lufton. ‘He came twice to Framley, while I was still a boy, consulting with my mother about Mark and myself–whether the Eton floggings were not more efficacious than those of Harrow. He was very kind to me, foreboding all manner of good things on my behalf.’

‘He was very kind to every one,’ said Lucy.

‘I should think he would have been–a kind, good, genial man–just the man to be adored by his own family.’

‘Exactly; and so he was. I do not remember that I ever heard an unkind word from him. There was not a hard tone in his voice. And he was generous as the day.’ Lucy, we have said, was not generally demonstrative, but now, on this subject, and with this absolute stranger, she became almost eloquent.

‘I do not wonder that you should feel his loss, Miss Robarts.’

‘Oh, I do feel it. Mark is the best of brothers, and, as for Fanny, she is too kind and too good to me. But I had always been specially my father’s friend. For the last year or two we had lived so much together!’

‘He was an old man when he died, was he not?’

‘Just seventy, my lord.’

‘Ah, then he was old. My mother is only fifty, and we sometimes call her an old woman. Do you think she looks older than that? We all say that she makes herself out to be so much more ancient than she need do.’

‘Lady Lufton does not dress young.’

‘That is it. She never has, in my memory. She always used to wear black when I first recollect her. She has given that up now; but she is still very sombre; is she not?’

‘I do not like ladies to dress very young, that is, ladies of –of–‘

‘Ladies of fifty, shall we say?’

‘Very well; ladies of fifty, if you like it.’

‘Then I am sure you will like my mother.’

They had now turned up through the parsonage wicket, a little gate that opened into the garden at a point on the road nearer than the chief entrance. ‘I suppose I shall find Mark up at the house?’ said he.

‘I dare say you will, my lord.’

‘Well, I’ll go round this way, for my business is partly in the stable. You see I am quite at home here, though you never have seen me before. But Miss Robarts, now that the ice is broken, I hope that we may be friends.’ He then put out his hand, and when she gave him hers he pressed it almost as an old friend might have done. And, indeed, Lucy had talked to him almost as though he were an old friend. For a minute or two she had forgotten that he was a lord and a stranger–had forgotten also to be still and guarded as was her wont. Lord Lufton had spoken to her as though he had really cared to know her; and she, unconsciously, had been taken by the compliment. Lord Lufton, indeed, had not thought much about it–excepting as thus, that he liked the glance of a pair of bright eyes, as most other men do like it. But, on this occasion, the evening had been so dark, that he had hardly seen Lucy’s eyes at all.

‘Well, Lucy, I hope you liked your companion,’ Mrs Robarts said, as the three of them clustered round the drawing-room fire before dinner.

‘Oh yes; pretty well,’ said Lucy.

‘That is not at all complimentary to his lordship.’

‘I did not mean to be complimentary, Fanny.’

‘Lucy is a great deal too matter-of-fact for compliments,’ said Mark.

‘What I meant was, that I had no great opportunity for judging, seeing that I was only with Lord Lufton for about ten minutes.’

‘Ah! but there are girls here who would give their eyes for ten minutes of Lord Lufton to themselves. You do not know how he’s valued. He has the character of being always able to make himself agreeable to ladies at half a minute’s warning.’

‘Perhaps he had not the half-minute’s warning in this case,’ said Lucy,–hypocrite that she was.

‘Poor Lucy,’ said her brother; ‘he was coming up to see Ponto’s shoulder, and I am afraid he was thinking more about the dog than you.’

‘Very likely,’ said Lucy; and then they went in to dinner. Lucy had been a hypocrite, for she had confessed to herself, while dressing, that Lord Lufton had been very pleasant; but then it is allowed to young ladies to be hypocrites when the subject under discussion is the character of a young gentleman.

Soon after that Lucy did dine at Framley Court. Captain Culpepper, in spite of his enormity with reference to Gatherum Castle, was still staying there, as was also a clergyman from the neighbourhood of Barchester with his wife and daughter. This was Archdeacon Grantly, a gentleman whom we have mentioned before, and who was as well known in the diocese as the bishop himself, and more thought of by many clergymen than even that illustrious prelate. Miss Grantly was a young lady not much older than Lucy Robarts, and she also was quiet, and not given to much talking in open company. She was decidedly a beauty; but somewhat statuesque in her loveliness. Her forehead was high and white, but perhaps too like marble to gratify the taste of those who are fond of flesh and blood. Her eyes were large and exquisitely formed, but they seldom showed much emotion. She, indeed, was impassible herself, and betrayed but little of her feelings. Her nose was nearly Grecian, not coming absolutely in a straight line from her forehead, but doing so nearly enough to entitle it to be considered as classical. Her mouth, too, was very fine–artists, at least, said so, and connoisseurs in beauty; but to me she always seemed as though she wanted fulness of lip. But the exquisite symmetry of her cheek and chin and lower face no man could deny. Her hair was light, and being always dressed with considerable care, did not detract from her appearance; but it lacked that richness which gives such luxuriance to feminine loveliness. She was tall and slight, and very graceful in her movements; but there were those who thought that she wanted the ease and abandon of youth. They said that she was too composed and stiff for her age, and that she gave but little to society beyond the beauty of her form and face. There can be no doubt, however, that she was considered by most men and women to be the beauty of Barsetshire, and that gentlemen from neighbouring counties would come many miles through dirty roads on the mere hope of being able to dance with her. Whatever attractions she may have lacked, she had at any rate created for herself a great reputation. She had spent two months of the last spring in London, and even there she had made a sensation; and people had said that Lord Dumbello, Lady Hartletop’s eldest son, had been peculiarly struck with her.

