Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope - HTML preview
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1. Who Will Be The New Bishop? ................................................................................. 72. Hiram's Hospital According To Act Of Parliament................................................... 143. Dr And Mrs Proudie ................................................................................................ 194. The Bishop's Chaplain ............................................................................................ 245. A Morning Visit .......................................................................................................... 296. War............................................................................................................................ 367. The Dean And Chapter Take Counsel ...................................................................... 45 8. The Ex-Warden Rejoices In His Pr obable Return To The Hospital .......................... 499. The Stanhope Family ................................................................................................ 5510. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Commenced................................................................... 6411. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Concluded...................................................................... 7212. Slope Versus Harding ............................................................................................. 8413. The Rubbish Cart .................................................................................................... 9014. The New Campaign................................................................................................. 9715. The Widow's Suitors.............................................................................................. 103 16. Baby Worship ........................................................................................................ 11217. Who Shall Be Cock Of The Walk?......................................................................... 12118. The Widow's Persecution ...................................................................................... 12719. Barchester By Moonlight ....................................................................................... 13320. Mr Arabin............................................................................................................... 14121. St Ewold's Parsonage ........................................................................................... 15022. The Thornes Of Ullathorne.................................................................................... 158 23. Mr Arabin Reads Himself In At St Ewold's............................................................. 16724. Mr Slope's Manages Matters Very Cleverly At Puddingdale ................................. 174 25. Fourteen Arguments In Favour Of Mr Quiverful's Claims ...................................... 18226. Mrs Proudie Takes A Fall ...................................................................................... 18927. A Love Scene ........................................................................................................ 19728. Mrs Bold Is Entertained By Dr And Mrs Grantly At Plumstead .............................. 20929. A Serious Interview ............................................................................................... 22030. Another Love Scene.............................................................................................. 22731. The Bishop's Library.............................................................................................. 237 32. A New Candidate For Ecclesiastical Honours ....................................................... 24233. Mrs Proudie Victrix ................................................................................................ 25334. Oxford--The Master And Tutor Of Lazarus............................................................ 26235. Miss Thorne's Fete Champetre ............................................................................. 26836. Ullathorne Sports--Act I ......................................................................................... 27637. Meet Each Other At Ullathorne ............................................................................. 28538. The Bishop Sits Down To Breakfast, And The Dean Dies..................................... 29439. The Lookalofts And The Greenacres..................................................................... 304 40. Ullathorne Sports--Act II ........................................................................................ 31141. Mrs Bold Confides Her Sorrow To Her Friend Miss Stanhope .............................. 31842. Ullathorne Sports--Act III ....................................................................................... 32543. Mr Slope Encouraged By The Press ..................................................................... 33744. Mrs Bold At Home ................................................................................................. 34845. The Stanhopes At Home ....................................................................................... 356
46. Mr Slope's Parting Interview With The Signora ..................................................... 365
47. The Dean Elect...................................................................................................... 372
48. Miss Thorne Shows Her Talent For Match-Making ............................................... 380
1. Who Will Be The New Bishop? ................................................................................ 7 1. Hiram's Hospital According To Act Of Parliament.................................................. 14 2. Dr And Mrs Proudie................................................................................................ 19 3. The Bishop's Chaplain ........................................................................................... 245. A Morning Visit .......................................................................................................... 296. War............................................................................................................................ 367. The Dean And Chapter Take Counsel ...................................................................... 45 8. The Ex-Warden Rejoices In His Pr obable Return To The Hospital .......................... 499. The Stanhope Family................................................................................................ 5510. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Commenced................................................................... 6411. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Concluded...................................................................... 7212. Slope Versus Harding ............................................................................................. 8413. The Rubbish Cart .................................................................................................... 9014. The New Campaign................................................................................................. 97 15. The Widow's Suitors.............................................................................................. 10316. Baby Worship ........................................................................................................ 112 17. Who Shall Be Cock Of The Walk?......................................................................... 12118. The Widow's Persecution ...................................................................................... 12719. Barchester By Moonlight ....................................................................................... 13320. Mr Arabin............................................................................................................... 14121. St Ewold's Parsonage ........................................................................................... 15022. The Thornes Of Ullathorne.................................................................................... 15823. Mr Arabin Reads Himself In At St Ewold's............................................................. 167 24. Mr Slope's Manages Matters Very Cleverly At Puddingdale ................................. 17425. Fourteen Arguments In Favour Of Mr Quiverful's Claims ...................................... 18226. Mrs Proudie Takes A Fall ...................................................................................... 18927. A Love Scene........................................................................................................ 19728. Mrs Bold Is Entertained By Dr And Mrs Grantly At Plumstead .............................. 20929. A Serious Interview ............................................................................................... 22030. Another Love Scene.............................................................................................. 22731. The Bishop's Library.............................................................................................. 237 32. A New Candidate For Ecclesiastical Honours....................................................... 24233. Mrs Proudie Victrix ................................................................................................ 25334. Oxford--The Master And Tutor Of Lazarus............................................................ 26235. Miss Thorne's Fete Champetre ............................................................................. 26836. Ullathorne Sports--Act I ......................................................................................... 27637. Meet Each Other At Ullathorne ............................................................................. 285
38. The Bishop Sits Down To Breakfast, And The Dean Dies..................................... 294
39. The Lookalofts And The Greenacres..................................................................... 304
40. Ullathorne Sports--Act II ........................................................................................ 311
1. Who Will Be The New Bishop?
In the latter days of July in the year 185-, a most important question was for ten days hourly asked in the cathedral city of Barchester, and answered every hour in various ways--Who was to be the new Bishop?
The death of old Dr Grantly, who had for many years filled the chair with meek authority, took place exactly as the ministry of Lord - was going to give place to that Lord -. The illness of the good old man was long and lingering, and it became at last a matter of intense interest to those concerned whether the new appointment should be made by a conservative or liberal government.
Bishop Grantly died as he had lived, peaceably, slowly, without pain and without excitement. The breath ebbed from him almost imperceptibly, and for a month before his death, it was a question whether he was alive or dead.
A trying time was this for the archdeacon, for whom was designed the reversion of his father's see by those who then had the giving away of episcopal thrones. I would not be understood to say that the prime minister had in so many words promised the bishopric to Dr Grantly. He was too discreet a man for that. There is a proverb with reference to the killing of cats, and those who know anything either of high or low government places, will be well aware that a promise may be made without positive words, and that an expectant may be put into the highest state of encouragement, though the great man on whose breath he hangs may have done no more than whisper that 'Mr So-and-so is certainly a rising man.'
Such a whisper had been made, and was known by those who heard it to signify that the cures of the diocese of Barchester should not be taken out of the hands of the archdeacon. The then prime minister was all in all at Oxford, and had lately passed a night at the house of the master of Lazarus. Now the master of Lazarus--which is, by the bye, in many respects the most comfortable, as well as the richest college at Oxford,--was the archdeacon's most intimate friend and most trusted counsellor. On the occasion of the prime minister's visit, Dr Grantly was of course present, and the meeting was very gracious. On the following morning Dr Gwynne, the master, told the archdeacon that in his opinion the matter was settled.
At this time the bishop was quite on his last legs; but the ministry was also tottering. Dr Grantly returned from Oxford happy and elated, to resume his place in the palace, and to continue to perform for the father the last duties of a son; which, to give him his due, he performed with more tender care than was to be expected from his usual somewhat worldly manners.
A month since the physicians had named four weeks as the outside period during which breath could be supported within the body of the dying man. At the end of the month the physicians wondered, and named another fortnight. The old man lived on wine alone, but at the end of the fortnight he still lived; and the tidings of the fall of the ministry became more frequent. Sir Lamda Mewnew and Sir Omicron Pie, the two great London doctors, now came down for the fifth time, and declared, shaking their learned heads, that another week of life was impossible; and as they sat down to lunch in the episcopal dining-room, whispered to the archdeacon their own private knowledge that the ministry must fall within five days. The son returned to his father's room, and after administering with his own hands the sustaining modicum of madeira, sat down by the bedside to calculate his chances.
The ministry were to be out within five days: his father was to be dead within--No, he rejected that view of the subject. The ministry were to be out, and the diocese might probably be vacant at the same period. There was much doubt as to the names of the men who were to succeed to power, and a week must elapse before a Cabinet was formed. Would not vacancies be filled by the out-going men during that week? Dr Grantly had a kind of idea that such would be the case, but did not know; and then he wondered at his own ignorance of such a question.
He tried to keep his mind away from the subject, but he could not. The race was so very close, and the stakes were so very high. He then looked at the dying man's impassive, placid face. There was no sign there of death or disease; it was something thinner than of yore, somewhat grayer, and the deep lines of age more marked; but, as far as he could judge, life might yet hang there for weeks to come. Sir Lamda Mewnew and Sir Omicron Pie had thrice been wrong, and might yet be wrong thrice again. The old bishop slept during twenty of the twenty-four hours, but during the short periods of his waking moments, he knew both his son and his dear friend Mr Harding, the archdeacon's father-in-law, and would thank them tenderly for their care and love. Now he lay sleeping like a baby, resting easily on his back, his mouth just open, and his few gray hairs straggling from beneath his cap; his breath was perfectly noiseless, and his thin, wan hand, which lay above the coverlid, never moved. Nothing could be easier than the old man's passage from this world to the next.
But by no means easy were the emotions of him who sat there watching. He knew it must be now or never. He was already over fifty, and there was little chance that his friends who were now leaving office would soon return to it. No probable British prime minister but he who was now in, he who was so soon to be out, would think of making a bishop of Dr Grantly. Thus he thought long and sadly, in deep silence, and then gazed at that still living face, and then at last dared to ask himself whether he really longed for his father's death.
The effort was a salutary one, and the question was answered in a moment. The proud, wishful, worldly man, sank on his knees by the bedside, and taking the bishop's hand within his own, prayed eagerly that his sins might be forgiven him.
His face was still buried in the clothes when the door of the bed-room opened noiselessly, and Mr Harding entered with a velvet step. Mr Harding's attendance at that bedside had been nearly as constant as that of the archdeacon, and his ingress and egress was as much a matter of course as that of his son-in-law. He was standing close beside the archdeacon before he was perceived, and would have also knelt in prayer had he not feared that his doing so might have caused some sudden start, and have disturbed the dying man. Dr Grantly, however, instantly perceived him, and rose from his knees. As he did so Mr Harding took both his hands, and pressed them warmly. There was more fellowship between them at that moment than there had ever been before, and it so happened that after circumstances greatly preserved the feeling. As they stood there pressing each other's hands, the tears rolled freely down their cheeks.'God bless you, my dears,'--said the bishop with feeble voice as he woke--'God bless you--may God bless you both, my dear children:' and so he died.
There was no loud rattle in the throat, no dreadful struggle, no palpable sign of death; but the lower jaw fell a little from its place, and the eyes, which had been so constantly closed in sleep, now remained fixed and open. Neither Mr Harding nor Dr Grantly knew that life was gone, though both suspected it.'I believe it's all over,' said Mr Harding, still pressing the other's hands. 'I think--nay, I hope it is.' 'I will ring the bell,' said the other, speaking all but in a whisper. 'Mrs Phillips should be here.' Mrs Phillips, the nurse, was soon in the room, and immediately, with practised hand, closed those staring eyes. 'It's all over, Mrs Phillips?' asked Mr Harding. 'My lord's no more,' said Mrs Phillips, turning round and curtseying with a solemn face; 'His lordship's gone more like a sleeping baby than any that I ever saw.' 'It's a great relief, archdeacon,' said Mr Harding, 'A great relief--dear good, excellent old man. Oh that our last moments may be as innocent and peaceful as his!'
'Surely,' said Mrs Phillips. 'The Lord be praised for all his mercies; but, for a meek, mild, gentle-spoken Christian, his lordship was--' and Mrs Phillips, with unaffected but easy grief, put up her white apron to her flowing eyes.
'You cannot but rejoice that it is over,' said Mr Harding, still counselling his friend. The archdeacon's mind, however, had already travelled from the death chamber to the closet of the prime minister. He had brought himself to pray for his father's life, but now that that life was done, to dally with the fact of the bishop's death--useless to lose perhaps everything for the pretence of a foolish sentiment.
But how was he to act while his father-in-law stood there holding his hand? How, without appearing unfeeling, was he to forget his father in the bishop--to overlook what he had lost, and think only of what he might possibly gain?'No; I suppose not,' said he, at last, in answer to Mr Harding. 'We have all expected it for so long.'
Mr Harding took him by the arm and led him from the room. 'We will see him again tomorrow morning,' said he; 'We had better leave the room now to the woman.' And so they went downstairs.
It was already evening and nearly dark. It was most important that the prime minister should know that night that the diocese was vacant. Everything might depend on it; and so, in answer to Mr Harding's further consolation, the archdeacon suggested that a telegraph message should be immediately sent off to London. Mr Harding who had really been somewhat surprised to find Dr Grantly, as he thought, so much affected, was rather taken aback; but he made no objection. He knew that the archdeacon had some hope of succeeding to his father's place, though he by no means knew how highly raised that hope had been.
'Yes,' said Dr Grantly, collecting himself and shaking off his weakness, 'We must send a message at once; we don't know what might be the consequences of delay. Will you do it?''I! Oh yes; certainly: I'll do it, only I don't know exactly what it is you want.' Dr Grantly sat down before a writing table, and taking pen and ink, wrote on a slip of paper as follows:- By Electric Telegraph, For the Earl of -, Downing Street, or elsewhere. 'The Bishop of Barchester is dead.' Message sent by the Rev. Septimus Harding.
'There,' said he. 'Just take that to the telegraph office at the railway station, and give it as it is; they'll probably make you copy it on to one of their own slips; that's all you'll have to do: then you'll have to pay them half-a-crown.' And the archdeacon put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the necessary sum.
Mr Harding felt very much like an errand-boy, and also felt that he was called on to perform his duties as such at rather an unseemly time; but he said nothing, and took the slip of paper and the proffered coin.
'Yes,' said the other, 'There should be the name of some clergyman, you know, and what name so proper as that of so old a friend as yourself? The Earl won't look at the name you may be sure of that; but my dear Mr Harding, pray don't lose any time.'
Mr Harding got as far as the library door on his way to the station, when he suddenly remembered the news with which he was fraught when he entered to poor bishop's bedroom. He had found the moment so inopportune for any mundane tidings, that he had repressed the words which were on his tongue, and immediately afterwards all recollection of the circumstance was for the time banished by the scene which had occurred.'But, archdeacon,' said, he turning back, 'I forgot to tell you--the ministry are out.'
'Out!' ejaculated the archdeacon, in a tone which too plainly showed the anxiety of his dismay, although under the circumstances of the moment he endeavoured to control himself: 'Out! Who told you so?'Mr Harding explained that news to this effect had come down by electric telegraph, and that the tidings had been left at the palace door by Mr Chadwick.
The archdeacon sat silent for awhile, meditating, and Mr Harding stood looking at him. 'Never mind,' said the archdeacon at last; 'Send the message all the same. The news must be sent to some one, and there is at present no one else in a position to receive it. Do it at once, my dear friend; you know I would not trouble you, were I in a state to do it myself. A few minutes' time is of the greatest importance.'
Mr Harding went out and sent the message, and it may be as well that we should follow it to its destination. Within thirty minutes of its leaving Barchester it reached the Earl of in his inner library. What elaborate letters, what eloquent appeals, what indignant remonstrances, he might there have to frame, at such a moment, may be conceived, but not described! How he was preparing his thunder for successful rivals, standing like a British peer with his back to the sea-coal fire, and his hands in his breeches pockets,-how his fine eye was lit up with anger, and his forehead gleamed with patriotism,--how he stamped his foot as he thought of his heavy associates,--how he all but swore as he remembered how much too clever one of them had been,--my creative readers may imagine. But was he so engaged? No; history and truth compel me to deny it. He was sitting easily in a lounging chair, conning over a Newmarket list, and by his elbow on the table was lying open an uncut French novel on which he was engaged.He opened the cover in which the message was enclosed, and having read it, he took his pen and wrote on the back of it-- 'For the Earl of -, With the Earl of -'s compliments,' and sent off again on its journey. Thus terminated our unfortunate friend's chance of possessing the glories of a bishopric.
The names of many divines were given in the papers as that of the bishop elect. The British Grandmother declared that Dr Gwynne was to be the man, in compliment to the late ministry.
This was a heavy blow to Dr Grantly, but he was not doomed to see himself superseded by his friend. The Anglican Devotee put forward confidently the claims of a great London preacher of austere doctrines; and The Eastern Hemisphere, an evening paper supposed to possess much official knowledge, declared in favour of an eminent naturalist, a gentleman most completely versed in the knowledge of rocks and minerals, but supposed by many to hold on religious subjects no special doctrines whatever. The Jupiter, that daily paper which, as we all know, is the only true source of infallibly correct information on all subjects, for a while was silent, but at last spoke out. The merits of all these candidates were discussed and somewhat irreverently disposed of, and then The Jupiter declared that Dr Proudie was to be the man.Dr Proudie was the man. Just a month after the demise of the late bishop, Dr Proudie kissed the Queen's hand as his successor elect.
We must beg to be allowed to draw a curtain over the sorrows of the archdeacon as he sat, sombre and sad at heart, in the study of his parsonage at Plumstead Episcopi. On the day subsequent to the dispatch of the message he heard that the Earl of - had consented to undertake the formation of a ministry, and from that moment he knew that his chance was over. Many will think that he was wicked to grieve for the loss of episcopal power, wicked to have coveted it, nay, wicked even to have thought about it, in the way and at the moment he had done so.
With such censures, I cannot profess that I completely agree. The nolo episcopari, though still in use, is so directly at variance with the tendency of all human aspirations of rising priests in the Church of England. A lawyer does not sin in seeking to be a judge, or in compassing his wishes by all honest means. A young diplomat entertains a fair ambition when he looks forward to be the lord of a first-rate embassy; and a poor novelist when he attempts to rival Dickens or rise above Fitzjames, commits no fault, though he may be foolish.
Sydney Smith truly said that in these recreant days we cannot expect to find the majesty of St. Paul beneath the cassock of a curate. If we look to our clergymen to be more than men, we shall probably teach ourselves to think that they are less, and can hardly hope to raise the character of the pastor by denying to him the right to entertain the aspirations of a man.
Our archdeacon was worldly--who among us is not so? He was ambitious--who among us is ashamed to own that 'last infirmity of noble minds!' He was avaricious, my readers will say. No--it was not for love of lucre that he wished to be bishop of Barchester. He was his father's only child, and his father had left him great wealth. His preferment brought him in nearly three thousand a year. The bishopric, as cut down by the Ecclesiastical Commission, was only five. He would be a richer man as archdeacon, than he could be as a bishop. But he certainly did desire to play first fiddle; he did desire to sit in full lawn sleeves amongst the peers of the realm; and he did desire, if the truth must be out, to be called 'My Lord' by the reverend brethren.His hopes, however, were they innocent or sinful, were not fated to be realised; and Dr Proudie was consecrated Bishop of Barchester.
1. Hiram's Hospital According To Act Of Parliament
It is hardly necessary that I should here give to the public any lengthened biography of Mr Harding, up to the period of the commencement of this tale. The public cannot have forgotten how ill that sensitive gentleman bore the attack that was made upon him in the columns of the Jupiter, with reference to the income which he received as warden of Hiram's Hospital, in the city of Barchester. Nor can it be forgotten that a law-suit was instituted against him on the matter of that charity by Mr John Bold, who afterwards married his, Mr Harding's, younger and then only unmarried daughter. Under the pressure of these attacks, Mr Harding had resigned his wardenship, though strongly recommended to abstain from doing so, both by his friends and his lawyers. He did, however, resign it, and betook himself manfully to the duties of the small parish of St. Cuthbert's, in the city, of which he was vicar, continuing also to perform those of precentor of the cathedral, a situation of small emoluments which had hitherto been supposed to be joined, as a matter of course, to the wardenship of the hospital above spoken of.
When he left the hospital from which he had been so ruthlessly driven, and settled himself down in his own modest manner in the High Street of Barchester, he had not expected that others would make more fuss about it than he was inclined to do himself; and the extent of his hope was, that the movement might have been made in time to prevent any further paragraphs in the Jupiter. His affairs, however, were not allowed to subside thus quietly, and people were quite as much inclined to talk about the disinterested sacrifice he had made, as they had before been to upbraid him for his cupidity.
The most remarkable thing that occurred, was the receipt of an autographed letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the primate very warmly praised his conduct, and begged to know what his intentions were for the future. Mr Harding replied that he intended to be rector of St. Cuthbert's in Barchester; and so that matter dropped. Then the newspapers took up his case, the Jupiter among the rest, and wafted his name in eulogistic strains through every reading-room in the nation. It was discovered also, that he was the author of that great musical work, Harding's Church Music,--and a new edition was spoken of, though, I believe, never printed. It is, however, certain that the work was introduced into the Royal Chapel at St James's, and that a long criticism appeared in the Musical Scrutator, declaring that in no previous work of its kind had so much research been joined with such exalted musical ability, and asserting that the name of Harding would henceforward be known wherever the Arts were cultivated, or Religion valued.
