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a shilling; he knew, also, how to keep his shillings, and how to
spend them. He consorted much with blacklegs and such-like, because
blacklegs were to his taste. But he boasted daily, nay, hourly to
himself, and frequently to those around him, that the leeches who
were stuck round him could draw but little blood from him. He could
spend his money freely; but he would so spend it that he himself
might reap the gratification of the expenditure. He was acute,
crafty, knowing, and up to every damnable dodge practised by men of
the class with whom he lived. At one-and-twenty he was that most
odious of all odious characters - a close-fisted reprobate.

He was a small man, not ill-made by Nature, but reduced to unnatural
tenuity by dissipation - a corporeal attribute of which he was apt
to boast, as it enabled him, as he said, to put himself up at 7 st.
7 lb. without any "d - - nonsense of not eating and drinking." The
power, however, was one of which he did not often avail himself, as
his nerves were seldom in a fit state for riding. His hair was dark
red, and he wore red moustaches, and a great deal of red beard
beneath his chin, cut in a manner to make him look like an American.
His voice also had a Yankee twang, being a cross between that of an
American trader and an English groom; and his eyes were keen and
fixed, and cold and knowing.

Such was the son whom Sir Roger saw standing at his bedside when
first he awoke to consciousness. It must not be supposed that Sir
Roger looked at him with our eyes. To him he was an only child,
the heir of his wealth, the future bearer of his title; the most
heart-stirring remembrancer of those other days, when he had been
so much a poorer, and so much a happier man. Let that boy be bad
or good, he was all Sir Roger had; and the father was still able
to hope, when others thought that all ground for hope was gone.

The mother also loved her son with a mother's natural love; but Louis
had ever been ashamed of his mother, and had, as far as possible,
estranged himself from her. Her heart, perhaps, fixed itself
with almost a warmer love on Frank Gresham, her foster-son. Frank
she saw but seldom, but when she did see him he never refused her
embrace. There was, too, a joyous, genial lustre about Frank's face
which always endeared him to women, and made his former nurse regard
him as the pet creation of the age. Though she but seldom interfered
with any monetary arrangement of her husband's, yet once or twice she
had ventured to hint that a legacy left to the young squire would
make her a happy woman. Sir Roger, however, on these occasions had
not appeared very desirous of making his wife happy.

"Ah, Louis! is that you?" ejaculated Sir Roger, in tones hardly more
than half-formed: afterwards, in a day or two that is, he fully
recovered his voice; but just then he could hardly open his jaws, and
spoke almost through his teeth. He managed, however, to put out his
hand and lay it on the counterpane, so that his son could take it.

"Why, that's well, governor," said the son; "you'll be as right as a
trivet in a day or two - eh, governor?"

The "governor" smiled with a ghastly smile. He already pretty well
knew that he would never again be "right," as his son called it, on
that side of the grave. It did not, moreover, suit him to say much
just at that moment, so he contented himself with holding his son's
hand. He lay still in this position for a moment, and then, turning
round painfully on his side, endeavoured to put his hand to the place
where his dire enemy usually was concealed. Sir Roger, however, was
too weak now to be his own master; he was at length, though too late,
a captive in the hands of nurses and doctors, and the bottle had now
been removed.

Then Lady Scatcherd came in, and seeing that her husband was no
longer unconscious, she could not but believe that Dr Thorne had been
wrong; she could not but think that there must be some ground for
hope. She threw herself on her knees at the bedside, bursting into
tears as she did so, and taking Sir Roger's hand in hers covered it
with kisses.

"Bother!" said Sir Roger.

She did not, however, long occupy herself with the indulgence of her
feelings; but going speedily to work, produced such sustenance as
the doctors had ordered to be given when the patient might awake. A
breakfast-cup was brought to him, and a few drops were put into his
mouth; but he soon made it manifest that he would take nothing more
of a description so perfectly innocent.

"A drop of brandy - just a little drop," said he, half-ordering, and

"Ah, Roger!" said Lady Scatcherd.

"Just a little drop, Louis," said the sick man, appealing to his son.

