The Last Chronicle of Barset CHAPTER IX.


Illustration he tidings of what had been done by the magistrates at their petty sessions was communicated the same night to Grace Crawley by Miss Prettyman. Miss Anne Prettyman had heard the news within five minutes of the execution of the bail-bond, and had rushed to her sister with information as to the event. “They have found him guilty; they have, indeed. They have convicted him,—or whatever it is, because he couldn’t say where he got it.” “You do not mean that they have sent him to prison?” “No;—not to prison; not as yet, that is. I don’t understand it altogether; but he’s to be tried again at the assizes. In the meantime he’s to be out on bail. Major Grantly is to be the bail,—he and Mr. Robarts. That, I think, was very nice of him.” It was undoubtedly the fact that Miss Anne Prettyman had received an accession of pleasurable emotion when she learned that Mr. Crawley had not been sent away scathless, but had been condemned, as it were, to a public trial at the assizes. And yet she would have done anything in her power to save Grace Crawley, or even to save her father. And it must be explained that Miss Anne Prettyman was supposed to be specially efficient in teaching Roman history to her pupils, although she was so manifestly ignorant of the course of law in the country in which she lived. “Committed him,” said Miss Prettyman, correcting her sister with scorn. “They have not convicted him. Had they convicted him, there could be no question of bail.” “I don’t know how all that is, Annabella, but at any rate Major Grantly is to be the bailsman, and there is to be another trial at Barchester.” “There cannot be more than one trial in a criminal case,” said Miss Prettyman, “unless the jury should disagree, or something of that kind. I suppose he has been committed, and that the trial will take place at the assizes.” “Exactly,—that’s just it.” Had Lord Lufton appeared as lictor, and had Thompson carried the fasces, Miss Anne would have known more about it.

The sad tidings were not told to Grace till the evening. Mrs. Crawley, when the inquiry was over before the magistrates, would fain have had herself driven to the Miss Prettymans’ school, that she might see her daughter; but she felt that to be impossible while her husband was in her charge. The father would of course have gone to his child, had the visit been suggested to him; but that would have caused another terrible scene; and the mother, considering it all in her mind, thought it better to abstain. Miss Prettyman did her best to make poor Grace think that the affair had gone so far favourably,—did her best, that is, without saying anything which her conscience told her to be false. “It is to be settled at the assizes in April,” she said.

“And in the meantime what will become of papa?”

“Your papa will be at home, just as usual. He must have some one to advise him. I dare say it would have been all over now if he would have employed an attorney.”

“But it seems so hard that an attorney should be wanted.”

“My dear Grace, things in this world are hard.”

“But they are always harder for papa and mamma than for anybody else.” In answer to this, Miss Prettyman made some remarks intended to be wise and kind at the same time. Grace, whose eyes were laden with tears, made no immediate reply to this, but reverted to her former statement, that she must go home. “I cannot remain, Miss Prettyman; I am so unhappy.”

“Will you be more happy at home?”

“I can bear it better there.”

The poor girl soon learned from the intended consolations of those around her, from the ill-considered kindnesses of the pupils, and from words which fell from the servants, that her father had in fact been judged to be guilty, as far as judgment had as yet gone. “They do say, miss, it’s only because he hadn’t a lawyer,” said the housekeeper. And if men so kind as Lord Lufton and Mr. Walker had made him out to be guilty, what could be expected from a stern judge down from London, who would know nothing about her poor father and his peculiarities, and from twelve jurymen who would be shopkeepers out of Barchester. It would kill her father, and then it would kill her mother; and after that it would kill her also. And there was no money in the house at home. She knew it well. She had been paid three pounds a month for her services at the school, and the money for the last two months had been sent to her mother. Yet, badly as she wanted anything that she might be able to earn, she knew that she could not go on teaching. It had come to be acknowledged by both the Miss Prettymans that any teaching on her part for the present was impossible. She would go home and perish with the rest of them. There was no room left for hope to her, or to any of her family. They had accused her father of being a common thief,—her father whom she knew to be so nobly honest, her father whom she believed to be among the most devoted of God’s servants. He was accused of a paltry theft, and the magistrates and lawyers and policemen among them had decided that the accusation was true! How could she look the girls in the face after that, or attempt to hold her own among the teachers!

