Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 3 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 3 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

six months. Our readers will probably think that the punishment was
too severe.

Thomas Thorne and the farmer were on the spot soon after Henry Thorne
had fallen. The brother was at first furious for vengeance against
his brother's murderer; but, as the facts came out, as he learnt
what had been the provocation given, what had been the feelings of
Scatcherd when he left the city, determined to punish him who had
ruined his sister, his heart was changed. Those were trying days for
him. It behoved him to do what in him lay to cover his brother's
memory from the obloquy which it deserved; it behoved him also to
save, or to assist to save, from undue punishment the unfortunate man
who had shed his brother's blood; and it behoved him also, at least
so he thought, to look after that poor fallen one whose misfortunes
were less merited than those either of his brother or of hers.

And he was not the man to get through these things lightly, or with
as much ease as he perhaps might conscientiously have done. He would
pay for the defence of the prisoner; he would pay for the defence of
his brother's memory; and he would pay for the poor girl's comforts.
He would do this, and he would allow no one to help him. He stood
alone in the world, and insisted on so standing. Old Mr Thorne
of Ullathorne offered again to open his arms to him; but he had
conceived a foolish idea that his cousin's severity had driven his
brother on to his bad career, and he would consequently accept no
kindness from Ullathorne. Miss Thorne, the old squire's daughter - a
cousin considerably older than himself, to whom he had at one time
been much attached - sent him money; and he returned it to her under a
blank cover. He had still enough for those unhappy purposes which he
had in hand. As to what might happen afterwards, he was then mainly

The affair made much noise in the county, and was inquired into
closely by many of the county magistrates; by none more closely than
by John Newbold Gresham, who was then alive. Mr Gresham was greatly
taken with the energy and justice shown by Dr Thorne on the occasion;
and when the trial was over, he invited him to Greshamsbury. The
visit ended in the doctor establishing himself in that village.

We must return for a moment to Mary Scatcherd. She was saved from the
necessity of encountering her brother's wrath, for that brother was
under arrest for murder before he could get at her. Her immediate
lot, however, was a cruel one. Deep as was her cause for anger
against the man who had so inhumanly used her, still it was natural
that she should turn to him with love rather than with aversion. To
whom else could she in such plight look for love? When, therefore,
she heard that he was slain, her heart sank within her; she turned
her face to the wall, and laid herself down to die: to die a double
death, for herself and the fatherless babe that was now quick within

But, in fact, life had still much to offer, both to her and to her
child. For her it was still destined that she should, in a distant
land, be the worthy wife of a good husband, and the happy mother of
many children. For that embryo one it was destined - but that may not
be so quickly told: to describe her destiny this volume has yet to be

Even in those bitterest days God tempered the wind to the shorn
lamb. Dr Thorne was by her bedside soon after the bloody tidings
had reached her, and did for her more than either her lover or her
brother could have done. When the baby was born, Scatcherd was still
in prison, and had still three months' more confinement to undergo.
The story of her great wrongs and cruel usage was much talked of,
and men said that one who had been so injured should be regarded as
having in nowise sinned at all.

One man, at any rate, so thought. At twilight, one evening, Thorne
was surprised by a visit from a demure Barchester hardware dealer,
whom he did not remember ever to have addressed before. This was the
former lover of poor Mary Scatcherd. He had a proposal to make, and
it was this: - if Mary would consent to leave the country at once, to
leave it without notice from her brother, or talk or éclat on the
matter, he would sell all that he had, marry her, and emigrate.
There was but one condition; she must leave her baby behind her.
The hardware-man could find it in his heart to be generous, to be
generous and true to his love; but he could not be generous enough to
father the seducer's child.

"I could never abide it, sir, if I took it," said he; "and she, - why
in course she would always love it the best."

