Consequences - Chapter 8
CHAPTER 8 – Mary’s Journal
I went to my room in the early evening yesterday, not able to take any more castigation from my parents. They sat down and talked the situation through. Later, Father knocked on my door and brought in a cup of hot cocoa. He felt I needed something as I hadn’t gone downstairs for tea. He seemed stiff but tried to smile, and he said they hoped I was feeling all right now. He said he would write to Charles and tell them that they had decided to go along with his plan of our getting married by special license at the registry office. They knew it was the lesser of two evils, and they felt much let down by me, but that I had made my bed and now I must lie in it.
Suddenly the unfairness of all this came to me – Charles and my parents were making decisions about the biggest and most important day of my life. I felt the anger grow inside me, and with as much dignity as I could muster, I said. “I won’t marry Charles now. I don’t like the way he has treated me. Perhaps I will marry him in May, if he convinces me that he really loves me, but I don’t see much evidence of that at the moment.”
My father was thunderstruck. “We will not have you living in this house if you refuse to marry him. We will not have it said that we connived in our daughter’s licentiousness. You will marry him as soon as possible and go and live with him in Worcester, or you will be on your own, my girl.”
How could I sleep after that! I cried until I had no tears left. What should I do? I feel that getting married now to Charles who is behaving in a way that I cannot understand – who has treated me with disdain after all I have done for him - might be a big mistake. I let him make love to me – because he wanted it – I didn’t make the first move. Now he is saying that I was in the wrong for not rejecting him. I loved him – I still love him – but his embarrassment and pride have made me feel like he is not the person I thought I knew.
My father, assuming that I would change my mind, sent off his letter to Charles this morning, saying that he should marry me as soon as could be arranged. I also wrote to Charles, so he would get the letters at the same time. I said I was unwilling to marry him at the present time.
I had a letter back from Charles, and he was angry and amazed at my rejection of his offer. Father had also had a letter, and when he realised that I had gone against his wishes and written to Charles, he told me that I could go to my room and stay there until I was able to act sensibly in this matter. Mother didn’t speak to me at all.
Later in the afternoon, sitting in my room, crying as usual, I saw Charles’ Aunt, Mrs. Mayfield come to the house to see Mother. Father was out working at the main part of the Inn as usual. Mother let Mrs. Mayfield in, and they sat and talked together for some time. Then there was a tap on my door.
“Mary,” Mother said with tight lips, “Mrs. Mayfield says she is willing to invite you to live at her house for the time being. I think that would be the best solution for all of us.”
So I packed a few clothes, and my journal, and went downstairs. Mrs. Mayfield smiled brightly at me and asked me how I was feeling. My face must have said it all. I was absolutely distraught – rejected by my parents – finding my fiancé to be not the person I had imagined – not knowing what my life from now on would be. As we walked along to the Mayfield house on Skeldergate, how different everything seemed since I last went to her house in January. Now I was a scarlet woman in the eyes of my parents. All the years of our happy existence together had counted for nothing because of what Charles and I had done. And it wasn’t so much what we had done, as the public knowledge of it that made the difference.
Mrs. Mayfield and I went into the front room to take tea. She must be about 35 years old but she is still very attractive. She has serenity of eye, and freshness of complexion most pleasing to behold. I could see why Charles’ uncle was prepared to defy convention in order to live with her. She was gentle and kind, and treated me as I had wished my mother had done. She didn’t rant or rave and we didn’t even speak of marriage or babies. We talked about how the changes to St. Wilfred’s Catholic Church were coming on. The York Corporation were planning a new approach road to Lendal Bridge. This prompted Dean Duncombe to apply to the corporation to continue the route by the chapel and towards the Minster. The old narrow lane, Little Blake Street, was being replaced with a wide thoroughfare. The houses on the opposite side to the chapel were to be demolished and the road widened to create Duncombe Place, named after the Dean. She talked, and I pretended to listen, but I wasn’t really taking it in.
“It is very kind of you to have me to stay,” I said. “Do you know that I wrote to Charles and said that I didn’t want to get married this month? I don’t feel I know him anymore. He doesn’t seem like the man I’d hoped to marry.”
“Charles will come around,” she said. “I know Charles very well, and he loves you and will do the best he can for you. I can understand why you feel that you need proof of his love – and his reaction this weekend seems to be to been overly domineering. Surely he will come to see that he cannot dictate how your lives will go. Let’s just wait and see how things progress. We must take it a day at a time.”
Charles is an accountant, and a much organised person. I wasn’t surprised, but I had to laugh to myself when by the next post I had a letter from him which was more like a bookkeeping form than a letter. In it he set out the pros and cons for each of the possibilities before us.
Solution 1 – marry now
Pregnancy concealed at least to an extent
Avoidance of scandal to our families
We can start new life sooner
Won’t have church wedding and party as planned
Some people might wonder at haste
No time for getting proper house together, so would have to live at my current premises.
Solution 2 – marry in May
Could have big church wedding and reception as expected
Time to arrange new living accommodation
Pregnancy would be hard to conceal
Scandal would be attached to all as soon as the early birth was made public knowledge
Solution 3 - don’t marry at all
None at all
To lose the girl I love
To bring scandal on us all
To bring disaster to your life.
To have our child born into bastardy and rejected by all.
I showed the form to Mrs. Mayfield, and she also had to smile. How like Charles to reduce everything to a list. But what he said did make sense. I was beginning to see that his solution of an early marriage was the best all around. Mrs. Mayfield surprised me.
“I think there might be another solution which neither of you has thought of,” she said. “If you wear altered clothing which is padded in a certain way nobody will realise you are pregnant before the wedding.
“Then after the wedding, when you go to live in Worcester, no one there knows you. Around here, many would suspect that you were getting plumper as time went on, but there, you could wear concealing dresses, and they wouldn’t suspect at thing, up until about two months before the baby is due. Then at that stage, you could have some sort of family crisis, which would require you to come back to York (which is what you would tell the people in Worcester) but in reality, you and I would take a house in Scarborough and stay there until the baby is born. When we returned to York, you would go home as if nothing had happened, and I would tell everyone I was fostering a child whose mother, a close relation of mine, had died. I could take care of the child and then if in a year’s time or so, you wanted it, you could adopt it. What do you think of that idea?”
I could hardly believe it. She was offering to take away the scandal. She was offering to make my life normal. But she also wanted to take away my baby. Up until now, my baby had not seemed like a real person. He or she was an unfortunate consequence of my feeling the need to show Charles that I loved him. It wasn’t real. But now I was being asked if I wanted him or her taken from me so the problem would no longer exist. The enormity of the situation overwhelmed me.
“Why would you do this for me? You don’t need or want the worry of another baby around the house.”
“Charles was my stalwart and my protector with the problems I had when Henry died. Henry’s brothers, and Charles’ father were very unkind to me, but Charles stuck by me throughout the whole ordeal. He helped me sell my share of the cab business and helped me plan how to live my life on the income from it. I would do anything for him to pay him back for the help he has given me.” I didn’t tell her that Charles had told already told me about these problems to which she alluded.
I thanked Mrs. Mayfield for her very kind offer and told her I would think about it.