Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
BELL MOSK PAYS A VISIT
Although the palace was so near Beorminster, and the sphere of Gabriel's labours lay in the vicinity of the cathedral, Bishop Pendle did not judge it wise that his youngest son should dwell beneath the paternal roof. To teach him independence, to strengthen his will and character, and because he considered that a clergyman should, to a certain extent, share the lot of those amongst whom he laboured, the bishop arranged that Gabriel should inhabit lodgings in the old town, not far from The Derby Winner. It was by reason of this contiguity that Gabriel became acquainted with the handsome barmaid of the hotel, and as he was a more weak-natured man than his father dreamed of, it soon came about that he fell in love with the girl. Matters between them had gone much further than even Cargrim with all his suspicions guessed, for in the skilful hands of Miss Mosk the curate was as clay, and for some time he had been engaged to his charmer. No one knew this, not even Mrs Mosk, for the fair Bell was quite capable of keeping a secret; but Gabriel was firmly bound to her by honour, and Bell possessed a ring, which she kept in the drawer of her looking-glass and wore in secret, as symbolic of an engagement she did not dare to reveal.
On Sunday evening she arrayed herself in her best garments, and putting on this ring, told her mother that she was going to church. At first Mrs Mosk feebly objected, as her husband was away in Southberry and would not be back all night; but as Bell declared that she wanted some amusement after working hard at pulling beer all the week, Mrs Mosk gave way. She did not approve of Bell's mention of evening service as amusement, but she did approve of her going to church, so when the young lady had exhibited herself to the invalid in all her finery, she went away in the greatest good-humour. As the evening was hot, she had put on a dress of pale blue muslin adorned with white ribbons, a straw hat with many flowers and feathers, and to finish off her costume, her gloves and shoes and sunshade were white. As these cool colours rather toned down the extreme red of her healthy complexion, she really looked very well; and when Gabriel saw her seated in a pew near the pulpit, behaving as demurely as a cat that is after cream, he could not but think how pretty and pious she was. It was probably the first time that piety had ever been associated with Bell's character, although she was not a bad girl on the whole; but that Gabriel should gift her with such a quality showed how green and innocent he was as regards the sex.
The church in which he preached was an ancient building at the foot of the hill, crowned by the cathedral. It was built of rough, grey stone, in the Norman style of architecture, and very little had been done to adorn it either within or without, as the worshippers were few and poor, and Low Church in their tendencies. Those who liked pomp and colour and ritual could find all three in the minster, so there was no necessity to hold elaborate services in this grey, cold, little chapel. In her heart Bell preferred the cathedral with its music and choir, its many celebrants and fashionable congregation, but out of diplomacy she came to sit under Gabriel and follow him as her spiritual guide. Nevertheless, she thought less of him in this capacity, than as a future husband likely to raise her to a position worthy of her beauty and merits, of both of which she entertained a most excellent opinion.
As usual, the pews were half empty, but Gabriel, being a devout parson, performed the service with much earnestness. He read the lessons, lent his voice to the assistance of the meagre choir, and preached a short but sensible discourse which pleased everyone. Bell did not hear much of it, for her mind was busy with hopes that Gabriel would shortly induce his father to receive her as a daughter-in-law. It is true that she saw difficulties in the way, but, to a clever woman like herself, she did not think them unconquerable. Having gone so far as to engage herself to the young man, she was determined to go to the whole length and benefit as much as possible for her sacrifice--as she thought it--of accepting the somewhat trying position of a curate's wife. With her bold good looks and aggressive love of dress and amusement, Bell was hardly the type likely to do credit to a parsonage. But any doubts on that score never entered her vain mind.
When the service was over, and the sparse congregation had dwindled away, she went round to the vestry and asked Jarper, the cross old verger, if she could see Mr Pendle. Jarper, who took a paternal interest in the curate, and did not like Miss Mosk over much, since she stinted him of his full measure of beer when he patronised her father's hotel, replied in surly tones that Mr Pendle was tired and would see no one.
'But I must see him,' persisted Bell, who was as obstinate as a mule. 'My mother is very ill.'
