Mr. Gilfil's Love Story, by George Eliot

Chapter 21

On the 30th of May 1790, a very pretty sight was seen by the villagers assembled near the door of Foxholm Church. The sun was bright upon the dewy grass, the air was alive with the murmur of bees and the trilling of birds, the bushy blossoming chestnuts and the foamy flowering hedgerows seemed to be crowding round to learn why the church-bells were ringing so merrily, as Maynard Gilfil, his face bright with happiness, walked out of the old Gothic doorway with Tina on his arm. The little face was still pale, and there was a subdued melancholy in it, as of one who sups with friends for the last time, and has his ear open for the signal that will call him away. But the tiny hand rested with the pressure of contented affection on Maynard’s arm, and the dark eyes met his downward glance with timid answering love.

There was no train of bridesmaids; only pretty Mrs. Heron leaning on the arm of a dark-haired young man hitherto unknown in Foxholm, and holding by the other hand little Ozzy, who exulted less in his new velvet cap and tunic, than in the notion that he was bridesman to Tin-Tin.

Last of all came a couple whom the villagers eyed yet more eagerly than the bride and bridegroom: a fine old gentleman, who looked round with keen glances that cowed the conscious scapegraces among them, and a stately lady in blue-and-white silk robes, who must surely be like Queen Charlotte.

‘Well, that theer’s whut I coal a pictur,’ said old ‘Mester’ Ford, a true Staffordshire patriarch, who leaned on a stick and held his head very much on one side, with the air of a man who had little hope of the present generation, but would at all events give it the benefit of his criticism. ‘Th’ yoong men noo-a-deys, the’re poor squashy things — the’ looke well anoof, but the’ woon’t wear, the’ woon’t wear. Theer’s ne’er un’ll carry his ‘ears like that Sir Cris’fer Chuvrell.’

‘Ull bet ye two pots,’ said another of the seniors, ‘as that yoongster a-walkin’ wi’ th’ parson’s wife ‘ll be Sir Cris’fer’s son — he fevours him.’

‘Nay, yae’ll bet that wi’ as big a fule as yersen; hae’s noo son at all. As I oonderstan’, hae’s the nevey as is’ t’ heir th’ esteate. The coochman as puts oop at th’ White Hoss tellt me as theer war another nevey, a deal finer chap t’ looke at nor this un, as died in a fit, all on a soodden, an’ soo this here yoong un’s got upo’ th’ perch istid.’

At the church gate Mr. Bates was standing in a new suit, ready to speak words of good omen as the bride and bridegroom approached. He had come all the way from Cheverel Manor on purpose to see Miss Tina happy once more, and would have been in a state of unmixed joy but for the inferiority of the wedding nosegays to what he could have furnished from the garden at the Manor.

‘God A’maighty bless ye both, an’ send ye long laife an’ happiness,’ were the good gardener’s rather tremulous words.

‘Thank you, uncle Bates; always remember Tina,’ said the sweet low voice, which fell on Mr. Bates’s ear for the last time.

The wedding journey was to be a circuitous route to Shepperton, where Mr. Gilfil had been for several months inducted as vicar. This small living had been given him through the interest of an old friend who had some claim on the gratitude of the Oldinport family; and it was a satisfaction both to Maynard and Sir Christopher that a home to which he might take Caterina had thus readily presented itself at a distance from Cheverel Manor. For it had never yet been thought safe that she should revisit the scene of her sufferings, her health continuing too delicate to encourage the slightest risk of painful excitement. In a year or two, perhaps, by the time old Mr. Crichley, the rector of Cumbermoor, should have left a world of gout, and when Caterina would very likely be a happy mother, Maynard might safely take up his abode at Cumbermoor, and Tina would feel nothing but content at seeing a new ‘little black-eyed monkey’ running up and down the gallery and gardens of the Manor. A mother dreads no memories — those shadows have all melted away in the dawn of baby’s smile.

In these hopes, and in the enjoyment of Tina’s nestling affection, Mr. Gilfil tasted a few months of perfect happiness. She had come to lean entirely on his love, and to find life sweet for his sake. Her continual languor and want of active interest was a natural consequence of bodily feebleness, and the prospect of her becoming a mother was a new ground for hoping the best. But the delicate plant had been too deeply bruised, and in the struggle to put forth a blossom it died.

Tina died, and Maynard Gilfil’s love went with her into deep silence for evermore.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:42