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but the Whigs should be hated as knaves.

Mr Moffat was now coming down to Courcy Castle to look after his
electioneering interests, and Miss Gresham was to return with her
aunt to meet him. The countess was very anxious that Frank should
also accompany them. Her great doctrine, that he must marry money,
had been laid down with authority, and received without doubt. She
now pushed it further, and said that no time should be lost; that
he should not only marry money, but do so very early in life; there
was always danger in delay. The Greshams - of course she alluded only
to the males of the family - were foolishly soft-hearted; no one
could say what might happen. There was that Miss Thorne always at
Greshamsbury.

This was more than the Lady Arabella could stand. She protested
that there was at least no ground for supposing that Frank would
absolutely disgrace his family.

Still the countess persisted: "Perhaps not," she said; "but when
young people of perfectly different ranks were allowed to associate
together, there was no saying what danger might arise. They all knew
that old Mr Bateson - the present Mr Bateson's father - had gone off
with the governess; and young Mr Everbeery, near Taunton, had only
the other day married a cook-maid."

"But Mr Everbeery was always drunk, aunt," said Augusta, feeling
called upon to say something for her brother.

"Never mind, my dear; these things do happen, and they are very
dreadful."

"Horrible!" said the Lady Amelia; "diluting the best blood of the
country, and paving the way for revolutions." This was very grand;
but, nevertheless, Augusta could not but feel that she perhaps might
be about to dilute the blood of her coming children in marrying the
tailor's son. She consoled herself by trusting that, at any rate, she
paved the way for no revolutions.

"When a thing is so necessary," said the countess, "it cannot be done
too soon. Now, Arabella, I don't say that anything will come of it;
but it may: Miss Dunstable is coming down to us next week. Now, we
all know that when old Dunstable died last year, he left over two
hundred thousand to his daughter."

"It is a great deal of money, certainly," said Lady Arabella.

"It would pay off everything, and a great deal more," said the
countess.

"It was ointment, was it not, aunt?" said Augusta.

"I believe so, my dear; something called the ointment of Lebanon, or
something of that sort: but there's no doubt about the money."

"But how old is she, Rosina?" asked the anxious mother.

"About thirty, I suppose; but I don't think that much signifies."

"Thirty," said Lady Arabella, rather dolefully. "And what is she
like? I think that Frank already begins to like girls that are young
and pretty."

"But surely, aunt," said the Lady Amelia, "now that he has come to
man's discretion, he will not refuse to consider all that he owes to
his family. A Mr Gresham of Greshamsbury has a position to support."
The de Courcy scion spoke these last words in the sort of tone that a
parish clergyman would use, in warning some young farmer's son that
he should not put himself on an equal footing with the ploughboys.

It was at last decided that the countess should herself convey to
Frank a special invitation to Courcy Castle, and that when she got
him there, she should do all that lay in her power to prevent his
return to Cambridge, and to further the Dunstable marriage.

"We did think of Miss Dunstable for Porlock, once," she said,
na√ѓvely; "but when we found that it wasn't much over two hundred
thousand, why, that idea fell to the ground." The terms on which the
de Courcy blood might be allowed to dilute itself were, it must be
presumed, very high indeed.

Augusta was sent off to find her brother, and to send him to the
countess in the small drawing-room. Here the countess was to have
her tea, apart from the outer common world, and here, without
interruption, she was to teach her great lesson to her nephew.

Augusta did find her brother, and found him in the worst of bad
society - so at least the stern de Courcys would have thought. Old Mr
Bateson and the governess, Mr Everbeery and his cook's diluted blood,
and ways paved for revolutions, all presented themselves to Augusta's
mind when she found her brother walking with no other company than
Mary Thorne, and walking with her, too, in much too close proximity.

