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  • 1861
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‘Everybody saw it. It was a matter of course,’ said Lucy, destroying her ladyship’s wisdom at a blow. ‘Well; I did learn to love him, not meaning to do so; and I do love him with all my heart. It is no use my striving to think that I do not; and I could stand with him at the altar to-morrow and give him my hand, feeling that I was doing my duty by him, as a woman should do. And now he has told you of his love, and I believe in that as I do in my own–‘ And then for a moment she paused.

‘But, my dear Miss Robarts–‘ began Lady Lufton. Lucy, however, had not worked herself up into a condition of power, and would not allow her ladyship to interrupt her in her speech. ‘I beg your pardon, Lady Lufton; I shall have done directly, and then I will hear you. And so my brother came to me, not urging this suit, expressing no wish for such a marriage, but allowing me to judge for myself, and proposing that I should see your son again on the following morning. Had I done so, I could not but have accepted him. Think of it, Lady Lufton. How could I have done either than accept him, seeing that in my heart I had accepted his love already?’

‘Well?’ said Lady Lufton, not wishing now to put in any speech of her own.

‘I did not see him–I refused to do so–because I was a coward. I could not endure to come into this house as your son’s wife, and be coldly looked on by your son’s mother. Much as I loved him, much as I do love him, dearly as I prize the generous offer which he came down here to repeat to me, I could not live with him to be made the object of your scorn. I sent him word, therefore, that I would have him when you would ask me, and not before.’ And, then, having thus pleaded her cause–and pleaded, as she believed, the cause of her lover also–she ceased from speaking, and prepared herself to listen to the story of King Cophetua. But Lady Lufton felt considerable difficulty in commencing her speech. In the first place she was by no means a hard-hearted or a selfish woman; and were it not that her own son was concerned, and all the glory which was reflected upon her from her son, her sympathies would have been given to Lucy Robarts. As it was, she did sympathize with her, and admire her, and to a certain extent like her. She began also to understand what it was that had brought about her son’s love, and to feel that but for certain unfortunate concomitant circumstances the girl before her might have made a fitting Lady Lufton. Lucy had grown bigger in her eyes while sitting there and talking, and had lost much of that missish want of importance–that lack of social weight–which Lady Lufton in her own opinion had always imputed to her. A girl that could thus speak up and explain her own position now, would be able to speak up and explain her own, and perhaps some other positions at any future time. But not for all or any of these reasons did Lady Lufton think of giving way. The power of making or marring this marriage was placed in her hands, as was very fitting, and that power it behoved her to use, as best she might use it, to her son’s advantage. Much as she might admire Lucy, she could not sacrifice her son to that admiration. The unfortunate concomitant circumstances still remained, and were of sufficient force, as she thought, to make such a marriage inexpedient. Lucy was the sister of a gentleman, who by his peculiar position as parish clergyman of Framley was unfitted to be the brother-in-law of the owner of Framley. Nobody liked clergymen better than Lady Lufton or was more willing to live with them on terms of affectionate intimacy, but she could not get over the feeling that the clergyman of her own parish,–or of her son’s,–was a part of her own establishment, of her own appanage–or of his,–and that it could not be well that Lord Lufton should marry among his own dependants. Lady Lufton would not have used the word, but she did think it. And then, too, Lucy’s education had been so deficient. She had had no one about her in early life accustomed to the ways of,–of what shall I say without making Lady Lufton appear more worldly than she was? Lucy’s wants in this respect, not to be defined in words, had been exemplified by the very way in which she had just now stated her case. She had shown talent, good temper, and sound judgement; but there had been no quiet, no repose about her. The species of power in young ladies which Lady Lufton most admired was the vis inertiae belonging to beautiful and dignified reticence; of this poor Lucy had none. Then, too, she had not fortune, which though a minor evil, was an evil; and she had no birth, in the high sense of the word, which was the greater evil. And then, though her eyes had sparkled when she confessed her love, Lady Lufton was not prepared to admit that she was possessed of positive beauty. Such were the unfortunate concomitant circumstances which still induced Lady Lufton to resolve that the match must be marred.

But the performance on her part in this play was much more difficult than she had imagined, and she found herself obliged to sit silent for a minute or two, during which, however, Miss Robarts made no attempt at further speech. ‘I am greatly struck,’ Lady Lufton said at last, ‘by the excellent sense you have displayed in the whole of this affair; and you must allow me to say, Miss Robarts, that I now regard you with very different feelings from those which I entertained when I left London.’ Upon this Lucy bowed her head, slightly but very stiffly; acknowledging rather the former censure implied than the present eulogium expressed.

‘But my feelings,’ continued Lady Lufton, ‘my strongest feelings in this matter, must be those of a mother. What might be my conduct if such a marriage did take place, I need not now consider. But I must confess that I should think such a marriage very–very ill-judged. A better-hearted young man than Lord Lufton does not exist, nor one with better principles, or a deeper regard for his word; but he is exactly the man to be mistaken on any hurried outlook as to his future life. Were you and he to become man and wife, such a marriage would tend to the happiness neither of him or of you.’ It was clear that the whole lecture was coming; and as Lucy had openly declared her own weakness, and thrown all the power of decision into the hands of Lady Lufton, she did not see why she should endure this.

‘We need not argue about that, Lady Lufton,’ she said. ‘I have told you the only circumstances under which I would marry your son; and you, at any rate, are safe.’

‘No; I was not wishing to argue,’ answered Lady Lufton, almost humbly; ‘but I was desirous of excusing myself to you, so that you should not think me cruel in withholding my consent. I wished to make you believe that I was doing the best for my son.’

‘I am sure that you think you are, and therefore no excuse is necessary.’

‘No, exactly; of course it is a matter of opinion, and I do think so. I cannot believe that this marriage would make either of you happy, and therefore I should be very wrong to express my consent.’

‘Then, Lady Lufton,’ said Lucy, rising from her chair, ‘I suppose we have both now said what is necessary, and I will therefore wish you good-bye.’

‘Good-bye, Miss Robarts. I wish I could make you understand how very highly I regard your conduct in this matter. It has been above all praise, and so I shall not hesitate to say when speaking of it to your relatives.’ This was disagreeable enough to Lucy, who cared but little for any praise which Lady Lufton might express to her relatives in this matter. ‘And pray,’ continued Lady Lufton, ‘give my best love to Mrs Robarts, and tell her that I shall hope to see her over here very soon, and Mr Robarts also. I would name a day for you all to dine; but perhaps it will be better that I should have a little talk with Fanny first.’

Lucy muttered something, which was intended to signify that any such dinner party had better not be made up with the intention of including her, and then took her leave. She had decidedly had the best of the interview, and there was a consciousness of this in her heart as she allowed Lady Lufton to shake hands with her. She had stopped her antagonist short on each occasion on which an attempt had been made to produce the homily which had been prepared, and during the interview had spoken probably three words for every one which her ladyship had been able to utter. But, nevertheless, there was a bitter feeling of disappointment about her heart as she walked back home; and a feeling, also, that she herself had caused her own unhappiness. Why should she have been so romantic and chivalrous and self-sacrificing, seeing that her romance and chivalry had all been to his detriment as well as hers,–seeing that she sacrificed him as well as herself? Why should she have been so anxious to play into Lady Lufton’s hands? It was not because she thought it right, as a general social rule, that a lady should refuse a gentleman’s hand, unless the gentleman’s mother were a consenting party to the marriage. She would have held any such doctrine as absurd. The lady, she would have said, would have had to look to her own family and no further. It was not virtue but cowardice which had influenced her, and she had none of that solace which may come to us in misfortune from a consciousness that our own conduct has been blameless. Lady Lufton had inspired her with awe, and any such feeling on her part was mean, ignoble, and unbecoming the spirit with which she wished to think that she was endowed. That was the accusation which she had brought against herself, and it forbade her to feel any triumph as to the result of the interview. When she reached the parsonage, Mark was there, and they were of course expecting her. ‘Well,’ said she, in her short hurried manner, ‘is Puck ready again? I have no time to lose, and I must go and pack up a few things. Have you settled about the children, Fanny?’

‘Yes; I will tell you directly; but you have seen Lady Lufton?’

‘Seen her! Oh, yes, of course I have seen her. Did she not send for me? and in that case it was not on the cards that I would disobey her.’

‘And what did she say?’

‘How green you are, Mark; and not only green, but impolite also, to make me repeat the story of my own disgrace. Of course she told me that she did not intend that I should marry my lord, her son; and of course I said that under those circumstances I should not think of doing such a thing.’

‘Lucy, I cannot understand you,’ said Fanny, very gravely. ‘I am sometimes inclined to doubt whether you have any deep feeling in the matter or not. If you have, how can you bring yourself to joke about it?’

‘Well, it is singular; and sometimes I doubt myself whether I have. I ought to be pale, ought I not? and very thin, and to go mad by degrees? I have not the least intention of doing anything of the kind, and, therefore, the matter is not worth any further notice.’

‘But was she civil to you, Lucy?’ asked Mark: ‘civil in her manner, you know?’

‘Oh, uncommonly so. You will hardly believe it, but she actually asked me to dine. She always does, you know, when she wants to show her good humour. If you’d broken your leg, and she wished to commiserate you, she’d ask you to dinner.’

‘I suppose she meant to be kind,’ said Fanny, who was not disposed to give up her old friend, though she was quite ready to fight Lucy’s battle, if there were any occasion for a battle to be fought.

‘Lucy is so perverse,’ said Mark, ‘that it is impossible to learn from her what really has taken place.’

‘Upon my word, then, you know it all as well as I can tell you. She asked me if Lord Lufton had made me an offer. I said, yes. She asked next, if I meant to accept it. Not without her approval, I said. And then she asked us to dinner. That is exactly what took place, and I cannot see that I have been perverse at all.’ After that she threw herself into a chair, and Mark and Fanny stood looking at each other.

‘Mark,’ she said, after a while, ‘don’t be unkind to me. I make as little of it as I can, for all our sakes. It is better so, Fanny, than that I should go about moaning, like a sick cow;’ and then they looked at her, and saw that tears were already brimming over from her eyes.

