The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope



“I can never bring myself to believe it, John,” said Mary Walker,
the pretty daughter of Mr. George Walker, attorney of Silverbridge.
Walker and Winthrop was the name of the firm, and they were
respectable people, who did all the solicitors’ business that had
to be done in that part of Barsetshire on behalf of the Crown, were
employed on the local business of the Duke of Omnium who is great in
those parts, and altogether held their heads up high, as provincial
lawyers often do. They,–the Walkers,–lived in a great brick
house in the middle of the town, gave dinners, to which the county
gentlemen not unfrequently condescended to come, and in a mild way
led the fashion in Silverbridge. “I can never bring myself to believe
it, John,” said Miss Walker.

“You’ll have to bring yourself to believe it,” said John, without
taking his eyes from his book.

“A clergyman,–and such a clergyman too!”

“I don’t see that that has anything to do with it.” And as he now
spoke, John did take his eyes off his book. “Why should not a
clergyman turn thief as well as anybody else? You girls always seem
to forget that clergymen are only men after all.”

“Their conduct is likely to be better than that of other men, I

“I deny it utterly,” said John Walker. “I’ll undertake to say that
at this moment there are more clergymen in debt in Barsetshire than
there are either lawyers or doctors. This man has always been in
debt. Since he has been in the county I don’t think he has ever been
able to show his face in the High Street of Silverbridge.”

“John, that is saying more than you have a right to say,” said Mrs.

“Why, mother, this very cheque was given to a butcher who had
threatened a few days before to post bills all about the county,
giving an account of the debt that was due to him, if the money was
not paid at once.”

“More shame for Mr. Fletcher,” said Mary. “He has made a fortune as
butcher in Silverbridge.”

“What has that to do with it? Of course a man likes to have his
money. He had written three times to the bishop, and he had sent
a man over to Hogglestock to get his little bill settled six days
running. You see he got it at last. Of course, a tradesman must look
for his money.”

“Mamma, do you think that Mr. Crawley stole the cheque?” Mary, as she
asked the question, came and stood over her mother, looking at her
with anxious eyes.

“I would rather give no opinion, my dear.”

“But you must think something when everybody is talking about it,

“Of course my mother thinks he did,” said John, going back to his
book. “It is impossible that she should think otherwise.”

“That is not fair, John,” said Mrs. Walker; “and I won’t have you
fabricate thoughts for me, or put the expression of them into my
mouth. The whole affair is very painful, and as your father is
engaged in the inquiry, I think that the less said about the matter
in this house the better. I am sure that that would be your father’s

“Of course I should say nothing about it before him,” said Mary. “I
know that papa does not wish to have it talked about. But how is one
to help thinking about such a thing? It would be so terrible for all
of us who belong to the Church.”

“I do not see that at all,” said John. “Mr. Crawley is not more than
any other man just because he’s a clergyman. I hate all that kind of
clap-trap. There are a lot of people here in Silverbridge who think
the matter shouldn’t be followed up, just because the man is in a
position which makes the crime more criminal in him than it would be
in another.”

“But I feel sure that Mr. Crawley has committed no crime at all,”
said Mary.

“My dear,” said Mrs. Walker, “I have just said that I would rather
you would not talk about it. Papa will be in directly.”

“I won’t, mamma;–only–”

“Only! yes; just only!” said John. “She’d go on till dinner if any
one would stay to hear her.”

“You’ve said twice as much as I have, John.” But John had left the
room before his sister’s last words could reach him.

“You know, mamma, it is quite impossible not to help thinking of it,”
said Mary.

“I dare say it is, my dear.”

“And when one knows the people it does make it so dreadful.”

“But do you know them? I never spoke to Mr. Crawley in my life, and
I do not think I ever saw her.”

“I knew Grace very well,–when she used to come first to Miss
Prettyman’s school.”

“Poor girl. I pity her.”

