The Last Chronicle of Barset CHAPTER LXIII.


The cross-grainedness of men is so great that things will often be forced to go wrong, even when they have the strongest possible natural tendency of their own to go right. It was so now in these affairs between the archdeacon and his son. The original difficulty was solved by the good feeling of the young lady,—by that and by the real kindness of the archdeacon’s nature. They had come to terms which were satisfactory to both of them, and those terms admitted of perfect reconciliation between the father and his son. Whether the major did marry the lady or whether he did not, his allowance was to be continued to him, the archdeacon being perfectly willing to trust himself in the matter to the pledge which he had received from Miss Crawley. All that he required from his son was simply this,—that he should pull down the bills advertising the sale of his effects. Was any desire ever more rational? The sale had been advertised for a day just one week in advance of the assizes, and the time must have been selected,—so thought the archdeacon,—with a malicious intention. Why, at any rate, should the things be sold before any one knew whether the father of the young lady was or was not to be regarded as a thief? And why should the things be sold at all, when the archdeacon had tacitly withdrawn his threats,—when he had given his son to understand that the allowance would still be paid quarterly with the customary archidiaconal regularity, and that no alteration was intended in those settlements under which the Plumstead foxes would, in the ripeness of time, become the property of the major himself. It was thus that the archdeacon looked at it, and as he did so, he thought that his son was the most cross-grained of men.

But the major had his own way of looking at the matter. He had, he flattered himself, dealt very fairly with his father. When he had first made up his mind to make Miss Crawley his wife, he had told his father of his intention. The archdeacon had declared that, if he did so, such and such results would follow,—results which, as was apparent to every one, would make it indispensable that the major should leave Cosby Lodge. The major had never complained. So he told himself. He had simply said to his father,—”I shall do as I have said. You can do as you have said. Therefore, I shall prepare to leave Cosby Lodge.” He had so prepared; and as a part of that preparation, the auctioneer’s bills had been stuck up on the posts and walls. Then the archdeacon had gone to work surreptitiously with the lady,—the reader will understand that we are still following the workings of the major’s mind,—and having succeeded in obtaining a pledge which he had been wrong to demand, came forward very graciously to withdraw his threats. He withdrew his threats because he had succeeded in his object by other means. The major knew nothing of the kiss that had been given, of the two tears that had trickled down his father’s nose, of the generous epithets which the archdeacon had applied to Grace. He did not guess how nearly his father had yielded altogether beneath the pressure of Grace’s charms,—how willing he was to yield altogether at the first decent opportunity. His father had obtained a pledge from Grace that she would not marry in certain circumstances,—as to which circumstances the major was strongly resolved that they should form no bar to his marriage,—and then came forward with his eager demand that the sale should be stopped! The major could not submit to so much indignity. He had resolved that his father should have nothing to do with his marriage one way or the other. He would not accept anything from his father on the understanding that his father had any such right. His father had asserted such right with threats, and he, the major, taking such threats as meaning something, had seen that he must leave Cosby Lodge. Let his father come forward, and say that they meant nothing, that he abandoned all right to any interference as to his son’s marriage, and then the son—would dutifully consent to accept his father’s bounty! They were both cross-grained, as Mrs. Grantly declared; but I think that the major was the most cross-grained of the two.

Something of the truth made its way into Henry Grantly’s mind as he drove himself home from Barchester after seeing his grandfather. It was not that he began to think that his father was right, but that he almost perceived that it might be becoming in him to forgive some fault in his father. He had been implored to honour his father, and he was willing to do so, understanding that such honour must, to a certain degree, imply obedience,—if it could be done at no more than a moderate expense to his feelings. The threatened auctioneer was the cause of offence to his father, and he might see whether it would not be possible to have the sale postponed. There would, of course, be a pecuniary loss, and that in his diminished circumstances,—he would still talk to himself of his diminished circumstances,—might be inconvenient. But so much he thought himself bound to endure on his father’s behalf. At any rate, he would consult the auctioneer at Silverbridge.

