Mr. B's Testimony VI

Mr. B's Testimony Corresponding to the 6th Week of Pamela's Bondage continued

I took Pamela walking the next day. I tried to sit with her in an alcove in the garden, but she hunched when I kissed her. So we walked instead. I tried to talk to Pamela about love, but she answered shortly and finally snapped, "I will not talk of this with you, sir."

Round and round we go.

"Do you know where you are?" I said. "And to whom you speak?"

"I am in a place with no friends."

"And to whom do you speak?"

"Not my master," she said, "for no master demeans himself to his poor servant."

I groaned inwardly. Why couldn't Pamela see that life had changed for her? The same arguments no longer held.

I went to put my arms around her. She struggled and said, "To be sure you are Lucifer himself in the shape of my master."

That was too much. I was an ordinary squire, no prince of darkness. I released her.

"These are too great liberties," I said. "If you show no decency towards me, I'll have none to you. Get back here," for Pamela was running towards the house.

She came back, sullen and teary. I glowered at her.

"Lucifer indeed," I muttered. "I'm not so bad, Pamela."

"Forgive me."

"You should ask Lucifer to forgive you. You have given me a character, Pamela. Don't blame me if I act up to it."

"I really am sorry," she said, "but you don't use me like a gentleman."

That was an incorrect statement, but then, Pamela didn't know many gentlemen.

"I should have gone through with my plan Sunday night," I said, then wished I hadn't for she paled.

"Oh, we should end this," I said.

I half-expected her to take that as an invitation to leave Lincolnshire—which misinterpretation I would have to correct. But she stayed, watching me warily.

"I really am sorry," she said earnestly. "But what is left to me but words? I must protest actions that could lead to my undoing."

"What kind of apology is that?" I said. "If you continue to protest, how is that any improvement?"

"I will submit to anything except where my virtue is at stake."

I didn't believe her for a moment. Everything placed Pamela's virtue at stake which gave her, apparently, the right to protest everything I did.

I visited the stables after the mid-day meal. Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes were dining in the parlor when I re-entered the house. They rose when I came in, and I waved them to sit.

"How are you eating?" I said to Pamela.

"Very poorly indeed, sir," Mrs. Jewkes answered.

"Pretty well, considering," Pamela said with the faintest emphasis on considering.

"None of that," I said and tapped her cheek. She smiled faintly. I pulled up a chair and sat sideways, my legs stretched out. I watched Pamela play with her food.

"My mother said you were a nice carver," I said finally and pushed a chicken towards her. "Cut that up."

She did with intense concentration. When she was done, I took a wing and placed it on her plate.

"Eat it," I said.

"I've eaten," she said, but I saw Mrs. Jewkes shake her head slightly.

"For me," I said.

She ate carefully, watching me.

"I'll be in the garden," I said when she was done. "I'd like you to attend me there."

I went out to the pond. I don't know what I expected, but Pamela came.

I took her hand, and she didn't struggle, so I told her the truth:

"You have a good deal of wit and penetration. You are possessed of an open, frank, and generous mind and a lovely appearance. I cannot live without you, Pamela. I am not a profligate. Seizing you, bringing you here, is perhaps the worst I've done. Were I utterly given up to my passions, I should have gratified them already. I do not want to marry—" I'd seen my mother fade under my father's severity; I'd seen my sister's husband evade her shrewishness with drink and less innocuous pastimes; Pamela and I could damage each other beyond all that.

"Yet I must have you," I told her. "I cannot bear the thought of another man supplanting me in your affections. That is why I have used Williams in a manner unworthy of my station. I have told you my mind candidly. Tell me, with openness and candor, what you think I ought to do."

She blushed several times as I spoke, but she retreated when I finished, shaking off my hand.

"Let me go home," she said. "I won't marry at all if you think I shouldn't."

"That's not much of an answer."

"Once I'm gone, you will meet worthier women. You will overcome your regard for me."

I shook my head at her. I'd suffered far too many conversations with worthier women to believe that.

"If I were the first lady in the land instead of poor abject Pamela, I would, I could tell you—" she broke off. I tried hard not to smile. Pamela made a confused, hopeless gesture and sat on the damp grass. I knelt beside her.

"Tell me what you're thinking," I said.

"I overheard what you said to Mrs. Jewkes. I think I am in more danger now than ever in my life."

