The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXXIII

There is Comfort at Plumstead

Henry Grantly had written the following short letter to Mrs Grantly when he had made up his mind to pull down the auctioneer’s bills. ‘DEAR MOTHER— I have postponed the sale, not liking to refuse you anything. As far as I can see, I shall be forced to leave Cosby Lodge, as I certainly shall do all I can to make Grace Crawley my wife. I say this that there may be no misunderstanding with my father. The auctioneer has promised to have the bills removed. — Your affectionate son, HENRY GRANTLY’

This had been written by the major on the Friday before Mr Walker had brought up to him the tidings of Mr Toogood and Mrs Arabin’s solution of the Crawley difficulty; but it did not reach Plumstead till the following morning. Mrs Grantly immediately took the glad news about the sale to her husband — not of course showing him the letter, being far too wise for that, and giving him credit for being too wise to ask for it. ‘Henry has arranged with the auctioneer,’ she said joyfully; ‘and the bills have been all pulled down.’

‘How do you know?’

‘I’ve just heard from him. He has told me so. Come, my dear, let me have the pleasure of hearing you say that things shall be pleasant again between you and him. He has yielded.’

‘I don’t see much yielding in it.’

‘He has done what you wanted. What more can he do?’

‘I want him to come over here, and take an interest in things, and not treat me as though I were a nobody.’ Within an hour of this the major had arrived at Plumstead, laden with the story of Mrs Arabin and the cheque, and of Mr Crawley’s innocence — laden not only with such tidings as he had received from Mr Walker, but also with further details, which had received from Mr Toogood. For he had come through Barchester, and had seen Mr Toogood on his way. This was on the Saturday morning, and he had breakfasted with Mr Toogood at ‘The Dragon of Wantly’. Mr Toogood had told him of his suspicions — how the red-nosed man had been stopped and had been summoned as a witness for Mr Crawley’s trial — and how he was now under surveillance of the police. Grantly had not cared very much about the red-nosed man, confining his present solicitude to the question whether Grace Crawley’s father would certainly be shown to have been innocent of the theft. ‘There’s not a doubt about it, major,’ said Mr Toogood; ‘no a doubt on earth. But we’d better be a little quiet till your aunt comes home — just a little quiet.’ In spite of his desire for quiescence Mr Toogood consented to a revelation being at once made to the archdeacon and Mrs Grantly. ‘And I’ll tell you what, major; as soon as ever Mrs Arabin is here, and has given us her own word to act on, you and I will go over to Hogglestock and astonish them. I should like to go myself, because, you see, Mrs Crawley is my cousin, and we have taken a little trouble about this matter.’ To this the major assented; but he altogether declined to assist in Mr Toogood’s speculations respecting the unfortunate Dan Stringer. It was agreed between them that for the present no visit should be made to the palace, as it was thought that Mr Thumble had better be allowed to go to Hogglestock duties on the next Sunday. As matters went, however, Mr Thumble did not do so. He had paid his last visit to Hogglestock.

It may be as well to explain here that the unfortunate Mr Snapper was constrained to go out to Hogglestock on the Sunday which was now approaching — which fell out as follows. It might be all very well for Mr Toogood to arrange that he would not tell this person or that person of the news which he had brought down from London; but as he had told the police at Barchester, of course the tale found its way to the palace. Mr Thumble heard it, and having come by this time thoroughly to hate Hogglestock and all that belonged to it, he pleaded to Mr Snapper that this report offered ample reason why he need not again visit that detested parish. Mr Snapper did not see it in the same light. ‘You may be sure Mr Crawley will not get into the pulpit after his resignation, Mr Thumble.’

‘His resignation means nothing,’ said Thumble.

‘It means a great deal,’ said Snapper; ‘and the duties must be provided for.’

‘I won’t provide for them,’ said Thumble; ‘and so you may tell the bishop.’ In these days Mr Thumble was very angry with the bishop, for the bishop had not yet seen him since the death of Mrs Proudie.

Mr Snapper had no alternative but to go to the bishop. The bishop in these days was very mild to those whom he saw, given but to few words, and a little astray — as though he had had one of his limbs cut off — as Mr Snapper expressed it to Mrs Snapper. ‘I shouldn’t wonder if he felt as though all his limbs were cut off,’ said Mrs Snapper; ‘you must give him time, and he’ll come round by-and-by.’ I am inclined to think that Mrs Snapper’s opinion of the bishop’s feelings and condition was correct. In his difficulty respecting Hogglestock and Mr Thumble, Mr Snapper went to the bishop, and spoke perhaps a little too harshly of Mr Thumble.

‘I think, upon the whole, Snapper, that you had better go yourself,’ said the bishop.

‘Do you think so, my lord?’ said Snapper. ‘It will be inconvenient.’

