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Arabella's side with reference to this mad engagement, and as Frank
and he were now fast friends, some good might be done in that way.
"If we all caution him against it, he can hardly withstand us all!"
said Lady Arabella to herself.

The matter was broached to Frank on the Saturday evening, and settled
between them all the same night. Nothing, of course, was at that
moment said about Mary; but Lady Arabella was too full of the subject
to let him go to London without telling him that Mary was ready to
recede if only he would allow her to do so. About eleven o'clock,
Frank was sitting in his own room, conning over the difficulties
of the situation - thinking of his father's troubles, and his own
position - when he was roused from his reverie by a slight tap at the
door.

"Come in," said he, somewhat loudly. He thought it was one of his
sisters, who were apt to visit him at all hours and for all manner
of reasons; and he, though he was usually gentle to them, was not at
present exactly in a humour to be disturbed.

The door gently opened, and he saw his mother standing hesitating in
the passage.

"Can I come in, Frank?" said she.

"Oh, yes, mother; by all means:" and then, with some surprise marked
in his countenance, he prepared a seat for her. Such a visit as this
from Lady Arabella was very unusual; so much so, that he had probably
not seen her in his own room since the day when he first left school.
He had nothing, however, to be ashamed of; nothing to conceal, unless
it were an open letter from Miss Dunstable which he had in his hand
when she entered, and which he somewhat hurriedly thrust into his
pocket.

"I wanted to say a few words to you, Frank, before you start for
London about this business." Frank signified by a gesture, that he
was quite ready to listen to her.

"I am so glad to see your father putting the matter into your hands.
You are younger than he is; and then - I don't know why, but somehow
your father has never been a good man of business - everything has
gone wrong with him."

"Oh, mother! do not say anything against him."

"No, Frank, I will not; I do not wish it. Things have been
unfortunate, certainly. Ah me! I little thought when I married - but I
don't mean to complain - I have excellent children, and I ought to be
thankful for that."

Frank began to fear that no good could be coming when his mother
spoke in that strain. "I will do the best I can," said he, "up in
town. I can't help thinking myself that Mr Gazebee might have done as
well, but - "

"Oh, dear no; by no means. In such cases the principal must show
himself. Besides, it is right you should know how matters stand. Who
is so much interested in it as you are? Poor Frank! I so often feel
for you when I think how the property has dwindled."

"Pray do not mind me, mother. Why should you talk of it as my matter
while my father is not yet forty-five? His life, so to speak, is as
good as mine. I can do very well without it; all I want is to be
allowed to settle to something."

"You mean a profession."

"Yes; something of that sort."

"They are so slow, dear Frank. You, who speak French so well - I
should think my brother might get you in as attaché to some embassy."

"That wouldn't suit me at all," said Frank.

"Well, we'll talk about that some other time. But I came about
something else, and I do hope you will hear me."

Frank's brow again grew black, for he knew that his mother was about
to say something which it would be disagreeable for him to hear.

"I was with Mary, yesterday."

"Well, mother?"

"Don't be angry with me, Frank; you can't but know that the fate
of an only son must be a subject of anxiety to a mother." Ah! how
singularly altered was Lady Arabella's tone since first she had taken
upon herself to discuss the marriage prospects of her son! Then how
autocratic had she been as she sent him away, bidding him, with full
command, to throw himself into the golden embraces of Miss Dunstable!
But now, how humble, as she came suppliantly to his room, craving
that she might have leave to whisper into his ears a mother's anxious
fears! Frank had laughed at her stern behests, though he had half
obeyed them; but he was touched to the heart by her humility.

He drew his chair nearer to her, and took her by the hand. But she,
disengaging hers, parted the hair from off his forehead, and kissed
his brow. "Oh, Frank," she said, "I have been so proud of you, am
still so proud of you. It will send me to my grave if I see you sink
below your proper position. Not that it will be your fault. I am sure
it will not be your fault. Only circumstanced as you are, you should
be doubly, trebly, careful. If your father had not - "

"Do not speak against my father."