How he had contrived to be off with the old love and so soon on with
the new, or rather, to be off with the new love and again on with the
old, we will not stop to inquire. Had Lady Arabella, in truth, known
all her son's doings in this way, could she have guessed how very
nigh he had approached the iniquity of old Mr Bateson, and to the
folly of young Mr Everbeery, she would in truth have been in a hurry
to send him off to Courcy Castle and Miss Dunstable. Some days
before the commencement of our story, young Frank had sworn in sober
earnest - in what he intended for his most sober earnest, his most
earnest sobriety - that he loved Mary Thorne with a love for which
words could find no sufficient expression - with a love that could
never die, never grow dim, never become less, which no opposition on
the part of others could extinguish, which no opposition on her part
could repel; that he might, could, would, and should have her for his
wife, and that if she told him she didn't love him, he would -

"Oh, oh! Mary; do you love me? Don't you love me? Won't you love me?
Say you will. Oh, Mary, dearest Mary, will you? won't you? do you?
don't you? Come now, you have a right to give a fellow an answer."

With such eloquence had the heir of Greshamsbury, when not yet
twenty-one years of age, attempted to possess himself of the
affections of the doctor's niece. And yet three days afterwards he
was quite ready to flirt with Miss Oriel.

If such things are done in the green wood, what will be done in the
dry?

And what had Mary said when these fervent protestations of an undying
love had been thrown at her feet? Mary, it must be remembered, was
very nearly of the same age as Frank; but, as I and others have so
often said before, "Women grow on the sunny side of the wall." Though
Frank was only a boy, it behoved Mary to be something more than a
girl. Frank might be allowed, without laying himself open to much
just reproach, to throw all of what he believed to be his heart into
a protestation of what he believed to be love; but Mary was in duty
bound to be more thoughtful, more reticent, more aware of the facts
of their position, more careful of her own feelings, and more careful
also of his.

And yet she could not put him down as another young lady might put
down another young gentleman. It is very seldom that a young man,
unless he be tipsy, assumes an unwelcome familiarity in his early
acquaintance with any girl; but when acquaintance has been long and
intimate, familiarity must follow as a matter of course. Frank and
Mary had been so much together in his holidays, had so constantly
consorted together as boys and girls, that, as regarded her, he had
not that innate fear of a woman which represses a young man's tongue;
and she was so used to his good-humour, his fun, and high jovial
spirits, and was, withal, so fond of them and him, that it was very
difficult for her to mark with accurate feeling, and stop with
reserved brow, the shade of change from a boy's liking to a man's
love.

And Beatrice, too, had done harm in this matter. With a spirit
painfully unequal to that of her grand relatives, she had quizzed
Mary and Frank about their early flirtations. This she had done; but
had instinctively avoided doing so before her mother and sister, and
had thus made a secret of it, as it were, between herself, Mary, and
her brother; - had given currency, as it were, to the idea that there
might be something serious between the two. Not that Beatrice had
ever wished to promote a marriage between them, or had even thought
of such a thing. She was girlish, thoughtless, imprudent, inartistic,
and very unlike a de Courcy. Very unlike a de Courcy she was in all
that; but, nevertheless, she had the de Courcy veneration for blood,
and, more than that, she had the Gresham feeling joined to that of
the de Courcys. The Lady Amelia would not for worlds have had the
de Courcy blood defiled; but gold she thought could not defile.
Now Beatrice was ashamed of her sister's marriage, and had often
declared, within her own heart, that nothing could have made her
marry a Mr Moffat.

She had said so also to Mary, and Mary had told her that she was
right. Mary also was proud of blood, was proud of her uncle's blood,
and the two girls talked together in all the warmth of girlish
confidence, of the great glories of family traditions and family
honours. Beatrice had talked in utter ignorance as to her friend's
birth; and Mary, poor Mary, she had talked, being as ignorant; but
not without a strong suspicion that, at some future time, a day of
sorrow would tell her some fearful truth.

On one point Mary's mind was strongly made up. No wealth, no mere
worldly advantage could make any one her superior. If she were born
a gentlewoman, then was she fit to match with any gentleman. Let
the most wealthy man in Europe pour all his wealth at her feet, she
could, if so inclined, give him back at any rate more than that.
That offered at her feet she knew she would never tempt her to yield
up the fortress of her heart, the guardianship of her soul, the
possession of her mind; not that alone, nor that, even, as any
possible slightest fraction of a make-weight.

If she were born a gentlewoman! And then came to her mind those
curious questions; what makes a gentleman? what makes a gentlewoman?
What is the inner reality, the spiritualised quintessence of that
privilege in the world which men call rank, which forces the
thousands and hundreds of thousands to bow down before the few elect?
What gives, or can give it, or should give it?

