Hilda Lightener had found Ruth strangely quiet, with a manner which was not indifference to her imminent marriage, but which seemed more like numbness.
“You act as if you were going to be hanged instead of married,” Hilda told her, and found no smile answering her own.
Ruth was docile. She offered no objection to any suggestion offered by Hilda, accepted every plan without demurring. Hilda could not understand her, and was troubled. Wholly lacking was the girlish excitement to be expected. “Whatever you want me to do I will do, only get it over with,” seemed to be Ruth’s attitude. She seemed to be holding herself in, communing with herself. A dozen times Hilda had to repeat a question or a statement which Ruth had not heard, though her eyes were on Hilda’s and she seemed to be giving her attention.
She was saying to herself: “I must go through with it. ... I can’t draw back. ... What I am doing is right—right.”
She obeyed Hilda, not so much through pliancy as through listlessness, and presently Hilda was going ahead with matters and acting as a sort of specially appointed general manager of the marriage. She directed Ruth what to wear, saw it was put on, almost bundled Ruth and her mother into the carriage, and convoyed them to the church, where Bonbright awaited them. She could not prevent a feeling of exasperation, especially toward Mrs. Frazer, who had moved from chair to chair, uttering words of self-pity, and pronouncing a constant jeremiad. ... Such preliminaries to a wedding she had never expected to witness, and she witnessed them with awakened foreboding.
A dozen or so young folks and Malcolm Lightener and his wife witnessed the brief ceremony. Until Ruth’s appearance there had been the usual chattering and gayety, but even the giddiest of the youngsters was restrained and subdued by her white, tense face, and her big, unseeing eyes.
“I don’t like it,” Lightener whispered to his wife.
“Poor child!... Poor child!” she whispered back, not taking her eyes from Ruth’s face.
After the rector pronounced the final words of the ceremony Ruth stood motionless. Then she turned slowly toward Bonbright, swaying a trifle as if her knees were threatening to fail her, and said in a half whisper, audible to those about: “It’s over?... It’s all over?”
“It can’t be undone,” she said, not to her husband, but to herself. “We are—married.”
Hilda, fearing some inauspicious act or word, bustled forward her bevy of young folks to offer their babel of congratulations. As she presented them one by one, Ruth mustered a wan smile, let them take her cold, limp hand. But her mind was not on them. All the while she was thinking: “This is my husband. ... I belong to this man. ... I am his wife.” Once in a while she would glance at Bonbright; he seemed more a stranger to her than he had done the first time her eyes had ever rested on him—a stranger endowed with odious potentialities. ...