The Last Chronicle of Barset CHAPTER LXI.


In accordance with the resolution to which the clerical commission had come on the first day of their sitting, Dr. Tempest wrote the following letter to Mr. Crawley:—

Rectory, Silverbridge, April 9, 186—

Dear Sir,—

I have been given to understand that you have been informed that the Bishop of Barchester has appointed a commission of clergymen of the diocese to make inquiry respecting certain accusations which, to the great regret of us all, have been made against you, in respect to a cheque for twenty pounds which was passed by you to a tradesman in this town. The clergymen appointed to form this commission are Mr. Oriel, the rector of Greshamsbury, Mr. Robarts, the vicar of Framley, Mr. Quiverful, the warden of Hiram’s Hospital at Barchester, Mr. Thumble, a clergyman established in that city, and myself. We held our first meeting on last Monday, and I now write to you in compliance with a resolution to which we then came. Before taking any other steps we thought it best to ask you to attend us here on next Monday, at two o’clock, and I beg that you will accept this letter as an invitation to that effect.

We are, of course, aware that you are about to stand your trial at the next assizes for the offence in question. I beg you to understand that I do not express any opinion as to your guilt. But I think it right to point out to you that in the event of a jury finding an adverse verdict, the bishop might be placed in great difficulty unless he were fortified with the opinion of a commission formed from your fellow clerical labourers in the diocese. Should such adverse verdict unfortunately be given, the bishop would hardly be justified in allowing a clergyman placed as you then would be placed, to return to his cure after the expiration of such punishment as the judge might award, without a further decision from an ecclesiastical court. This decision he could only obtain by proceeding against you under the Act in reference to clerical offences, which empowers him as bishop of the diocese to bring you before the Court of Arches,—unless you would think well to submit yourself entirely to his judgment. You will, I think, understand what I mean. The judge at assizes might find it his duty to imprison a clergyman for a month,—regarding that clergyman simply as he would regard any other person found guilty by a jury and thus made subject to his judgment,—and might do this for an offence which the ecclesiastical judge would find himself obliged to visit with the severer sentence of prolonged suspension, or even with deprivation.

We are, however, clearly of opinion that should the jury find themselves able to acquit you, no further action whatsoever should be taken. In such case we think that the bishop may regard your innocence to be fully established, and in such case we shall recommend his lordship to look upon the matter as altogether at an end. I can assure you that in such case I shall so regard it myself.

You will perceive that, as a consequence of this resolution, to which we have already come, we are not minded to make any inquiries ourselves into the circumstances of your alleged guilt, till the verdict of the jury shall be given. If you are acquitted, our course will be clear. But should you be convicted, we must in that case advise the bishop to take the proceedings to which I have alluded, or to abstain from taking them. We wish to ask you whether, now that our opinion has been conveyed to you, you will be willing to submit to the bishop’s decision, in the event of an adverse verdict being given by the jury; and we think that it will be better for us all that you should meet us here at the hour I have named on Monday next, the 15th instant. It is not our intention to make any report to the bishop until the trial shall be over.

I have the honour to be,

My dear sir,

Your obedient servant,

Mortimer Tempest.

The Rev. Josiah Crawley,


In the same envelope Dr. Tempest sent a short private note, in which he said that he should be very happy to see Mr. Crawley at half-past one on the Monday named, that luncheon would be ready at that hour, and that, as Mr. Crawley’s attendance was required on public grounds, he would take care that a carriage was provided for the day.

