George Fenn.

The Parson O' Dumford





Ony what I towd him. I said part people went theer o Sabbath, and that it was a straange niste woshup.

Nice woshup, indeed! why you niver went theer i your life, said Sim.

I said so Id heerd, said the landlord, stolidly, and then I towd him how you used to preach theer till they turned thee out.

What call had you to got to do that? said Sim, viciously.

Turned thee out, and took thy name off the plan for comin to see me.

Well, of all the unneighbourly things as iver I heerd! exclaimed Sim. To go and talk that clat to a straanger.

Outer kindness to him, said the landlord. It was a kind o hint, and he took it, for I was thinking of his bishop, and he took it direckly, for he says, says he, Well, I hope I shant hev my name took off my plan for coming to see you, Mr Robinson, he says. I hope not, sir, I says. Perhaps youll take a glass o wine, sir, I says. No, Mr Robinson, he says, Ill take a glass gill you call it o your ale. And if he didnt sit wi me for a good hour, and drink three gills o ale and smoke three pipes wi me, same as you might, ony he talked more sensible.

Well, hes a pretty parson, he is, sneered Sim.

You let him be; he aint a bad sort at all, said the landlord, quietly.

Ha, ha! laughed Sim. Hes got howlt o you too, Robinson.

Mebbe he hev; mebbe he hevnt, said the landlord.

Did he ask you to go to church?

Well, not azackly, said the landlord; but he said he should be very happy to see me theer, just like astin me to his house.

Ho, ho! laughed Sim; and some day we shall have the Bull and Cowcumber at church.

What are yow laughin at, yo maulkin? cried the landlord. Why, Id go ony wheer to sit and listen to a sensible man talk.

Aw raight, aw raight, Robinson; dont be put out, said Sim; but I didnt think as yowd be got over so easy.

Whos got over? said the landlord. Not I indeed.

Well, said Sim, did he say anything more?

Say? yes, hes full o say, and its good sorter say. I ast him if hed like to see the farm, and he said he would, and I took him out wheer the missus was busy wi her pancheons, making bread and syling the milk, and he stopped and talked to her.

But yow didnt take him out into your moocky owd crewyard, did yo?

Moocky crewyard indeed! but I just did, and I tell you what, Sim Slee, hes as good a judge of a beast as iver I see.

And then yow showed him the new mare, said Sim, with a grin.

I did, said the landlord. Horncastle? he says, going up to her and opening her mouth. Raight, I says. Six year owd, he says; and then he felt her legs and said he should like to see her paces, and I had Jemmy to give her a run in the field. Shes Irish, he says. How do you know? I says trying him like to trap him. By that turn-up nose, he says, and that wild saucy look about the eye and head. Youre raight, parson, I says.

And then he says, she was worth sixty pun, every pun of it; and I told him as I got her for nine and thirty, and ten shillings back. I tell you what, Sim Slee, Parsons a man, every inch on him. As for the missus, shes that pleased, she sent him ower a pun o boother this morning from our best Alderney.

O course, sneered Sim. Thats the way. Thats your cunning priest coming into your house to lead silly women captive, and sew pillows to their armholes.

Go on wi yer blather, cried the landlord.

Go on, indeed, continued Sim. Thats their way. Hes a regular Jesooit, he is, and your home weant soon be your own. Hes gettin ivery woman in the place under his thumb. He begins wi Miss Eve theer at the house, and Daisy Banks. Then hes gotten howd o my missus. Heres Mrs Glaire allus coming and fetching him out wi her in the pony shay, and now hes gotten howd o your owd woman, and shes sendin him pounds o boother. It was allus the way wi them cunning priests: they allus get over the women, and then they do what they like wi the men. No matter how strong they are, down they come just like Samson did wi Delilah. It was allus so, and as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.

Amen, said Jacky Budd, coming in at the back door. Gies a gill o ale, Robinson. Im bout bunt up wi thirst. Hallo, Slee, what! are yow preaching agen?

Never mind, said Sim, sulkily. I should ha thowt parson would ha fun you in ale, now.

Not he, said Jacky. Drinks it all his sen. Hes got a little barrel o Robinsons best i the house, too.

Ho, ho, ho! laughed Sim, holding his sides and stooping. I say, Jacky, put some new basses in one o the pews for Mester Robinson, Esquire, as is going to come reglar to church now. Thats the way they do it: Send me in a small barrel o your best ale, Mr Robinson, he says, and I shall be happy to see you at church.

If yow use up all yer wind, Sim Slee, said the landlord, sturdily, yow weant hev none left to lay down the law wi at the meeting to-night.

