During the last twelve months Sir Louis Scatcherd had been very efficacious in bringing trouble, turmoil, and vexation upon Greshamsbury. Now that it was too late to take steps to save himself, Dr Thorne found that the will left by Sir Roger was so made as to entail upon him duties that he would find it almost impossible to perform. Sir Louis, though his father had wished to make him still a child in the eye of the law, was no child. He knew his own rights and was determined to exact them; and before Sir Roger had been dead three months, the doctor found himself in continual litigation with a low Barchester attorney, who was acting on behalf of his, the doctor’s, own ward.
And if the doctor suffered so did the squire, and so did those who had hitherto had the management of the squire’s affairs. Dr Thorne soon perceived that he was to be driven into litigation, not only with Mr Finnie, the Barchester attorney, but with the squire himself. While Finnie harassed him, he was compelled to harass Mr Gresham. He was no lawyer himself; and though he had been able to manage very well between the squire and Sir Roger, and had perhaps given himself some credit for his lawyer-like ability in so doing, he was utterly unable to manage between Sir Louis and Mr Gresham.
He had, therefore, to employ a lawyer on his own account, and it seemed probable that the whole amount of Sir Roger’s legacy to himself would by degrees be expended in this manner. And then the squire’s lawyers had to take up the matter; and they did so greatly to the detriment of poor Mr Yates Umbleby, who was found to have made a mess of the affairs entrusted to him. Mr Umbleby’s accounts were incorrect; his mind was anything but clear, and he confessed, when put to it by the very sharp gentleman that came down from London, that he was ‘bothered’; and so, after a while, he was suspended from his duties, and Mr Gazebee, the sharp gentleman from London, reigned over the diminished rent-roll of the Greshamsbury estate.
Thus everything was going wrong at Greshamsbury—with the one exception of Mr Oriel and his love-suit. Miss Gushing attributed the deposition of Mr Umbleby to the narrowness of the victory which Beatrice had won in carrying off Mr Oriel. For Miss Gushing was a relation of the Umblebys, and had been for many years one of their family. ‘If she had only chosen to exert herself as Miss Gresham had done, she could have had Mr Oriel, easily; oh, too easily! but she had despised such work,’ so she said. ‘But though she had despised it, the Greshams had not been less irritated, and, therefore, Mr Umbleby had been driven out of his house.’ We can hardly believe this, as victory generally makes men generous. Miss Gushing, however, stated it as a fact so often that it is probable she was induced to believe it herself.
Thus everything was going wrong at Greshamsbury, and the squire himself was especially a sufferer. Umbleby had at any rate been his own man, and he could do what he liked with him. He could see him when he liked, and where he liked, and now he liked; could scold him if in an ill-humour, and laugh at him when in a good humour. All this Mr Umbleby knew, and bore. But Mr Gazebee was a very different sort of gentleman; he was the junior partner in the firm of Gumption, Gazebee & Gazebee of Mount Street, a house that never defiled itself with any other business than the agency business, and that in the very highest line. They drew out leases, and managed property both for the Duke of Omnium and Lord De Courcy; and ever since her marriage, it had been one of the objects dearest to Lady Arabella’s heart that the Greshamsbury acres should be superintended by the polite skill and polished legal ability of that all but elegant firm in Mount Street.
The squire had long stood firm, and had delighted in having everything done under his own eye by poor Mr Yates Umbleby. But now, alas! he could stand it no longer. He had put off the evil day as long as he could; he had deferred the odious work of investigation till things had seemed resolved on investigating themselves; and then, when it was absolutely necessary that Mr Umbleby should go, there was nothing for him left but to fall into the ready hands of Messrs Gumption, Gazebee and Gazebee.
It must not be supposed that Messrs Gumption, Gazebee and Gazebee were in the least like the ordinary run of attorneys. They wrote no letters for six-and-eightpence each: they collected no debts, filed no bills, made no charge per folio for ‘whereases’ and ‘as aforesaids’; they did no dirty work, and probably were as ignorant of the interior of a court of law as any young lady living in their Mayfair vicinity. No; their business was to manage the property of great people, draw up leases, make legal assignments, get the family marriage settlements made, and look after wills. Occasionally, also, they had to raise money; but it was generally understood that this was done by proxy.
