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and hear Mary thus accused. He sprang up another foot in height, and
expanded equally in width as he flung back the insinuation.

"Who says so? Whoever says so, whoever speaks of Miss Thorne in such
language, says what is not true. I will pledge my word - "

"My dear doctor, my dear doctor, what took place was quite clearly
heard; there was no mistake about it, indeed."

"What took place? What was heard?"

"Well, then, I don't want, you know, to make more of it than can be
helped. The thing must be stopped, that is all."

"What thing? Speak out, Lady Arabella. I will not have Mary's conduct
impugned by innuendoes. What is it that eavesdroppers have heard?"

"Dr Thorne, there have been no eavesdroppers."

"And no talebearers either? Will you ladyship oblige me by letting me
know what is the accusation which you bring against my niece?"

"There has been most positively an offer made, Dr Thorne."

"And who made it?"

"Oh, of course I am not going to say but what Frank must have been
very imprudent. Of course he has been to blame. There has been fault
on both sides, no doubt."

"I utterly deny it. I positively deny it. I know nothing of the
circumstances; have heard nothing about it - "

"Then of course you can't say," said Lady Arabella.

"I know nothing of the circumstance; have heard nothing about it,"
continued Dr Thorne; "but I do know my niece, and am ready to assert
that there has not been fault on both sides. Whether there has been
any fault on any side, that I do not yet know."

"I can assure you, Dr Thorne, that an offer was made by Frank;
such an offer cannot be without its allurements to a young lady
circumstanced like your niece."

"Allurements!" almost shouted the doctor, and, as he did so, Lady
Arabella stepped back a pace or two, retreating from the fire which
shot out of his eyes. "But the truth is, Lady Arabella, you do not
know my niece. If you will have the goodness to let me understand
what it is that you desire I will tell you whether I can comply with
your wishes."

"Of course it will be very inexpedient that the young people should
be thrown together again; - for the present, I mean."

"Well!"

"Frank has now gone to Courcy Castle; and he talks of going from
thence to Cambridge. But he will doubtless be here, backwards and
forwards; and perhaps it will be better for all parties - safer,
that is, doctor - if Miss Thorne were to discontinue her visits to
Greshamsbury for a while."

"Very well!" thundered out the doctor. "Her visits to Greshamsbury
shall be discontinued."

"Of course, doctor, this won't change the intercourse between us;
between you and the family."

"Not change it!" said he. "Do you think that I will break bread in a
house from whence she has been ignominiously banished? Do you think
that I can sit down in friendship with those who have spoken of her
as you have now spoken? You have many daughters; what would you say
if I accused one of them as you have accused her?"

"Accused, doctor! No, I don't accuse her. But prudence, you know,
does sometimes require us - "

"Very well; prudence requires you to look after those who belong
to you; and prudence requires me to look after my one lamb. Good
morning, Lady Arabella."

"But, doctor, you are not going to quarrel with us? You will come
when we want you; eh! won't you?"

Quarrel! quarrel with Greshamsbury! Angry as he was, the doctor felt
that he could ill bear to quarrel with Greshamsbury. A man past fifty
cannot easily throw over the ties that have taken twenty years to
form, and wrench himself away from the various close ligatures with
which, in such a period, he has become bound. He could not quarrel
with the squire; he could ill bear to quarrel with Frank; though he
now began to conceive that Frank had used him badly, he could not do
so; he could not quarrel with the children, who had almost been born
into his arms; nor even with the very walls, and trees, and grassy
knolls with which he was so dearly intimate. He could not proclaim
himself an enemy to Greshamsbury; and yet he felt that fealty to Mary
required of him that, for the present, he should put on an enemy's
guise.

"If you want me, Lady Arabella, and send for me, I will come to you;
otherwise I will, if you please, share the sentence which has been
passed on Mary. I will now wish you good morning." And then bowing
low to her, he left the room and the house, and sauntered slowly away
to his own home.

