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his feelings now, he would never bring himself to leave me. It is
right that I should be cold to him. I should be false to myself if
I tried to move his love - I, who have nothing to give him in return
for it." And so she made no further visit to the post-office, and the
letter went on its way.

We will now follow its fortunes for a short while, and explain how
it was that Mary received no answer for a week; a week, it may well
be imagined, of terrible suspense to her. When she took it to the
post-office, she doubtless thought that the baker's wife had nothing
to do but to send it up to the house at Greshamsbury, and that Frank
would receive it that evening, or, at latest, early on the following
morning. But this was by no means so. The epistle was posted on a
Friday afternoon, and it behoved the baker's wife to send it into
Silverbridge - Silverbridge being the post-town - so that all due
formalities, as ordered by the Queen's Government, might there be
perfected. Now, unfortunately, the post-boy had taken his departure
before Mary reached the shop, and it was not, therefore, dispatched
till Saturday. Sunday was always a _dies non_ with the Greshamsbury
Mercury, and, consequently, Frank's letter was not delivered at the
house till Monday morning; at which time Mary had for two long days
been waiting with weary heart for the expected answer.

Now Frank had on that morning gone up to London by the early train,
with his future brother-in-law, Mr Oriel. In order to accomplish
this, they had left Greshamsbury for Barchester exactly as the
postboy was leaving Silverbridge for Greshamsbury.

"I should like to wait for my letters," Mr Oriel had said, when the
journey was being discussed.

"Nonsense," Frank had answered. "Who ever got a letter that was worth
waiting for?" and so Mary was doomed to a week of misery.

When the post-bag arrived at the house on Monday morning, it was
opened as usual by the squire himself at the breakfast-table. "Here
is a letter for Frank," said he, "posted in the village. You had
better send it to him:" and he threw the letter across the table to
Beatrice.

"It's from Mary," said Beatrice, out loud, taking the letter up and
examining the address. And having said so, she repented what she had
done, as she looked first at her father and then at her mother.

A cloud came over the squire's brow as for a minute he went on
turning over the letters and newspapers. "Oh, from Mary Thorne, is
it?" he said. "Well, you had better send it to him."

"Frank said that if any letters came they were to be kept," said his
sister Sophy. "He told me so particularly. I don't think he likes
having letters sent after him."

"You had better send that one," said the squire.

"Mr Oriel is to have all his letters addressed to Long's Hotel, Bond
Street, and this one can very well be sent with them," said Beatrice,
who knew all about it, and intended herself to make a free use of the
address.

"Yes, you had better send it," said the squire; and then nothing
further was said at the table. But Lady Arabella, though she said
nothing, had not failed to mark what had passed. Had she asked for
the letter before the squire, he would probably have taken possession
of it himself; but as soon as she was alone with Beatrice, she did
demand it. "I shall be writing to Frank myself," she said, "and will
send it to him." And so, Beatrice, with a heavy heart, gave it up.

The letter lay before Lady Arabella's eyes all that day, and many a
wistful glance was cast at it. She turned it over and over, and much
she desired to know its contents; but she did not dare to break the
seal of her son's letter. All that day it lay upon her desk, and all
the next, for she could hardly bring herself to part with it; but on
the Wednesday it was sent - sent with these lines from herself: -

"Dearest, dearest Frank, I send you a letter which has come by the
post from Mary Thorne. I do not know what it may contain; but before
you correspond with her, pray, pray think of what I said to you. For
my sake, for your father's, for your own, pray think of it."

That was all, but it was enough to make her word to Beatrice true.
She did send it to Frank enclosed in a letter from herself. We must
reserve to the next chapter what had taken place between Frank and
his mother; but, for the present, we will return to the doctor's
house.

Mary said not a word to him about the letter; but, keeping silent on
the subject, she felt wretchedly estranged from him. "Is anything the
matter, Mary?" he said to her on the Sunday afternoon.

"No, uncle," she answered, turning away her head to hide her tears.

"Ah, but there is something; what is it, dearest?"

"Nothing - that is, nothing that one can talk about."

"What Mary! Be unhappy and not to talk about it to me? That's
something new, is it not?"

