Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 29

The Donkey Ride

Sir Louis, when left to himself, was slightly dismayed and somewhat discouraged; but he was not induced to give up his object. The first effort of his mind was made in conjecturing what private motive Dr Thorne could possibly have in wishing to debar his niece from marrying a rich young baronet. That the objection was personal to himself, Sir Louis did not for a moment imagine. Could it be that the doctor did not wish that his niece should be richer, and grander, and altogether bigger than himself? Or was it possible that his guardian was anxious to prevent him from marrying from some view of the reversion of the large fortune? That there was some such reason, Sir Louis was well sure; but let it be what it might, he would get the better of the doctor. ‘He knew so,’ so he said to himself, ‘what stuff girls were made of. Baronets did not grow like blackberries.’ And so, assuring himself with such philosophy, he determined to make his offer.

The time he selected for doing this was the hour before dinner; but on the day on which his conversation with the doctor had taken place, he was deterred by the presence of a strange visitor. To account for this strange visit it will be necessary that we should return to Greshamsbury for a few minutes.

Frank, when he returned home for his summer vacation, found that Mary had again flown; and the very fact of her absence added fuel to the fire of his love, more perhaps then even her presence might have done. For the flight of the quarry ever adds eagerness to the pursuit of the huntsman. Lady Arabella, moreover, had a bitter enemy; a foe, utterly opposed to her side in the contest, where she had once fondly looked for her staunchest ally. Frank was now in the habit of corresponding with Miss Dunstable, and received from her most energetic admonitions to be true to the love which he had sworn. True to it he resolved to be; and, therefore, when he found that Mary was flown, he resolved to fly after her.

He did not, however, do this till he had been in a measure provoked by it by the sharp-tongued cautions and blunted irony of his mother. It was not enough for her that she had banished Mary out of the parish, and made Dr Thorne’s life miserable; not enough that she harassed her husband with harangues on the constant subject of Frank’s marrying money, and dismayed Beatrice with invectives against the iniquity of her friend. The snake was so but scotched; to kill it outright she must induce Frank utterly to renounce Miss Thorne.

This task she essayed, but not exactly with success. ‘Well, mother,’ said Frank, at last turning very red, partly with shame, and partly with indignation, as he made the frank avowal, ‘since you press me about it, I tell you fairly that my mind is made up to marry Mary sooner or later, if —’

‘Oh, Frank! good heavens! you wicked boy; you are saying this purposely to drive me distracted.’

‘If,’ continued Frank, not attending to his mother’s interjections, ‘if she will consent.’

‘Consent!’ said Lady Arabella. ‘Oh, heavens!’ and falling into the corner of her sofa, she buried her face in her handkerchief.

‘Yes, mother, if she will consent. And now that I have told you so much, it is only just that I should tell you this also; that as far as I can see at present I have no reason to hope that she will do so.’

‘Oh, Frank, the girl is doing all she can to catch you,’ said Lady Arabella—not prudently.

‘No, mother; there you wrong her altogether; wrong her most cruelly.’

‘You ungracious, wicked boy! you call me cruel!’

‘I don’t call you cruel; but you wrong her cruelly, most cruelly. When I have spoken to her about this—for I have spoken to her—she has behaved exactly as you would have wanted her to do; but not at all as I wished her. She has given me no encouragement. You have turned her out among you’—Frank was beginning to be very bitter now —‘but she has done nothing to deserve it. If there has been any fault it has been mine. But it is well now that we should understand each other. My intention is to marry Mary if I can.’ And, so speaking, certainly without due filial respect, he turned towards the door.

‘Frank,’ said his mother, raising herself up with energy to make one last appeal. ‘Frank, do you wish to see me die of a broken heart?’

‘You know, mother, I would wish to make you happy, if I could.’

‘If you wish to see me ever happy again, if you do not wish to see me sink broken-hearted to my grave, you must give up this mad idea, Frank,’—and now all Lady Arabella’s energy came out. ‘Frank there is but one course left open to you. You MUST marry money.’ And then Lady Arabella stood up before her son as Lady Macbeth might have stood, had Lady Macbeth lived to have a son of Frank’s years.

‘Miss Dunstable, I suppose,’ said Frank, scornfully. ‘No, mother; I made an ass and worse than an ass of myself once in that way, and I won’t do it again. I hate money.’

‘Oh, Frank!’

‘I hate money.’

‘But, Frank, the estate?’

‘I hate the estate—at least I shall hate it if I am expected to buy it at such a price as that. The estate is my father’s.’

