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  • 1861
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meaning of this threat. If Lucy should persist in securing to herself so much of Lord Lufton’s time and attention, her visits to Framley Court must become less frequent. Lady Lufton would do much, very much indeed, for her friends at the parsonage; but not even for them could she permit her son’s prospects in life to be so endangered. There was nothing more said between them, and Mrs Robarts got up to take her leave, having promised to speak to Lucy.

‘You manage everything so perfectly,’ said Lady Lufton, as she pressed Mrs Robarts’s hand, ‘that I am quite at ease now that I find you will agree with me.’ Mrs Robarts did not exactly agree with her ladyship, but she hardly thought it worth her while to say so. Mrs Robarts immediately started off on her walk to her own home, and when she had got out of the grounds into the road, where it makes a turn towards the parsonage, nearly opposite to Podgens’ shop, she saw Lord Lufton on horseback, and Lucy standing beside him. It was already five o’clock, and it was getting dusk; but as she approached, or rather as she came suddenly within sight of them, she could see that they were in close conversation. Lord Lufton’s face was towards her, and his horse was standing still; he was leaning over towards his companion, and the whip, which he held in his right hand, hung almost over her arm and down her back, as though his hand had touched and perhaps rested on her shoulder. She was standing by his side, looking up into his face, with one gloved hand resting on the horse’s neck. Mrs Robarts, as she saw them, could not but own that there might be cause for Lady Lufton’s fears. But then Lucy’s manner, as Mrs Robarts approached, was calculated to dissipate any such fears and to prove that there was no ground for them. She did not move from her position, or allow her hand to drop, or show that she was in any way either confused or conscious. She stood her ground, and when her sister-in-law came up was smiling and at her ease. ‘Lord Lufton wants me to learn to ride,’ said she.

‘To learn to ride!’ said Fanny, not knowing what answer to make to such a proposition.

‘Yes,’ said he. ‘This horse would carry her beautifully: he is as quiet as a lamb, and I made Gregory go out with him yesterday with a sheet hanging over him like a lady’s habit, and the man got up into a lady’s saddle.’

‘I think Gregory would make a better hand of it than Lucy.’

‘The horse cantered with him as though he had carried a lady all his life, and his mouth is like velvet; indeed, that is his fault–he is too soft-mouthed.’

‘I suppose that’s the same sort of thing as a man being soft- hearted,’ said Lucy.

‘Exactly; you ought to ride them both with a very light hand. They are difficult cattle to manage, but very pleasant when you know how to do it.’

‘But you see I don’t know how to do it,’ said Lucy.

‘As regards the horse, you will learn in two days, and I do hope you will try. Don’t you think it will be an excellent thing for her, Mrs Robarts?’

‘Lucy has got no habit,’ said Mrs Robarts, making use of the excuse common on all such occasions.

‘There is one of Justinia’s in the house, I know. She always leaves one here, in order that she may be able to ride when she comes.’

‘She would not think of taking such a liberty with Lady Meredith’s things,’ said Fanny, almost frightened at the proposal.

‘Of course it is out of the question, Fanny,’ said Lucy, now speaking rather seriously. ‘In the first place, I would not take Lord Lufton’s horse; in the second place, I would not take Lady Meredith’s habit; in the third place, I should be a great deal too much frightened; and, lastly, it is quite out of the question for a great many other very good reasons.’

‘Nonsense,’ said Lord Lufton.

‘A great deal of nonsense,’ said Lucy, laughing, ‘but all of it of Lord Lufton’s talking. But we are getting cold–are we not, Fanny?—so we will wish you good-night.’ And then the two ladies shook hands with him, and walked on towards the parsonage. That which astonished Mrs Robarts the most in all this was the perfectly collected manner in which Lucy spoke and conducted herself. This, connected, as she could not but connect, with the air of chagrin with which Lord Lufton received Lucy’s decision, made it manifest to Mrs Robarts that Lord Lufton was annoyed because Lucy would not consent to learn to ride; whereas she, Lucy herself, had given her refusal in a firm and decided tone, as though resolved that nothing more should be said about it. They walked on in silence for a minute or two, till they reached the parsonage gates, and then Lucy said, laughing, ‘Can’t you fancy me sitting on that great big horse? I wonder what Lady Lufton would say if she saw me there, and his lordship giving me my first lesson?’

‘I don’t think she would like it,’ said Fanny.

‘I’m sure she would not. But I will not try her temper in that respect. Sometimes I fancy she does to even like seeing Lord Lufton talking to me.’

‘She does not like it, Lucy, when she sees him flirting with you.’ This Mrs Robarts said rather gravely, whereas Lucy had been speaking in a half-bantering tone. As soon as even the word flirting was out of Fanny’s mouth, she was conscious that she had been guilty of an injustice in using it. She had wished to say something which would convey to her sister-in-law an idea of what Lady Lufton would dislike; but in doing so, she had unintentionally brought against her an accusation.

‘Flirting, Fanny!’ said Lucy, standing still in the path, and looking up into her companion’s face with all her eyes. ‘Do you mean to say that I have been flirting with Lord Lufton?’

‘I did not say that.’

‘Or that I have allowed him to flirt with me?’

‘I did not mean to shock you, Lucy.’

‘What did you mean, Fanny?’

‘Why, just this: that Lady Lufton would not be pleased if he paid you marked attentions, and if you received them; just like that affair of riding; it was better to decline it.’

‘Of course I declined it; of course I never dreamt of accepting such an offer. Go riding about the country on his horses! What have I done, Fanny, that you should suppose such a thing?’

‘You have done nothing, dearest.’

‘Then why did you speak as you did just now?’

‘Because I wished to put you on your guard. You know, Lucy, that I do not intend to find fault with you; but you may be sure, as a rule, that intimate friendships between young gentlemen and young ladies are dangerous things.’ They then walked up to the hall-door in silence. When they reached it, Lucy stood in the doorway instead of entering it, and said, ‘Fanny, let us take another turn together if you are not tired.’

‘No, I’m not tired.’

‘It will be better that I should understand you at once,’–and then they again moved away from the house. ‘Tell me truly now, do you think that Lord Lufton and I have been flirting?’

‘I do think he is a little inclined to flirt with you.’

‘And Lady Lufton has been asking you to lecture me about it?’ Poor Mrs Robarts hardly knew what to say. She thought well of all the persons concerned; and was very anxious to behave well by all of them;–was particularly anxious to create no ill feeling, and wished that everybody would be comfortable, and on good terms with everybody else. But yet the truth was forced out of her when this question was asked so suddenly. ‘Not to lecture you, Lucy,’ she said at last.

‘Well, to preach to me, or to talk to me, or to give me a lesson; to say something that shall drive me to put my back up against Lord Lufton?’

‘To caution you, dearest. Had you heard what she said, you would hardly have felt angry with Lady Lufton.’

‘Well, to caution me. It is such a pleasant thing for a girl to be cautioned against falling in love with a gentleman, especially when the gentleman is very rich, and a lord, and all that sort of thing.’

‘Nobody for a moment attributes anything wrong to you, Lucy.’

‘Anything wrong–no. I don’t know whether it would be anything wrong, even if I were to fall in love with him. I wonder whether they cautioned Griselda Grantly when she was here? I suppose when young lords go about, all the girls are cautioned as a matter of course. Why do they not label him “dangerous”?’ And then they were again silent for a moment, as Mrs Robarts did not feel that she had anything further to say on the matter.

‘”Poison” should be the word with any one so fatal as Lord Lufton; and he ought to be made up of some particular colour; for fear he should be swallowed by mistake.’

‘You will be safe, you see,’ said Fanny laughing, ‘as you have been specially cautioned as to this individual bottle.’

‘Ah! but what’s the use of that after I have had so many doses? It is no good telling me about it now; when the mischief is done,–after I have been taking it for I don’t know how long. Dear! Dear! Dear! And I regarded it as a more commonplace powder, good for the complexion. I wonder whether it’s too late, or whether there’s any antidote?’ Mrs Robarts did not always quite understand her sister-in-law, and now she was a little at a loss. ‘I don’t think there’ much harm done yet on either side,’ said she, cheerily.

‘Ah! you don’t know, Fanny. But I do think that if I die–as I shall–I feel I shall;–and if so, I do think it ought to go very hard with Lady Lufton. Why didn’t she label him “dangerous” in time?’ And then they went into the house and up to their own rooms. It was difficult for any one to understand Lucy’s state of mind at present, and it can hardly be said that she understood it herself. She felt that she had received a severe blow in having been thus made the subject of remark with reference to Lord Lufton. She knew that her pleasant evenings at Framley Court were now over, and that she could not again talk to him in an unrestrained tone and without embarrassment. She had felt the air of the whole place to be very cold before her intimacy with him, and now it must be cold again. Two homes had been open to her; Framley Court and the parsonage; and no, as far as comfort was concerned, she must confine herself to the latter. She could not again be comfortable in Lady Lufton’s drawing-room. But then she could not help asking herself whether Lady Lufton was not right. She had had courage enough, and presence of mind, to joke about the matter when her sister-in-law spoke to her, and yet she was quite aware that it was no joking matter. Lord Lufton had not absolutely made love to her, but had latterly spoken to her in a manner which she knew was not compatible with that ordinary comfortable masculine friendship with the idea of which she had once satisfied herself. Was not Fanny right when she said that intimate friendships of that nature were dangerous things?

Yes, Lucy, very dangerous. Lucy, before she went to bed that night, had owned to herself that they were so; and lying there with sleepless eyes and a moist pillow, she was driven to confess that the label would in truth be now too late, that the caution had come to her after the poison had been swallowed. Was there any antidote? That was all that was left for her to consider. But, nevertheless, on the following morning she could appear quite at her ease. And when Mark had left the house after breakfast, she could still joke with Fanny as to Lady Lufton’s poisoned cupboard.

CHAPTER XIV

MR CRAWLEY OF HOGGLESTOCK

And then there was that other trouble in Lady Lufton’s mind, the sins, namely, of her selected parson. She had selected him, and she was by no means inclined to give him up, even though his sins against parsondom were grievous. Indeed she was a woman not prone to give up anything, and of all things not prone to give up a protege. The very fact that she herself had selected him was the strongest argument in his favour. But his sins against parsondom were becoming very grievous in her eyes, and she was at a loss to know what steps to take. She hardly dared to take him to task, him himself. Were she to do so, and should he then tell her to mind her own business–as he probably might do, though not in those words–there would be a schism in the parish; and almost anything would be better than that. The whole work of her life would be upset, all the outlets of her energy would be impeded, if not absolutely closed, if a state of things were to come to pass in which she and the parson of her parish should not be on good terms.

