The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LVI

The Archdeacon Goes to Framley

By some of these unseen telegraphic wires which carry news about the country and make no charge for the conveyance, Archdeacon Grantly heard that his son the major was at Framley. Now in that itself there would have been nothing singular. There had been for years much intimacy between the Lufton family and the Grantly family — so much that an alliance between the two houses had once been planned, the elders having considered it expedient that the young lord should marry that Griselda who had since mounted higher in the world even than the elders had then projected for her. There had come no such alliance; but the intimacy had not ceased, and there was nothing in itself surprising in the fact that Major Grantly should be staying at Framley Court. But the archdeacon, when he heard the news, bethought him at once of Grace Crawley. Could it be possible that his old friend Lady Lufton — Lady Lufton whom he had known and trusted all his life, whom he had ever regarded as a pillar of the Church in Barsetshire — should be now untrue to him in a matter so closely affecting his interests? Men when they are worried by fears and teased by adverse circumstances become suspicious of those on whom suspicion should never rest. It was hardly possible, the archdeacon thought, that Lady Lufton should treat him so unworthily — but the circumstances were strong against his friend. Lady Lufton had induced Miss Crawley to go to Framley, much against his advice, at a time when such a visit seemed to him to be very improper; and it now appeared that his son was to be there at the same time — a fact of which Lady Lufton had made no mention to him whatever. Why had not Lady Lufton told him that Henry Grantly was coming to Framley Court? The reader, whose interest in the matter will be less keen than was the archdeacon’s, will know very well why Lady Lufton had said nothing about the major’s visit. The reader will remember that Lady Lufton, when she saw the archdeacon, was as ignorant as to the intended visit as was the archdeacon himself. But the archdeacon was uneasy, troubled, and suspicious; — and he suspected his old friend unworthily.

He spoke to his wife about it within a very few hours of the arrival of the tidings by those invisible wires. He had already told her that Miss Crawley was to go to Framley parsonage, and that he thought that Mrs Robarts was wrong to receive her at such a time. ‘It is only intended for good-nature,’ Mrs Grantly had said. ‘It is misplaced good-nature at the present moment,’ the archdeacon had replied. Mrs Grantly had not thought it worth her while to undertake at the moment any strong defence of the Framley people. She knew well how odious was the name of Crawley in her husband’s ears, and she felt that the less that was said at the present about the Crawleys the better for the peace of the rectory at Plumstead. She had therefore allowed the expression of his disapproval to pass unchallenged. But now he came upon her with a more bitter grievance and she was obliged to argue the matter with him.

‘What do you think?’ said he: ‘Henry is at Framley.’

‘He can hardly be staying there,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘because I know that he is so very busy at home.’ The business at home of which the major’s mother was speaking was his projected moving from Cosby Lodge, a subject which was also very odious to the archdeacon. He did not wish his son to move from Cosby Lodge. He could not endure the idea that his son should be known throughout the county to be giving up a residence because he could not afford to keep it. The archdeacon could have afforded to keep up two Cosby Lodges for his son, and would have been well pleased to do so, if only his son would not misbehave against him so shamefully! He could not bear that his son should be punished openly, before the eyes of all Barsetshire. Indeed he did not wish that his son should be punished at all. He simply desired that his son should recognise his father’s power to inflict punishment. It would be henbane to Archdeacon Grantly to have a poor son — a son living at Pau — among Frenchmen! — because he could not afford to live in England. Why had the archdeacon been careful of his money, adding house to house and field to field? He himself was contented — so he told himself — to die as he had lived in a country parsonage, working with the collar round his neck up to the day of his death, if God would allow him to do so. He was ambitious of no grandeur for himself. So he would tell himself — being partly oblivious of certain episodes in his own life. All his wealth had been got together for his children. He desired that his sons should be fitting brothers for their august sister. And now the son who was nearest to him, whom he was bent upon making a squire in his own county, wanted to marry the daughter of a man who had stolen twenty pounds, and when objection was made to so discreditable a connexion, replied by packing up all his things and saying that he would go and live — at Pau! The archdeacon therefore did not like to hear of his son being very busy at home.