Mr. Crawley received this letter in his wife’s presence, and read it in silence. Mrs. Crawley saw that he paid close attention to it, and was sure,—she felt that she was sure,—that it referred in some way to the terrible subject of the cheque for twenty pounds. Indeed, everything that came into the house, almost every word spoken there, and every thought that came into the breasts of any of the family, had more or less reference to the coming trial. How could it be otherwise? There was ruin coming on them all,—ruin and complete disgrace coming on father, mother, and children! To have been accused itself was very bad; but now it seemed to be the opinion of every one that the verdict must be against the man. Mrs. Crawley herself, who was perfectly sure of her husband’s innocence before God, believed that the jury would find him guilty,—and believed also that he had become possessed of the money in some manner that would have been dishonest, had he not been so different from other people as to be entitled to be considered innocent where another man would have been plainly guilty. She was full of the cheque for twenty pounds, and of its results. When, therefore, he had read the letter through a second time, and even then had spoken no word about it, of course she could not refrain from questioning him. “My love,” she said, “what is the letter?”

“It is on business,” he answered.

She was silent for a moment before she spoke again. “May I not know the business?”

“No,” said he; “not at present.”

“Is it from the bishop?”

“Have I not answered you? Have I not given you to understand that, for a while at least, I would prefer to keep the contents of this epistle to myself?” Then he looked at her very sternly, and afterwards turned his eyes upon the fireplace and gazed at the fire, as though he were striving to read there something of his future fate. She did not much regard the severity of his speech. That, too, like the taking of the cheque itself, was to be forgiven him, because he was different from other men. His black mood had come upon him, and everything was to be forgiven him now. He was as a child when cutting his teeth. Let the poor wayward sufferer be ever so petulant, the mother simply pities and loves him, and is never angry. “I beg your pardon, Josiah,” she said, “but I thought it would comfort you to speak to me about it.”

“It will not comfort me,” he said. “Nothing comforts me. Nothing can comfort me. Jane, give me my hat and my stick.” His daughter brought to him his hat and stick, and without another word he went out and left them.

As a matter of course he turned his steps towards Hoggle End. When he desired to be long absent from the house, he always went among the brickmakers. His wife, as she stood at the window and watched the direction in which he went, knew that he might be away for hours. The only friends out of his own family with whom he ever spoke freely were some of these rough parishioners. But he was not thinking of the brickmakers when he started. He was simply desirous of again reading Dr. Tempest’s letter, and of considering it, in some spot where no eye could see him. He walked away with long steps, regarding nothing,—neither the ruts in the dirty lane, nor the young primroses which were fast showing themselves on the banks, nor the gathering clouds which might have told him of the coming rain. He went on for a couple of miles, till he had nearly reached the outskirts of the colony of Hoggle End, and then he sat himself down upon a gate. He had not been there a minute before a few slow large drops began to fall, but he was altogether too much wrapped up in his thoughts to regard the rain. What answer should he make to this letter from the man at Silverbridge?

The position of his own mind in reference to his own guilt or his own innocence was very singular. It was simply the truth that he did not know how the cheque had come to him. He did know that he had blundered about it most egregiously, especially when he had averred that this cheque for twenty pounds had been identical with a cheque for another sum which had been given to him by Mr. Soames. He had blundered since, in saying that the dean had given it to him. There could be no doubt as to this, for the dean had denied that he had done so. And he had come to think it very possible that he had indeed picked the cheque up, and had afterwards used it, having deposited it by some strange accident,—not knowing then what he was doing, or what was the nature of the bit of paper in his hand,—with the notes which he had accepted from the dean with so much reluctance, with such an agony of spirit. In all these thoughts of his own about his own doings, and his own position, he almost admitted to himself his own insanity, his inability to manage his own affairs with that degree of rational sequence which is taken for granted as belonging to a man when he is made subject to criminal laws. As he puzzled his brain in his efforts to create a memory as to the cheque, and succeeded in bringing to his mind a recollection that he had once known something about the cheque,—that the cheque had at one time been the subject of a thought and of a resolution,—he admitted to himself that in accordance with all law and all reason he must be regarded as a thief. He had taken and used and spent that which he ought to have known was not his own;—which he would have known not to be his own but for some terrible incapacity with which God had afflicted him. What then must be the result? His mind was clear enough about this. If the jury could see everything and know everything,—as he would wish that they should do; and if this bishop’s commission, and the bishop himself, and the Court of Arches with its judge, could see and know everything; and if so seeing and so knowing they could act with clear honesty and perfect wisdom,—what would they do? They would declare of him that he was not a thief, only because he was so muddy-minded, so addle-pated as not to know the difference between meum and tuum! There could be no other end to it, let all the lawyers and all the clergymen in England put their wits to it. Though he knew himself to be muddy-minded and addle-pated, he could see that. And could any one say of such a man that he was fit to be the acting clergyman of a parish,—to have a freehold possession in a parish as curer of men’s souls! The bishop was in the right of it, let him be ten times as mean a fellow as he was.

