The Glascock marriage was a great affair in Florence so much so, that there were not a few who regarded it as a strengthening of peaceful relations between the United States and the United Kingdom, and who thought that the Alabama claims and the question of naturalisation might now be settled with comparative ease. An English lord was about to marry the niece of an American Minister to a foreign court. The bridegroom was not, indeed, quite a lord as yet, but it was known to all men that he must be a lord in a very short time, and the bride was treated with more than usual bridal honours because she belonged to a legation. She was not, indeed, an ambassador’s daughter, but the niece of a daughterless ambassador, and therefore almost as good as a daughter. The wives and daughters of other ambassadors, and the ambassadors themselves, of course, came to the wedding; and as the palace in which Mr Spalding had apartments stood alone, in a garden, with a separate carriage entrance, it seemed for all wedding purposes as though the whole palace were his own. The English Minister came, and his wife, although she had never quite given over turning up her nose at the American bride whom Mr Glascock had chosen for himself. It was such a pity, she said, that such a man as Mr Glascock should marry a young woman from Providence, Rhode Island. Who in England would know anything of Providence, Rhode Island? And it was so expedient, in her estimation, that a man of family should strengthen himself by marrying a woman of family. It was so necessary, she declared, that a man when marrying should remember that his child would have two grandfathers, and would be called upon to account for four great-grandfathers. Nevertheless Mr Glascock was Mr Glascock; and, let him marry whom he would, his wife would be the future Lady Peterborough. Remembering this, the English Minister’s wife gave up the point when the thing was really settled, and benignly promised to come to the breakfast with all the secretaries and attaches belonging to the legation, and all the wives and daughters thereof. What may a man not do, and do with eclat, if he be heir to a peer and have plenty of money in his pocket?
Mr and Mrs Spalding were covered with glory on the occasion; and perhaps they did not bear their glory as meekly as they should have done. Mrs Spalding laid herself open to some ridicule from the British Minister’s wife because of her inability to understand with absolute clearness the condition of her niece’s husband in respect to his late and future seat in Parliament, to the fact of his being a commoner and a nobleman at the same time, and to certain information which was conveyed to her, surely in a most unnecessary manner, that if Mr Glascock were to die before his father, her niece would never become Lady Peterborough, although her niece’s son, if she had one, would be the future lord. No doubt she blundered, as was most natural; and then the British Minister’s wife made the most of the blunders; and when once Mrs Spalding ventured to speak of Caroline as her ladyship, not to the British Minister’s wife, but to the sister of one of the secretaries, a story was made out of it which was almost as false as it was ill-natured. Poor Caroline was spoken of as her ladyship backward and forwards among the ladies of the legation in a manner which might have vexed her had she known anything about it; but nevertheless, all the ladies prepared their best flounces to go to the wedding. The time would soon come when she would in truth be a ‘ladyship,’ and she might be of social use to any one of the ladies in question.
But Mr Spalding was, for the time, the most disturbed of any of the party concerned. He was a tall, thin, clever Republican of the North, very fond of hearing himself talk, and somewhat apt to take advantage of the courtesies of conversation for the purpose of making unpardonable speeches. As long as there was any give and take going on in the melee of words he would speak quickly and with energy, seizing his chances among others; but the moment he had established his right to the floor, as soon as he had won for himself the position of having his turn at the argument, he would dole out his words with considerable slowness, raise his hand for oratorical effect, and proceed as though Time were annihilated. And he would go further even than this, for fearing by experience the escape of his victims, he would catch a man by the button-hole of his coat, or back him ruthlessly into the corner of a room, and then lay on to him without quarter. Since the affair with Mr Glascock had been settled, he had talked an immensity about England, not absolutely taking honour to himself because of his intended connection with a lord, but making so many references to the aristocratic side of the British constitution as to leave no doubt on the minds of his hearers as to the source of his arguments. In old days, before all this was happening, Mr Spalding, though a courteous man in his personal relations, had constantly spoken of England with the bitter indignation of the ordinary American politician. England must be made to disgorge. England must be made to do justice. England must be taught her place in the world. England must give up her claims. In hot moments he had gone further, and had declared that England must be whipped. He had been specially loud against that aristocracy of England which, according to a figure of speech often used by him, was always feeding on the vitals of the people. But now all this was very much changed. He did not go the length of expressing an opinion that the House of Lords was a valuable institution; but he discussed questions of primogeniture and hereditary legislation, in reference to their fitness for countries which were gradually emerging from feudal systems, with an equanimity, an impartiality, and a perseverance which soon convinced those who listened to him where he had learned his present lessons, and why. ‘The conservative nature of your institutions, sir,’ he said to poor Sir Marmaduke at the Baths of Lucca a very few days before the marriage, ‘has to be studied with great care before its effects can be appreciated in reference to a people who, perhaps, I may be allowed to say, have more in their composition of constitutional reverence than of educated intelligence.’ Sir Marmaduke, having suffered before, had endeavoured to bolt; but the American had caught him and pinned him, and the Governor of the Mandarins was impotent in his hands. ‘The position of the great peer of Parliament is doubtless very splendid, and may be very useful,’ continued Mr Spalding, who was intending to bring round his argument to the evil doings of certain scandalously extravagant young lords, and to offer a suggestion that in such cases a committee of aged and respected peers should sit and decide whether a second son, or some other heir should not be called to the inheritance, both of the title and the property. But Mrs Spalding had seen the sufferings of Sir Marmaduke, and had rescued him. ‘Mr Spalding,’ she had said, ‘it is too late for politics, and Sir Marmaduke has come out here for a holiday.’ Then she took her husband by the arm, and led him away helpless.