‘Oh, no, Frank; it is not.’

‘It is in the sense I mean. He may do with it as he pleases; he will never have a word of complaint from me. I am ready to go into a profession tomorrow. I’ll be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer; I don’t care what.’ Frank, in his enthusiasm, probably overlooked some of the preliminary difficulties. ‘Or I’ll take a farm under him, and earn my bread that way; but, mother, don’t talk to me any more about marrying money.’ And, so saying, Frank left the room.

Frank, it will be remembered, was twenty-one when he was first introduced to the reader; he is now twenty-two. It may be said that there was a great difference between his character then and now. A year at that period will make a great difference; but the change has been, not in his character, but in his feelings.

Frank went out from his mother and immediately ordered his black horse to be got ready for him. He would at once go over to Boxall Hill. He went himself to the stables to give his orders; and as he returned to get his gloves and whip he met Beatrice in the corridor.

‘Beatrice,’ said he, ‘step in here,’ and she followed him into his room. ‘I’m not going to bear this any longer; I’m going to Boxall Hill.’

‘Oh, Frank! how can you be so imprudent?’

‘You, at any rate, have some decent feeling for Mary. I believe you have some regard for her; and therefore I tell you. Will you send her any message?’

‘Oh, yes; my best, best love; that is if you will see her; but, Frank, you are very foolish, very; and she will be infinitely distressed.’

‘Do not mention this, not at present; not that I mean you to make any secret of it. I shall tell my father everything. I’m off now!’ and then, paying no attention to her remonstrance, he turned down the stairs and was soon on horseback.

He took the road to Boxall Hill, but he did not ride very fast: he did not go jauntily as a jolly, thriving wooer; but musingly, and often with diffidence, meditating every now and then whether it would not be better for him to turn back: to turn back—but not from fear of his mother; not from prudential motives; not because that often-repeated lesson as to marrying money was beginning to take effect; not from such causes as these; but because he doubted how he might be received by Mary.

He did, it is true, think something about his worldly prospects. He had talked rather grandiloquently to his mother as to his hating money, and hating the estate. His mother’s never-ceasing worldly cares on such subjects perhaps demanded that a little grandiloquence should be opposed to them. But Frank did not hate the estate; nor did he at all hate the position of an English country gentleman. Miss Dunstable’s eloquence, however, rang in his ears. For Miss Dunstable had an eloquence of her own, even in her letters. ‘Never let them talk you out of your own true, honest, hearty feelings,’ she had said. ‘Greshamsbury is a very nice place, I am sure; and I hope I shall see it some day; but all its green knolls are not half so nice, should not be half so precious, as the pulses of your own heart. That is your own estate, your own, your very own—your own and another’s; whatever may go to the money-lenders, don’t send that there. Don’t mortgage that, Mr Gresham.’

‘No,’ said Frank, pluckily, as he put his horse into a faster trot, ‘I won’t mortgage that. They may do what they like with the estate; but my heart’s my own,’ and so speaking to himself, almost aloud, he turned a corner of the road rapidly and came at once upon the doctor.

‘Hallo, doctor! is that you?’ said Frank, rather disgusted.

‘What! Frank! I hardly expected to meet you here,’ said Dr Thorne, not much better pleased.

They were now not above a mile from Boxall Hill, and the doctor, therefore, could not but surmise whither Frank was going. They had repeatedly met since Frank’s return from Cambridge, both in the village and in the doctor’s house; but not a word had been said between them about Mary beyond what the merest courtesy had required. Not that each did not love the other sufficiently to make a full confidence between them desirable to both; but neither had had the courage to speak out.

Nor had either of them the courage to do so now. ‘Yes,’ said Frank, blushing, ‘I am going to Lady Scatcherd’s. Shall I find the ladies at home?’

‘Yes; Lady Scatcherd is there; but Sir Louis is there also—an invalid: perhaps you would not wish to meet him.’

‘Oh! I don’t mind,’ said Frank, trying to laugh; ‘he won’t bite, I suppose?’

The doctor longed in his heart to pray to Frank to return with him; not to go and make further mischief; not to do that which might cause a more bitter estrangement between himself and the squire. But he had not the courage to do it. He could not bring himself to accuse Frank of being in love with his niece. So after a few more senseless words on either side, words which each knew to be senseless as he uttered them, they both rode on their own ways.