‘Dearest, dearest Lucy,’ said Fanny, immediately going down on her knees before her, ‘I won’t be unkind to you again.’ And then they had a great cry together.



The great cry, however, did not take long, and Lucy was soon in the pony-carriage again. On this occasion her brother volunteered to drive her, and it was not understood that he was to bring back with him all the Crawley children. The whole thing had been arranged; the groom and his wife were to be taken into the house, and the big bedroom across the yard, usually occupied by them, was to be converted into a quarantine hospital until such time as it might be safe to pull down the yellow flag. They were about half-way on their road to Hogglestock, when they were overtaken by a man on horseback, whom, when he came up beside them, Mr Robarts recognized as Dr Arabin, Dean of Barchester, and head of the chapter to which he himself belonged. It immediately appeared that the dean was also going to Hogglestock, having heard of the misfortune that had befallen his friends there; he had, he said, started as soon the news reached him, in order that he might ascertain how best he might render assistance. To effect this he had undertaken a ride of nearly forty miles, and explained that he did not expect to reach home again much before midnight. ‘You pass by Framley?’ asked Robarts.

‘Yes, I do,’ said the dean.

‘Then of course you will dine with us as you go home; you and your horse also, which will be quite as important.’ This having been duly settled, and the proper ceremony of introduction having taken place between the dean and Lucy, they proceeded to discuss the character of Mr Crawley.

‘I have known him all my life,’ said the dean, ‘having been at school and college with him, and for years since that I was on terms of the closest intimacy with him; but in spite of that, I do not know how to help him in his need. A prouder-hearted man I never met, or one less willing to share his sorrows with his friends.’

‘I have often heard him speak of you,’ said Mark.

‘One of the bitterest feelings I have is that a man so dear to me should live so near to me, and that I should see so little of him. But what can I do? He will not come to my house; and when I go to his he is angry with me because I wear a shovel hat and ride on horseback.’

‘I should leave my hat and my horse at the borders of the last parish,’ said Lucy, timidly.

‘Well; yes, certainly; one ought not to give offence even in such matters as that; but my coat and waistcoat would then be equally objectionable. I have changed,–in outward matters I mean,–and he has not. That irritates him, and unless I could be what I was in the old days, he will not look at me with the same eyes;’ and then he rode on, in order, as he said, that the first pang of the interview might be over before Robarts and his sister came upon the scene. Mr Crawley was standing before his door, leaning over the little wooden railing, when the dean trotted up on his horse. He had come out after hours of close watching to get a few mouthfuls of the sweet summer air, and as he stood there he held the youngest of his children in his arms. The poor little baby sat there, quiet indeed, but hardly happy. This father, though he loved his offspring with an affection as intense as that which human nature can supply, was not gifted with the knack of making children fond of him; for it is hardly more than a knack, that aptitude which some men have of gaining the good graces of the young. Such men are not always the best fathers or the safest guardians; but they carry about with them a certain duc ad me which children recognize, and which in three minutes upsets all the barriers between five and five-and-forty. But Mr Crawley was a stern man, thinking ever of the souls and minds of his bairns–as a father should do; and thinking also that every season was fitted for operating on these souls and minds–as, perhaps, he should not have done as a father or as a teacher. And consequently his children avoided him when the choice was given them, thereby adding fresh wounds to his torn heart, but by no means quenching any of the great love with which he regarded them.

He was standing there thus with the placid little baby in his arms–a baby placid enough, but one that would not kiss him eagerly, and stroke his face with her soft little hands, as he would have had her do–when he saw the dean coming towards him. He was sharp-sighted as a lynx out in the open air, though now obliged to pore over his well-fingered books with spectacles on his nose; and thus he knew his friend from a long distance, and had time to meditate on the mode of his greeting. He too doubtless had come, if not with jelly and chicken, then with money and advice;–with money and advice such as a thriving dean might offer to a poor brother clergyman; and Mr Crawley, though no husband could be more anxious for a wife’s safety than he was, immediately put his back up and began to bethink himself how these tenders might be rejected.

‘How is she?’ were the first words which the dean spoke as he pulled up his horse close to the little gate, and put out his hand to take that of his friend.

‘How are you, Arabin?’ said he. ‘It is very kind of you to come so far, seeing how much there is to keep you at Barchester. I cannot say that she is any better, but I do not know that she is worse. Sometimes I fancy she is delirious, though I hardly know. At any rate her mind wanders, and then after that she sleeps.’

‘But is the fever less?’

‘Sometimes less, and sometimes more, I imagine.’

‘And the children?’

‘Poor things; they are well as yet.’

‘They must be taken from this, Crawley, as a matter of course.’

Mr Crawley fancied that there was a tone of authority in the dean’s advice, and immediately put himself into opposition.

‘I do not know how that may be; I have not yet made up my mind.’

‘But, my dear Crawley–‘

‘Providence does not admit of such removals in all cases,’ said he. ‘Among the poorer classes the children must endure such perils.’

‘In many cases it is so,’ said the dean, by no means inclined to make an argument of it at the present moment; ‘but in this case they need not. You must allow me to make arrangements for sending for them, as of course your time is occupied here.’ Miss Robarts, though she had mentioned her intention of staying with Mrs Crawley, had said nothing of the Framley plan with reference to the children.

‘What you mean is that you intend to take the burden off my shoulders–in fact, pay for them. I cannot allow that, Arabin. They must take the lot of their father and their mother, as it is proper that they should do.’ Again the dean had no inclination for arguing, and thought it might be well to let the question of the children drop for a little while.

‘And there is no nurse with her?’ said he.

‘No, no; I am seeing to her myself at the present moment. A woman will be here just now.’

‘What woman?’

‘Well; her name is Mrs Stubbs; she lives in the parish. She will put her younger children to bed, and–and–but it’s no use troubling you with all that. There was a young lady talked of coming, but no doubt she has found it too inconvenient. It will be better as it is.’

‘You mean Miss Robarts; she will be here directly; I passed her as I came here;’ and as Dr Arabin was yet speaking, the noise of the carriage wheels was heard upon the road.

‘I will go in now;’ said Mr Crawley, ‘and see if she still sleeps;’ and then he entered the house, leaving the dean at the door still seated upon his horse. ‘He will be afraid of the infection, and I will not ask him to come in,’ said Mr Crawley to himself.

‘I shall seem to be prying into his poverty, if I enter unasked,’ said the dean to himself. And so he remained there till Puck, now acquainted with the locality, stopped at the door.

‘Have you not been in?’ said Robarts.

‘No; Crawley has been at the door talking to me; he will be here directly, I suppose;’ and then Mark Robarts also prepared himself to wait till the master of the house should reappear. But Lucy had not such punctilious misgivings; she did not much care now whether she offended Mr Crawley or no. Her idea was to place herself by the sick woman’s bedside, and to send the four children away;–with their father’s consent if it might be; but certainly without it if that consent were withheld. So she got down from the carriage, and taking certain packages in her hand made her way direct into the house.

‘There’s a big bundle under the seat, Mark,’ she said; ‘I’ll come and fetch it directly, if you’ll drag it out.’ For some five minutes the two dignitaries of the Church remained at the door, one on his cob, and the other in his low carriage, saying a few words to each other and waiting till some one should again appear from the house. ‘It is all arranged, indeed it is,’ were the first words which reached their ears, and these came from Lucy. ‘There will be no trouble at all, and no expense, and they shall all come back as soon as Mrs Crawley is able to get out of bed.’

‘But, Miss Robarts, I can assure–‘ That was Mr Crawley’s voice, heard from him as he followed Miss Robarts to the door; but one of the elder children had then called him back into the sick room, and Lucy was left to do her worst.

‘Are you going to take the children back with you?’ said the dean.

‘Yes; Mrs Robarts has prepared for them.’

‘You can take greater liberties with my friend here than I can.’

‘It is all my sister’s doing,’ said Robarts. ‘Woman are always bolder in such matters than men.’ And then Lucy reappeared, bringing Bobby with her, and one of the younger children.

‘Do not mind what he says,’ said she, ‘but drive away when you have got them all. Tell Fanny I have put into the basket what things I could find, but they are very few. She must borrow things for Grace from Mrs Granger’s little girl’–(Mrs Granger was the wife of a Framley farmer);–‘and, Mark, turn Puck’s head round so that you may be off in a moment. I’ll have Grace and the other one here directly.’ And then, leaving her brother to pack Bobby and his little sister on the back part of the vehicle, she returned to her business in the house. She had just looked in at Mrs Crawley’s bed, and finding her awake, had smiled on her, and deposited her bundle in token of her intended stay, and then, without speaking a word, had gone on her errand about the children. She had called to Grace to show her where she might find such things as were to be taken to Framley, and having explained to the bairns, as well as she might, the destiny which immediately awaited them, prepared them for their departure without saying a word to Mr Crawley on the subject. Bobby and the elder of the two infants were stowed away safely in the back part of the carriage, where they allowed themselves to be placed without saying a word. They opened their eyes and stared at the dean, who sat by on his horse, and assented to such orders as Mr Robarts gave them,–no doubt with much surprise, but nevertheless in absolute silence.

‘Now, Grace, be quick, there’s a dear,’ said Lucy, returning with the infant in her arms. ‘And, Grace, mind you are very careful about the baby; and bring the basket; I’ll give it you when you are in.’ Grace and the other child were packed on to the other seat, and a basket with the children’s clothes put in on top of them. ‘That’ll do, Mark; good-bye; tell Fanny to be sure and send the day after to-morrow, and not to forget–‘ and then she whispered into her brother’s ear an injunction about certain dairy comforts which might not be spoken of in the hearing of Mr Crawley. ‘Good-bye, dears; mind you are good children; you shall hear about mamma the day after to-morrow,’ said Lucy; and Puck, admonished by a sound from his master’s voice, began to move just as Mr Crawley reappeared at the house door.

‘Oh, oh, stop!’ he said. ‘Miss Robarts, you really had better not–‘

‘Go on, Mark,’ said Lucy, in a whisper, which, whether audible or not to Mr Crawley, was heard very plainly by the dean. And Mark, who had slightly arrested Puck by the reins on the appearance of Mr Crawley, now touched the impatient little beast with his whip; and the vehicle with its freight darted off rapidly, Puck shaking his head and going away with a tremendously quick short trot, which soon separated Mr Crawley from his family.

