After a while when Mrs Broughton had piled the fagots as high as she could pile them, she got up from her seat and prepared to leave the room. Much of the piling consisted, of course, in her own absence during a portion of these sittings. "Conway," she said, as she went, "if this is to be the last sitting, or the last but one, you should make the most of it." Then she threw upon him a very peculiar glance over the head of the kneeling Jael, and withdrew. Jael, who in those moments would be thinking more of the fatigue of her position than of anything else, did not at all take home to herself the peculiar meaning of her friend's words. Conway Dalrymple understood them thoroughly, and thought that he might as well take the advice given to him. He had made up his mind to propose to Miss Van Siever, and why should he not do so now? He went on with his brush for a couple of minutes without saying a word, working as well as he could work, and then resolved that he would at once begin the other task. "Miss Van Siever," he said, "I am afraid you are tired?"
"Not more than usually tired. It is fatiguing to be slaying Sisera by the hour together. I do get to hate this block." The block was the dummy by which the form of Sisera was supposed to be typified.
"Another sitting will about finish it," said he, "so that you need not positively distress yourself now. Will you rest yourself for a minute or two?" He had already perceived that the attitude in which Clara was posed before him was not one in which an offer of marriage could be received and replied to with advantage.
"Thank you, I am not tired," said Clara, not changing the fixed glance of national wrath with which she regarded her wooden Sisera as she held her hammer on high.
"But I am. There; we will rest for a moment." Dalrymple was aware that Mrs Dobbs Broughton, though she was very assiduous in piling her fagots, never piled them for long together. If he did not make haste she would be back upon them before he could get his word spoken. When he put down his brush, and got up from his chair, and stretched out his arm as a man does when he ceases for a moment from his work, Clara of course got up also, and seated herself. She was used to her turban and her drapery, and therefore thought not of it at all; and he also was used to it, seeing her in it two or three times a week; but now that he intended to accomplish a special purpose, the turban and the drapery seemed to be in the way. "I do so hope you will like the picture," he said, as he was thinking of this.
"I don't think I shall. But you will understand that it is natural that a girl should not like herself in such a portraiture as that."
"I don't know why. I can understand that you specially should not like the picture; but I think that most women in London in your place would at any rate say that they did."
"Are you angry with me?"
"What; for telling the truth? No, indeed." He was standing opposite to his easel, looking at the canvas, shifting his head about so as to change the lights, and observing critically this blemish and that; and yet he was all the while thinking how he had best carry out his purpose. "It will have been a prosperous picture to me," he said at last, "if it leads to the success of which I am ambitious."
"I am told that all you do is successful now,—merely because you do it. That is the worst of success."
"What is the worst of success?"
"That when won by merit it leads to further success, for the gaining of which no merit is necessary."
"It may be so in my case. If it is not, I shall have a very poor chance. Clara, I think you must know that I am not talking about my pictures."
"I thought you were."
"Indeed I am not. As for success in my profession, far as I am from thinking I merit it, I feel tolerably certain that I shall obtain it."
"You have obtained it."
"I am in the way of doing so. Perhaps one out of ten struggling artists is successful, and for him the profession is very charming. It is certainly a sad feeling that there is so much of chance in the distribution of the prizes. It is a lottery. But one cannot complain of that when one has drawn the prize." Dalrymple was not a man without self-possession, nor was he readily abashed, but he found it easier to talk of his possession than to make his offer. The turban was his difficulty. He had told himself over and over again within the last five minutes, that he would have long since said what he had to say had it not been for the turban. He had been painting all his life from living models,—from women dressed up in this or that costume, to suit the necessities of his picture,—but he had never made love to any of them. They had been simply models to him, and now he found that there was a difficulty. "Of that prize," he said, "I have made myself tolerably sure; but as to the other prize, I do not know. I wonder whether I am to have that." Of course Miss Van Siever understood well what was the prize of which he was speaking; and as she was a young woman with a will and purpose of her own, no doubt she was already prepared with an answer. But it was necessary that the question should be put to her in properly distinct terms. Conway Dalrymple certainly had not put his question in properly distinct terms at present. She did not choose to make any answer to his last words; and therefore simply suggested that as time was pressing he had better go on with his work. "I am quite ready now," said she.
"Stop half a moment. How much more you are thinking of the picture than I am! I do not care twopence for the picture. I will slit the canvas from top to bottom without a groan,—without a single inner groan,—if you will let me."
"For heaven's sake do nothing of the kind! Why should you?"
"Just to show you that it is not for the sake of the picture that I come here. Clara—" Then the door was opened, and Isaac appeared, very weary, having been piling fagots with assiduity, till human nature could pile no more. Conway Dalrymple, who had made his way almost up to Clara's seat, turned round sharply towards his easel, in anger at having been disturbed. He should have been more grateful for all that his Isaac had done for him, and have recognised the fact that the fault had been with himself. Mrs Broughton had been twelve minutes out of the room. She had counted them to be fifteen,—having no doubt made a mistake as to three,—and had told herself that with such a one as Conway Dalrymple, with so much of the work ready done to his hand for him, fifteen minutes should have been amply sufficient. When we reflect what her own thoughts must have been during the interval,—what it is to have to pile up such fagots as those, how she was, as it were, giving away a fresh morsel of her own heart during each minute that she allowed Clara and Conway Dalrymple to remain together, it cannot surprise us that her eyes should have become dizzy, and that she should not have counted the minutes with accurate correctness. Dalrymple turned to his picture angrily, but Miss Van Siever kept her seat and did not show the slightest emotion.
"My friends," said Mrs Broughton, "this will not do. This is not working; this is not sitting."
"Mr Dalrymple had been explaining to me the precarious nature of an artist's profession," said Clara.
"It is not precarious with him," said Mrs Dobbs Broughton, sententiously.
"Not in a general way, perhaps; but to prove the truth of his words he was going to treat Jael worse than Jael treats Sisera."
"I was going to slit the picture from the top to the bottom."
"And why?" said Mrs Broughton, putting up her hands to heaven in tragic horror.
"Just to show Miss Van Siever how little I care about it."
"And how little you care about her, too," said Mrs Broughton.
"She might take that as she liked." After this there was another genuine sitting, and the real work went on as though there had been no episode. Jael fixed her face, and held her hammer as though her mind and heart were solely bent on seeming to be slaying Sisera. Dalrymple turned his eyes from the canvas to the model, and from the model to the canvas, working with his hand all the while, as though that last pathetic "Clara" had never been uttered; and Mrs Dobbs Broughton reclined on a sofa, looking at them and thinking of her own singularly romantic position, till her mind was filled with a poetic frenzy. In one moment she resolved that she would hate Clara as woman was never hated by woman; and then there were daggers, and poison-cups, and strangling cords in her eye. In the next she was as firmly determined that she would love Mrs Conway Dalrymple as woman never was loved by woman; and then she saw herself kneeling by a cradle, and tenderly nursing a baby, of which Conway was to be the father and Clara the mother. And so she went to sleep.
For some time Dalrymple did not observe this; but at last there was a little sound,—even the ill-nature of Miss Demolines could hardly have called it a snore,—and he became aware that for practical purposes he and Miss Van Siever were again alone together. "Clara," he said in a whisper. Mrs Broughton instantly aroused herself from her slumbers, and rubbed her eyes. "Dear, dear, dear," she said, "I declare it's past one. I'm afraid I must turn you both out. One more sitting, I suppose, will finish it, Conway?"
"Yes, one more," said he. It was always understood that he and Clara should not leave the house together, and therefore he remained painting when she left the room. "And now, Conway," said Mrs Broughton, "I suppose that all is over?"
"I don't know what you mean by all being over."
"No,—of course not. You look at it in another light, no doubt. Everything is beginning for you. But you must pardon me, for my heart is distracted,—distracted,—distracted!" Then she sat down upon the floor, and burst into tears. What was he to do? He thought that the woman should either give him up altogether, or not give him up. All this fuss about it was irrational! He would not have made love to Clara Van Siever in her room if she had not told him to do so!
"Maria," he said, in a very grave voice, "any sacrifice that is required on my part on your behalf I am ready to make."
"No, sir; the sacrifices shall all be made by me. It is the part of a woman to be ever sacrificial!" Poor Mrs Dobbs Broughton! "You shall give up nothing. The world is at your feet, and you shall have everything,—youth, beauty, wealth, station, love,—love; friendship also, if you will accept it from one so poor, so broken, so secluded as I shall be." At each of the last words there had been a desperate sob; and as she was still crouching in the middle of the room, looking up into Dalrymple's face while he stood over her, the scene was one which had much in it that transcended the doings of everyday life, much that would be ever memorable, and much, I have no doubt, that was thoroughly enjoyed by the principal actor. As for Conway Dalrymple, he was so second-rate a personage in the whole thing, that it mattered little whether he enjoyed it or not. I don't think he did enjoy it. "And now, Conway," she said, "I will give you some advice. And when in after-days you shall remember this interview, and reflect how that advice was given you,—with what solemnity,"—here she clasped both her hands together,—"I think that you will follow it. Clara Van Siever will now become your wife."
