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“If I had been making up a story, I should have kept to what was likely,” said Mr. Wentworth. “The Rector has been with me all the afternoon—he says he has been offered his father's rectory, where he was brought up, and that he has made up his mind to accept it, as he always was fond of the country;and that he has recommended me to his College for the living of Carlingford.” “Yes, yes,” said Lucy, impatiently, “that is very good of Mr. Morgan; but you know you are not a member of the College, and why should you have the living? I knew it could not be true.” “They are all a set of old Dons,” said the Perpetual Curate; “that is, they are the most accomlished set of fellows in existence, ucy—or at least they ought to be —but they are too superior to take an ordinary living, and condescend to ordinary existence. Here has Carlingford been twice vacant within a year—which is an unprecedented event—and Buller, the only man who would think of it, is hanging on for a colonial bishopric, where he can publish his book at his leisure. Buller is a great friend of Gerald's. It is incredible, Lucia mia, but it is true.” “Is it true? are you sure it is true?” cried Lucy; and in spite of herself she broke down and gave way, and let her head rest on the first convenient support it found, which turned out naturally enough, to be Mr. Wentworth's shoulder, and cried as if her heart was breaking. It is so seldom in this world that things come just when they are wanted; and this was not only an acceptable benefice, but implied the entire possession of the “district" and the most conclusive vindication of the Curate's honour. Lucy cried out of pride and happiness and glory in him. She said to herself, as Mrs. Morgan had done at the beginning of her incumbency, “He will be such a Rector as Carlingford has never seen.” Yet at the same time,
wol. xoVI. T
apart from her glorying and her pride, a certain sense of pain, exquisite though shortlived, found expression in Lucy's tears. She had just been making up her mind to accept a share of his lowliness, and to show the world that even a Perpetual Curate, when his wife was equal to her position, might be poor without feeling any , of the degradations of o and now she was forestalled, and had nothing to do but accept his competence, which it would "be no credit to manage well! Such were the thoughts to which she was reduced, though she had come home from Prickett's Lane persuading herself that it was duty only, and the wants of the district, which moved her. Lucy cried, although not much given to crying, chiefly because it was the only method she could find of giving expression to the feelings which were too varied and too complicated for words. All Carlingford knew the truth about Mr. Wentworth's advancement that evening, and on the next day, which was Sunday, the church of St. Roque's was as full as if the plague had broken out in Carlingford, and the population had rushed out, as they might have done in medieval times, to implore the succour of the physician-saint. The first indication of the unusual throng was conveyed to Mr. Wentworth in his little vestry after the choristers had filed into the church in their white surplices, about which, to tell the truth, the Perpetual Curate was less interested than he had once been. Elsworthy, who had been humbly assisting the young priest to robe himself, ventured to break the silence when they were alone. “The church is very full, sir,” said Elsworthy, “there's a deal of people come, sir, after hearing the news. I don't say as I've always been as good a servant as I ought to have been; but it was all through being led away, and not knowing no better, and putting my trust where I shouldn't have put it. I've had a hard lesson, sir, and I've learnt better,” he continued, with a sidelong glance at the Curate's face; “it was all a mistake.” “I was not finding fault with ou, that I am aware of,” said Mr. entworth with a little surprise. “No, sir,” said Elsworthy, “I’m aware as you wasn't finding no fault; but there's looks as speaks as strong as words, and I can feel - as you haven't the confidence in me as you once had. I ain't ashamed to say it, sir,” continued the clerk of St. Roque's. “I'm one as trusted in that girl's innocent looks, and didn't believe as she could do no harm. She's led me into ill-feeling with my clergyman, sir, and done me