All old houses have their traditions, you see, and Downton Abbey is no different. There’s a bridal chamber, of course, one that comes with its own legends -- and its own old, romantic ghosts. (The second Earl of Grantham was said to have been a beast in human shape, and his poor young bride... Well, those old legends, they aren’t so romantic, Mary thinks, as they are horrible.)
She isn’t allowed to see it, of course, she isn’t allowed even to go into that wing of house. Her mother tells her this, eyes aglow (it is almost spooky, how Cora manages to light up like that), and says, further, “We’ll take care of everything, darling. All you have to do is rest.”
It’s as if she’s coming out of a long illness (spinsterhood), not stepping bravely forth into something new.
Mary copes with the boredom as best she can -- Edith is still insipid, Sybil, long gone. And Matthew, well, he is out of bounds, of course, though he swoops in sometimes, bright-eyed and so, so happy. And their hands entwine -- “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”
She breathes in. “No. I’m not. Are you?”
He laughs, like she’s made a terrific joke. “Not at all.”
It can’t be right, to be so happy.
Fate does so like to be tempted.
But, the wedding is perfect.
Absolutely nothing goes wrong, and as such, it is completely unmemorable.
Not so the wedding night, as they are escorted -- excited and flush with too much champagne and just too much of everything -- to the door of the bridal chamber. Cora crushes Mary into a close embrace, American exuberance trumping British reserve, every time. Robert gives Matthew some gruff advice that Mary pretends not to hear.
Be good to her, or else...
She does hear, however, what the Dowager says, in her most carrying voice. “Took them long enough. Come away, come away. Leave them to it.”
But before leaving, she wishes them good luck.
Matthew and Mary, hand in hand, thank her very seriously.
They are alone, when Matthew pushes open the door. Mary worries -- his legs are still weak, the doctors tell her and she doesn’t want -- but he takes her up easily, and crosses the threshold. And then they topple over, laughing and kissing, because, oh, they are allowed to do it, now, aren’t they?
They manage to make it to the bed, which is a monstrosity, overhung with brocade, as heavy as it is light, and they sink into it, easily.
Mary gives the room a cursory glance (lovely, fragrant with hot-house flowers and ivory and glided, crystals, sparkling) and Matthew puzzles over the complicated buttons of her dress-- “How can they be so tiny?” He asks finally, exasperated. Mary, who is not the giggling sort at all, does giggle a little, helps him, as far as she can. “It just takes practise, that’s all.”
And he gives her his most silly grin, blond hair flopping in his face. She flicks it off his face, and he catches it, kisses her fingers. He promises, “I’ll get better, in time.”
She says, somberly, “I’ll see that you do.”
Oh, it is perfect, perfect, and ---
No ghosts haunt them, not anymore.