In an agony of shame I was beginning to feel a wild desire to escape from the room and even from the house, that I might breathe in some of the free wind outside, when all at once I became aware that somebody else was speaking.
It was Father Dan. He had risen unannounced from his seat at the end of the table. I saw his sack coat which was much worn at the seams; I saw his round face which was flushed; I heard the vibrating note in his soft Irish voice which told me he was deeply moved; and then I dropped my head, for I knew what was coming.
“Mr. O’Neill,” said Father Dan, “may your parish priest take the liberty of speaking without being spoken to?”
My father made some response, and then a hush fell over the dining-room. Either the storm ceased for a time, or in my great agitation it seemed to do so, for I did not hear it.
“We have heard a great deal about the marriage we have celebrated to-day, but have we not forgotten something? What is marriage? Is it the execution of a contract? Is it the signing of a register? Is it even the taking of an oath before an altar? No. Marriage is the sacred covenant which two souls make with each other, the woman with the man, the man with the woman, when she chooses him from all other men, when he chooses her from all other women, to belong to each other for ever, so that no misfortune, no storm of life, no sin on either side shall ever put them apart. That’s what marriage is, and all we have been doing to-day is to call on God and man to bear witness to that holy bond.”
My heart was beating high. I raised my head, and I think my eyes must have been shining. I looked across at the Bishop. His face was showing signs of vexation.
“Mr. O’Neill, sir,” cried Father Dan, raising his trembling voice, “you say your daughter has a big fortune and her husband has a big name, and what more do they want in this world? I’ll tell you what they want, sir. They want love, love on both sides, if they are to be good and happy, and if they’ve got that they’ve got something which neither wealth nor rank can buy.”
I had dropped my head again, but under my eyelashes I could see that the company were sitting spell-bound. Only my husband was shuffling in his seat, and the Bishop was plucking at his gold chain.
“My Bishop,” said Father Dan, “has told us of the submission a wife owes to her husband, and of her duty to be lovely and wise and faithful in his eyes. But isn’t it the answering thought that the husband on his part owes something to the wife? Aren’t we told that he shall put away everything and everybody for her sake, and cleave to her and cling to her and they shall be one flesh? Isn’t that, too, a divine commandment?”
My heart was throbbing so loud by this time that the next words were lost to me. When I came to myself again Father Dan was saying: