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can have no ground of complaint against us."

Lady Arabella had hardly expected that the doctor would reply to her
mild and conciliatory exordium with so much sternness. He had yielded
so easily to her on the former occasion. She did not comprehend that
when she uttered her sentence of exile against Mary, she had given
an order which she had the power of enforcing; but that obedience to
that order had now placed Mary altogether beyond her jurisdiction.
She was, therefore, a little surprised, and for a few moments
overawed by the doctor's manner; but she soon recovered herself,
remembering, doubtless, that fortune favours none but the brave.

"I make no complaint, Dr Thorne," she said, after assuming a tone
more befitting a de Courcy than that hitherto used, "I make no
complaint either as regards you or Mary."

"You are very kind, Lady Arabella."

"But I think that it is my duty to put a stop, a peremptory stop to
anything like a love affair between my son and your niece."

"I have not the least objection in life. If there is such a love
affair, put a stop to it - that is, if you have the power."

Here the doctor was doubtless imprudent. But he had begun to think
that he had yielded sufficiently to the lady; and he had begun to
resolve, also, that though it would not become him to encourage even
the idea of such a marriage, he would make Lady Arabella understand
that he thought his niece quite good enough for her son, and that
the match, if regarded as imprudent, was to be regarded as equally
imprudent on both sides. He would not suffer that Mary and her heart
and feelings and interest should be altogether postponed to those
of the young heir; and, perhaps, he was unconsciously encouraged in
this determination by the reflection that Mary herself might perhaps
become a young heiress.

"It is my duty," said Lady Arabella, repeating her words with even a
stronger de Courcy intonation; "and your duty also, Dr Thorne."

"My duty!" said he, rising from his chair and leaning on the table
with the two thigh-bones. "Lady Arabella, pray understand at once,
that I repudiate any such duty, and will have nothing whatever to do
with it."

"But you do not mean to say that you will encourage this unfortunate
boy to marry your niece?"

"The unfortunate boy, Lady Arabella - whom, by the by, I regard as
a very fortunate young man - is your son, not mine. I shall take no
steps about his marriage, either one way or the other."

"You think it right, then, that your niece should throw herself in
his way?"

"Throw herself in his way! What would you say if I came up to
Greshamsbury, and spoke to you of your daughters in such language?
What would my dear friend Mr Gresham say, if some neighbour's wife
should come and so speak to him? I will tell you what he would say:
he would quietly beg her to go back to her own home and meddle only
with her own matters."

This was dreadful to Lady Arabella. Even Dr Thorne had never before
dared thus to lower her to the level of common humanity, and liken
her to any other wife in the country-side. Moreover, she was not
quite sure whether he, the parish doctor, was not desiring her, the
earl's daughter, to go home and mind her own business. On this first
point, however, there seemed to be no room for doubt, of which she
gave herself the benefit.

"It would not become me to argue with you, Dr Thorne," she said.

"Not at least on this subject," said he.

"I can only repeat that I mean nothing offensive to our dear Mary;
for whom, I think I may say, I have always shown almost a mother's
care."

"Neither am I, nor is Mary, ungrateful for the kindness she has
received at Greshamsbury."

"But I must do my duty: my own children must be my first
consideration."

"Of course they must, Lady Arabella; that's of course."

"And, therefore, I have called on you to say that I think it is
imprudent that Beatrice and Mary should be so much together."

The doctor had been standing during the latter part of this
conversation, but now he began to walk about, still holding the two
bones like a pair of dumb-bells.

"God bless my soul!" he said; "God bless my soul! Why, Lady Arabella,
do you suspect your own daughter as well as your own son? Do you
think that Beatrice is assisting Mary in preparing this wicked
clandestine marriage? I tell you fairly, Lady Arabella, the present
tone of your mind is such that I cannot understand it."

"I suspect nobody, Dr Thorne; but young people will be young."

"And old people must be old, I suppose; the more's the pity. Lady
Arabella, Mary is the same to me as my own daughter, and owes me the
obedience of a child; but as I do not disapprove of your daughter
Beatrice as an acquaintance for her, but rather, on the other hand,
regard with pleasure their friendship, you cannot expect that I
should take any steps to put an end to it."

"But suppose it should lead to renewed intercourse between Frank and
Mary?"

