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- Doctor Thorne - 50/119 -


'Don't you know old Bolus? Well, I thought every one in Barsetshire knew Bolus; you especially should do so, as he is such a dear friend of Dr Thorne.'

'A dear friend of Dr Thorne?'

'Yes; he was apothecary at Scarington in the old days, before Dr Fillgrave came into vogue. I remember when Bolus was thought to be a very good sort of doctor.'

'Is he--is he--' whispered Frank, 'is he by way of a gentleman?'

'Ha! ha! ha! Well, I suppose we must be charitable, and say that he is quite as good, at any rate, as many others there are here--' and Mr Athill, as he spoke, whispered into Frank's ear, 'You see there's Finnie here, another Barchester attorney. Now, I really think where Finnie goes, Bolus may go too.'

'The more the merrier, I suppose,' said Frank.

'Well, something a little like that. I wonder why Thorne is not here? I'm sure he was asked.'

'Perhaps he did not particularly wish to meet Finnie and Bolus. Do you know, Mr Athill, I think he was quite right not to come. As for myself, I wish I was anywhere else.'

'Ha! ha! ha! You don't know the duke's ways yet; and what's more, you're young, you happy fellow! But Thorne should have more sense; he ought to show himself here.'

The gormandizing was now going on at a tremendous rate. Though the volubility of their tongues had been for a while stopped by the first shock of the duke's presence, the guests seemed to feel no such constraint upon their teeth. They fed, one may almost say, rabidly, and gave their orders to the servants in an eager manner; much more impressive than that usual at smaller parties. Mr Apjohn, who sat immediately opposite to Frank, had, by some well-planned manoeuvre, contrived to get before him the jowl of a salmon; but, unfortunately, he was not for a while equally successful in the article of sauce. A very limited portion--so at least thought Mr Apjohn--had been put on his plate; and a servant, with a huge sauce tureen, absolutely passed behind his back inattentive to his audible requests. Poor Mr Apjohn in his despair turned round to arrest the man by his coat-tails; but he was a moment too late, and all but fell backwards on the floor. As he righted himself he muttered an anathema, and looked with a face of anguish at his plate.

'Anything the matter, Apjohn?' said Mr Fothergill, kindly, seeing the utter despair written on the poor man's countenance; 'can I get anything for you?'

'The sauce!' said Mr Apjohn, in a voice that would have melted a hermit; and as he looked at Mr Fothergill, he point at the now distant sinner, who was dispensing his melted ambrosia at least ten heads upwards, away from the unfortunate supplicant.

Mr Fothergill, however, knew where to look for balm for such wounds, and in a minute or two, Mr Apjohn was employed quite to his heart's content.

'Well,' said Frank to his neighbour, 'it may be very well once in a way; but I think that on the whole Dr Thorne is right.'

'My dear Mr Gresham, see the world on all sides,' said Mr Athill, who had also been somewhat intent on the gratification of his own appetite, though with an energy less evident than that of the gentleman opposite. 'See the world on all sides if you have an opportunity; and, believe me, a good dinner now and then is a very good thing.'

'Yes; but I don't like eating with hogs.'

'Whish-h! softly, softly, Mr Gresham, or you'll disturb Mr Apjohn's digestion. Upon my word, he'll want it all before he has done. Now, I like this kind of thing once in a way.'

'Do you?' said Frank, in a tone that was almost savage.

'Yes; indeed I do. One sees so much character. And after all, what harm does it do?'

'My idea is that people should live with those whose society is pleasant to them.'

'Live--yes, Mr Gresham--I agree with you there. It wouldn't do for me to live with the Duke of Omnium; I shouldn't understand, or probably approve, his ways. Nor should I, perhaps, much like the constant presence of Mr Apjohn. But now and then--once in a year or so--I do own I like to see them both. Here's the cup; now, whatever you do, Mr Gresham, don't pass the cup without tasting it.'

And so the dinner passed on, slowly enough as Frank thought, but all too quickly for Mr Apjohn. It passed away, and the wine came circulating freely. The tongues again were loosed, the teeth being released from their labours, and under the influence of the claret the duke's presence was forgotten.

