Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXV


It cannot be held as astonishing, that that last decision on the part of the giants in the matter of the two bishoprics should have disgusted Archdeacon Grantly. He was a politician, but not a politician as they were. As is the case with all exoteric men, his political eyes saw a short way only, and his political aspirations were as limited. When his friends came into office, that bishop bill, which as the original product of his enemies had been regarded by him as being so pernicious — for was it not about to be made law in order that other Proudies and such like might be hoisted up into high places and large incomes, to the terrible detriment of the Church? —-that bishop bill, I say, in the hands of his friends, had appeared to him to be a means of almost national salvation. And then, how great had been the good fortune of the giants in this matter! Had they been the originators of such a measure they would not have had a chance of success; but now — now that the two bishops were falling into their mouths out of the weak hands of the gods, was not their success ensured? So Dr Grantly had girded up his loins and marched up to the fight, almost regretting that the triumph would be so easy. The subsequent failure was very trying to his temper as a party man. It always strikes me that the supporters of the Titans are in this respect much to be pitied. The giants themselves, those who are actually handling Pelion and breaking their shins over the lower rocks of Ossa, are always advancing in some sort towards the councils of Olympus. Their highest policy is to snatch some ray from heaven. Why else put Pelion on Ossa, unless it be that a furtive hand, making its way through Jove’s windows, may pluck forth a thunderbolt or two, or some article less destructive, but of manufacture equally divine? And in this consists the wisdom of higher giants — that, in spite of their mundane antecedents, theories and predilections, they can see that articles of divine manufacture are necessary. But then they never carry their supporters with them. Their whole army is an army of martyrs. ‘For twenty years I have stuck to them, and see how they have treated me!’ Is not that always the plaint of an old giant-slave? ‘I have been true to my party all my life, and where am I now?’ he says. Where, indeed, my friend? Looking about you, you begin to learn that you cannot describe your whereabouts. I do not marvel at that. No one finds himself planted at last in so terribly foul a morass, as he would fain stand still for ever on dry ground.

Dr Grantly was disgusted; and although he was himself too true and thorough in all his feelings, to be able to say aloud that any giant was wrong, still he had a sad feeling within his heart that the world was sinking from under him. He was still sufficiently exoteric to think that a good stand-up fight in a good cause was a good thing. No doubt he did wish to be Bishop of Westminster, and was anxious to compass that preferment by any means that might appear to him to be fair. And why not? But this was not the end of his aspirations. He wished that the giants might prevail in everything, in bishoprics as in all other matters; and he could not understand that they should give way on the very first appearance of a skirmish. In his open talk he was loud against many a god; but in his heart of hearts he was bitter enough against both Porphyrion and Orion.

‘My dear doctor, it would not do; — not in this session; it would not indeed.’ So had spoken to him a half-fledged but especially esoteric young monster-cub at the Treasury, who considered himself as up to all the dodges of his party, and regarded the army of martyrs who supported it as a rather heavy, but very useful collection of fogies. Dr Grantly had not cared to discuss the matter with the half-fledged monster-cub. The best licked of all the monsters, the giant most like a god of them all, had said a word or two to him; and he also had said a word or two to that giant. Porphyrion had told him that the bishop bill would not do; and he, in return, speaking with a warm face, and blood on his cheeks, had told Porphyrion that he saw no reason why the bill should not do. The courteous giant had smiled as he shook his ponderous head, and then the archdeacon had left him, unconsciously shaking some dust from his shoes, as he paced the passages of the Treasury chambers for the last time. As he walked back to his lodgings in Mount Street, many thoughts, not altogether bad in their nature, passed through his mind. Why should he trouble himself about a bishopric? Was he not well as he was, in his rectory down at Plumstead? Might it not be ill for him at his age to transplant himself into new soil, to engage in new duties, and live among new people? Was he not useful at Barchester, and respected also; and might it not be possible that up there at Westminster, he might be regarded merely as a tool with which other men could work? He had not quite liked the tone of that specially exoteric young monster-cub, who had clearly regarded him as a distinguished fogy from the army of martyrs. He would take his wife back to Barsetshire, and there live contented with the good things which Providence had given him.

