The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXXXII

The Last Scene at Hogglestock

The fortnight following Mr Harding’s death was passed very quietly at Hogglestock, for during that time no visitor made an appearance in the parish except Mr Snapper on the Sundays. Mr Snapper, when he had completed the service on the first of these Sundays, intimated to Mr Crawley his opinion that probably that gentleman might himself wish to resume his duties on the following Sabbath. Mr Crawley, however, courteously declined to do anything of the kind. He said that it was quite out of the question that he should do so without a direct communication made to him from the bishop, or by the bishop’s order. The assizes had, of course, gone by, and all question of the trial was over. Nevertheless — as Mr Snapper said — the bishop had not, as yet, given any order. Mr Snapper was of the opinion that the bishop in these days was not quite himself. He had spoken to the bishop about it, and the bishop had told him peevishly —‘I must say quite peevishly,’ Mr Snapper had said — that nothing was to be done at present. Mr Snapper was not the less clearly of the opinion that Mr Crawley might resume his duties. To this, however, Mr Crawley would not assent.

But even during this fortnight Mr Crawley had not remained altogether neglected. Two days after Mr Harding’s death he had received a note from the dean in which he was advised not to resume the duties at Hogglestock for the present. ‘Of course you can understand that we have a sad house here for the present,’ the dean had said. ‘But as soon as ever we are able to move in the matter we will arrange things for you as comfortably as we can. I will see the bishop myself.’ Mr Crawley had no ambitious idea of any comfort which might accrue to him beyond that of an honourable return to his humble preferment at Hogglestock; but, nevertheless, he was in this case minded to do as the dean counselled him. He had submitted himself to the bishop, and he would wait till the bishop absolved him from his submission.

On the day after the funeral, the bishop had sent his compliments to the dean with an expression of a wish that the dean would call upon him on any early day that might be convenient with reference to the position of Mr Crawley of Hogglestock. The note was in the bishop’s own handwriting and was as mild and civil as a bishop’s note could be. Of course the dean named an early day for the interview; but it was necessary before he went to the bishop that he should discuss the matter with the archdeacon. If St Ewold’s might be given to Mr Crawley, the Hogglestock difficulties would all be brought to an end. The archdeacon, after the funeral, had returned to Plumstead, and thither the dean went to him before he was the bishop. He did succeed — he and Mrs Grantly between them — but with very great difficulty, in obtaining a conditional promise. They had both thought that when the archdeacon became fully aware that Grace was to be his daughter-in-law, he would at once have been delighted to have an opportunity of extricating from his poverty a clergyman with whom it was his fate to be closely connected. But he fought the matter on twenty different points. He declared at first that as it was his primary duty to give the people of St Ewold’s the best clergyman he could select for them he could not give the preference to Mr Crawley, because Mr Crawley, in spite of all his zeal and piety, was a man so quaint in his manners and so eccentric in his mode of speech as not to be the best clergyman whom he could select. ‘What is my old friend Thorne to do with a man in the parish who won’t drink a glass of wine with him?’. For Ullathorne, the seat of that Mr Wilfred Thorne who had been so guilty in the matter of the foxes, was situated in the parish of St Ewold’s. When Mrs Grantly proposed that Mr Thorne’s consent should be asked, the archdeacon became very angry. It was his special duty to the best he could for Mr Thorne, but it was specially his duty to do so without consulting Mr Thorne about it. As the archdeacon’s objection had been argued simply on the point of a glass of wine, both the dean and Mrs Grantly thought that he was unreasonable. But they had their point to gain, and therefore only flattered him. They were quite sure that Mr Thorne would like to have a clergyman in the parish who would himself be closely connected with the archdeacon. Then Dr Grantly alleged that he might find himself in a trap. What if he conferred the living of St Ewold’s on Mr Crawley and after all there should be no marriage between his son and Grace? ‘Of course they’ll be married,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘It’s all very well for you to say that, my dear; but the whole family are so queer that there is no knowing what the girl may do. She may take up some other fad now, and refuse him point blank.’ ‘She has never taken up any fad,’ said Mrs Grantly, who now mounted almost to wrath in defence of her future daughter-in-law, ‘and you are wrong to say that she has. She has behaved beautifully:— as nobody knows better than you do.’ Then the archdeacon gave way so far as to promise that St Ewold’s should be offered to Mr Crawley as soon as Grace Crawley was in truth engaged to Henry Grantly.

