The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
Chapter XXXIV. Mrs Proudie Sends for Her Lawyer
There was great dismay in Barchester Palace after the visit paid to the bishop and Mrs Proudie by that terrible clerical offender, Mr Crawley. It will be remembered, perhaps, how he had defied the bishop with spoken words, and how he had defied the bishop's wife by speaking words to her. For the moment, no doubt, Mr Crawley had the best of it. Mrs Proudie acknowledged to herself that this was the case; but as she was a woman who had never yet succumbed to an enemy, who had never--if on such an occasion I may be allowed to use a schoolboy's slang--taken a licking from anyone, it was not likely that Mr Crawley would be allowed to enjoy his triumph in peace. It would be odd if all the weight of the palace would not be able to silence a wretch of a perpetual curate who had already been committed to take his trial for thieving;--and Mrs Proudie was determined that all the weight of the palace should be used. As for the bishop, though he was not as angry as his wife, he was quite unhappy, and therefore quite as hostile to Mr Crawley; and was fully conscious that there could be no peace for him now until Mr Crawley should be crushed. If only the assizes would come at once, and get him condemned out of the way, what a blessed thing it would be! But unluckily it still wanted three months to the assizes, and during those three months Mr Crawley would be at large and subject only to the episcopal authority. During that time he could not be silenced by the arm of the civil law. His wife was not long in expressing her opinion after Mr Crawley had left the palace. 'You must proceed against him in the Court of Arches--and that at once,' said Mrs Proudie. 'You can do that, of course? I know that it will be expensive. Of course it will be expensive. I suppose it may cost us some three hundred pounds; but duty is duty, my lord, and in such a case as this your duty as a bishop is paramount.'
The poor bishop knew that it was useless to explain to her the various mistakes which she made--which she was ever making--as to the extent of his powers and the modes of procedure which were open to him. When he would to so she would only rail at him for being lukewarm in his office, poor in spirit, and afraid of dealing roundly with those below him. On the present occasion he did say a word, but she would not even hear him to the end. 'Don't tell me about rural deans, as if I didn't know. The rural dean has nothing to do with such a case. The man has been committed for trial. Send for Mr Chadwick at once, and let steps be taken before you are an hour older.'
'But, my dear, Mr Chadwick can do nothing.'
'The I will see Mr Chadwick.' And in her anger she did sit down and write a note to Mr Chadwick, begging him to come over to her at the palace.
Mr Chadwick was a lawyer, living in Barchester, who earned his bread from ecclesiastical business. His father, and his uncle, and his grandfather and granduncles, had all been concerned in the affairs of the diocese of Barchester. His uncle had been bailiff to the episcopal estates, or steward as he had been called, in Bishop Grantly's time, and still contrived to draw his income in some shape from the property of the see. The nephew had also been the legal assistant of the bishop in his latter days, and had been continued in that position by Bishop Proudie, not from love, but from expediency. Mr John Chadwick was one of those gentlemen, two or three of whom are to be seen in connexion with every see--who seem to be hybrids--half-lay, half-cleric. They dress like clergymen, and affect that mixture of clerical solemnity and clerical waggishness which is generally to be found among minor canons and vicars choral of a cathedral. They live, or at least have their offices, half in the Close and half out of it--dwelling as it were just on the borders of holy orders. They always wear white neck-handkerchiefs and black gloves; and would be altogether clerical in their appearance, were it not that as regards the outward man they impinge somewhat on the characteristics of the undertaker. They savour of the church but the savour is of the church's exterior. Any stranger thrown into chance contact with one of them would, from instinct, begin to talk about things ecclesiastical without any reference to things theological or things religious. They are always most worthy men, much respected in the society of the Close, and I never heard of one of them whose wife was not comfortable or whose children were left without provision.
Such a one was Mr John Chadwick, and as it was a portion of his duties to accompany the bishop to consecrations and ordinations, he knew Dr Proudie very well. Having been brought up, as it were, under the very wing of Bishop Grantly, it could not well be that he should love Bishop Grantly's successor. The old bishop and the new bishop had been so different that no man could like, or even esteem, them both. But Mr Chadwick was a prudent man, who knew well the source from which he earned his bread, and he had never quarrelled with Bishop Proudie. He knew Mrs Proudie also--of necessity--and when I say of him that he had hitherto avoided any open quarrel with her, it will I think be allowed that he was a man of prudence and sagacity.
