‘Now I never liked Barton,’ said Mr. Fellowes. ’He’s not a gentleman. Why, he used to be on terms of intimacy with that canting Prior, who died a little while ago;—a fellow who soaked himself with spirits, and talked of the Gospel through an inflamed nose.’
‘The Countess has given him more refined tastes, I daresay,’ said Mr. Ely.
‘Well,’ observed Mr. Cleves, ’the poor fellow must have a hard pull to get along, with his small income and large family. Let us hope the Countess does something towards making the pot boil.’
‘Not she,’ said Mr. Duke; ’there are greater signs of poverty about them than ever.’
‘Well, come,’ returned Mr. Cleves, who could be caustic sometimes, and who was not at all fond of his reverend brother, Mr. Duke, ’that’s something in Barton’s favour at all events. He might be poor without showing signs of poverty.’
Mr. Duke turned rather yellow, which was his way of blushing, and Mr. Ely came to his relief by observing,—’They’re making a very good piece of work of Shepperton Church. Dolby, the architect, who has it in hand, is a very clever fellow.’
‘It’s he who has been doing Coppleton Church,’ said Mr. Furness. ’They’ve got it in excellent order for the visitation.’
This mention of the visitation suggested the Bishop, and thus opened a wide duct, which entirely diverted the stream of animadversion from that small pipe—that capillary vessel, the Rev. Amos Barton.
The talk of the clergy about their Bishop belongs to the esoteric part of their profession; so we will at once quit the dining-room at Milby Vicarage, lest we should happen to overhear remarks unsuited to the lay understanding, and perhaps dangerous to our repose of mind.
I dare say the long residence of the Countess Czerlaski at Shepperton Vicarage is very puzzling to you also, dear reader, as well as to Mr. Barton’s clerical brethren; the more so, as I hope you are not in the least inclined to put that very evil interpretation on it which evidently found acceptance with the sallow and dyspeptic Mr. Duke, and with the florid and highly peptic Mr. Fellowes. You have seen enough, I trust, of the Rev. Amos Barton, to be convinced that he was more apt to fall into a blunder than into a sin—more apt to be deceived than to incur a necessity for being deceitful: and if you have a keen eye for physiognomy, you will have detected that the Countess Czerlaski loved herself far too well to get entangled in an unprofitable vice.
How then, you will say, could this fine lady choose to quarter herself on the establishment of a poor curate, where the carpets were probably falling into holes, where the attendance was limited to a maid of all work, and where six children were running loose from eight o’clock in the morning till eight o’clock in the evening? Surely you must be misrepresenting the facts.