Part 5 out of 11
Squire Western. If that representation be a true one, few classes of
men can have made faster strides in improvement. Mr. Thorne,
however, was a man possessed of quite a sufficient number of foibles
to lay him open to much ridicule. He was still a bachelor, being
about fifty, and was not a little proud of his person. When living
at home at Ullathorne, there was not much room for such pride, and
there therefore he always looked like a gentleman and like that which
he certainly was, the first man in his parish. But during the month
or six weeks which he annually spent in London he tried so hard to
look like a great man there also, which he certainly was not, that he
was put down as a fool by many at his club. He was a man of
considerable literary attainment in a certain way and on certain
subjects. His favourite authors were Montaigne and Burton, and he
knew more perhaps than any other man in his own county and the next
to it of the English essayists of the two last centuries. He
possessed complete sets of the Idler, the Spectator, the Tatler, the
Guardian, and the Rambler, and would discourse by hours together on
the superiority of such publications to anything which has since been
produced in our Edinburghs and Quarterlies. He was proficient in all
questions of genealogy and knew enough of almost every gentleman's
family in England to say of what blood and lineage were descended all
those who had any claim to be considered as possessors of any such
luxuries. For blood and lineage he himself had a most profound
respect. He counted back his own ancestors to some period long
antecedent to the Conquest and could tell you, if you would listen to
him, how it had come to pass that they, like Cedric the Saxon, had
been permitted to hold their own among the Norman barons. It was
not, according to his showing, on account of any weak complaisance on
the part of his family towards their Norman neighbours. Some
Ealfried of Ullathorne once fortified his own castle and held out,
not only that, but the then existing cathedral of Barchester also,
against one Geoffrey De Burgh, in the time of King John; and Mr.
Thorne possessed the whole history of the siege written on vellum and
illuminated in a most costly manner. It little signified that no one
could read the writing, as, had that been possible, no one could have
understood the language. Mr. Thorne could, however, give you all the
particulars in good English and had no objection to do so.
It would be unjust to say that he looked down on men whose families
were of recent date. He did not do so. He frequently consorted with
such, and had chosen many of his friends from among them. But he
looked on them as great millionaires are apt to look on those who
have small incomes; as men who have Sophocles at their fingers' ends
regard those who know nothing of Greek. They might doubtless be good
sort of people, entitled to much praise for virtue, very admirable
for talent, highly respectable in every way, but they were without
the one great good gift. Such was Mr. Thorne's way of thinking on
this matter; nothing could atone for the loss of good blood; nothing
could neutralize its good effects. Few indeed were now possessed of
it, but the possession was on that account the more precious. It
was very pleasant to hear Mr. Thorne descant on this matter. Were
you in your ignorance to surmise that such a one was of a good family
because the head of his family was a baronet of an old date, he would
open his eyes with a delightful look of affected surprise and
modestly remind you that baronetcies only dated from James I. He
would gently sigh if you spoke of the blood of the Fitzgeralds and De
Burghs; would hardly allow the claims of the Howards and Lowthers;
and has before now alluded to the Talbots as a family who had hardly
yet achieved the full honours of a pedigree.
In speaking once of a wide-spread race whose name had received the
honours of three coronets, scions from which sat for various
constituencies, some one of whose members had been in almost every
cabinet formed during the present century, a brilliant race such as
there are few in England, Mr. Thorne had called them all "dirt." He
had not intended any disrespect to these men. He admired them in
many senses and allowed them their privileges without envy. He had
merely meant to express his feeling that the streams which ran
through their veins were not yet purified by time to that perfection,
had not become so genuine an ichor, as to be worthy of being called
blood in the genealogical sense.
When Mr. Arabin was first introduced to him, Mr. Thorne had
immediately suggested that he was one of the Arabins of Uphill
Stanton. Mr. Arabin replied that he was a very distant relative of
the family alluded to. To this Mr. Thorne surmised that the
relationship could not be very distant. Mr. Arabin assured him that
it was so distant that the families knew nothing of each other. Mr.
Thorne laughed his gentle laugh at this and told Mr. Arabin that
there was now existing no branch of his family separated from the
parent stock at an earlier date than the reign of Elizabeth, and that
therefore Mr. Arabin could not call himself distant. Mr. Arabin
himself was quite clearly an Arabin of Uphill Stanton.
"But," said the vicar, "Uphill Stanton has been sold to the De Greys
and has been in their hands for the last fifty years."
"And when it has been there one hundred and fifty, if it unluckily
remain there so long," said Mr. Thorne, "your descendants will not be
a whit the less entitled to describe themselves as being of the
family of Uphill Stanton. Thank God no De Grey can buy that--and
thank God no Arabin, and no Thorne, can sell it."
In politics Mr. Thorne was an unflinching conservative. He looked on
those fifty-three Trojans who, as Mr. Dod tells us, censured free
trade in November, 1852, as the only patriots left among the public
men of England. When that terrible crisis of free trade had arrived,
when the repeal of the Corn Laws was carried by those very men whom
Mr. Thorne had hitherto regarded as the only possible saviours of his
country, he was for a time paralysed. His country was lost; but that
was comparatively a small thing. Other countries had flourished and
fallen, and the human race still went on improving under God's
providence. But now all trust in human faith must forever be at an
end. Not only must ruin come, but it must come through the apostasy
of those who had been regarded as the truest of true believers.
Politics in England, as a pursuit for gentlemen, must be at an end.
Had Mr. Thorne been trodden under foot by a Whig, he could have borne
it as a Tory and a martyr, but to be so utterly thrown over and
deceived by those he had so earnestly supported, so thoroughly
trusted, was more than he could endure and live. He therefore ceased
to live as a politician and refused to hold any converse with the
world at large on the state of the country.
Such were Mr. Thorne's impressions for the first two or three years
after Sir Robert Peel's apostasy, but by degrees his temper, as did
that of others, cooled down. He began once more to move about, to
frequent the bench and the market, and to be seen at dinners shoulder
to shoulder with some of those who had so cruelly betrayed him. It
was a necessity for him to live, and that plan of his for avoiding
the world did not answer. He, however, and others around him who
still maintained the same staunch principles of protection--men like
himself who were too true to flinch at the cry of a mob--had their
own way of consoling themselves. They were, and felt themselves to
be, the only true depositaries left of certain Eleusinian mysteries,
of certain deep and wondrous services of worship by which alone the
gods could be rightly approached. To them and them only was it now
given to know these things and to perpetuate them, if that might
still be done, by the careful and secret education of their children.
We have read how private and peculiar forms of worship have been
carried on from age to age in families which, to the outer world,
have apparently adhered to the services of some ordinary church. And
so by degrees it was with Mr. Thorne. He learnt at length to listen
calmly while protection was talked of as a thing dead, although he
knew within himself that it was still quick with a mystic life. Nor
was he without a certain pleasure that such knowledge, though given
to him, should be debarred from the multitude. He became accustomed
to hear even among country gentlemen that free trade was after all
not so bad, and to hear this without dispute, although conscious
within himself that everything good in England had gone with his old
palladium. He had within him something of the feeling of Cato, who
gloried that he could kill himself because Romans were no longer
worthy of their name. Mr. Thorne had no thought of killing himself,
being a Christian and still possessing his £4000 a year, but the
feeling was not on that account the less comfortable.
Mr. Thorne was a sportsman, and had been active though not outrageous
in his sports. Previous to the great downfall of politics in his
county, he had supported the hunt by every means in his power. He
had preserved game till no goose or turkey could show a tail in the
parish of St. Ewold's. He had planted gorse covers with more care
than oaks and larches. He had been more anxious for the comfort of
his foxes than of his ewes and lambs. No meet had been more popular
than Ullathorne; no man's stables had been more liberally open to the
horses of distant men than Mr. Thorne's; no man had said more,
written more, or done more to keep the club up. The theory of
protection could expand itself so thoroughly in the practices of a
county hunt! But when the great ruin came; when the noble master of
the Barsetshire hounds supported the recreant minister in the House
of Lords and basely surrendered his truth, his manhood, his friends,
and his honour for the hope of a garter, then Mr. Thorne gave up the
hunt. He did not cut his covers, for that would not have been the
act of a gentleman. He did not kill his foxes, for that according to
his light would have been murder. He did not say that his covers
should not be drawn, or his earths stopped, for that would have been
illegal according to the by-laws prevailing among country gentlemen.
But he absented himself from home on the occasion of every meet at
Ullathorne, left the covers to their fate, and could not be persuaded
to take his pink coat out of his press, or his hunters out of his
stable. This lasted for two years, and then by degrees he came
round. He first appeared at a neighbouring meet on a pony, dressed
in his shooting-coat, as though he had trotted in by accident; then
he walked up one morning on foot to see his favourite gorse drawn,
and when his groom brought his mare out by chance, he did not refuse
to mount her. He was next persuaded, by one of the immortal fifty-
three, to bring his hunting materials over to the other side of the
county and take a fortnight with the hounds there; and so gradually
he returned to his old life. But in hunting as in other things he
was only supported by an inward feeling of mystic superiority to
those with whom he shared the common breath of outer life.
Mr. Thorne did not live in solitude at Ullathorne. He had a sister,
who was ten years older than himself and who participated in his
prejudices and feelings so strongly that she was a living caricature
of all his foibles. She would not open a modern quarterly, did not
choose to see a magazine in her drawing-room, and would not have
polluted her fingers with a shred of the Times for any consideration.
She spoke of Addison, Swift, and Steele as though they were still
living, regarded Defoe as the best known novelist of his country, and
thought of Fielding as a young but meritorious novice in the fields
of romance. In poetry, she was familiar with names as late as
Dryden, and had once been seduced into reading "The Rape of the
Lock;" but she regarded Spenser as the purest type of her country's
literature in this line. Genealogy was her favourite insanity.
Those things which are the pride of most genealogists were to her
contemptible. Arms and mottoes set her beside herself. Ealfried of
Ullathorne had wanted no motto to assist him in cleaving to the
brisket Geoffrey De Burgh, and Ealfried's great grandfather, the
gigantic Ullafrid, had required no other arms than those which nature
gave him to hurl from the top of his own castle a cousin of the base
invading Norman. To her all modern English names were equally
insignificant: Hengist, Horsa, and such like had for her ears the
only true savour of nobility. She was not contented unless she could
go beyond the Saxons, and would certainly have christened her
children, had she had children, by the names of the ancient Britons.
In some respects she was not unlike Scott's Ulrica, and had she been
given to cursing, she would certainly have done so in the names of
Mista, Skogula, and Zernebock. Not having submitted to the embraces
of any polluting Norman, as poor Ulrica had done, and having assisted
no parricide, the milk of human kindness was not curdled in her
bosom. She never cursed therefore, but blessed rather. This,
however, she did in a strange uncouth Saxon manner that would have
been unintelligible to any peasants but her own.
As a politician, Miss Thorne had been so thoroughly disgusted with
public life by base deeds long antecedent to the Corn Law question
that that had but little moved her. In her estimation her brother
had been a fast young man, hurried away by a too ardent temperament
into democratic tendencies. Now happily he was brought to sounder
views by seeing the iniquity of the world. She had not yet
reconciled herself to the Reform Bill, and still groaned in spirit
over the defalcations of the Duke as touching the Catholic
Emancipation. If asked whom she thought the Queen should take as her
counsellor, she would probably have named Lord Eldon, and when
reminded that that venerable man was no longer present in the flesh
to assist us, she would probably have answered with a sigh that none
now could help us but the dead.
