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The Archdeacon, although allowing that Grace is a lady, doesn't think her of high enough rank or wealth for his widowed son; his position is strengthened by the Reverend Mr Crawley's apparent crime. Almost broken by poverty and trouble, the Reverend Mr Crawley hardly knows himself if he is guilty or not; fortunately, the mystery is resolved just as Major Grantly's determination and Grace Crawley's own merit force the Archdeacon to overcome his prejudice against her as a daughter-in-law.
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The Last Chronicle of Barset
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Sovereign Classic
This Edition first published in 2014
Copyright © 2014 Sovereign
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Images and Illustrations © 2014 Stocklibrary.org
All Rights Reserved.
HOW DID HE GET IT?
I can never bring myself to believe it, John,” said Mary Walker, the pretty daughter of Mr. George Walker, attorney of Silverbridge. Walker and Winthrop was the name of the firm, and they were respectable people, who did all the solicitors’ business that had to be done in that part of Barsetshire on behalf of the Crown, were employed on the local business of the Duke of Omnium who is great in those parts, and altogether held their heads up high, as provincial lawyers often do. They,—the Walkers,—lived in a great brick house in the middle of the town, gave dinners, to which the county gentlemen not unfrequently condescended to come, and in a mild way led the fashion in Silverbridge. “I can never bring myself to believe it, John,” said Miss Walker.
“You’ll have to bring yourself to believe it,” said John, without taking his eyes from his book.
“A clergyman,—and such a clergyman too!”
“I don’t see that that has anything to do with it.” And as he now spoke, John did take his eyes off his book. “Why should not a clergyman turn thief as well as anybody else? You girls always seem to forget that clergymen are only men after all.”
“Their conduct is likely to be better than that of other men, I think.”
“I deny it utterly,” said John Walker. “I’ll undertake to say that at this moment there are more clergymen in debt in Barsetshire than there are either lawyers or doctors. This man has always been in debt. Since he has been in the county I don’t think he has ever been able to show his face in the High Street of Silverbridge.”
“John, that is saying more than you have a right to say,” said Mrs. Walker.
“Why, mother, this very cheque was given to a butcher who had threatened a few days before to post bills all about the county, giving an account of the debt that was due to him, if the money was not paid at once.”
“More shame for Mr. Fletcher,” said Mary. “He has made a fortune as butcher in Silverbridge.”
“What has that to do with it? Of course a man likes to have his money. He had written three times to the bishop, and he had sent a man over to Hogglestock to get his little bill settled six days running. You see he got it at last. Of course, a tradesman must look for his money.”
“Mamma, do you think that Mr. Crawley stole the cheque?” Mary, as she asked the question, came and stood over her mother, looking at her with anxious eyes.
“I would rather give no opinion, my dear.”
“But you must think something when everybody is talking about it, mamma.”
“Of course my mother thinks he did,” said John, going back to his book. “It is impossible that she should think otherwise.”
“That is not fair, John,” said Mrs. Walker; “and I won’t have you fabricate thoughts for me, or put the expression of them into my mouth. The whole affair is very painful, and as your father is engaged in the inquiry, I think that the less said about the matter in this house the better. I am sure that that would be your father’s feeling.”
“Of course I should say nothing about it before him,” said Mary. “I know that papa does not wish to have it talked about. But how is one to help thinking about such a thing? It would be so terrible for all of us who belong to the Church.”
“I do not see that at all,” said John. “Mr. Crawley is not more than any other man just because he’s a clergyman. I hate all that kind of clap-trap. There are a lot of people here in Silverbridge who think the matter shouldn’t be followed up, just because the man is in a position which makes the crime more criminal in him than it would be in another.”
“But I feel sure that Mr. Crawley has committed no crime at all,” said Mary.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Walker, “I have just said that I would rather you would not talk about it. Papa will be in directly.”
“I won’t, mamma;—only—”
“Only! yes; just only!” said John. “She’d go on till dinner if any one would stay to hear her.”
“You’ve said twice as much as I have, John.” But John had left the room before his sister’s last words could reach him.
“You know, mamma, it is quite impossible not to help thinking of it,” said Mary.
“I dare say it is, my dear.”
“And when one knows the people it does make it so dreadful.”
“But do you know them? I never spoke to Mr. Crawley in my life, and I do not think I ever saw her.”
“I knew Grace very well,—when she used to come first to Miss Prettyman’s school.”
“Poor girl. I pity her.”
“Pity her! Pity is no word for it, mamma. My heart bleeds for them. And yet I do not believe for a moment that he stole the cheque. How can it be possible? For though he may have been in debt because they have been so very, very poor; yet we all know that he has been an excellent clergyman. When the Robartses were dining here last, I heard Mrs. Robarts say that for piety and devotion to his duties she had hardly ever seen any one equal to him. And the Robartses know more of them than anybody.”
“They say that the dean is his great friend.”
“What a pity it is that the Arabins should be away just now when he is in such trouble.” And in this way the mother and daughter went on discussing the question of the clergyman’s guilt in spite of Mrs. Walker’s previously expressed desire that nothing more might be said about it. But Mrs. Walker, like many other mothers, was apt to be more free in converse with her daughter than she was with her son. While they were thus talking the father came in from his office, and then the subject was dropped. He was a man between fifty and sixty years of age, with grey hair, rather short, and somewhat corpulent, but still gifted with that amount of personal comeliness which comfortable position and the respect of others will generally seem to give. A man rarely carries himself meanly, whom the world holds high in esteem.
“I am very tired, my dear,” said Mr. Walker.
“You look tired. Come and sit down for a few minutes before you dress. Mary, get your father’s slippers.” Mary instantly ran to the door.