It may be imagined that the archdeacon was proud of her, and so, indeed, was Mrs Grantly–more proud, perhaps, of her daughter’s beauty, than so excellent a woman should have allowed herself to be of such an attribute. Griselda–that was her name–was now an only daughter. One sister she had had, but that sister had died. There were two brothers also left, one in the Church, and the other in the Army. That was the extent of the archdeacon’s family, and as the archdeacon was a very rich man–he was the only child of his father, who had been Bishop of Barchester for a great many years; and in those years it had been worth a man’s while to be Bishop of Barchester–it was supposed that Miss Grantly would have a large fortune. Mrs Grantly, however, had been heard to say, that she was in no hurry to see her daughter established in the world;–ordinary young ladies are merely married, but those of real importance are established;–and this, if anything, added to the value of the prize. Mothers sometimes depreciate their wares by an undue solicitude to dispose of them. But to tell the truth openly and at once–a virtue for which a novelist does not receive very much commendation–Griselda Grantly was, to a certain extent, already given away. Not that she, Griselda, knew anything about it, or that the thrice happy gentleman had been made aware of his good fortune; nor even had the archdeacon been told. But Mrs Grantly and Lady Lufton had been closeted together more than once, and terms had been signed and sealed between them. Not signed on parchment, and sealed with wax, as is the case with treaties made by kings and diplomats–to be broken by the same; but signed with little words, and sealed with certain pressings of the hand–a treaty which between two such contracting parties would be binding enough. And by the terms of this treaty Griselda Grantly was to become Lady Lufton. Lady Lufton had hitherto been fortuned in her matrimonial speculations. She had selected Sir George for her daughter, and Sir George, with the utmost good nature, had fallen in with her views. She had selected Fanny Monsell for Mr Robarts, and Fanny Monsell had not rebelled against her for a moment. There was a prestige of success about her doings, and she felt almost confident that her dear son Ludovic must fall in love with Griselda. As to the lady herself, nothing, Lady Lufton thought, could be much better than such a match for her son. Lady Lufton, I have said, was a good Churchwoman, and the archdeacon was the very type of that branch of the Church which she venerated. The Grantlys, too, were of a good family–not noble, indeed; but in such matters Lady Lufton did not want everything. She was one of those persons who, in placing their hopes at a moderate pitch, may fairly trust to see them realized. She would fain that her son’s wife should be handsome; this she wished for his sake, that he might be proud of his wife, and because men love to look on beauty. But she was afraid of vivacious beauty, of those soft, sparkling feminine charms which spread out as lures for all the world, soft dimples, laughing eyes, luscious lips, conscious smiles, and easy whispers. What if her son should bring her home a rattling, rapid-spoken, painted piece of Eve’s flesh such as this? Would not the glory and joy of her life be over, even though such child of their first mother should have come forth to the present day ennobled by the blood of two dozen successive British peers?

And then, too, Griselda’s money would not be useless. Lady Lufton, with all her high flown ideas, was not an imprudent woman. She knew that her son had been extravagant, though she did not believe that he had been reckless; and she was well content to think that some balsam from the old bishop’s coffers should be made to cure the slight wounds which his early imprudence might have inflicted on the carcass of the family property. And thus, in this way, and for these reasons, Griselda Grantly had been chosen out from all the world to be the future Lady Lufton. Lord Lufton had met Griselda more than once already; had met her before these high contracting parties had come to any terms whatsoever, and had evidently admired her. Lord Dumbello had remained silent one whole evening in London with effable disgust, because Lord Lufton had been rather particular in his attentions; but then Lord Dumbello’s muteness was his most eloquent mode of expression. Both Lady Hartletop and Mrs Grantly, when they saw him, knew very well what he meant. But that match would not exactly have suited Mrs Grantly’s views. The Hartletop people were not in her line. They belonged altogether to another set, being connected, as we have heard before, with the Omnium interest–‘those horrid Gatherum people’, as Lady Lufton would say to her, raising her hands and eyebrows, and shaking her head. Lady Lufton probably thought that they ate babies in pies during their midnight orgies at Gatherum Castle; and that widows were kept in cells, and occasionally put on racks for the amusement of the duke’s guests.

When the Robarts’s party entered the drawing-room the Grantlys were already there, and the archdeacon’s voice sounded loud and imposing in Lucy’s ears, as she heard him speaking while she was yet on the threshold of the door. ‘My dear Lady Lufton, I would believe anything on earth about her–anything. There is nothing too outrageous for her. Had she insisted on going there with the bishop’s apron on, I should not have been surprised.’ And then they all knew that the archdeacon was talking about Mrs Proudie, for Mrs Proudie was his bugbear.

Lady Lufton after receiving her guests introduced Lucy to Griselda Grantly. Miss Grantly smiled graciously, bowed slightly, and then remarked in the lowest voice possible that it was exceedingly cold. A low voice, we know, is an excellent thing in a woman. Lucy, who thought that she was bound to speak, said that it was cold, but that she did not mind it when she was walking. And then Griselda smiled again, somewhat less graciously than before, and so the conversation ended. Miss Grantly was the elder of the two, and having seen most of the world, should have been the best able to talk, but perhaps she was not very anxious for a conversation with Miss Robarts.

‘So, Robarts, I hear that you have been preaching at Chaldicotes,’ said the archdeacon, still rather loudly. ‘I saw Sowerby the other day, and he told me that you gave them the fag end of Mrs Proudie’s lecture.’

‘It was ill-natured of Sowerby to say the fag end,’ said Robarts. ‘We divided the matter into thirds. Harold Smith took the first part, I the last–‘

‘And the lady the intervening portion. You have electrified the county between you; but I am told that she had the best of it.’

‘I was so sorry that Mr Robarts went there,’ said Lady Lufton, as she walked into the dining-room leaning on the archdeacon’s arm.