In religion Miss Thorne was a pure Druidess. We would not have it
understood by that that she did actually in these latter days assist
at any human sacrifices, or that she was in fact hostile to the
Church of Christ. She had adopted the Christian religion as a milder
form of the worship of her ancestors, and always appealed to her
doing so as evidence that she had no prejudices against reform, when
it could be shown that reform was salutary. This reform was the most
modern of any to which she had as yet acceded, it being presumed that
British ladies had given up their paint and taken to some sort of
petticoats before the days of St. Augustine. That further feminine
step in advance which combines paint and petticoats together had not
found a votary in Miss Thorne.
But she was a Druidess in this, that she regretted she knew not what
in the usages and practices of her Church. She sometimes talked and
constantly thought of good things gone by, though she had but the
faintest idea of what those good things had been. She imagined that
a purity had existed which was now gone, that a piety had adorned our
pastors and a simple docility our people, for which it may be feared
history gave her but little true warrant. She was accustomed to
speak of Cranmer as though he had been the firmest and most simple-
minded of martyrs, and of Elizabeth as though the pure Protestant
faith of her people had been the one anxiety of her life. It would
have been cruel to undeceive her, had it been possible; but it would
have been impossible to make her believe that the one was a time-
serving priest, willing to go any length to keep his place, and that
the other was in heart a papist, with this sole proviso, that she
should be her own pope.
And so Miss Thorne went on sighing and regretting, looking back to
the divine right of kings as the ruling axiom of a golden age, and
cherishing, low down in the bottom of her heart of hearts, a dear
unmentioned wish for the restoration of some exiled Stuart. Who
would deny her the luxury of her sighs, or the sweetness of her soft
In her person and her dress she was perfect, and well she knew her
own perfection. She was a small, elegantly made old woman, with a
face from which the glow of her youth had not departed without
leaving some streaks of a roseate hue. She was proud of her colour,
proud of her grey hair which she wore in short crisp curls peering
out all around her face from her dainty white lace cap. To think of
all the money that she spent in lace used to break the heart of poor
Mrs. Quiverful with her seven daughters. She was proud of her teeth,
which were still white and numerous, proud of her bright cheery eye,
proud of her short jaunty step; and very proud of the neat, precise,
small feet with which those steps were taken. She was proud also,
ay, very proud, of the rich brocaded silk in which it was her custom
to ruffle through her drawing-room.
We know what was the custom of the lady of Branksome--
Nine-and-twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome Hall.
The lady of Ullathorne was not so martial in her habits, but hardly
less costly. She might have boasted that nine-and-twenty silken
skirts might have been produced in her chamber, each fit to stand
alone. The nine-and-twenty shields of the Scottish heroes were less
independent and hardly more potent to withstand any attack that might
be made on them. Miss Thorne when fully dressed might be said to
have been armed cap-a-pie, and she was always fully dressed, as far
as was ever known to mortal man.
For all this rich attire Miss Thorne was not indebted to the
generosity of her brother. She had a very comfortable independence
of her own, which she divided among juvenile relatives, the
milliners, and the poor, giving much the largest share to the latter.
It may be imagined, therefore, that with all her little follies she
was not unpopular. All her follies have, we believe, been told. Her
virtues were too numerous to describe and not sufficiently
interesting to deserve description.
While we are on the subject of the Thornes, one word must be said of
the house they lived in. It was not a large house, nor a fine house,
nor perhaps to modern ideas a very commodious house, but by those who
love the peculiar colour and peculiar ornaments of genuine Tudor
architecture it was considered a perfect gem. We beg to own
ourselves among the number and therefore take this opportunity to
express our surprise that so little is known by English men and women
of the beauties of English architecture. The ruins of the Colosseum,
the Campanile at Florence, St. Mark's, Cologne, the Bourse and Notre
Dame are with our tourists as familiar as household words, but they
know nothing of the glories of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and
Somersetshire. Nay, we much question whether many noted travellers,
men who have pitched their tents perhaps under Mount Sinai, are not
still ignorant that there are glories in Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and
Somersetshire. We beg that they will go and see.
Mr. Thorne's house was called Ullathorne Court--and was properly so
called, for the house itself formed two sides of a quadrangle, which
was completed on the other two sides by a wall about twenty feet
high. This wall was built of cut stone, rudely cut indeed, and now
much worn, but of a beautiful, rich, tawny yellow colour, the effect
of that stonecrop of minute growth which it had taken three centuries
to produce. The top of this wall was ornamented by huge, round stone
balls of the same colour as the wall itself. Entrance into the court
was had through a pair of iron gates so massive that no one could
comfortably open or close them--consequently, they were rarely
disturbed. From the gateway two paths led obliquely across the
court: that to the left reaching the hall-door, which was in the
corner made by the angle of the house, and that to the right leading
to the back entrance, which was at the further end of the longer
portion of the building.
With those who are now adepts in contriving house accommodation, it
will militate much against Ullathorne Court that no carriage could be
brought to the hall-door. If you enter Ullathorne at all, you must
do so, fair reader, on foot, or at least in a bath-chair. No vehicle
drawn by horses ever comes within that iron gate. But this is
nothing to the next horror that will encounter you. On entering the
front door, which you do by no very grand portal, you find yourself
immediately in the dining-room. What, no hall? exclaims my luxurious
friend, accustomed to all the comfortable appurtenances of modern
life. Yes, kind sir, a noble hall, if you will but observe it; a
true old English hall of excellent dimensions for a country
gentleman's family; but, if you please, no dining-parlour.
Both Mr. and Miss Thorne were proud of this peculiarity of their
dwelling, though the brother was once all but tempted by his friends
to alter it. They delighted in the knowledge that they, like Cedric,
positively dined in their true hall, even though they so dined
tête-à-tête. But though they had never owned, they had felt and
endeavoured to remedy the discomfort of such an arrangement. A huge
screen partitioned off the front door and a portion of the hall, and
from the angle so screened off a second door led into a passage which
ran along the larger side of the house next to the courtyard. Either
my reader or I must be a bad hand at topography, if it be not clear
that the great hall forms the ground-floor of the smaller portion of
the mansion, that which was to your left as you entered the iron
gate, and that it occupies the whole of this wing of the building.
It must be equally clear that it looks out on a trim mown lawn,
through three quadrangular windows with stone mullions, each window
divided into a larger portion at the bottom, and a smaller portion at
the top, and each portion again divided into five by perpendicular
stone supporters. There may be windows which give a better light
than such as these, and it may be, as my utilitarian friend observes,
that the giving of light is the desired object of a window. I will
not argue the point with him. Indeed I cannot. But I shall not the
less die in the assured conviction that no sort or description of
window is capable of imparting half so much happiness to mankind as
that which had been adopted at Ullathorne Court. What, not an oriel?
says Miss Diana de Midellage. No, Miss Diana, not even an oriel,
beautiful as is an oriel window. It has not about it so perfect a
feeling of quiet English homely comfort. Let oriel windows grace a
college, or the half-public mansion of a potent peer, but for the
sitting room of quiet country ladies, of ordinary homely folk,
nothing can equal the square, mullioned windows of the Tudor
The hall was hung round with family female insipidities by Lely and
unprepossessing male Thornes in red coats by Kneller, each Thorne
having been let into a panel in the wainscoting, in the proper
manner. At the further end of the room was a huge fire-place, which
afforded much ground of difference between the brother and sister.
An antiquated grate that would hold about a hundredweight of coal,
had been stuck on to the hearth by Mr. Thorne's father. This hearth
had of course been intended for the consumption of wood faggots, and
the iron dogs for the purpose were still standing, though half-buried
in the masonry of the grate. Miss Thorne was very anxious to revert
to the dogs. The dear good old creature was always glad to revert to
anything, and had she been systematically indulged, would doubtless
in time have reflected that fingers were made before forks and have
reverted accordingly. But in the affairs of the fire-place Mr.
Thorne would not revert. Country gentlemen around him all had
comfortable grates in their dining-rooms. He was not exactly the man
to have suggested a modern usage, but he was not so far prejudiced as
to banish those which his father had prepared for his use. Mr.
Thorne had indeed once suggested that with very little contrivance
the front door might have been so altered as to open at least into
the passage, but on hearing this, his sister Monica--such was Miss
Thorne's name--had been taken ill and had remained so for a week.
Before she came downstairs she received a pledge from her brother
that the entrance should never be changed in her lifetime.
At the end of the hall opposite to the fire-place a door led into the
drawing-room, which was of equal size and lighted with precisely
similar windows. But yet the aspect of the room was very different.
It was papered, and the ceiling, which in the hall showed the old
rafters, was whitened and finished with a modern cornice. Miss
Thorne's drawing-room, or, as she always called it, withdrawing-room,
was a beautiful apartment. The windows opened on to the full extent
of the lovely trim garden; immediately before the windows were plots
of flowers in stiff, stately, stubborn little beds, each bed
surrounded by a stone coping of its own; beyond, there was a low
parapet wall on which stood urns and images, fawns, nymphs, satyrs,
and a whole tribe of Pan's followers; and then again, beyond that, a
beautiful lawn sloped away to a sunk fence which divided the garden
from the park. Mr. Thorne's study was at the end of the drawing-
room, and beyond that were the kitchen and the offices. Doors opened
into both Miss Thorne's withdrawing-room and Mr. Thorne's sanctum
from the passage above alluded to, which, as it came to the latter
room, widened itself so as to make space for the huge black oak
stairs which led to the upper regions.
Such was the interior of Ullathorne Court. But having thus described
it, perhaps somewhat too tediously, we beg to say that it is not the
interior to which we wish to call the English tourist's attention,
though we advise him to lose no legitimate opportunity of becoming
acquainted with it in a friendly manner. It is the outside of
Ullathorne that is so lovely. Let the tourist get admission at least
into the garden and fling himself on that soft sward just opposite to
the exterior angle of the house. He will there get the double
frontage and enjoy that which is so lovely--the expanse of
architectural beauty without the formal dullness of one long line.
It is the colour of Ullathorne that is so remarkable. It is of that
delicious tawny hue which no stone can give, unless it has on it the
vegetable richness of centuries. Strike the wall with your hand and
you will think that the stone has on it no covering, but rub it
carefully and you will find that the colour comes off upon your
finger. No colourist that ever yet worked from a palette has been
able to come up to this rich colouring of years crowding themselves
Ullathorne is a high building for a country-house, for it possesses
three stories, and in each story the windows are of the same sort as
that described, though varying in size and varying also in their
lines athwart the house. Those of the ground floor are all uniform
in size and position. But those above are irregular both in size and
place, and this irregularity gives a bizarre and not unpicturesque
appearance to the building. Along the top, on every side, runs a low
parapet, which nearly hides the roof, and at the corners are more
figures of fawns and satyrs.
Such is Ullathorne House. But we must say one word of the approach
to it, which shall include all the description which we mean to give
of the church also. The picturesque old church of St. Ewold's stands
immediately opposite to the iron gates which open into the court and
is all but surrounded by the branches of the lime-trees which form
the avenue leading up to the house from both sides. This avenue is
magnificent, but it would lose much of its value in the eyes of many
proprietors by the fact that the road through it is not private
property. It is a public lane between hedgerows, with a broad grass
margin on each side of the road, from which the lime-trees spring.
Ullathorne Court, therefore, does not stand absolutely surrounded by
its own grounds, though Mr. Thorne is owner of all the adjacent land.