And yet as he sat there on the gate, while the rain came down heavily upon him, even when admitting the justice of the bishop, and the truth of the verdict which the jury would no doubt give, and the propriety of the action which that cold, reasonable, prosperous man at Silverbridge would take, he pitied himself with a tenderness of commiseration which knew no bounds. As for those belonging to him, his wife and children, his pity for them was of a different kind. He would have suffered any increase of suffering, could he by such agony have released them. Dearly as he loved them, he would have severed himself from them, had it been possible. Terrible thoughts as to their fate had come into his mind in the worst moments of his moodiness,—thoughts which he had had sufficient strength and manliness to put away from him with a strong hand, lest they should drive him to crime indeed; and these had come from the great pity which he had felt for them. But the commiseration which he had felt for himself had been different from this, and had mostly visited him at times when that other pity was for the moment in abeyance. What though he had taken the cheque, and spent the money though it was not his? He might be guilty before the law, but he was not guilty before God. There had never been a thought of theft in his mind, or a desire to steal in his heart. He knew that well enough. No jury could make him guilty of theft before God. And what though this mixture of guilt and innocence had come from madness,—from madness which these courts must recognize if they chose to find him innocent of the crime? In spite of his aberrations of intellect, if there were any such, his ministrations in his parish were good. Had he not preached fervently and well,—preaching the true gospel? Had he not been very diligent among his people, striving with all his might to lessen the ignorance of the ignorant, and to gild with godliness the learning of the instructed? Had he not been patient, enduring, instant, and in all things amenable to the laws and regulations laid down by the Church for his guidance in his duties as a parish clergyman? Who could point out in what he had been astray, or where he had gone amiss? But for the work which he had done with so much zeal the Church which he served had paid him so miserable a pittance that, though life and soul had been kept together, the reason, or a fragment of the reason, had at moments escaped from his keeping in the scramble. Hence it was that this terrible calamity had fallen upon him! Who had been tried as he had been tried, and had gone through such fire with less loss of intellectual power than he had done? He was still a scholar, though no brother scholar ever came near him, and would make Greek iambics as he walked along the lanes. His memory was stored with poetry, though no book ever came to his hands, except those shorn and tattered volumes which lay upon his table. Old problems in trigonometry were the pleasing relaxations of his mind, and complications of figures were a delight to him. There was not one of those prosperous clergymen around him, and who scorned him, whom he could not have instructed in Hebrew. It was always a gratification to him to remember that his old friend the dean was weak in his Hebrew. He, with these acquirements, with these fitnesses, had been thrust down to the ground,—to the very granite,—and because in that harsh heartless thrusting his intellect had for moments wavered as to common things, cleaving still to all its grander, nobler possessions, he was now to be rent in pieces and scattered to the winds, as being altogether vile, worthless, and worse than worthless. It was thus that he thought of himself, pitying himself, as he sat upon the gate, while the rain fell ruthlessly on his shoulders.

He pitied himself with a commiseration that was sickly in spite of its truth. It was the fault of the man that he was imbued too strongly with self-consciousness. He could do a great thing or two. He could keep up his courage in positions which would wash all courage out of most men. He could tell the truth though truth should ruin him. He could sacrifice all that he had to duty. He could do justice though the heaven should fall. But he could not forget to pay a tribute to himself for the greatness of his own actions; nor, when accepting with an effort of meekness the small payment made by the world to him, in return for his great works, could he forget the great payments made to others for small work. It was not sufficient for him to remember that he knew Hebrew, but he must remember also that the dean did not.

