HARRY BOLTON’S CURACY.

[MAGA. February 1851.]

One of the greatest enjoyments which are likely to fall to the lot of a man in middle life, is to spend a week or so with the old school-and-college companion whom he has not seen since the graver page of life has been turned over for both parties. It is as unlike any ordinary visit-making as possible. It is one of the very few instances in which the complimentary dialogue between the guest and his entertainer comes to have a real force and meaning. One has to unlearn, for this special occasion, the art so necessary in ordinary society, of interpreting terms by their contraries. And in fact it is difficult, at first, for one who has been used for some years to a social atmosphere whose warmth is mainly artificial, to breathe freely in the natural sunshine of an old friend’s company; just as a native Londoner is said sometimes to pine away, when removed into the fresh air of the country. We are so used to consider the shake of the hand, and the “Very glad to see you,” of the hundred and one people who ask us to dinner, as merely a polite and poetical form of expressing, “You certainly are a bore; but as you are here, I must make the best of you”—that it costs us an effort to comprehend that “How are you, old fellow?” does, in the present case, imply a bonâ fide hope that we are as sound in health and heart, if not as young, as formerly. And especially when a man’s pursuits have led him a good deal into the world, and many of his warmer feelings have been, insensibly perhaps, chilled by the contact, the heartiness of his reception by some old college friend who has led a simple life, the squire of his paternal acres, or the occupant of a country parsonage, and has gained and lost less by the polishing process of society, will come upon him with a strangeness almost reproachful. But once fairly fixed within the hospitable walls, the natural tone is recognised, and proves contagious; the formal encrustations of years melt in the first hour of after-dinner chat, and the heart is opened to feelings and language which it had persuaded itself were long forgotten. And when the end of your three weeks’ holiday arrives at last, which you cannot persuade yourself has been more than three days (though you seem to have lived over again the best half of your life in the time), you have so far forgotten the conventional rules of good-breeding, that when your friend says to you on the last evening, “Must you really go? Can’t you stay till Monday?” you actually take him at his word, and begin to cast about in your mind for some possible excuse for stealing another couple of days or so, though you have heard the same expression from the master of every house where you have happened to visit, and never dreamt of understanding it in any other than its civilised (i. e., non-natural) sense—as a hint to fix a day for going, and stick to it, that your entertainer may “know the worst.”

I was heartily glad, therefore, when at last I found that there was nothing to prevent me from paying a visit (long promised, and long looked forward to, but against which, I began to think, gods and men had conspired) to my old and true friend Lumley. I dare say he has a Christian name; indeed, I have no reason to doubt it, and, on the strength of an initial not very decipherable, prefixed to the L in his signature, I have never hesitated to address him, “J. Lumley, Esq.;” but I know him as Long Lumley, and so does every man who, like myself, remembers him at Oxford; and as Long Lumley do all his cotemporaries know him best, and esteem him accordingly; and he must excuse me if I immortalise him to the public, in spite of godfathers and godmothers, by that more familiar appellation. A cousin was with him at college, a miserable sneaking fellow, who was known as “Little Lumley;” and if, as I suspect, they were both Johns or Jameses, it is quite desirable to distinguish them unmistakably; for though the other has the best shooting in the country, I would not be suspected of spending even the first week of September inside such a fellow’s gates.

But Long Lumley was and is of a very different stamp; six feet three, and every inch a gentleman. I wish he was not, of late years, quite so fond of farming: a man who can shoot, ride, and translate an ode of Horace as he can, ought to have a soul above turnips. It is almost the only point on which we are diametrically opposed in tastes and habits. We nearly fell out about it the very first morning after my arrival.

Breakfast was over—a somewhat late one in honour of the supposed fatigues of yesterday’s journey, and it became necessary to arrange proceedings for the day. What a false politeness it is, which makes a host responsible for his guests’ amusement! and how often, in consequence, are they compelled to do, with grimaces of forced satisfaction, the very thing they would not! However, Lumley and myself were too old friends to have any scruples of delicacy on that point. I had been eyeing him for some minutes while he was fastening on a pair of formidable high-lows, and was not taken by surprise when the proposal came out, “Now, old fellow, will you come and have a look at my farm?”

“Can’t I see it from the window?”

“Stuff! come, I must show you my sheep: I assure you they are considered about the best in this neighbourhood.”

“Well, then, I’ll taste the mutton any day you like, and give you my honest opinion.”

“Don’t be an ass now, but get your hat and come along; it’s going to be a lovely day; and we’ll just take a turn over the farm—there’s a new thrashing-machine I want to show you, too, and then back here to lunch.”

“Seriously, then, Lumley, I won’t do anything of the kind. I do you the justice to believe, that you asked me here to enjoy myself; and that I am quite ready to do in any fairly rational manner; and I flatter myself I am in nowise particular; but as to going bogging myself among turnips, or staring into the faces and poking the ribs of shorthorns and south-downs—why, as an old friend, you’ll excuse me.”

“Hem! there’s no accounting for tastes,” said Lumley, in a half-disappointed tone.

“No,” said I, “there certainly is not.”

“Well, then,” said he—he never lost his good-humour—“what shall we do? I’ll tell you—you remember Harry Bolton? rather your junior, but you must have known him well, because he was quite in our set from the first—to be sure, didn’t you spill him out of a tandem at Abingdon corner? Well, he is living now about nine miles from here, and we’ll drive over and see him. I meant to write to ask him to dine here, and this will save the trouble.”

“With all my heart,” said I; “I never saw him since I left Oxford. I fancied I heard of his getting into some mess—involved in some way, was he not?”

“Not involved exactly; but he certainly did make himself scarce from a very nice house and curacy which he had when he first left Oxford, and buried himself alive for I don’t know how long, and all for the very queerest reason, or rather without any reason at all. Did you never hear of it?”

“No; only some vague rumour, as I said just now.”

“You never heard, then, how he came into this neighbourhood? Have the dog-cart round in ten minutes, Sam, and we dine at seven. Now, get yourself in marching order, and I’ll tell you the whole story as we go along.”

He did so, but it was so interrupted by continual expostulations with his horse, and remarks upon the country through which we were driving, that it will be at least as intelligible if I tell it in my own words; especially as I had many of the most graphic passages from Bolton’s own lips afterwards.

