Judge Hardcastle protested this time:
"A poor family history does not excuse unkindness towards your wife."
Mr. B stilled, then nodded, his eyes hooded. The judge glanced towards the CLF table. "This strife doesn't bother you?"
The CLF members looked at each other. Finally, the psychologist arose:
"In all honesty, Judge, I find the frank discussion between the parties revealing and healthy. Mr. B obviously comes from a dysfunctional background—"
Surprisingly, Mr. Shorter snorted, "Doesn't everybody?" Mr. B grinned and released a careful breath.
The psychologist continued: "I am concerned about Mr. B's temper and would recommend anger management. I would recommend it for his sister as well."
Mr. B strangled a snort that turned into a cough.
"However, to be frank, few spouses in my experience are as upfront as Mr. B about their pasts."
"If his emotional abuse continued—" a CLF member suggested.
"Yes, yes." The psychologist remembered which side he was defending. "As his sister suggested, Mr. B does have it in him to break Pamela—his wife's—spirit."
"She was back to normal the next day," Mr. B said, and the judge motioned for him to continued.
The next morning, Pamela and Barbara talked together. I had already given Barbara a run-down of the last few weeks. She was my first confidant, after all. Pamela told me later that my sister quizzed her on certain events and asked to see her letters. Pamela promised to send them on—with my agreement.
I was agreeable. As this hearing illustrates, Pamela's literary prose is her best advocate.
We had guests that evening, and the next day, we set out for Bedfordshire, my sister leaving us at Chawston. We arrived at home on Friday noon.
"Welcome to your own home," I said to Pamela.
Mrs. Jervis rushed to hug Pamela, and Pamela cried, "I am so happy" and called her "my other mother." I wished then that I'd sent for Mrs. Jervis to be with Pamela on her wedding day. But it was too late by then.
They went off together, and I called in Longman and Mr. Jonathan. Mr. Jonathan's greeting was perfunctory—he knew he was a good butler and I likely would have rehired him whatever Pamela's situation. Longman, however, thanked me tremulously. I felt downright guilty—to throw such a good, old man out of my employ was an unworthy act. I called him back when Pamela came down, so he could greet and congratulate her directly.
It turned out that John Arnold, who I'd also let go, was lurking about the house. "He will serve here or nowhere," Mrs. Jervis said, shaking her head.
I called him in and left him to Pamela's custody. She, naturally, returned him to my employment with the rider that he should be paid as if he never left.
While we were eating, Longman came in, and we discussed the Kent estate and other purchases that Longman wanted to make. I handed over 200 guineas to Pamela to distribute amongst the Bedfordshire servants. I also advised Longman of Pamela's budget which was to be paid to her immediately.
Pamela was rather aghast, and Longman laughed:
"Why madam," he said, "with money in stocks and one thing or another, his honor could buy half the gentlemen around him."
Pamela stared at me, and I shrugged acknowledgment back at her. I admit, I was pleased she hadn't known how wealthy I was. I've always preferred the market to farms and such.
Pamela gave twenty guineas to Mrs. Jervis and twenty to Longman. He was surprised and embarrassed but finally took it, saying he would spend it in the next nine months to celebrate a birth.
Pamela colored, and I laughed, slipping my arm around her.
"The old man said nothing shocking," I murmured in her ear when Longman went out.
"I know, but I did not expect it of him," she said.
"It is the usual way of things," I pointed out and kissed her.
She gave five guineas to each of the four maids and to the grooms and the gardener, plus John Arnold. When Mr. Jonathan came in, looking stately, Pamela seemed confused. She glanced towards me and held up all her fingers, and I nodded. Mr. Jonathan is worth every shilling of twenty guineas, but he is not as highly placed as Longman and Mrs. Jervis. Pamela gave him ten. She gave three to the lower servants and two to Tommy, the scullery-boy.
Afterwards, Pamela ducked into my library. I went to follow her and saw she was praying. I closed the door slightly and waited till she was done, then went in.
"You have some charming pictures here," Pamela said, looking demure as she indicated the walls.
"Your piety is also very charming," I told her, and she blushed self-consciously.
The Bedfordshire house is more finely appointed than the Lincolnshire one. The mistress and master have separate suites. I escorted Pamela to hers, which used to be my mother's. I wasn't sure if Pamela expected me to remove to my chambers. I certainly didn’t intend to, customary or not, but she had the right to eject me.
