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spite of his obstacles, may live to do the same for a wife
of his own some of these days. I am glad to hear that
there is nothing to interfere with your own prospects of
domestic felicity.

Sincerely hoping that you may be perfectly successful in
your proud ambition to shine in Parliament, and regretting
extremely that I cannot share that ambition with you, I
beg to subscribe myself, with very great respect, -

Your sincere well-wisher,


The Honourable George, with that modesty which so well became him,
accepted Miss Dunstable's reply as a final answer to his little
proposition, and troubled her with no further courtship. As he said
to his brother John, no harm had been done, and he might have better
luck next time. But there was an inmate of Courcy Castle who was
somewhat more pertinacious in his search after love and wealth. This
was no other than Mr Moffat: a gentleman whose ambition was not
satisfied by the cares of his Barchester contest, or the possession
of one affianced bride.

Mr Moffat was, as we have said, a man of wealth; but we all know,
from the lessons of early youth, how the love of money increases and
gains strength by its own success. Nor was he a man of so mean a
spirit as to be satisfied with mere wealth. He desired also place and
station, and gracious countenance among the great ones of the earth.
Hence had come his adherence to the de Courcys; hence his seat in
Parliament; and hence, also, his perhaps ill-considered match with
Miss Gresham.

There is no doubt but that the privilege of matrimony offers
opportunities to money-loving young men which ought not to be lightly
abused. Too many young men marry without giving any consideration to
the matter whatever. It is not that they are indifferent to money,
but that they recklessly miscalculate their own value, and omit to
look around and see how much is done by those who are more careful.
A man can be young but once, and, except in cases of a special
interposition of Providence, can marry but once. The chance once
thrown away may be said to be irrevocable! How, in after-life, do
men toil and turmoil through long years to attain some prospect of
doubtful advancement! Half that trouble, half that care, a tithe of
that circumspection would, in early youth, have probably secured to
them the enduring comfort of a wife's wealth.

You will see men labouring night and day to become bank directors;
and even a bank direction may only be the road to ruin. Others will
spend years in degrading subserviency to obtain a niche in a will;
and the niche, when at last obtained and enjoyed, is but a sorry
payment for all that has been endured. Others, again, struggle
harder still, and go through even deeper waters: they make wills for
themselves, forge stock-shares, and fight with unremitting, painful
labour to appear to be the thing that they are not. Now, in many
of these cases, all this might have been spared had the men made
adequate use of those opportunities which youth and youthful charms
afford once - and once only. There is no road to wealth so easy and
respectable as that of matrimony; that, is of course, provided that
the aspirant declines the slow course of honest work. But then, we
can so seldom put old heads on young shoulders!

In the case of Mr Moffat, we may perhaps say that a specimen was
produced of this bird, so rare in the land. His shoulders were
certainly young, seeing that he was not yet six-and-twenty; but
his head had ever been old. From the moment when he was first put
forth to go alone - at the age of twenty-one - his life had been one
calculation how he could make the most of himself. He had allowed
himself to be betrayed into no folly by an unguarded heart; no
youthful indiscretion had marred his prospects. He had made the
most of himself. Without wit, or depth, or any mental gift - without
honesty of purpose or industry for good work - he had been for two
years sitting member for Barchester; was the guest of Lord de Courcy;
was engaged to the eldest daughter of one of the best commoners'
families in England; and was, when he first began to think of Miss
Dunstable, sanguine that his re-election to Parliament was secure.

When, however, at this period he began to calculate what his position
in the world really was, it occurred to him that he was doing an
ill-judged thing in marrying Miss Gresham. Why marry a penniless
girl - for Augusta's trifle of a fortune was not a penny in his
estimation - while there was Miss Dunstable in the world to be won?
His own six or seven thousand a year, quite unembarrassed as it was,
was certainly a great thing; but what might he not do if to that
he could add the almost fabulous wealth of the great heiress? Was
she not here, put absolutely in his path? Would it not be a wilful
throwing away of a chance not to avail himself of it? He must, to
be sure, lose the de Courcy friendship; but if he should then have
secured his Barchester seat for the usual term of parliamentary
session, he might be able to spare that. He would also, perhaps,
encounter some Gresham enmity: this was a point on which he did think
more than once: but what will not a man encounter for the sake of two
hundred thousand pounds?

