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  • 1861
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table in Mrs Crawley’s bedroom.

‘I did venture to bring them,’ said Fanny, with a look of shame, ‘for I know how a sick child occupies the whole house.’

‘Ah! my friend,’ said Mrs Crawley, taking hold of Mrs Robarts’s arm and looking into her face, ‘that sort of shame is over with me. God has tried us with want, and for my children’s sake I am glad of such relief.’

‘But will he be angry?’

‘I will manage it. Dear Mrs Robarts, you must not be surprised at him. His lot is sometimes very hard to bear; such things are so much worse for a man than for a woman.’ Fanny was not quite prepared to admit this in her own heart, but she made no reply on that head. ‘I am sure I hope we may be able to be of use to you,’ she said, ‘if you will only look upon me as an old friend, and write to me if you want me. I hesitate to come frequently for fear that I should offend him.’ And then, by degrees, there was confidence between them, and the poverty-stricken helpmate of the perpetual curate was able to speak of the weight of her burden to the well-to-do young wife of the Barchester prebendary. It was hard, the former said, to feel herself so different from the wives of other clergymen around her–to know that they lived softly, while she, with all the work of her hands, and unceasing struggle of her energies, could hardly manage to place wholesome food before her husband and children. It was a terrible thing–a grievous thing to think of, that all the work of her mind should be given up to such subjects as these. But, nevertheless, she could bear it, she said, as long he would carry himself like a man, and face his lot boldly before the world. And then she told how he had been better there at Hogglestock than in their former residence down in Cornwall, and in warm language she expressed her thanks to the friend who had done so much for them. ‘Mrs Arabin told me that she was so anxious you should go to them,’ said Mrs Robarts.

‘Ah, yes; but that, I fear, is impossible. The children, you know, Mrs Robarts.’

‘I would take care of two of them for you.’

‘Oh, no; I could not punish you for your goodness in that way. But he would not go. He could go and leave me at home. Sometimes I have thought that it might be so, and I have done all in my power to persuade him. I have told him that if he could mix once more with the world, with the clerical world, you know, that he would be better fitted for the performance of his own duties. But he answers me angrily, that it is impossible–that his coat is not fit for the dean’s table,’ and Mrs Crawley almost blushed as she spoke of such a reason.

‘What! with an old friend like Dr Arabin? Surely that must be nonsense.’

‘I know that it is. The dean would be glad to see him with any coat. But the fact is that he cannot bear to enter the house of a rich man unless his duty calls him there.’

‘But surely that is a mistake?’

‘It is a mistake. But what can I do? I fear that he regards the rich as his enemies. He is pining for the solace of some friend to whom he could talk–for some equal with a mind educated like his own, to whose thoughts he could listen, and to whom he could speak his own thoughts. But such a friend must be equal, not only in mind, but in purse; and where can he ever find such a man as that?’

‘But you may get better preferment.’

‘Ah, no; and if he did, we are hardly fit for it now. If I could think that I could educate my children; if I could only do something for my poor Grace–‘ In answer to this Mrs Robarts said a word or two, but not much. She resolved, however, that if she could get her husband’s leave, something should be done for Grace. Would it not be a good work? and was it not incumbent on her to make some kindly use of all the goods with which Providence had blessed herself? And then they went back to the sitting-room, each again with a young child in her arms. Mrs Crawley having stowed away in the kitchen the chicken broth and the leg of pork and the supply of eggs. Lucy had been engaged the while with the children, and when the two married ladies entered, they found that a shop had been opened at which all manner of luxuries were being readily sold and purchased at marvellously easy prices; the guava jelly was there, and the oranges, and the sugar-plums, red and yellow and striped; and, moreover, the gingerbread had been taken down in the audacity of their commercial speculations, and the nuts were spread out upon a board, behind which Lucy stood as shop-girl, disposing of them for kisses. ‘Mamma, mamma,’ said Bobby, running up to his mother, ‘you must buy something of her,’ and he pointed with his fingers to the shop-girl. ‘You must give her two kisses for that heap of barley-sugar.’ Looking at Bobby’s mouth at the time, one would have said that his kisses might be dispensed with.

When they were again in the pony carriage behind the impatient Puck, and were well away from the door, Fanny was the first to speak. ‘How very different those two are,’ she said; ‘different in their minds, and how false is his shame!’

‘But how much higher toned is her mind than his! How weak he is in many things, and how strong she is in everything! How false is his pride, and how false his shame!’

‘But we must remember what he has to bear. It is not every one that can endure such a life as his without false pride and false shame.’

‘But she has neither,’ said Lucy.

‘Because you have one hero in a family, does that give you a right to expect another?’ said Mrs Robarts. ‘Of all my own acquaintance, Mrs Crawley, I think, comes nearest to heroism.’ And then they passed by the Hogglestock School, and Mr Crawley, when he heard the noise of the wheels, came out. ‘You have been very kind,’ said he, ‘to remain so long with my poor wife.’

‘We had a great many things to talk about, after you went.’

‘It is very kind of you, for she does not often see a friend nowadays. Will you have the goodness to tell Mr Robarts that I shall be here at the school, at eleven o’clock to-morrow?’ And then he bowed, taking off his hat to them, and they drove on.

‘If he really does care about her comfort, I shall not think so badly of him,’ said Lucy.

CHAPTER XXIII

THE TRIUMPH OF THE GIANTS

And now about the end of April news arrived almost simultaneously in all quarters of the habitable globe that was terrible in its import to one of the chief persons of our history;–some may think to the chief person of it. All high parliamentary people will doubtless so think, and the wives and daughters of such. The Titans warring against the gods had been for awhile successful. Thyphoeus and Mimas, Porphyrion and Rhoecus, the giant brood of old, steeped in ignorance and wedded to corruption, had scaled the heights of Olympus, assisted by that audacious flinger of deadly ponderous missiles, who stands ever ready with his terrific sling–Supplehouse, the Enceladus of the press. And in this universal cataclysm of the starry councils, what could a poor Diana do, Diana of the Petty Bag, but abandon her pride of place to some rude Orion? In other words, the ministry had been compelled to resign, and with them Mr Harold Smith. ‘And so poor Harold is out, before he has well tasted the sweets of office,’ said Sowerby, writing to his friend the parson; ‘and as far as I know, the only piece of Church patronage which has fallen in the way of the ministry since he joined it, has made its way down to Framley–to my great joy and contentment.’ But it hardly tended to Mark’s joy and contentment on the same subject that he should be so often reminded of the benefit conferred upon him.

Terrible was this break-down of the ministry, and especially to Harold Smith, who to the last had had confidence in that theory of new blood. He could hardly believe that a large majority of the House should vote against a Government which he had only just joined. ‘If we are to go in this way,’ he said to his young friend Green Walker, ‘the Queen’s Government cannot be carried on.’ That alleged difficulty as to carrying on the Queen’s Government has been frequently mooted in late years since a certain great man first introduced the idea. Nevertheless, the Queen’s Government is carried on, and the propensity and aptitude of men for this work seems to be not at all on the decrease. If we have but few young statesmen, it is because the old stagers are so fond of the rattle of their harness.

‘I really do not see how the Queen’s Government is to be carried on,’ said Harold Smith to Green Walker, standing in a corner of one of the lobbies of the House of Commons on the first of those days of awful interest, in which the Queen was sending for one crack statesman after another; and some anxious men were beginning to doubt whether or no we should, in truth, be able to obtain the blessing of another Cabinet. The gods had all vanished from their places. Would the giants be good enough to do anything for us or no? There were men who seemed to think that the giants would refuse to do anything for us. ‘The House will now be adjourned over till Monday, and I would not be in Her Majesty’s shoes for something,’ said Mr Harold Smith.

‘By Jove! no,’ said Green Walker, who in these days was a staunch Harold Smithian, having felt a pride in joining himself on as a substantial support of a Cabinet minister. Had he contented himself with being merely a Brockite, he would have counted as nobody. ‘By Jove! no,’ and Green Walker opened his eyes and shook his head as he thought of the perilous condition in which Her Majesty must be placed. ‘I happen to know that Lord — won’t join them unless he has the Foreign Office,’ and he mentioned some hundred-handed Gyas supposed to be of the utmost importance to the counsels of the Titans.

‘And that, of course, is impossible. I don’t see what on earth they are to do. There’s Sidonia; they do say that he’s making some difficulty now.’ Now Sidonia was another giant, supposed to be very powerful.

‘We all know that the Queen won’t see him,’ said Green Walker, who, being a member of parliament for the Crewe Junction, and nephew to Lord Hartletop, of course had perfectly correct means of ascertaining what the Queen would do, and what she would not.

‘The fact is,’ said Harold Smith, recurring again to his own situation as an ejected god, ‘that the House does not in the least understand what it is about;–doesn’t know what it wants. The question I would like to ask them is this: do they intend that the Queen shall have a Government, or do they not? Are they prepared to support such men as Sidonia and Lord De Terrier? If so, I am their obedient humble servant; but I shall be very much surprised, that’s all.’ Lord De Terrier was at this time recognized by all men as the leader of the giants.

‘And so shall I, deucedly surprised. They can’t do it, you know. There are the Manchester men. I ought to know something about them down in my country; and I say they can’t support Lord De Terrier. It wouldn’t be natural.’

‘Natural! Human nature has come to an end, I think,’ said Harold Smith, who could hardly understand that the world should conspire to throw over a Government which he had joined, and that, too, before the world had waited to see how much he would do for it; ‘the fact is, Walker, we have no longer among us any strong feeling of party.’

‘No, not a d-,’ said Green Walker, who was very energetic in his present political aspirations.

‘And till we can recover that, we shall never be able to have a Government firm-seated and sure-handed. Nobody can count on men from one week to another. The very members who in one month place a minister in power, are the very first to vote against him in the next.’

‘We must put a stop to that sort of thing, otherwise we shall never do any good.’

‘I don’t mean to deny that Brock was wrong with reference to Lord Brittleback. I think he was wrong, and I said so all through. But, heavens on earth–!’ and instead of completing his speech, Harold Smith turned away his head, and struck his hands together in token of his astonishment at the fatuity of the age. What he probably meant to express was this: that if such a good deed as that late appointment made at the Petty Bag Office were not held sufficient to atone for that other evil deed to which he had alluded, there would be an end of justice in sublunary matters. Was no offence to be forgiven, even when so great virtue had been displayed? ‘I attribute it all to Supplehouse,’ said Green Walker, trying to console his friend.

‘Yes,’ said Harold Smith, now verging on the bounds of parliamentary eloquence, although he still spoke with bated breath, and to one solitary hearer. ‘Yes; we are becoming the slaves of a mercenary and irresponsible press–of one single newspaper. There is a man endowed with no great talent, enjoying no public confidence, untrusted as a politician, and unheard of even as a writer by the world at large, and yet, because he is on the staff of the Jupiter, he is able to overturn a Government and throw the whole country into dismay. It is astonishing to me that a man like Lord Brock should allow himself to be so timid.’ And nevertheless it was not yet a month since Harold Smith had been counselling with Supplehouse how a series of strong articles in the Jupiter, together with the expected support of the Manchester men, might probably be effective in hurling the minister from his seat. But at that time the minister had not revigorated himself with young blood. ‘How the Queen’s Government is to be carried on, that is the question now,’ Harold Smith repeated. A difficulty which had not caused him much dismay at that period, about a month since, to which we have alluded. At this moment Sowerby and Supplehouse together joined them, having come out of the House, in which some unimportant business had been completed, after the minister’s notice of adjournment.

‘Well, Harold,’ said Sowerby, ‘what do you say to your governor’s statement?’

‘I have nothing to say to it,’ said Harold Smith, looking up very solemnly from under the penthouse of his hat, and, perhaps rather savagely. Sowerby had supported the Government in the late crisis; but why was he now seen herding with such a one as Supplehouse?

‘He did it pretty well, I think,’ said Sowerby.

‘Very well, indeed,’ said Supplehouse; ‘as he always does those sort of things. No man makes so good an explanation of circumstances, or comes out with so telling a personal statement. He ought to keep himself in reserve for those sort of things.’

‘And who in the meantime is to carry on the Queen’s Government?’ said Harold Smith, looking very stern.

‘That should be left to men of lesser mark,’ said he of the Jupiter. ‘The points as to which one really listens to a minister, the subjects about which men really care, are always personal. How many of us are truly interested as to the best mode of governing India? But in a question touching the character of a prime minister we all muster together like bees round a sounding cymbal.’

‘That arises from envy, malice, and all uncharitableness,’ said Harold Smith.

‘Yes; and from picking and stealing, evil speaking, lying, and slandering,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘We are so prone to desire and covet other men’s places,’ said Supplehouse.

‘Some men are so,’ said Sowerby; ‘but it is the evil speaking, lying, and slandering, which does the mischief. Is it not, Harold?’

‘And in the meantime, how is the Queen’s Government to be carried on?’ said Mr Green Walker. On the following morning it was known that Lord De Terrier was with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and at about twelve a list of the new ministry was published, which must have been in the highest degree satisfactory to the whole brood of giants. Every son of Tellus was included in it, as were also very many of the daughters. But then, late in the afternoon, Lord Brock was again summoned to the palace, and it was thought in the West End among the clubs that the gods had again a chance. ‘If only,’ said the Purist, an evening paper which was supposed to be very much in the interest of Mr Harold Smith, ‘if only Lord Brock can have the wisdom to place the right men in the right places. It was only the other day that he introduced Mr Smith into his Government. That this was a step in the right direction every one acknowledged, though unfortunately it was made too late to prevent the disturbance which has since occurred. It now appears probable that his lordship will again have an opportunity of selecting a list of statesmen with a view of carrying on the Queen’s Government; and it is to be hoped that such men as Mr Smith may be placed in situations in which their talents, industry, and acknowledged official aptitudes, may be of permanent service to the country.’ Supplehouse, when he read this at the club with Mr Sowerby at his elbow, declared that the style was too well marked to leave any doubt as to the author; but we ourselves are not inclined to think that Mr Harold Smith wrote the article himself, although it may be probable that he saw it in type. But the Jupiter the next morning settled the whole question, and made it known to the world that, in spite of all the sendings and resendings, Lord Brock and the gods were permanently out, and Lord De Terrier and the giants permanently in. That fractious giant who would only go to the Foreign Office, had, in fact, gone to some sphere of much less important duty, and Sidonia, in spite of the whispered dislike of an illustrious personage, opened the campaign with all the full appanages of a giant of the highest standing. ‘We hope,’ said the Jupiter, ‘that Lord Brock may not yet be too old to take a lesson. If so, the present decision of the House of Commons, and we may say of the country also, may teach him not to put his trust in such princes as Lord Brittleback, or such broken reeds as Mr Harold Smith.’ Now this parting blow we always thought to be exceedingly unkind, and altogether unnecessary, on the part of Mr Supplehouse.

‘My dear,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, when she first met Miss Dunstable after the catastrophe was known, ‘how am I possibly to endure this degradation?’ And she put her deeply laced handkerchief to her eyes.

‘Christian resignation,’ suggested Miss Dunstable.

‘Fiddlestick!’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘You millionaires always talk of Christian resignation, because you never are called on to resign anything. If I had any Christian resignation, I shouldn’t have cared for such pomps and vanities. Think of it, my dear; a Cabinet minister’s wife for only three weeks!’

‘How does poor Mr Smith endure it?’

‘What? Harold? He only lives on the hope of vengeance. When he has put an end to Mr Supplehouse he will be content to die.’ And then there were further explanations in both Houses of Parliament, which were altogether satisfactory. The high-bred, courteous giants assured the gods that they had piled Pelion on Ossa and thus climbed up into power, very much in opposition to their good-wills; for they, the giants themselves, preferred the sweets of dignified retirement. But the voice of the people had been too strong for them; the effort had been made, not by themselves, but by others, who were determined that the giants should be at the head of affairs. Indeed, the spirit of the times was so clearly in favour of giants that there had been no alternative. So said Briareus to the Lords and Orion to the Commons. And then the gods were absolutely happy in ceding their places; and so far were they from any uncelestial envy or malice which might not be divine, that they promised to give the giants all the assistance in their power in carrying on the work of the government; upon which the giants declared how deeply indebted they would be for such valuable counsel and friendly assistance. All this was delightful in the extreme; but not the less did ordinary men seem to expect that the usual battle would go on in the old customary way. It is easy to love one’s enemy when one is making fine speeches; but so difficult to do so in the actual everyday work of life. But there was and always has been this peculiar good point about the giants, that they are never too proud to follow in the footsteps of the gods. If the gods, deliberating painfully together, have elaborated any skilful project, the giants are always willing to adopt it as their own, not treating the bantling as a foster child, but praising it and pushing it so that men should regard it as the undoubted offspring of their own brains. Now just at this time there had been a plan much thought of for increasing the number of bishops. Good active bishops were very desirable, and there was a strong feeling among certain excellent Churchmen that there could hardly be too many of them. Lord Brock had his measures cut and dry. There should be a Bishop of Westminster to share the Herculean toils of the metropolitan prelate, and another up in the North to Christianize the mining interests and wash white the blackamoors of Newcastle: Bishop of Beverley he should be called. But, in opposition to this, the giants, it was known, had intended to put forth the whole measure of their brute force. More curates, they said, were wanting, and district incumbents; not more bishops rolling in carriages. That bishops should roll in carriages was very good; but of such blessings the English world for the present had enough. And therefore Lord Brock and the gods had had much fear as to their little project. But now, immediately on the accession of the giants, it was known that the bishop bill was to be gone on with immediately. Some small changes would be effected so that the bill should be gigantic rather than divine; but the result would be altogether the same. It must, however, be admitted that bishops appointed by ourselves may be very good things, whereas those appointed by our adversaries will be anything but good. And, no doubt, this feeling went a long way with the giants. Be that as it may, the new bishop bill was to be their first work of government, and it was to be brought forward and carried, and the new prelates selected and put into their chairs all at once,–before the grouse should begin to crow and put an end to the doings of gods as well as giants. Among other minor effects arising from this decision was the following, that Archdeacon and Mrs Grantly returned to London, and again took the lodgings in which they had been staying. On various occasions also during the first week of this second sojourn, Dr Grantly might be seen entering the official chambers of the First Lord of the Treasury. Much counsel was necessary among High-Churchmen of great repute before any fixed resolution could wisely be made in such a matter as this; and few Churchmen stood in higher repute than the Archdeacon of Barchester. And then it began to be rumoured in the world that the minister had disposed at any rate of the see of Westminster. This present time was a very nervous one for Mrs Grantly. What might be the aspirations of the archdeacon himself, we will not stop to inquire. It may be that time and experience had taught him the futility of earthly honours, and made him content with the comfortable opulence of his Barsetshire rectory. But there is no theory of Church discipline which makes it necessary that a clergyman’s wife should have an objection to a bishopric. The archdeacon probably was only anxious to give a disinterested aid to the minister, but Mrs Grantly did long to sit in high places, and be at any rate equal to Mrs Proudie. It was for her children, she said to herself, that she was thus anxious– that they should have a good position before the world and the means of making the best of themselves. ‘One is able to do nothing, you know, shut up there, down at Plumstead,’ she had remarked to Lady Lufton on the occasion of her first visit to London, and yet the time was not long past when she had thought that rectory house at Plumstead to be by no means insufficient or contemptible. And then there came the question whether or no Griselda should go back to her mother; but this idea was very strongly opposed by Lady Lufton, and ultimately with success. ‘I really think the dear girl is very happy with me,’ said Lady Lufton; ‘and if ever she is to belong to me more closely, it will be so well that we should know and love one another.’

To tell the truth, Lady Lufton had been trying hard to know and love Griselda, but hitherto she had scarcely succeeded to the full extent of her wishes. That she loved Griselda was certain,–with that sort of love which springs from a person’s volition and not from the judgement. She had said all along to herself and others that she did love Griselda Grantly. She had admired the young lady’s face, liked her manner, approved of her fortune and family, and had selected her for a daughter-in-law in a somewhat impetuous manner. Therefore she loved her. But it was by no means clear to Lady Lufton that she did as yet know her young friend. The match was a plan of her own, and therefore she stuck to it as warmly as ever, but she began to have some misgivings whether or no the dear girl would be to her herself all that she had dreamed of in a daughter-in-law. ‘But, dear Lady Lufton,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘is it not possible that we may put her affections to too severe a test? What, if she should learn to regard him, and then–‘

‘Ah! if she did, I should have no fear of the result. If she showed anything like love for Ludovic, he would be at her feet in a moment. He is impulsive, but she is not.’

‘Exactly, Lady Lufton. It is his privilege to be impulsive and to sue for her affection, and hers to have her love sought for without making any demonstration. It is perhaps the fault of young ladies of the present day that they are too impulsive. They assume privileges which are not their own, and thus lose those which are.’

‘Quite true! I quite agree with you. It is probably that very feeling that has made me think so highly of Griselda. But then–‘ But then a young lady, though she need not jump down a gentleman’s throat, or throw herself into his face, may give some signs that she is made of flesh and blood; especially when her papa and mamma all belonging to her are so anxious to make that path of her love run smooth. That was what was passing through Lady Lufton’s mind; but she did not say it all; she merely looked it.

‘I don’t think she will ever allow herself to indulge in an unauthorized passion,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘I am sure she will not,’ said Lady Lufton, with ready agreement, fearing perhaps in her heart that Griselda would never indulge in any passion authorized or unauthorized.

‘I don’t know whether Lord Lufton sees much of her now,’ said Mrs Grantly, thinking perhaps of that promise of Lady Lufton’s with reference to his lordship’s spare time.

‘Just lately, during these changes, you know, everybody has been so much engaged. Ludovic has been constantly at the House, and then men find it so necessary to be at their clubs just now.’

‘Yes, yes, of course,’ said Mrs Grantly, who was not at all disposed to think little of the importance of the present crisis, or to wonder that men should congregate together when such deeds were to be done as those which now occupied the breasts of the Queen’s advisers. At last, however, the two mothers perfectly understood each other. Griselda was still to remain with Lady Lufton; and was to accept her ladyship’s son, if he could only be induced to exercise his privilege of asking her; but in the meantime, as this seemed to be doubtful, Griselda was not to be debarred from her privilege of making what use she could of any other string which she might have to her bow.

‘But, mamma,’ said Griselda, in a moment of unwatched intercourse between the mother and daughter, ‘is it really true that they are going to make papa a bishop?’

‘We can tell nothing as yet, my dear. People in the world are talking about it. Your papa has been a good deal with Lord De Terrier.’

‘And isn’t he Prime Minister?’

‘Oh, yes; I am happy to say that he is.’

‘I thought the Prime Minister could make any one a bishop that he chooses,–any clergyman, that is.’

‘But there is no see vacant,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘Then there isn’t any chance,’ said Griselda, looking very glum.

‘They are going to have an Act of Parliament for making two more bishops. That’s what they are talking about at least. And if they do–‘

‘Papa will be made Bishop of Westminster–won’t he? And we shall live in London.’

‘But you must not talk about it, my dear.’

‘No, I won’t. But, mamma, a Bishop of Westminster will be higher than a Bishop of Barchester, won’t he? I shall so like to be able to snub the Miss Proudies.’ It will therefore be seen that there were matters on which even Griselda Grantly could be animated. Like the rest of her family she was devoted to the Church. Late on that afternoon the archdeacon returned home to dine in Mount Street, having spent the whole of the day between the Treasury chambers, a meeting of Convocation, and his club. And when he did get home it was soon manifest to his wife that he was not laden with good news. ‘It is almost incredible,’ he said, standing with his back to the drawing-room fire.

‘What is incredible?’ said his wife, sharing her husband’s anxiety to the full.

‘If I had not learned it as a fact, I would not have believed it, even of Lord Brock,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Learned what?’ said the anxious wife.

‘After all, they are going to oppose the bill.’

‘Impossible!’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘But they are.’

‘The bill for the two new bishops, archdeacon? Oppose their own bill?’

‘Yes–oppose their own bill. It is almost incredible; but so it is. Some changes have been forced upon us; little things which they had forgotten–quite minor matters; and they now say that they will be obliged to divide against us on these twopenny-halfpenny, hair-splitting points. It is Lord Brock’s own doing too, after all that he has said about abstaining from factious opposition to the Government.’

‘I believe there is nothing too bad or too false for that man,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘After all they said, too, when they were in power themselves, as to the present Government opposing the cause of religion! They declare now that Lord De Terrier cannot be very anxious about it, as he had so many good reasons against it a few weeks ago. Is it not dreadful that there should be such double-dealing in men in such positions?’

‘It is sickening,’ said Mrs Grantly. And then there was a pause between them as the thought of the injury that was done to them.

‘But, archdeacon–‘

‘Well?’

‘Could you not give up those small points and shame them into compliance?’

‘Nothing would shame them.’

‘But would it not be well to try?’ The game was so good a one, and the stake so important, that Mrs Grantly felt that it would be worth playing for to the last.

‘It is no good.’

‘But I certainly would suggest it to Lord De Terrier. I am sure the country would go along with him; at any rate the Church would.’

‘It is impossible,’ said the archdeacon. ‘To tell the truth, it did occur to me. But some of them down there seemed to think that it would not do.’ Mrs Grantly sat awhile on the sofa, still meditating in her mind whether there might not yet be some escape from so terrible a downfall.

‘But, archdeacon–‘

‘I’ll go upstairs and dress,’ said he, in despondency.

‘But, archdeacon, surely the present ministry may have a majority on such a subject as that; I thought they were sure of a majority now.’

‘No; not sure.’

‘But at any rate the chances are in their favour? I do hope they’ll do their duty, and exert themselves to keep their members together.’ And then the archdeacon told out the whole truth.

‘Lord De Terrier says that under the present circumstances he will not bring the matter forward this session at all. So we had better go back to Plumstead.’ Mrs Grantly then felt that there was nothing further to be said, and it will be proper that the historian should drop a veil over their sufferings.

CHAPTER XXIV

MAGNA EST VERITAS

It was made known to the reader that in the early part of the winter Mr Sowerby had a scheme for retrieving his lost fortunes, and setting himself right in the world, by marrying that rich heiress, Miss Dunstable. I fear my friend Sowerby does not, at present, stand high in the estimation of those who have come with me thus far in this narrative. He has been described as a spendthrift and gambler, and as one scarcely honest in his extravagance and gambling. But nevertheless there are worse men than Mr Sowerby, and I am not prepared to say that, should he be successful with Miss Dunstable, that lady would choose by any means the worst of the suitors who are continually throwing themselves at her feet. Reckless as this man always appeared to be, reckless as he absolutely was, there was still within his heart a desire for better things, and in his mind an understanding that he had hitherto missed the career of an honest English gentleman. He was proud of his position as a member for his county, though hitherto he had done so little to grace it; he was proud of his domain at Chaldicotes, though the possession of it had so nearly passed out of his own hands; he was proud of the old blood that flowed in his veins; and he was proud also of that easy, comfortable, gay manner, which went so far in the world’s judgement to atone for his extravagance and evil practices. If only he could get another chance, as he now said to himself, things should go very differently with him. He would utterly forswear the whole company of Tozers. He would cease to deal in bills, and to pay Heaven only knows how many hundred per centum for his moneys. He would no longer prey upon his friends, and would redeem his title-deeds from the Duke of Omnium. If only he could get another chance! Miss Dunstable’s fortune would do all this and ever so much more, and then, moreover, Miss Dunstable was a woman whom he really liked. She was not soft, feminine, or pretty, nor was she very young; but she was clever, self-possessed, and quite able to hold her own in any class; and as to age, Mr Sowerby was not very young himself. In making such a match he would have no cause of shame. He could speak of it before his friends without any fear of their grimaces, and ask them to his house, with the full assurance that the head of his table would not disgrace him. And then as the scheme grew clearer and clearer to him, he declared to himself that if he should be successful, he would use her well, and not rob her of her money–beyond what was absolutely necessary. He had intended to have laid his fortunes at her feet at Chaldicotes; but the lady had been coy. Then the deed was to have been done at Gatherum Castle, but the lady ran away from Gatherum Castle just at the time on which he had fixed. And since that, one circumstance after another had postponed the affair in London, till now at last he was resolved that he would know his fate, let it be what it might. If he could not contrive that things should speedily be arranged, it might come to pass that he would be altogether debarred from presenting himself to the lady as Mr Sowerby of Chaldicotes. Tidings had reached him, through Mr Fothergill, that the duke would be glad to have matters arranged; and Mr Sowerby well knew the meaning of that message.

Mr Sowerby was not fighting this campaign alone, without the aid of an ally. Indeed, no man ever had a more trusty ally in any campaign than he had in this. And it was this ally, the only faithful comrade that clung to him through good and ill during his whole life, who first put it into his head that Miss Dunstable was a woman and might be married. ‘A hundred needy adventurers have attempted it, and failed already,’ Mr Sowerby had said, when the plan was first proposed to him.

‘But, nevertheless, she will some day marry some one; and why not you as well as another?’ his sister had answered. For Mrs Harold Smith was the ally of whom I have spoken. Mrs Harold Smith, whatever may have been her faults, could boast of this virtue–that she loved her brother. He was probably the only human being that she did love. Children she had none; and as for her husband, it had never occurred to her to love him. She had married him for a position; and being a clever woman, with a good digestion and command of her temper, had managed to get through the world without much of that unhappiness which usually follows ill-assorted marriages. At home she managed to keep the upper hand, but she did so in an easy, good-humoured way that made her rule bearable; and away from home she assisted her lord’s political standing, though she laughed more keenly than any one else at his foibles. But the lord of her heart was her brother; and in all his scrapes, all his extravagances, and all his recklessness, she had ever been willing to assist him. With the view of doing this she had sought the intimacy of Miss Dunstable, and for the last year past had indulged every caprice of that lady. Or rather, she had had the wit to learn that Miss Dunstable was to be won, not by the indulgence of caprice, but by free and easy intercourse, with a dash of fun, and, at any rate, a semblance of honesty. Mrs Harold Smith was not, perhaps, herself very honest by disposition; but in these latter days she had taken up a theory of honesty for the sake of Miss Dunstable–not altogether in vain, for Miss Dunstable and Mrs Harold Smith were very intimate.

‘If I am to do it at all, I must not wait any longer,’ said Mr Sowerby to his sister a day or two after the final breakdown of the gods. The affection of the sister for the brother may be imagined from the fact that at such a time she could give up her mind to such a subject. But, in truth, her husband’s position as Cabinet minister was as nothing as compared with her brother’s position as a county gentleman. ‘One time is as good as another.’

‘You mean that you would advise me to ask her at once.’

‘Certainly. But you must remember, Nat, that you will have no easy task. It will not do for you to kneel down and swear that you love her.’

‘If I do it at all, I shall certainly do it without kneeling–you may be sure of that, Harriet.’

‘Yes, and without swearing that you love her. There is only one way in which you can be successful with Miss Dunstable–you must tell her the truth.’

‘What! tell her that I am ruined, horse, foot, and dragoons, and then bid her help me out of the mire?’

‘Exactly: that will be your only chance, strange as it may appear.’

‘This is very different from what you used to say, down at Chaldicotes.’

‘So it is; but I know her much better than I did when we were there. Since then I have done but little else than study the freaks of her character. If she really likes you–and I think she does–she could forgive you any other crime but that of swearing that you loved her.’

‘I should hardly know how to propose without saying something about it.’

‘But you must say nothing–not a word; you must tell her that you are a gentleman of good blood and high station, but sadly out at elbows.’

‘She knows that already.’

‘Of course she does; but she must know it as coming directly from your mouth. And then tell her that you propose to set yourself right by marrying her–by marrying her for the sake of her money.’

‘That will hardly win her, I should say.’

‘If it does not, no other way, that I know of, will do so. As I told you before, it will be no easy task. Of course you must make her understand that her happiness shall be cared for; but that must not be put prominently forward as your object. Your first object is her money, and your only chance for success is in telling the truth.’

‘It is very seldom that a man finds himself in such a position as that,’ said Sowerby, walking up and down his sister’s room; ‘and, upon my word, I don’t think that I am up to the task. I should certainly break down. I don’t believe there’s a man in London could go to a woman with such a story as that, and then ask her to marry him.’

‘If you cannot, you may as well give it up,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘But if you can do it–if you can go through with it in that manner–my own opinion is that your chance of success would not be bad. The fact is,’ added the sister after a while, during which her brother was continuing his walk and meditating on the difficulties of his position–‘the fact is, you men never understand a woman; you give her credit neither for her strength, nor for her weakness. You are too bold, and too timid: you think she is a fool and tell her so, and yet never can trust her to do a kind action. Why should she not marry you with the intention of doing you a good turn? After all, she would lose very little: there is the estate, and if she redeemed it, it would belong to her as well as you.’

‘It would be a good turn, indeed. I fear I should be too modest to put it to her in that way.’

‘Her position would be much better as your wife than it is at present. You are good-humoured and good-tempered, you would intend to treat her well, and, on the whole, she would be much happier as Mrs Sowerby, of Chaldicotes, than she can be in her present position.’

‘If she cared about being married, I suppose she could be a peer’s wife to-morrow.’

‘But I don’t think she cares about being a peer’s wife. A needy peer might perhaps win her in the way that I propose to you; but then a needy peer would not know how to set about it. Needy peers have tried–half a dozen I have no doubt–and have failed, because they have pretended that they were in love with her. It may be difficult, but your only chance is to tell her the truth.’

‘And where shall I do it?’

‘Here if you choose; but her own house will be better.’

‘But I never can see her there–at least, not alone. I believe she is never alone. She always keeps a lot of people round her in order to stave off her lovers. Upon my word, Harriet, I think I’ll give it up. It is impossible that I should make such a declaration to her as that you propose.’

‘Faint heart, Nat–you know the rest.’

‘But the poet never alluded to such a wooing as that you have suggested. I suppose I had better begin with a schedule of my debts, and make reference, if she doubts me, to Fothergill, the sheriff’s officers, and the Tozer family.’

‘She will not doubt you, on that head; nor will she be a bit surprised.’ Then there was again a pause, during which Mr Sowerby still walked up and down the room, thinking whether or no he might possibly have any chance of success in so hazardous an enterprise.

‘I tell you what, Harriet,’ at last he said; ‘I wish you’d do it for me.’

‘Well,’ said she, ‘if you really mean it, I will make the attempt.’

‘I am sure of this, that I shall never make it myself. I positively should not have the courage to tell her in so many words, that I wanted to marry her for her money.’

‘Well, Nat, I will attempt it. At any rate, I am not afraid of her. She and I are excellent friends, and, to tell the truth, I think I like her better than any other woman that I know; but I never should have been intimate with her, had it not been for your sake.’

‘And now you will have to quarrel with her, also for my sake?’

‘Not at all. You’ll find that whether she accedes to my proposition or not, we shall continue to be friends. I do not think that she would die for me–nor I for her. But as the world goes we suit each other. Such a little trifle as this will not break our loves.’ And so it was settled. On the following day Mrs Harold Smith was to find an opportunity of explaining the whole matter to Miss Dunstable, and was to ask that lady to share her fortune–some incredible number of thousands of pounds–with the bankrupt member for West Barsetshire, who in return was to bestow on her–himself and his debts. Mrs Harold Smith had spoken no more than the truth in saying that she and Miss Dunstable suited one another. And she had not improperly described their friendship. They were not prepared to die, one for the sake of the other. They had said nothing to each other of mutual love and affection. They never kissed, or cried, or made speeches, when they met or when they parted. There was no great benefit for which either had to be grateful to the other; no terrible injury which either had forgiven. But they suited each other; and this, I take it, is the secret of most of pleasantest intercourse in the world. And it was almost grievous that they should suit each other, for Miss Dunstable was much the worthier of the two, had she but known it herself. It was almost to be lamented that she should have found herself able to live with Mrs Harold Smith on terms that were perfectly satisfactory to herself. Mrs Harold Smith was worldly, heartless–to all the world but her brother–and, as has been above hinted, almost dishonest. Miss Dunstable was not worldly, though it was possible that her present style of life might make her so; she was affectionate, fond of truth, and prone to honesty, if those around would but allow her to exercise it. But she was fond of ease and humour, sometimes of wit that might almost be called broad, and she had a thorough love of ridiculing the world’s humbugs. In all the propensities Mrs Harold Smith indulged her.

Under these circumstances they were now together almost every day. It had become quite a habit with Mrs Harold Smith to have herself driven early in the forenoon to Miss Dunstable’s house; and that lady, though she could never be found alone by Mr Sowerby, was habitually so found by his sister. And after that they would go out together, or each separately as fancy or the business of the day might direct them. Each was easy to the other in this alliance, and they so managed that they never trod on each other’s corns. On the day following the agreement made between Mr Sowerby and Mrs Harold Smith, that lady as usual called on Miss Dunstable, and soon found herself alone with her friend in a small room which the heiress kept solely for her own purposes. On special occasions persons of various sorts were there admitted; occasionally a parson who had a church to build, or a dowager laden with the last morsel of town slander, or a poor author who could not get due payment for the efforts of his brain, or a poor governess on whose feeble stamina the weight of the world had borne too hardly. But men who by possibility could be lovers did not make their way thither, nor women who could be bores. In these latter days, that is, during the present London season, the doors of it had been oftener open to Mrs Harold Smith than to any other person. And now the effort was to be made with the object of which all this intimacy had been effected. As she came thither in her carriage, Mrs Harold Smith herself was not altogether devoid of that sinking of the heart which is so frequently the forerunner of any difficult and hazardous undertaking. She had declared that she would feel no fear in making the little proposition. But she did feel something very like it: and when she made her entrance into the little room she certainly wished that the work was done and over.

‘How is poor Mr Smith to-day?’ asked Miss Dunstable, with an air of mock condolence, as her friend seated herself in her accustomed easy chair. The downfall of the gods was as yet a history hardly three days old, and it might well be supposed that the late of the Petty Bag had hardly recovered from his misfortune. ‘Well, he is better, I think, this morning; at least I should judge so from the manner in which he confronted his eggs. But still I don’t like the way he handles the carving-knife. I am sure he is always thinking of Mr Supplehouse at those moments.’

‘Poor man! I mean Supplehouse. After all, why shouldn’t he follow his trade as well as another? Live and let live, that’s what I say.’

‘Aye, but it’s kill and let kill with him. That is what Horace says. However, I am tired of all that now, and I came here to-day to talk about something else.’

‘I rather like Mr Supplehouse myself,’ exclaimed Miss Dunstable. ‘He never makes any bones about the matter. He has a certain work to do, and a certain cause to serve–namely, his own; and in order to do that work, and serve that cause, he uses such weapons as God has placed in his hands.’

‘That’s what the wild beasts do.’

‘And where will you find men honester than they? The tiger tears you up because he is hungry and wants to eat you. That’s what Supplehouse does. But there are so many among us tearing up one another without any excuse of hunger. The mere pleasure of destroying is reason enough.

‘Well, my dear, my mission to you to-day is certainly not one of destruction, as you will admit when you hear it. It is one, rather, very absolutely of salvation. I have come to make love to you.’

‘Then the salvation, I suppose, is not for myself,’ said Miss Dunstable. It was quite clear to Mrs Harold Smith that Miss Dunstable had immediately understood the whole purport of this visit, and that she was not in any great measure surprised. It did not seem from the tone of the heiress’s voice, or from the serious look which at once settled on her face, that she would be prepared to give very ready compliance. But then great objects can only be won with great efforts.

‘That’s as may be,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘For you and another also, I hope. But I trust, at any rate, that I may not offend you?’

‘Oh, laws, no; nothing of that kind ever offends me now.’

‘Well, I suppose you’re used to it.’

‘Like the eels, my dear. I don’t mind it the least in the world–only sometimes, you know, it is a little tedious.’