And she answered the question. Absolute, intrinsic, acknowledged,
individual merit must give it to its possessor, let him be whom, and
what, and whence he might. So far the spirit of democracy was strong
with her. Beyond this it could be had but by inheritance, received
as it were second-hand, or twenty-second-hand. And so far the spirit
of aristocracy was strong within her. All this she had, as may be
imagined, learnt in early years from her uncle; and all this she was
at great pains to teach Beatrice Gresham, the chosen of her heart.

When Frank declared that Mary had a right to give him an answer,
he meant that he had a right to expect one. Mary acknowledged this
right, and gave it to him.

"Mr Gresham," she said.

"Oh, Mary; Mr Gresham!"

"Yes, Mr Gresham. It must be Mr Gresham after that. And, moreover, it
must be Miss Thorne as well."

"I'll be shot if it shall, Mary."

"Well; I can't say that I shall be shot if it be not so; but if it be
not so, if you do not agree that it shall be so, I shall be turned
out of Greshamsbury."

"What! you mean my mother?" said Frank.

"Indeed, I mean no such thing," said Mary, with a flash from her eye
that made Frank almost start. "I mean no such thing. I mean you, not
your mother. I am not in the least afraid of Lady Arabella; but I am
afraid of you."

"Afraid of me, Mary!"

"Miss Thorne; pray, pray, remember. It must be Miss Thorne. Do not
turn me out of Greshamsbury. Do not separate me from Beatrice. It
is you that will drive me out; no one else. I could stand my ground
against your mother - I feel I could; but I cannot stand against you
if you treat me otherwise than - than - "

"Otherwise than what? I want to treat you as the girl I have chosen
from all the world as my wife."

"I am sorry you should so soon have found it necessary to make a
choice. But, Mr Gresham, we must not joke about this at present. I am
sure you would not willingly injure me; but if you speak to me, or of
me, again in that way, you will injure me, injure me so much that I
shall be forced to leave Greshamsbury in my own defence. I know you
are too generous to drive me to that."

And so the interview had ended. Frank, of course, went upstairs to
see if his new pocket-pistols were all ready, properly cleaned,
loaded, and capped, should he find, after a few days' experience,
that prolonged existence was unendurable.

However, he managed to live through the subsequent period; doubtless
with a view of preventing any disappointment to his father's guests.




CHAPTER VII

The Doctor's Garden


Mary had contrived to quiet her lover with considerable propriety
of demeanour. Then came on her the somewhat harder task of quieting
herself. Young ladies, on the whole, are perhaps quite as susceptible
of the softer feelings as young gentlemen are. Now Frank Gresham was
handsome, amiable, by no means a fool in intellect, excellent in
heart; and he was, moreover, a gentleman, being the son of Mr Gresham
of Greshamsbury. Mary had been, as it were, brought up to love him.
Had aught but good happened to him, she would have cried as for a
brother. It must not therefore be supposed that when Frank Gresham
told her that he loved her, she had heard it altogether unconcerned.

He had not, perhaps, made his declaration with that propriety of
language in which such scenes are generally described as being
carried on. Ladies may perhaps think that Mary should have been
deterred, by the very boyishness of his manner, from thinking at all
seriously on the subject. His "will you, won't you - do you, don't
you?" does not sound like the poetic raptures of a highly inspired
lover. But, nevertheless, there had been warmth, and a reality in it
not in itself repulsive; and Mary's anger - anger? no, not anger - her
objections to the declarations were probably not based on the
absurdity of her lover's language.

We are inclined to think that these matters are not always discussed
by mortal lovers in the poetically passionate phraseology which is
generally thought to be appropriate for their description. A man
cannot well describe that which he has never seen nor heard; but
the absolute words and acts of one such scene did once come to the
author's knowledge. The couple were by no means plebeian, or below
the proper standard of high bearing and high breeding; they were
a handsome pair, living among educated people, sufficiently given
to mental pursuits, and in every way what a pair of polite lovers
ought to be. The all-important conversation passed in this wise. The
site of the passionate scene was the sea-shore, on which they were
walking, in autumn.

Gentleman. "Well, Miss - - , the long and short of it is this: here
I am; you can take me or leave me."

