She paused for awhile and then, looking full in his face, she said, "You are not bold enough, Mr. Arabin, to speak out to me openly and plainly, and yet you expect me, a woman, to speak openly to you. Why did you speak calumny of me to Dr. Grantly behind my back?"
"Calumny!" said he, and his whole face became suffused with blood. "What calumny? If I have spoken calumny of you, I will beg your pardon, and his to whom I spoke it, and God's pardon also. But what calumny have I spoken of you to Dr. Grantly?"
She also blushed deeply. She could not bring herself to ask him whether he had not spoken of her as another man's wife. "You know that best yourself," said she. "But I ask you as a man of honour, if you have not spoken of me as you would not have spoken of your own sister—or rather I will not ask you," she continued, finding that he did not immediately answer her. "I will not put you to the necessity of answering such a question. Dr. Grantly has told me what you said."
"Dr. Grantly certainly asked me for my advice, and I gave it. He asked me—"
"I know he did, Mr. Arabin. He asked you whether he would be doing right to receive me at Plumstead if I continued my acquaintance with a gentleman who happens to be personally disagreeable to yourself and to him."
"You are mistaken, Mrs. Bold. I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Slope; I never met him in my life."
"You are not the less individually hostile to him. It is not for me to question the propriety of your enmity, but I had a right to expect that my name should not have been mixed up in your hostilities. This has been done, and been done by you in a manner the most injurious and the most distressing to me as a woman. I must confess, Mr. Arabin, that from you I expected a different sort of usage."
As she spoke she with difficulty restrained her tears—but she did restrain them. Had she given way and sobbed aloud, as in such cases a woman should do, he would have melted at once, implored her pardon, perhaps knelt at her feet and declared his love. Everything would have been explained, and Eleanor would have gone back to Barchester with a contented mind. How easily would she have forgiven and forgotten the archdeacon's suspicions had she but heard the whole truth from Mr. Arabin. But then where would have been my novel? She did not cry, and Mr. Arabin did not melt.
"You do me an injustice," said he. "My advice was asked by Dr. Grantly, and I was obliged to give it."
"Dr. Grantly has been most officious, most impertinent. I have as complete a right to form my acquaintance as he has to form his. What would you have said had I consulted you as to the propriety of my banishing Dr. Grantly from my house because he knows Lord Tattenham Corner? I am sure Lord Tattenham is quite as objectionable an acquaintance for a clergyman as Mr. Slope is for a clergyman's daughter."
"I do not know Lord Tattenham Corner."
"No, but Dr. Grantly does. It is nothing to me if he knows all the young lords on every race-course in England. I shall not interfere with him, nor shall he with me."
"I am sorry to differ with you, Mrs. Bold, but as you have spoken to me on this matter, and especially as you blame me for what little I said on the subject, I must tell you that I do differ from you. Dr. Grantly's position as a man in the world gives him a right to choose his own acquaintances, subject to certain influences. If he chooses them badly, those influences will be used. If he consorts with persons unsuitable to him, his bishop will interfere. What the bishop is to Dr. Grantly, Dr. Grantly is to you."
"I deny it. I utterly deny it," said Eleanor, jumping from her seat and literally flashing before Mr. Arabin, as she stood on the drawing-room floor. He had never seen her so excited, he had never seen her look half so beautiful.
"I utterly deny it," said she. "Dr. Grantly has no sort of jurisdiction over me whatsoever. Do you and he forget that I am not altogether alone in the world? Do you forget that I have a father? Dr. Grantly, I believe, always has forgotten it.
"From you, Mr. Arabin," she continued, "I would have listened to advice because I should have expected it to have been given as one friend may advise another—not as a schoolmaster gives an order to a pupil. I might have differed from you—on this matter I should have done so—but had you spoken to me in your usual manner and with your usual freedom, I should not have been angry. But now—was it manly of you, Mr. Arabin, to speak of me in this way—so disrespectful—so—? I cannot bring myself to repeat what you said. You must understand what I feel. Was it just of you to speak of me in such a way and to advise my sister's husband to turn me out of my sister's house because I chose to know a man of whose doctrine you disapprove?"
"I have no alternative left to me, Mrs. Bold," said he, standing with his back to the fire-place, looking down intently at the carpet pattern, and speaking with a slow, measured voice, "but to tell you plainly what did take place between me and Dr. Grantly."
"Well," said she, finding that he paused for a moment.
"I am afraid that what I may say may pain you."
"It cannot well do so more than what you have already done," said she.
"Dr. Grantly asked me whether I thought it would be prudent for him to receive you in his house as the wife of Mr. Slope, and I told him that I thought it would be imprudent. Believing it to be utterly impossible that Mr. Slope and—"
"Thank you, Mr. Arabin, that is sufficient. I do not want to know your reasons," said she, speaking with a terribly calm voice. "I have shown to this gentleman the commonplace civility of a neighbour; and because I have done so, because I have not indulged against him in all the rancour and hatred which you and Dr. Grantly consider due to all clergymen who do not agree with yourselves, you conclude that I am to marry him; or rather you do not conclude so—no rational man could really come to such an outrageous conclusion without better ground; you have not thought so, but, as I am in a position in which such an accusation must be peculiarly painful, it is made in order that I may be terrified into hostility against this enemy of yours."
As she finished speaking, she walked to the drawing-room window and stepped out into the garden. Mr. Arabin was left in the room, still occupied in counting the pattern on the carpet. He had, however, distinctly heard and accurately marked every word that she had spoken. Was it not clear from what she had said that the archdeacon had been wrong in imputing to her any attachment to Mr. Slope? Was it not clear that Eleanor was still free to make another choice? It may seem strange that he should for a moment have had a doubt, and yet he did doubt. She had not absolutely denied the charge; she had not expressly said that it was untrue. Mr. Arabin understood little of the nature of a woman's feelings, or he would have known how improbable it was that she should make any clearer declaration than she had done. Few men do understand the nature of a woman's heart, till years have robbed such understanding of its value. And it is well that it should be so, or men would triumph too easily.
Mr. Arabin stood counting the carpet, unhappy, wretchedly unhappy, at the hard words that had been spoken to him, and yet happy, exquisitely happy, as he thought that after all the woman whom he so regarded was not to become the wife of the man whom he so much disliked. As he stood there he began to be aware that he was himself in love. Forty years had passed over his head, and as yet woman's beauty had never given him an uneasy hour. His present hour was very uneasy.
Not that he remained there for half or a quarter of that time. In spite of what Eleanor had said, Mr. Arabin was, in truth, a manly man. Having ascertained that he loved this woman, and having now reason to believe that she was free to receive his love, at least if she pleased to do so, he followed her into the garden to make such wooing as he could.
He was not long in finding her. She was walking to and fro beneath the avenue of elms that stood in the archdeacon's grounds, skirting the churchyard. What had passed between her and Mr. Arabin had not, alas, tended to lessen the acerbity of her spirit. She was very angry—more angry with him than with anyone. How could he have so misunderstood her? She had been so intimate with him, had allowed him such latitude in what he had chosen to say to her, had complied with his ideas, cherished his views, fostered his precepts, cared for his comforts, made much of him in every way in which a pretty woman can make much of an unmarried man without committing herself or her feelings! She had been doing this, and while she had been doing it he had regarded her as the affianced wife of another man.
As she passed along the avenue, every now and then an unbidden tear would force itself on her cheek, and as she raised her hand to brush it away, she stamped with her little foot upon the sward with very spite to think that she had been so treated.
Mr. Arabin was very near to her when she first saw him, and she turned short round and retraced her steps down the avenue, trying to rid her cheeks of all trace of the tell-tale tears. It was a needless endeavour, for Mr. Arabin was in a state of mind that hardly allowed him to observe such trifles. He followed her down the walk and overtook her just as she reached the end of it.
He had not considered how he would address her; he had not thought what he would say. He had only felt that it was wretchedness to him to quarrel with her, and that it would be happiness to be allowed to love her. And yet he could not lower himself by asking her pardon. He had done her no wrong. He had not calumniated her, not injured her, as she had accused him of doing. He could not confess sins of which he had not been guilty. He could only let the past be past and ask her as to her and his hopes for the future.
"I hope we are not to part as enemies?" said he.
"There shall be no enmity on my part," said Eleanor; "I endeavour to avoid all enmities. It would be a hollow pretence were I to say that there can be true friendship between us, after what has just passed. People cannot make their friends of those whom they despise."
"And am I despised?"
"I must have been so before you could have spoken of me as you did. And I was deceived, cruelly deceived. I believed that you thought well of me; I believed that you esteemed me."
"Thought well of you and esteemed you!" said he. "In justifying myself before you, I must use stronger words than those." He paused for a moment, and Eleanor's heart beat with painful violence within her bosom as she waited for him to go on. "I have esteemed, do esteem you, as I never yet esteemed any woman. Think well of you! I never thought to think so well, so much of any human creature. Speak calumny of you! Insult you! Wilfully injure you! I wish it were my privilege to shield you from calumny, insult, and injury. Calumny! Ah me! 'Twere almost better that it were so. Better than to worship with a sinful worship; sinful and vain also." And then he walked along beside her, with his hands clasped behind his back, looking down on the grass beneath his feet and utterly at a loss how to express his meaning. And Eleanor walked beside him determined at least to give him no assistance.
"Ah me!" he uttered at last, speaking rather to himself than to her. "Ah me! These Plumstead walks were pleasant enough, if one could have but heart's ease, but without that the dull, dead stones of Oxford were far preferable—and St. Ewold's, too. Mrs. Bold, I am beginning to think that I mistook myself when I came hither. A Romish priest now would have escaped all this. Oh, Father of heaven, how good for us would it be if thou couldest vouchsafe to us a certain rule."
"And have we not a certain rule, Mr. Arabin?"
"Yes—yes, surely; 'Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.' But what is temptation? What is evil? Is this evil—is this temptation?"