In spite of these drawbacks to the success, if ought can be said to be a drawback on success of which the successful one is unconscious, the marriage was prepared with great splendour, and everybody who was anybody in Florence was to be present. There were only to be four bridesmaids, Caroline herself having strongly objected to a greater number. As Wallachia Petrie had fled at the first note of preparation for these trivial and unpalatable festivities, another American young lady was found; and the sister of the English secretary of legation, who had so maliciously spread that report about her ‘ladyship,’ gladly agreed to be the fourth.
As the reader will remember, the whole party from the Baths of Lucca reached Florence only the day before the marriage, and Nora at the station promised to go up to Caroline that same evening. ‘Mr Glascock will tell me about the little boy,’ said Caroline; ‘but I shall be so anxious to hear about your sister.’ So Nora crossed the bridge after dinner, and went up to the American Minister’s palatial residence. Caroline was then in the loggia, and Mr Glascock was with her; and for a while they talked about Emily Trevelyan and her misfortunes. Mr Glascock was clearly of opinion that Trevelyan would soon be either in an asylum or in his grave. ‘I could not bring myself to tell your sister so,’ he said; ‘but I think your father should be told or your mother. Something should be done to put an end to that fearful residence at Casalunga.’ Then by degrees the conversation changed itself to Nora’s prospects; and Caroline, with her friend’s hand in hers, asked after Hugh Stanbury.
‘You will not mind speaking before him will you?’ said Caroline, putting her hand on her own lover’s arm.
‘Not unless he should mind it,’ said Nora, smiling.
She had meant nothing beyond a simple reply to her friend’s question, but he took her words in a different sense, and blushed as he remembered his visit to Nuncombe Putney.
‘He thinks almost more of your happiness than he does of mine,’ said Caroline; ‘which isn’t fair, as I am sure that Mr Stanbury will not reciprocate the attention. And now, dear, when are we to see you?’
‘Who on earth can say?’
‘I suppose Mr Stanbury would say something, only he is not here.’
‘And papa won’t send my letter,’ said Nora.
‘You are sure that you will not go out to the Islands with him?’
‘Quite sure,’ said Nora. ‘I have made up my mind so far as that.’
‘And what will your sister do?’
‘I think she will stay. I think she will say good-bye to papa and mamma here in Florence.’
‘I am quite of opinion that she should not leave her husband alone in Italy,’ said Mr Glascock.
‘She has not told us with certainty,’ said Nora; ‘but I feel sure that she will stay. Papa thinks she ought to go with them to London.’
‘Your papa seems to have two very intractable daughters,’ said Caroline.
‘As for me,’ declared Nora, solemnly, ‘nothing shall make me go back to the Islands unless Mr Stanbury should tell me to do so.’
‘And they start at the end of July?’
‘On the last Saturday.’
‘And what will you do then, Nora?’
‘I believe there are casual wards that people go to.’
‘Casual wards!’ said Caroline.
‘Miss Rowley is condescending to poke her fun at you,’ said Mr Glascock.
‘She is quite welcome, and shall poke as much as she likes; only we must be serious now. If it be necessary, we will get back by the end of July, won’t we, Charles?’
‘You will do nothing of the kind,’ said Nora. ‘What! give up your honeymoon to provide me with board and lodgings! How can you suppose that I am so selfish or so helpless? I would go to my aunt, Mrs Outhouse.’
‘We know that that wouldn’t do,’ said Caroline. ‘You might as well be in Italy as far as Mr Stanbury is concerned.’
