Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXIII

The Triumph of the Giants

And now about the end of April news arrived almost simultaneously in all quarters of the habitable globe that was terrible in its import to one of the chief persons of our history; — some may think to the chief person of it. All high parliamentary people will doubtless so think, and the wives and daughters of such. The Titans warring against the gods had been for awhile successful. Thyphoeus and Mimas, Porphyrion and Rhoecus, the giant brood of old, steeped in ignorance and wedded to corruption, had scaled the heights of Olympus, assisted by that audacious flinger of deadly ponderous missiles, who stands ever ready with his terrific sling — Supplehouse, the Enceladus of the press. And in this universal cataclysm of the starry councils, what could a poor Diana do, Diana of the Petty Bag, but abandon her pride of place to some rude Orion? In other words, the ministry had been compelled to resign, and with them Mr Harold Smith. ‘And so poor Harold is out, before he has well tasted the sweets of office,’ said Sowerby, writing to his friend the parson; ‘and as far as I know, the only piece of Church patronage which has fallen in the way of the ministry since he joined it, has made its way down to Framley — to my great joy and contentment.’ But it hardly tended to Mark’s joy and contentment on the same subject that he should be so often reminded of the benefit conferred upon him.

Terrible was this break-down of the ministry, and especially to Harold Smith, who to the last had had confidence in that theory of new blood. He could hardly believe that a large majority of the House should vote against a Government which he had only just joined. ‘If we are to go in this way,’ he said to his young friend Green Walker, ‘the Queen’s Government cannot be carried on.’ That alleged difficulty as to carrying on the Queen’s Government has been frequently mooted in late years since a certain great man first introduced the idea. Nevertheless, the Queen’s Government is carried on, and the propensity and aptitude of men for this work seems to be not at all on the decrease. If we have but few young statesmen, it is because the old stagers are so fond of the rattle of their harness.

‘I really do not see how the Queen’s Government is to be carried on,’ said Harold Smith to Green Walker, standing in a corner of one of the lobbies of the House of Commons on the first of those days of awful interest, in which the Queen was sending for one crack statesman after another; and some anxious men were beginning to doubt whether or no we should, in truth, be able to obtain the blessing of another Cabinet. The gods had all vanished from their places. Would the giants be good enough to do anything for us or no? There were men who seemed to think that the giants would refuse to do anything for us. ‘The House will now be adjourned over till Monday, and I would not be in Her Majesty’s shoes for something,’ said Mr Harold Smith.

‘By Jove! no,’ said Green Walker, who in these days was a staunch Harold Smithian, having felt a pride in joining himself on as a substantial support of a Cabinet minister. Had he contented himself with being merely a Brockite, he would have counted as nobody. ‘By Jove! no,’ and Green Walker opened his eyes and shook his head as he thought of the perilous condition in which Her Majesty must be placed. ‘I happen to know that Lord —— won’t join them unless he has the Foreign Office,’ and he mentioned some hundred-handed Gyas supposed to be of the utmost importance to the counsels of the Titans.

‘And that, of course, is impossible. I don’t see what on earth they are to do. There’s Sidonia; they do say that he’s making some difficulty now.’ Now Sidonia was another giant, supposed to be very powerful.

‘We all know that the Queen won’t see him,’ said Green Walker, who, being a member of parliament for the Crewe Junction, and nephew to Lord Hartletop, of course had perfectly correct means of ascertaining what the Queen would do, and what she would not.

‘The fact is,’ said Harold Smith, recurring again to his own situation as an ejected god, ‘that the House does not in the least understand what it is about; — doesn’t know what it wants. The question I would like to ask them is this: do they intend that the Queen shall have a Government, or do they not? Are they prepared to support such men as Sidonia and Lord De Terrier? If so, I am their obedient humble servant; but I shall be very much surprised, that’s all.’ Lord De Terrier was at this time recognized by all men as the leader of the giants.

‘And so shall I, deucedly surprised. They can’t do it, you know. There are the Manchester men. I ought to know something about them down in my country; and I say they can’t support Lord De Terrier. It wouldn’t be natural.’

‘Natural! Human nature has come to an end, I think,’ said Harold Smith, who could hardly understand that the world should conspire to throw over a Government which he had joined, and that, too, before the world had waited to see how much he would do for it; ‘the fact is, Walker, we have no longer among us any strong feeling of party.’

