Margaret Oliphant, The Perpetual Curate: Ch. 1

[+] | [-] | reset

"We could not have expected to begin quite without difficulties," said Mrs Morgan, as she and her husband discussed the question in the drawing-room of the Rectory. It was a pretty drawing-room, though Mr Proctor's taste was not quite in accordance with the principles of the new incumbent's wife: however, as the furniture was all new, and as the former rector had no further need for it, it was of course, much the best and most economical arrangement to take it as it stood—though the bouquets on the carpet were a grievance which nothing but her high Christian principles could have carried Mrs Morgan through. She looked round as she spoke, and gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head: she, too, had her share of disagreeables. "It would not look like Christ's work, dear," said the clergyman's wife, "if we had it all our own way."

"My dear, I hope I am actuated by higher motives than a desire to have it all my own way," said the Rector. "I always felt sure that Proctor would make a mess of any parish he took in hand, but I did not imagine he would have left it to anybody who pleased to work it. You may imagine what my feelings were to-day, when I came upon a kind of impromptu chapel in that wretched district near the canal. I thought it a Little Bethel, you know, of course; but instead of that, I find young Wentworth goes there Wednesdays and Fridays to do duty, and that there is service on Sunday evening, and I can't tell what besides. It may be done from a good motive—but such a disregard of all constituted authority," said the Rector, with involuntary vehemence, "can never, in my opinion, be attended by good results."

"Mr Wentworth, did you say?" said Mrs Morgan, upon whose female soul the Perpetual Curate's good looks and good manners had not been without a certain softening effect. "I am so sorry. I don't wonder you are vexed; but don't you think there must be some mistake, William? Mr Wentworth is so gentlemanly and nice—and of very good family, too. I don't think he would choose to set himself in opposition to the Rector. I think there must be some mistake."

"It's a very aggravating mistake, at all events," said Mr Morgan, rising and going to the window. It was, as we have said, a very pretty drawing-room, and the windows opened upon as pretty a bit of lawn as you could see, with one handsome cedar sweeping its dark branches majestically over delicious greensward; but some people did think it was too near George Street and the railway. Just at that moment a puff of delicate white vapour appeared over the wall, and a sudden express-train, just released from the cover of the station, sprang with a snort and bound across the Rector's view, very imperfectly veiled by the lime-trees, which were thin in their foliage as yet. Mr Morgan groaned and retreated—out of his first exaltation he had descended all at once, as people will do after building all their hopes upon one grand event, into great depression and vexation, when he found that, after all, this event did not change the face of existence, but indeed brought new proofs of mortality in the shape of special annoyances belonging to itself in its train. "On the whole," said the Rector, who was subject to fits of disgust with things in general, "I am tempted to think it was a mistake coming to Carlingford; the drawbacks quite overbalance the advantages. I did hesitate, I remember—it must have been my better angel: that is, my dear," he continued, recollecting himself, "I would have hesitated had it not been for you."

Here there ensued a little pause. Mrs Morgan was not so young as she had been ten years ago, all which time she had waited patiently for the Fellow of All-Souls, and naturally these ten years and the patience had not improved her looks. There was a redness on her countenance nowadays which was not exactly bloom; and it stretched across her cheeks, and over the point of her nose, as she was painfully aware, poor lady. She was silent when she heard this, wondering with a passing pang whether he was sorry? But being a thoroughly sensible woman, and above indulging in those little appeals by which foolish ones confuse the calm of matrimonial friendship, she did not express the momentary feeling. "Yes, William," she said, sympathetically, casting her eyes again on the objectionable carpet, and feeling that there were drawbacks even to her happiness as the wife of the Rector of Carlingford; "but I suppose every place has its disadvantages; and then there is such good society; and a town like this is the very place for your talents; and when affairs are in your own hands—"