The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXXIV

The Crawleys are Informed

Major Grantly made an early start, knowing that he had a long day’s work before him. He had written over-night to Mr Toogood, naming the hour at which he would reach ‘The Dragon’, and was there punctual to the moment. When the attorney came out and got into the open carriage, while the groom held the steps for him, it was plain to see that the respect in which he was held at ‘The Dragon’ was greatly increased. It was already known that he was going to Plumstead that night, and it was partly understood that he was engaged with the Grantly and Arabin faction in defending Mr Crawley the clergyman against the Proudie faction. Dan Stringer, who was still at the inn, as he saw his enemy get into the Plumstead carriage, felt himself to be one of the palace party, and felt that if Mrs Proudie had only lived till after the assizes all this heavy trouble would not have befallen him. The waiter with the dirty napkin stood at the door and bowed, thinking perhaps that as the Proudie party was going down in Barchester, it might be as well to be civil to Mr Toogood. The days of the Stringers were probably drawing to a close at the ‘The Dragon of Wantly’, and there was no knowing who might be the new landlord.

Henry Grantly and the lawyer found very little to say to each other on their long way out to Hogglestock. They were thinking, probably, much of the coming interview, and hardly knew how to express their thoughts to each other. ‘I will not take the carriage up to the house,’ said the major, as there were entering the parish of Hogglestock; ‘particularly as the man must feed the horses.’ So they got out of a farmhouse about half a mile from the church, where the offence of the carriage and the livery-servant would be well out of Mr Crawley’s sight, and from thence walked towards the parsonage. The church, and the school close to it, lay on their way, and as they passed by the school door they heard voices within. ‘I’ll bet twopence he’s there,’ said Toogood. ‘They tell me he’s always either in one shop or the other. I’ll slip in and bring him out.’ Mr Toogood had assumed a comfortable air, as though the day’s work was to be good pastime, and even made occasional attempts at drollery. He had had his jokes about Dan Stringer, and had attempted to describe the absurdities of Mr Crawley’s visit to Bedford Row. All this would have angered the major, had he not seen that it was assumed to cover something below of which Mr Toogood was a little ashamed, but of which, as the major thought, Mr Toogood had no cause to be ashamed. When, therefore, Toogood proposed to go into the school and bring Mr Crawley out, as though the telling of their story would be the easiest thing in the world, the major did not stop him. Indeed he had no plan of his own ready. His mind was too intent on the tragedy which had occurred, and which was now to be brought to a close, to enable him to form any plan as to the best way of getting up the last scene. So Mr Toogood, with quick and easy steps, entered the school, leaving the major still standing in the road. Mr Crawley was in the school — as also was Jane Crawley. ‘So here you are,’ said Toogood. ‘That’s fortunate. I hope I find you pretty well?’

‘If I am not mistaken in the identity, my wife’s relative, Mr Toogood?’ said Mr Crawley, stepping down from his humble desk.

‘Just so, my friend,’ said Toogood, with his hand extended, ‘just so; and there’s another gentleman outside who wants to have a word with you. Perhaps you won’t mind stepping out. These are the young Hogglestockians; are they?’

The young Hogglestockians stared at him, and so did Jane. Jane, who had before heard of him, did not like him at first sight, seeing that her father was clearly displeased by the tone of the visitor’s address. Mr Crawley was displeased. There was a familiarity about Mr Toogood which made him sore, as having been exhibited before his pupils. ‘If you will be pleased to step out, sir, I will follow you,’ he said, waving his hand towards the door. ‘Jane, my dear, if you will remain with the children I will return to you presently. Bobby Studge has failed in saying his Belief. You had better set him on again from the beginning. Now, Mr Toogood.’ And again he waved his hand towards the door.

‘So that’s my young cousin, is it?’ said Toogood, stretching over and just managing to touch Jane’s fingers — of which act of touching Jane was very chary. Then he went forth, and Mr Crawley followed him. There was the major standing in the road and Toogood was anxious to be the first to communicate the good news. It was the only reward he had proposed to himself for the money he had expended and the time he had lost and the trouble he had taken. ‘It’s all right, old fellow,’ he said, clapping his hand on Mr Crawley’s shoulder. ‘We’ve got the right sow by the ear at last. We know all about it.’ Mr Crawley could hardly remember the time when he had been called an old fellow last, and now he did not like it; nor, in the confusion of his mind, could he understand the allusion to the right sow. He supposed that Toogood had come to him about his trial, but it did not occur to him that the lawyer might be bringing him news which might make the trial altogether unnecessary. ‘If my eyes are not mistaken, there is my friend, Major Grantly,’ said Mr Crawley.

‘There he is, as large as life,’ said Toogood. ‘But stop a moment before you go to him, and give me your hand. I must have the first shake of it.’ Hereupon Crawley extended his hand. ‘That’s right. And now let me tell you we know all about the cheque — Soames’s cheque. We know where you got it. We know who stole it. We know how it came to the person who gave it to you. It’s all very well talking, but when you’re in trouble always go to a lawyer.’