But what was to be done? Early in the winter he had gone to Chaldicotes and to Gatherum Castle, consorting with gamblers, Whigs, atheists, men of loose pleasure, and Proudieites. That she had condoned; and now he was turning out a hunting parson on her hands. It was all very well for Fanny to say that he merely looked at the hounds as he made about his parish. Fanny might be deceived. Being his wife, it might be her duty not to see her husband’s iniquities. But Lady Lufton could not be deceived. She knew very well in what part of the county Cobbold’s Ashes lay. It was not in Framley parish, nor in the next parish to it. It was half-way across to Chaldicotes–to the western division; and she had heard of that run in which two horses had been killed, and in which Parson Robarts had won immortal glory among West Barsetshire sportsmen. It was not easy to keep Lady Lufton in the dark as to matters occurring in her own county.

All those things she knew, but as yet had not noticed, grieving over them in her own heart the more on that account. Spoken grief relieves itself; and when one can give counsel, one always hopes at least that that counsel will be effective. To her son she had said, more than once, that it was a pity that Mr Robarts should follow the hounds–‘The world has agreed that it is unbecoming in a clergyman,’ she would urge, in her deprecatory tone. But her son would by no means give her any comfort. ‘He doesn’t hunt, you know–not as I do,’ he would say. ‘And if he did, I really don’t see the harm of it. A man must have some amusement, even if he is an archbishop.’ ‘He has amusement at home,’ Lady Lufton would answer. ‘What does his wife do–and his sister?’ This allusion to Lucy, however, was very soon dropped.

Lord Lufton would in no wise help her. He would not even passively discourage the vicar, or refrain from offering to give him a seat in going to the meets. Mark and Lord Lufton had been boys together, and his lordship knew that Mark in his heart would enjoy a brush across the country quite as well himself; and then what was the harm of it? Lady Lufton’s best aid had been in Mark’s own conscience. He had taken himself to task more than once, and had promised himself that he would not become a sporting parson. Indeed, where would be his hopes of ulterior promotion, if he allowed himself to degenerate so far as that? It had been his intention, in reviewing what he considered to be the necessary proprieties of clerical life, in laying out his own future mode of living, to assume no peculiar sacerdotal strictness; he would not be known as a denouncer of dancing or of card-tables, of theatres or of novel-reading; he would take the world around him, as he found it, endeavouring by precept and practice to lend a hand to the gradual amelioration which Christianity is producing; but he would attempt no sudden or majestic reforms. Cake and ale would still be popular, and ginger be hot in the mouth, let him preach ever so–let him be never so solemn as a hermit; but a bright face, a true trusting heart, an strong arm, and an humble mind, might do much in teaching those around him that men may be gay and yet not profligate, that women may be devout and yet not be dead to the world.

Such had been his ideas as to his own future life; and though many would think that, as a clergyman, he should have gone about his work with more serious devotion of thought, nevertheless there was some wisdom in them;–some folly also undoubtedly, as appeared by the troubles into which they had led him. ‘I will not affect to think that to be bad,’ said he to himself, ‘which in my heart of hearts does not seem to be bad.’ And thus he resolved that he might live without contamination among hunting squires. And then, being a man only too prone by nature to do as other did around him, he found by degrees that that could hardly be wrong for him which he admitted to be right for others.

But still his conscience upbraided him, and he declared to himself more than once that after this year he would hunt no more. And then his own Fanny would look at him on his return home on those days in a manner that would cut him to the heart. She would say nothing to him. She never inquired in a sneering tone; and with angry eyes, whether he had enjoyed his day’s sport; but when he spoke of it, she could not answer with enthusiasm; and in other matters which concerned him she was always enthusiastic. After a while, too, he made matters worse, for about the end of March, he did another very foolish thing. He almost consented to buy an expensive horse from Sowerby–an animal which he by no means wanted, and which, if once possessed, would certainly lead him into further trouble. A gentleman, when he has a good horse in his stable, does not like to leave him there eating his head off. If he be a gig-horse, the owner of him will be keen to drive a gig; if a hunter, the happy possessor will wish to be with a pack of hounds.

‘Mark,’ Sowerby said to him one day, when they were out together, ‘this brute of mine is so fresh, I can hardly ride him; you are young and strong; change with me for an hour or so.’ And then they did change, and the horse on which Robarts found himself mounted went away with him beautifully.

‘He’s a splendid animal,’ said Mark, when they again met.

‘Yes, for a man of your weight. He’s thrown away upon me;–too much of a horse for my purposes. I don’t get along now quite as well as I used to do. He is a nice sort of hunter; just rising six, you know.’ How it came to pass that the price of the splendid animal was mentioned between them, I need not describe with exactness. But it did come to pass that Mr Sowerby told the parson that the horse could be his for one hundred and thirty pounds. ‘And I really wish you’d take him,’ said Sowerby. ‘It would be the means of partially relieving my mind of a great weight.’ Mark looked up into his friend’s face with an air of surprise, for he did not at the moment understand how this should be the case.

‘I’m afraid, you know, that you will have to put your hand into your pocket sooner or later for that accursed bill’–Mark shrank as the profane words struck his ears–‘and I should be glad to think that you had got something in hand in the way of value.’

‘Do you mean that I shall have to pay the whole sum of five hundred pounds?’

‘Oh! dear, no; nothing of the kind. But something I dare say you will have to pay: if you like to take Dandy for a hundred and thirty, you can be prepared for that amount when Tozer comes to you. The horse is dog cheap, and you will have a long day for you money.’ Mark, at first, declared, in a quiet determined tone, that he did not want the horse; but it afterwards appeared to him that if he were so fated that he must pay a portion of Mr Sowerby’s debts, he might as repay himself to any extent within his power. It would be as well perhaps that he should take the horse and sell him. It did not occur to him that by so doing he would put it in Mr Sowerby’s power to say that some valuable consideration had passed between them with reference to this bill, and that he would be aiding that gentleman in preparing an inextricable confusion in money matters between them. Mr Sowerby well knew the value of this. It would enable him to make a plausible story, as he had done in that other case of Lord Lufton. ‘Are you going to have Dandy?’ Sowerby said to him again.

‘I can’t say that I will just at present,’ said the parson. ‘What should I do with him now the season’s over?’

‘Exactly, my dear fellow; and what do I do want of him now the season’s over? If it were the beginning of October instead of the end of March, Dandy would be up at two hundred and thirty instead of one: in six months’ time that horse would be worth anything you like to ask for him. Look at his bone.’ The vicar did look at his bones, examining the brute with a very knowing and unclerical manner. He lifted the animal’s four feet, one after another, handling the frogs, and measuring with his eye the proportion of his parts; he passed his hand up and down his legs, spanning the bones of the lower joint; he peered into his eyes, took into consideration the width of his chest, the dip of his back, the form of his ribs, the curve of his haunches, and the capabilities for breathing when pressed by work. And then he stood away a little, eyeing him from the side, and taking in a general idea of the form and make of the whole. ‘He seems to stand over a little, I think,’ said the parson.

‘It’s the lie of the ground. Move him about, Bob. There now, let him stand there.’

‘He’s not perfect,’ said Mark. ‘I don’t quite like his heels; but no doubt he’s a niceish cut of horse.’

‘I rather think he is. If he were perfect, as you say, he would not be going into your stables for a hundred and thirty. Do you ever remember to have seen a perfect horse?’

‘Your mare Mrs Gamp was as nearly perfect as possible.’

‘Even Mrs Gamp had her faults. In the first place she was a bad feeder. But one certainly doesn’t often come across anything much better than Mrs Gamp.’ And thus the matter was talked over between them with much stable conversation, all of which tended to make Sowerby more and more oblivious of his friend’s sacred profession, and perhaps to make the vicar himself too frequently oblivious of it also. But no; he was not oblivious of it. He was even mindful of it; but mindful of it in such a manner that his thoughts on the subject were nowadays always painful.

There is a parish called Hogglestock lying away quite in the northern extremity of the eastern division of the county–lying also on the borders of the western division. I almost fear that it will become necessary, before this history be completed, to provide a map of Barsetshire for the due explanation of all these localities. Framley is also in the northern portion of the county, but just to the south of the grand trunk line of railway from which the branch to Barchester strikes off at a point some thirty miles nearer to London. The station for Framley Court is Silverbridge, which is, however, in the western division of the county. Hogglesock is to the north of the railway, the line of which, however, runs through a portion of the parish, and it adjoins Framley, though the churches are as much as seven miles apart. Barsetshire, taken altogether, is a pleasant green tree-becrowded county, with large husky hedges, pretty damp deep lanes, and roads with broad grass margins running along them. Such is the general nature of the county; but just up in its northern extremity this nature alters. There it is bleak and ugly, with low artificial hedges, and without wood; not uncultivated, as it is all portioned out into new-looking large fields, bearing turnips, and wheat, and mangel, all in due course of agricultural rotation; but it has none of the special beauties of English cultivation. There is not a gentleman’s house in the parish of Hogglestock besides that of the clergyman; and this, though it is certainly the house of a gentleman, can hardly be said to be fit to be so. It is ugly, and straight, and small. It produces cabbages, but no trees: potatoes of, I believe, an excellent description, but hardly any flowers, and nothing worthy of the name of a shrub. Indeed the whole parish of Hogglestock should have been in the adjoining county, which is by no means so attractive as Barsetshire;–a fact well known to those few of my readers who are well acquainted with their own country.

Mr Crawley, whose name has been mentioned in these pages, was the incumbent of Hogglestock. On what principle the remuneration of our parish clergymen was settled when the original settlement was made, no deepest, keenest, lover of middle-aged ecclesiastical black-letter learning can, I take it, now say. That priests were to be paid from tithes of the parish produce, out of which tithes certain other good things were to be bought and paid for, such as church repairs and education, of so much the most have an inkling. That a rector, being a big sort of parson, owned the tithes of his parish in full,–or at any rate that part of them intended for the clergyman,–and that a vicar was somebody’s deputy, and therefore entitled only to little tithes, as being of a little body: of so much we that are simple in such matters have a general idea. But one cannot conceive that even in this way any approximation could have been made, even in these old medieval days, towards a fair proportioning of the pay to the work. At any rate, it is clear enough that there is no such approximation now. And what a screech would there not be among the clergy of the Church, even in these reforming days, if any over-bold reformer were to suggest that such an approximation should be attempted? Let those who know clergymen, and like them, and have lived with them, only fancy it! Clergymen to be paid, not according to the temporalities of any living which they may have acquired, either by merit or favour, but in accordance with the work to be done! O Doddington! And O Stanhope, think of this, if an idea so sacrilegious can find entrance into your warm ecclesiastical bosoms! Ecclesiastical work to be bought and paid of according to its quantity and quality!

But, nevertheless, one may prophesy that we Englishmen must come to this, disagreeable as the idea undoubtedly is. Most pleasant-minded Churchmen feel, I think, on this subject pretty much in the same way. Our present arrangement of parochial incomes is beloved as being time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, and picturesque. We would fain adhere to it closely as long as we can, but we know that we do so by the force of our prejudice, and not by that of our judgement. A time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, picturesque arrangement is so far very delightful. But are there not other attributes very desirable–nay, absolutely necessary–in respect to which this time-honoured, picturesque arrangement is so very deficient?

How pleasant it was, too, that one bishop should be getting fifteen thousand a year, and another with an equal care of parsons only four? That a certain prelate could get twenty thousand one year and his successor in the same diocese only five the next? There was something in it pleasant and picturesque; it was an arrangement endowed with feudal charms, and the change which they had made was distasteful to many of us. A bishop with a regular salary, and no appanage of land and land-bailiffs, is only half a bishop. Let any man prove to me the contrary ever so thoroughly–me prove it to my own self ever so often–my heart in this matter is not thereby a whit altered. One liked to know that there was a dean or two who got his three thousand a year, and that old Dr Purple held four stalls, one of which was golden, and the other three silver-gilt! Such knowledge was always so pleasant to me! A golden stall! How sweet is the ground thereof to church-loving ears! But bishops have been shorn of their beauty, and deans are in their decadence. A utilitarian age requires the fatness of the ecclesiastical land, in order that it may be divided out into small portions of provender, on which necessary working clergymen may live,–into portions so infinitely small that working clergyman can hardly live. And the full-blown rectors and vicars, with full-blown tithes–with tithes when too full-blown for strict utilitarian principles–will necessarily follow. Stanhope and Doddington must bow their heads, with such compensation for temporal rights as may be extracted,–but in other trades, professions, and lines of life, men are paid according to their work. Let it be so in the Church. Such will sooner or later be the edict of a utilitarian, reforming, matter-of-fact House of Parliament.

I have a scheme of my own on the subject, which I will not introduce here, seeing that neither men nor women would read it. And with reference to this matter, I will only here further explain that all these words have been brought about by the fact, necessary to be here stated, that Mr Crawley only received one hundred and thirty pounds a year for performing the whole parochial duty of the parish of Hogglestock. And Hogglestock is a large parish. It includes two populous villages, abounding in brickmakers, a race of men very troublesome to a zealous parson who won’t let men go rollicking to the devil without interference. Hogglestock has full work for two men; and yet all the funds therein applicable to parson’s work is this miserable stipend of one hundred and thirty pounds a year. It is a stipend neither picturesque nor time-honoured, nor feudal, for Hogglestock takes rank only as a perpetual curacy.

Mr Crawley has been mentioned before as a clergyman of whom Mr Robarts said, that he almost thought it wrong to take a walk out of his own parish. In so saying Mark Robarts of course burlesqued his brother parson; but there can be no doubt that Mr Crawley was a strict man,–a strict, stern, unpleasant man, and one who feared God and his own conscience. We must say a word or two of Mr Crawley and his concerns. He was now some forty years of age, but of these he had not been in possession even of his present benefice for more than four or five. The first ten years of his life as a clergyman had been passed in performing the duties and struggling through the life of a curate in a bleak, ugly, cold parish on the northern coast of Cornwall. It had been a weary life and a fearful struggle, made up of duties ill requited and not always satisfactorily performed, of love and poverty, of increasing cares, of sickness, debt, and death. For Mr Crawley had married almost as soon as he was ordained, and children had been born to him in that chill, comfortless Cornish village. He had married a lady well-educated and softly nurtured, but not dowered with worldly wealth. They two had gone forth determined to fight bravely together; to disregard the world and the world’s ways, looking only to God and to each other for their comfort. They would give up ideas of gentle living, of soft raiment, and delicate feeding. Others,–those that work with their hands, even the betterment of such workers–could live in decency and health upon even such provisions as he could earn as a clergyman. In such manner would they live, so poorly and so decently, working out their work, not with their hands but with their hearts.

And so they had established themselves, beginning the world with bare-footed little girl of fourteen to aid them in the small household matters; and for a while they had both kept heart, loving each other dearly, and prospering somewhat in their work. But a man who has once walked the world as a gentleman knows to what it is to change his position, and place himself lower down in the social rank. Much less can he know what it is to put down the woman he loves. There are a thousand things, mean and trifling in themselves, which a man despises when he thinks of them in his philosophy, but to dispense with which puts his philosophy to so stern a proof. Let any plainest man who reads this think of his usual mode of getting himself into is matutinal garments, and confess how much such a struggle would cost him. And then children had come. The wife of the labouring man does rear her children, and often rears them in health, without even so many appliances of comfort as found their way into Mrs Crawley’s cottage; but the task to her was almost more than she could accomplish. Not that she ever fainted, or gave way: she was made of the sterner metal of the two, and could last on while he was prostrate.

And sometimes he was prostrate–prostrate in soul and spirit. Then would he complain with bitter voice, crying out that the world was too hard for him, that his back was broken with his burden, that his God had deserted him. For days and days, in such moods, he would stay within his cottage, never darkening the door or seeing other faces than those of his own inmates. Those days were terrible both to him and her. He would sit there unwashed, with his unshorn face resting on his hand, with an old dressing-gown hanging loose about him, hardly tasting food, seldom speaking, striving to pray, but striving so frequently in vain. And then he would rise from his chair, and, with a burst of frenzy, call upon his Creator to remove him from this misery. In these moments she never deserted him. At one period they had had four children, and though the whole weight of this young brood rested on her arms, on her muscles, on her strength of mind and body, she never ceased in her efforts to comfort him. Then, at length, falling utterly upon the ground, he would pour forth piteous prayers for mercy, and after a night of sleep would once more go forth to his work.

But she never yielded to despair: the struggle was never beyond her powers of endurance. She had possessed her share of woman’s loveliness, but that was now all gone. Her colour quickly faded, and the fresh, soft tints soon deserted her face and forehead. She became thin, and rough, and almost haggard; thin till her cheek-bones were nearly pressing through her skin, till her elbows were sharp, and her finger-bones as those of a skeleton. Her eye did not lose its lustre, but it became unnaturally bright, prominent, and too large for her wan face. The soft brown locks, which she had once loved to brush back, scorning, as she would boast to herself, to care that they should be seen, were now sparse enough and all untidy and unclean. It was matter of little thought now whether they were seen or not. Whether he could be made fit to go into his pulpit–whether they might be fed–those four innocents–and their backs kept from the cold wind–that was now the matter of her thought. And then two of them died, and she went forth herself to see them laid under the frost-bound sod, lest he should faint in his work over their graves. For he would ask aid from no man–such at least was his boast through all. Two of them died, but their illness had been long; and then debts came upon them. Debt, indeed, had been creeping on them with slow but sure feet during the last five years. Who can see his children hungry, and not take bread if it be offered? Who can see his wife lying in sharpest want, and not seek a remedy if there be a remedy within reach? So debt had come upon them, and rude men pressed for small sums of money–for sums small to the world, but impossibly large to them. And he would hide himself within there, in that cranny of an inner chamber–hide himself with deep shame from the world, with shame and a sinking heart, and a broken spirit.

But had such a man no friend? it will be said. Such men, I take it, do not make many friends. But this man was not utterly friendless. Almost every year one visit was paid to him in his Cornish curacy, by a brother clergyman, an old college friend, who, as far as might in him lie, did give aid to the curate and his wife. This gentleman would take up his abode for a week at a farmer’s in the neighbourhood, and though he found Mr Crawley in despair, he would leave him with some drops of comfort in his soul. Nor were the benefits in this respect al on one side. Mr Crawley, though at some periods weak enough himself, could be strong for others; and, more than once, was strong to the great advantage of this man whom he loved. And then, too, pecuniary assistance was forthcoming–in those earlier years not in great amount, for this friend was not then among the rich ones of the earth–but in amount sufficient for that moderate hearth, if only its acceptance could have been managed. But in that matter there were difficulties without end. Of absolute money tenders Mr Crawley would accept none. But a bill here and there was paid, the wife assisting; and shoes came for Kate–till Kate was placed beyond the need of shoes; and cloth for Harry and Frank, found its way surreptitiously in beneath the cover of that wife’s solitary trunk–cloth with which those lean fingers worked garments for the two boys, to be worn–such was God’s will–only by the one.

Such were Mr and Mrs Crawley in their Cornish curacy, and during their severest struggles. To one who thinks that a fair day’s work is worth a fair day’s wages, it seems hard enough that a man should work so hard and receive so little. There will be those who think that the fault was all his own in marrying so young. But still there remains that question, Is not a fair day’s work worth a fair day’s wages? This man did work hard–at a task perhaps the hardest of any that a man may do; and for ten years he earned some seventy pounds a year. Will any one say that he received fair wages for his fair work, let him be married or single? And yet, there are so many who would fain pay their clergy, if they only knew how to apply their money! But that is a long subject, as Mr Robarts had told Miss Dunstable. Such was Mr Crawley in his Cornish curacy.

CHAPTER XV

LADY LUFTON’S AMBASSADOR

And then, in the days which followed, that friend of Mr Crawley’s, whose name, by the by, is yet to be mentioned, received quick and great promotion. Mr Arabin by name he was then; Dr Arabin afterwards, when that quick and great promotion reached its climax. He had been simply a Fellow of Lazarus in those former years. Then he became vicar of St Ewold’s, in East Barsetshire, and had not yet got himself settled there when he married the widow Bold, a widow with belongings in land and funded money, and with but one small baby as an encumbrance. Nor had he even yet married her, had only engaged himself so to do, when they made him Dean of Barchester–all of which may be read in the diocesan and county chronicles. And now that he was wealthy, the new dean did contrive to pay the debts of his poor friend, some lawyer of Camelford assisting him. It was but a paltry schedule after all, amounting in the total to something not much above a hundred pounds. And then, in the course of eighteen months, this poor piece of preferment fell the dean’s way, this incumbency of Hogglestock with its stipend reaching one hundred and thirty pounds a year. Even that was worth double the Cornish curacy, and there was, moreover, a house attached to it. Poor Mrs Crawley, when she heard of it, thought that their struggles of poverty were now well-nigh over. What might not be done with a hundred and thirty pounds by people who had lived for ten years on seventy?

And so they moved away out of that cold, bleak country, carrying with them their humble household goods, and settled themselves in another country, cold and bleak also, but less terribly so than the former. They settled themselves, and again began their struggles against man’s hardness and the devil’s zeal. I have said that Mr Crawley was a stern, unpleasant man; and it certainly was so. The man must be made of very sterling stuff, whom continued and undeserved misfortune does not make unpleasant. This man had so far succumbed to grief, that it had left upon him its marks, palpable and not to be effaced. He cared little for society, judging men to be doing evil who did care for it. He knew as a fact, and believed with all his heart, that these sorrows had come to him from the hand of God, and that they would work for his weal in the long run; but not the less did they make him morose, silent and dogged. He had always at his heart a feeling that he and his had been ill-used, and too often solaced himself, at the devil’s bidding, with the conviction that eternity would make equal that which life in this world had made so unequal; the last bait that with which the devil angles after those who are struggling to elude his rod and line.

