Nothing could have been more unlike than the two pairs of lovers who from April to August haunted Mr. Yule's house. One pair was of the popular order, for Mark was tenderly tyrannical, Jessie adoringly submissive, and at all hours of the day they were to be seen making tableaux of themselves. The other pair were of the peculiar order, undemonstrative and unsentimental, but quite as happy. Moor knew his power, but used it generously, asking little while giving much. Sylvia as yet found nothing to regret, for so gently was she taught, the lesson could not seem hard, and when her affection remained unchanged in kind, although it deepened in degree, she said within herself--
"That strong and sudden passion was not true love, but an unwise, unhappy delusion of my own. I should be glad that it is gone, because I know I am not fit to be Warwick's wife. This quiet feeling which Geoffrey inspires must be a safer love for me, and I should be grateful that in making his happiness I may yet find my own."
She tried heartily to forget herself in others, unconscious that there are times when the duty we owe ourselves is greater than that we owe to them. In the atmosphere of cheerfulness that now surrounded her she could not but be cheerful, and soon it would have been difficult to find a more harmonious household than this. One little cloud alone remained to mar the general sunshine. Mark was in a frenzy to be married, but had set his heart on a double wedding, and Sylvia would not fix the time, always pleading--
"Let me be quite sure of myself before I take this step, and do not wait."
Matters stood thus till Mark, having prepared his honeymoon cottage, as a relief to his impatience, found it so irresistible that he announced his marriage for the first of August, and declared no human power should change his purpose. Sylvia promised to think of it, but gave no decided answer, for though she would hardly own it to herself she longed to remain free till June was past. It came and went without a sign, and July began before the longing died a sudden death, and she consented to be married.
Mark and Jessie came in from the city one warm morning and found Sylvia sitting idly in the hall. She left her preparations all to Prue, who revelled in such things, and applied herself diligently to her lesson as if afraid she might not learn it as she should. Half way up stairs Mark turned and said, laughing--
"Sylvia, I saw Searle to-day,--one of the fellows whom we met on the river last summer,--and he began to tell me something about André and the splendid cousin, who is married and gone abroad it seems. I did not hear much, for Jessie was waiting; but you remember the handsome Cubans we saw at Christmas, don't you?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Well, I thought you'd like to know that the lad had gone home to Cleopatra's wedding, so you cannot have him to dance at yours. Have you forgotten how you waltzed that night?"
"No, I've not forgotten."
Mark went off to consult Prue, and Jessie began to display her purchases before eyes that only saw a blur of shapes and colors, and expatiate upon their beauties to ears that only heard the words--"The splendid cousin is married and gone abroad."
"I should enjoy these pretty things a thousand times more if you would please us all by being married when we are," sighed Jessie, looking at her pearls.
"What, really? Sylvia, you are a perfect darling! Mark! Prue! she says she will!"
Away flew Jessie to proclaim the glad tidings, and Sylvia, with a curious expression of relief, regret, and resolve, repeated to herself that decided--
Every one took care that Miss Caprice should not have time to change her mind. The whole house was soon in a bustle, for Prue ruled supreme. Mr. Yule fled from the din of women's tongues, the bridegrooms were kept on a very short allowance of bride, and Sylvia and Jessie were almost invisible, for milliners and mantua-makers swarmed about them till they felt like animated pin-cushions. The last evening came at length, and Sylvia was just planning an escape into the garden when Prue, whose tongue wagged as rapidly as her hands worked, exclaimed--
"How can you stand staring out of window when there is so much to do? Here are all these trunks to pack, Maria in her bed with every tooth in a frightful state of inflammation, and that capable Jane What's-her-name gone off while I was putting a chamomile poultice on her face. If you are tired sit down and try on all your shoes, for though Mr. Peggit has your measure, those absurd clerks seem to think it a compliment to send children's sizes to grown women. I'm sure my rubbers were a perfect insult."
Sylvia sat down, tugged on one boot and fell into a reverie with the other in her hand, while Prue clacked on like a wordmill in full operation.
"How I'm ever to get all these gowns into that trunk passes my comprehension. There's a tray for each, of course; but a ball dress is such a fractious thing. I could shake that Antoinette Roche for disappointing you at the last minute; and what you are to do for a maid, I don't know. You'll have so much dressing to do you will be quite worn out; and I want you to look your best on all occasions, for you will meet everybody. This collar won't wear well; Clara hasn't a particle of judgment, though her taste is sweet. These hose, now, are a good, firm article; I chose them myself. Do be sure you get all your things from the wash. At those great hotels there's a deal of pilfering, and you are so careless."
Here Sylvia came out of her reverie with a sigh that was almost a groan.
"Don't they fit? I knew they wouldn't!" said Prue, with an air of triumph.
"The boots suit me, but the hotels do not; and if it was not ungrateful, after all your trouble, I should like to make a bonfire of this roomful of haberdashery, and walk quietly away to my new home by the light of it."
As if the bare idea of such an awful proceeding robbed her of all strength, Miss Yule sat suddenly down in the trunk by which she was standing. Fortunately it was nearly full, but her appearance was decidedly ludicrous as she sat with the collar in one uplifted hand, the hose in the other, and the ball dress laid over her lap like a fainting lady; while she said, with imploring solemnity, which changed abruptly from the pathetic to the comic at the end of her speech--
"Sylvia, if I ever cherished a wish in this world of disappointment, it is that your wedding shall have nothing peculiar about it, because every friend and relation you've got expects it. Do let me have the comfort of knowing that every one was surprised and pleased; for if the expression was elegant (which it isn't, and only suggested by my trials with those dressmakers), I should say I was on pins and needles till it's all over. Bless me! and so I am, for here are three on the floor and one in my shoe." Prue paused to extract the appropriate figure of speech which she had chosen, and Sylvia said--
"If we have everything else as you wish it, would you mind if we didn't go the journey?"