Volume One Chapter Seventeen.
Mrs Glaire Makes Plans

Poor Mrs Glaire was in trouble about her fowls, who seemed possessed of a great deal of nature strongly resembling the human. She had a fine collection of noble-looking young Brahma cockerels, great massive fellows, youthful, innocent, sheepish, and stupid. They were intended for exhibition, and their mistress expected a prize for the birds, which had dwelt together in unity, increasing in bulk and brilliancy of plumage, and had never looked a hen in the face since the day they forsook their mamma in the coop.

And now, by mishap, a wanton young pullet had flown up on to the wall that divided them from the poultry yard, and just cried, Took took took! before flying down. That was sufficient: a battle royal began amongst the brothers directly, and when Mrs Glaire went down to feed them she found two birds nearly dead, the rest all ragged as to their feathers, bleeding as to their combs and wattles, and still fighting in a heavy lumbering way, but so weary that they could only take hold of one another with their beaks and give feeble pecks at their dripping feathers.

Mrs Glaire sighed and made comparisons between Daisy Banks and the wicked little pullet who had caused all this strife, telling herself that she was to be congratulated on having but one son, and wishing that he were married, settled, and happy.

She had decided that she would have the vicar up to dinner that night, and intended to make him her confidant and ally; and accordingly in the evening, while the conversation narrated in the last chapter was going on, the object of it was making his way to the house, getting a friendly nod here and there, and stopping for a minutes chat with the people whose acquaintance he had made.

As a rule they were moody faces he met with amongst the women, for they were more than usually soured at the present time on account of the strike, and the sight of the black coat and white tie was not a pleasant one to them, and the replies to his salute were generally sulky and constrained.

He fared better with the men, in spite of Mr Simeon Slees utterances, for the report had gone round and round again that Parson could fight, and the church militant, from this point of view, was one that seemed to them worthy of respect.

So he went slowly along the main street, past Mr Purley, the doctors, as that gentleman, just returned from a round, was unwedging himself from his gig.

How do, parson, how do? he said. Like a ride with me to-morrow?

Well, yes, if youll get out your four-wheeler, said the vicar, laughing.

Going up to the house to dinner, parson?

Yes.

Tell Mrs Glaire Ill be on in ten minutes, said the doctor. But I say, parson, dont sit on the rubber of whist.

Doctor, said the vicar, patting him on the shoulder, I shall not; but bring an extra sovereign or two with you, for I want to win a little money to-night for some of my poor.

Hes a rum one, muttered the doctor, as he went in. Hes a rum one, that he is; but I dont think hes bad at bottom.

Meanwhile the vicar went on, past Ramson and Tomsons the grocers and drapers, where silks and sugars, taffetas and tea were displayed in close proximity; and although Ramson and Tomson were deacons at the Independent Chapel, and the old vicar had passed them always without a look, a friendly nod was exchanged now, to the great disgust of Miss Primgeon, the lawyers maiden sister, a lady who passed her time at her window, and who, not being asked to the little dinner she knew was to be held at the house, was in anything but the best of tempers that evening.

Richard Glaire was not aware of his mothers arrangement, and his face wore anything but a pleasant expression as he confronted the vicar in the hall, having himself only just come in.

How do, Mr Selwood, how do? he said haughtily, as he took out his watch and paid no heed to the extended hand. Just going to dinner; would you mind calling again?

Not in the least, said the vicar, smiling, often. Look here, Richard Glaire, he continued, laying his hand upon the young mans shoulder, you dont understand me.

Will you er have the goodness

Oh, yes, of course, said the vicar, Ill explain all in good time; but look here, my good young friend, Im here in a particular position, and I mean to be a sort of shadow or fate to you.

I really am at a loss to understand, began Richard, whose anger was vainly struggling against the strong will opposed to him.

I see, said the vicar, youve been out and didnt know I was coming to dinner. Dont apologise. Ah, Miss Pelly!

This to Eve, who had heard the voices; and Richards face grew white with passion as he saw the girls bright animated countenance and glad reception of their visitor. She tripped down the stairs, and placed both her hands in his, exclaiming

Im so glad, Mr Selwood. Aunt didnt tell me you were coming to dinner till just now.

And so am I glad, he said, with a smile touched with sadness overspreading his face, as he saw the eager pleasant look that greeted him, one that he was well enough read in the human countenance to see had nothing in it but the hearty friendly welcome of an ingenuous maiden, who knew and liked him for his depth and conversation. We shall have a long chat to-night, I hope, and some music.

They were entering the drawing-room together as he spoke.

Oh yes, yes, cried she, eagerly. I can never get Dick to sing now. Do you sing, Mr Selwood?

Well, yes, a little, he said, smiling down at her.