‘I am inclined to think he could not very well have helped himself,’ said the archdeacon, who was never willing to lean heavily on a brother parson, unless on one who had utterly and irrevocably gone away from his side of the Church.

‘Do you think not, archdeacon?’

‘Why, no; Sowerby is a friend of Lufton’s–‘

‘Not particularly,’ said poor Lady Lufton, in a deprecating tone.

‘Well, they have been intimate;’ and Robarts, when he was asked to preach at Chaldicotes, could not well refuse.’

‘But then he went afterwards to Gatherum Castle. Not that I am vexed with him at all now, you understand. But it is auch a dangerous house, you know.’

‘So it is.–But the very fact of the duke’s wishing to have a clergyman there, should always be taken as a sign of grace, Lady Lufton. The air was impure, no doubt; but it was less impure with Robarts there than it would have been without him. But, gracious heavens! what blasphemy have I been saying about impure air? Why, the bishop was there!’

‘Yes, the bishop was there,’ said Lady Lufton, and they both understood each other thoroughly.

Lord Lufton took out Mrs Grantly to dinner, and matters were so arranged that Miss Grantly sat on is other side. There was no management apparent in this to anybody; but there she was, while Lucy was placed between her brother and Captain Culpepper. Captain Culpepper was a man with an enormous moustache, and a great aptitude for slaughtering game; but as he had no other strong characteristics it was not probable that he would make himself very agreeable to poor Lucy. She had seen Lord Lufton once, for two minutes, since the day of that walk, and then he had addressed her quite like an old friend. It had been in the parsonage drawing-room, and Fanny had been there. Fanny was now so well accustomed to his lordship, that she thought but little of this, but to Lucy it had been very pleasant. He was not forward or familiar, but kind and gentle, and pleasant; and Lucy did feel that she liked him. Now, on this evening, he had hitherto hardly spoken to her; but then she knew that there were other people in the company to whom he was bound to speak. She was not exactly humble-minded in the usual sense of the word; but she did recognise the fact that her position was less important than that of other people there, and that therefore it was probable that to a certain extent she would be overlooked. But not the less would she have liked to occupy the seat to which Miss Grantly had found her way. She did not want to flirt with Lord Lufton; she was not such a fool as that; but she would have liked to have heard the sound of his voice close to her ear, instead of that of Captain Culpepper’s knife and fork. This was the first occasion on which she had endeavoured to dress herself with care since her father had died; and now, sombre though she was in her deep mourning, she did look very well.

‘There is an expression about her forehead that is full of poetry,’ said Fanny to her husband.

‘Don’t you turn her head, Fanny, and make her believe that she is a beauty,’ Mark had answered.

‘I doubt it is not so easy to turn her head, Mark. There is more in Lucy than you imagine, and so you will find out before long.’ So it was thus that Mrs Robarts prophesied about her sister-in-law. Had she been asked she might perhaps have said that Lucy’s presence would be dangerous to the Grantly interest at Framley Court.

Lord Lufton’s voice was audible enough as he went on talking to Miss Grantly–his voice, but not his words. He talked in such a way that there was no appearance of whispering, and yet the person to whom he spoke, and she only, could hear what he said. Mrs Grantly the while conversed constantly with Lucy’s brother, who sat at Lucy’s left hand. She never lacked for subjects on which to speak to a country clergyman of the right sort, and thus Griselda was left quite uninterrupted. But Lucy could not but observe that Griselda herself seemed to have very little to say–or at any rate to say very little. Every now and then she did open her mouth, and some word or brace of words would fall from it. But for the most part she seemed to be content in the fact that Lord Lufton was paying her attention. She showed no animation, but sat there still and graceful, composed and classical, as she always was. Lucy, who could not keep her ears from listening or her eyes from looking, thought that had she been there she would have endeavoured to take a more prominent part in the conversation. But then Griselda Grantly probably know much better than Lucy did how to comport herself in such a situation. Perhaps it might be that young men such as Lord Lufton, liked to hear the sound of their own voices.

‘Immense deal of game about here,’ Captain Culpepper said to her towards the end of dinner. It was the second attempt he had made; on the former he had asked her whether she knew any fellows of the 9th.

‘Is there?’ said Lucy. ‘Oh! I saw Lord Lufton the other day with a great armful of pheasants.’

‘An armful! Why we had seven cartloads the other day at Gatherum.’

‘Seven cartloads of pheasants!’ said Lucy, amazed.

‘That’s not so much. We had eight guns, you know. Eight guns will do a deal of work when the game has been well got together. They manage all that capitally at Gatherum. Been at the duke’s, eh?’ Lucy had heard the Framley report as to Gatherum Castle, and said with a sort of shudder that she had never been at that place. After this, Captain Culpepper troubled her no further.

