Janet had been sedulous in her attentions to Sir Louis, and had not troubled her mistress; but she had not had an easy time of it. Her orders had been, that either she or Thomas should remain in the room the whole day, and those orders had been obeyed.
Immediately after breakfast, the baronet had inquired after his own servant. ‘His confounded nose must be right by this time, I suppose?’
‘It was very bad, Sir Louis,’ said the old woman, who imagined that it might be difficult to induce Jonah to come into the house again.
‘A man in such a place as his has no business to be laid up,’ said his master, with a whine. ‘I’ll see and get a man who won’t break his nose.’
Thomas was sent to the inn three or four times, but in vain. The man was sitting up, well enough, in the tap-room; but the middle of his face was covered with streaks of plaster, and he could not bring himself to expose his wounds before his conqueror.
Sir Louis began by ordering the woman to bring him chasse-cafe. She offered him coffee, as much as he would; but no chasse. ‘A glass of port wine,’ she said, at twelve o’clock, and another at three had been ordered for him.
‘I don’t care a—for the orders,’ said Sir Louis; ‘send me my own man.’ The man was again sent for; but would not come. ‘There’s a bottle of that stuff that I take, in that portmanteau, in the left-hand corner—just hand it to me.’
But Janet was not to be done. She would give him no stuff, except what the doctor had ordered, till the doctor came back. The doctor would then, no doubt, give him anything that was proper.
Sir Louis swore a good deal, and stormed as much as he could. He drank, however, his two glasses of wine, and he got no more. Once or twice he essayed to get out of bed and dress; but, at every effort, he found that he could not do it without Joe: and there he was, still under the clothes when the doctor returned.
‘I’ll tell you what it is,’ said he, as soon as his guardian entered the room, ‘I’m not going to be made a prisoner of here.’
‘A prisoner! no, surely not.’
‘It seems very much like it at present. Your servant here—that old woman—takes it upon her to say she’ll do nothing without your orders.’
‘Well; she’s right there.’
‘Right! I don’t know what you call right; but I won’t stand it. You are not going to make a child of me, Dr Thorne; so you need not think it.’
And then there was a long quarrel, between them, and but an indifferent reconciliation. The baronet said that he would go to Boxall Hill, and was vehement in his intention to do so because the doctor opposed it. He had not, however, as yet ferreted out the squire, or given a bit of his mind to Mr Gazebee, and it behoved him to do this before he took himself off to his own country mansion. He ended, therefore, by deciding to go on the next day but one.
‘Let it be so, if you are well enough,’ said the doctor.
‘Well enough!’ said the other, with a sneer. ‘There’s nothing to make me ill that I know of. It certainly won’t be drinking too much here.’
On the next day, Sir Louis was in a different mood, and in one more distressing for the doctor to bear. His compelled absence from intemperate drinking had, no doubt, been good for him; but his mind had so much sunk under the pain of the privation, that his state was piteous to behold. He had cried for his servant, as a child cries for its nurse, till at last the doctor, moved to pity, had himself gone out and brought the man in from the public-house. But when he did come, Joe was of but little service to his master, as he was altogether prevented from bringing him either wine or spirits; and when he searched for the liqueur-case, he found that even that had been carried away.
‘I believe you want me to die,’ he said, as the doctor, sitting by his bedside, was trying, for the hundredth time, to make him understand that he had but one chance of living.
The doctor was not in the least irritated. It would have been as wise to be irritated by the want of reason in a dog.
‘I am doing what I can to save your life,’ he said calmly; ‘but as you said just now, I have no power over you. As long as you are able to move and remain in my house, you certainly shall not have the means of destroying yourself. You will be very wise to stay here for a week or ten days: a week or ten days of healthy living might, perhaps, bring you round.’
Sir Louis again declared that the doctor wished him to die, and spoke of sending for his attorney Finnie, to come to Greshamsbury to look after him.
‘Send for him if you choose,’ said the doctor. ‘His coming will cost you three or four pounds, but can do no other harm.’