It was before he left Oxford, I think, that Bolton lost his father, and was thrown pretty much upon his own resources. A physician with a large family, however good his practice, seldom leaves much behind him; and poor Harry found himself, after spending a handsome allowance and something more, left to begin life on his own account, with a degree, a good many bills, and a few hundreds, quite insufficient to pay them. However, he was not the sort of man to look upon the dark side of things; and no heir, long expectant, and just stepping into his thousands per annum, carried away from the university a lighter heart and a merrier face than Harry Bolton. He got ordained in due course; and though not exactly the material out of which one would prefer to cut a country curate, still he threw off, with his sporting coats and many-coloured waist-coats, most of the habits thereto belonging, and less suited to his profession. To live upon a curate’s stipend he found more difficult; and being a fair scholar, and having plenty of friends and connections, he announced his intention of “driving,” as he called it, a pair of pupils, whom he might train up in so much Latin and Greek, and other elements of general knowledge (including, perhaps, a little shooting and gig-driving), as they might require for their matriculations. The desired youths were soon found; and Harry entered upon this new employment with considerable ardour, and a very honest intention of doing his best. How the Latin and Greek prospered is a point in some degree obscure to present historians; but all the pupils were unanimous in declaring the wine to be unexceptionable, and their preceptor’s dogs and shooting first-rate; in fact, he sustained, with them as with the public generally, the reputation of being one of the heartiest and best fellows in the world. From the poorest among his parishioners, to whom he was charitable above his means, but who felt almost more than his gifts the manner of his giving, to the squire ten miles off, who met his pleasant face and smile once a-year at a dinner party, all spoke well of Harry Bolton. No wonder that his pupils looked upon him as the very paragon of tutors, and found their path of learning strewed with unexpected flowers. How many scholars he made is still unknown; but he made many friends: with the uncalculating gratitude of youth, all remembered the pleasant companion when they might have forgotten the hard-working instructor: and frequent were the tokens of such remembrance, varying with the tastes of the senders, which reached the little parsonage by the Oxford coach, from those who successively assumed the toga virilis, and became (university) men. Collars of brawn and cases of claret were indeed but perishable memorials; but there came also whips extravagantly mounted, and tomes of orthodox divinity in the soberest bindings, all bearing inscriptions more or less classical, from his “quondam alumni.” The first-named delicacies were duly passed on, with Harry’s compliments, to grace more fittingly the tables of some of his hospitable entertainers; and, in an equally unselfish spirit, he seldom sat down alone to any of his literary dainties, but kept them in honourable state on his most conspicuous book-shelf, for the use and behoof of any friend who might wish to enjoy them.

But here I am anticipating. For some time the pupilising went on pretty smoothly. Two or three couple of youths were fairly launched upon the university, and nothing particularly untoward had occurred to ruffle the curate’s good-humour or injure his reputation. There had been no attempt at elopement with the cook or housemaid (Bolton’s precaution had secured ugly ones); no poaching on Sir Thomas’s favourite preserve, though close at hand, and sportsmen of eighteen are not over nice in their distinctions: a tall Irishman had been with him, summer vacations and all, for nearly two years, and had not made love to either of the squire’s undeniably pretty daughters. In short, the pupils were less of a bore than Harry had supposed it possible, and, in some cases, very agreeable companions to enliven the occasional dulness of a country parish.

But somehow or other, in one chief point which he had aimed at, he found himself disappointed. In counting so many additional hundreds to his scanty income, Harry Bolton had fancied he was going to make himself a rich man. He was not avaricious, or even selfish—far from it; but he wanted to be independent; there were visions, perhaps, flitting indistinctly before him, of a time when he might tire of a solitary home, and resign into some fair and gentle hand the reins of the liberty he was so fond of boasting as a bachelor. He did not grudge his time or labour; he had cast off much of his old habit of idleness, and took a real interest in his pupils; still he had expected some of the results to himself would take the tangible shape of pounds shillings and pence. But though the cheques came duly in at Midsummer and Christmas, the balance at his banker’s increased but very slowly; in short, he found that the additional expenses, necessary and unnecessary, entailed upon him by the change in his establishment, nearly counterbalanced the additional income. Not to speak of such ordinary matters as butchers’ and bakers’ and wine-merchants’ bills—for his table was always most liberal, now that he had to entertain others, as it had been simple and economical while alone—indeed the hospitality of the neighbourhood had then made his housekeeping almost a sinecure; but, independently of this, Harry had been led to extend his expenses—he said unavoidably—in other directions. A rough pony had hitherto contented him to gallop into the neighbouring town for letters, and to carry him and his valise to the dinner-parties even of his most aristocratic entertainers. But now, inasmuch as sometimes an hospitable invitation extended itself to “the young men,” he had felt in duty bound, for his and their joint accommodation, to replace the pony by a showy-looking mare, and to invest the legal sum of nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence in the purchase of a dog-cart. As an almost necessary consequence, the boy “Jim” gave way to a grown-up groom, who did rather less work for considerably more wages, hissing and whistling over the said mare and dog-cart in the most knowing manner, and condescending, though with some scruples of conscience, to clean boots and knives. Harry’s reminiscences of his more sporting days were yet fresh enough for him to make a point of seeing his turn-out “look as it ought to do.” Jim and the pony, and all their accoutrements, were rough, and useful, and cheap, and made no pretensions to be otherwise. Now, things were changed, and saddlery and harness of the best (there was no economy, as Harry observed, in buying a poor article) found their place among the bills at Christmas. In short, he was led into a maze of new wants, individually trifling, but collectively sufficient to tell upon his yearly expenditure; and he was beginning gravely to attempt to solve that universal problem—the asses’ bridge, which the wisest domestic economists stick fast at year after year—“where the deuce all the money goes to?”—when circumstances occurred which put all such useless inquiries out of his head, and indeed put his debtor and creditor transactions on a much more primitive footing.

In the final settlement of the accounts of one of his pupils, who was leaving him for the university, some misunderstanding arose between himself and the father. The sum in question was but a few pounds; but the objection was put forward in a manner which Bolton considered as reflecting upon his own straightforward and liberal dealing; and it so happened that the young man had, from circumstances, been indebted in an unusual degree to his kindness. He therefore, I have no doubt, took the matter up warmly; for those who remember him as I do, can well imagine how his blood would boil at anything he considered mean or unhandsome. It ended in his insisting on the whole amount—a hundred or so—respecting which the difference had arisen, being paid in to the treasurer of the county hospital instead of to himself; and he vowed silently, but determinedly, to renounce pupilising thenceforth for ever. In vain did some of his best friends persuade him to change his resolution; he kept two who were with him at the time for a few months, when they also were to enter college; but he steadily refused any other offers: he sold off at once all his superfluous luxuries, and, as soon as practicable, gave up his curacy, and quitted the neighbourhood, to the general regret of all who knew him, and to the astonishment of all but the very few who were in the secret.

