Lily Dale Goes to London
One morning towards the end of March the squire rapped at the window of the drawing-room of the Small House, in which Mrs Dale and her daughter were sitting. He had a letter in his hand, and both Lily and her mother knew that he had come down to speak about the contents of the letter. It was always a sign of good-humour on the squire's part, this rapping at the window. When it became necessary to him in his gloomy moods to see his sister-in-law, he would write a note to her, and she would go across to him at the Great House. At other times, if, as Lily would say, he was just then neither sweet nor bitter, he would go round to the front door and knock, and be admitted after the manner of ordinary people; but when he was minded to make himself thoroughly pleasant he would come and rap at the drawing-room window, as he was doing now.
"I'll let you in, uncle; wait a moment," said Lily, as she unbolted the window which opened out upon the lawn. "It's dreadfully cold, so come in as fast as you can."
"It's not cold at all," said the squire. "It's more like spring than any morning we've had yet. I've been sitting without a fire."
"You won't catch us without one for the next two months; will he, mamma? You have got a letter, uncle. Is it for us to see?"
"Well—yes; I've brought it down to show you. Mary, what do you think is going to happen?"
A terrible idea occurred to Mrs Dale at that moment, but she was much too wise to give it expression. Could it be possible that the squire was going to make a fool of himself and get married? "I am very bad at guessing," said Mrs Dale. "You had better tell us."
"Bernard is going to be married," said Lily.
"How did you know?" said the squire.
"I didn't know. I only guessed."
"Then you've guessed right," said the squire, a little annoyed at having his news thus taken out of his mouth.
"I am so glad," said Mrs Dale; "and I know from your manner that you like the match."
"Well,—yes. I don't know the young lady, but I think that upon the whole I do like it. It's quite time, you know, that he got married."
"He's not thirty yet," said Mrs Dale.
"He will be, in a month or two."
"And who is it, uncle?"
"Well;—as you're so good at guessing, I suppose you can guess that?"
"It's not that Miss Partridge he used to talk about?"
"No; it's not Miss Partridge,—I'm glad to say. I don't believe that the Partridges have a shilling among them."
"Then I suppose it's an heiress," said Mrs Dale.
"No; not an heiress; but she will have some money of her own. And she has connexions in Barsetshire, which makes it pleasant."
"Connexions in Barsetshire! Who can it be?" said Lily.
"Her name is Emily Dunstable," said the squire, "and she is the niece of that Miss Dunstable who married Dr Thorne and who lives at Chaldicotes."
"She was the woman who had millions upon millions," said Lily, "and all got by selling ointment."
"Never mind how it was got," said the squire, angrily. "Miss Dunstable married most respectably, and has always made a most excellent use of her money."
"And will Bernard's wife have all her fortune?" asked Lily.
"She will have twenty thousand pounds the day she marries, and I suppose that will be all."
"And quite enough, too," said Mrs Dale.
"It seems that old Mr Dunstable, as he was called, who, as Lily says, sold the ointment, quarrelled with his son or with his son's widow, and left nothing either to her or her child. The mother is dead, and the aunt, Dr Thorne's wife, has always provided for the child. That's how it is, and Bernard is going to marry her. They are to be married at Chaldicotes in May."
"I am delighted to hear it," said Mrs Dale.
"I've known Dr Thorne for the last forty years;" and the squire now spoke in a low melancholy tone. "I've written to him to say that the young people shall have the old place up there to themselves if they like it."
"What! And turn you out?" said Mrs Dale.
"That would not matter," said the squire.
"You'd have to come and live with us," said Lily, taking him by the hand.
"It doesn't matter much now where I live," said the squire.
"Bernard would never consent to that," said Mrs Dale.
"I wonder whether she will ask me to be a bridesmaid?" said Lily. "They say that Chaldicotes is such a pretty place, and I should see all the Barsetshire people that I've been hearing about from Grace. Poor Grace! I know that the Grantlys and the Thornes are very intimate. Fancy Bernard having twenty thousand pounds from the making of ointment!"
"What does it matter to you where it comes from?" said the squire, half in anger.
"Not in the least; only it sounds so odd. I do hope she's a nice girl."
Then the squire produced a photograph of Emily Dunstable which his nephew had sent to him, and they all pronounced her to be very pretty, to be very much like a lady, and to be very good-humoured. The squire was evidently pleased with the match, and therefore the ladies were pleased also. Bernard Dale was the heir to the estate, and his marriage was of course a matter of moment; and as on such properties as that of Allington money is always wanted, the squire may be forgiven for the great importance which he attached to the young lady's fortune. "Bernard could hardly have married prudently without any money," he said,—"unless he had chosen to wait till I am gone."
"And then he would have been too old to marry at all," said Lily.
But the squire's budget of news had not yet been emptied. He told them soon afterwards that he himself had been summoned up to London. Bernard had written to him, begging him to come and see the young lady; and the family lawyer had written also, saying that his presence in town would be very desirable. "It is very troublesome, of course; but I shall go," said the squire. "It will do you all the good in the world," said Mrs Dale; "and of course you ought to know her personally before the marriage." And then the squire made a clean breast of it and declared his full purpose. "I was thinking that, perhaps, Lily would not object to go up to London with me."
"Oh, uncle Christopher, I should so like it," said Lily.
"If your mamma does not object."
"Mamma never objects to anything. I should like to see her objecting to that!" And Lily shook her head at her mother.
"Bernard says that Miss Dunstable particularly wants to see you."
"Does she, indeed? And I particularly want to see Miss Dunstable. How nice! Mamma, I don't think I've ever been in London since I wore short frocks. Do you remember taking us to the pantomime? Only think how many years ago that is. I'm quite sure it's time that Bernard should get married. Uncle, I hope you're prepared to take me to the play."
"We must see about that!"
"And the opera, and Madame Tussaud, and the Horticultural Gardens, and the new conjuror who makes a woman lie upon nothing. The idea of my going to London! And then I suppose I shall be one of the bridesmaids. I declare a new vista of life is opening out to me! Mamma, you mustn't be dull while I'm away. It won't be very long, I suppose, uncle?"
"About a month, probably," said the squire.
"Oh, mamma; what will you do?"
"Never mind me, Lily."
"You must get Bell and the children to come. But I cannot imagine living away from home a month. I was never away from home a month in my life."
And Lily did go up to town with her uncle, two days only having been allowed to her for her preparations. There was very much for her to think of in such a journey. It was not only that she would see Emily Dunstable who was to be her cousin's wife, and that she would go to the play and visit the new conjurer's entertainment, but that she would be in the same city both with Adolphus Crosbie and with John Eames. Not having personal experience of the wideness of London, and of the wilderness which it is,—of the distance which is set there between persons who are not purposely brought together,—it seemed to her fancy as though for this month of her absence from home she would be brought into close contiguity with both her lovers. She had hitherto felt herself to be at any rate safe in her fortress at Allington. When Crosbie had written to her mother, making a renewed offer which had been rejected, Lily had felt that she certainly need not see him unless it pleased her to do so. He could hardly force himself upon her at Allington. And as to John Eames, though he would, of course, be welcome at Allington as often as he pleased to show himself, still there was a security in the place. She was so much at home there that she could always be the mistress of the occasion. She knew that she could talk to him at Allington as though from ground higher than that on which he stood himself; but she felt that this would hardly be the case if she should chance to meet him in London. Crosbie probably would not come in her way. Crosbie, she thought,—and she blushed for the man she loved, as the idea came across her mind,—would be afraid of meeting her uncle. But John Eames would certainly find her; and she was led by the experience of latter days to imagine that John would never cross her path without renewing his attempts.
But she said no word of all this, even to her mother. She was contented to confine her outspoken expectations to Emily Dunstable, and the play, and the conjurer. "The chances are ten to one against my liking her, mamma," she said.
"I don't see that, my dear."
"I feel to be too old to think that I shall ever like any more new people. Three years ago I should have been quite sure that I should love a new cousin. It would have been like having a new dress. But I've come to think that an old dress is the most comfortable, and an old cousin certainly the best."
The squire had taken for them a gloomy lodging in Sackville Street. Lodgings in London are always gloomy. Gloomy colours wear better than bright ones for curtains and carpets, and the keepers of lodgings in London seem to think that a certain dinginess of appearance is respectable. I never saw a London lodging in which any attempt at cheerfulness had been made, and I do not think that any such attempt, if made, would pay. The lodging-seeker would be frightened and dismayed, and would unconsciously be led to fancy that something was wrong. Ideas of burglars and improper persons would present themselves. This is so certainly the case that I doubt whether any well-conditioned lodging-house matron could be induced to show rooms that were prettily draped or pleasantly coloured. The big drawing-room and two large bedrooms which the squire took, were all that was proper, and were as brown, and as gloomy, and as ill-suited for the comforts of ordinary life as though they had been prepared for two prisoners. But Lily was not so ignorant as to expect cheerful lodgings in London, and was satisfied. "And what are we to do now?" said Lily, as soon as they found themselves settled. It was still March, and whatever may have been the nature of the weather at Allington, it was very cold in London. They reached Sackville Street about five in the evening, and an hour was taken up in unpacking their trunks and making themselves as comfortable as their circumstances allowed. "And now what are we to do now?" said Lily.
"I told them to have dinner for us at half-past six."
"And what after that? Won't Bernard come to us to-night? I expected him to be standing on the door-steps waiting for us with his bride in his hand."