‘Miss Robarts,’ he began, ‘this step has been taken altogether without–‘

‘Yes,’ said she, interrupting him. ‘My brother was obliged to return at once. The children, you know, will remain all together at the parsonage; and that, I think, is what Mrs Crawley will best like. In a day or two they will be under Mrs Robarts’s own charge.’

‘But, my dear Miss Robarts, I had no intention whatever of putting the burden of my family on the shoulders of another person. They must return to their own home immediately–that is, as soon as they can be brought back.’

‘I really think Miss Robarts has managed very well,’ said the dean. ‘Mrs Crawley must be so much more comfortable to think that they are out of danger.’

‘And they will be quite comfortable at the parsonage.’ said Lucy.

‘I do not at all doubt that,’ said Mr Crawley; ‘but too much of such comforts will unfit them for their home; and–and I could have wished that I had been consulted more at leisure before the proceedings had been taken.’

‘It was arranged, Mr Crawley, when I was here before, that the children had better go away,’ pleaded Lucy.

‘I do not remember agreeing to such a measure, Miss Robarts; however–I suppose they cannot be had back to-night?’

‘No, not to-night,’ said Lucy. ‘And now I will go to your wife.’ And then she returned to the house, leaving the two gentlemen at the door. At this moment a labourer’s boy came sauntering by, and the dean, obtaining possession of his services for the custody of his horse, was able to dismount and put himself on a more equal footing for conversation with his friend.

‘Crawley,’ said he, putting his hand affectionately on his friend’s shoulder, as they both stood leaning on the little rail before the door, ‘that is a good girl–a very good girl.’

‘Yes,’ he said slowly; ‘she means well.’

‘Nay, but she does well. She does excellently. What can be better than her conduct now? While I was meditating how I might possible assist your wife in this strait–‘

‘I want no assistance; none, at least, from man,’ said Crawley, bitterly.

‘Oh, my friend, think of what you are saying! Think of the wickedness which must accompany such a state of mind! Have you ever known any man able to walk alone, without assistance from his brother man?’ Mr Crawley did not make any immediate answer, but putting his arms behind his back and closing his hands, as was his wont when he walked alone thinking of the general bitterness of his lot in life, began to move slowly along the road in the front of his house. He did not invite the other to walk with him, but neither was there anything in his manner which seemed to indicate that he intended to be left by himself. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, at that delicious period of the year when summer has just burst forth from the growth of spring; when the summer is yet but three days old, and all the various shades of green which nature can put forth are still in their unsoiled purity of freshness. The apple blossoms were on the trees, and the hedges were sweet with May. The cuckoo at five o’clock was still sounding his soft summer call with unabated energy, and even the common grasses of the hedgerows were sweet with the fragrance of their new growth. The foliage of the oaks was complete, so that every bough and twig was clothed; but the leaves did not yet hang heavy in masses, and the bend of every bough and the tapering curve of every twig were visible through light green covering. There is no time of the year equal in beauty to the first week of summer: and no colour which nature gives, not even the gorgeous hues of autumn, which can equal the verdure produced by the first warm suns of May.

Hogglestock, as has been explained, has little to offer in the way of landskip beauty, and the clergyman’s house at Hogglestock was not placed on a green slopy bank of land, retired from the road, with its windows opening on to a lawn, surrounded by shrubs, with a view of the small church tower seen through them; it had none of that beauty which is so common to the cosy houses of our spiritual pastors in the agricultural parts of England. Hogglestock parsonage stood bleak beside the road, with no pretty paling lined inside by hollies and laburnum, Portugal laurels and rose-trees. But, nevertheless, even Hogglestock was pretty now. There were apple-trees there covered with blossom, and the hedgerows were in full flower. There were thrushes singing, and here and there an oak-tree stood in the roadside, perfect in its solitary beauty.

‘Let us walk on a little,’ said the dean. ‘Miss Robarts is with her now, and you will be better for leaving the room for a few minutes.’

‘No,’ said he; ‘I must go back; I cannot leave that young lady to do my work.’

‘Stop, Crawley!’ And the dean, putting his hand upon him, stayed him in the road. ‘She is doing her own work, and if you were speaking of her with reference to any other household than your own, you would say so. Is it not a comfort to you to know that your wife has a woman near her at such a time as this; and a woman, too, who can speak to her as one lady does to another?’

‘These are comforts which we have no right to expect. I could have done much for poor Mary; but what a man could have done should not have been wanting.’

‘I am sure of it; I know it well. What any man could do by himself you would do–excepting one thing.’ And the dean as he spoke looked full into the other’s face.

‘And what is there I would not do?’ said Crawley.

‘Sacrifice you own pride.’

‘My pride!’

‘Yes; your own pride.’

‘I have had but little pride this many a day. Arabin, you do not know what my life has been. How is a man to be proud who–‘ And then he stopped himself, not wishing to go through the catalogue of those grievances, which, as he thought, had killed the very germs of pride within him, or to insist by spoken words on his poverty, his wants, and the injustice of his position. ‘No; I wish I could be proud; but the world has been too heavy to me, and I have forgotten all that.’

‘How long I have known you, Crawley?’

‘How long? Ah dear! a lifetime nearly, now.’

‘And we were like brothers once.’

‘Yes; we were equal as brothers then–in our fortunes, our tastes, and our modes of life.’

‘And yet you would begrudge me the pleasure of putting my hand in my pocket, and relieving the inconveniences which have been thrown upon you, and those you love better than yourself, by the chances of the fate in your life.’

‘I will live on no man’s charity,’ said Crawley, with an abruptness which amounted almost to an expression of anger.

‘And is that not pride?’

‘No–yes;–it is a species of pride, but not that pride of which you spoke. A man cannot be honest if he have not some pride. You yourself; would you not rather starve than become a beggar?’

‘I would rather beg than see my wife starve,’ said Arabin.

Crawley when he heard these words turned sharply round, and stood with his back to the dean, with his hands still behind him, and with his eyes fixed upon the ground.

‘But in this case there is no question of begging,’ continued the dean. ‘I, out of those superfluities which it has pleased God to put at my disposal, am anxious to assist the needs of those whom I love.’

‘She is not starving,’ said Crawley, in a voice very bitter, but still intended to be exculpatory of himself.

‘No, my dear friend; I know she is not, and do not you be angry with me because I have endeavoured to put the matter to you in the strongest language I could use.’

‘You look at it, Arabin, from one side only; I can only look at it from the other. It is very sweet to give; I do not doubt that. But the taking of what is given is very bitter. Gift bread chokes in a man’s throat and poisons his blood, and sits like lead upon the heart. You have never tried it.’

‘But that is the very fault of which I blame you. That is the pride which I say you ought to sacrifice.’

‘And why should I be called upon to do so? Is not the labourer worthy of his hire? Am I not able to work, and willing? Have I not always had my shoulder to the collar, and is it right that I should now be contented with the scraps from a rich man’s kitchen? Arabin, you and I were equal once and we were then friends, understanding each other’s thoughts and sympathizing with each other’s sorrows. But it cannot be so now.’

‘If there be such inability, it is all with you.’

‘It is all with me,–because in our connexion the pain would all be on my side. It would not hurt you to see me at your table with worn shoes and a ragged shirt. I do not think so meanly of you as that. You would give me your feast to eat though I were not clad a tithe as well as the menial behind your chair. But it would hurt me to know that there were those looking at me who thought me unfit to sit in your presence.’

‘That is the pride of which I speak;–false pride.’

‘Call it so if you will; but, Arabin, no preaching of yours can alter it. It is all that is left to me of my manliness. That poor broken reed who is lying there sick,–who has sacrificed all the world to her love for me,–who is the mother of my children, and the partner of my sorrows and the wife of my bosom,–even she cannot change me in this, though she pleads with the eloquence of all her wants. Not even for her can I hold out my hand for a dole.’ They had now come back to the door of the house, and Mr Crawley, hardly conscious of what he was doing, was preparing to enter.

‘Will Mrs Crawley be able to see me if I come in?’

‘Oh, stop, no; you had better not do so,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘You, no doubt, might be subject to infection, and then Mrs Arabin would be frightened.’

‘I do not care about it in the least,’ said the dean.

‘But it is of no use; you had better not. Her room, I fear, is quite unfit for you to see; and the whole house, you know, may be infected.’ Dr Arabin, by this time was in the sitting-room; but seeing that his friend was really anxious that he should not go farther, he did not persist.

‘It will be a comfort to us, at any rate, to know that Miss Robarts is with her.’

‘The young lady is very good–very good indeed,’ said Crawley; ‘but I trust she will return to her home to-morrow. It is impossible that she should remain in so poor a house as mine. There will be nothing here of all the things she will want.’ The dean thought that Lucy Robarts’s wants during her present occupation of nursing would not be so numerous as to make her continued sojourn in Mrs Crawley’s sick-room impossible, and therefore took his leave with a satisfied conviction that the poor lady would not be left wholly to the somewhat unskilled nursing of her husband.



And now there were going to be wondrous doings in West Barsetshire, and men’s minds were much disturbed. The fiat had gone forth from the high places, and the Queen had dissolved her faithful Commons. The giants, finding that they could effect little or nothing with the old House, had resolved to try what a new venture would do for them, and the hubbub of a general election was to pervade the country. This produced no inconsiderable irritation and annoyance, for the House was not as yet quite three years old; and members of Parliament, though they naturally feel a constitutional pleasure in meeting their friends and in pressing the hands of their constituents, are, nevertheless, so far akin to the lower order of humanity that they appreciate the danger of losing their seats; and the certainty of a considerable outlay in their endeavours to retain them is not agreeable to the legislative mind. Never did the old family fury between the gods and giants rage higher than at the present moment. The giants declared that every turn which they attempted to take in their country’s service had been thwarted by faction, in spite of those benign promises of assistance made to them only a few weeks since by their opponents; and the gods answered by asserting that they were driven to this opposition by the Boeotian fatuity of the giants. They had no doubt promised their aid, and were ready to give it to measures that were decently prudent; but not to a bill enabling Government at its will to pension aged bishops! No; there must be some limit to their tolerance, and when such attempts as these were made that limit had been clearly passed. All this had taken place openly only a day or two after that casual whisper dropped by Tom Towers at Miss Dunstable’s party–by Tom Towers, that most pleasant of all pleasant fellows. And how should he have know it,–he who flutters from one sweetest flower of the garden to another,

‘Adding sugar to the pink, and honey to the rose, So loved for what he gives, but taking nothing as he goes’?