But he had sometimes been sorely tried, and he felt when he got her note that he was now about to encounter a very sore trial. He muttered something which might have been taken for an oath, were it not that the outwards signs of the man gave warranty that no oath could proceed from such a one. Then he wrote a short note presenting his compliments to Mrs Proudie, and saying that he would call at the palace at eleven o'clock on the following morning.
But, in the meantime, Mrs Proudie, who could not be silent on the subject for a moment, did learn something of the truth from her husband. The information did not come to her in the way of instruction, but was teased out of the unfortunate man. 'I know that you can proceed against him in the Court of Arches, under the "Church Discipline Act",' she said.
'No, my dear; no,' said the bishop, shaking his head in his misery.
'Or in the Consistorial Court. It's all the same thing.'
'There must be an inquiry first--by his brother clergy. There must indeed. It's the only way of proceeding.'
'But there has been an inquiry, and he has been committed.'
'That doesn't signify, my dear. That's the Civil Law.'
'And if the Civil Law condemns him, and locks him up in prison--as it most certainly will do?'
'But it hasn't done so yet, my dear. I really think that as it has gone so far, it will be best to leave it as it is till he has taken his trial.'
'What! Leave him there after what has occurred this morning in this palace?' The palace with Mrs Proudie was always a palace, and never a house. 'No; no; ten thousand times no. Are you not aware that he insulted you, and grossly, most grossly insulted me? Since I first came to this palace;--never, never. And we know the man to be a thief;--we absolutely know it. Think, my lord, of the souls of his people!'
'Oh, dear; oh, dear; oh, dear,' said the bishop.
'Why do you fret yourself in that way?'
'Because you will get me into trouble. I tell you the only thing to be done is to issue a commission with the rural dean at the head of it.'
'Then issue a commission.'
'And they will take three months.'
'Why should they take three months? Why should they take more than three days--or three hours? It is all plain sailing.'
'More shame for them who make it so.'
'But it is so. If I were to take legal proceedings against him, it would cost--oh dear--more than a thousand pounds, I should say.'
'If it costs two, you must do it,' Mrs Proudie's anger was still very hot, or she would not have spoken of an unremunerative outlay of money in such language as that.
In this manner she did not come to understand, before the arrival of Mr Chadwick, that her husband could take no legal steps towards silencing Mr Crawley until a commission of clergymen had been appointed to inquire into the matter, and that the commission should be headed by the rural dean within the limits of whose rural deanery the parish of Hogglestock was situated, or by some beneficed parochial clergyman of repute in the neighbourhood. Now the rural dean was Dr Tempest of Silverbridge --who had held that position before the coming of Dr Proudie to the diocese; and there had grown up in the bosom of Mrs Proudie a strong feeling that undue mercy had been shown to Mr Crawley by the magistrates of Silverbridge, of whom Dr Tempest had been one. 'These magistrates had taken bail for his appearance at the assizes, instead of committing him to prison at once--as they were bound to do, when such an offence as that had been committed by a clergyman. But, no;--even though there was a clergymen among them, they had thought nothing of the souls of the poor people!' In such language, Mrs Proudie had spoken of the affair at Silverbridge, and having once committed herself to such an opinion, of course she thought that Dr Tempest would go through fire and water and would omit no stretch of what little judicial power might be committed to his hands--with the view of opposing his bishop, and maintaining the culprit in is position. 'In such a case as this, can not you name an acting rural dean yourself? Dr Tempest, you know, is very old.' 'No, my dear; no; I cannot.' 'You can ask Mr Chadwick, at any rate, and then you could name Mr Thumble.' 'But Mr Thumble doesn't even hold a living in the diocese. Oh, dear; oh, dear; oh, dear!' And so the matter rested till Mr Chadwick came.
