Dr. Wortle's School
by Anthony Trollope
CHAPTER I. DR.
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER IV. THE
DOCTOR ASKS HIS
CHAPTER V. “THEN
WE MUST GO.”
CHAPTER VI. LORD
THE STORY IS
CHAPTER IX. MRS.
WORTLE AND MR.
CHAPTER X. MR.
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER I. MR.
“'AMO' IN THE
COOL OF THE
CHAPTER IV. “IT
WITH THE PALACE.
CHAPTER VI. THE
CHAPTER IX. AT
CHAPTER X. THE
CHAPTER XI. MR.
DR. WORTLE'S SCHOOL.
IN TWO VOLUMES.VOL. I.
London: Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly. 1881.
London: R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, Printers, Bread Street Hill.
CHAPTER I. DR. WORTLE.
THE Rev. Jeffrey Wortle, D.D., was a man much esteemed by
others,and by himself. He combined two professions, in both of which
he had been successful,had been, and continued to be, at the time in
which we speak of him. I will introduce him to the reader in the
present tense as Rector of Bowick, and proprietor and head-master of
the school established in the village of that name. The seminary at
Bowick had for some time enjoyed a reputation under him;not that he
had ever himself used so new-fangled and unpalatable a word in speaking
of his school. Bowick School had been established by himself as
preparatory to Eton. Dr. Wortle had been elected to an
assistant-mastership at Eton early in life soon after he had become a
Fellow of Exeter. There he had worked successfully for ten years, and
had then retired to the living of Bowick. On going there he had
determined to occupy his leisure, and if possible to make his fortune,
by taking a few boys into his house. By dint of charging high prices
and giving good food,perhaps in part, also, by the quality of the
education which he imparted,his establishment had become popular and
had outgrown the capacity of the parsonage. He had been enabled to
purchase a field or two close abutting on the glebe gardens, and had
there built convenient premises. He now limited his number to thirty
boys, for each of which he charged £200 a-year. It was said of him by
his friends that if he would only raise his price to £250, he might
double the number, and really make a fortune. In answer to this, he
told his friends that he knew his own business best;he declared that
his charge was the only sum that was compatible both with regard to
himself and honesty to his customers, and asserted that the labours he
endured were already quite heavy enough. In fact, he recommended all
those who gave him advice to mind their own business.
It may be said of him that he knew his own so well as to justify him
in repudiating counsel from others. There are very different ideas of
what a fortune may be supposed to consist. It will not be necessary
to give Dr. Wortle's exact idea. No doubt it changed with him,
increasing as his money increased. But he was supposed to be a
comfortable man. He paid ready money and high prices. He liked that
people under him should thrive,and he liked them to know that they
throve by his means. He liked to be master, and always was. He was
just, and liked his justice to be recognised. He was generous also, and
liked that, too, to be known. He kept a carriage for his wife, who had
been the daughter of a poor clergyman at Windsor, and was proud to see
her as well dressed as the wife of any county squire. But he was a
domineering husband. As his wife worshipped him, and regarded him as a
Jupiter on earth from whose nod there could be and should be no appeal,
but little harm came from this. If a tyrant, he was an affectionate
tyrant. His wife felt him to be so. His servants, his parish, and his
school all felt him to be so. They obeyed him, loved him, and believed
So, upon the whole, at the time with which we are dealing, did the
diocese, the county, and that world of parents by whom the boys were
sent to his school. But this had not come about without some hard
fighting. He was over fifty years of age, and had been Rector of Bowick
for nearly twenty. During that time there had been a succession of
three bishops, and he had quarrelled more or less with all of them. It
might be juster to say that they had all of them had more or less of
occasion to find fault with him. Now Dr. Wortle,or Mr. Wortle, as he
should be called in reference to that period,was a man who would bear
censure from no human being. He had left his position at Eton because
the Head-master had required from him some slight change of practice.
There had been no quarrel on that occasion, but Mr. Wortle had gone. He
at once commenced his school at Bowick, taking half-a-dozen pupils into
his own house. The bishop of that day suggested that the cure of the
souls of the parishioners of Bowick was being subordinated to the Latin
and Greek of the sons of the nobility. The bishop got a response which
gave an additional satisfaction to his speedy translation to a more
comfortable diocese. Between the next bishop and Mr. Wortle there was,
unfortunately, misunderstanding, and almost feud for the entire ten
years during which his lordship reigned in the Palace of Broughton.
This Bishop of Broughton had been one of that large batch of Low Church
prelates who were brought forward under Lord Palmerston. Among them
there was none more low, more pious, more sincere, or more given to
interference. To teach Mr. Wortle his duty as a parish clergyman was
evidently a necessity to such a bishop. To repudiate any such teaching
was evidently a necessity to Mr. Wortle. Consequently there were
differences, in all of which Mr. Wortle carried his own. What the good
bishop suffered no one probably knew except his wife and his domestic
chaplain. What Mr. Wortle enjoyed,or Dr. Wortle, as he came to be
called about this time,was patent to all the county and all the
diocese. The sufferer died, not, let us hope, by means of the Doctor;
and then came the third bishop. He, too, had found himself obliged to
say a word. He was a man of the world,wise, prudent, not given to
interference or fault-finding, friendly by nature, one who altogether
hated a quarrel, a bishop beyond all things determined to be the friend
of his clergymen;and yet he thought himself obliged to say a word.
There were matters in which Dr. Wortle affected a peculiarly
anti-clerical mode of expression, if not of feeling. He had been
foolish enough to declare openly that he was in search of a curate who
should have none of the grace of godliness about him. He was wont to
ridicule the piety of young men who devoted themselves entirely to
their religious offices. In a letter which he wrote he spoke of one
youthful divine as a conceited ass who had preached for forty
minutes. He not only disliked, but openly ridiculed all signs of a
special pietistic bearing. It was said of him that he had been heard to
swear. There can be no doubt that he made himself wilfully distasteful
to many of his stricter brethren. Then it came to pass that there was a
correspondence between him and the bishop as to that outspoken desire
of his for a curate without the grace of godliness. But even here Dr.
Wortle was successful. The management of his parish was pre-eminently
good. The parish school was a model. The farmers went to church.
Dissenters there were none. The people of Bowick believed thoroughly in
their parson, and knew the comfort of having an open-handed, well-to-do
gentleman in the village. This third episcopal difficulty did not
endure long. Dr. Wortle knew his man, and was willing enough to be on
good terms with his bishop so long as he was allowed to be in all
things his own master.
There had, too, been some fighting between Dr. Wortle and the world
about his school. He was, as I have said, a thoroughly generous man,
but he required, himself, to be treated with generosity. Any question
as to the charges made by him as schoolmaster was unendurable. He
explained to all parents that he charged for each boy at the rate of
two hundred a-year for board, lodging, and tuition, and that anything
required for a boy's benefit or comfort beyond that ordinarily supplied
would be charged for as an extra at such price as Dr. Wortle himself
thought to be an equivalent. Now the popularity of his establishment no
doubt depended in a great degree on the sufficiency and comfort of the
good things of the world which he provided. The beer was of the best;
the boys were not made to eat fat; their taste in the selection of
joints was consulted. The morning coffee was excellent. The cook was a
great adept at cakes and puddings. The Doctor would not himself have
been satisfied unless everything had been plentiful, and everything of
the best. He would have hated a butcher who had attempted to seduce him
with meat beneath the usual price. But when he had supplied that which
was sufficient according to his own liberal ideas, he did not give more
without charging for it. Among his customers there had been a certain
Honourable Mr. Stantiloup, and,which had been more important,an
Honourable Mrs. Stantiloup. Mrs. Stantiloup was a lady who liked all
the best things which the world could supply, but hardly liked paying
the best price. Dr. Wortle's school was the best thing the world could
supply of that kind, but then the price was certainly the very best.
Young Stantiloup was only eleven, and as there were boys at Bowick as
old as seventeen,for the school had not altogether maintained its old
character as being merely preparatory,Mrs. Stantiloup had thought
that her boy should be admitted at a lower fee. The correspondence
which had ensued had been unpleasant. Then young Stantiloup had had the
influenza, and Mrs. Stantiloup had sent her own doctor. Champagne had
been ordered, and carriage exercise. Mr. Stantiloup had been forced by
his wife to refuse to pay sums demanded for these undoubted extras. Ten
shillings a-day for a drive for a little boy seemed to her a great
deal,seemed so to Mrs. Stantiloup. Ought not the Doctor's wife to
have been proud to take out her little boy in her own carriage? And
then £2 10_s. for champagne for the little boy! It was monstrous. Mr.
Stantiloup remonstrated. Dr. Wortle said that the little boy had better
be taken away and the bill paid at once. The little boy was taken away
and the money was offered, short of £5. The matter was instantly put
into the hands of the Doctor's lawyer, and a suit commenced. The
Doctor, of course, got his money, and then there followed an
acrimonious correspondence in the Times and other newspapers. Mrs.
Stantiloup did her best to ruin the school, and many very eloquent
passages were written not only by her or by her own special scribe, but
by others who took the matter up, to prove that two hundred a-year was
a great deal more than ought to be paid for the charge of a little boy
during three quarters of the year. But in the course of the next twelve
months Dr. Wortle was obliged to refuse admittance to a dozen eligible
pupils because he had not room for them.
No doubt he had suffered during these contests,suffered, that is,
in mind. There had been moments in which it seemed that the victory
would be on the other side, that the forces congregated against him
were too many for him, and that not being able to bend he would have to
be broken; but in every case he had fought it out, and in every case he
had conquered. He was now a prosperous man, who had achieved his own
way, and had made all those connected with him feel that it was better
to like him and obey him, than to dislike him and fight with him. His
curates troubled him as little as possible with the grace of godliness,
and threw off as far as they could that zeal which is so dear to the
youthful mind but which so often seems to be weak and flabby to their
elders. His ushers or assistants in the school fell in with his views
implicitly, and were content to accept compensation in the shape of
personal civilities. It was much better to go shares with the Doctor in
a joke than to have to bear his hard words.
It is chiefly in reference to one of these ushers that our story has
to be told. But before we commence it, we must say a few more words as
to the Doctor and his family. Of his wife I have already spoken. She
was probably as happy a woman as you shall be likely to meet on a
summer's day. She had good health, easy temper, pleasant friends,
abundant means, and no ambition. She went nowhere without the Doctor,
and whenever he went she enjoyed her share of the respect which was
always shown to him. She had little or nothing to do with the school,
the Doctor having many years ago resolved that though it became him as
a man to work for his bread, his wife should not be a slave. When the
battles had been going on,those between the Doctor and the bishops,
and the Doctor and Mrs. Stantiloup, and the Doctor and the
newspapers,she had for a while been unhappy. It had grieved her to
have it insinuated that her husband was an atheist, and asserted that
her husband was a cormorant; but his courage had sustained her, and his
continual victories had taught her to believe at last that he was
They had one child, a daughter, Mary, of whom it was said in Bowick
that she alone knew the length of the Doctor's foot. It certainly was
so that, if Mrs. Wortle wished to have anything done which was a trifle
beyond her own influence, she employed Mary. And if the boys
collectively wanted to carry a point, they would collectively obtain
Miss Wortle's aid. But all this the Doctor probably knew very well; and
though he was often pleased to grant favours thus asked, he did so
because he liked the granting of favours when they had been asked with
a proper degree of care and attention. She was at the present time of
the age in which fathers are apt to look upon their children as still
children, while other men regard them as being grown-up young ladies.
It was now June, and in the approaching August she would be eighteen.
It was said of her that of the girls all round she was the prettiest;
and indeed it would be hard to find a sweeter-favoured girl than Mary
Wortle. Her father had been all his life a man noted for the manhood of
his face. He had a broad forehead, with bright grey eyes,eyes that
had always a smile passing round them, though the smile would sometimes
show that touch of irony which a smile may contain rather than the
good-humour which it is ordinarily supposed to indicate. His nose was
aquiline, not hooky like a true bird's-beak, but with that bend which
seems to give to the human face the clearest indication of individual
will. His mouth, for a man, was perhaps a little too small, but was
admirably formed, as had been the chin with a deep dimple on it, which
had now by the slow progress of many dinners become doubled in its
folds. His hair had been chestnut, but dark in its hue. It had now
become grey, but still with the shade of the chestnut through it here
and there. He stood five feet ten in height, with small hands and feet.
He was now perhaps somewhat stout, but was still as upright on his
horse as ever, and as well able to ride to hounds for a few fields when
by chance the hunt came in the way of Bowick. Such was the Doctor. Mrs.
Wortle was a pretty little woman, now over forty years of age, of whom
it was said that in her day she had been the beauty of Windsor and
those parts. Mary Wortle took mostly after her father, being tall and
comely, having especially her father's eyes; but still they who had
known Mrs. Wortle as a girl declared that Mary had inherited also her
mother's peculiar softness and complexion.
For many years past none of the pupils had been received within the
parsonage,unless when received there as guests, which was of frequent
occurrence. All belonging to the school was built outside the glebe
land, as a quite separate establishment, with a door opening from the
parsonage garden to the school-yard. Of this door the rule was that the
Doctor and the gardener should have the only two keys; but the rule may
be said to have become quite obsolete, as the door was never locked.
Sometimes the bigger boys would come through unasked,perhaps in
search of a game of lawn-tennis with Miss Wortle, perhaps to ask some
favour of Mrs. Wortle, who always was delighted to welcome them,
perhaps even to seek the Doctor himself, who never on such occasions
would ask how it came to pass that they were on that side of the wall.
Sometimes Mrs. Wortle would send her housekeeper through for some of
the little boys. It would then be a good time for the little boys. But
this would generally be during the Doctor's absence.
Here, on the school side of the wall, there was a separate
establishment of servants, and a separate kitchen. There was no sending
backwards or forwards of food or of clothes,unless it might be when
some special delicacy was sent in if a boy were unwell. For these no
extra charge was ever made, as had been done in the case of young
Stantiloup. Then a strange doctor had come, and had ordered the wine
and the carriage. There was no extra charge for the kindly glasses of
wine which used to be administered in quite sufficient plenty.
Behind the school, and running down to the little river Pin, there
is a spacious cricket-ground, and a court marked out for lawn-tennis.
Up close to the school is a racket-court. No doubt a good deal was done
to make the externals of the place alluring to those parents who love
to think that their boys shall be made happy at school. Attached to the
school, forming part of the building, is a pleasant, well-built
residence, with six or eight rooms, intended for the senior or
classical assistant-master. It had been the Doctor's scheme to find a
married gentleman to occupy this house, whose wife should receive a
separate salary for looking after the linen and acting as matron to the
school,doing what his wife did till he became successful,while the
husband should be in orders and take part of the church duties as a
second curate. But there had been a difficulty in this.
CHAPTER II. THE NEW USHER.
THE Doctor had found it difficult to carry out the scheme described
in the last chapter. They indeed who know anything of such matters will
be inclined to call it Utopian, and to say that one so wise in worldly
matters as our schoolmaster should not have attempted to combine so
many things. He wanted a gentleman, a schoolmaster, a curate, a matron,
and a lady,we may say all in one. Curates and ushers are generally
unmarried. An assistant schoolmaster is not often in orders, and
sometimes is not a gentleman. A gentleman, when he is married, does not
often wish to dispose of the services of his wife. A lady, when she has
a husband, has generally sufficient duties of her own to employ her,
without undertaking others. The scheme, if realised, would no doubt be
excellent, but the difficulties were too many. The Stantiloups, who
lived about twenty miles off, made fun of the Doctor and his project;
and the Bishop was said to have expressed himself as afraid that he
would not be able to license as curate any one selected as usher to the
school. One attempt was made after another in vain;but at last it was
declared through the country far and wide that the Doctor had succeeded
in this, as in every other enterprise that he had attempted. There had
come a Rev. Mr. Peacocke and his wife. Six years since, Mr. Peacocke
had been well known at Oxford as a Classic, and had become a Fellow of
Trinity. Then he had taken orders, and had some time afterwards
married, giving up his Fellowship as a matter of course. Mr. Peacocke,
while living at Oxford, had been well known to a large Oxford circle,
but he had suddenly disappeared from that world, and it had reached the
ears of only a few of his more intimate friends that he had undertaken
the duties of vice-president of a classical college at Saint Louis in
the State of Missouri. Such a disruption as this was for a time
complete; but after five years Mr. Peacocke appeared again at Oxford,
with a beautiful American wife, and the necessity of earning an income
by his erudition.
It would at first have seemed very improbable that Dr. Wortle should
have taken into his school or into his parish a gentleman who had
chosen the United States as a field for his classical labours. The
Doctor, whose mind was by no means logical, was a thoroughgoing Tory of
the old school, and therefore considered himself bound to hate the name
of a republic. He hated rolling stones, and Mr. Peacocke had certainly
been a rolling stone. He loved Oxford with all his heart, and some
years since had been heard to say hard things of Mr. Peacocke, when
that gentleman deserted his college for the sake of establishing
himself across the Atlantic. But he was one who thought that there
should be a place of penitence allowed to those who had clearly
repented of their errors; and, moreover, when he heard that Mr.
Peacocke was endeavouring to establish himself in Oxford as a coach
for undergraduates, and also that he was a married man without any
encumbrance in the way of family, there seemed to him to be an
additional reason for pardoning that American escapade. Circumstances
brought the two men together. There were friends at Oxford who knew how
anxious the Doctor was to carry out that plan of his in reference to an
usher, a curate, and a matron, and here were the very things combined.
Mr. Peacocke's scholarship and power of teaching were acknowledged; he
was already in orders; and it was declared that Mrs. Peacocke was
undoubtedly a lady. Many inquiries were made. Many meetings took place.
Many difficulties arose. But at last Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke came to
Bowick, and took up their abode in the school.
All the Doctor's requirements were not at once fulfilled. Mrs.
Peacocke's position was easily settled. Mrs. Peacocke, who seemed to be
a woman possessed of sterling sense and great activity, undertook her
duties without difficulty. But Mr. Peacocke would not at first consent
to act as curate in the parish. He did, however, after a time perform a
portion of the Sunday services. When he first came to Bowick he had
declared that he would undertake no clerical duty. Education was his
profession, and to that he meant to devote himself exclusively. Nor for
the six or eight months of his sojourn did he go back from this; so
that the Doctor may be said even still to have failed in carrying out
his purpose. But at last the new schoolmaster appeared in the pulpit of
the parish church and preached a sermon.
All that had passed in private conference between the Doctor and his
assistant on the subject need not here be related. Mr. Peacocke's
aversion to do more than attend regularly at the church services as one
of the parishioners had been very strong. The Doctor's anxiety to
overcome his assistant's reasoning had also been strong. There had no
doubt been much said between them. Mr. Peacocke had been true to his
principles, whatever those principles were, in regard to his
appointment as a curate,but it came to pass that he for some months
preached regularly every Sunday in the parish church, to the full
satisfaction of the parishioners. For this he had accepted no payment,
much to the Doctor's dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, it was certainly
the case that they who served the Doctor gratuitously never came by the
worse of the bargain.
Mr. Peacocke was a small wiry man, anything but robust in
appearance, but still capable of great bodily exertion. He was a great
walker. Labour in the school never seemed to fatigue him. The addition
of a sermon to preach every week seemed to make no difference to his
energies in the school. He was a constant reader, and could pass from
one kind of mental work to another without fatigue. The Doctor was a
noted scholar, but it soon became manifest to the Doctor himself, and
to the boys, that Mr. Peacocke was much deeper in scholarship than the
Doctor. Though he was a poor man, his own small classical library was
supposed to be a repository of all that was known about Latin and
Greek. In fact, Mr. Peacocke grew to be a marvel; but of all the
marvels about him, the thing most marvellous was the entire faith which
the Doctor placed in him. Certain changes even were made in the
old-established curriculum of tuition,and were made, as all the
boys supposed, by the advice of Mr. Peacocke. Mr. Peacocke was treated
with a personal respect which almost seemed to imply that the two men
were equal. This was supposed by the boys to come from the fact that
both the Doctor and the assistant had been Fellows of their colleges at
Oxford; but the parsons and other gentry around could see that there
was more in it than that. Mr. Peacocke had some power about him which
was potent over the Doctor's spirit.
Mrs. Peacocke, in her line, succeeded almost as well. She was a
woman something over thirty years of age when she first came to Bowick,
in the very pride and bloom of woman's beauty. Her complexion was dark
and brown,so much so, that it was impossible to describe her colour
generally by any other word. But no clearer skin was ever given to a
woman. Her eyes were brown, and her eye-brows black, and perfectly
regular. Her hair was dark and very glossy, and always dressed as
simply as the nature of a woman's head will allow. Her features were
regular, but with a great show of strength. She was tall for a woman,
but without any of that look of length under which female altitude
sometimes suffers. She was strong and well made, and apparently equal
to any labour to which her position might subject her. When she had
been at Bowick about three months, a boy's leg had been broken, and she
had nursed him, not only with assiduity, but with great capacity. The
boy was the youngest son of the Marchioness of Altamont; and when Lady
Altamont paid a second visit to Bowick, for the sake of taking her boy
home as soon as he was fit to be moved, her ladyship made a little
mistake. With the sweetest and most caressing smile in the world, she
offered Mrs. Peacocke a ten-pound note. My dear madam, said Mrs.
Peacocke, without the slightest reserve or difficulty, it is so
natural that you should do this, because you cannot of course
understand my position; but it is altogether out of the question. The
Marchioness blushed, and stammered, and begged a hundred pardons. Being
a good-natured woman, she told the whole story to Mrs. Wortle. I would
just as soon have offered the money to the Marchioness herself, said
Mrs. Wortle, as she told it to her husband. I would have done it a
deal sooner, said the Doctor. I am not in the least afraid of Lady
Altamont; but I stand in awful dread of Mrs. Peacocke. Nevertheless
Mrs. Peacocke had done her work by the little lord's bed-side, just as
though she had been a paid nurse.
And so she felt herself to be. Nor was she in the least ashamed of
her position in that respect. If there was aught of shame about her, as
some people said, it certainly did not come from the fact that she was
in the receipt of a salary for the performance of certain prescribed
duties. Such remuneration was, she thought, as honourable as the
Doctor's income; but to her American intelligence, the acceptance of a
present of money from a Marchioness would have been a degradation.
It certainly was said of her by some persons that there must have
been something in her former life of which she was ashamed. The
Honourable Mrs. Stantiloup, to whom all the affairs of Bowick had been
of consequence since her husband had lost his lawsuit, and who had not
only heard much, but had inquired far and near about Mr. and Mrs.
Peacocke, declared diligently among her friends, with many nods and
winks, that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. She
did at first somewhat imprudently endeavour to spread a rumour abroad
that the Doctor had become enslaved by the lady's beauty. But even
those hostile to Bowick could not accept this. The Doctor certainly was
not the man to put in jeopardy the respect of the world and his own
standing for the beauty of any woman; and, moreover, the Doctor, as we
have said before, was over fifty years of age. But there soon came up
another ground on which calumny could found a story. It was certainly
the case that Mrs. Peacocke had never accepted any hospitality from
Mrs. Wortle or other ladies in the neighbourhood. It reached the ears
of Mrs. Stantiloup, first, that the ladies had called upon each other,
as ladies are wont to do who intend to cultivate a mutual personal
acquaintance, and then that Mrs. Wortle had asked Mrs. Peacocke to
dinner. But Mrs. Peacocke had refused not only that invitation, but
subsequent invitations to the less ceremonious form of tea-drinking.
All this had been true, and it had been true also,though of this
Mrs. Stantiloup had not heard the particulars,that Mrs. Peacocke had
explained to her neighbour that she did not intend to put herself on a
visiting footing with any one. But why not, my dear? Mrs. Wortle had
said, urged to the argument by precepts from her husband. Why should
you make yourself desolate here, when we shall be so glad to have you?
It is part of my life that it must be so, Mrs. Peacocke had answered.
I am quite sure that the duties I have undertaken are becoming a lady;
but I do not think that they are becoming to one who either gives or
There had been something of the same kind between the Doctor and Mr.
Peacocke. Why the mischief shouldn't you and your wife come and eat a
bit of mutton, and drink a glass of wine, over at the Rectory, like any
other decent people? I never believed that accusation against the
Doctor in regard to swearing; but he was no doubt addicted to
expletives in conversation, and might perhaps have indulged in a strong
word or two, had he not been prevented by the sanctity of his orders.
Perhaps I ought to say, replied Mr. Peacocke, because we are not
like any other decent people. Then he went on to explain his meaning.
Decent people, he thought, in regard to social intercourse, are those
who are able to give and take with ease among each other. He had fallen
into a position in which neither he nor his wife could give anything,
and from which, though some might be willing to accept him, he would be
accepted only, as it were, by special favour. Bosh! ejaculated the
Doctor. Mr. Peacocke simply smiled. He said it might be bosh, but that
even were he inclined to relax his own views, his wife would certainly
not relax hers. So it came to pass that although the Doctor and Mr.
Peacocke were really intimate, and that something of absolute
friendship sprang up between the two ladies, when Mr. Peacocke had
already been more than twelve months in Bowick neither had he nor Mrs.
Peacocke broken bread in the Doctor's house.
And yet the friendship had become strong. An incident had happened
early in the year which had served greatly to strengthen it. At the
school there was a little boy, just eleven years old, the only son of a
Lady De Lawle, who had in early years been a dear friend to Mrs.
Wortle. Lady De Lawle was the widow of a baronet, and the little boy
was the heir to a large fortune. The mother had been most loath to part
with her treasure. Friends, uncles, and trustees had declared that the
old prescribed form of education for British aristocrats must be
followed,a t'other school, namely, then Eton, and then Oxford. No;
his mother might not go with him, first to one, and then to the other.
Such going and living with him would deprive his education of all the
real salt. Therefore Bowick was chosen as the t'other school, because
Mrs. Wortle would be more like a mother to the poor desolate boy than
any other lady. So it was arranged, and the poor desolate boy became
the happiest of the young pickles whom it was Mrs. Wortle's special
province to spoil whenever she could get hold of them.
Now it happened that on one beautiful afternoon towards the end of
April, Mrs. Wortle had taken young De Lawle and another little boy with
her over the foot-bridge which passed from the bottom of the parsonage
garden to the glebe-meadow which ran on the other side of a little
river, and with them had gone a great Newfoundland dog, who was on
terms equally friendly with the inmates of the Rectory and the school.
Where this bridge passed across the stream the gardens and the field
were on the same level. But as the water ran down to the ground on
which the school-buildings had been erected, there arose a steep bank
over a bend in the river, or, rather, steep cliff; for, indeed, it was
almost perpendicular, the force of the current as it turned at this
spot having washed away the bank. In this way it had come to pass that
there was a precipitous fall of about a dozen feet from the top of the
little cliff into the water, and that the water here, as it eddied
round the curve, was black and deep, so that the bigger boys were wont
to swim in it, arrangements for bathing having been made on the further
or school side. There had sometimes been a question whether a rail
should not be placed for protection along the top of this cliff, but
nothing of the kind had yet been done. The boys were not supposed to
play in this field, which was on the other side of the river, and could
only be reached by the bridge through the parsonage garden.
On this day young De Lawle and his friend and the dog rushed up the
hill before Mrs. Wortle, and there began to romp, as was their custom.
Mary Wortle, who was one of the party, followed them, enjoining the
children to keep away from the cliff. For a while they did so, but of
course returned. Once or twice they were recalled and scolded, always
asserting that the fault was altogether with Neptune. It was Neptune
that knocked them down and always pushed them towards the river.
Perhaps it was Neptune; but be that as it might, there came a moment
very terrible to them all. The dog in one of his gyrations came
violently against the little boy, knocked him off his legs, and pushed
him over the edge. Mrs. Wortle, who had been making her way slowly up
the hill, saw the fall, heard the splash, and fell immediately to the
Other eyes had also seen the accident. The Doctor and Mr. Peacocke
were at the moment walking together in the playgrounds at the school
side of the brook. When the boy fell they had paused in their walk, and
were standing, the Doctor with his back to the stream, and the
assistant with his face turned towards the cliff. A loud exclamation
broke from his lips as he saw the fall, but in a moment,almost before
the Doctor had realised the accident which had occurred,he was in the
water, and two minutes afterwards young De Lawle, drenched indeed,
frightened, and out of breath, but in nowise seriously hurt, was out
upon the bank; and Mr. Peacocke, drenched also, but equally safe, was
standing over him, while the Doctor on his knees was satisfying himself
that his little charge had received no fatal injury. It need hardly be
explained that such a termination as this to such an accident had
greatly increased the good feeling with which Mr. Peacocke was regarded
by all the inhabitants of the school and Rectory.
CHAPTER III. THE MYSTERY.
MR. PEACOCKE himself said that in this matter a great deal of fuss
was made about nothing. Perhaps it was so. He got a ducking, but, being
a strong swimmer, probably suffered no real danger. The boy, rolling
down three or four feet of bank, had then fallen down six or eight feet
into deep water. He might, no doubt, have been much hurt. He might have
struck against a rock and have been killed,in which case Mr.
Peacocke's prowess would have been of no avail. But nothing of this
kind happened. Little Jack De Lawle was put to bed in one of the
Rectory bed-rooms, and was comforted with sherry-negus and sweet jelly.
For two days he rejoiced thoroughly in his accident, being freed from
school, and subjected only to caresses. After that he rebelled, having
become tired of his bed. But by that time his mother had been most
unnecessarily summoned. Unless she was wanted to examine the forlorn
condition of his clothes, there was nothing that she could do. But she
came, and, of course, showered blessings on Mr. Peacocke's head,while
Mrs. Wortle went through to the school and showered blessings on Mrs.
Peacocke. What would they have done had the Peacockes not been there?
You must let them have their way, whether for good or bad, the
Doctor said, when his assistant complained rather of the
blessings,pointing out at any rate their absurdity. One man is
damned for ever, because, in the conscientious exercise of his
authority, he gives a little boy a rap which happens to make a small
temporary mark on his skin. Another becomes a hero because, when in the
equally conscientious performance of a duty, he gives himself a
ducking. I won't think you a hero; but, of course, I consider myself
very fortunate to have had beside me a man younger than myself, and
quick and ready at such an emergence. Of course I feel grateful, but I
shan't bother you by telling you so.
But this was not the end of it. Lady De Lawle declared that she
could not be happy unless Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke would bring Jack home
for the holidays to De Lawle Park. Of course she carried her blessings
up into Mrs. Peacocke's little drawing-room, and became quite
convinced, as was Mrs. Wortle, that Mrs. Peacocke was in all respects a
lady. She heard of Mr. Peacocke's antecedents at Oxford, and expressed
her opinion that they were charming people. She could not be happy
unless they would promise to come to De Lawle Park for the holidays.
Then Mrs. Peacocke had to explain that in her present circumstances she
did not intend to visit anywhere. She was very much flattered, and
delighted to think that the dear little boy was none the worse for his
accident; but there must be an end of it. There was something in her
manner, as she said this, which almost overawed Lady De Lawle. She made
herself, at any rate, understood, and no further attempt was made for
the next six weeks to induce her or Mr. Peacocke to enter the Rectory
dining-room. But a good deal was said about Mr. Peacocke,generally in
Generally in his favour,because he was a fine scholar, and could
swim well. His preaching perhaps did something for him, but the
swimming did more. But though there was so much said of good, there was
something also of evil. A man would not altogether refuse society for
himself and his wife unless there were some cause for him to do so. He
and she must have known themselves to be unfit to associate with such
persons as they would have met at De Lawle Park. There was a mystery,
and the mystery, when unravelled, would no doubt prove to be very
deleterious to the character of the persons concerned. Mrs. Stantiloup
was quite sure that such must be the case. It might be very well,
said Mrs. Stantiloup, for Dr. Wortle to obtain the services of a
well-educated usher for his school, but it became quite another thing
when he put a man up to preach in the church, of whose life, for five
years, no one knew anything. Somebody had told her something as to the
necessity of a bishop's authority for the appointment of a curate; but
no one had strictly defined to her what a curate is. She was, however,
quite ready to declare that Mr. Peacocke had no business to preach in
that pulpit, and that something very disagreeable would come of it.
Nor was this feeling altogether confined to Mrs. Stantiloup, though
it had perhaps originated with what she had said among her own friends.
Don't you think it well you should know something of his life during
these five years? This had been said to the Rector by the Bishop
himself,who probably would have said nothing of the kind had not
these reports reached his ears. But reports, when they reach a certain
magnitude, and attain a certain importance, require to be noticed.
So much in this world depends upon character that attention has to
be paid to bad character even when it is not deserved. In dealing with
men and women, we have to consider what they believe, as well as what
we believe ourselves. The utility of a sermon depends much on the idea
that the audience has of the piety of the man who preaches it. Though
the words of God should never have come with greater power from the
mouth of man, they will come in vain if they be uttered by one who is
known as a breaker of the Commandments;they will come in vain from
the mouth of one who is even suspected to be so. To all this, when it
was said to him by the Bishop in the kindest manner, Dr. Wortle replied
that such suspicions were monstrous, unreasonable, and uncharitable. He
declared that they originated with that abominable virago, Mrs.
Stantiloup. Look round the diocese, said the Bishop in reply to this,
and see if you can find a single clergyman acting in it, of the
details of whose life for the last five years you know absolutely
nothing. Thereupon the Doctor said that he would make inquiry of Mr.
Peacocke himself. It might well be, he thought, that Mr. Peacocke would
not like such inquiry, but the Doctor was quite sure that any story
told to him would be true. On returning home he found it necessary, or
at any rate expedient, to postpone his questions for a few days. It is
not easy to ask a man what he has been doing with five years of his
life, when the question implies a belief that these five years have
been passed badly. And it was understood that the questioning must in
some sort apply to the man's wife. The Doctor had once said to Mrs.
Wortle that he stood in awe of Mrs. Peacocke. There had certainly come
upon him an idea that she was a lady with whom it would not be easy to
meddle. She was obedient, diligent, and minutely attentive to any wish
that was expressed to her in regard to her duties; but it had become
manifest to the Doctor that in all matters beyond the school she was
independent, and was by no means subject to external influences. She
was not, for instance, very constant in her own attendance at church,
and never seemed to feel it necessary to apologise for her absence. The
Doctor, in his many and familiar conversations with Mr. Peacocke, had
not found himself able to allude to this; and he had observed that the
husband did not often speak of his own wife unless it were on matters
having reference to the school. So it came to pass that he dreaded the
conversation which he proposed to himself, and postponed it from day to
day with a cowardice which was quite unusual to him.
And now, O kind-hearted reader, I feel myself constrained, in the
telling of this little story, to depart altogether from those
principles of story-telling to which you probably have become
accustomed, and to put the horse of my romance before the cart. There
is a mystery respecting Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke which, according to all
laws recognised in such matters, ought not to be elucidated till, let
us say, the last chapter but two, so that your interest should be
maintained almost to the end,so near the end that there should be
left only space for those little arrangements which are necessary for
the well-being, or perhaps for the evil-being, of our personages. It is
my purpose to disclose the mystery at once, and to ask you to look for
your interest,should you choose to go on with my chronicle,simply
in the conduct of my persons, during this disclosure, to others. You
are to know it all before the Doctor or the Bishop,before Mrs. Wortle
or the Hon. Mrs. Stantiloup, or Lady De Lawle. You are to know it all
before the Peacockes become aware that it must necessarily be disclosed
to any one. It may be that when I shall have once told the mystery
there will no longer be any room for interest in the tale to you. That
there are many such readers of novels I know. I doubt whether the
greater number be not such. I am far from saying that the kind of
interest of which I am speaking,and of which I intend to deprive
myself,is not the most natural and the most efficacious. What would
the 'Black Dwarf' be if every one knew from the beginning that he was a
rich man and a baronet?or 'The Pirate,' if all the truth about Norna
of the Fitful-head had been told in the first chapter? Therefore, put
the book down if the revelation of some future secret be necessary for
your enjoyment. Our mystery is going to be revealed in the next
paragraph,in the next half-dozen words. Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke were
not man and wife.
The story how it came to be so need not be very long;nor will it,
as I think, entail any great degree of odious criminality either upon
the man or upon the woman. At St. Louis Mrs. Peacocke had become
acquainted with two brothers named Lefroy, who had come up from
Louisiana, and had achieved for themselves characters which were by no
means desirable. They were sons of a planter who had been rich in
extent of acres and number of slaves before the war of the Secession.
General Lefroy had been in those days a great man in his State, had
held command during the war, and had been utterly ruined. When the war
was over the two boys,then seventeen and sixteen years of age,were
old enough to remember and to regret all that they had lost, to hate
the idea of Abolition, and to feel that the world had nothing left for
them but what was to be got by opposition to the laws of the Union,
which was now hateful to them. They were both handsome, and, in spite
of the sufferings of their State, an attempt had been made to educate
them like gentlemen. But no career of honour had been open to them, and
they had fallen by degrees into dishonour, dishonesty, and brigandage.
The elder of these, when he was still little more than a stripling,
had married Ella Beaufort, the daughter of another ruined planter in
his State. She had been only sixteen when her father died, and not
seventeen when she married Ferdinand Lefroy. It was she who afterwards
came to England under the name of Mrs. Peacocke.
Mr. Peacocke was Vice-President of the College at Missouri when he
first saw her, and when he first became acquainted with the two
brothers, each of whom was called Colonel Lefroy. Then there arose a
great scandal in the city as to the treatment which the wife received
from her husband. He was about to go away South, into Mexico, with the
view of pushing his fortune there with certain desperadoes, who were
maintaining a perpetual war against the authorities of the United
States on the borders of Texas, and he demanded that his wife should
accompany him. This she refused to do, and violence was used to force
her. Then it came to pass that certain persons in St. Louis interfered
on her behalf, and among these was the Reverend Mr. Peacocke, the
Vice-President of the College, upon whose feelings the singular beauty
and dignified demeanour of the woman, no doubt, had had much effect.
The man failed to be powerful over his wife, and then the two brothers
went away together. The woman was left to provide for herself, and Mr.
Peacocke was generous in the aid he gave to her in doing so.
It may be understood that in this way an intimacy was created, but
it must not be understood that the intimacy was of such a nature as to
be injurious to the fair fame of the lady. Things went on in this way
for two years, during which Mrs. Lefroy's conduct drew down upon her
reproaches from no one. Then there came tidings that Colonel Lefroy had
perished in making one of those raids in which the two brothers were
continually concerned. But which Colonel Lefroy had perished? If it
were the younger brother, that would be nothing to Mr. Peacocke. If it
were the elder, it would be everything. If Ferdinand Lefroy were dead,
he would not scruple at once to ask the woman to be his wife. That
which the man had done, and that which he had not done, had been of
such a nature as to solve all bonds of affection. She had already
allowed herself to speak of the man as one whose life was a blight upon
her own; and though there had been no word of out-spoken love from her
lips to his ears, he thought that he might succeed if it could be made
certain that Ferdinand Lefroy was no longer among the living.
I shall never know, she said in her misery. What I do hear I
shall never believe. How can one know anything as to what happens in a
country such as that?
Then he took up his hat and staff, and, vice-president, professor,
and clergyman as he was, started off for the Mexican border. He did
tell her that he was going, but barely told her. It's a thing that
ought to be found out, he said, and I want a turn of travelling. I
shall be away three months. She merely bade God bless him, but said
not a word to hinder or to encourage his going.
He was gone just the three months which he had himself named, and
then returned elate with his news. He had seen the younger brother,
Robert Lefroy, and had learnt from him that the elder Ferdinand had
certainly been killed. Robert had been most ungracious to him, having
even on one occasion threatened his life; but there had been no doubt
that he, Robert, was alive, and that Ferdinand had been killed by a
party of United States soldiers.
Then the clergyman had his reward, and was accepted by the widow
with a full and happy heart. Not only had her release been complete,
but so was her present joy; and nothing seemed wanting to their
happiness during the six first months after their union. Then one day,
all of a sudden, Ferdinand Lefroy was standing within her little
drawing-room at the College of St. Louis.
Dead? Certainly he was not dead! He did not believe that any one had
said that he was dead! She might be lying or not,he did not care; he,
Peacocke, certainly had lied;so said the Colonel. He did not believe
that Peacocke had ever seen his brother Robert. Robert was dead,must
have been dead, indeed, before the date given for that interview. The
woman was a bigamist,that is, if any second marriage had ever been
perpetrated. Probably both had wilfully agreed to the falsehood. For
himself he should resolve at once what steps he meant to take. Then he
departed, it being at that moment after nine in the evening. In the
morning he was gone again, and from that moment they had never either
heard of him or seen him.
