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- Doctor Thorne - 90/119 -


rest of his thoughts.

CHAPTER XXXVI

WILL HE COME AGAIN?

Long before the doctor returned home after the little dinner-party above described, Mary had learnt that Frank was already at Greshamsbury. She had heard nothing of him, not a word, nothing in the shape of a message, for twelve months; and at her age twelve months is a long period. Would he come and see her in spite of his mother? Would he send her any tidings of is return, or notice her in any way? If he did not, what would she do? and if he did, what then would she do? It was so hard to resolve; so hard to be deserted; and so hard to dare to wish that she might not be deserted! She continued to say to herself, that it would be better that they should be strangers; and she could hardly keep herself from tears in the fear that they might be so. What chance could there be that he should care for her, after an absence spent in travelling over the world? No; she would forget that affair of his hand; and then, immediately after having so determined, she would confess to herself that it was a thing not to be forgotten, and impossible of oblivion.

On her uncle's return, she would hear some word about him; and so she sat alone, with a book before her, of which she could not read a line. She expected them about eleven, and was, therefore, rather surprised when the fly stopped at the door before nine.

She immediately heard her uncle's voice, loud and angry, calling for Thomas. Both Thomas and Bridget were unfortunately out, being, at this moment, forgetful of all sublunary cares, and seated in happiness under a beech-tree in the park. Janet flew to the little gate, and there found Sir Louis insisting that he would be taken at once to his own mansion at Boxall Hill, and positively swearing that he would not longer submit to the insult of the doctor's surveillance.

In the absence of Thomas, the doctor was forced to apply for assistance to the driver of the fly. Between them the baronet was dragged out of the vehicle, the windows suffered much, and the doctor's hat also. In this way, he was taken upstairs, and was at last put to bed, Janet assisting: nor did the doctor leave the room till his guest was asleep. Then he went into the drawing-room to Mary. It may easily be conceived that he was hardly in a humour to talk much about Frank Gresham.

'What am I to do with him?' said he, almost in tears: 'what am I to do with him?'

'Can you send him to Boxall Hill?' asked Mary.

'Yes; to kill himself there! But it is no matter; he will kill himself somewhere. Oh! what that family have done for me!' And then, suddenly remembering a portion of their doings, he took Mary in his arms, and kissed and blessed her; and declared that, in spite of all this, he was a happy man.

There was no word about Frank that night. The next morning the doctor found Sir Louis very weak, and begging for stimulants. He was worse than weak; he was in such a state of wretched misery and mental prostration; so low in heart, in such collapse of energy and spirit, that Dr Thorne thought it prudent to remove his razors from his reach.

'For God's sake do let me have a little chasse-cafe; I'm always used to it; ask Joe if I'm not! You don't want to kill me, do you?' And the baronet cried piteously, like a child, and, when the doctor left him for the breakfast-table, abjectly implored Janet to get him some curacoa which he knew was in one of his portmanteaus. Janet, however, was true to her master.

The doctor did give him some wine; and then, having left strict orders as to his treatment--Bridget and Thomas being now both in the house--went forth to some of his too much neglected patients.

Then Mary was again alone, and her mind flew away to her lover. How should she be able to compose herself when she should first see him? See him she must. People cannot live in the same village without meeting. If she passed him at the church-door, as she often passed Lady Arabella, what should she do? Lady Arabella always smiled a peculiar, little, bitter smile, and this, with half a nod of recognition, carried off the meeting. Should she try the bitter smile, the half-nod with Frank? Alas! she knew it was not in her to be so much mistress of her own heart's blood.

As she thus thought, she stood in the drawing-room window, looking out into her garden; and, as she leant against the sill, her head was surrounded by the sweet creepers. 'At any rate, he won't come here,' she said: and so, with a deep sigh, she turned from the window into the room.

There he was, Frank Gresham himself standing there in her immediate presence, beautiful as Apollo. Her next thought was how she might escape from out of his arms. How it happened that she had fallen into them, she never knew.

'Mary! my own, own love! my own one! sweetest! dearest! best! Mary! dear Mary! have you not a word to say to me?'

