Mrs Proudie's Reception-concluded

‘Bishop of Barchester, I presume?’ said Bertie Stanhope, putting out his hand, frankly; ‘I am delighted to make your acquaintance. We are in rather close quarters here, a’nt we?’

In truth they were. They had been crowded up behind the head of the sofa: the bishop in waiting to receive his guest, and the other in carrying her; and they now had hardly room to move themselves.

The bishop gave his hand quickly, and made a little studied bow, and was delighted to make—. He couldn’t go on, for he did not know whether his friend was a signor, or a count, or a prince.

‘My sister really puts you all to great trouble,’ said Bertie.

‘Not at all!’ the bishop was delighted to have the opportunity of welcoming the Signora Vicinironi—so at least he said—and attempted to force his way round to the front of the sofa. He had, at any rate, learnt that his strange guests were brother and sister. The man, he presumed, must be Signor Vicinironi—or count, or prince, as it might be. It was wonderful what good English he spoke. There was just a twang of foreign accent, and no more.

‘Do you like Barchester on the whole?’ asked Bertie.

The bishop, looking dignified, said that he did like Barchester.

‘You’ve not been here very long, I believe,’ said Bertie.

‘No—not long,’ said the bishop, and tried again to make his way between the back of the sofa and a heavy rector, who was staring over it at the grimaces of the signora.

‘You weren’t a bishop before, were you?’

Dr Proudie explained that this was the first diocese he had held.

‘Ah—I thought so,’ said Bertie; ‘but you are changed about sometimes, a’nt you?’

‘Translations are occasionally made,’ said Dr Proudie; ‘but not so frequently as in former days.

‘They’ve cut them all down to pretty nearly the same figure, haven’t they?’ said Bertie.

To this the bishop could not bring himself to make any answer, but again tried to move the rector.

‘But the work, I suppose, is different?’ continued Bertie. ‘Is there much to do here at Barchester?’ This was said exactly in the tone that a young Admiralty clerk might use in asking the same question of a brother acolyte in the Treasury.

‘The work of a bishop of the Church of England,’ said Dr Proudie, with considerable dignity, ‘is not easy. The responsibility which he has to bear is very great indeed.’

‘Is it?’ said Bertie, opening wide his wonderful blue eyes. ‘Well; I never was afraid of responsibility. I once thought of being a bishop myself.’

‘Had thought of being a bishop?’ said Dr Proudie, much amazed.

‘That is, a parson—a parson first, you know, and a bishop afterwards. If I had once begun, I’d have stuck to it. But, on the whole, I like the Church of Rome the best.’

The bishop could not discuss the point, so he remained silent.

‘Now, there’s my father,’ continued Bertie; ‘he hasn’t stuck to it. I fancy he didn’t like saying the same thing so often. By the bye, bishop, have you seen my father?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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