By this time Mr Crawley was looking full into Mr Toogood’s face, and seeing that his cousin’s eyes were streaming with tears began to get some insight into the man’s character, and also some very dim insight into the facts which the man intended to communicate to himself. ‘I do not as yet fully understand you, sir,’ he said, ‘being perhaps in such matters somewhat dull of intellect, but it seemeth to me that you are the messenger of glad tidings, whose feet are beautiful upon the mountains.’

‘Beautiful!’ said Toogood. ‘By George, I should think they are beautiful! Don’t you hear me tell you that we have found out all about the cheque, and that you’re as right as a trivet?’ They were still on the little causeway leading from the school up the road, and Henry Grantly was waiting for them at the small wicket-gate. ‘Mr Crawley,’ said the major, ‘I congratulate you with all my heart. I could not but accompany my friend, Mr Toogood, when he brought you this good news.’

‘I do not even yet altogether comprehend what has been told to me,’ said Crawley, now standing out on the road between the other two men. ‘I am doubtless dull — very dull. May I beg some clearer word of explanation before I ask you to go with me to my wife?’

‘The cheque was given to you by my aunt Eleanor.’

‘Your aunt Eleanor!’ said Crawley, now altogether in the clouds. Who was the major’s aunt Eleanor? Though he had, no doubt, at different times heard all the circumstances of the connection, he had never realised the fact that his daughter’s lover was the nephew of his old friend Arabin.

‘Yes; by my aunt, Mrs Arabin.’

‘She put it into the envelope with the notes,’ said Toogood —‘slipped it in without saying a word to anyone. I never heard of a woman doing such a thing in my life before. If she had died, or if we hadn’t caught her, where should we all have been? Not but what I think I should have run Dan Stringer to ground too, and worked it out of him.’

‘Then, after all, it was given to me by the dean?’ said Crawley.

‘It was in the envelope, but the dean did not know it,’ said the major.

‘Gentlemen,’ said Mr Crawley. ‘I was sure of it. I knew it. Weak as my mind may be — and at times it is very weak — I was certain that I could not have erred in such a matter. The more I struggled with my memory the more fixed with me became the fact — which I had forgotten but for a moment — that the document had formed a part of that small packet handed to me by the dean. But look you, sirs — bear with me yet for a moment. I said that it was so, and the dean denied it.’

‘The dean did not know it, man,’ said Toogood, almost in a passion.

‘Bear with me yet awhile. So far have I been misdoubting the dean — whom I have long known to be in all things a true and honest gentleman — that I postponed the elaborated result of my own memory to his word. And I felt myself the more constrained to do this, because in a moment of forgetfulness, I had allowed myself to make a false statement — unwittingly false, indeed, nonetheless very false, unpardonably false. I had declared without thinking, that the money had come to me from the hands of Mr Soames, thereby seeming to cast a reflection upon that gentleman. When I had been guilty of so great a blunder, of so gross a violation of that ordinary care which should govern all words between man and man, especially when any question of money may be in doubt — how could I expect that anyone should accept my statement when contravened by that made by the dean? Gentlemen, I did not believe my own memory. Though all the little circumstances of that envelope, with its rich but perilous freightage, came back upon me from time to time with an exactness that has appeared to me to be almost marvellous, yet I have told myself that it was not so! Gentlemen, if you please, we will go into the house; my wife is there, and should not longer be left in suspense.’ They passed on in silence for a few steps, till Crawley spoke again. ‘Perhaps you will allow me the privilege to be alone with her for one minute — but for a minute. Her thanks shall not be delayed, where thanks are so richly due.’

‘Of course,’ said Toogood, wiping his eyes with a large red bandana handkerchief. ‘By all means. We’ll take a little walk. Come, along, major.’ The major had turned his face away, and he also was weeping. ‘By George! I never heard such a thing in all my life,’ said Toogood. ‘I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. I wouldn’t indeed. If I were to tell that up in London, nobody would believe me.’

‘I call that man a hero,’ said Grantly.

‘I don’t know about being a hero. I never quite knew what makes a hero, if it isn’t having three or four girls dying in love for you at once. But to find a man who was going to let everything in the world go against him, because he believed another fellow better than himself! There’s many a chap thinks another man is wool-gathering; but this man has thought he was wool-gathering himself! It’s not natural; and the world wouldn’t go on if there many like that. He’s beckoning us, and we had better go in.’

Mr Toogood went first, and the major followed him. When they entered the front door at the end of the passage, and on entering the room to the left they found Mr Crawley alone. ‘She has fled, as though from an enemy,’ he said, with a little attempt at a laugh; ‘but I will pursue her, and bring her back.’

‘No, Mr Crawley, no,’ said the lawyer. ‘She’s a little upset, and all that kind of thing. We know what women are. Let her alone.’

‘Nay, Mr Toogood; but then she would be angered with herself afterwards, and would lack the comfort of having spoken a word of gratitude. Pardon me, Major Grantly; but I would not have you leave us till she has seen you. It is as her cousin says. She is somewhat over-excited. But still, it will be the best that she should see you. Gentlemen, you will excuse me.’