The firm had been going on for a hundred and fifty years, and the designation had often been altered; but it always consisted of Gumptions and Gazebees differently arranged, and no less hallowed names had ever been permitted to appear. It had been Gazebee, Gazebee and Gumption; then Gazebee and Gumption; then Gazebee, Gumption and Gumption; then Gumption, Gumption and Gazebee; and now it was Gumption, Gazebee and Gazebee.
Mr Gazebee, the junior member of this firm, was a very elegant young man. While looking at him riding in Rotten Row, you would hardly have taken him for an attorney; and had he heard that you had so taken him, he would have been very much surprised indeed. He was rather bald; not being, as people say, quite so young as he was once. His exact age was thirty-eight. But he had a really remarkable pair of jet-black whiskers, which fully made up for his deficiency as to his head; he had also dark eyes, and a beaked nose, what may be called a distinguished mouth, and was always dressed in fashionable attire. The fact was, that Mr Mortimer Gazebee, junior partner in the firm Gumption, Gazebee, and Gazebee, by no means considered himself to be made of that very disagreeable material which mortals call small beer.
When this great firm was applied to get Mr Gresham through his difficulties, and when the state of his affairs was made known to them, they at first expressed rather a disinclination for the work. But at last, moved doubtless by their respect for the De Courcy interest, they assented; and Mr Gazebee, junior, went down to Greshamsbury. The poor squire passed many a sad day after that before he again felt himself to be master even of his own domain.
Nevertheless, when Mr Mortimer Gazebee visited Greshamsbury, which he did on more than one or two occasions, he was always received en grand seigneur. To Lady Arabella he was by no means an unwelcome guest, for she found herself able, for the first time in her life, to speak confidentially on her husband’s pecuniary affairs with the man who had the management of her husband’s property. Mr Gazebee also was a pet with Lady De Courcy; and being known to be a fashionable man in London, and quite a different sort of person from poor Mr Umbleby, he was always received with smiles. He had a hundred little ways of making himself agreeable, and Augusta declared to her cousin, the Lady Amelia, after having been acquainted with him for a few months, that he would be a perfect gentleman, only, that his family had never been anything but attorneys. The Lady Amelia smiled in her own peculiarly aristocratic way, shrugged her shoulders slightly, and said, ‘that Mr Mortimer Gazebee was a very good sort of person, very.’ Poor Augusta felt herself snubbed, thinking perhaps of the tailor’s son; but as there was never any appeal against the Lady Amelia, she said nothing more at that moment in favour of Mr Mortimer Gazebee.
All these evils—Mr Mortimer Gazebee being the worst of them—had Sir Louis Scatcherd brought down on the poor squire’s head. There may be those who will say that the squire had brought them on himself, by running into debt; and so, doubtless, he had; but it was not the less true that the baronet’s interference was unnecessary, vexatious, and one might almost say, malicious. His interest would have been quite safe in the doctor’s hands, and he had, in fact, no legal right to meddle; but neither the doctor nor the squire could prevent him. Mr Finnie knew very well what he was about, if Sir Louis did not; and so the three went on, each with his own lawyer, and each of them distrustful, unhappy, and ill at ease. This was hard upon the doctor, for he was not in debt, and had borrowed no money.
There was not much reason to suppose that the visit of Sir Louis to Greshamsbury would much improve matters. It must be presumed that he was not coming with any amicable views, but with the object rather of looking after his own; a phrase which was now constantly in his mouth. He might probably find it necessary while looking after his own at Greshamsbury, to say some very disagreeable things to the squire; and the doctor, therefore, hardly expected that the visit would go off pleasantly.
When last he saw Sir Louis, now nearly twelve months since, he was intent on making a proposal of marriage to Miss Thorne. This intention he carried out about two days after Frank Gresham had done the same thing. He had delayed doing so till he had succeeded in purchasing his friend Jenkins’s Arab pony, imagining that such a present could not but go far in weaning Mary’s heart from her other lover. Poor Mary was put to the trouble of refusing both the baronet and the pony, and a very bad time she had of it while doing so. Sir Louis was a man easily angered, and not very easily pacified, and Mary had to endure a good deal of annoyance; from any other person, indeed, she would have called it impertinence. Sir Louis, however, had to bear his rejection as best he could, and, after a perseverance of three days, returned to London in disgust; and Mary had not seen him since.