After that, the dean went to the palace. There had never been any quarrelling between the bishop and the dean, either direct or indirect; — nor, indeed, had the dean every quarrelled even with Mrs Proudie. But he had belonged the anti-Proudie faction. He had been brought into the diocese by the Grantly interest; and therefore, during Mrs Proudie’s lifetime, he had always been accounted among the enemies. There had never been any real intimacy between the houses. Each house had always been asked to dine with the other house once a year; but it had been understood that such dinings were ecclesiastico-official, and not friendly. There had been the same outside diocesan civility between even the palace and Plumstead. But now, when the great chieftain of the palace was no more, and the strength of the palace faction was gone, peace, or perhaps something more than peace — amity, perhaps, might be more easily arranged with the dean than with the archdeacon. In preparation for such arrangements the bishop had gone to Mr Harding’s funeral.

And now the dean went to the palace at the bishop’s behest. He found his lordship alone, and was received with almost reverential courtesy. He thought that the bishop was looking wonderfully aged since he last saw him, but did not perhaps take into account the absence of clerical sleekness which was incidental to the bishop’s private life in his private room, and perhaps in a certain measure to his recent affliction. The dean had been in the habit of regarding Dr Proudie as a man almost young for his age — having been in the habit of seeing him at his best, clothed in authority, redolent of the throne, conspicuous as regarded his apron and outward signs of episcopality. Much of this was now absent. The bishop, as he rose to greet the dean, shuffled with his old slippers, and his hair was not brushed so becomingly as used to be the case when Mrs Proudie was always near him.

It was necessary that a word should be said by each as to the loss which the other had suffered. ‘Mr Dean,’ said his lordship, ‘allow me to offer you my condolements in regard to the death of that very excellent clergyman and most worthy gentleman, your father-in-law.’

‘Thank you, my lord. He was excellent and worthy. I do not suppose that I shall live to see any man who was more so. You also have a great — a terrible loss.’

‘Oh, Mr Dean, yes; yes, indeed, Mr Dean. That was a loss.’

‘And hardly past the prime of life!’

‘Ah, yes; — just fifty-six — and so strong! Was she not? At least everybody thought so. And yet she was gone in a minute; — gone in a minute. I haven’t held my head up since, Mr Dean.’

‘It was a great loss, my lord; but you must struggle to bear it.’

‘I do struggle. I am struggling. But it makes one feel so lonely in this great house. Ah me! I often wish, Mr Dean, that it had pleased Providence to have left me in some humble parsonage, where duty would have been easier than it is here. But I will not trouble you with all that. What are we to do, Mr Dean, about this poor Mr Crawley.’

‘Mr Crawley is a very old friend of mine, and a very dear friend.’

‘Is he? Ah! A very worthy man, I am sure, and one who has been much tried by undeserved adversities.’

‘Most severely, my lord.’

‘Sitting among the potsherds, like Job; has he not, Mr Dean? Well; let us hope that is all over. When this accusation about the robbery was brought against him, I found myself bound to interfere.’

‘He has no complaint on that score.’

‘I hope not. I have not wished to be harsh, but what could I do, Mr Dean? They told me that the civil authorities found the evidence so strong against him that it could not be withstood.’

‘It was very strong.’

‘And we thought that he should at least be relieved, and we sent for Dr Tempest, who is his rural dean.’ Then the bishop remembering all the circumstances of that interview with the Dr Tempest — as to which he had ever felt assured that one of the results was the death of his wife, whereby there was no longer any ‘we’ left in the palace of Barchester — sighed piteously, looking at the dean with a hopeless face.

‘Nobody doubts, my lord, that you acted for the best.’