"No, Frank; I will not - no, I will not; not another word. And now,
Frank - "

Before we go on we must say one word further as to Lady Arabella's
character. It will probably be said that she was a consummate
hypocrite; but at the present moment she was not hypocritical. She
did love her son; was anxious - very, very anxious for him; was proud
of him, and almost admired the very obstinacy which so vexed her to
her inmost soul. No grief would be to her so great as that of seeing
him sink below what she conceived to be his position. She was as
genuinely motherly, in wishing that he should marry money, as another
woman might be in wishing to see her son a bishop; or as the Spartan
matron, who preferred that her offspring should return on his shield,
to hearing that he had come back whole in limb but tainted in honour.
When Frank spoke of a profession, she instantly thought of what Lord
de Courcy might do for him. If he would not marry money, he might, at
any rate, be an attaché at an embassy. A profession - hard work, as
a doctor, or as an engineer - would, according to her ideas, degrade
him; cause him to sink below his proper position; but to dangle at
a foreign court, to make small talk at the evening parties of a
lady ambassadress, and occasionally, perhaps, to write demi-official
notes containing demi-official tittle-tattle; this would be in proper
accordance with the high honour of a Gresham of Greshamsbury.

We may not admire the direction taken by Lady Arabella's energy on
behalf of her son, but that energy was not hypocritical.

"And now, Frank - " She looked wistfully into his face as she
addressed him, as though half afraid to go on, and begging that he
would receive with complaisance whatever she found herself forced to
say.

"Well, mother?"

"I was with Mary, yesterday."

"Yes, yes; what then? I know what your feelings are with regard to
her."

"No, Frank; you wrong me. I have no feelings against her - none,
indeed; none but this: that she is not fit to be your wife."

"I think her fit."

"Ah, yes; but how fit? Think of your position, Frank, and what means
you have of keeping her. Think what you are. Your father's only son;
the heir to Greshamsbury. If Greshamsbury be ever again more than a
name, it is you that must redeem it. Of all men living you are the
least able to marry a girl like Mary Thorne."

"Mother, I will not sell myself for what you call my position."

"Who asks you? I do not ask you; nobody asks you. I do not want you
to marry any one. I did think once - but let that pass. You are now
twenty-three. In ten years' time you will still be a young man. I
only ask you to wait. If you marry now, that is, marry such a girl as
Mary Thorne - "

"Such a girl! Where shall I find such another?"

"I mean as regards money, Frank; you know I mean that; how are you to
live? Where are you to go? And then, her birth. Oh, Frank, Frank!"

"Birth! I hate such pretence. What was - but I won't talk about it.
Mother, I tell you my word is pledged, and on no account will I be
induced to break it."

"Ah, that's just it; that's just the point. Now, Frank, listen to me.
Pray listen to me patiently for one minute. I do not ask much of
you."

Frank promised that he would listen patiently; but he looked anything
but patient as he said so.

"I have seen Mary, as it was certainly my duty to do. You cannot be
angry with me for that."

"Who said that I was angry, mother?"

"Well, I have seen her, and I must own, that though she was not
disposed to be courteous to me, personally, she said much that marked
her excellent good sense. But the gist of it was this; that as she
had made you a promise, nothing should turn her from that promise but
your permission."

"And do you think - "

"Wait a moment, Frank, and listen to me. She confessed that this
marriage was one which would necessarily bring distress on all your
family; that it was one which would probably be ruinous to yourself;
that it was a match which could not be approved of: she did, indeed;
she confessed all that. 'I have nothing', she said - those were her
own words - 'I have nothing to say in favour of this engagement,
except that he wishes it.' That is what she thinks of it herself.
'His wishes are not a reason; but a law,' she said - "

"And, mother, would you have me desert such a girl as that?"

"It is not deserting, Frank: it would not be deserting: you would be
doing that which she herself approves of. She feels the impropriety
of going on; but she cannot draw back because of her promise to you.
She thinks that she cannot do it, even though she wishes it."

"Wishes it! Oh, mother!"

"I do believe she does, because she has sense to feel the truth of
all that your friends say. Oh, Frank, I will go on my knees to you if
you will listen to me."

"Oh, mother! mother! mother!"

"You should think twice, Frank, before you refuse the only request
your mother ever made you. And why do I ask you? why do I come to you
thus? Is it for my own sake? Oh, my boy! my darling boy! will you
lose everything in life, because you love the child with whom you
have played as a child?"