How was it to be with them? They could have almost brought
themselves to think it a dream, were it not that others besides
themselves had seen the man, and known that Colonel Ferdinand Lefroy
had been in St. Louis. Then there came to him an idea that even she
might disbelieve the words which he had spoken;that even she might
think his story to have been false. But to this she soon put an end.
Dearest, she said, I never knew a word that was true to come from
his mouth, or a word that was false from yours.
Should they part? There is no one who reads this but will say that
they should have parted. Every day passed together as man and wife must
be a falsehood and a sin. There would be absolute misery for both in
parting;but there is no law from God or man entitling a man to escape
from misery at the expense of falsehood and sin. Though their hearts
might have burst in the doing of it, they should have parted. Though
she would have been friendless, alone, and utterly despicable in the
eyes of the world, abandoning the name which she cherished, as not her
own, and going back to that which she utterly abhorred, still she
should have done it. And he, resolving, as no doubt he would have done
under any circumstances, that he must quit the city of his
adoption,he should have left her with such material sustenance as her
spirit would have enabled her to accept, should have gone his widowed
way, and endured as best he might the idea that he had left the woman
whom he loved behind, in the desert, all alone! That he had not done so
the reader is aware. That he had lived a life of sin,that he and she
had continued in one great falsehood,is manifest enough. Mrs.
Stantiloup, when she hears it all, will have her triumph. Lady De
Lawle's soft heart will rejoice because that invitation was not
accepted. The Bishop will be unutterably shocked; but, perhaps, to the
good man there will be some solace in the feeling that he had been
right in his surmises. How the Doctor bore it this story is intended to
tell,and how also Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke bore it, when the sin and the
falsehood were made known to all the world around them. The mystery has
at any rate been told, and they who feel that on this account all hope
of interest is at an end had better put down the book.
CHAPTER IV. THE DOCTOR ASKS HIS
THE Doctor, instigated by the Bishop, had determined to ask some
questions of Mr. Peacocke as to his American life. The promise had been
given at the Palace, and the Doctor, as he returned home, repented
himself in that he had made it. His lordship was a gossip, as bad as an
old woman, as bad as Mrs. Stantiloup, and wanted to know things in
which a man should feel no interest. So said the Doctor to himself.
What was it to him, the Bishop, or to him, the Doctor, what Mr.
Peacocke had been doing in America? The man's scholarship was patent,
his morals were unexceptional, his capacity for preaching undoubted,
his peculiar fitness for his place at Bowick unquestionable. Who had a
right to know more? That the man had been properly educated at Oxford,
and properly ordained on entering his Fellowship, was doubted by no
man. Even if there had been some temporary backslidings in
America,which might be possible, for which of us have not backslided
at some time of our life?why should they be raked up? There was an
uncharitableness in such a proceeding altogether opposed to the
Doctor's view of life. He hated severity. It may almost be said that he
hated that state of perfection which would require no pardon. He was
thoroughly human, quite content with his own present position,
anticipating no millennium for the future of the world, and probably,
in his heart, looking forward to heaven as simply the better
alternative when the happiness of this world should be at an end. He
himself was in no respect a wicked man, and yet a little wickedness was
not distasteful to him.
And he was angry with himself in that he had made such a promise. It
had been a rule of life with him never to take advice. The Bishop had
his powers, within which he, as Rector of Bowick, would certainly obey
the Bishop; but it had been his theory to oppose his Bishop, almost
more readily than any one else, should the Bishop attempt to exceed his
power. The Bishop had done so in giving this advice, and yet he had
promised. He was angry with himself, but did not on that account think
that the promise should be evaded. Oh no! Having said that he would do
it, he would do it. And having said that he would do it, the sooner
that he did it the better. When three or four days had passed by, he
despised himself because he had not yet made for himself a fit
occasion. It is such a mean, sneaking thing to do, he said to
himself. But still it had to be done.
It was on a Saturday afternoon that he said this to himself, as he
returned back to the parsonage garden from the cricket-ground, where he
had left Mr. Peacocke and the three other ushers playing cricket with
ten or twelve of the bigger boys of the school. There was a French
master, a German master, a master for arithmetic and mathematics with
the adjacent sciences, besides Mr. Peacocke, as assistant classical
master. Among them Mr. Peacocke was facile princeps in rank and
supposed ability; but they were all admitted to the delights of the
playground. Mr. Peacocke, in spite of those years of his spent in
America where cricket could not have been familiar to him, remembered
well his old pastime, and was quite an adept at the game. It was ten
thousand pities that a man should be disturbed by unnecessary
questionings who could not only teach and preach, but play cricket
also. But nevertheless it must be done. When, therefore, the Doctor
entered his own house, he went into his study and wrote a short note to
MY DEAR PEACOCKE,Could you come over and see me in my study this
evening for half an hour? I have a question or two which I wish to ask
you. Any hour you may name will suit me after eight.Yours most
In answer to this there came a note to say that at half-past eight
Mr. Peacocke would be with the Doctor.
At half-past eight Mr. Peacocke came. He had fancied, on reading the
Doctor's note, that some further question would be raised as to money.
The Doctor had declared that he could no longer accept gratuitous
clerical service in the parish, and had said that he must look out for
some one else if Mr. Peacocke could not oblige him by allowing his name
to be referred in the usual way to the Bishop. He had now determined to
say, in answer to this, that the school gave him enough to do, and that
he would much prefer to give up the church;although he would always
be happy to take a part occasionally if he should be wanted. The Doctor
had been sitting alone for the last quarter of an hour when his
assistant entered the room, and had spent the time in endeavouring to
arrange the conversation that should follow. He had come at last to a
conclusion. He would let Mr. Peacocke know exactly what had passed
between himself and the Bishop, and would then leave it to his usher
either to tell his own story as to his past life, or to abstain from
telling it. He had promised to ask the question, and he would ask it;
but he would let the man judge for himself whether any answer ought to
The Bishop has been bothering me about you, Peacocke, he said,
standing up with his back to the fireplace, as soon as the other man
had shut the door behind him. The Doctor's face was always expressive
of his inward feelings, and at this moment showed very plainly that his
sympathies were not with the Bishop.
I'm sorry that his lordship should have troubled himself, said the
other, as I certainly do not intend to take any part in his diocese.
We'll sink that for the present, said the Doctor. I won't let
that be mixed up with what I have got to say just now. You have taken a
certain part in the diocese already, very much to my satisfaction. I
hope it may be continued; but I won't bother about that now. As far as
I can see, you are just the man that would suit me as a colleague in
the parish. Mr. Peacocke bowed, but remained silent. The fact is,
continued the Doctor, that certain old women have got hold of the
Bishop, and made him feel that he ought to answer their objections.
That Mrs. Stantiloup has a tongue as loud as the town-crier's bell.
But what has Mrs. Stantiloup to say about me?
Nothing, except in so far as she can hit me through you.
And what does the Bishop say?
He thinks that I ought to know something of your life during those
five years you were in America.
I think so also, said Mr. Peacocke.
I don't want to know anything for myself. As far as I am concerned,
I am quite satisfied. I know where you were educated, how you were
ordained, and I can feel sure, from your present efficiency, that you
cannot have wasted your time. If you tell me that you do not wish to
say anything, I shall be contented, and I shall tell the Bishop that,
as far as I am concerned, there must be an end of it.
And what will he do? asked Mr. Peacocke.
Well; as far as the curacy is concerned, of course he can refuse
I have not the slightest intention of applying to his lordship for
This the usher said with a tone of self-assertion which grated a
little on the Doctor's ear, in spite of his good-humour towards the
speaker. I don't want to go into that, he said. A man never can say
what his intentions may be six months hence.
But if I were to refuse to speak of my life in America, said Mr.
Peacocke, and thus to decline to comply with what I must confess would
be no more than a rational requirement on your part, how then would it
be with myself and my wife in regard to the school?
It would make no difference whatever, said the Doctor.
There is a story to tell, said Mr. Peacocke, very slowly.
I am sure that it cannot be to your disgrace.
I do not say that it is,nor do I say that it is not. There may be
circumstances in which a man may hardly know whether he has done right
or wrong. But this I do know,that, had I done otherwise, I should
have despised myself. I could not have done otherwise and have lived.
There is no man in the world, said the Doctor, earnestly, less
anxious to pry into the secrets of others than I am. I take things as I
find them. If the cook sends me up a good dish I don't care to know how
she made it. If I read a good book, I am not the less gratified because
there may have been something amiss with the author.
You would doubt his teaching, said Mr. Peacocke, who had gone
Then I must doubt all human teaching, for all men have gone astray.
You had better hold your tongue about the past, and let me tell those
who ask unnecessary questions to mind their own business.
It is very odd, Doctor, said Mr. Peacocke, that all this should
have come from you just now.
Why odd just now?
Because I had been turning it in my mind for the last fortnight
whether I ought not to ask you as a favour to listen to the story of my
life. That I must do so before I could formally accept the curacy I had
determined. But that only brought me to the resolution of refusing the
office. I think,I think that, irrespective of the curacy, it ought to
be told. But I have not quite made up my mind.
Do not suppose that I am pressing you.
Oh no; nor would your pressing me influence me. Much as I owe to
your undeserved kindness and forbearance, I am bound to say that.
Nothing can influence me in the least in such a matter but the
well-being of my wife, and my own sense of duty. And it is a matter in
which I can unfortunately take counsel from no one. She, and she alone,
besides myself, knows the circumstances, and she is so forgetful of
herself that I can hardly ask her for an opinion.
The Doctor by this time had no doubt become curious. There was a
something mysterious with which he would like to become acquainted. He
was by no means a philosopher, superior to the ordinary curiosity of
mankind. But he was manly, and even at this moment remembered his
former assurances. Of course, said he, I cannot in the least guess
what all this is about. For myself I hate secrets. I haven't a secret
in the world. I know nothing of myself which you mightn't know too for
all that I cared. But that is my good fortune rather than my merit. It
might well have been with me as it is with you; but, as a rule, I think
that where there is a secret it had better be kept. No one, at any
rate, should allow it to be wormed out of him by the impertinent
assiduity of others. If there be anything affecting your wife which you
do not wish all the world on this side of the water to know, do not
tell it to any one on this side of the water.
There is something affecting my wife that I do not wish all the
world to know.
Then tell it to no one, said Dr. Wortle, authoritatively.
I will tell you what I will do, said Mr. Peacocke; I will take a
week to think of it, and then I will let you know whether I will tell
it or whether I will not; and if I tell it I will let you know also how
far I shall expect you to keep my secret, and how far to reveal it. I
think the Bishop will be entitled to know nothing about me unless I ask
to be recognised as one of the clergy of his diocese.
Certainly not; certainly not, said the Doctor. And then the
interview was at an end.
Mr. Peacocke, when he went away from the Rectory, did not at once
return to his own house, but went off for a walk alone. It was now
nearly midsummer, and there was broad daylight till ten o'clock. It was
after nine when he left the Doctor's, but still there was time for a
walk which he knew well through the fields, which would take him round
by Bowick Wood, and home by a path across the squire's park and by the
church. An hour would do it, and he wanted an hour to collect his
thoughts before he should see his wife, and discuss with her, as he
would be bound to do, all that had passed between him and the Doctor.
He had said that he could not ask her advice. In this there had been
much of truth. But he knew also that he would do nothing as to which he
had not received at any rate her assent. She, for his sake, would have
annihilated herself, had that been possible. Again and again, since
that horrible apparition had showed itself in her room at St. Louis,
she had begged that she might leave him,not on her own behalf, not
from any dread of the crime that she was committing, not from shame in
regard to herself should her secret be found out, but because she felt
herself to be an impediment to his career in the world. As to herself,
she had no pricks of conscience. She had been true to the man,brutal,
abominable as he had been to her,until she had in truth been made to
believe that he was dead; and even when he had certainly been
alive,for she had seen him,he had only again seen her, again to
desert her. Duty to him she could owe never. There was no sting of
conscience with her in that direction. But to the other man she owed,
as she thought, everything that could be due from a woman to a man. He
had come within her ken, and had loved her without speaking of his
love. He had seen her condition, and had sympathised with her fully. He
had gone out, with his life in his hand,he, a clergyman, a quiet man
of letters,to ascertain whether she was free; and finding her, as he
believed, to be free, he had returned to take her to his heart, and to
give her all that happiness which other women enjoy, but which she had
hitherto only seen from a distance. Then the blow had come. It was
necessary, it was natural, that she should be ruined by such a blow.
Circumstances had ruined her. That fate had betaken her which so often
falls upon a woman who trusts herself and her life to a man. But why
should he fall also with her fall? There was still a career before him.
He might be useful; he might be successful; he might be admired.
Everything might still be open to him,except the love of another
woman. As to that, she did not doubt his truth. Why should he be doomed
to drag her with him as a log tied to his foot, seeing that a woman
with a misfortune is condemned by the general voice of the world,
whereas for a man to have stumbled is considered hardly more than a
matter of course? She would consent to take from him the means of
buying her bread; but it would be better,she had said,that she
should eat it on her side of the water, while he might earn it on the
We know what had come of these arguments. He had hitherto never left
her for a moment since that man had again appeared before their eyes.
He had been strong in his resolution. If it were a crime, then he would
be a criminal. If it were a falsehood, then would he be a liar. As to
the sin, there had no doubt been some divergence of opinion between him
and her. The teaching that he had undergone in his youth had been that
with which we, here, are all more or less acquainted, and that had been
strengthened in him by the fact of his having become a clergyman. She
had felt herself more at liberty to proclaim to herself a gospel of her
own for the guidance of her own soul. To herself she had never seemed
to be vicious or impure, but she understood well that he was not
equally free from the bonds which religion had imposed upon him. For
his sake,for his sake, it would be better that she should be away
All this was known to him accurately, and all this had to be
considered by him as he walked across the squire's park in the gloaming
of the evening. No doubt,he now said to himself,the Doctor should
have been made acquainted with his condition before he or she had taken
their place at the school. Reticence under such circumstances had been
a lie. Against his conscience there had been many pricks. Living in his
present condition he certainly should not have gone up into that pulpit
to preach the Word of God. Though he had been silent, he had known that
the evil and the deceit would work round upon him. But now what should
he do? There was only one thing on which he was altogether
decided;nothing should separate them. As he had said so often before,
he said again now,If there be sin, let it be sin. But this was
clear to him,were he to give Dr. Wortle a true history of what had
happened to him in America, then must he certainly leave Bowick. And
this was equally certain, that before telling his tale, he must make
known his purpose to his wife.
But as he entered his own house he had determined that he would tell
the Doctor everything.
CHAPTER V. THEN WE MUST GO.
I THOUGHT you were never going to have done with that old Jupiter,
said Mrs. Peacocke, as she began at that late hour of the evening to
make tea for herself and her husband.
Why have you waited for me?
Because I like company. Did you ever know me go to tea without you
when there was a chance of your coming? What has Jupiter been talking
about all this time?
Jupiter has not been talking all this time. Jupiter talked only for
half an hour. Jupiter is a very good fellow.
I always thought so. Otherwise I should never have consented to
have been one of his satellites, or have been contented to see you
doing chief moon. But you have been with him an hour and a half.
Since I left him I have walked all round by Bowick Lodge. I had
something to think of before I could talk to you,something to decide
upon, indeed, before I could return to the house.
What have you decided? she asked. Her voice was altogether
changed. Though she was seated in her chair and had hardly moved, her
appearance and her carriage of herself were changed. She still held the
cup in her hand which she had been about to fill, but her face was
turned towards his, and her large brown speaking eyes were fixed upon
Let me have my tea, he said, and then I will tell you. While he
drank his tea she remained quite quiet, not touching her own, but
waiting patiently till it should suit him to speak. Ella, he said, I
must tell it all to Dr. Wortle.
Why, dearest? As he did not answer at once, she went on with her
question. Why now more than before?
Nay, it is not now more than before. As we have let the before go
by, we can only do it now.
But why at all, dear? Has the argument, which was strong when we
came, lost any of its force?
It should have had no force. We should not have taken the man's
good things, and have subjected him to the injury which may come to him
by our bad name.
Have we not given him good things in return?
Not the good things which he had a right to expect,not that
respectability which is all the world to such an establishment as
Let me go, she said, rising from her chair and almost shrieking.
Nay, Ella, nay; if you and I cannot talk as though we were one
flesh, almost with one soul between us, as though that which is done by
one is done by both, whether for weal or woe,if you and I cannot feel
ourselves to be in a boat together either for swimming or for sinking,
then I think that no two persons on this earth ever can be bound
together after that fashion. 'Whither thou goest, I will go; and where
thou lodgest, I will lodge. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if
aught but death part thee and me.' Then she rose from her chair, and
flinging herself on her knees at his feet, buried her face in his lap.
Ella, he said, the only injury you can do me is to speak of leaving
me. And it is an injury which is surely unnecessary because you cannot
carry it beyond words. Now, if you will sit up and listen to me, I will
tell you what passed between me and the Doctor. Then she raised
herself from the ground and took her seat at the tea-table, and
listened patiently as he began his tale. They have been talking about
us here in the county.
Who has found it necessary to talk about one so obscure as I?
What does it matter who they might be? The Doctor in his kindly
wrath,for he is very wroth,mentions this name and the other. What
does it matter? Obscurity itself becomes mystery, and mystery of course
produces curiosity. It was bound to be so. It is not they who are in
fault, but we. If you are different from others, of course you will be
Am I so different?
Yes;different in not eating the Doctor's dinners when they are
offered to you; different in not accepting Lady De Lawle's hospitality;
different in contenting yourself simply with your duties and your
husband. Of course we are different. How could we not be different? And
as we are different, so of course there will be questions and
wonderings, and that sifting and searching which always at last finds
out the facts. The Bishop says that he knows nothing of my American
Why should he want to know anything?
Because I have been preaching in one of his churches. It is
natural;natural that the mothers of the boys should want to know
something. The Doctor says that he hates secrets. So do I.
Oh, my dearest!
A secret is always accompanied by more or less of fear, and
produces more or less of cowardice. But it can no more be avoided than
a sore on the flesh or a broken bone. Who would not go about, with all
his affairs such as the world might know, if it were possible? But
there come gangrenes in the heart, or perhaps in the pocket. Wounds
come, undeserved wounds, as those did to you, my darling; but wounds
which may not be laid bare to all eyes. Who has a secret because he
But the Bishop?
Well,yes, the Bishop. The Bishop has told the Doctor to examine
me, and the Doctor has done it. I give him the credit of saying that
the task has been most distasteful to him. I do him the justice of
acknowledging that he has backed out of the work he had undertaken. He
has asked the question, but has said in the same breath that I need not
answer it unless I like.
And you? You have not answered it yet?
No; I have answered nothing as yet. But I have, I think, made up my
mind that the question must be answered.
That everything should be told?
Everything,to him. My idea is to tell everything to him, and to
leave it to him to decide what should be done. Should he refuse to
repeat the story any further, and then bid us go away from Bowick, I
should think that his conduct had been altogether straightforward and
And you,what would you do then?
I should go. What else?
Ah! on that we must decide. He would be friendly with me. Though he
might think it necessary that I should leave Bowick, he would not turn
against me violently.
He could do nothing.
I think he would assist me rather. He would help me, perhaps, to
find some place where I might still earn my bread by such skill as I
possess;where I could do so without dragging in aught of my domestic
life, as I have been forced to do here.
I have been a curse to you, exclaimed the unhappy wife.
My dearest blessing, he said. That which you call a curse has
come from circumstances which are common to both of us. There need be
no more said about it. That man has been a source of terrible trouble
to us. The trouble must be discussed from time to time, but the
necessity of enduring it may be taken for granted.
I cannot be a philosopher such as you are, she said.
There is no escape from it. The philosophy is forced upon us. When
an evil thing is necessary, there remains only the consideration how it
may be best borne.
You must tell him, then?
I think so. I have a week to consider of it; but I think so. Though
he is very kind at this moment in giving me the option, and means what
he says in declaring that I shall remain even though I tell him
nothing, yet his mind would become uneasy, and he would gradually
become discontented. Think how great is his stake in the school! How
would he feel towards me, were its success to be gradually diminished
because he kept a master here of whom people believed some unknown
There has been no sign of any such falling off?
There has been no time for it. It is only now that people are
beginning to talk. Had nothing of the kind been said, had this Bishop
asked no questions, had we been regarded as people simply obscure, to
whom no mystery attached itself, the thing might have gone on; but as
it is, I am bound to tell him the truth.
Then we must go?
When it has been so decided, the sooner the better. How could we
endure to remain here when our going shall be desired?
We must flit, and again seek some other home. Though he should keep
our secret,and I believe he will if he be asked,it will be known
that there is a secret, and a secret of such a nature that its
circumstances have driven us hence. If I could get literary work in
London, perhaps we might live there.
But how,how would you set about it? The truth is, dearest, that
for work such as yours you should either have no wife at all, or else a
wife of whom you need not be ashamed to speak the whole truth before
What is the use of it? he said, rising from his chair as in anger.
Why go back to all that which should be settled between us, as fixed
by fate? Each of us has given to the other all that each has to give,
and the partnership is complete. As far as that is concerned, I at any
rate am contented.
Ah, my darling! she exclaimed, throwing her arms round his neck.
Let there be an end to distinctions and differences, which, between
you and me, can have no effect but to increase our troubles. You are a
woman, and I am a man; and therefore, no doubt, your name, when brought
in question, is more subject to remark than mine,as is my name, being
that of a clergyman, more subject to remark than that of one not
belonging to a sacred profession. But not on that account do I wish to
unfrock myself; nor certainly on that account do I wish to be deprived
of my wife. For good or bad, it has to be endured together; and
expressions of regret as to that which is unavoidable, only aggravate
our trouble. After that, he seated himself, and took up a book as
though he were able at once to carry off his mind to other matters. She
probably knew that he could not do so, but she sat silent by him for a
while, till he bade her take herself to bed, promising that he would
follow without delay.
For three days nothing further was said between them on the subject,
nor was any allusion made to it between the Doctor and his assistant.
The school went on the same as ever, and the intercourse between the
two men was unaltered as to its general mutual courtesy. But there did
undoubtedly grow in the Doctor's mind a certain feverish feeling of
insecurity. At any rate, he knew this, that there was a mystery, that
there was something about the Peacockes,something referring
especially to Mrs. Peacocke,which, if generally known, would be held
to be deleterious to their character. So much he could not help
deducing from what the man had already told him. No doubt he had
undertaken, in his generosity, that although the man should decline to
tell his secret, no alteration should be made as to the school
arrangements; but he became conscious that in so promising he had in
some degree jeopardised the well-being of the school. He began to
whisper to himself that persons in such a position as that filled by
this Mr. Peacocke and his wife should not be subject to peculiar
remarks from ill-natured tongues. A weapon was afforded by such a
mystery to the Stantiloups of the world, which the Stantiloups would be
sure to use with all their virulence. To such an establishment as his
school, respectability was everything. Credit, he said to himself, is a
matter so subtle in its essence, that, as it may be obtained almost
without reason, so, without reason, may it be made to melt away. Much
as he liked Mr. Peacocke, much as he approved of him, much as there was
in the man of manliness and worth which was absolutely dear to
him,still he was not willing to put the character of his school in
peril for the sake of Mr. Peacocke. Were he to do so, he would be
neglecting a duty much more sacred than any he could owe to Mr.
Peacocke. It was thus that, during these three days, he conversed with
himself on the subject, although he was able to maintain outwardly the
same manner and the same countenance as though all things were going
well between them. When they parted after the interview in the study,
the Doctor, no doubt, had so expressed himself as rather to dissuade
his usher from telling his secret than to encourage him to do so. He
had been free in declaring that the telling of the secret should make
no difference in his assistant's position at Bowick. But in all that,
he had acted from his habitual impulse. He had since told himself that
the mystery ought to be disclosed. It was not right that his boys
should be left to the charge of one who, however competent, dared not
speak of his own antecedents. It was thus he thought of the matter,
after consideration. He must wait, of course, till the week should be
over before he made up his mind to anything further.
So Peacocke isn't going to take the curacy?
This was said to the Doctor by Mr. Pearson, the squire, in the
course of those two or three days of which we are speaking. Mr. Pearson
was an old gentleman, who did not live often at Bowick, being
compelled, as he always said, by his health, to spend the winter and
spring of every year in Italy, and the summer months by his family in
London. In truth, he did not much care for Bowick, but had always been
on good terms with the Doctor, and had never opposed the school. Mr.
Pearson had been good also as to Church matters,as far as goodness
can be shown by generosity,and had interested himself about the
curates. So it had come to pass that the Doctor did not wish to snub
his neighbour when the question was asked. I rather think not, said
the Doctor. I fear I shall have to look out for some one else. He did
not prolong the conversation; for, though he wished to be civil, he did
not wish to be communicative. Mr. Pearson had shown his parochial
solicitude, and did not trouble himself with further questions.
So Mr. Peacocke isn't going to take the curacy? This, the very
same question in the very same words, was put to the Doctor on the next
morning by the vicar of the next parish. The Rev. Mr. Puddicombe, a
clergyman without a flaw who did his duty excellently in every station
of life, was one who would preach a sermon or take a whole service for
a brother parson in distress, and never think of reckoning up that
return sermons or return services were due to him,one who gave
dinners, too, and had pretty daughters;but still our Doctor did not
quite like him. He was a little too pious, and perhaps given to ask
questions. So Mr. Peacocke isn't going to take the curacy?
There was a certain animation about the asking of this question by
Mr. Puddicombe very different from Mr. Pearson's listless manner. It
was clear to the Doctor that Mr. Puddicombe wanted to know. It seemed
to the Doctor that something of condemnation was implied in the tone of
the question, not only against Mr. Peacocke, but against himself also,
for having employed Mr. Peacocke. Upon my word I can't tell you, he
said, rather crossly.
I thought that it had been all settled. I heard that it was
Then you have heard more than I have.
It was the Bishop told me.
Now it certainly was the case that in that fatal conversation which
had induced the Doctor to interrogate Mr. Peacocke about his past life,
the Doctor himself had said that he intended to look out for another
curate. He probably did not remember that at the moment. I wish the
Bishop would confine himself to asserting things that he knows, said
the Doctor, angrily.
I am sure the Bishop intends to do so, said Mr. Puddicombe, very
gravely. But I apologise. I had not intended to touch a subject on
which there may perhaps be some reserve. I was only going to tell you
of an excellent young man of whom I have heard. But, good morning.
Then Mr. Puddicombe withdrew.
CHAPTER VI. LORD CARSTAIRS.
DURING the last six months Mr. Peacocke's most intimate friend at
Bowick, excepting of course his wife, had been one of the pupils at the
school. The lad was one of the pupils, but could not be said to be one
of the boys. He was the young Lord Carstairs, eldest son of Earl Bracy.
He had been sent to Bowick now six years ago, with the usual purpose of
progressing from Bowick to Eton. And from Bowick to Eton he had gone in
due course. But there, things had not gone well with the young lord.
Some school disturbance had taken place when he had been there about a
year and a half, in which he was, or was supposed to have been, a
ringleader. It was thought necessary, for the preservation of the
discipline of the school, that a victim should be made;and it was
perhaps thought well, in order that the impartiality of the school
might be made manifest, that the victim should be a lord. Earl Bracy
was therefore asked to withdraw his son; and young Lord Carstairs, at
the age of seventeen, was left to seek his education where he could. It
had been, and still was, the Earl's purpose to send his son to Oxford,
but there was now an interval of two years before that could be
accomplished. During one year he was sent abroad to travel with a
tutor, and was then reported to have been all that a well-conducted lad
ought to be. He was declared to be quite worthy of all that Oxford
would do for him. It was even suggested that Eton had done badly for
herself in throwing off from her such a young nobleman. But though Lord
Carstairs had done well with his French and German on the Continent, it
would certainly be necessary that he should rub up his Greek and Latin
before he went to Christ Church. Then a request was made to the Doctor
to take him in at Bowick in some sort as a private pupil. After some
demurring the Doctor consented. It was not his wont to run counter to
earls who treated him with respect and deference. Earl Bracy had in a
special manner been his friend, and Lord Carstairs himself had been a
great favourite at Bowick. When that expulsion from Eton had come
about, the Doctor had interested himself, and had declared that a very
scant measure of justice had been shown to the young lord. He was thus
in a measure compelled to accede to the request made to him, and Lord
Carstairs was received back at Bowick, not without hesitation, but with
a full measure of affectionate welcome. His bed-room was in the
parsonage-house, and his dinner he took with the Doctor's family. In
other respects he lived among the boys.
Will it not be bad for Mary? Mrs. Wortle had said anxiously to her
husband when the matter was first discussed.
Why should it be bad for Mary?
Oh, I don't know;but young people together, you know? Mightn't it
He is a boy, and she is a mere child. They are both children. It
will be a trouble, but I do not think it will be at all dangerous in
that way. And so it was decided. Mrs. Wortle did not at all agree as
to their both being children. She thought that her girl was far from
being a child. But she had argued the matter quite as much as she ever
argued anything with the Doctor. So the matter was arranged, and young
Lord Carstairs came back to Bowick.
As far as the Doctor could see, nothing could be nicer than his
young pupil's manners. He was not at all above playing with the other
boys. He took very kindly to his old studies and his old haunts, and of
an evening, after dinner, went away from the drawing-room to the study
in pursuit of his Latin and his Greek, without any precocious attempt
at making conversation with Miss Wortle. No doubt there was a good deal
of lawn-tennis of an afternoon, and the lawn-tennis was generally
played in the rectory garden. But then this had ever been the case, and
the lawn-tennis was always played with two on a side; there were no
tête-à-tête games between his lordship and Mary, and whenever the
game was going on, Mrs. Wortle was always there to see fair-play. Among
other amusements the young lord took to walking far afield with Mr.
Peacocke. And then, no doubt, many things were said about that life in
America. When a man has been much abroad, and has passed his time there
under unusual circumstances, his doings will necessarily become
subjects of conversation to his companions. To have travelled in
France, Germany, or in Italy, is not uncommon; nor is it uncommon to
have lived a year or years in Florence or in Rome. It is not uncommon
now to have travelled all through the United States. The Rocky
Mountains or Peru are hardly uncommon, so much has the taste for
travelling increased. But for an Oxford Fellow of a college, and a
clergyman of the Church of England, to have established himself as a
professor in Missouri, is uncommon, and it could hardly be but that
Lord Carstairs should ask questions respecting that far-away life.
Mr. Peacocke had no objection to such questions. He told his young
friend much about the manners of the people of St. Louis,told him how
far the people had progressed in classical literature, in what they
fell behind, and in what they excelled youths of their own age in
England, and how far the college was a success. Then he described his
own life,both before and after his marriage. He had liked the people
of St. Louis well enough,but not quite well enough to wish to live
among them. No doubt their habits were very different from those of
Englishmen. He could, however, have been happy enough there,only that
Did Mrs. Peacocke like the place? the young lord asked one day.
She is an American, you know.
Oh yes; I have heard. But did she come from St. Louis?
No; her father was a planter in Louisiana, not far from New
Orleans, before the abolition of slavery.
Did she like St. Louis?
Well enough, I think, when we were first married. She had been
married before, you know. She was a widow.
Did she like coming to England among strangers?
She was glad to leave St. Louis. Things happened there which made
her life unhappy. It was on that account I came here, and gave up a
position higher and more lucrative than I shall ever now get in
I should have thought you might have had a school of your own,
said the lad. You know so much, and get on so well with boys. I should
have thought you might have been tutor at a college.
To have a school of my own would take money, said he, which I
have not got. To be tutor at a college would takeBut never mind. I
am very well where I am, and have nothing to complain of. He had been
going to say that to be tutor of a college he would want high standing.
And then he would have been forced to explain that he had lost at his
own college that standing which he had once possessed.
Yes, he said on another occasion, she is unhappy; but do not ask
her any questions about it.
Who,I? Oh dear, no! I should not think of taking such a liberty.
It would be as a kindness, not as a liberty. But still, do not
speak to her about it. There are sorrows which must be hidden, which it
is better to endeavour to bury by never speaking of them, by not
thinking of them, if that were possible.
Is it as bad as that? the lad asked.
It is bad enough sometimes. But never mind. You remember that Roman
wisdom,'Dabit Deus his quoque finem.' And I think that all things are
bearable if a man will only make up his mind to bear them. Do not tell
any one that I have complained.
Who,I? Oh, never!
Not that I have said anything which all the world might not know;
but that it is unmanly to complain. Indeed I do not complain, only I
wish that things were lighter to her. Then he went off to other
matters; but his heart was yearning to tell everything to this young
Before the end of the week had arrived, there came a letter to him
which he had not at all expected, and a letter also to the
Doctor,both from Lord Bracy. The letter to Mr. Peacocke was as
MY DEAR SIR,I have been much gratified by what I have heard both
from Dr. Wortle and my son as to his progress. He will have to come
home in July, when the Doctor's school is broken up, and, as you are
probably aware, will go up to Oxford in October. I think it would be
very expedient that he should not altogether lose the holidays, and I
am aware how much more he would do with adequate assistance than
without it. The meaning of all this is, that I and Lady Bracy will feel
very much obliged if you and Mrs. Peacocke will come and spend your
holidays with us at Carstairs. I have written to Dr. Wortle on the
subject, partly to tell him of my proposal, because he has been so kind
to my son, and partly to ask him to fix the amount of remuneration,
should you be so kind as to accede to my request.
His mother has heard on more than one occasion from her son how
very good-natured you have been to him.Yours faithfully,
It was, of course, quite out of the question. Mr. Peacocke, as soon
as he had read the letter, felt that it was so. Had things been smooth
and easy with him, nothing would have delighted him more. His liking
for the lad was most sincere, and it would have been a real pleasure to
him to have worked with him during the holidays. But it was quite out
of the question. He must tell Lord Carstairs that it was so, and must
at the moment give such explanation as might occur to him. He almost
felt that in giving that explanation he would be tempted to tell his
But the Doctor met him before he had an opportunity of speaking to
Lord Carstairs. The Doctor met him, and at once produced the Earl's
letter. I have heard from Lord Bracy, and you, I suppose, have had a
letter too, said the Doctor. His manner was easy and kind, as though
no disagreeable communication was due to be made on the following day.
Yes, said Mr. Peacocke. I have had a letter.
His lordship has asked me to go to Carstairs for the holidays; but
it is out of the question.
It would do Carstairs all the good in the world, said the Doctor;
and I do not see why you should not have a pleasant visit and earn
twenty-five pounds at the same time.
It is quite out of the question.
I suppose you would not like to leave Mrs. Peacocke, said the
Either to leave her or to take her! To go myself under any
circumstances would be altogether out of the question. I shall come to
you to-morrow, Doctor, as I said I would last Saturday. What hour will
suit you? Then the Doctor named an hour in the afternoon, and knew
that the revelation was to be made to him. He felt, too, that that
revelation would lead to the final departure of Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke
from Bowick, and he was unhappy in his heart. Though he was anxious for
his school, he was anxious also for his friend. There was a
gratification in the feeling that Lord Bracy thought so much of his
assistant,or would have been but for this wretched mystery!
No, said Mr. Peacocke to the lad. I regret to say that I cannot
go. I will tell you why, perhaps, another time, but not now. I have
written to your father by this post, because it is right that he should
be told at once. I have been obliged to say that it is impossible.
I am so sorry! I should so much have liked it. My father would have
done everything to make you comfortable, and so would mamma. In answer
to all this Mr. Peacocke could only say that it was impossible. This
happened on Friday afternoon, Friday being a day on which the school
was always very busy. There was no time for the doing of anything
special, as there would be on the following day, which was a
half-holiday. At night, when the work was altogether over, he showed
the letter to his wife, and told her what he had decided.
Couldn't you have gone without me? she asked.
How can I do that, he said, when before this time to-morrow I
shall have told everything to Dr. Wortle? After that, he would not let
me go. He would do no more than his duty in telling me that if I
proposed to go he must make it all known to Lord Bracy. But this is a
trifle. I am at the present moment altogether in the dark as to what I
shall do with myself when to-morrow evening comes. I cannot guess,
because it is so hard to know what are the feelings in the breast of
another man. It may so well be that he should refuse me permission to
go to my desk in the school again.
Will he be hard like that?
I can hardly tell myself whether it would be hard. I hardly know
what I should feel it my duty to do in such a position myself. I have
No! she exclaimed.
Yes; I have deceived him. Coming to him as I did, I gave him to
understand that there was nothing wrong;nothing to which special
objection could be made in my position.
Then we are deceiving all the world in calling ourselves man and
Certainly we are; but to that we had made up our mind! We are not
injuring all the world. No doubt it is a lie,but there are
circumstances in which a lie can hardly be a sin. I would have been the
last to say so before all this had come upon me, but I feel it to be so
now. It is a lie to say that you are my wife.
Is it? Is it?
Is it not? And yet I would rather cut my tongue out than say
otherwise. To give you my name is a lie,but what should I think of
myself were I to allow you to use any other? What would you have
thought if I had asked you to go away and leave me when that bad hour
came upon us?
I would have borne it.
I could not have borne it. There are worse things than a lie. I
have found, since this came upon us, that it may be well to choose one
sin in order that another may be shunned. To cherish you, to comfort
you, to make the storm less sharp to you,that has already been my
duty as well as my pleasure. To do the same to me is your duty.
And my pleasure; and my pleasure,my only pleasure.
We must cling to each other, let the world call us what names it
may. But there may come a time in which one is called on to do a
special act of justice to others. It has come now to me. From the world
at large I am prepared, if possible, to keep my secret, even though I
do it by lying;but to this one man I am driven to tell it, because I
may not return his friendship by doing him an evil.
Morning school at this time of the year at Bowick began at half-past
seven. There was an hour of school before breakfast, at which the
Doctor did not himself put in an appearance. He was wont to tell the
boys that he had done all that when he was young, and that now in his
old age it suited him best to have his breakfast before he began the
work of the day. Mr. Peacocke, of course, attended the morning school.
Indeed, as the matutinal performances were altogether classical, it was
impossible that much should be done without him. On this Saturday
morning, however, he was not present; and a few minutes after the
proper time, the mathematical master took his place. I saw him coming
across out of his own door, little Jack Talbot said to the younger of
the two Clifford boys, and there was a man coming up from the gate who
What sort of a man? asked Clifford.
He was a rummy-looking fellow, with a great beard, and a queer kind
of coat. I never saw any one like him before.
And where did they go?
They stood talking for a minute or two just before the front door,
and then Mr. Peacocke took him into the house. I heard him tell
Carstairs to go through and send word up to the Doctor that he wouldn't
be in school this morning.
It had all happened just as young Talbot had said. A very
rummy-looking fellow had at that early hour been driven over from
Broughton to Bowick, and had caught Mr. Peacocke just as he was going
into the school. He was a man with a beard, loose, flowing on both
sides, as though he were winged like a bird,a beard that had been
black, but was now streaked through and through with grey hairs. The
man had a coat with frogged buttons that must have been intended to
have a military air when it was new, but which was now much the worse
for wear. The coat was so odd as to have caught young Talbot's
attention at once. And the man's hat was old and seedy. But there was a
look about him as though he were by no means ashamed either of himself
or of his present purpose. He came in a gig, said Talbot to his
friend; for I saw the horse standing at the gate, and the man sitting
in the gig.
You remember me, no doubt, the stranger said, when he encountered
I do not remember you in the least, the schoolmaster answered.
Come, come; that won't do. You know me well enough. I'm Robert
Then Mr. Peacocke, looking at him again, knew that the man was the
brother of his wife's husband. He had not seen him often, but he
recognised him as Robert Lefroy, and having recognised him he took him
into the house.
CHAPTER VII. ROBERT LEFROY.
FERDINAND LEFROY, the man who had in truth been the woman's husband,
had, during that one interview which had taken place between him and
the man who had married his wife, on his return to St. Louis, declared
that his brother Robert was dead. But so had Robert, when Peacocke
encountered him down at Texas, declared that Ferdinand was dead.
Peacocke knew that no word of truth could be expected from the mouths
of either of them. But seeing is believing. He had seen Ferdinand alive
at St. Louis after his marriage, and by seeing him, had been driven
away from his home back to his old country. Now he also saw this other
man, and was aware that his secret was no longer in his own keeping.