“Pity her! Pity is no word for it, mamma. My heart bleeds for them.
And yet I do not believe for a moment that he stole the cheque. How
can it be possible? For though he may have been in debt because they
have been so very, very poor; yet we all know that he has been an
excellent clergyman. When the Robartses were dining here last, I
heard Mrs. Robarts say that for piety and devotion to his duties she
had hardly ever seen any one equal to him. And the Robartses know
more of them than anybody.”

“They say that the dean is his great friend.”

“What a pity it is that the Arabins should be away just now when he
is in such trouble.” And in this way the mother and daughter went
on discussing the question of the clergyman’s guilt in spite of Mrs.
Walker’s previously expressed desire that nothing more might be said
about it. But Mrs. Walker, like many other mothers, was apt to be
more free in converse with her daughter than she was with her son.
While they were thus talking the father came in from his office, and
then the subject was dropped. He was a man between fifty and sixty
years of age, with grey hair, rather short, and somewhat corpulent,
but still gifted with that amount of personal comeliness which
comfortable position and the respect of others will generally seem to
give. A man rarely carries himself meanly, whom the world holds high
in esteem.

“I am very tired, my dear,” said Mr. Walker.

“You look tired. Come and sit down for a few minutes before you
dress. Mary, get your father’s slippers.” Mary instantly ran to the

“Thanks, my darling,” said the father. And then he whispered to his
wife, as soon as Mary was out of hearing, “I fear that unfortunate
man is guilty. I fear he is! I fear he is!”

“Oh, heavens! what will become of them?”

“What indeed? She has been with me to-day.”

“Has she? And what could you say to her?”

“I told her at first that I could not see her, and begged her not to
speak to me about it. I tried to make her understand that she should
go to some one else. But it was of no use.”

“And how did it end?”

“I asked her to go in to you, but she declined. She said you could do
nothing for her.”

“And does she think her husband guilty?”

“No, indeed. She think him guilty! Nothing on earth,–or from heaven
either, as I take it, would make her suppose it to be possible. She
came to me simply to tell me how good he was.”

“I love her for that,” said Mrs. Walker.

“So did I. But what is the good of loving her? Thank you, dearest.
I’ll get your slippers for you some day, perhaps.”

The whole county was astir in this matter of this alleged guilt of
the Reverend Josiah Crawley,–the whole county, almost as keenly as
the family of Mr. Walker, of Silverbridge. The crime laid to his
charge was the theft of a cheque for twenty pounds, which he was said
to have stolen out of a pocket-book left or dropped in his house, and
to have passed as money into the hands of one Fletcher, a butcher
of Silverbridge, to whom he was indebted. Mr. Crawley was in those
days the perpetual curate of Hogglestock, a parish in the northern
extremity of East Barsetshire; a man known by all who knew anything
of him to be very poor,–an unhappy, moody, disappointed man, upon
whom the troubles of the world always seemed to come with a double
weight. But he had ever been respected as a clergyman, since his
old friend Mr. Arabin, the dean of Barchester, had given him the
small incumbency which he now held. Though moody, unhappy, and
disappointed, he was a hard-working, conscientious pastor among
the poor people with whom his lot was cast; for in the parish of
Hogglestock there resided only a few farmers higher in degree than
field labourers, brickmakers, and such like. Mr. Crawley had now
passed some ten years of his life at Hogglestock; and during those
years he had worked very hard to do his duty, struggling to teach the
people around him perhaps too much of the mystery, but something also
of the comfort, of religion. That he had become popular in his parish
cannot be said of him. He was not a man to make himself popular in
any position. I have said that he was moody and disappointed. He was
even worse than this; he was morose, sometimes almost to insanity.
There had been days in which even his wife had found it impossible
to deal with him otherwise than as with an acknowledged lunatic. And
this was known among the farmers, who talked about their clergyman
among themselves as though he were a madman. But among the very poor,
among the brickmakers of Hoggle End,–a lawless, drunken, terribly
rough lot of humanity,–he was held in high respect; for they knew
that he lived hardly, as they lived; that he worked hard, as they
worked; and that the outside world was hard to him, as it was to
them; and there had been an apparent sincerity of godliness about the
man, and a manifest struggle to do his duty in spite of the world’s
ill-usage, which had won its way even with the rough; so that Mr.
Crawley’s name had stood high with many in his parish, in spite of
the unfortunate peculiarity of his disposition. This was the man who
was now accused of stealing a cheque for twenty pounds.