Poor Mr. Arabin! It would not come out of him, that deep, true love of his. He could not bring himself to utter it in plain language that would require and demand an answer. He knew not how to say to the woman by his side, "Since the fact is that you do not love that other man, that you are not to be his wife, can you love me, will you be my wife?" These were the words which were in his heart, but with all his sighs he could not draw them to his lips. He would have given anything, everything for power to ask this simple question, but glib as was his tongue in pulpits and on platforms, now he could not find a word wherewith to express the plain wish of his heart.
And yet Eleanor understood him as thoroughly as though he had declared his passion with all the elegant fluency of a practised Lothario. With a woman's instinct, she followed every bend of his mind as he spoke of the pleasantness of Plumstead and the stones of Oxford, as he alluded to the safety of the Romish priest and the hidden perils of temptation. She knew that it all meant love. She knew that this man at her side, this accomplished scholar, this practised orator, this great polemical combatant, was striving and striving in vain to tell her that his heart was no longer his own.
She knew this, and felt a sort of joy in knowing it; yet she would not come to his aid. He had offended her deeply, had treated her unworthily, the more unworthily seeing that he had learnt to love her, and Eleanor could not bring herself to abandon her revenge. She did not ask herself whether or no she would ultimately accept his love. She did not even acknowledge to herself that she now perceived it with pleasure. At the present moment it did not touch her heart; it merely appeased her pride and flattered her vanity. Mr. Arabin had dared to associate her name with that of Mr. Slope, and now her spirit was soothed by finding that he would fain associate it with his own. And so she walked on beside him, inhaling incense but giving out no sweetness in return.
"Answer me this," said Mr. Arabin, stopping suddenly in his walk and stepping forward so that he faced his companion. "Answer me this one question. You do not love Mr. Slope? You do not intend to be his wife?"
Mr. Arabin certainly did not go the right way to win such a woman as Eleanor Bold. Just as her wrath was evaporating, as it was disappearing before the true warmth of his untold love, he rekindled it by a most useless repetition of his original sin. Had he known what he was about, he should never have mentioned Mr. Slope's name before Eleanor Bold, till he had made her all his own. Then, and not till then, he might have talked of Mr. Slope with as much triumph as he chose.
"I shall answer no such question," said she; "and what is more, I must tell you that nothing can justify your asking it. Good morning!"
And so saying, she stepped proudly across the lawn and, passing through the drawing-room window, joined her father and sister at lunch in the dining-room. Half an hour afterwards she was in the carriage, and so she left Plumstead without again seeing Mr. Arabin.
His walk was long and sad among the sombre trees that overshadowed the churchyard. He left the archdeacon's grounds that he might escape attention, and sauntered among the green hillocks under which lay at rest so many of the once loving swains and forgotten beauties of Plumstead. To his ears Eleanor's last words sounded like a knell never to be reversed. He could not comprehend that she might be angry with him, indignant with him, remorseless with him, and yet love him. He could not make up his mind whether or no Mr. Slope was in truth a favoured rival. If not, why should she not have answered his question?
Poor Mr. Arabin—untaught, illiterate, boorish, ignorant man! That at forty years of age you should know so little of the workings of a woman's heart!
The Bishop's Library
And thus the pleasant party at Plumstead was broken up. It had been a very pleasant party as long as they had all remained in good humour with one another. Mrs. Grantly had felt her house to be gayer and brighter than it had been for many a long day, and the archdeacon had been aware that the month had passed pleasantly without attributing the pleasure to any other special merits than those of his own hospitality. Within three or four days of Eleanor's departure, Mr. Harding had also returned, and Mr. Arabin had gone to Oxford to spend one week there previous to his settling at the vicarage of St. Ewold's. He had gone laden with many messages to Dr. Gwynne touching the iniquity of the doings in Barchester palace and the peril in which it was believed the hospital still stood in spite of the assurances contained in Mr. Slope's inauspicious letter.
During Eleanor's drive into Barchester she had not much opportunity of reflecting on Mr. Arabin. She had been constrained to divert her mind both from his sins and his love by the necessity of conversing with her sister and maintaining the appearance of parting with her on good terms. When the carriage reached her own door, and while she was in the act of giving her last kiss to her sister and nieces, Mary Bold ran out and exclaimed:
"Oh, Eleanor, have you heard? Oh, Mrs. Grantly, have you heard what has happened? The poor dean!"
"Good heavens!" said Mrs. Grantly. "What—what has happened?"
"This morning at nine he had a fit of apoplexy, and he has not spoken since. I very much fear that by this time he is no more."
Mrs. Grantly had been very intimate with the dean, and was therefore much shocked. Eleanor had not known him so well; nevertheless, she was sufficiently acquainted with his person and manners to feel startled and grieved also at the tidings she now received. "I will go at once to the deanery," said Mrs. Grantly; "the archdeacon, I am sure, will be there. If there is any news to send you, I will let Thomas call before he leaves town." And so the carriage drove off, leaving Eleanor and her baby with Mary Bold.
Mrs. Grantly had been quite right. The archdeacon was at the deanery. He had come into Barchester that morning by himself, not caring to intrude himself upon Eleanor, and he also immediately on his arrival had heard of the dean's fit. There was, as we have before said, a library or reading-room connecting the cathedral with the dean's house. This was generally called the bishop's library, because a certain bishop of Barchester was supposed to have added it to the cathedral. It was built immediately over a portion of the cloisters, and a flight of stairs descended from it into the room in which the cathedral clergymen put their surplices on and off. As it also opened directly into the dean's house, it was the passage through which that dignitary usually went to his public devotions. Who had or had not the right of entry into it, it might be difficult to say; but the people of Barchester believed that it belonged to the dean, and the clergymen of Barchester believed that it belonged to the chapter.
On the morning in question most of the resident clergymen who constituted the chapter, and some few others, were here assembled, and among them as usual the archdeacon towered with high authority. He had heard of the dean's fit before he was over the bridge which led into the town, and had at once come to the well-known clerical trysting place. He had been there by eleven o'clock, and had remained ever since. From time to time the medical men who had been called in came through from the deanery into the library, uttered little bulletins, and then returned. There was, it appears, very little hope of the old man's rallying, indeed no hope of anything like a final recovery. The only question was whether he must die at once speechless, unconscious, stricken to death by his first heavy fit, or whether by due aid of medical skill he might not be so far brought back to this world as to become conscious of his state and enabled to address one prayer to his Maker before he was called to meet Him face to face at the judgement seat.
Sir Omicron Pie had been sent for from London. That great man had shown himself a wonderful adept at keeping life still moving within an old man's heart in the case of good old Bishop Grantly, and it might be reasonably expected that he would be equally successful with a dean. In the meantime Dr. Fillgrave and Mr. Rerechild were doing their best, and poor Miss Trefoil sat at the head of her father's bed, longing, as in such cases daughters do long, to be allowed to do something to show her love—if it were only to chafe his feet with her hands, or wait in menial offices on those autocratic doctors—anything so that now in the time of need she might be of use.
The archdeacon alone of the attendant clergy had been admitted for a moment into the sick man's chamber. He had crept in with creaking shoes, had said with smothered voice a word of consolation to the sorrowing daughter, had looked on the distorted face of his old friend with solemn but yet eager scrutinising eye, as though he said in his heart "and so some day it will probably be with me," and then, having whispered an unmeaning word or two to the doctors, had creaked his way back again into the library.
"He'll never speak again, I fear," said the archdeacon as he noiselessly closed the door, as though the unconscious dying man, from whom all sense had fled, would have heard in his distant chamber the spring of the lock which was now so carefully handled.
"Indeed! Indeed! Is he so bad?" said the meagre little prebendary, turning over in his own mind all the probable candidates for the deanery and wondering whether the archdeacon would think it worth his while to accept it. "The fit must have been very violent."
"When a man over seventy has a stroke of apoplexy, it seldom comes very lightly," said the burly chancellor.
"He was an excellent, sweet-tempered man," said one of the vicars choral. "Heaven knows how we shall repair his loss."
"He was indeed," said a minor canon, "and a great blessing to all those privileged to take a share in the services of our cathedral. I suppose the government will appoint, Mr. Archdeacon. I trust we may have no stranger."
"We will not talk about his successor," said the archdeacon, "while there is yet hope."
"Oh, no, of course not," said the minor canon. "It would be exceedingly indecorous; but—"
"I know of no man," said the meagre little prebendary, "who has better interest with the present government than Mr. Slope."
"Mr. Slope," said two or three at once almost sotto voce. "Mr. Slope Dean of Barchester!"
"Pooh!" exclaimed the burly chancellor.
"The bishop would do anything for him," said the little prebendary.
"And so would Mrs. Proudie," said the vicar choral.
"Pooh!" said the chancellor.
The archdeacon had almost turned pale at the idea. What if Mr. Slope should become Dean of Barchester? To be sure there was no adequate ground, indeed no ground at all, for presuming that such a desecration could even be contemplated. But nevertheless it was on the cards. Dr. Proudie had interest with the government, and the man carried as it were Dr. Proudie in his pocket. How should they all conduct themselves if Mr. Slope were to become Dean of Barchester? The bare idea for a moment struck even Dr. Grantly dumb.
"It would certainly not be very pleasant for us to have Mr. Slope at the deanery," said the little prebendary, chuckling inwardly at the evident consternation which his surmise had created.
"About as pleasant and as probable as having you in the palace," said the chancellor.
"I should think such an appointment highly improbable," said the minor canon, "and, moreover, extremely injudicious. Should not you, Mr. Archdeacon?"
"I should presume such a thing to be quite out of the question," said the archdeacon, "but at the present moment I am thinking rather of our poor friend who is lying so near us than of Mr. Slope."
"Of course, of course," said the vicar choral with a very solemn air; "of course you are. So are we all. Poor Dr. Trefoil; the best of men, but—"
"It's the most comfortable dean's residence in England," said a second prebendary. "Fifteen acres in the grounds. It is better than many of the bishops' palaces."