"One has presentiments sometimes, and is unhappy without knowing why.
Besides, you know - "

"I know! What do I know? Do I know anything that will make my pet
happier?" and he took her in his arms as they sat together on the
sofa. Her tears were now falling fast, and she no longer made an
effort to hide them. "Speak to me, Mary; this is more than a
presentiment. What is it?"

"Oh, uncle - "

"Come, love, speak to me; tell me why you are grieving."

"Oh, uncle, why have you not spoken to me? Why have you not told
me what to do? Why have you not advised me? Why are you always so
silent?"

"Silent about what?"

"You know, uncle, you know; silent about him; silent about Frank."

Why, indeed? What was he to say to this? It was true that he had
never counselled her; never shown her what course she should take;
had never even spoken to her about her lover. And it was equally true
that he was not now prepared to do so, even in answer to such an
appeal as this. He had a hope, a strong hope, more than a hope, that
Mary's love would yet be happy; but he could not express or explain
his hope; nor could he even acknowledge to himself a wish that would
seem to be based on the death of him whose life he was bound, if
possible, to preserve.

"My love," he said, "it is a matter in which you must judge for
yourself. Did I doubt your conduct, I should interfere; but I do
not."

"Conduct! Is conduct everything? One may conduct oneself excellently,
and yet break one's heart."

This was too much for the doctor; his sternness and firmness
instantly deserted him. "Mary," he said, "I will do anything that you
would have me. If you wish it, I will make arrangements for leaving
this place at once."

"Oh, no," she said, plaintively.

"When you tell me of a broken heart, you almost break my own. Come
to me, darling; do not leave me so. I will say all that I can say. I
have thought, do still think, that circumstances will admit of your
marriage with Frank if you both love each other, and can both be
patient."

"You think so," said she, unconsciously sliding her hand into his,
as though to thank him by its pressure for the comfort he was giving
her.

"I do think so now more than ever. But I only think so; I have been
unable to assure you. There, darling, I must not say more; only that
I cannot bear to see you grieving, I would not have said this:" and
then he left her, and nothing more was spoken on the subject.

If you can be patient! Why, a patience of ten years would be as
nothing to her. Could she but live with the knowledge that she was
first in his estimation, dearest in his heart; could it be also
granted to her to feel that she was regarded as his equal, she could
be patient for ever. What more did she want than to know and feel
this? Patient, indeed!

But what could these circumstances be to which her uncle had alluded?
"I do think that circumstances will admit of your marriage." Such was
his opinion, and she had never known him to be wrong. Circumstances!
What circumstances? Did he perhaps mean that Mr Gresham's affairs
were not so bad as they had been thought to be? If so, that alone
would hardly alter the matter, for what could she give in return? "I
would give him the world for one word of love," she said to herself,
"and never think that he was my debtor. Ah! how beggarly the heart
must be that speculates on such gifts as those!"

But there was her uncle's opinion: he still thought that they might
be married. Oh, why had she sent her letter? and why had she made it
so cold? With such a letter as that before him, Frank could not do
other than consent to her proposal. And then, why did he not at least
answer it?

On the Sunday afternoon there arrived at Greshamsbury a man and a
horse from Boxall Hill, bearing a letter from Lady Scatcherd to Dr
Thorne, earnestly requesting the doctor's immediate attendance. "I
fear everything is over with poor Louis," wrote the unhappy mother.
"It has been very dreadful. Do come to me; I have no other friend,
and I am nearly worn through with it. The man from the city" - she
meant Dr Fillgrave - "comes every day, and I dare say he is all very
well, but he has never done much good. He has not had spirit enough
to keep the bottle from him; and it was that, and that only, that
most behoved to be done. I doubt you won't find him in this world
when you arrive here."

Dr Thorne started immediately. Even though he might have to meet Dr
Fillgrave, he could not hesitate, for he went not as a doctor to the
dying man, but as the trustee under Sir Roger's will. Moreover, as
Lady Scatcherd had said, he was her only friend, and he could not
desert her at such a moment for an army of Fillgraves. He told
Mary he should not return that night; and taking with him a small
saddle-bag, he started at once for Boxall Hill.

