The Two Marys
The Two Marys
I REMEMBER quite distinctly how people talked. They did not think I observed or listened, for I had always been a dreamy sort of girl, and never had attended much to what was said about me. At least so everybody thought. They said I had always to be shaken or pulled when anything was wanted of me, to make me listen-which is true enough, I believe; but nevertheless I was not half so absent as people thought at any time, and heard a great deal that I was not supposed to hear. And now my senses were all shaken up and startled into being. How well I recollect hearing old Mrs Tufnell and Mrs Stephens talking in the quiet front drawing-room in the Square, while I was in the little room behind, taking no notice, as they thought. They had given me a book and got rid of me, and though they all pretended to deplore my dreamy ways, I think on the whole it was rather a relief to get rid of a quick, inquisitive, fifteen-year-old girl, and to be able to talk in peace. It was twilight of the summer evening and we had taken tea, and the two ladies were seated at one of the windows looking out upon the Square. The windows had long, full, white curtains, hanging and fluttering from the roof to the carpet. They were seated against that soft white background in their black silk dresses, for Mrs Tufnell was old, and Mrs Stephens was a widow and always wore black. It was like a picture: and I, not being so happy as I used to be, sat with my book and read and listened both together. You may think this is nonsense; but I could do it. I see them now approaching their caps to each other, with little nods and shakes of their heads and the white curtains fluttering softly behind them. Mrs Tufnell was a great patroness of papa's, and always went to St Mark's regularly, and Mrs Stephens was our very nearest neighbour, living next door.
"I hope it will turn out the best thing that could happen for her ," said Mrs Tufnell, nodding her head at me. They would not say any more lest they should attract my attention. "She has been greatly neglected, and left alone a great deal too much,-and I hear she is accomplished. Dear, dear, who would have thought that he, of all men in the world, would have taken such a step."
"I don't quite see that," said Mrs Stephens; "he is a young man still, and nobody could suppose he would always be contented with his child's company: besides, she is so cool and indifferent, as if she never thought it possible anything could happen: and I am sure she never did anything to make herself necessary or agreeable--"
"You may say 'poor child!' but yet I blame her. A girl of fifteen is a woman to all intents and purposes. She ought to have seen that there was a great deal in her power by way of making him comfortable and herself pleasant. It's rather hard to say the plain downright truth about it, you know, he being a clergyman and all that. Of course, when there is a young family one can say it is for their sake; but in this case there's no possible excuse-he only wanted a wife, that's all. I don't blame him; but it's a coming down-it's a disturbance of one's ideal--"
"I don't know much about ideals," said Mrs Tufnell; "what surprises me is, if the man wanted to marry, why he didn't marry long ago, when the child was young and he had an excellent excuse. As for being a clergyman, that's neither here nor there. Clergymen are always marrying men, and it's no sin to marry."
"It disturbs one's ideal," said Mrs Stephens; and, though Mrs Tufnell shrugged her shoulders, I, sitting behind over my book, agreed with her. Oh the inward humiliation with which one sees one's father in love!-I suppose it would be still worse to see one's mother, but then, I never had a mother. I blushed for him a great deal m