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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 67. Sir Gregory Marrable Has A Headache
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 67. Sir Gregory Marrable Has A Headache Post by :Ahmad Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :872

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 67. Sir Gregory Marrable Has A Headache


Mary Lowther, in her letter to her aunt, had in one line told the story of her rupture with Mr. Gilmore. This line had formed a postscript, and the writer had hesitated much before she added it. She had not intended to write to her aunt on this subject; but she had remembered at the last moment how much easier it would be to tell the remainder of her story on her arrival at Loring, if so much had already been told beforehand. Therefore it was that she had added these words. "Everything has been broken off between me and Mr. Gilmore--for ever."

This was a terrible blow upon poor Miss Marrable, who, up to the moment of her receiving that letter, thought that her niece was disposed of in the manner that had seemed most desirable to all her friends. Aunt Sarah loved her niece dearly, and by no means looked forward to improved happiness in her own old age when she should be left alone in the house at Uphill; but she entertained the view about young women which is usual with old women who have young women under their charge, and she thought it much best that this special young woman should get herself married. The old women are right in their views on this matter; and the young women, who on this point are not often refractory, are right also. Miss Marrable, who entertained a very strong opinion on the subject above-mentioned, was very unhappy when she was thus abruptly told by her own peculiar young woman that this second engagement had been broken off and sent to the winds. It had become a theory on the part of Mary's friends that the Gilmore match was the proper thing for her. At last, after many difficulties, the Gilmore match had been arranged. The anxiety as to Mary's future life was at an end, and the theory of the elders concerned with her welfare was to be carried out. Then there came a short note, proclaiming her return home, and simply telling as a fact almost indifferent,--in a single line,--that all the trouble hitherto taken as to her own disposition had entirely been thrown away. "Everything has been broken off between me and Mr. Gilmore." It was a cruel and a heartrending postscript!

Poor Miss Marrable knew very well that she was armed with no parental authority. She could hold her theory, and could advise; but she could do no more. She could not even scold. And there had been some qualm of conscience on her part as to Walter Marrable, now that Walter Marrable had been taken in hand and made much of by the baronet,--and now, also, that poor Gregory had been removed from the path. No doubt she, Aunt Sarah, had done all in her power to aid the difficulties which had separated the two cousins;--and while she thought that the Gilmore match had been the consequence of such aiding on her part, she was happy enough in reflecting upon what she had done. Old Sir Gregory would not have taken Walter by the hand unless Walter had been free to marry Edith Brownlow; and though she could not quite resolve that the death of the younger Gregory had been part of the family arrangement due to the happy policy of the elder Marrables generally, still she was quite sure that Walter's present position at Dunripple had come entirely from the favour with which he had regarded the baronet's wishes as to Edith. Mary was provided for with the Squire, who was in immediate possession; and Walter with his bride would become as it were the eldest son of Dunripple. It was all as comfortable as could be till there came this unfortunate postscript.

The letter reached her on Friday, and on Saturday Mary arrived. Miss Marrable determined that she would not complain. As regarded her own comfort it was doubtless all for the best. But old women are never selfish in regard to the marriage of young women. That the young women belonging to them should be settled,--and thus got rid of,--is no doubt the great desire; but, whether the old woman be herself married or a spinster, the desire is founded on an adamantine confidence that marriage is the most proper and the happiest thing for the young woman. The belief is so thorough that the woman would cease to be a woman, would already have become a brute, who would desire to keep any girl belonging to her out of matrimony for the sake of companionship to herself. But no woman does so desire in regard to those who are dear and near to her. A dependant, distant in blood, or a paid assistant, may find here and there a want of the true feminine sympathy; but in regard to a daughter, or one held as a daughter, it is never wanting. "As the pelican loveth her young do I love thee; and therefore will I give thee away in marriage to some one strong enough to hold thee, even though my heartstrings be torn asunder by the parting." Such is always the heart's declaration of the mother respecting her daughter. The match-making of mothers is the natural result of mother's love; for the ambition of one woman for another is never other than this,--that the one loved by her shall be given to a man to be loved more worthily. Poor Aunt Sarah, considering of these things during those two lonely days, came to the conclusion that if ever Mary were to be so loved again that she might be given away, a long time might first elapse; and then she was aware that such gifts given late lose much of their value, and have to be given cheaply.