No; she had not a word, though her life depended on it. The exertion necessary for not crying was quite enough for her. This, then, was the bitter smile and the half-nod that was to pass between them; this was the manner in which estrangement was to grow into indifference; this was the mode of meeting by which she was to prove that she was mistress of her conduct, if not her heart! There he held her close bound to his breast, and she could only protect her face, and that all ineffectually, with her hands. 'He loves another,' Beatrice had said. 'At any rate, he will not love me,' her own heart had said also. Here now was the answer.

'You know you cannot marry him,' Beatrice had said, also. Ah! if that really were so, was not this embrace deplorable for them both? And yet how could she not be happy? She endeavoured to repel him; but with what a weak endeavour! Her pride had been wounded to the core, not by Lady Arabella's scorn, but by the conviction which had grown on her, that though she had given her own heart absolutely away, had parted with it wholly and for ever, she had received nothing in return. The world, her world, would know that she had loved, and loved in vain. But here now was the loved one at her feet; the first moment that his enforced banishment was over, had brought him here. How could she not be happy?

They all said that she could not marry him. Well, perhaps it might be so; nay, when she thought of it, must not that edict too probably be true? But if so, it would not be his fault. He was true to her, and that satisfied her pride. He had taken from her, by surprise, a confession of her love. She had often regretted her weakness in allowing him to do so; but she could not regret it now. She could endure to suffer; nay, it would not be suffering while he suffered with her.

'Not one word, Mary? Then after all my dreams, after all my patience, you do not love me at last?'

Oh, Frank! notwithstanding what has been said in thy praise, what a fool thou art! Was any word necessary for thee? Had not her heart beat against thine? Had she not borne thy caresses? Had there been one touch of anger when she warded off thy threatened kisses? Bridget, in the kitchen, when Jonah became amorous, smashed his nose with the rolling-pin. But when Thomas sinned, perhaps as deeply, she only talked of doing so. Miss Thorne, in the drawing-room, had she needed self-protection, could doubtless have found the means, though the process would probably have been less violent.

At last Mary succeeded in her efforts at enfranchisement, and she and Frank stood at some little distance from each other. She could not but marvel at him. That long, soft beard, which just now had been so close to her face, was all new; his whole look was altered; his mien, and gait, and very voice were not the same. Was this, indeed, the very Frank who had chattered of his boyish love, two years since, in the gardens at Greshamsbury?

'Not one word of welcome, Mary?'

'Indeed, Mr Gresham, you are welcome home.'

'Mr Gresham! Tell me, Mary--tell me at once--has anything happened? I could not ask up there.'

'Frank,' she said, and then stopped; not being able at the moment to get any further.

'Speak to me honestly, Mary; honestly and bravely. I offered you my hand once before; there it is again. Will you take it?'

She looked wistfully up in his eyes; and would fain have taken it. But though a girl may be honest in such a case, it is so hard for her to be brave.

He still held out his hand. 'Mary,' said he, 'if you can value it, it shall be yours through good fortune or ill fortune. There may be difficulties; but if you can love me, we will get over them. I am a free man; free to do as I please with myself, except so far as I am bound to you. There is my hand. Will you have it?' And then he, too, looked into her eyes, and waited composedly, as though determined to have an answer.

She slowly raised her hand, and, as she did so, her eyes fell to the ground. It then drooped again, and was again raised; and, at last, her light tapering fingers rested on his broad open palm.

They were soon clutched, and the whole hand brought absolutely within his grasp. 'There, now you are my own!' he said, 'and none of them shall part us; my own Mary, my own wife.'

'Oh, Frank, is not this imprudent? Is it not wrong?'

'Imprudent! I am sick of prudence. I hate prudence. And as for wrong--no. I say it is not wrong; certainly not wrong if we love each other. And you do love me, Mary--eh? You do! don't you?'

He would not excuse her, or allow her to escape from saying it in so many words; and when the words did come at last, they came freely. 'Yes, Frank, I do love you; if that were all you would have no cause for fear.'

'And I will have no cause for fear.'

'Ah; but your father, Frank, and my uncle. I can never bring myself to do anything that shall bring either of them to sorrow.'

Frank, of course, ran through all his arguments. He would go into a profession, or take a farm and live in it. He would wait; that is, for a few months. 'A few months, Frank!' said Mary. 'Well, perhaps six.' 'Oh, Frank!' But Frank would not be stopped. He would do anything that his father might ask him. Anything but the one thing. He would not give up


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