"I do not know that at all," said Dalrymple.
"Clara Van Siever will now become your wife," repeated Mrs Broughton in a louder voice, impatient of opposition. "Love her. Cleave to her. Make her flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. But rule her! Yes, rule her! Let her be your second self, but not your first self. Rule her! Love her. Cleave to her. Do not leave her alone, to feed on her own thoughts as I have done,—as I have been forced to do. Now go. No, Conway, not a word; I will not hear a word. You must go, or I must." Then she rose quickly from her lowly attitude, and prepared herself for a dart at the door. It was better by far that he should go, and so he went.
An American when he has spent a pleasant day will tell you that he has had "a good time". I think that Mrs Dobbs Broughton, if she had ever spoken the truth of that day's employment, would have acknowledged that she had had "a good time". I think that she enjoyed her morning's work. But as for Conway Dalrymple, I doubt whether he did enjoy his morning's work. "A man may have too much of this sort of thing, and then he becomes very sick of his cake." Such was the nature of his thoughts as he returned to his own abode.
Why Don't You Have an "It" for Yourself?
Of course it came to pass that Lily Dale and Emily Dunstable were soon very intimate, and that they saw each other every day. Indeed, before long they would have been living together in the same house had it not been that the squire had felt reluctant to abandon the independence of his own lodgings. When Mrs Thorne had pressed her invitation for the second, and then for the third time, asking them both to come to her large house, he had begged his niece to go and leave him alone. "You need not regard me," he had said, speaking not with the whining voice of complaint, but with that thin tinge of melancholy which was usual to him. "I am so much alone down in Allington, that you need not mind leaving me." But Lily would not go on those terms, and therefore they still lived together in the lodgings. Nevertheless Lily was every day at Mrs Thorne's house, and thus a great intimacy grew up between the girls. Emily Dunstable had neither brother nor sister, and Lily's nearest male relative in her own degree was now Miss Dunstable's betrothed husband. It was natural therefore that they should at any rate try to like each other. It afterwards came to pass that Lily did go to Mrs Thorne's house, and she stayed there for awhile; but when that occurred the squire had gone back to Allington.
Among other generous kindnesses Mrs Thorne insisted that Bernard should hire a horse for his cousin Lily. Emily Dunstable rode daily, and of course Captain Dale rode with her;—and now Lily joined the party. Almost before she knew what was being done she found herself provided with hat and habit and horse and whip. It was a way with Mrs Thorne that they who came within the influence of her immediate sphere should be made to feel that the comforts and luxuries arising from her wealth belonged to a common stock, and were the joint property of them all. Things were not offered and taken and talked about, but they made their appearance, and were used as a matter of course. If you go to stay at a gentleman's house you understand that, as a matter of course, you will be provided with meat and drink. Some hosts furnish you also with cigars. A small number give you stabling and forage for your horse; and a very select few mount you on hunting days, and send you out with a groom and a second horse. Mrs Thorne went beyond all others in this open-handed hospitality. She had enormous wealth at her command, and had but few of those all-absorbing drains upon wealth which in this country make so many rich men poor. She had no family property,—no place to keep up in which she did not live. She had no retainers to be maintained because they were retainers. She had neither sons nor daughters. Consequently she was able to be lavish in her generosity; and as her heart was very lavish, she would have given her friends gold to eat had gold been good for eating. Indeed there was no measure in her giving,—unless when the idea came upon her that the recipient of her favours was trading on them. Then she could hold her hand very stoutly.
Lily Dale had not liked the idea of being fitted out thus expensively. A box at the opera was all very well, as it was not procured especially for her. And tickets for other theatres did not seem to come unnaturally for a night or two. But her spirit had militated against the hat and the habit and the horse. The whip was a little present from Emily Dunstable, and that of course was accepted with a good grace. Then there came the horse,—as though from the heavens; there seemed to be ten horses, twenty horses, if anybody needed them. All these things seemed to flow naturally into Mrs Thorne's establishment, like air through the windows. It was very pleasant, but Lily hesitated when she was told that a habit was to be given to her. "My dear old aunt insists," said Emily Dunstable. "Nobody ever thinks of refusing anything from her. If you only knew what some people will take, and some people will even ask, who have nothing to do with her at all!" "But I have nothing to do with her,—in that way I mean," said Lily. "Oh, yes, you have," said Emily. "You and Bernard are as good as brother and sister, and Bernard and I are as good as man and wife, and my aunt and I are as good as mother and daughter. So you see, in a sort of a way you are a child of the house." So Lily accepted the habit; but made a stand at the hat, and paid for that out of her own pocket. When the squire had seen Lily on horseback he asked her questions about it. "It was a hired horse, I suppose?" he said. "I think it came direct from heaven," said Lily. "What do you mean, Lily?" said the squire angrily. "I mean that when people are so rich and good-natured as Mrs Thorne it is no good inquiring where things come from. All that I know is that the horses come out of Potts' livery-stable. They talk of Potts as if he were a good-natured man who provides horses for the world without troubling anybody." Then the squire spoke to Bernard about it, saying that he should insist on defraying his niece's expenses. But Bernard swore that he should give his uncle no assistance. "I would not speak to her about such a thing for all the world," said Bernard. "Then I shall," said the squire.
In those days Lily thought much of Johnny Eames,—gave to him perhaps more of that thought which leads to love than she had ever given him before. She still heard the Crawley question discussed every day. Mrs Thorne, as we all know, was at this time a Barsetshire personage, and was of course interested in Barsetshire subjects; and she was specially anxious in the matter, having strong hopes with reference to the marriage of Major Grantly and Grace, and strong hopes also that Grace's father might escape the fangs of justice. The Crawley case was constantly in Lily's ears, and as constantly she heard high praise awarded to Johnny for his kindness in going after the Arabins. "He must be a fine young fellow," said Mrs Thorne, "and we'll have him down at Chaldicotes some day. Old Lord De Guest found him out and made a friend of him, and old Lord De Guest was no fool." Lilly was not altogether free from a suspicion that Mrs Thorne knew the story of Johnny's love and was trying to serve Johnny,—as other people had tried to do, very ineffectually. When this suspicion came upon her she would shut her heart against her lover's praises, and swear that she would stand by those two letters which she had written in her book at home. But the suspicion would not always be there, and there did come upon her a conviction that her lover was more esteemed among men and women than she had been accustomed to believe. Her cousin, Bernard Dale, who certainly was regarded in the world as somebody, spoke of him as his equal; whereas in former days Bernard had always regarded Johnny Eames as standing low in the world's regard. Then Lily, when alone, would remember a certain comparison which she once made between Adolphus Crosbie and John Eames, when neither of the men had as yet pleaded his cause to her, and which had been very much in favour of the former. She had then declared that Johnny was a "mere clerk". She had a higher opinion of him now,—a much higher opinion, even though he could never be more to her than a friend.
In these days Lily's new ally, Emily Dunstable, seemed to Lily to be so happy! There was in Emily a complete realisation of that idea of ante-nuptial blessedness, of which Lily had often thought so much. Whatever Emily did she did for Bernard; and, to give Captain Dale his due, he received all the sweets which were showered upon him with becoming signs of gratitude. I suppose it is always the case at such times that the girl has the best of it, and on this occasion Emily Dunstable certainly made the most of her happiness. "I do envy you," Lily said one day. The acknowledgement seemed to have been extorted from her involuntarily. She did not laugh as she spoke, or follow up what she had said with other words intended to take away the joke of what she had uttered,—had it been a joke; but she sat silent, looking at the girl who was re-arranging flowers which Bernard had brought to her.
"I can't give him up to you, you know," said Emily.
"I don't envy you him, but 'it'," said Lily.
"Then go and get an 'it' for yourself. Why don't you have an 'it' for yourself? You can have an 'it' to-morrow, if you like,—or two or three, if all that I hear is true."
"No I can't," said Lily. "Things have gone wrong with me. Don't ask me anything more about it. Pray don't. I shan't speak of it if you do."
"Of course I will not if you tell me I must not."
"I do tell you so. I have been a fool to say anything about it. However, I have got over my envy now, and am ready to go out with your aunt. Here she is."
"Things have gone wrong with me." She repeated the same words to herself over and over again. With all the efforts which she had made she could not quite reconcile herself to the two letters which she had written in the book. This coming up to London, and riding in the Park, and going to the theatres, seemed to unsettle her. At home she had schooled herself down into quiescence, and made herself think that she believed that she was satisfied with the prospects of her life. But now she was all astray again, doubting about herself, hankering after something over and beyond that which seemed to be allotted to her,—but, nevertheless, assuring herself that she never would accept of anything else.
I must not, if I can help it, let the reader suppose that she was softening her heart to John Eames because John Eames was spoken well of in the world. But with all of us, in the opinion which we form of those around us, we take unconsciously the opinion of others. A woman is handsome because the world says so. Music is charming to us because it charms others. We drink our wines with other men's palates, and look at our pictures with other men's eyes. When Lily heard John Eames praised by all around her, it could not be but that she should praise him too,—not out loud, as others did, but in the silence of her heart. And then his constancy to her had been so perfect! If that other one had never come! If it could be that she might begin again, and that she might be spared that episode in her life which had brought him and her together!