“Thanks, my darling,” said the father. And then he whispered to his wife, as soon as Mary was out of hearing, “I fear that unfortunate man is guilty. I fear he is! I fear he is!”
“Oh, heavens! what will become of them?”
“What indeed? She has been with me to-day.”
“Has she? And what could you say to her?”
“I told her at first that I could not see her, and begged her not to speak to me about it. I tried to make her understand that she should go to some one else. But it was of no use.”
“And how did it end?”
“I asked her to go in to you, but she declined. She said you could do nothing for her.”
“And does she think her husband guilty?”
“No, indeed. She think him guilty! Nothing on earth,—or from heaven either, as I take it, would make her suppose it to be possible. She came to me simply to tell me how good he was.”
“I love her for that,” said Mrs. Walker.
“So did I. But what is the good of loving her? Thank you, dearest. I’ll get your slippers for you some day, perhaps.”
The whole county was astir in this matter of this alleged guilt of the Reverend Josiah Crawley,—the whole county, almost as keenly as the family of Mr. Walker, of Silverbridge. The crime laid to his charge was the theft of a cheque for twenty pounds, which he was said to have stolen out of a pocket-book left or dropped in his house, and to have passed as money into the hands of one Fletcher, a butcher of Silverbridge, to whom he was indebted. Mr. Crawley was in those days the perpetual curate of Hogglestock, a parish in the northern extremity of East Barsetshire; a man known by all who knew anything of him to be very poor,—an unhappy, moody, disappointed man, upon whom the troubles of the world always seemed to come with a double weight. But he had ever been respected as a clergyman, since his old friend Mr. Arabin, the dean of Barchester, had given him the small incumbency which he now held. Though moody, unhappy, and disappointed, he was a hard-working, conscientious pastor among the poor people with whom his lot was cast; for in the parish of Hogglestock there resided only a few farmers higher in degree than field labourers, brickmakers, and such like. Mr. Crawley had now passed some ten years of his life at Hogglestock; and during those years he had worked very hard to do his duty, struggling to teach the people around him perhaps too much of the mystery, but something also of the comfort, of religion. That he had become popular in his parish cannot be said of him. He was not a man to make himself popular in any position. I have said that he was moody and disappointed. He was even worse than this; he was morose, sometimes almost to insanity. There had been days in which even his wife had found it impossible to deal with him otherwise than as with an acknowledged lunatic. And this was known among the farmers, who talked about their clergyman among themselves as though he were a madman. But among the very poor, among the brickmakers of Hoggle End,—a lawless, drunken, terribly rough lot of humanity,—he was held in high respect; for they knew that he lived hardly, as they lived; that he worked hard, as they worked; and that the outside world was hard to him, as it was to them; and there had been an apparent sincerity of godliness about the man, and a manifest struggle to do his duty in spite of the world’s ill-usage, which had won its way even with the rough; so that Mr. Crawley’s name had stood high with many in his parish, in spite of the unfortunate peculiarity of his disposition. This was the man who was now accused of stealing a cheque for twenty pounds.
But before the circumstances of the alleged theft are stated, a word or two must be said as to Mr. Crawley’s family. It is declared that a good wife is a crown to her husband, but Mrs. Crawley had been much more than a crown to him. As had regarded all the inner life of the man,—all that portion of his life which had not been passed in the pulpit or in pastoral teaching,—she had been crown, throne, and sceptre all in one. That she had endured with him and on his behalf the miseries of poverty, and the troubles of a life which had known no smiles, is perhaps not to be alleged as much to her honour. She had joined herself to him for better or worse, and it was her manifest duty to bear such things; wives always have to bear them, knowing when they marry that they must take their chance. Mr. Crawley might have been a bishop, and Mrs. Crawley, when she married him, perhaps thought it probable that such would be his fortune. Instead of that he was now, just as he was approaching his fiftieth year, a perpetual curate, with an income of one hundred and thirty pounds per annum,—and a family. That had been Mrs. Crawley’s luck in life, and of course she bore it. But she had also done much more than this. She had striven hard to be contented, or, rather, to appear to be contented, when he had been most wretched and most moody. She had struggled to conceal from him her own conviction as to his half-insanity, treating him at the same time with the respect due to an honoured father of a family, and with the careful measured indulgence fit for a sick and wayward child. In all the terrible troubles of their life her courage had been higher than his. The metal of which she was made had been tempered to a steel which was very rare and fine, but the rareness and fineness of which he had failed to appreciate. He had often told her that she was without pride, because she had stooped to receive from others on his behalf and on behalf of her children, things which were very needful, but which she could not buy. He had told her that she was a beggar, and that it was better to starve than to beg. She had borne the rebuke without a word in reply, and had then begged again for him, and had endured the starvation herself. Nothing in their poverty had, for years past, been a shame to her; but every accident of their poverty was still, and ever had been, a living disgrace to him.
