JAMES MORGAN HART.
THE ATONEMENT OF LEAM DUNDAS.
BY MRS. E. LYNN LINTON, AUTHOR OF “PATRICIA KEMBALL.”
Not the youngest or prettiest bride could have excited more interest on her launch into the unknown shoals and quicksands of matrimony than did many-fleshed, mature and freckled Josephine on the achievement of her long-desired union with the twice-told widower. A marriage of one of their own set was a rare event altogether to the North Astonians, and the marriage of one of the Hill girls was above all a circumstance that touched the heart of the place as nothing else could touch it—one which even Carry Fairbairn on the day of her triumph over willow-wearing and that faithless Frank had not come near. It was “our marriage” and “our bride,” and each member of the community took a personal interest in the proceedings, and felt implicated in the subsequent failure or success of the venture.
Of course they all confessed that it was a bold thing for Miss Josephine to be the third wife of a man—some of the more prudish pursed their lips and said they wondered how she could, and they wondered yet more how Mrs. Harrowby ever allowed it, and why, if Mr. Dundas must marry again (but they thought he might be quiet now), he had not taken a stranger, instead of one who had been mixed up as it were with his other wives—but seeing that her day was passed, the majority, as has been said, held that she was in the right to take what she could get, and to marry even as a third wife was better than not to marry at all. And then the neighborhood knew Sebastian Dundas, and knew that although he had been foolish and unfortunate in his former affairs, there was no harm in him. If his second wife had died mysteriously, North Aston was generous enough not to suppose that he had poisoned her; and who could wonder at that dreadful Pepita having a stroke, sitting in the sun as she did on such a hot day, and so fat as she was? So that Mr. Dundas was exonerated from the suspicion of murder in either case, if credited with an amount of folly and misfortune next thing to criminal; and “our marriage” was received with approbation, the families sending tribute and going to the church as the duty they owed a Harrowby, and to show Sebastian that they considered he had done wisely at last, and chosen as was fitting.
There was a little mild waggery about the future name of Ford House, and the bolder spirits offered shilling bets that it would be rechristened “Josephine Lodge” before the year was out. But save this not very scorching satire, which also was not too well received by the majority, as savoring of irreverence to consecrated powers, the country looked on in supreme good-humor, and the day came in its course, finding as much social serenity as it brought summer sunshine.