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Gresham! for shame - for shame."

Frank found the task before him by no means an easy one. He had to
make Miss Dunstable understand that he had never had the slightest
idea of marrying her, and that he had made love to her merely with
the object of keeping his hand in for the work as it were; with that
object, and the other equally laudable one of interfering with his
cousin George.

And yet there was nothing for him but to get through this task as
best he might. He was goaded to it by the accusations which Miss
Dunstable brought against him; and he began to feel, that though her
invective against him might be bitter when he had told the truth,
they could not be so bitter as those she now kept hinting at under
her mistaken impression as to his views. He had never had any strong
propensity for money-hunting; but now that offence appeared in his
eyes abominable, unmanly, and disgusting. Any imputation would be
better than that.

"Miss Dunstable, I never for a moment thought of doing what
you accuse me of; on my honour, I never did. I have been very
foolish - very wrong - idiotic, I believe; but I have never intended
that."

"Then, Mr Gresham, what did you intend?"

This was rather a difficult question to answer; and Frank was not
very quick in attempting it. "I know you will not forgive me," he
said at last; "and, indeed, I do not see how you can. I don't know
how it came about; but this is certain, Miss Dunstable; I have never
for a moment thought about your fortune; that is, thought about it in
the way of coveting it."

"You never thought of making me your wife, then?"

"Never," said Frank, looking boldly into her face.

"You never intended really to propose to go with me to the altar, and
then make yourself rich by one great perjury?"

"Never for a moment," said he.

"You have never gloated over me as the bird of prey gloats over the
poor beast that is soon to become carrion beneath its claws? You have
not counted me out as equal to so much land, and calculated on me as
a balance at your banker's? Ah, Mr Gresham," she continued, seeing
that he stared as though struck almost with awe by her strong
language; "you little guess what a woman situated as I am has to
suffer."

"I have behaved badly to you, Miss Dunstable, and I beg your pardon;
but I have never thought of your money."

"Then we will be friends again, Mr Gresham, won't we? It is so nice
to have a friend like you. There, I think I understand it now; you
need not tell me."

"It was half by way of making a fool of my aunt," said Frank, in an
apologetic tone.

"There is merit in that, at any rate," said Miss Dunstable. "I
understand it all now; you thought to make a fool of me in real
earnest. Well, I can forgive that; at any rate it is not mean."

It may be, that Miss Dunstable did not feel much acute anger at
finding that this young man had addressed her with words of love in
the course of an ordinary flirtation, although that flirtation had
been unmeaning and silly. This was not the offence against which her
heart and breast had found peculiar cause to arm itself; this was not
the injury from which she had hitherto experienced suffering.

At any rate, she and Frank again became friends, and, before the
evening was over, they perfectly understood each other. Twice during
this long _tête-à-tête_ Lady de Courcy came into the room to see how
things were going on, and twice she went out almost unnoticed. It
was quite clear to her that something uncommon had taken place, was
taking place, or would take place; and that should this be for weal
or for woe, no good could now come from her interference. On each
occasion, therefore, she smiled sweetly on the pair of turtle-doves,
and glided out of the room as quietly as she had glided into it.

But at last it became necessary to remove them; for the world had
gone to bed. Frank, in the meantime, had told to Miss Dunstable all
his love for Mary Thorne, and Miss Dunstable had enjoined him to be
true to his vows. To her eyes there was something of heavenly beauty
in young, true love - of beauty that was heavenly because it had been
unknown to her.

"Mind you let me hear, Mr Gresham," said she. "Mind you do; and, Mr
Gresham, never, never forget her for one moment; not for one moment,
Mr Gresham."

Frank was about to swear that he never would - again, when the
countess, for the third time, sailed into the room.

"Young people," said she, "do you know what o'clock it is?"

"Dear me, Lady de Courcy, I declare it is past twelve; I really am
ashamed of myself. How glad you will be to get rid of me to-morrow!"

"No, no, indeed we shan't; shall we, Frank?" and so Miss Dunstable
passed out.

Then once again the aunt tapped her nephew with her fan. It was the
last time in her life that she did so. He looked up in her face, and
his look was enough to tell her that the acres of Greshamsbury were
not to be reclaimed by the ointment of Lebanon.

