The autumn months were gone; December had come and "Christmas was coming." The negroes far and near had counted the days which must pass before their expected holidays. In Uncle Joshua's kitchen there was much talking and laughing, fixing and fussing, and some crying. Had you asked the cause of the crying, you would have been told that Miss Fanny was to be married Christmas Eve, and the week following she would leave them and start for New Orleans.
Preparations commenced on a large scale; for Uncle Joshua, a little proud, it may be, of his handsome house, had determined on a large party. The old gentleman even went so far as to order for himself a new suit of broadcloth, saying by way of apology that, "though the jeens coat and bagging pants did well enough for Josh, they wouldn't answer nohow for the father of Mrs. Dr. George Lacey."
A week before the wedding Florence, who loved dearly to be in a bustle, came laden with bandboxes and carpet bags. Hourly through the house rang her merry laugh, as she flitted hither and thither, actually doing nothing in her zeal to do everything. She had consented to be bridesmaid on condition that she should choose her own groomsman, who she said should be "Uncle Billy," as she always called Mr. William Middleton, "unless Providence sent her some one she liked better." Whether it were owing to Providence or to an invitation which went from Florence to New York we are unable to say, but two days before the 24th Uncle Joshua surprised Florence and Fanny by opening the door of the room where they were sitting, and saying, "Ho, my boy, here they be--come on."
The girls started up, and in a moment Frank stood between them, with an arm thrown around each. "Why, Mr. Cameron," said Florence, "what did you come for, and who knew you were coming?"
"I came to see you, and you knew I was coming," answered Frank.
"Well, then," returned Florence, "if you came to see me, do look at me, and not keep your eyes fixed so continually on Fanny. In a few days you will be breaking the commandment which says: 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.'"
"Possibly I might had I never seen you," answered Frank.
At a late hour that night Florence moved with soft footsteps about her sleeping room, fearing lest she should awaken Fanny. Her precautions were useless, for Fanny was awake; looking at Florence, she said, "Oh, Flory, you naughty girl, what makes you blush so dreadfully?"
The next half hour was spent by Florence in telling Fanny what Frank had just asked her in four or five words, and which she had answered in one, viz., if she would be his wife. "But then," said Florence, pretending to pout, "he was so conscientious that he had to tell me what I already knew, which was that he once loved you better than he should ever love another."
Frank had asked Florence to share his lot through life, and she, like any other good, prompt Kentucky girl, had readily answered "yes," although she was frightened next moment for fear she had been too easily won by the "cold Yankee," as she called him, and she proposed taking back what she said just for the sake of being teased. Mr. Woodburn came next day to bring Florence some article of dress, which she would need. He was not surprised when Frank, taking him aside, modestly asked for his daughter; he said, "Yes," almost as readily as Florence had done, and then it was hard telling which seemed most happy--Frank or Dr. Lacey.
The 24th of December came at last. We at the North who, during six months of the year, blow our benumbed fingers, can scarcely imagine how bright and beautiful are some of the clear warm days of a Kentucky winter. On this occasion, as if Nature had resolved to do her best, the day was soft and sunny as in early autumn, presenting a striking contrast to the wild, angry storm which rent the sky when once more 'neath Uncle Joshua's roof a bridal party was assembled.
As night approached, carriage after carriage rolled up the long, graveled pathway, until Ike declared, "Thar was no more room in the barns, and if any more came he'd have to drive them into the kitchen."
Up and down the broad stairway tripped light and joyous footsteps until the rooms above, which Luce had put in so exact order, presented a scene of complete confusion. Bandboxes were turned bottom-side up and their contents indiscriminately scattered until it was impossible to tell what was yours and what wasn't.
At length through the parlor door came Dr. Lacey and Fanny, followed by Frank Cameron and Florence. Throughout the rooms was a solemn hush as Fanny was made Dr. Lacey's wife. Firmly Dr. Lacey held her hand until the last word was spoken; then when he felt sure that she was his, he stooped down and whispered in her ear, "Thank God that you are mine at last."
Three days after the wedding Mr. Middleton's carriage again stood before the door. When all was ready, Uncle Joshua knelt down, and winding his arm around Fanny, prayed in simple, touching language that God would protect his Sunshine, and at last bring them all to the same home. "All of us; and don't let one be missing thar." There was a peculiar pathos in the tone of his voice as he said the last words, and all knew to whom he referred.
Long and wearisome at Mr. Middleton's were the days succeeding Fanny's departure, while in Dr. Lacey's home all was joy and gladness.
It was about dark when Dr. Lacey arrived. Happy as a bird, Fanny sprang up the steps. Everything about her seemed homelike and cheerful. Kind, dusky faces peered at her from every corner, while Aunt Dilsey, with a complacent smile, stood ready to receive her. Fanny was prepared to like everything, but there was something peculiarly pleasing to her in Aunt Dilsey's broad, good-humored face. Going up to her she took both her hands, and said, "I know we shall be good friends. I shall like you and you shall love me a little, won't you, just as the old aunties did I left in Kentucky?"
Aunt Dilsey hadn't expected all this, and the poor creature burst into tears, saying, "Lord bless the sweet miss! I'd die for her this minute, I would."
Rondeau, Leffie and the other blacks belonging to the establishment, now came forward, and in the crowd little Jack's bow was entirely unappreciated; but Fanny next day made amends by giving him nearly a pound of candy, which had the effect of making him sick a week, but he got well in time to be present at Leffie's wedding, which took place just a week after Dr. Lacey's return.
Leffie, who chanced to be just the size of her young mistress, was thrown into ecstasies by the gift of a thin pink and white silk dress, which Fanny presented to her for a bridal gown. Aunt Dilsey, in order to show her thanks, went down on her knees, a thing she never attempted again, as it took her such an unheard-of length of time to recover a standing posture. Dr. Lacey had made Leffie the present of a pair of gold earrings, so that she was really a pretty bride, and Rondeau was the happiest negro in all New Orleans.
As weddings seem to be the order of this chapter, we may here, as well as anywhere, dispose of Mrs. Carrington, whom, you will remember, Raymond said he would one day marry. When he left Frankfort, he had no definite idea as to what he should do, but after reaching Cincinnati, it occured to him that his mother had a wealthy old bachelor uncle living in St. Louis, and thither he determined to go. This uncle, Mr. Dunlap, received the young man cordially, for he was the first relative he had met with in years. There was something, too, in the manner with which Raymond introduced himself that won for him a place in the crusty old man's good opinion.
"I am Fred Raymond," said he, "your niece Helen's son, and as poor a jack as there is this side of California. They say you are a stingy old customer, but I don't care for that. You have got to give me some business, and a home, too."
Raymond's method of approaching the old gentleman was successful, and he at once gave him a good position, which later developed into a partnership.
Feeling himself established and finding Mrs. Carrington in St. Louis, Raymond pressed his suit, and they were eventually married.
The couple were disappointed in their expectations of a fortune, for within two years after the marriage Mr. Dunlap suddenly died. He had intended to make his will and make Raymond his heir, but like many other men he put it off until it was too late, and his property, which was found to be less than supposed, went back to his brothers and sisters, and from them to their children and grandchildren, so that Raymond got but a small share.
He, however, retained his position as a merchant, and struggled hard to keep his wife in the same circumstances to which she had been accustomed. She appreciated his kindness, and when at the end of three years she was the mother of three children, she concluded it was time to lay aside all desire for fashionable amusements, and she became a tolerably affectionate wife, and a wonderfully indulgent mother.