The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXXI

Mr Toogood at Silverbridge

We will now go back to Mr Toogood as he started for Silverbridge, on the receipt of Mrs Arabin’s telegram from Venice. ‘I gave cheque to Mr Crawley. It was part of a sum of money. Will write to Archdeacon Grantly today, and return home at once.’ That was the telegram which Mr Toogood received at his office, and on receiving which he resolved that he must start to Barchester immediately. ‘It isn’t certainly what you would call a paying business,’ he said to his partner, who continued to grumble; ‘but it must be done all the same. If it don’t get into the ledger in one way it will in another.’ So Mr Toogood started for Silverbridge, having sent to his house in Tavistock Square for a small bag, a clean shirt, and a toothbrush. And as he went down to the railway-carriage, before he went to sleep, he turned it all over in his mind. ‘Poor devil! I wonder whether any man suffered so much before. And as for that woman — it’s ten thousand pities that she should have died before she heard it. Talk of heart-complaint!; she’d have had a touch of heart- complaint if she had known this!’ Then, as he was speculating how Mrs Arabin could have come possessed of the cheque he went to sleep.

He made up his mind that the first person to be seen was Mr Walker, and after that he would, if possible, go to Archdeacon Grantly. He was at first minded to go at once to Hogglestock; but when he remembered how very strange Mr Crawley was in all his ways, and told himself professionally that telegrams were but bad sources of evidence on which to depend for details, he thought that it would be safer if he were first to see Mr Walker. There would be very little delay. In a day or two the archdeacon would receive his letter, and in a day or two after that Mrs Arabin would probably be at home.

It was late in the evening before Mr Toogood reached the house of the Silverbridge solicitor, having the telegram carefully folded in his pocket; and he was shown into the dining-room while the servant took his name up to Mr Walker. The clerks were gone, and the office was closed; and persons coming on business at such times — as they often did come to that house — were always shown into the parlour. ‘I don’t know whether master can see you tonight,’ said the girl; ‘but if he can, he’ll come down.’

When the card was brought up to Mr Walker he was sitting alone with his wife. ‘It’s Toogood,’ said he; ‘poor Crawley’s cousin.’

‘I wonder whether he has found anything out,’ said Mrs Walker. ‘May he not come up here?’ Then Mr Toogood was summoned into the drawing-room, to the maid’s astonishment; for Mr Toogood had made no toilet sacrifices to the goddess of grace who presides over evening society in provincial towns — and presented himself with the telegram in his hand. ‘We have found out all about poor Crawley’s cheque,’ he said, before the maid-servant had closed the door. ‘Look at that,’ and he handed the telegram to Mr Walker. The poor girl was obliged to go, though she would have given one her ears to know the exact contents of that bit of paper.

‘Walker, what is it?’ said his wife, before Walker had had time to make the contents of the document his own.

‘He got it from Mrs Arabin,’ said Toogood.

‘No!’ said Mrs Walker. ‘I thought that was it all along.’

‘It’s a pity you didn’t say so before,’ said Mr Walker.

‘So I did; but a lawyer thinks that nobody can ever seen anything but himself; — begging your pardon, Mr Toogood, but I forgot you were one of us. But, Walker, do read it.’ Then the telegram was read; ‘I gave the cheque to Mr Crawley. It was part of a sum of money’— with the rest of it. ‘I knew it would come out,’ said Mrs Walker. ‘I was quite sure of it.’

‘But why the mischief didn’t he say so?’ said Walker.

‘He did say he got it from the dean,’ said Toogood.

‘But he didn’t get it from the dean; and the dean clearly knew nothing about it.’

‘I’ll tell you what it is,’ said Mrs Walker; ‘it has been some private transaction between Mr Crawley and Mrs Arabin, which the dean knew nothing about; and so he wouldn’t tell. I must say I honour him.’

‘I don’t think it has been that,’ said Walker. ‘Had he known all through that it had come from Mrs Arabin, he would never have said that Mr Soames gave it to him, and then that the dean gave it to him.’

‘The truth has been that he has known nothing about it,’ said Toogood; ‘and we shall have to tell him.’

At that moment Mary Walker came into the room, and Mrs Walker could not constrain herself. ‘Mary, Mr Crawley is all right. He didn’t steal the cheque. Mrs Arabin gave it to him.’

‘Who says so? How do you know? Oh, dear; I am so happy, if it’s true.’ Then she saw Mr Toogood and curtseyed.