‘No, not a d-,’ said Green Walker, who was very energetic in his present political aspirations.

‘And till we can recover that, we shall never be able to have a Government firm-seated and sure-handed. Nobody can count on men from one week to another. The very members who in one month place a minister in power, are the very first to vote against him in the next.’

‘We must put a stop to that sort of thing, otherwise we shall never do any good.’

‘I don’t mean to deny that Brock was wrong with reference to Lord Brittleback. I think he was wrong, and I said so all through. But, heavens on earth —!’ and instead of completing his speech, Harold Smith turned away his head, and struck his hands together in token of his astonishment at the fatuity of the age. What he probably meant to express was this: that if such a good deed as that late appointment made at the Petty Bag Office were not held sufficient to atone for that other evil deed to which he had alluded, there would be an end of justice in sublunary matters. Was no offence to be forgiven, even when so great virtue had been displayed? ‘I attribute it all to Supplehouse,’ said Green Walker, trying to console his friend.

‘Yes,’ said Harold Smith, now verging on the bounds of parliamentary eloquence, although he still spoke with bated breath, and to one solitary hearer. ‘Yes; we are becoming the slaves of a mercenary and irresponsible press — of one single newspaper. There is a man endowed with no great talent, enjoying no public confidence, untrusted as a politician, and unheard of even as a writer by the world at large, and yet, because he is on the staff of the Jupiter, he is able to overturn a Government and throw the whole country into dismay. It is astonishing to me that a man like Lord Brock should allow himself to be so timid.’ And nevertheless it was not yet a month since Harold Smith had been counselling with Supplehouse how a series of strong articles in the Jupiter, together with the expected support of the Manchester men, might probably be effective in hurling the minister from his seat. But at that time the minister had not revigorated himself with young blood. ‘How the Queen’s Government is to be carried on, that is the question now,’ Harold Smith repeated. A difficulty which had not caused him much dismay at that period, about a month since, to which we have alluded. At this moment Sowerby and Supplehouse together joined them, having come out of the House, in which some unimportant business had been completed, after the minister’s notice of adjournment.

‘Well, Harold,’ said Sowerby, ‘what do you say to your governor’s statement?’

‘I have nothing to say to it,’ said Harold Smith, looking up very solemnly from under the penthouse of his hat, and, perhaps rather savagely. Sowerby had supported the Government in the late crisis; but why was he now seen herding with such a one as Supplehouse?

‘He did it pretty well, I think,’ said Sowerby.

‘Very well, indeed,’ said Supplehouse; ‘as he always does those sort of things. No man makes so good an explanation of circumstances, or comes out with so telling a personal statement. He ought to keep himself in reserve for those sort of things.’

‘And who in the meantime is to carry on the Queen’s Government?’ said Harold Smith, looking very stern.

‘That should be left to men of lesser mark,’ said he of the Jupiter. ‘The points as to which one really listens to a minister, the subjects about which men really care, are always personal. How many of us are truly interested as to the best mode of governing India? But in a question touching the character of a prime minister we all muster together like bees round a sounding cymbal.’

‘That arises from envy, malice, and all uncharitableness,’ said Harold Smith.

‘Yes; and from picking and stealing, evil speaking, lying, and slandering,’ said Mr Sowerby.

‘We are so prone to desire and covet other men’s places,’ said Supplehouse.

‘Some men are so,’ said Sowerby; ‘but it is the evil speaking, lying, and slandering, which does the mischief. Is it not, Harold?’