This, however, is the source of very little annoyance to him. Men,
when they are acquiring property, think much of such things, but they
who live where their ancestors have lived for years do not feel the
misfortune. It never occurred either to Mr. or Miss Thorne that they
were not sufficiently private because the world at large might, if it
so wished, walk or drive by their iron gates. That part of the world
which availed itself of the privilege was however very small.
Such a year or two since were the Thornes of Ullathorne. Such, we
believe, are the inhabitants of many an English country-home. May it
be long before their number diminishes.
Mr. Arabin Reads Himself in at St. Ewold's
On the Sunday morning the archdeacon with his sister-in-law and Mr.
Arabin drove over to Ullathorne, as had been arranged. On their way
thither the new vicar declared himself to be considerably disturbed
in his mind at the idea of thus facing his parishioners for the first
time. He had, he said, been always subject to mauvaise honte and an
annoying degree of bashfulness, which often unfitted him for any work
of a novel description, and now he felt this so strongly that he
feared he should acquit himself badly in St. Ewold's reading-desk.
He knew, he said, that those sharp little eyes of Miss Thorne would
be on him and that they would not approve. All this the archdeacon
greatly ridiculed. He himself knew not, and had never known, what it
was to be shy. He could not conceive that Miss Thorne, surrounded as
she would be by the peasants of Ullathorne and a few of the poorer
inhabitants of the suburbs of Barchester, could in any way affect the
composure of a man well accustomed to address the learned
congregation of St. Mary's at Oxford, and he laughed accordingly at
the idea of Mr. Arabin's modesty.
Thereupon Mr. Arabin commenced to subtilize. The change, he said,
from St. Mary's to St. Ewold's was quite as powerful on the spirits
as would be that from St. Ewold's to St. Mary's. Would not a peer
who, by chance of fortune, might suddenly be driven to herd among
navvies be as afraid of the jeers of his companions as would any
navvy suddenly exalted to a seat among the peers? Whereupon the
archdeacon declared with a loud laugh that he would tell Miss Thorne
that her new minister had likened her to a navvy. Eleanor, however,
pronounced such a conclusion to be unfair; a comparison might be very
just in its proportions which did not at all assimilate the things
compared. But Mr. Arabin went on subtilizing, regarding neither the
archdeacon's raillery nor Eleanor's defence. A young lady, he said,
would execute with most perfect self-possession a difficult piece of
music in a room crowded with strangers, who would not be able to
express herself in intelligible language, even on any ordinary
subject and among her most intimate friends, if she were required to
do so standing on a box somewhat elevated among them. It was all an
affair of education, and he at forty found it difficult to educate
Eleanor dissented on the matter of the box and averred she could
speak very well about dresses, or babies, or legs of mutton from any
box, provided it were big enough for her to stand upon without fear,
even though all her friends were listening to her. The archdeacon
was sure she would not be able to say a word, but this proved nothing
in favour of Mr. Arabin. Mr. Arabin said that he would try the
question out with Mrs. Bold and get her on a box some day when the
rectory might be full of visitors. To this Eleanor assented, making
condition that the visitors should be of their own set, and the
archdeacon cogitated in his mind whether by such a condition it was
intended that Mr. Slope should be included, resolving also that, if
so, the trial would certainly never take place in the rectory
drawing-room at Plumstead.
And so arguing, they drove up to the iron gates of Ullathorne Court.
Mr. and Miss Thorne were standing ready dressed for church in the
hall and greeted their clerical visitors with cordiality. The
archdeacon was an old favourite. He was a clergyman of the old
school, and this recommended him to the lady. He had always been an
opponent of free trade as long as free trade was an open question,
and now that it was no longer so, he, being a clergyman, had not been
obliged, like most of his lay Tory companions, to read his
recantation. He could therefore be regarded as a supporter of the
immaculate fifty-three, and was on this account a favourite with Mr.
Thorne. The little bell was tinkling, and the rural population of
the parish were standing about the lane, leaning on the church-stile
and against the walls of the old court, anxious to get a look at
their new minister as he passed from the house to the rectory. The
archdeacon's servant had already preceded them thither with the
They all went forth together, and when the ladies passed into the
church, the three gentlemen tarried a moment in the lane, that Mr.
Thorne might name to the vicar with some kind of one-sided
introduction the most leading among his parishioners.
"Here are our churchwardens, Mr. Arabin--Farmer Greenacre and Mr.
Stiles. Mr. Stiles has the mill as you go into Barchester; and very
good churchwardens they are."
"Not very severe, I hope," said Mr. Arabin. The two ecclesiastical
officers touched their hats and each made a leg in the approved rural
fashion, assuring the vicar that they were very glad to have the
honour of seeing him and adding that the weather was very good for
the harvest. Mr. Stiles, being a man somewhat versed in town life,
had an impression of his own dignity and did not quite like leaving
his pastor under the erroneous idea that he being a churchwarden kept
the children in order during church time. 'Twas thus he understood
Mr. Arabin's allusion to his severity and hastened to put matters
right by observing that "Sexton Clodheve looked to the younguns, and
perhaps sometimes there may be a thought too much stick going on
during sermon." Mr. Arabin's bright eye twinkled as he caught that
of the archdeacon, and he smiled to himself as he observed how
ignorant his officers were of the nature of their authority and of
the surveillance which it was their duty to keep even over himself.
Mr. Arabin read the lessons and preached. It was enough to put a man
a little out, let him have been ever so used to pulpit reading, to
see the knowing way in which the farmers cocked their ears and set
about a mental criticism as to whether their new minister did or did
not fall short of the excellence of him who had lately departed from
them. A mental and silent criticism it was for the existing moment,
but soon to be made public among the elders of St. Ewold's over the
green graves of their children and forefathers. The excellence,
however, of poor old Mr. Goodenough had not been wonderful, and there
were few there who did not deem that Mr. Arabin did his work
sufficiently well, in spite of the slightly nervous affliction which
at first impeded him and which nearly drove the archdeacon beside
But the sermon was the thing to try the man. It often surprises us
that very young men can muster courage to preach for the first time
to a strange congregation. Men who are as yet but little more than
boys, who have but just left what indeed we may not call a school,
but a seminary intended for their tuition as scholars, whose thoughts
have been mostly of boating, cricketing, and wine-parties, ascend a
rostrum high above the heads of the submissive crowd, not that they
may read God's word to those below, but that they may preach their
own word for the edification of their hearers. It seems strange to
us that they are not stricken dumb by the new and awful solemnity of
their position. How am I, just turned twenty-three, who have never
yet passed ten thoughtful days since the power of thought first came
to me, how am I to instruct these greybeards who, with the weary
thinking of so many years, have approached so near the grave? Can I
teach them their duty? Can I explain to them that which I so
imperfectly understand, that which years of study may have made so
plain to them? Has my newly acquired privilege as one of God's
ministers imparted to me as yet any fitness for the wonderful work of
It must be supposed that such ideas do occur to young clergymen, and
yet they overcome, apparently with ease, this difficulty which to us
appears to be all but insurmountable. We have never been subjected
in the way of ordination to the power of a bishop's hands. It may be
that there is in them something that sustains the spirit and banishes
the natural modesty of youth. But for ourselves we must own that the
deep affection which Dominie Sampson felt for his young pupils has
not more endeared him to us than the bashful spirit which sent him
mute and inglorious from the pulpit when he rose there with the
futile attempt to preach God's gospel.
There is a rule in our church which forbids the younger order of our
clergymen to perform a certain portion of the service. The
absolution must be read by a minister in priest's orders. If there
be no such minister present, the congregation can have the benefit of
no absolution but that which each may succeed in administering to
himself. The rule may be a good one, though the necessity for it
hardly comes home to the general understanding. But this forbearance
on the part of youth would be much more appreciated if it were
extended likewise to sermons. The only danger would be that
congregations would be too anxious to prevent their young clergymen
from advancing themselves in the ranks of the ministry. Clergymen
who could not preach would be such blessings that they would be
bribed to adhere to their incompetence.
Mr. Arabin, however, had not the modesty of youth to impede him, and
he succeeded with his sermon even better than with the lessons. He
took for his text two verses out of the second epistle of St. John,
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ,
hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath
both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring
not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him
God-speed." He told them that the house of theirs to which he
alluded was this their church, in which he now addressed them for the
first time; that their most welcome and proper manner of bidding him
God-speed would be their patient obedience to his teaching of the
gospel; but that he could put forward no claim to such conduct on
their part unless he taught them the great Christian doctrine of
works and faith combined. On this he enlarged, but not very amply,
and after twenty minutes succeeded in sending his new friends home to
their baked mutton and pudding well pleased with their new minister.
Then came the lunch at Ullathorne. As soon as they were in the hall
Miss Thorne took Mr. Arabin's hand and assured him that she received
him into her house, into the temple, she said, in which she
worshipped, and bade him God-speed with all her heart. Mr. Arabin
was touched and squeezed the spinster's hand without uttering a word
in reply. Then Mr. Thorne expressed a hope that Mr. Arabin found the
church well adapted for articulation, and Mr. Arabin having replied
that he had no doubt he should as soon as he had learnt to pitch his
voice to the building, they all sat down to the good things before
Miss Thorne took special care of Mrs. Bold. Eleanor still wore her
widow's weeds and therefore had about her that air of grave and sad
maternity which is the lot of recent widows. This opened the soft
heart of Miss Thorne and made her look on her young guest as though
too much could not be done for her. She heaped chicken and ham upon
her plate and poured out for her a full bumper of port wine. When
Eleanor, who was not sorry to get it, had drunk a little of it, Miss
Thorne at once essayed to fill it again. To this Eleanor objected,
but in vain. Miss Thorne winked and nodded and whispered, saying
that it was the proper thing and must be done, and that she knew all
about it; and so she desired Mrs. Bold to drink it up and not mind
"It is your duty, you know, to support yourself," she said into the
ear of the young mother; "there's more than yourself depending on
it;" and thus she coshered up Eleanor with cold fowl and port wine.
How it is that poor men's wives, who have no cold fowl and port wine
on which to be coshered up, nurse their children without difficulty,
whereas the wives of rich men, who eat and drink everything that is
good, cannot do so, we will for the present leave to the doctors and
the mothers to settle between them.
And then Miss Thorne was great about teeth. Little Johnny Bold had
been troubled for the last few days with his first incipient
masticator, and with that freemasonry which exists among ladies, Miss
Thorne became aware of the fact before Eleanor had half-finished her
wing. The old lady prescribed at once a receipt which had been much
in vogue in the young days of her grandmother and warned Eleanor with
solemn voice against the fallacies of modern medicine.
"Take his coral, my dear," said she, "and rub it well with carrot-
juice; rub it till the juice dries on it, and then give it him to
"But he hasn't got a coral," said Eleanor.
"Not got a coral!" said Miss Thorne with almost angry vehemence.
"Not got a coral--how can you expect that he should cut his teeth?
Have you got Daffy's Elixir?"
Eleanor explained that she had not. It had not been ordered by Mr.
Rerechild, the Barchester doctor whom she employed; and then the
young mother mentioned some shockingly modern succedaneum which Mr.
Rerechild's new lights had taught him to recommend.
Miss Thorne looked awfully severe. "Take care, my dear," said she,
"that the man knows what he's about; take care he doesn't destroy
your little boy. But"--and she softened into sorrow, as she said it,
and spoke more in pity than in anger--"but I don't know who there is
in Barchester now that you can trust. Poor dear old Doctor Bumpwell,
"Why, Miss Thorne, he died when I was a little girl."
