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The Day of Their Wedding
By William Dean Howells, 1895
LORENZO found himself before the great hotel register, which one of the clerks had wheeled round towards him. When he had fancied inscribing himself and Althea as Lorenzo Weaver and Wife, it had been very simple; but it suddenly came to him that they were not married, and that he could not truthfully call her his wife. He stood leaning over the register, and he was aware of the clerk waiting impatiently. He had said that he wished to register, and he was not doing so.
The clerk said severely, and, Lorenzo felt, disdainfully, "Let this gentleman register, please," and then he was aware of some one standing behind him. A large, flourishing-sort-of-looking man, with a shawl on his arm and a bag in his hand, which he put down when Lorenzo moved aside, wrote with the pen which the clerk dipped into the ink and offered him, "J. M. Bayne and Lady," in a rapid, authoritative hand, and the clerk said, "Room, Mr. Bayne?" And the man answered, "No; dinner. We're going on to Lake George in the afternoon. Like to check the things." Aud the clerk answered, "Opposite desk, please." And a black call-boy ran up and took the shawl and bag, aud the man went away, and left Lorenzo to the register again. The man had solved the problem for him, and he wrote "Lorenzo Weaver aud Lady." If Althea was not his wife, she was certainly, in the parlance of the world-outside, a lady, and this seemed a safe way out of the trouble.
"Dinner?" asked the clerk, who came back to him when he looked up from the register.
"Nay--no, I guess I will have a room. But we do want dinner," said Lorenzo. At the word he was sensible of being hungry.
The clerk wrote a number and an initial against Lorenzo's name, and then he asked,
"What?" said Lorenzo.
"Any trunks or traps to go to your room?"
"Oh, they haven't come yet. We left our things at the stores till we could make up our minds which hotel--"
"Ten dollars," said the clerk, abruptly. Lorenzo did not know why he said this, but he stood waiting behind the register, and it came to Lorenzo that he was asking ten dollars of him, and he took out his money and paid it rather tentatively. The clerk took the money, and said, as he laid it in a drawer, "We have to get it in advance where there's no baggage. Like to go to your room?"
"I guess we'll have some dinner first," said Lorenzo. He had decided that he would not try to answer yes or no to anything, for fear he should say yee or nay, and he found it easy to begin always with a guess.
"Early dinner from one to three," said the clerk. "Go in any time you like." He did not seem so unkind now as at first; he even smiled a little in looking at Lorenzo, as if now he had fathomed his hesitation in registering, and imagined him to have had the newly married man's embarrassment in declaring his condition so publicly for the first time. He even added, "Dining-room right through the parlor," and then he turned finally away.
Lorenzo went back to the place where he had left Althea. She was not there, and his heart gave a leap of alarm. He looked all round, whirling about, and searching the long verandas with eyes which he could not keep from being anxious.
Far off, almost at the end of the grove, two ladies--one in white and one in blue--were walking. At the moment he caught sight of them they stopped, and the one in blue began to wave her handkerchief as if she were signalling to him. Then he saw that it was Althea with that young woman who had taken his place beside her; it was she who was waving to him. She had Althea by the arm, and was leaning forward, as if talking rapidly up into her face. He went out to meet them, advancing shyly; and as soon as he came within hearing the young woman screamed at him, "Were you scared? Did you think some one had run away with her?"
Lorenzo was ashamed to own that he had been frightened. He said, "I guess so;" and that seemed to pass for a joke with the young woman, who bowed herself forward, and then threw herself backward in the fit of laughter that seized her at his words. She walked mincingly, and she hung her disengaged hand at her side with her handkerchief always in it, which she now pressed to her eyes, as if to wipe away her tears of laughter. She realized to Lorenzo all that he had ever dreamed of fashionable splendor in the world-outside. Her dress was beautiful, and so was her hat, which she wore at a saucy slant on her little golden head.
Althea blushed as they approached, but she merely said, "We thought you would see us; but we were coming back anyway."
"Oh, this is the best joke!" the young lady cried, beginning to laugh again. "I shall tell George about this the very first thing when I see him. I guess he wouldn't have been scared. He knows I couldn't be induced to run away from him. We did give you a scare, didn't we? Poor Mr. Brown!"
Lorenzo stared and said, "My name is Weaver."
"Why, your wife said it was Brown," the young lady began, in a tone of injury. Then she burst out laughing again. "Oh, I see!" She turned to Althea. "You forgot you were married, and you told me your maiden name. Oh, that is too good! When I tell George about this! But it isn't the least bit surprising. I've been married nearly a whole week, and I believe if I didn't keep saying my married name over to myself all the time, I shouldn't realize yet that I was married. But the only way is to keep saying it; and I write it too: Mrs. George Cargate, Mrs. George Cargate. If you don't do it, you'll get into all sorts of scrapes. Well, Mr. Weaver, I am going to be awfully good now, and leave you to yourselves; I can see that you're just dying to be together." She drew her arm out of Althea's, and then seized her by both wrists. "Oh, you are just too sweet for anything! That cherry red does become you so, and it's just the same shade here, and here, and here!" She touched the knot on Althea's hat, the knot on her breast, and the dimple on her check; and then, with a cry of laughter, she broke from them and ran down the path to the hotel.
Lorenzo and Althea stood abashed in each other's presence. "Well, well!" he said, at last.
"I presume we do not understand their ways yet," said Althea. "She seems to mean well; but she seems to let herself go a good deal, even for the world-outside."
"Oh yes," Lorenzo assented; "I presume she don't mean any harm by it. I'd rather see a person more settled."
They were walking demurely side by side towards the hotel, and she cast an upward, sidewise look at him. "You wouldn't like to have me start off now with a little scream and run after her, yonder?"
"Nay," said Lorenzo, soberly, "I should not Althea." Something ascetic showed in his kind young face; the potentiality of Shaker eldership passed like a cloud-shadow over it. "I don't like such behaving. Did you tell her--did you make her understand--that we were not married yet?"
"Nay, there was no time for that," answered Althea; "I had to let her go on talking to me, as if we were."
"Yee," said Lorenzo.
"We had to let that driver think so too," she pursued.
"Oh yee," said Lorenzo, with a sigh; and he thought how he had let the hotel people think so by the entry he had made; but he did not tell Althea of that. "I presume," he said, with another deep breath, "that it is not deceiving unless we mean to deceive. It will be all right as soon as we are married."
"We promised not to talk of that yet," said Althea.
"Yee. Not till you say so. I guess it's about dinner-time now."
"Oh, well, then, let us go right in. I am hungry. It is a long time since we had breakfast."