‘I’ll endeavour to avoid that, so I may as well break the ice at once. You know enough of Nathaniel’s affairs to be aware that he is not a very rich man.’

‘Since you do ask me about it, I suppose there’s no harm in saying that I believe him to be a very poor man.’

‘Not the least harm in the world, but just the reverse. Whatever may come of this, my wish is that the truth should be told scrupulously on all sides; the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’

‘Magna est veritas,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘The Bishop of Barchester taught me as much Latin as that at Chaldicotes; and he did add some more, but there was a long word, and I forgot it.’

‘The bishop was quite right, my dear, I’m sure. But if you go to your Latin, I’m lost. As we were just now saying, my brother’s pecuniary affairs are in a very bad state. He has a beautiful property of his own, which has been in the family for I can’t say how many centuries–long before the Conquest, I know.’

‘I wonder what my ancestors were then?’

‘It does not much signify to any of us,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, with a moral shake of her head, ‘what our ancestors were; but it’s a sad thing to see an old property go to ruin.’

‘Yes, indeed; we none of us like to see our property going to ruin, whether it be old or new. I have some of that sort of feeling already, although mine was only made the other day out of an apothecary’s shop.’

‘God forbid that I should ever help you ruin it,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘I should be sorry to be the means of your losing a ten-pound note.’

‘Magna est veritas, as the dear bishop said,’ exclaimed Miss Dunstable. ‘Let us have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as we agreed just now.’ Mrs Harold Smith did begin to find that the task before her was difficult. There was a hardness about Miss Dunstable when matters of business were concerned on which it seemed almost impossible to make any impression. It was not that she had evinced any determination to refuse the tender of Mr Sowerby’s hand; but she was so painfully resolute not to have dust thrown in her eyes! Mrs Harold Smith had commenced with a mind fixed upon avoiding what she called humbug; but this sort of humbug had become so prominent a part of her usual rhetoric, that she found it very hard to abandon it. ‘And that’s what I wish,’ said she. ‘Of course my chief object is to secure my brother’s happiness.’

‘That’s very unkind to poor Mr Harold Smith.’

‘Well, well, well–you know what I mean.’

‘Yes, I think I do know what you mean. Your brother is a gentleman of good family, but of no means.’

‘Not quite as bad as that.’

‘Of embarrassed means, then, or anything that you will; whereas I am a lady of no family, but of sufficient wealth. You think that if you brought us together and made a match of it, it would be a very good thing for–for whom?’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘Yes, exactly,’ said Mrs Harold Smith.

‘For which of us? Remember the bishop now and his nice little bit of Latin.’

‘For Nathaniel then,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, boldly. ‘It would be a very good thing for him.’ And a slight smile came across her face as she said it. ‘Now that’s honest, or the mischief is in it.’

‘Yes, that’s honest enough. And did he send you here to tell me this?’

‘Well, he did that, and something else.’

‘And now let’s have the something else. The really important part, I have no doubt, has been spoken.’

‘No, by no means, by no means all of it. But you are so hard on one, my dear, with your running after honesty, that one is not able to tell the real facts as they are. You make one speak in such a bald, naked way.’

‘Ah, you think that anything naked must be indecent; even truth.’

‘I think it is more proper-looking, and better suited, too, for the world’s work, when it goes about with some sort of garment on it. We are so used to a leaven of falsehood in all we hear and say, nowadays, that nothing is more likely to deceive us than the absolute truth. If a shopkeeper told me that his wares were simply middling, of course, I should think that they were not worth a farthing. But all that has nothing to do with my poor brother. Well, what was I saying?’

‘You were going to tell me how well he will use me, no doubt.’

‘Something of that kind.’

‘That he wouldn’t beat me; or spend all my money if I managed to have it tied up out of his power; or look down on me with contempt because my father was an apothecary! Was not that what you were going to say?’

‘I was going to tell you that you might be more happy as Mrs Sowerby of Chaldicotes than you can be as Miss Dunstable–‘

‘Of Mount Lebanon. And had Mr Sowerby no other message to send?—nothing about love, or anything of that sort? I should like, you know, to understand what his feelings are before I take such a leap.’

‘I do believe he has as true a regard for you as any man of his age does have–‘

‘For any woman of mine. That is not putting it in a very devoted way certainly; but I am glad to see that you remember the bishop’s maxim.’

‘What would you have me say? If I told you that he was dying for love, you would say, I was trying to cheat you; and now because I don’t tell you so, you say that he is wanting of devotion. I must say you are hard to please.’

‘Perhaps I am, and very unreasonable into the bargain. I ought to ask no questions of the kind when your brother proposes to do me so much honour. As for my expecting the love of a man who condescends to wish to be my husband, that, of course, would be monstrous. What right can I have to think that any man should love me? It ought to be enough for me to know that as I am rich, I can get a husband. What business can such as I have to inquire whether the gentleman who would so honour me really would like my company, or would only deign to put up with my presence in the household?’

‘Now, my dear Miss Dunstable–‘

‘Of course I am not so much an ass to expect that any gentleman should love me; and I feel that I ought to be obliged to your brother for sparing me the string of complimentary declarations which are usual on such occasions. He, at any rate, is not tedious–or rather you on his behalf; for no doubt his own time is so occupied with his parliamentary duties that he cannot attend to this little matter himself. I do feel grateful to him; and perhaps nothing more will be necessary than to give him a schedule of the property, and name an early day for putting him possession.’ Mrs Smith did feel that she was rather badly used. This Miss Dunstable, in their mutual confidences, had so often ridiculed the love-making grimaces of her mercenary suitors–had spoken so fiercely against those who had persecuted her, not because they had desired her money, but on account of their ill-judgement in thinking her to be a fool–that Mrs Smith had a right to expect that the method she had adopted for opening the negotiation would be taken in a better spirit. Could it be possible, after all, thought Mrs Smith to herself, that Miss Dunstable was like other women, and that she did like to have men kneeling at her feet? Could it be the case that she had advised her brother badly, and that it would have been better for him to have gone about his work in the old-fashioned way? ‘They are very hard to manage,’ said Mrs Harold Smith to herself, thinking of her own sex.

‘He was coming here himself,’ said she, ‘but I advised him not to do so.’

‘That was kind of you.’

‘I thought that I could explain to you more openly and more freely, what his intentions really are.’

‘Oh! I have no doubt that they are honourable,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘He does not want to deceive me in that way, I am sure.’ It was impossible to help laughing, and Mrs Harold Smith did laugh. ‘Upon my word, you would provoke a saint,’ said she.

‘I am not likely to get into such company by the alliance that you are suggesting to me. There are not many saints usually at Chaldicotes, I believe;–always excepting the dear bishop and his wife.’

‘But, my dear, what am I to say to Nathaniel?’

‘Tell him, of course, how much obliged to him I am.’

‘Do listen to me one moment. I dare say that I have done wrong to speak to you in such a bold, unromantic way.’

‘Not at all. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That’s what we agreed upon. But one’s first efforts in any line are always apt to be a little uncouth.’

‘I will send Nathaniel to you himself.’

‘No, do not do so. Why torment either him or me? I do like your brother; in a certain way, I like him much. But no earthly consideration would induce me to marry him. Is it not so glaringly plain that he would marry me for my money only, that you have not even dared to suggest any other reason?’

‘Of course it would have been nonsense to say that he had no regard whatever towards your money.’

‘Of course it would–absolute nonsense. He is a poor man with a good position, and he wants to marry me because I have got that which he wants. But, my dear, I do not want that which he has got, and therefore the bargain would not be a fair one.’

‘But he would do his best to make you happy.’

‘I am so much obliged to him; but you see, I am very happy as I am. What should I gain?’

‘A companion whom you confess you like.’

‘Ah! but I don’t know that I should like too much even of such a companion as your brother. No, my dear–it won’t do. Believe me when I tell you, once for all, that it won’t do.’

‘Do, you mean, then, Miss Dunstable, that you’ll never marry?’

‘To-morrow–if I met any one that I fancied, and he would have me. But I rather think that any that I may fancy won’t have me. In the first place, if I marry any one, the man must be quite indifferent to my money.’

‘Then you’ll not find him in the world, my dear.’

‘Very possibly not,’ said Miss Dunstable. All that was further said upon the subject need not be here repeated. Mrs Harold Smith did not give up her cause quite at once, although Miss Dunstable had spoken so plainly. She tried to explain how eligible would be her friend’s situation as mistress of Chaldicotes, when Chaldicotes should owe no penny to any man; and went so far as to hint that the master of Chaldicotes, if relieved of his embarrassments and known as a rich man, might in all probability be found worthy of a peerage when the gods should return to Olympus. Mr Harold Smith, as a Cabinet minister, would, of course, do his best. But it was all of no use. ‘It’s not my destiny,’ said Miss Dunstable, ‘and therefore do not press it any longer.’

‘But we shall not quarrel,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, almost tenderly.

‘Oh, no–why should we quarrel?’

‘And you won’t look glum at my brother?’

‘Why should I look glum at him? But, Mrs Smith, I’ll do more than not looking glum at him. I do like you, and I do like your brother, and if I can in any moderate way assist him in his difficulties, let him tell me so.’ Soon after this, Mrs Harold Smith went her way. Of course, she declared in a very strong manner that her brother could not think of accepting from Miss Dunstable any such pecuniary assistance as that offered–and, to give her her due, such was the feeling of her mind at the moment; but as she went to meet her brother and gave him an account of this interview, it did occur to her that possibly Miss Dunstable might be a better creditor than the Duke of Omnium for the Chaldicotes property.