‘I hope we did. I think we did. And now what will we do? He has resigned his living, both to you and to me, as I hear — you being the patron. It will simply be necessary, I think, that he should ask to have the letters cancelled. Then, as I take it, there need be no restitution. You cannot think, Mr Dean, how much I have thought about it all.’

Then the dean unfolded his budget, and explained to the bishop how he hoped that the living of St Ewold’s, which was, after some ecclesiastical fashion, attached to the rectory of Plumstead, and which was now vacant by the demise of Mr Harding, might be conferred by the archdeacon upon Mr Crawley. It was necessary to explain also that this could not be done quite immediately, and in doing this the dean encountered some little difficulty. The archdeacon, he said, wished to be allowed another week to think about it; and therefore perhaps provision for the duties of Hogglestock might yet be made for a few Sundays. The bishop, the dean said, might easily understand that, after what has occurred, Mr Crawley would hardly wish to go again into that pulpit, unless he did so as resuming duties, which would necessarily be permanent with him. To all this the bishop assented, but he was apparently struck with much wonder at the choice made by the archdeacon. ‘I should have thought, Mr Dean,’ he said, ‘that Mr Crawley was the last man to have suited the archdeacon’s choice.’

‘The archdeacon and I married sisters, my lord.’

‘Oh, ah! yes. And he puts the nomination of St Ewold’s at your disposition. I am sure I shall be delighted to institute so worthy a gentleman as Mr Crawley.’ Then the dean took his leave of the bishop — as we will also. Poor dear bishop! I am inclined to think that he was right in his regrets as to the little parsonage. Not that his failure at Barchester, and his present consciousness of lonely incompetence, were mainly due to any positive inefficiency on his own part. He might have been a sufficiently good bishop, had it not been that Mrs Proudie was so much more a sufficiently good bishop’s wife. We will now say farewell to him, with a hope that the lopped tree may yet become green again, and to some extent fruitful, although all its beautiful head and richness of waving foliage have been taken from it.

About a week after this Henry Grantly rode over from Cosby Lodge to Hogglestock. It has just been said that though the assizes had passed by and though all question of Mr Crawley’s guilt was now set aside, no visitor had of late made his way over to Hogglestock. I fancy that Grace Crawley forgot, in the fullness of her memory as to other things, that Mr Harding, of whose death she heard, had been her lover’s grandfather — and that therefore there might possibly be some delay. Had there been much said between the mother and the daughter about the lover, no doubt all this would have been explained; but Grace was very reticent, and there were other matters in the Hogglestock household which in those days occupied Mrs Crawley’s mind. How were they again to begin life? for, in very truth, life as it had existed with them before, had been brought to an end. But Grace remembered well the sort of compact which existed between her and her lover; — the compact which had been made in very words between herself and her lover’s father. Complete in her estimation as had been the heaven opened to her by Henry Grantly’s offer, she had refused it all — lest she should bring disgrace upon him. But the disgrace was not certain; and if her father should be made free from it, then — then — then Henry Grantly ought to come to her and be at her feet with all the expedition possible to him. That was her reading of the compact. She had once declared, when speaking of the possible disgrace which might attach itself to her family and to her name, that her poverty did not ‘signify a bit’. She was not ashamed of her father — only of the accusation against her father. Therefore she had hurried home when that accusation was withdrawn, desirous that her lover should tell her of his love — if he chose to repeat such telling — amidst all the poor things of Hogglestock, and not among the chairs, and tables and good dinners of luxurious Framley. Mrs Robarts had given a true interpretation to Lady Lufton of the haste which Grace had displayed. But she need not have been in so great a hurry. She had been at home already above a fortnight, and as yet he had made no sign. At last she said a word to her mother. ‘Might I not ask to go back to Miss Prettyman’s now, mamma?’ ‘I think, dear, you had better wait till things are a little settled. Papa is to hear again from the dean very soon. You see they are all in great sorrow at Barchester about poor Mr Harding’s death.’ ‘Grace!’ said Jane, rushing into the house almost speechless, at that moment, ‘here he is! — on horseback.’ I do not know why Jane should have talked about Major Grantly as simply ‘he’. There had been no conversation among the sisters to justify her in such a mode of speech. Grace had not a moment to put two and two together, so that she might realise the meaning of what her mother had said; but, nevertheless, she felt at the moment that the man, coming as he had done now, had come with all commendable speed. How foolish she had been with her wretched impatience!

