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this, of course, was before the days of the nice place in Surrey.

Such, and so humble being the present temper of the lady of
Greshamsbury, it will not be thought surprising that she and Mr
Gresham should at last come together in their efforts to reclaim
their son.

At first Lady Arabella urged upon the squire the duty of being very
peremptory and very angry. "Do as other fathers do in such cases.
Make him understand that he will have no allowance to live on." "He
understands that well enough," said Mr Gresham.

"Threaten to cut him off with a shilling," said her ladyship, with
spirit. "I haven't a shilling to cut him off with," answered the
squire, bitterly.

But Lady Arabella herself soon perceived, that this line would not
do. As Mr Gresham himself confessed, his own sins against his son had
been too great to allow of his taking a high hand with him. Besides,
Mr Gresham was not a man who could ever be severe with a son whose
individual conduct had been so good as Frank's. This marriage was, in
his view, a misfortune to be averted if possible, - to be averted by
any possible means; but, as far as Frank was concerned, it was to be
regarded rather as a monomania than a crime.

"I did feel so certain that he would have succeeded with Miss
Dunstable," said the mother, almost crying.

"I thought it impossible but that at his age a twelvemonth's knocking
about the world would cure him," said the father.

"I never heard of a boy being so obstinate about a girl," said the
mother. "I'm sure he didn't get it from the de Courcys:" and then,
again, they talked it over in all its bearings.

"But what are they to live upon?" said Lady Arabella, appealing, as
it were, to some impersonation of reason. "That's what I want him to
tell me. What are they to live upon?"

"I wonder whether de Courcy could get him into some embassy?" said
the father. "He does talk of a profession."

"What! with the girl and all?" asked Lady Arabella with horror,
alarmed at the idea of such an appeal being made to her noble
brother.

"No; but before he marries. He might be broken of it that way."

"Nothing will break him," said the wretched mother;
"nothing - nothing. For my part, I think that he is possessed. Why was
she brought here? Oh, dear! oh, dear! Why was she ever brought into
this house?"

This last question Mr Gresham did not think it necessary to answer.
That evil had been done, and it would be useless to dispute it. "I'll
tell you what I'll do," said he. "I'll speak to the doctor himself."

"It's not the slightest use," said Lady Arabella. "He will not assist
us. Indeed, I firmly believe it's all his own doing."

"Oh, nonsense! that really is nonsense, my love."

"Very well, Mr Gresham. What I say is always nonsense, I know; you
have always told me so. But yet, see how things have turned out. I
knew how it would be when she was first brought into the house." This
assertion was rather a stretch on the part of Lady Arabella.

"Well, it is nonsense to say that Frank is in love with the girl at
the doctor's bidding."

"I think you know, Mr Gresham, that I don't mean that. What I say is
this, that Dr Thorne, finding what an easy fool Frank is - "

"I don't think he's at all easy, my love; and certainly is not a
fool."

"Very well, have it your own way. I'll not say a word more. I'm
struggling to do my best, and I'm browbeaten on every side. God knows
I am not in a state of health to bear it!" And Lady Arabella bowed
her head into her pocket-handkerchief.

"I think, my dear, if you were to see Mary herself it might do some
good," said the squire, when the violence of his wife's grief had
somewhat subsided.

"What! go and call upon this girl?"

"Yes; you can send Beatrice to give her notice, you know. She never
was unreasonable, and I do not think that you would find her so. You
should tell her, you know - "

"Oh, I should know very well what to tell her, Mr Gresham."

"Yes, my love; I'm sure you would; nobody better. But what I mean is,
that if you are to do any good, you should be kind in your manner.
Mary Thorne has a spirit that you cannot break. You may perhaps lead,
but nobody can drive her."

As this scheme originated with her husband, Lady Arabella could not,
of course, confess that there was much in it. But, nevertheless,
she determined to attempt it, thinking that if anything could be
efficacious for good in their present misfortunes, it would be her
own diplomatic powers. It was, therefore, at last settled between
them, that he should endeavour to talk over the doctor, and that she
would do the same with Mary.

"And then I will speak to Frank," said Lady Arabella. "As yet he has
never had the audacity to open his mouth to me about Mary Thorne,
though I believe he declares his love openly to every one else in the
house."

