Chaldicotes is a house of much more pretension than Framley Court. Indeed, if one looks at the ancient marks about it, rather than at those of the present day, it is a place of very considerable pretension. There is an old forest, not altogether belonging to the property, but attached to it, called the Chase of Chaldicotes. A portion of this forest comes up close behind the mansion, and of itself gives a character and celebrity to the place. The Chase of Chaldicotes — the greater part of it, at least — is, as all the world knows, Crown property, and now, in these utilitarian days, is to be deforested. In former times it was a great forest, stretching half across the country, almost as far as Silverbridge; and there are bits of it, here and there, still to be seen at intervals throughout the whole distance; but the larger remaining portion, consisting of aged hollow oaks, centuries old, and wide-spreading withered beeches, stands in the two parishes of Chaldicotes and Uffley. People still come from afar to see the oaks of Chaldicotes and to hear their feet rustle among the thick autumn leaves. But they will soon come no longer. The giants of past ages are to give way to wheat and turnips; a ruthless Chancellor of the Exchequer, disregarding old associations and rural beauty, requires money returns from the lands; and the Close of Chaldicotes is to vanish from the earth’s surface.
Some part of it, however, is the private property of Mr Sowerby, who hitherto, through all his pecuniary distresses, has managed to save from the axe and the auction-mart that portion of his paternal heritage. The house of Chaldicotes is a large stone building, probably of the time of Charles the Second. It is approached on both fronts by a heavy double flight of stone steps. In the front of the house a long, solemn, straight avenue through a double row of lime-trees, leads away to lodge-gates, which stand in the centre of the village of Chaldicotes; but to the rear the windows open upon four different vistas, which run down through the forest: four open green rides, which all converge together at a large iron gateway, the barrier which divides the private grounds from the Chase. The Sowerbys, for many generations, have been rangers of the Chase of Chaldicotes, thus having almost as wide an authority over the Crown forest as over their own. But now all this is to cease for the forest will be disforested.
It was nearly dark when Mark Robarts drove up through the avenue of lime-trees to the hall-door; but it was easy to see that the house, which was dead and silent as the grave through nine months of the year, was now alive in all its parts. There were lights in many of the windows, and a noise of voices came from the stables and servants were moving about, and dogs barked, and the dark gravel before the front steps was cut up with many a coach-wheel.
‘Oh, is that you, sir, Mr Robarts?’ said a groom, taking the parson’s horse by the head, and touching his own hat. ‘I hope I see your reverence well?’
‘Quite well, Bob, thank you. All well at Chaldicotes?’
‘Pretty bobbish, Mr Robarts. Deal of life going on here now, sir. The bishop and his lady came this morning.’
‘Oh — ah — yes! I understand they were to be here. Any of the young ladies?’
‘One young lady. Miss Olivia, I think they call her, your reverence.’
‘And how’s Mr Sowerby?’
‘Very well, your reverence. He, and Mr Harold Smith, and Mr Fothergill — that’s the duke’s man of business, you know — is getting off their horses now in the stable-yard there.’
‘Home from hunting — eh, Bob?’
‘Yes, sir, just home, this minute.’ And then Mr Robarts walked into the house, his portmanteau following on a foot-boy’s shoulder.
