Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 38 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 38 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


would be a pity that he had not seen it sooner; but she, at any rate,
would not complain.

And so she stood, leaning on the open window, with her book unnoticed
lying beside her. The sun had been in the mid-sky when Frank had left
her, but its rays were beginning to stream into the room from the
west before she moved from her position. Her first thought in the
morning had been this: Would he come to see her? Her last now was
more soothing to her, less full of absolute fear: Would it be right
that he should come again?

The first sounds she heard were the footsteps of her uncle, as he
came up to the drawing-room, three steps at a time. His step was
always heavy; but when he was disturbed in spirit, it was slow; when
merely fatigued in body by ordinary work, it was quick.

"What a broiling day!" he said, and he threw himself into a chair.
"For mercy's sake give me something to drink." Now the doctor was a
great man for summer-drinks. In his house, lemonade, currant-juice,
orange-mixtures, and raspberry-vinegar were used by the quart. He
frequently disapproved of these things for his patients, as being apt
to disarrange the digestion; but he consumed enough himself to throw
a large family into such difficulties.

"Ha - a!" he ejaculated, after a draught; "I'm better now. Well,
what's the news?"

"You've been out, uncle; you ought to have the news. How's Mrs
Green?"

"Really as bad as ennui and solitude can make her."

"And Mrs Oaklerath?"

"She's getting better, because she has ten children to look after,
and twins to suckle. What has he been doing?" And the doctor pointed
towards the room occupied by Sir Louis.

Mary's conscience struck her that she had not even asked. She had
hardly remembered, during the whole day, that the baronet was in the
house. "I do not think he has been doing much," she said. "Janet has
been with him all day."

"Has he been drinking?"

"Upon my word, I don't know, uncle. I think not, for Janet has been
with him. But, uncle - "

"Well, dear - but just give me a little more of that tipple."

Mary prepared the tumbler, and, as she handed it to him, she said,
"Frank Gresham has been here to-day."

The doctor swallowed his draught, and put down the glass before he
made any reply, and even then he said but little.

"Oh! Frank Gresham."

"Yes, uncle."

"You thought him looking pretty well?"

"Yes, uncle; he was very well, I believe."

Dr Thorne had nothing more to say, so he got up and went to his
patient in the next room.

"If he disapproves of it, why does he not say so?" said Mary to
herself. "Why does he not advise me?"

But it was not so easy to give advice while Sir Louis Scatcherd was
lying there in that state.




CHAPTER XXXVII

Sir Louis Leaves Greshamsbury


Janet had been sedulous in her attentions to Sir Louis, and had not
troubled her mistress; but she had not had an easy time of it. Her
orders had been, that either she or Thomas should remain in the room
the whole day, and those orders had been obeyed.

Immediately after breakfast, the baronet had inquired after his own
servant. "His confounded nose must be right by this time, I suppose?"

"It was very bad, Sir Louis," said the old woman, who imagined that
it might be difficult to induce Jonah to come into the house again.

"A man in such a place as his has no business to be laid up," said
the master, with a whine. "I'll see and get a man who won't break his
nose."

Thomas was sent to the inn three or four times, but in vain. The man
was sitting up, well enough, in the tap-room; but the middle of his
face was covered with streaks of plaster, and he could not bring
himself to expose his wounds before his conqueror.

Sir Louis began by ordering the woman to bring him _chasse-café_. She
offered him coffee, as much as he would; but no _chasse_. "A glass of
port wine," she said, "at twelve o'clock, and another at three had
been ordered for him."

"I don't care a - - for the orders," said Sir Louis; "send me my
own man." The man was again sent for; but would not come. "There's
a bottle of that stuff that I take, in that portmanteau, in the
left-hand corner - just hand it to me."

But Janet was not to be done. She would give him no stuff, except
what the doctor had ordered, till the doctor came back. The doctor
would then, no doubt, give him anything that was proper.

Sir Louis swore a good deal, and stormed as much as he could. He
drank, however, his two glasses of wine, and he got no more. Once or
twice he essayed to get out of bed and dress; but, at every effort,
he found that he could not do it without Joe: and there he was, still
under the clothes when the doctor returned.

"I'll tell you what it is," said he, as soon as his guardian entered
the room, "I'm not going to be made a prisoner of here."

"A prisoner! no, surely not."

