Barchester Towers - Anthony Trollope
PART ONE: WAR IN BARCHESTER
The new bishop
During the last ten days of July in the year 1852, in the ancient cathedral city of Barchester, a most important question was asked every hour and answered every hour in different ways — 'Who is to be the new bishop?'
Old Dr Grantly, who had for many years occupied the bishop's chair, was dying, just as the government of the country was about to change. The bishop's son, Archdeacon Grantly, had recently taken on many of his father's duties, and it was fairly well understood that the present prime minister would choose him as the new bishop. It was a difficult time for the archdeacon. The prime minister had never promised him the post in so many words, but those who know anything of government will be well aware that encouragement is often given by a whisper from a great man or one of his friends. The archdeacon had heard such a whisper, and allowed himself to hope.
A month ago, the doctors had said the old man would live just four more weeks. Only yesterday, they had examined him again, expressed their surprise, and given him another two weeks. Now the son was sitting by his father's bedside, calculating his chances. The government would fall within five days that much was certain; his father would die within — no, he refused to think that. He tried to keep his mind on other matters, but the race was so very close and the prize so very great. He looked at the dying man's calm face. As far as he and the doctors could judge, life might yet hang there for weeks to come. The old bishop slept for twenty of the twenty-four hours, but during his waking moments, he was able to recognize both his son and his dear old friend, Mr Harding, the archdeacon's father-in-law. Now he lay sleeping like a baby. Nothing could be easier than the old man's passing from this world to the next.
But by no means easy were the emotions of the man who sat there watching. He knew it must be now or never. He was already over fifty, and there was little chance that the next prime minister would think as kindly of him as the present one did. He thought long and sadly, in deep silence, and then at last dared to ask himself whether he really desired his father's death.
The question was answered in a moment. The proud man sank on his knees by the bedside, and, taking the bishop's hand in his own, prayed eagerly that his sins would be forgiven.
Just then, the door opened and Mr Harding entered. Dr Grantly rose quickly, and as he did so, Mr Harding took both his hands and pressed them warmly. There was a stronger feeling between them than there had ever been before.
'God bless you, my dears,' said the bishop in a weak voice as he woke. 'God bless you!' and so he died.
At first neither the archdeacon nor his father-in-law knew that life was gone, but after a little while Mr Harding said gently, 'I believe it's all over. Our dear bishop is no more — dear, good, excellent old man! Well, it's a great relief, archdeacon. May all our last moments be as peaceful as his!'
In his mind, Dr Grantly was already travelling from the darkened room of death to the prime minister's study. He had brought himself to pray for his father's life, but now that life was over, every minute counted. However, he did not want to appear unfeeling, so he allowed Mr Harding to lead him downstairs to the sitting room. Then, when a few more moments had passed, he said, 'We should arrange for a telegraph message to be sent to the prime minister immediately.'
'Do you think it necessary?' asked Mr Harding, a little surprised. He did not know how high the archdeacon's hopes of being appointed bishop were.
'I do,' replied Dr Grantly. 'Anything might happen if we delay. Will you send it?'
'I? Oh, certainly. Only I don't know exactly what to say.' Dr Grantly sat down and wrote out this message:
'By electric telegraph, for the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, London. The Bishop of Barchester is dead. Message sent by Mr Septimus Harding.'
'There,' he said, 'just take it to the telegraph office. Here's the money,' and he pulled a coin out of his pocket.
Mr Harding felt very much like a messenger, but he accepted the piece of paper and the coin. 'But you've put my name at the bottom, archdeacon,' he said.
Dr Grantly hesitated. How could he sign such a note himself? 'Well, yes,' he said, 'there should be the name of some clergyman, and who more suitable than an old friend like yourself? But I beg you, my dear Mr Harding, not to lose any time.'
Mr Harding got as far as the door of the room, when he suddenly remembered the news which he had come to tell his son-in-law, and which the bishop's death had driven from his mind. 'But archdeacon,' he said, turning back, 'I forgot to tell you — the government has fallen!'
'Fallen!' repeated the archdeacon, in a voice which clearly expressed his anxiety. After a moment's thought he said, 'We had better send the message anyway. Do it at once, my dear friend — a few minutes' time is of the greatest importance.'
Mr Harding went out and sent the message. Within thirty minutes of leaving Barchester, it arrived on the prime minister's desk in London. The great man read it, then sent it on to the man who was to take his place. In this way, our unfortunate friend the archdeacon lost his chance of becoming a bishop.
There was much discussion in the newspapers about who would take old Dr Grantly's place. The Jupiter, that well-regarded daily paper which is known for the accuracy of its information, was silent for a while, but at last spoke out, saying that, Dr Proudie would be chosen.
And so it was. Just a month after the old bishop's death, Dr Proudie became Bishop of Barchester.
There was a home for elderly men in Barchester, called Hiram's Hospital. Previously Mr Harding had been warden of the home, and he had greatly enjoyed his duties there. But when there were accusations in the newspapers, including The Jupiter, that the large income he received could more usefully be spent on the old men themselves, he had given up the post, and become vicar of a small church in the city. Modest man that he was, his one desire was to do what was right, and to avoid any publicity.
However, his family and friends were very angry that he had been unjustly accused, and public discussion of the wardenship became so heated that the government had to take action. Consequently, a law was passed, stating that the warden's income should be 450 pounds a year, and that it was the bishop's duty to appoint the warden; Mr Harding's name was not mentioned.
Mr Harding had two daughters. The elder, Susan, was married to the archdeacon, and Mr Harding spent much of his time with his younger daughter, Eleanor. She had fallen in love with and married a young man called John Bold, but only two years after their marriage, he had become ill and died. For weeks after he was gone, the idea of future happiness in this world was hateful to the young widow; tears and sleep were her only relief. But when she realized she was pregnant, she regained her interest in life, and when her son was born, eight months after his father's death, her joy was inexpressible.
The baby, young Johnny, was all that could be desired. 'Is he not delightful?' Eleanor would say to Mr Harding, looking up from her knees in front of her child, her beautiful eyes wet with soft tears, and naturally, he would agree with her.
The baby really was delightful; he took his food eagerly, waved his toes joyfully in the air whenever his legs were uncovered, and did not scream. These are supposed to be the strongest points of baby perfection, and in all these our baby was excellent.
It should not be thought that Eleanor ever forgot her dead husband; she kept his memory fresh in her heart. But yet she was happy with her baby. It was wonderful to feel that a human being existed who owed everything to her, whose needs could all be satisfied by her, whose little heart would first love her and her only, and whose childish tongue would make its first effort in calling her by the sweetest name a woman can hear. And so her feelings became calmer, and she began a mother's duties eagerly and gratefully.
