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arrangements of all the ladies, and some of the gentlemen, of
Greshamsbury was most abominable. And yet it can hardly be said to
have been his fault. He would have been only too well pleased had
things been allowed to go on after their old fashion. Things were
not allowed so to go on. At Christmas Miss Oriel had submitted to be
exiled, in order that she might carry Mary away from the presence of
the young Bashaw, an arrangement by which all the winter festivities
of the poor doctor had been thoroughly sacrificed; and now it began
to be said that some similar plan for the summer must be suggested.

It must not be supposed that any direction to this effect was
conveyed either to Mary or to the doctor. The suggestion came from
them, and was mentioned only to Patience. But Patience, as a matter
of course, told Beatrice, and Beatrice told her mother, somewhat
triumphantly, hoping thereby to convince the she-dragon of Mary's
innocence. Alas! she-dragons are not easily convinced of the
innocence of any one. Lady Arabella quite coincided in the propriety
of Mary's being sent off, - whither she never inquired, - in order that
the coast might be clear for "poor Frank;" but she did not a whit the
more abstain from talking of the wicked intrigues of those Thornes.
As it turned out, Mary's absence caused her to talk all the more.

The Boxall Hill property, including the house and furniture, had been
left to the contractor's son; it being understood that the property
would not be at present in his own hands, but that he might inhabit
the house if he chose to do so. It would thus be necessary for Lady
Scatcherd to find a home for herself, unless she could remain at
Boxall Hill by her son's permission. In this position of affairs the
doctor had been obliged to make a bargain between them. Sir Louis did
wish to have the comfort, or perhaps the honour, of a country house;
but he did not wish to have the expense of keeping it up. He was
also willing to let his mother live at the house; but not without
a consideration. After a prolonged degree of haggling, terms were
agreed upon; and a few weeks after her husband's death, Lady
Scatcherd found herself alone at Boxall Hill - alone as regards
society in the ordinary sense, but not quite alone as concerned her
ladyship, for the faithful Hannah was still with her.

The doctor was of course often at Boxall Hill, and never left it
without an urgent request from Lady Scatcherd that he would bring his
niece over to see her. Now Lady Scatcherd was no fit companion for
Mary Thorne, and though Mary had often asked to be taken to Boxall
Hill, certain considerations had hitherto induced the doctor to
refuse the request; but there was that about Lady Scatcherd, - a kind
of homely honesty of purpose, an absence of all conceit as to her own
position, and a strength of womanly confidence in the doctor as her
friend, which by degrees won upon his heart. When, therefore, both he
and Mary felt that it would be better for her again to absent herself
for a while from Greshamsbury, it was, after much deliberation,
agreed that she should go on a visit to Boxall Hill.

To Boxall Hill, accordingly, she went, and was received almost as a
princess. Mary had all her life been accustomed to women of rank, and
had never habituated herself to feel much trepidation in the presence
of titled grandees; but she had prepared herself to be more than
ordinarily submissive to Lady Scatcherd. Her hostess was a widow, was
not a woman of high birth, was a woman of whom her uncle spoke well;
and, for all these reasons, Mary was determined to respect her, and
pay to her every consideration. But when she settled down in the
house she found it almost impossible to do so. Lady Scatcherd treated
her as a farmer's wife might have treated some convalescent young
lady who had been sent to her charge for a few weeks, in order that
she might benefit by the country air. Her ladyship could hardly bring
herself to sit still and eat her dinner tranquilly in her guest's
presence. And then nothing was good enough for Mary. Lady Scatcherd
besought her, almost with tears, to say what she liked best to eat
and drink; and was in despair when Mary declared she didn't care,
that she liked anything, and that she was in nowise particular in
such matters.

"A roast fowl, Miss Thorne?"

"Very nice, Lady Scatcherd."

"And bread sauce?"

"Bread sauce - yes; oh, yes - I like bread sauce," - and poor Mary tried
hard to show a little interest.

"And just a few sausages. We make them all in the house, Miss Thorne;
we know what they are. And mashed potatoes - do you like them best
mashed or baked?"

Mary finding herself obliged to vote, voted for mashed potatoes.

"Very well. But, Miss Thorne, if you like boiled fowl better, with
a little bit of ham, you know, I do hope you'll say so. And there's
lamb in the house, quite beautiful; now do 'ee say something; do 'ee,
Miss Thorne."

