Mr Thumble scrambled into the reading-desk some ten minutes after the proper time, and went through the morning service under, what must be admitted to be, serious difficulties. There were the eyes of Mr Crawley fixed upon him throughout the work, and a feeling pervaded him that everybody there regarded him as an intruder. At first this was so strong upon him that Mr Crawley pitied him, and would have encouraged him had it been possible. But as the work progressed, and as custom and the sound of his own voice emboldened him, there came to the man some touches of the arrogance which so generally accompanies cowardice, and Mr Crawley’s acute ear detected the moment when it was so. An observer might have seen that the motion of his hands was altered as they were lifted in prayer. Though he was praying, even in prayer he could not forget the man who was occupying the desk.
Then came the sermon, preached very often before, lasting exactly half-an-hour, and then Mr Thumble’s work was done. Itinerant clergymen, who preach now here and now there, as it had been the lot of Mr Thumble to do, have at any rate this relief—that they can preach their sermons often. From the communion-table Mr Thumble had stated that, in the present peculiar circumstances of the parish, there would be no second service at Hogglestock for the present; and this was all he said or did peculiar to the occasion. The moment of the service was over and he got into his gig, and was driven back to Barchester.
‘Mamma,’ said Jane, as they sat at dinner, ’such a sermon I am sure was never heard in Hogglestock before. Indeed, you can hardly call it a sermon. It was downright nonsense.’
‘My dear,’ said Mr Crawley energetically, ’keep your criticisms for matters that are profane; then, though they be childish and silly, they may at least be innocent. Be critical of Eurypides, if you must be critical.’ But when Jane kissed her father after dinner, she, knowing his humour well, felt assured that her remarks had not been taken altogether in ill part.
Mr Thumble was neither seen nor heard of again in the parish during the entire week.
MRS ARABIN IS CAUGHT
One morning about the middle of April Mr Toogood received a telegram from Venice which caused him instantly to leave his business in Bedford Row and take the first train for Silverbridge. ’It seems to me that this job will be a deal of time and very little money,’ said his partner to him, when Toogood on the spur of the moment was making arrangements for his sudden departure and uncertain period of absence. ‘That’s about it,’ said Toogood. ’A deal of time, some expense, and no returns. It is not the kind of business a man can live upon, is it?’ The partner growled, and Toogood went. But we must go with Mr Toogood down to Silverbridge, and as we cannot make the journey in this chapter, we will just indicate his departure and then go back to John Eames, who, as will be remembered, was just starting for Florence when we last saw him.