We spent Sunday at home. Longman and I went thoroughly over the household budgets for Bedfordshire and Lincolnshire. In the future, Pamela would confer with Longman, but I wanted to get things in order before I handed her the accounts. She is a quick study, but accounting is a tad out of her experience. By Monday, however, she was already compiling a list of charitable causes, using an account book that Longman got her.
I also went over my will. Should I die, I wanted Pamela to be absolutely independent; her parents would also be protected. I had seen with Carlton what happens when a man leaves this world without proper planning. He was so troubled that night, not just by his illness and the state of his soul but by the disorder of his affairs. I'd reassured him as much as I could, but I'd seen his anxiety and his wife's. There was no reason Pamela should ever suffer that.
On Tuesday, I went to visit the Arthurs. My hunting friends, Martin, Brooks, and Chambers were there.
"Are you really married?" said Mrs. Arthur.
"Yes," I said. "I married my mother's waiting-maid."
They looked at each other, and I could tell that they had planned to tease me, thinking I would hide the information. I sighed. There was nothing for it but to take them back to the house to meet Pamela.
Pamela doesn't like Martin, who considered himself a freewheeling bachelor, but she came down and was civil. He tried to tease her (and me) about the failure of marriages.
"Did ya ever think B here would marry?" he chortled. "How long will this last?"
"Forever," I said and glanced at Pamela who was watching Martin through narrowed eyes. "Her person made me her lover, but her mind made her my wife," and Pamela, startled, gaped at me and blushed. The men departed after drinks, praising Pamela which was all to the good.
We had the next day to ourselves, so I took Pamela to meet little Sally. We set off early at 6:30, arriving at the Dobson's farmhouse in time for breakfast. The boarding house, which is nearby, sends its pupils to the farmhouse on outings. I had written to the governess on Monday, asking her to include Sally in an earlier trip—if possible.
When the chaise pulled up, she was there. She and the other students scurried inside, chattering avidly as little girls of six tend to do. Pamela went after them, and I heard her asking their names and what they were studying. I followed and leaned in the doorway.
Little Sally looks a little like her mother and a little like me. She has my eyes and hair and her mother's chin. She knows me as her uncle since she knows my sister as her aunt. When the girls bounced up to visit the Dobson's beehives, she curtsied to me, and Pamela turned to study me gravely.
She followed the girls to the door but stopped beside me and to my amazement, slipped her arms around my waist.
"She goes by Miss Goodwin," I said. "It was her mother's choice."
"How can her mother bear to be apart from her?"
The question was sincere but also deliberate, and I bent to look into Pamela's face. She gave me one of her sideways glances, and I realized that in my story of Sally Godfrey, I might not have mentioned what happened to my erstwhile lover.
I held Pamela a little tighter and smiled over her head.
"She lives in Jamaica," I said. "She left soon after the child's birth, passing herself off as a young widow. She married—three years ago now. Her husband knows there is a child; he believes she is being raised by friends."
"Poor lady," Pamela said. "I am glad she is so happy at last."
"And no doubt you are glad she is so far off," I said, and Pamela nudged me with her fist.
"Does the child visit you?"
"Occasionally." I bent my head again. "She believes the story her mother has created."
I didn't say I wished I could claim the child. What was the point of wanting what would only cause pain and damage? It would do little Sally no favors to be known as illegitimate. I had to consider the child's future.
But Pamela hugged me tighter as if she guessed my feelings, then detached herself and went into the garden. She knelt beside Sally, and they watched the beehives together.
"Will you let me be your aunt?" Pamela was saying as I neared, and Sally, looking up, waved at me cheerily.
"Hullo," she said. "I haven't seen you for an age." Pure exaggeration. I saw her before I went to the Hargraves.
"Would you like to live with us?" Pamela said, and I think I actually gasped.
"Can I?" Sally said. "Can I go now?"
An ability to seize opportunities as they present themselves is a family trait.
"In the next vacation," I said.
She agreed readily. She liked her school—I'd made sure of that—and her friends. There was no reason to burden Pamela with a new household and child in one week. Not to mention her moody husband. But I was light-hearted when we returned to the carriage. I have not hoped to bring my daughter home. I had anticipated Pamela's kindness but never such magnanimity.
"Miss Godfrey could have been me," Pamela explained.