So invoked, Mary felt herself obliged to say something, and declared
for the roast fowl and sausages; but she found it very difficult to
pay much outward respect to a person who would pay so much outward
respect to her. A day or two after her arrival it was decided that
she should ride about the place on a donkey; she was accustomed to
riding, the doctor having generally taken care that one of his own
horses should, when required, consent to carry a lady; but there was
no steed at Boxall Hill that she could mount; and when Lady Scatcherd
had offered to get a pony for her, she had willingly compromised
matters by expressing the delight she would have in making a campaign
on a donkey. Upon this, Lady Scatcherd had herself set off in quest
of the desired animal, much to Mary's horror; and did not return till
the necessary purchase had been effected. Then she came back with the
donkey close at her heels, almost holding its collar, and stood there
at the hall-door till Mary came to approve.

"I hope she'll do. I don't think she'll kick," said Lady Scatcherd,
patting the head of her purchase quite triumphantly.

"Oh, you are so kind, Lady Scatcherd. I'm sure she'll do quite
nicely; she seems very quiet," said Mary.

"Please, my lady, it's a he," said the boy who held the halter.

"Oh! a he, is it?" said her ladyship; "but the he-donkeys are quite
as quiet as the shes, ain't they?"

"Oh, yes, my lady; a deal quieter, all the world over, and twice as
useful."

"I'm so glad of that, Miss Thorne," said Lady Scatcherd, her eyes
bright with joy.

And so Mary was established with her donkey, who did all that could
be expected from an animal in his position.

"But, dear Lady Scatcherd," said Mary, as they sat together at the
open drawing-room window the same evening, "you must not go on
calling me Miss Thorne; my name is Mary, you know. Won't you call me
Mary?" and she came and knelt at Lady Scatcherd's feet, and took hold
of her, looking up into her face.

Lady Scatcherd's cheeks became rather red, as though she was somewhat
ashamed of her position.

"You are so very kind to me," continued Mary, "and it seems so cold
to hear you call me Miss Thorne."

"Well, Miss Thorne, I'm sure I'd call you anything to please you.
Only I didn't know whether you'd like it from me. Else I do think
Mary is the prettiest name in all the language."

"I should like it very much."

"My dear Roger always loved that name better than any other; ten
times better. I used to wish sometimes that I'd been called Mary."

"Did he! Why?"

"He once had a sister called Mary; such a beautiful creature! I
declare I sometimes think you are like her."

"Oh, dear! then she must have been beautiful indeed!" said Mary,
laughing.

"She was very beautiful. I just remember her - oh, so beautiful! she
was quite a poor girl, you know; and so was I then. Isn't it odd that
I should have to be called 'my lady' now? Do you know Miss Thorne - "

"Mary! Mary!" said her guest.

"Ah, yes; but somehow, I hardly like to make so free; but, as I was
saying, I do so dislike being called 'my lady:' I always think the
people are laughing at me; and so they are."

"Oh, nonsense."

"Yes, they are though: poor dear Roger, he used to call me 'my lady'
just to make fun of me; I didn't mind it so much from him. But, Miss
Thorne - "

"Mary, Mary, Mary."

"Ah, well! I shall do it in time. But, Miss - Mary, ha! ha! ha! never
mind, let me alone. But what I want to say is this: do you think I
could drop it? Hannah says, that if I go the right way about it she
is sure I can."

"Oh! but, Lady Scatcherd, you shouldn't think of such a thing."

"Shouldn't I now?"

"Oh, no; for your husband's sake you should be proud of it. He gained
great honour, you know."

"Ah, well," said she, sighing after a short pause; "if you think it
will do him any good, of course I'll put up with it. And then I know
Louis would be mad if I talked of such a thing. But, Miss Thorne,
dear, a woman like me don't like to have to be made a fool of all the
days of her life if she can help it."

"But, Lady Scatcherd," said Mary, when this question of the title had
been duly settled, and her ladyship made to understand that she must
bear the burden for the rest of her life, "but, Lady Scatcherd, you
were speaking of Sir Roger's sister; what became of her?"

"Oh, she did very well at last, as Sir Roger did himself; but in
early life she was very unfortunate - just at the time of my marriage
with dear Roger - ," and then, just as she was about to commence so
much as she knew of the history of Mary Scatcherd, she remembered
that the author of her sister-in-law's misery had been a Thorne, a
brother of the doctor; and, therefore, as she presumed, a relative of
her guest; and suddenly she became mute.