They had had many children, and three were still alive. Of the eldest, Grace Crawley, we shall hear much in the coming story. She was at this time nineteen years old, and there were those who said that, in spite of her poverty, her shabby outward apparel, and a certain thin, unfledged, unrounded form of person, a want of fulness in the lines of her figure, she was the prettiest girl in that part of the world. She was living now at a school in Silverbridge, where for the last year she had been a teacher; and there were many in Silverbridge who declared that very bright prospects were opening to her,—that young Major Grantly of Cosby Lodge, who, though a widower with a young child, was the cynosure of all female eyes in and round Silverbridge, had found beauty in her thin face, and that Grace Crawley’s fortune was made in the teeth, as it were, of the prevailing ill-fortune of her family. Bob Crawley, who was two years younger, was now at Marlbro’ School, from whence it was intended that he should proceed to Cambridge, and be educated there at the expense of his godfather, Dean Arabin. In this also the world saw a stroke of good luck. But then nothing was lucky to Mr. Crawley. Bob, indeed, who had done very well at school, might do well at Cambridge,—might do great things there. But Mr. Crawley would almost have preferred that the boy should work in the fields, than that he should be educated in a manner so manifestly eleemosynary. And then his clothes! How was he to be provided with clothes fit either for school or for college? But the dean and Mrs. Crawley between them managed this, leaving Mr. Crawley very much in the dark, as Mrs. Crawley was in the habit of leaving him. Then there was a younger daughter, Jane, still at home, who passed her life between her mother’s work-table and her father’s Greek, mending linen and learning to scan iambics,—for Mr. Crawley in his early days had been a ripe scholar.
And now there had come upon them all this terribly-crushing disaster. That poor Mr. Crawley had gradually got himself into a mess of debt at Silverbridge, from which he was quite unable to extricate himself, was generally known by all the world both of Silverbridge and Hogglestock. To a great many it was known that Dean Arabin had paid money for him, very much contrary to his own consent, and that he had quarrelled, or attempted to quarrel, with the dean in consequence,—had so attempted, although the money had in part passed through his own hands. There had been one creditor, Fletcher, the butcher of Silverbridge, who had of late been specially hard upon poor Crawley. This man, who had not been without good nature in his dealings, had heard stories of the dean’s good-will and such like, and had loudly expressed his opinion that the perpetual curate of Hogglestock would show a higher pride in allowing himself to be indebted to a rich brother clergyman, than in remaining under thrall to a butcher. And thus a rumour had grown up. And then the butcher had written repeated letters to the bishop,—to Bishop Proudie of Barchester, who had at first caused his chaplain to answer them, and had told Mr. Crawley somewhat roundly what was his opinion of a clergyman who eat meat and did not pay for it. But nothing that the bishop could say or do enabled Mr. Crawley to pay the butcher. It was very grievous to such a man as Mr. Crawley to receive these letters from such a man as Bishop Proudie; but the letters came, and made festering wounds, but then there was an end of them. And at last there had come forth from the butcher’s shop a threat that if the money were not paid by a certain date, printed bills should be posted about the county. All who heard of this in Silverbridge were very angry with Mr. Fletcher, for no one there had ever known a tradesman to take such a step before; but Fletcher swore that he would persevere, and defended himself by showing that six or seven months since, in the spring of the year, Mr. Crawley had been paying money in Silverbridge, but had paid none to him,—to him who had been not only his earliest, but his most enduring creditor. “He got money from the dean in March,” said Mr. Fletcher to Mr. Walker, “and he paid twelve pounds ten to Green, and seventeen pounds to Grobury, the baker.” It was that seventeen pounds to Grobury, the baker, for flour, which made the butcher so fixedly determined to smite the poor clergyman hip and thigh. “And he paid money to Hall, and to Mrs. Holt, and to a deal more; but he never came near my shop. If he had even shown himself, I would not have said so much about it.” And then a day before the date named, Mrs. Crawley had come to Silverbridge, and had paid the butcher twenty pounds in four five-pound notes. So far Fletcher the butcher had been successful.
Some six weeks after this, inquiry began to be made as to a certain cheque for twenty pounds drawn by Lord Lufton on his bankers in London, which cheque had been lost early in the spring by Mr. Soames, Lord Lufton’s man of business in Barsetshire, together with a pocket-book in which it had been folded. This pocket-book Soames had believed himself to have left at Mr. Crawley’s house, and had gone so far, even at the time of the loss, as to express his absolute conviction that he had so left it. He was in the habit of paying a rentcharge to Mr. Crawley on behalf of Lord Lufton, amounting to twenty pounds four shillings, every half-year. Lord Lufton held the large tithes of Hogglestock, and paid annually a sum of forty pounds eight shillings to the incumbent. This amount was, as a rule, remitted punctually by Mr. Soames through the post. On the occasion now spoken of, he had had some reason for visiting Hogglestock, and had paid the money personally to Mr. Crawley. Of so much there was no doubt. But he had paid it by a cheque drawn by himself on his own bankers at Barchester, and that cheque had been cashed in the ordinary way on the next morning. On returning to his own house in Barchester he had missed his pocket-book, and had written to Mr. Crawley to make inquiry. There had been no money in it, beyond the cheque drawn by Lord Lufton for twenty pounds. Mr. Crawley had answered this letter by another, saying that no pocket-book had been found in his house. All this had happened in March.
In October, Mrs. Crawley paid the twenty pounds to Fletcher, the butcher, and in November Lord Lufton’s cheque was traced back through the Barchester bank to Mr. Crawley’s hands. A brickmaker of Hoggle End, much favoured by Mr. Crawley, had asked for change over the counter of this Barchester bank,—not, as will be understood, the bank on which the cheque was drawn—and had received it. The accommodation had been refused to the man at first, but when he presented the cheque the second day, bearing Mr. Crawley’s name on the back of it, together with a note from Mr. Crawley himself, the money had been given for it; and the identical notes so paid had been given to Fletcher, the butcher, on the next day by Mrs. Crawley. When inquiry was made, Mr. Crawley stated that the cheque had been paid to him by Mr. Soames, on behalf of the rentcharge due to him by Lord Lufton. But the error of this statement was at once made manifest. There was the cheque, signed by Mr. Soames himself, for the exact amount,—twenty pounds four shillings. As he himself declared, he had never in his life paid money on behalf of Lord Lufton by a cheque drawn by his lordship. The cheque given by Lord Lufton, and which had been lost, had been a private matter between them. His lordship had simply wanted change in his pocket, and his agent had given it to him. Mr. Crawley was speedily shown to be altogether wrong in the statement made to account for possession of the cheque.
