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But, as to the house, why, my box there is very comfortable, very.
You'd hardly know the place now, Lady Arabella, if you haven't seen
it since my governor bought it. How much do you think he spent about
the house and grounds, pineries included, you know, and those sort of
things?"

Lady Arabella shook her head.

"Now guess, my lady," said he. But it was not to be supposed that
Lady Arabella should guess on such a subject.

"I never guess," said she, with a look of ineffable disgust.

"What do you say, Mr Gazebee?"

"Perhaps a hundred thousand pounds."

"What! for a house! You can't know much about money, nor yet about
building, I think, Mr Gazebee."

"Not much," said Mr Gazebee, "as to such magnificent places as Boxall
Hill."

"Well, my lady, if you won't guess, I'll tell you. It cost twenty-two
thousand four hundred and nineteen pounds four shillings and
eightpence. I've all the accounts exact. Now, that's a tidy lot of
money for a house for a man to live in."

Sir Louis spoke this in a loud tone, which at least commanded the
attention of the table. Lady Arabella, vanquished, bowed her head,
and said that it was a large sum; Mr Gazebee went on sedulously
eating his dinner; the squire was struck momentarily dumb in the
middle of a long chat with the doctor; even Mr Oriel ceased to
whisper; and the girls opened their eyes with astonishment. Before
the end of his speech, Sir Louis's voice had become very loud.

"Yes, indeed," said Frank; "a very tidy lot of money. I'd have
generously dropped the four and eightpence if I'd been the
architect."

"It wasn't all one bill; but that's the tot. I can show the bills:"
and Sir Louis, well pleased with his triumph, swallowed a glass of
wine.

Almost immediately after the cloth was removed, Lady Arabella
escaped, and the gentlemen clustered together. Sir Louis found
himself next to Mr Oriel, and began to make himself agreeable.

"A very nice girl, Miss Beatrice; very nice."

Now Mr Oriel was a modest man, and, when thus addressed as to his
future wife, found it difficult to make any reply.

"You parsons always have your own luck," said Sir Louis. "You get all
the beauty, and generally all the money, too. Not much of the latter
in this case, though - eh?"

Mr Oriel was dumbfounded. He had never said a word to any creature as
to Beatrice's dowry; and when Mr Gresham had told him, with sorrow,
that his daughter's portion must be small, he had at once passed away
from the subject as one that was hardly fit for conversation, even
between him and his future father-in-law; and now he was abruptly
questioned on the subject by a man he had never before seen in his
life. Of course, he could make no answer.

"The squire has muddled his matters most uncommonly," continued Sir
Louis, filling his glass for the second time before he passed the
bottle. "What do you suppose now he owes me alone; just at one lump,
you know?"

Mr Oriel had nothing for it but to run. He could make no answer, nor
would he sit there to hear tidings as to Mr Gresham's embarrassments.
So he fairly retreated, without having said one word to his
neighbour, finding such discretion to be the only kind of valour left
to him.

"What, Oriel! off already?" said the squire. "Anything the matter?"

"Oh, no; nothing particular. I'm not just quite - I think I'll go out
for a few minutes."

"See what it is to be in love," said the squire, half-whispering to
Dr Thorne. "You're not in the same way, I hope?"

Sir Louis then shifted his seat again, and found himself next to
Frank. Mr Gazebee was opposite to him, and the doctor opposite to
Frank.

"Parson seems peekish, I think," said the baronet.

"Peekish?" said the squire, inquisitively.

"Rather down on his luck. He's decently well off himself, isn't he?"

There was another pause, and nobody seemed inclined to answer the
question.

"I mean, he's got something more than his bare living."

"Oh, yes," said Frank, laughing. "He's got what will buy him bread
and cheese when the Rads shut up the Church: - unless, indeed, they
shut up the Funds too."

"Ah, there's nothing like land," said Sir Louis: "nothing like the
dirty acres; is there, squire?"

"Land is a very good investment, certainly," said Mr Gresham.

"The best going," said the other, who was now, as people say when
they mean to be good-natured, slightly under the influence of liquor.
"The best going - eh, Gazebee?"

Mr Gazebee gathered himself up, and turned away his head, looking out
of the window.

"You lawyers never like to give an opinion without money, ha! ha! ha!
Do they, Mr Gresham? You and I have had to pay for plenty of them,
and will have to pay for plenty more before they let us alone."

