21 June 2012

Mr. B Speaks! 20th and Last Installment

Chapter 6: Day Six

Judge Hardcastle Renders His Decision

Monday morning, Judge Hardcastle stalked into the courtroom, threw a newspaper onto his desk, and glared at the hearing’s attendees, real and fictional. He said, “Editorials by poorly informed reporters are one thing. This is something else entirely.”
The City Gazette
Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

I write to protest the ignoble treatment of my husband, Mr. B. No husband could be more just in his judgments, more forthcoming in his apologies, or more generous to his dependents. He has accepted my faults and corrected his own, all without bringing public reproach upon my person. I beg the court to reunite husband and wife and return us to our private lives.

MRS. PAMELA B.
Pamela

To the Editor:

We the undersigned feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a custom which keeps a woman from her desired future. We neither subscribe to nor deride the familial and marital duties to which Pamela B has applied her talents, but we rebuke a state of civilization that denies her those duties without her consent.

SOMEL, ZAVA, MOADINE
Herland

The judge said, “How did these letters get published? Well?”

At the CLF table, Dr. Matchel and Gary glared at Mr. Hatch. Mr. Hatch said reluctantly, “Pamela sent them during our last session.”

“Sent them?”

“From my Blackberry.”

“Your Blackberry?”

“I left it on the table. I saw her play with it. I didn’t realize—I had no idea she would—she’s from the eighteenth century!”

“My wife is very clever,” Mr. B said. He sprawled in his chair, his eyes lit with amusement.

“And the previous editorials?”

Mr. Hatch sagged lower in his chair. “She sent them. I checked this morning. I didn’t know!”

“I should hope not,” the judge snapped. “Who are Somel, Zava, and Moadine?”

Lonquist said, “They are characters from Herland. In the novel, they mentor the main male characters who arrive unexpectedly in their country. Apparently, they’ve been mentoring Pamela since her arrival.”

“I see.” The judge straightened from his accusatory stoop.

“A new hearing?” Dr. Matchel said without much hope.

“If media involvement had been caused by the actions of the Respondent, I might consider a fresh hearing. Under the circumstances, however, I feel no need to force another judge to listen to these wrangling over historical context.”

The judge didn’t mention that he wanted to go back to the Agatha Christie hearings, where he could focus on which literary murders should be allowed and which prevented in accordance with the established rules of “Golden Age” detective fiction.

Instead, he turned to Mr. B and his voice was no longer peevish but stately and quiet. “I have considered all the testimony presented this week, applying the standard for literature hearings: customs of both a novel’s time period and its genre are legally permissible. Of the complaints made by the Committee for Literary Fairness, I recognize two main points against the marriage: one, the kidnapping of Pamela before the marriage; second, the possibility of emotional abuse in the first days of the marriage.

“Regarding the first point, although a kidnapping did occur, I do not believe Pamela has suffered from post-traumatic stress or whatever the current popular malady is. Moreover, it is clear that many romantic heroines suffer similar adventures with no ill side-effects.”

Deborah clapped silently, and the judge dipped his head to her.

“Personally,” he added, “I deem the idea of kidnapping for romantic reasons unnecessary and ridiculous. Your wife, Mr. B, could easily have been wooed without recourse to such extremes.”

Mr. B nodded gravely.

“However, you seem to have a propensity for complications, not to mention a positive delight in debate.”

Mr. B protested, “I don’t like quarrels.”

“You provoke them, sir; you create little waves of chaos wherever you go. Your wife seems equally inclined towards drama. She also seems more than capable at handling you, not to mention every other human being who gets in her way.”

The judge glared at the CLF table before continuing.

“I am concerned about the difference in age and background although I do not doubt that Pamela is Mr. B’s equal in intelligence and aptitude. Your wife, Mr. B, has a remarkable capacity for acclimatization. I believe this capacity is inherent, rather than culturally produced.”

Of course, Mr. B’s smile seemed to say.