a deal o' damage in my trade, and now she's gone off without as much as saying “Thank ou for your kindness.' It's a hard i. upon a man as was fond of her, and I didn't make no difference, no more than if she had been my own child.” “Well, well,” said the Curate, "I daresay it was a trial to you; but you can't expect me to take much interest in it after all that has passed. Let bygones be bygones,” said Mr. Wentworth with a smile, “as indeed you once proposed.” “Ah! sir, that was my mistake,” sighed the penitent. “I would have 'umbled myself more becoming, if I had known all as I know now. You're agoing off to leave St. Roque's, where we've all been so happy,” said Mr. Elsworthy, in athetic tones. “I don't know as ever was as 'appy, sir, as here, alistening to them beautiful sermons, and agiving my best attention to see as the responses was well spoke out, and things done proper. Afore our troubles began, sir, I don't know as I had a wish in the world, unless it was to see an 'andsome painted window in the chancel, which is all as is wanted to make the church rfect; and now you're agoing to eave, and nobody knows what kind of a gentleman may be sent. If you wouldn't think I was making too bold,” said Elsworthy, “it ain't my opinion as you'll ever put
up with poor old Norris as is in the church. Men like Mr. Morgan and Mr. Proctor as had no cultivation doesn't mind; but for a gentleman as goes through the service as you does it, Mr. Wentworth—” Mr. Wentworth laughed, though he was fully robed and ready for the reading-desk, and knew that his congregation was waiting. He held his watch in his hand, though it already marked the half minute after eleven. “So you would like to be clerk in the parish church?” he said, with what seemed a quite unnecessary amount of amusement to the anxious functionary by his side. “I think as you could never put up with old Norris, sir,” said Elsworthy; “as for leading of the responses, there ain't such a thing done in Carlingford church. I don't speak for myself,” said the public-spirited clerk, “but it ain't a right thing for the rising generation; and it ain't everybody as would get into your way in a minute—for you have a way of your own, sir, in most things, and if you'll excuse me for saying of it, you're very particular. It ain't every man, sir, as could carry on clear through the service along of you, Mr. Wentworth; and you wouldn't put up with old Norris, not for a day.” Such was the conversation which opened this memorable Sunday to Mr. Wentworth. Opposite to him, again occupying the seat where his wife should have been, had he possessed one, were the three Miss Wentworths, his respected aunts, to whose opinion, however, the Curate did not feel himself bound to defer very greatly in present circumstances; and a large and curious congregation ranged behind them, almost as much concerned to see how Mr. Wentworth would conduct himself in this moment of triumph, as they had been in the moment of his humiliation. It is, however, needless to inform the friends of the Perpetual Curate that the anxious community gained very little by their curiosity. It
was not the custom of the young Anglican to carry his personal feelings, either of one kind or another, into the pulpit with him, much less into the reading-desk, where he was the interpreter not of his own sentiments or emotions, but of common prayer and universal worship. Mr. Wentworth did not even throw a little additional warmth into his utterance of the general thanksgiving, as he might have done had he been a more effusive man; but, on the contrary, read it with a more than ordinary calmness, and preached to the excited people one of those terse little unimpassioned sermons of his, from which it was utterly impossible to divine whether he was in the depths of despair or at the summit and crown of happiness. People who had been used to discover a great many of old Mr. Bury's personal peculiarities in his sermons, and who, of recent days, had found many allusions which it was easy to interpret in the discourses of Mr. Morgan, retired altogether baffled from the clear and succinct brevity of the Curate of St. Roque's. He was that day in particular so terse as to be almost epigrammatic, not using a word more than was necessary, and displaying that power of saying a great deal more than at the first moment he appeared to say, in which Mr. Wentworth's admirers specially prided themselves. Perhaps a momentary human gratification in the consciousness of having utterly baffled curiosity passed through the Curate's mind as he took off his robes when the service was over; but he was by no means prepared for the ordeal which awaited him when he stepped forth from the pretty porch of St. Roque's. There his three aunts were awaiting him, eager to bear all about it, Miss Dora, for the first time in her life, holding the principal place. “We are going away to-morrow, Frank, and of course you are com- ing to lunch with us,” said aunt Dora, clinging to his arm. “Oh my dear boy, I am so happy, an so ashamed, to hear of it. To think
