Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 13 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 13 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


would receive would be freedom from future apprehensions as regards
me. It would be a cowardly sale for you to make; and then, as to
me - me the victim. No, uncle; you must bear the misery of having to
provide for me - bonnets and all. We are in the same boat, and you
shan't turn me overboard."

"But if I were to die, what would you do then?"

"And if I were to die, what would you do? People must be bound
together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may
come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. You and I
are bound together, uncle; and though you say these things to tease
me, I know you do not wish to get rid of me."

"Well, well; we shall win through, doubtless; if not in one way, then
in another."

"Win through! Of course we shall; who doubts our winning? but,
uncle - "

"But, Mary."

"Well?"

"You haven't got another cup of tea, have you?"

"Oh, uncle! you have had five."

"No, my dear! not five; only four - only four, I assure you; I have
been very particular to count. I had one while I was - "

"Five uncle; indeed and indeed."

"Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd
number, I'll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious."

While Mary was preparing the sixth jorum, there came a knock at the
door. Those late summonses were hateful to Mary's ear, for they were
usually the forerunners of a midnight ride through the dark lanes to
some farmer's house. The doctor had been in the saddle all day, and,
as Janet brought the note into the room, Mary stood up as though to
defend her uncle from any further invasion on his rest.

"A note from the house, miss," said Janet: now "the house," in
Greshamsbury parlance, always meant the squire's mansion.

"No one ill at the house, I hope," said the doctor, taking the note
from Mary's hand. "Oh - ah - yes; it's from the squire - there's nobody
ill: wait a minute, Janet, and I'll write a line. Mary, lend me your
desk."

The squire, anxious as usual for money, had written to ask what
success the doctor had had in negotiating the new loan with Sir
Roger. The fact, however, was, that in his visit at Boxall Hill, the
doctor had been altogether unable to bring on the carpet the matter
of this loan. Subjects had crowded themselves in too quickly during
that interview - those two interviews at Sir Roger's bedside; and he
had been obliged to leave without even alluding to the question.

"I must at any rate go back now," said he to himself. So he wrote to
the squire, saying that he was to be at Boxall Hill again on the
following day, and that he would call at the house on his return.

"That's settled, at any rate," said he.

"What's settled?" said Mary.

"Why, I must go to Boxall Hill again to-morrow. I must go early, too,
so we'd better both be off to bed. Tell Janet I must breakfast at
half-past seven."

"You couldn't take me, could you? I should so like to see that Sir
Roger."

"To see Sir Roger! Why, he's ill in bed."

"That's an objection, certainly; but some day, when he's well, could
not you take me over? I have the greatest desire to see a man like
that; a man who began with nothing and now has more than enough to
buy the whole parish of Greshamsbury."

"I don't think you'd like him at all."

"Why not? I am sure I should; I am sure I should like him, and Lady
Scatcherd, too. I've heard you say that she is an excellent woman."

"Yes, in her way; and he, too, is good in his way; but they are
neither of them in your way: they are extremely vulgar - "

"Oh! I don't mind that; that would make them more amusing; one
doesn't go to those sort of people for polished manners."

"I don't think you'd find the Scatcherds pleasant acquaintances at
all," said the doctor, taking his bed-candle, and kissing his niece's
forehead as he left the room.




CHAPTER XII

When Greek Meets Greek, Then Comes the Tug of War


The doctor, that is our doctor, had thought nothing more of the
message which had been sent to that other doctor, Dr Fillgrave; nor
in truth did the baronet. Lady Scatcherd had thought of it, but her
husband during the rest of the day was not in a humour which allowed
her to remind him that he would soon have a new physician on his
hands; so she left the difficulty to arrange itself, waiting in some
little trepidation till Dr Fillgrave should show himself.

It was well that Sir Roger was not dying for want of his assistance,
for when the message reached Barchester, Dr Fillgrave was some five
or six miles out of town, at Plumstead; and as he did not get back
till late in the evening, he felt himself necessitated to put off his
visit to Boxall Hill till next morning. Had he chanced to have been
made acquainted with that little conversation about the pump, he
would probably have postponed it even yet a while longer.