"Well," said Mary; "just as you were married, Lady Scatcherd?"

Poor Lady Scatcherd had very little worldly knowledge, and did not
in the least know how to turn the conversation or escape from the
trouble into which she had fallen. All manner of reflections began to
crowd upon her. In her early days she had known very little of the
Thornes, nor had she thought much of them since, except as regarded
her friend the doctor; but at this moment she began for the first
time to remember that she had never heard of more than two brothers in
the family. Who then could have been Mary's father? She felt at once
that it would be improper for to say anything as to Henry Thorne's
terrible faults and sudden fate; - improper also, to say more about
Mary Scatcherd; but she was quite unable to drop the matter otherwise
than abruptly, and with a start.

"She was very unfortunate, you say, Lady Scatcherd?"

"Yes, Miss Thorne; Mary, I mean - never mind me - I shall do it in
time. Yes, she was; but now I think of it, I had better say nothing
more about it. There are reasons, and I ought not to have spoken of
it. You won't be provoked with me, will you?"

Mary assured her that she would not be provoked, and of course asked
no more questions about Mary Scatcherd; nor did she think much more
about it. It was not so however with her ladyship, who could not
keep herself from reflecting that the old clergyman in the Close at
Barchester certainly had but two sons, one of whom was now the doctor
at Greshamsbury, and the other of whom had perished so wretchedly at
the gate of that farmyard. Who then was the father of Mary Thorne?

The days passed very quietly at Boxall Hill. Every morning Mary went
out on her donkey, who justified by his demeanour all that had been
said in his praise; then she would read or draw, then walk with Lady
Scatcherd, then dine, then walk again; and so the days passed quietly
away. Once or twice a week the doctor would come over and drink his
tea there, riding home in the cool of the evening. Mary also received
one visit from her friend Patience.

So the days passed quietly away till the tranquillity of the house
was suddenly broken by tidings from London. Lady Scatcherd received a
letter from her son, contained in three lines, in which he intimated
that on the following day he meant to honour her with a visit. He had
intended, he said, to have gone to Brighton with some friends; but as
he felt himself a little out of sorts, he would postpone his marine
trip and do his mother the grace of spending a few days with her.

This news was not very pleasant to Mary, by whom it had been
understood, as it had also by her uncle, that Lady Scatcherd would
have had the house to herself; but as there were no means of
preventing the evil, Mary could only inform the doctor, and prepare
herself to meet Sir Louis Scatcherd.




CHAPTER XXVIII

The Doctor Hears Something to His Advantage


Sir Louis Scatcherd had told his mother that he was rather out of
sorts, and when he reached Boxall Hill it certainly did not appear
that he had given any exaggerated statement of his own maladies. He
certainly was a good deal out of sorts. He had had more than one
attack of delirium tremens since his father's death, and had almost
been at death's door.

Nothing had been said about this by Dr Thorne at Boxall Hill; but
he was by no means ignorant of his ward's state. Twice he had gone
up to London to visit him; twice he had begged him to go down into
the country and place himself under his mother's care. On the last
occasion, the doctor had threatened him with all manner of pains and
penalties: with pains, as to his speedy departure from this world and
all its joys; and with penalties, in the shape of poverty if that
departure should by any chance be retarded. But these threats had
at the moment been in vain, and the doctor had compromised matters
by inducing Sir Louis to promise that he would go to Brighton. The
baronet, however, who was at length frightened by some renewed
attack, gave up his Brighton scheme, and, without any notice to the
doctor, hurried down to Boxall Hill.

Mary did not see him on the first day of his coming, but the doctor
did. He received such intimation of the visit as enabled him to be at
the house soon after the young man's arrival; and, knowing that his
assistance might be necessary, he rode over to Boxall Hill. It was
a dreadful task to him, this of making the same fruitless endeavour
for the son that he had made for the father, and in the same house.
But he was bound by every consideration to perform the task. He had
promised the father that he would do for the son all that was in his
power; and he had, moreover, the consciousness, that should Sir Louis
succeed in destroying himself, the next heir to all the property was
his own niece, Mary Thorne.

