Dear affectionate, sympathetic readers, we have four couple of sighing lovers with whom to deal in this our last chapter, and I, as leader of the chorus, disdain to press you further with doubts as to the happiness of any of that quadrille. They were all made happy, in spite of that little episode which so lately took place at Barchester; and in telling of their happiness — shortly, as is now necessary — we will take them chronologically, giving precedence to those who first appeared at the hymeneal altar. In July, then, at the cathedral, by the father of the bride, assisted by his examining chaplain, Olivia Proudie, the eldest daughter of the Bishop of Barchester, was joined in marriage to the Rev Tobias Tickler, incumbent of the Trinity district church in Bethnal Green. Of the bridegroom in this instance, our acquaintance has been so short, that it is not, perhaps, necessary to say much. When coming to the wedding he proposed to bring his three darling children with him; but in this measure he was, I think prudently, stopped by the advice, rather strongly worded, from his future valued mother-inlaw. Mr Tickler was not an opulent man, nor had he hitherto attained any great fame in his profession; but, at the age of forty-three he still had sufficient opportunity before him, and now that his merit has been properly viewed by high ecclesiastical eyes the refreshing dew of deserved promotion will no doubt fall upon him. The marriage was very smart, and Olivia carried herself through the trying ordeal with an excellent propriety of conduct. Up to that time, and even for a few days longer, there was doubt at Barchester as to that strange journey which Lord Dumbello did take to France. When a man so circumstanced will suddenly go to Paris, without notice given even to his future bride, people must doubt; and grave were the apprehensions expressed on this occasion by Mrs Proudie, even at her child’s wedding breakfast. ‘God bless you, my dear children,’ she said, standing up at the head of her table as she addressed Mr Tickler and his wife; ‘when I see your perfect happiness — perfect, that is, as far a human happiness can be made perfect in this vale of tears — and think of the terrible calamity which has fallen on our unfortunate neighbours, I cannot but acknowledge His infinite mercy and goodness. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’ By which she intended, no doubt, to signify that whereas Mr Tickler had been given to her Olivia, Lord Dumbello had been taken away from the archdeacon’s Griselda. The happy couple then went in Mrs Proudie’s carriage to the nearest railway station but one, and from thence proceeded to Malvern, and there spent their honeymoon. And a great comfort it was, I am sure, to Mrs Proudie when authenticated tidings reached Barchester that Lord Dumbello had returned from Paris and that the Hartletop-Grantly alliance was to be carried to its completion. She still, however, held her opinion — whether correctly or not who shall say? — that the young lord had intended to escape. ‘The archdeacon has shown great firmness in the way in which he has done it,’ said Mrs Proudie; ‘but whether he has consulted the child’s best interests in forcing her into a marriage with an unwilling husband, I for one must take leave to doubt. But then, unfortunately, we all know how completely the archdeacon is devoted to worldly matters.’
In this instance the archdeacon’s devotion to worldly matters was rewarded by that success which he no doubt desired. He did go up to London, and did see one or two of Lord Dumbello’s friends. This he did, not obtrusively, as though in fear of any falsehood or vacillation on the part of the viscount, but with that discretion and tact for which he has been so long noted. Mrs Proudie declares that during the few days of his absence from Barsetshire he himself crossed to France and hunted down Lord Dumbello at Paris. As to this I am not prepared to say anything; but I am quite sure, as will be all those who knew the archdeacon, that he was not a man to see his daughter wronged as long as any measure remained by which such wrong might be avoided. But, be that as it may — that mooted question as to the archdeacon’s journey to Paris — Lord Dumbello was forthcoming at Plumstead on the 5th August, and went through his work like a man. The Hartletop family, when the alliance was found to be inevitable, endeavoured to arrange that the wedding should be held at Hartletop Priory, in order that the clerical dust and dinginess of Barchester Close might not soil the splendour of the marriage gala doings; for, to tell the truth, the Hartletopians, as a rule, were not proud of their new clerical connexions. But on this subject Mrs Grantly was very properly inexorable; nor when an attempt was made on the bride to induce her to throw over her mamma at the last moment and pronounce for herself that she would be married at the priory, was it attended with any success. The Hartletops knew nothing of the Grantly fibre and calibre, or they would have made no such attempt. The marriage took place at Plumstead, and on the morning of the day Lord Dumbello posted over from Barchester to the rectory. The ceremony was performed by the archdeacon, without assistance, although the dean, and the precentor, and two other clergymen, were at the ceremony. Griselda’s propriety of conduct was quite equal to that of Olivia Proudie; indeed, nothing could exceed the statuesque grace and fine aristocratic bearing with which she carried herself on the occasion. The three or four words which the service required of her she said with ease and dignity; there was neither sobbing nor crying to disturb the work or embarrass her friends, and she signed her name in the church books as “Griselda Grantly” without a tremor — and without a regret.