Those high political grapes had become sour, my sneering friends will say. Well? Is it not a good thing that grapes should become sour which hang out of reach? Is he not wise who can regard all grapes as sour which are manifestly too high for his hand? Those grapes of the Treasury bench, for which gods and giants fight, suffering so much when they are forced to abstain from eating, and so much more when they do eat — those grapes are very sour to me. I am sure that they are indigestible, and that those who eat them undergo all the ills which the Revalenta Arabica is prepared to cure. And so it was now with the archdeacon. He thought of the strain which would have been put on his conscience had he come up there to sit in London as Bishop of Westminster; and in this frame of mind he walked home to his wife. During the first few moments of his interview with her all his regrets had come back upon him. Indeed, it would have hardly suited for him then to have preached this new doctrine of rural contentment. The wife of his bosom, whom he so fully trusted — had so fully loved — wished for grapes that hung high upon the wall, and he knew that it was past his power to teach her at the moment to drop her ambition. Any teaching that he might effect in that way, must come by degrees. But before many minutes were over he had told her of her fate and of his own decision. ‘So we had better go back to Plumstead,’ he said; and she had not dissented.

‘I am sorry for poor Griselda’s sake,’ Mrs Grantly had remarked later in the evening, when they were again together.

‘But I thought she was to remain with Lady Lufton?’

‘Well; so she will for a little time. There is no one with whom I would so soon trust her out of my own care as with Lady Lufton. She is all that one can desire.’

‘Exactly; and as far as Griselda is concerned, I cannot say that I think she is to be pitied.’

‘Not to be pitied, perhaps,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘But, you see, archdeacon, Lady Lufton, of course, has her own views.’

‘Her own views?’

‘It is hardly any secret that she is very anxious to make a match between Lord Lufton and Griselda. And though that might be a very proper arrangement if it were fixed —’

‘Lord Lufton marry Griselda!’ said the archdeacon, speaking quick and raising his eyebrows. His mind had as yet been troubled by but few thoughts respecting his child’s future establishment. ‘I had never dreamt of such a thing.’

‘But other people have done more than dreamt of it, archdeacon. As regards the match itself, it would, I think, be unobjectionable. Lord Lufton will not be a very rich man, but his property is respectable, and as far as I can learn, his character is on the whole good. If they like each other, I should be contented with such a marriage. But, I must own, I am not quite satisfied at the idea of leaving her all alone with Lady Lufton. People will look on it as a settled thing, when it is not settled — and very probably may not be settled; and that will do the poor girl harm. She is very much admired; there can be no doubt of that; and Lord Dumbello —’

The archdeacon opened his eyes still wider. He had had no idea that such a choice of sons-inlaw was being prepared for him; and, to tell the truth, was almost bewildered by the height of his wife’s ambition. Lord Lufton, with his barony and twenty thousand a year, might be accepted as just good enough; but failing him there was an embryo marquis, whose fortune would be more than ten times as great, all ready to accept his child! And then he thought, as husbands sometimes will think, of Susan Harding as she was when he had gone a-courting to her under the elms before the house in the warden’s garden, at Barchester, and of dear old Mr Harding, his wife’s father, who still lived, in humble lodgings in that city; and as he thought, he wondered at and admired the greatness of that lady’s mind. ‘I never can forgive Lord De Terrier,’ said the lady, connecting various points together in her mind.

‘That’s nonsense,’ said the archdeacon. ‘You must forgive him.’

‘And I must confess that it annoys me to leave London at present.’

‘It can’t be helped,’ said the archdeacon, somewhat gruffly; for he was a man who, on certain points, chose to have his own way — and had it.

‘Oh, no: I know it can’t be helped,’ said Mrs Grantly, in a tone which implied a deep injury. ‘I know it can’t be helped. Poor Griselda!’ And then they went to bed. On the next morning Griselda came to her, and in an interview that was strictly private, her mother said more to her than she had ever yet spoken, as to the prospects of her future life. Hitherto, on this subject, Mrs Grantly had said little or nothing. She would have been well pleased that her daughter should have received the incense of Lord Lufton’s vows — or, perhaps, as well pleased had it been the incense of Lord Dumbello’s vows — without any interference on her part. In such case her child, she knew, would have told her with quite sufficient eagerness, and the matter in either case would have been arranged as a pretty love match. She had no fear of any impropriety or of any rashness on Griselda’s part. She had thoroughly known her daughter when she boasted that Griselda would never indulge in an unauthorized passion. But as matters now stood, with those two strings to her bow, and with that Lufton-Grantly alliance treaty in existence — of which she, Griselda herself knew nothing — might it not be possible that the poor child should stumble through want of adequate direction? Guided by these thoughts, Mrs Grantly had resolved to say a few words before she left London. So she wrote a line to her daughter, and Griselda reached Mount Street at two o’clock in Lady Lufton’s carriage, which during the interview, waited for her at the beer-shop round the corner.

