Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 46 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 46 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


was his easiest course to begin about himself; but he never could get
any further.

"No man was ever more fortunate in a wife than I shall be," he said,
with a soft, euphuistic self-complacency, which would have been silly
had it been adopted to any other person than the bride's brother. His
intention, however, was very good, for he meant to show, that in his
case marriage was prudent and wise, because his case differed so
widely from that of Frank.

"Yes," said Frank. "She is an excellent good girl:" he had said it
three times before, and was not very energetic.

"Yes, and so exactly suited to me; indeed, all that I could have
dreamed of. How very well she looked this morning! Some girls only
look well at night. I should not like that at all."

"You mustn't expect her to look like that always at six o'clock
a.m.," said Frank, laughing. "Young ladies only take that trouble on
very particular occasions. She wouldn't have come down like that if
my father or I had been going alone. No, and she won't do so for you
in a couple of years' time."

"Oh, but she's always nice. I have seen her at home as much almost as
you could do; and then she's so sincerely religious."

"Oh, yes, of course; that is, I am sure she is," said Frank, looking
solemn as became him.

"She's made to be a clergyman's wife."

"Well, so it seems," said Frank.

"A married life is, I'm sure, the happiest in the world - if people
are only in a position to marry," said Mr Oriel, gradually drawing
near to the accomplishment of his design.

"Yes; quite so. Do you know, Oriel, I never was so sleepy in my life.
What with all that fuss of Gazebee's, and one thing and another, I
could not get to bed till one o'clock; and then I couldn't sleep.
I'll take a snooze now, if you won't think it uncivil." And then,
putting his feet upon the opposite seat, he settled himself
comfortably to his rest. And so Mr Oriel's last attempt for lecturing
Frank in the railway-carriage faded away and was annihilated.

By twelve o'clock Frank was with Messrs Slow & Bideawhile. Mr
Bideawhile was engaged at the moment, but he found the managing
Chancery clerk to be a very chatty gentleman. Judging from what he
saw, he would have said that the work to be done at Messrs Slow &
Bideawhile's was not very heavy.

"A singular man that Sir Louis," said the Chancery clerk.

"Yes; very singular," said Frank.

"Excellent security, excellent; no better; and yet he will foreclose;
but you see he has no power himself. But the question is, can the
trustee refuse? Then, again, trustees are so circumscribed nowadays
that they are afraid to do anything. There has been so much said
lately, Mr Gresham, that a man doesn't know where he is, or what he
is doing. Nobody trusts anybody. There have been such terrible things
that we can't wonder at it. Only think of the case of those Hills!
How can any one expect that any one else will ever trust a lawyer
again after that? But that's Mr Bideawhile's bell. How can any one
expect it? He will see you now, I dare say, Mr Gresham."

So it turned out, and Frank was ushered into the presence of Mr
Bideawhile. He had got his lesson by heart, and was going to rush
into the middle of his subject; such a course, however, was not in
accordance with Mr Bideawhile's usual practice. Mr Bideawhile got up
from his large wooden-seated Windsor chair, and, with a soft smile,
in which, however, was mingled some slight dash of the attorney's
acuteness, put out his hand to his young client; not, indeed, as
though he were going to shake hands with him, but as though the hand
were some ripe fruit all but falling, which his visitor might take
and pluck if he thought proper. Frank took hold of the hand, which
returned him no pressure, and then let it go again, not making any
attempt to gather the fruit.

"I have come up to town, Mr Bideawhile, about this mortgage,"
commenced Frank.

"Mortgage - ah, sit down, Mr Gresham; sit down. I hope your father is
quite well?"

"Quite well, thank you."

"I have a great regard for your father. So I had for your
grandfather; a very good man indeed. You, perhaps, don't remember
him, Mr Gresham?"

"He died when I was only a year old."

"Oh, yes; no, you of course, can't remember him; but I do, well: he
used to be very fond of some port wine I had. I think it was '11;'
and if I don't mistake, I have a bottle or two of it yet; but it is
not worth drinking now. Port wine, you know, won't keep beyond a
certain time. That was very good wine. I don't exactly remember what
it stood me a dozen then; but such wine can't be had now. As for the
Madeira, you know there's an end of that. Do you drink Madeira, Mr
Gresham?"

"No," said Frank, "not very often."