‘It is quite true, my dear,’ said Mr Walker. ‘Mr Toogood has had a message by the wires from Mrs Arabin at Venice. She is coming home at once, and no doubt everything will be put right. In the meantime, it may be a question whether we should not hold our tongues. Mr Crawley himself, I suppose, knows nothing of it yet?’

‘Not a word,’ said Toogood.

‘Papa, I must tell Miss Prettyman,’ said Mary.

‘I should think that probably all Silverbridge knows it by this time,’ said Mrs Walker, ‘because Jane was in the room when the announcement was made. You may be sure that every servant in the house has been told.’ Mary Walker, not waiting for any further command from her father, hurried out of the room to convey the secret to her special circle of friends.

It was known throughout Silverbridge that night, and indeed it made so much commotion that it kept many people for an hour out of their beds. Ladies who were not in the habit of going out late at night without the fly from the ‘George and Vulture’, tied their heads up in their handkerchiefs, and hurried up and down the street to tell each other that the great secret had been discovered, and that in truth Mr Crawley had not stolen the cheque. The solution of the mystery was not known to all — was known on that night only to the very select portion of the aristocracy of Silverbridge to whom it was communicated by Mary Walker or Miss Anne Prettyman. For Mary Walker, when earnestly entreated by Jane, the parlour-maid, to tell her something more of the great news, had so far respected her father’s caution as to say not a word about Mrs Arabin. ‘Is it true, Miss Mary, that he didn’t steal it?’ Jane asked imploringly. ‘It is true. He did not steal it.’ ‘And who did, Miss Mary? Indeed I won’t tell anybody.’ ‘Nobody. But don’t ask any more questions, for I won’t answer them. Get me my hat at once, for I want to go up to Miss Prettyman’s.’ Then Jane got Miss Walker’s hat, and immediately afterwards scampered into the kitchen with the news. ‘Oh, law, cook, it’s all come out! Mr Crawley’s as innocent as the unborn babe. The gentleman upstairs what’s just come, and was here once before — for I know’d him immediate — I heard him say so. And master said so too.’

‘Did master say so his own self?’ asked the cook.

‘Indeed he did; and Miss Mary told me the same this moment.’

‘If master said so, then there ain’t a doubt as they’ll find him innocent. And who took’d, Jane?’

‘Miss Mary says as nobody didn’t steal it.’

‘That’s nonsense, Jane. It stands to reason as somebody had it as hadn’t ought to have had it. But I’m glad as anything as how the poor reverend gent’ll come off; — I am. They tells me it’s weeks sometimes before a bit of butcher’s meat finds its way into his house.’ Then the groom and the housemaid and the cook, one after another, took occasion to slip out of the back-door, and poor Jane, who had really been the owner of the news, was left to answer the bell.

Miss Walker found the two Miss Prettymans sitting together over their accounts in the elder Miss Prettyman’s private room. And she could see at once by signs which were not unfamiliar to her that Miss Anne Prettyman was being scolded. It often happened that Miss Anne Prettyman was scolded, especially when the accounts were brought out upon the table. ‘Sister, they are illegible,’ Mary Walker heard, as the servant opened the door for her.

‘I don’t think it’s quite so bad as that,’ said Miss Anne, unable to restrain her defence. Then, as Mary entered the room, Miss Prettyman the elder laid her hands down on certain books and papers as though to hide them from profane eyes.

‘I am glad to see you, Mary,’ said Miss Prettyman gravely.

‘I’ve brought such a piece of news,’ said Mary. ‘I knew you’d be glad to hear it, so I ventured to disturb you.’

‘Is it good news?’ said Anne Prettyman.

‘Very good news. Mr Crawley is innocent.’

Both the ladies sprang on to their legs. Even Miss Prettyman herself jumped up on to her legs. ‘No!’ said Anne. ‘Your father has discovered it?’ said Miss Prettyman.

‘Not exactly that. Mr Toogood has come down from London to tell him. Mr Toogood, you know, is Mr Crawley’s cousin; and he is a lawyer, like papa.’ It may be observed that ladies belonging to the families of solicitors always talk about lawyers, and never about attorneys or barristers.

‘And does Mr Toogood say that Mr Crawley is innocent?’ asked Miss Prettyman.

‘He has heard it by a message from Mrs Arabin. But you mustn’t mention this. You won’t, please, because papa asked me not. I told him that I should tell you.’ Then, for the first time, the frown passed away entirely from Miss Prettyman’s face, and the papers and account books were pushed aside, as being of no moment. Mary continued her story almost in a whisper. ‘It was Mrs Arabin who sent the cheque to Mr Crawley. She says so herself. So that makes Mr Crawley quite innocent. I am so glad.’