"And I will get Oriel to speak to him," said the squire.

"I think Patience might do more good. I did once think he was getting
fond of Patience, and I was quite unhappy about it then. Ah, dear! I
should be almost pleased at that now."

And thus it was arranged that all the artillery of Greshamsbury was
to be brought to bear at once on Frank's love, so as to crush it, as
it were, by the very weight of metal.

It may be imagined that the squire would have less scruple in
addressing the doctor on this matter than his wife would feel; and
that his part of their present joint undertaking was less difficult
than hers. For he and the doctor had ever been friends at heart. But,
nevertheless, he did feel much scruple, as, with his stick in hand,
he walked down to the little gate which opened out near the doctor's
house.

This feeling was so strong, that he walked on beyond this door to the
entrance, thinking of what he was going to do, and then back again.
It seemed to be his fate to be depending always on the clemency or
consideration of Dr Thorne. At this moment the doctor was imposing
the only obstacle which was offered to the sale of a great part of
his estate. Sir Louis, through his lawyer, was pressing the doctor to
sell, and the lawyer was loudly accusing the doctor of delaying to do
so. "He has the management of your property," said Mr Finnie; "but he
manages it in the interest of his own friend. It is quite clear, and
we will expose it." "By all means," said Sir Louis. "It is a d - - d
shame, and it shall be exposed." Of all this the squire was aware.

When he reached the doctor's house, he was shown into the
drawing-room, and found Mary there alone. It had always been his
habit to kiss her forehead when he chanced to meet her about the
house at Greshamsbury. She had been younger and more childish then;
but even now she was but a child to him, so he kissed her as he had
been wont to do. She blushed slightly as she looked up into his face,
and said: "Oh, Mr Gresham, I am so glad to see you here again."

As he looked at her he could not but acknowledge that it was natural
that Frank should love her. He had never before seen that she was
attractive; - had never had an opinion about it. She had grown up
as a child under his eye; and as she had not had the name of being
especially a pretty child, he had never thought on the subject. Now
he saw before him a woman whose every feature was full of spirit and
animation; whose eye sparkled with more than mere brilliancy; whose
face was full of intelligence; whose very smile was eloquent. Was it
to be wondered at that Frank should have learned to love her?

Miss Thorne wanted but one attribute which many consider essential
to feminine beauty. She had no brilliancy of complexion, no pearly
whiteness, no vivid carnation; nor, indeed, did she possess the dark
brilliance of a brunette. But there was a speaking earnestness in her
face; an expression of mental faculty which the squire now for the
first time perceived to be charming.

And then he knew how good she was. He knew well what was her nature;
how generous, how open, how affectionate, and yet how proud! Her
pride was her fault; but even that was not a fault in his eyes. Out
of his own family there was no one whom he had loved, and could love,
as he loved her. He felt, and acknowledged that no man could have a
better wife. And yet he was there with the express object of rescuing
his son from such a marriage!

"You are looking very well, Mary," he said, almost involuntarily.
"Am I?" she answered, smiling. "It's very nice at any rate to be
complimented. Uncle never pays me any compliments of that sort."

In truth, she was looking well. She would say to herself over
and over again, from morning to night, that Frank's love for her
would be, must be, unfortunate; could not lead to happiness. But,
nevertheless, it did make her happy. She had before his return made
up her mind to be forgotten, and it was so sweet to find that he had
been so far from forgetting her. A girl may scold a man in words for
rashness in his love, but her heart never scolds him for such an
offence as that. She had not been slighted, and her heart, therefore,
still rose buoyant within her breast.

The doctor entered the room. As the squire's visit had been expected
by him, he had of course not been out of the house. "And now I
suppose I must go," said Mary; "for I know you are going to talk
about business. But, uncle, Mr Gresham says I'm looking very well.
Why have you not been able to find that out?"

"She's a dear, good girl," said the squire, as the door shut behind
her; "a dear good girl;" and the doctor could not fail to see that
his eyes were filled with tears.

"I think she is," said he, quietly. And then they both sat silent, as
though each was waiting to hear whether the other had anything more
to say on that subject. The doctor, at any rate, had nothing more to
say.

