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- Framley Parsonage - 50/111 -


attendance of nurses was more plentiful with her than at Hogglestock. Mrs Crawley did get up and told Lucy that she was glad to see her, and Mr Crawley came forward, grammar in hand, looking humble and meek. Could we have looked into the innermost spirit of him and his life's partner, we should have seen that mixed with the pride of his poverty there was some feeling of disgrace that he was poor, but that with her, regarding this matter, there was neither pride nor shame. The realities of life had become so stern to her that the outward aspects of them were as nothing. She would have liked a new gown because it would have been useful; but it would have been nothing to her if all the county knew that the one in which she went to church had been turned three times. It galled him, however, to think that he and his were so poorly dressed. 'I am afraid you can hardly find a chair, Miss Robarts,' said Mr Crawley.

'Oh, yes, there is nothing here but this young gentleman's library,' said Lucy, moving a pile of ragged, coverless books onto the table. 'I hope he'll forgive me for moving them.'

'They are not Bob's,--at least, not the most of them,--but mine,' said the girl.

'But some of them are mine,' said the boy; 'ain't they, Grace?'

'And are you a great scholar?' asked Lucy, drawing the child to her.

'I don't know,' said Grace, with a sheepish face. 'I am in Greek Delectus and the irregular verbs.'

'Greek Delectus and the irregular verbs!' And Lucy put up her hands with astonishment.

'And she knows an ode of Horace all by heart,' said Bob.

'An ode of Horace!' said Lucy, still holding the young shamefaced prodigy close to her knees.

'It is all that I can give them,' said Mr Crawley, apologetically. 'A little scholarship is the only fortune that has come my way, and I endeavour to share that with my children.'

'I believe men may say that it is the best fortune any of us can have,' said Lucy, thinking, however, in her own mind, that Horace and the irregular Greek verbs savoured too much of precocious forcing in a young lady of nine years old. But, nevertheless, Grace was a pretty, simple-looking girl, and clung to her ally closely, and seemed to like being fondled. So that Lucy anxiously wished that Mr Crawley could be got rid of and the presents produced.

'I hope you have left Mr Robarts quite well,' said Mr Crawley, with a stiff, ceremonial voice, differing very much from that in which he had so energetically addressed his brother clergyman when they were alone together in the study at Framley. 'He is quite well, thank you. I suppose you have heard of his good fortune?'

'Yes; I have heard of it,' said Mr Crawley, gravely. 'I hope that his promotion may tend in every way to his advantage here and hereafter.' It seemed, however, to be manifest from the manner in which he expressed his kind wishes that his hopes and expectation did not go hand in hand together.

'By the by, he desired us to say that he will call here to-morrow; at about eleven, didn't he say, Fanny?'

'Yes; he wishes to see you about some parish business, I think,' said Mrs Robarts, looking up for a moment from the anxious discussion in which she was already engaged with Mrs Crawley on nursery matters.

'Pray tell him,' said Mr Crawley, 'that I shall be happy to see him; though, perhaps, now that new duties have been thrown upon him, it will be better that I should visit him at Framley.'

'His new duties do not disturb him much as yet,' said Lucy. 'And his riding over here will be no trouble to him.'

'Yes; there he has the advantage over me. I unfortunately have no horse.' And then Lucy began petting the little boy, and by degrees slipped a small bag of gingerbread-nuts out of her muff into his hands. She had not the patience necessary for waiting, as had her sister-in-law. The boy took the bag, peeped into it, and then looked up into her face.

'What is that, Bob?' said Mr Crawley.

'Gingerbread,' faltered Bobby, feeling that a sin had been committed, though, probably feeling also that he himself could hardly as yet be accounted as deeply guilty.

'Miss Robarts,' said the father, 'we are very much obliged to you; but our children are hardly used to such things.'

'I am a lady with a weak mind, Mr Crawley, and always carry things of this sort about with me when I go to visit children; so you must forgive me, and allow your little boy to accept them.'

'Oh, certainly, Bob, my child, give the bag to your mamma, and she will let you and Grace have them, one at a time.' And then the bag in a solemn manner was carried over to their mother, who, taking it from her son's hands, laid it high on a bookshelf.

'And not one now?' said Lucy Robarts, very piteously. 'Don't be so hard, Mr Crawley,--not upon them, but upon me. May I not learn whether they are good of their kind?'

