Poor Helen, she was widowed indeed, and it needed not the badge of mourning to tell how terribly she was bereaved. But the badge was there, too, for in spite of the hope which said “he is not dead,” Mrs. Banker yielded to Helen’s importunities, and clothed herself and daughter-in-law in the habiliments of woe, still waiting, still watching, still listening for the step she should recognize so quickly, still looking down the street; but looking, alas! in vain. The winter passed away. Captive after captive came home, heart after heart was cheered by the returning loved one, but for the inmates of No. —— the heavy cloud grew blacker, for the empty chair by the hearth remained unoccupied, and the aching hearts uncheered. Mark Ray did not come back.
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING.
Those first warm days of March, 1865, when spring and summer seemed to kiss each other and join hands for a brief space of time, how balmy, how still, how pleasant they were, and how bright the farmhouse looked, where preparations for Katy’s second bridal were going rapidly forward. Aunt Betsy, as chief directress, was in her element, for now had come the reality of the vision she had seen so long, of house turned upside down in one grand onslaught of suds and sand, then righted again by magic power, and smelling very sweet and clean from its recent ablutions—of turkeys dying in the barn, of chickens in the shed, of ovens heating in the kitchen, of loaves of frosted cake, with cards and cards of snowy biscuit piled upon the pantry shelf—of jellies, tarts and chicken salad—of home-made wine and home-brewed beer, with tea and coffee, portioned out and ready for the pots, the latter mixed with fresh-laid eggs, and smelling strongly of old Java, and the former as fragrant as two and one-half dollars per pound could buy.
Aunt Betsy was very happy, for this, the brightest, balmiest day of all, was Katy’s wedding day, and in the dining-room the table was already set with the new chinaware and silver, a joint Christmas gift from Helen and Katy to their good Aunt Hannah, as real mistress of the house.
“Not plated-ware, but the gen-oo-ine article,” Aunt Betsy had explained at least twenty times to those who came to see the silver, and she handled it proudly now as she took it from the flannel bags where Mrs. Deacon Bannister said it must be kept, and placed it on a side table.
The coffee-urn was Katy’s, so was the teakettle and the massive pitcher, but the rest was “ours,” Aunt Betsy complacently reflected as she contemplated the glittering array, end then hurried off to see what was burning on the stove, or “spell” Uncle Ephraim, working industriously at the ice-cream, out on the back stoop, stumbling over Morris as she went, and telling him he had come too soon—it was not fittin’ for him to be there under foot until he was wanted.
Morris probably thought he was wanted, by one member of the family at least, and without replying directly to Aunt Betsy, he knocked with a vast amount of assurance at a side door, which opened directly, and Katy’s glowing face looked out, and Katy’s voice was heard, not telling him he was not wanted, but saying, joyfully: