Consequences - Chapter 7
CHAPTER 7 – Mary’s Journal
Today Charles came to collect me for church at All Saints Pavement, and to all outward appearances, we were a happy engaged couple. The friends and family who knew of our intended wedding were pleased to come and greet us and remark on how perfect a pair we made; inwardly we were both shaking and churned up at the thought of what was to come later that day.
We had dinner at 2 pm, before our talk with my parents. Cook had made a beautiful joint of roast beef with all the trimmings, without regard for Charles’ vegetarianism, but I could hardly swallow a mouthful of it. Mother noticed my plate staying full, and watched me play with my beans and move them around the plate, without actually eating any of them. I wasn’t sure how much of my nausea was caused by the confrontation which I knew was yet to come, and how much was caused by the pregnancy. I was over the worst of the morning sickness, but still found certain smells and tastes made me feel very ill.
Dinner finally over, we retired to the parlour for tea. My brothers and sister had excused themselves and gone elsewhere for the afternoon. As soon as the tea was poured and everyone had had their first sip, Charles stood up, and spoke to the assembled group. He looked nervous and cleared his throat.
“Mr. and Mrs. Eagle, I know Mary has already told you that she is pregnant.”
I glanced at my mother and her face looked as if someone had slapped her. I suppose somehow the words being said so bluntly by someone else made them become true.
“I know,” Charles continued, “that I am to blame for this. We love each other so much, and in a moment of weakness I made love to Mary the last night when I was here for the New Year holiday. We didn’t expect there would be consequences, but now it appears that there are, and we need you to support us in how we are going to cope in this situation.”
Silence filled the room. Everyone seemed to be in shock. Then Mother started to cry. Father tried to calm her, but her crying made me cry too. Nobody came to comfort me. Mother spoke first.
“I am dismayed at you Charles. And in our house too. How could you do such a thing? You have known Mary since she was a child, and must have known that she was too young to know how to cope with your advances.”
Charles looked uncomfortable but continued, “Mary and I discussed it yesterday and we think we should bring forward the date of our wedding. We would have to be married by a registry office, and I know that will disappoint you. But if we wait until May, she will be large with child, and everyone will know she is pregnant and the scandal will be enormous.”
“But Charles,” said my father, “surely you can see that by bringing the wedding forward, you are making the same sort of announcement to the world. Everyone will suspect that your reason for doing this is exactly what it is – that Mary is in a certain condition. You won’t fool anyone, and when the baby is born, in when, late September? People will know just as if they had seen her obviously pregnant at the wedding.”
“No, Mr Eagle, I don’t agree. I think some will suspect, but if we marry now, and the baby is born seven months from now there will be fewer problems. It is not uncommon for a baby to be born before its allotted time. We would have to pretend that it was very tiny and very ill and not let anyone visit for the first months, but I think we could manage it.”
Nobody seemed to care what I thought about the matter. My mother now spoke again. She turned to me and said in a cold voice, “How could you Mary? How could you let us down like this? I raised you to be a good girl. You knew that being with a man before you were married was wrong. I don’t understand why you did it? I don’t feel that I know you anymore. You are not the girl that I raised. I don’t know if I can look you in the face now. The sooner you leave my sight the better, as I don’t think I want you here. I don’t think you should bring the scandal down on the rest of us. Why should we have to suffer snide remarks because you were loose in your behaviour?”
I was so shocked! I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. I loved my mother. We were always so close and did so much together; now she was telling me to stop being a part of her life – because I had embarrassed them. Why did nobody think to ask me how I feel in this situation? It was all about how they felt.
Now it was my father’s turn. “I think we must all consider carefully what we say. Decisions should not be made in haste to be repented at leisure. Charles, you go back to Worcester, and we will write and let you know our feelings on the matter. You have let us all down badly, Charles, and it won’t be easy to forgive you for that. As for you Mary, I can hardly believe that you are our daughter.”
So, awkwardly, Charles stood up, recovered his overnight case from the front hall, came and gave me a peck on the cheek, and walked out of the house. He was going to spend the rest of the afternoon with his father before catching the milk train later this evening. Tears were still streaming down my face. How could a few minutes of mindless passion have turned into this nightmare?
I went to my room and put down these words, my tears staining the ink on the paper. I cannot write any more.