When Bolton’s friends next heard of him, he was living in a remote district of H——shire, on an income necessarily very small; for it could have been scarcely more than the proceeds of his curacy; and curacies in that part of the country were then but a wretched provision for any man—especially for one accustomed as he had been to good living and good society. However, he was not much troubled with the latter in his present position; not to speak of the fact that his nearest conversible neighbour lived seven miles off. Wherever parsons are mostly poor, and many of them ill-educated, they are not thought much of, either by farmers or gentlemen. And as it did not suit Harry’s tastes to enjoy his pipe and pot in the society of the first, as his predecessor had done with much contentment, nor yet to wait for the arrival of the one landed proprietor in the parish before he commenced the morning service, he was voted by the overseers and churchwardens to be “mighty set up,” and by the squire to be “a d—d unmannerly fellow.” Both, indeed, soon found out that they were wrong; and the farmers had the grace to confess it, and came, in course of time, to believe it possible for a curate to be a gentleman without being proud, and that it was at least as well for him to be visiting the sick and poor, and overlooking the parish school, and able to give a little good advice to themselves in matters of difficulty, as to be boosing in their company at the Crown and Thistle. And, in course of time, those rough but honest people came to respect him almost as much perhaps, in their way, as his more enlightened neighbours had done in his former position. It must have been a great change, however, to a man like Bolton, used to good society, fond of it, and readily welcomed in it, as he had always been. No doubt he felt it; yet he declared that, after the first few weeks, he never was happier in his life. His gun was given up, as an indulgence too expensive, but there was excellent trout-fishing for miles on both sides of his cottage; and, though a sport to which he had no great liking in his earlier days, he now took to it vigorously as the only amusement at hand, and became no unworthy disciple of honest Isaac. The worst effect of this new life of isolation was, that he became somewhat negligent in his habits; took to smoking a great deal, and made his tobacconist’s account a good deal longer than his tailor’s. He had still many old friends and connections at a distance, with whom he might have spent half the year if he had pleased; but, in his first pique with the world in general, he had fixed himself purposely as far out of their reach as possible; travelling was expensive (railways as yet were not); assistance in his clerical duties was not easily obtained; and so, partly from choice, and partly from necessity, his new life became one of almost utter isolation.

Of course there were occasions when he found it necessary to visit the neighbouring market-town—if it could be called neighbouring when it was twelve miles off. The main road lay about a mile from Harry’s little cottage, and a coach, passing daily, would usually deposit him safely in the High Street in the course of the forenoon—allowing an hour for waiting for it at the crossing (it was always after its time), and about two more, if the roads were not unusually heavy, for getting over the distance. It was not a very luxurious style of travelling; and Harry often preferred to walk in one day, and return the next. It was on one of these rare visits that a soaking rain discouraged him from setting out for home on foot, and give the Regulator the unusually full complement of one inside and one outside passenger. On the box was our friend Harry, inside a rather precise-looking personage, whose costume, as far as a large cloak allowed it to be seen, looked somewhat more clerical than the Curate’s, the latter being clad in a smart upper benjamin of the landlord’s of the Swan, finished round the throat with a very gay shawl of his daughter’s, both forced upon him in consideration of the weather; for Harry, though by no means a frequent, was a highly favoured guest, and they would sooner have kept him in No. 1 for a week gratis, than have allowed him to turn out in the rain without due protection.

Slower than usual that day was the Regulator’s progress through the mud and against the wind, and briefer than usual its driver’s replies to Harry’s good-humoured attempts at conversation.

“Whom have we inside, do you know, Haines?”

“Well, I reckon it’s what you’d call a hopposition coach like,” grunted out Joe Haines.

“Eh? I don’t exactly understand.”

“Why, I mean a Methodist bishop, or summat o’ that sort. You see there was a great opening of the Independent College here o’ Tuesday, and there was a lot o’ them gentry about the town, looking too good to live. I druv’ five on ’em down yesterday, and they gev’ me a shilling and a fourpenny amongst the whole lot. Oh! I loves them sort, don’t I just?” and Joe gave his near wheeler a cut, illustrative of his affection. It was a longer speech than he had made all the way, and he relapsed into a gloomy silence.

The wind was driving right into their teeth, and the evening closing fast, and they were passing the last milestone to the turning without any farther attempt at conversation, when there came first an ominous crack from under their feet, then a jolt, an unsteady wavering motion for a few seconds, when, with scarcely time for an exclamation, the coach toppled over on one side, and Bolton found himself reclining on the portly person of Mr Joseph Haines, who, in his turn, was saved from contusions by a friendly heap of mud by the roadside. Beyond a broken axle, however, no damage was done. The horses were glad of any opportunity to stand still. Bolton got up, shook himself, and laughed. Joe Haines was proceeding to philosophise rather strongly on the accident, not exactly after the manner of Job or Seneca, when the inside passenger, putting his head out of the only practicable window, begged him to spare his oaths, and help him out of his prison.

The stranger was soon extricated, and the horses taken out; and the driver, requesting his passengers to await his return, set off to seek assistance at the nearest cottage. As to the coach itself proceeding farther until partially repaired, that was evidently out of the question; and so Harry observed to his companion, who did not appear very knowing in such matters.

“And how far may we be from S——, sir?” inquired he, upon receiving this not very agreeable intelligence.

“Fifteen miles at least,” replied Bolton.

“Indeed! so far, and is there no place near where I could procure a conveyance of any kind? I have an engagement there I particularly wished to keep to-morrow.”

“Really, I fear not; this is quite an out-of-the-way place: the driver can tell you better than I can, but I know the neighbourhood pretty well, and think you would have to send back to the Swan at B—— for horses.”

“It is very unfortunate, and it is past nine already; what is the nearest place, sir, where I could get decent accommodation for the night?”

“Why, the nearest place,” said Harry, hesitatingly, “is the ‘Crown and Thistle,’ about three miles off, but I can’t say much for the accommodation. Wo-ho,”—one of the horses, tired at last of standing in the drizzling rain, was showing symptoms of an immediate return to his stable. The stranger merely gave vent to a dissatisfied “Humph!” and they stood silently awaiting the approach of a light along the road, which betokened Joe’s return with assistance. The coach was soon righted, and set up against the side of a bank; and Mr Haines, having given charge to one of his aids-extraordinary to keep watch by it till dawn with a light, both to prevent accidents and abstraction of the luggage, announced his intention of returning with the horses to B——, offering to his inside passenger the choice of a ride back, or taking a nap in the coach till morning. “You won’t be long getting home, Mr Bolton, anyhow,”—and the pronoun was emphasised, to show that even this sympathy was little extended to his fellow-traveller.

“No, Joe, I must say you have been pretty considerate: as you were to break down, you could hardly have arranged it more handily for me. Just look me out my little carpet-bag, and I suppose you’ll expect an extra shilling for your performance to-night, eh?”

