Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXXVI

Kidnapping at Hogglestock

The great cry, however, did not take long, and Lucy was soon in the pony-carriage again. On this occasion her brother volunteered to drive her, and it was not understood that he was to bring back with him all the Crawley children. The whole thing had been arranged; the groom and his wife were to be taken into the house, and the big bedroom across the yard, usually occupied by them, was to be converted into a quarantine hospital until such time as it might be safe to pull down the yellow flag. They were about half-way on their road to Hogglestock, when they were overtaken by a man on horseback, whom, when he came up beside them, Mr Robarts recognized as Dr Arabin, Dean of Barchester, and head of the chapter to which he himself belonged. It immediately appeared that the dean was also going to Hogglestock, having heard of the misfortune that had befallen his friends there; he had, he said, started as soon the news reached him, in order that he might ascertain how best he might render assistance. To effect this he had undertaken a ride of nearly forty miles, and explained that he did not expect to reach home again much before midnight. ‘You pass by Framley?’ asked Robarts.

‘Yes, I do,’ said the dean.

‘Then of course you will dine with us as you go home; you and your horse also, which will be quite as important.’ This having been duly settled, and the proper ceremony of introduction having taken place between the dean and Lucy, they proceeded to discuss the character of Mr Crawley.

‘I have known him all my life,’ said the dean, ‘having been at school and college with him, and for years since that I was on terms of the closest intimacy with him; but in spite of that, I do not know how to help him in his need. A prouder-hearted man I never met, or one less willing to share his sorrows with his friends.’

‘I have often heard him speak of you,’ said Mark.

‘One of the bitterest feelings I have is that a man so dear to me should live so near to me, and that I should see so little of him. But what can I do? He will not come to my house; and when I go to his he is angry with me because I wear a shovel hat and ride on horseback.’

‘I should leave my hat and my horse at the borders of the last parish,’ said Lucy, timidly.

‘Well; yes, certainly; one ought not to give offence even in such matters as that; but my coat and waistcoat would then be equally objectionable. I have changed — in outward matters I mean — and he has not. That irritates him, and unless I could be what I was in the old days, he will not look at me with the same eyes;’ and then he rode on, in order, as he said, that the first pang of the interview might be over before Robarts and his sister came upon the scene. Mr Crawley was standing before his door, leaning over the little wooden railing, when the dean trotted up on his horse. He had come out after hours of close watching to get a few mouthfuls of the sweet summer air, and as he stood there he held the youngest of his children in his arms. The poor little baby sat there, quiet indeed, but hardly happy. This father, though he loved his offspring with an affection as intense as that which human nature can supply, was not gifted with the knack of making children fond of him; for it is hardly more than a knack, that aptitude which some men have of gaining the good graces of the young. Such men are not always the best fathers or the safest guardians; but they carry about with them a certain duc ad me which children recognize, and which in three minutes upsets all the barriers between five and five-and-forty. But Mr Crawley was a stern man, thinking ever of the souls and minds of his bairns — as a father should do; and thinking also that every season was fitted for operating on these souls and minds — as, perhaps, he should not have done as a father or as a teacher. And consequently his children avoided him when the choice was given them, thereby adding fresh wounds to his torn heart, but by no means quenching any of the great love with which he regarded them.

He was standing there thus with the placid little baby in his arms — a baby placid enough, but one that would not kiss him eagerly, and stroke his face with her soft little hands, as he would have had her do — when he saw the dean coming towards him. He was sharp-sighted as a lynx out in the open air, though now obliged to pore over his well-fingered books with spectacles on his nose; and thus he knew his friend from a long distance, and had time to meditate on the mode of his greeting. He too doubtless had come, if not with jelly and chicken, then with money and advice; — with money and advice such as a thriving dean might offer to a poor brother clergyman; and Mr Crawley, though no husband could be more anxious for a wife’s safety than he was, immediately put his back up and began to bethink himself how these tenders might be rejected.