"Yes, my dear, he did, and an unfortunate day it was for Barchester.
As to those young men that have come up since"--Mr. Rerechild, by the
by, was quite as old as Miss Thorne herself--"one doesn't know where
they came from or who they are, or whether they know anything about
their business or not."
"I think there are very clever men in Barchester," said Eleanor.
"Perhaps there may be; only I don't know them: and it's admitted on
all sides that medical men aren't now what they used to be. They
used to be talented, observing, educated men. But now any whipper-
snapper out of an apothecary's shop can call himself a doctor. I
believe no kind of education is now thought necessary."
Eleanor was herself the widow of a medical man and felt a little
inclined to resent all these hard sayings. But Miss Thorne was so
essentially good-natured that it was impossible to resent anything
she said. She therefore sipped her wine and finished her chicken.
"At any rate, my dear, don't forget the carrot-juice, and by all
means get him a coral at once. My grandmother Thorne had the best
teeth in the county and carried them to the grave with her at eighty.
I have heard her say it was all the carrot-juice. She couldn't bear
the Barchester doctors. Even poor old Dr. Bumpwell didn't please
her." It clearly never occurred to Miss Thorne that some fifty years
ago Dr. Bumpwell was only a rising man and therefore as much in need
of character in the eyes of the then ladies of Ullathorne as the
present doctors were in her own.
The archdeacon made a very good lunch and talked to his host about
turnip-drillers and new machines for reaping, while the host,
thinking it only polite to attend to a stranger, and fearing that
perhaps he might not care about turnip crops on a Sunday, mooted all
manner of ecclesiastical subjects.
"I never saw a heavier lot of wheat, Thorne, than you've got there in
that field beyond the copse. I suppose that's guano," said the
"Yes, guano. I get it from Bristol myself. You'll find you often
have a tolerable congregation of Barchester people out here, Mr.
Arabin. They are very fond of St. Ewold's, particularly of an
afternoon when the weather is not too hot for the walk."
"I am under an obligation to them for staying away today, at any
rate," said the vicar. "The congregation can never be too small for
a maiden sermon."
"I got a ton and a half at Bradley's in High Street," said the
archdeacon, "and it was a complete take in. I don't believe there
was five hundredweight of guano in it."
"That Bradley never has anything good," said Miss Thorne, who had
just caught the name during her whisperings with Eleanor. "And such
a nice shop as there used to be in that very house before he came.
Wilfred, don't you remember what good things old Ambleoff used to
"There have been three men since Ambleoff's time," said the
archdeacon, "and each as bad as the other. But who gets it for you
at Bristol, Thorne?"
"I ran up myself this year and bought it out of the ship. I am
afraid as the evenings get shorter, Mr. Arabin, you'll find the
reading-desk too dark. I must send a fellow with an axe and make him
lop off some of those branches."
Mr. Arabin declared that the morning light at any rate was perfect
and deprecated any interference with the lime-trees. And then they
took a stroll out among the trim parterres, and Mr. Arabin explained
to Mrs. Bold the difference between a naiad and a dryad and dilated
on vases and the shapes of urns. Miss Thorne busied herself among
her pansies, and her brother, finding it quite impracticable to give
anything of a peculiarly Sunday tone to the conversation, abandoned
the attempt and had it out with the archdeacon about the Bristol
At three o'clock they again went into church, and now Mr. Arabin read
the service and the archdeacon preached. Nearly the same
congregation was present, with some adventurous pedestrians from the
city, who had not thought the heat of the midday August sun too great
to deter them. The archdeacon took his text from the epistle to
Philemon. "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten
in my bonds." From such a text it may be imagined the kind of sermon
which Dr. Grantly preached, and on the whole it was neither dull, nor
bad, nor out of place.
He told them that it had become his duty to look about for a pastor
for them, to supply the place of one who had been long among them,
and that in this manner he regarded as a son him whom he had
selected, as St. Paul had regarded the young disciple whom he sent
forth. Then he took a little merit to himself for having studiously
provided the best man he could without reference to patronage or
favour; but he did not say that the best man according to his views
was he who was best able to subdue Mr. Slope and make that
gentleman's situation in Barchester too hot to be comfortable. As to
the bonds, they had consisted in the exceeding struggle which he had
made to get a good clergyman for them. He deprecated any comparison
between himself and St. Paul but said that he was entitled to beseech
them for their goodwill towards Mr. Arabin, in the same manner that
the apostle had besought Philemon and his household with regard to
The archdeacon's sermon--text, blessing, and all--was concluded
within the half-hour. Then they shook hands with their Ullathorne
friends and returned to Plumstead. 'Twas thus that Mr. Arabin read
himself in at St. Ewold's.
Mr. Slope Manages Matters very Cleverly at Puddingdale
The next two weeks passed pleasantly enough at Plumstead. The whole
party there assembled seemed to get on well together. Eleanor made
the house agreeable, and the archdeacon and Mr. Grantly seemed to
have forgotten her iniquity as regarded Mr. Slope. Mr. Harding had
his violoncello and played to them while his daughters accompanied
him. Johnny Bold, by the help either of Mr. Rerechild or else by
that of his coral and carrot-juice, got through his teething
troubles. There had been gaieties, too, of all sorts. They had
dined at Ullathorne, and the Thornes had dined at the rectory.
Eleanor had been duly put to stand on her box and in that position
had found herself quite unable to express her opinion on the merits
of flounces, such having been the subject given to try her elocution.
Mr. Arabin had of course been much in his own parish, looking to the
doings at his vicarage, calling on his parishioners, and taking on
himself the duties of his new calling. But still he had been every
evening at Plumstead, and Mrs. Grantly was partly willing to agree
with her husband that he was a pleasant inmate in a house.
They had also been at a dinner-party at Dr. Stanhope's, of which Mr.
Arabin had made one. He also, mothlike, burnt his wings in the
flames of the signora's candle. Mrs. Bold, too, had been there and
had felt somewhat displeased with the taste--want of taste she called
it--shown by Mr. Arabin in paying so much attention to Madame Neroni.
It was as infallible that Madeline should displease and irritate the
women as that she should charm and captivate the men. The one result
followed naturally on the other. It was quite true that Mr. Arabin
had been charmed. He thought her a very clever and a very handsome
woman; he thought also that her peculiar affliction entitled her to
the sympathy of all. He had never, he said, met so much suffering
joined to such perfect beauty and so clear a mind. 'Twas thus he
spoke of the signora, coming home in the archdeacon's carriage, and
Eleanor by no means liked to hear the praise. It was, however,
exceedingly unjust of her to be angry with Mr. Arabin, as she had
herself spent a very pleasant evening with Bertie Stanhope, who had
taken her down to dinner and had not left her side for one moment
after the gentlemen came out of the dining-room. It was unfair that
she should amuse herself with Bertie and yet begrudge her new friend
his license of amusing himself with Bertie's sister. And yet she did
so. She was half-angry with him in the carriage and said something,
about meretricious manners. Mr. Arabin did not understand the ways
of women very well, or else he might have flattered himself that
Eleanor was in love with him.
But Eleanor was not in love with him. How many shades there are
between love and indifference, and how little the graduated scale is,
understood! She had now been nearly three weeks in the same house
with Mr. Arabin and had received much of his attention and listened
daily to his conversation. He had usually devoted at least some
portion of his evening to her exclusively. At Dr. Stanhope's he had
devoted himself exclusively to another. It does not require that a
woman should be in love to be irritated at this; it does not require
that she should even acknowledge to herself that it is unpleasant to
her. Eleanor had no such self-knowledge. She thought in her own
heart that it was only on Mr. Arabin's account that she regretted
that he could condescend to be amused by the signora. "I thought he
had more mind," she said to herself as she sat watching her baby's
cradle on her return from the party. "After all, I believe Mr.
Stanhope is the pleasanter man of the two." Alas for the memory of
poor John Bold! Eleanor was not in love with Bertie Stanhope, nor
was she in love with Mr. Arabin. But her devotion to her late
husband was fast fading when she could revolve in her mind over the
cradle of his infant the faults and failings of other aspirants to
Will anyone blame my heroine for this? Let him or her rather thank
God for all His goodness--for His mercy endureth forever.
Eleanor, in truth, was not in love; neither was Mr. Arabin. Neither
indeed was Bertie Stanhope, though he had already found occasion to
say nearly as much as that he was. The widow's cap had prevented him
from making a positive declaration, when otherwise he would have
considered himself entitled to do so on a third or fourth interview.
It was, after all, but a small cap now and had but little of the
weeping willow left in its construction. It is singular how these
emblems of grief fade away by unseen gradations. Each pretends to be
the counterpart of the forerunner, and yet the last little bit of
crimped white crape that sits so jauntily on the back of the head is
as dissimilar to the first huge mountain of woe which disfigured the
face of the weeper as the state of the Hindu is to the jointure of
the English dowager.
But let it be clearly understood that Eleanor was in love with no one
and that no one was in love with Eleanor. Under these circumstances
her anger against Mr. Arabin did not last long, and before two days
were over they were both as good friends as ever. She could not but
like him, for every hour spent in his company was spent pleasantly.
And yet she could not quite like him, for there was always apparent
in his conversation a certain feeling on his part that he hardly
thought it worth his while to be in earnest. It was almost as though
he were playing with a child. She knew well enough that he was in
truth a sober, thoughtful man who, in some matters and on some
occasions, could endure an agony of earnestness. And yet to her he
was always gently playful. Could she have seen his brow once
clouded, she might have learnt to love him.
So things went on at Plumstead, and on the whole not unpleasantly,
till a huge storm darkened the horizon and came down upon the
inhabitants of the rectory with all the fury of a water-spout. It
was astonishing how in a few minutes the whole face of the heavens
was changed. The party broke up from breakfast in perfect harmony,
but fierce passions had arisen before the evening which did not admit
of their sitting at the same board for dinner. To explain this it
will be necessary to go back a little.
It will be remembered that the bishop expressed to Mr. Slope in his
dressing-room his determination that Mr. Quiverful should be
confirmed in his appointment to the hospital, and that his lordship
requested Mr. Slope to communicate this decision to the archdeacon.
It will also be remembered that the archdeacon had indignantly
declined seeing Mr. Slope and had instead written a strong letter to
the bishop in which he all but demanded the situation of warden for
Mr. Harding. To this letter the archdeacon received an immediate
formal reply from Mr. Slope, in which it was stated that the bishop
had received and would give his best consideration to the
The archdeacon felt himself somewhat checkmated by this reply. What
could he do with a man who would neither see him, nor argue with him
by letter, and who had undoubtedly the power of appointing any
clergyman he pleased? He had consulted with Mr. Arabin, who had
suggested the propriety of calling in the aid of the Master of
Lazarus. "If," said he, "you and Dr. Gwynne formally declare your
intention of waiting upon the bishop, the bishop will not dare to
refuse to see you; and if two such men as you are see him together,
you will probably not leave him without carrying your point."
