- Text Size +

Sir Michael did not expect to see his brother-in-law in his mansion; truth be told, only the presence of Mr. Howard and Pamela at the first meeting did not allow him to require Mr. Flenderson to leave immediately. Somehow, every polite word of greeting and calm tone of Mr. Flenderson irked Sir Michael even more than his presence; in the end, he could barely manage himself to stay civil. But as soon as the maid led the guest to his chambers, Sir Michael’s patience came to an end. 

‘How did he dare to show himself here?’ Sir Michael did not hide his irritation. ‘No one wants to see him, and yet he is here to ruin everybody’s good mood with his sullenness!’ 

‘Mr. Flenderson was invited,’ said Pamela. ‘Mr. Howard assumed…’ 

‘Yes, yes, I know!’ Sir Michael interrupted her. ‘What made him do that? Poor fellow, he must have been deceived. That Flenderson is able to do the most shameful things to gain an advantage.’

‘I need to remind you that you offered Mr. Howard to invite his friends,’ said Pamela carefully. ‘Perhaps, you do not know the extent of their acquaintance.’ 

‘I remember I said that,’ Sir Michael grumbled. ‘But I meant to invite his young friends, both gentlemen and pretty ladies, not that old shoe! Anyway, that blunder will not make me share any of my hospitality with him. He could stay, just keep him away from me!’ 

‘Certainly, sir,’ answered Pamela. She wanted to ask more about the reasons for his abhorrence toward Mr. Flenderson, but she still remembered the treatment she had gained before and remained silent. 

For the rest of the day, Pamela kept herself busy with her daily routine and met neither with Sir Michael nor with his guests. And when Kevin asked Miss Flax to follow him into the Blue Salon again, Pamela just shook her head and entertained herself with the novel, which helped her in some measure to hush the aftersounds of voices and music and the feelings they caused. 

The following day was Sunday, and Pamela intended to spend it with all the pleasure she could receive from her position and obstacles. She would spend the evening in her father’s house; and though Miss Martin still reminded her from time to time about her undignified deed, the happiness of Mrs. Anderson in her delicate state and the fact that Pamela shared her payment meekly with her family, the eldest daughter of Mr. Beesly had been long forgiven and remained the agreeable companion at Sunday’s dinners. Besides the comfort of the father’s hearth, Pamela expected to witness the meeting of the parishioners of Mr. Schrute with the new guests of Sir Michael. She wondered what would be the first impressions of both sides; she was curious about what Mr. Schrute had prepared for a greeting speech. 

The first sign of that enjoyment Pamela gained when Sir Michael and his household went to the sermon. Sir Michael walked ahead of all, and Lady Levinson leaned on his right hand. Mr. Howard walked by his left side; apparently, both of his companions gave him that kind of attention the owner of Dunder Hall sought so much. Even from a distance, Pamela noticed how proudly he stepped; he even looked a little bit taller. She thought about Miss Flax’s opinion on such a change in Sir Michael’s demeanour, but they never discussed the lacks and eccentricities of their masters so that judgment would remain unspoken nevertheless. Besides, her interlocutor followed Lady Levinson, carrying her shawl and reticule, so their conversation had to wait. 

Following the first group, Mr. Halpert escorted Mrs. Howard and her cousin. Pamela wondered briefly if Mrs. Howard felt comfortable to be left behind by her husband, but, for sure, the replacement of the companion was more than adequate, judging by her exclamations and giggling. That scene conjured the memory of the time when she had been the one who had enjoyed Mr. Halpert’s witty remarks. She quickly turned her gaze away, before the sorrows filled her mind again, and saw Mr. Flenderson, wandering aloof, alone. Pamela could not help but pity that man; she did not know for sure, but the master’s hostility had probably indisposed other guests from associating with him. 

Mr. Flenderson might have sensed her gaze as he stumbled and turned around, noticing Pamela among the other servants. She greeted him, and he raised his top hat to greet her; he slowed the track of his steps, and soon he walked alongside Pamela, sharing with her a comfortable silence. 

They parted at the entrance of the church. Pamela sat at her usual spot near her father and Miss Martin and watched as Mr. Schrute welcomed Sir Michael; it did not slip unnoticed that Mr. Flenderson was pointed at the secluded bench, as far from his brother-in-law as it was possible, where he found a place. She sighed, listening absentmindedly to the words of the sermon. 

Pamela witnessed enough of the foolishness this morning, but her decision to find amusement in that ceased; she could not laugh at the folly of the honorable landlord, who treated poorly his own kin and thus made a fool of himself as well as she could not enjoy witnessing the misery of others. Indeed, she had no idea of what had been the object of the rivalry between the two gentlemen. Still, even if Mr. Flenderson had been guilty of the hideous iniquities, Sir Michael’s behavior should have been the paragon of dignity, if not mercy. But Pamela knew her master all too well to expect of him something like this. 

The sermon had ended, and Pamela realized that she could barely recall the meaning of it; perhaps, she would receive the disapproval of Miss Martin later, but she could bear that. The parishioners gradually started to leave, and Pamela soon was outside the building. Her father stopped to have a word with a few respectable farmers, Mrs. Beesly joined the Andersons and left quickly, wanting to spend more time with her daughter, and Miss Martin was discussing with genuine seriousness the matter of the sermon with the fellow members of the charity group. Pamela stepped aside, waiting for her relatives to cart home. 

‘It was nice to hear the word of the Lord today,’ Mr. Flenderson said, approaching her timidly as if he feared to interrupt her privacy. ‘I suppose Mr. Schrute was an excellent addition to the local society.’

‘He was, indeed,’ said Pamela. ‘Though we have disagreements sometimes, he serves to his parish diligently and with an outstanding passion.’ 