It was thus that Mr Moffat argued with himself, with much prudence,
and brought himself to resolve that he would at any rate become a
candidate for the great prize. He also, therefore, began to say
soft things; and it must be admitted that he said them with more
considerate propriety than had the Honourable George. Mr Moffat had
an idea that Miss Dunstable was not a fool, and that in order to
catch her he must do more than endeavour to lay salt on her tail,
in the guise of flattery. It was evident to him that she was a bird
of some cunning, not to be caught by an ordinary gin, such as those
commonly in use with the Honourable Georges of Society.

It seemed to Mr Moffat, that though Miss Dunstable was so sprightly,
so full of fun, and so ready to chatter on all subjects, she well
knew the value of her own money, and of her position as dependent on
it: he perceived that she never flattered the countess, and seemed
to be no whit absorbed by the titled grandeur of her host's family.
He gave her credit, therefore, for an independent spirit: and an
independent spirit in his estimation was one that placed its sole
dependence on a respectable balance at its banker's.

Working on these ideas, Mr Moffat commenced operations in such manner
that his overtures to the heiress should not, if unsuccessful,
interfere with the Greshamsbury engagement. He began by making common
cause with Miss Dunstable: their positions in the world, he said to
her, were closely similar. They had both risen from the lower class
by the strength of honest industry: they were both now wealthy, and
had both hitherto made such use of their wealth as to induce the
highest aristocracy of England to admit them into their circles.

"Yes, Mr Moffat," had Miss Dunstable remarked; "and if all that I
hear be true, to admit you into their very families."

At this Mr Moffat slightly demurred. He would not affect, he said,
to misunderstand what Miss Dunstable meant. There had been something
said on the probability of such an event; but he begged Miss
Dunstable not to believe all that she heard on such subjects.

"I do not believe much," said she; "but I certainly did think that
that might be credited."

Mr Moffat then went on to show how it behoved them both, in holding
out their hands half-way to meet the aristocratic overtures that
were made to them, not to allow themselves to be made use of. The
aristocracy, according to Mr Moffat, were people of a very nice
sort; the best acquaintance in the world; a portion of mankind to be
noticed by whom should be one of the first objects in the life of the
Dunstables and the Moffats. But the Dunstables and Moffats should be
very careful to give little or nothing in return. Much, very much in
return, would be looked for. The aristocracy, said Mr Moffat, were
not a people to allow the light of their countenance to shine forth
without looking for a _quid pro quo_, for some compensating value.
In all their intercourse with the Dunstables and Moffats, they would
expect a payment. It was for the Dunstables and Moffats to see that,
at any rate, they did not pay more for the article they got than its
market value.

The way in which she, Miss Dunstable, and he, Mr Moffat, would be
required to pay would be by taking each of them some poor scion of
the aristocracy in marriage; and thus expending their hard-earned
wealth in procuring high-priced pleasures for some well-born pauper.
Against this, peculiar caution was to be used. Of course, the further
induction to be shown was this: that people so circumstanced should
marry among themselves; the Dunstables and the Moffats each with the
other, and not tumble into the pitfalls prepared for them.

Whether these great lessons had any lasting effect on Miss
Dunstable's mind may be doubted. Perhaps she had already made up her
mind on the subject which Mr Moffat so well discussed. She was older
than Mr Moffat, and, in spite of his two years of parliamentary
experience, had perhaps more knowledge of the world with which she
had to deal. But she listened to what he said with complacency;
understood his object as well as she had that of his aristocratic
rival; was no whit offended; but groaned in her spirit as she thought
of the wrongs of Augusta Gresham.

But all this good advice, however, would not win the money for Mr
Moffat without some more decided step; and that step he soon decided
on taking, feeling assured that what he had said would have its due
weight with the heiress.

The party at Courcy Castle was now soon about to be broken up. The
male de Courcys were going down to a Scotch mountain. The female de
Courcys were to be shipped off to an Irish castle. Mr Moffat was to
go up to town to prepare his petition. Miss Dunstable was again about
to start on a foreign tour in behalf of her physician and attendants;
and Frank Gresham was at last to be allowed to go to Cambridge; that
is to say, unless his success with Miss Dunstable should render such
a step on his part quite preposterous.

