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am come between us!" Nothing, possibly, if Adam and Eve really had regained an existence Toid of all housekeeping cares further than gathering figs and pulling grape clusters. I don't know, then, but that Adam might come to think Eve could do it all for herself and him too, and then grow indignant because his nectarine had not been allowed quite enough sun, and his grapes had seen a little too much shade!
"If dear Katy had only lived, you would have been such friends. She was just your age. I have worn her ring ever since she died; and I always have promised myself to give it to the one I should love best in the world. You must promise me one thing, Marie—whatever happens between us, never to give it back to me. If you find you do not love me as well as you thought you did, keep it, because I have parted with it now; it will remind you how much / loved you /"
Taking it for granted, always, that his own love was the most enduring, "after the fashion of a man!" Marie looked down at the shining little circlet, and wondered what she had done to be loved so well.
"You will like Harriet, though, and she will be everything to you. She has such excellent judgment; I always consult her about everything. She will be astonished to find what I have been about! I hope she will like you; bnt no one could help doing so." And here a reassuring kiss came in to make everything quite certain.
"I am in such a hurry to have aunty see you," said Marie, locking and unlocking the clasping hand that held her own. "And Gilbert, too, oh he is so good, and has been like an own brother to me always."
"Nothing more?" and an uncomfortable feeling crossed Mr. Ash's mind, though his look and tone were playful.
"Oh no, indeed! he is ten years older than I am; why Harvey is seven, and married two years ago. That would be an odd idea."
It certainly seemed to have been suggested to ber for the first time, though it was by no means the first consideration it had received from her lover; but lovers may be excused for thinking that it was impossible for any one to live under the same roof with the being they have found perfection, and not adore her.
"It would be so dreadful if auntie shouldn't happen to like you!"
"Dreadful!"—and Morgan mimicked her tone. "I guess I could bear it, though." "But I could not marry you then, you know;
but she will—she can't help it, or Gilbert either."
"Is Gilbert your guardian? I thought you told me you were left without one."
"Oh, so I was; there was no one even to take care of me. But auntie did not stop to think; though they were not so well off in those days; it was before Gilbert went into business for himself, and they have always taken care of me ever since. But I am sure they cannot have the least objection; no, indeed."
Mr. Ash rather thought not; most men would not object to being relieved of an orphan cousin, and he felt himself to be perfectly unexceptionable. Not that he was a vain man, but he was perfectly self-conscious, owing to his early struggles with fortune, and decidedly selfwilled. It annoyed him to find that he was to be arraigned to any one's opinion. Marie's uuprotected situation, as he had chosen to call it, had appealed to him. She would have no one with the right to interfere in her affairs, and she would love him all the better; she would be entirely his own, and form her opinions by his, so they should agree exactly. It had never occurred to him before that it would make the slightest difference whether there was a mutually favorable impression between himself and the Pierson family or not. He wanted Marie, and not her relations.
"I shall take you to see Sophia on our wedding trip," he said, putting the matter out of his mind, and coming back by degrees to the main point so as not to startle her.
The allusion was not unnoticed, however; for the roses flushed up Marie's smooth cheek again, as she said, in a voice that was intended to be very unconcerned—
"Is she far from your home—from Chester?"
"A full day's ride, and there is no railroad; it is quite a little journey. She is nearer your own ace than Harriet; they will both be so fond of you—of my little wife."
It was a delightful prospect to have two real sisters; but she wished' he would not talk so much about being married. Shame-faced little thing, when she was inwardly pining in advance at the next day's separation.
He was to accompany her to Rockville by the morning train, and leave for his own home, Chester, in the evening. Her visit to her friends at Inglewood was at an end; so was the yonng lawyer's summer vacation. It had been a momentous visit to both.
"How odd this loving is!" said Morgan, thinking of the coming separation. "Here I have only known you six weeks, and I don't like to think of living without you. How have you managed to bewitch me so? How can you have the heart to wish me to wait longer than two months before I come for you?"
