The Bishop's Library

And thus the pleasant party of Plumstead was broken up. It had been a very pleasant party as long as they had all remained in good humour with one another. Mrs Grantly had felt her house to be gayer and brighter than it had been for many a long day, and the archdeacon had been aware that the month had passed pleasantly without attributing the pleasure to any other special merits than those of his own hospitality. Within three or four days of Eleanor’s departure, Mr Harding had also returned, and Mr Arabin had gone to Oxford to spend one week there previous to his settling at the vicarage of St Ewold’s. He had gone laden with many messages to Dr Gwynne touching the iniquity of the doings in Barchester palace, and the peril in which it was believed the hospital still stood in spite of the assurances contained in Mr Slope’s inauspicious letter.

During Eleanor’s drive into Barchester she had not much opportunity of reflecting on Mr Arabin. She had been constrained to divert her mind both from his sins and his love by the necessity of conversing with her sister, and maintaining the appearance of parting with her on good terms.

When the carriage reached her own door, and while she was in the act of giving her last kiss to her sister and nieces, Mary Bold ran out and exclaimed:

‘Oh! Eleanor,—have you heard?—oh! Mrs Grantly, have you heard what has happened? The poor dean!’

‘Good heavens,’ said Mrs Grantly; ‘what—what has happened?’

‘This morning at nine he had a fit of apoplexy, and he has not spoken since. I very much fear that by this time he is no more.’

Mrs Grantly had been very intimate with the dean, and was therefore much shocked. Eleanor had not known him so well; nevertheless she was sufficiently acquainted with his person and manners to feel startled and grieved also at the tidings she now received. ‘I will go at once to the deanery,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘the archdeacon, I am sure, will be there. If there is any news to send you I will let Thomas call before he leaves town.’ And so the carriage drove off, leaving Eleanor and her baby with Mary Bold.

Mrs Grantly had been quite right. The archdeacon was at the deanery. He had come into Barchester that morning by himself, not caring to intrude himself upon Eleanor, and he also immediately on his arrival had heard of the dean’s fit. There was, as we have before said, a library or reading room connecting the cathedral with the dean’s home. This was generally called the bishop’s library, because a certain bishop of Barchester was supposed to have added it to the cathedral. It was built immediately over a portion of the cloisters, and a flight of stairs descended from it into the room in which the cathedral clergymen put their surplices on and off. As it also opened directly into the dean’s house, it was the passage through which that dignitary usually went to his public devotions. Who had or had not the right of entry into it, might be difficult to say; but the people of Barchester believed that it belonged to the dean, and the clergymen of Barchester believed that it belonged to the chapter.

On the morning in question most of the resident clergymen who constituted the chapter, and some few others, were here assembled, and among them as usual the archdeacon towered with high authority. He had heard of the dean’s fit before he was over the bridge which led into the town, and had at once come to the well known clerical trysting place. He had been there by eleven o’clock, and had remained ever since. From time to time the medical men who had been called in came through from the deanery into the library, uttered little bulletins, and then returned. There was it appears very little hope of the old man’s rallying, indeed no hope of any thing like a final recovery. The only question was whether he must die at once speechless, unconscious, stricken to death by his first heavy fit; or whether by due aid of medical skill he might not be so far brought back to this world as to become conscious of his state, and enabled to address one prayer to his Maker before he was called to meet Him face to face at the judgement seat.

Sir Omicron Pie had been sent for from London. That great man had shown himself a wonderful adept at keeping life still moving within an old man’s heart in the case of good old Bishop Grantly, and it might

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.