‘I don’t know whether he is busy or not,’ said the archdeacon, ‘but I tell you he is staying at Framley.’

‘From whom have you heard it?’

‘What matter does that make if it is so? I heard it from Flurry.’

‘Flurry may have been mistaken,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘It is not at all likely. Those people always know about such things. He heard it from the Framley people. I don’t doubt but it’s true, and I think that it’s a great shame.’

‘A great shame that Henry should be at Framley! He has been there two or three times every year since he has lived in the county.’

‘It is a great shame that he should be had over there just at the time when that girl is there also. It is impossible to believe that such a thing is an accident.’

‘But, archdeacon, you do not mean to say that you think that Lady Lufton has arranged it?’

‘I don’t know who arranged it. Somebody has arranged it. If it is Robarts, that is almost worse. One could forgive a woman in such a matter better than one could a man.’

‘Psha!’ Mrs Grantly’s temper was never bitter, but at this moment it was not sweetened by her husband’s very uncivil reference to her sex. ‘The whole idea is nonsense, and you should get it out of your head.’

‘Am I to get it out of my head that Henry wants to make this girl his wife, and that the two are at this moment at Framley together?’ In this the archdeacon was wrong as to his facts. Major Grantly had left Framley on the previous day, having stayed there only one night. ‘It is coming to that that one can trust no one — no one — literally no one.’ Mrs Grantly perfectly understood that the archdeacon, in the agony of the moment, intended to exclude even herself from his confidence by that ‘no one’; but to this she was indifferent, understanding accurately when his words should be accepted as expressing his thoughts, and when they should be supposed to express only his anger.

‘The probability is that no one at Lufton knew anything about Henry’s partiality for Miss Crawley,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘I tell you I think they are both at Framley together.’

‘And I tell you that if they are, which I doubt, they are there simply by accident. Besides, what does it matter? If they choose to marry each other, you and I cannot prevent them. They don’t want any assistance from Lady Lufton, or anybody else. They have simply got to make up their own minds, and then no one can hinder them.’

‘And, therefore, you would wish to see them brought together?’

‘I say nothing about it, archdeacon; but I do say that we must take these things as they come. What can we do? Henry may go and stay with Lady Lufton if he pleases. You and I cannot prevent him.’

After this the archdeacon walked away, and would not argue the matter any further with his wife at the moment. He knew very well that he could not get the better of her, and was apt at such moments to think that she took an unfair advantage of him by keeping her temper. But he could not get out of his head the idea that perhaps on this very day things were being arranged between his son and Grace Crawley at Framley; and he resolved that he himself would go over and see what might be done. He would, at any rate, tell all his trouble to Lady Lufton, and beg his old friend to assist him. He could not think that such a one as he had always known Lady Lufton to be would approve of a marriage between Henry Grantly and Grace Crawley. At any rate, he would learn the truth. He had once been told that Grace Crawley had herself refused to marry his son, feeling that she would do wrong to inflict so great an injury upon any gentleman. He had not believed in so great a virtue. He could not believe it now — now, when he heard that Miss Crawley and his son were staying together in the same parish. Somebody must be doing him an injury. It could hardly be chance. But his presence at Framley might even yet have a good effect, and he would at least learn the truth. So he had himself driven to Barchester, and from Barchester he took post-horses to Framley.