When the ladies had taken themselves to the drawing-room Lucy found herself hardly better off than she had been at the dinner-table. Lady Lufton and Mrs Grantly got themselves on to a sofa together, and there chatted confidently into each other’s ears. Her ladyship had introduced Lucy to Miss Grantly, and then she naturally thought that the young people might do very well together. Mrs Robarts did attempt to bring about a joint conversation, which should include the three, and for ten minutes or so she worked hard at it. But it did not thrive. Miss Grantly was monosyllabic, smiling, however, at every monosyllable; and Lucy found that nothing would occur to her at that moment worthy of being spoken. There she sat, still and motionless, afraid to take up a book, and thinking in her heart how much happier she would have been at home at the parsonage. She was not made for society; she felt sure of that; and another time she would let Mark and Fanny come to Framley Court by themselves. And then the gentlemen came in, and there was another stir in the room. Lady Lufton got up and bustled about; she poked the fire and shifted the candles, spoke a few words to Dr Grantly, whispered something to her son, patted Lucy on the cheek, told Fanny, who was a musician, that they would have a little music, and ended by putting her two hands on Griselda’s shoulders and telling her that the fit of her frock was perfect. For Lady Lufton, though she did dress old herself, as Lucy had said, delighted to see those around her neat and pretty, jaunty and graceful. ‘Dear Lady Lufton!’ said Griselda, putting up her hand so as to press the end of her ladyship’s fingers. It was the first piece of animation she had shown, and Lucy Robarts watched it all. And then there was music, Lucy neither played nor sang; Fanny did both, and for an amateur she did both well. Griselda did not sing, but she played; and did so in a manner that showed that neither her own labour nor her father’s money had been spared in her instruction. Lord Lufton sang also, a little, and Captain Culpepper a very little; so that they got up a concert among them. In the meantime the doctor and Mark stood talking together on the rug before the fire; the two mothers sat contented, watching the billings and the cooings of their offspring–and Lucy sat alone, turning over the leaves of a book of pictures. She made up her mind fully, then and there, that she was quite unfitted by disposition for such work as this. She cared for no one, and no one cared for her. Well, she must go through with it now; but another time she would know better. With her own book and a fireside she never felt herself to be miserable as she was now. She had turned her back to the music for she was sick of seeing Lord Lufton watch the artistic motion of Miss Grantly’s fingers, and was sitting at a small table as far away from the piano as a long room would permit, when she was suddenly roused from her reverie of self-reproach by a voice close behind her: ‘Miss Robarts,’ said the voice, ‘why have you cut us all?’ And Lucy felt that, though she heard the voice plainly, nobody else did. Lord Lufton was now speaking to her as he had before spoken to Miss Grantly.

‘I don’t play, my lord,’ said Lucy, ‘nor yet sing.’

‘That would have made your company so much more valuable to us, for we are terribly badly off for listeners. Perhaps you don’t like the music?’

‘I do like it,–sometimes very much.’

‘And when are the sometimes? But we shall find it all out in time. We shall have unravelled all you mysteries, and read all your riddles by–when shall I say?—by the end of winter.’

‘I do not know that I have got any mysteries.’

‘Oh, but you have! It is very mysterious in you to come and sit here–with you back to us all–‘

‘Oh, Lord Lufton; if I have done wrong–!’ and poor Lucy almost started from her chair, and a deep flush came across her dark neck.

‘No–no; you have done no wrong. I was only joking. It is we who have done you wrong in leaving you to yourself–you who are the greatest stranger among us.’

‘I have been very well, thank you. I don’t care about being left alone. I have always been used to it.’

‘Ah! but we must break you of the habit. We won’t allow you to make a hermit of yourself. But the truth is, Miss Robarts, you don’t know us yet, and therefore you are not quite happy among us.’

‘Oh! Yes I am; you are all very good to me.’

‘You must let us be good to you. At any rate, you must let me do so. You know, don’t you, that Mark and I have been dear friends since we were seven years old. His wife has been my sister’s dearest friend almost as long; and now that you are with them, you must be a dear friend too. You won’t refuse the offer, will you?’

‘Oh, no’ she said quite in a whisper; and, indeed, she could hardly raise her voice above a whisper, fearing that tears would fall from her tell-tale eyes.

‘Dr and Mrs Grantly will have gone in a couple of days, and then we must get you down here. Miss Grantly is to remain for Christmas, and you two must become bosom friends.’ Lucy smiled, and tried to look pleased, but she felt that she and Griselda Grantly could never be bosom friends–could never have anything in common between them. She felt sure that Griselda despised her, little, brown, plain, and unimportant as she was. She herself could not despise Griselda in turn; indeed she could not but admire Miss Grantly’s great beauty and dignity of demeanour; but she knew that she could never love her. It is hardly possible that the proud-hearted should love those who despise them; and Lucy Robarts was very proud-hearted.

‘Don’t you think she is very handsome?’ said Lord Lufton.

‘Oh, very,’ said Lucy. ‘Nobody can doubt that.’

‘Ludovic,’ said Lady Lufton–not quite approving of her son’s remaining so long at the back of Lucy’s chair–‘won’t you give us another song? Mrs Robarts and Miss Grantly are still at the piano.’

‘I have sung away all that I know, mother. There’s Culpepper has not had a chance yet. He has got to give us his dreams–how he “dreamt that he dwelt in marble halls”!’

‘I sung that an hour ago,’ said the captain, not over-pleased.

‘But you certainly have not told us how “your little lovers came”!’ The captain, however, would not sing any more. And then the party was broken up, and the Robartses went home to their parsonage.

CHAPTER XII

THE LITTLE BILL

Lucy, during those last fifteen minutes of her sojourn in the Framley Court drawing-room, somewhat modified the very strong opinion she had before formed as to her unfitness for such society. It was very pleasant sitting there, in that easy chair, while Lord Lufton stood at the back of it saying nice, soft, good-natured words to her. She was sure that in a little time she could feel a true friendship for him, and that she could do so without any risk of falling in love with him. But then she had a glimmering of an idea that such a friendship would be open to all manner of remarks, and would hardly be compatible with the world’s ordinary ways. At any rate it would be pleasant to be at Framley Court, if he would come and occasionally notice her. But she did not admit to herself that such a visit would be intolerable if his whole time was devoted to Griselda Grantly. She neither admitted it, nor thought it; but nevertheless, in a strange unconscious way, such a feeling did find entrance in her bosom. And then the Christmas holidays passed away. How much of this enjoyment fell to her share, and how much of this suffering she endured, we will not attempt accurately to describe. Miss Grantly remained at Framley Court up to Twelfth Night, and the Robartses also spent most of the season at the house. Lady Lufton, no doubt, had hoped that everything might have been arranged on this occasion in accordance with her wishes, but such had not been the case. Lord Lufton had evidently admired Miss Grantly very much: indeed, he had said so to his mother half a dozen times; but it may almost be questioned whether the pleasure Lady Lufton derived from this was not more than neutralized by an opinion he once put forward that Griselda Grantly wanted some of the fire of Lucy Robarts.