Lady - scratching a gutter on the sand with her parasol, so as to
allow a little salt water to run out of one hole into another. "Of
course, I know that's all nonsense."

Gentleman. "Nonsense! By Jove, it isn't nonsense at all: come, Jane;
here I am: come, at any rate you can say something."

Lady. "Yes, I suppose I can say something."

Gentleman. "Well, which is it to be; take me or leave me?"

Lady - very slowly, and with a voice perhaps hardly articulate,
carrying on, at the same time, her engineering works on a wider
scale. "Well, I don't exactly want to leave you."

And so the matter was settled: settled with much propriety and
satisfaction; and both the lady and gentleman would have thought, had
they ever thought about the matter at all, that this, the sweetest
moment of their lives, had been graced by all the poetry by which
such moments ought to be hallowed.

When Mary had, as she thought, properly subdued young Frank, the
offer of whose love she, at any rate, knew was, at such a period of
his life, an utter absurdity, then she found it necessary to subdue
herself. What happiness on earth could be greater than the possession
of such a love, had the true possession been justly and honestly
within her reach? What man could be more lovable than such a man as
would grow from such a boy? And then, did she not love him, - love him
already, without waiting for any change? Did she not feel that there
was that about him, about him and about herself, too, which might so
well fit them for each other? It would be so sweet to be the sister
of Beatrice, the daughter of the squire, to belong to Greshamsbury as
a part and parcel of itself.

But though she could not restrain these thoughts, it never for a
moment occurred to her to take Frank's offer in earnest. Though she
was a grown woman, he was still a boy. He would have to see the world
before he settled in it, and would change his mind about woman half a
score of times before he married. Then, too, though she did not like
the Lady Arabella, she felt that she owed something, if not to her
kindness, at least to her forbearance; and she knew, felt inwardly
certain, that she would be doing wrong, that the world would say
she was doing wrong, that her uncle would think her wrong, if she
endeavoured to take advantage of what had passed.

She had not for an instant doubted; not for a moment had she
contemplated it as possible that she should ever become Mrs Gresham
because Frank had offered to make her so; but, nevertheless, she
could not help thinking of what had occurred - of thinking of it, most
probably much more than Frank did himself.

A day or two afterwards, on the evening before Frank's birthday, she
was alone with her uncle, walking in the garden behind their house,
and she then essayed to question him, with the object of learning if
she were fitted by her birth to be the wife of such a one as Frank
Gresham. They were in the habit of walking there together when he
happened to be at home of a summer's evening. This was not often the
case, for his hours of labour extended much beyond those usual to the
upper working world, the hours, namely, between breakfast and dinner;
but those minutes that they did thus pass together, the doctor
regarded as perhaps the pleasantest of his life.

"Uncle," said she, after a while, "what do you think of this marriage
of Miss Gresham's?"

"Well, Minnie" - such was his name of endearment for her - "I can't say
I have thought much about it, and I don't suppose anybody else has
either."

"She must think about it, of course; and so must he, I suppose."

"I'm not so sure of that. Some folks would never get married if they
had to trouble themselves with thinking about it."

"I suppose that's why you never got married, uncle?"

"Either that, or thinking of it too much. One is as bad as the
other."

Mary had not contrived to get at all near her point as yet; so she
had to draw off, and after a while begin again.

"Well, I have been thinking about it, at any rate, uncle."

"That's very good of you; that will save me the trouble; and perhaps
save Miss Gresham too. If you have thought it over thoroughly, that
will do for all."

"I believe Mr Moffat is a man of no family."

"He'll mend in that point, no doubt, when he has got a wife."

"Uncle, you're a goose; and what is worse, a very provoking goose."

"Niece, you're a gander; and what is worse, a very silly gander. What
is Mr Moffat's family to you and me? Mr Moffat has that which ranks
above family honours. He is a very rich man."

"Yes," said Mary, "I know he is rich; and a rich man I suppose can
buy anything - except a woman that is worth having."

"A rich man can buy anything," said the doctor; "not that I meant to
say that Mr Moffat has bought Miss Gresham. I have no doubt that they
will suit each other very well," he added with an air of decisive
authority, as though he had finished the subject.

But his niece was determined not to let him pass so. "Now, uncle,"
said she, "you know you are pretending to a great deal of worldly
wisdom, which, after all, is not wisdom at all in your eyes."