What was he to say to Mary? He walked very slowly down the
Greshamsbury avenue, with his hands clasped behind his back, thinking
over the whole matter; thinking of it, or rather trying to think
of it. When a man's heart is warmly concerned in any matter, it
is almost useless for him to endeavour to think of it. Instead of
thinking, he gives play to his feelings, and feeds his passion by
indulging it. "Allurements!" he said to himself, repeating Lady
Arabella's words. "A girl circumstanced like my niece! How utterly
incapable is such a woman as that to understand the mind, and heart,
and soul of such a one as Mary Thorne!" And then his thoughts
recurred to Frank. "It has been ill done of him; ill done of him:
young as he is, he should have had feeling enough to have spared me
this. A thoughtless word has been spoken which will now make her
miserable!" And then, as he walked on, he could not divest his mind
of the remembrance of what had passed between him and Sir Roger.
What, if after all, Mary should become the heiress to all that money?
What, if she should become, in fact, the owner of Greshamsbury? for,
indeed it seemed too possible that Sir Roger's heir would be the
owner of Greshamsbury.

The idea was one which he disliked to entertain, but it would recur
to him again and again. It might be, that a marriage between his
niece and the nominal heir to the estate might be of all the matches
the best for young Gresham to make. How sweet would be the revenge,
how glorious the retaliation on Lady Arabella, if, after what had
now been said, it should come to pass that all the difficulties of
Greshamsbury should be made smooth by Mary's love, and Mary's hand!
It was a dangerous subject on which to ponder; and, as he sauntered
down the road, the doctor did his best to banish it from his
mind, - not altogether successfully.

But as he went he again encountered Beatrice. "Tell Mary I went to
her to-day," said she, "and that I expect her up here to-morrow. If
she does not come, I shall be savage."

"Do not be savage," said he, putting out his hand, "even though she
should not come."

Beatrice immediately saw that his manner with her was not playful,
and that his face was serious. "I was only in joke," said she; "of
course I was only joking. But is anything the matter? Is Mary ill?"

"Oh, no; not ill at all; but she will not be here to-morrow, nor
probably for some time. But, Miss Gresham, you must not be savage
with her."

Beatrice tried to interrogate him, but he would not wait to answer
her questions. While she was speaking he bowed to her in his usual
old-fashioned courteous way, and passed on out of hearing. "She will
not come up for some time," said Beatrice to herself. "Then mamma
must have quarrelled with her." And at once in her heart she
acquitted her friend of all blame in the matter, whatever it might
be, and condemned her mother unheard.

The doctor, when he arrived at his own house, had in nowise made
up his mind as to the manner in which he would break the matter to
Mary; but by the time that he had reached the drawing-room, he had
made up his mind to this, that he would put off the evil hour till
the morrow. He would sleep on the matter - lie awake on it, more
probably - and then at breakfast, as best he could, tell her what had
been said of her.

Mary that evening was more than usually inclined to be playful.
She had not been quite certain till the morning, whether Frank had
absolutely left Greshamsbury, and had, therefore, preferred the
company of Miss Oriel to going up to the house. There was a peculiar
cheerfulness about her friend Patience, a feeling of satisfaction
with the world and those in it, which Mary always shared with her;
and now she had brought home to the doctor's fireside, in spite of
her young troubles, a smiling face, if not a heart altogether happy.

"Uncle," she said at last, "what makes you so sombre? Shall I read to
you?"

"No; not to-night, dearest."

"Why, uncle; what is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing."

"Ah, but it is something, and you shall tell me;" getting up, she
came over to his arm-chair, and leant over his shoulder.

He looked at her for a minute in silence, and then, getting up from
his chair, passed his arm round her waist, and pressed her closely to
his heart.

"My darling!" he said, almost convulsively. "My best own, truest
darling!" and Mary, looking up into his face, saw that big tears were
running down his cheeks.

But still he told her nothing that night.




CHAPTER XV

Courcy


When Frank Gresham expressed to his father an opinion that Courcy
Castle was dull, the squire, as may be remembered, did not pretend to
differ from him. To men such as the squire, and such as the squire's
son, Courcy Castle was dull. To what class of men it would not be
dull the author is not prepared to say; but it may be presumed that
the de Courcys found it to their liking, or they would have made it
other than it was.