The archdeacon did not quite like admitting the necessity of his
being backed by the Master of Lazarus before he could obtain
admission into the episcopal palace of Barchester, but still he felt
that the advice was good, and he resolved to take it. He wrote again
to the bishop, expressing a hope that nothing further would be done
in the matter of the hospital till the consideration promised by his
lordship had been given, and then sent off a warm appeal to his
friend the master, imploring him to come to Plumstead and assist in
driving the bishop into compliance. The. master had rejoined,
raising some difficulty but not declining, and the archdeacon had
again pressed his point, insisting on the necessity for immediate
action. Dr. Gwynne unfortunately had the gout, and could therefore
name no immediate day, but still agreed to come, if it should be
finally found necessary. So the matter stood, as regarded the party
But Mr. Harding had another friend fighting his battle for him, quite
as powerful as the Master of Lazarus, and this was Mr. Slope. Though
the bishop had so pertinaciously insisted on giving way to his wife
in the matter of the hospital, Mr. Slope did not think it necessary
to abandon his object. He had, he thought, daily more and more
reason to imagine that the widow would receive his overtures
favourably, and he could not but feel that Mr. Harding at the
hospital, and placed there by his means, would be more likely to
receive him as a son-in-law than Mr. Harding growling in opposition
and disappointment under the archdeacon's wing at Plumstead.
Moreover, to give Mr. Slope due credit, he was actuated by greater
motives even than these. He wanted a wife, and he wanted money, but
he wanted power more than either. He had fully realized the fact
that he must come to blows with Mrs. Proudie. He had no desire to
remain in Barchester as her chaplain. Sooner than do so, he would
risk the loss of his whole connexion with the diocese. What! Was he
to feel within him the possession of no ordinary talents--was he to
know himself to be courageous, firm, and, in matters where his
conscience did not interfere, unscrupulous--and yet he contented to
be the working factotum of a woman prelate? Mr. Slope had higher
ideas of his own destiny. Either he or Mrs. Proudie must go to the
wall, and now had come the time when he would try which it should be.
The bishop had declared that Mr. Quiverful should be the new warden.
As Mr. Slope went downstairs, prepared to see the archdeacon, if
necessary, but fully satisfied that no such necessity would arise, he
declared to himself that Mr. Harding should be warden. With the
object of carrying this point, he rode over to Puddingdale and had a
further interview with the worthy expectant of clerical good things.
Mr. Quiverful was on the whole a worthy man. The impossible task of
bringing up as ladies and gentlemen fourteen children on an income
which was insufficient to give them with decency the common
necessaries of life had had an effect upon him not beneficial either
to his spirit or his keen sense of honour. Who can boast that he
would have supported such a burden with a different result? Mr.
Quiverful was an honest, painstaking, drudging man, anxious indeed
for bread and meat, anxious for means to quiet his butcher and cover
with returning smiles the now sour countenance of the baker's wife,
but anxious also to be right with his own conscience. He was not
careful, as another might be who sat on an easier worldly seat, to
stand well with those around him, to shun a breath which might sully
his name or a rumour which might affect his honour. He could not
afford such niceties of conduct, such moral luxuries. It must
suffice for him to be ordinarily honest according to the ordinary
honesty of the world's ways, and to let men's tongues wag as they
He had felt that his brother clergymen, men whom he had known for the
last twenty years, looked coldly on him from the first moment that he
had shown himself willing to sit at the feet of Mr. Slope; he had
seen that their looks grew colder still when it became bruited about
that he was to he the bishop's new warden at Hiram's Hospital. This
was painful enough, but it was the cross which he was doomed to bear.
He thought of his wife, whose last new silk dress was six years in
wear. He thought of all his young flock, whom he could hardly take
to church with him on Sundays, for there were not decent shoes and
stockings for them all to wear. He thought of the well-worn sleeves
of his own black coat and of the stern face of the draper, from whom
he would fain ask for cloth to make another, did he not know that the
credit would be refused him. Then he thought of the comfortable
house in Barchester, of the comfortable income, of his boys sent to
school, of his girls with books in their hands instead of darning
needles, of his wife's face again covered with smiles, and of his
daily board again covered with plenty. He thought of these things;
and do thou also, reader, think of them, and then wonder, if thou
canst, that Mr. Slope had appeared to him to possess all those good
gifts which could grace a bishop's chaplain. "How beautiful upon the
mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings."
Why, moreover, should the Barchester clergy have looked coldly on Mr.
Quiverful? Had they not all shown that they regarded with
complacency the loaves and fishes of their mother church? Had they
not all, by some hook or crook, done better for themselves than he
had done? They were not burdened as he was burdened. Dr. Grantly
had five children and nearly as many thousands a year on which to
feed them. It was very well for him to turn up his nose at a new
bishop who could do nothing for him and a chaplain who was beneath
his notice, but it was cruel in a man so circumstanced to set the
world against the father of fourteen children because he was anxious
to obtain for them an honourable support! He, Mr. Quiverful, had not
asked for the wardenship; he had not even accepted it till he had
been assured that Mr. Harding had refused it. How hard then that he
should he blamed for doing that which not to have done would have
argued a most insane imprudence!
Thus in this matter of the hospital poor Mr. Quiverful had his
trials, and he had also his consolations. On the whole the
consolations were the more vivid of the two. The stern draper heard
of the coming promotion, and the wealth of his warehouse was at Mr.
Quiverful's disposal. Coming events cast their shadows before, and
the coming event of Mr. Quiverful's transference to Barchester
produced a delicious shadow in the shape of a new outfit for Mrs.
Quiverful and her three elder daughters. Such consolations come home
to the heart of a man and quite home to the heart of a woman.
Whatever the husband might feel, the wife cared nothing for frowns of
dean, archdeacon, or prebendary. To her the outsides and insides of
her husband and fourteen children were everything. In her bosom
every other ambition had been swallowed up in that maternal ambition
of seeing them and him and herself duly clad and properly fed. It
had come to that with her that life had now no other purpose. She
recked nothing of the imaginary rights of others. She had no
patience with her husband when he declared to her that he could not
accept the hospital unless he knew that Mr. Harding had refused it.
Her husband had no right to be quixotic at the expense of fourteen
children. The narrow escape of throwing away his good fortune which
her lord had had almost paralysed her. Now, indeed, they had
received a full promise, not only from Mr. Slope, but also from Mrs.
Proudie. Now, indeed, they might reckon with safety on their good
fortune. But what if all had been lost? What if her fourteen bairns
had been resteeped to the hips in poverty by the morbid
sentimentality of their father? Mrs. Quiverful was just at present a
happy woman, but yet it nearly took her breath away when she thought
of the risk they had run.
"I don't know what your father means when he talks so much of what is
due to Mr. Harding," she said to her eldest daughter. "Does he think
that Mr. Harding would give him £450 a year out of fine feeling? And
what signifies it whom he offends, as long as he gets the place? He
does not expect anything better. It passes me to think how your
father can he so soft, while everybody around him is so griping."
Thus, while the outer world was accusing Mr. Quiverful of rapacity
for promotion and of disregard to his honour, the inner world of his
own household was falling foul of him, with equal vehemence, for his
willingness to sacrifice their interests to a false feeling of
sentimental pride. It is astonishing how much difference the point
of view makes in the aspect of all that we look at!
Such were the feelings of the different members of the family at
Puddingdale on the occasion of Mr. Slope's second visit. Mrs.
Quiverful, as soon as she saw his horse coming up the avenue from the
vicarage gate, hastily packed up her huge basket of needlework and
hurried herself and her daughter out of the room in which she was
sitting with her husband. "It's Mr. Slope," she said. "He's come to
settle with you about the hospital. I do hope we shall now be able
to move at once." And she hastened to bid the maid of all work go to
the door, so that the welcome great man might not be kept waiting.
Mr. Slope thus found Mr. Quiverful alone. Mrs. Quiverful went off to
her kitchen and back settlements with anxious beating heart, almost
dreading that there might be some slip between the cup of her
happiness and the lip of her fruition, but yet comforting herself
with the reflexion that after what had taken place, any such slip
could hardly be possible.
Mr. Slope was all smiles as he shook his brother clergyman's hand and
said that he had ridden over because he thought it right at once to
put Mr. Quiverful in possession of the facts of the matter regarding
the wardenship of the hospital. As he spoke; the poor expectant
husband and father saw at a glance that his brilliant hopes were to
be dashed to the ground and that his visitor was now there for the
purpose of unsaying what on his former visit he had said. There was
something in the tone of the voice, something in the glance of the
eye, which told the tale. Mr. Quiverful knew it all at once. He
maintained his self-possession, however, smiled with a slight
unmeaning smile, and merely said that he was obliged to Mr. Slope for
the trouble he was taking.
"It has been a troublesome matter from first to last," said Mr.
Slope, "and the bishop has hardly known how to act. Between
ourselves--but mind this of course must go no further, Mr.
Mr. Quiverful said that of course it should not. "The truth is that
poor Mr. Harding has hardly known his own mind. You remember our
last conversation, no doubt."
Mr. Quiverful assured him that he remembered it very well indeed.
"You will remember that I told you that Mr. Harding had refused to
return to the hospital."
Mr. Quiverful declared that nothing could be more distinct on his
"And acting on this refusal, I suggested that you should take the
hospital," continued Mr. Slope.
"I understood you to say that the bishop had authorised you to offer
it to me.
"Did I? Did I go so far as that? Well, perhaps it may he that in my
anxiety in your behalf I did commit myself further than I should have
done. So far as my own memory serves me, I don't think I did go
quite so far as that. But I own I was very anxious that you should
get it, and I may have said more than was quite prudent."
"But," said Mr. Quiverful in his deep anxiety to prove his case, "my
wife received as distinct a promise from Mrs. Proudie as one human
being could give to another."
Mr. Slope smiled and gently shook his head. He meant the smile for a
pleasant smile, but it was diabolical in the eyes of the man he was
speaking to. "Mrs. Proudie!" he said. "If we are to go to what
passes between the ladies in these matters, we shall really be in a
nest of troubles from which we shall never extricate ourselves. Mrs.
Proudie is a most excellent lady, kind-hearted, charitable, pious,
and in every way estimable. But, my dear Mr. Quiverful, the
patronage of the diocese is not in her hands."
Mr. Quiverful for a moment sat panic-stricken and silent. "Am I to
understand, then, that I have received no promise?" he said as soon
as he had sufficiently collected his thoughts.
"If you will allow me, I will tell you exactly how the matter rests.
You certainly did receive a promise conditional on Mr. Harding's
refusal. I am sure you will do me the justice to remember that you
yourself declared that you could accept the appointment on no other
condition than the knowledge that Mr. Harding had declined it"
"Yes," said Mr. Quiverful; "I did say that, certainly."
"Well, it now appears that he did not refuse it."
"But surely you told me, and repeated it more than once, that he had
done so in your own hearing."
"So I understood him. But it seems I was in error. But don't for a
moment, Mr. Quiverful, suppose that I mean to throw you over. No.
Having held out my hand to a man in your position, with your long
family and pressing claims, I am not now going to draw it back again.
I only want you to act with me fairly and honestly."
"Whatever I do I shall endeavour at any rate to act fairly," said the
poor man, feeling that he had to fall back for support on the spirit
of martyrdom within him.
"I am sure you will," said the other. "I am sure you have no wish to
obtain possession of an income which belongs by all right to another.
No man knows better than you do Mr. Harding's history, or can better
appreciate his character. Mr. Harding is very desirous of returning
to his old position, and the bishop feels that he is at the present
moment somewhat hampered, though of course he is not bound, by the
conversation which took place on the matter between you and me."
"Well," said Mr. Quiverful, dreadfully doubtful as to what his
conduct under such circumstances should be, and fruitlessly striving
to harden his nerves with some of that instinct of self-preservation
which made his wife so bold.
"The wardenship of this little hospital is not the only thing in the
bishop's gift, Mr. Quiverful, nor is it by many degrees the best.