Nothing further on the subject was said. On the following morning
Miss Dunstable took her departure, not much heeding the rather cold
words of farewell which her hostess gave her; and on the following
day Frank started for Greshamsbury.




CHAPTER XXI

Mr Moffat Falls into Trouble


We will now, with the reader's kind permission, skip over some months
in our narrative. Frank returned from Courcy Castle to Greshamsbury,
and having communicated to his mother - much in the same manner as he
had to the countess - the fact that his mission had been unsuccessful,
he went up after a day or two to Cambridge. During his short stay at
Greshamsbury he did not even catch a glimpse of Mary. He asked for
her, of course, and was told that it was not likely that she would be
at the house just at present. He called at the doctor's, but she was
denied to him there; "she was out," Janet said, - "probably with Miss
Oriel." He went to the parsonage and found Miss Oriel at home; but
Mary had not been seen that morning. He then returned to the house;
and, having come to the conclusion that she had not thus vanished
into air, otherwise than by preconcerted arrangement, he boldly taxed
Beatrice on the subject.

Beatrice looked very demure; declared that no one in the house had
quarrelled with Mary; confessed that it had been thought prudent that
she should for a while stay away from Greshamsbury; and, of course,
ended by telling her brother everything, including all the scenes
that had passed between Mary and herself.

"It is out of the question your thinking of marrying her, Frank,"
said she. "You must know that nobody feels it more strongly than
poor Mary herself;" and Beatrice looked the very personification of
domestic prudence.

"I know nothing of the kind," said he, with the headlong imperative
air that was usual with him in discussing matters with his sisters.
"I know nothing of the kind. Of course I cannot say what Mary's
feelings may be: a pretty life she must have had of it among you. But
you may be sure of this, Beatrice, and so may my mother, that nothing
on earth shall make me give her up - nothing." And Frank, as he made
the protestation, strengthened his own resolution by thinking of all
the counsel that Miss Dunstable had given him.

The brother and sister could hardly agree, as Beatrice was dead
against the match. Not that she would not have liked Mary Thorne for
a sister-in-law, but that she shared to a certain degree the feeling
which was now common to all the Greshams - that Frank must marry
money. It seemed, at any rate, to be imperative that he should either
do that or not marry at all. Poor Beatrice was not very mercenary
in her views: she had no wish to sacrifice her brother to any
Miss Dunstable; but yet she felt, as they all felt - Mary Thorne
included - that such a match as that, of the young heir with the
doctor's niece, was not to be thought of; - not to be spoken of as
a thing that was in any way possible. Therefore, Beatrice, though
she was Mary's great friend, though she was her brother's favourite
sister, could give Frank no encouragement. Poor Frank! circumstances
had made but one bride possible to him: he must marry money.

His mother said nothing to him on the subject: when she learnt that
the affair with Miss Dunstable was not to come off, she merely
remarked that it would perhaps be best for him to return to Cambridge
as soon as possible. Had she spoken her mind out, she would probably
have also advised him to remain there as long as possible. The
countess had not omitted to write to her when Frank left Courcy
Castle; and the countess's letter certainly made the anxious mother
think that her son's education had hardly yet been completed. With
this secondary object, but with that of keeping him out of the way of
Mary Thorne in the first place, Lady Arabella was now quite satisfied
that her son should enjoy such advantages as an education completed
at the university might give him.

With his father Frank had a long conversation; but, alas! the gist of
his father's conversation was this, that it behoved him, Frank, to
marry money. The father, however, did not put it to him in the cold,
callous way in which his lady-aunt had done, and his lady-mother.
He did not bid him go and sell himself to the first female he could
find possessed of wealth. It was with inward self-reproaches, and
true grief of spirit, that the father told the son that it was not
possible for him to do as those may do who are born really rich, or
really poor.

"If you marry a girl without a fortune, Frank, how are you to live?"
the father asked, after having confessed how deep he himself had
injured his own heir.

"I don't care about money, sir," said Frank. "I shall be just as
happy as if Boxall Hill had never been sold. I don't care a straw
about that sort of thing."

"Ah! my boy; but you will care: you will soon find that you do care."

"Let me go into some profession. Let me go to the Bar. I am sure I
could earn my own living. Earn it! of course I could, why not I as
well as others? I should like of all things to be a barrister."

There was much more of the same kind, in which Frank said all that he
could think of to lessen his father's regrets. In their conversation
not a word was spoken about Mary Thorne. Frank was not aware whether
or no his father had been told of the great family danger which was
dreaded in that quarter. That he had been told, we may surmise, as
Lady Arabella was not wont to confine the family dangers to her own
bosom. Moreover, Mary's presence had, of course, been missed. The
truth was, that the squire had been told, with great bitterness, of
what had come to pass, and all the evil had been laid at his door.
He it had been who had encouraged Mary to be regarded almost as a
daughter of the house of Greshamsbury; he it was who taught that
odious doctor - odious in all but his aptitude for good doctoring - to
think himself a fit match for the aristocracy of the county. It had
been his fault, this great necessity that Frank should marry money;
and now it was his fault that Frank was absolutely talking of
marrying a pauper.

By no means in quiescence did the squire hear these charges brought
against him. The Lady Arabella, in each attack, got quite as much as
she gave, and, at last, was driven to retreat in a state of headache,
which she declared to be chronic; and which, so she assured her
daughter Augusta, must prevent her from having any more lengthened
conversations with her lord - at any rate for the next three months.
But though the squire may be said to have come off on the whole as
victor in these combats, they did not perhaps have, on that account,
the less effect upon him. He knew it was true that he had done much
towards ruining his son; and he also could think of no other remedy
than matrimony. It was Frank's doom, pronounced even by the voice of
his father, that he must marry money.

And so, Frank went off again to Cambridge, feeling himself, as he
went, to be a much lesser man in Greshamsbury estimation than he had
been some two months earlier, when his birthday had been celebrated.
Once during his short stay at Greshamsbury he had seen the doctor;
but the meeting had been anything but pleasant. He had been afraid
to ask after Mary; and the doctor had been too diffident of himself
to speak of her. They had met casually on the road, and, though each
in his heart loved the other, the meeting had been anything but
pleasant.

And so Frank went back to Cambridge; and, as he did so, he stoutly
resolved that nothing should make him untrue to Mary Thorne.
"Beatrice," said he, on the morning he went away, when she came into
his room to superintend his packing - "Beatrice, if she ever talks
about me - "

"Oh, Frank, my darling Frank, don't think of it - it is madness; she
knows it is madness."

"Never mind; if she ever talks about me, tell her that the last word
I said was, that I would never forget her. She can do as she likes."

Beatrice made no promise, never hinted that she would give the
message; but it may be taken for granted that she had not been long
in company with Mary Thorne before she did give it.

And then there were other troubles at Greshamsbury. It had been
decided that Augusta's marriage was to take place in September; but
Mr Moffat had, unfortunately, been obliged to postpone the happy day.
He himself had told Augusta - not, of course, without protestations
as to his regret - and had written to this effect to Mr Gresham,
"Electioneering matters, and other troubles had," he said, "made this
peculiarly painful postponement absolutely necessary."

Augusta seemed to bear her misfortune with more equanimity than is,
we believe, usual with young ladies under such circumstances. She
spoke of it to her mother in a very matter-of-fact way, and seemed
almost contented at the idea of remaining at Greshamsbury till
February; which was the time now named for the marriage. But Lady
Arabella was not equally well satisfied, nor was the squire.

"I half believe that fellow is not honest," he had once said out loud
before Frank, and this set Frank a-thinking of what dishonesty in the
matter it was probable that Mr Moffat might be guilty, and what would
be the fitting punishment for such a crime. Nor did he think on the
subject in vain; especially after a conference on the matter which he
had with his friend Harry Baker. This conference took place during
the Christmas vacation.

It should be mentioned, that the time spent by Frank at Courcy Castle
had not done much to assist him in his views as to an early degree,
and that it had at last been settled that he should stay up at
Cambridge another year. When he came home at Christmas he found that
the house was not peculiarly lively. Mary was absent on a visit with
Miss Oriel. Both these young ladies were staying with Miss Oriel's
aunt, in the neighbourhood of London; and Frank soon learnt that
there was no chance that either of them would be home before his
return. No message had been left for him by Mary - none at least had
been left with Beatrice; and he began in his heart to accuse her of
coldness and perfidy; - not, certainly, with much justice, seeing that
she had never given him the slightest encouragement.