"When is Mr Eames going to be back?" Mrs Thorne said at dinner one day. On this occasion the squire was dining at Mrs Thorne's house; and there were three or four others there,—among them a Mr Harold Smith, who was in Parliament, and his wife, and John Eames's especial friend, Sir Raffle Buffle. The question was addressed to the squire, but the squire was slow to answer, and it was taken up by Sir Raffle Buffle.
"He'll be back on the 15th," said the knight, "unless he means to play truant. I hope he won't do that, as his absence has been a terrible inconvenience to me." Then Sir Raffle explained that John Eames was his private secretary, and that Johnny's journey to the Continent had been made with, and could not have been made without, his sanction. "When I came to hear the story, of course I told him that he must go. 'Eames,' I said, 'take the advice of a man who knows the world. Circumstanced as you are, you are bound to go.' And he went."
"Upon my word that was very good-natured of you," said Mrs Thorne.
"I never keep a fellow to his desk who has really got important business elsewhere," said Sir Raffle. "The country, I say, can afford to do as much as that for her servants. But then I like to know that the business is business. One doesn't choose to be humbugged."
"I daresay you are humbugged, as you call it, very often," said Harold Smith.
"Perhaps so; perhaps I am; perhaps that is the opinion which they have of me at the Treasury. But you were hardly long enough there, Smith, to have learned much about it, I should say."
"I don't suppose I should have known much about it, as you call it, if I had stayed till Doomsday."
"I daresay not; I daresay not. Men who begin as late as you did never know what official life really means. Now I've been at it all my life, and I think I do understand it."
"It's not a profession I should like unless where it's joined with politics," said Harold Smith.
"But then it's apt to be so short," said Sir Raffle Buffle. Now it had once happened in the life of Mr Harold Smith that he had been in a Ministry, but, unfortunately, that Ministry had gone out almost within a week of the time of Mr Smith's adhesion. Sir Raffle and Mr Smith had known each other for many years, and were accustomed to make civil little speeches to each other in society.
"I'd sooner be a horse in a mill than have to go to an office every day," said Mrs Smith, coming to her husband's assistance. "You, Sir Raffle, have kept yourself fresh and pleasant through it all; but who besides you ever did?"
"I hope I am fresh," said Sir Raffle; "and as for pleasantness, I will leave that for you to determine."
"There can be but one opinion," said Mrs Thorne.
The conversation had strayed away from John Eames, and Lily was disappointed. It was a pleasure to her when people talked of him in her hearing, and as a question or two had been asked about him, making him the hero of the moment, it seemed to her that he was being robbed of his due when the little amenities between Mr and Mrs Harold Smith and Sir Raffle banished his name from the circle. Nothing more, however, was said of him at dinner, and I fear that he would have been altogether forgotten throughout the evening, had not Lily herself referred,—not to him, which she could not possibly have been induced to do,—but to the subject of his journey. "I wonder whether poor Mr Crawley will be found guilty?" she said to Sir Raffle up in the drawing-room.
"I am afraid he will; I am afraid he will," said Sir Raffle; "and I fear, my dear Miss Dale, that I must go further than that. I fear I must express an opinion that he is guilty."
"Nothing will ever make me think so," said Lily.
"Ladies are always tender-hearted," said Sir Raffle, "and especially young ladies,—and especially pretty young ladies. I do not wonder that such should be your opinion. But you see, Miss Dale, a man of business has to look at these things in a business light. What I want to know is, where did he get the cheque? He is bound to be explicit in answering that before anybody can acquit him."
"That is just what Mr Eames has gone abroad to learn."
"It is very well for Eames to go abroad,—though, upon my word, I don't know whether I should not have given him different advice if I had known how much I was to be tormented by his absence. The thing couldn't have happened at a more unfortunate time;—the Ministry going out, and everything. But, as I was saying, it is all very well for him to do what he can. He is related to them, and is bound to save the honour of his relations if it be possible. I like him for going. I always liked him. As I said to my friend De Guest, 'That young man will make his way.' And I rather fancy that the chance word which I spoke then to my valued old friend was not thrown away in Eames's favour. But, my dear Miss Dale, where did Mr Crawley get that cheque? That's what I want to know. If you can tell me that, then I can tell you whether or no he will be acquitted."
Lily did not feel a strong prepossession in favour of Sir Raffle, in spite of his praise of John Eames. The harsh voice of the man annoyed her, and his egotism offended her. When, much later in the evening, his character came on for discussion between herself and Mrs Thorne and Emily Dunstable, she had not a word to say in his favour. But still she had been pleased to meet him, because he was the man with whom Johnny's life was most specially concerned. I think that a portion of her dislike to him arose from the fact that in continuing the conversation he did not revert to his private secretary, but preferred to regale her with stories of his own doings in wonderful cases which had partaken of interest similar to that which now attached itself to Mr Crawley's case. He had known a man who had stolen a hundred pounds, and had never been found out; and another man who had been arrested for stealing two-and-sixpence which was found afterwards sticking to a bit of butter at the bottom of a plate. Mrs Thorne had heard all this, and had answered him, "Dear me, Sir Raffle," she had said, "what a great many thieves you have had amongst your acquaintance!" This had rather disconcerted him, and then there had been no more talking about Mr Crawley.
It had been arranged on this morning that Mr Dale should return to Allington and leave Lily with Mrs Thorne. Some special need of his presence at home, real or assumed, had arisen, and he had declared that he must shorten his stay in London by about half the intended period. The need would not have been so pressing, probably, had he not felt that Lily would be more comfortable with Mrs Thorne than in his lodgings in Sackville Street. Lily had at first declared that she would return with him, but everybody had protested against this. Emily Dunstable had protested against it very stoutly; Mrs Dale herself had protested against it by letter; and Mrs Thorne's protest had been quite imperious in its nature. "Indeed, my dear, you'll do nothing of the kind. I'm sure your mother wouldn't wish it. I look upon it as quite essential that you and Emily should learn to know each other." "But we do know each other; don't we, Emily?" said Lily. "Not quite well yet," said Emily. Then Lily had laughed, and so the matter was settled. And now, on this present occasion, Mr Dale was at Mrs Thorne's house for the last time. His conscience had been perplexed about Lily's horse, and if anything was to be said it must be said now. The subject was very disagreeable to him, and he was angry with Bernard because Bernard had declined to manage it for him after his own fashion. But he had told himself so often that anything was better than a pecuniary obligation, that he was determined to speak his mind to Mrs Thorne, and to beg her to allow him to have his way. So he waited till the Harold Smiths were gone, and Sir Raffle Buffle, and then, when Lily was apart with Emily,—for Bernard Dale had left them,—he found himself at last alone with Mrs Thorne.
"I can't be too much obliged to you," he said, "for your kindness to my girl."
"Oh, laws, that's nothing," said Mrs Thorne. "We look on her as one of us now."
"I'm sure she is grateful,—very grateful; and so am I. She and Bernard have been brought up so much together that it is very desirable that she should not be unknown to Bernard's wife."
"Exactly,—that's just what I mean. Blood's thicker than water; isn't it? Emily's child, if she has one, will be Lily's cousin."
"Her first-cousin once removed," said the squire, who was accurate in these matters. Then he drew himself up in his seat and compressed his lips together, and prepared himself for his task. It was very disagreeable. Nothing, he thought, could be more disagreeable. "I have a little thing to speak about," he said at last, "which I hope will not offend you."
"Yes; about Lily."
"I'm not very easily offended, and I don't know how I could possibly be offended about her."
"I'm an old-fashioned man, Mrs Thorne, and don't know much about the ways of the world. I have always been down in the country, and maybe I have prejudices. You won't refuse to humour one of them, I hope?"
"You're beginning to frighten me, Mr Dale; what is it?"
"About Lily's horse."
"Lily's horse? What about her horse? I hope he's not vicious?"
"She is riding every day with your niece," said the squire, thinking it best to stick to his own point.
"It will do her all the good in the world," said Mrs Thorne.
"Very likely. I don't doubt it. I do not in the least disapprove her riding. But—"
"But what, Mr Dale?"
"I should be so much obliged if I might be allowed to pay the livery-stable keeper's bill."
"Oh, laws a' mercy."
"I daresay it may sound odd, but as I have a fancy about it, I'm sure you'll gratify me."
"Of course I will. I'll remember it. I'll make it all right with Bernard. Bernard and I have no end of accounts,—or shall have before long,—and we'll make an item of it. Then you can arrange with Bernard afterwards."
Mr Dale as he got up to go away felt that he was beaten, but he did not know how to carry the battle any further on that occasion. He could not take out his purse and put down the cost of the horse on the table. "I will then speak to my nephew about it," he said, very gravely, as he went away. And he did speak to his nephew about it, and even wrote to him more than once. But it was all to no purpose. Mr Potts could not be induced to give a separate bill, and,—so said Bernard,—swore at last that he would furnish no account to anybody for horses that went to Mrs Thorne's door except to Mrs Thorne herself.
