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heaviness of visage again gave way for a moment as his eye fell upon
his son.

"I have been to Boxall Hill, sir."

The tenor of his father's thoughts was changed in an instant; and the
dread of immediate temporary annoyance gave place to true anxiety for
his son. He, the squire, had been no party to Mary's exile from his
own domain; and he had seen with pain that she had now a second time
been driven from her home: but he had never hitherto questioned the
expediency of separating his son from Mary Thorne. Alas! it became
too necessary - too necessary through his own default - that Frank
should marry money!

"At Boxall Hill, Frank! Has that been prudent? Or, indeed, has it
been generous to Miss Thorne, who has been driven there, as it were,
by your imprudence?"

"Father, it is well that we should understand each other about
this - "

"Fill your glass, Frank;" Frank mechanically did as he was told, and
passed the bottle.

"I should never forgive myself were I to deceive you, or keep
anything from you."

"I believe it is not in your nature to deceive me, Frank."

"The fact is, sir, that I have made up my mind that Mary Thorne shall
be my wife - sooner or later that is, unless, of course, she should
utterly refuse. Hitherto, she has utterly refused me. I believe I may
now say that she has accepted me."

The squire sipped his claret, but at the moment said nothing. There
was a quiet, manly, but yet modest determination about his son
that he had hardly noticed before. Frank had become legally of
age, legally a man, when he was twenty-one. Nature, it seems, had
postponed the ceremony till he was twenty-two. Nature often does
postpone the ceremony even to a much later age; - sometimes,
altogether forgets to accomplish it.

The squire continued to sip his claret; he had to think over the
matter a while before he could answer a statement so deliberately
made by his son.

"I think I may say so," continued Frank, with perhaps unnecessary
modesty. "She is so honest that, had she not intended it, she
would have said so honestly. Am I right, father, in thinking that,
as regards Mary, personally, you would not reject her as a
daughter-in-law?"

"Personally!" said the squire, glad to have the subject presented to
him in a view that enabled him to speak out. "Oh, no; personally, I
should not object to her, for I love her dearly. She is a good girl.
I do believe she is a good girl in every respect. I have always liked
her; liked to see her about the house. But - "

"I know what you would say, father." This was rather more than the
squire knew himself. "Such a marriage is imprudent."

"It is more than that, Frank; I fear it is impossible."

"Impossible! No, father; it is not impossible."

"It is impossible, Frank, in the usual sense. What are you to live
upon? What would you do with your children? You would not wish to see
your wife distressed and comfortless."

"No, I should not like to see that."

"You would not wish to begin life as an embarrassed man and end it
as a ruined man. If you were now to marry Miss Thorne such would, I
fear, doubtless be your lot."

Frank caught at the word "now." "I don't expect to marry immediately.
I know that would be imprudent. But I am pledged, father, and I
certainly cannot go back. And now that I have told you all this, what
is your advice to me?"

The father again sat silent, still sipping his wine. There was
nothing in his son that he could be ashamed of, nothing that he could
meet with anger, nothing that he could not love; but how should he
answer him? The fact was, that the son had more in him than the
father; this his mind and spirit were of a calibre not to be opposed
successfully by the mind and spirit of the squire.

"Do you know Mary's history?" said Mr Gresham, at last; "the history
of her birth?"

"Not a word of it," said Frank. "I did not know she had a history."

"Nor does she know it; at least, I presume not. But you should know
it now. And, Frank, I will tell it you; not to turn you from her - not
with that object, though I think that, to a certain extent, it should
have that effect. Mary's birth was not such as would become your wife
and be beneficial to your children."

"If so, father, I should have known that sooner. Why was she brought
in here among us?"

"True, Frank. The fault is mine; mine and your mother's.
Circumstances brought it about years ago, when it never occurred to
us that all this would arise. But I will tell you her history. And,
Frank, remember this, though I tell it you as a secret, a secret to
be kept from all the world but one, you are quite at liberty to let
the doctor know that I have told you. Indeed, I shall be careful to
let him know myself should it ever be necessary that he and I should
speak together as to this engagement." The squire then told his son
the whole story of Mary's birth, as it is known to the reader.

