Part 8 out of 8
with their true interpretation. His load had been light, compared to his
mother's; he had only learned the true wrong in the hour of reparation;
and moreover, in assuming his father's name he became sensitive to the
prominence of its shame.
"Father," he answered, "if you have forfeited a son's obedience, you
have still a man's claim to be helped. Mother is right; it is in your
power to come nearer to us. She must stand aside and wait; but I can
cross the line which separates you, and from this time on I shall never
cross it to remind you of what is past and pardoned, but to help you,
and all of us, to forget it!"
Martha laid her hand upon Gilbert's shoulder, leaned up and kissed him
upon the cheek.
"Rest here!" she said. "Let a good word close the subject! Gilbert, take
your father out and show him your farm. Mother, it is near dinner-time;
I will help you set the table. After dinner, Mr. Barton, you and I will
ride home together."
Her words were obeyed; each one felt that no more should be said at that
time. Gilbert showed the barn, the stables, the cattle in the meadow,
and the fields rejoicing in the soft May weather; Martha busied herself
in kitchen and cellar, filling up the pauses of her labor with cheerful
talk; and when the four met at the table, so much of the constraint in
their relation to each other had been conquered, that a stranger would
never have dreamed of the gulf which had separated them a few hours
before. Martha shrewdly judged that when Alfred Barton had eaten at his
wife's table, they would both meet more easily in the future. She did
not expect that the breach could ever be quite filled; but she wished,
for Gilbert's sake, to make it as narrow as possible.
After dinner, while the horses were being saddled, the lovers walked
down the garden-path, between the borders of blue iris and
"Gilbert," said Martha, "are you satisfied with what has happened?"
"Yes," he answered, "but it has shown to me that something more must be
"Martha, are these the only two who should be brought nearer?"
She looked at him with a puzzled face. There was a laughing light in his
eyes, which brought a new lustre to here, and a delicate blush to her
"Is it not too soon for me to come?" she whispered.
"You have come," he answered; "you were in your place; and it will be
empty--the house will be lonely, the farm without its mistress--until
you return to us!"
The neighborhood had decreed it There was but one just, proper, and
satisfactory conclusion to all these events. The decision of Kennett was
unanimous that its story should be speedily completed. New-Garden,
Marlborough, and Pennsbury, so far as heard from, gave their hearty
consent; and the people would have been seriously disappointed--the tide
of sympathy might even have been checked--had not Gilbert Barton and
Martha Deane prepared to fulfil the parts assigned to them.
Dr. Deane, of course, floated with the current. He was too shrewd to
stand forth as a conspicuous obstacle to the consummation of the popular
sense of justice. He gave, at once, his full consent to the nuptials,
and took the necessary steps, in advance, for the transfer of his
daughter's fortune into her own hands. In short, as Miss Lavender
observed, there was an end of snarls. The lives of the lovers were taken
up, as by a skilful hand, and evenly reeled together.
Gilbert now might have satisfied his ambition (and the people, under the
peculiar circumstances of the case, would have sanctioned it) by buying
the finest farm in the neighborhood; but Martha had said,--
"No other farm can be so much _yours_, and none so welcome a home to me.
Let us be satisfied with it, at least for the first years."
And therein she spoke wisely.
It was now the middle of May, and the land was clothed in tender green,
and filled with the sweet breath of sap and bud and blossom. The vivid
emerald of the willow-trees, the blush of orchards, and the cones of
snowy bloom along the wood-sides, shone through and illumined even the
days of rain. The Month of Marriage wooed them in every sunny morning,
in every twilight fading under the torch of the lovers' star.
In spite of Miss Lavender's outcries, and Martha's grave doubts, a
fortnight's delay was all that Gilbert would allow. He would have
dispensed with bridal costumes and merrymakings,--so little do men
understand of these matters; but he was hooted down, overruled, ignored,
and made to feel his proper insignificance. Martha almost disappeared
from his sight during the interval. She was sitting upstairs in a
confusion of lutestring, whalebone, silk, and cambric; and when she came
down to him for a moment, the kiss had scarcely left her lips before she
began to speak of the make of his new coat, and the fashion of the
articles he was still expected to furnish.
If he visited Fairthorn's, it was even worse. The sight of him threw
Sally into such a flutter that she sewed the right side of one breadth
to the wrong side of another, attempted to clear-starch a woollen
stocking, or even, on one occasion, put a fowl into the pot, unpicked
and undressed. It was known all over the country that Sally and Mark
Deane were to be bridesmaid and groomsman, and they both determined to
make a brave appearance.
But there was another feature of the coming nuptials which the people
did not know. Gilbert and Martha had determined that Miss Betsy Lavender
should be second bridesmaid, and Martha had sent to Wilmington for a
purple silk, and a stomacher of the finest cambric, in which to array
her. A groomsman of her age was not so easy to find; but young Pratt,
who had stood so faithfully by Gilbert during the chase of Sandy Flash,
merrily avowed his willingness to play the part; and so it was settled
without Miss Lavender's knowledge.