This was high praise, and I will not deny that Mr Harding was gratified by such flattery; for if Mr Harding was vain on any subject, it was on that of music. But here the matter rested. The second edition, if printed, was never purchased; the copies which had been introduced into the Royal Chapel disappeared again, and were laid by in peace, with a load of similar literature. Mr Towers, of the Jupiter, and his brethren occupied themselves with other names, and the underlying fame promised to our friend was clearly intended to be posthumous.
Mr Harding had spent much of his time with his friend the bishop, much with his daughter Mrs Bold, now, alas, a widow; and had almost daily visited the wretched remnants of his former subjects, the few surviving bedesmen now left at Hiram's Hospital. Six of them were still living. The number, according to old Hiram's will, should always have been twelve. But after the abdication of their warden, the bishop had appointed no successor to him, and it appeared as though the hospital at Barchester would fall into abeyance, unless the powers that be should take some steps towards putting it once more into working order.
During the past five years the powers that be had not overlooked Barchester Hospital, and sundry political doctors had taken the matter in hand. Shortly after Mr Harding's resignation, the Jupiter had very clearly shown what ought to be done. In about half a column it had distributed the income, rebuilt the building, put an end to all bickerings, regenerated kindly feeling, provided for Mr Harding, and placed the whole thing on a footing which could not but be satisfactory to the city and Bishop of Barchester, and to the nation at large. The wisdom of this scheme was testified by the number of letters which "Common Sense", "Veritas", and "One that loves fair play," sent to the Jupiter, all expressing admiration and amplifying on the details given. It is singular enough that no adverse letter appeared at all, and, therefore, none of course was written.
But Cassandra was not believed, and even the wisdom of the Jupiter sometimes falls on deaf ears. Though other plans did not put themselves forward in the columns of the Jupiter, reformers of church charities were not slack to make known in various places their different nostrums for setting Hiram's Hospital on its feet again. A learned bishop took occasion, in the Upper House, to allude to the matter, intimating that he had communicated on the subject with his right reverend brother of Barchester. The radical member for Staleybridge had suggested that the funds should be alienated for the education of the agricultural poor of the country, and he amused the House by some anecdotes touching the superstition and habits of the agriculturists in question. A political pamphleteer had produced a few dozen pages, which he called 'Who are Hiram's heirs?' intending to give an infallible rule for the governance of such establishments; and, at last, a member of the government promised that in the next session a short bill should be introduced for regulating the affairs of Barchester, and other kindred concerns.
The next session came, and, contrary to custom, the bill came also. Men's minds were then intent on other things. The first threatenings of a huge war hung heavily over the nation, and the question as to Hiram's heirs did not appear to interest very many people either in or out of the House. The bill, however, was read and reread, and in some undistinguished manner passed through its eleven stages without appeal or dissent. What would John Hiram have said in the matter, could he have predicted that some forty-five gentlemen would take on themselves to make a law altering the whole purport of the will, without in the least knowing at the moment of their making it, what it was that they were doing? It is however to be hoped that the under secretary for the Home Office knew, for to him had the matter been confided.
The bill, however, did pass, and at the time at which this history is supposed to commence, it had been ordained that there should be, as heretofore, twelve old men in Barchester Hospital, each with 1s 4d a day; that there should also be twelve old women, each with 1s 2d a day; that there should be a matron with a house and L 70 a year; a steward with L 150 a year, who should have the spiritual guidance of that appertaining to the male sex. The bishop, dean, and warden, were, as formerly, to appoint in turn the recipients of the charity, and the bishop was to appoint the officers. There was nothing said as to the wardenship being held by the precentor of the cathedral, nor a word as to Mr Harding's right to the situation.
It was not, however, till some months after the death of the old bishop, and almost immediately consequent on the installation of his successor, that notice was given that the reform was about to be carried out. The new law and the new bishop were among the earliest works of a new ministry, or rather of a ministry who, having for a while given place to their opponents, had then returned to power; and the death of Dr Grantly occurred, as we have seen, exactly at the period of change.Poor Eleanor Bold! How well does that widow's cap become her, and the solemn gravity with which she devotes to her new duties. Poor Eleanor!
Poor Eleanor! I cannot say that with me John Bold was ever a favourite. I never thought him worthy of the wife he had won. But in her estimation he was most worthy. Hers was one of those feminine hearts which cling to a husband, not with idolatry, for worship can admit of no defect in its idol, but with the perfect tenacity of ivy. As the parasite plant will follow even the defects of the trunk which it embraces, so did Eleanor cling to and love the very faults of her husband.
She had once declared that whatever her father did should in her eyes be right. She then transferred her allegiance, and became ever ready to defend the worst failings of her lord and master.
And John Bold was a man to be loved by a woman; he was himself affectionate, he was confiding and manly; and that arrogance of thought, unsustained by first-rate abilities, that attempt at being better than his neighbours which jarred so painfully on the feelings of his acquaintances, did not injure him in the estimation of his wife.
Could she even have admitted that he had a fault, his early death would have blotted out the memory of it. She wept as for the loss of the most perfect treasure with which mortal woman had ever been endowed; for weeks after he was gone the idea of future happiness in this world was hateful to her; consolation, as it is called, was insupportable, and tears and sleep were her only relief.
But God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb. She knew that she had within her the living source of other cares. She knew that there was to be created for her another subject of weal or woe, of unutterable joy or despairing sorrow, as God in his mercy might vouchsafe to her. At first this did not augment her grief! To be the mother of a poor infant, orphaned before it was born, brought forth to the sorrows of an ever desolate hearth, nurtured amidst tears and wailing, and then turned adrift into the world without the aid of a father's care! There was at first no joy in this.
By degrees, however, her heart became anxious for another object, and, before its birth, the stranger was expected with all the eagerness of a longing mother. Just eight months after the father's death a second John Bold was born, and if the worship of one creature can be innocent in another, let us hope that the adoration offered over the cradle of the fatherless infant may not be imputed as sin.
It will not be worth our while to define the character of the child, or to point out in how far the faults of the father were redeemed within that little breast by the virtues of the mother. The baby, as a baby, was all that was delightful, and I cannot foresee that it will be necessary for us to inquire into the facts of his after life. Our present business at Barchester will not occupy us above a year or two at the furthest, and I will leave it to some other pen to produce, if necessary, the biography of John Bold the Younger.
But, as a baby, this baby was all that could be desired. This fact no one attempted to deny. 'Is he not delightful?' she would say to her father, looking into his face from her knees, he lustrous eyes overflowing with soft tears, her young face encircled by her close widow's cap and her hands on each side of the cradle in which her treasure was sleeping. The grandfather would gladly admit that the treasure was delightful, and the uncle archdeacon himself would agree, and Mrs Grantly, Eleanor's sister, would re-echo the word with true sisterly energy; and Mary Bold--but Mary Bold was a second worshipper at the same shrine.
The baby was really delightful; he took his food with a will, struck out his toes merrily whenever his legs were uncovered, and did not have fits. These are supposed to be the strongest points of baby perfection, and in all these our baby excelled.
And in this the widow's deep grief was softened, and a sweet balm was poured into the wound which she had thought nothing but death could heal. How much kinder is God to us than we are willing to be to ourselves! At the loss of every dear face, at the last going of every well beloved one, we all doom ourselves to an eternity of sorrow, and look to waste ourselves away in an ever-running fountain of tears. How seldom does such grief endure! How blessed is the goodness which forbids it to do so! 'Let me ever remember my living friends, but forget them as soon as they are dead,' was the prayer of a wise man who understood the mercy of God. Few perhaps would have the courage to express such a wish, and yet to do so would only be to ask for that release from sorrow, which a kind Creator almost always extends to us.
I would not, however, have it imagined that Mrs Bold forgot her husband. She really thought of him with all conjugal love, and enshrined his memory in the innermost centre of her heart. But yet she was happy in her baby. It was so sweet to press the living toy to her breast, and feel that a human being existed who did owe, and was to owe everything to her; whose daily food was drawn from herself; whose little wants could all be satisfied by her; whose infant tongue would make his first effort in calling her by the sweetest name a woman can hear. And so Eleanor's bosom became tranquil, and she set about her new duties eagerly and gratefully.
As regards the concerns of the world, John Bold had left his widow in prosperous circumstances. He had bequeathed to her all that he possessed, and that comprised an income much exceeding what she or her friends thought necessary for her. It amounted to nearly a thousand a year; and when she reflected on its extent, her dearest hope was to hand it over, not only unimpaired, but increased, to her husband's son, to her own darling, to the little man who now lay sleeping on her knee, happily ignorant of the cares which were to be accumulated in his behalf.
When John Bold died, she earnestly implored her father to come and live with her, but this Mr Harding declined, though for some weeks he remained with her as a visitor. He could not be prevailed upon to forego the possession of some small house of his own, and so remained in the lodgings he had first selected over a chemist's shop in the High Street at Barchester.
2. Dr And Mrs Proudie
This narrative is supposed to commence immediately after the installation of Dr Proudie. I will not describe the ceremony, as I do not precisely understand its nature. I am ignorant whether a bishop be chaired like a member of parliament, or carried in a gilt coach like a lord mayor, or sworn in like a justice of the peace, or introduced like a peer to the upper house, or led between two brethren like a knight of the garter; but I do know that every thing was properly done, and that nothing fit or becoming to a young bishop was omitted on the occasion.
Dr Proudie was not the man to allow anything to be omitted that might be becoming to his new dignity. He understood well the value of forms, and knew that the due observations of rank could not be maintained unless the exterior trappings belonging to it were held in proper esteem. He was a man born to move in high circles; at least so he thought himself and circumstances had certainly sustained him in this view. He was the nephew of a Irish baron by his mother's side, and his wife was the niece of a Scottish earl. He had for years held some clerical office appertaining to courtly matters, which had enabled him to live in London, and to entrust his parish to his curate. He had been a preacher to the royal beefeaters, curator of theological manuscripts in the Ecclesiastical Courts, chaplain of the Queen's Yeomanry Guard, and almoner to his Royal Highness the Prince of Rappe-Blankenburg.
His residence in the metropolis, rendered necessary by the duties entrusted to him, his high connections, and the peculiar talents and nature of the man, recommended him to persons in power; and Dr Proudie became known as a useful and rising clergyman.
Some few years since, even within the memory of many who are not yet willing to call themselves old, a liberal clergyman was a person not frequently to be met. Sydney Smith was such, and was looked on as a little better than an infidel; a few others also might be named, but they were 'rarae aves', and were regarded with doubt and distrust by their brethren. No man was so surely a tory as a country rector--nowhere were the powers that be so cherished as at Oxford.
When, however, Dr Whately was made an archbishop, and Dr Hampden some years afterwards regius professor, many wise divines saw that a change was taking place in men's minds, and that more liberal ideas would henceforward be suitable to the priests as well as to the laity. Clergymen began to be heard of who had ceased to anathematise papists on the one hand, or vilify dissenters on the other. It appeared clear that high church principles, as they are called, were no longer to be the surest claims to promotion with at any rate one section of statesmen, and Dr Proudie was one among those who early in life adapted himself to the views held by the whigs on most theological and religious subjects. He bore with the idolatry of Rome, tolerated even the infidelity of Socinianism, and was hand and glove with the Presbyterian Synods of Scotland and Ulster.
Such a man at such a time was found to be useful, and Dr Proudie's name began to appear in the newspapers. He was made one of a commission who went over to Ireland to arrange matters preparative to the working of the national board; he became honorary secretary to another commission nominated to inquire into the revenues of cathedral chapters; and had had something to do with both the regium donum and the Maynooth Grant.
It must not be on this account be taken as proved that Dr Proudie was a man of great mental powers, or even of much capacity for business, for such qualities had not been required in him. In the arrangement of those church reforms with which he was connected, the ideas and original conception of the work to be done were generally furnished by the liberal statesmen of the day, and the labour of the details was borne by officials of a lower rank. It was, however, thought expedient that the name of some clergyman should appear in such matters, and as Dr Proudie had become known as a tolerating divine, great use of this sort was made of his name. If he did not do much active good, he never did any harm; he was amenable to those who were really in authority, and at the sittings of the various boards to which he belonged maintained a kind of dignity which had its value.
He was certainly possessed of sufficient tact to answer the purpose for which he was required without making himself troublesome; but it must not therefore be surmised that he doubted his own power, or failed to believe that he could himself take a high part in high affairs when his own turn came. His was biding his time, and patiently looking forward to the days when he himself would sit authoritative at some board, and talk and direct, and rule the roost, while lesser stars sat round and obeyed, as he had so well accustomed himself to do.
His reward and his time had now come. He was selected for the vacant bishopric, and on the next vacancy which might occur in any diocese would take his place in the House of Lords, prepared to give not a silent vote in all matters concerning the weal of the church establishment. Toleration was to be the basis on which he was to fight his battles, and in the honest courage of his heart he thought no evil would come to him in encountering even such foes as his brethren of Exeter and Oxford.
Dr Proudie was an ambitious man, and before he was well consecrated Bishop of Barchester, he had begun to look up to archepiscopal splendour, and the glories of Lambeth, or at any rate of Bishopsthorpe. He was comparatively young, and had, as he fondly flattered himself, been selected as possessing such gifts, natural and acquired, as must be sure to recommend him to a yet higher notice, now that a higher sphere was opened to him. Dr Proudie was, therefore, quite prepared to take a conspicuous part in all theological affairs appertaining to these realms; and having such views, by no means intended to bury himself at Barchester as his predecessor had done. No: London should still be his ground: a comfortable mansion in a provincial city might be well enough for the dead months of the year. Indeed Dr Proudie had always felt it necessary to his position to retire from London when other great and fashionable people did so; but London should still be his fixed residence, and it was in London that he resolved to exercise that hospitality so peculiarly recommended to all bishops by St Paul. How otherwise could he keep himself before the world? How else give the government, in matters theological, the full benefit of his weight and talents?
This resolution was no doubt a salutary one as regarded the world at large, but was not likely to make him popular either with the clergy or the people of Barchester. Dr Grantly had always lived there; and in truth it was hard for a bishop to be popular after Dr Grantly. His income had averaged L 9000 a year; his successor was to be rigidly limited to L 5000. He had but one child on whom to spend his money; Dr Proudie had seven or eight. He had been a man of few personal expenses, and they had been confined to the tastes of a moderate gentleman; but Dr Proudie had to maintain a position in fashionable society, and had that to do with comparatively small means. Dr Grantly had certainly kept his carriages, as became a bishop; but his carriage, horses, and coachmen, though they did very well for Barchester, would have been almost ridiculous at Westminster. Mrs Proudie determined that her husband's equipage should not shame her, and things on which Mrs Proudie resolved, were generally accomplished.
From all this it was likely to result that Dr Proudie would not spend much money at Barchester; whereas his predecessor had dealt with the tradesmen of the city in a manner very much to their satisfaction. The Grantlys, father and son, had spent their money like gentlemen; but it soon became whispered in Barchester that Dr Proudie was not unacquainted with those prudent devices by which the utmost show of wealth is produced from limited means.
In person Dr Proudie is a good-looking man; spruce and dapper, and very tidy. He is somewhat below middle height, being about five feet four; but he makes up for the inches which he wants by the dignity with which he carries those which he has. It is no fault of his own if he has not a commanding eye, for he studies hard to assume it. His features are well formed, though perhaps the sharpness of his nose may give to his face in the eyes of some people an air of insignificance. If so, it is greatly redeemed by his mouth and chin, of which he is justly proud.
Dr Proudie may well be said to have been a fortunate man, for he was not born to wealth, and he is now bishop of Barchester; but nevertheless he has his cares. He has a large family, of whom the three eldest are daughters, now all grown up and fit for fashionable life; and he has a wife. It is not my intention to breathe a word against the character of Mrs Proudie, but still I cannot think that with all her virtues she adds much to her husband's happiness. The truth is that in matters domestic she rules supreme over her titular lord, and rules with a rod of iron. Nor is this all. Things domestic Dr Proudie might have abandoned to her, if not voluntarily, yet willingly. But Mrs Proudie is not satisfied with such home dominion, and stretches her power over all his movements, and will not even abstain from things spiritual. In fact, the bishop is henpecked. The archdeacon's wife, in her happy home at Plumstead, knows how to assume the full privileges of her rank, and express her own mind in becoming tone and place. But Mrs Grantly's sway, if sway she has, is easy and beneficent. She never shames her husband; before the world she is a pattern of obedience; her voice is never loud, nor her looks sharp: doubtless she values power, and has not unsuccessfully striven to acquire it; but she knows what should be the limits of woman's rule.
Not so Mrs Proudie. This lady is habitually authoritative to all, but to her poor husband she is despotic. Successful as has been his career in the eyes of the world, it would seem that in the eyes of his wife he is never right. All hope of defending himself has long passed from him; indeed he rarely even attempts self-justification; and is aware that submission produces the nearest approach to peace which his own house can ever attain.
Mrs Proudie has not been able to sit at the boards and committees to which her husband has been called by the state; nor, as he often reflects, can she make her voice heard in the House of Lords. It may be that she will refuse to him permission to attend to this branch of a bishop's duties; it may be that she will insist on his close attendance to his own closet. He has never whispered a word on the subject to living ears, but he has already made his fixed resolve. Should such an attempt be made he will rebel. Dogs have turned against their masters, and even Neapolitans against their rulers, when oppression has been too severe. And Dr Proudie feels within himself that if the cord be drawn too tight, he also can muster courage and resist.
The state of vassalage in which our bishop had been kept by his wife has not tended to exalt his character in the eyes of his daughters, who assume in addressing their father too much of that authority which is not properly belonging, at any rate, to them. They are, on the whole, fine engaging young ladies. They are tall and robust like their mother, whose high cheek bones, and--we may say auburn hair, they all inherit. They think somewhat too much of their grand uncles, who have not hitherto returned the compliment by thinking much of them. But now that their father is a bishop, it is probable that family ties will be drawn closer. Considering their connection with the church, they entertain but few prejudices against the pleasures of the world; and have certainly not distressed their parents, as too many English girls have lately done, by any enthusiastic wish to devote themselves to the seclusion of a protestant nunnery. Dr Proudie's sons are still at school.
One other marked peculiarity in the character of the bishop's wife must be mentioned. Though not averse to the society and manners of the world, she is in her own way a religious woman; and the form in which this tendency shows itself in her is by a strict observance of the Sabbatarian rule. Dissipation and low dresses during the week are, under her control, atoned for by three services, an evening sermon read by herself, and a perfect abstinence from any cheering employment on Sunday. Unfortunately for those under her roof to whom the dissipation and low dresses are not extended, her servants namely and her husband, the compensating strictness of the Sabbath includes all. Woe betide the recreant housemaid who is found to have been listening to the honey of a sweetheart in the Regent's Park, instead of the soul-stirring evening discourse of Mr Slope. Not only is she sent adrift, but she is so sent with a character which leaves her little hope of a decent place. Woe betide the six-foot hero who escorts Mrs Proudie to her pew in red plush breeches, if he slips away to the neighbouring beer-shop, instead of falling into the back seat appropriated to his use. Mrs Proudie has the eyes of Argus for such offenders. Occasional drunkenness in the week may be overlooked, for six feet on low wages are hardly to be procured if the morals are always kept at a high pitch; but not even for the grandeur or economy will Mrs Proudie forgive a desecration of the Sabbath.
In such matters, Mrs Proudie allows herself to be often guided by that eloquent preacher, the Rev. Mr Slope, and as Dr Proudie is guided by his wife, it necessarily follows that the eminent man we have named has obtained a good deal of control over Dr Proudie in matters concerning religion. Mr Slope's only preferment has hitherto been that of reader and preacher in a London district church; and on the consecration of his friend the new bishop, he readily gave this up to undertake the onerous but congenial duties of domestic chaplain to the bishop.Mr Slope, however, on his first introduction must not be brought before the public at the tail of a chapter.
3. The Bishop's Chaplain
Of the Rev. Mr Slope's parentage I am not able to say much. I have heard it asserted that he is lineally descended from that eminent physician who assisted at the birth of Mr T. Shandy, and that in early years he added an 'e' to his name, for the sake of euphony, as other great men have done before him. If this be so, I presumed he was christened Obadiah, for that is his name, in commemoration of the conflict in which his ancestor so distinguished himself. All my researches on the subject have, however, failed in enabling me to fix the date on which the family changed its religion.
He had been a sizar at Cambridge, and had there conducted himself at any rate successfully, for in due process of time he was an MA, having university pupils under his care. From thence he was transferred to London, and became preacher at a new district church built on the confines of Baker Street. He was in this position when congenial ideas on religious subjects recommended him to Mrs Proudie, and the intercourse had become close and confidential.