But the whisper had grown into a rumour, and the rumour into a fact, and the political world was in a ferment. The giants, furious about their bishops’ pension bill, threatened the House–most injudiciously; and then it was beautiful to see how indignant members got up, glowing with honesty, and declared that it was base to conceive that any gentleman in that House could be actuated in his vote by any hopes or fears with reference to his seat. And so matters grew from bad to worse, and these contending parties never hit at each other with some venomed wrath as they did now;–having entered the ring together so lately with such manifold promises of good-will, respect, and forbearance!

But going from the general to the particular, we may say that nowhere was a deeper consternation spread than in the electoral division of West Barsetshire. No sooner had the tidings of the dissolution reached the county than it was known that the duke intended to change his nominee. Mr Sowerby had now sat for the division since the Reform Bill! He had become one of the county’s institutions, and by the dint of custom and long establishment had been borne with and even liked by the county gentlemen, in spite of his well-known pecuniary irregularities. Now all this was to be changed. No reason had as yet been publicly given, but it was understood that Lord Dumbello was to be returned, although he did not own an acre of land in the county. It is true that rumour went on to say that Lord Dumbello was about to form close connexions with Barsetshire. He was on the eve of marrying a young lady, from the other division indeed, and was now engaged, so it was said, in completing arrangements with the Government for the purchase of that noble Crown property usually known as the Chase of Chaldicotes. It was also stated–this statement, however, had hitherto been only announced in confidential whispers–that Chaldicotes House itself would soon become the residence of the marquis. The duke was claiming it as his own–would very shortly have completed his claims and taken possession:–and then, by some arrangement between them, it was to be made over to Lord Dumbello. But very contrary rumours to these got abroad also. Men said–such as dared to oppose the duke, and some few also, who did not dare to oppose him when the day of battle came–that it was beyond his grace’s power to turn Lord Dumbello into a Barsetshire magnate. The Crown property–such men said–was to fall into the hands of young Mr Gresham, of Boxall Hill, in the other division, and that the terms of purchase had been already settled. And as to Mr Sowerby’s property and the house of Chaldicotes–these opponents of the Omnium interest went on to explain–it was by no means as yet so certain that the duke would be able to enter it and to take possession. The place was not to be given up to him quietly. A great fight would be made, and it was beginning to be believed that the enormous mortgages would be paid off by a lady of immense wealth. And then a dash of romance was not wanting to make these stories palatable. This lady of immense wealth had been courted by Mr Sowerby, had acknowledged her love,–but had refused to marry him on account of his character. In testimony of her love, however, she was about to pay all his debts.

It was soon put beyond a rumour, and became manifest enough, that Mr Sowerby did not intend to retire from the county in obedience to the duke’s behest. A placard was posted through the whole division in which no allusion was made by name to the duke, but in which Mr Sowerby warned his friends not to be led away by any report that he intended to retire from the representation of West Barsetshire. ‘He had sat,’ the placard said, ‘for the same county during the full period of a quarter of a century, and he would not lightly give up an honour that had been extended to him so often and which he prized so dearly. There were but few men now in the House whose connexion with the same body of constituents had remained unbroken so long as had that which had bound him to West Barsetshire; and he confidently hoped that the connexion might be continued through another period of coming years, till he might find himself in the glorious position of being the father of the county members of the House of Commons.’ The placard said much more than this, and hinted at sundry and various questions, all of great interest to the county; but it did not say one word of the Duke of Omnium, though every one knew what the duke was supposed to be doing in the matter. He was, as it were, a great Llama, shut up in a holy of holies, inscrutable, invisible, inexorable,–not to be seen by men’s eyes or heard by their ears, hardly to be mentioned by ordinary men at such periods as these without an inward quaking. But, nevertheless, it was he who was supposed to rule them. Euphemism required that his name should be mentioned at no public meetings in connexion with the coming election; but, nevertheless, most men in the county believed that he could send his dog up to the House of Commons as member for West Barsetshire if it so pleased him.

It was supposed, therefore, that our friend Sowerby would have no chance; but he was lucky in finding assistance in a quarter from which he certainly had not deserved it. He had been a staunch friend of the gods during the whole of his political life,–as, indeed, was to be expected, seeing that he had been the duke’s nominee; but, nevertheless, on the present occasion, all the giants connected with the county came forward to his rescue. They did *to do this with the acknowledged purpose of opposing the duke; they declared that they were actuated by a generous disinclination to see an old county member put from his seat; but the world knew that the battle was to be waged against the great Llama. It was to be a contest between the powers of aristocracy and the powers of oligarchy, as those powers existed in West Barsetshire,–and it may be added, that democracy would have very little to say to it, on one side or on the other. The lower order of voters, the small farmers and tradesmen, would no doubt range themselves on the side of the duke, and would endeavour to flatter themselves that they were thereby furthering the views of the Liberal side; but they would in fact be led to the poll by an old-fashioned, time-honoured adherence to the will of their great Llama; and by an apprehension of evil if that Llama should arise and shake himself in his wrath. What might not come to the county if the Llama were to walk himself off, he with his satellites and armies and courtiers? There he was, a great Llama; and though he came among them but seldom, and was scarcely seen when he did come, nevertheless–and not the less but rather the more–was obedience to him considered as salutary and opposition regarded as dangerous. A great rural Llama is still sufficiently mighty in rural England. But the priest of the temple, Mr Fothergill, was frequent enough in men’s eyes, and it was beautiful to hear with how varied a voice he alluded to the things around him and to the changes which were coming. To the small farmers, not only on the Gatherum property, but on others also, he spoke of the duke as a beneficent influence, shedding prosperity on all around him, keeping up prices by his presence, and in forbidding the poor rates to rise above one and fourpence in the pound by the general employment which he occasioned. Men must be mad, he thought, who would willingly fly in the duke’s face. To the squire from a distance he declared that no one had a right to charge the duke with any interference; as far, at least, as he knew the duke’s mind. People would talk of things of which they understood nothing. Could any one say that he had traced a single request for a vote home to the duke? All this did not alter the settled conviction on men’s minds; but it had the effect, and tended to increase the mystery in which the duke’s doings were enveloped. But to his own familiars, to the gentry immediately around him, Mr Fothergill merely winked his eye. They knew what was what, and so did he. The duke had never been bit yet in such matters, and Mr Fothergill did not think that he would now submit himself to any such operation.

I never heard in what manner and at what rate Mr Fothergill received remuneration for the various services performed by him with reference to the duke’s property in Barsetshire; but I am very sure that, whatever might be the amount, he earned it thoroughly. Never was there a more faithful partisan, or one who, in his partisanship, was more discreet. In this matter of the coming election he declared that he himself–personally, on his own hook–did intend to bestir himself actively on behalf of Lord Dumbello. Mr Sowerby was an old friend of his, and a very good fellow. That was true. But all the world must admit that Sowerby was not in the position which a county member ought to occupy. He was a ruined man, and it would not be for his own advantage that he should be maintained in a position which was fit only for a man of property. He knew–he, Fothergill–that Mr Sowerby must abandon all right and claim to Chaldicotes; and if so, what would be more absurd than to acknowledge that he had a right and claim for the seat in Parliament? As to Lord Dumbello, it was probable that he would soon become the largest landowner in the county; and, as such, who would be more fit for the representation? Beyond this, Mr Fothergill was not ashamed to confess–so he said–that he hoped to hold Lord Dumbello’s agency. It would be compatible with his other duties, and therefore, as a matter of course, he intended to support Lord Dumbello; he himself, that is. As to the duke’s mind in the matter–! But I have already explained how Mr Fothergill disposed of that.

In these days Mr Sowerby came down to his own house–for ostensibly it was still his own house–but he came very quietly, and his arrival was hardly known in his own village. Though his placard was stuck up so widely, he himself took no electioneering steps; none, at least, as yet. The protection against arrest which he derived from Parliament would soon be over, and those who were most bitter against the duke averred that steps would be taken to arrest him, should he give sufficient opportunity to the myrmidons of the law. That he would, in such case, be arrested was very likely; but it was not likely that this would be done in any way at the duke’s instance. Mr Fothergill declared indignantly that this insinuation made him very angry; but he was too prudent a man to be very angry at anything, and he knew how to make capital on his own side of charges such as these which overshot their own mark. Mr Sowerby came down very quietly to Chaldicotes, and there he remained for a couple of days, quite alone. The place bore a very different aspect now to that which we noticed when Mark Robarts drove up to it, in the early pages of this narrative. There were no lights in the windows now, and no voices came from the stables; no dogs barked, and all was dead and silent as the grave. During the greater portion of those two days he sat alone within the house, almost unoccupied. He did not even open his letters, which lay piled on a crowded table in the small breakfast parlour in which he sat; for the letters of such men come in piles, and there are few of them which are pleasant in the reading. There he sat, troubled with thoughts which were sad enough, now and then moving to and fro the house, but for the most part occupied in thinking over the position to which he had brought himself. What would he be in the world’s eye, if he ceased to be the owner of Chaldicotes, and ceased also to be the member for the county? He had lived ever before the world, and, though always harassed by encumbrances, had been sustained and comforted by the excitement of a prominent position. His debts and difficulties had hitherto been bearable, and he had borne them with ease so long that he had almost taught himself to think that they would never be unendurable. But now–

The order for foreclosing had gone forth, and the harpies of the law, by their present speed in sticking their claws into the carcass of his property, were atoning to themselves for the delay with which they had hitherto been compelled to approach their prey. And the order as to his seat had gone forth also. That placard had been drawn up by the combined efforts of his sister, Miss Dunstable, and a certain well-known electioneering agent, named Closerstill, presumed to be in the interest of the giants. But poor Sowerby had but little confidence in the placard. No one knew better than he how great was the duke’s power. He was hopeless, therefore, as he walked about through those empty rooms, thinking of his past life and of that life which was to come. Would it not be well for him that he were dead, now that he was dying to all that had made the world pleasant? We see and hear of such men as Mr Sowerby, and are apt to think that they enjoy that all without payment either in care or labour; but I doubt that, with even the most callous of them, their periods of wretchedness must be frequent, and that wretchedness very intense. Salmon and lamb in February, and green pease and new potatoes in March, can hardly make a man happy, even though nobody pays for them; and the feeling that one is antecedum scelestum after whom a sure, though lame, Nemesis is hobbling, must sometimes disturb one’s slumbers. On the present occasion Scelestus felt that his Nemesis had overtaken him. Lame as he had been, and swift as he had run, she had mouthed him at last, and there was nothing left for him but to listen to the ‘whoop’ set up at the sight of his own death-throes.

It was a melancholy, dreary place now, that big house of Chaldicotes; and though the woods were all green with their early leaves, and the garden thick with flowers, they were also melancholy and dreary. The lawns were untrimmed and weeds were growing through the gravel, and here and there a cracked Dryad, tumbled from her pedestal and sprawling in the grass, gave a look of disorder to the whole place. The wooden trellis-work was shattered here and bending there, the standard rose-trees were stooping to the ground, and the leaves of the winter still encumbered the borders. Of all the inanimate things of the world this wood of Chaldicotes was the dearest to him. He was not a man to whom his companions gave much credit for feelings or thoughts akin to poetry, but here, out in the Chace, his mind would be almost poetical. While wandering among the forest trees, he became susceptible of the tenderness of human nature: he would listen to the birds singing, and pick here and there a wild flower on his path. He would watch the decay of the old trees and the progress of the young, and make pictures in his eyes of every turn in the wood. He would mark the colour of a bit of road as it dipped into a dell, and then, passing through a water-course, rose brown, rough, irregular, and beautiful against the bank on the other side. And then he would sit and think of his old family: how they had roamed there time out of mind in those Chaldicotes woods, father and son and grandson in regular succession, each giving them over, without blemish or decrease, to his successor. So he would sit; and so did he sit even now, and, thinking of these things, wished that he had never been.

It was dark night when he returned to the house, and as he did so he resolved that he would quit the place altogether, and give up the battle as lost. The duke should take it and do as he pleased with it; and as for the seat in Parliament, Lord Dumbello, or any other equally gifted young patrician, might hold it for him. He would vanish from the scene and betake himself to some land whence he would be neither heard nor seen, and there–starve. Such were now his future outlooks into the world; and yet, as regards health and all physical capacities, he knew that he was still in the prime of his life. Yes; in the prime of his life! But what could he do with what remained to him of such prime? How could he turn either his mind or his strength to such account as might now be serviceable? How could he, in his sore need, earn for himself even the barest bread? Would it not be better for him that he should die? Let not any one covet the lot of a spendthrift, even though the days of his early pease and champagne seem to be unnumbered; for that lame Nemesis will surely be up before the game has been played all out. When Mr Sowerby reached his house he found that a message by telegraph had arrived for him in his absence. It was from his sister, and it informed him that she would be with him that night. She was coming down by the mail train, had telegraphed to Barchester for post-horses, and would be at Chaldicotes about two hours after midnight. It was therefore manifest enough that her business was of importance. Exactly at two the Barchester post-chaise did arrive, and Mrs Harold Smith, before she retired to her bed, was closeted for about an hour with her brother. ‘Well,’ she said, the following morning, as they sat together at the breakfast-table, ‘what do you say to it now? If you accept her offer you should be with her lawyer this afternoon.’

‘I suppose I must accept it,’ said he.

‘Certainly, I think so. No doubt it will take the property out of your own hands as completely as though the duke had it, but it will leave you the house, at any rate, for your life.’

‘What good will the house be, when I can’t keep it?’

‘But I am not so sure of that. She will not want more than her fair interest; and as it will be thoroughly well managed, I should think that there would be something over–something enough to keep up the house. And then, you know, we must have some place in the country.’

‘I tell you fairly, Harriet, that I will have nothing further to do with Harold in the way of money.’

‘Ah! that was because you would go to him. Why did you not come to me? And then, Nathaniel, it is the only way in which you can have a chance of keeping the seat. She is the queerest woman I ever met, but she seems resolved on beating the duke.’

‘I do not quite understand it, but I have not the slightest objection.’

‘She thinks that he is interfering with young Gresham about the Crown property. I have no idea that she had so much business at her fingers’ ends. When I first proposed the matter she took it up quite as a lawyer might, and seemed to have forgotten altogether what occurred about the other matter.’

‘I wish I could forget it also,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘I really think that she does. When I was obliged to make some allusion to it–at least I felt myself obliged, and was very sorry afterwards that I did–she merely laughed–a great loud laugh as she always does, and then went on about the business. However, she was clear about this, that all expenses of the election should be added to the sum to be advanced by her, and that the house should be left to you without rent. If you choose to take the land round the house you must pay for it, by the acre, as the tenants do. She was clear about it all as though she had passed her life in a lawyer’s office.’

My readers will now pretty well understand what last step that excellent sister, Mrs Harold Smith, had taken on her brother’s behalf, nor will they be surprised to learn that in the course of the day, Mr Sowerby hurried back to town and put himself into communication with Miss Dunstable’s lawyer.



I now purpose to visit another country house in Barsetshire, but on this occasion our sojourn shall be in the eastern division, in which, as every other county in England, electioneering matters are paramount at the present moment. It has been mentioned that Mr Gresham, junior, young Frank Gresham as he was always called, lived at a place called Boxall Hill. This property had come to his wife by will, and he was now settled there,–seeing that his father still held the family seat of the Greshams at Greshambury. At the present moment Miss Dunstable was staying at Boxall Hill with Mrs Frank Gresham. They had left London, as indeed, all the world had done, to the terrible dismay of the London tradesmen. This dissolution of Parliament was ruining everybody except the country publicans, and had of course destroyed the London season among other things.

Mrs Harold Smith had only just managed to catch Miss Dunstable before she left London; but she did do so, and the great heiress had at once seen her lawyers, and instructed them how to act with reference to the mortgages on the Chaldicotes property. Miss Dunstable was in the habit of speaking of herself and her own pecuniary concerns as though she herself was rarely allowed to meddle in their management; but this was one of those small jokes which she ordinarily perpetrated; for in truth few ladies, and perhaps not many gentlemen, have a more thorough knowledge of their own concerns or a more potent voice in their own affairs, than was possessed by Miss Dunstable. Circumstances had lately brought her much into Barsetshire, and she had there contracted very intimate friendships. She was now disposed to become, if possible, a Barsetshire proprietor, and with this view had lately agreed with young Mr Gresham that she would become the purchaser of the Crown property. As, however, the purchase had been commenced in his name, it was so to be continued; but now, as we are aware, it was rumoured that, after all, the duke, or, if not the duke, then the Marquis of Dumbello, was to be the future owner of the Chace. Miss Dunstable, however, was not a person to give up her object if she could attain it, nor, under the circumstances, was she at all displeased at finding herself endowed with the power of rescuing the Sowerby portion of the Chaldicotes property from the duke’s clutches. Why had the duke meddled with her or with her friends, as to the other property? Therefore it was arranged that the full amount due to the duke on the mortgage should be ready for immediate payment; but it was arranged also that the security as held by Miss Dunstable should be very valid.

Miss Dunstable, at Boxall Hill or at Greshambury, was a very different person from Miss Dunstable in London; and it was this difference which so much vexed Mrs Gresham; not that her friend omitted to bring with her into the country her London wit and aptitude for fun, but that she did not take with her up to town the genuine goodness and love of honesty which made her lovable in the country. She was, as it were, two persons, and Mrs Gresham could not understand that any lady should permit herself to be more worldly at one time of the year than at another–or in one place than in any other. ‘Well, my dear, I am heartily glad we’ve done with that,’ Miss Dunstable said to her, as she sat herself down to her desk in the drawing-room on the first morning after her arrival at Boxall Hill.

‘What does “that” mean?’ said Mrs Gresham.

‘Why, London and smoke and late hours, and standing on one’s legs for four hours at a stretch on the top of one’s own staircase, to be bowed at by any one who chooses to come. That’s all done–for one year, at any rate.’

‘You know you like it.’

‘No, Mary; that’s just what I don’t know. I don’t know whether I like it or not. Sometimes, when the spirit of that dearest of all women, Mrs Harold Smith, is upon me, I think I do like it. But then, again, when other spirits are on me, I think that I don’t.’

‘And who are the owners of the other spirits?’

‘Oh, you are one, of course. But you are a weak little thing, by no means able to contend with such a Samson as Mrs Harold. And then you are a little given to wickedness yourself, you know. You’ve learned to like London well enough since you sat down to the table of Dives. Your uncle–he’s the real, impracticable, unapproachable Lazarus who declares that he can’t come down because of the big gulf. I wonder how he’d behave, if somebody left him ten thousand a year.’

‘Uncommonly well, I am sure.’

‘Oh, yes; he is a Lazarus now, so of course we are bound to speak well of him; but I should like to see him tried. I don’t doubt but what he’d have a house in Belgrave Square, and become noted for his little dinners before the first year of his trial was over.’

‘Well, and why not? You would not wish him to be an anchorite?’

‘I am told that he is going to try his luck–not with ten thousand a year, but with one or two.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Jane tells me that they all say at Greshambury that he is going to marry Lady Scatcherd.’ Now Lady Scatcherd was a widow living in those parts; an excellent woman, but not one formed by nature to grace society of the highest order.

‘What!’ exclaimed Mrs Gresham, rising up from her chair, while her eyes flashed with anger at such a rumour.

‘Well, my dear, don’t eat me. I don’t say it is so; I only say that Jane said so.’

‘Then you ought to send Jane out of the house.’

‘You may be sure of this, my dear: Jane would not have told me if somebody had not told her.’

‘And you believed it?’

‘I have said nothing about that.’

‘But you look as if you believed it.’

