Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXI

Why Puck, the Pony, was Beaten

Mark Robarts returned home the day after the scene at the Albany, considerably relieved in spirit. He now felt that he might accept the stall without discredit to himself as a clergyman in doing so. Indeed, after what Mr Sowerby had said, and after Lord Lufton’s assent to it, it would have been madness, he considered, to decline it. And then, too, Mr Sowerby’s promise about the bills was very comfortable to him. After all, might it not be possible that he might get rid of all these troubles with no other drawback than that of having to pay L 130 for a horse that was well worth the money?

On the day after his return he received proper authentic tidings of his presentation to the prebend. He was, in fact, already prebendary, or would be as soon as the dean and chapter had gone through the form of instituting him in his stall. The income was already his own; and the house also would be given up to him in a week’s time — a part of the arrangement with which he would most willingly have dispensed had it been at all possible to do. His wife congratulated him nicely, with open affection, and apparent satisfaction at the arrangement. The enjoyment of one’s own happiness at such windfalls depends so much on the free and freely expressed enjoyment of others! Lady Lufton’s congratulations had nearly made him throw up the whole thing; but his wife’s smiles re-encouraged him; and Lucy’s warm and eager joy made him feel quite delighted with Mr Sowerby and the Duke of Omnium. And then that splendid animal, Dandy, came home to the parsonage stables, much to the delight of the groom and gardener, and of the assistant stable boy who had been allowed to creep into the establishment, unawares, as it were, since ‘master’ had taken so keenly to hunting. But this satisfaction was not shared in the drawing-room. The horse was seen on his first journey round to the stable gate, and questions were immediately asked. It was a horse, Mark said, ‘which he had bought from Mr Sowerby some little time since, with the object of obliging him. He, Mark, intended to see him again, as soon as he could do so judiciously.’ This, as I have said above was not satisfactory. Neither of the two ladies at Framley parsonage knew much about horses, or of the manner in which one gentleman might think it proper to oblige another by purchasing the superfluities of his stable; but they did both feel that there were horses enough in the parsonage stable without Dandy, and that the purchasing of a hunter with a view of immediately selling him again, was, to say the least of it, an operation hardly congenial with the usual tastes and pursuits of a clergyman. ‘I hope you did not give very much money for him, Mark,’ said Fanny.

‘Not more than I shall get again,’ said Mark; and Fanny saw from the form of his countenance that she had better not pursue the subject any further at that moment.

‘I suppose I shall have to go into residence almost immediately,’ said Mark, recurring to the more agreeable subject of the stall.

‘And shall we all have to go and live at Barchester at once?’ asked Lucy.

‘The house will not be furnished, will it, Mark?’ said his wife. ‘I don’t know how we shall get on.’

‘Don’t frighten yourselves. I shall take lodgings in Barchester.’

‘And we shall not see you all the time,’ said Mrs Robarts with dismay. But the prebendary explained that he would be backwards and forwards at Framley every week, and that in all probability he would only sleep at Barchester on the Saturdays, and Sundays — and, perhaps, not always then.

‘It does not seem very hard work, that of a prebendary,’ said Lucy.

‘But it is very dignified,’ said Fanny. ‘Prebendaries are dignitaries of the Church — are they not, Mark?’

‘Decidedly,’ said he; ‘and their wives also, by special canon law. The worst of it is that both of them are obliged to wear wigs.’

‘Shall you have a hat, Mark, with curly things at the side, and strings through to hold them up?’ asked Lucy.

‘I fear that does not come within my perquisites.’

‘Nor a rosette? Then I shall never believe that you are a dignitary. Do you mean to say that you will wear a hat like a common parson — like Mr Crawley, for instance?’

‘Well — I believe I may give a twist to the leaf; but I am by no means sure till I shall have consulted the dean in chapter.’