"It seems very much like it at present. Your servant here - that
old woman - takes it upon her to say she'll do nothing without your
orders."

"Well; she's right there."

"Right! I don't know what you call right; but I won't stand it. You
are not going to make a child of me, Dr Thorne; so you need not think
it."

And then there was a long quarrel between them, and but an
indifferent reconciliation. The baronet said that he would go to
Boxall Hill, and was vehement in his intention to do so because the
doctor opposed it. He had not, however, as yet ferreted out the
squire, or given a bit of his mind to Mr Gazebee, and it behoved him
to do this before he took himself off to his own country mansion. He
ended, therefore, by deciding to go on the next day but one.

"Let it be so, if you are well enough," said the doctor.

"Well enough!" said the other, with a sneer. "There's nothing to make
me ill that I know of. It certainly won't be drinking too much here."

On the next day, Sir Louis was in a different mood, and in one more
distressing for the doctor to bear. His compelled abstinence from
intemperate drinking had, no doubt, been good for him; but his mind
had so much sunk under the pain of the privation, that his state was
piteous to behold. He had cried for his servant, as a child cries
for its nurse, till at last the doctor, moved to pity, had himself
gone out and brought the man in from the public-house. But when he
did come, Joe was of but little service to his master, as he was
altogether prevented from bringing him either wine or spirits; and
when he searched for the liqueur-case, he found that even that had
been carried away.

"I believe you want me to die," he said, as the doctor, sitting
by his bedside, was trying, for the hundredth time, to make him
understand that he had but one chance of living.

The doctor was not the least irritated. It would have been as wise to
be irritated by the want of reason in a dog.

"I am doing what I can to save your life," he said calmly; "but, as
you said just now, I have no power over you. As long as you are able
to move and remain in my house, you certainly shall not have the
means of destroying yourself. You will be very wise to stay here
for a week or ten days: a week or ten days of healthy living might,
perhaps, bring you round."

Sir Louis again declared that the doctor wished him to die, and spoke
of sending for his attorney, Finnie, to come to Greshamsbury to look
after him.

"Send for him if you choose," said the doctor. "His coming will cost
you three or four pounds, but can do no other harm."

"And I will send for Fillgrave," threatened the baronet. "I'm not
going to die here like a dog."

It was certainly hard upon Dr Thorne that he should be obliged to
entertain such a guest in the house; - to entertain him, and foster
him, and care for him, almost as though he were a son. But he had no
alternative; he had accepted the charge from Sir Roger, and he must
go through with it. His conscience, moreover, allowed him no rest in
this matter: it harassed him day and night, driving him on sometimes
to great wretchedness. He could not love this incubus that was on his
shoulders; he could not do other than be very far from loving him. Of
what use or value was he to any one? What could the world make of him
that would be good, or he of the world? Was not an early death his
certain fate? The earlier it might be, would it not be the better?

Were he to linger on yet for two years longer - and such a space of
life was possible for him - how great would be the mischief that he
might do; nay, certainly would do! Farewell then to all hopes for
Greshamsbury, as far as Mary was concerned. Farewell then to that
dear scheme which lay deep in the doctor's heart, that hope that he
might, in his niece's name, give back to the son the lost property of
the father. And might not one year - six months be as fatal. Frank,
they all said, must marry money; and even he - he the doctor himself,
much as he despised the idea for money's sake - even he could not but
confess that Frank, as the heir to an old, but grievously embarrassed
property, had no right to marry, at his early age, a girl without
a shilling. Mary, his niece, his own child, would probably be the
heiress of this immense wealth; but he could not tell this to Frank;
no, nor to Frank's father while Sir Louis was yet alive. What, if by
so doing he should achieve this marriage for his niece, and that then
Sir Louis should live to dispose of his own? How then would he face
the anger of Lady Arabella?

"I will never hanker after a dead man's shoes, neither for myself nor
for another," he had said to himself a hundred times; and as often
did he accuse himself of doing so. One path, however, was plainly
open before him. He would keep his peace as to the will; and would
use such efforts as he might use for a son of his own loins to
preserve the life that was so valueless. His wishes, his hopes,
his thoughts, he could not control; but his conduct was at his own
disposal.

"I say, doctor, you don't really think that I'm going to die?" Sir
Louis said, when Dr Thorne again visited him.

