Mr. B's Testimony VIII

Testimony of Mr. B Corresponding to Pamela and Mr. B's Engagement continued

Sunday was bearable. Mr. Andrews read the psalm and did a fine job. He wore one of my suits and with his white hair and sonorous voice, he made a more impressive sight than tweedy Mr. Williams.

I suppose I should be kinder to the man, but he chose as his text the generosity of benefactors.

"Is he going to compliment me again?" I muttered to Pamela, and she patted my hand.

He didn't. Just.

Lady Jones persuaded Mr. Andrews to read another psalm which ended the service pleasantly. But it was still too depressingly grave, so after dinner, I read Pamela's version of the 137th psalm which she'd written in one of her letters. Pamela was embarrassed although she was most annoyed at my reading the stanza castigating Mrs. Jewkes (Remember, Lord, this Mrs. Jewkes/When with a mighty sound/She cries, Down with her chastity/Down to the very ground). She was trying to get on with Mrs. Jewkes now that she was going to be the lady of the house. The best way to get on with Mrs. Jewkes, I told her, was to put Mrs. Jewkes in her place. A lady does not feel sorry for servants.

I took Williams out walking later and got him to talk about French philosophy which was more bearable than his groveling. Besides, I could always throw out a reference to his poor behavior to keep him in line.

I left Pamela to the ladies. I was hoping they would persuade her to move up the wedding date. I put down Pamela's reluctance to a fear of appearing acquisitive—after all, wily servants have bamboozled clueless masters before. When I returned, the younger ladies were again pressing Pamela to include a ball with her wedding.

She flatly refused.

"Such sackcloth and ashes over a marriage," said the youngest Darnford chit, and Pamela flushed but held firm. She also refused to name a day. I decided to confront her the next morning. I'd received the license and once her father was on his way back to Bedfordshire (on a horse from my stables), I went upstairs and showed the license to Pamela.

"Now," I said, "you should oblige me with a day."

She leaned over and kissed my hand which was disconcerting.

"I ought to resign myself to your will," she said. "But—"

"But what?"

"I don't want to be too forward."

"If that's the problem," I said, "we can get married today."

"No," she said. "Let it be Thursday."

She sent one of her quick gazes upwards, saw my confusion, and said, "My parents were married on Thursday. I was born on Thursday. Your mama took me into her protection on Thursday. And you, sir, caused me to be carried here on Thursday."

"This is a little superstitious," I said. "I could make as good an argument for Monday. Your parents could have decided to be married on Monday. My mother could have prepared to get you on Monday. I wrote you on Monday asking you to come back to me, and you returned on the same day. And now, you can say, I was married on Monday."

"Then let it be next Monday," Pamela said.

I swear her lip twitched.

"Let it be this Wednesday," I growled.

"Defer one more day, and it will be Thursday!" and she grinned up at me triumphantly.

I tried to keep a stern countenance. "Are you certain?"

And she blushed and said, "Yes."

I went downstairs in good humor and sauntered out onto the drive. A messenger had just arrived with a letter.

"I'm meant to wait for a reply," he said.

The letter was from my sister's husband. In it, he reproved me for thinking to marry below my station. He went on to warn me what people were saying in Bedfordshire of my libertine character. I was a foolish man who did not know his own mind. I should leave Lincolnshire immediately and join my sister in London where I would regain my sense. I should remember my past follies—

He would not have written such gross impertinence at his own instigation. I know the man. It was all my sister's interference. I tore up the letter and order the messenger off my property.

My sister, Barbara, has tried to bully me since the day I was born. I am younger by seven years, and although I am the heir, she has always thought she knew better how I should behave, who I should associate with, how I should handle the estates. She will use any past mistake or indiscretion of mine to gain her ends.

I found I was trembling and walked around the house to the stables. I didn't want Pamela to see me in a temper. She knew I had one, but she'd never had to endure a full-blown rage. We are not pleasant people, my sister and I, when we are angered.

I got a horse and rode out. I rode the horse hard, harder than I should have, to the meadows and then away from them into the unmowed fields, which could be dangerous to the horse, so I slowed to a walk.

