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William Dean Howells (1837-1920)

The Day of Their Wedding

By William Dean Howells, 1895


LORENZO sat in the park till he was tired; then he went about to the different shops where they had left things, and carried them to the hotel himself. He had to wait half an hour in the hotel parlor before Althea and the young woman came in. The young woman said she was dead tired, and she knew they were just dying to be together, and she ran off and left them.

"Lorenzo," said Althea, "can I go over and sit in that place where you have been staying? I want to talk with you. Can we talk there?"

"Why, yee. It's a very quiet place now; the people nearly all went away when the band stopped."

At the gate of the park Lorenzo stopped and bought admission tickets from the man at the window.

"Why, do you have to pay to go in?" demanded Althea.

"I found out I did when I tried to go in without," said Lorenzo. "You have to pay for pretty much everything in the world-outside."

"Oh, the world-outside, the world-outside!" cried the girl.

They walked along without speaking till they came to a seat where a recession in the high shaded bank made a special seclusion. They sat down, and Althea took from the belt of her dress a little roll of bank-notes and handed it to Lorenzo. "There is your money, Lorenzo--what is left of it. I spent some. I don't know how much. I am not used to counting it."

Lorenzo put the money in his pocket without looking at it. "Nay, we're neither of us much used to that, Althea. Did you get what you wanted?"

"I got what she said I ought to get; I got a travelling-dress! I told them to send the things to the hotel."

"Yee. And I went round to the places where we left our things this morning and got them."

"I had forgotten about those things," said Althea, dreamily. Lorenzo laughed vaguely, and she turned abruptly upon him, with a start from her absence. "Do you know what time it is, Lorenzo?"

"It has been rather of a long day, Althea, and I guess you must have felt it so too. It seems to me, we've been about so, that it was back in the last century some time when we got out the cars this morning." He pulled his watch out, a large silver one, and he said, with an air of pride, as her eye fell upon it, "Friend Nason thought I better get it, seeing I never had one before, and he went with me to the jeweller's. It's a Swiss one, and it cost twelve dollars; he said it was full as good as an American one that would have cost me twenty." She seemed not to notice it, and he added, with a little disappointment, "It's half-past four." She did not say anything. He closed the case of his watch with a snap, and put it back in his pocket. "I was just thinkin'," he went on, in a smiling muse, "how this light lays along the slope of the upper pasture at the Family. Strikes over the top of the hill and slants along down; and it gets to be evening there, I guess, as much as an hour before it does in the lower pasture and the garden." He closed his eyes to a fine line. "I can see how it looks as plain as if I was there now. Rufus is comin' up the cow-path to look after the cows and drive 'em down to the barn; and I can see Elder Thomas there, waitin' with the boys to see 'em milk, and show 'em. It's just about the time your school lets out, and you're walkin' over to the Church Family house, and the children-- Well, it's kind of peaceful there! And it's sightly. It's full as sightly here, I guess, and now the band's stopped it's peaceful too." The delicious breeze that had been freshening ever since morning was at its sweetest now; it sang through the tops of the tall, slim oaks of the park, and sighed in the clump of pines where they were sitting. Lorenzo paused, as if he hoped for some sympathetic response from Althea, and then he said, "But I like that upper pasture. I guess the thrushes are beginning to tune up about now in the wood-lot there. I sha'n't forget how you used to look comin' up by the walk, kind of bendin' forward, and lookin' for wild strawberries, with the little girls in the afternoons, a little later on--"

She broke in upon him with a sudden harshness: "Lorenzo, what was it made you feel foolish about me in the first place?"

Lorenzo kept the smile that was left from his muse, though Althea had spoken so strangely. "I don't know as I can remember the beginning exactly."

"Yee, you can, Lorenzo! There must have been a time when you began to feel foolish. Think!"

"Why, I told you, Althea. It was one day when I saw you in the march at meetin', and the way you stepped off, and the way you turned at the corners, and the way you carried your head. I always used to watch you; but that day I seemed to be following you round, as if I was drawed by a rope, and I couldn't get away if I tried."

"Was that what made you foolish about me?"

"It wasn't all. I don't know as I ought to tell you, Althea, but I thought you had beautiful eyes, and there was something about your mouth when you spoke or smiled, and your voice--there was something about that, when I picked it out in the singing; that seemed to go through me. I can't express it exactly."

"Was that all?"

"Well, I don't know as you want me to speak of it--"

"Yee, yee!" she besought him, passionately. "Tell me everything, speak of everything!"

"I thought--I thought you had a nice figure, Althea; I told you that last night. Your dress was the same as the rest, but it didn't look the same on you. It was sightlier, and graceful. There, I don't feel anyways sure it's right to speak of such things, but you wanted I should."

"Yee, I wanted you should. And now I am going to tell you what made me feel foolish about you. It was because you were so tall and strong-looking, and you had pretty eyelashes, and your hair had such a wave in it when it was long; and your mouth curved so at the corners, and you had such a deep voice. And you were so handsome; and once when we all went berrying, and I hurt my foot, and you lifted me over the wall--"

"I remember," said Lorenzo, joyfully, shyly.