“This is not to say that differences of age and background  may not produce unhealthy domestic conflicts. Any man who would consider leaving his wife only five days after their wedding—however, I appreciate that Mr. B avoided such a drastic step. I also appreciate his attempts to keep his temper in check, both in the novel and in this courtroom. I would advise, sir, that you remain self-vigilant in this regard.”

The judge waited for Mr. B’s acknowledgement—a dignified nod—then cleared his throat.

“Finally, I note that although Mr. B’s acts appear autocratic by modern, non-narrative standards, his actual behavior—in the novel and in this courtroom—indicate a frank and self-reflective mindset. Both his demeanor and testimony have demonstrated those qualities of honesty, wit, and consideration that Pamela attributes to him in her own text. I believe, Mr. B, that you respect and love your wife. I also believe you intend to treat her accordingly.”

He pounded his gavel. “The CLF’s petition is denied. Pamela should be returned immediately to her novel of origin and to her husband.”

He nodded to his clerk and swept out, the wrinkled robe wafting in the doorway. And if he heard the claps and cheers from Deborah, Leslie Quinn, and Lonquist, he didn’t smile until he’d reached his office.

After the Hearing

Mr. B waited for his wife in the courthouse rotunda. Mr. Shorter had stopped beside the coffee stand, saying, “I’ll see you back in the novel.”

Mr. B hardly heard him or anyone. Once he’d read Pamela’s editorial—shoved under his nose that morning by Mr. Shorter—he’d known they would win. No one could stop Pamela once she put pen to paper. He would be seeing her soon—in a moment, second, minute.

Leslie Quinn, Lonquist, and Deborah passed him and waved. He waved absently back. He should thank them. He should be gracious. He always remembered to thank retainers. He always remembered to be the squire. But now all he could concentrate on was: When is she coming?

A slim young woman in a straight, white tunic and close-fitting breeches entered the rotunda ahead of Mr. Hatch. She paused and looked about her, gravely, carefully, and Mr. B had to stop himself from laughing. Typical Pamela—to assess her surroundings, to not let herself be hurried or bullied.

She saw him. She walked towards him, chin lifted, eyes grave, and he recognized the signs. She was furious. For the first time, he felt vaguely sorry for the CLF.

She stopped before him and said levelly, “I want to go home.”

Mr. B laughed. He laughed so loud, the sound bounced off the domed rotunda. People turned to stare. But people always stared at him and Pamela. They were always surprised; over and over, no one believed the marriage would work.

Pamela’s mouth quirked, and Mr. B took her in his arms. She didn’t resist. She slid her arms around his neck and pressed her face to his neck.

“I missed you,” she whispered to his throat.

People were clapping, even Mr. Hatch. At the coffee cart, Mr. Shorter turned and lifted his cup in a toast as Mr. B picked up his wife and carried her back into Pamela.
* * *
They came out on the packed dirt road that stretched between the Bedfordshire estate and the local church. Pamela kept her arms around her husband’s neck, and he kissed away her shivers.

Selecting a Scottish tutor indicates
Pamela's devotion to education. Due to the
Scottish Enlightenment, which produced Scottish
philosophers like Adam Smith, the Scots were
known as literate and intellectual.
She calmed quickly. He’d had practice soothing her. She leaned her cheek against his shoulder and said, “I was thinking it might be time to get Billy a tutor. A Scottish tutor—what do you think?”

“I think you should give me time to get used to having you back.”

She grinned and swung her legs to the ground. Mr. B helped her stand, then took her chin and tilted it towards him.

“You did want to come back?”

“Of course. Didn’t you read my letter to that newspaper?”

“I have a fragile ego, Pamela. I need reassurance.”

She gave him one of her half-smiles. “I hated being away. I badgered people incessantly. I was very—saucy.”

“Good girl.”

She ducked her head suddenly and blushed. “I promise to be less magisterial.”

He gave her a startled look, then, “You saw the transcripts,” he said, stricken.

“You read my letters,” she reminded him.

“And fell in love.”

“Yes.” She slid her arms around his waist. “I read your thoughts, and now I love you more.”

He kissed her—with relief, with gratitude, with the unending good-humor that tinged their marriage. Keeping her hand in his, he started down the road.

It was good to be home

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