"And full two thousand a year," said the meagre doctor.
"It is cut down to L1,200," said the chancellor.
"No," said the second prebendary. "It is to be fifteen. A special case was made."
"No such thing," said the chancellor.
"You'll find I'm right," said the prebendary.
"I'm sure I read it in the report," said the minor canon.
"Nonsense," said the chancellor. "They couldn't do it. There were to be no exceptions but London and Durham."
"And Canterbury and York," said the vicar choral modestly.
"What do you say, Grantly?" said the meagre little doctor.
"Say about what?" said the archdeacon, who had been looking as though he were thinking about his friend the dean, but who had in reality been thinking about Mr. Slope.
"What is the next dean to have, twelve or fifteen?"
"Twelve," said the archdeacon authoritatively, thereby putting an end at once to all doubt and dispute among his subordinates as far as that subject was concerned.
"Well, I certainly thought it was fifteen," said the minor canon.
"Pooh!" said the burly chancellor. At this moment the door opened and in came Dr. Fillgrave.
"How is he?" "Is he conscious?" "Can he speak?" "I hope not dead?" "No worse news, Doctor, I trust?" "I hope, I trust, something better, Doctor?" said half a dozen voices all at once, each in a tone of extremest anxiety. It was pleasant to see how popular the good old dean was among his clergy.
"No change, gentlemen; not the slightest change. But a telegraphic message has arrived—Sir Omicron Pie will be here by the 9.15 P.M. train. If any man can do anything, Sir Omicron Pie will do it. But all that skill can do has been done."
"We are sure of that, Dr. Fillgrave," said the archdeacon; "we are quite sure of that. But yet you know—"
"Oh, quite right," said the doctor, "quite right—I should have done just the same—I advised it at once. I said to Rerechild at once that with such a life and such a man, Sir Omicron should be summoned—of course I knew expense was nothing—so distinguished, you know, and so popular. Nevertheless, all that human skill can do has been done."
Just at this period Mrs. Grantly's carriage drove into the close, and the archdeacon went down to confirm the news which she had heard before.
By the 9.15 P.M. train Sir Omicron Pie did arrive. And in the course of the night a sort of consciousness returned to the poor old dean. Whether this was due to Sir Omicron Pie is a question on which it may be well not to offer an opinion. Dr. Fillgrave was very clear in his own mind, but Sir Omicron himself is thought to have differed from that learned doctor. At any rate Sir Omicron expressed an opinion that the dean had yet some days to live.
For the eight or ten next days, accordingly, the poor dean remained in the same state, half-conscious and half-comatose; and the attendant clergy began to think that no new appointment would be necessary for some few months to come.
A New Candidate for Ecclesiastical Honours
The dean's illness occasioned much mental turmoil in other places besides the deanery and adjoining library, and the idea which occurred to the meagre little prebendary about Mr. Slope did not occur to him alone.
The bishop was sitting listlessly in his study when the news reached him of the dean's illness. It was brought to him by Mr. Slope, who of course was not the last person in Barchester to hear it. It was also not slow in finding its way to Mrs. Proudie's ears. It may be presumed that there was not just then much friendly intercourse between these two rival claimants for his lordship's obedience. Indeed, though living in the same house, they had not met since the stormy interview between them in the bishop's study on the preceding day.
On that occasion Mrs. Proudie had been defeated. That the prestige of continual victory should have been torn from her standards was a subject of great sorrow to that militant lady; but, though defeated, she was not overcome. She felt that she might yet recover her lost ground, that she might yet hurl Mr. Slope down to the dust from which she had picked him, and force her sinning lord to sue for pardon in sackcloth and ashes.
On that memorable day, memorable for his mutiny and rebellion against her high behests, he had carried his way with a high hand, and had really begun to think it possible that the days of his slavery were counted. He had begun to hope that he was now about to enter into a free land, a land delicious with milk which he himself might quaff and honey which would not tantalize him by being only honey to the eye. When Mrs. Proudie banged the door as she left his room, he felt himself every inch a bishop. To be sure, his spirit had been a little cowed by his chaplain's subsequent lecture, but on the whole he was highly pleased with himself, and he flattered himself that the worst was over. "Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute," he reflected, and now that the first step had been so magnanimously taken, all the rest would follow easily.
He met his wife as a matter of course at dinner, where little or nothing was said that could ruffle the bishop's happiness. His daughters and the servants were present and protected him.
He made one or two trifling remarks on the subject of his projected visit to the archbishop, in order to show to all concerned that he intended to have his own way; the very servants, perceiving the change, transferred a little of their reverence from their mistress to their master. All which the master perceived, and so also did the mistress. But Mrs. Proudie bided her time.
After dinner he returned to his study, where Mr. Slope soon found him, and there they had tea together and planned many things. For some few minutes the bishop was really happy; but as the clock on the chimney-piece warned him that the stilly hours of night were drawing on, as he looked at his chamber candlestick and knew that he must use it, his heart sank within him again. He was as a ghost, all whose power of wandering free through these upper regions ceases at cock-crow; or, rather, he was the opposite of the ghost, for till cock-crow he must again be a serf. And would that be all? Could he trust himself to come down to breakfast a free man in the morning?
He was nearly an hour later than usual when he betook himself to his rest. Rest! What rest? However, he took a couple of glasses of sherry and mounted the stairs. Far be it from us to follow him thither. There are some things which no novelist, no historian, should attempt; some few scenes in life's drama which even no poet should dare to paint. Let that which passed between Dr. Proudie and his wife on this night be understood to be among them.
He came down the following morning a sad and thoughtful man. He was attenuated in appearance—one might almost say emaciated. I doubt whether his now grizzled locks had not palpably become more grey than on the preceding evening. At any rate he had aged materially. Years do not make a man old gradually and at an even pace. Look through the world and see if this is not so always, except in those rare cases in which the human being lives and dies without joys and without sorrows, like a vegetable. A man shall be possessed of florid, youthful blooming health till, it matters not what age—thirty; forty; fifty—then comes some nipping frost, some period of agony, that robs the fibres of the body of their succulence, and the hale and hearty man is counted among the old.
He came down and breakfasted alone; Mrs. Proudie, being indisposed, took her coffee in her bedroom, and her daughters waited upon her there. He ate his breakfast alone, and then, hardly knowing what he did, he betook himself to his usual seat in his study. He tried to solace himself with his coming visit to the archbishop. That effort of his own free will at any rate remained to him as an enduring triumph. But somehow, now that he had achieved it, he did not seem to care so much about it. It was his ambition that had prompted him to take his place at the archiepiscopal table, and his ambition was now quite dead within him.
He was thus seated when Mr. Slope made his appearance, with breathless impatience.
"My lord, the dean is dead."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the bishop, startled out of his apathy by an announcement so sad and so sudden.
"He is either dead or now dying. He has had an apoplectic fit, and I am told that there is not the slightest hope; indeed, I do not doubt that by this time he is no more."
Bells were rung, and servants were immediately sent to inquire. In the course of the morning the bishop, leaning on his chaplains arm, himself called at the deanery door. Mrs. Proudie sent to Miss Trefoil all manner of offers of assistance. The Misses Proudie sent also, and there was immense sympathy between the palace and the deanery. The answer to all inquiries was unvaried. The dean was just the same, and Sir Omicron Pie was expected down by the 9.15 P.M. train.
And then Mr. Slope began to meditate, as others also had done, as to who might possibly be the new dean, and it occurred to him, as it had also occurred to others, that it might be possible that he should be the new dean himself. And then the question as to the twelve hundred, or fifteen hundred, or two thousand ran in his mind, as it had run through those of the other clergymen in the cathedral library.
Whether it might be two thousand, or fifteen, or twelve hundred, it would in any case undoubtedly be a great thing for him, if he could get it. The gratification to his ambition would be greater even than that of his covetousness. How glorious to out-top the archdeacon in his own cathedral city; to sit above prebendaries and canons and have the cathedral pulpit and all the cathedral services altogether at his own disposal!
But it might be easier to wish for this than to obtain it. Mr. Slope, however, was not without some means of forwarding his views, and he at any rate did not let the grass grow under his feet. In the first place, he thought—and not vainly—that he could count upon what assistance the bishop could give him. He immediately changed his views with regard to his patron; he made up his mind that if he became dean, he would hand his lordship back again to his wife's vassalage; and he thought it possible that his lordship might not be sorry to rid himself of one of his mentors. Mr. Slope had also taken some steps towards making his name known to other men in power. There was a certain chief-commissioner of national schools, who at the present moment was presumed to stand especially high in the good graces of the government bigwigs, and with him Mr. Slope had contrived to establish a sort of epistolary intimacy. He thought that he might safely apply to Sir Nicholas Fitzwhiggin, and he felt sure that if Sir Nicholas chose to exert himself, the promise of such a piece of preferment would be had for the asking.
Then he also had the press at his bidding, or flattered himself that he had so. "The Daily Jupiter" had taken his part in a very thorough manner in those polemical contests of his with Mr. Arabin; he had on more than one occasion absolutely had an interview with a gentleman on the staff of that paper who, if not the editor, was as good as the editor; and he had long been in the habit of writing telling letters on all manner of ecclesiastical abuses, which he signed with his initials, and sent to his editorial friend with private notes signed in his own name. Indeed, he and Mr. Towers—such was the name of the powerful gentleman of the press with whom he was connected—were generally very amiable with each other. Mr. Slope's little productions were always printed and occasionally commented upon; and thus, in a small sort of way, he had become a literary celebrity. This public life had great charms for him, though it certainly also had its drawbacks. On one occasion, when speaking in the presence of reporters, he had failed to uphold and praise and swear by that special line of conduct which had been upheld and praised and sworn by in "The Jupiter," and then he had been much surprised and at the moment not a little irritated to find himself lacerated most unmercifully by his old ally. He was quizzed and bespattered and made a fool of, just as though, or rather worse than if, he had been a constant enemy instead of a constant friend. He had hitherto not learnt that a man who aspires to be on the staff of "The Jupiter" must surrender all individuality. But ultimately this little castigation had broken no bones between him and his friend Mr. Towers. Mr. Slope was one of those who understood the world too well to show himself angry with such a potentate as "The Jupiter." He had kissed the rod that scourged him, and now thought that he might fairly look for his reward. He determined that he would at once let Mr. Towers know that he was a candidate for the place which was about to become vacant. More than one piece of preferment had lately been given away much in accordance with advice tendered to the government in the columns of "The Jupiter."