That night Lily took leave of her uncle and remained at Mrs Thorne's house. As things were now arranged she would, no doubt, be in London when John Eames returned. If he should find her in town—and she told herself that if she was in town he certainly would find her,—he would, doubtless, repeat to her the offer he had so often made before. She never ventured to tell herself that she doubted as to the answer to be made to him. The two letters were written in the book, and must remain there. But she felt that she would have had more courage for persistency down at Allington than she would be able to summon to her assistance up in London. She knew she would be weak, should she be found by him alone in Mrs Thorne's drawing-room. It would be better for her to make some excuse and go home. She was resolved that she would not become his wife. She could not extricate herself from the dominion of a feeling which she believed to be love for another man. She had given a solemn promise both to her mother and to John Eames that she would not marry that other man; but in doing so she had made a solemn promise to herself that she would not marry John Eames. She had sworn it and would keep her oath. And yet she regretted it! In writing home to her mother the next day, she told Mrs Dale that all the world was speaking well of John Eames,—that John had won for himself a reputation of his own, and was known far and wide to be a noble fellow. She could not keep herself from praising John Eames, though she knew that such praise might, and would, be used against her at some future time. "Though I cannot love him I will give him his due," she said to herself.
"I wish you would make up your mind to have an 'it' for yourself," Emily Dunstable said to her again that night; "a nice 'it', so that I could make a friend, perhaps a brother, of him."
"I shall never have an 'it', if I live to be a hundred," said Lily Dale.
Lily had heard nothing as to the difficulty about her horse, and could therefore enjoy her exercise without the drawback of feeling that her uncle was subjected to an annoyance. She was in the habit of going out every day with Bernard and Emily Dunstable, and their party was generally joined by others who would meet them at Mrs Thorne's house. For Mrs Thorne was a very hospitable woman, and there were many who liked well enough to go to her house. Late in the afternoon there would be a great congregation of horses before the door,—sometimes as many as a dozen; and then the cavalcade would go off into the Park, and there it would become scattered. As neither Bernard nor Miss Dunstable were unconscionable lovers, Lily in these scatterings did not often find herself neglected or lost. Her cousin would generally remain with her, and as in those days she had no "it" of her own she was well pleased that he should do so.
But it so happened that on a certain afternoon she found herself riding in Rotten Row alone with a certain stout gentleman whom she constantly met at Mrs Thorne's house. His name was Onesiphorus Dunn, and he was actually called Siph by his intimate friends. It had seemed to Lily that everybody was an intimate friend of Mr Dunn's, and she was in daily fear lest she should make a mistake and call him Siph herself. Had she done so it would not have mattered in the least. Mr Dunn, had he observed it at all, would neither have been flattered or angry. A great many young ladies about London did call him Siph, and to him it was quite natural that they should do so. He was an Irishman, living on the best of everything in the world, with apparently no fortune of his own, and certainly never earning anything. Everybody liked him, and it was admitted on all sides that there was no safer friend in the world, either for young ladies or young men, than Mr Onesiphorus Dunn. He did not borrow money, and he did not encroach. He did like being asked out to dinner, and he did think that they to whom he gave the light of his countenance in town owed him the return of a week's run in the country. He neither shot, nor hunted nor fished, nor read, and yet he was never in the way in any house. He did play billiards, and whist, and croquet—very badly. He was a good judge of wine, and would occasionally condescend to look after the bottling of it on behalf of some very intimate friend. He was a great friend of Mrs Thorne's, with whom he always spent ten days in the autumn at Chaldicotes.
Bernard and Emily were not insatiable lovers, but nevertheless, Mrs Thorne had thought it proper to provide a fourth in the riding-parties, and had put Mr Dunn upon this duty. "Don't bother yourself about it, Siph," she had said; "only if those lovers should go off philandering out of sight, our little country lassie might find herself to be nowhere in the Park." Siph had promised to make himself useful, and had done so. There had generally been so large a number in their party that the work imposed on Mr Dunn had been very light. Lily had never found out that he had been especially consigned to her as her own cavalier, but had seen quite enough of him to be aware that he was a pleasant companion. To her, thinking, as she ever was thinking, about Johnny Eames, Siph was much more agreeable than might have been a younger man who would have endeavoured to make her think about himself.
Thus when she found herself riding alone in Rotten Row with Siph Dunn, she was neither disconcerted nor displeased. He had been talking to her about Lord De Guest, whom he had known,—for Siph knew everybody,—and Lily had begun to wonder whether he knew John Eames. She would have liked to hear the opinion of such a man about John Eames. She was making up her mind that she would say something about the Crawley matter,—not intending of course to mention John Eames's name,—when suddenly her tongue was paralysed and she could not speak. At that moment they were standing near a corner, where a turning path made an angle in the iron rails, Mr Dunn having proposed that they should wait there for a few minutes before they returned home, as it was probable that Bernard and Miss Dunstable might come up. They had been there for some five or ten minutes, and Lily had asked her first question about the Crawleys,—inquiring of Mr Dunn whether he had heard of a terrible accusation which had been made against a clergyman in Barsetshire,—when on a sudden her tongue was paralysed. As they were standing, Lily's horse was turned towards the diverging path, whereas Mr Dun was looking the other way, towards Achilles and Apsley house. Mr Dunn was nearer to the railings, but though they were thus looking different ways they were so placed that each could see the face of the other. Then, on a sudden, coming slowly towards her along the diverging path and leaning on the arm of another man, she saw—Adolphus Crosbie.
She had never seen him since a day on which she had parted from him with many kisses,—with warm, pressing, eager kisses,—of which she had been nowhat ashamed. He had then been to her almost as her husband. She had trusted him entirely, and had thrown herself into his arms with full reliance. There is often much of reticence on the part of a woman towards a man to whom she is engaged, something also of shamefacedness occasionally. There exists a shadow of doubt, at least of that hesitation which shows that in spite of vows the woman knows that a change may come, and that provision for such possible steps backward should always be within her reach. But Lily had cast all such caution to the winds. She had given herself to the man entirely, and had determined that she would sink or swim, stand or fall, live or die, by him and by his truth. He had been as false as hell. She had been in his arms, clinging to him, kissing him, swearing that her only pleasure in the world was to be with him,—with him, her treasure, her promised husband; and within a month, a week, he had been false to her. There had come upon her crushing tidings, and she had for days wondered at herself that they had not killed her. But she had lived, and had forgiven him. She had still loved him, and had received new offers from him, which had been answered as the reader knows. But she had never seen him since the day on which she had parted from him at Allington, without a doubt as to his faith. Now he was before her, walking on the footpath, almost within reach of her whip.
He did not recognise her, but as he passed on he did recognise Mr Onesiphorus Dunn, and stopped to speak to him. Or it might have been that Crosbie's friend Fowler Pratt stopped with this special object,—for Siph Dunn was an intimate friend of Fowler Pratt's. Crosbie and Siph were also acquainted, but in those days Crosbie did not care much for stopping his friends in the Park or elsewhere. He had become moody and discontented, and was generally seen going about the world alone. On this special occasion he was having a little special conversation about money with his very old friend Fowler Pratt.
"What, Siph, is this you? You're always on horseback now," said Fowler Pratt.
"Well, yes; I have gone in a good deal for cavalry work this last month. I've been lucky enough to have a young lady to ride with me." This he said in a whisper, which the distance of Lily justified. "How d'ye do, Crosbie? One doesn't often see you on horseback, or on foot either."
"I've something to do besides going to look or to be looked at," said Crosbie. Then he raised his eyes and saw Lily's side-face, and recognised her. Had he seen her before he had been stopped on his way I think he would have passed on, endeavouring to escape observation. But as it was, his feet had been arrested before he knew of her close vicinity, and now it would seem that he was afraid of her, and was flying from her, were he at once to walk off, leaving his friend behind him. And he knew that she had seen him, and had recognised him, and was now suffering from his presence. He could not but perceive that it was so from the fixedness of her face, and from the constrained manner in which she gazed before her. His friend Fowler Pratt had never seen Miss Dale, though he knew very much of her history. Siph Dunn knew nothing of the history of Crosbie and his love, and was unaware that he and Lily had ever seen each other. There was thus no help near her to extricate her from her difficulty.
"When a man has any work to do in the world," said Siph, "he always boasts of it to his acquaintance, and curses his luck to himself. I have nothing to do and can go about to see and be seen;—and I must own that I like it."
Crosbie was still looking at Lily. He could not help himself. He could not take his eyes from off her. He could see that she was as pretty as ever, that she was but very little altered. She was, in truth, somewhat stouter than in the old days, but of that he took no special notice. Should he speak to her? Should he try to catch her eye and then raise his hat? Should he go up to her horse's head boldly, and ask her to let bygones be bygones? He had an idea that of all courses which he could pursue that was the one which she would approve the best,—which would be most efficacious for him, if with her anything from him might have any efficacy. But he could not do it. He did not know what words he might best use. Would it become him humbly to sue to her for pardon? Or should he strive to express his unaltered love by some tone of his voice? Or should he simply ask her after her health? He made one step towards her, and he saw that the face became more rigid and more fixed than before, and then he desisted. He told himself that he was simply hateful to her. He thought that he could perceive that there was no tenderness mixed with her unabated anger.