"I think you may speak now, Frank," said the countess. "I really
think you may: you have known her now for a considerable time; and,
as far as I can judge, she is very fond of you."

"Nonsense, aunt," said Frank; "she doesn't care a button for me."

"I think differently; and lookers-on, you know, always understand the
game best. I suppose you are not afraid to ask her."

"Afraid!" said Frank, in a tone of considerable scorn. He almost made
up his mind that he would ask her to show that he was not afraid.
His only obstacle to doing so was, that he had not the slightest
intention of marrying her.

There was to be but one other great event before the party broke up,
and that was a dinner at the Duke of Omnium's. The duke had already
declined to come to Courcy; but he had in a measure atoned for this
by asking some of the guests to join a great dinner which he was
about to give to his neighbours.

Mr Moffat was to leave Courcy Castle the day after the dinner-party,
and he therefore determined to make his great attempt on the morning
of that day. It was with some difficulty that he brought about an
opportunity; but at last he did so, and found himself alone with Miss
Dunstable in the walks of Courcy Park.

"It is a strange thing, is it not," said he, recurring to his old
view of the same subject, "that I should be going to dine with the
Duke of Omnium - the richest man, they say, among the whole English

"Men of that kind entertain everybody, I believe, now and then," said
Miss Dunstable, not very civilly.

"I believe they do; but I am not going as one of the everybodies.
I am going from Lord de Courcy's house with some of his own family.
I have no pride in that - not the least; I have more pride in my
father's honest industry. But it shows what money does in this
country of ours."

"Yes, indeed; money does a great deal many queer things." In saying
this Miss Dunstable could not but think that money had done a very
queer thing in inducing Miss Gresham to fall in love with Mr Moffat.

"Yes; wealth is very powerful: here we are, Miss Dunstable, the most
honoured guests in the house."

"Oh! I don't know about that; you may be, for you are a member of
Parliament, and all that - "

"No; not a member now, Miss Dunstable."

"Well, you will be, and that's all the same; but I have no such title
to honour, thank God."

They walked on in silence for a little while, for Mr Moffat hardly
knew how to manage the business he had in hand. "It is quite
delightful to watch these people," he said at last; "now they accuse
us of being tuft-hunters."

"Do they?" said Miss Dunstable. "Upon my word I didn't know that
anybody ever so accused me."

"I didn't mean you and me personally."

"Oh! I'm glad of that."

"But that is what the world says of persons of our class. Now it
seems to me that the toadying is all on the other side. The countess
here does toady you, and so do the young ladies."

"Do they? if so, upon my word I didn't know it. But, to tell the
truth, I don't think much of such things. I live mostly to myself, Mr

"I see that you do, and I admire you for it; but, Miss Dunstable, you
cannot always live so," and Mr Moffat looked at her in a manner which
gave her the first intimation of his coming burst of tenderness.

"That's as may be, Mr Moffat," said she.

He went on beating about the bush for some time - giving her to
understand how necessary it was that persons situated as they were
should live either for themselves or for each other, and that,
above all things, they should beware of falling into the mouths of
voracious aristocratic lions who go about looking for prey - till they
came to a turn in the grounds; at which Miss Dunstable declared her
determination of going in. She had walked enough, she said. As by
this time Mr Moffat's immediate intentions were becoming visible she
thought it prudent to retire. "Don't let me take you in, Mr Moffat;
but my boots are a little damp, and Dr Easyman will never forgive me
if I do not hurry in as fast as I can."

"Your feet damp? - I hope not: I do hope not," said he, with a look of
the greatest solicitude.

"Oh! it's nothing to signify; but it's well to be prudent, you know.
Good morning, Mr Moffat."

"Miss Dunstable!"

"Eh - yes!" and Miss Dunstable stopped in the grand path. "I won't let
you return with me, Mr Moffat, because I know you were not coming in
so soon."

"Miss Dunstable; I shall be leaving this to-morrow."

"Yes; and I go myself the day after."

