The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LVIII

The Cross-Grainedness of Men

By the time that the archdeacon reached Plumstead his enthusiasm in favour of Grace Crawley had somewhat cooled itself; and the language which from time to time he prepared for conveying his impressions to his wife, became less fervid as he approached his home. There was his pledge, and by that he would abide; — and so much he would make both his wife and son understand. But any idea which he might have entertained for a moment of extending the promise he had given and relaxing that given to him was gone before he saw his own chimneys. Indeed, I fear he had by that time begun to feel that the only salvation now open to him must come from the jury’s verdict. If the jury should declare Mr Crawley to be guilty, then —; he would not say even to himself that in such case all would be right, but he did feel that much as he might regret the fate of the poor Crawleys, and of the girl whom in his warmth he had declared to be almost an angel, nevertheless to him personally such a verdict would bring consolatory comfort.

‘I have seen Miss Crawley,’ he said to his wife, as soon as he had closed the door of his study, before he had been two minutes out of the chaise. He had determined that he would dash at the subject at once, and he thus carried his resolution into effect.

‘You have seen Grace Crawley?’

‘Yes; I went up to the parsonage and called upon her. Lady Lufton advised me to do so.’

‘And Henry?’

‘Oh, Henry has gone. He was only there one night. I suppose he saw her, but I am not sure.’

‘Would not Miss Crawley tell you?’

‘I forgot to ask her.’ Mrs Grantly, at hearing this, expressed her surprise by opening wide her eyes. He had gone all the way over to Framley on purpose to look after his son, and learn what were his doings, and when there he had forgotten to ask the person who could have given him better information than anyone else! ‘But it does not signify,’ continued the archdeacon; ‘she said enough to me to make that of no importance.’

‘And what did she say?’

‘She said that she would never consent to marry Henry as long as there was any suspicion abroad as to her father’s guilt.’

‘And you believe her promise?’

‘Certainly I do; I do not doubt that in the least. I put implicit confidence in her. And I have promised her that if her father is acquitted — I will withdraw my opposition.’

‘No!’

‘But I have. And you would have done the same had you been there.’

‘I doubt that, my dear. I am not so impulsive as you are.’

‘You could not have helped yourself. You would have felt yourself obliged to be equally generous with her. She came up to me and she put her hand upon me —’ ‘Psha!’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘But she did, my dear, and then she said, “I promise you that I will not become your son’s wife while people think papa stole this money.” What else could I do?’

‘And is she pretty?’

‘Very pretty; very beautiful.’

‘And like a lady?’

‘Quite like a lady. There is no mistake about that.’

‘And she behaved well?’

‘Admirably,’ said the archdeacon, who was in measure compelled to justify the generosity into which he had been betrayed by his feelings.

‘Then she is a paragon,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘I don’t know what you may call a paragon, my dear. I say that she is a lady, and that she is extremely good-looking, and that she behaved very well. I cannot say less in her favour. I am sure you would not say less yourself, if you had been present.’

‘She must be a wonderful young woman.’

‘I don’t know anything about her being wonderful.’

‘She must be wonderful when she has succeeded both with the son and with the father.’

‘I wish you had been there instead of me,’ said the archdeacon angrily. Mrs Grantly very probably wished so also, feeling that in that case a more serene mode of business would have been adopted. How keenly susceptible the archdeacon still was to the influences of feminine charms, no one knew better than Mrs Grantly, and whenever she became aware that he had been in this way seduced from the wisdom of his cooler judgment she always felt something akin to indignation against the seducer. As for her husband, she probably told herself at such moments that he was an old goose. ‘If you had been there, and Henry with you, you would have made a great deal worse job of it than I have done,’ said the archdeacon.

‘I don’t say you have made a bad job of it, my dear,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘But it’s past eight, and you must be terribly in want of your dinner. Had you not better go and dress?’

In the evening the plan of future campaign was arranged between them. The archdeacon would not write to his son at all. In passing through Barchester he had abandoned his idea of despatching a note from the hotel, feeling that such a note as would be required was not easily written in a hurry. Mrs Grantly would now write to her son, telling him that circumstances had changed, that it would be altogether unnecessary for him to sell his furniture, and begging him to come over and see his father without a day’s delay. She wrote her letter that night, and read to the archdeacon all that she had written — with the exception of the postscript:—‘You may be quite sure that there will be no unpleasantness with your father.’ That was the postscript which was not communicated to the archdeacon.

