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William Dean Howells (1837-1920)

The Day of Their Wedding

By William Dean Howells, 1895


Lorenzo and Althea found a number of carriages standing outside, but the drivers all said they were engaged. The driver wbo had brought them was sitting under a tree smoking. He waited for them to ask the others, and then he called out briskly to them, as if he had never seen them before, "Carriage?"

They looked at each other. "It would be too far to walk back," Lorenzo suggested.

"It would dust this dress," said Althea, "and I can't seem to walk so well in these shoes."

Lorenzo turned to the driver, who had now come up to them. "What will you charge to take us back to town?"

The driver reflected. "Well, I've got to go back pretty soon anyway. I'll leave it to you."

"If it was worth a dollar to bring us here," said Lorenzo, firmly, "it's worth a dollar to take us back; and it a'n't worth any more."

"All right," said the man, and he jumped to his seat. "Where do you want I should leave you?" he asked, turning round to them when they were seated, while his sorrels started gayly off of themselves. "Leave you at Congress Park, if you say so. It's central, and you could set down in there, and think what you wanted to do next."

They felt an impertinence in his suggestion, but it expressed their minds, and Lorenzo assented with a stiff "All right." He received some remarks of the driver's so forbiddingly that he left them quite to themselves until they reached the park.

When they dismounted at the upper gate he took Lorenzo's dollar with a certain hesitation. "I don't know as I'd ought to charge you so much for just bringin' you back." He looked at them, and then suddenly turned upon Lorenzo: "Say, a'n't you up from Lebanon? You're Shakers, anyway!"

"Nay," returned Lorenzo, angrily, "we are not."

"Nays have it," said the young fellow. Without looking round at them, he hollowed out his hands about the match he struck, and lighted a cigar at it while he drove up the street at a slow walk, with the lines held between his knees.

"Oh, Lorenzo," cried Althea, "we are! You know we are! How could you say it?"

"Well, Althea, we a'n't from Lebanon!"

"Oh, you know it wasn't that you denied. We are Shakers. Run after him--run after him, and tell him so, no matter what happens!"

"Well, well! But just as you say, Althea. I don't want to tell a lie any more than you do."

Lorenzo started and ran up the street after the carriage, calling out, "Say! hello! Stop there a minute!" The driver stopped and looked round. Lorenzo did not give himself time to falter after he came up. "We are Shakers. Yee, we are! What is it to you?" he added, in defiance.

"Oh, nothing," said the young fellow. "I'm from down around Lebanon myself. Been at the Family there many a time. Just wanted to see if you'd lie about it; always heard a Shaker wouldn't lie."

"Well, we're not from Lebanon!" Lorenzo retorted, with futile resentment.

"All right," said the driver. "Lookin' for a minister?"

The answer seemed to fly out of Lorenzo's mouth of itself: "Yee, we are."

"I thought so," said the driver. "Well, I know the whitest man in this town, and I can take you to him if you want to get married. Take you and the lady there, and it sha'n't cost you a cent. Say!" He drew from his waistcoat-pocket the dollar bill which Lorenzo had just given him, and handed it to him. "You just take that, and if he a'n't all I tell you, you keep it. I don't want any man's money without I earn it."

"All right," said Lorenzo, and he put the bill in his pocket and walked back to Althea in a kind of daze, while the carriage slowly followed. "Althea, he says he knows a good minister."

"Get right in, lady," said the driver. "If you're all right, I guess you won't feel but what he is. Well, I'll tell you what! He's the one--and he's the only one--that's got the gall to preach against hoss-racin'."

He looked as if his words must carry conviction; the lovers were helpless before them, and they mounted to the place they had so lately left. The driver turned reassuringly to Althea again. "Now don't you be anxious any. If you don't like his looks you just come right out again, and I'll take you anywheres else you want to go--and I know every minister in the place--and no extra charge."

They had not even to go inside for the test the driver proposed. The minister himself answered Lorenzo's ring; he pushed open the lattice door that opened outwardly, and scanned them from the threshold with a face that seemed kind and gentle as well as shrewd. Lorenzo and Althea looked at each other without being able to speak.

The driver spoke for them from his carriage, where he waited to see whether they should find the minister at home. "Good-morning, dominie! I want you to take care of these folks. Friends of mine."

The minister looked up at him from under brows that frowned in the strong sunlight, and then laughed in recognition. "I hope they have some better recommendation. Will you walk in?" he asked of the young couple, and he held the door open for them to enter, and shut it upon them in the cool, dark entry, without further notice of the driver. Then he led them into a dim parlor, and when he had made a little more light in it by turning the slats of one of the blinds, he asked them if they would not sit down. He said he would be with them in a moment, and he went out, as if to still the clamor of children's voices which made themselves heard from the rear of the house, and then were silent.

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