‘And am I a thief?’ he said to himself, standing in the middle of the road, with his hands up to his forehead.
THE BISHOP’S ANGEL
It was nearly nine before Mr Crawley got back to his house, and found his wife and daughter waiting breakfast for him. ’I should not wonder if Grace were over here today,’ said Mrs Crawley. ’She’d better remain where she is,’ said he. After this the meal passed almost without a word. When it was over, Jane, at a sign from her mother, went up to her father and asked him whether she should read with him. ‘Not now,’ he said, ’not just now. I must rest my brain before it will be fit for any work.’ Then he got into the chair over the fire, and his wife began to fear that he would remain there all day.
But the day was not far advanced, when there came a visitor who disturbed him, and by disturbing him did him a real service. Just at ten there arrived at the little gate before the house a man on a pony, whom Jane espied, standing there by the pony’s head and looking about for someone to relieve him of the charge of the steed. This was Mr Thumble, who had ridden over to Hogglestock on a poor spavined brute belonging to the bishop’s stable, and which had once been the bishop’s cob. Now it was the vehicle by which Mrs Proudie’s episcopal messages were sent backwards and forwards through a twelve-miles ride round Barchester; and so many were the lady’s requirements, that the poor animal by no means ate the hay of idleness. Mr Thumble had suggested to Mrs Proudie, after their interview with the bishop and the giving up of the letter to the clerical messenger’s charge, that before hiring a gig from the Dragon of Wantley, he should be glad to know—looking as he always did to ’Mary Anne and the children’—whence the price of the gig was to be returned to him. Mrs Proudie had frowned at him—not with all the austerity of frowning which she could use when really angered, but simply with a frown which gave her some little time for thought, and would enable her to continue to rebuke if, after thinking, she should find that rebuke was needed. But mature consideration showed her that Mr Thumble’s caution was not without reason. Were the bishop energetic—or even the bishop’s managing chaplain as energetic as he should be, Mr Crawley might, as Mrs Proudie felt assured, be made in some way to pay for a conveyance for Mr Thumble. But the energy was lacking, and the price of the gig, if the gig were ordered, would certainly fall ultimately on the bishop’s shoulders. This was very sad. Mrs Proudie had often grieved over the necessary expenditure of episcopal surveillance, and had been heard to declare her opinion that a liberal allowance for secret service should be made in every diocese. What better could the Ecclesiastical Commission do with all those rich revenues which they had stolen from the bishops? But there was no such liberal allowance at present, and therefore, Mrs Proudie, after having frowned at Mr Thumble for some seconds, desired him to take the grey cob. Now, Mr Thumble had ridden the grey cob before, and would have much preferred a gig. But even the grey cob was better than a gig at his own cost.