Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 24 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 24 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


world, to whom he could open his mind and speak out honestly what
was in his heart. To Dr Thorne he might perhaps have done so had his
intercourse with the doctor been sufficiently frequent; but it was
only now and again when he was ill, or when the squire wanted to
borrow money, that he saw Dr Thorne. He had plenty of friends, heaps
of friends in the parliamentary sense; friends who talked about
him, and lauded him at public meetings; who shook hands with him on
platforms, and drank his health at dinners; but he had no friend
who could sit with him over his own hearth, in true friendship, and
listen to, and sympathise with, and moderate the sighings of the
inner man. For him there was no sympathy; no tenderness of love; no
retreat, save into himself, from the loud brass band of the outer
world.

The blow hit him terribly hard. It did not come altogether
unexpectedly, and yet, when it did come, it was all but unendurable.
He had made so much of the power of walking into that august chamber,
and sitting shoulder to shoulder in legislative equality with the
sons of dukes and the curled darlings of the nation. Money had given
him nothing, nothing but the mere feeling of brute power: with his
three hundred thousand pounds he had felt himself to be no more
palpably near to the goal of his ambition than when he had chipped
stones for three shillings and sixpence a day. But when he was led up
and introduced at that table, when he shook the old premier's hand
on the floor of the House of Commons, when he heard the honourable
member for Barchester alluded to in grave debate as the greatest
living authority on railway matters, then, indeed, he felt that he
had achieved something.

And now this cup was ravished from his lips, almost before it was
tasted. When he was first told as a certainty that the decision of
the committee was against him, he bore up against the misfortune like
a man. He laughed heartily, and declared himself well rid of a very
profitless profession; cut some little joke about Mr Moffat and his
thrashing, and left on those around him an impression that he was
a man so constituted, so strong in his own resolves, so steadily
pursuant of his own work, that no little contentions of this kind
could affect him. Men admired his easy laughter, as, shuffling his
half-crowns with both his hands in his trouser-pockets, he declared
that Messrs Romer and Reddypalm were the best friends he had known
for this many a day.

But not the less did he walk out from the room in which he was
standing a broken-hearted man. Hope could not buoy him up as she may
do other ex-members in similarly disagreeable circumstances. He could
not afford to look forward to what further favours parliamentary
future might have in store for him after a lapse of five or six
years. Five or six years! Why, his life was not worth four years'
purchase; of that he was perfectly aware: he could not now live
without the stimulus of brandy; and yet, while he took it, he knew he
was killing himself. Death he did not fear; but he would fain have
wished, after his life of labour, to have lived, while yet he could
live, in the blaze of that high world to which for a moment he had
attained.

He laughed loud and cheerily as he left his parliamentary friends,
and, putting himself into the train, went down to Boxall Hill. He
laughed loud and cheerily; but he never laughed again. It had not
been his habit to laugh much at Boxall Hill. It was there he kept his
wife, and Mr Winterbones, and the brandy bottle behind his pillow. He
had not often there found it necessary to assume that loud and cheery
laugh.

On this occasion he was apparently well in health when he got home;
but both Lady Scatcherd and Mr Winterbones found him more than
ordinarily cross. He made an affectation at sitting very hard to
business, and even talked of going abroad to look at some of his
foreign contracts. But even Winterbones found that his patron did not
work as he had been wont to do; and at last, with some misgivings, he
told Lady Scatcherd that he feared that everything was not right.

"He's always at it, my lady, always," said Mr Winterbones.

"Is he?" said Lady Scatcherd, well understanding what Mr
Winterbones's allusion meant.

"Always, my lady. I never saw nothing like it. Now, there's me - I can
always go my half-hour when I've had my drop; but he, why, he don't
go ten minutes, not now."

This was not cheerful to Lady Scatcherd; but what was the poor woman
to do? When she spoke to him on any subject he only snarled at her;
and now that the heavy fit was on him, she did not dare even to
mention the subject of his drinking. She had never known him so
savage in his humour as he was now, so bearish in his habits, so
little inclined to humanity, so determined to rush headlong down,
with his head between his legs, into the bottomless abyss.

