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- Framley Parsonage - 20/111 -

and the duke had not treated him in the most courteous manner in the world. How hard it is for a rich man not to lean upon his riches! harder, indeed, than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

All Barsetshire knew--at any rate all West Barsetshire--that Miss Dunstable had been brought down in those parts in order that Mr Sowerby might marry her. It was not surmised that Miss Dunstable herself had had any previous notice of this arrangement, but it was supposed that the thing would turn out as a matter of course. Mr Sowerby had no money, but then he was witty, clever, good-looking, and a member of Parliament. He lived before the world, represented an old family, and had an old place. How could Miss Dunstable possibly do better? She was not so young now, and it was time that she should look about her. The suggestion, as regarded Mr Sowerby, was certainly true, and was not the less so as regarded some of Mr Sowerby's friends. His sister, Mrs Harold Smith, had devoted herself to the work, and with this view had run up a dear friendship with Miss Dunstable. The bishop had intimated, nodding his head knowingly, that it would be a very good thing. Mrs Proudie had given her adherence. Mr Supplehouse had been made to understand that it must be a case of 'Pawn off' with him, as long as he remained in that part of the world; and even the duke himself had desired Mr Fothergill to manage it.

'He owes me an enormous sum of money,' said the duke, who held all Mr Sowerby's title-deeds, 'and I doubt whether the security will be sufficient.'

'Your grace will find the security quite insufficient,' said Mr Fothergill; 'but nevertheless it would be a good match.'

'Very good,' said the duke. And then it became Mr Fothergill's duty to see that Mr Sowerby and Miss Dunstable became man and wife as speedily as possible. Some of the party, who were more wide awake than others, declared that he had made the offer; others that he was just going to do so; and one very knowing lady went so far at one time as to say that he was making it that moment. Bets also were laid as to the lady's answer, as to the terms of the settlement, and as to the period of the marriage--of all which poor Miss Dunstable of course knew nothing. Mr Sowerby, in spite of the publicity of his proceedings, proceeded in this matter very well. He said little about it, to those who joked with him, but carried on the fight with what best knowledge he had in these matters. But so much it is given to us to declare with certainty, that he had not proposed on the evening previous to the morning fixed for the departure of Mark Robarts. During the last two days Mr Sowerby's intimacy with Mark had grown warmer and warmer. He had talked to the vicar confidentially about the doings of these bigwigs now present at the castle, as though there were no other guests there with whom he could speak in so free a manner. He confided, it seemed, much more in Mark than in his brother-in-law, Harold Smith, or in any of his brother members of Parliament, and had altogether opened his heart to him in this affair of his anticipated marriage. Now Mr Sowerby was a man of mark in the world, and all this flattered our young clergyman not a little. On that evening before Robarts went away Sowerby asked him to come up to his bedroom when the whole party was breaking up, and there got him into an easy chair while he, Sowerby, walked up and down the room.

'You can hardly tell, my dear fellow,' said he, 'the state of nervous anxiety in which this puts me.'

'Why don't you ask her and have done with it? She seems to me to be fond of your society.'

'Ah, it is not that only; there are wheels within wheels;' and then he walked once or twice up and down the room, during which Mark thought that he might as well go to bed.

'Not that I mind telling you everything,' said Sowerby. 'I am infernally hard up for a little ready money, just at the present moment. It may be, and indeed I think it will be, the case that I shall be ruined in this matter for the want of it.'

'Could not Harold Smith give it to you?'

'Ha, ha, ha! you don't know Harold Smith. Did you ever hear of his lending a man a shilling in his life?'

'Or Supplehouse?'

'Lord love you. You see me and Supplehouse together here, and he comes and stays at my house, and all that; but Supplehouse and I are no friends. Look you here, Mark--I would do more for your little finger than for his whole hand, including the pen which he holds in it. Fothergill indeed might--but then I know Fothergill is pressed himself at the present moment. It is deuced hard, isn't it? I must give up the whole game if I can't put my hand upon L400, within the next two days.'

'Ask her for it, herself.'