There he was certainly, tying his horse to the railing. ‘Mamma, what am I to say to him?’

‘Nay, dear; he is your own friend — of your own making. You must say what you think fit.’

‘You are not going?’

‘I think we had better, dear. Then she went, and Jane with her, and Jane opened the door for Major Grantly. Mr Crawley himself was away, at Hoggle End, and did not return till after Major Grantly had left the parsonage. Jane, as she greeted the grand gentleman, whom she had seen and no more than seen, hardly knew what to say to him. When, after a minute’s hesitation, she told him that Grace was in there — pointing to the sitting-room door, she felt that she had been very awkward. Henry Grantly, however, did not, I think, feel her awkwardness, being conscious of some small difficulties of his own. When, however, he found that Grace was alone, the task before him at once lost half its difficulties. ‘Grace,’ he said, ‘am I right to come to you now?’

‘I do not know,’ she said. ‘I cannot tell.’

‘Dearest Grace, there is no reason on earth now why you should not be my wife.’

‘Is there not?’

‘I know of none — if you can love me. You saw my father?’

‘Yes, I saw him.’

‘And you heard what he said?’

‘I hardly remember what he said; — but he kissed me, and I thought he was very kind.’

What little attempt Henry Grantly then made, thinking that he could do no better than follow closely the example of so excellent a father, need not be explained with minuteness. But I think that his first effort was not successful. Grace was embarrassed and retreated, and it was not till she had been compelled to give a direct answer to a direct question that she submitted to allow his arm round her waist. But when she had answered that question she was almost more humble than becomes a maiden who has just been wooed and won. A maiden who has been wooed and won, generally thinks that it is she who has conquered, and chooses to be triumphant accordingly. But Grace was even mean enough to thank her lover. ‘I do not know why you should be so good to me,’ she said.

‘Because I love you,’ said he, ‘better than all the world.’

‘By why should you be so good to me as that? Why should you love me? I am such a poor thing for a man like you to love.’

‘I have had the wit to see that you are not a poor thing, Grace; and it is thus that I have earned my treasure. Some girls are poor things, and some are rich treasures.’

‘If love can make me a treasure, I will be your treasure. And if love can make me rich, I will be rich for you.’ After that I think he had no difficulty in following in his father’s footsteps.

After a while Mrs Crawley came in, and there was much pleasant talking among them, while Henry Grantly sat happily with his love, as though waiting for Mr Crawley’s return. But though he was there nearly all morning Mr Crawley did not return. ‘I think he likes the brickmakers better than anybody in the world, except ourselves,’ said Grace. ‘I don’t know how he will manage to get on without his friends.’ Before Grace has said this, Major Grantly had told all his story, and had produced a letter from his father, addressed to Mr Crawley, of which the reader shall have a copy, although at this time the letter had not been opened. The letter was as follows:-

‘PLUMSTEAD RECTORY, May, 186- ‘MY DEAR SIR,

‘You will no doubt have heard that Mr Harding, the vicar of St Ewold’s, who was the father of my wife and of Mrs Arabin, has been taken from us. The loss to us of so excellent and so dear a man has been very great. I have conferred with my friend the Dean of Barchester as to a new nomination, and I venture to request your acceptance of the preferment; if it should suit you to move from Hogglestock to St Ewold’s. It may be as well that I should state plainly my reasons for making this offer to a gentleman with whom I am not personally acquainted. Mr Harding, on his death-bed, himself suggested it, moved thereto by what he had heard of the cruel and undeserved persecution to which you had been subjected; as also — on which point he was very urgent in what he said — by the character which you bear in the diocese for zeal and piety. I may also add, that the close connection which, as I understand, is likely to take place between your family and mine has been an additional reason for my taking this step, and the long friendship which has existed between you and my wife’s brother-in-law, the Dean of Barchester, is a third.