A man's way of reasoning again. He was to have her all his life, yet grndged a little time to the friends who had reared her; if six weeks had made her so dear to him, what had six years wrought with themf He was not going to part with a single association, or any endeared companionship, and he required her to give up all at a word.
"Two months now; promise me, and I will let you go and brush your hair for dinner; I have spoiled that clean collar, too, with my arm. Don't scold—two months, say; I shall hold you fast till you promise."
She struggled, in his strong yet loving clasp, as he held her out from him and looked into her eyes.
"I cannot promise, only this: I will do just as any thinks best."
And with this he was obliged to be content. He walked up and down on the piazza, while she was dressing for dinner, humming a little song which she had sung to him the night before.
"I had no idea the little gypsy had such a will of her own; but I like her all the better for that," he thought. He meant "so it always yields to mine;" too easy acquiescence is no man's liking; and as for her aunt, although he had no definite opinion of her, of course she would see at once how much better it would be for it to be all over before winter came fairly on, when he represented how unsettled he should be till the wedding did take place, and how difficult it would be for him to leave his business to visit Marie. So, quite satisfied that his wedding would be fixed for early in November, he broke a spray of sweet-scented clematis and placed it in her hair as they met in the hall.
It was a hurried interview, and not a very satisfactory one after all, when Mr. Ash came to meet Marie's relatives. The train was delayed—bliss to them, since nearly every occupant of the cars went out to see what was the accident, and walked up and down the road in the hot sun impatiently, till the engine was repaired, instead of remaining quietly in a comfortable seat as they did. But it left Mr. Ash less time to argue his cause with Mrs. Pierson, who seemed by no means as fully impressed with its urgency as he expected her to be.
While he urged the difficulties of travelling, and the advantages of having his mind at rest to attend to his business, she was in imagination shrinking and cutting out two pieces of cotton and one of linen, and thinking that they had a good winter's work before them. Besides, Marie knew so little of the young man; though her cousin at Inglewood had written that he was all they could wish, she thought that people ought to have an opportunity of knowing something about each other's disposition. She wasn't going to have the child hurried into matrimony at that rate—and Mr. Ash found he had reckoned without his host.
He looked to Marie for assistance; but she had never gone contrary to her aunt's will in all her life, and though she knew what the vexed impatient look in his face foreboded—she had seen it before, when young Dr. Campbell at Inglewood insisted upon her leading the Redowa with him—she could not help it. She wished annty would not be quite so decided with Morgan, and that Morgan could only know how good and kind she always was: but she felt things were not going as she wished them. Nor did Gilbert's appearance mend matters any; he had rather a formal manner, which Mr. Ash construed into intentional coldness, and did not seem in the least obliged to any one who proposed to relieve him of Marie.
They were not even allowed a moment alone, in which to set matters straight with each other; and but for Marie's wistful loving look, as he kissed her good-by, Mr. Ash would have gone away vexed with the whole family. She, poor girl, felt almost heart-broken to think that the people she loved best in the world had not fancied each other, and with that and the separation which had been left indefinite, she cried herself to sleep.
But the winter wore away at last; and it had not been so very tedious after all to Marie, however Mr. Ash had progressed. He had found it possible to leave his business more frequently than he had anticipated, and there was apparent cordiality established between himself and the family of his future wife. Any Pierson had come to the conclusion that he was not so selfish after all, as she had feared at first; and Gilbert had great hopes of converting him from the wrong stand he had (in Gilbert's eyes) taken in politics. His sisters seemed disposed to welcome Marie heartily in the family. /
and only regretted that they could not be present at the wedding.
