The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter X

Dinner at Framley Court

Lord Lufton, as he drove home to Framley after the meeting of the magistrates at Silverbridge, discussed the matter with his brother-in-law, Mark Robarts, the clergyman. Lord Lufton was driving a dog-cart, and went along the road at the rate of twelve miles an hour. ‘I’ll tell you what it is, Mark,’ he said, ‘that man is innocent; but if he won’t employ lawyers at his trial, the jury will find him guilty.’

‘I don’t know what to think about it,’ said the clergyman.

‘Were you in the room when he protested so vehemently that he did not know where he got the money?’

‘I was in the room all the time.’

‘And you did not believe him when he said that?’

‘Yes, I think I did.’

‘Anybody must have believed him — except old Tempest, who never believes anybody, and Fothergill, who always suspects everybody. The truth is, that he found the cheque and put it by, and did not remember anything about it.’

‘But, Lufton, surely that would amount to stealing it?’

‘Yes, if it wasn’t that he is such a poor, cracked, crazy creature, with his mind all abroad. I think Soames did drop his book in his house. I’m sure Soames would not say so unless he was quite confident. Somebody has picked it up, and in some way the cheque has got into Crawley’s hand. Then he has locked it up and forgotten all about it; and when that butcher threatened him, he has put his hand upon it, and he thought, or believed, that it had come from Soames or the dean or from heaven, if you will. When a man is so crazy as that, you can’t judge of him as you do of others.’

‘But a jury must judge him as it would of others.’

‘And therefore there should be a lawyer to tell the jury what to do. They should have somebody up out of the parish to show that he is beside himself half the time. His wife would be the best person, only it would be hard lines on her.’

‘Very hard. And after all he would only escape by being shown to be mad.’

‘And he is mad.’

‘Mrs Proudie would come upon him in such a case as that, and sequester his living.’

‘And what will Mrs Proudie do when he’s a convicted thief? Simply unfrock him, and take away his living altogether. Nothing on earth should induce me to find him guilty if I were on a jury.’

‘But you have committed him.’

‘Yes — I’ve been one, at least, in doing so. I simply did that which Walker told us we must do. A magistrate is not left to himself as a juryman is. I’d eat the biggest pair of boots in Barchester before I found him guilty. I say, Mark, you must talk it over with the women, and see what can be done for them. Lucy tells me that they’re so poor, that if they have bread to eat, it’s as much as they have.’

On this evening Archdeacon Grantly and his wife dined and slept at Framley Court, there having been a very long family friendship between old Lady Lufton and the Grantlys, and Dr Thorne with his wife, from Chaldicotes, also dined at Framley. There was also there another clergyman from Barchester, one Mr Champion, one of the prebends of the cathedral. There were only three now who had houses in the city since the retrenchments of the ecclesiastical commission had come into full force. And this Mr Champion was dear to the Dowager Lady Lufton, because he carried on worthily the clerical war against the bishop which had raged in Barchester ever since Dr Proudie had come there — which war old Lady Lufton, good and pious and charitable as she was, considered that she was bound to keep up, even to the knife, till Dr Proudie and all his satellites should have been banished into the outer darkness. As the light of the Proudies still shone brightly, it was probable that poor old Lady Lufton might die before her battle was accomplished. She often said that it would be so, but when so saying, always expressed a wish that is might be carried on after her death. ‘I shall never, never rest in my grave,’ she had once said to the archdeacon, ‘while that woman sits in your father’s palace.’ For the archdeacon’s father had been Bishop of Barchester before Dr Proudie. What mode of getting rid of the bishop or his wife Lady Lufton proposed to herself, I am unable to say; but I think she lived in hopes that in some way it might be done. If only the bishop could have been found to have stolen a cheque for twenty pounds instead of poor Mr Crawley, Lady Lufton would, I think, have been satisfied.

In the course of these battles Framley Court would sometimes assume a clerical aspect — having a prevailing hue, as it were, of black coats, which was not altogether to the taste of Lord Lufton, and as to which he would make complaint to his wife, and to Mark Robarts, himself a clergyman. ‘There’s more of this than I can stand,’ he’d say to the latter. ‘There’s deuced more of it than you like yourself, I know.’

