Miss Thorne's Fete Champetre

The day of the Ullathorne party arrived, and all the world was there; or at least so much of the world as had been included in Miss Thorne’s invitation. As we have said, the bishop returned home on the previous evening, and on the same evening, and by the same train, came Dr Gwynne and Mr Arabin from Oxford. The archdeacon with his brougham was in waiting for the Master of Lazarus, so that there was a goodly show of church dignitaries on the platform of the railway.

The Stanhope party was finally arranged in the odious manner already described, and Eleanor got into the doctor’s waiting carriage full of apprehension and presentiment of further misfortunes, whereas Mr Slope entered the vehicle elate with triumph.

He had received that morning a civil note from Sir Nicholas Fitzwiggin; not promising much indeed; but then Mr Slope knew, or fancied that he knew, that it was not etiquette for government officers to make promises. Though Sir Nicholas promised nothing he implied a good deal; declared his conviction that Mr Slope would make an excellent dean, and wished him every kind of success. To be sure he added that, not being in the cabinet, he was never consulted on such matters, and that even if he spoke on the subject his voice would go for nothing. But all this Mr Slope took for the prudent reserve of official life. To complete his anticipated triumph, another letter was brought to him just as he was about to start to Ullathorne.

Mr Slope also enjoyed the idea of handing Mrs Bold out of Dr Stanhope’s carriage before the multitude at Ullathorne gate, as much as Eleanor dreaded the same ceremony. He had fully made up his mind to throw himself and his fortune at the widow’s feet, and had almost determined to select the present propitious morning for doing so. The signora had of late been less than civil to him. She had indeed admitted his visits, and listened, at any rate without anger, to his love; but she had tortured him, and reviled him, jeered at him and ridiculed him, while she allowed him to call her the most beautiful of living women, to kiss her hand, and to proclaim himself with reiterated oaths her adorer, her slave, and worshipper.

Miss Thorne was in great perturbation, yet in great glory, on the morning of this day. Mr Thorne also, though the party was none of his giving, had much heavy work on his hands. But perhaps the most overtasked, the most anxious and the most effective of all the Ullathorne household was Mr Plomacy the steward. This last personage had, in the time of Mr Thorne’s father, when the Directory held dominion in France, gone over to Paris with letters in his boot heel for some of the royal party; and such had been his good luck that he had returned safe. He had then been very young and was now very old, but the exploit gave him a character for political enterprise and secret discretion which still availed him as thoroughly as it had done in its freshest gloss. Mr Plomacy had been steward of Ullathorne for more than fifty years, and a very easy life he had had of it. Who could require much absolute work from a man who had carried safely at his heel that which if discovered would have cost him his head? Consequently Mr Plomacy had never worked hard, and of latter years had never worked at all. He had a taste for timber, and therefore he marked the trees that were to be cut down; he had a taste for gardening, and would therefore allow no shrub to be planted or bed to be made without his express sanction.

In these matters he was sometimes driven to run counter to his mistress, but he rarely allowed his mistress to carry the point against him.

But on occasions such as the present, Mr Pomney came out strong. He had the honour of the family at heart; he thoroughly appreciated the duties of hospitality; and therefore, when gala doings were going on, always took the management into his own hands and reigned supreme over master and mistress.

To give Mr Pomney his due, old as he was, he thoroughly understood such work as he had in hand, and did it well.

The order of the day was to be as follows. The quality, as the upper classes in rural districts are designated by the lower with so much true discrimination, were to eat a breakfast, and the non–quality were to eat a dinner. Two marquees had been erected for these two banquets, that for the quality on the esoteric or garden side of a certain deep ha–ha; and that for the non–quality on the exoteric or paddock side of the

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