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The Manchester Marriage
by [?]

Mr. and Mrs. Openshaw came from Manchester to settle in London. He had been what is called in Lancashire a salesman for a large manufacturing firm, who were extending their business, and opening a warehouse in the city, where Mr. Openshaw was now to superintend their affairs. He rather enjoyed the change, having a kind of curiosity about London, which he had never yet been able to gratify in his brief visits to the metropolis. At the same time he had an odd, shrewd contempt for the inhabitants, whom he always pictured to himself as fine, lazy people, caring nothing but for fashion and aristocracy and lounging away their days in Bond Street and such places, ruining good English, and ready in their turn to despise him as a provincial. The hours that the men of business kept in the city scandalized him too, accustomed as he was to the early dinner of Manchester folk, and the consequently far longer evenings. Still, he was pleased to go to London, though he would not for the world have confessed it even to himself, and always spoke of the step to his friends as one demanded of him by the interests of his employers, and sweetened to him by a considerable increase of salary. This, indeed, was so liberal, that he might have been justified in taking a much larger house than the one he did, had he not thought himself bound to set an example to Londoners of how little a Manchester man of business cared for show. Inside, however, he furnished it with an unusual degree of comfort, and in the winter-time he insisted on keeping up as large fires as the grates would allow in every room where the temperature was in the least chilly. Moreover, his northern sense of hospitality was such that, if he were at home, he could hardly suffer a visitor to leave the house without forcing meat and drink upon him. Every servant in the house was well warmed, well fed, and kindly treated, for their master scorned all petty saving in aught that conduced to comfort, while he amused himself by following out all his accustomed habits and individual ways in defiance of what any of his new neighbors might think.

His wife was a pretty, gentle woman, of suitable age and character. He was forty-two, she thirty-five. He was loud and decided, she soft and yielding. They had two children–or rather, I should say, she had two, for the elder, a girl of eleven, was Mrs. Openshaw’s child by Frank Wilson, her first husband. The younger was a little boy, Edwin, who could just prattle, and to whom his father delighted to speak in the broadest and most unintelligible Lancashire dialect, in order to keep up what he called the true Saxon accent.

Mrs. Openshaw’s Christian name was Alice, and her first husband had been her own cousin. She was the orphan niece of a sea-captain in Liverpool–a quiet, grave little creature, of great personal attraction when she was fifteen or sixteen, with regular features and a blooming complexion. But she was very shy, and believed herself to be very stupid and awkward, and was frequently scolded by her aunt, her own uncle’s second wife. So, when her cousin, Frank Wilson, came home from a long absence at sea, and first was kind and protective to her; secondly, attentive; and, thirdly, desperately in love with her, she hardly knew how to be grateful enough to him. It is true, she would have preferred his remaining in the first or second stages of behavior, for his violent love puzzled and frightened her. Her uncle neither helped nor hindered the love affair, though it was going on under his own eyes. Frank’s stepmother had such a variable temper that there was no knowing whether what she liked one day she would like the next, or not. At length she went to such extremes of crossness that Alice was only too glad to shut her eyes and rush blindly at the chance of escape from domestic tyranny offered her by a marriage with her cousin; and, liking him better than any one in the world except her uncle (who was at this time at sea), she went off one morning and was married to him, her only bridesmaid being the housemaid at her aunt’s. The consequence was, that Frank and his wife went into lodgings, and Mrs. Wilson refused to see them, and turned away Norah, the warm-hearted housemaid, whom they accordingly took into their service. When Captain Wilson returned from his voyages he was very cordial with the young couple, and spent many an evening at their lodgings, smoking his pipe and sipping his grog; but he told them that, for quietness’ sake, he could not ask them to his own house, for his wife was bitter against them. They were not, however, very unhappy about this.