He was, however, by no means sorry to be summoned to the bedside of
Sir Roger Scatcherd. It was well known at Barchester, and very well
known to Dr Fillgrave, that Sir Roger and Dr Thorne were old friends.
It was very well known to him also, that Sir Roger, in all his bodily
ailments, had hitherto been contented to entrust his safety to the
skill of his old friend. Sir Roger was in his way a great man, and
much talked of in Barchester, and rumour had already reached the
ears of the Barchester Galen, that the great railway contractor was
ill. When, therefore, he received a peremptory summons to go over to
Boxall Hill, he could not but think that some pure light had broken
in upon Sir Roger's darkness, and taught him at last where to look
for true medical accomplishment.

And then, also, Sir Roger was the richest man in the county, and to
county practitioners a new patient with large means is a godsend; how
much greater a godsend when he be not only acquired, but taken also
from some rival practitioner, need hardly be explained.

Dr Fillgrave, therefore, was somewhat elated when, after a very early
breakfast, he stepped into the post-chaise which was to carry him
to Boxall Hill. Dr Fillgrave's professional advancement had been
sufficient to justify the establishment of a brougham, in which he
paid his ordinary visits round Barchester; but this was a special
occasion, requiring special speed, and about to produce no doubt a
special guerdon, and therefore a pair of post-horses were put into
request.

It was hardly yet nine when the post-boy somewhat loudly rang the
bell at Sir Roger's door; and then Dr Fillgrave, for the first time,
found himself in the new grand hall of Boxall Hill house.

"I'll tell my lady," said the servant, showing him into the grand
dining-room; and there for some fifteen minutes or twenty minutes Dr
Fillgrave walked up and down the length of the Turkey carpet all
alone.

Dr Fillgrave was not a tall man, and was perhaps rather more inclined
to corpulence than became his height. In his stocking-feet, according
to the usually received style of measurement, he was five feet five;
and he had a little round abdominal protuberance, which an inch and a
half added to the heels of his boots hardly enabled him to carry off
as well as he himself would have wished. Of this he was apparently
conscious, and it gave to him an air of not being entirely at his
ease. There was, however, a personal dignity in his demeanour, a
propriety in his gait, and an air of authority in his gestures which
should prohibit one from stigmatizing those efforts at altitude as a
failure. No doubt he did achieve much; but, nevertheless, the effort
would occasionally betray itself, and the story of the frog and the
ox would irresistibly force itself into one's mind at those moments
when it most behoved Dr Fillgrave to be magnificent.

But if the bulgy roundness of his person and the shortness of his
legs in any way detracted from his personal importance, these
trifling defects were, he was well aware, more than atoned for by the
peculiar dignity of his countenance. If his legs were short, his face
was not; if there was any undue preponderance below the waistcoat,
all was in due symmetry above the necktie. His hair was grey, not
grizzled nor white, but properly grey; and stood up straight from off
his temples on each side with an unbending determination of purpose.
His whiskers, which were of an admirable shape, coming down and
turning gracefully at the angle of his jaw, were grey also, but
somewhat darker than his hair. His enemies in Barchester declared
that their perfect shade was produced by a leaden comb. His eyes were
not brilliant, but were very effective, and well under command. He
was rather short-sighted, and a pair of eye-glasses was always on his
nose, or in his hand. His nose was long, and well pronounced, and his
chin, also, was sufficiently prominent; but the great feature of his
face was his mouth. The amount of secret medical knowledge of which
he could give assurance by the pressure of those lips was truly
wonderful. By his lips, also, he could be most exquisitely courteous,
or most sternly forbidding. And not only could he be either the one
or the other; but he could at his will assume any shade of difference
between the two, and produce any mixture of sentiment.

When Dr Fillgrave was first shown into Sir Roger's dining-room, he
walked up and down the room for a while with easy, jaunty step, with
his hands joined together behind his back, calculating the price
of the furniture, and counting the heads which might be adequately
entertained in a room of such noble proportions; but in seven or
eight minutes an air of impatience might have been seen to suffuse
his face. Why could he not be shown into the sick man's room? What
necessity could there be for keeping him there, as though he were
some apothecary with a box of leeches in his pocket? He then rang
the bell, perhaps a little violently. "Does Sir Roger know that I am
here?" he said to the servant. "I'll tell my lady," said the man,
again vanishing.