Yes, I know you now. Why, when I saw you last, did you tell me that
your brother was dead? Why did you bring so great an injury on your
I never told you anything of the kind.
As God is above us you told me so.
I don't know anything about that, my friend. Maybe I was cut. I
used to be drinking a good deal them days. Maybe I didn't say anything
of the kind,only it suited you to go back and tell her so. Anyways I
disremember it altogether. Anyways he wasn't dead. And I ain't dead
I can see that.
And I ain't drunk now. But I am not quite so well off as a fellow
would wish to be. Can you get me breakfast?
Yes, I can get you breakfast, he said, after pausing for a while.
Then he rang the bell and told the girl to bring some breakfast for the
gentleman as soon as possible into the room in which they were sitting.
This was in a little library in which he was in the habit of studying
and going through lessons with the boys. He had brought the man here so
that his wife might not come across him. As soon as the order was
given, he ran up-stairs to her room, to save her from coming down.
A man;what man? she asked.
Robert Lefroy. I must go to him at once. Bear yourself well and
boldly, my darling. It is he, certainly. I know nothing yet of what he
may have to say, but it will be well that you should avoid him if
possible. When I have heard anything I will tell you all. Then he
hurried down and found the man examining the book-shelves.
You have got yourself up pretty tidy again, Peacocke, said Lefroy.
The old game, I suppose. Teaching the young idea. Is this what you
call a college, now, in your country?
It is a school.
And you're one of the masters.
I am the second master.
It ain't as good, I reckon, as the Missouri College.
It's not so large, certainly.
What's the screw? he said.
The payment, you mean. It can hardly serve us now to go into
matters such as that. What is it that has brought you here, Lefroy?
Well, a big ship, an uncommonly bad sort of railway car, and the
ricketiest little buggy that ever a man trusted his life to. Them's
what's brought me here.
I suppose you have something to say, or you would not have come,
Yes, I've a good deal to say of one kind or another. But here's the
breakfast, and I'm well-nigh starved. What, cold meat! I'm darned if I
can eat cold meat. Haven't you got anything hot, my dear? Then it was
explained to him that hot meat was not to be had, unless he would
choose to wait, to have some lengthened cooking accomplished. To this,
however, he objected, and then the girl left the room.
I've a good many things to say of one kind or another, he
continued. It's difficult to say, Peacocke, how you and I stand with
I do not know that we stand with each other at all, as you call
I mean as to relationship. Are you my brother-in-law, or are you
not? This was a question which in very truth the schoolmaster found it
hard to answer. He did not answer it at all, but remained silent. Are
you my brother-in-law, or are you not? You call her Mrs. Peacocke, eh?
Yes, I call her Mrs. Peacocke.
And she is here living with you?
Yes, she is here.
Had she not better come down and see me? She is my sister-in-law,
No, said Mr. Peacocke; I think, on the whole, that she had better
not come down and see you.
You don't mean to say she isn't my sister-in-law? She's that,
whatever else she is. She's that, whatever name she goes by. If
Ferdinand had been ever so much dead, and that marriage at St. Louis
had been ever so good, still she'd been my sister-in-law.
Not a doubt about it, said Mr. Peacocke. But still, under all the
circumstances, she had better not see you.
Well, that's a queer beginning, anyway. But perhaps you'll come
round by-and-by. She goes by Mrs. Peacocke?
She is regarded as my wife, said the husband, feeling himself to
become more and more indignant at every word, but knowing at the same
time how necessary it was that he should keep his indignation hidden.
Whether true or false? asked the brother-in-law.
I will answer no such question as that.
You ain't very well disposed to answer any question, as far as I
can see. But I shall have to make you answer one or two before I've
done with you. There's a Doctor here, isn't there, as this school
Yes, there is. It belongs to Dr. Wortle.
It's him these boys are sent to?
Yes, he is the master; I am only his assistant.
It's him they comes to for education, and morals, and religion?
And he knows, no doubt, all about you and my sister-in-law;how
you came and married her when she was another man's wife, and took her
away when you knew as that other man was alive and kicking? Mr.
Peacocke, when these questions were put to him, remained silent,
because literally he did not know how to answer them. He was quite
prepared to take his position as he found it. He had told himself
before this dreadful man had appeared, that the truth must be made
known at Bowick, and that he and his wife must pack up and flit. It was
not that the man could bring upon him any greater evil than he had
anticipated. But the questions which were asked him were in themselves
so bitter! The man, no doubt, was his wife's brother-in-law. He could
not turn him out of the house as he would a stranger, had a stranger
come there asking such questions without any claim of family.
Abominable as the man was to him, still he was there with a certain
amount of right upon his side.
I think, said he, that questions such as those you've asked can
be of no service to you. To me they are intended only to be injurious.
They're as a preface to what is to come, said Robert Lefroy, with
an impudent leer upon his face. The questions, no doubt, are
disagreeable enough. She ain't your wife no more than she's mine.
You've no business with her; and that you knew when you took her away
from St. Louis. You may, or you mayn't, have been fooled by some one
down in Texas when you went back and married her in all that hurry. But
you knew what you were doing well enough when you took her away. You
won't dare to tell me that you hadn't seen Ferdinand when you two
mizzled off from the College? Then he paused, waiting again for a
As I told you before, he said, no further conversation on the
subject can be of avail. It does not suit me to be cross-examined as to
what I knew or what I did not know. If you have anything for me to
hear, you can say it. If you have anything to tell to others, go and
tell it to them.
That's just it, said Lefroy.
Then go and tell it.
You're in a terrible hurry, Mister Peacocke. I don't want to drop
in and spoil your little game. You're making money of your little game.
I can help you as to carrying on your little game, better than you do
at present. I don't want to blow upon you. But as you're making money
out of it, I'd like to make a little too. I am precious hard up,I
You will make no money of me, said the other.
A little will go a long way with me; and remember, I have got
tidings now which are worth paying for.
If they're worth paying for, it's not likely that you are going to
get them for nothing.
Look here, Colonel Lefroy; whatever you may have to say about me
will certainly not be prevented by my paying you money. Though you
might be able to ruin me to-morrow I would not give you a dollar to
But her, said Lefroy, pointing as it were up-stairs, with his
thumb over his shoulder.
Nor her, said Peacocke.
You don't care very much about her, then?
How much I may care I shall not trouble myself to explain to you. I
certainly shall not endeavour to serve her after that fashion. I begin
to understand why you have come, and can only beg you to believe that
you have come in vain.
Lefroy turned to his food, which he had not yet finished, while his
companion sat silent at the window, trying to arrange in his mind the
circumstances of the moment as best he might. He declared to himself
that had the man come but one day later, his coming would have been
matter of no moment. The story, the entire story, would then have been
told to the Doctor, and the brother-in-law, with all his malice, could
have added nothing to the truth. But now it seemed as though there
would be a race which should tell the story first. Now the Doctor
would, no doubt, be led to feel that the narration was made because it
could no longer be kept back. Should this man be with the Doctor first,
and should the story be told as he would tell it, then it would be
impossible for Mr. Peacocke, in acknowledging the truth of it all, to
bring his friend's mind back to the condition in which it would have
been had this intruder not been in the way. And yet he could not make a
race of it with the man. He could not rush across, and, all but out of
breath with his energy, begin his narration while Lefroy was there
knocking at the door. There would be an absence of dignity in such a
mode of proceeding which alone was sufficient to deter him. He had
fixed an hour already with the Doctor. He had said that he would be
there in the house at a certain time. Let the man do what he would he
would keep exactly to his purpose, unless the Doctor should seek an
earlier interview. He would, in no tittle, be turned from his purpose
by the unfortunate coming of this wretched man. Well! said Lefroy, as
soon as he had eaten his last mouthful.
I have nothing to say to you, said Peacocke.
Nothing to say?
Not a word.
Well, that's queer. I should have thought there'd have been a many
words. I've got a lot to say to somebody, and mean to say it;precious
soon too. Is there any hotel here, where I can put this horse up? I
suppose you haven't got stables of your own? I wonder if the Doctor
would give me accommodation?
I haven't got a stable, and the Doctor certainly will not give you
accommodation. There is a public-house less than a quarter of a mile
further on, which no doubt your driver knows very well. You had better
go there yourself, because after what has taken place, I am bound to
tell you that you will not be admitted here.
No. You must leave this house, and will not be admitted into it
again as long as I live in it.
The Doctor will admit me.
Very likely. I, at any rate, shall do nothing to dissuade him. If
you go down to the road you'll see the gate leading up to his house. I
think you'll find that he is down-stairs by this time.
You take it very cool, Peacocke.
I only tell you the truth. With you I will have nothing more to do.
You have a story which you wish to tell to Dr. Wortle. Go and tell it
I can tell it to all the world, said Lefroy.
Go and tell it to all the world.
And I ain't to see my sister?
No; you will not see your sister-in-law here. Why should she wish
to see one who has only injured her?
I ain't injured her;at any rate not as yet. I ain't done
nothing;not as yet. I've been as dark as the grave;as yet. Let her
come down, and you go away for a moment, and let us see if we can't
There is nothing for you to settle. Nothing that you can do,
nothing that you can say, will influence either her or me. If you have
anything to tell, go and tell it.
Why should you smash up everything in that way, Peacocke? You're
comfortable here; why not remain so? I don't want to hurt you. I want
to help you;and I can. Three hundred dollars wouldn't be much to you.
You were always a fellow as had a little money by you.
If this box were full of gold, said the schoolmaster, laying his
hand upon a black desk which stood on the table, I would not give you
one cent to induce you to hold your tongue for ever. I would not
condescend even to ask it of you as a favour. You think that you can
disturb our happiness by telling what you know of us to Dr. Wortle. Go
Mr. Peacocke's manner was so firm that the other man began to doubt
whether in truth he had a secret to tell. Could it be possible that Dr.
Wortle knew it all, and that the neighbours knew it all, and that, in
spite of what had happened, the position of the man and of the woman
was accepted among them? They certainly were not man and wife, and yet
they were living together as such. Could such a one as this Dr. Wortle
know that it was so? He, when he had spoken of the purposes for which
the boys were sent there, asking whether they were not sent for
education, for morals and religion, had understood much of the Doctor's
position. He had known the peculiar value of his secret. He had been
aware that a schoolmaster with a wife to whom he was not in truth
married must be out of place in an English seminary such as this. But
yet he now began to doubt. I am to be turned out, then? he asked.
Yes, indeed, Colonel Lefroy. The sooner you go the better.
That's a pretty sort of welcome to your wife's brother-in-law, who
has just come over all the way from Mexico to see her.
To get what he can out of her by his unwelcome presence, said
Peacocke. Here you can get nothing. Go and do your worst. If you
remain much longer I shall send for the policeman to remove you.
Yes, I shall. My time is not my own, and I cannot go over to my
work leaving you in my house. You have nothing to get by my friendship.
Go and see what you can do as my enemy.
I will, said the Colonel, getting up from his chair; I will. If
I'm to be treated in this way it shall not be for nothing. I have
offered you the right hand of an affectionate brother-in-law.
Bosh, said Mr. Peacocke.
And you tell me that I am an enemy. Very well; I will be an enemy.
I could have put you altogether on your legs, but I'll leave you
without an inch of ground to stand upon. You see if I don't. Then he
put his hat on his head, and stalked out of the house, down the road
towards the gate.
Mr. Peacocke, when he was left alone, remained in the room
collecting his thoughts, and then went up-stairs to his wife.
Has he gone? she asked.
Yes, he has gone.
And what has he said?
He has asked for money,to hold his tongue.
Have you given him any?
Not a cent. I have given him nothing but hard words. I have bade
him go and do his worst. To be at the mercy of such a man as that would
be worse for you and for me than anything that fortune has sent us even
Did he want to see me?
Yes; but I refused. Was it not better?
Yes; certainly, if you think so. What could I have said to him?
Certainly it was better. His presence would have half killed me. But
what will he do, Henry?
He will tell it all to everybody that he sees.
Oh, my darling!
What matter though he tells it at the town-cross? It would have
been told to-day by myself.
But only to one.
It would have been the same. For any purpose of concealment it
would have been the same. I have got to hate the concealment. What have
we done but clung together as a man and woman should who have loved
each other, and have had a right to love? What have we done of which we
should be ashamed? Let it be told. Let it all be known. Have you not
been good and pure? Have not I been true to you? Bear up your courage,
and let the man do his worst. Not to save even you would I cringe
before such a man as that. And were I to do so, I should save you from
CHAPTER VIII. THE STORY IS TOLD.
DURING the whole of that morning the Doctor did not come into the
school. The school hours lasted from half-past nine to twelve, during a
portion of which time it was his practice to be there. But sometimes,
on a Saturday, he would be absent, when it was understood generally
that he was preparing his sermon for the Sunday. Such, no doubt, might
be the case now; but there was a feeling among the boys that he was
kept away by some other reason. It was known that during the hour of
morning school Mr. Peacocke had been occupied with that uncouth
stranger, and some of the boys might have observed that the uncouth
stranger had not taken himself altogether away from the premises. There
was at any rate a general feeling that the uncouth stranger had
something to do with the Doctor's absence.
Mr. Peacocke did his best to go on with the work as though nothing
had occurred to disturb the usual tenor of his way, and as far as the
boys were aware he succeeded. He was just as clear about his Greek
verbs, just as incisive about that passage of Cæsar, as he would have
been had Colonel Lefroy remained on the other side of the water. But
during the whole time he was exercising his mind in that painful
process of thinking of two things at once. He was determined that Cæsar
should be uppermost; but it may be doubted whether he succeeded. At
that very moment Colonel Lefroy might be telling the Doctor that his
Ella was in truth the wife of another man. At that moment the Doctor
might be deciding in his anger that the sinful and deceitful man should
no longer be officer of his. The hour was too important to him to
leave his mind at his own disposal. Nevertheless he did his best.
Clifford, junior, he said, I shall never make you understand what
Cæsar says here or elsewhere if you do not give your entire mind to
I do give my entire mind to Cæsar, said Clifford, junior.
Very well; now go on and try again. But remember that Cæsar wants
all your mind. As he said this he was revolving in his own mind how he
would face the Doctor when the Doctor should look at him in his wrath.
If the Doctor were in any degree harsh with him, he would hold his own
against the Doctor as far as the personal contest might go. At twelve
the boys went out for an hour before their dinner, and Lord Carstairs
asked him to play a game of rackets.
Not to-day, my Lord, he said.
Is anything wrong with you?
Yes, something is very wrong. They had strolled out of the
building, and were walking up and down the gravel terrace in front when
this was said.
I knew something was wrong, because you called me my Lord.
Yes, something is so wrong as to alter for me all the ordinary ways
of my life. But I wasn't thinking of it. It came by accident,just
because I am so troubled.
What is it?
There has been a man here,a man whom I knew in America.
Yes,an enemy. One who is anxious to do me all the injury he can.
Are you in his power, Mr. Peacocke?
No, thank God; not that. I am in no man's power. He cannot do me
any material harm. Anything which may happen would have happened
whether he had come or not. But I am unhappy.
I wish I knew.
So do I,with all my heart. I wish you knew; I wish you knew. I
would that all the world knew. But we shall live through it, no doubt.
And if we do not, what matter. 'Nil conscire sibi,nulla pallescere
culpa.' That is all that is necessary to a man. I have done nothing of
which I repent;nothing that I would not do again; nothing of which I
am ashamed to speak as far as the judgment of other men is concerned.
Go, now. They are making up sides for cricket. Perhaps I can tell you
more before the evening is over.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke were accustomed to dine with the boys at
one, when Carstairs, being a private pupil, only had his lunch. But on
this occasion she did not come into the dining-room. I don't think I
can to-day, she said, when he bade her to take courage, and not be
altered more than she could help, in her outward carriage, by the
misery of her present circumstances. I could not eat if I were there,
and then they would look at me.
If it be so, do not attempt it. There is no necessity. What I mean
is, that the less one shrinks the less will be the suffering. It is the
man who shivers on the brink that is cold, and not he who plunges into
the water. If it were over,if the first brunt of it were over, I
could find means to comfort you.
He went through the dinner, as he had done the Cæsar, eating the
roast mutton and the baked potatoes, and the great plateful of
currant-pie that was brought to him. He was fed and nourished, no
doubt, but it may be doubtful whether he knew much of the flavour of
what he ate. But before the dinner was quite ended, before he had said
the grace which it was always his duty to pronounce, there came a
message to him from the rectory. The Doctor would be glad to see him
as soon as dinner was done. He waited very calmly till the proper
moment should come for the grace, and then, very calmly, he took his
way over to the house. He was certain now that Lefroy had been with the
Doctor, because he was sent for considerably before the time fixed for
It was his chief resolve to hold his own before the Doctor. The
Doctor, who could read a character well, had so read that of Mr.
Peacocke's as to have been aware from the first that no censure, no
fault-finding, would be possible if the connection were to be
maintained. Other ushers, other curates, he had occasionally scolded.
He had been very careful never even to seem to scold Mr. Peacocke. Mr.
Peacocke had been aware of it too,aware that he could not endure it,
and aware also that the Doctor avoided any attempt at it. He had known
that, as a consequence of this, he was bound to be more than ordinarily
prompt in the performance of all his duties. The man who will not
endure censure has to take care that he does not deserve it. Such had
been this man's struggle, and it had been altogether successful. Each
of the two understood the other, and each respected the other. Now
their position must be changed. It was hardly possible, Mr. Peacocke
thought, as he entered the house, that he should not be rebuked with
grave severity, and quite out of the question that he should bear any
rebuke at all.
The library at the rectory was a spacious and handsome room, in the
centre of which stood a large writing-table, at which the Doctor was
accustomed to sit when he was at work,facing the door, with a
bow-window at his right hand. But he rarely remained there when any one
was summoned into the room, unless some one were summoned with whom he
meant to deal in a spirit of severity. Mr. Peacocke would be there
perhaps three or four times a-week, and the Doctor would always get up
from his chair and stand, or seat himself elsewhere in the room, and
would probably move about with vivacity, being a fidgety man of quick
motions, who sometimes seemed as though he could not hold his own body
still for a moment. But now when Mr. Peacocke entered the room he did
not leave his place at the table. Would you take a chair? he said;
there is something that we must talk about.
Colonel Lefroy has been with you, I take it.
A man calling himself by that name has been here. Will you not take
I do not know that it will be necessary. What he has told
you,what I suppose he has told you,is true.
You had better at any rate take a chair. I do not believe that what
he has told me is true.
But it is.
I do not believe that what he has told me is true. Some of it
cannot, I think, be true. Much of it is not so,unless I am more
deceived in you than I ever was in any man. At any rate sit down. Then
the schoolmaster did sit down. He has made you out to be a perjured,
wilful, cruel bigamist.
I have not been such, said Peacocke, rising from his chair.
One who has been willing to sacrifice a woman to his passion.
Who deceived her by false witnesses.
And who has now refused to allow her to see her own husband's
brother, lest she should learn the truth.
She is there,at any rate for you to see.
Therefore the man is a liar. A long story has to be told, as to
which at present I can only guess what may be the nature. I presume the
story will be the same as that you would have told had the man never
Exactly the same, Dr. Wortle.
Therefore you will own that I am right in asking you to sit down.
The story may be very long,that is, if you mean to tell it.
I do,and did. I was wrong from the first in supposing that the
nature of my marriage need be of no concern to others, but to herself
and to me.
Yes,Mr. Peacocke; yes. We are, all of us, joined together too
closely to admit of isolation such as that. There was something in
this which grated against the schoolmaster's pride, though nothing had
been said as to which he did not know that much harder things must meet
his ears before the matter could be brought to an end between him and
the Doctor. The Mister had been prefixed to his name, which had been
omitted for the last three or four months in the friendly intercourse
which had taken place between them; and then, though it had been done
in the form of agreeing with what he himself had said, the Doctor had
made his first complaint by declaring that no man had a right to regard
his own moral life as isolated from the lives of others around him. It
was as much as to declare at once that he had been wrong in bringing
this woman to Bowick, and calling her Mrs. Peacocke. He had said as
much himself, but that did not make the censure lighter when it came to
him from the mouth of the Doctor. But come, said the Doctor, getting
up from his seat at the table, and throwing himself into an easy-chair,
so as to mitigate the austerity of the position; let us hear the true
story. So big a liar as that American gentleman probably never put his
foot in this room before.
Then Mr. Peacocke told the story, beginning with all those incidents
of the woman's life which had seemed to be so cruel both to him and to
others at St. Louis before he had been in any degree intimate with her.
Then came the departure of the two men, and the necessity for pecuniary
assistance, which Mr. Peacocke now passed over lightly, saying nothing
specially of the assistance which he himself had rendered. And she was
left quite alone? asked the Doctor.
And for how long?
Eighteen months had passed before we heard any tidings. Then there
came news that Colonel Lefroy was dead.
We did not know which. They were both Colonels.
Did he tell you that I went down into Mexico?
Never mind what he told me. All that he told me were lies. What you
tell me I shall believe. But tell me everything.
There was a tone of complete authority in the Doctor's voice, but
mixed with this there was a kindliness which made the schoolmaster
determined that he would tell everything as far as he knew how. When I
heard that one of them was dead, I went away down to the borders of
Texas, in order that I might learn the truth.
Did she know that you were going?
Yes;I told her the day I started.
And you told her why?
That I might find out whether her husband were still alive.
But The Doctor hesitated as he asked the next question. He
knew, however, that it had to be asked, and went on with it. Did she
know that you loved her? To this the other made no immediate answer.
The Doctor was a man who, in such a matter, was intelligent enough, and
he therefore put his question in another shape. Had you told her that
you loved her?
Never,while I thought that other man was living.
She must have guessed it, said the Doctor.
She might guess what she pleased. I told her that I was going, and
And how was it, then?
I went, and after a time I came across the very man who is here
now, this Robert Lefroy. I met him and questioned him, and he told me
that his brother had been killed while fighting. It was a lie.
Altogether a lie? asked the Doctor.
He might have been wounded and given over for dead. The brother
might have thought him to be dead.
I do not think so. I believe it to have been a plot in order that
the man might get rid of his wife. But I believed it. Then I went back
to St. Louis,and we were married.
You thought there was no obstacle but what you might become man and
I thought she was a widow.
There was no further delay?
Very little. Why should there have been delay?
I only ask.
She had suffered enough, and I had waited long enough.
She owed you a great deal, said the Doctor.
It was not a case of owing, said Mr. Peacocke. At least I think
not. I think she had learnt to love me as I had learnt to love her.
And how did it go with you then?
Very well,for some months. There was nothing to mar our
happiness,till one day he came and made his way into our presence.
Yes; the husband, Ferdinand Lefroy, the elder brother;he of whom
I had been told that he was dead; he was there standing before us,
talking to us,half drunk, but still well knowing what he was doing.
Why had he come?
In want of money, I suppose,as this other one has come here.
Did he ask for money?
I do not think he did then, though he spoke of his poor condition.
But on the next day he went away. We heard that he had taken the
steamer down the river for New Orleans. We have never heard more of him
from that day to this.
Can you imagine what caused conduct such as that?
I think money was given to him that night to go; but if so, I do
not know by whom. I gave him none. During the next day or two I found
that many in St. Louis knew that he had been there.
They knew then that you
They knew that my wife was not my wife. That is what you mean to
ask? The Doctor nodded his head. Yes, they knew that.
And what then?
Word was brought to me that she and I must part if I chose to keep
my place at the College.
That you must disown her?
The President told me that it would be better that she should go
elsewhere. How could I send her from me?
No, indeed;but as to the facts?
You know them all pretty well now. I could not send her from me.
Nor could I go and leave her. Had we been separated then, because of
the law or because of religion, the burden, the misery, the desolation,
would all have been upon her.
I would have clung to her, let the law say what it might, said the
Doctor, rising from his chair.
I would;and I think that I could have reconciled it to my God.
But I might have been wrong, he added; I might have been wrong. I
only say what I should have done.
It was what I did.
Exactly; exactly. We are both sinners. Both might have been wrong.
Then you brought her over here, and I suppose I know the rest?
You know everything now, said Mr. Peacocke.
And believe every word I have heard. Let me say that, if that may
be any consolation to you. Of my friendship you may remain assured.
Whether you can remain here is another question.
We are prepared to go.
You cannot expect that I should have thought it all out during the
hearing of the story. There is much to be considered;very much. I can
only say this, as between man and man, that no man ever sympathized
with another more warmly than I do with you. You had better let me have
till Monday to think about it.
CHAPTER IX. MRS. WORTLE AND MR.
IN this way nothing was said at the first telling of the story to
decide the fate of the schoolmaster and of the lady whom we shall still
call his wife. There certainly had been no horror displayed by the
Doctor. Whether you can remain here is another question. The Doctor,
during the whole interview, had said nothing harder than that. Mr.
Peacocke, as he left the rectory, did feel that the Doctor had been
very good to him. There had not only been no horror, but an expression
of the kindest sympathy. And as to the going, that was left in doubt.
He himself felt that he ought to go;but it would have been so very
sad to have to go without a friend left with whom he could consult as
to his future condition!
He has been very kind, then? said Mrs. Peacocke to her husband
when he related to her the particulars of the interview.
And he did not reproach you.
Not a word.
He declared that had it been he who was in question he would have
clung to you for ever and ever.
Did he? Then will he leave us here?
That does not follow. I should think not. He will know that others
must know it. Your brother-in-law will not tell him only. Lefroy, when
he finds that he can get no money here, from sheer revenge will tell
the story everywhere. When he left the rectory, he was probably as
angry with the Doctor as he is with me. He will do all the harm that he
can to all of us.
We must go, then?
I should think so. Your position here would be insupportable even
if it could be permitted. You may be sure of this;everybody will know
What do I care for everybody? she said. It is not that I am
ashamed of myself.
No, dearest; nor am I,ashamed of myself or of you. But there will
be bitter words, and bitter words will produce bitter looks and scant
respect. How would it be with you if the boys looked at you as though
they thought ill of you?
They would not;oh, they would not!
Or the servants,if they reviled you?
Could it come to that?
It must not come to that. But it is as the Doctor said himself just
now;a man cannot isolate the morals, the manners, the ways of his
life from the morals of others. Men, if they live together, must live
together by certain laws.
Then there can be no hope for us.
None that I can see, as far as Bowick is concerned. We are too
closely joined in our work with other people. There is not a boy here
with whose father and mother and sisters we are not more or less
connected. When I was preaching in the church, there was not one in the
parish with whom I was not connected. Would it do, do you think, for a
priest to preach against drunkenness, whilst he himself was a noted
Are we like that?
It is not what the drunken priest might think of himself, but what
others might think of him. It would not be with us the position which
we know that we hold together, but that which others would think it to
be. If I were in Dr. Wortle's case, and another were to me as I am to
him, I should bid him go.
You would turn him away from you; him and hiswife?
I should. My first duty would be to my parish and to my school. If
I could befriend him otherwise I would do so;and that is what I
expect from Dr. Wortle. We shall have to go, and I shall be forced to
approve of our dismissal.
In this way Mr. Peacocke came definitely and clearly to a conclusion
in his own mind. But it was very different with Dr. Wortle. The story
so disturbed him, that during the whole of that afternoon he did not
attempt to turn his mind to any other subject. He even went so far as
to send over to Mr. Puddicombe and asked for some assistance for the
afternoon service on the following day. He was too unwell, he said, to
preach himself, and the one curate would have the two entire services
unless Mr. Puddicombe could help him. Could Mr. Puddicombe come himself
and see him on the Sunday afternoon? This note he sent away by a
messenger, who came back with a reply, saying that Mr. Puddicombe would
himself preach in the afternoon, and would afterwards call in at the
For an hour or two before his dinner, the Doctor went out on
horseback, and roamed about among the lanes, endeavouring to make up
his mind. He was hitherto altogether at a loss as to what he should do
in this present uncomfortable emergency. He could not bring his
conscience and his inclination to come square together. And even when
he counselled himself to yield to his conscience, his very
conscience,a second conscience, as it were,revolted against the
first. His first conscience told him that he owed a primary duty to his
parish, a second duty to his school, and a third to his wife and
daughter. In the performance of all these duties he would be bound to
rid himself of Mr. Peacocke. But then there came that other conscience,
telling him that the man had been more sinned against than
sinning,that common humanity required him to stand by a man who had
suffered so much, and had suffered so unworthily. Then this second
conscience went on to remind him that the man was pre-eminently fit for
the duties which he had undertaken,that the man was a God-fearing,
moral, and especially intellectual assistant in his school,that were
he to lose him he could not hope to find any one that would be his
equal, or at all approaching to him in capacity. This second conscience
went further, and assured him that the man's excellence as a
schoolmaster was even increased by the peculiarity of his position. Do
we not all know that if a man be under a cloud the very cloud will make
him more attentive to his duties than another? If a man, for the wages
which he receives, can give to his employer high character as well as
work, he will think that he may lighten his work because of his
character. And as to this man, who was the very ph[oe]nix of school
assistants, there would really be nothing amiss with his character if
only this piteous incident as to his wife were unknown. In this way his
second conscience almost got the better of the first.
But then it would be known. It would be impossible that it should
not be known. He had already made up his mind to tell Mr. Puddicombe,
absolutely not daring to decide in such an emergency without consulting
some friend. Mr. Puddicombe would hold his peace if he were to promise
to do so. Certainly he might be trusted to do that. But others would
know it; the Bishop would know it; Mrs. Stantiloup would know it. That
man, of course, would take care that all Broughton, with its close full
of cathedral clergymen, would know it. When Mrs. Stantiloup should know
it there would not be a boy's parent through all the school who would
not know it. If he kept the man he must keep him resolving that all the
world should know that he kept him, that all the world should know of
what nature was the married life of the assistant in whom he trusted.
And he must be prepared to face all the world, confiding in the
uprightness and the humanity of his purpose.
In such case he must say something of this kind to all the world; I
know that they are not married. I know that their condition of life is
opposed to the law of God and man. I know that she bears a name that is
not, in truth, her own; but I think that the circumstances in this case
are so strange, so peculiar, that they excuse a disregard even of the
law of God and man. Had he courage enough for this? And if the courage
were there, was he high enough and powerful enough to carry out such a
purpose? Could he beat down the Mrs. Stantiloups? And, indeed, could he
beat down the Bishop and the Bishop's phalanx;for he knew that the
Bishop and the Bishop's phalanx would be against him? They could not
touch him in his living, because Mr. Peacocke would not be concerned in
the services of the church; but would not his school melt away to
nothing in his hands, if he were to attempt to carry it on after this
fashion? And then would he not have destroyed himself without advantage
to the man whom he was anxious to assist?
To only one point did he make up his mind certainly during that
ride. Before he slept that night he would tell the whole story to his
wife. He had at first thought that he would conceal it from her. It was
his rule of life to act so entirely on his own will, that he rarely
consulted her on matters of any importance. As it was, he could not
endure the responsibility of acting by himself. People would say of him
that he had subjected his wife to contamination, and had done so
without giving her any choice in the matter. So he resolved that he
would tell his wife.
Not married, said Mrs. Wortle, when she heard the story.
Married; yes. They were married. It was not their fault that the
marriage was nothing. What was he to do when he heard that they had
been deceived in this way?
Not married properly! Poor woman!
Yes, indeed. What should I have done if such had happened to me
when we had been six months married?
It couldn't have been.
Why not to you as well as to another?
I was only a young girl.
But if you had been a widow?
Don't, my dear; don't! It wouldn't have been possible.
But you pity her?
And you see that a great misfortune has fallen upon her, which she
could not help?
Not till she knew it, said the wife who had been married quite
And what then? What should she have done then?
Gone, said the wife, who had no doubt as to the comfort, the
beauty, the perfect security of her own position.
Gone away at once.
Whither should she go? Who would have taken her by the hand? Who
would have supported her? Would you have had her lay herself down in
the first gutter and die?
Better that than what she did do, said Mrs. Wortle.
Then, by all the faith I have in Christ, I think you are hard upon
her. Do you think what it is to have to go out and live alone;to have
to look for your bread in desolation?
I have never been tried, my dear, said she, clinging close to him.
I have never had anything but what was good.
Ought we not to be kind to one to whom Fortune has been so unkind?
If we can do so without sin.
Sin! I despise the fear of sin which makes us think that its
contact will soil us. Her sin, if it be sin, is so near akin to virtue,
that I doubt whether we should not learn of her rather than avoid her.
A woman should not live with a man unless she be his wife. Mrs.
Wortle said this with more of obstinacy than he had expected.
She was his wife, as far as she knew.
But when she knew that it was not so any longer,then she should
have left him.
And have starved?
I suppose she might have taken bread from him.
You think, then, that she should go away from here?
Do not you think so? What will Mrs. Stantiloup say?
And I am to turn them out into the cold because of a virago such as
she is? You would have no more charity than that?
Oh, Jeffrey! what would the Bishop say?
Cannot you get beyond Mrs. Stantiloup and beyond the Bishop, and
think what Justice demands?
The boys would all be taken away. If you had a son, would you send
him where there was a schoolmaster living,living. Oh, you
It is very clear to the Doctor that his wife's mind was made up on
the subject; and yet there was no softer-hearted woman than Mrs. Wortle
anywhere in the diocese, or one less likely to be severe upon a
neighbour. Not only was she a kindly, gentle woman, but she was one who
always had been willing to take her husband's opinion on all questions
of right and wrong. She, however, was decided that they must go.
On the next morning, after service, which the schoolmaster did not
attend, the Doctor saw Mr. Peacocke, and declared his intention of
telling the story to Mr. Puddicombe. If you bid me hold my tongue, he
said, I will do so. But it will be better that I should consult
another clergyman. He is a man who can keep a secret. Then Mr.
Peacocke gave him full authority to tell everything to Mr. Puddicombe.
He declared that the Doctor might tell the story to whom he would.
Everybody might know it now. He had, he said, quite made up his mind
about that. What was the good of affecting secrecy when this man Lefroy
was in the country?
In the afternoon, after service, Mr. Puddicombe came up to the
house, and heard it all. He was a dry, thin, apparently unsympathetic
man, but just withal, and by no means given to harshness. He could
pardon whenever he could bring himself to believe that pardon would
have good results; but he would not be driven by impulses and softness
of heart to save the faulty one from the effect of his fault, merely
because that effect would be painful. He was a man of no great mental
calibre,not sharp, and quick, and capable of repartee as was the
Doctor, but rational in all things, and always guided by his
conscience. He has behaved very badly to you, he said, when he heard
I do not think so; I have no such feeling myself.
He behaved very badly in bringing her here without telling you all
the facts. Considering the position that she was to occupy, he must
have known that he was deceiving you.
I can forgive all that, said the Doctor, vehemently. As far as I
myself am concerned, I forgive everything.
You are not entitled to do so.
You must pardon me if I seem to take a liberty in expressing myself
too boldly in this matter. Of course I should not do so unless you
I want you to speak freely,all that you think.
In considering his conduct, we have to consider it all. First of
all there came a great and terrible misfortune which cannot but excite
our pity. According to his own story, he seems, up to that time, to
have been affectionate and generous.
I believe every word of it, said the Doctor.
Allowing for a man's natural bias on his own side, so do I. He had
allowed himself to become attached to another man's wife; but we need
not, perhaps, insist upon that. The Doctor moved himself uneasily in
his chair, but said nothing. We will grant that he put himself right
by his marriage, though in that, no doubt, there should have been more
of caution. Then came his great misfortune. He knew that his marriage
had been no marriage. He saw the man and had no doubt.
Quite so; quite so, said the Doctor, impatiently.
He should, of course, have separated himself from her. There can be
no doubt about it. There is no room for any quibble.
Quibble! said the Doctor.
I mean that no reference in our own minds to the pity of the thing,
to the softness of the moment,should make us doubt about it. Feelings
such as these should induce us to pardon sinners, even to receive them
back into our friendship and respect,when they have seen the error of
their ways and have repented.
You are very hard.
I hope not. At any rate I can only say as I think. But, in truth,
in the present emergency you have nothing to do with all that. If he
asked you for counsel you might give it to him, but that is not his
present position. He has told you his story, not in a spirit of
repentance, but because such telling had become necessary.
He would have told it all the same though this man had never come.
Let us grant that it is so, there still remains his relation to
you. He came here under false pretences, and has done you a serious
I think not, said the Doctor.
Would you have taken him into your establishment had you known it
all before? Certainly not. Therefore I say that he has deceived you. I
do not advise you to speak to him with severity; but he should, I
think, be made to know that you appreciate what he has done.
And you would turn him off;send him away at once, out about his
Certainly I would send him away.
You think him such a reprobate that he should not be allowed to
earn his bread anywhere?
I have not said so. I know nothing of his means of earning his
bread. Men living in sin earn their bread constantly. But he certainly
should not be allowed to earn his here.
Not though that man who was her husband should now be dead, and he
should again marry,legally marry,this woman to whom he has been so
true and loyal?
As regards you and your school, said Mr. Puddicombe, I do not
think it would alter his position.
With this the conference ended, and Mr. Puddicombe took his leave.
As he left the house the Doctor declared to himself that the man was a
strait-laced, fanatical, hard-hearted bigot. But though he said so to
himself, he hardly thought so; and was aware that the man's words had
had effect upon him.
CHAPTER X. MR. PEACOCKE GOES.
THE Doctor had been all but savage with his wife, and, for the
moment, had hated Mr. Puddicombe, but still what they said had affected
him. They were both of them quite clear that Mr. Peacocke should be
made to go at once. And he, though he hated Mr. Puddicombe for his cold
logic, could not but acknowledge that all the man had said was true.
According to the strict law of right and wrong the two unfortunates
should have parted when they found that they were not in truth married.
And, again, according to the strict law of right and wrong, Mr.
Peacocke should not have brought the woman there, into his school, as
his wife. There had been deceit. But then would not he, Dr. Wortle
himself, have been guilty of similar deceit had it fallen upon him to
have to defend a woman who had been true and affectionate to him? Mr.
Puddicombe would have left the woman to break her heart and have gone
away and done his duty like a Christian, feeling no tugging at his
heart-strings. It was so that our Doctor spoke to himself of his
counsellor, sitting there alone in his library.
During his conference with Lefroy something had been said which had
impressed him suddenly with an idea. A word had fallen from the
Colonel, an unintended word, by which the Doctor was made to believe
that the other Colonel was dead, at any rate now. He had cunningly
tried to lead up to the subject, but Robert Lefroy had been on his
guard as soon as he had perceived the Doctor's object, and had drawn
back, denying the truth of the word he had before spoken. The Doctor at
last asked him the question direct. Lefroy then declared that his
brother had been alive and well when he left Texas, but he did this in
such a manner as to strengthen in the Doctor's mind the impression that
he was dead. If it were so, then might not all these crooked things be
He had thought it better to raise no false hopes. He had said
nothing of this to Peacocke on discussing the story. He had not even
hinted it to his wife, from whom it might probably make its way to Mrs.
Peacocke. He had suggested it to Mr. Puddicombe,asking whether there
might not be a way out of all their difficulties. Mr. Puddicombe had
declared that there could be no such way as far as the school was
concerned. Let them marry, and repent their sins, and go away from the
spot they had contaminated, and earn their bread in some place in which
there need be no longer additional sin in concealing the story of their
past life. That seemed to have been Mr. Puddicombe's final judgment.
But it was altogether opposed to Dr. Wortle's feelings.
When Mr. Puddicombe came down from the church to the rectory, Lord
Carstairs was walking home after the afternoon service with Miss
Wortle. It was his custom to go to church with the family, whereas the
school went there under the charge of one of the ushers and sat apart
in a portion of the church appropriated to themselves. Mrs. Wortle,
when she found that the Doctor was not going to the afternoon service,
declined to go herself. She was thoroughly disturbed by all these bad
tidings, and was, indeed, very little able to say her prayers in a fit
state of mind. She could hardly keep herself still for a moment, and
was as one who thinks that the crack of doom is coming;so terrible to
her was her vicinity and connection with this man, and with the woman
who was not his wife. Then, again, she became flurried when she found
that Lord Carstairs and Mary would have to walk alone together; and she
made little abortive attempts to keep first the one and then the other
from going to church. Mary probably saw no reason for staying away,
while Lord Carstairs possibly found an additional reason for going.