It will be seen that our young vicar was very intimate at Chaldicotes; so much so that the groom knew him, and talked to him about the people in the house. Yes; he was intimate there; much more than he had given the Framley people to understand. Not that he had wilfully and overtly deceived any one; not that he had ever spoken a false word about Chaldicotes. But he had never boasted at home that he and Sowerby were near allies. Neither had he told them how often Mr Sowerby and Lord Lufton were together in London. Why trouble women with such matters? Why annoy so excellent a woman as Lady Lufton? And then Mr Sowerby was one whose intimacy few young men would wish to reject. He was fifty, and had lived, perhaps, not the most salutary life; but he dressed young, and usually looked well. He was bald, with a good forehead, and sparkling moist eyes. He was a clever man, and a pleasant companion, and always good-humoured when it so suited him. He was a gentleman, too, of high breeding and good birth, whose ancestors had been known in that county — longer, the farmers around would boast, than those of any other landowner in it, unless it be the Thornes of Ullathorne, or perhaps the Greshams of Greshambury — much longer than the De Courcys of De Courcy Castle. As for the Duke of Omnium, he, comparatively speaking, was a new man. And then he was a member of Parliament, a friend of some men in power, and of others who might be there; a man who could talk about the world as one knowing the matter of which he talked. And moreover, whatever might be his ways of life at other times, when in the presence of a clergyman he rarely made himself offensive to clerical tastes. He neither swore, nor brought his vices on the carpet, nor sneered at the faith of the Church. If he was no Churchman himself, he at least knew how to live with those who were.
How was it possible that such a one as our vicar should not relish the intimacy of Mr Sowerby? It might be very well, he would say to himself, for a woman like Lady Lufton to turn up her nose at him — for Lady Lufton, who spent ten months of the year at Framley Court, and who during those ten months, and for the matter of that, during the two months also which she spent in London, saw no one out of her own set. Women did not understand such things, the vicar said to himself; even his own wife — good, and nice, and sensible, and intelligent as she was — even she did not understand that a man in the world must meet all sorts of men; and that in these days it did not do for a clergyman to be a hermit. ’Twas thus that Mark Robarts argued when he found himself called upon to defend himself before the bar of his own conscience for going to Chaldicotes and increasing his intimacy with Mr Sowerby. He did know that Mr Sowerby was a dangerous man; he was aware that he was over head and ears in debt; and that he had already entangled young Lord Lufton in some pecuniary embarrassment; his conscience did tell him that it would be well for him, as one of Christ’s soldiers, to look out for companions of a different stamp. But, nevertheless, he went to Chaldicotes, not satisfied with himself indeed, but repeating to himself a great many arguments why he should be so satisfied.
He was shown into the drawing-room at once, and there he found Mrs Harold Smith, with Mrs and Miss Proudie, and a lady whom he had never before seen, and whose name he did not at first hear mentioned.
‘Is that Mr Robarts?’ said Mrs Harold Smith, getting up to greet him, and screening her pretended ignorance under the veil of darkness. ‘And have you really driven over four-and-twenty miles of Barsetshire roads on such a day as this to assist us in our little difficulties? Well, we can promise you gratitude at any rate.’ And then the vicar shook hands with Mrs Proudie, in that deferential manner which is due from a vicar to his bishop’s wife; and Mrs Proudie returned the greeting with all that smiling condescension which a bishop’s wife should show to a vicar. Miss Proudie was not quite so civil. Had Mr Robarts been still unmarried, she also would have smiled sweetly; but she had been exercising her smiles on clergymen too long to waste them now on a married parish parson.
‘And what are the difficulties, Mrs Smith, in which I am to assist you?’
‘We have six or seven gentlemen here, Mr Robarts, and they always go hunting before breakfast, and they never come back — I was going to say — till after dinner. I wish it were so, for then we should not have to wait for them.’
‘Excepting Mr Supplehouse, you know,’ said the unknown lady, in a loud voice.
‘And he is generally shut up in the library, writing articles.’
‘He’d be better employed if he were trying to break his neck like the others,’ said the unknown lady.
‘Only he would never succeed,’ says Mrs Harold Smith. ‘But perhaps, Mr Robarts, you are as bad as the rest; perhaps you too, will be hunting tomorrow.’
‘My dear Mrs Smith!’ said Mrs Proudie, in a tone denoting slight reproach, and modified horror.
‘Oh! I forgot. No, of course, you won’t be hunting, Mr Robarts; you’ll only be wishing that you could.’
‘Why can’t he?’ said the lady with a loud voice.
‘My dear Miss Dunstable! A clergyman hunt, while he is staying in the same house with the bishop? Think of the proprieties!’