‘Do I? Let us see what sort of look it is, this look of faith.’ And Miss Dunstable got up and went to the glass over the fireplace. ‘But, Mary, my dear, ain’t you old enough to know that you should not credit other people’s looks? You should believe nothing nowadays; and I did not believe the story about poor Lady Scatcherd. I know the doctor well enough to be sure that he is not a marrying man.’

‘What a nasty, hackneyed, false phrase that is–that of a marrying man! It sounds as though some men were in the habit of getting married three or four times a month.’

‘It means a great deal all the same. One can tell very soon whether a man is likely to marry or not.’

‘And can one tell the same of a woman?’

‘The thing is so different. All unmarried women are necessarily in the market; but if they behave themselves properly and make no signs. Now there was Griselda Grantly; of course she intended to get herself a husband, and a very grand one she has got: but she always looked as though butter would not melt in her mouth. It would have been very wrong to call her a marrying girl.’

‘Oh, of course she was,’ says Mrs Gresham, with that sort of acrimony which one pretty young woman so frequently expresses with reference to another. ‘But if one could always tell of a woman, as you say you can of a man, I should be able to tell of you. Now, I wonder whether you are a marrying woman? I have never been able to make up my mind yet.’

Miss Dunstable remained silent for a few moments, as though she were at first minded to take the question as being, in some sort, one made in earnest; but then she attempted to laugh it off. ‘Well, I wonder at that,’ said she, ‘as it was only the other day I told you how many offers I had refused.’

‘Yes; but you did not tell me whether any had been made that you meant to accept.’

‘None such was ever made to me. Talking of that, I shall never forget your cousin, the Honourable George.’

‘He is not my cousin.’

‘Well, your husband’s. It would not be fair to show a man’s letter; but I should like to show you his.’

‘You are determined, then, to remain single?’

‘I didn’t say that. But why do you cross-question me so?’

‘Because I think so much about you. I am afraid that you will become so afraid of men’s motives as to doubt that any one can be honest. And yet sometimes I think you would be a happier woman and a better woman, if you were married.’

‘To such a one as the Honourable George, for instance?’

‘No, not to such a one as him; you have probably picked out the worst.’

‘Or to Mr Sowerby?’

‘Well, no; not to Mr Sowerby either. I would not have you marry any man that looked to you for your money principally.’

‘And how is it possible that I should expect any one to look at me principally for anything else? You don’t see my difficulty, my dear? If I had only five hundred a year, I might come across some decent middle-aged personage, like myself, who would like me, myself, pretty well, and would like my little income–pretty well also. He would not tell me any violent lie, and perhaps no lie at all. I should take to him in the same sort of way, and we might do very well. But, as it is, how is it possible that any disinterested person should learn to like me? How could such a man set about it? If a sheep have two heads, is not the fact of the two heads the first and, indeed, only thing which the world regards in that sheep? Must it not be so as a matter of course? I am a sheep with two heads. All this money which my father put together, and which has been growing since like grass under May showers, has turned me into an abortion. I am not the giantess eight feet high, or the dwarf that stands in the man’s hand–‘

‘Or the two-headed sheep–‘

‘But I am the unmarried woman with–half a dozen millions of money–as I believe some people think. Under such circumstances have I a fair chance of getting my own sweet bit of grass to nibble, like any ordinary animal with one head? I never was very beautiful, and I am not more so than I was fifteen years ago.’

‘I am quite sure it is not that which hinders it. You would not call yourself plain; and even plain women are married every day, and are loved too, as well as pretty women.’

‘Are they? Well, we won’t say any more about that; but I don’t expect a great many lovers on account of my beauty. If ever you hear of such an one, mind you tell me.’ It was almost on Mrs Gresham’s tongue to say that she did know of one such–meaning her uncle. But, in truth, she did not know any such thing; nor could she boast to herself that she had good grounds for feeling that it was so–certainly none sufficient to justify her in speaking of it. Her uncle had said no word to her on the matter, and had been confused and embarrassed when the idea of such a marriage was hinted to him. But, nevertheless, Mrs Gresham did think that each of these two was well inclined to love the other, and that they would be happier together than they would be single. The difficulty, however, was very great, for the doctor would be terribly afraid of being thought covetous in regard to Miss Dunstable’s money; and it would hardly be expected that she should be induced to make the first overture to the doctor.

‘My uncle would be the only man that I can think of that would be at all fit for you,’ said Mrs Gresham, boldly.

‘What, and rob poor Lady Scatcherd!’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘Oh, very well. If you choose to make a joke of his name in that way, I have done.’

‘Why, God bless the girl, what does she want me to say? And as for joking, surely that is innocent enough. You’re as tender about the doctor as though he were a girl of seventeen.’

‘It’s not about him; but it’s such a shame to laugh at poor dear Lady Scatcherd. If she were to hear it she’d lose all comfort in having my uncle near her.’

‘And I’m to marry him, so that she may be safe with her friend.’

‘Very well. I have done.’ And Mrs Gresham, who had already got up from her seat, employed herself very sedulously in arranging flowers which had been brought in for the drawing-room tables. Thus they remained silent for a minute or two, during which she began to reflect that, after all, it might probably be thought that she was also endeavouring to catch the great heiress for her uncle.

‘And now you are angry with me,’ said Miss Dunstable.

‘No, I am not.’

‘Oh, but you are. Do you think I’m such a fool as not to see when a person’s vexed? You wouldn’t have twitched that geranium’s head if you had been in a proper frame of mind.’

‘I don’t like that joke about Lady Scatcherd.’

‘And is that all, Mary? Now do try and be true, if you can. You remember the bishop. Magna ist veritas.’

‘The fact is you’ve got yourself into such a way of being sharp, and saying sharp things among your friends in London, that you can hardly answer a person without it.’

‘Can’t I? Dear, dear, what a Mentor you are, Mary! No poor lad that ever ran up from Oxford for a spree in town got so lectured for his dissipation and iniquities as I do. Well, I beg Doctor Thorne’s pardon, and Lady Scatcherd’s, and I won’t be sharp any more; and I will–let me see, what was it I was to do? Marry him myself, I believe; was not that it?’

‘No; you’re not half good enough for him.’

‘I know that. I’m quite sure of that. Though I am so sharp, I’m very humble. You can’t accuse me of putting any very great value on myself.’

‘Perhaps not as much as you ought to do–on yourself.’

‘Now what do you mean, Mary? I won’t be bullied and teased, and have innuendoes thrown out at me, because you’ve something on your mind, and don’t quite dare to speak it out. If you have got anything to say, say it.’ But Mrs Gresham did not choose to say it at that moment. She held her peace, and went on arranging her flowers–now with a more satisfied air, and without destruction to the geraniums. And when she had grouped her bunches properly she carried the jar from one part of the room to the other, backwards and forwards, trying the effect of the colours, as though her mind was quite intent upon her flowers, and was the moment wholly unoccupied with any other subject. But Miss Dunstable was not a woman to put up with this. She sat silent in her place, while her friend made one or two turns about the room; and then she got up from her seat also, ‘Mary,’ she said, ‘give over about those wretched bits of green branches, and leave the jars where they are. You’re trying to fidget me into a passion.’

‘Am I?’ said Mrs Gresham, standing opposite to a big bowl, and putting her head a little on one side, as though she could better look at her handiwork in that position.

‘You know you are; and it’s all because you lack courage to speak out. You didn’t begin at me in this way for nothing.’

‘I do lack courage. That’s just it,’ said Mrs Gresham, still giving a twist here and a set there to some of the small sprigs which constituted the background of her bouquet. ‘I do lack courage–to have ill motives imputed to me, therefore I will not say it. And now, if you like, I will be ready to take you out in ten minutes.’ But Miss Dunstable was not going to be put off in this way. And to tell the truth, I must admit that her friend Mrs Gresham was not using her altogether well. She should either have held her peace on the matter altogether–which would probably have been the wiser course–or she should have declared her own ideas boldly, feeling secure in her own conscience as to her own motives. ‘I shall not stir from this room,’ said Miss Dunstable, ’till I have had this matter out with you. As for imputations–my imputing bad motives to you–I don’t know how far you may be joking, and saying what you call sharp things to me; but you have no right to think that I should think evil of you. If you really think so, it is treason to the love I have for you. If I thought that you thought so, I could not remain in the house with you. What, you are not able to know the difference which one makes between one’s real friends and one’s mock friends! I don’t believe it of you, and I know you are only striving to bully me.’ And Miss Dunstable now took her turn of walking up and down the room.

‘Well, she shan’t be bullied,’ said Mrs Gresham, leaving her flowers, and putting her arm round her friend’s waist;–‘at least, not here, in this house, although she is sometimes such a bully herself.’

‘Mary, you have gone too far about this to go back. Tell me what it is that was on your mind, and as far as it concerns me, I will answer you honestly.’ Mrs Gresham now began to repent that she had made her little attempt. That uttering of hints in a half-joking way was all very well, and might possibly bring about the desired results, without the necessity of any formal suggestion on her part; but now she was so brought to book that she must say something formal. She must commit herself to the expression of her own wishes, and to an expression also of an opinion as to what had been the wishes of her friend; and this she must do without being able to say anything of the wishes of a third person. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘I suppose you know what I meant.’

‘I suppose I did,’ said Miss Dunstable; ‘but it is not at the less necessary that you should say it out. I am not to commit myself by my interpretation of your thoughts, while you remain perfectly secure in having only hinted your own. I hate hints, as I do–the mischief. I go in for the bishop’s doctrine. Magna ist veritas.’

‘Well, I don’t know,’ said Mrs Gresham.

‘Ah! but I do,’ said Miss Dunstable. ‘And therefore go on, or for ever hold your peace.’

‘The quotation out of the Prayer Book which you finished just now. “If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in holy matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first time of asking.” Do you know any cause, Miss Dunstable?’

‘Do you know any, Mrs Gresham?’

‘None, upon my honour!’ said the younger lady, putting her hand upon her breast.

‘Ah! but you do not?’ and Miss Dunstable caught hold of her arm, and spoke almost abruptly in her energy.

‘No, certainly not. What impediment? If I did, I should not have broached the subject. I declare I think you would be very happy together. Of course, there is one impediment; we all know that. That must be your look out.’