Poor Mrs. Wortle had for some weeks past wished that the charming young
nobleman had been at home with his father and mother, or anywhere but
in her house. It had been arranged, however, that he should go in July
and not return after the summer holidays. Under these circumstances,
having full confidence in her girl, she had refrained from again
expressing her fears to the Doctor. But there were fears. It was
evident to her, though the Doctor seemed to see nothing of it, that the
young lord was falling in love. It might be that his youth and natural
bashfulness would come to her aid, and that nothing should be said
before that day in July which would separate them. But when it suddenly
occurred to her that they two would walk to and fro from church
together, there was cause for additional uneasiness.
If she had heard their conversation as they came back she would have
been in no way disturbed by its tone on the score of the young man's
tenderness towards her daughter, but she might perhaps have been
surprised by his vehemence in another respect. She would have been
surprised also at finding how much had been said during the last
twenty-four hours by others besides herself and her husband about the
affairs of Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke.
Do you know what he came about? asked Mary. The he had of course
been Robert Lefroy.
Not in the least; but he came up there looking so queer, as though
he certainly had come about something unpleasant.
And then he was with papa afterwards, said Mary. I am sure papa
and mamma not coming to church has something to do with it. And Mr.
Peacocke hasn't been to church all day.
Something has happened to make him very unhappy, said the boy. He
told me so even before this man came here. I don't know any one whom I
like so much as Mr. Peacocke.
I think it is about his wife, said Mary.
How about his wife?
I don't know, but I think it is. She is so very quiet.
How quiet, Miss Wortle? he asked.
She never will come in to see us. Mamma has asked her to dinner and
to drink tea ever so often, but she never comes. She calls perhaps once
in two or three months in a formal way, and that is all we see of her.
Do you like her? he asked.
How can I say, when I so seldom see her.
I do. I like her very much. I go and see her often; and I'm sure of
this;she is quite a lady. Mamma asked her to go to Carstairs for the
holidays because of what I said.
She is not going?
No; neither of them will come. I wish they would; and oh, Miss
Wortle, I do so wish you were going to be there too. This is all that
was said of peculiar tenderness between them on that walk home.
Late in the evening,so late that the boys had already gone to
bed,the Doctor sent again for Mr. Peacocke. I should not have
troubled you to-night, he said, only that I have heard something from
Pritchett. Pritchett was the rectory gardener who had charge also of
the school buildings, and was a person of great authority in the
establishment. He, as well the Doctor, held Mr. Peacocke in great
respect, and would have been almost as unwilling as the Doctor himself
to tell stories to the schoolmaster's discredit. They are saying down
at the Lambthe Lamb was the Bowick public-housethat Lefroy told
them all yesterday the Doctor hesitated before he could tell it.
That my wife is not my wife?
Of course I am prepared for it. I knew that it would be so; did not
I expected it.
I was sure of it. It may be taken for granted at once that there is
no longer a secret to keep. I would wish you to act just as though all
the facts were known to the entire diocese. After this there was a
pause, during which neither of them spoke for a few moments. The Doctor
had not intended to declare any purpose of his own on that occasion,
but it seemed to him now as though he were almost driven to do so. Then
Mr. Peacocke seeing the difficulty at once relieved him from it. I am
quite prepared to leave Bowick, he said, at once. I know that it must
be so. I have thought about it, and have perceived that there is no
possible alternative. I should like to consult with you as to whither I
had better go. Where shall I first take her?
Leave her here, said the Doctor.
Where she is in the school-house. No one will come to fill your
place for a while.
I should have thought, said Mr. Peacocke very slowly, that her
presencewould have been worse almost,than my own.
To me,said the Doctor,to me she is as pure as the most
unsullied matron in the country. Upon this Mr. Peacocke, jumping from
his chair, seized the Doctor's hand, but could not speak for his tears;
then he seated himself again, turning his face away towards the wall.
To no one could the presence of either of you be an evil. The evil is,
if I may say so, that the two of you should be here together. You
should be apart,till some better day has come upon you.
What better day can ever come? said the poor man through his
Then the Doctor declared his scheme. He told what he thought as to
Ferdinand Lefroy, and his reason for believing that the man was dead.
I felt sure from his manner that his brother is now dead in truth. Go
to him and ask him boldly, he said.
But his word would not suffice for another marriage ceremony.
To this the Doctor agreed. It was not his intention, he said, that
they should proceed on evidence as slight as that. No; a step must be
taken much more serious in its importance, and occupying a considerable
time. He, Peacocke, must go again to Missouri and find out all the
truth. The Doctor was of opinion that if this were resolved upon, and
that if the whole truth were at once proclaimed, then Mr. Peacocke need
not hesitate to pay Robert Lefroy for any information which might
assist him in his search. While you are gone, continued the Doctor
almost wildly, let bishops and Stantiloups and Puddicombes say what
they may, she shall remain here. To say that she will be happy is of
course vain. There can be no happiness for her till this has been put
right. But she will be safe; and here, at my hand, she will, I think,
be free from insult. What better is there to be done?
There can be nothing better, said Peacocke drawing his breath,as
though a gleam of light had shone in upon him.
I had not meant to have spoken to you of this till to-morrow. I
should not have done so, but that Pritchett had been with me. But the
more I thought of it, the more sure I became that you could not both
remain,till something had been done; till something had been done.
I was sure of it, Dr. Wortle.
Mr. Puddicombe saw that it was so. Mr. Puddicombe is not all the
world to me by any means, but he is a man of common sense. I will be
frank with you. My wife said that it could not be so.
She shall not stay. Mrs. Wortle shall not be annoyed.
You don't see it yet, said the Doctor. But you do. I know you do.
And she shall stay. The house shall be hers, as her residence, for the
next six months. As for money
I have got what will do for that, I think.
If she wants money she shall have what she wants. There is nothing
I will not do for you in your trouble,except that you may not both be
here together till I shall have shaken hands with her as Mrs. Peacocke
in very truth.
It was settled that Mr. Peacocke should not go again into the
school, or Mrs. Peacocke among the boys, till he should have gone to
America and have come back. It was explained in the school by the
Doctor early,for the Doctor must now take the morning school
himself,that circumstances of very grave import made it necessary
that Mr. Peacocke should start at once for America. That the tidings
which had been published at the Lamb would reach the boys, was more
than probable. Nay; was it not certain? It would of course reach all
the boys' parents. There was no use, no service, in any secrecy. But in
speaking to the school not a word was said of Mrs. Peacocke. The Doctor
explained that he himself would take the morning school, and that Mr.
Rose, the mathematical master, would take charge of the school meals.
Mrs. Cane, the house-keeper, would look to the linen and the bed-rooms.
It was made plain that Mrs. Peacocke's services were not to be
required; but her name was not mentioned,except that the Doctor, in
order to let it be understood that she was not to be banished from the
house, begged the boys as a favour that they would not interrupt Mrs.
Peacocke's tranquillity during Mr. Peacocke's absence.
On the Tuesday morning Mr. Peacocke started, remaining, however, a
couple of days at Broughton, during which the Doctor saw him. Lefroy
declared that he knew nothing about his brother,whether he were alive
or dead. He might be dead, because he was always in trouble, and
generally drunk. Robert, on the whole, thought it probable that he was
dead, but could not be got to say so. For a thousand dollars he would
go over to Missouri, and, if necessary to Texas, so as to find the
truth. He would then come back and give undeniable evidence. While
making this benevolent offer, he declared, with tears in his eyes, that
he had come over intending to be a true brother to his sister-in-law,
and had simply been deterred from prosecuting his good intentions by
Peacocke's austerity. Then he swore a most solemn oath that if he knew
anything about his brother Ferdinand he would reveal it. The Doctor and
Peacocke agreed together that the man's word was worth nothing; but
that the man's services might be useful in enabling them to track out
the truth. They were both convinced, by words which fell from him, that
Ferdinand Lefroy was dead; but this would be of no avail unless they
could obtain absolute evidence.
During these two days there were various conversations at Broughton
between the Doctor, Mr. Peacocke, and Lefroy, in which a plan of action
was at length arranged. Lefroy and the schoolmaster were to proceed to
America together, and there obtain what evidence they could as to the
life or death of the elder brother. When absolute evidence had been
obtained of either, a thousand dollars was to be handed to Robert
Lefroy. But when this agreement was made the man was given to
understand that his own uncorroborated word would go for nothing.
Who is to say what is evidence, and what not? asked the man, not
Mr. Peacocke must be the judge, said the Doctor.
I ain't going to agree to that, said the other. Though he were to
see him dead, he might swear he hadn't, and not give me a red cent. Why
ain't I to be judge as well as he?
Because you can trust him, and he cannot in the least trust you,
said the Doctor. You know well enough that if he were to see your
brother alive, or to see him dead, you would get the money. At any
rate, you have no other way of getting it but what we propose. To all
this Robert Lefroy at last assented.
The prospect before Mr. Peacocke for the next three months was
certainly very sad. He was to travel from Broughton to St. Louis, and
possibly from thence down into the wilds of Texas, in company with this
man, whom he thoroughly despised. Nothing could be more abominable to
him than such an association; but there was no other way in which the
proposed plan could be carried out. He was to pay Lefroy's expenses
back to his own country, and could only hope to keep the man true to
his purpose by doing so from day to day. Were he to give the man money,
the man would at once disappear. Here in England, and in their passage
across the ocean, the man might, in some degree, be amenable and
obedient. But there was no knowing to what he might have recourse when
he should find himself nearer to his country, and should feel that his
companion was distant from his own.
You'll have to keep a close watch upon him, whispered the Doctor
to his friend. I should not advise all this if I did not think you
were a man of strong nerve.
I am not afraid, said the other; but I doubt whether he may not
be too many for me. At any rate, I will try it. You will hear from me
as I go on.
And so they parted as dear friends part. The Doctor had, in truth,
taken the man altogether to his heart since all the circumstances of
the story had come home to him. And it need hardly be said that the
other was aware how deep a debt of gratitude he owed to the protector
of his wife. Indeed the very money that was to be paid to Robert
Lefroy, if he earned it, was advanced out of the Doctor's pocket. Mr.
Peacocke's means were sufficient for the expenses of the journey, but
fell short when these thousand dollars had to be provided.
CHAPTER XI. THE BISHOP.
MR. PEACOCKE had been quite right in saying that the secret would at
once be known through the whole diocese. It certainly was so before he
had been gone a week, and it certainly was the case also that the
diocese generally did not approve of the Doctor's conduct. The woman
ought not to have been left there. So said the diocese. It was of
course the case, that though the diocese knew much, it did not know
all. It is impossible to keep such a story concealed, but it is quite
as impossible to make known all its details. In the eyes of the diocese
the woman was of course the chief sinner, and the chief sinner was
allowed to remain at the school! When this assertion was made to him
the Doctor became very angry, saying that Mrs. Peacocke did not remain
at the school; that, according to the arrangement as at present made,
Mrs. Peacocke had nothing to do with the school; that the house was his
own, and that he might lend it to whom he pleased. Was he to turn the
woman out houseless, when her husband had gone, on such an errand, on
his advice? Of course the house was his own, but as clergyman of the
parish he had not a right to do what he liked with it. He had no right
to encourage evil. And the man was not the woman's husband. That was
just the point made by the diocese. And she was at the school,living
under the same roof with the boys! The diocese was clearly of opinion
that all the boys would be taken away.
The diocese spoke by the voice of its bishop, as a diocese should
do. Shortly after Mr. Peacocke's departure, the Doctor had an interview
with his lordship, and told the whole story. The doing this went much
against the grain with him, but he hardly dared not to do it. He felt
that he was bound to do it on the part of Mrs. Peacocke if not on his
own. And then the man, who had now gone, though he had never been
absolutely a curate, had preached frequently in the diocese. He felt
that it would not be wise to abstain from telling the bishop.
The bishop was a goodly man, comely in his person, and possessed of
manners which had made him popular in the world. He was one of those
who had done the best he could with his talent, not wrapping it up in a
napkin, but getting from it the best interest which the world's market
could afford. But not on that account was he other than a good man. To
do the best he could for himself and his family,and also to do his
duty,was the line of conduct which he pursued. There are some who
reverse this order, but he was not one of them. He had become a scholar
in his youth, not from love of scholarship, but as a means to success.
The Church had become his profession, and he had worked hard at his
calling. He had taught himself to be courteous and urbane, because he
had been clever enough to see that courtesy and urbanity are agreeable
to men in high places. As a bishop he never spared himself the work
which a bishop ought to do. He answered letters, he studied the
characters of the clergymen under him, he was just with his patronage,
he endeavoured to be efficacious with his charges, he confirmed
children in cold weather as well as in warm, he occasionally preached
sermons, and he was beautiful and decorous in his gait of manner, as it
behoves a clergyman of the Church of England to be. He liked to be
master; but even to be master he would not encounter the abominable
nuisance of a quarrel. When first coming to the diocese he had had some
little difficulty with our Doctor; but the Bishop had abstained from
violent assertion, and they had, on the whole, been friends. There was,
however, on the Bishop's part, something of a feeling that the Doctor
was the bigger man; and it was probable that, without active malignity,
he would take advantage of any chance which might lower the Doctor a
little, and bring him more within episcopal power. In some degree he
begrudged the Doctor his manliness.
He listened with many smiles and with perfect courtesy to the story
as it was told to him, and was much less severe on the unfortunates
than Mr. Puddicombe had been. It was not the wickedness of the two
people in living together, or their wickedness in keeping their secret,
which offended him so much, as the evil which they were likely to
do,and to have done. No doubt, he said, an ill-living man may
preach a good sermon, perhaps a better one than a pious God-fearing
clergyman, whose intellect may be inferior though his morals are much
better;but coming from tainted lips, the better sermon will not carry
a blessing with it. At this the Doctor shook his head. Bringing a
blessing was a phrase which the Doctor hated. He shook his head not
too civilly, saying that he had not intended to trouble his lordship on
so difficult a point in ecclesiastical morals. But we cannot but
remember, said the Bishop, that he has been preaching in your parish
church, and the people will know that he has acted among them as a
I hope the people, my lord, may never have the Gospel preached to
them by a worse man.
I will not judge him; but I do think that it has been a misfortune.
You, of course, were in ignorance.
Had I known all about it, I should have been very much inclined to
do the same.
This was, in fact, not true, and was said simply in a spirit of
contradiction. The Bishop shook his head and smiled. My school is a
matter of more importance, said the Doctor.
Hardly, hardly, Dr. Wortle.
Of more importance in this way, that my school may probably be
injured, whereas neither the morals nor the faith of the parishioners
will have been hurt.
But he has gone.
He has gone;but she remains.
What! exclaimed the Bishop.
He has gone, but she remains. He repeated the words very
distinctly, with a frown on his brow, as though to show that on that
branch of the subject he intended to put up with no opposition,hardly
even with an adverse opinion.
She had a certain charge, as I understand,as to the school.
She had, my lord; and very well she did her work. I shall have a
great loss in her,for the present.
But you said she remained.
I have lent her the use of the house till her husband shall come
Mr. Peacocke, you mean, said the Bishop, who was unable not to put
in a contradiction against the untruth of the word which had been used.
I shall always regard them as married.
But they are not.
I have lent her the house, at any rate, during his absence. I could
not turn her into the street.
Would not a lodging here in the city have suited her better?
I thought not. People here would have refused to take her,because
of her story. The wife of some religious grocer, who sands his sugar
regularly, would have thought her house contaminated by such an
So it would have been, Doctor, to some extent. At hearing this the
Doctor made very evident signs of discontent. You cannot alter the
ways of the world suddenly, though by example and precept you may help
to improve them slowly. In our present imperfect condition of moral
culture, it is perhaps well that the company of the guilty should be
I am afraid that I must say so. The knowledge that such a feeling
exists no doubt deters others from guilt. The fact that wrong-doing in
women is scorned helps to maintain the innocence of women. Is it not
I must hesitate before I trouble your lordship by arguing such
difficult questions. I thought it right to tell you the facts after
what had occurred. He has gone, she is there,and there she will
remain for the present. I could not turn her out. Thinking her, as I
do, worthy of my friendship, I could not do other than befriend her.
Of course you must be the judge yourself.
I had to be the judge, my lord.
I am afraid that the parents of the boys will not understand it.
I also am afraid. It will be very hard to make them understand it.
There will be some who will work hard to make them misunderstand it.
I hope not that.
There will. I must stand the brunt of it. I have had battles before
this, and had hoped that now, when I am getting old, they might have
been at an end. But there is something left of me, and I can fight
still. At any rate, I have made up my mind about this. There she shall
remain till he comes back to fetch her. And so the interview was over,
the Bishop feeling that he had in some slight degree had the best of
it,and the Doctor feeling that he, in some slight degree, had had the
worst. If possible, he would not talk to the Bishop on the subject
He told Mr. Puddicombe also. With your generosity and kindness of
heart I quite sympathise, said Mr. Puddicombe, endeavouring to be
pleasant in his manner.
But not with my prudence.
Not with your prudence, said Mr. Puddicombe, endeavouring to be
true at the same time.
But the Doctor's greatest difficulty was with his wife, whose
conduct it was necessary that he should guide, and whose feelings and
conscience he was most anxious to influence. When she first heard his
decision she almost wrung her hands in despair. If the woman could have
gone to America, and the man have remained, she would have been
satisfied. Anything wrong about a man was but of little
moment,comparatively so, even though he were a clergyman; but
anything wrong about a woman,and she so near to herself! O dear! And
the poor dear boys,under the same roof with her! And the boys'
mammas! How would she be able to endure the sight of that horrid Mrs.
Stantiloup;or Mrs. Stantiloup's words, which would certainly be
conveyed to her? But there was something much worse for her even than
all this. The Doctor insisted that she should go and call upon the
woman! And take Mary? asked Mrs. Wortle.
What would be the good of taking Mary? Who is talking of a child
like that? It is for the sake of charity,for the dear love of Christ,
that I ask you to do it. Do you ever think of Mary Magdalene?
This is no Magdalene. This is a woman led into no faults by vicious
propensities. Here is one who has been altogether unfortunate,who has
been treated more cruelly than any of whom you have ever read.
Why did she not leave him?
Because she was a woman, with a heart in her bosom.
I am to go to her?
I do not order it. I only ask it. Such asking from her husband
was, she knew, very near alike to ordering.
What shall I say to her?
Bid her keep up her courage till he shall return. If you were all
alone, as she is, would not you wish that some other woman should come
to comfort you? Think of her desolation.
Mrs. Wortle did think of it, and after a day or two made up her mind
to obey her husband'srequest. She made her call, but very little came
of it, except that she promised to come again. Mrs. Wortle, said the
poor woman, pray do not let me be a trouble to you. If you stay away I
shall quite understand that there is sufficient reason. I know how good
your husband has been to us. Mrs. Wortle said, however, as she took
her leave, that she would come again in a day or two.
But there were other troubles in store for Mrs. Wortle. Before she
had repeated her visit to Mrs. Peacocke, a lady, who lived about ten
miles off, the wife of the Rector of Buttercup, called upon her. This
was the Lady Margaret Momson, a daughter of the Earl of Brigstock, who
had, thirty years ago, married a young clergyman. Nevertheless, up to
the present day, she was quite as much the Earl's daughter as the
parson's wife. She was first cousin to that Mrs. Stantiloup between
whom and the Doctor internecine war was always being waged; and she was
also aunt to a boy at the school, who, however, was in no way related
to Mrs. Stantiloup, young Momson being the son of the parson's eldest
brother. Lady Margaret had never absolutely and openly taken the part
of Mrs. Stantiloup. Had she done so, a visit even of ceremony would
have been impossible. But she was supposed to have Stantiloup
proclivities, and was not, therefore, much liked at Bowick. There had
been a question indeed whether young Momson should be received at the
school,because of the quasi connection with the arch-enemy;
but Squire Momson of Buttercup, the boy's father, had set that at rest
by bursting out, in the Doctor's hearing, into violent abuse against
the close-fisted, vulgar old faggot. The son of a man imbued with
such proper feelings was, of course, accepted.
But Lady Margaret was proud,especially at the present time. What
a romance this is, Mrs. Wortle, she said, that has gone all through
the diocese! The reader will remember that Lady Margaret was also the
wife of a clergyman.
You meanthe Peacockes?
Of course I do.
He has gone away.
We all know that, of course;to look for his wife's husband. Good
gracious me! What a story!
They think that he isdead now.
I suppose they thought so before, said Lady Margaret.
Of course they did.
Though it does seem that no inquiry was made at all. Perhaps they
don't care about those things over there as we do here. He couldn't
have cared very much,nor she.
The Doctor thinks that they are very much to be pitied.
The Doctor always was a little Quixoticeh?
I don't think that at all, Lady Margaret.
I mean in the way of being so very good-natured and kind. Her
brother came;didn't he?
Her first husband's brother, said Mrs. Wortle, blushing.
Her first husband!
Well;you know what I mean, Lady Margaret.
Yes; I know what you mean. It is so very shocking; isn't it? And so
the two men have gone off together to look for the third. Goodness
me;what a party they will be if they meet! Do you think they'll
I don't know, Lady Margaret.
And that he should be a clergyman of the Church of England! Isn't
it dreadful? What does the Bishop say? Has he heard all about it?
The Bishop has nothing to do with it. Mr. Peacocke never held a
curacy in the diocese.
But he has preached here very often,and has taken her to church
with him! I suppose the Bishop has been told?
You may be sure that he knows it as well as you.
We are so anxious, you know, about dear little Gus. Dear little
Gus was Augustus Momson, the lady's nephew, who was supposed to be the
worst-behaved, and certainly the stupidest boy in the school.
Augustus will not be hurt, I should say.
Perhaps not directly. But my sister has, I know, very strong
opinions on such subjects. Now, I want to ask you one thing. Is it true
She is still living in the school-house.
Is that prudent, Mrs. Wortle?
If you want to have an opinion on that subject, Lady Margaret, I
would recommend you to ask the Doctor. By which she meant to assert
that Lady Margaret would not, for the life of her, dare to ask the
Doctor such a question. He has done what he has thought best.
Most good-natured, you mean, Mrs. Wortle.
I mean what I say, Lady Margaret. He has done what he has thought
best, looking at all the circumstances. He thinks that they are very
worthy people, and that they have been most cruelly ill-used. He has
taken that into consideration. You call it good-nature. Others perhaps
may call itcharity. The wife, though she at her heart deplored her
husband's action in the matter, was not going to own to another lady
that he had been imprudent.
I am sure I hope they will, said Lady Margaret. Then as she was
taking her leave, she made a suggestion. Some of the boys will be
taken away, I suppose. The Doctor probably expects that.
I don't know what he expects, said Mrs. Wortle. Some are always
going, and when they go, others come in their places. As for me, I wish
he would give the school up altogether.
Perhaps he means it, said Lady Margaret; otherwise, perhaps he
wouldn't have been so good-natured. Then she took her departure.
When her visitor was gone Mrs. Wortle was very unhappy. She had been
betrayed by her wrath into expressing that wish as to the giving up of
the school. She knew well that the Doctor had no such intention. She
herself had more than once suggested it in her timid way, but the
Doctor had treated her suggestions as being worth nothing. He had his
ideas about Mary, who was undoubtedly a very pretty girl. Mary might
marry well, and £20,000 would probably assist her in doing so.
When he was told of Lady Margaret's hints, he said in his wrath that
he would send young Momson away instantly if a word was said to him by
the boy's mamma. Of course, said he, if the lad turns out a
scapegrace, as is like enough, it will be because Mrs. Peacocke had two
husbands. It is often a question to me whether the religion of the
world is not more odious than its want of religion. To this terrible
suggestion poor Mrs. Wortle did not dare to make any answer whatever.
CHAPTER XII. THE STANTILOUP
WE will now pass for a moment out of Bowick parish, and go over to
Buttercup. There, at Buttercup Hall, the squire's house, in the
drawing-room, were assembled Mrs. Momson, the squire's wife; Lady
Margaret Momson, the Rector's wife; Mrs. Rolland, the wife of the
Bishop; and the Hon. Mrs. Stantiloup. A party was staying in the house,
collected for the purpose of entertaining the Bishop; and it would
perhaps not have been possible to have got together in the diocese,
four ladies more likely to be hard upon our Doctor. For though Squire
Momson was not very fond of Mrs. Stantiloup, and had used strong
language respecting her when he was anxious to send his boy to the
Doctor's school, Mrs. Momson had always been of the other party, and
had in fact adhered to Mrs. Stantiloup from the beginning of the
quarrel. I do trust, said Mrs. Stantiloup, that there will be an end
to all this kind of thing now.
Do you mean an end to the school? asked Lady Margaret.
I do indeed. I always thought it matter of great regret that
Augustus should have been sent there, after the scandalous treatment
that Bob received. Bob was the little boy who had drank the champagne
and required the carriage exercise.
But I always heard that the school was quite popular, said Mrs.
I think you'll find, continued Mrs. Stantiloup, that there won't
be much left of its popularity now. Keeping that abominable woman under
the same roof with the boys! No master of a school that wasn't
absolutely blown up with pride, would have taken such people as those
Peacockes without making proper inquiry. And then to let him preach in
the church! I suppose Mr. Momson will allow you to send for Augustus at
once? This she said turning to Mrs. Momson.
Mr. Momson thinks so much of the Doctor's scholarship, said the
mother, apologetically. And we are so anxious that Gus should do well
when he goes to Eton.
What is Latin and Greek as compared to his soul? asked Lady
No, indeed, said Mrs. Rolland. She had found herself compelled, as
wife of the Bishop, to assent to the self-evident proposition which had
been made. She was a quiet, silent little woman, whom the Bishop had
married in the days of his earliest preferment, and who, though she was
delighted to find herself promoted to the society of the big people in
the diocese, had never quite lifted herself up into their sphere.
Though she had her ideas as to what it was to be a Bishop's wife, she
had never yet been quite able to act up to them.
I know that young Talbot is to leave, said Mrs. Stantiloup. I
wrote to Mrs. Talbot immediately when all this occurred, and I've heard
from her cousin Lady Grogram that the boy is not to go back after the
holidays. This happened to be altogether untrue. What she probably
meant was, that the boy should not go back if she could prevent his
I feel quite sure, said Lady Margaret, that Lady Anne will not
allow her boys to remain when she finds out what sort of inmates the
Doctor chooses to entertain. The Lady Anne spoken of was Lady Anne
Clifford, the widowed mother of two boys who were intrusted to the
I do hope you'll be firm about Gus, said Mrs. Stantiloup to Mrs.
Momson. If we're not to put down this kind of thing, what is the good
of having any morals in the country at all? We might just as well live
like pagans, and do without any marriage services, as they do in so
many parts of the United States.
I wonder what the Bishop does think about it? asked Mrs. Momson of
the Bishop's wife.
It makes him very unhappy; I know that, said Mrs. Rolland. Of
course he cannot interfere about the school. As for licensing the
gentleman as a curate, that was of course quite out of the question.
At this moment Mr. Momson, the clergyman, and the Bishop came into
the room, and were offered, as is usual on such occasions, cold tea and
the remains of the buttered toast. The squire was not there. Had he
been with the other gentlemen, Mrs. Stantiloup, violent as she was,
would probably have held her tongue; but as he was absent, the
opportunity was not bad for attacking the Bishop on the subject under
discussion. We were talking, my lord, about the Bowick school.
Now the Bishop was a man who could be very confidential with one
lady, but was apt to be guarded when men are concerned. To any one of
those present he might have said what he thought, had no one else been
there to hear. That would have been the expression of a private
opinion; but to speak before the four would have been tantamount to a
About the Bowick school? said he; I hope there is nothing going
wrong with the Bowick school.
You must have heard about Mr. Peacocke, said Lady Margaret.
Yes; I have certainly heard of Mr. Peacocke. He, I believe, has
left Dr. Wortle's seminary.
But she remains! said Mrs. Stantiloup, with tragic energy.
So I understand;in the house; but not as part of the
Does that make so much difference? asked Lady Margaret.
It does make a very great difference, said Lady Margaret's
husband, the parson, wishing to help the Bishop in his difficulty.
I don't see it at all, said Mrs. Stantiloup. The main spirit in
the matter is just as manifest whether the lady is or is not allowed to
look after the boys' linen. In fact, I despise him for making the
pretence. Her doing menial work about the house would injure no one. It
is her presence there,the presence of a woman who has falsely
pretended to be married, when she knew very well that she had no
When she knew that she had two, said Lady Margaret.
And fancy, Lady Margaret,Lady Bracy absolutely asked her to go to
Carstairs! That woman was always infatuated about Dr. Wortle. What
would she have done if they had gone, and this other man had followed
his sister-in-law there. But Lord and Lady Bracy would ask any one to
Carstairs,just any one that they could get hold of!
Mr. Momson was one whose obstinacy was wont to give way when
sufficiently attacked. Even he, after having been for two days
subjected to the eloquence of Mrs. Stantiloup, acknowledged that the
Doctor took a great deal too much upon himself. He does it, said Mrs.
Stantiloup, just to show that there is nothing that he can't bring
parents to assent to. Fancy,a woman living there as house-keeper with
a man as usher, pretending to be husband and wife, when they knew all
along that they were not married!
Mr. Momson, who didn't care a straw about the morals of the man
whose duty it was to teach his little boy his Latin grammar, or the
morals of the woman who looked after his little boy's waistcoats and
trousers, gave a half-assenting grunt. And you are to pay, continued
Mrs. Stantiloup, with considerable emphasis,you are to pay two
hundred and fifty pounds a-year for such conduct as that!
Two hundred, suggested the squire, who cared as little for the
money as he did for the morals.
Two hundred and fifty,every shilling of it, when you consider the
There are no extras, as far as I can see. But then my boy is strong
and healthy, thank God, said the squire, taking his opportunity of
having one fling at the lady. But while all this was going on, he did
give a half-assent that Gus should be taken away at midsummer, being
partly moved thereto by a letter from the Doctor, in which he was told
that his boy was not doing any good at the school.
It was a week after that that Mrs. Stantiloup wrote the following
letter to her friend Lady Grogram, after she had returned home from
Buttercup Hall. Lady Grogram was a great friend of hers, and was first
cousin to that Mrs. Talbot who had a son at the school. Lady Grogram
was an old woman of strong mind but small means, who was supposed to be
potential over those connected with her. Mrs. Stantiloup feared that
she could not be efficacious herself, either with Mr. or Mrs. Talbot;
but she hoped that she might carry her purpose through Lady Grogram. It
may be remembered that she had declared at Buttercup Hall that young
Talbot was not to go back to Bowick. But this had been a figure of
speech, as has been already explained:
MY DEAR LADY GROGRAM,Since I got your last letter I have been
staying with the Momsons at Buttercup. It was awfully dull. He and she
are, I think, the stupidest people that ever I met. None of those
Momsons have an idea among them. They are just as heavy and
inharmonious as their name. Lady Margaret was one of the party. She
would have been better, only that our excellent Bishop was there too,
and Lady Margaret thought it well to show off all her graces before the
Bishop and the Bishop's wife. I never saw such a dowdy in all my life
as Mrs. Rolland. He is all very well, and looks at any rate like a
gentleman. It was, I take it, that which got him his diocese. They say
the Queen saw him once, and was taken by his manners.
But I did one good thing at Buttercup. I got Mr. Momson to promise
that that boy of his should not go back to Bowick. Dr. Wortle has
become quite intolerable. I think he is determined to show that
whatever he does, people shall put up with it. It is not only the most
expensive establishment of the kind in all England, but also the worst
conducted. You know, of course, how all this matter about that woman
stands now. She is remaining there at Bowick, absolutely living in the
house, calling herself Mrs. Peacocke, while the man she was living with
has gone off with her brother-in-law to look for her husband! Did you
ever hear of such a mess as that?
And the Doctor expects that fathers and mothers will still send
their boys to such a place as that? I am very much mistaken if he will
not find it altogether deserted before Christmas. Lord Carstairs is
already gone. [This was at any rate disingenuous, as she had been very
severe when at Buttercup on all the Carstairs family because of their
declared and perverse friendship for the Doctor.] Mr. Momson, though
he is quite incapable of seeing the meaning of anything, has determined
to take his boy away. She may thank me at any rate for that. I have
heard that Lady Anne Clifford's two boys will both leave. [In one
sense she had heard it, because the suggestion had been made by herself
at Buttercup.] I do hope that Mr. Talbot's dear little boy will not be
allowed to return to such contamination as that! Fancy,the man and
the woman living there in that way together; and the Doctor keeping the
woman on after he knew it all! It is really so horrible that one
doesn't know how to talk about it. When the Bishop was at Buttercup I
really felt almost obliged to be silent.
I know very well that Mrs. Talbot is always ready to take your
advice. As for him, men very often do not think so much about these
things as they ought. But he will not like his boy to be nearly the
only one left at the school. I have not heard of one who is to remain
for certain. How can it be possible that any boy who has a mother
should be allowed to remain there?
Do think of this, and do your best. I need not tell you that
nothing ought to be so dear to us as a high tone of morals.Most
We need not pursue this letter further than to say that when it
reached Mr. Talbot's hands, which it did through his wife, he spoke of
Mrs. Stantiloup in language which shocked his wife considerably, though
she was not altogether unaccustomed to strong language on his part. Mr.
Talbot and the Doctor had been at school together, and at Oxford, and
I will give now a letter that was written by the Doctor to Mr.
Momson in answer to one in which that gentleman signified his intention
of taking little Gus away from the school.
MY DEAR MR. MOMSON,After what you have said, of course I shall
not expect your boy back after the holidays. Tell his mamma, with my
compliments, that he shall take all his things home with him. As a rule
I do charge for a quarter in advance when a boy is taken away suddenly,
without notice, and apparently without cause. But I shall not do so at
the present moment either to you or to any parent who may withdraw his
son. A circumstance has happened which, though it cannot impair the
utility of my school, and ought not to injure its character, may still
be held as giving offence to certain persons. I will not be driven to
alter my conduct by what I believe to be foolish misconception on their
part. But they have a right to their own opinions, and I will not mulct
them because of their conscientious convictions.Yours faithfully,
If you come across any friend who has a boy here, you are perfectly
at liberty to show him or her this letter.
The defection of the Momsons wounded the Doctor, no doubt. He was
aware that Mrs. Stantiloup had been at Buttercup, and that the Bishop
also had been thereand he could put two and two together; but it hurt
him to think that one so staunch though so stupid as Mrs. Momson,
should be turned from her purpose by such a woman as Mrs. Stantiloup.
And he got other letters on the subject. Here is one from Lady Anne
DEAR DOCTOR,You know how safe I think my dear boys are with you,
and how much obliged I am both to you and your wife for all your
kindness. But people are saying things to me about one of the masters
at your school and his wife. Is there any reason why I should be
afraid? You will see how thoroughly I trust you when I ask you the
question.Yours very sincerely,
Now Lady Anne Clifford was a sweet, confiding, affectionate, but not
very wise woman. In a letter, written not many days before to Mary
Wortle, who had on one occasion been staying with her, she said that
she was at that time in the same house with the Bishop and Mrs.
Rolland. Of course the Doctor knew again how to put two and two
Then there came a letter from Mr. Talbot
DEAR WORTLE,So you are boiling for yourself another pot of hot
water. I never saw such a fellow as you are for troubles! Old Mother
Shipton has been writing such a letter to our old woman, and explaining
that no boy's soul would any longer be worth looking after if he be
left in your hands. Don't you go and get me into a scrape more than you
can help; but you may be quite sure of this that if I had as many sons
as Priam I should send them all to you;only I think that the cheques
would be very long in coming.Yours always,
The Doctor answered this at greater length than he had done in
writing to Mr. Momson, who was not specially his friend.
MY DEAR TALBOT,You may be quite sure that I shall not repeat to
any one what you have told me of Mother Shipton. I knew, however,
pretty well what she was doing and what I had to expect from her. It is
astonishing to me that such a woman should still have the power of
persuading any one,astonishing also that any human being should
continue to hate as she hates me. She has often tried to do me an
injury, but she has never succeeded yet. At any rate she will not bend
me. Though my school should be broken up to-morrow, which I do not
think probable, I should still have enough to live upon,which is
more, by all accounts, than her unfortunate husband can say for
The facts are these. More than twelve months ago I got an assistant
named Peacocke, a clergyman, an Oxford man, and formerly a Fellow of
Trinity;a man quite superior to anything I have a right to expect in
my school. He had gone as a Classical Professor to a college in the
United States;a rash thing to do, no doubt;and had there married a
widow, which was rasher still. The lady came here with him and
undertook the charge of the school-house,with a separate salary; and
an admirable person in the place she was. Then it turned out, as no
doubt you have heard, that her former husband was alive when they were
married. They ought probably to have separated, but they didn't. They
came here instead, and here they were followed by the brother of the
husband,who I take it is now dead, though of that we know nothing
That he should have told me his position is more than any man has a
right to expect from another. Fortune had been most unkind to him, and
for her sake he was bound to do the best that he could with himself. I
cannot bring myself to be angry with him, though I cannot defend him by
strict laws of right and wrong. I have advised him to go back to
America and find out if the man be in truth dead. If so, let him come
back and marry the woman again before all the world. I shall be ready
to marry them and to ask him and her to my house afterwards.
In the mean time what was to become of her? 'Let her go into
lodgings,' said the Bishop. Go to lodgings at Broughton! You know what
sort of lodgings she would get there among psalm-singing greengrocers
who would tell her of her misfortune every day of her life! I would not
subject her to the misery of going and seeking for a home. I told him,
when I persuaded him to go, that she should have the rooms they were
then occupying while he was away. In settling this, of course I had to
make arrangements for doing in our own establishment the work which had
lately fallen to her share. I mention this for the sake of explaining
that she has got nothing to do with the school. No doubt the boys are
under the same roof with her. Will your boy's morals be the worse? It
seems that Gustavus Momson's will. You know the father; do you not? I
wonder whether anything will ever affect his morals?
Now, I have told you everything. Not that I have doubted you; but,
as you have been told so much, I have thought it well that you should
have the whole story from myself. What effect it may have upon the
school I do not know. The only boy of whose secession I have yet heard
is young Momson. But probably there will be others. Four new boys were
to have come, but I have already heard from the father of one that he
has changed his mind. I think I can trace an acquaintance between him
and Mother Shipton. If the body of the school should leave me I will
let you know at once as you might not like to leave your boy under such
You may be sure of this, that here the lady remains until her
husband returns. I am not going to be turned from my purpose at this
time of day by anything that Mother Shipton may say or do.Yours
END OF VOL. I.
DR. WORTLE'S SCHOOL.
IN TWO VOLUMES.VOL. II.
London: Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly. 1881.
London: R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, Printers, Bread Street Hill.
CHAPTER I. MR. PUDDICOMBE'S BOOT.
IT was not to be expected that the matter should be kept out of the
county newspaper, or even from those in the metropolis. There was too
much of romance in the story, too good a tale to be told, for any such
hope. The man's former life and the woman's, the disappearance of her
husband and his reappearance after his reported death, the departure of
the couple from St. Louis and the coming of Lefroy to Bowick, formed
together a most attractive subject. But it could not be told without
reference to Dr. Wortle's school, to Dr. Wortle's position as clergyman
of the parish,and also to the fact which was considered by his
enemies to be of all the facts the most damning, that Mr. Peacocke had
for a time been allowed to preach in the parish church. The 'Broughton
Gazette,' a newspaper which was supposed to be altogether devoted to
the interest of the diocese, was very eloquent on this subject. We do
not desire, said the 'Broughton Gazette,' to make any remarks as to
the management of Dr. Wortle's school. We leave all that between him
and the parents of the boys who are educated there. We are perfectly
aware that Dr. Wortle himself is a scholar, and that his school has
been deservedly successful. It is advisable, no doubt, that in such an
establishment none should be employed whose lives are openly
immoral;but as we have said before, it is not our purpose to insist
upon this. Parents, if they feel themselves to be aggrieved, can remedy
the evil by withdrawing their sons. But when we consider the great
power which is placed in the hands of an incumbent of a parish, that he
is endowed as it were with the freehold of his pulpit, that he may put
up whom he will to preach the Gospel to his parishioners, even in a
certain degree in opposition to his bishop, we think that we do no more
than our duty in calling attention to such a case as this. Then the
whole story was told at great length, so as to give the we of the
'Broughton Gazette' a happy opportunity of making its leading article
not only much longer, but much more amusing, than usual. We must say,
continued the writer, as he concluded his narrative, that this man
should not have been allowed to preach in the Bowick pulpit. He is no
doubt a clergyman of the Church of England, and Dr. Wortle was within
his rights in asking for his assistance; but the incumbent of a parish
is responsible for those he employs, and that responsibility now rests
on Dr. Wortle.
