“I say, George, this is undoubtedly the beautifulest country I ever saw. Do see. Such honeysuckles and such dog-wood blossoms never grew before. Maybe if the fates are propitious, I’ll come back here to this picturesque country to get me a wife, after the war is over. Who knows? Then I’ll be a laurel-crowned hero, having whaled out the Yankees to a frizzle, and all the fair ones will be sighing for my hand and heart! Umph! I am impatient for the conflict. George, you know the Yankees won’t fight!”
“Well, we will see. At any rate, from my acquaintance with them, I shall not go to battle against them armed only with a broom-stick. But here we are in Melrose. Don’t, for love’s sake, talk of war. My heart’s in a flutter. Cupid’s conflict is worse than the Indians, Fred.”
“Yes, I see you have surrended unconditionally; yet your captivity is by no means galling, I observe. Well, you are a lucky fellow, George. Prosperity attend you.”
Fatigued from the long journey, so much of it accomplished by tiresome, lumbering stage-coaches, these two travelling companions gladly alighted at the Melrose Tavern, and eagerly sought the refreshments its simple hospitality afforded.
In the quiet little parlor of Widow Heartwell, in the early May morning, the tender breeze stole in and out of the window, fluttering the muslin curtain and filling the apartment with delicious perfume. In the same parlor a few chosen friends were assembled, to witness the solemn ceremony that was to deprive them of the pride and favorite of the village. As the dial upon the delicate face of the little bronze clock on the mantel marked the hour of eight, the flutter of robes and the rustling of footsteps ushered in the expectant pair, and at once all the guests arose.
Pale and trembling, Mrs. Heartwell took her place beside her daughter, as she stood before the venerable minister. For years the Rev. Mr. Pratt had been their pastor and spiritual adviser, and his heart was filled with deep emotion as he pronounced the solemn words that bound this child of his love and watchful care to her husband, to be “His servitor for aye.” Amid smothered sobs, he invoked Heaven’s benediction upon their wedded hearts, praying that, as love had directed this union, so love might attend them, even unto death.
Amid sighs and tears, the congratulations were received, and when at length Fred Pinckney found a moment to whisper in George Marshall’s ear, he said, with characteristic drollery, “By Jupiter? I’ll be glad when the coach comes. I can’t stand so much crying; it’s more like a funeral than a wedding. If they are obliged to blubber this way when a fellow marries, I think I shall back out.”
Another hour and the bridal party had departed. The fair flower of Melrose was gone, changed from a lonely maiden to a happy, hopeful bride; gone to follow the footsteps of a true, brave-hearted husband,-gone from Melrose, leaving many aching hearts behind; leaving, too, a vacancy that no succession of years could ever quite fill.