Part 11 out of 12
probable heiress! It may be worth your son's while to wait a little
time, and not cast her off till he shall know whether she be an heiress
or no. If it shall turn out that she is rich, let him take her; if not,
why, he can desert her then as well as now.' He could not bring himself
to put his niece into such a position as this. He was anxious enough
that she should be Frank Gresham's wife, for he loved Frank Gresham; he
was anxious enough, also, that she should give to her husband the means
of saving the property of his family. But Frank, though he might find
her rich, was bound to take her while she was poor.
Then, also, he doubted whether he would be justified in speaking of this
will at all. He almost hated the will for the trouble and vexation it
had given him, and the constant stress it had laid on his conscience. He
had spoken of it as yet to no one, and he thought that he was resolved
not to do so while Sir Louis should yet be in the land of the living.
On reaching home, he found a note from Lady Scatcherd, informing him
that Dr Fillgrave had once more been at Boxall Hill, and that, on this
occasion, he had left the house without anger.
'I don't know what he has said about Louis,' she added, 'for, to tell
the truth, doctor, I was afraid to see him. But he comes again
to-morrow, and then I shall be braver. But I fear that my poor boy is in
a bad way.'
DOCTOR THORNE WON'T INTERFERE
At this period there was, as it were, a truce to the ordinary little
skirmishes which had been so customary between Lady Arabella and the
squire. Things had so fallen out, that they neither of them had much
spirit for a contest; and, moreover, on that point which at the present
moment was most thought of by both of them, they were strangely in
unison. For each of them was anxious to prevent the threatened marriage
of their only son.
It must, moreover, be remembered, that Lady Arabella had carried a great
point in ousting Mr Yates Umbleby and putting the management of the
estate into the hands of her own partisan. But then the squire had not
done less in getting rid of Fillgrave and reinstating Dr Thorne in
possession of the family invalids. The losses, therefore, had been
equal; the victories equal; and there was a mutual object.
And it must be confessed, also, that Lady Arabella's taste for grandeur
was on the decline. Misfortune was coming too near to her to leave her
much anxiety for the gaieties of a London season. Things were not faring
well with her. When her eldest daughter was going to marry a man of
fortune, and a member of Parliament, she had thought nothing of
demanding a thousand pounds or so for the extraordinary expenses
incident to such an occasion. But now, Beatrice was to become the wife
of a parish parson, and even that was thought to be a fortunate event;
she had, therefore, no heart for splendour.
'The quieter we can do it the better,' she wrote to her countess-sister.
'Her father wanted to give him at least a thousand pounds; but Mr
Gazebee has told me confidentially that it literally cannot be done at
the present moment! Ah, my dear Rosina! how things have been managed! If
one or two of the girls will come over, we shall all take it as a
favour. Beatrice would think it very kind of them. But I don't think of
asking you or Amelia.' Amelia was always the grandest of the De Courcy
family, being almost on an equality with--nay, in some respect superior
to--the countess herself. But this, of course, was before the days of
the place in Surrey.
Such, and so humble being the present temper of the lady of
Greshamsbury, it will not be thought surprising that she and Mr Gresham
should at last come together in their efforts to reclaim their son.
At first Lady Arabella urged upon the squire the duty of being very
peremptory and very angry. 'Do as other fathers do in such cases. Make
him understand that he will have no allowance to live on.' 'He
understands that well enough,' said Mr Gresham.
'Threaten to cut him off with a shilling,' said her ladyship, with
spirit. 'I haven't a shilling to cut him off with,' answered the squire,
But Lady Arabella herself soon perceived, that this line would not do.
As Mr Gresham himself confessed, his own sins against his son had been
too great to allow of his taking a high hand with him. Besides, Mr
Gresham was not a man who could ever be severe with a son whose
individual conduct had been so good as Frank's. This marriage, was, in
his view, a misfortune to be averted if possible,--to be averted by any
possible means; but, as far as Frank was concerned, it was to be
regarded rather as a monomania than a crime.
'I did feel so certain that he would have succeeded with Miss
Dunstable,' said the mother, almost crying.
'I thought it impossible but that at his age a twelvemonth knocking
about the world would cure him,' said the father.
'I never heard of a boy being so obstinate about a girl,' said the
mother. 'I'm sure he didn't get it from the De Courcys:' and then,
again, they talked it over in all its bearings.
'But what are they to live upon?' said Lady Arabella, appealing, as it
were, to some impersonation of reason. 'That's what I want him to tell
me. What are they to live upon?'
'I wonder whether De Courcy could get him into some embassy?' said the
father. 'He does talk of a profession.'
'What! with the girl and all?' asked Lady Arabella with horror, alarmed
at the idea of such an appeal being made to her noble brother.
'No; but before he marries. He might be broken of it that way.'
'Nothing will break him,' said the wretched mother; 'nothing--nothing.
For my part, I think that he is possessed. Why was she brought here? Oh,
dear! oh, dear! Why was she ever brought into this house?'
This last question Mr Gresham did not think it necessary to answer. That
evil had been done, and it would be useless to dispute it. 'I'll tell
you what I'll do,' said he. 'I'll speak to the doctor myself.'
'It's not the slightest use,' said Lady Arabella. 'He will not assist
us. Indeed, I firmly believe it's all his own doing.'
'Oh, nonsense! that really is nonsense, my love.'
'Very well, Mr Gresham. What I say is always nonsense, I know; you have
always told me so. But yet, see how things have turned out. I knew how
it would be when she was first brought into the house.' This assertion
was rather a stretch on the part of Lady Arabella.
'Well, it is nonsense to say that Frank is in love with the girl at the
'I think you know, Mr Gresham, that I don't mean that. What I say is
this, that Dr Thorne, finding what an easy fool Frank is--'
'I don't think he's at all easy, my love; and is certainly not a fool.'
'Very well, have it your own way. I'll not say a word more. I'm
struggling to do my best, and I'm browbeaten on every side. God knows I
am not in a state of health to bear it!' And Lady Arabella bowed her
head into her pocket-handkerchief.
'I think, my dear, if you were to see Mary herself it might do some
good,' said the squire, when the violence of his wife's grief had
'What! go and call upon this girl?'
'Yes; you can send Beatrice to give her notice, you know. She never was
unreasonable, and I do not think that you would find her so. You should
tell her, you know--'
'Oh, I should know very well what to tell her, Mr Gresham.'
'Yes, my love; I'm sure you would; nobody better. But what I mean is,
that if you are to do any good, you should be kind in your manner. Mary
Thorne has a spirit that you cannot break. You may perhaps lead, but
nobody can drive her.'
As this scheme originated with her husband, Lady Arabella could not, of
course, confess that there was much in it. But, nevertheless, she
determined to attempt it, thinking that if anything could be efficacious
for good in their present misfortunes, it would be her own diplomatic
powers. It was, therefore, at last settled between them, that he should
endeavour to talk over the doctor, and that she would do the same with
'And then I will speak to Frank,' said Lady Arabella. 'As yet he has
never had the audacity to open his mouth to me about Mary Thorne, though
I believe he declares his love openly to every one else in the house.'
'And I will get Oriel to speak to him,' said the squire.
'I think Patience might do more good. I did once think he was getting
fond of Patience, and I was quite unhappy about it then. Ah, dear! I
should be almost pleased at that now.'
And thus it was arranged that all the artillery of Greshamsbury was to
be brought to bear at once on Frank's love, so as to crush it, as it
were, by the very weight of metal.
It may be imagined that the squire would have less scruple in addressing
the doctor on this matter than his wife would feel; and that his part of
their present joint undertaking was less difficult than hers. For he and
the doctor had ever been friends at heart. But, nevertheless, he did
feel much scruple, as, with his stick in hand, he walked down to the
little gate which opened out near the doctor's house.
This feeling was so strong, that he walked on beyond this door to the
entrance, thinking of what he was going to do, and then back again. It
seemed to be his fate to be depending always on the clemency or
consideration of Dr Thorne. At this moment the doctor was imposing the
only obstacle which was offered to the sale of a great part of his
estate. Sir Louis, through his lawyer, was loudly accusing the doctor to
sell, and the lawyer was loudly accusing the doctor of delaying to do
so. 'He has the management of your property,' said Mr Finnie; 'but he
manages it in the interest of his own friend. It is quite clear, and we
will expose it.' 'By all means,' said Sir Louis. 'It is a d--d shame,
and it shall be exposed.'
When he reached the doctor's house, he was shown into the drawing-room,
and found Mary there alone. It had always been the habit to kiss her
forehead when he chanced to meet her about the house at Greshamsbury.
She had been younger and more childish then; but even now she was but a
child to him, so he kissed her as he had been wont to do. She blushed
slightly as she looked up into his face, and said: 'Oh, Mr Gresham, I am
so glad to see you again.'
As he looked at her he could not but acknowledge that it was natural
that Frank should love her. He had never before seen that she was
attractive;--had never had an opinion about it. She had grown up as a
child under his eye; and as she had not had the name of being especially
a pretty child, he had never thought on the subject. Now he saw before
him a woman whose every feature was full of spirit and animation; whose
eye sparkled with more than mere brilliancy; whose face was full of
intelligence; whose very smile was eloquent. Was it to be wondered at
that Frank should have learned to love her?
Miss Thorne wanted but one attribute which many consider essential to
feminine beauty. She had no brilliancy of complexion, no pearly
whiteness, no vivid carnation; nor, indeed, did she possess the dark
brilliance of a brunette. But there was a speaking earnestness in her
face; and expression of mental faculty which the squire now for the
first time perceived to be charming.
And then he knew how good she was. He knew well what was her nature;
how generous, how open, how affectionate, and yet how proud! Her pride
was her fault; but even that was not a fault in his eyes. Out of his own
family there was no one whom he had loved, and could love, as he loved
her. He felt, and acknowledged, that no man could have a better wife.
And yet he was there with the express object of rescuing his son from
such a marriage!
'You are looking very well, Mary,' he said, almost involuntarily. 'Am
I?' she answered, smiling. 'It's very nice at any rate to be
complimented. Uncle never pays me any compliments of that sort.'