And play?

Yes, a little.

What? Not the piano?

Just a little, he said. I am better on the organ.

Oh, I am so glad, cried Eve. Aunt will be here directly; Im so glad youve come to Dumford. The old vicar was so stiff, and would sit here when he did come, and play backgammon all the evening without speaking.

Backgammon, eh? said the visitor; not a very lively game for the lookers on.

Yes, and it was so funny, laughed Eve, he never would allow cards in his presence, though he played with the dice; and it used to make dear Dick so cross because aunt used to hide the cards. But, oh dear, she exclaimed, colouring slightly, I hope you dont object to whist.

My dear Miss Pelly, he said, laughing, I like every innocent game. I think they all are as medicine to correct the acidity and bitterness of some of the hard work of life.

Then youll play croquet with us?

That I will.

Oh, I am glad, cried Eve, with almost childish pleasure. I can beat Dick easily now, Mr Selwood, for he neglects his croquet horribly. Mind I dont beat you.

I wont murmur, he said, laughing.

But wheres aunt? cried Eve. She came down before me.

Aunt had gone straight into the dining-room to see that all things were in a proper state of preparation, and had stopped short in the doorway on seeing Eves reception of their guest.

She was about to step forward, when, unseen by him, she caught a glimpse of her sons countenance, as he watched the vicar. His teeth were set, his lips drawn slightly back, and a fierce look of anger puckered his forehead, as with fists clenched he made an involuntary movement after the couple who had entered the drawing-room.

Mrs Glaire drew back softly, and laying her hand on her beating heart, she walked to the other end of the dining-room, seating herself in one of the windows, half concealed by the curtain.

There was a smile upon her face, for, quick as lightning, a thought had flashed across her mind.

Here was the means at hand to bring her son to his senses. She had meant to take the vicar into her confidence, and ask his aid, stranger though he was, for she felt that his position warranted it; but now things had shaped themselves so that he was thoroughly playing into her hands.

She knew Eve, that she was ingenuous and truthful, and looked upon her marriage with her cousin as a matter of course. She was a girl who would consider a flirtation to be a crime towards the man who loved her; but the vicar would evidently be very attentive even as he had begun to be, and already Richards ire was aroused. Richard jealous, she meditated, and he would be roused from his apathetic behaviour to Eve, and all would come right.

And the vicar? she asked herself.

Oh, he meant nothing, would mean nothing. He knew the relations of Richard and his cousin, and the plan would must succeed.

But was she wrong? Was Richard annoyed at the vicars demeanour towards Eve, or was it her imagination?

The answer came directly, for Richard flung into the room, took up a sherry decanter, and filling a glass, tossed it off.

Curse him! I wont have him here, he said aloud. What does he mean by talking to me like that? by hanging after Eve? I wont have it. You there, mother?

Yes, my son, she replied, rising and looking him calmly in the face.

Look here, mother, I wont have that clerical cad here. What do you mean by asking him to dinner?

I asked him as a guest who has behaved very kindly to us, Richard. He is my guest. I asked him because I wished to have him; and you must recollect that he is a clergyman and a gentleman.

If he wasnt a parson, cried Richard, writhing beneath his mothers clear cold glance, for it seemed to his guilty conscience that she could read in his face that he had broken his word about Daisy if he wasnt a parson Id break his neck.

Richard, I insist, cried his mother, in a tone that he had not heard since he had grown to manhood, and which reminded him of the days when he was sternly forced to obey, if you insult Mr Selwood, you insult your mother.

But the cads making play after Eve hes smiling and squeezing her hand, and the little jilt likes it.

No wonder, said Mrs Glaire, calmly. Women like attentions. You have neglected the poor girl disgracefully.

What! are you going to allow it? cried Richard. I tell you hes making play for her.

I shall not interfere, said Mrs Glaire, coldly. I think Eve ought to have a good husband.

But shes engaged to me! half-shrieked Richard.

Well, said his mother, coldly, though her heart was beating fast, you are a man, and should counteract it. This is England, and in English society, little as I have seen of it, I know that engaged girls are not prisoners. They are, to a certain extent, free.

Ill soon stop it, cried Richard, fiercely. Stop it then, my son, but mind this: I insist upon proper respect being paid to Mr Selwood.

I will, cried Richard, speaking in a deep-pitched voice. Ill do something.

Then I should take care that my pretensions to her hand were well known, said Mrs Glaire, with a peculiar look.

Pretensions her hand! said Richard, with a sneer. Are you mad, mother, that you take this tone? I will soon let them see. Im not going to be played with.

He was about leaving the room, when his mother laid her hand upon his arm.