It was certainly hard upon Dr Thorne that he should be obliged to entertain such a guest in the house;—to entertain him, and foster him, and care for him, almost as though he were a son. But he had no alternative; he had accepted the charge from Sir Roger, and he must go through with it. His conscience, moreover, allowed him no rest in the matter: it harassed him day and night, driving him on sometimes to great wretchedness. He could not love this incubus that was on his shoulders; he could not do other than be very far from loving him. Of what use or value was he to any one? What could the world make of him that would be good, or he of the world? Was not an early death his certain fate? The earlier it might be, would it not be better? Were he to linger on yet for two years longer—and such a space of life was possible for him—how great would be the mischief that he might do; nay, certainly would do! Farewell then to all hopes for Greshamsbury, as far as Mary was concerned. Farewell then to that dear scheme which lay deep in the doctor’s heart, that hope that he might in his niece’s name, give back to the son the lost property of his father. And might not one year—six months be as fatal. Frank, they all said, must marry money; and even he—he the doctor himself, much as he despised the idea for money’s sake—even he could not but confess that Frank, as the heir to an old, but grievously embarrassed property, had no right to marry, at his early age, a girl without a shilling. Mary, his niece, his own child, would probably be the heiress of this immense wealth; but he could not tell this to Frank; no, nor to Frank’s father, while Sir Louis was yet alive. What, if by so doing he should achieve this marriage for his niece, and that then Sir Louis should live to dispose of his own? How then would he face the anger of Lady Arabella?
‘I will never hanker after a dead man’s shoes, neither for myself nor for another,’ he had said to himself a hundred times; and as often did he accuse himself of doing so. One path, however, was plainly open before him. He would keep his peace as to the will; and would use such efforts as he might use for a son of his own loins to preserve the life that was so valueless. His wishes, his hopes, his thoughts, he could not control; but his conduct was at his own disposal.
‘I say, doctor, you don’t really think that I’m going to die?’ Sir Louis said, when Dr Thorne again visited him.
‘I don’t think at all; I am sure you will kill yourself if you continue to live as you have lately done.’
‘But suppose I go all right for a while, and live—live just as you tell me, you know?’
‘All of us are in God’s hands, Sir Louis. By so doing you will, at any rate, give yourself the best chance.’
‘Best chance? Why, d—n, doctor! there are fellows have done ten times worse than I; and they are not going to kick. Come, now, I know you are trying to frighten me; ain’t you now?’
‘I am trying to do the best I can for you.’
‘It’s very hard on a fellow like me; I have nobody to say a kind word to me; no, not one.’ And Sir Louis, in his wretchedness, began to weep. ‘Come, doctor; if you’ll put me once more on my legs, I’ll let you draw on the estate for five hundred pounds; by G—I will.’
The doctor went away to his dinner, and the baronet also had his in bed. He could not eat much, but he was allowed two glasses of wine, and also a little brandy in his coffee. This somewhat invigorated him, and when Dr Thorne again went to him, in the evening, he did not find him so utterly prostrated in spirit. He had, indeed, made up his mind to a great resolve; and thus unfolded his final scheme for his own reformation:-
‘Doctor,’ he began again, ‘I believe you are an honest fellow; I do indeed.’
Dr Thorne could not but thank him for his good opinion.
‘You ain’t annoyed at what I said this morning, are you?’
The doctor had forgotten the particular annoyance to which Sir Louis alluded; and informed him that his mind might be at rest on any such matter.
‘I do believe you’d be glad to see me well; wouldn’t you, now?’
The doctor assured him that such was in very truth the case.
‘Well, now, I’ll tell you what: I’ve been thinking about it a great deal today; indeed, I have, and I want to do what is right. Mightn’t I have a little drop of that stuff, just in a cup of coffee?’
The doctor poured him out a cup of coffee, and put about a teaspoonful of brandy in it. Sir Louis took it with a disconsolate face, not having been accustomed to such measures in the use of his favourite beverage.
‘I do wish to do what is right—I do, indeed; only, you see, I’m lonely. As to those fellows up in London, I don’t think that one of them cares a straw about me.’
Dr Thorne was of the same way of thinking, and he said so. He could not but feel some sympathy with the unfortunate man as he thus spoke of his own lot. It was true that he had been thrown on the world without any one to take care of him.
‘My dear friend, I will do the best I can in every way; I will, indeed. I do believe that your companions in town have been too ready to lead you astray. Drop them, and you may yet do well.’
