Mr Arabin reads himself in at St Ewold's

On the Sunday morning the archdeacon with his sister–in–law and Mr Arabin drove over to Ullathorne, as had been arranged. On their way thither the new vicar declared himself to be considerably disturbed in his mind at the idea of thus facing his parishioners for the first time. He had, he said, been always subject to mauvaise honte and an annoying degree of bashfulness, which often unfitted him for any work of a novel description; and now he felt this so strongly that he feared he should acquit himself badly in St Ewold’s reading–desk. He knew, he said, that those sharp little eyes of Miss Thorne would be on to him, and that they would not approve. All this the archdeacon greatly ridiculed. He himself knew not, and had never known, what it was to be shy. He could not conceive that Miss Thorne, surrounded as she would be by the peasants of Ullathorne, and a few of the poorer inhabitants of the suburbs of Barchester, could in any way affect the composure of a man well accustomed to address the learned congregations of St Mary’s at Oxford, and he laughed accordingly at the idea of Mr Arabin’s modesty.

Thereupon Mr Arabin commenced to subtilise. The change, he said, from St Mary’s to St Ewold’s was quite as powerful on the spirits as would be that from St Ewold’s to St Mary’s. Would not a peer who, by chance of fortune, might suddenly be driven to herd among the navvies be as afraid of the jeers of his companions, as would any navvy suddenly exalted to a seat among the peers? Whereupon the archdeacon declared with a loud laugh that he would tell Miss Thorne that her new minister had likened her to a navvy. Eleanor, however, pronounced such a conclusion unfair; a comparison might be very just in its proportions which did not at all assimilate the things compared. But Mr Arabin went in subtilising, regarding neither the archdeacon’s raillery nor Eleanor’s defence. A young lady, he said, would execute with most perfect self–possession a difficult piece of music in a room crowded with strangers, who would not be able to express herself in any intelligible language, even on any ordinary subject and among her most intimate friends, if she were required to do so standing on a box somewhat elevated among them. It was all an affair of education, and he at forty found it difficult to educate himself now.

Eleanor dissented on the matter of the box; and averred she could speak very well about dresses, or babies, or legs of mutton from any box, provided it were big enough for her to stand upon without fear, even though all her friends were listening to her. The archdeacon was sure she would not be able to say a word; but this proved nothing in favour of Mr Arabin. Mr Arabin said that he would try the question out with Mrs Bold, and get her on a box some day when the rectory might be full of visitors. To this Eleanor assented, making condition that the visitors should be of their own set, and the archdeacon cogitated in his mind, whether by such a condition it was intended that Mr Slope should be included, resolving also that, if so, the trial should certainly never take place in the rectory drawing–room at Plumstead.

And so arguing, they drove up to the iron gates of Ullathorne Court.

Mr and Miss Thorne were standing ready dressed for church in the hall, and greeted their clerical visitors with cordiality. The archdeacon was an old favourite. He was a clergyman of the old school, and this recommended him to the lady. He had always been an opponent of free trade as long as free trade was an open question; and now that it was no longer so, he, being a clergyman, had not been obliged, like most of his lay Tory companions, to read his recantation. He could therefore be regarded as a supporter of the immaculate fifty–three, and was on this account a favourite with Mr Thorne. The little bell was tinkling, and the rural population were standing about the lane, leaning on the church stile, and against the walls of the old court, anxious to get a look at their new minister as he passed from the house to the rectory. The archdeacon’s servant had already preceded them thither with the vestments.

They all went together; and when the ladies passed into the church the three gentlemen tarried a moment in the lane, that Mr Thorne might name to the vicar with some kind of one–sided introduction, the most leading among his parishioners.

‘Here are our churchwardens, Mr Arabin; Farmer Greenacre and Mr Stiles. Mr Stiles has the mill as you go into Barchester; and very good churchwardens they are.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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