Having been thus familiarly thrown among the Misses Proudie, it was more than natural that some softer feeling than friendship should be engendered. There have been some passages of love between him and the eldest hope, Olivia; but they have hitherto resulted in no favourable arrangement. In truth, Mr Slope, having made a declaration of affection, afterwards withdrew it on finding that the doctor had no immediate worldly funds with which to endow his child; and it may easily be conceived that Miss Proudie, after such an announcement on his part, was not readily disposed to receive any further show of affection. On the appointment of Dr Proudie to the bishopric of Barchester, Mr Slope's views were, in truth, somewhat altered. Bishops, even though they be poor, can provide for clerical children, and Mr Slope began to regret that he had not been more disinterested. He no sooner heard the tidings of the doctor's elevation, than he recommenced his siege, not violently, indeed, but respectfully, and at a distance. Olivia Proudie, however, was a girl of spirit: she had the blood of two peers in her veins, and, better still, she had another lover on her books; so Mr Slope sighed in vain; and the pair soon found it convenient to establish a mutual bond of inveterate hatred.
It may be thought singular that Mrs Proudie's friendship for the young clergyman should remain firm after such an affair; but, to tell the truth, she had known nothing of it. Though very fond of Mr Slope herself, she had never conceived the idea that either of her daughters would become so, and remembering that their high birth and social advantages, expected for them matches of a different sort. Neither the gentleman nor the lady found it necessary to enlighten her. Olivia's two sisters had each known of the affair, so had all the servants, so had all the people living in the adjoining houses on either side; but Mrs Proudie had been kept in the dark.
Mr Slope soon comforted himself with the reflection that, as he had been selected as chaplain to the bishop, it would probably be in his power to get the good things in the bishop's gift, without troubling himself with the bishop's daughter; and he found himself able to endure the pangs of rejected love. As he sat himself down in the railway carriage, confronting the bishop and Mrs Proudie, as they started on their first journey to Barchester, he began to form in his own mind a plan of his future life. He knew well his patron's strong points, but he knew the weak ones as well. He understood correctly enough to what attempts the new bishop's high spirit would soar, and he rightly guessed that public life would better suit the great man's taste, than the small details of diocesan duty.
He, therefore, he, Mr Slope, would in effect be bishop of Barchester. Such was his resolve; and to give Mr Slope his due, he had both courage and spirit to bear him out in his resolution. He knew that he should have a hard battle to fight, for the power and patronage of the see would be equally coveted by another great mind--Mrs Proudie would also choose to be bishop of Barchester. Mr Slope, however, flattered himself that he could outmanoeuvre the lady. She must live much in London, while he would always be on the spot. She would necessarily remain ignorant of much while he would know everything belonging to the diocese. At first, doubtless, he must flatter and cajole, perhaps yield in some things; but he did not doubt of ultimate triumph. If all other means failed, he could join the bishop against the wife, inspire courage into the unhappy man, lay an axe to the rock of the woman's power, and emancipate the husband.
Such were his thoughts as he sat looking at the sleeping pair in the railway carriage, and Mr Slope is not the man to trouble himself with such thoughts for nothing. He is possessed of more than average abilities, and is of good courage. Though he can stoop to fawn, and stoop low indeed, if need be, he has still within him the power to assume the tyrant; and with the power he has certainly the wish. His acquirements are not of the highest order, but such as they are they are completely under control, and he knows the use of them. He is gifted with a certain kind of pulpit eloquence, not likely, indeed, to be persuasive with men, but powerful with the softer sex. In his sermons he deals greatly in denunciations, excites the minds of his weaker hearers with a not unpleasant terror, and leaves an impression on their minds that all mankind are in a perilous state, and all womankind too, except those who attend regularly to the evening lectures in Baker Street. His looks and tones are extremely severe, so much so that one cannot but fancy that he regards the greater part of the world as being infinitely too bad for his care. As he walks through the streets, his very face denotes his horror of the world's wickedness; and there is always an anathema lurking in the corner of his eye.
In doctrine, he, like his patron, is tolerant of dissent, if so strict a mind can be called tolerant of anything. With Wesleyan-Methodists he has something in common, but his soul trembles in agony at the iniquities of the Puseyites. His aversion is carried to things outward as well as inward. His gall rises at a new church with a high pitched roof; a fullbreasted black silk waistcoat is with him a symbol of Satan; and a profane jest-book would not, in his view, more foully desecrate the church seat of a Christian, than a book of prayer printed with red letters, and ornamented with a cross on the back. Most active clergymen have their hobby, and Sunday observances are his. Sunday, however, is a word which never pollutes his mouth--it is always 'the Sabbath'. The 'desecration of the Sabbath' as he delights to call it, is to him meat and drink:--he thrives upon that as policemen do on the general evil habits of the community. It is the loved subject of all his evening discourses, the source of all his eloquence, the secret of his power over the female heart. To him, the revelation of God appears in that one law given for Jewish observance. To him the mercies of our Saviour speak in vain, to him in vain has been preached that sermon that fell from the divine lips on the mountain--'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth'--'Blessed are the merciful, for the they shall obtain mercy'. To him the New Testament is comparatively of little moment, for from it can he draw no fresh authority for that dominion which he loves to exercise over at least a seventh part of man's allotted time here below.
Mr Slope is tall, and not ill made. His feet and hands are large, as has ever been the case, with all his family, but he has a broad chest and wide shoulders to carry off these excrescences, and on the whole his figure is good. His countenance, however, is not specially prepossessing. His hair is lank, and of a dull pale reddish hue. It is always formed into three straight lumpy masses, each brushed with admirable precision, and cemented with much grease; two of them adhere closely to the sides of his face, and the other lies at right angles above them. He wears no whiskers, and is always punctiliously shaven. His face is nearly of the same colour as his hair, though perhaps a little redder: it is not unlike beef,--beef, however, one would say, of a bad quality. His forehead is capacious and high, but square and heavy, and unpleasantly shining. His mouth is large, though his lips are thin and bloodless; and his big, prominent, pale brown eyes inspire anything but confidence. His nose, however, is his redeeming feature: it is pronounced straight and well-formed; though I myself should have liked it better if it did not possess a somewhat spongy, porous appearance, as though it had been cleverly formed out of a red coloured cork.
I never could endure to shake hands with Mr Slope. A cold, clammy perspiration always exudes from him, the small drops are ever to be seen standing on his brow, and his friendly grasp is unpleasant.
Such is Mr Slope--such is the man who has suddenly fallen into the midst of Barchester Close, and is destined there to assume the station which has heretofore been filled by the son of the late bishop. Think, oh, my meditative reader, what an associate we have here for those comfortable prebendaries, those gentlemanlike clerical doctors, those happy well-used, well-fed minor canons, who have grown into existence at Barchester under the kindly wings of Bishop Grantly!
But not as a mere associate for those does Mr Slope travel down to Barchester with the bishop and his wife. He intends to be, if not their master, at least the chief among them. He intends to lead, and to have followers; he intends to hold the purse strings of the diocese, and draw round him an obedient herd of his poor and hungry brethren.
And here we can hardly fail to draw a comparison between the archdeacon and our new private chaplain; and despite the manifold faults of the former, one can hardly fail to make it much to his advantage.
Both men are eager, much too eager, to support and increase the power of their order. Both are anxious that the world should be priest-governed, though they have probably never confessed as much, even to themselves. Both begrudge any other kind of dominion held by man over man. Dr Grantly, if he admits the Queen's supremacy in things spiritual, only admits it as being due to the quasi priesthood conveyed on the consecrating qualities of her coronation; and he regards things temporal as being by their nature subject to those which are spiritual. Mr Slope's ideas of sacerdotal rule are of a quite different class. He cares nothing, one way or the other, for the Queen's supremacy; these to his ears are empty words, meaning nothing. Forms he regards but little, and such titular expressions of supremacy, consecration, ordination, and the like, convey of themselves no significance to him. Let him be supreme who can. The temporal king, judge, or gaoler, can work but on the body. The spiritual master, if he have the necessary gifts, and can duly use them, has a wider field of empire. He works upon the soul. If he can make himself be believed, he can be all powerful over those who listen. If he is careful to meddle with none who are too strong in intellect, or too weak in flesh, he may indeed be supreme. And such was the ambition of Mr Slope.
Dr Grantly interfered very little with the worldly doings of those who were in any way subject to him. I do not mean to say that he omitted to notice misconduct among his clergy, immorality in his parish, or omissions in his family; but he was not anxious to do so where the necessity could be avoided. He was not troubled with a propensity to be curious, and as long as those around him were tainted with no heretical leaning towards dissent, as long as they fully and freely admitted the efficacy of Mother Church, he was willing that that mother should be merciful and affectionate, prone to indulgence, and unwilling to chastise. He himself enjoyed the good things of this world, and liked to let it be known that he did so. He cordially despised any brother rector who thought harm of dinner-parties, or dreaded the dangers of a moderate claret-jug; consequently dinnerparties and claret-jugs were common in the diocese. He liked to give laws and to be obeyed in them implicitly, but he endeavoured that his ordinances should be within the compass of the man, and not unpalatable to the gentleman. He had ruled among his clerical neighbours now for sundry years, and as he had maintained his power without becoming unpopular, it may be presumed that he had exercised some wisdom.
Of Mr Slope's conduct much cannot be said, as his grand career is yet to commence; but it may be presumed that his tastes will be very different from those of the archdeacon. He conceives it to be his duty to know all the private doings and desires of the flock entrusted to his care. From the poorer classes he exacted and unconditional obedience to set rules of conduct, and if disobeyed he has recourse, like his great ancestor, to the fulminations of an Ernulfus: 'Thou shalt be damned in thy going in and in thy coming out--in thy eating and thy drinking,' &c &c &c. With the rich, experience has already taught him a different line of action is necessary. Men in the upper walks of life do not mind being cursed, and the women, presuming that it be done in delicate phrase, rather like it. But he has not, therefore, given up so important a portion of believing Christians. With the men, indeed, he is generally at variance; they are hardened sinners, on whom the voice of priestly charmer often falls in vain; but with the ladies, old and young, firm and frail, devout and dissipated, he is, as he conceives, all powerful. He can reprove faults with so much flattery, and utter censure in so caressing a manner, that the female heart, if it glow with a spark of low church susceptibility, cannot withstand him. In many houses he is thus an admired guest: the husbands, for their wives' sake, are fain to admit him; and when once admitted it is not easy to shake him off. He has, however, a pawing, greasy way with him, which does not endear him to those who do not value him for their souls' sake, and he is not a man to make himself at once popular in a large circle such as is now likely to surround him at Barchester.
5. A Morning Visit
It was known that Dr Proudie would immediately have to reappoint to the wardenship of the hospital under the act of Parliament to which allusion has been made; but no one imagined that any choice was left to him--no one for a moment thought that he could appoint any other than Mr Harding. Mr Harding himself, when he heard how the matter had been settled, without troubling himself much on the subject, considered it as certain that he would go back to his pleasant house and garden. And though there would be much that was melancholy, nay, almost heartrending, in such a return, he still was glad that it was to be so. His daughter might probably be persuaded to return there with him. She had, indeed, all but promised to do so, though she still entertained an idea that the greatest of mortals, that important atom of humanity, that little god upon earth, Johnny Bold her baby, ought to have a house of his own over his head.
Such being the state of Mr Harding's mind in the matter, he did not feel any peculiar personal interest in the appointment of Dr Proudie to the bishopric. He, as well as others at Barchester, regretted that a man should be sent among them who, they were aware, was not of their way of thinking; but Mr Harding himself was not a bigoted man on points of church doctrine, and he was quite prepared to welcome Dr Proudie to Barchester in a graceful and becoming manner. He had nothing to seek and nothing to fear; he felt that it behoved him to be on good terms with his bishop, and he did not anticipate any obstacle that would prevent it.
In such a frame of mind he proceeded to pay his respects at the palace the second day after the arrival of the bishop and his chaplain. But he did not go alone. Dr Grantly proposed to accompany him, and Mr Harding was not sorry to have a companion, who would remove from his shoulders the burden of conversation in such an interview. In the affair of the consecration of Dr Grantly had been introduced to the bishop, and Mr Harding had also been there. He had, however, kept himself in the background, and he was now to be presented to the great man for the first time.
The archdeacon's feelings were of a much stronger nature. He was not exactly the man to overlook his own slighted claims, or to forgive the preference shown to another. Dr Proudie was playing Venus to his Juno, and he was prepared to wage an internecine war against the owner of the wished for apple, and all his satellites private chaplains, and others.
Nevertheless, it behoved him also to conduct himself towards the intruder as an old archdeacon should conduct himself to an incoming bishop; and though he was well aware of all Dr Proudie's abominable opinions as regarded dissenters, church reform, the hebdomadal council, and such like; though he disliked the man, and hated the doctrines, still he was prepared to show respect to the station of the bishop. So he and Mr Harding called together at the palace.
His lordship was at home, and the two visitors were shown through the accustomed hall into the well-known room, where the good old bishop used to sit. The furniture had been bought at a valuation, and every chair and table, every bookshelf against the wall, and every square in the carpet, was as well known to each of them as their own bedrooms. Nevertheless they at once felt that they were strangers there. The furniture was for the most part the same, yet the place had been metamorphosed. A new sofa had been introduced, and horrid chintz affair, most unprelatical and almost irreligious; such a sofa as never yet stood in the study of any decent high church clergyman of the Church of England. The old curtains had also given away. They had, to be sure, become dingy, and that which had been originally a rich and goodly ruby had degenerated into a reddish brown. Mr Harding, however, thought the old reddish brown much preferable to the gaudy buff-coloured trumpery moreen which Mrs Proudie had deemed good enough for her husband's own room in the provincial city of Barchester.
Our friends found Dr Proudie sitting on the old bishop's chair, looking very nice in his new apron; they found, too, Mr Slope standing on the hearthrug, persuasive and eager, just as the archdeacon used to stand; but on the sofa they also found Mrs Proudie, an innovation for which a precedent might be in vain be sought in all the annals of the Barchester bishopric!
There she was, however, and they could only make the best of her. The introductions were gone through in much form. The archdeacon shook hands with the bishop and named Mr Harding, who received such an amount of greeting as was due from a bishop to a precentor. His lordship then presented them to his lady wife; the archdeacon first, with archidiaconal honours, and then the precentor with diminished parade. After this Mr Slope presented himself. The bishop, it is true, did mention his name, and so did Mrs Proudie too, in a louder tone; but Mr Slope took it upon himself the chief burden of his own introduction. He had great pleasure in making himself acquainted with Dr Grantly; he had heard much of the archdeacon's good works in that part of the diocese in which his duties as archdeacon had been exercised (thus purposely ignoring the archdeacon's hitherto unlimited dominion over the diocese at large). He was aware that his lordship depended greatly on the assistance which Dr Grantly would be able to give him in that portion of the diocese. He then thrust out his hand, and grasping that of his new foe, bedewed it unmercifully. Dr Grantly in return bowed, looked stiff, contracted his eyebrows, and wiped his hand with his pocket-handkerchief. Nothing abashed, Mr Slope then noticed the precentor, and descended to the grade of the lower clergy. He gave him a squeeze of the hand, damp indeed, but affectionate, and was very glad to make the acquaintance of Mr -; oh, yes, Mr Harding; he had not exactly caught the name-- 'Precentor in the cathedral' surmised Mr Slope. Mr Harding confessed that such was the humble sphere of his work. 'Some parish duties as well,' suggested Mr Slope. Mr Harding acknowledged the diminutive incumbency of St Cuthbert's. Mr Slope then left him alone, having condescended sufficiently, and joined the conversation among the higher powers.
There were four persons there, each of whom considered himself the most important personage in the diocese; himself indeed, or herself, as Mrs Proudie was one of them; and with such a difference of opinion it was not probable that they would get on pleasantly together. The bishop himself actually wore the visible apron, and trusted mainly to that--to that and to his title, both being facts which could not be overlooked. The archdeacon knew his subject, and really understood the business of bishoping, which the others did not; and this was his strong ground. Mrs Proudie had her sex to back her, and her habit of command, and was nothing daunted by the high tone of Dr Grantly's face and figure. Mr Slope had only himself and his own courage and tact to depend on, but he nevertheless was perfectly self-assured, and did not doubt but that he should soon get the better of weak men who trusted so much to externals, as both bishop and archdeacon appeared to do.'Do you reside in Barchester, Dr Grantly?' asked the lady with the sweetest smile.
Dr Grantly explained that he lived in his own parish of Plumstead Episcopi, a few miles out of the city. Whereupon the lady hoped that the distance was not too great for country visiting, as she would be so glad to make the acquaintance of Mrs Grantly. She would take the earliest opportunity, after the arrival of her horses at Barchester; their horses were at present in London; their horses were not immediately coming down, as the bishop would be obliged in a few days, to return to town. Dr Grantly was no doubt aware that the bishop was at present much called upon by the 'University Improvement Committee': indeed, the Committee could not well proceed without him, as their final report had now to be drawn up. The bishop had also to prepare a scheme for the 'Manufacturing Towns Morning and Evening Sunday School Society', of which he was a patron, or president, or director, and therefore the horses would not come down to Barchester at present; but whenever the horses did come down, she would take the earliest opportunity of calling at Plumstead Episcopi, providing the distance was not too great for country visiting.
The archdeacon made his fifth bow: he had made one at each mention of the horses; and promised that Mrs Grantly would do herself the honour of calling at the palace on an early day. Mrs Proudie declared that she would be delighted: she hadn't liked to ask, not being quite sure whether Mrs Grantly had horses; besides, the distance might have been &c, &c.
Dr Grantly again bowed, but said nothing. He could have bought every single individual possession of the whole family of the Proudies, and have restored them as a gift, without much feeling the loss; and had kept a separate pair of horses for the exclusive use of his wife since the day of their marriage; whereas Mrs Proudie had been hitherto jobbed about the streets of London at so much a month during the season; and at other times had managed to walk, or hire a smart fly from the livery stables.
'Are the arrangements with reference to the Sabbath-day schools generally pretty good in your archdeaconry?'
'Sabbath-day schools!' repeated the archdeacon with an affectation of surprise. 'Upon my word, I can't tell; it depends mainly on the parson's wife and daughters. There is none at Plumstead.'
This was almost a fib on the part of the Archdeacon, for Mrs Grantly has a very nice school. To be sure it is not a Sunday School exclusively, and is not so designated; but that exemplary lady always attends there an hour before church, and hears the children say their catechism, and sees that they are clean and tidy for church, with their hands washed, and their shoes tied; and Grisel and Florinda, her daughters, carry thither a basket of large buns, baked on the Saturday afternoon, and distribute them to all the children not especially under disgrace, which buns are carried home after church with considerable content, and eaten hot at tea, being then split and toasted. The children of Plumstead would indeed open their eyes if they heard their venerated pastor declare that there were no Sunday schools in the parish.Mr Slope merely opened his eyes wider, and slightly shrugged his shoulders. He was not, however, prepared to give up his darling project.
'I fear there is a great deal of Sabbath travelling here,' said he, 'on looking at the 'Bradshaw', I see that there are three trains in and three trains out every Sabbath. Could nothing be done to induce the company to withdraw them? Don't you think, Dr Grantly, that a little energy might diminish the evil?'
'Not being a director, I really can't say. But if you can withdraw the passengers, their company, I dare say, will withdraw the trains,' said the doctor. 'It's merely a question of dividends.'
'But surely, Dr Grantly,' said the lady, 'surely we should look at it differently. You and I, for instance, in our position: surely we should do all that we can to control so grievous a sin. Don't you think so, Mr Harding?' and she turned to the precentor, who was sitting mute and unhappy.Mr Harding thought that all porters and stokers, guards, breaksmen, pointsmen ought to have an opportunity of going to church, and he hoped that they all had.
'But surely, surely,' continued Mrs Proudie, 'surely that is not enough. Surely that will not secure such an observance of the Sabbath as we are taught to conceive is not only expedient by indispensable; surely--'
Come what come might, Dr Grantly was not to be forced into a dissertation on a point of doctrine with Mrs Proudie, nor yet with Mr Slope; so without much ceremony he turned his back upon the sofa, and began to hope that Dr Proudie had found the palace repairs had been such as to meet his wishes.
'Yes, yes,' said his lordship; upon the whole he thought so--upon the whole, he didn't know that there was much ground for complaint; the architect, perhaps, might have--but his double, Mr Slope, who had sidled over to the bishop's chair, would not allow his lordship to finish his ambiguous speech.'There is one point I would like to mention, Mr Archdeacon. His lordship asked me to step through the premises, and I see that the stalls in the second stable are not perfect.' 'Why--there's standing for a dozen horses,'said the archdeacon.
'Perhaps so,' said the other; 'indeed, I've no doubt of it; but visitors, you know, often require so much accommodation. There are many of the bishop's relatives who always bring their own horses.'
Dr Grantly promised that due provision for the relatives' horses should be made, as far at least as the extent of the original stable building would allow. He would himself communicate with the architect.
'And the coach-house, Dr Grantly,' continued Mr Slope; 'there is really hardly any room for a second carriage in the large coach-house, and the smaller one, of course, holds only one.'