And his lordship is not the man to forget anyone whom he has once
marked with approval. If you would allow me to advise you as a
"Indeed, I shall be most grateful to you," said the poor vicar of
"I should advise you to withdraw from any opposition to Mr. Harding's
claims. If you persist in your demand, I do not think you will
ultimately succeed. Mr. Harding has all but a positive right to the
place. But if you will allow me to inform the bishop that you
decline to stand in Mr. Harding's way, I think I may promise you--
though, by the by, it must not he taken as a formal promise--that the
bishop will not allow you to be a poorer man than you would have been
had you become warden."
Mr. Quiverful sat in his armchair, silent, gazing at vacancy. What
was he to say? All this that came from Mr. Slope was so true. Mr.
Harding had a right to the hospital. The bishop had a great many
good things to give away. Both the bishop and Mr. Slope would be
excellent friends and terrible enemies to a man in his position. And
then he had no proof of any promise; he could not force the bishop to
"Well, Mr. Quiverful, what do you say about it?"
"Oh, of course, whatever you think fit, Mr. Slope. It's a great
disappointment, a very great disappointment. I won't deny that I am
a very poor man, Mr. Slope."
"In the end, Mr. Quiverful, you will find that it will have been
better for you."
The interview ended in Mr. Slope receiving a full renunciation from
Mr. Quiverful of any claim he might have to the appointment in
question. It was only given verbally and without witnesses, but then
the original promise was made in the same way.
Mr. Slope again assured him that he should not be forgotten and then
rode back to Barchester, satisfied that he would now be able to mould
the bishop to his wishes.
Fourteen Arguments in Favour of Mr. Quiverful's Claims
We have most of us heard of the terrible anger of a lioness when,
surrounded by her cubs, she guards her prey. Few of us wish to
disturb the mother of a litter of puppies when mouthing a bone in the
midst of her young family. Medea and her children are familiar to
us, and so is the grief of Constance. Mrs. Quiverful, when she first
heard from her husband the news which he had to impart, felt within
her bosom all the rage of the lioness, the rapacity of the hound, the
fury of the tragic queen, and the deep despair of the bereaved
Doubting, but yet hardly fearing, what might have been the tenor of
Mr. Slope's discourse, she rushed back to her husband as soon as the
front door was closed behind the visitor. It was well for Mr. Slope
that he so escaped--the anger of such a woman, at such a moment,
would have cowed even him. As a general rule, it is highly desirable
that ladies should keep their temper: a woman when she storms always
makes herself ugly, and usually ridiculous also. There is nothing so
odious to man as a virago. Though Theseus loved an Amazon, he showed
his love but roughly, and from the time of Theseus downward, no man
ever wished to have his wife remarkable rather for forward prowess
than retiring gentleness. A low voice "is an excellent thing in
Such may be laid down as a very general rule; and few women should
allow themselves to deviate from it, and then only on rare occasions.
But if there be a time when a woman may let her hair to the winds,
when she may loose her arms, and scream out trumpet-tongued to the
ears of men, it is when nature calls out within her not for her own
wants, but for the wants of those whom her womb has borne, whom her
breasts have suckled, for those who look to her for their daily bread
as naturally as man looks to his Creator.
There was nothing poetic in the nature of Mrs. Quiverful. She was
neither a Medea nor a Constance. When angry, she spoke out her anger
in plain words and in a tone which might have been modulated with
advantage; but she did so, at any rate, without affectation. Now,
without knowing it, she rose to a tragic vein.
"Well, my dear, we are not to have it." Such were the words with
which her ears were greeted when she entered the parlour, still hot
from the kitchen fire. And the face of her husband spoke even more
plainly than his words:
E'en such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
Drew Priam's curtain in the dead of night.
"What!" said she--and Mrs. Siddons could not have put more passion
into a single syllable--"What! Not have it? Who says so?" And she
sat opposite to her husband, with her elbows on the table, her hands
clasped together, and her coarse, solid, but once handsome face
stretched over it towards him.
She sat as silent as death while he told his story, and very dreadful
to him her silence was. He told it very lamely and badly but still
in such a manner that she soon understood the whole of it.
"And so you have resigned it?" said she.
I have had no opportunity of accepting it," he replied. "I had no
witnesses to Mr. Slope's offer, even if that offer would bind the
bishop. It was better for me, on the whole, to keep on good terms
with such men than to fight for what I should never get!"
"Witnesses!" she screamed, rising quickly to her feet and walking up
and down the room. "Do clergymen require witnesses to their words?
He made the promise in the bishop's name, and if it is to be broken,
I'll know the reason why. Did he not positively say that the bishop
had sent him to offer you the place?"
"He did, my dear. But that is now nothing to the purpose."
"It is everything to the purpose, Mr. Quiverful. Witnesses indeed!
And then to talk of your honour being questioned because you wish to
provide for fourteen children. It is everything to the purpose; and
so they shall know, if I scream it into their ears from the town
cross of Barchester."
"You forget, Letitia, that the bishop has so many things in his gift.
We must wait a little longer. That is all."
"Wait! Shall we feed the children by waiting? Will waiting put
George, and Tom, and Sam out into the world? Will it enable my poor
girls to give up some of their drudgery? Will waiting make Bessy and
Jane fit even to be governesses? Will waiting pay for the things we
got in Barchester last week?"
"It is all we can do, my dear. The disappointment is as much to me
as to you; and yet, God knows, I feel it more for your sake than my
Mrs. Quiverful was looking full into her husband's face, and saw a
small hot tear appear on each of those furrowed cheeks. This was too
much for her woman's heart. He also had risen, and was standing with
his back to the empty grate. She rushed towards him and, seizing him
in her arms, sobbed aloud upon his bosom.
"You are too good, too soft, too yielding," she said at last. "These
men, when they want you, they use you like a cat's paw; and when they
want you no longer, they throw you aside like an old shoe. This is
twice they have treated you so."
"In one way this will be all for the better," argued he. "It will
make the bishop feel that he is bound to do something for me."
"At any rate he shall hear of it," said the lady, again reverting to
her more angry mood. "At any rate he shall hear of it, and that
loudly, and so shall she. She little knows Letitia Quiverful, if she
thinks I will sit down quietly with the loss after all that passed
between us at the palace. If there's any feeling within her, I'll
make her ashamed of herself"--and she paced the room again, stamping
the floor as she went with her fat, heavy foot. "Good heavens! What
a heart she must have within her to treat in such a way as this the
father of fourteen unprovided children!"
Mr. Quiverful proceeded to explain that he didn't think that Mrs.
Proudie had had anything to do with it.
"Don't tell me," said Mrs. Quiverful; "I know more about it than
that. Doesn't all the world know that Mrs. Proudie is bishop of
Barchester and that Mr. Slope is merely her creature? Wasn't it she
that made me the promise, just as though the thing was in her own
particular gift? I tell you, it was that woman who sent him over
here to-day, because, for some reason of her own, she wants to go
back from her word."
"My dear, you're wrong--"
"Now, Q., don't be so soft," she continued. "Take my word for it,
the bishop knows no more about it than Jemima does." Jemima was the
two-year-old. "And if you'll take my advice, you'll lose no time in
going over and seeing him yourself."
Soft, however, as Mr. Quiverful might be, he would not allow himself
to be talked out of his opinion on this occasion, and proceeded with
much minuteness to explain to his wife the tone in which Mr. Slope
had spoken of Mrs. Proudie's interference in diocesan matters. As he
did so, a new idea gradually instilled itself into the matron's head,
and a new course of conduct presented itself to her judgement. What
if, after all, Mrs. Proudie knew nothing of this visit of Mr.
Slope's? In that case, might it not be possible that that lady would
still be staunch to her in this matter, still stand her friend, and,
perhaps, possibly carry her through in opposition to Mr. Slope?
Mrs. Quiverful said nothing as this vague hope occurred to her but
listened with more than ordinary patience to what her husband had to
say. While he was still explaining that in all probability the world
was wrong in its estimation of Mrs. Proudie's power and authority,
she had fully made up her mind as to her course of action. She did
not, however, proclaim her intention. She shook her head ominously
as he continued his narration, and when he had completed, she rose to
go, merely observing that it was cruel, cruel treatment. She then
asked him if he would mind waiting for a late dinner instead of
dining at their usual hour of three, and, having received from him a
concession on this point, she proceeded to carry her purpose into
She determined that she would at once go to the palace, that she
would do so, if possible, before Mrs. Proudie could have had an
interview with Mr. Slope, and that she would be either submissive,
piteous, and pathetic, or else indignant, violent, and exacting
according to the manner in which she was received.
She was quite confident in her own power. Strengthened as she was by
the pressing wants of fourteen children, she felt that she could make
her way through legions of episcopal servants and force herself, if
need be, into the presence of the lady who had so wronged her. She
had no shame about it, no mauvaise honte, no dread of archdeacons.
She would, as she declared to her husband, make her wail heard in the
market-place if she did not get redress and justice. It might be
very well for an unmarried young curate to be shamefaced in such
matters; it might be all right that a snug rector, really in want of
nothing, but still looking for better preferment, should carry on his
affairs decently under the rose. But Mrs. Quiverful, with fourteen
children, had given over being shamefaced and, in some things, had
given over being decent. If it were intended that she should be ill-
used in the manner proposed by Mr. Slope, it should not be done under
the rose. All the world should know of it.
In her present mood, Mrs. Quiverful was not over-careful about her
attire. She tied her bonnet under her chin, threw her shawl over her
shoulders, armed herself with the old family cotton umbrella, and
started for Barchester. A journey to the palace was not quite so
easy a thing for Mrs. Quiverful as for our friend at Plumstead.
Plumstead is nine miles from Barchester, and Puddingdale is but four.
But the archdeacon could order round his brougham, and his high-
trotting fast bay gelding would take him into the city within the
hour. There was no brougham in the coach-house of Puddingdale
Vicarage, no bay horse in the stables. There was no method of
locomotion for its inhabitants but that which nature has assigned to
Mrs. Quiverful was a broad, heavy woman, not young, nor given to
walking. In her kitchen, and in the family dormitories, she was
active enough, but her pace and gait were not adapted for the road.
A walk into Barchester and back in the middle of an August day would
be to her a terrible task, if not altogether impracticable. There
was living in the parish, about half a mile from the vicarage on the
road to the city, a decent, kindly farmer, well to do as regards this
world and so far mindful of the next that he attended his parish
church with decent regularity. To him Mrs. Quiverful had before now
appealed in some of her more pressing family troubles and had not
appealed in vain. At his door she now presented herself, and, having
explained to his wife that most urgent business required her to go at
once to Barchester, begged that Farmer Subsoil would take her thither
in his tax-cart. The farmer did not reject her plan, and, as soon as
Prince could be got into his collar, they started on their journey.
Mrs. Quiverful did not mention the purpose of her business, nor did
the farmer alloy his kindness by any unseemly questions. She merely
begged to be put down at the bridge going into the city and to be
taken up again at the same place in the course of two hours. The
farmer promised to be punctual to his appointment, and the lady,
supported by her umbrella, took the short cut to the close and, in a
few minutes, was at the bishop's door.
Hitherto she had felt no dread with regard to the coming interview.
She had felt nothing but an indignant longing to pour forth her
claims, and declare her wrongs, if those claims were not fully
admitted. But now the difficulty of her situation touched her a
little. She had been at the palace once before, but then she went to
give grateful thanks. Those who have thanks to return for favours
received find easy admittance to the halls of the great. Such is not
always the case with men, or even with women, who have favours to
beg. Still less easy is access for those who demand the fulfilment
of promises already made.