The castle itself was a huge brick pile, built in the days of William
III, which, though they were grand for days of the construction of
the Constitution, were not very grand for architecture of a more
material description. It had, no doubt, a perfect right to be called
a castle, as it was entered by a castle-gate which led into a court,
the porter's lodge for which was built as it were into the wall;
there were attached to it also two round, stumpy adjuncts, which
were, perhaps properly, called towers, though they did not do much in
the way of towering; and, moreover, along one side of the house, over
what would otherwise have been the cornice, there ran a castellated
parapet, through the assistance of which, the imagination no doubt
was intended to supply the muzzles of defiant artillery. But any
artillery which would have so presented its muzzle must have been
very small, and it may be doubted whether even a bowman could have
obtained shelter there.

The grounds about the castle were not very inviting, nor, as grounds,
very extensive; though, no doubt, the entire domain was such as
suited the importance of so puissant a nobleman as Earl de Courcy.
What, indeed, should have been the park was divided out into various
large paddocks. The surface was flat and unbroken; and though
there were magnificent elm-trees standing in straight lines, like
hedgerows, the timber had not that beautiful, wild, scattered look
which generally gives the great charm to English scenery.

The town of Courcy - for the place claimed to rank as a town - was
in many particulars like the castle. It was built of dingy-red
brick - almost more brown than red - and was solid, dull-looking, ugly
and comfortable. It consisted of four streets, which were formed by
two roads crossing each other, making at the point of junction a
centre for the town. Here stood the Red Lion; had it been called the
brown lion, the nomenclature would have been more strictly correct;
and here, in the old days of coaching, some life had been wont to
stir itself at those hours in the day and night when the Freetraders,
Tallyhoes, and Royal Mails changed their horses. But now there was a
railway station a mile and a half distant, and the moving life of the
town of Courcy was confined to the Red Lion omnibus, which seemed to
pass its entire time in going up and down between the town and the
station, quite unembarrassed by any great weight of passengers.

There were, so said the Courcyites when away from Courcy, excellent
shops in the place; but they were not the less accustomed, when
at home among themselves, to complain to each other of the vile
extortion with which they were treated by their neighbours. The
ironmonger, therefore, though he loudly asserted that he could beat
Bristol in the quality of his wares in one direction, and undersell
Gloucester in another, bought his tea and sugar on the sly in one
of those larger towns; and the grocer, on the other hand, equally
distrusted the pots and pans of home production. Trade, therefore, at
Courcy, had not thriven since the railway had opened: and, indeed,
had any patient inquirer stood at the cross through one entire day,
counting customers who entered the neighbouring shops, he might well
have wondered that any shops in Courcy could be kept open.

And how changed has been the bustle of that once noisy inn to the
present death-like silence of its green courtyard! There, a lame
ostler crawls about with his hands thrust into the capacious pockets
of his jacket, feeding on memory. That weary pair of omnibus jades,
and three sorry posters, are all that now grace those stables where
horses used to be stalled in close contiguity by the dozen; where
twenty grains apiece, abstracted from every feed of oats consumed
during the day, would have afforded a daily quart to the lucky
pilferer.

Come, my friend, and discourse with me. Let us know what are thy
ideas of the inestimable benefits which science has conferred on us
in these, our latter days. How dost thou, among others, appreciate
railways and the power of steam, telegraphs, telegrams, and our new
expresses? But indifferently, you say. "Time was I've zeed vifteen
pair o' 'osses go out of this 'ere yard in vour-and-twenty hour;
and now there be'ant vifteen, no, not ten, in vour-and-twenty days!
There was the duik - not this 'un; he be'ant no gude; but this 'un's
vather - why, when he'd come down the road, the cattle did be a-going,
vour days an eend. Here'd be the tooter and the young gen'lmen, and
the governess and the young leddies, and then the servants - they'd
be al'ays the grandest folk of all - and then the duik and the
doochess - Lord love 'ee, zur; the money did fly in them days! But
now - " and the feeling of scorn and contempt which the lame ostler
was enabled by his native talent to throw into the word "now," was
quite as eloquent against the power of steam as anything that has
been spoken at dinners, or written in pamphlets by the keenest
admirers of latter-day lights.

