Well! that is really all. Tom had come home: those four little words hold the rest of Kitty Ross's story.
"The Duke of Lee Would married be To a gentlewoman of high quality." And "How happy would that gentlewoman be To be blessed with the Duke's good company!"
But—the refrain begins with "Marry!" Will you hear about the wedding? I came on for it, of course: I would have come ten times as far. Of course, too, if Tom had had his way, the way of his first masculine dash for possession, he and Kitty would have been married the morning after his arrival, with Sarepta for sole witness; but Kitty was firm. It would never do: Cyrus's feelings would be hurt.
"You don't know, darling, how perfectly angelic everybody has been to me, from the very moment I arrived. Why, Tom,—don't, dear! how can I talk when you—why, all these angel people wanted me to [pg 317] come and live with them!" Kitty very large-eyed with affectionate gratitude.
Tom opined it was like their impudence! and promptly repeated a manœuvre considered by him highly original, which resulted in the total eclipse of Kitty, all except the top of her little fair head. They were sitting on the old leather sofa in the sitting-room. It was a short sofa, and Kitty now decreed that Tom was to sit at the further end, and stay there, unless he would behave and listen to her. He couldn't hear unless he held her hand—both hands? What nonsense! Well, then——
"You see, dear! Cyrus is the blessedest place in the world, and the only place to live in; but there aren't many—many occasions, you see, Tom. Now a wedding is an occasion! Aunt Johanna's was delightful, but it had to be very small, because the Judge—I mean Uncle Edward—can't abide occasions."
"No more can I," said Tom.
"You'll have to abide them, sir! what are you a duke for, I should like to know? For me? That is no answer. Well—so—when I saw how disappointed they were—the Twinnies, and dear Miss Caddies, and the Chanter girls, and—oh, everybody except just the few people who had to be asked—I said then that if ever I should be married—though I never expected to be then—I would have a Real Wedding, and ask Everybody! Oh, Tommy! you know I heard——" Here followed an account of Tom's reported marriage to the cattle king's widow, marble palace and all. Tom shouted with laughter.
"Good old Mother Harris! Sixty years old, and weighs two hundred pounds; that is rich! She's married a Leigh all right: Tim, her head stockman. She's a good friend of mine, though, Kitty. Darling—Well, I have to have just one, after being married to Aunt Harris. Go on, you little precious, precious——"
"That's all!" said Kitty, demurely. "I want to have a Real Wedding, and to ask Everybody: Savory Bite and all, Tommy!"
So she had, and so she did. Some of the neighbors thought they would wait for the return of Judge and Mrs. Peters in September: but these did not know Tom Lee. Tom sent a cable the morning after his arrival. "Marry Kitty. When? Lee." The answer flashed back: "To-morrow. Joy. Peters." So that was all right.
It was the Reallest Wedding that ever was. The day was made on purpose, of diamond and sapphire and much fine gold of June sunshine. The church—I beg its pardon! the meeting-house; the beloved white box with its beautiful spire, its square pews, its towering pulpit, its everything that a meeting-house should have—was trimmed with masses of white lilac and spiræa, till, as the Centinel said next day, it was a Palace of Purity and a Temple of Troth. Madam Flynt gave the bride away; the dear bride, more lovely in her simple white gown than words can say. The bridegroom looked like Cortez the Conqueror, Miss Croly said: "So majestic, yet so affable, my love!" There were six bridesmaids in pink muslin; I myself, [pg 319] the three Chanters, Lissy Wibird, who was to be married next month, and—I wonder if anybody in the world except Kitty Ross would have asked Cissy Sharpe to stand up with her! We all protested, I am rather ashamed to remember; but Kitty said Cissy was a schoolmate just as much as the rest of us, and it would be unkind to leave her out; and I am bound to say it was the making over of Cissy, who really was pathetic in her adoration of Kitty ever after.
Mr. Jordano was head usher, cloak and all, very superb; the others were Mr. Mallow and Billy and the three Chanters. I don't know which was prouder, the eldest usher, or the youngest. Each thought it preposterous for the other to figure in "such a caparison," as Mr. Mallow put it, but that did not matter. Sixty and sixteen, Kitty loved them both: loved everybody, and Tom loved them because she did. They even had qualms of conscience about Wilson Wibird: but Wilson had left town shortly before.
Miss Croly played the wedding march, shedding so many happy tears that the notes were not all exactly right, but nobody minded; the choir sang, "The Voice That Breathed": Mr. Chanter kissed the bride; it was over, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lee came down the aisle, smiling greetings on either hand. Then who so glorious as John Tucker, sitting on the box of the barouche (the only one in Cyrus!) holding the reins over Dan and Pilot, who wondered why they were harnessed together, but comported themselves with perfect dignity? White cockade in his hat, white bow on his whip, white rosettes on the horses' ears, brand [pg 320] new white reins—who so glorious as John Tucker? Rheumatism? He never heard of such a thing!
"Don't sit too straight, John!" said Tom. "You might strain your back!"
Roars of laughter from John Tucker at this subtle jest. So, through the Street (in case anybody had not been able to get to the church; but apparently everybody had!) up the hill, round the Common in state, to the door of Ross House.
And the door was opened by Sarepta, the faithful retainer, in her best dress, with tears in her faithful eyes? Nothing of the sort! If any one thought Sarepta could bother with doors to-day—no, Jenny couldn't either! Jenny could set the door open and then set down and beat them eggs. If folks didn't know enough to come in, they could stay out. The idea!