The Framley property did not run into the parish of Hogglestock; but nevertheless Lady Lufton did what she could in the way of kindness to these new-comers. Providence had not supplied Hogglestock with a Lady Lufton, or with any substitute in the shape of lord or lady, squire or squiress. The Hogglestock farmers, male and female, were a rude, rough set, not bordering in their social rank on the farmer gentle; and Lady Lufton, knowing this, and hearing something of these Crawleys from Mrs Arabin the dean’s wife, trimmed her lamps, so that they should shed a wider light, and pour forth some of their influence on that forlorn household. And as regards Mrs Crawley, Lady Lufton by no means found that her work was thrown away. Mrs Crawley accepted her kindness with thankfulness, and returned to some of the softness of life under her hand. As for dining at Framley Court, that was out of the question. Mr Crawley, she knew, would not hear of it, even if other things were fitting and appliances were at command. Indeed Mrs Crawley at once said that she felt herself unfit to go through such a ceremony with anything like comfort. The dean, she said, would talk of their going to stay at the deanery; but she thought it quite impossible that either of them should endure even that. But, all the same, Lady Lufton was a comfort to her; and the poor woman felt that it was well to have a lady near her in case of need.

The task was much harder with Mr Crawley, but even with him it was not altogether unsuccessful. Lady Lufton talked to him of his parish and of her own; made Mark Robarts go to him, and by degrees did something towards civilizing him. Between him and Robarts too there grew up an intimacy rather than a friendship. Robarts would submit his opinion on matters of ecclesiastical and even theological law, would listen to him with patience, would agree with him where he could, and differ with him mildly when he could not. For Robarts was a man who made himself pleasant to all men. And thus, under Lady Lufton’s wing, there grew up a connexion between Framley and Hogglestock, in which Mrs Robarts also assisted. And now that Lady Lufton was looking about her, to see how she might best bring proper clerical influence to bear upon her own recreant fox-hunting parson, it occurred to her that she might use Mr Crawley in the matter. Mr Crawley would certainly be on her side as far as opinion went, and would have no fear in expressing his opinion to his brother clergyman. So she sent for Mr Crawley. In appearance he was the very opposite of Mark Robarts. He was a lean, slim, meagre man, with shoulders slightly curved, and pale, lank locks of ragged hair; his forehead was high, but his face was narrow; his small grey eyes were deeply sunken in his head, his nose was well-formed, his lips thin, and his mouth expressive. Nobody could look at him without seeing that there was a purpose and a meaning in his countenance. He always wore, in summer and winter, a long dusky grey coat, which buttoned close up to his neck and descended almost to his heels. He was full six feet high, but being so slight in build, he looked as though he were taller. He came at once at Lady Lufton’s bidding, putting himself into the gig beside the servant, to whom he spoke no single word during the journey. And the man, looking into his face, was struck with taciturnity. Now Mark Robarts would have talked with him the whole way from Hogglestock to Framley Court; discoursing partly as to horses and land, but partly also as to higher things. And then Lady Lufton opened her mind and told her griefs to Mr Crawley, urging, however, through the whole length of her narrative, that Mr Robarts was an excellent parish clergyman,–‘just such a clergyman in his church as I would wish him to be,’ she explained, with the view of saving herself from an expression of any of Mr Crawley’s special ideas as to church teaching, and of confining him to the one subject-matter in hand; ‘but he got his living so young, Mr Crawley, that he is hardly quite as steady as I should wish him to be. It has been as much my fault as his own in placing him in such a position so early in life.’

‘I think it has,’ said Mr Crawley, who might perhaps be a little sore on the subject.

‘Quite so, quite so,’ continued her ladyship, swallowing down a certain sense of anger. ‘But that is done now, and is past cure. That Mr Robarts will become a credit to his profession, I do not doubt, for his heart is in the right place and his sentiments are good; but I fear that at present he is succumbing to temptation.’

‘I am told that he hunts two or three times a week. Everybody is talking about it.’

‘No, Mr Crawley; not two or three times a week; very seldom above once, I think. And then I do believe he does it more with the view of being with Lord Lufton than anything else.’

‘I cannot see that that would make the matter better,’ said Mr Crawley.

‘It would show that he was not strongly imbued with a taste which I cannot but regard as vicious in a clergyman.’

‘It must be vicious in all men,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘It is in itself cruel, and leads to idleness and profligacy.’ Again Lady Lufton made a gulp. She had called Mr Crawley thither to her aid, and felt that it would be inexpedient to quarrel with him. But she did not like to be told that her son’s amusement was idle and profligate. She had always regarded hunting as a proper pursuit for a country gentleman. It was, indeed, in her eyes one of the peculiar institutions of country life in England, and it may be almost said that she looked upon the Barsetshire Hunt as something sacred. She could not endure to hear that a fox was trapped, and allowed her turkeys to be purloined without a groan. Such being the case, she did not like being told that it was vicious, and had by no means wished to consult Mr Crawley on that matter. But nevertheless she swallowed her wrath.

‘It is at any rate unbecoming in a clergyman,’ she said; ‘and as I know that Mr Robarts places a high value on your opinion, perhaps you will not object to advise him to discontinue it. He might possibly feel aggrieved were I to interfere personally on such a question.’

‘I have no doubt he would,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘It is not within a woman’s province to give counsel to a clergyman on such a subject, unless she be very near and very dear to him–his wife, or mother, or sister.’

‘As living in the same parish, you know, and being, perhaps–‘ the leading person in it, and the one who naturally rules the others. Those would have been the fitting words for the expression of her ladyship’s ideas; but she remembered herself, and did not use them. She had made up her mind that, great as her influence ought to be, she was not the proper person to speak to Mr Robarts as to his pernicious, unclerical habits, and she would not now depart from her resolve by attempting to prove that she was the proper person.

‘Yes,’ said Mr Crawley, ‘just so. All that would entitle him to offer you his counsel if he thought that your mode of life was such as to require it, but could by no means justify in addressing yourself to him.’ This was very hard upon Lady Lufton. She was endeavouring with all her woman’s strength to do her best, and endeavouring so to do it that the feelings of the sinner might be spared; and yet the ghostly comforter whom she had evoked to her aid, treated her as though she were arrogant and overbearing. She acknowledged the weakness of her own position with reference to her parish clergyman by calling in the aid of Mr Crawley; and, under such circumstances, he might, at any rate, have abstained from throwing her weakness in her teeth.

‘Well, sir; I hope my mode of life may not require it; but that is not exactly to the point; what I wish to know is, whether you will speak to Mr Robarts?’

‘Certainly I will’, said he.

‘Then I shall be much obliged to you. But, Mr Crawley, pray –pray, remember this: I would not on any account wish that you should be harsh with him. He is an excellent young man, and–‘

‘Lady Lufton, if I do this, I can only do it in my own way, as best I may, using such words as God may give me at the time. I hope that I am harsh to no man; but it is worse than useless, in all cases, to speak anything but the truth.’

‘Of course–of course.’

‘If the ears be too delicate to hear the truth, the mind will be too perverse to profit by it.’ And then Mr Crawley got up to take his leave. But Lady Lufton insisted that he should go with her to luncheon. He hummed and ha’d and would fain have refused, but on this subject she was peremptory. It might be that she was unfit to advise a clergyman as to his duties, but in a matter of hospitality she did know what she was about. Mr Crawley should not leave the house without refreshment. As to this, she carried her point; and Mr Crawley,–when the matter before him was cold roast beef and hot potatoes, instead of the relative position of a parish priest and his parishioner–became humble, submissive, and almost timid. Lady Lufton recommended Madeira instead of sherry, and Mr Crawley obeyed at once, and was, indeed, perfectly unconscious of the difference. Then there was a basket of seakale in the gig for Mrs Crawley; that he would have left behind had he dared, but he did not dare. Not a word was said to him as to the marmalade for the children which was hidden under the seakale, Lady Lufton feeling well aware that that would find its way to its proper destination without any necessity for his co-operation. And then Mr Crawley returned home in the Framley Court gig.

Three or four days after this he walked over to Framley parsonage. This he did on a Saturday, having learned that the hounds never hunted on that day; and he started early, so that he might be sure to catch Mr Robarts before he went out on his parish business. He was quite early enough to attain this object, for when he reached the parsonage door at about half-past nine, the vicar, with his wife and sister, were just sitting down to breakfast. ‘Oh, Crawley,’ said Robarts, before the other had well spoken, ‘you are a capital fellow;’ and then he got him a chair, and Mrs Robarts had poured him out tea, and Lucy had surrendered to him a knife and plate, before he knew under what guise to excuse his coming among them.

‘I hope you will excuse this intrusion,’ at last he muttered; ‘but I have a few words of business to which I will request your attention presently.’

‘Certainly,’ said Robarts, conveying a broiled kidney on to the plate before Mr Crawley; ‘but there is no preparation for business like a good breakfast. Lucy, where are the eggs?’ And then, John, in livery, brought in the fresh eggs. ‘Now, we shall do. I always eat my eggs while they’re hot, Crawley, and I advise you to do the same.’ To all this, Mr Crawley said very little, and he was not at all home under the circumstances. Perhaps a thought did pass across his brain, as to the difference between the meal which he had left on his own table, and that which he now saw before him; and as to any cause which might exist for such difference. But, if so, it was a very fleeting thought, for he had far other matter, now fully occupying his mind. And then the breakfast was over, and in a few minutes the two clergymen found themselves together in the parsonage study.’

‘Mr Robarts,’ began the senior, when he had seated himself uncomfortably on one of the ordinary chairs at the farther side of the well-stored library table, while Mark was sitting at his ease in his own arm-chair by the fire. ‘I have called upon you on an unpleasant business.’ Mark’s mind immediately flew off to Mr Sowerby’s bill, but he could not think it possible that Mr Crawley could have had anything to do with that.

‘But as a brother clergyman, and as one who esteems you much and wishes you well, I have thought myself bound to take this matter in hand.’

‘What matter is it Crawley?’

‘Mr Robarts, men say that your present mode of life is one not befitting a soldier in Christ’s army.’

‘Men say so? What men?’

‘The men around you, of your own neighbourhood; those who watch your life, and know all your doings; those who look to see you walking as a lamp to guide their feet, but find you consorting with horse-jockeys and hunters, galloping after hounds, and taking your place among the vainest of worldly pleasure-seekers. Those who have a right to expect an example of good living, and think they do not see it.’ Mr Crawley had gone at once to the root of the matter, and in doing so had certainly made his own task much the easier. There is nothing like going to the root of the matter at once when one has on hand an unpleasant piece of business.

‘And have such men deputed you to come here?’