"Why, luke at this 'ere town," continued he of the sieve, "the grass
be a-growing in the very streets; - that can't be no gude. Why, luke
'ee here, zur; I do be a-standing at this 'ere gateway, just this
way, hour arter hour, and my heyes is hopen mostly; - I zees who's
a-coming and who's a-going. Nobody's a-coming and nobody's a-going;
that can't be no gude. Luke at that there homnibus; why, darn me - "
and now, in his eloquence at this peculiar point, my friend became
more loud and powerful than ever - "why, darn me, if maister harns
enough with that there bus to put hiron on them 'osses' feet,
I'll - be - blowed!" And as he uttered this hypothetical denunciation
on himself he spoke very slowly, bringing out every word as it were
separately, and lowering himself at his knees at every sound, moving
at the same time his right hand up and down. When he had finished,
he fixed his eyes upon the ground, pointing downwards, as if there
was to be the site of his doom if the curse that he had called down
upon himself should ever come to pass; and then, waiting no further
converse, he hobbled away, melancholy, to his deserted stables.

Oh, my friend! my poor lame friend! it will avail nothing to tell
thee of Liverpool and Manchester; of the glories of Glasgow, with her
flourishing banks; of London, with its third millions of inhabitants;
of the great things which commerce is doing for this nation of thine!
What is commerce to thee, unless it be commerce in posting on that
worn-out, all but useless great western turnpike-road? There is
nothing left for thee but to be carted away as rubbish - for thee
and for many of us in these now prosperous days; oh, my melancholy,
care-ridden friend!

Courcy Castle was certainly a dull place to look at, and Frank, in
his former visits, had found that the appearance did not belie the
reality. He had been but little there when the earl had been at
Courcy; and as he had always felt from his childhood a peculiar
distaste to the governance of his aunt the countess, this perhaps may
have added to his feeling of dislike. Now, however, the castle was
to be fuller than he had ever before known it; the earl was to be at
home; there was some talk of the Duke of Omnium coming for a day or
two, though that seemed doubtful; there was some faint doubt of Lord
Porlock; Mr Moffat, intent on the coming election - and also, let us
hope, on his coming bliss - was to be one of the guests; and there was
also to be the great Miss Dunstable.

Frank, however, found that those grandees were not expected quite
immediately. "I might go back to Greshamsbury for three or four days
as she is not to be here," he said na√ѓvely to his aunt, expressing,
with tolerable perspicuity, his feeling, that he regarded his visit
to Courcy Castle quite as a matter of business. But the countess
would hear of no such arrangement. Now that she had got him, she
was not going to let him fall back into the perils of Miss Thorne's
intrigues, or even of Miss Thorne's propriety. "It is quite
essential," she said, "that you should be here a few days before her,
so that she may see that you are at home." Frank did not understand
the reasoning; but he felt himself unable to rebel, and he therefore,
remained there, comforting himself, as best he might, with the
eloquence of the Honourable George, and the sporting humours of the
Honourable John.

Mr Moffat's was the earliest arrival of any importance. Frank had
not hitherto made the acquaintance of his future brother-in-law, and
there was, therefore, some little interest in the first interview. Mr
Moffat was shown into the drawing-room before the ladies had gone up
to dress, and it so happened that Frank was there also. As no one
else was in the room but his sister and two of his cousins, he had
expected to see the lovers rush into each other's arms. But Mr Moffat
restrained his ardour, and Miss Gresham seemed contented that he
should do so.

He was a nice, dapper man, rather above the middle height, and
good-looking enough had he had a little more expression in his face.
He had dark hair, very nicely brushed, small black whiskers, and a
small black moustache. His boots were excellently well made, and
his hands were very white. He simpered gently as he took hold of
Augusta's fingers, and expressed a hope that she had been quite well
since last he had the pleasure of seeing her. Then he touched the
hands of the Lady Rosina and the Lady Margaretta.

"Mr Moffat, allow me to introduce you to my brother?"

"Most happy, I'm sure," said Mr Moffat, again putting out his hand,
and allowing it to slip through Frank's grasp, as he spoke in a
pretty, mincing voice: "Lady Arabella quite well? - and your father,
and sisters? Very warm isn't it? - quite hot in town, I do assure
you."

"I hope Augusta likes him," said Frank to himself, arguing on the
subject exactly as his father had done; "but for an engaged lover he
seems to me to have a very queer way with him." Frank, poor fellow!
who was of a coarser mould, would, under such circumstances, have
been all for kissing - sometimes, indeed, even under other
circumstances.