'Then why don't ye stay t'ome and look arter her?'
'She sent me out to ask Mr Pendle to see her, and I want none of your insolence, Jacob Jarper.'
'Don't 'ee be bold, Miss Mosk. I hev bin verger here these sixty year, I hev, an' I don't want to be told my duty by sich as you.'
'Such as me indeed!' cried Bell, with a flash of the paternal temper. 'If I wasn't a lady I'd give you a piece of my mind.'
'He! he!' chuckled Jarper, ''pears as yer all ladies by your own way of showin'. Not that y'ain't 'andsome--far be it from me to say as you ain't--but Muster Pendle--well, that's a different matter.'
At this moment Gabriel put an end to what threatened to develop into a quarrel by appearing at the vestry door. On learning that Mrs Mosk wished to see him, he readily consented to accompany Bell, but as he had some business to attend to at the church before he went, he asked Bell to wait for a few minutes.
'I'll be some little time, Jarper,' said he kindly to the sour old verger, 'so if you give me the keys I'll lock up and you can go home to your supper.'
'I am hungry, Muster Pendle,' confessed Jarper, 'an' it ain't at my time of life as old folk shud starve. I've locked up the hull church 'ceptin' the vestry door, an' 'eres th' key of't. Be careful with the light an' put it out, Muster Pendle, for if you burns down the church, what good is fine sermons, I'd like to know?'
'It will be all right, Jarper. I'll give you the key to-morrow. Good-night!'
'Good-night, Jarper!' chimed in Bell, in her most stately manner.
'Thankee, Muster Pendle, good-night, but I don't want no beer fro' you this evening, Miss Bell Mosk,' growled the old man, and chuckling over this exhibition of wit he hobbled away to his supper.
'These common people are most insolent,' said Bell, with an affectation of fine ladyism. 'Let us go into the vestry, Gabriel, I wish to speak to you. Oh, you needn't look so scared; there's nobody about, now that old Dot-and-carry-one has gone'--this last in allusion to Jarper's lameness.
'Bell, please, don't use such language,' remonstrated Gabriel, as he conducted her into the vestry; 'someone might hear.'
'I don't care if someone does,' retorted Miss Mosk, taking a chair near the flaring, spluttering gas jet, 'but I tell you there is no one about. I wouldn't be here alone with you if there were. I'm as careful of my own reputation as I am of yours, I can tell you.'
'Is your mother ill again?' asked Gabriel, arranging some sheets of paper on the table and changing the conversation.
'Oh, she's no better and no worse. But you'd better come and see her, so that folks won't be talking of my having spoken to you. A cat can't look at a jug in this town without they think she's after the cream.'
'You wish to speak with me, Bell?'
'Yes, I do; come and sit 'longside of me.'
Gabriel, being very much in love, obeyed with the greatest willingness, and when he sat down under the gas jet would have taken Bell in his arms, but that she evaded his clasp. 'There's no time for anything of that sort, my dear,' said she sharply; 'we've got to talk business, you and I, we have.'
'Business! About our engagement?'
'You've hit it, Gabriel; that's the business I wish to understand. How long is this sort of thing going on?'
'What sort of thing?'
'Now, don't pretend to misunderstand me,' cried Bell, with acerbity, 'or you and I shall fall out of the cart. What sort of thing indeed! Why, my engagement to you being kept secret; your pretending to visit mother when it's me you want; my being obliged to hide the ring you gave me from father's eyes; that's the sort of thing, Mr Gabriel Pendle.'
'I know it is a painful position, dearest, but--'
'Painful position!' echoed the girl, contemptuously. 'Oh, I don't care two straws about the painful position. It's the danger I'm thinking about.'
'Danger! What do you mean? Danger from whom?'
'From Mrs Pansey; from Mr Cargrim. She guesses a lot and he knows more than is good for either you or I. I don't want to lose my character.'
'Bell! no one dare say a word against your character.'
'I should think not,' retorted Miss Mosk, firing up. 'I'd have the law on them if they did. I can look after myself, I hope, and there's no man I know likely to get the better of me. I don't say I'm an aristocrat, Gabriel, but I'm an honest girl, and as good a lady as any of them. I'll make you a first-class wife in spite of my bringing up.'
