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HOME > Short Stories > Ten Degrees Backward > CHAPTER XVIII THE NEW DEAN
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The days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months, but nothing occurred to lessen my misery. As I look back upon that hideous time, I can recall nothing but one long dreary stretch of unalloyed wretchedness. I resumed my usual round of duties, domestic and parochial; but nothing either in my own estate or in the surrounding neighbourhood afforded me the slightest interest. And for all this, I had to thank Frank Wildacre. This thought was always more or less with me.

But about a year and a half after Fay left me, a most unexpected thing happened.

Annabel came into the library one morning obviously bursting with news.

"Oh, Reggie, what do you think? I have just been to the Rectory to see Mr. Blathwayte about some parish matters, and he has told me a most exciting piece of news, and has asked me to come and tell you, because he is too busy to do so this morning, but he will come to tea this afternoon and consult you about it."

My heart began to beat furiously. Surely any exciting news that Arthur received must be in some way connected with Fay. I never wrote to her, nor she to me: I was too proud to do anything but submit to her decision on that point. I was also too proud to ask Arthur direct questions about her: but with a delicate tact, for which beforehand I should never have given him credit, he gave me apparently casual information about her from time to time. I was as bitterly angry with her as ever; I was as far from forgiving her as ever: but I could not forget that she was my wife, and I still loved her as I loved my own soul.

"Well, what is it?" I asked, stifling the trembling of my voice as best I could.

"Guess," said Annabel. "It\'s really the most wonderful thing!"

I was amazed—as, indeed, I often was in those days—at my sister\'s unabated appetite for the trivial. After such an unprecedented cataclysm as Fay\'s departure, the day of small things had gone by as I thought for ever: and yet, though it had completely overturned my world, it had left Annabel pretty much as it found her. It is at times such as this that the unutterable loneliness of the human soul becomes almost overwhelming, and one realises that the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger—nay, not only a stranger, but also one\'s nearest and dearest—cannot intermeddle with its joy. True, there was no longer any joy in my heart for anybody to intermeddle with: but in its bitterness it stood utterly alone.

To me Fay, in spite of my anger against her, was still sacrosanct. Though fallen from her original estate, she was yet, in my eyes, an angel. But to Annabel she was nothing but a naughty child that needed punishment; and my sister troubled herself about her no more than she would about a naughty child. Therefore I could not make trivial and absurd guesses about anything concerning Fay.

"I can\'t guess," I said rather shortly: "please tell me."

"Mr. Blathwayte has been offered the Deanery of Lowchester."

My heart sank down into my boots again. What were Deaneries or even Archbishoprics compared with Fay? Then I blamed myself for my selfishness, and tried to atone for it. "What a splendid thing for old Arthur!" I said: "I am awfully glad. Tell me all he said."

Whereupon Annabel proceeded to obey me more or less implicitly, interspersing Arthur\'s quoted remarks with innumerable commentaries of her own.

"It will be a splendid thing for him," she said in conclusion, "as he is really a most able and gifted man, and such a capital organiser, and there is no proper scope for him in a small village like this. I\'ve liked to have him here, but I have always felt he was a bit buried."

"Do you remember Mrs. Figshaw?" said I, "who kept saying that her daughter wanted a scoop? I agree with you that Blathwayte is like Mrs. Figshaw\'s daughter: he wants a scoop badly."

"Scope, Reggie; not scoop," corrected Annabel. I should have been disappointed in her if she had not done so. At least I should have been disappointed a year ago: but even Annabel had ceased to amuse me now.

"We shall miss Blathwayte," I remarked: "at least you will."

"But why me particularly? Surely the Rector is more your friend than mine."

"I know that. But I have lost the power of missing any person save one. In my case all lesser griefs have been swallowed up in the one great one."

"Poor Reggie! But it\'s a pity to feel like that, and all the same I feel sure you\'ll miss Mr. Blathwayte more than you think you will when the time comes. And I shall miss him too, as he has always been so good in being guided by me, and has followed my advice in everything connected with the parish."

I doubted this, though I should have considered it most unfair to Arthur to say so: but there was a quiet obstinacy about him which might raise him at times even to the height of standing up against Annabel. Fortunately, however, she had never found it out and I should have been the last to enlighten her.

"Of course," she continued, "cathedrals and daily services and things like that are apt to lure men into ritualism: I only hope Mr. Blathwayte will have the strength of mind to resist them: and you must be very careful, Reggie, in selecting a new rector not to get any one with leanings that way. I could never allow anything ritualistic in our Church."

I wondered she didn\'t say "my Church," and have done with it: but I hadn\'t the heart to chaff her as I used to do in those happy bygone days, ages ago, before ever the Wildacres came to Restham: so I let it pass.

"I expect I shall put the matter into the Bishop\'s hands," I said: "I don\'t feel competent to select a spiritual pastor for Restham or anywhere else."

"You selected Mr. Blathwayte, and he has been a great success. It is a pity to get into the habit of thinking you can\'t do anything, Reggie, because you really do some things extremely well."

"But not the things I care about," I added bitterly, "And in this case I haven\'t another Arthur up my sleeve."

"The Bishop may have one," suggested Annabel encouragingly.

"Probably. He certainly has more room up his sleeve than I have. I wonder if that was the origin of Bishops having such large sleeves—because they had always got something up them."

Annabel was as literal as ever. "I don\'t think so, Reggie; I really don\'t know the origin of Bishops having those full sleeves. I know when it was the fashion for ladies to have large sleeves they were called \'Bishops\' sleeves\' after the Bishops; but why the Bishops originally had them I haven\'t a notion. I must try to find out. It is so interesting and instructive to learn the reason and the origin of things like that. But Deans don\'t have large sleeves, do they?" she added, her wandering thoughts turning once more Arthurwards.

"No; but they have beautiful arrangements about the legs—aprons and breeches and gaiters, and goodness knows what! They are Bishops below the waist and men above it, like the Centaurs, don\'t you know?"

"But the Centaurs were half horses—not half Bishops, Reggie."

"I know: but the principl............
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