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The First Wedding
As Easter Sunday fell on the seventeenth of April, and as the arrangement of the new Cabinet, with its inferior offices, was not completed till the sixth of that month, there was only just time for the new elections before the holidays. Mr Monk sat on his bench so comfortably that he hardly seemed ever to have been off it. And Phineas Finn resumed the peculiar ministerial tone of voice just as though he had never allowed himself to use the free and indignant strains of the opposition. As to a majority,--nothing as yet was known about that. Some few besides Silverbridge might probably transfer themselves to the Government. None of the ministers lost their seats in the new elections. The opposite party seemed for a while to have been paralysed by the defection of Sir Timothy, and men who liked a quiet life were able to comfort themselves with the reflection that nothing could be done this session.
For our loves this was convenient. Neither of them would have allowed their parliamentary energies to have interfered at such a crisis with his domestic affairs; but still it was well to have time at command. The day for the marriage of Isabel and Silverbridge had been now fixed. That was to take place on the Wednesday after Easter, and was to be celebrated by special royal favour in the chapel at Whitehall. All the Pallisers would be there, and all the relations of the Pallisers, all the ambassadors, and of course all the Americans in London. It would be a 'wretched grind', as Silverbridge said, but it had to be done. In the meantime the whole party, including the new President of the Council, were down at Matching. Even Isabel, though it must be presumed that she had much to do in looking after her bridal garments, was able to be there for a day or two. But Tregear was the person to whom this visit was of the greatest importance.
He had been allowed to see Lady Mary in London, but hardly to do more than see her. With her he had been alone for about five minutes, and then the cruel circumstances,--circumstances, however, which were not permanently cruel,--had separated them. All their great difficulties had been settled, and no doubt they were happy. Tregear, though he had been as it were received into grace by that glass of wine, still had not entered into the intimacies of the house. This he felt himself. He had been told that he had better restrain himself from writing to Mary, and he had restrained himself. He had therefore no immediate opportunity of creeping into that perfect intimacy with the house and household which is generally accorded to a promised son-in-law.
On this occasion he travelled down alone, and as he approached the house he, who was not by nature timid, felt himself to be somewhat cowed. That the Duke should not be cold to him was almost impossible. Of course he was there in opposition to the Duke's wishes. Even Silverbridge had never quite liked the match. Of course he was to have all that he desired. Of course he was the most fortunate of men. Of course no man had ever stronger reason to be contented with the girl he loved. But still his heart was a little low as he was driven up to the door.
The first person he saw was the Duke himself, who, as the fly from the station arrived, was returning from his walk. 'You are welcome to Matching,' he said, taking off his hat with something of ceremony. This was said before the servants, but Tregear was then led into the study and the door was closed. 'I never do anything by halves, Mr Tregear,' he said. 'Since it is to so you shall be the same to me as though you had come under other auspices. Of yourself personally I hear all that is good. Consider yourself at home here, and in all things use me as your friend.' Tregear endeavoured to make some reply, but could not find words that were fitting. 'I think that young people are out,' continued the Duke. 'Mr Warburton will help you find them if you like to go upon the search.' The words had been very gracious, but still there was something in the manner of the man which made Tregear find it almost impossible to regard him as he might have regarded another father-in-law. He had often heard the Duke spoken of as a man who could become awful if he pleased, almost without an effort. He had been told of the man's mingled simplicity, courtesy, self- assertion against which no impudence or raillery could prevail. And now he seemed to understand it.
He was not driven to go under the private secretary's escort in quest of the young people. Mary had understood her business much better than that. 'If you please, sir, Lady Mary is in the little drawing-room,' said a well-arrayed young girl to him as soon as the Duke's door was closed. This was Lady Mary's own maid who had been on the look-out for the fly. Lady Mary had known all details, as to the arrival of the trains and the length of the journey from the station, and had not been walking with the other young people when the Duke had intercepted her lover. Even the delay she had thought was hard. The discreet maid opened the door of the little drawing-room,--and discreetly closed it instantly. 'At last!' she said, throwing herself into his arms.
On this occasion time did not envy them. The long afternoons of spring had come, and as Tregear had reached the house between four and five they were able to go out together before the sun set. 'No,' she said when he came to inquire as to her life during the last twelve months, 'you had not much to be afraid of as to my forgetting.'
'But when everything was against me?'
'One thing was not against you. You ought to have been sure of that.'
'And so I was. And yet I felt that I ought not to have been sure. Sometimes, in my solitude, I used to think that I myself had been wrong. I began to doubt whether under any circumstances I could have been justified in asking your father's daughter to be my wife.'
'Because of his rank?'
'Not so much his rank as his money.'
'Ought that to be considered?'
'A poor man who marries a rich woman will always be suspected.'
'Because people are so mean and poor-spirited; and because they think that money is more than anything else. It should be nothing at all in such matters. I don't know how it can be anything. They have been saying that to me all along,--as though one were to stop to think whether one was rich or poor.' Tregear, when this was said, could not but remember a time not very much prior to that which Mary had not stopped to think, neither for a while had he and Mabel. 'I suppose it was worse for me than for you,' she added.