In truth, she was looking well. She would say to herself over and over
again, from morning to night, that Frank's love for her would be, must
be, unfortunate; could not lead to happiness. But, nevertheless, it did
make her happy. She had before his return made up her mind to be
forgotten, and it was so sweet to find that he had been so far from
forgetting her. A girl may scold a man in words for rashness in his
love, but her heart never scolds him for such an offence as that. She
had not been slighted, and her heart, therefore, still rose buoyant
within her breast.
The doctor entered the room. As the squire's visit had been expected by
him, he had of course not been out of the house. 'And now I suppose I
must go,' said Mary; 'for I know you are going to talk about business.
But, uncle, Mr Gresham says I'm looking very well. Why have you not been
able to find that out?'
'She's a dear, good girl,' said the squire, as the door shut behind her;
'a dear good girl!' and the doctor could not fail to see that his eyes
were filled with tears.
'I think she is,' said he, quietly. And then they both sat silent, as
though each was waiting to hear whether the other had anything more to
say on that subject. The doctor, at any rate, had nothing more to say.
'I have come here specially to speak to you about her.'
'Yes, doctor; about her and Frank: something must be done, some
arrangement made: if not for our sakes, at least for theirs.'
'What arrangement, squire?'
'Ah! that's the question. I take it for granted that either Frank or
Mary has told you that they have engaged themselves to each other.'
'Frank told me some twelve months since.'
'And has not Mary told you?'
'Not exactly that. But, never mind; she has, I believe, no secret from
me. Though I have said but little to her, I think I know it all.'
'Well, what then?'
The doctor shook his head and put up his hands. He had nothing to say;
no proposition to make; no arrangement to suggest. The thing was so, and
he seemed to say that, as far as he was concerned, there was an end of
The squire sat looking at him, hardly knowing how to proceed. It seemed
to him, that the fact of a young man and a young lady being in love with
each other was not a thing to be left to arrange itself, particularly
seeing the rank in life in which they were placed. But the doctor seemed
to be of a different opinion.
'But, Dr Thorne, there is no man on God's earth who knows my affairs as
well as you do; and in knowing mine, you know Frank's. Do you think it
possible that they should marry each other?'
'Possible; yes, it is possible. You mean, will it be prudent?'
'Well, take it in that way; would it not be most imprudent?'
'At present, it certainly would be. I have never spoken to either of
them on the subject; but I presume they do not think of such a thing for
'But, doctor--' The squire was certainly taken aback by the coolness of
the doctor's manner. After all, he, the squire, was Mr Gresham of
Greshamsbury, generally acknowledged to be the first commoner in
Barsetshire; after all, Frank was his heir, and, in process of time, he
would be Mr Gresham of Greshamsbury. Crippled as the estate was, there
would be something left, and the rank at any rate remained. But as to
Mary, she was not even the doctor's daughter. She was not only
penniless, but nameless, fatherless, worse than motherless! It was
incredible that Dr Thorne, with his generally exalted ideas as to
family, should speak in this cold way as to a projected marriage between
the heir of Greshamsbury and his brother's bastard child!
'But, doctor,' repeated the squire.
The doctor put one leg over the other, and began to rub his calf.
'Squire,' said he. 'I think I know all that you would say, all that you
mean. And you don't like to say it, because you would not wish to pain
me by alluding to Mary's birth.'
'But, independently of that, what would they live on?' said the squire,
energetically. 'Birth is a great thing, a very great thing. You and I
think exactly the alike about that, so we need have no dispute. You are
quite as proud of Ullathorne as I am of Greshamsbury.'
'I might be if it belonged to me.'
'But you are. It is no use arguing. But, putting that aside
altogether, what would they live on? If they were to marry, what would
they do? Where would they go? You know what Lady Arabella thinks of such
things; would it be possible that they should live up at the house with
her? Besides, what a life would that be for both of them! Could they
live here? Would that be well for them?'
The squire looked at the doctor for an answer; but he still went rubbing
his calf. Mr Gresham, therefore, was constrained to continue his
'When I am dead there will still, I hope, be something;--something left
for the poor fellow. Lady Arabella and the girls would be better off,
perhaps, than now, and I sometimes wish, for Frank's sake, that the time
The doctor could not now go on rubbing his knees. He was moved to
speak, and declared that, of all events, that was the one which would be
furthest from Frank's heart. 'I know no son,' said he, 'who loves his
father more dearly than he does.'
'I do believe it,' said the squire; 'I do believe it. But yet, I cannot
but feel that I am in his way.'
'No, squire, no; you are in no one's way. You will find yourself happy
with your son yet, and proud of him. And proud of his wife, too. I hope
so, and I think so: I do, indeed, or I should not say so, squire; we
will have many a happy day yet together, when we shall talk of all these
things over the dining-room fire at Greshamsbury.'
The squire felt it kind in the doctor that he should thus endeavour to
comfort him; but he could not understand, and did not inquire, on what
basis these golden hopes was founded. It was necessary, however, to
return to the subject which he had come to discuss. Would the doctor
assist him in preventing this marriage? That was now the one thing
necessary to be kept in view.
'But, doctor, about the young people; of course they cannot marry, you
are aware of that.'
'I don't know that exactly.'
'Well, doctor, I must say I thought you would feel it.'
'Feel what, squire?'
'That, situated as they are, they ought not to marry.'
'That is quite another question. I have said nothing about that either
to you or to anybody else. The truth is, squire, I have never interfered
in this matter one way or the other; and I have no wish to do so now.'
'But should you not interfere? Is not Mary the same to you as your own
Dr Thorne hardly knew how to answer this. He was aware that his
argument about not interfering was in fact absurd. Mary could not marry
without his interference; and had it been the case that she was in
danger of making an improper marriage, of course he would interfere. His
meaning was, that he would not at the present moment express any
opinion; he would not declare against a match which might turn out to be
in every way desirable; nor, if he spoke in favour of it, could he give
his reasons for doing so. Under these circumstances, he would have
wished to say nothing, could that only have been possible.
But as it was not possible, and as he must say something, he answered
the squire's last question by asking another. 'What is your objection,
'Objection! Why, what on earth would they live on?'
'Then I understand, that if that difficulty were over, you would not
refuse your consent merely because of Mary's birth?'
This was a manner in which the squire had by no means expected to have
the affair presented to him. It seemed so impossible that any
sound-minded man should take any but his view of the case, that he had
not prepared himself for argument. There was every objection to his son
marrying Miss Thorne; but the fact of their having no income between
them did certainly justify him in alleging that first.
'But that difficulty can't be got over, doctor. You know, however, that
it would be cause of grief to us all to see Frank marry much beneath his
station; that is, I mean, in family. You should not press me to say
this, for you know that I love Mary dearly.'
'But, my dear friend, it is necessary. Wounds sometimes must be opened
in order that they may be healed. What I mean is this;--and, squire, I'm
sure I need not say to you that I hope for an honest answer,--were Mary
Thorne an heiress; had she, for instance, such wealth as that Miss
Dunstable that we hear of; in that case would you object to this match?'
When the doctor declared that he expected an honest answer the squire
listened with all his ears; but the question, when finished, seemed to
have no bearing on the present case.
'Come, squire, speak your mind faithfully. There was some talk of
Frank's marrying Miss Dunstable; did you mean to object to that match?'
'Miss Dunstable was legitimate; at least, I presume so.'
'Oh, Mr Gresham! has it come to that? Miss Dunstable, then, would have
satisfied your ideas of high birth?'
Mr Gresham was rather posed, and regretted, at the moment, his allusion
to Miss Dunstable's presumed legitimacy. But he soon recovered himself.
'No,' said he, 'it would not. And I am willing to admit, as I have
admitted before, that the undoubted advantages arising from wealth are
taken by the world as atoning for what otherwise would be a mesalliance.
'You admit that, do you? You acknowledge that as your conviction on the
'Yes. But--' The squire was going on to explain the propriety of this
opinion, but the doctor uncivilly would not hear him.
'Then squire, I will not interfere in this matter one way or the other.'
'How on earth can such an opinion--'
'Pray excuse me, Mr Gresham; but my mind is now quite made up. It was
very nearly so before. I will do nothing to encourage Frank, nor will I
say anything to discourage Mary.'
'That is the most singular resolution that a man of sense like you ever
'I can't help it, squire; it is my resolution.'
'But what has Miss Dunstable's fortune to do with it?'
'I cannot say that it has anything; but, in this matter, I will not
The squire went on for some time, but it was all to no purpose; and at
last he left the house, considerably in dudgeon. The only conclusion to
which he could come was, that Dr Thorne had thought the chance on his
niece's behalf too good to be thrown away, and had, therefore, resolved
to act in a very singular way.
'I would not have believed it of him, though all Barsetshire had told
me,' he said to himself as he entered the great gates; and he went on
repeating the same words till he found himself in his own room. 'No, not
if all Barsetshire had told me!'
He did not, however, communicate the ill result of his visit to the Lady
WHAT CAN YOU GIVE IN RETURN?
In spite of the family troubles, these were happy days for Beatrice. It
so seldom happens that young ladies on the eve of their marriage have
their husbands living near them. This happiness was hers, and Mr Oriel
made the most of it. She was constantly being coaxed down to the
parsonage by Patience, in order that she might give her opinion, in
private, on some domestic arrangement, some piece of furniture, or some
new carpet; but this privacy was always invaded. What Mr Oriel's
parishioners did in these halcyon days, I will not ask. His morning
services, however, had been altogether given up, and he had provided
himself with a very excellent curate.
But one grief did weigh heavily on Beatrice. She continually heard her
mother say things which made her feel that it would be more than ever
impossible that Mary should be at her wedding; and yet she had promised
her brother to ask her. Frank had also repeated his threat, that if Mary
were not present, he would absent himself.
Beatrice did what most girls do in such a case; what all would do who
are worth anything; she asked her lover's advice.
'Oh! but Frank can't be in earnest,' said the lover. 'Of course he'll
be at our wedding.'