But it was incumbent on Mr. Slope first to secure the bishop. He specially felt that it behoved him to do this before the visit to the archbishop was made. It was really quite providential that the dean should have fallen ill just at the very nick of time. If Dr. Proudie could be instigated to take the matter up warmly, he might manage a good deal while staying at the archbishop's palace. Feeling this very strongly, Mr. Slope determined to sound the bishop that very afternoon. He was to start on the following morning to London, and therefore not a moment could be lost with safety.
He went into the bishop's study about five o'clock and found him still sitting alone. It might have been supposed that he had hardly moved since the little excitement occasioned by his walk to the dean's door. He still wore on his face that dull, dead look of half-unconscious suffering. He was doing nothing, reading nothing, thinking of nothing, but simply gazing on vacancy when Mr. Slope for the second time that day entered his room.
"Well, Slope," said he somewhat impatiently, for, to tell the truth, he was not anxious just at present to have much conversation with Mr. Slope.
"Your lordship will be sorry to hear that as yet the poor dean has shown no sign of amendment."
"Oh—ah—hasn't he? Poor man! I'm sure I'm very sorry. I suppose Sir Omicron has not arrived yet?"
"No, not till the 9.15 P.M. train."
"I wonder they didn't have a special. They say Dr. Trefoil is very rich."
"Very rich, I believe," said Mr. Slope. "But the truth is, all the doctors in London can do no good—no other good than to show that every possible care has been taken. Poor Dr. Trefoil is not long for this world, my lord."
"I suppose not—I suppose not."
"Oh, no; indeed, his best friends could not wish that he should outlive such a shock, for his intellects cannot possibly survive it."
"Poor man! Poor man!" said the bishop.
"It will naturally be a matter of much moment to your lordship who is to succeed him," said Mr. Slope. "It would be a great thing if you could secure the appointment for some person of your own way of thinking on important points. The party hostile to us are very strong here in Barchester—much too strong."
"Yes, yes. If poor Dr. Trefoil is to go, it will be a great thing to get a good man in his place."
"It will be everything to your lordship to get a man on whose co-operation you can reckon. Only think what trouble we might have if Dr. Grantly, or Dr. Hyandry, or any of that way of thinking were to get it."
"It is not very probable that Lord —— will give it to any of that school; why should he?"
"No. Not probable; certainly not; but it's possible. Great interest will probably be made. If I might venture to advise your lordship, I would suggest that you should discuss the matter with his grace next week. I have no doubt that your wishes, if made known and backed by his grace, would be paramount with Lord ——."
"Well, I don't know that; Lord —— has always been very kind to me, very kind. But I am unwilling to interfere in such matters unless asked. And indeed if asked, I don't know whom, at this moment, I should recommend."
Mr. Slope, even Mr. Slope, felt at the present rather abashed. He hardly knew how to frame his little request in language sufficiently modest. He had recognized and acknowledged to himself the necessity of shocking the bishop in the first instance by the temerity of his application, and his difficulty was how best to remedy that by his adroitness and eloquence. "I doubted myself," said he, "whether your lordship would have anyone immediately in your eye, and it is on this account that I venture to submit to you an idea that I have been turning over in my own mind. If poor Dr. Trefoil must go, I really do not see why, with your lordship's assistance, I should not hold the preferment myself."
"You!" exclaimed the bishop in a manner that Mr. Slope could hardly have considered complimentary.
The ice was now broken, and Mr. Slope became fluent enough. "I have been thinking of looking for it. If your lordship will press the matter on the archbishop, I do not doubt but I shall succeed. You see I shall be the first to move, which is a great matter. Then I can count upon assistance from the public press: my name is known, I may say, somewhat favourably known, to that portion of the press which is now most influential with the government; and I have friends also in the government. But nevertheless it is to you, my lord, that I look for assistance. It is from your hands that I would most willingly receive the benefit. And, which should ever be the chief consideration in such matters, you must know better than any other person whatsoever what qualifications I possess."
The bishop sat for awhile dumbfounded. Mr. Slope Dean of Barchester! The idea of such a transformation of character would never have occurred to his own unaided intellect. At first he went on thinking why, for what reasons, on what account, Mr. Slope should be Dean of Barchester. But by degrees the direction of his thoughts changed, and he began to think why, for what reasons, on what account, Mr. Slope should not be Dean of Barchester. As far as he himself, the bishop, was concerned, he could well spare the services of his chaplain. That little idea of using Mr. Slope as a counterpoise to his wife had well nigh evaporated. He had all but acknowledged the futility of the scheme. If indeed he could have slept in his chaplain's bedroom instead of his wife's, there might have been something in it. But—. And thus as Mr. Slope was speaking, the bishop began to recognize the idea that that gentleman might become Dean of Barchester without impropriety—not moved, indeed, by Mr. Slope's eloquence, for he did not follow the tenor of his speech, but led thereto by his own cogitations.
"I need not say," continued Mr. Slope, "that it would be my chief desire to act in all matters connected with the cathedral as far as possible in accordance with your views. I know your lordship so well (and I hope you know me well enough to have the same feelings) that I am satisfied that my being in that position would add materially to your own comfort, and enable you to extend the sphere of your useful influence. As I said before, it is most desirable that there should be but one opinion among the dignitaries of the same diocese. I doubt much whether I would accept such an appointment in any diocese in which I should be constrained to differ much from the bishop. In this case there would be a delightful uniformity of opinion."
Mr. Slope perfectly well perceived that the bishop did not follow a word that he said, but nevertheless he went on talking. He knew it was necessary that Dr. Proudie should recover from his surprise, and he knew also that he must give him the opportunity of appearing to have been persuaded by argument. So he went on and produced a multitude of fitting reasons all tending to show that no one on earth could make so good a Dean of Barchester as himself, that the government and the public would assuredly coincide in desiring that he, Mr. Slope, should be Dean of Barchester, but that for high considerations of ecclesiastical polity it would be especially desirable that this piece of preferment should be so bestowed through the instrumentality of the bishop of the diocese.
"But I really don't know what I could do in the matter," said the bishop.
"If you would mention it to the archbishop; if you could tell his grace that you consider such an appointment very desirable, that you have it much at heart with a view to putting an end to schism in the diocese; if you did this with your usual energy, you would probably find no difficulty in inducing his grace to promise that he would mention it to Lord ——. Of course you would let the archbishop know that I am not looking for the preferment solely through his intervention; that you do not exactly require him to ask it as a favour; that you expect that I shall get it through other sources, as is indeed the case; but that you are very anxious that his grace should express his approval of such an arrangement to Lord ——."
It ended in the bishop promising to do as he was bid. Not that he so promised without a stipulation. "About that hospital," he said in the middle of the conference. "I was never so troubled in my life"—which was about the truth. "You haven't spoken to Mr. Harding since I saw you?"
Mr. Slope assured his patron that he had not.
"Ah well, then—I think upon the whole it will be better to let Quiverful have it. It has been half-promised to him, and he has a large family and is very poor. I think on the whole it will be better to make out the nomination for Mr. Quiverful."
"But, my lord," said Mr. Slope, still thinking that he was bound to make a fight for his own view on this matter, and remembering that it still behoved him to maintain his lately acquired supremacy over Mrs. Proudie, lest he should fail in his views regarding the deanery, "but, my lord, I am really much afraid—"
"Remember, Mr. Slope," said the bishop, "I can hold out no sort of hope to you in this matter of succeeding poor Dr. Trefoil. I will certainly speak to the archbishop, as you wish it, but I cannot think—"
"Well, my lord," said Mr. Slope, fully understanding the bishop and in his turn interrupting him, "perhaps your lordship is right about Mr. Quiverful. I have no doubt I can easily arrange matters with Mr. Harding, and I will make out the nomination for your signature as you direct."
"Yes, Slope, I think that will be best; and you may be sure that any little that I can do to forward your views shall be done."
And so they parted.
Mr. Slope had now much business on his hands. He had to make his daily visit to the signora. This common prudence should have now induced him to omit, but he was infatuated, and could not bring himself to be commonly prudent. He determined therefore that he would drink tea at the Stanhopes', and he determined also, or thought that he determined, that having done so he would go thither no more. He had also to arrange his matters with Mrs. Bold. He was of opinion that Eleanor would grace the deanery as perfectly as she would the chaplain's cottage, and he thought, moreover, that Eleanor's fortune would excellently repair any dilapidations and curtailments in the dean's stipend which might have been made by that ruthless ecclesiastical commission.
Touching Mrs. Bold his hopes now soared high. Mr. Slope was one of that numerous multitude of swains who think that all is fair in love, and he had accordingly not refrained from using the services of Mrs. Bold's own maid. From her he had learnt much of what had taken place at Plumstead—not exactly with truth, for "the own maid" had not been able to divine the exact truth, but with some sort of similitude to it. He had been told that the archdeacon and Mrs. Grantly and Mr. Harding and Mr. Arabin had all quarrelled with "missus" for having received a letter from Mr. Slope; that "missus" had positively refused to give the letter up; that she had received from the archdeacon the option of giving up either Mr. Slope and his letter, or else the society of Plumstead Rectory; and that "missus" had declared, with much indignation, that "she didn't care a straw for the society of Plumstead Rectory," and that she wouldn't give up Mr. Slope for any of them.