Gabriel kissed her. 'My darling Bell, you are the sweetest and cleverest woman in the world. You know how I adore you.'
Bell knew very well, for she was sharp enough to distinguish between genuine and spurious affection. Strange as it may appear, the refined and educated young clergyman was deeply in love with this handsome, bold woman of the people. Some lovers of flowers prefer full blown-roses, ripe and red, to the most exquisite buds. Gabriel's tastes were the same, and he admired the florid beauty of Bell with all the ardour of his young and impetuous heart. He was blind to her liking for incongruous colours in dress: he was deaf to her bold expressions and defects in grammar. What lured him was her ripe, rich, exuberant beauty; what charmed him was the flash of her white teeth and the brilliancy of her eyes when she smiled; what dominated him was her strong will and practical way of looking on worldly affairs. Opposite natures are often attracted to one another by the very fact that they are so undeniably unlike, and the very characteristics in Bell which pleased Gabriel were those which he lacked himself.
Undoubtedly he loved her, but, it may be asked, did she love him? and that is the more difficult question to answer. Candidly speaking, Bell had an affection for Gabriel. She liked his good looks, his refined voice, his very weakness of character was not unpleasing to her. But she did not love him sufficiently to marry him for himself alone. What she wished to marry was the gentleman, the clergyman, the son of the Bishop of Beorminster, and unless Gabriel could give her all the pleasures and delights attendant on his worldly position, she was not prepared to become Mrs Gabriel Pendle. It was to make this clear to him, to clinch the bargain, to show that she was willing to barter her milkmaid beauty and strong common sense for his position and possible money, that she had come to see him. Not being bemused with love, Bell Mosk was thoroughly practical, and so spoke very much to the point. Never was there so prosaic an interview.
'Well, it just comes to this,' she said determinedly, 'I'm not going to be kept in the background serving out beer any longer. If I am worth marrying I am worth acknowledging, and that's just what you've got to do, Gabriel.'
'But my father!' faltered Gabriel, nervously, for he saw in a flash the difficulties of his position.
'What about your father? He can't eat me, can he?'
'He can cut me off with a shilling, my dear. And that's just what he will do if he knows I'm engaged to you. Surely, Bell, with your strong common sense, you can see that for yourself!'
'Of course I see it,' retorted Bell, sharply, for the speech was not flattering to her vanity; 'all the same, something must be done.'
'We must wait.'
'I'm sick of waiting.'
Gabriel rose to his feet and began to pace to and fro. 'You cannot desire our marriage more than I do,' he said fondly. 'I wish to make you my wife in as public a manner as possible. But you know I have only a small income as a curate, and you would not wish us to begin life on a pittance.'
'I should think not. I've had enough of cutting and contriving. But how do you intend to get enough for us to marry on?'
'My father has promised me the rectorship of Heathcroft. The present incumbent is old and cannot possibly live long.'
'I believe he'll live on just to spite us,' grumbled Bell. 'How much is the living worth?'
'Six hundred a year; there is also the rectory, you know.'
'Well, I daresay we can manage on that, Gabriel. Perhaps, after all, it will be best to wait, but I don't like it.'
'Neither do I, my dear. If you like, I'll tell my father and marry you to-morrow.'
'Then you would lose Heathcroft.'
'It's extremely probable I would,' replied Gabriel, dryly.
'In that case we'll wait,' said Bell, springing up briskly. 'I don't suppose that old man is immortal, and I'm willing to stick to you for another twelve months.'
'Bell! I thought you loved me sufficiently to accept any position.'
'I do love you, Gabriel, but I'm not a fool, and I'm not cut out for a poor man's wife. I've had quite enough of being a poor man's daughter. When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window. That's as true as true. No! we'll wait till the old rector dies, but if he lasts longer than twelve months, I'll lose heart and have to look about me for another husband in my own rank of life.'
'Bell,' said Gabriel, in a pained voice, 'you are cruel!'
'Rubbish!' replied the practical barmaid, 'I'm sensible. Now, come and see mother.'
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.