On the third day after that Henry Grantly did come over to Plumstead. His mother in her letter to him had not explained how it had come to pass that the sale of the furniture would be unnecessary. His father had given him to understand distinctly that his income would be withdrawn from him unless he would express his intention of giving up Miss Crawley; and it had been admitted among them all that Cosby Lodge must be abandoned if this were done. He certainly would not give up Grace Crawley. Sooner than that, he would give up every stick in his possession, and go an live in New Zealand if it were necessary. Not only had Grace’s conduct to him made him thus firm, but the natural bent of his own disposition had tended that way also. His father had attempted to dictate to him, and sooner than submit to that he would sell the coat off his back. Had his father confined his opposition to advice, and had Miss Crawley been less firm in her view of her duty, the major might have been less firm also. But things had so gone that he was determined to be fixed as granite. If others would not be moved from their resolves, neither would he. Such being the state of his mind, he could not understand why he was thus summoned to Plumstead. He had already written over to Pau about his house, and it was well that he should, at any rate, see his mother before he started. He was willing, therefore, to go to Plumstead, but he took no steps as to the withdrawal of those auctioneer’s bills to which the archdeacon so strongly objected. When he drove into the rectory yard, his father was standing there before him. ‘Henry,’ he said, ‘I am very glad to see you. I am very much obliged to you for coming.’ Then Henry got out of his cart and shook hands with his father, and the archdeacon began to talk about the weather. ‘Your mother has gone into Barchester to see your grandfather,’ said the archdeacon. ‘If you are not tired, we might as well take a walk. I want to go up as far as Flurry’s cottage.’ The major of course declared that he was not at all tired, and that he should be delighted of all things to go up and see old Flurry, and thus they started. Young Grantly had not even been into the house before he left the yard with his father. Of course, he was thinking of the coming sale at Cosby Lodge, and of his future life at Pau, and of his injured position in the world. There would be no longer any occasion for him to be solicitous as to the Plumstead foxes. Of course these things were in his mind; but he could not begin to speak of them till his father did so. ‘I’m afraid your grandfather is not very strong,’ said the archdeacon, shaking his head. ‘I fear he won’t be with us very long.’

‘Is it so bad as that?’

‘Well, you know, he is an old man, Henry; and he was always somewhat old for his age. He will be eighty, if he lives two years longer, I think. But he’ll never reach eighty; — never. You must go and see him before you go back home; you must indeed.’ The major, of course, promised that he would see his grandfather, and the archdeacon told his son how nearly the old man had fallen in the passage between the cathedral and the deanery. In this way they had nearly made their way up to the gamekeeper’s cottage without a word of reference to any subject that touched upon the matter of which each of them was of course thinking. Whether the major intended to remain at home or to live at Pau, the subject of Mr Harding’s health was a natural topic for conversation between him and his father; but when his father stopped suddenly, and began to tell him how a fox had been trapped on Darvell’s farm —‘and of course it was a Plumstead fox — there can be no doubt that Flurry is right about that’; — when the archdeacon spoke of this iniquity with much warmth, and told his son how he had at once written off to Mr Thorne of Ullathorne, and how Mr Thorne had declared that he didn’t believe a word of it, and how Flurry had produced the pad of the fox, with the marks of the trap on the skin — then the son began to feel that the ground was becoming very warm, and that he could not go on much longer without rushing into details about Grace Crawley. ‘I’ve no more doubt that it was one of our foxes than that I stand here,’ said the archdeacon.

‘It doesn’t matter where the fox was bred. It shouldn’t have been trapped,’ said the major.

‘Of course not,’ said the archdeacon, indignantly. I wonder whether he would have been so keen had a Romanist priest come into his parish and turned one of his Protestants into a Papist?

Then Flurry came up, and produced the identical pad out of his pocket. ‘I don’t suppose it was intended,’ said the major, looking at the interesting relic with scrutinising eyes. ‘I suppose it was caught in a rabbit-trap, eh, Flurry?’

‘I don’t see what right a man has with traps at all, when gentlemen is particular about their foxes,’ said Flurry. ‘Of course they’d call it rabbits.’

‘I never liked that man on Darvell’s farm,’ said the archdeacon.

‘Nor I either,’ said Flurry. ‘No farmer ought to be on that land who don’t have a horse of his own. And if I war Squire Thorne, I wouldn’t have no farmer there who didn’t keep no horse. When a farmer has a horse of his own, and follies the hounds, there ain’t no rabbit-traps; — never. How does that come about, Mr Henry? Rabbits! I know very well what rabbits is!’