But he would not make any pause in the measures which he had proposed to himself as likely to be conducive to his marriage. As for Grace’s pledge, such pledges from young ladies never went for anything. It was out of the question that she should be sacrificed, even though her father had taken the money. And, moreover, the very gist of the major’s generosity was to consist in his marrying her whether the father were guilty or innocent. He understood that perfectly, and understood also that it was his duty to make his purpose in this respect known to Grace’s family. He determined, therefore, that he would go over to Hogglestock, and see Mr. Crawley before he saw the auctioneer.

Hitherto Major Grantly had never even spoken to Mr. Crawley. It may be remembered that the major was at the present moment one of the bailsmen for the due appearance of Mr. Crawley before the judge, and that he had been present when the magistrates sat at the inn in Silverbridge. He therefore knew the man’s presence, but except on that occasion he had never even seen his intended future father-in-law. From the moment when he had first allowed himself to think of Grace, he had desired, yet almost feared, to make acquaintance with the father; but had been debarred from doing so by the peculiar position in which Mr. Crawley was placed. He had felt that it would be impossible to speak to the father of his affection for the daughter without any allusion to the coming trial; and he did not know how such allusion could be made. Thinking of this, he had at different times almost resolved not to call at Hogglestock till the trial should be over. Then he would go there, let the result of the trial have been what it might. But it had now become necessary for him to go on at once. His father had precipitated matters by his appeal to Grace. He would appeal to Grace’s father, and reach Grace through his influence.

He drove over to Hogglestock, feeling himself to be anything but comfortable as he came near to the house. And when he did reach the spot he was somewhat disconcerted to find that another visitor was in the house before him. He presumed this to be the case, because there stood a little pony horse,—an animal which did not strongly recommend itself to his instructed eye,—attached by its rein to the palings. It was a poor humble-looking beast, whose knees had very lately become acquainted with the hard and sharp stones of a newly-mended highway. The blood was even now red upon the wounds.

“He’ll never be much good again,” said the major to his servant.

“That he won’t, sir,” said the man. “But I don’t think he’s been very much good for some time back.”

“I shouldn’t like to have to ride him into Silverbridge,” said the major, descending from the gig, and instructing his servant to move the horse and gig about as long as he might remain within the house. Then he walked across the little garden and knocked at the door. The door was immediately opened, and in the passage he found Mr. Crawley, and another clergyman whom the reader will recognize as Mr. Thumble. Mr. Thumble had come over to make arrangements as to the Sunday services and the parochial work, and had been very urgent in impressing on Mr. Crawley that the duties were to be left entirely to himself. Hence had come some bitter words, in which Mr. Crawley, though no doubt he said the sharper things of the two, had not been able to vanquish his enemy so completely as he had done on former occasions.

“There must be no interference, my dear sir,—none whatever, if you please,” Mr. Thumble had said.

“There shall be none of which the bishop shall have reason to complain,” Mr. Crawley had replied.

“There must be none at all, Mr. Crawley, if you please. It is only on that understanding that I have consented to take the parish temporarily into my hands. Mrs. Crawley, I hope that there may be no mistake about the schools. It must be exactly as though I were residing on the spot.”

“Sir,” said Mr. Crawley, very irate at this appeal to his wife, and speaking in a loud voice, “do you misdoubt my word; or do you think that if I were minded to be false to you, that I should be corrected in my falsehood by the firmer faith of my wife?”

“I meant nothing about falsehood, Mr. Crawley.”

“Having resigned this benefice for certain reasons of my own, with which I shall not trouble you, and acknowledging as I do,—and have done in writing under my hand to the bishop,—the propriety of his lordship’s interference in providing for the services of the parish till my successor shall have been instituted, I shall, with what feelings of regret I need not say, leave you to the performance of your temporary duties.”

“That is all that I require, Mr. Crawley.”

“But it is wholly unnecessary that you should instruct me in mine.”