'You don't know him, Caleb. He is so changed that no one hardly would
know him. You can't conceive how much in earnest he is, how determined
and resolute. And then, I should like to have Mary so much if mamma
would let her come.'
'Ask Lady Arabella,' said Caleb.
'Well, I suppose I must do that; but I know what she'll say, and Frank
will never believe that I have done my best.' Mr Oriel comforted her
with such little whispered consolations as he was able to afford, and
then she went away on her errand to her mother.
She was indeed surprised at the manner in which her prayer was received.
She could hardly falter forth her petition; but when she had done so,
Lady Arabella answered in this wise:--
'Well my dear, I have no objection, none the least; that is, of course,
if Mary is disposed to behave herself properly.'
'Oh, mamma! of course she will,' said Beatrice; 'she always did and
'I hope she will, my love. But, Beatrice, when I say that I shall be
glad to see her, of course I mean under certain conditions. I never
disliked Mary Thorne, and if she would only let Frank understand that
she will not listen to his mad proposals, I should be delighted to see
her at Greshamsbury just as she used to be.'
Beatrice could say nothing in answer to this; but she felt very sure
that Mary, let her intention be what it might, would not undertake to
make Frank understand anything at anybody's bidding.
'I will tell you what I will do, my dear,' continued Lady Arabella; 'I
will call on Mary myself.'
'What! at Dr Thorne's house?'
'Yes; why not? I have been at Dr Thorne's house before now.' And Lady
Arabella could not but think of her last visit thither, and the strong
feeling she had, as she came out, that she would never again enter those
doors. She was, however, prepared to do anything on behalf of her
'Oh, yes! I know that, mamma.'
'I will call upon her, and I can possibly manage it, I will ask her
myself to make one of your party. If so, you can go to her afterwards
and make your own arrangements. Just write her a note, my dear, and say
that I will call to-morrow at twelve. It might fluster her if I were to
go without notice.'
Beatrice did as she was bid, but with a presentiment that no good would
come of it. The note was certainly unnecessary for the purpose assigned
by Lady Arabella, as Mary was not given to be flustered by such
occurrences; but, perhaps, it was as well as that it was written, as it
enabled her to make up her mind steadily as to what information should
be given, and what should not be given to her coming visitor.
On the next morning, at the appointed hour, Lady Arabella walked down to
the doctor's house. She never walked about the village without making
some little disturbance among the inhabitants. With the squire, himself,
they were quite familiar, and he could appear and reappear without
creating any sensation; but her ladyship had not made herself equally
common in men's sight. Therefore, when she went through all the
Greshamsbury in ten minutes, and before she had left the house, Mrs
Umbleby and Miss Gushing had quite settled between them what was the
exact cause of the very singular event.
The doctor, when he had heard what was going to happen, carefully kept
out of the way: Mary, therefore, had the pleasure of receiving Lady
Arabella alone. Nothing could exceed her ladyship's affability. Mary
thought that it perhaps might have savoured less of condescension; but
then on this subject, Mary was probably prejudiced. Lady Arabella smiled
and simpered, and asked after the doctor, and the cat, and Janet, and
said everything that could be desired by any one less unreasonable than
'And now, Mary, I'll tell you why I have called.' Mary bowed her head
slightly, as much to say, that she would be glad to receive any
information that Lady Arabella could give her on that subject. 'Of
course you know that Beatrice is going to be married very shortly.'
Mary acknowledged that she had heard so much.
'Yes: we think it will be in September--early in September--and that is
coming very soon now. The poor girl is anxious that you should be at her
wedding.' Mary turned slightly red; but she merely said, and that
somewhat too coldly, that she was much indebted to Beatrice for her
'I can assure you, Mary, that she is very fond of you, as much as ever;
and so, indeed, am I, and all of us are so. You know that Mr Gresham was
always your friend.'
'Yes, he always was, and I am grateful to Mr Gresham,' answered Mary. It
was well for Lady Arabella that she had her temper under command, for
had she spoken her mind out there would have been very little chance
left for reconciliation between her and Mary.
'Yes, indeed he was; and I think we all did what little we could to make
you welcome at Greshamsbury, Mary, till those unpleasant occurrences
'What occurrences, Lady Arabella?'
'And Beatrice is so very anxious on this point,' said her ladyship,
ignoring for the moment Mary's question. 'You two have been so much
together, that she feels she cannot be quite happy if you are not near
her when she is being married.'
'Dear Beatrice!' said Mary, warmed for the moment to an expression of
'She came to me yesterday, begging that I would waive any objection I
might have to your being there. I have made her no answer yet. What
answer do you think I ought to make her?'
Mary was astounded at this question, and hesitated in her reply. 'What
answer do you think I ought to make her?' she said.
'Yes, Mary. What answer to you think I ought to give? I wish to ask
you the question, as you are the person the most concerned.'
Mary considered for a while, then did give her opinion on the matter in
a firm voice. 'I think you should tell Beatrice, that as you cannot at
present receive me cordially in your house, it will be better that you
should not be called upon to receive me at all.'
This was certainly not the sort of answer that Lady Arabella expected,
and she was now somewhat astounded in her turn. 'But, Mary,' she said,
'I should be delighted to receive you cordially if I could do so.'
'But it seems you cannot, Lady Arabella; and so there must be an end of
'Oh, but I do not know that:' and she smiled her sweetest smile. 'I do
not know that. I want to put an end to all this ill-feeling, if I can.
It all depends upon one thing, you know.'
'Does it, Lady Arabella?'
'Yes, upon one thing. You won't be angry if I ask you another
'No; at least I don't think I will.'
'Is there any truth in what we hear about your being engaged to Frank?'
Mary made no immediate answer to this; but sat quite silent, looking at
Lady Arabella in the face; not but that she had made up her mind as to
what answer she would give, but the exact words failed her at the
'Of course you must have heard of such a rumour.'
'Oh, yes, I have heard of it.'
'Yes, and you have noticed it, and I must say very properly. When you
went to Boxall Hill, and before that with Miss Oriel's to her aunt's, I
thought you behaved extremely well.' Mary felt herself glow with
indignation, and began to prepare the words that should be sharp and
decisive. 'But, nevertheless, people talk; and Frank, who is still quite
a boy' (Mary's indignation was not softened by this allusion to Frank's
folly), 'seems to have got some nonsense in his head. I grieve to say
it, but I feel myself in justice bound to do so, that in this matter he
has not acted as well as you have done. Now, therefore, I merely ask you
whether there is any truth in the report. If you tell me that there is
none, I shall be quite contented.'
'But it is altogether true, Lady Arabella; I am engaged to him.'
'Engaged to be married to him?'
'Yes; engaged to be married to him.'
What was to say or do now? Nothing could be more plain, more decided,
or less embarrassed with doubt than Mary's declaration. And as she made
it she looked her visitor full in the face, blushing indeed, for her
cheeks were now suffused as well as her forehead; but boldly, and, as it
were, with defiance.
'And you tell me that to my face, Miss Thorne?'
'And why not? Did you not ask me the question; and would you have my
answer you with a falsehood? I am engaged to him. As you would put the
question to me, what other could I make? The truth is, I am engaged to
The decisive abruptness with which Mary declared her own iniquity almost
took away her ladyship's breath. She had certainly believed that they
were engaged, and had hardly hoped that Mary would deny it; but she had
not expected that the crime would be acknowledged, or, at any rate, if
acknowledged, that the confession would be made without some show of
shame. On this Lady Arabella could have worked; but there was no such
expression, nor was there the slightest hesitation. 'I am engaged to
Frank Gresham,' and having so said, Mary looked at her visitor full in
'Then it is indeed impossible that you should be received at
'At present, quite so, no doubt: in saying so, Lady Arabella, you only
repeat the answer I made to your first question. I can now go to
Greshamsbury only in one light: that of Mr Gresham's accepted
'And that is perfectly out of the question; altogether out of the
question, now and for ever.'
'I will not dispute with you about that; but, as I said before, my being
at Beatrice's wedding is not to be thought of.'
Lady Arabella sat for a while silent, that she might meditate, if
possible, calmly as to what line of argument she had now better take. It
would be foolish in her, she thought, to return home, having merely
expressed her anger. She had now an opportunity of talking to Mary which
might not again occur: the difficulty was in deciding in what special
way she should use the opportunity. Should she threaten, or should she
entreat? To do her justice, it should be stated, that she did actually
believe that the marriage was all but impossible; she did not think that
it would take place. But the engagement might be the ruin of her son's
prospects, seeing how he had before him an imperative, one immediate
duty--that of marrying money.
Having considered all this as well as her hurry would allow her, she
determined first to reason, then to entreat, and lastly, if necessary,
'I am astonished! you cannot be surprised at that, Miss Thorne: I am
astonished at hearing so singular confession made.'
'Do you think my confession singular, or is it the fact of my being
engaged to your son?'
'We will pass over that for the present. But do let me ask you, do you
think it possible, I say possible, that you and Frank should be
'Oh, certainly; quite possible.'
'Of course you know that he has not a shilling in the world.'
'Nor have I, Lady Arabella.'
'Nor will he have were he to do anything so utterly hostile to his
father's wishes. The property, as you are aware, is altogether at Mr
'I am aware of nothing about the property, and can say nothing about it
except this, that it has not been, and will not be inquired after by me
in this matter. If I marry Frank Gresham, it will not be for the
property. I am sorry to make such an apparent boast, but you force me to
'On what then are you to live? You are too old for love in a cottage, I
'Not at all too old; Frank, you know is "still quite a boy".'
Impudent hussy! forward, ill-conditioned saucy minx! such were the
epithets which rose to Lady Arabella's mind; but she politely suppressed
'Miss Thorne, this subject is of course to me very serious; very
ill-adapted for jesting. I look upon such a marriage as absolutely
'I do not know what you mean by impossible, Lady Arabella.'
'I mean, in the first place, that you two could not get yourselves
'Oh, yes; Mr Oriel would manage that for us. We are his parishioners,
and he would be bound to do it.'