There was a great deal in this that made the Doctor very angry,so
angry that he did not know how to restrain himself. The matter had been
argued as though he had employed the clergyman in his church after he
had known the history. For aught I know, he said to Mrs. Wortle, any
curate coming to me might have three wives, all alive.
That would be most improbable, said Mrs. Wortle.
So was all this improbable,just as improbable. Nothing could be
more improbable. Do we not all feel overcome with pity for the poor
woman because she encountered trouble that was so improbable? How much
more improbable was it that I should come across a clergyman who had
encountered such improbabilities. In answer to this Mrs. Wortle could
only shake her head, not at all understanding the purport of her
But what was said about his school hurt him more than what was said
about his church. In regard to his church he was impregnable. Not even
the Bishop could touch him,or even annoy him much. But this
penny-a-liner, as the Doctor indignantly called him, had attacked him
in his tenderest point. After declaring that he did not intend to
meddle with the school, he had gone on to point out that an immoral
person had been employed there, and had then invited all parents to
take away their sons. He doesn't know what moral and immoral means,
said the Doctor, again pleading his own case to his own wife. As far
as I know, it would be hard to find a man of a higher moral feeling
than Mr. Peacocke, or a woman than his wife.
I suppose they ought to have separated when it was found out, said
No, no, he shouted; I hold that they were right. He was right to
cling to her, and she was bound to obey him. Such a fellow as
that,and he crushed the paper up in his hand in his wrath, as though
he were crushing the editor himself,such a fellow as that knows
nothing of morality, nothing of honour, nothing of tenderness. What he
did I would have done, and I'll stick to him through it all in spite of
the Bishop, in spite of the newspapers, and in spite of all the rancour
of all my enemies. Then he got up and walked about the room in such a
fury that his wife did not dare to speak to him. Should he or should he
not answer the newspaper? That was a question which for the first two
days after he had read the article greatly perplexed him. He would have
been very ready to advise any other man what to do in such a case.
Never notice what may be written about you in a newspaper, he would
have said. Such is the advice which a man always gives to his friend.
But when the case comes to himself he finds it sometimes almost
impossible to follow it. What's the use? Who cares what the 'Broughton
Gazette' says? let it pass, and it will be forgotten in three days. If
you stir the mud yourself, it will hang about you for months. It is
just what they want you to do. They cannot go on by themselves, and so
the subject dies away from them; but if you write rejoinders they have
a contributor working for them for nothing, and one whose writing will
be much more acceptable to their readers than any that comes from their
own anonymous scribes. It is very disagreeable to be worried like a rat
by a dog; but why should you go into the kennel and unnecessarily put
yourself in the way of it? The Doctor had said this more than once to
clerical friends who were burning with indignation at something that
had been written about them. But now he was burning himself, and could
hardly keep his fingers from pen and ink.
In this emergency he went to Mr. Puddicombe, not, as he said to
himself, for advice, but in order that he might hear what Mr.
Puddicombe would have to say about it. He did not like Mr. Puddicombe,
but he believed in him,which was more than he quite did with the
Bishop. Mr. Puddicombe would tell him his true thoughts. Mr. Puddicombe
would be unpleasant very likely; but he would be sincere and friendly.
So he went to Mr. Puddicombe. It seems to me, he said, almost
necessary that I should answer such allegations as these for the sake
You are not responsible for the truth of the 'Broughton Gazette,'
said Mr. Puddicombe.
But I am responsible to a certain degree that false reports shall
not be spread abroad as to what is done in my church.
You can contradict nothing that the newspaper has said.
It is implied, said the Doctor, that I allowed Mr. Peacocke to
preach in my church after I knew his marriage was informal.
There is no such statement in the paragraph, said Mr. Puddicombe,
after attentive reperusal of the article. The writer has written in a
hurry, as such writers generally do, but has made no statement such as
you presume. Were you to answer him, you could only do so by an
elaborate statement of the exact facts of the case. It can hardly be
worth your while, in defending yourself against the 'Broughton
Gazette,' to tell the whole story in public of Mr. Peacocke's life and
You would pass it over altogether?
Certainly I would.
And so acknowledge the truth of all that the newspaper says.
I do not know that the paper says anything untrue, said Mr.
Puddicombe, not looking the Doctor in the face, with his eyes turned to
the ground, but evidently with the determination to say what he
thought, however unpleasant it might be. The fact is that you have
fallen into amisfortune.
I don't acknowledge it at all, said the Doctor.
All your friends at any rate will think so, let the story be told
as it may. It was a misfortune that this lady whom you had taken into
your establishment should have proved not to be the gentleman's wife.
When I am taking a walk through the fields and get one of my feet
deeper than usual into the mud, I always endeavour to bear it as well
as I may before the eyes of those who meet me rather than make futile
efforts to get rid of the dirt and look as though nothing had happened.
The dirt, when it is rubbed and smudged and scraped is more palpably
dirt than the honest mud.
I will not admit that I am dirty at all, said the Doctor.
Nor do I, in the case which I describe. I admit nothing; but I let
those who see me form their own opinion. If any one asks me about my
boot I tell him that it is a matter of no consequence. I advise you to
do the same. You will only make the smudges more palpable if you write
to the 'Broughton Gazette.'
Would you say nothing to the boys' parents? asked the Doctor.
There, perhaps, I am not a judge, as I never kept a school;but I
think not. If any father writes to you, then tell him the truth.
If the matter had gone no farther than this, the Doctor might
probably have left Mr. Puddicombe's house with a sense of thankfulness
for the kindness rendered to him; but he did go farther, and
endeavoured to extract from his friend some sense of the injustice
shown by the Bishop, the Stantiloups, the newspaper, and his enemies in
general through the diocese. But here he failed signally. I really
think, Dr. Wortle, that you could not have expected it otherwise.
Expect that people should lie?
I don't know about lies. If people have told lies I have not seen
them or heard them. I don't think the Bishop has lied.
I don't mean the Bishop; though I do think that he has shown a
great want of what I may call liberality towards a clergyman in his
No doubt he thinks you have been wrong. By liberality you mean
sympathy. Why should you expect him to sympathise with your
What have I done wrong?
You have countenanced immorality and deceit in a brother
I deny it, said the Doctor, rising up impetuously from his chair.
Then I do not understand the position, Dr. Wortle. That is all I
To my thinking, Mr. Puddicombe, I never came across a better man
than Mr. Peacocke in my life.
I cannot make comparisons. As to the best man I ever met in my life
I might have to acknowledge that even he had done wrong in certain
circumstances. As the matter is forced upon me, I have to express my
opinion that a great sin was committed both by the man and by the
woman. You not only condone the sin, but declare both by your words and
deeds that you sympathise with the sin as well as with the sinners. You
have no right to expect that the Bishop will sympathise with you in
that;nor can it be but that in such a country as this the voices of
many will be loud against you.
And yours as loud as any, said the Doctor, angrily.
That is unkind and unjust, said Mr. Puddicombe. What I have said,
I have said to yourself, and not to others; and what I have said, I
have said in answer to questions asked by yourself. Then the Doctor
apologised with what grace he could. But when he left the house his
heart was still bitter against Mr. Puddicombe.
He was almost ashamed of himself as he rode back to Bowick,first,
because he had condescended to ask advice, and then because, after
having asked it, he had been so thoroughly scolded. There was no one
whom Mr. Puddicombe would admit to have been wrong in the matter except
the Doctor himself. And yet though he had been so counselled and so
scolded, he had found himself obliged to apologize before he left the
house! And, too, he had been made to understand that he had better not
rush into print. Though the 'Broughton Gazette' should come to the
attack again and again, he must hold his peace. That reference to Mr.
Puddicombe's dirty boot had convinced him. He could see the thoroughly
squalid look of the boot that had been scraped in vain, and appreciate
the wholesomeness of the unadulterated mud. There was more in the man
than he had ever acknowledged before. There was a consistency in him,
and a courage, and an honesty of purpose. But there was no softness of
heart. Had there been a grain of tenderness there, he could not have
spoken so often as he had done of Mrs. Peacocke without expressing some
grief at the unmerited sorrows to which that poor lady had been
His own heart melted with ruth as he thought, while riding home, of
the cruelty to which she had been and was subjected. She was all alone
there, waiting, waiting, waiting, till the dreary days should have gone
by. And if no good news should come, if Mr. Peacocke should return with
tidings that her husband was alive and well, what should she do then?
What would the world then have in store for her? If it were me, said
the Doctor to himself, I'd take her to some other home and treat her
as my wife in spite of all the Puddicombes in creation;in spite of
all the bishops.
The Doctor, though he was a self-asserting and somewhat violent man,
was thoroughly soft-hearted. It is to be hoped that the reader has
already learned as much as that;a man with a kind, tender,
affectionate nature. It would perhaps be unfair to raise a question
whether he would have done as much, been so willing to sacrifice
himself, for a plain woman. Had Mr. Stantiloup, or Sir Samuel Griffin
if he had suddenly come again to life, been found to have prior wives
also living, would the Doctor have found shelter for them in their
ignominy and trouble? Mrs. Wortle, who knew her husband thoroughly, was
sure that he would not have done so. Mrs. Peacocke was a very beautiful
woman, and the Doctor was a man who thoroughly admired beauty. To say
that Mrs. Wortle was jealous would be quite untrue. She liked to see
her husband talking to a pretty woman, because he would be sure to be
in a good humour and sure to make the best of himself. She loved to see
him shine. But she almost wished that Mrs. Peacocke had been ugly,
because there would not then have been so much danger about the school.
I'm just going up to see her, said the Doctor, as soon as he got
home,just to ask her what she wants.
I don't think she wants anything, said Mrs. Wortle, weakly.
Does she not? She must be a very odd woman if she can live there
all day alone, and not want to see a human creature.
I was with her yesterday.
And therefore I will call to-day, said the Doctor, leaving the
room with his hat on.
When he was shown up into the sitting-room he found Mrs. Peacocke
with a newspaper in her hand. He could see at a glance that it was a
copy of the 'Broughton Gazette,' and could see also the length and
outward show of the very article which he had been discussing with Mr.
Puddicombe. Dr. Wortle, she said, if you don't mind, I will go away
But I do mind. Why should you go away?
They have been writing about me in the newspapers.
That was to be expected.
But they have been writing about you.
That was to have been expected also. You don't suppose they can
hurt me? This was a false boast, but in such conversations he was
almost bound to boast.
It is I, then, am hurting you?
You;oh dear, no; not in the least.
But I do. They talk of boys going away from the school.
Boys will go and boys will come, but we run on for ever, said the
I can well understand that it should be so, said Mrs. Peacocke,
passing over the Doctor's parody as though unnoticed; and I perceive
that I ought not to be here.
Where ought you to be, then? said he, intending simply to carry on
Where indeed! There is no where. But wherever I may do least injury
to innocent people,to people who have not been driven by storms out
of the common path of life. For this place I am peculiarly unfit.
Will you find any place where you will be made more welcome?
I think not.
Then let me manage the rest. You have been reading that dastardly
article in the paper. It will have no effect upon me. Look here, Mrs.
Peacocke;then he got up and held her hand as though he were going,
but he remained some moments while he was still speaking to her,still
holding her hand;it was settled between your husband and me, when he
went away, that you should remain here under my charge till his return.
I am bound to him to find a home for you. I think you are as much bound
to obey him,which you can only do by remaining here.
I would wish to obey him, certainly.
You ought to do so,from the peculiar circumstances more
especially. Don't trouble your mind about the school, but do as he
desired. There is no question but that you must do so. Good-bye. Mrs.
Wortle or I will come and see you to-morrow. Then, and not till then,
he dropped her hand.
On the next day Mrs. Wortle did call, though these visits were to
her an intolerable nuisance. But it was certainly better that she
should alternate the visits with the Doctor than that he should go
every day. The Doctor had declared that charity required that one of
them should see the poor woman daily. He was quite willing that they
should perform the task day and day about,but should his wife omit
the duty he must go in his wife's place. What would all the world of
Bowick say if the Doctor were to visit a lady, a young and a beautiful
lady, every day, whereas his wife visited the lady not at all?
Therefore they took it turn about, except that sometimes the Doctor
accompanied his wife. The Doctor had once suggested that his wife
should take the poor lady out in her carriage. But against this even
Mrs. Wortle had rebelled. Under such circumstances as hers she ought
not to be seen driving about, said Mrs. Wortle. The Doctor had
submitted to this, but still thought that the world of Bowick was very
Mrs. Wortle, though she made no complaint, thought that she was used
cruelly in the matter. There had been an intention of going into
Brittany during these summer holidays. The little tour had been almost
promised. But the affairs of Mrs. Peacocke were of such a nature as not
to allow the Doctor to be absent. You and Mary can go, and Henry will
go with you. Henry was a bachelor brother of Mrs. Wortle, who was
always very much at the Doctor's disposal, and at hers. But certainly
she was not going to quit England, not going to quit home at all, while
her husband remained there, and while Mrs. Peacocke was an inmate of
the school. It was not that she was jealous. The idea was absurd. But
she knew very well what Mrs. Stantiloup would say.
CHAPTER II. 'EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS.'
BUT there arose a trouble greater than that occasioned by the
'Broughton Gazette.' There came out an article in a London weekly
newspaper, called 'Everybody's Business,' which nearly drove the Doctor
mad. This was on the last Saturday of the holidays. The holidays had
been commenced in the middle of July, and went on till the end of
August. Things had not gone well at Bowick during these weeks. The
parents of all the four newly-expected boys hadchanged their minds.
One father had discovered that he could not afford it. Another declared
that the mother could not be got to part with her darling quite so soon
as he had expected. A third had found that a private tutor at home
would best suit his purposes. While the fourth boldly said that he did
not like to send his boy because of the fuss which had been made
about Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke. Had this last come alone, the Doctor would
probably have resented such a communication; but following the others
as it did, he preferred the fourth man to any of the other three.
Miserable cowards, he said to himself, as he docketed the letters and
put them away. But the greatest blow of all,of all blows of this
sort,came to him from poor Lady Anne Clifford. She wrote a piteous
letter to him, in which she implored him to allow her to take her two
My dear Doctor Wortle, she said, so many people have been telling
so many dreadful things about this horrible affair, that I do not dare
to send my darling boys back to Bowick again. Uncle Clifford and Lord
Robert both say that I should be very wrong. The Marchioness has said
so much about it that I dare not go against her. You know what my own
feelings are about you and dear Mrs. Wortle; but I am not my own
mistress. They all tell me that it is my first duty to think about the
dear boys' welfare; and of course that is true. I hope you won't be
very angry with me, and will write one line to say that you forgive
me.Yours most sincerely,
In answer to this the Doctor did write as follows;
MY DEAR LADY ANNE,Of course your duty is very plain,to do what
you think best for the boys; and it is natural enough that you should
follow the advice of your relatives and theirs.Faithfully yours,
He could not bring himself to write in a more friendly tone, or to
tell her that he forgave her. His sympathies were not with her. His
sympathies at the present moment were only with Mrs. Peacocke. But then
Lady Anne Clifford was not a beautiful woman, as was Mrs. Peacocke.
This was a great blow. Two other boys had also been summoned away,
making five in all, whose premature departure was owing altogether to
the virulent tongue of that wretched old Mother Shipton. And there had
been four who were to come in the place of four others, who, in the
course of nature, were going to carry on their more advanced studies
elsewhere. Vacancies such as these had always been pre-occupied long
beforehand by ambitious parents. These very four places had been
pre-occupied, but now they were all vacant. There would be nine empty
beds in the school when it met again after the holidays; and the Doctor
well understood that nine beds remaining empty would soon cause others
to be emptied. It is success that creates success, and decay that
produces decay. Gradual decay he knew that he could not endure. He must
shut up his school,give up his employment,and retire altogether
from the activity of life. He felt that if it came to this with him he
must in very truth turn his face to the wall and die. Would it,would
it really come to that, that Mrs. Stantiloup should have altogether
conquered him in the combat that had sprung up between them?
But yet he would not give up Mrs. Peacocke. Indeed, circumstanced as
he was, he could not give her up. He had promised not only her, but her
absent husband, that until his return there should be a home for her in
the school-house. There would be a cowardice in going back from his
word which was altogether foreign to his nature. He could not bring
himself to retire from the fight, even though by doing so he might save
himself from the actual final slaughter which seemed to be imminent. He
thought only of making fresh attacks upon his enemy, instead of
meditating flight from those which were made upon him. As a dog, when
another dog has got him well by the ear, thinks not at all of his own
wound, but only how he may catch his enemy by the lip, so was the
Doctor in regard to Mrs. Stantiloup. When the two Clifford boys were
taken away, he took some joy to himself in remembering that Mr.
Stantiloup could not pay his butcher's bill.
Then, just at the end of the holidays, some good-natured friend sent
to him a copy of 'Everybody's Business.' There is no duty which a man
owes to himself more clearly than that of throwing into the waste-paper
basket, unsearched and even unopened, all newspapers sent to him
without a previously-declared purpose. The sender has either written
something himself which he wishes to force you to read, or else he has
been desirous of wounding you by some ill-natured criticism upon
yourself. 'Everybody's Business' was a paper which, in the natural
course of things, did not find its way into the Bowick Rectory; and the
Doctor, though he was no doubt acquainted with the title, had never
even looked at its columns. It was the purpose of the periodical to
amuse its readers, as its name declared, with the private affairs of
their neighbours. It went boldly about its work, excusing itself by the
assertion that Jones was just as well inclined to be talked about as
Smith was to hear whatever could be said about Jones. As both parties
were served, what could be the objection? It was in the main
good-natured, and probably did most frequently gratify the Joneses,
while it afforded considerable amusement to the listless and numerous
Smiths of the world. If you can't read and understand Jones's speech in
Parliament, you may at any rate have mind enough to interest yourself
with the fact that he never composed a word of it in his own room
without a ring on his finger and a flower in his button-hole. It may
also be agreeable to know that Walker the poet always takes a
mutton-chop and two glasses of sherry at half-past one. 'Everybody's
Business' did this for everybody to whom such excitement was agreeable.
But in managing everybody's business in that fashion, let a writer be
as good-natured as he may and let the principle be ever so well-founded
that nobody is to be hurt, still there are dangers. It is not always
easy to know what will hurt and what will not. And then sometimes there
will come a temptation to be, not spiteful, but specially amusing.
There must be danger, and a writer will sometimes be indiscreet.
Personalities will lead to libels even when the libeller has been most
innocent. It may be that after all the poor poet never drank a glass of
sherry before dinner in his life,it may be that a little
toast-and-water, even with his dinner, gives him all the refreshment
that he wants, and that two glasses of alcoholic mixture in the middle
of the day shall seem, when imputed to him, to convey a charge of
downright inebriety. But the writer has perhaps learned to regard two
glasses of meridian wine as but a moderate amount of sustentation. This
man is much flattered if it be given to be understood of him that he
falls in love with every pretty woman that he sees;whereas another
will think that he has been made subject to a foul calumny by such
'Everybody's Business' fell into some such mistake as this, in that
very amusing article which was written for the delectation of its
readers in reference to Dr. Wortle and Mrs. Peacocke. The 'Broughton
Gazette' no doubt confined itself to the clerical and highly moral
views of the case, and, having dealt with the subject chiefly on behalf
of the Close and the admirers of the Close, had made no allusion to the
fact that Mrs. Peacocke was a very pretty woman. One or two other local
papers had been more scurrilous, and had, with ambiguous and timid
words, alluded to the Doctor's personal admiration for the lady. These,
or the rumours created by them, had reached one of the funniest and
lightest-handed of the contributors to 'Everybody's Business,' and he
had concocted an amusing article,which he had not intended to be at
all libellous, which he had thought to be only funny. He had not
appreciated, probably, the tragedy of the lady's position, or the
sanctity of that of the gentleman. There was comedy in the idea of the
Doctor having sent one husband away to America to look after the other
while he consoled the wife in England. It must be admitted, said the
writer, that the Doctor has the best of it. While one gentleman is
gouging the other,as cannot but be expected,the Doctor will be at
any rate in security, enjoying the smiles of beauty under his own
fig-tree at Bowick. After a hot morning with 'tupto' in the
school, there will be 'amo' in the cool of the evening. And this was
absolutely sent to him by some good-natured friend!
The funny writer obtained a popularity wider probably than he had
expected. His words reached Mrs. Stantiloup, as well as the Doctor, and
were read even in the Bishop's palace. They were quoted even in the
'Broughton Gazette,' not with approbation, but in a high tone of moral
severity. See the nature of the language to which Dr. Wortle's conduct
has subjected the whole of the diocese! That was the tone of the
criticism made by the 'Broughton Gazette' on the article in
'Everybody's Business.' What else has he a right to expect? said Mrs.
Stantiloup to Mrs. Rolland, having made quite a journey into Broughton
for the sake of discussing it at the palace. There she explained it all
to Mrs. Rolland, having herself studied the passage so as fully to
appreciate the virus contained in it. He passes all the morning in the
school whipping the boys himself because he has sent Mr. Peacocke away,
and then amuses himself in the evening by making love to Mr. Peacocke's
wife, as he calls her. Dr. Wortle, when he read and re-read the
article, and when the jokes which were made upon it reached his ears,
as they were sure to do, was nearly maddened by what he called the
heartless iniquity of the world; but his state became still worse when
he received an affectionate but solemn letter from the Bishop warning
him of his danger. An affectionate letter from a bishop must surely be
the most disagreeable missive which a parish clergyman can receive.
Affection from one man to another is not natural in letters. A bishop
never writes affectionately unless he means to reprove severely. When
he calls a clergyman his dear brother in Christ, he is sure to go on
to show that the man so called is altogether unworthy of the name. So
it was with a letter now received at Bowick, in which the Bishop
expressed his opinion that Dr. Wortle ought not to pay any further
visits to Mrs. Peacocke till she should have settled herself down with
one legitimate husband, let that legitimate husband be who it might.
The Bishop did not indeed, at first, make reference by name to
'Everybody's Business,' but he stated that the metropolitan press had
taken up the matter, and that scandal would take place in the diocese
if further cause were given. It is not enough to be innocent, said
the Bishop, but men must know that we are so.
Then there came a sharp and pressing correspondence between the
Bishop and the Doctor, which lasted four or five days. The Doctor,
without referring to any other portion of the Bishop's letter, demanded
to know to what metropolitan newspaper the Bishop had alluded, as, if
any such paper had spread scandalous imputations as to him, the Doctor,
respecting the lady in question, it would be his, the Doctor's, duty to
proceed against that newspaper for libel. In answer to this the Bishop,
in a note much shorter and much less affectionate than his former
letter, said that he did not wish to name any metropolitan newspaper.
But the Doctor would not, of course, put up with such an answer as
this. He wrote very solemnly now, if not affectionately. His lordship
had spoken of 'scandal in the diocese.' The words, said the Doctor,
contained a most grave charge. He did not mean to say that any such
accusation had been made by the Bishop himself; but such accusation
must have been made by some one at least of the London newspapers or
the Bishop would not have been justified in what he has written. Under
such circumstances he, Dr. Wortle, thought himself entitled to demand
from the Bishop the name of the newspaper in question, and the date on
which the article had appeared.
In answer to this there came no written reply, but a copy of the
'Everybody's Business' which the Doctor had already seen. He had, no
doubt, known from the first that it was the funny paragraph about '
tupto' and amo to which the Bishop had referred. But in the
serious steps which he now intended to take, he was determined to have
positive proof from the hands of the Bishop himself. The Bishop had not
directed the pernicious newspaper with his own hands, but if called
upon, could not deny that it had been sent from the palace by his
orders. Having received it, the Doctor wrote back at once as follows;
RIGHT REVEREND AND DEAR LORD,Any word coming from your lordship
to me is of grave importance, as should, I think, be all words coming
from a bishop to his clergy; and they are of special importance when
containing a reproof, whether deserved or undeserved. The scurrilous
and vulgar attack made upon me in the newspaper which your lordship has
sent to me would not have been worthy of my serious notice had it not
been made worthy by your lordship as being the ground on which such a
letter was written to me as that of your lordship's of the 12th
instant. Now it has been invested with so much solemnity by your
lordship's notice of it that I feel myself obliged to defend myself
against it by public action.
If I have given just cause of scandal to the diocese I will retire
both from my living and from my school. But before doing so I will
endeavour to prove that I have done neither. This I can only do by
publishing in a court of law all the circumstances in reference to my
connection with Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke. As regards myself, this, though
necessary, will be very painful. As regards them, I am inclined to
think that the more the truth is known, the more general and the more
generous will be the sympathy felt for their position.
As the newspaper sent to me, no doubt by your lordship's orders,
from the palace, has been accompanied by no letter, it may be necessary
that your lordship should be troubled by a subp[oe]na, so as to prove
that the newspaper alluded to by your lordship is the one against which
my proceedings will be taken. It will be necessary, of course, that I
should show that the libel in question has been deemed important enough
to bring down upon me ecclesiastical rebuke of such a nature as to make
my remaining in the diocese unbearable,unless it is shown that that
rebuke was undeserved.
There was consternation in the palace when this was received. So
stiffnecked a man, so obstinate, so unclerical,so determined to make
much of little! The Bishop had felt himself bound to warn a clergyman
that, for the sake of the Church, he could not do altogether as other
men might. No doubt certain ladies had got around him,especially Lady
Margaret Momson,filling his ears with the horrors of the Doctor's
proceedings. The gentleman who had written the article about the Greek
and the Latin words had seen the truth of the thing at once,so said
Lady Margaret. The Doctor had condoned the offence committed by the
Peacockes because the woman had been beautiful, and was repaying
himself for his mercy by basking in her loveliness. There was no saying
that there was not some truth in this? Mrs. Wortle herself entertained
a feeling of the same kind. It was palpable, on the face of it, to all
except Dr. Wortle himself,and to Mrs. Peacocke. Mrs. Stantiloup, who
had made her way into the palace, was quite convincing on this point.
Everybody knew, she said, that the Doctor went across, and saw the lady
all alone, every day. Everybody did not know that. If everybody had
been accurate, everybody would have asserted that he did this thing
every other day. But the matter, as it was represented to the Bishop by
the ladies, with the assistance of one or two clergymen in the Close,
certainly seemed to justify his lordship's interference.
But this that was threatened was very terrible. There was a
determination about the Doctor which made it clear to the Bishop that
he would be as bad as he said. When he, the Bishop, had spoken of
scandal, of course he had not intended to say that the Doctor's conduct
was scandalous; nor had he said anything of the kind. He had used the
word in its proper sense,and had declared that offence would be
created in the minds of people unless an injurious report were stopped.
It is not enough to be innocent, he had said, but men must know that
we are so. He had declared in that his belief in Dr. Wortle's
innocence. But yet there might, no doubt, be an action for libel
against the newspaper. And when damages came to be considered, much
weight would be placed naturally on the attention which the Bishop had
paid to the article. The result of this was that the Bishop invited the
Doctor to come and spend a night with him in the palace.
The Doctor went, reaching the palace only just before dinner. During
dinner and in the drawing-room Dr. Wortle made himself very pleasant.
He was a man who could always be soft and gentle in a drawing-room. To
see him talking with Mrs. Rolland and the Bishop's daughters, you would
not have thought that there was anything wrong with him. The discussion
with the Bishop came after that, and lasted till midnight. It will be
for the disadvantage of the diocese that this matter should be dragged
into Court,and for the disadvantage of the Church in general that a
clergyman should seem to seek such redress against his bishop. So said
But the Doctor was obdurate. I seek no redress, he said, against
my bishop. I seek redress against a newspaper which has calumniated me.
It is your good opinion, my lord,your good opinion or your ill
opinion which is the breath of my nostrils. I have to refer to you in
order that I may show that this paper, which I should otherwise have
despised, has been strong enough to influence that opinion.
CHAPTER III. 'AMO' IN THE COOL OF
THE Doctor went up to London, and was told by his lawyers that an
action for damages probably would lie. 'Amo' in the cool of the
evening, certainly meant making love. There could be no doubt that
allusion was made to Mrs. Peacocke. To accuse a clergyman of a parish,
and a schoolmaster, of making love to a lady so circumstanced as Mrs.
Peacocke, no doubt was libellous. Presuming that the libel could not be
justified, he would probably succeed. Justified! said the Doctor,
almost shrieking, to his lawyers; I never said a word to the lady in
my life except in pure kindness and charity. Every word might have been
heard by all the world. Nevertheless, had all the world been present,
he would not have held her hand so tenderly or so long as he had done
on a certain occasion which has been mentioned.
They will probably apologise, said the lawyer.
Shall I be bound to accept their apology?
No; not bound; but you would have to show, if you went on with the
action, that the damage complained of was of so grievous a nature that
the apology would not salve it.
The damage has been already done, said the Doctor, eagerly. I
have received the Bishop's rebuke,a rebuke in which he has said that
I have brought scandal upon the diocese.
Rebukes break no bones, said the lawyer. Can you show that it
will serve to prevent boys from coming to your school?
It may not improbably force me to give up the living. I certainly
will not remain there subject to the censure of the Bishop. I do not in
truth want any damages. I would not accept money. I only want to set
myself right before the world. It was then agreed that the necessary
communication should be made by the lawyer to the newspaper
proprietors, so as to put the matter in a proper train for the action.
After this the Doctor returned home, just in time to open his school
with his diminished forces. At the last moment there was another
defaulter, so that there were now no more than twenty pupils. The
school had not been so low as this for the last fifteen years. There
had never been less than eight-and-twenty before, since Mrs. Stantiloup
had first begun her campaign. It was heartbreaking to him. He felt as
though he were almost ashamed to go into his own school. In directing
his housekeeper to send the diminished orders to the tradesmen he was
thoroughly ashamed of himself; in giving his directions to the usher as
to the re-divided classes he was thoroughly ashamed of himself. He
wished that there was no school, and would have been contented now to
give it all up, and to confine Mary's fortune to £10,000 instead of
£20,000, had it not been that he could not bear to confess that he was
beaten. The boys themselves seemed almost to carry their tails between
their legs, as though even they were ashamed of their own school. If,
as was too probable, another half-dozen should go at Christmas, then
the thing must be abandoned. And how could he go on as rector of the
parish with the abominable empty building staring him in the face every
moment of his life.
I hope you are not really going to law, said his wife to him.
I must, my dear. I have no other way of defending my honour.
Go to law with the Bishop?
No, not with the Bishop.
But the Bishop would be brought into it?
Yes; he will certainly be brought into it.
And as an enemy. What I mean is, that he will be brought in very
much against his own will.
Not a doubt about it, said the Doctor. But he will have brought
it altogether upon himself. How he can have condescended to send that
scurrilous newspaper is more than I can understand. That one gentleman
should have so treated another is to me incomprehensible. But that a
bishop should have done so to a clergyman of his own diocese shakes all
my old convictions. There is a vulgarity about it, a meanness of
thinking, an aptitude to suspect all manner of evil, which I cannot
fathom. What! did he really think that I was making love to the woman;
did he doubt that I was treating her and her husband with kindness, as
one human being is bound to treat another in affliction; did he
believe, in his heart, that I sent the man away in order that I might
have an opportunity for a wicked purpose of my own? It is impossible.
When I think of myself and of him, I cannot believe it. That woman who
has succeeded at last in stirring up all this evil against me,even
she could not believe it. Her malice is sufficient to make her conduct
intelligible;but there is no malice in the Bishop's mind against me.
He would infinitely sooner live with me on pleasant terms if he could
justify his doing so to his conscience. He has been stirred to do this
in the execution of some presumed duty. I do not accuse him of malice.
But I do accuse him of a meanness of intellect lower than what I could
have presumed to have been possible in a man so placed. I never thought
him clever; I never thought him great; I never thought him even to be a
gentleman, in the fullest sense of the word; but I did think he was a
man. This is the performance of a creature not worthy to be called so.
Oh, Jeffrey, he did not believe all that.
What did he believe? When he read that article, did he see in it a
true rebuke against a hypocrite, or did he see in it a scurrilous
attack upon a brother clergyman, a neighbour, and a friend? If the
latter, he certainly would not have been instigated by it to write to
me such a letter as he did. He certainly would not have sent the paper
to me had he felt it to contain a foul-mouthed calumny.
He wanted you to know what people of that sort were saying.
Yes; he wanted me to know that, and he wanted me to know also that
the knowledge had come to me from my bishop. I should have thought evil
of any one who had sent me the vile ribaldry. But coming from him, it
fills me with despair.
Despair! she said, repeating his word.
Yes; despair as to the condition of the Church when I see a man
capable of such meanness holding so high place. 'Amo in the cool of
the evening!' That words such as those should have been sent to me by
the Bishop, as showing what the 'metropolitan press' of the day was
saying about my conduct! Of course, my action will be against
him,against the Bishop. I shall be bound to expose his conduct. What
else can I do? There are things which a man cannot bear and live. Were
I to put up with this I must leave the school, leave the parish;nay,
leave the country. There is a stain upon me which I must wash out, or I
cannot remain here.
No, no, no, said his wife, embracing him.
'Amo in the cool of the evening!' And that when, as God is my
judge above me, I have done my best to relieve what has seemed to me
the unmerited sorrows of two poor sufferers! Had it come from Mrs.
Stantiloup, it would, of course, have been nothing. I could have
understood that her malice should have condescended to anything,
however low. But from the Bishop!
How will you be the worse? Who will know?
I know it, said he, striking his breast. I know it. The wound is
here. Do you think that when a coarse libel is welcomed in the Bishop's
palace, and treated there as true, that it will not be spread abroad
among other houses? When the Bishop has thought it necessary to send it
me, what will other people do,others who are not bound to be just and
righteous in their dealings with me as he is? 'Amo in the cool of the
evening!' Then he seized his hat and rushed out into the garden.
The gentleman who had written the paragraph certainly had had no
idea that his words would have been thus effectual. The little joke had
seemed to him to be good enough to fill a paragraph, and it had gone
from him without further thought. Of the Doctor or of the lady he had
conceived no idea whatsoever. Somebody else had said somewhere that a
clergyman had sent a lady's reputed husband away to look for another
husband, while he and the lady remained together. The joke had not been
much of a joke, but it had been enough. It had gone forth, and had now
brought the whole palace of Broughton into grief, and had nearly driven
our excellent Doctor mad! 'Amo' in the cool of the evening! The words
stuck to him like the shirt of Nessus, lacerating his very spirit. That
words such as those should have been sent to him in a solemn sober
spirit by the bishop of his diocese! It never occurred to him that he
had, in truth, been imprudent when paying his visits alone to Mrs.
It was late in the evening, and he wandered away up through the
green rides of a wood the borders of which came down to the glebe
fields. He had been boiling over with indignation while talking to his
wife. But as soon as he was alone he endeavoured,purposely
endeavoured to rid himself for a while of his wrath. This matter was so
important to him that he knew well that it behoved him to look at it
all round in a spirit other than that of anger. He had talked of giving
up his school, and giving up his parish, and had really for a time
almost persuaded himself that he must do so unless he could induce the
Bishop publicly to withdraw the censure which he felt to have been
expressed against him.
And then what would his life be afterwards? His parish and his
school had not been only sources of income to him. The duty also had
been dear, and had been performed on the whole with conscientious
energy. Was everything to be thrown up, and his whole life hereafter be
made a blank to him, because the Bishop had been unjust and
injudicious? He could see that it well might be so, if he were to carry
this contest on. He knew his own temper well enough to be sure that, as
he fought, he would grow hotter in the fight, and that when he was once
in the midst of it nothing would be possible to him but absolute
triumph or absolute annihilation. If once he should succeed in getting
the Bishop into court as a witness, either the Bishop must be crushed
or he himself. The Bishop must be got to say why he had sent that low
ribaldry to a clergyman in his parish. He must be asked whether he had
himself believed it, or whether he had not believed it. He must be made
to say that there existed no slightest reason for believing the
insinuation contained; and then, having confessed so much, he must be
asked why he had sent that letter to Bowick parsonage. If it were false
as well as ribald, slanderous as well as vulgar, malicious as well as
mean, was the sending of it a mode of communication between a bishop
and a clergyman of which he as a bishop could approve? Questions such
as these must be asked him; and the Doctor, as he walked alone,
arranging these questions within his own bosom, putting them into the
strongest language which he could find, almost assured himself that the
Bishop would be crushed in answering them. The Bishop had made a great
mistake. So the Doctor assured himself. He had been entrapped by bad
advisers, and had fallen into a pit. He had gone wrong, and had lost
himself. When cross-questioned, as the Doctor suggested to himself that
he should be cross-questioned, the Bishop would have to own all
this;and then he would be crushed.
But did he really want to crush the Bishop? Had this man been so
bitter an enemy to him that, having him on the hip, he wanted to strike
him down altogether? In describing the man's character to his wife, as
he had done in the fury of his indignation, he had acquitted the man of
malice. He was sure now, in his calmer moments, that the man had not
intended to do him harm. If it were left in the Bishop's bosom, his
parish, his school, and his character would all be made safe to him. He
was sure of that. There was none of the spirit of Mrs. Stantiloup in
the feeling that had prevailed at the palace. The Bishop, who had never
yet been able to be masterful over him, had desired in a mild way to
become masterful. He had liked the opportunity of writing that
affectionate letter. That reference to the metropolitan press had
slipt from him unawares; and then, when badgered for his authority,
when driven to give an instance from the London newspapers, he had sent
the objectionable periodical. He had, in point of fact, made a
mistake;a stupid, foolish mistake, into which a really well-bred man
would hardly have fallen. Ought I to take advantage of it? said the
Doctor to himself when he had wandered for an hour or more alone
through the wood. He certainly did not wish to be crushed himself.
Ought he to be anxious to crush the Bishop because of this error?
As for the paper, he said to himself, walking quicker as his mind
turned to this side of the subject,as for the paper itself, it is
beneath my notice. What is it to me what such a publication, or even
the readers of it, may think of me? As for damages, I would rather
starve than soil my hands with their money. Though it should succeed in
ruining me, I could not accept redress in that shape. And thus having
thought the matter fully over, he returned home, still wrathful, but
with mitigated wrath.
A Saturday was fixed on which he should again go up to London to see
the lawyer. He was obliged now to be particular about his days, as, in
the absence of Mr. Peacocke, the school required his time. Saturday was
a half-holiday, and on that day he could be absent on condition of
remitting the classical lessons in the morning. As he thought of it all
he began to be almost tired of Mr. Peacocke. Nevertheless, on the
Saturday morning, before he started, he called on Mrs. Peacocke,in
company with his wife,and treated her with all his usual cordial
kindness. Mrs. Wortle, he said, is going up to town with me; but we
shall be home to-night, and we will see you on Monday if not
to-morrow. Mrs. Wortle was going with him, not with the view of being
present at his interview with the lawyer, which she knew would not be
allowed, but on the pretext of shopping. Her real reason for making the
request to be taken up to town was, that she might use the last moment
possible in mitigating her husband's wrath against the Bishop.
I have seen one of the proprietors and the editor, said the
lawyer, and they are quite willing to apologise. I really do believe
they are very sorry. The words had been allowed to pass without being
weighed. Nothing beyond an innocent joke was intended.
I dare say. It seems innocent enough to them. If soot be thrown at
a chimney-sweeper the joke is innocent, but very offensive when it is
thrown at you.
They are quite aware that you have ground to complain. Of course
you can go on if you like. The fact that they have offered to apologise
will no doubt be a point in their favour. Nevertheless you would
probably get a verdict.
We could bring the Bishop into court?
I think so. You have got his letter speaking of the 'metropolitan
It is for you to think, Dr. Wortle, whether there would not be a
feeling against you among clergymen.