John Bold had left his widow everything that he possessed, and, with an income of a thousand pounds a year, Eleanor felt comparatively rich. John's sister, Mary, came to live with Eleanor, to help take care of baby Johnny. Eleanor had hoped her father, Mr Harding, would also come to live in her house, but he refused, saying that he was quite happy in his modest rooms over a shop in Barchester High Street.
The new bishop, Dr Proudie, was a man who was well aware of his own importance. He considered he was born to move in high circles, and circumstances certainly supported his opinion so far. For some years, he had lived in London, where he had been chaplain to the Queen's officers. This high connection and his own natural gifts recommended him to persons in power. Liberal ideas were beginning to take hold of the country as a whole, and as a liberal clergyman, Dr Proudie was involved in various changes in religious matters. His name began to appear in the newspapers, and he became known as a useful and rising churchman. Although he was not a man of great intelligence, and did not even have much business sense, he added a certain weight to the meetings he attended, and his presence at them was generally appreciated.
During this period, he had never doubted his own powers, but always looked forward patiently to the day when he himself would give the orders, while lesser people obeyed. Now his reward and his time had come. He was an ambitious man, and, with his fashionably open-minded views, was not prepared to bury himself at Barchester as the old bishop had done. No! London would still be his ground, for some of the year, at least. How else could he keep himself in the public eye, how else give the government, in all religious matters, the full benefit of his wise advice?
In person Dr Proudie was a good-looking man, smartly dressed, but perhaps a little below medium height. People may have thought him fortunate in becoming Bishop of Barchester, but he still had his cares. He had a large family, of whom the three eldest were grown-up daughters, and he had a wife. No one dared breathe a word against Mrs Proudie, but she did not appear to add much to her husband's happiness. The truth was that in all domestic matters she ruled over her husband. But she was not satisfied with making the decisions at home, and tried to stretch her power over all his movements, even involving herself in spiritual matters. In other words, the bishop was henpecked.
Mrs Grantly, the archdeacon's wife, in her happy home at Plumstead, knew how to give orders, but in a pleasant and ladylike way. She never brought shame to her husband; her voice was never loud or her looks sharp. Doubtless, she valued power, but she understood the limits of a woman's influence.
Not so Mrs Proudie. It was this lady's habit to give the sharpest of orders to everybody, including her husband, even in public. Successful as he had been in the eyes of the world, it seemed that in the eyes of his wife he was never right. All hope of defending himself had long passed; indeed, he was aware that instant obedience produced the closest to peace, which his home could ever achieve.
Mrs Proudie was in her own way a religious woman, and one of her strongest beliefs was the need to keep Sunday completely separate from the other days of the week. During the week, her daughters were permitted to wear low-cut dresses and attend evening parties, always accompanied by their mother. But on Sunday they had to pay for these sins, by going to church three times and listening to lengthy evening prayers read by herself. Unfortunately, for those under her roof who had no such weekday pleasures as low-cut dresses and evening parties to pay for, namely her servants and her husband, strict observance of Sunday duties included everybody.
In these religious matters, Mrs Proudie allowed herself to be guided by a young clergyman, Mr Slope. So, because Dr Proudie was guided by his wife, Mr Slope had, through Mrs Proudie, gained a good deal of control over Dr Proudie's religious thinking. When Dr Proudie was appointed Bishop of Barchester, Mr Slope was happy to give up his post as vicar in a poor part of London, to become chaplain to the bishop.
Obadiah Slope and Mrs Proudie shared similar religious beliefs; their relationship was close and their conversations confidential. Mr Slope had regularly visited the Proudies' London home and knew the Misses Proudie well. It was no more than natural that his heart should discover some softer feeling than friendship for Mrs Proudie's eldest daughter, Olivia, and he made a declaration of affection to her. However, after finding how little money her father would give her on marrying, he withdrew his offer. As soon as it was known that Dr Proudie would become bishop, Mr Slope regretted his earlier caution, and began to look more kindly on Miss Proudie again. But he had lost his chance; Olivia was too proud to look at him a second time, and, besides, she had another lover showing interest in her. So Mr Slope sighed his lover's sighs without reward, and the two of them soon found it convenient to develop a hatred for each other.
It may seem strange that Mrs Proudie's friendship for the young vicar should remain firm in such circumstances, but to tell the truth, she had known nothing of his relationship with Olivia. Although very fond of him herself, she expected her daughters to make much more impressive marriages.
Mr Slope soon comforted himself with the thought that, as chaplain to the bishop, he might become richer and more powerful than if he had married the bishop's daughter. As he sat in the train, facing Dr and Mrs Proudie as they started their first journey to Barchester, he began to make a plan for his future life. He understood, correctly, that public life would suit the new bishop better than the small details of cathedral business. Therefore, he, Slope, would in effect be Bishop of Barchester. He knew he would have a hard battle to fight, because power would be equally desired by another great mind — Mrs Proudie would also choose to be Bishop of Barchester. He felt confident, however, that he would win in the end.
In appearance, he was tall, with large hands and feet, but on the whole his figure was good. His face, however, was the colour of bad-quality beef, and his hair, which was long, straight, and a dull reddish colour, was kept plentifully oiled. His mouth was large, but his lips were thin and bloodless. It was not a pleasant experience to shake his hand, as there was always a cold dampness to his skin. His face usually wore a frown, as if he thought most of the world far too wicked for his care.
A man of courage and above average intelligence, he firmly believed, like Dr Proudie, in simplifying church ceremony, and like Mrs Proudie, in enforcing total respect for Sunday churchgoing. He had excellent powers of self-expression, which were appreciated more by women than by men. A frequent guest in many London homes, he had been admired by the ladies and unwillingly accepted by the men, but he had an oily, unpleasant way with him which did not seem likely to make him popular in Barchester society.
It was known that Dr Proudie would have to appoint a warden for Hiram's Hospital, as the new law stated. No one imagined that he had any choice — no one thought for a moment that he could appoint any other man than Mr Harding. Mr Harding himself, without giving the matter much thought, considered it certain that he would return to the warden's pleasant house and garden.
Mr Harding, therefore, had no personal interest in the appointment of Dr Proudie as bishop, and was quite prepared to welcome him to Barchester. After the Proudies' arrival, he and Dr Grantly went to the bishop's palace to introduce themselves.
His lordship was at home, and the visitors were shown into the well-known room, where the good old bishop used to sit. Every piece of furniture was as familiar to them as their own, but they felt like strangers at once. They found Dr Proudie sitting in the old bishop's chair; they found Mr Slope standing where the archdeacon used to stand, but on the sofa they found Mrs Proudie — and to find a lady invading the bishop's study was shocking indeed!
