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bearing a large cross, at which Lady Wrotham gazed with
attentive curiosity until Mr. Prentice passed her, clad now in
surplice, hood and coloured stole. She remained seated until
the service began, when she rose and took part in it with
responsible precision.

The service was quiet and short. The psalms were, read,
and there were two hymns. The Vicar preached for about
ten minutes. His text was, " And again I say, rejoice/' He
said that it was a mistake to suppose that the Christian
religion was a religion of gloom. The Church, in her wis-
dom, had decreed certain seasons of rejoicings of which this
was one. They had recently gone through the season of
penitence, he trusted with benefit to the souls of all of them,
and now had come this glad season of rejoicing, just as the
day followed the night, and joy came after sorrow. But they
must rejoice worthily, and not unworthily. Eating and drink-
ing, and careering about in motor-cars, were not the kind of
rejoicing that was enjoined on us, but an increase in the
practice of churchgoing was. And what a beautiful thought
it was that Eastertide, the Church's special season of rejoicing,
came at a time when the earth was awakening from her long
winter sleep, when the birds were singing, and the buds open-
ing. But he would not dwell upon this thought, beautiful as
it was, that morning. He then touched upon the mutability
of human life. He said that we must not think, any of us,
that we could escape death. The rich man in his castle and
the poor man in his hovel were alike subject to it. Even
when we thought ourselves most secure the end might come.
The strong man who thought he had many years of life
remaining to him in which to build barns and lay field to field
might meet his death in the ashes of his burning dwelling, or
by a fall from some lofty situation. It was a solemn thought,



A Service and a Dinner 115

and one that it behoved them all to lay to heart, he no less
than they. With a renewed exhortation to rejoice, not as the
beasts that perish, but as Christians, ay, and Church people,
he concluded his address, and came down from the pulpit to
receive the alms of the faithful, which on this occasion were
to be devoted to church expenses.

Lady Wrotham sat in her pew until the church was nearly
empty, and when the footman, who was in attendance on the
back benches, judged that she would have a clear field, he went
up the aisle, and she gave him her Prayer-book, and walked
out.

In the meantime, Mrs. Redcliffe and Hilda had waited at the
church gate until Mrs. Prentice, lingering as long as she could
on the way, had been forced to join them. Mrs. Redcliffe
came forward, holding out her hand, and wished her good-
morning. " Will you and the Vicar come and have supper
with us to-night ? " she asked. " We have not seen Mr. Pren-
tice for a long time."

Mrs. Prentice ignored the outstretched hand. " Thank you,
we are dining at the Abbey," -she said stiffly. " Excuse me, I
wish to speak to Lady Wrotham," and she turned her back on
them.

Lady Wrotham came down the churchyard path. Mrs.
Prentice went back to meet her with the sweetest of smiles.
Lady Wrotham' s face, sternly set, did not relax. " Good-
morning, Mrs. Prentice," she said. " I shall see you and your
husband this evening. ' ' She went on through the gate, climbed
into her carriage and drove away.

" Pleasant manners, upon my word ! " said Mrs. Prentice
to herself ; but presently reflected that Lady Wrotham might
be one of those people who prefer not to indulge in mundane
conversation immediately after a religious service, and quite
forgave her. Her mind had been so exercised over the revela-
tion that had been made to her on the previous evening that
she had not had leisure to consider the impression that the
service might have made on Lady Wrotham's mind, and was
quite free from apprehension on that score.

But apprehension was soon brought to her. Her husband
caught her up on the road home. His face was disturbed.
" I'm afraid we are going to have trouble," he said.

Mrs. Prentice looked at him. " Mrs. Redcliffe ? " she
hazarded.



116 Exton Manor

" No, no," he said impatiently. " That trouble exists
chiefly in your imagination. Please do not be always harping
on it. I mean Lady Wrotham.. Did you not see how she
stalked up the church as we were just finishing the Gloria ?
I could not help turning round to see who was making such a
disturbance.' '

" She walked heavily, certainly ; but we were rather late,
and perhaps you could hardly expect her to wait outside until
we had finished/ •

" She meant to disturb us, and to show her displeasure. I
could see that. She sat there, without kneeling, wa telling me
critically until I left the altar, and looked me up and down as
I passed her in a way that was meant to be offensive. She ob-
jects to the service, as I might have known a member of that
pestilent Reformation League would do. But I shall hold my
ground. I will not be bullied by a woman."