‘He reminds me of Mr. Martin a little,’ he said wistfully. ‘He was such a pleasant man and always had an opinion on every subject. I recalled as if it was just yesterday how he taught me how to choose good wine even though he prided himself as a man who had never had a drop of alcohol.’

‘Have you followed his advice, Mr. Flenderson?’ Pamela asked with a polite smile. 

‘Yes, I have. And, to my surprise, his recommendations were quite helpful. I sometimes regret that I did not have an occasion to ask him about advocacy. Perhaps, my practice would have been better then.’  

Pamela had no time to share her own memories about her late uncle as she heard a call ‘Pamela!’ and saw Sir Michael walking toward her. Mr. Flanderson excused himself quickly and went away.

‘Here you are! Pamela, be a dear and find someone who could fetch a carriage from Dunder Hall. Lady Levinson is tired of the sermon and does not feel well. I am afraid the way back might be exhausting for her.’ 

‘Of course, sir,’ she answered quietly, feeling sudden irritation and tiredness. She could not wait to be at her father’s home. 

Pamela found a stable boy and passed him Sir Michael’s order. The boy ran to the mansion, and Pamela returned to her master only to find him having a conversation with Mr. Halpert and Miss Filippelli. 

‘To be honest, I almost forgot how thoughtful and informative the sermons of Mr. Schrute could be. And using the story of the prodigal son as a metaphor for the reunion of your family — I cannot think of a better example. I beg you to use your authority and persuade him to collect his notes and send them to Oxford. I am more than sure that his notes will be published, and that will do the honor to both the author and his patron.’ 

If Pamela had not known Mr. Halpert previously, she would have had no doubts in his sincerity and his genuine interest; but she had known him and saw his intentions as clearly as if he spoke of them himself. She imagined what would happen next: the frustration Mr. Schrute would suffer when his notes would be declined; the displeasure of Sir Michael who would take that rejection as his own offense and who would accuse Mr. Schrute of his dissatisfaction; and the amusement Mr. Halpert would gain, watching the exchanges between the two gentlemen. For sure, he had done that before, and she had been a willing participant in some of his tricks; Pamela still considered that it did not harm to mock some of Mr. Schrute’s most obnoxious antics. But this prank, if she caught the idea right, might be not harmless, but cruel. Pamela remarked once more with a pang of regret how he had changed. 

‘It would delight me!’ exclaimed Sir Michael. ‘For me all his sermons are alike, but if you think they are remarkable… I shall not let Mr. Schrute remain unknown. Ah! Pamela, here you are! Well?’

For the briefest moment, her gaze met Mr. Halpert’s; she saw a flicker of sadness in his countenance. But it was replaced with the mask of polite indifference almost immediately, and Pamela cast her eyes down, ashamed of imagining the things that she wanted to see. 

‘I sent Luke to the mansion. I expect him to return with the carriage in a quarter of an hour.’ 

‘Capital!’ Sir Michael smiled. ‘Lady Levinson will be pleased to hear that!’

He went away, and Pamela followed him, but she heard the quiet remark of Miss Filippelli.

‘You do not stop to astonish me. That was the most boring lecture I suffered since I left school, and you proposed the notes of this preacher to be published?’ 

Pamela just smiled bitterly. 

Mr. Beesly had finished his conversation and was ready to go home. Pamela and Miss Martin, talking about the supper and the charity donation for the poor, went after him. They almost reached the cart when they heard the distant call. 

‘Miss Beesly!’ 

She turned around to see with great surprise that it was Mr. Howard who was coming after her. 

‘Mr. Howard! Did something happen to Sir Michael?’ it was the only reasonable excuse why he would have called for her. 

‘Oh, no, no, no, he is perfectly fine,’ Mr. Howard answered. ‘But… may I have a word with you?’

‘Well…’ Pamela said, unsure. She ignored the sight of Miss Martin’s pursed lips and looked at her father, who observed their exchange and nodded then. Mr. Howard smiled and bowed both to Mr. Beesly and Miss Martin; however, he did not ask Pamela to introduce him. ‘Yes, of course.’ 

They stepped aside, and Pamela was at a loss for the subject of this sudden conversation. 

‘Miss Beesly, I have made an amazing discovery. Am I right to suppose that late Lady Scott was your godmother?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Pamela, still understanding nothing. ‘She was.’ 

‘I know that these days that kind of connection is considered as nothing,’ he said, still smiling. ‘But I think of you as of a part of our family.’

‘You are very kind, sir,’ that was all she could say in answer. 

‘I would like you to join our circle this evening, after dinner,’ he continued, and Pamela thought she misheard him for a moment. ‘It will be just a little family gathering, without ceremonies and formalities. Could I count on you?’ 

‘I would like to,’ she said carefully. ‘But I promised my father to visit him and spend the evening at his home.’

‘But you could change that arrangement, couldn’t you?’ Mr. Howard’s smile turned a little forced. ‘I am sure your honorable father would understand the natural interest of your, if I may say so, extended family to know you better.’ 

‘I guess so,’ Pamela said, knowing that the conversation came to its conclusion. 

‘Excellent! I shall see you at Dunder Hall then. Mrs. Howard will be delighted to meet you.’ 

She curtsied, and he said his farewell almost familiarly. Pamela returned to her family, feeling slight anxiety. 

‘He asked me to join them after dinner,’ she said to her father. ‘I do not know the reason, however.’ 

‘I do not think you should worry about it,’ Mr. Beesly answered. ‘They probably need someone to shuffle the cards or serve tea or something else that they could not do by themselves. It is a pity that you have to leave us, but, perhaps, it would pay off somehow.’ 

Pamela smiled at him gratefully, but his speech did not vanish her concern.

Chapter End Notes:

The next chapter - the evening. Or, rather, The Evening. 

You must login (register) to review or leave jellybeans