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- Doctor Thorne - 110/119 -

Lady Arabella would probably have said this, also, had she dared; but she felt that in doing so, she would be going too far. It was useless for her to say anything that would be utterly contradicted by an appeal to Mary herself.

'No, Frank; I do not mean to say that you do not love her. What I do mean is this: that it is not becoming in you to give up everything--not only yourself, but all your family--for such a love as this; and that she, Mary herself acknowledges this. Every one is of the same opinion. Ask your father: I need not say that he would agree with you about everything he could. I will not say the De Courcys.'

'Oh, the De Courcys!'

'Yes, they are my relations, I know that.' Lady Arabella could not quite drop the tone of bitterness which was natural to her in saying this. 'But ask your sisters; ask Mr Oriel, whom you esteem so much; ask your friend Harry Baker.'

Frank sat silent for a moment or two while his mother, with a look almost of agony, gazed into his face. 'I will ask no one,' at last he said.

'Oh, my boy! my boy!'

'No one but myself can know my heart.'

'And you will sacrifice all to such a love as that, all; her, also, whom you say that you so love? What happiness can you give her as your wife? Oh, Frank! is that the only answer you will make to your mother on her knees?

'Oh, mother! mother!'

'No, Frank, I will not let you ruin yourself; I will not let you destroy yourself. Promise this, at least, that you will think of what I have said.'

'Think of it! I do think of it.'

'Ah, but think of it in earnest. You will be absent now in London; you will have the business of the estate to manage; you will have heavy cares upon your hands. Think of it as a man, and not as a boy.'

'I will see her to-morrow before I go.'

'No, Frank, no; grant me that trifle, at any rate. Think upon this without seeing her. Do not proclaim yourself so weak that you cannot trust yourself to think over what your mother says to you without asking her leave. Though you be in love, do not be childish with it. What I have told you as coming from her is true, word for word; if it were not, you would soon learn so. Think now of what I have said, and of what she says, and when you come back from London, then you can decide.'

To so much Frank consented after some further parley; namely, that he would proceed to London on the following Monday morning without again seeing Mary. And in the meantime, she was waiting with sore heart for his answer to that letter that was lying, and was still to lie for so many hours, in the safe protection of Silverbridge postmistress.

It may seem strange; but, in truth, his mother's eloquence had more effect on Frank than that of his father: and yet, with his father he had always sympathized. But his mother had been energetic; whereas, his father, if not lukewarm, had, at any rate, been timid. 'I will ask no one,' Frank had said in the strong determination of his heart; and yet the words were hardly out of his mouth before he bethought himself that he would talk the thing over with Harry Baker. 'Not,' said he to himself, 'that I have any doubt: I have no doubt; but I hate to have all the world against me. My mother wishes me to ask Harry Baker. Harry is a good fellow, and I will ask him.' And with this resolve he betook himself to bed.

The following day was Sunday. After breakfast Frank went with the family to church, as was usual; and there, as usual, he saw Mary in Dr Thorne's pew. She, as she looked at him, could not but wonder why he had not answered the letter which was still at Silverbridge; and he endeavoured to read into her face whether it was true, as his mother told him, that she was quite ready to give him up. The prayers of both of them were disturbed, as is so often the case with the prayers of other anxious people.

There was a separate door opening from the Greshamsbury pew out into the Greshamsbury grounds, so that the family were not forced into unseemly community with the village multitude in going to and from their prayers; for the front door of the church led out into a road which had no connexion with the private path. It was not unusual with Frank and his father to go round, after the service, to the chief entrance, so that they might speak to their neighbours, and get rid of some of the exclusiveness which was intended for them. On this morning the squire did so; but Frank walked home with his mother and sisters, so that Mary saw no more of him.

I have said that he walked home with his mother and sisters; but he rather followed in their path. He was not inclined to talk much, at least, not to them; and he continued asking himself the question--whether it could be possible that he was wrong in remaining true to his promise? Could it be that he owed more to his father and his mother, and what they chose to call his position, than he did to Mary?

After church, Mr Gazebee tried to get hold of him, for there was still much to be said, and many hints to be given, as to how Frank should speak, and, more especially, as to how to hold his tongue among the learned pundits in and about Chancery Lane. 'You must be very wide awake with Messrs Slow and Bideawhile,' said Mr Gazebee. But Frank would not hearken to him just at that moment. He was going to ride over to Harry Baker, so he put Mr Gazebee off till the half-hour before dinner,--or else the half-hour after tea.

