Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 974
Mark Robarts was the vicar of Framley, an appointment secured through Lady Lufton of Framley, who was very fond of him. He was ambitious, however, and he went to a house party at Chaldicotes, the estate of Mr. Sowerby, of whom Lady Lufton disapproved. Sowerby was notorious for living on other people’s money, for he had long since run through his own fortune. While Mark was visiting him, Sowerby played on the vicar’s sympathy to such an extent that Mark signed his name to a note for four hundred pounds. From Chaldicotes, Mark went to another house party at Gatherum Castle, home of the Duke of Omnium. The Duke of Omnium was also an enemy of Lady Lufton. Mark felt the contacts he would make at these parties would help him in climbing higher in his career.
When Mark returned home, he told Lord Lufton that he had signed a note for Sowerby. Young Lufton could hardly believe a man of Mark’s position would do such a thing, for Mark could not afford to pay the note and certainly he would never recover the money from Sowerby. Before Mark told his wife, Fanny, about the debt he had incurred, his father died and his sister Lucy came to live at Framley parsonage. During the next three months, Lucy and Lord Lufton became very friendly. Lucy was a small girl without striking beauty; although inclined to be quiet, she found herself able to talk with great ease to Lord Lufton.
When Sowerby’s note came due, he asked Mark to sign another note for five hundred pounds, a sum that would cover the first note and allow an additional hundred pounds for extras. Mark saw the treachery of Sowerby’s scheme, but, unable to pay the note due, he was forced to sign.
Lady Lufton hinted to Fanny that she hoped to find a better match than Lucy for her son, but by this time, the two young people had fallen in love with each other. Also disturbed by Mark’s attentions to the Chaldicotes set, Lady Lufton sent Mr. Crawley, a straitlaced clergyman from the nearby austere parish of Hogglestock, to remonstrate with Mark. After his visit, Mark resolved to act more in accordance with Lady Lufton’s wishes.
One day, Lord Lufton declared his love for Lucy and asked her to marry him. Lucy, mindful of Lady Lufton’s feelings, said she could not love him. Lufton was full of disappointment and grief.
Sowerby informed Mark that the new prime minister had it in his power to appoint the new precentor at Barchester Cathedral. Through Sowerby’s influence, Mark received the appointment. He bought a racehorse from Sowerby to show his gratitude.
Sowerby, greatly in debt to the Duke of Omnium, was about to lose his estate. Sowerby’s sister, Mrs. Harold Smith, was a close friend of Miss Dunstable, a middle-aged spinster whose father had left her a fortune made in patent medicine. Mrs. Smith suggested that Sowerby ask Miss Dunstable to marry him and to say frankly that he wanted her chiefly for her money, since Miss Dunstable herself was a forthright, outspoken woman. Sowerby sent his sister to propose for him. Although Miss Dunstable refused his proposal, she agreed to buy Chaldicotes and let Sowerby live in the house for the remainder of his life. She said she would marry only a man who was not interested in her money.
That man, she thought, was Dr. Thorne, a bachelor physician from Barsetshire. She had informed Dr. Thorne’s niece of her admiration for him, and the niece had tried to show her uncle how wonderful life would be with Miss Dunstable. He was shocked at the idea of proposing. Although Miss Dunstable talked to him alone at a party she gave in London, Dr. Thorne said nothing at all about marriage. Back home, he decided that Miss Dunstable would, after all, make an admirable wife. He wrote her a letter of proposal and was accepted.
Lord Lufton went to Norway on a fishing trip. While he was away, Mrs. Crawley became ill of typhoid fever at Hogglestock, and Lucy went to nurse her through her sickness. The Crawley children were taken to Framley parsonage against Crawley’s will, for he felt they might become accustomed to comforts he could not afford.
Sowerby’s second note was coming due. Mark could consider no plan to get him out of his difficulty. If he had to go to jail, he would go. If he had to forfeit the furniture in his house, he would forfeit it; but under no circumstances would he ever put his name to another note.
Lord Lufton returned from Norway and learned from his mother that she thought Lucy insignificant. When he heard Lucy was at Hogglestock, he went there and again asked her to marry him. She replied that she did indeed love him, but she would not marry him unless his mother approved. At first, Lady Lufton refused to consider the match, but when she saw how determined her son was to have Lucy, she gave in and actually asked Lucy to become her daughter-in-law.
Meanwhile, the bailiffs had come to Framley parsonage to take inventory of the furniture, which was to be sold to pay Mark’s obligations. When Lord Lufton discovered what was happening, he dismissed the bailiffs and persuaded Mark to accept a loan for payment of the note.
Sowerby lived at Chaldicotes for only a short time before he disappeared, and Mark was relieved of worry over his foolish debt. Miss Dunstable married Dr. Thorne and moved into the house at Chaldicotes after the departure of Sowerby. Lucy married Lord Lufton and became mistress, at least nominally, of Framley Court. Fate seemed to have for each some fair reward.
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