As he rode up to the hall door, Dr Fillgrave was getting into his
carriage. They had never met so as to speak to each other since that
memorable day, when they had their famous passage of arms in the hall
of that very house before which they both now stood. But, at the
present moment, neither of them was disposed to renew the fight.

"What news of your patient, Dr Fillgrave?" said our doctor, still
seated on his sweating horse, and putting his hand lightly to his
hat.

Dr Fillgrave could not refrain from one moment of supercilious
disdain: he gave one little chuck to his head, one little twist to
his neck, one little squeeze to his lips, and then the man within him
overcame the doctor. "Sir Louis is no more," he said.

"God's will be done!" said Dr Thorne.

"His death is a release; for his last days have been very frightful.
Your coming, Dr Thorne, will be a comfort to Lady Scatcherd." And
then Dr Fillgrave, thinking that even the present circumstances
required no further condescension, ensconced himself in the carriage.

"His last days have been very dreadful! Ah, me, poor fellow! Dr
Fillgrave, before you go, allow me to say this: I am quite aware that
when he fell into your hands, no medical skill in the world could
save him."

Dr Fillgrave bowed low from the carriage, and after this unwonted
exchange of courtesies, the two doctors parted, not to meet again - at
any rate, in the pages of this novel. Of Dr Fillgrave, let it now be
said, that he grows in dignity as he grows in years, and that he is
universally regarded as one of the celebrities of the city of
Barchester.

Lady Scatcherd was found sitting alone in her little room on the
ground-floor. Even Hannah was not with her, for Hannah was now
occupied upstairs. When the doctor entered the room, which he did
unannounced, he found her seated on a chair, with her back against
one of the presses, her hands clasped together over her knees, gazing
into vacancy. She did not ever hear him or see him as he approached,
and his hand had slightly touched her shoulder before she knew that
she was not alone. Then, she looked up at him with a face so full of
sorrow, so worn with suffering, that his own heart was racked to see
her.

"It is all over, my friend," said he. "It is better so; much better
so."

She seemed at first hardly to understand him, but still regarding him
with that wan face, shook her head slowly and sadly. One might have
thought that she was twenty years older than when Dr Thorne last saw
her.

He drew a chair to her side, and sitting by her, took her hand in
his. "It is better so, Lady Scatcherd; better so," he repeated. "The
poor lad's doom had been spoken, and it is well for him, and for you,
that it should be over."

"They are both gone now," said she, speaking very low; "both gone
now. Oh, doctor! To be left alone here, all alone!"

He said some few words trying to comfort her; but who can comfort
a widow bereaved of her child? Who can console a heart that has
lost all that it possessed? Sir Roger had not been to her a tender
husband; but still he had been the husband of her love. Sir Louis had
not been to her an affectionate son; but still he had been her child,
her only child. Now they were both gone. Who can wonder that the
world should be a blank to her?

Still the doctor spoke soothing words, and still he held her hand.
He knew that his words could not console her; but the sounds of his
kindness at such desolate moments are, to such minds as hers, some
alleviation of grief. She hardly answered him, but sat there staring
out before her, leaving her hand passively to him, and swaying her
head backwards and forwards as though her grief were too heavy to be
borne.

At last, her eye rested on an article which stood upon the table, and
she started up impetuously from her chair. She did this so suddenly,
that the doctor's hand fell beside him before he knew that she had
risen. The table was covered with all those implements which become
so frequent about a house when severe illness is an inhabitant there.
There were little boxes and apothecaries' bottles, cups and saucers
standing separate, and bowls, in which messes have been prepared with
the hope of suiting a sick man's failing appetite. There was a small
saucepan standing on a plate, a curiously shaped glass utensil left
by the doctor, and sundry pieces of flannel, which had been used in
rubbing the sufferer's limbs. But in the middle of the débris stood
one black bottle, with head erect, unsuited to the companionship in
which it was found.

"There," she said, rising up, and seizing this in a manner that
would have been ridiculous had it not been so truly tragic. "There,
that has robbed me of everything - of all that I ever possessed; of
husband and child; of the father and son; that has swallowed them
both - murdered them both! Oh, doctor! that such a thing as that
should cause such bitter sorrow! I have hated it always, but now - Oh,
woe is me! weary me!" And then she let the bottle drop from her hand
as though it were too heavy for her.

