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William Dean Howells (1837-1920)


The Day of Their Wedding

By William Dean Howells, 1895

XIII



IT was the minister himself again who opened the lattice door to them. "Oh, here you are back. I am glad to see you. Well, have you made up your minds?" He spoke while they were getting through the entry into his dim parlor, with a tone of pleasantry.

Althea took the word. "Yee, we have made up our minds."

"And you really intend to get married this time?" He looked at Lorenzo.

"Yee, we do."

"I suppose you've thought it over thoroughly. I wish all the young people who come to me would do so. It would save a great deal of hopeless and useless thinking afterwards. If you'll sit down I will call my wife, and--"

He left them alone a moment, and Lorenzo whispered, "Althea, if you want to ask him again how he looks at that point in Luke--"

"Nay, we can see it as clearly as he can. We have got all the light there is."

"Yee, I presume that is so."

They had each other by the hand, and she pressed his hand convulsively, "Don't say anything more, Lorenzo."

"Just as you say, Althea."

After a little delay the minister returned, bringing his wife with him--a short, stout little bruuette, who had the effect of having hurriedly encased herself for the occasion in a black silk dress she wore. She glanced at Althea with a certain dislike or defiance in her look, as one does at a stranger whom one has heard prejudicial things of; and if the minister had told her of Althea's misgivings it might well have incensed a wife and mother.

He introduced them to her as Miss Brown and Mr. Weaver, and he said, "Well, now, if you will take your places," and when they stood before him he began the ceremony. Lorenzo, when he was asked if he would take Althea to be his wedded wife, helplessly answered, "Yee," and Althea did the same in her turn.

when they stood before him he began the ceremony

The light of a smile came over the minister's face at their answers, and when he had pronounced them man and wife and blessed them, he said, laughing, "I suppose that this comes as near being a Shaker wedding as any could. Did you make the responses purposely in Shaker parlauce?"

"Did we say yee?" Lorenzo asked of Althea.

"Yee, we did," she said, and he smiled, but she did not. "I heard you say it, and I guess I did."

They both sat down again, and the minister's wife was about to sit down too, seeing that they were not going away, when there came loud cries of grief and rage from the back of the house, and she ran out to still them. The minister went to a writing-desk and filled up a certificate of marriage, which he handed to Althea, and then he sat down too.

"I don't know why we always make the ladies the custodians of these things, but we do. I think myself it's often quite as important to the husband to know that he is married.

"And are we married now?" she faltered. "Is that all?"

"Quite. It wasn't so very formidable, was it?"

"But--but--" She stopped, as if in a fright. "But it isn't over? I thought--I thought there was something more; and that--that--Do you mean that now we couldn't change?"

"Why, surely," said the minister, "you understood what you were doing? Didn't you suppose that when I asked you if you would take this man for your husband, I was asking you if you would marry him?"

"Yee, I knew that. But I didn't think that was all there was to it."

"I presume," Lorenzo began, "that it's because you ain't used to it, Althea."

The minister broke in with a laugh. "It's to be hoped that you won't get into the habit of it, Mrs. Weaver; some people do. But you're quite right about it, in one sense. This isn't all there is of marriage, aud it isn't all over by any means. It's just begun." He sat rocking and smiling at them, and they remained rigidly upright in their chairs.

"I presume," said Lorenzo, "that there's some charge. How much will it be?"

The minister seemed amused at the bluntness of the demand. "There's no fee." He had apparently a little difficulty in adding, "It is something we always leave to the bridegroom."

Lorenzo took out his roll of bank-notes. He peeled one off the roll, and handed it to the minister. "That be enough?"

The minister took the ten-dollar note and looked at it. "I think it would be altogether too much unless you are richer than I imagine."

"Well," said Lorenzo, proudly, "I started with a hundred dollars last night."

"And is that all your worldly wealth?"

"I've got a lot in Fitchburg that's worth four hundred more."

"Is that so?" asked the minister. "You are a capitalist. Still, I think that if you happen to have a one-dollar bill in that roll I should prefer it."

"I guess I got one," said Lorenzo, with the same phlegm; and he looked among the notes till he found a dollar bill, which he gave to the minister.

"Ah, thank you," said the minister; and he added, "I don't suppose you had quite the training of a financier--a moneyed man--in the Family?"

Lorenzo laughed. "I never had a cent in my hands till a week ago, when I left the Family. The Trustees do all the buyin'."

"Is it possible, is it possible?" cried the minister. "You are of the resurrection, indeed! You begin to convert me! Do you think they would admit me to the Family ?"

"Oh, yee," said Lorenzo, gravely. "You would have to separate, and give up your children."

"Ah, that isn't so simple. At any rate, it requires reflection. But to be in a condition where the curse of money is taken away! What is the name of your family: Eden? Paradise? Golden Age?"

"Nay," returned Lorenzo, with seriousness; "we came from Harshire."

There seemed to he nothing more to say or do, but Lorenzo would probably not have got away of his own motion. It was Althea who had to say to the minister, "Well, good-afternoon;" and when he offered his hand in response, it was she who had first to take it. She did it very stiffly, hut Lorenzo gave it a large, loose grasp, and held it a moment, as if trying to think of something grateful, or at least fitting, before he said, "Well, good-afternoon," in his turn.





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