‘No one has or could depute me. I have come to speak my own mind, not that of any other. But I refer to what those around you think and say, because it is to them that your duties are due. You owe it to those around you to live a godly, cleanly life;–as you owe it also, in a much higher way, to your Father who is in heaven. I now make bold to ask you whether you are doing your best to lead such a life as that?’ And then he remained silent, waiting for an answer. He was a singular man; so humble and meek, so unutterably inefficient and awkward in the ordinary intercourse of life, but one so bold and enterprising, almost eloquent, on the one subject which was the work of his mind! As he sat there, he looked into his companion’s face from out his sunken grey eyes with a gaze which made his victim quail. And then he repeated his words: ‘I now make bold to ask you, Mr Robarts, whether you are doing your best to lead such a life as may become a parish clergyman among his parishioners?’ And again he paused for an answer.

‘There are but few of us,’ said Mark, in a low tone, ‘who could safely answer that question in the affirmative.’

‘But are there many, think you, among us who would find the question so unanswerable as yourself? And even were there many, would you, young, enterprising, and talented as you are, be content to be numbered among them? Are you satisfied to be a castaway after you have taken upon yourself Christ’s armour? If you will say so, I am mistaken in you, and will go my way.’ There was again a pause, and then he went on. ‘Speak to me, my brother, and open your heart, if it be possible.’ And rising from his chair, he walked across the room, and laid his hand tenderly upon Mark’s shoulder. Mark had been sitting lounging in his chair, and had at first, for a moment only, thought to brazen it out. But all idea of brazening had now left him. He had raised himself from his comfortable ease, and was leaning forward with his elbow on the table; but now, when he heard these words, he allowed his head to sink upon his arms, and he buried his face between his hands.

‘It is a terrible falling off,’ continued Crawley: ‘terrible in the fall, but doubly terrible through that difficulty of returning. But it cannot be that it should content you to place yourself as one among those thoughtless sinners, for the crushing of whose sin you have been placed among them. You become a hunting parson, and ride with a happy mind among blasphemers and mocking devils–you, whose aspirations were so high, who have spoken so often and so well of the duties of a minister of Christ; you, who can argue in your pride as to the petty details of your Church, as though the broad teachings of its great and simple lessons were not enough for your energies! It cannot be that I have a hypocrite beside me in all those eager controversies!’

‘Not a hypocrite–not a hypocrite,’ said Mark, in a tone which was almost reduced to sobbing.

‘But a castaway! Is it so I must call you? No, Mr Robarts, not a castaway; neither a hypocrite, nor a castaway; but one who in walking has stumbled in the dark, and bruised his feet among the stones. Henceforth let him take a lantern in his hand, and look warily to his path, and walk cautiously among the thorns and rocks–cautiously, but yet boldly, with manly courage, but Christian meekness, as all men should walk on their pilgrimage through this vale of tears.’ And then, without giving his companion time to stop him he hurried out of the room, and from the house, and without again seeing any of the others of the family, stalked back on his road to Hogglestock, thus trampling fourteen miles through the deep mud in performance of the mission on which he had been sent.

It was some hours before Mr Robarts left his room. As soon as he found that Crawley was really gone, and that he should see him no more, he turned the lock of his door, and sat himself down to think of his present life. At about eleven his wife knocked, not knowing whether that other strange clergyman were there or no, for none had seen his departure. But Mark, answering cheerily, desired that he might be left to his studies. Let us hope that his thoughts and mental resolves were then of service to him.

CHAPTER XVI

MRS PODGENS’ BABY

The hunting season had now nearly passed away, and the great ones of the Barsetshire world were thinking of the glories of London. Of these glories Lady Lufton always thought with much inquietude of mind. She would fain have remained throughout the whole year at Framley Court, did not certain grave considerations render such a course on her part improper in her own estimation. All the Lady Luftons of whom she had heard, dowager and ante-dowager, had always had their seasons in London, till old age had incapacitated them for such doings–sometimes for clearly long after the arrival of such period. And then she had an idea, perhaps not altogether erroneous, that she annually imported back with her into the country somewhat of the passing civilization of the times:–may we not say an idea that certainly was not erroneous? For how otherwise is it that the forms of new caps and remodelled shapes for women’s waists find their way down into agricultural parts, and that the rural eye learns to appreciate grace and beauty? There are those who think that remodelled waists and new caps had better be kept to the towns; but such people, if they would follow out their own argument, would wish to see plough-boys painted with ruddle and milkmaids covered with skins. For those and other reasons Lady Lufton always went to London in April, and stayed there till the beginning of June. But for her this was usually a period of penance. In London she was no very great personage. She had never laid herself out for greatness of that sort, and did not shine as lady-patroness or state secretary in the female cabinet of fashion. She was dull and listless, and without congenial pursuits in London, and spent her happiest moments in reading accounts of what was being done at Framley, and in writing orders for further local information of the same kind. But on this occasion there was a matter of vital import to give an interest of its own to her visit to town. She was to entertain Griselda Grantly, and, as far as might be possible, to induce her son to remain in Griselda’s society. The plan of the campaign was to be as follows:–Mrs Grantly and the archdeacon were in the first place to go up to London for a month, taking Griselda with them; and then, when they returned to Plumstead, Griselda was to go to Lady Lufton. This arrangement was not at all points agreeable to Lady Lufton, for she knew that Mrs Grantly did not turn her back on the Hartletop people quite as cordially as she should do, considering the terms of the Lufton-Grantly family treaty. But then Mrs Grantly might have alleged in excuse the slow manner in which Lord Lufton was proceeding in the making and declaring of his love, and the absolute necessity which there is for two strings to one bow, when one string may be in any way doubtful. Could it be possible that Mrs Grantly had heard anything of that unfortunate Platonic friendship with Lucy Robarts?

There came a letter from Mrs Grantly just about the end of March, which added much to Lady Lufton’s uneasiness, and made her more than ever anxious to be herself on the scene of action, and to have Griselda in her own hands. After some communications of mere ordinary importance with reference to the London world in general and the Lufton-Grantly world in particular, Mrs Grantly wrote confidentially about her daughter:–‘It would be useless to deny,’ she said, with a mother’s pride and a mother’s humility, ‘that she is very much admired. She is asked out a great deal more than I can take her, and to houses to which I myself by no means wish to go. I could not refuse her as to Lady Hartletop’s first ball, for there will be nothing else yea* like them; and of course when with you, dear Lady Lufton, that house will be out of the question. So indeed would it be with me, were I myself only concerned. The duke was there, of course, and I really wonder Lady Hartletop should not be more discreet in her own drawing-room when all the world is there. It is clear to me that Lord Dumbello admires Griselda much more than I could wish. She, dear girl, has such excellent sense that I do not think it likely that her head should be turned by it; but with how many girls would not the admiration of such a man be irresistible? The marquis, you know, is very feeble, and I am told that since this rage for building has come on, the Lancashire property is over two hundred thousand a year! I do not think that Lord Dumbello has said much to her. Indeed it seems to me that he never does say much to any one. But he always stands to dance with her, and I see that he is uneasy and fidgety when she stands up with any other partner whom he could care about. It was really embarrassing to see him the other night at Miss Dunstable’s, when Griselda was dancing with a certain friend of ours. But she did look very well that evening, and I have seldom seen her more animated!’

All this, and a great deal more of the same sort in the same latter, tended to make Lady Lufton anxious to be in London. It was quite certain–there was no doubt of that, at any rate–that Griselda would see no more of Lady Hartletop’s meretricious grandeur when she had been transferred to Lady Lufton’s guardianship. And she, Lady Lufton, did wonder that Mrs Grantly should have taken her daughter to such a house. All about Lady Hartletop was known to the world. It was known that it was almost the only house in London at which the Duke of Omnium was constantly to be met. Lady Lufton herself would almost as soon think of taking a young girl to Gatherum Castle; and on these accounts she did feel rather angry with her friend Mrs Grantly. But then perhaps she did not sufficiently calculate that Mrs Grantly’s letter had been written purposely to produce such feelings–with the express view of awakening her ladyship to the necessity of action. Indeed, in such a matter as this, Mrs Grantly was a more able woman than Lady Lufton–more able to see her way and to follow it out. The Lufton-Grantly alliance was in her mind the best, seeing that she did not regard money as everything. But failing that, the Hartletop-Grantly alliance was not bad. Regarding it as a second string to her bow, she thought that it was not at all bad. Lady Lufton’s reply was very affectionate. She declared how happy she was to know that Griselda was enjoying herself; she insinuated that Lord Dumbello was known to the world as a fool, and his mother as–being not a bit better than she ought to be; and then she added that circumstances would bring herself up to town four days sooner than she had expected, and that she hoped her dear Griselda would come to her at once. Lord Lufton, she said, though he would not sleep in Bruton Street–Lady Lufton lived in Bruton Street–had promised to pass there as much of his time as his parliamentary duties would permit.

O Lady Lufton! Lady Lufton! did not it occur to you when you wrote those last words intending that they should have so strong an effect on the mind of your correspondent that you were telling a–tarradiddle? Was it not the case that you had said to your son, in your own dear, kind, motherly way: ‘Ludovic, we shall see something of you in Bruton Street this year, shall we not? Griselda Grantly will be with me, and we must not let her be dull–must we?’ And then had he not answered, ‘Oh, of course, mother,’ and sauntered out of the room, not altogether graciously? Had he, or you, said a word about his parliamentary duties? Not a word! O Lady Lufton! have you not written a tarradiddle to your friend? In these days we are becoming very strict about truth with our children; terribly strict occasionally, when we consider the natural weakness of the moral courage at the ages of ten, twelve, and fourteen. But I do not know that we are at all increasing the measure of strictness with which we, grown-up people, regulate our own truth and falsehood. Heaven forbid that I should be thought to advocate falsehood in children; but an untruth is more pardonable in them than in parents. Lady Lufton’s tarradiddle was of a nature that is usually considered excusable–at least with grown-up people; but, nevertheless, she would have been nearer to perfection could she have confined herself to the truth. Let us suppose that a boy were to write home from school, saying that another boy had promised to come and stay with him, that other having given no such promise–what a very naughty boy would that first boy be in the eyes of his pastors and masters!

That little conversation between Lord Lufton and his mother–in which nothing was said about his lordship’s parliamentary duties–took place on the evening before he started for London. On that occasion he certainly was not in the best humour, nor did he behave to his mother in the kindest manner. He had then left the room when she began to talk about Miss Grantly; and once again in the course of the evening, when his mother, not very judiciously, said a word or two about Griselda’s beauty; he had remarked that she was no conjurer, and would hardly set the Thames on fire. ‘If she were a conjurer,’ said Lady Lufton, rather piqued, ‘I should not now be going to take her out in London. I know many of those sort of girls whom you call conjurers; they can talk for ever, and always talk loudly or in a whisper. I don’t like them, and I am sure that you do not in your heart.’

‘Oh, as to liking them in my heart–that is being very particular.’

‘Griselda Grantly is a lady, and as such I shall be happy to have her with me in town. She is just the girl that Justinia will like to have with her.’