At this moment Bernard Dale and Emily came close upon him, and Bernard saw him at once. It was through Bernard that Lily and Crosbie had come to know each other. He and Bernard Dale had been fast friends in old times, and had, of course, been bitter enemies since the day of Crosbie's treachery. They had never spoken since, though they had often seen each other, and Dale was not at all disposed to speak to him now. The moment that he recognised Crosbie he looked across to his cousin. For an instant, an idea flashed across him that he was there by her permission,—with her assent; but it required no second glance to show him that this was not the case. "Dunn," he said, "I think we will ride on," and he put his horse into a trot. Siph, whose ear was very accurate, and who knew that something was wrong, trotted on with him, and Lily, of course, was not left behind. "Is there anything the matter?" said Emily to her lover.
"Nothing specially the matter," he replied; "but you were standing in company with the greatest blackguard that every lived, and I thought we had better change our ground."
"Bernard!" said Lily, flashing on him with all the fire which her eyes could command. Then she remembered that she could not reprimand him for the offence of such abuse in such a company; so she reined in her horse and fell a-weeping.
Siph Dunn, with his wicked cleverness, knew the whole story at once, remembering that he had once heard something of Crosbie having behaved very ill to some one before he married Lady Alexandra De Courcy. He stopped his horse also, falling a little behind Lily, so that he might not be supposed to have seen her tears, and began to hum a tune. Emily also, though not wickedly clever, understood something of it. "If Bernard says anything to make you angry, I will scold him," she said. Then the two girls rode on together in front, while Bernard fell back with Siph Dunn.
"Pratt," said Crosbie, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder as soon as the party had ridden out of hearing, "do you see that girl there in the dark blue habit?"
"What, the one nearest to the path?"
"Yes; the one nearest to the path. That is Lily Dale."
"Lily Dale!" said Fowler Pratt.
"Yes; that is Lily Dale."
"Did you speak to her?" Pratt asked.
"No; she gave me no chance. She was there but a moment. But it was herself. It seems so odd to me that I should have been thus so near her again." If there was any man to whom Crosbie could have spoken freely about Lily Dale it was this man, Fowler Pratt. Pratt was the oldest friend he had in the world, and it had happened that when he first woke to the misery that he had prepared for himself in throwing over Lily and betrothing himself to his late wife, Pratt had been the first person to whom he had communicated his sorrow. Not that he had ever been really open in his communications. It was not given to such men as Crosbie to speak openly of themselves to their friends. Nor, indeed, was Fowler Pratt one who was fond of listening to such tales. He had no such tales to tell of himself, and he thought that men and women should go through the world quietly, not subjecting themselves or their acquaintances to anxieties and emotions from peculiar conduct. But he was conscientious, and courageous also as well as prudent, and he had dared to tell Crosbie that he was behaving very badly. He had spoken his mind plainly, and had then given all the assistance in his power.
He paused a moment before he replied, weighing, like a prudent man, the force of the words he was about to utter. "It is much better as it is," he said. "It is much better that you should be as strangers for the future."
"I do not see that at all," said Crosbie. They were both leaning on the rails, and so they remained for the next twenty minutes. "I do not see that at all."
"I feel sure of it. What could come of any renewed intercourse,—even if she would allow it?"
"I might make her my wife."
"And do you think that you would be happy with her, or she with you, after what has passed?"
"I do think so."
"I do not. It might be possible that she could bring herself to marry you. Women delight to forgive injuries. They like the excitement of generosity. But she could never forget that you had a former wife, or the circumstances under which you were married. And as for yourself, you would regret it after the first month. How could you ever speak to her of your love without speaking also of your shame? If a man does marry he should at least be able to hold up his head before his wife."
This was very severe, but Crosbie showed no anger. "I think I should do so," he said,—"after a while."
"And then, about money? Of course you would have to tell her everything."
"It is like enough that she might not regard that,—except that she would feel that if you could not afford to marry her when you were unembarrassed, you can hardly afford to do so when you are over head and ears in debt."
"She has money now."
"After all that has come and gone you would hardly seek Lily Dale because you want to marry a fortune."
"You are too hard on me, Pratt. You know that my only reason for seeking her is that I love her."
"I do not mean to be hard. But I have a very strong opinion that the quarrels of lovers, when they are of so very serious a nature, are a bad basis for the renewal of love. Come, let us go and dress for dinner. I am going to dine with Mrs Thorne, the millionaire, who married a country doctor, and who used to be called Miss Dunstable."
"I never dine out anywhere now," said Crosbie. And then they walked out of the Park together. Neither of them, of course, knew that Lily Dale was staying at the house at which Fowler Pratt was going to dine.
Lily, as she rode home, did not speak a word. She would have given worlds to be able to talk, but she could not even make a beginning. She heard Bernard and Siph Dunn chatting behind her, and hoped that they would continue to do so till she was safe within the house. They all used her well, for no one tried to draw her into conversation. Once Emily said to her, "Shall we trot a little, Lily?" And then they moved on quickly, and the misery was soon over. As soon as she was upstairs in the house she got Emily by herself, and explained all the mystery in a word or two. "I fear I have made a fool of myself. That was the man to whom I was once engaged." "What, Mr Crosbie?" said Emily, who had heard the whole story from Bernard. "Yes, Mr Crosbie; pray, do not say a word of it to anybody,—not even to your aunt. I am better now, but I was such a fool. No, dear; I won't go into the drawing-room. I'll go upstairs, and come down ready for dinner."
When she was alone she sat down in her habit, and declared to herself that she certainly would never become the wife of Mr Crosbie. I do not know why she should make such a declaration. She had promised her mother and John Eames that she would not do so, and that promise would certainly have bound her without any further resolutions on her own part. But, to tell the truth, the vision of the man had disenchanted her. When last she had seen him he had been as it were a god to her; and though, since that day, his conduct to her had been as ungodlike as it well might be, still the memory of the outward signs of his divinity had remained with her. It is difficult to explain how it had come to pass that the glimpse which she had had of him should have altered so much within her mind;—why she should so suddenly have come to regard him in an altered light. It was not simply that he looked to be older, and because his face was careworn. It was not only that he had lost that look of an Apollo which Lily had once in her mirth attributed to him. I think it was chiefly that she herself was older, and could no longer see a god in such a man. She had never regarded John Eames as being gifted with divinity, and had therefore always been making comparisons to his discredit. Any such comparison now would tend quite the other way. Nevertheless she would adhere to the two letters in her book. Since she had seen Mr Crosbie she was altogether out of love with the prospect of matrimony.
She was in the room when Mr Pratt was announced, and she at once recognised him as the man who had been with Crosbie. And when, some minutes afterwards, Siph Dunn came into the room, she could see that in their greeting allusion was made to the scene in the Park. But still it was probable that this man would not recognise her, and, if he did so, what would it matter? There were twenty people to sit down to dinner, and the chances were that she would not be called upon to exchange a word with Mr Pratt. She had now recovered herself, and could speak freely to her friend Siph, and when Siph came and stood near her she thanked him graciously for his escort in the Park. "If it wasn't for you, Mr Dunn, I really think I should not get any riding at all. Bernard and Miss Dunstable have only one thing to think about, and certainly I am not that one thing." She thought it probable that if she could keep Siph close to her, Mrs Thorne, who always managed those things herself, might apportion her out to be led to dinner by her good-natured friend. But the fates were averse. The time had now come, and Lily was waiting her turn. "Mr Fowler Pratt, let me introduce you to Miss Lily Dale," said Mrs Thorne. Lily could perceive that Mr Pratt was startled. The sign he gave was the least possible sign in the world; but still it sufficed for Lily to perceive it. She put her hand upon his arm, and walked down with him to the dining-room without giving him the slightest cause to suppose that she knew who he was.
"I think I saw you in the Park riding?" he said.
"Yes, I was there; we go nearly every day."
"I never ride; I was walking."
"It seems to me that the people don't go there to walk, but to stand still," said Lily. "I cannot understand how so many people can bear to loiter about in that way—leaning on the rails and doing nothing."
"It is about as good as the riding, and costs less money. That is all that can be said for it. Do you live chiefly in town?"
"Oh, dear no; I live altogether in the country. I'm only up here because a cousin is going to be married."
"Captain Dale, you mean—to Miss Dunstable?" said Fowler Pratt.
"When they have been joined together in holy matrimony, I shall go down to the country, and never, I suppose, come up to London again."
"You do not like London?"
"Not as a residence, I think," said Lily. "But of course one's likings and dislikings on such a matter depend on circumstances. I live with my mother, and all my relatives live near us. Of course I like the country best, because they are there."
"Young ladies so often have a different way of looking at this subject. I shouldn't wonder if Miss Dunstable's views about it were altogether of another sort. Young ladies generally expect to be taken away from their fathers and mothers, and uncles and aunts."