Joe gave a hoarse laugh, and proceeded to rummage the boot; and Harry took advantage of the opportunity to whisper a few inquiries about his fellow-passenger.

“Well, I be pretty sure, sir, it’s a Dr Bates, as preached at the opening on Tuesday. There was two or three black-coats came with him to the yard afore we started; he’s quite a top-sawyer among ’em, and can hold on for two hours good, best pace, they tell me. He’s gev’ out to preach over at S—— to-morrow morning. I see’d the printed bills stuck all over town to-day.”

To-morrow was Sunday; and Bolton thought of a certain manuscript, not quite finished, lying on his desk at home. He glanced again at the stranger, and possibly, in the orthodoxy of his heart, did not feel particularly grieved at the disappointment probably in store for the itching ears of the S—— non-conformists.

“Well, good-night, Haines,” said he. But seeing his late companion still standing in the road, looking rather helpless, and hesitating to leave him altogether to the tender mercies of the coachman, “I am walking in the direction of the village inn,” he continued, “and if I can show you the way, I shall be very glad to do so. I dare say I can also find some one to fetch your luggage.”

“Thank you, sir,” said the other. “I cannot do better than follow your example;” and he at once selected and shouldered, with some activity for a man obviously on the wrong side of forty, a carpet-bag of more cumbersome dimensions than Bolton’s; and they strode down the road together, nearly in darkness, and with the rain still falling.

They had nearly reached the curate’s humble cottage, without much further conversation, when the stranger repeated his inquiries as to the distance to the inn, and the probability of his obtaining there any tolerable accommodation. “A clean bed,” he said, “would content him; was he likely to find one?”

A struggle had been going on, from the time they left the coach, between Harry Bolton’s good-nature, and what he thought his due dignity. Every word his fellow-passenger had uttered had convinced him, more and more, that he was a man of education and good sense, to say the least; a totally different being from the class of whom Jabez Green, who expounded at Mount Pisgah in his own parish on Sundays, and did a little shoemaking and poaching on week-days, formed a specimen ever before his eyes; and if it had not seemed a ludicrous misapplication of hospitality to have entertained the great gun of schism within the lares of the “persona ecclesia” he would long ago have offered the very respectable and mild-mannered gentleman, dropped by an unlucky accident almost at his door, at least a good fire and a pair of clean sheets for the night. Sleep at the Crown and Thistle!—why, on consideration, it was scarcely creditable to himself to send him there. The landlord was one of the most disreputable fellows in the parish, and, by ten o’clock on a Saturday night, was usually so drunk as to be more likely to refuse a guest any accommodation at all, than to take any extra pains for him. And the dirt, and the noise, and the etceteras! No, Dr Bates had better have stuck to the inside of the coach than have tried the Crown and Thistle. But where else was he to go? There was a good spare bedroom, no doubt, at Barby farm, within half a mile; but it had not been occupied since Harry had slept in it himself on his first arrival in the parish, and then it took a week’s notice to move the piles of wool and cheese, and have it duly aired. The stranger coughed, Harry grew desperate, and spoke out.

“We are close to my little place now, sir. I think I can offer you what you will hardly find at the inn—a clean room and a well-aired bed; and it seems a mere act of common civility to beg you to accept it.”

With many thanks, but with the natural politeness and ease with which a gentleman receives from another the courtesy which he is always ready to offer himself, the hospitable invitation was at once freely accepted: and in five minutes they had passed the little gate, and were awaiting the opening of the door.

This service was performed by the whole available force of Harry’s establishment. One active little elderly woman, who was there on resident and permanent duty, in all capacities, assisted on this occasion by Samuel Shears, parish clerk, sexton, barber, bird-fancier, fishing-tackle maker, &c. &c. &c.; and acting gardener, valet, butler, and footman, when required, to the reverend the curate. Loud was the welcome he received from both. “Had he walked through all the rain, surely! The coach was very late then; they’d ’most given him up: no, Sam hadn’t, ’cause of service to-morrow;” when their volubility was somewhat checked by the sight of his companion; and the old lady’s face underwent no very favourable change when informed she must prepare a second bed.

“Walk in, pray, and warm yourself—that room—Sam, take these bags;” and Harry stepped aside into the kitchen, to negotiate with his housekeeper for the strange accommodation; a matter not to be effected but by some little tact; for Molly, like servants of higher pretensions, did not like being put out of her way, by people “coming tramping in,” as she said, at all hours of the night; and if Bolton had replied to her close inquiries, as to who and whence the new guest was, with the statement that he was a stray Methodist preacher, it is probable that Molly, who had lived with clergymen since she was a child, and would sooner have missed her dinner than “her church,” would have resigned her keys of office at once in high disgust.

“The gentleman will sleep in my room, of course, Molly, and I shall have my things put into the other;—anything will do for supper—bread and cheese, Molly, quite well—toast a little, will you? Poor man, he seems to have a cough.”

“Toasted cheese an’t good for a cough.”

“No; to be sure not. Well, you can fry a little bacon, and a few eggs, you know.”

“There an’t no eggs. I don’t know what’s come to the ’ens: they behaves ’orrid, they does.”

“Well, anything, anything, Molly. I’m very tired, and I don’t care what it is: we shall both be very glad to get to bed.”

“Lor, I dare say you be tired, sir,” said Molly, somewhat pacified. “You’ve had a very wet ride, to be sure; lawk-a-me, why this coat might be a-wringed out.” And she hastened to relieve her master of some of his outer wrappings, and supply him with a warm dressing-gown and slippers, in which he soon joined his guest in the little parlour; and having introduced him to the room he was to occupy for the night, left him also to make himself comfortable.

If Harry Bolton did not repent of his hospitality, which would have been very unlike him, yet, upon consideration, he certainly felt he was acting the good Samaritan somewhat more literally than he had ever expected to do.

“What on earth shall I do with him to-morrow, I should like to know?” was the first question that suggested itself—much more readily than did the answer. He could not be expected to go to church, perhaps; but would he stay quietly at home? or walk off to assist the very reverend Jabez at Mount Pisgah? As to his keeping his appointment at S——, that, at least, was out of the question; and, after all, there seemed so much good sense and feeling of propriety about the traveller, that it was most probable—at least Harry thought so—that he would not in any way offend against the rules of the household which he had entered under such circumstances.

So the curate brushed the clinging rain from his hair, and the cloud from his brow, with one and the same motion, and relapsed into his usual state of good-humour. Supper came in, and he and his guest sat down opposite to each other, and prepared to discuss old Molly’s simple cookery. Really, now that one could look at him well, the man was very presentable in person as well as in manner. Harry said grace in a very few words, and the other’s “Amen” was audible and unexceptionable; reverent, and not nasal. He had a capital appetite; it was said to be characteristic of his calling, but in that point Harry fully kept pace with him; and the conversation was not, for the present, a very lively one. Sam came in at last to take away.