"I don't suppose Bernard will be here to-night," said the squire. "He did not say that he would, and as for Miss Dunstable, I promised to take you to her aunt's house to-morrow."
"But I wanted to see her to-night. Well;—of course bridesmaids must wait upon brides. And ladies with twenty thousand pounds can't be expected to run about like common people. As for Bernard,—but Bernard never was in a hurry." Then they dined, and when the squire had very nearly fallen asleep over a bottle of port wine which had been sent in for him from some neighbouring public-house, Lily began to feel that it was very dull. And she looked round the room, and she thought that it was very ugly. And she calculated that thirty evenings so spent would seem to be very long. And she reflected that the hours were probably going much more quickly with Emily Dunstable, who, no doubt, at this moment had Bernard Dale by her side. And then she told herself that the hours were not tedious with her at home, while sitting with her mother, with all her daily occupations within her reach. But in so telling herself she took herself to task, inquiring of herself whether such an assurance was altogether true. Were not the hours sometimes tedious even at home? And in this way her mind wandered off to thoughts upon life in general, and she repeated to herself over and over again the two words which she had told John Eames that she would write in her journal. The reader will remember those two words;—Old Maid. And she had written them in her book, making each letter a capital, and round them she had drawn a scroll, ornamented after her own fashion, and she had added the date in quaintly formed figures,—for in such matters Lily had some little skill and a dash of fun to direct it; and she had inscribed below it an Italian motto:—"Who goes softly, goes safely;" and above her work of art she had put a heading—"As arranged by fate for L. D." Now she thought of all this, and reflected whether Emily Dunstable was in truth very happy. Presently the tears came into her eyes, and she got up and went to the window, as though she were afraid that her uncle might wake and see them. And as she looked out on the blank street, she muttered a word or two—"Dear mother! Dearest mother!" Then the door was opened, and her cousin Bernard announced himself. She had not heard his knock at the door as she had been thinking of the two words in her book.
"What; Bernard!—ah, yes, of course," said the squire, rubbing his eyes as he strove to wake himself. "I wasn't sure you would come, but I'm delighted to see you. I wish you joy with all my heart,—with all my heart."
"Of course I should come," said Bernard. "Dear Lily, this is so good of you. Emily is so delighted." Then Lily spoke her congratulations warmly, and there was no trace of a tear in her eyes, and she was thoroughly happy as she sat by her cousin's side and listened to his raptures about Emily Dunstable. "And you will be so fond of her aunt," he said.
"But is she not awfully rich?" said Lily.
"Frightfully rich," said Bernard; "but really you would hardly find it out if nobody told you. Of course she lives in a big house, and has a heap of servants; but she can't help that."
"I hate a heap of servants," said Lily.
Then there came another knock at the door, and who should enter the room but John Eames. Lily for a moment was taken aback, but it was only for a moment. She had been thinking so much of him that his presence disturbed her for an instant. "He probably will not know that I am here," she had said to herself; but she had not yet been three hours in London, and he was already with her! At first he hardly spoke to her, addressing himself to the squire. "Lady Julia told me you were to be here, and as I start for the Continent early to-morrow morning, I thought you would let me come and see you before I went."
"I'm always glad to see you, John," said the squire,—"very glad. And so you are going abroad, are you?"
Then Johnny congratulated his old acquaintance, Bernard Dale, as to his coming marriage, and explained to them how Lady Julia in one of her letters had told him all about it, and had even given him the number in Sackville Street. "I suppose she learned it from you, Lily," said the squire. "Yes uncle, she did." And then there came questions as to John's projected journey to the Continent, and he explained that he was going on law-business, on behalf of Mr Crawley, to catch the dean and Mrs Arabin, if it might be possible. "You see, sir, Mr Toogood, who is Mr Crawley's cousin, and also his lawyer, is my cousin, too; and that's why I'm going." And still there had been hardly a word spoken between him and Lily.
"But you're not a lawyer, John; are you?" said the squire.
"No. I'm not a lawyer myself."
"Nor a lawyer's clerk?"
"Certainly not a lawyer's clerk," said Johnny, laughing.
"Then why should you go?" asked Bernard Dale.
Then Johnny had to explain, and in doing so he became very eloquent as to the hardships of Mr Crawley's case. "You see, sir, nobody can possibly believe that such a man as that stole twenty pounds."
"I do not for one," said Lily.
"God forbid that I should say he did," said the squire.
"I'm quite sure he didn't," said Johnny, warming to his subject. "It couldn't be that such a man as that should become a thief all at once. It's not human nature, sir; is it?"
"It is very hard to know what is human nature," said the squire.
"It's the general opinion down in Barsetshire that he did steal it," said Bernard. "Dr Thorne was one of the magistrates who committed him, and I know he thinks so."
"I don't blame the magistrates in the least," said Johnny.
"That's kind of you," said the squire.
"Of course you'll laugh at me, sir; but you'll see that we shall come out right. There's some mystery in it of which we haven't got at the bottom as yet; and if there is anybody that can help us it's the dean."
"If the dean knows anything, why has he not written and told what he knows?" said the squire.
"That's what I can't say. The dean has not had an opportunity of writing since he heard,—even if he has yet heard,—that Mr Crawley is to be tried. And then he and Mrs Arabin are not together. It's a long story, and I will not trouble you with it all; but at any rate I'm going off to-morrow. Lily, can I do anything for you in Florence?"
"In Florence?" said Lily; "and are you really going to Florence? How I envy you."
"And who pays your expenses?" said the squire.
"Well;—as to my expenses, they are to be paid by a person who won't raise any unpleasant questions about the amount."
"I don't know what you mean," said the squire.
"He means himself," said Lily.
"I'm going to have a trip for my own fun," said Johnny, "and I shall pick up evidence on the road, as I'm going;—that's all."
Then Lily began to take an active part in the conversation, and a great deal was said about Mr Crawley, and about Grace, and Lily declared that she would be very anxious to hear any news which John Eames might be able to send. "You know, John, how fond we are of your cousin Grace, at Allington? Are we not, uncle?"
"Yes, indeed," said the squire. "I thought her a very nice girl."
"If you should be able to learn anything that may be of use, John, how happy you will be."
"Yes, I shall," said Johnny.
"And I think it is so good of you to go, John. But it is just like you. You were always generous." Soon after that he got up and went. It was very clear to him that he would have no moment in which to say a word alone to Lily; and if he could find such a moment, what good would such a word do him? It was as yet but a few weeks since she had positively refused him. And he too remembered very well those two words which she had told him she would write in her book. As he had been coming to the house he had told himself that his coming would be,—could be of no use. And yet he was disappointed with the result of his visit, although she had spoken to him so sweetly.
"I suppose you'll be gone when I come back?" he said.
"We shall be here a month," said the squire.
"I shall be back long before that, I hope," said Johnny. "Good-by, sir. Good-by, Dale. Good-by, Lily." And he put out his hand to her.
"Good-by, John." And then she added, almost in a whisper. "I think you are very, very right to go." How could he fail after that to hope as he walked home that she might still relent. And she also thought much of him, but her thoughts of him made her cling more firmly than ever to the two words. She could not bring herself to marry him; but, at least, she would not break his heart by becoming the wife of any one else. Soon after this Bernard Dale went also. I am not sure that he had been well pleased at seeing John Eames become suddenly the hero of the hour. When a young man is going to perform so important an act as that of marriage he is apt to think that he ought to be the hero of the hour himself—at any rate among his own family.
Early on the next morning Lily was taken by her uncle to call upon Mrs Thorne, and to see Emily Dunstable. Bernard was to meet them there, but it had been arranged that they should reach the house first. "There is nothing so absurd as these introductions," Bernard had said. "You go and look at her, and when you've had time to look at her, then I'll come!" So the squire and Lily went off to look at Emily Dunstable.
"You don't mean to say that she lives in that house?" said Lily, when the cab was stopped before an enormous mansion in one of the most fashionable of the London squares.
"I believe she does," said the squire.
"I never shall be able to speak to anybody living in such a house as that," said Lily. "A duke couldn't have anything grander."
"Mrs Thorne is richer than half the dukes," said the squire. Then the door was opened by a porter, and Lily found herself within the hall. Everything was very great, and very magnificent, and, as she thought, very uncomfortable. Presently she heard a loud jovial voice on the stairs. "Mr Dale, I'm delighted to see you. And this is your niece Lily. Come up, my dear. There is a young woman upstairs, dying to embrace you. Never mind the umbrella. Put it down anywhere. I want to have a look at you, because Bernard swears that you're so pretty." This was Mrs Thorne, once Miss Dunstable, the richest woman in England, and the aunt of Bernard's bride. The reader may perhaps remember the advice which she once gave to Major Grantly, and her enthusiasm on that occasion. "There she is, Mr Dale; what do you think of her?" said Mrs Thorne, as she opened the door of a small sitting-room wedged in between two large saloons, in which Emily Dunstable was sitting.
"Aunt Martha, how can you be so ridiculous?" said the young lady.
"I suppose it is ridiculous to ask the question to which one really wants to have an answer," said Mrs Thorne. "But Mr Dale has, in truth, come to inspect you, and to form an opinion; and, in honest truth, I shall be very anxious to know what he thinks,—though, of course, he won't tell me."
The old man took the girl in his arms, and kissed her on both cheeks. "I have no doubt you'll find out what I think," he said, "though I should never tell you."