There she was, however, and they could only make the best of it. They greeted his lordship, who introduced them to his lady wife. Then Mr Slope presented himself, offering a damp hand to his new enemy, Dr Grantly, who bowed, looked stiff, and wiped his hand with a pocket-handkerchief. Mr Slope then descended to the level of the lower clergy, by speaking a few words to Mr Harding, before rejoining the conversation among the higher powers. There were four people in this group, each of whom considered himself or herself the most important person in Barchester; with such a difference of opinion they were not likely to get on pleasantly together.
'Dr Grantly,' said Mrs Proudie with her sweetest smile, 'you live at Plumstead, I believe, a little way out of Barchester. I do hope the distance is not too great for country visiting. I shall be glad to call on Mrs Grantly, as soon as our horses arrive here. At present, they are in London, as the bishop still has meetings to attend there — I fear the government cannot do without him! But when the horses do come down, I shall take the earliest opportunity of visiting Mrs Grantly.'
Dr Grantly bowed, and said nothing. He could have bought everything the Proudies owned and returned it to them as a gift, without much feeling the loss; he had provided a pair of horses for his wife's personal use since the day of his marriage.
'Are there arrangements for Sunday schools in the villages around Barchester, Dr Grantly?' asked Mr Slope.
'Oh!' replied the archdeacon casually. 'Whether there is one or not depends on the local vicar's wife and daughters.'
Mr Slope opened his eyes very wide, but was not prepared to give up his darling project. 'I fear there is a great deal of Sunday travelling here. I see from the timetable that there are three trains in and three out every Sunday. Don't you think, Dr Grantly, that a little energy on your part might get rid of this evil?'
'If you can withdraw the passengers, then I imagine the company will withdraw the trains,' replied the archdeacon.
'But surely, Dr Grantly,' said the lady, 'surely, in our position, we should do all we can to stop such wickedness. Don't you think so, Mr Harding?' And she looked meaningfully at him.
Poor Mr Harding was not sure what he thought, and Dr Grantly, determined not to be told what he should do by a bishop's wife, turned his back on the sofa and asked the bishop if he found the palace comfortable. Dr Proudie himself seemed to have nothing to complain of, but Mr Slope gave a long list of repairs that needed to be done, and Mrs Proudie was not slow to add her voice to his. Finally and with great relief Dr Grantly and Mr Harding were able to bring their visit to an end.
'Good heavens!' cried the archdeacon furiously, once they were in the fresh air. Smoke seemed to be coming from under his hat, like an angry cloud.
'I don't think I shall ever like Mr Slope,' said Mr Harding.
'Like him!' shouted the archdeacon. 'How could any living thing like Mr Slope!'
'Nor Mrs Proudie either,' said Mr Harding.
Then the archdeacon forgot himself, and used some very shocking expressions about the lady.
'The bishop seems a quiet enough man,' suggested Mr Harding mildly.
'He's a fool!' cried Dr Grantly. 'He has no real power or intelligence! No, it's that Mr Slope whom we have to deal with. Did you ever see anyone less like a gentleman? Did you hear him telling us what to think and what to do? How dare he!'
And as the two men walked away from the palace, the archdeacon had war in his heart. He was trying to think how Mr Slope could be driven out of Barchester, before his influence over the bishop could do any lasting damage.
The new residents of the bishop's palace felt as much hatred for Dr Grantly as he did for them, and they were also aware there was a battle to be fought.
Mr Slope, however, was better prepared for the attack than the archdeacon. Dr Proudie had told the Barchester clergy that Mr Slope would give the sermon at the cathedral service the next Sunday. On this occasion, the bishop took his seat in the cathedral for the first time, and the good people of Barchester crowded into the great building, eager to see their new bishop and hear his chaplain's words of spiritual guidance. All the clergy attended the service too, even the archdeacon.
The service was very well performed. The prayers were respectfully said, and the music was beautifully sung by the best voices in Barchester, carefully trained by Mr Harding himself. Mr Slope rose to speak to his audience. He was listened to with breathless attention and considerable surprise.
Cleverly giving the impression that he was speaking on behalf of the bishop, Mr Slope made it very clear what would be expected from the Barchester clergy from now on. All the habits and customs which were dear to their hearts were held up to scorn. In particular, he explained how unnecessary church music was, and how much more meaningful the words of the church service were, if spoken rather than sung!
The archdeacon and the rest of the clergy could not believe their ears. All their lives they had conducted services in the way they had considered most excellent, and now this young nobody dared to say they had been wrong! But at last Mr Slope sat down. The bishop, who had been the most surprised of them all, and whose hair almost stood on end with terror, gave the final blessing in a shaking voice, and the service was at an end.
Over the next few days, there was heated discussion of Mr Slope and his sermon. Against him were the archdeacon and almost all the clergy, who were so furious they decided he should never be allowed to give a sermon in the cathedral again. Poor Mr Harding began to have doubts about the value of church music; he had always been so proud of the singing in the cathedral, but he wondered if that was another thing he would have to give up, like the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital.
On Mr Slope's side, however, were one or two clergymen who thought it sensible to congratulate the chaplain on his sermon. They included Mr Quiverful, the vicar of Puddingdale, whose wife presented him every year with a fresh proof of her love, increasing his cares and, it is to be hoped, his happiness equally. Who can wonder that a vicar with fourteen living children and only 400 pounds a year should wish to be polite to a Mr Slope? There were also a number of Barchester citizens who thought Mr Slope might be right. For too long the clergy had gone on in their old-fashioned ways; perhaps it was time to introduce some of the religious changes, which were shaking up the outside world. This group consisted mostly of ladies; no gentleman could possibly be attracted by Mr Slope.
However, Eleanor Bold and her sister-in-law Mary Bold were not to be counted among these ladies. It was natural for Mr Harding's daughter to be proud of the cathedral's musical tradition, and angry with Mr Slope for criticizing it. And in such matters the widow Bold and her sister-in-law were in perfect agreement.
But Mr Slope himself persuaded them to think better of him. To their great surprise and no little fear, he came to call on them two weeks after his sermon. The great enemy of all that was good in Barchester entered their own sitting room, and they had no strong arm at hand for their protection. The widow held her baby tightly in her arms, and Mary Bold stood up ready to die in that baby's defence, if such a sacrifice might become necessary.
This is how Mr Slope was received. But when he left, he was allowed to bless the baby, to take each lady's hand and to depart like a trusted friend. How had he turned dislike into friendship and made his peace with these ladies so quickly?
Mr Slope knew how to flatter and say a soft word in the proper place. If he had understood how to charm men as well as he charmed women, he might have risen to a high position.
The day after this visit Eleanor told her father of it, and expressed an opinion that Mr Slope was not quite as black as he had been painted. Mr Harding said little; he did not approve of the visit, but it was not his custom to speak evil of anyone. Instead, he turned the conversation to the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital; he told Eleanor he expected the bishop to offer it to him, although at a reduced salary. It was annoying to have to accept the post as a gift from the bishop, especially if it came from the hands of the hated Slope, but he would certainly accept it. Eleanor was delighted at the thought of seeing her dear father happy in his old place at Hiram's Hospital again.