Mrs Grantly kissed her and blessed her in the halls as she was about to step forward to her travelling carriage leaning on her father’s arm, and the child put up her face to her mother for a last whisper. ‘Mamma,’ she said, ‘I suppose Jane can put out her hand at once on the moire antique when we reach Dover?’ Mrs Grantly smiled and nodded, and again blessed the child. There was not a tear shed — at least, not then — nor a sign of sorrow to cloud for a moment the gay splendour of the day. But the mother did bethink herself, in the solitude of her own room, of those last words, and did acknowledge a lack of something for which her heart had sighed. She had boasted to her sister that she had nothing to regret as to her daughter’s education; but now, when she was alone after her success, did she feel that she could still support herself with that boast? For, be it known, Mrs Grantly had a heart within her bosom and a faith within her heart. The world, it is true, had pressed upon her sorely with all its weight of accumulated clerical wealth, but it had not utterly crushed her — not her, but only her child. For the sins of the father, are they not visited on the third and fourth generation? But if any such feeling of remorse did for awhile mar the fullness of Mrs Grantly’s joy, it was soon dispelled by the perfect success of her daughter’s married life. At the end of the autumn the bride and bridegroom returned from their tour, and it was evident to all the circle at Hartletop Priory that Lord Dumbello was by no means dissatisfied with his bargain. His wife had been admired everywhere to the top of his bent. All the world at Ems, and Baden, and at Nice, had been stricken by the stately beauty of the young countess. And then, too, her manner, style, and high dignity of demeanour altogether supported the reverential feeling which her grace and form first inspired. She never derogated from her husband’s honour by the fictitious liveliness of gossip, or allowed any one to forget the peeress in the woman. Lord Dumbello soon found that his reputation for discretion was quite safe in her hands, and that there were no lessons as to conduct in which it was necessary that he should give instruction. Before the winter was over she had equally won the hearts of all the circle at Hartletop Priory. The duke was there and declared to the marchioness that Dumbello could not possibly have done better. ‘Indeed, I do think he could,’ said the happy mother. ‘She sees all that she ought to see, and nothing that she ought not.’
And then, in London, when the season came, all men sang all manner of praises in her favour and Lord Dumbello was made aware that he was reckoned among the wisest of his age. He was married a wife who managed everything for him, who never troubled him, whom no woman disliked, and whom every man admired. As for feast of reason and for flow of soul, is not a question whether any such flows and feasts are necessary between a man and his wife? How many men can truly assert that they ever enjoy connubial flows of soul, or that connubial feasts of reason are in their nature enjoyable? But a handsome woman at the head of your table, who knows how to dress, and how to sit, and how to get in and out of her carriage — who will not disgrace her lord by her ignorance, or fret him by her coquetry, or disparage him by her talent — how beautiful a thing it is! For my own part I think that Griselda Grantly was born to be the wife of a great English peer.
‘After all, then,’ said Miss Dunstable, speaking of Lady Dumbello — she was Mrs Thorne at this time —’ after all, there is some truth in what our quaint latter-day philosophers tell us —“Great are thy powers, O Silence!”’ The marriage of our friends, Dr Thorne and Miss Dunstable, was the third on the list, but that did not take place till the end of September. The lawyers on such an occasion had no inconsiderable work to accomplish, and though the lady was not coy, nor the gentleman slow, it was not found practicable to arrange an earlier wedding. The ceremony was performed at St George’s, Hanover Square, and was not brilliant in any special degree. London at the time was empty, and the few persons whose presence was actually necessary were imported from the country for the occasion. The bride was given away by Dr Easyman, and the two bridesmaids were ladies who had lived with Miss Dunstable as companions. Young Mr Gresham and his wife were there, as was also Mrs Harold Smith, who was not at all prepared to drop her own friend in her new sphere of life. ‘We shall call her Mrs Thorne instead of Miss Dunstable, and I really think that will be all the difference,’ said Mrs Harold Smith. To Mrs Harold Smith that probably was all the difference, but it was not so to the persons most concerned.
According to the plan of life arranged between the doctor and his wife she was still to keep up her house in London, remaining there during such period of the season as she might choose, and receiving him when it might appear good to him to visit her; but he was to be the master in the country. A mansion at the Chace was to be built, and till such time as that was completed, they would keep the old house at Greshambury. Into this, small as it was, Mrs Thorne — in spite of her great wealth — did not disdain to enter. But subsequent circumstances changed their plans. It was found that Mr Sowerby could not or would not live at Chaldicotes; and, therefore, in the second year of their marriage, that place was prepared for them. They are now well known to the whole county as Dr and Mrs Thorne of Chaldicotes — of Chaldicotes, in distinction to the well-known Thornes of Ullathorne in the eastern division. Here they live respected by their neighbours, and on terms of alliance both with the Duke of Omnium and with Lady Lufton. ‘Of course those dear old avenues will be very sad to me,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, when at the end of a London season she was invited down to Chaldicotes; and as she spoke she put her handkerchief up to her eyes.