"I'm sorry for that, for it's a fine wine; but then there's none
of it left, you know. I have a few dozen, I'm told they're growing
pumpkins where the vineyards were. I wonder what they do with all the
pumpkins they grow in Switzerland! You've been in Switzerland, Mr
Gresham?"

Frank said he had been in Switzerland.

"It's a beautiful country; my girls made me go there last year. They
said it would do me good; but then you know, they wanted to see it
themselves; ha! ha! ha! However, I believe I shall go again this
autumn. That is to Aix, or some of those places; just for three
weeks. I can't spare any more time, Mr Gresham. Do you like that
dining at the _tables d'hôte_?"

"Pretty well, sometimes."

"One would get tired of it - eh! But they gave us capital dinners at
Zurich. I don't think much of their soup. But they had fish, and
about seven kinds of meats and poultry, and three or four puddings,
and things of that sort. Upon my word, I thought we did very well,
and so did my girls, too. You see a great many ladies travelling
now."

"Yes," said Frank; "a great many."

"Upon my word, I think they are right; that is, if they can afford
time. I can't afford time. I'm here every day till five, Mr Gresham;
then I go out and dine in Fleet Street, and then back to work till
nine."

"Dear me! that's very hard."

"Well, yes it is hard work. My boys don't like it; but I manage it
somehow. I get down to my little place in the country on Saturday. I
shall be most happy to see you there next Saturday."

Frank, thinking it would be outrageous on his part to take up much of
the time of the gentleman who was constrained to work so unreasonably
hard, began again to talk about his mortgages, and, in so doing, had
to mention the name of Mr Yates Umbleby.

"Ah, poor Umbleby!" said Mr Bideawhile; "what is he doing now? I am
quite sure your father was right, or he wouldn't have done it; but I
used to think that Umbleby was a decent sort of man enough. Not so
grand, you know, as your Gazebees and Gumptions - eh, Mr Gresham? They
do say young Gazebee is thinking of getting into Parliament. Let me
see: Umbleby married - who was it he married? That was the way your
father got hold of him; not your father, but your grandfather. I
used to know all about it. Well, I was sorry for Umbleby. He has got
something, I suppose - eh?"

Frank said that he believed Mr Yates Umbleby had something wherewith
to keep the wolf from the door.

"So you have got Gazebee down there now? Gumption, Gazebee & Gazebee:
very good people, I'm sure; only, perhaps, they have a little too
much on hand to do your father justice."

"But about Sir Louis, Mr Bideawhile."

"Well, about Sir Louis; a very bad sort of fellow, isn't he?
Drinks - eh? I knew his father a little. He was a rough diamond, too.
I was once down in Northamptonshire, about some railway business; let
me see; I almost forget whether I was with him, or against him. But I
know he made sixty thousand pounds by one hour's work; sixty thousand
pounds! And then he got so mad with drinking that we all thought - "

And so Mr Bideawhile went on for two hours, and Frank found no
opportunity of saying one word about the business which had brought
him up to town. What wonder that such a man as this should be obliged
to stay at his office every night till nine o'clock?

During these two hours, a clerk had come in three or four times,
whispering something to the lawyer, who, on the last of such
occasions, turned to Frank, saying, "Well, perhaps that will do for
to-day. If you'll manage to call to-morrow, say about two, I will
have the whole thing looked up; or, perhaps Wednesday or Thursday
would suit you better." Frank, declaring that the morrow would suit
him very well, took his departure, wondering much at the manner in
which business was done at the house of Messrs Slow & Bideawhile.

When he called the next day, the office seemed to be rather
disturbed, and he was shown quickly into Mr Bideawhile's room. "Have
you heard this?" said that gentleman, putting a telegram into his
hands. It contained tidings of the death of Sir Louis Scatcherd.
Frank immediately knew that these tidings must be of importance to
his father; but he had no idea how vitally they concerned his own
more immediate interests.

"Dr Thorne will be up in town on Thursday evening after the funeral,"
said the talkative clerk. "And nothing of course can be done till he
comes," said Mr Bideawhile. And so Frank, pondering on the mutability
of human affairs, again took his departure.