Nevertheless, as he sat there under the rain, he made up his mind with a clearness that certainly had in it nothing of that muddiness of mind of which he had often accused himself. Indeed, the intellect of this man was essentially clear. It was simply his memory that would play him tricks,—his memory as to things which at the moment were not important to him. The fact that the dean had given him money was very important, and he remembered it well. But the amount of the money, and its form, at a moment in which he had flattered himself that he might have strength to leave it unused, had not been important to him. Now, he resolved that he would go to Dr. Tempest, and that he would tell Dr. Tempest that there was no occasion for any further inquiry. He would submit to the bishop, let the bishop’s decision be what it might. Things were different since the day on which he had refused Mr. Thumble admission to his pulpit. At that time people believed him to be innocent, and he so believed of himself. Now, people believed him to be guilty, and it could not be right that a man held in such slight esteem should exercise the functions of a parish priest, let his own opinion of himself be what it might. He would submit himself, and go anywhere,—to the galleys or the workhouse, if they wished it. As for his wife and children, they would, he said to himself, be better without him than with him. The world would never be so hard to a woman or to children as it had been to him.

He was sitting saturated with rain,—saturated also with thinking,—and quite unobservant of anything around him, when he was accosted by an old man from Hoggle End, with whom he was well acquainted. “Thee be wat, Master Crawley,” said the old man.

“Wet!” said Crawley, recalled suddenly back to the realities of life. “Well,—yes. I am wet. That’s because it’s raining.”

“Thee be teeming o’ wat. Hadn’t thee better go whome?”

“And are not you wet also?” said Mr. Crawley, looking at the old man, who had been at work in the brickfield, and who was soaked with mire, and from whom there seemed to come a steam of muddy mist.

“Is it me, yer reverence? I’m wat in course. The loikes of us is always wat,—that is barring the insides of us. It comes to us natural to have the rheumatics. How is one of us to help hisself against having on ’em? But there ain’t no call for the loikes of you to have the rheumatics.”

“My friend,” said Crawley, who was now standing on the road,—and as he spoke he put out his arm and took the brickmaker by the hand, “there is a worse complaint than rheumatism,—there is, indeed.”

“There’s what they calls the collerer,” said Giles Hoggett, looking up into Mr. Crawley’s face. “That ain’t a got a hold of yer?”

“Ay, and worse than the cholera. A man is killed all over when he is struck in his pride;—and yet he lives.”

“Maybe that’s bad enough too,” said Giles, with his hand still held by the other.

“It is bad enough,” said Mr. Crawley, striking his breast with his left hand. “It is bad enough.”

“Tell ’ee what, Master Crawley;—and yer reverence mustn’t think as I means to be preaching; there ain’t nowt a man can’t bear if he’ll only be dogged. You go whome, Master Crawley, and think o’ that, and maybe it’ll do ye a good yet. It’s dogged as does it. It ain’t thinking about it.” Then Giles Hoggett withdrew his hand from the clergyman’s, and walked away towards his home at Hoggle End. Mr. Crawley also turned homewards, and as he made his way through the lanes, he repeated to himself Giles Hoggett’s words. “It’s dogged as does it. It’s not thinking about it.”

“It′s dogged as does it.”

He did not say a word to his wife on that afternoon about Dr. Tempest; and she was so much taken up with his outward condition when he returned, as almost to have forgotten the letter. He allowed himself, but barely allowed himself, to be made dry, and then for the remainder of the day applied himself to learn the lesson which Hoggett had endeavoured to teach him. But the learning of it was not easy, and hardly became more easy when he had worked the problem out in his own mind, and discovered that the brickmaker’s doggedness simply meant self-abnegation;—that a man should force himself to endure anything that might be sent upon him, not only without outward grumbling, but also without grumbling inwardly.