Frank sat silent, looking very blank; he also had, as had every
Gresham, a great love for his pure blood. He had said to his mother
that he hated money, that he hated the estate; but he would have been
very slow to say, even in his warmest opposition to her, that he
hated the roll of the family pedigree. He loved it dearly, though he
seldom spoke of it; - as men of good family seldom do speak of it. It
is one of those possessions which to have is sufficient. A man having
it need not boast of what he has, or show it off before the world.
But on that account he values it more. He had regarded Mary as a
cutting duly taken from the Ullathorne tree; not, indeed, as a
grafting branch, full of flower, just separated from the parent
stalk, but as being not a whit the less truly endowed with the pure
sap of that venerable trunk. When, therefore, he heard her true
history he sat awhile dismayed.

"It is a sad story," said the father.

"Yes, sad enough," said Frank, rising from his chair and standing
with it before him, leaning on the back of it. "Poor Mary, poor Mary!
She will have to learn it some day."

"I fear so, Frank;" and then there was again a few moments' silence.

"To me, father, it is told too late. It can now have no effect on me.
Indeed," said he, sighing as he spoke, but still relieving himself by
the very sigh, "it could have had no effect had I learned it ever so
soon."

"I should have told you before," said the father; "certainly I ought
to have done so."

"It would have been no good," said Frank. "Ah, sir, tell me this: who
were Miss Dunstable's parents? What was that fellow Moffat's family?"

This was perhaps cruel of Frank. The squire, however, made no answer
to the question. "I have thought it right to tell you," said he.
"I leave all commentary to yourself. I need not tell you what your
mother will think."

"What did she think of Miss Dunstable's birth?" said he, again more
bitterly than before. "No, sir," he continued, after a further pause.
"All that can make no change; none at any rate now. It can't make my
love less, even if it could have prevented it. Nor, even, could it do
so - which it can't least, not in the least - but could it do so, it
could not break my engagement. I am now engaged to Mary Thorne."

And then he again repeated his question, asking for his father's
advice under the present circumstances. The conversation was a very
long one, as long as to disarrange all Lady Arabella's plans. She
had determined to take her son most stringently to task that very
evening; and with this object had ensconced herself in the small
drawing-room which had formerly been used for a similar purpose by
the august countess herself. Here she now sat, having desired Augusta
and Beatrice, as well as the twins, to beg Frank to go to her as soon
as he should come out of the dining-room. Poor lady! there she waited
till ten o'clock, - tealess. There was not much of the Bluebeard about
the squire; but he had succeeded in making it understood through the
household that he was not to be interrupted by messages from his wife
during the post-prandial hour, which, though no toper, he loved so
well.

As a period of twelve months will now have to be passed over, the
upshot of this long conversation must be told in as few words as
possible. The father found it impracticable to talk his son out of
his intended marriage; indeed, he hardly attempted to do so by any
direct persuasion. He explained to him that it was impossible that he
should marry at once, and suggested that he, Frank, was very young.

"You married, sir, before you were one-and-twenty," said Frank. Yes,
and repented before I was two-and-twenty. So did not say the squire.

He suggested that Mary should have time to ascertain what would be
her uncle's wishes, and ended by inducing Frank to promise, that
after taking his degree in October he would go abroad for some
months, and that he would not indeed return to Greshamsbury till he
was three-and-twenty.

"He may perhaps forget her," said the father to himself, as this
agreement was made between them.

"He thinks that I shall forget her," said Frank to himself at the
same time; "but he does not know me."

When Lady Arabella at last got hold of her son she found that the
time for her preaching was utterly gone by. He told her, almost with
_sang-froid_, what his plans were; and when she came to understand
them, and to understand also what had taken place at Boxall Hill, she
could not blame the squire for what he had done. She also said to
herself, more confidently than the squire had done, that Frank would
quite forget Mary before the year was out. "Lord Buckish," said she
to herself, rejoicingly, "is now with the ambassador at Paris" - Lord
Buckish was her nephew - "and with him Frank will meet women that are
really beautiful - women of fashion. When with Lord Buckish he will
soon forget Mary Thorne."

But not on this account did she change her resolve to follow up
to the furthest point her hostility to the Thornes. She was fully
enabled now to do so, for Dr Fillgrave was already reinstalled at
Greshamsbury as her medical adviser.