Then he became very moody and would say nothing further. But his wife, who had known nothing of his first statement when made, came forward and declared that she believed the cheque for twenty pounds to be a part of a present given by Dean Arabin to her husband in April last. There had been, she said, great heartburnings about this gift, and she had hardly dared to speak to her husband on the subject. An execution had been threatened in the house by Grobury, the baker, of which the dean had heard. Then there had been some scenes at the deanery between her husband and the dean and Mrs. Arabin, as to which she had subsequently heard much from Mrs. Arabin. Mrs. Arabin had told her that money had been given,—and at last taken. Indeed, so much had been very apparent, as bills had been paid to the amount of at least fifty pounds. When the threat made by the butcher had reached her husband’s ears, the effect upon him had been very grievous. All this was the story told by Mrs. Crawley to Mr. Walker, the lawyer, when he was pushing his inquiries. She, poor woman, at any rate told all that she knew. Her husband had told her one morning, when the butcher’s threat was weighing heavily on his mind, speaking to her in such a humour that she found it impossible to cross-question him, that he had still money left, though it was money which he had hoped that he would not be driven to use; and he had given her the four five-pound notes, and had told her to go to Silverbridge and satisfy the man who was so eager for his money. She had done so, and had felt no doubt that the money so forthcoming had been given by the dean. That was the story as told by Mrs. Crawley.
But how could she explain her husband’s statement as to the cheque, which had been shown to be altogether false? All this passed between Mr. Walker and Mrs. Crawley, and the lawyer was very gentle with her. In the first stages of the inquiry he had simply desired to learn the truth, and place the clergyman above suspicion. Latterly, being bound as he was to follow the matter up officially, he would not have seen Mrs. Crawley, had he been able to escape that lady’s importunity. “Mr. Walker,” she had said, at last, “you do not know my husband. No one knows him but I. It is hard to have to tell you of all our troubles.” “If I can lessen them, trust me that I will do so,” said the lawyer. “No one, I think, can lessen them in this world,” said the lady. “The truth is, sir, that my husband often knows not what he says. When he declared that the money had been paid to him by Mr. Soames, most certainly he thought so. There are times when in his misery he knows not what he says,—when he forgets everything.”
Up to this period Mr. Walker had not suspected Mr. Crawley of anything dishonest, nor did he suspect him as yet. The poor man had probably received the money from the dean, and had told the lie about it, not choosing to own that he had taken money from his rich friend, and thinking that there would be no further inquiry. He had been very foolish, and that would be the end of it. Mr. Soames was by no means so good-natured in his belief. “How should my pocket-book have got into Dean Arabin’s hands?” said Mr. Soames, almost triumphantly. “And then I felt sure at the time that I had left it at Crawley’s house!”
Mr. Walker wrote a letter to the dean, who at that moment was in Florence, on his way to Rome, from whence he was going on to the Holy Land. There came back a letter from Mr. Arabin, saying that on the 17th of March he had given to Mr. Crawley a sum of fifty pounds, and that the payment had been made with five Bank of England notes of ten pounds each, which had been handed by him to his friend in the library at the deanery. The letter was very short, and may, perhaps, be described as having been almost curt. Mr. Walker, in his anxiety to do the best he could for Mr. Crawley, had simply asked a question as to the nature of the transaction between the two gentlemen, saying that no doubt the dean’s answer would clear up a little mystery which existed at present respecting a cheque for twenty pounds. The dean in answer simply stated the fact as it has been given above; but he wrote to Mr. Crawley begging to know what was in truth this new difficulty, and offering any assistance in his power. He explained all the circumstances of the money, as he remembered them. The sum advanced had certainly consisted of fifty pounds, and there had certainly been five Bank of England notes. He had put the notes into an envelope, which he had not closed, but had addressed to Mr. Crawley, and had placed this envelope in his friend’s hands. He went on to say that Mrs. Arabin would have written, but that she was in Paris with her son. Mrs. Arabin was to remain in Paris during his absence in the Holy Land, and meet him in Italy on his return. As she was so much nearer at hand, the dean expressed a hope that Mrs. Crawley would apply to her if there was any trouble.
The letter to Mr. Walker was conclusive as to the dean’s money. Mr. Crawley had not received Lord Lufton’s cheque from the dean. Then whence had he received it? The poor wife was left by the lawyer to obtain further information from her husband. Ah, who can tell how terrible were the scenes between that poor pair of wretches, as the wife endeavoured to learn the truth from her miserable, half-maddened husband! That her husband had been honest throughout, she had not any shadow of doubt. She did not doubt that to her at least he endeavoured to tell the truth, as far as his poor racked imperfect memory would allow him to remember what was true and what was not true. The upshot of it all was that the husband declared that he still believed that the money had come to him from the dean. He had kept it by him, not wishing to use it if he could help it. He had forgotten it,—so he said at times,—having understood from Arabin that he was to have fifty pounds, and having received more. If it had not come to him from the dean, then it had been sent to him by the Prince of Evil for his utter undoing; and there were times in which he seemed to think that such had been the manner in which the fatal cheque had reached him. In all that he said he was terribly confused, contradictory, unintelligible,—speaking almost as a madman might speak,—ending always by declaring that the cruelty of the world had been too much for him, that the waters were meeting over his head, and praying for God’s mercy to remove him from the world. It need hardly be said that his poor wife in these days had a burden on her shoulders that was more than enough to crush any woman.