‘But isn’t it odd he didn’t say so?’ said Miss Prettyman.

‘Nevertheless, it’s true.’ said Mary.

‘Perhaps he forgot,’ said Anne Prettyman.

‘Men don’t forget such things as that,’ said the elder sister.

‘I really do think that Mr Crawley could forget anything,’ said the younger sister.

‘You may be sure it’s true,’ said Mary Walker, ‘because papa said so.’

‘If he said so, it must be true,’ said Miss Prettyman; ‘and I am rejoiced. I really am rejoiced. Poor man! Poor ill-used man! And nobody has ever believed that he has really been guilty, even though they may have thought that he spent the money without any proper right to it. And now he will get off. But, dear me, Mary, Mr Smithe told me yesterday that he had already given up his living, and that Mr Spooner, the minor canon, was trying to get it from the dean. But that was because Mr Spooner and Mrs Proudie had quarrelled; and as Mrs Proudie is gone, Mr Spooner very likely won’t want to move now.’

‘They’ll never go and put anybody in Hogglestock, Annabella, over Mr Crawley’s head,’ said Anne.

‘I didn’t say that they would. Surely I may be allowed to repeat what I hear, like another person, without being snapped up.’

‘I didn’t mean to snap you up, Annabella.’

‘You’re always snapping me up. But if this is true, I cannot say how glad I am. My poor Grace! Now, I suppose, there will be no difficulty, and Grace will become a great lady.’ Then they discussed very minutely the chances of Grace Crawley’s promotion.

John Walker, Mr Winthrop, and several others of the chosen spirits of Silverbridge, were playing whist at a provincial club, which had established itself in the town, when the news was brought to them. Though Mr Winthrop was the partner of the great Walker, and though John Walker was the great man’s son, I fear that the news reached their ears in but an underhand sort of way. As for the great man himself, he never went near the club, preferring his slippers and tea at home. The Walkerian groom, rushing up the street to the ‘George and Vulture’, paused a moment to tell his tidings to the club porter; from the club porter it was whispered respectfully to the Silverbridge apothecary, who, by special grace, was a member of the club — and was by him repeated with much cautious solemnity over the card-table. ‘Who told you that, Balsam?’ said John Walker, throwing down his cards.

‘I’ve just heard it,’ said Balsam.

‘I don’t believe it,’ said John.

‘I shouldn’t wonder if it’s true,’ said Winthrop. ‘I always said that something would turn up.’

‘Will you bet three to one he is not found guilty?’ said John Walker.

‘Done,’ said Winthrop; ‘in pounds.’ That morning the odds in the club against the event had been only two to one. But as the matter was discussed, the men in the club began to believe the tidings, and before he went home, John Walker would have been glad to hedge his bet on any terms. After he had spoken to his father, he gave his money up for lost.

But Mr Walker — the great Walker — had more to do that night before his son came home from the club. He and Mr Toogood agreed that it would be right that they should see Dr Tempest at once, and they went over together to the rectory. It was past ten at this time, and they found the doctor almost in the act of putting out the candles for the night. ‘I could not but come to you, doctor,’ said Mr Walker, ‘with the news that my friend has brought. Mrs Arabin gave the cheque to Crawley. Here is a telegram from her saying so.’ And the telegram was handed to the doctor.

He stood perfectly silent for a few minutes, reading it over and over again. ‘I see it all,’ he said, when he spoke at last. ‘I see it all now; and I must own I was never before so much puzzled in my life.’

‘I own I can’t see why she should have given him Mr Soames’s cheque,’ said Mr Walker.

‘I can’t say where she got it, and I own I don’t much care,’ said Dr Tempest. ‘But I don’t doubt but what she gave him without telling the dean, and that Crawley thought it came from the dean. I’m very glad. I am, indeed, very glad. I do not know that I ever pitied a man so much in my life as I have pitied Mr Crawley.’

‘It must have been a hard case when it has moved him,’ said Mr Walker to Toogood as they left the clergyman’s house; and then the Silverbridge attorney saw the attorney from London home to the inn.