‘It’s not for me to like or dislike. It’s a great thing having your mother in the parish.’

‘That’s all very well; and of course she’ll do as she likes. She may ask whom she pleases here, and I shan’t interfere. It’s the same as though it was her own house. But I shall take Lucy to Lufton.’ Now Lord Lufton had been building his house at Lufton for the last seven years and it was not yet finished — or nearly finished, if all that his wife had said were true. And if they could have their way, it never would be finished. And so, in order that Lord Lufton might not actually be driven away by the turmoils of ecclesiastical contest, the younger Lady Lufton would endeavour to moderate both the wrath and the zeal of the elder one, and would struggle against the coming clergymen. On this day, however, three sat at the board at Framley, and Lady Lufton, in her justification to her son, swore that the invitation had been given by her daughter-in-law. ‘You know, my dear,’ the dowager said to Lord Lufton, ‘something must be done for these poor Crawleys; and as the dean is away, Lucy wants to speak to the archdeacon about them.’

‘And the archdeacon could not subscribe his ten-pound note without having Champion to back him?’

‘My dear Ludovic, you do put it in such a way.’

‘Never mind, mother. I’ve no special dislike for Champion, only as you are not paid five thousand pound a year for your trouble, it is rather hard that you should have to do all the work of opposition bishop in the diocese.’

It was felt by them all — including Lord Lufton himself, who became so interested in the matter as to forgive the black coats before the evening was over — that this matter of Mr Crawley’s committal was very serious, and demanded the full energies of their party. It was known to them all that the feeling at the palace was inimical to Mr Crawley. ‘That she-Beelzebub hates him for his poverty, and because Arabin brought him into the diocese,’ said the archdeacon, permitting himself to use very strong language in his allusion to the bishop’s wife. It must be recorded on his behalf that he used the phrase in the presence only of the gentlemen of the party. I think he might have whispered the word in the ear of his confidential friend old Lady Lufton, and perhaps have given no offence; but he would not have ventured to use such words aloud in the presence of ladies.

‘You forget, archdeacon,’ said Dr Thorne, laughing, ‘that the she-Beelzebub is my wife’s particular friend.’

‘Not a bit of it,’ said the archdeacon. ‘Your wife knows better than that. You tell her what I call her, and if she complains of the name I’ll unsay it.’ It may therefore be supposed that Dr Thorne, and Mrs Thorne, and the archdeacon, knew each other intimately, and understood each other’s feelings on these matters.

It was quite true that the palace party was inimical to Mr Crawley. Mr Crawley undoubtedly was poor, and had not been so submissive to episcopal authority as it behoves any clergyman to be whose loaves and fishes are scanty. He had raised his back more than once against orders emanating from the palace in a manner that had made the hairs on the head of the bishop’s wife to stand almost on end, and had taken as much upon himself as though his living had been worth twelve hundred a year. Mrs Proudie, almost as energetic in her language as the archdeacon, had called him a beggarly perpetual curate. ‘We must have perpetual curates, my dear,’ the bishop had said. ‘They should know their places then. But what can you expect of a creature from the deanery? All that ought to be altered. The dean should have no patronage in the diocese. No dean should have any patronage. It is an abuse from the beginning to the end. Dean Arabin, if he had any conscience, would be doing the duty at Hogglestock himself.’ How the bishop strove to teach his wife, with the mildest words, what really ought to be a dean’s duty, and how the wife rejoined by teaching her husband, not in the mildest words, what ought to be a bishop’s duty, we will not further inquire here. The fact that such dialogues took place at the palace is recorded simply to show that the palatial feeling in Barchester ran counter to Mr Crawley.

And this was cause enough, if no other cause existed, for partiality to Mr Crawley at Framley Court. But, as has been partly explained, there existed, if possible, even stronger ground than this for adherence to the Crawley cause. The younger Lady Lufton had known the Crawleys intimately, and the elder Lady Lufton had reckoned them among the neighbouring clerical families of her acquaintance. Both these ladies were therefore staunch in their defence of Mr Crawley. The archdeacon himself had his own reasons — reasons which at present he kept altogether within his own bosom — for wishing that Mr Crawley had never entered the diocese. Whether the perpetual curate should or should not be declared a thief, it would terrible to him to have to call the child of that perpetual curate his daughter-in-law. But not the less on this occasion was he true to his order, true to his side of the diocese, true to his hatred of the palace.