Mr Greyson’s first letter was followed by a second; and the second was followed by the baronet in person. He also required to be received en grand seigneur, perhaps more imperatively than Mr Mortimer Gazebee himself. He came with four posters from the Barchester Station, and had himself rattled up to the doctor’s door in a way that took the breath away from all Greshamsbury. Why! the squire himself for a many long year had been contented to come home with a pair of horses; and four were never seen in the place, except when the De Courcys came to Greshamsbury, or Lady Arabella, with all her daughters returned from her hard-fought metropolitan campaigns.
Sir Louis, however, came with four, and very arrogant looked, leaning back in the barouche belonging to the George and Dragon, and wrapped up in fur, although it was now midsummer. And up in the dicky behind was a servant, more arrogant, if possible, than his master—the baronet’s own man, who was the object of Dr Thorne’s special detestation and disgust. He was a little fellow, chosen originally on account of his light weight on horseback; but if that may be considered a merit, it was the only one he had. His out-door show dress was a little tight frock-coat, round which a polished strap was always buckled tightly, a stiff white choker, leather breeches, top-boots, and a hat, with a cockade, stuck on one side of his head. His name was Jonah, which his master and his master’s friends shortened to Joe; none, however, but those who were very intimate with his master were allowed to do so with impunity.
This Joe was Dr Thorne’s special aversion. In his anxiety to take every possible step to keep Sir Louis from poisoning himself, he had at first attempted to enlist the baronet’s ‘own man’ in the cause. Joe had promised fairly, but had betrayed the doctor at once, and had become the worst instrument of his master’s dissipation. When, therefore, his hat and the cockade were seen, as the carriage dashed up to the door, the doctor’s contentment was by no means increased.
Sir Louis was now twenty-three years old, and was a great deal too knowing to allow himself to be kept under the doctor’s thumb. It had, indeed, become his plan to rebel against his guardian in almost everything. He had at first been decently submissive, with the view of obtaining increased supplies of ready money; but he had been sharp enough to perceive that, let his conduct be what it would, the doctor would keep him out of debt; but that the doing so took so large a sum that he could not hope for any further advances. In this respect Sir Louis was perhaps more keen-witted than Dr Thorne.
Mary, when she saw the carriage, at once ran up to her own bedroom. The doctor, who had been with her in the drawing-room, went down to meet his ward, but as soon as he saw the cockade he darted almost involuntarily into his shop and shut the door. This protection, however, lasted only for a moment; he felt that decency required him to meet his guest, and so he went forth and faced the enemy.
‘I say,’ said Joe, speaking to Janet, who stood curtsying at the gate, with Bridget, the other maid, behind her, ‘I say, are there any chaps about the place to take the things—eh? come, look sharp here.’
It so happened that the doctor’s groom was not on the spot, and ‘other chaps’ the doctor had none.
‘Take those things, Bridget,’ he said, coming forward and offering his hand to the baronet. Sir Louis, when he saw his host, roused himself slowly from the back of his carriage. ‘How do, doctor?’ said he. ‘What terrible bad roads you have here! and, upon my word, it’s as cold as winter:’ and, so saying, he slowly proceeded to descend.
Sir Louis was a year older than when we last saw him, and, in his generation, a year wiser. He had then been somewhat humble before the doctor; but now he was determined to let his guardian see that he knew how to act the baronet; that he had acquired the manners of a great man; and that he was not to be put upon. He had learnt some lessons from Jenkins in London, and other friends of the same sort, and he was about to profit by them.
The doctor showed him to his room, and then proceeded to ask after his health. ‘Oh, I’m right enough,’ said Sir Louis. ‘You mustn’t believe all that fellow Greyson tells you: he wants me to take salts and senna, opodeldoc, and all that sort of stuff; looks after his bill, you know—eh? like all the rest of you. But I won’t have it;—not at any price; and then he writes to you.’
‘I’m glad to see you are able to travel,’ said Dr Thorne, who could not force himself to tell his guest that he was glad to see him at Greshamsbury.
‘Oh, travel; yes, I can travel well enough. But I wish you had some better sort of trap down in these country parts. I’m shaken to bits. And, doctor, would you tell your people to send that fellow of mine up here with hot water.
