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the slightest familiarity, and I will do him the justice
to say, that, though he has been very attentive, he has
also been very respectful.

I must confess that, for the last three weeks, I have
thought that he meant something. I might, perhaps, have
done more to repel him; or I might have consulted you
earlier as to the propriety of keeping altogether out of
his way. But you know, Amelia, how often these things lead
to nothing, and though I thought all along that Mr Gazebee
was in earnest, I hardly liked to say anything about it
even to you till I was quite certain. If you had advised
me, you know, to accept his offer, and if, after that, he
had never made it, I should have felt so foolish.

But now he has made it. He came to me yesterday just
before dinner, in the little drawing-room, and told me, in
the most delicate manner, in words that even you could not
have but approved, that his highest ambition was to be
thought worthy of my regard, and that he felt for me the
warmest love, and the most profound admiration, and the
deepest respect. You may say, Amelia, that he is only an
attorney, and I believe that he is an attorney; but I am
sure you would have esteemed him had you heard the very
delicate way in which he expressed his sentiments.

Something had given me a presentiment of what he was going
to do when I saw him come into the room, so that I was
on my guard. I tried very hard to show no emotion; but I
suppose I was a little flurried, as I once detected myself
calling him Mr Mortimer: his name, you know, is Mortimer
Gazebee. I ought not to have done so, certainly; but it
was not so bad as if I had called him Mortimer without
the Mr, was it? I don't think there could possibly be a
prettier Christian name than Mortimer. Well, Amelia, I
allowed him to express himself without interruption. He
once attempted to take my hand; but even this was done
without any assumption of familiarity; and when he saw
that I would not permit it, he drew back, and fixed his
eyes on the ground as though he were ashamed even of that.

Of course, I had to give him an answer; and though I had
expected that something of this sort would take place,
I had not made up my mind on the subject. I would not,
certainly, under any circumstances, accept him without
consulting you. If I really disliked him, of course there
would be no doubt; but I can't say, dearest Amelia, that
I do absolutely dislike him; and I really think that we
would make each other very happy, if the marriage were
suitable as regarded both our positions.

I collected myself as well as I could, and I really do
think that you would have said that I did not behave
badly, though the position was rather trying. I told him
that, of course, I was flattered by his sentiments, though
much surprised at hearing them; that since I knew him, I
had esteemed and valued him as an acquaintance, but that,
looking on him as a man of business, I had never expected
anything more. I then endeavoured to explain to him, that
I was not perhaps privileged, as some other girls might
be, to indulge my own feelings altogether: perhaps that
was saying too much, and might make him think that I was
in love with him; but, from the way I said it, I don't
think he would, for I was very much guarded in my manner,
and very collected; and then I told him, that in any
proposal of marriage that might be made to me, it would
be my duty to consult my family as much, if not more than
myself.

He said, of course; and asked whether he might speak to
papa. I tried to make him understand, that in talking of
my family, I did not exactly mean papa, or even mamma.
Of course I was thinking of what was due to the name of
Gresham. I know very well what papa would say. He would
give his consent in half a minute; he is so broken-hearted
by these debts. And, to tell you the truth, Amelia, I
think mamma would too. He did not seem quite to comprehend
what I meant; but he did say that he knew it was a high
ambition to marry into the family of the Greshams. I
am sure you would confess that he has the most proper
feelings; and as for expressing them no man could do it
better.

He owned that it was ambition to ally himself with a
family above his own rank in life, and that he looked to
doing so as a means of advancing himself. Now this was at
any rate honest. That was one of his motives, he said;
though, of course, not his first: and then he declared
how truly attached he was to me. In answer to this, I
remarked, that he had known me only a very short time.
This, perhaps, was giving him too much encouragement; but,
at that moment, I hardly knew what to say, for I did not
wish to hurt his feelings. He then spoke of his income.
He has fifteen hundred a year from the business, and that
will be greatly increased when his father leaves it; and
his father is much older than Mr Gumption, though he is
only the second partner. Mortimer Gazebee will be the
senior partner himself before very long; and perhaps that
does alter his position a little.

