Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 27 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 27 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

master in my own house to the last. Give it here, I tell you. Ten
thousand devils are tearing me within. You - you could have comforted
me; but you would not. Fill the glass I tell you."

"I should be killing you were I to do it."

"Killing me! killing me! you are always talking of killing me. Do you
suppose that I am afraid to die? Do not I know how soon it is coming?
Give me the brandy, I say, or I will be out across the room to fetch

"No, Scatcherd. I cannot give it to you; not while I am here. Do you
remember how you were engaged this morning?" - he had that morning
taken the sacrament from the parish clergyman - "you would not wish to
make me guilty of murder, would you?"

"Nonsense! You are talking nonsense; habit is second nature. I tell
you I shall sink without it. Why, you know I always get it directly
your back is turned. Come, I will not be bullied in my own house;
give me that bottle, I say!" - and Sir Roger essayed, vainly enough,
to raise himself from the bed.

"Stop, Scatcherd; I will give it you - I will help you. It may be
that habit is second nature." Sir Roger in his determined energy
had swallowed, without thinking of it, the small quantity which the
doctor had before poured out for him, and still held the empty glass
within his hand. This the doctor now took and filled nearly to the

"Come, Thorne, a bumper; a bumper for this once. 'Whatever the drink,
it a bumper must be.' You stingy fellow! I would not treat you so.
Well - well."

"It's as full as you can hold it, Scatcherd."

"Try me; try me! my hand is a rock; at least at holding liquor." And
then he drained the contents of the glass, which were sufficient in
quantity to have taken away the breath from any ordinary man.

"Ah, I'm better now. But, Thorne, I do love a full glass, ha! ha!

There was something frightful, almost sickening, in the peculiar
hoarse guttural tone of his voice. The sounds came from him as
though steeped in brandy, and told, all too plainly, the havoc which
the alcohol had made. There was a fire too about his eyes which
contrasted with his sunken cheeks: his hanging jaw, unshorn beard,
and haggard face were terrible to look at. His hands and arms were
hot and clammy, but so thin and wasted! Of his lower limbs the lost
use had not returned to him, so that in all his efforts at vehemence
he was controlled by his own want of vitality. When he supported
himself, half-sitting against the pillows, he was in a continual
tremor; and yet, as he boasted, he could still lift his glass
steadily to his mouth. Such now was the hero of whom that ready
compiler of memoirs had just finished his correct and succinct

After he had had his brandy, he sat glaring a while at vacancy, as
though he was dead to all around him, and was thinking - thinking -
thinking of things in the infinite distance of the past.

"Shall I go now," said the doctor, "and send Lady Scatcherd to you?"

"Wait a while, doctor; just one minute longer. So you will do nothing
for Louis, then?"

"I will do everything for him that I can do."

"Ah, yes! everything but the one thing that will save him. Well, I
will not ask you again. But remember, Thorne, I shall alter my will

"Do so by all means; you may well alter it for the better. If I
may advise you, you will have down your own business attorney from
London. If you will let me send he will be here before to-morrow

"Thank you for nothing, Thorne: I can manage that matter myself. Now
leave me; but remember, you have ruined that girl's fortune."

The doctor did leave him, and went not altogether happy to his room.
He could not but confess to himself that he had, despite himself as
it were, fed himself with hope that Mary's future might be made more
secure, aye, and brighter too, by some small unheeded fraction broken
off from the huge mass of her uncle's wealth. Such hope, if it had
amounted to hope, was now all gone. But this was not all, nor was
this the worst of it. That he had done right in utterly repudiating
all idea of a marriage between Mary and her cousin - of that he was
certain enough; that no earthly consideration would have induced Mary
to plight her troth to such a man - that, with him, was as certain as
doom. But how far had he done right in keeping her from the sight of
her uncle? How could he justify it to himself if he had thus robbed
her of her inheritance, seeing that he had done so from a selfish
fear lest she, who was now all his own, should be known to the world
as belonging to others rather than to him? He had taken upon him on
her behalf to reject wealth as valueless; and yet he had no sooner
done so than he began to consume his hours with reflecting how great
to her would be the value of wealth. And thus, when Sir Roger told
him, as he left the room, that he had ruined Mary's fortune, he was
hardly able to bear the taunt with equanimity.

