Anthony Trollope.

Doctor Thorne online

. (page 6 of 49)
Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 6 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Beatrice, and even to Mary Thorne. She had no enthusiasm, she
admitted, but she thought she had good judgment. She thought she
had shown good judgment in accepting Mr Moffat's offer, though she
did not pretend to any romance of affection. And, having so said,
she went to work with considerable mental satisfaction, choosing
furniture, carriages, and clothes, not extravagantly as her mother
would have done, not in deference to sterner dictates of the latest
fashion as her aunt would have done, with none of the girlish glee
in new purchases which Beatrice would have felt, but with sound
judgment. She bought things that were rich, for her husband was to be
rich, and she meant to avail herself of his wealth; she bought things
that were fashionable, for she meant to live in the fashionable
world; but she bought what was good, and strong, and lasting, and
worth its money.

Augusta Gresham had perceived early in life that she could not obtain
success either as an heiress, or as a beauty, nor could she shine
as a wit; she therefore fell back on such qualities as she had, and
determined to win the world as a strong-minded, useful woman. That
which she had of her own was blood; having that, she would in all
ways do what in her lay to enhance its value. Had she not possessed
it, it would to her mind have been the vainest of pretences.

When Mary came in, the wedding preparations were being discussed. The
number and names of the bridesmaids were being settled, the dresses
were on the tapis, the invitations to be given were talked over.
Sensible as Augusta was, she was not above such feminine cares; she
was, indeed, rather anxious that the wedding should go off well. She
was a little ashamed of her tailor's son, and therefore anxious that
things should be as brilliant as possible.

The bridesmaid's names had just been written on a card as Mary
entered the room. There were the Ladies Amelia, Rosina, Margaretta,
and Alexandrina of course at the head of it; then came Beatrice and
the twins; then Miss Oriel, who, though only a parson's sister, was
a person of note, birth, and fortune. After this there had been here
a great discussion whether or not there should be any more. If there
were to be one more there must be two. Now Miss Moffat had expressed
a direct wish, and Augusta, though she would much rather have done
without her, hardly knew how to refuse. Alexandrina - we hope we
may be allowed to drop the "lady" for the sake of brevity, for the
present scene only - was dead against such an unreasonable request.
"We none of us know her, you know; and it would not be comfortable."
Beatrice strongly advocated the future sister-in-law's acceptance
into the bevy; she had her own reasons; she was pained that Mary
Thorne should not be among the number, and if Miss Moffat were
accepted, perhaps Mary might be brought in as her colleague.

"If you have Miss Moffat," said Alexandrina, "you must have dear
Pussy too; and I really think that Pussy is too young; it will be
troublesome." Pussy was the youngest Miss Gresham, who was now only
eight years old, and whose real name was Nina.

"Augusta," said Beatrice, speaking with some slight hesitation, some
soup√Іon of doubt, before the high authority of her noble cousin, "if
you do have Miss Moffat would you mind asking Mary Thorne to join
her? I think Mary would like it, because, you see, Patience Oriel
is to be one; and we have known Mary much longer than we have known
Patience."

Then out and spake the Lady Alexandrina.

"Beatrice, dear, if you think of what you are asking, I am sure you
will see that it would not do; would not do at all. Miss Thorne is a
very nice girl, I am sure; and, indeed, what little I have seen of
her I highly approve. But, after all, who is she? Mamma, I know,
thinks that Aunt Arabella has been wrong to let her be here so much,
but - "

Beatrice became rather red in the face, and, in spite of the dignity
of her cousin, was preparing to defend her friend.

"Mind, I am not saying a word against Miss Thorne."

"If I am married before her, she shall be one of my bridesmaids,"
said Beatrice.

"That will probably depend on circumstances," said the Lady
Alexandrina; I find that I cannot bring my courteous pen to drop the
title. "But Augusta is very peculiarly situated. Mr Moffat is, you
see, not of the very highest birth; and, therefore, she should take
care that on her side every one about her is well born."

"Then you cannot have Miss Moffat," said Beatrice.

"No; I would not if I could help it," said the cousin.

"But the Thornes are as good a family as the Greshams," said
Beatrice. She had not quite the courage to say, as good as the de
Courcys.

"I dare say they are; and if this was Miss Thorne of Ullathorne,
Augusta probably would not object to her. But can you tell me who
Miss Mary Thorne is?"

