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Peter: A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero by F. Hopkinson Smith

Part 8 out of 8

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the fact that they are still in the possession of the couple, and
that none of them was ever exchanged for something else nor will
be until the end of time.

One curious-looking box, however, smelling of sandalwood and dried
cinnamon, and which arrived the day the ceremony took place, is
worthy of recall, because of the universal interest which it
excited. It was marked "Fragile" on the outside, and was packed
with extraordinary care. Miss Felicia superintended the unrolling
and led the chorus of "Oh, how lovely!" herself, when an Imari
jar, with carved teakwood stand, was brought to light. So
exquisite was it in glaze, form, and color that for a moment no
one thought of the donor. Then their curiosity got the better of
them and they began to search through the wrappings for the card.
It wasn't in the box; it wasn't hidden in the final bag; it
wasn't--here a bright thought now flashed through the dear lady's
brain--down went her shapely hand into the depths of the tall jar,
and up came an envelope bearing Ruth's name and enclosing a card
which made the grande dame catch her breath.

"Mr. Isaac Cohen! What--the little tailor!" she gasped out. "The
Jew! Well, upon my word--did you ever hear of such impudence!"

Isaac would have laughed the harder could he have seen her face.

Jack caught up the vase and ran with it to Ruth, who burst out
with another: "Oh, what a beauty!" followed by "Who sent it?"

"A gentleman journeyman tailor, my darling," said Jack, with a
flash of his eye at Peter, his face wreathed in smiles.

And with the great day--a soft November day--summer had lingered
on a-purpose--came the guests: the head of the house of Breen and
his wife--not poor Corinne, of course, who poured out her heart in
a letter instead, which she entrusted to her mother to deliver;
and Holker Morris and Mrs. Morris, and the Fosters and the
Granthams and Wildermings and their wives and daughters and sons,
and one stray general, who stopped over on his way to the West,
and who said when he entered, looking so very grand and important,
that he didn't care whether he had been invited to the ceremony or
not, at which Miss Felicia was delighted, he being a major-general
on the retired list, and not a poor tailor who--no, we won't refer
to that again; besides a very, VERY select portion of the dear
lady's townspeople--the house being small, as she explained, and
Miss MacFarlane's intimates and acquaintances being both
importunate and numerous.

And with the gladsome hour came the bride.

None of us will ever forget her. Not only was she a vision of rare
loveliness, but there was in her every glance and movement that
stateliness and grace that poise and sureness of herself that
marks the high-born woman the world over when she finds herself
the cynosure of all eyes.

All who saw her descend Miss Felicia's stairs held their breath in
adoration: Not a flight of steps at all. but a Jacob's ladder down
which floated a company of angels in pink and ivory--one all in
white, her lovely head crowned by a film of old lace in which
nestled a single rose.

On she came--slowly--proudly--her slippered feet touching the
carpeted steps as daintily as treads a fawn; her gown crinkling
into folds of silver about her knees, one fair hand lost in a mist
of gauze, the other holding the blossoms which Jack had pressed to
his lips--until she reached her father's side.

"Dear daddy," I heard her whisper as she patted his sleeve with
her fingers.

Ah! but it was a proud day for MacFarlane. I saw his bronzed and
weather-beaten face flush when he caught sight of her in all her
gracious beauty; but it was when she reached his side and laid her
hand on his arm, as he told me afterward, that the choke came. She
was so like her mother.

The two swept past me into the old-fashioned parlor, now a bower
of roses, where Jack and Peter and Felicia, with the elect, waited
their coming, and I followed, halting at the doorway. From this
point of vantage I peered in as best I could over and between the
heads of the more fortunate, but I heard all that went on; the
precise, sonorous voice of the bishop--(catch Miss Felicia having
anybody but a bishop); the clear responses--especially Jack's--as
if he had been waiting all his life to say those very words and
insisted on being heard; the soft crush of satin as Ruth knelt;
the rustle of her gown when she regained her feet; the measured
words: "Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder"--
and then the outbreak of joyous congratulations. As I looked in
upon them all--old fellow as I am--listening to their joyous
laughter; noting the wonderful toilettes, the festoons and masses
of flowers; watching Miss Felicia as she moved about the room (and
never had I seen her more the "Grande Dame" than she was that
day), welcoming her guests with a graciousness that must have
opened some of their eyes--even fat, red-faced Arthur Breen,
perspiring in pearl-colored gloves and a morning frock coat that
fitted all sides of him except the front, and Mrs. Arthur in moire
antique and diamonds, were enchanted; noting, too, Peter's
perfectly appointed dress and courtly manners, he taking the whole
responsibility of the occasion on his own shoulders--head of the
house, really, for the time; receiving people at the door; bowing
them out again; carrying glasses of punch--stopping to hobnob
with this or that old neighbor: "Ah, my dear Mrs. Townehalle, how
young and well you look; and you tell me this is your daughter. I
knew your mother, my dear, when she was your age, and she was the
very prettiest girl in the county. And now let me present you to a
most charming woman, Mrs. Foster, of New York, who--" etc., etc.
Or greeting some old gray-head with: "Well, well--of coarse it is
--why, Judge, I haven't seen you since you left the bench which you
graced so admirably," etc, etc.; watching, too, Ruth and Jack as
they stood beneath a bower of arching roses--(Miss Felicia had put
it together with her own hands)--receiving the congratulations and
good wishes of those they knew and those they did not know; both
trying to remember the names of strangers; both laughing over
their mistakes, and both famished for just one kiss behind some
door or curtain where nobody could see. As I looked on, I say,
noting all these and a dozen other things, it was good to feel
that there was yet another spot in this world of care where
unbridled happiness held full sway and joy and gladness were

