The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XII

Mr Crawley Seeks for Sympathy

Matters went very badly indeed in the parsonage at Hogglestock. On the Friday morning, the morning of the day after his committal, Mr Crawley got up very early, long before the daylight, and dressing himself in the dark, groped his way downstairs. His wife having vainly striven to persuade him to remain where he was, followed him into the cold room below with a lighted candle. She found him standing with his hat on and with his old cloak, as though he were prepared to go out. ‘Why do you do this?’ she said. ‘You will make yourself ill with the cold and the night air; and then you, and I too, will be worse than we now are.’

‘We cannot be worse. You cannot be worse, and for me it does not signify. Let it pass.’

‘I will not let you pass, Josiah. Be a man and bear it. Ask God for strength, instead of seeking it in an over-indulgence of your own sorrow.’

‘Indulgence!’

‘Yes, love; — indulgence. It is indulgence. You will allow your mind to dwell on nothing for a moment but your own wrongs.’

‘What else have I that I can think of? Is not all the world against me?’

‘Am I against you?’

‘Sometimes I think you are. When you accuse me of self-indulgence you are against me — me, who for myself have desired nothing but to be allowed to do my duty, and to have bread enough to keep me alive, and clothes to make me decent.’

‘Is it not self-indulgence, this giving way to grief? Who would know so well as you how to teach the lesson of endurance to others? Come, love. Lay down your hat. It cannot be fitting that you should go out into the wet and cold of the raw morning.’

For a moment he hesitated, but as she raised her hand to take his cloak from him he drew back from her, and would not permit it. ‘I shall find those up whom I want to see,’ he said. ‘I must visit my flock, and I dare not go through the parish by daylight lest they hoot after me as a thief.’

‘Not one in Hogglestock would say a word to insult you.’

‘Would they not? The very children in the school whisper at me. Let me pass, I say. It has not yet come to that, that I should be stopped in my egress and ingress. They have — bailed me; and while their bail lasts, I may go where I will.’

‘Oh, Josiah, what words to me! Have I ever stopped your liberty? Would I not give my life to secure it?’

‘Let me go, then, now. I tell you that I have business in hand.’

‘But I will go with you. I well be ready in an instant.’

‘You go! Why should you go? Are there not the children for you to mind?’

‘There is only Jane.’

‘Stay with her, then. Why should you go about the parish?’ She still held him by the cloak, and looked anxiously up into his face. ‘Woman,’ he said, raising his voice, ‘what is that you dread? I command you to tell me what it is you fear?’ He had now taken hold of her by the shoulder, slightly thrusting her from him, so that he might see her face, by the dim light of the single candle. ‘Speak, I say. What is it that you think I shall do?’

‘Dearest, I know that you will be better at home, better with me, than you can be on such a morning as this out in the cold damp air.’

‘And is that all?’ He looked hard at her, while she returned his gaze with beseeching loving eyes. ‘It there nothing behind, that you will not tell me?’

She paused for a moment before she replied. She had never lied to him. She could not lie to him. ‘I wish you knew my heart towards you,’ she said, ‘with all and everything in it.’

‘I know your heart well, but I want to know your mind. Why would you persuade me not to go out among my poor?’

‘Because it will be bad for you to be out alone in the dark lanes, in the mud and wet, thinking of your sorrow. You will brood over it till you will lose your senses through the intensity of your grief. You will stand out in the cold air, forgetful of everything around you, till your limbs will be numbed, and your blood chilled —’

‘And then —?’

‘Oh, Josiah, do not hold me like that, and look at me so angrily.’

‘And even then I will bear my burden till the Lord in His mercy shall see fit to relieve me. Even then I will endure, though a bare bodkin or leaf of hemlock would put an end to it. Let me pass on; you need fear nothing.’