"I have come here specially to speak to you about her," said the
squire.

"About Mary?"

"Yes, doctor; about her and Frank: something must be done, some
arrangement made: if not for our sakes, at least for theirs."

"What arrangement, squire?"

"Ah! that is the question. I take it for granted that either Frank or
Mary has told you that they have engaged themselves to each other."

"Frank told me so twelve months since."

"And has not Mary told you?"

"Not exactly that. But, never mind; she has, I believe, no secret
from me. Though I have said but little to her, I think I know it
all."

"Well, what then?"

The doctor shook his head and put up his hands. He had nothing to
say; no proposition to make; no arrangement to suggest. The thing was
so, and he seemed to say that, as far as he was concerned, there was
an end of it.

The squire sat looking at him, hardly knowing how to proceed. It
seemed to him, that the fact of a young man and a young lady being in
love with each other was not a thing to be left to arrange itself,
particularly, seeing the rank of life in which they were placed. But
the doctor seemed to be of a different opinion.

"But, Dr Thorne, there is no man on God's earth who knows my affairs
as well as you do; and in knowing mine, you know Frank's. Do you
think it possible that they should marry each other?"

"Possible; yes, it is possible. You mean, will it be prudent?"

"Well, take it in that way; would it not be most imprudent?"

"At present, it certainly would be. I have never spoken to either of
them on the subject; but I presume they do not think of such a thing
for the present."

"But, doctor - " The squire was certainly taken aback by the coolness
of the doctor's manner. After all, he, the squire, was Mr Gresham
of Greshamsbury, generally acknowledged to be the first commoner in
Barsetshire; after all, Frank was his heir, and, in process of time,
he would be Mr Gresham of Greshamsbury. Crippled as the estate was,
there would be something left, and the rank at any rate remained. But
as to Mary, she was not even the doctor's daughter. She was not only
penniless, but nameless, fatherless, worse than motherless! It was
incredible that Dr Thorne, with his generally exalted ideas as to
family, should speak in this cold way as to a projected marriage
between the heir of Greshamsbury and his brother's bastard child!

"But, doctor," repeated the squire.

The doctor put one leg over the other, and began to rub his calf.
"Squire," said he. "I think I know all that you would say, all that
you mean. And you don't like to say it, because you would not wish to
pain me by alluding to Mary's birth."

"But, independently of that, what would they live on?" said the
squire, energetically. "Birth is a great thing, a very great thing.
You and I think exactly alike about that, so we need have no dispute.
You are quite as proud of Ullathorne as I am of Greshamsbury."

"I might be if it belonged to me."

"But you are. It is no use arguing. But, putting that aside
altogether, what would they live on? If they were to marry, what
would they do? Where would they go? You know what Lady Arabella
thinks of such things; would it be possible that they should live up
at the house with her? Besides, what a life would that be for both of
them! Could they live here? Would that be well for them?"

The squire looked at the doctor for an answer; but he still went on
rubbing his calf. Mr Gresham, therefore, was constrained to continue
his expostulation.

"When I am dead there will still, I hope, be something; - something
left for the poor fellow. Lady Arabella and the girls would be better
off, perhaps, than now, and I sometimes wish, for Frank's sake, that
the time had come."

The doctor could not now go on rubbing his leg. He was moved to
speak, and declared that, of all events, that was the one which would
be furthest from Frank's heart. "I know no son," said he, "who loves
his father more dearly than he does."

"I do believe it," said the squire; "I do believe it. But yet, I
cannot but feel that I am in his way."

"No, squire, no; you are in no one's way. You will find yourself
happy with your son yet, and proud of him. And proud of his wife,
too. I hope so, and I think so: I do, indeed, or I should not say so,
squire; we will have many a happy day yet together, when we shall
talk of all these things over the dining-room fire at Greshamsbury."

The squire felt it kind in the doctor that he should thus endeavour
to comfort him; but he could not understand, and did not inquire, on
what basis these golden hopes was founded. It was necessary, however,
to return to the subject which he had come to discuss. Would the
doctor assist him in preventing this marriage? That was now the one
thing necessary to be kept in view.

"But, doctor, about the young people; of course they cannot marry,
you are aware of that."

"I don't know that exactly."