'I beg your pardon; I believe that under all the circumstances it would
Mary smiled; but she said nothing. 'You may laugh, Miss Thorne, but I
think you will find that I am right. There are still laws to prevent
such fearful distress as would be brought about by such a marriage.'
'I hope that nothing I shall do will bring distress on the family.'
'Ah, but it would; don't you know that it would? Think of it, Miss
Thorne. Think of Frank's state, and of his father's state. You know
enough of that, I am sure, to be well aware that Frank is not in a
condition to marry without money. Think of the position which Mr
Gresham's only son should hold in the county; think of the old name, and
the pride we have in it; you have lived among us enough to understand
all this; think of these things, and then say whether it is possible
that such a marriage should take place without family distress of the
deepest kind. Think of Mr Gresham; if you truly love my son, you could
not wish to bring on him all this misery and ruin.'
Mary now was touched, for there was truth in what Lady Arabella said.
But she had no power of going back; her troth was plighted, and nothing
any human being could say should take her from it. If he, indeed, chose
to repent, that would be another thing.
'Lady Arabella,' she said, 'I have nothing to say in favour of this
engagement, except that he wishes it.'
'And is this a reason, Mary?'
'To me it is; not only a reason, but a law. I have given him my
'And you will keep your promise even to his own ruin?'
'I hope not. Our engagement, unless he shall choose to break it off,
must necessarily be a long one; but the time will come--'
'What! when Mr Gresham is dead?'
'Before that, I hope.'
'There is no probability of it. And because he is headstrong, you, who
have always had credit for so much sense, will hold him to this mad
'No, Lady Arabella; I will not hold him to anything to which he does not
wish to be held. Nothing that you can say shall move me: nothing that
anybody can say shall induce me to break my promise to him. But a word
from himself will do it. One look will be sufficient. Let him give me to
understand, in any way, that his love for me is injurious to him--that
he has learnt to think so--and then I will renounce my part in this
engagement as quickly as you could wish it.'
There was much in this promise, but still not so much as Lady Arabella
wished to get. Mary, she knew, was obstinate, yet reasonable; Frank, she
thought, was both obstinate and unreasonable. It might be possible to
work on Mary's reason, but quite impossible to touch Frank's
irrationality. So she persevered--foolishly.
'Miss Thorne--that, is, Mary, for I still wish to be thought your
'I will tell you the truth, Lady Arabella: for some considerable time
past I have not thought you so.'
'Then you have wronged me. But I will go on with what I was saying. You
quite acknowledge that this is a foolish affair?'
'I acknowledge no such thing.'
'Something very much like it. You have not a word to say in its
'Not to you: I do not choose to be put on my defence by you.'
'I don't know who has more right; however, you promise that if Frank
wishes it, you will release him from his engagement.'
'Release him! It is for him to release me, that is, if he wishes it.'
'Very well; at any rate, you give him permission to do so. But will it
not be more honourable for you to begin?'
'No; I think not.'
'Ah, but it would. If he, in his position, should be the first to
speak, the first to suggest that this affair between you is a foolish
one, what would people say?'
'They would say the truth.'
'And what would you yourself say?'
'What would he think himself?'
'Ah, that I do not know. It is according as that may be, that he will
or will not act at your bidding.'
'Exactly; and because you know him to be high-minded, because you think
that he, having so much to give, will not break his word to you--to you
who have nothing to give in return--it is, therefore, that you say that
the first step must be taken by him. Is that noble?'
Then Mary rose from her seat, for it was no longer possible for her to
speak what it was in her to say, sitting there leisurely on her sofa.
Lady Arabella's worship of money had not hitherto been so brought
forward in the conversation as to give her unpardonable offence; but now
she felt that she could no longer restrain her indignation. 'To you who
have nothing to give in return!' Had she not given all that she
possessed? Had she not emptied his store into her lap? that heart of
hers, beating with such genuine life, capable of such perfect love,
throbbing with so grand a pride; had she not given that? And was it not
that, between him and her, more than twenty Greshamsburys, nobler than
any pedigree? 'To you who have nothing to give,' indeed! This to her who
was so ready to give everything!
'Lady Arabella,' she said, 'I think that you do not understand me, and
that it is not likely that you should. If so, our further talking will
be worse than useless. I have taken no account of what will be given
between your son and me in your sense of the word giving. But he has
professed to--to love me'--as she spoke, she still looked on the lady's
face, but her eyelashes screened her eyes, and her colour was a little
heightened--'and I have acknowledged that I also love him, and so we are
engaged. To me my promise is sacred. I will not be threatened into
breaking it. If, however, he shall wish to change his mind, he can do
so. I will not upbraid him; will not, if I can help it, think harshly of
him. So much you may tell him if it suits you; but I will not listen to
your calculations as to how much or how little each of us may have to
give to the other.'
She was still standing when she finished speaking, and so she continued
to stand. Her eyes were fixed on Lady Arabella, and her position seemed
to say that sufficient words had been spoken, and that it was time that
her ladyship should go; and so Lady Arabella felt it. Gradually she also
rose; slowly, but tacitly, she acknowledged that she was in the presence
of a spirit superior to her own; and so she took her leave.
'Very well,' she said, in a tone that was intended to be grandiloquent,
but which failed grievously; 'I will tell him that he has your
permission to think a second time on this matter. I do not doubt that he
will do so.' Mary would not condescend to answer, but curtsied low as
her visitor left the room. And so the interview was over.
The interview was over, and Mary was alone. She remained standing as
long as she heard the footsteps of Frank's mother on the stairs; not
immediately thinking of what had passed, but still buoying herself up
with her hot indignation, as though her work with Lady Arabella was not
yet finished; but when the footfall was no longer heard, and the sound
of the closing door told her that she was in truth alone, she sank back
in her seat, and, covering her face with her hands, burst into bitter
All that doctrine about money was horrible to her; that insolent
pretence, that she had caught at Frank because of his worldly position,
made her all but ferocious; but Lady Arabella had not the less spoken
much that was true. She did think of the position which the heir of
Greshamsbury should hold in the county, and of the fact that such a
marriage would mar that position so vitally; she did think of the old
name, and the old Gresham pride; she did think of the squire and his
deep distress: it was true that she had lived among them long enough to
understand these things, and to know that it was not possible that this
marriage should take place without deep family sorrow.
And then she asked herself whether, in consenting to accept Frank's
hand, she had adequately considered this; and she was forced to
acknowledge that she had not considered it. She had ridiculed Lady
Arabella for saying that Frank was still a boy; but was it not true that
his offer had been made with a boy's energy, rather than a man's
forethought? If so, if she had been wrong to accede to that offer when
made, would she not be doubly wrong to hold him to it now that she saw
It was doubtless true that Frank himself could not be the first to draw
back. What would people say of him? She could now calmly ask herself the
question that had so angered her, when asked by Lady Arabella. If he
could not do it, and if, nevertheless, it behoved them to break off this
match, by whom was it to be done if not by her? Was not Lady Arabella
right throughout, right in her conclusions, though so foully wrong in
her manner of drawing them?
And then she did think for one moment of herself. 'You who have nothing
to give in return!' Such had been Lady Arabella's main accusation
against her. Was it in fact true that she had nothing to give? Her
maiden love, her feminine pride, her very life, and spirit, and
being--were these things nothing? Were they to be weighed against pounds
sterling per annum? and, when so weighed, were they ever to kick the
beam like feathers? All these things had been nothing to her when,
without reflection, governed wholly by the impulse of the moment, she
had first allowed his daring hand to lie for an instant in her own. She
had thought nothing of these things when that other suitor came, richer
far than Frank, to love whom it was impossible to her as it was not to
Her love had been pure from all such thoughts; she was conscious that it
ever would be pure from them. Lady Arabella was unable to comprehend
this, and, therefore, was Lady Arabella so utterly distasteful to her.
Frank had once held her close to his warm breast; and her very soul had
thrilled with joy to feel that he so loved her,--with a joy which she
hardly dared to acknowledge. At that moment, her maidenly efforts had
been made to push him off, but her heart had grown to his. She had
acknowledged him to be master of her spirit; her bosom's lord; the man
whom she had been born to worship; the human being to whom it was for
her to link her destiny. Frank's acres had been of no account; nor had
his want of acres. God had brought them two together that they should
love each other; that conviction had satisfied her, and she had made it
a duty to herself that she would love him with her very soul. And now
she was called upon to wrench herself asunder from him because she had
nothing to give in return!
Well, she would wrench herself asunder, as far as such wrenching might
be done compatibly with her solemn promise. It might be right that Frank
should have an opportunity offered him, so that he might escape from his
position without disgrace. She would endeavour to give him this
opportunity. So, with one deep sigh, she arose, took herself pen, ink,
and paper, and sat herself down again so that the wrenching might begin.
And then, for a moment, she thought of her uncle. Why had he not spoken
to her of all this? Why had he not warned her? He who had ever been so
good to her, why had he now failed her so grievously? She had told him
everything, had had no secret from him; but he had never answered her a
word. 'He also must have known' she said to herself, piteously, 'he also
must have known that I could give nothing in return.' Such accusation,
however, availed her not at all, so she sat down and slowly wrote her
'Dearest Frank,' she began. She had first written 'dear Mr Gresham';
but her heart revolted against such useless coldness. She was not going
to pretend she did not love him.
'Your mother has been here talking to me about our engagement.
I do not generally agree with her about such matters; but she
has said some things to-day which I cannot but acknowledge to
be true. She says, that our marriage would be distressing to
your father, injurious to all your family, and ruinous to
yourself. If this be so, how can I, who love you, wish for
such a marriage?
'I remember my promise, and have kept it. I would not yield
to your mother when she desired me to disclaim our engagement.
But I do think it will be more prudent if you will consent to
forget all that has passed between us--not, perhaps, to forget
it; that may not be possible for us--but to let it pass by as
though it had never been. If so, if you think so, dear Frank,
do not have any scruples on my account. What will be best for
you, must be best for me. Think what a reflection it would
ever be to me, to have been the ruin of one that I love so
'Let me have but one word to say that I am released from my
promise, and I will tell my uncle that the matter between us
is over. It will be painful for us at first; those occasional
meetings which must take place will distress us, but that will
wear off. We shall always think well of each other, and why
should we not be friends? This, doubtless, cannot be done
without inward wounds; but such wounds are in God's hands, and
He can cure them.