Considering the source from whence this came, it was not quite so untrue as might have been expected. It showed pretty plainly what had been the nature of the conversation in the servants' hall; and, coupled as it was with the certainty of Eleanor's sudden return, it appeared to Mr. Slope to be so far worthy of credit as to justify him in thinking that the fair widow would in all human probability accept his offer.
All this work was therefore to be done. It was desirable, he thought, that he should make his offer before it was known that Mr. Quiverful was finally appointed to the hospital. In his letter to Eleanor he had plainly declared that Mr. Harding was to have the appointment. It would be very difficult to explain this away, and were he to write another letter to Eleanor, telling the truth and throwing the blame on the bishop, it would naturally injure him in her estimation. He determined therefore to let that matter disclose itself as it would, and to lose no time in throwing himself at her feet.
Then he had to solicit the assistance of Sir Nicholas Fitzwhiggin and Mr. Towers, and he went directly from the bishop's presence to compose his letters to those gentlemen. As Mr. Slope was esteemed an adept at letter writing, they shall be given in full.
(Private) Palace, Barchester, Sept. 185—
MY DEAR SIR NICHOLAS,
I hope that the intercourse which has been between us will preclude you from regarding my present application as an intrusion. You cannot, I imagine, have yet heard that poor old Dr. Trefoil has been seized with apoplexy. It is a subject of profound grief to everyone in Barchester, for he has always been an excellent man—excellent as a man and as a clergyman. He is, however, full of years, and his life could not under any circumstances have been much longer spared. You may probably have known him.
There is, it appears, no probable chance of his recovery. Sir Omicron Pie is, I believe, at present with him. At any rate the medical men here have declared that one or two days more must limit the tether of his mortal coil. I sincerely trust that his soul may wing its flight to that haven where it may forever be at rest and forever be happy.
The bishop has been speaking to me about the preferment, and he is anxious that it should be conferred on me. I confess that I can hardly venture, at my age, to look for such advancement, but I am so far encouraged by his lordship that I believe I shall be induced to do so. His lordship goes to —— to-morrow and is intent on mentioning the subject to the archbishop.
I know well how deservedly great is your weight with the present government. In any matter touching church preferment you would of course be listened to. Now that the matter has been put into my head, I am of course anxious to be successful. If you can assist me by your good word, you will confer on me one additional favour.
I had better add, that Lord —— cannot as yet know of this piece of preferment having fallen in, or rather of its certainty of falling (for poor dear Dr. Trefoil is past hope). Should Lord —— first hear it from you, that might probably be thought to give you a fair claim to express your opinion.
Of course our grand object is that we should all be of one opinion in church matters. This is most desirable at Barchester; it is this that makes our good bishop so anxious about it. You may probably think it expedient to point this out to Lord —— if it shall be in your power to oblige me by mentioning the subject to his lordship.
Believe me, My dear Sir Nicholas, Your most faithful servant,
His letter to Mr. Towers was written in quite a different strain. Mr. Slope conceived that he completely understood the difference in character and position of the two men whom he addressed. He knew that for such a man as Sir Nicholas Fitzwhiggin a little flummery was necessary, and that it might be of the easy, everyday description. Accordingly his letter to Sir Nicholas was written, currente calamo, with very little trouble. But to such a man as Mr. Towers it was not so easy to write a letter that should be effective and yet not offensive, that should carry its point without undue interference. It was not difficult to flatter Dr. Proudie or Sir Nicholas Fitzwhiggin, but very difficult to flatter Mr. Towers without letting the flattery declare itself. This, however, had to be done. Moreover, this letter must, in appearance at least, be written without effort, and be fluent, unconstrained, and demonstrative of no doubt or fear on the part of the writer. Therefore the epistle to Mr. Towers was studied, and re-copied, and elaborated at the cost of so many minutes that Mr. Slope had hardly time to dress himself and reach Dr. Stanhope's that evening.
When dispatched, it ran as follows:—
(Private.) Barchester. Sept. 185—
(He purposely omitted any allusion to the "palace," thinking that Mr. Towers might not like it. A great man, he remembered, had been once much condemned for dating a letter from Windsor Castle.)
MY DEAR SIR,
We were all a good deal shocked here this morning by hearing that poor old Dean Trefoil had been stricken with apoplexy. The fit took him about 9 A.M. I am writing now to save the post, and he is still alive, but past all hope or possibility, I believe, of living. Sir Omicron Pie is here, or will be very shortly, but all that even Sir Omicron can do is to ratify the sentence of his less distinguished brethren that nothing can be done. Poor Dr. Trefoil's race on this side the grave is run. I do not know whether you knew him. He was a good, quiet, charitable man, of the old school, of course, as any clergyman over seventy years of age must necessarily be.
But I do not write merely with the object of sending you such news as this: doubtless someone of your Mercuries will have seen and heard and reported so much; I write, as you usually do yourself, rather with a view to the future than to the past.
Rumour is already rife here as to Dr. Trefoil's successor, and among those named as possible future deans your humble servant is, I believe, not the least frequently spoken of; in short, I am looking for the preferment. You may probably know that since Bishop Proudie came to the diocese I have exerted myself here a good deal and, I may certainly say, not without some success. He and I are nearly always of the same opinion on points of doctrine as well as church discipline, and therefore I have had, as his confidential chaplain, very much in my own hands; but I confess to you that I have a higher ambition than to remain the chaplain of any bishop.
There are no positions in which more energy is now needed than those of our deans. The whole of our enormous cathedral establishments have been allowed to go to sleep—nay, they are all but dead and ready for the sepulchre! And yet of what prodigious moment they might be made if, as was intended, they were so managed as to lead the way and show an example for all our parochial clergy!
The bishop here is most anxious for my success; indeed, he goes to-morrow to press the matter on the archbishop. I believe also I may count on the support of at least one most effective member of the government. But I confess that the support of "The Jupiter," if I be thought worthy of it, would be more gratifying to me than any other; more gratifying if by it I should be successful, and more gratifying also if, although so supported, I should be unsuccessful.
The time has, in fact, come in which no government can venture to fill up the high places of the Church in defiance of the public press. The age of honourable bishops and noble deans has gone by, and any clergyman however humbly born can now hope for success if his industry, talent, and character be sufficient to call forth the manifest opinion of the public in his favour.
At the present moment we all feel that any counsel given in such matters by "The Jupiter" has the greatest weight—is, indeed, generally followed; and we feel also—I am speaking of clergymen of my own age and standing—that it should be so. There can be no patron less interested than "The Jupiter," and none that more thoroughly understands the wants of the people.
I am sure you will not suspect me of asking from you any support which the paper with which you are connected cannot conscientiously give me. My object in writing is to let you know that I am a candidate for the appointment. It is for you to judge whether or no you can assist my views. I should not, of course, have written to you on such a matter had I not believed (and I have had good reason so to believe) that "The Jupiter" approves of my views on ecclesiastical polity.
The bishop expresses a fear that I may be considered too young for such a station, my age being thirty-six. I cannot think that at the present day any hesitation need be felt on such a point. The public has lost its love for antiquated servants. If a man will ever be fit to do good work, he will be fit at thirty-six years of age.
Believe me very faithfully yours, OBADIAH SLOPE
T. TOWERS, ESQ., —— Court, Middle Temple.
Having thus exerted himself, Mr. Slope posted his letters and passed the remainder of the evening at the feet of his mistress.
Mr. Slope will be accused of deceit in his mode of canvassing. It will be said that he lied in the application he made to each of his three patrons. I believe it must be owned that he did so. He could not hesitate on account of his youth and yet be quite assured that he was not too young. He could not count chiefly on the bishop's support and chiefly also on that of the newspaper. He did not think that the bishop was going to —— to press the matter on the archbishop. It must be owned that in his canvassing Mr. Slope was as false as he well could be.
Let it, however, be asked of those who are conversant with such matters, whether he was more false than men usually are on such occasions. We English gentlemen hate the name of a lie, but how often do we find public men who believe each other's words?
Mrs. Proudie Victrix
The next week passed over at Barchester with much apparent tranquillity. The hearts, however, of some of the inhabitants were not so tranquil as the streets of the city. The poor old dean still continued to live, just as Sir Omicron Pie had prophesied that he would do, much to the amazement, and some thought disgust, of Dr. Fillgrave. The bishop still remained away. He had stayed a day or two in town and had also remained longer at the archbishop's than he had intended. Mr. Slope had as yet received no line in answer to either of his letters, but he had learnt the cause of this. Sir Nicholas was stalking a deer, or attending the Queen, in the Highlands, and even the indefatigable Mr. Towers had stolen an autumn holiday, and had made one of the yearly tribe who now ascend Mont Blanc. Mr. Slope learnt that he was not expected back till the last day of September.
Mrs. Bold was thrown much with the Stanhopes, of whom she became fonder and fonder. If asked, she would have said that Charlotte Stanhope was her especial friend, and so she would have thought. But, to tell the truth, she liked Bertie nearly as well; she had no more idea of regarding him as a lover than she would have had of looking at a big tame dog in such a light. Bertie had become very intimate with her, and made little speeches to her, and said little things of a sort very different from the speeches and sayings of other men. But then this was almost always done before his sisters; and he, with his long silken beard, his light blue eyes, and strange dress, was so unlike other men. She admitted him to a kind of familiarity which she had never known with anyone else, and of which she by no means understood the danger. She blushed once at finding that she had called him Bertie and, on the same day, only barely remembered her position in time to check herself from playing upon him some personal practical joke to which she was instigated by Charlotte.