‘And papa won’t be Bishop of Westminster?’ said the young lady, when the doings of the giants had been sufficiently explained to make her understand that all those hopes were over.

‘No, my dear; at any rate not now.’

‘What a shame! I thought it was all settled. What’s the good, mamma, of Lord De Terrier being Prime Minister, if he can’t make whom he likes a bishop?’

‘I don’t think that Lord De Terrier has behaved at all well to your father. However, that’s a long question, and we can’t go into it now.’

‘How glad those Proudies will be!’ Griselda would have talked by the hour on this subject had her mother allowed her, but it was necessary that Mrs Grantly should go to other matters. She began about Lady Lufton, saying what a dear woman her ladyship was; and then went on to say that Griselda was to remain in London as long as it suited her friend and hostess to stay there with her; but added, that this might probably not be very long, as it was notorious that Lady Lufton, when in London, was always in a hurry to get back to Framley.

‘But I don’t think she is in such a hurry this year, mamma,’ said Griselda, who in the month of May preferred Bruton Street to Plumstead, and had no objection whatever to the coronet on the panels of Lady Lufton’s coach. And then Mrs Grantly commenced her explanation — very cautiously. ‘No, my dear, I dare say she is not in such a hurry this year — that is, as long as you remain with her.’

‘I am sure she is very kind.’

‘She is very kind, and you ought to love her very much. I know I do. I have no friend in the world for whom I have a greater regard than for Lady Lufton. It is that which makes me happy to leave you with her.’

‘All the same, I wish you and papa had remained up; that is, if they had made papa a bishop.’

‘It’s no good thinking of that now, my dear. What I particularly wanted to say to you was this: I think you should know what are the ideas which Lady Lufton entertains.’

‘Her ideas!’ said Griselda, who had never troubled herself much in thinking about other people’s thoughts.

‘Yes, Griselda. While you were staying down at Framley Court, and also, I suppose, since you have been up here in Bruton Street, you must have seen a good deal of — Lord Lufton.’

‘He doesn’t come very often to Bruton Street — that is to say, not very often.’

‘H-m,’ ejaculated Mrs Grantly, very gently. She would willingly have repressed the sound altogether, but it had been too much for her. If she found reason to think that Lady Lufton was playing her false, she would immediately take her daughter away, break up the treaty, and prepare for the Hartletop alliance. Such were the thoughts that ran through her mind. But she knew all the while that Lady Lufton was not false. The fault was not with Lady Lufton; nor, perhaps, altogether with Lord Lufton. Mrs Grantly had understood the full force of the complaint which Lady Lufton had made against her daughter; and though she had of course defended her child, and on the whole had defended her successfully, yet she confessed to herself that Griselda’s chance of a first-rate establishment would be better if she were a little more impulsive. A man does not wish to marry a statue, let the statue be ever so statuesque. She could not teach her daughter to be impulsive, any more than she could teach her to be six feet high; but might it not be possible to teach her to seem so? The task was a very delicate one, even for a mother’s hand. ‘Of course he cannot be at home now as much as he was down at the country, when he was living in the same house,’ said Mrs Grantly, whose business it was to take Lord Lufton’s part at the present moment. ‘He must be at his club and at the House of Lords, and in twenty places.’

‘He is very fond of going to parties, and he dances beautifully.’

‘I am sure he does. I have seen as much as that myself, and I think I know some one with whom he likes to dance.’ And the mother gave the daughter a loving little squeeze.

‘Do you mean me, mamma?’

‘Yes, I do mean you, my dear. And is it not true? Lady Lufton says that he likes dancing with you better than with any one else in London.’

‘I don’t know,’ said Griselda, looking down upon the ground. Mrs Grantly thought that this upon the whole was rather a good opening. It might have been better. Some point of interest more serious in its nature than that of a waltz might have been found on which to connect her daughter’s sympathies with those of her future husband. But any point of interest was better than none; and it is so difficult to find points of interest in persons who by their nature are not impulsive.

‘Lady Lufton says so, at any rate,’ continued Mrs Grantly, ever so cautiously. ‘She thinks that Lord Lufton likes no partner better. What do you think yourself, Griselda?’

‘I don’t know, mamma.’

‘But young ladies must think of such things, must they not?’

‘Must they, mamma?’

‘I suppose they do, don’t they? The truth is, Griselda, that Lady Lufton thinks that if — Can you guess what she thinks?’

