Barchester Towers HTML version

19. Barchester By Moonlight
There was much cause for grief and occasional perturbation of spirits in the Stanhope
family, but yet they rarely seemed to be grieved or to be disturbed. It was the peculiar
gift of each of them that each was able to bear his or her own burden without complaint,
and perhaps without sympathy. They habitually looked on the sunny side of the wall, if
there was a gleam on the either side for them to look at; and, if there was none, they
endured the shade with an indifference which, if not stoical, answered the end at which
the Stoics aimed. Old Stanhope could not but feel that he had ill-performed his duties as
a father and a clergyman; and could hardly look forward to his own death without grief
at the position in which he would leave his family. His income for many years had been
as high as L 3000 a year, and yet they had among them no other provision than their
mother's fortune of L 10,000. He had not only spent his income, but was in debt. Yet,
with all this, he seldom showed much outward sign of trouble.
It was the same with the mother. If she added little to the pleasures of her children she
detracted still less: she neither grumbled at her lot, nor spoke much of her past or future
sufferings; as long as she had a maid to adjust her dress, and had those dresses well
made, nature with her was satisfied. It was the same with her children. Charlotte never
rebuked her father with the prospect of their future poverty, nor did it seem to grieve her
that she was becoming an old maid so quickly; her temper was rarely ruffled, and, if we
might judge by her appearance, she was always happy. The signora was not so sweet-
tempered, but she possessed much enduring courage; she seldom complained--never,
indeed, to her family. Though she had a cause for affliction which would have utterly
broken down the heart of most women as beautiful as she and as devoid of all religious
support, yet, she bore her suffering in silence, or alluded to it only to elicit the sympathy
and stimulate the admiration of the men with whom she flirted. As to Bertie, one would
have imagined from the sound of his voice and the gleam of his eye that he had not a
sorrow nor a care in the world. Nor had he. He was incapable of anticipating tomorrow's
griefs. The prospect of future want no more disturbed his appetite than does that of the
butcher's knife disturb the appetite of the sheep.
Such was the usual tenor of their way; but there were rare exceptions. Occasionally the
father would allow an angry glance to fall from his eye, and the lion would send forth a
low dangerous roar as though he meditated some deed of blood. Occasionally also
Madame Neroni would become bitter against mankind, more than usually antagonistic
to the world's decencies, and would seem as though she was about to break from her
moorings and allow herself to be carried forth by the tide of her feelings to utter ruin and
shipwreck. She, however, like the rest of them, had no real feelings, could feel no true
passion. In that was her security. Before she resolved on any contemplated escapade
she would make a small calculation, and generally summed up that the Stanhope villa
or even Barchester close was better than the world at large.
They were most irregular in their hours. The father was generally the earliest in the
breakfast-parlour, and Charlotte would soon follow and give him coffee; but the others