'I know your first feelings will be on reading this letter;
but do not answer it in obedience to such feelings. Think over
it, think of your father, and all you owe him, of your old
name, your old family, and what the world expects of you.'
(Mary was forced to put her hand to her eyes, to save the
paper from her falling tears, as she found herself thus
repeating, nearly word for word, the arguments that had been
used by Lady Arabella.) 'Think of these things coolly, if you
can, but, at any rate, without passion: and then let me have
one word in answer. One word will suffice.
'I have but to add this: do not allow yourself to think that
my heart will ever reproach you. It cannot reproach you for
doing that which I myself suggest.' (Mary's logic in this was
very false; but she was not herself aware of it.) 'I will
never reproach you either in word or thought; and as for all
others, it seems to me that the world agrees that we have
hitherto been wrong. The world, I hope, will be satisfied when
we have obeyed it.
'God bless you, dearest Frank! I shall never call you so
again; but it would be a pretence were I to write otherwise in
this letter. Think of this, and then let me have one line.
'Your affectionate friend,
'PS.--Of course I cannot be at dear Beatrice's marriage; but
when they come back to the parsonage, I shall see her. I am
sure they will both be happy, because they are so good. I need
hardly say that I shall think of them on their wedding day.'
When she finished the letter, she addressed it plainly, in her own
somewhat bold handwriting, to Francis N. Gresham, Jun., Esq., and then
took it herself to the little village post-office. There should be
nothing underhand about her correspondence: all the Greshamsbury world
should know of it--that world of which she had spoken in her letter--if
that world so pleased. Having put her penny label on it, she handed it,
with an open brow and an unembarrassed face, to the baker's wife, who
was Her Majesty's postmistress at Greshamsbury; and, having so finished
her work, she returned to see the table prepared for her uncle's dinner.
'I will say nothing to him,' she said to herself, 'till I get the
answer. He will not talk to me about it, so why should I trouble him?'
THE RACE OF SCATCHERD BECOMES EXTINCT
It will not be imagined, at any rate by feminine readers, that Mary's
letter was written off at once, without alterations and changes, or the
necessity for a fair copy. Letters from one young lady to another are
doubtless written in this manner, and even with them it might sometimes
be better if more patience had been taken; but with Mary's first letter
to her lover--her first love-letter, if love-letter it can be
called--much more care was used. It was copied and re-copied, and when
she returned from posting it, it was read and re-read.
'It is very cold,' she said to herself; 'he will think I have no heart,
that I have never loved him!' And then she all but resolved to run down
to the baker's wife, and get back her letter, that she might alter it.
'But it will be better so,' she said again. 'If I touched his feelings
now, he would never bring himself to leave me. It is right that I should
be cold with him. I should be false to myself if I tried to move his
love--I, who have nothing to give him in return for it.' And so she made
no further visit to the post-office, and the letter went on its way.
We will now follow its fortunes for a short while, and explain how it
was that Mary received no answer for a week; a week, it may well be
imagined, of terrible suspense to her. When she took it to the
post-office, she doubtless thought that the baker's wife had nothing to
do but to send it up to the house at Greshamsbury, and that Frank would
receive it that evening, or, at latest, early on the following morning.
But this was by no means so. The epistle was posted on a Friday
afternoon, and it behoved the baker's wife to send it into
Silverbridge--Silverbridge being the post-town--so that all due
formalities, as ordered by the Queen's Government, might there be
perfected. Now, unfortunately the post-boy had taken his departure
before Mary reached the shop, and it was not, therefore, dispatched till
Saturday. Sunday was always a dies non with the Greshamsbury Mercury,
and, consequently, Frank's letter was not delivered at the house till
Monday morning; at which time Mary had for two long days been waiting
with weary heart for the expected answer.
Now Frank had on that morning gone up to London by the early train, with
his future brother-in-law, Mr Oriel. In order to accomplish this, they
had left Greshamsbury for Barchester exactly as the postboy was leaving
Silverbridge for Greshamsbury.
'I should like to wait for my letters,' Mr Oriel had said, when the
journey was being discussed.
'Nonsense,' Frank had answered. 'Who ever got a letter that was worth
waiting for?' and so Mary was doomed to a week of misery.
When the post-bag arrived at the house on Monday morning it was opened
as usual by the squire himself at the breakfast-table. 'Here is a letter
for Frank,' said he, 'posted in the village. You had better send it to
him:' and he threw the letter across to Beatrice.
'It's from Mary,' said Beatrice, out loud, taking the letter up and
examining the address. And having said so, she repented what she had
done, as she looked first at her father and then at her mother.
A cloud came over the squire's brow as for a minute he went on turning
over the letters and newspapers. 'Oh, from Mary Thorne, is it?' he said.
'Well, you had better send it to him.'
'Frank said that if any letters came they were to be kept,' said his
sister Sophy. 'He told me so particularly. I don't think he likes having
letters sent to him.'
'You had better send that one,' said the squire.
'Mr Oriel is to have all his letters addressed to Long's Hotel, Bond
Street, and this one can very well be sent with them,' said Beatrice,
who knew all about it, and intended herself to make free use of the
'Yes, you had better send it,' said the squire; and then nothing further
was said at the table. But Lady Arabella, though she said nothing, had
not failed to mark what had passed. Had she asked for the letter before
the squire, he would probably have taken possession of it himself; but
as soon as she was alone with Beatrice, she did demand it, 'I shall be
writing to Frank himself,' she said, 'and will send it to him.' And so,
Beatrice, with a heavy heart, gave it up.
The letter lay before Lady Arabella's eyes all that day, and many a
wistful glance was cast at it. She turned it over and over, and much
desired to know its contents; but she did not dare to break the seal of
her son's letter. All that day it lay upon her desk, and all the next,
for she could hardly bring herself to part with it; but on the Wednesday
it was sent--sent with these lines from herself:--
'Dearest, dearest Frank, I send you a letter which has come by the post
from Mary Thorne. I do not know what it may contain; but before you
correspond with her, pray, pray think of what I said to you. For my
sake, for your father's, for your own, pray think of it.'
That was all, but it was enough to make her word to Beatrice true. She
did send it to Frank enclosed in a letter from herself. We must reserve
for the next chapter what had taken place between Frank and his mother;
but, for the present, we will return to the doctor's house.
Mary said not a word to him about the letter; but, keeping silent on the
subject, she felt wretchedly estranged from him. 'Is anything the
matter, Mary?' he said to her on the Sunday afternoon.
'No, uncle,' she answered, turning away her head to hide her tears.
'Ah, but there is something; what is it, dearest?'
'Nothing--that is, nothing that one can talk about.'
'What Mary! Be unhappy and not to talk about it to me? That's
something new, is it not?'
'One has presentiments sometimes, and is unhappy without knowing why.
Besides, you know--'
'I know! What do I know? Do I know anything that will make my pet
happier?' and he took her into his arms and they sat together on the
sofa. Her tears were now falling fast, and she no longer made an effort
to hide them. 'Speak to me, Mary; this is something more than a
presentiment. What is it?'
'Come, love, speak to me; tell me why you are grieving.'
'Oh, uncle, why have you not spoken to me? Why have you not told me
what to do? Why have you not advised me? Why are you always so silent?'
'Silent about what?'
'You know, uncle; silent about him; silent about Frank.'
Why, indeed? What was he to say to this? It was true that he had never
counselled her; never shown her what course she should take; had never
even spoke to her about her lover. And it was equally true that he was
not now prepared to do so, even in answer to such an appeal as this. He
had a hope, a strong hope, more than a hope, that Mary's love would yet
be happy; but he could not express or explain his hope; nor could he
even acknowledge to himself a wish that would seem to be based on the
death of him to whose life he was bound, if possible, to preserve.
'My love,' he said, 'it is a matter in which you must judge for
yourself. Did I doubt your conduct, I should interfere; but I do not.'
'Conduct! Is conduct everything? One may conduct oneself excellently,
and yet break one's heart.'
This was too much for the doctor; his sternness and firmness instantly
deserted him. 'Mary,' he said, 'I will do anything that you would have
me. If you wish it, I will make arrangements for leaving this place at
'Oh, no,' she said, plaintively.
'When you tell me of a broken heart, you almost break my own. Come to
me, darling; do not leave me so. I will say all that I can say. I have
thought, do still think, that circumstances will admit of your marriage
with Frank if you both love each other, and can both be patient.'
'You think so,' said she, unconsciously sliding her hand into his, as
though to thank him by its pressure for the comfort he was giving her.
'I do think so now more than ever. But I only think so; I have been
unable to assure you. There, darling, I must not say more; only that I
cannot bear to see you grieving, I would not have said this:' and then
he left her, and nothing more was spoken on the subject.
If you can be patient! Why, a patience of ten years would be as nothing
to her. Could she but live with the knowledge that she was first in his
estimation, dearest in his heart; could it be also granted to her to
feel that she was regarded as his equal, she could be patient for ever.
What more did she want than to know and feel this? Patient, indeed!
But what could these circumstances be to which her uncle had alluded? 'I
do think that circumstances will admit of your marriage.' Such was his
opinion, and she had never known him to be wrong. Circumstances! What
circumstances? Did he perhaps mean that Mr Gresham's affairs were not so
bad as they had been thought to be? If so, that alone would hardly alter
the matter, for what could she give in return? 'I would give him the
world for one word of love,' she said to herself, 'and never think that
he was my debtor. Ah! how beggarly the heart must be that speculates on
such gifts as those!'
