“You are right, my boy,” he says, quite gently, looking kindly at the unfortunate Bobby; “she does look very—very young!” “I shall mend of that!” cry I, briskly, putting my arm through his, in anxious amends for Bobby’s hapless speech. “We are a family who age particularly early. I have a cousin whose hair was gray at five-and-twenty, and I am sure that any one who did not know father, would say that he was sixty, if he was a day—would not they, mother?”
The preparations are ended; the guests are come; no great number. A few unavoidable Tempests, a few necessary Greys (I have told you, have not I, that my name is Grey?). The heels have been amputated from a large number of white satin slippers, preparatory to their being thrown after us. The school-children have had their last practice at the marriage-hymn.
I have resolved to rise at five o’clock on my wedding-morning, so as to make a last gloomy progress round every bird and beast and gooseberry-bush on the premises. I have exacted—binding her by many stringent oaths—a solemn promise from Barbara to make me, if I do not do so of my own accord, at the appointed hour. I am sunk in heavy sleep, and wake only very gradually, to find her, in conformity with her engagements, giving my shoulder reluctant and gentle pushes, and softly calling me.
“Is it five?” say I, sitting up and yawning. Then as the recollection of my position flashes across my mind, “I will not be married!” I cry, turning round, and burying all my face in my pillow again. “Nobody shall induce me! Let some one go and tell Sir Roger so.”
“Sir Roger is not awake,” replied Barbara, laughing rather sleepily, “you forget that.”
And by the time he is awake, I have come to a saner mind. We dress, for the last time, alike. The thought that never again shall I have a holland frock like Barbara’s is nearly too much for us both. We run quietly downstairs, and out into as August a morning as God ever gave his poor pensioners.
We walk along soberly and silently, hand-in-hand, as we used to do when we were little children. My heart is very, very full. I may be going to be happy in my new life. I fully expect to be. At nineteen, happiness seems one’s right, one’s matter of course; but it will not be in the same way. This chapter of my life is ended, and it has been such a good chapter, so full of love, of healthy, strong affection, of interchanged, kind offices, and little glad self-denials, so abounding in good jokes and riotous laughter, in little pleasures that—looked back on—seem great; in little wholesome pains that—in retrospect—seem joys. And, as we walk, the birds
“Prefer soft anthems to the ears
To woo them from their beds, still murmuring
That men can sleep while they their matins sing.
Most divine service, whose so early lay
Prevents the eyelids of the blushing day.”