“Sam,” said the curate, in a half-aside, “is there a bottle of port?—here’s the key.”

“La! sir, you bid me take it down to old Nan, you know; and it wor the last bottle, I tell’d you then.”

“Ha! so I did, so I did. Did she like it, Sam?”

“Like it?” said Sam, opening his eyes, “I warrant her!”

“Well, Sam, I hope it did her good;—never mind. You must fare as I do, I am afraid,” said he to the other. “Bring out the whisky-jar, Sam.”

Bolton mixed himself a glass without further preface or apology; and his neighbour, with the remark that it could not be much amiss after a wetting, very moderately followed his example.

“And now,” said Bolton, rummaging in a little cupboard behind him, “I hope you don’t dislike the smell of tobacco. I’m rather too fond of it myself. My weakness is a pipe: I could find you a cigar, perhaps, if you are ever—”

“Thank you, I never do smoke; but pray do not mind me: I was at a German university for a year and a half, and that is a pretty fair apprenticeship to cloud-raising.”

Took a doctor’s degree there, no doubt, thought Harry; but it served excellently as an opening for general conversation; and two pipes had been consumed, and Molly had twice informed the gentlemen that the beds were all ready, and that Sam was waiting to know if there were any orders for to-morrow, before Harry remembered that he had a sermon still to finish, and that it was verging upon Sunday morning—so intelligent and agreeable had been the discourse of the stranger.

“If you please, sir,” said the clerk, putting his head in at the door, “the rain is a-coming down like nothing, and that great hole over the pulpit ben’t mended yet. Master Brooks promised me it should be done afore to-night; but he’s never seen to it.”

“That Brooks is the very—but, there, it can’t be helped to-night, Sam, at all events,” said Bolton, rather ashamed that the defects of his parochial administration should be exposed, as it were, to the enemy. “I must speak to him about it myself.”

“I clapped a couple of sods over it as well as I could, sir,” said the persevering Sam; “and I don’t think much wet can come in to hurt, like. Will this gentleman ’ficiate to-morrow?” (this was in a loud confidential whisper) “’cause the t’other surplice an’t—”

“Don’t bother now—there’s a good fellow,” said Harry, considerably annoyed, as he shut the door in the face of his astonished subordinate, who was generally privileged to gossip as much as he pleased. He covered his embarrassment by showing his visitor at once to his room, and then sat down to complete his own preparations for the next day’s duties.

The rain was as busily falling in the morning as if it had only just begun, instead of having been at it all night. Harry had been more than usually scrupulous in his dress; but when they met at the breakfast-table, his guest’s clerical tout ensemble beat him hollow. After a rather silent meal, in which both, as if by tacit consent, avoided all allusion to subjects connected with the day and its duties, Bolton mustered his courage, as they rose from table, to say—“My service is at eleven, and I shall have rather a wet walk; you, perhaps, are not disposed to accompany me?”

“By all means,” said the stranger, bowing; “I am quite ready;—is it time to set out?” And in a few minutes they were picking their way, side by side, down the little miry lane.

The church, it must be confessed, was not a comely edifice. Its architectural pretensions must originally have been of the humblest order; and now, damp and dilapidated, it was one of the many which, in those days, were a disgrace to any Christian community. There was the hole in the roof, immediately over the curate’s head, imperfectly stopped by Sam’s extempore repairs; and very wretched and comfortless did the few who composed the congregation look, as they came dripping in, and dispersed themselves among the crumbling pews. The service proceeded, and none showed such reverent attention as the stranger; and being placed in the rectorial pew, immediately opposite the clerk, the distinct though subdued tone of his responses was so audible, and so disturbed that functionary (who had that part of the service usually pretty much to himself, and had come to consider it as in some sort his exclusive privilege), that he made some terrible blunders in the hard verses in the Psalms, and occasionally looked round upon his rival, on these latter occasions especially, with unmistakable indignation.

The service concluded, Bolton found his guest awaiting him in the porch; and some ten minutes’ sharp walking, with few remarks, except in admiration of the pertinacity of the rain, brought them home again to the cottage. A plain early dinner was discussed: there was no afternoon service; and the curate had just stepped into his kitchen to listen to some petition from a parishioner, when the stranger took the opportunity of retiring to his own apartment, and did not reappear until summoned to tea.

Bolton’s visit to the kitchen had interrupted a most animated debate. In that lower house of his little commonwealth the new arrival had been a fruitful topic of discussion. The speakers were three: Molly, Sam, and Binns the wheelwright, who had looked in, as he said, on a little business with the parson. Molly, as has been said, was a rigid churchwoman. Her notions of her duty in that capacity might not have been unexceptionable, but they were, so far as the Sunday went, as follows: Church in the morning and afternoon, if practicable; as much reading as her eyes—not quite what they used to be—could comfortably manage; pudding for dinner, and tea and gossip in the evening. If fine, a walk would have come among the day’s arrangements; but with the rain coming down as it did, and after having rather puzzled herself with a sermon upon the origin of evil, the sudden, and in a degree mysterious, visit of a strange gentleman—where visitors of any kind were so rare—became invaluable as a topic of interesting—for aught we know, of profitable—discourse. Sam Shears dined with her always on this day, and was allowed, not without scruples, to have his pipe in the chimney-corner; in consideration of which indulgence, he felt it his duty to make himself as agreeable as possible; and inasmuch as his stock-stories respecting enormous perch caught, or gifted starlings educated by him, Samuel Shears, had long ceased to interest—indeed had never much interested—his fair listener here, though they still went down, with variations, at the Crown and Thistle, he was reduced very often, in the absence of anything of modern interest stirring in the neighbouring town of S——, to keep up his credit as a “rare good companion,” by entering into politics—for which study, next to divinity, Molly had a decided taste—talking about reforms and revolutions in a manner that Molly declared made her “creep,” and varying this pleasurable excitement by gloomy forebodings with regard to “Rooshia and Prooshia.”

On this particular evening, however, the subject of debate was of a domestic nature, and Molly and the clerk had taken opposite sides: Binns arriving opportunely to be appealed to by both, and being a man of few words, who shook his head with great gravity, and usually gave a nod of encouragement to the last speaker. Molly, after her first indignation at the intrusion of a wet stranger, without notice, at ten o’clock of a Saturday night, had been so softened by the courteous address and bearing of the enemy, that she had gradually admitted him at least to a neutrality; and when Sam Shears had in confidence hinted that he “hadn’t quite made up his mind about un,” her woman’s kindness of heart, or her spirit of contradiction, rushed forth as to the rescue of a friend.