"I don't think at all; I am sure you will kill yourself if you
continue to live as you have lately done."

"But suppose I go all right for a while, and live - live just as you
tell me, you know?"

"All of us are in God's hands, Sir Louis. By so doing you will, at
any rate, give yourself the best chance."

"Best chance? Why, d - - n, doctor! there are fellows have done ten
times worse than I; and they are not going to kick. Come, now, I know
you are trying to frighten me; ain't you, now?"

"I am trying to do the best I can for you."

"It's very hard on a fellow like me; I have nobody to say a kind word
to me; no, not one." And Sir Louis, in his wretchedness, began to
weep. "Come, doctor; if you'll put me once more on my legs, I'll let
you draw on the estate for five hundred pounds; by G - - , I will."

The doctor went away to his dinner, and the baronet also had his in
bed. He could not eat much, but he was allowed two glasses of wine,
and also a little brandy in his coffee. This somewhat invigorated
him, and when Dr Thorne again went to him, in the evening, he did not
find him so utterly prostrated in spirit. He had, indeed, made up his
mind to a great resolve; and thus unfolded his final scheme for his
own reformation: -

"Doctor," he began again, "I believe you are an honest fellow; I do
indeed."

Dr Thorne could not but thank him for his good opinion.

"You ain't annoyed at what I said this morning, are you?"

The doctor had forgotten the particular annoyance to which Sir Louis
alluded; and informed him that his mind might be at rest on any such
matter.

"I do believe you'd be glad to see me well; wouldn't you, now?"

The doctor assured him that such was in very truth the case.

"Well, now, I'll tell you what: I've been thinking about it a great
deal to-day; indeed, I have, and I want to do what's right. Mightn't
I have a little drop more of that stuff, just in a cup of coffee?"

The doctor poured him out a cup of coffee, and put about a
teaspoonful of brandy in it. Sir Louis took it with a disconsolate
face, not having been accustomed to such measures in the use of his
favourite beverage.

"I do wish to do what's right - I do, indeed; only, you see, I'm so
lonely. As to those fellows up in London, I don't think that one of
them cares a straw about me."

Dr Thorne was of the same way of thinking, and he said so. He could
not but feel some sympathy with the unfortunate man as he thus spoke
of his own lot. It was true that he had been thrown on the world
without any one to take care of him.

"My dear friend, I will do the best I can in every way; I will,
indeed. I do believe that your companions in town have been too ready
to lead you astray. Drop them, and you may yet do well."

"May I though, doctor? Well, I will drop them. There's Jenkins; he's
the best of them; but even he is always wanting to make money of me.
Not but what I'm up to the best of them in that way."

"You had better leave London, Sir Louis, and change your old mode of
life. Go to Boxall Hill for a while; for two or three years or so;
live with your mother there and take to farming."

"What! farming?"

"Yes; that's what all country gentlemen do: take the land there into
your own hand, and occupy your mind upon it."

"Well, doctor, I will - upon one condition."

Dr Thorne sat still and listened. He had no idea what the condition
might be, but he was not prepared to promise acquiescence till he
heard it.

"You know what I told you once before," said the baronet.

"I don't remember at this moment."

"About my getting married, you know."

The doctor's brow grew black, and promised no help to the poor
wretch. Bad in every way, wretched, selfish, sensual, unfeeling,
purse-proud, ignorant as Sir Louis Scatcherd was, still, there was
left to him the power of feeling something like sincere love. It may
be presumed that he did love Mary Thorne, and that he was at the time
earnest in declaring, that if she could be given to him, he would
endeavour to live according to her uncle's counsel. It was only a
trifle he asked; but, alas! that trifle could not be vouchsafed.

"I should much approve of your getting married, but I do not know how
I can help you."

"Of course, I mean to Miss Mary: I do love her; I really do, Dr
Thorne."

"It is quite impossible, Sir Louis; quite. You do my niece much
honour; but I am able to answer for her, positively, that such a
proposition is quite out of the question."

"Look here now, Dr Thorne; anything in the way of settlements - "

"I will not hear a word on the subject: you are very welcome to the
use of my house as long as it may suit you to remain here; but I must
insist that my niece shall not be troubled on this matter."

"Do you mean to say she's in love with that young Gresham?"