In praising his generosity, who can mingle any censure for such
manifest prudence? He would still make her the wife of his bosom,
defiled in the eyes of the world as she had been; but she must be
to him the mother of his own children, not the mother of another's

And now again our doctor had a hard task to win through. He saw at
once that it was his duty to use his utmost authority to induce the
poor girl to accept such an offer. She liked the man; and here was
opened to her a course which would have been most desirable, even
before her misfortune. But it is hard to persuade a mother to part
with her first babe; harder, perhaps, when the babe had been so
fathered and so born than when the world has shone brightly on its
earliest hours. She at first refused stoutly: she sent a thousand
loves, a thousand thanks, profusest acknowledgements for his
generosity to the man who showed her that he loved her so well; but
Nature, she said, would not let her leave her child.

"And what will you do for her here, Mary?" said the doctor. Poor Mary
replied to him with a deluge of tears.

"She is my niece," said the doctor, taking up the tiny infant in his
huge hands; "she is already the nearest thing, the only thing that I
have in this world. I am her uncle, Mary. If you will go with this
man I will be father to her and mother to her. Of what bread I eat,
she shall eat; of what cup I drink, she shall drink. See, Mary, here
is the Bible;" and he covered the book with his hand. "Leave her to
me, and by this word she shall be my child."

The mother consented at last; left her baby with the doctor, married,
and went to America. All this was consummated before Roger Scatcherd
was liberated from jail. Some conditions the doctor made. The first
was, that Scatcherd should not know his sister's child was thus
disposed of. Dr Thorne, in undertaking to bring up the baby, did not
choose to encounter any tie with persons who might hereafter claim
to be the girl's relations on the other side. Relations she would
undoubtedly have had none had she been left to live or die as a
workhouse bastard; but should the doctor succeed in life, should he
ultimately be able to make this girl the darling of his own house,
and then the darling of some other house, should she live and win the
heart of some man whom the doctor might delight to call his friend
and nephew; then relations might spring up whose ties would not be

No man plumed himself on good blood more than Dr Thorne; no man had
greater pride in his genealogical tree, and his hundred and thirty
clearly proved descents from MacAdam; no man had a stronger theory
as to the advantage held by men who have grandfathers over those who
have none, or have none worth talking about. Let it not be thought
that our doctor was a perfect character. No, indeed; most far from
perfect. He had within him an inner, stubborn, self-admiring pride,
which made him believe himself to be better and higher than those
around him, and this from some unknown cause which he could hardly
explain to himself. He had a pride in being a poor man of a high
family; he had a pride in repudiating the very family of which he
was proud; and he had a special pride in keeping his pride silently
to himself. His father had been a Thorne, and his mother a Thorold.
There was no better blood to be had in England. It was in the
possession of such properties as these that he condescended to
rejoice; this man, with a man's heart, a man's courage, and a man's
humanity! Other doctors round the county had ditch-water in their
veins; he could boast of a pure ichor, to which that of the great
Omnium family was but a muddy puddle. It was thus that he loved to
excel his brother practitioners, he who might have indulged in the
pride of excelling them both in talent and in energy! We speak now
of his early days; but even in his maturer life, the man, though
mellowed, was the same.

This was the man who now promised to take to his bosom as his own
child a poor bastard whose father was already dead, and whose
mother's family was such as the Scatcherds! It was necessary that
the child's history should be known to none. Except to the mother's
brother it was an object of interest to no one. The mother had for
some short time been talked of; but now the nine-days' wonder was a
wonder no longer. She went off to her far-away home; her husband's
generosity was duly chronicled in the papers, and the babe was left
untalked of and unknown.

It was easy to explain to Scatcherd that the child had not lived.
There was a parting interview between the brother and sister in the
jail, during which, with real tears and unaffected sorrow, the mother
thus accounted for the offspring of her shame. Then she started,
fortunate in her coming fortunes; and the doctor took with him his
charge to the new country in which they were both to live. There he
found for her a fitting home till she should be old enough to sit
at his table and live in his bachelor house; and no one but old Mr
Gresham knew who she was, or whence she had come.

Then Roger Scatcherd, having completed his six months' confinement,
came out of prison.

Roger Scatcherd, though his hands were now red with blood, was to be
pitied. A short time before the days of Henry Thorne's death he had
married a young wife in his own class of life, and had made many
resolves that henceforward his conduct should be such as might become
a married man, and might not disgrace the respectable brother-in-law
he was about to have given him. Such was his condition when he first
heard of his sister's plight. As has been said, he filled himself
with drink and started off on the scent of blood.