‘I don’t believe it for a moment,’ he said, as he took his place on the rug before the fire in the drawing-room when the gentlemen came in from their wine. The ladies understood at once what it was that he couldn’t believe. Mr Crawley had for the moment so usurped the county that nobody thought of talking of anything else.

‘How is it then,’ said Mrs Thorne, ‘that Lord Lufton, and my husband, and the other wiseacres at Silverbridge, have committed him for trial?’

‘Because we are told to do so by the lawyer,’ said Dr Thorne.

‘Ladies will never understand that magistrates must act in accordance with the law,’ said Lord Lufton.

‘But you all say he’s not guilty,’ said Mrs Robarts.

‘The fact is, that the magistrate cannot try the question,’ said the archdeacon; ‘they only hear primary evidence. In this case I don’t believe Crawley would ever have been committed if he had employed an attorney, instead of speaking for himself.’

‘Why didn’t somebody make him have an attorney?’ said Lady Lufton.

‘I don’t think any attorney in the world could have spoken for him better than he spoke for himself,’ said Dr Thorne.

‘And yet you committed him,’ said his wife. ‘What can we do for him? Can’t we pay the bail and send him off to America?’

‘A jury will never find him guilty,’ said Lord Lufton.

‘And what is the truth of it?’ asked the younger Lady Lufton.

Then the whole matter was discussed again, and it was settled among them all that Mr Crawley had undoubtedly appropriated the cheque through temporary obliquity of judgment — obliquity of judgment and forgetfulness as to the source from whence the cheque had come to him. ‘He has picked it up about the house, and then has thought that it was his own,’ said Lord Lufton. Had they come to the conclusion that such an appropriation of money had been made by one of the clergy of the palace, by one of the Proudieian party, they would doubtless have been very loud and very bitter as to the iniquity of the offender. They would have said as much as to the weakness of the bishop and the wickedness of the bishop’s wife, and would have declared the appropriator to have been as very a thief as ever picked a pocket or opened a bill; — but they were unanimous in their acquittal of Mr Crawley. It had not been his intention, they said, to be a thief, and a man should be judged only by his intention. It must now be their object to induce a Barchester jury to look at the matter in the same light.

‘When they come to understand how the land lies,’ said the archdeacon, ‘they will be all right. There’s not a tradesman in the city who does not hate that woman as though she were —’

‘Archdeacon,’ said his wife, cautioning him to repress his energy.

‘Their bills are all paid by this new chaplain they’ve got, and he is made to claim discount on every leg of mutton,’ said the archdeacon. Arguing from which fact — or from which assertion, he came to the conclusion that no Barchester jury would find Mr Crawley guilty.

But it was agreed on all sides that it would not be well to trust to the unassisted friendship of the Barchester tradesmen. Mr Crawley must be provided with legal assistance, and this must be furnished to him whether he should be willing or unwilling to receive it. That there would be a difficulty was acknowledged. Mr Crawley was known to be a man not easy of persuasion, with a will of his own, with a great energy of obstinacy on points which he chose to take as being of importance to his calling, or to his own professional status. He had pleaded his own cause before the magistrates, and it might be that he would insist on doing the same thing before the judge. At last Mr Robarts, the clergyman from Framley, was deputed from the knot of Crawleian advocates assembled at Lady Lufton’s drawing-room, to undertake the duty of seeing Mr Crawley, and of explaining to him that his proper defence was regarded as a matter appertaining to the clergy and gentry generally of that part of the country, and that for the sake of the clergy and gentry the defence must of course be properly conducted. In such circumstances the expense of the defence would of course be borne by the clergy and gentry concerned. It was thought that Mr Robarts could put the matter to Mr Crawley with such a mixture of the strength of manly friendship and the softness of clerical persuasion, as to overcome the recognised difficulties of the task.

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