In all this Eleanor was perfectly innocent, and Bertie Stanhope could hardly be called guilty. But every familiarity into which Eleanor was entrapped was deliberately planned by his sister. She knew well how to play her game, and played it without mercy; she knew, none so well, what was her brother's character, and she would have handed over to him the young widow, and the young widow's money, and the money of the widow's child, without remorse. With her pretended friendship and warm cordiality, she strove to connect Eleanor so closely with her brother as to make it impossible that she should go back even if she wished it. But Charlotte Stanhope knew really nothing of Eleanor's character, did not even understand that there were such characters. She did not comprehend that a young and pretty woman could be playful and familiar with a man such as Bertie Stanhope and yet have no idea in her head, no feeling in her heart, that she would have been ashamed to own to all the world. Charlotte Stanhope did not in the least conceive that her new friend was a woman whom nothing could entrap into an inconsiderate marriage, whose mind would have revolted from the slightest impropriety had she been aware that any impropriety existed.
Miss Stanhope, however, had tact enough to make herself and her father's house very agreeable to Mrs. Bold. There was with them all an absence of stiffness and formality which was peculiarly agreeable to Eleanor after the great dose of clerical arrogance which she had lately been constrained to take. She played chess with them, walked with them, and drank tea with them; studied or pretended to study astronomy; assisted them in writing stories in rhyme, in turning prose tragedy into comic verse, or comic stories into would-be tragic poetry. She had no idea before that she had any such talents. She had not conceived the possibility of her doing such things as she now did. She found with the Stanhopes new amusements and employments, new pursuits, which in themselves could not be wrong, and which were exceedingly alluring.
Is it not a pity that people who are bright and clever should so often be exceedingly improper, and that those who are never improper should so often be dull and heavy? Now Charlotte Stanhope was always bright and never heavy, but then her propriety was doubtful.
But during all this time Eleanor by no means forgot Mr. Arabin, nor did she forget Mr. Slope. She had parted from Mr. Arabin in her anger. She was still angry at what she regarded as his impertinent interference, but nevertheless she looked forward to meeting him again, and also looked forward to forgiving him. The words that Mr. Arabin had uttered still sounded in her ears. She knew that if not intended for a declaration of love, they did signify that he loved her, and she felt also that if he ever did make such a declaration, it might be that she should not receive it unkindly. She was still angry with him, very angry with him; so angry that she would bite her lip and stamp her foot as she thought of what he had said and done. Nevertheless, she yearned to let him know that he was forgiven; all that she required was that he should own that he had sinned.
She was to meet him at Ullathorne on the last day of the present month. Miss Thorne had invited all the country round to a breakfast on the lawn. There were to be tents, and archery, and dancing for the ladies on the lawn and for the swains and girls in the paddock. There were to be fiddlers and fifers, races for the boys, poles to be climbed, ditches full of water to be jumped over, horse-collars to be grinned through (this latter amusement was an addition of the stewards, and not arranged by Miss Thorne in the original programme), and every game to be played which, in a long course of reading, Miss Thorne could ascertain to have been played in the good days of Queen Elizabeth. Everything of more modern growth was to be tabooed, if possible. On one subject Miss Thorne was very unhappy. She had been turning in her mind the matter of a bull-ring, but could not succeed in making anything of it. She would not for the world have done, or allowed to be done, anything that was cruel; as to the promoting the torture of a bull for the amusement of her young neighbours, it need hardly be said that Miss Thorne would be the last to think of it. And yet there was something so charming in the name. A bull-ring, however, without a bull would only be a memento of the decadence of the times, and she felt herself constrained to abandon the idea. Quintains, however, she was determined to have, and had poles and swivels and bags of flour prepared accordingly. She would no doubt have been anxious for something small in the way of a tournament, but, as she said to her brother, that had been tried, and the age had proved itself too decidedly inferior to its forerunners to admit of such a pastime. Mr. Thorne did not seem to participate much in her regret, feeling perhaps that a full suit of chain-armour would have added but little to his own personal comfort.
This party at Ullathorne had been planned in the first place as a sort of welcoming to Mr. Arabin on his entrance into St. Ewold's parsonage; an intended harvest-home gala for the labourers and their wives and children had subsequently been amalgamated with it, and thus it had grown to its present dimensions. All the Plumstead party had of course been asked, and at the time of the invitation Eleanor had intended to have gone with her sister. Now her plans were altered, and she was going with the Stanhopes. The Proudies were also to be there, and, as Mr. Slope had not been included in the invitation to the palace, the signora, whose impudence never deserted her, asked permission of Miss Thorne to bring him.
This permission Miss Thorne gave, having no other alternative; but she did so with a trembling heart, fearing Mr. Arabin would be offended. Immediately on his return she apologized, almost with tears, so dire an enmity was presumed to rage between the two gentlemen. But Mr. Arabin comforted her by an assurance that he should meet Mr. Slope with the greatest pleasure imaginable and made her promise that she would introduce them to each other.
But this triumph of Mr. Slope's was not so agreeable to Eleanor, who since her return to Barchester had done her best to avoid him. She would not give way to the Plumstead folk when they so ungenerously accused her of being in love with this odious man; but, nevertheless, knowing that she was so accused, she was fully alive to the expediency of keeping out of his way and dropping him by degrees. She had seen very little of him since her return. Her servant had been instructed to say to all visitors that she was out. She could not bring herself to specify Mr. Slope particularly, and in order to avoid him she had thus debarred herself from all her friends. She had excepted Charlotte Stanhope and, by degrees, a few others also. Once she had met him at the Stanhopes', but as a rule, Mr. Slope's visits there were made in the morning and hers in the evening. On that one occasion Charlotte had managed to preserve her from any annoyance. This was very good-natured on the part of Charlotte, as Eleanor thought, and also very sharp-witted, as Eleanor had told her friend nothing of her reasons for wishing to avoid that gentleman. The fact, however, was that Charlotte had learnt from her sister that Mr. Slope would probably put himself forward as a suitor for the widow's hand, and she was consequently sufficiently alive to the expediency of guarding Bertie's future wife from any danger in that quarter.
Nevertheless the Stanhopes were pledged to take Mr. Slope with them to Ullathorne. An arrangement was therefore necessarily made, which was very disagreeable to Eleanor. Dr. Stanhope, with herself, Charlotte, and Mr. Slope, were to go together, and Bertie was to follow with his sister Madeline. It was clearly visible by Eleanor's face that this assortment was very disagreeable to her, and Charlotte, who was much encouraged thereby in her own little plan, made a thousand apologies.
"I see you don't like it, my dear," said she, "but we could not manage otherwise. Bertie would give his eyes to go with you, but Madeline cannot possibly go without him. Nor could we possibly put Mr. Slope and Madeline in the same carriage without anyone else. They'd both be ruined forever, you know, and not admitted inside Ullathorne gates, I should imagine, after such an impropriety."
"Of course that wouldn't do," said Eleanor, "but couldn't I go in the carriage with the signora and your brother?"
"Impossible!" said Charlotte. "When she is there, there is only room for two." The Signora, in truth, did not care to do her travelling in the presence of strangers.
"Well, then," said Eleanor, "you are all so kind, Charlotte, and so good to me that I am sure you won't be offended, but I think I'll not go at all."
"Not go at all!—what nonsense!—indeed you shall." It had been absolutely determined in family counsel that Bertie should propose on that very occasion.
"Or I can take a fly," said Eleanor. "You know I am not embarrassed by so many difficulties as you young ladies; I can go alone."
"Nonsense, my dear! Don't think of such a thing; after all, it is only for an hour or so; and, to tell the truth, I don't know what it is you dislike so. I thought you and Mr. Slope were great friends. What is it you dislike?"
"Oh, nothing particular," said Eleanor; "only I thought it would be a family party."
"Of course it would be much nicer, much more snug, if Bertie could go with us. It is he that is badly treated. I can assure you he is much more afraid of Mr. Slope than you are. But you see Madeline cannot go out without him—and she, poor creature, goes out so seldom! I am sure you don't begrudge her this, though her vagary does knock about our own party a little."
Of course Eleanor made a thousand protestations and uttered a thousand hopes that Madeline would enjoy herself. And of course she had to give way and undertake to go in the carriage with Mr. Slope. In fact, she was driven either to do this or to explain why she would not do so. Now she could not bring herself to explain to Charlotte Stanhope all that had passed at Plumstead.
But it was to her a sore necessity. She thought of a thousand little schemes for avoiding it; she would plead illness and not go at all; she would persuade Mary Bold to go, although not asked, and then make a necessity of having a carriage of her own to take her sister-in-law; anything, in fact, she could do, rather than be seen by Mr. Arabin getting out of the same carriage with Mr. Slope. However, when the momentous morning came, she had no scheme matured, and then Mr. Slope handed her into Dr. Stanhope's carriage and, following her steps, sat opposite to her.
The bishop returned on the eve of the Ullathorne party, and was received at home with radiant smiles by the partner of all his cares. On his arrival he crept up to his dressing-room with somewhat of a palpitating heart; he had overstayed his alloted time by three days, and was not without much fear of penalties. Nothing, however, could be more affectionately cordial than the greeting he received; the girls came out and kissed him in a manner that was quite soothing to his spirit; and Mrs. Proudie, "albeit, unused to the melting mood," squeezed him in her arms and almost in words called him her dear, darling, good, pet, little bishop. All this was a very pleasant surprise.
Mrs. Proudie had somewhat changed her tactics; not that she had seen any cause to disapprove of her former line of conduct, but she had now brought matters to such a point that she calculated that she might safely do so. She had got the better of Mr. Slope, and she now thought well to show her husband that when allowed to get the better of everybody, when obeyed by him and permitted to rule over others, she would take care that he should have his reward. Mr. Slope had not a chance against her; not only could she stun the poor bishop by her midnight anger, but she could assuage and soothe him, if she so willed, by daily indulgences. She could furnish his room for him, turn him out as smart a bishop as any on the bench, give him good dinners, warm fires, and an easy life—all this she would do if he would but be quietly obedient. But, if not,—! To speak sooth, however, his sufferings on that dreadful night had been so poignant as to leave him little spirit for further rebellion.