Mr Henry shook his head, and turned away, and the archdeacon followed him. There was an hypocrisy about this pretended care for the foxes which displeased the major. He could not, of course, tell his father that the foxes were no longer anything to him; but yet he must make it understood that such was his conviction. His mother had written to him, saying that the sale of the furniture need not take place. It might be all very well for his mother to say that, or for his father; but after what had taken place, he could consent to remain in England on no other understanding than that his income should be made permanent to him. Such permanence must not be any longer dependent on his father’s caprice. In these days he had come to be somewhat in love with poverty and Pau, and had been feeding on the luxury of his grievance. There, perhaps, nothing so pleasant as the preparation for self-sacrifice. To give up Cosby Lodge and the foxes, to marry a penniless wife, and to go and live at Pau on six or seven hundred a year, seemed just now to Major Grantly to be a fine thing, and he did not intend to abandon this fine thing without receiving a very clear reason for doing so. ‘I can’t quite understand Thorne,’ said the archdeacon. ‘He used to be so particular about these foxes, and I don’t suppose that a country gentleman will change his ideas because he has given up hunting himself.’

‘Mr Thorne never thought very much of Flurry,’ said Henry Grantly, with his mind intent upon Pau and his grievance.

‘He might take my word, at any rate,’ said the archdeacon.

It was a known fact that the archdeacon’s solicitude about the Plumstead covers was wholly on behalf of his son the major. The major himself knew this thoroughly, and felt that his father’s present special anxiety was intended as a corroboration of the tidings conveyed in his mother’s letter. Every word so uttered was meant to have reference to his son’s future residence in the country. ‘Father,’ he said, turning round shortly, and standing before the archdeacon in the pathway, ‘I think you are quite right about the covers. I feel sure that every gentleman who preserves a fox does good to the country. I am sorry that I shall not have a closer interest in the matter myself.’

‘Why shouldn’t you have a closer interest in it?’ said the archdeacon.

‘Because I shall be living abroad.’

‘You got your mother’s letter?’

‘Yes, I got my mother’s letter.’

‘Did she not tell you that you can stay where you are?’

‘Yes, she said so. But, to tell you the truth, sir, I do not like the risk of living beyond my assured income.’

‘But if I justify it?’

‘I do not wish to complain, sir, but you have made me understand that you can, and that in certain circumstances, you will, at a moment, withdraw what you give me. Since this was said to me, I have felt myself to be unsafe in such a house as Cosby Lodge.’

The archdeacon did not know how to explain. He had intended that the real explanation should be given by Mrs Grantly, and had been anxious to return to his old relations with his son without any exact terms on his own part. But his son was, as he thought, awkward, and would drive him to some speech that was unnecessary. ‘You need not be unsafe there at all,’ he said, half angrily.

‘I must be unsafe if I am not sure of my income.’

‘Your income is not in any danger. But you had better speak to your mother about it. For myself, I think I may say that I have never yet behaved to any of you with any harshness. A son should, at any rate, not be offended because a father thinks that he is entitled to some consideration for what he does.’

‘There are some points on which a son cannot give way even to his father, sir.’

‘You had better speak to your mother, Henry. She will explain to you what has taken place. Look at that plantation. You don’t remember it, but every tree there was planted since you were born. I bought that farm from old Mr Thorne, when he was purchasing St Ewold’s Downs, and it was the first bit of land I ever had of my own.’

‘That is not in Plumstead, I think?’

‘No: this is Plumstead, where we stand, but that’s in Eiderdown. The parishes run in and out here. I never bought any other land as cheap as I bought that.’

‘And did old Thorne make a good purchase at St Ewold’s?’

‘Yes, I fancy he did. It gave him the whole of the parish, which was a great thing. It is astonishing how land has risen in value since that, and yet rents are not so very much higher. They who buy land now can’t have above two-and-a-half for their money.’

‘I wonder people are so fond of land,’ said the major.

‘It is a comfortable feeling to know that you stand on your own ground. Land is about the only thing that can’t fly away. And then, you see, land gives so much more than the rent. It gives position and influence and political power, to say nothing about the game. We’ll go back now. I daresay your mother will be at home by this time.’

The archdeacon was striving to teach a great lesson to his son when he thus spoke of the pleasure which a man feels when he stands upon his own ground. He was bidding his son to understand how great was the position of an heir to a landed property, and how small the position of a man depending on what Dr Grantly himself would have called a scratch income — an income made up of a few odds and ends, a share or two in this company and a share or two in that, a slight venture in foreign stocks, a small mortgage and such-like convenient but uninfluential driblets. A man, no doubt, may live at Pau and enjoy life after a fashion while reading Galignani and looking at the mountains. But — as it seemed to the archdeacon — when there was a choice between this kind of thing, and fox-covers at Plumstead, and a seat among the magistrates of Barsetshire, and an establishment full of horses, beeves, swine, carriages, and hayricks, a man brought up as his son had been brought up ought not to be very long in choosing. It never entered into the archdeacon’s mind that he was tempting his son; but Henry Grantly felt that he was having the good things of the world shown to him, and that he was being told that they should be his — for a consideration.