He has a very nice place down somewhere in Surrey; I have
heard mamma say it is quite a gentleman's place. It is let
now; but he will live there when he is married. And he
has property of his own besides which he can settle. So,
you see, he is quite as well off as Mr Oriel; better,
indeed; and if a man is in a profession, I believe it is
considered that it does not much matter what. Of course, a
clergyman can be a bishop; but then, I think I have heard
that one attorney did once become Lord Chancellor. I
should have my carriage, you know; I remember his saying
that, especially, though I cannot recollect how he brought
it in.

I told him, at last, that I was so much taken by surprise
that I could not give him an answer then. He was going
up to London, he said, on the next day, and might he
be permitted to address me on the same subject when he
returned? I could not refuse him, you know; and so now I
have taken the opportunity of his absence to write to you
for your advice. You understand the world so very well,
and know so exactly what one ought to do in such a strange
position!

I hope I have made it intelligible, at least, as to what
I have written about. I have said nothing as to my own
feelings, because I wish you to think on the matter
without consulting them. If it would be derogatory to
accept Mr Gazebee, I certainly would not do so because I
happen to like him. If we were to act in that way, what
would the world come to, Amelia? Perhaps my ideas may be
overstrained; if so, you will tell me.

When Mr Oriel proposed for Beatrice, nobody seemed to make
any objection. It all seemed to go as a matter of course.
She says that his family is excellent; but as far as I can
learn, his grandfather was a general in India, and came
home very rich. Mr Gazebee's grandfather was a member of
the firm, and so, I believe, was his great-grandfather.
Don't you think this ought to count for something?
Besides, they have no business except with the most
aristocratic persons, such as uncle de Courcy, and the
Marquis of Kensington Gore, and that sort. I mention the
marquis, because Mr Mortimer Gazebee is there now. And I
know that one of the Gumptions was once in Parliament; and
I don't think that any of the Oriels ever were. The name
of attorney is certainly very bad, is it not, Amelia? but
they certainly do not seem to be all the same, and I do
think that this ought to make a difference. To hear Mr
Mortimer Gazebee talk of some attorney at Barchester, you
would say that there is quite as much difference between
them as between a bishop and a curate. And so I think
there is.

I don't wish at all to speak of my own feelings; but if he
were not an attorney, he is, I think, the sort of man I
should like. He is very nice in every way, and if you were
not told, I don't think you'd know he was an attorney.
But, dear Amelia, I will be guided by you altogether. He
is certainly much nicer than Mr Moffat, and has a great
deal more to say for himself. Of course, Mr Moffat having
been in Parliament, and having been taken up by uncle
de Courcy, was in a different sphere; but I really felt
almost relieved when he behaved in that way. With Mortimer
Gazebee, I think it would be different.

I shall wait so impatiently for your answer, so do pray
write at once. I hear some people say that these sort of
things are not so much thought of now as they were once,
and that all manner of marriages are considered to be
_comme il faut_. I do not want, you know, to make myself
foolish by being too particular. Perhaps all these changes
are bad, and I rather think they are; but if the world
changes, one must change too; one can't go against the
world.

So do write and tell me what you think. Do not suppose
that I dislike the man, for I really cannot say that I do.
But I would not for anything make an alliance for which
any one bearing the name of de Courcy would have to blush.

Always, dearest Amelia,

Your most affectionate cousin,

AUGUSTA GRESHAM.

P.S. - I fear Frank is going to be very foolish with Mary
Thorne. You know it is absolutely important that Frank
should marry money.

It strikes me as quite possible that Mortimer Gazebee may
be in Parliament some of these days. He is just the man
for it.