"Whose fault is it that we were together as children? She is now more
than a child. I look on her already as my wife."

"But she is not your wife, Frank; and she knows that she ought not to
be. It is only because you hold her to it that she consents to be
so."

"Do you mean to say that she does not love me?"

Lady Arabella would probably have said this, also, had she dared;
but she felt, that in doing so, she would be going too far. It was
useless for her to say anything that would be utterly contradicted by
an appeal to Mary herself.

"No, Frank; I do not mean to say that you do not love her. What
I do mean is this: that it is not becoming in you to give up
everything - not only yourself, but all your family - for such a love
as this; and that she, Mary herself, acknowledges this. Every one is
of the same opinion. Ask your father: I need not say that he would
agree with you about everything if he could. I will not say the de
Courcys."

"Oh, the de Courcys!"

"Yes, they are my relations; I know that." Lady Arabella could not
quite drop the tone of bitterness which was natural to her in saying
this. "But ask your sisters; ask Mr Oriel, whom you esteem so much;
ask your friend Harry Baker."

Frank sat silent for a moment or two while his mother, with a look
almost of agony, gazed into his face. "I will ask no one," at last he
said.

"Oh, my boy! my boy!"

"No one but myself can know my own heart."

"And you will sacrifice all to such a love as that, all; her, also,
whom you say that you so love? What happiness can you give her as
your wife? Oh, Frank! is that the only answer you will make your
mother on her knees?

"Oh, mother! mother!"

"No, Frank, I will not let you ruin yourself; I will not let you
destroy yourself. Promise this, at least, that you will think of what
I have said."

"Think of it! I do think of it."

"Ah, but think of it in earnest. You will be absent now in London;
you will have the business of the estate to manage; you will have
heavy cares upon your hands. Think of it as a man, and not as a boy."

"I will see her to-morrow before I go."

"No, Frank, no; grant me that trifle, at any rate. Think upon this
without seeing her. Do not proclaim yourself so weak that you cannot
trust yourself to think over what your mother says to you without
asking her leave. Though you be in love, do not be childish with it.
What I have told you as coming from her is true, word for word; if it
were not, you would soon learn so. Think now of what I have said, and
of what she says, and when you come back from London, then you can
decide."

To so much Frank consented after some further parley; namely, that he
would proceed to London on the following Monday morning without again
seeing Mary. And in the meantime, she was waiting with sore heart for
his answer to that letter that was lying, and was still to lie for so
many hours, in the safe protection of the Silverbridge postmistress.

It may seem strange; but, in truth, his mother's eloquence had more
effect on Frank than that of his father: and yet, with his father he
had always sympathised. But his mother had been energetic; whereas,
his father, if not lukewarm, had, at any rate, been timid. "I will
ask no one," Frank had said in the strong determination of his heart;
and yet the words were hardly out of his mouth before he bethought
himself that he would talk the thing over with Harry Baker. "Not,"
said he to himself, "that I have any doubt; I have no doubt; but I
hate to have all the world against me. My mother wishes me to ask
Harry Baker. Harry is a good fellow, and I will ask him." And with
this resolve he betook himself to bed.

The following day was Sunday. After breakfast Frank went with the
family to church, as was usual; and there, as usual, he saw Mary in
Dr Thorne's pew. She, as she looked at him, could not but wonder why
he had not answered the letter which was still at Silverbridge; and
he endeavoured to read in her face whether it was true, as his mother
had told him, that she was quite ready to give him up. The prayers of
both of them were disturbed, as is so often the case with the prayers
of other anxious people.

There was a separate door opening from the Greshamsbury pew out into
the Greshamsbury grounds, so that the family were not forced into
unseemly community with the village multitude in going to and from
their prayers; for the front door of the church led out into a road
which had no connexion with the private path. It was not unusual with
Frank and his father to go round, after the service, to the chief
entrance, so that they might speak to their neighbours, and get rid
of some of the exclusiveness which was intended for them. On this
morning the squire did so; but Frank walked home with his mother and
sisters, so that Mary saw no more of him.