‘Surely, Ludovic, you would never compare the two girls’ said Lady Lufton.

‘Of course not. They are the very antipodes to each other. Miss Grantly would probably be more to my taste; but then I am wise enough to know that it is so because my taste is a bad taste.’

‘I know no man with a more accurate or refined taste in such matters,’ said Lady Lufton. Beyond this she did not dare to go. She knew very well that her strategy would be vain should her son learn that she had a strategy. To tell the truth, Lady Lufton was becoming somewhat indifferent to Lucy Robarts. She had been very kind to the little girl; but the little girl seemed hardly to appreciate the kindness as she should do–and then Lord Lufton would talk to Lucy, ‘which was so unnecessary, you know;’ and Lucy, had got into a way of talking quite freely with Lord Lufton, having completely dropped that short, spasmodic, ugly exclamation of ‘my lord’. And so the Christmas festivities were at an end, and January wore itself away. During the greater part of this month Lord Lufton did not remain at Framley, but was nevertheless in the county, hunting with the hounds of both divisions, and staying at various houses. Two or three nights he spent at Chaldicotes; and one–let it only be told in an under voice–at Gatherum Castle! Of this he said nothing to Lady Lufton. ‘Why make her unhappy?’ as he said to Mark. But Lady Lufton knew it, though she said not a word to him–knew it, and was unhappy. ‘If he would only marry Griselda, there would be an end of that danger,’ she said to herself.

And now we must go back a while to the vicar and his little bill. It will be remembered, that his first idea with reference to that trouble, after the reading of his father’s will, was to borrow the money from his brother John. John was down at Exeter at the time, and was to stay one night at the parsonage on his way to London. Mark would broach the matter to him on the journey, painful though it would be to him to tell the story of his own folly to a brother much younger than himself, and who had always looked up to him, clergyman and full-blown vicar as he was, with a deference greater than that which such difference in age required. The story was told, however; but was told in vain, as Mark found out before he reached Framley. His brother John immediately declared that he would lend him the money, of course–eight hundred, if his brother wanted it. He, John, confessed that, as regarded the remaining two, he should like to feel the pleasure of immediate possession. As for interest, he would not take any–take interest from a brother; of course not. Well, if Mark made such a fuss about it he supposed he must take it; but would rather not. Mark should have his own way, and do just what he liked.

This was all very well, and Mark had fully made up his mind that his brother should not be kept long out of his agony. But then arose the question how was that money to be reached? He, Mark, was executor, or one of the executors under his father’s will, and, therefore, no doubt, could put his hand upon it; but his brother wanted five months of being of age, and could not therefore as yet be put legally in possession of his legacy. ‘That is a bore,’ said the assistant private secretary to the Lord Petty Bag, thinking, perhaps, as much of his own immediate wish for ready cash as he did of his brother’s necessities. Mark felt that it was a bore, but there was nothing more to be done in that direction. He must now find out how far the bankers would assist him.

Some week or two after his return to Framley he went over to Barchester, and called there on a certain Mr Forrest, the manager of one of the banks, with whom he as acquainted; and with many injunctions as to secrecy told this manager the whole of his story. At first he concealed the name of his friend Sowerby, but it soon appeared that no such concealment was to any avail. ‘That Sowerby, of course,’ said Mr Forrest. ‘I know you are intimate with him; and all his friends go through that, sooner or later.’ It seemed to Mark as though Mr Forrest made very light of the whole transaction.

‘I cannot pay the bill when it is due,’ said Mark.

‘Oh, no, of course not,’ said Mr Forrest. ‘It’s never very convenient to hand out four hundred pounds at a blow. Nobody will expect you to pay it.’

‘But I suppose I shall have to do it sooner or later.’

‘Well, that’s as may be. It will depend partly on how you manage with Sowerby, and partly on the hands it goes into. As the bill has your name on it, they’ll have patience as long as the interest is paid, and the commissions on renewal.’ Mr Forrest said that he was sure that the bill was not in Barchester; Mr Sowerby would not, he thought, have brought it to a Barchester bank. The bill was probably in London, but doubtless would be sent to Barchester for collection. ‘If it comes in my way,’ said Mr Forrest, ‘I will give you plenty of time, so that you may manage about the renewal with Sowerby. I suppose he’ll pay the expense of doing that.’

Mark’s heart was somewhat lighter as he left the bank. Mr Forrest had made so little of the whole transaction that he felt himself justified in making little of it also. ‘It may be as well,’ said he to himself, as he drove home, ‘not to tell Fanny anything about it till the three months have run round. I must make some arrangement then.’ And in this way his mind was easier during the last of those three months than he had been during the two former. That feeling of over-due bills, of bills coming due, of accounts overdrawn, of tradesmen unpaid, of general money cares, is very dreadful at first; but it is astonishing how soon men get used to it. A load which would crash a man at first becomes, by habit, not only endurable, but easy and comfortable to the bearer. The habitual debtor goes along jaunty and with elastic step, almost enjoying the excitement of his embarrassments. There was Mr Sowerby himself; who ever saw a cloud on his brow? It made one almost in love with ruin to be in his company. And even now, already, Mark Robarts was thinking to himself quite comfortably about this bill;–how very pleasantly those bankers managed these things. Pay it! No; no one will be so unreasonable as to expect you to do that! And then Mr Sowerby certainly was a pleasant fellow, and gave a man something in return for his money. It was still a question with Mark whether Lord Lufton had not been too hard on Sowerby. Had that gentleman fallen across his clerical friend at the present moment, he might no doubt gotten from him an acceptance for another four hundred pounds.

