Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XIV

Mr Crawley of Hogglestock

And then there was that other trouble in Lady Lufton’s mind, the sins, namely, of her selected parson. She had selected him, and she was by no means inclined to give him up, even though his sins against parsondom were grievous. Indeed she was a woman not prone to give up anything, and of all things not prone to give up a protege. The very fact that she herself had selected him was the strongest argument in his favour. But his sins against parsondom were becoming very grievous in her eyes, and she was at a loss to know what steps to take. She hardly dared to take him to task, him himself. Were she to do so, and should he then tell her to mind her own business — as he probably might do, though not in those words — there would be a schism in the parish; and almost anything would be better than that. The whole work of her life would be upset, all the outlets of her energy would be impeded, if not absolutely closed, if a state of things were to come to pass in which she and the parson of her parish should not be on good terms.

But what was to be done? Early in the winter he had gone to Chaldicotes and to Gatherum Castle, consorting with gamblers, Whigs, atheists, men of loose pleasure, and Proudieites. That she had condoned; and now he was turning out a hunting parson on her hands. It was all very well for Fanny to say that he merely looked at the hounds as he made about his parish. Fanny might be deceived. Being his wife, it might be her duty not to see her husband’s iniquities. But Lady Lufton could not be deceived. She knew very well in what part of the county Cobbold’s Ashes lay. It was not in Framley parish, nor in the next parish to it. It was half-way across to Chaldicotes — to the western division; and she had heard of that run in which two horses had been killed, and in which Parson Robarts had won immortal glory among West Barsetshire sportsmen. It was not easy to keep Lady Lufton in the dark as to matters occurring in her own county.

All those things she knew, but as yet had not noticed, grieving over them in her own heart the more on that account. Spoken grief relieves itself; and when one can give counsel, one always hopes at least that that counsel will be effective. To her son she had said, more than once, that it was a pity that Mr Robarts should follow the hounds —‘The world has agreed that it is unbecoming in a clergyman,’ she would urge, in her deprecatory tone. But her son would by no means give her any comfort. ‘He doesn’t hunt, you know — not as I do,’ he would say. ‘And if he did, I really don’t see the harm of it. A man must have some amusement, even if he is an archbishop.’ ‘He has amusement at home,’ Lady Lufton would answer. ‘What does his wife do — and his sister?’ This allusion to Lucy, however, was very soon dropped.

Lord Lufton would in no wise help her. He would not even passively discourage the vicar, or refrain from offering to give him a seat in going to the meets. Mark and Lord Lufton had been boys together, and his lordship knew that Mark in his heart would enjoy a brush across the country quite as well himself; and then what was the harm of it? Lady Lufton’s best aid had been in Mark’s own conscience. He had taken himself to task more than once, and had promised himself that he would not become a sporting parson. Indeed, where would be his hopes of ulterior promotion, if he allowed himself to degenerate so far as that? It had been his intention, in reviewing what he considered to be the necessary proprieties of clerical life, in laying out his own future mode of living, to assume no peculiar sacerdotal strictness; he would not be known as a denouncer of dancing or of card-tables, of theatres or of novel-reading; he would take the world around him, as he found it, endeavouring by precept and practice to lend a hand to the gradual amelioration which Christianity is producing; but he would attempt no sudden or majestic reforms. Cake and ale would still be popular, and ginger be hot in the mouth, let him preach ever so — let him be never so solemn as a hermit; but a bright face, a true trusting heart, an strong arm, and an humble mind, might do much in teaching those around him that men may be gay and yet not profligate, that women may be devout and yet not be dead to the world.

Such had been his ideas as to his own future life; and though many would think that, as a clergyman, he should have gone about his work with more serious devotion of thought, nevertheless there was some wisdom in them; — some folly also undoubtedly, as appeared by the troubles into which they had led him. ‘I will not affect to think that to be bad,’ said he to himself, ‘which in my heart of hearts does not seem to be bad.’ And thus he resolved that he might live without contamination among hunting squires. And then, being a man only too prone by nature to do as other did around him, he found by degrees that that could hardly be wrong for him which he admitted to be right for others.

But still his conscience upbraided him, and he declared to himself more than once that after this year he would hunt no more. And then his own Fanny would look at him on his return home on those days in a manner that would cut him to the heart. She would say nothing to him. She never inquired in a sneering tone; and with angry eyes, whether he had enjoyed his day’s sport; but when he spoke of it, she could not answer with enthusiasm; and in other matters which concerned him she was always enthusiastic. After a while, too, he made matters worse, for about the end of March, he did another very foolish thing. He almost consented to buy an expensive horse from Sowerby — an animal which he by no means wanted, and which, if once possessed, would certainly lead him into further trouble. A gentleman, when he has a good horse in his stable, does not like to leave him there eating his head off. If he be a gig-horse, the owner of him will be keen to drive a gig; if a hunter, the happy possessor will wish to be with a pack of hounds.

‘Mark,’ Sowerby said to him one day, when they were out together, ‘this brute of mine is so fresh, I can hardly ride him; you are young and strong; change with me for an hour or so.’ And then they did change, and the horse on which Robarts found himself mounted went away with him beautifully.

‘He’s a splendid animal,’ said Mark, when they again met.

‘Yes, for a man of your weight. He’s thrown away upon me; — too much of a horse for my purposes. I don’t get along now quite as well as I used to do. He is a nice sort of hunter; just rising six, you know.’ How it came to pass that the price of the splendid animal was mentioned between them, I need not describe with exactness. But it did come to pass that Mr Sowerby told the parson that the horse could be his for one hundred and thirty pounds. ‘And I really wish you’d take him,’ said Sowerby. ‘It would be the means of partially relieving my mind of a great weight.’ Mark looked up into his friend’s face with an air of surprise, for he did not at the moment understand how this should be the case.

‘I’m afraid, you know, that you will have to put your hand into your pocket sooner or later for that accursed bill’— Mark shrank as the profane words struck his ears —‘and I should be glad to think that you had got something in hand in the way of value.’

‘Do you mean that I shall have to pay the whole sum of five hundred pounds?’

‘Oh! dear, no; nothing of the kind. But something I dare say you will have to pay: if you like to take Dandy for a hundred and thirty, you can be prepared for that amount when Tozer comes to you. The horse is dog cheap, and you will have a long day for you money.’ Mark, at first, declared, in a quiet determined tone, that he did not want the horse; but it afterwards appeared to him that if he were so fated that he must pay a portion of Mr Sowerby’s debts, he might as repay himself to any extent within his power. It would be as well perhaps that he should take the horse and sell him. It did not occur to him that by so doing he would put it in Mr Sowerby’s power to say that some valuable consideration had passed between them with reference to this bill, and that he would be aiding that gentleman in preparing an inextricable confusion in money matters between them. Mr Sowerby well knew the value of this. It would enable him to make a plausible story, as he had done in that other case of Lord Lufton. ‘Are you going to have Dandy?’ Sowerby said to him again.

‘I can’t say that I will just at present,’ said the parson. ‘What should I do with him now the season’s over?’

‘Exactly, my dear fellow; and what do I do want of him now the season’s over? If it were the beginning of October instead of the end of March, Dandy would be up at two hundred and thirty instead of one: in six months’ time that horse would be worth anything you like to ask for him. Look at his bone.’ The vicar did look at his bones, examining the brute with a very knowing and unclerical manner. He lifted the animal’s four feet, one after another, handling the frogs, and measuring with his eye the proportion of his parts; he passed his hand up and down his legs, spanning the bones of the lower joint; he peered into his eyes, took into consideration the width of his chest, the dip of his back, the form of his ribs, the curve of his haunches, and the capabilities for breathing when pressed by work. And then he stood away a little, eyeing him from the side, and taking in a general idea of the form and make of the whole. ‘He seems to stand over a little, I think,’ said the parson.

‘It’s the lie of the ground. Move him about, Bob. There now, let him stand there.’

‘He’s not perfect,’ said Mark. ‘I don’t quite like his heels; but no doubt he’s a niceish cut of horse.’

‘I rather think he is. If he were perfect, as you say, he would not be going into your stables for a hundred and thirty. Do you ever remember to have seen a perfect horse?’

‘Your mare Mrs Gamp was as nearly perfect as possible.’