'I am sure they are very good; but I think their mamma will prefer their being put by for the present.' This was very discouraging to Lucy. If one small bag of gingerbread-nuts created so great a difficulty, how was she to dispose of the pot of guava jelly and a box of bonbons, which were still in her muff; or how distribute the packet of oranges with which the pony carriage was laden? And there was jelly for the sick child, and chicken broth, which was, indeed, another jelly; and, to tell the truth openly, there was also a joint of fresh pork and a basket of eggs from the Framley parsonage farmyard, which Mrs Robarts was to introduce, should she find herself capable of doing so; but which would certainly be cast out with utter scorn by Mr Crawley, if tendered in his immediate presence. There had also been a suggestion as to adding two or three bottles of port: but the courage of the ladies had failed them on that head, and the wine was not now added to their difficulties. Lucy found it very difficult to keep up a conversation with Mr Crawley--the more so as Mrs Robarts and Mrs Crawley presently withdrew into a bedroom, taking the two younger children with them. 'How unlucky,' thought Lucy, 'that she has not got my muff with her!' But the muff lay in her lap, ponderous with its rich enclosures.

'I suppose you will live in Barchester for a portion of the year now,' said Mr Crawley.

'I really do not know as yet; Mark talks of taking lodgings for his first month's residence.'

'But he will have the house, will he not?'

'Oh, yes; I suppose so.'

'I fear he will find it interfere with his own parish--with his general utility there: the schools, for instance.'

'Mark thinks that, as he is so near, he need not be much absent from Framley, even during his residence. And then Lady Lufton is so good about the schools.'

'Ah! yes: but Lady Lufton is not a clergyman, Miss Robarts.' It was on Lucy's tongue to say that her ladyship was pretty nearly as bad, but she stopped herself. At this moment Providence sent great relief to Miss Robarts in the shape of Mrs Crawley's red-armed maid-of-all-work, who, walking up to her master, whispered into his ear that he was wanted. It was the time of day at which his attendance was always required in his parish school; and that attendance being so punctually given, those who wanted him looked for him there at this hour, and if he were absent, did not scruple to send for him. 'Miss Robarts, I am afraid you must excuse me,' said he, getting up and taking his hat and stick. Lucy begged that she might not be at all in the way, and already began to speculate how she might best unload her treasures. 'Will you make my compliments to Mrs Robarts, and say that I am sorry to miss the pleasure of wishing her good-bye? But I shall probably see her as she passes the school-house.' And then, stick in hand, he walked forth, and Lucy fancied that Bobby's eyes immediately rested on the bag of gingerbread-nuts.

'Bob,' said she, almost in a whisper, 'do you like sugar-plumbs?'

'Very much, indeed,' said Bob, with exceeding gravity, and with his eye upon the window to see whether his father had passed.

'Then come here,' said Lucy. But as she spoke the door again opened, and Mr Crawley reappeared. 'I have left a book behind me,' he said; and coming back through the room, he took up the well-worn Prayer Book which accompanied him in all his wanderings through the parish. Bobby, when he saw his father, had retreated a few steps back, as also did Grace, who, to confess the truth, had been attracted by the sound of sugar-plumbs, in spite of the irregular verbs. And Lucy withdrew her hand from the muff and looked guilty. Was she not deceiving the good man--nay, teaching his own children to deceive him? But there are men made of such stuff that an angel could hardly live with them without some deceit. 'Papa's gone now,' whispered Bobby; 'I saw him turn round the corner.' He, at any rate, had learned his lesson--as it was natural that he should do. Some one else, also, had learned that papa was gone; for while Bob and Grace were still counting the big lumps of sugar-candy, each employed the while for inward solace with an inch of barley-sugar, the front-door opened, and a big basket, and a bundle done up in kitchen cloth, made surreptitious entrance into the house, and were quickly unpacked by Mrs Robarts herself on the table in Mrs Crawley's bedroom.

'I did venture to bring them,' said Fanny, with a look of shame, 'for I know how a sick child occupies the whole house.'

'Ah! my friend,' said Mrs Crawley, taking hold of Mrs Robarts's arm and looking into her face, 'that sort of shame is over with me. God has tried us with want, and for my children's sake I am glad of such relief.'

'But will he be angry?'


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