On the next morning, after paying his professional visit to his
patient, and satisfying himself that the end was now drawing near
with steps terribly quickened, he went down to Greshamsbury.

"How long is this to last, uncle?" said his niece, with sad voice, as
he again prepared to return to Boxall Hill.

"Not long, Mary; do not begrudge him a few more hours of life."

"No, I do not, uncle. I will say nothing more about it. Is his son
with him?" And then, perversely enough, she persisted in asking
numerous questions about Louis Scatcherd.

"Is he likely to marry, uncle?"

"I hope so, my dear."

"Will he be so very rich?"

"Yes; ultimately he will be very rich."

"He will be a baronet, will he not?"

"Yes, my dear."

"What is he like, uncle?"

"Like - I never know what a young man is like. He is like a man with
red hair."

"Uncle, you are the worst hand in describing I ever knew. If I'd seen
him for five minutes, I'd be bound to make a portrait of him; and
you, if you were describing a dog, you'd only say what colour his
hair was."

"Well, he's a little man."

"Exactly, just as I should say that Mrs Umbleby had a red-haired
little dog. I wish I had known these Scatcherds, uncle. I do so
admire people that can push themselves in the world. I wish I had
known Sir Roger."

"You will never know him now, Mary."

"I suppose not. I am so sorry for him. Is Lady Scatcherd nice?"

"She is an excellent woman."

"I hope I may know her some day. You are so much there now, uncle; I
wonder whether you ever mention me to them. If you do, tell her from
me how much I grieve for her."

That same night Dr Thorne again found himself alone with Sir Roger.
The sick man was much more tranquil, and apparently more at ease
than he had been on the preceding night. He said nothing about his
will, and not a word about Mary Thorne; but the doctor knew that
Winterbones and a notary's clerk from Barchester had been in the
bedroom a great part of the day; and, as he knew also that the great
man of business was accustomed to do his most important work by the
hands of such tools as these, he did not doubt but that the will
had been altered and remodelled. Indeed, he thought it more than
probable, that when it was opened it would be found to be wholly
different in its provisions from that which Sir Roger had already

"Louis is clever enough," he said, "sharp enough, I mean. He won't
squander the property."

"He has good natural abilities," said the doctor.

"Excellent, excellent," said the father. "He may do well, very well,
if he can only be kept from this;" and Sir Roger held up the empty
wine-glass which stood by his bedside. "What a life he may have
before him! - and to throw it away for this!" and as he spoke he took
the glass and tossed it across the room. "Oh, doctor! would that it
were all to begin again!"

"We all wish that, I dare say, Scatcherd."

"No, you don't wish it. You ain't worth a shilling, and yet you
regret nothing. I am worth half a million in one way or the other,
and I regret everything - everything - everything!"

"You should not think in that way, Scatcherd; you need not think so.
Yesterday you told Mr Clarke that you were comfortable in your mind."
Mr Clarke was the clergyman who had visited him.

"Of course I did. What else could I say when he asked me? It wouldn't
have been civil to have told him that his time and words were
all thrown away. But, Thorne, believe me, when a man's heart is
sad - sad - sad to the core, a few words from a parson at the last
moment will never make it all right."

"May He have mercy on you, my friend! - if you will think of Him, and
look to Him, He will have mercy on you."

"Well - I will try, doctor; but would that it were all to do again.
You'll see to the old woman for my sake, won't you?"

"What, Lady Scatcherd?"

"Lady Devil! If anything angers me now it is that 'ladyship' - her to
be my lady! Why, when I came out of jail that time, the poor creature
had hardly a shoe to her foot. But it wasn't her fault, Thorne; it
was none of her doing. She never asked for such nonsense."

"She has been an excellent wife, Scatcherd; and what is more, she
is an excellent woman. She is, and ever will be, one of my dearest

"Thank'ee, doctor, thank'ee. Yes; she has been a good wife - better
for a poor man than a rich one; but then, that was what she was born
to. You won't let her be knocked about by them, will you, Thorne?"

Dr Thorne again assured him, that as long as he lived Lady Scatcherd
should never want one true friend; in making this promise, however,
he managed to drop all allusion to the obnoxious title.

"You'll be with him as much as possible, won't you?" again asked the
baronet, after lying quite silent for a quarter of an hour.

