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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 45. What Shall I Do With Myself?
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 45. What Shall I Do With Myself? Post by :robbud Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1198

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 45. What Shall I Do With Myself?

CHAPTER XLV. WHAT SHALL I DO WITH MYSELF?

Parson John Marrable, though he said nothing in his letters to Dunripple about the doings of his nephew at Loring, was by no means equally reticent in his speech at Loring as to the doings at Dunripple. How he came by his news he did not say, but he had ever so much to tell. And Miss Marrable, who knew him well, was aware that his news was not simple gossip, but was told with an object. In his way, Parson John was a crafty man, who was always doing a turn of business. To his mind it was clearly inexpedient, and almost impracticable, that his nephew and Mary Lowther should ever become man and wife. He knew that they were separated; but he knew, also, that they had agreed to separate on terms which would easily admit of being reconsidered. He, too, had heard of Edith Brownlow, and had heard that if a marriage could be arranged between Walter and Edith, the family troubles would be in a fair way of settlement. No good could come to anybody from that other marriage. As for Mary Lowther, it was manifestly her duty to become Mrs. Gilmore. He therefore took some trouble to let the ladies at Uphill know that Captain Marrable had been received very graciously at Dunripple; that he was making himself very happy there, hunting, shooting, and forgetting his old troubles; that it was understood that he was to be recognised as the heir;--and that there was a young lady in the case, the favourite of Sir Gregory.

He understood the world too well to say a word to Mary Lowther herself about her rival. Mary would have perceived his drift. But he expressed his ideas about Edith confidentially to Miss Marrable, fully alive to the fact that Miss Marrable would know how to deal with her niece. "It is by far the best thing that could have happened to him," said the parson. "As for going out to India again, for a man with his prospects it was very bad."

"But his cousin isn't much older than he is," suggested Miss Marrable.

"Yes he is,--a great deal older. And Gregory's health is so bad that his life is not worth a year's purchase. Poor fellow! they tell me he only cares to live till he has got his book out. The truth is that if Walter could make a match of it with Edith Brownlow, they might arrange something about the property which would enable him to live there just as though the place were his own. The Colonel would be the only stumbling-block, and after what he has done, he could hardly refuse to agree to anything."

"They'd have to pay him," said Miss Marrable.

"Then he must be paid, that's all. My brother Gregory is wrapped up in that girl, and he would do anything for her welfare. I'm told that she and Walter have taken very kindly to each other already."

It would be better for Mary Lowther that Walter Marrable should marry Edith Brownlow. Such, at least, was Miss Marrable's belief. She could see that Mary, though she bore herself bravely, still did so as one who had received a wound for which there was no remedy;--as a man who has lost a leg and who nevertheless intends to enjoy life though he knows that he never can walk again. But in this case, the real bar to walking was the hope in Mary's breast,--a hope that was still present, though it was not nourished,--that the leg was not irremediably lost. If Captain Marrable would finish all that by marrying Edith, then,--so thought Miss Marrable,--in process of time the cure would be made good, and there might be another leg. She did not believe much in the Captain's constancy, and was quite ready to listen to the story about another love. And so from day to day words were dropped into Mary's ear which had their effect.

"I must say that I am glad that he is not to go to India," said Miss Marrable to her niece.

"So, indeed, am I," answered Mary.

"In the first place it is such an excellent thing that he should be on good terms at Dunripple. He must inherit the property some day, and the title too."

To this Mary made no reply. It seemed to her to have been hard that the real state of things should not have been explained to her before she gave up her lover. She had then regarded any hope of relief from Dunripple as being beyond measure distant. There had been a possibility, and that was all,--a chance to which no prudent man or woman would have looked in making their preparations for the life before them. That had been her idea as to the Dunripple prospects; and now it seemed that on a sudden Walter was to be regarded as almost the immediate heir. She did not blame him; but it did appear to be hard upon her.

"I don't see the slightest reason why he shouldn't live at Dunripple," continued Miss Marrable.

