Consequences - Chapter 2
CHAPTER 2 - Mary’s Journal
February 1st, 1859
“Are you all right, Mary?” Mother asked. “You seem rather quiet and withdrawn lately.”
I blanched but nodded my head and smiled to reassure her. I suppose I cannot blame her for wondering what is wrong with me. I am newly engaged with a wedding to plan, and yet she sees me dull and tearful. I dare not tell her my suspicions. She would be so upset with me. She does not deserve such castigation as will come upon her once my story is known. Oh, if only I had not taken Charles that cup of tea.
As he was due to leave very early before breakfast was properly ready on January 2nd, I didn’t want him to go without having a warm drink. At about five, I arose, put on my dressing gown and slippers, and made my way to the kitchen. There was a kettle boiling on the range, and Sarah one of the maids was already up and about lighting the fires in the main rooms.
I quickly made tea in a small pot, and when it was ready, poured a cup for him and took it to his bedroom, along with a pitcher of hot water for washing. I knocked at his door, and as he thought I was the maid, and said “Come in and just leave it on the table.” He was standing by the bed in his nightshirt, and he was struck dumb when he saw me. He has never seen me since I was a child with my hair down, my crowning glory – or without my daytime clothing. He came over to me, and drew me into his arms, and I felt so content there. He kissed me gently, and then shook himself and pulled away. But I so much did not want to be separated from him so I clung to him. I wanted this lovely warm feeling to go on forever. He said he hadn’t been able to sleep for thinking of me all night long. I had had the same problem. He seated me on the bed next to him, took his glasses off and put them on the side, then kissed me again, this time with his hands finding their way under my nightgown. I was embarrassed for him to see me in this state. I knew that I was never going to be able to compete with the ideal woman as portrayed in the magazines.
“You are pleasingly plump and very beautiful,” he said. “And we are engaged.”
He is so tall and thin; not really handsome; but his features are pleasing and regular. He has very intense blue eyes and a beautiful voice, and I love him.
I didn’t expect him to be unaware of the ways of love – after all he is a man and nearly thirty years of age. But it was all new to me, and both exciting and frightening. I was so nervous I was shaking. He was gentle with me, and yet it was not as I expected. Mother had given me a short talk about married love when we first got engaged. She said that it was very unpleasant at first, and most likely painful, but that it would get better with time, and as it is the only way to have children, women just have to accept it. I know Mother would be shocked to know what was happening under her roof when we are not married and with children certainly not the intention. Charles assured me that there would be no consequences, but also added that if I could use a vinegar douche it would be an extra precaution. I could not tell him that I didn’t understand what he meant.
So after it was all over, I slipped quickly back to my room to dress, and he finished his tea and made his way to the early train. Later that day I washed myself with some vinegar on a face cloth, but I felt very uncomfortable afterwards, thinking that I smelt like pickles.
I made sure that I was the one to change the linen in Charles’ room, as it wouldn’t do for my sister Elizabeth to find soiled sheets and to draw conclusions from them.
No one commented, so I assumed that no one suspected. But now, soon, there will be no way in which I can keep our actions a secret.
Charles writes to me – long letters very frequently. He tells me about his work and about things of interest that have happened in the world. His fixation with politics and global happenings is beyond my comprehension, but I must make an effort to show an interest so as to please him. He wrote that Walachia and Moldavia are united and will now be called Romania. I really do not care.
I am spending some time with Cook, now that I am engaged and will soon be doing my own cooking. Charles said we won’t be able to afford to have a maid or cook for some time. Mr. Needham, his employer, gave him a pay rise, and now that he has passed the examination, he is officially an Accountant, rather than just a Bookkeeper. Even so, he says that his £12 a month will not go far when we have our own household to run.
I had a letter from Charles this morning. He asks how I progress with writing in my journal. If only he knew what I have written here. I will try to be faithful and put something in it each day, as he instructs me. Charles says it will soon become second nature to me – that I will write each day just as I brush my teeth and say my prayers.
Oh, I do want to write all my thoughts about our wedding to come. I have chosen my bridesmaids – they are to be Mary Ann Braithwaite, and Sophia Holliday – girls that I have known for most of my life and, of course, my sister Elizabeth who is nearly two years younger than me. I think Charles wishes me to include one of his cousins as a flower girl.
Perhaps Mother will help me choose the pattern for my dress and supervise the making of it. We are very lucky to have a Singer sewing machine. I enjoy sewing and spend much time in hand work, but must admit that the machine makes it so much easier for larger garments.
I would like pale blue silk – so it looks spring-like and yet is practical enough to be worn on many special occasions afterwards. And of course it will be worn with a crinoline – I have a new one. Before the days of crinolines our collection of petticoats must have weighed eight pounds or more. I was most amused, and so was Charles, when Mrs. Bloomer announced that she is giving up her campaign for women to wear trousers as men do – which, of course, were called bloomers. She says that now we have the crinoline and it is so much lighter and easier to wear than petticoats, she has decided that she will be happy with wearing it. Charles has very strong opinions on Bloomerism.
I would love to wear a white lace dress such as I have seen in Peterson Magazine which we have sent to us from America, and have a dress like one by Charles Worth in his designs which are called Haute Couture but I must be frugal. Even though Father has enough money to afford to buy me an expensive gown, he needs to save for his living expenses after selling the Inn, and besides white is not practical for most occasions.
I should like to have lilacs to decorate the church, as they will be just coming out in mid May, and the girls can carry them for their bouquets and perhaps have white ones on their bonnets. My bouquet I would like to be purple iris and white lilacs. I think it will all go together quite nicely. I must confer with Mary Ann, Sophia and Elizabeth about what they are to wear.
I do enjoy these little poems that appear in my magazine.
White – chosen right
Blue – love will be true
Yellow – ashamed of her fellow
Red - wish herself dead
Black – wish herself back
Grey – travel far away
Pink – of you he’ll always think
Green – ashamed to be seen
Green is apparently the sign of fertility, so perhaps would be the right colour for me, but somehow I don’t think I should signal our problem.
Mother and I went visiting today – to see Mrs. Mary Ann Thackeray in Tanner Row who is Charles’ aunt - his father’s sister. Charles so much enjoys the company of her husband James, who is a real character. Charles told me the story of when James was fined for horse whipping somebody. James just said that it was cheap entertainment at the price and he thought he might like to do it again sometime. While we were there we also saw another of his aunts, Mrs. Ann Mayfield, for whom he acts as protector. Her husband, who was Charles’ Mother’s brother, Uncle Henry, died about eight years ago, and because Charles was executor for the will, he feels he has a special interest in making sure the widow and her two children are looked after. It is Eliza, her daughter, now aged nine that I have asked to be a flower girl. She is thrilled.
I know, (and I think Aunt Thackeray does not) and I am not supposed to tell anyone, that Mrs. Mayfield was never really married to his uncle at all. They lived together in sin for all those years. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe that anyone would do that – risk their reputation by having children with someone to whom they weren’t married. But now that Charles and I have sealed our love, I can see things more from her point of view. She wasn’t free to marry Uncle Henry – as her first husband is still alive somewhere – although he abandoned her for another woman – and only a few of us know that. Since the Married Woman Act last year, her husband could divorce her for adultery; but she could only divorce him if he had shown cruelty as well as adultery; as if adultery wasn’t cruel enough on its own. She loved Henry and wanted to be with him. I love Charles so much that I think that if it turned out that we couldn’t be properly married, I too would live with him and only pretend to be married as they did.
How can I say that? I need the protection of marriage more than anyone.