"A little will be good for him; bring the bottle, mother," said the

After some altercation the brandy bottle was brought, and Louis, with
what he thought a very sparing hand, proceeded to pour about half a
wine-glassful into the cup. As he did so, Sir Roger, weak as he was,
contrived to shake his son's arm, so as greatly to increase the dose.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed the sick man, and then greedily swallowed the


Sir Roger Dies

That night the doctor stayed at Boxall Hill, and the next night;
so that it became a customary thing for him to sleep there during
the latter part of Sir Roger's illness. He returned home daily to
Greshamsbury; for he had his patients there, to whom he was as
necessary as to Sir Roger, the foremost of whom was Lady Arabella. He
had, therefore, no slight work on his hands, seeing that his nights
were by no means wholly devoted to rest.

Mr Rerechild had not been much wrong as to the remaining space of
life which he had allotted to the dying man. Once or twice Dr Thorne
had thought that the great original strength of his patient would
have enabled him to fight against death for a somewhat longer period;
but Sir Roger would give himself no chance. Whenever he was strong
enough to have a will of his own, he insisted on having his very
medicine mixed with brandy; and in the hours of the doctor's absence,
he was too often successful in his attempts.

"It does not much matter," Dr Thorne had said to Lady Scatcherd. "Do
what you can to keep down the quantity, but do not irritate him by
refusing to obey. It does not much signify now." So Lady Scatcherd
still administered the alcohol, and he from day to day invented
little schemes for increasing the amount, over which he chuckled with
ghastly laughter.

Two or three times during these days Sir Roger essayed to speak
seriously to his son; but Louis always frustrated him. He either got
out of the room on some excuse, or made his mother interfere on the
score that so much talking would be bad for his father. He already
knew with tolerable accuracy what was the purport of his father's
will, and by no means approved of it; but as he could not now hope
to induce his father to alter it so as to make it more favourable to
himself, he conceived that no conversation on matters of business
could be of use to him.

"Louis," said Sir Roger, one afternoon to his son; "Louis, I have not
done by you as I ought to have done - I know that now."

"Nonsense, governor; never mind about that now; I shall do well
enough, I dare say. Besides, it isn't too late; you can make it
twenty-three years instead of twenty-five, if you like it."

"I do not mean as to money, Louis. There are things besides money
which a father ought to look to."

"Now, father, don't fret yourself - I'm all right; you may be sure of

"Louis, it's that accursed brandy - it's that that I'm afraid of: you
see me here, my boy, how I'm lying here now."

"Don't you be annoying yourself, governor; I'm all right - quite
right; and as for you, why, you'll be up and about yourself in
another month or so."

"I shall never be off this bed, my boy, till I'm carried into my
coffin, on those chairs there. But I'm not thinking of myself, Louis,
but you; think what you may have before you if you can't avoid that
accursed bottle."

"I'm all right, governor; right as a trivet. It's very little I take,
except at an odd time or so."

"Oh, Louis! Louis!"

"Come, father, cheer up; this sort of thing isn't the thing for you
at all. I wonder where mother is: she ought to be here with the
broth; just let me go, and I'll see for her."

The father understood it all. He saw that it was now much beyond his
faded powers to touch the heart or conscience of such a youth as his
son had become. What now could he do for his boy except die? What
else, what other benefit, did his son require of him but to die; to
die so that his means of dissipation might be unbounded? He let go
the unresisting hand which he held, and, as the young man crept out
of the room, he turned his face to the wall. He turned his face to
the wall and held bitter commune with his own heart. To what had he
brought himself? To what had he brought his son? Oh, how happy would
it have been for him could he have remained all his days a working
stone-mason in Barchester! How happy could he have died as such,
years ago! Such tears as those which wet that pillow are the
bitterest which human eyes can shed.