Three months passed, and several changes were made in Barchester. Among other things, absentee clergymen had been recalled to their duties. One of these was Dr Vesey Stanhope, who was quite a stranger in the city. Twelve years ago, he had gone to Italy to cure a sore throat, and that sore throat, although it never developed into anything serious, had enabled him to live there in comfortable idleness, while he paid junior clergymen to do his work at home. But when he received an almost threatening letter from Mr Slope, Dr Stanhope realized he would have to spend the summer months, at least, in his house in Barchester, otherwise his income from the Church might be discontinued.
So he and his charming but heartless family took up residence again in Barchester. His wife was still a handsome woman, even at fifty-five. She never appeared until between three and four in the afternoon, but when she did appear, she appeared at her best. Her dress was always perfect, but she had no other purpose in life than to dress well. Her elder daughter Charlotte, at thirty- five, was a fine young woman, who had taken all the cares of running the house off her mother's shoulders. She and she alone could persuade her father to consider worldly matters. She and she alone could control the foolishness of her brother and sister. She and she alone prevented the whole family from losing their good name and falling into beggary.
Dr Stanhope's younger daughter, Madeline, was a great beauty. She had spent her youth in Italy, where she had destroyed the hearts of many young men without once losing her own, although her reputation had suffered slightly as a result of these adventures. Why she had decided to marry Paulo Neroni, a man of no birth and no fortune, a man of evil temper and oily manners, was a mystery, but perhaps when the moment came, she had no choice. Six months after her marriage, however, she arrived at her father's house in Milan, a cripple and a mother.
She had fallen, she said, and injured her knee, so that she was unable to walk normally. She had therefore made up her mind, once and forever, that she would never attempt to move herself again. Soon people were saying that she owed her accident to her husband's violence, but she spoke little of Paulo Neroni, except to make it clear he was to be seen and heard of no more. The Stanhopes welcomed the unfortunate beauty and her small daughter into the family home.
Although forced to give up all movement in the world, Signora Neroni had no intention of giving up the world itself. She made arrangements to be carried to the theatres and parties she wished to attend. There, lying on a sofa, she would soon draw every interesting young man to her side by the power of her beauty. Her admirers were too blindly in love to see the cruelty, sharp intelligence and desire for power in her lovely eyes.
Her brother, Bertie, had received an excellent education, but was too idle to take up a profession. He was extremely handsome, with a long silky beard and clear blue eyes, and was continually declaring his love to ladies who pleased him, but, like Madeline, he appeared to have no heart to lose himself.
The Stanhopes made their first public appearance at the Proudies' evening reception. This was an impressive event organized by Mr Slope, who invited all the gentlemen and ladies of Barchester and the surrounding villages. Hundreds of guests were expected at the party, and costly preparations were made, in spite of Mrs Proudie's frequent objections to the expense.
On the evening in question, Mrs Proudie welcomed her guests to the palace's fine rooms, and Mr Slope rushed here and there, giving orders to the servants. The bishop kept tripping over a sofa that had been placed near the top of the stairs. One of his daughters told him it was for a lady with no legs, and he was dying of curiosity to see this strange lady.
Soon Madeline's carriage arrived, and she was carried upstairs to the sofa. There she took up her position, lying on a red silk sheet and wearing a close-fitting white dress, with diamond bracelets on her beautiful arms. She was immediately the centre of attention, as she had intended to be.
Bertie Stanhope, who was talking to the bishop, had the idea of moving Madeline's sofa slightly, to give everyone a little more room — he gave it a push and it rushed halfway across the room. Mrs Proudie was standing with Mr Slope in front of Madeline, trying to be sociable, but she was not in the best of tempers; she found that whenever she spoke to the signora, that lady replied by speaking to Mr Slope. Mrs Proudie was just beginning to feel offended, when one of the sofa legs caught itself in her dress and carried part of the skirt away with an unpleasant tearing sound.
Such destruction to a dress would cause passionate anger in any lady, and Mrs Proudie's expression, as she looked at Bertie Stanhope, was hardly human. Bertie, when he saw what he had done, threw himself on one knee before the lady.
'Forgive me, madam, forgive me!' he cried wildly, trying to separate Mrs Proudie's dress from the sofa leg.
'Unhand it, sir!' said Mrs Proudie scornfully.
'It's not me, it's the sofa,' said Bertie, still on his knees.
'Unhand it, sir!' Mrs Proudie almost screamed.
Just then the signora laughed, just loud enough to be heard. Mrs Proudie turned furiously upon her.
'Madam!' she said, her eyes flashing fire.
Madeline stared her full in the face for a moment, and then said to her brother, 'Bertie, you fool, get up.'
By now Mrs Proudie's daughters had arrived, and very soon they accompanied her out of the room to repair the damage to the dress. Meanwhile, Madeline took the opportunity to fascinate and charm Mr Slope. And when Mrs Proudie returned to the reception, she saw him carrying a selection of the most delicate dishes towards the signora's sofa.
'You are not leaving our guests, Mr Slope,' she said.
'Signora Neroni needs her supper, madam,' answered Mr Slope with a bow and a false smile.
'Let her brother take it to her, Mr Slope,' replied Mrs Proudie. Her anger increased when she realized a few minutes later that he had disobeyed her order. 'Such manners I never saw,' she said furiously to herself. 'I cannot and will not permit it.' And she pushed her way through the crowd, following Mr Slope.
When she reached the sofa, she found the guilty pair alone together. The signora was sitting very comfortably, eating her supper, while Mr Slope was leaning over her, making sure she had everything she wanted. Mrs Proudie walked stiffly up to them, stared at them for a moment, and said, 'Mr Slope, his lordship desires your presence in the dining room; you will join him there, if you please.' She moved away like a ship in full sail.
Mr Slope knew the bishop had not asked for him, but he prepared to leave the room, all the same.
'Is she always like this?' the signora asked him.
'Yes, always the same, madam,' said Mrs Proudie, returning. 'Always equally against improper behaviour of any description,' and she marched back through the room again.
The signora could not follow her, but she laughed a long scornful laugh, sending the sound of it ringing after Mrs Proudie. She could not have thought of a better revenge.
Mrs Proudie could not fight back, because she had her guests to attend to. The reception was coming to an end, and the bishop's wife forced a smile as people said their goodbyes, but she was too angry to make it look convincing. And as Madeline Stanhope was carried out by her servants, Mrs Proudie watched her departing figure as if to say, 'If ever you find yourself within these walls again, I'll teach you a lesson you will never forget.'