He could do nothing now but wait for Dr Thorne's arrival, and so
he amused himself in the interval by running down to Malvern, and
treating with Miss Dunstable in person for the oil of Lebanon. He
went down on the Wednesday, and thus, failed to receive, on the
Thursday morning, Mary's letter, which reached London on that day.
He returned, however, on the Friday, and then got it; and perhaps
it was well for Mary's happiness that he had seen Miss Dunstable in
the interval. "I don't care what your mother says," said she, with
emphasis. "I don't care for any Harry, whether it be Harry Baker, or
old Harry himself. You made her a promise, and you are bound to keep
it; if not on one day, then on another. What! because you cannot draw
back yourself, get out of it by inducing her to do so! Aunt de Courcy
herself could not improve upon that." Fortified in this manner, he
returned to town on the Friday morning, and then got Mary's letter.
Frank also got a note from Dr Thorne, stating that he had taken up
his temporary domicile at the Gray's Inn Coffee-house, so as to be
near the lawyers.

It has been suggested that the modern English writers of fiction
should among them keep a barrister, in order that they may be set
right on such legal points as will arise in their little narratives,
and thus avoid that exposure of their own ignorance of the laws,
which, now, alas! they too often make. The idea is worthy of
consideration, and I can only say, that if such an arrangement can be
made, and if a counsellor adequately skilful can be found to accept
the office, I shall be happy to subscribe my quota; it would be but a
modest tribute towards the cost.

But as the suggestion has not yet been carried out, and as there is
at present no learned gentleman whose duty would induce him to set
me right, I can only plead for mercy if I be wrong allotting all Sir
Roger's vast possessions in perpetuity to Miss Thorne, alleging also,
in excuse, that the course of my narrative absolutely demands that
she shall be ultimately recognised as Sir Roger's undoubted heiress.

Such, after a not immoderate delay, was the opinion expressed to Dr
Thorne by his law advisers; and such, in fact, turned out to be the
case. I will leave the matter so, hoping that my very absence of
defence may serve to protect me from severe attack. If under such
a will as that described as having been made by Sir Roger, Mary
would not have been the heiress, that will must have been described
wrongly.

But it was not quite at once that those tidings made themselves
absolutely certain to Dr Thorne's mind; nor was he able to express
any such opinion when he first met Frank in London. At that time
Mary's letter was in Frank's pocket; and Frank, though his real
business appertained much more to the fact of Sir Louis's death, and
the effect that would immediately have on his father's affairs, was
much more full of what so much more nearly concerned himself. "I will
show it Dr Thorne himself," said he, "and ask him what he thinks."

Dr Thorne was stretched fast asleep on the comfortless horse-hair
sofa in the dingy sitting-room at the Gray's Inn Coffee-house when
Frank found him. The funeral, and his journey to London, and the
lawyers had together conquered his energies, and he lay and snored,
with nose upright, while heavy London summer flies settled on his
head and face, and robbed his slumbers of half their charms.

"I beg your pardon," said he, jumping up as though he had been
detected in some disgraceful act. "Upon my word, Frank, I beg your
pardon; but - well, my dear fellow, all well at Greshamsbury - eh?" and
as he shook himself, he made a lunge at one uncommonly disagreeable
fly that had been at him for the last ten minutes. It is hardly
necessary to say that he missed his enemy.

"I should have been with you before, doctor, but I was down at
Malvern."

"At Malvern, eh? Ah! so Oriel told me. The death of poor Sir Louis
was very sudden - was it not?"

"Very."

"Poor fellow - poor fellow! His fate has for some time been past
hope. It is a madness, Frank; the worst of madness. Only think of
it - father and son! And such a career as the father had - such a
career as the son might have had!"

"It has been very quickly run," said Frank.

"May it be all forgiven him! I sometimes cannot but believe in a
special Providence. That poor fellow was not able, never would have
been able, to make proper use of the means which fortune had given
him. I hope they may fall into better hands. There is no use in
denying it, his death will be an immense relief to me, and a relief
also to your father. All this law business will now, of course, be
stopped. As for me, I hope I may never be a trustee again."

Frank had put his hand four or five times into his breast-pocket, and
had as often taken out and put back again Mary's letter before he
could find himself able to bring Dr Thorne to the subject. At last
there was a lull in the purely legal discussion, caused by the doctor
intimating that he supposed Frank would now soon return to
Greshamsbury.

"Yes; I shall go to-morrow morning."

"What! so soon as that? I counted on having you one day in London
with me."

