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- Doctor Thorne - 70/119 -


'Yes they are though: poor dear Roger, he used to call me "my lady" just to make fun of me; I didn't mind it so much from him. But, Miss Thorne--'

'Mary, Mary, Mary.'

'Ah, well! I shall do it in time. But, Miss--Mary, ha! ha! ha! never mind, let me alone. But what I want to say is this: do you think I could drop it? Hannah says, that if I go the right way about it she is sure I can.'

'Oh! but, Lady Scatcherd, you shouldn't think of such a thing.'

'Shouldn't I now?'

'Oh, no; for your husband's sake you should be proud of it. He gained great honour, you know.'

'Ah, well,' said she, sighing after a short pause; 'if you think it will do him any good, of course I'll put up with it. And then I know Louis would be mad if I talked of such a thing. But, Miss Thorne, dear, a woman like me don't like to have to be made a fool of all the days of her life if she can help it.'

'But, Lady Scatcherd,' said Mary, when this question of the title had been duly settled, and her ladyship made to understand that she must bear the burden for the rest of her life, 'but, Lady Scatcherd, you were speaking of Sir Roger's sister; what became of her?'

'Oh, she did very well at last, as Sir Roger did himself; but in early life she was very unfortunate--just at the time of my marriage with dear Roger--,' and then, just as she was about to commence so much as she knew of the history of Mary Scatcherd, she remembered that the author of her sister-in-law's misery had been a Thorne, a brother of the doctor; and, therefore, as she presumed, a relative of her guest; and suddenly she became mute.

'Well,' said Mary; 'just as you were married, Lady Scatcherd?'

Poor Lady Scatcherd had very little worldly knowledge, and did not in the least know how to turn the conversation or escape from the trouble into which she had fallen. All manner of reflections began to crowd upon her. In her early days she had known very little of the Thornes, nor had she thought much of them since, except as regarded her friend the doctor; but at this moment she began to think that she had never heard more than two brothers in the family. Who then could have Mary's father? She felt at once that it would be improper for to say anything as to Henry Thorne's terrible faults and sudden fate;--improper also, to say more about Mary Scatcherd; but she was quite unable to drop the matter otherwise than abruptly, and with a start.

'She was very unfortunate, you say, Lady Scatcherd?'

'Yes, Miss Thorne; Mary, I mean--never mind me--I shall do it in time. Yes, she was; but now I think of it, I had better say nothing more about it. There are reasons, and I ought not to have spoken of it. You won't be provoked with me, will you?'

Mary assured her that she would not be provoked, and of course asked no more questions about Mary Scatcherd; nor did she think much more about it. It was not so however with her ladyship, who could not keep herself from reflecting that the old clergyman at the Close at Barchester certainly had but two sons, one of whom was now the doctor at Greshamsbury, and the other of whom had perished so wretchedly at the gate of that farmyard. Who then was the father of Mary Thorne?

The days passed very quietly at Boxall Hill. Every morning Mary went out on her donkey, who justified by his demeanour all that had been said in his praise; then she would read or draw, then walk with Lady Scatcherd, then dine, then walk again; and so the days passed quietly away. Once or twice a week the doctor would come over and drink his tea there, riding home in the cool of the evening. Mary also received one visit from her friend Patience.

So the days passed quietly away till the tranquillity of the house was suddenly broken by tidings from London. Lady Scatcherd received a letter from her son, contained in three lines, in which he intimated that on the following day he meant to honour them with a visit. He had intended, he said, to have gone to Brighton with some friends; but as he felt himself a little out of sorts, he would postpone his marine trip and do his mother the grace of spending a few days with her.

This news was not very pleasant to Mary, by whom it had been understood, as it had been also by her uncle, that Lady Scatcherd would have had the house to herself; but as there was no means of preventing the evil, Mary could only inform the doctor, and prepare herself to meet Sir Louis Scatcherd.

CHAPTER XXVIII

THE DOCTOR HEARS SOMETHING TO HIS ADVANTAGE

Sir Louis Scatcherd had told his mother that he was rather out of sorts, and when he reached Boxall Hill it certainly did not appear that he had given any exaggerated statement of his own maladies. He certainly was a good deal out of sorts. He had had more than one attack of delirium tremens after his father's death, and had almost been at death's door.