And then the doctor silently, and almost unconsciously, made such a comparison between Louis Scatcherd and Frank Gresham as Hamlet made between the dead and live king. It was Hyperion to a satyr. Was it not as impossible that Mary should not love the one, as that she should love the other? Frank’s offer of his affections had at first probably been but a boyish ebullition of feeling; but if it should now be, that this had grown into a manly and disinterested love, how could Mary remain unmoved? What could her heart want more, better, more beautiful, more rich than such a love as this? Was he not personally all that a girl could like? Were not his disposition, mind, character, acquirements, all such as women most delight to love? Was it not impossible that Mary should be indifferent to him?

So meditated the doctor as he road along, with only too true a knowledge of human nature. Ah! it was impossible, quite impossible that Mary should be indifferent. She had never been indifferent since Frank had uttered his first half-joking word of love. Such things are more important to women than they are to men, to girls than they are to boys. When Frank had first told her that he loved her; aye, months before that, when he merely looked his love, her heart had received the whisper, had acknowledged the glance, unconscious as she was herself, and resolved as she was to rebuke his advances. When, in her hearing, he had said soft nothings to Patience Oriel, a hated, irrepressible tear had gathered in her eye. When he had pressed in his warm, loving grasp the hand which she had offered in him in token of mere friendship, her heart had forgiven him the treachery, nay, almost thanked him for it, before her eyes or her words had been ready to rebuke him. When the rumour of his liaison with Miss Dunstable reached her ears, when she heard of Miss Dunstable’s fortune, she had wept, wept outright, in her chamber—wept, as she said to herself, to think that he could be so mercenary; but she had wept, as she should have said to herself, at finding that he was so faithless. Then, when she knew at last that this rumour was false, when she found that she was banished from Greshamsbury for his sake, when she was forced to retreat with her friend Patience, how could she but love him, in that he was not mercenary? How could she not love him in that was so faithful?

It was impossible that she should not love him. Was he not the brightest and the best of men that she had ever seen, or was like to see?—that she could possibly ever see, she would have said to herself, could she have brought herself to own the truth? And then, when she heard how true he was, how he persisted against father, mother, and sisters, how could it be that that should not be a merit in her eyes which was so great a fault in theirs? When Beatrice, with would-be solemn face, but with eyes beaming with feminine affection, would gravely talk of Frank’s tender love as a terrible misfortune, as a misfortune to them all, to Mary herself as well as others, how could Mary do other than love him? ‘Beatrice is his sister,’ she would say within her own mind, ‘otherwise she would never talk like this; were she not his sister, she could not but know the value of such love as this.’ Ah! yes; Mary did love him; love him with all the strength of her heart; and the strength of her heart was very great. And now by degrees, in those lonely donkey-rides at Boxall Hill, in those solitary walks, she was beginning to own to herself the truth.

And now that she did own it, what should be her course? What should she do, how should she act if this loved one persevered in his love? And, ah! what should she do, how should she act if he did not persevere? Could it be that there should be happiness in store for her? Was it not too clear that, let the matter go how it would, there was no happiness in store for her? Much as she might love Frank Gresham, she could never consent to be his wife unless the squire would smile on her as his daughter-inlaw. The squire had been all that was kind, all that was affectionate. And then, too, Lady Arabella! As she thought of the Lady Arabella a sterner form of thought came across her brow. Why should Lady Arabella rob her of her heart’s joy? What was Lady Arabella that she, Mary Thorne, need quail before her? Had Lady Arabella stood only in her way, Lady Arabella, flanked by the De Courcy legion, Mary felt that she could have demanded Frank’s hand as her own before them all without a blush of shame or a moment’s hesitation. Thus, when her heart was all but ready to collapse within her, would she gain some little strength by thinking of the Lady Arabella.

‘Please, my lady, here be young squire Gresham,’ said one of the untutored servants at Boxall Hill, opening Lady Scatcherd’s little parlour door as her ladyship was amusing herself by pulling down and turning, and re-folding, and putting up again, a heap of household linen which was kept in a huge press for the express purpose of supplying her with occupation.

Lady Scatcherd, holding a vast counterpane in her arms, looked back over her shoulders and perceived that Frank was in the room. Down went the counterpane on the ground, and Frank soon found himself in the very position which that useful article had so lately filled.

‘Oh! Master Frank! oh, Master Frank!’ said her ladyship, almost in an hysterical fit of joy; and then she hugged and kissed him as she had never kissed and hugged her own son since that son had first left the parent nest.

