The Dean Elect

During the entire next week Barchester was ignorant who was to be its new dean on Sunday morning. Mr Slope was decidedly the favourite; but he did not show himself in the cathedral, and then he sank a point or two in the betting. On Monday, he got a scolding from the bishop in the hearing of the servants, and down he went till nobody would have him at any price; but on Tuesday he received a letter, in an official cover, marked private, by which he fully recovered his place in the public favour. On Wednesday, he was said to be ill, and that did not look well; but on Thursday morning he went down to the railway station, with a very jaunty air; and when it was ascertained that he had taken a first–class ticket for London, there was no longer any room for doubt on the matter.

While matters were in this state of ferment at Barchester, there was not much mental comfort at Plumstead. Our friend the archdeacon had many grounds for inward grief. He was much displeased at the result of Dr Gwynne’s diplomatic mission to the palace, and did not even scruple to say to his wife that had he gone himself he would have managed the affair much better. His wife did not agree with him, but that did not mend the matter.

Mr Quiverful’s appointment to the hospital was, however, a fait accompli, and Mr Harding’s acquiescence in that appointment was not less so. Nothing would induce Mr Harding to make a public appeal against the bishop; and the Master of Lazarus quite approved of his not doing so.

‘I don’t know what has come to the Master,’ said the archdeacon over and over again. ‘He used to be ready enough to stand up for his order.’

‘My dear archdeacon,’ Mrs Grantly would say in reply, ‘what is the use of always fighting? I really think the Master is right.’ The Master, however, had taken steps of his own, of which neither the archdeacon nor his wife knew anything.

‘Then Mr Slope’s successes were henbane to Dr Grantly; and Mrs Bold’s improprieties were as bad. What would be all the world to Archdeacon Grantly if Mr Slope should become the Dean of Barchester and marry his wife’s sister! He talked of it, and talked of it till he was nearly ill. Mrs Grantly almost wished that the marriage was done and over, so that she might hear no more about it.

And there was yet another ground of misery which cut him to the quick, nearly as closely as either of the two others. That paragon of a clergyman, whom he had bestowed upon St Ewold’s, that college friend of whom he had boasted so loudly, that ecclesiastical knight before whose lance Mr Slope was to fall and bite the dust, that worthy bulwark of the church as it should be, that honoured representative of Oxford’s best spirit, was—so at least his wife had told him half a dozen times—misconducting himself!

Nothing had been seen of Mr Arabin at Plumstead for the last week, but a good deal had, unfortunately, been heard of him. As soon as Mrs Grantly had found herself alone with the archdeacon, on the evening of the Ullathorne party, she had expressed herself very forcibly as to Mr Arabin’s conduct on that occasion. He had, she declared, looked and acted and talked very unlike a decent parish clergyman. At first the archdeacon had laughed at this, and assured her that she need not trouble herself; that Mr Arabin would be found to be quite safe. But by degrees he began to find out that his wife’s eyes had been sharper than his own. Other people coupled the signora’s name with that of Mr Arabin. The meagre little prebendary who lived in the close, told him to a nicety how often Mr Arabin had visited at Dr Stanhope’s, and how long he had remained on the occasion of each visit. He had asked after Mr Arabin at the cathedral library, and an officious little vicar choral had offered to go and see whether he could be found at Dr Stanhope’s. Rumour, when she has contrived to sound the first note on her trumpet, soon makes a loud peal audible enough. It was too clear that Mr Arabin had succumbed to the Italian woman, and that the archdeacon’s credit would suffer fearfully if something were not done to rescue the brand from the burning. Besides, to give the archdeacon his due, he was really attached to Mr Arabin, and grieved greatly at his backsliding.

They were sitting talking over their sorrows, in the drawing–room before dinner on that day after Mr Slope’s departure for London; and on this occasion Mrs Grantly spoke her mind freely. She had opinions of her own about parish clergymen, and now thought it right to give vent to them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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