But while they were dropping, the memoir of his life was in quick
course of preparation. It was, indeed, nearly completed, with
considerable detail. He had lingered on four days longer than might
have been expected, and the author had thus had more than usual time
for the work. In these days a man is nobody unless his biography
is kept so far posted up that it may be ready for the national
breakfast-table on the morning after his demise. When it chances that
the dead hero is one who was taken in his prime of life, of whose
departure from among us the most far-seeing biographical scribe can
have no prophetic inkling, this must be difficult. Of great men, full
of years, who are ripe for the sickle, who in the course of Nature
must soon fall, it is of course comparatively easy for an active
compiler to have his complete memoir ready in his desk. But in order
that the idea of omnipresent and omniscient information may be kept
up, the young must be chronicled as quickly as the old. In some cases
this task must, one would say, be difficult. Nevertheless, it is

The memoir of Sir Roger Scatcherd was progressing favourably. In
this it was told how fortunate had been his life; how, in his case,
industry and genius combined had triumphed over the difficulties
which humble birth and deficient education had thrown in his way;
how he had made a name among England's great men; how the Queen had
delighted to honour him, and nobles had been proud to have him for a
guest at their mansions. Then followed a list of all the great works
which he had achieved, of the railroads, canals, docks, harbours,
jails, and hospitals which he had constructed. His name was held up
as an example to the labouring classes of his countrymen, and he was
pointed at as one who had lived and died happy - ever happy, said the
biographer, because ever industrious. And so a great moral question
was inculcated. A short paragraph was devoted to his appearance in
Parliament; and unfortunate Mr Romer was again held up for disgrace,
for the thirtieth time, as having been the means of depriving
our legislative councils of the great assistance of Sir Roger's

"Sir Roger," said the biographer in his concluding passage, "was
possessed of an iron frame; but even iron will yield to the repeated
blows of the hammer. In the latter years of his life he was known to
overtask himself; and at length the body gave way, though the mind
remained firm to the _last_. The subject of this memoir was only
fifty-nine when he was taken from us."

And thus Sir Roger's life was written, while the tears were
yet falling on his pillow at Boxall Hill. It was a pity that a
proof-sheet could not have been sent to him. No man was vainer of
his reputation, and it would have greatly gratified him to know that
posterity was about to speak of him in such terms - to speak of him
with a voice that would be audible for twenty-four hours.

Sir Roger made no further attempt to give counsel to his son. It was
too evidently useless. The old dying lion felt that the lion's power
had already passed from him, and that he was helpless in the hands
of the young cub who was so soon to inherit the wealth of the forest.
But Dr Thorne was more kind to him. He had something yet to say as to
his worldly hopes and worldly cares; and his old friend did not turn
a deaf ear to him.

It was during the night that Sir Roger was most anxious to talk, and
most capable of talking. He would lie through the day in a state
half-comatose; but towards evening he would rouse himself, and by
midnight he would be full of fitful energy. One night, as he lay
wakeful and full of thought, he thus poured forth his whole heart to
Dr Thorne.

"Thorne," said he, "I told you about my will, you know."

"Yes," said the other; "and I have blamed myself greatly that I have
not again urged you to alter it. Your illness came too suddenly,
Scatcherd; and then I was averse to speak of it."

"Why should I alter it? It is a good will; as good as I can make. Not
but that I have altered it since I spoke to you. I did it that day
after you left me."

"Have you definitely named your heir in default of Louis?"

"No - that is - yes - I had done that before; I have said Mary's eldest
child: I have not altered that."

"But, Scatcherd, you must alter it."

"Must! well then I won't; but I'll tell you what I have done. I have
added a postscript - a codicil they call it - saying that you, and you
only, know who is her eldest child. Winterbones and Jack Martin have
witnessed that."

Dr Thorne was going to explain how very injudicious such an
arrangement appeared to be; but Sir Roger would not listen to him.
It was not about that that he wished to speak to him. To him it was
matter of but minor interest who might inherit his money if his son
should die early; his care was solely for his son's welfare. At
twenty-five the heir might make his own will - might bequeath all this
wealth according to his own fancy. Sir Roger would not bring himself
to believe that his son could follow him to the grave in so short a

"Never mind that, doctor, now; but about Louis; you will be his
guardian, you know."

"Not his guardian. He is more than of age."

"Ah! but doctor, you will be his guardian. The property will not be
his till he be twenty-five. You will not desert him?"

"I will not desert him; but I doubt whether I can do much for
him - what can I do, Scatcherd?"

"Use the power that a strong man has over a weak one. Use the power
that my will will give you. Do for him as you would for a son of your
own if you saw him going in bad courses. Do as a friend should do for
a friend that is dead and gone. I would do so for you, doctor, if our
places were changed."

