Mr. B's Testimony IX

Mr. B's Testimony Corresponding to the 1st Week of Mr. B and Pamela's Marriage

I was, admittedly, quite nervous when I entered Pamela's bedchamber. The associations with that room were not pleasant ones, and I was wondering if I should have moved the wedding night to my bedchamber. However, it is customary for the man to wait on the woman at this time. It allows her to make the invitation.

She was seated on the edge of the bed in her dressing gown. I stood by the door and watched her. She'd let down her hair; it had been cut where she was struck by the bricks, and the short strands fluttered about her face which was serene, remote, wholly contemplative.

I said, "I would rather not put off this evening, Pamela, but if you—"

She looked up, focused on me, and I waited, hardly breathing. She smiled then, shyly, and I went to her and took her hands.

"Are you thinking of the night I tried to ravish you?" I said.

She looked surprised. "No," she said. "I was considering what a strange path I have been on that has deposited me here."

"Not an entirely happy path."

"I suppose not. But I don't remember it with reluctance. "Only," she studied me gravely, "I wonder if I will please you."

I laughed and sat beside her. "I am not the libertine you have imagined, Pamela. There were indiscretions, a few liaisons, and some poor behavior, but I was never profligate. Wild behavior in young men does not always follow the same path. I have no diseases."

She nodded, her head against my shoulder.

"You have enjoyed my kisses," I pointed out; in the dim candlelight, I saw her blush.

"Even in my mother's house," I added boldly and waited for expostulation.

She slid off the bed then and faced me.

"You were very naughty there," she said, and her lips twitched.

I pulled her between my knees and gave her a kiss, not the type of kiss I'd given her before but a kiss more frank and full. There was a brief moment when Pamela neither approached nor retreated—she must considered everything—and then she was there, in my arms, all of her with no restraint.

This hearing does not require that I detail our actual lovemaking nor would my wife thank me for such tactlessness. She is private, not prudish; there is a difference. I will say that she did not pull back at any point. Her scruples were never about the act itself but about her role in that act. Once she was permitted full expression, she expressed herself. Anyone who has read her writing should know how easily that would come to her.

I woke towards morning. The faintest light from the windows showed me Pamela's outline. She was seated cross-legged beside me, her back against my thigh. I wondered for a moment if she was writing her parents and if they would thank her for such a letter, but the room was too dark for writing. I reached out and touched her arm.

She turned, taking my hand.

"Are you in pain?" I said.

"No," she said vaguely. "I was thinking about the marriage service."

Trust Pamela to revert to theological considerations after a bout of more than satisfying sex.

She said. "A man is supposed to love his wife like his own body."

"'With my body, I thee worship,'" I said sleepily.

"Yes. We are one flesh—"

"Like my goods," I pointed out on a yawn.

"Yes. Which means," Pamela said, "that your body is my property."

That woke me up.

"And," she went on with legal precision, "I have rights to it."

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Which she did.

I went back to my chamber towards morning; Pamela was still asleep. I didn't expect her to wake until late. Frankly, I was only awake because I needed to send letters to town and check what money I had in the house. I am usually up by six in any case.

Pamela was awake by mid-morning, and we ate breakfast together. She was, unfortunately, completely embarrassed by her, uh, aggressiveness in the early morning hours, and I kept the topic on household tasks. I gave Pamela fifty guineas to send to her parents and 100 to distribute amongst the Lincolnshire servants. She caviled at being trusted to handle so much money, and I said, "You will need to act as my wife ought." I understood her nervousness, but she would have to shake it off. As my wife, she had the right to command, to put the servants in order, even to stand up to my sister.

She exercised her right to command later that day. She wanted me to reinstate the Bedfordshire servants I had let go. This was no great hardship. I was a little uneasy about their dealings with my sister, but now that I'd married Pamela, even I could have to deal with my sister.

I sent a letter of reinstatement to Mr. Longman, instructing him to rehire Mr. Jonathan and Mrs. Jervis. Pamela wrote directly to Mrs. Jervis. I was handsomely rewarded by Pamela for my agreement with multiple kisses. Pamela had not yet adopted a lady's dignity over ordinary household matters. Privately, I hoped she never would.

I also began to arrange for the Andrews to take possession of a farm on my Kent estate. They would not be required to pay rent, and I would send them fifty pounds per year besides. I discussed the plan with Pamela the next day; I wanted her to write her parents about my proposal.

I also wanted to acquaint Pamela with her household budget which would be 200 pounds a year. I got a great deal of thanks for that as well, and it was perhaps a tad generous but not overly so for a lady in Pamela's position.