One other short visit did Frank pay to Boxall Hill, and one interview
had he with Dr Thorne. Mary told him all she knew of her own sad
history, and was answered only by a kiss, - a kiss absolutely not in
any way by her to be avoided; the first, the only one, that had ever
yet reached her lips from his. And then he went away.

The doctor told him all the story. "Yes," said Frank, "I knew it all
before. Dear Mary, dearest Mary! Don't you, doctor, teach yourself to
believe that I shall forget her." And then also he went his way from
him - went his way also from Greshamsbury, and was absent for the full
period of his allotted banishment - twelve months, namely, and a day.




CHAPTER XXXI

The Small End of the Wedge


Frank Gresham was absent from Greshamsbury twelve months and a day: a
day is always added to the period of such absences, as shown in the
history of Lord Bateman and other noble heroes. We need not detail
all the circumstances of his banishment, all the details of the
compact that was made. One detail of course was this, that there
should be no corresponding; a point to which the squire found some
difficulty in bringing his son to assent.

It must not be supposed that Mary Thorne or the doctor were in any
way parties to, or privy to these agreements. By no means. The
agreements were drawn out, and made, and signed, and sealed at
Greshamsbury, and were known of nowhere else. The reader must not
imagine that Lady Arabella was prepared to give up her son, if
only his love could remain constant for one year. Neither did Lady
Arabella consent to any such arrangement, nor did the squire. It was
settled rather in this wise: that Frank should be subjected to no
torturing process, pestered to give no promises, should in no way be
bullied about Mary - that is, not at present - if he would go away for
a year. Then, at the end of the year, the matter should again be
discussed. Agreeing to this, Frank took his departure, and was absent
as per agreement.

What were Mary's fortunes immediately after his departure must be
shortly told, and then we will again join some of our Greshamsbury
friends at a period about a month before Frank's return.

When Sir Louis saw Frank Gresham standing by Mary's donkey, with
his arms round Mary's knees, he began to fear that there must be
something in it. He had intended that very day to throw himself
at Mary's feet, and now it appeared to his inexperienced eyes as
though somebody else had been at the same work before him. This not
unnaturally made him cross; so, after having sullenly wished the
visitor good-bye, he betook himself to his room, and there drank
curaçoa alone, instead of coming down to dinner.

This he did for two or three days, and then, taking heart of grace,
he remembered that, after all, he had very many advantages over young
Gresham. In the first place, he was a baronet, and could make his
wife a "lady." In the next place, Frank's father was alive and like
to live, whereas his own was dead. He possessed Boxall Hill in his
own right, but his rival had neither house nor land of his own. After
all, might it not be possible for him also to put his arm round
Mary's knees; - her knees, or her waist, or, perhaps, even her neck?
Faint heart never won fair lady. At any rate, he would try.

And he did try. With what result, as regards Mary, need hardly be
told. He certainly did not get nearly so far as putting his hand even
upon her knee before he was made to understand that it "was no go,"
as he graphically described it to his mother. He tried once and
again. On the first time Mary was very civil, though very determined.
On the second, she was more determined, though less civil; and then
she told him, that if he pressed her further he would drive her from
his mother's house. There was something then about Mary's eye, a
fixed composure round her mouth, and an authority in her face, which
went far to quell him; and he did not press her again.

He immediately left Boxall Hill, and, returning to London, had more
violent recourse to the curaçoa. It was not long before the doctor
heard of him, and was obliged to follow him, and then again occurred
those frightful scenes in which the poor wretch had to expiate,
either in terrible delirium or more terrible prostration of spirits,
the vile sin which his father had so early taught him.

Then Mary returned to her uncle's home. Frank was gone, and she
therefore could resume her place at Greshamsbury. Yes, she came back
to Greshamsbury; but Greshamsbury was by no means the same place that
it was formerly. Almost all intercourse was now over between the
doctor and the Greshamsbury people. He rarely ever saw the squire,
and then only on business. Not that the squire had purposely
quarrelled with him; but Dr Thorne himself had chosen that it should
be so, since Frank had openly proposed for his niece. Frank was now
gone, and Lady Arabella was in arms against him. It should not be
said that he kept up any intimacy for the sake of aiding the lovers
in their love. No one should rightfully accuse him of inveigling the
heir to marry his niece.