And thus at the parsonage they talked over the good things that were coming to them, and endeavoured to forget the new horse, and the hunting boots that had been used so often during the last winter, and Lady Lufton’s altered countenance. It might be that the evils would vanish away, and the good things alone remain to them. It was now the month of April, and the fields were beginning to look green, and the wind had got itself out of the east and was soft and genial, and the early spring flowers were showing their bright colours in the parsonage garden, and all things were sweet and pleasant. This was a period of the year that was usually dear to Mrs Robarts. Her husband was always a better parson when the warm months came than he had been during the winter. The distant county friends whom she did not know and of whom she did not approve, went away when the spring came, leaving their houses innocent and empty. The parish duty was better attended to, and perhaps domestic duties also. At such period he was a pattern parson and a pattern husband, atoning to his own conscience for past shortcomings by present zeal. And then, though she had never acknowledged it to herself, the absence of her dear friend Lady Lufton was perhaps in itself not disagreeable. Mrs Robarts did love Lady Lufton heartily; but it must be acknowledged of her ladyship, that with all her good qualities, she was inclined to be masterful. She liked to rule, and she made people feel that she liked it. Mrs Robarts would never have confessed that she laboured under a sense of thraldom; but perhaps she was mouse enough to enjoy the temporary absence of her kind-hearted cat. When Lady Lufton was away Mrs Robarts herself had more play in the parish. And Mark also was not unhappy, though he did not find it practicable immediately to turn Dandy into money. Indeed, just at this moment, when he was a good deal over at Barchester, going through those deep mysteries before a clergyman can become one of the chapter, Dandy was rather a thorn in his side. Those wretched bills were to come due early in May, and before the end of April Sowerby wrote to him saying that he was doing his utmost to provide for the evil day; but that if the price of Dandy could be remitted to him at once, it would greatly facilitate his object. Nothing could be more different than Mr Sowerby’s tone about money at different times. When he wanted to raise the wind, everything was so important; haste and superhuman efforts and men running to and fro with blank acceptances in their hands, could alone stave off the crack of doom; but at other times, when retaliatory applications were made to him, he could prove with the easiest voice and most jaunty manner that everything was quite serene. Now, at this period, he was in that mood of superhuman efforts, and he called loudly for the hundred and thirty pounds for Dandy. After what had passed, Mark could not bring himself to say that he would pay nothing till the bills were safe; and therefore with the assistance of Mr Forrest of the Bank, he did remit the price of Dandy to his friend Sowerby in London.

And Lucy Robarts — we must now say a word of her. We have seen how, on that occasion, when the world was at her feet, she had sent her noble suitor away, not only dismissed, but so dismissed that he might be taught never again to offer to her the sweet incense of his vows. She had declared to him plainly that she did not love him and could not love him, and had thus thrown away not only riches and honour and high station, but more than that — much worse than that — she had flung away from her the lover to whose love her warm heart clung. That her love did cling to him, she knew even then, and owned more thoroughly as soon as he was gone. So much of her pride had done for her, and that strong resolve that Lady Lufton should not scowl on her and tell her that she had entrapped her son. I know it will be said of Lord Lufton himself that, putting aside his peerage and broad acres, and handsome, sonsy face, he was not worth a girl’s care and love. That will be said because people think that heroes in books should be so much better than heroes got up for the world’s common wear and tear. I may as well confess that of absolute, true heroism there was only a moderate admixture in Lord Lufton’s composition; but what would the world come to if none but absolute true heroes were to be thought worthy of woman’s love? What would the men do? Lucy Robarts in her heart did not give her dismissed lover credit for much more heroism than did truly appertain to him; — did not, perhaps, give him full credit for a certain amount of heroism which did really appertain to him; but, nevertheless, she would have been very glad to take him could she have done so without wounding her pride.

That girls should not marry for money we are all agreed. A lady who can sell herself for a title or an estate, for an income or a set of family diamonds, treats herself as a farmer treats his sheep and oxen — makes hardly more of herself, of her own inner self, in which are comprised a mind and soul, than the poor wretch of her own sex who earns her bread in the lowest stage of degradation. But a title, and an estate, and an income, are matters which will weigh in the balance with all Eve’s daughters — as they do with all Adam’s sons. Pride of place, and the power of living well in front of the world’s eye, are dear to us all; — are, doubtless, intended to be dear. Only in acknowledging so much, let us remember that there are prices at which these good things may be too costly. Therefore, being desirous, too, of telling the truth in this matter, I must confess that Lucy did speculate with some regret on what it would have been to be Lady Lufton. To have been the wife of such a man, the owner of such a heart, the mistress of such a destiny — what more or what better could the world have done for her? And now she had thrown all that aside because she would not endure that Lady Lufton should call her a scheming, artful girl! Actuated by that fear she had repulsed him with a falsehood, though the matter was one on which it was so terribly expedient that she should tell the truth. And yet she was cheerful with her brother and sister-inlaw. It was when she was quite alone, at night in her own room, or in her solitary walks, that a single silent tear would gather in the corner of her eye and gradually moisten her eyelids. ‘She never told her love,’ nor did she allow concealment to ‘feed on her damask cheek’. In all her employments, in her ways about the house, and her accustomed quiet mirth, she was the same as ever. In this she showed the peculiar strength which God had given her. But not the less did she in truth mourn for her lost love and spoiled ambition. ‘We are going to drive over to Hogglestock this morning,’ Fanny said one day at breakfast. ‘I suppose, Mark, you won’t go with me?’

