Part 8 out of 12
say much about Frank Gresham without doing so. Lady Scatcherd had,
therefore, gradually conceived that her darling was not a favourite
with her guest.
Now, therefore, she changed the subject; and, as her own son was
behaving with such unexampled propriety, she dropped Frank and confined
her eulogies to Louis. He had been a little wild, she admitted; young
men so often were so; but she hoped that it was now over.
'He does still take a little drop of those French drinks in the
morning,' said Lady Scatcherd, in her confidence; for she was too
honest to be false, even in her own cause. 'He does that, I know: but
that's nothing, my dear, to swilling all day; and everything can't be
done at once, can it, Miss Thorne?'
On this subject Mary found her tongue loosened. She could not talk
about Frank Gresham, but she could speak with hope to the mother of her
only son. She could say that Sir Louis was still very young; that
there was reason to trust that he might now reform; that his present
conduct was apparently good; and that he appeared capable of better
things. So much she did say; and the mother took her sympathy for more
than it was worth.
On this matter, and on this matter perhaps alone, Sir Louis and Lady
Scatcherd were in accord. There was much to recommend Mary to the
baronet; not only did he see her to be beautiful, and perceive her to
be attractive and ladylike; but she was also the niece of the man who,
for the present, held the purse-strings of his wealth. Mary, it is
true, had no fortune. But Sir Louis knew that she was acknowledged to
be a lady; and he was ambitious that his 'lady' should be a lady. There
was also much to recommend Mary to the mother, to any mother; and thus
it came to pass, that Miss Thorne had no obstacle between her and the
dignity of being Lady Scatcherd the second;--no obstacle whatever, if
only she could bring herself to wish it.
It was some time--two or three weeks, perhaps--before Mary's mind was
first opened to this new brilliancy in her prospects. Sir Louis at
first was rather afraid of her, and did not declare his admiration in
any very determined terms. He certainly paid her many compliments
which, from any one else she would have regarded as abominable. But
she did not expect great things from the baronet's taste: she concluded
that he was only doing what he thought a gentleman should do; and she
was willing to forgive much for Lady Scatcherd's sake.
His first attempts were, perhaps, more ludicrous than passionate. He
was still too much an invalid to take walks, and Mary was therefore
saved from his company in her rambles; but he had a horse of his own at
Boxall Hill, and had been advised to ride by the doctor. Mary also
rode--on a donkey only, it is true--but Sir Louis found himself bound in
gallantry to accompany her. Mary's steed had answered every
expectations, and proved himself very quiet; so quiet, that without the
admonition of a cudgel behind him, he could hardly be persuaded into
the demurest trot. Now, as Sir Louis's horse was of a very different
mettle, he found it rather difficult not to step faster than his
inamorata; and, let it him struggle as he would, was generally so far
ahead as to be debarred the delights of conversation.
When the second time he proposed to accompany her, Mary did what she
could to hinder it. She saw that he had been rather ashamed of the
manner in which his companion was mounted, and she herself would have
enjoyed the ride much more without him. He was an invalid, however; it
was necessary to make much of him, and Mary did not absolutely refuse
'Lady Scatcherd,' said he, as they were standing at the door previous
to mounting--he always called his mother Lady Scatcherd--'why don't you
take a horse for Miss Thorne? This donkey is--is--really is, so
very--very--can't go at all, you know?'
Lady Scatcherd began to declare that she would willing have got a pony
if Mary would have let her do it.
'Oh, no, Lady Scatcherd; not on any account. I do like the donkey so
much--I do indeed.'
'But he won't go,' said Sir Louis. 'And for a person who rides like
you, Miss Thorne--such a horsewoman you know--why, you know, Lady
Scatcherd, it's positively ridiculous; d---- absurd, you know.'
And then, with an angry look at his mother, he mounted his horse, and
was soon leading the way down the avenue.
'Miss Thorne,' said he, pulling himself up at the gate, 'if I had known
that I was to be so extremely happy as to have found you here, I would
have brought you down the most beautiful creature, an Arab. She
belongs to my friend Jenkins; but I wouldn't have stood at any price in
getting her for you. By Jove! if you were on that mare, I'd back you,
for style and appearance, against anything in Hyde Park.'
The offer of this sporting wager, which naturally would have been very
gratifying to Mary, was lost upon her, for Sir Louis had again
unwittingly got on in advance, but he stopped himself in time to hear
Mary again declare her passion was a donkey.
'If you could only see Jenkins's little mare, Miss Thorne! Only say
one word, and she shall be down here before the week's end. Price
shall be no obstacle--none whatever. By Jove, what a pair you would
This generous offer was repeated four or five times; but on each
occasion Mary only half heard what was said, and on each occasion the
baronet was far too much in advance to hear Mary's reply. At last he
recollected that he wanted to call on one of his tenants, and begged
his companion to allow him to ride on.
'If you at all dislike being alone, you know--'
'Oh dear no, not at all, Sir Louis. I am quite used to it.'
'Because I don't care about it, you know; only I can't make this horse
walk the same pace as that brute.'
'You mustn't abuse my pet, Sir Louis.'
'It's a d---- shame on my mother's part;' said Sir Louis, who, even when
in his best behaviour, could not quite give up his ordinary mode of
conversation. 'When she was fortunate enough to get such a girl as you
to come and stay with her, she ought to have had something proper for
her to ride upon; but I'll look to it as soon as I am a little
stronger, you see if I don't;' and, so saying, Sir Louis trotted off,
leaving Mary in peace with her donkey.
Sir Louis had now been living cleanly and forswearing sack for what was
to him a very long period, and his health felt the good effects of it.
No one rejoiced at this more cordially than did the doctor. To rejoice
at it was with him a point of conscience. He could not help telling
himself now and again that, circumstanced as he was, he was most
specially bound to take joy in any sign of reformation that the baronet
might show. Not to do so would be almost tantamount to wishing that he
might die in order that Mary might inherit his wealth; and, therefore,
the doctor did with all his energy devote himself to the difficult task
of hoping and striving that Sir Louis might yet live to enjoy what was
his own. But the task was altogether a difficult one, for as Sir Louis
became stronger in health, so also did he become more exorbitant in his
demands on the doctor's patience, and more repugnant to the doctor's
In his worst fits of disreputable living he was ashamed to apply to his
guardian for money; and in his worst fits of illness he was through
fear, somewhat patient under his doctor's hands; but just at present he
had nothing of which to be ashamed, and was not at all patient.
'Doctor,'--said he, one day, at Boxall Hill--'how about those
'Oh, that will all be properly settled between my lawyer and your own.'
'Oh--ah--yes; no doubt the lawyers will settle it; settle it with a fine
bill of costs. But, as Finnie says,'--Finnie was Sir Louis's legal
adviser--'I have got a tremendously large interest at stake in this
matter; eighty thousand pounds is no joke. It ain't everybody that can
shell out eighty thousand pounds when they're wanted; and I should like
to know how the thing's going on. I've a right to ask, you know; eh,
'The title-deeds of a large portion of Greshamsbury estate will be
placed with the mortgage-deeds before the end of next month.'
'Oh, that's all right. I choose to know about these things; for though
my father did make such a con-foun-ded will, that's no reason I
shouldn't know how things are going.'
'You shall know everything that I know, Sir Louis.'
'And now, doctor, what are we to do about money?'
'Yes; money, rhino, ready! "put money in your purse and cut a dash";
eh, doctor? Not that I want to cut a dash. No, I'm going on the
quiet line altogether now: I've done with that sort of thing.'
'I'm heartily glad of it; heartily,' said the doctor.
'Yes, I'm not going to make way for my far-away cousin yet; not if I
know it, at least. I shall soon be all right now, doctor; shan't I?'
'"All right" is a long word, Sir Louis. But I do hope you will be all
right in time, if you will live with decent prudence. You shouldn't
take that filth in the morning though.'
'Filth in the morning! That's my mother, I suppose! That's her
ladyship! She's been talking, has she? Don't you believe her,
doctor. There's not a young man in Barsetshire is going more regular,
all right within the posts, than I am.'
The doctor was obliged to acknowledge that there did seem to be some
'And now, doctor, how about money, eh?'
Doctor Thorne, like other guardians similarly circumstanced, began to
explain that Sir Louis had already had a good deal of money, and had
begun also to promise that more should be forthcoming in the event of
good behaviour, when he was somewhat suddenly interrupted by Sir Louis.
'Well, now; I'll tell you what, doctor; I've got a bit of news for you;
something that I think will astonish you.'
The doctor opened his eyes, and tried to look as though ready to be
'Something that will really make you look about; and something, too,
that will be very much to the hearer's advantage,--as the newspaper
'Something to my advantage?' said the doctor.
'Well, I hope you'll think so. Doctor, what would you think now of my
'I should be delighted to hear of it--more delighted than I can express;
that is, of course, if you were to marry well. It was your father's
most eager wish that you should marry early.'
'That's partly my reason,' said the young hypocrite. 'But then if I
marry I must have an income fit to live on; eh, doctor?'
The doctor had some fear that his interesting protege was desirous of a
wife for the sake of the income, instead of desiring the income for the
sake of the wife. But let the cause be what it would, marriage would
probably be good for him; and he had no hesitation, therefore, in
telling him, that if he married well, he should be put in possession of
sufficient income to maintain the new Lady Scatcherd in a manner
becoming her dignity.
'As to marrying well,' said Sir Louis, 'you, I take it, will the be the
last man, doctor, to quarrel with my choice.'
'Will I?' said the doctor, smiling.
'Well, you won't disapprove, I guess, as the Yankee says. What would
you think of Miss Mary Thorne?'
It must be said in Sir Louis's favour that he had probably no idea
whatever of the estimation in which such young ladies as Mary Thorne
are held by those who are nearest and dearest to them. He had no sort
of conception that she was regarded by her uncle and inestimable
treasure, almost too precious to be rendered up to the arms of any man;
and infinitely beyond any price in silver and gold, baronet's incomes
of eight or ten thousand a year, and such coins usually current in the
world's markets. He was a rich man and a baronet, and Mary was an
unmarried girl without a portion. In Louis's estimation he was
offering everything, and asking for nothing. He certainly had some
idea that girls were apt to be coy, and required a little wooing in the
shape of presents, civil speeches--perhaps kisses also. The civil
speeches he had, he thought, done, and imagined that they had been well
received. The other things were to follow; an Arab pony, for
instance--and the kisses probably with it; and then all these
difficulties would be smoothed.
But he did not for a moment conceive that there would be any difficulty
with the uncle. How should there be? Was he not a baronet with ten
thousand a year coming to him? Had he not everything which fathers
want for portionless daughters, and uncles for dependant nieces? Might
he not well inform the doctor that he had something to tell him for his
And yet, to tell the truth, the doctor did not seem to be overjoyed
when the announcement was first made to him. He was by no means
overjoyed. On the contrary, even Sir Louis could perceive his
guardian's surprise was altogether unmixed with delight.