"Am I?"

"You know you are: and as for the impropriety of discussing Miss
Gresham's marriage - "

"I did not say it was improper."

"Oh, yes, you did; of course such things must be discussed. How is
one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the
things which happen around us?"

"Now I am going to be blown up," said Dr Thorne.

"Dear uncle, do be serious with me."

"Well, then, seriously, I hope Miss Gresham will be very happy as Mrs
Moffat."

"Of course you do: so do I. I hope it as much as I can hope what I
don't at all see ground for expecting."

"People constantly hope without any such ground."

"Well, then, I'll hope in this case. But, uncle - "

"Well, my dear?"

"I want your opinion, truly and really. If you were a girl - "

"I am perfectly unable to give any opinion founded on so strange an
hypothesis."

"Well; but if you were a marrying man."

"The hypothesis is quite as much out of my way."

"But, uncle, I am a girl, and perhaps I may marry; - or at any rate
think of marrying some day."

"The latter alternative is certainly possible enough."

"Therefore, in seeing a friend taking such a step, I cannot but
speculate on the matter as though I were myself in her place. If I
were Miss Gresham, should I be right?"

"But, Minnie, you are not Miss Gresham."

"No, I am Mary Thorne; it is a very different thing, I know. I
suppose _I_ might marry any one without degrading myself."

It was almost ill-natured of her to say this; but she had not meant
to say it in the sense which the sounds seemed to bear. She had
failed in being able to bring her uncle to the point she wished
by the road she had planned, and in seeking another road, she had
abruptly fallen into unpleasant places.

"I should be very sorry that my niece should think so," said he; "and
am sorry, too, that she should say so. But, Mary, to tell the truth,
I hardly know at what you are driving. You are, I think, not so clear
minded - certainly, not so clear worded - as is usual with you."

"I will tell you, uncle;" and, instead of looking up into his face,
she turned her eyes down on the green lawn beneath her feet.

"Well, Minnie, what is it?" and he took both her hands in his.

"I think that Miss Gresham should not marry Mr Moffat. I think so
because her family is high and noble, and because he is low and
ignoble. When one has an opinion on such matters, one cannot but
apply it to things and people around one; and having applied my
opinion to her, the next step naturally is to apply it to myself.
Were I Miss Gresham, I would not marry Mr Moffat though he rolled
in gold. I know where to rank Miss Gresham. What I want to know is,
where I ought to rank myself?"

They had been standing when she commenced her last speech; but as
she finished it, the doctor moved on again, and she moved with him.
He walked on slowly without answering her; and she, out of her full
mind, pursued aloud the tenor of her thoughts.

"If a woman feels that she would not lower herself by marrying in
a rank beneath herself, she ought also to feel that she would not
lower a man that she might love by allowing him to marry into a rank
beneath his own - that is, to marry her."

"That does not follow," said the doctor quickly. "A man raises a
woman to his own standard, but a woman must take that of the man she
marries."

Again they were silent, and again they walked on, Mary holding her
uncle's arm with both her hands. She was determined, however, to come
to the point, and after considering for a while how best she might
do it, she ceased to beat any longer about the bush, and asked him a
plain question.

"The Thornes are as good a family as the Greshams, are they not?"

"In absolute genealogy they are, my dear. That is, when I choose to
be an old fool and talk of such matters in a sense different from
that in which they are spoken of by the world at large, I may say
that the Thornes are as good, or perhaps better, than the Greshams,
but I should be sorry to say so seriously to any one. The Greshams
now stand much higher in the county than the Thornes do."

"But they are of the same class."

"Yes, yes; Wilfred Thorne of Ullathorne, and our friend the squire
here, are of the same class."

"But, uncle, I and Augusta Gresham - are we of the same class?"

"Well, Minnie, you would hardly have me boast that I am the same
class with the squire - I, a poor country doctor?"

"You are not answering me fairly, dear uncle; dearest uncle, do you
not know that you are not answering me fairly? You know what I mean.
Have I a right to call the Thornes of Ullathorne my cousins?"

"Mary, Mary, Mary!" said he after a minute's pause, still allowing
his arm to hang loose, that she might hold it with both her hands.
"Mary, Mary, Mary! I would that you had spared me this!"



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