Then he went out to fetch his wife, and while he was away not a word was spoken. The major looked out of one window and Mr Toogood out of the other, and they waited patiently till they heard the coming steps of the husband and wife. When the door was opened, Mr Crawley appeared, leading his wife by the hand. ‘My dear,’ he said, ‘you know Major Grantly. This is your cousin, Mr Toogood. It is well that you know him too, and remember his great kindness to us.’ But Mrs Crawley could not speak. She could only sink on the sofa, and hide her face, while she strove in vain to repress her sobs. She had been very strong through all her husband’s troubles — very strong in bearing for him what he could not bear for himself, and in fighting on his behalf battles in which he was altogether unable to couch a lance; but the endurance of so many troubles and the great overwhelming sorrow at last had so nearly overpowered her, that she could not sustain the shock of this turn in their fortunes. ‘She was never like this, sirs, when ill news came to us,’ said Mr Crawley, standing somewhat apart from her.

The major sat himself by her side, and put his hand upon hers, and whispered some word to her about her daughter. Upon this she threw her arms around him, and kissed his face, and then his hands, and then looked up into his face through her tears. She murmured some few words, or attempted to do so. I doubt whether the major understood their meaning, but he knew very well what was in her heart.

‘And now I think we might as well be moving,’ said Mr Toogood. ‘I’ll see about having the indictment quashed. I’ll arrange all that with Walker. It may be necessary that you should go into Barchester the first day the judges sit; and if so, I’ll come and fetch you. You may be sure I won’t leave the place till it’s all square.’

As they were going, Grantly — speaking now altogether with indifference to Toogood’s presence — asked Mr Crawley’s leave to be the bearer of these tidings to his daughter.

‘She can hear it in no tones that can be more grateful to her,’ said Mr Crawley.

‘I shall ask her for nothing for myself now,’ said Grantly. ‘It would be ungenerous. But hereafter — in a few days — when she shall be more at ease, may I then use your permission —?’

‘Major Grantly,’ said Mr Crawley solemnly. ‘I respect you so highly, and esteem you so thoroughly, that I give willingly that which you ask. If my daughter can bring herself to regard you, as a woman should regard her husband, with the love that can worship and cling and be constant, she will, I think, have a fair promise of worldly happiness. And for you, sir, in giving you my girl — if so be it that she is given to you — I shall bestow upon you a great treasure.’ Had Grace been a king’s daughter, with a queen’s dowry, the permission to address her could not have been imparted to her lover with a more thorough appreciation of the value of privilege conferred.

‘He’s a rum one,’ said Mr Toogood, as they got into the carriage together; ‘but they say he’s a very good ’un to go.’

After their departure Jane was sent for, that she might hear the family news; and when she expressed some feeling not altogether in favour of Mr Toogood, Mr Crawley thus strove to correct her views. ‘He is a man, my dear, who conceals a warm heart, and an active spirit, and healthy sympathies, under an affected jocularity of manner, and almost with a touch of vulgarity. But when the jewel itself is good, any fault in the casket may be forgiven.’

‘Then, papa, the next time I see him I’ll like him — if I can,’ said Jane.

The village of Framley lies slightly off the road from Hogglestock to Barchester — so much so as to add perhaps a mile to the journey if the traveller goes by the parsonage gate. On their route to Hogglestock our two travellers had passed Framley without visiting the village, but on the return journey the major asked Mr Toogood’s permission to make the deviation. ‘I’m not in a hurry,’ said Toogood. ‘I never was more comfortable in my life. I’ll just light a cigar while you go in and see your friends.’ Toogood lit his cigar, and the major, getting down from the carriage, entered the parsonage. It was his fortune to find Grace alone. Robarts was in Barchester, and Mrs Robarts was across the road, at Lufton Court. ‘Miss Crawley is certainly in,’ the servant told him, and he soon found himself in Miss Crawley’s presence.

‘I have only called to tell you the news about your father,’ said he.

‘What news?’

‘We have just come from Hogglestock — your cousin Mr Toogood, that is, and myself. They have found out all about the cheque. My aunt, Mrs Arabin, the dean’s wife, you know — she gave it to your father.’

‘Oh, Major Grantly!’

‘It seems so easily settled, does it not?’

‘And is it settled?’

‘Yes; everything. Everything about that.’ Now he had hold of her hand as if he were going. ‘Good-bye. I told your father that I would just call and tell you.’

‘It seems almost more than I can believe.’

‘You may believe it; indeed you may.’ He still held her hand. ‘You will write to your mother I daresay tonight. Tell her I was here. Good-bye now.’

‘Good-bye,’ she said. Her hand was still in his, as she looked up into his face.

‘Dear, dear, Grace! My darling Grace!’ Then he took her into his arms and kissed her, and went his way without another word, feeling that he had kept his word to her father like a gentleman. Grace, when she was left alone, thought that she was the happiest girl in Christendom. If she could only get to her mother, and tell everything, and be told everything! She had no idea of any promise that her lover may have made to her father, nor did she make inquiry of her own thoughts as to the reasons for staying with her so short a time; but looking back at it all she thought his conduct had been perfect.

In the meantime, the major, with Mr Toogood, was driven home to dinner at Barchester.

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