What a question was this that was asked him! What would he think of a
marriage between Mary Thorne--his Mary and Sir Louis Scatcherd? Between
the alpha of the whole alphabet, and him whom he could not but regard
as the omega! Think of it! Why he would think of it as though a lamb
and a wolf were to stand at the altar together. Had Sir Louis been a
Hottentot, or an Esquimaux, the proposal could not have astonished him
more. The two persons were so totally of a different class, that the
idea of the one falling in love with the other had never occurred to
him. 'What would you think of Miss Mary Thorne?' Sir Louis had asked;
and the doctor, instead of answering him with ready and pleasant
alacrity, stood silent, thunderstruck with amazement.
'Well, wouldn't she be a good wife?' said Sir Louis, rather in a tone
of disgust at the evident disapproval shown in his choice. 'I thought
you would have been so delighted.'
'Mary Thorne!' ejaculated the doctor at last. 'Have you spoken to my
niece about this, Sir Louis?'
'Well, I have and yet I haven't; I haven't, and yet in a manner I
'I don't understand you,' said the doctor.
'Why, you see, I haven't exactly popped to her yet; but I have been
doing the civil; and if she's up to snuff, as I take her to be, she
knows very well what I'm after by this time.'
Up to snuff! Mary Thorne, his Mary Thorne, up to snuff! To snuff too
of such a very disagreeable description!
'I think, Sir Louis, that you are in mistake about this. I think you
will find that Mary will not be disposed to avail herself of the great
advantages--for great they undoubtedly are--which you are able to offer
to your intended wife. If you will take my advice, you will give up
thinking of Mary. She would not suit you.'
'Not suit me! Oh, but I think she just would. She's got no money, you
'No, I did not mean that. It will not signify to you whether your wife
has money or not. You need not look for money. But you should think
of some one more nearly of your temperament. I am quite sure that my
niece would refuse you.'
These last words the doctor uttered with much emphasis. His intention
was to make the baronet understand that the matter was quite hopeless,
and to induce him if possible to drop it on the spot. But he did not
know Sir Louis; he ranked him too low in the scale of human beings, and
gave him no credit for any strength of character. Sir Louis in his way
did love Mary Thorne. And could not bring himself to believe that Mary
did not, or at any rate, would not soon return his passion. He was,
moreover, sufficiently obstinate, firm we ought perhaps to say--for his
pursuit in this case was certainly not an evil one,--and he at once made
up his mind to succeed in spite of the uncle.
'If she consents, however, you will do so too?' asked he.
'It is impossible that she should consent,' said the doctor.
'Impossible! I don't see anything at all impossible. But if she
'But she won't.'
'Very well,--that's to be seen. But just tell me this, if she does,
will you consent?'
'The stars would fall first. It's all nonsense. Give it up, my dear
friend; believe me you are only preparing unhappiness for yourself;'
and the doctor put his hand kindly on the young man's arm. 'She will
not, cannot, accept such an offer.'
'Will not! cannot!' said the baronet, thinking over all the reasons
which in his estimation could possibly be inducing the doctor to be so
hostile to his views, and shaking the hand of his arm. 'Will not!
cannot! But come, doctor, answer my question fairly. If she'll have
me for better or worse, you won't say aught against it; will you?'
'But she won't have you; why should you give her and yourself the pain
of a refusal?'
'Oh, as for that, I must stand my chance like another. And as for her,
why d----, doctor, you wouldn't have me believe that any young lady
thinks it so very dreadful to have a baronet with ten thousand pounds a
year at her feet, specially when that same baronet ain't very old, nor
yet particularly ugly. I ain't so green as that, doctor.'
'I suppose she must go through with it, then,' said the doctor, musing.
'But, Dr Thorne, I did look for a kinder answer from you, considering
all that you so often say about your great friendship with my father. I
did think you'd at any rate answer me when I asked you a question.'
But the doctor did not want to answer that special question. Could it
be possible that Mary should wish to marry this odious man, could such
a state of things be imagined to be the case, he would not refuse his
consent, infinitely as he would be disgusted by her choice. But he
would not give Sir Louis any excuse of telling Mary that her uncle
approved of so odious a match.
'I cannot say that in case I would approve of such a marriage, Sir
Louis. I cannot bring myself to say so; for I know it would make you
both miserable. But on that matter my niece will choose wholly for
'And about money, doctor?'
'If you marry a decent woman you shall not want the means of supporting
her decently,' and so saying the doctor walked away, leaving Sir Louis
to his meditations.
THE DONKEY RIDE
Sir Louis, when left to himself, was slightly dismayed and somewhat
discouraged; but he was not induced to give up his object. The first
effort of his mind was made in conjecturing what private motive Dr
Thorne could possibly have in wishing to debar his niece from marrying
a rich young baronet. That the objection was personal to himself, Sir
Louis did not for a moment imagine. Could it be that the doctor did
not wish that his niece should be richer, and grander, and altogether
bigger than himself? Or was it possible that his guardian was anxious
to prevent him from marrying from some view of the reversion of the
large fortune? That there was some such reason, Sir Louis was well
sure; but let it be what it might, he would get the better of the
doctor. 'He knew so,' so he said to himself, 'what stuff girls were
made of. Baronets did not grow like blackberries.' And so, assuring
himself with such philosophy, he determined to make his offer.
The time he selected for doing this was the hour before dinner; but on
the day on which his conversation with the doctor had taken place, he
was deterred by the presence of a strange visitor. To account for this
strange visit it will be necessary that we should return to
Greshamsbury for a few minutes.
Frank, when he returned home for his summer vacation, found that Mary
had again flown; and the very fact of her absence added fuel to the
fire of his love, more perhaps then even her presence might have done.
For the flight of the quarry ever adds eagerness to the pursuit of the
huntsman. Lady Arabella, moreover, had a bitter enemy; a foe, utterly
opposed to her side in the contest, where she had once fondly looked
for her staunchest ally. Frank was now in the habit of corresponding
with Miss Dunstable, and received from her most energetic admonitions
to be true to the love which he had sworn. True to it he resolved to
be; and, therefore, when he found that Mary was flown, he resolved to
fly after her.
He did not, however, do this till he had been in a measure provoked by
it by the sharp-tongued cautions and blunted irony of his mother. It
was not enough for her that she had banished Mary out of the parish,
and made Dr Thorne's life miserable; not enough that she harassed her
husband with harangues on the constant subject of Frank's marrying
money, and dismayed Beatrice with invectives against the iniquity of
her friend. The snake was so but scotched; to kill it outright she
must induce Frank utterly to renounce Miss Thorne.
This task she essayed, but not exactly with success. 'Well, mother,'
said Frank, at last turning very red, partly with shame, and partly
with indignation, as he made the frank avowal, 'since you press me
about it, I tell you fairly that my mind is made up to marry Mary
sooner or later, if--'
'Oh, Frank! good heavens! you wicked boy; you are saying this
purposely to drive me distracted.'
'If,' continued Frank, not attending to his mother's interjections, 'if
she will consent.'
'Consent!' said Lady Arabella. 'Oh, heavens!' and falling into the
corner of her sofa, she buried her face in her handkerchief.
'Yes, mother, if she will consent. And now that I have told you so
much, it is only just that I should tell you this also; that as far as
I can see at present I have no reason to hope that she will do so.'
'Oh, Frank, the girl is doing all she can to catch you,' said Lady
'No, mother; there you wrong her altogether; wrong her most cruelly.'
'You ungracious, wicked boy! you call me cruel!'
'I don't call you cruel; but you wrong her cruelly, most cruelly. When
I have spoken to her about this--for I have spoken to her--she has
behaved exactly as you would have wanted her to do; but not at all as I
wished her. She has given me no encouragement. You have turned her
out among you'--Frank was beginning to be very bitter now--'but she has
done nothing to deserve it. If there has been any fault it has been
mine. But it is well now that we should understand each other. My
intention is to marry Mary if I can.' And, so speaking, certainly
without due filial respect, he turned towards the door.
'Frank,' said his mother, raising herself up with energy to make one
last appeal. 'Frank, do you wish to see me die of a broken heart?'
'You know, mother, I would wish to make you happy, if I could.'
'If you wish to see me ever happy again, if you do not wish to see me
sink broken-hearted to my grave, you must give up this mad idea,
Frank,'--and now all Lady Arabella's energy came out. 'Frank there is
but one course left open to you. You MUST marry money.' And then Lady
Arabella stood up before her son as Lady Macbeth might have stood, had
Lady Macbeth lived to have a son of Frank's years.
'Miss Dunstable, I suppose,' said Frank, scornfully. 'No, mother; I
made an ass and worse than an ass of myself once in that way, and I
won't do it again. I hate money.'
'I hate money.'
'But, Frank, the estate?'
'I hate the estate--at least I shall hate it if I am expected to buy it
at such a price as that. The estate is my father's.'
'Oh, no, Frank; it is not.'
'It is in the sense I mean. He may do with it as he pleases; he will
never have a word of complaint from me. I am ready to go into a
profession to-morrow. I'll be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer; I
don't care what.' Frank, in his enthusiasm, probably overlooked some of
the preliminary difficulties. 'Or I'll take a farm under him, and earn
my bread that way; but, mother, don't talk to me any more about
marrying money.' And, so saying, Frank left the room.
Frank, it will be remembered, was twenty-one when he was first
introduced to the reader; he is now twenty-two. It may be said that
there was a great difference between his character then and now. A
year at that period will make a great difference; but the change has
been, not in his character, but in his feelings.
Frank went out from his mother and immediately ordered his black horse
to be got ready for him. He would at once go over to Boxall Hill. He
went himself to the stables to give his orders; and as he returned to
get his gloves and whip he met Beatrice in the corridor.
'Beatrice,' said he, 'step in here,' and she followed him into his
room. 'I'm not going to bear this any longer; I'm going to Boxall
'Oh, Frank! how can you be so imprudent?'
'You, at any rate, have some decent feeling for Mary. I believe you
have some regard for her; and therefore I tell you. Will you send her
'Oh, yes; my best, best love; that is if you will see her; but, Frank,
you are very foolish, very; and she will be infinitely distressed.'
'Do not mention this, not at present; not that I mean you to make any
secret of it. I shall tell my father everything. I'm off now!' and
then, paying no attention to her remonstrance, he turned down the
stairs and was soon on horseback.