“I wonder at you, Sam,” said she; “you’ve had heddication enough to know a gentleman when you sees him; and you’d ought to have more respect for the cloth.”

“Cloth! There now,” replied Sam, “that’s just it; I an’t so sure about his cloth, as you call it.”

“Why, what ever do you mean, Sam Shears?”

“I mean,” rejoined Sam, boldly, though he felt that Molly’s fiercest glance was upon him, and almost choked himself in the endeavour to hide himself in a cloud of his own creating—“I mean, I don’t think as he’s a regular parson. If he had been, you see, he’d have took some of the duty. Besides,” continued the official, reassured by Binns’ respectful attention, “we had a little talk while we was a-waiting for master after church—I offered him a humbereller, you see—and I just asked whereabouts his church was, and he looked queerish at me, and said he hadn’t no church, not exactly; and then I begged his pardon, and said I thought he was a clergyman; and he said, so he was, but somehow he seemed to put me off, as it might be.” Binns nodded.

“To be sure,” said Molly; “and ’twas like your manners, Sam, to go questioning of him in that way.”

“Bless you, I was as civil as could be; however, I say again, I ’as my doubts: he’d a quakerish-looking coat too, such as I never see’d on a regular college parson. He’s the very moral of a new Irvingite preacher.”

“And what’s their doctrines, Sam?” asked Molly, whose theological curiosity was irresistibly excited.

“Why,” said the clerk, after a puff or two to collect his thoughts, “they believes in transmigration.”

Binns made a gesture of awe and abjuration.

“Stuff!” said Molly, “that’s popery: nor you don’t suppose, Sam, that master would have anybody of that sort in his house—eh, Mr Binns?”

The benefit of that gentleman’s opinion was lost to both parties, for it was at that juncture “master” himself entered, and having discussed his communication, which related to a sick wife, bid him call again in the morning, and the wheelwright took his leave.

“And now, Shears,” said the curate, “(don’t put your pipe behind you, man; do you suppose I have not smelt it this half-hour—I wish you would buy better tobacco)—you must be off to S—— to-morrow at daylight, and order a chaise to be here, for this gentleman, by nine o’clock at the latest. Do you understand, now?”

“Yes, sir, yes. I’ll be sure to go. And what name shall I say, sir?”

“Name, eh! oh, it doesn’t matter. Say for me, of course. And look here: there will be five shillings for you if the chaise is here in time. Ay, you may well make a bow; I told the gentleman it was too much for you.”

“I’m very much obliged to you both,” said Sam, slily, “I’m sure, sir; I’ll be off at cock-crow.”

“There, Sam Shears,” said Molly, as soon as they had the kitchen to themselves again, “did you ever hear of one of your new what-d’ye-call-ums ordering a chaise to go ranting about in, I should like to know? What have you got to say now?”

“I say,” said Sam, “as he’s a gentleman, and no mistake.”

The evening passed away very quietly in the little parlour. The favourable impression made upon Bolton by his guest’s manners and conversation was certainly deepened by their further intercourse: but the position seemed felt by both parties to be an awkward one; and when his departure early on the following morning was proposed, Bolton of course made no effort to detain him. Both employed most of the evening in reading; and one or two remarks made by the stranger, as he made his selection from the curate’s library, proved at least his acquaintance with the works which it contained, though nothing escaped him, as he wiped the dust from some of Harry’s presentation volumes, which could indicate either his agreement or disagreement with the sound divines he was handling, and his clever criticisms were rather those of the bibliographer than the theologian. At last he seemed to bury himself in a volume of old South, and carried it off with him early to his chamber.

The morning came, and eight o’clock brought breakfast, and half-past eight the chaise, with Sam Shears fast asleep inside of it. The curate and his guest parted with mutual good-will, and with a short but warm acknowledgment, on the part of the latter, of the hospitality he had received. Sam was not forgotten; he received the promised gratuity with many bows, and did not put his hat on again until the chaise had fairly turned the corner.

“Uncommon nice gentleman that, sir, to be sure,” said he to his master, with whom he seldom missed the chance of a little conversation, if he could help it—and Bolton was generally good-natured enough to indulge him—“uncommon nice gentleman; what a thousand pities it is he should be a Methody!”

“A what!” inquired the curate, turning round upon him in ludicrous dismay.

“A Methody preacher, sir,” said Sam, boldly; for Harry’s countenance quite confirmed his suspicions. “Oh! I know all about it, sir; but it ain’t of no account with me, sir, you know, not none whatever,”—and he redoubled his negatives with a confidential mysteriousness which made Harry inclined to kick him. “I met Joe Haines, as drives the Regulator, this morning, and he asked me very particular about you, you see, sir, and how you got home o’ Saturday night; and then I told him as how this gentleman came with you; and when he heard as he’d been staying here all day yesterday, how he did laugh, to be sure; and then he told me——”

“I’ll tell you something, Sam, too. You had much better mind your own business, and not trouble yourself to talk to Joe Haines, or anybody else, about what goes on in my house.”

There was no mistaking the fact that his master was angry; and as such a thing had very seldom happened within Sam’s experience, it was a result of which he stood considerably in awe; and he hastened, with some confusion, to apologise, and to resume his praises of the “very nice gentleman, whatever he was,”—“And as you say, sir, that’s no business of mine: I’m sure I should be most happy to wait upon him at any time, sir——”

But Bolton had retired, and shut the door of his little sitting-room in an unmistakable manner. So Sam was obliged to soliloquise the rest of his apologies, which began to be very sincere, as he consoled himself by gazing at the two half-crowns which had come into his possession so easily. “Of course; if so be as he’s a gentleman, what matters? That’s what I say: that’s what I said to master: that’s what I said to Molly:—hallo! hey?—if this here half-crown ain’t a smasher!”

’Twas too true: it rung upon the flag-stone like an unadulterated piece of lead.

“What’s the matter now, Sam?” said Mrs Molly who heard the sound, and met his blank face in the passage.

“I told you what he was,” said Sam—“look here!” Molly examined the unfortunate coin with every wish to give it the benefit of a doubt, but was obliged finally to pronounce against it. She had to listen, also, to the story which Sam had heard from Joe Haines; and though she clung pertinaciously to her previously-formed conclusions in the strange favour, Sam had now decidedly the best of the argument, which he clinched at last with what he considered an unanswerable proposition—“If you says as he’s a parson and a gentleman, will you give me two-and-sixpence for this here half-crown?”