Here Mr Gazebee got up, and followed Mr Oriel out of the room. He was
not, of course, on such intimate terms in the house as was Mr Oriel;
but he hoped to be forgiven by the ladies in consequence of the
severity of the miseries to which he was subjected. He and Mr Oriel
were soon to be seen through the dining-room window, walking about
the grounds with the two eldest Miss Greshams. And Patience Oriel,
who had also been of the party, was also to be seen with the twins.
Frank looked at his father with almost a malicious smile, and began
to think that he too might be better employed out among the walks.
Did he think then of a former summer evening, when he had half broken
Mary's heart by walking there too lovingly with Patience Oriel?

Sir Louis, if he continued his brilliant career of success, would
soon be left the cock of the walk. The squire, to be sure, could
not bolt, nor could the doctor very well; but they might be equally
vanquished, remaining there in their chairs. Dr Thorne, during all
this time, was sitting with tingling ears. Indeed, it may be said
that his whole body tingled. He was in a manner responsible for this
horrid scene; but what could he do to stop it? He could not take Sir
Louis up bodily and carry him away. One idea did occur to him. The
fly had been ordered for ten o'clock. He could rush out and send for
it instantly.

"You're not going to leave me?" said the squire, in a voice of
horror, as he saw the doctor rising from his chair.

"Oh, no, no, no," said the doctor; and then he whispered the purpose
of his mission. "I will be back in two minutes." The doctor would
have given twenty pounds to have closed the scene at once; but he was
not the man to desert his friend in such a strait as that.

"He's a well-meaning fellow, the doctor," said Sir Louis, when his
guardian was out of the room, "very; but he's not up to trap - not at
all."

"Up to trap - well, I should say he was; that is, if I know what trap
means," said Frank.

"Ah, but that's just the ticket. Do you know? Now I say Dr Thorne's
not a man of the world."

"He's about the best man I know, or ever heard of," said the squire.
"And if any man ever had a good friend, you have got one in him; and
so have I:" and the squire silently drank the doctor's health.

"All very true, I dare say; but yet he's not up to trap. Now look
here, squire - "

"If you don't mind, sir," said Frank, "I've got something very
particular - perhaps, however - "

"Stay till Thorne returns, Frank."

Frank did stay till Thorne returned, and then escaped.

"Excuse me, doctor," said he, "but I've something very particular to
say; I'll explain to-morrow." And then the three were left alone.

Sir Louis was now becoming almost drunk, and was knocking his words
together. The squire had already attempted to stop the bottle; but
the baronet had contrived to get hold of a modicum of Madeira, and
there was no preventing him from helping himself; at least, none at
that moment.

"As we were saying about lawyers," continued Sir Louis. "Let's see,
what were we saying? Why, squire, it's just here. Those fellows will
fleece us both if we don't mind what we are after."

"Never mind about lawyers now," said Dr Thorne, angrily.

"Ah, but I do mind; most particularly. That's all very well for you,
doctor; you've nothing to lose. You've no great stake in the matter.
Why, now, what sum of money of mine do you think those d - - doctors
are handling?"

"D - - doctors!" said the squire in a tone of dismay.

"Lawyers, I mean, of course. Why, now, Gresham; we're all totted
now, you see; you're down in my books, I take it, for pretty near a
hundred thousand pounds."

"Hold your tongue, sir," said the doctor, getting up.

"Hold my tongue!" said Sir Louis.

"Sir Louis Scatcherd," said the squire, slowly rising from his chair,
"we will not, if you please, talk about business at the present
moment. Perhaps we had better go to the ladies."

This latter proposition had certainly not come from the squire's
heart: going to the ladies was the very last thing for which Sir
Louis was now fit. But the squire had said it as being the only
recognised formal way he could think of for breaking up the
symposium.

"Oh, very well," hiccupped the baronet, "I'm always ready for the
ladies," and he stretched out his hand to the decanter to get a last
glass of Madeira.

"No," said the doctor, rising stoutly, and speaking with a determined
voice. "No; you will have no more wine:" and he took the decanter
from him.

"What's all this about?" said Sir Louis, with a drunken laugh.