Frank bore it patiently and with a merry laugh. ‘But, Lady Scatcherd,’ said he, ‘what will they all say? you forget I am a man now,’ and he stooped his head as she again pressed her lips upon his forehead.

‘I don’t care what none of ’em say,’ said her ladyship, quite going back to her old days; ‘I will kiss my own boy; so I will. Eh, but Master Frank, this is good on you. A sight of you is good for sore eyes; and my eyes have been sore enough since I saw you;’ and she put her apron up to wipe a tear away.

‘Yes,’ said Frank, gently trying to disengage himself, but not successfully: ‘yes, you have had a great loss, Lady Scatcherd. I was so sorry when I heard of your grief.’

‘You always had a soft, kind heart, Master Frank; so you had. God’s blessing on you! What a fine man you have grown! Deary me! Well, it seems as though it were only just t’other day like.’ And she pushed him a little from her, so that she might look the better into his face.

‘Well. Is it all right? I suppose you would hardly know me again now I’ve got a pair of whiskers?’

‘Know you! I should know you well if I saw but the heel of your foot. Why, what a head of hair you have got, and so dark too! but it doesn’t curl as it used once.’ And she stroked his hair, and looked into his eyes, and put her hand to his cheeks. ‘You’ll think me an old fool, Master Frank: I know that; but you may think what you like. If I live for the next twenty years you’ll always be my own boy; so you will.’

By degrees, slow degrees, Frank managed to change the conversation, and to induce Lady Scatcherd to speak on some other topic than his own infantine perfections. He affected an indifference as he spoke of her guest, which would have deceived no one but Lady Scatcherd; but her it did deceive; and then he asked where Mary was.

‘She’s just gone out on her donkey—somewhere about the place. She rides on a donkey mostly every day. But you’ll stop and take a bit of dinner with us? Eh, now do’ee, Master Frank.’

But Master Frank excused himself. He did not choose to pledge himself to sit down to dinner with Mary. He did not know in what mood they might return with regard to each other at dinner-time. He said, therefore, that he would return to the house again before he went.

Lady Scatcherd then began making apologies for Sir Louis. He was an invalid; the doctor had been with him all the morning, and he was not yet out of his room.

These apologies Frank willingly accepted, and then made his way as his could on to the lawn. A gardener, of whom he inquired, offered to go with him in pursuit of Miss Thorne. This assistance, however, he declined, and set forth in quest of her, having learnt what were her most usual haunts. Nor was he directed wrongly; for after walking about twenty minutes, he saw through the trees the legs of a donkey moving on the green-sward, at about two hundred yards from him. On that donkey doubtless sat Mary Thorne.

The donkey was coming towards him; not exactly in a straight line, but so much so as to make it impossible that Mary should not see him if he stood still. He did stand still, and soon emerging from the trees, Mary saw him all but close to her.

Her heart gave a leap within her, but she was so far mistress of herself as to repress any visible sign of outward emotion. She did not fall from her donkey, or scream, or burst into tears. She merely uttered the words, ‘Mr Gresham!’ in a tone of not unnatural surprise.

‘Yes,’ said he, trying to laugh, but less successful than she had been suppressing a show of feeling. ‘Mr Gresham! I have come over at last to pay my respects to you. You must have thought me very uncourteous not to do so before.’

This she denied. She had not, she said, thought him at all uncivil. She had come to Boxall Hill to be out of the way; and, of course, had not expected any such formalities. As she uttered this she almost blushed at the abrupt truth of what she was saying. But she was taken so much unawares that she did not know how to make the truth other than abrupt.

‘To be out of the way!’ said Frank. ‘And why should you want to be out of the way?’

‘Oh! there were reasons,‘said she, laughing. ‘Perhaps I have quarrelled dreadfully with my uncle.’

Frank at the present moment had not about him a scrap of badinage. He had not a single easy word at his command. He could not answer her with anything in guise of a joke; so he walked on, not answering at all.

‘I hope all my friends at Greshamsbury are well,’ said Mary. ‘Is Beatrice quite well?’

‘Quite well,’ said he.

‘And Patience?’

‘What, Miss Oriel; yes, I believe so. I haven’t seen her this day or two.’ How was it that Mary felt a little flush of joy, as Frank spoke in this indifferent way about Miss Oriel’s health?

‘I thought she was always a particular friend of yours,’ said she.

‘What! who? Miss Oriel? So she is! I like her amazingly; so does Beatrice.’ And then he walked about six steps in silence, plucking up courage for the great attempt. He did pluck up his courage and then rushed at once to the attack.