He took the road to Boxall Hill, but he did not ride very fast: he did
not go jauntily as a jolly, thriving wooer; but musingly, and often
with diffidence, meditating every now and then whether it would not be
better for him to turn back: to turn back--but not from fear of his
mother; not from prudential motives; not because that often-repeated
lesson as to marrying money was beginning to take effect; not from such
causes as these; but because he doubted how he might be received by
He did, it is true, think something about his worldly prospects. He
had talked rather grandiloquently to his mother as to his hating money,
and hating the estate. His mother's never-ceasing worldly cares on
such subjects perhaps demanded that a little grandiloquence should be
opposed to them. But Frank did not hate the estate; nor did he at all
hate the position of an English country gentleman. Miss Dunstable's
eloquence, however, rang in his ears. For Miss Dunstable had an
eloquence of her own, even in her letters. 'Never let them talk you
out of your own true, honest, hearty feelings,' she had said.
'Greshamsbury is a very nice place, I am sure; and I hope I shall see
it some day; but all its green knolls are not half so nice, should not
be half so precious, as the pulses of your own heart. That is your own
estate, your own, your very own--your own and another's; whatever may go
to the money-lenders, don't send that there. Don't mortgage that, Mr
'No,' said Frank, pluckily, as he put his horse into a faster trot, 'I
won't mortgage that. They may do what they like with the estate; but
my heart's my own,' and so speaking to himself, almost aloud, he turned
a corner of the road rapidly and came at once upon the doctor.
'Hallo, doctor! is that you?' said Frank, rather disgusted.
'What! Frank! I hardly expected to meet you here,' said Dr Thorne,
not much better pleased.
They were now not above a mile from Boxall Hill, and the doctor,
therefore, could not but surmise whither Frank was going. They had
repeatedly met since Frank's return from Cambridge, both in the village
and in the doctor's house; but not a word had been said between them
about Mary beyond what the merest courtesy had required. Not that each
did not love the other sufficiently to make a full confidence between
them desirable to both; but neither had had the courage to speak out.
Nor had either of them the courage to do so now. 'Yes,' said Frank,
blushing, 'I am going to Lady Scatcherd's. Shall I find the ladies at
'Yes; Lady Scatcherd is there; but Sir Louis is there also--an invalid:
perhaps you would not wish to meet him.'
'Oh! I don't mind,' said Frank, trying to laugh; 'he won't bite, I
The doctor longed in his heart to pray to Frank to return with him; not
to go and make further mischief; not to do that which might cause a
more bitter estrangement between himself and the squire. But he had
not the courage to do it. He could not bring himself to accuse Frank
of being in love with his niece. So after a few more senseless words on
either side, words which each knew to be senseless as he uttered them,
they both rode on their own ways.
And then the doctor silently, and almost unconsciously, made such a
comparison between Louis Scatcherd and Frank Gresham as Hamlet made
between the dead and live king. It was Hyperion to a satyr. Was it
not as impossible that Mary should not love the one, as that she should
love the other? Frank's offer of his affections had at first probably
been but a boyish ebullition of feeling; but if it should now be, that
this had grown into a manly and disinterested love, how could Mary
remain unmoved? What could her heart want more, better, more
beautiful, more rich than such a love as this? Was he not personally
all that a girl could like? Were not his disposition, mind, character,
acquirements, all such as women most delight to love? Was it not
impossible that Mary should be indifferent to him?
So meditated the doctor as he road along, with only too true a
knowledge of human nature. Ah! it was impossible, quite impossible
that Mary should be indifferent. She had never been indifferent since
Frank had uttered his first half-joking word of love. Such things are
more important to women than they are to men, to girls than they are to
boys. When Frank had first told her that he loved her; aye, months
before that, when he merely looked his love, her heart had received the
whisper, had acknowledged the glance, unconscious as she was herself,
and resolved as she was to rebuke his advances. When, in her hearing,
he had said soft nothings to Patience Oriel, a hated, irrepressible
tear had gathered in her eye. When he had pressed in his warm, loving
grasp the hand which she had offered in him in token of mere
friendship, her heart had forgiven him the treachery, nay, almost
thanked him for it, before her eyes or her words had been ready to
rebuke him. When the rumour of his liaison with Miss Dunstable reached
her ears, when she heard of Miss Dunstable's fortune, she had wept,
wept outright, in her chamber--wept, as she said to herself, to think
that he could be so mercenary; but she had wept, as she should have
said to herself, at finding that he was so faithless. Then, when she
knew at last that this rumour was false, when she found that she was
banished from Greshamsbury for his sake, when she was forced to retreat
with her friend Patience, how could she but love him, in that he was
not mercenary? How could she not love him in that was so faithful?
It was impossible that she should not love him. Was he not the
brightest and the best of men that she had ever seen, or was like to
see?--that she could possibly ever see, she would have said to herself,
could she have brought herself to own the truth? And then, when she
heard how true he was, how he persisted against father, mother, and
sisters, how could it be that that should not be a merit in her eyes
which was so great a fault in theirs? When Beatrice, with would-be
solemn face, but with eyes beaming with feminine affection, would
gravely talk of Frank's tender love as a terrible misfortune, as a
misfortune to them all, to Mary herself as well as others, how could
Mary do other than love him? 'Beatrice is his sister,' she would say
within her own mind, 'otherwise she would never talk like this; were
she not his sister, she could not but know the value of such love as
this.' Ah! yes; Mary did love him; love him with all the strength of
her heart; and the strength of her heart was very great. And now by
degrees, in those lonely donkey-rides at Boxall Hill, in those solitary
walks, she was beginning to own to herself the truth.
And now that she did own it, what should be her course? What should
she do, how should she act if this loved one persevered in his love?
And, ah! what should she do, how should she act if he did not
persevere? Could it be that there should be happiness in store for
her? Was it not too clear that, let the matter go how it would, there
was no happiness in store for her? Much as she might love Frank
Gresham, she could never consent to be his wife unless the squire would
smile on her as his daughter-in-law. The squire had been all that was
kind, all that was affectionate. And then, too, Lady Arabella! As she
thought of the Lady Arabella a sterner form of thought came across her
brow. Why should Lady Arabella rob her of her heart's joy? What was
Lady Arabella that she, Mary Thorne, need quail before her? Had Lady
Arabella stood only in her way, Lady Arabella, flanked by the De Courcy
legion, Mary felt that she could have demanded Frank's hand as her own
before them all without a blush of shame or a moment's hesitation.
Thus, when her heart was all but ready to collapse within her, would
she gain some little strength by thinking of the Lady Arabella.
'Please, my lady, here be young squire Gresham,' said one of the
untutored servants at Boxall Hill, opening Lady Scatcherd's little
parlour door as her ladyship was amusing herself by pulling down and
turning, and re-folding, and putting up again, a heap of household
linen which was kept in a huge press for the express purpose of
supplying her with occupation.
Lady Scatcherd, holding a vast counterpane in her arms, looked back
over her shoulders and perceived that Frank was in the room. Down went
the counterpane on the ground, and Frank soon found himself in the very
position which that useful article had so lately filled.
'Oh! Master Frank! oh, Master Frank!' said her ladyship, almost in an
hysterical fit of joy; and then she hugged and kissed him as she had
never kissed and hugged her own son since that son had first left the
Frank bore it patiently and with a merry laugh. 'But, Lady Scatcherd,'
said he, 'what will they all say? you forget I am a man now,' and he
stooped his head as she again pressed her lips upon his forehead.
'I don't care what none of 'em say,' said her ladyship, quite going
back to her old days; 'I will kiss my own boy; so I will. Eh, but
Master Frank, this is good on you. A sight of you is good for sore
eyes; and my eyes have been sore enough since I saw you;' and she put
her apron up to wipe a tear away.
'Yes,' said Frank, gently trying to disengage himself, but not
successfully: 'yes, you have had a great loss, Lady Scatcherd. I was so
sorry when I heard of your grief.'
'You always had a soft, kind heart, Master Frank; so you had. God's
blessing on you! What a fine man you have grown! Deary me! Well, it
seems as though it were only just t'other day like.' And she pushed
him a little from her, so that she might look the better into his face.
'Well. Is it all right? I suppose you would hardly know me again now
I've got a pair of whiskers?'
'Know you! I should know you well if I saw but the heel of your foot.
Why, what a head of hair you have got, and so dark too! but it doesn't
curl as it used once.' And she stroked his hair, and looked into his
eyes, and put her hand to his cheeks. 'You'll think me an old fool,
Master Frank: I know that; but you may think what you like. If I live
for the next twenty years you'll always be my own boy; so you will.'
By degrees, slow degrees, Frank managed to change the conversation, and
to induce Lady Scatcherd to speak on some other topic than his own
infantine perfections. He affected an indifference as he spoke of her
guest, which would have deceived no one but Lady Scatcherd; but her it
did deceive; and then he asked where Mary was.
'She's just gone out on her donkey--somewhere about the place. She rides
on a donkey mostly every day. But you'll stop and take a bit of dinner
with us? Eh, now do'ee, Master Frank.'
But Master Frank excused himself. He did not choose to pledge himself
to sit down to dinner with Mary. He did not know in what mood they
might return with regard to each other at dinner-time. He said,
therefore, that he would return to the house again before he went.
Lady Scatcherd then began making apologies for Sir Louis. He was an
invalid; the doctor had been with him all the morning, and he was not
yet out of his room.
These apologies Frank willingly accepted, and then made his way as his
could on to the lawn. A gardener, of whom he inquired, offered to go
with him in pursuit of Miss Thorne. This assistance, however, he
declined, and set forth in quest of her, having learnt what were her
most usual haunts. Nor was he directed wrongly; for after walking
about twenty minutes, he saw through the trees the legs of a donkey
moving on the green-sward, at about two hundred yards from him. On
that donkey doubtless sat Mary Thorne.
The donkey was coming towards him; not exactly in a straight line, but
so much so as to make it impossible that Mary should not see him if he
stood still. He did stand still, and soon emerging from the trees,
Mary saw him all but close to her.
Her heart gave a leap within her, but she was so far mistress of
herself as to repress any visible sign of outward emotion. She did not
fall from her donkey, or scream, or burst into tears. She merely
uttered the words, 'Mr Gresham!' in a tone of not unnatural surprise.
'Yes,' said he, trying to laugh, but less successful than she had been
suppressing a show of feeling. 'Mr Gresham! I have come over at last
to pay my respects to you. You must have thought me very uncourteous
not to do so before.'
This she denied. She had not, she said, thought him at all uncivil.
She had come to Boxall Hill to be out of the way; and, of course, had
not expected any such formalities. As she uttered this she almost
blushed at the abrupt truth of what she was saying. But she was taken
so much unawares that she did not know how to make the truth other than
'To be out of the way!' said Frank. 'And why should you want to be out
of the way?'
'Oh! there were reasons,'said she, laughing. 'Perhaps I have
quarrelled dreadfully with my uncle.'