‘Well, no; I think not. The pony carriage is wretched for three.’

‘Oh, as for that, I should have thought the new horse might have been able to carry you as far as that. I heard you say you wanted to see Mr Crawley.’

‘So I do; and the new horse, as you call him, shall carry me there tomorrow. Will you say that I’ll be over about twelve o’clock?’

‘You had better say earlier, as he is always out about the parish.’

‘Very well, say eleven. It is parish business about which I am going, so it need not irk his conscience to stay in for me.’

‘Well, Lucy, we must drive ourselves, that’s all. You shall be charioteer going, and then we’ll change coming back.’ To all which Lucy agreed, and as soon as their work in the school was over they started. Not a word had been spoken between them about Lord Lufton since that evening, now more than a month ago, on which they had been walking together in the garden. Lucy had so demeaned herself on that occasion to make her sister-inlaw quite sure that there had been no love passages up to that time; and nothing had since occurred which had created any suspicion in Mrs Robarts’s mind. She had seen at once that all the close intimacy between them was over, and thought that everything was as it should be.

‘Do you know, I have an idea,’ she said in the pony carriage that day, ‘that Lord Lufton will marry Griselda Grantly.’ Lucy could not refrain from giving a little check at the reins which she was holding, and she felt that the blood rushed quickly to her heart. But she did not betray herself. ‘Perhaps he may,’ she said, and then gave the pony a little touch with her whip.

‘Oh, Lucy, I won’t have Puck beaten. He was going very nicely.’

‘I beg Puck’s pardon. But you see when one is trusted with a whip one feels such a longing to use it.’

‘Oh, but you should keep it still. I feel almost certain that Lady Lufton would like such a match.’

‘I dare say she might. Miss Grantly will have a large fortune, I believe.’

‘It is not that altogether: but she is the sort of young lady that Lady Lufton likes. She is ladylike and very beautiful —’

‘Come, Fanny!’

‘I really think she is; not what I would call lovely, you know, but very beautiful. And then she is quiet and reserved; she does not require excitement, and I am sure is conscientious in the performance of her duties.’

‘Very conscientious, I have no doubt,’ said Lucy, with something like a sneer in her tone. ‘But the question, I suppose, is, whether, Lord Lufton likes her.’

‘I think he does — in a sort of way. He did not talk to her so much as he did to you —’

‘Ah! that was all Lady Lufton’s fault, because she didn’t have him properly labelled.’

‘There does not seem to have been much harm done?’

‘Oh! by God’s mercy, very little. As for me, I shall get over it in three or four years I don’t doubt — that’s if I can get ass’s milk and a change of air.’

‘We’ll take you to Barchester for that. But as I was saying, I really do think that Lord Lufton likes Griselda Grantly.’

‘Then I really do think that he has uncommon bad taste,’ said Lucy, with a reality in her voice differing much from the tone of banter she had hitherto used.

‘What, Lucy!’ said her sister-inlaw, looking at her. ‘Then I fear we shall really want the ass’s milk.’

‘Perhaps, considering my position, I ought to know nothing of Lord Lufton, for you say that it is very dangerous for young ladies to know young gentlemen. But I do know enough of him to understand that he ought not to like such a girl as Griselda Grantly. He ought to know that she is a mere automaton, cold, lifeless, spiritless, and even vapid. There is, I believe, nothing in her mentally, whatever may be her moral excellences. To me she is more absolutely like a statue than any other human being I ever saw. To sit still and be admired is all that she desires; and if she cannot get that, to sit still and not be admired would almost suffice for her. I do not worship Lady Lufton as you do; but I think quite well enough of her to wonder that she could choose such a girl as that for her son’s wife. That she does wish it I do not doubt. But I shall indeed be surprised if he wishes it also.’ And then as she finished her speech, Lucy again flogged the pony. This she did in vexation, because she felt that the tell-tale blood had suffused her face.

‘Why, Lucy, if he were your brother you could not be more eager about it.’