For it had come to that. The best bedroom was draped with the new dresses that had been made up with much thought and consultation of the fashion magazines; the clothes-press was entirely occupied by the wedding-dress itself, over which a sheet was carefully hung to protect it from all possible contact with dust or flies; the opposite closet, which had shelves, sent forth a fruity fragrance suggestive of the loaves of wedding-cake stored away in its recesses; and Marie's own drawers were overflowing with the four dozen cotton and two dozen linen, to say nothing of nightcaps, which were at least happily completed. There were twenty things to be done yet, of course, and Marie felt as if she scarcely had time to stop and dress to receive Mr. Ash, who was to arrive in the evening train. In common with all brides elect, she had nothing to put on; for she had worn out all her winter things, and we all know that it is quite contrary to the usages of society to wear any of the trousseau before the ceremony has taken place.
She need not have distressed herself—after the dreadful separation of nine weeks, which he had endured, and with the delightful certainty that all separations were from henceforth at an end—she would have looked lovely to Mr. Ash, in the old brown merino, which she had that day bestowed upon Anna the girl; the spotted mousseline de laine, which Miss King, the dressmaker, was to fall heir to, was her only resource, with, at least, seven suitable ones hanging up uselessly. The whistle of the train was heard before she had finished braiding her hair, as, just as she fastened her collar, and gave a final pull to the folds of her dress to hide a fruit stain, she saw his eager face looking up as he passed under the window, and flew down the stairs to be caught in his arms in the dark hall, and be kissed six times at least before she was set on her feet again.
Aunt Pierson and tea were waiting then in the sitting-room, and it was by no means a dull picture, as they sat there in the light of the large solar lamp.
Aunt Pierson had a'very frail body for her very determined spirit, and in the mellow light certainly did not look to be the mother of the tall, dark man at the head of the table. Her eyes were a clear blue; her features finely cut, and her dark, abundant hair, thridded with silver, was carefully banded after a fashion of twenty years ago. Gilbert worshipped his mother, who was the incarnation of youth and
beauty to him, as she had been in his boyhood, when he had become her sole champion in the struggle with fortune. Gilbert was an enthusiast after his kind, with all manner of old time chivalrous ideas on religious and social creeds, which he grew warm in defending. He had a brotherly kindness for Mario, and was very sorry to part with her; but he thought Mr. Ash a fine fellow, and wondered how it was , that he had never been in love with any one as that young man appeared to be. Really, he could not keep his eyes from Marie's face long enough to pass the butter, and for all his long day's ride, appeared to have very little appetite for the good things of Mrs. Pierson's bountiful table.
It was well "aunty" was capable of doing the "twenty last things," including the packing, without Marie's assistance, for no one saw anything of her during the evening, nor the next morning; Gilbert thought they might have spared a few moments to the family, considering that they were going to have a lifetime to talk it out in. It was a wonder that she was allowed time to dress for the wedding; an 1 doubtless they would have been late, but for Aunt Pierson, who suggested that as Marie would not have a moment to spare that afternoon, he had better not come over from the hotel after dinner.
He would have chosen a day wedding, and to have carried Marie off at once; but here he was again overruled by Aunt Pierson: she thought this fashion of rushing away from friends and relations at the church door very new fangled and objectionable; so Mr. Ash, with Gilbert for his groomsman, was obliged to face a parlor full of people, half of whom he had never seen before, and listen to their commouplace congratulations, and feel that they were criticising him, when all in the world he cared for was Marie, looking like an angel in her white tarleton dress and floating lace veil, who was dragged away to cut and distribute cake by her bridesmaid.
But he fell heir to her at last, when the goodbyes were all said the following morning, and Aunt Pierson had been left in her empty and distracted house, with the amiable Miss King in the parlor, and extra help in the kitchen to set it to rights, and Gilbert had brought the checks, and shaken hands in the kindest manner with his new relative, and kissed Marie, and delivered his mother's parting charge about the luncheon in her travelling-basket, and to take out the half loaf of cake intended for Mr. Ash's friends from her trunk as soon as she arrived, for fear it should soil her dresses. We fear that Marie did not feel as much for Aunt Fierson in her loneliness, or as grateful to Gilbert for his parting gift—a pearl porte monnaie, well filled—as she should have done. She was more occupied with her becoming travellingdress and bonnet, which she wore for the first time, and wondering whether any one in the cars knew she was a bride, and thinking how nice it was to be all alone with Morgan, and really to belong to him for good and all.