'And the gas,' chimed in the lady; 'there is no gas through the house, none whatever, but in the kitchen and passages. Surely the palace should have been fitted through with pipes for gas, and hot water too. There is no hot water laid on anywhere above the ground floor. Surely there should be the means of getting hot water in the bed-rooms without having it brought in jugs from the kitchen.'
The bishop had a decided opinion that there should be pipes for hot water. Hot water was very essential for the comfort of the palace. It was, indeed, a requisite in any decent gentleman's house.Mr Slope had remarked that the coping on the garden wall was in many places imperfect. Mrs Proudie had discovered a large hole, evidently the work of rats, in the servants' hall. The bishop expressed an utter detestation of rats. There was nothing, he believed, in this world, that he so much hated as a rat. Mr Slope had, moreover, observed that the locks of the out-houses were very imperfect: he might specify the coal-cellar, and the wood-house.
Mrs Proudie had also seen that those on the doors of the servants' bedrooms were in an equally bad condition; indeed the locks all through the house were old-fashioned and unserviceable.
The bishop thought that a great deal depended on a good lock, and quite as much on the key. He had observed that the fault very often lay with the key, especially if the wards were in any way twisted.
Mr Slope was going on with his catalogue of grievances, when he was somewhat loudly interrupted by the archdeacon who succeeded in explaining that the diocesan architect, or rather his foreman, was the person to be addressed on such subjects; and that he, Dr Grantly, had inquired as to the comfort of the palace, merely as a point of compliment. He was very sorry, however, that so many things had been found amiss: and then he rose from his chair to escape.
Mrs Proudie, though she had contrived to lend her assistance in recapitulating the palatial dilapidations, had not on that account given up her hold of Mr Harding, nor ceased from her cross-examination as the iniquity of Sabbatical amusements. Over and over again had she thrown out her 'surely, surely,' at Mr Harding's devoted head, and ill had that gentleman been able to parry the attack.
He had never before found himself subjected to such a nuisance. Ladies hitherto, when they had consulted him on religious subjects, had listened to what he might choose to say with some deference, and had differed, it they differed, in silence. But Mrs Proudie interrogated him, and then lectured. 'Neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maid servant,' said she, impressively, and more than once, as though Mr Harding had forgotten the words. She shook her finger at him as she quoted the favourite law, as though menacing him with punishment; and then called upon him categorically to state whether he did not think that travelling on the Sabbath was an abomination and a desecration.
Mr Harding had never been so hard pressed in his life. He felt that he ought to rebuke the lady for presuming so to talk to a gentleman and a clergyman so may years her senior; but he recoiled from the idea of scolding the bishop's wife, in the bishop's presence, on his first visit to the palace; moreover, to tell the truth, he was somewhat afraid of her. She, seeing him sit silent and absorbed, by no means refrained from the attack.
'I hope, Mr Harding,' said she, shaking her head slowly and solemnly, 'I hope you will not leave me to think that you approve of Sabbath travelling,' and she looked a look of unutterable meaning into his eyes.
There was no standing for this, for Mr Slope was now looking at him, and so was the bishop, and so was the archdeacon, who had completed his adieux on that side of the room. Mr Harding therefore got up also, and putting out his hand to Mrs Proudie, said: 'If you will come to St Cuthbert's some Sunday, I will preach you a sermon on the subject.'
And so the archdeacon and the precentor took their departure, bowing low to the lady, shaking hands with the lord, and escaping from Mr Slope in the best manner each could. Mr Harding was again maltreated; but Dr Grantly swore deeply in the bottom of his heart, that no earthly consideration should ever again induce him to touch the paw of that impure and filthy animal.
And now, had I the pen of a might poet, would I sing in epic verse the noble wrath of the archdeacon. The palace steps descend to a broad gravel sweep, from whence a small gate opens out into the street, very near the covered gateway leading to the close. The road from the palace door turns to the left, through the spacious gardens, and terminates on the London-road, half a mile from the cathedral.
Till they had passed this small gate and entered the close, neither of them spoke a word; but the precentor clearly saw from his companion's face that a tornado was to be expected, nor was he himself inclined to stop it. Though, by nature far less irritable than the archdeacon, even he was angry: he even--that mild and courteous man--was inclined to express himself in anything but courteous terms.
'Good heavens!' exclaimed the archdeacon, as he placed his foot on the gravel walk of the close, and raising his hat with one hand, passed the other somewhat violently over his now grizzled locks; smoke issued from the uplifted beaver as it were a cloud of wrath, and the safety-valve of his anger opened, and emitted a visible steam, preventing positive explosion and probably apoplexy. 'Good heavens!'--and the archdeacon looked up to the gray pinnacles of the cathedral tower, making a mute appeal to that still living witness which had looked down on the doings of so many bishops of Barchester.'I don't think I shall ever like that Mr Slope,' said Mr Harding.
'Like him!' roared the archdeacon, standing still for a moment to give more force to his voice; 'like him!' All the ravens of the close cawed their assent. The old bells of the tower, in chiming the hour, echoed the words; and the swallows flying out from their nests mutely expressed a similar opinion. Like Mr Slope! Why no, it was not very probable that any Barchester-bred living thing should like Mr Slope!'Nor Mrs Proudie either,' said Mr Harding.
The archdeacon thereupon forgot himself. I will not follow his example, nor shock my readers by transcribing the term in which he expressed his feelings as to the lady who had been named. The ravens and the last lingering notes of the clock bells were less scrupulous, and repeated in corresponding echoes the very improper exclamation. The archdeacon again raised his hat; and another salutary escape of steam was effected.
There was a pause, during which the precentor tried to realise the fact that the wife of the bishop of Barchester had been thus designated, in the close of the cathedral, by the lips of its own archdeacon: but he could not do it.'The bishop seems a quiet man enough,' suggested Mr Harding, having acknowledged to himself his own failure. 'Idiot!' exclaimed the doctor, who for the nonce was not capable of more than spasmodic attempts at utterance.
'Well, he did not seem very bright,' said Mr Harding, 'and yet he has always had the reputation of a clever man. I suppose he's cautious and not inclined to express himself very freely.'
The new bishop of Barchester was already so contemptible a creature in Dr Grantly's eyes, that he could not condescend to discuss his character. He was a puppet to be played by others; a mere wax doll, done up in an apron and a shovel hat, to be stuck on a throne or elsewhere and pulled about by wires as others chose. Dr Grantly did not choose to let himself down low enough to talk about Dr Proudie; but he saw that he would have to talk about the other members of his household, the coadjutor bishops, who had brought his lordship down, as it were, in a box, and were about to handle the wires as they willed. This in itself was a terrible vexation to the archdeacon. Could he have ignored the chaplain, and have fought the bishop, there would have been, at any rate, nothing degrading in such a contest. Let the Queen make whom she would bishop of Barchester; a man, or even an ape, when once a bishop, would be a respectable adversary, if he would but fight, himself. But what was such a person as Dr Grantly to do, when such another person as Mr Slope was put forward as his antagonist?If he, our archdeacon, refused to combat, Mr Slope would walk triumphant over the field, and have the diocese of Barchester under his heel.
If, on the other hand, the archdeacon accepted as his enemy the man whom the new puppet bishop put before him as such, he would have to talk about Mr Slope, and write about Mr Slope, and in all matters treat with Mr Slope, as a being standing, in some degree, on ground similar to his own. He would have to meet Mr Slope; to--Bah! The idea was sickening. He could not bring himself to have to do with Mr Slope.'He is the most thoroughly bestial creature that ever I set my eyes upon,' said the archdeacon. 'Who--the bishop?'
'Bishop! No--I'm not talking about the bishop. How on earth such a creature got ordained!--they'll ordain anybody now, I know; but he's been in the church these ten years; and they used to be a little careful ten years ago.''Oh! You mean Mr Slope.' 'Did you ever see any animal less like a gentleman?' 'I can't say I felt myself much disposed to like him.' 'Like him!' again shouted the doctor, and the assenting ravens again cawed an echo; 'of course you don't like him; it's not a question of liking. But what are we to do with him?' 'Do with him?' asked Mr Harding.
'Yes--what are we to do with him? How are we to treat him? There he is, and there he'll stay. He has put his foot in that palace, and he will never take it out again till he's driven. How are we to get rid of him?'
'I don't suppose he can do us much harm.' 'Not do harm!--Well I think you'll find yourself of a different opinion before a month is gone. What would you say now, if he got himself put into the hospital? Would that be harm?'Mr Harding mused awhile, and then said he didn't think the new bishop would put Mr Slope into the hospital.
'If he doesn't put him there, he'll put him somewhere else where he'll be as bad. I tell you that that man, to all intents and purposes, will be Bishop of Barchester;' and again, Dr Grantly raised his hat, and rubbed his hand thoughtfully and sadly over his head.
'Impudent scoundrel!' he exclaimed after a while. 'To dare to cross-examine me about Sunday schools in the diocese, and Sunday travelling too: I never in my life met his equal for sheer impudence. Why, he must have thought we were two candidates for ordination.''I declare I thought Mrs Proudie the worst of the two,' said Mr Harding.
'When a woman is impertinent one must only put up with it, and keep out of her way in future; but I am not inclined to put up with Mr Slope. "Sabbath travelling!"' and the doctor attempted to imitate the peculiar drawl of the man he so much disliked: '"Sabbath travelling!" Those are the sort of men who will ruin the Church of England, and make the profession of clergyman disreputable. It is not the dissenters or the papists that we should fear, but the set of canting, low-bred hypocrites who are wriggling their way in among us; men who have no fixed principle, no standard ideas of religion or doctrine, but who take up some popular cry, as this fellow has done about "Sabbath travelling."'
Dr Grantly did not again repeat the question aloud, but he did so constantly to himself, 'What were they to do with Mr Slope?' How was he openly, before the world, to show that he utterly disapproved of and abhorred such a man?
Hitherto Barchester had escaped the taint of any extreme rigour of church doctrine. The clergymen of the city and the neighbourhood, though very well inclined to promote highchurch principles, privileges, and prerogatives, had never committed themselves to tendencies, which are somewhat too loosely called Puseyite practices. They all preached in their black gowns, as their fathers had done before them; they wore ordinary black cloth waistcoats; they had not candles on their altars, either lighted or unlighted; they made no private genuflexions, and were contented to confine themselves to such ceremonial observances as had been in vogue for the last hundred years. The services were decently and demurely read in their parish churches, chanting was confined to the cathedral, and the science of intoning was unknown. One young man who had come direct from Oxford as a curate at Plumstead had, after the lapse of two or three Sundays, made a faint attempt, much to the bewilderment of the poorer part of the congregation. Dr Grantly had not been present on the occasion; but Mrs Grantly, who had her own opinion on the subject, immediately after the service expressed a hope that the young gentleman had not been taken ill, and offered to send him all kinds of condiments supposed to be good for a sore throat. After that there had been no more intoning at Plumstead Episcopi.
But now the archdeacon began to meditate on some strong measures of absolute opposition. Dr Proudie and his crew were of the lowest possible order of Church of England clergymen, and therefore it behoved him, Dr Grantly, to be of the very highest. Dr Proudie would abolish all forms and ceremonies, and therefore Dr Grantly felt the sudden necessity of multiplying them. Dr Proudie would consent to deprive the church of all collective authority and rule, and therefore Dr Grantly would stand up for the full power of convocation, and the renewal of its ancient privileges.
It was true that he could not himself intone the service, but he could pressure the cooperation of any number of gentlemanlike curates well trained in the mystery of doing so. He would not willingly alter his own fashion of dress, but he could people Barchester with young clergymen dressed in the longest frocks, and the highest breasted silk waistcoats. He certainly was not prepared to cross himself, or to advocate the real presence; but, without going this length, there were various observances, by adopting which he could plainly show his antipathy to such men as Dr Proudie and Mr Slope.
All these things passed through his mind as he paced up and down the close with Mr Harding. War, war, internecine war was in his heart. He felt that as regarded himself and Mr Slope, one of the two must be annihilated as far as the city of Barchester was concerned; and he did not intend to give way until there was not left to him an inch of ground on which he could stand. He still flattered himself that he could make Barchester too hot to hold Mr Slope, and he had no weakness of spirit to prevent his bringing about such consummation if it were in his power.'I suppose Susan must call at the palace,' said Mr Harding.
'Yes, she shall call there; but it shall be once and once only. I dare say "the horses" won't find it convenient to come to Plumstead very soon, and when that once is done the matter may drop.''I don't suppose Eleanor need call. I don't think Eleanor would get on at all well with Mrs Proudie.'
'Not the least necessity in life,' replied the archdeacon, not without the reflection that a ceremony which was necessary for his wife, might not be at all binding on the widow of John Bold. 'Not the slightest reason on earth why she should do so, if she doesn't like it. For myself, I don't think that any decent young woman should be subjected to the nuisance of being in the same room with that man.'
And so the two clergymen parted. Mr Harding going to his daughter's house, and the archdeacon seeking the seclusion of his brougham.
The new inhabitants of the palace did not express any higher opinion of their visitors than their visitors had expressed of them. Though they did not use quite such strong language as Dr Grantly had done, they felt as much personal aversion, and were quite as well aware as he was that there would be a battle to be fought, and that there was hardly room for Proudieism in Barchester as long as Grantlyism was predominant.
Indeed, it may be doubted whether Mr Slope had not already within his breast a better prepared system of strategy, a more accurately-defined line of hostile conduct than the archdeacon. Dr Grantly was going to fight because he found that he hated the man. Mr Slope had predetermined to hate the man because he foresaw the necessity of fighting him. When he had first reviewed the carte de pays, previous to his entry into Barchester, the idea had occurred to him of conciliating the archdeacon, of cajoling and flattering him into submission, and of obtaining the upper hand by cunning instead of courage. A little inquiry, however, sufficed to convince him that all his cunning would fail to win over such a man as Dr Grantly to such a mode of action as that to be adopted by Mr Slope; and then he determined to fall back upon his courage. He at once saw that open battle against Dr Grantly and all Dr Grantly's adherents was a necessity of his position, and he deliberately planned the most expedient method of giving offence.
Soon after his arrival the bishop had intimated to the dean that, with the permission of the canon then in residence, his chaplain would preach in the cathedral on the next Sunday. The canon in residence happened to be the Honourable and Reverend Dr Vesey Stanhope, who at this time was very busy on the shores of Lake Como, adding to that unique collection of butterflies for which he is so famous. Or, rather, he would have been in residence but for the butterflies and other such summer-day considerations; and the vicar-choral, who was to take his place in the pulpit, by no means objected to having his word done for him by Mr Slope.
Mr Slope accordingly preached, and if a preacher can have satisfaction in being listened to, Mr Slope ought to have been gratified. I have reason to think that he was gratified, and that he left the pulpit with the conviction that he had done what he intended to do when he entered it.
On this occasion the new bishop took his seat for the first time in the throne allotted to him. New scarlet cushions and drapery had been prepared, with new gilt binding and new fringe. The old carved oak-wood of the throne, ascending with its numerous grotesque pinnacles, half-way up to the rood of the choir, had been washed, and dusted, and rubbed, and it all looked very smart. Ah! How often sitting there, in happy early days, on those lowly benches in front of the altar, have I whiled away the tedium of a sermon considering how best I might thread my way up amidst those wooden towers, and climb safely to the topmost pinnacle!
All Barchester went to hear Mr Slope; either for that or to gaze at the new bishop. All the best bonnets of the city were there, and moreover all the best glossy clerical hats. Not a stall but had its fitting occupant; for though some of the prebendaries might be away in Italy or elsewhere, their places were filled by brethren, who flocked into Barchester on the occasion. The dean was there, a heavy old man, now too old, indeed, to attend frequently in his place; and so was the archdeacon. So also were the chancellor, the treasurer, the precentor, sundry canons and minor canons, and every lay member of the choir, prepared to sing the new bishop in with due melody and harmonious expression of sacred welcome.
The service was certainly well performed. Such was always the case at Barchester, as the musical education of the choir had been good, and the voices had been carefully selected. The psalms were beautifully chanted; the Te Deum was magnificently sung; and the litany was given in a manner, which is still to be found at Barchester, but, if my taste be correct, is to be found nowhere else. The litany of Barchester cathedral has long been the special task to which Mr Harding's skill and voice have been devoted. Crowded audiences generally make good performers, and though Mr Harding was not aware of any extraordinary exertion on his part, yet probably he rather exceeded his usual mark. Others were doing their best, and it was natural that he should emulate his brethren. So the service went on, and at last Mr Slope got into the pulpit.
He chose for his text a verse from the precept addressed by St Paul to Timothy, as to the conduct necessary in a spiritual pastor and guide, and it was immediately evident that the good clergy of Barchester were to have a lesson.
'Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.' These were the words of the text, and with such a subject in such a place, it may be supposed that such a preacher would be listened to by such an audience. He was listened to with breathless attention, and not without considerable surprise. Whatever opinion of Mr Slope might have been held in Barchester before he commenced, his discourse, none of his hearers, when it was over, could mistake him for either a fool or a coward.
It would not be becoming were I to travesty a sermon, or even repeat the language of it in the pages of a novel. In endeavouring to depict the characters of the persons of whom I write, I am to a certain extent forced to speak of sacred things. I trust, however, that I shall not be thought to scoff at the pulpit, though some may imagine that I do not feel the reverence that is due to the cloth. I may question the infallibility of the teachers, but I hope that I shall not therefore be accused of doubt as to the thing to be taught.
Mr Slope, in commencing his sermon, showed no slight tact in his ambiguous manner of hinting that, humble as he was himself, he stood there as the mouthpiece of the illustrious divine who sat opposite to him; and having presumed so much, he gave forth a very accurate definition of the conduct which that prelate would rejoice to see in the clergymen now brought under his jurisdiction. It is only necessary to say, that the peculiar points insisted on were exactly those which were most distasteful to the clergy of the diocese, and most averse to their practices and opinions; and that all those peculiar habits and privileges which have always been dear to high-church priests, to that party which is now scandalously called the high-and-dry church, were ridiculed, abused, and anathematised. Now, the clergymen of the diocese of Barchester are all of the high-and-dry church.
Having thus, according to his own opinion, explained how a clergyman should show himself approved unto God, as a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, he went on to explain how the word of truth should be divided; and here he took a rather narrow view of the question; and fetched arguments from afar. His object was to express his abomination of all ceremonious modes of utterance, to cry down any religious feeling which might be excited, not by the sense, but by the sound of words, and in fact to insult the cathedral practices. Had St Paul spoken of rightly pronouncing instead of rightly dividing the word of truth, this part of his sermon would have been more to the purpose; but the preacher's immediate object was to preach Mr Slope's doctrine, and not St Paul's, and he contrived to give the necessary twist to the text with some skill.
He could not exactly say, preaching from a cathedral pulpit, that chanting should be abandoned in cathedral services. By such an assertion, he would have overshot his mark and rendered himself absurd, to the delight of his hearers. He could, however, and did, allude with heavy denunciations to the practice of intoning in parish churches, although the practice was not but unknown in the diocese; and from thence he came round to the undue preponderance, which he asserted, music over meaning in the beautiful service which they had just heard. He was aware, he said, that the practices of our ancestors could not be abandoned at a moment's notice; the feelings of the aged would be outraged, and the minds of respectable men would be shocked. There were many, he was aware, of not sufficient calibre of thought to perceive, of not sufficient education to know, that a mode of service, which was effective when outward ceremonies were of more moment than inward feelings, had become all but barbarous at a time when inward conviction was everything, when each word of the minister's lips should fall intelligibly into the listener's heart. Formerly the religion of the multitude had been an affair of the imagination: now, in these latter days, it had become necessary that a Christian should have a reason for his faith--should not only believe, but digest-not only hear, but understand. The words of our morning service, how beautiful, how apposite, how intelligible they were, when read with simple and distinct decorum! But how much of the meaning of the words was lost when they were produced with all the meretricious charms of melody! &c &c.
Here was a sermon to be preached before Mr Archdeacon Grantly, Mr Precentor Harding, and the rest of them! Before a whole dean and chapter assembled in their own cathedral! Before men who had grown old in the exercise of their peculiar services, with a full conviction of their excellence for all intended purposes! This too from such a man, a clerical parvenu, a man without a cure, a mere chaplain, an intruder among them; a fellow raked up, so said Dr Grantly, from the gutters of Marylebone! They had to sit through it! None of them, not even Dr Grantly, could close his ears, nor leave the house of God during the hours of service. They were under an obligation of listening, and that too, without any immediate power of reply.
There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilised and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling audiences to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, (sic) and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. Let a professor of law or physic find his place in a lecture-room, and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases, and he will pour them forth to empty benches. Let a barrister attempt to talk without talking well, and he will talk but seldom. A judge's charge need be listened to per force by none but the jury, prisoner, and gaoler (sic). A member of parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town-councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday's rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God's service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship; but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for escape, which is the common consequence of common sermons.