"I generally do find out what people think," she said. "And so you're Lily Dale?"
"Yes, I'm Lily Dale."
"I have so often heard of you, particularly of late; for you must know that a certain Major Grantly is a friend of mine. We must take care that that affair comes off all right, must we not?"
"I hope it will." Then Lily turned to Emily Dunstable, and, taking her hand, went up and sat beside her, while Mrs Thorne and the squire talked of the coming marriage. "How long have you been engaged?" said Lily.
"Really engaged, about three weeks. I think it is not more than three weeks ago."
"How very discreet Bernard has been. He never told us a word about it while it was going on."
"Men never do tell, I suppose," said Emily Dunstable.
"Of course you love him very dearly?" said Lily, not knowing what else to say.
"Of course I do."
"So do we. You know he's almost a brother to us; that is, to me and my sister. We never had a brother of our own." And so the morning was passed till Lily was told by her uncle to come away, and was told also by Mrs Thorne that she was to dine with them in the square on that day. "You must not be surprised that my husband is not here," she said. "He is a very odd sort of man, and he never comes to London if he can help it."
The Bayswater Romance
Eames had by no means done his work for that evening when he left Mr Dale and Lily at their lodgings. He had other business in hand to which he had promised to give attention, and another person to see who would welcome his coming quite as warmly, though by no means as pleasantly, as Lily Dale. It was then just nine o'clock, and as he had told Miss Demolines,—Madalina we may as well call her now,—that he would be in Porchester Terrace by nine at the latest, it was incumbent on him to make haste. He got into a cab, and bid the cabman drive hard, and lighting a cigar, began to inquire of himself whether it was well for him to hurry away from the presence of Lily Dale to that of Madalina Demolines. He felt that he was half-ashamed of what he was doing. Though he declared to himself over and over again that he never had said a word, and never intended to say a word, to Madalina, which all the world might not hear, yet he knew that he was doing amiss. He was doing amiss, and half repented it, and yet he was half proud of it. He was most anxious to be able to give himself credit for his constancy to Lily Dale; to be able to feel that he was steadfast in his passion; and yet he liked the idea of amusing himself with his Bayswater romance, as he would call it, and was not without something of conceit as he thought of the progress he had made in it. "Love is one thing and amusement is another," he said to himself as he puffed the cigar smoke out of his mouth; and in his heart he was proud of his own capacity for enjoyment. He thought it a fine thing, although at the same moment he knew it to be an evil thing—this hurrying away from the young lady whom he really loved to another as to whom he thought it very likely that he should be called upon to pretend to love her. And he sang a little song as he went, "If she be not fair to me, what care I how fair she be." That was intended to apply to Lily, and was used as an excuse for his fickleness in going to Miss Demolines. And he was, perhaps, too, a little conceited as to his mission to the Continent. Lily had told him that she was very glad that he was going; that she thought him very right to go. The words had been pleasant to his ears, and Lily had never looked prettier in his eyes than when she had spoken them. Johnny, therefore, was rather proud of himself as he sat in the cab smoking his cigar. He had, moreover, beaten his old enemy Sir Raffle Buffle in another contest, and he felt that the world was smiling on him;—that the world was smiling on him in spite of his cruel fate in the matter of his real lovesuit.
There was a mystery about the Bayswater romance which was not without its allurement, and a portion of the mystery was connected with Madalina's mother. Lady Demolines was very rarely seen, and John Eames could not quite understand what was the manner of life of that unfortunate lady. Her daughter usually spoke of her with affectionate regret as being unable to appear on that particular occasion on account of some passing malady. She was suffering from a nervous headache, or was afflicted with bronchitis, or had been touched with rheumatism, so that she was seldom on the scene when Johnny was passing his time at Porchester Terrace. And yet he heard of her dining out, and going to plays and operas; and when he did chance to see her, he found that she was a sprightly old woman enough. I will not venture to say that he much regretted the absence of Lady Demolines, or that he was keenly alive to the impropriety of being left alone with the gentle Madalina; but the customary absence of the elder lady was an incident in the romance which did not fail to strike him.
Madalina was alone when he was shown up into the drawing-room on the evening of which we are speaking.
"Mr Eames," she said, "will you kindly look at that watch which is lying on the table." She looked full at him with her great eyes wide open, and the tone of her voice was intended to show him that she was aggrieved.
"Yes, I see it," said John, looking down on Miss Demolines' little gold Geneva watch, with which he had already made sufficient acquaintance to know that it was worth nothing. "Shall I give it you?"
"No, Mr Eames; let it remain there, that it may remind me, if it does not remind you, by how long a time you have broken your word."
"Upon my word I couldn't help it;—upon my honour I couldn't."
"Upon your honour, Mr Eames!"
"I was obliged to go and see a friend who has just come to town from my part of the country."
"That is the friend, I suppose, of whom I have heard from Maria." It is to be feared that Conway Dalrymple had not been so guarded as he should have been in some of his conversations with Mrs Dobbs Broughton, and that a word or two had escaped from him as to the love of John Eames for Lily Dale.
"I don't know what you may have heard," said Johnny, "but I was obliged to see these people before I left town. There is going to be a marriage and all that sort of thing."
"Who is going to be married?"
"One Captain Dale is going to be married to one Miss Dunstable."
"Oh! And as to one Miss Lily Dale,—is she to be married to anybody?"
"Not that I have heard of," said Johnny.
"She is not going to become the wife of one Mr John Eames?"
He did not wish to talk to Miss Demolines about Lily Dale. He did not choose to disown the imputation, or to acknowledge its truth.
"Silence gives consent," she said. "If it be so, I congratulate you. I have no doubt she is a most charming young woman. It is about seven years, I believe, since that little affair with Mr Crosbie, and therefore that, I suppose, may be considered as forgotten."
"It is only three years," said Johnny, angrily. "Besides, I don't know what that has to do with it."
"You need not be ashamed," said Madalina. "I have heard how well you behaved on that occasion. You were quite the preux chevalier; and if any gentleman ever deserved well of a lady you deserved well of her. I wonder how Mr Crosbie felt when he met you the other day at Maria's. I had not heard anything about it then, or I should have been much more interested in watching your meeting."
"I really can't say how he felt."
"I daresay not; but I saw him shake hands with you. And so Lily Dale has come to town."
"Yes,—Miss Dale is here with her uncle."
"And you are going away to-morrow?"
"Yes,—and I am going away to-morrow."
After that there was a pause in the conversation. Eames was sick of it, and was very anxious to change the conversation. Miss Demolines was sitting in the shadow, away from the light, with her face half hidden by her hands. At last she jumped up, and came round and stood opposite to him. "I charge you to tell me truly, John Eames," she said, "whether Miss Lilian Dale is engaged to you as your future wife?" He looked up into her face, but made no immediate answer. Then she repeated her demand. "I ask you whether you are engaged to marry Miss Lilian Dale, and I expect a reply."
"What makes you ask me such a question as that?"
"What makes me ask you? Do you deny my right to feel so much interest in you as to desire to know whether you are about to married? Of course you can decline to tell me if you choose."
"And if I were to decline?"
"I should know then that it was true, and I should think that you were a coward."
"I don't see any cowardice in the matter. One does not talk about that kind of thing to everybody."
"Upon my word, Mr Eames, you are complimentary;—indeed you are. To everybody! I am everybody,—am I? That is your idea of—friendship! You may be sure that after that I shall ask no further questions."
"I didn't mean it in the way you've taken it, Madalina."
"In what way did you mean it, sir? Everybody! Mr Eames, you must excuse me if I say that I am not well enough this evening to bear the company of—everybody. I think you had better leave me. I think that you had better go."
"Are you angry with me?"
"Yes, I am,—very angry. Because I have condescended to feel an interest in your welfare, and have asked you a question which I thought that our intimacy justified, you tell me that that is a kind of thing that you will not talk about to—everybody. I beg you to understand that I will not be your everybody. Mr Eames, there is the door."
Things had now become very serious. Hitherto Johnny had been seated comfortably in the corner of a sofa, and had not found himself bound to move, though Miss Demolines was standing before him. But now it was absolutely necessary that he should do something. He must either go, or else he must make entreaty to be allowed to remain. Would it not be expedient that he should take the lady at her word and escape? She was still pointing to the door, and the way was open to him. If he were to walk out now of course he would never return, and there would be the end of the Bayswater romance. If he remained it might be that the romance would become troublesome. He got up from his seat, and had almost resolved that he would go. Had she not somewhat relaxed the majesty of her anger as he rose, had the fire of her eye not been somewhat quenched and the lines of her mouth softened, I think that he would have gone. The romance would have been over, and he would have felt it had come to an inglorious end; but it would have been well for him that he should have gone. Though the fire was somewhat quenched and the lines were somewhat softened, she was still pointing to the door. "Do you mean it?" he said.
"I do mean it,—certainly."
"And this is to be the end of everything?"
"I do not know what you mean by everything. It is a very little everything to you, I should say. I do not quite understand your everything and your everybody."
"I will go, if you wish me to go, of course."
"I do wish it."
"But before I go, you must permit me to excuse myself. I did not intend to offend you. I merely meant—"
"You merely meant! Give me an honest answer to a downright question. Are you engaged to Miss Lilian Dale?"
"No;—I am not."
"Upon your honour?"
"Do you think that I would tell you a falsehood about it? What I meant was that it is a kind of thing one doesn't like talking about, merely because stories are bandied about. People are so fond of saying that this man is engaged to that woman, and of making up tales; and it seems so foolish to contradict such things."