She at last acknowledged to Mr. Walker that she could not account for the twenty pounds. She herself would write again to the dean about it, but she hardly hoped for any further assistance there. “The dean’s answer is very plain,” said Mr. Walker. “He says that he gave Mr. Crawley five ten-pound notes, and those five notes we have traced to Mr. Crawley’s hands.” Then Mrs. Crawley could say nothing further beyond making protestations of her husband’s innocence.
BY HEAVENS HE HAD BETTER NOT!
I must ask the reader to make the acquaintance of Major Grantly of Cosby Lodge, before he is introduced to the family of Mr. Crawley, at their parsonage in Hogglestock. It has been said that Major Grantly had thrown a favourable eye on Grace Crawley,—by which report occasion was given to all men and women in those parts to hint that the Crawleys, with all their piety and humility, were very cunning, and that one of the Grantlys was,—to say the least of it,—very soft, admitted as it was throughout the county of Barsetshire, that there was no family therein more widely awake to the affairs generally of this world and the next combined, than the family of which Archdeacon Grantly was the respected head and patriarch. Mrs. Walker, the most good-natured woman in Silverbridge, had acknowledged to her daughter that she could not understand it,—that she could not see anything at all in Grace Crawley. Mr. Walker had shrugged his shoulders and expressed a confident belief that Major Grantly had not a shilling of his own beyond his half-pay and his late wife’s fortune, which was only six thousand pounds. Others, who were ill-natured, had declared that Grace Crawley was little better than a beggar, and that she could not possibly have acquired the manners of a gentlewoman. Fletcher the butcher had wondered whether the major would pay his future father-in-law’s debts; and Dr. Tempest, the old rector of Silverbridge, whose four daughters were all as yet unmarried, had turned up his old nose, and had hinted that half-pay majors did not get caught in marriage so easily as that.
Such and such like had been the expressions of the opinion of men and women in Silverbridge. But the matter had been discussed further afield than at Silverbridge, and had been allowed to intrude itself as a most unwelcome subject into the family conclave of the archdeacon’s rectory. To those who have not as yet learned the fact from the public character and well-appreciated reputation of the man, let it be known that Archdeacon Grantly was at this time, as he had been for many years previously, Archdeacon of Barchester and Rector of Plumstead Episcopi. A rich and prosperous man he had ever been,—though he also had had his sore troubles, as we all have,—his having arisen chiefly from want of that higher ecclesiastical promotion which his soul had coveted, and for which the whole tenour of his life had especially fitted him. Now, in his green old age, he had ceased to covet, but had not ceased to repine. He had ceased to covet aught for himself, but still coveted much for his children; and for him such a marriage as this which was now suggested for his son was encompassed almost with the bitterness of death. “I think it would kill me,” he had said to his wife; “by heavens, I think it would be my death!”
A daughter of the archdeacon had made a splendid matrimonial alliance,—so splendid that its history was at the time known to all the aristocracy of the county, and had not been altogether forgotten by any of those who keep themselves well instructed in the details of the peerage. Griselda Grantly had married Lord Dumbello, the eldest son of the Marquis of Hartletop,—than whom no English nobleman was more puissant, if broad acres, many castles, high title, and stars and ribbons are any signs of puissance,—and she was now, herself, Marchioness of Hartletop, with a little Lord Dumbello of her own. The daughter’s visits to the parsonage of her father were of necessity rare, such necessity having come from her own altered sphere of life. A Marchioness of Hartletop has special duties which will hardly permit her to devote herself frequently to the humdrum society of a clerical father and mother. That it would be so, father and mother had understood when they sent the fortunate girl forth to a higher world. But, now and again, since her August marriage, she had laid her coroneted head upon one of the old rectory pillows for a night or so, and on such occasions all the Plumsteadians had been loud in praise of her condescension. Now it happened that when this second and more aggravated blast of the evil wind reached the rectory,—the renewed waft of the tidings as to Major Grantly’s infatuation regarding Miss Grace Crawley, which, on its renewal, seemed to bring with it something of confirmation,—it chanced, I say, that at that moment Griselda, Marchioness of Hartletop, was gracing the paternal mansion. It need hardly be said that the father was not slow to invoke such a daughter’s counsel, and such a sister’s aid.
I am not quite sure that the mother would have been equally quick to ask her daughter’s advice, had she been left in the matter entirely to her own propensities. Mrs. Grantly had ever loved her daughter dearly, and had been very proud of that great success in life which Griselda had achieved; but in late years, the child had become, as a woman, separate from the mother, and there had arisen, not unnaturally, a break of that close confidence which in early years had existed between them. Griselda, Marchioness of Hartletop, was more than ever a daughter to the archdeacon, even though he might never see her. Nothing could rob him of the honour of such a progeny,—nothing, even though there had been actual estrangement between them. But it was not so with Mrs. Grantly. Griselda had done very well, and Mrs. Grantly had rejoiced; but she had lost her child. Now the major, who had done well also, though in a much lesser degree, was still her child, moving in the same sphere of life with her, still dependent in a great degree upon his father’s bounty, a neighbour in the county, a frequent visitor at the parsonage, and a visitor who could be received without any of that trouble which attended the unfrequent comings of Griselda, the marchioness, to the home of her youth. And for this reason Mrs. Grantly, terribly put out as she was at the idea of a marriage between her son and one standing so poorly in the world’s esteem as Grace Crawley, would not have brought forward the matter before her daughter, had she been left to her own desires. A marchioness in one’s family is a tower of strength, no doubt; but there are counsellors so strong that we do not wish to trust them, lest in the trusting we ourselves be overwhelmed by their strength. Now Mrs. Grantly was by no means willing to throw her influence into the hands of her titled daughter.