Mr Moffat did not do much towards improving the conviviality of
the castle. He was, of course, a good deal intent upon his coming
election, and spent much of his time with Mr Nearthewinde, the
celebrated parliamentary agent. It behoved him to be a good deal
at Barchester, canvassing the electors and undermining, by Mr
Nearthewinde's aid, the mines for blowing him out of his seat, which
were daily being contrived by Mr Closerstil, on behalf of Sir Roger.
The battle was to be fought on the internecine principle, no quarter
being given or taken on either side; and of course this gave Mr
Moffat as much as he knew how to do.

Mr Closerstil was well known to be the sharpest man at his business
in all England, unless the palm should be given to his great rival
Mr Nearthewinde; and in this instance he was to be assisted in the
battle by a very clever young barrister, Mr Romer, who was an admirer
of Sir Roger's career in life. Some people in Barchester, when they
saw Sir Roger, Closerstil and Mr Romer saunter down the High Street,
arm in arm, declared that it was all up with poor Moffat; but others,
in whose head the bump of veneration was strongly pronounced,
whispered to each other that great shibboleth - the name of the Duke
of Omnium - and mildly asserted it to be impossible that the duke's
nominee should be thrown out.

Our poor friend the squire did not take much interest in the matter,
except in so far that he liked his son-in-law to be in Parliament.
Both the candidates were in his eye equally wrong in their opinions.
He had long since recanted those errors of his early youth, which
had cost him his seat for the county, and had abjured the de Courcy
politics. He was staunch enough as a Tory now that his being so would
no longer be of the slightest use to him; but the Duke of Omnium,
and Lord de Courcy, and Mr Moffat were all Whigs; Whigs, however,
differing altogether in politics from Sir Roger, who belonged to
the Manchester school, and whose pretensions, through some of those
inscrutable twists in modern politics which are quite unintelligible
to the minds of ordinary men outside the circle, were on this
occasion secretly favoured by the high Conservative party.

How Mr Moffat, who had been brought into the political world by Lord
de Courcy, obtained all the weight of the duke's interest I never
could exactly learn. For the duke and the earl did not generally act
as twin-brothers on such occasions.

There is a great difference in Whigs. Lord de Courcy was a Court
Whig, following the fortunes, and enjoying, when he could get it, the
sunshine of the throne. He was a sojourner at Windsor, and a visitor
at Balmoral. He delighted in gold sticks, and was never so happy as
when holding some cap of maintenance or spur of precedence with due
dignity and acknowledged grace in the presence of all the Court.
His means had been somewhat embarrassed by early extravagance; and,
therefore, as it was to his taste to shine, it suited him to shine at
the cost of the Court rather than at his own.

The Duke of Omnium was a Whig of a very different calibre. He rarely
went near the presence of majesty, and when he did do so, he did it
merely as a disagreeable duty incident to his position. He was very
willing that the Queen should be queen so long as he was allowed to
be Duke of Omnium. Nor had he begrudged Prince Albert any of his
honours till he was called Prince Consort. Then, indeed, he had,
to his own intimate friends, made some remark in three words, not
flattering to the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Queen might
be queen so long as he was Duke of Omnium. Their revenues were
about the same, with the exception, that the duke's were his own,
and he could do what he liked with them. This remembrance did not
unfrequently present itself to the duke's mind. In person, he was a
plain, thin man, tall, but undistinguished in appearance, except that
there was a gleam of pride in his eye which seemed every moment to be
saying, "I am the Duke of Omnium." He was unmarried, and, if report
said true, a great debauchee; but if so he had always kept his
debaucheries decently away from the eyes of the world, and was not,
therefore, open to that loud condemnation which should fall like a
hailstorm round the ears of some more open sinners.

Why these two mighty nobles put their heads together in order that
the tailor's son should represent Barchester in Parliament, I cannot
explain. Mr Moffat, was, as has been said, Lord de Courcy's friend;
and it may be that Lord de Courcy was able to repay the duke for his
kindness, as touching Barchester, with some little assistance in the
county representation.

The next arrival was that of the Bishop of Barchester; a meek, good,
worthy man, much attached to his wife, and somewhat addicted to his
ease. She, apparently, was made in a different mould, and by her
energy and diligence atoned for any want in those qualities which
might be observed in the bishop himself. When asked his opinion, his
lordship would generally reply by saying - "Mrs Proudie and I think so



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 16 of 49)