‘What do you mean? What impediment?’

‘Your own money.’

‘Psha! Did you find that an impediment in marrying Frank Gresham?’

‘Ah! the matter was so different there. He had much more to give than I had, when all was counted. And I had no money when we–when we were first engaged.’ And the tears came into her eyes as she thought of the circumstances of her early love;–all of which have been narrated in the county chronicles of Barsetshire, and may now be read by men and women interested therein.

‘Yes; yours was a love match. I declare, Mary, I often think that you are the happiest woman of whom I have ever heard; to have it all to give, when you were so sure that you were loved while you had nothing.’

‘Yes; I was sure,’ and she wiped the sweet tears from her eyes, as she remembered a certain day when a certain youth had come to her, claiming all kinds of privileges in a very determined manner. She had been no heiress then. ‘Yes; I was sure. But now with you, my dear, you can’t make yourself poor again. If you can trust no one–‘

‘I can. I can trust him. As regards that I do trust him altogether. But how can I tell that he would care for me?’

‘Do you not know that he likes you?’

‘Ah, yes; and so he does Lady Scatcherd.’

‘Miss Dunstable!’

‘And why not Lady Scatcherd, as well as me? We are of the same kind–come from the same class.’

‘Not quite that, I think.’

‘Yes, from the same class; only I have managed to poke myself up among dukes and duchesses, whereas she has been content to remain where God has placed her. Where I beat her in art, she beats me in nature.’

‘You know you are talking nonsense.’

‘I think that we are both doing that–absolute nonsense; such as schoolgirls of eighteen talk to each other. But there is a relief in it; is there not? It would be a terrible curse to have to talk sense always. Well, that’s done; and now let us go out.’ Mrs Gresham was sure after this that Miss Dunstable would be a consenting party to the little arrangement which she contemplated. But of that she had felt but little doubt for some considerable time past. The difficulty lay on the other side, and all that she had as yet done was to convince herself that she would be safe in assuring her uncle of success if he could be induced to take the enterprise in hand. He was to come to Boxall Hill that evening, and to remain there for a day or two. If anything could be done in the matter, now would be the time for doing it. So at least thought Mrs Gresham.

The doctor did come, and did remain for the allotted time at Boxall Hill; but when he left, Mrs Gresham had not been successful. Indeed, he did not seem to enjoy his visit as was usual with him; and there was very little of that pleasant friendly intercourse which for some time past had been customary between him and Miss Dunstable. There were no passages of arms between them; no abuse from the doctor against the lady’s London gaiety; no raillery from the lady as to the doctor’s country habits. They were very courteous to each other, and, as Mrs Gresham thought, too civil by half; nor, as far as she could see, did they ever remain alone in each other’s company for five minutes at a time during the whole period of the doctor’s visit. What, thought Mrs Gresham to herself,–what if she had set these two friends at variance with each other, instead of binding them together in the closest and most durable friendship! But still she had an idea that, as she had begun to play this game, she must play it out. She felt conscious that what she had done must do evil, unless she could so carry it on as to make it result in good. Indeed, unless she could so manage, she would have done a manifest injury to Miss Dunstable in forcing her to declare her thoughts and feelings. She had already spoken to her uncle in London, and though he had said nothing to show that he approved of her plan, neither had he said anything to show that he disapproved of it. Therefore she had hoped through the whole of those three days that he would make some sign,–at any rate to her; that he would in some way declare what were his own thoughts on this matter. But the morning of his departure came, and he had declared nothing. ‘Uncle,’ she said, in the last five minutes of his sojourn there, after he had already taken leave of Miss Dunstable and shaken hands with Mrs Gresham ‘have you ever thought of what I said to you up in London?’

‘Yes, Mary; of course I have thought about it. Such an idea as that, when put into a man’s head, will make itself thought about.’

‘Well; and what next? Do talk to me about it. Do not be so hard and unlike yourself.’

‘I have very little to say about it.’

‘I can tell you this for certain, you may if you like.’

‘Mary! Mary!’

‘I would not say so if I were not sure that I should not lead you into trouble.’

‘You are foolish in wishing this, my dear; foolish in trying to tempt an old man into folly.’

‘Not foolish if I know that it will make you both happier.’ He made no further reply, but stooping down that she might kiss him, as was his wont, went his way, leaving her almost miserable in the thought that she had troubled all these waters for no purpose. What would Miss Dunstable think of her? But on that afternoon Miss Dunstable seemed to be as happy and even-tempered as ever.



Dr Thorne, in the few words which he spoke to his niece before he left Boxall Hill, had called himself an old man; but he was as yet on the right side of sixty by five good years, and bore about with him less of the marks of age than most men of fifty-five do bear. One would have said, in looking at him, that there was no reason why he should not marry if he found that such a step seemed good to him; and, looking at the age of the proposed bride, there was nothing unsuitable in that respect. But nevertheless he felt almost ashamed of himself, in that he allowed himself even to think of the proposition which his niece had made. He mounted his horse that day at Boxall Hill–for he made all his journeys about the county on horseback–and rode slowly home to Greshambury, thinking not so much of the suggested marriage as of his own folly in thinking of it. How could he be such an ass at this time of life as to allow the even course of his way to be disturbed by any such ideas? Of course he could not propose to himself such a wife as Miss Dunstable without having some thoughts about her wealth; and it had been the pride of his life so to live that the world might know that he was indifferent about money. His profession was all in all to him; the air which he breathed as well as the bread which he ate; and how could he follow his profession if he made such a marriage as this? She would expect him to go to London with her; and what would he become, dangling at her heels there, known only to the world as the husband of the richest woman in the town? The kind of life was one which would be unsuitable to him; and yet, as he rode home, he could not resolve to rid himself of the idea. He went on thinking of it, though he still continued to condemn himself for keeping it in his thoughts. That night at home he would make up his mind, so he declared to himself; and would then write to his niece begging her to drop the subject. Having so far come to a resolution he went on meditating what course of life it might be well for him to pursue if he and Miss Dunstable should after all become man and wife.

There were two ladies whom it behoved him to see on the day of his arrival–whom, indeed, he generally saw every day except when absent from Greshambury. The first of these–first in the general consideration of the people of the place–was the wife of the squire, Lady Arabella Gresham, a very old patient of the doctor’s. Her it was his custom to visit early in the afternoon; and then, if he were able to escape the squire’s daily invitation to dinner, he customarily went to see the other, Lady Scatcherd, when the rapid meal in his own house was over. Such, at least, was his summer practice. ‘Well, doctor, how are they all at Boxall Hill?’ said the squire, waylaying him on the gravel sweep before the door. The squire was very hard set for occupation in these summer months.

‘Quite well, I believe.’

‘I don’t know what’s come to Frank. I think he hates this place now. He’s full of the election, I suppose.’

‘Oh, yes; he told me to say that he should be over here soon. Of course there’ll be no contest, so he need not trouble himself.’

‘Happy dog, isn’t he, doctor? to have it all before him instead of behind him. Well, well; he’s as good a lad as ever lived–as ever lived. And let me see; Mary’s time–‘ And then there were a few very important words spoken on that subject.

‘I’ll just step up to Lady Arabella now,’ said the doctor.

‘She’s as fretful as possible,’ said the squire. ‘I’ve just left her.’

‘Nothing special the matter, I hope?’

‘No, I think not; nothing in your way, that is; only specially cross, which always comes in my way. You’ll stop and dine to-day, of course?’

‘Not to-day, squire.’

‘Nonsense; you will. I have been quite counting on you. I have a particular reason for wanting to have you to-day–a most particular reason.’ But the squire always had his particular reasons.

‘I’m very sorry, but it is impossible to-day. I shall have a letter to write that I must sit down to seriously. Shall I see you when I come down from her ladyship?’ The squire turned away sulkily, almost without answering him, for he now had no prospect of any alleviation to the tedium of the evening; and the doctor went upstairs to his patient. For Lady Arabella, though it cannot be said that she was ill, was always a patient. It must not be supposed that she kept her bed and swallowed daily doses, or was prevented from taking her share in such prosy gaieties as came from time to time in the way of her prosy life; but it suited her turn of mind to be an invalid and to have a doctor; and as the doctor whom her good fates had placed at her elbow thoroughly understood her case, no great harm was done.

‘It frets me dreadfully that I cannot get to see Mary,’ Lady Arabella said, as soon as the first ordinary question as to her ailments had been asked and answered.

‘She’s quite well, and will be over to see you before long.’

‘Now I beg that she won’t. She never thinks of coming when there can be no possible objection, and travelling at the present moment, would be–‘ Whereupon the Lady Arabella shook her head very gravely. ‘Only think of the importance of it, doctor,’ she said. ‘Remember the enormous stake there is to be considered.

‘It would not do her a ha’porth of harm if the stake were twice as large.’

‘Nonsense, doctor, don’t tell me; as if I didn’t know myself. I was very much against her going to London this spring, but of course what I said was overruled. It always is. I do believe Mr Gresham went over to Boxall Hill on purpose to induce her to go. But what does he care? He’s fond of Frank; but he never thinks of looking beyond the present day. He never did, as you know well enough, doctor.’

‘The trip did her all the good in the world,’ said Dr Thorne, preferring anything to a conversation respecting the squire’s sins.

‘I very well remember that when I was in that way it wasn’t thought that such trips would do me any good. But, perhaps, things are altered since then.’

‘Yes, they are,’ said the doctor. ‘We don’t interfere so much nowadays.’

‘I know I never asked for such amusements when so much depended on quietness. I remember before Frank was born–and indeed, when all of them were born–But, as you say, things were different then; and I can easily believe that Mary is a person quite determined to have her own way.’

‘Why, Lady Arabella, she would have stayed at home without wishing to stir if Frank had done so much as hold up a little finger.’

‘So did I always. If Mr Gresham made the slightest hint I gave way. But I really don’t see what one gets in return for such implicit obedience. Now this year, doctor, of course I should have liked to been up in London for a week or two. You seemed to think yourself that I might as well see Sir Omicron.’

‘There could be no possible objection, I said.’

‘Well; no; exactly; and as Mr Gresham knew I wished it, I think he might as well have offered it. I suppose there can be no reason now about money.’