My sister and I inherited our father's temper if not his lack of humor. I am, however, more generous than my father and sister—in my better moments, at least. But then I had our mother's influence. She and my sister never got on. My sister saw her as compliant, dreamy, but I marveled at her steadiness and good will.

Which I had found in Pamela. I stopped the horse at a stream so it could drink, dismounted, and leaned against its side.

I had Pamela. She was resolute, strong, firm. Occasionally obstructive but no screamer and certainly, no bully. I'd learned that Pamela's temper was regulated by good sense and empathy. Pamela always retreated into thought before lashing out. She was and is a far better person than me.

My sister would try to keep Pamela from me. She would try to stop the wedding. I knew her.

I remounted and went to find Williams.

I got home late around supper time. Pamela had been worried at my absence, so I told her about the letter and suggested we let people to believe our marriage would be in two Thursdays while marrying that coming Thursday. Williams would perform the ceremony—he had already agreed—with Peters assisting.

Pamela thought it a good plan though she was worried about my sister. But I would handle that problem.

I was still short-tempered the next day and snapped at Pamela when she got a little too moralistic. She fell silent, not out of tact to my booby sensibilities but from surprise.

"I didn't say you should never tell me your pious impulses," I snapped, and she widened her eyes at me and raised her brows.

I couldn't imagine why she would want to marry me.

She didn't seem to know either. By Wednesday night, she was as jittery as a colt. We ate together in the parlor or, at least, I ate while Pamela fidgeted. Finally, I rang for the plates to be taken away and pulled Pamela onto my lap.

"I thought all doubts had been dealt with," I said against her hair.

She pressed her face to my arm, her fingers kneading the cuff of my shirt; I'd removed my frock coat.

"I am just being foolish," she said. "I don't know why."

I smoothed her hair and sighed. "If I have been too pressing," I said, "we can choose another day. If you think your fears will abate—"

"Whatever day we choose, I will feel the same beforehand."

I began to worry then that I'd misread Pamela's affections. Except there she sat, on my lap, and she seemed quite relaxed and, for the moment, calm.

"This timidity isn't like you," I said.

"I have no woman to confide in," she pointed out.

I granted her that. She had no mother, not even mine, or sister, and Mrs. Jewkes, however well-meaning, hardly qualified as a confidant.

"I'll compose myself," she said.

I went out to check on the preparations for the coming day. None of the servants had been told we were marrying; my sister had spies everywhere. Instead, they thought Peters and Williams were coming to breakfast and to look over the chapel after which Pamela and I were going for a ride in the carriage. I reiterated my instructions regarding the meal and the carriage.

When I returned, Pamela was curled on the window seat, looking through a book of prints. I sat down near her. She seemed not only calmer but more serious; she said, placing a finger in the book, "It has occurred to me that I bring you no marriage portion."

"I can never recompense you for what you have suffered."

She made one of her dismissive gestures. "I wish I had more. But what's a wish but a bunch of words—an acknowledgment that one lacks power to oblige and only the will to try?"

"That's all I want," I said. "And all, I think, that Heaven requires." I sat in the window seat, and she nestled against me. "No more of these doubts, Pamela. I wouldn't want to be thinking about settlements right now. I have ample enough possessions for us both."

We looked at the prints. The book was, I believe, Knox's adventures in Ceylon. We studied the elephants and monkeys.

I said finally, "I could ask Lady Jones to join us tomorrow."

"That would disoblige the Darnfords."

"There's Mrs. Jewkes."

She pursed her lips. I knew, from Pamela's letters, that Mrs. Jewkes had manhandled Pamela. I had already reproved the woman, and I could have let her go, but she was a scrupulous housekeeper. Honest servants are not that easy to come by.

"She is very civil to me now," Pamela said. "Since you suggest it, she can attend me."

I kissed the top of her head and called Mrs. Jewkes in. She pretended to be more astonished than she really was that we'd moved up the wedding day. We arranged to have her attend Pamela at the wedding, and I exhorted her to keep up Pamela's spirits. Pamela went upstairs—to write, probably, and I went to my bedroom.