I pondered this. I couldn't imagine what I'd said to Mrs. Jewkes that would alarm Pamela so much unless, of course, she meant my vow to thaw her with kindness.

I supposed, on reflection, that Pamela was right to be nervous.

I said, "You have never found me a common liar. I can't answer for how long this kind mood will continue; my pride struggles hard within me. But at present, I am sincere."

"You will take advantage of my weakness," she said to her knees.

I sighed. "I've spent a lot of time on you, Pamela, and I'd hate to learn you'd given your heart elsewhere. What about Williams?"

She was annoyed. "That poor man—"

"Oh, shut up," I said.

She glared at the ground.

"You really never intended to marry him?" I said finally.

"I didn't know how else to get away. I asked him to apply to the gentry for my sake. They all refused. Then he decided we should marry. I declined, and he still agreed to assist me. For God's sake."

I thought about this and tried not to laugh. Pamela couldn't have found a less competent Knight Errant if she'd tried. A more subtle and intelligent man could have saved Pamela. Williams was neither.

"So you do prefer me to any other man?"

She pressed her mouth to her knees and shook her head.

"Can't you trust me?" I said.

"I have already said too much," she said, raising her chin. We eyed each other and then, to my pleasure and surprise, she blushed and pressed her face to my shoulder. I put my arms around her and smiled into her neck. I was happier then then I'd been in a long time.

She echoed me, saying, "I'd be so happy if—"

"I won't marry, Pamela," I said.

It was the wrong thing to say. She recoiled. "I am not so presumptuous," she said stiffly. "I would wish you happy in marriage to a lady of suitable degree."

I didn't believe her.

I considered luring Pamela into a sham marriage. I confess that. I even started to put the plan in motion. I knew a man who knew a man who would do the ceremony. Pamela would be satisfied, and we would live together—for years, perhaps—happy and content. I know, I know it was unworthy of me. Anyone who knows me knows how loathsome I find the idea. In others, that is. But there were so few solutions left to Pamela and me at that point. Except marriage. Except that.

Mr. B's Testimony Corresponding to the 7th week of Pamela's Bondage

I received a lecturing letter from my sister. My servants in Bedfordshire had hauled her into the problem of Pamela. She harangued me for seducing Pamela on the one hand and wanting to marry her on the other. I had no intention of marrying although I knew I should for the family line. In any case, if—when—I did marry, I'd marry whomever I damned well pleased.

I had to let the scheming servants go; you cannot have servants forming plots against you, especially servants idiotic enough to involve my sister. The servants included the bulk of the upper table at Bedfordshire: Longman, Mr. Jonathan, and Mrs. Jervis.

It bothered me that I would lose such fine servants. The whole matter was getting out of hand. I needed to let Pamela go home. I knew it, but I couldn't bring myself to say the words.

I was expected at a wedding ball, and I said goodbye to Pamela before I left. I instructed Mrs. Jewkes, in front of Pamela, to watch her closely. Since my sister had gotten involved, I was sure various schemes to free Pamela had been put in motion. If I freed Pamela, it would a considered decision, not something forced on me by interfering busybodies.

The ball was tedious. I don't usually mind social occasions, but my ribs still ached, and the fever came and went. The only highlight was talking to Lady Darnford, wife of Sir Simon, who is a placid, level-headed woman.

"Are you in love with your guest?" she asked me at the end of our dance but kindly, not salaciously.

"I guess I must be," I told her.

I went to Stamford the next day and freed Mr. Williams from gaol. He didn't mention Pamela once; the Knight Errant had been brought to heel.

I mentioned her. I said, "You will leave Miss Andrews alone, is that understood?" and he gulped and nodded.

Pamela had told me she wasn't interested in him, but I confess, I'd begun to doubt her veracity. Pamela will claim she was always honest with me—except for the occasional fib, the occasional untruth, the occasional downright lie. After all, she will say, I imprisoned her.

I knew, even at the time, that Pamela would do what she needed to protect herself. I knew she might have lied to me about Williams, hoping he would return and carry her off. Face to face with Williams, who is handsome enough if dull, I couldn't help but wonder.