"Of course he cannot go into the drawing-room, Mr Gresham. If you
will leave him here with me, I will stay with him till the fly
comes. Pray tell Lady Arabella from me, how sorry I am that this has
occurred."

The squire would not leave his friend, and they sat together till the
fly came. It was not long, for the doctor had dispatched his
messenger with much haste.

"I am so heartily ashamed of myself," said the doctor, almost with
tears.

The squire took him by the hand affectionately. "I've seen a tipsy
man before to-night," said he.

"Yes," said the doctor, "and so have I, but - " He did not express the
rest of his thoughts.




CHAPTER XXXVI

Will He Come Again?


Long before the doctor returned home after the little dinner-party
above described, Mary had learnt that Frank was already at
Greshamsbury. She had heard nothing of him or from him, not a word,
nothing in the shape of a message, for twelve months; and at her age
twelve months is a long period. Would he come and see her in spite of
his mother? Would he send her any tidings of his return, or notice
her in any way? If he did not, what would she do? and if he did, what
then would she do? It was so hard to resolve; so hard to be deserted;
and so hard to dare to wish that she might not be deserted! She
continued to say to herself, that it would be better that they should
be strangers; and she could hardly keep herself from tears in the
fear that they might be so. What chance could there be that he should
care for her, after an absence spent in travelling over the world?
No; she would forget that affair of his hand; and then, immediately
after having so determined, she would confess to herself that it was
a thing not to be forgotten, and impossible of oblivion.

On her uncle's return, she would hear some word about him; and so
she sat alone, with a book before her, of which she could not read
a line. She expected them about eleven, and was, therefore, rather
surprised when the fly stopped at the door before nine.

She immediately heard her uncle's voice, loud and angry, calling
for Thomas. Both Thomas and Bridget were unfortunately out, being,
at this moment, forgetful of all sublunary cares, and seated in
happiness under a beech-tree in the park. Janet flew to the little
gate, and there found Sir Louis insisting that he would be taken at
once to his own mansion at Boxall Hill, and positively swearing that
he would no longer submit to the insult of the doctor's surveillance.

In the absence of Thomas, the doctor was forced to apply for
assistance to the driver of the fly. Between them the baronet was
dragged out of the vehicle, the windows suffered much, and the
doctor's hat also. In this way, he was taken upstairs, and was at
last put to bed, Janet assisting; nor did the doctor leave the room
till his guest was asleep. Then he went into the drawing-room to
Mary. It may easily be conceived that he was hardly in a humour to
talk much about Frank Gresham.

"What am I to do with him?" said he, almost in tears: "what am I to
do with him?"

"Can you not send him to Boxall Hill?" asked Mary.

"Yes; to kill himself there! But it is no matter; he will kill
himself somewhere. Oh! what that family have done for me!" And then,
suddenly remembering a portion of their doings, he took Mary in his
arms, and kissed and blessed her; and declared that, in spite of all
this, he was a happy man.

There was no word about Frank that night. The next morning the doctor
found Sir Louis very weak, and begging for stimulants. He was worse
than weak; he was in such a state of wretched misery and mental
prostration; so low in heart, in such collapse of energy and spirit,
that Dr Thorne thought it prudent to remove his razors from his
reach.

"For God's sake do let me have a little _chasse-café_; I'm always
used to it; ask Joe if I'm not! You don't want to kill me, do you?"
And the baronet cried piteously, like a child, and, when the doctor
left him for the breakfast-table, abjectly implored Janet to get him
some curaçoa which he knew was in one of his portmanteaus. Janet,
however, was true to her master.

The doctor did give him some wine; and then, having left strict
orders as to his treatment - Bridget and Thomas being now both in the
house - went forth to some of his too much neglected patients.

Then Mary was again alone, and her mind flew away to her lover. How
should she be able to compose herself when she should first see him?
See him she must. People cannot live in the same village without
meeting. If she passed him at the church-door, as she often passed
Lady Arabella, what should she do? Lady Arabella always smiled
a peculiar, little, bitter smile, and this, with half a nod of
recognition, carried off the meeting. Should she try the bitter
smile, the half-nod with Frank? Alas! she knew it was not in her to
be so much mistress of her own heart's blood.

As she thus thought, she stood at the drawing-room window, looking
out into her garden; and, as she leant against the sill, her head was
surrounded by the sweet creepers. "At any rate, he won't come here,"
she said: and so, with a deep sigh, she turned from the window into
the room.