“The bishop especially desires—” began Mr. Thumble. But Mr. Crawley interrupted him instantly.—

“If the bishop has directed you to give me such instruction, the bishop has been much in error. I will submit to receive none from him through you, sir. If you please, sir, let there be an end of it;” and Mr. Crawley waved his hand. I hope that the reader will conceive the tone of Mr. Crawley’s voice, and will appreciate the aspect of his face, and will see the motion of his hand, as he spoke these latter words. Mr. Thumble felt the power of the man so sensibly that he was unable to carry on the contest. Though Mr. Crawley was now but a broken reed, and was beneath his feet, yet Mr. Thumble acknowledged to himself that he could not hold his own in debate with this broken reed. But the words had been spoken, and the tone of the voice had died away, and the fire in the eyes had burned itself out before the moment of the major’s arrival. Mr. Thumble was now returning to his horse, and having enjoyed,—if he did enjoy,—his little triumph about the parish, was becoming unhappy at the future dangers that awaited him. Perhaps he was the more unhappy because it had been proposed to him by authorities at the palace that he should repeatedly ride on the same animal from Barchester to Hogglestock and back. Mr. Crawley was in the act of replying to lamentations on this subject, with his hand on the latch, when the major arrived—”I regret to say, sir, that I cannot assist you by supplying any other steed.” Then the major had knocked, and Mr. Crawley had at once opened the door.

“You probably do not remember me, Mr. Crawley?” said the major. “I am Major Grantly.” Mrs. Crawley, who heard these words inside the room, sprang up from her chair, and could hardly resist the temptation to rush into the passage. She too had barely seen Major Grantly; and now the only bright gleam which appeared on her horizon depended on his constancy under circumstances which would have justified his inconstancy. But had he meant to be inconstant, surely he would never have come to Hogglestock!

“I remember you well, sir,” said Mr. Crawley. “I am under no common obligation to you. You are at present one of my bailsmen.”

“There’s nothing in that,” said the major.

Mr. Thumble, who had caught the name of Grantly, took off his hat, which he had put on his head. He had not been particular in keeping off his hat before Mr. Crawley. But he knew very well that Archdeacon Grantly was a big man in the diocese; and though the Grantlys and the Proudies were opposed to each other, still it might be well to take off his hat before any one who had to do with the big ones of the diocese. “I hope your respected father is well, sir?” said Mr. Thumble.

“Pretty well, I thank you.” The major stood close up against the wall of the passage, so as to allow room for Mr. Thumble to pass out. His business was one on which he could hardly begin to speak until the other visitor should have gone. Mr. Crawley was standing with the door wide open in his hand. He also was anxious to be rid of Mr. Thumble,—and was perhaps not so solicitous as a brother clergyman should have been touching the future fate of Mr. Thumble in the matter of the bishop’s old cob.

“Really I don’t know what to do as to getting upon him again,” said Mr. Thumble.

“If you will allow him to progress slowly,” said Mr. Crawley, “he will probably travel with the greater safety.”

“I don’t know what you call slow, Mr. Crawley. I was ever so much over two hours coming here from Barchester. He stumbled almost at every step.”

“Did he fall while you were on him?” asked the major.

“Indeed he did, sir. You never saw such a thing, Major Grantly. Look here.” Then Mr. Thumble, turning round, showed that the rear portion of his clothes had not escaped without injury.

“It was well he was not going fast, or you would have come on to your head,” said Grantly.

“It was a mercy,” said Thumble. “But, sir, as it was, I came to the ground with much violence. It was on Spigglewick Hill, where the road is covered with loose stones. I see, sir, you have a gig and horse here, with a servant. Perhaps, as the circumstances are so very peculiar,—” Then Mr. Thumble stopped, and looked up into the major’s face with imploring eyes. But the major had no tenderness for such sufferings. “I’m sorry to say that I am going quite the other way,” he said. “I am returning to Silverbridge.”

Mr. Thumble hesitated, and then made a renewed request. “If you would not mind taking me to Silverbridge, I could get home from thence by railway; and perhaps you would allow your servant to take the horse to Barchester.”

Major Grantly was for a moment dumfounded. “The request is most unreasonable, sir,” said Mr. Crawley.

“That is as Major Grantly pleases to look at it,” said Mr. Thumble.

“I am sorry to say that it is quite out of my power,” said the major.

“You can surely walk, leading the beast, if you fear to mount him,” said Mr. Crawley.

