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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 60. Lord St. George Is Very Cunning
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 60. Lord St. George Is Very Cunning Post by :Ahmad Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :524

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 60. Lord St. George Is Very Cunning

CHAPTER LX. LORD ST. GEORGE IS VERY CUNNING

Lord St. George began to throw his oil upon the waters in reference to that unfortunate chapel at Bullhampton a day or two after his interview with his father in the lawyer's chambers. His father had found himself compelled to yield; had been driven, as it were, by the Fates, to accord to his son permission to do as his son should think best. There came to be so serious a trouble in consequence of that terrible mistake of Packer's, that the poor old Marquis was unable to defend himself from the necessity of yielding. On that day, before he left his son at Westminster, when their roads lay into the different council-chambers of the state, he had prayed hard that the oil might not be very oily. But his son would not bate him an inch of his surrender.

"He is so utterly worthless," the Marquis had said, pleading hard as he spoke of his enemy.

"I'm not quite sure, my lord, that you understand the man," St. George had said. "You hate him, and no doubt he hates you."

"Horribly!" ejaculated the Marquis.

"You intend to be as good as you know how to be to all those people at Bullhampton?"

"Indeed I do, St. George," said the Marquis, almost with tears in his eyes.

"And I shouldn't wonder if he did, too."

"But look at his life," said the Marquis.

"It isn't always easy to look at a man's life. We are always looking at men's lives, and always making mistakes. The bishop thinks he is a good sort of fellow, and the bishop isn't the man to like a debauched, unbelieving, reckless parson, who, according to your ideas, must be leading a life of open shame and profligacy. I'm inclined to think there must be a mistake."

The unfortunate Marquis groaned deeply as he walked away to the august chamber of the Lords.

These and such like are the troubles that sit heavy on a man's heart. If search for bread, and meat, and raiment, be set aside, then, beyond that, our happiness or misery here depends chiefly on success or failure in small things. Though a man when he turns into bed may be sure that he has unlimited thousands at his command, though all society be open to him, though he know himself to be esteemed handsome, clever, and fashionable, even though his digestion be good, and he have no doctor to deny him tobacco, champagne, or made dishes, still, if he be conscious of failure there where he has striven to succeed, even though it be in the humbling of an already humble adversary, he will stretch, and roll, and pine,--a wretched being. How happy is he who can get his fretting done for him by deputy!

Lord St. George wrote to the parson a few days after his interview with his father. He and Lord Trowbridge occupied the same house in London, and always met at breakfast; but nothing further was said between them during the remaining days in town upon the subject. Lord St. George wrote to the parson, and his father had left London for Turnover before Mr. Fenwick's answer was received.


MY DEAR SIR,--(Lord St. George had said,)--My father
has put into my hands your letter about the dissenting
chapel at Bullhampton. It seems to me, that he has made a
mistake, and that you are very angry. Couldn't we arrange
this little matter without fighting? There is not a
landlord in England more desirous of doing good to his
tenants than my father; and I am quite willing to believe
that there is not an incumbent in England more desirous of
doing good to his parishioners than you. I leave London
for Wiltshire on Saturday the 11th. If you will meet me I
will drive over to Bullhampton on Monday the 13th.

Yours truly,

ST. GEORGE.

No doubt you'll agree with me in thinking that internecine
fighting in a parish between the landlord and the
clergyman cannot be for the good of the people.

Thus it was that Lord St. George began to throw his oil upon the waters.

It may be a doubt whether it should be ascribed to Mr. Fenwick as a weakness or a strength that, though he was very susceptible of anger, and though he could maintain his anger at glowing heat as long as fighting continued, it would all evaporate and leave him harmless as a dove at the first glimpse of an olive-branch. He knew this so well of himself, that it would sometimes be a regret to him in the culmination of his wrath that he would not be able to maintain it till the hour of his revenge should come. On receiving Lord St. George's letter, he at once sat down and wrote to that nobleman, telling him that he would be happy to see him at lunch on the Monday at two o'clock. Then there came a rejoinder from Lord St. George, saying that he would be at the vicarage at the hour named.

Mrs. Fenwick was of course there to entertain the nobleman, whom she had never seen before, and during the lunch very little was said about the chapel, and not a word was said about other causes of complaint.

"That is a terrible building, Mrs. Fenwick," Lord St. George had remarked.

"We're getting used to it now," Mrs. Fenwick had replied; "and Mr. Fenwick thinks it good for purposes of mortification."

"We must see and move the sackcloth and ashes a little further off," said his lordship.

Then they ate their lunch, and talked about the parish, and expressed a joint hope that the Grinder would be hung at Salisbury.

"Now let us go and see the corpus delicti," said the Vicar as soon as they had drawn their chairs from the table.

The two men went out and walked round the chapel, and, finding it open, walked into it. Of course there were remarks made by both of them. It was acknowledged that it was ugly, misplaced, uncomfortable, detestable to the eye, and ear, and general feeling,--except in so far as it might suit the wants of people who were not sufficiently educated to enjoy the higher tone, and more elaborate language of the Church of England services. It was thus that they spoke to each other, quite in an aesthetic manner.

Lord St. George had said as he entered the chapel, that it must come down as a matter of course; and the Vicar had suggested that there need be no hurry.