There he was, Frank Gresham himself standing there in her immediate
presence, beautiful as Apollo. Her next thought was how she might
escape from out of his arms. How it happened that she had fallen into
them, she never knew.

"Mary! my own, own love! my own one! sweetest! dearest! best! Mary!
dear Mary! have you not a word to say to me?"

No; she had not a word, though her life had depended on it. The
exertion necessary for not crying was quite enough for her. This,
then, was the bitter smile and the half-nod that was to pass between
them; this was the manner in which estrangement was to grow into
indifference; this was the mode of meeting by which she was to prove
that she was mistress of her conduct, if not her heart! There he held
her close bound to his breast, and she could only protect her face,
and that all ineffectually, with her hands. "He loves another,"
Beatrice had said. "At any rate, he will not love me," her own heart
had said also. Here was now the answer.

"You know you cannot marry him," Beatrice had said, also. Ah! if that
really were so, was not this embrace deplorable for them both? And
yet how could she not be happy? She endeavoured to repel him; but
with what a weak endeavour! Her pride had been wounded to the core,
not by Lady Arabella's scorn, but by the conviction which had grown
on her, that though she had given her own heart absolutely away,
had parted with it wholly and for ever, she had received nothing in
return. The world, her world, would know that she had loved, and
loved in vain. But here now was the loved one at her feet; the first
moment that his enforced banishment was over, had brought him there.
How could she not be happy?

They all said that she could not marry him. Well, perhaps it might
be so; nay, when she thought of it, must not that edict too probably
be true? But if so, it would not be his fault. He was true to her,
and that satisfied her pride. He had taken from her, by surprise,
a confession of her love. She had often regretted her weakness in
allowing him to do so; but she could not regret it now. She could
endure to suffer; nay, it would not be suffering while he suffered
with her.

"Not one word, Mary? Then after all my dreams, after all my patience,
you do not love me at last?"

Oh, Frank! notwithstanding what has been said in thy praise, what a
fool thou art! Was any word necessary for thee? Had not her heart
beat against thine? Had she not borne thy caresses? Had there been
one touch of anger when she warded off thy threatened kisses?
Bridget, in the kitchen, when Jonah became amorous, smashed his nose
with the rolling-pin. But when Thomas sinned, perhaps as deeply, she
only talked of doing so. Miss Thorne, in the drawing-room, had she
needed self-protection, could doubtless have found the means, though
the process would probably have been less violent.

At last Mary succeeded in her efforts at enfranchisement, and she and
Frank stood at some little distance from each other. She could not
but marvel at him. That long, soft beard, which just now had been so
close to her face, was all new; his whole look was altered; his mien,
and gait, and very voice were not the same. Was this, indeed, the
very Frank who had chattered of his boyish love, two years since, in
the gardens at Greshamsbury?

"Not one word of welcome, Mary?"

"Indeed, Mr Gresham, you are welcome home."

"Mr Gresham! Tell me, Mary - tell me, at once - has anything happened?
I could not ask up there."

"Frank," she said, and then stopped; not being able at the moment to
get any further.

"Speak to me honestly, Mary; honestly and bravely. I offered you my
hand once before; there it is again. Will you take it?"

She looked wistfully up in his eyes; she would fain have taken it.
But though a girl may be honest in such a case, it is so hard for her
to be brave.

He still held out his hand. "Mary," said he, "if you can value it,
it shall be yours through good fortune or ill fortune. There may be
difficulties; but if you can love me, we will get over them. I am a
free man; free to do as I please with myself, except so far as I am
bound to you. There is my hand. Will you have it?" And then he, too,
looked into her eyes, and waited composedly, as though determined to
have an answer.

She slowly raised her hand, and, as she did so, her eyes fell to the
ground. It then drooped again, and was again raised; and, at last,
her light tapering fingers rested on his broad open palm.

They were soon clutched, and the whole hand brought absolutely within
his grasp. "There, now you are my own!" he said, "and none of them
shall part us; my own Mary, my own wife."

"Oh, Frank, is not this imprudent? Is it not wrong?"

"Imprudent! I am sick of prudence. I hate prudence. And as for
wrong - no. I say it is not wrong; certainly not wrong if we love each
other. And you do love me, Mary - eh? You do! don't you?"