Mrs. Quiverful had not been slow to learn the ways of the world. She
knew all this, and she knew also that her cotton umbrella and all but
ragged shawl would not command respect in the eyes of the palatial
servants. If she were too humble, she knew well that she would never
succeed. To overcome by imperious overbearing with such a shawl as
hers upon her shoulders and such a bonnet on her head would have
required a personal bearing very superior to that with which nature
had endowed her. Of this also Mrs. Quiverful was aware. She must
make it known that she was the wife of a gentleman and a clergyman
and must yet condescend to conciliate.
The poor lady knew but one way to overcome these difficulties at the
very threshold of her enterprise, and to this she resorted. Low as
were the domestic funds at Puddingdale, she still retained possession
of half a crown, and this she sacrificed to the avarice of Mrs.
Proudie's metropolitan sesquipedalian serving-man. She was, she
said, Mrs. Quiverful of Puddingdale, the wife of the Rev. Mr.
Quiverful. She wished to see Mrs. Proudie. It was indeed quite
indispensable that she should see Mrs. Proudie. James Fitzplush
looked worse than dubious, did not know whether his lady were out, or
engaged, or in her bedroom; thought it most probable she was subject
to one of these or to some other cause that would make her invisible;
but Mrs. Quiverful could sit down in the waiting-room while inquiry
was being made of Mrs. Proudie's maid.
"Look here, my man," said Mrs. Quiverful; "I must see her;" and she
put her card and half-crown--think of it, my reader, think of it; her
last half-crown--into the man's hand and sat herself down on a chair
in the waiting-room.
Whether the bribe carried the day, or whether the bishop's wife
really chose to see the vicar's wife, it boots not now to inquire.
The man returned and, begging Mrs. Quiverful to follow him, ushered
her into the presence of the mistress of the diocese.
Mrs. Quiverful at once saw that her patroness was in a smiling
humour. Triumph sat throned upon her brow, and all the joys of
dominion hovered about her curls. Her lord had that morning
contested with her a great point. He had received an invitation to
spend a couple of days with the archbishop. His soul longed for the
gratification. Not a word, however, in his grace's note alluded to
the fact of his being a married man; if he went at all, he must go
alone. This necessity would have presented no insurmountable bar to
the visit, or have militated much against the pleasure, had he been
able to go without any reference to Mrs. Proudie. But this he could
not do. He could not order his portmanteau to be packed and start
with his own man, merely telling the lady of his heart that he would
probably be back on Saturday. There are men--may we not rather say
monsters?--who do such things, and there are wives--may we not rather
say slaves?--who put up with such usage. But Dr. and Mrs. Proudie
were not among the number.
The bishop, with some beating about the bush, made the lady
understand that he very much wished to go. The lady, without any
beating about the bush, made the bishop understand that she wouldn't
hear of it. It would be useless here to repeat the arguments that
were used on each side, and needless to record the result. Those who
are married will understand very well how the battle was lost and
won, and those who are single will never understand it till they
learn the lesson which experience alone can give. When Mrs.
Quiverful was shown into Mrs. Proudie's room, that lady had only
returned a few minutes from her lord. But before she left him she
had seen the answer to the archbishop's note written and sealed. No
wonder that her face was wreathed with smiles as she received Mrs.
She instantly spoke of the subject which was so near the heart of her
visitor. "Well, Mrs. Quiverful," said she, "is it decided yet when
you are to move into Barchester?"
"That woman," as she had an hour or two since been called, became
instantly re-endowed with all the graces that can adorn a bishop's
wife. Mrs. Quiverful immediately saw that her business was to be
piteous and that nothing was to be gained by indignation--nothing,
indeed, unless she could be indignant in company with her patroness.
"Oh, Mrs. Proudie," she began, "I fear we are not to move to
Barchester at all."
"Why not?" said that lady sharply, dropping at a moment's notice her
smiles and condescension and turning with her sharp quick way to
business which she saw at a glance was important.
And then Mrs. Quiverful told her tale. As she progressed in the
history of her wrongs she perceived that the heavier she leant upon
Mr. Slope the blacker became Mrs. Proudie's brow, but that such
blackness was not injurious to her own case. When Mr. Slope was at
Puddingdale Vicarage that morning she had regarded him as the
creature of the lady-bishop; now she perceived that they were
enemies. She admitted her mistake to herself without any pain or
humiliation. She had but one feeling, and that was confined to her
family. She cared little how she twisted and turned among these new-
comers at the bishop's palace so long as she could twist her husband
into the warden's house. She cared not which was her friend or which
was her enemy, if only she could get this preferment which she so
She told her tale, and Mrs. Proudie listened to it almost in silence.
She told how Mr. Slope had cozened her husband into resigning his
claim and had declared that it was the bishop's will that none but
Mr. Harding should be warden. Mrs. Proudie's brow became blacker and
blacker. At last she started from her chair and, begging Mrs.
Quiverful to sit and wait for her return, marched out of the room.
"Oh, Mrs. Proudie, it's for fourteen children--for fourteen
children." Such was the burden that fell on her ear as she closed
the door behind her.
Mrs. Proudie Wrestles and Gets a Fall
It was hardly an hour since Mrs. Proudie had left her husband's
apartment victorious, and yet so indomitable was her courage that she
now returned thither panting for another combat. She was greatly
angry with what she thought was his duplicity. He had so clearly
given her a promise on this matter of the hospital. He had been
already so absolutely vanquished on that point. Mrs. Proudie began
to feel that if every affair was to be thus discussed and battled
about twice and even thrice, the work of the diocese would be too
much even for her.
Without knocking at the door, she walked quickly into her husband's
room and found him seated at his office table, with Mr. Slope
opposite to him. Between his fingers was the very note which he had
written to the archbishop in her presence--and it was open! Yes, he
had absolutely violated the seal which had been made sacred by her
approval. They were sitting in deep conclave, and it was too clear
that the purport of the archbishop's invitation had been absolutely
canvassed again, after it had been already debated and decided on in
obedience to her behests! Mr. Slope rose from his chair and bowed
slightly. The two opposing spirits looked each other fully in the
face, and they knew that they were looking each at an enemy.
"What is this, Bishop, about Mr. Quiverful?" said she, coming to the
end of the table and standing there.
Mr. Slope did not allow the bishop to answer but replied himself.
"I have been out to Puddingdale this morning, ma'am, and have seen
Mr. Quiverful. Mr. Quiverful has abandoned his claim to the hospital
because he is now aware that Mr. Harding is desirous to fill his old
place. Under these circumstances I have strongly advised his
lordship to nominate Mr. Harding."
"Mr. Quiverful has not abandoned anything," said the lady, with a
very imperious voice. "His lordship's word has been pledged to him,
and it must be respected."
The bishop still remained silent. He was anxiously desirous of
making his old enemy bite the dust beneath his feet. His new ally
had told him that nothing was more easy for him than to do so. The
ally was there now at his elbow to help him, and yet his courage
failed him. It is so hard to conquer when the prestige of former
victories is all against one. It is so hard for the cock who has
once been beaten out of his yard to resume his courage and again take
a proud place upon a dunghill.
"Perhaps I ought not to interfere," said Mr. Slope, "but yet--"
"Certainly you ought not," said the infuriated dame
"But yet," continued Mr. Slope, not regarding the interruption,
"I have thought it my imperative duty to recommend the bishop not to
slight Mr. Harding's claims."
"Mr. Harding should have known his own mind," said the lady.
"If Mr. Harding be not replaced at the hospital, his lordship will
have to encounter much ill-will, not only in the diocese, but in the
world at large. Besides, taking a higher ground, his lordship, as I
understand, feels it to be his duty to gratify, in this matter, so
very worthy a man and so good a clergyman as Mr. Harding."
"And what is to become of the Sabbath-day school and of the Sunday
services in the hospital?" said Mrs. Proudie, with something very
nearly approaching to a sneer on her face.
"I understand that Mr. Harding makes no objection to the Sabbath-day
school," said Mr. Slope. "And as to the hospital services, that
matter will be best discussed after his appointment. If he has any
permanent objection, then, I fear, the matter must rest."
"You have a very easy conscience in such matters, Mr. Slope," said
"I should not have an easy conscience," he rejoined, "but a
conscience very far from being easy, if anything said or done by me
should lead the bishop to act unadvisedly in this matter. It is
clear that in the interview I had with Mr. Harding I misunderstood
"And it is equally clear that you have misunderstood Mr. Quiverful,"
said she, now at the top of her wrath. "What business have you at
all with these interviews? Who desired you to go to Mr. Quiverful
this morning? Who commissioned you to manage this affair? Will you
answer me, sir? Who sent you to Mr. Quiverful this morning?"
There was a dead pause in the room. Mr. Slope had risen from his
chair, and was standing with his hand on the back of it, looking at
first very solemn and now very black. Mrs. Proudie was standing as
she had at first placed herself, at the end of the table, and as she
interrogated her foe she struck her hand upon it with almost more
than feminine vigour. The bishop was sitting in his easy chair
twiddling his thumbs, turning his eyes now to his wife, and now to
his chaplain, as each took up the cudgels. How comfortable it would
be if they could fight it out between them without the necessity of
any interference on his part; fight it out so that one should kill
the other utterly, as far as diocesan life was concerned, so that he,
the bishop, might know clearly by whom it behoved him to be led.
There would be the comfort of quiet in either case; but if the bishop
had a wish as to which might prove the victor, that wish was
certainly not antagonistic to Mr. Slope.
"Better the d---- you know than the d---- you don't know," is an old
saying, and perhaps a true one, but the bishop had not yet realized
the truth of it.
"Will you answer me, sir?" she repeated. "Who instructed you to call
on Mr. Quiverful this morning?" There was another pause. "Do you
intend to answer me, sir?"
"I think, Mrs. Proudie, that under all the circumstances it will be
better for me not to answer such a question," said Mr. Slope. Mr.
Slope had many tones in his voice, all duly under his command; among
them was a sanctified low tone and a sanctified loud tone--he now
used the former.
"Did anyone send you, sir?"
"Mrs. Proudie," said Mr. Slope, "I am quite aware how much I owe to
your kindness. I am aware also what is due by courtesy from a
gentleman to a lady. But there are higher considerations than either
of those, and I hope I shall be forgiven if I now allow myself to be
actuated solely by them. My duty in this matter is to his lordship,
and I can admit of no questioning but from him. He has approved of
what I have done, and you must excuse me if I say that, having that
approval and my own, I want none other."
What horrid words were these which greeted the ear of Mrs. Proudie?
The matter was indeed too clear. There was premeditated mutiny in
the camp. Not only had ill-conditioned minds become insubordinate by
the fruition of a little power, but sedition had been overtly taught
and preached. The bishop had not yet been twelve months in his chair
and rebellion had already reared her hideous head within the palace.