She thought of sending for Dr Thorne; but she did not know under what
guise to send for him, - whether as doctor or as friend: under neither
would he now be welcome; and she well knew that Sir Roger was not the
man to accept in good part either a doctor or a friend who might be
unwelcome. She knew that this husband of hers, this man who, with
all his faults, was the best of her friends, whom of all she loved
best - she knew that he was killing himself, and yet she could do
nothing. Sir Roger was his own master, and if kill himself he would,
kill himself he must.

And kill himself he did. Not indeed by one sudden blow. He did not
take one huge dose of his consuming poison and then fall dead upon
the floor. It would perhaps have been better for himself, and better
for those around him, had he done so. No; the doctors had time to
congregate around his bed; Lady Scatcherd was allowed a period of
nurse-tending; the sick man was able to say his last few words and
bid adieu to his portion of the lower world with dying decency. As
these last words will have some lasting effect upon the surviving
personages of our story, the reader must be content to stand for a
short while by the side of Sir Roger's sick-bed, and help us to bid
him God-speed on the journey which lies before him.




CHAPTER XXIII

Retrospective


It was declared in the early pages of this work that Dr Thorne was to
be our hero; but it would appear very much as though he had latterly
been forgotten. Since that evening when he retired to rest without
letting Mary share the grievous weight which was on his mind, we have
neither seen nor heard aught of him.

It was then full midsummer, and it is now early spring: and during the
intervening months the doctor had not had a happy time of it. On that
night, as we have before told, he took his niece to his heart; but
he could not then bring himself to tell her that which it was so
imperative that she should know. Like a coward, he would put off
the evil hour till the next morning, and thus robbed himself of his
night's sleep.

But when the morning came the duty could not be postponed. Lady
Arabella had given him to understand that his niece would no longer
be a guest at Greshamsbury; and it was quite out of the question that
Mary, after this, should be allowed to put her foot within the gate
of the domain without having learnt what Lady Arabella had said. So
he told it her before breakfast, walking round their little garden,
she with her hand in his.

He was perfectly thunderstruck by the collected - nay, cool way in
which she received his tidings. She turned pale, indeed; he felt also
that her hand somewhat trembled in his own, and he perceived that
for a moment her voice shook; but no angry word escaped her lip, nor
did she even deign to repudiate the charge, which was, as it were,
conveyed in Lady Arabella's request. The doctor knew, or thought he
knew - nay, he did know - that Mary was wholly blameless in the matter:
that she had at least given no encouragement to any love on the part
of the young heir; but, nevertheless, he had expected that she would
avouch her own innocence. This, however, she by no means did.

"Lady Arabella is quite right," she said, "quite right; if she has
any fear of that kind, she cannot be too careful."

"She is a selfish, proud woman," said the doctor; "quite indifferent
to the feelings of others; quite careless how deeply she may hurt her
neighbours, if, in doing so, she may possibly benefit herself."

"She will not hurt me, uncle, nor yet you. I can live without going
to Greshamsbury."

"But it is not to be endured that she should dare to cast an
imputation on my darling."

"On me, uncle? She casts no imputation on me. Frank has been foolish:
I have said nothing of it, for it was not worth while to trouble you.
But as Lady Arabella chooses to interfere, I have no right to blame
her. He has said what he should not have said; he has been foolish.
Uncle, you know I could not prevent it."

"Let her send him away then, not you; let her banish him."

"Uncle, he is her son. A mother can hardly send her son away so
easily: could you send me away, uncle?"

He merely answered her by twining his arm round her waist and
pressing her to his side. He was well sure that she was badly
treated; and yet now that she so unaccountably took Lady Arabella's
part, he hardly knew how to make this out plainly to be the case.

"Besides, uncle, Greshamsbury is in a manner his own; how can he be
banished from his father's house? No, uncle; there is an end of my
visits there. They shall find that I will not thrust myself in their
way."

And then Mary, with a calm brow and steady gait, went in and made the
tea.

