Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope

CHAPTER XIV

The New Champion

The archdeacon did not return to the parsonage till close upon the hour of dinner, and there was therefore no time to discuss matters before that important ceremony. He seemed to be in an especial good humour and welcomed his father-inlaw with a sort of jovial earnestness that was usual with him when things on which be was intent were going on as he would have them.

“It’s all settled, my dear,” said he to his wife as he washed his hands in his dressing-room, while she, according to her wont, sat listening in the bedroom; “Arabin has agreed to accept the living. He’ll be here next week.” And the archdeacon scrubbed his hands and rubbed his face with a violent alacrity, which showed that Arabin’s coming was a great point gained.

“Will he come here to Plumstead?” said the wife.

“He has promised to stay a month with us,” said the archdeacon, “so that he may see what his parish is like. You’ll like Arabin very much. He’s a gentleman in every respect and full of humour.”

“He’s very queer, isn’t he?” asked the lady.

“Well — he is a little odd in some of his fancies, but there’s nothing about him you won’t like. He is as staunch a churchman as there is at Oxford. I really don’t know what we should do without Arabin. It’s a great thing for me to have him so near me, and if anything can put Slope down, Arabin will do it.”

The Reverend Francis Arabin was a fellow of Lazarus, the favoured disciple of the great Dr. Gwynne, a High Churchman at all points — so high, indeed, that at one period of his career he had all but toppled over into the cesspool of Rome — a poet and also a polemical writer, a great pet in the common-rooms at Oxford, an eloquent clergyman, a droll, odd, humorous, energetic, conscientious man, and, as the archdeacon had boasted of him, a thorough gentleman. As he will hereafter be brought more closely to our notice, it is now only necessary to add that he had just been presented to the vicarage of St. Ewold by Dr. Grantly, in whose gift as archdeacon the living lay. St. Ewold is a parish lying just without the city of Barchester. The suburbs of the new town, indeed, are partly within its precincts, and the pretty church and parsonage are not much above a mile distant from the city gate.

St Ewold is not a rich piece of preferment — it is worth some three or four hundred a year at most, and has generally been held by a clergyman attached to the cathedral choir. The archdeacon, however, felt, when the living on this occasion became vacant, that it imperatively behoved him to aid the force of his party with some tower of strength, if any such tower could be got to occupy St. Ewold’s. He had discussed the matter with his brethren in Barchester, not in any weak spirit as the holder of patronage to be used for his own or his family’s benefit, but as one to whom was committed a trust on the due administration of which much of the church’s welfare might depend. He had submitted to them the name of Mr. Arabin as though the choice had rested with them all in conclave, and they had unanimously admitted that, if Mr. Arabin would accept St. Ewold’s, no better choice could possibly be made.

If Mr. Arabin would accept St. Ewold’s! There lay the difficulty. Mr. Arabin was a man standing somewhat prominently before the world, that is, before the Church of England world. He was not a rich man, it is true, for he held no preferment but his fellowship, but he was a man not over-anxious for riches, not married of course, and one whose time was greatly taken up in discussing, both in print and on platforms, the privileges and practices of the church to which he belonged. As the archdeacon had done battle for its temporalities, so did Mr. Arabin do battle for its spiritualities, and both had done so conscientiously; that is, not so much each for his own benefit as for that of others.

Holding such a position as Mr. Arabin did, there was much reason to doubt whether he would consent to become the parson of St. Ewold’s, and Dr. Grantly had taken the trouble to go himself to Oxford on the matter. Dr. Gwynne and Dr. Grantly together had succeeded in persuading this eminent divine that duty required him to go to Barchester. There were wheels within wheels in this affair. For some time past Mr. Arabin had been engaged in a tremendous controversy with no less a person than Mr. Slope, respecting the apostolic succession. These two gentlemen had never seen each other, but they had been extremely bitter in print. Mr. Slope had endeavoured to strengthen his cause by calling Mr. Arabin an owl, and Mr. Arabin had retaliated by hinting that Mr. Slope was an infidel. This battle had been commenced in the columns of The Jupiter, a powerful newspaper, the manager of which was very friendly to Mr. Slope’s view of the case. The matter, however, had become too tedious for the readers of The Jupiter, and a little note had therefore been appended to one of Mr. Slope’s most telling rejoinders, in which it had been stated that no further letters from the reverend gentlemen could be inserted except as advertisements.