‘St Ewold’s is worth 350 pounds per annum, besides the house, which is sufficiently commodious for a moderate family. The population is about twelve hundred, of which more than a half consists of persons dwelling in an outskirt of the city — for the parish runs almost into Barchester.

‘I shall be glad to hear your reply with as little delay as may suit your convenience, and in the event of your accepting the offer — which I sincerely trust that you may be enable to do — I shall hope to have an early opportunity of seeing you, with reference to your institution to the parish.

‘Allow me also to say to you and Mrs Crawley that, if we have been correctly informed as to that other event to which I have alluded, we both hope that we may have an early opportunity of making ourselves personally acquainted with the parents of a young lady who is to be so dear to us. As I have met your daughter, I may perhaps be allowed to send her my kindest love. If, as my daughter-in-law, she comes up to the impression which she gave me at our first meeting, I, at any rate, shall be satisfied. — I have the honour to be, my dear sir, you most faithful servant,

‘THEOPHILUS GRANTLY’

This letter the archdeacon had shown to his wife, by whom it had not been very warmly approved. Nothing, Mrs Grantly had said, could be prettier than what the archdeacon had said about Grace. Mrs Crawley, no doubt, would be satisfied with that. But Mr Crawley was such a strange man! ‘He will be stranger than I take him to be if he does not accept St Ewold’s,’ said the archdeacon. ‘But in offering it,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘you have not a said a word of your own high opinion of his merits.’ ‘I have not a very high opinion of them,’ said the archdeacon. ‘Your father had, and I have said so. And as I have the most profound respect for your father’s opinion in such a matter, I have permitted that to overcome my own hesitation.’ This was pretty from the husband to the wife as it regarded her father, who had now gone from them; and, therefore, Mrs Grantly accepted it without further argument. The reader may probably feel assured that the archdeacon had never, during their joint lives, acted in any church matter upon the advice given to him by Mr Harding; and it was probably the case also that the living would have been offered to Mr Crawley, if nothing had been said by Mr Harding on the subject; but it did not become Mrs Grantly even to think of all this. The archdeacon, having made his gracious speech about her father, was not again asked to alter his letter. ‘I suppose he will accept it,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘I should think that he probably may,’ said the archdeacon.

So Grace, knowing what was the purport of the letter, sat with it between her fingers, while her lover sat beside her, full of various plans for the future. This was his first lover’s present to her; — and what a present it was! Comfort, and happiness, and a pleasant home for all her family. ‘St Ewold’s isn’t the best house in the world,’ said the major, ‘because it is old, and what I call piecemeal; but it is very pretty, and certainly nice.’ ‘That is just the sort of parsonage that I dream about,’ said Jane. ‘And the garden is pleasant with old trees,’ said the major. ‘I always dream about old trees,’ said Jane, ‘only I’m afraid I’m too old myself to be let to climb up them now.’ Mrs Crawley said very little, but sat with her eyes full of tears. Was it possible that, at last, before the world had closed upon her, she was to enjoy something again of the comforts which she had known in her early years, and to again surrounded by those decencies of life which of late had been almost banished from her home of poverty!

Their various plans for the future — for the immediate future — were very startling. Grace was to go over at once to Plumstead, whither Edith had been already transferred from Cosby Lodge. That was all very well; there was nothing very startling or impracticable in that. The Framley ladies, having none of those doubts as to what was coming which had for a while perplexed Grace herself, had taken little liberties with her wardrobe, which enabled such a visit to be made without overwhelming difficulties. But the major was equally eager — or at any rate imperious — in his requisition for a visit from Mr and Mrs Crawley themselves to Plumstead rectory. Mrs Crawley did not dare to put forward the plain unadorned reasons against it, as Mr Crawley had done when discussing the subject of a visit to the deanery. Nor could she quite venture to explain that she feared the archdeacon and her husband would hardly mix well together in society. With whom, indeed, was it possible that her husband should mix well, after his long and hardly-tried seclusion? She could only plead that both her husband and herself were so little used to going out that she feared — she feared — she feared she knew not what. ‘We’ll get over all that,’ said the major, almost contemptuously. ‘It is only the first plunge that is disagreeable.’ Perhaps the major did not know how very disagreeable a first plunge may be!