Weeks passed on, and other events wore out the interest of the strange visit, even in those dull localities. Binns’ wife had a baby; and another piece of the church roof fell in, and nearly carried Brooks the churchwarden with it, as he was mounted on a ladder estimating its repairs—for there was an archdeacon’s visitation coming on, and not even the vulcanised conscience of a parish functionary could be brought to pronounce, on oath, its present state of repair to be good and sufficient. And Harry received an invitation to dine with the said archdeacon, who was a good kind of man on the whole—that is, his good qualities would not very well bear taking to pieces—but he rather patronised the younger clergy in his neighbourhood, provided that they were young men of tolerable family, and good address, and not, as he expressed it, ultra in any way. It so happened, that he was almost the only acquaintance that Harry had made in the neighbourhood. He had written to request his interference in enforcing the repair of the church; and as that was a compliment seldom paid to his official dignity, the archdeacon had actually driven over thirteen miles to inspect the place personally; and, arriving quite unexpectedly, had caught the curate just sallying forth equipped for fishing—an art to which he himself occasionally condescended—for even archdeacons do unbend. And very soon ascertaining that there was no tendency to an objectionable ultra, of any kind, in our hero, and that he was in fact rather an eligible rear-rank man for a dinner-table, he had made a mental memorandum of the fact, and, in consequence, had twice favoured him with an invitation, which Harry, according to his present humour, had declined. On this occasion, however—as a third refusal would have seemed ungracious—he had determined to go; and, with some compunction at the expense (he had thought nothing at Oxford of a hunter, and a “team” to cover, at about five guineas for the day), he found himself in a hired gig at the archdeacon’s door, a little before the dinner hour on the day appointed. None of the guests were as yet assembled. His host, however, met him in the drawing-room, and presented him, with considerable cordiality, to his lady and her daughters.

“It was very good indeed of Mr Bolton to come so far to see us,” said the archdeacon. “Indeed, I am particularly glad you came to-day,” continued he, with a sort of pompous kindness, “for I have the bishop staying here, and I wished you to meet him.”

Harry was interrupted in his acknowledgments by the entrance of two men of the expected party: the Honourable and Reverend Mr Luttridge, a young man, who eyed his brother curate, on his introduction, with what he intended for a critical and interrogative glance, but which had by no means the effect upon that party which he intended; and another archdeacon, or dean, or some such dignitary, who made Bolton a very low bow indeed; and, turning his back upon him forthwith, began to discourse with the other two upon the business of the last Petit Sessions. A discussion upon some point of magisterial law was interrupted by a burst of shrill and hearty laughter from the younger of the Misses Archdeacons—a fat merry girl, with whom Harry had struck up an acquaintance instantly—that was a point he never failed in; and although the other two gentlemen looked rather astonished, and turned round again to resume their argument, the father—she was his favourite daughter, and ludicrously like him—was delighted to see her amused, and insisted upon knowing what the fun was between them. Some absurd remark of Harry’s was repeated, as well as her continued merriment would allow her; and the archdeacon, after a preparatory shaking of his sides, had just burst into a stentorian “ha-ha,” when the drawing-room door again opened, and the Bishop of F—— was most audibly announced.

Every one tried to look deferential, of course; and the two gentlemen in front of Harry separated, and took open order to receive his lordship. Everybody recovered their propriety, in fact, in an instant, except Miss Harriet, to whom a bishop was no treat at all—not to be compared with an amusing young curate. She kept her eyes fixed upon Harry Bolton—she thought he was going to faint. Could it be possible?—oh! there was no doubt about it. Schismatic Doctor Bates, or Bishop of F——, there he was!—there was the man he had walked home in the rain with!

Harry’s quondam guest walked forward with an easy grace, which contrasted strikingly with the stiff dignity of his subordinates. He shook hands politely with Mr Luttridge, and returned the greeting of his companion somewhat more warmly. The archdeacon was preparing to introduce Bolton, without noticing his embarrassment, when the bishop anticipated the introductory speech by saying, as he held out his hand, “Mr Bolton and I are old friends—may I not say so?”

A man of less self-possession than our friend the curate might have been put quite at his ease by the kind tone and manner, and warm grasp of the hand. “Certainly,” was his reply, “your lordship and myself have met under rather different circumstances.”

The archdeacon’s respectable face expressed considerable astonishment, as well it might; and the other two gentlemen began to eye his lordship’s “old friend” with interested and inquisitive glances.

“My dear archdeacon,” said the bishop, laughing, “pardon my mystification; this is the friend with whom I spent a day or two on my last visit to this neighbourhood, when you really thought you had lost me altogether; though, if you had told me I was to have the pleasure of meeting him at your table to-day, I might, perhaps, have let you into the secret.”

“But, my dear Bolton,” said the host—he had dropped the Mr at once, and for ever—“why did you not tell me that you knew his lordship?—eh?”

Harry laughed, and got a little confused again; but the bishop answered the question for him, before he had time to frame an intelligible reply.

“Oh, that’s a long story; but it was no mystery of Mr Bolton’s, be assured. I am afraid, indeed, it will tell rather better for him than for me; but I promise you the explanation, some day,” continued the bishop, good-humouredly, “when we have nothing better to talk about.” The archdeacon took the hint, and turned the conversation. Another guest or two joined the party; dinner succeeded, and passed off much as such affairs usually do. The bishop, although he did not address much of his conversation directly to Bolton, took care to make him feel at his ease; and Mr Luttridge, who sat next to him, became remarkably friendly—was quite surprised that he had not heard of him before, being, in fact, quite a near neighbour—only nine miles—nothing at all in that part of the country—should ride over to call on him one of the first days he could spare—and, in fact, said what became him to the bishop’s friend and protégé.

Whatever curiosity might have been felt on the subject by the rest of the company, it was not until they had taken their departure that the bishop thought proper to explain to Bolton and the archdeacon the circumstances which had led to his paying an incognito visit to the former. He had only lately been appointed to the diocese, and was therefore personally known to but few of his clergy. The archdeacon and himself, however, were old college acquaintances, and he had accepted an invitation to spend a few days with him, at the time of his casual meeting with Harry Bolton. Being averse at all times to any kind of ceremony or etiquette, which he could reasonably dispense with, it had been arranged that the archdeacon’s carriage should meet him at B——, to which place his own had conveyed him. Upon his arrival in the town somewhat before the hour appointed, he had, according to his custom, walked out quietly to make himself acquainted with the localities, and had unconsciously passed some hours in exploring some ruins at a little distance. Meanwhile, the archdeacon, not so punctual as his diocesan, drove up to the hotel door in hot haste, considerably too late for his appointment, and was saluted with the unpleasant information that his lordship had been there, and was gone on these two hours,—for his previous orders had been duly obeyed, and the episcopal equipage, with a portly gentleman inside, who sustained the dignity of his position as chaplain very carefully, had really rolled away on its road homeward. The archdeacon doubted, but mine host was positive; and strengthened his position by the assertion that his lordship had said he was going to Bircham rectory, a piece of intelligence picked up from the servants, with exactly enough truth in it to do mischief. Off went the archdeacon again, annoyed at his own dilatoriness; and great was his consternation on reaching home to find no bishop; and great was the bishop’s surprise, on returning at last to the hotel, to find no archdeacon; and great the confusion throughout the King’s Arms; the landlord throwing the blame upon the waiters, and the waiters upon each other. Post-horses to S——, which was within a short three miles of the archdeacon’s rectory, were ordered at once. But, alas! after many delays and apologies, none were to be had; almost every quadruped in the town was engaged in taking parties home from the opening of the Independent College. The bishop was not a man to make difficulties; so, leaving his only remaining servant to await any remedial measures which the archdeacon might take when he discovered his error, and to give an intelligible account of his movements, he himself, without mentioning his intention to any other person, walked down to the coach-office at the Swan, paid his fare, and became an inside passenger by the Regulator.