"Yes," I said, "but you aren't her. I am truly sorry for what happened to Miss Godfrey—I have been sorry for many years but that didn't stop my pursuit of you."
She raised an eyebrow, and I laughed.
"I was stopped by your virtues," I told her.
She gave me a skeptical glance, and I laughed again, but it was more or less the truth. The fact is I never anticipated that my lover could also be my friend. Miss Godfrey was compliant and affectionate at a time in my life when I badly needed affection. But compliance would never have been enough for me any more than antagonism would have attracted me. I wanted my wife to want to be my friend—that's the best way I can explain it. And Pamela did. And there we were.
We went to church on Sunday, and everyone fawned over Pamela, even Martin, who, poor man, was at loose ends now that all his pals were married. I promised to invite him often to dine. On Monday and Tuesday, I finished up the legal papers that would disburse and control my estate once I was gone. I took Pamela for a walk in the garden and explained the matter to her.
To my alarm, she burst into tears.
"I'm not planning to die soon," I told her and then, to jolly her along, "But if I should, the only person I don't want you to marry is Williams."
My reason, I explained, is that if she did, people would think she only married me for money and, once I was out of the way, had turned back to her first love.
By the time I was done, Pamela was glaring at me. I clasped her against my side:
"Isn't it nice out here?" I said. "All nature blooms around me when I have my Pamela by my side. I wrote a poem about us, you know."
I started to recite it, but Pamela encircled my neck with her arms, gave me a wry look, and kissed me. Which shut me quite effectively.
"Hmm," said Judge Hardcastle. "And from that point on?"
"We have been married for several years. I am thirty-five—"
"Making Pamela twenty-five."
"Just turned twenty-six, your honor. We've had our trials and rifts but are settled now and happy."
"Huh," the judge said and eyed the CLF table. "Your petition?"
"Although we are impressed by Mr. B's love for his wife, we still believe that the relationship was entered into precipitately. We recommend counseling as well as separate households before they resume cohabitation."
The judge harrumphed. "I confess I am concerned by the age difference although I agree that Mr. B sincerely loves his wife." He swept up his papers. "This hearing will reconvene Monday morning at 9:00."
Mr. B, surprised, jerked to his feet: "May I see my wife—?"
The judge looked pained but his voice was firm. "No, sir. I will need to review all the documents as well—" with a glance towards the clerk "—the typed transcript of this hearing."
The 18th century aficionado requested a copy of the transcript as did the CFL members.
The RFA said kindly to the stricken Mr. B, "I'm sure you'll be fine. He's a softy despite his curmudgeonly demeanor."
A CFL member, overhearing, said acidly, "Yes, but he doesn't like men who yell at their wives or girls getting married too young."
"She wasn't that young, not for our world," Mr. B said, his voice far off. "I thought once he heard I'd reformed—"
Mr. Shorter took his arm. "Come, sir, be patient, wait for Monday."
Mr. Shorter and Mr. B went out. The RFA representative shook his head. The 18th century aficionado, coming up in good humor, said, "That was an historically enlightening narrative."
"Where is Pamela anyway?" the RFA representative said to the killjoy CFL member.
"She's safe. We've put her up in a very nice hotel. She's getting a chance to work through her own issues—"
"Fictional correctiveness masked as compassion, in fact."
"I'll have you know we encouraged Fanny Price to stop being such a weakling, and she married Henry Crawford."
"Poor girl," the aficionado said absently.
"He didn't sleep at all," Mr. Shorter told the RFA representative Monday morning. They sat in the courtroom, waiting for the judge. In the well of the courtroom, Mr. B leaned over the fictionals' table, his head in his hands. "He says he hates sleeping alone. He says he hates not knowing how she's doing." Mr. Shorter sighed. "I tell you, he is much easier to manage when she's around."
The 18th century aficionado strolled in. "No decision yet?"
"I didn't expect to see you today," the RFA representative said. "Weren't you just collecting contextual information?"
"Well, you know, it's hard not to get invested. I can see why the novel was so popular when it was published."
The CFL table was populated only by its chairperson and the CFL psychologist. A CFL member burst into the room at the same time the clerk announced, "All rise for the honorable Judge Hardcastle." There was a brief flurry of self-effacement, everyone stood, and then the CFL member blurted, "Has your honor read today's newspaper?"