"Of course I should. Every one goes a wedding trip, it's part of the ceremony; and if two carriages and two bridal pairs don't leave here to-morrow, I shall feel as if all my trouble had been thrown away."
"I'll go, Prue, I'll go; and you shall be satisfied. But I thought we might go from here in style, and then slip off on some quieter trip. I am so tired I dread the idea of frolicking for a whole month, as Mark and Jessie mean to do."
It was Prue's turn to groan now, and she did so dismally. But Sylvia had never asked a favor in vain, and this was not the moment to refuse to her anything, so worldly pride yielded to sisterly affection, and Prue said with resignation, as she fell to work more vigorously than ever, because she had wasted five good minutes--
"Do as you like, dear, you shall not be crossed on your last day at home. Ask Geoffrey, and if you are happy I'm satisfied."
Before Sylvia could thank her sister there came a tap and a voice asking--
"Might I come in?"
"If you can get in," answered Prue, as, reversing her plan in her hurry, she whisked the collar into a piecebag and the hose into a bandbox.
Moor paused on the threshold in a masculine maze, that one small person could need so much drapery.
"May I borrow Sylvia for a little while? A breath of air will do her good, and I want her bright and blooming for to-morrow, else young Mrs. Yule will outshine young Mrs. Moor."
"What a thoughtful creature you are, Geoffrey. Take her and welcome, only pray put on a shawl, Sylvia, and don't stay out late, for a bride with a cold in her head is the saddest of spectacles."
Glad to be released Sylvia went away, and, dropping the shawl as soon as she was out of Prue's sight, paced up and down the garden walks upon her lover's arm. Having heard her wish and given a hearty assent Moor asked--
"Where shall we go? Tell me what you would like best and you shall have it. You will not let me give you many gifts, but this pleasure you will accept from me I know."
"You give me yourself, that is more than I deserve. But I should like to have you take me to the place you like best. Don't tell me beforehand, let it be a surprise."
"I will, it is already settled, and I know you will like it. Is there no other wish to be granted, no doubt to be set at rest, or regret withheld that I should know? Tell me, Sylvia, for if ever there should be confidence between us it is now."
As he spoke the desire to tell him of her love for Adam rose within her, but with the desire came a thought that modified the form in which impulse prompted her to make confession. Moor was both sensitive and proud, would not the knowledge of the fact mar for him the friendship that was so much to both? From Warwick he would never learn it, from her he should have only a half confidence, and so love both friend and wife with an untroubled heart. Few of us can always control the rebellious nature that so often betrays and then reproaches, few always weigh the moment and the act that bans or blesses it, and where is the life that has not known some turning-point when a fugitive emotion has decided great issues for good or ill? Such an emotion came to Sylvia then, and another temptation, wearing the guise of generosity, urged her to another false step, for when the first is taken a second inevitably follows.
"I have no wish, no regret, nothing but the old doubt of my unstable self, and the fear that I may fail to make you happy. But I should like to tell you something. I don't know that you will care for it, or that there is any need to tell it, but when you said there should be confidence between us, I felt that I wanted you to know that I had loved some one before I loved you."
He did not see her face, he only heard her quiet voice. He had no thought of Adam, whom she had known so short a time, who was already bound; he only fancied that she spoke of some young lover who had touched her heart, and while he smiled at the nice sense of honor that prompted the innocent confession, he said, with no coldness, no curiosity in voice or face--
"No need to tell it, dear. I have no jealousy of any one who has gone before me. Rest assured of this, for if I could not share so large a heart with one who will never claim my share I should not deserve it."
"That is so like you! Now I am quite at ease."
He looked down at her as she went beside him, thinking that of all the brides he had ever seen his own looked least like one.
"I always thought that you would make a very ardent lover, Sylvia. That you would be excited, gay, and brilliant at a time like this. But you are so quiet, so absorbed, and so unlike your former self that I begin to think I do not know you yet."
"You will in time. I am passionate and restless by nature, but I am also very sensitive to all influences, personal or otherwise, and were you different from your tranquil, sunshiny self, I too should change. I am quiet because I seem in a pleasant state, half-waking, half dreaming, from which I never wish to wake. I am tired of the past, contented with the present, and to you I leave the future."
"It shall be a happy one if I can make it so, and to-morrow you will give me the dear right to try."
"Yes," she said, and thinking of the solemn promises to be then made, she added, thoughtfully, "I think I love, I know I honor, I will try to obey. Can I do more?"
Well for them both if they could have known that friendship is love's twin, and the gentle sisters are too often mistaken for each other. That Sylvia was innocently deceiving both her lover and herself, by wrapping her friendship in the garb her lost love had worn, forgetting that the wanderer might return and claim its own, leaving the other to suffer for the borrowed warmth. They did not know it, and walked tranquilly together in the summer night, planning the new life as they went, and when they parted Moor pointed to a young moon hanging in the sky.
"See, Sylvia, our honeymoon has risen."
"May it be a happy one!"
"It will be, and when the anniversary of this glad night comes round it shall be shining still. God bless my little wife."