On my next birthday, the twenty-seventh of July, however, something happened that after a few months of figuring made me think that they knew what they were about all the time; for on that day they (the Blivens) got up a surprise party on us, and came in such rigs as they had (there were more light rigs than at the Governor Wade reception, a fact of historical interest as showing progress); though Virginia did not seem to be much surprised. In the course of the evening Doc Bliven started in making fun of me as a justice of the peace.
“I helped a little to elect you, Jake,” said he, “but I’ll bet you couldn’t make out a mittimus if you had to send a criminal to jail to-night.”
“I won’t bet,” I said, “I know I couldn’t!”
“I’ll bet the oysters for the crowd, Squire Vandemark,” he went on deviling me, “that you couldn’t perform the marriage ceremony.”
Now here he came closer to my abilities, for I had been through a marriage ceremony lately, and I have a good memory—and oysters were a novelty in Iowa, coming in tin cans and called cove oysters, put up in Baltimore. It looked like a chance to stick Doc Bliven, and while I was hesitating, Mrs. Bliven whispered that there was a form for the ceremony in the instruction book.
“I’ll bet you the oysters for the crowd I can,” I said. “You furnish the happy couple—and I’ll see that you furnish the oyster supper, too.”
“Any couple will do,” said the doctor. “Come, Mollie, we may as well go through it again.”
The word “again” seemed suspicious. I began to wonder: and before the ceremony was over, I reading from the book of instructions, and people interrupting with their jokes, I saw that this meant a good deal to the Blivens. Mollie’s voice trembled as she said “I do!”; and the doctor’s hand was not steady as he took hers. I asked myself what had become of the man who had made the attack on Bliven as he stood in line for his mail at the Dubuque post-office away back there in 1855.
“Don’t forget my certificate, Jake,” said Mrs. Bliven, as they sat down; and I had to write it out and give it to her.
“And remember the report of it to the county clerk,” said Henderson L. Burns, who held that office himself. “The Doc will kick out of the supper unless you do everything.”
I did not forget the report, and I suppose it is there in the old records to this day.
“We got word,” whispered Mrs. Bliven to me as she went away, “that I have been a widow for more than a year. You’ve been a good friend to me, Jake!”
 There is no record of this marriage in the clerk’s office; where it was regarded, of course, as a joke. This was probably a unique case of a secret marriage made in public; but there is no doubt as to its validity. The editor remembers the Blivens as respected citizens. They are dead long since, and left no descendants. Otherwise the historian would not have told their story—which is not illustrative of anything usual in our early history; but shows that in Iowa as in other new countries there were those who were escaping from their past.—G.v.d.M.