Mrs. Proudie’s Emissary.

“I shall do as I please about that,” said Mr. Thumble. “And, Mr. Crawley, if you will have the kindness to leave things in the parish just as they are,—just as they are, I will be obliged to you. It is the bishop’s wish that you should touch nothing.” Mr. Thumble was by this time on the step, and Mr. Crawley instantly slammed the door. “The gentleman is a clergyman from Barchester,” said Mr. Crawley, modestly folding his hands upon his breast, “whom the bishop has sent over here to take upon himself temporarily the services of the church, and, as it appears, the duties also of the parish. I refrain from animadverting upon his lordship’s choice.”

“And are you leaving Hogglestock?”

“When I have found a shelter for my wife and children I shall do so; nay, peradventure, I must do so before any such shelter can be found. I shall proceed in that matter as I am bid. I am one who can regard myself as no longer possessing the privilege of free action in anything. But while I have a room at your service, permit me to ask you to enter it.” Then Mr. Crawley motioned him in with his hand, and Major Grantly found himself in the presence of Mrs. Crawley and her younger daughter.

He looked at them both for a moment, and could trace much of the lines of that face which he loved so well. But the troubles of life had almost robbed the elder lady of her beauty; and with the younger, the awkward thinness of the last years of feminine childhood had not yet given place to the fulfilment of feminine grace. But the likeness in each was quite enough to make him feel that he ought to be at home in that room. He thought that he could love the woman as his mother, and the girl as his sister. He found it very difficult to begin any conversation in their presence, and yet it seemed to be his duty to begin. Mr. Crawley had marshalled him into the room, and having done so, stood aside near the door. Mrs. Crawley had received him very graciously, and having done so, seemed to be ashamed of her own hospitality. Poor Jane had shrunk back into a distant corner, near the open standing desk at which she was accustomed to read Greek to her father, and, of course, could not be expected to speak. If Major Grantly could have found himself alone with any one of the three,—nay, if he could have been there with any two, he could have opened his budget at once; but, before all the family, he felt the difficulty of his situation. “Mrs. Crawley,” said he, “I have been most anxious to make your acquaintance, and I trust you will excuse the liberty I have taken in calling.”

“I feel grateful to you, as I am sure does also my husband.” So much she said, and then felt angry with herself for saying so much. Was she not expressing her strong hope that he might stand fast by her child, whereby the whole Crawley family would gain so much,—and the Grantly family lose much, in the same proportion?

“Sir,” said Mr. Crawley, “I owe you thanks, still unexpressed, in that you came forward, together with Mr. Robarts of Framley, to satisfy the not unnatural requisition of the magistrates before whom I was called upon to appear in the early winter. I know not why any one should have ventured into such jeopardy on my account.”

“There was no jeopardy, Mr. Crawley. Any one in the county would have done it.”

“I know not that; nor can I see that there was no jeopardy. I trust that I may assure you that there is no danger;—none, I mean, to you. The danger to myself and those belonging to me is, alas, very urgent. The facts of my position are pressing close upon me. Methinks I suffer more from the visit of the gentleman who has just departed from me than from anything that has yet happened to me. And yet he is in his right;—he is altogether in his right.”

“No, papa; he is not,” said Jane, from her standing ground near the upright desk.

“My dear,” said her father, “you should be silent on such a subject. It is a matter hard to be understood in all its bearings,—even by those who are most conversant with them. But as to this we need not trouble Major Grantly.”

After that there was silence among them, and for a while it seemed as though there could be no approach to the subject on which Grantly had come thither to express himself. Mrs. Crawley, in her despair, said something about the weather; and the major, trying to draw near the special subject, became bold enough to remark “that he had had the pleasure of seeing Miss Crawley at Framley.” “Mrs. Robarts has been very kind,” said Mrs. Crawley, “very kind indeed. You can understand, Major Grantly, that this must be a very sad house for any young person.” “I don’t think it is at all sad,” said Jane, still standing in the corner by the upright desk.