But before the circumstances of the alleged theft are stated, a word
or two must be said as to Mr. Crawley’s family. It is declared that a
good wife is a crown to her husband, but Mrs. Crawley had been much
more than a crown to him. As had regarded all the inner life of the
man,–all that portion of his life which had not been passed in the
pulpit or in pastoral teaching,–she had been crown, throne, and
sceptre all in one. That she had endured with him and on his behalf
the miseries of poverty, and the troubles of a life which had known
no smiles, is perhaps not to be alleged as much to her honour.
She had joined herself to him for better or worse, and it was her
manifest duty to bear such things; wives always have to bear them,
knowing when they marry that they must take their chance. Mr. Crawley
might have been a bishop, and Mrs. Crawley, when she married him,
perhaps thought it probable that such would be his fortune. Instead
of that he was now, just as he was approaching his fiftieth year, a
perpetual curate, with an income of one hundred and thirty pounds
per annum,–and a family. That had been Mrs. Crawley’s luck in life,
and of course she bore it. But she had also done much more than
this. She had striven hard to be contented, or, rather, to appear
to be contented, when he had been most wretched and most moody.
She had struggled to conceal from him her own conviction as to his
half-insanity, treating him at the same time with the respect due
to an honoured father of a family, and with the careful measured
indulgence fit for a sick and wayward child. In all the terrible
troubles of their life her courage had been higher than his. The
metal of which she was made had been tempered to a steel which was
very rare and fine, but the rareness and fineness of which he had
failed to appreciate. He had often told her that she was without
pride, because she had stooped to receive from others, on his behalf
and on behalf of her children, things which were very needful, but
which she could not buy. He had told her that she was a beggar, and
that it was better to starve than to beg. She had borne the rebuke
without a word in reply, and had then begged again for him, and had
endured the starvation herself. Nothing in their poverty had, for
years past, been a shame to her; but every accident of their poverty
was still, and ever had been, a living disgrace to him.

[Illustration: Mr. and Mrs. Crawley.]

They had had many children, and three were still alive. Of the
eldest, Grace Crawley, we shall hear much in the coming story. She
was at this time nineteen years old, and there were those who said
that, in spite of her poverty, her shabby outward apparel, and a
certain thin, unfledged, unrounded form of person, a want of fulness
in the lines of her figure, she was the prettiest girl in that part
of the world. She was living now at a school in Silverbridge, where
for the last year she had been a teacher; and there were many in
Silverbridge who declared that very bright prospects were opening to
her,–that young Major Grantly of Cosby Lodge, who, though a widower
with a young child, was the cynosure of all female eyes in and
round Silverbridge, had found beauty in her thin face, and that
Grace Crawley’s fortune was made in the teeth, as it were, of the
prevailing ill-fortune of her family. Bob Crawley, who was two years
younger, was now at Marlbro’ School, from whence it was intended that
he should proceed to Cambridge, and be educated there at the expense
of his godfather, Dean Arabin. In this also the world saw a stroke
of good luck. But then nothing was lucky to Mr. Crawley. Bob, indeed,
who had done very well at school, might do well at Cambridge,–might
do great things there. But Mr. Crawley would almost have preferred
that the boy should work in the fields, than that he should be
educated in a manner so manifestly eleemosynary. And then his
clothes! How was he to be provided with clothes fit either for school
or for college? But the dean and Mrs. Crawley between them managed
this, leaving Mr. Crawley very much in the dark, as Mrs. Crawley was
in the habit of leaving him. Then there was a younger daughter, Jane,
still at home, who passed her life between her mother’s work-table
and her father’s Greek, mending linen and learning to scan
iambics,–for Mr. Crawley in his early days had been a ripe scholar.