On the next morning there came the letter from Miss Lily Dale, and with that in her hand she again went to Miss Prettyman. She must go home, she said. She must at any rate see her mother. Could Miss Prettyman be kind enough to send her home. “I haven’t sixpence to pay for anything,” she said, bursting out into tears; “and I haven’t a right to ask for it.” Then the statements which Miss Prettyman made in her eagerness to cover this latter misfortune were decidedly false. There was so much money owing to Grace, she said; money for this, money for that, money for anything or nothing! Ten pounds would hardly clear the account. “Nobody owes me anything; but if you’ll lend me five shillings!” said Grace, in her agony. Miss Prettyman, as she made her way through this difficulty, thought of Major Grantly and his love. It would have been of no use, she knew. Had she brought them together on that Monday, Grace would have said nothing to him. Indeed such a meeting at such a time would have been improper. But, regarding Major Grantly, as she did, in the light of a millionaire,—for the wealth of the archdeacon was notorious,—she could not but think it a pity that poor Grace should be begging for five shillings. “You need not at any rate trouble yourself about money, Grace,” said Miss Prettyman. “What is a pound or two more or less between you and me? It is almost unkind of you to think about it. Is that letter in your hand anything for me to see, my dear?” Then Grace explained that she did not wish to show Miss Dale’s letter, but that Miss Dale had asked her to go to Allington. “And you will go,” said Miss Prettyman. “It will be the best thing for you, and the best thing for your mother.”

It was at last decided that Grace should go to her friend at Allington, and to Allington she went. She returned home for a day or two, and was persuaded by her mother to accept the invitation that had been given her. At Hogglestock, while she was there, new troubles came up, of which something shall shortly be told; but they were troubles in which Grace could give no assistance to her mother, and which, indeed, though they were in truth troubles, as will be seen, were so far beneficent that they stirred her father up to a certain action which was in itself salutary. “I think it will be better that you should be away, dearest,” said the mother, who now, for the first time, heard plainly all that poor Grace had to tell about Major Grantly;—Grace having, heretofore, barely spoken, in most ambiguous words, of Major Grantly as a gentleman whom she had met at Framley, and whom she had described as being “very nice.”

In old days, long ago, Lucy Robarts, the present Lady Lufton, sister of the Rev. Mark Robarts, the parson of Framley, had sojourned for a while under Mr. Crawley’s roof at Hogglestock. Peculiar circumstances, which need not, perhaps, be told here, had given occasion for this visit. She had then resolved,—for her future destiny had been known to her before she left Mrs. Crawley’s house,—that she would in coming days do much to befriend the family of her friend; but the doing of much had been very difficult. And the doing of anything had come to be very difficult through a certain indiscretion on Lord Lufton’s part. Lord Lufton had offered assistance, pecuniary assistance, to Mr. Crawley, which Mr. Crawley had rejected with outspoken anger. What was Lord Lufton to him that his lordship should dare to come to him with his paltry money in his hand? But after a while, Lady Lufton, exercising some cunning in the operations of her friendship, had persuaded her sister-in-law at the Framley parsonage to have Grace Crawley over there as a visitor,—and there she had been during the summer holidays previous to the commencement of our story. And there, at Framley, she had become acquainted with Major Grantly, who was staying with Lord Lufton at Framley Court. She had then said something to her mother about Major Grantly, something ambiguous, something about his being “very nice,” and the mother had thought how great was the pity that her daughter, who was “nice” too in her estimation, should have so few of those adjuncts to assist her which come from full pockets. She had thought no more about it then; but now she felt herself constrained to think more. “I don’t quite understand why he should have come to Miss Prettyman on Monday,” said Grace, “because he hardly knows her at all.”

“I suppose it was on business,” said Mrs. Crawley.

