Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 67

[+] | [-] | reset

The nuptial peal of noise and nonsense being rung out in all the usual changes, Mr Baynard thought it high time to make her acquainted with the particulars of the plan which he had projected — He told her that his fortune, though sufficient to afford all the comforts of life, was not ample enough to command all the superfluities of pomp and pageantry, which, indeed, were equally absurd and intolerable — He therefore hoped she would have no objection to their leaving London in the spring, when he would take the opportunity to dismiss some unnecessary domestics, whom he had hired for the occasion of their marriage — She heard him in silence, and after some pause, 'So (said she) I am to be buried in the country!' He was so confounded at this reply, that he could not speak for some minutes: at length he told her, he was much mortified to find he had proposed anything that was disagreeable to her ideas — 'I am sure (added he) I meant nothing more than to lay down a comfortable plan of living within the bounds of our fortune, which is but moderate.' 'Sir (said she), you are the best judge of your own affairs — My fortune, I know, does not exceed twenty thousand pounds — Yet, even with that pittance, I might have had a husband who would not have begrudged me a house in London' — 'Good God! my dear (cried poor Baynard, in the utmost agitation), you don't think me so sordid — I only hinted what I thought — But, I don't pretend to impose —' 'Yes, sir (resumed the lady), it is your prerogative to command, and my duty to obey' So saying, she burst into tears and retired to her chamber, where she was joined by her aunt — He endeavoured to recollect himself, and act with vigour of mind on this occasion; but was betrayed by the tenderness of his nature, which was the greatest defect of his constitution. He found the aunt in tears, and the niece in a fit, which held her the best part of eight hours, at the expiration of which, she began to talk incoherently about death and her dear husband, who had sat by her all this time, and now pressed her hand to his lips, in a transport of grief and penitence for the offence he had given — From thence forward, he carefully avoided mentioning the country; and they continued to be sucked deeper and deeper into the vortex of extravagance and dissipation, leading what is called a fashionable life in town — About the latter end of July, however, Mrs Baynard, in order to exhibit a proof of conjugal obedience, desired of her own accord, that they might pay a visit to his country house, as there was no company left in London. He would have excused himself from this excursion which was no part of the oeconomical plan he had proposed; but she insisted upon making this sacrifice to his taste and prejudices, and away they went with such an equipage as astonished the whole country. All that remained of the season was engrossed by receiving and returning visits in the neighbourhood; and, in this intercourse it was discovered that sir John Chickwell had a house-steward and one footman in livery more than the complement of Mr Baynard's household. This remark was made by the aunt at table, and assented to by the husband, who observed that sir John Chickwell might very well afford to keep more servants than were found in the family of a man who had not half his fortune. Mrs Baynard ate no supper that evening; but was seized with a violent fit, which completed her triumph over the spirit of her consort. The two supernumerary servants were added — The family plate was sold for old silver, and a new service procured; fashionable furniture was provided, and the whole house turned topsy turvy.

At their return to London in the beginning of winter, he, with a heavy heart, communicated these particulars to me in confidence. Before his marriage, he had introduced me to the lady as his particular friend; and I now offered in that character, to lay before her the necessity of reforming her oeconomy, if she had any regard to the interest of her own family, or complaisance for the inclinations of her husband — But Baynard declined my offer, on the supposition that his wife's nerves were too delicate to bear expostulation; and that it would only serve to overwhelm her with such distress as would make himself miserable.