Of course there will. Men in authority always have public sympathy
with them in this country. No man more rejoices that it should be so
than I do. But not the less is it necessary that now and again a man
shall make a stand in his own defence. He should never have sent me
Here, said the lawyer, is the apology they propose to insert if
you approve of it. They will also pay my bill,which, however, will
not, I am sorry to say, be very heavy. Then the lawyer handed to the
Doctor a slip of paper, on which the following words were written;
Our attention has been called to a notice which was made in our
impression of the ultimo on the conduct of a clergyman in the diocese
of Broughton. A joke was perpetrated which, we are sorry to find, has
given offence where certainly no offence was intended. We have since
heard all the details of the case to which reference was made, and are
able to say that the conduct of the clergyman in question has deserved
neither censure nor ridicule. Actuated by the purest charity he has
proved himself a sincere friend to persons in great trouble.
They'll put in your name if you wish it, said the lawyer, or
alter it in any way you like, so that they be not made to eat too much
I do not want them to alter it, said the Doctor, sitting
thoughtfully. Their eating dirt will do no good to me. They are
nothing to me. It is the Bishop. Then, as though he were not thinking
of what he did, he tore the paper and threw the fragments down on the
floor. They are nothing to me.
You will not accept their apology? said the lawyer.
Oh yes;or rather, it is unnecessary. You may tell them that I
have changed my mind, and that I will ask for no apology. As far as the
paper is concerned, it will be better to let the thing die a natural
death. I should never have troubled myself about the newspaper if the
Bishop had not sent it to me. Indeed I had seen it before the Bishop
sent it, and thought little or nothing of it. Animals will after their
kind. The wasp stings, and the polecat stinks, and the lion tears its
prey asunder. Such a paper as that of course follows its own bent. One
would have thought that a bishop would have done the same.
I may tell them that the action is withdrawn.
Certainly; certainly. Tell them also that they will oblige me by
putting in no apology. And as for your bill, I would prefer to pay it
myself. I will exercise no anger against them. It is not they who in
truth have injured me. As he returned home he was not altogether
happy, feeling that the Bishop would escape him; but he made his wife
happy by telling her the decision to which he had come.
CHAPTER IV. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.
THE absence of Dr. and Mrs. Wortle was peculiarly unfortunate on
that afternoon, as a visitor rode over from a distance to make a
call,a visitor whom they both would have been very glad to welcome,
but of whose coming Mrs. Wortle was not so delighted to hear when she
was told by Mary that he had spent two or three hours at the Rectory.
Mrs. Wortle began to think whether the visitor could have known of her
intended absence and the Doctor's. That Mary had not known that the
visitor was coming she was quite certain. Indeed she did not really
suspect the visitor, who was one too ingenuous in his nature to
preconcert so subtle and so wicked a scheme. The visitor, of course,
had been Lord Carstairs.
Was he here long? asked Mrs. Wortle anxiously.
Two or three hours, mamma. He rode over from Buttercup where he is
staying, for a cricket match, and of course I got him some lunch.
I should hope so, said the Doctor. But I didn't think that
Carstairs was so fond of the Momson lot as all that.
Mrs. Wortle at once doubted the declared purpose of this visit to
Buttercup. Buttercup was more than half-way between Carstairs and
And then we had a game of lawn-tennis. Talbot and Monk came through
to make up sides. So much Mary told at once, but she did not tell more
till she was alone with her mother.
Young Carstairs had certainly not come over on the sly, as we may
call it, but nevertheless there had been a project in his mind, and
fortune had favoured him. He was now about nineteen, and had been
treated for the last twelve months almost as though he had been a man.
It had seemed to him that there was no possible reason why he should
not fall in love as well as another. Nothing more sweet, nothing more
lovely, nothing more lovable than Mary Wortle had he ever seen. He had
almost made up his mind to speak on two or three occasions before he
left Bowick; but either his courage or the occasion had failed him.
Once, as he was walking home with her from church, he had said one
word;but it had amounted to nothing. She had escaped from him before
she was bound to understand what he meant. He did not for a moment
suppose that she had understood anything. He was only too much afraid
that she regarded him as a mere boy. But when he had been away from
Bowick two months he resolved that he would not be regarded as a mere
boy any longer. Therefore he took an opportunity of going to Buttercup,
which he certainly would not have done for the sake of the Momsons or
for the sake of the cricket.
He ate his lunch before he said a word, and then, with but poor
grace, submitted to the lawn-tennis with Talbot and Monk. Even to his
youthful mind it seemed that Talbot and Monk were brought in on
purpose. They were both of them boys he had liked, but he hated them
now. However, he played his game, and when that was over, managed to
get rid of them, sending them back through the gate to the
I think I must say good-bye now, said Mary, because there are
ever so many things in the house which I have got to do.
I am going almost immediately, said the young lord.
Papa will be so sorry not to have seen you. This had been said
once or twice before.
I came over, he said, on purpose to see you.
They were now standing on the middle of the lawn, and Mary had
assumed a look which intended to signify that she expected him to go.
He knew the place well enough to get his own horse, or to order the
groom to get it for him. But instead of that, he stood his ground, and
now declared his purpose.
To see me, Lord Carstairs!
Yes, Miss Wortle. And if the Doctor had been here, or your mother,
I should have told them.
Have told them what? she asked. She knew; she felt sure that she
knew; and yet she could not refrain from the question.
I have come here to ask if you can love me.
It was a most decided way of declaring his purpose, and one which
made Mary feel that a great difficulty was at once thrown upon her. She
really did not know whether she could love him or not. Why shouldn't
she have been able to love him? Was it not natural enough that she
should be able? But she knew that she ought not to love him, whether
able or not. There were various reasons which were apparent enough to
her though it might be very difficult to make him see them. He was
little more than a boy, and had not yet finished his education. His
father and mother would not expect him to fall in love, at any rate
till he had taken his degree. And they certainly would not expect him
to fall in love with the daughter of his tutor. She had an idea that,
circumstanced as she was, she was bound by loyalty both to her own
father and to the lad's father not to be able to love him. She thought
that she would find it easy enough to say that she did not love him;
but that was not the question. As for being able to love him,she
could not answer that at all.
Lord Carstairs, she said, severely, you ought not to have come
here when papa and mamma are away.
I didn't know they were away. I expected to find them here.
But they ain't. And you ought to go away.
Is that all you can say to me?
I think it is. You know you oughtn't to talk to me like that. Your
own papa and mamma would be angry if they knew it.
Why should they be angry? Do you think that I shall not tell them?
I am sure they would disapprove it altogether, said Mary. In fact
it is all nonsense, and you really must go away.
Then she made a decided attempt to enter the house by the
drawing-room window, which opened out on a gravel terrace.
But he stopped her, standing boldly by the window. I think you
ought to give me an answer, Mary, he said.
I have; and I cannot say anything more. You must let me go in.
If they say that it's all right at Carstairs, then will you love
They won't say that it's all right; and papa won't think that it's
right. It's very wrong. You haven't been to Oxford yet, and you'll have
to remain there for three years. I think it's very ill-natured of you
to come and talk to me like this. Of course it means nothing. You are
only a boy, but yet you ought to know better.
It does mean something. It means a great deal. As for being a boy,
I am older than you are, and have quite as much right to know my own
Hereupon she took advantage of some little movement in his position,
and, tripping by him hastily, made good her escape into the house.
Young Carstairs, perceiving that his occasion for the present was over,
went into the yard and got upon his horse. He was by no means contented
with what he had done, but still he thought that he must have made her
understand his purpose.
Mary, when she found herself safe within her own room, could not
refrain from asking herself the question which her lover had asked her.
Could she love him? She didn't see any reason why she couldn't love
him. It would be very nice, she thought, to love him. He was
sweet-tempered, handsome, bright, and thoroughly good-humoured; and
then his position in the world was very high. Not for a moment did she
tell herself that she would love him. She did not understand all the
differences in the world's ranks quite as well as did her father, but
still she felt that because of his rank,because of his rank and his
youth combined,she ought not to allow herself to love him. There was
no reason why the son of a peer should not marry the daughter of a
clergyman. The peer and the clergyman might be equally gentlemen. But
young Carstairs had been there in trust. Lord Bracy had sent him there
to be taught Latin and Greek, and had a right to expect that he should
not be encouraged to fall in love with his tutor's daughter. It was not
that she did not think herself good enough to be loved by any young
lord, but that she was too good to bring trouble on the people who had
trusted her father. Her father would despise her were he to hear that
she had encouraged the lad, or as some might say, had entangled him.
She did not know whether she should not have spoken to Lord Carstairs
more decidedly. But she could, at any rate, comfort herself with the
assurance that she had given him no encouragement. Of course she must
tell it all to her mother, but in doing so could declare positively
that she had given the young man no encouragement.
It was very unfortunate that Lord Carstairs should have come just
when I was away, said Mrs. Wortle to her daughter as soon as they were
Yes, mamma; it was.
And so odd. I haven't been away from home any day all the summer
He expected to find you.
Of course he did. Had he anything particular to say!
He had? What was it, my dear?
I was very much surprised, mamma, but I couldn't help it. He asked
Asked you what, Mary?
Oh, mamma! Here she knelt down and hid her face in her mother's
Oh, my dear, this is very bad;very bad indeed.
It needn't be bad for you, mamma; or for papa.
Is it bad for you, my child?
No, mamma; except of course that I am sorry that it should be so.
What did you say to him?
Of course I told him that it was impossible. He is only a boy, and
I told him so.
You made him no promise.
No, mamma; no! A promise! Oh dear no! Of course it is impossible. I
knew that. I never dreamed of anything of the kind; but he said it all
there out on the lawn.
Had he come on purpose?
Yes;so he said. I think he had. But he will go to Oxford, and
will of course forget it.
He is such a nice boy, said Mrs. Wortle, who, in all her anxiety,
could not but like the lad the better for having fallen in love with
Yes, mamma; he is. I always liked him. But this is quite out of the
question. What would his papa and mamma say?
It would be very dreadful to have a quarrel, wouldn't it,and just
at present, when there are so many things to trouble your papa. Though
Mrs. Wortle was quite honest and true in the feeling she had expressed
as to the young lord's visit, yet she was alive to the glory of having
a young lord for her son-in-law.
Of course it is out of the question, mamma. It has never occurred
to me for a moment as otherwise. He has got to go to Oxford and take
his degree before he thinks of such a thing. I shall be quite an old
woman by that time, and he will have forgotten me. You may be sure,
mamma, that whatever I did say to him was quite plain. I wish you could
have been here and heard it all, and seen it all.
My darling, said the mother, embracing her, I could not believe
you more thoroughly even though I saw it all, and heard it all.
That night Mrs. Wortle felt herself constrained to tell the whole
story to her husband. It was indeed impossible for her to keep any
secret from her husband. When Mary, in her younger years, had torn her
frock or cut her finger, that was always told to the Doctor. If a
gardener was seen idling his time, or a housemaid flirting with the
groom, that certainly would be told to the Doctor. What comfort does a
woman get out of her husband unless she may be allowed to talk to him
about everything? When it had been first proposed that Lord Carstairs
should come into the house as a private pupil she had expressed her
fear to the Doctor,because of Mary. The Doctor had ridiculed her
fears, and this had been the result. Of course she must tell the
Doctor. Oh, dear, she said, what do you think has happened while we
were up in London?
Carstairs was here.
Oh, yes; he was here. He came on purpose to make a regular
declaration of love to Mary.
But he did, Jeffrey.
How do you know he came on purpose.
He told her so.
I did not think the boy had so much spirit in him, said the
Doctor. This was a way of looking at it which Mrs. Wortle had not
expected. Her husband seemed rather to approve than otherwise of what
had been done. At any rate, he had expressed none of that loud horror
which she had expected. Nevertheless, continued the Doctor, he's a
stupid fool for his pains.
I don't know that he is a fool, said Mrs. Wortle.
Yes; he is. He is not yet twenty, and he has all Oxford before him.
How did Mary behave?
Like an angel, said Mary's mother.
That's of course. You and I are bound to believe so. But what did
she do, and what did she say?
She told him that it was simply impossible.
So it is,I'm afraid. She at any rate was bound to give him no
She gave him none. She feels quite strongly that it is altogether
impossible. What would Lord Bracy say?
If Carstairs were but three or four years older, said the Doctor,
proudly, Lord Bracy would have much to be thankful for in the
attachment on the part of his son, if it were met by a return of
affection on the part of my daughter. What better could he want?
But he is only a boy, said Mrs. Wortle.
No; that's where it is. And Mary was quite right to tell him that
it is impossible. It is impossible. And I trust, for her sake, that his
words have not touched her young heart.
Oh, no, said Mrs. Wortle.
Had it been otherwise how could we have been angry with the child?
Now this did seem to the mother to be very much in contradiction to
that which the Doctor had himself said when she had whispered to him
that Lord Carstairs's coming might be dangerous. I was afraid of it,
as you know, said she.
His character has altered during the last twelve months.
I suppose when boys grow into men it is so with them.
Not so quickly, said the Doctor. A boy when he leaves Eton is not
generally thinking of these things.
A boy at Eton is not thrown into such society, said Mrs. Wortle.
I suppose his being here and seeing Mary every day has done it.
I don't think she is poor at all, said Mary's mother.
I am afraid she must not dream of her young lover.
Of course she will not dream of him. She has never entertained any
idea of the kind. There never was a girl with less nonsense of that
kind than Mary. When Lord Carstairs spoke to her to-day I do not
suppose she had thought about him more than any other boy that has been
But she will think now.
No;not in the least. She knows it is impossible.
Nevertheless she will think about it. And so will you.
Yes,why not? Why should you be different from other mothers? Why
should I not think about it as other fathers might do? It is
impossible. I wish it were not. For Mary's sake, I wish he were three
or four years older. But he is as he is, and we know that it is
impossible. Nevertheless, it is natural that she should think about
him. I only hope that she will not think about him too much. So saying
he closed the conversation for that night.
Mary did not think very much about it in such a way as to create
disappointment. She at once realised the impossibilities, so far as to
perceive that the young lord was the top brick of the chimney as far as
she was concerned. The top brick of the chimney may be very desirable,
but one doesn't cry for it, because it is unattainable. Therefore Mary
did not in truth think of loving her young lover. He had been to her a
very nice boy; and so he was still; that;that, and nothing more. Then
had come this little episode in her life which seemed to lend it a
gentle tinge of romance. But had she inquired of her bosom she would
have declared that she had not been in love. With her mother there was
perhaps something of regret. But it was exactly the regret which may be
felt in reference to the top brick. It would have been so sweet had it
been possible; but then it was so evidently impossible.
With the Doctor the feeling was somewhat different. It was not quite
so manifest to him that this special brick was altogether unattainable,
nor even that it was quite at the top of the chimney. There was no
reason why his daughter should not marry an earl's son and heir. No
doubt the lad had been confided to him in trust. No doubt it would have
been his duty to have prevented anything of the kind, had anything of
the kind seemed to him to be probable. Had there been any moment in
which the duty had seemed to him to be a duty, he would have done it,
even though it had been necessary to caution the Earl to take his son
away from Bowick. But there had been nothing of the kind. He had acted
in the simplicity of his heart, and this had been the result. Of course
it was impossible. He acknowledged to himself that it was so, because
of the necessity of those Oxford studies and those long years which
would be required for the taking of the degree. But to his thinking
there was no other ground for saying that it was impossible. The thing
must stand as it was. If this youth should show himself to be more
constant than other youths,which was not probable,and if, at the
end of three or four years, Mary should not have given her heart to any
other lover,which was also improbable,why, then, it might come to
pass that he should some day find himself father-in-law to the future
Earl Bracy. Though Mary did not think of it, nor Mrs. Wortle, he
thought of it,so as to give an additional interest to these disturbed
CHAPTER V. CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE
THE possible glory of Mary's future career did not deter the Doctor
from thinking of his troubles,and especially that trouble with the
Bishop which was at present heavy on his hand. He had determined not to
go on with his action, and had so resolved because he had felt, in his
more sober moments, that in bringing the Bishop to disgrace, he would
be as a bird soiling its own nest. It was that conviction, and not any
idea as to the sufficiency or insufficiency, as to the truth or
falsehood, of the editor's apology, which had actuated him. As he had
said to his lawyer, he did not in the least care for the newspaper
people. He could not condescend to be angry with them. The abominable
joke as to the two verbs was altogether in their line. As coming from
them, they were no more to him than the ribald words of boys which he
might hear in the street. The offence to him had come from the
Bishop,and he resolved to spare the Bishop because of the Church. But
yet something must be done. He could not leave the man to triumph over
him. If nothing further were done in the matter, the Bishop would have
triumphed over him. As he could not bring himself to expose the Bishop,
he must see whether he could not reach the man by means of his own
power of words;so he wrote as follows;
MY DEAR LORD,I have to own that this letter is written with
feelings which have been very much lacerated by what your lordship has
done. I must tell you, in the first place, that I have abandoned my
intention of bringing an action against the proprietors of the
scurrilous newspaper which your lordship sent me, because I am
unwilling to bring to public notice the fact of a quarrel between a
clergyman of the Church of England and his Bishop. I think that,
whatever may be the difficulty between us, it should be arranged
without bringing down upon either of us adverse criticism from the
public press. I trust your lordship will appreciate my feeling in this
matter. Nothing less strong could have induced me to abandon what seems
to be the most certain means by which I could obtain redress.
I had seen the paper which your lordship sent to me before it came
to me from the palace. The scurrilous, unsavoury, and vulgar words
which it contained did not matter to me much. I have lived long enough
to know that, let a man's own garments be as clean as they may be, he
cannot hope to walk through the world without rubbing against those who
are dirty. It was only when those words came to me from your
lordship,when I found that the expressions which I found in that
paper were those to which your lordship had before alluded as being
criticisms on my conduct in the metropolitan press,criticisms so
grave as to make your lordship think it necessary to admonish me
respecting them,it was only then, I say, that I considered them to be
worthy of my notice. When your lordship, in admonishing me, found it
necessary to refer me to the metropolitan press, and to caution me to
look to my conduct because the metropolitan press had expressed its
dissatisfaction, it was, I submit to you, natural for me to ask you
where I should find that criticism which had so strongly affected your
lordship's judgment. There are perhaps half a score of newspapers
published in London whose animadversions I, as a clergyman, might have
reason to respect,even if I did not fear them. Was I not justified in
thinking that at least some two or three of these had dealt with my
conduct, when your lordship held the metropolitan press in terrorem
over my head? I applied to your lordship for the names of these
newspapers, and your lordship, when pressed for a reply, sent to
methat copy of 'Everybody's Business.'
I ask your lordship to ask yourself whether, so far, I have
overstated anything. Did not that paper come to me as the only sample
you were able to send me of criticism made on my conduct in the
metropolitan press? No doubt my conduct was handled there in very
severe terms. No doubt the insinuations, if true,or if of such kind
as to be worthy of credit with your lordship, whether true or
false,were severe, plain-spoken, and damning. The language was so
abominable, so vulgar, so nauseous, that I will not trust myself to
repeat it. Your lordship, probably, when sending me one copy, kept
another. Now, I must ask your lordship,and I must beg of your
lordship for a reply,whether the periodical itself has such a
character as to justify your lordship in founding a complaint against a
clergyman on its unproved statements, and also whether the facts of the
case, as they were known to you, were not such as to make your lordship
well aware that the insinuations were false. Before these ribald words
were printed, your lordship had heard all the facts of the case from my
own lips. Your lordship had known me and my character for, I think, a
dozen years. You know the character that I bear among others as a
clergyman, a schoolmaster, and a gentleman. You have been aware how
great is the friendship I have felt for the unfortunate gentleman whose
career is in question, and for the lady who bears his name. When you
read those abominable words did they induce your lordship to believe
that I had been guilty of the inexpressible treachery of making love to
the poor lady whose misfortunes I was endeavouring to relieve, and of
doing so almost in my wife's presence?
I defy you to have believed them. Men are various, and their minds
work in different ways,but the same causes will produce the same
effects. You have known too much of me to have thought it possible that
I should have done as I was accused. I should hold a man to be no less
than mad who could so have believed, knowing as much as your lordship
knew. Then how am I to reconcile to my idea of your lordship's
character the fact that you should have sent me that paper? What am I
to think of the process going on in your lordship's mind when your
lordship could have brought yourself to use a narrative which you must
have known to be false, made in a newspaper which you knew to be
scurrilous, as the ground for a solemn admonition to a clergyman of my
age and standing? You wrote to me, as is evident from the tone and
context of your lordship's letter, because you found that the
metropolitan press had denounced my conduct. And this was the proof you
sent to me that such had been the case!
It occurred to me at once that, as the paper in question had vilely
slandered me, I could redress myself by an action of law, and that I
could prove the magnitude of the evil done me by showing the grave
importance which your lordship had attached to the words. In this way I
could have forced an answer from your lordship to the questions which I
now put to you. Your lordship would have been required to state on oath
whether you believed those insinuations or not; and, if so, why you
believed them. On grounds which I have already explained I have thought
it improper to do so. Having abandoned that course, I am unable to
force any answer from your lordship. But I appeal to your sense of
honour and justice whether you should not answer my questions;and I
also ask from your lordship an ample apology, if, on consideration, you
shall feel that you have done me an undeserved injury.I have the
honour to be, my lord, your lordship's most obedient, very humble
He was rather proud of this letter as he read it to himself, and yet
a little afraid of it, feeling that he had addressed his Bishop in very
strong language. It might be that the Bishop should send him no answer
at all, or some curt note from his chaplain in which it would be
explained that the tone of the letter precluded the Bishop from
answering it. What should he do then? It was not, he thought,
improbable, that the curt note from the chaplain would be all that he
might receive. He let the letter lie by him for four-and-twenty hours
after he had composed it, and then determined that not to send it would
be cowardly. He sent it, and then occupied himself for an hour or two
in meditating the sort of letter he would write to the Bishop when that
curt reply had come from the chaplain.
That further letter must be one which must make all amicable
intercourse between him and the Bishop impossible. And it must be so
written as to be fit to meet the public eye if he should be ever driven
by the Bishop's conduct to put it in print. A great wrong had been done
him;a great wrong! The Bishop had been induced by influences which
should have had no power over him to use his episcopal rod and to smite
him,him Dr. Wortle! He would certainly show the Bishop that he should
have considered beforehand whom he was about to smite. 'Amo' in the
cool of the evening! And that given as an expression of opinion from
the metropolitan press in general! He had spared the Bishop as far as
that action was concerned, but he would not spare him should he be
driven to further measures by further injustice. In this way he lashed
himself again into a rage. Whenever those odious words occurred to him
he was almost mad with anger against the Bishop.
When the letter had been two days sent, so that he might have had a
reply had a reply come to him by return of post, he put a copy of it
into his pocket and rode off to call on Mr. Puddicombe. He had thought
of showing it to Mr. Puddicombe before he sent it, but his mind had
revolted from such submission to the judgment of another. Mr.
Puddicombe would no doubt have advised him not to send it, and then he
would have been almost compelled to submit to such advice. But the
letter was gone now. The Bishop had read it, and no doubt re-read it
two or three times. But he was anxious that some other clergyman should
see it,that some other clergyman should tell him that, even if
inexpedient, it had still been justified. Mr. Puddicombe had been made
acquainted with the former circumstances of the affair; and now, with
his mind full of his own injuries, he went again to Mr. Puddicombe.
It is just the sort of letter that you would write, as a matter of
course, said Mr. Puddicombe.
Then I hope that you think it is a good letter?
Good as being expressive, and good also as being true, I do think
But not good as being wise?
Had I been in your case I should have thought it unnecessary. But
you are self-demonstrative, and cannot control your feelings.
I do not quite understand you.
What did it all matter? The Bishop did a foolish thing in talking
of the metropolitan press. But he had only meant to put you on your
I do not choose to be put on my guard in that way, said the
No; exactly. And he should have known you better than to suppose
you would bear it. Then you pressed him, and he found himself compelled
to send you that stupid newspaper. Of course he had made a mistake. But
don't you think that the world goes easier when mistakes are forgiven?
I did forgive it, as far as foregoing the action.
That, I think, was a matter of course. If you had succeeded in
putting the poor Bishop into a witness-box you would have had every
sensible clergyman in England against you. You felt that yourself.
Not quite that, said the Doctor.
Something very near it; and therefore you withdrew. But you cannot
get the sense of the injury out of your mind, and, therefore, you have
persecuted the Bishop with that letter.
He will think so. And so should I, had it been addressed to me. As
I said before, all your arguments are true,only I think you have made
so much more of the matter than was necessary! He ought not to have
sent you that newspaper, nor ought he to have talked about the
metropolitan press. But he did you no harm; nor had he wished to do you
harm;and perhaps it might have been as well to pass it over.
Could you have done so?
I cannot imagine myself in such a position. I could not, at any
rate, have written such a letter as that, even if I would; and should
have been afraid to write it if I could. I value peace and quiet too
greatly to quarrel with my bishop,unless, indeed, he should attempt
to impose upon my conscience. There was nothing of that kind here. I
think I should have seen that he had made a mistake, and have passed it
The Doctor, as he rode home, was, on the whole, better pleased with
his visit than he had expected to be. He had been told that his letter
was argumentative and true, and that in itself had been much.
At the end of the week he received a reply from the Bishop, and
found that it was not, at any rate, written by the chaplain.
MY DEAR DR. WORTLE, said the reply; your letter has pained me
exceedingly, because I find that I have caused you a degree of
annoyance which I am certainly very sorry I have inflicted. When I
wrote to you in my letter,which I certainly did not intend as an
admonition,about the metropolitan press, I only meant to tell you,
for your own information, that the newspapers were making reference to
your affair with Mr. Peacocke. I doubt whether I knew anything of the
nature of 'Everybody's Business.' I am not sure even whether I had ever
actually read the words to which you object so strongly. At any rate,
they had had no weight with me. If I had read them,which I probably
did very cursorily,they did not rest on my mind at all when I wrote
to you. My object was to caution you, not at all as to your own
conduct, but as to others who were speaking evil of you.
As to the action of which you spoke so strongly when I had the
pleasure of seeing you here, I am very glad that you abandoned it, for
your own sake and for mine, and the sake of all us generally to whom
the peace of the Church is dear.
As to the nature of the language in which you have found yourself
compelled to write to me, I must remind you that it is unusual as
coming from a clergyman to a bishop. I am, however, ready to admit that
the circumstances of the case were unusual, and I can understand that
you should have felt the matter severely. Under these circumstances, I
trust that the affair may now be allowed to rest without any breach of
those kind feelings which have hitherto existed between us.Yours very
It is a beastly letter, the Doctor said to himself, when he had
read it, a beastly letter; and then he put it away without saying any
more about it to himself or to any one else. It had appeared to him to
be a beastly letter, because it had exactly the effect which the
Bishop had intended. It did not eat humble pie; it did not give him
the full satisfaction of a complete apology; and yet it left no room
for a further rejoinder. It had declared that no censure had been
intended, and expressed sorrow that annoyance had been caused. But yet
to the Doctor's thinking it was an unmanly letter. Not intended as an
admonition! Then why had the Bishop written in that severely
affectionate and episcopal style? He had intended it as an admonition,
and the excuse was false. So thought the Doctor, and comprised all his
criticism in the one epithet given above. After that he put the letter
away, and determined to think no more about it.
Will you come in and see Mrs. Peacocke after lunch? the Doctor
said to his wife the next morning. They paid their visit together; and
after that, when the Doctor called on the lady, he was generally
accompanied by Mrs. Wortle. So much had been effected by 'Everybody's
Business,' and its abominations.
CHAPTER VI. THE JOURNEY.
WE will now follow Mr. Peacocke for a while upon his journey. He
began his close connection with Robert Lefroy by paying the man's bill
at the inn before he left Broughton, and after that found himself
called upon to defray every trifle of expense incurred as they went
along. Lefroy was very anxious to stay for a week in town. It would, no
doubt, have been two weeks or a month had his companion given way;but
on this matter a line of conduct had been fixed by Mr. Peacocke in
conjunction with the Doctor from which he never departed. If you will
not be guided by me, I will go without you, Mr. Peacocke had said,
and leave you to follow your own devices on your own resources.
And what can you do by yourself?
Most probably I shall be able to learn all that I want to learn. It
may be that I shall fail to learn anything either with you or without
you. I am willing to make the attempt with you if you will come along
at once;but I will not be delayed for a single day. I shall go
whether you go or stay. Then Lefroy had yielded, and had agreed to be
put on board a German steamer starting from Southampton to New York.
But an hour or two before the steamer started he made a revelation.
This is all gammon, Peacocke, he said, when on board.
What is all gammon?
My taking you across to the States.
Why is it gammon?
Because Ferdinand died more than a year since;almost immediately
after you took her off.
Why did you not tell me that at Bowick?
Because you were so uncommon uncivil. Was it likely I should have
told you that when you cut up so uncommon rough?
An honest man would have told me the very moment that he saw me.
When one's poor brother has died, one does not blurt it like that
all at once.
Your poor brother!
Why not my poor brother as well as anybody else's? And her husband
too! How was I to let it out in that sort of way? At any rate he is
dead as Julius Cæsar. I saw him buried,right away at 'Frisco.
Did he go to San Francisco?
Yes,we both went there right away from St. Louis. When we got up
to St. Louis we were on our way with them other fellows. Nobody meant
to disturb you; but Ferdy got drunk, and would go and have a spree, as
he called it.
A spree, indeed!
But we were off by train to Kansas at five o'clock the next
morning. The devil wouldn't keep him sober, and he died of D.T. the day
after we got him to 'Frisco. So there's the truth of it, and you
needn't go to New York at all. Hand me the dollars. I'll be off to the
States; and you can go back and marry the widow,or leave her alone,
just as you please.
They were down below when this story was told, sitting on their
portmanteaus in the little cabin in which they were to sleep. The
prospect of the journey certainly had no attraction for Mr. Peacocke.
His companion was most distasteful to him; the ship was abominable; the
expense was most severe. How glad would he avoid it all if it were
possible! You know it all as well as if you were there, said Robert,
and were standing on his grave. He did believe it. The man in all
probability had at the last moment told the true story. Why not go back
and be married again? The Doctor could be got to believe it.
But then if it were not true? It was only for a moment that he
doubted. I must go to 'Frisco all the same, he said.
Because I must in truth stand upon his grave. I must have proof
that he has been buried there.
Then you may go by yourself, said Robert Lefroy. He had said this
more than once or twice already, and had been made to change his tone.
He could go or stay as he pleased, but no money would be paid to him
until Peacocke had in his possession positive proof of Ferdinand
Lefroy's death. So the two made their unpleasant journey to New York
together. There was complaining on the way, even as to the amount of
liquor that should be allowed. Peacocke would pay for nothing that he
did not himself order. Lefroy had some small funds of his own, and was
frequently drunk while on board. There were many troubles; but still
they did at last reach New York.
Then there was a great question whether they would go on direct from
thence to San Francisco, or delay themselves three or four days by
going round by St. Louis. Lefroy was anxious to go to St. Louis,and
on that account Peacocke was almost resolved to take tickets direct
through for San Francisco. Why should Lefroy wish to go to St. Louis?
But then, if the story were altogether false, some truth might be
learned at St. Louis; and it was at last decided that thither they
would go. As they went on from town to town, changing carriages first
at one place and then at another, Lefroy's manner became worse and
worse, and his language more and more threatening. Peacocke was asked
whether he thought a man was to be brought all that distance without
being paid for his time. You will be paid when you have performed your
part of the bargain, said Peacocke.
I'll see some part of the money at St. Louis, said Lefroy, or
I'll know the reason why. A thousand dollars! What are a thousand
dollars? Hand out the money. This was said as they were sitting
together in a corner or separated portion of the smoking-room of a
little hotel at which they were waiting for a steamer which was to take
them down the Mississippi to St. Louis. Peacocke looked round and saw
that they were alone.
I shall hand out nothing till I see your brother's grave, said
Not a dollar! What is the good of your going on like that? You
ought to know me well enough by this time.
But you do not know me well enough. You must have taken me for a
very tame sort o' critter.
Perhaps I have.
Maybe you'll change your mind.
Perhaps I shall. It is quite possible that you should murder me.
But you will not get any money by that.
Murder you. You ain't worth murdering. Then they sat in silence,
waiting another hour and a half till the steamboat came. The reader
will understand that it must have been a bad time for Mr. Peacocke.
They were on the steamer together for about twenty-four hours,
during which Lefroy hardly spoke a word. As far as his companion could
understand he was out of funds, because he remained sober during the
greater part of the day, taking only what amount of liquor was provided
for him. Before, however, they reached St. Louis, which they did late
at night, he had made acquaintance with certain fellow-travellers, and
was drunk and noisy when they got out upon the quay. Mr. Peacocke bore
his position as well as he could, and accompanied him up to the hotel.
It was arranged that they should remain two days at St. Louis, and then
start for San Francisco by the railway which runs across the State of
Kansas. Before he went to bed Lefroy insisted on going into the large
hall in which, as is usual in American hotels, men sit and loafe and
smoke and read the newspapers. Here, though it was twelve o'clock,
there was still a crowd; and Lefroy, after he had seated himself and
lit his cigar, got up from his seat and addressed all the men around
Here's a fellow, said he, has come out from England to find out
what's become of Ferdinand Lefroy.
I knew Ferdinand Lefroy, said one man, and I know you too, Master
What has become of Ferdinand Lefroy? asked Mr. Peacocke.
He's gone where all the good fellows go, said another.
You mean that he is dead? asked Peacocke.
Of course he's dead, said Robert. I've been telling him so ever
since we left England; but he is such a dunbelieving infidel that
he wouldn't credit the man's own brother. He won't learn much here
Ferdinand Lefroy, said the first man, died on the way as he was
going out West. I was over the road the day after.
You know nothing about it, said Robert. He died at 'Frisco two
days after we'd got him there.
He died at Ogden Junction, where you turn down to Utah City.
You didn't see him dead, said the other.
If I remember right, continued the first man, they'd taken him
away to bury him somewhere just there in the neighbourhood. I didn't
care much about him, and I didn't ask any particular questions. He was
a drunken beast,better dead than alive.
You've been drunk as often as him, I guess, said Robert.
I never gave nobody the trouble to bury me at any rate, said the
Do you mean to say positively of your own knowledge, asked
Peacocke, that Ferdinand Lefroy died at that station?
Ask him; he's his brother, and he ought to know best.
I tell you, said Robert, earnestly, that we carried him on to
'Frisco, and there he died. If you think you know best, you can go to
Utah City and wait there till you hear all about it. I guess they'll
make you one of their elders if you wait long enough. Then they all
went to bed.
It was now clear to Mr. Peacocke that the man as to whose life or
death he was so anxious had really died. The combined evidence of these
men, which had come out without any preconcerted arrangement, was proof
to his mind. But there was no evidence which he could take back with
him to England and use there as proof in a court of law, or even before
the Bishop and Dr. Wortle. On the next morning, before Robert Lefroy
was up, he got hold of the man who had been so positive that death had
overtaken the poor wretch at the railway station which is distant from
San Francisco two days' journey. Had the man died there, and been
buried there, nothing would be known of him in San Francisco. The
journey to San Francisco would be entirely thrown away, and he would be
as badly off as ever.
I wouldn't like to say for certain, said the man when he was
interrogated. I only tell you what they told me. As I was passing
along somebody said as Ferdy Lefroy had been taken dead out of the cars
on to the platform. Now you know as much about it as I do.
He was thus assured that at any rate the journey to San Francisco
had not been altogether a fiction. The man had gone West, as had been
said, and nothing more would be known of him at St. Louis. He must
still go on upon his journey and make such inquiry as might be possible
at the Ogden Junction.
On the day but one following they started again, taking their
tickets as far as Leavenworth. They were told by the officials that
they would find a train at Leavenworth waiting to take them on across
country into the regular San Francisco line. But, as is not unusual
with railway officials in that part of the world, they were deceived.
At Leavenworth they were forced to remain for four-and-twenty hours,
and there they put themselves up at a miserable hotel in which they
were obliged to occupy the same room. It was a rough, uncouth place, in
which, as it seemed to Mr. Peacocke, the men were more uncourteous to
him, and the things around more unlike to what he had met elsewhere,
than in any other town of the Union. Robert Lefroy, since the first
night at St. Louis, had become sullen rather than disobedient. He had
not refused to go on when the moment came for starting, but had left it
in doubt till the last moment whether he did or did not intend to
prosecute his journey. When the ticket was taken for him he pretended
to be altogether indifferent about it, and would himself give no help
whatever in any of the usual troubles of travelling. But as far as this
little town of Leavenworth he had been carried, and Peacocke now began
to think it probable that he might succeed in taking him to San
On that night he endeavoured to induce him to go first to bed, but
in this he failed. Lefroy insisted on remaining down at the bar, where
he had ordered for himself some liquor for which Mr. Peacocke, in spite
of all his efforts to the contrary, would have to pay. If the man would
get drunk and lie there, he could not help himself. On this he was
determined, that whether with or without the man, he would go on by the
first train;and so he took himself to his bed.
He had been there perhaps half-an-hour when his companion came into
the room,certainly not drunk. He seated himself on his bed, and then,
pulling to him a large travelling-bag which he used, he unpacked it
altogether, laying all the things which it contained out upon the bed.
What are you doing that for? said Mr. Peacocke; we have to start
from here to-morrow morning at five.
I'm not going to start to-morrow at five, nor yet to-morrow at all,
nor yet next day.
You are not?
Not if I know it. I have had enough of this game. I am not going
further West for any one. Hand out the money. You have been told
everything about my brother, true and honest, as far as I know it. Hand
out the money.
Not a dollar, said Peacocke. All that I have heard as yet will be
of no service to me. As far as I can see, you will earn it; but you
will have to come on a little further yet.
Not a foot; I ain't a-going out of this room to-morrow.
Then I must go without you;that's all.
You may go and be . But you'll have to shell out the money
first, old fellow.
Not a dollar.
Certainly I will not. How often have I told you so.
Then I shall take it.
That you will find very difficult. In the first place, if you were
to cut my throat
Which is just what I intend to do.
If you were to cut my throat,which in itself will be
difficult,you would only find the trifle of gold which I have got for
our journey as far as 'Frisco. That won't do you much good. The rest is
in circular notes, which to you would be of no service whatever.
My God, said the man suddenly, I am not going to be done in this
way. And with that he drew out a bowie-knife which he had concealed
among the things which he had extracted from the bag. You don't know
the sort of country you're in now. They don't think much here of the
life of such a skunk as you. If you mean to live till to-morrow morning
you must come to terms.
The room was a narrow chamber in which two beds ran along the wall,
each with its foot to the other, having a narrow space between them and
the other wall. Peacocke occupied the one nearest to the door. Lefroy
now got up from the bed in the further corner, and with the bowie-knife
in his hand rushed against the door as though to prevent his
companion's escape. Peacocke, who was in bed undressed, sat up at once;
but as he did so he brought a revolver out from under his pillow. So
you have been and armed yourself, have you? said Robert Lefroy.
Yes, said Peacocke;if you come nearer me with that knife I
shall shoot you. Put it down.
Likely I shall put it down at your bidding.
With the pistol still held at the other man's head, Peacocke slowly
extracted himself from his bed. Now, said he, if you don't come away
from the door I shall fire one barrel just to let them know in the
house what sort of affair is going on. Put the knife down. You know
that I shall not hurt you then.
After hesitating for a moment or two, Lefroy did put the knife down.
I didn't mean anything, old fellow, said he. I only wanted to
Well; you have frightened me. Now, what's to come next?
No, I ain't;not frightened you a bit. A pistol's always better
than a knife any day. Well now, I'll tell ye how it all is. Saying
this, he seated himself on his own bed, and began a long narration. He
would not go further West than Leavenworth. Whether he got his money or
whether he lost it, he would not travel a foot further. There were
reasons which would make it disagreeable for him to go into California.
But he made a proposition. If Peacocke would only give him money enough
to support himself for the necessary time, he would remain at
Leavenworth till his companion should return there, or would make his
way to Chicago, and stay there till Peacocke should come to him. Then
he proceeded to explain how absolute evidence might be obtained at San
Francisco as to his brother's death. That fellow was lying
altogether, he said, about my brother dying at the Ogden station. He
was very bad there, no doubt, and we thought it was going to be all up
with him. He had the horrors there, worse than I ever saw before, and I
hope never to see the like again. But we did get him on to San
Francisco; and when he was able to walk into the city on his own legs,
I thought that, might be, he would rally and come round. However, in
two days he died;and we buried him in the big cemetery just out of
Did you put a stone over him?