"No, I shall go to-morrow. I'm not fit for company for any one. Nor
am I fit for anything. Read that, doctor. It's no use putting it off
any longer. I must get you to talk this over with me. Just read that,
and tell me what you think about it. It was written a week ago, when
I was there, but somehow I have only got it to-day." And putting the
letter into the doctor's hands, he turned away to the window, and
looked out among the Holborn omnibuses. Dr Thorne took the letter and
read it. Mary, after she had written it, had bewailed to herself that
the letter was cold; but it had not seemed cold to her lover, nor did
it appear so to her uncle. When Frank turned round from the window,
the doctor's handkerchief was up to his eyes; who, in order to hide
the tears that were there, was obliged to go through a rather violent
process of blowing his nose.

"Well," he said, as he gave back the letter to Frank.

Well! what did well mean? Was it well? or would it be well were he,
Frank, to comply with the suggestion made to him by Mary?

"It is impossible," he said, "that matters should go on like that.
Think what her sufferings must have been before she wrote that. I am
sure she loves me."

"I think she does," said the doctor.

"And it is out of the question that she should be sacrificed; nor
will I consent to sacrifice my own happiness. I am quite willing to
work for my bread, and I am sure that I am able. I will not submit
to - Doctor, what answer do you think I ought to give to that
letter? There can be no person so anxious for her happiness as you
are - except myself." And as he asked the question, he again put into
the doctor's hand, almost unconsciously, the letter which he had
still been holding in his own.

The doctor turned it over and over, and then opened it again.

"What answer ought I to make to it?" demanded Frank, with energy.

"You see, Frank, I have never interfered in this matter, otherwise
than to tell you the whole truth about Mary's birth."

"Oh, but you must interfere: you should say what you think."

"Circumstanced as you are now - that is, just at the present
moment - you could hardly marry immediately."

"Why not let me take a farm? My father could, at any rate, manage a
couple of thousand pounds or so for me to stock it. That would not
be asking much. If he could not give it me, I would not scruple
to borrow so much elsewhere." And Frank bethought him of all Miss
Dunstable's offers.

"Oh, yes; that could be managed."

"Then why not marry immediately; say in six months or so? I am not
unreasonable; though, Heaven knows, I have been kept in suspense long
enough. As for her, I am sure she must be suffering frightfully. You
know her best, and, therefore, I ask you what answer I ought to make:
as for myself, I have made up my own mind; I am not a child, nor will
I let them treat me as such."

Frank, as he spoke, was walking rapidly about the room; and he
brought out his different positions, one after the other, with a
little pause, while waiting for the doctor's answer. The doctor was
sitting, with the letter still in his hands, on the head of the sofa,
turning over in his mind the apparent absurdity of Frank's desire to
borrow two thousand pounds for a farm, when, in all human
probability, he might in a few months be in possession of almost any
sum he should choose to name. And yet he would not tell him of Sir
Roger's will. "If it should turn out to be all wrong?" said he to
himself.

"Do you wish me to give her up?" said Frank, at last.

"No. How can I wish it? How can I expect a better match for her?
Besides, Frank, I love no man in the world so well as I do you."

"Then you will help me?"

"What! against your father?"

"Against! no, not against anybody. But will you tell Mary that she
has your consent?"

"I think she knows that."

"But you have never said anything to her."

"Look here, Frank; you ask me for my advice, and I will give it you:
go home; though, indeed, I would rather you went anywhere else."

"No, I must go home; and I must see her."

"Very well, go home: as for seeing Mary, I think you had better put
it off for a fortnight."

"Quite impossible."

"Well, that's my advice. But, at any rate, make up your mind to
nothing for a fortnight. Wait for one fortnight, and I then will tell
you plainly - you and her too - what I think you ought to do. At the
end of a fortnight come to me, and tell the squire that I will take
it as a great kindness if he will come with you. She has suffered,
terribly, terribly; and it is necessary that something should be
settled. But a fortnight more can make no great difference."

"And the letter?"

"Oh! there's the letter."

"But what shall I say? Of course I shall write to-night."

"Tell her to wait a fortnight. And, Frank, mind you bring your father
with you."

Frank could draw nothing further from his friend save constant
repetitions of this charge to him to wait a fortnight, - just one
other fortnight.

"Well, I will come to you at any rate," said Frank; "and, if
possible, I will bring my father. But I shall write to Mary
to-night."