Frank at the present moment had not about him a scrap of badinage. He
had not a single easy word at his command. He could not answer her
with anything in guise of a joke; so he walked on, not answering at
'I hope all my friends at Greshamsbury are well,' said Mary. 'Is
Beatrice quite well?'
'Quite well,' said he.
'What, Miss Oriel; yes, I believe so. I haven't seen her this day or
two.' How was it that Mary felt a little flush of joy, as Frank spoke
in this indifferent way about Miss Oriel's health?
'I thought she was always a particular friend of yours,' said she.
'What! who? Miss Oriel? So she is! I like her amazingly; so does
Beatrice.' And then he walked about six steps in silence, plucking up
courage for the great attempt. He did pluck up his courage and then
rushed at once to the attack.
'Mary!' said he, and as he spoke he put his hand on the donkey's neck,
and looked tenderly into her face. He looked tenderly, and, as Mary's
ear at once told her, his voice sounded more soft than it had ever
sounded before. 'Mary, do you remember the last time that we were
Mary did remember it well. It was on that occasion when he had
treacherously held her hand; on that day when, according to law, he had
become a man; when he had outraged all the propriety of the De Courcy
interest by offering his love to Mary in Augusta's hearing. Mary did
remember it well; but how was she to speak of it? 'It was your
birthday, I think,' said she.
'Yes, it was my birthday. I wonder whether you remember what I said to
'I remember that you were very foolish, Mr Gresham.'
'Mary, I have come to repeat my folly;--that is, if it be folly. I told
you then that I loved you, and I dare say that I did it awkwardly, like
a boy. Perhaps I may be just as awkward now; but you ought at any rate
to believe me when you find that a year has not altered me.'
Mary did not think him at all awkward, and she did believe him. But how
was she to answer him? She had not yet taught herself what answer she
ought to make if he persisted in his suit. She had hitherto been
content to run away from him; but she had done so because she would not
submit to be accused of the indelicacy of putting herself in his way.
She had rebuked him when he first spoke of his love; but she had done
so because she looked on what he said as a boy's nonsense. She had
schooled herself in obedience to the Greshamsbury doctrines. Was there
any real reason, any reason founded on truth and honesty, why she
should not be a fitting wife to Frank Gresham,--Francis Newbold Gresham,
of Greshamsbury, though he was, or was to be?'
He was well born--as well born as any gentleman in England. She was
basely born--as basely born as any lady could be. Was this sufficient
bar against such a match? Mary felt in her heart that some twelvemonth
since, before she knew what little she did now know of her own story,
she would have said it was so. And would she indulge her own love by
inveigling him she loved into a base marriage? But then reason spoke
again. What, after all, was this blood of which she had taught herself
to think so much? Would she have been more honest, more fit to grace
an honest man's hearthstone, had she been the legitimate descendant of
a score of legitimate duchesses? Was it not her first duty to think of
him--of what would make him happy? Then of her uncle--what he would
approve? Then of herself--what would best become her modesty; her sense
of honour? Could it be well that she should sacrifice the happiness of
two persons to a theoretic love of pure blood?
So she had argued within herself. Not now, sitting on the donkey, with
Frank's hand before her on the tame brute's neck; but on other former
occasions as she had ridden along demurely among those trees. So she
had argued; but she had never brought her arguments to a decision. All
manner of thoughts crowded on her to prevent her doing so. She would
think of the squire, and resolve to reject Frank; and would then
remember Lady Arabella, and resolve to accept him. Her resolutions,
however, were most irresolute; and so, when Frank appeared in person
before her, carrying his heart in his hand, she did not know what
answer to make to him. Thus it was with her as with so many other
maidens similarly circumstanced; at last she left it all to chance.
'You ought at any rate, to believe me,' said Frank, 'when you find that
a year has not altered me.'
'A year should have taught you to be wiser,'said she. 'You should have
learnt by this time, Mr Gresham, that your lot and mine are not cast in
the same mould; that our stations in life are different. Would your
father or mother approve of your even coming here to see me?'
Mary, as she spoke these sensible words, felt that they were 'flat,
stale, and unprofitable.' She felt also, that they were not true in
sense; that they did not come from her heart; that they were not such
as Frank deserved at her hands, and she was ashamed of herself.
'My father I hope will approve of it,' said he. 'That my mother should
disapprove of it is a misfortune which I cannot help; but on this point
I will take no answer from my father or mother; the question is one too
personal to myself. Mary, if you say that you will not, or cannot return
my love, I will go away;--not from here only, but from Greshamsbury. My
presence shall not banish you from all that you hold dear. If you can
honestly say that I am nothing to you, can be nothing to you, I will
then tell my mother that she may be at ease, and I will go away
somewhere and get over it as I may.' The poor fellow got so far, looking
apparently at the donkey's ears, with hardly a gasp of hope in his
voice, and he so far carried Mary with him that she also had hardly a
gasp of hope in her heart. There he paused for a moment, and then
looking up into her face, he spoke but one word more. 'But,' said
he--and there he stopped. It was clearly told in that 'but'. Thus would
he do if Mary would declare that she did not care for him. If, however,
she could not bring herself so to declare, then was he ready to throw
his father and mother to the winds; then would he stand his ground; then
would he look all other difficulties in the face, sure that they might
finally be overcome. Poor Mary! the whole onus of settling the matter
was thus thrown upon her. She had only to say that he was indifferent to
her;--that was all.
If 'all the blood of the Howards' had depended upon it, she could not
have brought herself to utter such a falsehood. Indifferent to her, as
he walked there by her donkey's side, talking thus earnestly of his
love for her! Was he not to her like some god come from the heavens to
make her blessed? Did not the sun shine upon him with a halo, so that
he was bright as an angel? Indifferent to her! Could the open
unadulterated truth have been practicable for her, she would have
declared her indifference in terms that would truly have astonished
him. As it was, she found it easier to say nothing. She bit her lips
to keep herself from sobbing. She struggled hard, but in vain, to
prevent her hands and feet from trembling. She seemed to swing upon
her donkey as though like to fall, and would have given much to be upon
her own feet in the sward.
'Si la jeunesse savait . . .' There is so much in that wicked old
French proverb! Had Frank known more about a woman's mind--had he, that
is, been forty-two instead of twenty-two he would at once have been
sure of his game, and have felt that Mary's silence told him all he
wished to know. But then, had been forty-two instead of twenty-two, he
would not have been so ready to risk the acres of Greshamsbury for the
smiles of Mary Thorne.
'If you can't say one word to comfort me, I will go,' said he,
disconsolately. 'I made up my mind to tell you this, and so I came
over. I told Lady Scatcherd I should not stay--not even for dinner.'
'I did not know you were so hurried,' said she, almost in a whisper.
On a sudden he stood still, and pulling the donkey's rein, caused him
to stand still also. The beast required very little persuasion to be
so guided, and obligingly remained meekly passive.
'Mary, Mary!' said Frank, throwing his arms round her knees as she sat
upon her steed, and pressing his face against her body. 'Mary, you were
always honest; be honest now. I love you with all my heart. Will you
be my wife?'
But still Mary said not a word. She no longer bit her lips; she was
beyond that, and was now using all her efforts to prevent her tears
from falling absolutely on her lover's face. She said nothing. She
could no more rebuke him now and send him from her than she could
encourage him. She could only sit there shaking and crying and wishing
she was on the ground. Frank, on the whole, rather liked the donkey.
It enabled him to approach somewhat nearer to an embrace than he might
have found practicable had they both been on their feet. The donkey
himself was quite at his ease, and looked as though he was approvingly
conscious of what was going on behind his ears.
'I have a right to a word, Mary; say, "Go", and I will leave you at
But Mary did not say 'Go'. Perhaps she would have done so had she been
able; but just at present she could say nothing. This came from her
having failed to make up her mind in due time as to what course it
would best become her to follow.
'One word, Mary; one little word. There, if you will not speak, here
is my hand. If you will have it, let it lie in yours;--if not, push it
away.' So saying, he managed to get the end of his fingers on to her
palm, and there it remained unrepulsed. 'La jeuness' was beginning to
get a lesson; experience when duly sought after sometimes comes early
In truth Mary had not strength to push the fingers away. 'My love, my
own, my own!' said Frank, presuming on this very negative sign of
acquiescence. 'My life, my own, my own Mary!' and then the hand was
caught hold of and was at his lips before an effort could be made to
save it from such treatment.
'Mary, look at me; say one word to me.'
There was a deep sigh, and then came the one word--'Oh, Frank!'
'Mr Gresham, I hope I have the honour of seeing you quite well,' said a
voice close to his ear. 'I beg to say that you are welcome to Boxall
Hill.' Frank turned round and instantly found himself shaking hands
with Sir Louis Scatcherd.
How Mary got over her confusion Frank never saw, for he had enough to
do to get over his own. He involuntarily deserted Mary and began
talking very fast to Sir Louis. Sir Louis did not once look at Miss
Thorne, but walked back towards the house with Mr Gresham, sulky enough
in temper, but still making some effort to do the fine gentleman. Mary,
glad to be left alone, merely occupied herself with sitting on the
donkey; and the donkey, when he found that the two gentlemen went
towards the house, for company's sake and for his stable's sake,
followed after them.
Frank stayed but three minutes in the house; gave another kiss to Lady
Scatcherd, getting three in return, and thereby infinitely disgusting
Sir Louis, shook hands, anything but warmly, with the young baronet,
and just felt the warmth of Mary's hand within his own. He felt also
the warmth of her eyes' last glance, and rode home a happy man.
Frank rode home a happy man, cheering himself, as successful lovers do
cheer themselves, with the brilliancy of his late exploit: nor was it
till he had turned the corner into the Greshamsbury stables that he
began to reflect what he would do next. It was all very well to have
induced Mary to allow his three fingers to lie half a minute in her
soft hand; the having done so might certainly be sufficient evidence
that he had overcome one of the lions in his path; but it could hardly
be said that all his difficulties were now smoothed. How was he to
make further progress?
To Mary, also, the same ideas no doubt occurred--with many others. But,
then, it was not for Mary to make any progress in the matter. To her
at least belonged this passive comfort, that at present no act hostile
to the De Courcy interest would be expected from her. All that she
could do would be to tell her uncle so much as it was fitting that he
should know. The doing this would doubtless be in some degree
difficult; but it was not probable that there would be much difference,
much of anything but loving anxiety for each other, between her and Dr
Thorne. One other thing, indeed, she must do; Frank must be made to
understand what her birth had been. 'This,' she said to herself, 'will
give him an opportunity of retracting what he has done should he choose
to avail himself of it. It is well he should have such opportunity.'