"She is Dr Thorne's niece."

"You mean that she is called so; but do you know who her father
was, or who her mother was? I, for one, must own I do not. Mamma, I
believe, does, but - "

At this moment the door opened gently and Mary Thorne entered the
room.

It may easily be conceived, that while Mary was making her
salutations the three other young ladies were a little cast aback.
The Lady Alexandrina, however, quickly recovered herself, and, by her
inimitable presence of mind and facile grace of manner, soon put the
matter on a proper footing.

"We were discussing Miss Gresham's marriage," said she; "I am sure I
may mention to an acquaintance of so long standing as Miss Thorne,
that the first of September has been now fixed for the wedding."

Miss Gresham! Acquaintance of so long standing! Why, Mary and Augusta
Gresham had for years, we will hardly say now for how many, passed
their mornings together in the same schoolroom; had quarrelled, and
squabbled, and caressed and kissed, and been all but as sisters to
each other. Acquaintance indeed! Beatrice felt that her ears were
tingling, and even Augusta was a little ashamed. Mary, however,
knew that the cold words had come from a de Courcy, and not from a
Gresham, and did not, therefore, resent them.

"So it's settled, Augusta, is it?" said she; "the first of September.
I wish you joy with all my heart," and, coming round, she put her arm
over Augusta's shoulder and kissed her. The Lady Alexandrina could
not but think that the doctor's niece uttered her congratulations
very much as though she were speaking to an equal; very much as
though she had a father and mother of her own.

"You will have delicious weather," continued Mary. "September, and
the beginning of October, is the nicest time of the year. If I were
going honeymooning it is just the time of year I would choose."

"I wish you were, Mary," said Beatrice.

"So do not I, dear, till I have found some decent sort of a body to
honeymoon along with me. I won't stir out of Greshamsbury till I have
sent you off before me, at any rate. And where will you go, Augusta?"

"We have not settled that," said Augusta. "Mr Moffat talks of Paris."

"Who ever heard of going to Paris in September?" said the Lady
Alexandrina.

"Or who ever heard of the gentleman having anything to say on the
matter?" said the doctor's niece. "Of course Mr Moffat will go
wherever you are pleased to take him."

The Lady Alexandrina was not pleased to find how completely the
doctor's niece took upon herself to talk, and sit, and act at
Greshamsbury as though she was on a par with the young ladies of
the family. That Beatrice should have allowed this would not have
surprised her; but it was to be expected that Augusta would have
shown better judgment.

"These things require some tact in their management; some delicacy
when high interests are at stake," said she; "I agree with Miss
Thorne in thinking that, in ordinary circumstances, with ordinary
people, perhaps, the lady should have her way. Rank, however, has its
drawbacks, Miss Thorne, as well as its privileges."

"I should not object to the drawbacks," said the doctor's niece,
"presuming them to be of some use; but I fear I might fail in getting
on so well with the privileges."

The Lady Alexandrina looked at her as though not fully aware whether
she intended to be pert. In truth, the Lady Alexandrina was rather in
the dark on the subject. It was almost impossible, it was incredible,
that a fatherless, motherless, doctor's niece should be pert to an
earl's daughter at Greshamsbury, seeing that that earl's daughter was
the cousin of the Miss Greshams. And yet the Lady Alexandrina hardly
knew what other construction to put on the words she had just heard.

It was at any rate clear to her that it was not becoming that she
should just then stay any longer in that room. Whether she intended
to be pert or not, Miss Mary Thorne was, to say the least, very free.
The de Courcy ladies knew what was due to them - no ladies better;
and, therefore, the Lady Alexandrina made up her mind at once to go
to her own bedroom.

"Augusta," she said, rising slowly from her chair with much stately
composure, "it is nearly time to dress; will you come with me? We
have a great deal to settle, you know."

So she swam out of the room, and Augusta, telling Mary that she would
see her again at dinner, swam - no, tried to swim - after her. Miss
Gresham had had great advantages; but she had not been absolutely
brought up at Courcy Castle, and could not as yet quite assume the
Courcy style of swimming.

"There," said Mary, as the door closed behind the rustling muslins
of the ladies. "There, I have made an enemy for ever, perhaps two;
that's satisfactory."

"And why have you done it, Mary? When I am fighting your battles
behind your back, why do you come and upset it all by making the
whole family of the de Courcys dislike you? In such a matter as that,
they'll all go together."

