Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XL


It must be conceived that there was some feeling of triumph at Plumstead Episcopi, when the wife of the rector returned home with her daughter, the bride elect of the Lord Dumbello. The heir to the Marquess of Hartletop was, in wealth, the most considerable young nobleman of the day; he was noted, too, as a man difficult to be pleased, as one who was very fine and who gave himself airs; and to have been selected as the wife of such a man as this was a great thing for the daughter of a parish clergyman. We have seen in what manner the happy girl’s mother communicated the fact to Lady Lufton, hiding, as it were, her pride under a veil; and we have seen also how meekly the happy girl bore her own great fortune, applying herself humbly to the packing of her clothes, as though she ignored her own glory. But nevertheless there was triumph at Plumstead Episcopi. The mother, when she returned home, began to feel that she had been thoroughly successful in the great object of her life. While she was yet in London she had hardly realized her satisfaction, and there were doubts then whether the cup might not be dashed from her lips before it was tasted. It might be that even the son of the Marquess of Hartletop was subject to parental authority, and that barriers should spring up between Griselda and her coronet; but there had been nothing of the kind. The archdeacon had been closeted with the marquess, and Mrs Grantly had been closeted with the marchioness; and though neither of those noble persons had expressed themselves gratified by their son’s proposed marriage, so also neither of them had made any attempt to prevent it. Lord Dumbello was a man who had a will of his own — as the Grantlys boasted amongst themselves. Poor Griselda! the day may perhaps come when this fact of her lord’s masterful will may not to her be a matter of much boasting. But in London, as I was saying, there had been no time for an appreciation of the family joy. The work to be done was nervous in its nature, and self-glorification might have been fatal; but now, when they were safe at Plumstead, the great truth burst upon them in all its splendour.

Mrs Grantly had but one daughter, and the formation of that child’s character and her establishment in the world had been the one main object of the mother’s life. Of Griselda’s great beauty the Plumstead household had long been conscious; of her discretion also, of her conduct, and of her demeanour there had been no doubt. But the father had sometimes hinted to the mother that he did not think that Grizzy was quite so clever as her brothers. ‘I don’t agree with you at all,’ Mrs Grantly had answered. ‘Besides what you call cleverness is not at all necessary in a girl; she is perfectly lady-like; even you won’t deny that.’ The archdeacon had never wished to deny it, and was now fain to admit that what he had called cleverness was not necessary in a young lady. At this period of the family glory the archdeacon himself was kept a little in abeyance, and was hardly allowed free intercourse with his own magnificent child. Indeed, to give him his due, it must be said of him that he would not consent to walk in the triumphal procession which moved with stately step, to and fro, through the Barchester regions. He kissed his daughter and blessed her, and bade her love her husband and be a good wife; but such injunctions as these, seeing how splendidly she had done her duty in securing for herself a marquess, seemed out of place and almost vulgar. Girls about to marry curates or sucking barristers should be told to do their duty in that station of life to which God might be calling them; but it seemed to be almost an impertinence in a father to give such an injunction to a future marchioness.

‘I do not think that you have any ground for fear on her behalf,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘seeing in what way she has hitherto conducted herself.’

‘She has been a good girl,’ said the archdeacon, ‘but she is about to be placed in a position of great temptation.’ ‘She has the strength of mind suited for any position,’ replied Mrs Grantly, vaingloriously. But nevertheless even the archdeacon moved about through the close at Barchester with a somewhat prouder step since the tidings of this alliance had become known there. The time had been — in the latter days of his father’s lifetime — when he was the greatest man of the close. The dean had been old and infirm, and Dr Grantly had wielded the bishop’s authority. But since then things had altered. A new bishop had come there, absolutely hostile to him. A new dean had also come, who was not only his friend, but the brother-inlaw of his wife; but even this advent had lessened the authority of the archdeacon. The vicars choral did not hang upon his words as they had been wont to do, and the minor canons smiled in return to his smile less obsequiously when they met him in the clerical circles of Barchester. But now it seemed that his old supremacy was restored to him. In the minds of many men an archdeacon, who was the father-inlaw of a marquess, was himself as good as any bishop. He did not say much of his new connexion to others besides the dean, but he was conscious of the fact, and conscious also of the reflected glory which shone around his head.