I have said that he walked home with his mother and his sisters;
but he rather followed in their path. He was not inclined to talk
much, at least, not to them; and he continued asking himself the
question - whether it could be possible that he was wrong in remaining
true to his promise? Could it be that he owed more to his father and
his mother, and what they chose to call his position, than he did to
Mary?

After church, Mr Gazebee tried to get hold of him, for there was much
still to be said, and many hints to be given, as to how Frank should
speak, and, more especially, as to how he should hold his tongue
among the learned pundits in and about Chancery Lane. "You must be
very wide awake with Messrs Slow & Bideawhile," said Mr Gazebee. But
Frank would not hearken to him just at that moment. He was going to
ride over to Harry Baker, so he put Mr Gazebee off till the half-hour
before dinner, - or else the half-hour after tea.

On the previous day he had received a letter from Miss Dunstable,
which he had hitherto read but once. His mother had interrupted him
as he was about to refer to it; and now, as his father's nag was
being saddled - he was still prudent in saving the black horse - he
again took it out.

Miss Dunstable had written in an excellent humour. She was in great
distress about the oil of Lebanon, she said. "I have been trying to
get a purchaser for the last two years; but my lawyer won't let me
sell it, because the would-be purchasers offer a thousand pounds or
so less than the value. I would give ten to be rid of the bore; but I
am as little able to act myself as Sancho was in his government. The
oil of Lebanon! Did you hear anything of it when you were in those
parts? I thought of changing the name to 'London particular;' but my
lawyer says the brewers would bring an action against me.

"I was going down to your neighbourhood - to your friend the duke's,
at least. But I am prevented by my poor doctor, who is so weak that
I must take him to Malvern. It is a great bore; but I have the
satisfaction that I do my duty by him!

"Your cousin George is to be married at last. So I hear, at least.
He loves wisely, if not well; for his widow has the name of being
prudent and fairly well to do in the world. She has got over the
caprices of her youth. Dear Aunt de Courcy will be so delighted. I
might perhaps have met her at Gatherum Castle. I do so regret it.

"Mr Moffat has turned up again. We all thought you had finally
extinguished him. He left a card the other day, and I have told the
servant always to say that I am at home, and that you are with me. He
is going to stand for some borough in the west of Ireland. He's used
to shillelaghs by this time.

"By the by, I have a _cadeau_ for a friend of yours. I won't tell you
what it is, nor permit you to communicate the fact. But when you tell
me that in sending it I may fairly congratulate her on having so
devoted a slave as you, it shall be sent.

"If you have nothing better to do at present, do come and see my
invalid at Malvern. Perhaps you might have a mind to treat for the
oil of Lebanon. I'll give you all the assistance I can in cheating my
lawyers."

There was not much about Mary in this; but still, the little that was
said made him again declare that neither father nor mother should
move him from his resolution. "I will write to her and say that she
may send her present when she pleases. Or I will run down to Malvern
for a day. It will do me good to see her." And so resolved, he rode
away to Mill Hill, thinking, as he went, how he would put the matter
to Harry Baker.

Harry was at home; but we need not describe the whole interview. Had
Frank been asked beforehand, he would have declared, that on no
possible subject could he have had the slightest hesitation in asking
Harry any question, or communicating to him any tidings. But when the
time came, he found that he did hesitate much. He did not want to ask
his friend if he should be wise to marry Mary Thorne. Wise or not, he
was determined to do that. But he wished to be quite sure that his
mother was wrong in saying that all the world would dissuade him from
it. Miss Dunstable, at any rate, did not do so.

At last, seated on a stile at the back of the Mill Hill stables,
while Harry stood close before him with both his hands in his
pockets, he did get his story told. It was by no means the first
time that Harry Baker had heard about Mary Thorne, and he was not,
therefore, so surprised as he might have been, had the affair
been new to him. And thus, standing there in the position we have
described, did Mr Baker, junior, give utterance to such wisdom as was
in him on this subject.

"You see, Frank, there are two sides to every question; and, as I
take it, fellows are so apt to go wrong because they are so fond of
one side, they won't look at the other. There's no doubt about it,
Lady Arabella is a very clever woman, and knows what's what; and
there's no doubt about this either, that you have a very ticklish
hand of cards to play."

"I'll play it straightforward; that's my game" said Frank.