"I am sure they will," said Mary; "whether they would be equally
unanimous in a case of love and charity, that, indeed, is another
question."

"But why should you try to make my cousin angry; you that ought to
have so much sense? Don't you remember what you were saying yourself
the other day, of the absurdity of combatting pretences which the
world sanctions?"

"I do, Trichy, I do; don't scold me now. It is so much easier to
preach than to practise. I do so wish I was a clergyman."

"But you have done so much harm, Mary."

"Have I?" said Mary, kneeling down on the ground at her friend's
feet. "If I humble myself very low; if I kneel through the whole
evening in a corner; if I put my neck down and let all your cousins
trample on it, and then your aunt, would not that make atonement? I
would not object to wearing sackcloth, either; and I'd eat a little
ashes - or, at any rate, I'd try."

"I know you're clever, Mary; but still I think you're a fool. I do,
indeed."

"I am a fool, Trichy, I do confess it; and am not a bit clever; but
don't scold me; you see how humble I am; not only humble but umble,
which I look upon to be the comparative, or, indeed, superlative
degree. Or perhaps there are four degrees; humble, umble, stumble,
tumble; and then, when one is absolutely in the dirt at their feet,
perhaps these big people won't wish one to stoop any further."

"Oh, Mary!"

"And, oh, Trichy! you don't mean to say I mayn't speak out before
you. There, perhaps you'd like to put your foot on my neck." And then
she put her head down to the footstool and kissed Beatrice's feet.

"I'd like, if I dared, to put my hand on your cheek and give you a
good slap for being such a goose."

"Do; do, Trichy: you shall tread on me, or slap me, or kiss me;
whichever you like."

"I can't tell you how vexed I am," said Beatrice; "I wanted to
arrange something."

"Arrange something! What? arrange what? I love arranging. I fancy
myself qualified to be an arranger-general in female matters. I
mean pots and pans, and such like. Of course I don't allude to
extraordinary people and extraordinary circumstances that require
tact, and delicacy, and drawbacks, and that sort of thing."

"Very well, Mary."

"But it's not very well; it's very bad if you look like that. Well,
my pet, there I won't. I won't allude to the noble blood of your
noble relatives either in joke or in earnest. What is it you want to
arrange, Trichy?"

"I want you to be one of Augusta's bridesmaids."

"Good heavens, Beatrice! Are you mad? What! Put me, even for a
morning, into the same category of finery as the noble blood from
Courcy Castle!"

"Patience is to be one."

"But that is no reason why Impatience should be another, and I should
be very impatient under such honours. No, Trichy; joking apart, do
not think of it. Even if Augusta wished it I should refuse. I should
be obliged to refuse. I, too, suffer from pride; a pride quite as
unpardonable as that of others: I could not stand with your four
lady-cousins behind your sister at the altar. In such a galaxy they
would be the stars and I - "

"Why, Mary, all the world knows that you are prettier than any of
them!"

"I am all the world's very humble servant. But, Trichy, I should
not object if I were as ugly as the veiled prophet and they all as
beautiful as Zuleika. The glory of that galaxy will be held to depend
not on its beauty, but on its birth. You know how they would look at
me; how they would scorn me; and there, in church, at the altar, with
all that is solemn round us, I could not return their scorn as I
might do elsewhere. In a room I'm not a bit afraid of them all." And
Mary was again allowing herself to be absorbed by that feeling of
indomitable pride, of antagonism to the pride of others, which she
herself in her cooler moments was the first to blame.

"You often say, Mary, that that sort of arrogance should be despised
and passed over without notice."

"So it should, Trichy. I tell you that as a clergyman tells you to
hate riches. But though the clergyman tells you so, he is not the
less anxious to be rich himself."

"I particularly wish you to be one of Augusta's bridesmaids."

"And I particularly wish to decline the honour; which honour has
not been, and will not be, offered to me. No, Trichy. I will not be
Augusta's bridesmaid, but - but - but - "

"But what, dearest?"

"But, Trichy, when some one else is married, when the new wing has
been built to a house that you know of - "

"Now, Mary, hold your tongue, or you know you'll make me angry."