'I hope not.'
'But it was, Frank; and therefore I ought to have made it up to me now. It was very bad to be alone here, particularly when I felt that papa always looked at me as though I were a sinner. He did not mean it, but he could not help looking at me like that. As there was nobody to whom I could say a word.'
'It was pretty much the same with me.'
'Yes; but you were not offending a father who could not keep himself from looking reproaches at you. I was like a boy at school who had been put into Coventry. And then they sent me to Lady Cantrip!'
'Was that very bad?'
'I do believe that if I were a young woman with a well-ordered mind, I should feel myself very much indebted to Lady Cantrip. She had a terrible task of it. But I could not teach myself to like her. I believe she knew all through that I should get my way at last.'
'That ought to have made you friends.'
'But yet she tried everything she could. And when I told her about that meeting up at Lord Grex's, she was so shocked! Do you remember that?'
'Do I remember it!'
'Were you not shocked?' This question was not to be answered by any word. 'I was,' she continued. 'It was an awful thing to do; but I was determined to show them all that I was in earnest. Do you remember how Miss Cassewary looked?'
'Miss Cassewary knew all about it.'
'I daresay she did. And so I suppose did Mabel Grex. I had thought that perhaps I might make Mabel a confidante, but--'
'You like Mabel, do you not? I do.'
'I like her very, very much.'
'Perhaps you have liked her too well for that, eh, Frank?'
'Too well for what?'
'That she should have heard all that I had to say about you with sympathy. If so, I am sorry.'
'You need not fear that I have ever for a moment been untrue to either her or you.'
'I am sure you have not to me. Poor Mabel! Then they took me to Custins. That was the worst of all. I cannot quite tell you what happened there.' Of course he asked her,--but as she had said, she could not quite tell him about Lord Popplecourt.
The next morning the Duke asked his guest in a playful tone what was his Christian name. It could hardly be that he should not have known, but yet he asked the question.
'Francis Oliphant,' said Tregear.
'Frank,' whispered Mary, who was with them.
'Then I will call you Frank, if you will allow me. The use of Christian names is, I think, pleasant and hardly common enough among us. I almost forget my own boy's name because the practice has grown up of calling him by a title.'
'I am going to call him Abraham,' said Isabel.
'Abraham is a good name, only I do not think he got it from his godfathers and godmothers.'
'Who can call a man Plantagenet? I should as soon think of calling my father-in-law Coeur de Lion.'
'So he is,' said Mary. Whereupon the Duke kissed the two girls and went his way,--showing that by this time he had adopted the one and the proposed husband of the other into his heart.
The day before the Duke had started for London to be present at the grand marriage he sent for Frank. 'I suppose,' said he, 'that you would wish that some time should be fixed for your own marriage.' To this the accepted suitor of course assented. 'But before we can do that something must be settled about--money.' Tregear when he heard this became hot all over, and felt that he could not restrain his blushes. Such must be the feeling of a man when he finds himself compelled to own to a girl's father that he intends to live upon her money and not upon his own. 'I do not like to be troublesome,' continued the Duke, 'or to ask questions which might seem to be impertinent.'
'Oh no! Of course I feel my position. I can only say that it was not because of your daughter might probably have money that I first sought her love.'
'It shall be so received. And now--But perhaps it will be best that you should arrange all this with my man of business. Mr Morton shall be instructed. Mr Morton lives near my place in Barsetshire, but is now in London. If you will call on him he shall tell you what I would suggest. I hope you will find that your affairs will be comfortable. And now as to time.'
Isabel's wedding was declared by the newspapers to have been one of the most brilliant remembered in the metropolis. There were six bridesmaids, of whom of course Mary was one,--and of whom poor Lady Mabel Grex was equally of course not another. Poor Lady Mabel was at this time with Miss Cassewary at Grex, paying what she believed would be a last visit to the old family home. Among the others were two American girls, brought into that august society for the sake of courtesy rather than of personal love. And there were two other Palliser girls and a Scotch McCloskie cousin. The breakfast was of course given by Mr Boncassen at his home in Brook Street, where the bridal presents were displayed. And not only were they displayed; but a list of them, with an approximate statement as to their value, appeared in one or two of the next day's newspapers;-- as to which terrible sin against good taste neither was Mr or Mrs Boncassen guilty. But in these days, in which such splendid things were done on so very splendid a scale, a young lady cannot herself lay out her friends' gifts so as to be properly seen by her friends. Some well-skilled, well-paid hand is needed even for that, and hence comes this public information on affairs which should surely be private. In our grandmothers' time the happy bride's happy mother herself compounded the cake;--or at any rate the trusted housekeeper. But we all know that terrible tower of silver which now stands niddle-noddling with its appendages of flags and spears on the modern wedding breakfast-table. It will come to pass with some of us soon that we must deny ourselves the pleasure of having young friends, because their marriage presents are so costly.
Poor Mrs Boncassen had not perhaps a happy time with her august guests on that morning; but when she retired to give Isabel her last kiss in privacy she did feel proud to think that her daughter would some day be an English Duchess.
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