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Scotland. And the reason why I am going is this; Harold Smith and his wife will be there, and I am very anxious to know more of them. I have no doubt that Harold Smith will be in the government some day, and I cannot afford to neglect such a man's acquaintance.'
'But, Mark, what do you want of any government?'
'Well, Fanny, of course I am bound to say that I want nothing; neither in once sense do I; but, nevertheless, I shall go and meet Harold Smith.'
'Could you not be back before Sunday?'
'I have promised to preach at Chaldicotes. Harold Smith's going to lecture at Barchester, about the Australasian archipelago, and I am to preach a charity sermon on the same subject. They want to send out more missionaries.'
'A charity sermon at Chaldicotes!'
'And why not? The house will be quite full, you know! And I dare say that the Arabins will be there.'
'I think not; Mrs Arabin may get on well with Mrs Harold Smith, though I doubt that; but I'm sure she's not fond of Mr Smith's brother. I don't think she would stay at Chaldicotes.'
'And the bishop will probably be there for a day or two.'
'That is much more likely, Mark. If the pleasure of meeting Mrs Proudie is taking you to Chaldicotes, I have not a word more to say.'
'I am not a bit more fond of Mrs Proudie than you are, Fanny,' said the vicar, with something like vexation in the tone of his voice, for he thought that his wife was hard upon him. 'But it is generally thought that a parish clergyman does well to meet his bishop now and then. And as I was invited there, especially to preach while all these people are staying at the place, I could not well refuse.' And then he got up, and taking his candlestick, escaped to his dressing-room.
'But what am I to say to Lady Lufton?' his wife said to him in the course of the evening.
'Just write her a note, and tell her that you find I had promised to preach at Chaldicotes next Sunday. You'll go of course?'
'Yes; but I know she'll be annoyed. You were away the last time she had people there.'
'It can't be helped. She must put it down against Sarah Thompson. She ought not to expect to win always.'
'I should not have minded it, if she had lost, as you call it, about Sarah Thompson. That was a case in which you ought to have had your own way.'
'And this other is a case, in which I shall have it. It's a pity that there should be such a difference; isn't it?'
Then his wife perceived that, vexed as she was, it would be better that she should say nothing further; and before she went to bed, she wrote the note to Lady Lufton, as her husband recommended.
THE FRAMLEY SET, AND THE CHALDICOTES SET
It will be necessary that I should say a word or two of some of the people named in the few preceding pages, and also of the localities in which they lived. Of Lady Lufton herself enough, perhaps, has been written to introduce her to my readers. The Framley property belonged to her son; but as Lufton Park--an ancient ramshackle place in another county--had heretofore been the family residence of the Lufton family, Framley Court had been apportioned to her for her residence for life. Lord Lufton himself was still unmarried; and as he had no establishment at Lufton Park--which indeed had not been inhabited since his grandfather died--he lived with his mother when it suited him to live anywhere in that neighbourhood. The widow would fain have seen more of him than he allowed her to do. He had a shooting lodge in Scotland, and apartments in London, and a string of horses in Leicestershire--much to the disgust of the country gentry around him, who held that their own hunting was as good as any that England could afford. His lordship, however, paid his subscription to the East Barsetshire park, and then thought himself at liberty to follow his own pleasure as to his own amusement.
Framley itself was a pleasant country place, having about it nothing of seigneurial dignity or grandeur, but possessing everything necessary for the comfort of country life. The house was a low building of two stories, built at different periods, and devoid of all pretensions to any style of architecture; but the rooms, though not lofty, were warm and comfortable, and the gardens were trim and neat beyond all others in the county. Indeed, it was for its gardens only that Framley Court was celebrated. Village there was none, properly speaking. The high road went winding about through the Framley paddocks, shrubberies, and wood-skirted home fields, for a mile and a half, not two hundred yards of which ran in a straight line; and there was a cross-road which passed down through the domain, whereby there came to be a locality called Framley Cross. Here stood the 'Lufton Arms', and here at Framley Cross, the hounds occasionally would meet; for the Framley woods were drawn in spite of the young lord's truant disposition; and then, at the Cross also, lived the shoemaker, who kept the post-office.