Poor Augusta prayed very hard for her husband; but she prayed to a
bosom that on this subject was as hard as a flint, and she prayed
in vain. Augusta Gresham was twenty-two, Lady Amelia de Courcy was
thirty-four; was it likely that Lady Amelia would permit Augusta
to marry, the issue having thus been left in her hands? Why should
Augusta derogate from her position by marrying beneath herself,
seeing that Lady Amelia had spent so many more years in the world
without having found it necessary to do so? Augusta's letter was
written on two sheets of note-paper, crossed all over; and Lady
Amelia's answer was almost equally formidable.


Lady Amelia de Courcy to Miss Augusta Gresham

Courcy Castle, June, 185 - .

MY DEAR AUGUSTA,

I received your letter yesterday morning, but I have put
off answering it till this evening, as I have wished to
give it very mature consideration. The question is one
which concerns, not only your character, but happiness
for life, and nothing less than very mature consideration
would justify me in giving a decided opinion on the
subject.

In the first place, I may tell you, that I have not a word
to say against Mr Mortimer Gazebee. [When Augusta had read
as far as this, her heart sank within her; the rest was
all leather and prunella; she saw at once that the fiat
had gone against her, and that her wish to become Mrs
Mortimer Gazebee was not to be indulged.] I have known
him for a long time, and I believe him to be a very
respectable person, and I have no doubt a good man of
business. The firm of Messrs Gumption & Gazebee stands
probably quite among the first attorneys in London, and I
know that papa has a very high opinion of them.

All of these would be excellent arguments to use in favour
of Mr Gazebee as a suitor, had his proposals been made to
any one in his own rank of life. But you, in considering
the matter, should, I think, look on it in a very
different light. The very fact that you pronounce him to
be so much superior to other attorneys, shows in how very
low esteem you hold the profession in general. It shows
also, dear Augusta, how well aware you are that they are a
class of people among whom you should not seek a partner
for life.

My opinion is, that you should make Mr Gazebee
understand - very courteously, of course - that you cannot
accept his hand. You observe that he himself confesses,
that in marrying you he would seek a wife in a rank above
his own. Is it not, therefore, clear, that in marrying
him, you would descend to a rank below your own?

I shall be very sorry if this grieves you; but still
it will be better that you should bear the grief of
overcoming a temporary fancy, than take a step which may
so probably make you unhappy; and which some of your
friends would certainly regard as disgraceful.

It is not permitted to us, my dear Augusta, to think of
ourselves in such matters. As you truly say, if we were
to act in that way, what would the world come to? It has
been God's pleasure that we should be born with high blood
in our veins. This is a great boon which we both value,
but the boon has its responsibilities as well as its
privileges. It is established by law, that the royal
family shall not intermarry with subjects. In our case
there is no law, but the necessity is not the less felt;
we should not intermarry with those who are probably
of a lower rank. Mr Mortimer Gazebee is, after all,
only an attorney; and, although you speak of his
great-grandfather, he is a man of no blood whatsoever. You
must acknowledge that such an admixture should be looked
on by a de Courcy, or even by a Gresham, as a pollution.
[Here Augusta got very red, and she felt almost inclined
to be angry with her cousin.] Beatrice's marriage with Mr
Oriel is different; though, remember, I am by no means
defending that; it may be good or bad, and I have had no
opportunity of inquiring respecting Mr Oriel's family.
Beatrice, moreover, has never appeared to me to feel
what was due to herself in such matters; but, as I
said, her marriage with Mr Oriel is very different.
Clergymen - particularly the rectors and vicars of country
parishes - do become privileged above other professional
men. I could explain why, but it would be too long in a
letter.

Your feelings on the subject altogether do you great
credit. I have no doubt that Mr Gresham, if asked, would
accede to the match; but that is just the reason why he
should not be asked. It would not be right that I should
say anything against your father to you; but it is
impossible for any of us not to see that all through life
he has thrown away every advantage, and sacrificed his
family. Why is he now in debt, as you say? Why is he not
holding the family seat in Parliament? Even though you are
his daughter, you cannot but feel that you would not do
right to consult him on such a subject.