Mary, therefore, found herself utterly separated from Beatrice. She
was not even able to learn what Beatrice would think, or did think,
of the engagement as it now stood. She could not even explain to
her friend that love had been too strong for her, and endeavour to
get some comfort from that friend's absolution from her sin. This
estrangement was now carried so far that she and Beatrice did not
even meet on neutral ground. Lady Arabella made it known to Miss
Oriel that her daughter could not meet Mary Thorne, even as strangers
meet; and it was made known to others also. Mrs Yates Umbleby, and
her dear friend Miss Gushing, to whose charming tea-parties none of
the Greshamsbury ladies went above once in a twelvemonth, talked
through the parish of this distressing difficulty. They would have
been so happy to have asked dear Mary Thorne, only the Greshamsbury
ladies did not approve.

Mary was thus tabooed from all society in the place in which a
twelvemonth since she had been, of all its denizens, perhaps the
most courted. In those days, no bevy of Greshamsbury young ladies
had fairly represented the Greshamsbury young ladyhood if Mary
Thorne was not there. Now she was excluded from all such bevies.
Patience did not quarrel with her, certainly; - came to see her
frequently; - invited her to walk; - invited her frequently to the
parsonage. But Mary was shy of acceding to such invitations, and at
last frankly told her friend Patience, that she would not again break
bread in Greshamsbury in any house in which she was not thought fit
to meet the other guests who habitually resorted there.

In truth, both the doctor and his niece were very sore, but they
were of that temperament that keeps all its soreness to itself. Mary
walked out by herself boldly, looking at least as though she were
indifferent to all the world. She was, indeed, hardly treated. Young
ladies' engagements are generally matters of profoundest secrecy, and
are hardly known of by their near friends till marriage is a thing
settled. But all the world knew of Mary's engagement within a month
of that day on which she had neglected to expel Frank's finger from
her hand; it had been told openly through the country-side that she
had confessed her love for the young squire. Now it is disagreeable
for a young lady to walk about under such circumstances, especially
so when she has no female friend to keep her in countenance,
more especially so when the gentleman is such importance in the
neighbourhood as Frank was in that locality. It was a matter of
moment to every farmer, and every farmer's wife, which bride Frank
should marry of those bespoken for him; Mary, namely, or Money. Every
yokel about the place had been made to understand that, by some
feminine sleight of hand, the doctor's niece had managed to trap
Master Frank, and that Master Frank had been sent out of the way so
that he might, if yet possible, break through the trapping. All this
made life rather unpleasant for her.

One day, walking solitary in the lanes, she met that sturdy farmer to
whose daughter she had in former days been so serviceable. "God bless
'ee, Miss Mary," said he - he always did bid God bless her when he saw
her. "And, Miss Mary, to say my mind out freely, thee be quite gude
enough for un, quite gude enough; so thee be'st tho'f he were ten
squoires." There may, perhaps, have been something pleasant in the
heartiness of this; but it was not pleasant to have this heart affair
of hers thus publicly scanned and talked over: to have it known to
every one that she had set her heart on marrying Frank Gresham, and
that all the Greshams had set their hearts on preventing it. And yet
she could in nowise help it. No girl could have been more staid and
demure, less demonstrative and boastful about her love. She had never
yet spoken freely, out of her full heart, to one human being. "Oh,
Frank!" All her spoken sin had been contained in that.

But Lady Arabella had been very active. It suited her better that it
should be known, far and wide, that a nameless pauper - Lady Arabella
only surmised that her foe was nameless; but she did not scruple to
declare it - was intriguing to catch the heir of Greshamsbury. None of
the Greshams must meet Mary Thorne; that was the edict sent about the
country; and the edict was well understood. Those, therefore, were
bad days for Miss Thorne.

She had never yet spoken on the matter freely, out of her full heart
to one human being. Not to one? Not to him? Not to her uncle? No, not
even to him, fully and freely. She had told him that that had passed
between Frank and her which amounted, at any rate on his part, to a
proposal.