“No, mamma, it was not on business.”

“How can you tell, dear?”

“Because Miss Prettyman said it was,—it was—to ask after me. Oh, mamma, I must tell you. I know he did like me.”

“Did he ever say so to you, dearest?”

“Yes, mamma.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“I told him nothing, mamma.”

“And did he ask to see you on Monday?”

“No, mamma; I don’t think he did. I think he understood it all too well, for I could not have spoken to him then.”

Mrs. Crawley pursued the cross-examination no further, but made up her mind that it would be better that her girl should be away from her wretched home during this period of her life. If it were written in the book of fate that one of her children should be exempted from the series of misfortunes which seemed to fall, one after another, almost as a matter of course, upon her husband, upon her, and upon her family; if so great good fortune were in store for her Grace as such a marriage as this which seemed to be so nearly offered to her, it might probably be well that Grace should be as little at home as possible. Mrs. Crawley had heard nothing but good of Major Grantly; but she knew that the Grantlys were proud rich people,—who lived with their heads high up in the county,—and it could hardly be that a son of the archdeacon would like to take his bride direct from Hogglestock parsonage.

It was settled that Grace should go to Allington as soon as a letter could be received from Miss Dale in return to Grace’s note, and on the third morning after her arrival at home she started. None but they who have themselves been poor gentry,—gentry so poor as not to know how to raise a shilling,—can understand the peculiar bitterness of the trials which such poverty produces. The poverty of the normal poor does not approach it; or, rather, the pangs arising from such poverty are altogether of a different sort. To be hungry and have no food, to be cold and have no fuel, to be threatened with distraint for one’s few chairs and tables, and with the loss of the roof over one’s head,—all these miseries, which, if they do not positively reach, are so frequently near to reaching the normal poor, are, no doubt, the severest of the trials to which humanity is subjected. They threaten life,—or, if not life, then liberty,—reducing the abject one to a choice between captivity and starvation. By hook or crook, the poor gentleman or poor lady,—let the one or the other be ever so poor,—does not often come to the last extremity of the workhouse. There are such cases, but they are exceptional. Mrs. Crawley, through all her sufferings, had never yet found her cupboard to be absolutely bare, or the bread-pan to be actually empty. But there are pangs to which, at the time, starvation itself would seem to be preferable. The angry eyes of unpaid tradesmen, savage with an anger which one knows to be justifiable; the taunt of the poor servant who wants her wages; the gradual relinquishment of habits which the soft nurture of earlier, kinder years had made second nature; the wan cheeks of the wife whose malady demands wine; the rags of the husband whose outward occupations demand decency; the neglected children, who are learning not to be the children of gentlefolk; and, worse than all, the alms and doles of half-generous friends, the waning pride, the pride that will not wane, the growing doubt whether it be not better to bow the head, and acknowledge to all the world that nothing of the pride of station is left,—that the hand is open to receive and ready to touch the cap, that the fall from the upper to the lower level has been accomplished,—these are the pangs of poverty which drive the Crawleys of the world to the frequent entertaining of that idea of the bare bodkin. It was settled that Grace should go to Allington;—but how about her clothes? And then, whence was to come the price of her journey?

“I don’t think they’ll mind about my being shabby at Allington. They live very quietly there.”

“But you say that Miss Dale is so very nice in all her ways.”

“Lily is very nice, mamma; but I shan’t mind her so much as her mother, because she knows it all. I have told her everything.”

“But you have given me all your money, dearest.”

“Miss Prettyman told me I was to come to her,” said Grace, who had already taken some small sum from the schoolmistress, which at once had gone into her mother’s pocket, and into household purposes. “She said I should be sure to go to Allington, and that of course I should go to her, as I must pass through Silverbridge.”