"I do so like to see you angry. And when that time comes, when that
wedding does take place, then I will be a bridesmaid, Trichy. Yes!
even though I am not invited. Yes! though all the de Courcys in
Barsetshire should tread upon me and obliterate me. Though I should
be as dust among the stars, though I should creep up in calico among
their satins and lace, I will nevertheless be there; close, close to
the bride; to hold something for her, to touch her dress, to feel
that I am near to her, to - to - to - " and she threw her arms round her
companion, and kissed her over and over again. "No, Trichy; I won't
be Augusta's bridesmaid; I'll bide my time for bridesmaiding."

What protestations Beatrice made against the probability of such an
event as foreshadowed in her friend's promise we will not repeat. The
afternoon was advancing, and the ladies also had to dress for dinner,
to do honour to the young heir.




CHAPTER V

Frank Gresham's First Speech


We have said, that over and above those assembled in the house, there
came to the Greshamsbury dinner on Frank's birthday the Jacksons
of the Grange, consisting of Mr and Mrs Jackson; the Batesons from
Annesgrove, viz., Mr and Mrs Bateson, and Miss Bateson, their
daughter - an unmarried lady of about fifty; the Bakers of Mill Hill,
father and son; and Mr Caleb Oriel, the rector, with his beautiful
sister, Patience. Dr Thorne, and his niece Mary, we count among those
already assembled at Greshamsbury.

There was nothing very magnificent in the number of the guests thus
brought together to do honour to young Frank; but he, perhaps, was
called on to take a more prominent part in the proceedings, to be
made more of a hero than would have been the case had half the county
been there. In that case the importance of the guests would have been
so great that Frank would have got off with a half-muttered speech or
two; but now he had to make a separate oration to every one, and very
weary work he found it.

The Batesons, Bakers, and Jacksons were very civil; no doubt the more
so from an unconscious feeling on their part, that as the squire was
known to be a little out at elbows as regards money, any deficiency
on their part might be considered as owing to the present state
of affairs at Greshamsbury. Fourteen thousand a year will receive
honour; in that case there is no doubt, and the man absolutely
possessing it is not apt to be suspicious as to the treatment he may
receive; but the ghost of fourteen thousand a year is not always so
self-assured. Mr Baker, with his moderate income, was a very much
richer man than the squire; and, therefore, he was peculiarly forward
in congratulating Frank on the brilliancy of his prospects.

Poor Frank had hardly anticipated what there would be to do, and
before dinner was announced he was very tired of it. He had no warmer
feeling for any of the grand cousins than a very ordinary cousinly
love; and he had resolved, forgetful of birth and blood, and all
those gigantic considerations which, now that manhood had come upon
him, he was bound always to bear in mind, - he had resolved to sneak
out to dinner comfortably with Mary Thorne if possible; and if not
with Mary, then with his other love, Patience Oriel.

Great, therefore, was his consternation at finding that, after being
kept continually in the foreground for half an hour before dinner, he
had to walk out to the dining-room with his aunt the countess, and
take his father's place for the day at the bottom of the table.

"It will now depend altogether upon yourself, Frank, whether you
maintain or lose that high position in the county which has been held
by the Greshams for so many years," said the countess, as she walked
through the spacious hall, resolving to lose no time in teaching
to her nephew that great lesson which it was so imperative that he
should learn.

Frank took this as an ordinary lecture, meant to inculcate general
good conduct, such as old bores of aunts are apt to inflict on
youthful victims in the shape of nephews and nieces.

"Yes," said Frank; "I suppose so; and I mean to go along all square,
aunt, and no mistake. When I get back to Cambridge, I'll read like
bricks."

His aunt did not care two straws about his reading. It was not by
reading that the Greshams of Greshamsbury had held their heads up in
the county, but by having high blood and plenty of money. The blood
had come naturally to this young man; but it behoved him to look for
the money in a great measure himself. She, Lady de Courcy, could
doubtless help him; she might probably be able to fit him with a wife
who would bring her money onto his birth. His reading was a matter in
which she could in no way assist him; whether his taste might lead
him to prefer books or pictures, or dogs and horses, or turnips in
drills, or old Italian plates and dishes, was a matter which did not
much signify; with which it was not at all necessary that his noble
aunt should trouble herself.

"Oh! you are going to Cambridge again, are you? Well, if your father
wishes it; - though very little is ever gained now by a university
connexion."

"I am to take my degree in October, aunt; and I am determined, at any
rate, that I won't be plucked."

"Plucked!"

