He had his will. Some feeling that it would please Mrs. Sloman best, the only person besides ourselves whom it concerned us to please, settled it in Bessie’s mind, although she anxiously inquired several times before the doctor left if I felt equal to going to church. Suppose I should faint on the way?
I was equal to it, for I took a long nap on the sofa in Mrs. Splinter’s parlor through the soft spring twilight, while Bessie held what seemed to me interminable conferences with Mary Jane.
It was not a brilliant ceremony so far as the groom was concerned. As we stood at the chancel-rail I am afraid that the congregation, largely augmented, by this time, by late-comers—for the doctor had spread the news through the village far and wide—thought me but a very pale and quiet bridegroom.
But the bride’s beauty made amends for all. Just the same soft white dress of the afternoon—or was it one like it?—with no ornaments, no bridal veil. I have always pitied men who have to plight their troth to a moving mass of lace and tulle, weighed down with orange-blossoms massive as lead. This was my own little wife as she would walk by my side through life, dressed as she might be the next day and always.
But the next day it was the tartan cloak that she wore, by special request, as we climbed the hill to the Ledge. It was spring indeed—bluebirds in the air, and all the sky shone clear and warm.
“Let me begin,” said my wife as she took her old seat under the sheltering pine. “You can’t have anything to say, Charlie, in comparison with me.”
There was a short preliminary pause, and then she began.
“Well, after you wouldn’t take me to Europe, you know—”
“You naughty girl!”
“No interruptions, sir. After you couldn’t take me to Europe I felt very much hurt and wounded, and ready to catch at any straw of suspicion. I ran away from you that night and left you in the parlor, hoping that you would call me back, and yet longing to hide myself from you too. You understand?”
“Yes, let us not dwell on that.”
“Well, I believe I never thought once of Fanny Meyrick’s going to Europe too until she joined us on the road that day—you remember?—at the washerwoman’s gate.”
“Yes; and do you remember how Fidget and I barked at her with all our hearts?”
“I was piqued then at the air of ownership Fanny seemed to assume in you. She had just come to Lenox, I knew; she could know nothing of our intimacy, our relations; and this seemed like the renewal of something old—something that had been going on before. Had she any claim on you? I wondered. And then, too, you were so provokingly reticent about her whenever her name had been mentioned before.”
“Was I? What a fool I was! But, Bessie dear, I could not say to even you, then, that I believed Fanny Meyrick was in—cared a great deal for me.”