‘May I though, doctor? Well, I will drop them. There’s Jenkins; he’s the best of them; but even he is always wanting to make money of me. Not but what I’m up to the best of them in that way.’
‘You had better leave London, Sir Louis, and change your mode of life. Go to Boxall Hill for a while; for two or three days or so; live with your mother there and take to farming.’
‘Yes; that’s what all country gentlemen do: take the land there into your own hand, and occupy your mind upon it.’
‘Well, doctor, I will—upon one condition.’
Dr Thorne sat still and listened. He had no idea what the condition might be, but he was not prepared to promise acquiescence till he heard it.
‘You know what I told you once before,’ said the baronet.
‘I don’t remember at this moment.’
‘About my getting married, you know.’
The doctor’s brow grew black, and promised no help to the poor wretch. Bad in every way, wretched, selfish, sensual, unfeeling, purse-proud, ignorant as Sir Louis Scatcherd was still, there was left to him the power of feeling something like sincere love. It may be presumed that he did love Mary Thorne, and that he was at the time earnest in declaring that if she could be given to him, he would endeavour to live according to her uncle’s counsel. It was only a trifle he asked; but, alas! that trifle could not be vouchsafed.
‘I should much approve of your getting married, but I do not know how I can help you.’
‘Of course, I mean Miss Mary: I do love her; I really do, Dr Thorne.’
‘It is quite impossible, Sir Louis; quite. You do my niece much honour; but I am able to answer for her, positively, that such a proposition is quite out of the question.’
‘Look here now, Dr Thorne; anything in the way of settlements —’
‘I will not hear a word on the subject: you are very welcome to the use of my house as long as it may suit you to remain here; but I must insist that my niece shall not be troubled on this matter.’
‘Do you mean to say she’s in love with that young Gresham?’
This was too much for the doctor’s patience. ‘Sir Louis,’ said he, ‘I can forgive you much for your father’s sake. I can also forgive something on the score of your own ill-health. But you ought to know, you ought by this time to have learnt, that there are some things which a man cannot forgive. I will not talk to you about my niece; and remember this, also, I will not have her troubled by you:’ and, so saying, the doctor left him.
On the next day the baronet was sufficiently recovered to be able to resume his braggadocio airs. He swore at Janet; insisted on being served by his own man; demanded in a loud voice, but in vain, that his liqueur-case should be restored to him; and desired that post-horses might be ready for him on the morrow. On that day he got up and ate his dinner in his bedroom. On the next morning he countermanded the horses, informing the doctor that he did so because he had little bit of business to transact with Squire Gresham before he left the place! With some difficulty, the doctor made him understand that the squire would not see him on business; and it was at last decided, that Mr Gazebee should be invited to call on him at the doctor’s house; and this Mr Gazebee agreed to do, in order to prevent the annoyance of having the baronet up at Greshamsbury.
On this day, the evening before Mr Gazebee’s visit, Sir Louis condescended to come down to dinner. He dined, however, tete-a-tete with the doctor. Mary was not there, nor was anything said as to her absence. Sir Louis Scatcherd never set eyes upon her again.
He bore himself arrogantly on that evening, having resumed the airs and would-be dignity which he thought belonged to him as a man of rank and property. In his periods of low spirits, he was abject and humble enough; abject and fearful of the lamentable destiny which at these moments he believed to be in store for him. But it was one of the peculiar symptoms of his state, that as he partially recovered his bodily health, the tone of his mind recovered itself also, and his fears for the time were relieved.
There was very little said between him and the doctor that evening. The doctor sat, guarding the wine, and thinking when he should have his house to himself again. Sir Louis sat moody, every now and then uttering some impertinence as to the Greshams and the Greshamsbury property, and, at an early hour, allowed Joe to put him to bed.
The horses were ordered on the next day for three, and, as two, Mr Gazebee came to the house. He had never been there before, nor had he ever met Dr Thorne except at the squire’s dinner. On this occasion he asked only for the baronet.
‘Ah! ah! I’m glad you’re come, Mr Gazebee; very glad,’ said Sir Louis; acting the part of the rich, great man with all the power he had. ‘I want to ask you a few questions so as to make it all clear sailing between us.’