During his prison days his wife had to support herself as she might.
The decent articles of furniture which they had put together were
sold; she gave up their little house, and, bowed down by misery, she
also was brought near to death. When he was liberated he at once got
work; but those who have watched the lives of such people know how
hard it is for them to recover lost ground. She became a mother
immediately after his liberation, and when her child was born they
were in direst want; for Scatcherd was again drinking, and his
resolves were blown to the wind.

The doctor was then living at Greshamsbury. He had gone over there
before the day on which he undertook the charge of poor Mary's baby,
and soon found himself settled as the Greshamsbury doctor. This
occurred very soon after the birth of the young heir. His predecessor
in this career had "bettered" himself, or endeavoured to do so, by
seeking the practice of some large town, and Lady Arabella, at a very
critical time, was absolutely left with no other advice than that of
a stranger, picked up, as she declared to Lady de Courcy, somewhere
about Barchester jail, or Barchester court-house, she did not know

Of course Lady Arabella could not suckle the young heir herself.
Ladies Arabella never can. They are gifted with the powers of being
mothers, but not nursing-mothers. Nature gives them bosoms for show,
but not for use. So Lady Arabella had a wet-nurse. At the end of six
months the new doctor found Master Frank was not doing quite so well
as he should do; and after a little trouble it was discovered that
the very excellent young woman who had been sent express from Courcy
Castle to Greshamsbury - a supply being kept up on the lord's demesne
for the family use - was fond of brandy. She was at once sent back to
the castle, of course; and, as Lady de Courcy was too much in dudgeon
to send another, Dr Thorne was allowed to procure one. He thought of
the misery of Roger Scatcherd's wife, thought also of her health,
and strength, and active habits; and thus Mrs Scatcherd became the
foster-mother to young Frank Gresham.

One other episode we must tell of past times. Previous to his
father's death, Dr Thorne was in love. Nor had he altogether sighed
and pleaded in vain; though it had not quite come to that, that the
young lady's friends, or even the young lady herself, had actually
accepted his suit. At that time his name stood well in Barchester.
His father was a prebendary; his cousins and his best friends were
the Thornes of Ullathorne, and the lady, who shall be nameless, was
not thought to be injudicious in listening to the young doctor. But
when Henry Thorne went so far astray, when the old doctor died, when
the young doctor quarrelled with Ullathorne, when the brother was
killed in a disgraceful quarrel, and it turned out that the physician
had nothing but his profession and no settled locality in which to
exercise it; then, indeed, the young lady's friends thought that she
was injudicious, and the young lady herself had not spirit enough, or
love enough, to be disobedient. In those stormy days of the trial she
told Dr Thorne that perhaps it would be wise that they should not see
each other any more.

Dr Thorne, so counselled, at such a moment, - so informed then, when
he most required comfort from his love, at once swore loudly that he
agreed with her. He rushed forth with a bursting heart, and said to
himself that the world was bad, all bad. He saw the lady no more;
and, if I am rightly informed, never again made matrimonial overtures
to any one.


Dr Thorne

And thus Dr Thorne became settled for life in the little village of
Greshamsbury. As was then the wont with many country practitioners,
and as should be the wont with them all if they consulted their own
dignity a little less and the comforts of their customers somewhat
more, he added the business of a dispensing apothecary to that of
physician. In doing so, he was of course much reviled. Many people
around him declared that he could not truly be a doctor, or, at any
rate, a doctor to be so called; and his brethren in the art living
around him, though they knew that his diplomas, degrees, and
certificates were all _en règle_, rather countenanced the report.
There was much about this new-comer which did not endear him to his
own profession. In the first place he was a new-comer, and, as such,
was of course to be regarded by other doctors as being _de trop_.
Greshamsbury was only fifteen miles from Barchester, where there was
a regular dépôt of medical skill, and but eight from Silverbridge,
where a properly established physician had been in residence for the
last forty years. Dr Thorne's predecessor at Greshamsbury had been a
humble-minded general practitioner, gifted with a due respect for
the physicians of the county; and he, though he had been allowed to
physic the servants, and sometimes the children of Greshamsbury, had
never had the presumption to put himself on a par with his betters.