"But you know that you used to be very fond of her."
He had taken up his hat when he had risen from the sofa, and was still standing with it ready in his hand. He was even now half-minded to escape; and the name of Lily Dale in Miss Demolines' mouth was so distasteful to him that he would have done so,—he would have gone in sheer disgust, had she not stood in his way, so that he could not escape without moving her, or going round behind the sofa. She did not stir to make way for him, and it may be that she understood that he was her prisoner, in spite of her late command to him to go. It may be, also, that she understood his vexation and the cause of it, and that she saw the expediency of leaving Lily Dale alone for the present. At any rate, she pressed him no more upon the matter. "Are we to be friends again?" she said.
"I hope so," replied Johnny.
"There is my hand, then." So Johnny took her hand and pressed it, and held it for a little while,—just long enough to seem to give a meaning to the action. "You will get to understand me some day," she said, "and will learn that I do not like to be reckoned among the everybodies by those for whom I really—really—really have a regard. When I am angry, I am angry."
"You were very angry just now, when you showed me the way to the door."
"And I meant it too,—for the minute. Only think,—supposing you had gone! We should never have seen each other again;—never, never! What a change one word may make!"
"One word often does make a change."
"Does it not? Just a little 'yes', or 'no'. A 'no' is said when a 'yes' is meant, and then there comes no second chance, and what a change that may be from bright hopes to desolation! Or, worse again, a 'yes' is said when a 'no' should be said,—when the speaker knows that it should be 'no'. What a difference that 'no' makes! When one thinks of it, one wonders that a woman should ever say anything but 'no'."
"They never did say anything else to me," said Johnny.
"I don't believe it. I daresay the truth is, you never asked anybody."
"Did anybody ever ask you?"
"What would you give to know? But I will tell you frankly;—yes. And once,—once I thought that my answer would not have been a 'no'."
"But you changed your mind?"
"When the moment came I could not bring myself to say the word that should rob me of my liberty for ever. I had said 'no' to him often enough before,—poor fellow; and on this occasion, he told me that he asked for the last time. 'I shall not give myself another chance,' he said, 'for I shall be on board ship within a week.' I merely bade him good-by. It was the only answer I gave him. He understood me, and since that day his foot has not pressed his native soil."
"And was it all because you are so fond of your liberty?" said Johnny.
"Perhaps,—I did not—love him," said Miss Demolines, thoughtfully. She was now again seated in her chair, and John Eames had gone back to his corner of the sofa. "If I had really loved him I suppose it would have been otherwise. He was a gallant fellow, and had two thousand a year of his own, in India stock and other securities."
"Dear me! And he has not married yet?"
"He wrote me a word to say that he would never marry till I was married,—but that on the day that he should hear of my wedding, he would go to the first single woman near him and propose. It was a droll thing to say; was it not?"
"The single woman ought to feel herself flattered."
"He would find plenty to accept him. Besides being so well off he was a very handsome fellow, and is connected with people of title. He had everything to recommend him."
"And yet you refused him so often?"
"Yes. You think I was foolish;—do you not?"
"I don't think you were at all foolish if you didn't care for him."
"It was my destiny, I suppose; I daresay I was wrong. Other girls marry without violent love, and do very well afterwards. Look at Maria Clutterbuck."
The name of Maria Clutterbuck had become odious to John Eames. As long as Miss Demolines would continue to talk about herself he could listen with some amount of gratification. Conversation on that subject was the natural progress of the Bayswater romance. And if Madalina would only call her friend by her present name, he had no strong objection to an occasional mention of the lady; but the combined names of Maria Clutterbuck had come to be absolutely distasteful to him. He did not believe in the Maria Clutterbuck friendship,—either in its past or present existence, as described by Madalina. Indeed, he did not put strong faith in anything that Madalina said to him. In the handsome gentleman with two thousand a year, he did not believe at all. But the handsome gentleman had only been mentioned once in the course of his acquaintance with Miss Demolines, whereas Maria Clutterbuck had come up so often! "Upon my word I must wish you good-by," he said. "It is going on for eleven o'clock, and I have to start to-morrow at seven."
"What difference does that make?"
"A fellow wants to get a little sleep, you know."
"Go, then;—go and get your sleep. What a sleepy-headed generation it is." Johnny longed to ask whether the last generation was less sleepy-headed, and whether the gentleman with two thousand a year had sat up talking all night before he pressed his foot for the last time on his native soil; but he did not dare. As he said to himself afterwards, "It would not do to bring the Bayswater romance too suddenly to its termination!" "But before you go," she continued, "I must say the word to you about that picture. Did you speak to Mr Dalrymple?"
"I did not. I have been so busy with different things that I have not seen him."
"And now you are going?"
"Well,—to tell the truth, I think I shall see him to-night, in spite of my being so sleepy-headed. I wrote him a line that I would look in and smoke a cigar with him if he chanced to be at home!"
"And that is why you want to go. A gentleman cannot live without his cigar now."
"It is especially at your bidding that I am going to see him."
"Go then.—and make your friend understand that if he continues this picture of his, he will bring himself to great trouble, and will probably ruin the woman for whom he professes, I presume, to feel something like friendship. You may tell him that Mrs Van Siever has already heard of it."
"Who told her?" demanded Johnny.
"Never mind. You need not look at me like that. It was not I. Do you suppose that secrets can be kept when so many people know them? Every servant in Maria's house knows all about it."
"As for that, I don't suppose Mrs Broughton makes any great secret of it."
"Do you think she has told Mr Broughton? I am sure she has not. I may say I know she has not. Maria Clutterbuck is infatuated. There is no other excuse to be made for her."
"Good-by," said Johnny, hurriedly.
"And you really are going?"
"Well,—yes. I suppose so."
"Go then. I have nothing more to say to you."
"I shall come and call directly I return," said Johnny.
"You may do as you please about that, sir."
"Do you mean that you won't be glad to see me again?"
"I am not going to flatter you, Mr Eames. Mamma will be well by that time, I hope, and I do not mind telling you that you are a favourite with her." Johnny thought that this was particularly kind, as he had seen so very little of the old lady. "If you choose to call upon her," said Madalina, "of course she will be glad to see you."
"But I was speaking of yourself, you know?" and Johnny permitted himself for a moment to look tenderly at her.
"Then from myself pray understand that I will say nothing to flatter your self-love."
"I thought you would be kinder just when I was going away."
"I think I have been quite kind enough. As you observed yourself just now, it is nearly eleven o'clock, and I must ask you to go away. Bon voyage, and a happy return to you."
"And you will be glad to see me when I am back? Tell that you will be glad to see me."
"I will tell you nothing of the kind. Mr Eames, if you do, I will be very angry with you." And then he went.
On his way back to his own lodgings he did call on Conway Dalrymple, and in spite of his need for early rising, sat smoking with the artist for an hour. "If you don't take care, young man," said his friend, "you will find yourself in a scrape with your Madalina."
"What sort of a scrape?"
"As you walk away from Porchester Terrace some fine day, you will have to congratulate yourself on having made a successful overture towards matrimony."
"You don't think I am such a fool as that comes to?"
"Other men as wise as you have done the same sought of thing. Miss Demolines is very clever, and I daresay you find it amusing."
"It isn't so much that she's clever, and I can hardly say that it is amusing. One gets awfully tired of it, you know. But a fellow must have something to do, and that is as good as anything else."
"I suppose you have not heard that one young man levanted last year to save himself from a breach of promise case?"
"I wonder whether he had any money in Indian securities?"
"What makes you ask that?"
"Whatever little he had he chose to save, and I think I heard that he went to Canada. His name was Shorter; and they say that, on the eve of his going, Madalina sent him word that she had no objection to the colonies, and that, under the pressing emergency of his expatriation, she was willing to become Mrs Shorter with more expedition than usually attends fashionable weddings. Shorter, however, escaped, and has never been seen back again."
Eames declared that he did not believe a word of it. Nevertheless, as he walked home he came to the conclusion that Mr Shorter must have been the handsome gentleman with Indian securities, to whom "no" had been said once too often.
While sitting with Conway Dalrymple, he had forgotten to say a word about Jael and Sisera.
Dr Tempest at the Palace
Intimation had been sent from the palace to Dr Tempest of Silverbridge of the bishop's intention that a commission should be held by him, as rural dean, with other neighbouring clergymen, as assessors with him, that inquiry might be made on the part of the Church into the question of Mr Crawley's guilt. It must be understood that by this time the opinion had become very general that Mr Crawley had been guilty,—that he had found the cheque in his house, and that he had, after holding it for many months, succumbed to temptation, and applied it to his own purposes. But various excuses were made for him by those who so believed. In the first place it was felt by all who really knew anything of the man's character, that the very fact of his committing such a crime proved him to be hardly responsible for his actions. He must have known, had not all judgment in such matters been taken from him, that the cheque would certainly be traced back to his hands. No attempt had been made in the disposing of it to dispose of it in such a way that the trace should be obliterated. He had simply given it to a neighbour with a direction to have it cashed, and had written his own name on the back of it. And therefore, though there could be no doubt as to the theft in the mind of those who supposed that he had found the cheque in his own house, yet the guilt of the theft seemed to be almost annihilated by the folly of the thief. And then his poverty, and his struggles, and the sufferings of his wife, were remembered; and stories were told from mouth to mouth of his industry in his profession, of his great zeal among the brickmakers of Hoggle End, of acts of charity done by him which startled the people of the district into admiration;—how he had worked with his own hands for the sick poor to whom he could not give relief in money, turning a woman's mangle for a couple of hours, and carrying a boy's load along the lanes. Dr Tempest and others declared that he had derogated from the dignity of his position as an English parish clergyman by such acts; but, nevertheless, the stories of these deeds acted strongly on the minds of both men and women, creating an admiration for Mr Crawley which was much stronger than the condemnation of his guilt.