‘How is she?’ were the first words which the dean spoke as he pulled up his horse close to the little gate, and put out his hand to take that of his friend.

‘How are you, Arabin?’ said he. ‘It is very kind of you to come so far, seeing how much there is to keep you at Barchester. I cannot say that she is any better, but I do not know that she is worse. Sometimes I fancy she is delirious, though I hardly know. At any rate her mind wanders, and then after that she sleeps.’

‘But is the fever less?’

‘Sometimes less, and sometimes more, I imagine.’

‘And the children?’

‘Poor things; they are well as yet.’

‘They must be taken from this, Crawley, as a matter of course.’

Mr Crawley fancied that there was a tone of authority in the dean’s advice, and immediately put himself into opposition.

‘I do not know how that may be; I have not yet made up my mind.’

‘But, my dear Crawley —’

‘Providence does not admit of such removals in all cases,’ said he. ‘Among the poorer classes the children must endure such perils.’

‘In many cases it is so,’ said the dean, by no means inclined to make an argument of it at the present moment; ‘but in this case they need not. You must allow me to make arrangements for sending for them, as of course your time is occupied here.’ Miss Robarts, though she had mentioned her intention of staying with Mrs Crawley, had said nothing of the Framley plan with reference to the children.

‘What you mean is that you intend to take the burden off my shoulders — in fact, pay for them. I cannot allow that, Arabin. They must take the lot of their father and their mother, as it is proper that they should do.’ Again the dean had no inclination for arguing, and thought it might be well to let the question of the children drop for a little while.

‘And there is no nurse with her?’ said he.

‘No, no; I am seeing to her myself at the present moment. A woman will be here just now.’

‘What woman?’

‘Well; her name is Mrs Stubbs; she lives in the parish. She will put her younger children to bed, and — and — but it’s no use troubling you with all that. There was a young lady talked of coming, but no doubt she has found it too inconvenient. It will be better as it is.’

‘You mean Miss Robarts; she will be here directly; I passed her as I came here;’ and as Dr Arabin was yet speaking, the noise of the carriage wheels was heard upon the road.

‘I will go in now;’ said Mr Crawley, ‘and see if she still sleeps;’ and then he entered the house, leaving the dean at the door still seated upon his horse. ‘He will be afraid of the infection, and I will not ask him to come in,’ said Mr Crawley to himself.

‘I shall seem to be prying into his poverty, if I enter unasked,’ said the dean to himself. And so he remained there till Puck, now acquainted with the locality, stopped at the door.

‘Have you not been in?’ said Robarts.

‘No; Crawley has been at the door talking to me; he will be here directly, I suppose;’ and then Mark Robarts also prepared himself to wait till the master of the house should reappear. But Lucy had not such punctilious misgivings; she did not much care now whether she offended Mr Crawley or no. Her idea was to place herself by the sick woman’s bedside, and to send the four children away; — with their father’s consent if it might be; but certainly without it if that consent were withheld. So she got down from the carriage, and taking certain packages in her hand made her way direct into the house.

‘There’s a big bundle under the seat, Mark,’ she said; ‘I’ll come and fetch it directly, if you’ll drag it out.’ For some five minutes the two dignitaries of the Church remained at the door, one on his cob, and the other in his low carriage, saying a few words to each other and waiting till some one should again appear from the house. ‘It is all arranged, indeed it is,’ were the first words which reached their ears, and these came from Lucy. ‘There will be no trouble at all, and no expense, and they shall all come back as soon as Mrs Crawley is able to get out of bed.’

‘But, Miss Robarts, I can assure —’ That was Mr Crawley’s voice, heard from him as he followed Miss Robarts to the door; but one of the elder children had then called him back into the sick room, and Lucy was left to do her worst.

‘Are you going to take the children back with you?’ said the dean.

‘Yes; Mrs Robarts has prepared for them.’

‘You can take greater liberties with my friend here than I can.’