But it was in the tropical garden, with its frog pond, climbing
roses in full bloom, water-lilies, honeysuckle, and other warm-
weather shrubs and plants (not a single thing was a-bloom outside,
even the chrysanthemums had been frost-bitten), that the greatest
fun took place. That was a sight worth ten nights on the train to

Here the wedding breakfast was spread, the bride's table being
placed outside that same arbor where Jack once tried so hard to
tell Ruth he loved her (how often have they laughed over it
since); a table with covers for seven, counting the two
bridesmaids and the two gallants in puffy steel-gray scarfs and
smooth steel-gray gloves. The other guests--the relations and
intimate friends who had been invited to remain after the
ceremony--were to find seats either at the big or little tables
placed under the palms or beneath the trellises of jasmine, or
upon the old porch overlooking the tropical garden.

It was Jack's voice that finally caught my attention. I could not
see clearly on account of the leaves and tangled vines, but I
could hear.

"But we want you, and you must."

"Oh, please, do," pleaded Ruth; there was no mistaking the music
of her tones, or the southern accent that softened them.

"But what nonsense--an old duffer like me!" This was Peter's
voice--no question about it.

"We won't any of us sit down if you don't," Jack was speaking now.

"And it will spoil everything," cried Ruth. "Jack and I planned it
long ago; and we have brought you out a special chair; and see
your card--see what it says: 'Dear Uncle Peter--'"

"Sit down with you young people at your wedding breakfast!" cried
Peter, "and--" He didn't get any farther. Ruth had stopped what
was to follow with a kiss. I know, for I craned my neck and caught
the flash of the old fellow's bald head with the fair girl's cheek
close to his own.

"Well, then--just as you want it--but there's the Major and
Felicia and your father."

But they did not want any of these people, Ruth cried with a
ringing laugh; didn't want any old people; they just wanted their
dear Uncle Peter, and they were going to have him; a resolution
which was put to vote and carried unanimously, the two pink
bridesmaids and the two steel-gray gentlemen voting the loudest.

The merriment ceased when Ruth disappeared and came back in a
dark-blue travelling dress and Jack in a brown suit. We were all
in the doorway, our hands filled with rose petals--no worn-out
slippers or hail of rice for this bride--when she tried to slip
through in a dash for the carriage, but the dear lady caught and
held her, clasping the girl to her heart, kissing her lips, her
forehead, her hands--she could be very tender when she loved
anybody; and she loved Ruth as her life; Peter and her father
going ahead to hold open the door where they had their kisses and
handshakes, their blessings, and their last words all to

The honeymoon slipped away as do all honeymoons, and one crisp,
cool December day a lumbering country stage containing two
passengers struggled up a steep hill and stopped before a long,
rambling building nearing completion. All about were piles of
partly used lumber, broken bundles of shingles, empty barrels, and
abandoned mortar beds. Straight from the low slanting roof with
its queer gables, rose a curl of blue smoke, telling of comfort
and cheer within. Back of it towered huge trees, and away off in
the distance swept a broad valley hazy in the morning light.

"Oh, Jack--what a love!" cried one passenger--she had alighted
with a spring, her cheeks aglow with the bracing mountain air, and
was standing taking it all in. "And, oh--see the porch!--and the
darling windows and the dear little panes of glass! And, Jack--"
she had reached the open door now, and was sweeping her eyes
around the interior--"Oh!--oh!--what a fireplace!--and such ducky
little shelves--and the flowers, and the table and the big easy
chairs and rugs! ISN'T it lovely!!"

And then the two, hand in hand, stepped inside and shut the door.


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