‘Exactly,’ said Lord Lufton. ‘She will do exceedingly well for Justinia.’ Now this was not good-natured on the part of Lord Lufton; and his mother felt it the more strongly, inasmuch as it seemed to signify that he was setting his back up against the Lufton-Grantly alliance. She had been pretty sure that he would do so in the event of his suspecting that a plot was being laid to catch him; and now it almost appeared that he did suspect such a plot. Why else sarcasm as to Griselda doing very well for his sister?

And now we must go back and describe a little scene at Framley, which will account for his Lordship’s ill-humour and suspicions, and explain how it came to pass that he so snubbed his mother. This scene took place about ten days after the evening on which Mrs Robarts and Lucy were walking together in the parsonage garden, and during those ten days Lucy had not once allowed herself to be entrapped into any special conversation with the young peer. She had dined at Framley Court during that interval, and had spent a second evening there; Lord Lufton had also been up at the parsonage on three or four occasions, and had looked for her in her usual walks; but, nevertheless, they had never come together in their old familiar way, since the day on which Lady Lufton had hinted her fears to Mrs Robarts.

Lord Lufton had very much missed her. At first he had not attributed this change to a purposed scheme of action on the part of any one; nor, indeed, had he much thought about it, although he had felt himself to be annoyed. But as the period fixed for his departure grew near, it did occur to him as very odd that he should never hear Lucy’s voice unless when she said a few words to his mother, or to her sister-in-law. And then he made up his mind that he would speak to her before he went, and that the mystery should be explained to him. And he carried out his purpose, calling at the parsonage on one special afternoon; and it was on the evening of the same day that his mother sang the praises of Griselda Grantly so inopportunely. Robarts, he knew, was then absent from home, and Mrs Robarts was with his mother down at the house, preparing lists of the poor people to be specially attended to in Lady Lufton’s approaching absence. Taking advantage of this, he walked boldly in through the parsonage garden; asked the gardener, with an indifferent voice, whether either of the ladies were at home, and then caught poor Lucy exactly on the doorstep of the house.

‘Were you going in or out, Miss Robarts?’

‘Well, I was going out,’ said Lucy; and she began to consider how best she might get quit of any prolonged encounter.

‘Oh, going out, were you? I don’t know whether I may offer to–‘

‘Well, Lord Lufton, not exactly, seeing that I am about to pay a visit to our near neighbour, Mrs Podgens. Perhaps, you have no particular call towards Mrs Podgens’s just at present, or to her new baby?’

‘And have you any particular call that way?’

‘Yes, and especially to Baby Podgens. Baby Podgens is a real little duck–only just two days old.’ And Lucy, as she spoke, progressed a step or two, as though she were determined not to remain there talking on the doorstep. A slight cloud came across his brow as he saw this, and made him resolve that she should not gain her purpose. He was not going to be foiled in that way by such a girl as Lucy Robarts. He had come there to speak to her, and speak to her he would. There had been enough of intimacy between them to justify him in demanding, at any rate, as much as that.

‘Miss Robarts,’ he said, ‘I am starting for London to-morrow, and if I do not say good-bye to you now, I shall not be able to do so at all.’

‘Good-bye, Lord Lufton,’ she said, giving him her hand, and smiling on him with her old genial, good-humoured, racy smile. ‘And mind you bring into Parliament that law which you promised me for defending my young chickens.’

He took her hand, but that was not all he wanted. ‘Surely Mrs Podgens and her baby can wait ten minutes. I shall not see you again for months to come, and yet you seem to begrudge me two words.’

‘Not two hundred if they can be of any service to you,’ said she, walking cheerily back into the drawing-room; ‘only I did not think it worth while to waste your time, as Fanny is not here.’ She was infinitely more collected, more master of herself than he was. Inwardly, she did tremble at the idea of what was coming, but outwardly she showed no agitation–none as yet; if only she could so possess herself as to refrain from doing so, when she heard what he might have to say to her.

He hardly knew what it was for the saying of which he had so resolutely come hither. He had by no means made up his mind that he loved Lucy Robarts; nor had he made up his mind that, loving her, he would, or that, loving her, he would not, make her his wife. He had never used his mind in the matter in any way, either for good or evil. He had learned to like her and to think that she was very pretty. He had found out that it was very pleasant to talk to her; whereas, talking to Griselda Grantly, and, indeed, to some other young ladies of his acquaintance, was often hard work. The half-hours which he had spent with Lucy had always been satisfactory to him. He had found himself to be more bright with her than with other people, and more apt to discuss subjects worth discussing; and thus it had come about that he thoroughly liked Lucy Robarts. As to whether his affection was Platonic or anti-Platonic he had never asked himself; but he had spoken words to her, shortly before that sudden cessation of their intimacy, which might have been taken as anti-Platonic by any girl so disposed to regard them. He had not thrown himself at her feet, and declared himself to be devoured by a consuming passion; but he had touched her hand as lovers touch those of women whom they love; he had had his confidences with her, talking to her of his own mother, of his sister, and of his friends; and he had called her his own dear friend Lucy. All this had been very sweet to her, but very poisonous also. She had declared to herself very frequently that her liking for this young nobleman was purely a feeling of mere friendship as was that of her brother; and she had professed to herself that she would give the lie to the world’s cold sarcasms on such subjects. But she had now acknowledged that the sarcasms of the world on that matter, cold though they may be, are not the less true; and having so acknowledged, she had resolved that all close alliance between herself and Lord Lufton must be at an end. She had come to a conclusion, but he had come to none; and in this frame of mind he was now there with the object of reopening that dangerous friendship which she had had the sense to close.

‘And so you are going to-morrow?’ she said, as soon as they were both within the drawing-room.

‘Yes: I’m off by the early train to-morrow morning, and Heaven knows when we may meet again.’

‘Next winter, shall we not?’

‘Yes, for a day or two, I suppose. I do not know whether I shall pass another winter here. Indeed, one can never say where one will be.’

‘No, one can’t; such as you, at least, cannot. I am not of a migratory tribe myself.’

‘I wish you were.’

‘I’m not a bit obliged to you. Your nomad life does not agree with young ladies.’

‘I think they are taking to it pretty freely then. We have unprotected young women all about the world.’

‘And great bores you find them, I suppose?’

‘No; I like it. The more we can get out of old-fashioned grooves the better I am pleased. I should be a Radical to-morrow–a regular man of the people–only I should break my mother’s heart.’

‘Whatever you do, Lord Lufton, do not do that.’

‘That is why I like you so much,’ he continued, ‘because you get out of the grooves.’

‘Do I?’

‘Yes; and go along by yourself, guiding your own footsteps; not carried hither and thither, just as your grandmother’s old tramway may chance to take you.’

‘Do you know I have a strong idea that my grandmother’s old tramway will be the safest and the best after all? I have not left it very far, and I certainly mean to go back to it.’

‘That’s impossible! An army of old women, with coils of rope made out of time-honoured prejudices, could not draw you back.’

‘No, Lord Lufton, that is true. But one–‘ and then she stopped herself. She could not tell him that one loving mother, anxious for her only son, had sufficed to do it. She could not explain to him that this departure from the established tramway had already broken her own rest, and turned her peaceful happy life into a grievous battle.

‘I know you are trying to go back,’ he said. ‘Do you think that I have eyes and cannot see? Come, Lucy, you and I have been friends, and we must not part in this way. My mother is a paragon among women. I say it in earnest;–a paragon among women: and her love for me is the perfection of motherly love.’

‘It is, it is; and I am so glad that you acknowledge it.’

‘I should be worse than a brute did I not do so; but, nevertheless, I cannot allow her to lead me in all things. Were I to do so, I should cease to be a man.’

‘Where can you find any one who will counsel you so truly?’

‘But, nevertheless, I must rule myself. I do not know whether my suspicions may be perfectly just, but I fancy that she has created this estrangement between you and me. Has it not been so?’

‘Certainly not by speaking to me,’ said Lucy, blushing ruby-red through every vein of her deep-tinted face. But though she could not command her blood, her voice was still under her control–her voice and her manner.

‘But has she not done so? You, I know, will tell me nothing but the truth.’

‘I will tell you nothing on this matter, Lord Lufton, whether true or false. It is a subject on which it does not concern me to speak.’

‘Ah! I understand,’ he said; and rising from his chair, he stood against the chimney-piece with his back to the fire. ‘She cannot leave me alone to choose for myself, my friends, and my own–;’ but he did not fill up the void.

‘But why tell me this, Lord Lufton?’

‘No! I am not to choose my own friends, though they be amongst the best and purest of God’s creatures. Lucy, I cannot think that you have ceased to have a regard for me. That you had a regard for me, I am sure.’ She felt that it was most unmanly of him to seek her out, and hunt her down, and then throw upon her the whole weight of the explanation that his coming thither made necessary. But, nevertheless, the truth must be told, and with God’s help she would find strength for the telling of it.

‘Yes, Lord Lufton, I had a regard for you–and have. By that word you mean something more than the customary feeling of acquaintance which may ordinarily prevail between a gentleman and a lady of different families, who have known each other so short a time as we have done.’

‘Yes, something much more,’ said he with energy.

‘Well, I will not define the much–something closer than that?’

‘Yes, and warmer, and dearer, and more worthy of two human creatures who value each other’s minds and hearts.’

‘Some such closer regard I have felt for you–very foolishly. Stop! You have made me speak, and do not interrupt me now. Does not your conscience tell you that in doing so I have unwisely deserted those wise old grandmother’s tramways of which you spoke just now? It has been pleasant to me to do so. I have liked the feeling of independence with which I thought that I might indulge in an open friendship with such as you are. And your rank, so different from my own, has doubtless made this more attractive.’

‘Nonsense!’

‘Ah! but it has. I know it now. But what will the world say of me as to such an alliance?’

‘The world!’

‘Yes, the world. I am not such a philosopher as to disregard it, though you may afford to do so. The world will say that, I, the parson’s sister, set my cap at the young lord, and that the young lord has made a fool of me.’

‘The world shall say no such thing!’ said Lord Lufton, very imperiously.

‘Ah! but it will. You can no more stop it, than King Canute could the waters. Your mother has interfered wisely to spare me from this; and the only favour that I can ask you is, that you will spare me also.’ And then she got up, as though she intended at once to walk forth to her visit to Mrs Podgens’s baby.

‘Stop, Lucy!’ he said, putting himself between her and the door.

‘It must not be Lucy any longer, Lord Lufton; I was madly foolish when I first allowed it.’