But Frank had more than this to do. He had told Beatrice that he would
make no secret of his love, and he fully resolved to be as good as his
word. To his father he owed an unreserved confidence; and he was fully
minded to give it. It was, he knew, altogether out of the question
that he should at once marry a portionless girl without his father's
consent; probably out of the question that he should do so even with
it. But he would, at any rate, tell his father, and then decide as to
what should be done next. So resolving, he put his black horse into
the stable and went into dinner. After dinner he and his father would
Yes; after dinner he and his father would be alone. He dressed himself
hurriedly, for the dinner-bell was almost on the stroke as he entered
the house. He said this to himself once and again; but when the meats
and the puddings, and then the cheese were borne away, as the decanters
were placed before his father, and Lady Arabella sipped her one glass
of claret, and his sisters ate their portion of strawberries, his
pressing anxiety for the coming interview began to wax somewhat dull.
His mother and sisters, however, rendered him no assistance by
prolonging their stay. With unwonted assiduity he pressed a second
glass of claret on his mother. But Lady Arabella was not only
temperate in her habits, but also at the present moment very angry with
her son. She thought that he had been to Boxall Hill, and was only
waiting a proper moment to cross-question him sternly on the subject.
Now she departed, taking her train of daughters with her.
'Give me one big gooseberry,' said Nina, as she squeezed herself in
under her brother's arm, prior to making her retreat. Frank would
willingly have given her a dozen of the biggest, had she wanted them;
but having got the one, she squeezed herself out again and scampered
The squire was very cheery this evening; from what cause cannot now be
said. Perhaps he had succeeded in negotiating a further loan, thus
temporarily sprinkling a drop of water over the ever-rising dust of his
'Well, Frank, what have you been after to-day? Peter told me you had
the black horse out,' said he, pushing the decanter to his son. 'Take
my advice, my boy, and don't give him too much summer road-work. Legs
won't stand it, let them be ever so good.'
'Why, sir, I was obliged to go out to-day, and therefore, it had to be
either the old mare or the young horse.'
'Why didn't you take Ramble?' Now Ramble was the squire's own saddle
hack, used for farm surveying, and occasionally for going to cover.
'I shouldn't think of doing that, sir.'
'My dear boy, he is quite at your service; for goodness' sake do let me
have a little wine, Frank--quite at your service; any riding I have now
is after the haymakers, and that's all on the grass.'
'Thank'ee, sir. Well, perhaps I will take a turn out of Ramble should
I want it.'
'Do, and pray, pray take care of that black horse's legs. He's turning
out more of a horse than I took him to be, and I should be sorry to see
him injured. Where have you been to-day?'
'Well, father, I have something to tell you.'
'Something to tell me!' and then the squire's happy and gay look, which
had been only rendered more happy and more gay by his assumed anxiety
about the black horse, gave place to a heaviness of visage which
acrimony and misfortune had made so habitual to him. 'Something to
tell me!' Any grave words like these always presaged some money
difficulty to the squire's ears. He loved Frank with the tenderest
love. He would have done so under almost any circumstances; but,
doubtless, that love had been made more palpable to himself by the fact
that Frank had been a good son as regards money--not exigeant as was
Lady Arabella, or selfishly reckless as was his nephew Lord Porlock.
But now Frank must be in some difficulty about money. This was his
first idea. 'What is it, Frank; you have seldom had anything to say
that has not been pleasant for me to hear?' And then the heaviness of
visage again gave way for a moment as his eye fell upon his son.
'I have been to Boxall Hill, sir.'
The tenor of his father's thoughts was changed in an instant; and the
dread of immediate temporary annoyance gave place to true anxiety for
his son. He, the squire, had been no party to Mary's exile from his
own domain; and he had seen with pain that she had now a second time
been driven from her home: but he had never hitherto questioned the
expediency of separating his son from Mary Thorne. Alas! it had
become too necessary--too necessary through his own default--that Frank
should marry money!
'At Boxall Hill, Frank! Has that been prudent? Or, indeed, has it
been generous to Miss Thorne, who has been driven there, as it were, by
'Father, it is well that we should understand each other about this--'
'Fill your glass, Frank;' Frank mechanically did as he was told, and
passed the bottle.
'I should never forgive myself were I to deceive you, or keep anything
'I believe it is not in your nature to deceive me, Frank.'
'The fact is, sir, that I have made up my mind that Mary Thorne shall
be my wife--sooner or later, that is, unless, of course, she should
utterly refuse. Hitherto, she has utterly refused me. I believe I may
now say that she has accepted me.'
The squire sipped his claret, but at the moment said nothing. There was
a quiet, manly, but yet modest determination about his son that he had
hardly noticed before. Frank had become legally of age, legally a man,
when he was twenty-one. Nature, it seems, had postponed the ceremony
till he was twenty-two. Nature often does postpone the ceremony even
to a much later age;--sometimes, altogether forgets to accomplish it.
The squire continued to sip his claret; he had to think over the matter
a while before he could answer a statement so deliberately made by his
'I think I may say so,' continued Frank, with perhaps unnecessary
modesty. 'She is so honest that, had she not intended it, she would
have said so honestly. Am I right, father, in thinking that, as
regards Mary, personally, you would not reject her as a
'Personally!' said the squire, glad to have the subject presented to
him in a view that enabled him to speak out. 'Oh, no; personally, I
should not object to her, for I love her dearly. She is a good girl. I
do believe she is a good girl in every respect. I have always liked
her; liked to see her about the house. But--'
'I know what you would say, father.' This was rather more than the
squire knew himself. 'Such a marriage is imprudent.'
'It is more than that, Frank; I fear that is impossible.'
'Impossible! No, father; it is not impossible.'
'It is impossible, Frank, in the usual sense. What are you to live
upon? What would you do with your children? You would not wish to see
your wife distressed and comfortless.'
'No, I should not like to see that.'
'You would not wish to begin life as an embarrassed man and end it as a
ruined man. If you were now to marry Miss Thorne such would, I fear,
doubtless be your lot.'
Frank caught at the word 'now'. 'I don't expect to marry immediately.
I know that would be imprudent. But I am pledged, father, and I
certainly cannot go back. And now that I have told you all this, what
is your advice to me?'
The father again sat silent, still sipping his wine. There was nothing
in his son that he could be ashamed of, nothing that he could meet with
anger, nothing that he could not love; but how should he answer him?
The fact was, that the son had more in him than the father; this his
mind and spirit were of a calibre not to be opposed successfully by the
mind and the spirit of the squire.
'Do you know Mary's history?' said Mr Gresham, at last; 'the history of
'Not a word of it,' said Frank. 'I did not know she had a history.'
'Nor does she know it; at least, I presume not. But you should know it
now. And, Frank, I will tell it you; not to turn you from her--not with
that object, though I think that, to a certain extent, it should have
that effect. Mary's birth was not such that would become your wife, and
be beneficial to your children.'
'If so, father, I should have known it sooner. Why was she brought
here among us?'
'True, Frank. The fault is mine; mine and your mother's.
Circumstances brought it all about years ago, when it never occurred to
us that all this would arise. But I will tell you her history. And,
Frank, remember this, though I tell it you as a secret, a secret to be
kept from all the world but one, you are quite at liberty to let the
doctor know I have told you. Indeed, I shall be careful to let him
know myself should it ever be necessary that he and I should speak
together as to this engagement.' The squire then told his son the
whole story of Mary's birth, as it is known to the reader.
Frank sat silent, looking very blank; he also had, as had every
Gresham, a great love for his pure blood. He had said to his mother
that he hated money, that he hated the estate; but he would have been
very slow to say, even in his warmest opposition to her, that he hated
the roll of the family pedigree. He loved it dearly, though he seldom
spoke of it;--as men of good family seldom do speak of it. It is one
of those possessions which to have is sufficient. A man having it need
not boast of what he has, or show it off before the world. But on that
account he values it more. He had regarded Mary as a cutting duly
taken from the Ullathorne tree; not, indeed, as a grafting branch, full
of flower, just separated from the parent stalk, but as being not a
whit the less truly endowed with the pure sap of that venerable trunk.
When, therefore, he heard her true history he sat awhile dismayed.
'It is a sad story,' said the father.
'Yes, sad enough,' said Frank, rising from his chair and standing with
it before him, leaning on the back of it. 'Poor Mary, poor Mary! She
will have to learn it some day.'
'I fear so, Frank;' and then there was again a few moments' silence.
'To me, father, it is told too late. It can now have no effect on me.
Indeed,' said he, sighing as he spoke, but still relieving himself by
the very sigh, 'it could have had no effect had I learned it ever so
'I should have told you before,' said the father; 'certainly I ought to
have done so.'
'It would have been no good,' said Frank. 'Ah, sir, tell me this: who
were Miss Dunstable's parents? What was that fellow Moffat's family?'
This was perhaps cruel of Frank. The squire, however, made no answer
to the question. 'I have thought it right to tell you,' said he. 'I
leave all the commentary to yourself. I need not tell you what your
mother will think.'
'What did she think of miss Dunstable's birth?' said he, again more
bitterly than before. 'No, sir,' he continued, after a further pause.
'All that can make no change; none at any rate now. It can't make my
love less, even if it could have prevented it. Nor, even, could it do
so--which it can't in the least, not in the least--but could it do so,
it could not break my engagement. I am now engaged to Mary Thorne.'
And then he again repeated his question, asking for his father's advice
under the present circumstances. The conversation was a very long one,
as long as to disarrange all Lady Arabella's plans. She had determined
to take her son more stringently to task that very evening; and with
this object had ensconced herself in the small drawing-room which had
formerly been used for a similar purpose by the august countess
herself. Here she now sat, having desired Augusta and Beatrice, as well
as the twins, to beg Frank to go to her as soon as he should come out
of the dining-room. Poor lady! there she waited till ten
o'clock,--tealess. There was not much of the Bluebeard about the
squire; but he had succeeded in making it understood through the
household that he was not to be interrupted by messages from his wife
during the post-prandial hour, which, though no toper, he loved so
As a period of twelve months will now have to be passed over, the
upshot of this long conversation must be told in as few words as
possible. The father found it impracticable to talk his son out of his
intended marriage; indeed, he hardly attempted to do so by any direct
persuasion. He explained to him that it was impossible that he should
marry at once, and suggested that he, Frank, was very young.
'You married, sir, before you were one-and-twenty,' said Frank. Yes and
repented before I was two-and-twenty. So did not say the squire.
He suggested that Mary should have time to ascertain what would be her
uncle's wishes, and ended by inducing Frank to promise, that after
taking his degree in October he would go abroad for some months, and
that he would not indeed return to Greshamsbury until he was
'He may perhaps forget her,' said the father to himself.
'He thinks that I shall forget her,' said Frank to himself at the same
time; 'but he does not know me.'