I'd slept in my own chamber, alone, Friday night. I was contemplating whether to address the sleeping arrangements at supper on Saturday when Pamela forestalled me. As she rose from the table, she said, blushing, "You are going to attend me tonight?"

Short of falling on my knees and saying, "Good God, yes," I managed to convey my agreement. I took my dressing down directly to her chamber and changed in front of her. Pamela didn't mind. She is, as I've mentioned, a fast learner.

She was hardly self-conscious at all at breakfast.

We got into a mild argument that morning about wifely duties. I'd been a bachelor long enough to form certain definite opinions about good wifely behavior versus bad wifely behavior, and I was bold—or foolish—enough to communicate those opinions to Pamela. To summarize, it annoyed me when a wife began to take her husband for granted, to become careless in her dress and behavior. I'd seen many wives cold-shoulder their husbands when his friends dropped in on him unexpectedly. It was the type of situation that left one in no doubt that she would abuse him thoroughly once the friends left. The wife, I told Pamela, should demonstrate a better temper.

"What good advice," Pamela said with deceptive meekness. "You provided me with an excellent example of this when Sir Charles Hargrave visited."

I eyed her; she beamed seraphically back at me.

"I do not always follow the doctrines I lay down, Pamela," I said. "I doubt I shall ever be half as perfect as you."

She didn't roll her eyes though she came damn close. She was more amused by my strictures on Lady Arthur who spent an entire supper party obsessing over one of her footman's mistakes. The poor man dropped a china dish, and Lady Arthur was so embarrassed, she used the rest of the evening to promote a discussion of careless servants.

"I had nightmares about broken glass for a week," I told Pamela. "I really did."

We had no disagreements about our daily schedule. I wake at six, usually. I liked to have dinner around two and supper at eight, and I saw no good reason—bar unexpected visitors—we shouldn't retire at eleven.

We had no disagreements, as I said, but that didn't stop Pamela from teasing me. She came down to my study before dinner, saying, "Do you have any more kind injunctions to give me? I could listen to you all day long."

I took in her mocking eyes (I was receiving fewer sideways and more direct glances in the last two days) and had to grin.

"There can be no friendship without freedom and communication," I said. "If you find any fault with me, you should tell me."

She kissed me instead which I didn't mind. I slid my hands around her waist.

"I'll regret when you lose this shape," I said. "But I won't mind the cause."

She blushed then as red a color as I've ever seen. "That's the freest thing you've said since our marriage," she told me.

It wasn't the freest thing I'd done. "Would it be unwelcome?" I said.

She pressed her face to my waistcoat.

"No," she said, and I kissed her and told her more silly stories of my visits to great houses.

The Darnfords, Lady Jones, and the Peters came to dine that afternoon. We announced our marriage to the company. Sir Simon teased Pamela as usual. Anna Darnford looked miffed. Lady Darnford and Miss Darnford congratulated us kindly.

Things were going well.

Until Monday.

Interruption

"I protest," said the CLF psychologist. "Mr. B is whitewashing his behavior. Can you deny—" turning towards Mr. B before Judge Hardcastle could intervene "—can you deny that Pamela—Miss Andrews—was bullied by you after the wedding into uncharacteristic passivity? During the time period you detail, she did not once object to her patronage or castigate your behavior."

Mr. B eyed him curiously. "Not directly, no. Have you ever been married? We both behaved out of character—for several days, I might add. I've never 'beloved' and 'deared' someone so much in my life. Or," he added, smiling faintly, "been 'beloved' and 'deared' in turn. We were besotted. Can you blame us?"

"Absolutely not," said Judge Hardcastle smiling.

"You got yourself a complaisant chattel, in fact," said a CFL member, and Mr. B tensed. Mr. Shorter patted his arm.

"My wife is my equal in station and my better in character. You talk of her," Mr. B said, levelly, "no differently than my sister did."

"We are coming to that—on Monday evening you sent a letter to your wife, addressing her as Mrs. Andrews. If you were truly married—"

Mr. Shorter stood quickly.

"I have the marriage certificate here. By the rules of the novel, it is a legally binding document."

The clerk took the certificate to the judge. Mr. B sat back and stared fixedly out the windows.

"Yes, this looks in order," the judge said. "I am curious, however. Why did you have to send a letter to your wife three days after your wedding?"

"And why did he refer to her as Mrs. Andrews?"

"It was a joke," Mr. B said to the windows. "She has a sense of humor, my wife. I sometimes think she's the only one who does."