A rich widow
Two days later Mr Harding was called to the palace to discuss the wardenship of Hiram's Hospital with Mr Slope. The chaplain kept the old man waiting for half an hour, and when he did arrive, he behaved just as if he were an important man of business and Mr Harding a young man applying for a job.
'Now, concerning this post of warden,' he began, 'of course you know the income would be very much reduced. In addition, you would be expected to have the house painted inside every seven years and outside every three years. And the duties — well, I believe, if I am correctly informed, there were hardly any duties to speak of in the past.' He gave a scornful laugh. 'Things are a great deal changed, not only in Barchester, Mr Harding, but also in the wider world. Work is now required from every man who receives wages, and new men are needed in the Church, as in other professions. For example, the bishop is anxious to have a Sunday school attached to the Hospital, for the children of the poor, and the teachers would be under your control and care.'
Mr Harding was now getting very angry, which was what Mr Slope wanted. 'And if I disagree with his lordship's views?' the old man asked, as calmly as he could.
'I hope you do not, but if you do, I assume you would feel unable to accept the post.' Mr Slope intended Mr Harding to refuse the appointment, which would then be vacant for a person of his own choosing.
'I shall consult my friends, but you may tell the bishop, Mr Slope, that I shall not accept the wardenship if I find the conditions that you mention are attached to it,' and Mr Harding left the room.
Mr Slope was delighted. He considered he could take Mr Harding's last speech as an absolute refusal of the appointment, and that is what he told the bishop and Mrs Proudie.
The bishop was sorry to hear it, but Mrs Proudie said firmly, 'There is no cause for sorrow. Mr Quiverful is more in need of it, and, as warden, will be much more useful to us.'
'I suppose I had better see Quiverful?' said the chaplain.
'I suppose you had,' said the bishop.
Meanwhile poor Mr Harding was feeling very miserable. He had lost the wardenship a second time, and been insulted by a man young enough to be his son, but that he could put up with. What really made him unhappy was the thought that he belonged to the past that his efforts were no longer needed or appreciated, that everything he had done might be worthless.
He went first to Eleanor's house, to tell her his troubles, but found that Mr Slope had visited her the day before. The chaplain had made a very different speech to her from the one he had made to her father, full of flattery and heartfelt hopes that Mr Harding would take the wardenship. So she was surprised and disappointed to see her father looking so unhappy, and could not really sympathize with or understand his dislike of Mr Slope.
Mr Harding's next move was to discuss the matter with the archdeacon, so he drove to Plumstead in a hired carriage. Dr Grantly was out, so, while waiting for him, Mr Harding took the opportunity to discuss recent events with his daughter Susan.
'How can Eleanor bear that Mr Slope?' she asked.
'He's a very clever man,' said her father. 'He has made her think he is a good and honest clergyman.'
'Good and honest indeed!' said Susan scornfully. 'I only hope he won't be clever enough to make her forget her position.'
'Good heavens! Do you mean marry him?'
'What is so improbable about it? Of course that would be his plan if he thought he had any chance of success. Eleanor has a thousand pounds a year of her own.'
'But you can't think she likes him, Susan?'
'Why not? She has no one to look after her.'
'But don't we look after her?'
'Oh father, how innocent you are! It is to be expected that she will marry again, but she should wait the proper time, and then at least marry a gentleman.'
Now Mr Harding had something else to worry about. To have as a son-in-law, the husband of his favourite child, the only man in the world whom he really disliked, would be a misfortune he felt he could not bear. In fact, if the truth were known, Eleanor had no more idea of marrying Mr Slope than of marrying the bishop. But it was true she had forgiven him his sermon, his pride, and even his shiny face and oily manners, so in time might she not accept him as an admirer? Strangely enough, Mr Slope was innocent of the crime he was being accused of. This man whose eyes were generally so wide open to everything around him had not yet discovered that the young widow was rich as well as beautiful. It was an error, which he was soon to correct.
Dr Grantly did not arrive until dinnertime. He was in an excellent mood and explained why, as they sat down to eat.
'It's all agreed,' he said, rubbing his hands joyfully. 'Arabin has accepted! If anyone can get rid of Slope, Arabin can.'
Francis Arabin was an old Oxford friend of Dr Grantly's, a clergyman of the highest reputation, and also a gentleman. He and Mr Slope had been carrying on a long battle on spiritual matters in the letters pages of The Jupiter for some months now, and Dr Grantly thought his friend's intelligence and deep religious knowledge would be extremely useful in the fight against the Proudies. Mr Arabin had therefore been offered, and had accepted, the post of vicar of a small church near Plumstead. Dr Grantly was delighted that Arabin would be so near at hand, for advice and support, and amused that Mr Slope would come face to face with his spiritual enemy very soon.
At the end of the meal, Mr Harding finally managed to speak of what was worrying him. The archdeacon's response was firm.
'The bishop has no power to appoint a new man as warden, or indeed to make the warden a Sunday school teacher! All of Barchester expects you to return to Hiram's Hospital, and that's what you will do. I tell you what, my friend, I shall see the bishop when he has neither his wife nor his chaplain beside him, and I think you'll find the matter will end with you becoming warden without any conditions whatever. Leave it to me.'
And so the matter was arranged between them. Dr Grantly's good humour continued till bedtime, when, in the privacy of their room, Mrs Grantly gave him her opinion of what Eleanor might do. His face looked stern, and he said, 'If she does, I'll never speak to her again. I won't be connected to such dirt as that,' and he gave a shudder, which shook the whole room.
Mr Slope lost no time in visiting Mr Quiverful to ask if he would like to be warden of the Hospital. Mr Quiverful, in giving his enthusiastic reply, happened to mention that Mr Harding might not need the post because his daughter Eleanor had an income of a thousand a year. This unexpected information caused Mr Slope to cut short his visit, and he rode home, thinking hard. Why should he not marry the widow, and make the thousand pounds a year his own? And then it struck him that perhaps it would be easier to gain her approval, if he did all in his power to help her father become warden, instead of Quiverful.
He was confident he could manage this, although it would involve a complete change of direction, but he knew he must step cautiously. If he quarrelled with the Proudies and was then refused by the widow, he would have lost all his influence and power. He also remembered that Mrs Bold's brother-in-law was his enemy, the archdeacon, and swore he would never bow the knee to that man, not even for a thousand pounds a year.
Another circumstance influenced him. The vision of the signora was continually before his eyes. It would be too much to say Mr Slope was lost in love, but yet he thought he had never seen so beautiful a woman. He had never been so tempted before, and now it was difficult to resist the temptation — it was hard to consider any plan, which would require him to give up his special friendship with this lady.
He decided he urgently needed to find out the truth about Mrs Bold's fortune, so he started making enquiries at once. He was not a man who ever let much grass grow under his feet.