Nothing had been said about this by Dr Thorne at Boxall Hill; but he was by no means ignorant of his ward's state. Twice he had gone up to London to visit him; twice he had begged him to go down into the country and place himself under his mother's care. On the last occasion, the doctor had threatened him with all manner of pains and penalties: with pains, as to his speedy departure from this world and all its joys; and with penalties, in the shape of poverty if that departure should by any chance be retarded. But these threats had at the moment been in vain, and the doctor had compromised matters by inducing Sir Louis to promise that he would go to Brighton. The baronet, however, who was at length frightened by some renewed attack, gave up his Brighton scheme, and, without notice to the doctor, hurried down to Boxall Hill.

Mary did not see him on the first day of his coming, but the doctor did. He received such intimation of the visit as enabled him to be at the house soon after the young man's arrival; and, knowing that his assistance might be necessary, he rode over to Boxall Hill. It was a dreadful task to him, this of making the same fruitless endeavour for the son that he had made for the father, and in the same house. But he was bound by every consideration to perform the task. He had promised the father that he would do for the son all that was in his power; and he had, moreover, the consciousness, that should Sir Louis succeed in destroying himself, the next heir to all the property was his own niece, Mary Thorne.

He found Sir Louis in a low, wretched, miserable state. Though he was a drunkard as his father was, he was not at all such a drunkard as his father. The physical capacities of the men were very different. The daily amount of alcohol which the father had consumed would have burnt up the son in a week; whereas, though the son was continually tipsy, what he swallowed would hardly have had an injurious effect upon the father.

'You are all wrong, quite wrong,' said Sir Louis petulantly; 'it isn't that at all. I have taken nothing this week past--literally nothing. I think it's the liver.'

Dr Thorne wanted no one to tell him what was the matter with his ward. It was his liver; his liver, and his head, and his stomach, and his heart. Every organ in his body had been destroyed, or was in the course of destruction. His father had killed himself with brandy; the son more elevated in his tastes, was doing the same thing with curacoa, maraschino, and cherry-bounce.

'Sir Louis,' said the doctor--he was obliged to be much more punctilious with him than he had been with the contractor--'the matter is in your hands entirely: if you cannot keep your lips from that accursed poison, you have nothing in this world to look forward to; nothing, nothing!'

Mary proposed to return with her uncle to Greshamsbury, and he was at first inclined that she should do so. But this idea was overruled, partly in compliance with Lady Scatcherd's entreaties, and partly because it would have seemed as though they had both thought the presence of the owner had made the house an unfit habitation for decent people. The doctor, therefore, returned, leaving Mary there; and Lady Scatcherd busied herself between her two guests.

On the next day Sir Louis was able to come down to a late dinner, and Mary was introduced to him. He had dressed himself in his best array; and as he had--at any rate for the present moment--been frightened out of his libations, he was prepared to make himself as agreeable as possible. His mother waited on him almost as a slave might have done; but she seemed to do so with the fear of a slave rather than the love of a mother. She was fidgety in her attentions, and worried him by endeavouring to make her evening sitting-room agreeable.

But Sir Louis, though he was not very sweetly behaved under these manipulations from his mother's hands, was quite complaisant to Miss Thorne; nay, after the expiration of a week he was almost more than complaisant. He piqued himself on his gallantry, and now found that, in the otherwise dull seclusion of Boxall Hill, he had a good opportunity of exercising it. To do him justice it must be admitted that he would not have been incapable of a decent career had he stumbled on some girl who could have loved him before he stumbled upon his maraschino bottle. Such might have been the case with many a lost rake. The things that are bad are accepted because the things that are good do not come easily in his way. How many a miserable father reviles with bitterness of spirit the low tastes of his son, who has done nothing to provide his child with higher pleasures!

Sir Louis--partly in the hopes of Mary's smiles, and partly frightened by the doctor's threats--did, for a while, keep himself within decent bounds. He did not usually appear before Mary's eyes till three or four in the afternoon; but when he did come forth, he came forth sober and resolute to please. His mother was delighted, and was not slow to sing his praises; and even the doctor, who now visited Boxall Hill more frequently than ever, began to have some hopes.

One constant subject, I must not say of conversation, on the part of Lady Scatcherd, but rather of declamation, had hitherto been the beauty and manly attributes of Frank Gresham. She had hardly ceased to talk to Mary of the infinite good qualities of the young squire, and especially of his prowess in the matter of Mr Moffat. Mary had listened to all this eloquence, not perhaps with inattention, but without much reply. She had not been exactly sorry to hear Frank talked about; indeed, had she been so minded, she could herself have said something on the same subject; but she did not wish to take Lady Scatcherd altogether into her confidence, and she had been unable to


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