"Well, doctor, I must say I thought you would feel it."

"Feel what, squire?"

"That, situated as they are, they ought not to marry."

"That is quite another question. I have said nothing about that
either to you or to anybody else. The truth is, squire, I have never
interfered in this matter one way or the other; and I have no wish to
do so now."

"But should you not interfere? Is not Mary the same to you as your
own child?"

Dr Thorne hardly knew how to answer this. He was aware that his
argument about not interfering was in fact absurd. Mary could not
marry without his interference; and had it been the case that she
was in danger of making an improper marriage, of course he would
interfere. His meaning was, that he would not at the present moment
express any opinion; he would not declare against a match which
might turn out to be in every way desirable; nor, if he spoke in
favour of it, could he give his reasons for doing so. Under these
circumstances, he would have wished to say nothing, could that only
have been possible.

But as it was not possible, and as he must say something, he answered
the squire's last question by asking another. "What is your
objection, squire?"

"Objection! Why, what on earth would they live on?"

"Then I understand, that if that difficulty were over, you would not
refuse your consent merely because of Mary's birth?"

This was a manner in which the squire had by no means expected to
have the affair presented to him. It seemed so impossible that any
sound-minded man should take any but his view of the case, that he
had not prepared himself for argument. There was every objection to
his son marrying Miss Thorne; but the fact of their having no income
between them, did certainly justify him in alleging that first.

"But that difficulty can't be got over, doctor. You know, however,
that it would be cause of grief to us all to see Frank marry much
beneath his station; that is, I mean, in family. You should not press
me to say this, for you know that I love Mary dearly."

"But, my dear friend, it is necessary. Wounds sometimes must be
opened in order that they may be healed. What I mean is this; - and,
squire, I'm sure I need not say to you that I hope for an honest
answer, - were Mary Thorne an heiress; had she, for instance, such
wealth as that Miss Dunstable that we hear of; in that case would you
object to the match?"

When the doctor declared that he expected an honest answer the squire
listened with all his ears; but the question, when finished, seemed
to have no bearing on the present case.

"Come, squire, speak your mind faithfully. There was some talk once
of Frank's marrying Miss Dunstable; did you mean to object to that
match?"

"Miss Dunstable was legitimate; at least, I presume so."

"Oh, Mr Gresham! has it come to that? Miss Dunstable, then, would
have satisfied your ideas of high birth?"

Mr Gresham was rather posed, and regretted, at the moment, his
allusion to Miss Dunstable's presumed legitimacy. But he soon
recovered himself. "No," said he, "it would not. And I am willing
to admit, as I have admitted before, that the undoubted advantages
arising from wealth are taken by the world as atoning for what
otherwise would be a _mésalliance_. But - "

"You admit that, do you? You acknowledge that as your conviction on
the subject?"

"Yes. But - " The squire was going on to explain the propriety of this
opinion, but the doctor uncivilly would not hear him.

"Then squire, I will not interfere in this matter one way or the
other."

"How on earth can such an opinion - "

"Pray excuse me, Mr Gresham; but my mind is now quite made up. It was
very nearly so before. I will do nothing to encourage Frank, nor will
I say anything to discourage Mary."

"That is the most singular resolution that a man of sense like you
ever came to."

"I can't help it, squire; it is my resolution."

"But what has Miss Dunstable's fortune to do with it?"

"I cannot say that it has anything; but, in this matter, I will not
interfere."

The squire went on for some time, but it was all to no purpose;
and at last he left the house, considerably in dudgeon. The only
conclusion to which he could come was, that Dr Thorne had thought the
chance on his niece's behalf too good to be thrown away, and had,
therefore, resolved to act in this very singular way.

"I would not have believed it of him, though all Barsetshire had told
me," he said to himself as he entered the great gates; and he went on
repeating the same words till he found himself in his own room. "No,
not if all Barsetshire had told me!"

He did not, however, communicate the ill result of his visit to the
Lady Arabella.




CHAPTER XLII

What Can You Give in Return?


