The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXII

Major Grantly at Home

Mrs Thorne had spoken very plainly in the advice which she had given to Major Grantly. That had been Mrs Thorne’s advice; and though Major Grantly had no idea of making the journey so rapidly as the lady had proposed, still he thought that he would make it before long, and follow the advice in spirit if not to the letter. Mrs Thorne had asked him if it was fair that the girl should be punished because of the father’s fault; and the idea had been sweet to him that the infliction or non-infliction of such punishment should be in his hands. ‘You go and ask her,’ Mrs Thorne had said. Well; — he would go and ask her. If it should turn out at last that he had married the daughter of a thief, and that he was disinherited for doing so — an arrangement of circumstances which had to teach himself to regard as very probable — he would not love Grace the less on that account, or allow himself for one moment to repent what he had done. As he thought of all this he became somewhat in love with a small income, and imagined to himself what honours would be done to him by the Mrs Thornes of the county, when they should come to know in what way he had sacrificed himself to his love. Yes; — they would go and live in Pau. He thought Pau would do. He would have enough income for that; — and Edith would get lessons cheaply, and would learn to talk French fluently. He certainly would do it. He would go down to Allington, and ask Grace to be his wife; and bid her to understand that if she loved him she could not be justified in refusing him by the circumstances of her father’s position.

But he must go to Plumstead before he could go to Allington. He was engaged to spend Christmas there, and must go now at once. There was not time for the journey to Allington before he was due at Plumstead. And, moreover, though he could not bring himself to resolve that he would tell his father what he was going to do; —‘It would seem as though I were asking his leave!’ he said to himself; — he thought he would make a clean breast of it to his mother. It made him sad to think that he should cut the rope which fastened his own boat among the other boats in the home harbour at Plumstead, and that he should go out all alone into strange waters — turned adrift altogether, as it were, from the Grantly fleet. If he could only get the promise of his mother’s sympathy for Grace it would be something. He understood — no one better than he — the tendency of all his family to an uprising in the world, which tendency was almost as strong in his mother as his father. And he had been by no means without a similar ambition himself, though with him the ambition had been only fitful, not enduring. He had a brother, a clergyman, a busy, stirring, eloquent London preacher, who got churches built, and was heard of far and wide as a rising man, who had married a certain Lady Anne, the daughter of an earl, and who was already mentioned as a candidate for high places. How his sister was the wife of a marquis, and a leader in the fashionable world, the reader already knows. The archdeacon himself was a rich man, so powerful that he could afford to look down upon a bishop; and Mrs Grantly, though there was left about her something of an old softness of nature, a touch of the former life which had been hers before the stream of her days had run to gold, yet she, too, had taken kindly to wealth and high standing, and was by no means one of those who construe literally that passage of scripture which tells of the camel and the needle’s eye. Our Henry Grantly, our major, knew himself to be his mother’s favourite child — knew himself to have become so since something of a coolness had grown up between her and her daughter. The augustness of the daughter had done much to reproduce the old freshness of which I spoke of in the mother’s heart, and had specially endeared to her the son, who, of all her children, was the least subject to the family’s failing. The clergyman, Charles Grantly — he who had married the Lady Anne — was his father’s darling in these days. The old archdeacon would go up to London and be quite happy in his son’s house. He met there the men whom he loved to meet, and heard the talk which he loved to hear. It was very fine, having the Marquis of Hartletop for his son-in-law, but he had never cared to be much at Lady Hartletop’s house. Indeed, the archdeacon cared to be in no house in which those around him were supposed to be bigger than himself. Such was the little family fleet from which Henry Grantly was now proposing to sail alone with his little boat — taking Grace Crawley with him at the helm. ‘My father is a just man at the bottom,’ he said to himself, ‘and though he may not forgive me, he will not punish Edith.’

But there was still left one of the family — not a Grantly, indeed, but one so nearly allied to them as to have his boat moored in the same harbour — who, as the major well knew, would thoroughly sympathise with him. This was old Mr Harding, his mother’s father — the father of his mother and of his aunt Mrs Arabin — whose home was now at the deanery. He was also to be at Plumstead during this Christmas, and he at any rate would give a ready assent to such a marriage as that which the major was proposing to himself. But then poor old Mr Harding had been thoroughly deficient in that ambition which had served to aggrandize the family into which his daughter had married. He was a poor old man who, in spite of good friends — for the late bishop of the diocese had been his dearest friend — had never risen high in his profession, and had fallen even from the moderate altitude which he had attained. But he was a man whom all loved who knew him; and it was much to the credit of his son-in-law the archdeacon, that, with all his tendencies to love rising suns, he had ever been true to Mr Harding.