Mary herself, as she was driven slowly up the hill to her aunt's door, did not share her aunt's melancholy. To be returned as a bad shilling, which has been presented over the counter and found to be bad, must be very disagreeable to a young woman's feelings. That was not the case with Mary Lowther. She had, no doubt, a great sorrow at heart. She had created a shipwreck which she did regret most bitterly. But the sorrow and the regret were not humiliating, as they would have been had they been caused by failure on her own part. And then she had behind her the strong comfort of her own rock, of which nothing should now rob her,--which should be a rock for rest and safety, and not a rock for shipwreck, and as to the disposition of which Aunt Sarah's present ideas were so very erroneous!

It was impossible that the first evening should pass without a word or two about poor Gilmore. Mary knew well enough that she had told her aunt nothing of her renewed engagement with her cousin; but she could not bring herself at once to utter a song of triumph, as she would have done had she blurted out all her story. Not a word was said about either lover till they were seated together in the evening. "What you tell me about Mr. Gilmore has made me so unhappy," said Miss Marrable, sadly.

"It could not be helped, Aunt Sarah. I tried my best, but it could not be helped. Of course I have been very, very unhappy myself."

"I don't pretend to understand it."

"And yet it is so easily understood!" said Mary, pleading hard for herself. "I did not love him, and--"

"But you had accepted him, Mary."

"I know I had. It is so natural that you should think that I have behaved badly."

"I have not said so, my dear."

"I know that, Aunt Sarah; but if you think so,--and of course you do,--write and ask Janet Fenwick. She will tell you everything. You know how devoted she is to Mr. Gilmore. She would have done anything for him. But even she will tell you that at last I could not help it. When I was so very wretched I thought that I would do my best to comply with other people's wishes. I got a feeling that nothing signified for myself. If they had told me to go into a convent or to be a nurse in a hospital I would have gone. I had nothing to care for, and if I could do what I was told perhaps it might be best."

"But why did you not go on with it, my dear?"

"It was impossible--after Walter had written to me."

"But Walter is to marry Edith Brownlow."

"No, dear aunt; no. Walter is to marry me. Don't look like that, Aunt Sarah. It is true;--it is, indeed." She had now dragged her chair close to her aunt's seat upon the sofa, so that she could put her hands upon her aunt's knees. "All that about Miss Brownlow has been a fable."

"Parson John told me that it was fixed."

"It is not fixed. The other thing is fixed. Parson John tells many fables. He is to come here."

"Who is to come here?"

"Walter,--of course. He is to be here,--I don't know how soon; but I shall hear from him. Dear aunt, you must be good to him;--indeed you must. He is your cousin just as much as mine."

"I'm not in love with him, Mary."

"But I am, Aunt Sarah. Oh dear, how much I am in love with him! It never changed in the least, though I struggled, and struggled not to think of him. I broke his picture and burned it;--and I would not have a scrap of his handwriting;--I would not have near me anything that he had even spoken of. But it was no good. I could not get away from him for an hour. Now I shall never want to get away from him again. As for Mr. Gilmore, it would have come to the same thing at last, had I never heard another word from Walter Marrable. I could not have done it."

"I suppose we must submit to it," said Aunt Sarah, after a pause. This certainly was not the most exhilarating view which might have been taken of the matter as far as Mary was concerned; but as it did not suggest any open opposition to her scheme, and as there was no refusal to see Walter when he should again appear at Uphill as her lover, she made no complaint. Miss Marrable went on to inquire how Sir Gregory would like these plans, which were so diametrically opposed to his own. As to that, Mary could say nothing. No doubt Walter would make a clean breast of it to Sir Gregory before he left Dunripple, and would be able to tell them what had passed when he came to Loring. Mary, however, did not forget to argue that the ground on which Walter Marrable stood was his own ground. After the death of two men, the youngest of whom was over seventy, the property would be his property, and could not be taken from him. If Sir Gregory chose to quarrel with him,--as to the probability of which, Mary and her aunt professed very different opinions,--they must wait. Waiting now would be very different from what it had been when their prospects in life had not seemed to depend in any degree upon the succession to the family property. "And I know myself better now than I did then," said Mary. "Though it were to be for all my life, I would wait."

On the Monday she got a letter from her cousin. It was very short, and there was not a word in it about Sir Gregory or Edith Brownlow. It only said that he was the happiest man in the world, and that he would be at Loring on the following Saturday. He must return at once to Birmingham, but would certainly be at Loring on Saturday. He had written to his uncle to ask for hospitality. He did not suppose that Parson John would refuse; but should this be the case, he would put up at The Dragon. Mary might be quite sure that she would see him on Saturday.

And on the Saturday he came. The parson had consented to receive him; but, not thinking highly of the wisdom of the proposed visit, had worded his letter rather coldly. But of that Walter in his present circumstances thought but little. He was hardly within the house before he had told his story. "You haven't heard, I suppose," he said, "that Mary and I have made it up?"