With what complacency will a young parson deduce false conclusions from misunderstood texts, and then threaten us with all the penalties of Hades if we neglect to comply with the injunctions he has given us! Yes, my too self-confident juvenile friend, I do believe in those mysteries, which are so common in your mouth; I do believe in the unadulterated word which you hold there in your hand; but you must pardon me if, in some things, I doubt your interpretation. The bible is good, the prayer-book is good, nay, you yourself would be acceptable, if you would read to me some portion of those time-honoured discourses which our great divines have elaborated in the full maturity of their powers. But you must excuse me, my insufficient young lecturer, if I yawn over your imperfect sentences, your repeated phrases, your false pathos, your drawlings (sic) and denouncings (sic), your humming and hawing, your oh-ing and ah-ing, your black gloves and your white handkerchief. To me, it all means nothing; and hours are too precious to be so wasted--if one could only avoid it.
And here I must make a protest against the pretence, so often put forward by the working clergy, that they are overburdened by the multitude of sermons to be preached. We are all too fond of our own voices, and a preacher is encouraged in the vanity of making his heard by the privilege of a compelled audience. His sermon is the pleasant morsel of his life, his delicious moment of self-exaltation. 'I have preached nine sermons this week, four the week before. I have preached twenty-three sermons this month. It is really too much.' 'Too much for the strength of any one.' 'Yes,' he answered meekly, 'indeed it is; I am beginning to feel it painfully.' 'Would,' said I, 'you could feel it--would that you could be made to feel it.' But he never guessed that my heart was wrung for the poor listeners.
There was, at any rate, no tedium felt in listening to Mr Slope on the occasion in question. His subject came too home to his audience to be dull; and, to tell the truth, Mr Slope had the gift of using words forcibly. He was heard through his thirty minutes of eloquence with mute attention and open ears; but with angry eyes, which glared found form one enraged parson to another, with wide-spread nostrils from which already burst forth fumes of indignation, and with many shufflings (sic) of the feet and uneasy motions of the body, which betokened minds disturbed, and hearts not at peace with all the world.
At last the bishop, who, of all the congregation, had been most surprised, and whose hair almost stood on end with terror, gave the blessing in a manner not at all equal to that in which he had long been practising it in his own study, and the congregation was free to go their way.
7. The Dean And Chapter Take Counsel
All Barchester was in a tumult. Dr Grantly could hardly get himself out of the cathedral porch before he exploded in his wrath. The old dean betook himself silently to his deanery, afraid to speak; and there sat, half stupefied, pondering many things in vain. Mr Harding crept forth solitary and unhappy; and, slowly passing beneath the elms of the close, could scarcely bring himself to believe that the words which he had heard had proceeded from the pulpit of the Barchester Cathedral. Was he again to be disturbed? Was his whole life to be shown up as a useless sham a second time? would he have to abdicate his precentorship, as he had his wardenship, and to give up chanting, as he had given up his twelve old bedesmen? And what if he did! Some other Jupiter, some other Mr Slope, would come and turn him out of St Cuthbert's. Surely he could not have been wrong all his life in chanting the litany as he had done! He began, however, to have doubts. Doubting himself was Mr Harding's weakness. It is not, however, the usual fault of his order.
Yes! All Barchester was in a tumult. It was not only the clergy who were affected. The laity also had listened to Mr Slope's new doctrine, all with surprise, some with indignation, and some with a mixed feeling, in which dislike of the preacher was not so strongly blended. The old bishop and his chaplain, the dean and his canons and minor canons, the old choir, and especially Mr Harding who was at the head of it, had all been popular in Barchester. They had spent their money and done good; the poor had not been ground down; the clergy in society had neither been overbearing nor austere; and the whole repute of the city was due to its ecclesiastical importance. Yet there were those who had heard Mr Slope with satisfaction.
It is so pleasant to receive a fillip of excitement when suffering from the dull routine of everyday life! The anthems and Te Deums were in themselves delightful, but they had been heard so often! Mr Slope was certainly not delightful, but he was new, and, moreover, clever. They had long thought it slow, so said now may of the Barchesterians, to go on as they had done in their old humdrum way, giving ear to none of the religious changes which were moving the world without. People in advance of the age now had new ideas, and it was quite time that Barchester should go in advance. Mr Slope might be right. Sunday certainly had to been strictly kept in Barchester, except as regarded the cathedral services. Indeed the two hours between services had long been appropriated to morning calls and hot luncheons. Then Sunday schools; Sabbath-day schools Mr Slope had called them. The late bishop had really not thought of Sunday schools as he should have done. (These people probably did not reflect that catechisms and collects are quite hard work to the young mind as book-keeping is to the elderly; and that quite as little feeling of worship enters into one task as the other.) And then, as regarded that great question of musical services, there might be much to be said on Mr Slope's side of the question. It certainly was the fact, that people went to the cathedral to hear the music &c &c.
And so a party absolutely formed itself in Barchester on Mr Slope's side of the question! This consisted, among the upper classes, chiefly of ladies. No man--that is, no gentleman--could possibly be attracted by Mr Slope, or consent to sit at the feet of so abhorrent a Gamaliel. Ladies are sometimes less nice in their appreciation of physical disqualification; and, provided that a man speak to them well, they will listen, though he speak from a mouth never so deformed and hideous. Wilkes was most fortunate as a lover; and the damp, sandy-haired, saucer-eyed, red-fisted Mr Slope was powerful only over the female breast.
There were, however, one or two of the neighbouring clergy who thought it not quite safe to neglect the baskets in which for the nonce were stored the loaves and fishes of the diocese of Barchester. They, and they only, came to call on Mr Slope after his performance in the cathedral pulpit. Among them Mr Quiverful, the rector of Puddingdale, whose wife still continued to present him from year to year with fresh pledges of her love, and so to increase his cares and, it is to be hoped, his happiness equally. Who can wonder that a gentleman, with fourteen living children and a bare income of L 400 a year, should look after the loaves and fishes, ever when they are under the thumb of Mr Slope?
Very soon after the Sunday on which the sermon was preached, the leading clergy of the neighbourhood held high debate together as to how Mr Slope should be put down. In the first place he should never again preach from the pulpit of Barchester cathedral. This was Dr Grantly's earliest dictum; and they all agreed, providing only that they had the power to exclude him. Dr Grantly declared that the power rested with the dean and chapter, observing that no clergyman out of the chapter had a claim to preach there, saving only the bishop himself. To this the dean assented, but alleged that contests on such a subject would be unseemly; to which rejoined a meagre little doctor, one of the cathedral prebendaries, that the contest must be all on the side of Mr Slope if every prebendary were always there ready to take his own place in the pulpit. Cunning little meagre doctor, whom it suits well to live in his own cosy house within Barchester close, and who is well content to have his little fling at Dr Vesey Stanhope and other absentees, whose Italian villas, or enticing London homes, are more tempting than cathedral stalls and residences!
To this answered the burly chancellor, a man rather silent indeed, but very sensible, that absent prebendaries had their vicars, and that in such case the vicar's right to the pulpit was the same as that of the higher order. To which the dean assented, groaning deeply at these truths. Thereupon, however, the meagre doctor remarked that they would be in the hands of their minor canons, one of whom might at any hour betray his trust. Whereon was heard from the burly chancellor an ejaculation sounding somewhat like 'Pooh, pooh, pooh!' but it might have been that the worthy man was but blowing out the heavy breath from his windpipe. Why silence him at all, suggested Mr Harding. Let them not be ashamed to hear what any man might have to preach to them, unless he preached false doctrine; in which case, let the bishop silence him. So spoke our friend; vainly; for human ends must be attained by human means. But the dean saw a ray of hope out of those purblind old eyes of his. Yes, let them tell the bishop how distasteful to them was this Mr Slope: new bishop just come to his seat could not wish to insult his clergy while the gloss was yet fresh on his first apron.
Then up rose Dr Grantly; and, having thus collected the scattered wisdom of his associates, spoke forth with words of deep authority. When I say up rose the archdeacon, I speak of the inner man, which then sprang up to more immediate action, for the doctor had, bodily, been standing all along with his back to the dean's empty firegrate, and the tails of his frock coat supported over his two arms. His hands were in his breeches pockets.
'It is quite clear that this man must not be allowed to preach again in the cathedral. We all see that, except our dear friend here, the milk of whose nature runs so softly, that he would not have the heart to refuse the Pope, the loan of his pulpit, if the Pope would come and ask it. We must not, however, allow the man to preach again here. It is not because his opinion on church matters may be different from ours--with that one would not quarrel. It is because he has purposely insulted us. When he went up into that pulpit last Sunday, his studied object was to give offence to men who had grown old in reverence to those things of which he dared to speak so slightingly. What! To come here a stranger, a young, unknown, and unfriended stranger, and tell us, in the name of the bishop, his master, that we are ignorant of our duties, old-fashioned, and useless! I don't know whether to most admire his courage or his impudence! And one thing I will tell you: that sermon originated solely with the man himself. The bishop was no more a party to it than was the dean here. You all know how grieved I am to see a bishop in this diocese holding the latitudinarian ideas by which Dr Proudie has made himself conspicuous. You all know how greatly I should distrust the opinion of such a man. But in this matter I hold him to be blameless. I believe Dr Proudie has lived too long among gentlemen to be guilty, or to instigate another to be guilty, of so gross an outrage. No! That man uttered what was untrue when he hinted that he was speaking as the mouthpiece of the bishop. It suited his ambitious views at once to throw down the gauntlet to us--here within the walls of our own loved cathedral--here where we have for so many years exercised our ministry, without schism and with good repute. Such an attack upon us, coming from such a quarter, is abominable.'
'Abominable,' groaned the dean. 'Abominable,' muttered the meagre doctor. 'Abominable,' re-echoed the chancellor, uttering a sound from the bottom of his deep chest. 'I really think it was,' said Mr Harding.
'Most abominable, and most unjustifiable,' continued the archdeacon. 'But, Mr Dean, thank God, that pulpit is still our own: your own, I should say. That pulpit belongs to the dean and chapter of Barchester Cathedral, and, as yet, Mr Slope is no part of that chapter. You, Mr Dean, have suggested that we should appeal to the bishop to abstain from forcing this man on us; but what if the bishop allow himself to be ruled by his chaplain? In my opinion, the matter is in our own hands. Mr Slope cannot preach there without permission asked and obtained, and let that permission be invariable refused. Let all participation in the ministry of the cathedral service be refused to him. Then, if the bishop choose to interfere, we shall know what answer to make to the bishop. My friend here has suggested that this man may again find his way into the pulpit by undertaking the duty of some of your minor canons; but I am sure that we may fully trust to these gentlemen to support us, when it is known that the dean objects to any such transfer.''Of course you may,' said the chancellor.
There was much more discussion among the learned conclave, all of which, of course, ended in obedience to the archdeacon's commands. They had too long been accustomed to his rule to shake it off so soon; and in this particular case they had none of them a wish to abet the man whom he was so anxious to put down.
Such a meeting as that we have just recorded is not held in such a city as Barchester unknown and untold of. Not only was the fact of the meeting talked of in every respectable house, including the palace, but the very speeches of the dean, the archdeacon, and chancellor were repeated; not without many additions and imaginary circumstances, according to the tastes and opinions of the relaters.
All, however, agreed in saying that Mr Slope was to be debarred from opening his mouth in the cathedral of Barchester; many believed that the vergers were to be ordered to refuse him even the accommodation of a seat; and some of the most fargoing advocates for strong measures, declared that this sermon was looked upon as an indictable offence, and that proceedings were to be taken against him for brawling.
The party who were inclined to him--the enthusiastically religious young ladies, and the middle-aged spinsters desirous of a move--of course took up his defence the more warmly on account of this attack. If they could not hear Mr Slope in the cathedral, they would hear him elsewhere; they would leave the dull dean, the dull old prebendaries, and the scarcely less dull young minor canons, to preach to each other; they would work slippers and cushions, and hem bands for Mr Slope, make him a happy martyr, and stick him up in some new Sion (sic) or Bethesda, and put the cathedral quite out of fashion.
Dr and Mrs Proudie at once returned to London. They thought it expedient not to have to encounter any personal applications from the dean and chapter respecting the sermon till the violence of the storm had expended itself; but they left Mr Slope behind them nothing daunted, and he went about his work zealously, flattering such as would listen to his flattery, whispering religious twaddle into the ears of foolish women, ingratiating himself with the very few clergy who would receive him, visiting the houses of the poor, inquiring into all people, prying into everything, and searching with the minutest eye into all palatial dilapidation. He did not, however, make any immediate attempt to preach again in the cathedral.And so all Barchester was by the ears.
Among the ladies in Barchester who have hitherto acknowledged Mr Slope as their spiritual director, must not be reckoned either the widow Bold, or her sister-in-law. On the first outbreak of the wrath of the denizens of the close, none had been more animated against the intruder than those two ladies. And this was natural. Who could be so proud of the musical distinction of their own cathedral as the favourite daughter of the precentor? Who would be so likely to resent an insult offered to the old choir? And in such matters Miss Bold and her sister-in-law had but one opinion.
This wrath, however, has in some degree been mitigated, and I regret to say that these ladies allowed Mr Slope to be his own apologist. About a fortnight after the sermon had been preached, they were both of them not a little surprised by hearing Mr Slope announced, as the page in buttons opened Mrs Bold's drawing-room door. Indeed, what living man could, by a mere morning visit, have surprised them more? Here was the great enemy of all that was good in Barchester coming into their own drawing-room, and they had not strong arm, no ready tongue near at hand for their protection. The widow snatched her baby out of its cradle into her lap, and Mary Bold stood up ready to die manfully in that baby's behalf, should, under any circumstances, such a sacrifice be necessary.
In this manner was Mr Slope received. But when he left, he was allowed by each lady to take her hand, and to make his adieux as gentlemen do who have been graciously entertained! Yes; he shook hands with them, and was curtseyed out courteously, the buttoned page opening the door, as he would have done for the best canon of them all. He had touched the baby's little hand and blessed him with a fervid blessing; he had spoken to the widow of her early sorrows, and Eleanor's silent tears had not rebuked him; he had told Mary Bold that her devotion would be rewarded, and Mary Bold had heard the praise without disgust. And how had he done all this? How had he so quickly turned aversion into, at any rate, acquaintance? How had he overcome the enmity with which those ladies had been ready to receive him, and made his peace with them so easily?
My readers will guess from what I have written that I myself do not like Mr Slope; but I am constrained to admit that he is a man of parts. He knows how to say a soft word in the proper place; he knows how to adapt his flattery to the ears of his hearers; he knows the wiles of the serpent and he uses them. Could Mr Slope have adapted his manners to men as well as to women, could he ever have learnt the ways of a gentleman, he might have risen to great things.
He commenced his acquaintance with Eleanor by praising her father. He had, he said, become aware that he had unfortunately offended the feelings of a man of whom he could not speak too highly; he would not now allude to a subject which was probably too serious for drawing-room conversation, but he would say, that it had been very far from him to utter a word in disparagement of a man, of whom all the world, at least the clerical world, spoke of so highly as it did of Mr Harding. And so he went on, unsaying a great deal of his sermon, expressing his highest admiration for the precentor's musical talents, eulogising the father and the daughter and the sister-in-law, speaking in that low silky whisper which he always had specially prepared for feminine ears, and, ultimately, gaining his object. When he left, he expressed a hope that he might again be allowed to call; and though Eleanor gave no verbal assent to this, she did not express dissent; and so Mr Slope's right to visit at the widow's house was established.
The day after this visit Eleanor told her father of it, and expressed an opinion that Mr Slope was not quite so black as he had been painted. Mr Harding opened he eyes rather wider than usual when he heard what had occurred, but he said little; he could not agree in any praise of Mr Slope, and it was not his practice to say much evil of any one. He did not, however, like the visit, and simple-minded as he was, he felt sure that Mr Slope had some deeper motive than the mere pleasure of making soft speeches to two ladies.
Mr Harding, however, had come to see his daughter with other purpose than that of speaking either good or evil of Mr Slope. He had come to tell her that the place of warden in Hiram's hospital was again to be filled up, and that in all probability he would once more return to his old house and his twelve bedesmen.'But,' he said, laughing, 'I shall be greatly shorn of my ancient glory.' 'Why so, papa?' 'This new act of parliament, that is to put us all on our feet again,' continued he, 'settles my income at four hundred and fifty pounds per annum.' 'Four hundred and fifty,' said she, 'instead of eight hundred! Well; that is rather shabby. But still, papa, you'll have the dear old house and garden?'
'My dear,' said he, 'it's worth twice the money;' and as he spoke he showed a jaunty kind of satisfaction in his tone and manner, and in the quick, pleasant way in which he paced Eleanor's drawing-room. 'It's worth twice the money. I shall have the house and the garden, and a larger income than I can possibly want.'
'At any rate, you'll have no extravagant daughter to provide for;' and as she spoke, the young widow put her arm within his, and made him sit on the sofa beside her; 'at any rate you'll not have that expense.'
'No, my dear; and I shall be rather lonely without her; but we won't think of that now. As regards income I shall have plenty for all I want. I shall have my old house; and I don't mind owning now that I have felt sometimes the inconvenience of living in a lodging. Lodgings are very nice for young men, but at my time of life there is a want of--I hardly know what to call it, perhaps not respectability--'
'Oh, papa! I'm sure there's been nothing like that. Nobody has thought it; nobody in all Barchester has been more respected than you have been since you took those rooms in High Street. Nobody! Not the dean in his deanery, or the archdeacon at Plumstead.'
'The archdeacon would not be much obliged to you if he heard you,' said he, smiling somewhat at the exclusive manner in which his daughter confined her illustration to the church dignitaries of the chapter of Barchester; 'but at any rate, I shall be glad to get back to the old house. Since I heard that it was all settled, I have begun to fancy that I can't be comfortable without my two sitting-rooms.''Come and stay with me, papa, till it is settled--there's a dear papa.'
'Thank ye, Nelly. But no; I won't do that. It would make two movings. I shall be very glad to get back to my old men again. Alas! Alas! There have six of them gone in the few last years. Six out of twelve! And the others I fear have had but a sorry life of it there. Poor Bunce, poor old Bunce!'Bunce was one of the surviving recipients of Hiram's charity; and old man, now over ninety, who had long been a favourite of Mr Harding's.
'How happy old Bunce will be,' said Mrs Bold, clapping her soft hands softly. 'How happy they all will be to have you back again.' You may be sure there will soon be friendship among them again when you are there.'
'But,' said he, half laughing, 'I am to have new troubles, which will be terrible to me. There are to be twelve old women, and a matron. How shall I manage twelve women and a matron!''The matron will manage the women of course.' 'And who'll manage the matron?' said he. 'She won't want to be managed. She'll be a great lady herself, I suppose. But, papa, where will the matron live? She is not to live in the warden's house with you, is she?' 'Well, I hope not, my dear.' 'Oh, papa, I tell you fairly. I won't have a matron for a new step-mother.'
'You shan't, my dear; that is if I can help it. But they are going to build another house for the matron and the women; and I believe they haven't even fixed yet on the site of the building.'
'And have they appointed the matron?' said Eleanor.
Mr Harding explained that he thought there was no doubt; that the archdeacon had declared as much, saying that the bishop and his chaplain between them had not the power to appoint any once else, even if they had the will to do so, and sufficient impudence to carry out such a will. The archdeacon was of the opinion, that though Mr Harding had resigned his wardenship, and had done so unconditionally, he had done so under circumstances which left the bishop no choice as to his re-appointment, now that the affair of the hospital had been settled on a new basis by act of parliament. Such was the archdeacon's opinion, and his father-in-law received it without a shadow of doubt.
Dr Grantly had always been strongly opposed to Mr Harding's resignation of the place. He had done all in his power to dissuade him from it. He had considered that Mr Harding was bound to withstand the popular clamour with which he was attacked for receiving so large an income as eight hundred a year from such a charity, and was not even satisfied that his father-in-law's conduct had not been pusillanimous and undignified. He looked also on this reduction of the warden's income as a paltry scheme on the part of government for escaping from a difficulty into which it had been brought by the public press. Dr Grantly observed that the government had no more right to dispose of a sum of four hundred and fifty pounds a year out of the income of Hiram's legacy, than of nine hundred; whereas, as he said, the bishop, dean and chapter clearly had a right to settle what sum should be paid. He also declared that the government had no more right to saddle the charity with twelve old women than with twelve hundred; and he was, therefore, very indignant on the matter. He probably forgot when so talking that government had done nothing of the kind, and had never assumed any such might or any such right. He made the common mistake of attributing to the government, which in such matters is powerless, the doings of parliament, which in such matters is omnipotent.
But though he felt that the glory and honour of the situation of warden of Barchester hospital was indeed curtailed by the new arrangement; that the whole establishment had to a certain degree been made vile by the touch of Whig commissioners; that the place with the lessened income, its old women, and other innovations, was very different from the hospital of former days; still the archdeacon was too practical a man of the world to wish that his father-in-law, who had at present little more than L 200 per annum for all his wants, should refuse the situation, defiled, undignified, and commission-ridden as it was.