Mrs. Prentice had been reconsidering Lady Wrotham's
manner to her during this speech, and saw only too good
reason to believe that it had been dictated by annoyance at
what had gone before. She did not like the situation at all.
" I hope you are mistaken," she said. " At any rate, she could
find nothing to object to in Matins, nor in your preaching.
It was a beautiful little sermon."

" I wrote it straight off. The thoughts seemed to flow
easily. But if she has made up her mind to object, she will
object to anything."

" We must be careful not to give cause of offence, if she
has been used to other forms of worship."

" I don't know what you mean by not giving cause of
offence. I shall not change anything that I have worked up
to. It is the Catholic Faith that will be the cause of offence
to Lady Wrotham."

" I mean it will be better to try and win her by per-
suasion rather than "

u Yes ; that will be so easy, won't it ? A woman in that
position thinks she has only got to express her preferences,
and her priest will obey her as a matter of course. Well,
if there is to be unpleasantness, I shall not shrink from it. I
have had a comparatively easy time here, with very little op-
position. Perhaps things have been too easy. One must not
expect to be able to raise the tone of a whole community with-
out a struggle. I am prepared for whatever may come."



A Service and a Dinner 117

With the anticipation of coming persecution to give him an
appetite, Mr. Prentice went in to luncheon, and his wife fol-
lowed him, in a thoughtful mood.

Mrs. Redcliffe, after Mrs. Prentice's refusal of her invita-
tion, left the churchyard gate with heightened colour. They
here hardly out of hearing, when Hilda broke forth —

" Mother," she said, " that woman is really intolerable.
Surely it is impossible to pretend to keep up a friendship with
her any longer."

" She was very rude, certainly,' ' said Mrs. Redcliffe.
" But her manners are not of the best at any time, and pro-
bably she had no idea that she was behaving rudely."

" The snob ! Just because she is the first to make friends
with Lady Wrotham ! I think she is the most contemptible
creature on the face of the earth."

" Hush, Hilda ! You must not speak in that way. What
is the good of going to church if you allow your resentment to
control you the moment you come out ? "

" Yes ; what is the good of it ? Nobody goes to church
here more often than Mrs. Prentice. And she looks down
upon everybody else as being far below her in goodness. And
yet she hasn't got a thought that isn't mean. I detest the
woman from the bottom of my heart."

Mrs. Redcliffe did not reply. Her face was thoughtful, and
a little paler than usual.

Mr. and Mrs. Prentice walked down to the Abbey that even-
ing considerably exercised in their minds as to the reception
that would await them. The Vicar's face-was stern. He had
carefully considered his position, and was prepared to fight for
what he believed to be the right. His intellect, bound by con-
vention in exposition of his beliefs, served him well, with a
clear-headed outlook, in applying them ; and they guided him
in a way that many a more golden-tongued Churchman might
have envied. He would make friends with his patroness if she
would let him, and he would exercise the utmost patience in
controversy with her ; but he would not be dictated to by her,
and if she tried to bring pressure to bear on him he would
withstand it steadily.

Mrs. Prentice was torn two ways. Her acquaintance with
Lady Wrotham had opened so suspiciously that she felt it
would be intolerable to be cast out into the darkness of her
displeasure at this early stage. But she had so ardently backed



118 Exton Manor

up her husband in his ambitions, and even egged him on to
further altitudes, that it would be impossible now to take the
other side — even if she could have persuaded herself that it was
right to do so. Without laying out any definite course at
present, she was prepared to keep the peace with strenuous
amiability. After all, that was the duty of a Christian and a
good Churchwoman.

Apprehension was quieted for the moment by Lady Wro-
tham's reception of her guests. Evidently there was to be no
immediate joining of battle. The great lady was courteous,
conciliatory. Mrs. Prentice's fears left her before they went
into the dining-room, and even the Vicar, fully alive to the
contest that most come sooner or later, allowed his vigilance
to relax for the moment under the influence of a generous
hospitality.

They dined at a round table in a vaulted hall, with hung
tapestry, and lit from old sconces. Lady Wrotham, as Browne
said afterwards, did herself uncommon^ well, likewise her
guests. He busied himself gratefully with his dinner, taking
part in the conversation only when he was specially called upon
to do so.