"I know it. I am going to town and you are going abroad. It may be
long - very long - before we meet again."

"About Easter," said Miss Dunstable; "that is, if the doctor doesn't
knock up on the road."

"And I had, had wished to say something before we part for so long a
time. Miss Dunstable - "

"Stop! - Mr Moffat. Let me ask you one question. I'll hear anything
that you have got to say, but on one condition: that is, that Miss
Augusta Gresham shall be by while you say it. Will you consent to

"Miss Augusta Gresham," said he, "has no right to listen to my
private conversation."

"Has she not, Mr Moffat? then I think she should have. I, at any
rate, will not so far interfere with what I look on as her undoubted
privileges as to be a party to any secret in which she may not

"But, Miss Dunstable - "

"And to tell you fairly, Mr Moffat, any secret that you do tell me, I
shall most undoubtedly repeat to her before dinner. Good morning, Mr
Moffat; my feet are certainly a little damp, and if I stay a moment
longer, Dr Easyman will put off my foreign trip for at least a week."
And so she left him standing alone in the middle of the gravel-walk.

For a moment or two, Mr Moffat consoled himself in his misfortune by
thinking how he might best avenge himself on Miss Dunstable. Soon,
however, such futile ideas left his brain. Why should he give over
the chase because the rich galleon had escaped him on this, his
first cruise in pursuit of her? Such prizes were not to be won so
easily. Her present objection clearly consisted in his engagement to
Miss Gresham, and in that only. Let that engagement be at an end,
notoriously and publicly broken off, and this objection would fall to
the ground. Yes; ships so richly freighted were not to be run down
in one summer morning's plain sailing. Instead of looking for his
revenge on Miss Dunstable, it would be more prudent in him - more in
keeping with his character - to pursue his object, and overcome such
difficulties as he might find in his way.


The Duke of Omnium

The Duke of Omnium was, as we have said, a bachelor. Not the less on
that account did he on certain rare gala days entertain the beauty
of the county at his magnificent rural seat, or the female fashion
of London in Belgrave Square; but on this occasion the dinner at
Gatherum Castle - for such was the name of his mansion - was to be
confined to the lords of the creation. It was to be one of those days
on which he collected round his board all the notables of the county,
in order that his popularity might not wane, or the established glory
of his hospitable house become dim.

On such an occasion it was not probable that Lord de Courcy would be
one of the guests. The party, indeed, who went from Courcy Castle was
not large, and consisted of the Honourable George, Mr Moffat, and
Frank Gresham. They went in a tax-cart, with a tandem horse, driven
very knowingly by George de Courcy; and the fourth seat on the back
of the vehicle was occupied by a servant, who was to look after the
horses at Gatherum.

The Honourable George drove either well or luckily, for he reached
the duke's house in safety; but he drove very fast. Poor Miss
Dunstable! what would have been her lot had anything but good
happened to that vehicle, so richly freighted with her three lovers!
They did not quarrel as to the prize, and all reached Gatherum Castle
in good humour with each other.

The castle was new building of white stone, lately erected at an
enormous cost by one of the first architects of the day. It was an
immense pile, and seemed to cover ground enough for a moderate-sized
town. But, nevertheless, report said that when it was completed,
the noble owner found that he had no rooms to live in; and that, on
this account, when disposed to study his own comfort, he resided in
a house of perhaps one-tenth the size, built by his grandfather in
another county.

Gatherum Castle would probably be called Italian in its style of
architecture; though it may, I think, be doubted whether any such
edifice, or anything like it, was ever seen in any part of Italy.
It was a vast edifice; irregular in height - or it appeared to be
so - having long wings on each side too high to be passed over by the
eye as mere adjuncts to the mansion, and a portico so large as to
make the house behind it look like another building of a greater
altitude. This portico was supported by Ionic columns, and was in
itself doubtless a beautiful structure. It was approached by a
flight of steps, very broad and very grand; but, as an approach by a
flight of steps hardly suits an Englishman's house, to the immediate
entrance of which it is necessary that his carriage should drive,
there was another front door in one of the wings which was commonly
used. A carriage, however, could on very stupendously grand
occasions - the visits, for instance, of queens and kings, and royal
dukes - be brought up under the portico; as the steps had been so
constructed as to admit of a road, with a rather stiff ascent, being
made close in front of the wing up into the very porch.