"No; I won't be plucked. Baker was plucked last year, and all because
he got into the wrong set at John's. He's an excellent fellow if you
knew him. He got among a set of men who did nothing but smoke and
drink beer. Malthusians, we call them."

"Malthusians!"

"'Malt,' you know, aunt, and 'use;' meaning that they drink beer. So
poor Harry Baker got plucked. I don't know that a fellow's any the
worse; however, I won't get plucked."

By this time the party had taken their place round the long board,
Mr Gresham sitting at the top, in the place usually occupied by Lady
Arabella. She, on the present occasion, sat next to her son on the
one side, as the countess did on the other. If, therefore, Frank now
went astray, it would not be from want of proper leading.

"Aunt, will you have some beef?" said he, as soon as the soup
and fish had been disposed of, anxious to perform the rites of
hospitality now for the first time committed to his charge.

"Do not be in a hurry, Frank," said his mother; "the servants will - "

"Oh! ah! I forgot; there are cutlets and those sort of things. My
hand is not in yet for this work, aunt. Well, as I was saying about
Cambridge - "

"Is Frank to go back to Cambridge, Arabella?" said the countess to
her sister-in-law, speaking across her nephew.

"So his father seems to say."

"Is it not a waste of time?" asked the countess.

"You know I never interfere," said the Lady Arabella; "I never liked
the idea of Cambridge myself at all. All the de Courcys were Christ
Church men; but the Greshams, it seems, were always at Cambridge."

"Would it not be better to send him abroad at once?"

"Much better, I would think," said the Lady Arabella; "but you know,
I never interfere: perhaps you would speak to Mr Gresham."

The countess smiled grimly, and shook her head with a decidedly
negative shake. Had she said out loud to the young man, "Your father
is such an obstinate, pig-headed, ignorant fool, that it is no use
speaking to him; it would be wasting fragrance on the desert air,"
she could not have spoken more plainly. The effect on Frank was this:
that he said to himself, speaking quite as plainly as Lady de Courcy
had spoken by her shake of the face, "My mother and aunt are always
down on the governor, always; but the more they are down on him the
more I'll stick to him. I certainly will take my degree: I will read
like bricks; and I'll begin to-morrow."

"Now will you take some beef, aunt?" This was said out loud.

The Countess de Courcy was very anxious to go on with her lesson
without loss of time; but she could not, while surrounded by guests
and servants, enunciate the great secret: "You must marry money,
Frank; that is your one great duty; that is the matter to be borne
steadfastly in your mind." She could not now, with sufficient weight
and impress of emphasis, pour this wisdom into his ears; the more
especially as he was standing up to his work of carving, and was deep
to his elbows in horse-radish, fat, and gravy. So the countess sat
silent while the banquet proceeded.

"Beef, Harry?" shouted the young heir to his friend Baker. "Oh! but I
see it isn't your turn yet. I beg your pardon, Miss Bateson," and he
sent to that lady a pound and a half of excellent meat, cut out with
great energy in one slice, about half an inch thick.

And so the banquet went on.

Before dinner Frank had found himself obliged to make numerous small
speeches in answer to the numerous individual congratulations of his
friends; but these were as nothing to the one great accumulated onus
of an oration which he had long known that he should have to sustain
after the cloth was taken away. Someone of course would propose his
health, and then there would be a clatter of voices, ladies and
gentlemen, men and girls; and when that was done he would find
himself standing on his legs, with the room about him, going round
and round and round.

Having had a previous hint of this, he had sought advice from his
cousin, the Honourable George, whom he regarded as a dab at speaking;
at least, so he had heard the Honourable George say of himself.

"What the deuce is a fellow to say, George, when he stands up after
the clatter is done?"

"Oh, it's the easiest thing in life," said the cousin. "Only remember
this: you mustn't get astray; that is what they call presence of
mind, you know. I'll tell you what I do, and I'm often called up, you
know; at our agriculturals I always propose the farmers' daughters:
well, what I do is this - I keep my eye steadfastly fixed on one of
the bottles, and never move it."

"On one of the bottles!" said Frank; "wouldn't it be better if I made
a mark of some old covey's head? I don't like looking at the table."

"The old covey'd move, and then you'd be done; besides there isn't
the least use in the world in looking up. I've heard people say, who
go to those sort of dinners every day of their lives, that whenever
anything witty is said; the fellow who says it is sure to be looking



Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeDoctor Thorne → online text (page 6 of 49)