Even Mrs Walker and her daughter, and the Miss Prettymans, had so far given way that they had ceased to asseverate their belief in Mr Crawley's innocence. They contented themselves now with simply expressing a hope that he would be acquitted by a jury, and that when he should be so acquitted the thing might be allowed to rest. If he had sinned, no doubt he had repented. And then there were serious debates whether he might not have stolen the money without much sin, being mad or half-mad,—touched with madness when he took it; and whether he might not, in spite of such temporary touch of madness, be well fitted for his parish duties. Sorrow had afflicted him grievously; but that sorrow, though it had incapacitated him for the management of his own affairs, had not rendered him unfit for the ministrations of his parish. Such were the arguments now used in his favour by the women around him; and the men were not keen to contradict them. The wish that he should be acquitted and allowed to remain in his parsonage was very general.
When therefore it became known that the bishop had decided to put on foot another investigation, with the view of bringing Mr Crawley's conduct under ecclesiastical condemnation, almost everybody accused the bishop of persecution. The world of the diocese declared that Mrs Proudie was at work, and that the bishop himself was no better than a puppet. It was in vain that certain clear-headed men among the clergy, of whom Dr Tempest himself was one, pointed out that the bishop after all might perhaps be right;—that if Mr Crawley were guilty, and if he should be found to have been so by a jury, it might be absolutely necessary that an ecclesiastical court should take some cognizance of the crime beyond that taken by the civil law. "The jury," said Dr Tempest, discussing the case with Mr Robarts and other clerical neighbours,—"the jury may probably find him guilty and recommend him to mercy. The judge will have heard his character, and will have been made acquainted with his manner of life, and will deal as lightly with the case as the law will allow him. For aught I know he may be imprisoned for a month. I wish it might be for no more than a day,—or an hour. But when he comes out from his month's imprisonment,—how then? Surely it should be a case for ecclesiastical inquiry, whether a clergyman who has committed a theft should be allowed to go into his pulpit directly he comes out of prison?" But the answer to this was that Mr Crawley always had been a good clergyman, was a good clergyman at this moment, and would be a good clergyman when he did come out of prison.
But Dr Tempest, though he had argued in this way, was by no means eager for the commencement of the commission over which he was to be called upon to preside. In spite of such arguments as the above, which came from the man's head when his head was brought to bear upon the matter, there was a thorough desire within his heart to oppose the bishop. He had no strong sympathy with Mr Crawley, as had others. He would have had Mr Crawley silenced without regret, presuming Mr Crawley to have been guilty. But he had a much stronger feeling with regard to the bishop. Had there been any question of silencing the bishop,—could it have been possible to take any steps in that direction,—he would have been very active. It may therefore be understood that in spite of his defence of the bishop's present proceedings as to the commission, he was anxious that the bishop should fail, and anxious to put impediments in the bishop's way, should it appear to him that he could do so with justice. Dr Tempest was well known among his parishioners to be hard and unsympathetic, some said unfeeling also, and cruel; but it was admitted by those who disliked him the most that he was both practical and just, and that he cared for the welfare of many, though he was rarely touched by the misery of one. Such was the man who was rector of Silverbridge and rural dean in the district, and who was now called upon by the bishop to assist him in making further inquiry as to this wretched cheque for twenty pounds.
Once at this period Archdeacon Grantly and Dr Tempest met each other and discussed the question of Mr Crawley's guilt. Both these men were inimical to the present bishop of the diocese, and both had perhaps respected the old bishop beyond all other men. But they were different in this, that the archdeacon hated Dr Proudie as a partisan,—whereas Dr Tempest opposed the bishop on certain principles which he endeavoured to make clear, at any rate to himself. "Wrong!" said the archdeacon, speaking of the bishop's intention of issuing a commission—"of course he is wrong. How could anything right come from him or from her? I should be sorry to have to do his bidding."
"I think you are a little hard upon Bishop Proudie," said Dr Tempest.
"One cannot be hard upon him," said the archdeacon. "He is so scandalously weak, and she is so radically vicious, that they cannot but be wrong together. The very fact that such a man should be a bishop among us is to me terribly strong evidence of evil days coming."
"You are more impulsive than I am," said Dr Tempest. "In this case I am sorry for the poor man, who is, I am sure, honest in the main. But I believe that in such a case your father would have done just what the present bishop is doing;—that he could have done nothing else; and as I think that Dr Proudie is right I shall do all that I can to assist him in the commission."
The bishop's secretary had written to Dr Tempest, telling him of the bishop's purpose; and now, in one of the last days of March, the bishop himself wrote to Dr Tempest, asking him to come over to the palace. The letter was worded most courteously, and expressed very feelingly the great regret which the writer felt at being obliged to take these proceedings against a clergyman in his diocese. Bishop Proudie knew how to write such a letter. By the writing of such letters, and by the making of speeches in the same strain, he had become Bishop of Barchester. Now, in this letter, he begged Dr Tempest to come over to him, saying how delighted Mrs Proudie would be to see him at the palace. Then he went on to explain the great difficulty which he felt, and great sorrow also, in dealing with this matter of Mr Crawley. He looked, therefore, confidently for Dr Tempest's assistance. Thinking to do the best for Mr Crawley, and anxious to enable Mr Crawley to remain in quiet retirement till the trial should be over, he had sent a clergyman over to Hogglestock, who would have relieved Mr Crawley from the burden of the church-services;—but Mr Crawley would have none of this relief. Mr Crawley had been obstinate and overbearing, and had persisted in claiming his right to his own pulpit. Therefore was the bishop obliged to interfere legally, and therefore was he under the necessity of asking Dr Tempest to assist him. Would Dr Tempest come over on the Monday, and stay till the Wednesday?
The letter was a very good letter, and Dr Tempest was obliged to do as he was asked. He so far modified the bishop's proposition that he reduced the sojourn at the palace by one night. He wrote to say that he would have the pleasure of dining with the bishop and Mrs Proudie on the Monday, but would return home on the Tuesday, as soon as the business in hand would permit him. "I shall get on very well with him," he said to his wife before he started; "but I am afraid of the woman. If she interferes there will be a row." "Then, my dear," said his wife, "there will be a row, for I am told that she always interferes." On reaching the palace half-an-hour before dinner-time, Dr Tempest found that other guests were expected, and on descending to the great yellow drawing-room, which was used only on state occasions, he encountered Mrs Proudie and two of her daughters arrayed in a full panoply of female armour. She received him with her sweetest smiles, and if there had been any former enmity between Silverbridge and the palace, it was now all forgotten. She regretted greatly that Mrs Tempest had not accompanied the doctor;—for Mrs Tempest also had been invited. But Mrs Tempest was not quite as well as she might have been, the doctor had said, and very rarely slept away from home. And then the bishop came in and greeted his guest with his pleasantest good humour. It was quite a sorrow to him that Silverbridge was so distant, and that he saw so little of Dr Tempest; but he hoped that that might be somewhat mended now, and that leisure might be found for social delights;—to all which Dr Tempest said but little, bowing to the bishop at each separate expression of his lordship's kindness.
There were guests there that evening who did not often sit at the bishop's table. The archdeacon and Mrs Grantly had been summoned from Plumstead, and had obeyed the summons. Great as was the enmity between the bishop and the archdeacon, it had never quite taken the form of open palpable hostility. Each, therefore, asked the other to dinner perhaps once every year; and each went to the other, perhaps, once in two years. And Dr Thorne from Chaldicotes was there, but without his wife, who in these days was up in London. Mrs Proudie always expressed a warm friendship for Mrs Thorne, and on this occasion loudly regretted her absence. "You must tell her, Dr Thorne, how exceedingly much we miss her." Dr Thorne, who was accustomed to hear his wife speak of her dear friend Mrs Proudie with almost unmeasured ridicule, promised that he would do so. "We are sorry the Lufton's couldn't come to us," said Mrs Proudie,—not alluding to the dowager, of whom it was well known that no earthly inducement would have sufficed to make her put her foot within Mrs Proudie's room;—"but one of the children is ill, and she could not leave him." But the Greshams were there from Boxall Hill, and the Thornes from Ullathorne, and, with the exception of a single chaplain, who pretended to carve, Dr Tempest and the archdeacon were the only clerical guests at the table. From all which Dr Tempest knew that the bishop was anxious to treat him with special consideration on the present occasion.
The dinner was rather long and ponderous, and occasionally almost dull. The archdeacon talked a good deal, but a bystander with an acute ear might have understood from the tone of his voice that he was not talking as he would have talked among friends. Mrs Proudie felt this, and understood it, and was angry. She could never find herself in the presence of the archdeacon without becoming angry. Her accurate ear would always appreciate the defiance of episcopal authority, as now existing in Barchester, which was concealed, or only half concealed, by all the archdeacon's words. But the bishop was not so keen, nor so easily roused to wrath; and though the presence of his enemy did to a certain degree cow him, he strove to fight against the feeling with renewed good-humour.