" I like a good dinner/ ' he said afterwards, to his friend
Turner, " and I don't mind saying so. We're not badly oft
in these parts, but Sunday's always been a sort of blank.
Old Sir Joseph — well, he was one of the best — but it was
cold beef and beetroot with him, same as with the rest of us.
.Now there'll be something to look forward to when we wake
up from our afternoon nap."

The talk over the dinner-table, and afterwards in the library,
concerned itself chiefly with the Exton parishioners. Lady
Wrotham displayed a lively curiosity about the smallest details
in the lives and histories of all of them, and digested the
information received in the most eupeptic manner, for she for-
got nothing that she was told, even the names of the least
important of the tenantry.

" I shall call at all the farms this week," she said, " and
afterwards on the tradespeople and the cottagers."

Turner's name was mentioned. Mrs. Prentice shut her lips.
Browne took up the tale.

" You ought to see the Fisheries, Lady Wrotham," he said.
" It's a pretty place, and very interesting."

" You must ask Captain Turner to come and see me," she



A Service and a Dinner 119

said. " Then I hope he will take me up to see what there
is to be seen. I should like to know everybody on the Manor,
and I hope they will come and call on me."

In the library, after dinner, Mrs. Prentice, alone for a few
minutes with her hostess, put in a word of warning about
Captain Turner. " He never comes to church/' she said,
" from one year's end to the other."

Lady Wrotham sounded a bugle echo fof the coming
struggle. " There may be reasons for that," she said stiffly,
and Mrs. Prentice hastened to change the subject.

At ten o'clock a gong was sounded. Lady Wrotham rose
from her chair, and said to the Vicar, " Will you kindly con-
duct prayers for us ? I shall be glad if you will always do so
when you are here in the evening," and, without waiting for
his consent, she led the way into the hall, where all the indoor
servants stood in a line in front of a row of seats placed for
the occasion. On a little table were placed open two large
and well-worn leather-covered books. Lady Wrotham pointed
to the chapter that was to be read, which was a long one out
of the Book of Leviticus, dealing with the subject of leprosy.
She then look her seat, and the rest of the assembly took
theirs. The Vicar read half of the appointed chapter, and
then closed the book. Then followed the prayer appointed
by the compiler for the 97th evening. It was couched in a
tone of didactic familiarity, in the course of which thanks
were offered for the fact that, whilst many were without the
necessities of life, the petitioners had enough and to spare.
The Vicar abbreviated the latter part, and added one of the
evening collects on his own responsibility. Then they arose
from their knees, and the servants filed out of the room, two
footmen removing the oak benches upon which they had
rested.

Lady Wrotham remained standing. It was evident that
the evening's entertainment had come to an end. The guests
took their departure. Lady Wrotham said, as the Vicar bade
her good-night, " Will you kindly come and see me to-morrow
morning at ten o'clock, Mr. Prentice ? " Her tone wiped out
the effect of the evening's hospitality.

" I would rather come in the afternoon, if it is convenient
to you," he replied.

" It would not be very convenient," she said. u I wish to
talk to you upon matters of importance."



120 Exton Manor

" Then I will come at the time you name," said the Vicar.

Browne accompanied them to the gate where their respective
roads divided. " Delightful old lady," he said tentatively.
" I think we're lucky, eh ? "

The Vicar did not reply, but Mrs. Prentice said that Lady
Wrotham was a wonderful woman for her age.

" A very restful evening," she said when she was alone with
her husband ; " and I like finishing up with the old family
prayers."

V Well, I don't," replied the Vicar. " At least, not such
prayers as those. It seems perfectly absurd to me to read
right through the Bible without any consideration of fitness.
And as for the prayer itself, those long-winded discourses are
not prayers at all. I shall refuse to conduct worship on those
lines again. Lady Wrotham has evidently made up her mind
to have it out with me to-morrow morning, and I do not in-
tend to leave all the criticising to her."

" You will be careful not to offend her, William," said
Mrs. Prentice.

" I am bound to offend her," replied the Vicar, " and I
shall be careful of nothing but to uphold what I believe to be
right."



CHAPTER XI

A PRELIMINARY SKIRMISH

The Vicar called at the Abbey at the time appointed, and
found Lady Wrotham quite ready for him.. She was brisk
and cheerful.