As he came near to the village, he grew to be somewhat ashamed of himself, or, at least, nervous as to the mode in which he would proceed. The driver, turning round to him, had suggested that he supposed he was to drive to ‘My Lady’s’. This injustice to Lord Lufton, to whom the house belonged, and with whom his mother lived as a guest, was very common in the county; for old Lady Lufton had lived at Framley Court through her son’s long minority, and had kept the house there till his marriage; and even since his marriage she had been recognised as its presiding genius. It certainly was not the fault of old Lady Lufton, as she always spoke of everything as belonging either to her son or daughter-in-law. The archdeacon had been in doubt whether he would go to the Court or the parsonage. Could he have done exactly as he wished, he would have left the chaise and walked to the parsonage, so as to reach it without the noise and fuss incidental to a postillion’s arrival. But that was impossible. He could not drop into Framley as though he had come from the clouds, and, therefore, he told the man to do as he had suggested. ‘To my lady’s?’ said the postillion. The archdeacon assented, and the man, with loud cracks of his whip, and with a spasmodic gallop along the short avenue, took the archdeacon up to the door of Lord Lufton’s house. He asked for Lord Lufton first, putting on his pleasantest smile, so that the servant should not suspect the purpose, of which he was somewhat ashamed. Was Lord Lufton at home? Lord Lufton was not at home. Lord Lufton had gone up to London that morning, intending to return the day after tomorrow; but both my ladies were at home. So the archdeacon was shown into the room where both my ladies were sitting — and with them he found Mrs Robarts. Anyone who had become acquainted with the habits of the Framley ladies would have known that this might very probably be the case. The archdeacon himself was as well aware as anyone of the modes of life at Framley. The lord’s wife was the parson’s sister, and the parson’s wife had from her infancy been the petted friend of the old lady. Of course they all lived very much together. Of course Mrs Robarts was as much at home in the drawing-room of Framley Court as she was in her own drawing-room at the parsonage. Nevertheless, the archdeacon thought himself to be hardly used when he found Mrs Robarts was at the house.

‘My dear archdeacon, who ever expected to see you?’ said old Lady Lufton. Then the two younger women greeted him. And they all smiled on him pleasantly, and seemed overjoyed to see him. He was, in truth, a great favourite at Framley, and each of the three was glad to welcome him. They believed in the archdeacon at Framley, and felt for him that sort of love which ladies in the country do feel for their elderly male friends. There was not one of the three who would not have taken much trouble to get anything for the archdeacon which they had thought the archdeacon would like. Even old Lady Lufton remembered what was his favourite soup, and always took care that he should have it when he dined at the Court. Young Lady Lufton would bring his tea to him as he sat in his chair. He was petted in the house, was allowed to poke the fire if he pleased, and called the servants by their names as though he were at home. He was compelled, therefore, to smile and to seem pleased; and it was not till after he had eaten his lunch, and had declared that he must return home to dinner, that the dowager gave him an opportunity of having the private conversation which he desired.

‘Can I have a few minutes’ talk with you?’ he said to her, whispering into her ear as they left the drawing-room together. So she led the way into her own sitting-room, telling him, as she asked him to be seated, that she supposed that something special must have brought him over to Framley. ‘I should have asked you to come up here, even if you had not spoken.’

‘Then perhaps you know what has brought me over?’ said the archdeacon.

‘Not in the least,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘I have not an idea. But I did not flatter myself that you would come so far on a morning call to see us three ladies. I hope you did not want to see Ludovic, because he will not be back till tomorrow.’

‘I wanted to see you, Lady Lufton.’

‘That is lucky, as here I am. You may be pretty sure to find me here any day in the year.’

After this there was a little pause. The archdeacon hardly knew how to begin his story. In the first place he was in doubt whether Lady Lufton had ever heard of the preposterous match which his son had proposed to himself to make. In his anger at Plumstead he had felt sure that she knew all about it, and that she was assisting his son. But this belief had dwindled as his anger had dwindled; and as the chaise had entered the parish of Framley he had told himself that it was quite impossible that she should know anything about it. Her manner had certainly been altogether in her favour since he had been in her house. There had been nothing of the consciousness of guilt in her demeanour. But, nevertheless, there was the coincidence! How had it come to pass that Grace Crawley and his son should be at Framley together? It might, indeed, be just possible that Flurry might have been wrong, and that his son had not been there at all.

‘I suppose Miss Crawley is at the parsonage?’ he said at last.

‘Oh, yes; she is still there, and will remain there I should think for the next ten days.’