‘If Miss Rowley would go to Monkhams, she might wait for us,’ suggested Mr Glascock. ‘Old Mrs Richards is there; and though of course she would be dull —’
‘It is quite unnecessary,’ said Nora. ‘I shall take a two-pair back in a respectable feminine quarter, like any other young woman who wants such accommodation, and shall wait there till my young man can come and give me his arm to church. That is about the way we shall do it. I am not going to give myself any airs, Mr Glascock, or make any difficulties. Papa is always talking to me about chairs and tables and frying-pans, and I shall practise to do with as few of them as possible. As I am headstrong about having my young man, and I own that I am headstrong about that, I guess I’ve got to fit myself for that sort of life.’ And Nora, as she said this, pronounced her words with something of a nasal twang, imitating certain countrywomen of her friend’s.
‘I like to hear you joking about it, Nora; because your voice is so cheery and you are so bright when you joke. But, nevertheless, one has to be reasonable, and to look the facts in the face. I don’t see how you are to be left in London alone, and you know that your aunt Mrs Outhouse or at any rate your uncle would not receive you except on receiving some strong anti-Stanbury pledge.’
‘I certainly shall not give an anti-Stanbury pledge.’
‘And, therefore, that is out of the question. You will have a fortnight or three weeks in London, in all the bustle of their departure, and I declare I think that at the last moment you will go with them.’
‘Never! unless he says so.’
‘I don’t see how you are even to meet “him,” and talk it over.’
‘I’ll manage that. My promise not to write lasts only while we are in Italy.’
‘I think we had better get back to England, Charles, and take pity on this poor destitute one.’
‘If you talk of such a thing I will swear that I will never go to Monkhams. You will find that I shall manage it. It may be that I shall do something very shocking so that all your patronage will hardly be able to bring me round afterwards; but I will do something that will serve my purpose. I have not gone so far as this to be turned back now.’ Nora, as she spoke of having ‘gone so far,’ was looking at Mr Glascock, who was seated in an easy arm-chair close to the girl whom he was to make his wife on the morrow, and she was thinking, no doubt, of the visit which he had made to Nuncombe Putney, and of the first irretrievable step which she had taken when she told him that her love was given to another. That had been her Rubicon. And though there had been periods with her since the passing of it, in which she had felt that she had crossed it in vain, that she had thrown away the splendid security of the other bank without obtaining the perilous object of her ambition, though there had been moments in which she had almost regretted her own courage and noble action, still, having passed the river, there was nothing for her but to go on to Rome. She was not going to be stopped now by the want of a house in which to hide herself for a few weeks. She was without money, except so much as her mother might be able, almost surreptitiously, to give her. She was without friends to help her except these who were now with her, whose friendship had come to her in so singular a mariner, and whose power to aid her at the present moment was cruelly curtailed by their own circumstances. Nothing was settled as to her own marriage. In consequence of the promise that had been extorted from her that she should not correspond with Stanbury, she knew nothing of his present wishes or intention. Her father was so offended by her firmness that he would hardly speak to her. And it was evident to her that her mother, though disposed to yield, was still in hopes that her daughter, in the press and difficulty of the moment, would allow herself to be carried away with the rest of the family to the other side of the world. She knew all this, but she had made up her mind that she would not be carried away. It was not very pleasant, the thought that she would be obliged at last to ask her young man, as she called him, to provide for her; but she would do that and trust herself altogether in his hands sooner than be taken to the Antipodes. ‘I can be very resolute if I please, my dear,’ she said, looking at Caroline. Mr Glascock almost thought that she must have intended to address him.
They sat there discussing the matter for some time through the long, cool, evening hours, but nothing could be settled further except that Nora would write to her friend as soon as her affairs had begun to shape themselves after her return to England. At last Caroline went into the house, and for a few minutes Mr Glascock was alone with Nora. He had remained, determining that the moment should come, but now that it was there he was for awhile unable to say the words that he wished to utter. At last he spoke. ‘Miss Rowley, Caroline is so eager to be your friend.’
‘I know she is, and I do love her so dearly. But, without joke, Mr Glascock, there will be as it were a great gulf between us.’
‘I do not know that there need be any gulf, great or little. But I did not mean to allude to that. What I want to say is this. My feelings are not a bit less warm or sincere than hers. You know of old that I am not very good at expressing myself.’
‘I know nothing of the kind.’
‘There is no such gulf as what you speak of. All that is mostly gone by, and a nobleman in England, though he has advantages as a gentleman, is no more than a gentleman. But that has nothing to do with what I am saying now. I shall never forget my journey to Devonshire. I won’t pretend to say now that I regret its result.’
‘I am quite sure you don’t.’
‘No; I do not, though I thought then that I should regret it always. But remember this, Miss Rowley that you can never ask me to do anything that I will not, if possible, do for you. You are in some little difficulty now —’
‘It will disappear, Mr Glascock. Difficulties always do.’
‘But we will do anything that we are wanted to do; and should a certain event take place —’
‘It will take place some day.’