Mrs Proudie had no doubt intended to have Mr Chadwick all to herself--at any rate so as to encounter him in the first instance. But having been at length convinced that the inquiry by the rural dean was really necessary as a preliminary, and having also slept upon the question of expenditure, she gave direction that the lawyer should be shown into the bishop's study, and she took care to be absent at the moment of his arrival. Of course she did not intend that Mr Chadwick should leave the palace without having heard what she had to say, but she thought that it would be well that he should be made to conceive that though the summons had been written by her, it had really been intended on the part of the bishop. 'Mr Chadwick will be with you at eleven, bishop,' she said, as she got up from the breakfast-table, at which she left his lordship with two of his daughters and with a married son-in-law, a clergyman who was staying in the house. 'Very well, my dear,' said the bishop, with a smile--for he was anxious not to betray any vexation at his wife's interference before his daughters or the Rev Mr Tickler. But he understood it all. Mr Chadwick had been sent for with reference to Mr Crawley, and he was driven--absolutely driven, to propose to his lawyer that this commission of inquiry should be issued.
Punctually at eleven Mr Chadwick came, wearing a very long face as he entered the palace door--for he felt that he would in all probability be now compelled to quarrel with Mrs Proudie. Much he could bear, but there was a limit to his endurance. She had never absolutely sent for him before, though she had often interfered with him. 'I shall have to tell her a bit of my mind,' he said, as he stepped across the Close, habited in his best suit of black, with most exact white cravat, and yet looking not quite like a clergyman--with some touch of the undertaker in his gait. When he found that he was shown into the bishop's room, and that the bishop was there--the bishop only--his mind was relieved. It would have been better that the bishop should have written himself, or that the chaplain should have written in his lordship's name; that, however, was a trifle.
But the bishop did not know what to say to him. If he intended to direct an inquiry to be made by the rural dean, it would be by no means becoming that he should consult Mr Chadwick as to doing so. It might be well, or if not well at any rate not improper, that he should make application to Dr Tempest through Mr Chadwick; but in that case he must give the order at once, and he still wished to avoid it if it were possible. Since he had been in the diocese no case so grave as this had been pushed upon him. The intervention of the rural dean in an ordinary way he had used--had been made to use--more than once, by his wife. A vicar had been absent a little too long from one parish, and there had been rumours about brandy-and-water in another. Once he had been very nearly in deep water because Mrs Proudie had taken it in dudgeon that a certain young rector, who had been left a widower, had a pretty governess for his children; and there had been that case, sadly notorious in the diocese at the time, of our excellent friend Mr Robarts of Framley, when the bailiffs were in the house because he couldn't pay his debts--or rather, the debts of his friend for whom he had signed bills. But in all these cases some good fortune had intervened, and he had been saved from the terrible necessity of any ulterior process. But now--now he was being driven beyond himself, and all to no purpose. If Mrs Proudie would only wait three months the civil law would do it all for him. But here was Mr Chadwick in the room, and he knew that it would be useless for him to attempt to talk to Mr Chadwich about other matters, and so dismiss him. The wife of his bosom would be down upon them before Chadwick could be out of the room.
'H-m-ha. How d'ye do, Mr Chadwick--won't you sit down?' Mr Chadwick thanked his lordship, and sat down. 'It's very cold, isn't it, Mr Chadwick?'
'A hard frost, my lord, but a beautiful day.'
'Won't you come near the fire?' The bishop knew that Mrs Proudie was on the road, and had an eye to the proper strategical position of his forces. Mrs Proudie would certainly take up her position in a certain chair from whence the light enabled her to rake her husband thoroughly. What advantage she might have from this he could not prevent;--but he could so place Mr Chadwick, that the lawyer should be more than within reach of his eye than that of his wife. So the bishop pointed to an arm-chair opposite to himself and near the fire, and Mr Chadwick seated himself accordingly.
'This is a very sad affair about Mr Crawley,' said the bishop.
'Very said indeed,' said the lawyer. 'I never pitied a man so much in my life, my lord.'
This was not exactly the line which the bishop was desirous of taking. 'Of course he is to be pitied;--of course he is. But from all I hear, Mr Chadwick, I am afraid--I am afraid we must not acquit him.'
'As to that, my lord, he has to stand his trial, of course.'