So dismissed, the doctor went his way, and met Joe swaggering in one of the passages, while Janet and her colleague dragged along between them a heavy article of baggage.
‘Janet,’ said he, ‘go downstairs and get Sir Louis some hot water, and Joe, do you take hold of your master’s portmanteau.’
Joe sulkily did as he was bid. ‘Seems to me,’ said he, turning to the girl, and speaking before the doctor was out of hearing, ‘seems to me, my dear, you be rather short-handed here; lots of work and nothing to get; that’s about the ticket, ain’t it?’ Bridget was too demurely modest to make any answer upon so short an acquaintance; so, putting her end of the burden down at the strange gentleman’s door, she retreated into the kitchen.
Sir Louis in answer to the doctor’s inquiries, had declared himself to be all right; but his appearance was anything but all right. Twelve months since, a life of dissipation, or rather, perhaps, a life of drinking, had not had upon him so strong an effect but that some of the salt of youth was still left; some of the freshness of young years might still be seen in his face. But this was now all gone; his eyes were sunken and watery, his cheeks were hollow and wan, his mouth was drawn and his lips dry; his back was even bent, and his legs were unsteady under him, so that he had been forced to step down from his carriage as an old man would do. Alas, alas! he had no further chance now of ever being all right again.
Mary had secluded herself in her bedroom as soon as the carriage had driven up to the door, and there she remained till dinner-time. But she could not shut herself up altogether. It would be necessary that she should appear at dinner; and, therefore, a few minutes before the hour, she crept out into the drawing-room. As she opened the door, she looked in timidly, expecting Sir Louis to be there; but when she saw that her uncle was the only occupant of the room, her brow cleared, and she entered with a quick step.
‘He’ll come down to dinner; won’t he, uncle?’
‘Oh, I suppose so.’
‘What’s he doing now?’
‘Dressing, I suppose; he’s been at this hour.’
‘But, uncle —’
‘Will he come up after dinner, do you think?’
Mary spoke of him as though he were some wild beast, whom her uncle insisted on having in his house.
‘Goodness knows what he will do! Come up? Yes. He will not stay in the dining-room all night.’
‘But, dear uncle, do be serious.’
‘Yes; serious. Don’t you think that I might go to bed, instead of waiting?’
The doctor was saved the trouble of answering by the entrance of the baronet. He was dressed in what he considered the most fashionable style of the day. He had on a new dress-coat lined with satin, new dress-trousers, a silk waistcoat covered with chains, a white cravat, polished pumps, and silk stockings, and he carried a scented handkerchief in his hand; he had rings on his fingers, and carbuncle studs in his shirt, and he smelt as sweet as patchouli could make him. But he could hardly do more than shuffle into the room, and seemed almost to drag one of his legs behind him.
Mary, in spite of her aversion, was shocked and distressed when she saw him. He, however, seemed to think himself perfect, and was no whit abashed by the unfavourable reception which twelve months since had been paid to his suit. Mary came up and shook hands with him, and he received her with a compliment which no doubt he thought must be acceptable. ‘Upon my word, Miss Thorne, every place seems to agree with you; one better than another. You were looking charming at Boxall Hill; but, upon my word, charming isn’t half strong enough now.’
Mary sat down quietly, and the doctor assumed a face of unutterable disgust. This was the creature for whom all his sympathies had been demanded, all his best energies put in requisition; on whose behalf he was to quarrel with his oldest friends, lose his peace and quietness of life, and exercise all the functions of a loving friend! This was his self-invited guest, whom he was bound to foster, and whom he could not turn from his door.
The dinner came, and Mary had to put her hand upon his arm. She certainly did not lean upon him, and once or twice felt inclined to give him some support. They reached the dining-room, however, the doctor following them, and then sat down, Janet waiting in the room, as was usual.
‘I say, doctor,’ said the baronet, ‘hadn’t my man better come in and help? He’s got nothing to do, you know. We should be more cosy, shouldn’t we?’
‘Janet will manage pretty well,’ said the doctor.
‘Oh, you’d better have Joe; there’s nothing like a good servant at table. I say, Janet, just send that fellow in, will you?’