About the time that Mr Slope was visiting Mr Quiverful, a discussion took place at Dr Stanhope's house between Charlotte and Bertie about his unwillingness to earn any kind of income. Finally, Charlotte said, in her sensible way, 'Well, Bertie, if you won't work, will you marry a wife with money?'
'I won't marry one without any,' he replied. 'But wives with money aren't easy to find nowadays — the vicars pick them all up.'
'And a vicar will pick up Mrs Bold too, if you don't hurry.'
'Whew!' whistled Bertie. 'A widow! With a son!'
'A baby that will very likely die. The lady is very beautiful, and she has a thousand pounds a year.'
'Well, no one can call me unreasonable, and if you'll arrange it all for me, I'll marry the widow.'
Charlotte was just explaining to him that he must court the lady himself, and was praising her beauty, when Madeline was carried into the room by her servants.
'Madeline, I'm going to be married,' Bertie began as soon as the servants had left.
'There's no other foolish thing left that you haven't done,' said Madeline, 'so you are quite right to try that.'
'Well, that's Charlotte's advice to me. But your opinion ought to be the best; you have experience to guide you.'
'Yes, I have,' said Madeline in a hard voice. But she looked very sad, and Bertie was sorry that his words had hurt her.
'Charlotte wants me to marry Mrs Bold,' he said. 'She has a thousand a year and a fine baby son.'
'If it's true she has a thousand a year and has ladylike manners, I advise you to marry her,' said Madeline. 'Even you aren't fool enough to marry for love. Marriage is a poor bargain for husband or wife. A man should not sacrifice his freedom unless he gets something in return, but a woman generally has no choice — she has no other way of living.'
'But Bertie has no other way of living!' said Charlotte. 'Then for heaven's sake let him marry Mrs Bold,' said Madeline, and so it was decided.
Mr Slope's enquiries about the widow's income had determined him to try his hand at courting her. He had therefore attempted to persuade the bishop that the post of warden should be offered to Mr Harding, but matters were more complicated than he had imagined. Mrs Proudie, anxious for her power to be as visible as possible, had already made it clear to Mrs Quiverful that her husband would be appointed warden.
'Ah, my lord,' said Mr Slope, half laughing, 'we shall all be in trouble if the ladies interfere. I only speak, my lord, in your own best interests. As far as personal feelings go, Mrs Proudie is the best friend I have. But still, in my present position, my first duty is to your lordship.' He smiled his most flattering smile.
'I am quite sure of that, Mr Slope,' said the bishop gratefully. 'Do you really think Mr Harding should be the warden?'
'I do, my lord. What has passed between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Quiverful may be a little inconvenient, but I really do not think that should count in a matter of so much importance.' He left the poor bishop dreadfully undecided, but on the whole almost determined to oppose Mrs Proudie's wishes, which was exactly what Mr Slope was hoping for.
The chaplain then went on to call on Eleanor Bold, who was playing with baby Johnny in her sitting room. When Mr Slope was announced, Eleanor quickly pushed back her long dark hair, which the baby had pulled down from her widow's cap. Mr Slope stopped for a moment in the doorway, realizing at once how lovely she was, and thinking that, even if she had no fortune at all, she would bring comfort and joy to any man's home.
He sat down close to Eleanor and said confidentially, 'May I ask you a simple question, Mrs Bold?'
'Certainly,' she smiled, 'and I shall give you an honest answer.'
'My question is this: is your father really anxious to go back to Hiram's Hospital as warden?'
'Why do you ask me? Why not ask him yourself?'
'My dear Mrs Bold, there are wheels within wheels, which I fear I have little time to explain to you. No one respects your father more than I do, but I doubt if he respects me.' (He certainly did not.) 'I am afraid there is a feeling in Barchester, I will not call it a prejudice, which runs against me, and your father shares this feeling. Can you deny it?'
Eleanor made no answer, and Mr Slope, in the eagerness of his speech, moved his chair a little nearer to hers. 'That is why I cannot ask him this question as I can ask it of you. But you, my dear Mrs Bold, since I came to Barchester, you have allowed me to regard you as a friend.' Eleanor moved her head slightly; it looked more like a shake than a nod, but Mr Slope took no notice of it. 'To you I can speak openly, and express the feelings of my heart. When I spoke to your father about the post of warden, he gave me the impression he would refuse it, and so the bishop, perhaps mistakenly, has offered it to Mr Quiverful.'
'Then, Mr Slope, there is an end of it!' and tears came to Eleanor's lovely eyes and rolled down her face.
Mr Slope would have given much to be allowed to dry those tears, but he knew his moment had not yet come. Instead he promised to do all he could to persuade the bishop to change his mind, his stated purpose being to protect the interests of Mr Harding, whom he so sincerely admired, and to bring greater happiness to Mrs Bold, whom he dared to call his friend. It was indeed a clever and convincing performance.
At the bishop's palace, revolution was stirring. Since his recent conversation with Mr Slope, the bishop knew it was time to be firm with his wife. If he could only defeat her once, he would be a man indeed! So with great daring he went to her private sitting room to speak to her. He found her at her desk, adding up the bills and frowning over all the expense of a bishop's family.
'Excuse me, my dear,' he began. 'If you are free, I wish to speak to you.' Mrs Proudie looked sourly up at him, and his courage failed him. 'But I see you are busy — another time-'
'What is it, bishop?' asked the lady reluctantly.
'It is about the Quiverfuls, my dear. But as you are busy-'
'What about the Quiverfuls? It is perfectly understood that they are to have the hospital. There is no doubt, is there?'
This was the moment when the bishop needed to show his bravery, in order to win the battle. He said, very gently, 'Well, my dear, I just wanted to mention that Mr Slope seems to think Mr Harding should have the post.'
'Mr Slope seems to think!' she said scornfully. 'I hope, my lord, you will not allow yourself to be governed by a chaplain.'
'Certainly not, my dear. Nothing is less probable. But-'
'Nonsense,' said Mrs Proudie rudely. 'Mr Quiverful will be the warden, not Mr Harding. And that's the end of it.'
'I believe you are right, my dear,' said the bishop, creeping back to the safety of his study.
That evening Mr Slope heard from the bishop that Mrs Proudie's orders concerning the wardenship were to be obeyed. He also received a visit, in his room, from the lady of the house herself. She had something very particular to say to him.
'Mr Slope, I must tell you, I did not at all approve of your behaviour with that Italian woman at my reception. Anyone would have thought you were her lover.'
'Good heavens, my dear madam,' said Mr Slope with a look of horror. 'Why, she is a married woman!'