But there was her uncle's opinion: he still thought that they might be
married. Oh, why had she sent her letter? and why had she made it so
cold? With such a letter as that before him, Frank could not do other
than consent to her proposal. And then, why did he not at least answer
On the Sunday afternoon there arrived at Greshamsbury a man and a horse
from Boxall Hill, bearing a letter from Lady Scatcherd to Dr Thorne,
earnestly requesting the doctor's immediate attendance. 'I fear
everything is over with poor Louis,' wrote the unhappy mother. 'It has
been dreadful. Do come to me; I have no other friend, and I am nearly
worn through with it. The man from the city'--she meant Dr
Fillgrave--'comes every day, and I dare say he is all very well, but he
has never done much good. He has not had spirit enough to keep the
bottle from him; and it was that, and that only, that most behoved to be
done. I doubt you won't find him in this world when you get here.'
Dr Thorne started immediately. Even though he might have to meet Dr
Fillgrave, he could not hesitate, for he went not as a doctor to the
dying man, but as the trustee under Sir Roger's will. Moreover, as Lady
Scatcherd had said, he was only her friend, and he could not desert her
at such a moment for an army of Fillgraves. He told Mary he should not
return that night; and taking with him a small saddle-bag, he started at
once for Boxall Hill.
As he rode to the hall door, Dr Fillgrave was getting into his carriage.
They had never met so as to speak to each other since that memorable
day, when they had their famous passage of arms in the hall of that very
house before which they both now stood. But, at the present moment,
neither of them was disposed to renew the fight.
'What news of your patient, Fillgrave?' said our doctor, still seated on
his sweating horse, and putting his hand lightly to his hat.
Dr Fillgrave could not refrain from one moment of supercilious disdain:
he gave one little chuck to his head, one little twist to his neck, one
little squeeze to his lips, and then the man within him overcame the
doctor. 'Sir Louis is no more,' he said.
'God's will be done!' said Dr Thorne.
'His death is a release; for his last days have been very frightful.
Your coming, Dr Thorne, will be a comfort to Lady Scatcherd.' And then
Dr Fillgrave, thinking that even the present circumstances required no
further condescension, ensconced himself in the carriage.
'His last days have been very dreadful! Ah, me, poor fellow! Dr
Fillgrave, before you go, allow me to say this: I am quite aware that
when he fell into your hands, no medical skill in the world could save
Dr Fillgrave bowed low from the carriage, and after this unwonted
exchange of courtesies, the two doctors parted, not to meet again--at
any rate, in the pages of this novel. Of Dr Fillgrave, let it now be
said, that he is now regarded as one of the celebrities of Barchester.
Lady Scatcherd was found sitting alone in her little room on the
ground-floor. Even Hannah was not with her, for Hannah was now occupied
upstairs. When the doctor entered the room, which he did unannounced, he
found her seated on a chair, with her back against one of the presses,
her hands clasped together over her knees, gazing into vacancy. She did
not ever hear him or see him as he approached, and his hand had lightly
touched her shoulder before she knew that she was not alone. Then, she
looked up at him with a face so full of sorrow, so worn with suffering,
that his own heart was racked to see her.
'It's all over, my friend,' said he. 'It is better so; much better so.'
She seemed at first hardly to understand him, but still regarding him
with that wan face, shook her head slowly and sadly. One might have
thought that she was twenty years older than when Dr Thorne last saw
He drew a chair to her side, and sitting by her, took her hand in his.
'It is better so, Lady Scatcherd; better so,' he repeated. 'The poor
lad's doom had been spoken, and it is well for him, and for you, that it
should be over.'
'They are both gone now,' said she, speaking very low; 'both gone now.
Oh, doctor! To be left alone here, all alone!'
He said some few words trying to comfort her; but who can comfort a
widow bereaved of her child? Who can console a heart that has lost all
it possessed? Sir Roger had not been to her a tender husband; but still
he had been the husband of her love. Sir Louis had not been to her an
affectionate son; but still he had been her child, her only child. Now
they were both gone. Who can wonder that the world should be a blank to
Still the doctor spoke soothing words, and still he held her hand. He
knew that his words could not console her; but the sounds of his
kindness at such desolate moments are, to such minds as hers, some
alleviation of grief. She hardly answered him, but sat there staring out
before her, leaving her hand passively to him, and swaying her head
backwards and forwards as though her grief were too heavy to be borne.
At last, her eye rested upon an article which stood upon the table, and
she started up impetuously from her chair. She did this so suddenly,
that the doctor's hand fell beside him before he knew that she had
risen. The table was covered with all those implements which become so
frequent about a house when severe illness is an inhabitant there. There
were little boxes and apothecaries' bottles, cups and saucers standing
separate, and bowls, in which messes have been prepared with the hope of
suiting a sick man's failing appetite. There was a small saucepan
standing on a plate, a curiously shaped glass utensil left by the
doctor, and sundry pieces of flannel, which had been used in rubbing the
sufferer's limbs. But in the middle of the debris stood one blank
bottle, with head erect, unsuited to the companionship in which it was
'There,' she said, rising up, and seizing it in a manner that would have
been ridiculous had it not been so truly tragic. 'There, that has robbed
me of everything--of father and son; that has swallowed them
both--murdered them both! Oh, doctor! that such a thing as that should
ever cause such bitter sorrow! I have hated it always, but now--Oh, woe
is me! weary me!' And then she let the bottle drop from her hand as
though it were too heavy for her.
'This comes of barro-niting,' she continued. 'If they had let him
alone, he would have been here now, and so would the other one. Why did
they do it? why did they do it? Ah, doctor! people such as us should
never meddle with them above us. See what has come of it; see what has
come of it!'
The doctor could not remain with her long, as it was necessary that he
should take upon himself the direction of the household, and give orders
for the funeral. First of all, he had to undergo the sad duty of seeing
the corpse of the deceased baronet. This, at any rate, may be spared to
my readers. It was found to be necessary that the internment should be
made very quickly, as the body was nearly destroyed by alcohol. Having
done all this, and sent back his horse to Greshamsbury, with directions
that clothes for a journey might be sent to him, and a notice that he
should not be home for some days, he again returned to Lady Scatcherd.
Of course he could not but think much of the immense property which was
now, for a short time, altogether in his own hands. His resolution was
soon made to go at once to London and consult the best lawyer he could
find--or the best dozen lawyers should such be necessary--as to the
validity of Mary's claims. This must be done before he said a word to
her or to any of the Gresham family; but it must be done instantly, so
that all suspense might be at an end as soon as possible. He must, of
course, remain with Lady Scatcherd till the funeral should be over; but
when that office should be complete, he would start instantly for
In resolving to tell no one as to Mary's fortune till after he had
fortified himself with legal warranty, he made one exception. He thought
it rational that he should explain to Lady Scatcherd who was now the
heir under her husband's will; and he was more inclined to do so, from
feeling that the news would probably be gratifying to her. With this
view, he had once or twice endeavoured to induce her to talk about the
property, but she had been unwilling to do so. She seemed to dislike all
allusions to it, and it was not until she had incidentally mentioned the
fact that she would have to look for a home, that he was able to fix her
to the subject. This was on the evening before the funeral; on the
afternoon of which day he intended to proceed to London.
'It may probably be arranged that you may continue to live here,' said
'I don't wish it at all,' said she, rather sharply. 'I don't wish to
have any arrangements made. I would not be indebted to any of them for
anything. Oh, dear! if money could make it all right, I should have
enough of that.'
'Indebted to whom, Lady Scatcherd? Who do you think will be the owner
of Boxall Hill?'
'Indeed, then, Dr Thorne, I don't much care: unless it be yourself, it
won't be any friend of mine, or any one I shall care to make a friend
of. It isn't so easy for an old woman like me to make new friends.'
'Well, it certainly won't belong to me.'
'I wish it did, with all my heart. But even then, I would not live
here. I have had too many troubles here to wish to see more.'
'That shall be as you like, Lady Scatcherd; but you will be surprised to
hear that the place will--at least I think it will--belong to a friend
of yours: to one to whom you have been very kind.'
'And who is he, doctor? Won't it go to some of those Americans? I am
sure I never did anything kind to them; though, indeed, I did love poor
Mary Scatcherd. But that's years upon years ago, and she is dead, and
gone now. Well, I begrudge nothing to Mary's children. As I have none of
my own, it is right that they should have the money. It has not made me
happy; I hope it may do them.'
'The property will, I think, go to Mary Scatcherd's eldest child. It is
she whom you have known as Mary Thorne.'
'Doctor!' And then Lady Scatcherd, as she made the exclamation, put
both her hands down to hold her chair, as though she feared the weight
of her surprise would topple her off her seat.
'Yes; Mary Thorne--my Mary--to whom you have been so good, who loves you
so well; she, I believe, will be Sir Roger's heiress. And it was so that
Sir Roger intended on his deathbed, in the event of poor Louis's life
being cut short. If this be so, will you be ashamed to stay here as the
guest of Mary Thorne? She has not been ashamed to be your guest.'
But Lady Scatcherd was now too much interested in the general tenor of
the news which she had heard to care much about the house which she was
to inhabit in future. Mary Thorne, the heiress of Boxall Hill! Mary
Thorne, the still living child of that poor creature who had so nearly
died when they were all afflicted with their early grief! Well; there
was consolation, there was comfort in this. There were but three people
left in the world that she could love: her foster-child, Frank
Gresham--Mary Thorne, and the doctor. If the money went to Mary, it
would of course go to Frank, for she now knew that they loved each
other; and if it went to them, would not the doctor have his share also;
such share as he might want? Could she have governed the matter, she
would have given all to Frank; and now it would be as well bestowed.
Yes; there was consolation in this. They both sat up more than half the
night talking over it, and giving and receiving explanations. If only
the council of lawyers would not be adverse! That was now the point of
The doctor, before he left her, bade her hold her peace, and say nothing
of Mary's fortune to any one till her rights have been absolutely
acknowledged. 'It will be nothing not to have it,' said the doctor; 'but
it would be very bad to hear it was hers, and then to lose it.'
On the next morning, Dr Thorne deposited the remains of Sir Louis in the
vault prepared for the family in the parish church. He laid the son
where a few months ago he had laid the father,--and so the title of
Scatcherd became extinct. Their race of honour had not been long.
