Mrs Grantly sighed, and then attempted to console herself and her lord by remarking that, after all, the thing was not accomplished yet. Now that Eleanor was at Plumstead, much might be done to wean her from her fatal passion. Poor Eleanor!

The evening passed off without anything to make it remarkable. Mr Arabin discussed the parish of St Ewold with the archdeacon, and Mrs Grantly and Mr Harding, who knew the parsonages of the parish, joined in. Eleanor also knew them, but spoke little. Mr Arabin did not apparently take much notice of her, and she was not in a humour to receive at that time with any special grace any special favourite of her brother–in–law. Her first idea on reaching her bedroom was that a much more pleasant family party might be met at Dr Stanhope’s than at the rectory. She began to think that she was getting tired of clergymen and their respectable humdrum wearisome mode of living, and that after all, people in the outer world, who had lived in Italy, London, or elsewhere, need not necessarily be regarded as atrocious and abominable. The Stanhopes, she had thought, were a giddy, thoughtless, extravagant set of people; but she had seen nothing wrong about them, and had, on the other hand, found that they thoroughly knew how to make their house agreeable. It was a thousand pities, she thought, that the archdeacon should not have a little of the same savoir vivre. Mr Arabin, as we have said, did not apparently take much notice of her; but yet he did not go to bed without feeling that he had been in company with a very pretty woman; and as is the case with most bachelors, and some married men, regarded the prospect of his month’s visit at Plumstead in a pleasanter light, when he learnt that a very pretty woman was to share it with him.

Before they all retired it was settled that the whole party should drive over on the following day to inspect the parsonage at St Ewold. The three clergymen were to discuss dilapidations, and the two ladies were to lend their assistance in suggesting such changes as might be necessary for a bachelor’s abode. Accordingly, soon after breakfast, the carriage was at the door. There was only room for four inside, and the archdeacon got upon the box. Eleanor found herself opposite to Mr Arabin, and was, therefore, in a manner forced into conversation with him. They were soon on comfortable terms together; and had she thought about it, she would have thought that, in spite of his black cloth, Mr Arabin would not have been a bad addition to the Stanhope family party.

Now that the archdeacon was away, they could all trifle. Mr Harding began by telling them in the most innocent manner imaginable an old legend about Mr Arabin’s new parish. There was, he said, in days of yore, an illustrious priestess of St Ewold, famed through the whole country for curing all manner of diseases. She had a well, as all priestesses have ever had, which well was extant to this day, and shared in the minds of many of the people the sanctity which belonged to the consecrated grounds of the parish church. Mr Arabin declared that he should look on such tenets on the part of the parishioners as anything but orthodox. And Mrs Grantly replied that she so entirely disagreed with him as to think that no parish was in a proper estate that had not its priestess as well as its priest. ‘The duties are never well done,’ said she, ‘unless they are so divided.’

‘I suppose, papa,’ said Eleanor, ‘that in the oldest times the priestess bore all the sway herself. Mr Arabin, perhaps, thinks that such might be too much the case now if a sacred lady were admitted within the parish.’

‘I think, at any rate,’ said he, ‘that it is safer to run no such risk. No priestly pride has ever exceeded that of sacerdotal females. A very lowly curate, I might, perhaps, essay to rule; but a curatess would be sure to get the better of me.’

‘There are certainly examples of such accidents happening,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘They do say that there is a priestess at Barchester who is very imperious in all things touching the altar. Perhaps the fear of such a fate as that is before your eyes.’

When they were joined by the archdeacon on the gravel before the vicarage, they descended again to grave dullness. Not that Archdeacon Grantly was a dull man; but his frolic humours were of a cumbrous kind; and his wit, when he was witty, did not generally extend itself to his auditory. On the present occasion,

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