Anarchy and misrule would quickly follow unless she took immediate
and strong measures to put down the conspiracy which she had
"Mr. Slope," she said with slow and dignified voice, differing much
from that which she had hitherto used, "Mr. Slope, I will trouble
you, if you please, to leave the apartment. I wish to speak to my
Mr. Slope also felt that everything depended on the present
interview. Should the bishop now be re-petticoated, his thraldom
would be complete and forever. The present moment was peculiarly
propitious for rebellion. The bishop had clearly committed himself
by breaking the seal of the answer to the archbishop; he had
therefore fear to influence him. Mr. Slope had told him that no
consideration ought to induce him to refuse the archbishop's
invitation; he had therefore hope to influence him. He had accepted
Mr. Quiverful's resignation and therefore dreaded having to renew
that matter with his wife. He had been screwed up to the pitch of
asserting a will of his own, and might possibly be carried on till by
an absolute success he should have been taught how possible it was to
succeed. Now was the moment for victory or rout. It was now that
Mr. Slope must make himself master of the diocese, or else resign his
place and begin his search for fortune again. He saw all this
plainly. After what had taken place any compromise between him and
the lady was impossible. Let him once leave the room at her bidding
and leave the bishop in her hands, and he might at once pack up his
portmanteau and bid adieu to episcopal honours, Mrs. Bold, and the
And yet it was not so easy to keep his ground when he was bidden by a
lady to go, or to continue to make a third in a party between a
husband and wife when the wife expressed a wish for a tête-à-tête
with her husband.
"Mr. Slope," she repeated, "I wish to be alone with my lord."
"His lordship has summoned me on most important diocesan business,"
said Mr. Slope, glancing with uneasy eye at Dr. Proudie. He felt
that he must trust something to the bishop, and yet that that trust
was so woefully ill-placed. "My leaving him at the present moment
is, I fear, impossible."
"Do you bandy words with me, you ungrateful man?" said she. "My
lord, will you do me the favour to beg Mr. Slope to leave the room?"
My lord scratched his head but for the moment said nothing. This was
as much as Mr. Slope expected from him and was on the whole, for him,
an active exercise of marital rights.
"My lord," said the lady, "is Mr. Slope to leave this room, or am I?"
Here Mrs. Proudie made a false step. She should not have alluded to
the possibility of retreat on her part. She should not have
expressed the idea that her order for Mr. Slope's expulsion could be
treated otherwise than by immediate obedience. In answer to such a
question the bishop naturally said in his own mind that, as it was
necessary that one should leave the room, perhaps it might be as well
that Mrs. Proudie did so. He did say so in his own mind, but
externally he again scratched his head and again twiddled his thumbs.
Mrs. Proudie was boiling over with wrath. Alas, alas! Could she but
have kept her temper as her enemy did, she would have conquered as
she had ever conquered. But divine anger got the better of her, as
it has done of other heroines, and she fell.
"My lord," said she, "am I to be vouchsafed an answer or am I not?"
At last he broke his deep silence and proclaimed himself a Slopeite.
"Why, my dear," said he, "Mr. Slope and I are very busy.
That was all. There was nothing more necessary. He had gone to the
battlefield, stood the dust and heat of the day, encountered the fury
of the foe, and won the victory. How easy is success to those who
will only be true to themselves!
Mr. Slope saw at once the full amount of his gain and turned on the
vanquished lady a look of triumph which she never forgot and never
forgave. Here he was wrong. He should have looked humbly at her
and, with meek entreating eye, have deprecated her anger. He should
have said by his glance that he asked pardon for his success and that
he hoped forgiveness for the stand which he had been forced to make
in the cause of duty. So might he perchance have somewhat mollified
that imperious bosom and prepared the way for future terms. But Mr.
Slope meant to rule without terms. Ah, forgetful, inexperienced man!
Can you cause that little trembling victim to be divorced from the
woman that possesses him? Can you provide that they shall be
separated at bed and board? Is he not flesh of her flesh and bone of
her bone, and must he not so continue? It is very well now for you
to stand your ground and triumph as she is driven ignominiously from
the room, but can you be present when those curtains are drawn, when
that awful helmet of proof has been tied beneath the chin, when the
small remnants of the bishop's prowess shall be cowed by the tassel
above his head? Can you then intrude yourself when the wife wishes
"to speak to my lord alone?"
But for the moment Mr. Slope's triumph was complete, for Mrs. Proudie
without further parley left the room and did not forget to shut the
door after her. Then followed a close conference between the new
allies, in which was said much which it astonished Mr. Slope to say
and the bishop to hear. And yet the one said it and the other heard
it without ill-will. There was no mincing of matters now. The
chaplain plainly told the bishop that the world gave him credit for
being under the governance of his wife; that his credit and character
in the diocese were suffering; that he would surely get himself in
hot water if he allowed Mrs. Proudie to interfere in matters which
were not suitable for a woman's powers; and in fact that he would
become contemptible if he did not throw off the yoke under which he
groaned. The bishop at first hummed and hawed and affected to deny
the truth of what was said. But his denial was not stout and quickly
broke down. He soon admitted by silence his state of vassalage and
pledged himself, with Mr. Slope's assistance, to change his courses.
Mr. Slope also did not make out a bad case for himself. He explained
how it grieved him to run counter to a lady who had always been his
patroness, who had befriended him in so many ways, who had, in fact,
recommended him to the bishop's notice; but, as he stated, his duty
was now imperative; he held a situation of peculiar confidence and
was immediately and especially attached to the bishop's person. In
such a situation his conscience required that he should regard solely
the bishop's interests, and therefore he had ventured to speak out.
The bishop took this for what it was worth, and Mr. Slope only
intended that he should do so. It gilded the pill which Mr. Slope
had to administer, and which the bishop thought would be less bitter
than that other pill which he had so long been taking.
"My lord," had his immediate reward, like a good child. He was
instructed to write and at once did write another note to the
archbishop accepting his grace's invitation. This note Mr. Slope,
more prudent than the lady, himself took away and posted with his own
hands. Thus he made sure that this act of self-jurisdiction should
be as nearly as possible a fait accompli. He begged, and coaxed, and
threatened the bishop with a view of making him also write at once to
Mr. Harding, but the bishop, though temporally emancipated from his
wife, was not yet enthralled to Mr. Slope. He said, and probably
said truly, that such an offer must be made in some official form;
that he was not yet prepared to sign the form; and that he should
prefer seeing Mr. Harding before he did so. Mr. Slope might,
however, beg Mr. Harding to call upon him. Not disappointed with his
achievement Mr. Slope went his way. He first posted the precious
note which he had in his pocket and then pursued other enterprises in
which we must follow him in other chapters.
Mrs. Proudie, having received such satisfaction as was to be derived
from slamming her husband's door, did not at once betake herself to
Mrs. Quiverful. Indeed, for the first few moments after her repulse
she felt that she could not again see that lady. She would have to
own that she had been beaten, to confess that the diadem had passed
from her brow and the sceptre from her hand! No, she would send a
message to her with a promise of a letter on the next day or the day
after. Thus resolving, she betook herself to her bedroom, but here
she again changed her mind. The air of that sacred enclosure
somewhat restored her courage and gave her more heart. As Achilles
warmed at the sight of his armour, as Don Quixote's heart grew strong
when he grasped his lance, so did Mrs. Proudie look forward to fresh
laurels, as her eye fell on her husband's pillow. She would not
despair. Having so resolved, she descended with dignified mien and
refreshed countenance to Mrs. Quiverful.
This scene in the bishop's study took longer in the acting than in
the telling. We have not, perhaps, had the whole of the
conversation. At any rate Mrs. Quiverful was beginning to be very
impatient and was thinking that Farmer Subsoil would be tired of
waiting for her when Mrs. Proudie returned. Oh, who can tell the
palpitations of that maternal heart, as the suppliant looked into the
face of the great lady to see written there either a promise of
house, income, comfort and future competence, or else the doom of
continued and ever-increasing poverty! Poor mother! Poor wife!
There was little there to comfort you!
"Mrs. Quiverful," thus spoke the lady with considerable austerity and
without sitting down herself, "I find that your husband has behaved
in this matter in a very weak and foolish manner."
Mrs. Quiverful immediately rose upon her feet, thinking it
disrespectful to remain sitting while the wife of the bishop stood.
But she was desired to sit down again, and made to do so, so that
Mrs. Proudie might stand and preach over her. It is generally
considered an offensive thing for a gentleman to keep his seat while
another is kept standing before him, and we presume the same law
holds with regard to ladies. It often is so felt, but we are
inclined to say that it never produces half the discomfort or half
the feeling of implied inferiority that is shown by a great man who
desires his visitor to be seated while be himself speaks from his
legs. Such a solecism in good breeding, when construed into English,
means this: "The accepted rules of courtesy in the world require that
I should offer you a seat; if I did not do so, you would bring a
charge against me in the world of being arrogant and ill-mannered; I
will obey the world, but, nevertheless, I will not put myself on an
equality with you. You may sit down, but I won't sit with you. Sit,
therefore, at my bidding, and I'll stand and talk at you!"
This was just what Mrs. Proudie meant to say, and Mrs. Quiverful,
though she was too anxious and too flurried thus to translate the
full meaning of the manoeuvre, did not fail to feel its effect. She
was cowed and uncomfortable and a second time essayed to rise from
"Pray be seated, Mrs. Quiverful, pray keep your seat. Your husband,
I say, has been most weak and most foolish. It is impossible, Mrs.
Quiverful, to help people who will not help themselves. I much fear
that I can now do nothing for you in this matter."
"Oh, Mrs. Proudie, don't say so," said the poor woman, again jumping
"Pray be seated, Mrs. Quiverful. I must fear that I can do nothing
further for you in this matter. Your husband has, in a most
unaccountable manner, taken upon himself to resign that which I was
empowered to offer him. As a matter of course, the bishop expects
that his clergy shall know their own minds. What he may ultimately
do--what we may finally decide on doing--I cannot now say. Knowing
the extent of your family--"
"Fourteen children, Mrs. Proudie, fourteen of them! And barely
bread--barely bread? It's hard for the children of a clergyman, it's
hard for one who has always done his duty respectably!" Not a word
fell from her about herself, but the tears came streaming down her
big, coarse cheeks, on which the dust of the August road had left its
Mrs. Proudie has not been portrayed in these pages as an agreeable or
an amiable lady. There has been no intention to impress the reader
much in her favour. It is ordained that all novels should have a
male and a female angel and a male and a female devil. If it be
considered that this rule is obeyed in these pages, the latter
character must be supposed to have fallen to the lot of Mrs. Proudie.
But she was not all devil. There was a heart inside that stiff-
ribbed bodice, though not, perhaps, of large dimensions and certainly
not easily accessible. Mrs. Quiverful, however, did gain access, and
Mrs. Proudie proved herself a woman. 'Whether it was the fourteen
children with their probable bare bread and their possible bare
backs, or the respectability of the father's work, or the mingled
dust and tears on the mother's face, we will not pretend to say. But
Mrs. Proudie was touched.
She did not show it as other women might have done. She did not give
Mrs. Quiverful eau-de-Cologne, or order her a glass of wine. She did
not take her to her toilet table and offer her the use of brushes and
combs, towels and water. She did not say soft little speeches and
coax her kindly back to equanimity. Mrs. Quiverful, despite her
rough appearance, would have been as amenable to such little tender
cares as any lady in the land. But none such were forthcoming.
Instead of this, Mrs. Proudie slapped one hand upon the other and
declared--not with an oath, for, as a lady and a Sabbatarian and a
she-bishop, she could not swear, but with an adjuration--that she
"wouldn't have it done."
The meaning of this was that she wouldn't have Mr. Quiverful's
promised appointment cozened away by the treachery of Mr. Slope and
the weakness of her husband. This meaning she very soon explained to
"Why was your husband such a fool," said she, now dismounted from her
high horse and sitting confidentially down close to her visitor, "as
to take the bait which that man threw to him? If he had not been so
utterly foolish, nothing could have prevented your going to the
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