After the funeral, the doctor hurried up to London, and there we will
SATURDAY EVENING AND SUNDAY MORNING
We must now go back a little and describe how Frank had been sent off on
special business to London. The household at Greshamsbury was at this
time in but a doleful state. It seemed to be pervaded, from the squire
down to the scullery-maid, with a feeling that things were not going
well; and men and women, in spite of Beatrice's coming marriage, were
grim-visaged, and dolorous. Mr Mortimer Gazebee, rejected though he had
been, still, went and came, talking much to the squire, much also to her
ladyship, as to the ill-doings which were in the course of projection by
Sir Louis; and Frank went about the house with clouded brow, as though
finally resolved to neglect his one great duty.
Poor Beatrice was robbed of half her joy; over and over again her
brother asked her whether she had yet seen Mary, and she was obliged as
often to answer that she had not. Indeed, she did not dare to visit her
friend, for it was hardly possible that they should sympathize with each
other. Mary was, to say the least, stubborn in her pride; and Beatrice,
though she could forgive her friend for loving her brother, could not
forgive the obstinacy with which Mary persisted in a course which, as
Beatrice thought, she herself knew to be wrong.
And then Mr Gazebee came down from town, with an intimation that it
behoved the squire himself to go up that he might see certain learned
pundits, and be badgered in his own person at various dingy, dismal
chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Temple, and Gray's Inn Lane. It
was an invitation exactly of that sort which a good many years ago was
given to a certain duck.
'Will you, will you--will you, will you--come and be killed?' Although
Mr Gazebee urged the matter with such eloquence, the squire remained
steady to his objection, and swam obstinately about his Greshamsbury
pond in any direction save that which seemed to lead towards London.
This occurred on the very evening of that Friday which had witnessed the
Lady Arabella's last visit to Dr Thorne's house. The question of the
squire's necessary journey to the great fountains of justice was, of
course, discussed between Lady Arabella and Mr Gazebee; and it occurred
to the former, full as she was of Frank's iniquity and of Mary's
obstinacy, that if Frank were sent up in lieu of his father, it would
separate them at least for a while. If she could only get Frank away
without seeing his love, she might yet so work upon him, by means of the
message which Mary had sent, as to postpone, if not break off, this
hateful match. It was inconceivable that a youth of twenty-three, and
such a youth as Frank, should be obstinately constant to a girl
possessed of no great beauty--so argued Lady Arabella to herself--and
who had neither wealth, birth, nor fashion to recommend her.
And thus it was at last settled--the squire being a willing partner to
the agreement--that Frank should go up and be badgered in lieu of his
father. At his age it was possible to make a thing desirable, if not
necessary--on account of the importance conveyed--to sit day after day
in the chambers of Messrs Slow & Bideawhile, and hear musty law talk,
and finger dusty law parchments. The squire had made many visits to
Messrs Slow & Bideawhile, and he knew better. Frank had not hitherto
been there on his own bottom, and thus he fell easily into the trap.
Mr Oriel was also going to London, and this was another reason for
sending Frank. Mr Oriel had business of great importance, which it was
quite necessary that he should execute before his marriage. How much of
this business consisted in going to his tailor, buying a wedding-ring,
and purchasing some other more costly present for Beatrice, we need not
here inquire. But Mr Oriel was quite on Lady Arabella's side with
reference to this mad engagement, and as Frank and he were now fast
friends, some good might be done in that way. 'If we all caution him
against it, he can hardly withstand us all!' said Lady Arabella to
The matter was broached to Frank on the Saturday evening, and settled
between them all on the same night. Nothing, of course, was at that
moment said about Mary; but Lady Arabella was too full of the subject to
let him go to London without telling him that Mary was ready to recede
if only he would allow her to do so. About eleven o'clock, Frank was
sitting in his own room, coming over the difficulties of the
situation--thinking of his father's troubles, his own position--when he
was roused from his reverie by a slight tap at the door.
'Come in,' he said somewhat loudly. He thought it was one of his
sisters, who were apt to visit him at all hours and for all manner of
reasons; and he, though he was usually gentle to them, was not at
present exactly in a humour to be disturbed.
The door gently opened, and he saw his mother standing hesitating in the
'Can I come in, Frank?' said she.
'Oh, yes, mother; by all means:' and then, with some surprise marked in
his countenance, he prepared a seat for her. Such a visit as this from
Lady Arabella was very unusual; so much so, that he had probably not
seen her in his own room since the day when he first left school. He had
nothing, however, to be ashamed of; nothing to conceal unless it were an
open letter from Miss Dunstable which he had in his hand when she
entered, and which he somewhat hurriedly thrust into his pocket.
'I wanted to say a few words to you, Frank, before you start for London
about this business.' Frank signified by a gesture, that he was quite
ready to listen to her.
'I am so glad to see your father putting the matter into your hands. You
are younger than he is; and then--I don't know why, but somehow your
father has never been a good man of business--everything has gone wrong
'Oh, mother! do not say anything against him.'
'No, Frank, I will not; I do not wish it. Things have been unfortunate,
certainly. Ah me! I little thought when I married--but I don't mean to
complain--I have excellent children, and I ought to be thankful for
Frank began to fear that no good would be coming when his mother spoke
in that strain. 'I will do the best I can,' said he, 'up in town. I
can't help thinking myself that Mr Gazebee might have done as well,
'Oh, dear no; by no means. In such cases the principal must show
himself. Besides, it is right you should know how matters stand. Who is
so much interested in it as you are? Poor Frank! I do so often feel for
you when I think how the property has dwindled.'
'Pray do not mind me, mother. Why should you talk of it as my matter
while my father is not yet forty-five? His life, so to speak, is as good
as mine. I can do very well without it; all I want is to be allowed to
settle to something.'
'You mean a profession.'
'Yes; something of that sort.'
'They are all so slow, dear Frank. You, who speak French so well--I
should think my brother might get you in as an attache to some embassy.'
'That wouldn't suit me at all,' said Frank.
'Well, we'll talk about that some other time. But I came about
something else, and I do hope you will hear me.'
Frank's brow again grew black, for he knew that his mother was about to
say something which it would be disagreeable for him to hear.
'I was with Mary, yesterday.'
'Don't be angry with me, Frank; you can't but know that the fate of an
only son must be a subject of anxiety to a mother.' Ah! how singularly
altered was Lady Arabella's tone since first she had taken upon herself
to discuss the marriage prospects of her son! Then how autocratic had
she been as she went him away, bidding him, with full command, to throw
himself into the golden embraces of Miss Dunstable! But now, how humble,
as she came suppliantly to his room, craving that she might have leave
to whisper into his ear a mother's anxious fears! Frank had laughed at
her stern behests, though he had half obeyed them; but he was touched to
the heart by her humility.
He drew his chair nearer to her, and took her by the hand. But she,
disengaging hers, parted the hair from off his forehead, and kissed his
brow. 'Oh, Frank,' she said, 'I have been so proud of you, am still so
proud of you. It will send me to my grave if I see you sink below your
proper position. Not that it will be your fault. I am sure it will not
be your fault. Only circumstanced as you are, you should be doubly,
trebly, careful. If your father had not--'
'Do not speak against my father.'
'No, Frank; I will not--no, I will not; not another word. And now,
Before we go on we must say one word further as to Lady Arabella's
character. It will probably be said that she was a consummate hypocrite;
but at the present moment she was not hypocritical. She did love her
son; was anxious--very, very anxious for him; was proud of him, and
almost admired the obstinacy which so vexed her inmost soul. No grief
would be to her so great as that of seeing him sink below what she
conceived to be his position. She was as genuinely motherly, in wishing
that he should marry money, as another woman might be in wishing to see
her son a bishop; or as the Spartan matron, who preferred that her
offspring should return on his shield, to hearing that he had come back
whole in limb but tainted in honour. When Frank spoke of a profession,
she instantly thought of what Lord de Courcy might do for him. If he
would not marry money, he might, at any rate, be attache at an embassy.
A profession--hard work, as a doctor, or as an engineer--would,
according to her ideas, degrade him; cause him to sink below his proper
position; but to dangle at a foreign court, to make small talk at
evening parties of a lady ambassadress, and occasionally, perhaps, to
write demi-official notes containing demi-official tittle-tattle; this
would be in proper accordance with the high honour of a Gresham of
We may not admire the direction taken by Lady Arabella's energy on
behalf of her son, but that energy was not hypocritical.
'And now, Frank--' She looked wistfully into his face as she addressed
him, as though half afraid to go on, and begging that he would receive
with complaisance whatever she found herself forced to say.
'I was with Mary yesterday.'
'Yes, yes; what then? I know what your feelings are with regard to
'No, Frank; you wrong me. I have no feelings against her--none, indeed;
none but this: that she is not fit to be your wife.'
'I think her fit.'
'Ah, yes; but how fit? Think of your position, Frank, and what means
you have of keeping her. Think of what you are. Your father's only son;
the heir to Greshamsbury. If Greshamsbury be ever again more than a
name, it is you that must redeem it. Of all men living you are the least
able to marry a girl like Mary Thorne.'
'Mother, I will not sell myself for what you call my position.'
'Who asks you? I do not ask you; nobody asks you. I do not want you to
marry any one. I did think once--but let that pass. You are now
twenty-three. In ten years' time you will still be a young man. I only
ask you to wait. If you marry now, that is, marry such a girl as Mary
'Such a girl! Where shall I find another?'
'I mean as regards money, Frank; you know I mean that; how are you to
live? Where are you to go? And then, her birth. Oh, Frank, Frank!'
'Birth! I hate such pretence. What was--but I won't talk about it.
Mother, I tell you my word is pledged, and on no account will I be
induced to break it.'
'Ah, that's just it; that's just the point. Now, Frank, listen to me.
Pray listen to me patiently for one minute.'
Frank promised that he would listen patiently; but he looked anything
but patient as he said so.
'I have seen Mary, as it was certainly my duty to do. You cannot be
angry with me for that.'
'Who said that I was angry, mother?'