"I see." The judge eyed the set face. "Why don't you explain Monday to us, Mr. B?"

Mr. B's Testimony Corresponding to the 1st Week of Marriage continued

I got a letter Monday morning that a friend of mind, Carlton, was dying. I had a mortgage on part of his estate, and I was his executor. I needed to be present in case he wished to change his will or had any last minute instructions. I left Pamela unwillingly, but she had said she could entertain herself. I trusted marriage hadn't changed her in that regard.

Carlton lived eighteen miles off. I got there a little past noon. His wife was distressed; the physician had come and gone, having done little except serve a notice of death. Carlton had a fever and fluid in the lungs; I doubted he would last the night. I couldn't leave him. I wrote Pamela a letter telling her to go on to the Darnfords without me; we had agreed to dine with them the next day, and I doubted I would arrive there on time. If she went, even without me, the family would be gratified. I hoped to join her by tea-time.

Carlton died early Tuesday morning in my arms. I spent the morning with the undertaker and his attorney. Carlton's wife's family arrived around noon.

"I would stay," I told her brother, "but my wife—"

He said he understood and thanked me for being present.

I wanted to see Pamela very badly. Carlton was not an old man, only a decade or so my senior. I'd been reminded how quickly death comes—how quickly a person could be drowned by water. I got to the Darnfords at four, tired and unhappy.

Pamela wasn't there.

To say I was annoyed would understate the matter. For all our joking, I had meant what I said to Pamela about wives who began to ignore their husband's wishes the moment the knot was tied: all smiles and kisses beforehand; all bad manners and derision after. The Darnfords were our neighbors and had been impressively supportive of our marriage. They deserved her patronage; I thought she understood that.

"She will arrive soon," Lady Darnford said pacifically. "Come, join my husband at loo."

"I asked her to join you for dinner," I said.

"Something has kept her," said Miss Darnford. "She'll be here. She hardly likes to be apart from you."

I went into the washroom to bath my face. I told myself I was angry because Pamela was behaving high-handedly, but the truth was I'd counted on her being there; I'd counted on being able to sit with her awhile, so I could tell her about Carlton and be calmed by her presence.

I went out and joined the loo table, but I hardly attended. Sir Simon joshed me about missing my bride. "A wife should attend when commanded," I said somewhat bitterly, and he just laughed and slapped my shoulder.

I thought about sending a message to her, then I decided it was beneath me to beg my wife's company. In retrospect, I should have sent a message plus a few footmen.

About an hour into the game, Miss Darnford called, "Here she is," and ran out. I played a hand, put down my cards, and followed, pretending I was merely curious. I didn't fool Sir Simon for a minute.

I found Pamela, Miss Darnford, Lady Darnford, and Lady Jones in the front hall. Pamela was seated on the cushioned bench by the door.

"Hello, Pamela," I said coldly.

She looked up, breathing quickly.

"Don't be displeased," she said. "Mrs Jewkes will attest I wanted to be here—"

"I told you," said Lady Darnford to me, and Miss Darnford said, "Oh, men."

They all frowned at me, so "What happened?" I said.

"Your sister and her nephew arrived."

Damn.

I sat beside Pamela on the bench and put my arm around her. "Did you talk with her?"

"More than that," Pamela said.

"She didn't strike you?"

Pamela paused then and rested her chin against my shoulder.

"I don't want to spoil the party," she said quietly.

Noble woman. I kissed the top of her head.

"I'm sorry I was angry," I said. "I'll be more patient next time. Was my sister uncivil?"

Pamela hesitated. I squeezed her shoulders, and, "She used me severely, sir," she said carefully.

"Didn't you tell her we were married?"

"She didn't believe me. She thinks it is a sham marriage."

"You should have sent for me."

"She kept me a prisoner," Pamela said and even allowing for Pamela's dramatic flair, I didn't doubt the tremble that went through her. She tucked herself against me more tightly and let out a long sign. Her breathing had begun to settle.

"I even showed her your letter," she said to my heart. "She wouldn't believe anything I said. She locked me in with her."

"Did you eat together?" I said, remembering that Pamela wouldn't have dined yet.

"She wanted me to wait on her."

I tensed. "You didn't, did you?"

"No," she said, raising her chin to look at me. "I remembered the dignity I owe you as your wife."

"Quite right." I was pleased and impressed that Pamela had perceived the issue so correctly. "She is an insolent woman," I said as levelly as I could, "and she will pay for it."