"How made it up?"

"Well,--I mean that you shall make us man and wife some day."

"But I thought you were to marry Edith Brownlow."

"Who told you that, sir? I am sure Edith did not, nor yet her mother. But I believe these sort of things are often settled without consulting the principals."

"And what does my brother say?"

"Sir Gregory, you mean?"

"Of course I mean Sir Gregory. I don't suppose you'd ask your father."

"I never had the slightest intention, sir, of asking either one or the other. I don't suppose that I am to ask his leave to be married, like a young girl; and it isn't likely that any objection on family grounds could be made to such a woman as Mary Lowther."

"You needn't ask leave of any one, most noble Hector. That is a matter of course. You can marry the cook-maid to-morrow, if you please. But I thought you meant to live at Dunripple?"

"So I shall,--part of the year; if Sir Gregory likes it."

"And that you were to have an allowance and all that sort of thing. Now, if you do marry the cook-maid--"

"I am not going to marry the cook-maid,--as you know very well."

"Or if you marry any one else in opposition to my brother's wishes, I don't suppose it likely that he'll bestow that which he intended to give as a reward to you for following his wishes."

"He can do as he pleases. The moment that it was settled I told him."

"And what did he say?"

"He complained of headache. Sir Gregory very often does complain of headache. When I took leave of him, he said I should hear from him."

"Then it's all up with Dunripple for you,--as long as he lives. I've no doubt that since poor Gregory's death your father's interest in the property has been disposed of among the Jews to the last farthing."

"I shouldn't wonder."

"And you are,--just where you were, my boy."

"That depends entirely upon Sir Gregory. You may be sure of this, sir,--that I shall ask him for nothing. If the worst comes to the worst, I can go to the Jews as well as my father. I won't, unless I am driven."

He was with Mary, of course, that evening, walking again along the banks of the Lurwell, as they had first done now nearly twelve months since. Then the autumn had begun, and now the last of the summer months was near its close. How very much had happened to her, or had seemed to happen, during the interval. At that time she had thrice declined Harry Gilmore's suit; but she had done so without any weight on her own conscience. Her friends had wished her to marry the man, and therefore she had been troubled; but the trouble had lain light upon her, and as she looked back at it all, she felt that at that time there had been something of triumph at her heart. A girl when she is courted knows at any rate that she is thought worthy of courtship, and in this instance she had been at least courted worthily. Since then a whole world of trouble had come upon her from that source. She had been driven hither and thither, first by love, and then by a false idea of duty, till she had come almost to shipwreck. And in her tossing she had gone against another barque which, for aught she knew, might even yet go down from the effects of the collision. She could not be all happy, even though she were again leaning on Walter Marrable's arm, or again sitting with it round her waist, beneath the shade of the trees on the banks of the Lurwell.

"Then we must wait, and this time we must be patient," she said, when he told her of poor Sir Gregory's headache.

"I cannot ask him for anything," said Walter.

"Of course not. Do not ask anybody for anything,--but just wait. I have quite made up my mind that forty-five for the gentleman, and thirty-five for the lady, is quite time enough for marrying."

"The grapes are sour," said Walter.

"They are not sour at all, sir," said Mary.

"I was speaking of my own grapes, as I look at them when I use that argument for my own comfort. The worst of it is that when we know that the grapes are not sour,--that they are the sweetest grapes in the world,--the argument is of no use. I won't tell any lies about it, to myself or anybody else. I want my grapes at once."

"And so do I," said Mary, eagerly; "of course I do. I am not going to make any pretence with you. Of course I want them at once. But I have learned to know that they are precious enough to be worth the waiting for. I made a fool of myself once; but I shall not do it again, let Sir Gregory make himself ever so disagreeable."

This was all very pleasant for Captain Marrable. Ah, yes! what other moment in a man's life is at all equal to that in which he is being flattered to the top of his bent by the love of the woman he loves. To be flattered by the love of a woman whom he does not love is almost equally unpleasant,--if the man be anything of a man. But at the present moment our Captain was supremely happy. His Thais was telling him that he was indeed her king, and should he not take the goods with which the gods provided him? To have been robbed of his all by a father, and to have an uncle who would have a headache instead of making settlements,--these indeed were drawbacks; but the pleasure was so sweet that even such drawbacks as these could hardly sully his bliss. "If you knew what your letter was to me!" she said, as she leaned against his shoulder. His father and his uncle and all the Marrables on the earth might do their worst, they could not rob the present hour of its joy.

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