When I arrived home on Saturday, Mrs. Jewkes met me carrying a packet of Pamela's letters. It appeared Pamela had been writing vociferously since she arrived at the Lincolnshire estate, then hiding what she wrote. Mrs. Jewkes had finally tracked down the bulk of Pamela's writing.

Pamela didn't want me to read it. She was suspicious when I carried the letters up to her in her chamber. I pointed out that her writing so far had impressed me with her wit and innocence.

She finally confessed she was worried she'd been too blunt in her letters. I couldn't imagine that Pamela could be blunter to the page than she was to my face, but I told her to have more confidence in me. I wanted the honest Pamela, not the Pamela who spoke round and round and round a topic, hiding her thoughts and motives. "I have read many of your saucy reflections," I said, "and yet, I've never upbraided you on that score—" at least, not very often.

"So long as you remember I wrote the truth from my heart," she said, "and that I had the right to escape this forced and illegal restraint."

"You have a powerful defendant in me," I said and went downstairs to read.

The packet contained not only Pamela's letters to her parents but letters from Williams and copies of her letters to him. I glowered over them. Pamela had certainly pleaded her case to Williams most affectingly, and he had certainly presented himself as more a Lancelot than a Galahad. I called Pamela down and taxed her about her "love letters."

"Do you find, sir, that I encouraged his proposal?"

"What about the letters that came before these?" I said. The packet I had started nearly two weeks after Pamela arrived in Lincolnshire, and I knew from Mrs. Jewkes that Pamela and Williams had corresponded before that.

"My father has them."

I remembered then that Mrs. Jewkes believed Pamela had given Williams a message for her parents. Mrs. Jewkes had tried to retrieve the message by arranging an attack on the poor man. I would not have condoned such a crude scheme, especially since it failed in its object.

"What about the letters that follow these?" I said, waving the packet at Pamela. The packet ended with a reference to the attack on Williams. "I like to read the fruits of your pen. You create a pretty air of romance around your troubles."

She set her chin. "You jeer at the misfortunes that you brought upon me."

"Considering the liberties you take with my character," I said, still waving the packet like a mad man, "we are equal there."

"I would not have taken those liberties if you had not given me cause. The cause, sir, is before the effect." Pamela's voice gets quite steely when she's riled. I held back a smile.

"You chop logic very prettily. What the deuce do men go to school for?"

"You wouldn't mock me if I were dull."

"I would not love you so well," I pointed out, and she flushed.

"I would be better off married to a plough-boy," she told the rug, which she knew and I knew wasn't true.

"One of us fox-hunters would have still found you," I said. I hoped that was true. I couldn't imagine never having met Pamela.

"Where have you hidden the rest of your writing?" I said. Mrs. Jewkes had located the current packet under the rose-bush in the garden.

She shook her head.

"Are they on your person?" I said and, when she remained silent, "You know criminals who don't confess are tortured."

"Torture is not used in England," she retorted.

"Oh, my torture will fit the crime," I said. "I'm going to have to strip you, Pamela." I crossed to her and began to slowly untie the handkerchief that masked her bosom. She gazed at me, open-mouth, and for a heart-stopping moment, I thought she wouldn't stop me. But she slapped my hand and darted backwards.

"You'll give me the letters?" I said.

"Yes," she said and fled.

I received a single note from her a few minutes later. She wanted permission to look the letters over. She wouldn't, she promised, make any revisions. I agreed—Pamela probably wanted to prepare herself for my reactions—so long as she delivered them to me the next day.

I was still unable to sleep through the night. The on-again, off-again fever made me restless. When I did sleep, my dreams woke me. Finally, I set sleep aside. Instead, I reread Pamela's letters and smiled over her disgust at Williams' naivety. I agreed with her that he was a man with "no discretion in the world." He certainly wasn't Pamela's equal for plotting or for comprehending people's characters.

I got up early the next morning and walked out to the pond. I was surprised when Pamela came to me there. I had expected another round of pleading.

"I should have taken the opportunity to strip you last night," I said, taking the packet. She made a dismissive gesture. What she wanted was another promise I wouldn't hold her boldness against her. I said I'd do my best and broke the seal on the packet. She would have gone back to the house, but I motioned her to stay.

I've mentioned Pamela's effusive style. I should state absolutely that she doesn't cry or collapse quite as often as she claims. I would never have stopped my ravishment if Pamela's fit that night had been simply one more of many.