The major, in his present mood, looked at the matter from his own point of view, and determined that the consideration was too high. He was pledged not to give up Grace Crawley, and he would not yield on that point, though he might be tempted by all the fox-covers in Barsetshire. At this moment he did not know how far his father was prepared to yield, or how far it was expected that he should yield himself. He was told that he had to speak to his mother. He would speak to his mother, but, in the meantime, he could not bring himself to make a comfortable answer to his father’s eloquent praise of landed property. He could not allow himself to be enthusiastic on the matter till he knew what was expected of him if he chose to submit to be made a British squire. At present Galignani and the mountains had their charms for him. There was, therefore, but little conversation between the father and the son as the walked back to the rectory.

Late that night the major heard the whole story from his mother. Gradually, and as though unintentionally, Mrs Grantly told him all she knew of the archdeacon’s visit to Framley. Mrs Grantly was quite as anxious as was her husband to keep her son at home, and therefore she omitted in her story those little sneers against Grace which she herself had been tempted to make by the archdeacon’s fervour in the girl’s favour. The major said as little as was possible while he was being told of his father’s adventure, and expressed neither anger nor satisfaction till he had been made thoroughly to understand that Grace had pledged herself not to marry him as long as any suspicion should rest upon her father’s name.

‘Your father is quite satisfied with her,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘He thinks that she is behaving very well.’

‘My father had no right to exact such a pledge.’

‘But she made it of her own accord. She was the first to speak about Mr Crawley’s supposed guilt. Your father never mentioned it.’

‘He must have led to it; and I think that he had no right to do so. He had no right to go to her at all.’

‘Now don’t be foolish, Henry.’

‘I don’t see that I am foolish.’

‘Yes, you are. A man is foolish if he won’t take what he wants without asking exactly how he is to come by it. That your father should be anxious is the most natural thing in the world. You know how high he has always held his own head, and how much he thinks about the characters and the position of clergymen. It is not surprising that he should dislike the idea of such a marriage.’

‘Grace Crawley would disgrace no family,’ said the lover.

‘That’s all very well for you to say, and I’ll take your word that it is so; — that is as far as the young lady goes herself. And there’s your father almost as much in love with her as you are. I don’t know what you would have?’

‘I would be left alone.’

‘But what harm has been done you? From what you yourself have told me, I know that Miss Crawley has said the same thing to you that she has said to your father. You can’t but admire her for the feeling.’

‘I admire her for everything.’

‘Very well. We don’t say anything against that.’

‘And I don’t mean to give her up.’

‘Very well again. Let us hope that Mr Crawley will be acquitted, and then all will be right. Your father never goes back on his promise. He is always better than his word. You’ll find that if Mr Crawley is acquitted, or if he escapes in any way, your father will only be happy for an excuse to make much of the young lady. You should not be hard on him, Henry. Don’t you see that it is his one great desire to keep you near him. The sight of those odious bills nearly broke his heart.’

‘Then why did he threaten me?’

‘Henry, you are obstinate.’

‘I am not obstinate, mother.’

‘Yes, you are. You remember nothing, and you forget nothing. You expect everything to be made smooth for you, and will do nothing towards making things smooth for anybody else. You ought to promise to give up the sale. If the worst came to the worst, your father would not let you suffer in pocket for yielding to him so much.’

‘If the worst comes to the worst, I wish to take nothing from my father.’

‘You won’t put off the sale, then?’

The son paused a moment before he answered his mother, thinking over all the circumstances of his position. ‘I cannot do so as long as I am subject to my father’s threat,’ he said at last. ‘What took place between my father and Miss Crawley can go for nothing with me. He has told me that his allowance to me is to be withdrawn. Let him tell me that he has reconsidered the matter.’

‘But he has not withdrawn it. The last quarter was paid to your account only the other day. He does not mean to withdraw it.’

‘Let him tell me so; let him tell me that my power of living at Cosby Lodge does not depend on my marriage — that my income will be continued to me whether I marry or no, and I’ll arrange matters with the auctioneer tomorrow. You can’t suppose that I should prefer to live in France.’

‘Henry, you are too hard on your father.’

‘I think, mother, he has been too hard on me.’

‘It is you who are to blame now. I tell you plainly that that is my opinion. If evil comes of it, it will be your own fault.’

‘If evil comes of it, I must bear it.’

‘A son ought to give up something to his father; — especially to a father as indulgent as yours.’