The absence of Patience Oriel added to the dullness of the place. It
was certainly hard upon Frank that all the attraction of the village
should be removed to make way and prepare for his return - harder,
perhaps, on them; for, to tell the truth, Miss Oriel's visit had been
entirely planned to enable her to give Mary a comfortable way of
leaving Greshamsbury during the time that Frank should remain at
home. Frank thought himself cruelly used. But what did Mr Oriel think
when doomed to eat his Christmas pudding alone, because the young
squire would be unreasonable in his love? What did the doctor think,
as he sat solitary by his deserted hearth - the doctor, who no
longer permitted himself to enjoy the comforts of the Greshamsbury
dining-table? Frank hinted and grumbled; talked to Beatrice of the
determined constancy of his love, and occasionally consoled himself
by a stray smile from some of the neighbouring belles. The black
horse was made perfect; the old grey pony was by no means discarded;
and much that was satisfactory was done in the sporting line. But
still the house was dull, and Frank felt that he was the cause of
its being so. Of the doctor he saw but little: he never came to
Greshamsbury unless to see Lady Arabella as doctor, or to be closeted
with the squire. There were no social evenings with him; no animated
confabulations at the doctor's house; no discourses between them,
as there had wont to be, about the merits of the different covers,
and the capacities of the different hounds. These were dull days on
the whole for Frank; and sad enough, we may say, for our friend the
doctor.

In February, Frank again went back to college; having settled with
Harry Baker certain affairs which weighed on his mind. He went back
to Cambridge, promising to be home on the 20th of the month, so as to
be present at his sister's wedding. A cold and chilling time had been
named for these hymeneal joys, but one not altogether unsuited to the
feelings of the happy pair. February is certainly not a warm month;
but with the rich it is generally a cosy, comfortable time. Good
fires, winter cheer, groaning tables, and warm blankets, make a
fictitious summer, which, to some tastes, is more delightful than
the long days and the hot sun. And some marriages are especially
winter matches. They depend for their charm on the same substantial
attractions: instead of heart beating to heart in sympathetic unison,
purse chinks to purse. The rich new furniture of the new abode is
looked to instead of the rapture of a pure embrace. The new carriage
is depended on rather than the new heart's companion; and the first
bright gloss, prepared by the upholsterer's hands, stands in lieu of
the rosy tints which young love lends to his true votaries.

Mr Moffat had not spent his Christmas at Greshamsbury. That eternal
election petition, those eternal lawyers, the eternal care of his
well-managed wealth, forbade him the enjoyment of any such pleasures.
He could not come to Greshamsbury for Christmas, nor yet for the
festivities of the new year; but now and then he wrote prettily
worded notes, sending occasionally a silver-gilt pencil-case, or a
small brooch, and informed Lady Arabella that he looked forward to
the 20th of February with great satisfaction. But, in the meanwhile,
the squire became anxious, and at last went up to London; and Frank,
who was at Cambridge, bought the heaviest cutting whip to be found in
that town, and wrote a confidential letter to Harry Baker.

Poor Mr Moffat! It is well known that none but the brave deserve the
fair; but thou, without much excuse for bravery, had secured for
thyself one who, at any rate, was fair enough for thee. Would it
not have been well hadst thou looked into thyself to see what real
bravery might be in thee, before thou hadst prepared to desert this
fair one thou hadst already won? That last achievement, one may say,
did require some special courage.

Poor Mr Moffat! It is wonderful that as he sat in that gig, going to
Gatherum Castle, planning how he would be off with Miss Gresham and
afterwards on with Miss Dunstable, it is wonderful that he should not
then have cast his eye behind him, and looked at that stalwart pair
of shoulders which were so close to his own back. As he afterwards
pondered on his scheme while sipping the duke's claret, it is odd
that he should not have observed the fiery pride of purpose and power
of wrath which was so plainly written on that young man's brow: or,
when he matured, and finished, and carried out his purpose, that he
did not think of that keen grasp which had already squeezed his own
hand with somewhat too warm a vigour, even in the way of friendship.