For five minutes more he walked up and down, calculating no longer
the value of the furniture, but rather that of his own importance.
He was not wont to be kept waiting in this way; and though Sir Roger
Scatcherd was at present a great and rich man, Dr Fillgrave had
remembered him a very small and a very poor man. He now began to
think of Sir Roger as the stone-mason, and to chafe somewhat more
violently at being so kept by such a man.

When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time,
and a quarter of an hour is eternity. At the end of twenty minutes
the step of Dr Fillgrave up and down the room had become very quick,
and he had just made up his mind that he would not stay there all
day to the serious detriment, perhaps fatal injury, of his other
expectant patients. His hand was again on the bell, and was about to
be used with vigour, when the door opened and Lady Scatcherd entered.

The door opened and Lady Scatcherd entered; but she did so very
slowly, as though she were afraid to come into her own dining-room.
We must go back a little and see how she had been employed during
those twenty minutes.

"Oh, laws!" Such had been her first exclamation on hearing that the
doctor was in the dining-room. She was standing at the time with her
housekeeper in a small room in which she kept her linen and jam,
and in which, in company with the same housekeeper, she spent the
happiest moments of her life.

"Oh laws! now, Hannah, what shall we do?"

"Send 'un up at once to master, my lady! let John take 'un up."

"There'll be such a row in the house, Hannah; I know there will."

"But sure-ly didn't he send for 'un? Let the master have the row
himself, then; that's what I'd do, my lady," added Hannah, seeing
that her ladyship still stood trembling in doubt, biting her
thumb-nail.

"You couldn't go up to the master yourself, could you now, Hannah?"
said Lady Scatcherd in her most persuasive tone.

"Why no," said Hannah, after a little deliberation; "no, I'm afeard I
couldn't."

"Then I must just face it myself." And up went the wife to tell her
lord that the physician for whom he had sent had come to attend his
bidding.

In the interview which then took place the baronet had not indeed
been violent, but he had been very determined. Nothing on earth, he
said, should induce him to see Dr Fillgrave and offend his dear old
friend Dr Thorne.

"But Roger," said her ladyship, half crying, or rather pretending to
cry in her vexation, "what shall I do with the man? How shall I get
him out of the house?"

"Put him under the pump," said the baronet; and he laughed his
peculiar low guttural laugh, which told so plainly of the havoc which
brandy had made in his throat.

"That's nonsense, Roger; you know I can't put him under the pump. Now
you are ill, and you'd better see him just for five minutes. I'll
make it all right with Dr Thorne."

"I'll be d - - if I do, my lady." All the people about Boxall Hill
called poor Lady Scatcherd "my lady" as if there was some excellent
joke in it; and, so, indeed, there was.

"You know you needn't mind nothing he says, nor yet take nothing he
sends: and I'll tell him not to come no more. Now do 'ee see him,
Roger."

But there was no coaxing Roger over now, or indeed ever: he was a
wilful, headstrong, masterful man; a tyrant always though never
a cruel one; and accustomed to rule his wife and household as
despotically as he did his gangs of workmen. Such men it is not easy
to coax over.

"You go down and tell him I don't want him, and won't see him, and
that's an end of it. If he chose to earn his money, why didn't he
come yesterday when he was sent for? I'm well now, and don't want
him; and what's more, I won't have him. Winterbones, lock the door."

So Winterbones, who during this interview had been at work at his
little table, got up to lock the door, and Lady Scatcherd had no
alternative but to pass through it before the last edict was obeyed.

Lady Scatcherd, with slow step, went downstairs and again sought
counsel with Hannah, and the two, putting their heads together,
agreed that the only cure for the present evil was to found in a
good fee. So Lady Scatcherd, with a five-pound note in her hand, and
trembling in every limb, went forth to encounter the august presence
of Dr Fillgrave.

As the door opened, Dr Fillgrave dropped the bell-rope which was in
his hand, and bowed low to the lady. Those who knew the doctor well,
would have known from his bow that he was not well pleased; it was
as much as though he said, "Lady Scatcherd, I am your most obedient
humble servant; at any rate it appears that it is your pleasure to
treat me as such."

Lady Scatcherd did not understand all this; but she perceived at once
that the man was angry.

"I hope Sir Roger does not find himself worse," said the doctor. "The
morning is getting on; shall I step up and see him?"

"Hem! ha! oh! Why, you see, Dr Fillgrave, Sir Roger finds hisself
vastly better this morning, vastly so."