‘Mary!’ said he, and as he spoke he put his hand on the donkey’s neck, and looked tenderly into her face. He looked tenderly, and, as Mary’s ear at once told her, his voice sounded more soft than it had ever sounded before. ‘Mary, do you remember the last time that we were together?’

Mary did remember it well. It was on that occasion when he had treacherously held her hand; on that day when, according to law, he had become a man; when he had outraged all the propriety of the De Courcy interest by offering his love to Mary in Augusta’s hearing. Mary did remember it well; but how was she to speak of it? ‘It was your birthday, I think,’ said she.

‘Yes, it was my birthday. I wonder whether you remember what I said to you then?’

‘I remember that you were very foolish, Mr Gresham.’

‘Mary, I have come to repeat my folly;—that is, if it be folly. I told you then that I loved you, and I dare say that I did it awkwardly, like a boy. Perhaps I may be just as awkward now; but you ought at any rate to believe me when you find that a year has not altered me.’

Mary did not think him at all awkward, and she did believe him. But how was she to answer him? She had not yet taught herself what answer she ought to make if he persisted in his suit. She had hitherto been content to run away from him; but she had done so because she would not submit to be accused of the indelicacy of putting herself in his way. She had rebuked him when he first spoke of his love; but she had done so because she looked on what he said as a boy’s nonsense. She had schooled herself in obedience to the Greshamsbury doctrines. Was there any real reason, any reason founded on truth and honesty, why she should not be a fitting wife to Frank Gresham—Francis Newbold Gresham, of Greshamsbury, though he was, or was to be?’

He was well born—as well born as any gentleman in England. She was basely born—as basely born as any lady could be. Was this sufficient bar against such a match? Mary felt in her heart that some twelvemonth since, before she knew what little she did now know of her own story, she would have said it was so. And would she indulge her own love by inveigling him she loved into a base marriage? But then reason spoke again. What, after all, was this blood of which she had taught herself to think so much? Would she have been more honest, more fit to grace an honest man’s hearthstone, had she been the legitimate descendant of a score of legitimate duchesses? Was it not her first duty to think of him—of what would make him happy? Then of her uncle—what he would approve? Then of herself—what would best become her modesty; her sense of honour? Could it be well that she should sacrifice the happiness of two persons to a theoretic love of pure blood?

So she had argued within herself. Not now, sitting on the donkey, with Frank’s hand before her on the tame brute’s neck; but on other former occasions as she had ridden along demurely among those trees. So she had argued; but she had never brought her arguments to a decision. All manner of thoughts crowded on her to prevent her doing so. She would think of the squire, and resolve to reject Frank; and would then remember Lady Arabella, and resolve to accept him. Her resolutions, however, were most irresolute; and so, when Frank appeared in person before her, carrying his heart in his hand, she did not know what answer to make to him. Thus it was with her as with so many other maidens similarly circumstanced; at last she left it all to chance.

‘You ought at any rate, to believe me,’ said Frank, ‘when you find that a year has not altered me.’

‘A year should have taught you to be wiser,‘said she. ‘You should have learnt by this time, Mr Gresham, that your lot and mine are not cast in the same mould; that our stations in life are different. Would your father or mother approve of your even coming here to see me?’

Mary, as she spoke these sensible words, felt that they were ‘flat, stale, and unprofitable.’ She felt also, that they were not true in sense; that they did not come from her heart; that they were not such as Frank deserved at her hands, and she was ashamed of herself.

‘My father I hope will approve of it,’ said he. ‘That my mother should disapprove of it is a misfortune which I cannot help; but on this point I will take no answer from my father or mother; the question is one too personal to myself. Mary, if you say that you will not, or cannot return my love, I will go away;—not from here only, but from Greshamsbury. My presence shall not banish you from all that you hold dear. If you can honestly say that I am nothing to you, can be nothing to you, I will then tell my mother that she may be at ease, and I will go away somewhere and get over it as I may.’ The poor fellow got so far, looking apparently at the donkey’s ears, with hardly a gasp of hope in his voice, and he so far carried Mary with him that she also had hardly a gasp of hope in her heart. There he paused for a moment, and then looking up into her face, he spoke but one word more. ‘But,’ said he—and there he stopped. It was clearly told in that ‘but’. Thus would he do if Mary would declare that she did not care for him. If, however, she could not bring herself so to declare, then was he ready to throw his father and mother to the winds; then would he stand his ground; then would he look all other difficulties in the face, sure that they might finally be overcome. Poor Mary! the whole onus of settling the matter was thus thrown upon her. She had only to say that he was indifferent to her;—that was all.