"You have improved so upon the old days," said the archdeacon, speaking of some small matter with reference to the cathedral, "that one hardly knows the old place."
"I hope we have not fallen off," said the bishop, with a smile.
"We have improved, Dr Grantly," said Mrs Proudie, with great emphasis on her words. "What you say is true. We have improved."
"Not a doubt about that," said the archdeacon. Then Mrs Grantly interposed, strove to change the subject, and threw oil upon the waters.
"Talking of improvements," said Mrs Grantly, "what an excellent row of houses they have built at the bottom of High Street. I wonder who is to live in them?"
"I remember when that was the very worst part of the town," said Dr Thorne.
"And now they're asking seventy pounds apiece for houses which did not cost above six hundred each to build," said Mr Thorne of Ullathorne, with that seeming dislike of modern success which is evinced by most of the elders of the world.
"And who is to live in them?" asked Mrs Grantly.
"Two of them have been already taken by clergymen," said the bishop, in a tone of triumph.
"Yes," said the archdeacon, "and the houses in the Close which used to be the residences of the prebendaries have been leased out to tallow-chandlers and retired brewers. That comes of the working of the Ecclesiastical Commission."
"And why not?" demanded Mrs Proudie.
"Why not, indeed, if you like to have tallow-chandlers next door to you?" said the archdeacon. "In the old days, we would sooner have had our brethren near to us."
"There is nothing, Dr Grantly, so objectionable in a cathedral town as a lot of idle clergymen," said Mrs Proudie.
"It is beginning to be a question to me," said the archdeacon, "whether there is any use in clergymen at all for the present generation."
"Dr Grantly, those cannot be your real sentiments," said Mrs Proudie. Then Mrs Grantly, working hard in her vocation as a peacemaker, changed the conversation again and began to talk of the American war. But even that was made a matter of discord on church matters,—the archdeacon professing an opinion that the Southerners were Christian gentlemen, and the Northerners infidel snobs; whereas Mrs Proudie had an idea that the Gospel was preached with genuine zeal in the Northern States. And at each such outbreak the poor bishop would laugh uneasily, and say a word or two to which no one paid much attention. And so the dinner went on, not always in the most pleasant manner for those who preferred continued social good-humour to the occasional excitement of a half-suppressed battle.
Not a word was said about Mr Crawley. When Mrs Proudie and the ladies left the dining-room, the bishop strove to get up a little lay conversation. He spoke to Mr Thorne about his game, and to Dr Thorne about his timber, and even to Mr Gresham about his hounds. "It is not so very many years, Mr Gresham," said he, "since the Bishop of Barchester was expected to keep hounds himself," and the bishop laughed at his own joke.
"Your lordship shall have them back at the palace next season," said young Frank Gresham, "if you will promise to do the county justice."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the bishop. "What do you say, Mr Tozer?" Mr Tozer was the chaplain on duty.
"I have not least objection in the world, my lord," said Mr Tozer, "to act as second whip."
"I'm afraid you'll find them an expensive adjunct to the episcopate," said the archdeacon. And then the joke was over; for there had been a rumour, now for some years prevalent in Barchester, that Bishop Proudie was not liberal in his expenditure. As Mr Thorne said afterwards to his cousin the doctor, the archdeacon might have spared that sneer. "The archdeacon will never spare the man who sits in his father's seat," said the doctor. "The pity of it is that men who are so thoroughly different in all their sympathies should ever be brought into contact." "Dear, dear," said the archdeacon, as he stood afterwards on the rug before the drawing-room fire, "how many rubbers of whist I have seen played in this room." "I sincerely hope that you will never see another played here," said Mrs Proudie. "I'm quite sure that I shall not," said the archdeacon. For this last sally his wife scolded him bitterly on their way home. "You know very well," she said, "that the times are changed, and that if you were Bishop of Barchester yourself you would not have whist played in the palace." "I only know," said he, "that when we had the whist we had some true religion along with it, and some good sense and good feeling also." "You cannot be right to sneer at others for doing what you would do yourself," said his wife. Then the archdeacon threw himself sulkily into the corner of his carriage, and nothing more was said between him and his wife about the bishop's dinner-party.
Not a word was spoken that night at the palace about Mr Crawley; and when that obnoxious guest from Plumstead was gone, Mrs Proudie resumed her good-humour towards Dr Tempest. So intent was she on conciliating him that she refrained even from abusing the archdeacon, whom she knew to have been intimate for very many years with the rector of Silverbridge. In her accustomed moods she would have broken forth in loud anger, caring nothing for old friendships; but at present she was thoughtful of the morrow, and desirous that Dr Tempest should, if possible, meet her in a friendly humour when the great discussion as to Hogglestock should be opened between them. But Dr Tempest understood her bearing, and as he pulled on his nightcap made certain resolutions of his own as to the morrow's proceedings. "I don't suppose she will dare to interfere," he had said to his wife; "but if she does, I shall certainly tell the bishop that I cannot speak on the subject in her presence."
At breakfast on the following morning there was no one present but the bishop, Mrs Proudie, and Dr Tempest. Very little was said at the meal. Mr Crawley's name was not mentioned, but there seemed to be a general feeling among them that there was a task hanging over them which prevented any general conversation. The eggs were eaten and the coffee was drunk, but the eggs and the coffee disappeared almost in silence. When these ceremonies had been altogether completed, and it was clearly necessary that something further should be done, the bishop spoke: "Dr Tempest," he said, "perhaps you will join me in my study at eleven. We can then say a few words to each other about the unfortunate matter on which I shall have to trouble you." Dr Tempest said he would be punctual to his appointment, and then the bishop withdrew, muttering something as to the necessity of looking at his letters. Dr Tempest took a newspaper in his hand, which had been brought in by a servant, but Mrs Proudie did not allow him to read it. "Dr Tempest," she said, "this is a matter of most vital importance. I am quite sure that you feel that it is so."
"What matter, madam?" said the doctor.
"This terrible affair of Mr Crawley's. If something be not done the whole diocese will be disgraced." Then she waited for an answer, but receiving none she was obliged to continue. "Of the poor man's guilt there can, I fear, be no doubt." Then there was another pause, but still the doctor made no answer. "And if he be guilty," said Mrs Proudie, resolving that she would ask a question that must bring forth some reply, "can any experienced clergyman think that he can be fit to preach from the pulpit of a parish church? I am sure that you must agree with me, Dr Tempest? Consider the souls of the people!"
"Mrs Proudie," said he, "I think that we had better not discuss the matter."
"Not discuss it?"
"I think that we had better not do so. If I understand the bishop aright, he wishes that I should take some step in the matter."
"Of course he does."
"And therefore I must decline to make it a matter of common conversation."
"Common conversation, Dr Tempest! I should be the last person in the world to make it a matter of common conversation. I regard this as by no means a common conversation. God forbid that it should be a common conversation. I am speaking now very seriously with reference to the interests of the Church, which I think will be endangered by having among her active servants a man who has been guilty of so base a crime as theft. Think of it, Dr Tempest. Theft! Stealing money! Appropriating to his own use a cheque for twenty pounds which did not belong to him! And then telling such terrible falsehoods about it! Can anything be worse, anything more scandalous, anything more dangerous? Indeed, Dr Tempest, I do not regard this as any common conversation." The whole of this speech was not made at once, fluently, or without a break. From stop to stop Mrs Proudie paused, waiting for her companion's words; but as he would not speak she was obliged to continue. "I am sure that you cannot but agree with me, Dr Tempest?" she said.
"I am quite sure that I shall not discuss it with you," said the doctor, very brusquely.
"And why not? Are you not here to discuss it?"
"Not with you, Mrs Proudie. You must excuse me for saying so, but I am not here to discuss any such matter with you. Were I to do so, I should be guilty of a very great impropriety."
"All these things are in common between me and the bishop," said Mrs Proudie, with an air that was intended to be dignified, but which nevertheless displayed her rising anger.
"As to that I know nothing, but they cannot be in common between you and me. It grieves me much that I should have to speak to you in such a strain, but my duty allows me no alternative. I think, if you will permit me, I will take a turn round the garden before I keep my appointment with his lordship." And so saying he escaped from the lady without hearing her further remonstrance.
