The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope


Mr Crawley is Conquered

It was more than a week before the archdeacon received a reply from Mr Crawley, during which time the dean had been over to Hogglestock more than once, as had also Mrs Arabin and Lady Lufton the younger — and there had been letters written without end, and the archdeacon had been nearly beside himself. ‘A man who pretends to conscientious scruples of that kind is not fit to have a parish,’ he had said to his wife. His wife understood what he meant, and I trust that the reader may also understand it. In the ordinary cutting of blocks a very fine razor is not an appropriate instrument. The archdeacon, moreover, loved the temporalities of the Church as temporalities. The Church was beautiful to him because one man by interest might have a thousand a year, while another man equally good, but without interest, could only have a hundred. And he liked the men who had the interest a great deal better than the men who had it not. He had been willing to admit the poor perpetual curate, who had so long been kept out in the cold, within the pleasant circle which was warm with ecclesiastical good things, and the man hesitated — because of scruples, as the dean told him! ‘I always button up my pocket when I hear of scruples,’ the archdeacon said.

But at last Mr Crawley condescended to accept St Ewold’s.

‘Reverend and dear sir,’ he said in his letter: ‘For the personal benevolence of the offer made to me in your letter of the — instant, I beg to tender you my most grateful thanks; as also for you generous kindness to me, in telling me of the high praise bestowed upon me by a gentleman who is now no more — whose character I have esteemed and whose good opinion I value. There is, methinks, something inexpressibly dear to me in the recorded praise of the dead. For the further instance of the friendship of the Dean of Barchester, I am also thankful.

‘Since the receipt of your letter I have doubted much as to my fitness for the work you have proposed to entrust to me — not from any feeling that the parish of St Ewold’s may be beyond my intellectual power, but because the latter circumstances of my life have been of a nature so strange and perplexing that they have left me somewhat in doubt as to my own aptitude for going about among men without giving offence and becoming a stumbling block.

‘Nevertheless, reverend and dear sir, if after this confession on my part of a certain faulty demeanour with which I know well that I am afflicted, you are still willing to put the parish into my hands, I will accept the charge — instigated to do so by the advice of all whom I have consulted on the subject; and, in thus accepting it, I hereby pledge myself to vacate it at a month’s warning, should I be called upon by you to do so at any period within the next two years. Should I be so far successful during those twenty-four months as to have satisfied both yourself and myself, I may then perhaps venture to regard the preferment as my own in perpetuity for life; — I have the honour to be, reverend and dear sir, you most humble and faithful servant, ‘JOSIAH CRAWLEY’

‘Psha!’ said the archdeacon, who professed that he did not at all like the letter. ‘I wonder what he would say if I sent him a month’s notice at next Michaelmas?’

‘I’m sure he would go,’ said Mrs Grantly.

‘The more fool he,’ said the archdeacon.

At this time Grace was at the parsonage in a seventh heaven of happiness. The archdeacon was never rough to her, nor did he make any of his harsh remarks about her father in her presence. Before her St Ewold’s was spoken of as the home that was to belong to the Crawleys for the next twenty years. Mrs Grantly was very loving with her, lavishing upon her pretty presents, and words that were prettier than presents. Grace’s life had hitherto been so destitute of those prettinesses and softnesses which can hardly be had without money though money alone will not purchase them, that it seemed to her now that the heavens rained graciousness upon her. It was not that the archdeacon’s watch or her lover’s chain, or Mrs Grantly’s locket, or the little toy from Italy which Mrs Arabin brought to her from the treasures of the deanery, filled her heart with undue exaltation. It was not that she revelled in her new delights of silver and gold and shining gems; but that the silver and gold and shining gems were constant indications to her that things had changed, not only for her, but for her father and mother, and brother and sister. She felt now more sure than ever that she could not have enjoyed her love had she accepted her lover while the disgrace of the accusation against her father remained. But now — having waited till that had passed away, everything was a new happiness to her.

At last it was settled that Mr and Mrs Crawley were to come to Plumstead — and they came. it would be too long to tell now how gradually had come about that changed state of things which made such a visit possible. Mr Crawley had at first declared that such a thing was out of the question. If St Ewold’s was to depend upon it St Ewold’s must be given up. And I think that it would have been impossible for him to go direct from Hogglestock to Plumstead. But it fell out after this wise.