'That is what she calls herself, certainly. Since then you have visited her and sat with her alone. I consider it my duty to warn you, Mr Slope, that that woman is not a suitable companion for an unmarried young clergyman like you.' How Mr Slope hated her at this moment! But she had not finished. 'There is another thing, Mr Slope. You are far too ready to interfere. Kindly do not give the bishop any more guidance at all. If his lordship wants advice, he knows where to look for it.' And she sailed out.
Mr Slope now knew there certainly was not room in Barchester for the energies of both himself and Mrs Proudie; victory over her had become a matter of urgency.
Meanwhile Eleanor had been made aware of her family's concerns about her apparent liking for Mr Slope. When she had innocently mentioned Mr Slope's offer to help her father, Dr Grantly had accused her of betraying the family's interests in making such an unreliable friend, and Eleanor had felt angry that her brother-in-law, and even her dear father, did not respect her judgement. She was all the more annoyed, because she was not quite sure how far she herself trusted Mr Slope.
Perhaps this disagreement with Dr Grantly made her feel a little isolated, and perhaps that feeling of isolation made her more eager than she would normally have been to accept Charlotte's invitation to spend the evening at the Stanhopes' house.
Indeed, when she arrived there, and discovered Mr Slope was also one of the guests, she almost decided to leave at once. But clever Charlotte made her feel at home immediately; Eleanor was introduced to kind old Dr Stanhope, and was smiled on by Madeline. She had no suspicion that Mr Slope was planning to court her; nor did she notice how much time he spent at the signora's side, or even the guilty looks he sent in her direction. For most of the evening she was left alone with Bertie, and the time simply flew by. Bertie did not flatter her, or sigh like a lover, but he was amusing and friendly, yet at the same time respectful. And when he left Eleanor at her own door at one o'clock in the morning, after a delightful walk in the moonlight, she thought he was one of the most charming men she had ever met.
PART TWO: COUNTER-ATTACK
A newcomer to Barchester
Francis Arabin was the younger son of a country gentleman from the north of England. He was educated at an excellent school, and then studied at Oxford University. Here he developed his skill in debating, and became known as an intelligent, humorous, and successful speaker. He was almost always able to make the arguments of the opposing team sound unbelievable, and he aimed to win every debate by using both humour and reason.
But his main interest was in religion, and he gave himself completely to the Church. For it he wrote poems, speeches, and sermons, for it he ate and drank and dressed and breathed. Soon he was ordained as a clergyman, and remained in Oxford as a professor of poetry at one of the university colleges.
Now came the moment of his greatest danger. After much thought, Mr Newman, a well-known Oxford clergyman, left the Church of England to join the Church of Rome, and Mr Arabin was strongly tempted to follow him. In order to consider what he should do, Arabin left Oxford for a while and stayed in a quiet little village by the sea, far from the complications of civilized life.
Everything seemed to point to his choosing the Church of Rome. He loved and admired Mr Newman, and was eager to follow in his footsteps. He approved of Rome's strictness. 'How much simpler it would be,' he thought, 'to live under religious laws which are certain, how much easier to recognize sin and therefore avoid it!' And he wanted so much to show God that he believed in Him; what better proof could there be than making the great sacrifice of the religion in which he had been brought up, and which was supposed to provide his income?
At the time, Mr Arabin was a very young man, too confident in his own powers, and with too little respect for the common sense of ordinary people. But it was an ordinary country vicar, in that small village, who made him see that all true religious guidance comes from within the person, and not from laws made by priests. Arabin also realized that by looking for safety and comfort in the Church of Rome, he was running away from the difficult choice between good and evil. He returned to Oxford a humbler, but a better and a happier man.
When he became vicar of St Ewold's, the church near Plumstead, he was about forty and unmarried. He was above medium height, with slightly greying dark hair. He was not handsome, but his face was pleasant to look at, and there was a humorous look in his eyes. He was popular with women, but living in an Oxford college had meant that he could not marry, so he thought of women as pretty, amusing creatures, nothing more.
He came to stay for a month with the Grantlys, because the vicar's house at St Ewold's needed some repairs. After dinner with the archdeacon, his wife, and their daughters, Mr Arabin went up to his bedroom, and sat at the open window looking out at his church, which he could just see in the moonlight beyond the archdeacon's garden. It was a lovely evening, but Francis Arabin felt sad. It had struck him suddenly, when he saw Dr Grantly's charming wife and children and their comfortable house and garden, how alone in the world he was. He had given his whole life to the Church, and now he thought that had been a mistake. He knew he could have had a high position and great wealth, and probably a family to bring him joy, but now it was too late. He was the vicar of a small country church, and that was all.
The following morning Mr Harding and Eleanor arrived at Plumstead to stay there for a few days. Dr Grantly and Mr Arabin were at St Ewold's, and Mr Harding wanted to walk round the garden, so the two sisters naturally fell into conversation. They had never told each other all their secrets, as Mrs Grantly was ten years older than Eleanor, and they did not see each other often. Mrs Grantly did not, therefore, expect Eleanor to talk to her of love, but she was still very anxious to find out whether her sister had any liking for Mr Slope.
It was very easy to turn the conversation to Mr Slope, and Mrs Grantly was soon criticizing him, which she did with her whole heart, and Mrs Bold was defending him almost as eagerly. Eleanor actually disliked the man; she had almost a fear of him, and would have been delighted never to see him again, but somehow she constantly found herself protecting him against what she considered the injustice of his enemies' attacks.
The conversation moved on to the Stanhopes, and Mrs Grantly heard about Eleanor's recent evening with them. Suddenly she realized Mr Slope had also been there.
'What!' she cried in horror. 'Why, Eleanor, he must be very fond of you. He seems to follow you everywhere!'
Even this did not open Eleanor's eyes. She just laughed, and said she thought he found someone else to attract him at the Stanhopes'. And so the sisters parted. Mrs Grantly felt quite convinced that the hated marriage would take place, and Mrs Bold was just as convinced that the unfortunate chaplain was yet again being unjustly criticized.
The archdeacon was furious when his wife told him, in private, how she feared Eleanor's relationship with Mr Slope was developing. 'I am sorry, my dear,' he said, 'but if she marries that man, I shall not allow either of them within my doors.'
Susan Grantly sighed. 'Well, perhaps it will never happen. I hope, now that Eleanor is here, she will forget her fatal passion.' Poor Eleanor, who felt no fatal passion for any man, spent a rather dull evening. Mr Arabin did not seem to notice her much, and he and the Grantlys spent all the time after dinner discussing the various local clergymen. Eleanor began to think, on reaching her bedroom that night, that she was getting tired of clergymen and their respectable, boring way of life, and that she would have had a much pleasanter evening with the Stanhopes.
Mr Arabin, on the other hand, had enjoyed his evening; he appreciated not only the well-informed conversation of the Grantlys, but also the sight of Eleanor's very pretty face under her widow's cap. He began to look forward to the rest of his stay at Plumstead, because she would be there for some of the time.