"I'm very glad to hear it; but as the morning is getting on, shall I
step up to see Sir Roger?"

"Why, Dr Fillgrave, sir, you see, he finds hisself so much hisself
this morning, that he a'most thinks it would be a shame to trouble
you."

"A shame to trouble me!" This was the sort of shame which Dr
Fillgrave did not at all comprehend. "A shame to trouble me! Why Lady
Scatcherd - "

Lady Scatcherd saw that she had nothing for it but to make the whole
matter intelligible. Moreover, seeing that she appreciated more
thoroughly the smallness of Dr Fillgrave's person than she did the
peculiar greatness of his demeanour, she began to be a shade less
afraid of him than she had thought she should have been.

"Yes, Dr Fillgrave; you see, when a man like he gets well, he can't
abide the idea of doctors: now, yesterday, he was all for sending for
you; but to-day he comes to hisself, and don't seem to want no doctor
at all."

Then did Dr Fillgrave seem to grow out of his boots, so suddenly did
he take upon himself sundry modes of expansive attitude; - to grow out
of his boots and to swell upwards, till his angry eyes almost looked
down on Lady Scatcherd, and each erect hair bristled up towards the
heavens.

"This is very singular, very singular, Lady Scatcherd; very singular,
indeed; very singular; quite unusual. I have come here from
Barchester, at some considerable inconvenience, at some very
considerable inconvenience, I may say, to my regular patients;
and - and - and - I don't know that anything so very singular ever
occurred to me before." And then Dr Fillgrave, with a compression of
his lips which almost made the poor woman sink into the ground, moved
towards the door.

Then Lady Scatcherd bethought her of her great panacea. "It isn't
about the money, you know, doctor," said she; "of course Sir Roger
don't expect you to come here with post-horses for nothing." In this,
by the by, Lady Scatcherd did not stick quite close to veracity,
for Sir Roger, had he known it, would by no means have assented to
any payment; and the note which her ladyship held in her hand was
taken from her own private purse. "It ain't at all about the money,
doctor;" and then she tendered the bank-note, which she thought would
immediately make all things smooth.

Now Dr Fillgrave dearly loved a five-pound fee. What physician is so
unnatural as not to love it? He dearly loved a five-pound fee; but he
loved his dignity better. He was angry also; and like all angry men,
he loved his grievance. He felt that he had been badly treated; but
if he took the money he would throw away his right to indulge in any
such feeling. At that moment his outraged dignity and his cherished
anger were worth more than a five-pound note. He looked at it with
wishful but still averted eyes, and then sternly refused the tender.

"No, madam," said he; "no, no;" and with his right hand raised with
his eye-glasses in it, he motioned away the tempting paper. "No; I
should have been happy to have given Sir Roger the benefit of any
medical skill I may have, seeing that I was specially called in - "

"But, doctor; if the man's well, you know - "

"Oh, of course; if he's well, and does not choose to see me, there's
an end of it. Should he have any relapse, as my time is valuable, he
will perhaps oblige me by sending elsewhere. Madam, good morning.
I will, if you will allow me, ring for my carriage - that is,
post-chaise."

"But, doctor, you'll take the money; you must take the money; indeed
you'll take the money," said Lady Scatcherd, who had now become
really unhappy at the idea that her husband's unpardonable whim had
brought this man with post-horses all the way from Barchester, and
that he was to be paid nothing for his time nor costs.

"No, madam, no. I could not think of it. Sir Roger, I have no doubt,
will know better another time. It is not a question of money; not at
all."

"But it is a question of money, doctor; and you really shall, you
must." And poor Lady Scatcherd, in her anxiety to acquit herself at
any rate of any pecuniary debt to the doctor, came to personal close
quarters with him, with the view of forcing the note into his hands.

"Quite impossible, quite impossible," said the doctor, still
cherishing his grievance, and valiantly rejecting the root of all
evil. "I shall not do anything of the kind, Lady Scatcherd."

"Now doctor, do 'ee; to oblige me."

"Quite out of the question." And so, with his hands and hat behind
his back, in token of his utter refusal to accept any pecuniary
accommodation of his injury, he made his way backwards to the door,
her ladyship perseveringly pressing him in front. So eager had been
the attack on him, that he had not waited to give his order about the
post-chaise, but made his way at once towards the hall.