"I have no objection. Frank is a very nice young fellow,
gentleman-like in his manners, and neighbourly in his disposition."

"Dr Thorne - "

"Lady Arabella - "

"I cannot believe that you really intend to express a wish - "

"You are quite right. I have not intended to express any wish; nor do
I intend to do so. Mary is at liberty, within certain bounds - which
I am sure she will not pass - to choose her own friends. I think she
has not chosen badly as regards Miss Beatrice Gresham; and should she
even add Frank Gresham to the number - "

"Friends! why they were more than friends; they were declared
lovers."

"I doubt that, Lady Arabella, because I have not heard of it from
Mary. But even if it were so, I do not see why I should object."

"Not object!"

"As I said before, Frank is, to my thinking, an excellent young man.
Why should I object?"

"Dr Thorne!" said her ladyship, now also rising from her chair in a
state of too evident perturbation.

"Why should _I_ object? It is for you, Lady Arabella, to look after
your lambs; for me to see that, if possible, no harm shall come to
mine. If you think that Mary is an improper acquaintance for your
children, it is for you to guide them; for you and their father. Say
what you think fit to your own daughter; but pray understand, once
for all, that I will allow no one to interfere with my niece."

"Interfere!" said Lady Arabella, now absolutely confused by the
severity of the doctor's manner.

"I will allow no one to interfere with her; no one, Lady Arabella.
She has suffered very greatly from imputations which you have most
unjustly thrown on her. It was, however, your undoubted right to turn
her out of your house if you thought fit; - though, as a woman who
had known her for so many years, you might, I think, have treated
her with more forbearance. That, however, was your right, and you
exercised it. There your privilege stops; yes, and must stop, Lady
Arabella. You shall not persecute her here, on the only spot of
ground she can call her own."

"Persecute her, Dr Thorne! You do not mean to say that I have
persecuted her?"

"Ah! but I do mean to say so. You do persecute her, and would
continue to do so did I not defend her. It is not sufficient that
she is forbidden to enter your domain - and so forbidden with the
knowledge of all the country round - but you must come here also with
the hope of interrupting all the innocent pleasures of her life.
Fearing lest she should be allowed even to speak to your son, to hear
a word of him through his own sister, you would put her in prison,
tie her up, keep her from the light of day - "

"Dr Thorne! how can you - "

But the doctor was not to be interrupted.

"It never occurs to you to tie him up, to put him in prison. No; he
is the heir of Greshamsbury; he is your son, an earl's grandson. It
is only natural, after all, that he should throw a few foolish words
at the doctor's niece. But she! it is an offence not to be forgiven
on her part that she should, however, unwillingly, have been forced
to listen to them! Now understand me, Lady Arabella; if any of your
family come to my house I shall be delighted to welcome them: if Mary
should meet any of them elsewhere I shall be delighted to hear of it.
Should she tell me to-morrow that she was engaged to marry Frank, I
should talk the matter over with her, quite coolly, solely with a
view to her interest, as would be my duty; feeling, at the same time,
that Frank would be lucky in having such a wife. Now you know my
mind, Lady Arabella. It is so I should do my duty; - you can do yours
as you may think fit."

Lady Arabella had by this time perceived that she was not destined on
this occasion to gain any great victory. She, however, was angry as
well as the doctor. It was not the man's vehemence that provoked her
so much as his evident determination to break down the prestige of
her rank, and place her on a footing in no respect superior to his
own. He had never before been so audaciously arrogant; and, as she
moved towards the door, she determined in her wrath that she would
never again have confidential intercourse with him in any relation of
life whatsoever.

"Dr Thorne," said she. "I think you have forgotten yourself. You must
excuse me if I say that after what has passed I - I - I - "

"Certainly," said he, fully understanding what she meant; and bowing
low as he opened first the study-door, then the front-door, then the
garden-gate.

And then Lady Arabella stalked off, not without full observation from
Mrs Yates Umbleby and her friend Miss Gushing, who lived close by.