‘By heavens! But it shall be Lucy–Lucy before all the world. My Lucy, my own Lucy–my heart’s best friend, and chosen love. Lucy, there is my hand. How long you may have had my heart it matters not to say now.’ The game was at her feet now, and no doubt she felt her triumph. Her ready wit and speaking lip, not her beauty, had brought him to her side; and now he was forced to acknowledge that her power over him had been supreme. Sooner than leave her he would risk all. She did feel her triumph; but there was nothing in her face to tell him that she did so. As to what she would now do she did not for a moment doubt. He had been precipitated into the declaration he had made not by his love, but by his embarrassment. She had thrown in his teeth the injury which he had done her, and he had then been moved by his generosity to repair that injury by the noblest sacrifice which he could make. But Lucy Robarts was not the girl to accept a sacrifice. He had stepped forward, as though he were going to clasp her round the waist, but she receded, and got beyond the reach of his hand. ‘Lord Lufton!’ she said, ‘when you are more cool you will know that this is wrong. The best for both of us now is to part.’

‘Not the best thing, but the very worst, till we perfectly understand each other.’

‘Then perfectly understand me, that I cannot be your wife.’

‘Lucy! do you mean that you cannot learn to love me?’

‘I mean that I shall not try. Do not persevere in this, or you will have to hate yourself for your own folly.’

‘But I will persevere till you accept my love, or say with your hand on your heart that you cannot and will not love me.’

‘Then I must beg you to let me go,’ and having so said, she paused while he walked once or twice hurriedly up and down the room. ‘And Lord Lufton,’ she continued, ‘if you will leave me now, the words you have spoken shall be as though they had never been uttered.’

‘I care not who knows they have been uttered. The sooner that they are known to all the world the better I shall be pleased, unless indeed–‘

‘Think of your mother, Lord Lufton.’

‘What can I do better than give her as a daughter the best and sweetest girl I have ever met? When my mother really knows you, she will love you as I do. Lucy, say one word to me of comfort.’

‘I will say no word that shall injure your future comfort. It is impossible that I should be your wife.’

‘Do you mean that you cannot love me?’

‘You have no right to press me any further,’ she said; and sat down upon the sofa, with an angry frown upon her forehead.

‘By heavens,’ he said, ‘I will take no such answer from you till you put your hand upon your heart, and say that you cannot love me.’

‘Oh, why should you press me so, Lord Lufton?’

‘Why, because my happiness depends upon it; because it behoves me to know the very truth. It has come to this, that I love you with my whole heart, and I must know how your heart stands towards me.’ She had now again risen from the sofa, and was looking steadily in his face.

‘Lord Lufton,’ she said, ‘I cannot love you,’ and as she spoke she did put her hand, as he had desired, upon her heart.

‘Then God help me! for I am wretched. Good-bye, Lucy,’ and he stretched his hand to her.

‘Good-bye, my lord. Do not be angry with me.’

‘No, no, no!’ and without further speech he left the room, and the house and hurried home. It was hardly surprising that he should that evening tell his mother that Griselda Grantly would be a companion sufficiently good for his sister. He wanted no such companion.

And when he was well gone–absolutely out of sight from the window–Lucy walked steadily up to her room, locked the door, and then threw herself on the bed. Why–oh! why had she told such a falsehood? Could anything justify her in a lie? was it not a lie–knowing as she did that she loved him with all her loving heart? But, then, his mother! and the sneers of the world, which would have declared that she had set her trap, and caught the foolish young lord! Her pride would not have submitted to that. Strong as her love was, yet her pride was, perhaps stronger– stronger at any rate during that interview. But how was she to forgive herself the falsehood she had told?

CHAPTER XVII

MRS PROUDIE’S CONVERSAZIONE

It was grievous to think of the mischief and danger into which Griselda Grantly was brought by the worldliness of her mother in those few weeks previous to Lady Lufton’s arrival in town–very grievous, at least, to her ladyship, as from time to time she heard of what was done in London. Lady Hartletop’s was not the only objectionable house at which Griselda was allowed to reap fresh fashionable laurels. It had been stated openly in the Morning Post that that young lady had been the most admired among the beautiful at one of Miss Dunstable’s celebrated soirees and then she was heard of as gracing the drawing-room at Mrs Proudie’s conversazione.

Of Miss Dunstable herself Lady Lufton was not able openly to allege any evil. She was acquainted, Lady Lufton knew, with very many people of the right sort, and was the dear friend of Lady Lufton’s highly conservative and not very distant neighbours, the Greshams. But then she was also acquainted with so many people of the bad sort. Indeed, she was intimate with everybody, from the Duke of Omnium to old Dowager Lady Goodgaffer, who had represented all the cardinal virtues of the last quarter of a century. She smiled with equal sweetness on treacle and on brimstone; was quite at home at Exeter Hall, having been consulted–so the world said, probably not with exact truth–as to the selection of more than one disagreeable Low Church bishop; and was not less frequent in her attendance at the ecclesiastical doings of a certain terrible prelate in the Midland counties, who was supposed to favour stoles and vespers, and to have no proper Protestant hatred for auricular confession and fish on Fridays. Lady Lufton, who was very staunch, did not like this, and would say of Miss Dunstable that it was impossible to serve both God and Mammon. But Mrs Proudie was much more objectionable to her. Seeing how sharp was the feud between the Proudies and the Grantlys down in Barsetshire, how absolutely unable they had always been to carry a decent face towards each other in Church matters, how they headed two parties in the diocese, which were, when brought together, as oil and vinegar, in which battles the whole Lufton influence had always been brought to bear on the Grantly side;–seeing all this, I say, Lady Lufton was surprised to hear that Griselda had been taken to Mrs Proudie’s evening exhibition. ‘Had the archdeacon been consulted about it,’ she said to herself, ‘this would never have happened.’ But there she was wrong, for in matters concerning his daughter’s introduction to the world the archdeacon never interfered.

On the whole, I am inclined to think that Mrs Grantly understood the world better than did Lady Lufton. In her heart of hearts Mrs Grantly hated Mrs Proudie–that is, with that sort of hatred one Christian lady allows herself to feel towards another. Of course Mrs Grantly forgave Mrs Proudie all her offences, and wished her well, and was at peace with her, in the Christian sense of the word, as with all other women. But under this forbearance and meekness, and perhaps, we may say, wholly unconnected with it, there was certainly a current of antagonistic feeling which, in the ordinary unconsidered language of every day, men and women do call hatred. This raged before the eyes of all mankind. But, nevertheless, Mrs Grantly took Griselda to Mrs Proudie’s evening parties in London. In these days Mrs Proudie considered herself to be by no means the least among bishop’s wives. She had opened the season this year in a new house in Gloucester Place, at which the reception rooms, at any rate, were all that a lady bishop could desire. Here she had a front drawing-room of very noble dimensions, a second drawing-room rather noble also, though it had lost one of its back corners awkwardly enough, apparently in a jostle with the neighbouring house; and then there was a third–shall we say drawing-room, or closet?—in which Mrs Proudie delighted to be seen sitting, in order that the world might know that there was a third room; altogether a noble suite, as Mrs Proudie herself said in confidence to more than one clergyman’s wife from Barsetshire. ‘A noble suite, indeed Mrs Proudie!’ the clergymen’s wives from Barsetshire would usually answer.

For some time Mrs Proudie was much at a loss to know by what sort of party or entertainment she would make herself famous. Balls and suppers were of course out of the question. She did not object to her daughters dancing all night at other houses–at least, of late she had not objected, for the fashionable world required it, and the young ladies had perhaps a will of their own–but dancing at her house–absolutely under the shade of the bishop’s apron–would be a sin and a scandal. And then as to suppers–of all modes in which one may extend one’s hospitality to a large acquaintance, they are the most costly. ‘It is horrid to think that we should go out among our friends for the mere sake of eating and drinking,’ Mrs Proudie would say to the clergymen’s wives from Barsetshire. ‘It shows such a sense of sensual propensity.’

‘Indeed it does, Mrs Proudie; and is so vulgar too!’ those ladies would reply. But the elder among them would remember with regret, the unsparing, open-handed hospitality of Barchester Palace in the good old days of Bishop Grantly–God rest his soul! One old vicar’s wife there was whose answer had not been so courteous–

‘When we are hungry, Mrs Proudie,’ she had said, ‘we do all have sensual propensities.’

‘It would be much better, Mrs Athill, if the world would provide for all that at home,’ Mrs Proudie had rapidly replied; with which opinion I must here profess that I cannot by any means bring myself to coincide. But a conversazione would give play to no sensual propensity, nor occasion that intolerable expense which the gratification of sensual propensities too often produce. Mrs Proudie felt that the word was not at all that she could have desired. It was a little faded by old use and present oblivion, and seemed to address itself to that portion of the London world that is considered blue, rather than fashionable. But, nevertheless, there was a spirituality about it which suited her, and one may also say an economy. And then as regarded fashion, it might perhaps not be beyond the power of a Mrs Proudie to begild the word with a newly burnished gilding. Some leading person must produce fashion at first hand, and why not Mrs Proudie?

Her plan was to set the people by the ears talking, if talk they would, or to induce them to show themselves there inert if no more be could got from them. To accommodate with chairs and sofas as many as the furniture of her noble suite of rooms would allow, especially with the two chairs and padded bench against the walls in the back closet–the small inner drawing-room, as she would call it to the clergymen’s wives from Barsetshire–and to let the others stand about upright, or ‘group themselves’ as she described it. Then four times during the two hours’ period of her conversazione tea and cake were to be handed around on salvers. It is astonishing how far a very little cake will go in this way, particularly if administered tolerably early after dinner. The men can’t eat it, and the women, having no plates and no table, are obliged to abstain. Mrs Jones knows she cannot hold a piece of crumbly cake in her hand till it be consumed without doing serious injury to her best dress. When Mrs Proudie, with her weekly books before her, looked into the financial upshot of her conversazione, her conscience told her that she had done the right thing. Going out to tea is not a bad thing, if one can contrive to dine early, and then be allowed to sit round a big table with a tea urn in the middle. I would, however, suggest that breakfast cups should always be provided for the gentlemen. And then with pleasant neighbours,–or more especially with a pleasant neighbour,–the affair is not, according to my taste, by any means the worst phase of society. But I do dislike that handing round, unless it be of a subsidiary thimbleful when the business of the social intercourse has been dinner.