Framley church was distant from this just a quarter of a mile, and stood immediately opposite to the chief entrance to Framley Court. It was but a mean, ugly building, having been erected about a hundred years since, when all churches then built were made to be mean and ugly; nor was it large enough for the congregation, some of whom were thus driven to the dissenting chapels, the Sions and Ebenezers, which had got themselves established on each side of the parish, in putting down which Lady Lufton thought that her parson was hardly as energetic as he might be. It was, therefore, a matter near to Lady Lufton's heart to see a new church built, and she was urgent in her eloquence both with her son and with the vicar, to have this good work commenced.
Beyond the church, but close to it, were the boy's school and girl's school, two distinct buildings, which owed their erection to Lady Lufton's energy; then came a neat little grocer's shop, the neat grocer being the clerk and the sexton, and the neat grocer's wife the pew-opener in the church. Podgens was their name, and they were great favourites with her ladyship, both having been servants up at the house. And here the road took a sudden turn to the left, turning, as it were, away from Framley Court; and just beyond the turn was the vicarage, so that there was a little garden path running from the back of the vicarage grounds into the churchyard, cutting the Podgens into an isolated corner of their own;--from whence, to tell the truth, the vicar would have been glad to banish them and their cabbages, could he have had the power to do so. For has not the small vineyard of Naboth been always an eyesore to neighbouring potentates?
The potentate in this case had as little excuse as Ahab, for nothing in the parsonage way could be more perfect than his parsonage. It had all the details requisite for the house of a moderate gentleman with moderate means, and none of those expensive superfluities which immoderate gentlemen demand, or which themselves demand immoderate means. And then the gardens and paddocks were exactly suited to it; and everything was in good order;--not exactly new, so as to be raw and uncovered, and redolent of workmen; but just at that era of their existence in which newness gives way to comfortable homeliness.
Other village at Framley there was none. At the back of the Court, up one of those cross-roads, there was another small shop or two, and there was a very neat cottage residence, in which lived the widow of a former curate, another protege of Lady Lufton's; and there was a big, staring, brick house, in which the present curate lived; but this was a full mile distant from the church, and farther from Framley Court, standing on that cross-road which runs from Framley Cross in a direction away from the mansion. This gentleman, the Rev Evan Jones, might from his age, have been the vicar's father; but he had been for many years curate at Framley; and though he was personally disliked by Lady Lufton, as being Low Church in his principles, and unsightly in his appearance, nevertheless, she would not urge his removal. He had two or three pupils in that large brick house, and, if turned out from these and from his curacy, might find it difficult to establish himself elsewhere. On this account mercy was extended to the Rev E Jones, and, in spite of his red face and awkward big feet, he was invited to dine at Framley Court, with his plain daughter, once in every three months.
Over and above these, there was hardly a house in the parish of Framley, outside the bounds of Framley Court, except those of farmers and farm labourers; and yet the parish was of large extent.
Framley is in the eastern division of the county of Barsetshire, which, as all the world knows, is, politically speaking, as true blue a county as any in England. There have been backslidings even here, it is true; but then, in what county have there not been such backslidings? Where, in these pinchbeck days, can we hope to find the old agricultural virtue in all its purity? But among these backsliders, I regret to say, that men now reckon Lord Lufton. Not that he is a violent Whig, or perhaps that is a Whig at all. But he jeers and sneers at the old county doings; declares, when solicited on the subject, that, as far as he is concerned, Mr Bright may sit for the county, if he pleases; and alleges, that being unfortunately a peer, he has no right ever to interest himself in the question. All this is deeply regretted, for, in the old days, there was no portion of the county more decidedly true blue than the Framley district; and, indeed, up to the present day, the dowager is able to give an occasional helping hand.
Chaldicotes is the seat of Nathaniel Sowerby, Esq, who, at the moment supposed to be now present, is one of the members for the Western Division of Barsetshire. But this Western Division can boast none of the fine political attributes which grace its twin brother. It is decidedly Whig, and is almost governed in its politics by one or two great Whig families. It has been said that Mark Robarts was about to pay a visit to Chaldicotes, and it has been hinted that his wife would have been as well pleased had this
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