"It is only because she believes we are not married," Pamela said, but I didn't believe that for an instant.

"How did you get away?"

"I jumped out the parlor window," my extraordinary bride said, "and ran to the carriage—Robert kept it waiting at the elms. And Mr. Colbrand prevented Lady Davers' servants from stopping me. He was very fierce," Pamela said.

I couldn't help but look at our listeners. Miss Darnford had covered her mouth with her hand; over it, her eyes twinkled. Lady Jones was shaking her head in amazement. Lady Darnford was giving instructions to a servant in a low voice.

"We should join the company," I said. I didn't want to. I wanted to go home and put my sister and her obnoxious nephew in their places. I wanted to order my sister's servants out of my house. I wanted, in fact, to yell at someone.

But I had already lectured Pamela about putting on a calm demeanor. I could hardly back away from my own advice. I stood, and Pamela slid her arm through mine.

"I'm sorry," she said as the others preceded us into the front parlor. "You forgive me for being late?"

"You should forgive me," I said. "You have suffered much from me and for me."

The party greeted Pamela with fervor. I was pleased to see how well she got on with Miss Darnford. Pamela needed a friend her own age.

Before we sat down to whist, Pamela said softly to me, "How is your friend?"

"We'll talk later," I said, but she clasped my hand for a moment and smiled at me from her seat.

I tried to concentrate on the game and then on supper (served early for Pamela's sake), but I couldn’t help but question Pamela about my sister's behavior. My sister had called her names: everything from wench to creature to beggar's brat which last had annoyed Pamela considerably ("My parents are not beggars."). Pamela was reasonably circumspect, but I knew my sister; I knew she had come just to quarrel with me. It was her way.

I was, of course, breaking my own rule about keeping one's private affairs private. But it occurred to me, looking about the room, that the Darnfords and their guests were truly concerned for Pamela. My sister had spread rumors about me and Pamela in Bedfordshire. It would be well for me to forestall any rumors she might try to spread in Lincolnshire.

So Pamela told the whole story—how my sister had arrived, called her names, locked her in the parlor, allowed her nephew, Jackey, to badger her (I set my teeth), prevented Mrs. Jewkes from attending on Pamela, insulted the letter I'd sent Pamela, and so on and so on.

Pamela was not exaggerating. My sister hunts for quarrels. I quarreled with her constantly throughout my childhood. She quarreled constantly with Lord Davers when they were engaged. (He has since been cowed into submission.) She even quarrels with her maids (although she also rewards them handsomely for their services).

She was not angry because I had married beneath me; that, alone, would not have brought her, rushing, to Lincolnshire. She was angry because I married without her input. She had once gone so far as to set up a match without consulting me. For me to marry anyone, without her express encouragement, would infuriate her beyond reason.

"I would like to be in her good graces," Pamela said wistfully, but I was too furious by then to care whether my sister was accepted by Pamela or not.

We left early since I'd been up all night the night before. We got home about midnight and learned that my sister had already gone to bed. Thank goodness. I thought I was going to fall over on my feet. If my sister had been up and ready to argue, I would have left the house and slept in the meadows.

Mrs. Jewkes, however, wanted to tell us all about my sister's behavior after Pamela got away. She followed us up to Pamela's chamber which was becoming mine as well: I'd begun to keep clothes and papers there.

"She called me in," Mrs. Jewkes said while I was stripping off my frock coat and Pamela was setting aside her slippers, "after the young lady got away. She said, 'I have a question to ask you, Jewkes, and answer yes if you dare.' 'Well,' I said, 'I'll answer No before you ask.'"

I laughed. Pamela looked troubled.

"She asked me, 'Will the young harlot lie with my brother tonight?'"

I didn't laugh at that, and Pamela stared at the floor.

"She wanted to sleep in here," Mrs. Jewkes continued, "but I wouldn't let her since you have the key, sir."

"Quite right," I said.

Pamela came over and took hold of my waistcoat. "Let me stay in my closet tomorrow," she said.

"Don't be afraid, dearest," I said. "I'm here now."

Mrs. Jewkes left us with cheery encouragement to Pamela, and I dropped onto the bed. Pamela wrapped her arms around my neck and settled her cheek against mine.

"I'm sorry about your friend. Did he die?"

"Yes," I said, sliding my arms around her. "What a tiresome world this is, Pamela, when everything was going so well."

"It still will," she said, brushing back my hair and smiling faintly when her fingers got tangled. "I am already very happy."

I crawled into bed, and she settled beside me, and I fell into a haven of pure contented sleep.

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