It still wanted an hour to the time named by the bishop, and Dr Tempest used it in preparing for his withdrawal from the palace as soon as his interview with the bishop should be over. After what had passed he thought he would be justified in taking his departure without bidding adieu formally to Mrs Proudie. He would say a word or two, explaining his haste, to the bishop; and then, if he could get out of the house at once, it might be that he would never see Mrs Proudie again. He was rather proud of his success in their late battle, but he felt that, having been so completely victorious, it would be foolish in him to risk his laurels in the chance of another encounter. He would say not a word of what had happened to the bishop, and he thought it probable that neither would Mrs Proudie speak of it,—at any rate till after he was gone. Generals who are beaten out of the field are not quick to talk of their own repulses. He, indeed, had not beaten Mrs Proudie out of the field. He had, in fact, himself run away. But he had left his foe silenced; and with such a foe, and in such a contest, that was everything. He put up his portmanteau, therefore, and prepared for his final retreat. Then he rang his bell and desired the servant to show him to the bishop's study. The servant did so, and when he entered the room the first thing he saw was Mrs Proudie sitting in an arm-chair near the window. The bishop was also in the room, sitting with his arms upon the writing-table, and his head upon his hands. It was very evident that Mrs Proudie did not consider herself to have been beaten, and that she was prepared to fight another battle. "Will you sit down, Dr Tempest?" she said, motioning him with her hand to a chair opposite to that occupied by the bishop. Dr Tempest sat down. He felt that at the moment he had nothing else to do, and that he must restrain any remonstrance that he might make till Mr Crawley's name should be mentioned. He was almost lost in admiration of the woman. He had left her, as he thought, utterly vanquished and prostrated by his determined but uncourteous usage of her; and here she was, present again on the field of battle as though she had never been even wounded. He could see that there had been words between her and the bishop, and that she had carried a point on which the bishop had been very anxious to have his own way. He could perceive at once that the bishop had begged her to absent herself and was greatly chagrined that he should not have prevailed with her. There she was,—and as Dr Tempest was resolved that he would neither give advice nor receive instructions respecting Mr Crawley in her presence, he could only draw upon his courage and his strategy for the coming warfare. For a few moments no one said a word. The bishop felt that if Dr Tempest would only begin, the work on hand might be got through, even in his wife's presence. Mrs Proudie was aware that her husband should begin. If he would do so, and if Dr Tempest would listen and then reply, she might gradually make her way into the conversation; and if her words were once accepted then she could say all that she desired to say; then she could play her part and become somebody in the episcopal work. When once she should have been allowed liberty of speech, the enemy would be powerless to stop her. But all this Dr Tempest understood quite as well as she understood it, and had they waited till night he would not have been the first to mention Mr Crawley's name.
The bishop sighed aloud. The sigh might be taken as expressing grief over the sin of the erring brother whose conduct they were then to discuss, and was not amiss. But when the sigh with its attendant murmurs had passed away it was necessary that some initiative step should be taken. "Dr Tempest," said the bishop, "what are we to do about this poor stiff-necked gentleman?" Still Dr Tempest did not speak. "There is no clergyman in the diocese," continued the bishop, "in whose prudence and wisdom I have more confidence than in yours. And I know, too, that you are by no means disposed to severity where severe measures are not necessary. What ought we to do? If he has been guilty, he should not surely return to his pulpit after the expiration of such punishment as the law of his country may award him."
Dr Tempest looked at Mrs Proudie, thinking that she might perhaps say a word now; but Mrs Proudie knew her part better and was silent. Angry as she was, she contrived to hold her peace. Let the debate once begin and she would be able to creep into it, and then to lead it,—and so she would hold her own. But she had met a foe as wary as herself. "My lord," said the doctor, "it will perhaps be well that you should communicate your wishes to me in writing. If it be possible for me to comply with them I will do so."
"Yes;—exactly; no doubt;—but I thought that perhaps we might better understand each other if we had a few words of quiet conversation upon the subject. I believe you know the steps that I have—"
But here the bishop was interrupted. Dr Tempest rose from his chair, and advancing to the table put both hands upon it. "My lord," he said, "I feel myself compelled to say that which I would very much rather leave unsaid, were it possible. I feel the difficulty, and I may say delicacy, of my position; but I should be untrue to my conscience and to my feeling of what is right in such matters, if I were to take any part in a discussion on this matter in the presence of—a lady."
"Dr Tempest, what is your objection?" said Mrs Proudie, rising from her chair, and coming also to the table, so that from thence she might confront her opponent; and as she stood opposite to Dr Tempest she also put both her hands upon the table.
"My dear, perhaps you will leave us for a few moments," said the bishop. Poor bishop! Poor weak bishop! As the words came from his mouth he knew that they would be spoken in vain, and that, if so, it would have been better for him to have left them unspoken.
"Why should I be dismissed from your room without a reason?" said Mrs Proudie. "Cannot Dr Tempest understand that a wife may share her husband's counsels,—as she must share his troubles? If he cannot, I pity him very much as to his own household."
"Dr Tempest," said the bishop, "Mrs Proudie takes the greatest possible interest in everything concerning the diocese."
"I am sure, my lord," said the doctor, "that you will see how unseemly it would be that I should interfere in any way between you and Mrs Proudie. I certainly will not do so. I can only say again that if you will communicate to me your wishes in writing, I will attend to them,—if it be possible."
"You mean to be stubborn," said Mrs Proudie, whose prudence was beginning to give way under the great provocation to which her temper was being subjected.
"Yes, madam; if it is to be called stubbornness, I must be stubborn. My lord, Mrs Proudie spoke to me on this subject in the breakfast-room after you had left it, and I then ventured to explain to her that in accordance with such light as I have on the matter, I could not discuss it in her presence. I greatly grieve that I failed to make myself understood by her,—as, otherwise, this unpleasantness might have been spared."
"I understood you very well, Dr Tempest, and I think you to be a most unreasonable man. Indeed, I might use a much harsher word."
"You may use any word you please, Mrs Proudie," said the doctor.
"My dear, I really think you had better leave us for a few minutes," said the bishop.
"No, my lord,—no," said Mrs Proudie, turning round upon her husband. "Not so. It would be most unbecoming that I should be turned out of a room in this palace by an uncourteous word from a parish clergyman. It would be unseemly. If Dr Tempest forgets his duty, I will not forget mine. There are other clergymen in the diocese besides Dr Tempest who can undertake the very easy task of this commission. As for his having been appointed rural dean I don't know how many years ago, it is a matter of no consequence whatever. In such a preliminary inquiry any three clergymen will suffice. It need not be done by the rural dean at all."
"I will not be turned out of this room by Dr Tempest;—and that is enough."
"My lord," said the doctor, "you had better write to me as I proposed to you just now."
"His lordship will not write. His lordship will do nothing of the kind," said Mrs Proudie.
"My dear!" said the bishop, driven in his perplexity beyond all carefulness of reticence. "My dear, I do wish you wouldn't,—I do indeed. If you would only go away!"
"I will not go away, my lord," said Mrs Proudie.
"But I will," said Dr Tempest, feeling true compassion for the unfortunate man whom he saw writhing in agony before him. "It will manifestly be for the best that I should retire. My lord, I wish you good morning. Mrs Proudie, good morning." And so he left the room.
"A most stubborn and a most ungentlemanlike man," said Mrs Proudie, as soon as the door was closed behind the retreating rural dean. "I do not think that in the whole course of my life I ever met with any one so insubordinate and so ill-mannered. He is worse than the archdeacon." As she uttered these words she paced about the room. The bishop said nothing; and when she herself had been silent for a few minutes she turned upon him. "Bishop," she said, "I hope that you agree with me. I expect that you will agree with me in a matter that is so of much moment to my comfort, and I may say to my position generally in the diocese. Bishop, why do you not speak?"
"You have behaved in such a way that I do not know that I shall ever speak again," said the bishop.
"What is that you say?"
"I say that I do not know how I shall ever speak again. You have disgraced me."
"Disgraced you! I disgrace you! It is you that disgrace yourself by saying such words."
"Very well. Let it be so. Perhaps you will go away now and leave me to myself. I have got a bad headache, and I can't talk any more. Oh dear, oh dear, what will he think of it!"
"And you mean to tell me that I have been wrong?"
"Yes, you have been wrong,—very wrong. Why didn't you go away when I asked you? You are always being wrong. I wish I had never come to Barchester. In any other position I should not have felt it so much. As it is I do not know how I can ever show my face again."
"Not have felt what so much, Mr Proudie?" said the wife, going back in the excitement of her anger to the nomenclature of old days. "And this is to be my return for all my care in your behalf! Allow me to tell you, sir, that in any position in which you may be placed I know what is due to you, and that your dignity will never lose anything in my hands. I wish that you were as well able to take care of it yourself." Then she stalked out of the room, and left the poor man alone.
Bishop Proudie sat alone in his study throughout the whole day. Once or twice in the course of the morning his chaplain came to him on some matter of business, and was answered with a smile,—the peculiar softness of which the chaplain did not fail to attribute the right cause. For it was soon known throughout the household that there had been a quarrel. Could he quite have made up his mind to do so,—could he have resolved that it would be altogether better to quarrel with his wife,—the bishop would have appealed to the chaplain, and have asked at any rate for sympathy. But even yet he could not bring himself to confess his misery, and to own himself to another to be the wretch that he was. Then during the long hours of the day he sat thinking of it all. How happy could he be if it were only possible for him to go away, and become even a curate in a parish, without his wife! Would there ever come to him a time of freedom? Would she ever die? He was older than she, and of course he would die first. Would it not be a fine thing if he could die at once, and thus escape from his misery?
What could he do, even supposing himself strong enough to fight the battle? He could not lock her up. He could not even very well lock her out of his room. She was his wife, and must have the run of the house. He could not altogether debar her from the society of the diocesan clergymen. He had, on this very morning, taken strong measures with her. More than once or twice he had desired her to leave the room. What was there to be done with a woman who would not obey her husband,—who would not even leave him to the performance of his own work? What a blessed thing it would be if a bishop could go away from his home to his work every day like a clerk in a public office,—as a stone-mason does! But there was no such escape for him. He could not go away. And how was he to meet her again on this very day?
