We have already heard what was said on the subject at the house of Archdeacon Grantly. As the days passed by, and as other tidings came in, confirmatory of those which had before reached him, the archdeacon felt himself unable not to believe in the man’s guilt. And the fear which he entertained as to his son’s intended marriage with Grace Crawley, tended to increase the strength of that belief. Dr Grantly had been a very successful man in the world, and on all ordinary occasions had been able to show that bold front with which success endows a man. But he still had his moments of weakness, and feared greatly lest anything of misfortune should touch him and mar the comely roundness of his prosperity. He was very wealthy. The wife of his bosom had been to him all that a wife should be. His reputation in the clerical world stood very high. His two sons had hitherto done well in the world, not only as regarded their happiness, but as to marriage also, and as to social standing. But how great would be the fall if his son should at last marry the daughter of a convicted thief! How would the Proudies rejoice over him—the Proudies who had been crushed to the ground by the success of the Hartletop alliance; and how would the low-church curates, who swarmed in Barsetshire, gather together and scream in delight over his dismay! ‘But why should we say that he is guilty?’ said Mrs Grantly.
’It hardly matters as far as we are concerned, whether they find him guilty or not,’ said the archdeacon; ’if Henry marries that girl my heart will be broken.’
But perhaps to no one except the Crawleys themselves had the matter caused so much terrible anxiety as to the archdeacon’s son. He had told his father that he had made an offer of marriage to Grace Crawley, and he had told the truth. But there are perhaps few men who make such offers in direct terms without having already said and done that which makes such offers simply necessary as the final closing of an accepted bargain. It was so at any rate between Major Grantly and Miss Crawley, and Major Grantly acknowledged to himself that it was so. He acknowledged also to himself that as regarded Grace herself he had no wish to go back from his implied intentions. Nothing that either his father or mother might say would shake him in that. But could it be his duty to bind himself to the family of a convicted thief? Could it be right that he should disgrace his father and his mother and his sister and his one child by such a connexion? He had a man’s heart, and the poverty of the Crawleys caused him no solicitude. But he shrank from the contamination of a prison.