“I hope papa will not ask about it,” said Mrs. Crawley. Luckily papa did not ask about it, being at the moment occupied much with other thoughts and other troubles, and Grace was allowed to return by Silverbridge, and to take what was needed from Miss Prettyman. Who can tell of the mending and patching, of the weary wearing midnight hours of needlework which were accomplished before the poor girl went, so that she might not reach her friend’s house in actual rags? And when the work was ended, what was there to show for it? I do not think that the idea of the bare bodkin, as regarded herself, ever flitted across Mrs. Crawley’s brain,—she being one of those who are very strong to endure; but it must have occurred to her very often that the repose of the grave is sweet, and that there cometh after death a levelling and making even of things, which would at last cure all her evils.

Grace no doubt looked forward to a levelling and making even of things,—or perhaps even to something more prosperous than that, which should come to her relief on this side of the grave. She could not but have high hopes in regard to her future destiny. Although, as has been said, she understood no more than she ought to have understood from Miss Prettyman’s account of the conversation with Major Grantly, still, innocent as she was, she had understood much. She knew that the man loved her, and she knew also that she loved the man. She thoroughly comprehended that the present could be to her no time for listening to speeches of love, or for giving kind answers; but still I think that she did look for relief on this side of the grave.

“Tut, tut,” said Miss Prettyman as Grace in vain tried to conceal her tears up in the private sanctum. “You ought to know me by this time, and to have learned that I can understand things.” The tears had flown in return not only for the five gold sovereigns which Miss Prettyman had pressed into her hand, but on account of the prettiest, soft, grey merino frock that ever charmed a girl’s eye. “I should like to know how many girls I have given dresses to, when they have been going out visiting. Law, my dear; they take them, many of them, from us old maids, almost as if we were only paying our debts in giving them.” And then Miss Anne gave her a cloth cloak, very warm, with pretty buttons and gimp trimmings,—just such a cloak as any girl might like to wear who thought that she would be seen out walking by her Major Grantly on a Christmas morning. Grace Crawley did not expect to be seen out walking by her Major Grantly, but nevertheless she liked the cloak. By the power of her practical will, and by her true sympathy, the elder Miss Prettyman had for a while conquered the annoyance which, on Grace’s part, was attached to the receiving of gifts, by the consciousness of her poverty; and when Miss Anne, with some pride in the tone of her voice, expressed a hope that Grace would think the cloak pretty, Grace put her arms pleasantly round her friend’s neck, and declared that it was very pretty,—the prettiest cloak in all the world!

Grace was met at the Guestwick railway-station by her friend Lilian Dale, and was driven over to Allington in a pony carriage belonging to Lilian’s uncle, the squire of the parish. I think she will be excused in having put on her new cloak, not so much because of the cold as with a view of making the best of herself before Mrs. Dale. And yet she knew that Mrs. Dale would know all the circumstances of her poverty, and was very glad that it should be so. “I am so glad that you have come, dear,” said Lily. “It will be such a comfort.”

“I am sure you are very good,” said Grace.

“And mamma is so glad. From the moment that we both talked ourselves into eagerness about it,—while I was writing my letter, you know, we resolved that it must be so.”

“I’m afraid I shall be a great trouble to Mrs. Dale.”

“A trouble to mamma! Indeed you will not. You shall be a trouble to no one but me. I will have all the trouble myself, and the labour I delight in shall physic my pain.”

Grace Crawley could not during the journey be at home and at ease even with her friend Lily. She was going to a strange house under strange circumstances. Her father had not indeed been tried and found guilty of theft, but the charge of theft had been made against him, and the magistrates before whom it had been made had thought that the charge was true. Grace knew that all the local newspapers had told the story, and was of course aware that Mrs. Dale would have heard it. Her own mind was full of it, and though she dreaded to speak of it, yet she could not be silent. Miss Dale, who understood much of this, endeavoured to talk her friend into easiness; but she feared to begin upon the one subject, and before the drive was over they were, both of them, too cold for much conversation. “There’s mamma,” said Miss Dale as they drove up, turning out of the street of the village to the door of Mrs. Dale’s house. “She always knows, by instinct, when I am coming. You must understand now that you are among us, that mamma and I are not mother and daughter, but two loving old ladies living together in peace and harmony. We do have our quarrels,—whether the chicken shall be roast or boiled, but never anything beyond that. Mamma, here is Grace, starved to death; and she says if you don’t give her some tea she will go back at once.”