Then Major Grantly rose from his seat and walked across to the girl and took her hand. “You are so like your sister,” said he. “Your sister is a great friend of mine. She has often spoken to me of you. I hope we shall be friends some day.” But Jane could make no answer to this, though she had been able to vindicate the general character of the house while she was left in her corner by herself. “I wonder whether you would be angry with me,” continued the major, “if I told you that I wanted to speak a word to your father and mother alone?” To this Jane made no reply, but was out of the room almost before the words had reached the ears of her father and mother. Though she was only sixteen, and had as yet read nothing but Latin and Greek,—unless we are to count the twelve books of Euclid and Wood’s Algebra, and sundry smaller exercises of the same description,—she understood, as well as any one then present, the reason why her absence was required.

As she closed the door the major paused for a moment, expecting, or perhaps hoping, that the father or the mother would say a word. But neither of them had a word to say. They sat silent, and as though conscience-stricken. Here was a rich man come, of whom they had heard that he might probably wish to wed their daughter. It was manifest enough to both of them that no man could marry into their family without subjecting himself to a heavy portion of that reproach and disgrace which was attached to them. But how was it possible that they should not care more for their daughter,—for their own flesh and blood, than for the incidental welfare of this rich man? As regarded the man himself they had heard everything that was good. Such a marriage was like the opening of paradise to their child. “Nil conscire sibi,” said the father to himself, as he buckled on his armour for the fight.

When he had waited for a moment or two the major began. “Mrs. Crawley,” he said, addressing himself to the mother, “I do not quite know how far you may be aware that I,—that I have for some time been,—been acquainted with your eldest daughter.”

“I have heard from her that she is acquainted with you,” said Mrs. Crawley, almost panting with anxiety.

“I may as well make a clean breast of it at once,” said the major, smiling, “and say outright that I have come here to request your permission and her father’s to ask her to be my wife.” Then he was silent, and for a few moments neither Mr. nor Mrs. Crawley replied to him. She looked at her husband, and he gazed at the fire, and the smile died away from the major’s face, as he watched the solemnity of them both. There was something almost forbidding in the peculiar gravity of Mr. Crawley’s countenance when, as at present, something operated within him to cause him to express dissent from any proposition that was made to him. “I do not know how far this may be altogether new to you, Mrs. Crawley,” said the major, waiting for a reply.

“It is not new to us,” said Mrs. Crawley.

“May I hope, then, that you will not disapprove?”

“Sir,” said Mr. Crawley, “I am so placed by the untoward circumstances of my life that I can hardly claim to exercise over my own daughter that authority which should belong to a parent.”

“My dear, do not say that,” exclaimed Mrs. Crawley.

“But I do say it. Within three weeks of this time I may be a prisoner, subject to the criminal laws of my country. At this moment I am without the power of earning bread for myself, or for my wife, or for my children. Major Grantly, you have even now seen the departure of the gentleman who has been sent here to take my place in this parish. I am, as it were, an outlaw here, and entitled neither to obedience nor respect from those who under other circumstances would be bound to give me both.”

“Major Grantly,” said the poor woman, “no husband or father in the county is more closely obeyed or more thoroughly respected and loved.”

“I am sure of it,” said the major.

“All this, however, matters nothing,” continued Mr. Crawley, “and all speech on such homely matters would amount to an impertinence before you, sir, were it not that you have hinted at a purpose of connecting yourself at some future time with this unfortunate family.”

“I meant to be plain-spoken, Mr. Crawley.”

“I did not mean to insinuate, sir, that there was aught of reticence in your words, so contrived that you might fall back upon the vagueness of your expression for protection, should you hereafter see fit to change your purpose. I should have wronged you much by such a suggestion. I rather was minded to make known to you that I,—or, I should rather say, we,” and Mr. Crawley pointed to his wife,—”shall not accept your plainness of speech as betokening aught beyond a conceived idea in furtherance of which you have thought it expedient to make certain inquiries.”

“I don’t quite follow you,” said the major. “But what I want you to do is to give me your consent to visit your daughter; and I want Mrs. Crawley to write to Grace and tell her that it’s all right.” Mrs. Crawley was quite sure that it was all right, and was ready to sit down and write the letter that moment, if her husband would permit her to do so.