‘Well, dear, what can I do?’ said Mrs Thorne. ‘I can’t cut them down; the doctor would not let me.’
‘Oh, no,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, sighing; and in spite of her feeling she did visit Chaldicotes.
But it was October before Lord Lufton was made a happy man; — that is, if the fruition of his happiness was a greater joy than the anticipation of it. I will not say that the happiness of marriage is like the Dead Sea fruit — an apple which, when eaten, turns to bitter ashes in the mouth. Such pretended sarcasm would be very false. Nevertheless, is it not a fact that the sweetest morsel of love’s feast has been eaten, that the freshest, fairest blush of the flower has been snatched and has passed away, when the ceremony at the altar has been performed, and legal possession has been given? There is an aroma of love, an undefinable delicacy of flavour, which escapes and is gone before the church portal is left, vanishing with the maiden name, and incompatible with the solid comfort appertaining to the rank of wife. To love one’s own spouse, and to be loved by her, is the ordinary lot of man, and is a duty exacted under penalties. But to be allowed to love youth and beauty that is not one’s own — to know that one is loved by a soft being who still hangs cowering from the eye of the world as though her love were all but illicit — can it be that a man is made happy when a state of anticipation such as this is brought to a close? No; when the husband walks back from the altar, he has already swallowed the choicest dainties of his banquet. The beef and pudding of married life are then in store for him; — or perhaps only the bread of cheese. Let him take care lest hardly a crust remain — or perhaps not a crust. But before we finish, let us go back for one moment to the dainties — to the time before the beef and pudding were served — while Lucy was still at the parsonage, and Lord Lufton still staying at Framley Court. He had come up one morning, as was now frequently his wont, and, after a few minutes’ conversation, Mrs Robarts had left the room — as not unfrequently on such occasions was her wont. Lucy was working and continued her work, and Lord Lufton for a moment or two sat looking at her; then he got up abruptly, and, standing before her, thus questioned her:-
‘Lucy,’ said he.
‘Well, what of Lucy now? Any particular fault this morning?’
‘Yes, a most particular fault. When I asked you, here, in this room, on this very spot, whether it was possible that you should love me — why did you say that it was impossible?’
Lucy, instead of answering at the moment, looked down upon the carpet, to see if his memory was as good as hers. Yes; he was standing on the exact spot where he had stood before. No spot in all the world was more frequently clear before her eyes.
‘Do you remember that day, Lucy?’ he said again.
‘Yes, I remember it,’ she said.
‘Why did you say it was impossible?’
‘Did I say impossible?’ She knew that she had said so. She remembered how she had waited till he had gone, and that then, going to her own room, she had reproached herself with the cowardice of the falsehood. She had lied to him then; and now — how was she punished for it?
‘Well, I suppose it was possible,’ she said.
‘But why did you say so when you knew it would make me so miserable?’
‘Miserable! nay, but you went away happy enough! I thought I had never seen you look better satisfied.’
‘You had done your duty, and had had such a lucky escape! What astonishes me is that you should have ever come back again. But the pitcher may go to the well once too often, Lord Lufton.’
‘But will you tell me the truth now?’
‘That day, when I came to you — did you love me at all then?’
‘We’ll let bygones be bygones, if you please.’
‘But I swear you shall tell me. It was such a cruel thing to answer me as you did, unless you meant it. And yet you never saw me again till after my mother had been over for you to Mrs Crawley’s.’
‘It was absence that made me — care for you.’
‘Lucy, I swear I believe you loved me then.’
‘Ludovic, some conjurer must have told you that.’ She was standing as she spoke, and, laughing at him, she held up her hands and shook her head. But she was now in his power, and he had his revenge — his revenge for her past falsehood and her present joke. How could he be more happy when he was made happy by having all his own, than he was now? And in these days there again came up that petition as to her riding — with very different result now than on that former occasion. There were so many objections, then. There was no habit, and Lucy was — or said she was — afraid; and then, what would Lady Lufton say? But now Lady Lufton thought it would be quite right; only were they quite sure about the horse? Was Ludovic certain that the horse had been ridden by a lady? And Lady Meredith’s habits were dragged out as a matter of course, and one of them chipped and snipped and altered, without any compunction. And as for fear, there could be no bolder horsewoman than Lucy Robarts. It was quite clear to all Framley that riding was the very thing for her. ‘But I never shall be happy, Ludovic, till you have got a horse properly suited for her,’ said Lady Lufton. And then, also, came the affair of her wedding garments, of her trousseau — as to which I cannot boast that she showed capacity or steadiness at all equal to that of Lady Dumbello. Lady Lufton, however, thought it a very serious matter; and as, in her opinion, Mrs Robarts did not go about it with sufficient energy, she took the matter mainly into her own hands, striking Lucy dumb by her frowns and nods, deciding on everything herself, down to the very tags of the boot-ties.