Pamela's previous letters commented often on her "oppressions and distresses and fears," but I'd put those complaints down to Pamela's romancing. The letters she gave me that morning were different. Williams had proved unreliable, I'd sent my angry letter—I repented of that now—and Pamela had panicked. She decided to escape by wiggling out the window in her bedroom and throwing her upper-coat, handkerchief, and cap into the pond to put off any pursuers.

I knew about this part of the plan from Mrs. Jewkes. I didn't know the rest: Pamela tried to escape over the wall, but the bricks gave way and struck her on the head.

Her scar. I turned and looked at Pamela. She was gazing across the pond. She started when I lifted her chin but didn't pull back. The scar stretched under her hairline. I turned her head gently and lifted her cap to examine a second scar at the base of her skull. Her hair had been cut to help it heal.

I got up and went over to the brick wall. Pamela's narrative implied she'd been struck once or twice, but I counted at least five bricks lying on the grass.

I went back to the pond and put my arm around Pamela.

"It's a good thing you didn't get out," I said. "You would have been in great danger and alone, and," I added, trying to jolly her, "I would have caught you anyway."

She gave me a half-smile, and I turned back to her letters.

After being struck by bricks, Pamela considered taking her life.

It was no melodramatic proclamation. She even acknowledged her tendency to romanticize and was ashamed of her momentary despair. She had honestly contemplated ending her life in the pond.

Drowned. Buried under water. Out of fear. Fear of me.

I got up, so Pamela couldn't see my face. It was like dreaming awake, only worse, because any follies I caused to myself, I could pay for. But if Pamela had taken her life, it would have been on my shoulders, and I wouldn't have wanted to live.

I turned back. She watched me curiously from the edge of the pond. "Don't sit there," I said, and she got up. I put her letters in my pocket and slid my arms around her.

"I'm sorry," I said, "for pushing you into so much danger and distress."

I felt her head come to rest against my shoulder.

"I will defy the world and the world's censures and make you amends," I said.

I meant marriage. If Williams had been there at that moment, I would have commanded him to wed us.

I felt Pamela withdraw even before she stepped out of my arms.

"Let me go home," she said.

I'd just offered her marriage, and she didn't care. She stood there, not meeting my eyes, and I knew she was thinking about Williams. She preferred a canting clergyman to a man who knew her, who liked her, who wanted to be more to her than a knight.

"Very well," I said and walked away.

I was almost to the house when she called, "One word," but I waved her off. It was time for Pamela to go home.

I ordered the carriage immediately and called in Mrs. Jewkes.

"Pamela is leaving today," I said and ordered her out before she could start expostulating. My head ached. Mrs. Jewkes came back a few minutes later, saying, "She wants her letters, sir." I shook my head and when she left, grumbling, I sat down and wrote to Pamela.

I was still furious over Pamela's rejection, but I knew, in my rational mind, that I was being unfair. She had been my prisoner for seven weeks. She had been so frightened, she'd tried to escape and contemplated suicide. I wished her well with all my heart, but I begged that she wouldn't marry in haste. She would be miserable with someone like Williams. I asked her to think of me as her first husband, to wait a year until her memory of me was ash before she considered another man. A pretty conceit worthy of Pamela, but I meant it. I also promised to return her letters when she reached her parents' home.

I called in Monsieur Colbrand and Robin, my coachman. I gave Robin the letter to give to Pamela the following day. They would be well out of Lincolnshire by then; Pamela would have no reason to fear any more action from me.

I sent the servants out and put my head in my hands. Once she was gone, maybe the fever would abate. I could turn my mind to other things.

I heard Pamela on the stairs with Mrs. Jewkes. As they passed the parlor, Mrs. Jewkes called peevishly, "Sir, you have nothing to say to this baggage before she goes?"

Why would Pamela want to stay when I let the woman speak to her so rudely?

"Who bid you refer to her like that?" I said. "She's offended only me. She deserves to go honest, and she shall go."

And then Pamela was at the door, looking at me with all the delight in her face I'd seen months ago when my mother was still alive.

"Thank you," she said. "God bless you for your goodness to me!"

I almost asked her to stay, but I knew I shouldn't, so I went into my study. Before I closed the door, I heard Pamela say, "And I will pray for you too, Mrs Jewkes, wicked wretch that you are," and I grinned to myself.