But the titled daughter was consulted and gave her advice. On the occasion of the present visit to Plumstead she had consented to lay her head for two nights on the parsonage pillows, and on the second evening her brother the major was to come over from Cosby Lodge to meet her. Before his coming the affair of Grace Crawley was discussed.
“It would break my heart, Griselda,” said the archdeacon, piteously—”and your mother’s.”
“There is nothing against the girl’s character,” said Mrs. Grantly, “and the father and mother are gentlefolks by birth; but such a marriage for Henry would be very unseemly.”
“To make it worse, there is this terrible story about him,” said the archdeacon.
“I don’t suppose there is much in that,” said Mrs. Grantly.
“I can’t say. There is no knowing. They told me to-day in Barchester that Soames is pressing the case against him.”
“Who is Soames, papa?” asked the marchioness.
“He is Lord Lufton’s man of business, my dear.”
“Oh, Lord Lufton’s man of business!” There was something of a sneer in the tone of the lady’s voice as she mentioned Lord Lufton’s name.
“I am told,” continued the archdeacon, “that Soames declares the cheque was taken from a pocket-book which he left by accident in Crawley’s house.”
“You don’t mean to say, archdeacon, that you think that Mr. Crawley—a clergyman—stole it!” said Mrs. Grantly.
“I don’t say anything of the kind, my dear. But supposing Mr. Crawley to be as honest as the sun, you wouldn’t wish Henry to marry his daughter.”
“Certainly not,” said the mother. “It would be an unfitting marriage. The poor girl has had no advantages.”
“He is not able even to pay his baker’s bill. I always thought Arabin was very wrong to place such a man in such a parish as Hogglestock. Of course the family could not live there.” The Arabin here spoken of was Dr. Arabin, dean of Barchester. The dean and the archdeacon had married sisters, and there was much intimacy between the families.
“After all it is only a rumour as yet,” said Mrs. Grantly.
“Fothergill told me only yesterday, that he sees her almost every day,” said the father. “What are we to do, Griselda? You know how headstrong Henry is.” The marchioness sat quite still, looking at the fire, and made no immediate answer to this address.
“There is nothing for it, but that you should tell him what you think,” said the mother.
“If his sister were to speak to him, it might do much,” said the archdeacon. To this Mrs. Grantly said nothing; but Mrs. Grantly’s daughter understood very well that her mother’s confidence in her was not equal to her father’s. Lady Hartletop said nothing, but still sat, with impassive face, and eyes fixed upon the fire. “I think that if you were to speak to him, Griselda, and tell him that he would disgrace his family, he would be ashamed to go on with such a marriage,” said the father. “He would feel, connected as he is with Lord Hartletop—”
“I don’t think he would feel anything about that,” said Mrs. Grantly.
“I dare say not,” said Lady Hartletop.
“I am sure he ought to feel it,” said the father. They were all silent, and sat looking at the fire.
“I suppose, papa, you allow Henry an income,” said Lady Hartletop, after a while.
“Indeed I do,—eight hundred a year.”
“Then I think I should tell him that that must depend upon his conduct. Mamma, if you won’t mind ringing the bell, I will send for Cecile, and go upstairs and dress.” Then the marchioness went upstairs to dress, and in about an hour the major arrived in his dog-cart. He also was allowed to go upstairs to dress before anything was said to him about his great offence.
“Griselda is right,” said the archdeacon, speaking to his wife out of his dressing-room. “She always was right. I never knew a young woman with more sense than Griselda.”
“But you do not mean to say that in any event you would stop Henry’s income?” Mrs. Grantly also was dressing, and made reply out of her bedroom.
“Upon my word, I don’t know. As a father I would do anything to prevent such a marriage as that.”
“But if he did marry her in spite of the threat? And he would if he had once said so.”
“Is a father’s word, then, to go for nothing; and a father who allows his son eight hundred a year? If he told the girl that he would be ruined she couldn’t hold him to it.”
“My dear, they’d know as well as I do, that you would give way after three months.”
“But why should I give way? Good heavens—!”
“Of course you’d give way, and of course we should have the young woman here, and of course we should make the best of it.”
The idea of having Grace Crawley as a daughter at the Plumstead Rectory was too much for the archdeacon, and he resented it by additional vehemence in the tone of his voice, and a nearer personal approach to the wife of his bosom. All unaccoutred as he was, he stood in the doorway between the two rooms, and thence fulminated at his wife his assurances that he would never allow himself to be immersed in such a depth of humility as that she had suggested. “I can tell you this, then, that if ever she comes here, I shall take care to be away. I will never receive her here. You can do as you please.”
“That is just what I cannot do. If I could do as I pleased, I would put a stop to it at once.”
“It seems to me that you want to encourage him. A child about sixteen years of age!”
“I am told she is nineteen.”
“What does it matter if she was fifty-nine? Think of what her bringing up has been. Think what it would be to have all the Crawleys in our house for ever, and all their debts, and all their disgrace!”
“I do not know that they have ever been disgraced.”
“You’ll see. The whole county has heard of the affair of this twenty pounds. Look at that dear girl upstairs, who has been such a comfort to us. Do you think it would be fit that she and her husband should meet such a one as Grace Crawley at our table?”
“I don’t think it would do them a bit of harm,” said Mrs. Grantly. “But there would be no chance of that, seeing that Griselda’s husband never comes to us.”
“He was here the year before last.”
“And I never was so tired of a man in all my life.”
“Then you prefer the Crawleys, I suppose. This is what you get from Eleanor’s teaching.” Eleanor was the dean’s wife, and Mrs. Grantly’s younger sister. “It has always been a sorrow to me that I ever brought Arabin into the diocese.”