CHAPTER XXVII

Miss Thorne Goes on a Visit


And now began the unpleasant things at Greshamsbury of which we have
here told. When Lady Arabella walked away from the doctor's house
she resolved that, let it cost what it might, there should be war to
the knife between her and him. She had been insulted by him - so at
least she said to herself, and so she was prepared to say to others
also - and it was not to be borne that a de Courcy should allow her
parish doctor to insult her with impunity. She would tell her husband
with all the dignity that she could assume, that it had now become
absolutely necessary that he should protect his wife by breaking
entirely with his unmannered neighbour; and, as regarded the young
members of her family, she would use the authority of a mother, and
absolutely forbid them to hold any intercourse with Mary Thorne. So
resolving, she walked quickly back to her own house.

The doctor, when left alone, was not quite satisfied with the part he
had taken in the interview. He had spoken from impulse rather than
from judgement, and, as is generally the case with men who do so
speak, he had afterwards to acknowledge to himself that he had been
imprudent. He accused himself probably of more violence than he
had really used, and was therefore unhappy; but, nevertheless, his
indignation was not at rest. He was angry with himself; but not
on that account the less angry with Lady Arabella. She was cruel,
overbearing, and unreasonable; cruel in the most cruel of manners, so
he thought; but not on that account was he justified in forgetting
the forbearance due from a gentleman to a lady. Mary, moreover, had
owed much to the kindness of this woman, and, therefore, Dr Thorne
felt that he should have forgiven much.

Thus the doctor walked about his room, much disturbed; now accusing
himself for having been so angry with Lady Arabella, and then feeding
his own anger by thinking of her misconduct.

The only immediate conclusion at which he resolved was this, that it
was unnecessary that he should say anything to Mary on the subject
of her ladyship's visit. There was, no doubt, sorrow enough in store
for his darling; why should he aggravate it? Lady Arabella would
doubtless not stop now in her course; but why should he accelerate
the evil which she would doubtless be able to effect?

Lady Arabella, when she returned to the house, allowed no grass to
grow under her feet. As she entered the house she desired that Miss
Beatrice should be sent to her directly she returned; and she desired
also, that as soon as the squire should be in his room a message to
that effect might be immediately brought to her.

"Beatrice," she said, as soon as the young lady appeared before her,
and in speaking she assumed her firmest tone of authority, "Beatrice,
I am sorry, my dear, to say anything that is unpleasant to you, but I
must make it a positive request that you will for the future drop all
intercourse with Dr Thorne's family."

Beatrice, who had received Lady Arabella's message immediately on
entering the house, and had run upstairs imagining that some instant
haste was required, now stood before her mother rather out of breath,
holding her bonnet by the strings.

"Oh, mamma!" she exclaimed, "what on earth has happened?"

"My dear," said the mother, "I cannot really explain to you what has
happened; but I must ask you to give me your positive assurance that
you will comply with my request."

"You don't mean that I am not to see Mary any more?"

"Yes, I do, my dear; at any rate, for the present. When I tell you
that your brother's interest imperatively demands it, I am sure that
you will not refuse me."

Beatrice did not refuse, but she did not appear too willing to
comply. She stood silent, leaning against the end of a sofa and
twisting her bonnet-strings in her hand.

"Well, Beatrice - "

"But, mamma, I don't understand."

Lady Arabella had said that she could not exactly explain: but she
found it necessary to attempt to do so.

"Dr Thorne has openly declared to me that a marriage between poor
Frank and Mary is all he could desire for his niece. After such
unparalleled audacity as that, even your father will see the
necessity of breaking with him."

"Dr Thorne! Oh, mamma, you must have misunderstood him."

"My dear, I am not apt to misunderstand people; especially when I am
so much in earnest as I was in talking to Dr Thorne."

"But, mamma, I know so well what Mary herself thinks about it."

"And I know what Dr Thorne thinks about it; he, at any rate, has been
candid in what he said; there can be no doubt on earth that he has
spoken his true thoughts; there can be no reason to doubt him: of
course such a match would be all that he could wish."

"Mamma, I feel sure that there is some mistake."

"Very well, my dear. I know that you are infatuated about these
people, and that you are always inclined to contradict what I say to
you; but, remember, I expect that you will obey me when I tell you
not to go to Dr Thorne's house any more."

"But, mamma - "

"I expect you to obey me, Beatrice. Though you are so prone to
contradict, you have never disobeyed me; and I fully trust that you
will not do so now."