Other methods of publication were, however, found, less expensive than advertisements in The Jupiter, and the war went on merrily. Mr. Slope declared that the main part of the consecration of a clergyman was the self-devotion of the inner man to the duties of the ministry. Mr. Arabin contended that a man was not consecrated at all, had, indeed, no single attribute of a clergyman, unless he became so through the imposition of some bishop’s hands, who had become a bishop through the imposition of other hands, and so on in a direct line to one of the apostles. Each had repeatedly hung the other on the horns of a dilemma, but neither seemed to be a whit the worse for the hanging; and so the war went on merrily.

Whether or no the near neighbourhood of the foe may have acted in any way as an inducement to Mr. Arabin to accept the living of St. Ewold we will not pretend to say, but it had at any rate been settled in Dr. Gwynne’s library, at Lazarus, that he would accept it and that he would lend his assistance towards driving the enemy out of Barchester, or, at any rate, silencing him while he remained there. Mr. Arabin intended to keep his rooms at Oxford and to have the assistance of a curate at St. Ewold, but he promised to give as much time as possible to the neighbourhood of Barchester, and from so great a man Dr. Grantly was quite satisfied with such a promise. It was no small part of the satisfaction derivable from such an arrangement that Bishop Proudie would be forced to institute into a living immediately under his own nose the enemy of his favourite chaplain.

All through dinner the archdeacon’s good humour shone brightly in his face. He ate of the good things heartily, he drank wine with his wife and daughter, he talked pleasantly of his doings at Oxford, told his father-inlaw that he ought to visit Dr. Gwynne at Lazarus, and launched out again in praise of Mr. Arabin.

“Is Mr. Arabin married, Papa?” asked Griselda.

“No, my dear, the fellow of a college is never married.”

“Is he a young man, Papa?”

“About forty, I believe,” said the archdeacon.

“Oh!” said Griselda. Had her father said eighty, Mr. Arabin would not have appeared to her to be very much older.

When the two gentlemen were left alone over their wine, Mr. Harding told his tale of woe. But even this, sad as it was, did not much diminish the archdeacon’s good humour, though it greatly added to his pugnacity.

“He can’t do it,” said Dr. Grantly over and over again as his father-inlaw explained to him the terms on which the new warden of the hospital was to be appointed; “he can’t do it. What he says is not worth the trouble of listening to. He can’t alter the duties of the place.”

“Who can’t?” asked the ex-warden.

“Neither the bishop nor the chaplain, nor yet the bishop’s wife, who, I take it, has really more to say to such matters than either of the other two. The whole body corporate of the palace together have no power to turn the warden of the hospital into a Sunday-schoolmaster.”

“But the bishop has the power to appoint whom he pleases, and —”

“I don’t know that; I rather think he’ll find he has no such power. Let him try it, and see what the press will say. For once we shall have the popular cry on our side. But Proudie, ass as he is, knows the world too well to get such a hornet’s nest about his ears.”

Mr. Harding winced at the idea of the press. He had had enough of that sort of publicity, and was unwilling to be shown up a second time either as a monster or as a martyr. He gently remarked that he hoped the newspapers would not get hold of his name again and then suggested that perhaps it would be better that he should abandon his object. “I am getting old,” said he, “and after all I doubt whether I am fit to undertake new duties.”

“New duties?” said the archdeacon; “don’t I tell you there shall be no new duties?”

“Or perhaps old duties either,” said Mr. Harding; “I think I will remain content as I am.” The picture of Mr. Slope carting away the rubbish was still present to his mind.

The archdeacon drank off his glass of claret and prepared himself to be energetic. “I do hope,” said he, “that you are not going to be so weak as to allow such a man as Mr. Slope to deter you from doing what you know it is your duty to do. You know it is your duty to resume your place at the hospital now that parliament has so settled the stipend as to remove those difficulties which induced you to resign it. You cannot deny this, and should your timidity now prevent you from doing so, your conscience will hereafter never forgive you,” and as he finished this clause of his speech, he pushed over the bottle to his companion.

“Your conscience will never forgive you,” he continued. “You resigned the place from conscientious scruples, scruples which I greatly respected, though I did not share them. All your friends respected them, and you left your old house as rich in reputation as you were ruined in fortune. It is now expected that you will return. Dr. Gwynne was saying only the other day —”

“Dr. Gwynne does not reflect how much older a man I am now than when he last saw me.”