Mr Harding’s curate at St Ewold’s was nominated to Hogglestock, and the dean urged upon his friend Crawley the expediency of giving up the house as quickly as he could do so. Gradually at this time Mr Crawley had been forced into a certain amount of intimacy with the haunts of men. He had been twice or thrice at Barchester, and had lunched with the dean. He had been at Framley for an hour or two, and had been forced into some communication with old Mr Thorne, the squire of his new parish. The end of this had been that he had at last consented to transfer himself and wife and daughter to the deanery for a fortnight. He had preached one farewell sermon at Hogglestock — not, as he told his audience, as their pastor, which he had ceased to be now for some two or three months — but as their old and loving friend, to whom the use of his former pulpit had been lent, that he might express himself thus among them for the last time. His sermon was very short, and was preached without book or notes — but he never once paused for a word or halted in the string or rhythm of his discourse. The dean was there and declared afterwards that he had not given him credit for such powers of utterance. ‘Any man can utter out of a full heart,’ Crawley had answered. ‘In this trumpery affair about myself, my heart is full! If we could only have our hearts full in other matters, our utterances thereanent would receive more attention.’ To all of this the dean made no reply.

On the day after this the Crawleys took their final departure from Hogglestock, all the brickmakers from Hoggle End having assembled on the occasion, with a purse containing seventeen pounds seven shillings and sixpence, which they insisted on presenting to Mr Crawley, and as to which there was a little difficulty. And at the deanery they remained for a fortnight. How Mrs Crawley, under the guidance of Mrs Arabin, had there so far trenched upon the revenues of St Ewold’s as to provide for her husband and herself raiment fitting for the worldly splendour of Plumstead, need not here be told in detail. Suffice to say, the raiment was forthcoming, and Mr Crawley found himself to be the perplexed possessor of a black dress coat, in addition to the long frock, coming nearly to his feet, which was provided for his daily wear. Touching this garment, there had been some discussion between the dean and the new vicar. The dean had desired that it should be curtailed in length. The vicar had remonstrated — but still with something of the weakness of compliance in his eye. Then the dean had persisted. ‘Surely the price of the cloth wanted to perfect the comeliness of the garment cannot be much,’ said the vicar, almost woefully. After that, the dean relented, and the comeliness of the coat was made perfect. The new black long frock, I think, Mr Crawley liked; but the dress coat, with the suit complete, perplexed him sorely.

With his new coat, and something also, of new manners, he and his wife went over to Plumstead, leaving Jane at the deanery with Mrs Arabin. The dean also went to Plumstead. They arrived there not much before dinner, and as Grace was there before them the first moments were not so bad. Before Mr Crawley had had time to feel himself lost in the drawing-room, he was summoned away to prepare himself for dinner — for dinner, and for the coat, which at the deanery he had been allowed to leave unworn. ‘I would with all my heart that I might retire to rest,’ he said to his wife, when the ceremony had been perfected.

‘Do not say so. Go down and take your place with them, and speak your mind with them — as you so well know how. Who among them can do it so well?’

‘I have been told,’ said Mr Crawley, ‘that you shall take a cock which is lord of the farmyard — the cock of all that walk — and when you have daubed his feathers with mud, he shall be thrashed by every dunghill coward. I say not that I was ever the cock of the walk, but I know that they have daubed my feathers.’ Then he went down among the other poultry in the farmyard.

At dinner he was very silent, answering, however, with a sort of graceful stateliness any word that Mrs Grantly addressed to him. Mr Thorne, of Ullathorne, was there also to meet his new vicar, as was also Mr Thorne’s very old sister, Miss Monica Thorne. And Lady Anne Grantly was there — she having come with the expressed intention that the wives of the two brothers should know each other — but with a warmer desire, I think, of seeing Mr Crawley, of whom the clerical world had been talking since some notice of the accusations against him had become general. There were, therefore, ten or twelve at the dinner-table, and Mr Crawley had not made one at such a board certainly since his marriage. All went fairly smooth with him till the ladies left the room; for though Lady Anne, who sat at his left hand, had perplexed him somewhat with clerical questions, he had found that he was not called upon for much more than monosyllabic responses. But in his heart he feared the archdeacon and he felt that when the ladies were gone the archdeacon would not leave him alone in his silence.

As soon as the door was closed, the first subject mooted was that of the Plumstead fox, which had been so basely murdered on Mr Thorne’s ground. Mr Thorne had confessed the iniquity, had dismissed the murderous gamekeeper, and all was serene. But the greater on that account was the feasibility of discussing the question, and the archdeacon had a good deal to say about it. Then Mr Thorne turned to the new vicar, and asked him whether foxes abounded in Hogglestock. Had he been asked as to the rats or moles, he would have known more about it.

