Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald
Chapter LXI. The Wedding.
In the mean time Fergus, dull as he was to doubt his own importance and success--for did not the public acknowledge both?--yet by degrees lost heart and hope so far as concerned Ginevra, and at length told the laird that, much as he valued his society, and was indebted for his kindness, he must deny himself the pleasure of visiting any more at the cottage--so plainly was his presence unacceptable to Miss Galbraith. The laird blustered against his daughter, and expostulated with the preacher, not forgetting to hint at the ingratitude of forsaking him, after all he had done and borne in the furthering of his interests: Jenny must at length come to see what reason and good sense required of her! But Fergus had at last learned his lesson, and was no longer to be blinded. Besides, there had lately come to his church a certain shopkeeper, retired rich, with one daughter; and as his hope of the dignity of being married to Ginevra faded, he had come to feel the enticement of Miss Lapraik's money and good looks--which gained in force considerably when he began to understand the serious off-sets there were to the honour of being son-in-law to Mr. Galbraith: a nobody as was old Lapraik in himself and his position, he was at least looked upon with respect, argued Fergus; and indeed the man was as honest as it is possible for any worshipper of Mammon to be. Fergus therefore received the laird's expostulations and encouragements with composure, but when at length, in his growing acidity, Mr. Galbraith reflected on his birth, and his own condescension in showing him friendship, Fergus left the house, never to go near it again. Within three months, for a second protracted courtship was not to be thought of, he married Miss Lapraik, and lived respectable ever after--took to writing hymns, became popular afresh through his poetry, and exercised a double influence for the humiliation of Christianity. But what matter, while he counted himself fortunate, and thought himself happy! his fame spread; he had good health; his wife worshipped him; and if he had had a valet, I have no doubt he would have been a hero to him, thus climbing the topmost untrodden peak of the world's greatness.
When the next evening came, and Fergus did not appear, the laird fidgeted, then stormed, then sank into a moody silence. When the second night came, and Fergus did not come, the sequence was the same, with exasperated symptoms. Night after night passed thus, and Ginevra began to fear for her father's reason. She challenged him to play backgammon with her, but he scorned the proposal. She begged him to teach her chess, but he scouted the notion of her having wit enough to learn. She offered to read to him, entreated him to let her do something with him, but he repelled her every advance with contempt and surliness, which now and then broke into rage and vituperation.
As soon as Gibbie returned, Ginevra let him know how badly things were going with her father. They met, consulted, agreed that the best thing was to be married at once, made their preparations, and confident that, if asked, he would refuse his permission, proceeded, for his sake, as if they had had it.
One morning, as he sat at breakfast, Mr. Galbraith received from Mr. Torrie, whom he knew as the agent in the purchase of Glashruach, and whom he supposed to have bought it for Major Culsalmon, a letter, more than respectful, stating that matters had come to light regarding the property which rendered his presence on the spot indispensable for their solution, especially as there might be papers of consequence in view of the points in question, in some drawer or cabinet of those he had left locked behind him. The present owner, therefore, through Mr. Torrie, begged most respectfully that Mr. Galbraith would sacrifice two days of his valuable time, and visit Glashruach. The result, he did not doubt, would be to the advantage of both parties. If Mr. Galbraith would kindly signify to Mr. Torrie his assent, a carriage and four, with postilions, that he might make the journey in all possible comfort, should be at his house the next morning, at ten o'clock, if that hour would be convenient.
For weeks the laird had been an unmitigated bore to himself, and the invitation laid hold upon him by the most projecting handle of his being, namely, his self-importance. He wrote at once to signify his gracious assent; and in the evening told his daughter he was going to Glashruach on business, and had arranged for Miss Kimble to come and stay with her till his return.
At nine o'clock the schoolmistress came to breakfast, and at ten a travelling-carriage with four horses drew up at the door, looking nearly as big as the cottage. With monstrous stateliness, and a fur-coat on his arm, the laird descended to his garden gate, and got into the carriage, which instantly dashed away for the western road, restoring Mr. Galbraith to the full consciousness of his inherent grandeur: if he was not exactly laird of Glashruach again, he was something quite as important. His carriage was just out of the street, when a second, also with four horses, drew up, to the astonishment of Miss Kimble, at the garden gate. Out of it stepped Mr. and Mrs. Sclater! then a young gentleman, whom she thought very graceful until she discovered it was that low-lived Sir Gilbert! and Mr. Torrie, the lawyer! They came trooping into the little drawing-room, shook hands with them both, and sat down, Sir Gilbert beside Ginevra--but nobody spoke. What could it mean! A morning call? It was too early. And four horses to a morning call! A pastoral visitation? Four horses and a lawyer to a pastoral visitation! A business call? There was Mrs. Sclater! and that Sir Gilbert!--It must after all be a pastoral visitation, for there was the minister commencing a religious service!--during which however it suddenly revealed itself to the horrified spinster that she was part and parcel of a clandestine wedding! An anxious father had placed her in charge of his daughter, and this was how she was fulfilling her trust! There was Ginevra being married in a brown dress! and to that horrid lad, who called himself a baronet, and hobnobbed with a low market-woman! But, alas! just as she was recovering her presence of mind, Mr. Sclater pronounced them husband and wife! She gave a shriek, and cried out, "I forbid the banns," at which the company, bride and bridegroom included, broke into "a loud smile." The ceremony over, Ginevra glided from the room, and returned almost immediately in her little brown bonnet. Sir Gilbert caught up his hat, and Ginevra held out her hand to Miss Kimble. Then at length the abashed and aggrieved lady found words of her own.