Then, also, Dr Thorne, though a graduated physician, though entitled
beyond all dispute to call himself a doctor, according to all the
laws of all the colleges, made it known to the East Barsetshire
world, very soon after he had seated himself at Greshamsbury, that
his rate of pay was to be seven-and-sixpence a visit within a
circuit of five miles, with a proportionally increased charge at
proportionally increased distances. Now there was something low,
mean, unprofessional, and democratic in this; so, at least, said the
children of Æsculapius gathered together in conclave at Barchester.
In the first place, it showed that this Thorne was always thinking
of his money, like an apothecary, as he was; whereas, it would have
behoved him, as a physician, had he had the feelings of a physician
under his hat, to have regarded his own pursuits in a purely
philosophical spirit, and to have taken any gain which might have
accrued as an accidental adjunct to his station in life. A physician
should take his fee without letting his left hand know what his right
hand was doing; it should be taken without a thought, without a look,
without a move of the facial muscles; the true physician should
hardly be aware that the last friendly grasp of the hand had been
made more precious by the touch of gold. Whereas, that fellow Thorne
would lug out half a crown from his breeches pocket and give it in
change for a ten shilling piece. And then it was clear that this man
had no appreciation of the dignity of a learned profession. He might
constantly be seen compounding medicines in the shop, at the left
hand of his front door; not making experiments philosophically in
materia medica for the benefit of coming ages - which, if he did, he
should have done in the seclusion of his study, far from profane
eyes - but positively putting together common powders for rural
bowels, or spreading vulgar ointments for agricultural ailments.

A man of this sort was not fit society for Dr Fillgrave of
Barchester. That must be admitted. And yet he had been found to be
fit society for the old squire of Greshamsbury, whose shoe-ribbons Dr
Fillgrave would not have objected to tie; so high did the old squire
stand in the county just previous to his death. But the spirit of the
Lady Arabella was known by the medical profession of Barsetshire, and
when that good man died it was felt that Thorne's short tenure of
Greshamsbury favour was already over. The Barsetshire regulars were,
however, doomed to disappointment. Our doctor had already contrived
to endear himself to the heir; and though there was not even then
much personal love between him and the Lady Arabella, he kept his
place at the great house unmoved, not only in the nursery and in the
bedrooms, but also at the squire's dining-table.

Now there was in this, it must be admitted, quite enough to make him
unpopular with his brethren; and this feeling was soon shown in a
marked and dignified manner. Dr Fillgrave, who had certainly the
most respectable professional connexion in the county, who had a
reputation to maintain, and who was accustomed to meet, on almost
equal terms, the great medical baronets from the metropolis at the
houses of the nobility - Dr Fillgrave declined to meet Dr Thorne in
consultation. He exceedingly regretted, he said, most exceedingly,
the necessity which he felt of doing so: he had never before had
to perform so painful a duty; but, as a duty which he owed to his
profession, he must perform it. With every feeling of respect for
Lady - - , a sick guest at Greshamsbury - and for Mr Gresham, he must
decline to attend in conjunction with Dr Thorne. If his services
could be made available under any other circumstances, he would go to
Greshamsbury as fast as post-horses could carry him.

Then, indeed, there was war in Barsetshire. If there was on Dr
Thorne's cranium one bump more developed than another, it was that of
combativeness. Not that the doctor was a bully, or even pugnacious,
in the usual sense of the word; he had no disposition to provoke a
fight, no propense love of quarrelling; but there was that in him
which would allow him to yield to no attack. Neither in argument nor
in contest would he ever allow himself to be wrong; never at least to
any one but to himself; and on behalf of his special hobbies, he was
ready to meet the world at large.