Opening from the porch was the grand hall, which extended up to the
top of the house. It was magnificent, indeed; being decorated with
many-coloured marbles, and hung round with various trophies of the
house of Omnium; banners were there, and armour; the sculptured busts
of many noble progenitors; full-length figures in marble of those
who had been especially prominent; and every monument of glory that
wealth, long years, and great achievements could bring together. If
only a man could but live in his hall and be for ever happy there!
But the Duke of Omnium could not live happily in his hall; and the
fact was, that the architect, in contriving this magnificent entrance
for his own honour and fame, had destroyed the duke's house as
regards most of the ordinary purposes of residence.

Nevertheless, Gatherum Castle is a very noble pile; and, standing as
it does on an eminence, has a very fine effect when seen from many a
distant knoll and verdant-wooded hill.

At seven o'clock Mr de Courcy and his friends got down from their
drag at the smaller door - for this was no day on which to mount up
under the portico; nor was that any suitable vehicle to have been
entitled to such honour. Frank felt some excitement a little stronger
than that usual to him at such moments, for he had never yet been in
company with the Duke of Omnium; and he rather puzzled himself to
think on what points he would talk to the man who was the largest
landowner in that county in which he himself had so great an
interest. He, however, made up his mind that he would allow the duke
to choose his own subjects; merely reserving to himself the right of
pointing out how deficient in gorse covers was West Barsetshire - that
being the duke's division.

They were soon divested of their coats and hats, and,
without entering on the magnificence of the great hall, were
conducted through rather a narrow passage into rather a small
drawing-room - small, that is, in proportion to the number of
gentlemen there assembled. There might be about thirty, and Frank was
inclined to think that they were almost crowded. A man came forward
to greet them when their names were announced; but our hero at once
knew that he was not the duke; for this man was fat and short,
whereas the duke was thin and tall.

There was a great hubbub going on; for everybody seemed to be talking
to his neighbour; or, in default of a neighbour, to himself. It
was clear that the exalted rank of their host had put very little
constraint on his guests' tongues, for they chatted away with as much
freedom as farmers at an ordinary.

"Which is the duke?" at last Frank contrived to whisper to his

"Oh; - he's not here," said George; "I suppose he'll be in presently.
I believe he never shows till just before dinner."

Frank, of course, had nothing further to say; but he already began to
feel himself a little snubbed: he thought that the duke, duke though
he was, when he asked people to dinner should be there to tell them
that he was glad to see them.

More people flashed into the room, and Frank found himself rather
closely wedged in with a stout clergyman of his acquaintance. He was
not badly off, for Mr Athill was a friend of his own, who had held a
living near Greshamsbury. Lately, however, at the lamented decease
of Dr Stanhope - who had died of apoplexy at his villa in Italy - Mr
Athill had been presented with the better preferment of Eiderdown,
and had, therefore, removed to another part of the county. He was
somewhat of a bon-vivant, and a man who thoroughly understood
dinner-parties; and with much good nature he took Frank under his
special protection.

"You stick to me, Mr Gresham," he said, "when we go into the
dining-room. I'm an old hand at the duke's dinners, and know how to
make a friend comfortable as well as myself."

"But why doesn't the duke come in?" demanded Frank.

"He'll be here as soon as dinner is ready," said Mr Athill. "Or,
rather, the dinner will be ready as soon as he is here. I don't care,
therefore, how soon he comes."

Frank did not understand this, but he had nothing to do but to wait
and see how things went.

He was beginning to be impatient, for the room was now nearly full,
and it seemed evident that no other guests were coming; when suddenly
a bell rang, and a gong was sounded, and at the same instant a door
that had not yet been used flew open, and a very plainly dressed,
plain, tall man entered the room. Frank at once knew that he was at
last in the presence of the Duke of Omnium.

But his grace, late as he was in commencing the duties as host,
seemed in no hurry to make up for lost time. He quietly stood on the
rug, with his back to the empty grate, and spoke one or two words in

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 20 of 49)