"Well, dearest, and what was your answer?" said her uncle, drawing
her close to him, and speaking in his kindest voice.

"I hardly made any answer, uncle."

"You did not reject him, Mary?"

"No, uncle," and then she paused; - he had never known her tremble as
she now trembled. "But if you say that I ought, I will," she added,
drawing every word from herself with difficulty.

"I say you ought, Mary! Nay; but this question you must answer
yourself."

"Must I?" said she, plaintively. And then she sat for the next
half hour with her head against his shoulder; but nothing more was
said about it. They both acquiesced in the sentence that had been
pronounced against them, and went on together more lovingly than
before.

The doctor was quite as weak as his niece; nay, weaker. She hesitated
fearfully as to what she ought to do: whether she should obey her
heart or the dictates of Greshamsbury. But he had other doubts than
hers, which nearly set him wild when he strove to bring his mind to
a decision. He himself was now in possession - of course as a trustee
only - of the title-deeds of the estate; more of the estate, much
more, belonged to the heirs under Sir Roger Scatcherd's will than to
the squire. It was now more than probable that that heir must be Mary
Thorne. His conviction became stronger and stronger that no human
efforts would keep Sir Louis in the land of the living till he
was twenty-five. Could he, therefore, wisely or honestly, in true
friendship to the squire, to Frank, or to his niece, take any steps
to separate two persons who loved each other, and whose marriage
would in all human probability be so suitable?

And yet he could not bring himself to encourage it then. The idea
of "looking after dead men's shoes" was abhorrent to his mind,
especially when the man whose death he contemplated had been so
trusted to him as had been Sir Louis Scatcherd. He could not speak
of the event, even to the squire, as being possible. So he kept his
peace from day to day, and gave no counsel to Mary in the matter.

And then he had his own individual annoyances, and very aggravating
annoyances they were. The carriage - or rather post-chaise - of Dr
Fillgrave was now frequent in Greshamsbury, passing him constantly
in the street, among the lanes, and on the high roads. It seemed as
though Dr Fillgrave could never get to his patients at the big house
without showing himself to his beaten rival, either on his way
thither or on his return. This alone would, perhaps, not have hurt
the doctor much; but it did hurt him to know that Dr Fillgrave was
attending the squire for a little incipient gout, and that dear Nina
was in measles under those unloving hands.

And then, also, the old-fashioned phaeton, of old-fashioned old
Dr Century was seen to rumble up to the big house, and it became
known that Lady Arabella was not very well. "Not very well," when
pronounced in a low, grave voice about Lady Arabella, always meant
something serious. And, in this case, something serious was meant.
Lady Arabella was not only ill, but frightened. It appeared, even to
her, that Dr Fillgrave himself hardly knew what he was about, that he
was not so sure in his opinion, so confident in himself, as Dr Thorne
used to be. How should he be, seeing that Dr Thorne had medically had
Lady Arabella in his hands for the last ten years?

If sitting with dignity in his hired carriage, and stepping with
authority up the big front steps, would have done anything, Dr
Fillgrave might have done much. Lady Arabella was greatly taken with
his looks when he first came to her, and it was only when she by
degrees perceived that the symptoms, which she knew so well, did not
yield to him that she began to doubt those looks.

After a while Dr Fillgrave himself suggested Dr Century. "Not that
I fear anything, Lady Arabella," said he, - lying hugely, for he did
fear; fear both for himself and for her. "But Dr Century has great
experience, and in such a matter, when the interests are so
important, one cannot be too safe."

So Dr Century came and toddled slowly into her ladyship's room. He
did not say much; he left the talking to his learned brother, who
certainly was able to do that part of the business. But Dr Century,
though he said very little, looked very grave, and by no means
quieted Lady Arabella's mind. She, as she saw the two putting their
heads together, already had misgivings that she had done wrong. She
knew that she could not be safe without Dr Thorne at her bedside, and
she already felt that she had exercised a most injudicious courage in
driving him away.

"Well, doctor?" said she, as soon as Dr Century had toddled
downstairs to see the squire.

"Oh! we shall be all right, Lady Arabella; all right, very soon. But
we must be careful, very careful; I am glad I've had Century here,



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 32 of 49)