Yes; there is a stone as large as life. You'll find the name on
it,Ferdinand Lefroy of Kilbrack, Louisiana. Kilbrack was the name of
our plantation, where we should be living now as gentlemen ought, with
three hundred niggers of our own, but for these accursed Northern
How can I find the stone?
There's a chap there who knows, I guess, where all them graves are
to be found. But it's on the right hand, a long way down, near the far
wall at the bottom, just where the ground takes a little dip to the
north. It ain't so long ago but what the letters on the stone will be
as fresh as if they were cut yesterday.
Does no one in San Francisco know of his death?
There's a chap named Burke at Johnson's, the cigar-shop in
Montgomery Street. He was brother to one of our party, and he went out
to the funeral. Maybe you'll find him, or, any way, some traces of
The two men sat up discussing the matter nearly the whole of the
night, and Peacocke, before he started, had brought himself to accede
to Lefroy's last proposition. He did give the man money enough to
support him for two or three weeks and also to take him to Chicago,
promising at the same time that he would hand to him the thousand
dollars at Chicago should he find him there at the appointed time, and
should he also have found Ferdinand Lefroy's grave at San Francisco in
the manner described.
CHAPTER VII. NOBODY HAS CONDEMNED
MRS. WORTLE, when she perceived that her husband no longer called on
Mrs. Peacocke alone, became herself more assiduous in her visits, till
at last she too entertained a great liking for the woman. When Mr.
Peacocke had been gone for nearly a month she had fallen into a habit
of going across every day after the performance of her own domestic
morning duties, and remaining in the school-house for an hour. On one
morning she found that Mrs. Peacocke had just received a letter from
New York, in which her husband had narrated his adventures so far. He
had written from Southampton, but not after the revelation which had
been made to him there as to the death of Ferdinand. He might have so
done, but the information given to him had, at the spur of the moment,
seemed to be so doubtful that he had refrained. Then he had been able
to think of it all during the voyage, and from New York he had written
at great length, detailing everything. Mrs. Peacocke did not actually
read out loud the letter, which was full of such terms of affection as
are common between man and wife, knowing that her title to be called a
wife was not admitted by Mrs. Wortle; but she read much of it, and told
all the circumstances as they were related.
Then, said Mrs. Wortle, he certainly isno more. There came a
certain accession of sadness to her voice, as she reflected that, after
all, she was talking to this woman of the death of her undoubted
Yes; he is deadat last. Mrs. Wortle uttered a deep sigh. It was
dreadful to her to think that a woman should speak in that way of the
death of her husband. I know all that is going on in your mind, said
Mrs. Peacocke, looking up into her face.
Every thought. You are telling yourself how terrible it is that a
woman should speak of the death of her husband without a tear in her
eye, without a sob,without one word of sorrow.
It is very sad.
Of course it is sad. Has it not all been sad? But what would you
have me do? It is not because he was always bad to me,because he
marred all my early life, making it so foul a blotch that I hardly dare
to look back upon it from the quietness and comparative purity of these
latter days. It is not because he has so treated me as to make me feel
that it has been a misfortune to me to be born, that I now receive
these tidings with joy. It is because of him who has always been good
to me as the other was bad, who has made me wonder at the noble
instincts of a man, as the other has made me shudder at his possible
It has been very hard upon you, said Mrs. Wortle.
And hard upon him, who is dearer to me than my own soul. Think of
his conduct to me! How he went away to ascertain the truth when he
first heard tidings which made him believe that I was free to become
his! How he must have loved me then, when, after all my troubles, he
took me to himself at the first moment that was possible! Think, too,
what he has done for me since,and I for him! How I have marred his
life, while he has striven to repair mine! Do I not owe him
Everything, said Mrs. Wortle,except to do what is wrong.
I did do what was wrong. Would not you have done so under such
circumstances? Would not you have obeyed the man who had been to you so
true a husband while he believed himself entitled to the name? Wrong! I
doubt whether it was wrong. It is hard to know sometimes what is right
and what is wrong. What he told me to do, that to me was right. Had he
told me to go away and leave him, I should have gone,and have died. I
suppose that would have been right. She paused as though she expected
an answer. But the subject was so difficult that Mrs. Wortle was unable
to make one. I have sometimes wished that he had done so. But as I
think of it when I am alone, I feel how impossible that would have been
to him. He could not have sent me away. That which you call right would
have been impossible to him whom I regard as the most perfect of human
beings. As far as I know him, he is faultless;and yet, according to
your judgment, he has committed a sin so deep that he must stand
disgraced before the eyes of all men.
I have not said so.
It comes to that. I know how good you are; how much I owe to you. I
know that Dr. Wortle and yourself have been so kind to us, that were I
not grateful beyond expression I should be the meanest human creature.
Do not suppose that I am angry or vexed with you because you condemn
me. It is necessary that you should do so. But how can I condemn
myself;or how can I condemn him?
If you are both free now, it may be made right.
But how about repentance? Will it be all right though I shall not
have repented? I will never repent. There are laws in accordance with
which I will admit that I have done wrong; but had I not broken those
laws when he bade me, I should have hated myself through all my life
It was very different.
If you could know, Mrs. Wortle, how difficult it would have been to
go away and leave him! It was not till he came to me and told me that
he was going down to Texas, to see how it had been with my husband,
that I ever knew what it was to love a man. He had never said a word.
He tried not to look it. But I knew that I had his heart and that he
had mine. From that moment I have thought of him day and night. When I
gave him my hand then as he parted from me, I gave it him as his own.
It has been his to do what he liked with it ever since, let who might
live or who might die. Ought I not to rejoice that he is dead? Mrs.
Wortle could not answer the question. She could only shudder. It was
not by any will of my own, continued the eager woman, that I married
Ferdinand Lefroy. Everything in our country was then destroyed. All
that we loved and all that we valued had been taken away from us. War
had destroyed everything. When I was just springing out of childhood,
we were ruined. We had to go, all of us; women as well as men, girls as
well as boys;and be something else than we had been. I was told to
That was wrong.
When everything is in ruin about you, what room is there for
ordinary well-doing? It seemed then that he would have some remnant of
property. Our fathers had known each other long. The wretched man whom
drink afterwards made so vile might have been as good a gentleman as
another, if things had gone well with him. He could not have been a
hero like him whom I will always call my husband; but it is not given
to every man to be a hero.
Was he bad always from the first?
He always drank,from his wedding-day; and then Robert was with
him, who was worse than he. Between them they were very bad. My life
was a burden to me. It was terrible. It was a comfort to me even to be
deserted and to be left. Then came this Englishman in my way; and it
seemed to me, on a sudden, that the very nature of mankind was altered.
He did not lie when he spoke. He was never debased by drink. He had
other care than for himself. For himself, I think, he never cared.
Since he has been here, in the school, have you found any cause of
fault in him?
No, indeed! nor ever will;unless it be a fault to love a woman as
he loves me. See what he is doing now,where he has gone,what he has
to suffer, coupled as he is with that wretch! And all for my sake!
For both your sakes.
He would have been none the worse had he chosen to part with me. He
was in no trouble. I was not his wife; and he need onlybid me go.
There would have been no sin with him then,no wrong. Had he followed
out your right and your wrong, and told me that, as we could not be man
and wife, we must just part, he would have been in no trouble;would
I don't know how it would have been then, said Mrs. Wortle, who
was by this time sobbing aloud in tears.
No; nor I, nor I. I should have been dead;but he? He is a sinner
now, so that he may not preach in your churches, or teach in your
schools; so that your dear husband has to be ruined almost because he
has been kind to him. He then might have preached in any church,have
taught in any school. What am I to think that God will think of it?
Will God condemn him?
We must leave that to Him, sobbed Mrs. Wortle.
Yes; but in thinking of our souls we must reflect a little as to
what we believe to be probable. He, you say, has sinned,is sinning
still in calling me his wife. Am I not to believe that if he were
called to his long account he would stand there pure and bright, in
glorious garments,one fit for heaven, because he has loved others
better than he has loved himself, because he has done to others as he
might have wished that they should do to him? I do believe it! Believe!
I know it. And if so, what am I to think of his sin, or of my own? Not
to obey him, not to love him, not to do in everything as he counsels
me,that, to me, would be sin. To the best of my conscience he is my
husband and my master. I will not go into the rooms of such as you,
Mrs. Wortle, good and kind as you are; but it is not because I do not
think myself fit. It is because I will not injure you in the estimation
of those who do not know what is fit and what is unfit. I am not
ashamed of myself. I owe it to him to blush for nothing that he has
caused me to do. I have but two judges,the Lord in heaven, and he, my
husband, upon earth.
Nobody has condemned you here.
Yes;they have condemned me. But I am not angry at that. You do
not think, Mrs. Wortle, that I can be angry with you,so kind as you
have been, so generous, so forgiving;the more kind because you think
that we are determined, headstrong sinners? Oh no! It is natural that
you should think so,but I think differently. Circumstances have so
placed me that they have made me unfit for your society. If I had no
decent gown to wear, or shoes to my feet, I should be unfit also;but
not on that account disgraced in my own estimation. I comfort myself by
thinking that I cannot be altogether bad when a man such as he has
loved me and does love me.
The two women, when they parted on that morning, kissed each other,
which they had not done before; and Mrs. Wortle had been made to doubt
whether, after all, the sin had been so very sinful. She did endeavour
to ask herself whether she would not have done the same in the same
circumstances. The woman, she thought, must have been right to have
married the man whom she loved, when she heard that that first horrid
husband was dead. There could, at any rate, have been no sin in that.
And then, what ought she to have done when the dead man,dead as he
was supposed to have been,burst into her room? Mrs. Wortle,who
found it indeed extremely difficult to imagine herself to be in such a
position,did at last acknowledge that, in such circumstances, she
certainly would have done whatever Dr. Wortle had told her. She could
not bring it nearer to herself than that. She could not suggest to
herself two men as her own husbands. She could not imagine that the
Doctor had been either the bad husband, who had unexpectedly come to
life,or the good husband, who would not, in truth, be her husband at
all; but she did determine, in her own mind, that, however all that
might have been, she would clearly have done whatever the Doctor told
her. She would have sworn to obey him, even though, when swearing, she
should not have really married him. It was terrible to think of,so
terrible that she could not quite think of it; but in struggling to
think of it her heart was softened towards this other woman. After that
day she never spoke further of the woman's sin.
Of course she told it all to the Doctor,not indeed explaining the
working of her own mind as to that suggestion that he should have been,
in his first condition, a very bad man, and have been reported dead,
and have come again, in a second shape, as a good man. She kept that to
herself. But she did endeavour to describe the effect upon herself of
the description the woman had given her of her own conduct.
I don't quite know how she could have done otherwise, said Mrs.
Nor I either; I have always said so.
It would have been so very hard to go away, when he told her not.
It would have been very hard to go away, said the Doctor, if he
had told her to do so. Where was she to go? What was she to do? They
had been brought together by circumstances, in such a manner that it
was, so to say, impossible that they should part. It is not often that
one comes across events like these, so altogether out of the ordinary
course that the common rules of life seem to be insufficient for
guidance. To most of us it never happens; and it is better for us that
it should not happen. But when it does, one is forced to go beyond the
common rules. It is that feeling which has made me give them my
protection. It has been a great misfortune; but, placed as I was, I
could not help myself. I could not turn them out. It was clearly his
duty to go, and almost as clearly mine to give her shelter till he
should come back.
A great misfortune, Jeffrey?
I am afraid so. Look at this. Then he handed to her a letter from
a nobleman living at a great distance,at a distance so great that
Mrs. Stantiloup would hardly have reached him there,expressing his
intention to withdraw his two boys from the school at Christmas.
He doesn't give this as a reason.
No; we are not acquainted with each other personally, and he could
hardly have alluded to my conduct in this matter. It was easier for him
to give a mere notice such as this. But not the less do I understand
it. The intention was that the elder Mowbray should remain for another
year, and the younger for two years. Of course he is at liberty to
change his mind; nor do I feel myself entitled to complain. A school
such as mine must depend on the credit of the establishment. He has
heard, no doubt, something of the story which has injured our credit,
and it is natural that he should take the boys away.
Do you think that the school will be put an end to?
It looks very like it.
I shall not care to drag it on as a failure. I am too old now to
begin again with a new attempt if this collapses. I have no offers to
fill up the vacancies. The parents of those who remain, of course, will
know how it is going with the school. I shall not be disposed to let it
die of itself. My idea at present is to carry it on without saying
anything till the Christmas holidays, and then to give notice to the
parents that the establishment will be closed at Midsummer.
Will it make you very unhappy?
No doubt it will. A man does not like to fail. I am not sure but
what I am less able to bear such failure than most men.
But you have sometimes thought of giving it up.
Have I? I have not known it. Why should I give it up? Why should
any man give up a profession while he has health and strength to carry
You have another.
Yes; but it is not the one to which my energies have been chiefly
applied. The work of a parish such as this can be done by one person. I
have always had a curate. It is, moreover, nonsense to say that a man
does not care most for that by which he makes his money. I am to give
up over £2000 a-year, which I have had not a trouble but a delight in
making! It is like coming to the end of one's life.
It has to be looked in the face, you know.
I wish,I wish they had never come.
What is the good of wishing? They came, and according to my way of
thinking I did my duty by them. Much as I am grieved by this, I protest
that I would do the same again were it again to be done. Do you think
that I would be deterred from what I thought to be right by the
machinations of a she-dragon such as that?
Has she done it?
Well, I think so, said the Doctor, after some little hesitation.
I think it has been, in truth, her doing. There has been a grand
opportunity for slander, and she has used it with uncommon skill. It
was a wonderful chance in her favour. She has been enabled without
actual lies,lies which could be proved to be lies,to spread abroad
reports which have been absolutely damning. And she has succeeded in
getting hold of the very people through whom she could injure me. Of
course all this correspondence with the Bishop has helped. The Bishop
hasn't kept it as a secret. Why should he?
The Bishop has had nothing to do with the school, said Mrs.
No; but the things have been mixed up together. Do you think it
would have no effect with such a woman as Lady Anne Clifford, to be
told that the Bishop had censured my conduct severely? If it had not
been for Mrs. Stantiloup, the Bishop would have heard nothing about it.
It is her doing. And it pains me to feel that I have to give her credit
for her skill and her energy.
Her wickedness, you mean.
What does it signify whether she has been wicked or not in this
Her wickedness is a matter of course. We all knew that beforehand.
If a person has to be wicked, it is a great thing for him to be
successful in his wickedness. He would have to pay the final penalty
even if he failed. To be wicked and to do nothing is to be mean all
round. I am afraid that Mrs. Stantiloup will have succeeded in her
CHAPTER VIII. LORD BRACY'S LETTER.
THE school and the parish went on through August and September, and
up to the middle of October, very quietly. The quarrel between the
Bishop and the Doctor had altogether subsided. People in the diocese
had ceased to talk continually of Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke. There was
still alive a certain interest as to what might be the ultimate fate of
the poor lady; but other matters had come up, and she no longer formed
the one topic of conversation at all meetings. The twenty boys at the
school felt that, as their numbers had been diminished, so also had
their reputation. They were less loud, and, as other boys would have
said of them, less cocky than of yore. But they ate and drank and
played, and, let us hope, learnt their lessons as usual. Mrs. Peacocke
had from time to time received letters from her husband, the last up to
the time of which we speak having been written at the Ogden Junction,
at which Mr. Peacocke had stopped for four-and-twenty hours with the
object of making inquiry as to the statement made to him at St. Louis.
Here he learned enough to convince him that Robert Lefroy had told him
the truth in regard to what had there occurred. The people about the
station still remembered the condition of the man who had been taken
out of the car when suffering from delirium tremens; and remembered
also that the man had not died there, but had been carried on by the
next train to San Francisco. One of the porters also declared that he
had heard a few days afterwards that the sufferer had died almost
immediately on his arrival at San Francisco. Information as far as this
Mr. Peacocke had sent home to his wife, and had added his firm belief
that he should find the man's grave in the cemetery, and be able to
bring home with him testimony to which no authority in England, whether
social, episcopal, or judicial, would refuse to give credit.
Of course he will be married again, said Mrs. Wortle to her
They shall be married here, and I will perform the ceremony. I
don't think the Bishop himself would object to that; and I shouldn't
care a straw if he did.
Will he go on with the school? whispered Mrs. Wortle.
Will the school go on? If the school goes on, he will go on, I
suppose. About that you had better ask Mrs. Stantiloup.
I will ask nobody but you, said the wife, putting up her face to
kiss him. As this was going on, everything was said to comfort Mrs.
Peacocke, and to give her hopes of new life. Mrs. Wortle told her how
the Doctor had promised that he himself would marry them as soon as the
forms of the Church and the legal requisitions would allow. Mrs.
Peacocke accepted all that was said to her quietly and thankfully, but
did not again allow herself to be roused to such excitement as she had
shown on the one occasion recorded.
It was at this time that the Doctor received a letter which greatly
affected his mode of thought at the time. He had certainly become
hipped and low-spirited, if not despondent, and clearly showed to his
wife, even though he was silent, that his mind was still intent on the
injury which that wretched woman had done him by her virulence. But the
letter of which we speak for a time removed this feeling, and gave him,
as it were, a new life. The letter, which was from Lord Bracy, was as
MY DEAR DOCTOR WORTLE.Carstairs left us for Oxford yesterday, and
before he went, startled his mother and me considerably by a piece of
information. He tells us that he is over head and ears in love with
your daughter. The communication was indeed made three days ago, but I
told him that I should take a day or two to think of it before I wrote
to you. He was very anxious, when he told me, to go off at once to
Bowick, and to see you and your wife, and of course the young
lady;but this I stopped by the exercise of somewhat peremptory
parental authority. Then he informed me that he had been to Bowick, and
had found his lady-love at home, you and Mrs. Wortle having by chance
been absent at the time. It seems that he declared himself to the young
lady, who, in the exercise of a wise discretion, ran away from him and
left him planted on the terrace. That is his account of what passed,
and I do not in the least doubt its absolute truth. It is at any rate
quite clear, from his own showing, that the young lady gave him no
Such having been the case, I do not think that I should have found
it necessary to write to you at all had not Carstairs persevered with
me till I promised to do so. He was willing, he said, not to go to
Bowick on condition that I would write to you on the subject. The
meaning of this is, that had he not been very much in earnest, I should
have considered it best to let the matter pass on as such matters do,
and be forgotten. But he is very much in earnest. However foolish it
is,or perhaps I had better say unusual,that a lad should be in love
before he is twenty, it is, I suppose, possible. At any rate it seems
to be the case with him, and he has convinced his mother that it would
be cruel to ignore the fact.
I may at once say that, as far as you and your girl are concerned,
I should be quite satisfied that he should choose for himself such a
marriage. I value rank, at any rate, as much as it is worth; but that
he will have of his own, and does not need to strengthen it by
intermarriage with another house of peculiarly old lineage. As far as
that is concerned, I should be contented. As for money, I should not
wish him to think of it in marrying. If it comes, tant mieux. If
not, he will have enough of his own. I write to you, therefore, exactly
as I should do if you had happened to be a brother peer instead of a
But I think that long engagements are very dangerous; and you
probably will agree with me that they are likely to be more prejudicial
to the girl than to the man. It may be that, as difficulties arise in
the course of years, he can forget the affair, and that she cannot. He
has many things of which to think; whereas she, perhaps, has only that
one. She may have made that thing so vital to her that it cannot be got
under and conquered; whereas, without any fault or heartlessness on his
part, occupation has conquered it for him. In this case I fear that the
engagement, if made, could not but be long. I should be sorry that he
should not take his degree. And I do not think it wise to send a lad up
to the University hampered with the serious feeling that he has already
I tell you all just as it is, and I leave it to your wisdom to
suggest what had better be done. He wished me to promise that I would
undertake to induce you to tell Miss Wortle of his conversation with
me. He said that he had a right to demand so much as that, and that,
though he would not for the present go to Bowick, he should write to
you. The young gentleman seems to have a will of his own,which I
cannot say that I regret. What you will do as to the young
lady,whether you will or will not tell her what I have written,I
must leave to yourself. If you do, I am to send word to her from Lady
Bracy to say that she shall be delighted to see her here. She had
better, however, come when that inflammatory young gentleman shall be
at Oxford. Yours very faithfully,
This letter certainly did a great deal to invigorate the Doctor, and
to console him in his troubles. Even though the debated marriage might
prove to be impossible, as it had been declared by the voices of all
the Wortles one after another, still there was something in the tone in
which it was discussed by the young man's father which was in itself a
relief. There was, at any rate, no contempt in the letter. I may at
once say that, as far as you and your girl are concerned, I shall be
very well pleased. That, at any rate, was satisfactory. And the more
he looked at it the less he thought that it need be altogether
impossible. If Lord Bracy liked it, and Lady Bracy liked it,and young
Carstairs, as to whose liking there seemed to be no reason for any
doubt,he did not see why it should be impossible. As to Mary,he
could not conceive that she should make objection if all the others
were agreed. How could she possibly fail to love the young man if
encouraged to do so? Suitors who are good-looking, rich, of high rank,
sweet-tempered, and at the same time thoroughly devoted, are not wont
to be discarded. All the difficulty lay in the lad's youth. After all,
how many noblemen have done well in the world without taking a degree?
Degrees, too, have been taken by married men. And, again, young men
have been persistent before now, even to the extent of waiting three
years. Long engagements are bad,no doubt. Everybody has always said
so. But a long engagement may be better than none at all.
He at last made up his mind that he would speak to Mary; but he
determined that he would consult his wife first. Consulting Mrs.
Wortle, on his part, generally amounted to no more than instructing
her. He found it sometimes necessary to talk her over, as he had done
in that matter of visiting Mrs. Peacocke; but when he set himself to
work he rarely failed. She had nowhere else to go for a certain
foundation and support. Therefore he hardly doubted much when he began
his operation about this suggested engagement.
I have got that letter this morning from Lord Bracy, he said,
handing her the document.
Oh dear! Has he heard about Carstairs?
You had better read it.
He has told it all, she exclaimed, when she had finished the first
He has told it all, certainly. But you had better read the letter
Then she seated herself and read it, almost trembling, however, as
she went on with it. Oh dear;that is very nice what he says about
you and Mary.
It is all very nice as far as that goes. There is no reason why it
should not be nice.
It might have made him so angry!
Then he would have been very unreasonable.
He acknowledges that Mary did not encourage him.
Of course she did not encourage him. He would have been very unlike
a gentleman had he thought so. But in truth, my dear, it is a very good
letter. Of course there are difficulties.
Oh;it is impossible!
I do not see that at all. It must rest very much with him, no
doubt;with Carstairs; and I do not like to think that our girl's
happiness should depend on any young man's constancy. But such dangers
have to be encountered. You and I were engaged for three years before
we were married, and we did not find it so very bad.
It was very good. Oh, I was so happy at the time.
Happier than you've been since?
Well; I don't know. It was very nice to know that you were my
Why shouldn't Mary think it very nice to have a lover?
But I knew that you would be true.
Why shouldn't Carstairs be true?
Remember he is so young. You were in orders.
I don't know that I was at all more likely to be true on that
account. A clergyman can jilt a girl just as well as another. It
depends on the nature of the man.
And you were so good.
I never came across a better youth than Carstairs. You see what his
father says about his having a will of his own. When a young man shows
a purpose of that kind he generally sticks to it.
The upshot of it all was, that Mary was to be told, and that her
father was to tell her.
Yes, papa, he did come, she said. I told mamma all about me.
And she told me, of course. You did what was quite right, and I
should not have thought it necessary to speak to you had not Lord Bracy
written to me.
Lord Bracy has written! said Mary. It seemed to her, as it had
done to her mother, that Lord Bracy must have written angrily; but
though she thought so, she plucked up her spirit gallantly, telling
herself that though Lord Bracy might be angry with his own son, he
could have no cause to be displeased with her.
Yes; I have a letter, which you shall read. The young man seems to
have been very much in earnest.
I don't know, said Mary, with some little exultation at her heart.
It seems but the other day that he was a boy, and now he has become
suddenly a man. To this Mary said nothing; but she also had come to
the conclusion that, in this respect, Lord Carstairs had lately
changed,very much for the better. Do you like him, Mary?
Like him, papa?
Well, my darling; how am I to put it? He is so much in earnest that
he has got his father to write to me. He was coming over himself again
before he went to Oxford; but he told his father what he was going to
do, and the Earl stopped him. There's the letter, and you may read it.
Mary read the letter, taking herself apart to a corner of the room,
and seemed to her father to take a long time in reading it. But there
was very much on which she was called upon to make up her mind during
those few minutes. Up to the present time,up to the moment in which
her father had now summoned her into his study, she had resolved that
it was impossible. She had become so clear on the subject that she
would not ask herself the question whether she could love the young
man. Would it not be wrong to love the young man? Would it not be a
longing for the top brick of the chimney, which she ought to know was
out of her reach? So she had decided it, and had therefore already
taught herself to regard the declaration made to her as the ebullition
of a young man's folly. But not the less had she known how great had
been the thing suggested to her,how excellent was this top brick of
the chimney; and as to the young man himself, she could not but feel
that, had matters been different, she might have loved him. Now there
had come a sudden change; but she did not at all know how far she might
go to meet the change, nor what the change altogether meant. She had
been made sure by her father's question that he had taught himself to
hope. He would not have asked her whether she liked him,would not, at
any rate, have asked that question in that voice,had he not been
prepared to be good to her had she answered in the affirmative. But
then this matter did not depend upon her father's wishes,or even on
her father's judgment. It was necessary that, before she said another
word, she should find out what Lord Bracy said about it. There she had
Lord Bracy's letter in her hand, but her mind was so disturbed that she
hardly knew how to read it aright at the spur of the moment.
You understand what he says, Mary?
I think so, papa.
It is a very kind letter.
Very kind indeed. I should have thought that he would not have
liked it at all.
He makes no objection of that kind. To tell the truth, Mary, I
should have thought it unreasonable had he done so. A gentleman can do
no better than marry a lady. And though it is much to be a nobleman, it
is more to be a gentleman.
Some people think so much of it. And then his having been here as a
pupil! I was very sorry when he spoke to me.
All that is past and gone. The danger is that such an engagement
would be long.
You would be afraid of that, Mary? Mary felt that this was hard
upon her, and unfair. Were she to say that the danger of a long
engagement did not seem to her to be very terrible, she would at once
be giving up everything. She would have declared then that she did love
the young man; or, at any rate, that she intended to do so. She would
have succumbed at the first hint that such succumbing was possible to
her. And yet she had not known that she was very much afraid of a long
engagement. She would, she thought, have been much more afraid had a
speedy marriage been proposed to her. Upon the whole, she did not know
whether it would not be nice to go on knowing that the young man loved
her, and to rest secure on her faith in him. She was sure of
this,that the reading of Lord Bracy's letter had in some way made her
happy, though she was unwilling at once to express her happiness to her
father. She was quite sure that she could make no immediate reply to
that question, whether she was afraid of a long engagement. I must
answer Lord Bracy's letter, you know, said the Doctor.
And what shall I say to him?
I don't know, papa.
And yet you must tell me what to say, my darling.
Must I, papa?
Certainly! Who else can tell me? But I will not answer it to-day. I
will put it off till Monday. It was Saturday morning on which the
letter was being discussed,a day of which a considerable portion was
generally appropriated to the preparation of a sermon. In the mean
time you had better talk to mamma; and on Monday we will settle what is
to be said to Lord Bracy.
CHAPTER IX. AT CHICAGO.
MR. PEACOCKE went on alone to San Francisco from the Ogden Junction,
and there obtained full information on the matter which had brought him
upon this long and disagreeable journey. He had no difficulty in
obtaining the evidence which he required. He had not been twenty-four
hours in the place before he was, in truth, standing on the stone which
had been placed over the body of Ferdinand Lefroy, as he had declared
to Robert Lefroy that he would stand before he would be satisfied. On
the stone was cut simply the names, Ferdinand Lefroy of Kilbrack,
Louisiana; and to these were added the dates of the days on which the
man had been born and on which he died. Of this stone he had a
photograph made, of which he took copies with him; and he obtained also
from the minister who had buried the body and from the custodian who
had charge of the cemetery certificates of the interment. Armed with
these he could no longer doubt himself, or suppose that others would
doubt, that Ferdinand Lefroy was dead.
Having thus perfected his object, and feeling but little interest in
a town to which he had been brought by such painful circumstances, he
turned round, and on the second day after his arrival, again started
for Chicago. Had it been possible, he would fain have avoided any
further meeting with Robert Lefroy. Short as had been his stay at San
Francisco he had learnt that Robert, after his brother's death, had
been concerned in buying mining shares and paying for them with forged
notes. It was not supposed that he himself had been engaged in the
forgery, but that he had come into the city with men who had been
employed for years on this operation, and had bought shares and
endeavoured to sell them on the following day. He had, however, managed
to leave the place before the police had got hold of him, and had
escaped, so that no one had been able to say at what station he had got
upon the railway. Nor did any one in San Francisco know where Robert
Lefroy was now to be found. His companions had been taken, tried, and
convicted, and were now in the State prison,where also would Robert
Lefroy soon be if any of the officers of the State could get hold of
him. Luckily Mr. Peacocke had said little or nothing of the man in
making his own inquiries. Much as he had hated and dreaded the man;
much as he had suffered from his companionship,good reason as he had
to dislike the whole family,he felt himself bound by their late
companionship not to betray him. The man had assisted Mr. Peacocke
simply for money; but still he had assisted him. Mr. Peacocke therefore
held his peace and said nothing. But he would have been thankful to
have been able to send the money that was now due to him without having
again to see him. That, however, was impossible.
On reaching Chicago he went to an hotel far removed from that which
Lefroy had designated. Lefroy had explained to him something of the
geography of the town, and had explained that for himself he preferred
a modest, quiet hotel. The modest, quiet hotel was called Mrs.
Jones's boarding-house, and was in one of the suburbs far from the main
street. You needn't say as you're coming to me, Lefroy had said to
him; nor need you let on as you know anything of Mrs. Jones at all.
People are so curious; and it may be that a gentleman sometimes likes
to lie perdu. Mr. Peacocke, although he had but small sympathy
for the taste of a gentleman who likes to lie perdu,
nevertheless did as he was bid, and found his way to Mrs. Jones's
boarding-house without telling any one whither he was going.
Before he started he prepared himself with a thousand dollars in
bank-notes, feeling that this wretched man had earned them in
accordance with their compact. His only desire now was to hand over the
money as quickly as possible, and to hurry away out of Chicago. He felt
as though he himself were almost guilty of some crime in having to deal
with this man, in having to give him money secretly, and in carrying
out to the end an arrangement of which no one else was to know the
details. How would it be with him if the police of Chicago should come
upon him as a friend, and probably an accomplice, of one who was
wanted on account of forgery at San Francisco? But he had no help for
himself, and at Mrs. Jones's he found his wife's brother-in-law seated
in the bar of the public-house,that everlasting resort for American
loungers,with a cigar as usual stuck in his mouth, loafing away his
time as only American frequenters of such establishments know how to
do. In England such a man would probably be found in such a place with
a glass of some alcoholic mixture beside him, but such is never the
case with an American. If he wants a drink he goes to the bar and takes
it standing,will perhaps take two or three, one after another; but
when he has settled himself down to loafe, he satisfies himself with
chewing a cigar, and covering a circle around him with the results.
With this amusement he will remain contented hour after hour;nay,
throughout the entire day if no harder work be demanded of him. So was
Robert Lefroy found now. When Peacocke entered the hall or room the man
did not rise from his chair, but accosted him as though they had parted
only an hour since. So, old fellow, you've got back all alive.
I have reached this place at any rate.
Well; that's getting back, ain't it?
I have come back from San Francisco.
H'sh! exclaimed Lefroy, looking round the room, in which, however,
there was no one but themselves. You needn't tell everybody where
I have nothing to conceal.
That is more than anybody knows of himself. It's a good maxim to
keep your own affairs quiet till they're wanted. In this country
everybody is spry enough to learn all about everything. I never see any
good in letting them know without a reason. Well;what did you do when
you got there?
It was all as you told me.
Didn't I say so? What was the good of bringing me all this way,
when, if you'd only believed me, you might have saved me the trouble.
Ain't I to be paid for that?
You are to be paid. I have come here to pay you.
That's what you owe for the knowledge. But for coming? Ain't I to
be paid extra for the journey?
You are to have a thousand dollars.
H'sh!you speak of money as though every one has a business to
know that you have got your pockets full. What's a thousand dollars,
seeing all that I have done for you!
It's all that you're going to get. It's all, indeed, that I have
got to give you.
It's all, at any rate, that you're going to get. Will you have it
You found the tomb, did you?
Yes; I found the tomb. Here is a photograph of it. You can keep a
copy if you like it.
What do I want of a copy, said the man, taking the photograph in
his hand. He was always more trouble than he was worth,was Ferdy.
It's a pity she didn't marry me. I'd 've made a woman of her. Peacocke
shuddered as he heard this, but he said nothing. You may as well give
us the picter;it'll do to hang up somewhere if ever I have a room of
my own. How plain it is. Ferdinand Lefroy,of Kilbrack! Kilbrack
indeed! It's little either of us was the better for Kilbrack. Some of
them psalm-singing rogues from New England has it now;or perhaps a
right-down nigger. I shouldn't wonder. One of our own lot, maybe! Oh;
that's the money, is it?A thousand dollars; all that I'm to have for
coming to England and telling you, and bringing you back, and showing
you where you could get this pretty picter made. Then he took the
money, a thick roll of notes, and crammed them into his pocket.
You'd better count them.
It ain't worth the while with such a trifle as that.
Let me count them then.
You'll never have that plunder in your fists again, my fine
I do not want it.
And now about my expenses out to England, on purpose to tell you
all this. You can go and make her your wife now,or can leave her,
just as you please. You couldn't have done neither if I hadn't gone out
You have got what was promised.
But my expenses,going out?
I have promised you nothing for your expenses going out,and will
pay you nothing.
Not a dollar more.
Certainly not. I do not suppose that you expect it for a moment,
although you are so persistent in asking for it.
And you think you've got the better of me, do you? You think you've
carried me along with you, just to do your bidding and take whatever
you please to give me? That's your idea of me?
There was a clear bargain between us. I have not got the better of
you at all.
I rather think not, Peacocke. I rather think not. You'll have to
get up earlier before you get the better of Robert Lefroy. You don't
expect to get this money back again,do you?
Certainly not,any more than I should expect a pound of meat out
of a dog's jaw. Mr. Peacocke, as he said this, was waxing angry.
I don't suppose you do;but you expected that I was to earn it by
doing your bidding;didn't you?
And you have.
Yes, I have; but how? You never heard of my cousin, did
you;Ferdinand Lefroy of Kilbrack, Louisiana?
Heard of whom?
My cousin; Ferdinand Lefroy. He was very well known in his own
State, and in California too, till he died. He was a good fellow, but
given to drink. We used to tell him that if he would marry it would be
better for him;but he never would;he never did. Robert Lefroy as
he said this put his left hand into his trousers-pocket over the notes
which he had placed there, and drew a small revolver out of his pocket
with the other hand. I am better prepared now, he said, than when
you had your six-shooter under your pillow at Leavenworth.
I do not believe a word of it. It's a lie, said Peacocke.
Very well. You're a chap that's fond of travelling, and have got
plenty of money. You'd better go down to Louisiana and make your way
straight from New Orleans to Kilbrack. It ain't above forty miles to
the south-west, and there's a rail goes within fifteen miles of it.
You'll learn there all about Ferdinand Lefroy as was our cousin,him
as never got married up to the day he died of drink and was buried at
San Francisco. They'll be very glad, I shouldn't wonder, to see that
pretty little picter of yours, because they was always uncommon fond of
cousin Ferdy at Kilbrack. And I'll tell you what; you'll be sure to
come across my brother Ferdy in them parts, and can tell him how you've
seen me. You can give him all the latest news, too, about his own wife.
He'll be glad to hear about her, poor woman. Mr. Peacocke listened to
this without saying a word since that last exclamation of his. It might
be true. Why should it not be true? If in truth there had been these
two cousins of the same name, what could be more likely than that his
money should be lured out of him by such a fraud as this? But
yet,yet, as he came to think of it all, it could not be true. The
chance of carrying such a scheme to a successful issue would have been
too small to induce the man to act upon it from the day of his first
appearance at Bowick. Nor was it probable that there should have been
another Ferdinand Lefroy unknown to his wife; and the existence of such
a one, if known to his wife, would certainly have been made known to
It's a lie, said he, from beginning to end.
Very well; very well. I'll take care to make the truth known by
letter to Dr. Wortle and the Bishop and all them pious swells over
there. To think that such a chap as you, a minister of the gospel,
living with another man's wife and looking as though butter wouldn't
melt in your mouth! I tell you what; I've got a little money in my
pocket now, and I don't mind going over to England again and explaining
the whole truth to the Bishop myself. I could make him understand how
that photograph ain't worth nothing, and how I explained to you myself
as the lady's righteous husband is all alive, keeping house on his own
property down in Louisiana. Do you think we Lefroys hadn't any place
beside Kilbrack among us?
Certainly you are a liar, said Peacocke.
Very well. Prove it.
Did you not tell me that your brother was buried at San Francisco?
Oh, as for that, that don't matter. It don't count for much whether
I told a crammer or not. That picter counts for nothing. It ain't my
word you were going on as evidence. You is able to prove that Ferdy
Lefroy was buried at 'Frisco. True enough. I buried him. I can prove
that. And I would never have treated you this way, and not have said a
word as to how the dead man was only a cousin, if you'd treated me
civil over there in England. But you didn't.
I am going to treat you worse now, said Peacocke, looking him in
What are you going to do now? It's I that have the revolver this
time. As he said this he turned the weapon round in his hand.
I don't want to shoot you,nor yet to frighten you, as I did in
the bed-room at Leavenworth. Not but what I have a pistol too. And he
slowly drew his out of his pocket. At this moment two men sauntered in
and took their places in the further corner of the room. I don't think
there is to be any shooting between us.
There may, said Lefroy.
The police would have you.
So they wouldfor a time. What does that matter to me? Isn't a
fellow to protect himself when a fellow like you comes to him armed?
But they would soon know that you are the swindler who escaped from
San Francisco eighteen months ago. Do you think it wouldn't be found
out that it was you who paid for the shares in forged notes?
I never did. That's one of your lies.
Very well. Now you know what I know; and you had better tell me
over again who it is that lies buried under the stone that's been
What are you men doing with them pistols? said one of the
strangers, walking across the room, and standing over the backs of
We are alooking at 'em, said Lefroy.
If you're agoing to do anything of that kind you'd better go and do
it elsewhere, said the stranger.
Just so, said Lefroy. That's what I was thinking myself.
But we are not going to do anything, said Mr. Peacocke. I have
not the slightest idea of shooting the gentleman; and he has just as
little of shooting me.
Then what do you sit with 'em out in your hands in that fashion
for? said the stranger. It's a decent widow woman as keeps this
house, and I won't see her set upon. Put 'em up. Whereupon Lefroy did
return his pistol to his pocket,upon which Mr. Peacocke did the same.
Then the stranger slowly walked back to his seat at the other side of
So they told you that lie; did they,at 'Frisco? asked Lefroy.
That was what I heard over there when I was inquiring about your
You'd believe anything if you'd believe that.
I'd believe anything if I'd believe in your cousin. Upon this
Lefroy laughed, but made no further allusion to the romance which he
had craftily invented on the spur of the moment. After that the two men
sat without a word between them for a quarter of an hour, when the
Englishman got up to take his leave. Our business is over now, he
said, and I will bid you good-bye.
I'll tell you what I'm athinking, said Lefroy. Mr. Peacocke stood
with his hand ready for a final adieu, but he said nothing. I've half
a mind to go back with you to England. There ain't nothing to keep me
What could you do there?
I'd be evidence for you, as to Ferdy's death, you know.
I have evidence. I do not want you.
I'll go, nevertheless.
And spend all your money on the journey.
You'd help;wouldn't you now?
Not a dollar, said Peacocke, turning away and leaving the room. As
he did so he heard the wretch laughing loud at the excellence of his
Before he made his journey back again to England he only once more
saw Robert Lefroy. As he was seating himself in the railway car that
was to take him to Buffalo the man came up to him with an affected look
of solicitude. Peacocke, he said, there was only nine hundred
dollars in that roll.