I don't know if Pamela slept that night. I hardly did. I wondered if Pamela would decide the marriage was too much for her, if she would put it off another day or week or year, if she'd ask to return to her parents. I decided I would agree to whatever she asked which made the waiting worse. A simple refusal to consider alternatives would have produced a far more restful night.

Towards dawn, I found the Book of Common Prayer and read over the marriage service. I hadn't thought much of what I was agreeing to—only that marriage would bind Pamela to me. Now I read over the words: "Love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness, and in health, forsaking all others" and after a deep breath, I decided they were words I could agree to. I had, as Pamela would say, the will to try at least.

The morning is something of a blur. I remember speaking to Pamela who was more pale and jittery than the night before. She says I told her to cheer up or the parsons would think she wanted to marry someone else. I don't remember that. I remember eating breakfast with Williams and Peters. I remember arranging to visit the chapel, so Peters could "see the alterations". I remember standing at the altar with Pamela. We were both rather solemn until Williams said, "If either of you know any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, that ye confess it."

I murmured, "Do you?" to Pamela, and she blushed and said, "No, sir, only my great unworthiness."

That startled me—she was perfectly serious—but then Williams asked, "Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?" and I said, "I will" since, "Of course, you idiot" would have been rude. I held my breath when he asked Pamela and begged Providence to damp her scruples. She curtsied and pressed my hand. Williams faltered, but Peters nodded to him to proceed. Pamela spoke up when it came to the actual vows, agreeing "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey" on which words, she raised her eyes and smiled at me. And everything was good.

"You curtsied when I gave you the ring," I told her later in the carriage after we had drunk a celebratory toast and set the parsons on their way.

"I don't remember."

"I hope you remember giving Mrs. Jewkes a hug." She had done it on the church steps after the ceremony, startling Mrs. Jewkes.

"She was a great comfort last night," she said, "if a little crude."

I grinned at the roof of the carriage.

"You were very kind to Mr. Peters and to Mr. Williams," she said, slipping her hand into mine. "What did you give Mr. Williams?"

"A 50 pound note."

"That was very generous. He was never a bad man," she said, "just a silly one," and that settled Mr. Williams.

I wanted to spend the day with Pamela to keep her from fretting too much. We had just returned home, and Pamela had gone up to her room, and I was planning to change and spend the afternoon with her in the parlor when a messenger arrived.

Charles Hargrave, the messenger informed me, was bringing two of his friends to dine.

One is not supposed to kill messengers.

I stomped upstairs. "I wouldn't mind any other day," I told Pamela, "but today, this is a barbaric intrusion. Besides, they are horrible drinkers, and I'll have to ask them to stay. This is what they do—ride around the country impinging on the households of their 'friends.' They would have to pick today!"

She was trying not to laugh, so I stomped back downstairs.

I heard Charles and his companions before I saw them. They blew a bugle at the gate and then again in the courtyard all while snapping their whips.

"Hullo, hullo, hullo," Charles said. "And what are you up to? All better from your accident, eh? I told your sister you'd be fine!" He was off his horse by then, slapping my back and motioning to his friends to dismount.

"I have an engagement this evening," I said. "I'm afraid you can't stay long."

"We only wanted to see you before going on to Nottingham. Oh," Charles said, slapping his forehead, "I know what I wanted to ask you—Did you kidnap one of your maids?"

I scowled at him. "Where did you hear that?"

"You did? Can we see her?"

"No—that is, who told you such a story?"

"Your sister."

My sister. My sister who was doing my reputation more damage than Williams had ever done.

"Can we see the chit?"

They were inside the house by then, and Charles' companions—Sedley and Floyd—were clamoring, "Show us the fair one."

"Go on," Charles said, waving his bugle, "call her down."

"We'll have to get her ourselves," said Sedley.

"You'll do no such thing," I barked, and they all stared at me, great-eyed.

"If you sit," I said, "I'll arrange for you to have some repast."

They were more subdued after that, but I could only get them out of the house by agreeing to drive with them as far as Thorney.

"They are like snowballs," I complained to Pamela (she and Mrs. Jewkes were seated in the back-parlor), "gathering company as they go."