He found Sir Louis in a low, wretched, miserable state. Though he
was a drunkard as his father was, he was not at all such a drunkard
as was his father. The physical capacities of the men were very
different. The daily amount of alcohol which the father had consumed
would have burnt up the son in a week; whereas, though the son
was continually tipsy, what he swallowed would hardly have had an
injurious effect upon the father.

"You are all wrong, quite wrong," said Sir Louis, petulantly; "it
isn't that at all. I have taken nothing this week past - literally
nothing. I think it's the liver."

Dr Thorne wanted no one to tell him what was the matter with his
ward. It was his liver; his liver, and his head, and his stomach, and
his heart. Every organ in his body had been destroyed, or was in the
course of destruction. His father had killed himself with brandy;
the son, more elevated in his tastes, was doing the same thing with
cura√Іoa, maraschino, and cherry-bounce.

"Sir Louis," said the doctor - he was obliged to be much more
punctilious with him than he had been with the contractor - "the
matter is in your own hands entirely: if you cannot keep your lips
from that accursed poison, you have nothing in this world to look
forward to; nothing, nothing!"

Mary proposed to return with her uncle to Greshamsbury, and he was
at first well inclined that she should do so. But this idea was
overruled, partly in compliance with Lady Scatcherd's entreaties, and
partly because it would have seemed as though they had both thought
the presence of its owner had made the house an unfit habitation for
decent people. The doctor therefore returned, leaving Mary there; and
Lady Scatcherd busied herself between her two guests.

On the next day Sir Louis was able to come down to a late dinner, and
Mary was introduced to him. He had dressed himself in his best array;
and as he had - at any rate for the present moment - been frightened
out of his libations, he was prepared to make himself as agreeable as
possible. His mother waited on him almost as a slave might have done;
but she seemed to do so with the fear of a slave rather than the love
of a mother. She was fidgety in her attentions, and worried him by
endeavouring to make her evening sitting-room agreeable.

But Sir Louis, though he was not very sweetly behaved under these
manipulations from his mother's hands, was quite complaisant to
Miss Thorne; nay, after the expiration of a week he was almost more
than complaisant. He piqued himself on his gallantry, and now found
that, in the otherwise dull seclusion of Boxall Hill, he had a good
opportunity of exercising it. To do him justice it must be admitted
that he would not have been incapable of a decent career had he
stumbled upon some girl who could have loved him before he stumbled
upon his maraschino bottle. Such might have been the case with many
a lost rake. The things that are bad are accepted because the things
that are good do not come easily in his way. How many a miserable
father reviles with bitterness of spirit the low tastes of his son,
who has done nothing to provide his child with higher pleasures!

Sir Louis - partly in the hopes of Mary's smiles, and partly
frightened by the doctor's threats - did, for a while, keep himself
within decent bounds. He did not usually appear before Mary's eyes
till three or four in the afternoon; but when he did come forth, he
came forth sober and resolute to please. His mother was delighted,
and was not slow to sing his praises; and even the doctor, who now
visited Boxall Hill more frequently than ever, began to have some
hopes.

One constant subject, I must not say of conversation, on the part
of Lady Scatcherd, but rather of declamation, had hitherto been the
beauty and manly attributes of Frank Gresham. She had hardly ceased
to talk to Mary of the infinite good qualities of the young squire,
and especially of his prowess in the matter of Mr Moffat. Mary had
listened to all this eloquence, not perhaps with inattention, but
without much reply. She had not been exactly sorry to hear Frank
talked about; indeed, had she been so minded, she could herself have
said something on the same subject; but she did not wish to take Lady
Scatcherd altogether into her confidence, and she had been unable to
say much about Frank Gresham without doing so. Lady Scatcherd had,
therefore, gradually conceived the idea that her darling was not a
favourite with her guest.

Now, therefore, she changed the subject; and, as her own son was
behaving with such unexampled propriety, she dropped Frank and
confined her eulogies to Louis. He had been a little wild, she
admitted; young men so often were so; but she hoped that it was now
over.

"He does still take a little drop of those French drinks in the
morning," said Lady Scatcherd, in her confidence; for she was too
honest to be false, even in her own cause. "He does do that, I know:
but that's nothing, my dear, to swilling all day; and everything
can't be done at once, can it, Miss Thorne?"