‘We shall do very well without him,’ said the doctor, becoming rather red about the cheek-bones, and with a slight gleam of determination about the eye. Janet, who saw how matters stood, made no attempt to obey the baronet’s order.
‘Oh, nonsense, doctor; you think he’s an uppish sort of fellow, I know, and you don’t like to trouble him; but when I’m near him, he’s all right; just send him in, will you?’
‘Sir Louis,’ said the doctor, ‘I’m accustomed to none but my own old woman here in my own house, and if you will allow me, I’ll keep my old ways. I shall be sorry if you are not comfortable.’ The baronet said nothing more, and the dinner passed off slowly and wearily enough.
When Mary had eaten her fruit and escaped, the doctor got into one arm-chair and the baronet into another, and the latter began the only work of existence of which he knew anything.
‘That’s good port,’ said he; ‘very fair port.’
The doctor loved his port wine, and thawed a little in his manner. He loved it not as a toper, but as a collector loves his pet pictures. He liked to talk about it, and think about it; to praise it, and hear it praised; to look at it turned towards the light, and to count over the years it had lain in his cellar.
‘Yes,’ said he, ‘it’s pretty fair wine. It was, at least, when I got it, twenty years ago, and I don’t suppose time has hurt it;’ and he held the glass up to the window, and looked at the evening light through the rosy tint of the liquid. ‘Ah, dear, there’s not much of it left; more’s the pity.’
‘A good thing won’t last for ever. I’ll tell you what now; I wish I had brought down a dozen or two of claret. I’ve some prime stuff in London; got it from Muzzle and Drug, at ninety-six shillings; it was a great favour, though. I’ll tell you what now, I’ll send up for a couple of dozen tomorrow. I mustn’t drink you out of the house, high and dry; must I, doctor?’
The doctor froze immediately.
‘I don’t think I need trouble you,’ said he; ‘I never drink claret, at least not here; and there’s enough of the old bin left to last some little time longer yet.’
Sir Louis drank two or three glasses of wine very quickly after each other, and they immediately began to tell upon his weak stomach. But before he was tipsy, he became more impudent and more disagreeable.
‘Doctor,’ said he, ‘when are we going to see any of this Greshamsbury money? That’s what I want to know.’
‘Your money is quite safe, Sir Louis; and the interest is paid to the day.’
‘Interest yes; but how do I know how long it will be paid? I should like to see the principal. A hundred thousand pounds, or something like it, is a precious large stake to have in one man’s hands, and he is preciously hard up himself. I’ll tell you what, doctor—I shall look the squire up myself.’
‘Look him up?’
‘Yes; look him up; ferret him out; tell him a bit of my mind. I’ll thank you to pass the bottle. D—— me doctor; I mean to know how things are going on.’
‘Your money is quite safe,’ repeated the doctor, ‘and, to my mind, could not be better invested.’
‘That’s all very well; d—— well I dare say, for you and Squire Gresham —’
‘What do you mean, Sir Louis?’
‘Mean! why I mean that I’ll sell the squire up; that’s what I mean—hallo—beg pardon. I’m blessed if I haven’t broken the water-jug. That comes of having water on the table. Oh, d—— me, it’s all over me.’ And then, getting up, to avoid the flood he himself had caused, he nearly fell into the doctor’s arms.
‘You’re tired with your journey, Sir Louis; perhaps you’d better go to bed.’
‘Well, I am a bit seedy or so. Those cursed roads of yours shake a fellow so.’
The doctor rang the bell, and, on this occasion, did request that Joe might be sent for. Joe came in, and, though he was much steadier than his master, looked as though he also had found some bin of which he had approved.
‘Sir Louis wishes to go to bed,’ said the doctor; ‘you had better give him your arm.’
‘Oh, yes; in course I will,’ said Joe, standing immoveable about half-way between the door and the table.
‘I’ll just take one more glass of the old port—eh, doctor?’ said Sir Louis, putting out his hand and clutching the decanter.
It is very hard for any man to deny his guest in his own house, and the doctor, at the moment, did not know how to do it; so Sir Louis got his wine, after pouring half of it over the table.
‘Come in, sir, and give Sir Louis your arm,’ said the doctor, angrily.
‘So I will in course, if my master tells me; but, if you please, Dr Thorne —’ and Joe put his hand up to his hair in a manner that a great deal more impudence than reverence in it —‘I just want to ax one question; where be I to sleep?’