‘No, I could not. He is the only man friend with whom I was ever intimate, and I cannot bear to think that he should throw himself away. It’s horridly improper to care about such a thing, I have no doubt.’

‘I think we might acknowledge that if he and his mother are both satisfied, we may be satisfied also.’

‘I shall not be satisfied. It’s no use your looking at me, Fanny. You will make me talk of it, and I won’t tell a lie on the subject. I do like Lord Lufton very much; and I do dislike Griselda Grantly almost as much. Therefore I shall not be satisfied if they become man and wife. However, I do not suppose that either of them will ask my consent; nor is it probable that Lady Lufton will do so.’ And then they went on for perhaps a quarter of a mile without speaking.

‘Poor Puck!’ Lucy at last said. ‘He shan’t be whipped any more, shall he, because Miss Grantly looks like a statue? And, Fanny, don’t tell Mark to put me into a lunatic asylum. I also know a hawk from a heron, and that’s why I don’t like to see such a very unfitting marriage.’ There was then nothing more said on the subject, and in two minutes they arrived at the house of the Hogglestock clergyman. Mrs Crawley had brought two of the children with her when she came from the Cornish curacy to Hogglestock, and two other babies had been added to her cares since then. One of these was now ill with croup, and it was with the object of offering to the mother some comfort and solace, that the present visit was made. The two ladies got down from their carriage, having obtained the services of a boy to hold Puck, and soon found themselves in Mrs Crawley’s single sitting-room. She was sitting there with her foot on the board of a child’s cradle, rocking it, while an infant about three months old was lying in her lap. For the elder one, who was the sufferer, had in her illness usurped the baby’s place. Two other children, considerably older, were also in the room. The eldest was a girl perhaps nine years of age, and the other a boy three years her junior. These were standing at their father’s elbow, who was studiously endeavouring to initiate them in the early mysteries of grammar. To tell the truth, Mrs Robarts would much preferred that Mr Crawley had not been there, for she had with her and about her certain contraband articles, presents for the children, as they were to be called, but in truth relief for that poor, much-tasked mother, which they knew it would be impossible to introduce in Mr Crawley’s presence. She, as we have said, was not quite so gaunt, not altogether so haggard as in the latter of those dreadful Cornish days. Lady Lufton and Mrs Arabin between them, and the scanty comfort of their improved, though still wretched, income, had done something towards bringing her back to the world in which she had lived in the soft days of her childhood. But even the liberal stipend of a hundred and thirty pounds a year — liberal according to the scale by which the incomes of clergymen in our new districts are now apportioned — would not admit of a gentleman with his wife and four children living with the ordinary comforts of an artisan’s family. As regards the mere eating and drinking, the amount of butcher’s meat and tea and butter, they of course were used in quantities which any artisan would have regarded as compatible only with demi-starvation. Better clothing for her children was necessary, and better clothing for him. As for her own raiment, the wives of artisans would have been content to put up with Mrs Crawley’s best gown. The stuff of which it was made had been paid for by her mother when she with much difficulty bestowed upon her daughter her modest wedding trousseau.

Lucy had never seen Mrs Crawley. These visits to Hogglestock were not frequent, and had generally been made by Lady Lufton and Mrs Robarts together. It was known that they were distasteful to Mr Crawley, who felt a savage satisfaction in being left to himself. It may almost be said of him that he felt angry with those who relieved him, and he had certainly never as yet forgiven the Dean of Barchester for paying his debts. The dean had also given him his present living; and consequently his old friend was not now so dear to him as when in old days he could come down to that farm-house, almost as penniless as the curate himself. Then they would walk together for hours along the rock-bound shore, listening to the waves, discussing deep polemical mysteries, sometimes with hot fury, then again with tender, loving charity, but always with a mutual acknowledgement of each other’s truth. Now they lived comparatively near together, but no opportunities arose for such discussions. At any rate once a quarter Mr Crawley was pressed by his old friend to visit him at the deanery, and Dr Arabin had promised that no one else should be in the house if Mr Crawley objected to society. But this was not what he wanted. The finery and grandeur of the deanery, the comfort of that warm, snug, library, would silence him at once. Why did not Dr Arabin come out there to Hogglestock, and tramp with him through the dirty lanes as they used to tramp? Then he could have enjoyed himself; then he could have talked; then old days would have come back to them. But now! —‘Arabin always rides on a sleek, fine horse, nowadays,’ he once said to his wife with a sneer. His poverty had been so terrible to himself that it was not in his heart to love a rich friend.

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