Major Grantly took his daughter with him, and on his arrival at Plumstead she of course was the first object of attention. Mrs Grantly declared that she had grown immensely. The archdeacon complimented her red cheeks, and said that Cosby Lodge was as healthy a place as any in the county, while Mr Harding, Edith’s great-grandfather, drew slowly from his pocket sundry treasures with which he had come prepared for the delight of the little girl. Charles Grantly and Lady Anne had no children, and the heir of all the Hartletops was too august to have been trusted to the embraces of her mother’s grandfather. Edith, therefore, was all that he had in that generation, and of Edith he was prepared to be as indulgent as he had been, in their time, of his grandchildren, the Grantlys, and still was of his grandchildren the Arabins, and before that of his own daughters. ‘She’s more like Eleanor than anyone else,’ said the old man in a plaintive tone. Now Eleanor was Mrs Arabin, the dean’s wife, and was at this time — if I were to say over forty I do not think I should be uncharitable. No one else saw the special likeness, but no one else remembered, as Mr Harding did, what Eleanor had been when she was three years old.

‘Aunt Nelly is in France,’ said the child.

‘Yes, my darling, aunt Nelly is in France, and I wish she were at home. Aunt Nelly has been away a long time.’

‘I suppose she’ll stay till the dean picks her up on his way home?’

‘So she says in her letters. I heard from her yesterday, and I brought the letter, as I thought you’d like to see it.’ Mrs Grantly took the letter and read it, while her father still played with the child. The archdeacon and the major were standing together on the rug discussing the shooting at Chaldicotes, as to which the archdeacon had a strong opinion. ‘I’m quite sure that a man with a place like that does more good by preserving than by leaving it alone. The better head of game he has the richer the county will be generally. It is just the same with pheasants as it is with sheep and bullocks. A pheasant doesn’t cost more than he’s worth any more than a barn-door fowl. Besides, a man who preserves is always respected by the poachers, and the man who doesn’t is not.’

‘There’s something in that, sir, certainly,’ said the major.

‘More than you think for, perhaps. Look at poor Sowerby, who went on there for years without a shilling. How he was respected, because he lived as the people around him expected a gentleman to live. Thorne will have a bad time of it, if he tries to change things.’

‘Only think,’ exclaimed Mrs Grantly, ‘when Eleanor wrote she had not heard of that affair of poor Mr Crawley’s.’

‘Does she say anything about him?’ asked the major.

‘I’ll read what it says. “I see in Galignani that a clergyman in Barsetshire has been committed for theft. Pray tell me who it is. Not the bishop, I hope, for the credit of the diocese?”’

‘I wish it were,’ said the archdeacon

‘For shame, my dear,’ said his wife.

‘No shame at all. If we are to have a thief among us, I’d sooner find him in a bad man than a good one. Besides, we should have a change at the palace, which would be a great thing.’

‘But is it not odd that Eleanor should have heard nothing of it?’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘It’s odd that you should not have mentioned it yourself.’

‘I did not, certainly; nor you, papa, I suppose?’

Mr Harding acknowledged that he had not spoken of it, and then they calculated that perhaps she might not have received any letter from her husband since the news had reached him. ‘Besides, why should he have mentioned it?’ said the major. ‘He only knows as yet of the inquiry about the cheque, and can have heard nothing of what was done by the magistrates.’

‘Still it seems odd that Eleanor should not have known of it, seeing that we have been talking of nothing else for the last week.’

For two days the major said not a word of Grace Crawley to anyone. Nothing could be more courteous and complaisant than was his father’s conduct to him. Anything that he wanted for Edith was to be done. For himself there was no trouble which would not be taken. His hunting, and his shooting, and his fishing seemed to have become matters of paramount consideration to his father. And then the archdeacon became very confidential about money matters — not offering anything to his son, which, as he well knew, would be seen through as palpable bribery and corruption — but telling him of this little scheme and of that, of one investment and of another; — how he contemplated buying a small property here, and spending a few thousands on building there. ‘Of course it is all for you and your brother,’ said the archdeacon, with that benevolent sadness which is used habitually by fathers on such occasions; ‘and I like you to know what it is I am doing. I told Charles about the London property the last time I was up,’ said the archdeacon, ‘and there shall be no difference between him and you, if all goes well.’ This was very good-natured on the archdeacon’s part, and was not strictly necessary, as Charles was the eldest son; but the major understood it perfectly. ‘There shall be an elysium opened to you, if only you will not do that terrible thing of which you spoke when last you were here.’ The archdeacon uttered no such words as these, and did not even allude to Grace Crawley; but the words were as good as spoken, and had they been spoken ever so plainly the major could not have understood them more clearly. He was quite awake to the loveliness of the elysium before him. He had had his moment of anxiety, whether his father would or would not make an elder son of his brother Charles. The whole thing was now put before him plainly. Give up Grace Crawley, and you shall share alike with your brother. Disgrace yourself by marrying her, and you brother shall have everything. There was the choice, and it was till open to him to take which side he pleased. Were he never to go near Grace Crawley again no one would blame him, unless it were Miss Prettyman or Mrs Thorne. ‘Fill your glass, Henry,’ said the archdeacon. ‘You’d better, I tell you, for there is no more of it left.’ Then the major filled his glass and sipped the wine, and swore to himself that he would go down to Allington at once. What! Did his father think to bribe him by giving him ‘20 port? He would certainly go down to Allington, and he would tell his mother tomorrow morning, or certainly on the next day, what he was going to do. ‘Pity it should all be gone; isn’t it, sir?’ said the archdeacon to his father-in-law. ‘It has lasted my time,’ said Mr Harding, ‘and I’m very much obliged to it. Dear, dear; how well I remember your father giving the order for it! There were two pipes, and somebody said it was a heady wine. “If the prebendaries and rectors can’t drink it,” said your father, “the curates will.”’