'But, you see, Mr Chadwick, regarding him as a beneficed clergyman--with a cure of souls--the question is whether I should be justified in leaving him where he is till his trial shall come on.'
'Of course your lordship knows best about that, but--'
'I know there is a difficulty. I know that. But I am inclined to think that in the interests of the parish I am bound to issue a commission of inquiry.'
'I believer your lordship has attempted to silence him, and that he has refused to comply.'
'I thought it better for everybody's sake--especially for his own, that he should for a while be relieved from his duties; but he is an obstinate man, a very obstinate man. I made the attempt with all consideration for his feelings.'
'He is hard put to it, my lord. I know the man and his pride. The dean has spoken of him to me more than once, and nobody knows him so well as the dean. If I might venture to offer an opinion--'
'Good morning, Mr Chadwick,' said Mrs Proudie, coming into the room and taking her accustomed seat. 'No thank you, no; I will stay away from the fire, if you please. His lordship has spoken to you no doubt about this unfortunate wretched man.'
'We are speaking of him now, my dear.'
'Something must of course be done to put a stop to the crying disgrace of having such a man preaching from a pulpit in this diocese. When I think of the souls of the people in that poor village, my hair literally stands on end. And then he is disobedient!'
'That is the worst of it,' said the bishop. 'It would have been so much better for himself if he would have allowed me to provide quietly for the services till the trial be over.'
'I could have told you that, my lord, that he would not do that, from what I knew of him,' said Mr Chadwick.
'But he must do it,' said Mrs Proudie. 'He must be made to do it.'
'His lordship will find it difficult,' said Mr Chadwick.
'I can issue a commission, you know, to the rural dean,' said the bishop mildly.
'Yes, you can do that. And Dr Tempest in two months' time will have named his assessors--'
'Dr Tempest must not name them; the bishop must name them,' said Mrs Proudie.
'It is customary to leave that to the rural dean,' said Mr Chadwick. 'The bishop no doubt can object to anyone named.'
'And can specially select any clergyman he pleases from the archdeaconry,' said the bishop. 'I have known it done.'
'The rural dean in such a case has probably been an old man, and not active,' said the lawyer.
'And Dr Tempest is a very old man,' said Mrs Proudie, 'and in such a matter not at all trustworthy. He was one of the magistrates who took bail.'
'His lordship could hardly set him aside,' said the lawyer. 'At any rate I would not recommend him to try. I think you might suggest a commission of five, and propose two of the number yourself. I do not think that in such a case Dr Tempest would raise any question.'
At last it was settled in this way. Mr Chadwick was to prepare a letter to Dr Tempest, for the bishop's signature, in which the doctor should be requested, as the rural dean to whom Mr Crawley was subject, to hold a commission of five to inquire into Mr Crawley's conduct. The letter was to explain to Dr Tempest that the bishop, moved by his solicitude for the souls of the people of Hogglestock, had endeavoured, 'in a friendly way,' to induce Mr Crawley to desist from his ministrations; but that having failed through Mr Crawley's obstinacy, he had no alternative but to proceed in this way. 'You had better say that his lordship, as bishop of the diocese, can take no heed of the coming trial,' said Mrs Proudie. 'I think his lordship had better say nothing at all about the trial,' said Mr Chadwick. 'I think it will be best,' said the bishop.
'But if they report against him,' said Mr Chadwick, 'you can only then proceed in the ecclesiastical court--at your own expense.'
'He'll hardly be so obstinate as that,' said the bishop.
'I'm afraid you don't know him, my lord,' said the lawyer. The bishop, thinking of the scene which had taken place in that very room only yesterday, felt that he did know Mr Crawley, and felt also that the hope which he had just expressed was one in which he himself put no trust. But something might turn up; and it was devoutly to be hoped that Dr Tempest would take a long time over his inquiry. The assizes might come on as soon as it was terminated, or very shortly afterwards; and then everything might be well. 'You won't find Dr Tempest very ready at it,' said Mr Chadwick. The bishop in his heart was comforted by the words. 'But he must be made to be ready to do his duty,' said Mrs Proudie, imperiously. Mr Chadwick shrugged his shoulders, then got up, spoke his farewell little speeches, and left the palace.