When Lady Arabella at last got hold of her son she found that the time
for her preaching was utterly gone by. He told her, almost with
sang-froid, what his plans were; and when she came to understand them,
and to understand also what had taken place at Boxall Hill, she could
not blame the squire for what he had done. She also said to herself,
more confidently than the squire had done, that Frank would quite
forget Mary before the year was out. 'Lord Buckish,' said she to
herself, rejoicingly, 'is now with the ambassador at Paris'--Lord
Buckish was her nephew--'and with him Frank will meet women that are
really beautiful--women of fashion. When with Lord Buckish he will
soon forget Mary Thorne.'
But not on this account did she change her resolve to follow up to the
furthest point her hostility to the Thornes. She was fully enabled now
to do so, for Dr Fillgrave was already reinstated at Greshamsbury as
her medical adviser.
One other short visit did Frank pay to Boxall Hill, and one interview
had he with Dr Thorne. Mary told him all she knew of her own sad
history, and was answered only by a kiss,--a kiss absolutely not in any
way by her to be avoided; the first, and only one, that had ever yet
reached her lips from his. And then he went away.
The doctor told him the full story. 'Yes,' said Frank, 'I knew it all
before. Dear Mary, dearest Mary! Don't you, doctor, teach yourself to
believe that I shall forget her.' And then also he went his way from
him--went his way also from Greshamsbury, and was absent for the full
period of the allotted banishment--twelve months, namely, and a day.
THE SMALL EDGE OF THE WEDGE
Frank Gresham was absent from Greshamsbury twelve months and a day: a
day is always added to the period of such absences, as shown in the
history of Lord Bateman and other noble heroes. We need not detail all
the circumstances of his banishment, all the details of the compact
that was made. One detail of course was this, that there should be no
corresponding; a point to which the squire found some difficulty in
bringing his son to assent.
It must not be supposed that Mary Thorne or the doctor were in any way
parties to, or privy to these agreements. By no means. The agreements
were drawn out, and made, and signed, and sealed at Greshamsbury, and
were known nowhere else. The reader must not imagine that Lady
Arabella was prepared to give up her son, if only his love could remain
constant for one year. Neither did Lady Arabella consent to any such
arrangement, nor did the squire. It was settled rather in this wise:
that Frank should be subjected to no torturing process, pestered to
give no promises, should in no way be bullied about Mary--that is, not
at present--if he would go away for a year. Then, at the end of the
year, the matter should again be discussed. Agreeing to this, Frank
took his departure, and was absent as per agreement.
What were Mary's fortunes immediately after his departure must be
shortly told, and then we will again join some of our Greshamsbury
friends at a period about a month before Frank's return.
When Sir Louis saw Frank Gresham standing by Mary's donkey, with his
arms round Mary's knees, he began to fear that there must be something
in it. He had intended that very day to throw himself at Mary's feet,
and now it appeared to his inexperienced eyes as though somebody else
had been at the same work before him. This not unnaturally made him
cross; so, after having sullenly wished his visitor good-bye, he betook
himself to his room, and there drank curacoa alone, instead of coming
down to dinner.
This he did for two or three days, and then, taking heart of grace, he
remembered that, after all, he had many advantages over young Gresham.
In the first place, he was a baronet, and could make his wife a
'lady'. In the next place, Frank's father was alive and like to live,
whereas his own was dead. He possessed Boxall Hill in his own right,
but his rival had neither house nor land of his own. After all, might
it not be possible for him also to put his arm round Mary's knees;--her
knees, or her waist, or, perhaps, even her neck? Faint heart never won
fair lady. At any rate, he would try.
And he did try. With what result, as regards Mary, need hardly be
told. He certainly did not get nearly so far as putting his hand even
upon her knee before he was made to understand that it 'was no go', as
he graphically described it to his mother. He tried once and again. On
the first time Mary was very civil, though very determined. On the
second, she was more determined, though less civil; and then she told
him, that if he pressed her further he would drive her from her
mother's house. There was something then about Mary's eye, a fixed
composure round her mouth, and an authority in her face, which went far
to quell him; and he did not press her again.
He immediately left Boxall Hill, and, returning to London, had more
violent recourse to the curacoa. It was not long before the doctor
heard of him, and was obliged to follow him, and then again occurred
those frightful scenes in which the poor wretch had to expiate, either
in terrible delirium or more terrible prostration of spirits, the vile
sin which his father had so early taught him.
Then Mary returned to her uncle's home. Frank was gone, and she
therefore could resume her place at Greshamsbury. Yes, she came back
to Greshamsbury; but Greshamsbury was by no means the same place that
it was formerly. Almost all intercourse was now over between the
doctor and the Greshamsbury people. He rarely ever saw the squire, and
then only on business. Not that the squire had purposely quarrelled
with him; but Dr Thorne himself had chosen that it should be so, since
Frank had openly proposed to his niece. Frank was now gone, and Lady
Arabella was in arms against him. It should not be said that he kept
up any intimacy for the sake of aiding the lovers in their love. No
one should rightfully accuse him of inveigling the heir to marry his
Mary, therefore, found herself utterly separated from Beatrice. She was
not even able to learn what Beatrice would think, or did think, of the
engagement as it now stood. She could not even explain to her friend
that love had been too strong for her, and endeavour to get some
comfort from that friend's absolution from her sin. This estrangement
was now carried so far that she and Beatrice did not even meet on
neutral ground. Lady Arabella made it known to Miss Oriel that her
daughter could not meet Mary Thorne, even as strangers meet; and it was
made known to others also. Mrs Yates Umbleby, and her dear friend Miss
Gushing, to whose charming tea-parties none of the Greshamsbury ladies
went above once in a twelvemonth, talked through the parish of this
distressing difficulty. They would have been so happy to have asked
dear Mary Thorne, only the Greshamsbury ladies did not approve.
Mary was thus tabooed from all society in the place in which a
twelvemonth since she had been, of all its denizens, perhaps the most
courted. In those days, no bevy of Greshamsbury young ladies had
fairly represented the Greshamsbury young ladyhood if Mary Thorne was
not there. Now she was excluded from all such bevies. Patience did
not quarrel with her, certainly;--came to see her frequently;--invited
her to walk;--invited her frequently to the parsonage. But Mary was shy
of acceding to such invitations and at last frankly told her friend
Patience, that she would not again break bread in Greshamsbury in any
house in which she was not thought fit to meet the other guests who
habitually resorted there.
In truth, both the doctor and his niece were very sore, but there were
of that temperament that keeps all its soreness to itself. Mary walked
out by herself boldly, looking at least as though she were indifferent
to all the world. She was, indeed, hardly treated. Young ladies'
engagements are generally matters of profoundest secrecy, and are
hardly known of by their near friends till marriage is a thing
settled. But all the world knew of Mary's engagement within a month of
that day on which she had neglected to expel Frank's finger from her
hand; it had been told openly through the country-side that she had
confessed her love for the young squire. Now it is disagreeable for a
young lady to walk about under such circumstances, especially so when
she has no female friend to keep her in countenance, more especially so
when the gentleman is such importance in the neighbourhood as Frank was
in that locality. It was a matter of moment to every farmer, and every
farmer's wife, which bride Frank should marry of those bespoken for
him; Mary, namely, or Money. Every yokel about the place had been made
to understand that, by some feminine sleight of hand, the doctor's
niece had managed to trap Master Frank, and that Master Frank had been
sent out of the way so that he might, if yet possible, break through
the trapping. All this made life rather unpleasant for her.
One day, walking solitary in the lanes, she met that sturdy farmer to
whose daughter she had in former days been so serviceable. 'God bless
'ee, Miss Mary,' said he--he always bid God bless her when he saw her.
'And, Miss Mary, to say my mind out freely, thee be quite gude enough
for un, quite gude enough; so thee be'st tho'f he were ten squoires.'
There may, perhaps, have been something pleasant in the heartiness of
this; but it was not pleasant to have this heart affair of hers thus
publicly scanned and talked over: to have it known to every one that
she had set her heart on marrying Frank gem, and that all the Greshams
had set their hearts in preventing it. And yet she could in nowise
help it. No girl could have been more staid and demure, less
demonstrative and boastful about her love. She had never yet spoken
freely, out of her full heart, to one human being. 'Oh, Frank!' All
her spoken sin had been contained in that.
But Lady Arabella had been very active. It suited her better that it
should be known, far and wide, that a nameless pauper--Lady Arabella
only surmised that her foe was nameless; but she did not scruple to
declare it--was intriguing to catch the heir of Greshamsbury. None of
the Greshams must meet Mary Thorne; that was the edict sent out about
the county; and the edict was well understood. Those, therefore, were
bad days for Miss Thorne.
She had never yet spoken on the matter freely, out of her full heart to
one human being. Not to one? Not to him? Not to her uncle? No, not
even to him, fully and freely. She had told him that that had passed
between Frank and her which amounted, at any rate on his part, to a
'Well, dearest, and what was your answer?' said her uncle, drawing her
close to him, and speaking in his kindest voice.
'I hardly made an answer, uncle.'
'You did not reject him, Mary?'
'No, uncle,' and then she paused;--he had never known her tremble as
she now trembled. 'But if you say that I ought, I will,' she added,
drawing every word from herself with difficulty.
'I say you ought, Mary! Nay; but this question you must answer
'Must I?' said she, plaintively. And then she sat for the next half
hour with her head against his shoulder; but nothing more was said
about it. They both acquiesced in the sentence that had been
pronounced against them, and went on together more lovingly than
The doctor was quite as weak as his niece; nay, weaker. She hesitated
fearfully as to what she ought to do: whether she should obey her heart
or the dictates of Greshamsbury. But he had other doubts than hers,
which nearly set him wild when he strove to bring his mind to a
decision. He himself was now in possession--of course as a trustee
only--of the title-deeds of the estate; more of the estate, much more,
belonged to the heirs under Sir Roger Scatcherd's will than to the
squire. It was now more than probable that that heir must be Mary
Thorne. His conviction became stronger and stronger that no human
effort would keep Sir Louis in the land of the living till he was
twenty-five. Could he, therefore, wisely or honestly, in true
friendship to the squire, to Frank, or to his niece, take any steps to
separate two persons who loved each other, and whose marriage would in
human probability be so suitable?
And yet he could not bring himself to encourage it then. The idea of
'looking after dead man's shoes' was abhorrent to his mind, especially
when the man whose death he contemplated had been so trusted to him as
had been Sir Louis Scatcherd. He could not speak of the event, even to
the squire, as being possible. So he kept his peace from day to day,
and gave no counsel to Mary in the matter.
And then he had his own individual annoyances, and very aggravating
annoyances they were. The carriage--or rather the post-chaise--of Dr
Fillgrave was now frequent in Greshamsbury, passing him constantly in
the street, among the lanes, and on the high roads. It seemed as
though Dr Fillgrave could never get to his patients at the big house
without showing himself to his beaten rival, either on is way thither
or on his return. This alone would, perhaps, not have hurt the doctor
much; but it did hurt him to know that Dr Fillgrave was attending the
squire for a little incipient gout, and that dear Nina was in measles
under those unloving hands.