'What, the woman I wish to marry! No, Mark, I'm not quite come to that. I would sooner lose her than that.' Mark sat silent, gazing at the fire and wishing that he was in his own bedroom. He had an idea that Mr Sowerby wished him to produce the L400, and he knew also that he had not L400 in the world, and that if he had he would be acting very foolishly to give it to Mr Sowerby. But, nevertheless, he felt half fascinated by the man, and half afraid of him.

'Lufton owes it to me to do more than this,' continued Mr Sowerby, 'but then Lufton is not here.'

'Why, he has just paid five thousand pounds to you.'

'Paid five thousand pounds to me! Indeed he has done no such thing; not a sixpence of it came into my hands. Believe me, Mark, you don't know the whole of that yet. Not that I mean to say a word against Lufton. He is the soul of honour; though so deucedly dilatory in money matters. He thought he was right all through that affair, but no man was ever so confoundedly wrong. Why, don't you remember that that was the very view you took yourself.'

'I remember saying that I thought he was mistaken.'

'Of course he was mistaken. And dearly that mistake cost me. I had to make good the money for two or three years. And my property is not like his--I wish it were.'

'Marry Miss Dunstable, and that will set it all right for you.'

'Ah! so I would if I had this money. At any rate I would bring it to the point. Now, I tell you what, Mark, if you'll assist me at this strait I'll never forget it. And the time will come round when I may be able to do something for you.'

'I have not got a hundred, no, not fifty pounds by me in the world.'

'Of course you've not. Men don't walk about the streets with L400 in their pockets. I don't suppose there is a single man here in the house with such a sum at his banker's, unless it is the duke.'

'What is it you want, then?'

'Why, your name, to be sure. Believe me, my dear fellow, I would not ask you really to put your hand into your pocket to such a tune as that. Allow me to draw on you for that amount at three months. Long before that time I shall be flush enough.' And then, before Mark could answer, he had a bill stamp and pen and ink out on the table before him, and was filling in the bill as though his friend had already given his consent.

'Upon my word, Sowerby, I had rather not do that.'

'Why? what are you afraid of?'--Mr Sowerby asked this very sharply. 'Did you ever hear of my having neglected to take up a bill when it fell due?' Robarts thought that he had heard of such a thing; but in his confusing he was not exactly sure, and so he said nothing.

'No, my boy; I have not come to that. Look here: just you write, "Accepted, Mark Robarts," across that, and then you shall never hear of the transaction again; and you will have obliged me for ever.'

'As a clergyman it would be wrong of me,' said Robarts.

'As a clergyman! Come, Mark. If you don't like to do as much as that for a friend, say so; but don't let me have that sort of humbug. If there be one class of men whose names would be found more frequent on the backs of bills in the provincial banks than another, clergymen are that class. Come, old fellow, you won't throw me over when I am so hard pushed.' Mark Robarts took the pen and signed the bill. It was the first time in his life that he had ever done such an act. Sowerby then shook him cordially by the hand, and he walked off to his own bedroom a wretched man.



The next morning Mr Robarts took leave of all his grand friends with a heavy heart. He had lain awake half the night thinking of what he had done and trying to reconcile himself to his position. He had not well left Mr Sowerby's room before he felt certain that at the end of three months he would again be troubled about that 400L. As he went along the passage, all the man's known antecedents crowded upon him much quicker than he could remember them when seated in that arm-chair with the bill stamp before him, and the pen and ink ready to his hand. He remembered what Lord Lufton had told him--how he had complained of having been left in the lurch; he thought of all the stories current throughout the entire country as to the impossibility of getting money from Chaldicotes; he brought to mind the known character of the man, and then he knew that he must prepare himself to make good a portion at least of that heavy payment. Why had he come to this horrid place? Had he not everything at home at Framley at which the heart of man could desire? No; the heart of man can desire deaneries--the heart, that is, of the man vicar; and the heart of the man dean can desire bishoprics; and before the eyes of the man bishop does there not loom the transcendental glory of Lambeth? He had owned to himself that he was ambitious; but he had to own to himself now that he had hitherto taken but a sorry path towards the object of his ambition. On the next morning at breakfast-time, before his horse and gig arrived for him, no one was so bright as his friend Sowerby. 'So you are off,

Framley Parsonage - 20/111

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