Early on the next morning, he told his wife that he was going into Silverbridge. “It is that letter,—the letter which I got yesterday that calls me,” he said. And then he handed her the letter as to which he had refused to speak to her on the preceding day.

“But this speaks of your going next Monday, Josiah,” said Mrs. Crawley.

“I find it to be more suitable that I should go to-day,” said he. “Some duty I do owe in this matter, both to the bishop, and to Dr. Tempest, who, after a fashion, is, as regards my present business, the bishop’s representative. But I do not perceive that I owe it as a duty to either to obey implicitly their injunctions, and I will not submit myself to the cross-questionings of the man Thumble. As I am purposed at present I shall express my willingness to give up the parish.”

“Give up the parish altogether?”

“Yes, altogether.” As he spoke he clasped both his hands together, and having held them for a moment on high, allowed them to fall thus clasped before him. “I cannot give it up in part; I cannot abandon the duties and reserve the honorarium. Nor would I if I could.”

“I did not mean that, Josiah. But pray think of it before you speak.”

“I have thought of it, and I will think of it. Farewell, my dear.” Then he came up to her and kissed her, and started on his journey on foot to Silverbridge.

It was about noon when he reached Silverbridge, and he was told that Doctor Tempest was at home. The servant asked him for a card. “I have no card,” said Mr. Crawley, “but I will write my name for your behoof if your master’s hospitality will allow me paper and pencil.” The name was written, and as Crawley waited in the drawing-room he spent his time in hating Dr. Tempest because the door had been opened by a man-servant dressed in black. Had the man been in livery he would have hated Dr. Tempest all the same. And he would have hated him a little had the door been opened even by a smart maid.

“Your letter came to hand yesterday morning, Dr. Tempest,” said Mr. Crawley, still standing, though the doctor had pointed to a chair for him after shaking hands with him; “and having given yesterday to the consideration of it, with what judgment I have been able to exercise, I have felt it to be incumbent upon me to wait upon you without further delay, as by doing so I may perhaps assist your views and save labour to those gentlemen who are joined with you in this commission of which you have spoken. To some of them it may possibly be troublesome that they should be brought together here on next Monday.”

Dr. Tempest had been looking at him during this speech, and could see by his shoes and trowsers that he had walked from Hogglestock to Silverbridge. “Mr. Crawley, will you not sit down?” said he, and then he rang his bell. Mr. Crawley sat down, not on the chair indicated, but on one further removed and at the other side of the table. When the servant came,—the objectionable butler in black clothes that were so much smarter than Mr. Crawley’s own,—his master’s orders were communicated without any audible word, and the man returned with a decanter and wine-glasses.

“After your walk, Mr. Crawley,” said Dr. Tempest, getting up from his seat to pour out the wine.

“None, I thank you.”

“Pray let me persuade you. I know the length of the miles so well.”

“I will take none if you please, sir,” said Mr. Crawley.

“Now, Mr. Crawley,” said Dr. Tempest, “do let me speak to you as a friend. You have walked eight miles, and are going to talk to me on a subject which is of vital importance to yourself. I won’t discuss it unless you’ll take a glass of wine and a biscuit.”

“Dr. Tempest!”

“I’m quite in earnest. I won’t. If you do as I ask you, you shall talk to me till dinner-time, if you like it. There. Now you may begin.”

Mr. Crawley did eat the biscuit and did drink the wine, and as he did so, he acknowledged to himself that Dr. Tempest was right. He felt that the wine made him stronger to speak. “I hardly know why you have preferred to-day to next Monday,” said Dr. Tempest; “but if anything can be done by your presence here to-day, your time shall not be thrown away.”

“I have preferred to-day to Monday,” said Crawley, “partly because I would sooner talk to one man than to five.”

“There is something in that, certainly,” said Dr. Tempest.