And then, also, the old-fashioned phaeton, of old-fashioned old Dr
Century was seen to rumble up to the big house, and it became known
that Lady Arabella was not very well. 'Not very well,' when pronounced
in a low, grave voice about Lady Arabella, always meant something
serious. And, in this case, something serious was meant. Lady
Arabella was not only ill, but frightened. It appeared even to her,
that Dr Fillgrave hardly knew what he was about, that he was not so
sure in his opinion, so confident in himself as Dr Thorne used to be.
how should he be, seeing that Dr Thorne had medically had Lady Arabella
in his hands for the last ten years?
If sitting with dignity in his hired carriage, and stepping with
authority up the big front steps, would have done anything, Dr
Fillgrave might have done much. Lady Arabella was greatly taken with
his looks when he first came to her, and it was only when she by
degrees that the symptoms, which she knew so well, did not yield to him
that she began to doubt those looks.
After a while Dr Fillgrave himself suggested Dr Century. 'Not that I
fear anything, Lady Arabella,' said he,--lying hugely, for he did fear;
fear both for himself and for her. 'But Dr Century has great
experience, and in such a matter, when the interests are so important,
one cannot be too safe.'
So Dr Century came and toddled slowly into her ladyship's room. He did
not say much; he left the talking to his learned brother, who certainly
was able to do that part of the business. But Dr Century, though he
said very little, looked very grave, and by no means quieted Lady
Arabella's mind. She, as she saw the two putting their heads together,
already had misgivings that she had done wrong. She knew that she
could not be safe without Dr Thorne at her bedside, and she already
felt that she had exercised a most injudicious courage in driving him
'Well, doctor?' said she, as soon as Dr Century had toddled downstairs
to see the squire.
'Oh! we shall be all right, Lady Arabella; all right, very soon. But
we must be careful, very careful; I am glad I've had Dr Century here,
very; but there's nothing to alter; little or nothing.'
There was but few words spoken between Dr Century and the squire; but
few as they were, they frightened Mr Gresham. When Dr Fillgrave came
down the grand stairs, a servant waited at the bottom to ask him also
to go to the squire. Now there never had been much cordiality between
the squire and Dr Fillgrave, though Mr Gresham had consented to take a
preventative pill from his hands, and the little man therefore swelled
himself out somewhat more than ordinarily as he followed the servant.
'Dr Fillgrave,' said the squire, at once beginning the conversation,
'Lady Arabella, is I fear, in danger?'
'Well, no; I hope not in danger, Mr Gresham. I certainly believe I may
be justified in expressing a hope that she is not in danger. Her state
is, no doubt, rather serious;--rather serious--as Dr Century has
probably told you;' and Dr Fillgrave made a bow to the old man, who sat
quiet in one of the dining-room arm-chairs.
'Well, doctor,' said the squire, 'I have not any grounds on which to
doubt your judgement.'
Dr Fillgrave bowed, but with the stiffest, slightest inclination which
a head could possibly make. He rather thought that Mr Gresham had no
ground for doubting his judgement.
'Nor do I.'
The doctor bowed, and a little, a very little less stiffly.
'But, doctor, I think that something ought to be done.'
The doctor this time did his bowing merely with his eyes and mouth. The
former he closed for a moment, the latter he pressed; and then
decorously rubbed his hands one over the other.
'I am afraid, Dr Fillgrave, that you and my friend Thorne are not the
best friends in the world.'
'No, Mr Gresham, no; I may go so far as to say we are not.'
'Well, I am sorry for it--'
'Perhaps, Mr Gresham, we need hardly discuss it; but there have been
'I am not going to discuss anything, Dr Fillgrave; I say I am sorry for
it, because I believe that prudence will imperatively require Lady
Arabella to have Doctor Thorne back again. Now, if you would not
object to meet him--'
'Mr Gresham, I beg pardon; I beg pardon, indeed; but you must really
excuse me. Doctor Thorne has, in my estimation--'
'But, Doctor Fillgrave--'
'Mr Gresham, you really must excuse me; you really must, indeed.
Anything else that I could do for Lady Arabella, I should be most happy
to do; but after what has passed, I cannot meet Doctor Thorne; I really
cannot. You must not ask me to do so; Mr Gresham. And, Mr Gresham,'
continued the doctor, 'I did understand from Lady Arabella that
his--that is, Dr Thorne's--conduct to her ladyship had been such--so
very outrageous, I may say, that--that--that--of course, Mr Gresham, you
know best; but I did think that Lady Arabella herself was quite
unwilling to see Doctor Thorne again;' and Dr Fillgrave looked very big,
and very dignified, and very exclusive.
The squire did not ask again. He had no warrant for supposing that
Lady Arabella would receive Dr Thorne if he did come; and he saw that
it was useless to attempt to overcome the rancour of the man so
pig-headed as the little Galen now before him. Other propositions were
then broached, and it was at last decided that assistance should be
sought for from London, in the person of the great Sir Omicron Pie.
Sir Omicron came, and Drs Fillgrave and Century were there to meet
him. When they all assembled in Lady Arabella's room, the poor woman's
heart almost sank within her,--as well it might, at such a sight. If
she could only reconcile it with her honour, her consistency, with her
high De Courcy principles, to send once more for Dr Thorne. Oh,
Frank! Frank! to what misery your disobedience brought your mother!
Sir Omicron and the lesser provincial lights had their consultation,
and the lesser lights went their way to Barchester and Silverbridge,
leaving Sir Omicron to enjoy the hospitality of Greshamsbury.
'You should have Thorne back here, Mr Gresham,' said Sir Omicron,
almost in a whisper, when they were quite alone. 'Doctor Fillgrave is
a very good man, and so is Dr Century; very good, I'm sure. But Thorne
has known her ladyship so long.' And then, on the following morning,
Sir Omicron also went his way.
And then there was a scene between the squire and her ladyship. Lady
Arabella had given herself credit for great good generalship when she
found that the squire had been induced to take that pill. We have all
heard of the little end of the wedge, and we have most of us an idea
that the little end is the difficulty. That pill had been the little
end of Lady Arabella's wedge. Up to that period she had been
struggling in vain to make a severance between her husband and her
enemy. That pill should do the business. She well knew how to make
the most of it; to have it published in Greshamsbury that the squire
had put his gouty toe into Dr Fillgrave's hands; how to let it be
known--especially at that humble house in the corner of the street--that
Fillgrave's prescriptions now ran current through the whole
establishment. Dr Thorne did hear of it, and did suffer. He had been
a true friend to the squire, and he thought the squire should have
stood to him more staunchly.
'After all,' said he himself, 'perhaps it's as well--perhaps it will be
best that I should leave this place altogether.' And then he thought
of Sir Roger and his will, and of Mary and her lover. And then of
Mary's birth, and of his own theoretical doctrines as to pure blood.
And so his troubles multiplied, and he saw no present daylight through
Such had been the way in which Lady Arabella had got in the little end
of the wedge. And she would have triumphed joyfully had not her
increased doubts and fears as to herself then come in to check her
triumph and destroy her joy. She had not yet confessed to any one her
secret regret for the friend she had driven away. She hardly yet
acknowledged to herself that she did regret him; but she was uneasy,
frightened, and in low spirits.
'My dear,' said the squire, sitting down by her bedside, 'I want to
tell you what Sir Omicron said as he went away.'
'Well?' said her ladyship, sitting up and looking frightened.
'I don't know how you may take it, Bell; but I think it very good
news:' the squire never called his wife Bell, except when he wanted her
to be on particularly good terms with him.
'Well?' she said again. She was not over-anxious to be gracious, and
did not reciprocate his familiarity.
'Sir Omicron says that you should have Thorne back again, and upon my
honour, I cannot but agree with him. Now, Thorne is a clever man, a
very clever man; nobody denies that; and then, you know--'
'Why did not Sir Omicron say that to me?' said her ladyship, sharply,
all her disposition in Dr Thorne's favour becoming wonderfully damped
by her husband's advocacy.
'I suppose he thought it better to say it to me,' said the squire.
'He should have spoken to myself,' said Lady Arabella, who, though she
did not absolutely doubt her husband's word, gave him credit for having
induced and led on Sir Omicron to the uttering of the opinion. 'Doctor
Thorne has behaved to me in so gross, so indecent a manner! And then,
as I understand, he is absolutely encouraging that girl--'
'Now, Bell, you are quite wrong--'
'Of course I am; I always am quite wrong.'
'Quite wrong in mixing up two things; Doctor Thorne as an acquaintance,
and Dr Thorne as a doctor.'
'It is dreadful to have him here, even standing in the room with me.
How can one talk to one's doctor openly and confidentially when one
looks upon him as one's worst enemy?' And Lady Arabella, softening,
almost melted with tears.
'My dear, you cannot wonder that I should be anxious for you.'
Lady Arabella gave a little snuffle, which might be taken as a not very
eloquent expression of thanks for the squire's solicitude, or as an
ironical jeer at his want of sincerity.
'And, therefore, I have not lost a moment in telling you what Sir
Omicron said. "You should have Thorne back here;" those were his very
words. You can think it over, my dear. And remember this, Bell; if he
is to do any good no time is to be lost.'
And then the squire left the room, and Lady Arabella remained alone,
perplexed by many doubts.
I must now, shortly--as shortly as it is in my power to do it--introduce
a new character to my reader. Mention has been made of the rectory of
Greshamsbury; but, hitherto, no opportunity has offered itself for the
Rev Caleb Oriel to come upon the boards.
Mr Oriel was a man of family and fortune, who, having gone to Oxford
with the usual views of such men, had become inoculated there with very
High-Church principles, and had gone into orders influenced by a
feeling of enthusiastic love for the priesthood. He was by no means an
ascetic--such men, indeed, seldom are--nor was he a devotee. He was a
man well able, and certainly willing to do the work of a parish
clergyman; and when he became one, he was efficacious in his
profession. But it may perhaps be said of him, without speaking
slanderously, that his original calling, as a young man, was rather to
the outward and visible signs of religion than to its inward and
He delighted in lecterns and credence-tables, in services at dark hours
of winter mornings when no one would attend, in high waistcoats and
narrow white neckties, in chanted services and intoned prayers, and in
all the paraphernalia of Anglican formalities which have given such
offence to those of our brethren who live in daily fear of the scarlet
lady. Many of his friends declared that Mr Oriel would sooner or later
deliver himself over body and soul to that lady; but there was no need
to fear for him: for though sufficiently enthusiastic to get out of bed
at five am on winter mornings--he did so, at least, all through his
first winter at Greshamsbury--he was not made of that stuff which is
necessary for a staunch, burning, self-denying convert. It was not in
him to change his very sleek black coat for a Capuchin's filthy
cassock, nor his pleasant parsonage for some dirty hole in Rome. And
it was better so both for him and others. There are but few, very few,
to whom it is given to be a Huss, a Wickliffe, or a Luther; and a man
gains but little by being a false Huss, or a false Luther,--and his
neighbours gain less.