CHAPTER XXV

NON-IMPULSIVE

It cannot be held as astonishing, that that last decision on the part of the giants in the matter of the two bishoprics should have disgusted Archdeacon Grantly. He was a politician, but not a politician as they were. As is the case with all exoteric men, his political eyes saw a short way only, and his political aspirations were as limited. When his friends came into office, that bishop bill, which as the original product of his enemies had been regarded by him as being so pernicious–for was it not about to be made law in order that other Proudies and such like might be hoisted up into high places and large incomes, to the terrible detriment of the Church?—that bishop bill, I say, in the hands of his friends, had appeared to him to be a means of almost national salvation. And then, how great had been the good fortune of the giants in this matter! Had they been the originators of such a measure they would not have had a chance of success; but now–now that the two bishops were falling into their mouths out of the weak hands of the gods, was not their success ensured? So Dr Grantly had girded up his loins and marched up to the fight, almost regretting that the triumph would be so easy. The subsequent failure was very trying to his temper as a party man. It always strikes me that the supporters of the Titans are in this respect much to be pitied. The giants themselves, those who are actually handling Pelion and breaking their shins over the lower rocks of Ossa, are always advancing in some sort towards the councils of Olympus. Their highest policy is to snatch some ray from heaven. Why else put Pelion on Ossa, unless it be that a furtive hand, making its way through Jove’s windows, may pluck forth a thunderbolt or two, or some article less destructive, but of manufacture equally divine? And in this consists the wisdom of higher giants–that, in spite of their mundane antecedents, theories and predilections, they can see that articles of divine manufacture are necessary. But then they never carry their supporters with them. Their whole army is an army of martyrs. ‘For twenty years I have stuck to them, and see how they have treated me!’ Is not that always the plaint of an old giant-slave? ‘I have been true to my party all my life, and where am I now?’ he says. Where, indeed, my friend? Looking about you, you begin to learn that you cannot describe your whereabouts. I do not marvel at that. No one finds himself planted at last in so terribly foul a morass, as he would fain stand still for ever on dry ground.

Dr Grantly was disgusted; and although he was himself too true and thorough in all his feelings, to be able to say aloud that any giant was wrong, still he had a sad feeling within his heart that the world was sinking from under him. He was still sufficiently exoteric to think that a good stand-up fight in a good cause was a good thing. No doubt he did wish to be Bishop of Westminster, and was anxious to compass that preferment by any means that might appear to him to be fair. And why not? But this was not the end of his aspirations. He wished that the giants might prevail in everything, in bishoprics as in all other matters; and he could not understand that they should give way on the very first appearance of a skirmish. In his open talk he was loud against many a god; but in his heart of hearts he was bitter enough against both Porphyrion and Orion.

‘My dear doctor, it would not do;–not in this session; it would not indeed.’ So had spoken to him a half-fledged but especially esoteric young monster-cub at the Treasury, who considered himself as up to all the dodges of his party, and regarded the army of martyrs who supported it as a rather heavy, but very useful collection of fogies. Dr Grantly had not cared to discuss the matter with the half-fledged monster-cub. The best licked of all the monsters, the giant most like a god of them all, had said a word or two to him; and he also had said a word or two to that giant. Porphyrion had told him that the bishop bill would not do; and he, in return, speaking with a warm face, and blood on his cheeks, had told Porphyrion that he saw no reason why the bill should not do. The courteous giant had smiled as he shook his ponderous head, and then the archdeacon had left him, unconsciously shaking some dust from his shoes, as he paced the passages of the Treasury chambers for the last time. As he walked back to his lodgings in Mount Street, many thoughts, not altogether bad in their nature, passed through his mind. Why should he trouble himself about a bishopric? Was he not well as he was, in his rectory down at Plumstead? Might it not be ill for him at his age to transplant himself into new soil, to engage in new duties, and live among new people? Was he not useful at Barchester, and respected also; and might it not be possible that up there at Westminster, he might be regarded merely as a tool with which other men could work? He had not quite liked the tone of that specially exoteric young monster-cub, who had clearly regarded him as a distinguished fogy from the army of martyrs. He would take his wife back to Barsetshire, and there live contented with the good things which Providence had given him.

Those high political grapes had become sour, my sneering friends will say. Well? Is it not a good thing that grapes should become sour which hang out of reach? Is he not wise who can regard all grapes as sour which are manifestly too high for his hand? Those grapes of the Treasury bench, for which gods and giants fight, suffering so much when they are forced to abstain from eating, and so much more when they do eat,–those grapes are very sour to me. I am sure that they are indigestible, and that those who eat them undergo all the ills which the Revalenta Arabica is prepared to cure. And so it was now with the archdeacon. He thought of the strain which would have been put on his conscience had he come up there to sit in London as Bishop of Westminster; and in this frame of mind he walked home to his wife. During the first few moments of his interview with her all his regrets had come back upon him. Indeed, it would have hardly suited for him then to have preached this new doctrine of rural contentment. The wife of his bosom, whom he so fully trusted–had so fully loved–wished for grapes that hung high upon the wall, and he knew that it was past his power to teach her at the moment to drop her ambition. Any teaching that he might effect in that way, must come by degrees. But before many minutes were over he had told her of her fate and of his own decision. ‘So we had better go back to Plumstead,’ he said; and she had not dissented.

‘I am sorry for poor Griselda’s sake,’ Mrs Grantly had remarked later in the evening, when they were again together.

‘But I thought she was to remain with Lady Lufton?’

‘Well; so she will for a little time. There is no one with whom I would so soon trust her out of my own care as with Lady Lufton. She is all that one can desire.’

‘Exactly; and as far as Griselda is concerned, I cannot say that I think she is to be pitied.’

‘Not to be pitied, perhaps,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘But, you see, archdeacon, Lady Lufton, of course, has her own views.’

‘Her own views?’

‘It is hardly any secret that she is very anxious to make a match between Lord Lufton and Griselda. And though that might be a very proper arrangement if it were fixed–‘

‘Lord Lufton marry Griselda!’ said the archdeacon, speaking quick and raising his eyebrows. His mind had as yet been troubled by but few thoughts respecting his child’s future establishment. ‘I had never dreamt of such a thing.’

‘But other people have done more than dreamt of it, archdeacon. As regards the match itself, it would, I think, be unobjectionable. Lord Lufton will not be a very rich man, but his property is respectable, and as far as I can learn, his character is on the whole good. If they like each other, I should be contented with such a marriage. But, I must own, I am not quite satisfied at the idea of leaving her all alone with Lady Lufton. People will look on it as a settled thing, when it is not settled–and very probably may not be settled; and that will do the poor girl harm. She is very much admired; there can be no doubt of that; and Lord Dumbello–‘

The archdeacon opened his eyes still wider. He had had no idea that such a choice of sons-in-law was being prepared for him; and, to tell the truth, was almost bewildered by the height of his wife’s ambition. Lord Lufton, with his barony and twenty thousand a year, might be accepted as just good enough; but failing him there was an embryo marquis, whose fortune would be more than ten times as great, all ready to accept his child! And then he thought, as husbands sometimes will think, of Susan Harding as she was when he had gone a-courting to her under the elms before the house in the warden’s garden, at Barchester, and of dear old Mr Harding, his wife’s father, who still lived, in humble lodgings in that city; and as he thought, he wondered at and admired the greatness of that lady’s mind. ‘I never can forgive Lord De Terrier,’ said the lady, connecting various points together in her mind.

‘That’s nonsense,’ said the archdeacon. ‘You must forgive him.’

‘And I must confess that it annoys me to leave London at present.’

‘It can’t be helped,’ said the archdeacon, somewhat gruffly; for he was a man who, on certain points, chose to have his own way–and had it.

‘Oh, no: I know it can’t be helped,’ said Mrs Grantly, in a tone which implied a deep injury. ‘I know it can’t be helped. Poor Griselda!’ And then they went to bed. On the next morning Griselda came to her, and in an interview that was strictly private, her mother said more to her than she had ever yet spoken, as to the prospects of her future life. Hitherto, on this subject, Mrs Grantly had said little or nothing. She would have been well pleased that her daughter should have received the incense of Lord Lufton’s vows–or, perhaps, as well pleased had it been the incense of Lord Dumbello’s vows–without any interference on her part. In such case her child, she knew, would have told her with quite sufficient eagerness, and the matter in either case would have been arranged as a pretty love match. She had no fear of any impropriety or of any rashness on Griselda’s part. She had thoroughly known her daughter when she boasted that Griselda would never indulge in an unauthorized passion. But as matters now stood, with those two strings to her bow, and with that Lufton-Grantly alliance treaty in existence–of which she, Griselda herself knew nothing–might it not be possible that the poor child should stumble through want of adequate direction? Guided by these thoughts, Mrs Grantly had resolved to say a few words before she left London. So she wrote a line to her daughter, and Griselda reached Mount Street at two o’clock in Lady Lufton’s carriage, which during the interview, waited for her at the beer-shop round the corner.

‘And papa won’t be Bishop of Westminster?’ said the young lady, when the doings of the giants had been sufficiently explained to make her understand that all those hopes were over.

‘No, my dear; at any rate not now.’

‘What a shame! I thought it was all settled. What’s the good, mamma, of Lord De Terrier being Prime Minister, if he can’t make whom he likes a bishop?’

‘I don’t think that Lord De Terrier has behaved at all well to your father. However, that’s a long question, and we can’t go into it now.’

‘How glad those Proudies will be!’ Griselda would have talked by the hour on this subject had her mother allowed her, but it was necessary that Mrs Grantly should go to other matters. She began about Lady Lufton, saying what a dear woman her ladyship was; and then went on to say that Griselda was to remain in London as long as it suited her friend and hostess to stay there with her; but added, that this might probably not be very long, as it was notorious that Lady Lufton, when in London, was always in a hurry to get back to Framley.

‘But I don’t think she is in such a hurry this year, mamma,’ said Griselda, who in the month of May preferred Bruton Street to Plumstead, and had no objection whatever to the coronet on the panels of Lady Lufton’s coach. And then Mrs Grantly commenced her explanation–very cautiously. ‘No, my dear, I dare say she is not in such a hurry this year,–that is, as long as you remain with her.’

‘I am sure she is very kind.’

‘She is very kind, and you ought to love her very much. I know I do. I have no friend in the world for whom I have a greater regard than for Lady Lufton. It is that which makes me happy to leave you with her.’

‘All the same, I wish you and papa had remained up; that is, if they had made papa a bishop.’

‘It’s no good thinking of that now, my dear. What I particularly wanted to say to you was this: I think you should know what are the ideas which Lady Lufton entertains.’