‘Curates indeed!’ said the archdeacon. ‘It’s too good for a bishop, unless it is of the right sort.’

‘Your father used to say those things, but with him the poorer the guest the better the cheer. When he had a few clergymen round him, how he loved to make them happy!’

‘Never talked shop to them — did he?’ said the archdeacon.

‘Not after dinner, at any rate. Goodness gracious, when one thinks of it! Do you remember how we used to play cards?’

‘Every night regularly; — threepenny points, and sixpence on the rubber,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Dear, dear! How things are changed! And I remember when the clergymen did more of the dancing in Barchester than all the other young men in the city put together.’

‘And a good set they were; — gentlemen every one of them. It’s well that some of them don’t dance now; — that is, for the girl’s sake.’

‘I sometimes sit and wonder,’ said Mr Harding, ‘whether your father’s spirit ever comes back to the old house and sees the changes — and if so whether he approves of them.’

‘Approves them!’ said the archdeacon.

‘Well; — yes. I think he would, upon the whole. I’m sure of this: he would not disapprove, because the new ways are changed from his ways. He never thought himself infallible. And do you know, my dear, I am not sure that it isn’t all for the best. I sometimes think that some of us were very idle when we were young. I was, I know.’

‘I worked hard enough,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Ah, yes; you. But most of us took it very easily. Dear, dear! When I think of it, and see how hard they work now, and remember what pleasant times we used to have — I don’t feel sometimes quite sure.’

‘I believe the work was done a great deal better than it is now,’ said the archdeacon. ‘There wasn’t so much fuss, but there was more reality. And men were men, and clergymen were gentlemen.’

‘Yes; — they were gentlemen.’

‘Such a creature as that old woman at the palace couldn’t have held his head up among us. That’s what has come from Reform. A reformed House of Commons makes Lord Brock Prime Minister, and then your Prime Minister makes Dr Proudie a bishop! Well; — it will last my time, I suppose.’

‘It has lasted mine — like the wine,’ said Mr Harding.

‘There’s one glass more, and you shall have it, sir.’ Then Mr Harding drank the last of the 1820 port, and they went into the drawing-room.

On the next morning after breakfast the major went out for a walk by himself. His father had suggested to him that he should go over to shoot at Framley, and had offered him the use of everything the archdeacon possessed in the way of horses, dogs, guns and carriages. But the major would have none of these things. He would go out and walk by himself. ‘He’s not thinking of her; is he?’ said the archdeacon to his wife, in a whisper. ‘I don’t know. I think he is,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘It will be so much better for Charles, if he does,’ said the archdeacon grimly; and the look of his face as he spoke was by no means pleasant. ‘You will do nothing unjust, archdeacon,’ said his wife. ‘I will do as I like with my own,’ said he. And then he also went out and took a walk by himself.

That evening after dinner, there was no 1820 port, and no recollection of old days. They were rather dull, the three of them, as they sat together — and dullness is always more endurable than sadness. Old Mr Harding went to sleep and the archdeacon was cross. ‘Henry,’ he said, ‘you haven’t said a word to throw to a dog.’ ‘I’ve got rather a headache this evening, sir,’ said the major. The archdeacon drank two glasses of wine, one after another, quickly. Then he woke his father-in-law gently, and went off. ‘Is there anything the matter?’ asked the old man. ‘Nothing particular. My father seems a little cross.’ ‘Ah! I’ve been to sleep, and I oughtn’t. It’s my fault. We’ll go in and smooth him down.’ But the archdeacon wouldn’t be smoothed down on that occasion. He would let his son see the difference between a father pleased, and a father displeased — or rather between a father pleasant, and a father unpleasant. ‘He hasn’t said anything to you, has he?’ said the archdeacon that night to his wife. ‘Not a word; — as yet.’ ‘If he does it without the courage to tell us, I shall think him a cur,’ said the archdeacon. ‘But he did tell you,’ said Mrs Grantly, standing up for her favourite son; ‘and, for the matter of that, he has courage enough for anything. If he does it, I shall always say that he has been driven to it by your threats.’