And what might be the feelings of her heart when she so sententiously
told her uncle that Frank had been foolish? She was of the same age
with him; as impressionable, though more powerful in hiding such
impressions, - as all women should be; her heart was as warm, her
blood as full of life, her innate desire for the companionship of
some much-loved object as strong as his. Frank had been foolish in
avowing his passion. No such folly as that could be laid at her door.
But had she been proof against the other folly? Had she been able to
walk heart-whole by his side, while he chatted his commonplaces about
love? Yes, they are commonplaces when we read of them in novels;
common enough, too, to some of us when we write them; but they are by
no means commonplace when first heard by a young girl in the rich,
balmy fragrance of a July evening stroll.

Nor are they commonplaces when so uttered for the first or second
time at least, or perhaps the third. 'Tis a pity that so heavenly a
pleasure should pall upon the senses.

If it was so that Frank's folly had been listened to with a certain
amount of pleasure, Mary did not even admit so much to herself. But
why should it have been otherwise? Why should she have been less
prone to love than he was? Had he not everything which girls do love?
which girls should love? which God created noble, beautiful, all but
godlike, in order that women, all but goddesslike, might love? To
love thoroughly, truly, heartily, with her whole body, soul, heart,
and strength; should not that be counted for a merit in a woman? And
yet we are wont to make a disgrace of it. We do so most unnaturally,
most unreasonably; for we expect our daughters to get themselves
married off our hands. When the period of that step comes, then love
is proper enough; but up to that - before that - as regards all those
preliminary passages which must, we suppose, be necessary - in all
those it becomes a young lady to be icy-hearted as a river-god in
winter.


O whistle and I'll come to you, my lad!
O whistle and I'll come to you, my lad!
Tho' father and mither and a' should go mad,
O whistle and I'll come to you, my lad!


This is the kind of love which a girl should feel before she puts her
hand proudly in that of her lover, and consents that they two shall
be made one flesh.

Mary felt no such love as this. She, too, had some inner perception
of that dread destiny by which it behoved Frank Gresham to be
forewarned. She, too - though she had never heard so much said in
words - had an almost instinctive knowledge that his fate required him
to marry money. Thinking over this in her own way, she was not slow
to convince herself that it was out of the question that she should
allow herself to love Frank Gresham. However well her heart might
be inclined to such a feeling, it was her duty to repress it. She
resolved, therefore, to do so; and she sometimes flattered herself
that she had kept her resolution.

These were bad times for the doctor, and bad times for Mary too. She
had declared that she could live without going to Greshamsbury; but
she did not find it so easy. She had been going to Greshamsbury all
her life, and it was as customary with her to be there as at home.
Such old customs are not broken without pain. Had she left the place
it would have been far different; but, as it was, she daily passed
the gates, daily saw and spoke to some of the servants, who knew her
as well as they did the young ladies of the family - was in hourly
contact, as it were, with Greshamsbury. It was not only that she
did not go there, but that everyone knew that she had suddenly
discontinued doing so. Yes, she could live without going to
Greshamsbury; but for some time she had but a poor life of it. She
felt, nay, almost heard, that every man and woman, boy and girl, in
the village was telling his and her neighbour that Mary Thorne no
longer went to the house because of Lady Arabella and the young
squire.

But Beatrice, of course, came to her. What was she to say to
Beatrice? The truth! Nay, but it is not always so easy to say the
truth, even to one's dearest friends.

"But you'll come up now he has gone?" said Beatrice.

"No, indeed," said Mary; "that would hardly be pleasant to Lady
Arabella, nor to me either. No, Trichy, dearest; my visits to dear
old Greshamsbury are done, done, done: perhaps in some twenty years'
time I may be walking down the lawn with your brother, and discussing
our childish days - that is, always, if the then Mrs Gresham shall
have invited me."

"How can Frank have been so wrong, so unkind, so cruel?" said
Beatrice.

This, however, was a light in which Miss Thorne did not take any
pleasure in discussing the matter. Her ideas of Frank's fault, and
unkindness, and cruelty, were doubtless different from those of his
sister. Such cruelty was not unnaturally excused in her eyes by many
circumstances which Beatrice did not fully understand. Mary was quite
ready to go hand in hand with Lady Arabella and the rest of the
Greshamsbury fold in putting an end, if possible, to Frank's passion:
she would give no one a right to accuse her of assisting to ruin the
young heir; but she could hardly bring herself to admit that he was
so very wrong - no, nor yet even so very cruel.