It will therefore be understood, that when such a gauntlet was thus
thrown in his very teeth by Dr Fillgrave, he was not slow to take it
up. He addressed a letter to the Barsetshire Conservative _Standard_,
in which he attacked Dr Fillgrave with some considerable acerbity.
Dr Fillgrave responded in four lines, saying that on mature
consideration he had made up his mind not to notice any remarks
that might be made on him by Dr Thorne in the public press. The
Greshamsbury doctor then wrote another letter, more witty and much
more severe than the last; and as this was copied into the Bristol,
Exeter, and Gloucester papers, Dr Fillgrave found it very difficult
to maintain the magnanimity of his reticence. It is sometimes
becoming enough for a man to wrap himself in the dignified toga of
silence, and proclaim himself indifferent to public attacks; but it
is a sort of dignity which it is very difficult to maintain. As well
might a man, when stung to madness by wasps, endeavour to sit in his
chair without moving a muscle, as endure with patience and without
reply the courtesies of a newspaper opponent. Dr Thorne wrote a third
letter, which was too much for medical flesh and blood to bear. Dr
Fillgrave answered it, not, indeed, in his own name, but in that of
a brother doctor; and then the war raged merrily. It is hardly too
much to say that Dr Fillgrave never knew another happy hour. Had he
dreamed of what materials was made that young compounder of doses at
Greshamsbury he would have met him in consultation, morning, noon,
and night, without objection; but having begun the war, he was
constrained to go on with it: his brethren would allow him no
alternative. Thus he was continually being brought up to the fight,
as a prize-fighter may be seen to be, who is carried up round after
round, without any hope on his own part, and who, in each round,
drops to the ground before the very wind of his opponent's blows.

But Dr Fillgrave, though thus weak himself, was backed in practice
and in countenance by nearly all his brethren in the county. The
guinea fee, the principle of _giving_ advice and of selling no
medicine, the great resolve to keep a distinct barrier between
the physician and the apothecary, and, above all, the hatred of
the contamination of a bill, were strong in the medical mind of
Barsetshire. Dr Thorne had the provincial medical world against him,
and so he appealed to the metropolis. The _Lancet_ took the matter up
in his favour, but the _Journal of Medical Science_ was against him;
the _Weekly Chirurgeon_, noted for its medical democracy, upheld him
as a medical prophet, but the _Scalping Knife_, a monthly periodical
got up in dead opposition to the _Lancet_, showed him no mercy. So
the war went on, and our doctor, to a certain extent, became a noted

He had, moreover, other difficulties to encounter in his professional
career. It was something in his favour that he understood his
business; something that he was willing to labour at it with energy;
and resolved to labour at it conscientiously. He had also other
gifts, such as conversational brilliancy, an aptitude for true
good fellowship, firmness in friendship, and general honesty of
disposition, which stood him in stead as he advanced in life. But,
at his first starting, much that belonged to himself personally was
against him. Let him enter what house he would, he entered it with a
conviction, often expressed to himself, that he was equal as a man to
the proprietor, equal as a human being to the proprietress. To age he
would allow deference, and to special recognised talent - at least so
he said; to rank also, he would pay that respect which was its clear
and recognised prerogative; he would let a lord walk out of a room
before him if he did not happen to forget it; in speaking to a duke
he would address him as his Grace; and he would in no way assume a
familiarity with bigger men than himself, allowing to the bigger man
the privilege of making the first advances. But beyond this he would
admit that no man should walk the earth with his head higher than his

He did not talk of these things much; he offended no rank by boasts
of his own equality; he did not absolutely tell the Earl de Courcy in
words, that the privilege of dining at Courcy Castle was to him no
greater than the privilege of dining at Courcy Parsonage; but there
was that in his manner that told it. The feeling in itself was
perhaps good, and was certainly much justified by the manner in which
he bore himself to those below him in rank; but there was folly in
the resolution to run counter to the world's recognised rules on such
matters; and much absurdity in his mode of doing so, seeing that at
heart he was a thorough Conservative. It is hardly too much to say
that he naturally hated a lord at first sight; but, nevertheless, he
would have expended his means, his blood, and spirit, in fighting for

Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 3 of 49)