But as regards Mrs Grantly it may be said that she moved in an unending procession of stately ovation. It must not be supposed that she continually talked to her friends and neighbours of Lord Dumbello and the marchioness. She was by far too wise for such folly as that. The coming alliance having been once announced, the name of Hartletop was hardly mentioned by her out of her own domestic circle. But she assumed, with an ease that was surprising even to herself, the airs and graces of a mighty woman. She went through her work of morning calls as though it were her business to be affable to the country gentry. She astonished her sister, the dean’s wife, by the simplicity of her grandeur; and condescended to Mrs Proudie in a manner which nearly broke that lady’s heart. ‘I shall be even with her yet,’ said Mrs Proudie to herself, who had contrived to learn various very deleterious circumstances respecting the Hartletop family since the news about Lord Dumbello and Griselda had become known to her. Griselda herself was carried about in the procession, taking but little part in it of her own, like an Eastern god. She suffered her mother’s caresses and smiled in her mother’s face as she listened to her own praises, but her triumph was apparently within. To no one did she say much on the subject, and greatly disgusted the old family housekeeper by declining altogether to discuss the future Dumbello menage. To her aunt, Mrs Arabin, who strove hard to lead her into some open-hearted speech as to her future aspirations, she was perfectly impassive. ‘Oh, yes, aunt, of course,’ and ‘I’ll think about it, Aunt Eleanor,’ or ‘Of course I shall do that if Lord Dumbello wishes it.’ Nothing beyond this could be got from her; and so, after a half dozen ineffectual attempts, Mrs Arabin abandoned the matter.

But then there arose the subject of clothes — of the wedding trousseau! Sarcastic people are wont to say that the tailor makes the man. Were I such a one, I might certainly assert that the milliner makes the bride. As regarding her bridehood, in distinction either to her girlhood or wifehood — as being a line of plain demarcation between those two periods of a woman’s life — the milliner does do much to make her. She would be hardly a bride if the trousseau were not there. A girl married without some such appendage would seem to pass into the condition of a wife without any such line of demarcation. In that moment in which she finds herself in the first fruition of her marriage finery she becomes a bride; and in that other moment when she begins to act upon the finest of these things as clothes to be packed up, she becomes a wife. When this subject was discussed Griselda displayed no lack of becoming interest. She went to work steadily, slowly, and almost with solemnity, as though the business in hand were one which it would be wicked to treat with impatience. She even struck her mother with awe by the grandeur of her ideas and the depth of her theories. Nor let it be supposed that she rushed away at once to the consideration of the great fabric which was to be the ultimate sign and mark of her status, the quintessence of her briding, the outer veil, as it were, of the tabernacle — namely, her wedding-dress. As a great poet works himself up by degrees to that inspiration which is necessary for the grand turning-point of his epic, so did she slowly approach the hallowed ground on which she would sit, with her ministers around her, when about to discuss the nature, the extent, the design, the colouring, the structure, and the ornamentation of that momentous piece of apparel. No; there was much indeed to be done before she came to this: and as the poet, to whom I have already alluded, first invokes his muse, and then brings his smaller events gradually out upon his stage, so did Miss Grantly with sacred fervour ask her mother’s aid, and then prepare her list of all those articles of underclothing which must be the substratum for the visible magnificence of her trousseau. Money was no object. We all know what that means; and frequently understand, when the words are used, that a blaze of splendour is to be attained at the cheapest possible price. But, in this instance, money was no object; — such an amount of money, at least, as could by any possibility be spent on a lady’s clothes, independently of her jewels. With reference to diamonds and such like, the archdeacon at once declared his intention of taking the matter into his own hands — except as insofar as Lord Dumbello, or the Hartletop interest, might be pleased to participate in the selection. Nor was Mrs Grantly sorry for such a decision. She was not an imprudent woman, and would have dreaded the responsibility of trusting herself on such an occasion among the dangerous temptations of a jeweller’s shop. But as far as silks and satins went — in the matter of French bonnets, muslins, velvets, hats, riding-habits, artificial flowers, head-gilding, curious nettings, enamelled buckles, golden tagged bobbins, and mechanical petticoats — as regarded shoes, and gloves, and corsets, and stockings, and linen, and flannel, and calico — money, I may conscientiously assert, was no object. And, under these circumstances, Griselda Grantly went to work with a solemn industry and a steady perseverance that was beyond all praise. ‘I hope she will be happy,’ Mrs Arabin said to her sister, as the two were sitting together in the dean’s drawing-room.