‘Oh — ah! The bishop wouldn’t like it — wouldn’t he? Now, do tell me, sir, what would the bishop do to you if you did hunt?’
‘It would depend on his mood at the time, madam,’ said Mr Robarts. ‘If that were very stern, he might perhaps have me beheaded before the palace gates.’
Mrs Proudie drew herself up in her chair, showing that she did not like the tone of the conversation; and Miss Proudie fixed her eyes vehemently on her book, showing that Miss Dunstable and her conversation were both beneath her notice.
‘If these gentlemen do not mean to break their necks to-night,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, ‘I wish they’d let us know it. It’s half-past six already.’ And then Mr Robarts gave them to understand that no such catastrophe would be looked for that day, as Mr Sowerby and the other sportsmen were within the stable-yard when he entered the door.
‘Then, ladies, we may as well dress,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. But as she moved towards the door, it opened, and a short gentleman, with a slow, quiet step, entered the room; but was not yet to be distinguished through the dusk by the eyes of Mr Robarts. ‘Oh! bishop, is that you?’ said Mrs Smith. ‘Here is one of the luminaries of your diocese.’ And then the bishop, feeling through the dark, made his way up to the vicar and shook him cordially by the hand. He was delighted to meet Mr Robarts at Chaldicotes, he said, quite delighted. Was he not going to preach on behalf of the Papuan Mission next Sunday? Ah! so he was, the bishop had heard. It was a good work, an excellent work!’ And then Dr Proudie expressed himself as much grieved that he should not remain at Chaldicotes, and hear the sermon. It was plain that the bishop thought no ill of him on account of his intimacy with Mr Sowerby. But then he felt in his own heart that he did not much regard the bishop’s opinion.
‘Ah, Robarts, I’m delighted to see you,’ said Mr Sowerby, when they met on the drawing-room rug before dinner. ‘You know Harold Smith? Yes, of course you do. Well, who else is there? Oh! Supplehouse. Mr Supplehouse, allow me to introduce to you my friend Mr Robarts. It is he who will extract the five-pound note out of your pocket next Sunday for these poor Papuans whom we are going to Christianize. That is, if Harold Smith does not finish the work out of hand at his Sunday lecture. And, Robarts, you have seen the bishop, of course:’ this he said in a whisper. ‘A fine thing to be a bishop, isn’t it? I wish I had half your chance. But, my dear fellow, I’ve made such a mistake. I haven’t got a bachelor parson for Miss Proudie. You must help me out, and take her into dinner.’ And then the great gong sounded, and off they went in pairs.
At dinner Mark found himself seated between Miss Proudie and the lady whom he had heard named as Miss Dunstable. Of the former he was not very fond, and, in spite of his host’s petition, was not inclined to play bachelor parson for her benefit. With the other lady he would willingly have chatted during the dinner, only that everybody else at table seemed to be intent on doing the same thing. She was neither young, nor beautiful, nor peculiarly ladylike; yet she seemed to enjoy a popularity which must have excited the envy of Mr Supplehouse, and which certainly was not altogether to the taste of Mrs Proudie — who, however, feted her as much as did the others. So that our clergyman found himself unable to obtain more than an inconsiderable share of the lady’s attention.
‘Bishop,’ said she, speaking across the table, ‘we have missed you all day! we have had no one on earth to say a word to us.’
‘My dear Miss Dunstable, had I known that — But I really was engaged on business of some importance.’
‘I don’t believe in business of importance; do you, Mrs Smith?’
‘Do I not?’ said Mrs Smith. ‘If you were married to Mr Harold Smith for one week, you’d believe in it.’
‘Should I, now? What a pity I can’t have that chance of improving my faith! But you are a man of business also, Mr Supplehouse; do they tell me.’ And she turned to her neighbour on her right hand.
‘I cannot compare myself to Mr Harold Smith,’ said he. ‘But perhaps I may equal the bishop.’
‘What does a man do, now, when he sits himself down to business? How does he set about it? What are his tools? A quire of blotting paper, I suppose, to begin with?’