Now this was a question which the doctor was not prepared to answer on the spur of the moment, however well Janet or Mary might have been able to do so.
‘Sleep,’ said he, ‘I don’t know where you are to sleep, and don’t care; ask Janet.’
‘That’s all very well, master —’
‘Hold your tongue, sirrah!’ said Sir Louis. ‘What the devil do you want of sleep?—come here,’ and then, with his servant’s help, he made his way up to his bedroom, and was no more heard of that night.
‘Did he get tipsy,’ asked Mary, almost in a whisper, when her uncle joined her in the drawing-room.
‘Don’t talk of it,’ said he. ‘Poor wretch! poor wretch! Let’s have some tea now, Molly, and pray don’t talk any more about him to-night.’ Then Mary did make the tea, and did not talk any more about Sir Louis that night.
What on earth were they to do with him? He had come there self-invited; but his connexion with the doctor was such, that it was impossible he should be told to go away, either he himself, or that servant of his. There was no reason to disbelieve him when he declared that he had come down to ferret out the squire. Such was, doubtless, his intention. He would ferret out the squire. Perhaps he might ferret out Lady Arabella also. Frank would be home in a few days; and he, too, might be ferreted out.
But the matter took a very singular turn, and one quite unexpected on the doctor’s part. On the morning following the little dinner of which we have spoken, one of the Greshamsbury grooms rode up to the doctor’s door with two notes. One was addressed to the doctor in the squire’s well-known large handwriting, and the other was for Sir Louis. Each contained an invitation do dinner for the following day; and that to the doctor was in this wise:-
Do come and dine here tomorrow, and bring Sir Louis Scatcherd with you. If you’re the man I take you to be, you won’t refuse me. Lady Arabella sends a note for Sir Louis. There will be nobody here but Oriel, and Mr Gazebee, who’s staying in the house.
‘Yours ever, F.N.GRESHAM’
‘PS— I make a positive request that you’ll come, and I think you will hardly refuse me.’
The doctor read it twice before he could believe it, and then ordered Janet to take the other note up to Sir Louis. As these invitations were rather in opposition to the then existing Greshamsbury tactics, the cause of Lady Arabella’s special civility must be explained.
Mr Mortimer Gazebee was now at the house, and therefore, it must be presumed, that things were not allowed to go on after their old fashion. Mr Gazebee was an acute as well as fashionable man; one who knew what he was about, and who, moreover, had determined to give his very best efforts on behalf of the Greshamsbury property. His energy, in this respect, will explain itself hereafter. It was not probable that the arrival in the village of such a person as Sir Louis Scatcherd should escape attention. He had heard of it before dinner, and, before the evening was over, had discussed it with Lady Arabella.
Her ladyship was not at first inclined to make much of Sir Louis, and expressed herself as but little inclined to agree with Mr Gazebee when that gentleman suggested that he should be treated with civility at Greshamsbury. But she was at last talked over. She found it pleasant enough to have more to do with the secret management of the estate than Mr Gresham himself; and when Mr Gazebee proved to her, by sundry nods and winks, and subtle allusions to her own infinite good sense, that it was necessary to catch this obscene bird which had come to prey upon the estate, by throwing a little salt upon his tail, she also nodded and winked, and directed Augusta to prepare the salt according to order.
‘But won’t it be odd, Mr Gazebee, asking him out of Dr Thorne’s house?’
‘Oh, we must have the doctor, too, Lady Arabella; by all means ask the doctor also.’
Lady Arabella’s brow grew dark. ‘Mr Gazebee,’ she said, ‘you can hardly believe how that man has behaved to me.’
‘He is altogether beneath your anger,’ said Mr Gazebee, with a bow.
‘I don’t know: in one way he may be, but not in another. I really do not think I can sit down to table with Doctor Thorne.’