He was so thoughtful and devoted ; he placed the lunch basket for her feet to rest upon, and hung her new travelling shawl in thick, soft folds for her to lean against, and forgot to take his arm from the back of the seat after he had done so; and Marie drew off one little glove so she could see the glistening of the wedding-ring, and then looked up at her handsome, manly husband, with a shy recognition of the new claim that wedding-ring had established. In all the wide world they thought there could be no two such happy people. Of course all the future was to be quite as blissful. What could prevent it, now that they were really together?
"Sophie will be expecting us," said Mr. Ash, as the cars rushed onward. "I don't know much about her of late; she used to be an affectionate, good girl, and was very anxious to have me bring you to Groton Mills. Harriet seemed to think we ought to go; poor Sophie gets away from home so seldom, with her large family, though she is very anxious to see you herself, of course. And then there's my friends, the Fords; you will feel quite at home in Chester."
"Oh, I expect to, and to love your sisters dearly. You don't know how happy I have been in thinking they were to be mine too." Which suggested to Mr. Ash an inquiry.
"By the way, you didn't tell me what they wrote you."
Marie had scarcely more than glanced at the letters which her husband had given her the night he arrived; her mind had been so full of other things that it was scarcely possible to fix it long enough to comprehend their drift. Fprtunately she had remembered to transfer them from the pocket of the dress she had bestowed on Miss King to the one she wore.
"Don't scold, but I hardly know myself; I have been so very, very busy. Here they are."
It was an excellent excuse for getting a little nearer together, and it is to be hoped that the other passengers were too busy with their maps and newspapers to notice how Morgan's arm fell from the back of the seat quite around his
wife, as she unfolded the least ladylike note of the two. The handwriting was too fine and cramped for her ideas of elegance. It was that of a person who has never expended her chirography since leaving school, and possibly her ideas
My Dear Maria: I am too sorry I can't come to your wedding. I did mean to try, but the baby seems feverish, and Morgan, the next, has had quite an ill turn. He is a lovely little fellow, and you will be delighted with all my children, I think; every one says they are very uncommon. Hatty is quite a prodigy, and already sings several tunes. As for my oldest boy, Charlie, we call him Daniel Webster half the time, he has such a remarkable head and such fine eyes. You should hear him speak "The boy stood on the burning deck." Mr. Taylor sends his kind regards. We shall expect you to tea the night after the wedding; do not disappoint us. I am dying to see what Morgan's wife is like; he was always so particular. Your affectionate sister, Sophia Taylor.
It was not exactly what she would have expected of Mr. Ash's sister; the spelling was not quite correct, and the punctuation is here supplied by the printer; but she said to herself and to him that it was very kind and friendly as she slipped it into her travellingbasket, and unfolded the evenly folded and beautifully directed letter from Mrs. Lockwood.
My Dear Sister—As I hope to call you soon: I am greatly disappointed at finding myself unable to leave home to be present at your wedding, for which I have just received Mrs. Pierson's kind invitation. Please thank her for it, and say that I still hope to make her acquaintance at some future day.
I know, my dear Maria, that you are fully aware of the great responsibility you are taking in this step. To hold another's happiness in our hands may well make the most devoted heart bow with the weight of the sacred trust. I feel that you are fully alive to this; I need not say more. As the wife of my noble, only brother, you will find a welcome to the home of Yours, sincerely, Harriet Locrwood.
"Harriet writes a beautiful letter, doesn't she?" said Mr. Ash, looking at the clear, fine signature; "so different from poor Sophie; they never were much alike."
But though Marie said " Yes, it was a beautiful letter," she could not help feeling a little shadow at finding herself charged with such a grave mission, as if she was going to be ex
pected to keep up to it. On the whole, she preferred the fresh heartiness of Sophia's, if it was badly spelt and rather egotistical. She was glad they were going there first, for she was sure Mrs. Taylor would not be very critical.