And now there had come upon them all this terribly-crushing disaster.
That poor Mr. Crawley had gradually got himself into a mess of debt
at Silverbridge, from which he was quite unable to extricate himself,
was generally known by all the world both of Silverbridge and
Hogglestock. To a great many it was known that Dean Arabin had
paid money for him, very much contrary to his own consent, and
that he had quarrelled, or attempted to quarrel, with the dean in
consequence,–had so attempted, although the money had in part passed
through his own hands. There had been one creditor, Fletcher, the
butcher of Silverbridge, who had of late been specially hard upon
poor Crawley. This man, who had not been without good nature in his
dealings, had heard stories of the dean’s good-will and such like,
and had loudly expressed his opinion that the perpetual curate of
Hogglestock would show a higher pride in allowing himself to be
indebted to a rich brother clergyman, than in remaining under thrall
to a butcher. And thus a rumour had grown up. And then the butcher
had written repeated letters to the bishop,–to Bishop Proudie of
Barchester, who had at first caused his chaplain to answer them,
and had told Mr. Crawley somewhat roundly what was his opinion of a
clergyman who eat meat and did not pay for it. But nothing that the
bishop could say or do enabled Mr. Crawley to pay the butcher. It was
very grievous to such a man as Mr. Crawley to receive these letters
from such a man as Bishop Proudie; but the letters came, and made
festering wounds, but then there was an end of them. And at last
there had come forth from the butcher’s shop a threat that if the
money were not paid by a certain date, printed bills should be posted
about the county. All who heard of this in Silverbridge were very
angry with Mr. Fletcher, for no one there had ever known a tradesman
to take such a step before; but Fletcher swore that he would
persevere, and defended himself by showing that six or seven months
since, in the spring of the year, Mr. Crawley had been paying money
in Silverbridge, but had paid none to him,–to him who had been not
only his earliest, but his most enduring creditor. “He got money
from the dean in March,” said Mr. Fletcher to Mr. Walker, “and he
paid twelve pounds ten to Green, and seventeen pounds to Grobury,
the baker.” It was that seventeen pounds to Grobury, the baker, for
flour, which made the butcher so fixedly determined to smite the
poor clergyman hip and thigh. “And he paid money to Hall, and to Mrs.
Holt, and to a deal more; but he never came near my shop. If he had
even shown himself, I would not have said so much about it.” And then
a day before the date named, Mrs. Crawley had come to Silverbridge,
and had paid the butcher twenty pounds in four five-pound notes. So
far Fletcher the butcher had been successful.

Some six weeks after this, inquiry began to be made as to a certain
cheque for twenty pounds drawn by Lord Lufton on his bankers in
London, which cheque had been lost early in the spring by Mr. Soames,
Lord Lufton’s man of business in Barsetshire, together with a
pocket-book in which it had been folded. This pocket-book Soames had
believed himself to have left at Mr. Crawley’s house, and had gone
so far, even at the time of the loss, as to express his absolute
conviction that he had so left it. He was in the habit of paying a
rentcharge to Mr. Crawley on behalf of Lord Lufton, amounting to
twenty pounds four shillings, every half-year. Lord Lufton held
the large tithes of Hogglestock, and paid annually a sum of forty
pounds eight shillings to the incumbent. This amount was, as a rule,
remitted punctually by Mr. Soames through the post. On the occasion
now spoken of, he had had some reason for visiting Hogglestock, and
had paid the money personally to Mr. Crawley. Of so much there was
no doubt. But he had paid it by a cheque drawn by himself on his
own bankers at Barchester, and that cheque had been cashed in the
ordinary way on the next morning. On returning to his own house in
Barchester he had missed his pocket-book, and had written to Mr.
Crawley to make inquiry. There had been no money in it, beyond the
cheque drawn by Lord Lufton for twenty pounds. Mr. Crawley had
answered this letter by another, saying that no pocket-book had been
found in his house. All this had happened in March.