This was too much for the doctor's patience. "Sir Louis," said he,
"I can forgive you much for your father's sake. I can also forgive
something on the score of your own ill health. But you ought to know,
you ought by this time to have learnt, that there are some things
which a man cannot forgive. I will not talk to you about my niece;
and remember this, also, I will not have her troubled by you:" and,
so saying, the doctor left him.

On the next day the baronet was sufficiently recovered to be able to
resume his braggadocio airs. He swore at Janet; insisted on being
served by his own man; demanded in a loud voice, but in vain,
that his liqueur-case should be restored to him; and desired that
post-horses might be ready for him on the morrow. On that day he
got up and ate his dinner in his bedroom. On the next morning he
countermanded the horses, informing the doctor that he did so because
he had a little bit of business to transact with Squire Gresham
before he left the place! With some difficulty, the doctor made him
understand that the squire would not see him on business; and it was
at last decided, that Mr Gazebee should be invited to call on him at
the doctor's house; and this Mr Gazebee agreed to do, in order to
prevent the annoyance of having the baronet up at Greshamsbury.

On this day, the evening before Mr Gazebee's visit, Sir Louis
condescended to come down to dinner. He dined, however, _tête-à-tête_
with the doctor. Mary was not there, nor was anything said as to her
absence. Sir Louis Scatcherd never set eyes upon her again.

He bore himself very arrogantly on that evening, having resumed the
airs and would-be dignity which he thought belonged to him as a man
of rank and property. In his periods of low spirits, he was abject
and humble enough; abject, and fearful of the lamentable destiny
which at these moments he believed to be in store for him. But it
was one of the peculiar symptoms of his state, that as he partially
recovered his bodily health, the tone of his mind recovered itself
also, and his fears for the time were relieved.

There was very little said between him and the doctor that evening.
The doctor sat guarding the wine, and thinking when he should have
his house to himself again. Sir Louis sat moody, every now and then
uttering some impertinence as to the Greshams and the Greshamsbury
property, and, at an early hour, allowed Joe to put him to bed.

The horses were ordered on the next day for three, and, at two, Mr
Gazebee came to the house. He had never been there before, nor had he
ever met Dr Thorne except at the squire's dinner. On this occasion he
asked only for the baronet.

"Ah! ah! I'm glad you're come, Mr Gazebee; very glad," said Sir
Louis; acting the part of the rich, great man with all the power he
had. "I want to ask you a few questions so as to make it all clear
sailing between us."

"As you have asked to see me, I have come, Sir Louis," said the
other, putting on much dignity as he spoke. "But would it not be
better that any business there may be should be done among the
lawyers?"

"The lawyers are very well, I dare say; but when a man has so large a
stake at interest as I have in this Greshamsbury property, why, you
see, Mr Gazebee, he feels a little inclined to look after it himself.
Now, do you know, Mr Gazebee, how much it is that Mr Gresham owes
me?"

Mr Gazebee, of course, did know very well; but he was not going to
discuss the subject with Sir Louis, if he could help it.

"Whatever claim your father's estate may have on that of Mr Gresham
is, as far as I understand, vested in Dr Thorne's hands as trustee.
I am inclined to believe that you have not yourself at present any
claim on Greshamsbury. The interest, as it becomes due, is paid to
Dr Thorne; and if I may be allowed to make a suggestion, I would say
that it will not be expedient to make any change in that arrangement
till the property shall come into your own hands."

"I differ from you entirely, Mr Gazebee; _in toto_, as we used to say
at Eton. What you mean to say is - I can't go to law with Mr Gresham;
I'm not so sure of that; but perhaps not. But I can compel Dr Thorne
to look after my interests. I can force him to foreclose. And to tell
you the truth, Gazebee, unless some arrangement is proposed to me
which I shall think advantageous, I shall do so at once. There is
near a hundred thousand pounds owing to me; yes to me. Thorne is only
a name in the matter. The money is my money; and, by - - , I mean to
look after it."

"Have you any doubt, Sir Louis, as to the money being secure?"

"Yes, I have. It isn't so easy to have a hundred thousand pounds
secured. The squire is a poor man, and I don't choose to allow a poor
man to owe me such a sum as that. Besides, I mean to invest it in
land. I tell you fairly, therefore, I shall foreclose."