It was the general opinion at Silverbridge that the news from Venice ought to be communicated to the Crawleys by Major Grantly. Mary Walker had expressed this opinion very strongly, and her mother had agreed with her. Miss Prettyman also felt that poetical justice, or, at least, the romance of justice, demanded this; and, as she told her sister Anne after Mary Walker left her, she was of the opinion that such an arrangement might tend to make things safe. ‘I do think he is an honest man and a fine fellow,’ said Miss Prettyman; ‘but, my dear, you know what the proverb says, “There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip”.’ Miss Prettyman thought than anything which might be done to prevent a slip ought to be done. The idea that the pleasant task of taking the news out to Hogglestock ought to be confided to Major Grantly was very general; but then Mr Walker was of the opinion that the news ought not to be taken to Hogglestock at all till something more certain than the telegram had reached them. Early on the following morning the two lawyers should go over at once to Barchester, and that the Silverbridge lawyer should see Major Grantly. Mr Toogood was still of the opinion that with due diligence something might yet be learned as to the cheque by inquiry among the denizens of ‘The Dragon of Wantly’; and his opinion to this effect was stronger than ever when he learned from Mr Walker that the ‘Dragon of Wantly’ belonged to Mrs Arabin.

Mr Walker, after breakfast, had himself driven up in his open carriage to Cosby Lodge, and, as he entered the gates, observed that the auctioneer’s bills as to the sale had been pulled down. The Mr Walkers of the world know everything, and our Mr Walker had quite understood that the major was leaving Cosby Lodge because of some misunderstanding with his father. The exact nature of the misunderstanding he did not know, even though he was Mr Walker, but had little doubt that it referred in some to Grace Crawley. It the archdeacon’s objection to Grace arose from the imputation against the father, that objection would now be removed, but the abolition of the posters could not as yet have been owing to any such cause as that. Mr Walker found the major at the gate of the farmyard attached to Cosby Lodge, and perceived that at that very moment he was engaged in superintending the abolition of sundry other auctioneer’s bills from sundry posts. ‘What is all this about?’ said Mr Walker, greeting the major. ‘Is there to be no sale after all?’

‘It has been postponed,’ said the major.

‘Postponed for good, I hope? Bill to be read again this day six months!’ said Mr Walker.

‘I rather think not. But circumstances have induced me to have to put it off.’

Mr Walker had got out of the carriage, and had taken Major Grantly aside. ‘Just come a little further,’ he said; ‘I’ve something special to tell you. News reached me last night which will clear Mr Crawley altogether. We know now where he got the cheque.’

‘You don’t tell me so!’

‘Yes, I do. And though the news had reached us in such a way that we cannot act upon it till it’s confirmed, I do not in the least doubt it.’

‘And how did he get it?’

‘You cannot guess?’

‘Not in the least,’ said the major; ‘unless, after all, Soames gave it to him.’

‘Soames did not give it to him, but Mrs Arabin did.’

‘Mrs Arabin?’

‘Yes, Mrs Arabin.’

‘Not the dean?’

‘No, not the dean. What we know is this, that your aunt has telegraphed to Crawley’s cousin, Toogood, to say that she gave Crawley the cheque, and that she has written to your father about it at length. We do not like to tell Crawley till that letter has been received. It is so easy, you know, to misunderstand a telegram, and the wrong copying of a word may make such a mistake!’

‘When was it received?’

‘Toogood received it in London only yesterday morning. Your father will not get his letter, as I calculate, till the day after tomorrow. But, perhaps, you had better go over to see him, and prepare him for it. Toogood has gone to Barchester this morning.’ To this proposition Grantly made no immediate answer. He could not but remember the terms on which he had left his father; and though he had, most unwillingly, pulled down the auctioneer’s bills, in compliance with his mother’s last prayer to him — and, indeed, had angrily told the auctioneer to send him his bill when the auctioneer had demurred to these proceedings — nevertheless he was hardly prepared to discuss the matter of Mr Crawley with his father in pleasant words — in words which should be full of rejoicing. It was a great thing for him, Henry Grantly, that Mr Crawley should be innocent, and he did rejoice; but he had intended his father to understand that he meant to persevere, whether Mr Crawley were innocent or guilty, and thus he would now lose an opportunity for establishing his obstinacy — an opportunity which had not been without a charm for him. He must console himself as best he might with the returning prospect of assured prosperity, and with his renewed hopes as to the Plumstead foxes! ‘We think, major, that when the time comes you ought to be the bearer of the news to Hogglestock,’ said Mr Walker. Then the major did undertake to convey the news to Hogglestock, but he made no promise as to going over to Plumstead.

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