Margaret Oliphant, The Perpetual Curate: Ch. 1

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"It is very easy talking," said the vexed Rector. "Society and everybody would turn upon me if I interfered with Wentworth—there's the vexation. The fellow goes about it as if he had a right. Why, there's a Provident Society and all sorts of things going on, exactly as if it were his own parish. What led me to the place was seeing some ladies in grey cloaks—exactly such frights as you used to make yourself, my dear—flickering about. He has got up a sisterhood, I have no doubt; and to find all this in full operation in one's own parish, without so much as being informed of it! and you know I don't approve of sisterhoods—never did; they are founded on a mistake."

"Yes, dear. I know I gave up as soon as I knew your views on that subject," said Mrs Morgan. "I daresay so will the ladies here. Who were they? Did you speak to them? or perhaps they belonged to St Roque's."

"Nobody belongs to St Roque's," said the Rector, contemptuously—"it has not even a district. They were the two Miss Wodehouses."

Mrs Morgan was moved to utter a little cry. "And their father is churchwarden!" said the indignant woman. "Really, William, this is too much—without even consulting you! But it is easy to see how that comes about. Lucy Wodehouse and young Wentworth are—; well, I don't know if they are engaged—but they are always together, walking and talking, and consulting with each other, and so forth—a great deal more than I could approve of; but that poor elder sister, you know, has no authority—nor indeed any experience, poor thing," said the Rector's wife; "that's how it is, no doubt."

"Engaged!" said the Rector. He gave a kindly glance at his wife, and melted a little. "Engaged, are they? Poor little thing! I hope she'll be as good as you have been, my dear; but a young man may be in love without interfering with another man's parish. I can't forgive that," said Mr Morgan, recovering himself; "he must be taught to know better; and it is very hard upon a clergyman," continued the spiritual ruler of Carlingford, "that he cannot move in a matter like this without incurring a storm of godless criticism. If I were sending Wentworth out of my parish, I shouldn't wonder if the 'Times' had an article upon it, denouncing me as an indolent priest and bigot, that would neither work myself nor let my betters work; that's how these fellows talk."

"But nobody could say such things of you," said Mrs Morgan, firing up.

"Of me! they'd say them of St Paul, if he had ever been in the circumstances," said the Rector; "and I should just like to know what he would have done in a parish like this, with the Dissenters on one side, and a Perpetual Curate without a district meddling on the other. Ah, my dear," continued Mr Morgan, "I daresay they had their troubles in those days; but facing a governor or so now and then, or even passing a night in the stocks, is a very different thing from a showing-up in the 'Times,' not to speak of the complications of duty. Let us go out and call at Folgate's, and see whether he thinks anything can be done to the church."

"Dear, you wouldn't mind the 'Times' if it were your duty?" said the Rector's wife, getting up promptly to prepare for the walk.