The interval between my betrothal and my marriage is but short. On April 22d, I put my hand into Sir Roger’s. On May 20th, I am to put it into his for good. When the bridegroom is forty-seven, and the bride one of six, why should there be any delay? Why should a man keep and lodge his daughter any longer than he can help, when he has found some one else willing to do it for him? This, I think, is father’s view. And, meanwhile, father himself is more like an angel than a man. Not once do we hear the terrible polite voice that chills the marrow of our bones. Not once is his nose more than becomingly hooked. Not once does he look like a hawk. Another long bill comes in for Algy, and is dismissed with the benevolent comment that you cannot put gray heads upon green shoulders. I dine every day now; and father and I converse agreeably upon indifferent topics. Once—oh, prodigious!—we take a walk round the Home Farm together, and he consults me about the Berkshire pigs. Then comes a mad rush for clothes. I am involved in a whirlwind of haberdashery, Brussels lace, diamonds. It feels very odd—the becoming possessed of a great number of stately garments, to which Barbara has no fellows—Barbara and I, who hitherto have been always stitch for stitch alike. And meanwhile I see next to nothing of my future husband. This is chiefly my own doing.
“You will not mind,” I say, standing before him one day in the drawing-room window, and speaking rather bashfully—somehow I do not feel so comfortably easy and outspoken with him as I did before the catastrophe—“you will not mind if I do not see much of you—do not go out walking—do not talk to you very much till—till it is over!”
“And why am I not to mind?” he asks, half jestingly, and yet a little gravely, too.
“You will have quite enough—too much of me afterward,” I say, with a shy laugh, “and they—they will never have much of me again—never so much, at least—and” (with rather a tremble in my voice) “we have had such fun together!”
And so Sir Roger keeps away. Whether his self-denial costs him much, I cannot say. It never occurs to me at the time that it does. He may think me a very nice little girl, and that I shall be a great comfort to him, but he cannot care much about having any very long conversations with me—he that has seen so many lands, and known so many great and clever people, and read so many books. He has always been most undemonstrative to me. At his age, no doubt, he does not care much for the foolish endearments of lovers; so, with an easy conscience, I devote myself, for my short space, to the boys, to Barbara, to Vick, and the jackdaw. Once, indeed—just once—I have a little talk with him, and afterward I almost wish that I had not had it. We are sitting under a horse-chestnut-tree in the garden—a tree that, under the handling of the warm air, is breaking into a thousand tender faces. We did not begin by being tete-a-tete; indeed, several lately-occupied chairs intervene between us, but first one and then another has slipped away, and we are alone.