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- Doctor Thorne - 20/119 -
say; with absolute exactness, probably not; with great approach to it, probably yes. By one person, at any rate, no guess whatever was made; no thought relative to Dr Thorne's niece ever troubled him; no idea that Mary Scatcherd had left a child in England ever occurred to him; and that person was Roger Scatcherd, Mary's brother.
To one friend, and only one, did the doctor tell the whole truth, and that was to the old squire. 'I have told you,' said the doctor, 'partly that you may know that the child has no right to mix with your children if you think much of such things. Do you, however, see to this. I would rather that no one else should be told.'
No one else had been told; and the squire had 'seen to it,' by accustoming himself to look at Mary Thorne running about the house with his own children as though she were of the same brood. Indeed, the squire had always been fond of Mary, had personally noticed her, and, in the affair of Mam'selle Larron, had declared that he would have her placed at once on the bench of magistrates;--much to the disgust of the Lady Arabella.
And so things had gone on and on, and had not been thought of with much downright thinking; till now, when she was one-and-twenty years of age, his niece came to him, asking as to her position, and inquiring in what rank of life she was to find a husband.
And so the doctor walked, backwards and forwards through the garden, slowly, thinking now with some earnestness what if, after all, he had been wrong about his niece? What if by endeavouring to place her in the position of a lady, he had falsely so placed her, and robbed her of her legitimate position? What if there was no rank of life in which she could now properly attach herself?
And then, how had it answered, that plan of his of keeping her all to himself? He, Dr Thorne, was still a poor man; the gift of saving money had not been his; he had ever a comfortable house for her to live in, and, in spite of Doctors Fillgrave, Century, Rerechild, and others, had made from his profession an income sufficient for their joint wants; but he had not done as others do: he had no three or four thousand pounds in the Three per Cents., on which Mary might live in some comfort when he should die. Late in life he had insured his life for eight hundred pounds; and to that, and that only, had he to trust for Mary's future maintenance. How had it answered, then, this plan of letting her be unknown to, and undreamed of, by, those who were as near to her on her mother's side as he was on the father's? On that side, though there had been utter poverty, there was now absolute wealth.
But when he took her to himself, had he not rescued her from the very depths of the lowest misery: from the degradation of the workhouse; from the scorn of honest-born charity-children; from the lowest of the world's low conditions? Was she not now the apple of his eye, his one great sovereign comfort--his pride, his happiness, his glory? Was he to make her over, to make any portion of her over to others, if, by doing so, she might be able to share the wealth, as well as the coarse manners and uncouth society of her at present unknown connexions? He, who had never worshipped wealth on his own behalf; he, who had scorned the idol of the gold, and had ever been teaching her to scorn it; was he now to show that his philosophy had all been false as soon as the temptation to do so was put in his way?
But yet, what man would marry this bastard child, without a sixpence, and bring not only poverty, but ill blood also on his own children? It might be very well for him, Dr Thorne; for him whose career was made, whose name, at any rate, was his own; for him who had a fixed standing-ground in the world; it might be well for him to indulge in large views of a philosophy antagonistic to the world's practice; but had he a right to do it for his niece? What man would marry a girl so placed? For those among whom she might have legitimately found a level, education had now utterly unfitted her. And then, he well knew that she would never put out her hand in token of love to any one without telling all she knew and all she surmised as to her own birth.
And that question of this evening; had it not been instigated by some appeal on her part? Was there not already within her breast some cause for disquietude which had made her so pertinacious? Why else had she told him then, for the first time, that she did not know where to rank herself? If such an appeal had been made to her, it must have come from young Frank Gresham. What, in such case, would it behove him to do? Should he pack up his all, his lancet-case, pestle and mortar, and seek anew fresh ground in a new world, leaving behind a huge triumph to those learned enemies of his, Fillgrave, Century, and Rerechild? Better that than remain at Greshamsbury at the cost of the child's heart and pride.
And so he walked slowly backwards and forwards through his garden, meditating these things painfully enough.