‘Oh, yes; I think she will. Why should she not?’

‘Oh, no; I know of no reason. But she is going up into a station so much above her own in the eyes of the world that one cannot but feel anxious for her.’

‘I should feel much more anxious if she were going to marry a poor man,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘It has always seemed to me that Griselda was fitted for a high position; that nature intended her for rank and state. You see that she is not a bit elated. She takes it all as if it were her own by right. I do not think that there is any danger that her head will be turned, if you mean that.’

‘I was thinking rather of her heart,’ said Mrs Arabin.

‘She never would have taken Lord Dumbello without loving him,’ said Mrs Grantly, speaking rather quickly.

‘That is not quite what I meant, Susan. I am sure she would not have accepted him had she not loved him. But it is so hard to keep the heart fresh among all the grandeurs of high rank; and it is harder for a girl to do so who has not been born to it, than for one who has enjoyed it as her birthright.’

‘I don’t quite understand about fresh hearts,’ said Mrs Grantly, pettishly. ‘If she does her duty, and loves her husband, and fills the position in which God has placed her with propriety, I don’t know that we need look for anything more. I don’t at all approve of the plan of frightening a young girl when she is making her first outset into the world.’

‘No; I would not frighten her. I think it would be almost difficult to frighten Griselda.’

‘I hope it would. The great matter with a girl is whether she has been brought up with proper notions as to a woman’s duty. Of course it is not for me to boast on this subject. Such as she is, I, of course, am responsible. But I must own that I do not see occasion to wish for any change.’ and then the subject was allowed to drop.

Among those of her relations who wondered much at the girl’s fortune, but allowed themselves to say but little, was her grandfather, Mr Harding. He was an old clergyman, plain and simple in his manners, and not occupying a very prominent position, seeing that he was only precentor to the chapter. He was loved by his daughter, Mrs Grantly, and was treated by the archdeacon, if not invariably with the highest respect, at least always with consideration and regard. But, old and plain as he was, the young people at Plumstead did not hold him in any reverence. He was poorer than their other relatives, and made no attempt to hold his head high in Barsetshire circles. Moreover, in these latter days, the home of his heart had been at the deanery. He had, indeed, a lodging of his own in the city, but was gradually allowing himself to be weaned away from it. He had his own bedroom in the dean’s house, and his own arm-chair in the dean’s library, and his own corner on a sofa in Mrs Dean’s drawing-room. It was not, therefore, necessary that he should interfere greatly in this coming marriage; but still it became his duty to say a word of congratulation to his granddaughter — and perhaps to say a word of advice.

‘Grizzy, my dear,’ he said to her — he always called her Grizzy, but the endearment of the appellation had never been appreciated by the young lady —‘come and kiss me, and let me congratulate you on your great promotion. I do so very heartily.’

‘Thank you, grandpapa,’ she said touching his forehead with her lips, thus being, as it were, very sparing with her kiss. But those lips now were august and reserved for nobler foreheads than that of an old cathedral hack. For Mr Harding still chanted the Litany from Sunday to Sunday unceasingly, standing at that well-known desk in the cathedral choir; and Griselda had thought in her mind that when the Hartletop people should hear of the practice they should not be delighted. Dean and archdeacon might be very well, and if her grandfather had even been a prebendary, she might have put up with him. But he had, she thought, almost disgraced his family in being, at his old age, one of the working menial clergy of the cathedral. She kissed him, therefore, sparingly, and resolved that her words with him should be few.

‘You are going to be a great lady, Grizzy,’ said he.

‘Umph!’ said she.

What was she to say when so addressed?

‘And I hope you will be happy — and make others happy.’

‘I hope I shall,’ said she.

‘But always think most about the latter, my dear. Think about the happiness of those around you, and your own will come without thinking. You understand that; do you not?’