‘Indeed, sir, I know not whether or no there be any foxes in the parish of Hogglestock. I do not remember me that I ever saw one. It is an animal whose habits I have not watched.’

‘There is an earth at Hoggle Bushes,’ said the major; ‘and I never knew it without a litter.’

‘I think I know the domestic whereabouts of every fox in Plumstead,’ said the archdeacon, with an ill-natured intention of astonishing Mr Crawley.

‘Of foxes with two legs our friend is speaking, without doubt,’ said the vicar of St Ewold’s, with an attempt at grim pleasantry.

‘Of them we have none at Plumstead. No — I was speaking of the dear old fellow with the brush. Pass the bottle, Mr Crawley. Won’t you fill your glass?’ Mr Crawley passed the bottle, but would not fill the glass. Then the dean, looking up slyly, saw the vexation written in the archdeacon’s face. The parson whom the archdeacon feared most of all was the parson who wouldn’t fill his glass.

Then the subject was changed. ‘I’m told that the bishop has at last made his reappearance on his throne,’ said the archdeacon.

‘He was in the cathedral last Sunday,’ said the dean.

‘Does he ever mean to preach again?’ ‘He never did preach very often,’ said the dean.

‘A great deal too often, from all people say,’ said the archdeacon. ‘I never heard him myself, and never shall, I daresay. You have heard him, Mr Crawley?’

‘I have never had that good fortune, Mr Archdeacon. But living as I shall now do, so near to the city, I may perhaps be enabled to attend the cathedral service on some holy-day of the Church, which may not require prayers in my own rural parish. I think that the clergy of the diocese should be acquainted with the opinions, and with the voice, and with the very manner and words of their bishop. As things are now done, this is not possible. I could wish that there were occasions on which a bishop might assemble his clergy, and preach to them sermons adapted to their use.’

‘What do you call a bishop’s charge, then?’

‘It is usually in the printed form that I have received it,’ said Mr Crawley.

‘I think we have had quite enough of that kind of thing,’ said the archdeacon.

‘He is a man whose conversation is not pleasing to me,’ Mr Crawley said to his wife that night.

‘Do not judge him too quickly, Josiah,’ his wife said. ‘There is so much of good in him! He is kind, and generous, and I think affectionate.’

‘But he is of the earth, earthy. When you and the other ladies had retired, the conversation at first fell on the habits and value of — foxes. I have been informed that in these parts the fox is greatly prized, as without a fox to run before the dogs, that scampering over the country which is called hunting, and which delights by the quickness and perhaps the peril of the exercise, is not relished by the riders. Of the wisdom or taste herein displayed by the hunters of the day I say nothing. But it seemed to me that in talking of foxes Dr Grantly was master of his subject. Thence the topic glided to the duties of a bishop and to questions of preaching, as to which Dr Grantly was not slow in offering his opinion. But I thought that I would rather have heard him talk about the foxes for a week together.’ She said nothing more to him, knowing well how useless it was to attempt to turn him by any argument. To her thinking the kindness of the archdeacon to them personally demanded some indulgence in the expression, and even in the formation, of an opinion, respecting his clerical peculiarities.

On the next day, however, Mr Crawley, having been summoned by the archdeacon into the library for a little private conversation, found that he got on better with him. How the archdeacon conquered him may perhaps be best described by a further narration of what Mr Crawley told his wife. ‘I told him that in regard to money matters, as he called them, I had nothing to say. I only trusted that his son was aware that my daughter had no money, and never would have any. “My dear Crawley,” the archdeacon said — for of late there seems to have grown up in the world a habit of greater familiarity than that which I think did prevail when last I moved much among men —“my dear Crawley, I have enough for both.” “I would we stood on more equal ground,” I said. Then as he answered me, he rose from his chair. “We stand,” said he, “on the perfect level on which men can meet each other. We are both gentlemen.” “Sir,” I said, rising also, “from the bottom of the heart I agree with you. I could not have spoken such words; but coming from you who are rich to me am poor, they are honourable to the one and comfortable to the other.”’

‘And after that?’

‘He took down from the shelves a volume of some sermons which his father published many years ago, and presented to me. I have it now under my arm. It hath the old bishop’s manuscript notes, which I will study carefully.’ And thus the archdeacon had hit his bird on both wings.

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