In spite of the family troubles, these were happy days for Beatrice.
It so seldom happens that young ladies on the eve of their marriage
have their future husbands living near them. This happiness was hers,
and Mr Oriel made the most of it. She was constantly being coaxed
down to the parsonage by Patience, in order that she might give her
opinion, in private, as to some domestic arrangement, some piece of
furniture, or some new carpet; but this privacy was always invaded.
What Mr Oriel's parishioners did in these halcyon days, I will not
ask. His morning services, however, had been altogether given up, and
he had provided himself with a very excellent curate.

But one grief did weigh heavily on Beatrice. She continually heard
her mother say things which made her feel that it would be more than
ever impossible that Mary should be at her wedding; and yet she had
promised her brother to ask her. Frank had also repeated his threat,
that if Mary were not present, he would absent himself.

Beatrice did what most girls do in such a case; what all would do who
are worth anything; she asked her lover's advice.

"Oh! but Frank can't be in earnest," said the lover. "Of course he'll
be at our wedding."

"You don't know him, Caleb. He is so changed that no one hardly
would know him. You can't conceive how much in earnest he is, how
determined and resolute. And then, I should like to have Mary so much
if mamma would let her come."

"Ask Lady Arabella," said Caleb.

"Well, I suppose I must do that; but I know what she'll say, and
Frank will never believe that I have done my best." Mr Oriel
comforted her with such little whispered consolations as he was able
to afford, and then she went away on her errand to her mother.

She was indeed surprised at the manner in which her prayer was
received. She could hardly falter forth her petition; but when she
had done so, Lady Arabella answered in this wise: -

"Well my dear, I have no objection, none the least; that is, of
course, if Mary is disposed to behave herself properly."

"Oh, mamma! of course she will," said Beatrice; "she always did and
always does."

"I hope she will, my love. But, Beatrice, when I say that I shall be
glad to see her, of course I mean under certain conditions. I never
disliked Mary Thorne, and if she would only let Frank understand that
she will not listen to his mad proposals, I should be delighted to
see her at Greshamsbury just as she used to be."

Beatrice could say nothing in answer to this; but she felt very sure
that Mary, let her intention be what it might, would not undertake to
make Frank understand anything at anybody's bidding.

"I will tell you what I will do, my dear," continued Lady Arabella;
"I will call on Mary myself."

"What! at Dr Thorne's house?"

"Yes; why not? I have been at Dr Thorne's house before now." And
Lady Arabella could not but think of her last visit thither, and the
strong feeling she had, as she came out, that she would never again
enter those doors. She was, however, prepared to do anything on
behalf of her rebellious son.

"Oh, yes! I know that, mamma."

"I will call upon her, and if I can possibly manage it, I will ask her
myself to make one of your party. If so, you can go to her afterwards
and make your own arrangements. Just write her a note, my dear, and
say that I will call to-morrow at twelve. It might fluster her if I
were to go in without notice."

Beatrice did as she was bid, but with a presentiment that no good
would come of it. The note was certainly unnecessary for the purpose
assigned by Lady Arabella, as Mary was not given to be flustered by
such occurrences; but, perhaps, it was as well that it was written,
as it enabled her to make up her mind steadily as to what information
should be given, and what should not be given to her coming visitor.

On the next morning, at the appointed hour, Lady Arabella walked down
to the doctor's house. She never walked about the village without
making some little disturbance among the inhabitants. With the
squire, himself, they were quite familiar, and he could appear and
reappear without creating any sensation; but her ladyship had not
made herself equally common in men's sight. Therefore, when she
went in at the doctor's little gate, the fact was known through all
Greshamsbury in ten minutes, and before she had left the house, Mrs
Umbleby and Miss Gushing had quite settled between them what was the
exact cause of the very singular event.

The doctor, when he had heard what was going to happen, carefully
kept out of the way: Mary, therefore, had the pleasure of
receiving Lady Arabella alone. Nothing could exceed her ladyship's
affability. Mary thought that it perhaps might have savoured less
of condescension; but then, on this subject, Mary was probably
prejudiced. Lady Arabella smiled and simpered, and asked after the
doctor, and the cat, and Janet, and said everything that could have
been desired by any one less unreasonable than Mary Thorne.

"And now, Mary, I'll tell you why I have called." Mary bowed her
head slightly, as much to say, that she would be glad to receive any
information that Lady Arabella could give her on that subject. "Of



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 42 of 49)