"But you see I expect to be left with mine," said Lily. After that she turned as much away from Mr Fowler Pratt as she could, having taken an aversion to him. What business had he to talk to her about being taken away from her uncles and aunts? She had seen him with Mr Crosbie, and it might be possible that they were intimate friends. It might be that Mr Pratt was asking questions in Mr Crosbie's interest. Let that be as it might, she would answer no more questions from him further than ordinary good breeding should require of her.
"She is a nice girl, certainly," said Fowler Pratt to himself, as he walked home, "and I have no doubt would make a good, ordinary, everyday wife. But she is not such a paragon that a man should condescend to grovel in the dirt for her."
That night Lily told Emily Dunstable the whole of Mr Crosbie's history as far as she knew it, and also explained her new aversion to Mr Fowler Pratt. "They are very great friends," said Emily. "Bernard has told me so; and you may be sure that Mr Pratt knew the whole history before he came here. I am so sorry that my aunt asked him."
"It does not signify in the least," said Lily. "Even if I were to meet Mr Crosbie I don't think I should make such a fool of myself again. As it is, I can only hope he did not see it."
"I am sure he did not."
Then there was a pause, during which Lily sat with her face resting on both her hands. "It is wonderful how much he is altered," she said at last.
"Think how much he has suffered."
"I suppose I am altered as much, only I do not see it in myself."
"I don't know what you were, but I don't think you can have changed much. You no doubt have suffered too, but not as he has done."
"Oh, as for that, I have done very well. I think I'll go to bed now. The riding makes me so sleepy."
The Clerical Commission
It was at last arranged that the five clergymen selected should meet at Dr Tempest's house at Silverbridge to make inquiry and report to the bishop whether the circumstances connected with the cheque for twenty pounds were of such a nature as to make it incumbent on him to institute proceedings against Mr Crawley in the Court of Arches. Dr Tempest had acted upon the letter which he had received from the bishop, exactly as though there had been no meeting at the palace, no quarrel to the death between him and Mrs Proudie. He was a prudent man, gifted with the great power of holding his tongue, and had not spoken a word, even to his wife, of what had occurred. After such a victory our old friend the archdeacon would have blown his own trumpet loudly among his friends. Plumstead would have heard of it instantly, and the paean would have been sung out in the neighbouring parishes of Eiderdown, Stogpingum, and St Ewolds. The High Street of Barchester would have known of it, and the very bedesmen in Hiram's Hospital would have told among themselves the terrible discomfiture of the bishop and his lady. But Dr Tempest spoke no word of it to anybody. He wrote letters to the two clergymen named by the bishop, and himself selected two others out of his own rural deanery, and suggested to them all a day at which a preliminary meeting should be held at his own house. The two who were invited by him were Mr Oriel, the rector of Greshamsbury, and Mr Robarts, the vicar of Framley. They all assented to the proposition, and on the day named assembled themselves at Silverbridge.
It was now April, and the judges were to come into Barchester before the end of the month. What then could be the use of this ecclesiastical inquiry exactly at the same time? Men and women declared that it was a double prosecution, and that a double prosecution for the same offence was a course of action opposed to the feelings and traditions of the country. Miss Anne Prettyman went so far as to say that it was unconstitutional, and Mary Walker declared that no human being except Mrs Proudie would ever have been guilty of such cruelty. "Don't tell me about the bishop, John," she said, "the bishop is a cypher." "You may be sure Dr Tempest would not have a hand in it if it were not right," said John Walker. "My dear Mr John," said Miss Anne Prettyman, "Dr Tempest is as hard as a bar of iron, and always was. But I am surprised that Mr Robarts should take a part in it."
In the meantime, at the palace, Mrs Proudie had been reduced to learn what was going on from Mr Thumble. The bishop had never spoken a word to her respecting Mr Crawley since that terrible day on which Dr Tempest had witnessed his imbecility,—having absolutely declined to answer when his wife had mentioned the subject. "You won't speak to me about it, my dear?" she had said to him, when he had thus declined, remonstrating more in sorrow than in anger. "No; I won't," the bishop had replied; "there has been a great deal too much talking about it. It has broken my heart already, I know." These were very bad days in the palace. Mrs Proudie affected to be satisfied with what was being done. She talked to Mr Thumble about Mr Crawley and the cheque, as though everything were arranged quite to her satisfaction,—as though everything, indeed, had been arranged by herself. But everybody about the house could see that the manner of the woman was altogether altered. She was milder than usual with the servants and was almost too gentle in her usage of her husband. It seemed as though something had happened to frighten her and break her spirit, and it was whispered about through the palace that she was afraid that the bishop was dying. As for him, he hardly left his own sitting-room in these days, except when he joined the family at breakfast and at dinner. And in his study he did little or nothing. He would smile when his chaplain went to him, and give some trifling verbal directions; but for days he scarcely ever took a pen in his hands, and though he took up many books he read hardly a page. How often he told his wife in those days that he was broken-hearted, no one but his wife ever knew.
"What has happened that you should speak like that?" she said to him once. "What has broken your heart?"
"You," he replied. "You; you have done it."
"Oh, Tom," she said, going back into the memory of very far distant days in her nomenclature, "how can you speak to me so cruelly as that! That it should come to that between you and me, after all!"
"Why did you not go away and leave me that day when I told you?"
"Did you ever know a woman who liked to be turned out of a room in her own house?" said Mrs Proudie. When Mrs Proudie had condescended so far as this, it must be admitted that in those days there was a great deal of trouble in the palace.
Mr Thumble, on the day before he went to Silverbridge, asked for an audience with the bishop in order that he might receive instructions. He had been strictly desired to do this by Mrs Proudie, and had not dared to disobey her injunctions,—thinking, however, himself, that his doing so was inexpedient. "I have got nothing to say to you about it; not a word," said the bishop crossly. "I thought that perhaps you might like to see me before I started," pleaded Mr Thumble very humbly. "I don't want to see you at all," said the bishop; "you are going there to exercise your own judgment,—if you have got any; and you ought not to come to me." After that Mr Thumble began to think that Mrs Proudie was right, and that the bishop was near his dissolution.
Mr Thumble and Mr Quiverful went over to Silverbridge together in a gig, hired from the Dragon of Wantly—as to the cost of which there arose among them a not unnatural apprehension which amounted at last almost to dismay. "I don't mind it so much for once," said Mr Quiverful, "but if many such meetings are necessary, I for one can't afford it, and I won't do it. A man with my family can't allow himself to be money out of pocket in that way." "It is hard," said Mr Thumble. "She ought to pay it herself, out of her own pocket," said Mr Quiverful. He had had many concerns with the palace when Mrs Proudie was in the full swing of her dominion, and had not as yet begun to suspect that there might possibly be change.
Mr Oriel and Mr Robarts were already sitting with Dr Tempest when the other two clergymen were shown into the room. When the first greetings were over luncheon was announced, and while they were eating not a word was said about Mr Crawley. The ladies of the family were not present, and the five clergymen sat round the table alone. It would have been difficult to have got together five gentlemen less likely to act with one mind and one spirit;—and perhaps it was all the better for Mr Crawley that it should be so. Dr Tempest himself was a man peculiarly capable of exercising the functions of a judge in such a matter, had he sat alone as a judge; but he was one who would be almost sure to differ from others who sat as equal assessors with him. Mr Oriel was a gentleman at all points; but he was very shy, very reticent, and altogether uninstructed in the ordinary daily intercourse of man with man. Any one knowing him might have predicted of him that he would be sure on such an occasion as this to be found floundering in a sea of doubts. Mr Quiverful was the father of a large family, whose life had been devoted to fighting a cruel world on behalf of his wife and children. That fight he had fought bravely; but it had left him no energy for any other business. Mr Thumble was a poor creature,—so poor a creature that, in spite of a small restless ambition to be doing something, he was almost cowed by the hard lines of Dr Tempest's brow. The Rev Mark Robarts was a man of the world, and a clever fellow, and did not stand in awe of anybody,—unless it might be, in a very moderate degree, of his patrons the Luftons, whom he was bound to respect; but his cleverness was not the cleverness needed by a judge. He was essentially a partisan, and would be sure to vote against the bishop in such a matter as this now before him. There was a palace faction in the diocese, and an anti-palace faction. Mr Thumble and Mr Quiverful belonged to one, and Mr Oriel and Mr Robarts to the other. Mr Thumble was too weak to stick to his faction against the strength of such a man as Dr Tempest. Mr Quiverful would be too indifferent to do so,—unless his interest was concerned. Mr Oriel would be too conscientious to regard his own side on such an occasion as this. But Mark Robarts would be sure to support his friends and oppose his enemies, let the case be what it might. "Now, gentlemen, if you please, we will go into the other room," said Dr Tempest. They went into the other room, and there they found five chairs arranged for them round the table. Not a word had as yet been said about Mr Crawley, and no one of the four strangers knew whether Mr Crawley was to appear before them on that day or not.