Poor Mr Moffat! it is probable that he forgot to think of Frank at
all as connected with his promised bride; it is probable that he
looked forward only to the squire's violence and the enmity of the
house of Courcy; and that he found from enquiry at his heart's
pulses, that he was man enough to meet these. Could he have guessed
what a whip Frank Gresham would have bought at Cambridge - could he
have divined what a letter would have been written to Harry Baker - it
is probable, nay, we think we may say certain, that Miss Gresham
would have become Mrs Moffat.

Miss Gresham, however, never did become Mrs Moffat. About two days
after Frank's departure for Cambridge - it is just possible that Mr
Moffat was so prudent as to make himself aware of the fact - but just
two days after Frank's departure, a very long, elaborate, and clearly
explanatory letter was received at Greshamsbury. Mr Moffat was quite
sure that Miss Gresham and her very excellent parents would do him
the justice to believe that he was not actuated, &c., &c., &c.
The long and the short of this was, that Mr Moffat signified his
intention of breaking off the match without offering any intelligible
reason.

Augusta again bore her disappointment well: not, indeed, without
sorrow and heartache, and inward, hidden tears; but still well. She
neither raved, nor fainted, nor walked about by moonlight alone. She
wrote no poetry, and never once thought of suicide. When, indeed, she
remembered the rosy-tinted lining, the unfathomable softness of that
Long-acre carriage, her spirit did for one moment give way; but, on
the whole, she bore it as a strong-minded woman and a de Courcy
should do.

But both Lady Arabella and the squire were greatly vexed. The former
had made the match, and the latter, having consented to it, had
incurred deeper responsibilities to enable him to bring it about.
The money which was to have been given to Mr Moffat was still to the
fore; but alas! how much, how much that he could ill spare, had been
thrown away on bridal preparations! It is, moreover, an unpleasant
thing for a gentleman to have his daughter jilted; perhaps peculiarly
so to have her jilted by a tailor's son.

Lady Arabella's woe was really piteous. It seemed to her as though
cruel fate were heaping misery after misery upon the wretched house
of Greshamsbury. A few weeks since things were going so well with
her! Frank then was all but the accepted husband of almost untold
wealth - so, at least, she was informed by her sister-in-law - whereas,
Augusta, was the accepted wife of wealth, not indeed untold, but of
dimensions quite sufficiently respectable to cause much joy in the
telling. Where now were her golden hopes? Where now the splendid
future of her poor duped children? Augusta was left to pine alone;
and Frank, in a still worse plight, insisted on maintaining his love
for a bastard and a pauper.

For Frank's affair she had received some poor consolation by laying
all the blame on the squire's shoulders. What she had then said
was now repaid to her with interest; for not only had she been the
maker of Augusta's match, but she had boasted of the deed with all a
mother's pride.

It was from Beatrice that Frank had obtained his tidings. This last
resolve on the part of Mr Moffat had not altogether been unsuspected
by some of the Greshams, though altogether unsuspected by the Lady
Arabella. Frank had spoken of it as a possibility to Beatrice,
and was not quite unprepared when the information reached him. He
consequently bought his big cutting whip, and wrote his confidential
letter to Harry Baker.

On the following day Frank and Harry might have been seen, with their
heads nearly close together, leaning over one of the tables in the
large breakfast-room at the Tavistock Hotel in Covent Garden. The
ominous whip, to the handle of which Frank had already made his hand
well accustomed, was lying on the table between them; and ever and
anon Harry Baker would take it up and feel its weight approvingly.
Oh, Mr Moffat! poor Mr Moffat! go not out into the fashionable world
to-day; above all, go not to that club of thine in Pall Mall; but,
oh! especially go not there, as is thy wont to do, at three o'clock
in the afternoon!

With much care did those two young generals lay their plans of
attack. Let it not for a moment be thought that it was ever in the
minds of either of them that two men should attack one. But it
was thought that Mr Moffat might be rather coy in coming out from
his seclusion to meet the proffered hand of his once intended
brother-in-law when he should see that hand armed with a heavy whip.
Baker, therefore, was content to act as a decoy duck, and remarked
that he might no doubt make himself useful in restraining the public



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 22 of 49)