In October, Mrs. Crawley paid the twenty pounds to Fletcher, the
butcher, and in November Lord Lufton’s cheque was traced back through
the Barchester bank to Mr. Crawley’s hands. A brickmaker of Hoggle
End, much favoured by Mr. Crawley, had asked for change over the
counter of this Barchester bank,–not, as will be understood,
the bank on which the cheque was drawn–and had received it. The
accommodation had been refused to the man at first, but when he
presented the cheque the second day, bearing Mr. Crawley’s name on
the back of it, together with a note from Mr. Crawley himself, the
money had been given for it; and the identical notes so paid had been
given to Fletcher, the butcher, on the next day by Mrs. Crawley. When
inquiry was made, Mr. Crawley stated that the cheque had been paid
to him by Mr. Soames, on behalf of the rentcharge due to him by Lord
Lufton. But the error of this statement was at once made manifest.
There was the cheque, signed by Mr. Soames himself, for the exact
amount,–twenty pounds four shillings. As he himself declared, he had
never in his life paid money on behalf of Lord Lufton by a cheque
drawn by his lordship. The cheque given by Lord Lufton, and which had
been lost, had been a private matter between them. His lordship had
simply wanted change in his pocket, and his agent had given it to
him. Mr. Crawley was speedily shown to be altogether wrong in the
statement made to account for possession of the cheque.

Then he became very moody and would say nothing further. But his
wife, who had known nothing of his first statement when made, came
forward and declared that she believed the cheque for twenty pounds
to be a part of a present given by Dean Arabin to her husband in
April last. There had been, she said, great heartburnings about
this gift, and she had hardly dared to speak to her husband on the
subject. An execution had been threatened in the house by Grobury,
the baker, of which the dean had heard. Then there had been some
scenes at the deanery between her husband and the dean and Mrs.
Arabin, as to which she had subsequently heard much from Mrs. Arabin.
Mrs. Arabin had told her that money had been given,–and at last
taken. Indeed, so much had been very apparent, as bills had been paid
to the amount of at least fifty pounds. When the threat made by the
butcher had reached her husband’s ears, the effect upon him had been
very grievous. All this was the story told by Mrs. Crawley to Mr.
Walker, the lawyer, when he was pushing his inquiries. She, poor
woman, at any rate told all that she knew. Her husband had told her
one morning, when the butcher’s threat was weighing heavily on his
mind, speaking to her in such a humour that she found it impossible
to cross-question him, that he had still money left, though it was
money which he had hoped that he would not be driven to use; and he
had given her the four five-pound notes, and had told her to go to
Silverbridge and satisfy the man who was so eager for his money. She
had done so, and had felt no doubt that the money so forthcoming had
been given by the dean. That was the story as told by Mrs. Crawley.

But how could she explain her husband’s statement as to the cheque,
which had been shown to be altogether false? All this passed between
Mr. Walker and Mrs. Crawley, and the lawyer was very gentle with her.
In the first stages of the inquiry he had simply desired to learn the
truth, and place the clergyman above suspicion. Latterly, being bound
as he was to follow the matter up officially, he would not have seen
Mrs. Crawley, had he been able to escape that lady’s importunity.
“Mr. Walker,” she had said, at last, “you do not know my husband.
No one knows him but I. It is hard to have to tell you of all our
troubles.” “If I can lessen them, trust me that I will do so,” said
the lawyer. “No one, I think, can lessen them in this world,” said
the lady. “The truth is, sir, that my husband often knows not what
he says. When he declared that the money had been paid to him by Mr.
Soames, most certainly he thought so. There are times when in his
misery he knows not what he says,–when he forgets everything.”