‘My dear, you really must allow me to know what I am about;’ and Lady Lufton patted her on the arm as she spoke. ‘I did it all for Justinia, and she never had reason to regret a single thing that I bought. If you’ll ask her, she’ll tell you so.’ Lucy did not ask her future sister-inlaw, seeing that she had no doubt whatever as to her future mother-inlaw’s judgement on the articles in question. Only the money! And what could she want with six dozen pocket-handkerchiefs all at once? There was no question of Lord Lufton’s going out as Governor-General to India! But twelve dozen pocket-handkerchiefs had not been too many for Griselda’s imagination. And Lucy would sit alone in the drawing-room at Framley Court, filling her heart with thoughts of that evening when she had first sat there. She had then resolved, painfully, with inward tears, with groanings of her spirit, that she was wrongly placed in being in that company. Griselda Grantly had been there, quite at her ease, petted by Lady Lufton, admired by Lord Lufton; while she had retired out of sight, sore at heart, because she felt herself to be no fit companion to those around her. Then he had come to her, making matters almost worst by talking to her, bringing the tears into her eyes by his good-nature, but still wounding her by the feeling that she could not speak to him at her ease. But things were at a different pass with her now. He had chosen her — her out of all the world, and brought her there to share with him his own home, his own honours, and all that he had to give. She was the apple of his eye, and the pride of his heart. And the stern mother, of whom she had stood in so much awe, who at first had passed her by as a thing not to be noticed, and had then sent out to her that she might be warned to keep herself aloof, now hardly knew in what way she might sufficiently show her love, regard and solicitude.
I must not say that Lucy was not proud in these moments — that her heart was not elated at these thoughts. Success does beget pride, as failure begets shame. But her pride was of that sort which is no way disgraceful to either man or woman, and was accompanied by pure true love, and a full resolution to do her duty in that state of life to which it had pleased her God to call her. She did rejoice greatly to think that she had been chosen, and not Griselda. Was it possible that having loved she should not so rejoice, or that, rejoicing, she should not be proud of her love? They spent the whole winter abroad, leaving the dowager Lady Lufton to her plans and preparations for their reception at Framley Court; and in the following spring they appeared in London, and there set up their staff. Lucy had some tremblings of the spirit, and quiverings about the heart, at thus beginning her duty before the great world, but she said little or nothing to her husband on the matter. Other women had done as much before her time, and by courage had gone through with it. It would be dreadful enough, that position in her own house with lords and ladies bowing to her, and stiff members of Parliament for whom it would be necessary to make small talk; but, nevertheless, it was to be endured. The time came, and she did endure it. The time came, and before the first six weeks were over she found that it was easy enough. The lords and ladies got into their proper places and talked to her about ordinary matters in a way that made no effort necessary, and the members of Parliament were hardly more stiff than the clergymen she had known in the neighbourhood of Framley. She had not been long in town before she met Lady Dumbello. At this interview also she had to overcome some little inward emotion. On the few occasions on which she had met Griselda Grantly at Framley they had not much progressed in friendship, and Lucy had felt that she had been despised by the rich beauty. She also in her turn had disliked, if she had not despised, her rival. But how would it be now? Lady Dumbello could hardly despise her, and yet it did not seem possible that they should meet as friends. They did meet, and Lucy came forward with a pretty eagerness to give her hand to Lady Lufton’s late favourite. Lady Dumbello smiled slightly — the same smile which had come across her face when they two had been first introduced in the Framley drawing-room; the same smile without the variation of a line — took the offered hand, muttered a word or two, and then receded. It was exactly as she had done before. She had never despised Lucy Robarts. She had accorded to the parson’s sister the amount of cordiality with which she usually received her acquaintance; and now she could do no more for the peer’s wife. Lady Dumbello and Lady Lufton have known each other ever since, and have occasionally visited each other’s houses, but the intimacy between them has never gone beyond this.
The dowager came up to town for about a month, and while there contented to fill a second place. She had no desire to be the great lady in London. But then came the trying period when they commenced their life together at Framley Court. The elder lady formally renounced her place at the top of the table — formally persisted in renouncing it though Lucy with tears implored her to resume it. She said also, with equal formality — repeating her determination over and over again to Mrs Robarts with great energy — that she would in no respect detract by interference of her own from the authority of the proper mistress of the house; but, nevertheless, it is well known to every one at Framley that old Lady Lufton still reigns paramount in the parish.
‘Yes, my dear; the big room looking into the little garden to the south was always the nursery; and if you ask my advice, it will remain so. But, of course, any room you please —’
And the big room looking into the little garden to the south is still the nursery at Framley Court.
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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01