Mrs. Taylor was anything but that as she came out upon the door-step to meet them, motioning back a noisy crew with one hand, while she carried baby on her other arm. Marie could not see her very plainly, as it was growing dark, and the lamps were not lighted; but it was cool for the season, and on account of the children a wood fire was burning in the grate; and she appeared rather stout, and certainly had a very good-natured expression as she caught glimpses of her by the dancing flame the first five minutes.
The parlor was in a most disordered condition; the two boys, Charlie and Morgan, had been making a tent of the hearthrug, supported by two of the best chairs, and were supposing themselves, by the aid of a lively imagination, to be soldiers camping out. The first seat offered to the new arrivals was already occupied by a large rag doll, and Marie finally sat down upon a sacque and a shaker bonnet belonging to Miss Harriet, who had not long since come in from a walk. By way of advancing conversation, the musical prodigy continued her previous employment, which was thumping with her little fat hand on the lower keys of the piano. The lights discovered Charlie with the table-cover wrapped around his shoulders for a blanket, and the handsomely bound books that had been upon it thrown into B heap upon the floor.
"Oh, there comes pa with the lamp. That's real good in you, pa, to think of it. This is M r. Taylor, Maria," said his commanding officer; and with that, Mr. Taylor deposited his burden . upon the uncovered table, and turned to shake hands with his new relatives.
"Do make those boys hush, pa; they will drum me out of my senses"—for, by way of showing off, or in honor of the bride's arrival, a furious reveille began to sound from the camp; to which Harriet responded from the piano.
"Harriet, come away from that piano this very instant; if you don't, I 'll send you straight to bed; go and speak to the lady; that's your new aunt, «ny dear; your uncle 's been getting married; maybe he 's brought you a piece of wedding-cake. Pa, can't you have that noise stopped 1 Do let me take your things. Mi, Charlie, how you do act, kicking
your poor pa 1 I should think you would be ashamed to, before company; they 'll never want to come here again!"
Not that Mrs. Taylor thought so. The noise of children never disturbed her; in fact, she did not become conscious of it until some one was by who was not accustomed to them, and she knew her brother was not. Morgan was evidently annoyed by it now, particularly as his namesake, instigated by the suggestion of wedding-cake, left the camp for a forage in his uncle's pockets and his new aunt's travelling basket. He hoped Marie had not noticed the general laxness of domestic discipline, or that Sophie's dress was not exactly in company trim, owing to the baby's presence in the parlor.
"Pa, can't you call Ann ?" continued Mrs. Taylor. "I 'll show your wife right up to her room, Morgan; oh, here she comes now; there, go its nurse, like a precious little darling so it was. No? oh, naughty baby, to let its uncle see it act sol go, pussy, get sugar." With which last inducement the very stout baby, with round, unwinking eyes, was induced to let go its clutch upon its mother's collar, and be carried away from the family group.
"Are you fond of children f" inquired Mr. Taylor, mildly, of his new sister-in-law.
"Oh, very I" said Marie, enthusiastically, predetermined to be pleased with everything belonging to her husband, including his nephews and nieces, and with the popular idea of children, innocent, tractable, loving little creatures, who when they die are symboled by snow white lambs. We know a much enduring mother who suggests that a young panther would be much more appropriate.
"I am so glad I"—Mr. Taylor responded in B gratified way, "we are. I say to Sophia, one never has so many that there is one to spare. Harriet, come speak to the lady, dear; she is very fond of children."
But Harriet was not to be won by fair speeches, apd shrank up into the corner between the piano and the wall, whining " nah, nah, ain't a goin' to, pa."
"She's a leetle spoiled," said Mr. Taylor, making no movement to compel obedience; "being the only girl, you see; three boys and one girl, quite a nice little family. I tell Sophia I never expected to see the day I should drive my four in hand—ha, ha." At which joke Morgan laughed quite heartily; it was the only one Mr. Taylor had ever been known to utter, And here his wife returned with a bedroom lamp.