"Gentlemen," said Dr Tempest, seating himself at once in an arm-chair placed at the middle of the table, "I think it will be well to explain to you at first what, as I regard the matter, is the extent of the work which we are called upon to perform. It is of its nature very disagreeable. It cannot but be so, let it be ever so limited. Here is a brother clergyman and a gentleman, living among us, and doing his duty, as we are told, in a most exemplary manner; and suddenly we hear that he is accused of theft. The matter is brought before the magistrates, of whom I myself was one, and he was committed for trial. There is therefore prima facie evidence of his guilt. But I do not think that we need go into the question of his guilt at all." When he said this, the other four all looked up at him in astonishment. "I thought that we had been summoned here for that purpose," said Mr Robarts. "Not at all, as I take it," said the doctor. "Were we to commence any such inquiry, the jury would have given their verdict before we could come to any conclusion; and it would be impossible for us to oppose that verdict, whether it declares this unfortunate gentleman to be innocent or to be guilty. If the jury shall say that he is innocent, there is an end of the matter altogether. He would go back to his parish amidst the sympathy and congratulations of his friends. That is what we should all wish."
"Of course it is," said Mr Robarts. They all declared that was their desire, as a matter of course; and Mr Thumble said it louder than any one else.
"But if he be found guilty, then will come that difficulty to the bishop, in which we are bound to give him any assistance within our power."
"Of course we are," said Mr Thumble, who, having heard his own voice once, and having liked the sound, thought that he might creep into a little importance by using it on any occasion that opened itself for him.
"If you will allow me, sir, I will venture to state my views as shortly as I can," said Dr Tempest. "That may perhaps be the most expeditious course for us all in the end."
"Oh, certainly," said Mr Thumble. "I didn't mean to interrupt."
"In the case of his being found guilty," continued the doctor, "there will arise the question whether the punishment awarded to him by the judge should suffice for ecclesiastical purposes. Suppose, for instance, that he should be imprisoned for two months, should he be allowed to return to his living at the expiration of that term?"
"I think he ought," said Mr Robarts:—"considering all things."
"I don't see why he shouldn't," said Mr Quiverful.
Mr Oriel sat listening patiently, and Mr Thumble looked up to the doctor, expecting to hear some opinion expressed by him with which he might coincide.
"There certainly are reasons why he should not," said Dr Tempest; "though I by no means say that those reasons are conclusive in the present case. In the first place, a man who has stolen money can hardly be a fitting person to teach others not to steal."
"You must look to the circumstances," said Robarts.
"Yes, that is true; but just bear with me a moment. It cannot, at any rate, be thought that a clergyman should come out of prison and go to his living without any notice from his bishop, simply because he has already been punished under the common law. If this were so, a clergyman might be fined ten days running for being drunk in the street,—five shillings each time,—and at the end of that time might set his bishop at defiance. When a clergyman has shown himself to be utterly unfit for clerical duties, he must not be held to be protected from ecclesiastical censure or from deprivation by the action of the common law."
"But Mr Crawley has not shown himself to be unfit," said Robarts.
"That is begging the question, Robarts," said the doctor.
"Just so," said Mr Thumble. Then Mr Robarts gave a look at Mr Thumble, and Mr Thumble retired into his shoes.
"That is the question as to which we are called upon to advise the bishop," continued Dr Tempest. "And I must say that I think the bishop is right. If he were to allow the matter to pass by without notice,—that is to say, in the event of Mr Crawley being pronounced guilty by a jury,—he would, I think, neglect in his duty. Now I have been informed that the bishop has recommended Mr Crawley to desist from his duties till the trial be over, and that Mr Crawley has declined to take the bishop's advice."
"That is true," said Mr Thumble. "He altogether disregarded the bishop."
"I cannot say that I think he was wrong," said Dr Tempest.
"I think he was quite right," said Mr Robarts.
"A bishop in almost all cases is entitled to the obedience of his clergy," said Mr Oriel.
"I must say that I agree with you, sir," said Mr Thumble.
"The income is not large, and I suppose that it would have gone with the duties," said Mr Quiverful. "It is very hard for a man with a family to live when his income has been stopped."
"Be that as it may," continued the doctor, "the bishop feels that it may be his duty to oppose the return of Mr Crawley to his pulpit, and that he can oppose it in no other way than by proceeding against Mr Crawley under the Clerical Offences Act. I propose, therefore, that we should invite Mr Crawley to attend here—"
"Mr Crawley is not coming here to-day, then?" said Mr Robarts.
"I thought it useless to ask for his attendance until we had settled on our course of action," said Dr Tempest. "If we are all agreed, I will beg him to come here on this day week, when we will meet again. And we will then ask him whether he will submit himself to the bishop's decision, in the event of the jury finding him guilty. If he should decline to do so, we can only then form our opinion as to what will be the bishop's duty by reference to the facts as they are elicited at the trial. If Mr Crawley should choose to make to us any statement as to his own case, of course we shall be willing to receive it. That is my idea of what had better be done; and now, if any gentleman has any other proposition to make, of course we shall be pleased to hear him." Dr Tempest, as he said this, looked round upon his companions, as though his pleasure, under the circumstances suggested by himself, would be very doubtful.
"I don't suppose we can do anything better," said Mr Robarts. "I think it a pity, however, that any steps should have been taken by the bishop before the trial."
"The bishop has been placed in a very delicate position," said Mr Thumble, pleading for his patron.
"I don't know the meaning of the word 'delicate'," said Robarts. "I think his duty was very clear, to avoid interference whilst the matter is, so to say, before the judge."
"Nobody has anything else to propose?" said Dr Tempest. "Then I will write to Mr Crawley and you, gentlemen, will perhaps do me the honour of meeting me here at one o'clock on this day week." Then the meeting was over, and the four clergymen having shaken hands with Dr Tempest in the hall, all promised that they would return on that day week. So far, Dr Tempest had carried his point exactly as he might have done had the four gentlemen been represented by the chairs on which they had sat.
"I shan't come again, all the same, unless I know where I'm to get my expenses," said Mr Quiverful, as he got into the gig.
"I shall come," said Mr Thumble, "because I think it a duty. Of course it is a hardship." Mr Thumble liked the idea of being joined with such men as Dr Tempest, and Mr Oriel, and Mr Robarts, and would any day have paid the expense of a gig from Barchester to Silverbridge out of his own pocket, for the sake of sitting with such benchfellows on any clerical inquiry.
"One's first duty is to one's own wife and family," said Mr Quiverful.
"Well, yes; in a way, of course, that is quite true, Mr Quiverful; and when we know how very inadequate are the incomes of the working clergy, we cannot but feel ourselves to be, if I may so say, put upon, when we have to defray the expenses incidental to special duties out of our own pockets. I think, you know,—I don't mind saying this to you,—that the palace should have provided us with a chaise and pair." This was ungrateful on the part of Mr Thumble, who had been permitted to ride miles upon miles to various outlying clerical duties upon the bishop's worn-out cob. "You see," continued Mr Thumble, "you and I go specially to represent the palace, and the palace ought to remember that. I think there ought to have been a chaise and pair; I do indeed."
"I don't care much what the conveyance is," said Mr Quiverful; "but I certainly shall pay nothing more out of my own pocket;—certainly I shall not."
"The result will be that the palace will be thrown over if they don't take care," said Mr Thumble. "Tempest, however, seems to be pretty steady. Tempest, I think, is steady. You see he is getting tired of parish work, and would like to go into the close. That's what he is looking out for. Did you ever see such a fellow as that Robarts,—just look at him;—quite indecent, wasn't he? He thinks he can have his own way in everything, just because his sister married a lord. I do hate to see all that meanness."
Mark Robarts and Caleb Oriel left Silverbridge in another gig by the same road, and soon passed their brethren, as Mr Robarts was in the habit of driving a large, quick-stepping horse. The last remarks were being made as the dust from the vicar of Framley's wheels saluted the faces of the two slower clergymen. Mr Oriel had promised to dine and sleep at Framley, and therefore returned in Mr Robarts's gig.
"Quite unnecessary, all this fuss; don't you think so?" said Mr Robarts.
"I am not quite sure," said Mr Oriel. "I can understand that the bishop may have found a difficulty."
"The bishop indeed! The bishop doesn't care two straws about it. It's Mrs Proudie! She has put her finger on the poor man's neck because he has not put his neck beneath her feet; and now she thinks she can crush him,—as she would crush you or me, if it were in her power. That's about the long and the short of the bishop's solicitude."
"You are very hard on him," said Mr Oriel.
"I know him;—and am not all hard on him. She is hard upon him if you like. Tempest is fair. He is very fair, and as long as no one meddles with him he won't do amiss. I can't hold my tongue always, but I often know that it is better that I should."
Dr Tempest said not a word to any one on the subject, not even in his own defence. And yet he was sorely tempted. On the very day of the meeting he dined at Mr Walker's in Silverbridge, and there submitted to be talked to by all the ladies and most of the gentlemen present, without saying a word in his own defence. And yet a word or two would have been so easy and so conclusive.
"Oh, Dr Tempest," said Mary Walker, "I am so sorry that you have joined the bishop."
"Are you, my dear?" said he. "It is generally thought well that a parish clergyman should agree with his bishop."
"But you know, Dr Tempest, that you don't agree with your bishop generally."