One is almost inclined to believe that there is something pleasurable in the excitement of such embarrassments, as there is also in the excitement of drink. But then, at last, the time does come when the excitement is over, and when nothing but the misery is left. If there be an existence of wretchedness on earth it must be that of the elderly, worn-out roue, who has run this race of debt and bills of accommodation and acceptances–of what, if we were not in these days somewhat afraid of good broad English, we might call lying and swindling, falsehood and fraud–and who, having ruined all whom he should have loved, having burnt up every one who would trust him much, and scorched all who would trust him a little, is at last left to finish his life with such bread and water as these men get, without one honest thought to strengthen his sinking heart, or one honest friend to hold his shivering hand! If a man could only think of that, as he puts his name to the first little bill, as to which he is so good-naturedly assured that it can easily be renewed.

When the three months had nearly run out, it so happened that Robarts met his friend Sowerby. Mark had once to twice ridden with Lord Lufton as far as the meet of the hounds, and may, perhaps, have gone a field or two farther on some occasions. The reader must not think that he had taken to hunting, as some parsons do; and it is singular enough that whatever they do so they always show a special aptitude for the pursuit, as though hunting were an employment peculiarly congenial with the care of souls in the country. Such a thought would do our vicar justice. But when Lord Lufton would ask him what on earth could be the harm of riding along the roads to look at the hounds, he hardly knew what sensible answer to give his lordship. It would be absurd to say that his time would be better employed at home in clerical matters, for it was notorious that he had not clerical pursuits for the employment of half his time. In this way, therefore, he had got into the habit of looking at the hounds, and keeping up his acquaintance in the county, meeting Lord Dumbello, Mr Green Walker, Harold Smith, and other such like sinners; and on one such occasion, as the three months were nearly closing, he did meet Mr Sowerby. ‘Look here, Sowerby, I want to speak to you for half a moment. What are you doing about that bill?’

‘Bill–bill? what bill?—which bill? The whole bill, and nothing but the bill. That seems to be the conversation nowadays of all men, noon and night?’

‘Don’t you know the bill I signed for you for four hundred pounds?’

‘Did you though? Was not that rather green of you?’ This did seem strange to Mark. Could it really be the fact that Mr Sowerby had so many bills flying about that he had absolutely forgotten that occurrence in the Gatherum Castle bedroom? And then to be called green by by the very man whom he had obliged!

‘Perhaps I was,’ said Mark, in a tone that showed that he was somewhat piqued. ‘But all the same I should be glad to know how it will be taken up?’

‘Oh, Mark, what a ruffian you are to spoil my day’s sport in this way. Any man but a parson would be too good a Christian for such intense cruelty. But let me see–four hundred pounds? Oh, yes–Tozer has it.’

‘And what will Tozer do with it?’

‘Make money of it; whatever way he may go to work he will do that.’

‘But will Tozer bring it to me on the 20th?’

‘Oh, Lord, no! Upon my work, Mark, you are deliciously green. A cat would as soon think of killing a mouse directly she got it into her claws. But, joking apart, you need not trouble yourself. Maybe you will hear no more about it; or, perhaps, which no doubt is more probable, I may have to send it to you to be renewed. But you need do nothing till you hear from me or somebody else.’

‘Only do not let any one come down upon me for the money.’

‘There is not the slightest fear of that. Tally-ho, old fellow! He’s away. Tally-ho, right over by Gossetts’ barn. Come along, and never mind Tozer–“Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”‘ And away they both went together, parson and member of Parliament. And then again on that occasion Mark went home with a sort of feeling that the bill did not matter. Tozer would manage it somehow; and it was quite clear that it would not do to tell his wife of it just at present.

On the 21st of that month of February, however, he did receive a reminder that the bill and all concerning it had not merely been a farce. This was a letter from Mr Sowerby, dated from Chaldicotes, though not bearing the Barchester post-mark, in which that gentleman suggested a renewal–not exactly of the old bill, but of a new one. It seemed to Mark that the letter had been posted in London. If I give it entire, I shall, perhaps, most quickly explain its import:

‘Chaldicotes,–20th February, 185-.
‘MY DEAR MARK,
‘”Lend not thy name to money dealers, for the same is the destruction and a snare.” If that be not in the Proverbs, it ought to be. Tozer has given me certain signs of his being alive and strong this cold weather. As we can neither of us take up that bill for 400L at the moment, we must renew it, and pay him his commission and interest, with all the rest of his perquisites, and pickings, and stealings–from all which, I can assure you, Tozer does not keep his hands as he should do. To cover this and some other little outstanding trifles, I have filled in the new bill for 500L, making it due 23rd May next. Before that time, a certain accident will, I trust, have occurred to your improvident friend. By the by, I never told you how she went off from Gatherum Castle, the morning after you left us, with the Greshams. Cart-ropes would not hold her, even though the duke held them; which he did, with all the strength of his ducal hands. She would go meet some doctor of theirs, and so I was put off for that time; but I think that the matter stands in a good train.

‘Do not lose a post in sending back the bill accepted, as Tozer can annoy you–nay,
undoubtedly will, if the matter be not in his hand, duly signed by both of us, the day after to-morrow. He is an ungrateful brute; he has lived on me for these eight years and would not let me off a single squeeze now to save my life. But I am specially anxious to save you from the annoyance and cost of lawyers’ letters; and if delayed, it might get to the papers. Put it under cover to me, at No 7, Duke Street, St James’s. I shall be in town by that time.