And indeed this handing round has become a vulgar and an intolerable nuisance among us second-class gentry with our eight hundred a year–there or thereabouts;–doubly intolerable as being destructive of our natural comforts, and a wretchedly vulgar aping of men with large incomes. The Duke of Omnium and Lady Hartletop are undoubtedly wise to have everything handed round. Friends of mine who occasionally dine at such houses tell me that they get their wine quite as quickly as they can drink it, that their mutton is brought to them without delay, and that the potato bearer follows quick upon the heels of carnifer. Nothing can be more comfortable, and we may no doubt acknowledge that these first-class grandees do understand their material comforts. But we of the eight hundred can no more come up to them in this than we can in their opera-boxes and equipages. May I not say that the usual tether of this class, in the way of carnifers, cupbearers, and the rest, does not reach beyond neat-handed Phyllis and the greengrocer? and that Phyllis, neat-handed as she probably is, and the greengrocer, though he be ever so active, cannot administer a dinner to twelve people who are prohibited by a Medo-Persian law from all self-administration whatever? And may I not further say that the lamentable consequence to us eight hundreders, dining out among each other is this, that we too often get no dinner at all. Phyllis, with the potatoes, cannot reach us till our mutton is devoured, or in a lukewarm state past our power of managing; and Ganymede, the greengrocer, though we admire the skill of his necktie and the whiteness of his unexceptionable gloves, fails to keep us going in sherry. Seeing a lady the other day in this strait, left without a small modicum of stimulus which was no doubt necessary for her good digestion. I ventured to ask her to drink wine with me. But when I bowed my head at her, she looked at me with all her eyes, struck with amazement. Had I suggested that she should join me in a wild Indian war-dance, with nothing on but paint, her face could not have shown greater astonishment. And yet I should have thought she might have remembered the days when Christian men and women used to drink wine with each other. God be with the good old days when I could hob-nob with my friend over the table as often as I was inclined to lift my glass to my lips, and make a long arm for the hot-potato whenever the exigencies of my plate required it.

I think it may be laid down as a rule in affairs of hospitality, that whatever extra luxury or grandeur we introduce at our tables when guests are with us, should be introduced for the advantage of the guest and not for our own. If, for instance, our dinner be served in a manner different from that usual to us, it should be so served in order that our friends may with more satisfaction eat our repast than our everyday practice would produce on them. But the change should by no means be made to their material detriment in order that our fashion may be acknowledged. Again, if I decorate my sideboard and table, wishing that the eyes of my visitors may rest on that which is elegant and pleasant to the sight, I act in that matter with a becoming sense of hospitality; but if my object be to kill Mrs Jones with envy at the sight of all my silver trinkets, I am a very mean-spirited fellow. This, in a broad way, will be acknowledged; but if we would bear in mind the same idea at all times,–on occasions when the way perhaps may not be so broad, when more thinking may be required to ascertain what is true hospitality,–I think we of the eight hundred would make a greater advance towards really entertaining our own friends than by any rearrangement of the actual meats and dishes which we set before them.

Knowing as we do, that the terms of the Lufton-Grantly alliance had been so solemnly ratified between the two mothers, it is perhaps hardly open to us to suppose that Mrs Grantly was induced to take her daughter to Mrs Proudie’s by any knowledge which she may have acquired that Lord Dumbello had promised to grace the bishop’s assembly. It is certainly the fact that high contracting parties do sometimes allow themselves a latitude which would be considered dishonest by contractors of a lower sort; and it may be possible that the archdeacon’s wife did think of that second string with which her bow was furnished. Be that as it may, Lord Dumbello was at Mrs Proudie’s, and it did so come to pass that Griselda was seated at a corner of a sofa close to which a vacant space in which his lordship could–“group himself”. They had not been long there before Lord Dumbello did group himself. ‘Fine day,’ he said, coming up and occupying the vacant position by Miss Grantly’s elbow.

‘We are driving to-day, and we thought it rather cold,’ said Griselda.

‘Deuced cold,’ said Lord Dumbello, and then he adjusted his white cravat and touched up his whiskers. Having got so far, he did not proceed to any immediate conversational efforts; nor did Griselda. But he grouped himself again as became a marquis, and gave very intense satisfaction to Mrs Proudie.

‘This is so kind of you, Lord Dumbello,’ said that lady, coming up to him and shaking his hand warmly; ‘so very kind of you to come to my poor little tea-party.’

‘Uncommonly pleasant, I call it,’ said his lordship. ‘I like this sort of thing–no trouble, you know.’

‘No; that is the charm of it; isn’t it? no trouble, or fuss, or parade. That’s what I always say. According to my ideas, society consists in giving people facility for an interchange of thoughts–what we call conversation.’

‘Aw, yes, exactly.’

‘Not in eating and drinking together–eh, Lord Dumbello? And yet the practice of our lives would seem to show that the indulgence of this animal propensities can alone suffice to bring people together. The world in this has surely made a great mistake.’

‘I like a good dinner all the same,’ said Lord Dumbello.

‘Oh, yes, of course–of course. I am by no means one of those who would pretend to preach that our tastes have not been given to us for our enjoyment. Why should things be nice if we are not to like them?’

‘A man who can really give a good dinner has learned a great deal,’ said Lord Dumbello, with unusual animation.

‘An immense deal. It is quite an art in itself: and one which I, at any rate, by no means despise. But we cannot always be eating–can we?’

‘No,’ said Lord Dumbello, ‘not always.’ And he looked as though he lamented that his powers should be so circumscribed. And then Mrs Proudie passed on to Mrs Grantly. The two ladies were quite friendly in London; though down in their own neighbourhood they waged a war so internecine in its nature. But nevertheless Mrs Proudie’s manner might have showed to a very close observer that she knew the difference between a bishop and an archdeacon. ‘I am delighted to see you,’ said she. ‘No, don’t mind moving; I won’t sit down just at present. But why didn’t the archdeacon come?’

‘It was quite impossible; it was indeed,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘The archdeacon never has a moment in London that he can call his own.’

‘You don’t stay up very long, I believe.’

‘A good deal longer than either of us like, I can assure you. London life is a perfect nuisance to me.’

‘But people in a certain position must go through with it, you know,’ said Mrs Proudie. ‘The bishop, for instance, must attend the House.’

‘Must he?’ asked Mrs Grantly, as though she were not at all well informed with reference to this branch of a bishop’s business. ‘I am very glad that archdeacons are under no such liability.’

‘Oh, no; there’s nothing of that sort,’ said Mrs Proudie, very seriously. ‘But how uncommonly well Miss Grantly is looking! I do hear that she has quite been admired.’ This phrase certainly was a little hard for the mother to bear. All the world had acknowledged, so Mrs Grantly had taught herself to believe, that Griselda was undoubtedly the beauty of the season. Marquises and lords were already contending for her smiles, and paragraphs had been written in newspapers as to her profile. It was too hard to be told, after that, that her daughter had been ‘quite admired.’ Such a phrase might suit a pretty little red-cheeked milkmaid of a girl.

‘She cannot, of course, come near your girls in that respect,’ said Mrs Grantly, very quietly. Now the Miss Proudies had not elicited from the fashionable world any very loud encomiums on their beauty. Their mother felt the taunt in its fullest force, but she would not essay to do battle on the present arena. She jotted down the item in her mind, and kept it over for Barchester and the chapter. Such debts as those she usually paid on some day, if the means of doing so were at all within her power. ‘But there is Miss Dunstable, I declare,’ she said, seeing that that lady had entered the room; and away went Mrs Proudie to welcome her distinguished guest.

‘And so this is a conversazione, is it,’ said that lady, speaking, as usual, not in a suppressed voice. ‘Well, I declare, it’s very nice. It means conversation, don’t it, Mrs Proudie?’

‘Ha, ha, ha! Miss Dunstable, there is nobody like you, I declare.’

‘Well, but don’t it? and tea and cake? and then, when we’re tired of talking, we go away, isn’t that it?’

‘But you must not be tired for these three hours yet.’

‘Oh, I am never tired of talking; all the world knows that. How do, bishop? A very nice sort of thing this conversazione, isn’t it now?’ The bishop rubbed his hands together and smiled, and said that he thought it was rather nice.

‘Mrs Proudie is so fortunate in all her little arrangements,’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘Yes, yes,’ said the bishop. ‘I think she is happy in these matters. I do flatter myself that she is so. Of course, Miss Dunstable, you are accustomed to things on a much grander scale.’

‘I! Lord bless you, no! Nobody hates grandeur so much as I do. Of course I must do as I am told. I must live in a big house, and have three footmen six feet high. I must have a coachman with a top-heavy wig, and horses so big that they frighten me. If I did not, I should be made out a lunatic and declared unable to manage my own affairs. But as for grandeur, I hate it. I certainly think that I shall have some of these conversaziones. I wonder whether Mrs Proudie will come and put me up to a wrinkle or two.’ The bishop again rubbed his hands, and said that he was sure she would. He never felt quite at his ease with Miss Dunstable, as he rarely could ascertain whether or no she was earnest in what she was saying. So he trotted off, muttering some excuse as he went, and Miss Dunstable chuckled with an inward chuckle at his too evident bewilderment. Miss Dunstable was by nature kind, generous, and open-hearted; but she was living now very much with people who, kindness, generosity, and open-heartedness were thrown away. She was clever also, and could be sarcastic; and she found that those qualities told better in the world around her than generosity and an open heart. And so she went on from month to month, and year to year, not progressing in a good spirit as she might have done, but still carrying within her bosom a warm affection for those she could really love. And she knew that she was hardly living as she should live,–that the wealth which she affected to despise was eating into the soundness of her character, not by its splendour, but by the style of life which it had seemed to produce as a necessity. She knew that she was gradually becoming irreverent, scornful, and prone to ridicule; but yet, knowing this, and hating it, she hardly knew how to break from it. She had seen so much of the blacker side of human nature that blackness no longer startled her as it should do. She had been the prize at which so many ruined spendthrifts had aimed; so many pirates had endeavoured to run her down while sailing in the open waters of life, that she had ceased to regard such attempts on her money-bags as unmanly or over-covetous. She was content to fight her own battle with her own weapons, feeling secure in her own strength of purpose and strength of wit.

Some few friends she had whom she really loved,–among whom her inner self could come out and speak boldly what it had to say with its own true voice. And the woman who thus so spoke was very different from that Miss Dunstable whom Mrs Proudie courted, and the Duke of Omnium feted, and Mrs Harold Smith claimed as her bosom friend. If only she could find among such one special companion on whom her heart might rest, who would help her to bear the heavy burdens of her world! But where was she to find such a friend?—she with her keen wit, her untold money, and loud laughing voice. Everything about her was calculated to attract those whom she could not value, and to scare from her the sort of friend to whom she would fain have linked her lot. And then she met Mrs Harold Smith, who had taken Mrs Proudie’s noble suite of rooms in her tour of the evening, and was devoting to them a period of twenty minutes. ‘And so I may congratulate you,’ Miss Dunstable said eagerly to her friend.

‘No, in mercy’s name, do no such thing, or you may too probably have to uncongratulate me again; and that will be so unpleasant.’

‘But they told me that Lord Brock had sent for him yesterday.’ Now at this period Lord Brock was Prime Minister.

‘So he did, and Harold was with him backwards and forwards all the day. But he can’t shut his eyes and open his mouth, and see what God will send him, as a wise and prudent man should do. He is always for bargaining, and no Prime Minister likes that.’

‘I would not be in his shoes if, after all, he has to come home and say that the bargain is off.’

‘Ha, ha, ha! Well I should not take it very quietly. But what can we poor women do, you know? When it is settled, my dear, I’ll send you a line at once.’ And then Mrs Harold Smith finished her course round the rooms, and regained her carriage within the twenty minutes.