"Only that he would be dependent. I suppose he does not mean to sell out of the army altogether."

"At any rate, he may be backwards and forwards. You see, there is no chance of Sir Gregory's own son marrying."

"So they say."

"And his position would be really that of a younger brother in similar circumstances."

Mary paused a moment before she replied, and then she spoke out.

"Dear Aunt Sarah, what does all this mean? I know you are speaking at me, and yet I don't quite understand it. Everything between me and Captain Marrable is over. I have no possible means of influencing his life. If I were told to-morrow that he had given up the army and taken to living altogether at Dunripple, I should have no means of judging whether he had done well or ill. Indeed, I should have no right to judge."

"You must be glad that the family should be united."

"I am glad. Now, is that all?"

"I want you to bring yourself to think without regret of his probable marriage with this young lady."

"You don't suppose I shall blame him if he marries her."

"But I want you to see it in such a light that it shall not make you unhappy."

"I think, dear aunt, that we had better not talk of it. I can assure you of this, that if I could prevent him from marrying by holding up my little finger, I would not do it."

"It would be ten thousand pities," urged the old lady, "that either his life or yours should be a sacrifice to a little episode, which, after all, only took a week or two in the acting."

"I can only answer for myself," said Mary. "I don't mean to be a sacrifice."

There were many such conversations, and by degrees they did have an effect upon Mary Lowther. She learned to believe that it was probable that Captain Marrable should marry Miss Brownlow, and, of course, asked herself questions as to the effect such a marriage would have upon herself, which she answered more fully than she did those which were put to her by her aunt. Then there came to Parson John some papers, which required his signature, in reference to the disposal of a small sum of money, he having been one of the trustees to his brother's marriage settlement. This was needed in regard to some provision which the baronet was making for his niece, and which, if read aright, would rather have afforded evidence against than in favour of the chance of her immediate marriage; but it was taken at Loring to signify that the thing was to be done, and that the courtship was at any rate in progress. Mary did not believe all that she heard; but there was left upon her mind an idea that Walter Marrable was preparing himself for the sudden change of his affections. Then she determined that, should he do so, she would not judge him to have done wrong. If he could settle himself comfortably in this way, why should he not do so? She was told that Edith Brownlow was pretty, and gentle, and good, and would undoubtedly receive from Sir Gregory's hands all that Sir Gregory could give her. It was expedient, for the sake of the whole family, that such a marriage should be arranged. She would not stand in the way of it; and, indeed, how could she stand in the way of it? Had not her engagement with Captain Marrable been dissolved at her own instance in the most solemn manner possible? Let him marry whom he might, she could have no ground of complaint on that score.

She was in this state of mind when she received Captain Marrable's letter from Dunripple. When she opened it, for a moment she thought that it would convey to her tidings respecting Miss Brownlow. When she had read it, she told herself how impossible it was that he should have told her of his new matrimonial intentions, even if he entertained them. The letter gave no evidence either one way or the other; but it confirmed to her the news which had reached her through Parson John, that her former lover intended to abandon that special career, his choice of which had made it necessary that they two should abandon their engagement. When at Loring he had determined that he must go to India. He had found it to be impossible that he should live without going to India. He had now been staying a few weeks at Dunripple with his uncle, and with Edith Brownlow, and it turned out that he need not go to India at all. Then she sat down, and wrote to him that guarded, civil, but unenthusiastic letter, of which the reader has already heard. She had allowed herself to be wounded and made sore by what they had told her of Edith Brownlow.

