Mr. B Speaks! 19th Installment

Week 1 (continued)

I truly disliked seeing Pamela cowed. She needed a break from me. I sent her into the house and took Barbara and Jackey on an airing. Barbara was in high good humor as she usually is after a fight.

I am not so inclined.

“Oh, you are so stiff,” she said, laughing at me.

We ended up stopping to see Lady Jones who was dining with the Darnfords. I sent a note to Pamela that we would return later than expected. I wanted the Lincolnshire families to learn first-hand that Barbara was reconciled to my marriage. The Davers’ name carries some weight, after all.

Barbara put on a great show of amazement at hearing the Darnfords praise Pamela, but she did it mostly to tease me. I wasn’t in the mood, and she then teased me for behaving like a stately married man.

“I couldn’t be a tolerable husband to anyone but Pamela,” I said, wishing I was home, so I could discuss what had happened with Pamela.

But Barbara loves company, so we stayed until ten. Pamela was talking with Mrs. Jewkes and Beck in the back parlor when we returned. She looked up guardedly as we entered, and I went and kissed her.

“My sister has been hearing your praises, Pamela,” I said and grinned crookedly at her.

She nodded solemnly. My heart ached.

Later, in our bedchamber, I told her, “When I get angry, it is best to leave me alone. I always come to myself and am sorry! But when I’m in such a mood, it is better to be a reed than an oak—to bend with the hurricane rather than try to resist it.”

To let me work out the problem myself rather than fix it for me, in fact.

“I’ll try,” she said.

We’d dressed for bed. I sat against the paneled headboard, my arms around Pamela. She snuggled against me, and I sighed in relief.

“My sister and I had terrible upbringings,” I said. “My father was a stern, humorless man, but he ignored my willfulness towards others because we were gentlemen. My mother was a fine woman, but even she saw society—her own marriage—as a game to be won.”

Pamela protested. She had liked my mother.

“Their unhappiness was more his doing than hers, but my mother still preferred to establish a separate life for herself than reach an understanding through compromise. Unfortunately, marriages of our class are often entered into by two headstrong and arrogant people. The gentleman has never been controlled, the lady never contradicted. Their expectations are wildly at variance with reality. They quarrel, appeal to parents and friends, end up in separate beds—” Pamela made a soft noise of disgust and I hugged her more tightly. “—finally settling into either indifference or aversion.”

I didn’t want that. I couldn’t bear the idea.

“And should I never challenge you?” Pamela said, running a finger down my arm.

“Yes,” I said, “but not for contradiction’s sake. I want us to behave reasonably, Pamela. I don’t want you taking part in quarrels against me, especially when my quarrel is not with you.”

She nodded, and I raised her hand to my lips.

“It isn’t that you’ve done anything so bad,” I said, “or anything at all, really, but I don’t want divided loyalties in my household.”

She turned then and studied my face. I let her look, let her see my uneasiness—that my sister, however much I loved her, reminded me of worse scenes, scenes I never wanted to see repeated.

Pamela brushed my hair out of my eyes, leaned forward, and kissed me.

I honestly do not know, even now, what I did to deserve her.

Cross-Examination

“Hmm,” said Judge Hardcastle.

Deborah said, “This kind of spat is typical in romance novels.”

The judge gave her a friendly smile, so she continued. “After the hero and heroine marry, there’s always some sort of problem that has to be resolved before true marital bliss can be achieved.”

“We still have arguments,” Mr. B said sotto voce. The judge heard and might have asked a question (there were normal, spousal debates and then there were ugly, gut-wrenching rages), but Mr. Shorter stood.

“At the time of their marriage, Mr. B gave Pamela fifty guineas to send to her parents and a hundred to distribute amongst the Lincolnshire servants. Gifts to servants are customary when a gentleman marries. He later gave Pamela money to distribute amongst the Bedfordshire servants. Pamela’s total household budget is two hundred per year.”

“An allowance,” Gary said disgustedly. “Typical chauvinism.”

Leslie Quinn said, “Better than not giving her money at all,” and Dr. Matchel murmured, “It isn’t as if she could work, Gary.”

“Not work?” Mr. B said. “My wife has to manage the servants plus her charities. She is excellent at both jobs. She also recently began sponsoring a local school.” He caught the judge’s eye and said, “Pamela has strong views on education.”

“He gives her two hundred a year,” Mr. Shorter said in the kind of voice that indicated his listeners might be weak in the head. “That is, uh—”

“—almost thirty thousand dollars in modern money,” Leslie Quinn said, “recognizing that money doesn’t really translate between then and now. What a pound would buy in the eighteenth century isn’t the same as what it can buy today. Services that could be had for cheap in the eighteenth century are extremely expensive now.”

“This is all financial,” Gary said in a dismissive tone of voice.

Mr. Shorter said, “Upon arriving in Bedfordshire, Mr. B wrote a will, providing independence for Pamela and her parents should he predecease his wife. He is an accommodating husband.”

“Fiscally,” Mr. Hatch said. “What about emotionally?”

Gary said, “Mr. B has admitted Pamela thought she had to be the perfect wife.”

“That doesn’t make the marriage bad,” Lonquist pointed out. “Lots of spouses feel that way.”