But, nevertheless, Mr Gazebee gained his point. It was now about a week since Sir Omicron Pie had been at Greshamsbury, and the squire had, almost daily, spoken to his wife as to that learned man’s advice. Lady Arabella always answered in the same tone: ‘You can hardly know, Mr Gresham, how that man has insulted me.’ But, nevertheless, the physician’s advice had not been disbelieved: it tallied too well with her own inward convictions. She was anxious enough to have Doctor Thorne back at her bedside, if she could only get him there without damage to her pride. Her husband, she thought, might probably send the doctor there without absolute permission from herself; in which case she would have been able to scold, and show that she was offended; and, at the same time, profit by what had been done. But Mr Gresham never thought of taking so violent a step as this, and, therefore, Dr Fillgrave still came, and her ladyship’s finesse was wasted in vain.
But Mr Gazebee’s proposition opened a door by which her point might be gained. ‘Well,’ said she, at last, with infinite self-denial, ‘if you think it is for Mr Gresham’s advantage, and if he chooses to ask Dr Thorne, I will not refuse to receive him.’
Mr Gazebee’s next task was to discuss the matter with the squire. Nor was this easy, for Mr Gazebee was no favourite with Mr Gresham. But the task was at last performed successfully. Mr Gresham was so glad at heart to find himself able, once more, to ask his old friend to his own house; and, though it would have pleased him better that this sign of relenting on his wife’s part should have reached him by other means, he did not refuse to take advantage of it; and so he wrote the above letter to Dr Thorne.
The doctor, as we have said, read it twice; and he at once resolved stoutly that he would not go.
‘Oh, do, do, do go!’ said Mary. She well knew how wretched this feud had made her uncle. ‘Pray, pray go!’
‘Indeed, I will not,’ said he. ‘There are some things a man should bear, and some he should not.’
‘You must go,’ said Mary, who had taken the note from her uncle’s hand, and read it. ‘You cannot refuse him when he asks you like that.’
‘It will greatly grieve me; but I must refuse him.’
‘I also am angry, uncle; very angry with Lady Arabella; but for him, for the squire, I would go to him on my knees if he asked me in that way.’
‘Yes; and had he asked you, I also would have gone.’
‘Oh! now I shall be so wretched. It is his invitation, not hers: Mr Gresham could not ask me. As for her, do not think of her; but do, do go when he asks you like that. You will make me so miserable if you do not. And then Sir Louis cannot go without you,’—and Mary pointed upstairs —‘and you may be sure that he will go.’
‘Yes; and make a beast of himself.’
This colloquy was cut short by a message praying the doctor to go up to Sir Louis’s room. The young man was sitting in his dressing-gown, drinking a cup of coffee at his toilet-table, while Joe was preparing his razor and hot water. The doctor’s nose immediately told him that there was more in the coffee-cup than had come out of his own kitchen, and he would not let the offence pass unnoticed.
‘Are you taking brandy this morning, Sir Louis?’
‘Just a little chasse-cafe,’ said he, not exactly understanding the word he used. ‘It’s all the go now; and a capital thing for the stomach.’
‘It’s not a capital thing for your stomach;—about the least capital thing you can take; that is, if you wish to live.’
‘Never mind about that now, doctor, but look here. This is what we call the civil thing—eh?’ and he showed the Greshamsbury note. ‘Not but that they have an object, of course. I understand all that. Lots of girls there—eh?’
The doctor took the note and read it. ‘It is civil,’ said he; ‘very civil.’
‘Well; I shall go, of course. I don’t bear malice because he can’t pay me the money he owes me. I’ll eat his dinner, and look at the girls. Have you an invite too, doctor?’
‘Yes; I have.’
‘And you’ll go?’
‘I think not; but that need not deter you. But, Sir Louis —’
‘Well! eh! what is it?’
‘Step downstairs a moment,’ said the doctor, turning to the servant, ‘and wait till you are called for. I wish to speak to your master.’ Joe, for a moment, looked up at the baronet’s face, as though he wanted but the slightest encouragement to disobey the doctor’s orders; but not seeing it, he slowly retired, and placed himself, of course, at the keyhole.
And then, the doctor began a long and very useless lecture. The first object of it was to induce his ward not to get drunk at Greshamsbury; but having got so far, he went on, and did succeed in frightening his unhappy guest. Sir Louis did not possess the iron nerves of his father—nerves which even brandy had not been able to subdue. The doctor spoke, strongly, very strongly; spoke of quick, almost immediate death in case of further excesses; spoke to him of the certainty there would be that he could not live to dispose of his own property if he could not refrain. And thus he did frighten Sir Louis. The father he had never been able to frighten. But there are men who, though they fear death hugely, fear present suffering more; who, indeed, will not bear a moment of pain if there by any mode of escape. Sir Louis was such: he had no strength of nerve, no courage, no ability to make a resolution and keep it. He promised the doctor that he would refrain; and, as he did so, he swallowed down his cup of coffee and brandy, in which the two articles bore about equal proportions.