Mr Harding had, accordingly, made up his mind that he would return to his old house at the hospital, and to tell the truth, had experienced almost a childish pleasure in the idea of doing so. The diminished income was to him not even the source of momentary regret. The matron and the old women did rather go against the grain; but he was able to console himself with the reflection, that, after all, such an arrangement might be of real service to the poor of the city. The thought that he must receive his re-appointment as the gift of the new bishop, and probably through the hands of Mr Slope, annoyed him a little; but his mind was set at rest by the assurance of the archdeacon that there would be no favour in such a presentation. The re-appointment of the old warden would be regarded by all the world as a matter of course. Mr Harding, therefore, felt no hesitation in telling his daughter that they might look upon his return to his old quarters as a settled matter.'And you won't have to ask for it, papa.'
'Certainly not, my dear. There is no ground on which I could ask for any favour from the bishop, whom, indeed, I hardly know. Nor would I ask a favour, that granting of which might possibly be made a question to be settled by Mr Slope. No,' said he, moved for a moment by a spirit very unlike his own, 'I certainly shall be very glad to go back to the hospital; but I should never go there, if it were necessary that my doing so should be the subject of a request to Mr Slope.'
This little outbreak of her father's anger jarred on the present tone of Eleanor's mind. She had not learnt to like Mr Slope, but she had learnt to think that he had much respect for her father; and she would, therefore, willingly use her efforts to induce something like good feeling between them.'Papa,' said she, 'I think you somewhat mistake Mr Slope's character.' 'Do I?' said he, placidly. 'I think you do, papa. I think he intended no personal disrespect to you when he preached the sermon which made the archdeacon and the dean so angry.!'
'I never supposed that he did, my dear. I hope I never inquired within myself whether he did or no. Such a matter would be unworthy of any inquiry, and very unworthy of the consideration of the chapter. But I fear he intended disrespect to the ministration's of God's services, as conducted in conformity with the rules of the Church of England.''But might it not be that he thought it his duty to express his dissent from that which you, and the dean, and all of us here approve?'
'It can hardly be the duty of any young man rudely to assail the religious convictions of his elders of the church. Courtesy should have kept him silent, even if neither charity nor modesty could do so.''But Mr Slope would say that on such a subject the commands of his heavenly Master do not admit of his being silent.' 'Nor of being courteous, Eleanor?' 'He did not say that, papa.'
'Believe me, my child, that Christian ministers are never called on by God's word to insult the convictions, or even the prejudices, of their brethren; and that religion is at any rate not less susceptible to urbane and courteous conduct among men, than any other study which men take up. I am sorry to say that I cannot defend Mr Slope's sermon in the cathedral. But come, my dear, put on your bonnet, and let us walk round the dear old gardens at the hospital. I have never yet had the heart to go beyond the court-yard since we left the place. Now I think I can venture to enter.'
Eleanor rang the bell, and gave a variety of imperative charges as to the welfare of the precious baby, whom, all but unwillingly, she was about to leave for an hour or so, and then sauntered forth with her father to revisit the old hospital. It had been forbidden ground to her as well as to him since the day on which they had walked forth together from its walk.
9. The Stanhope Family
It is now three months since Dr Proudie began his reign, and changes had already been affected in the diocese which show at least the energy of an active mind. Among other things, absentee clergymen have been favoured with hints much too strong to be overlooked. Poor dear old Bishop Grantly had on this matter been too lenient, and the archdeacon had never been inclined to be severe with those who were absent on reputable pretences, and who provided for their duties in a liberal way.
Among the greatest of the diocesan sinners in this respect was Dr Vesey Stanhope. Years had now passed since he had done a day's duty; and yet there was no reason against his doing duty except a want of inclination on his own part. He held a prebendal stall in the diocese; one of the best residences in the close; and the two large rectories of Crabtree Canonicorum, and Stogpingum. Indeed, he had the cure of three parishes, for that of Eiderdown was joined to Stogpingum. He had resided in Italy for twelve years. His first going there had been attributed to a sore throat; and that sore throat, though never repeated in any violent manner had stood him in such stead, that it had enabled him to live in easy idleness ever since.
He had now been summoned home,--not indeed, with rough violence, or by any peremptory command, but by a mandate which he found himself unable to disregard. Mr Slope had written to him by the bishop's desire. In the first place, the bishop much wanted the valuable co-operation of Dr Vesey Stanhope in the diocese; in the next, the bishop thought it his imperative duty to become personally acquainted with the most conspicuous of his diocesan clergy; then the bishop thought it essentially necessary for Dr Stanhope's own interests, that Dr Stanhope should, at any rate for a time, return to Barchester; and lastly, it was said that so strong a feeling was at the present moment evinced by the hierarchs of the church with reference to the absence of its clerical members, that it behoved Dr Vesey Stanhope not to allow his name to stand among those which would probably in a few months be submitted to the councils of the nation.
There was something so ambiguously frightful in this last threat that Dr Stanhope determined to spend two or three summer months at his residence in Barchester. His rectories were inhabited by his curates, and he felt himself from disuse to be unfit for parochial duty; but his prebendal home was kept empty for him, and he thought it probable that he might be able now and again to preach a prebendal sermon. He arrived, therefore, with all his family at Barchester, and he and they must be introduced to my readers.
The great family characteristic of the Stanhopes might probably be said to be heartlessness; but the want of feeling was, in most of them, accompanied by so great an amount of good nature that their neighbours failed to perceive how indifferent to them was the happiness and well-being of those around them. The Stanhopes would visit you in your sickness (provided it were not contagious), would bring you oranges, French novels, and the last new bit of scandal, and then hear of your death or your recovery with an equally indifferent composure. Their conduct to each other was the same as to the world; they bore and forbore: and there was sometimes, as will be seen, much necessity for forbearing: but their love among themselves rarely reached above this. It is astonishing how much each of the family was able to do, and how much each did, to prevent the well-being of the other four.
For there were five in all; the doctor, namely, and Mrs Stanhope, two daughters, and one son. The doctor, perhaps, was the least singular and most estimable of them all, and yet such good qualities as he possessed were all negative. He was a good looking rather plethoric gentleman of about sixty years of age. His hair was snow white, very plentiful, and somewhat like wool of the finest description. His whiskers were large and very white, and gave to his face the appearance of a benevolent sleepy old lion. His dress was always unexceptionable. Although he had lived so many years in Italy it was invariably of a decent clerical hue, but it never was hyperclerical. He was a man not given to much talking, but what little he did say was generally well said. His reading seldom went beyond romances and poetry of the lightest and not always most moral description. He was thoroughly a bon vivant; an accomplished judge of wine, though he never drank to excess; and a most inexorable critic in all affairs touching the kitchen. He had had much to forgive in his own family, since a family had grown up around him, and had forgiven everything--except inattention to his dinner. His weakness in that respect was now fully understood, and his temper but seldom tried. As Dr Stanhope was a clergyman, it may be supposed that his religious convictions made up a considerable part of his character; but this was not so. That he had religious convictions must be believed; but he rarely obtruded them, even on his children. This abstinence on his part was not systematic, but very characteristic of the man. It was not that he had predetermined never to influence their thoughts; but he was so habitually idle that his time for doing so had never come till the opportunity for doing so was gone forever. Whatever conviction the father may have had, the children were at any rate but indifferent members of the church from which he drew his income.
Such was Dr Stanhope. The features of Mrs Stanhope's character were even less plainly marked than those of her lord. The far niente of her Italian life had entered into her very soul, and brought her to regard a state of inactivity as the only earthly good. In manner and appearance she was exceedingly prepossessing. She had been a beauty, and even now, at fifty-five, she was a handsome woman. Her dress was always perfect: she never dressed but once in the day, and never appeared till between three and four; but when she did appear, she appeared at her best. Whether the toil rested partly with her, or wholly with her handmaid, it is not for such a one as the author to imagine. The structure of her attire was always elaborate, and yet never over laboured. She was rich in apparel, but not bedizened with finery; her ornaments were costly, rare, and such as could not fail to attract notice, but they did not look as though worn with that purpose. She well knew the great architectural secret of decorating her constructions, and never condescended to construct a decoration. But when we have said that Mrs Stanhope knew how to dress, and used her knowledge daily, we have said all. Other purpose in life she had none. It was something, indeed, that she did not interfere with the purposes of others. In early life she had undergone great trials with reference to the doctor's dinners; but for the last ten or twelve years her eldest daughter Charlotte had taken that labour off her hands, and she had had little to trouble her;--little, that is, till the edict for this terrible English journey had gone forth; since, then, indeed, her life had been laborious enough. For such a one, the toil of being carried from the shores of Como to the city of Barchester is more than labour enough, let the cares of the carriers be ever so vigilant. Mrs Stanhope had been obliged to have every one of her dresses taken in from the effects of the journey.
Charlotte Stanhope was at this time about thirty-five years old; and, whatever may have been her faults, she had none of those which belong particularly to old young ladies. She neither dressed young, nor talked young, nor indeed looked young. She appeared to be perfectly content with her time of life, and in no way affected the grace of youth. She was a fine young woman; and had she been a man, would have been a very fine young man. All that was done in the house, and that was not done by servants, was done by her. She gave the orders, paid the bills, hired and dismissed the domestics, made the tea, carved the meat, and managed everything in the Stanhope household. She, and she alone, could ever induce her father to look into the state of his worldly concerns. She, and she alone, could in any degree control the absurdities of her sister. She, and she alone, prevented the whole family from falling into utter disrepute and beggary. It was by her advice that they now found themselves very unpleasantly situated in Barchester.
So far, the character of Charlotte Stanhope is not unprepossessing. But it remains to be said, that the influence which she had in her family, though it had been used to a certain extent for their worldly well-being, had not been used to their real benefit, as it might have been. She had aided her father in his indifference to his professional duties, counselling him that his livings were as much as his individual property as the estates of his elder brother were the property of that worthy peer. She had for years past stifled every little rising wish for a return to England which the doctor had from time to time expressed. She had encouraged her mother in her idleness in order that she herself might be mistress and manager of the Stanhope household. She had encouraged and fostered the follies of her sister, though she was always willing, and often able, to protect her from their probable result. She had done her best, and had thoroughly succeeded in spoiling her brother, and turning him loose upon the world an idle man without a profession, and without a shilling that he could call his own.
Miss Stanhope was a clever woman, able to talk on most subjects, and quite indifferent as to what the subject was. She prided herself on her freedom from English prejudice, and she might have added, from feminine delicacy. On religion she was a pure freethinker, and with much want of true affection, delighted to throw out her own views before the troubled mind of her father. To have shaken what remained of his Church of England faith would have gratified her much; but the idea of his abandoning his preferment in the church had never once presented itself to her mind. How could he indeed, when he had no income from any other sources?
But the two most prominent members of the family still remain to be described. The second child had been christened Madeline, and had been a great beauty. We need not say had been, for she was never more beautiful than at the time of which we write, though her person for many years had been disfigured by an accident. It is unnecessary that we should give in detail the early history of Madeline Stanhope. She had gone to Italy when seventeen years of age, and had been allowed to make the most of her surpassing beauty in the saloons of Milan, and among the crowded villas along the shores of the Lake of Como. She had become famous for adventures in which her character was just not lost, and had destroyed the hearts of a dozen cavaliers without once being touched in her own. Blood had flowed in quarrels about her charms, and she heard of these encounters with pleasurable excitement. It had been told of her that on one occasion she had stood by in the disguise of a page, and had seen her lover fall.
As is so often the case, she had married the very worst of those who sought her hand. Why she had chosen Paulo Neroni, a man of no birth and no property, a mere captain in the pope's guard, one who had come up to Milan either simply as an adventurer or as a spy, a man of harsh temper and oily manners, mean in figure, swarthy in face, and so false in words as to be hourly detected, need not now be told. When the moment for doing so came, she had probably no alternative. He, at any rate, had become her husband; and after a prolonged honeymoon among the lakes, they had gone together to Rome, the papal captain having vainly endeavoured to induce his wife to remain behind him.
Six months afterwards she arrived at her father's house a cripple and a mother. She had arrived without even notice, with hardly clothes to cover her, and without one of those many ornaments which had graced her bridal trousseaux. Her baby was in the arms of a poor girl from Milan, whom she had taken in exchange for the Roman maid who had accompanied her thus far, and who had then, as her mistress said, become homesick and had returned. It was clear that the lady had determined that there should be no witness to tell stories of her life in Rome.
She had fallen, she said, in ascending a ruin and had fatally injured the sinews of her knee; so fatally, that when she stood she lost eight inches of her accustomed height; so fatally, that when she essayed to move, she could only drag herself painfully along, with protruded hip and extended foot in a manner less graceful than that of a hunchback. She had consequently made up her mind, once and for ever, that she would never stand, and never attempt to move herself.
Stories were not slow to follow her, averring that she had been cruelly ill-used by Neroni, and that to his violence had she owed her accident. Be that as it may, little had been said about her husband, but that little had made it clearly intelligible to the family that Signor Neroni was to be seen and heard of no more. There was no question as to re-admitting the poor ill-used beauty to her old family rights, no question as to adopting her infant daughter, beneath the Stanhope roof tree. Though heartless, the Stanhopes were not selfish. The two were taken in, petted, made much of, for a time all but adored, and then felt by the two parents to be great nuisances in the house. But in the house the lady was, and there she remained, having her own way, though that way was not very comfortable with the customary usages of an English clergyman.
Madame Neroni, though forced to give up all motion in the world, had no intention whatever of giving up the world itself. The beauty of her face was uninjured, and that beauty was of a peculiar kind. Her copious rich brown hair was worn in Grecian bandeaux round her head, displaying as much as possible of her forehead and cheeks. Her forehead, though rather low, was very beautiful from its perfect contour and pearly whiteness. Her eyes were long and large, and marvellously bright; might I venture to say, bright as Lucifer's, I should perhaps best express the depth of their brilliancy. They were dreadful eyes to look at, such as would absolutely deter any man of quiet mind and easy spirit from attempting a passage of arms with such foes. There was talent in them, and the fire of passion and the play of wit, but there was no love. Cruelty was there instead, and courage, a desire for masterhood, cunning, and a wish for mischief. And yet, as eyes, they were very beautiful. The eyelashes were long and perfect, and the long steady unabashed gaze, with which she would look into the face of her admirer, fascinated while it frightened him. She was a basilisk from whom an ardent lover of beauty could make no escape. Her nose and mouth more so at twenty-eight than they had been at eighteen. What wonder that with such charms still glowing in her face, and with such deformity destroying her figure, she should resolve to be seen, but only to be seen reclining on a sofa.
Her resolve had not been carried out without difficulty. She had still frequented the opera at Milan; she had still been seen occasionally in the saloons of the noblesse; she had caused herself to be carried in and out from her carriage, and that in such a manner as in no wise to disturb her charms, disarrange her dress, or expose her deformities. Her sister always accompanied her and a maid, a manservant also, and on state occasions, two. It was impossible that her purpose could have been achieved with less: and yet, poor as she was, she had achieved her purpose. And then again the more dissolute Italian youths of Milan frequented the Stanhope villa and surrounded her couch, not greatly to her father's satisfaction. Sometimes his spirit would rise, a dark spot would show itself on his cheek, and he would rebel; but Charlotte would assuage him with some peculiar triumph of her culinary art, and all again would be smooth for a while.
Madeline affected all manner of rich and quaint devices in the garniture of her room, her person, and her feminine belongings. In nothing was this more apparent than in the visiting card which she had prepared for her use. For such an article one would say that she, in her present state, could have but small need, seeing how improbable it was that she should make a morning call; but not such was her own opinion. Her card was surrounded by a deep border of gilding; on this she had imprinted, in three lines:-
La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni.
- Nata Stanhope.
And over the name she had a bright gilt coronet, which certainly looked very magnificent. How she had come to concoct such a name for herself it would be difficult to explain. Her father had been christened Vesey, as another man is christened Thomas; and she had no more right to assume it than would have the daughter of a Mr Josiah Jones to call herself Mrs Josiah Smith, on marrying a man of the latter name. The gold coronet was equally out of place, and perhaps inserted with even less excuse. Paul Neroni had not the faintest title to call himself a scion of even Italian nobility. Had the pair met in England Neroni would probably have been a count; but they had met in Italy, and any such pretence on his part would have been simply ridiculous. A coronet, however, was a pretty ornament, and if it could solace a poor cripple to have such on her card, who could begrudge it to her?
Of her husband, or of his individual family, she never spoke; but with her admirers she would often allude in a mysterious way to her married life and isolated state, and, pointing to her daughter, would call her the last of the blood of the emperors, thus referring Neroni's extraction to the old Roman family from which the worst of the Caesars sprang.
The 'Signora' was not without talent, and not without a certain sort of industry; she was an indomitable letter writer, and her letters were worth the postage: they were full of wit, mischief, satire, love, latitudinarian philosophy, free religion, and, sometimes, alas! loose ribaldry. The subject, however, depended entirely on the recipient, and she was prepared to correspond with any one, but moral young ladies or stiff old women. She wrote also a kind of poetry, generally in Italian, and short romances, generally in French. She read much of a desultory sort of literature, and as a modern linguist had really made great proficiency. Such was the lady who had now come to wound the hearts of the men of Barchester.
Ethelbert Stanhope was in some respects like his younger sister, but he was less inestimable as a man than she was as a woman. His great fault was an entire absence of that principle which should have induced him, as the son of a man without fortune, to earn his own bread. Many attempts had been made to get him to do so, but these had all been frustrated, not so much by idleness on his part, as by a disinclination to exert himself in any way not to his taste. He had been educated at Eton, and had been intended for the Church, but had left Cambridge in disgust after a single term, and notified to his father his intention to study for the bar. Preparatory to that, he thought it well that he should attend a German university, and consequently went to Leipzig. There he remained two years, and brought away a knowledge of German and a taste for the fine arts. He still, however, intended himself for the bar, took chambers, engaged himself to sit at the feet of a learned pundit, and spent a season in London. He there found that all his aptitudes inclined him to the life of an artist, and he determined to live by painting. With this object he retired to Milan, and had himself rigged out for Rome. As a painter he might have earned his bread, for he wanted only diligence to excel; but when at Rome his mind was carried away by other things: he soon wrote home for money, saying that he had been converted to the Mother Church, that he was already an acolyte of the Jesuits, and that he was about to start with others to Palestine on a mission for converting Jews. He did go to Judea, but being unable to convert the Jews, was converted by them. He again wrote home, to say that Moses was the only giver of perfect laws to the world, that the coming of the true Messiah was at hand, that great things were doing in Palestine, and that he had met one of the family of Sidonis, a most remarkable man, who was now on his way to Western Europe, and whom he had induced to deviate from his route with the object of calling at the Stanhope villa. Ethelbert then expressed his hope that his mother and sisters would listen to this wonderful prophet. His father he knew could not do so from pecuniary considerations. This Sidonia, however, did not take so strong a fancy to him as another of that family once did to a young English nobleman. At least he provided him with no hope of gold as large as lions; so that the Judaised Ethelbert was again obliged to draw on the revenues of the Christian Church.
It is needless to tell how the father swore that he would send no more money and receive no Jew; nor how Charlotte declared that Ethelbert could not be left penniless in Jerusalem; and how 'La Signora Neroni' resolved to have Sidonia at her feet. The money was sent, and the Jew did come. The Jew did come, but he was not at all to the taste of 'la Signora'. He was a dirty little old man, and though he had provided no golden lions, he had, it seems, relieved young Stanhope's necessities. He positively refused to leave the villa till he got a bill from the doctor on his London bankers.
Ethelbert did not long remain a Jew. He soon reappeared at the villa without prejudices on the subject of his religion, and with a firm resolve to achieve fame and fortune as a sculptor. He brought with him some models which he had originated at Rome, and which really gave much fair promise that his father was induced to go to further expense in furthering these views. Ethelbert opened an establishment, or rather took lodgings and workshop, at Carrara, and there spoilt much marble, and made some few pretty images. Since that period, now four years ago, he had alternated between Carrara and the villa, but his sojourns at the workshop became shorter and shorter, and those at the villa longer and longer. 'Twas no wonder; for Carrara is not a spot in which an Englishman would like to dwell.
When the family started for England he had resolved not to be left behind, and with the assistance of his elder sister had earned his point against his father's wishes. It was necessary, he said, that he should come to England for orders. How otherwise was he to bring his profession to account?
In personal appearance Ethelbert Stanhope was the most singular of beings. He was certainly very handsome. He had his sister Madeline's eyes without their stare, and without their hard cunning cruel firmness. They were also very much lighter, and of so light and clear a blue as to make his face remarkable, if nothing else did so. On entering a room with him, Ethelbert's blue eyes would be the first thing you would see, and on leaving it almost the last thing you would forget. His light hair was very long and silky, coming down over his coat. His beard had been prepared in the holy land, and was patriarchal. He never shaved, and rarely trimmed it. It was glossy, soft, clean, and altogether not unprepossessing. It was such that ladies might desire to reel it off and work it into their patterns in lieu of floss silk. His complexion was fair and almost pink, he was small in height, and slender in limb, but well-made, and his voice was of particular sweetness.manner and dress he was equally remarkable. He had none of the mauvaise honte of an Englishman. He required no introduction to make himself agreeable to any person. He habitually addressed strangers, ladies as well as men, without any such formality, and in doing so never seemed to meet with rebuke. His costume cannot be described, because it was so various; but it was always totally opposed in every principle of colour and construction to the dress of those with whom he for the time consorted.
