‘Oh, Mrs Broughton!’
’Of course he could not be blind to one thing;—nor was I. I mention it now because it is right, but I shall never, never allude to again. Of course he saw, and I saw, that Conway—was attached to me. Poor Conway meant no harm. I was aware of that. But there was the terrible fact. I knew at once that the only cure for him was a marriage with some girl he could respect. Admiring you as I do, I immediately resolved on bringing you to together. My dear, I have been successful, and I heartily trust that you may be happier than Maria Broughton.’
Miss Van Siever knew the woman, understood all the facts, and pitying the condition of the wretched creature, bore all this without a word of rebuke. She scorned to put out her strength against one who was in truth so weak.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Things were gloomy at the palace. It has already been said that for may days after Dr Tempest’s visit to Barchester the intercourse between the bishop and Mrs Proudie had not been of a pleasant nature. He had become so silent, so sullen, and so solitary in his ways, that even her courage had been almost cowed, and for a while she had condescended to use gentler methods, with the hope that she might thus bring her lord round to his usual state of active submission; or perhaps, if we strive to do her full justice, we may say of her that her effort was made conscientiously, with the idea of inducing him to do his duty with proper activity. For she was a woman not without a conscience, and by no means indifferent to the real service which her husband, as bishop of the diocese, was bound to render to the affairs of the Church around her. Of her own struggles after personal dominion she was herself unconscious; and no doubt they gave her, when recognised and acknowledged by herself, many stabs to her inner self, of which no single being in the world knew anything. And now, as after a while she failed in producing any amelioration in the bishop’s mood, her temper also gave way, and things were becoming very gloomy and unpleasant.
The bishop and his wife were at present alone in the palace. Their married daughter and her husband had left them, and the unmarried daughter was also away. How far the bishop’s mood may have produced this solitude in the vast house I will not say. Probably Mrs Proudie’s state of mind may have prevented her from having other guests in the place of those who had gone. She felt herself to be almost disgraced in the eyes of all those around her by her husband’s long absence from the common rooms of the house and by his dogged silence at meals. It was better, she thought, that they two should be alone in the palace.