'Well, I have seen her, and I must own, that though she was not disposed
to be courteous to me, personally, she said much that marked her
excellent good sense. But the gist of it was this; that as she had made
you a promise, nothing should turn her from that promise but your
'And do you think--'
'Wait a moment, Frank, and listen to me. She confessed that this
marriage was one which would necessarily bring distress on all your
family; that it was one which would probably be ruinous to yourself;
that it was a match which could not be approved of: she did, indeed; she
confessed all that. "I have nothing", she said--those were her own
words--"I have nothing to say in favour of this engagement, except that
he wishes it." That is what she thinks of it herself. "His wishes are
not a reason; but a law," she said--'
'And, mother, would you have me desert such a girl as that?'
'It is not deserting, Frank: it would not be deserting: you would be
doing that which she herself approves of. She feels the impropriety of
going on; but she cannot draw back because of her promise to you. She
thinks that she cannot do it, even though she wishes it.'
'Wishes it! Oh, mother!'
'I do believe she does, because she has sense to feel the truth of all
that your friends say. Oh, Frank, I will go on my knees to you if you
will listen to me.'
'Oh, mother! mother! mother!'
'You should think twice, Frank, before you refuse the only request your
mother ever made you. And why do I ask you? why do I come to you thus?
Is it for my own sake? Oh, my boy! my darling boy! will you lose
everything in life, because you love the child with whom you played with
as a child?'
'Whose fault is it that we were together as children? She is now more
than a child. I look on her already as my wife.'
'But she is not your wife, Frank; and she knows that she ought not to
be. It is only because you hold her to it that she consents to it.'
'Do you mean to say that she does not love me?'
Lady Arabella would probably have said this, also, had she dared; but
she felt that in doing so, she would be going too far. It was useless
for her to say anything that would be utterly contradicted by an appeal
to Mary herself.
'No, Frank; I do not mean to say that you do not love her. What I do
mean is this: that it is not becoming in you to give up everything--not
only yourself, but all your family--for such a love as this; and that
she, Mary herself acknowledges this. Every one is of the same opinion.
Ask your father: I need not say that he would agree with you about
everything he could. I will not say the De Courcys.'
'Oh, the De Courcys!'
'Yes, they are my relations, I know that.' Lady Arabella could not quite
drop the tone of bitterness which was natural to her in saying this.
'But ask your sisters; ask Mr Oriel, whom you esteem so much; ask your
friend Harry Baker.'
Frank sat silent for a moment or two while his mother, with a look
almost of agony, gazed into his face. 'I will ask no one,' at last he
'Oh, my boy! my boy!'
'No one but myself can know my heart.'
'And you will sacrifice all to such a love as that, all; her, also, whom
you say that you so love? What happiness can you give her as your wife?
Oh, Frank! is that the only answer you will make to your mother on her
'Oh, mother! mother!'
'No, Frank, I will not let you ruin yourself; I will not let you destroy
yourself. Promise this, at least, that you will think of what I have
'Think of it! I do think of it.'
'Ah, but think of it in earnest. You will be absent now in London; you
will have the business of the estate to manage; you will have heavy
cares upon your hands. Think of it as a man, and not as a boy.'
'I will see her to-morrow before I go.'
'No, Frank, no; grant me that trifle, at any rate. Think upon this
without seeing her. Do not proclaim yourself so weak that you cannot
trust yourself to think over what your mother says to you without asking
her leave. Though you be in love, do not be childish with it. What I
have told you as coming from her is true, word for word; if it were not,
you would soon learn so. Think now of what I have said, and of what she
says, and when you come back from London, then you can decide.'
To so much Frank consented after some further parley; namely, that he
would proceed to London on the following Monday morning without again
seeing Mary. And in the meantime, she was waiting with sore heart for
his answer to that letter that was lying, and was still to lie for so
many hours, in the safe protection of Silverbridge postmistress.
It may seem strange; but, in truth, his mother's eloquence had more
effect on Frank than that of his father: and yet, with his father he had
always sympathized. But his mother had been energetic; whereas, his
father, if not lukewarm, had, at any rate, been timid. 'I will ask no
one,' Frank had said in the strong determination of his heart; and yet
the words were hardly out of his mouth before he bethought himself that
he would talk the thing over with Harry Baker. 'Not,' said he to
himself, 'that I have any doubt: I have no doubt; but I hate to have all
the world against me. My mother wishes me to ask Harry Baker. Harry is a
good fellow, and I will ask him.' And with this resolve he betook
himself to bed.
The following day was Sunday. After breakfast Frank went with the
family to church, as was usual; and there, as usual, he saw Mary in Dr
Thorne's pew. She, as she looked at him, could not but wonder why he had
not answered the letter which was still at Silverbridge; and he
endeavoured to read into her face whether it was true, as his mother
told him, that she was quite ready to give him up. The prayers of both
of them were disturbed, as is so often the case with the prayers of
other anxious people.
There was a separate door opening from the Greshamsbury pew out into the
Greshamsbury grounds, so that the family were not forced into unseemly
community with the village multitude in going to and from their prayers;
for the front door of the church led out into a road which had no
connexion with the private path. It was not unusual with Frank and his
father to go round, after the service, to the chief entrance, so that
they might speak to their neighbours, and get rid of some of the
exclusiveness which was intended for them. On this morning the squire
did so; but Frank walked home with his mother and sisters, so that Mary
saw no more of him.
I have said that he walked home with his mother and sisters; but he
rather followed in their path. He was not inclined to talk much, at
least, not to them; and he continued asking himself the
question--whether it could be possible that he was wrong in remaining
true to his promise? Could it be that he owed more to his father and his
mother, and what they chose to call his position, than he did to Mary?
After church, Mr Gazebee tried to get hold of him, for there was still
much to be said, and many hints to be given, as to how Frank should
speak, and, more especially, as to how to hold his tongue among the
learned pundits in and about Chancery Lane. 'You must be very wide awake
with Messrs Slow and Bideawhile,' said Mr Gazebee. But Frank would not
hearken to him just at that moment. He was going to ride over to Harry
Baker, so he put Mr Gazebee off till the half-hour before dinner,--or
else the half-hour after tea.
On the previous day he had received a letter from Miss Dunstable, which
he had hitherto read but once. His mother had interrupted him as he was
about to refer to it; and now, as his father's nag was being saddled--he
was still prudent in saving the black horse--he again took it out.
Miss Dunstable had written in excellent humour. She was in great
distress about the oil of Lebanon, she said. 'I have been trying to get
a purchaser for the last two years; but my lawyer won't let me sell it,
because the would-be purchasers offer a thousand pounds or so less than
the value. I would give ten to get rid of the bore; but I am as little
able to act myself as Sancho was in his government. The oil of Lebanon!
Did you hear anything of it when you were in those parts? I thought of
changing the name to "London particular"; but my lawyers says the
brewers would bring an action against me.'
'I was going down to your neighbourhood--to your friend the duke's, at
least. But I am prevented by my poor doctor, who is so weak that I must
take him to Malvern. It is a great bore; but I have the satisfaction
that I do my duty by him!
'Your cousin George is to be married at last. So I hear, at least. He
loves wisely, if not well; for his widow has the name of being prudent
and fairly well to do in the world. She has got over the caprices of her
youth. Dear Aunt De Courcy will be so delighted. I might perhaps have
met her at Gatherum Castle. I do so regret it.
'Mr Moffat has turned up again. We all thought you had finally
extinguished him. He left a card the other day, and I have told the
servant always to say that I am at home, and that you are with me. He is
going to stand for some borough in the west of Ireland. He's used to
shillelaghs by this time.
'By the by, I have a cadeau for a friend of yours. I won't tell you
what it is, nor permit you to communicate the fact. But when you tell me
that in sending it I may fairly congratulate her on having so devoted a
slave as you, it shall be sent.
'If you have nothing better to do at present, do come and see my invalid
at Malvern. Perhaps you might have a mind to treat for the oil of
Lebanon. I'll give you all the assistance I can in cheating my lawyers.'
There was not much about Mary in this; but still, the little that was
said made him again declare that neither father nor mother should move
him from his resolution. 'I will write to her and say that she may send
her present when she pleases. Or I will run down to Malvern for a day.
It will do me good to see her.' And so he resolved, he rode away to Mill
Hill, thinking, as he went, how he would put the matter to Harry Baker.
Harry was at home; but we need not describe the whole interview. Had
Frank been asked beforehand, he would have declared, that on no possible
subject could he have had the slightest hesitation in asking Harry any
question, or communicating to him any tidings. But when the time came,
he found that he did hesitate much. He did not want to ask his friend if
he should be wise to marry Mary Thorne. Wise or not, he was determined
to do that. But he wished to be quite sure that his mother was wrong in
saying that all the world would dissuade him from it. Miss Dunstable, at
any rate, did not do so.
At last, seated on a stile at the back of the Mill Hill stables, while
Harry stood close before him with both his hands in his pockets, he did
get his story told. It was by no means the first time that Harry Baker
had heard about Mary Thorne, and he was not, therefore, so surprised as
he might have been, had the affair been new to him. And thus, standing
there in the position we have described, did Mr Baker, junior, give
utterance to such wisdom as was in him on this subject.
'You see, Frank, there are two sides to every question; and, as I take
it, fellows are so apt to go wrong because they are so fond of one side,
they won't look at the other. There's no doubt about it, Lady Arabella
is a very clever woman, and knows what's what; and there's no doubt
about this either, that you have a very ticklish hand of cards to play.'
'I'll play it straightforward; and that's my game' said Frank.
'Well and good, my dear fellow. That's the best game always. But what
is straightforward? Between you and me, I fear there's no doubt that
your father's property has got into a deuce of a mess.'
'I don't see that that has anything to do with it.'
'Yes, but it has. If the estate was all right, and your father could
give you a thousand a year to live on without feeling it, and if your
eldest child would be cock-sure of Greshamsbury, it might be very well
that you should please yourself as to marrying at once. But that's not
the case; and yet Greshamsbury is too good a card to be flung away.'
'I could fling it away to-morrow,' said Frank.
'Ah! you think so,' said Harry the Wise. 'But if you were to hear
to-morrow that Sir Louis Scatcherd were master of the whole place, and
be d--d to him, you would feel very uncomfortable.' Had Harry known how