‘That depends, I should say, on his trade. A shoemaker begins by waxing his thread.’
‘And Mr Harold Smith —?’
‘By counting up his yesterday’s figures, generally, I should say; or else by unrolling a ball of red tape. Well-docketed papers and statistical facts are his forte.’
‘And what does a bishop do? Can you tell me that?’
‘He sends forth to his clergy either blessings or blowings-up, according to the state of his digestive organs. But Mrs Proudie can explain all that to you with the greatest accuracy.’
‘Can she now? I understand what you mean, but I don’t believe a word of it. The bishop manages his own affairs himself, quite as much as you do, or Mr Harold Smith.’
‘I, Miss Dunstable?’
‘But I, unluckily, have not a wife to manage them for me.’
‘Then you should not laugh at those who have, for you don’t know what you may come to yourself, when you’re married.’
Mr Supplehouse began to make a pretty speech, saying that he would be delighted to incur any danger in that respect to which he might be subjected by the companionship of Miss Dunstable. But before he was half through it, she had turned her back upon him, and began a conversation with Mark Robarts.
‘Have you much work in your parish, Mr Robarts?’ she asked. Now, Mark was not aware that she knew his name or the fact of his having a parish, and was rather surprised by the question. And he had not quite liked the tone in which she had seemed to speak of the bishop and his work. His desire for her further acquaintance was therefore somewhat moderated, and he was not prepared to answer her question with much zeal.
‘All parish clergymen have plenty of work, if they choose to do it.’
‘Ah, that is it; is it not, Mr Robarts? If they choose to do it? A great many do — many that I know, do; and see what a result they have. But many neglect it — and see what a result they have. I think it ought to be the happiest life that a man can lead, that of a parish clergyman, with a wife and family and a sufficient income.’
‘I think it is,’ said Mark Robarts, asking himself whether the contentment accruing to him from such blessings had made him satisfied on all points. He had all these things of which Miss Dunstable spoke, and yet he had told his wife, the other day, that he could not afford to neglect the acquaintance of a rising politician like Harold Smith.
‘What I find fault with is this,’ continued Miss Dunstable, ‘that we expect clergymen to do their duty, and don’t give them a sufficient income — give them hardly any income at all. Is it not a scandal that an educated gentleman with a family should be made to work half his life, and perhaps the whole, for a pittance of seventy pounds a year!’ Mark said that it was a scandal, and thought of Mr Evan Jones and his daughter; and thought also of his own worth, and his own house, and his own nine hundred a year.
‘And yet clergymen are so proud — aristocratic would be a genteel word, I know — that you won’t take the money of common, ordinary people. You must be paid from land and endowments, from tithe and church property. You can’t bring yourself to work for what you earn, as lawyers and doctors do. It is better that curates should starve than undergo such ignominy as that.’
‘It is a long subject, Miss Dunstable.’
‘A very long one; and that means that I am not to talk any more about it.’
‘I did not mean that exactly.’
‘Oh, but you did, though Mr Robarts. And I can take a hint of that kind when I get it. You clergymen like to keep those long subjects for your sermons, when no one can answer you. Now if I have a longing heart’s desire for anything at all in this world, it is to be able to get up into a pulpit, and preach a sermon.’
‘You can’t conceive how soon that appetite would pall upon you, after its first indulgence.’
‘That would depend upon whether I could get people to listen to me. It does not pall upon Mr Spurgeon, I suppose.’ Then her attention was called away by some question from Mr Sowerby, and Mark Robarts found himself bound to address his conversation to Miss Proudie. Miss Proudie, however, was not thankful, and gave him little but monosyllables for his pains.
‘Of course you know Harold Smith is going to give us a lecture about these islanders.’ Mr Sowerby said to him, as they sat round the fire over their wine after dinner. Mark said that he had been so informed, and should be delighted to be one of the listeners.