‘Oh; I did not know,’ said the archdeacon very coldly.

It seemed to Lady Lufton, who was as innocent as an unborn babe in the matter of the projected marriage, that her old friend was in a mind to persecute the Crawleys. He had on a former occasion taken upon himself to advise that Grace Crawley should not be entertained at Framley, and now it seemed that he had come all the way from Plumstead to say something further in the same strain. Lady Lufton, if had anything further to say of that kind, would listen to him as a matter of course. She would listen to him and reply to him without temper. But she did not approve of it. She told herself silently that she did not approve of persecution or of interference. She therefore drew herself up, and pursed her mouth, and put on something of that look of severity which she could assume very visibly, if it so pleased her.

‘Yes; she is still there, and I think her visit will do her a great deal of good,’ said Lady Lufton.

‘When we talk of doing good to people,’ said the archdeacon, ‘we often make terrible mistakes. It so often happens that we don’t know when we are doing good and when we are doing harm.’

‘That is true, of course, Dr Grantly, and must be so necessarily, as our wisdom here below is so very limited. But I should think — as far as I can see, that is — that the kindness which my friend Mrs Robarts is showing to this young lady must be beneficial. You know, archdeacon, I explained to you before that I could not quite agree with you in what you said as to leaving these people alone till after the trial. I thought that help was necessary to them at once.’

The archdeacon sighed deeply. He ought to have been somewhat renovated in spirit by the tone in which Lady Lufton spoke to him, as it conveyed to him almost an absolute conviction that his first suspicion was incorrect. But any comfort which might have come to him from this source was marred by the feeling that he must announce his own disgrace. At any rate, he must do so, unless he were contented to go back to Plumstead without having learned anything by his journey. He changed the tone of his voice, however, and asked a question — as it might be altogether on a different subject. ‘I heard yesterday,’ he said, ‘that Henry was over here.’

‘He was here yesterday. He came the evening before, and dined and slept here, and went home yesterday morning.’

‘Was Miss Crawley with you that evening?’

‘Miss Crawley? No; she would not come. She thinks it best not to go out while her father is in his present unfortunate position; and she is right.’

‘She is quite right in that,’ said the archdeacon; and then he paused again. He thought that it would be best for him to make a clean breast of it, and to trust Lady Lufton’s sympathy. ‘Did Henry go up to the parsonage?’ he asked.

But still Lady Lufton did not suspect the truth. ‘I think he did,’ she replied, with an air of surprise. ‘I think I heard that he went up there to call on Mrs Robarts after breakfast.’

‘No, Lady Lufton, he did not go up there to call on Mrs Robarts. He went up there because he is making a fool of himself about that Miss Crawley. That is the truth. Now you understand it all. I hope that Mrs Robarts does not know it. I do hope for her own sake that Mrs Robarts does not know it.’

The archdeacon certainly had no longer any doubt as to Lady Lufton’s innocence when he looked at her face as she heard these tidings. She had predicted that Grace Crawley would ‘make havoc’, and could not, therefore, be altogether surprised at the idea that some gentleman should have fallen in love with her; but she had never suspected that the havoc might be made so early in her days, or on so great a quarry. ‘You don’t mean to tell me that Henry Grantly is in love with Grace Crawley?’ she replied.

‘I mean to say that he says he is.’

‘Dear, dear, dear! I’m sure, archdeacon, that you will believe me when I say that I knew nothing about it.’

‘I am quite sure of that,’ said the archdeacon dolefully.

‘Or I certainly should not have been glad to see him here. But the house, you know, is not mine, Dr Grantly. I could have done nothing if I had known of it. But only to think —; well, to be sure. She has lost no time, at any rate.’

Now this was not at all the light in which the archdeacon wished that the matter should be regarded. He had been desirous that Lady Lufton should be horror-stricken by the tidings, but it seemed to him that she regarded the iniquity as a good joke. What did it matter how young or how old the girl might be? She came of poor people — of people who had no friends — of disgraced people; and Lady Lufton ought to feel that such a marriage would be a terrible crime. ‘I need hardly tell you, Lady Lufton,’ said the archdeacon, ‘that I shall set my face against it as far as it is in my power to do so.’