‘It is all my sister’s doing,’ said Robarts. ‘Woman are always bolder in such matters than men.’ And then Lucy reappeared, bringing Bobby with her, and one of the younger children.

‘Do not mind what he says,’ said she, ‘but drive away when you have got them all. Tell Fanny I have put into the basket what things I could find, but they are very few. She must borrow things for Grace from Mrs Granger’s little girl’—(Mrs Granger was the wife of a Framley farmer); —‘and, Mark, turn Puck’s head round so that you may be off in a moment. I’ll have Grace and the other one here directly.’ And then, leaving her brother to pack Bobby and his little sister on the back part of the vehicle, she returned to her business in the house. She had just looked in at Mrs Crawley’s bed, and finding her awake, had smiled on her, and deposited her bundle in token of her intended stay, and then, without speaking a word, had gone on her errand about the children. She had called to Grace to show her where she might find such things as were to be taken to Framley, and having explained to the bairns, as well as she might, the destiny which immediately awaited them, prepared them for their departure without saying a word to Mr Crawley on the subject. Bobby and the elder of the two infants were stowed away safely in the back part of the carriage, where they allowed themselves to be placed without saying a word. They opened their eyes and stared at the dean, who sat by on his horse, and assented to such orders as Mr Robarts gave them — no doubt with much surprise, but nevertheless in absolute silence.

‘Now, Grace, be quick, there’s a dear,’ said Lucy, returning with the infant in her arms. ‘And, Grace, mind you are very careful about the baby; and bring the basket; I’ll give it you when you are in.’ Grace and the other child were packed on to the other seat, and a basket with the children’s clothes put in on top of them. ‘That’ll do, Mark; good-bye; tell Fanny to be sure and send the day after tomorrow, and not to forget —’ and then she whispered into her brother’s ear an injunction about certain dairy comforts which might not be spoken of in the hearing of Mr Crawley. ‘Good-bye, dears; mind you are good children; you shall hear about mamma the day after tomorrow,’ said Lucy; and Puck, admonished by a sound from his master’s voice, began to move just as Mr Crawley reappeared at the house door.

‘Oh, oh, stop!’ he said. ‘Miss Robarts, you really had better not —’

‘Go on, Mark,’ said Lucy, in a whisper, which, whether audible or not to Mr Crawley, was heard very plainly by the dean. And Mark, who had slightly arrested Puck by the reins on the appearance of Mr Crawley, now touched the impatient little beast with his whip; and the vehicle with its freight darted off rapidly, Puck shaking his head and going away with a tremendously quick short trot, which soon separated Mr Crawley from his family.

‘Miss Robarts,’ he began, ‘this step has been taken altogether without —’

‘Yes,’ said she, interrupting him. ‘My brother was obliged to return at once. The children, you know, will remain all together at the parsonage; and that, I think, is what Mrs Crawley will best like. In a day or two they will be under Mrs Robarts’s own charge.’

‘But, my dear Miss Robarts, I had no intention whatever of putting the burden of my family on the shoulders of another person. They must return to their own home immediately — that is, as soon as they can be brought back.’

‘I really think Miss Robarts has managed very well,’ said the dean. ‘Mrs Crawley must be so much more comfortable to think that they are out of danger.’

‘And they will be quite comfortable at the parsonage.’ said Lucy.

‘I do not at all doubt that,’ said Mr Crawley; ‘but too much of such comforts will unfit them for their home; and — and I could have wished that I had been consulted more at leisure before the proceedings had been taken.’

‘It was arranged, Mr Crawley, when I was here before, that the children had better go away,’ pleaded Lucy.

‘I do not remember agreeing to such a measure, Miss Robarts; however — I suppose they cannot be had back to-night?’

‘No, not to-night,’ said Lucy. ‘And now I will go to your wife.’ And then she returned to the house, leaving the two gentlemen at the door. At this moment a labourer’s boy came sauntering by, and the dean, obtaining possession of his services for the custody of his horse, was able to dismount and put himself on a more equal footing for conversation with his friend.

‘Crawley,’ said he, putting his hand affectionately on his friend’s shoulder, as they both stood leaning on the little rail before the door, ‘that is a good girl — a very good girl.’

‘Yes,’ he said slowly; ‘she means well.’

‘Nay, but she does well. She does excellently. What can be better than her conduct now? While I was meditating how I might possible assist your wife in this strait —’

‘I want no assistance; none, at least, from man,’ said Crawley, bitterly.

‘Oh, my friend, think of what you are saying! Think of the wickedness which must accompany such a state of mind! Have you ever known any man able to walk alone, without assistance from his brother man?’ Mr Crawley did not make any immediate answer, but putting his arms behind his back and closing his hands, as was his wont when he walked alone thinking of the general bitterness of his lot in life, began to move slowly along the road in the front of his house. He did not invite the other to walk with him, but neither was there anything in his manner which seemed to indicate that he intended to be left by himself. It was a beautiful summer afternoon, at that delicious period of the year when summer has just burst forth from the growth of spring; when the summer is yet but three days old, and all the various shades of green which nature can put forth are still in their unsoiled purity of freshness. The apple blossoms were on the trees, and the hedges were sweet with May. The cuckoo at five o’clock was still sounding his soft summer call with unabated energy, and even the common grasses of the hedgerows were sweet with the fragrance of their new growth. The foliage of the oaks was complete, so that every bough and twig was clothed; but the leaves did not yet hang heavy in masses, and the bend of every bough and the tapering curve of every twig were visible through light green covering. There is no time of the year equal in beauty to the first week of summer: and no colour which nature gives, not even the gorgeous hues of autumn, which can equal the verdure produced by the first warm suns of May.

Hogglestock, as has been explained, has little to offer in the way of landskip beauty, and the clergyman’s house at Hogglestock was not placed on a green slopy bank of land, retired from the road, with its windows opening on to a lawn, surrounded by shrubs, with a view of the small church tower seen through them; it had none of that beauty which is so common to the cosy houses of our spiritual pastors in the agricultural parts of England. Hogglestock parsonage stood bleak beside the road, with no pretty paling lined inside by hollies and laburnum, Portugal laurels and rose-trees. But, nevertheless, even Hogglestock was pretty now. There were apple-trees there covered with blossom, and the hedgerows were in full flower. There were thrushes singing, and here and there an oak-tree stood in the roadside, perfect in its solitary beauty.

‘Let us walk on a little,’ said the dean. ‘Miss Robarts is with her now, and you will be better for leaving the room for a few minutes.’

‘No,’ said he; ‘I must go back; I cannot leave that young lady to do my work.’

‘Stop, Crawley!’ And the dean, putting his hand upon him, stayed him in the road. ‘She is doing her own work, and if you were speaking of her with reference to any other household than your own, you would say so. Is it not a comfort to you to know that your wife has a woman near her at such a time as this; and a woman, too, who can speak to her as one lady does to another?’

‘These are comforts which we have no right to expect. I could have done much for poor Mary; but what a man could have done should not have been wanting.’

‘I am sure of it; I know it well. What any man could do by himself you would do — excepting one thing.’ And the dean as he spoke looked full into the other’s face.

‘And what is there I would not do?’ said Crawley.

‘Sacrifice you own pride.’

‘My pride!’

‘Yes; your own pride.’

‘I have had but little pride this many a day. Arabin, you do not know what my life has been. How is a man to be proud who —’ And then he stopped himself, not wishing to go through the catalogue of those grievances, which, as he thought, had killed the very germs of pride within him, or to insist by spoken words on his poverty, his wants, and the injustice of his position. ‘No; I wish I could be proud; but the world has been too heavy to me, and I have forgotten all that.’

‘How long I have known you, Crawley?’

‘How long? Ah dear! a lifetime nearly, now.’

‘And we were like brothers once.’

‘Yes; we were equal as brothers then — in our fortunes, our tastes, and our modes of life.’

‘And yet you would begrudge me the pleasure of putting my hand in my pocket, and relieving the inconveniences which have been thrown upon you, and those you love better than yourself, by the chances of the fate in your life.’

‘I will live on no man’s charity,’ said Crawley, with an abruptness which amounted almost to an expression of anger.

‘And is that not pride?’

‘No — yes; — it is a species of pride, but not that pride of which you spoke. A man cannot be honest if he have not some pride. You yourself; would you not rather starve than become a beggar?’

‘I would rather beg than see my wife starve,’ said Arabin.

Crawley when he heard these words turned sharply round, and stood with his back to the dean, with his hands still behind him, and with his eyes fixed upon the ground.

‘But in this case there is no question of begging,’ continued the dean. ‘I, out of those superfluities which it has pleased God to put at my disposal, am anxious to assist the needs of those whom I love.’

‘She is not starving,’ said Crawley, in a voice very bitter, but still intended to be exculpatory of himself.

‘No, my dear friend; I know she is not, and do not you be angry with me because I have endeavoured to put the matter to you in the strongest language I could use.’

‘You look at it, Arabin, from one side only; I can only look at it from the other. It is very sweet to give; I do not doubt that. But the taking of what is given is very bitter. Gift bread chokes in a man’s throat and poisons his blood, and sits like lead upon the heart. You have never tried it.’

‘But that is the very fault of which I blame you. That is the pride which I say you ought to sacrifice.’

‘And why should I be called upon to do so? Is not the labourer worthy of his hire? Am I not able to work, and willing? Have I not always had my shoulder to the collar, and is it right that I should now be contented with the scraps from a rich man’s kitchen? Arabin, you and I were equal once and we were then friends, understanding each other’s thoughts and sympathizing with each other’s sorrows. But it cannot be so now.’

‘If there be such inability, it is all with you.’

‘It is all with me — because in our connexion the pain would all be on my side. It would not hurt you to see me at your table with worn shoes and a ragged shirt. I do not think so meanly of you as that. You would give me your feast to eat though I were not clad a tithe as well as the menial behind your chair. But it would hurt me to know that there were those looking at me who thought me unfit to sit in your presence.’

‘That is the pride of which I speak; — false pride.’

‘Call it so if you will; but, Arabin, no preaching of yours can alter it. It is all that is left to me of my manliness. That poor broken reed who is lying there sick — who has sacrificed all the world to her love for me — who is the mother of my children, and the partner of my sorrows and the wife of my bosom — even she cannot change me in this, though she pleads with the eloquence of all her wants. Not even for her can I hold out my hand for a dole.’ They had now come back to the door of the house, and Mr Crawley, hardly conscious of what he was doing, was preparing to enter.

‘Will Mrs Crawley be able to see me if I come in?’

‘Oh, stop, no; you had better not do so,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘You, no doubt, might be subject to infection, and then Mrs Arabin would be frightened.’

‘I do not care about it in the least,’ said the dean.

‘But it is of no use; you had better not. Her room, I fear, is quite unfit for you to see; and the whole house, you know, may be infected.’ Dr Arabin, by this time was in the sitting-room; but seeing that his friend was really anxious that he should not go farther, he did not persist.

‘It will be a comfort to us, at any rate, to know that Miss Robarts is with her.’

‘The young lady is very good — very good indeed,’ said Crawley; ‘but I trust she will return to her home tomorrow. It is impossible that she should remain in so poor a house as mine. There will be nothing here of all the things she will want.’ The dean thought that Lucy Robarts’s wants during her present occupation of nursing would not be so numerous as to make her continued sojourn in Mrs Crawley’s sick-room impossible, and therefore took his leave with a satisfied conviction that the poor lady would not be left wholly to the somewhat unskilled nursing of her husband.

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