Up to this period Mr. Walker had not suspected Mr. Crawley of
anything dishonest, nor did he suspect him as yet. The poor man had
probably received the money from the dean, and had told the lie about
it, not choosing to own that he had taken money from his rich friend,
and thinking that there would be no further inquiry. He had been very
foolish, and that would be the end of it. Mr. Soames was by no means
so good-natured in his belief. “How should my pocket-book have got
into Dean Arabin’s hands?” said Mr. Soames, almost triumphantly. “And
then I felt sure at the time that I had left it at Crawley’s house!”

Mr. Walker wrote a letter to the dean, who at that moment was in
Florence, on his way to Rome, from whence he was going on to the Holy
Land. There came back a letter from Mr. Arabin, saying that on the
17th of March he had given to Mr. Crawley a sum of fifty pounds, and
that the payment had been made with five Bank of England notes of
ten pounds each, which had been handed by him to his friend in the
library at the deanery. The letter was very short, and may, perhaps,
be described as having been almost curt. Mr. Walker, in his anxiety
to do the best he could for Mr. Crawley, had simply asked a question
as to the nature of the transaction between the two gentlemen, saying
that no doubt the dean’s answer would clear up a little mystery which
existed at present respecting a cheque for twenty pounds. The dean
in answer simply stated the fact as it has been given above; but
he wrote to Mr. Crawley begging to know what was in truth this new
difficulty, and offering any assistance in his power. He explained
all the circumstances of the money, as he remembered them. The sum
advanced had certainly consisted of fifty pounds, and there had
certainly been five Bank of England notes. He had put the notes
into an envelope, which he had not closed, but had addressed to Mr.
Crawley, and had placed this envelope in his friend’s hands. He went
on to say that Mrs. Arabin would have written, but that she was in
Paris with her son. Mrs. Arabin was to remain in Paris during his
absence in the Holy Land, and meet him in Italy on his return. As
she was so much nearer at hand, the dean expressed a hope that Mrs.
Crawley would apply to her if there was any trouble.

The letter to Mr. Walker was conclusive as to the dean’s money. Mr.
Crawley had not received Lord Lufton’s cheque from the dean. Then
whence had he received it? The poor wife was left by the lawyer to
obtain further information from her husband. Ah, who can tell how
terrible were the scenes between that poor pair of wretches, as the
wife endeavoured to learn the truth from her miserable, half-maddened
husband! That her husband had been honest throughout, she had not
any shadow of doubt. She did not doubt that to her at least he
endeavoured to tell the truth, as far as his poor racked imperfect
memory would allow him to remember what was true and what was not
true. The upshot of it all was that the husband declared that he
still believed that the money had come to him from the dean. He had
kept it by him, not wishing to use it if he could help it. He had
forgotten it,–so he said at times,–having understood from Arabin
that he was to have fifty pounds, and having received more. If it had
not come to him from the dean, then it had been sent to him by the
Prince of Evil for his utter undoing; and there were times in which
he seemed to think that such had been the manner in which the fatal
cheque had reached him. In all that he said he was terribly confused,
contradictory, unintelligible,–speaking almost as a madman might
speak,–ending always by declaring that the cruelty of the world had
been too much for him, that the waters were meeting over his head,
and praying for God’s mercy to remove him from the world. It need
hardly be said that his poor wife in these days had a burden on her
shoulders that was more than enough to crush any woman.

She at last acknowledged to Mr. Walker that she could not account
for the twenty pounds. She herself would write again to the dean
about it, but she hardly hoped for any further assistance there. “The
dean’s answer is very plain,” said Mr. Walker. “He says that he gave
Mr. Crawley five ten-pound notes, and those five notes we have traced
to Mr. Crawley’s hands.” Then Mrs. Crawley could say nothing further
beyond making protestations of her husband’s innocence.