He was habitually addicted to making love to ladies, and did so without scruple of conscience, or any idea that such a practice was amiss. He had no heart to touch himself, and was literally unaware that humanity was subject to such infliction. He had not thought much about it; but, had he been asked, would have said, that ill-treating a lady's heart meant injuring her promotion in the world. His principles therefore forbade him to pay attention to a girl, if he thought any man was present whom it might suit her to marry. In this manner, his good nature frequently interfered with his amusement; but he had no other motive in abstaining from the fullest declaration of love to every girl that pleased his eye.
Bertie Stanhope, as he was generally called, was, however, popular with both sexes; and with Italians as well as English. His circle of acquaintance was very large, and embraced people of all sorts. He had not respect for rank, and no aversion to those below him. He had lived on familiar terms with English peers, German shopkeepers, and Roman priests. All people were nearly alike to him. He was above, or rather below, all prejudices. No virtue could charm him, no vice shock him. He had about him a natural good manner, which seemed to qualify him for the highest circles, and yet he was never out of place in the lowest. He had no principle, no regard for others, no selfrespect, no desire to be other than a drone in a hive, if only he could, as a drone, get what honey was sufficient for him. Of honey, in his latter days, it may probably be presaged, that he will have but short allowance.
Such was the family of the Stanhopes, who, at this period, suddenly joined themselves to the ecclesiastical circle of Barchester close. Any stranger union, it would be impossible perhaps to conceive. And it was not as though they all fell down into the cathedral precincts hitherto unknown and untalked of. In such case no amalgamation would have been at all probable between the new comers and either the Proudie set or the Grantly set. But such was far from being the case. The Stanhopes were all known by name in Barchester, and Barchester was prepared to receive them with open arms. The doctor was one of the prebendaries, one of her rectors, one of her pillars of strength; and was, moreover, counted on, as a sure ally, both by Proudies and Grantlys.
He himself was the brother of one peer, and his wife was the sister of another--and both these peers were lords of whiggish tendency, with whom the new bishop had some sort of alliance. This was sufficient to give to Mr Slope high hope that he might enlist Dr Stanhope on his side, before his enemies could out-manoeuvre him. On the other hand, the old dean had many many years ago, in the days of the doctor's clerical energies, been instrumental in assisting him in his views as to preferment; and many many years ago also, the two doctors, Stanhope and Grantly, had, as young parsons, been joyous together in the common rooms of Oxford. Dr Grantly, consequently, did not doubt but that the new comer would range himself under his banners.Little did any of them dream of what ingredients the Stanhope family was now composed.
10. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Commenced
The bishop and his wife had only spent three or four days in Barchester on the occasion of their first visit. His lordship had, as we have seen, taken his seat on his throne; but his demeanour there, into which it had been his intention to infuse much hierarchical dignity, had been a good deal disarranged by the audacity of his chaplain's sermon. He had hardly dared to look his clergy in the face, and to declare by the severity of his countenance that in truth he meant all that his factotum was saying on his behalf; nor yet did he dare throw Mr Slope over, and show to those around him that he was no party to the sermon, and would resent it.
He had accordingly blessed his people in a shambling manner, not at all to his own satisfaction, and had walked back to his palace with his mind very doubtful as to what he would say to his chaplain on the subject. He did not remain long in doubt. He had hardly doffed his lawn when the partner of all his toils entered his study, and exclaimed even before she had seated herself--'Bishop, did you ever hear a more sublime, more spirit-moving, more appropriate discourse than that?' 'Well, my love; ha-hum-he!' The bishop did not know what to say. 'I hope, my lord, you don't mean to say you disapprove?'
There was a look about the lady's eye which did not admit of my lord's disapproving at that moment. He felt that if he intended to disapprove, it must be now or never; but he also felt that it could not be now. It was not in him to say to the wife of his bosom that Mr Slope's sermon was ill-timed, impertinent and vexatious.
'No, no,' replied the bishop. 'No, I can't say I disapprove--a very clever sermon and very well intended, and I dare say will do a great deal of good.' This last praise was added, seeing that what he had already said by no means satisfied Mrs Proudie.
'I hope it will,' said she. 'I am sure it was well deserved. Did you ever in your life, bishop, hear anything so like play-acting as the way in which Mr Harding sings the litany? I shall beg Mr Slope to continue a course of sermons on the subject till all that is altered. We will have at any rate, in our cathedral, a decent, godly, modest morning service. There must be no more play-acting here now;' and so the lady rang for lunch.
This bishop knew more about cathedrals and deans, and precentors and church services than his wife did, and also more of the bishop's powers. But he thought it better at present to let the subject drop.
'My dear,' said he, 'I think we must go back to London on Tuesday. I find that my staying here will be very inconvenient to the Government.'
The bishop knew that to this proposal his wife would not object; and he also felt that by thus retreating from the ground of battle, the heat of the fight might be got over in his absence.'Mr Slope will remain here, of course,' said the lady. 'Oh, of course,' said the bishop.
Thus, after less than a week's sojourn in his palace, did the bishop fly from Barchester; nor did he return to it for two months, the London season being then over. During that time Mr Slope was not idle, but he did not again assay to preach in the cathedral. In answer to Mrs Proudie's letters, advising a course of sermons, he had pleaded that he would at any rate wish to put off such an undertaking till she was there to hear them.
He had employed his time in consolidating a Proudie and Slope party--or rather a Slope and Proudie party, and he had not employed his time in vain. He did not meddle with the dean and chapter, except by giving them little teasing intimations of the bishop's wishes about this and the bishop's feelings about that, in a manner which was to them sufficiently annoying, but which they could not resent. He preached once or twice in a distant church in the suburbs of the city, but made no allusion to the cathedral service. He commenced the establishment of the 'Bishop of Barchester's Sabbath-day Schools,' gave notice of a proposed 'Bishop of Barchester Young Men's Sabbath Evening Lecture Room,'--and wrote three or four letters to the manager of the Barchester branch railway, informing him how anxious the bishop was that the Sunday trains should be discontinued.
At the end of two months, however, the bishop and the lady reappeared; and as a happy harbinger of their return, heralded their advent by the promise of an evening party on the largest scale. The tickets of invitation were sent out from London--they were dated from Bruton Street, and were dispatched by the odious Sabbath-breaking railway, in a huge brown paper parcel to Mr Slope. Everybody calling himself a gentleman, or herself a lady, within the city of Barchester, and a circle of two miles round it, was included. Tickets were sent to all the diocesan clergy, and also to many other persons of priestly note, of whose absence the bishop, or at least the bishop's wife, felt tolerably confident. It was intended, however, to be a thronged and noticeable affair, and preparations were made for receiving some hundreds.
And now there arose considerable agitation among the Grantleyites whether or not they would attend the bidding. The first feeling with them all was to send the briefest excuses both for themselves and their wives and daughters. But by degrees policy prevailed over passion. The archdeacon perceived that he would be making a false step if he allowed the cathedral clergy to give the bishop just ground of umbrage. They all met in conclave and agreed to go. The old dean would crawl in, if it were but for half an hour. The chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, prebendaries, and minor canons would all go, and would take their wives. Mr Harding was especially bidden to go, resolving in his heart to keep himself removed from Mrs Proudie. And Mrs Bold was determined to go, though assured by her father that there was no necessity for such a sacrifice on her part. When all Barchester was to be there, neither Eleanor nor Mary Bold understood why they should stay away. Had they not been invited separately? And had not a separate little note from the chaplain couched in the most respectful language, been enclosed with the huge episcopal card?
And the Stanhopes would be there, one and all. Even the lethargic mother would so far bestir herself on such an occasion. They had only just arrived. The card was at the residence waiting for them. No one in Barchester had seen them; and what better opportunity could they have of showing themselves to the Barchester world? Some few old friends, such as the archdeacon and his wife, had called, and had found the doctor and his eldest daughter; but the elite of the family were not yet known.
The doctor indeed wished in his heart to prevent the signora from accepting the bishop's invitation; but she herself had fully determined that she would accept it. If her father was ashamed of having his daughter carried into a bishop's palace, she had no such feeling.
'Indeed, I shall,' she said to her sister who had greatly endeavoured to dissuade her, by saying that the company would consist wholly of parsons and parsons' wives. 'Parsons, I suppose, are much the same as other men, if you strip them of their black coats; and as to their wives, I dare say they won't trouble me. You may tell papa I don't mean to be left at home.'
Papa was told, and felt that he could do nothing but yield. He also felt that it was useless of him now to be ashamed of his children. Such as they were, they had become such under his auspices; as he had made his bed, so he must lie upon it; as he had sown his seed, so must he reap his corn. He did not indeed utter such reflections in such language, but such was the gist of his thoughts. It was not because Madeline was a cripple that he shrank from seeing her made one of the bishop's guests; but because he knew that she would practise her accustomed lures, and behave herself in a way that could not fail of being distasteful to the propriety of Englishwomen. These things had annoyed but not shocked him in Italy. There they had shocked no one; but here in Barchester, here among his fellow parsons, he was ashamed that they should be seen. Such had been his feelings, but he repressed them. What if his brother clergymen were shocked! They could not take it from his preferment because the manners of his married daughter were too free.
La Signora Neroni had, at any rate, no fear that she would shock anybody. Her ambition was to create a sensation, to have parsons at her feet, seeing that the manhood of Barchester consisted mainly of parsons, and to send, if possible, every parson's wife home with a green fit of jealousy. None could be too old for her, and hardly any too young. None too sanctified, and none too worldly. She was quite prepared to entrap the bishop himself, and then to turn up her nose at the bishop's wife. She did not doubt of success, for she had always succeeded; but one thing was absolutely necessary, she must secure the entire use of a sofa.
The card sent to Dr and Mrs Stanhope and family, had been sent in an envelope, having on the cover Mr Slope's name. The signora soon learnt that Mrs Proudie was not yet at the palace, and that the chaplain was managing everything. It was much more in her line to apply to him than to the lady, and she accordingly wrote to him the prettiest little billet in the world. In five lines she explained everything, declared how impossible it was for her not to be desirous to make the acquaintance of such persons as the bishop of Barchester and his wife, and she might add also of Mr Slope, depicted her own grievous state, and concluded by being assured that Mrs Proudie would forgive her extreme hardihood in petitioning to be allowed to be carried to a sofa. She then enclosed one of her beautiful cards. In return she received as polite an answer from Mr Slope--a sofa should be kept in the large drawing-room, immediately at the top of the grand stairs, especially for her use.
And now the day of the party had arrived. The bishop and his wife came down from town, only on the morning of the eventful day, as behoved such great people to do; but Mr Slope had toiled day and night to see that everything should be in right order. There had been much to do. No company had been seen in the palace since heaven knows when. New furniture had been required, new pots and pans, new cups and saucers, new dishes and plates. Mrs Proudie had first declared that she would condescend to nothing so vulgar as eating and drinking; but Mr Slope had talked, or rather written her out of economy!--bishops should be given to hospitality, and hospitality meant eating and drinking. So the supper was conceded; the guests, however, were to stand as they consumed it.
There were four rooms opening into each other on the first floor of the house, which were denominated the drawing-rooms, the reception-room, and Mrs Proudie's boudoir. In olden days one of these had been Bishop Grantly's bed-room, and another his common, sitting-room and study. The present bishop, however, had been moved down into a back parlour, and had been given to understand that he could very well receive his clergy in the dining-room, should they arrive in too large a flock to be admitted to his small sanctum. He had been unwilling to yield, but after a short debate had yielded.
Mrs Proudie's heart beat high as she inspected her suite of rooms. They were really very magnificent, or at least would be so by candlelight; and they had nevertheless been got up with commendable economy. Large rooms when full of people, and full of light look well, because they are large, and are full, and are light. Small rooms are those which require costly fittings and rich furniture. Mrs Proudie knew this, and made the most of it; she had therefore a huge gas lamp with a dozen burners hanging from each of the ceilings.
People were to arrive at ten, supper was to last from twelve to one, and at half-past one everybody was to be gone. Carriages were to come in at the gate in the town and depart at the gate outside. They were desired to take up at a quarter before one. It was managed excellently, and Mr Slope was invaluable.
At half-past nine the bishop and his wife and their three daughters entered the great reception-room, and very grand and very solemn they were. Mr Slope was down-stairs giving the last orders about the wine. He well understood that curates and country vicars with their belongings did not require so generous an article as the dignitaries of the close. There is a useful gradation in such things, and Marsala at 20s a dozen did very well for the exterior supplementary tables in the corner.'Bishop,' said the lady, as his lordship sat himself down, 'don't sit on that sofa, if you please; it is to be kept separate for a lady.' The bishop jumped up and seated himself on a cane-bottomed chair. 'A lady?' he inquired meekly; 'do you mean one particular lady, my dear?' 'Yes, bishop, one particular lady,' said his wife, disdaining to explain. 'She has got no legs, papa,' said the youngest daughter, tittering. 'No legs!' said the bishop, opening his eyes.
'Nonsense, Netta, what stuff you talk,' said Olivia. 'She has got legs, but she can't use them. She has always to be kept lying down, and three or four men carry her about everywhere.'
'Laws, how odd!' said Augusta. 'Always carried about by four men! I'm quite sure I wouldn't like it. Am I right behind, mama? I feel as if I was open;' and she turned her back to her anxious parent.
'Open! To be sure you are,' said she, 'and a yard of petticoat strings hanging out. I don't know why I pay such high wages to Mrs Richards, if she can't take the trouble to see whether or no you are fit to be looked at,' and Mrs Proudie poked the strings here, and twitched the dress there, and gave her daughter a shove and a shake, and then pronounced it all right.'But,' rejoined the bishop, who was dying with curiosity about the mysterious lady and her legs, 'who is it that is to have the sofa? What is her name, Netta?'
A thundering rap at the front door interrupted the conversation. Mrs Proudie stood up and shook herself gently, and touched her cap on each side as she looked in the mirror. Each of the girls stood on tiptoe, and re-arranged the bows on their bosoms; and Mr Slope rushed up stairs three steps at a time.
'But who is it, Netta?' whispered the bishop to his youngest daughter. 'La Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni,' whispered back the daughter; 'and mind you don't let any one sit upon the sofa.'
'La Signora Madeline Vicinironi!' muttered, to himself, the bewildered prelate. Had he been told that the Begum of Oude was to be there, or Queen Pomara of the Western Isles, he could not have been more astonished. La Signora Madeline Vicinironi, who, having no legs to stand on, had bespoken a sofa in his drawing-room!--who could she be? He however could now make no further inquiry, as Dr and Mrs Stanhope were announced. They had been sent on out of the way a little before the time, in order that the signora might have plenty of time to get herself conveniently packed into the carriage.
The bishop was all smiles for the prebendary's wife, and the bishop's wife was all smiles for the prebendary. Mr Slope was presented, and was delighted to make the acquaintance of one of whom he had heard so much. The doctor bowed very low, and then looked as though he could not return the compliment as regarded Mr Slope, of whom, indeed, he had heard nothing. The doctor, in spite of his long absence, knew an English gentleman when he saw him.
And then the guests came in shoals; Mr and Mrs Quiverful and their three grown daughters. Mr and Mrs Chadwick and their three daughters. The burly chancellor and his wife and clerical son from Oxford. The meagre little doctor without encumbrance. Mr Harding with Eleanor and Miss Bold. The dean leaning on a gaunt spinster, his only child now living with him, a lady very learned in stones, ferns, plants, and vermin, and who had written a book about petals. A wonderful woman in her way was Miss Trefoil. Mr Finnie, the attorney, with his wife, was to be seen, much to the dismay of many who had never met him in a drawing-room before. The five Barchester doctors were all there, and old Scalpen, the retired apothecary and toothdrawer, who was first taught to consider himself as belonging to the higher orders by the receipt of the bishop's card. Then came the archdeacon and his wife, with their elder daughter Griselda, a slim pale retiring girl of seventeen, who kept close to her mother, and looked out on the world with quiet watchful eyes, one who gave promise of much beauty when time should have ripened it.
And so the room became full, and knots were formed, and every new comer paid his respects to my lord and passed on, not presuming to occupy too much of the great man's attention. The archdeacon shook hands very heartily with Dr Stanhope, and Mrs Grantly seated herself by the doctor's wife. And Mrs Proudie moved about with well regulated grace, measuring out the quantity of her favours to the quality of her guests, just as Mr Slope had been doing with the wine. But the sofa was still empty, and fiveand-twenty ladies and five gentlemen had been courteously warned off it by the mindful chaplain.
'Why doesn't she come?' said the bishop to himself. His mind was so preoccupied with the signora, that he hardly remembered how to behave himself en bishop. At last a carriage dashed up to the hall steps with a very different manner of approach from that of any other vehicle that had been there that evening. A perfect commotion took place. The doctor, who heard it as he was standing in the drawing-room, knew that his daughter was coming, and retired to the furthest corner, where he might not see her entrance. Mrs Proudie parked herself up, feeling that some important piece of business was in hand. The bishop was instinctively aware, that La Signora Vicinironi was come at last, and Mr Slope hurried to the hall to give his assistance.
He was, however, nearly knocked down and trampled on by the cortege that he encountered on the hall steps. He got himself picked up as well as he could, and followed the cortege up stairs. The signora was carried head foremost, her head being the care of her brother and an Italian man-servant who was accustomed to the work; her feet were in the care of the lady's maid and the lady's Italian page; and Charlotte Stanhope followed to see that all was done with due grace and decorum. In this manner they climbed easily into the drawing-room, and a broad way through the crowd having been opened, the signora rested safely on her couch. She had sent a servant beforehand to learn whether it was a right or a left hand sofa, for it required that she should dress accordingly, particularly as regarded her bracelets.
And very becoming her dress was. It was white velvet, without any other garniture than rich white lace worked with pearls across her bosom, and the same round the armlets of her dress. Across her brow she wore a band of red velvet, on the centre of which shone a magnificent Cupid in mosaic, the tints of whose wings were of the most lovely azure, and the colour of his chubby cheeks the clearest pink. On the one arm which her position required her to expose she wore three magnificent bracelets, each of different stones. Beneath her on the sofa, and over the cushion and head of it, was spread a crimson silk mantle or shawl, which went under her whole body and concealed her feet. Dressed as she was and looking as she did, so beautiful and yet so motionless, with the pure brilliancy of her white dress brought out and strengthened by the colour beneath it, with that lovely head, and those large bold bright staring eyes, it was impossible that either man or woman should do other than look at her.Neither man nor woman for some minutes did do other.
Her bearers too were worthy of note. The three servants were Italian, and though perhaps not peculiar in their own country, were very much so in the palace at Barchester. The man, especially attracted notice, and created a doubt in the mind of some whether he were a friend or a domestic. The same doubt was felt as to Ethelbert. The man was attired in a loose-fitting common black cloth morning coat. He had a jaunty well-pleased clean face, on which no atom of beard appeared, and he wore round his neck a loose black silk neckhandkerchief. The bishop assayed to make him a bow, but the man, who was well-trained, took no notice of him, and walked out of the room, quite at his ease, followed by the woman and the boy.
Ethelbert Stanhope was dressed in light blue from head to foot. He had on the loosest possible blue coat, cut square like a shooting coat, and very short. It was lined with silk of azure blue. He had on a blue satin waistcoat, a blue handkerchief which was fastened beneath his throat with a coral ring, and very loose blue trousers which almost concealed his feet. His soft glossy beard was softer and more glossy than ever.The bishop, who had made one mistake, thought that he also was a servant, and therefore tried to make way for him to pass. But Ethelbert soon corrected the error.
11. Mrs Proudie's Reception--Concluded
'Bishop of Barchester, I presume?' said Bertie Stanhope, putting out his hand, frankly; 'I am delighted to make your acquaintance. We are in rather close quarters here, a'nt we?'
In truth they were. They had been crowded up behind the head of the sofa: the bishop in waiting to receive his guest, and the other in carrying her; and they now had hardly room to move themselves.
The bishop gave his hand quickly, and made a little studied bow, and was delighted to make--. He couldn't go on, for he did not know whether his friend was a signor, or a count, or a prince.'My sister really puts you all to great trouble,' said Bertie.
'Not at all!' the bishop was delighted to have the opportunity of welcoming the Signora Vicinironi--so at least he said--and attempted to force his way round to the front of the sofa. He had, at any rate, learnt that his strange guests were brother and sister. The man, he presumed, must be Signor Vicinironi--or count, or prince, as it might be. It was wonderful what good English he spoke. There was just a twang of foreign accent, and no more.'Do you like Barchester on the whole?' asked Bertie. The bishop, looking dignified, said that he did like Barchester. 'You've not been here very long, I believe,' said Bertie. 'No--not long,' said the bishop, and tried again to make his way between the back of the sofa and a heavy rector, who was staring over it at the grimaces of the signora. 'You weren't a bishop before, were you?' Dr Proudie explained that this was the first diocese he had held. 'Ah--I thought so,' said Bertie; 'but you are changed about sometimes, a'nt you?' 'Translations are occasionally made,' said Dr Proudie; 'but not so frequently as in former days.