At two o’clock Henry Grantly got up to go. ‘I should very much like to have seen him, but I fear I cannot wait any longer. As it is, the patience of my horse has been surprising.’ Then Grace walked out with him to the gate and put her hand upon his bridle as he mounted, and though how wonderful was the power of Fortune, that the goddess should have sent so gallant a gentleman to be her lord and her lover. ‘I declare I don’t quite believe it even yet,’ she said, in the letter which she wrote to Lily Dale that night.

It was four before Mr Crawley returned to his house, and then he was very weary. There were many sick in these days at Hoggle End, and he had gone from cottage to cottage through the day. Giles Hoggett was almost unable to work from rheumatism, but still was of the opinion that doggedness might carry him on. ‘It’s been a deal o’ service to you, Muster Crawley,’ he said. ‘We hears about it all. If you hadn’t a been dogged, where’d you a been now?’ With Giles Hoggett and others he had remained all the day, and now he came home weary and beaten. ‘You’ll tell him first,’ Grace had said, ‘and then I’ll give him the letter.’ The wife was the first to tell him of the good fortune that was coming.

He flung himself into the old chair as soon as he entered, and asked for some bread and tea. ‘Jane has already gone for it, dear,’ said his wife. ‘We have had a visitor here, Josiah.’

‘A visitor — what visitor?’

‘Grace’s own friend — Henry Grantly.’

‘Grace, come here, that I may kiss you and bless you,’ he said very solemnly. ‘It would seem that the world is going to be very good to you.’

‘Papa, you must read this letter first.’

‘Before I kiss my own darling?’ Then she knelt at his feet. ‘I see,’ he said, taking the letter; ‘it is from your lover’s father. Peradventure he signifies his consent, which would surely be needful before such a marriage would be seemly.’

‘It isn’t about me, papa, at all.’

‘Not about you? If so, that would be most unpromising. But, in any case, you are my best darling.’ Then he kissed her and blessed her, and slowly opened the letter. His wife had now come close to him, and was standing over him, touching him, so that she also could read the archdeacon’s letter. Grace, who was still in front of him, could see the working of his face as he read it; but even she could not tell whether he was gratified, or offended, or dismayed. When he had got as far as the first offer of the presentation, he ceased reading it for a while, and looked round about the room as though lost in thought. ‘Let me see what further he writes to me,’ he then said; and after that he continued the letter slowly to the end. ‘Nay, my child, you were in error in saying that he wrote not about you. ’Tis the writing of you that he has put some real heart into his words. He writes as though his home would be welcome to you.’

‘And does he not make St Ewold’s welcome to you, papa?’

‘He makes me welcome to accept it — if I may use the word after the ordinary and somewhat faulty parlance of mankind.’

‘And you will accept it — of course?’

‘I know not that, my dear. The acceptance of a cure of souls is a thing not to be decided on in a moment — as is the colour of a garment or the shape of a toy. Nor would I condescend to take this thing from the archdeacon’s hands, if I thought that he bestowed it simply that the father of his daughter-in-law might no longer be accounted poor.’

‘Does he say that, papa?’

‘He gives it as a collateral reason, basing his offer first on the kindly expressed judgment of one who is no more. Then he refers to the friendship of the dean. If he believed that the judgment of his late father-in-law in so weighty a matter were the best to be relied upon of all that were at his command, then he would have done well to trust to it. But in such a case he should have bolstered up a good ground for action with no collateral supports which are weak — and worse than weak. However, it shall have my best consideration, whereunto I hope that wisdom will be given to me where only such wisdom can be had.’

‘Josiah,’ said his wife to him, when they were alone, ‘you will not refuse it?’

‘Not willingly — not if it may be accepted. Alas! you need not urge me, when the temptation is so strong!’

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