She did let him pass without another word, and he went out of the house, shutting the door after him noiselessly, and closing the wicket gate of the garden. For a while she sat herself down on the nearest chair, and tried to make up her mind how she might best treat him in his present state of mind. As regarded the present morning her heart was at ease. She new that he would do now nothing of that which she had apprehended. She could trust him not to be false in his word to her, though she could not before have trusted him not to commit so much heavier a sin. If he would really employ himself from morning till night among the poor, he would be better so — his trouble would be easier of endurance — than with any other employment which he could adopt. What she most dreaded was that he should sit idle over the fire and do nothing. When he was so seated she could read his mind, as though it was open to her as a book. She had been quite right when she had accused him of over-indulgence in his grief. He did give way to it till it became a luxury to him — a luxury which she would not have had the heart to deny him, had she not felt it to be of all luxuries the most pernicious. During these long hours, in which he would sit speechless, doing nothing, he was telling himself from minute to minute that of all God’s creatures, he was the most heavily afflicted, and was revelling in the sense of the injustice done to him. He was recalling all the facts of life, his education, which had been costly, and, as regarded knowledge, successful; his vocation to the Church, when in his youth he had determined to devote himself to the service of his Saviour, disregarding promotion or the favour of men; the short, sweet days of his early love, in which he had devoted himself again — thinking nothing of self, but everything of her; his diligent working, in which he had ever done his very utmost for the parish in which he was placed, and always his best for the poorest; the success of other men who had been his compeers, and, as he too often told himself, intellectually his inferiors; then of his children, who had been carried off from his love to the churchyard — over whose graves he himself had stood, reading out the pathetic words of the funeral service with unswerving voice and a bleeding heart; and then of his children still living, who loved their mother so much better than they loved him. And he would recall the circumstances of their poverty — how he had been driven to accept alms, to fly from creditors, to hide himself, to see his chairs and tables seized before the eyes of those over whom he had been set as their spiritual pastor. And in it all, I think, there was nothing so bitter to the man as the derogation from the spiritual grandeur of his position as priest among men, which came as one necessary result from his poverty. St Paul could go forth without money in his purse or shoes on his feet or two suits to his back, and his poverty never stood in the way of his preaching, or hindered the veneration of the faithful. St Paul, indeed, was called upon to bear stripes, was flung into prison, encountered terrible dangers. But Mr Crawley — so he told himself — could have encountered all that without flinching. The stripes and scorn of the unfaithful would have been nothing to him, if only the faithful would have believed in him, poor as he was, as they would have believed in him had he been rich! Even they whom he had most loved and treated him almost with derision, because he was now different from them. Dean Arabin had laughed at him because he had persisted in walking ten miles through the mud instead of being conveyed in the dean’s carriage; and yet, after that, he had been driven to accept the dean’s charity! No one respected him. No one! His very wife thought that he was a lunatic. And now he had been publicly branded as a thief; and in all likelihood would end his days in a gaol! Such were always his thoughts as he sat idle, silent, moody, over the fire; and his wife knew well their currents. It would certainly be better that he should drive himself to some employment, if any employment could be found possible for him.

When she had been alone for a few minutes, Mrs Crawley got up from her chair, and going into the kitchen, lighted the fire there, and put the kettle over it, and began to prepare such breakfast for her husband as the means in the house afforded. Then she called the sleeping servant-girl, who was little more than a child, and went into her own girl’s room, and then she got into bed with her daughter.

‘I have been up with your papa, dear, and I am cold.’

‘Oh, mamma, poor mamma! Why is papa up so early?’

‘He has gone out to visit some of the brickmakers, before they go to their work. It is better for him to be employed.’

‘But, mamma, it is pitch dark.’

‘Yes, dear, it is still dark. Sleep again for a while, and I will sleep too. I think Grace will be here tonight, and then there will be no room for me here.’

Mr Crawley went forth and made his way with rapid steps to a portion of this parish nearly two miles from his house, through which was carried a canal, affording water communication in some intricate way both to London and Bristol. And on the brink of this canal there had sprung up a colony of brickmakers, the nature of the earth in those parts combining with the canal to make brickmaking a suitable trade. The workmen there assembled were not, for the most part, native-born Hogglestockians, or folk descended from Hogglestockian parents. They had come thither from unknown regions, as labourers of that class do come when they are needed. Some young men from that and neighbouring parishes had joined themselves to the colony, allured by wages, and disregarding the menaces of the neighbouring farmers; but they were all in appearance and manners nearer akin to the race of navvies than to ordinary rural labourers. They had a bad name in the country; but it may be that their name was worse than their deserts. The farmers hated them, and consequently they hated the farmers. They had a beershop, and a grocer’s shop, and a huxter’s shop for their own accommodation, and were consequently vilified by the small old-established tradesmen around them. They got drunk occasionally, but I doubt whether they drank more than did the farmers themselves on market-day. They fought among themselves sometimes, but they forgave each other freely, and seemed to have no objection to black eyes. I fear that they were not always good to their wives, nor were their wives always good to them; but it should be remembered that among the poor, especially when they live in clusters, such misfortunes cannot be hidden as they may amidst the decent belongings of more wealthy people. That they worked very hard was certain; and it was certain also that very few of their number ever came upon the poor rates. What became of the old brickmakers no one knew. Who ever sees a worn-out navvy?