"With whom?" said the doctor, who was then all but asleep.

"With my poor boy; with Louis."

"If he will let me, I will," said the doctor.

"And, doctor, when you see a glass at his mouth, dash it down; thrust
it down, though you thrust out the teeth with it. When you see that,
Thorne, tell him of his father - tell him what his father might have
been but for that; tell him how his father died like a beast, because
he could not keep himself from drink."

These, reader, were the last words spoken by Sir Roger Scatcherd. As
he uttered them he rose up in bed with the same vehemence which he
had shown on the former evening. But in the very act of doing so
he was again struck by paralysis, and before nine on the following
morning all was over.

"Oh, my man - my own, own man!" exclaimed the widow, remembering in
the paroxysm of her grief nothing but the loves of their early days;
"the best, the brightest, the cleverest of them all!"

Some weeks after this Sir Roger was buried, with much pomp and
ceremony, within the precincts of Barchester Cathedral; and a
monument was put up to him soon after, in which he was portrayed as
smoothing a block of granite with a mallet and chisel; while his
eagle eye, disdaining such humble work, was fixed upon some intricate
mathematical instrument above him. Could Sir Roger have seen it
himself, he would probably have declared, that no workman was ever
worth his salt who looked one way while he rowed another.

Immediately after the funeral the will was opened, and Dr Thorne
discovered that the clauses of it were exactly identical with those
which his friend had described to him some months back. Nothing had
been altered; nor had the document been unfolded since that strange
codicil was added, in which it was declared that Dr Thorne knew - and
only Dr Thorne - who was the eldest child of the testator's only
sister. At the same time, however, a joint executor with Dr Thorne
had been named - one Mr Stock, a man of railway fame - and Dr Thorne
himself was made a legatee to the humble extent of a thousand pounds.
A life income of a thousand pounds a year was left to Lady Scatcherd.



We need not follow Sir Roger to his grave, nor partake of the baked
meats which were furnished for his funeral banquet. Such men as Sir
Roger Scatcherd are always well buried, and we have already seen that
his glories were duly told to posterity in the graphic diction of his
sepulchral monument. In a few days the doctor had returned to his
quiet home, and Sir Louis found himself reigning at Boxall Hill in
his father's stead - with, however, a much diminished sway, and, as he
thought it, but a poor exchequer. We must soon return to him and say
something of his career as a baronet; but for the present, we may go
back to our more pleasant friends at Greshamsbury.

But our friends at Greshamsbury had not been making themselves
pleasant - not so pleasant to each other as circumstances would have
admitted. In those days which the doctor had felt himself bound to
pass, if not altogether at Boxall Hill, yet altogether away from his
own home, so as to admit of his being as much as possible with his
patient, Mary had been thrown more than ever with Patience Oriel,
and, also, almost more than ever with Beatrice Gresham. As regarded
Mary, she would doubtless have preferred the companionship of
Patience, though she loved Beatrice far the best; but she had no
choice. When she went to the parsonage Beatrice came there also, and
when Patience came to the doctor's house Beatrice either accompanied
or followed her. Mary could hardly have rejected their society, even
had she felt it wise to do so. She would in such case have been all
alone, and her severance from the Greshamsbury house and household,
from the big family in which she had for so many years been almost at
home, would have made such solitude almost unendurable.

And then these two girls both knew - not her secret: she had no
secret - but the little history of her ill-treatment. They knew that
though she had been blameless in this matter, yet she had been the
one to bear the punishment; and, as girls and bosom friends, they
could not but sympathise with her, and endow her with heroic
attributes; make her, in fact, as we are doing, their little heroine
for the nonce. This was, perhaps, not serviceable for Mary; but it
was far from being disagreeable.

The tendency to finding matter for hero-worship in Mary's endurance
was much stronger with Beatrice than with Miss Oriel. Miss Oriel was
the elder, and naturally less afflicted with the sentimentation of
romance. She had thrown herself into Mary's arms because she had
seen that it was essentially necessary for Mary's comfort that she
should do so. She was anxious to make her friend smile, and to smile
with her. Beatrice was quite as true in her sympathy; but she rather
wished that she and Mary might weep in unison, shed mutual tears, and
break their hearts together.