And then the squire came to see her, and this was a yet harder trial
than the visit of Beatrice. It was so difficult for her to speak to
him that she could not but wish him away; and yet, had he not come,
had he altogether neglected her, she would have felt it to be unkind.
She had ever been his pet, had always received kindness from him.

"I am sorry for all this, Mary; very sorry," said he, standing up,
and holding both her hands in his.

"It can't be helped, sir," said she, smiling.

"I don't know," said he; "I don't know - it ought to be helped
somehow - I am quite sure you have not been to blame."

"No," said she, very quietly, as though the position was one quite
a matter of course. "I don't think I have been very much to blame.
There will be misfortunes sometimes when nobody is to blame."

"I do not quite understand it all," said the squire; "but if Frank - "

"Oh! we will not talk about him," said she, still laughing gently.

"You can understand, Mary, how dear he must be to me; but if - "

"Mr Gresham, I would not for worlds be the cause of any
unpleasantness between you and him."

"But I cannot bear to think that we have banished you, Mary."

"It cannot be helped. Things will all come right in time."

"But you will be so lonely here."

"Oh! I shall get over all that. Here, you know, Mr Gresham, 'I am
monarch of all I survey;' and there is a great deal in that."

The squire did not quite catch her meaning, but a glimmering of it
did reach him. It was competent to Lady Arabella to banish her from
Greshamsbury; it was within the sphere of the squire's duties to
prohibit his son from an imprudent match; it was for the Greshams to
guard their Greshamsbury treasure as best they could within their
own territories: but let them beware that they did not attack her on
hers. In obedience to the first expression of their wishes, she had
submitted herself to this public mark of their disapproval because
she had seen at once, with her clear intellect, that they were only
doing that which her conscience must approve. Without a murmur,
therefore, she consented to be pointed at as the young lady who had
been turned out of Greshamsbury because of the young squire. She had
no help for it. But let them take care that they did not go beyond
that. Outside those Greshamsbury gates she and Frank Gresham, she
and Lady Arabella met on equal terms; let them each fight their own
battle.

The squire kissed her forehead affectionately and took his leave,
feeling, somehow, that he had been excused and pitied, and made much
of; whereas he had called on his young neighbour with the intention
of excusing, and pitying, and making much of her. He was not
quite comfortable as he left the house; but, nevertheless, he was
sufficiently honest-hearted to own to himself that Mary Thorne was a
fine girl. Only that it was so absolutely necessary that Frank should
marry money - and only, also, that poor Mary was such a birthless
foundling in the world's esteem - only, but for these things, what a
wife she would have made for that son of his!

To one person only did she talk freely on the subject, and that one
was Patience Oriel; and even with her the freedom was rather of the
mind than of the heart. She never said a word of her feeling with
reference to Frank, but she said much of her position in the village,
and of the necessity she was under to keep out of the way.

"It is very hard," said Patience, "that the offence should be all
with him, and the punishment all with you."

"Oh! as for that," said Mary, laughing, "I will not confess to any
offence, nor yet to any punishment; certainly not to any punishment."

"It comes to the same thing in the end."

"No, not so, Patience; there is always some little sting of disgrace
in punishment: now I am not going to hold myself in the least
disgraced."

"But, Mary, you must meet the Greshams sometimes."

"Meet them! I have not the slightest objection on earth to meet all,
or any of them. They are not a whit dangerous to me, my dear. 'Tis
I that am the wild beast, and 'tis they that must avoid me," and
then she added, after a pause - slightly blushing - "I have not the
slightest objection even to meet him if chance brings him in my way.
Let them look to that. My undertaking goes no further than this, that
I will not be seen within their gates."

But the girls so far understood each other that Patience undertook,
rather than promised, to give Mary what assistance she could; and,
despite Mary's bravado, she was in such a position that she much
wanted the assistance of such a friend as Miss Oriel.

After an absence of some six weeks, Frank, as we have seen, returned
home. Nothing was said to him, except by Beatrice, as to these new
Greshamsbury arrangements; and he, when he found Mary was not at the
place, went boldly to the doctor's house to seek her. But it has been
seen, also, that she discreetly kept out of his way. This she had
thought fit to do when the time came, although she had been so ready
with her boast that she had no objection on earth to meet him.