The next day the whole party drove in the archdeacon's carriage to visit the vicar's house at St Ewold's. In the carriage Eleanor found herself opposite Mr Arabin, and was surprised to discover how easy he was to talk to.
Mr Harding told them an old story he had heard from local people that, a long time ago, a priestess had lived at St Ewold's; she was famous for curing the villagers of all kinds of diseases. Mr Arabin declared he would not want the villagers to rely on a priestess these days, but Mrs Grantly disagreed. 'Every church should have its priestess as well as its priest,' she said, smiling.
'I suppose,' suggested Eleanor, 'that in the past the priestess had all the power. Perhaps Mr Arabin thinks that might happen again if St Ewold's had a modern priestess.'
'I think it is safer not to run the risk of it,' laughed Mr Arabin. 'Such accidents do happen,' said Mrs Grantly. 'They say there is a priestess in Barchester who gives the orders in spiritual matters. Perhaps the fear of that is before your eyes, Mr Arabin.' This amusing conversation came to an end when they arrived at St Ewold's. Soon the archdeacon and his wife were walking all round the house, telling Mr Arabin what repairs and improvements he needed to make, in order to live comfortably. But while the Grantlys were in the dining room, making plans for a larger fireplace, Eleanor and Mr Arabin found themselves in a small upstairs sitting room.
'There is a beautiful view from here,' said Eleanor, looking out at the cathedral, the bishop's palace, and the trees surrounding Hiram's Hospital. 'This will be your study, I imagine?'
'Yes,' he said, joining her at the window, 'I shall have a perfect view of my enemies. I can fire at them very conveniently from here.'
'You clergymen are always thinking of fighting each other!' said Eleanor, half-laughing.
'But are we not here to fight? If we have differences of opinion, should we not go into battle? There is no easy path in religion — I have looked for one and did not find it.' He was silent for a moment, thinking of the time when he had so nearly sacrificed his freedom and his intelligence for that easy path.
Eleanor was impressed by his quiet seriousness. She was used to religious discussion, but she realized, with a certain pleasurable excitement, that this newcomer among them was different from the other churchmen she knew. Instead of arguing bitterly about details, he was only interested in the truth, and was searching humbly for it.
They were interrupted by the archdeacon's shouts of 'Arabin! Arabin!' and went to join the Grantlys in the dining room. Dr Grantly suggested the whole room should be enlarged, which Mr Arabin considered would be far too expensive.
'But,' said Mrs Grantly with a smile, 'what if the priestess, who will surely arrive here one day, insists on it?'
'Then she must do it herself,' replied Mr Arabin lightly.
And, having done their work, the party returned home to Plumstead, well satisfied with their visit.
The following Sunday Mr Arabin was to give his first sermon at St Ewold's. He, the archdeacon, and Eleanor were to go there for the morning service, have lunch with the local squire, and return to Plumstead after attending the afternoon service.
The squire of Ullathorne, the area of farmland, villages and churches which included St Ewold's, was a gentleman called William Thorne. He was about fifty, single, and more than a little proud of his appearance. But he was prouder still of his family name. He had a great respect for long, unbroken bloodlines, and his own family line stretched back to the eighth or ninth century. He believed firmly that all traditions and customs should be kept exactly as they always had been.
Mr Thorne did not live alone at Ullathorne House. He had a sister, who was ten years older than him, and an even greater believer in tradition. Once when her brother suggested making a small alteration to the front door of their house, she took to her bed and was ill for a week; she would not come downstairs until she received his promise that it would not be changed in her lifetime. She would not have a modern magazine in her sitting room, and she refused to read poems or novels by living writers. She had thought her brother dangerously liberal-minded when he was younger, and was pleased that the passing of the years had shown him the importance of traditional values. Looking back over five or six centuries of English history, as Miss Thorne liked to do, she often found reason to sigh deeply. She imagined that an innocence and a goodness had existed in the past, which were not to be found in her own time. However wrong she was, no one would deny her the sweetness of her soft regrets!
Mr Arabin, Dr Grantly, and Eleanor met Mr and Miss Thorne at the gates of Ullathorne House, and walked to church together. Large numbers of villagers had gathered there, to see their new vicar. In spite of his long experience of public speaking, Mr Arabin felt a little nervous, knowing that he was being compared with the previous vicar. But fortunately most people in the church considered that Arabin did his work well enough, especially as his sermon was only twenty minutes long.
Then came the lunch at Ullathorne House. Miss Thorne took special care of Eleanor, piling cold meat on her plate and filling her glass with wine. 'It's your duty, you know, to support yourself,' she whispered in the young mother's ear. 'There's more than yourself depending on it.'
And then Miss Thorne was very knowledgeable about teeth. Little Johnny Bold had been troubled for the last few days with his first tooth, and Miss Thorne was shocked to find that Eleanor was giving him some dreadfully modern medicine, recommended by one of the local doctors.
'Take care, my dear,' she said, looking very serious, 'that that man doesn't harm your little boy. But then,' speaking more in pity than in anger, 'I don't know which doctor you can trust now. Poor dear old Dr Bumpwell, of course-'
'Why, Miss Thorne, he died when I was a little girl.'
'Indeed, my dear, and a sad day it was for Barchester.'
The archdeacon was enjoying his lunch. He talked to his host Mr Thorne about farming; while Mr Thorne, thinking it only polite to pay attention to a stranger, tried to talk to Mr Arabin about religious matters. The two conversations ran on together.
'What are you putting on your fields now, Thorne? Is it guano?' asked Dr Grantly.
'Yes, archdeacon, I get it from Bristol. You'll find a lot of Barchester people, Mr Arabin, who come to services at St Ewold's in the summer, if it isn't too hot for them to walk.'
'I'm glad they stayed away today,' said Mr Arabin, smiling, 'as it was my first sermon.'
'Who do you buy it from in Bristol, Thorne?'
'I drove there myself this year, and bought it straight off the ship. I'm afraid, Mr Arabin, that as the evenings get darker, you'll find it difficult to read in the church. I shall send a man to cut off some branches of the trees outside the south window.'
'The morning light is perfect, at least,' said Mr Arabin. And then he and Eleanor took a walk round the garden, while Miss Thorne cut some flowers, and the archdeacon and the squire finished their discussion about the Bristol guano.
At three o'clock, they all went to church again. This time the archdeacon gave the sermon, and half an hour later he, Mr Arabin, and Eleanor shook hands with their Ullathorne friends and drove back to Plumstead.
Mr Slope on the attack
The next two weeks passed very pleasantly at Plumstead. Eleanor was a delightful houseguest, and Dr and Mrs Grantly seemed to have forgotten her wicked fe