As soon as he had dressed himself, she returned to his room. "I hope you enjoyed yourself at ——," said she, seating herself on one side of the fire while he remained in his armchair on the other, stroking the calves of his legs. It was the first time he had had a fire in his room since the summer, and it pleased him, for the good bishop loved to be warm and cosy. Yes, he said, he had enjoyed himself very much. Nothing could be more polite than the archbishop, and Mrs. Archbishop had been equally charming.
Mrs. Proudie was delighted to hear it; nothing, she declared, pleased her so much as to think
Her bairn respectit like the lave.
She did not put it precisely in these words, but what she said came to the same thing; and then, having petted and fondled her little man sufficiently, she proceeded to business.
"The poor dean is still alive," said she.
"So I hear, so I hear," said the bishop. "I'll go to the deanery directly after breakfast to-morrow."
"We are going to this party at Ullathorne to-morrow morning, my dear; we must be there early, you know—by twelve o'clock I suppose."
"Oh—ah!" said the bishop; "then I'll certainly call the next day."
"Was much said about it at ——?" asked Mrs. Proudie.
"About what?" said the bishop.
"Filling up the dean's place," said Mrs. Proudie. As she spoke, a spark of the wonted fire returned to her eye, and the bishop felt himself to be a little less comfortable than before.
"Filling up the dean's place; that is, if the dean dies? Very little, my dear. It was mentioned, just mentioned."
"And what did you say about it, Bishop?"
"Why, I said that I thought that if, that is, should—should the dean die, that is, I said I thought—" As he went on stammering and floundering, he saw that his wife's eye was fixed sternly on him. Why should he encounter such evil for a man whom he loved so slightly as Mr. Slope? Why should he give up his enjoyments and his ease and such dignity as might be allowed to him to fight a losing battle for a chaplain? The chaplain, after all, if successful, would be as great a tyrant as his wife. Why fight at all? Why contend? Why be uneasy? From that moment he determined to fling Mr. Slope to the winds and take the goods the gods provided.
"I am told," said Mrs. Proudie, speaking very slowly, "that Mr. Slope is looking to be the new dean."
"Yes—certainly, I believe he is," said the bishop.
"And what does the archbishop say about that?" asked Mrs. Proudie.
"Well, my dear, to tell the truth, I promised Mr. Slope to speak to the archbishop. Mr. Slope spoke to me about it. It is very arrogant of him, I must say—but that is nothing to me."
"Arrogant!" said Mrs. Proudie; "it is the most impudent piece of pretension I ever heard of in my life. Mr. Slope Dean of Barchester, indeed! And what did you do in the matter, Bishop?"
"Why, my dear, I did speak to the archbishop."
"You don't mean to tell me," said Mrs. Proudie, "that you are going to make yourself ridiculous by lending your name to such a preposterous attempt as this? Mr. Slope Dean of Barchester, indeed!" And she tossed her head and put her arms akimbo with an air of confident defiance that made her husband quite sure that Mr. Slope never would be Dean of Barchester. In truth, Mrs. Proudie was all but invincible; had she married Petruchio, it may be doubted whether that arch wife-tamer would have been able to keep her legs out of those garments which are presumed by men to be peculiarly unfitted for feminine use.
"It is preposterous, my dear."
"Then why have you endeavoured to assist him?"
"Why—my dear, I haven't assisted him—much."
"But why have you done it at all? Why have you mixed your name up in anything so ridiculous? What was it you did say to the archbishop?"
"Why, I just did mention it; I just did say that—that in the event of the poor dean's death, Mr. Slope would—would—"
"I forget how I put it—would take it if he could get it; something of that sort. I didn't say much more than that."
"You shouldn't have said anything at all. And what did the archbishop say?"
"He didn't say anything; he just bowed and rubbed his hands. Somebody else came up at the moment, and as we were discussing the new parochial universal school committee, the matter of the new dean dropped; after that I didn't think it wise to renew it."
"Renew it! I am very sorry you ever mentioned it. What will the archbishop think of you?"
"You may be sure, my dear, the archbishop thought very little about it."
"But why did you think about it, Bishop? How could you think of making such a creature as that Dean of Barchester? Dean of Barchester! I suppose he'll be looking for a bishopric some of these days—a man that hardly knows who his own father was; a man that I found without bread to his mouth or a coat to his back. Dean of Barchester, indeed! I'll dean him."
Mrs. Proudie considered herself to be in politics a pure Whig; all her family belonged to the Whig party. Now, among all ranks of Englishmen and Englishwomen (Mrs. Proudie should, I think, be ranked among the former on the score of her great strength of mind), no one is so hostile to lowly born pretenders to high station as the pure Whig.
The bishop thought it necessary to exculpate himself. "Why, my dear," said he, "it appeared to me that you and Mr. Slope did not get on quite so well as you used to do!"
"Get on!" said Mrs. Proudie, moving her foot uneasily on the hearth-rug and compressing her lips in a manner that betokened much danger to the subject of their discourse.
"I began to find that he was objectionable to you"—Mrs. Proudie's foot worked on the hearth-rug with great rapidity—"and that you would be more comfortable if he was out of the palace"—Mrs. Proudie smiled, as a hyena may probably smile before he begins his laugh—"and therefore I thought that if he got this place, and so ceased to be my chaplain, you might be pleased at such an arrangement."
And then the hyena laughed out. Pleased at such an arrangement! Pleased at having her enemy converted into a dean with twelve hundred a year! Medea, when she describes the customs of her native country (I am quoting from Robson's edition), assures her astonished auditor that in her land captives, when taken, are eaten.
"You pardon them?" says Medea.
"We do indeed," says the mild Grecian.
"We eat them!" says she of Colchis, with terrific energy.
Mrs. Proudie was the Medea of Barchester; she had no idea of not eating Mr. Slope. Pardon him! Merely get rid of him! Make a dean of him! It was not so they did with their captives in her country, among people of her sort! Mr. Slope had no such mercy to expect; she would pick him to the very last bone.
"Oh, yes, my dear, of course he'll cease to be your chaplain," said she. "After what has passed, that must be a matter of course. I couldn't for a moment think of living in the same house with such a man. Besides, he has shown himself quite unfit for such a situation; making broils and quarrels among the clergy; getting you, my dear, into scrapes; and taking upon himself as though he were as good as bishop himself. Of course he'll go. But because he leaves the palace, that is no reason why he should get into the deanery."
"Oh, of course not!" said the bishop; "but to save appearances, you know, my dear—"
"I don't want to save appearances; I want Mr. Slope to appear just what he is—a false, designing, mean, intriguing man. I have my eye on him; he little knows what I see. He is misconducting himself in the most disgraceful way with that lame Italian woman. That family is a disgrace to Barchester, and Mr. Slope is a disgrace to Barchester. If he doesn't look well to it, he'll have his gown stripped off his back instead of having a dean's hat on his head. Dean, indeed! The man has gone mad with arrogance."
The bishop said nothing further to excuse either himself or his chaplain, and having shown himself passive and docile, was again taken into favour. They soon went to dinner, and he spent the pleasantest evening he had had in his own house for a long time. His daughter played and sang to him as he sipped his coffee and read his newspaper, and Mrs. Proudie asked good-natured little questions about the archbishop; and then he went happily to bed and slept as quietly as though Mrs. Proudie had been Griselda herself. While shaving himself in the morning and preparing for the festivities of Ullathorne, he fully resolved to run no more tilts against a warrior so fully armed at all points as was Mrs. Proudie.
Oxford—The Master and Tutor of Lazarus
Mr. Arabin, as we have said, had but a sad walk of it under the trees of Plumstead churchyard. He did not appear to any of the family till dinner-time, and then he seemed, as far as their judgement went, to be quite himself. He had, as was his wont, asked himself a great many questions and given himself a great many answers; and the upshot of this was that he had sent himself down for an ass. He had determined that he was much too old and much too rusty to commence the manoeuvres of love-making; that he had let the time slip through his hands which should have been used for such purposes; and that now he must lie on his bed as he had made it. Then he asked himself whether in truth he did love this woman; and he answered himself, not without a long struggle, but at last honestly, that he certainly did love her. He then asked himself whether he did not also love her money, and he again answered himself that he did so. But here he did not answer honestly. It was and ever had been his weakness to look for impure motives for his own conduct. No doubt, circumstanced as he was, with a small living and a fellowship, accustomed as he had been to collegiate luxuries and expensive comforts, he might have hesitated to marry a penniless woman had he felt ever so strong a predilection for the woman herself; no doubt Eleanor's fortune put all such difficulties out of the question; but it was equally without doubt that his love for her had crept upon him without the slightest idea on his part that he could ever benefit his own condition by sharing her wealth.
When he had stood on the hearth-rug, counting the pattern and counting also the future chances of his own life, the remembrances of Mrs. Bold's comfortable income had certainly not damped his first assured feeling of love for her. And why should it have done so? Need it have done so with the purest of men? Be that as it may, Mr. Arabin decided against himself; he decided that it had done so in his case, and that he was not the purest of men.
He also decided, which was more to his purpose, that Eleanor did not care a straw for him, and that very probably she did care a straw for his rival. Then he made up his mind not to think of her any more, and went on thinking of her till he was almost in a state to drown himself in the little brook which ran at the bottom of the archdeacon's grounds.
And ever and again his mind would revert to the Signora Neroni, and he would make comparisons between her and Eleanor Bold, not always in favour of the latter. The signora had listened to him, and flattered him, and believed in him; at least she had told him so. Mrs. Bold had also listened to him, but had never flattered him; had not always believed in him; and now had broken from him in violent rage. The signora, too, was the more lovely woman of the two, and had also the additional attraction of her affliction—for to him it was an attraction.
But he never could have loved the Signora Neroni as he felt that he now loved Eleanor; and so he flung stones into the brook, instead of flinging in himself, and sat down on its margin as sad a gentleman as you shall meet in a summer's day.