‘Everything is inconvenient; but you’d better go. And look here, Snapper, if I were you, I wouldn’t say anything out at Hogglestock about the cheque. We don’t know what it may come to yet.’ Mr Snapper, with a heavy heart, left his patron, not at all liking the task that was before him. But his wife encouraged him to be obedient. He was the owner of a one-horse carriage, and the work was not, therefore, so hard to him as it would have been and had been to poor Mr Thumble. And, moreover, his wife promised to go with him. Mr Snapper and Mrs Snapper did go over to Hogglestock, and the duty was done. Mrs Snapper spoke a word or two to Mrs Crawley, and Mr Snapper spoke a word or two to Mr Crawley; but not a word was said about the news as to Mr Soames’s cheque, which was now almost current in Barchester. Indeed, no whisper about it had as yet reached Hogglestock.

‘One word with you, reverend sir,’ said Mr Crawley to the chaplain, as the latter was coming out of the church, ‘as to the parish work, sir, during the week — I should be glad if you would favour me with your opinion.’

‘About what Mr Crawley?’

‘Whether you think that I may be allowed, without scandal, to visit the sick — and to give instruction in the school.’

‘Surely — surely, Mr Crawley. Why not?’

‘Mr Thumble gave me to understand that the bishop was very urgent that I should interfere in no way in the ministrations of the parish. Twice he did enjoin on me that I should not interfere — unnecessarily, as it seemed to me.’

‘Quite unnecessary,’ said Mr Snapper. ‘And the bishop will be obliged to you, Mr Crawley, if you’ll just see that things go on all straight.’

‘I wish it were possible to know with accuracy what his idea of straightness is,’ said Mr Crawley to his wife. ‘It may be that things are straight to him when they are buried as it were out of sight, and put away without trouble. I hope it be not so with the bishop.’ When he went into his school and remembered — as he did remember through every minute of his teaching — that he was to receive no portion of the poor stipend which was allotted for the clerical duties of the parish, he told himself that there was gross injustice in the way in which things were being made straight at Hogglestock.

But we must go back to the major and the archdeacon at Plumstead — in which comfortable parish things were generally made straight more easily than at Hogglestock. Henry Grantly went over from Barchester to Plumstead in a gig from the ‘The Dragon’, and made his way at once into his father’s study. The archdeacon was seated there with sundry manuscripts before him, and with one half-finished manuscript — as was his wont on every Saturday morning. ‘Hallo, Harry,’ he said. ‘I didn’t expect you in the least.’ It was barely an hour since he had told Mrs Grantly that his complaint against his son was that he wouldn’t come and make himself comfortable at the rectory.

‘Father,’ said he, giving the archdeacon his hand, ‘you have heard nothing yet about Mr Crawley?’

‘No,’ said the archdeacon, jumping up; ‘nothing new; — what is it?’ Many ideas about Mr Crawley at that moment flitted across the archdeacon’s mind. Could it be that the unfortunate man had committed suicide, overcome by his troubles?

‘It has all come out. He got the cheque from my aunt.’

‘From your aunt Eleanor?’

‘Yes; from my aunt Eleanor. She has telegraphed over from Venice to say that she gave the identical cheque to Crawley. That is all we know at present — except that she has written an account of the matter to you, and that she will be here herself as quick as she can come.’

‘Who got the message, Henry?’

‘Crawley’s lawyer — a fellow named Toogood, a cousin of his wife’s — a very decent fellow,’ added the major, remembering how necessary it was that he should reconcile his father to all the Crawley belongings. ‘He’s to be over here on Monday, and then will arrange what is to be done.’

‘Done in what way, Henry?’

‘There’s a great deal to be done yet. Crawley does not know himself at this moment how the cheque got into his hands. He must be told and something must be settled about the living. They’ve taken the living away from him among them. And then the indictment must be quashed, or something of that kind done. Toogood has got hold of the scoundrel at Barchester who really stole the cheque from Soames; — or thinks he has. It’s that Dan Stringer.’

‘He’s got hold of a regular scamp, then. I never knew any good of Dan Stringer,’ said the archdeacon.

Then Mrs Grantly was told, and the whole story was repeated again, with many expressions of commiseration in reference to all the Crawleys. The archdeacon did not join in these at first, being rather shy on that head. It was very hard for him to have to speak to his son about the Crawleys as though they were people in all respects estimable and well-conducted, and satisfactory. Mrs Grantly understood this so well, that every now and then she said some half-laughing word respecting Mr Crawley’s peculiarities, feeling that in this way she might ease her husband’s difficulties. ‘He must be the oddest man that ever lived,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘not to have known where he got the cheque.’ The archdeacon shook his head, and rubbed his hands as he walked about the room. ‘I suppose too much learning has upset him,’ said the archdeacon. ‘They say he’s not very good at talking English, but put him in Greek and he never stops.’

The archdeacon was perfectly aware that he had to admit Mr Crawley to his goodwill, and that as for Grace Crawley — it was essentially necessary that she should be admitted to his heart of hearts. He had promised as much. It must be acknowledged that Archdeacon Grantly always kept his promises, and especially such promises as these. And indeed it was the nature of the man that when he had been angry with those he loved, he should be unhappy till he had found some escape from his anger. He could not endure to have to own to himself that he had been wrong, but he could be content with a very incomplete recognition of his having been in the right. The posters had been pulled down and Mr Crawley, as he was now told, had not stolen the cheque. That was sufficient. If his son would only drink a glass or two of wine with him comfortably, and talk dutifully about the Plumstead foxes, all should be held to be right, and Grace Crawley should be received with lavish paternal embraces. The archdeacon had kissed Grace once, and he felt that he could do so again without an unpleasant strain upon his feelings.