Patience had spoken of Frank's love as a misfortune, of his conduct
as erroneous, and to be excused only by his youth, and had never
appeared to surmise that Mary also might be in love as well as he.
But to Beatrice the affair was a tragic difficulty, admitting of no
solution; a Gordian knot, not to be cut; a misery now and for ever.
She would always talk about Frank when she and Mary were alone; and,
to speak the truth, Mary did not stop her as she perhaps should have
done. As for a marriage between them, that was impossible; Beatrice
was well sure of that: it was Frank's unfortunate destiny that he
must marry money - money, and, as Beatrice sometimes thoughtlessly
added, cutting Mary to the quick, - money and family also. Under such
circumstances a marriage between them was quite impossible; but not
the less did Beatrice declare, that she would have loved Mary as her
sister-in-law had it been possible; and how worthy Frank was of a
girl's love, had such love been permissible.

"It is so cruel," Beatrice would say; "so very, very, cruel. You
would have suited him in every way."

"Nonsense, Trichy; I should have suited him in no possible way at
all; nor he me."

"Oh, but you would - exactly. Papa loves you so well."

"And mamma; that would have been so nice."

"Yes; and mamma, too - that is, had you had a fortune," said the
daughter, naïvely. "She always liked you personally, always."

"Did she?"

"Always. And we all love you so."

"Especially Lady Alexandrina."

"That would not have signified, for Frank cannot endure the de
Courcys himself."

"My dear, it does not matter one straw whom your brother can endure
or not endure just at present. His character is to be formed, and his
tastes, and his heart also."

"Oh, Mary! - his heart."

"Yes, his heart; not the fact of his having a heart. I think he has a
heart; but he himself does not yet understand it."

"Oh, Mary! you do not know him."

Such conversations were not without danger to poor Mary's comfort.
It came soon to be the case that she looked rather for this sort
of sympathy from Beatrice, than for Miss Oriel's pleasant but less
piquant gaiety.

So the days of the doctor's absence were passed, and so also the
first week after his return. During this week it was almost daily
necessary that the squire should be with him. The doctor was now the
legal holder of Sir Roger's property, and, as such, the holder also
of all the mortgages on Mr Gresham's property; and it was natural
that they should be much together. The doctor would not, however,
go up to Greshamsbury on any other than medical business; and it
therefore became necessary that the squire should be a good deal at
the doctor's house.

Then the Lady Arabella became unhappy in her mind. Frank, it was
true, was away at Cambridge, and had been successfully kept out
of Mary's way since the suspicion of danger had fallen upon Lady
Arabella's mind. Frank was away, and Mary was systematically
banished, with due acknowledgement from all the powers in
Greshamsbury. But this was not enough for Lady Arabella as long as
her daughter still habitually consorted with the female culprit, and
as long as her husband consorted with the male culprit. It seemed to
Lady Arabella at this moment as though, in banishing Mary from the
house, she had in effect banished herself from the most intimate of
the Greshamsbury social circles. She magnified in her own mind the
importance of the conferences between the girls, and was not without
some fear that the doctor might be talking the squire over into very
dangerous compliance.

She resolved, therefore, on another duel with the doctor. In the
first she had been pre-eminently and unexpectedly successful. No
young sucking dove could have been more mild than that terrible enemy
whom she had for years regarded as being too puissant for attack. In
ten minutes she had vanquished him, and succeeded in banishing both
him and his niece from the house without losing the value of his
services. As is always the case with us, she had begun to despise
the enemy she had conquered, and to think that the foe, once beaten,
could never rally.

Her object was to break off all confidential intercourse between
Beatrice and Mary, and to interrupt, as far as she could do it, that
between the doctor and the squire. This, it may be said, could be
more easily done by skilful management within her own household. She
had, however, tried that and failed. She had said much to Beatrice as
to the imprudence of her friendship with Mary, and she had done this
purposely before the squire; injudiciously however, - for the squire
had immediately taken Mary's part, and had declared that he had no
wish to see a quarrel between his family and that of the doctor; that
Mary Thorne was in every way a good girl, and an eligible friend for
his own child; and had ended by declaring, that he would not have
Mary persecuted for Frank's fault. This had not been the end, nor
nearly the end of what had been said on the matter at Greshamsbury;
but the end, when it came, came in this wise, that Lady Arabella
determined to say a few words to the doctor as to the expediency
of forbidding familiar intercourse between Mary and any of the
Greshamsbury people.