‘Even Mrs Gamp had her faults. In the first place she was a bad feeder. But one certainly doesn’t often come across anything much better than Mrs Gamp.’ And thus the matter was talked over between them with much stable conversation, all of which tended to make Sowerby more and more oblivious of his friend’s sacred profession, and perhaps to make the vicar himself too frequently oblivious of it also. But no; he was not oblivious of it. He was even mindful of it; but mindful of it in such a manner that his thoughts on the subject were nowadays always painful.

There is a parish called Hogglestock lying away quite in the northern extremity of the eastern division of the county — lying also on the borders of the western division. I almost fear that it will become necessary, before this history be completed, to provide a map of Barsetshire for the due explanation of all these localities. Framley is also in the northern portion of the county, but just to the south of the grand trunk line of railway from which the branch to Barchester strikes off at a point some thirty miles nearer to London. The station for Framley Court is Silverbridge, which is, however, in the western division of the county. Hogglesock is to the north of the railway, the line of which, however, runs through a portion of the parish, and it adjoins Framley, though the churches are as much as seven miles apart. Barsetshire, taken altogether, is a pleasant green tree-becrowded county, with large husky hedges, pretty damp deep lanes, and roads with broad grass margins running along them. Such is the general nature of the county; but just up in its northern extremity this nature alters. There it is bleak and ugly, with low artificial hedges, and without wood; not uncultivated, as it is all portioned out into new-looking large fields, bearing turnips, and wheat, and mangel, all in due course of agricultural rotation; but it has none of the special beauties of English cultivation. There is not a gentleman’s house in the parish of Hogglestock besides that of the clergyman; and this, though it is certainly the house of a gentleman, can hardly be said to be fit to be so. It is ugly, and straight, and small. It produces cabbages, but no trees: potatoes of, I believe, an excellent description, but hardly any flowers, and nothing worthy of the name of a shrub. Indeed the whole parish of Hogglestock should have been in the adjoining county, which is by no means so attractive as Barsetshire; — a fact well known to those few of my readers who are well acquainted with their own country.

Mr Crawley, whose name has been mentioned in these pages, was the incumbent of Hogglestock. On what principle the remuneration of our parish clergymen was settled when the original settlement was made, no deepest, keenest, lover of middle-aged ecclesiastical black-letter learning can, I take it, now say. That priests were to be paid from tithes of the parish produce, out of which tithes certain other good things were to be bought and paid for, such as church repairs and education, of so much the most have an inkling. That a rector, being a big sort of parson, owned the tithes of his parish in full — or at any rate that part of them intended for the clergyman — and that a vicar was somebody’s deputy, and therefore entitled only to little tithes, as being of a little body: of so much we that are simple in such matters have a general idea. But one cannot conceive that even in this way any approximation could have been made, even in these old medieval days, towards a fair proportioning of the pay to the work. At any rate, it is clear enough that there is no such approximation now. And what a screech would there not be among the clergy of the Church, even in these reforming days, if any over-bold reformer were to suggest that such an approximation should be attempted? Let those who know clergymen, and like them, and have lived with them, only fancy it! Clergymen to be paid, not according to the temporalities of any living which they may have acquired, either by merit or favour, but in accordance with the work to be done! O Doddington! And O Stanhope, think of this, if an idea so sacrilegious can find entrance into your warm ecclesiastical bosoms! Ecclesiastical work to be bought and paid of according to its quantity and quality!

But, nevertheless, one may prophesy that we Englishmen must come to this, disagreeable as the idea undoubtedly is. Most pleasant-minded Churchmen feel, I think, on this subject pretty much in the same way. Our present arrangement of parochial incomes is beloved as being time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, and picturesque. We would fain adhere to it closely as long as we can, but we know that we do so by the force of our prejudice, and not by that of our judgement. A time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, picturesque arrangement is so far very delightful. But are there not other attributes very desirable — nay, absolutely necessary — in respect to which this time-honoured, picturesque arrangement is so very deficient?