‘You are bound to do that, as he is going to listen to you the day afterwards — or, at any rate, to pretend to do so, which is as much as you will do for him. It’ll be a terrible bore — the lecture, I mean, not the sermon.’ And he spoke very low in his friend’s ear. ‘Fancy having to drive ten miles after dusk, and ten miles back, to hear Harold Smith talk for two hours about Borneo! One must do it, you know.’
‘I dare say it will be very interesting.’
‘My dear fellow, you haven’t undergone so many of these things as I have. But he’s right to do it. It’s his line of life; and when a man begins a thing he ought to go on with it. Where’s Lufton this time?’
‘In Scotland, when I last heard from him; but he’s probably at Melton now.’
‘It’s deuced shabby of him, not hunting here in his own county. He escapes all the bore of going to lectures, and giving feeds to the neighbours; that’s why he treats us so. He has no idea of his duty, has he?’
‘Lady Lufton does all that, you know.’
‘I wish I’d a Mrs Sowerby here to do it for me. But then Lufton has no constituents to look after — lucky dog! By the by, has he spoken to you about selling that outlying bit of land of his in Oxfordshire? It belongs to the Lufton property, and yet it doesn’t. In my mind it gives more trouble than it’s worth.’ Lord Lufton had spoken to Mark about this sale and had explained to him that such a sacrifice was absolutely necessary, in consequence of certain pecuniary transactions between him, Lord Lufton and Mr Sowerby. But it was found impracticable to complete the business without Lady Lufton’s knowledge, and her son had commissioned Mr Robarts not only to inform her ladyship, but to talk her over and to appease her wrath. This commission he had not yet attempted to exercise, and it was probable that this visit to Chaldicotes would not do much to facilitate the business.
‘They are the most magnificent islands under the sun,’ said Harold Smith to the bishop.
‘Are they, indeed!’ said the bishop, opening his eyes wide, and assuming a look of intense interest.
‘And the most intelligent people.’
‘Dear me!’ said the bishop.
‘All they want is guidance, encouragement, instruction —’
‘And Christianity,’ suggested the bishop.
‘And Christianity, of course,’ said Mr Smith, remembering that he was speaking to a dignitary of the Church. It was well to humour such people, Mr Smith thought. But the Christianity was to be done in the Sunday sermon, and was not part of his work.
‘And how do you intend to begin with them?’ asked Mr Supplehouse, the business of whose life it had been to suggest difficulties.
‘Begin with them — oh — why it’s very easy to begin with them. The difficulty is to go on with them, after the money is all spent. We’ll begin by explaining to them the benefits of civilization.’
‘Capital plan!’ said Mr Supplehouse. ‘But how do you set about it, Smith?’
‘How do we set about it? How did we set about it with Australia and America? It is very easy to criticize; but in such matters the great thing is to put one’s shoulder to the wheel.’
‘We sent our felons to Australia,’ said Supplehouse, ‘and they began to work for us. And as to America, we exterminated the people instead of civilizing them.’
‘We did not exterminate the inhabitants of India,’ said Harold Smith, angrily.
‘Nor have we attempted to Christianize them, as the bishop so properly wishes to do with your islanders.’
‘Supplehouse, you are not fair,’ said Mr Sowerby, ‘neither to Harold Smith nor to us — you are making him rehearse his lecture, which is bad for him; and making us hear the rehearsal, which is bad for us.’
‘Supplehouse belongs to a clique which monopolises the wisdom of England,’ said Harold Smith, ‘or, at any rate, thinks that it does. But the worst of them is that they are given to talk leading articles.’
‘Better that, than talk articles which are not leading,’ said Mr Supplehouse. ‘Some first-class official men do that.’
‘Shall I meet you at the duke’s next week, Mr Robarts?’ said the bishop to him, soon after they had gone into the drawing-room. Meet him at the duke’s! —-the established enemy of Barsetshire mankind, as Lady Lufton regarded his grace! No idea of going to the duke’s had ever entered our hero’s mind; nor had he been aware that the duke was about to entertain anyone.
