The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXXXIV


It now only remains for me to gather together a few loose strings, and tie them together in a knot, so that my work may not become untwisted. Early in July, Henry Grantly and Grace Crawley were married in the parish church of Plumstead — a great impropriety, as to which neither Archdeacon Grantly nor Mr Crawley could be got to assent for a long time, but which was at last carried, not simply by a union of Mrs Grantly and Mrs Crawley, nor even by the assistance of Mrs Arabin, but by the strong intervention of Lady Lufton herself. ‘Of course Miss Crawley ought to be married from St Ewold’s vicarage; but when the furniture has only been half got in, how is it possible?’ When Lady Lufton thus spoke, the archdeacon gave way, and Mr Crawley hadn’t a leg to stand on. Henry Grantly had not an opinion on the matter. He told his father that he expected that they would marry him among them, and that that had been enough for him. As for Grace, nobody even thought of asking her; and I doubt whether she would have heard anything about the contest, had not some tidings of it reached her from her lover. Married they were at Plumstead — and the breakfast was given with all that luxuriance of plenty which was so dear to the archdeacon’s mind. Mr Crawley was the officiating priest. With his hands dropping before him, folded humbly, he told the archdeacon — when that Plumstead question had been finally settled in opposition to his wishes — that he would fain himself perform the ceremony by which his dearest daughter would be bound to her marriage duties. ‘And who else should?’ said the archdeacon. Mr Crawley muttered that he had not known how far his reverend brother might have been willing to waive his rights. But the archdeacon, who was in high good-humour — having just bestowed a little pony carriage on his new daughter-in-law — only laughed at him; and, if the rumour which was handed about the families be true, the archdeacon, before the interview was over, had poked Mr Crawley in the ribs. Mr Crawley married them; but the archdeacon assisted — and the dean gave the bride away. The Rev Charles Grantly was there also; and as there was, as a matter of course, a cloud of curates floating in the distance, Henry Grantly was perhaps to be excused for declaring to his wife, when the pair had escaped, that surely no couple had ever been so tightly buckled since marriage had first become a Church ceremony.

Soon after that, Mr and Mrs Crawley became quiet at St Ewold’s, and, as I think, contented. Her happiness began very quickly. Though she had been greatly broken by her troubles, the first sight she had of her husband in his new long frock-coat went far to restore her, and while he was declaring himself to be a cock so daubed with mud as to be incapable of crowing, she was congratulating herself on seeing her husband once more clothed as became his position. And they were lucky, too, as regarded the squire’s house; for Mr Thorne was old, and quiet, and old- fashioned; and Miss Thorne was older, and though she was not exactly quiet, she was very old-fashioned indeed. So that there grew to be a pleasant friendship between Miss Thorne and Mrs Crawley.

Johnny Eames, when last I heard of him, was still a bachelor, and, as I think, likely to remain so. At last he had utterly thrown over Sir Raffle Buffle, declaring to his friends that the special duties of private secretaryship were not exactly to his taste. ‘You get so sick at the thirteenth private note,’ he said, ‘that you find yourself unable to carry on the humbug any farther.’ But he did not leave his office. ‘I’m the head of a room, you know,’ he told Lady Julia De Guest; ‘and there’s nothing to trouble me — and a fellow, you know, ought to have something to do.’ Lady Julia told him, with a great deal of energy, that she would never forgive him if he gave up his office. After that eventful night when he escaped ignominiously from the house of Lady Demolines under the protection of the policeman’s lantern, he did hear more than once from Porchester Terrace, and from allies employed by the enemy who was there resident. ‘My cousin the serjeant’ proved to be a myth. Johnny found out all about that Serjeant Runter, who was distantly connected, indeed, with the late husband of Lady Demolines, but had always persistently declined to have any intercourse whatever with her ladyship. For the serjeant was a rising man, and Lady Demolines was not exactly progressing in the world. Johnny heard nothing from the serjeant; but from Madalina he got letter after letter. In the first she asked him not to think too much of the little joke that had occurred. In her second, she described the vehemence of her love. In her third the bitterness of her wrath. Her fourth simply invited him to come and dine in Porchester Terrace. Her fifth was the outpouring of injured innocence. And then came letters from an attorney. Johnny answered not a word to any of them, and gradually the letters were discontinued. Within six months of the receipt of the last, he was delighted by reading among the marriages in the newspapers, a notice that Peter Bangles, Esq., of the firm Burton and Bangles, wine merchants, of Hook Court, had been united to Madalina, daughter of the late Sir Confucius Demolines, at the church of Peter the Martyr. ‘Most appropriate,’ said Johnny, as he read the notice to Conway Dalrymple, who was then back from his wedding tour; ‘for most assuredly there will now be another Peter the Martyr.’

‘I’m not so sure of that,’ said Conway, who had heard something of Mr Peter Bangles. ‘There are men who have strong wills of their own and strong hands of their own.’