If ‘all the blood of the Howards’ had depended upon it, she could not have brought herself to utter such a falsehood. Indifferent to her, as he walked there by her donkey’s side, talking thus earnestly of his love for her! Was he not to her like some god come from the heavens to make her blessed? Did not the sun shine upon him with a halo, so that he was bright as an angel? Indifferent to her! Could the open unadulterated truth have been practicable for her, she would have declared her indifference in terms that would truly have astonished him. As it was, she found it easier to say nothing. She bit her lips to keep herself from sobbing. She struggled hard, but in vain, to prevent her hands and feet from trembling. She seemed to swing upon her donkey as though like to fall, and would have given much to be upon her own feet in the sward.

‘Si la jeunesse savait . . .’ There is so much in that wicked old French proverb! Had Frank known more about a woman’s mind—had he, that is, been forty-two instead of twenty-two he would at once have been sure of his game, and have felt that Mary’s silence told him all he wished to know. But then, had been forty-two instead of twenty-two, he would not have been so ready to risk the acres of Greshamsbury for the smiles of Mary Thorne.

‘If you can’t say one word to comfort me, I will go,’ said he, disconsolately. ‘I made up my mind to tell you this, and so I came over. I told Lady Scatcherd I should not stay—not even for dinner.’

‘I did not know you were so hurried,’ said she, almost in a whisper.

On a sudden he stood still, and pulling the donkey’s rein, caused him to stand still also. The beast required very little persuasion to be so guided, and obligingly remained meekly passive.

‘Mary, Mary!’ said Frank, throwing his arms round her knees as she sat upon her steed, and pressing his face against her body. ‘Mary, you were always honest; be honest now. I love you with all my heart. Will you be my wife?’

But still Mary said not a word. She no longer bit her lips; she was beyond that, and was now using all her efforts to prevent her tears from falling absolutely on her lover’s face. She said nothing. She could no more rebuke him now and send him from her than she could encourage him. She could only sit there shaking and crying and wishing she was on the ground. Frank, on the whole, rather liked the donkey. It enabled him to approach somewhat nearer to an embrace than he might have found practicable had they both been on their feet. The donkey himself was quite at his ease, and looked as though he was approvingly conscious of what was going on behind his ears.

‘I have a right to a word, Mary; say, “Go”, and I will leave you at once.’

But Mary did not say ‘Go’. Perhaps she would have done so had she been able; but just at present she could say nothing. This came from her having failed to make up her mind in due time as to what course it would best become her to follow.

‘One word, Mary; one little word. There, if you will not speak, here is my hand. If you will have it, let it lie in yours;—if not, push it away.’ So saying, he managed to get the end of his fingers on to her palm, and there it remained unrepulsed. ‘La jeuness’ was beginning to get a lesson; experience when duly sought after sometimes comes early in life.

In truth Mary had not strength to push the fingers away. ‘My love, my own, my own!’ said Frank, presuming on this very negative sign of acquiescence. ‘My life, my own, my own Mary!’ and then the hand was caught hold of and was at his lips before an effort could be made to save it from such treatment.

‘Mary, look at me; say one word to me.’

There was a deep sigh, and then came the one word —‘Oh, Frank!’

‘Mr Gresham, I hope I have the honour of seeing you quite well,’ said a voice close to his ear. ‘I beg to say that you are welcome to Boxall Hill.’ Frank turned round and instantly found himself shaking hands with Sir Louis Scatcherd.

How Mary got over her confusion Frank never saw, for he had enough to do to get over his own. He involuntarily deserted Mary and began talking very fast to Sir Louis. Sir Louis did not once look at Miss Thorne, but walked back towards the house with Mr Gresham, sulky enough in temper, but still making some effort to do the fine gentleman. Mary, glad to be left alone, merely occupied herself with sitting on the donkey; and the donkey, when he found that the two gentlemen went towards the house, for company’s sake and for his stable’s sake, followed after them.

Frank stayed but three minutes in the house; gave another kiss to Lady Scatcherd, getting three in return, and thereby infinitely disgusting Sir Louis, shook hands, anything but warmly, with the young baronet, and just felt the warmth of Mary’s hand within his own. He felt also the warmth of her eyes’ last glance, and rode home a happy man.

Last updated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 20:41