The doctor did, at last, make up his mind to go. Whichever way he determined, he found that he was not contented with himself. He did not like to trust Sir Louis by himself, and he did not like to show that he was angry. Still less did he like the idea of breaking bread in Lady Arabella’s house till some amends had been made to Mary. But his heart would not allow him to refuse the petition contained in the squire’s postscript, and the matter ended in his accepting the invitation.
This visit of his ward’s was, in every way, pernicious to the doctor. He could not go about his business, fearing to leave such a man alone with Mary. On the afternoon of the second day, she escaped to the parsonage for an hour or so, and then, walked away among the lanes, calling on some of her old friends among the farmers’ wives. But even then, the doctor was afraid to leave Sir Louis. What could such a man do, left alone in a village like Greshamsbury? So he stayed at home, and the two together went over their accounts. The baronet was particular about his accounts, and said a good deal as to having Finnie over to Greshamsbury. To this, however, Dr Thorne positively refused his consent.
The evening passed off better than the preceding one; at least the early part of it. Sir Louis did not get tipsy; he came up to tea, and Mary, who did not feel so keenly on the subject as her uncle, almost wished that he had done so. At ten o’clock he went to bed.
But after that new troubles came on. The doctor had gone downstairs into his study to make up some of the time which he had lost, and had just seated himself at his desk, when Janet, without announcing herself, burst into the room; and Bridget, dissolved in hysterical tears, with her apron to her eyes, appeared behind the senior domestic.
‘Please, sir,’ said Janet, driven by excitement much beyond her usual place of speaking, and becoming unintentionally a little less respectful than usual, ‘please sir, that ’ere young man must go out of this here house; or else no respectable young ‘ooman can’t stop here; no, indeed, sir; and we be sorry to trouble you, Dr Thorne; so we be.’
‘What young man? Sir Louis?’ asked the doctor.
‘Man!’ sobbed Bridget from behind. ‘He an’t no man, no nothing like a man. If Tummas had been here, he wouldn’t have dared; so he wouldn’t.’ Thomas was the groom, and, if all Greshamsbury reports were true, it was probable, that on some happy, future day, Thomas and Bridget would become one flesh and one bone.
‘Please sir,’ continued Janet, ‘there’ll be bad work here if there ’ere young man doesn’t quit this here house this very night, and I’m sorry to trouble you, doctor; and so I am. But Tom, he be given to fight a’most for nothin’. He’s out now; but if that there young man be’s here when Tom comes home, Tom will be punching his head; I know he will.’
‘He wouldn’t stand by and see a poor girl put upon; no more he wouldn’t,’ said Bridget, through her tears.
After many futile inquiries, the doctor ascertained that Mr Jonah had expressed some admiration for Bridget’s youthful charms, and had, in the absence of Janet, thrown himself at the lady’s feet in a manner which had not been altogether pleasing to her. She had defended herself stoutly and loudly, and in the middle of the row Janet had come down.
‘And where is he now?’ said the doctor.
‘Why, sir,’ said Janet, ‘the poor girl was so put about that she did give him one touch across the face with the rolling-pin, and he be all bloody now, in the back kitchen.’ At hearing this achievement of hers thus spoken of, Bridget sobbed more hysterically than ever; but the doctor, looking at her arm as she held her apron to her face, thought in his heart that Joe must have had so much the worst of it, that there could be no possible need for the interference of Thomas the groom.
And such turned out to be the case. The bridge of Joe’s nose was broken; and the doctor had to set it for him in a little bedroom at the village public-house, Bridget having positively refused to go to bed in the same house with so dreadful a character.
‘Quiet now, or I’ll be serving thee the same way; thee see I’ve found the trick of it.’ The doctor could not but hear so much as he made into his own house by the back door, after finishing his surgical operation. Bridget was recounting to her champion the fracas that had occurred; and he, as was so natural, was expressing his admiration for her valour.
Last updated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 20:41