‘That’s sheer nonsense,’ said the archdeacon.

‘It’s not nonsense at all,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘Then I suppose I was to hold my tongue and say nothing?’ said the archdeacon; and as he spoke he banged the door between his dressing-room and Mrs Grantly’s bedroom.

On the first day of the new year Major Grantly spoke his mind to his mother. The archdeacon had gone into Barchester, having in vain attempted to induce his son to go with him. Mr Harding was in the library reading a little and sleeping a little, and dreaming of old days and old friends, and perhaps sometimes, of the old wine. Mrs Grantly was alone in a small sitting-room which she frequented upstairs, when suddenly her son entered the room. ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘I think it better to tell you that I am going to Allington.’

‘To Allington, Henry?’ She knew very well who was at Allington, and what must be the business which would take him there.

‘Yes, mother. Miss Crawley is there, and there are circumstances which make it incumbent on me to see her without delay.’

‘What circumstances, Henry?’

‘As I intend to ask her to be my wife, I think it best to do so now. I owe it to her and to myself that she should not think I am deterred by her father’s position.’

‘But would it not be reasonable that you should be deterred by her father’s position?’

‘No, I think not. I think it would be dishonest as well as ungenerous. I cannot bring myself to brook such delay. Of course I am alive to the misfortune which has fallen upon her — upon her and me, too, should she ever become my wife. But it is one of those burdens which a man should have shoulders broad enough to bear.’

‘Quite so, if she were your wife, or even if you were engaged to her. Then honour would require it of you, as well as affection. As it is, your honour does not require it, and I think you should hesitate, for all our sakes, and especially for Edith’s.’

‘It will do Edith no harm; and, mother, if you alone were concerned, I think you would feel that it would not hurt you.’

‘I was not thinking of myself, Henry.’

‘As for my father, the very threats which he has made make me conscious that I have only to measure the price. He has told me that he will stop my allowance.’

‘But that may not be the worst. Think how you are situated. You are the younger son of a man who will be held to be justified in making an elder son, if he thinks fit to do so.’

‘I can only hope that he will be fair to Edith. If you will tell him that from me, it is all that I wish you to do.’

‘But you will see him yourself?’

‘No, mother; not till I have been to Allington. Then I will see him again or not, just as he pleases. I shall stop at Guestwick, and will write to you a line from thence. If my father decides on doing anything, let me know at once, as it will be necessary that I should get rid of the lease of my house.’

‘Oh, Henry!’

‘I have thought a great deal about it, mother, and I believe I am right. Whether I am right or wrong, I shall do it. I will not ask you now for any promise or pledge; but should Miss Crawley become my wife, I hope that you at least will not refuse to see her as your daughter.’ Having so spoken, he kissed his mother, and was about to leave the room; but she held him by his arm, and he saw that her eyes were full of tears. ‘Dearest mother, if I grieve you I am sorry indeed.’

‘Not me, not me, not me,’ she said.

‘For my father, I cannot help it. Had he not threatened me I should have told him also. As he has done so, you must tell him. But give him my kindest love.’

‘Oh, Henry; you will be ruined. You will, indeed. Can you not wait? Remember how headstrong your father is, and how good; — and how he loves you! Think of all he that he has done for you. When did he refuse you anything?’

‘He has been good to me, but in this I cannot obey him. He should not ask me.’

‘You are wrong. You are indeed. He has a right to expect that you will not bring disgrace upon the family.’

‘Nor will I; — except such disgrace as shall attend upon poverty. Good-bye, mother. I wish you could have said one kind word to me.’

‘Have I not said a kind word?’

‘Not as yet, mother.’

‘I would not for the world speak unkindly to you. If it were not for your father I would bid you bring whom you pleased home to me as your wife; and I would be as a mother to her. And if this girl should become your wife —’

‘It shall not be my fault if she does not.’

‘I will try to love her — some day.’

Then the major went, leaving Edith at the rectory, as requested by his mother. His own dog-cart and servant were at Plumstead, and he drove himself home to Cosby Lodge.

When the archdeacon returned the news was told to him at once. ‘Henry has gone to Allington to propose to Miss Crawley,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘Gone — without speaking to me!’

‘He left his love, and said that it was useless remaining, as he knew he should only offend you.’

‘He has made his bed, and he must lie upon it,’ said the archdeacon. And then there was not another word said about Grace Crawley on that occasion.

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