As to dear aunt, I feel sure, that were she in good
health, and left to exercise her own judgement, she would
not wish to see you married to the agent for the family
estate. For, dear Augusta, that is the real truth. Mr
Gazebee often comes here in the way of business; and
though papa always receives him as a gentleman - that is,
he dines at table and all that - he is not on the same
footing in the house as the ordinary guests and friends of
the family. How would you like to be received at Courcy
Castle in the same way?

You will say, perhaps, that you would still be papa's
niece; so you would. But you know how strict in such
matters papa is, and you must remember, that the wife
always follows the rank of the husband. Papa is accustomed
to the strict etiquette of a court, and I am sure that no
consideration would induce him to receive the estate-agent
in the light of a nephew. Indeed, were you to marry Mr
Gazebee, the house to which he belongs would, I imagine,
have to give up the management of this property.

Even were Mr Gazebee in Parliament - and I do not see how
it is probable that he should get there - it would not make
any difference. You must remember, dearest, that I never
was an advocate for the Moffat match. I acquiesced in it,
because mamma did so. If I could have had my own way,
I would adhere to all our old prescriptive principles.
Neither money nor position can atone to me for low birth.
But the world, alas! is retrograding; and, according to
the new-fangled doctrines of the day, a lady of blood is
not disgraced by allying herself to a man of wealth, and
what may be called quasi-aristocratic position. I wish it
were otherwise; but so it is. And, therefore, the match
with Mr Moffat was not disgraceful, though it could not be
regarded as altogether satisfactory.

But with Mr Gazebee the matter would be altogether
different. He is a man earning his bread; honestly, I
dare say, but in a humble position. You say he is very
respectable: I do not doubt it; and so is Mr Scraggs,
the butcher at Courcy. You see, Augusta, to what such
arguments reduce you.

I dare say he may be nicer than Mr Moffat, in one way.
That is, he may have more small-talk at his command, and
be more clever in all those little pursuits and amusements
which are valued by ordinary young ladies. But my
opinion is, that neither I nor you would be justified in
sacrificing ourselves for such amusements. We have high
duties before us. It may be that the performance of those
duties will prohibit us from taking a part in the ordinary
arena of the feminine world. It is natural that girls
should wish to marry; and, therefore, those who are weak,
take the first that come. Those who have more judgement,
make some sort of selection. But the strongest-minded are,
perhaps, those who are able to forgo themselves and their
own fancies, and to refrain from any alliance that does
not tend to the maintenance of high principles. Of course,
I speak of those who have blood in their veins. You and I
need not dilate as to the conduct of others.

I hope what I have said will convince you. Indeed, I know
that it only requires that you and I should have a little
cousinly talk on this matter to be quite in accord. You
must now remain at Greshamsbury till Mr Gazebee shall
return. Immediately that he does so, seek an interview
with him; do not wait till he asks for it; then tell him,
that when he addressed you, the matter had taken you so
much by surprise, that you were not at the moment able to
answer him with that decision that the subject demanded.
Tell him, that you are flattered - in saying this, however,
you must keep a collected countenance, and be very cold
in your manner - but that family reasons would forbid you
to avail yourself of his offer, even did no other cause
prevent it.

And then, dear Augusta, come to us here. I know you
will be a little down-hearted after going through this
struggle; but I will endeavour to inspirit you. When we
are both together, you will feel more sensibly the value
of that high position which you will preserve by rejecting
Mr Gazebee, and will regret less acutely whatever you may
lose.

Your very affectionate cousin,

AMELIA DE COURCY.

P.S. - I am greatly grieved about Frank; but I have long
feared that he would do some very silly thing. I have
heard lately that Miss Mary Thorne is not even the
legitimate niece of your Dr Thorne, but is the daughter
of some poor creature who was seduced by the doctor, in
Barchester. I do not know how true this may be, but I
think your brother should be put on his guard: it might do
good.