“And as I have made up my mind as to the course of action which it is my duty to take in the matter to which your letter of the 9th of this month refers, there can be no reason why I should postpone the declaration of my purpose. Dr. Tempest, I have determined to resign my preferment at Hogglestock, and shall write to-day to the Dean of Barchester, who is the patron, acquainting him of my purpose.”

“You mean in the event—in the event—”

“I mean, sir, to do this without reference to any event that is future. The bishop, Dr. Tempest, when I shall have been proved to be a thief, shall have no trouble either in causing my suspension or my deprivation. The name and fame of a parish clergyman should be unstained. Mine have become foul with infamy. I will not wait to be deprived by any court, by any bishop, or by any commission. I will bow my head to that public opinion which has reached me, and I will deprive myself.”

He had got up from his chair, and was standing as he pronounced the final sentence against himself. Dr. Tempest still remained seated in his chair, looking at him, and for a few moments there was silence. “You must not do that, Mr. Crawley,” Dr. Tempest said at last.

“But I shall do it.”

“Then the dean must not take your resignation. Speaking to you frankly, I tell you that there is no prevailing opinion as to the verdict which the jury may give.”

“My decision has nothing to do with the jury’s verdict. My decision—”

“Stop a moment, Mr. Crawley. It is possible that you might say that which should not be said.”

“There is nothing to be said,—nothing which I could say, which I would not say at the town cross if it were possible. As to this money, I do not know whether I stole it or whether I did not.”

“That is just what I have thought.”

“It is so.”

“Then you did not steal it. There can be no doubt about that.”

“Thank you, Dr. Tempest. I thank you heartily for saying so much. But, sir, you are not the jury. Nor, if you were, could you whitewash me from the infamy which has been cast on me. Against the opinion expressed at the beginning of these proceedings by the bishop of the diocese,—or rather against that expressed by his wife,—I did venture to make a stand. Neither the opinion which came from the palace, nor the vehicle by which it was expressed, commanded my respect. Since that, others have spoken to whom I feel myself bound to yield;—yourself not the least among them, Dr. Tempest;—and to them I shall yield. You may tell the Bishop of Barchester that I shall at once resign the perpetual curacy of Hogglestock into the hands of the Dean of Barchester, by whom I was appointed.”

“No, Mr. Crawley; I shall not do that. I cannot control you, but thinking you to be wrong, I shall not make that communication to the bishop.”

“Then I shall do so myself.”

“And your wife, Mr. Crawley, and your children?”

At that moment Mr. Crawley called to mind the advice of his friend Giles Hoggett. “It’s dogged as does it.” He certainly wanted something very strong to sustain him in his difficulty. He found that this reference to his wife and children required him to be dogged in a very marked manner. “I can only trust that the wind may be tempered to them,” he said. “They will, indeed, be shorn lambs.”

Dr. Tempest got up from his chair, and took a couple of turns about the room before he spoke again. “Man,” he said, addressing Mr. Crawley with all his energy, “if you do this thing, you will then at least be very wicked. If the jury find a verdict in your favour you are safe, and the chances are that the verdict will be in your favour.”

“I care nothing now for the verdict,” said Mr. Crawley.

“And you will turn your wife into the poorhouse for an idea!”

“It’s dogged as does it,” said Mr. Crawley to himself. “I have thought of that,” he said aloud. “That my wife is dear to me, and that my children are dear, I will not deny. She was softly nurtured, Dr. Tempest, and came from a house in which want was never known. Since she has shared my board she has had some experience of that nature. That I should have brought her to all this is very terrible to me,—so terrible, that I often wonder how it is that I live. But, sir, you will agree with me, that my duty as a clergyman is above everything. I do not dare, even for their sake, to remain in the parish. Good morning, Dr. Tempest.” Dr. Tempest, finding that he could not prevail with him, bade him adieu, feeling that any service to the Crawleys within his power might be best done by intercession with the bishop and with the dean.

Then Mr. Crawley walked back to Hogglestock, repeating to himself Giles Hoggett’s words, “It’s dogged as does it.”