‘Good-bye, old fellow. That was a decent brush we had the other day from Cobbold’s Ashes. I wish I could get that brown horse from you. I would not mind going to a hundred and thirty. Yours ever,
‘N. SOWERBY’

When Mark had read it through he looked down on his table to see whether the old bill had fallen from the letter; but no, there was no enclosure, and had been no enclosure but the new bill. And then he read the letter through again, and found that there was no word about the old bill–not a syllable, at least, as to its whereabouts. Sowerby did not even say that it would remain in his own hands. Mark did not in truth know much about such things. It might be that the very fact of his signing this second document would render that first document null and void; and from Sowerby’s silence on the subject, it might be argued that this was so well known to be the case, that he had not thought of explaining it. But yet Mark could not see how this could be so. But what was he to do? That threat of cost and lawyers, and specially of the newspapers, did have its effect on him–as no doubt it was intended to do. And then he was utterly dumbfounded by Sowerby’s impudence ind drawing on him for 500L instead of 400L, ‘covering,’ as Sowerby so good-humouredly said, ‘sundry little outstanding trifles’.

But, at last, he did sign the bill, and sent it off, as Sowerby had directed. What else was he to do? Fool that he was. A man always can do right, even though he has done wrong before. But that previous wrong adds so much difficulty to the path–a difficulty which increases in tremendous ratio, till a man at last is choked in his struggling, and is drowned beneath the waters. And then he put away Sowerby’s letter carefully, locking it up from his wife’s sight. It was a letter that no parish clergyman should have received. So much he acknowledged to himself. But nevertheless it was necessary that he should keep it. And now again for a few hours this affair made him very miserable.

CHAPTER XIII

DELICATE HINTS

Lady Lufton had been greatly rejoiced at that good deed which her son did in giving up his Leicestershire hunting, and coming to reside for the winter at Framley. It was proper, and becoming, and comfortable in the extreme. An English nobleman ought to hunt in the county where he himself owns the fields over which he rides; he ought to receive the respect and honour due to him from his own tenants; he ought to sleep under a roof of his own, and he ought also–so Lady Lufton thought–to fall in love with a young embryo bride of his mother’s choosing. And then it was so pleasant to have him there in the house. Lady Lufton was not a woman who allowed her life to be what people in common parlance call dull. She had too many duties, and thought too much of them, to allow of her suffering from tedium and ennui. But nevertheless the house was more joyous to her when he was there. There was a reason for some little gaiety, which would never have been attracted thither by herself, but by which, nevertheless, she did enjoy when it was brought about by his presence. She was younger and brighter when he was there, thinking more of the future and less of the past. She could look at him, and that alone was happiness to her. And then he was pleasant-mannered with her; joking with her on her little old-world prejudices in a tone that was musical to her ear as coming from him; smiling on her, reminding her of those smiles which she had loved so dearly when as yet he was still her own, lying there in his little bed beside her chair. He was kind and gracious to her, behaving like a good son, at any rate while he was there in her presence. When we add to this, her fears that he might not be so perfect in his conduct when absent, we may well imagine that Lady Lufton was pleased to have him at Framley Court.

She had hardly said a word to him as that five thousand pounds. Many a night, as she lay thinking on her pillow, she said to herself that no money had ever been better expended, since it had brought him back to his own home. He had thanked her for it in his own open way, declaring that he would pay it back to her during the coming year, and comforting her heart by his rejoicing that the property had not been sold. ‘I don’t like the idea of parting with an acre of it,’ he had said.

‘Of course not, Ludovic. Never let the estate decrease in your hands. It is only by such resolutions as that that English noblemen and English gentlemen can preserve their country. I cannot bear to see property changing hands.’

‘Well, I suppose it’s a good thing to have land in the market sometimes, so that the millionaires may know what to do with their money.’

‘God forbid that yours should be there!’ And the widow made a little mental prayer that her son’s acres might be protected from the millionaires and other Philistines.

‘Why, yes; I don’t exactly want to see a Jew tailor investing his earnings at Lufton.’ said the lord.

‘Heaven forbid!’ said the widow. All this, as I have said, was very nice. It was manifest to her ladyship, from his lordship’s way of talking, that no vital injury had as yet been done: he had no cares on his mind, and spoke freely about the property: but nevertheless there were clouds even now, at this period of bliss, which somewhat obscured the brilliancy of Lady Lufton’s sky. Why was Ludovic so slow in that affair of Griselda Grantly? Why so often in these latter winter days did he saunter over to the parsonage? And then that terrible visit to Gatherum Castle! What actually did happen at Gatherum Castle, she never knew. We, however, are more intrusive, less delicate in our enquiries, and we can say. He had a very bad day’s sport with the West Barsetshire. The county is altogether short of foxes, and some one who understands the matter must take that point up before they can do any good. And after that he had had rather a dull dinner with the duke. Sowerby had been there, and in the evening he and Sowerby had played billiards. Sowerby had won a pound or two, and that had been the extent of the damage done. But those saunterings over to the parsonage might be more dangerous. Not that it ever occurred to Lady Lufton as possible that her son should fall in love with Lucy Robarts. Lucy’s personal attraction were not of a nature to give grounds for such a fear as that. But he might turn the girl’s head with his chatter; she might be fool enough to fancy any folly; and, moreover, people would talk. Why should he go to the parsonage now more frequently than he had ever done before Lucy came there?