‘If they both be resolved I suppose you can hardly prevent it.’

‘Of course I cannot prevent it. Of course I cannot prevent it. If he will break my heart and his mother’s — and his sister’s — of course I cannot prevent it. If he will ruin himself he must have his own way.’

‘Ruin himself, Dr Grantly!’

‘They will have enough to live upon — somewhere in Spain or France.’ The scorn expressed in the archdeacon’s voice as he spoke of Pau as being somewhere in Spain or France’ should have been heard to be understood. ‘No doubt they will have enough to live upon.’

‘Do you mean to say that it will make a difference as to your own property, Dr Grantly?’

‘Certainly it will, Lady Lufton. I told Henry when I first heard of the thing — before he had definitely made any offer to the girl — that I should withdraw from him altogether the allowance that I now make him, if he married her. And I told him also that if he persisted in his folly I should think it my duty to alter my will.’

‘I am sorry for that, Dr Grantly.’

‘Sorry! And am I not sorry? Sorrow is no sufficient word. I am broken-hearted. Lady Lufton, it is killing me. It is indeed. I love him; I love him; — I love him as you have loved your son. But what is the use? What can he be to me when he shall have married the daughter of such a man as that?’

Lady Lufton sat for a while silent, thinking of a certain episode in her own life. There had been a time when her son was desirous of making a marriage which she had thought would break her heart. She had for a time moved heaven and earth — as far as she knew how to move them — to prevent the marriage. But at last she had yielded — not from lack of power, for the circumstances had been such that at the moment of yielding she had still the power in her hand of staying the marriage — but she had yielded because she had perceived that her son was in earnest. She had yielded, and had kissed the dust; but from the moment in which her lips had so touched the ground, they had taken great joy in the daughter in whom her son had brought into the house. Since that she had learned to think that young people might perhaps be right, and that old people might perhaps be wrong. This trouble of her friend the archdeacon’s was very like her own trouble. ‘And he is engaged to her now?’ she said, when those thoughts had passed through her mind.

‘Yes; — that is, no. I am not sure. I do not know how to make myself sure.’

‘I am sure Major Grantly will tell you all the truth as it exists.’

‘Yes; he’ll tell me the truth — as far as he knows it. I do not see that there is much anxiety to spare me in that matter. He is desirous rather of making me understand that I have no power of saving him from his own folly. Of course I have no power of saving him.’

‘But is he engaged to her?’

‘He says that she has refused him. But of course that means nothing.’

Again the archdeacon’s position was very like Lady Lufton’s position, as it had existed before her son’s marriage. In that case also the young lady, who was now Lady Lufton’s own daughter and dearest friend, had refused the lover who proposed to her, although the marriage was so much to her advantage — loving him too, the while, with her whole heart, as it was natural to suppose that Grace Crawley might so love her lover. The more she thought of the similarity of the stories, the stronger were her sympathies on the side of poor Grace. Nevertheless, she would comfort her old friend if she knew how; and of course she could not but admit to herself that the match was one which must be a cause of real sorrow to him. ‘I don’t know why her refusal should mean nothing,’ said Lady Lufton.

‘Of course a girl refuses at first — a girl, I mean, in such circumstances as hers. She can’t but feel that more is offered to her than she ought to take, and that she is bound to go through the ceremony of declining. But my anger is not with her, Lady Lufton.’

‘I do not see how it can be.’

‘No; it is not with her. If she becomes his wife I trust that I may never see her.’

‘Oh, Dr Grantly!’

‘I do; I do. How can it be otherwise with me? But I shall have no quarrel with her. With him I must quarrel.’

‘I do not see why,’ said Lady Lufton.

‘You do not? Does he not set me at defiance?’

‘At his age surely a son has a right to marry as he pleases.’