‘Poor Madalina!’ said Johnny. ‘If he does beat her, I hope he will do it tenderly. It may be that a little of it will suit her fevered temperament.’

Before the summer was over Conway Dalrymple had been married to Clara Van Siever, and by a singular arrangement of circumstances had married her with the full approval of old Mrs Van. Mr Musselboro — whose name I hope has not been altogether forgotten, though the part played by him has been subordinate — had opposed Dalrymple in the efforts made by the artist to get something out of Broughton’s estate for the benefit of the widow. From circumstances of which Dalrymple learned the particulars with the aid of an attorney, it seemed to him that certain facts were wilfully kept in the dark by Musselboro, and he went with his complaint to Mrs Van Siever, declaring that he would bring the whole affair into court, unless all the workings of the firm were made clear to him. Mrs Van was very insolent to him — and even turned him out of the house. But, nevertheless, she did not allow Mr Musselboro to escape. Whoever was to be left in the dark she did not wish it to be herself; — and it began to dawn upon her that her dear Mr Musselboro was deceiving her. Then she sent for Dalrymple, and without a word of apology for her former conduct, put him upon the right track. As he was pushing his inquiries and working heaven and earth for the unfortunate widow — as to whom he swore daily that when this matter was settled he would never see her again, so terrible was she to him with her mock affection and pretended hysterics, and false moralities — he was told one day that she had gone off with Mr Musselboro! Mr Musselboro, finding that this was the surest plain of obtaining for himself the little business in Hook Court, married the widow of his late partner, and is at this moment probably carrying a law-suit with Mrs Van. For the law-suit Conway Dalrymple cared nothing. When the quarrel had become hot between Mrs Van and her late myrmidon, Clara fell into Conway’s hands without opposition; and, let the law-suit go as it may, there will be enough left of Mrs Van’s money to make the house of Mr and Mrs Conway Dalrymple very comfortable. The picture of Jael and Sisera was stitched up without any difficulty, and I daresay most of my readers will remember it hanging on the walls of the exhibition.

Before I take my leave of the diocese of Barchester for ever, which I purpose to do in the succeeding paragraph, I desire to be allowed to say one word of apology for myself, in answer to those who have accused me — always without bitterness, and generally with tenderness — of having forgotten, in writing of clergymen, the first and most prominent characteristic of the ordinary English clergyman’s life. I have described many clergymen, they say, but have spoken of them all as though their professional duties, their high calling, their daily workings for the good of those around them, were matters of no moment, either to me, or in my opinion, to themselves. I would plead, in answer to this, that my object has been to paint the social and not the professional lives of clergymen; and that I have been led to do so, firstly, by a feeling that as no men affect more strongly, by their own character, the society of those around than do country clergymen, so, therefore, their social habits have been worth the labour necessary for painting them; and secondly, by a feeling that though I, as a novelist, may feel myself entitled to write of clergymen out of their pulpits, as I may also write of lawyers and doctors, I have no such liberty to write of them in their pulpits. When I have done so, if I have done so, I have so far transgressed. There are those who have told me that I have made all my clergymen bad, and none good. I must venture to hint to such judges that they have taught their eyes to love a colouring higher than nature justifies. We are, most of us, apt to love Raphael’s madonnas better than Rembrandt’s matrons. But, though we do so, we know that Rembrandt’s matrons existed; but we have a strong belief that no such woman as Raphael painted ever did exist. In that he painted, as he may be surmised to have done, for pious purposes — at least for Church purposes — Raphael was justified; but had he painted so for family portraiture he would have been false. Had I written an epic about clergymen, I would have taken St Paul for my model; but describing, as I have endeavoured to do, such clergymen as I see around me, I could not venture to be transcendental. For myself I can only say that I shall always be happy to sit, when allowed to do so, at the table of Archdeacon Grantly, to walk through the High Street of Barchester arm in arm with Mr Robarts of Framley, and to stand alone and shed a tear beneath the modest black stone in the north transept of the cathedral on which is inscribed the name of Septimus Harding.

And now, if the reader will allow me to seize him affectionately by the arm, we will together take our last farewell of Barset and of the towers of Barchester. I may not venture to say to him that, in this country, he and I together have wandered often through the country lanes, and have ridden together over the too well-wooded fields, or have stood together in the cathedral nave listening to the peals of the organ, or have together sat at good men’s tables, or have confronted together the angry pride of men who were not good. I may not boast that any beside myself have so realised the place, and the people, and the facts, as to make such reminiscences possible as those which I should attempt to evoke by an appeal to perfect fellowship. But to me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavement of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell. That I have been induced to wander among them too long by my love for old friendships, and by the sweetness of old faces, is a fault for which I may perhaps be more readily forgiven, when I repeat, with solemnity of assurance, that promise made in my title, that this shall be the last chronicle of Barset.

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