“But he admits he caused her anxiety by lifting her out of the servant class.”

“He was supposed to leave her there? I thought you CLF folks were equal-opportunists.”

“So when we argue context, you argue universal principles?”

Mr. B interjected, "Some things are universal. Cheating is always wrong.”

Leslie Quinn said, “People apply universal emotions and moralities to contexts. Women in the past didn’t perceive themselves as more or less victimized than us. They perceived themselves as more or less victimized than other women in their own cultures.”

“Of course, you would defend a system built on rank,” Gary said, forgetting that the CLF just had. Dr. Matchel actually looked embarrassed.

Gary didn’t pause to parse his own contradictions. He simply flipped positions. “What about honesty?” he said to Mr. B. “Isn’t that a universal concept? You didn’t tell Pamela about your out-of-wedlock daughter. Your sister did.”

“I planned to.”

“Oh, sure, you say that now. You had plenty of time before the wedding.”

“My daughter’s status is well-protected. I had an obligation to wait.”

“How convenient.”

“I took Pamela to see little Sally as soon as we returned to Bedfordshire.”

This time, Mr. B didn’t wait for the judge’s permission.

Mr. B’s Testimony Corresponding to The Marriage

Week 3

We returned to the Bedfordshire estate a week after we married. I’d reinstated the upper servants who were thrilled to see Pamela, especially Mrs. Jervis. Pamela met the neighbors in the capacity of my wife. We went to church. I took her to visit little Sally.

Little Sally’s school was six miles away near a farmhouse, which also functioned as an eatery. The school sent its pupils to the farmhouse on outings, and I had arranged for Sally’s governess to bring her there.

We were already seated at an outside table when the boarding-house chaise pulled up under alder trees. Little Sally and the other students scurried inside the house, chattering avidly as 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 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 farm’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 surprise, slipped her arms around my waist.

I said, “She goes by Miss Goodwin. The name was her mother’s choice.”

“How can her mother bear to be apart from her?”

The question was sincere but also deliberate. 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 little Sally is being raised by friends.”

“Poor lady,” Pamela said. “I am glad she is so happy.”

“And that 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 created.”

I didn’t say I wished I could claim the child. What is the point of wanting what would only cause damage and pain? It would do little Sally no favors to be known as illegitimate, and she should not have to bear the knowledge of her stigma.

Man-made beehives have been
around for thousands of years.
Beehives woven from grass or straw are skeps.
Skeps were used in the 1700s.
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 ages.”

Pure exaggeration. I saw her before I went to the Hargraves.

“Would you like to live with us?” Pamela said, and I actually gasped.

“Can I?” Sally said. “Can I go with you 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 several households and a child in the course of three weeks. Not to mention her moody husband.

But I was light-hearted when we returned to the carriage. I had not hoped to bring my daughter home. I had anticipated Pamela’s kindness but never such magnanimity.

“Little Sally’s mother could have been me,” Pamela explained.

“I was stopped by your virtues,” I told her.

She gave me a skeptical glance, one eyebrow raised, and I laughed, but it is more or less the truth. Miss Godfrey was compliant and affectionate at a time in my life when I badly needed affection. But we were never more than lovers.

Compliance would never have been enough for me any more than antagonism attracts me. I wanted my wife to want to be my friend—that’s the best way I can explain it. And Pamela did.

Cross-Examination

“And I would like my friend back,” Mr. B said.

“She isn’t your property.”

“She is my wife. She wants to return to me, doesn’t she?” His voice contained a curious mix of challenge and entreaty.

No one answered. Judge Hardcastle coughed. “Does the CLF wish to continue its petition?”

Dr. Matchel stood. “Although some of us are impressed by Mr. B’s love for his wife, we concur that the relationship was entered into precipitately. Both the courtship and marriage have caused Pamela great emotional and psychological harm. We recommend the marriage be annulled, and Pamela settled permanently in Herland.”

The judge cocked an eyebrow at Mr. Shorter. Mr. Shorter said, “Uh, we still object. Pamela should be returned to the novel that bears her name.”

He’d clearly been saving that line all week.

The judge sighed. “Although I agree that Mr. B loves his wife, I confess I am concerned by the age and class differences.” He gathered up his papers. “I will render my decision when this hearing reconvenes Monday morning at nine a.m.”

Mr. B jerked to his feet. “Won’t you decide now?”

The judge looked pained but his voice was firm. “No, sir. I need time to review all the documents as well as the transcripts.”

“But you’ve heard how I've reformed. You’ve heard Pamela loves me. This isn’t a complicated issue.”

The judge sighed. “Unfortunately, Mr. B, literary issues are rarely uncomplicated. My decision must reflect all the material presented.”

Mr. B bent over the table, hands pressed to the table top.

Mr. Hatch murmured, “If Mr. B needs counseling—”

Mr. B didn’t respond. Mr. Shorter gave Mr. Hatch a look of utter loathing the judge hoped wasn’t reflected in his own face.

Deborah called to Mr. B, “It’s another obstacle, that’s all. The hero and heroine are always reunited.”

Hearings aren’t romance novels, but the judge didn’t rebuke her as he left the courtroom.