But very speedily the coffee was brought. 'This will soon be over now,' said Frank, to himself, thankfully; for, though he be no means despised good claret, he had lost his temper too completely to enjoy it at the present moment. But he was much mistaken; the farce as yet was only at its commencement. The duke took his cup of coffee, and so did the few friends who sat close to him; but the beverage did not seem to be in great request with the majority of the guests. When the duke had taken his modicum, he rose up and silently retired, saying no word and making no sign. And then the farce commenced.

'Now, gentlemen,' said Mr Fothergill, cheerily, 'we are all right. Apjohn, is there claret there? Mr Bolus, I know you stick to the Madeira; you are quite right, for there isn't too much of it left, and my belief is there'll never be more like it.'

And so the duke's hospitality went on, and the duke's guests drank merrily for the next two hours.

'Shan't we see any more of him?' asked Frank.

'Any more of whom?' said Mr Athill.

'Of the duke?'

'Oh, no; you'll see no more of him. He always goes when the coffee comes. It's brought in as an excuse. We've had enough of the light of his countenance to last till next year. The duke and I are excellent friends; and have been so these fifteen years; but I never see more of him than that.'

'I shall go away,' said Frank.

'Nonsense. Mr de Courcy and your other friend won't stir for this hour yet.'

'I don't care. I shall walk on, and they may catch me. I may be wrong; but it seems to me that a man insults me when he asks me to dine with him and never speaks to me. I don't care if he be ten times Duke of Omnium; he can't be more than a gentleman, and as such I am his equal.' And then, having thus given vent to his feelings in somewhat high-flown language, he walked forth and trudged away along the road towards Courcy.

Frank Gresham had been born and bred a Conservative, whereas the Duke of Omnium was well known as a consistent Whig. There is no one so devoutly resolved to admit of no superior as your Conservative, born and bred, no one so inclined to high domestic despotism as your thoroughgoing consistent old Whig.

When he had proceeded about six miles, Frank was picked up by his friends; but even then his anger had hardly cooled.

'Was the duke as civil as ever when you took your leave of him?' said he to his cousin George, as he took his seat on the drag.

'The juke was jeuced jude wine--lem me tell you that, old fella,' hiccupped out the Honourable George, as he touched up the leader under the flank.

CHAPTER XX

THE PROPOSAL

And now the departure from Courcy Castle came rapidly one after the other, and there remained but one more evening before Miss Dunstable's carriage was to be packed. The countess, in the early moments of Frank's courtship, had controlled his ardour and checked the rapidity of his amorous professions; but as days, and at last weeks, wore away, she found that it was necessary to stir the fire which she had before endeavoured to slacken.

'There will be nobody here to-night but our own circle,' said she to him, 'and I really think you should tell Miss Dunstable what your intentions are. She will have fair ground to complain of you if you don't.'

Frank began to feel that he was in a dilemma. He had commenced making love to Miss Dunstable partly because he liked the amusement, and partly from a satirical propensity to quiz his aunt by appearing to fall into her scheme. But he had overshot the mark, and did not know what answer to give when he was thus called upon to make a downright proposal. And then, although he did not care two rushes about Miss Dunstable in the way of love, he nevertheless experienced a sort of jealousy when he found that she appeared to be indifferent to him, and that she corresponded the meanwhile with his cousin George. Though all their flirtations had been carried on on both sides palpably by way of fun, though Frank had told himself ten times a day that his heart was true to Mary Thorne, yet he had an undefined feeling that it behoved Miss Dunstable to be a little in love with him. He was not quite at ease in that she was not a little melancholy now that his departure was so nigh; and, above all, he was anxious to know what were the real facts about that letter. He had in his own breast threatened Miss Dunstable with a heartache; and now, when the time for their separation came, he found that his own heart was the more likely to ache of the two.

'I suppose I must say something to her, or my aunt will never be satisfied,' said he to himself as he sauntered into the little drawing-room on that last evening. But at the very time he was ashamed of himself, for he knew he was going to ask badly.


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