But certain lengths in self-privation Mr Oriel did go; at any rate, for
some time. He eschewed matrimony, imagining that it became him as a
priest to do so. He fasted rigorously on Fridays; and the neighbours
declared that he scourged himself.
Mr Oriel was, it has been said, a man of fortune; that is to say, when
he came of age he was master of thirty thousand pounds. When he took
it into his head to go into the Church, his friends bought for him the
next presentation to the living at Greshamsbury; and, a year after his
ordination, the living falling in, Mr Oriel brought himself and his
sister to the rectory.
Mr Oriel soon became popular. He was a dark-haired, good-looking man,
of polished manners, agreeable in society, not given to monkish
austerities--except in the matter of Fridays--nor yet to the Low-Church
severity of demeanour. He was thoroughly a gentleman, good-humoured,
inoffensive, and sociable. But he had one fault: he was not a marrying
On this ground there was a feeling against him so strong as almost at
one time to throw him into serious danger. It was not only that he
should be sworn against matrimony in his individual self--he whom fate
had made so able to sustain the weight of a wife and family; but what
an example he was setting! If other clergymen all around should
declare against wives and families, what was to become of the country?
What was to be done in the rural districts? The religious observances,
as regards women, of a Brigham Young were hardly so bad as this!
There were around Greshamsbury very many unmarried ladies--I believe
there generally are so round must such villages. From the great house
he did not receive much annoyance. Beatrice was then only just on the
verge of being brought out, and was not perhaps inclined to think very
much of a young clergyman; and Augusta certainly intended to fly at
higher game. But there were the Miss Athelings, the daughters of a
neighbouring clergyman, who were ready to go all lengths with him in
High-Church matters, except as that one tremendously papal step of
celibacy; and the two Miss Hesterwells, of Hesterwell Park, the younger
of whom boldly declared her purpose of civilizing the savage; and Mrs
Opie Green, a very pretty widow, with a very pretty jointure, who lived
in a very pretty house about a mile from Greshamsbury, and who declared
her opinion that Mr Oriel was quite right in his view of a clergyman's
position. How could a woman, situated as she was, have the comfort of
a clergyman's attention if he were to be regarded just as any other
man? She could now know in what light to regard Mr Oriel, and would be
able without scruple to avail herself of his zeal. So she did avail
herself of his zeal,--and that without any scruple.
And then there was Miss Gushing,--a young thing. Miss Gushing had a
great advantage over the other competitors for the civilization of Mr
Oriel, namely, in this--that she was able to attend his morning
services. If Mr Oriel was to be reached in any way, it was probable
that he might be reached in this way. If anything could civilize him,
this would do it. Therefore, the young thing, through all one long,
tedious winter, tore herself from her warm bed, and was to be seen--no,
not seen, but heard--entering Mr Oriel's church at six o'clock. With
indefatigable assiduity the responses were made, uttered from under a
close bonnet, and out of a dark corner, in an enthusiastically feminine
voice, through the whole winter.
Nor did Miss Gushing altogether fail in her object. When a clergyman's
daily audience consists of but one person, and that person is a young
lady, it is hardly possible that he should not become personally
intimate with her; hardly possible that he should not be in some
measure grateful. Miss Gushing's responses came from her with such
fervour, and she begged for ghostly advice with such eager longing to
have her scruples satisfied, that Mr Oriel had nothing for it but to
give way to a certain amount of civilization.
By degrees it came to pass that Miss Gushing could never get her final
prayer said, her shawl and boa adjusted, and stow away her nice new
Prayer Book with the red letters inside, and the cross on the back,
till Mr Oriel had been into his vestry and got rid of his surplice. And
then they met at the church-porch, and naturally walked together till
Mr Oriel's cruel gateway separated them. The young thing did sometimes
think that, as the parson's civilization progressed, he might have
taken the trouble to walk with her as far as Mrs Yates Umbleby's hall
door; but she had hope to sustain her, and a firm resolve to merit
success, even though she might not attain it.
'It is not ten thousand pities,' she once said to him, 'that none here
should avail themselves of the inestimable privilege which your coming
has conferred upon us? Oh, Mr Oriel, I do so wonder at it! To me it
is so delightful! The morning service in the dark church is so
beautiful, so touching!'
'I suppose they think it a bore getting up so early,' said Mr Oriel.
'Ah, a bore!' said Miss Gushing, in an enthusiastic tone of
depreciation. 'How insensate they must be! To me it gives a new charm
to life. It quiets one for the day; makes one so fitter for one's
daily trials and daily troubles. Does it not, Mr Oriel?'
'I look upon morning prayer as an imperative duty, certainly.'
'Oh, certainly, a most imperative duty; but so delicious at the same
time. I spoke to Mrs Umbleby about it, but she said she could not
leave the children.'
'No: I dare say not,' said Mr Oriel.
'And Mr Umbleby said business kept him up so late at night.'
'Very probably. I hardly expect the attendance of men of business.'
'But the servants might come, mightn't they, Mr Oriel?'
'I fear that servants seldom can have time for daily prayers in church.'
'Oh, ah, no; perhaps not.' And then Miss Gushing began to bethink
herself of whom should be composed the congregation which it must be
presumed that Mr Oriel wished to see around him. But on this matter he
did not enlighten her.
Then Miss Gushing took to fasting on Fridays, and made some futile
attempts to induce her priest to give her the comfort of confessional
absolution. But, unfortunately, the zeal of the master waxed cool as
that of the pupil waxed hot; and, at last, when the young thing
returned to Greshamsbury from an autumn excursion which she made with
Mrs Umbleby to Weston-super-Mare, she found that the delicious morning
services had died a natural death. Miss Gushing did not on that
account give up the game, but she was bound to fight with no particular
advantage in her favour.
Miss Oriel, though a good Churchwoman, was by no means a convert to her
brother's extremist views, and perhaps gave but scanty credit to the
Gushings, Athelings, and Opie Greens for the sincerity of their
religion. But, nevertheless, she and her brother were staunch friends;
and she still hoped to see the day when he might be induced to think
that an English parson might get through his parish work with the
assistance of a wife better than he could do without such feminine
encumbrance. The girl whom she selected for his bride was not the
young thing, but Beatrice Gresham.
And at last it seemed probable to Mr Oriel's nearest friends that he
was in a fair way to be overcome. Not that he had begun to make love
to Beatrice, or committed himself by the utterance of any opinion as to
the propriety of clerical marriages; but he daily became looser about
his peculiar tenets, raved less immoderately than heretofore as to the
atrocity of the Greshamsbury church pews, and was observed to take some
opportunities of conversing alone with Beatrice. Beatrice had always
denied the imputation--this had usually been made by Mary in their
happy days--with the vehement asseverations of anger; and Miss Gushing
had tittered, and expressed herself as supposing that great people's
daughters might be as barefaced as they pleased.
All this had happened previous to the great Greshamsbury feud. Mr Oriel
gradually got himself into a way of sauntering up to the great house,
sauntering into the drawing-room for the purpose, as I am sure he
thought, of talking with Lady Arabella, and then of sauntering home
again, having usually found an opportunity for saying a few words to
Beatrice during the visit. This went on all through the feud up to the
period of Lady Arabella's illness; and then one morning, about a month
before the date fixed for Frank's return, Mr Oriel found himself
engaged to Miss Beatrice Gresham.
From the day that Miss Gushing heard of it--which was not however for
some considerable time after this--she became an Independent Methodist.
She could no longer, she said at first, have any faith in any religion;
and for an hour or so she was almost tempted to swear that she could no
longer have any faith in any man. She had nearly completed a worked
cover for a credence-table when the news reached her, as to which, in
the young enthusiasm of her heart, she had not been able to remain
silent; it had already been promised to Mr Oriel; that promise she
swore should not be kept. He was an apostate, she said, from his
principles; an utter pervert; a false, designing man, with whom she
would never have trusted herself alone on dark mornings had she known
that he had such grovelling, worldly inclinations. So Miss Gushing
became an Independent Methodist; the credence-table covering was cut up
into slippers for the preacher's feet; and the young thing herself,
more happy in this direction than she had been in the other, became the
arbiter of that preacher's domestic happiness.
But this little history of Miss Gushing's future life is premature. Mr
Oriel became engaged demurely, nay, almost silently, to Beatrice, and
no one out of their own immediate families was at the time informed of
the matter. It was arranged very differently from those other two
matches--embryo, or not embryo, those, namely, of Augusta with Mr
Moffat, and Frank with Mary Thorne. All Barsetshire had heard of them;
but that of Beatrice and Mr Oriel was managed in a much more private
'I do think you are a happy girl,' said Patience to her one morning.
'Indeed I am.'
'He is so good. You don't know how good he is as yet; he never thinks
of himself, and thinks so much of those he loves.'
Beatrice took her friend's hand in her own and kissed it. She was full
of joy. When a girl is about to be married, when she may lawfully talk
of love, there is no music in her ears so sweet as the praises of her
'I made up my mind from the first that he should marry you.'
'I did, indeed. I made up my mind that he should marry; and there were
only two to choose from.'
'Me and Miss Gushing,' said Beatrice, laughing.
'No; not exactly Miss Gushing. I had not many fears for Caleb there.'
'I declare she is very pretty,' said Beatrice, who could afford to be
good-natured. Now Miss Gushing certainly was pretty; and would have
been very pretty had her nose not turned up so much, and could she have
parted her hair in the centre.
'Well, I am very glad you chose me;--if it was you who chose,' said
Beatrice, modestly; having, however, in her own mind a strong opinion
that Mr Oriel had chosen for himself, and had never any doubt in the
matter. 'And who was the other?'
'Can't you guess?'
'I won't guess any more; perhaps Mrs Green.'
'Oh, no; certainly not a widow. I don't like widows marrying. But of
course you could guess if you would; of course it was Mary Thorne. But
I soon saw Mary would not do, for two reasons; Caleb would never have
liked her well enough nor would she have ever liked him.'
'Not like him! oh I hope she will; I do so love Mary Thorne.'
'So do I dearly; and so does Caleb; but he could never have loved her
as he loves you.'
'But, Patience, have you told Mary?'
'No, I have told no one, and shall not without your leave.'
'Ah, you must tell her. Tell it her with my best, and kindest, warmest
love. Tell her how happy I am, and how I long to talk to her. Tell
that I will have her for my bridesmaid. Oh! I do hope that before
that all this horrid quarrel will be settled.