"I didn't want you to put me down. Do you despise me for it?"


"You were afraid I despised you for thinking I had a pretty figure." Lorenzo was silent, as if he did not know what to say.

"We've been over this before, Althea," he spoke, at last.

She did not heed what he said, apparently. "That young woman, that Mrs. Cargate, has been telling me all about her love affairs, as she calls them. She was engaged three times before she got married. She says she has been in love with lots of men."

"Well; well!" said Lorenzo.

"And she has got their pictures, and they have got hers. She asked me if I had been engaged before. She says it's nothing to be engaged. She says that her husband says he first felt foolish about her when he saw her through the car-window eating candy and carrying on, as she calls it, with some other girls; and it was her regular teeth, and red lips when she was eating, that made him feel so."

"It's kind of--sickish," said Lorenzo.

"He came into the car, and he made an excuse to sit down by her when the other girls left, and she let him have a chance to squeeze her hand--he didn't know that she let him--"

"Don't, Althea!"

"And before she got out they were as good as engaged; she was dead in love with him, she says, from the first look, and he sent her his picture as soon as he got to New York."

"Well, well!"

"Her mother was opposed to her getting engaged again because she thought it was just another flirtation, and she had got sick of having her engaged so much. She told me just why she fell in love with each one, and what each one said he fell in love with her for."

"It don't seem exactly right," said Lorenzo. "She must have made you about sick with her talk."

"Her mother didn't like him when he first called--they promised to correspond before she got off the cars, and she told him where she lived--but she took to her bed, and her mother had to consent. Now her mother likes him as much is she does. They're the greatest friends, and when he found that he would have to go back to New York from here he kept it a secret from her and telegraphed for her mother to come up and stay with her, and she never knew anything about it till her mother came into the room."

"Well, it seems to have come all right, then," said Lorenzo, with a vague optimism but he moved uneasily under Althea's eye, and his smile faded.

"From all that I can make out," she said, "they fell in love with each other for the same things, or just about the same, as we got foolish about each other for. He thought she was handsome, and she thought he was handsome. Lorenzo, they fell in love with each other's looks!"

Lorenzo waited a moment before he said, with a certain reproach, "I thought you was smart too, Althea--smarter than I was."

"And I knew you were good, Lorenzo. But it didn't begin with that."

"Nay, it didn't begin with that," he owned.

"If it had begun with that," she went on, "I shouldn't ever have doubted about it for a second. It's the way it began that makes me afraid of it."

"I never saw it in that light before," said Lorenzo.

She drew a little away from him, and looked at him askance. "How do I know but I was trying to make you feel, all the time in the march, that I was graceful? How do I know but what I just thought my foot hurt, so that you would have to carry me--"

"Now, look here, Althea, that young woman has made you blame yourself for nothin'. You're perfectly notionate about it--"

She caught his hand where it lay next her on the seat, and pressed it nervously, piteously. "Try to think back--far back, Lorenzo--and see if there was not something different in your mind that made you foolish about me before you noticed that I was--sightly. See if you didn't think I was bright first. I shouldn't want them to say in the Family that we were taken with each other's looks."

Lorenzo thought, as he was bid. "Nay, I guess it was the looks first, as far as I went," he said, faithfully. "It was afterwards that I thought you was smart."

"Oh!" she said, and a little gush of tears came into her eyes.

They were both silent for a time, and then Lorenzo said, "I know it seems kind of demeanin', but I don't know as you can say it's wrong exactly. I presume it's the way that folks have begun to feel foolish ever since--there was any folks. And I presume the looks must have been given to us for some good purpose?" He suggested rather than asserted this, with his eyes fastened tenderly upon Althea's face, which, blurred with tears as it was, was still so pretty. She wiped her eyes with the handkerchief he had bought her that morning, and then tucked it, with a little vivid, graceful motion, into the waist of her dress.

When he began again it was with more confidence, more authority of tone. "The way I think we had ought to look at it is this: It's the body that contains the soul, and the body is outside of the soul, and it comes first, and it has a right to, as long as it's outside the soul. It can't help it, and the soul can't help it. But I believe we shall find each other in the soul more and more."

"Do you really think that, Lorenzo?"

"Yee, I do, and I wouldn't say it just to comfort you."

"I know you wouldn't, Lorenzo. You are true--truer than I am."

She rose, and they walked silently out of the park together. Beyond the gate he asked her, "Where would you like to go now, Althea?"

"To the minister's," she said.

Lorenzo arrested her in a panic. "Not unless you want to go there of your own accord, Althea."

"I do."

"Do you feel as if I had coaxed you to do it--hurried you any ?"

"Nay, you always do what you say you will do. If I only felt as sure of myself as I do of you!"

"Oh, I do!" said Lorenzo. "I presume," he continued, as if from the necessity of finding a reason for her conclusion, "you'll feel full better about lettin' that driver and the young woman think we're married if we really are married."

"Nay, what difference does that make now?" she demanded, scornfully.

"I don't know as it does a great deal," he assented.

"If we're like the world-outside in one thing, we must be like it in all," she said.

Lorenzo did not answer.

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