"Now, do 'ee take it, do 'ee," pressed Lady Scatcherd.

"Utterly out of the question," said Dr Fillgrave, with great
deliberation, as he backed his way into the hall. As he did so, of
course he turned round, - and he found himself almost in the arms of
Dr Thorne.

As Burley must have glared at Bothwell when they rushed together in
the dread encounter on the mountain side; as Achilles may have glared
at Hector when at last they met, each resolved to test in fatal
conflict the prowess of the other, so did Dr Fillgrave glare at his
foe from Greshamsbury, when, on turning round on his exalted heel,
he found his nose on a level with the top button of Dr Thorne's
waistcoat.

And here, if it be not too tedious, let us pause a while to
recapitulate and add up the undoubted grievances of the Barchester
practitioner. He had made no effort to ingratiate himself into the
sheepfold of that other shepherd-dog; it was not by his seeking that
he was now at Boxall Hill; much as he hated Dr Thorne, full sure
as he felt of that man's utter ignorance, of his incapacity to
administer properly even a black dose, of his murdering propensities
and his low, mean, unprofessional style of practice; nevertheless, he
had done nothing to undermine him with these Scatcherds. Dr Thorne
might have sent every mother's son at Boxall Hill to his long
account, and Dr Fillgrave would not have interfered; - would not have
interfered unless specially and duly called upon to do so.

But he had been specially and duly called on. Before such a step was
taken some words must undoubtedly have passed on the subject between
Thorne and the Scatcherds. Thorne must have known what was to be
done. Having been so called, Dr Fillgrave had come - had come all the
way in a post-chaise - had been refused admittance to the sick man's
room, on the plea that the sick man was no longer sick; and just as
he was about to retire fee-less - for the want of the fee was not
the less a grievance from the fact of its having been tendered and
refused - fee-less, dishonoured, and in dudgeon, he encountered this
other doctor - this very rival whom he had been sent to supplant; he
encountered him in the very act of going to the sick man's room.

What mad fanatic Burley, what god-succoured insolent Achilles,
ever had such cause to swell with wrath as at that moment had Dr
Fillgrave? Had I the pen of Moliere, I could fitly tell of such
medical anger, but with no other pen can it be fitly told. He did
swell, and when the huge bulk of his wrath was added to his natural
proportions, he loomed gigantic before the eyes of the surrounding
followers of Sir Roger.

Dr Thorne stepped back three steps and took his hat from his head,
having, in the passage from the hall-door to the dining-room,
hitherto omitted to do so. It must be borne in mind that he had no
conception whatever that Sir Roger had declined to see the physician
for whom he had sent; none whatever that the physician was now about
to return, fee-less, to Barchester.

Dr Thorne and Dr Fillgrave were doubtless well-known enemies. All
the world of Barchester, and all that portion of the world of London
which is concerned with the lancet and the scalping-knife, were well
aware of this: they were continually writing against each other;
continually speaking against each other; but yet they had never
hitherto come to that positive personal collision which is held to
justify a cut direct. They very rarely saw each other; and when they
did meet, it was in some casual way in the streets of Barchester or
elsewhere, and on such occasions their habit had been to bow with
very cold propriety.

On the present occasion, Dr Thorne of course felt that Dr Fillgrave
had the whip-hand of him; and, with a sort of manly feeling on
such a point, he conceived it to be most compatible with his own
dignity to show, under such circumstances, more than his usual
courtesy - something, perhaps, amounting almost to cordiality. He
had been supplanted, _quoad_ doctor, in the house of this rich,
eccentric, railway baronet, and he would show that he bore no malice
on that account.

So he smiled blandly as he took off his hat, and in a civil speech he
expressed a hope that Dr Fillgrave had not found his patient to be in
any very unfavourable state.

Here was an aggravation to the already lacerated feelings of the
injured man. He had been brought thither to be scoffed at and scorned
at, that he might be a laughing-stock to his enemies, and food
for mirth to the vile-minded. He swelled with noble anger till he
would have burst, had it not been for the opportune padding of his
frock-coat.

"Sir," said he; "sir:" and he could hardly get his lips open to give
vent to the tumult of his heart. Perhaps he was not wrong; for it may
be that his lips were more eloquent than would have been his words.

"What's the matter?" said Dr Thorne, opening his eyes wide, and



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 13 of 49)