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and so." But before that opinion was given, Mrs Proudie would take
up the tale, and she, in her more concise manner, was not wont to
quote the bishop as having at all assisted in the consideration of
the subject. It was well known in Barsetshire that no married pair
consorted more closely or more tenderly together; and the example of
such conjugal affection among persons in the upper classes is worth
mentioning, as it is believed by those below them, and too often with
truth, that the sweet bliss of connubial reciprocity is not so common
as it should be among the magnates of the earth.

But the arrival even of the bishop and his wife did not make the
place cheerful to Frank Gresham, and he began to long for Miss
Dunstable, in order that he might have something to do. He could not
get on at all with Mr Moffat. He had expected that the man would at
once have called him Frank, and that he would have called the man
Gustavus; but they did not even get beyond Mr Moffat and Mr Gresham.
"Very hot in Barchester to-day, very," was the nearest approach to
conversation which Frank could attain with him; and as far as he,
Frank, could see, Augusta never got much beyond it. There might be
_tête-à-tête_ meetings between them, but, if so, Frank could not
detect when they took place; and so, opening his heart at last to the
Honourable George, for the want of a better confidant, he expressed
his opinion that his future brother-in-law was a muff.

"A muff - I believe you too. What do you think now? I have been with
him and Nearthewinde in Barchester these three days past, looking up
the electors' wives and daughters, and that kind of thing."

"I say, if there is any fun in it you might as well take me with
you."

"Oh, there is not much fun; they are mostly so slobbered and dirty. A
sharp fellow in Nearthewinde, and knows what he is about well."

"Does he look up the wives and daughters too?"

"Oh, he goes on every tack, just as it's wanted. But there was
Moffat, yesterday, in a room behind the milliner's shop near
Cuthbert's Gate; I was with him. The woman's husband is one of the
choristers and an elector, you know, and Moffat went to look for his
vote. Now, there was no one there when we got there but the three
young women, the wife, that is, and her two girls - very pretty women
they are too."

"I say, George, I'll go and get the chorister's vote for Moffat; I
ought to do it as he's to be my brother-in-law."

"But what do you think Moffat said to the women?"

"Can't guess - he didn't kiss any of them, did he?"

"Kiss any of them? No; but he begged to give them his positive
assurance as a gentleman, that if he was returned to Parliament he
would vote for an extension of the franchise, and the admission of
the Jews into Parliament."

"Well, he is a muff!" said Frank.




CHAPTER XVI

Miss Dunstable


At last the great Miss Dunstable came. Frank, when he heard that
the heiress had arrived, felt some slight palpitation at his heart.
He had not the remotest idea in the world of marrying her; indeed,
during the last week past, absence had so heightened his love for
Mary Thorne that he was more than ever resolved that he would never
marry any one but her. He knew that he had made her a formal offer
for her hand, and that it behoved him to keep to it, let the charms
of Miss Dunstable be what they might; but, nevertheless, he was
prepared to go through a certain amount of courtship, in obedience
to his aunt's behests, and he felt a little nervous at being brought
up in that way, face to face, to do battle with two hundred thousand
pounds.

"Miss Dunstable has arrived," said his aunt to him, with great
complacency, on his return from an electioneering visit to the
beauties of Barchester which he made with his cousin George on the
day after the conversation which was repeated at the end of the last
chapter. "She has arrived, and is looking remarkably well; she has
quite a _distingué_ air, and will grace any circle to which she may
be introduced. I will introduce you before dinner, and you can take
her out."

"I couldn't propose to her to-night, I suppose?" said Frank,
maliciously.

"Don't talk nonsense, Frank," said the countess, angrily. "I am doing
what I can for you, and taking on an infinity of trouble to endeavour
to place you in an independent position; and now you talk nonsense to
me."

Frank muttered some sort of apology, and then went to prepare himself
for the encounter.

Miss Dunstable, though she had come by train, had brought with her
her own carriage, her own horses, her own coachman and footman, and
her own maid, of course. She had also brought with her half a score
of trunks, full of wearing apparel; some of them nearly as rich as
that wonderful box which was stolen a short time since from the top
of a cab. But she brought all these things, not in the least because
she wanted them herself, but because she had been instructed to do
so.