"This comes of their barro-niting," she continued. "If they had let
him alone, he would have been here now, and so would the other one.
Why did they do it? why did they do it? Ah, doctor! people such as us
should never meddle with them above us. See what has come of it; see
what has come of it!"

The doctor could not remain with her long, as it was necessary that
he should take upon himself the direction of the household, and give
orders for the funeral. First of all, he had to undergo the sad duty
of seeing the corpse of the deceased baronet. This, at any rate,
may be spared to my readers. It was found to be necessary that the
interment should be made very quickly, as the body was already nearly
destroyed by alcohol. Having done all this, and sent back his horse
to Greshamsbury, with directions that clothes for a journey might be
sent to him, and a notice that he should not be home for some days,
he again returned to Lady Scatcherd.

Of course he could not but think much of the immense property
which was now, for a short time, altogether in his own hands. His
resolution was soon made to go at once to London and consult the
best lawyer he could find - or the best dozen lawyers should such be
necessary - as to the validity of Mary's claims. This must be done
before he said a word to her or to any of the Gresham family; but it
must be done instantly, so that all suspense might be at an end as
soon as possible. He must, of course, remain with Lady Scatcherd till
the funeral should be over; but when that office should be complete,
he would start instantly for London.

In resolving to tell no one as to Mary's fortune till after he had
fortified himself with legal warranty, he made one exception. He
thought it rational that he should explain to Lady Scatcherd who was
now the heir under her husband's will; and he was the more inclined
to do so, from feeling that the news would probably be gratifying to
her. With this view, he had once or twice endeavoured to induce her
to talk about the property, but she had been unwilling to do so. She
seemed to dislike all allusions to it, and it was not till she had
incidentally mentioned the fact that she would have to look for a
home, that he was able to fix her to the subject. This was on the
evening before the funeral; on the afternoon of which day he intended
to proceed to London.

"It may probably be arranged that you may continue to live here,"
said the doctor.

"I don't wish it at all," said she, rather sharply. "I don't wish to
have any arrangements made. I would not be indebted to any of them
for anything. Oh, dear! if money could make it all right, I should
have enough of that."

"Indebted to whom, Lady Scatcherd? Who do you think will be the owner
of Boxall Hill?"

"Indeed, then, Dr Thorne, I don't much care: unless it be yourself,
it won't be any friend of mine, or any one I shall care to make a
friend of. It isn't so easy for an old woman like me to make new
friends."

"Well, it certainly won't belong to me."

"I wish it did, with all my heart. But even then, I would not live
here. I have had too many troubles here to wish to see more."

"That shall be just as you like, Lady Scatcherd; but you will
be surprised to hear that the place will - at least I think it
will - belong to a friend of yours: to one to whom you have been very
kind."

"And who is he, doctor? Won't it go to some of those Americans? I am
sure I never did anything kind to them; though, indeed, I did love
poor Mary Scatcherd. But that's years upon years ago, and she is dead
and gone now. Well, I begrudge nothing to Mary's children. As I have
none of my own, it is right they should have the money. It has not
made me happy; I hope it may do so to them."

"The property will, I think, go to Mary Scatcherd's eldest child. It
is she whom you have known as Mary Thorne."

"Doctor!" And then Lady Scatcherd, as she made the exclamation, put
both her hands down to hold her chair, as though she feared the
weight of her surprise would topple her off her seat.

"Yes; Mary Thorne - my Mary - to whom you have been so good, who loves
you so well; she, I believe, will be Sir Roger's heiress. And it was
so that Sir Roger intended on his deathbed, in the event of poor
Louis's life being cut short. If this be so, will you be ashamed to
stay here as the guest of Mary Thorne? She has not been ashamed to be
your guest."

But Lady Scatcherd was now too much interested in the general tenor
of the news which she had heard to care much about the house which
she was to inhabit in future. Mary Thorne, the heiress of Boxall
Hill! Mary Thorne, the still living child of that poor creature who
had so nearly died when they were all afflicted with their early
grief! Well; there was consolation, there was comfort in this. There
were but three people left in the world that she could love: her
foster-child, Frank Gresham - Mary Thorne, and the doctor. If the
money went to Mary, it would of course go to Frank, for she now knew
that they loved each other; and if it went to them, would not the
doctor have his share also; such share as he might want? Could she
have governed the matter, she would have given it all to Frank; and
now it would be as well bestowed.