‘Her ideas!’ said Griselda, who had never troubled herself much in thinking about other people’s thoughts.

‘Yes, Griselda. While you were staying down at Framley Court, and also, I suppose, since you have been up here in Bruton Street, you must have seen a good deal of–Lord Lufton.’

‘He doesn’t come very often to Bruton Street,–that is to say, not very often.’

‘H-m,’ ejaculated Mrs Grantly, very gently. She would willingly have repressed the sound altogether, but it had been too much for her. If she found reason to think that Lady Lufton was playing her false, she would immediately take her daughter away, break up the treaty, and prepare for the Hartletop alliance. Such were the thoughts that ran through her mind. But she knew all the while that Lady Lufton was not false. The fault was not with Lady Lufton; nor, perhaps, altogether with Lord Lufton. Mrs Grantly had understood the full force of the complaint which Lady Lufton had made against her daughter; and though she had of course defended her child, and on the whole had defended her successfully, yet she confessed to herself that Griselda’s chance of a first-rate establishment would be better if she were a little more impulsive. A man does not wish to marry a statue, let the statue be ever so statuesque. She could not teach her daughter to be impulsive, any more than she could teach her to be six feet high; but might it not be possible to teach her to seem so? The task was a very delicate one, even for a mother’s hand. ‘Of course he cannot be at home now as much as he was down at the country, when he was living in the same house,’ said Mrs Grantly, whose business it was to take Lord Lufton’s part at the present moment. ‘He must be at his club and at the House of Lords, and in twenty places.’

‘He is very fond of going to parties, and he dances beautifully.’

‘I am sure he does. I have seen as much as that myself, and I think I know some one with whom he likes to dance.’ And the mother gave the daughter a loving little squeeze.

‘Do you mean me, mamma?’

‘Yes, I do mean you, my dear. And is it not true? Lady Lufton says that he likes dancing with you better than with any one else in London.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Griselda, looking down upon the ground. Mrs Grantly thought that this upon the whole was rather a good opening. It might have been better. Some point of interest more serious in its nature than that of a waltz might have been found on which to connect her daughter’s sympathies with those of her future husband. But any point of interest was better than none; and it is so difficult to find points of interest in persons who by their nature are not impulsive.

‘Lady Lufton says so, at any rate,’ continued Mrs Grantly, ever so cautiously. ‘She thinks that Lord Lufton likes no partner better. What do you think yourself, Griselda?’

‘I don’t know, mamma.’

‘But young ladies must think of such things, must they not?’

‘Must they, mamma?’

‘I suppose they do, don’t they? The truth is, Griselda, that Lady Lufton thinks that if–Can you guess what she thinks?’

‘No, mamma.’ But that was a fib on Griselda’s part.

‘She thinks that my Griselda would make the best possible wife in the world for her son: and I think so too. I think her son will be a very fortunate man if he can get such a wife. And now what do you think, Griselda?’

‘I don’t think anything, mamma.’ But that would not do. It was absolutely necessary that she should think, and absolutely necessary that her mother should tell her so. Such a degree of unimpulsiveness as this would lead to–Heaven knows what results! Lufton-Grantly treaties and Hartletop interests would be all thrown away upon a young lady who would not think anything of a noble suitor sighing for her smiles. Besides, it was not natural. Griselda, as her mother knew, had never been a girl of headlong feeling; but still she had had her likes and dislikes. In that matter of the bishopric she was keen enough; and no one could evince a deeper interest in the subject of a well-made new dress than Griselda Grantly. It was not possible that she should be indifferent as to her future prospects, and she must know that those prospects depended mainly on her marriage. Her mother was almost angry with her, but nevertheless she went on very gently.

‘You don’t think anything! But, my darling, you must think. You must make up your mind what would be your answer if Lord Lufton were to propose to you. That is what Lady Lufton wishes him to do.’

‘But he never will, mamma.’

‘And if he did?’

‘But I’m sure he never will. He doesn’t think of such a thing at all–and–and–‘

‘And what, my dear?’

‘I don’t know, mamma.’

‘Surely you can speak out to me, dearest! All I care about is your happiness. Both Lady Lufton and I think that it would be a happy marriage if you both cared for each other enough. She thinks that he is fond of you. But if he were ten times Lord Lufton I would not tease you about it if I thought that you could not learn to care about him. What was it you were going to say, my dear?’

‘Lord Lufton thinks a great deal more about Lucy Robarts than he does of–of–of any one else, I believe,’ said Griselda, showing now some little animation by her manner, ‘dumpy little black thing that she is.’

‘Lucy Robarts!’ said Mrs Grantly, taken by surprise at finding that her daughter was moved by such a passion as jealousy, and feeling also perfectly assured that there could not be any possible ground for jealousy in such a direction as that. ‘Lucy Robarts, my dear! I don’t suppose Lord Lufton ever thought of speaking to her, except in the way of civility.’

‘Yes, he did, mamma! Don’t you remember at Framley?’ Mrs Grantly began to look back in her mind, and she thought she did remember having once observed Lord Lufton speaking in rather a confidential manner with the parson’s sister. But she was sure there was nothing in it. If that were the reason why Griselda was so cold to her proposed lover, it would be a thousand pities that it should not be removed. ‘Now you mention her, I do remember the young lady,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘a dark girl, very low, and without much figure. She seemed to me to keep very much in the background.’

‘I don’t know much about that, mamma.’

‘As far as I saw her, she did. But, my dear Griselda, you should not allow yourself to think of such a thing. Lord Lufton, of course, is bound to be civil to any young lady in his mother’s house, and I am quite sure that he has no other idea whatever with regard to Miss Robarts. I certainly cannot speak as to her intellect, for I do not think she opened her mouth in my presence; but–‘

‘Oh! she has plenty to say for herself, when she pleases. She’s a sly little thing.’

‘But, at any rate, my dear, she has no personal attractions whatever, and I do not at all think that Lord Lufton is a man to be taken by–by–by anything that Miss Robarts might do or say.’ As those words ‘personal attractions’ were uttered, Griselda managed so to turn her neck to catch a side view of herself in one of the mirrors on the wall, and then she bridled herself up, and made a little play with her eyes, and looked, as her mother thought, very well. ‘It is all nothing to me, mamma, of course,’ she said.

‘Well, my dear, perhaps not. I don’t say that it is. I do not wish to put the slightest constraint upon your feelings. If I did not have the most thorough dependence on your good sense and high principles, I should not speak to you in this way. But as I have, I thought it best to tell you that both Lady Lufton and I should be well pleased if we thought that you and Lord Lufton were fond of each other.

‘I am sure he never thinks of such a thing, mamma.’

‘And as for Lucy Robarts, pray get that idea out of your head; if not for your sake, then for his. You should give him credit for better taste.’ But it was not so easy to take anything out of Griselda’s head that she had once taken into it. ‘As for tastes, mamma, there is no accounting for them,’ she said; and then the colloquy on that subject was over. The result of it on Mrs Grantly’s mind was a feeling amounting almost to a conviction in favour of the Dumbello interest.

CHAPTER XXVI

IMPULSIVE

I trust my readers will all remember how Puck the pony was beaten during that drive to Hogglestock. It may be presumed that Puck himself on that occasion did not suffer much. His skin was not so soft as Mrs Robarts’s heart. The little beast was full of oats and all the good things of this world, and therefore, when the whip touched him, he would dance about and shake his little ears, and run on at a tremendous pace for twenty yards, making his mistress think that he had endured terrible things. But, in truth, during those whippings Puck was not the chief sufferer. Lucy had been forced to declare–forced by the strength of her own feelings, and by the impossibility of assenting to the propriety of a marriage between Lord Lufton and Miss Grantly,–she had been forced to declare that she did care about Lord Lufton as much as though he were her brother. She had said all this to herself–nay, much more than this–very often. But now she had said it out loud to her sister-in-law; and she knew that what she had said was remembered, considered, and had, to a certain extent, become the cause of altered conduct. Fanny alluded very seldom to the Luftons in casual conversation, and never spoke about Lord Lufton unless when her husband made it impossible that she should not speak of him. Lucy had attempted on more than one occasion to remedy this, by talking about the young lord in a laughing, and, perhaps, half-jeering way; she had been sarcastic as to his hunting and shooting, and had boldly attempted to say a word in joke about his love for Griselda. But she felt that she had failed; that she had failed altogether as regarded Fanny; and that as to her brother, she would more probably be the means of opening his eyes, than have any effect in keeping them closed. So she gave up her efforts and spoke no further word about Lord Lufton. Her secret had been told, and she knew that it had been told. At this time the two ladies were left a great deal alone together in the drawing-room at the parsonage; more, perhaps, than had ever yet been the case since Lucy had been there. Lady Lufton was away, and therefore the almost daily visit to Framley Court was not made; and Mark in these days was a great deal at Barchester, having, no doubt, very onerous duties to perform before he could be admitted as one of the chapter. He went into, what he was pleased to call residence, almost at once. That is, he took his month of preaching, aiding also, in some slight and very dignified way, in the general Sunday morning services. He did not exactly live at Barchester, because the house was not ready. That at least was the assumed reason. The chattels of Dr Stanhope, the late prebendary, had not been as yet removed, and there was likely to be some little delay, creditors asserting their right to them. This might have been very inconvenient to a gentleman anxiously expecting the excellent house which the liberality of past ages had provided for his use; but it was not so felt by Mr Robarts. If Dr Stanhope’s family or creditors would keep the house for the next twelve months, he would be well pleased. And by this arrangement he was enabled to get through his first month of absence from the church at Framley without any notice from Lady Lufton, seeing that Lady Lufton was in London all the time. This was also convenient, and taught our young prebendary to look in his new preferment more favourably than he had hitherto done.