‘Then I hope that we may be able to make Mr Stanbury and his wife quite at home at Monkhams.’ After that he took Nora’s hand and kissed it, and at that moment Caroline came back to them.
‘Tomorrow, Mr Glascock,’ she said, ‘you will, I believe, be at liberty to kiss everybody; but today you should be more discreet.’
It was generally admitted among the various legations in Florence that there had not been such a wedding in the City of Flowers since it had become the capital of Italia. Mr Glascock and Miss Spalding were married in the chapel of the legation, a legation chapel on the ground floor having been extemporised for the occasion. This greatly enhanced the pleasantness of the thing, and saved the necessity of matrons and bridesmaids packing themselves and their finery into close fusty carriages. A portion of the guests attended in the chapel, and the remainder, when the ceremony was over, were found strolling about the shady garden. The whole affair of the breakfast was very splendid and lasted some hours. In the midst of this the bride and bridegroom were whisked away with a pair of grey horses to the railway station, and before the last toast of the day had been proposed by the Belgian Councillor of Legation, they were half way up the Apennines on their road to Bologna. Mr Spalding behaved himself like a man on the occasion. Nothing was spared in the way of expense, and when he made that celebrated speech, in which he declared that the republican virtue of the New World had linked itself in a happy alliance with the aristocratic splendour of the Old, and went on with a simile about the lion and the lamb, everybody accepted it with good humour in spite of its being a little too long for the occasion.
‘It has gone off very well, mamma; has it not?’ said Nora, as she returned home with her mother to her lodgings.
‘Yes, my dear; much, I fancy, as these things generally do.’
‘I thought it was so nice. And she looked so very well. And he was so pleasant, and so much like a gentleman — not noisy, you know, and yet not too serious.’
‘I dare say, my love.’
‘It is easy enough, mamma, for a girl to be married, for she has nothing to do but to wear her clothes and look as pretty as she can. And if she cries and has a red nose it is forgiven her. But a man has so difficult a part to play! If he tries to carry himself as though it were not a special occasion, he looks like a fool that way; and if he is very special, he looks like a fool the other way. I thought Mr Glascock did it very well.’
‘To tell you the truth, my dear, I did not observe him.’
‘I did narrowly. He hadn’t tied his cravat at all nicely.’
‘How could you think of his cravat, Nora, with such memories as you must have, and such regrets, I cannot understand.’
‘Mamma, my memories of Mr Glascock are pleasant memories, and as for regrets, I have not one. Can I regret, mamma, that I did not marry a man whom I did not love and that I rejected him when I knew that I loved another? You cannot mean that, mamma.’
‘I know this, that I was thinking all the time how proud I should have been, and how much more fortunate he would have been, had you been standing there instead of that American young woman.’ As she said this Lady Rowley burst into tears, and Nora could only answer her mother by embracing her. They were alone together, their party having been too large for one carriage, and Sir Marmaduke having taken his two younger daughters. ‘Of course, I feel it,’ said Lady Rowley, through her tears. ‘It would have been such a position for my child! And that young man without a shilling in the world; and writing in that way, just for bare bread!’ Nora had nothing more to say. A feeling that in herself would have been base, was simply affectionate and maternal in her mother. It was impossible that she should make her mother see it as she saw it.
There was but one intervening day and then the Rowleys returned to England. There had been, as it were, a tacit agreement among them that, in spite of all their troubles, their holiday should be a holiday up to the time of the Glascock marriage. Then must commence at once the stern necessity of their return home home, not only to England, but to those antipodean islands from which it was too probable that some of them might never come back. And the difficulties in their way seemed to be almost insuperable. First of all there was to be the parting from Emily Trevelyan. She had determined to remain in Florence, and had written to her husband saying that she would do so, and declaring her willingness to go out to him, or to receive him in Florence at any time and in any manner that he might appoint. She had taken this as a first step, intending to go to Casalunga very shortly, even though she should receive no answer from him. The parting between her and her mother and father and sisters was very bitter. Sir Marmaduke, as he had become estranged from Nora, had grown to be more and more gentle and loving with his eldest daughter, and was nearly overcome at the idea of leaving her in a strange land, with a husband near her, mad, and yet not within her custody. But he could do nothing could hardly say a word toward opposing her. Though her husband was mad, he supplied her with the means of living; and when she said that it was her duty to be near him, her father could not deny it.
The parting came. ‘I will return to you the moment you send to me,’ were Nora’s last words to her sister. ‘I don’t suppose I shall send,’ said Emily. ‘I shall try to bear it without assistance.’
Then the journey from Italy to England was made without much gratification or excitement, and the Rowley family again found themselves at Gregg’s Hotel.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14