‘But I understood that Mary specially asked you and Augusta.’

‘Yes; Mary was very good. She did ask me. But I know very well that Mary wants all the room she has got in London. The house is not at all too large for herself. And, for the matter of that, my sister, the countess, was very anxious that I should be with her. But one does like to be independent if one can, and for one fortnight I do think that Mrs Gresham might have managed it. When I knew that he was so dreadfully out at elbows I never troubled him about it,–though goodness knows, all that was never my fault.’

‘The squire hates London. A fortnight there in warm weather would nearly be the death of him.’

‘He might at any rate have paid me the compliment of asking me. The chances are ten to one I should not have gone. It is that indifference that cuts me so. He was here just now, and would you believe it?–‘

But the doctor was determined to avoid further complaint for the present day. ‘I wonder what you would feel, Lady Arabella, if the squire were to take it into his head to go away and amuse himself, leaving you at home. There are worse men than Mr Gresham, if you will believe me.’ All this was an allusion to Earl de Courcy, her ladyship’s brother, as Lady Arabella very well understood; and the argument was one which was very often used to silence her.

‘Upon my word, then, I should like it better than his hanging about here doing nothing but attend to those nasty dogs. I really sometimes think that he has no spirit left.’

‘You are mistaken there, Lady Arabella,’ said the doctor, rising with his hat in his hand, and making his escape without further parley. As he went home he could not but think that that phase of married life was not a very pleasant one. Mr Gresham and his wife were supposed by the world to live on the best of terms. They always inhabited the same house, went out together when they did go out, always sat in their respective corners in the family pew, and in their wildest dreams after the happiness of novelty never thought of Sir Cresswell Cresswell. In some respect–with regard for instance, to the continued duration of their joint domesticity at the family mansion at Greshambury–they might have been taken for a pattern couple. But yet, as far as the doctor could see, they did not seem to add much to the happiness of each other. They loved one another, doubtless, and had either of them been in real danger, that danger would have made the other miserable; but yet it might well be a question whether either would not be more comfortable without the other.

The doctor, as was his custom, dined at five, and at seven, went up to the cottage of his old friend Lady Scatcherd. Lady Scatcherd was not a refined woman, having in her early days been a labourer’s daughter, and having then married a labourer. But her husband had risen in the world–as has been told in these chronicles before mentioned–and his widow was now Lady Scatcherd with a pretty cottage and a good jointure. She was in all things the very opposite of Lady Arabella Gresham; nevertheless under the doctor’s auspices, the two ladies were in some measure acquainted with each other. Of her married life, also, Dr Thorne had seen something, and it may be questioned whether the memory of that was more alluring than the reality now existing at Greshambury. Of the two women Dr Thorne much preferred his humbler friend, and to her he made his visits not in the guise of a doctor, but as a neighbour. ‘Well, my lady,’ he said, as he sat down by her on a broad garden seat–all the world called Lady Scatcherd ‘my lady,’–‘and how do these long summer days agree with you? Your roses are twice better out than any I see up in the big house.’

‘You may well call them long, doctor. They’re long enough surely.’

‘But not too long. Come, now, I won’t have you complaining. You don’t mean to tell me that you have anything to make you wretched? You had better not, for I won’t believe you.’

‘Eh; well; wretched! I don’t know as I’m wretched. It’d be wicked to say that, and I with such comforts about me.’

‘I think it would, almost.’ The doctor did not say this harshly, but in a soft, friendly, tone, and pressing her hand gently as he spoke.

‘And I didn’t mean to be wicked. I’m very thankful for everything–leastways, I always try to be. But, doctor, it is so lonely like.’

‘Lonely! Not more lonely than I am.’

‘Oh, yes; you’re different. You can go everywheres. But what can a lone woman do? I’ll tell you what, doctor; I’d give it all up to have Roger back with his apron on and his pick in his hand. How well I mind his look when he’d come home o’ nights!’

‘And yet it was a hard life you had then, eh, old woman? It would be better for you to be thankful for what you’ve got.’

‘I am thankful. Didn’t I tell you so before?’ said she, somewhat crossly. ‘But it’s a sad life, this living alone. I declares I envy Hannah, ’cause she’s got Jemima to sit in the kitchen with her. I want her to sit with me sometimes, but she won’t.’

‘Ah! but you shouldn’t ask her. It’s letting yourself down.’

‘What do I care about down or up? It makes no difference, as he’s gone. If he had lived one might have cared about being up, as you call it. Eh, deary; I’ll be going after him before long, and it will be no matter then.’

‘We shall all be going after him, sooner or later; that’s sure enough.’

‘Eh, dear, that’s true surely. It’s only a span long, as Parson Oriel tells us, when he gets romantic in his sermons. But it’s a hard thing, doctor, when two is married, as they can’t have their span, as he calls it, out together. Well, I must only put up with it, I suppose, as others does. Now, you’re not going, doctor? You’ll stop and have a dish of tea with me. You never see such cream as Hannah has from the Alderney cow. Do’ey now, doctor.’ But the doctor had his letter to write, and would not allow himself to be tempted even by the promise of Hannah’s cream. So he went his way, angering Lady Scatcherd by his departure as he had before angered the squire, and thinking as he went which was most unreasonable in her wretchedness, his friend Lady Arabella or his friend Lady Scatcherd. The former was always complaining of an existing husband who never refused her any moderate request; and the other passed her days in murmuring at the loss of a dead husband, who in his life had ever been to her imperious and harsh, and had sometimes been cruel and unjust.

The doctor had his letter to write, but even yet he had not quite made up his mind what he would put in it; indeed, he had not hitherto resolved to whom it should be written. Looking at the matter as he had endeavoured to look at it, his niece, Mrs Gresham, would be his correspondent; but if he brought himself to take this jump in the dark, in that case he would address himself direct to Miss Dunstable. He walked home, not by the straightest road, but taking a considerable curve, round by narrow lanes, and through thick flower-laden hedges,–very thoughtful. He was told that she wished to marry him; and was he to think only of himself? And as to that pride of his about money, was it in truth a hearty, manly feeling; or was it a false pride, of which it behoved him to be ashamed as it did of many cognate feelings? If he acted rightly in this matter, why should he be afraid of the thoughts of any one? A life of solitude was bitter enough as poor Lady Scatcherd had complained. But then, looking at Lady Scatcherd, and looking also at his other near neighbour, his friend the squire, there was little thereabouts to lead him on to matrimony. So he walked home slowly through the lanes, very meditative, with his hands behind his back. Nor when he got home was he much more inclined to any resolute line of action. He might have drunk his tea with Lady Scatcherd, as well as have sat there in his own drawing-room, drinking it alone; for he got no pen and paper, and he dawdled over his teacup with the utmost dilatoriness, putting off, as it were, the evil day. To only one thing was he fixed–to this, namely, that that letter should be written before he went to bed.

Having finished his tea, which did not take place till near eleven, he went downstairs to an untidy little room which lay behind his depot of medicines, and in which he was wont to do his writing; and herein he did at last set himself down to his work. Even at that moment he was in doubt. But he would write his letter to Miss Dunstable and see how it looked. He was almost determined not to send it; so, at least, he said to himself: but he could do no harm by writing it. So he did write it, as follows:–‘Greshambury, June 185-. My dear Miss Dunstable–‘ When he had got so far, he leaned back in his chair and looked at the paper. How on earth was he to find words to say that which he now wished to have said? He had never written such a letter in his life, or anything approaching to it, and now found himself overwhelmed with a difficulty of which he had not previously thought. He spent another half-hour in looking at the paper, and was at last nearly deterred by this new difficulty. He would use the simplest, plainest language, he said to himself over and over again; but it is not always easy to use simple, plain language,–by no means so easy as to mount on stilts, and to march along with sesquipedalian words, with pathos, spasms, and notes of interjection. But the letter did at last get itself written, and there was not a note of interjection in it.


‘I think it right to confess that I should not now be writing this letter to you, had I not been led to believe by other judgement than my own that the proposition which I am going to make would be regarded by you with favour. Without such other judgement I should, I own, have feared that the great disparity between you and me in regard to money would have given to such a proposition an appearance of being false and mercenary. All I ask of you now, with
confidence, is to acquit me of such fault as that.

‘When you have read so far you will
understand what I mean. We have known each other now somewhat intimately, though indeed not very long, and I have sometimes fancied that you were almost as well pleased to be with me as I have been to be with you. If I have been wrong in this, tell me so simply, and I will endeavour to let our friendship run on as though this letter had not been written. But if I have been right, and if it be possible that you can think of a union between us will make us both happier than we are single, I will plight you my word and troth with good faith, and will do what an old man may do to make the burden of the world lie light on your shoulders. Looking at my age I can hardly keep myself from thinking that I am an old fool; but I try to reconcile myself to that by remembering that you yourself are no longer a girl. You see that I pay you no compliments, and that you need expect none from me.

‘I do not know that I could add anything to the truth of this, if I were to write three times as much. All that is necessary is, that you should know what I mean. If you do not believe me to be true and honest already, nothing that I can write will make you believe it.

‘God bless you. I know you will not keep me long in suspense for an answer.

‘Affectionately your friend

When he had finished he meditated again for another half-hour whether it would not be right that he should add something about her money. Would it not be well for him to tell her–it might be said in a postscript–that with regard to all her wealth she would be free to do what she chose? At any rate he owed no debts for her to pay, and would still have his own income, sufficient for his own purposes. But about one o’clock he came to the conclusion that it would be better to leave the matter alone. If she cared for him, and could trust him, and was worthy also that he should trust her, no omission of such statement would deter her from coming to him: and if there were no such trust, it would not be created by any such assurance on his part. So he read the letter over twice, sealed it, and took it up, together with his bed candle, into his bedroom. Now that the letter was written it seemed to be a thing fixed by fate that it must go. He had written it that he might see how it looked when written; but now that it was written, there remained no doubt that it must be sent. So he went to bed, with the letter on the toilette-table beside him; and early in the morning–so early as to make it seem that the importance of the letter had disturbed his rest–he sent it off by a special messenger to Boxall Hill. ‘I’se wait for an answer?’ said the boy.