Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. IXXI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 18611889
A Sentimentalists Second Marriage
By Miriam Coles Harris (18341925)
[Born on Dosoris Island, L. I. Sound, N. Y., 1834. Died in Pau, France, 1925. A Perfect Adonis. 1875.]
THERE was a second wedding-day; this time no white silk and orange blossoms; no dull elderly people in the way, and no smell of fried oysters. Dorla and Felix walked down the long aisle of a silent, crowded church. (To fill it had been Harriets business and pleasure.) There might have been ten or ten thousand people, it would have been the same to Dorla; she walked beside the man she loved through this gay crowd, as she would have walked through a forest, or through a flowering garden. There was a dreamy look on her face; she plainly was not occupied with the thought of how her dress hung, nor how her back hair would look from the chancel steps. She even forgot to hold her bouquet in a tight grasp against her waist, but walked past the attentive spectators, with the unfortunate flowers trailing against her dress, as they hung in her hand. She wore pearl-color, and her dress was beautiful.
Abby had not dared to speak while they passed her, but now, under cover of the prayers, she talked incessantly. She hated the prayers, and meant to laugh at everything; she no longer looked as if the world lay before her, but as if she had passed through one very dreary and hateful part of it, and as if she were resolved to gain a reckless enjoyment from the present. She looked years older than she was, and much like other women now, for prettiness. The charm of freshness was quite gone. During the benediction, she talked in a stage whisper about the brides bonnet; but when they passed down the aisle beside her, she drew her breath quick; that Quebec experience had gone deep. There walked the man to whom in his perfect beauty she had given her heart; and in a certain way, a woman has but one heart to give. She did not love him now; but she could never be the same again, for having loved him.
When the newly married people had passed out of the church, the assembly relaxed its attention, and broke up in babble and confusion. Miss Greyson, in a waterproof suit and felt hat, was joined by Mr. Oliver, well preserved, and unimpaired by time or by emotion. Miss Greysons father had failed, and she had been permitted to teach school, and to attend medical lectures, and to do every strong-minded thing that her soul delighted in. She held Dorla in great contempt.
And so on, pages of old-bachelory talk. He felt sure Miss Greyson did not know that he had once offered himself to Dorla; indeed he could hardly believe it now himself. It was quite safe to talk to Miss Greyson in this way. He had talked so forty times, indeed he always talked so, and no one would suspect where the truth lay.
Mr. Davis, who had been married several years, and whose wife was dowdy, made his way over to them, and said with a sigh: Ah, Miss Greyson, it doesnt seem like six years since that morning in the Conneshaugh! Who would have thought it! But Mrs. Rothermel, I beg her pardon, Mrs. Varian, doesnt look a day older than she did then.
Mrs. Bishop was crying a good deal, and got out of a side door with the help of a nephew (not Henry). Poor Henry was now in South America trying to learn the ways of a great mercantile house, and saving up beetles and butterflies for Missy; working with one part of his brain, and dreaming with the other. He could not get over the habit of loving his love with a C. Mrs. Bishop had not more than half forgiven Dorla, but it was very necessary to her to have some friends who were not weary of her age, and who would fill up the many empty hours of her days, and Dorla was the most conscientious friend she had, and so she had to be forgiven, wholly or in part. Felix was quite resolved this sort of thing should not go on, after he had power to stop it. This sort of thing was a daily visit of Mrs. Rothermel to Mrs. Bishop, and endless arrangements for her comfort or pleasure. It was naturally not all that a lover could ask, to have the drive in the park daily spoiled by the addition of a cross child or a querulous old lady. But a man who marries a conscientious woman must make up his mind to this sort of thing, till he has power to put a stop to it.
Possibly he felt as if the time had come to put a stop to one nuisance at least, when, an hour after the benediction had been said over Dorlas head and his, he stood in the hall waiting for her to come from her room, where he knew she was saying good-bye to Missy. The carriage was at the door; the trunks had long been sent away; Dorla in her travelling-dress at last came down the stairs. There had been a tempest, he knew. But all was silent now, and Dorla was very pale. She had just reached the foot of the stairs, and Felix was saying with a smile, Do people ever get left on their wedding journeys? when there was a rush of pursuer and pursued, and Missy, with a white face, slid down the stairs like a spirit, and flung herself upon her mother with a cry.
Missy got her tiny, fierce fingers clutched in her mothers dress; she was like a little maniac; all attempts to take her away without positive violence were unavailing. It was pitiful to see her. Her wedding finery had not been taken off. She was white to her fingers ends. Her short, pale hair stood out in a frizz about her poor, passionate little face; her light eyes were full of an expression of violent emotion, strange on such baby features. The servants who had come into the hall to see their mistresss departure, stood around in perplexity and dismay. The nurse coaxed, wrestled, was despairing.
For shame, Missy, get up, for shame! cried the nurse, stooping to interfere. Dorla bent down and tried to lift her up; but she clutched the sill of the door with all her strength, and screaming and sobbing, lay face down, a barrier between her mother and the outer world. Felix standing outside with lips compressed, looked on a moment silently.
She took it, and stepping over Missy as she lay, followed him down the steps and into the carriage without a look behind. The servants picked up the little figure and hustled her off into the house, before the carriage-door shut after Felix.
Felix, she said, be good to me this once; I never will be so weak again; just let me go back. It will kill the child. I know she will be ill to-night. All alone with servantsand they do not love herthink of it, Felix. How can I go away and leave her?
We cannot go back; you must see that is impossible. But we need not stay very long away, nor go far off from the city. You shall have a telegram every hour while we are away, if that will comfort you.
So Felix called to the coachman, and stopped at an office, and had arrangements made by which a telegram should reach them by the hour of nine; and it is to be presumed he felt wrathful and mortified to have to give the order. But when he went back to the carriage, he found Dorla looking relieved. It had taken a great load off her heart to know that she should hear again from Missy that night; the separation would not seem so monstrous; she would yet watch over her going to sleep, as she had never failed to do.
Its a bad beginning, he said, trying to smile as he shut the carriage-door, but I have sent a telegram at the same time, countermanding my orders to Philadelphia. We will just go over to and maybe we can get some decent rooms, and maybe we cant. But youll have the happiness of knowing that you can get to Missy in an hour, if she does not enjoy her bread and milk without you.
Felix! cried Dorla, reddening with shame, while at the same time a weight was lifted from her heart. You are better to me than I deserve. You must think me so unreasonable; but I cant tell you how cruel it seemed to me to be going away, and leaving poor Missy there crying in her jealousy and misery.
This you may understand, at least, said Dorla, that I am not fit to be a nun, or I suppose I should have been one. I am a failure, dont you see, Felix. Ive spoiled Missy. Ive never been able to make a good housekeeper. I am afraid I never helped poor Harry any. I dont know that I was ever any comfort to mamma. And I wasntIAnd perhaps, I shall not make you happy after all. I cant see what I was created for.