Frank was a little more than ordinarily careful in dressing. He
spoilt a couple of white neckties before he was satisfied, and was
rather fastidious as the set of his hair. There was not much of the
dandy about him in the ordinary meaning of the word; but he felt that
it was incumbent on him to look his best, seeing what it was expected
that he should now do. He certainly did not mean to marry Miss
Dunstable; but as he was to have a flirtation with her, it was well
that he should do so under the best possible auspices.

When he entered the drawing-room he perceived at once that the lady
was there. She was seated between the countess and Mrs Proudie; and
mammon, in her person, was receiving worship from the temporalities
and spiritualities of the land. He tried to look unconcerned, and
remained in the farther part of the room, talking with some of his
cousins; but he could not keep his eye off the future possible Mrs
Frank Gresham; and it seemed as though she was as much constrained to
scrutinise him as he felt to scrutinise her.

Lady de Courcy had declared that she was looking extremely well, and
had particularly alluded to her _distingué_ appearance. Frank at once
felt that he could not altogether go along with his aunt in this
opinion. Miss Dunstable might be very well; but her style of beauty
was one which did not quite meet with his warmest admiration.

In age she was about thirty; but Frank, who was no great judge in
these matters, and who was accustomed to have very young girls round
him, at once put her down as being ten years older. She had a very
high colour, very red cheeks, a large mouth, big white teeth, a broad
nose, and bright, small, black eyes. Her hair also was black and
bright, but very crisp, and strong, and was combed close round her
face in small crisp black ringlets. Since she had been brought out
into the fashionable world some one of her instructors in fashion
had given her to understand that curls were not the thing. "They'll
always pass muster," Miss Dunstable had replied, "when they are done
up with bank-notes." It may therefore be presumed that Miss Dunstable
had a will of her own.

"Frank," said the countess, in the most natural and unpremeditated
way, as soon as she caught her nephew's eye, "come here. I want to
introduce you to Miss Dunstable." The introduction was then made.
"Mrs Proudie, would you excuse me? I must positively go and say a few
words to Mrs Barlow, or the poor woman will feel herself huffed;"
and, so saying, she moved off, leaving the coast clear for Master
Frank.

He of course slipped into his aunt's place, and expressed a hope that
Miss Dunstable was not fatigued by her journey.

"Fatigued!" said she, in a voice rather loud, but very good-humoured,
and not altogether unpleasing; "I am not to be fatigued by such a
thing as that. Why, in May we came through all the way from Rome to
Paris without sleeping - that is, without sleeping in a bed - and we
were upset three times out of the sledges coming over the Simplon. It
was such fun! Why, I wasn't to say tired even then."

"All the way from Rome to Paris!" said Mrs Proudie - in a tone of
astonishment, meant to flatter the heiress - "and what made you in
such a hurry?"

"Something about money matters," said Miss Dunstable, speaking rather
louder than usual. "Something to do with the ointment. I was selling
the business just then."

Mrs Proudie bowed, and immediately changed the conversation.
"Idolatry is, I believe, more rampant than ever in Rome," said she;
"and I fear there is no such thing at all as Sabbath observance."

"Oh, not in the least," said Miss Dunstable, with rather a joyous
air; "Sundays and week-days are all the same there."

"How very frightful!" said Mrs Proudie.

"But it's a delicious place. I do like Rome, I must say. And as for
the Pope, if he wasn't quite so fat he would be the nicest old fellow
in the world. Have you been in Rome, Mrs Proudie?"

Mrs Proudie sighed as she replied in the negative, and declared her
belief that danger was to be apprehended from such visits.

"Oh! - ah! - the malaria - of course - yes; if you go at the wrong time;
but nobody is such a fool as that now."

"I was thinking of the soul, Miss Dunstable," said the lady-bishop,
in her peculiar, grave tone. "A place where there are no Sabbath
observances - "

"And have you been in Rome, Mr Gresham?" said the young lady, turning
almost abruptly round to Frank, and giving a somewhat uncivilly cold
shoulder to Mrs Proudie's exhortation. She, poor lady, was forced to
finish her speech to the Honourable George, who was standing near to
her. He having an idea that bishops and all their belongings, like
other things appertaining to religion, should, if possible, be
avoided; but if that were not possible, should be treated with
much assumed gravity, immediately put on a long face, and remarked
that - "it was a deuced shame: for his part he always liked to see
people go quiet on Sundays. The parsons had only one day out of
seven, and he thought they were fully entitled to that." Satisfied
with which, or not satisfied, Mrs Proudie had to remain silent till
dinner-time.

