Fond of fun and frolic, Mark laughed immoderately at Wilford’s description of Aunt Betsy bringing her “herrin’ bone” patchwork into the parlor, and telling him it was a part of Katy’s “settin’ out,” but when it came to her hint for an invitation to visit in New York, the amused young man roared with laughter, wishing so much that he might live to see the day when poor Aunt Betsy Barlow stood ringing for admittance at No. —— Fifth Avenue.
“Wouldn’t it be rich, though, the meeting between your Aunt Betsy and Juno?” and the tears fairly poured down the young man’s face.
But Wilford was too serious for trifling, and after his merriment had subsided, Mark talked with him candidly, sensibly, of Katy Lennox, whose cause he warmly espoused, telling Wilford that he was far too sensitive with regard to family and position.
“You are a good fellow on the whole, but too outrageously proud,” he said. “Of course this Aunt Betsy in her pongee, whatever that may be, and the uncle in his shirt sleeves, and this mother whom you describe as weak and ambitious, are objections which you would rather should not exist; but if you love the girl, take her, family and all. Not that you are to transport the whole colony of Barlows to New York,” he added, as he saw Wilford’s look of horror, “but make up your mind to endure what cannot be helped, resting yourself upon the fact that your position is such as cannot well be affected by any marriage you might make, provided the wife were right.”
This was Mark Ray’s advice, and it had great weight with Wilford, who knew that Mark came, if possible, from a better line of ancestry than himself, inasmuch as his maternal grandmother was a near relative of the English Percys, and the daughter of a lord. And still Wilford hesitated, waiting until the winter was over before he came to the decision which when it was reached was firm as a granite rock. He had made up his mind at last to marry Katy Lennox if she would accept him, and he told his mother so in the presence of his sisters, when one evening they were all kept at home by the rain. There was a sudden uplifting of Bell’s eyelashes, a contemptuous shrug of her shoulders, and then she went on with the book she was reading, wondering if Katy was at all inclined to literature, and thinking if she were that it might be easier to tolerate her. Juno, who was expected to say the sharpest things, turned upon him with the exclamation:
“If you can stand those two feather beds, you can do more than I supposed,” and as one means of showing her disapproval, she quitted the room, while Bell, who had taken to writing articles on the follies of the age, soon followed her sister to elaborate an idea suggested to her mind by her brother’s contemplated marriage.
Thus left alone with her son, Mrs. Cameron tried all her powers of persuasion upon him in vain. But nothing she said influenced him in the least, seeing which she suddenly confronted him with the question: “Shall you tell her all? A husband should have no secrets of that kind from his wife.”