Mr Crawley, ever since first coming into Hogglestock, had been very busy among these brickmakers, and by no means without success. Indeed the farmers had quarrelled with him because the brickmakers had so crowded the parish church, as to leave but scant room for decent people. ‘Doo they folk pay tithes? That’s what I want’un to tell me?’ argued one farmer — not altogether unnaturally, believing as he did that Mr Crawley was paid by tithes out of his own pocket. But Mr Crawley had done his best to make the brickmaker welcome at the church, scandalising the farmers by causing them to sit or stand in any portion of the church which was hitherto unappropriated. He had been constant in his personal visits to them, and had felt himself to more a St Paul with them than with any other of his neighbours around him.

It was a cold morning, but the rain of the preceding evening had given way to frost, and the air, though sharp, was dry. The ground under the feet was crisp, having felt the wind and frost, and was no longer clogged with mud. In his present state of mind the walk was good for our poor pastor, and exhilarated him; but still, as he went, he thought always of his injuries. His own wife believed that he was about to commit suicide, and for so believing he was very angry with her; and yet, as he well knew, the idea of making away with himself had flitted through his own mind a dozen times. Not from his own wife could he get real sympathy. He would see what he could do with a certain brickmaker of his acquaintance.

‘Are you here, Dan?’ he said, knocking at the door of a cottage which stood alone, close to the towing path of the canal, and close also to a forlorn corner of the muddy, watery, ugly, disordered brick-field. It was now just past six o’clock, and the men would be rising, as in midwinter they commenced their work at seven. The cottage was an unalluring, straight brick-built tenement, seeming as though intended to be one of a row which had never progressed beyond Number One. A voice answered from the interior, inquiring who was the visitor, to which Mr Crawley replied by giving his name. Then the key was turned in the lock, and Dan Morris, the brickmaker, appeared with a candle in his hand. He had been engaged in lighting the fire, with a view to his own breakfast. ‘Where is your wife, Dan?’ asked Mr Crawley. The man answered by pointing with a short poker, which he held in his hand, to the bed, which was half-screened from the room by a ragged curtain, which hung from the ceiling half-way down to the floor. ‘And are the Darvels here?’ asked Mr Crawley. Then Morris, again using the poker, pointed upwards, showing that the Darvels were still in their allotted abode upstairs.

‘You’re early out, Muster Crawley,’ said Morris, and then he went on with his fire. ‘Drat the sticks, if they bean’t as wet as the old ’un hisself. Get up, old woman, and do you do it, for I can’t. They wun’t kindle for me, nohow.’ But the old woman, having well noted the presence of Mr Crawley, thought it better to remain where she was.

Mr Crawley sat himself down by the obstinate fire, and began to arrange the sticks. ‘Dan, Dan,’ said a voice from the bed, ‘sure you wouldn’t let his reverence trouble himself with the fire.’

‘How be I to keep him from it, if he chooses? I didn’t ax him.’ Then Morris stood by and watched, and after a while Mr Crawley succeeded in his attempt.

‘How could it burn when you had not given the small spark a current of air to help it?’ said Mr Crawley.

‘In course not,’ said the woman, ‘but he be such stupid.’

The husband said no word in acknowledgement of this compliment, nor did he thank Mr Crawley for what he had done, nor appear as though he intended to take any notice of him. He was going on with his work when Mr Crawley again interrupted him.

‘How did you get back from Silverbridge yesterday, Dan?’

‘Footed it — all the blessed way.’

‘It’s only eight miles.’

‘And I footed it there, and that’s sixteen. And I paid one-and- sixpence for beer and grub; — s’help me I did.’

‘Dan!’ said a voice from the bed, rebuking him for the impropriety of his language.

‘Well; I beg pardon, but I did. And they guv’me two bob; — just two plain shillings by —’

‘Dan!’