On this subject Mary found her tongue loosened. She could not talk
about Frank Gresham, but she could speak with hope to the mother of
her only son. She could say that Sir Louis was still very young; that
there was reason to trust that he might now reform; that his present
conduct was apparently good; and that he appeared capable of better
things. So much she did say; and the mother took her sympathy for
more than it was worth.

On this matter, and on this matter perhaps alone, Sir Louis and Lady
Scatcherd were in accord. There was much to recommend Mary to the
baronet; not only did he see her to be beautiful, and perceive her
to be attractive and ladylike; but she was also the niece of the man
who, for the present, held the purse-strings of his wealth. Mary, it
is true, had no fortune. But Sir Louis knew that she was acknowledged
to be a lady; and he was ambitious that his "lady" should be a lady.
There was also much to recommend Mary to the mother, to any mother;
and thus it came to pass, that Miss Thorne had no obstacle between
her and the dignity of being Lady Scatcherd the second; - no obstacle
whatever, if only she could bring herself to wish it.

It was some time - two or three weeks, perhaps - before Mary's mind was
first opened to this new brilliancy in her prospects. Sir Louis at
first was rather afraid of her, and did not declare his admiration
in any very determined terms. He certainly paid her many compliments
which, from any one else, she would have regarded as abominable.
But she did not expect great things from the baronet's taste: she
concluded that he was only doing what he thought a gentleman should
do; and she was willing to forgive much for Lady Scatcherd's sake.

His first attempts were, perhaps, more ludicrous than passionate. He
was still too much an invalid to take walks, and Mary was therefore
saved from his company in her rambles; but he had a horse of his own
at Boxall Hill, and had been advised to ride by the doctor. Mary
also rode - on a donkey only, it is true - but Sir Louis found himself
bound in gallantry to accompany her. Mary's steed had answered every
expectation, and proved himself very quiet; so quiet, that without
the admonition of a cudgel behind him, he could hardly be persuaded
into the demurest trot. Now, as Sir Louis's horse was of a very
different mettle, he found it rather difficult not to step
faster than his inamorata; and, let it him struggle as he would,
was generally so far ahead as to be debarred the delights of
conversation.

When for the second time he proposed to accompany her, Mary did what
she could to hinder it. She saw that he had been rather ashamed of
the manner in which his companion was mounted, and she herself would
have enjoyed her ride much more without him. He was an invalid,
however; it was necessary to make much of him, and Mary did not
absolutely refuse his offer.

"Lady Scatcherd," said he, as they were standing at the door previous
to mounting - he always called his mother Lady Scatcherd - "why don't
you have a horse for Miss Thorne? This donkey is - is - really is, so
very - very - can't go at all, you know?"

Lady Scatcherd began to declare that she would willingly have got a
pony if Mary would have let her do so.

"Oh, no, Lady Scatcherd; not on any account. I do like the donkey so
much - I do indeed."

"But he won't go," said Sir Louis. "And for a person who rides like
you, Miss Thorne - such a horsewoman you know - why, you know, Lady
Scatcherd, it's positively ridiculous; d - - absurd, you know."

And then, with an angry look at his mother, he mounted his horse, and
was soon leading the way down the avenue.

"Miss Thorne," said he, pulling himself up at the gate, "if I had
known that I was to be so extremely happy as to have found you here,
I would have brought you down the most beautiful creature, an Arab.
She belongs to my friend Jenkins; but I wouldn't have stood at any
price in getting her for you. By Jove! if you were on that mare, I'd
back you, for style and appearance, against anything in Hyde Park."

The offer of this sporting wager, which naturally would have been
very gratifying to Mary, was lost upon her, for Sir Louis had again
unwittingly got on in advance, but he stopped himself in time to hear
Mary again declare her passion was a donkey.

"If you could only see Jenkins's little mare, Miss Thorne! Only say
one word, and she shall be down here before the week's end. Price
shall be no obstacle - none whatever. By Jove, what a pair you would
be!"

This generous offer was repeated four or five times; but on each
occasion Mary only half heard what was said, and on each occasion the
baronet was far too much in advance to hear Mary's reply. At last he
recollected that he wanted to call on one of the tenants, and begged
his companion to allow him to ride on.

"If you at all dislike being left alone, you know - "

"Oh dear no, not at all, Sir Louis. I am quite used to it."

"Because I don't care about it, you know; only I can't make this



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 29 of 49)