But it was of no use. And Mrs Grantly when she went to bed could only lament in her own mind over what, in discussing the matter afterwards with her sister, she called the cross-grainedness of men. ‘They are as alike each other as two peas,’ she said, ‘and though each of them wished to be generous, neither of them would condescend to be just.’ Early on the following morning there was, no doubt, much said on the subject between the archdeacon and his wife before they met their son at breakfast; but neither at breakfast nor afterwards was there a word said between the father and the son that had the slightest reference to the subject in dispute between them. The archdeacon made no more speeches in favour of land, nor did he revert to the foxes. He was very civil to his son; — too civil by half, as Mrs Grantly continued to say to herself. And then the major drove himself away in his cart, going through Barchester, so that he might see his grandfather. When he wished his father good-bye, the archdeacon shook hands with him, and said something about the chance of rain. Had he not better take the big umbrella? The major thanked him courteously, and said that he did not think it would rain. Then he was gone. ‘Upon his own head be it,’ said the archdeacon when his son’s step was heard in the passage to the backyard. Then Mrs Grantly got up quietly and followed her son. She found him settling himself in his dog-cart, while the servant who was to accompany him was still at the horse’s head. She went up close to him, and, standing by the wheel of the gig, whispered a word or two into his ear. ‘If you love me, Henry, you will postpone the sale. Do it for my sake.’ There came across his face a look of great pain, but he answered her not a word.

The archdeacon was walking about the room striking one hand open with the other closed, clearly in a tumult of anger, when his wife returned to him. ‘I have done all that I can,’ he said —‘all that I can; more, indeed, than was becoming of me. Upon his own head be it. Upon his own head be it.’

‘What is it you fear?’ she asked.

‘I fear nothing. But if he chooses to sell his things at Cosby Lodge he must abide the consequences. They shall not be replaced with my money.’

‘What will it matter if he does sell them?’

‘Matter! Do you think there is a single person in the county who will not know that his doing is a sign that he has quarrelled with me?’

‘But he has not quarrelled with you.’

‘I can tell you, then, that in that case, I shall have quarrelled with him! I have not been a hard father, but there are some things which a man cannot bear. Of course you take his part.’

‘I am taking no part. I only want peace between you.’

‘Peace! — yes; peace indeed. I am to yield in everything. I am to be nobody. Look here; — as sure as ever an auctioneer’s hammer is raised at Cosby Lodge, I will alter the settlement of the property. Every acre shall go to Charles. There is my word for it.’ The poor woman had nothing more to say at that moment. She thought that at the present conjuncture her husband was less in the wrong than her son, but she could not tell him so lest she should strengthen him in his wrath.

Henry Grantly found his grandfather in bed, with Posy seated on the bed beside him. ‘My father told me that you were not quite well, and I thought I had better look in,’ said the major.

‘Thank you, my dear; — it is very good of you. There is not much the matter with me, but I am not quite so strong as I was once.’ And the old man smiled as he held his grandson’s hand.

‘And how is cousin Posy?’ said the major.

‘Posy is quite well; — isn’t she, my darling?’ said the old man.

‘Grandpa doesn’t go to the cathedral now,’ said Posy; ‘so I come in to talk to him. Don’t I, grandpa?’

‘And to play cat’s-cradle; — only we have not had any cat’s-cradle this morning, because it is cold for grandpa to sit up in bed,’ said Posy.

When the major had been there about twenty minutes he was preparing to take his leave — but Mr Harding, bidding Posy go out of the room, told his grandson that he had a word to say to him. ‘I don’t like to interfere, Henry,’ he said, ‘but I am afraid things are not quite smooth at Plumstead.’

‘There is nothing wrong between me and my mother,’ said the major.

‘God forbid that there should be; but, my dear boy, don’t let there be anything wrong between you and your father. He is a good man, and the time will come when you will be proud of his memory.’

‘I am proud of him now.’

‘Then be gentle with him — and submit yourself. I am an old man now — very fast going away from all those I love here. But I am happy in leaving my children because they have ever been gentle with me and kind. If I am permitted to remember them whither I am going, my thoughts of them all will be pleasant. Should it not be much to them that they have made by death-bed happy?’

The major could not but tell himself that Mr Harding had been a man easy to please, easy to satisfy, and, in that respect, very different from his father. But of course he said nothing of this. ‘I will do my best,’ he replied.

‘Do, my boy. Honour thy father — that thy days may be long in the land.’

It seemed to the major as he drove away from Barchester that everybody was against him; and yet he was sure that he himself was right. He could not give up Grace Crawley; and unless he were to do so he could not live at Cosby Lodge.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trollope/anthony/last/chapter58.html

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