“Old — nonsense,” said the archdeacon; “you never thought yourself old till you listened to the impudent trash of that coxcomb at the palace.”

“I shall be sixty-five if I live till November,” said Mr. Harding.

“And seventy-five, if you live till November ten years,” said the archdeacon. “And you bid fair to be as efficient then as you were ten years ago. But for heaven’s sake let us have no pretence in this matter. Your plea of old age is a pretence. But you’re not drinking your wine. It is only a pretence. The fact is, you are half-afraid of this Slope and would rather subject yourself to comparative poverty and discomfort than come to blows with a man who will trample on you, if you let him.”

“I certainly don’t like coming to blows, if I can help it.”

“Nor I neither — but sometimes we can’t help it. This man’s object is to induce you to refuse the hospital, that he may put some creature of his own into it; that he may show his power and insult us all by insulting you, whose cause and character are so intimately bound up with that of the chapter. You owe it to us all to resist him in this, even if you have no solicitude for yourself. But surely, for your own sake, you will not be so lily-livered as to fall into this trap which he has baited for you and let him take the very bread out of your mouth without a struggle.”

Mr. Harding did not like being called lily-livered and was rather inclined to resent it. “I doubt there is any true courage,” said he, “in squabbling for money.”

“If honest men did not squabble for money, in this wicked world of ours, the dishonest men would get it all, and I do not see that the cause of virtue would be much improved. No — we must use the means which we have. If we were to carry your argument home, we might give away every shilling of revenue which the church has, and I presume you are not prepared to say that the church would be strengthened by such a sacrifice.” The archdeacon filled his glass and then emptied it, drinking with much reverence a silent toast to the well-being and permanent security of those temporalities which were so dear to his soul.

“I think all quarrels between a clergyman and his bishop should be avoided,” said Mr. Harding.

“I think so too, but it is quite as much the duty of the bishop to look to that as of his inferior. I tell you what, my friend; I’ll see the bishop in this matter — that is, if you will allow me — and you may be sure I will not compromise you. My opinion is that all this trash about the Sunday-schools and the sermons has originated wholly with Slope and Mrs. Proudie and that the bishop knows nothing about it. The bishop can’t very well refuse to see me, and I’ll come upon him when he has neither his wife nor his chaplain by him. I think you’ll find that it will end in his sending you the appointment without any condition whatever. And as to the seats in the cathedral, we may safely leave that to Mr. Dean. I believe the fool positively thinks that the bishop could walk away with the cathedral if he pleased.”

And so the matter was arranged between them. Mr. Harding had come expressly for advice, and therefore felt himself bound to take the advice given him. He had known, moreover, beforehand that the archdeacon would not hear of his giving the matter up, and accordingly, though he had in perfect good faith put forward his own views, he was prepared to yield.

They therefore went into the drawing-room in good humour with each other, and the evening passed pleasantly in prophetic discussions on the future wars of Arabin and Slope. The frogs and the mice would be nothing to them, nor the angers of Agamemnon and Achilles. How the archdeacon rubbed his hands and plumed himself on the success of his last move. He could not himself descend into the arena with Slope, but Arabin would have no such scruples. Arabin was exactly the man for such work, and the only man whom he knew that was fit for it.

The archdeacon’s good humour and high buoyancy continued till, when reclining on his pillow, Mrs. Grantly commenced to give him her view of the state of affairs at Barchester. And then certainly he was startled. The last words he said that night were as follows:

“If she does, by heaven I’ll never speak to her again. She dragged me into the mire once, but I’ll not pollute myself with such filth as that —” And the archdeacon gave a shudder which shook the whole room, so violently was he convulsed with the thought which then agitated his mind.

Now in this matter the widow Bold was scandalously ill-treated by her relatives. She had spoken to the man three or four times, and had expressed her willingness to teach in a Sunday-school. Such was the full extent of her sins in the matter of Mr. Slope. Poor Eleanor! But time will show.

The next morning Mr. Harding returned to Barchester, no further word having been spoken in his hearing respecting Mr. Slope’s acquaintance with his younger daughter. But he observed that the archdeacon at breakfast was less cordial than he had been on the preceding evening.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43