‘If he took her out of the streets, then it would be the same?’ said the archdeacon with bitter anger.

‘No; — for such a one would herself be bad.’

‘Or if she were the daughter of a huckster out of the city?’

‘No again; — or in that case her want of education would probably unfit her for your society.’

‘Her father’s disgrace, then, should be a matter of indifference to me, Lady Lufton?’

‘I did not say so. In the first place, her father is not disgraced — not as yet; and we do not know whether he may ever be disgraced. You will hardly be disposed to say that persecution from the palace disgraces a clergyman in Barsetshire.’

‘All the same, I believe that the man was guilty,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Wait and see, my friend, before you condemn him altogether. But, be that as it may, I acknowledge that the marriage is one which must naturally be distasteful to you.’

‘Oh, Lady Lufton! If you only knew! If you only knew!’

‘I do know; and I feel for you. But I think that your son has a right to expect that you should not show the same repugnance to such a marriage as this as you would have had a right to show had he suggested to himself a wife as those at which you had just now hinted. Of course you can advise him, and make him understand your feelings; but I cannot think you will be justified in quarrelling with him, or in changing your views towards him with regards money, seeing that Miss Crawley is an educated lady, who has done nothing to forfeit your respect.’ A heavy cloud came upon the archdeacons’s brow as he heard these words, but he did not make any immediate answer. ‘Of course, my friend,’ continued Lady Lufton, ‘I should not have ventured to say so much to you, had you not come to me, as it were, for my opinion.’

‘I came here because I thought Henry was here,’ said the archdeacon.

‘If I have said too much, I beg your pardon.’

‘No; you have not said too much. It is not that. You and I are such old friends that either may say almost anything to the other.’

‘Yes; — just so. And therefore I have ventured to speak my mind,’ said Lady Lufton.

‘Of course; — and I am obliged to you. But, Lady Lufton, you do not understand yet how this hits me. Everything in life that I have done, I have done for my children. I am wealthy, but I have not used my wealth for myself, because I have desired that they should be able to hold their heads high in the world. All my ambition has been for them, and all the pleasure which I have anticipated for myself in my old age is that which I have hoped to receive from their credit. As for Henry, he might have had anything he wanted from me in the way of money. He expressed a wish, a few months since, to go into Parliament, and I promised to help him as far as ever I could go. I have kept up the game altogether for him. He, the younger son of a working parish parson, has had everything that could be given to the eldest son of a country gentleman — more than is given to the eldest son of many a peer. I have hoped that he would marry again, but I have never cared that he should marry for money. I have been willing to do anything for him myself. But, Lady Lufton, a father does feel that he should have some return for all this. No one can imagine that Henry ever supposed that a bride from that wretched place at Hogglestock could be welcomed among us. He knew that he would break our hearts, and he did not care for it. That is what I feel. Of course he has the power to do as he likes; — and of course I have the power to do as I like also with what is my own.’

Lady Lufton was a very good woman, devoted to her duties, affectionate and just to those about her, truly religious, and charitable from her nature; but I doubt whether the thorough worldliness of the archdeacon’s appeal struck her as it will strike the reader. People are so much more worldly in practice than they are in theory, so much keener after their own gratification in detail than they are in the abstract, that the narrative of many an adventure would shock us, though the same adventure would not shock us in the action. One girl tells another how she has changed her mind in love; and the friend sympathises with the friend, and perhaps applauds. Had the story been told in print, the friend who had listened with equanimity would have read of such vacillation with indignation. She who vacillated herself would have hated her own performance when brought before her judgment as a matter in which she had no personal interest. Very fine things are written every day about honesty and truth, and men read them with a sort of external conviction that a man, if he be anything of a man at all, is of course honest and true. But when the internal convictions are brought out between two or three who are personally interested together — between two or three who feel that their little gathering is, so to say, ‘tiled’— those internal convictions differ very much from the external convictions. This man, in his confidences, asserts broadly that he does not mean to be thrown over, and that man has a project for throwing over somebody else; and the intention of each is that scruples are not to stand in the way of his success. The ‘Ruat coelum, fiat justitia’ was said, no doubt, from an outside balcony to a crowd, and the speaker knew that he was talking buncombe. The ‘Rem, si possis recte, si non quocunque modo’ was whispered into the ear in a club smoking-room, and the whisperer intended that his words should prevail.