Stop, Richard, she said, firmly. Recollect this

Well, what?

That it was the clear wish of your father and myself to make you a gentleman.

Well, I am a gentleman, cried Richard, angrily.

Bear it in mind then, my son; and remember that rude, rough ways disgust Eve, and injure your cause. Mr Selwood is a gentleman, and you must meet him as a gentleman.

I dont know what you mean, mother, cried the young man, angrily.

I mean this, that my son occupies the position of the first man in Dumford; and though his father was a poor workman, and his mother a workmans daughter

There, dont always get flinging my birth in my teeth, mother do, pray, sink the shop.

I have no wish to remind you of your origin, Richard, said Mrs Glaire, with a sigh; only I wish to make you remember that we educated you to be a gentleman, and that we have given you the means. Act like one.

I shall do that; dont you be afraid, said Richard.

And mind, Richard, a true gentleman keeps his word, said Mrs Glaire, meaningly.

Well, so do I, exclaimed the young man, flushing up. What are you hinting at now?

I hope you do, my son; I hope you do, said Mrs Glaire, looking at him fixedly; and then, as a sharp knock came at the front door, she glided out of the room, and her voice was heard directly after in conversation with the bluff doctor.

Oh, hes here, too, is he? muttered Dick, biting his nails. Hang it all! Curse it, how crookedly things go. I there, hang it all!

He stood, thinking, with knitted brows, and then hastily pouring out and tossing off another glass of sherry, and smiling in a way that looked very much like the twitch of the lip when a cur means to bite, he said, in a mock melodramatic voice

Ha ha! we must dissemble! and strode out of the room.

Volume One Chapter Eighteen.
The Plan Begins to Work

The vicar was standing by the flower-stand talking to Eve, and opening out the calyx of a new orchid, a half faded blossom of which he had picked from the pot to explain some peculiarities of its nature, while Eve, looking bright and interested, drank in his every word.

Mr Purley was filling out an easy-chair, having picked out one without arms for obvious reasons, and he was gossiping away to Mrs Glaire.

How do, Purley? said Richard, with a face as smooth as if nothing had occurred to fret him. Glad to see you.

Glad to see you too, Glaire; but you dont say, How are you?

Who does to a doctor, laughed Richard. Why you couldnt be ill if you tried.

Ha-ha-ha! laughed Mr Purley. Well, if Im not ill, Im hungry.

Always are, said Richard, with a sneer; and then seeing that his retort was a little too pointed, he blunted it by pandering to the stout medicos favourite joke, and adding, Taken any one for a ride lately?

Ha-ha-ha! laughed the doctor. Thats good! Hes getting a regular Joe Miller in kid gloves, Mrs Glaire: that he is. Ha-ha-ha!

Richard gave a short side nod, for he was already crossing the room to the flower-stand.

Talking about flowers? he said, quietly. Thats pretty. I didnt know theyd asked you to dinner, Mr Selwood, and you must have thought me very gruff.

Dont name it, said the vicar, frankly; but he was looking into the younger mans eyes in a way that made him turn them aside in a shifty manner, and begin picking nervously at the leaves of a plant as he went on

Fact is, dont you know, Im cross and irritable. When a mans got all his fellows on strike or lock out, it upsets him.

Yes, Mr Selwood, interposed Eve, the poor fellow has been dreadfully worried lately. But its all going to be right soon, I hope.

I dont know, said Richard, cavalierly; theyre horribly obstinate.

Mrs Glaire, who had been watching all this eagerly, while she made an appearance of listening to Mr Purleys prattle, gave her son a grateful look, to which he replied with a smile and a nod, when a servant entered and announced the dinner.

Richard Glaires smile and nod turned into a scowl and a twitch on hearing his mothers next words, which were

Mr Selwood, will you take in my niece? Mr Purley, your arm.

The vicar passed out with Eve, followed by the doctor and their hostess, leaving Richard to bring up the rear, which he did after snatching up a book and hurling it across the room crash into the flower-stand.

Shes mad, he muttered, shes mad; and then grinding his teeth with rage he followed into the dining-room.

Richard contrived to conceal his annoyance tolerably during the dinner, but his mother saw with secret satisfaction that he was thoroughly piqued by the way in which Eve behaved towards their visitor; and even with the effort he made over himself, he was not quite successful in hiding his vexation; while when they went out afterwards on to the croquet lawn, and the vicar and Eve were partners against him, he gave vent to his feelings by vicious blows at the balls, to the no slight damage of Mrs Glaires flowers.

This lady, however, bore the infliction with the greatest equanimity, sitting on a garden seat, knitting, with a calm satisfied smile upon her face even though Eve looked aghast at the mischief that had been done.





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