you should be provided for, and nobody belonging to you have anything to do with it ! I don't know what to say,” said Miss Dora, who was half crying as usual; “and as for Leonora, one is frightened to speak to her. Oh, I wish you would say something to your aunt Leonora, Frank. I don't know whether she is angry with us or with you or with herself, or what it is; or if it is an attack on the nerves—though I never imagined she had any nerves; but, indeed, whatever my brother may say, it looks very like—dreadfully like— the coming-on of the Wentworth complaint. Poor papa was just like that when he used to have it coming on; and Leonora is not just—altogether—what you would call a female, Frank. Oh, my dear boy, if you would only speak to her 1" cried Miss Dora, who was a great deal too much in earnest to perceive anything comical in what she had said. “I should think it must be an attack on the temper,” said the Curate, who, now that it was all over, felt that it was but just his aunt Leonora should suffer a little for her treatment of him. “Perhaps some of her favourite colporteurs have fallen back into evil ways. There was one who had been a terrible blackguard, I remember. It is something that has happened among her mission people, you may be sure, and nothing about me.” “You don't know Leonora, Frank. She is very fond of you, though she does not show it,” said Miss Dora, as she led her victim in triumphantly through the garden door, from which the reluctant young man could see Lucy and her sister in their black dresses just arriving at the other green door from the parish church, where they had occupied their usual places, according to the ideas of propriety which were common to both the Miss Wodehouses. Mr. Wentworth had to content himself with taking off his hat to them, and followed his aunts to the table, where Miss
Leonora took her seat much with the air of a judge about to deliver a sentence. She did not restrain herself even in consideration of the presence of Lewis the butler, who, to be sure, had been long enough in the Wentworth family to know as much about its concerns as the members of the house themselves, or perhaps a little more. Miss Leonora sat down grim and formidable in her bonnet, which was in the style of a remote period, and did not soften the severity of her personal appearance. She pointed her nephew to a seat beside her, but she did not relax her features, nor condescend to any ordinary preliminaries of conversation. For that day even she took Lewis's business out of his astonished hands, and herself divided the chicken with a swift and steady knife and anatomical precision; and it was while occupied in this congenial business that she broke forth upon Frank in a manner so unexpected as almost to take away his breath. “I suppose this is what fools call poetical justice,” said Miss Leonora, “which is just of a piece with everything else that is poetical—weak folly and nonsense that no sensible man would have anything to say to. How a young man like you, who know how to conduct yourself in some thin and have, I don't deny, many goo qualities, can give in to come to an ending like a trashy novel, is more than I can understand. You are fit to be put in a book of the Goodchild series, Frank, as an illustration of the reward of virtue,” said the strong-minded woman, with a little snort of scorn; “and, of course, you are going to marry and live happy ever after, like a fairy tale.” “It is possible I may be guilty of that additional enormity,” said the Curate, “which, at all events, will not be your doing, my dear
aunt, if I might suggest a consola-.
tion. You cannot help such things happening, but, at least, it should be a comfort to feel you have done nothing to bring them about.”
it ought to do.