“I will give her some tea,” said Mrs. Dale.

“And I am worse than she is, because I’ve been driving. It’s all up with Bernard and Mr. Green for the next week at least. It is freezing as hard as it can freeze, and they might as well try to hunt in Lapland as here.”

“They’ll console themselves with skating,” said Mrs. Dale.

“Have you ever observed, Grace,” said Miss Dale, “how much amusement gentlemen require, and how imperative it is that some other game should be provided when one game fails?”

“Not particularly,” said Grace.

“Oh, but it is so. Now, with women, it is supposed that they can amuse themselves or live without amusement. Once or twice in a year, perhaps something is done for them. There is an arrow-shooting party, or a ball, or a picnic. But the catering for men’s sport is never-ending, and is always paramount to everything else. And yet the pet game of the day never goes off properly. In partridge time, the partridges are wild, and won’t come to be killed. In hunting time the foxes won’t run straight,—the wretches. They show no spirit, and will take to ground to save their brushes. Then comes a nipping frost, and skating is proclaimed; but the ice is always rough, and the woodcocks have deserted the country. And as for salmon,—when the summer comes round I do really believe that they suffer a great deal about the salmon. I’m sure they never catch any. So they go back to their clubs and their cards, and their billiards, and abuse their cooks and blackball their friends. That’s about it, mamma; is it not?”

“You know more about it than I do, my dear.”

“Because I have to listen to Bernard, as you never will do. We’ve got such a Mr. Green down here, Grace. He’s such a duck of a man,—such top-boots and all the rest of it. And yet they whisper to me that he doesn’t ride always to hounds. And to see him play billiards is beautiful, only he never can make a stroke. I hope you play billiards, Grace, because uncle Christopher has just had a new table put up.”

“I never saw a billiard-table yet,” said Grace.

“Then Mr. Green shall teach you. He’ll do anything that you ask him. If you don’t approve the colour of the ball, he’ll go to London to get you another one. Only you must be very careful about saying that you like anything before him, as he’ll be sure to have it for you the next day. Mamma happened to say that she wanted a four-penny postage-stamp, and he walked off to Guestwick to get it for her instantly, although it was lunch-time.”

“He did nothing of the kind, Lily,” said her mother. “He was going to Guestwick, and was very good-natured, and brought me back a postage-stamp that I wanted.”

“Of course he’s good-natured, I know that. And there’s my cousin Bernard. He’s Captain Dale, you know. But he prefers to be called Mr. Dale, because he has left the army, and has set up as junior squire of the parish. Uncle Christopher is the real squire; only Bernard does all the work. And now you know all about us. I’m afraid you’ll find us dull enough,—unless you can take a fancy to Mr. Green.”

“Does Mr. Green live here?” asked Grace.

“No; he does not live here. I never heard of his living anywhere. He was something once, but I don’t know what; and I don’t think he’s anything now in particular. But he’s Bernard’s friend, and like most men, as one sees them, he never has much to do. Does Major Grantly ever go forth to fight his country’s battles?” This last question she asked in a low whisper, so that the words did not reach her mother. Grace blushed up to her eyes, however, as she answered,—

“I think that Major Grantly has left the army.”

“We shall get her round in a day or two, mamma,” said Lily Dale to her mother that night. “I’m sure it will be the best thing to force her to talk of her troubles.”

“I would not use too much force, my dear.”

“Things are better when they’re talked about. I’m sure they are. And it will be good to make her accustomed to speak of Major Grantly. From what Mary Walker tells me, he certainly means it. And if so, she should be ready for it when it comes.”

“Do not make her ready for what may never come.”

“No, mamma; but she is at present such a child that she knows nothing of her own powers. She should be made to understand that it is possible that even a Major Grantly may think himself fortunate in being allowed to love her.”

“I should leave all that to Nature, if I were you,” said Mrs. Dale.