Lady Arabella had begun by exacting, or trying to exact a promise,
but as she found that this was not forthcoming, she thought it better
to give up the point without a dispute. It might be that Beatrice
would absolutely refuse to pay this respect to her mother's
authority, and then where would she have been?

At this moment a servant came up to say that the squire was in his
room, and Lady Arabella was opportunely saved the necessity of
discussing the matter further with her daughter. "I am now," she
said, "going to see your father on the same subject; you may be quite
sure, Beatrice, that I should not willingly speak to him on any
matter relating to Dr Thorne did I not find it absolutely necessary
to do so."

This Beatrice knew was true, and she did therefore feel convinced
that something terrible must have happened.

While Lady Arabella opened her budget the squire sat quite silent,
listening to her with apparent respect. She found it necessary that
her description to him should be much more elaborate than that which
she had vouchsafed to her daughter, and, in telling her grievance,
she insisted most especially on the personal insult which had been
offered to herself.

"After what has now happened," said she, not quite able to repress a
tone of triumph as she spoke, "I do expect, Mr Gresham, that you
will - will - "

"Will what, my dear?"

"Will at least protect me from the repetition of such treatment."

"You are not afraid that Dr Thorne will come here to attack you? As
far as I can understand, he never comes near the place, unless when
you send for him."

"No; I do not think that he will come to Greshamsbury any more. I
believe I have put a stop to that."

"Then what is it, my dear, that you want me to do?"

Lady Arabella paused a minute before she replied. The game which she
now had to play was not very easy; she knew, or thought she knew,
that her husband, in his heart of hearts, much preferred his friend
to the wife of his bosom, and that he would, if he could, shuffle out
of noticing the doctor's iniquities. It behoved her, therefore, to
put them forward in such a way that they must be noticed.

"I suppose, Mr Gresham, you do not wish that Frank should marry the
girl?"

"I do not think there is the slightest chance of such a thing; and I
am quite sure that Dr Thorne would not encourage it."

"But I tell you, Mr Gresham, that he says he will encourage it."

"Oh, you have misunderstood him."

"Of course; I always misunderstand everything. I know that. I
misunderstood it when I told you how you would distress yourself if
you took those nasty hounds."

"I have had other troubles more expensive than the hounds," said the
poor squire, sighing.

"Oh, yes; I know what you mean; a wife and family are expensive, of
course. It is a little too late now to complain of that."

"My dear, it is always too late to complain of any troubles when they
are no longer to be avoided. We need not, therefore, talk any more
about the hounds at present."

"I do not wish to speak of them, Mr Gresham."

"Nor I."

"But I hope you will not think me unreasonable if I am anxious to
know what you intend to do about Dr Thorne."

"To do?"

"Yes; I suppose you will do something: you do not wish to see your
son marry such a girl as Mary Thorne."

"As far as the girl herself is concerned," said the squire, turning
rather red, "I am not sure that he could do much better. I know
nothing whatever against Mary. Frank, however, cannot afford to make
such a match. It would be his ruin."

"Of course it would; utter ruin; he never could hold up his head
again. Therefore it is I ask, What do you intend to do?"

The squire was bothered. He had no intention whatever of doing
anything, and no belief in his wife's assertion as to Dr Thorne's
iniquity. But he did not know how to get her out of the room. She
asked him the same question over and over again, and on each occasion
urged on him the heinousness of the insult to which she personally
had been subjected; so that at last he was driven to ask her what it
was she wished him to do.

"Well, then, Mr Gresham, if you ask me, I must say, that I think you
should abstain from any intercourse with Dr Thorne whatever."

"Break off all intercourse with him?"

"Yes."

"What do you mean? He has been turned out of this house, and I'm not
to go to see him at his own."

"I certainly think that you ought to discontinue your visits to Dr
Thorne altogether."

"Nonsense, my dear; absolute nonsense."

"Nonsense! Mr Gresham; it is no nonsense. As you speak in that way,
I must let you know plainly what I feel. I am endeavouring to do
my duty by my son. As you justly observe, such a marriage as this
would be utter ruin to him. When I found that the young people were
actually talking of being in love with each other, making vows and
all that sort of thing, I did think it time to interfere. I did not,
however, turn them out of Greshamsbury as you accuse me of doing. In
the kindest possible manner - "

"Well - well - well; I know all that. There, they are gone, and that's
enough. I don't complain; surely that ought to be enough."