He heard the dinner-bell ring from the churchyard, and he knew that it was time to recover his self-possession. He felt that he was disgracing himself in his own eyes, that he had been idling his time and neglecting the high duties which he had taken upon himself to perform. He should have spent this afternoon among the poor at St. Ewold's, instead of wandering about at Plumstead, an ancient, love-lorn swain, dejected and sighing, full of imaginary sorrows and Wertherian grief. He was thoroughly ashamed of himself, and determined to lose no time in retrieving his character, so damaged in his own eyes.
Thus when he appeared at dinner he was as animated as ever and was the author of most of the conversation which graced the archdeacon's board on that evening. Mr. Harding was ill at ease and sick at heart, and did not care to appear more comfortable than he really was; what little he did say was said to his daughter. He thought that the archdeacon and Mr. Arabin had leagued together against Eleanor's comfort, and his wish now was to break away from the pair and undergo in his Barchester lodgings whatever Fate had in store for him. He hated the name of the hospital; his attempt to regain his lost inheritance there had brought upon him so much suffering. As far as he was concerned, Mr. Quiverful was now welcome to the place.
And the archdeacon was not very lively. The poor dean's illness was of course discussed in the first place. Dr. Grantly did not mention Mr. Slope's name in connexion with the expected event of Dr. Trefoil's death; he did not wish to say anything about Mr. Slope just at present, nor did he wish to make known his sad surmises; but the idea that his enemy might possibly become Dean of Barchester made him very gloomy. Should such an event take place, such a dire catastrophe come about, there would be an end to his life as far as his life was connected with the city of Barchester. He must give up all his old haunts, all his old habits, and live quietly as a retired rector at Plumstead. It had been a severe trial for him to have Dr. Proudie in the palace, but with Mr. Slope also in the deanery he felt that he should be unable to draw his breath in Barchester close.
Thus it came to pass that in spite of the sorrow at his heart, Mr. Arabin was apparently the gayest of the party. Both Mr. Harding and Mrs. Grantly were in a slight degree angry with him on account of his want of gloom. To the one it appeared as though he were triumphing at Eleanor's banishment, and to the other that he was not affected as he should have been by all the sad circumstances of the day—Eleanor's obstinacy, Mr. Slope's success, and the poor dean's apoplexy. And so they were all at cross-purposes.
Mr. Harding left the room almost together with the ladies, and then the archdeacon opened his heart to Mr. Arabin. He still harped upon the hospital. "What did that fellow mean," said he, "by saying in his letter to Mrs. Bold that if Mr. Harding would call on the bishop, it would be all right? Of course I would not be guided by anything he might say, but still it may be well that Mr. Harding should see the bishop. It would be foolish to let the thing slip through our fingers because Mrs. Bold is determined to make a fool of herself."
Mr. Arabin hinted that he was not quite so sure that Mrs. Bold would make a fool of herself. He said that he was not convinced that she did regard Mr. Slope so warmly as she was supposed to do. The archdeacon questioned and cross-questioned him about this, but elicited nothing, and at last remained firm in his own conviction that he was destined, malgre lui, to be the brother-in-law of Mr. Slope. Mr. Arabin strongly advised that Mr. Harding should take no step regarding the hospital in connexion with, or in consequence of, Mr. Slope's letter. "If the bishop really means to confer the appointment on Mr. Harding," argued Mr. Arabin, "he will take care to let him have some other intimation than a message conveyed through a letter to a lady. Were Mr. Harding to present himself at the palace, he might merely be playing Mr. Slope's game;" and thus it was settled that nothing should be done till the great Dr. Gwynne's arrival, or at any rate without that potentate's sanction.
It was droll to observe how these men talked of Mr. Harding as though he were a puppet, and planned their intrigues and small ecclesiastical manoeuvres in reference to Mr. Harding's future position without dreaming of taking him into their confidence. There was a comfortable house and income in question, and it was very desirable, and certainly very just, that Mr. Harding should have them; but that at present was not the main point; it was expedient to beat the bishop and, if possible, to smash Mr. Slope. Mr. Slope had set up, or was supposed to have set up, a rival candidate. Of all things the most desirable would have been to have had Mr. Quiverful's appointment published to the public and then annulled by the clamour of an indignant world, loud in the defence of Mr. Harding's rights. But of such an event the chance was small; a slight fraction only of the world would be indignant, and that fraction would be one not accustomed to loud speaking. And then the preferment had, in a sort of way, been offered to Mr. Harding and had, in a sort of way, been refused by him.
Mr. Slope's wicked, cunning hand had been peculiarly conspicuous in the way in which this had been brought to pass, and it was the success of Mr. Slope's cunning which was so painfully grating to the feelings of the archdeacon. That which of all things he most dreaded was that he should be outgeneralled by Mr. Slope; and just at present it appeared probable that Mr. Slope would turn his flank, steal a march on him, cut off his provisions, carry his strong town by a coup de main, and at last beat him thoroughly in a regular pitched battle. The archdeacon felt that his flank had been turned when desired to wait on Mr. Slope instead of the bishop, that a march had been stolen when Mr. Harding was induced to refuse the bishop's offer, that his provisions would be cut off when Mr. Quiverful got the hospital, that Eleanor was the strong town doomed to be taken, and that Mr. Slope, as Dean of Barchester, would be regarded by all the world as conqueror in the final conflict.
Dr. Gwynne was the Deus ex machina who was to come down upon the Barchester stage and bring about deliverance from these terrible evils. But how can melodramatic denouements be properly brought about, how can vice and Mr. Slope be punished, and virtue and the archdeacon be rewarded, while the avenging god is laid up with the gout? In the mean time evil may be triumphant, and poor innocence, transfixed to the earth by an arrow from Dr. Proudie's quiver, may lie dead upon the ground, not to be resuscitated even by Dr. Gwynne.
Two or three days after Eleanor's departure, Mr. Arabin went to Oxford and soon found himself closeted with the august head of his college. It was quite clear that Dr. Gwynne was not very sanguine as to the effects of his journey to Barchester, and not over-anxious to interfere with the bishop. He had had the gout, but was very nearly convalescent, and Mr. Arabin at once saw that had the mission been one of which the master thoroughly approved, he would before this have been at Plumstead.
As it was, Dr. Gwynne was resolved on visiting his friend, and willingly promised to return to Barchester with Mr. Arabin. He could not bring himself to believe that there was any probability that Mr. Slope would be made Dean of Barchester. Rumour, he said, had reached even his ears, not at all favourable to that gentleman's character, and he expressed himself strongly of opinion that any such appointment was quite out of the question. At this stage of the proceedings, the master's right-hand man, Tom Staple, was called in to assist at the conference. Tom Staple was the Tutor of Lazarus and, moreover, a great man at Oxford. Though universally known by a species of nomenclature so very undignified, Tom Staple was one who maintained a high dignity in the university. He was, as it were, the leader of the Oxford tutors, a body of men who consider themselves collectively as being by very little, if at all, second in importance to the heads themselves. It is not always the case that the master, or warden, or provost, or principal can hit it off exactly with his tutor. A tutor is by no means indisposed to have a will of his own. But at Lazarus they were great friends and firm allies at the time of which we are writing.
Tom Staple was a hale, strong man of about forty-five, short in stature, swarthy in face, with strong, sturdy black hair and crisp black beard of which very little was allowed to show itself in shape of whiskers. He always wore a white neckcloth, clean indeed, but not tied with that scrupulous care which now distinguishes some of our younger clergy. He was, of course, always clothed in a seemly suit of solemn black. Mr. Staple was a decent cleanly liver, not over-addicted to any sensuality; but nevertheless a somewhat warmish hue was beginning to adorn his nose, the peculiar effect, as his friends averred, of a certain pipe of port introduced into the cellars of Lazarus the very same year in which the tutor entered it as a freshman. There was also, perhaps, a little redolence of port wine, as it were the slightest possible twang, in Mr. Staple's voice.
In these latter days Tom Staple was not a happy man; university reform had long been his bugbear, and now was his bane. It was not with him, as with most others, an affair of politics, respecting which, when the need existed, he could, for parties' sake or on behalf of principle, maintain a certain amount of necessary zeal; it was not with him a subject for dilettante warfare and courteous, commonplace opposition. To him it was life and death. The status quo of the university was his only idea of life, and any reformation was as bad to him as death. He would willingly have been a martyr in the cause, had the cause admitted of martyrdom.
At the present day, unfortunately, public affairs will allow of no martyrs, and therefore it is that there is such a deficiency of zeal. Could gentlemen of L10,000 a year have died on their own door-steps in defence of protection, no doubt some half-dozen glorious old baronets would have so fallen, and the school of protection would at this day have been crowded with scholars. Who can fight strenuously in any combat in which there is no danger? Tom Staple would have willingly been impaled before a Committee of the House, could he by such self-sacrifice have infused his own spirit into the component members of the hebdomadal board.
Tom Staple was one of those who in his heart approved of the credit system which had of old been in vogue between the students and tradesmen of the university. He knew and acknowledged to himself that it was useless in these degenerate days publicly to contend with "The Jupiter" on such a subject. "The Jupiter" had undertaken to rule the university, and Tom Staple was well aware that "The Jupiter" was too powerful for him. But in secret, and among his safe companions, he would argue that the system of credit was an ordeal good for young men to undergo.
The bad men, said he, the weak and worthless, blunder into danger and burn their feet; but the good men, they who have any character, they who have that within them which can reflect credit on their alma mater, they come through scatheless. What merit will there be to a young man to get through safely, if he be guarded and protected and restrained like a schoolboy? By so doing, the period of the ordeal is only postponed, and the manhood of the man will be deferred from the age of twenty to that of twenty-four. If you bind him with leading-strings at college, he will break loose while eating for the bar in London; bind him there, and he will break loose afterwards, when he is a married man. The wild oats must be sown somewhere. 'Twas thus that Tom Staple would argue of young men, not, indeed, with much consistency, but still with some practical knowledge of the subject gathered from long experience.