'They've cut them all down to pretty nearly the same figure, haven't they?' said Bertie. To this the bishop could not bring himself to make any answer, but again tried to move the rector.
'But the work, I suppose, is different?' continued Bertie. 'Is there much to do here at Barchester?' This was said exactly in the tone that a young Admiralty clerk might use in asking the same question of a brother acolyte in the Treasury.'The work of a bishop of the Church of England,' said Dr Proudie, with considerable dignity, 'is not easy. The responsibility which he has to bear is very great indeed.' 'Is it?' said Bertie, opening wide his wonderful blue eyes. 'Well; I never was afraid of responsibility. I once thought of being a bishop myself.' 'Had thought of being a bishop?' said Dr Proudie, much amazed. 'That is, a parson--a parson first, you know, and a bishop afterwards. If I had once begun, I'd have stuck to it. But, on the whole, I like the Church of Rome the best.' The bishop could not discuss the point, so he remained silent. 'Now, there's my father,' continued Bertie; 'he hasn't stuck to it. I fancy he didn't like saying the same thing so often. By the bye, bishop, have you seen my father?'
The bishop was more amazed than ever. Had he seen his father? 'No,' he replied; he had not yet had the pleasure; he hoped he might; and, as he said so, he resolved to bear heavy on that fat, immoveable rector, if ever he had the power of doing so.'He's in the room somewhere,' said Bertie, 'and he'll turn up soon. By the bye, do you know much about the Jews?' At last the bishop saw a way out. 'I beg your pardon,' said he; 'but I'm forced to go round the room.'
'Well--I believe I'll follow in your wake,' said Bertie. 'Terribly hot, isn't it?' This he addressed to the fat rector with whom he had brought himself into the closest contact. 'They've got this sofa into the worst possible part of the room; suppose we move it. Take care, Madeline.'
The sofa had certainly been so placed that those who were behind it found great difficulty in getting out;--there was but a narrow gangway, which one person could stop. This was a bad arrangement, and one which Bertie thought it might be well to improve.
'Take care, Madeline,' said he; and turning to the fat rector, added, 'Just help me with a slight push.'
The rector's weight was resting on the sofa, and unwittingly lent all its impetus to accelerate and increase the motion which Bertie intentionally originated. The sofa rushed from its moorings, and ran half-way into the middle of the room. Mrs Proudie was standing with Mr Slope in front of the signora, and had been trying to be condescending and sociable; but she was not in the very best of tempers; for she found that whenever she spoke to the lady, the lady replied by speaking to Mr Slope. Mr Slope was a favourite, no doubt; but Mrs Proudie had no idea of being less thought of than the chaplain. She was beginning to be stately, stiff, and offended, when unfortunately the castor of the sofa caught itself in her lace train, and carried away there is no saying how much of her garniture. Gathers were heard to go, stitches to crack, plaits to fly open, flounces were seen to fall, and breadths to expose themselves;--a long ruin of rent lace disfigured the carpet, and still clung to the vile wheel on which the sofa moved.
So, when a granite battery is raised, excellent to the eyes of warfaring men, is its strength and symmetry admired. It is the work of years. Its neat embrasures, its finished parapets, its casemated stories, show all the skill of modern science. But, anon, a small spark is applied to the treacherous fusee--a cloud of dust arises to the heavens--and then nothing is to be seen but dirt and dust and ugly fragments.
We know what was the wrath of Juno when her beauty was despised. We know too what storms of passion even celestial minds can yield. As Juno may have looked at Paris on Mount Ida, so did Mrs Proudie look on Ethelbert Stanhope when he pushed the leg of the sofa into her train.'Oh, you idiot, Bertie!' said the signora, seeing what had been done, and what were the consequences.
'Idiot,' re-echoed Mrs Proudie, as though the word were not half strong enough to express the required meaning; 'I'll let him know -;' and then looking round to learn, at a glance, the worst, she saw that at present it behoved her to collect the scattered debris of her dress.
Bertie, when he saw what he had done, rushed over the sofa, and threw himself on one knee before the offended lady. His object, doubtless, was to liberate the torn lace from the castor; but he looked as though he were imploring pardon from a goddess.
'Unhand it, sir!' said Mrs Proudie. From what scrap of dramatic poetry she had extracted the word cannot be said; but it must have rested on her memory, and now seemed opportunely dignified for the occasion.'I'll fly to the looms of the fairies to repair the damage, if you'll only forgive me,' said Ethelbert, still on his knees.
'Unhand it, sir!' said Mrs Proudie, with redoubled emphasis, and all but furious wrath. This allusion to the fairies was a direct mockery, and intended to turn her into ridicule. So at least it seemed to her. 'Unhand it, sir!' she almost screamed.
'It's not me; it's the cursed sofa,' said Bertie, looking imploringly in her face, and holding both his hands to show that he was not touching her belongings, but still remaining on his knees.
Hereupon the signora laughed; not loud, indeed, but yet audibly. And as the tigress bereft of her young will turn with equal anger on any within reach, so did Mrs Proudie turn upon her female guest.'Madam,' she said--and it is beyond the power of prose to tell of the fire that flashed from her eyes.
By this time the bishop, and Mr Slope, and her three daughters were around her, and had collected together the wide ruins of her magnificence. The girls fell into circular rank behind their mother, and thus following her and carrying out the fragments, they left the reception-rooms in a manner not altogether devoid of dignity. Mrs Proudie had to retire to re-array herself.
As soon as the constellation had swept by, Ethelbert rose from his knees, and turning with mock anger to the fat rector, said: 'After all it was your doing, sir--not mine. But perhaps you are waiting for preferment, and so I bore it.'Whereupon there was a laugh against the fat rector, in which both the bishop and the chaplain joined; and thus things got themselves again into order.
'Oh, my lord, I am so sorry for this accident,' said the signora, putting out her hand so as to force the bishop to take it. 'My brother is so thoughtless. Pray sit down, and let me have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. Though I am so poor a creature as to want a sofa, I am not so selfish as to require it all.' Madeline could always dispose herself so as to make room for a gentleman, though, as she declared, the crinoline of her lady friends was much too bulky to be so accommodated.
'It was solely for the pleasure of meeting you that I have had myself dragged here,' she continued. 'Of course, with your occupation, one cannot even hope that you should have time to come to us, that is, in the way of calling. And at your English dinner-parties all is so dull and so stately. Do you know, my lord, that in coming to England my only consolation has been the thought that I should know you;' and she looked at him with the look of a she-devil.
The bishop, however, thought that she looked very like an angel, and accepting the proffered seat, sat down beside her. He uttered some platitude as to this deep obligation for the trouble she had taken, and wondered more and more who she was.
'Of course you know my sad story?' she continued. The bishop didn't know a word of it. He knew, however, or thought he knew, that she couldn't walk into a room like other people, and so made the most of that. He put on a look of ineffable distress, and said that he was aware how God had afflicted her.
The signora just touched the corner of her eyes with the most lovely of pockethandkerchiefs. Yes, she said--she had been very sorely tried--tried, she thought, beyond the common endurance of humanity; but while her child was left to her, everything was left. 'Oh! My lord,' she exclaimed, 'you must see the infant--the last bud of a wondrous tree: you must let a mother hope that you will lay your holy hands on her innocent head, and consecrate her for female virtues. May I hope it?' said she, looking into the bishop's eye, and touching the bishop's arm with her hand.
The bishop was but a man, and said she might. After all, what was it but a request that he would confirm her daughter?--a request, indeed, very unnecessary to make, as he should do so as a matter of course, if the young lady came forward in the usual way.'The blood of Tiberius,' said the signora, in all but a whisper; 'the blood of Tiberius flows in her veins. She is the last of the Neros!'
The bishop had heard of the last of the Visigoths, and had floating in his brain some indistinct idea of the last of the Mohicans, but to have the last of the Neros thus brought before him for a blessing was very staggering. Still he liked the lady: she had a proper way of thinking, and talked with more propriety than her brother. But who were they? It was now quite clear that that blue madman with the silky beard was not a Prince Vicinironi. The lady was married, and was of course one of the Vicinironis by right of the husband. So the bishop went on learning.'When will you see her?' said the signora with a start. 'See whom?' said the bishop. 'My child,' said the mother. 'What is the young lady's age?' asked the bishop. 'She is just seven,' said the signora. 'Oh,' said the bishop, shaking his head; 'she is much too young--very much too young.' 'But in sunny Italy you know, we do not count by years,' and the signora gave the bishop one of her very sweetest smiles.
'But indeed, she is a great deal too young,' persisted the bishop; 'we never confirm before--'
'But you might speak to her; you might let her hear from your consecrated lips, that she is not a castaway because she is a Roman; that she may be a Nero and yet a Christian; that she may owe her black locks and dark cheeks to the blood of the pagan Caesars, and yet herself be a child of grace; you will tell her this, won't you, my friend?'
'No,' said the signora, 'I would not allow her to learn lessons such as those in a land ridden by priests, and polluted by the idolatry of Rome. It is here, here in Barchester, that she must first be taught to lisp those holy words. Oh, that you could be her instructor!'
Now, Dr Proudie certainly liked the lady, but, seeing that he was a bishop, it was not probable that he was going to instruct a little girl in the first rudiments of her catechism; so he said he'd send a teacher.'But you will see her yourself, my lord?' The bishop said he would, but where should he call. 'At papa's house,' said the signora, with an air of some little surprise at the question.
The bishop actually wanted the courage to ask her who was her papa; so he was forced at last to leave her without fathoming her mystery. Mrs Proudie, in her second best, had now returned to the rooms, and her husband thought it as well that he should not remain in too close conversation with the lady whom his wife appeared to hold in such slight esteem. Presently he came across his youngest daughter.'Netta,' said he, 'do you know who is the father of that Signora Vicinironi?'
'It isn't Vicinironi, papa,' said Netta; 'but Vesey Neroni, and she's Dr Stanhope's daughter. But I must go and do the civil to Griselda Grantly; I declare nobody has spoken a word to the poor girl this evening.
Dr Stanhope! Dr Vesey Stanhope! Dr Vesey Stanhope's daughter, of whose marriage with a dissolute Italian scamp he now remembered to have heard something! And that impertinent blue cub who had examined him as to his episcopal bearings was old Stanhope's son, and the lady who had entreated him to come and teach her child the catechism was old Stanhope's daughter! The daughter of one of his own prebendaries! As these things flashed across his mind, he was nearly as angry as his wife had been. Nevertheless he could not but own that the mother of the last of the Neros was an agreeable woman.
Dr Proudie tripped out into the adjoining room, in which were congregated a crowd of Grantlyite clergymen, among whom the archdeacon was standing pre-eminent, while the old dean was sitting nearly buried in a huge armchair by the fire-place. The bishop was very anxious to be gracious, and, if possible, to diminish the bitterness which his chaplain had occasioned. Let Mr Slope do the fortiter in re, he himself would pour in the suaviter in modo.
'Pray don't stir, Mr Dean, pray don't stir,' he said, as the old man essayed to get up; 'I take it as a great kindness, your coming to such an omnium gatherum as this. But we have hardly got settled yet, and Mrs Proudie has not been able to see her friends as she would wish to do. Well, Mr Archdeacon, after all, we have not been so hard upon you at Oxford.''No,' said the archdeacon; 'you've only drawn our teeth and cut out our tongues; you've allowed us still to breathe and swallow.'
'Ha, ha, ha!' laughed the bishop; 'it's not quite so easy to cut out the tongue of an Oxford magnate,--and as for teeth,--ha, ha, ha! Why, in the way we've left the matter, it's very odd if the heads of colleges don't have their own way quite as fully as when the hebdomadal board was in all its glory; what do you say, Mr Dean?''An old man, my lord, never likes changes,' said the dean.
'You must have been sad bunglers if it is so,' said the archdeacon; 'and indeed, to tell the truth, I think you have bungled it. At any rate, you must own this; you have not done the half what you boasted you would do.''Now, as regards your system of professors--' began the chancellor slowly. He was never destined to get beyond the beginning. 'Talking of professors,' said a soft clear voice close behind the chancellor's elbow; 'how much you Englishmen might learn from Germany; only you are all too proud.'
The bishop looking round, perceived that abominable young Stanhope had pursued him. The dean stared at him, as though he was some unearthly apparition; so also did two or three prebendaries and minor canons. The archdeacon laughed.'The German professors are men of learning,' said Mr Harding, 'but--' 'German professors!' groaned out the chancellor, as though his nervous system had received a shock which nothing but a week of Oxford air would cure.
'Yes,' continued Ethelbert; not at all understanding why a German professor should be contemptible in the eyes of an Oxford don. 'Not but what the name is best earned at Oxford. In Germany the professors do teach; at Oxford, I believe they only profess to do so, and sometimes not even that. You'll have those universities of yours about your ears soon, if you don't consent to take a lesson from Germany.'
There was no answering this. Dignified clergymen of sixty years of age could not condescend to discuss such a matter with a young man with such clothes and such a beard.
The insult was becoming too deep for the spirit of Oxford to endure, so the archdeacon walked off one way and the chancellor another, followed by their disciples, and the bishop and the young reformer were left together on the hearth-rug.'I was a Jew once myself,' said Bertie.
The bishop was determined not to stand another examination, or be led on any terms into Palestine; so he again remembered that he had to do something very particular, and left young Stanhope with the dean. The dean did not get the worst of it, for Ethelbert gave him a true account of his remarkable doings in the Holy Land.'Oh, Mr Harding,' said the bishop, overtaking the ci-devant warden; 'I wanted to say one word about the hospital. You know, of course, that it is to be filled up.' Mr Harding's heart beat a little, and he said that he had heard so. 'Of course,' continued the bishop; 'there can be only one man whom I could wish to see in that situation. I don't know what your own views may be, Mr Harding--' 'They are very simply told, my lord,' said the other; 'to take the place if it be offered me, and to put up with the want of it should another man get it.'
The bishop professed himself delighted to hear it; Mr Harding might be quite sure that no other man would get it. There were some few circumstances which would in a slight degree change the nature of the duties. Mr Harding was probably aware of this, and would, perhaps, not object to discuss the matter with Mr Slope. It was a subject to which Mr Slope had given a good deal of attention.
Mr Harding felt, he knew not why, oppressed and annoyed. What could Mr Slope do to him? He knew that there were to be changes. The nature of them must be communicated to the warden through somebody, and through whom so naturally as the bishop's chaplain. 'Twas thus that he tried to argue himself back to an easy mind, but in vain.
Mr Slope in the mean time had taken the seat which the bishop had vacated on the signora's sofa, and remained with that lady till it was time to marshal the folk to supper. Not with contented eyes had Mrs Proudie seen this. Had not this woman laughed at her distress, and had not Mr Slope heard it? Was she not an intriguing Italian woman, half wife and half not, full of affectation, airs, and impudence? Was she not horribly bedizened with velvet and pearls, with velvet and pearls, too, which had been torn off her back? Above all, did she not pretend to be more beautiful than her neighbours? To say that Mrs Proudie was jealous would give a wrong idea of her feelings. She had not the slightest desire that Mr Slope should be in love with herself. But she desired the incense of Mr Slope's spiritual and temporal services, and did not choose that they should be turned out of their course to such an object as Signora Neroni. She considered also that Mr Slope ought in duty to hate the signora; and it appeared from his manner that he was very far from hating her.'Come, Mr Slope,' she said, sweeping by, and looking all that she felt; 'can't you make yourself useful? Do pray take Mrs Grantly down to supper.'
Mrs Grantly heard and escaped. The words were hardly out of Mrs Proudie's mouth, before the intended victim had stuck her hand through the arm of one of her husband's curates, and saved herself. What would the archdeacon have said had he seen her walking down stairs with Mr Slope?
Mr Slope heard also, but was by no means so obedient as was expected. Indeed, the period of Mr Slope's obedience to Mrs Proudie was drawing to a close. He did not wish yet to break with her, nor to break with her at all, if it could be avoided. But he intended to be master in that palace, and as she had made the same resolution, it was not improbable that they might come to blows.
Before leaving the signora he arranged a little table before her, and begged to know what he should bring her. She was quite indifferent, she said--nothing--anything. It was now she felt the misery of her position, now that she must be left alone. Well, a little chicken, some ham, and a glass of champagne.
Mr Slope had to explain, not without blushing for his patron, that there was no champagne.
Sherry would do just as well. And then Mr Slope descended with the learned Miss Trefoil on his arm. Could she tell him, he asked, whether the ferns of Barsetshire were equal to those of Cumberland? His strongest worldly passion was for ferns--and before she could answer him he left her wedged between the door and the sideboard. It was fifty minutes before she escaped, and even then unfed.
'You are not leaving us, Mr Slope,' said the watchful lady of the house, seeing her slave escaping towards the door, with stores of provisions held high above the heads of the guests.Mr Slope explained that the Signora Neroni was in want of her supper.
'Pray, Mr Slope, let her brother take it to her,' said Mrs Proudie, quite out loud. 'It is out of the question that you should be so employed. Pray, Mr Slope, oblige me; I am sure Mr Stanhope will wait upon his sister.'Ethelbert was most agreeably occupied in the furthest corner of the room, making himself both useful and agreeable to Mrs Proudie's youngest daughter. 'I couldn't get out, madam, if Madeline were starving for her supper,' said he; 'I'm physically fixed, unless I could fly.'
The lady's anger was increased by seeing that her daughter had gone over to the enemy; and when she saw, that in spite of her remonstrances, in the teeth of her positive orders, Mr Slope went off to the drawing-room, the cup of her indignation ran over, and she could not restrain herself. 'Such manners I never saw,' she said, muttering. 'I cannot, and will not permit it;' and then, after fussing and fuming for a few minutes, she pushed her way through the crowd, and followed Mr Slope.
When she reached the room above, she found it absolutely deserted, except for the guilty pair. The signora was sitting very comfortably up for her supper, and Mr Slope was leaning over her and administering to her wants. They had been discussing the merits of Sabbath-day schools, and the lady suggested that as she could not possibly go to the children, she might be indulged in the wish of her heart by having the children brought to her.'And when shall it be, Mr Slope?' said she.
Mr Slope was saved the necessity of committing himself to a promise by the entry of Mrs Proudie. She swept close up to the sofa so as to confront the guilty pair, stared full at them for a moment, and then said as she passed on to the next room, 'Mr Slope, his lordship is especially desirous of your attendance below; you will greatly oblige me if you will join him.' And so she stalked on.
Mr Slope muttered something in reply, and prepared to go down stairs. As for the bishop's wanting him, he knew his lady patroness well enough to take that assertion at what it was worth; but he did not wish to make himself the hero of a scene, or to become conspicuous for more gallantry than the occasion required.'Is she always like this?' said the signora.
'Yes--always--madam,' said Mrs Proudie, returning; 'always the same--always equally adverse to the impropriety of conduct of every description;' and she stalked back through the room again, following Mr Slope out of the door.
The signora couldn't follow her, or she certainly would have done so. But she laughed loud, and sent the sound of it ringing through the lobby and down the stairs after Mrs Proudie's feet. Had she been as active as Grimaldi, she could probably have taken no better revenge.'But she's lame, Mrs Proudie, and cannot move. Somebody must have waited upon her.' 'Lame,' said Mrs Proudie; 'I'd lame her if she belonged to me. What business had she here at all?--such impertinence--such affectation.'
In the hall and adjacent rooms all manner of cloaking and shawling was going on, and the Barchester folk were getting themselves gone. Mrs Proudie did her best to smirk at each and every one, as they made their adieux, but she was hardly successful. Her temper had been tried fearfully. By slow degrees, the guests went.'Send back the carriage quick,' said Ethelbert, as Dr and Mrs Stanhope took their departure.
The younger Stanhopes were left to the very last, and an uncomfortable party they made with the bishop's family. They all went into the dining-room, and then the bishop observing that the 'lady' was alone in the drawing-room, they followed him up. Mrs Proudie kept Mr Slope and her daughters in close conversation, resolving that he should not be indulged, nor they polluted. The bishop, in mortal dread of Bertie and the Jews, tried to converse with Charlotte Stanhope about the climate of Italy. Bertie and the signora had not resource but in each other.'Did you get your supper at last, Madeline?' said the impudent or else mischievous young man. 'Oh, yes,' said Madeline; 'Mr Slope was so very kind to bring it me. I fear, however, he put himself to more inconvenience than I wished.'
Mrs Proudie looked at her, but said nothing. The meaning of her look might have been translated: 'If ever you find yourself within these walls again, I'll give you leave to be as impudent and affected, and as mischievous as you please.'
At last the carriage returned with the three Italian servants, and la Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni was carried out, as she had been carried in.