To which Miss Leonora answered by another hard breath of mingled disdain and resentment. “Whatever I have brought about, I have tried to do what I thought my duty,” she said. “It has always seemed to me a very poor sort of virtue that expects a reward for doing what I don't say you haven't behaved very well in this business, but you've done nothing extraordinary ; and why I should have rushed out of my way to reward you for it—Oh, yes, I know ou did not expect anything,” said
iss Leonora; “you have told me as much on various occasions, Frank. You have, of course, always been perfectly independent, and scorned to flatter your old aunts by any deference to their convictions; and, to be sure, it is nothing to you any little pang they may feel at having to dispose otherwise of a living that has always been in the family. You are of the latest fashion of Anglicanism, and we are only a parcel of old women. It was not to be expected that our antiquated ideas could be worth as much to you as a parcel of flowers and trumpery -
These were actually tears which wo glittered in Miss Leonora's eyes of fiery hazel grey—tears of very diminutive size, totally unlike the big dewdrops which rained from Miss Dora's placid orbs and made them red, but did her no harm— but still a real moisture, forced out of a fountain which lay very deep down and inaccessible to ordinar efforts. They made her eyes . rather fiercer than otherwise for the moment; but they all but impeded Miss Leonora's speech, and struck with the wildest consternation the entire party at the table, including even Lewis, who stood transfixed in the act of drawing a bottle of soda-water, andjo letting the cork escape him in his amazement, brought affairs to an unlooked-for climax by hitting Miss Wentworth, who had been looking on with interest without taking any part in the proceedings. When the fright caused by this unintentional shot
had subsided, Miss Leonora was found to have entirely recovered herself; but not so the Perpetual Curate, who had changed colour wonderfully, and no longer met his accuser with reciprocal disdain. “My dear aunt,” said Frank Wentworth, “I wish you would not go back to that. I suppose we parsons are apt sometimes to exaggerate trifles into importance, as my father says. But, however, as tlings have turned out, I could not have left Carlingford,” the Curate added, in a tone of conciliation; “and now, when" good fortune has come to me unsought—" Miss Leonora finished her portion of chicken in one energetic gulp, and got up from the table. “Poetic justice!" she said, with a furious sneer. “I don't believe in that kind of rubbish. As long as you were getting on quietly with your work I felt disposed to be rather proud of you, Frank. ... But I don't approve of a man ending off neatly like a novel in this sort of ridiculous way. When you succeed to the Rectory I suppose you will begin fighting, like the other man, with the new curate, for working in your parish?” “When I succeed to the Rectory,” said Mr. Wentworth, o up in his turn from the table, “ give you my word, aunt Leonora, no man shall work in my parish unless I set him to do it. ow I must be off to my work. I don't suppose Carlingford Réctory will be the end of me,” the Perpetual Curate added, as he went away, with a smile which his aunts could not interpret. As for o Leonora, she tied her bonnet-strings very tight, and went off to the afternoon service at Salem Chapel by way of expressing her sentiments more forcibly. “I daresay he's bold enough to take a bishopric,” she said to herself; “but fortunately we've got that in our own hands as long as Lord Shaftesbury lives;” and Miss Leonora smiled grimly over the prerogatives of her party. But though she went to Salem Chapel that afternoon, and
consoled herself that she could secure the bench of bishops from any audacious invasion of Frank Wentworth's hopes, it is true, notwithstanding, that Miss Leonora sent her maid next morning to London with certain obsolete ornaments, of which, though the fashion was hideous, the jewels were precious; and Lucy Wodehouse had never seen anything so brilliant as the appearance they presented when they returned shortly after reposing upon beds of white satin in cases of velvet—“Ridiculous things,” as Miss L-onora informed her, “for a parson's wife.” It was some time after this—for, not to speak of ecclesiastical matters, a removal, even when the furniture is left behind and there are only books, and rare ferns, and old china, to convey from one house to another, is a matter which involves delays—when Mr. Wentworth went to the railway station with Mrs. Morgan to see her off finally, her husband having gone to London with the intention of joining her in the new house. Naturally, it was not without serious thoughts that the Rector's wife left the place in which she had made her first beginning of active life, not so successfully as she had hoped. She could not help recalling, as she went along the familiar road, the hopes so vivid as to be almost certainties with which she had come into Carlingford. The long waiting was then over, and the much expected era had arrived, and existence had seemed to be opening in all its fulness and strength before the two who had looked forward to it so long. It was not much more than six months ago; but Mrs. Morgan had made a great many discoveries in the mean time. She had found out the wonderful difference between anticipation and reality; and that life, even to a happy woman married after long patience to the man of her choice, was not the smooth road it looked, but a rough path enough cut into dangerous ruts, through which generations of men and women followed each