Mr Gazebee, using all the perspicuity which his professional
education had left to him, tried to make Sir Louis understand that he
had no power to do anything of the kind.

"No power! Mr Gresham shall see whether I have no power. When a man
has a hundred thousand pounds owing to him he ought to have some
power; and, as I take it, he has. But we will see. Perhaps you know
Finnie, do you?"

Mr Gazebee, with a good deal of scorn in his face, said that he had
not that pleasure. Mr Finnie was not in his line.

"Well, you will know him then, and you'll find he's sharp enough;
that is, unless I have some offer made to me that I may choose to
accept." Mr Gazebee declared that he was not instructed to make any
offer, and so he took his leave.

On that afternoon, Sir Louis went off to Boxall Hill, transferring
the miserable task of superintending his self-destruction from the
shoulders of the doctor to those of his mother. Of Lady Scatcherd,
the baronet took no account in his proposed sojourn in the country,
nor did he take much of the doctor in leaving Greshamsbury. He again
wrapped himself in his furs, and, with tottering steps, climbed up
into the barouche which was to carry him away.

"Is my man up behind?" he said to Janet, while the doctor was
standing at the little front garden-gate, making his adieux.

"No, sir, he's not up yet," said Janet, respectfully.

"Then send him out, will you? I can't lose my time waiting here all
day."

"I shall come over to Boxall Hill and see you," said the doctor,
whose heart softened towards the man, in spite of his brutality, as
the hour of his departure came.

"I shall be happy to see you if you like to come, of course; that is,
in the way of visiting, and that sort of thing. As for doctoring, if
I want any I shall send for Fillgrave." Such were his last words as
the carriage, with a rush, went off from the door.

The doctor, as he re-entered the house, could not avoid smiling, for
he thought of Dr Fillgrave's last patient at Boxall Hill. "It's a
question to me," said he to himself, "whether Dr Fillgrave will ever
be induced to make another visit to that house, even with the object
of rescuing a baronet out of my hands."

"He's gone; isn't he, uncle?" said Mary, coming out of her room.

"Yes, my dear; he's gone, poor fellow."

"He may be a poor fellow, uncle; but he's a very disagreeable inmate
in a house. I have not had any dinner these two days."

"And I haven't had what can be called a cup of tea since he's been in
the house. But I'll make up for that to-night."




CHAPTER XXXVIII

De Courcy Precepts and de Courcy Practice


There is a mode of novel-writing which used to be much in vogue, but
which has now gone out of fashion. It is, nevertheless, one which is
very expressive when in good hands, and which enables the author to
tell his story, or some portion of his story, with more natural trust
than any other, I mean that of familiar letters. I trust I shall be
excused if I attempt it as regards this one chapter; though, it may
be, that I shall break down and fall into the commonplace narrative,
even before the one chapter be completed. The correspondents are the
Lady Amelia de Courcy and Miss Gresham. I, of course, give precedence
to the higher rank, but the first epistle originated with the
latter-named young lady. Let me hope that they will explain
themselves.


Miss Gresham to Lady Amelia de Courcy

Greshamsbury House, June, 185 - .

MY DEAREST AMELIA,

I wish to consult you on a subject which, as you will
perceive, is of a most momentous nature. You know how much
reliance I place in your judgement and knowledge of what
is proper, and, therefore, I write to you before speaking
to any other living person on the subject: not even to
mamma; for, although her judgement is good too, she has so
many cares and troubles, that it is natural that it should
be a little warped when the interests of her children are
concerned. Now that it is all over, I feel that it may
possibly have been so in the case of Mr Moffat.

You are aware that Mr Mortimer Gazebee is now staying
here, and that he has been here for nearly two months. He
is engaged in managing poor papa's affairs, and mamma, who
likes him very much, says that he is a most excellent man
of business. Of course, you know that he is the junior
partner in the very old firm of Gumption, Gazebee, &
Gazebee, who, I understand, do not undertake any business
at all, except what comes to them from peers, or commoners
of the very highest class.

I soon perceived, dearest Amelia, that Mr Gazebee paid me
more than ordinary attention, and I immediately became
very guarded in my manner. I certainly liked Mr Gazebee
from the first. His manners are quite excellent, his
conduct to mamma is charming, and, as regards myself, I
must say that there has been nothing in his behaviour of
which even _you_ could complain. He has never attempted



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 38 of 49)