How pleasant it was, too, that one bishop should be getting fifteen thousand a year, and another with an equal care of parsons only four? That a certain prelate could get twenty thousand one year and his successor in the same diocese only five the next? There was something in it pleasant and picturesque; it was an arrangement endowed with feudal charms, and the change which they had made was distasteful to many of us. A bishop with a regular salary, and no appanage of land and land-bailiffs, is only half a bishop. Let any man prove to me the contrary ever so thoroughly — me prove it to my own self ever so often — my heart in this matter is not thereby a whit altered. One liked to know that there was a dean or two who got his three thousand a year, and that old Dr Purple held four stalls, one of which was golden, and the other three silver-gilt! Such knowledge was always so pleasant to me! A golden stall! How sweet is the ground thereof to church-loving ears! But bishops have been shorn of their beauty, and deans are in their decadence. A utilitarian age requires the fatness of the ecclesiastical land, in order that it may be divided out into small portions of provender, on which necessary working clergymen may live — into portions so infinitely small that working clergyman can hardly live. And the full-blown rectors and vicars, with full-blown tithes — with tithes when too full-blown for strict utilitarian principles — will necessarily follow. Stanhope and Doddington must bow their heads, with such compensation for temporal rights as may be extracted — but in other trades, professions, and lines of life, men are paid according to their work. Let it be so in the Church. Such will sooner or later be the edict of a utilitarian, reforming, matter-of-fact House of Parliament.

I have a scheme of my own on the subject, which I will not introduce here, seeing that neither men nor women would read it. And with reference to this matter, I will only here further explain that all these words have been brought about by the fact, necessary to be here stated, that Mr Crawley only received one hundred and thirty pounds a year for performing the whole parochial duty of the parish of Hogglestock. And Hogglestock is a large parish. It includes two populous villages, abounding in brickmakers, a race of men very troublesome to a zealous parson who won’t let men go rollicking to the devil without interference. Hogglestock has full work for two men; and yet all the funds therein applicable to parson’s work is this miserable stipend of one hundred and thirty pounds a year. It is a stipend neither picturesque nor time-honoured, nor feudal, for Hogglestock takes rank only as a perpetual curacy.

Mr Crawley has been mentioned before as a clergyman of whom Mr Robarts said, that he almost thought it wrong to take a walk out of his own parish. In so saying Mark Robarts of course burlesqued his brother parson; but there can be no doubt that Mr Crawley was a strict man — a strict, stern, unpleasant man, and one who feared God and his own conscience. We must say a word or two of Mr Crawley and his concerns. He was now some forty years of age, but of these he had not been in possession even of his present benefice for more than four or five. The first ten years of his life as a clergyman had been passed in performing the duties and struggling through the life of a curate in a bleak, ugly, cold parish on the northern coast of Cornwall. It had been a weary life and a fearful struggle, made up of duties ill requited and not always satisfactorily performed, of love and poverty, of increasing cares, of sickness, debt, and death. For Mr Crawley had married almost as soon as he was ordained, and children had been born to him in that chill, comfortless Cornish village. He had married a lady well-educated and softly nurtured, but not dowered with worldly wealth. They two had gone forth determined to fight bravely together; to disregard the world and the world’s ways, looking only to God and to each other for their comfort. They would give up ideas of gentle living, of soft raiment, and delicate feeding. Others — those that work with their hands, even the betterment of such workers — could live in decency and health upon even such provisions as he could earn as a clergyman. In such manner would they live, so poorly and so decently, working out their work, not with their hands but with their hearts.

And so they had established themselves, beginning the world with bare-footed little girl of fourteen to aid them in the small household matters; and for a while they had both kept heart, loving each other dearly, and prospering somewhat in their work. But a man who has once walked the world as a gentleman knows to what it is to change his position, and place himself lower down in the social rank. Much less can he know what it is to put down the woman he loves. There are a thousand things, mean and trifling in themselves, which a man despises when he thinks of them in his philosophy, but to dispense with which puts his philosophy to so stern a proof. Let any plainest man who reads this think of his usual mode of getting himself into is matutinal garments, and confess how much such a struggle would cost him. And then children had come. The wife of the labouring man does rear her children, and often rears them in health, without even so many appliances of comfort as found their way into Mrs Crawley’s cottage; but the task to her was almost more than she could accomplish. Not that she ever fainted, or gave way: she was made of the sterner metal of the two, and could last on while he was prostrate.