So the door stood wide open, as indeed was its summer habit, and in came the happy pair, and after them trooped Cyrus, which had walked across the Common while they were driving round through the Street. All Cyrus! except dear Miss Anne Peace, who had whipped up the back stairs so as to be ready to "help off" in the ladies' dressing-room. Why, would any one have believed it? Savory Bite came! Tom had called on him, it afterward transpired, and told him that if he didn't come, he would find his kitchen painted green some fine morning. So here he was, to the amazement of all, in decent black, cracking his finger-joints, sidling off if any one spoke to him, but evidently enjoying himself in his way. He spent much [pg 321] of the time in the upper room where the presents were displayed: the most delightful presents that any one ever had, Kitty thought. Madam Flynt's emeralds were perhaps the most valuable, from a pecuniary point of view (if one excepted the jewels that Tom had been producing at intervals ever since his return) but just as precious in Kitty's eyes was the Lowestoft tea-set, hitherto the pride of "Miss Bygoods'" china cupboard; the pink lustre jug over which the Misses Caddie shed tears at parting (yet which they gave so gladly!) the unparalleled collection of "wipers," roller-towels, and dusters, all hemmed by Mr. Mallow's own hands and tied up in dozens with pink ribbons: the centrepiece which Mr. Josiah Jebus regarded as the "shay-dove" of his professional life.
"But meanwhile in the kitchen Great deeds of arms were wrought; There S'repta the Dictator, And there Cheesemanius fought!"
as Tom said. Uncle Ivory Cheeseman had asked the privilege of frosting the cakes; asked it of Sarepta as one potentate of another, conferring and asking honor. Sarepta, who had hitherto refused all offers of assistance save from Sarah and Abby Ann, accepted this: royalty received royalty; Uncle Ivory ranged through the kitchen like the Frost King in person. According to Sarepta, he frosted everything he could lay hands on.
"My land!" she said. "I had to ketch him by the [pg 322] coat-tails to stop him from frosting the boned turkey! why, the man was fairly loony!"
Mr. Cheeseman was not so "loony" but that he could appreciate the triumphs of a fellow-artist. I fancy he did not really mean to frost the boned turkey: he certainly hung over it in fervent admiration, pronouncing it a work of art, sir! When it came to the café mousse, words failed him. He cast several thoughtful glances at Sarepta and finally asked in a casual way if she had ever thought of changing her state.
"No, I ain't!" said Sarepta.
After another glance, he didn't know but she was wise, and expected a single life was more handy like when one was used to it.
Well! the Olympian Banquet—I should say the wedding breakfast—was served, and was enjoyed as I cannot think any banquet ever was before. Mr. Mallow and Mr. Jordano made speeches, each in his own vein. The former said well! well! well! how about it? He expected if Kitty and Tom conjingled as well as what we and this dandy spread did, there wouldn't any divorcee lawyer make his fortune out of them, what say? He, Mr. Mallow, wasn't no hand at speechifyin', we all knew that, but he wished 'em joy—here the good man's voice quavered a little—and he looked to Mr. Jordano to speak up for him and the rest of us.
Mr. Jordano rose with dignity, his cloak thrown back over one shoulder in his best style. (Yes, it was funny to wear it at table, but he wanted to so dreadfully, [pg 323] I had not the heart to say "No!" when he consulted me!)
"Ladies and gentlemen-ten-ten!" He swept a splendid circular bow. "On this auspicious occasion, when the ashes—I would say the spirits of our fathers look down from the azure empyrean to hallow this union; when I gaze upon the countenances of the bride in her radiant youth-tooth-tooth, and of the groom in the—a—stalwart pride of his manhood; when I see highly esteemed neighbors—I will venture to say friends—("Hear! Hear!" and applause) gathered in festal garb-barb-barb about a banquet so, so—sumptuoso, if I may use the language of sunny Italy, as to impart a truly Olympian flavor to the occasion; I cannot but feel, in the words of the poet, the heart in my dumb breast flutter and sing-ting-ting. No poet, but a humble worshiper at the shrine of the Muses, I have ventured to—a—shall I say crystallize these flutterings—into——" Mr. Jordano produced a paper from beneath his cloak—"into the following brief roundelay." And clearing his throat nervously, the paper trembling in his fingers, the dear gentleman read as follows:
"A simple scribe, I yet imbibe Of Helicon a draught, And pray that doom o'er bride and groom The airs of Eden waft! Ay! may they capture of wedded rapture A homogeneous whole, Good angels shedding upon their wedding The blessings of the soul!"
This effusion was received with wild applause, and Mr. Jordano sat down very happy. Tom, his eyes dancing, replied briefly, making us all laugh. Then Kitty spoke a few tremulous words that made us all cry, herself included. Then she floated up the stairs, a white cloud (throwing back her bouquet, which dear Miss Croly caught!) and floated down a gray one, touched with morning rose; and then—then the Duke of Lee took his bride away, while we all waved our handkerchiefs and cried and laughed and showered blessings after them. And by and by he brought her back to live in blessed Cyrus, which really is the only place to live in, "and no lady in the City could with her compare!"
——then the Duke of Lee took his bride away.
"Marry oo, diddy glu, Diddy glu, glu, glu: Diddy oo, oo, oo, Diddy goo, goo, goo! Marry oo, diddy goo, Diddy goo, goo, goo! Marry oo, diddy goo, diddy goo!"