"Well and good, my dear fellow. That's the best game always. But what
is straightforward? Between you and me, I fear there's no doubt that
your father's property has got into a deuce of a mess."

"I don't see that that has anything to do with it."

"Yes, but it has. If the estate was all right, and your father could
give you a thousand a year to live on without feeling it, and if your
eldest child would be cock-sure of Greshamsbury, it might be very
well that you should please yourself as to marrying at once. But
that's not the case; and yet Greshamsbury is too good a card to be
flung away."

"I could fling it away to-morrow," said Frank.

"Ah! you think so," said Harry the Wise. "But if you were to hear
to-morrow that Sir Louis Scatcherd were master of the whole place,
and be d - - to him, you would feel very uncomfortable." Had Harry
known how near Sir Louis was to his last struggle, he would not have
spoken of him in this manner. "That's all very fine talk, but it
won't bear wear and tear. You do care for Greshamsbury if you are the
fellow I take you to be: care for it very much; and you care too for
your father being Gresham of Greshamsbury."

"This won't affect my father at all."

"Ah, but it will affect him very much. If you were to marry Miss
Thorne to-morrow, there would at once be an end to any hope of your
saving the property."

"And do you mean to say I'm to be a liar to her for such reasons as
that? Why, Harry, I should be as bad as Moffat. Only it would be ten
times more cowardly, as she has no brother."

"I must differ from you there altogether; but mind, I don't mean to
say anything. Tell me that you have made up your mind to marry her,
and I'll stick to you through thick and thin. But if you ask my
advice, why, I must give it. It is quite a different affair to that
of Moffat's. He had lots of tin, everything he could want, and there
could be no reason why he should not marry, - except that he was a
snob, of whom your sister was well quit. But this is very different.
If I, as your friend, were to put it to Miss Thorne, what do you
think she would say herself?"

"She would say whatever she thought best for me."

"Exactly: because she is a trump. And I say the same. There can be no
doubt about it, Frank, my boy: such a marriage would be very foolish
for you both; very foolish. Nobody can admire Miss Thorne more than
I do; but you oughtn't to be a marrying man for the next ten years,
unless you get a fortune. If you tell her the truth, and if she's the
girl I take her to be, she'll not accuse you of being false. She'll
peak for a while; and so will you, old chap. But others have had to
do that before you. They have got over it, and so will you."

Such was the spoken wisdom of Harry Baker, and who can say that he
was wrong? Frank sat a while on his rustle seat, paring his nails
with his penknife, and then looking up, he thus thanked his friend: -

"I'm sure you mean well, Harry; and I'm much obliged to you. I dare
say you're right too. But, somehow, it doesn't come home to me. And
what is more, after what has passed, I could not tell her that I wish
to part from her. I could not do it. And besides, I have that sort of
feeling, that if I heard she was to marry any one else, I am sure I
should blow his brains out. Either his or my own."

"Well, Frank, you may count on me for anything, except the last
proposition:" and so they shook hands, and Frank rode back to
Greshamsbury.




CHAPTER XLV

Law Business in London


On the Monday morning at six o'clock, Mr Oriel and Frank started
together; but early as it was, Beatrice was up to give them a cup of
coffee, Mr Oriel having slept that night in the house. Whether Frank
would have received his coffee from his sister's fair hands had not
Mr Oriel been there, may be doubted. He, however, loudly asserted
that he should not have done so, when she laid claim to great merit
for rising in his behalf.

Mr Oriel had been specially instigated by Lady Arabella to use the
opportunity of their joint journey, for pointing out to Frank the
iniquity as well as madness of the course he was pursuing; and he had
promised to obey her ladyship's behests. But Mr Oriel was perhaps not
an enterprising man, and was certainly not a presumptuous one. He did
intend to do as he was bid; but when he began, with the object of
leading up to the subject of Frank's engagement, he always softened
down into some much easier enthusiasm in the matter of his own
engagement with Beatrice. He had not that perspicuous, but not
over-sensitive strength of mind which had enabled Harry Baker to
express his opinion out at once; and boldly as he did it, yet to do
so without offence.

Four times before the train arrived in London, he made some little
attempt; but four times he failed. As the subject was matrimony, it



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