And sometimes he was prostrate — prostrate in soul and spirit. Then would he complain with bitter voice, crying out that the world was too hard for him, that his back was broken with his burden, that his God had deserted him. For days and days, in such moods, he would stay within his cottage, never darkening the door or seeing other faces than those of his own inmates. Those days were terrible both to him and her. He would sit there unwashed, with his unshorn face resting on his hand, with an old dressing-gown hanging loose about him, hardly tasting food, seldom speaking, striving to pray, but striving so frequently in vain. And then he would rise from his chair, and, with a burst of frenzy, call upon his Creator to remove him from this misery. In these moments she never deserted him. At one period they had had four children, and though the whole weight of this young brood rested on her arms, on her muscles, on her strength of mind and body, she never ceased in her efforts to comfort him. Then, at length, falling utterly upon the ground, he would pour forth piteous prayers for mercy, and after a night of sleep would once more go forth to his work.

But she never yielded to despair: the struggle was never beyond her powers of endurance. She had possessed her share of woman’s loveliness, but that was now all gone. Her colour quickly faded, and the fresh, soft tints soon deserted her face and forehead. She became thin, and rough, and almost haggard; thin till her cheek-bones were nearly pressing through her skin, till her elbows were sharp, and her finger-bones as those of a skeleton. Her eye did not lose its lustre, but it became unnaturally bright, prominent, and too large for her wan face. The soft brown locks, which she had once loved to brush back, scorning, as she would boast to herself, to care that they should be seen, were now sparse enough and all untidy and unclean. It was matter of little thought now whether they were seen or not. Whether he could be made fit to go into his pulpit — whether they might be fed — those four innocents — and their backs kept from the cold wind — that was now the matter of her thought. And then two of them died, and she went forth herself to see them laid under the frost-bound sod, lest he should faint in his work over their graves. For he would ask aid from no man — such at least was his boast through all. Two of them died, but their illness had been long; and then debts came upon them. Debt, indeed, had been creeping on them with slow but sure feet during the last five years. Who can see his children hungry, and not take bread if it be offered? Who can see his wife lying in sharpest want, and not seek a remedy if there be a remedy within reach? So debt had come upon them, and rude men pressed for small sums of money — for sums small to the world, but impossibly large to them. And he would hide himself within there, in that cranny of an inner chamber — hide himself with deep shame from the world, with shame and a sinking heart, and a broken spirit.

But had such a man no friend? it will be said. Such men, I take it, do not make many friends. But this man was not utterly friendless. Almost every year one visit was paid to him in his Cornish curacy, by a brother clergyman, an old college friend, who, as far as might in him lie, did give aid to the curate and his wife. This gentleman would take up his abode for a week at a farmer’s in the neighbourhood, and though he found Mr Crawley in despair, he would leave him with some drops of comfort in his soul. Nor were the benefits in this respect al on one side. Mr Crawley, though at some periods weak enough himself, could be strong for others; and, more than once, was strong to the great advantage of this man whom he loved. And then, too, pecuniary assistance was forthcoming — in those earlier years not in great amount, for this friend was not then among the rich ones of the earth — but in amount sufficient for that moderate hearth, if only its acceptance could have been managed. But in that matter there were difficulties without end. Of absolute money tenders Mr Crawley would accept none. But a bill here and there was paid, the wife assisting; and shoes came for Kate — till Kate was placed beyond the need of shoes; and cloth for Harry and Frank, found its way surreptitiously in beneath the cover of that wife’s solitary trunk — cloth with which those lean fingers worked garments for the two boys, to be worn — such was God’s will — only by the one.

Such were Mr and Mrs Crawley in their Cornish curacy, and during their severest struggles. To one who thinks that a fair day’s work is worth a fair day’s wages, it seems hard enough that a man should work so hard and receive so little. There will be those who think that the fault was all his own in marrying so young. But still there remains that question, Is not a fair day’s work worth a fair day’s wages? This man did work hard — at a task perhaps the hardest of any that a man may do; and for ten years he earned some seventy pounds a year. Will any one say that he received fair wages for his fair work, let him be married or single? And yet, there are so many who would fain pay their clergy, if they only knew how to apply their money! But that is a long subject, as Mr Robarts had told Miss Dunstable. Such was Mr Crawley in his Cornish curacy.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43