"They tell me that it must be removed some day," said the Vicar, "but as I am not likely to leave the parish, nobody need start the matter for a year or two." Lord St. George was declaring that advantage could not be taken of such a concession on Mr. Fenwick's part, when a third person entered the building, and walked towards them with a quick step.

"Here is Mr. Puddleham, the minister," said Mr. Fenwick; and the future lord of Bullhampton was introduced to the present owner of the pulpit under which they were standing.

"My lord," said the minister, "I am proud, indeed, to have the honour of meeting your lordship in our new chapel, and of expressing to your lordship the high sense entertained by me and my congregation of your noble father's munificent liberality to us in the matter of the land."

In saying this Mr. Puddleham never once turned his face upon the Vicar. He presumed himself at the present moment to be at feud with the Vicar in most deadly degree. Though the Vicar would occasionally accost him in the village, he always answered the Vicar as though they two were enemies. He had bowed when he came up the chapel, but he had bowed to the stranger. If the Vicar took any of that courtesy to himself, that was not his fault.

"I'm afraid we were a little too quick there," said Lord St. George.

"I hope not, my lord; I hope not. I have heard a rumour; but I have inquired. I have inquired, and--"

"The truth is, Mr. Puddleham, that we are standing on Mr. Fenwick's private ground this moment."

"You are quite welcome to the use of it, Mr. Puddleham," said the Vicar. Mr. Puddleham assumed a look of dignity, and frowned. He could not even yet believe that his friend the Marquis had made so fatal a mistake.

"We must build you another chapel,--that will be about the long and short of it, Mr. Puddleham."

"My lord, I should think there must be some--mistake. Some error must have crept in somewhere, my lord. I have made inquiry--"

"It has been a very big error," said Lord St. George, "and it has crept into Mr. Fenwick's glebe in a very palpable form. There is no use in discussing it, Mr. Puddleham."

"And why didn't the reverend gentleman claim the ground when the works were commenced?" demanded the indignant minister, turning now for the first time to the Vicar, and doing so with a visage full of wrath, and a graceful uplifting of his right hand.

"The reverend gentleman was very ignorant of matters with which he ought to have been better acquainted," said Mr. Fenwick himself.

"Very ignorant, indeed," said Mr. Puddleham. "My lord, I am inclined to think that we can assert our right to this chapel and maintain it. My lord, I am of opinion that the whole hierarchy of the Episcopal Established Church in England cannot expel us. My lord, who will be the man to move the first brick from this sacred edifice?" And Mr. Puddleham pointed up to the pulpit as though he knew well where that brick was ever to be found when duty required its presence. "My lord, I would propose that nothing should be done; and then let us see who will attempt to close this chapel door against the lambs of the Lord who come here for pasture in their need."

"The lambs shall have pasture and shall have their pastor," said St. George, laughing. "We'll move this chapel to ground that is our own, and make everything as right as a trivet for you. You don't want to intrude, I'm sure."

Mr. Puddleham's eloquence was by no means exhausted; but at last, when they had left the chapel, and the ground immediately around the chapel which Mr. Puddleham would insist upon regarding as his own, they did manage to shake him off.

"And now, Mr. Fenwick," said Lord St. George, in his determined purpose to throw oil upon the waters, "what is this unfortunate quarrel between you and my father?"

"You had better ask him that, my lord."

"I have asked him, of course,--and of course he has no answer to make. No doubt you intended to enrage him when you wrote him that letter which he showed me."

"Certainly I did."

"I hardly see how good is to be done by angering an old man who stands high in the world's esteem."

"Had he not stood high, my lord, I should probably have passed him by."

"I can understand all that,--that one man should be a mark for another's scorn because he is a Marquis, and wealthy. But what I can't understand is, that such a one as you should think that good can come from it."

"Do you know what your father has said of me?"

"I've no doubt you both say very hard things of each other."

"I never said an evil thing of him behind his back that I have not said as strongly to his face," said Mr. Fenwick, with much of indignation in his tone.

"Do you really think that that mitigates the injury done to my father?" said Lord St. George.

"Do you know that he has complained of me to the bishop?"

"Yes,--and the bishop took your part."

"No thanks to your father, Lord St. George. Do you know that he has accused me publicly of the grossest vices; that he has,--that he has,--that he has--. There is nothing so bad that he hasn't said it of me."

"Upon my word, I think you are even with him, Mr. Fenwick, I do indeed."

"What I have said, I have said to his face. I have made no accusation against him. Come, my lord, I am willing enough to let bygones be bygones. If Lord Trowbridge will condescend to say that he will drop all animosity to me, I will forgive him the injuries he has done me. But I cannot admit myself to have been wrong."

"I never knew any man who would," said Lord St. George.

"If the Marquis will put out his hand to me, I will accept it," said the Vicar.

"Allow me to do so on his behalf," said the son.

And thus the quarrel was presumed to be healed. Lord St. George went to the inn for his horse, and the Vicar, as he walked across to the vicarage, felt that he had been--done. This young lord had been very clever,--and had treated the quarrel as though on even terms, as if the offences on each side had been equal. And yet the Vicar knew very well that he had been right,--right without a single slip,--right from the beginning to the end. "He has been clever," he said to himself, "and he shall have the advantage of his cleverness." Then he resolved that as far as he was concerned the quarrel should in truth be over.

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