Instead of the costly artificial wreath that Madame Elise sent me, Barbara has made a little natural garland of my own flowers—my Nancies. I smell them all the time that I am being married. I have no female friends—Barbara has always been friend enough for me—so I have stipulated that I shall have no other bridesmaids but her and Tou Tou. They are not much to brag of in the way of a match. Algy indeed suggested that in order to bring them into greater harmony, Tou Tou shall clothe her thin legs with long petticoats, or Barbara abridge her garments to Tou Tou’s length; but the proposition has met with as little favor in the family’s eyes as did Squire Thornhill’s proposal, that every gentleman should sit on a lady’s lap, in the Vicar of Wakefield.
The guests are all off to the church. I follow with my parents. Mother is inclined to cry, until snubbed and withered into dry-eyedness by her consort. He is, however, all benignity to me. I catch myself wondering whether I can be his own daughter; whether I am not one of the train of neighboring misses who have sometimes made me the depository of their raptures about him.
We reach the church. I am walking up the aisle on red cloth: the wedding-hymn is in my ears, gayly and briskly sung, though it is a hymn, and not an Epithalamium: a vague idea of many people is in my head. I am standing before the altar—the altar smothered in flowers. The old vicar who christened me is to marry me. I have declined the intervention of all strange bishops and curates whatsoever. He is a clergyman of the old school, and spares us not a word of the ritual.
Truly in no squeamish age was the marriage-service composed! I know— that is, I could have told you if you had asked me—that I am standing beside a large and stately person, to whom, if neither God nor man interpose to prevent it, I shall, within five minutes, be lawfully wed; but I do not in the least degree realize it.
Now and again a strong sense of the ludicrous rushes over me. There seems to me something acutely ridiculous in the idea of myself standing here, so finely dressed—of the boys, demure and prim in their tall hats and Sunday coats, gathered to see me married—me of all people!
Like lightning-flash there darts into my head the recollection of the last time that I was married! when, long ago we were little children, one wet Sunday afternoon, for want of a job, I had espoused Bobby; and Algy, standing on a chair, with his night-gown on for a surplice, had married us. It is over now. I am aware that several persons of different genders have kissed me. I have signed my name. I am walking down the church-yard path, the bells jangling gayly above my head, drowning the sweet thrushes; and the school-children flinging bountiful garden flowers before my feet. It seems to me a sin to tread upon them. It goes to my heart. We reach the house. Vick comes out to meet us in a crawling, groveling manner, which owes its birth to the shame caused in her mind by the huge favor which my maid has tied round her little neck. We go into breakfast and feed—the women with easy minds; the men, with such appetites as the fear of impending speeches, of horrible shattered commonplaces leaves them.