Lady Lufton had often heard her friend the archdeacon preach, and she knew well the high tone which he could take as the necessity of trusting our hopes for the future for all our true happiness; and yet she sympathised with him when he told her that he was broken-hearted because his son would take a step which might possibly interfere with his worldly prosperity. Had the archdeacon been preaching about matrimony, he would have recommended young men, in taking wives to themselves, especially to look for young women who feared the Lord. But in talking about his own son’s wife, no word as to her eligibility or non- eligibility in this respect escaped his lips. Had he talked on the subject till nightfall no such word would have been spoken. Had any friend of his own, man or woman, in discussing such a matter with him and asking his advice upon it, alluded to the fear of the Lord, the allusion would have been distasteful to him and would have smacked to his palate of hypocrisy. Lady Lufton, who understood as well as any woman what it is to be ‘tiled’ with a friend, took all this in good part. The archdeacon had spoken out of his heart what was in his heart. One of his children had married a marquis. Another might probably become a bishop — perhaps an archbishop. The third might be a county squire — high among the county squires. But he could only so become by walking warily; — and now he was bent on marrying the penniless daughter of an impoverished half-mad country curate, who was about to be tried for stealing twenty pounds! Lady Lufton, in spite of all her arguments, could not refuse her sympathy to her old friend.

‘After all, from what you say, I suppose they are not engaged.’

‘I do not know,’ said the archdeacon. ‘I cannot tell!’

‘And what do you wish me to do?’

‘Oh — nothing. I came over, as I said before, because I thought he was here. I think it right, before he has absolutely committed himself, to take every means in my power to make him understand that I shall withdraw from him all pecuniary assistance — now and for the future.’

‘My friend, that threat seems to me to be so terrible.’

‘It is the only power I have left to me.’

‘But you, who are so affectionate by nature, would never adhere to it.’

‘I will try. I will try my best to be firm. I will at once put everything beyond my control after my death.’ The archdeacon, as he uttered these terrible words — words which were awful to Lady Lufton’s ears — resolved that he would endeavour to nurse his own wrath; but, at the same time, almost hated himself for his own pusillanimity, because he feared that his wrath would die away before he should have availed himself of its heat.

‘I would do nothing rash of that kind,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘Your object is to prevent the marriage — not to punish him for it when once he has made it.’

‘He is not to have his own way in everything, Lady Lufton.’

‘But you should first try to prevent it.’

‘What can I do to prevent it?’

Lady Lufton paused a couple of minutes before she replied. She had a scheme in her head, but it seemed to her to savour of cruelty. And yet at present it was her chief duty to assist her old friend, if any assistance could be given. There could hardly be a doubt that such a marriage as this, of which they were speaking, was in itself an evil. In her case, the case of her son, there had been no question of a trial, of money stolen, of aught that was in truth disgraceful. ‘I think if I were you, Dr Grantly,’ she said, ‘that I would see the young lady while I was here.’

‘See her myself?’ said the archdeacon. The idea of seeing Grace Crawley himself had, up to this moment, never entered his head.

‘I think I would do so.’

‘I think I will,’ said the archdeacon, after a pause. Then he got up from his chair. ‘If I am to do it, I had better do it at once.’

‘Be gentle with her, my friend.’ The archdeacon paused again. He certainly had entertained the idea of encountering Miss Crawley with severity rather than gentleness. Lady Lufton rose from her seat, and coming up to him, took one of his hands between her own two. ‘Be gentle to her,’ she said. ‘You have owned that she has done nothing wrong.’ The archdeacon bowed his head in token of assent and left the room.

Poor Grace Crawley.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trollope/anthony/last/chapter56.html

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