The tinkle of the church bell was heard at the usual time, and Mr Crawley, hat in hand, stood ready to go forth. He had heard nothing of Mr Thumble, but had made up his mind that Mr Thumble would not trouble him. He had taken the precaution to request his churchwarden to be early at the church, so that Mr Thumble might encounter no difficulty. The church was very near to the house, and any vehicle arriving might have been heard had Mr Crawley watched closely. But no one had cared to watch Mr Thumble’s arrival at the church. He did not doubt that Mr Thumble would be at the church. With reference to the school, he had had some doubt.
But just as he was about to start he heard the clatter of a gig. Up came Mr Thumble to the door of the parsonage, and having come down from his gig was about to enter the house as though it were his own. Mr Crawley greeted him in the pathway, raising his hat from his head, and expressing a wish that Mr Thumble might not feel himself fatigued with his drive. ‘I will not ask you into my poor house,’ he said, standing in the middle of the pathway; ‘for that my wife is ill.’
‘Nothing catching, I hope?’ said Mr Thumble.
‘Her malady is of the spirit rather than of the flesh,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘Shall we go to the church?’
‘Certainly—by all means. How about the surplice?’
’You will find, I trust, that the churchwarden has everything in readiness. I have notified him expressly your coming, with the purport that it may be so.’
‘You’ll take part in the service, I suppose?’ said Mr Thumble.
‘No part—no part whatever,’ said Mr Crawley, standing still for a moment as he spoke, and showing plainly by the tone of his voice how dismayed he was, how indignant he had been made, by so indecent a proposition. Was he giving up his pulpit to a stranger for any reason less cogent than one which made it absolutely imperative of him to be silent in that church which had so long been his own?
‘Just as you please,’ said Mr Thumble. ’Only it’s rather hard lines to have to do it all myself after coming all the way from Barchester this morning.’ To this Mr Crawley condescended to make no reply whatever.
In the porch of the church, which was the only entrance, Mr Crawley introduced Mr Thumble to the churchwarden, simply by a wave of the hand, and then passed on with his daughter to a seat which opened upon the aisle. Jane was going on to that which she had hitherto always occupied with her mother in the little chancel; but Mr Crawley would not allow this. Neither to him nor to any of his family was there attached any longer the privilege of using the chancel of the church of Hogglestock.