‘No, my lord, I think not. Indeed, I have no acquaintance with his grace.’
‘Oh — ah! I did not know. Because Mr Sowerby is going; and so are the Harold Smiths, and I think, Mr Supplehouse. An excellent man is the duke; — that is, as regards the county interests,’ added the bishop, remembering that the moral character of his bachelor grace was not the very best in the world. And then his lordship began to ask some questions about the church affairs of Framley, in which a little interest as to Framley Court was also mixed up, when he was interrupted by a rather sharp voice, to which he instantly attended.
‘Bishop,’ said the rather sharp voice; and the bishop trotted across the room to the back of the sofa, on which his wife was sitting. ‘Miss Dunstable thinks that she will be able to come to us for a couple of days, after we leave the duke’s.’
‘I shall be delighted above all things,’ said the bishop, bowing low to the dominant lady of the day. For be it known to all men, that Miss Dunstable was the great heiress of that name.
‘Mrs Proudie is so very kind as to say that she will take me in, with my poodle, parrot, and pet old woman.’
‘I tell Miss Dunstable that we shall have quite room for any of her suite,’ said Mrs Proudie. ‘And that it will give us no trouble.’
‘“The labour we delight in physics pain”’ said the gallant bishop, bowing low, putting his hand upon his heart. In the meantime Mr Fothergill had got hold of Mark Robarts. Mr Fothergill was a gentleman and a magistrate of the county, but he occupied the position of managing man on the Duke of Omnium’s estate. He was not exactly his agent; that is to say, he did not receive his rents; but he ‘managed’ for him, saw people, went about the county, wrote letters, supported the electioneering interest, did popularity when it was too much trouble for the duke to do it himself, and was, in fact, invaluable. People in West Barsetshire would often say that they did not know what on earth the duke would do, if it were not for Mr Fothergill. Indeed, Mr Fothergill was useful to the duke.
‘Mr Robarts,’ he said, ‘I am very happy to have the pleasure of meeting you — very happy indeed. I have often heard of you from our friend Sowerby.’ Mark bowed, and said that he was delighted to have the honour of making Mr Fothergill’s acquaintance. ‘I am commissioned by the Duke of Omnium,’ continued Mr Fothergill, ‘to say how glad he will be if you will join his grace’s party at Gatherum Castle next week. The bishop will be there, and indeed nearly all the whole set who are here now. The duke would have written when he heard that you were to be at Chaldicotes; but things were hardly quite arranged then, so his grace has left it for me to tell you how happy he will be to make your acquaintance in his own house. I have spoken to Sowerby,’ continued Mr Fothergill, ‘and he very much hopes that you will be able to join us.’
Mark felt that his face became red when this proposition was made to him. The party in the county to which he properly belonged — he and his wife, and all that made him happy and respectable — looked upon the Duke of Omnium with horror and amazement; and now he had absolutely received an invitation to the duke’s house! A proposition was made to him that he should be numbered among the duke’s friends!
And though in one sense he was sorry that the proposition was made to him, yet in another he was proud of it. It is not every young man, let his profession be what it may, who can receive overtures of friendship from dukes without some elation. Mark, too, had risen in the world, as far as he had yet risen, by knowing great people; and he certainly had an ambition to rise higher; but he undoubtedly had a feeling that the paths most pleasant for a clergyman’s feet were those which were trodden by the great ones of the earth. Nevertheless, at the moment he declined the duke’s invitation. He was very much flattered, he said, but the duties of the parish would require him to return from Chaldicotes to Framley.
‘You need not give an answer to-night, you know,’ said Mr Fothergill. ‘Before the week is past, we will talk it over with Sowerby and the bishop. It will be a thousand pities, Mr Robarts, if you will allow me to say so, that you should neglect such an opportunity of knowing his grace.’
When Mark went to bed, his mind was still set against going to the duke’s; but, nevertheless, he did feel that it was a pity that he should not do so. After all, was it necessary that he should obey Lady Lufton in all things?
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55