The old, old lament of those who worship art, that sternest mistress in the world, fell into the silence of the little drawing-room. Rachel understood it in part only, for she had always vaguely felt that Hester idealized Nature, as she idealized her fellow-creatures, as she idealized everything, and she did not comprehend why Hester was in despair because she could not speak adequately of Life or Nature as she saw them. Rachel thought, with bewilderment, that that was just what she could do.
At this moment a carriage drew up at the door, and after a long interval, during which the wrathful voice of the cook could be distinctly heard through the kitchen window recalling “Hemma” to a sense of duty from the back yard, “Hemma” breathlessly ushered in the Bishop of Southminster.
Originality irritates the religious classes, who will not be taken out of their indolent ways of thinking; who have a standing grievance against it, and “heresy” and “heterodoxy” are bad words ready for it.—W.W. PEYTON.
The Bishop was an undersized, spare man, with a rugged, weather-beaten face and sinewy frame. If you had seen him working a crane in a stone-mason’s yard, or leading a cut-and-thrust forlorn-hope, or sailing paper boats with a child, you would have felt he was the right man in the right place. That he was also in his right place as a bishop had never been doubted by any one. Mr. Gresley was the only person who had occasionally had misgivings as to the Bishop’s vocation as a true priest, but he had put them aside as disloyal.
Jowett is believed to have said, “A bishop without a sense of humor is lost.” Perhaps that may have been one of the reasons why, by Jowett’s advice, the See of Southminster was offered to its present occupant. The Bishop’s mouth, though it spoke of an indomitable will, had a certain twist of the lip, his deep-set, benevolent eyes had a certain twinkle which made persons like Lord Newhaven and Hester hail him at once as an ally, but which ought to have been a danger-signal to some of his clerical brethren—to Mr. Gresley in particular.
The Bishop respected and upheld Mr. Gresley as a clergyman, but as a conversationalist the young vicar wearied him. If the truth were known (which it never was), he had arranged to visit Hester when he knew Mr. Gresley would be engaging the reluctant attention of a ruridecanal meeting.
He gave a sigh of relief as he became aware that Hester and Rachel were the only occupants of the cool, darkened room. Mrs. Gresley, it seemed, was also out.
Hester made tea, and presently the Bishop, who looked much exhausted, roused himself. He had that afternoon attended two death-beds—one the death-bed of a friend, and the other that of the last vestige of peace, expiring amid the clamor of a distracted Low Church parish and High Church parson, who could only meet each other after the fashion of cymbals. For the moment even his courageous spirit had been disheartened.