"What I can do, that I will do," said Thorne, solemnly, taking as he
spoke the contractor's hand in his own with a tight grasp.

"I know you will; I know you will. Oh! doctor, may you never feel as
I do now! May you on your death-bed have no dread as I have, as to
the fate of those you will leave behind you!"

Doctor Thorne felt that he could not say much in answer to this. The
future fate of Louis Scatcherd was, he could not but own to himself,
greatly to be dreaded. What good, what happiness, could be presaged
for such a one as he was? What comfort could he offer to the father?
And then he was called on to compare, as it were, the prospects of
this unfortunate with those of his own darling; to contrast all that
was murky, foul, and disheartening, with all that was perfect - for to
him she was all but perfect; to liken Louis Scatcherd to the angel
who brightened his own hearthstone. How could he answer to such an

He said nothing; but merely tightened his grasp of the other's hand,
to signify that he would do, as best he could, all that was asked
of him. Sir Roger looked up sadly into the doctor's face, as though
expecting some word of consolation. There was no comfort, no
consolation to come to him!

"For three or four years he must greatly depend upon you," continued
Sir Roger.

"I will do what I can," said the doctor. "What I can do I will do.
But he is not a child, Scatcherd: at his age he must stand or fall
mainly by his own conduct. The best thing for him will be to marry."

"Exactly; that's just it, Thorne: I was coming to that. If he would
marry, I think he would do well yet, for all that has come and gone.
If he married, of course you would let him have the command of his
own income."

"I will be governed entirely by your wishes: under any circumstances
his income will, as I understand, be quite sufficient for him,
married or single."

"Ah! - but, Thorne, I should like to think he should shine with the
best of them. For what have I made the money if not for that? Now if
he marries - decently, that is - some woman you know that can assist
him in the world, let him have what he wants. It is not to save the
money that I put it into your hands."

"No, Scatcherd; not to save the money, but to save him. I think that
while you are yet with him you should advise him to marry."

"He does not care a straw for what I advise, not one straw. Why
should he? How can I tell him to be sober when I have been a beast
all my life myself? How can I advise him? That's where it is! It is
that that now kills me. Advise! Why, when I speak to him he treats me
like a child."

"He fears that you are too weak, you know: he thinks that you should
not be allowed to talk."

"Nonsense! he knows better; you know better. Too weak! what
signifies? Would I not give all that I have of strength at one blow
if I could open his eyes to see as I see but for one minute?" And
the sick man raised himself up in his bed as though he were actually
going to expend all that remained to him of vigour in the energy of a

"Gently, Scatcherd; gently. He will listen to you yet; but do not be
so unruly."

"Thorne, you see that bottle there? Give me half a glass of brandy."

The doctor turned round in his chair; but he hesitated in doing as he
was desired.

"Do as I ask you, doctor. It can do no harm now; you know that well
enough. Why torture me now?"

"No, I will not torture you; but you will have water with it?"

"Water! No; the brandy by itself. I tell you I cannot speak without
it. What's the use of canting now? You know it can make no

Sir Roger was right. It could make no difference; and Dr Thorne gave
him the half glass of brandy.

"Ah, well; you've a stingy hand, doctor; confounded stingy. You don't
measure your medicines out in such light doses."

"You will be wanting more before morning, you know."

"Before morning! indeed I shall; a pint or so before that. I remember
the time, doctor, when I have drunk to my own cheek above two quarts
between dinner and breakfast! aye, and worked all the day after it!"

"You have been a wonderful man, Scatcherd, very wonderful."

"Aye, wonderful! well, never mind. It's over now. But what was I
saying? - about Louis, doctor; you'll not desert him?"

"Certainly not."

"He's not strong; I know that. How should he be strong, living as he
has done? Not that it seemed to hurt me when I was his age."

"You had the advantage of hard work."

"That's it. Sometimes I wish that Louis had not a shilling in the
world; that he had to trudge about with an apron round his waist as I
did. But it's too late now to think of that. If he would only marry,

Dr Thorne again expressed an opinion that no step would be so likely
to reform the habits of the young heir as marriage; and repeated his
advice to the father to implore his son to take a wife.