He would not excuse her, or allow her to escape from saying it in so
many words; and when the words did come at last, they came freely.
"Yes, Frank, I do love you; if that were all you would have no cause
for fear."

"And I will have no cause for fear."

"Ah; but your father, Frank, and my uncle. I can never bring myself
to do anything that shall bring either of them to sorrow."

Frank, of course, ran through all his arguments. He would go into a
profession, or take a farm and live in it. He would wait; that is,
for a few months. "A few months, Frank!" said Mary. "Well, perhaps
six." "Oh, Frank!" But Frank would not be stopped. He would do
anything that his father might ask him. Anything but the one thing.
He would not give up the wife he had chosen. It would not be
reasonable, or proper, or righteous that he should be asked to do so;
and here he mounted a somewhat high horse.

Mary had no arguments which she could bring from her heart to offer
in opposition to all this. She could only leave her hand in his, and
feel that she was happier than she had been at any time since the day
of that donkey-ride at Boxall Hill.

"But, Mary," continued he, becoming very grave and serious. "We must
be true to each other, and firm in this. Nothing that any of them can
say shall drive me from my purpose; will you say as much?"

Her hand was still in his, and so she stood, thinking for a moment
before she answered him. But she could not do less for him than he
was willing to do for her. "Yes," said she - said in a very low voice,
and with a manner perfectly quiet - "I will be firm. Nothing that they
can say shall shake me. But, Frank, it cannot be soon."

Nothing further occurred in this interview which needs recording.
Frank had been three times told by Mary that he had better go before
he did go; and, at last, she was obliged to take the matter into her
own hands, and lead him to the door.

"You are in a great hurry to get rid of me," said he.

"You have been here two hours, and you must go now; what will they
all think?"

"Who cares what they think? Let them think the truth: that after a
year's absence, I have much to say to you." However, at last, he did
go, and Mary was left alone.

Frank, although he had been so slow to move, had a thousand other
things to do, and went about them at once. He was very much in love,
no doubt; but that did not interfere with his interest in other
pursuits. In the first place, he had to see Harry Baker, and Harry
Baker's stud. Harry had been specially charged to look after the
black horse during Frank's absence, and the holiday doings of
that valuable animal had to be inquired into. Then the kennel of
the hounds had to be visited, and - as a matter of second-rate
importance - the master. This could not be done on the same day; but a
plan for doing so must be concocted with Harry - and then there were
two young pointer pups.

Frank, when he left his betrothed, went about these things quite as
vehemently as though he were not in love at all; quite as vehemently
as though he had said nothing as to going into some profession which
must necessarily separate him from horses and dogs. But Mary sat
there at her window, thinking of her love, and thinking of nothing
else. It was all in all to her now. She had pledged herself not to be
shaken from her troth by anything, by any person; and it would behove
her to be true to this pledge. True to it, though all the Greshams
but one should oppose her with all their power; true to it, even
though her own uncle should oppose her.

And how could she have done any other than so pledge herself, invoked
to it as she had been? How could she do less for him than he was so
anxious to do for her? They would talk to her of maiden delicacy, and
tell her that she had put a stain on that snow-white coat of proof,
in confessing her love for one whose friends were unwilling to
receive her. Let them so talk. Honour, honesty, and truth, out-spoken
truth, self-denying truth, and fealty from man to man, are worth more
than maiden delicacy; more, at any rate, than the talk of it. It
was not for herself that this pledge had been made. She knew her
position, and the difficulties of it; she knew also the value of it.
He had much to offer, much to give; she had nothing but herself. He
had name, and old repute, family, honour, and what eventually would
at least be wealth to her. She was nameless, fameless, portionless.
He had come there with all his ardour, with the impulse of his
character, and asked for her love. It was already his own. He had
then demanded her troth, and she acknowledged that he had a right to
demand it. She would be his if ever it should be in his power to take
her.

But there let the bargain end. She would always remember, that though
it was in her power to keep her pledge, it might too probably not be
in his power to keep his. That doctrine, laid down so imperatively
by the great authorities of Greshamsbury, that edict, which demanded
that Frank should marry money, had come home also to her with a
certain force. It would be sad that the fame of Greshamsbury should
perish, and that the glory should depart from the old house. It might
be, that Frank also should perceive that he must marry money. It



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