“I never asked you to bring him, archdeacon. But nobody was so glad as you when he proposed to Eleanor.”
“Well, the long and the short of it is this, I shall tell Henry to-night that if he makes a fool of himself with this girl, he must not look to me any longer for an income. He has about six hundred a year of his own, and if he chooses to throw himself away, he had better go and live in the south of France, or in Canada, or where he pleases. He shan’t come here.”
“I hope he won’t marry the girl, with all my heart,” said Mrs. Grantly.
“He had better not. By heavens, he had better not!”
“But if he does, you’ll be the first to forgive him.”
On hearing this the archdeacon slammed the door, and retired to his washing apparatus. At the present moment he was very angry with his wife, but then he was so accustomed to such anger, and was so well aware that it in truth meant nothing, that it did not make him unhappy. The archdeacon and Mrs. Grantly had now been man and wife for more than a quarter of a century, and had never in truth quarrelled. He had the most profound respect for her judgment, and the most implicit reliance on her conduct. She had never yet offended him, or caused him to repent the hour in which he had made her Mrs. Grantly. But she had come to understand that she might use a woman’s privilege with her tongue; and she used it,—not altogether to his comfort. On the present occasion he was the more annoyed because he felt that she might be right. “It would be a positive disgrace, and I never would see him again,” he said to himself. And yet as he said it, he knew that he would not have the strength of character to carry him through a prolonged quarrel with his son. “I never would see her,—never, never!” he said to himself. “And then such an opening as he might have at his sister’s house.”
Major Grantly had been a successful man in life,—with the one exception of having lost the mother of his child within a twelvemonth of his marriage and within a few hours of that child’s birth. He had served in India as a very young man, and had been decorated with the Victoria Cross. Then he had married a lady with some money, and had left the active service of the army, with the concurring advice of his own family and that of his wife. He had taken a small place in his father’s county, but the wife for whose comfort he had taken it had died before she was permitted to see it. Nevertheless he had gone to reside there, hunting a good deal and farming a little, making himself popular in the district, and keeping up the good name of Grantly in a successful way, till—alas,—it had seemed good to him to throw those favouring eyes on poor Grace Crawley. His wife had now been dead just two years, and as he was still under thirty, no one could deny it would be right that he should marry again. No one did deny it. His father had hinted that he ought to do so, and had generously whispered that if some little increase to the major’s present income were needed, he might possibly be able to do something. “What is the good of keeping it?” the archdeacon had said in liberal after-dinner warmth; “I only want it for your brother and yourself.” The brother was a clergyman.
And the major’s mother had strongly advised him to marry again without loss of time. “My dear Henry,” she had said, “you’ll never be younger, and youth does go for something. As for dear little Edith, being a girl, she is almost no impediment. Do you know those two girls at Chaldicotes?”
“What, Mrs. Thorne’s nieces?”
“No; they are not her nieces but her cousins. Emily Dunstable is very handsome;—and as for money—!”
“But what about birth, mother?”
“One can’t have everything, my dear.”
“As far as I am concerned, I should like to have everything or nothing,” the major had said laughing. Now for him to think of Grace Crawley after that,—of Grace Crawley who had no money, and no particular birth, and not even beauty itself,—so at least Mrs. Grantly said,—who had not even enjoyed the ordinary education of a lady, was too bad. Nothing had been wanting to Emily Dunstable’s education, and it was calculated that she would have at least twenty thousand pounds on the day of her marriage.
The disappointment to the mother would be the more sore because she had gone to work upon her little scheme with reference to Miss Emily Dunstable, and had at first, as she thought, seen her way to success,—to success in spite of the disparaging words which her son had spoken to her. Mrs. Thorne’s house at Chaldicotes,—or Dr. Thorne’s house as it should, perhaps, be more properly called, for Dr. Thorne was the husband of Mrs. Thorne,—was in these days the pleasantest house in Barsetshire. No one saw so much company as the Thornes, or spent so much money in so pleasant a way. The great county families, the Pallisers and the De Courcys, the Luftons and the Greshams, were no doubt grander, and some of them were perhaps richer than the Chaldicote Thornes,—as they were called to distinguish them from the Thornes of Ullathorne; but none of these people were so pleasant in their ways, so free in their hospitality, or so easy in their modes of living, as the doctor and his wife. When first Chaldicotes, a very old country seat, had by the chances of war fallen into their hands and been newly furnished, and newly decorated, and newly gardened, and newly greenhoused and hot-watered by them, many of the county people had turned up their noses at them. Dear old Lady Lufton had done so, and had been greatly grieved,—saying nothing, however, of her grief, when her son and daughter-in-law had broken away from her, and submitted themselves to the blandishments of the doctor’s wife. And the Grantlys had stood aloof, partly influenced, no doubt, by their dear and intimate old friend Miss Monica Thorne of Ullathorne, a lady of the very old school, who, though good as gold and kind as charity, could not endure that an interloping Mrs. Thorne, who never had a grandfather, should come to honour and glory in the county, simply because of her riches. Miss Monica Thorne stood out, but Mrs. Grantly gave way, and having once given way found that Dr. Thorne, and Mrs. Thorne, and Emily Dunstable, and Chaldicote House together, were very charming. And the major had been once there with her, and had made himself very pleasant, and there had certainly been some little passage of incipient love between him and Miss Dunstable, as to which Mrs. Thorne, who managed everything, seemed to be well pleased. This had been after the first mention made by Mrs. Grantly to her son of Emily Dunstable’s name, but before she had heard any faintest whispers of his fancy for Grace Crawley; and she had therefore been justified in hoping,—almost in expecting, that Emily Dunstable would be her daughter-in-law, and was therefore the more aggrieved when this terrible Crawley peril first opened itself before her eyes.