‘And in the meantime, how is the Queen’s Government to be carried on?’ said Mr Green Walker. On the following morning it was known that Lord De Terrier was with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, and at about twelve a list of the new ministry was published, which must have been in the highest degree satisfactory to the whole brood of giants. Every son of Tellus was included in it, as were also very many of the daughters. But then, late in the afternoon, Lord Brock was again summoned to the palace, and it was thought in the West End among the clubs that the gods had again a chance. ‘If only,’ said the Purist, an evening paper which was supposed to be very much in the interest of Mr Harold Smith, ‘if only Lord Brock can have the wisdom to place the right men in the right places. It was only the other day that he introduced Mr Smith into his Government. That this was a step in the right direction every one acknowledged, though unfortunately it was made too late to prevent the disturbance which has since occurred. It now appears probable that his lordship will again have an opportunity of selecting a list of statesmen with a view of carrying on the Queen’s Government; and it is to be hoped that such men as Mr Smith may be placed in situations in which their talents, industry, and acknowledged official aptitudes, may be of permanent service to the country.’ Supplehouse, when he read this at the club with Mr Sowerby at his elbow, declared that the style was too well marked to leave any doubt as to the author; but we ourselves are not inclined to think that Mr Harold Smith wrote the article himself, although it may be probable that he saw it in type. But the Jupiter the next morning settled the whole question, and made it known to the world that, in spite of all the sendings and resendings, Lord Brock and the gods were permanently out, and Lord De Terrier and the giants permanently in. That fractious giant who would only go to the Foreign Office, had, in fact, gone to some sphere of much less important duty, and Sidonia, in spite of the whispered dislike of an illustrious personage, opened the campaign with all the full appanages of a giant of the highest standing. ‘We hope,’ said the Jupiter, ‘that Lord Brock may not yet be too old to take a lesson. If so, the present decision of the House of Commons, and we may say of the country also, may teach him not to put his trust in such princes as Lord Brittleback, or such broken reeds as Mr Harold Smith.’ Now this parting blow we always thought to be exceedingly unkind, and altogether unnecessary, on the part of Mr Supplehouse.

‘My dear,’ said Mrs Harold Smith, when she first met Miss Dunstable after the catastrophe was known, ‘how am I possibly to endure this degradation?’ And she put her deeply laced handkerchief to her eyes.

‘Christian resignation,’ suggested Miss Dunstable.

‘Fiddlestick!’ said Mrs Harold Smith. ‘You millionaires always talk of Christian resignation, because you never are called on to resign anything. If I had any Christian resignation, I shouldn’t have cared for such pomps and vanities. Think of it, my dear; a Cabinet minister’s wife for only three weeks!’

‘How does poor Mr Smith endure it?’

‘What? Harold? He only lives on the hope of vengeance. When he has put an end to Mr Supplehouse he will be content to die.’ And then there were further explanations in both Houses of Parliament, which were altogether satisfactory. The high-bred, courteous giants assured the gods that they had piled Pelion on Ossa and thus climbed up into power, very much in opposition to their good-wills; for they, the giants themselves, preferred the sweets of dignified retirement. But the voice of the people had been too strong for them; the effort had been made, not by themselves, but by others, who were determined that the giants should be at the head of affairs. Indeed, the spirit of the times was so clearly in favour of giants that there had been no alternative. So said Briareus to the Lords and Orion to the Commons. And then the gods were absolutely happy in ceding their places; and so far were they from any uncelestial envy or malice which might not be divine, that they promised to give the giants all the assistance in their power in carrying on the work of the government; upon which the giants declared how deeply indebted they would be for such valuable counsel and friendly assistance. All this was delightful in the extreme; but not the less did ordinary men seem to expect that the usual battle would go on in the old customary way. It is easy to love one’s enemy when one is making fine speeches; but so difficult to do so in the actual everyday work of life. But there was and always has been this peculiar good point about the giants, that they are never too proud to follow in the footsteps of the gods. If the gods, deliberating painfully together, have elaborated any skilful project, the giants are always willing to adopt it as their own, not treating the bantling as a foster child, but praising it and pushing it so that men should regard it as the undoubted offspring of their own brains. Now just at this time there had been a plan much thought of for increasing the number of bishops. Good active bishops were very desirable, and there was a strong feeling among certain excellent Churchmen that there could hardly be too many of them. Lord Brock had his measures cut and dry. There should be a Bishop of Westminster to share the Herculean toils of the metropolitan prelate, and another up in the North to Christianize the mining interests and wash white the blackamoors of Newcastle: Bishop of Beverley he should be called. But, in opposition to this, the giants, it was known, had intended to put forth the whole measure of their brute force. More curates, they said, were wanting, and district incumbents; not more bishops rolling in carriages. That bishops should roll in carriages was very good; but of such blessings the English world for the present had enough. And therefore Lord Brock and the gods had had much fear as to their little project. But now, immediately on the accession of the giants, it was known that the bishop bill was to be gone on with immediately. Some small changes would be effected so that the bill should be gigantic rather than divine; but the result would be altogether the same. It must, however, be admitted that bishops appointed by ourselves may be very good things, whereas those appointed by our adversaries will be anything but good. And, no doubt, this feeling went a long way with the giants. Be that as it may, the new bishop bill was to be their first work of government, and it was to be brought forward and carried, and the new prelates selected and put into their chairs all at once — before the grouse should begin to crow and put an end to the doings of gods as well as giants. Among other minor effects arising from this decision was the following, that Archdeacon and Mrs Grantly returned to London, and again took the lodgings in which they had been staying. On various occasions also during the first week of this second sojourn, Dr Grantly might be seen entering the official chambers of the First Lord of the Treasury. Much counsel was necessary among High-Churchmen of great repute before any fixed resolution could wisely be made in such a matter as this; and few Churchmen stood in higher repute than the Archdeacon of Barchester. And then it began to be rumoured in the world that the minister had disposed at any rate of the see of Westminster. This present time was a very nervous one for Mrs Grantly. What might be the aspirations of the archdeacon himself, we will not stop to inquire. It may be that time and experience had taught him the futility of earthly honours, and made him content with the comfortable opulence of his Barsetshire rectory. But there is no theory of Church discipline which makes it necessary that a clergyman’s wife should have an objection to a bishopric. The archdeacon probably was only anxious to give a disinterested aid to the minister, but Mrs Grantly did long to sit in high places, and be at any rate equal to Mrs Proudie. It was for her children, she said to herself, that she was thus anxious — that they should have a good position before the world and the means of making the best of themselves. ‘One is able to do nothing, you know, shut up there, down at Plumstead,’ she had remarked to Lady Lufton on the occasion of her first visit to London, and yet the time was not long past when she had thought that rectory house at Plumstead to be by no means insufficient or contemptible. And then there came the question whether or no Griselda should go back to her mother; but this idea was very strongly opposed by Lady Lufton, and ultimately with success. ‘I really think the dear girl is very happy with me,’ said Lady Lufton; ‘and if ever she is to belong to me more closely, it will be so well that we should know and love one another.’

To tell the truth, Lady Lufton had been trying hard to know and love Griselda, but hitherto she had scarcely succeeded to the full extent of her wishes. That she loved Griselda was certain — with that sort of love which springs from a person’s volition and not from the judgement. She had said all along to herself and others that she did love Griselda Grantly. She had admired the young lady’s face, liked her manner, approved of her fortune and family, and had selected her for a daughter-inlaw in a somewhat impetuous manner. Therefore she loved her. But it was by no means clear to Lady Lufton that she did as yet know her young friend. The match was a plan of her own, and therefore she stuck to it as warmly as ever, but she began to have some misgivings whether or no the dear girl would be to her herself all that she had dreamed of in a daughter-inlaw. ‘But, dear Lady Lufton,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘is it not possible that we may put her affections to too severe a test? What, if she should learn to regard him, and then —’

‘Ah! if she did, I should have no fear of the result. If she showed anything like love for Ludovic, he would be at her feet in a moment. He is impulsive, but she is not.’

‘Exactly, Lady Lufton. It is his privilege to be impulsive and to sue for her affection, and hers to have her love sought for without making any demonstration. It is perhaps the fault of young ladies of the present day that they are too impulsive. They assume privileges which are not their own, and thus lose those which are.’

‘Quite true! I quite agree with you. It is probably that very feeling that has made me think so highly of Griselda. But then —’ But then a young lady, though she need not jump down a gentleman’s throat, or throw herself into his face, may give some signs that she is made of flesh and blood; especially when her papa and mamma all belonging to her are so anxious to make that path of her love run smooth. That was what was passing through Lady Lufton’s mind; but she did not say it all; she merely looked it.

‘I don’t think she will ever allow herself to indulge in an unauthorized passion,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘I am sure she will not,’ said Lady Lufton, with ready agreement, fearing perhaps in her heart that Griselda would never indulge in any passion authorized or unauthorized.

‘I don’t know whether Lord Lufton sees much of her now,’ said Mrs Grantly, thinking perhaps of that promise of Lady Lufton’s with reference to his lordship’s spare time.

‘Just lately, during these changes, you know, everybody has been so much engaged. Ludovic has been constantly at the House, and then men find it so necessary to be at their clubs just now.’