Fanny and Lucy were thus left much alone: and as out of the full head the mouth speaks, so is the full heart more prone to speak at such periods of confidence as these. Lucy, when she first thought of her own state, determined to endow herself with a powerful gift of reticence. She would never tell her love, certainly; but neither would she let concealment feed on her damask cheek, nor would she ever be found for a moment sitting like Patience on a monument. She would fight her own fight bravely within her own bosom, and conquer her enemy altogether. She would either preach, or starve, or weary her love into subjection, and no one should be a bit the wiser. She would teach herself to shake hands with Lord Lufton without a quiver, and would be prepared to like his wife amazingly–unless indeed that wife should be Griselda Grantly. Such were her resolutions; but at the end of the first week they were broken into shivers and scattered to the winds. They had been sitting in the house together the whole of one wet day; and as Mark was to dine at Barchester with the dean, they had had dinner early, eating with the children almost in their laps. It is so that ladies do, when their husbands leave them to themselves. It was getting dusk towards evening, and they were sitting in the drawing-room, the children now having retired, when Mrs Robarts for the fifth time since her visit to Hogglestock began to express her wish that she could do some good to the Crawleys,–to Grace Crawley in particular, who, standing up there at her father’s elbow, learning Greek irregular verbs, had appeared to Mrs Robarts to be an especial object of pity.

‘I don’t know how to set about it,’ said Mrs Robarts. Now any allusion to that visit to Hogglestock always drove Lucy’s mind back to the consideration of the subject which had most occupied it at the time. She at such moments remembered how she had beaten Puck, and how in her half-bantering but still too serious manner she had apologized for doing so, and had explained the reason. And therefore she did not interest herself about Grace Crawley as vividly as she should have done. ‘No; one never does,’ she said.

‘I was thinking about it all day as I drove home,’ said Fanny. ‘The difficulty is this: What can we do with her?’

‘Exactly,’ said Lucy, remembering the very point of the road at which she had declared that she did like Lord Lufton very much.

‘If we could have her here for a month or so and then send her to school;–but I know Mr Crawley would not allow us to pay for her schooling.’

‘I don’t think he would,’ said Lucy, with her thoughts far removed from Mr Crawley and his daughter Grace.

‘And then we should not know what to do with her, should we?’

‘No; you would not.’

‘It would never do to have the poor girl about the house here, with no one to teach her anything. Mark would not teach her Greek verbs, you know.’

‘I suppose not.’

‘Lucy, you are not attending to a word I say to you, and I don’t think you have for the last hour. I don’t believe you know what I am talking about.’

‘Oh, yes, I do–Grace Crawley; I’ll try and teach her if you like, only I don’t know anything myself.’

‘That’s not what I mean at all, and you know I would not ask you to take such a task on yourself. But I do think you might talk it over with me.’

‘Might I? very well; I will. What is it? Oh, Grace Crawley–you want to know who is to teach her the irregular Greek verbs. Oh, dear, Fanny, my head does ache so; pray don’t be angry with me.’ And then Lucy, throwing herself back on the sofa, put one hand up painfully to her forehead, and altogether gave up the battle. Mrs Robarts was by her side in a moment.

‘Dearest Lucy, what is it makes your head ache so often now? You used not to have those headaches.’

‘It’s because I’m growing stupid: never mind. We will go on about poor Grace. It would not do to have a governess, would it?’

‘I can see that you are not well, Lucy,’ said Mrs Robarts, with a look of deep concern. ‘What is it, dearest? I can see that something is the matter.’

‘Something the matter! No, there’s not; nothing worth talking of. Sometimes I think I’ll go back to Devonshire and live there. I could stay with Blanche for a time, and then get a lodging in Exeter.’

‘Go back to Devonshire!’ and Mrs Robarts looked as though she thought that her sister-in-law was going mad. ‘Why do you want to go away from us? This is to be your own, own home, always now.’

‘Is it? Then I am in a bad way. Oh dear, oh dear, what a fool I am! What an idiot I’ve been! Fanny, I don’t think I can stay here; and I do wish I’d never come. I do–do–do, though you look at me so horribly,’ and jumping up she threw herself into her sister-in-law’s arms and began kissing her violently. ‘Don’t pretend to be wounded, for you know that I love you. You know that I could live with all my life, and think you were perfect–as you are; but–‘

‘Has Mark said anything?’

‘Not a word–not a ghost of a syllable. It is not Mark; oh, Fanny!’

‘I am afraid I know what you mean,’ said Mrs Robarts in a low tremulous voice, and with deep sorrow painted on her face.

‘Of course you do; of course you know; you have known it all along; since that day in the pony carriage. I knew that you knew it. You do not dare to mention his name; would not that tell me that you know it? And I, I am hypocrite enough for Mark; but my hypocrisy won’t pass muster before you. And, now, had I not better go to Devonshire?’

‘Dearest, dearest Lucy.’

‘Was I not right about that labelling? O heavens! what idiots we girls are! That a dozen soft words should have bowled me over like a ninepin, and left me without an inch of ground to call my own. And I was so proud of my own strength; so sure that I should never be missish, and spoony, and sentimental! I was so determined to like him as Mark does, or you–‘

‘I shall not like him at all if he has spoken words to you that he should not have spoken.’

‘But he has not.’ And then she stopped a moment to consider. ‘No, he has not. He never said a word to me that would make you angry with him if you knew of it. Except, perhaps, that he called me Lucy; and that was my fault, not his.’

‘Because you talked of soft words.’

‘Fanny, you have no idea what an absolute fool I am, what an unutterable ass. The soft words of which I tell you were of the kind which he speaks to you when he asks you how the cow gets on which he sent to you from Ireland, or to Mark about Ponto’s shoulder. He told me that he knew papa, and that he was at school with Mark, and that as he was such good friends with you here at the parsonage, he must be good friends with me too. No; it has not been his fault. The soft words which did the mischief were such as those. But how well his mother understood the world! In order to have been safe, I should not have dared to look at him.’

‘But, dearest Lucy–‘

‘I know what you are going to say, and I admit it all. He is no hero. There is nothing on earth wonderful about him. I never heard him say a single word of wisdom, or utter a thought that was akin to poetry. He devotes all his energies to riding after a fox or killing poor birds, and I never heard of his doing a single great action in my life. And yet–‘ Fanny was so astounded by the way her sister-in-law went on, that she hardly knew how to speak. ‘He is an excellent son, I believe,’ at last she said.

‘Except when he goes to Gatherum Castle. I’ll tell you what he has: he has fine straight legs, and a smooth forehead, and a good-humoured eye, and white teeth. Was it possible to see such a catalogue of perfections, and not fall down, stricken to the very bone? But it was not that that did it all, Fanny. I could have stood against that. I think I could at least. It was his title that killed me. I had never spoken to a lord before. Oh, me! what a fool, what a beast I have been!’ And then she burst out into tears. Mrs Robarts, to tell the truth, could hardly understand poor Lucy’s ailment. It was evident enough that her misery was real; but yet she spoke of herself and her sufferings with so much irony, with so near an approach to joking, that it was very hard to tell how far she was in earnest. Lucy, too, was so much given to a species of badinage which Mrs Robarts did not always quite understand, that the latter was afraid sometimes to speak out what came uppermost to her tongue. But now that Lucy was absolutely in tears, and was almost breathless with excitement, she could not remain silent any longer. ‘Dearest Lucy, pray do not speak in that way; it will all come right. Things always do come right when no one has acted wrongly.’

‘Yes, when nobody has done wrongly. That’s what papa used to call begging the question. But I’ll tell you what, Fanny; I will not be beaten. I will either kill myself or get through it. I am so heartily self-ashamed that I owe it to myself to fight the battle out.’

‘To fight what battle, dearest?’

‘This battle. Here, now, at the present moment I could not meet Lord Lufton. I should have to run like a scared fowl if he were to show himself within the gate; and I should not dare to go out of the house, if I knew that he was in the parish.’

‘I don’t see that, for I am sure you have not betrayed yourself.’

‘Well, no; as for myself, I believe I have done the lying and the hypocrisy pretty well. But, dearest Fanny, you don’t know half; and you cannot and must not know.’

‘But I thought you said there had been nothing whatever between you.’

‘Did I? Well, to you I have not said a word that was not true. I said that he had spoken nothing that it was wrong for him to say. It could not be wrong–But never mind. I’ll tell you what I mean to do. I have been thinking of it for the last week–only I shall have to tell Mark.’

‘If I were you, I would tell him all.’

‘What, Mark! If you do, Fanny, I’ll never, never, never speak to you again. Would you–when I have given you all my heart in true sisterly love?’ Mrs Robarts had to explain that she had not proposed to tell anything to Mark herself, and was persuaded, moreover, to give a solemn promise that she would not tell anything to him unless specially authorized to do so.

‘I’ll go into a home, I think,’ continued Lucy. ‘You know what these homes are?’ Mrs Robarts assured her that she knew very well, and then Lucy went on: ‘A year ago I should have said that I was the last girl in England to think of such a life, but I do believe now that it would be the best thing for me. And then I’ll starve myself, and flog myself, and, in that way I’ll get back my own mind and my own soul.’

‘Your own soul, Lucy,’ said Mrs Robarts, in a tone of horror.

‘Well, my own heart, if you like it better; but I hate to hear myself talking about hearts. I don’t care for my heart. I’d let it go–with this popinjay lord or any one else, so that I could read, and talk, and walk, and sleep, and eat, without always feeling that I was wrong here–here–here–‘ and she pressed her hand vehemently against her side. ‘What is it that I feel, Fanny? Why am I so weak in body that I cannot take exercise? Why cannot I keep my mind on a book for one moment? Why can I not write two sentences together? Why should every mouthful that I eat stick in my throat? Oh, Fanny, is it his legs, think you, or is it his title?’ Through all her sorrow–and she was very sorrowful–Mrs Robarts could not help smiling. And, indeed, there was every now and then something even in Lucy’s look that was almost comic. She acted the irony so well with which she strove to throw ridicule on herself! ‘Do laugh at me,’ she said. ‘Nothing on earth will do me so much good as that; nothing, unless it be starvation and a whip. If you would only tell me that I must be a sneak and an idiot to care for a man because he is good-looking and a lord!’

‘But that has not been the reason. There is a great deal more in Lord Lufton than that; and since I must speak, dear Lucy, I cannot but say that I should not wonder at your being in love with him, only–only that–‘

‘Only what? Come, out with it. Do not mince matters, or think that I shall be angry with you because you scold me.’