“I am sorry that I have not been explicit,” said Mr. Crawley, “but I will endeavour to make myself more plainly intelligible. My daughter, sir, is so circumstanced in reference to her father, that I, as her father and as a gentleman, cannot encourage any man to make a tender to her of his hand.”

“But I have made up my mind about all that.”

“And I, sir, have made up mine. I dare not tell my girl that I think she will do well to place her hand in yours. A lady, when she does that, should feel at least that her hand is clean.”

“It is the cleanest and the sweetest and the fairest hand in Barsetshire,” said the major. Mrs. Crawley could not restrain herself, but running up to him, took his hand in hers and kissed it.

“There is unfortunately a stain, which is vicarial,” began Mr. Crawley, sustaining up to that point his voice with Roman fortitude,—with a fortitude which would have been Roman had it not at that moment broken down under the pressure of human feeling. He could keep it up no longer, but continued his speech with broken sobs, and with a voice altogether changed in its tone,—rapid now, whereas it had before been slow,—natural, whereas it had hitherto been affected,—human, whereas it had hitherto been Roman. “Major Grantly,” he said, “I am sore beset; but what can I say to you? My darling is as pure as the light of day,—only that she is soiled with my impurity. She is fit to grace the house of the best gentleman in England, had I not made her unfit.”

“She shall grace mine,” said the major. “By God, she shall!—to-morrow, if she’ll have me.” Mrs. Crawley, who was standing beside him, again raised his hand and kissed it.

“It may not be so. As I began by saying,—or rather strove to say, for I have been overtaken by weakness, and cannot speak my mind,—I cannot claim authority over my child as would another man. How can I exercise authority from between a prison’s bars?”

“She would obey your slightest wish,” said Mrs. Crawley.

“I could express no wish,” said he. “But I know my girl, and I am sure that she will not consent to take infamy with her into the house of the man who loves her.”

“There will be no infamy,” said the major. “Infamy! I tell you that I shall be proud of the connexion.”

“You, sir, are generous in your prosperity. We will strive to be at least just in our adversity. My wife and children are to be pitied,—because of the husband and the father.”

“No!” said Mrs. Crawley. “I will not hear that said without denying it.”

“But they must take their lot as it has been given to them,” continued he. “Such a position in life as that which you have proposed to bestow upon my child would be to her, as regards human affairs, great elevation. And from what I have heard,—I may be permitted to add also from what I now learn by personal experience,—such a marriage would be laden with fair promise of future happiness. But if you ask my mind, I think that my child is not free to make it. You, sir, have many relatives, who are not in love, as you are, all of whom would be affected by the stain of my disgrace. You have a daughter, to whom all your solicitude is due. No one should go to your house as your second wife who cannot feel that she will serve your child. My daughter would feel that she was bringing an injury upon the babe. I cannot bid her do this,—and I will not. Nor do I believe that she would do so if I bade her.” Then he turned his chair round, and sat with his face to the wall, wiping away the tears with a tattered handkerchief.

Mrs. Crawley led the major away to the further window, and there stood looking up into his face. It need hardly be said that they also were crying. Whose eyes could have been dry after such a scene,—upon hearing such words? “You had better go,” said Mrs. Crawley. “I know him so well. You had better go.”

“Mrs. Crawley,” he said, whispering to her, “if I ever desert her, may all that I love desert me! But you will help me?”

“You would want no help, were it not for this trouble.”

“But you will help me?”

Then she paused a moment. “I can do nothing,” she said, “but what he bids me.”

“You will trust me, at any rate?” said the major.

“I do trust you,” she replied. Then he went without saying a word further to Mr. Crawley. As soon as he was gone, the wife went over to her husband, and put her arm gently round his neck as he was sitting. For a while the husband took no notice of his wife’s caress, but sat motionless, with his face still turned to the wall. Then she spoke to him a word or two, telling him that their visitor was gone. “My child!” he said. “My poor child! my darling! She has found grace in this man’s sight; but even of that has her father robbed her! The Lord has visited upon the children the sins of the father, and will do so to the third and fourth generation.”