On the previous day he had received a letter from Miss Dunstable, which he had hitherto read but once. His mother had interrupted him as he was about to refer to it; and now, as his father's nag was being saddled--he was still prudent in saving the black horse--he again took it out.

Miss Dunstable had written in excellent humour. She was in great distress about the oil of Lebanon, she said. 'I have been trying to get a purchaser for the last two years; but my lawyer won't let me sell it, because the would-be purchasers offer a thousand pounds or so less than the value. I would give ten to get rid of the bore; but I am as little able to act myself as Sancho was in his government. The oil of Lebanon! Did you hear anything of it when you were in those parts? I thought of changing the name to "London particular"; but my lawyers says the brewers would bring an action against me.'

'I was going down to your neighbourhood--to your friend the duke's, at least. But I am prevented by my poor doctor, who is so weak that I must take him to Malvern. It is a great bore; but I have the satisfaction that I do my duty by him!

'Your cousin George is to be married at last. So I hear, at least. He loves wisely, if not well; for his widow has the name of being prudent and fairly well to do in the world. She has got over the caprices of her youth. Dear Aunt De Courcy will be so delighted. I might perhaps have met her at Gatherum Castle. I do so regret it.

'Mr Moffat has turned up again. We all thought you had finally extinguished him. He left a card the other day, and I have told the servant always to say that I am at home, and that you are with me. He is going to stand for some borough in the west of Ireland. He's used to shillelaghs by this time.

'By the by, I have a cadeau for a friend of yours. I won't tell you what it is, nor permit you to communicate the fact. But when you tell me that in sending it I may fairly congratulate her on having so devoted a slave as you, it shall be sent.

'If you have nothing better to do at present, do come and see my invalid at Malvern. Perhaps you might have a mind to treat for the oil of Lebanon. I'll give you all the assistance I can in cheating my lawyers.'

There was not much about Mary in this; but still, the little that was said made him again declare that neither father nor mother should move him from his resolution. 'I will write to her and say that she may send her present when she pleases. Or I will run down to Malvern for a day. It will do me good to see her.' And so he resolved, he rode away to Mill Hill, thinking, as he went, how he would put the matter to Harry Baker.

Harry was at home; but we need not describe the whole interview. Had Frank been asked beforehand, he would have declared, that on no possible subject could he have had the slightest hesitation in asking Harry any question, or communicating to him any tidings. But when the time came, he found that he did hesitate much. He did not want to ask his friend if he should be wise to marry Mary Thorne. Wise or not, he was determined to do that. But he wished to be quite sure that his mother was wrong in saying that all the world would dissuade him from it. Miss Dunstable, at any rate, did not do so.

At last, seated on a stile at the back of the Mill Hill stables, while Harry stood close before him with both his hands in his pockets, he did get his story told. It was by no means the first time that Harry Baker had heard about Mary Thorne, and he was not, therefore, so surprised as he might have been, had the affair been new to him. And thus, standing there in the position we have described, did Mr Baker, junior, give utterance to such wisdom as was in him on this subject.

'You see, Frank, there are two sides to every question; and, as I take it, fellows are so apt to go wrong because they are so fond of one side, they won't look at the other. There's no doubt about it, Lady Arabella is a very clever woman, and knows what's what; and there's no doubt about this either, that you have a very ticklish hand of cards to play.'

'I'll play it straightforward; and that's my game' said Frank.

'Well and good, my dear fellow. That's the best game always. But what is straightforward? Between you and me, I fear there's no doubt that your father's property has got into a deuce of a mess.'

'I don't see that that has anything to do with it.'

'Yes, but it has. If the estate was all right, and your father could give you a thousand a year to live on without feeling it, and if your eldest child would be cock-sure of Greshamsbury, it might be very well that you should please yourself as to marrying at once. But that's not the case; and yet Greshamsbury is too good a card to be flung away.'

'I could fling it away to-morrow,' said Frank.

'Ah! you think so,' said Harry the Wise. 'But if you were to hear to-morrow that Sir Louis Scatcherd were master of the whole place, and be d--d to him, you would feel very uncomfortable.' Had Harry known how

Doctor Thorne - 110/119

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