" It is just as well that we should understand each other at
an early date, Mr. Prentice/ 7 she said, when she had shaken
hands with him and motioned him to a seat. " I had no idea
that things were in such a way as I find them here — no idea
at all — and I cannot pretend that I am pleased at my dis-
covery, or that I shall be at all satisfied until they are altered/'

The Vicar sat silent, and she said, after a short pause,
" Surely the services you now have here, and your manner of
conducting them, have altered greatly since you first came."

" Certainly, I have altered them in some respects," he
said.

" But do you think that quite fair, Mr. Prentice ? When
Lord Wrotham presented you to this living — I remember the
facts very well ; for though we did not come here, we — at
least, I — have always taken a great interest in this and the
other churches of which my husband was patron. I remem-
ber very well that you were appointed on the recommendation
of Sir George Cargill — it was while Lord W T rotham and I were
in Australia — and he most decidedly would never have recom-
mended us to appoint any one but an Evangelical.' '

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Lady Wrotham; I never pro-
fessed at any time to hold the views that are labelled —
wrongly, I think — Evangelical."

" Well, I can only say that Sir George wrote to Lord
Wrotham that you did."

" Then he did so on his own responsibility ; and you would

121



122 Exton Manor

hardly accuse me, I think, of hiding my opinions ; or, worse
than that, of misstating them, for the sake of getting a living/'

Lady Wrotham was hardly ready at this stage of the argu-
ment to say that she did so accuse him, although- she had it
firmly fixed in her mind that there must have been some sort
of deception practised, or he would not be where he was.
She therefore exonerated him, not altogether ungrudgingly.

" I must make that point quite clear, in justice to myself/'
said the Vicar. " I was senior curate to the present Bishop
of Llandudno at Holy Trinity, Manchester Square, and "

" But the Bishop of Llandudno is a decided Low Church-
man."

" I should hardly have described him so. He is a broad-
minded man, and did not demand that all of his large staff
should hold the same views as himself. It was a parish where
the parochial work was the chief thing. I was there for
twenty years, and during that time he had men working with
him of all shades of opinion. I never made any concealment
of my own views, and I was very happy working there, as I
say, for over twenty years. I never held any other curacy."

" But Sir George Cargill "

11 You mean that I concealed my views from him ? I did
no such thing. He was churchwarden at Holy Trinity during
the whole of my curacy there. Why should you suppose
I would have concealed from him what I did not from my
own vicar ? "

" I do not accuse you, Mr. Prentice. Pray do not put me
in such a position."

" But I think it does amount to an accusation — of what
I, at any rate, should call dishonesty. Sir George Cargill
knew that I worked hard in the parish, and no doubt the vicar
told him his opinion of my work. When he suggested this
incumbency to me, nothing was said about my views — not one
word — and no stipulation was made that I should preach any
particular view. If it had been so, I should certainly not have
accepted the living. I would not be so bound."

" Well, I cannot help thinking it was a little unfortunate.
Sir George ought not to have taken so much for granted.
But, at any rate, I should have thought you would have felt
bound — you will excuse my speaking quite plainly, Mr. Pren-
tice — not to go beyond what was practised at Holy Trinity.
You say that the Bishop of Llandudno is not a Low Church-



A Preliminary Skirmish 123

man. I should have thought he was, but I will not argue
with you on that point. At any rate the services at Holy
Trinity, which I have often attended, were quite innocuous.
You would hardly have done there what I saw yesterday/'

" I don't deny that I have raised the services here. I con-
sider that results have more than justified my doing so. And
I can accept no blame on that score."

" Well, I don't like it, Mr. Prentice, and I tell you so
plainly/'

" Then I am very sorry, Lady Wrotham ; but you will for-
give my speaking as plainly as yourself, and saying that I
cannot recognize the right of the patron of a living to dictate
to his incumbent in these matters. There is no such right in
existence. And I must add, if you will forgive me, that you
are not even the patron of this living."

This was plain speaking indeed, and a woman of Lady
Wrotham's character could hardly be expected to take it with-
out offence. " I did not expect that you w r ould address me
in that fashion, Mr. Prentice," she said stiffly. " I asked you
to come here to talk over matters quietly, and you tell me
in so many words that I am to have no opinions of my own
in Exton, and am of no importance in the place in comparison
with yourself."

The Vicar had also been prepared, while taking a firm
stand, to discuss matters quietly ; but he had been taken out
of himself by the implication of bad faith, and was prepared
to speak as strongly as might be necessary in his own defence.

" My words could hardly be said to have that meaning," he
replied. " They were not meant to have. But it is quite cer-
tain that in spiritual matters the patron's responsibility ceases
when he has appointed an incumbent."

" I am sorry I cannot agree with you. I look upon the
position of a landowner as one of the greatest responsibility,
both spiritually and morally. I have no intention of shirking
such share in it as I possess in this place. It is a great disap-
pointment to me to find that you are not prepared to work
with me in spreading the gospel."

" Oh, Lady Wrotham, how can you say such a thing to
one whose life is devoted to that object alone ? "

" I consider that the Romanizing of the Church is a
distinct hindrance to the spread of the true gospel. I was
beyond measure shocked to find the service which I inter-



124 Exton Manor

rupted yesterday going on in any church with which I have
to do."

" I think you are saying a very strange thing. The service
which I hold once a month at a quarter to ten is the Com-
munion Service, which any Churchman or Churchwoman,
whether they call themselves high or low, must recognize as
the highest form of worship."

" Not when it is made as much like the Roman Mass as it
can be made — with candles, and vestments, and I know not
what. Vestments, at any rate, Mr. Prentice, you have no
right to use. There I am not to be moved. They must be
given up at once. I will not have them."

The Vicar's face grew a dull red, and his eyes glittered dan-
gerously. But he controlled his anger, rising from his seat.
" I have nothing further to say, Lady Wrotham," he said.
" I think I had better wish you good-morning."

" Oh, please sit down," she said, rather impatiently.
" These things must be talked over. You cannot think that
we can both go on living here, in the peculiar positions we
occupy, with nothing settled between us."

" I am willing to talk them over," he replied, but without
resuming his seat ; " but not on the terms } r ou propose.
When you tell me you will not have this or that, you are
taking up a position which I will not give way' to for a moment.
No one has a right to give me such orders except my bishop,
and he only if the law of the Church is behind him."

" It is the bishop's authority I rely on, and I shall, if neces-
sary, invoke it. The law has decided against vestments."

'■ I think you are mistaken ; but I cannot argue the question
with you. I am willing to do so with the bishop."

" Is it the place of a parish clergyman to argue with the
bishop ? "

" I expressed myself unfortunately. He would hardly give
an order such as you anticipate without hearing me."

" Mr. Prentice, I do trust you will listen to reason. This
conversation has taken a turn I by no means intended."

' You will forgive me for saying, Lady Wrotham, that you
probably intended me to listen subserviently to whatever you
chose to say, and immediately obey your orders. I have no
wish to be anything but respectful to you, but I hold very
high ideals of my office and of my responsibility, and I must
press the point that a parish priest is not the paid servant



A Preliminary Skirmish 125

of his — er — patron, and owes him—or her — no sort of obedi-
ence."

" I do not ask for obedience. I ask for plain common-sense.
The Church of England is Protestant, and it is the duty of all
its members, as well as its ministers, to resist any approach to
Roman Catholic doctrine or practices."

" You open a wide question. You must know perfectly
well that what you say is not acknowledged by many — I would
say most — of the most learned and self-sacrificing Churchmen.
I do not acknowledge it for one, and we have no common
ground to stand on in that statement."

" What ! We must not resist Rome ? "

" Certainly wo must. But not by giving up what our
Church accepts in common with Rome. We are as Catholic
as she is. We are not Protestant in the same way as the sects
are Protestant."

" I say we are."

" Then we must differ in that, as, I fear, in other things."

Lady Wrotham was baffled, as people inclined to hector
are apt to be baffled by outspoken opposition. She con-
sidered for a moment. " We will leave that point for a time,"
she said, in a quieter tone. " I should like you to tell me
frankly what else goes on here that I should be likely to object
to. You may as wrfl, you know, because I shall have no
difficulty in finding it out for myself."

11 You need not have said that, Lady Wrotham. I have
given you no reason to think that I should be ashamed of
vour finding out anything that goes on here, as you express
it."

" I don't know that you have. There is no need to become



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