‘And I’d ‘ve arned three-and-six here at brickmaking easy; that’s what I wuld. How’s a poor man to live that way? They’ll not cotch me at Barchester ‘Sizes at that price; they may be sure of that. Look there — that’s what I’ve got for my day.’ And he put his hand into his breeches-pocket and fetched out a sixpence. ‘How’s a man to fill his belly out of that. Damnation!’

‘Dan!’

‘Well, what did I say? Hold your jaw, will you, and not be halloaing at me that way? I know what I am saying of, and what I’m a doing of.’

‘I wish they’d given you something more with all my heart,’ said Crawley.

‘We knows that,’ cried the woman from the bed. ‘We is sure of that, your reverence.’

‘Sixpence!’ said the man, scornfully. ‘If they’d have guv’ me nothing at all but the run of my teeth at the public-house, I’d ‘ve taken it better. But sixpence!’

Then there was a pause. ‘And what have they given to me?’ said Mr Crawley, when the man’s ill-humour about his sixpence had so far subsided as to allow of his busying himself again about the premises.

‘Yes, indeed; — yes, indeed,’ said the woman. ‘Yes, yes, we feel that; we do indeed, Mr Crawley.’

‘I tell you what, sir; for another sixpence I’d have sworn you’d never guv’ me the paper at all; and so I will now, if it bean’t too late; — sixpence or no sixpence. What do I care? D—— them.’

‘Dan!’

‘And why shouldn’t I? They hain’t got brains enough among them to winny the truth from the lies — not among the lot of ’em. I’ll swear afore the judge that you didn’t give it me at all, if that’ll do any good.’

‘Man, do you think I would have you perjure yourself, even if that would do me a service? And do you think any man was ever served by a lie?’

‘Faix, among them chaps it don’t do to tell them too much of the truth. Look at that!’ And he brought out the sixpence again from his breeches-pocket. ‘And look at your reverence. Only that they’ve let you out for a while, they’ve been nigh as hard on you as though you were one of us.’

‘If they think that I stole it, they have been right,’ said Mr Crawley.

‘It’s been along of that chap Soames,’ said the woman. ‘The lord would’ve paid the money out of his own pocket and never said not a word.’

‘If they think that I’ve been a thief, they’ve done right,’ repeated Mr Crawley. ‘But how can they think so? How can they think so? Have I lived like a thief among them?’

‘For the matter o’ that, if a man ain’t paid for his work by them as his employers, he must pay hisself. Them’s my notions. Look at that!’ Whereupon he again pulled out the sixpence, and held it forth in the palm of his hand.

‘You believe, then,’ said Mr Crawley, speaking very slowly, ‘that I did steal the money. Speak out, Dan; I shall not be angry. As you go you are an honest men, and I want to know what such of you think about it.’

‘He don’t think nothing of the kind,’ said the woman, almost getting out of bed in her energy. ‘If he’ thought the like o’ that in his head, I’d read ’un such a lesson he’d never think again the longest day he had to live.’

‘Speak out, Dan,’ said the clergyman, not attending to the woman. ‘You can understand that no good can come of lie.’ Dan Morris scratched his head. ‘Speak out, man, when I tell you,’ said Crawley.

‘Drat it all,’ said Dan, ‘where’s the use of so much jaw about it?’

‘Say you know his reverence is as innocent as the babe as isn’t born,’ said the woman.

‘No; I won’t — say anything of the kind,’ said Dan.

‘Speak out the truth,’ said Crawley.

‘They do say, among ’em,’ said Dan, ‘that you picked it up, and then got woolgathering in your head till you didn’t rightly know where it come from.’ Then he paused. ‘And after a bit you guv’ it me to get the money. Didn’t you, now?’

‘I did.’

‘And they do say if a poor man had done it, it’d be stealing, for sartin.’

‘And I’m a poor man — the poorest in all Hogglestock; and, therefore, of course, it is stealing. Of course I am a thief. Yes; of course I am a thief. When the world believe the worst of the poor?’ Having so spoken, Mr Crawley rose from his chair and hurried out of the cottage, waiting for no further reply from Dan Morris or his wife. And as he made his way slowly home, not going there by the direct road, but by a long circuit, he told himself there could be no sympathy for him anywhere. Even Dan Morris, the brickmaker, thought that he was a thief.

‘And am I a thief?’ he said to himself, standing in the middle of the road, with his hands up to his forehead.

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