At a sign from the rector, Katy went with her mother to the altar, followed by Uncle Ephraim, his wife, and Aunt Betsy, while Helen, throwing off the cloud she had worn upon her head, and giving it, with her cloak and fur, into Billy’s charge, took Mark’s offered arm, and with beating heart and burning cheeks passed between the sea of eyes fixed so curiously upon her, up to where Katy once had stood on the June morning when she had been the bride. Not now, as then, were aching hearts present at that bridal. No Marian Hazelton fainted by the door; no Morris felt the world grow dark and desolate as the marriage vows were spoken; and no sister doubted if it were all right and would end in happiness. Only Katy seemed sad as she recalled the past, praying that Helen’s life might not be like hers.
The ceremony lasted but a few moments, and then the astonished audience pressed around the bride, offering their kindly congratulations, and proving to Mark Ray that the bride he had won was dear to others as well as to himself. Lovingly he drew her hand beneath his arm, fondly he looked down upon her as he led her back to her chair by the register, making her sit down while he tied on her cloak and adjusted the fur about her neck.
“Handy and gentle as a woman,” was the verdict pronounced upon him by the female portion of the congregation as they passed out into the street, talking of the ceremony, and contrasting Helen’s husband with the haughty Wilford, who was not a favorite with them.
It was Billy Brown who brought Mark’s cutter around, holding the reins while Mark helped Helen, and then tucking the buffalo robes about her with the remark: “It’s all-fired cold, Miss Ray. Shall you play in church to-morrow?”
Assured that she would, Billy walked away, and Mark was alone with his bride, slowly following the deacon’s sleigh, which reached the farmhouse a long time before the little cutter, so that a fire was already kindled in the parlor when Helen arrived, and also in the kitchen stove, where the teakettle was placed, for Aunt Betsy said “the chap should have some supper before he went back to York.”
Four hours he had to stay, and they were well spent in talking of himself, of Wilford, and of Morris, and in planning Helen’s future. Of course she would spend a portion of her time at the farmhouse, he said, but his mother had a claim upon her, and it was his wish that she should be in New York as much as possible.
“Now that you have Mrs. Cameron, you do not need my wife,” he said to Mrs. Lennox, with an emphasis upon the last word, which he seemed very fond of using.
Much he wished to stay with the wife so lately his, but as that could not be, he asked at last that she go with him to Washington. It might be some days before his regiment was ordered to the front, and in that time they could enjoy so much. But Helen knew it would not be best, and so she declined, promising, however, to come to him whenever he should need her.