Of course, when the archdeacon discovered his mistake, no time was lost in procuring fresh horses, and sending back the carriage to B——, in the hope that his lordship might still be forthcoming; but it brought back to the anxious expectants at the rectory only a servant and a portmanteau; and as they did not pass the spot where the accident occurred, and all inquiries made at S—— only resulted in the intelligence that “there had been an upset, that no one was hurt, and that the passengers had walked home,” they made up their minds to await some accurate information as to his lordship’s whereabouts from himself, when he relieved his friends from their uncomfortable suspense by making his appearance personally at breakfast on the Monday morning; though, to punish, as he jokingly said, the archdeacon, for leaving him in such a predicament, he would tell them nothing more than that he had spent the Sunday very pleasantly with a friend.

Much amusement ensued at the bishop’s details of his visit, though he good-naturedly avoided any allusions that could possibly be embarrassing to his late host. Bolton had accepted the offer of a bed, and it was late before they separated for the night. Before he took his leave on the following morning, the bishop, to his surprise, announced his intention of paying him a second visit. “I think, Mr Bolton,” said he, “that, having intruded upon you once in disguise, as I may say, I am bound to come and preach for you some Sunday, if it be only to clear my own character in the eyes of your parishioners” (for Harry had confessed, to the exceeding amusement of all parties, his own and his clerk’s suspicions). “So, if you please, and if my good friend here will accompany me, we will drive over to you next Sunday morning; and I’ll try,” continued the bishop slily, “if I cannot get Mr Churchwarden Brooks to put your church a little to rights for you.”

The morning arrived, and the archdeacon and the bishop. A proud woman had Molly been from the moment the announcement was made to her of the intended honour; and the luncheon which she had prepared was, considering her limited resources, something extraordinary. But when his lordship alighted, and, catching a sight of her eager face in the passage, called to her by name, and addressed her kindly—and she recognised the features of the unknown guest, whom Sam had so irreverently slandered—the good old woman, between shame and gratification, was quite overcome, and was wholly unable to recover her self-possession throughout the day. During the whole of the service, she looked at the bishop instead of the prayer-book, made responses at random, and was only saved by the good-natured interference of his lordship’s own man from totally ruining the luncheon. Of course, the church was crowded; the sermon was plain and impressive: and when, after service, the whole of the rustic congregation, collected in the church-yard to see as much as they could of a personage few of them had ever seen before, formed a lane respectfully, with their hats off, for him to pass to the gate, the bishop, taking off his hat and claiming their attention for a few moments, spoke a few words, homely and audible, approving their behaviour during the service, and representing to them the advantages they might derive from the residence among them of an exemplary minister, such as he believed they had at present, and such as he would endeavour to provide them with in the possible event of his removal. And when afterwards he begged to be introduced to the churchwarden, and, taking him familiarly by the arm, walked with him round the building, pointed out indispensable repairs, and, without any word of reproof, explained to him the harm done by injudicious patching, and put into his hands a liberal contribution towards the expenses—it might have seemed quite wonderful to those who either overrate or underrate poor human nature, how much more popular a notion, and how much better understood a bishop was in that remote village from that time forth. The landlord of the Crown and Thistle was quite surprised at the change that had come over Mr Brooks. He used to be rather a popular orator on club nights and other convivial occasions, taking that economical view of church dignitaries and their salaries which, by an amusing euphemism, is called “liberal” in politics; but subsequently to this occasion he seldom joined in these discussions, was seen less frequently by degrees in the taproom of the Crown and Thistle, and more regularly at church; and once, when hard pressed for an opinion by some of his former supporters, was asserted to have told them that the Crown and Thistle took more money out of people’s pockets than ever the bishops did.

Harry had anticipated much amusement from Sam Shears’ confusion, when he should encounter, in his full canonicals, the bishop of the diocese in the person of the apocryphal Dr Bates; but whatever that worthy’s secret discomfiture might have been, he carried it off wonderfully well, and met his lordship in the vestry with a lurking smile in his humble obeisance, as if he had all along penetrated the mystery of his incognito. With Molly in the kitchen, indeed, he had for some evenings a hard time of it; but a threat of absenting himself altogether, which he ventured in some fear of being taken at his word, had the effect of moderating her tone of triumph. Before the Bishop left, he called Sam aside, and presented him with a substantial token of remembrance; when Sam took the opportunity of producing, with many prefaces of apology, the condemned half-crown, which had fretted in his pocket ever since.

“Please your lordship’s worship and reverence,” said Sam, “this here ain’t a very good half-crown; at least, I can’t pass it noways down here. I dare say as your lordship’s worship might pass it away easy enough among your friends, but—”

“Here, here,” said the bishop, laughing heartily, “here’s another for you, by all means, my man; but pray excuse my having anything more to do with the bad one.”

Again the bishop parted from his entertainer with many expressions of regard, and an invitation to spend some time with him at his palace, which Bolton did much to his satisfaction; and received from him so much valuable advice and paternal kindness, that he always considered the snug living with which, some months afterwards, he was presented, one of the least of his obligations.


“And that’s how Harry Bolton came to be a neighbour of mine,” concluded Long Lumley; “and a nice place he has here, and a capital neighbour he is.”

We discussed the whole story over Lumley’s wine after dinner the next day, when the Hon. and Rev. Mr Luttridge, who had since married the bishop’s niece, and was said to have been a disappointed expectant of the living given to Bolton, made one of our party.

“A very odd man, certainly, the bishop is,” was that gentleman’s remark; “very strange, you know, to go poking about the country in that kind of way. Scarcely the thing, in fact, I must say.”

“Upon my honour,” said Lumley, “you parsons ought to be better judges of what is or is not ‘the thing’ for a bishop, than I can be; but if the Bishop of F—— is an odd man, I know, if I had the making of bishops, I’d look out for a match for him.”