‘No, mamma.’ But that was a fib on Griselda’s part.

‘She thinks that my Griselda would make the best possible wife in the world for her son: and I think so too. I think her son will be a very fortunate man if he can get such a wife. And now what do you think, Griselda?’

‘I don’t think anything, mamma.’ But that would not do. It was absolutely necessary that she should think, and absolutely necessary that her mother should tell her so. Such a degree of unimpulsiveness as this would lead to — Heaven knows what results! Lufton-Grantly treaties and Hartletop interests would be all thrown away upon a young lady who would not think anything of a noble suitor sighing for her smiles. Besides, it was not natural. Griselda, as her mother knew, had never been a girl of headlong feeling; but still she had had her likes and dislikes. In that matter of the bishopric she was keen enough; and no one could evince a deeper interest in the subject of a well-made new dress than Griselda Grantly. It was not possible that she should be indifferent as to her future prospects, and she must know that those prospects depended mainly on her marriage. Her mother was almost angry with her, but nevertheless she went on very gently.

‘You don’t think anything! But, my darling, you must think. You must make up your mind what would be your answer if Lord Lufton were to propose to you. That is what Lady Lufton wishes him to do.’

‘But he never will, mamma.’

‘And if he did?’

‘But I’m sure he never will. He doesn’t think of such a thing at all — and — and —’

‘And what, my dear?’

‘I don’t know, mamma.’

‘Surely you can speak out to me, dearest! All I care about is your happiness. Both Lady Lufton and I think that it would be a happy marriage if you both cared for each other enough. She thinks that he is fond of you. But if he were ten times Lord Lufton I would not tease you about it if I thought that you could not learn to care about him. What was it you were going to say, my dear?’

‘Lord Lufton thinks a great deal more about Lucy Robarts than he does of — of — of any one else, I believe,’ said Griselda, showing now some little animation by her manner, ‘dumpy little black thing that she is.’

‘Lucy Robarts!’ said Mrs Grantly, taken by surprise at finding that her daughter was moved by such a passion as jealousy, and feeling also perfectly assured that there could not be any possible ground for jealousy in such a direction as that. ‘Lucy Robarts, my dear! I don’t suppose Lord Lufton ever thought of speaking to her, except in the way of civility.’

‘Yes, he did, mamma! Don’t you remember at Framley?’ Mrs Grantly began to look back in her mind, and she thought she did remember having once observed Lord Lufton speaking in rather a confidential manner with the parson’s sister. But she was sure there was nothing in it. If that were the reason why Griselda was so cold to her proposed lover, it would be a thousand pities that it should not be removed. ‘Now you mention her, I do remember the young lady,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘a dark girl, very low, and without much figure. She seemed to me to keep very much in the background.’

‘I don’t know much about that, mamma.’

‘As far as I saw her, she did. But, my dear Griselda, you should not allow yourself to think of such a thing. Lord Lufton, of course, is bound to be civil to any young lady in his mother’s house, and I am quite sure that he has no other idea whatever with regard to Miss Robarts. I certainly cannot speak as to her intellect, for I do not think she opened her mouth in my presence; but —’

‘Oh! she has plenty to say for herself, when she pleases. She’s a sly little thing.’

‘But, at any rate, my dear, she has no personal attractions whatever, and I do not at all think that Lord Lufton is a man to be taken by — by — by anything that Miss Robarts might do or say.’ As those words ‘personal attractions’ were uttered, Griselda managed so to turn her neck to catch a side view of herself in one of the mirrors on the wall, and then she bridled herself up, and made a little play with her eyes, and looked, as her mother thought, very well. ‘It is all nothing to me, mamma, of course,’ she said.

‘Well, my dear, perhaps not. I don’t say that it is. I do not wish to put the slightest constraint upon your feelings. If I did not have the most thorough dependence on your good sense and high principles, I should not speak to you in this way. But as I have, I thought it best to tell you that both Lady Lufton and I should be well pleased if we thought that you and Lord Lufton were fond of each other.

‘I am sure he never thinks of such a thing, mamma.’

‘And as for Lucy Robarts, pray get that idea out of your head; if not for your sake, then for his. You should give him credit for better taste.’ But it was not so easy to take anything out of Griselda’s head that she had once taken into it. ‘As for tastes, mamma, there is no accounting for them,’ she said; and then the colloquy on that subject was over. The result of it on Mrs Grantly’s mind was a feeling amounting almost to a conviction in favour of the Dumbello interest.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01