With this view Lady Arabella absolutely bearded the lion in his den,
the doctor in his shop. She had heard that both Mary and Beatrice
were to pass a certain afternoon at the parsonage, and took that
opportunity of calling at the doctor's house. A period of many years
had passed since she had last so honoured that abode. Mary, indeed,
had been so much one of her own family that the ceremony of calling
on her had never been thought necessary; and thus, unless Mary had
been absolutely ill, there would have been nothing to bring her
ladyship to the house. All this she knew would add to the importance
of the occasion, and she judged it prudent to make the occasion as
important as it might well be.

She was so far successful that she soon found herself _tête-à-tête_
with the doctor in his own study. She was no whit dismayed by the
pair of human thigh-bones which lay close to his hand, and which,
when he was talking in that den of his own, he was in the constant
habit of handling with much energy; nor was she frightened out of her
propriety even by the little child's skull which grinned at her from
off the chimney-piece.

"Doctor," she said, as soon as the first complimentary greetings were
over, speaking in her kindest and most would-be-confidential tone,
"Doctor, I am still uneasy about that boy of mine, and I have thought
it best to come and see you at once, and tell you freely what I

The doctor bowed, and said that he was very sorry that she should
have any cause for uneasiness about his young friend Frank.

"Indeed, I am very uneasy, doctor; and having, as I do have, such
reliance on your prudence, and such perfect confidence in your
friendship, I have thought it best to come and speak to you openly:"
thereupon the Lady Arabella paused, and the doctor bowed again.

"Nobody knows so well as you do the dreadful state of the squire's

"Not so very dreadful; not so very dreadful," said the doctor,
mildly: "that is, as far as I know."

"Yes they are, doctor; very dreadful; very dreadful indeed. You know
how much he owes to this young man: I do not, for the squire never
tells anything to me; but I know that it is a very large sum of
money; enough to swamp the estate and ruin Frank. Now I call that
very dreadful."

"No, no, not ruin him, Lady Arabella; not ruin him, I hope."

"However, I did not come to talk to you about that. As I said before,
I know nothing of the squire's affairs, and, as a matter of course,
I do not ask you to tell me. But I am sure you will agree with me in
this, that, as a mother, I cannot but be interested about my only
son," and Lady Arabella put her cambric handkerchief to her eyes.

"Of course you are; of course you are," said the doctor; "and, Lady
Arabella, my opinion of Frank is such, that I feel sure that he
will do well;" and, in his energy, Dr Thorne brandished one of the
thigh-bones almost in the lady's face.

"I hope he will; I am sure I hope he will. But, doctor, he has such
dangers to contend with; he is so warm and impulsive that I fear
his heart will bring him into trouble. Now, you know, unless Frank
marries money he is lost."

The doctor made no answer to this last appeal, but as he sat and
listened a slight frown came across his brow.

"He must marry money, doctor. Now we have, you see, with your
assistance, contrived to separate him from dear Mary - "

"With my assistance, Lady Arabella! I have given no assistance, nor
have I meddled in the matter; nor will I."

"Well, doctor, perhaps not meddled; but you agreed with me, you know,
that the two young people had been imprudent."

"I agreed to no such thing, Lady Arabella; never, never. I not only
never agreed that Mary had been imprudent, but I will not agree to it
now, and will not allow any one to assert it in my presence without
contradicting it:" and then the doctor worked away at the thigh-bones
in a manner that did rather alarm her ladyship.

"At any rate, you thought that the young people had better be kept

"No; neither did I think that: my niece, I felt sure, was safe from
danger. I knew that she would do nothing that would bring either her
or me to shame."

"Not to shame," said the lady, apologetically, as it were, using the
word perhaps not exactly in the doctor's sense.

"I felt no alarm for her," continued the doctor, "and desired no
change. Frank is your son, and it is for you to look to him. You
thought proper to do so by desiring Mary to absent herself from

"Oh, no, no, no!" said Lady Arabella.

"But you did, Lady Arabella; and as Greshamsbury is your home,
neither I nor my niece had any ground of complaint. We acquiesced,
not without much suffering, but we did acquiesce; and you, I think,

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 27 of 49)