‘Yes, yes, of course,’ said Mrs Grantly, who was not at all disposed to think little of the importance of the present crisis, or to wonder that men should congregate together when such deeds were to be done as those which now occupied the breasts of the Queen’s advisers. At last, however, the two mothers perfectly understood each other. Griselda was still to remain with Lady Lufton; and was to accept her ladyship’s son, if he could only be induced to exercise his privilege of asking her; but in the meantime, as this seemed to be doubtful, Griselda was not to be debarred from her privilege of making what use she could of any other string which she might have to her bow.

‘But, mamma,’ said Griselda, in a moment of unwatched intercourse between the mother and daughter, ‘is it really true that they are going to make papa a bishop?’

‘We can tell nothing as yet, my dear. People in the world are talking about it. Your papa has been a good deal with Lord De Terrier.’

‘And isn’t he Prime Minister?’

‘Oh, yes; I am happy to say that he is.’

‘I thought the Prime Minister could make any one a bishop that he chooses — any clergyman, that is.’

‘But there is no see vacant,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘Then there isn’t any chance,’ said Griselda, looking very glum.

‘They are going to have an Act of Parliament for making two more bishops. That’s what they are talking about at least. And if they do —’

‘Papa will be made Bishop of Westminster — won’t he? And we shall live in London.’

‘But you must not talk about it, my dear.’

‘No, I won’t. But, mamma, a Bishop of Westminster will be higher than a Bishop of Barchester, won’t he? I shall so like to be able to snub the Miss Proudies.’ It will therefore be seen that there were matters on which even Griselda Grantly could be animated. Like the rest of her family she was devoted to the Church. Late on that afternoon the archdeacon returned home to dine in Mount Street, having spent the whole of the day between the Treasury chambers, a meeting of Convocation, and his club. And when he did get home it was soon manifest to his wife that he was not laden with good news. ‘It is almost incredible,’ he said, standing with his back to the drawing-room fire.

‘What is incredible?’ said his wife, sharing her husband’s anxiety to the full.

‘If I had not learned it as a fact, I would not have believed it, even of Lord Brock,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Learned what?’ said the anxious wife.

‘After all, they are going to oppose the bill.’

‘Impossible!’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘But they are.’

‘The bill for the two new bishops, archdeacon? Oppose their own bill?’

‘Yes — oppose their own bill. It is almost incredible; but so it is. Some changes have been forced upon us; little things which they had forgotten — quite minor matters; and they now say that they will be obliged to divide against us on these twopenny-halfpenny, hair-splitting points. It is Lord Brock’s own doing too, after all that he has said about abstaining from factious opposition to the Government.’

‘I believe there is nothing too bad or too false for that man,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘After all they said, too, when they were in power themselves, as to the present Government opposing the cause of religion! They declare now that Lord De Terrier cannot be very anxious about it, as he had so many good reasons against it a few weeks ago. Is it not dreadful that there should be such double-dealing in men in such positions?’

‘It is sickening,’ said Mrs Grantly. And then there was a pause between them as the thought of the injury that was done to them.

‘But, archdeacon —’

‘Well?’

‘Could you not give up those small points and shame them into compliance?’

‘Nothing would shame them.’

‘But would it not be well to try?’ The game was so good a one, and the stake so important, that Mrs Grantly felt that it would be worth playing for to the last.

‘It is no good.’

‘But I certainly would suggest it to Lord De Terrier. I am sure the country would go along with him; at any rate the Church would.’

‘It is impossible,’ said the archdeacon. ‘To tell the truth, it did occur to me. But some of them down there seemed to think that it would not do.’ Mrs Grantly sat awhile on the sofa, still meditating in her mind whether there might not yet be some escape from so terrible a downfall.

‘But, archdeacon —’

‘I’ll go upstairs and dress,’ said he, in despondency.

‘But, archdeacon, surely the present ministry may have a majority on such a subject as that; I thought they were sure of a majority now.’

‘No; not sure.’

‘But at any rate the chances are in their favour? I do hope they’ll do their duty, and exert themselves to keep their members together.’ And then the archdeacon told out the whole truth.

‘Lord De Terrier says that under the present circumstances he will not bring the matter forward this session at all. So we had better go back to Plumstead.’ Mrs Grantly then felt that there was nothing further to be said, and it will be proper that the historian should drop a veil over their sufferings.

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