"Ginevra!" she cried, "you are never going to leave me alone in the house!--after inviting me to stay with you till your father returned!"
But the minister answered her.
"It was her father who invited you, I believe, not Lady Galbraith," he said; "and you understood perfectly that the invitation was not meant to give her pleasure. You would doubtless have her postpone her wedding-journey on your account, but my lady is under no obligation to think of you."--He had heard of her tattle against Sir Gilbert, and thus rudely showed his resentment.
Miss Kimble burst into tears. Ginevra kissed her, and said,
"Never mind, dear Miss Kimble. You could not help it. The whole thing was arranged. We are going after my father, and we have the best horses."
Mr. Torrie laughed outright.
"A new kind of runaway marriage!" he cried. "The happy couple pursuing the obstinate parent with four horses! Ha! ha! ha!"
"But after the ceremony!" said Mr. Sclater.
Here the servant ran down the steps with a carpet-bag, and opened the gate for her mistress. Lady Galbraith got into the carriage; Sir Gilbert followed; there was kissing and tears at the door of it; Mrs. Sclater drew back; the postilions spurred their horses; off went the second carriage faster than the first; and the minister's party walked quietly away, leaving Miss Kimble to declaim to the maid of all work, who cried so that she did not hear a word she said. The schoolmistress put on her bonnet, and full of indignation carried her news of the treatment to which she had been subjected to the Rev. Fergus Duff, who remarked to himself that it was sad to see youth and beauty turn away from genius and influence to wed money and idiocy, gave a sigh, and went to see Miss Lapraik.
Between the second stage and the third, Gibbie and Ginevra came in sight of their father's carriage. Having arranged with the postilions that the two carriages should not change horses at the same places, they easily passed unseen by him, while, thinking of nothing so little as their proximity, he sat in state before the door of a village inn.
Just as Mr. Galbraith was beginning to hope the major had contrived a new approach to the place, the carriage took an unexpected turn, and he found presently they were climbing, by a zig-zag road, the height over the Lorrie burn; but the place was no longer his, and to avoid a sense of humiliation, he avoided taking any interest in the change.
A young woman--it was Donal's eldest sister, but he knew nothing of her--opened the door to him, and showed him up the stair to his old study. There a great fire was burning; but, beyond that, everything, even to the trifles on his writing table, was just as when last he left the house. His chair stood in its usual position by the fire, and wine and biscuits were on a little table near.
"Very considerate!" he said to himself. "I trust the major does not mean to keep me waiting, though. Deuced hard to have to leave a place like this!"
Weary with his journey he fell into a doze, dreamed of his dead wife, woke suddenly, and heard the door of the room open. There was Major Culsalmon entering with outstretched hand! and there was a lady--his wife doubtless! But how young the major was! he had imagined him a man in middle age at least!--Bless his soul! was he never to get rid of this impostor fellow! it was not the major! it was the rascal calling himself Sir Gilbert Galbraith!--the half-witted wretch his fool of a daughter insisted on marrying! Here he was, ubiquitous as Satan! And--bless his soul again! there was the minx, Jenny! looking as if the place was her own! The silly tears in her eyes too!--It was all too absurd! He had just been dreaming of his dead wife, and clearly that was it! he was not awake yet!
He tried hard to wake, but the dream mastered him.
"Jenny!" he said, as the two stood for a moment regarding him, a little doubtfully, but with smiles of welcome, "what is the meaning of this? I did not know Major Culsalmon had invited you! And what is this person doing here?"
"Papa," replied Ginevra, with a curious smile, half merry, half tearful, "this person is my husband, Sir Gilbert Galbraith of Glashruach; and you are at home in your own study again."
"Will you never have done masquerading, Jenny?" he returned. "Inform Major Culsalmon that I request to see him immediately."
He turned towards the fire, and took up a newspaper. They thought it better to leave him. As he sat, by degrees the truth grew plain to him. But not one other word on the matter did the man utter to the day of his death. When dinner was announced, he walked straight from the dining-room door to his former place at the foot of the table. But Robina Grant was equal to the occasion. She caught up the dish before him, and set it at the side. There Gibbie seated himself; and, after a moment's hesitation, Ginevra placed herself opposite her husband.
The next day Gibbie provided him with something to do. He had the chest of papers found in the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith carried into his study, and the lawyer found both employment and interest for weeks in deciphering and arranging them. Amongst many others concerning the property, its tenures, and boundaries, appeared some papers which, associated and compared, threw considerable doubt on the way in which portions of it had changed hands, and passed from those of Gibbie's ancestors into those of Ginevra's--who were lawyers as well as Galbraiths; and the laird was keen of scent as any nose-hound after dishonesty in other people. In the course of a fortnight he found himself so much at home in his old quarters, and so much interested in those papers and his books, that when Sir Gilbert informed him Ginevra and he were going back to the city, he pronounced it decidedly the better plan, seeing he was there himself to look after affairs.
For the rest of the winter, therefore, Mr. Galbraith played the grand seigneur as before among the tenants of Glashruach.