‘Oh, yes, I understand,’ she said. As they were speaking Mr Harding still held her hand, but Griselda left it with him unwillingly, and therefore ungraciously, looking as though she were dragging it from him.

‘And Grizzy — I believe it is quite easy for a rich countess to be happy, as for a dairymaid —’ Griselda gave her head a little chuck which was produced by two different operations of her mind. The first was a reflection that her grandpapa was robbing her of her rank. She was to be a rich marchioness. And the second was a feeling of anger at the old man for comparing her lot to that of a dairy maid.

‘Quite as easy, I believe,’ continued he; ‘though others will tell you that it not so. But with the countess as with the dairymaid, it must depend on the woman herself. Being a countess — that fact alone won’t make you happy.’

‘Lord Dumbello at present is only a viscount,’ said Griselda. ‘There is no earl’s title in the family.’

‘Oh! I did not know,’ said Mr Harding, relinquishing his granddaughter’s hand; and, after that, he troubled her with no further advice. Both Mrs Proudie and the bishop had called at Plumstead since Mrs Grantly had come back from London, and the ladies from Plumstead, of course, returned the visit. It was natural that the Grantlys and the Proudies should hate each other. They were essentially Church people, and their views on Church matters were antagonistic. They had been compelled to fight for supremacy in the diocese, and neither family had so conquered the other to become capable of magnanimity and good-humour. They did hate each other, and this hatred had, at one time, almost produced an absolute disseverance of even the courtesies which are so necessary between the bishop and his clergy. But the bitterness of this rancour had been overcome, and the ladies of the families had continued on visiting terms. But now this match was almost more than Mrs Proudie could bear. The great disappointment which, as she well knew, the Grantlys had encountered in that matter of the proposed new bishopric had for the moment mollified her. She had been able to talk of poor dear Mrs Grantly!

‘She is heartbroken, you know, in this matter, and the repetition of such misfortunes is hard to bear,’ she was heard to say, with a complacency which had been quite becoming to her. But now that complacency was at an end. Olivia Proudie had just accepted a widowed preacher at a district church in Bethnal Green — a man with three children, who was dependent on pew-rents; and Griselda Grantly was engaged to the eldest son of the Marquess of Hartletop! When women are enjoined to forgive their enemies it cannot be intended that such wrongs as these should be included. But Mrs Proudie’s courage was nothing daunted. It may be boasted of her that nothing could daunt her courage. Soon after her return to Barchester, she and Olivia — Olivia being very unwilling — had driven over to Plumstead, and, not finding the Grantlys at home, had left their cards; and now, at a proper interval, Mrs Grantly and Griselda returned the visit. It was the first time that Miss Grantly had been seen by the Proudie ladies since the fact of her engagement had become known.

The first bevy of compliments that passed might be likened to a crowd of flowers on a hedge of a rose-bush. They were beautiful to the eye, but were so closely environed by thorns that they could not be plucked without great danger. As long as the compliments were allowed to remain on the hedge — while no attempt was made to garner them and realize their fruits for enjoyment — they did no mischief; but the first finger that was put forth for such a purpose was soon drawn back, marked with spots of blood. ‘Of course it is a great match for Griselda,’ said Mrs Grantly, in a whisper of meekness of which would have disarmed an enemy whose weapons were less firmly clutched than those of Mrs Proudie; ‘but, independently of that the connexion is one which is gratifying in many ways.’

‘Oh, no doubt,’ said Mrs Proudie.

‘Lord Dumbello is so completely his own master,’ continued Mrs Grantly, and a slight, unintended semi-tone of triumph mingled itself with the meekness of that whisper.

‘And is likely to remain so, from all I hear,’ said Mrs Proudie, and the scratched hand was at once drawn back.

‘Of course the estab-,’ and then Mrs Proudie, who was blandly continuing her list of congratulations, whispered her sentence close into the ear of Mrs Grantly, so that not a word of what she said might be audible by the young people.

‘I never heard a word of it,’ said Mrs Grantly, gathering herself up, ‘and I don’t believe it.’