After that there had been the Christmas vacation, and Mary had again
found discretion to be the better part of valour. This was doubtless
disagreeable enough. She had no particular wish to spend her
Christmas with Miss Oriel's aunt instead of at her uncle's fireside.
Indeed, her Christmas festivities had hitherto been kept at
Greshamsbury, the doctor and herself having made a part of the family
circle there assembled. This was out of the question now; and perhaps
the absolute change to old Miss Oriel's house was better for her than
the lesser change to her uncle's drawing-room. Besides, how could she
have demeaned herself when she met Frank in their parish church? All
this had been fully understood by Patience, and, therefore, had this
Christmas visit been planned.

And then this affair of Frank and Mary Thorne ceased for a while to
be talked of at Greshamsbury, for that other affair of Mr Moffat and
Augusta monopolised the rural attention. Augusta, as we have said,
bore it well, and sustained the public gaze without much flinching.
Her period of martyrdom, however, did not last long, for soon
the news arrived of Frank's exploit in Pall Mall; and then the
Greshamsburyites forgot to think much more of Augusta, being fully
occupied in thinking of what Frank had done.

The tale, as it was first told, declared that Frank had followed Mr
Moffat up into his club; had dragged him thence into the middle of
Pall Mall, and had then slaughtered him on the spot. This was by
degrees modified till a sobered fiction became generally prevalent,
that Mr Moffat was lying somewhere, still alive, but with all his
bones in a general state of compound fracture. This adventure again
brought Frank into the ascendant, and restored to Mary her former
position as the Greshamsbury heroine.

"One cannot wonder at his being very angry," said Beatrice,
discussing the matter with Mary - very imprudently.

"Wonder - no; the wonder would have been if he had not been angry. One
might have been quite sure that he would have been angry enough."

"I suppose it was not absolutely right for him to beat Mr Moffat,"
said Beatrice, apologetically.

"Not right, Trichy? I think he was very right."

"Not to beat him so very much, Mary!"

"Oh, I suppose a man can't exactly stand measuring how much he does
these things. I like your brother for what he has done, and I say
so frankly - though I suppose I ought to eat my tongue out before I
should say such a thing, eh, Trichy?"

"I don't know that there's any harm in that," said Beatrice,
demurely. "If you both liked each other there would be no harm in
that - if that were all."

"Wouldn't there?" said Mary, in a low tone of bantering satire; "that
is so kind, Trichy, coming from you - from one of the family, you
know."

"You are well aware, Mary, that if I could have my wishes - "

"Yes: I am well aware what a paragon of goodness you are. If you
could have your way I should be admitted into heaven again; shouldn't
I? Only with this proviso, that if a stray angel should ever whisper
to me with bated breath, mistaking me, perchance, for one of his own
class, I should be bound to close my ears to his whispering, and
remind him humbly that I was only a poor mortal. You would trust me
so far, wouldn't you, Trichy?"

"I would trust you in any way, Mary. But I think you are unkind in
saying such things to me."

"Into whatever heaven I am admitted, I will go only on this
understanding: that I am to be as good an angel as any of those
around me."

"But, Mary dear, why do you say this to me?"

"Because - because - because - ah me! Why, indeed, but because I have no
one else to say it to. Certainly not because you have deserved it."

"It seems as though you were finding fault with me."

"And so I am; how can I do other than find fault? How can I help
being sore? Trichy, you hardly realise my position; you hardly see
how I am treated; how I am forced to allow myself to be treated
without a sign of complaint. You don't see it all. If you did, you
would not wonder that I should be sore."

Beatrice did not quite see it all; but she saw enough of it to know
that Mary was to be pitied; so, instead of scolding her friend
for being cross, she threw her arms round her and kissed her
affectionately.

But the doctor all this time suffered much more than his niece did.
He could not complain out loudly; he could not aver that his pet lamb
had been ill treated; he could not even have the pleasure of openly
quarrelling with Lady Arabella; but not the less did he feel it to
be most cruel that Mary should have to live before the world as an
outcast, because it had pleased Frank Gresham to fall in love with



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 24 of 49)