And then for hours he thought of Dr Tempest and Mr Crawley, considering what he had better do to repair the shipwreck of the morning. At last he resolved that he would write to the doctor; and before he had again seen his wife, he did write his letter, and he sent it off. In this letter he made no direct allusion to the occurrence of the morning, but wrote as though there had not been any fixed intention of a personal discussion between them. "I think it will be better that there should be a commission," he said, "and I would suggest that you should have four other clergymen with you. Perhaps you will select two yourself out of your rural deanery; and, if you do not object, I will name as the other two Mr Thumble and Mr Quiverful, who are both resident in the city." As he wrote these two names he felt ashamed of himself, knowing that he had chosen the two men as being special friends of his wife, and feeling that he should have been brave enough to throw aside all considerations of his wife's favour,—especially at this moment, in which he was putting on his armour to do battle against her. "It is not probable," he continued to say in his letter, "that you will be able to make your report until after the trial of this unfortunate gentleman shall have taken place, and a verdict shall have been given. Should he be acquitted, that, I imagine, should end the matter. There can be no reason why we should attempt to go beyond the verdict of a jury. But should he be found guilty, I think we ought to be ready with such steps as it will be becoming for us to take at the expiration of any sentence which may be pronounced. It will be, at any rate, expedient that in such a case the matter should be brought before an ecclesiastical court." he knew well as he wrote this, that he was proposing something much milder than the course intended by his wife when she had instigated him to take proceedings in the matter; but he did not much regard that now. Though he had been weak enough to name certain clergymen as assessors with the rural dean, because he thought that by doing so he would to a certain degree conciliate his wife,—though he had been so far a coward, yet he was resolved that he would not sacrifice to her his own judgment and his own conscience in his manner of proceeding. He kept no copy of his letter, so that he might be unable to show her his very words when she should ask to see them. Of course he would tell her what he had done; but in telling her he would keep to himself what he had said as to the result of an acquittal in a civil court. She need not yet be told that he had promised to take such a verdict as sufficing also for an ecclesiastical acquittal. In this spirit his letter was written and sent off before he again saw his wife.
He did not meet her till they came together in the drawing-room before dinner. In explaining the whole truth as to circumstances as they existed at the palace at that moment, it must be acknowledged that Mrs Proudie herself, great as was her courage, and wide as were the resources which she possessed within herself, was somewhat appalled by the position of affairs. I fear that it may now be too late for me to excite much sympathy in the mind of any reader on behalf of Mrs Proudie. I shall never be able to make her virtues popular. But she had virtues, and their existence now made her unhappy. She did regard the dignity of her husband, and she felt at the present moment that she had almost compromised it. She did also regard the welfare of the clergymen around her, thinking of course in a general way that certain of them who agreed with her were the clergymen whose welfare should be studied, and that certain of them who disagreed with her were the clergymen whose welfare should be postponed. But now an idea made its way into her bosom that she was not perhaps doing the best for the welfare of the diocese generally. What if it should come to pass that all the clergymen of the diocese should refuse to open their mouths in her presence on ecclesiastical subjects, as Dr Tempest had done? This special day was not one on which she was well contented with herself, though by no means on that account was her anger mitigated against the offending rural dean.
During dinner she struggled to say a word or two to her husband, as though there had been no quarrel between them. With him the matter had gone so deep that he could not answer her in the same spirit. There were sundry members of the family present,—daughters, and a son-in-law, and a daughter's friend who was staying with them; but even in the hope of appearing to be serene before them he could not struggle through his deep despondence. He was very silent, and to his wife's words he answered hardly anything. He was courteous and gentle with them all, but he spoke as little as was possible, and during the evening he sat alone, with his head leaning on his hand,—not pretending even to read. He was aware that it was too late to make even an attempt to conceal his misery and his disgrace from his own family.
His wife came to him that night in his dressing-room in a spirit of feminine softness that was very unusual with her. "My dear," said she, "let us forget what occurred this morning. If there has been any anger we are bound as Christians to forget it." She stood over him as she spoke, and put her hand upon his shoulder almost caressingly.
"When a man's heart is broken, he cannot forget it," was his reply. She still stood by him, and still kept her hand upon him: but she could think of no other words of comfort to say. "I will go to bed," he said. "It is the best place for me." Then she left him, and he went to bed.
The Softness of Sir Raffle Buffle
We have seen that John Eames was prepared to start on his journey in search of the Arabins, and have seen him after he had taken farewell of his office and of his master there, previous to his departure; but that matter of his departure had not been arranged altogether with comfort as far as his official interests were concerned. He had been perhaps a little abrupt in his mode of informing Sir Raffle Buffle that there was a pressing cause for his official absence, and Sir Raffle had replied to him that no private pressure could be allowed to interfere with his public duties. "I must go, Sir Raffle, at any rate," Johnny had said; "it is a matter affecting my family, and must not be neglected." "If you intend to go without leave," said Sir Raffle, "I presume you will first put your resignation into the hands of Mr Kissing." Now Mr Kissing was the secretary to the Board. This had been serious undoubtedly. John Eames was not specially anxious to keep his present position as private secretary to Sir Raffle, but he certainly had no desire to give up his profession altogether. He said nothing more to the great man on that occasion, but before he left the office he wrote a private note to the chairman expressing the extreme importance of his business, and begging that he might have leave of absence. On the next morning he received it back with a very few words written across it. "It can't be done," were the few words which Sir Raffle Buffle had written across the note from his private secretary. Here was a difficulty which Johnny had not anticipated, and which seemed to be insuperable. Sir Raffle would not have answered him in that strain if he had not been very much in earnest.
"I should send him a medical certificate," said Cradell, his friend of old.
"Nonsense," said Eames.
"I don't see that it's nonsense at all. They can't get over a medical certificate from a respectable man; and everybody has got something the matter with him of some kind."
"I should go and let him do his worst," said Fisher, who was another clerk. "It wouldn't be more than putting you down a place or two. As to losing your present berth you don't mind that, and they would never think of dismissing you."
"But I do mind being put down a place or two," said Johnny, who could not forget that were he so put down his friend Fisher would gain the step which he would lose.
"I should give him a barrel of oysters, and talk to him about the Chancellor of the Exchequer," said FitzHoward, who had been private secretary to Sir Raffle before Eames, and might therefore be supposed to know the man.
"That might have done very well if I had not asked him and been refused first," said John Eames. "I'll tell what I'll do. I'll write a long letter on a sheet of foolscap paper, with a regular margin, so that it must come before the Board, and perhaps that will frighten him."
When he mentioned his difficulty on that evening to Mr Toogood, the lawyer begged him to give up the journey. "It will only be sending a clerk, and it won't cost so very much after all," said Toogood. But Johnny's pride could not allow him to give way. "I'm not going to be done about it," said he. "I'm not going to resign, but I will go even though they may dismiss me. I don't think it will come to that, but if it does it must." His uncle begged of him not to think of such an alternative; but this discussion took place after dinner, and away from the office, and Eames would not submit to bow his neck to authority. "If it comes to that," said he, "a fellow might as well be a slave at once. And what is the use of a fellow having a little money if it does not make him independent? You may be sure of one thing, I shall go; and that on the day fixed."
On the next morning John Eames was very silent when he went into Sir Raffle's room at the office. There was now only this day and another before that fixed for his departure, and it was of course very necessary that matters should be arranged. But he said nothing to Sir Raffle during the morning. The great man himself was condescending and endeavoured to be kind. He knew that his stern refusal had greatly irritated his private secretary, and was anxious to show that, though in the cause of public duty he was obliged to be stern, he was quite willing to forget his sternness when the necessity for it had passed away. On this morning, therefore, he was very cheery. But to all his cheery good-humour John Eames would make no response. Late in the afternoon, when most of the men had left the office, Johnny appeared before the chairman for the last time that day with a very long face. He was dressed in black, and had changed his ordinary morning coat for a frock, which gave him an appearance altogether unlike that which was customary to him. And he spoke almost in a whisper, very slowly; and when Sir Raffle joked,—and Sir Raffle often would joke,—he not only did not laugh, but he absolutely sighed. "Is there anything the matter with you, Eames?" asked Sir Raffle.
"I am in great trouble," said John Eames.
"And what is your trouble?"
"It is essential for the honour of one of my family that I should be at Florence by this day week. I cannot make up my mind what I ought to do. I do not wish to lose my position in the public service, to which, as you know, I am warmly attached; but I cannot submit to see the honour of my family sacrificed!"
"Eames," said Sir Raffle, "that must be nonsense;—that must be nonsense. There can be no reason why you should always expect to have your own way in everything."
"Of course if I go without leave I shall be dismissed."
"Of course you will. It is out of the question that a young man should take the bit between his teeth in that way."
"As for taking the bit between his teeth, Sir Raffle, I do not think that any man was ever more obedient, perhaps I should say more submissive, than I have been. But there must be a limit to everything."
"What do you mean by that, Mr Eames?" said Sir Raffle, turning in anger upon his private secretary. But Johnny disregarded his anger. Johnny, indeed, had made up his mind that Sir Raffle should be very angry. "What do you mean, Mr Eames, by saying that there must be a limit? I know nothing about limits. One would suppose that you intended to make an accusation against me."
"So I do. I think, Sir Raffle, that you are treating me with great cruelty. I have explained to you that family circumstances—"
"You have explained nothing, Mr Eames."
"Yes, I have, Sir Raffle. I have explained to you that matters relating to one of my family, which materially affect the honour of a certain one of its members, demand that I should go at once to Florence. You tell me that if I go I shall be dismissed."
"Of course you must not go without leave. I never heard of such a thing in all my life." And Sir Raffle lifted his hands towards heaven, almost in dismay.