There were a thousand. I counted them half-an-hour before I handed
them to you.
There was only nine hundred when I got 'em.
There were all that you will get. What kind of notes were they you
had when you paid for the shares at 'Frisco? This question he asked
out loud, before all the passengers. Then Robert Lefroy left the car,
and Mr. Peacocke never saw him or heard from him again.
CHAPTER X. THE DOCTOR'S ANSWER.
WHEN the Monday came there was much to be done and to be thought of
at Bowick. Mrs. Peacocke on that day received a letter from San
Francisco, giving her all the details of the evidence that her husband
had obtained, and enclosing a copy of the photograph. There was now no
reason why she should not become the true and honest wife of the man
whom she had all along regarded as her husband in the sight of God. The
writer declared that he would so quickly follow his letter that he
might be expected home within a week, or, at the longest, ten days,
from the date at which she would receive it. Immediately on his arrival
at Liverpool, he would, of course, give her notice by telegraph.
When this letter reached her, she at once sent a message across to
Mrs. Wortle. Would Mrs. Wortle kindly come and see her? Mrs. Wortle
was, of course, bound to do as she was asked, and started at once. But
she was, in truth, but little able to give counsel on any subject
outside the one which was at the moment nearest to her heart. At one
o'clock, when the boys went to their dinner, Mary was to instruct her
father as to the purport of the letter which was to be sent to Lord
Bracy,and Mary had not as yet come to any decision. She could not go
to her father for aid;she could not, at any rate, go to him until the
appointed hour should come; and she was, therefore, entirely thrown
upon her mother. Had she been old enough to understand the effect and
the power of character, she would have known that, at the last moment,
her father would certainly decide for her,and had her experience of
the world been greater, she might have been quite sure that her father
would decide in her favour. But as it was, she was quivering and
shaking in the dark, leaning on her mother's very inefficient aid,
nearly overcome with the feeling that by one o'clock she must be ready
to say something quite decided.
And in the midst of this her mother was taken away from her, just at
ten o'clock. There was not, in truth, much that the two ladies could
say to each other. Mrs. Peacocke felt it to be necessary to let the
Doctor know that Mr. Peacocke would be back almost at once, and took
this means of doing so. In a week! said Mrs. Wortle, as though
painfully surprised by the suddenness of the coming arrival.
In a week or ten days. He was to follow his letter as quickly as
possible from San Francisco.
And he has found it all out?
Yes; he has learned everything, I think. Look at this! And Mrs.
Peacocke handed to her friend the photograph of the tombstone.
Dear me! said Mrs. Wortle. Ferdinand Lefroy! And this was his
That is his grave, said Mrs. Peacocke, turning her face away.
It is very sad; very sad indeed;but you had to learn it, you
It will not be sad for him, I hope, said Mrs. Peacocke. In all
this, I endeavour to think of him rather than of myself. When I am
forced to think of myself, it seems to me that my life has been so
blighted and destroyed that it must be indifferent what happens to me
now. What has happened to me has been so bad that I can hardly be
injured further. But if there can be a good time coming for
him,something at least of relief, something perhaps of comfort,then
I shall be satisfied.
Why should there not be comfort for you both?
I am almost as dead to hope as I am to shame. Some year or two ago
I should have thought it impossible to bear the eyes of people looking
at me, as though my life had been sinful and impure. I seem now to care
nothing for all that. I can look them back again with bold eyes and a
brazen face, and tell them that their hardness is at any rate as bad as
We have not looked at you like that, said Mrs. Wortle.
No; and therefore I send to you in my trouble, and tell you all
this. The strangest thing of all to me is that I should have come
across one man so generous as your husband, and one woman so
soft-hearted as yourself. There was nothing further to be said then.
Mrs. Wortle was instructed to tell her husband that Mr. Peacocke was to
be expected in a week or ten days, and then hurried back to give what
assistance she could in the much more important difficulties of her own
Of course they were much more important to her. Was her girl to
become the wife of a young lord,to be a future countess? Was she
destined to be the mother-in-law of an earl? Of course this was much
more important to her. And then through it all,being as she was a
dear, good, Christian, motherly woman,she was well aware that there
was something, in truth, much more important even than that. Though she
thought much of the earl-ship, and the countess-ship, and the great
revenue, and the big house at Carstairs, and the fine park with its
magnificent avenues, and the carriage in which her daughter would be
rolled about to London parties, and the diamonds which she would wear
when she should be presented to the Queen as the bride of the young
Lord Carstairs, yet she knew very well that she ought not in such an
emergency as the present to think of these things as being of primary
importance. What would tend most to her girl's happiness,and welfare
in this world and the next? It was of that she ought to think,of that
only. If some answer were now returned to Lord Bracy, giving his
lordship to understand that they, the Wortles, were anxious to
encourage the idea, then in fact her girl would be tied to an
engagement whether the young lord should hold himself to be so tied or
no! And how would it be with her girl if the engagement should be
allowed to run on in a doubtful way for years, and then be dropped by
reason of the young man's indifference? How would it be with her if,
after perhaps three or four years, a letter should come saying that the
young lord had changed his mind, and had engaged himself to some nobler
bride? Was it not her duty, as a mother, to save her child from the too
probable occurrence of some crushing grief such as this? All of it was
clear to her mind;but then it was clear also that, if this
opportunity of greatness were thrown away, no such chance in all
probability would ever come again. Thus she was so tossed to and fro
between a prospect of glorious prosperity for her child on one side,
and the fear of terrible misfortune for her child on the other, that
she was altogether unable to give any salutary advice. She, at any
rate, ought to have known that her advice would at last be of no
importance. Her experience ought to have told her that the Doctor would
certainly settle the matter himself. Had it been her own happiness that
was in question, her own conduct, her own greatness, she would not have
dreamed of having an opinion of her own. She would have consulted the
Doctor, and simply have done as he directed. But all this was for her
child, and in a vague, vacillating way she felt that for her child she
ought to be ready with counsel of her own.
Mamma, said Mary, when her mother came back from Mrs. Peacocke,
what am I to say when he sends for me?
If you think that you can love him, my dear
Oh, mamma, you shouldn't ask me!
I do like him,very much.
But I never thought of it before;and then, if he,if he
If he what, my dear?
If he were to change his mind?
Ah, yes;there it is. It isn't as though you could be married in
three months' time.
Oh, mamma! I shouldn't like that at all.
Or even in six.
Of course he is very young.
And when a young man is so very young, I suppose he doesn't quite
know his own mind.
No, mamma. But
Well, my dear.
His father says that he has gotsuch a strong will of his own,
said poor Mary, who was anxious, unconsciously anxious, to put in a
good word on her own side of the question, without making her own
desire too visible.
He always had that. When there was any game to be played, he always
liked to have his own way. But then men like that are just as likely to
change as others.
Are they, mamma?
But I do think that he is a lad of very high principle.
Papa has always said that of him.
And of fine generous feeling. He would not change like a
If you think he would change at all, I would
rather,rather,rather. Oh, mamma, why did you tell me?
My darling, my child, my angel! What am I to tell you? I do think
of all the young men I ever knew he is the nicest, and the sweetest,
and the most thoroughly good and affectionate.
Oh, mamma, do you? said Mary, rushing at her mother and kissing
her and embracing her.
But if there were to be no regular engagement, and you were to let
him have your heart,and then things were to go wrong!
Mary left the embracings, gave up the kissings, and seated herself
on the sofa alone. In this way the morning was passed;and when Mary
was summoned to her father's study, the mother and daughter had not
arrived between them at any decision.
Well, my dear, said the Doctor, smiling, what am I to say to the
Must you write to-day, papa?
I think so. His letter is one that should not be left longer
unanswered. Were we to do so, he would only think that we didn't know
what to say for ourselves.
Would he, papa?
He would fancy that we are half-ashamed to accept what has been
offered to us, and yet anxious to take it.
I am not ashamed of anything.
No, my dear; you have no reason.
Nor have you, papa.
Nor have I. That is quite true. I have never been wont to be
ashamed of myself;nor do I think that you ever will have cause to be
ashamed of yourself. Therefore, why should we hesitate? Shall I help
you, my darling, in coming to a decision on the matter?
If I can understand your heart on this matter, it has never as yet
been given to this young man.
No, papa. This Mary said not altogether with that complete power
of asseveration which the negative is sometimes made to bear.
But there must be a beginning to such things. A man throws himself
into it headlong,as my Lord Carstairs seems to have done. At least
all the best young men do. Mary at this point felt a great longing to
get up and kiss her father; but she restrained herself. A young woman,
on the other hand, if she is such as I think you are, waits till she is
asked. Then it has to begin. The Doctor, as he said this, smiled his
And when it has begun, she does not like to blurt it out at once,
even to her loving old father.
That's about it, isn't it? Haven't I hit it off? He paused, as
though for a reply, but she was not as yet able to make him any. Come
here, my dear. She came and stood by him, so that he could put his arm
round her waist. If it be as I suppose, you are better disposed to
this young man than you are likely to be to any other, just at
Oh yes, papa.
To all others you are quite indifferent?
I am sure you are. But not quite indifferent to this one? Give me a
kiss, my darling, and I will take that for your speech. Then she
kissed him,giving him her very best kiss. And now, my child, what
shall I say to the Earl?
I don't know, papa.
Nor do I, quite. I never do know what to say till I've got the pen
in my hand. But you'll commission me to write as I may think best?
Oh yes, papa.
And I may presume that I know your mind?
Very well. Then you had better leave me, so that I can go to work
with the paper straight before me, and my pen fixed in my fingers. I
can never begin to think till I find myself in that position. Then she
left him, and went back to her mother.
Well, my dear, said Mrs. Wortle.
He is going to write to Lord Bracy.
But what does he mean to say?
I don't know at all, mamma.
I think he means to tell Lord Bracy that he has got no objection.
Then Mrs. Wortle was sure that the Doctor meant to face all the
dangers, and that therefore it would behove her to face them also.
The Doctor, when he was left alone, sat a while thinking of the
matter before he put himself into the position fitted for composition
which he had described to his daughter. He acknowledged to himself that
there was a difficulty in making a fit reply to the letter which he had
to answer. When his mind was set on sending an indignant epistle to the
Bishop, the words flew from him like lightning out of the
thunder-clouds. But now he had to think much of it before he could make
any light to come which should not bear a different colour from that
which he intended. Of course such a marriage would suit my child, and
would suit me, he wished to say;not only, or not chiefly, because
your son is a nobleman, and will be an earl and a man of great
property. That goes a long way with us. We are too true to deny it. We
hate humbug, and want you to know simply the truth about us. The title
and the money go far,but not half so far as the opinion which we
entertain of the young man's own good gifts. I would not give my girl
to the greatest and richest nobleman under the British Crown, if I did
not think that he would love her and be good to her, and treat her as a
husband should treat his wife. But believing this young man to have
good gifts such as these, and a fine disposition, I am willing, on my
girl's behalf,and she also is willing,to encounter the acknowledged
danger of a long engagement in the hope of realising all the good
things which would, if things went fortunately, thus come within her
reach. This was what he wanted to say to the Earl, but he found it
very difficult to say it in language that should be natural.
MY DEAR LORD BRACY,When I learned, through Mary's mother, that
Carstairs had been here in our absence and made a declaration of love
to our girl, I was, I must confess, annoyed. I felt, in the first
place, that he was too young to have taken in hand such a business as
that; and, in the next, that you might not unnaturally have been angry
that your son, who had come here simply for tuition, should have fallen
into a matter of love. I imagine that you will understand exactly what
were my feelings. There was, however, nothing to be said about it. The
evil, so far as it was an evil, had been done, and Carstairs was going
away to Oxford, where, possibly, he might forget the whole affair. I
did not, at any rate, think it necessary to make a complaint to you of
To all this your letter has given altogether a different aspect. I
think that I am as little likely as another to spend my time or
thoughts in looking for external advantages, but I am as much alive as
another to the great honour to myself and advantage to my child of the
marriage which is suggested to her. I do not know how any more secure
prospect of happiness could be opened to her than that which such a
marriage offers. I have thought myself bound to give her your letter to
read because her heart and her imagination have naturally been affected
by what your son said to her. I think I may say of my girl that none
sweeter, none more innocent, none less likely to be over-anxious for
such a prospect could exist. But her heart has been touched; and though
she had not dreamt of him but as an acquaintance till he came here and
told his own tale, and though she then altogether declined to entertain
his proposal when it was made, now that she has learnt so much more
through you, she is no longer indifferent. This, I think, you will find
to be natural.
I and her mother also are of course alive to the dangers of a long
engagement, and the more so because your son has still before him a
considerable portion of his education. Had he asked advice either of
you or of me he would of course have been counselled not to think of
marriage as yet. But the very passion which has prompted him to take
this action upon himself shows,as you yourself say of him,that he
has a stronger will than is usual to be found at his years. As it is
so, it is probable that he may remain constant to this as to a fixed
I think you will now understand my mind and Mary's and her
mother's. Lord Bracy as he read this declared to himself that though
the Doctor's mind was very clear, Mrs. Wortle, as far as he knew, had
no mind in the matter at all. I would suggest that the affair should
remain as it is, and that each of the young people should be made to
understand that any future engagement must depend, not simply on the
persistency of one of them, but on the joint persistency of the two.
If, after this, Lady Bracy should be pleased to receive Mary at
Carstairs, I need not say that Mary will be delighted to make the
visit.Believe me, my dear Lord Bracy, yours most faithfully.
The Earl, when he read this, though there was not a word in it to
which he could take exception, was not altogether pleased. Of course
it will be an engagement, he said to his wife.
Of course it will, said the Countess. But then Carstairs is so
very much in earnest. He would have done it for himself if you hadn't
done it for him.
At any rate the Doctor is a gentleman, the Earl said, comforting
CHAPTER XI. MR. PEACOCKE'S RETURN.
THE Earl's rejoinder to the Doctor was very short: So let it be.
There was not another word in the body of the letter; but there was
appended to it a postscript almost equally short; Lady Bracy will
write to Mary and settle with her some period for her visit. And so it
came to be understood by the Doctor, by Mrs. Wortle, and by Mary
herself, that Mary was engaged to Lord Carstairs.
The Doctor, having so far arranged the matter, said little or
nothing more on the subject, but turned his mind at once to that other
affair of Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke. It was evident to his wife, who
probably alone understood the buoyancy of his spirit and its
corresponding susceptibility to depression, that he at once went about
Mr. Peacocke's affairs with renewed courage. Mr. Peacocke should resume
his duties as soon as he was remarried, and let them see what Mrs.
Stantiloup or the Bishop would dare to say then! It was impossible, he
thought, that parents would be such asses as to suppose that their
boys' morals could be affected to evil by connection with a man so
true, so gallant, and so manly as this. He did not at this time say
anything further as to abandoning the school, but seemed to imagine
that the vacancies would get themselves filled up as in the course of
nature. He ate his dinner again as though he liked it, and abused the
Liberals, and was anxious about the grapes and peaches, as was always
the case with him when things were going well. All this, as Mrs. Wortle
understood, had come to him from the brilliancy of Mary's prospects.
But though he held his tongue on the subject, Mrs. Wortle did not.
She found it absolutely impossible not to talk of it when she was alone
with Mary, or alone with the Doctor. As he counselled her not to make
Mary think too much about it, she was obliged to hold her peace when
both were with her; but with either of them alone she was always full
of it. To the Doctor she communicated all her fears and all her doubts,
showing only too plainly that she would be altogether broken-hearted if
anything should interfere with the grandeur and prosperity which seemed
to be partly within reach, but not altogether within reach of her
darling child. If he, Carstairs, should prove to be a recreant young
lord! If Aristotle and Socrates should put love out of his heart! If
those other wicked young lords at Christ-Church were to teach him that
it was a foolish thing for a young lord to become engaged to his
tutor's daughter before he had taken his degree! If some better born
young lady were to come in his way and drive Mary out of his heart! No
more lovely or better girl could be found to do so;of that she was
sure. To the latter assertion the Doctor agreed, telling her that, as
it was so, she ought to have a stronger trust in her daughter's
charms,telling her also, with somewhat sterner voice, that she should
not allow herself to be so disturbed by the glories of the Bracy
coronet. In this there was, I think, some hypocrisy. Had the Doctor
been as simple as his wife in showing her own heart, it would probably
have been found that he was as much set upon the coronet as she.
Then Mrs. Wortle would carry the Doctor's wisdom to her daughter.
Papa says, my dear, that you shouldn't think of it too much.
I do think of him, mamma. I do love him now, and of course I think
Of course you do, my dear;of course you do. How should you not
think of him when he is all in all to you? But papa means that it can
hardly be called an engagement yet.
I don't know what it should be called; but of course I love him. He
can change it if he likes.
But you shouldn't think of it, knowing his rank and wealth.
I never did, mamma; but he is what he is, and I must think of him.
Poor Mrs. Wortle did not know what special advice to give when this
declaration was made. To have held her tongue would have been the
wisest, but that was impossible to her. Out of the full heart the mouth
speaks, and her heart was very full of Lord Carstairs and of Carstairs
House, and of the diamonds which her daughter would certainly be called
upon to wear before the Queen,if only that young man would do his
Poor Mary herself probably had the worst of it. No provision was
made either for her to see her lover or to write to him. The only
interview which had ever taken place between them as lovers was that on
which she had run by him into the house, leaving him, as the Earl had
said, planted on the terrace. She had never been able to whisper one
single soft word into his ear, to give him even one touch of her
fingers in token of her affection. She did not in the least know when
she might be allowed to see him,whether it had not been settled among
the elders that they were not to see each other as real lovers till he
should have taken his degree,which would be almost in a future world,
so distant seemed the time. It had been already settled that she was to
go to Carstairs in the middle of November and stay till the middle of
December; but it was altogether settled that her lover was not to be at
Carstairs during the time. He was to be at Oxford then, and would be
thinking only of his Greek and Latin,or perhaps amusing himself, in
utter forgetfulness that he had a heart belonging to him at Bowick
Parsonage. In this way Mary, though no doubt she thought the most of it
all, had less opportunity of talking of it than either her father or
In the mean time Mr. Peacocke was coming home. The Doctor, as soon
as he heard that the day was fixed, or nearly fixed, being then, as has
been explained, in full good humour with all the world except Mrs.
Stantiloup and the Bishop, bethought himself as to what steps might
best be taken in the very delicate matter in which he was called upon
to give advice. He had declared at first that they should be married at
his own parish church; but he felt that there would be difficulties in
this. She must go up to London and meet him there, he said to Mrs.
Wortle. And he must not show himself here till he brings her down as
his actual wife. Then there was very much to be done in arranging all
this. And something to be done also in making those who had been his
friends, and perhaps more in making those who had been his enemies,
understand exactly how the matter stood. Had no injury been inflicted
upon him, as though he had done evil to the world in general in
befriending Mr. Peacocke, he would have been quite willing to pass the
matter over in silence among his friends; but as it was he could not
afford to hide his own light under a bushel. He was being punished
almost to the extent of ruin by the cruel injustice which had been done
him by the evil tongue of Mrs. Stantiloup, and, as he thought, by the
folly of the Bishop. He must now let those who had concerned themselves
know as accurately as he could what he had done in the matter, and what
had been the effect of his doing. He wrote a letter, therefore, which
was not, however, to be posted till after the Peacocke marriage had
been celebrated, copies of which he prepared with his own hand in order
that he might send them to the Bishop and to Lady Anne Clifford, and to
Mr. Talbot and,not, indeed, to Mrs. Stantiloup, but to Mrs.
Stantiloup's husband. There was a copy also made for Mr. Momson, though
in his heart he despised Mr. Momson thoroughly. In this letter he
declared the great respect which he had entertained, since he had first
known them, both for Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke, and the distress which he
had felt when Mr. Peacocke had found himself obliged to explain to him
the facts,the facts which need not be repeated, because the reader is
so well acquainted with them. Mr. Peacocke, he went on to say, has
since been to America, and has found that the man whom he believed to
be dead when he married his wife, has died since his calamitous
reappearance. Mr. Peacocke has seen the man's grave, with the stone on
it bearing his name, and has brought back with him certificates and
evidence as to his burial.
Under these circumstances, I have no hesitation in re-employing
both him and his wife; and I think that you will agree that I could not
do less. I think you will agree, also, that in the whole transaction I
have done nothing of which the parent of any boy intrusted to me has a
right to complain.
Having done this, he went up to London, and made arrangements for
having the marriage celebrated there as soon as possible after the
arrival of Mr. Peacocke. And on his return to Bowick, he went off to
Mr. Puddicombe with a copy of his letter in his pocket. He had not
addressed a copy to his friend, nor had he intended that one should be
sent to him. Mr. Puddicombe had not interfered in regard to the boys,
and had, on the whole, shown himself to be a true friend. There was no
need for him to advocate his cause to Mr. Puddicombe. But it was right,
he thought, that that gentleman should know what he did; and it might
be that he hoped that he would at length obtain some praise from Mr.
Puddicombe. But Mr. Puddicombe did not like the letter. It does not
tell the truth, he said.
Not the truth!
Not the whole truth.
As how! Where have I concealed anything?
If I understand the question rightly, they who have thought proper
to take their children away from your school because of Mr. Peacocke,
have done so because that gentleman continued to live with that lady
when they both knew that they were not man and wife.
That wasn't my doing.
You condoned it. I am not condemning you. You condoned it, and now
you defend yourself in this letter. But in your defence you do not
really touch the offence as to which you are, according to your own
showing, accused. In telling the whole story, you should say; 'They did
live together though they were not married;and, under all the
circumstances, I did not think that they were on that account unfit to
be left in charge of my boys.'
But I sent him away immediately,to America.
You allowed the lady to remain.
Then what would you have me say? demanded the Doctor.
Nothing, said Mr. Puddicombe;not a word. Live it down in
silence. There will be those, like myself, who, though they could not
dare to say that in morals you were strictly correct, will love you the
better for what you did. The Doctor turned his face towards the dry,
hard-looking man and showed that there was a tear in each of his eyes.
There are few of us not so infirm as sometimes to love best that which
is not best. But when a man is asked a downright question, he is bound
to answer the truth.
You would say nothing in your own defence.
Not a word. You know the French proverb: 'Who excuses himself is
his own accuser.' The truth generally makes its way. As far as I can
see, a slander never lives long.
Ten of my boys are gone! said the Doctor, who had not hitherto
spoken a word of this to any one out of his own family;ten out of
That will only be a temporary loss.
That is nothing,nothing. It is the idea that the school should be
They will come again. I do not believe that that letter would bring
a boy. I am almost inclined to say, Dr. Wortle, that a man should never
He should never have to defend himself.
It is much the same thing. But I'll tell you what I'll do, Dr.
Wortle,if it will suit your plans. I will go up with you and will
assist at the marriage. I do not for a moment think that you will
require any countenance, or that if you did, that I could give it you.
No man that I know so efficiently.
But it may be that Mr. Peacocke will like to find that the
clergymen from his neighbourhood are standing with him. And so it was
settled, that when the day should come on which the Doctor would take
Mrs. Peacocke up with him to London, Mr. Puddicombe was to accompany
The Doctor when he left Mr. Puddicombe's parsonage had by no means
pledged himself not to send the letters. When a man has written a
letter, and has taken some trouble with it, and more specially when he
has copied it several times himself so as to have made many letters of
it,when he has argued his point successfully to himself, and has
triumphed in his own mind, as was likely to be the case with Dr. Wortle
in all that he did, he does not like to make waste paper of his
letters. As he rode home he tried to persuade himself that he might yet
use them. He could not quite admit his friend's point. Mr. Peacocke, no
doubt, had known his own condition, and him a strict moralist might
condemn. But he,he,Dr. Wortle,had known nothing. All that he had
done was not to condemn the other man when he did know!
Nevertheless as he rode into his own yard, he made up his mind that
he would burn the letters. He had shown them to no one else. He had not
even mentioned them to his wife. He could burn them without condemning
himself in the opinion of any one. And he burned them. When Mr.
Puddicombe found him at the station at Broughton as they were about to
proceed to London with Mrs. Peacocke, he simply whispered the fate of
the letters. After what you said I destroyed what I had written.
Perhaps it was as well, said Mr. Puddicombe.
When the telegram came to say that Mr. Peacocke was at Liverpool,
Mrs. Peacocke was anxious immediately to rush up to London. But she was
restrained by the Doctor,or rather by Mrs. Wortle under the Doctor's
orders. No, my dear; no. You must not go till all will be ready for
you to meet him in the church. The Doctor says so.
Am I not to see him till he comes up to the altar?
On this there was another consultation between Mrs. Wortle and the
Doctor, at which she explained how impossible it would be for the woman
to go through the ceremony with due serenity and propriety of manner
unless she should be first allowed to throw herself into his arms, and
to welcome him back to her. Yes, she said, he can come and see you
at the hotel on the evening before, and again in the morning,so that
if there be a word to say you can say it. Then when it is over he will
bring you down here. The Doctor and Mr. Puddicombe will come down by a
later train. Of course it is painful, said Mrs. Wortle, but you must
bear up. To her it seemed to be so painful that she was quite sure
that she could not have borne it. To be married for the third time, and
for the second time to the same husband! To Mrs. Peacocke, as she
thought of it, the pain did not so much rest in that, as in the
condition of life which these things had forced upon her.
I must go up to town to-morrow, and must be away for two days,
said the Doctor out loud in the school, speaking immediately to one of
the ushers, but so that all the boys present might hear him. I trust
that we shall have Mr. Peacocke with us the day after to-morrow.
We shall be very glad of that, said the usher.
And Mrs. Peacocke will come and eat her dinner again like before?
asked a little boy.
I hope so, Charley.
We shall like that, because she has to eat it all by herself now.
All the school, down even to Charley, the smallest boy in it, knew
all about it. Mr. Peacocke had gone to America, and Mrs. Peacocke was
going up to London to be married once more to her own husband,and the
Doctor and Mr. Puddicombe were both going to marry them. The usher of
course knew the details more clearly than that,as did probably the
bigger boys. There had even been a rumour of the photograph which had
been seen by one of the maid-servants,who had, it is to be feared,
given the information to the French teacher. So much, however, the
Doctor had felt it wise to explain, not thinking it well that Mr.
Peacocke should make his reappearance among them without notice.
On the afternoon of the next day but one, Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke were
driven up to the school in one of the Broughton flys. She went quickly
up into her own house, when Mr. Peacocke walked into the school. The
boys clustered round him, and the three assistants, and every word said
to him was kind and friendly;but in the whole course of his troubles
there had never been a moment to him more difficult than this,in
which he found it so nearly impossible to say anything or to say
nothing. Yes, I have been over very many miles since I saw you last.
This was an answer to young Talbot, who asked him whether he had not
been a great traveller whilst he was away.
In America, suggested the French usher, who had heard of the
photograph, and knew very well where it had been taken.
Yes, in America.
All the way to San Francisco, suggested Charley.
All the way to San Francisco, Charley,and back again.
Yes; I know you're come back again, said Charley, because I see
There are only twenty boys this half, said one of the twenty.
Then I shall have more time to attend to you now.
I suppose so, said the lad, not seeming to find any special
consolation in that view of the matter.
Painful as this first re-introduction had been, there was not much
more in it than that. No questions were asked, and no explanations
expected. It may be that Mrs. Stantiloup was affected with fresh moral
horrors when she heard of the return, and that the Bishop said that the
Doctor was foolish and headstrong as ever. It may be that there was a
good deal of talk about it in the Close at Broughton. But at the school
there was very little more said about it than what has been stated
CHAPTER XII. MARY'S SUCCESS.
IN this last chapter of our short story I will venture to run
rapidly over a few months so as to explain how the affairs of Bowick
arranged themselves up to the end of the current year. I cannot pretend
that the reader shall know, as he ought to be made to know, the future
fate and fortunes of our personages. They must be left still
struggling. But then is not such always in truth the case, even when
the happy marriage has been celebrated?even when, in the course of
two rapid years, two normal children make their appearance to gladden
the hearts of their parents?
Mr. and Mrs. Peacocke fell into their accustomed duties in the
diminished school, apparently without difficulty. As the Doctor had not
sent those ill-judged letters he of course received no replies, and was
neither troubled by further criticism nor consoled by praise as to his
conduct. Indeed, it almost seemed to him as though the thing, now that
it was done, excited less observation than it deserved. He heard no
more of the metropolitan press, and was surprised to find that the
'Broughton Gazette' inserted only a very short paragraph, in which it
stated that they had been given to understand that Mr. and Mrs.
Peacocke had resumed their usual duties at the Bowick School, after the
performance of an interesting ceremony in London, at which Dr. Wortle
and Mr. Puddicombe had assisted. The press, as far as the Doctor was
aware, said nothing more on the subject. And if remarks injurious to
his conduct were made by the Stantiloups and the Momsons, they did not
reach his ears. Very soon after the return of the Peacockes there was a
grand dinner-party at the palace, to which the Doctor and his wife were
invited. It was not a clerical dinner-party, and so the honour was the
greater. The aristocracy of the neighbourhood were there, including
Lady Anne Clifford, who was devoted, with almost repentant affection,
to her old friend. And Lady Margaret Momson was there, the only
clergyman's wife besides his own, who declared to him with unblushing
audacity that she had never regretted anything so much in her life as
that Augustus should have been taken away from the school. It was
evident that there had been an intention at the palace to make what
amends the palace could for the injuries it had done.
Did Lady Anne say anything about the boys? asked Mrs. Wortle, as
they were going home.
She was going to, but I would not let her. I managed to show her
that I did not wish it, and she was clever enough to stop.
I shouldn't wonder if she sent them back, said Mrs. Wortle.
She won't do that. Indeed, I doubt whether I should take them. But
if it should come to pass that she should wish to send them back, you
may be sure that others will come. In such a matter she is very good as
a weathercock, showing how the wind blows. In this way the
dinner-party at the palace was in a degree comforting and consolatory.
But an incident which of all was most comforting and most
consolatory to one of the inhabitants of the parsonage took place two
or three days after the dinner-party. On going out of his own hall-door
one Saturday afternoon, immediately after lunch, whom should the Doctor
see driving himself into the yard in a hired gig from Broughtonbut
young Lord Carstairs. There had been no promise, or absolute compact
made, but it certainly had seemed to be understood by all of them that
Carstairs was not to show himself at Bowick till at some long distant
period, when he should have finished all the trouble of his education.
It was understood even that he was not to be at Carstairs during Mary's
visit,so imperative was it that the young people should not meet. And
now here he was getting out of a gig in the Rectory yard! Halloa!
Carstairs, is that you?
Yes, Dr. Wortle,here I am.
We hardly expected to see you, my boy.
No,I suppose not. But when I heard that Mr. Peacocke had come
back, and all about his marriage, you know, I could not but come over
to see him. He and I have always been such great friends.
Oh,to see Mr. Peacocke?
I thought he'd think it unkind if I didn't look him up. He has made
it all right; hasn't he?
Yes;he has made it all right, I think. A finer fellow never
lived. But he'll tell you all about it. He travelled with a pistol in
his pocket, and seemed to want it too. I suppose you must come in and
see the ladies after we have been to Peacocke?
I suppose I can just see them, said the young lord, as though
moved by equal anxiety as to the mother and as to the daughter.
I'll leave word that you are here, and then we'll go into the
school. So the Doctor found a servant, and sent what message he
thought fit into the house.
Lord Carstairs here?
Yes, indeed, Miss! He's with your papa, going across to the school.
He told me to take word in to Missus that he supposes his lordship will
stay to dinner. The maid who carried the tidings, and who had received
no commission to convey them to Miss Mary, was, no doubt, too much
interested in an affair of love, not to take them first to the one that
would be most concerned with them.
That very morning Mary had been bemoaning herself as to her hard
condition. Of what use was it to her to have a lover, if she was never
to see him, never to hear from him,only to be told about him,that
she was not to think of him more than she could help? She was already
beginning to think that a long engagement carried on after this fashion
would have more of suffering in it than she had anticipated. It seemed
to her that while she was, and always would be, thinking of him, he
never, never would continue to think of her. If it could be only a word
once a month it would be something,just one or two written words
under an envelope,even that would have sufficed to keep her hope
alive! But never to see him;never to hear from him! Her mother had
told her that very morning that there was to be no meeting,probably
for three years, till he should have done with Oxford. And here he was
in the house,and her papa had sent in word to say that he was to eat
his dinner there! It so astonished her that she felt that she would be
afraid to meet him. Before she had had a minute to think of it all, her
mother was with her. Carstairs, love, is here!
Oh mamma, what has brought him?
He has gone into the school with your papa to see Mr. Peacocke. He
always was very fond of Mr. Peacocke. For a moment something of a
feeling of jealousy crossed her heart,but only for a moment. He would
not surely have come to Bowick if he had begun to be indifferent to her
already! Papa says that he will probably stay to dinner.
Then I am to see him?
Yes;of course you must see him.
I didn't know, mamma.
Don't you wish to see him?
Oh yes, mamma. If he were to come and go, and we were not to meet
at all, I should think it was all over then. Only,I don't know what
to say to him.
You must take that as it comes, my dear.
Two hours afterwards they were walking, the two of them alone
together, out in the Bowick woods. When once the law,which had been
rather understood than spoken,had been infringed and set at naught,
there was no longer any use in endeavouring to maintain a semblance of
its restriction. The two young people had met in the presence both of
the father and mother, and the lover had had her in his arms before
either of them could interfere. There had been a little scream from
Mary, but it may probably be said of her that she was at the moment the
happiest young lady in the diocese.
Does your father know you are here? said the Doctor, as he led the
young lord back from the school into the house.
He knows I'm coming, for I wrote and told my mother. I always tell
everything; but it's sometimes best to make up your mind before you get
an answer. Then the Doctor made up his mind that Lord Carstairs would
have his own way in anything that he wished to accomplish.
Won't the Earl be angry? Mrs. Wortle asked.
No;not angry. He knows the world too well not to be quite sure
that something of the kind would happen. And he is too fond of his son
not to think well of anything that he does. It wasn't to be supposed
that they should never meet. After all that has passed I am bound to
make him welcome if he chooses to come here, and as Mary's lover to
give him the best welcome that I can. He won't stay, I suppose, because
he has got no clothes.
But he has;John brought in a portmanteau and a dressing-bag out
of the gig. So that was settled.
In the mean time Lord Carstairs had taken Mary out for a walk into
the wood, and she, as she walked beside him, hardly knew whether she
was going on her head or her heels. This, indeed, it was to have a
lover. In the morning she was thinking that when three years were past
he would hardly care to see her ever again. And now they were together
among the falling leaves, and sitting about under the branches as
though there was nothing in the world to separate them. Up to that day
there had never been a word between them but such as is common to mere
acquaintances, and now he was calling her every instant by her
Christian name, and telling her all his secrets.
We have such jolly woods at Carstairs, he said; but we shan't be
able to sit down when we're there, because it will be winter. We shall
be hunting, and you must come out and see us.
But you won't be there when I am, she said, timidly.
Won't I? That's all you know about it. I can manage better than
You'll be at Oxford.
You must stay over Christmas, Mary; that's what you must do. You
musn't think of going till January.
But Lady Bracy won't want me.
Yes, she will. We must make her want you. At any rate they'll
understand this; if you don't stay for me, I shall come home even if
it's in the middle of term. I'll arrange that. You don't suppose I'm
not going to be there when you make your first visit to the old place.
All this was being in Paradise. She felt when she walked home with
him, and when she was alone afterwards in her own room, that, in truth,
she had only liked him before. Now she loved him. Now she was beginning
to know him, and to feel that she would really,really die of a broken
heart if anything were to rob her of him. But she could let him go now,
without a feeling of discomfort, if she thought that she was to see him
again when she was at Carstairs.
But this was not the last walk in the woods, even on this occasion.
He remained two days at Bowick, so necessary was it for him to renew
his intimacy with Mr. Peacocke. He explained that he had got two days'
leave from the tutor of his College, and that two days, in College
parlance, always meant three. He would be back on the third day, in
time for gates; and that was all which the strictest college
discipline would require of him. It need hardly be said of him that the
most of his time he spent with Mary; but he did manage to devote an
hour or two to his old friend, the school-assistant.
Mr. Peacocke told his whole story, and Carstairs, whose morals were
perhaps not quite so strict as those of Mr. Puddicombe, gave him all
his sympathy. To think that a man can be such a brute as that, he
said, when he heard that Ferdinand Lefroy had shown himself to his wife
at St. Louis,only on a spree.
There is no knowing to what depth utter ruin may reduce a man who
has been born to better things. He falls into idleness, and then
comforts himself with drink. So it seems to have been with him.
And that other fellow;do you think he meant to shoot you?
Never. But he meant to frighten me. And when he brought out his
knife in the bedroom at Leavenworth he did. My pistol was not loaded.
Because little as I wish to be murdered, I should prefer that to
murdering any one else. But he didn't mean it. His only object was to
get as much out of me as he could. As for me, I couldn't give him more
because I hadn't got it. After that they made a league of friendship,
and Mr. Peacocke promised that he would, on some distant occasion, take
his wife with him on a visit to Carstairs.
It was about a month after this that Mary was packed up and sent on
her journey to Carstairs. When that took place, the Doctor was in
supreme good-humour. There had come a letter from the father of the two
Mowbrays, saying that he had again changed his mind. He had, he said,
heard a story told two ways. He trusted Dr. Wortle would understand him
and forgive him, when he declared that he had believed both the
stories. If after this the Doctor chose to refuse to take his boys back
again, he would have, he acknowledged, no ground for offence. But if
the Doctor would take them, he would intrust them to the Doctor's care
with the greatest satisfaction in the world,as he had done before.
For a while the Doctor had hesitated; but here, perhaps for the
first time in her life, his wife was allowed to persuade him. They are
such leading people, she said.
Who cares for that? I have never gone in for that. This, however,
was hardly true. When I have been sure that a man is a gentleman, I
have taken his son without inquiring much farther. It was mean of him
to withdraw after I had acceded to his request.
But he withdraws his withdrawal in such a flattering way! Then the
Doctor assented, and the two boys were allowed to come. Lady Anne
Clifford hearing this, learning that the Doctor was so far willing to
relent, became very piteous and implored forgiveness. The noble
relatives were all willing now. It had not been her fault. As far as
she was concerned herself she had always been anxious that her boys
should remain at Bowick. And so the two Cliffords came back to their
old beds in the old room.
Mary, when she first arrived at Carstairs, hardly knew how to carry
herself. Lady Bracy was very cordial and the Earl friendly, but for the
first two days nothing was said about Carstairs. There was no open
acknowledgment of her position. But then she had expected none; and
though her tongue was burning to talk, of course she did not say a
word. But before a week was over Lady Bracy had begun, and by the end
of the fortnight Lord Bracy had given her a beautiful brooch. That
means, said Lady Bracy in the confidence of her own little
sitting-room up-stairs, that he looks upon you as his daughter.
Yes, my dear, yes. Then they fell to kissing each other, and did
nothing but talk about Carstairs and all his perfections, and his
unalterable love, and how these three years could be made to wear
themselves away, till the conversation,simmering over as such
conversation is wont to do,gave the whole household to understand
that Miss Wortle was staying there as Lord Carstairs's future bride.
Of course she stayed over the Christmas, or went back to Bowick for
a week, and then returned to Carstairs, so that she might tell her
mother everything, and hear of the six new boys who were to come after
the holidays. Papa couldn't take both the Buncombes, said Mrs. Wortle
in her triumph, and one must remain till midsummer. Sir George did say
that it must be two or none, but he had to give way. I wanted papa to
have another bed in the east room, but he wouldn't hear of it.
Mary went back for the Christmas and Carstairs came; and the house
was full, and everybody knew of the engagement. She walked with him,
and rode with him, and danced with him, and talked secrets with
him,as though there were no Oxford, no degree before him. No doubt it
was very imprudent, but the Earl and the Countess knew all about it.
What might be, or would be, or was the end of such folly, it is not my
purpose here to tell. I fear that there was trouble before them. It
may, however, be possible that the degree should be given up on the
score of love, and Lord Carstairs should marry his bride,at any rate
when he came of age.
As to the school, it certainly suffered nothing by the Doctor's
generosity, and when last I heard of Mr. Peacocke, the Bishop had
offered to grant him a licence for the curacy. Whether he accepted it I
have not yet heard, but I am inclined to think that in this matter he
will adhere to his old determination.
* * * * *