She gave me a half-smile. She was pale again, and I frowned. When we were together, she was comfortable and relaxed. Apart, I couldn't imagine what she was fearing or envisioning.

"You should tell her some pleasant stories," I said to Mrs. Jewkes.

"She's too refined to hear them," Mrs. Jewkes said archly, and Pamela gave her an inscrutable look.

"What's the shortest one you know?" I said.

"There was a bashful young lady from Kent—"

"That's enough," Pamela said quickly, and I grinned.

"Go on."

"No," Pamela said, glaring at me.

Abraham came in then to tell me Charles and his companions were ready, and I went out, saying, "We'll hear that tale another time, Mrs. Jewkes."

The ride was tedious, to say the least. Charles and the others circled the carriage, hallooing and screaming with laughter at each other's riding tricks. I felt incredibly old and wished they would all break their necks in a ditch.

"I think you must be serious about this serving wench," Charles said when we parted at Thorney, and I refused (several times) to go on with them to Nottingham.

"She isn't a serving wench," I said shortly and left them.

I was glad to be rid of them, but I found myself growing as uncertain as Pamela during the ride home. I had avoided considering the associations Pamela might make with our wedding night. I didn't like to think she might fear me. Since our engagement, she had never, I assure you, complained about my kisses or caresses. And she'd returned them. But our wedding night was, admittedly, different and for Pamela, entirely new.

And Mrs. Jewkes was not the best person to put an innocent at ease.

As we entered the road leading to the house, I saw Pamela and Mrs. Jewkes standing at the stile. I rapped on the carriage roof, got out, and sent it on. When I turned back, Pamela was alone. I went and put my arms around her, and she relaxed against me with a little sigh.

"What worries you?" I said.

"How can I deserve all this?" she said, and I remembered what she had said in the chapel about her unworthiness. "How can I earn the merit of these favors?"

"You don't need to earn them," I said. "You are now mine and I am yours and what I have is yours. Your wit and your judgment are more than equal to mine. We should avoid comparisons, Pamela, although if the riches of your mind and your worth be set against my estates, I will owe you."

She laughed into my shoulder.

"I will try to be less serious," she said, leaning back to look into my face, and I kissed her.

We entered the house together.

We ate supper together and talked and then Pamela went to her closet—to write, I assumed. I was grateful since writing usually calmed her. Near eleven, I set a message that I would attend her shortly; she asked me to come in a quarter of an hour. So I went.

Interruption

Mr. B stopped speaking. There was a long silence.

A member of the CLF said pettishly, "Well? Aren't you going to regale us with a detailed description of your wedding night?"

Mr. B smiled to himself.

"What's your prurient interest?" the RFA representative said.

The CLF members bristled.

"Considering Miss Andrews' state of mind," said their psychologist, "I would like reassurance that Miss Andrews' wedding night was a non-traumatic event."

"If he told you so, would you believe him?"

"If she is as sincerely religious as Mr. B claims," said a CLF member, "I can't imagine it was anything but traumatic."

Mr. B and Mr. Shorter looked confused. So did the 18th century aficionado. The RFA representative sighed.

"Are you suggesting," said Judge Hardcastle with a furrowed brow, "that religious people do not enjoy good sexual relations with their spouses?"

Mr. B guffawed. He leaned over the table, shoulders shaking. Several CLF members flushed.

"My wife," Mr. B said, still laughing, "is a righteous woman, not a dead one."

"Augustine," the RFA representative explained to him, "separation of body and spirit. Bad body. Good spirit. That's where they are coming from."

"I know, but Pamela was no Augustinian. Modesty and virtue are not attributes restricted to nuns. Besides, once my wife married, sexual congress was no longer a disgrace. It really is that simple."

"She enjoyed her wedding night, in fact," the judge queried.

"Yes. So did I, by the way."

"I do not want a chapter out of Lady Chatterley's Lover, but I am afraid that some detail will be necessary. Can you oblige?"

Mr. B sighed and ran a hand over his face.

"I can provide more detail than Pamela does. There are 24 hours missing from her account. But not enough to satisfy the prurient moralists," jerking his head towards the CLF table.

"I am not a prurient moralist, Mr. B. I'll tell you when to stop."

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