On the Saturday morning, Mary, who was then nearly broken-hearted at
her lover's silence, received a short note: -


MY OWN MARY,

I shall be home to-morrow. I will by no means release you
from your promise. Of course you will perceive that I only
got your letter to-day.

Your own dearest,

FRANK.

P.S. - You will have to call me so hundreds and hundreds of
times yet.


Short as it was, this sufficed Mary. It is one thing for a young lady
to make prudent, heart-breaking suggestions, but quite another to
have them accepted. She did call him dearest Frank, even on that one
day, almost as often as he had desired her.




CHAPTER XLVI

Our Pet Fox Finds a Tail


Frank returned home, and his immediate business was of course with
his father, and with Mr Gazebee, who was still at Greshamsbury.

"But who is the heir?" asked Mr Gazebee, when Frank had explained
that the death of Sir Louis rendered unnecessary any immediate legal
steps.

"Upon my word I don't know," said Frank.

"You saw Dr Thorne," said the squire. "He must have known."

"I never thought of asking him," said Frank, naïvely.

Mr Gazebee looked rather solemn. "I wonder at that," said he; "for
everything now depends on the hands the property will go into. Let
me see; I think Sir Roger had a married sister. Was not that so, Mr
Gresham?" And then it occurred for the first time, both to the squire
and to his son, that Mary Thorne was the eldest child of this sister.
But it never occurred to either of them that Mary could be the
baronet's heir.

Dr Thorne came down for a couple of days before the fortnight was
over to see his patients, and then returned again to London. But
during this short visit he was utterly dumb on the subject of the
heir. He called at Greshamsbury to see Lady Arabella, and was even
questioned by the squire on the subject. But he obstinately refused
to say more than that nothing certain could be known for yet a few
days.

Immediately after his return, Frank saw Mary, and told her all that
had happened. "I cannot understand my uncle," said she, almost
trembling as she stood close to him in her own drawing-room. "He
usually hates mysteries, and yet now he is so mysterious. He told me,
Frank - that was after I had written that unfortunate letter - "

"Unfortunate, indeed! I wonder what you really thought of me when you
were writing it?"

"If you had heard what your mother said, you would not be surprised.
But, after that, uncle said - "

"Said what?"

"He seemed to think - I don't remember what it was he said. But he
said, he hoped that things might yet turn out well; and then I was
almost sorry that I had written the letter."

"Of course you were sorry, and so you ought to have been. To say that
you would never call me Frank again!"

"I didn't exactly say that."

"I have told him I will wait a fortnight, and so I will. After that,
I shall take the matter into my own hands."

It may be well supposed that Lady Arabella was not well pleased to
learn that Frank and Mary had been again together; and, in the agony
of her spirit, she did say some ill-natured things before Augusta,
who had now returned from Courcy Castle, as to the gross impropriety
of Mary's conduct. But to Frank she said nothing.

Nor was there much said between Frank and Beatrice. If everything
could really be settled at the end of that fortnight which was to
witness the disclosure of the doctor's mystery, there would still
be time to arrange that Mary should be at the wedding. "It shall be
settled then," he said to himself; "and if it be settled, my mother
will hardly venture to exclude my affianced bride from the house."
It was now the beginning of August, and it wanted yet a month to the
Oriel wedding.

But though he said nothing to his mother or to Beatrice, he did say
much to his father. In the first place, he showed him Mary's letter.
"If your heart be not made of stone it will be softened by that," he
said. Mr Gresham's heart was not of stone, and he did acknowledge
that the letter was a very sweet letter. But we know how the drop of
water hollows stone. It was not by the violence of his appeal that
Frank succeeded in obtaining from his father a sort of half-consent
that he would no longer oppose the match; but by the assiduity with
which the appeal was repeated. Frank, as we have said, had more
stubbornness of will than his father; and so, before the fortnight
was over, the squire had been talked over, and promised to attend at
the doctor's bidding.

"I suppose you had better take the Hazlehurst farm," said he to his
son, with a sigh. "It joins the park and the home-fields, and I will
give you up them also. God knows, I don't care about farming any
more - or about anything else either."

"Don't say that, father."

"Well, well! But, Frank, where will you live? The old house is big
enough for us all. But how would Mary get on with your mother?"

At the end of his fortnight, true to his time, the doctor returned to
the village. He was a bad correspondent; and though he had written



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 46 of 49)