Poor Augusta! She was in truth to be pitied, for her efforts were
made with the intention of doing right according to her lights. For
Mr Moffat she had never cared a straw; and when, therefore, she lost
the piece of gilding for which she had been instructed by her mother
to sell herself, it was impossible to pity her. But Mr Gazebee she
would have loved with that sort of love which it was in her power
to bestow. With him she would have been happy, respectable, and
contented.

She had written her letter with great care. When the offer was made
to her, she could not bring herself to throw Lady Amelia to the winds
and marry the man, as it were, out of her own head. Lady Amelia had
been the tyrant of her life, and so she strove hard to obtain her
tyrant's permission. She used all her little cunning in showing
that, after all, Mr Gazebee was not so very plebeian. All her little
cunning was utterly worthless. Lady Amelia's mind was too strong to
be caught with such chaff. Augusta could not serve God and Mammon.
She must either be true to the god of her cousin's idolatry, and
remain single, or serve the Mammon of her own inclinations, and marry
Mr Gazebee.

When refolding her cousin's letter, after the first perusal, she did
for a moment think of rebellion. Could she not be happy at the nice
place in Surrey, having, as she would have, a carriage, even though
all the de Courcys should drop her? It had been put to her that
she would not like to be received at Courcy Castle with the scant
civility which would be considered due to a Mrs Mortimer Gazebee; but
what if she could put up without being received at Courcy Castle at
all? Such ideas did float through her mind, dimly.

But her courage failed her. It is so hard to throw off a tyrant; so
much easier to yield, when we have been in the habit of yielding.
This third letter, therefore, was written; and it is the end of the
correspondence.


Miss Augusta Gresham to Lady Amelia de Courcy

Greshamsbury House, July, 185 - .

MY DEAREST AMELIA,

I did not answer your letter before, because I thought it
better to delay doing so till Mr Gazebee had been here.
He came the day before yesterday, and yesterday I did,
as nearly as possible, what you advised. Perhaps, on
the whole, it will be better. As you say, rank has its
responsibilities as well as its privileges.

I don't quite understand what you mean about clergymen,
but we can talk that over when we meet. Indeed, it seems
to me that if one is to be particular about family - and
I am sure I think we ought - one ought to be so without
exception. If Mr Oriel be a _parvenu_, Beatrice's
children won't be well born merely because their father
was a clergyman, even though he is a rector. Since
my former letter, I have heard that Mr Gazebee's
great-great-great-grandfather established the firm; and
there are many people who were nobodies then who are
thought to have good blood in their veins now.

But I do not say this because I differ from you. I agree
with you so fully, that I at once made up my mind to
reject the man; and, consequently, I have done so.

When I told him I could not accept him from family
considerations, he asked me whether I had spoken to papa.
I told him, no; and that it would be no good, as I had
made up my own mind. I don't think he quite understood me;
but it did not perhaps much matter. You told me to be very
cold, and I think that perhaps he thought me less gracious
than before. Indeed, I fear that when he first spoke,
I may seem to have given him too much encouragement.
However, it is all over now; quite over! [As Augusta wrote
this, she barely managed to save the paper beneath her
hand from being moistened with the tear which escaped from
her eye.]

I do not mind confessing now, [she continued] at any rate
to you, that I did like Mr Gazebee a little. I think his
temper and disposition would have suited me. But I am
quite satisfied that I have done right. He tried very hard
to make me change my mind. That is, he said a great many
things as to whether I would not put off my decision. But
I was quite firm. I must say that he behaved very well,
and that I really do think he liked me honestly and truly;
but, of course, I could not sacrifice family
considerations on that account.

Yes, rank has its responsibilities as well as its
privileges. I will remember that. It is necessary to do
so, as otherwise one would be without consolation for what
one has to suffer. For I find that one has to suffer,
Amelia. I know papa would have advised me to marry this
man; and so, I dare say, mamma would, and Frank, and
Beatrice, if they knew that I liked him. It would not be
so bad if we all thought alike about it; but it is hard to



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 39 of 49)