"No," said Frank; "I never was in Rome. I was in Paris once, and
that's all." And then, feeling a not unnatural anxiety as to the
present state of Miss Dunstable's worldly concerns, he took an
opportunity of falling back on that part of the conversation which
Mrs Proudie had exercised so much tact in avoiding.

"And was it sold?" said he.

"Sold! what sold?"

"You were saying about the business - that you came back without going
to bed because of selling the business."

"Oh! - the ointment. No; it was not sold. After all, the affair did
not come off, and I might have remained and had another roll in the
snow. Wasn't it a pity?"

"So," said Frank to himself, "if I should do it, I should be owner of
the ointment of Lebanon: how odd!" And then he gave her his arm and
handed her down to dinner.

He certainly found that the dinner was less dull than any other he
had sat down to at Courcy Castle. He did not fancy that he should
ever fall in love with Miss Dunstable; but she certainly was an
agreeable companion. She told him of her tour, and the fun she had in
her journeys; how she took a physician with her for the benefit of
her health, whom she generally was forced to nurse; of the trouble it
was to her to look after and wait upon her numerous servants; of the
tricks she played to bamboozle people who came to stare at her; and,
lastly, she told him of a lover who followed her from country to
country, and was now in hot pursuit of her, having arrived in London
the evening before she left.

"A lover?" said Frank, somewhat startled by the suddenness of the
confidence.

"A lover - yes - Mr Gresham; why should I not have a lover?"

"Oh! - no - of course not. I dare say you have a good many."

"Only three or four, upon my word; that is, only three or four that I
favour. One is not bound to reckon the others, you know."

"No, they'd be too numerous. And so you have three whom you favour,
Miss Dunstable;" and Frank sighed, as though he intended to say that
the number was too many for his peace of mind.

"Is not that quite enough? But of course I change them sometimes;"
and she smiled on him very good-naturedly. "It would be very dull if
I were always to keep the same."

"Very dull indeed," said Frank, who did not quite know what to say.

"Do you think the countess would mind my having one or two of them
here if I were to ask her?"

"I am quite sure she would," said Frank, very briskly. "She would not
approve of it at all; nor should I."

"You - why, what have you to do with it?"

"A great deal - so much so that I positively forbid it; but, Miss
Dunstable - "

"Well, Mr Gresham?"

"We will contrive to make up for the deficiency as well as possible,
if you will permit us to do so. Now for myself - "

"Well, for yourself?"

At this moment the countess gleamed her accomplished eye round the
table, and Miss Dunstable rose from her chair as Frank was preparing
his attack, and accompanied the other ladies into the drawing-room.

His aunt, as she passed him, touched his arm lightly with her fan, so
lightly that the action was perceived by no one else. But Frank well
understood the meaning of the touch, and appreciated the approbation
which it conveyed. He merely blushed, however, at his own
dissimulation; for he felt more certain that ever that he would never
marry Miss Dunstable, and he felt nearly equally sure that Miss
Dunstable would never marry him.

Lord de Courcy was now at home; but his presence did not add much
hilarity to the claret-cup. The young men, however, were very keen
about the election, and Mr Nearthewinde, who was one of the party,
was full of the most sanguine hopes.

"I have done one good at any rate," said Frank; "I have secured the
chorister's vote."

"What! Bagley?" said Nearthewinde. "The fellow kept out of my way,
and I couldn't see him."

"I haven't exactly seen him," said Frank; "but I've got his vote all
the same."

"What! by a letter?" said Mr Moffat.

"No, not by letter," said Frank, speaking rather low as he looked at
the bishop and the earl; "I got a promise from his wife: I think he's
a little in the henpecked line."

"Ha - ha - ha!" laughed the good bishop, who, in spite of Frank's
modulation of voice, had overheard what had passed. "Is that the way
you manage electioneering matters in our cathedral city? Ha - ha - ha!"
The idea of one of his choristers being in the henpecked line was
very amusing to the bishop.

"Oh, I got a distinct promise," said Frank, in his pride; and then
added incautiously, "but I had to order bonnets for the whole
family."

"Hush-h-h-h-h!" said Mr Nearthewinde, absolutely flabbergasted by
such imprudence on the part of one of his client's friends. "I am
quite sure that your order had no effect, and was intended to have no
effect on Mr Bagley's vote."

"Is that wrong?" said Frank; "upon my word I thought that it was
quite legitimate."

"One should never admit anything in electioneering matters, should
one?" said George, turning to Mr Nearthewinde.

"Very little, Mr de Courcy; very little indeed - the less the better.
It's hard to say in these days what is wrong and what is not. Now,
there's Reddypalm, the publican, the man who has the Brown Bear.
Well, I was there, of course: he's a voter, and if any man in
Barchester ought to feel himself bound to vote for a friend of the
duke's, he ought. Now, I was so thirsty when I was in that man's
house that I was dying for a glass of beer; but for the life of me I
didn't dare order one."

"Why not?" said Frank, whose mind was only just beginning to be
enlightened by the great doctrine of purity of election as practised
in English provincial towns.

"Oh, Closerstil had some fellow looking at me; why, I can't walk down
that town without having my very steps counted. I like sharp fighting
myself, but I never go so sharp as that."

"Nevertheless I got Bagley's vote," said Frank, persisting in praise
of his own electioneering prowess; "and you may be sure of this, Mr
Nearthewinde, none of Closerstil's men were looking at me when I got
it."

"Who'll pay for the bonnets, Frank?" said George.

"Oh, I'll pay for them if Moffat won't. I think I shall keep an
account there; they seem to have good gloves and those sort of
things."

"Very good, I have no doubt," said George.

"I suppose your lordship will be in town soon after the meeting of
Parliament?" said the bishop, questioning the earl.

"Oh! yes; I suppose I must be there. I am never allowed to remain
very long in quiet. It is a great nuisance; but it is too late to
think of that now."

"Men in high places, my lord, never were, and never will be, allowed
to consider themselves. They burn their torches not in their own
behalf," said the bishop, thinking, perhaps, as much of himself as he
did of his noble friend. "Rest and quiet are the comforts of those
who have been content to remain in obscurity."

"Perhaps so," said the earl, finishing his glass of claret with
an air of virtuous resignation. "Perhaps so." His own martyrdom,
however, had not been severe, for the rest and quiet of home had
never been peculiarly satisfactory to his tastes. Soon after this
they all went to the ladies.

It was some little time before Frank could find an opportunity of
recommencing his allotted task with Miss Dunstable. She got into
conversation with the bishop and some other people, and, except that
he took her teacup and nearly managed to squeeze one of her fingers
as he did so, he made very little further progress till towards the
close of the evening.

At last he found her so nearly alone as to admit of his speaking to
her in his low confidential voice.

"Have you managed that matter with my aunt?"

"What matter?" said Miss Dunstable; and her voice was not low, nor
particularly confidential.

"About those three or four gentlemen whom you wish to invite here?"

"Oh! my attendant knights! no, indeed; you gave me such very slight
hope of success; besides, you said something about my not wanting
them."

"Yes I did; I really think they'd be quite unnecessary. If you should
want any one to defend you - "

"At these coming elections, for instance."

"Then, or at any other time, there are plenty here who will be ready
to stand up for you."

"Plenty! I don't want plenty: one good lance in the olden days was
always worth more than a score of ordinary men-at-arms."

"But you talked about three or four."

"Yes; but then you see, Mr Gresham, I have never yet found the one
good lance - at least, not good enough to suit my ideas of true
prowess."

What could Frank do but declare that he was ready to lay his own in
rest, now and always in her behalf? His aunt had been quite angry
with him, and had thought that he turned her into ridicule, when he
spoke of making an offer to her guest that very evening; and yet here
he was so placed that he had hardly an alternative. Let his inward
resolution to abjure the heiress be ever so strong, he was now in a
position which allowed him no choice in the matter. Even Mary Thorne
could hardly have blamed him for saying, that so far as his own
prowess went, it was quite at Miss Dunstable's service. Had Mary been
looking on, she, perhaps, might have thought that he could have done
so with less of that look of devotion which he threw into his eyes.

"Well, Mr Gresham, that's very civil - very civil indeed," said Miss
Dunstable. "Upon my word, if a lady wanted a true knight she might
do worse than trust to you. Only I fear that your courage is of so
exalted a nature that you would be ever ready to do battle for any
beauty who might be in distress - or, indeed, who might not. You could
never confine your valour to the protection of one maiden."

"Oh, yes! but I would though if I liked her," said Frank. "There
isn't a more constant fellow in the world than I am in that way - you
try me, Miss Dunstable."

"When young ladies make such trials as that, they sometimes find it
too late to go back if the trial doesn't succeed, Mr Gresham."

"Oh, of course there's always some risk. It's like hunting; there
would be no fun if there was no danger."

"But if you get a tumble one day you can retrieve your honour the
next; but a poor girl, if she once trusts a man who says that he
loves her, has no such chance. For myself, I would never listen to a
man unless I'd known him for seven years at least."

"Seven years!" said Frank, who could not help thinking that in seven
years' time Miss Dunstable would be almost an old woman. "Seven days
is enough to know any person."

"Or perhaps seven hours; eh, Mr Gresham?"

"Seven hours - well, perhaps seven hours, if they happen to be a good
deal together during the time."

"There's nothing after all like love at first sight, is there, Mr
Gresham?"

Frank knew well enough that she was quizzing him, and could not
resist the temptation he felt to be revenged on her. "I am sure it's
very pleasant," said he; "but as for myself, I have never experienced
it."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Miss Dunstable. "Upon my word, Mr Gresham, I
like you amazingly. I didn't expect to meet anybody down here that
I should like half so much. You must come and see me in London, and
I'll introduce you to my three knights," and so saying, she moved
away and fell into conversation with some of the higher powers.

Frank felt himself to be rather snubbed, in spite of the strong
expression which Miss Dunstable had made in his favour. It was not
quite clear to him that she did not take him for a boy. He was, to be
sure, avenged on her for that by taking her for a middle-aged woman;
but, nevertheless, he was hardly satisfied with himself; "I might
give her a heartache yet," said he to himself, "and she might find
afterwards that she was left in the lurch with all her money." And
so he retired, solitary, into a far part of the room, and began to
think of Mary Thorne. As he did so, and as his eyes fell upon Miss
Dunstable's stiff curls, he almost shuddered.

And then the ladies retired. His aunt, with a good-natured smile on
her face, come to him as she was leaving the room, the last of the
bevy, and putting her hand on his arm, led him out into a small
unoccupied chamber which opened from the grand saloon.

"Upon my word, Master Frank," said she, "you seem to be losing no
time with the heiress. You have quite made an impression already."

"I don't know much about that, aunt," said he, looking rather
sheepish.

"Oh, I declare you have; but, Frank, my dear boy, you should not
precipitate these sort of things too much. It is well to take a
little more time: it is more valued; and perhaps, you know, on the
whole - "

Perhaps Frank might know; but it was clear that Lady de Courcy did
not: at any rate, she did not know how to express herself. Had she
said out her mind plainly, she would probably have spoken thus: "I
want you to make love to Miss Dunstable, certainly; or at any rate to
make an offer to her; but you need not make a show of yourself and of
her, too, by doing it so openly as all that." The countess, however,
did not want to reprimand her obedient nephew, and therefore did not
speak out her thoughts.

"Well?" said Frank, looking up into her face.

"Take a _leetle_ more time - that is all, my dear boy; slow and sure,
you know;" so the countess again patted his arm and went away to bed.

"Old fool!" muttered Frank to himself, as he returned to the room
where the men were still standing. He was right in this: she was an
old fool, or she would have seen that there was no chance whatever
that her nephew and Miss Dunstable should become man and wife.

"Well Frank," said the Honourable John; "so you're after the heiress
already."

"He won't give any of us a chance," said the Honourable George.
"If he goes on in that way she'll be Mrs Gresham before a month is
over. But, Frank, what will she say of your manner of looking for
Barchester votes?"

"Mr Gresham is certainly an excellent hand at canvassing," said Mr
Nearthewinde; "only a little too open in his manner of proceeding."

"I got that chorister for you at any rate," said Frank. "And you
would never have had him without me."

"I don't think half so much of the chorister's vote as that of Miss
Dunstable," said the Honourable George: "that's the interest that is
really worth looking after."

"But, surely," said Mr Moffat, "Miss Dunstable has no property in
Barchester?" Poor man! his heart was so intent on his election that
he had not a moment to devote to the claims of love.




CHAPTER XVII



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