‘Say something to your father about the property after dinner,’ said Mrs Grantly to her son when they were alone together.

‘About what property?’

‘About this property, or any property; you know what I mean; — something to show that you are interested about his affairs. He is doing the best he can to make things right.’ After dinner, over the claret, Mr Thorne’s terrible sin in reference to the trapping of foxes was accordingly again brought up, and the archdeacon became beautifully irate, and expressed his animosity — which he did not in the least feel — against an old friend with an energy which would have delighted his wife, if she could have heard him. ‘I shall tell Thorne my mind, certainly. He and I are very old friends; we have known each other all our lives; but I cannot put up with this kind of thing — and I will not. It’s all because he’s afraid of his own gamekeeper.’ And yet the archdeacon had never ridden after a fox in his life, and never meant to do so; nor had in truth been always so very anxious that foxes should be found in his covers. That fox which had been so fortunately trapped just outside the Plumstead property afforded a most pleasant escape for the steam of his anger. When he began to talk to his wife about Mr Thorne’s wicked gamekeeper, she was so sure that all was right, that she said a word of her extreme desire to see Grace Crawley.

‘If he’s to marry her, we might as well have her over here,’ said the archdeacon.

‘That’s just what I was thinking,’ said Mrs Grantly. And thus things at the rectory got themselves arranged.

On the Sunday morning the expected letter from Venice came to hand, and was read on that morning very anxiously, not only by Mrs Grantly and the major, but by the archdeacon also, in spite of the sanctity of the day. Indeed the archdeacon had been very stoutly anti-sabbatarial when the question of stopping the Sunday post to Plumstead had been mooted in the village, giving those who on that occasion were the special friends of the postman to understand that he considered them to be numbskulls, and little better than idiots. The postman, finding the parson to be against him, had seen that there was no chance for him, and had allowed the matter to drop. Mrs Arabin’s letter was long and eager, and full of repetitions, but it did explain clearly to him the exact manner in which the cheque had found its way into Mr Crawley’s hand. ‘Francis came up to me,’ she said in her letter — Francis being her husband, the dean —‘and asked me for the money, which I had promised to make up in a packet. The packet was not ready, and he would not wait, declaring that Mr Crawley was in such a flurry that he did not like to leave him. I was therefore to bring it down to the door. I went to my desk, and thinking that I could spare the twenty pounds as well as the fifty, I put the cheque into the envelope, together with the notes, and handed the packet to Francis at the door. I think I told Francis afterwards that I put seventy pounds into the envelope, instead of fifty, but of this I will not be sure. At any rate Mr Crawley got Mr Soames’s cheque from me.’ These last words she underscored, and then went on to explain how the cheque had been paid to her a short time before by Dan Stringer.

‘Then Toogood was right about the fellow,’ said the archdeacon.

‘I hope they’ll hang him,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘He must have known all the time what dreadful misery he was bringing upon this unfortunate family.’

‘I don’t suppose Dan Stringer cared much about that,’ said the major.

‘Not a straw,’ said the archdeacon, and then all hurried off to church; and the archdeacon preached the sermon in the fabrication of which he had been interrupted by his son, and which therefore barely enabled him to turn a quarter of an hour from the giving out of his text. It was his constant practice to preach for a full twenty minutes.

As Barchester lay on the direct road from Plumstead to Hogglestock, it was thought well that word should be sent to Mr Toogood, desiring him not to come out to Plumstead on the Monday morning. Major Grantly proposed to call for him at the ‘Dragon’, and to take him from thence to Hogglestock. ‘You had better take your mother’s horses all through,’ said the archdeacon. The distance was very nearly twenty miles, and it was felt by both the mother and the son, that the archdeacon must be in a good humour when he made such a proposition as that. It was not often that the rectory carriage-horses were allowed to make long journeys. A run into Barchester and back, which was altogether under ten miles, was generally the extent of their work. ‘I meant to have posted from Barchester,’ said the major. ‘You may as well take the horses through,’ said the archdeacon. ‘Your mother will not want them. And I suppose you might as well bring your friend Toogood back to dinner. We’ll give him a bed.’

‘He must be a good sort of man,’ said Mrs Grantly; ‘for I suppose he has done this all for love?’

‘Yes; and spent a lot of money out of his own pocket too!’ said the major enthusiastically. ‘And the joke of it is, that he has been defending Crawley in Crawley’s teeth. Mr Crawley had refused to employ counsel; but Toogood had made up his mind to have a barrister, on purpose that there might be a fuss about it in court. He thought that it would tell with the jury in Crawley’s favour.’

‘Bring him here, and we’ll hear all about that from himself,’ said the archdeacon. The major, before he started, told his mother that he should call at Framley Parsonage on his way back; but he said nothing on this subject to his father.

‘I’ll write to her in a day or two,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘and we’ll have things settled pleasantly.’

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