Yes; there was consolation in this. They both sat up more than half
the night talking over it, and giving and receiving explanations. If
only the council of lawyers would not be adverse! That was now the
point of suspense.

The doctor, before he left her, bade her hold her peace, and say
nothing of Mary's fortune to any one till her rights had been
absolutely acknowledged. "It will be nothing not to have it," said
the doctor; "but it would be very bad to hear it was hers, and then
to lose it."

On the next morning, Dr Thorne deposited the remains of Sir Louis in
the vault prepared for the family in the parish church. He laid the
son where a few months ago he had laid the father, - and so the title
of Scatcherd became extinct. Their race of honour had not been long.

After the funeral, the doctor hurried up to London, and there we will
leave him.




CHAPTER XLIV

Saturday Evening and Sunday Morning


We must now go back a little and describe how Frank had been sent off
on special business to London. The household at Greshamsbury was at
this time in but a doleful state. It seemed to be pervaded, from the
squire down to the scullery-maid, with a feeling that things were
not going well; and men and women, in spite of Beatrice's coming
marriage, were grim-visaged, and dolorous. Mr Mortimer Gazebee,
rejected though he had been, still went and came, talking much to the
squire, much also to her ladyship, as to the ill-doings which were in
the course of projection by Sir Louis; and Frank went about the house
with clouded brow, as though finally resolved to neglect his one
great duty.

Poor Beatrice was robbed of half her joy: over and over again her
brother asked her whether she had yet seen Mary, and she was obliged
as often to answer that she had not. Indeed, she did not dare to
visit her friend, for it was hardly possible that they should
sympathise with each other. Mary was, to say the least, stubborn in
her pride; and Beatrice, though she could forgive her friend for
loving her brother, could not forgive the obstinacy with which Mary
persisted in a course which, as Beatrice thought, she herself knew to
be wrong.

And then Mr Gazebee came down from town, with an intimation that it
behoved the squire himself to go up that he might see certain learned
pundits, and be badgered in his own person at various dingy, dismal
chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Temple, and Gray's Inn Lane. It
was an invitation exactly of that sort which a good many years ago
was given to a certain duck.

"Will you, will you - will you, will you - come and be killed?"
Although Mr Gazebee urged the matter with such eloquence, the squire
remained steady to his objection, and swam obstinately about his
Greshamsbury pond in any direction save that which seemed to lead
towards London.

This occurred on the very evening of that Friday which had witnessed
the Lady Arabella's last visit to Dr Thorne's house. The question of
the squire's necessary journey to the great fountains of justice was,
of course, discussed between Lady Arabella and Mr Gazebee; and it
occurred to the former, full as she was of Frank's iniquity and of
Mary's obstinacy, that if Frank were sent up in lieu of his father,
it would separate them at least for a while. If she could only get
Frank away without seeing his love, she might yet so work upon him,
by means of the message which Mary had sent, as to postpone, if not
break off, this hateful match. It was inconceivable that a youth
of twenty-three, and such a youth as Frank, should be obstinately
constant to a girl possessed of no great beauty - so argued Lady
Arabella to herself - and who had neither wealth, birth, nor fashion
to recommend her.

And thus it was at last settled - the squire being a willing party
to the agreement - that Frank should go up and be badgered in lieu
of his father. At his age it was possible to make it appear a
thing desirable, if not necessary - on account of the importance
conveyed - to sit day after day in the chambers of Messrs Slow &
Bideawhile, and hear musty law talk, and finger dusty law parchments.
The squire had made many visits to Messrs Slow & Bideawhile, and he
knew better. Frank had not hitherto been there on his own bottom, and
thus he fell easily into the trap.

Mr Oriel was also going to London, and this was another reason for
sending Frank. Mr Oriel had business of great importance, which it
was quite necessary that he should execute before his marriage. How
much of this business consisted in going to his tailor, buying a
wedding-ring, and purchasing some other more costly present for
Beatrice, we need not here inquire. But Mr Oriel was quite on Lady



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 44 of 49)