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- The American Senator - 60/115 -
"In the matter of wine," said the Senator, "I don't think that I have happened to come across anything so good in this country as our old Madeiras. But then, sir, we have been fortunate in our climate. The English atmosphere is not one in which wine seems to reach its full perfection." The rector heaved a deep sigh as he looked up to the ceiling with his hands in his trowsers-pockets. He knew, or thought that he knew, that no one could ever get a glass of good wine in the United States. He knew, or thought that he knew, that the best wine in the world was brought to England. He knew, or thought he knew, that in no other country was wine so well understood, so diligently sought for, and so truly enjoyed as in England. And he imagined that it was less understood and less sought for and less enjoyed in the States than in any other country. He did not as yet know the Senator well enough to fight with him at his own table, and could only groan and moan and look up at the ceiling. Doctor Nupper endeavoured to take away the sting by smacking his lips, and Reginald Morton, who did not in truth care a straw what he drank, was moved to pity and declared the claret to be very fine. "I have nothing to say against it," said the Senator, who was not in the least abashed.
But when the cloth was drawn, for the rector clung so lovingly to old habits that he delighted to see his mahogany beneath the wine glasses,--a more serious subject of dispute arose suddenly, though perhaps hardly more disagreeable. "The thing in England," said the Senator, "which I find most difficult to understand, is the matter of what you call Church patronage."
"If you'll pass half an hour with Mr. Surtees to-morrow morning, he'll explain it all to you," said the rector, who did not like that any subject connected with his profession should be mooted after dinner.
"I should be delighted," said Mr. Surtees.
"Nothing would give me more pleasure," said the Senator; "but what I mean is this;--the question is, of course, one of paramount importance."
"No doubt it is," said the deluded rector.
"It is very necessary to get good doctors."
"Well, yes, rather;--considering that all men wish to live." That observation, of course, came from Doctor Nupper.
"And care is taken in employing a lawyer,--though, after my experience of yesterday, not always, I should say, so much care as is needful. The man who wants such aid looks about him and gets the best doctor he can for his money, or the best lawyer. But here in England he must take the clergyman provided for him."
"It would be very much better for him if he did," said the rector.
"A clergyman at any rate is supposed to be appointed; and that clergyman he must pay."
"Not at all," said the rector. "The clergy are paid by the wise provision of former ages."
"We will let that pass for the present," said the Senator. "There he is, however he may be paid. How does he get there?" Now it was the fact that Mr. Mainwaring's living had been bought for him with his wife's money,--a fact of which Mr. Gotobed was not aware, but which he would hardly have regarded had he known it. "How does he get there?"
"In the majority of cases the bishop puts him there," said Mr. Surtees.
"And how is the bishop governed in his choice? As far as I can learn the stipends are absurdly various, one man getting 100 pounds a year for working like a horse in a big town, and another 1000 pounds for living an idle life in a luxurious country house. But the bishop of course gives the bigger plums to the best men. How is it then that the big plums find their way so often to the sons and sons-in-law and nephews of the bishops?"
"Because the bishop has looked after their education and principles," said the rector.
"And taught them how to choose their wives," said the Senator with imperturbable gravity.
"I am not the son of a bishop, sir," exclaimed the rector.
"I wish you had been, sir, if it would have done you any good. A general can't make his son a colonel at the age of twenty-five, or an admiral his son a first lieutenant, or a judge his a Queen's Counsellor,--nor can the head of an office promote his to be a chief secretary. It is only a bishop can do this;--I suppose because a cure of souls is so much less important than the charge of a ship or the discipline of twenty or thirty clerks."
"The bishops don't do it," said the rector fiercely.
"Then the statistics which have been put into my hands belie them. But how is it with those the bishops don't appoint? There seems to me to be such a complication of absurdities as to defy explanation."
"I think I could explain them all," said Mr. Surtees mildly.
"If you can do so satisfactorily, I shall be very glad to hear it," continued the Senator, who seemed in truth to be glad to hear no one but himself. "A lad of one-and-twenty learns his lessons so well that he has to be rewarded at his college, and a part of his reward consists in his having a parish entrusted to him when he is forty years old, to which he can maintain his right whether he be in any way trained for such work or no. Is that true?"
"His collegiate education is the best training he can have," said the rector.
"I came across a young fellow the other day," continued the Senator, "in a very nice house, with 700 pounds a year, and learned that he had inherited the living because he was his father's second son. Some poor clergyman had been keeping it ready for him for the last fifteen years and had to turn out as soon as this young spark could be made a clergyman."
"It was his father's property," said the rector, "and the poor man had had great kindness shown him for those fifteen years"
"Exactly;--his father's property! And this is what you call a cure of souls! And another man had absolutely had his living bought for him by his uncle, just as he might have bought him a farm. He couldn't have bought him the command of a regiment or a small judgeship. In those matters you require capacity. It is only when you deal with the Church that you throw to the winds all ideas of fitness. `Sir,' or `Madam,' or perhaps, `my little dear, you are bound to come to your places in Church and hear me expound the Word of God because I have paid a heavy sum of money for the privilege of teaching you, at the moderate salary of 600 pounds a year!'"
Mr. Surtees sat aghast, with his mouth open, and knew not how to say a word. Doctor Nupper rubbed his red nose. Reginald Morton attempted some suggestion about the wine which fell wretchedly flat. John Morton ventured to tell his friend that he did not understand the subject. "I shall be most happy to be instructed," said the Senator.
"Understand it!" said the rector, almost rising in his chair to rebuke the insolence of his guest--"He understands nothing about it, and yet he ventures to fall foul with unmeasured terms on an establishment which has been brought to its present condition by the fostering care of perhaps the most pious set of divines that ever lived, and which has produced results with which those of no other Church can compare!"
"Have I represented anything untruly?" asked the Senator.
"A great deal, sir."
"Only put me right, and no man will recall his words more readily. Is it not the case that livings in the Church of England can be bought and sold?"
"The matter is one, Sir," said the rector, "which cannot be discussed in this manner. There are two clergymen present to whom such language is distasteful; as it is also I hope to the others who are all members of the Church of England. Perhaps you will allow me to request that the subject may be changed." After that conversation flagged and the evening was by no means joyous. The rector certainly regretted that his '57 claret should have been expended on such a man. "I don't think," said he when John Morton had taken the Senator away, "that in my whole life before I ever met such a brute as that American Senator."
There was great consternation in the attorney's house after the writing of the letter to Lawrence Twentyman. For twenty-four hours Mrs. Masters did not speak to Mary, not at all intending to let her sin pass with such moderate punishment as that, but thinking during that period that as she might perhaps induce Larry to ignore the letter and look upon it as though it were not written, it would be best to say nothing till the time should come in which the lover might again urge his suit. But when she found on the evening of the second day that Larry did not come near the place she could control herself no longer, and accused her step-daughter of ruining herself, her father, and the whole family. "That is very unfair, mamma," Mary said. "I have done nothing. I have only not done that which nobody had a right to ask me to do."
"Right indeed! And who are you with your rights? A decent well-behaved young man with five or six hundred a year has no right to ask you to be his wife! All this comes of you staying with an old woman with a handle to her name."
It was in vain that Mary endeavoured to explain that she had not alluded to Larry when she declared that no one had a right to ask her to do it. She had, she said, always thanked him for his good opinion of her, and had spoken well of him whenever his name was
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