‘As you have asked to see me, I have come, Sir Louis,’ said the other, putting on much dignity as he spoke. ‘But would it not be better that any business there may be should be done among the lawyers?’
‘The lawyers are very well, I dare say; but when a man has so large a stake at interest as I have in this Greshamsbury property, why, you see, Mr Gazebee, he feels a little inclined to look after it himself. Now, do you know, Mr Gazebee, how much it is that Mr Gresham owes me?’
Mr Gazebee, of course, did know very well; but he was not going to discuss the subject with Sir Louis, if he could help it.
‘Whatever claim your father’s estate may have on that of Mr Gresham is, as far as I understand, vested in Dr Thorne’s hands as trustee. I am inclined to believe that you have not yourself at present any claim on Greshamsbury. The interest, as it becomes due, is paid to Dr Thorne; and if I may be allowed to make a suggestion, I would say that it will not be expedient to make any change in that arrangement till the property shall come into your own hands.’
‘I differ from you entirely, Mr Gazebee; in toto as we used to say at Eton. What you mean to say is—I can’t go to law with Mr Gresham; I’m not so sure of that; but perhaps not. But I can compel Dr Thorne to look after my interests. I can force him to foreclose. And to tell you the truth, Gazebee, unless some arrangement is proposed to me which I shall think advantageous, I shall do so at once. There is near a hundred thousand pounds owing to me; yes to me. Thorne is only a name in the matter. The money is my money; and, by —-, I mean to look after it.’
‘Haven’t you any doubt, Sir Louis, as to the money being secure?’
‘Yes, I have. It isn’t so easy to have a hundred thousand pounds secured. The squire is a poor man, and I don’t choose to allow a poor man to owe me such a sum as that. Besides, I mean to invest in land. I tell you fairly, therefore, I shall foreclose.’
Mr Gazebee, using all the perspicuity which his professional education had left to him, tried to make Sir Louis understand that he had no power to do anything of the kind.
‘No power! Mr Gresham shall see whether I have no power. When a man has a hundred thousand pounds owing to him he ought to have some power; and, as I take it, he has. But we will see. Perhaps you know Finnie, do you?’
Mr Gazebee, with a good deal of scorn in his face, said that he had not that pleasure. Mr Finnie was not in his line.
‘Well, you will know him then, and you’ll find he’s sharp enough; that is, unless, I have some offer made to me that I may choose to accept.’ Mr Gazebee declared that he was not instructed to make any offer, and so he took his leave.
On that afternoon, Sir Louis went off to Boxall Hill, transferring the miserable task of superintending his self-destruction from the shoulders of the doctor to those of his mother. Of Lady Scatcherd, the baronet took no account in his proposed sojourn in the country, nor did he take much of the doctor in leaving Greshamsbury. He again wrapped himself in his furs, and, with tottering steps, climbed up into the barouche which was to carry him away.
‘Is my man up behind?’ he said to Janet, while the doctor was standing at the little front garden-gate, making his adieux.
‘No, sir, he is not up yet,’ said Janet, respectfully.
‘Then send him out, will you? I can’t lose my time waiting here all day.’
‘I shall come over to Boxall Hill and see you,’ said the doctor, whose heart softened towards the man, in spite of his brutality, as the hour of his departure came.
‘I shall be happy to see you if you like to come, of course; that is, in the way of visiting, and that sort of thing. As for doctoring, if I want any I shall send for Fillgrave.’ Such were his last words as the carriage, with a rush, went off from the door.
The doctor, as he re-entered the house, could not avoid smiling, for he thought of Dr Fillgrave’s last patient at Boxall Hill. ‘It’s a question to me,’ said he to himself, ‘whether Fillgrave will ever be induced to make another visit to that house, even with the object of rescuing a baronet out of my hands.’
‘He’s gone; isn’t he, uncle?’ said Mary, coming out of her room.
‘Yes, my dear; he’s gone, poor fellow.’
‘He may be a poor fellow, uncle; but he’s a very disagreeable inmate in a house. I have not had any dinner these two days.’
‘And I haven’t had what can be called a cup of tea since he’s been in the house. But I’ll make up for that to-night.
Last updated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 20:41