"Then it is the more fortunate that I shall be able to agree with him on this occasion."
Major Grantly was present at the dinner, and ventured to ask the doctor in the course of the evening what he thought would be done. "I should not venture to ask such a question, Dr Tempest," he said, "unless I had the strongest possible reason to justify my anxiety."
"I don't know that I can tell you anything, Major Grantly," said the doctor. "We did not even see Mr Crawley to-day. But the real truth is that he must stand or fall as the jury shall find him guilty or not guilty. It would be the same in any profession. Could a captain in the army hold up his head in his regiment after he had been tried and found guilty of stealing twenty pounds?"
"I don't think he could," said the major.
"Neither can a clergyman," said the doctor. "The bishop can neither make him nor mar him. It is the jury that must do it."
At this time Grace Crawley was at Framley Parsonage. Old Lady Lufton's strategy had been quite intelligible, but some people said that in point of etiquette and judgment and moral conduct, it was indefensible. Her vicar, Mr Robarts, had been selected to be one of the clergymen who was to sit in ecclesiastical judgment upon Mr Crawley, and while he was so sitting Mr Crawley's daughter was staying in Mr Robarts's house as a visitor with his wife. It might be that there was no harm in this. Lady Lufton, when the apparent impropriety was pointed out to her by no less a person than Archdeacon Grantly, ridiculed the idea. "My dear archdeacon," Lady Lufton had said, "we all know the bishop to be such a fool and the bishop's wife to be such a knave, that we cannot allow ourselves to be governed in this matter by ordinary rules. Do you not think that it is expedient to show how utterly we disregard his judgment and her malice?" The archdeacon had hesitated much before he spoke to Lady Lufton, whether he should address himself to her or to Mr Robarts,—or indeed to Mrs Robarts. But he had become aware that the proposition as to the visit had originated with Lady Lufton, and he had therefore decided on speaking to her. He had not condescended to say a word as to his son, nor would he so condescend. Nor could he go from Lady Lufton to Mr Robarts, having once failed with her ladyship. Indeed, in giving him his due, we must acknowledge that his disapprobation of Lady Lufton's strategy arose rather from his true conviction as to its impropriety, than from any fear lest this attention paid to Miss Crawley should tend to bring about her marriage with his son. By this time he hated the very name of Crawley. He hated it the more because in hating it he had put himself for the time on the same side with Mrs Proudie. But for all that he would not condescend to any unworthy mode of fighting. He thought it wrong that the young lady should be invited to Framley Parsonage at this moment, and he said so to the person who had, as he thought, in truth, given the invitation; but he would not allow his own personal motives to induce him to carry on the argument with Lady Lufton. "The bishop is a fool," he said, "and the bishop's wife is a knave. Nevertheless I would not have had the young lady over to Framley at this moment. If, however, you think it right and Robarts thinks it right, there is an end of it."
"Upon my word we do," said Lady Lufton.
I am induced to think that Mr Robarts was not quite confident of the expediency of what he was doing by the way in which he mentioned to Mr Oriel the fact of Miss Crawley's presence at the parsonage as he drove that gentleman home in his gig. They had been talking about Mr Crawley when he suddenly turned himself round, so that he could look at his companion, and said, "Miss Crawley is staying with us at the parsonage at the present moment."
"What! Mr Crawley's daughter?" said Mr Oriel, showing plainly by his voice that the tidings had much surprised him.
"Yes; Mr Crawley's daughter."
"Oh, indeed. I did not know that you were on those terms with the family."
"We have known them for the last seven or eight years," said Mark; "and though I should be giving you a false notion if I were to say that I myself have known them intimately,—for Crawley is a man whom it is quite impossible to know intimately,—yet the womankind at Framley have known them. My sister stayed with them over at Hogglestock for some time."
"What; Lady Lufton?"
"Yes; my sister Lucy. It was just before her marriage. There was a lot of trouble, and the Crawleys were all ill, and she went to nurse them. And then the old lady took them up, and altogether there came to be a sort of feeling that they were to be regarded as friends. They are always in trouble, and now in this special trouble the women between them have thought it best to have the girl over at Framley. Of course I had a kind of feeling about this commission; but as I knew that it would make no difference with me I did not think it necessary to put my veto upon the visit." Mr Oriel said nothing further, but Mark Robarts was aware that Mr Oriel did not quite approve of the visit.
That morning old Lady Lufton herself had come across to the parsonage with the express view of bidding all the party to come across to the Court to dine. "You can tell Mr Oriel, Fanny, with Lucy's compliments, how delighted she will be to see him." Old Lady Lufton always spoke of her daughter-in-law as the mistress of the house. "If you think he is particular, you know, we will send a note across." Mrs Robarts said that she supposed Mr Oriel would not be particular, but, looking at Grace, made some faint excuse. "You must come, my dear," said Lady Lufton. "Lucy wishes it particularly." Mrs Robarts did not know how to say that she would not come; and so the matter stood,—when Mrs Robarts was called upon to leave the room for a moment, and Lady Lufton and Grace were left alone.
"Dear Lady Lufton," said Grace, getting up suddenly from her chair; "will you do me a favour,—a great favour?" She spoke with an energy which quite surprised the old lady, and caused her almost to start from her seat.
"I don't like making promises," said Lady Lufton; "but anything I can do with propriety, I will."
"You can do this. Pray let me stay here to-day. You don't understand how I feel about going out while papa is in this way. I know how kind and how good you all are; and when dear Mrs Robarts asked me here, and mamma said that I had better come, I could not refuse. But indeed, indeed, I had rather not go out to a dinner-party."
"It is not a party, my dear girl," said Lady Lufton, with the kindest voice which she knew how to assume. "And you must remember that my daughter-in-law regards you as so very old a friend! You remember, of course, when she was staying over at Hogglestock?"
"Indeed I do. I remember it well."
"And therefore you should not regard it as going out. There will be nobody there but ourselves and the people from this house."
"But it will be going out, Lady Lufton; and I do hope you will let me stay here. You cannot think how I feel it. Of course I cannot go without something like dressing—and—and— In poor papa's state I feel that I ought not to do anything that looks like gaiety. I ought never to forget it;—not for a moment."
There was a tear in Lady Lufton's eye as she said,—"My dear, you shan't come. You and Fanny shall stop and dine here by yourselves. The gentlemen shall come."
"Do let Mrs Robarts go, please," said Grace.
"I won't do anything of the kind," said Lady Lufton. Then, when Mrs Robarts returned to the room, her ladyship explained it all in two words. "Whilst you have been away, my dear, Grace has begged off, and therefore we have decided that Mr Oriel and Mr Robarts shall come without you."
"I am so sorry, Mrs Robarts," said Grace.
"Pooh, pooh," said Lady Lufton. "Fanny and I have known each other quite long enough not to stand on any compliments,—haven't we, my dear? I must get home now, as all the morning has gone by. Fanny, my dear, I want to speak to you." Then she expressed her opinion of Grace Crawley as she walked across the parsonage garden with Mrs Robarts. "She is a very nice girl, and a very good girl I am sure; and she shows excellent feeling. Whatever happens we must take care of her. And, Fanny, have you observed how handsome she is?"
"We think her very pretty."
"She is more than pretty when she has a little fire in her eyes. She is downright handsome,—or will be when she fills out a little. I tell you what, my dear; she'll make havoc with somebody yet; you see if she doesn't. By-by. Tell the two gentlemen to be up by seven punctually." And then Lady Lufton went home.
Grace so contrived that Mr Oriel came and went without seeing her. There was a separate nursery breakfast at the parsonage, and by special permission Grace was allowed to have her tea and bread-and-butter on the next morning with the children. "I thought you told me Miss Crawley was here," said Mr Oriel, as the two clergymen stood waiting for the gig that was to take the visitor away to Barchester.
"So she is," said Robarts; "but she likes to hide herself, because of her father's trouble. You can't blame her."
"No, indeed," said Mr Oriel.
"Poor girl. If you knew her you would not only pity her, but like her."
"Is she—what you call—?"
"You mean, is she a lady?"
"Of course she is by birth, and all that," said Mr Oriel, apologising for his inquiry.
"I don't think there is another girl in the county so well educated," said Mr Robarts.
"Indeed! I had no idea of that."
"And we think her a great beauty. As for manners, I never saw a girl with a prettier way of her own."
"Dear me," said Mr Oriel. "I wish she had come down to breakfast."
It will have been perceived that old Lady Lufton had heard nothing of Major Grantly's offence; that she had no knowledge that Grace had already made havoc, as she had called it,—had, in truth, made very sad havoc, at Plumstead. She did not, therefore, think much about it when her own son told her upon her return home from the parsonage on that afternoon that Major Grantly had come over from Cosby Lodge, and that he was going to dine and sleep at Framley Court. Some slight idea of thankfulness came across her mind that she had not betrayed Grace Crawley into a meeting with a stranger. "I asked him to come some day before we went to town," said his lordship; "and I am glad he has come to-day, as two clergymen to one's self are, at any rate, one too many." So Major Grantly dined and slept at the Court.