It was still early in the spring, just in the middle of April, when Mary received another letter from her friend at Bullhampton, a letter which made her turn all these things in her mind very seriously. If Walter Marrable were to marry Edith Brownlow, what sort of future life should she, Mary Lowther, propose to herself? She was firmly resolved upon one thing, that it behoved her to look rather to what was right than to what might simply be pleasant. But would it be right that she should consider herself to be, as it were, widowed by the frustration of an unfortunate passion? Life would still be left to her,--such a life as that which her aunt lived,--such a life, with this exception, that whereas her aunt was a single lady with moderate means, she would be a single lady with very small means indeed. But that question of means did not go far with her; there was something so much more important that she could put that out of sight. She had told herself very plainly that it was a good thing for a woman to be married; that she would live and die unsuccessfully if she lived and died a single woman; that she had desired to do better with herself than that. Was it proper that she should now give up all such ambition because she had made a mistake? If it were proper, she would do so; and then the question resolved itself into this;--Could she be right if she married a man without loving him? To marry a man without esteeming him, without the possibility of loving him hereafter, she knew would be wrong.

Mrs. Fenwick's letter was as follows;--


Vicarage, Tuesday.

MY DEAR MARY,

My brother-in-law left us yesterday, and has put us all
into a twitter. He said, just as he was going away, that
he didn't believe that Lord Trowbridge had any right to
give away the ground, because it had not been in his
possession or his family's for a great many years, or
something of that sort. We don't clearly understand all
about it, nor does he; but he is to find out something
which he says he can find out, and then let us know.
But in the middle of all this, Frank declares that he
won't stir in the matter, and that if he could put the
abominable thing down by holding up his finger, he would
not do it. And he has made me promise not to talk about
it, and, therefore, all I can do is to be in a twitter.
If that spiteful old man has really given away land
that doesn't belong to him, simply to annoy us,--and it
certainly has been done with no other object,--I think
that he ought to be told of it. Frank, however, has got to
be quite serious about it, and you know how very serious
he can be when he is serious.

But I did not sit down to write specially about that
horrid chapel. I want to know what you mean to do in
the summer. It is always better to make these little
arrangements beforehand; and when I speak of the summer,
I mean the early summer. The long and the short of it is,
will you come to us about the end of May?

Of course, I know which way your thoughts will go when you
get this, and, of course, you will know what I am thinking
of when I write it; but I will promise that not a word
shall be said to you to urge you in any way. I do not
suppose you will think it right that you should stay away
from friends whom you love, and who love you dearly, for
fear of a man who wants you to marry him. You are not
afraid of Mr. Gilmore, and I don't suppose that you are
going to shut yourself up all your life because Captain
Marrable has not a fortune of his own. Come at any rate.
If you find it unpleasant you shall go back just when you
please, and I will pledge myself that you shall not be
harassed by persuasions.

Yours most affectionately,

JANET FENWICK.

Frank has read this. He says that all I have said about
his being serious is a tarradiddle; but that nothing can
be more true than what I have said about your friends
loving you, and wishing to have you here again. If you
were here we might talk him over yet about the chapel.


To which, in the Vicar's handwriting, was added the word, "Never!"

It was two days before she showed this letter to her aunt--two days in which she had thought much upon the subject. She knew well that her aunt would counsel her to go to Bullhampton, and, therefore, she would not mention the letter till she had made up her own mind.

"What will you do?" said her aunt.

"I will go, if you do not object."

"I certainly shall not object," said Miss Marrable.

Then Mary wrote a very short letter to her friend, which may as well, also, be communicated to the reader:--


Loring, Thursday.

DEAR JANET,

I will go to you about the end of May; and yet, though I
have made up my mind to do so, I almost doubt that I am
not wise. If one could only ordain that things should
be as though they had never been! That, however, is
impossible, and one can only endeavour to live so as to
come as nearly as possible to such a state. I know that I
am confused; but I think you will understand what I mean.

I intend to be very full of energy about the chapel, and
I do hope that your brother-in-law will be able to prove
that Lord Trowbridge has been misbehaving himself. I never
loved Mr. Puddleham, who always seemed to look upon me
with wrath because I belonged to the Vicarage; and I
certainly should take delight in seeing him banished from
the Vicarage gate.

Always affectionately yours,

MARY LOWTHER.

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