‘Oh, I may be wrong; and I’m sure I hope so. But young men will be young men, you know; — and children will take after their parents. I suppose you will see a great deal of the Duke of Omnium now.’ But Mrs Grantly was not a woman to be knocked down and trampled on without resistance; and though she had been lacerated by the rose-bush she was not as yet placed altogether hors de combat. She said some word about the Duke of Omnium very tranquilly, speaking of him merely as a Barsetshire proprietor, and then, smiling with her sweetest smile, expressed a hope that she might soon have the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Mr Tickler; and as she spoke she made a pretty little bow towards Olivia Proudie. Now Mr Tickler was the worthy clergyman attached to the district church at Bethnal Green.

‘He’ll be down here in August,’ said Olivia, boldly, determined not to be shamefaced about her love affairs.

‘You’ll be starring about the Continent by that time, my dear,’ said Mrs Proudie to Griselda. ‘Lord Dumbello is well known at Hamburg and Ems, and places of that sort; so you will find yourself quite at home.’

‘We are going to Rome,’ said Griselda majestically.

‘I suppose Mr Tickler will come to the diocese soon,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘I remember hearing him very favourably spoken of by Mr Slope, who was a friend of his.’ Nothing short of a fixed resolve on the part of Mrs Grantly that the time had now come in which she must throw away her shield and stand behind her sword, declare war to the knife, and neither give nor take quarter, could have justified such a speech as this. Any allusion to Mr Slope acted on Mrs Proudie as a red cloth is supposed to act on a bull; but when that allusion connected the name of Mr Slope in a friendly bracket with that of Mrs Proudie’s future son-inlaw it might be certain that the effect would be terrific. And there was more than this; for that very Mr Slope had once entertained audacious hopes — hopes not thought of to be audacious by the young lady herself — with reference to Miss Olivia Proudie. All this Mrs Grantly knew, and, knowing it, still dared to mention his name.

The countenance of Mrs Proudie became darkened with black anger, and the polished smile of her company manners gave place before the outraged feelings of her nature. ‘The man you speak of Mrs Grantly,’ said she, ‘was never known as a friend by Mr Tickler.’

‘Oh, indeed,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘Perhaps I have made a mistake. I am sure I have heard Mr Slope mention him.’

‘When Mr Slope was running after your sister, Mrs Grantly, and was encouraged by her as he was, you perhaps saw more of him than I did.’

‘Mrs Proudie, that was never the case.’

‘I have reason to know that the archdeacon conceived it to be so, and that he was very unhappy about it.’ Now this, unfortunately, was a fact which Mrs Grantly could not deny.

‘The archdeacon may have been mistaken about Mr Slope,’ she said, ‘as were some other people at Barchester. But it was you, I think, Mrs Proudie, who was responsible for bringing him here.’ Mrs Grantly, at this period of the engagement might have inflicted a fatal wound by referring to poor Olivia’s love affairs, but she was not destitute of generosity. Even in the extremest heat of the battle she knew how to spare the young and tender.

‘When I came here, Mrs Grantly, I little dreamed of what a depth of wickedness might be found in the very close of a cathedral city,’ said Mrs Proudie.

‘Then, for dear Olivia’s sake, pray do not bring poor Mr Tickler to Barchester.’

‘Mr Tickler, Mrs Grantly, is a man of assured morals and of a highly religious tone of thinking. I wish every one could be so safe as regards their daughters’ future prospects as I am.’

‘Yes, I know he has the advantage of being a family man,’ said Mrs Grantly, getting up. ‘Good morning, Mrs Proudie; Good day, Olivia.’

‘A great deal better than —’ But the blow fell upon the empty air; for Mrs Grantly had already escaped on to the staircase while Olivia was ringing the bell for the servant to attend to the front-door.

Mrs Grantly, as she got into the carriage, smiled slightly, thinking of the battle, and as she sat down she gently pressed her daughter’s hand. But Mrs Proudie’s face was still dark as Acheron when her enemy withdrew, and with angry tone she sent her daughter to her work. ‘Mr Tickler will have great reason to complain, if, in your position, you indulge in such habits of idleness,’ she said. Therefore I conceive that I am justified in saying that in that encounter Mrs Grantly was the conqueror.

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