THE ARCHDEACON’S THREAT.
The dinner-party at the rectory comprised none but the Grantly family. The marchioness had written to say that she preferred to have it so. The father had suggested that the Thornes of Ullathorne, very old friends, might be asked, and the Greshams from Boxall Hill, and had even promised to endeavour to get old Lady Lufton over to the rectory, Lady Lufton having in former years been Griselda’s warm friend. But Lady Hartletop had preferred to see her dear father and mother in privacy. Her brother Henry she would be glad to meet, and hoped to make some arrangement with him for a short visit to Hartlebury, her husband’s place in Shropshire,—as to which latter hint, it may, however, be at once said, that nothing further was spoken after the Crawley alliance had been suggested. And there had been a very sore point mooted by the daughter in a request made by her to her father that she might not be called upon to meet her grandfather, her mother’s father, Mr. Harding, a clergyman of Barchester, who was now stricken in years.—”Papa would not have come,” said Mrs. Grantly, “but I think,—I do think—” Then she stopped herself.
“Your father has odd ways sometimes, my dear. You know how fond I am of having him here myself.”
“It does not signify,” said Mrs. Grantly. “Do not let us say anything more about it. Of course we cannot have everything. I am told the child does her duty in her sphere of life, and I suppose we ought to be contented.” Then Mrs. Grantly went up to her own room, and there she cried. Nothing was said to the major on the unpleasant subject of the Crawleys before dinner. He met his sister in the drawing-room, and was allowed to kiss her noble cheek. “I hope Edith is well, Henry,” said the sister. “Quite well; and little Dumbello is the same, I hope?” “Thank you, yes; quite well.” Then there seemed to be nothing more to be said between the two. The major never made inquiries after the august family, or would allow it to appear that he was conscious of being shone upon by the wife of a marquis. Any adulation which Griselda received of that kind came from her father, and, therefore, unconsciously she had learned to think that her father was better bred than the other members of her family, and more fitted by nature to move in that sacred circle to which she herself had been exalted. We need not dwell upon the dinner, which was but a dull affair. Mrs. Grantly strove to carry on the family party exactly as it would have been carried on had her daughter married the son of some neighbouring squire; but she herself was conscious of the struggle, and the fact of there being a struggle produced failure. The rector’s servants treated the daughter of the house with special awe, and the marchioness herself moved, and spoke, and ate, and drank with a cold magnificence, which I think had become a second nature with her, but which was not on that account the less oppressive. Even the archdeacon, who enjoyed something in that which was so disagreeable to his wife, felt a relief when he was left alone after dinner with his son. He felt relieved as his son got up to open the door for his mother and sister, but was aware at the same time that he had before him a most difficult and possibly a most disastrous task. His dear son Henry was not a man to be talked smoothly out of, or into, any propriety. He had a will of his own, and having hitherto been a successful man, who in youth had fallen into few youthful troubles,—who had never justified his father in using stern parental authority,—was not now inclined to bend his neck. “Henry,” said the archdeacon, “what are you drinking? That’s ‘34 port, but it’s not just what it should be. Shall I send for another bottle?”
“It will do for me, sir. I shall only take a glass.”
“I shall drink two or three glasses of claret. But you young fellows have become so desperately temperate.”
“We take our wine at dinner, sir.”
“By-the-by, how well Griselda is looking.”
“Yes, she is. It’s always easy for women to look well when they’re rich.” How would Grace Crawley look, then, who was poor as poverty itself, and who should remain poor, if his son was fool enough to marry her? That was the train of thought which ran through the archdeacon’s mind. “I do not think much of riches,” said he, “but it is always well that a gentleman’s wife or a gentleman’s daughter should have a sufficiency to maintain her position in life.”
“You may say the same, sir, of everybody’s wife and everybody’s daughter.”
“You know what I mean, Henry.”
“I am not quite sure that I do, sir.”
“Perhaps I had better speak out at once. A rumour has reached your mother and me, which we don’t believe for a moment, but which, nevertheless, makes us unhappy even as a report. They say that there is a young woman living in Silverbridge to whom you are becoming attached.”
“Is there any reason why I should not become attached to a young woman in Silverbridge?—though I hope any young woman to whom I may become attached will be worthy at any rate of being called a young lady.”
“I hope so, Henry; I hope so. I do hope so.”
“So much I will promise, sir; but I will promise nothing more.”
The archdeacon looked across into his son’s face, and his heart sank within him. His son’s voice and his son’s eyes seemed to tell him two things. They seemed to tell him, firstly, that the rumour about Grace Crawley was true; and, secondly, that the major was resolved not to be talked out of his folly. “But you are not engaged to any one, are you?” said the archdeacon. The son did not at first make any answer, and then the father repeated the question. “Considering our mutual positions, Henry, I think you ought to tell me if you are engaged.”
“I am not engaged. Had I become so, I should have taken the first opportunity of telling either you or my mother.”
“Thank God. Now, my dear boy, I can speak out more plainly. The young woman whose name I have heard is daughter to that Mr. Crawley who is perpetual curate at Hogglestock. I knew that there could be nothing in it.”
“But there is something in it, sir.”
“What is there in it? Do not keep me in suspense, Henry. What is it you mean?”
“It is rather hard to be cross-questioned in this way on such a subject. When you express yourself as thankful that there is nothing in the rumour, I am forced to stop you, as otherwise it is possible that hereafter you may say that I have deceived you.”
“But you don’t mean to marry her?”
“I certainly do not mean to pledge myself not to do so.”
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