"Enough! Mr Gresham. No; it is not enough. I find that, in spite
of what has occurred, the closest intimacy exists between the two
families; that poor Beatrice, who is so very young, and not so
prudent as she should be, is made to act as a go-between; and when
I speak to the doctor, hoping that he will assist me in preventing
this, he not only tells me that he means to encourage Mary in her
plans, but positively insults me to my face, laughs at me for being
an earl's daughter, and tells me - yes, he absolutely told me - to get
out of his house."

Let it be told with some shame as to the squire's conduct, that his
first feeling on hearing this was one of envy - of envy and regret
that he could not make the same uncivil request. Not that he wished
to turn his wife absolutely out of his house; but he would have been
very glad to have had the power of dismissing her summarily from his
own room. This, however, was at present impossible; so he was obliged
to make some mild reply.

"You must have mistaken him, my dear. He could not have intended to
say that."

"Oh! of course, Mr Gresham. It is all a mistake, of course. It will
be a mistake, only a mistake when you find your son married to Mary
Thorne."

"Well, my dear, I cannot undertake to quarrel with Dr Thorne." This
was true; for the squire could hardly have quarrelled with Dr Thorne,
even had he wished it.

"Then I think it right to tell you that I shall. And, Mr Gresham, I
did not expect much co-operation from you; but I did think that you
would have shown some little anger when you heard that I had been so
ill-treated. I shall, however, know how to take care of myself; and
I shall continue to do the best I can to protect Frank from these
wicked intrigues."

So saying, her ladyship arose and left the room, having succeeded in
destroying the comfort of all our Greshamsbury friends. It was very
well for the squire to declare that he would not quarrel with Dr
Thorne, and of course he did not do so. But he, himself, had no wish
whatever that his son should marry Mary Thorne; and as a falling drop
will hollow a stone, so did the continual harping of his wife on the
subject give rise to some amount of suspicion in his own mind. Then
as to Beatrice, though she had made no promise that she would not
again visit Mary, she was by no means prepared to set her mother's
authority altogether at defiance; and she also was sufficiently
uncomfortable.

Dr Thorne said nothing of the matter to his niece, and she,
therefore, would have been absolutely bewildered by Beatrice's
absence, had she not received some tidings of what had taken place at
Greshamsbury through Patience Oriel. Beatrice and Patience discussed
the matter fully, and it was agreed between them that it would be
better that Mary should know what sterner orders respecting her
had gone forth from the tyrant at Greshamsbury, and that she might
understand that Beatrice's absence was compulsory. Patience was thus
placed in this position, that on one day she walked and talked with
Beatrice, and on the next with Mary; and so matters went on for a
while at Greshamsbury - not very pleasantly.

Very unpleasantly and very uncomfortably did the months of May and
June pass away. Beatrice and Mary occasionally met, drinking tea
together at the parsonage, or in some other of the ordinary meetings
of country society; but there were no more confidentially distressing
confidential discourses, no more whispering of Frank's name, no more
sweet allusions to the inexpediency of a passion, which, according
to Beatrice's views, would have been so delightful had it been
expedient.

The squire and the doctor also met constantly; there were
unfortunately many subjects on which they were obliged to meet. Louis
Philippe - or Sir Louis as we must call him - though he had no power
over his own property, was wide awake to all the coming privileges
of ownership, and he would constantly point out to his guardian the
manner in which, according to his ideas, the most should be made of
it. The young baronet's ideas of good taste were not of the most
refined description, and he did not hesitate to tell Dr Thorne that
his, the doctor's, friendship with Mr Gresham must be no bar to his,
the baronet's, interest. Sir Louis also had his own lawyer, who gave
Dr Thorne to understand that, according to his ideas, the sum due
on Mr Gresham's property was too large to be left on its present
footing; the title-deeds, he said, should be surrendered or the
mortgage foreclosed. All this added to the sadness which now seemed
to envelop the village of Greshamsbury.

Early in July, Frank was to come home. The manner in which the
comings and goings of "poor Frank" were allowed to disturb the



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 28 of 49)