And then her ladyship, in reference to the same trouble, hardly knew how to manage her invitations to the parsonage. These hitherto had been very frequent, and she had been in the habit of thinking that they could hardly be too much so; but now she was almost afraid to continue the custom. She could not ask the parson and his wife without Lucy; and when Lucy was there, her son would pass the greater part of the evening in talking to her, or playing chess with her. Now this did disturb Lady Lufton not a little. And then Lucy took it all so quietly. On her first arrival at Framley she had been so shy, so silent, and so much awestruck by the grandeur of Framley Court, that Lady Lufton had sympathized with her and encouraged her. She had endeavoured to moderate the blaze of her own splendour, in order that Lucy’s unaccustomed eyes might not be dazzled. But all this was changed now. Lucy could listen to the young lord’s voice by the hour together–without being dazzled in the least. Under these circumstances two things occurred to her. She would speak either to her son or to Fanny Robarts, and by a little diplomacy have this evil remedied. And then she had to determine on which step she would take. ‘Nothing could be more reasonable than Ludovic.’ So at least she said to herself over and over again. But then Ludovic understood nothing about such matters; and had, moreover, a habit, inherited from his father, of taking the bit between his teeth whenever he suspected interference. Drive him gently without pulling his mouth about, and you might take him anywhere, almost at any pace; but a smart touch, let it be ever so slight, would bring him on his haunches, and then it might be a question whether you could get him another mile that day. So that on the whole Lady Lufton thought that the other plan would be the best. I have no doubt that Lady Lufton was right.

She got Fanny up into her own den one afternoon, and seated her discreetly in an easy arm-chair, making her guest take off her bonnet, and showing by various signs that her visit was regarded as one of great moment. ‘Fanny,’ she said, ‘I want to speak to you about something that is important and necessary to mention, and yet it is a very delicate affair to speak of.’ Fanny opened her eyes and said that she hoped that nothing was wrong. ‘No, my dear, I think nothing is wrong: I hope so, and I think I may say I’m sure of it; but then it’s always well to be on one’s guard.’

‘Yes, it is,’ said Fanny, who knew that something unpleasant was coming–something as to which she might be called upon to differ from her ladyship. Mrs Robarts’s own fears, however, were running entirely in the direction of her husband;–and, indeed, Lady Lufton had a word to two to say on that subject also, only not exactly now. A hunting parson was not at all to her taste; but that matter might be allowed to remain in abeyance for a few days.

‘Now, Fanny, you know that we have all liked your sister-in-law, Lucy, very much.’ And then Mrs Robarts’s mind was immediately opened, and she knew the rest as well as though it had been all spoken. ‘I need hardly tell you that, for I an sure we have shown it.’

‘You have indeed, as you always do.’

‘And you must not think that I am going to complain,’ continued Lady Lufton.

‘I hope there is nothing to complain of,’ said Fanny, speaking by no means in a defiant tone, but humbly as it were, and deprecating her ladyship’s wrath. Fanny had gained one signal victory over Lady Lufton, and on that account, with a prudence equal to her generosity, felt that she could afford to be submissive. It might, perhaps, not be long before she would be equally anxious to conquer again.

‘Well, no; I don’t think there is,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘Nothing to complain of; but a little chat between you and me may, perhaps, set matters right, which, otherwise, might become troublesome.’

‘Is it about Lucy?’

‘Yes, my dear–about Lucy. She is a very nice, good girl, and a credit to her father–‘

‘And a great comfort to us,’ said Fanny.

‘I am sure she is; she must be a very pleasant companion to you, and so useful about the children; but–‘ And then Lady Lufton paused for moment; for she, eloquent and discreet as she always was, felt herself rather at a loss for words to express her exact meaning.

‘I don’t know what I should do without her,’ said Fanny, speaking with the object of assisting her ladyship in her embarrassment.

‘But the truth is this: she and Lord Lufton are getting in the way of being too much together–of talking to each other too exclusively. I am sure you must have noticed it, Fanny. It is not that I suspect any evil. I don’t think that I am suspicious by nature.’

‘Oh! no,’ said Fanny.

‘But they will each of them get wrong ideas about the other, and about themselves. Lucy will, perhaps, think that Ludovic means more than he does, and Ludovic will–‘ But it was not quite so easy to say what Ludovic might do or think; but Lady Lufton went on:

‘I am sure that you understand me, Fanny, with your excellent sense and tact. Lucy is clever, and amusing, and all that; and Ludovic, like all young men, is perhaps ignorant that his attentions may be taken to mean more than he intends–‘

‘You don’t think that Lucy is in love with him?’

‘On, dear no–nothing of the kind. If I thought it had come to that, I should recommend that she should be sent away altogether. I am sure she is not so foolish as that.’

‘I don’t think there is anything in it at all, Lady Lufton.’

‘I don’t think there is, my dear, and therefore I would not for worlds make any suggestion about it to Lord Lufton. I would not let him suppose that I suspected Lucy of being so imprudent. But still, it may be well that you should just say a word to her. A little management now and then, in such matters is so useful.’

‘But what shall I say to her?’

‘Just explain to her that any young lady who talks so much to the same young gentleman will certainly be observed–that people will accuse her of setting her cap at Lord Lufton. Not that I suspect her–I give her credit for too much proper breeding: I know her education has been good, and her principles are upright. But people will talk of her. You must understand that, Fanny, as well as I do.’ Fanny could not help meditating whether proper feeling, education, and upright principles did forbid Lucy Robarts to fall in love with Lord Lufton; but her doubts on this subject, if she held any, were not communicated to her ladyship. It had never entered into her mind that a match was possible between Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts, nor had she the slightest wish to encourage it now that the idea was suggested to her. On such a matter she would sympathize with Lady Lufton, though she did not completely agree with her as to the expediency of any interference. Nevertheless, she at once offered to speak to Lucy. ‘I don’t think that Lucy has any idea in her head upon the subject,’ said Mrs Robarts.

‘I dare say not–I don’t suppose she has. But young ladies sometimes allow themselves to fall in love, and then to think themselves very ill-used just because they have had no idea in their head.’

‘I will put her on her guard if you wish it, Lady Lufton.’

‘Exactly, my dear; that is just it. Put her on her guard–that is all that is necessary. She is a dear, good, clever girl, and it would be very sad if anything were to interrupt our comfortable way of getting on with her.’ Mrs Robarts knew to a nicety the exact