I leaned against the door, then sank to the floor. The headache was getting worse and finally, I lay down and closed my eyes against the pain.

I woke near twilight. The room was not quite dark. The headache had lessened, but the fever was back with a vengeance. I made my way to the desk and lit a candle. I considered calling the servants, but the idea tired me too much.

My seat was uncomfortable: I was sitting half-on, half-off my coat. I jerked it loose and realized that Pamela's letters were still in my pocket. I pulled them out and flattened them on the desk. There was no point reading more; they would only remind me that Pamela was gone, no longer upstairs writing furiously in her closet, getting ready to lecture me.

I couldn't help myself. I read.

Pamela had been sorry to hear about my accident, even after my horrible letter to her. She described my aborted ravishment in detail. I winced. But she went on to detail how hard it was for her to resist me—only she didn't trust me.

What did I expect? I'd given her no reason to trust me, not from the moment my mother died. I should have courted her in earnest from the beginning. I should have known then that marriage to Pamela would satisfy all my desires.

The candle guttered and went on, and I sat in the dark, thinking of Pamela, missing Pamela.

Mrs. Jewkes pounded on the door and asked me if I wanted tea.

"No," I said, and she went away.

I went back over Pamela's letters, and an odd coincidence struck me. I'd almost drowned the same day Pamela tried to escape.

As if we were bound to the same fate; if she had died, I would surely have perished in Hertfordshire, whatever the doctor told my sister.

Soul of my soul.

I'd been a fool to let her go.

I lit another candle and wrote a letter, begging Pamela to return "for I find I cannot live a day without you." I asked her to "forgive the man who loves you more than himself" and promised to make her happy.

I went to the stables, hugging the wall because the fever was making me dizzy. I woke Thomas, only remembering after he was up that it was past midnight. But since he was up—

"Prepare a horse," I told him. "I want you to ride after the carriage. I have a letter for Miss Andrews."

As he got ready, I considered that Pamela would never believe I meant her no ill. I went into the back-parlor and wrote a letter to Monsieur Colbrand confirming that Pamela was only to be returned if she wished to come. He could show my letter to him to Pamela.

I gave both letters to Thomas, and he rode off.

The rest of that day is a blur. I fell asleep in the back-parlor. I vaguely remember being half-escorted, half-carried to my chamber above. Towards daylight, someone forced me to drink broth. Later, I heard Mumford's voice—he's the local doctor—and then my arm ached: I'd been blooded, which must have helped because I fell asleep again. But I dreamed of lurching shapes, and I thrashed awake to be given another cup of broth. Finally, towards evening, I slept thoroughly.

I woke to late morning light. Mrs. Jewkes was standing by my bed, arms akimbo.

"Well, she's here," she said. I gazed at her blurrily.

"Pamela," she said. "And in quite a taking because I didn't wake you earlier. I told her—"

"She came back?"

"Yes, and I wouldn't let her wake—"

"Already?"

"They drove all night at her precious command. And she's been up two hours, fretting."

"Ask her if she would so good as to visit me," I said. "Or I could visit her."

"You must stay abed, sir," she said. "I'll tell her."

"Don't urge her," I said, remembering certain passages from Pamela's letters. Mrs. Jewkes took my commands possibly more seriously than any servant ever had.

She rolled her eyes as she turned away. I didn't bother to rebuke her. I sat up and combed my fingers through my hair. I heard feet in the corridor.

"Is she come?" I said, and "Yes," Pamela said.

She looked tired but happy. She came over to the bed and took the hand I held out. I kissed her wrist.

"You do me too much honor," I said.

"I'm sorry you've been ill," she said.

"I can't be ill while you are with me," I said. Yes, I know, but remember, I was feverish. "I hardly dared hope you would oblige me," I added.

She sat beside the bed. I leaned back and watched her talk about the inn she'd stopped at the day before and the ride back. I watched her smile to herself as she talked, watched her eyes gleam as she reflected. I held her hand until I fell asleep.

I got up around noon. I wanted to make sure the servants understood Pamela should be treated like a guest, not a prisoner. She could go where she liked, even town: my carriage was at her disposal. I also told Pamela that Williams was free. I thought she should know.

"We'll take a ride tomorrow," I told her and went back to bed. I didn't dream at all that night.

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