"I'll tell you what, Thorne," said he. And then, after a pause, he
went on. "I have not half told you as yet what is on my mind; and I'm
nearly afraid to tell it; though, indeed, I don't know why I should

"I never knew you afraid of anything yet," said the doctor, smiling

"Well, then, I'll not end by turning coward. Now, doctor, tell the
truth to me; what do you expect me to do for that girl of yours that
we were talking of - Mary's child?"

There was a pause for a moment, for Thorne was slow to answer him.

"You would not let me see her, you know, though she is my niece as
truly as she is yours."

"Nothing," at last said the doctor, slowly. "I expect nothing. I
would not let you see her, and therefore, I expect nothing."

"She will have it all if poor Louis should die," said Sir Roger.

"If you intend it so you should put her name into the will," said the
other. "Not that I ask you or wish you to do so. Mary, thank God, can
do without wealth."

"Thorne, on one condition I will put her name into it. I will alter
it all on one condition. Let the two cousins be man and wife - let
Louis marry poor Mary's child."

The proposition for a moment took away the doctor's breath, and he
was unable to answer. Not for all the wealth of India would he have
given up his lamb to that young wolf, even though he had had the
power to do so. But that lamb - lamb though she was - had, as he well
knew, a will of her own on such a matter. What alliance could be more
impossible, thought he to himself, than one between Mary Thorne and
Louis Scatcherd?

"I will alter it all if you will give me your hand upon it that you
will do your best to bring about this marriage. Everything shall be
his on the day he marries her; and should he die unmarried, it shall
all then be hers by name. Say the word, Thorne, and she shall come
here at once. I shall yet have time to see her."

But Dr Thorne did not say the word; just at the moment he said
nothing, but he slowly shook his head.

"Why not, Thorne?"

"My friend, it is impossible."

"Why impossible?"

"Her hand is not mine to dispose of, nor is her heart."

"Then let her come over herself."

"What! Scatcherd, that the son might make love to her while the
father is so dangerously ill! Bid her come to look for a rich
husband! That would not be seemly, would it?"

"No; not for that: let her come merely that I may see her; that we
may all know her. I will leave the matter then in your hands if you
will promise me to do your best."

"But, my friend, in this matter I cannot do my best. I can do
nothing. And, indeed, I may say at once, that it is altogether out of
the question. I know - "

"What do you know?" said the baronet, turning on him almost angrily.
"What can you know to make you say that it is impossible? Is she a
pearl of such price that a man may not win her?"

"She is a pearl of great price."

"Believe me, doctor, money goes far in winning such pearls."

"Perhaps so; I know little about it. But this I do know, that money
will not win her. Let us talk of something else; believe me it is
useless for us to think of this."

"Yes; if you set your face against it obstinately. You must think
very poorly of Louis if you suppose that no girl can fancy him."

"I have not said so, Scatcherd."

"To have the spending of ten thousand a year, and be a baronet's
lady! Why, doctor, what is it you expect for this girl?"

"Not much, indeed; not much. A quiet heart and a quiet home; not much

"Thorne, if you will be ruled by me in this, she shall be the most
topping woman in this county."

"My friend, my friend, why thus grieve me? Why should you thus harass
yourself? I tell you it is impossible. They have never seen each
other; they have nothing, and can have nothing in common; their
tastes, and wishes, and pursuits are different. Besides, Scatcherd,
marriages never answer that are so made; believe me, it is

The contractor threw himself back on his bed, and lay for some ten
minutes perfectly quiet; so much so that the doctor began to think
that he was sleeping. So thinking, and wearied by the watching,
Dr Thorne was beginning to creep quietly from the room, when his
companion again roused himself, almost with vehemence.

"You won't do this thing for me, then?" said he.

"Do it! It is not for you or me to do such things as that. Such
things must be left to those concerned themselves."

"You will not even help me?"

"Not in this thing, Sir Roger."

"Then, by - - , she shall not under any circumstances ever have a
shilling of mine. Give me some of that stuff there," and he again
pointed to the brandy bottle which stood ever within his sight.

The doctor poured out and handed to him another small modicum of

"Nonsense, man; fill the glass. I'll stand no nonsense now. I'll be

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 26 of 49)