It will of course be remembered that Mary's interview with the other girls at Greshamsbury took place some two or three days subsequently to Frank's generous offer of his hand and heart. Mary had quite made up her mind that the whole thing was to be regarded as a folly, and that it was not to be spoken of to any one; but yet her heart was sore enough. She was full of pride, and yet she knew she must bow her neck to the pride of others. Being, as she was herself, nameless, she could not but feel a stern, unflinching antagonism, the antagonism of a democrat, to the pretensions of others who were blessed with that of which she had been deprived. She had this feeling; and yet, of all the things that she coveted, she most coveted that, for glorying in which, she was determined to heap scorn on others. She said to herself, proudly, that God's handiwork was the inner man, the inner woman, the naked creature animated by a living soul; that all other adjuncts were but man's clothing for the creature; all others, whether stitched by tailors or contrived by kings. Was it not within her capacity to do as nobly, to love as truly, to worship her God in heaven with as perfect a faith, and her god on earth with as leal a troth, as though blood had descended to her purely through scores of purely born progenitors? So to herself she spoke; and yet, as she said it, she knew that were she a man, such a man as the heir of Greshamsbury should be, nothing would tempt her to sully her children's blood by mating herself with any one that was base born. She felt that were she Augusta Gresham, no Mr Moffat, let his wealth be what it might, should win her hand unless he too could tell of family honours and a line of ancestors.
And so, with a mind at war with itself, she came forth armed to do battle against the world's prejudices, those prejudices she herself loved so well.
And was she thus to give up her old affections, her feminine loves, because she found that she was a cousin to nobody? Was she no longer to pour out her heart to Beatrice Gresham with all the girlish volubility of an equal? Was she to be severed from Patience Oriel, and banished--or rather was she to banish herself--from the free place she had maintained in the various youthful female conclaves within that parish of Greshamsbury?
Hitherto, what Mary Thorne would say, what Miss Thorne suggested in such and such a matter, was quite as frequently asked as any opinion from Augusta Gresham--quite as frequently, unless when it chanced that any of the De Courcy girls were at the house. Was this to be given up? These feelings had grown up among them since they were children, and had not hitherto been questioned among them. Now they were questioned by Mary Thorne. Was she in fact to find that her position had been a false one, and must be changed?
Such had been her feelings when she protested that she would not be Augusta Gresham's bridesmaid, and offered to put her neck beneath Beatrice's foot; when she drove the Lady Margaretta out of the room, and gave her own opinion as to the proper grammatical construction of the word humble; such also had been her feelings when she kept her hand so rigidly to herself while Frank held the dining-room door open for her to pass through.
'Patience Oriel,' said she to herself, 'can talk to him of her father and mother: let Patience take his hand; let her talk to him;' and then, not long afterwards, she saw that Patience did talk to him; and seeing it, she walked along silent, among some of the old people, and with much effort did prevent a tear from falling down her cheek.
But why was the tear in her eye? Had she not proudly told Frank that his love-making was nothing but a boy's silly rhapsody? Had she not said so while she had yet reason to hope that her blood was as good as his own? Had she not seen at a glance that his love tirade was worthy of ridicule, and of no other notice? And yet there was a tear now in her eye because this boy, whom she had scolded from her, whose hand, offered in pure friendship, she had just refused, because he, so rebuffed by her, had carried his fun and gallantry to one who would be less cross to him!
She could hear as she was walking, that while Lady Margaretta was with them, their voices were loud and merry; and her sharp ear could also hear, when Lady Margaretta left them, that Frank's voice became low and tender. So she walked on, saying nothing, looking straight before her, and by degrees separating herself from all the others.
The Greshamsbury grounds were on one side somewhat too closely hemmed in by the village. On this side was a path running the length of one of the streets of the village; and far down the path, near the extremity of the gardens, and near also to a wicket-gate which led out into the village, and which could be opened from the inside, was a seat, under a big yew-tree, from which, through a breach in the houses, might be seen the parish church, standing in the park on the other side. Hither Mary walked alone, and here she seated herself, determined to get rid of her tears and their traces before she again showed herself to the world.
'I shall never be happy here again,' said she to herself; 'never. I am no longer one of them, and I cannot live among them unless I am so.' And then an idea came across her mind that she hated Patience Oriel; and then, instantly another idea followed--quick as such thoughts are quick--that she did not hate Patience Oriel at all; that she liked her, nay, loved her; that Patience Oriel was a sweet girl; and that she hoped the time would come when she might see her the lady of Greshamsbury. And then the tear, which had been no whit controlled, which indeed had now made itself master of her, came to a head, and, bursting through the floodgates of the eye, came rolling down, and in its fall, wetted her hand as it lay on her lap. 'What a fool! what an idiot! what an empty-headed cowardly fool I am!' said she, springing up from the bench on her feet.
As she did so, she heard voices close to her, at the little gate. They were those of her uncle and Frank Gresham.
'God bless you, Frank!' said the doctor, as he passed out of the grounds. 'You will excuse a lecture, won't you, from so old a friend?--though you are a man now, and discreet of course, by Act of
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