"Wait," Judge Hardcastle barked and settled himself. "What?"
The CFL member hurried to the stand and handed a folded newspaper across the bench. The judge frowned at it.
"This editorial was written by Mrs. B? By Pamela?"
Mr. B raised his head.
"How did she see the hearing transcripts?"
"A copy was delivered to the CFL chairperson at Pamela's hotel room. She must have taken it—"
"Your honor, I confess, I didn't notice it was gone—"
"Clearly, the hearing should be disbanded until this has blown over—"
The judge waved them all into silence. "I would like to speak to Mrs. B directly."
Mr. B's breath shortened. Mr. Shorter patted his arm. The CFL members huddled together.
"That wasn't a request," the judge said.
Another befuddled flurry of movement, then the courtroom door opened, and a slim young woman walked in. She studied the company, her eyes resting on Mr. B who looked back gravely. She stepped forward between the tables.
"Mrs. Pamela B," the judge said, "did you send this editorial to the newspaper?"
"I called it in," she said in a low, clear voice. "It was faster."
"In it, you criticize your protectors." The judge glanced down at the newspaper: "you refer to the CFL as 'citizens of low repute who deign to disrupt the holy sacrament of marriage.' You did write that?"
"'Sad souls who prey upon the goodness of deserving masters'?"
A faint smile touched the corner of Mr. B's mouth. He kept his eyes on his wife.
"You quote here at length from Friday's hearing. How did you obtain a copy of the transcript?"
Pamela shrugged. "It was delivered to the place where I have been imprisoned."
"It was not addressed to you."
Pamela opened her eyes wide. "Was it not? I assumed I had rights to any literature in the suite. I was incessantly informed of my rights by my kidnappers."
Mr. B bit his lip and stared fixedly at the table. The RFA representative was grinning openly.
"The passages you chose to quote are more than a little provocative."
"I felt the need to defend my religious beliefs."
"Involving a lot of overly opinionated people," the judge muttered, his eyes returning to the editorial.
The CFL members become to clamor: "Your honor, the young woman is under a misapprehension—" "This is grossly prejudicial behavior. An injunction against the newspaper—" "Pamela's belief that we imprisoned here is clearly reflective of—"
Judge Hardcastle said to Pamela, "You go on to criticize CFL action in other cases. How did you know about these?"
"I did research on . . . the web? As my husband will tell you, I'm a quick learner."
The judged glanced at her husband who, hand pressed to his chin, kept his head down.
The CFL members began whining again. Suddenly, the judge shouted. He stood, black gown sliding sideways, and waved the newspaper:
"Did you people," he shouted at the CFL, "did you people really remove the Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels?"
There was a brief stunned silence. The 18th century aficionado pulled out the notebook.
A CFL member stammered, "They . . . they were examples of prejudice against Little People."
"They were thoughtful depictions of human pride and smugness. Haven't you ever seen Night in the Museum?"
The RFA representative had to lie down on the bench from laughing. Pamela raised a brow.
"That's it. Case dismissed. Pamela, Miss Andrews, Mrs. B, whoever you are, take your husband home. And good luck to you." The judge stormed out, his wrinkled robe clumping around his legs.
"Who would know it was one of the judge's favorite novels?" The 18th century aficionado tried to console the CFL. They grumbled and glared at Pamela.
She waited for the judge to depart, then crossed to stand beside her husband. Without looking up, he slid an arm around her shoulders and released a slow, deep breath.
"Well," the aficionado said to the RFA representative, "where are you off to next?"
"Pride & Prejudice. The CFL won't win. Too many fans. But the arguments are always interesting."
"Hmm. I'm checking out the hearing for Congreve's Way of the World." They were at the courtroom door. The 18th century aficionado looked back at Mr. and Mrs. B. They hadn't moved but stood close together, fair and dark heads glossed by the soft morning light from the windows.
"You think they will be okay?"
"Of course," the RFA representative said. "He read her letters. Now, she got to read his."
And, at the table, Mr. B said softly, "You read the transcript?"
"All of it."
He threw her a sideways, wary glance. "And you still love me?"
Her mouth creased, laughter spilling into her eyes. She turned, slipping her arms around his neck. He pressed his face to her shoulder.
Laughter spilled into her voice.
"I read your thoughts," she said, "and loved you more."
I hope to add an epilogue based on Book 2 (yes, there was a second book!) at some later date.