The appointed morning came, bringing a fair sky, mottled with gentle,
lingering clouds, and a light wind from the west. The wedding company
were to meet at Kennett Square, and then ride to Squire Sinclair's,
where the ceremony would be performed by that magistrate; and before ten
o'clock, the hour appointed for starting, all the surrounding
neighborhood poured into the village. The hitching-bar in front of the
Unicorn, and every post of fence or garden-paling, was occupied by the
tethered horses. The wedding-guests, comprising some ten or fifteen
persons, assembled at Dr. Deane's, and each couple, as they arrived,
produced an increasing excitement among the spectators.
The fact that Alfred Barton had been formally pardoned by his wife and
son, did not lessen the feeling with which he was regarded, but it
produced a certain amount of forbearance. The people were curious to
know whether he had been bidden to the wedding, and the conviction was
general that he had no business to be there. The truth is, it had been
left free to him whether to come or not, and he had very prudently
chosen to be absent.
Dr. Deane had set up a "chair," which was to be used for the first time
on this occasion. It was a ponderous machine, with drab body and wheels,
and curtains of drab camlet looped up under its stately canopy. When it
appeared at the gate, the Doctor came forth, spotless in attire, bland,
smiling, a figure of sober gloss and agreeable odors. He led Mary Barton
by the hand; and her steel-colored silk and white crape shawl so well
harmonized with his appearance, that the two might have been taken for
man and wife. Her face was calm, serene, and full of quiet gratitude.
They took their places in the chair, the lines were handed to the
Doctor, and he drove away, nodding right and left to the crowd.
Now the horses were brought up in pairs, and the younger guests began to
mount. The people gathered closer and closer; and when Sam appeared,
leading the well-known and beloved Roger, there was a murmur which, in
a more demonstrative community, would have been a cheer. Somebody had
arranged a wreath of lilac and snowy viburnum, and fastened it around
Roger's forehead; and he seemed to wear it consciously and proudly. Many
a hand was stretched forth to pat and stroke the noble animal, and
everybody smiled when he laid his head caressingly over the neck of
Finally, only six horses remained unmounted; then there seemed to be a
little delay in-doors. It was explained when young Pratt appeared, bold
and bright, leading the reluctant Miss Lavender, rustling in purple
splendor, and blushing--actually blushing--as she encountered the eyes
of the crowd. The latter were delighted. There was no irony in the voice
that cried,--"Hurrah for Betsy Lavender!" and the cheer that followed
was the expression of a downright, hearty good will. She looked around
from her saddle, blushing, smiling, and on the point of bursting into
tears; and it was a godsend, as she afterwards remarked, that Mark Deane
and Sally Fairthorn appeared at that moment.
Mark, in sky-blue coat and breeches, suggested, with his rosy face and
yellow locks, a son of the morning; while Sally's white muslin and
cherry-colored scarf heightened the rich beauty of her dark hair and
eyes, and her full, pouting lips. They were a buxom pair, and both were
too happy in each other and in the occasion, to conceal the least
expression of it.
There now only remained our hero and heroine, who immediately followed.
No cheer greeted them, for the wonderful chain of circumstances which
had finally brought them together, made the joy of the day solemn, and
the sympathy of the people reverential. Mark and Sally represented the
delight of betrothal; these two the earnest sanctity of wedlock.
Gilbert was plainly yet richly dressed in a bottle-green coat, with
white waistcoat and breeches; his ruffles, gloves, hat, and boots were
irreproachable. So manly looking a bridegroom had not been seen in
Kennett for many a day. Martha's dress of heavy pearl-gray satin was
looped up over a petticoat of white dimity, and she wore a short cloak
of white crape. Her hat, of the latest style, was adorned with a bunch
of roses and a white, drooping feather. In the saddle, she was charming;
and as the bridal pair slowly rode forward, followed by their attendants
in the proper order, a murmur of admiration, in which there was no envy
and no ill-natured qualification, went after them.
A soft glitter of sunshine, crossed by the shadows of slow-moving
clouds, lay upon the landscape. Westward, the valley opened in quiet
beauty, the wooded hills on either side sheltering, like protecting
arms, the white farmhouses, the gardens, and rosy orchards scattered
along its floor. On their left, the tall grove rang with the music of
birds, and was gay, through all its light-green depths, with the pink
blossoms of the wild azalea. The hedges, on either side, were purple
with young sprays, and a bright, breathing mass of sweet-brier and wild
grape crowned the overhanging banks, between which the road ascended the
At first the company were silent; but the enlivening motion of the
horses, the joy of the coming summer, the affectionate sympathy of
Nature, soon disposed them to a lighter mood. At Hallowell's, the men
left their hoes in the corn-field, and the women their household
duties, to greet them by the roadside. Mark looked up at the new barn,
"Not quite a year ago! Do you mind it, Gilbert?"
Martha pointed to the green turf in front of the house, and said with an
"Gilbert, do you remember the question you put to me, that evening?"
And finally Sally burst out, in mock indignation,--
"Gilbert, there's where you snapped me up, because I wanted you to dance
with Martha; what do you think of yourself now?"
"You all forget," he answered, "that you are speaking of somebody else."
"How? somebody else?" asked Sally.
"Yes; I mean Gilbert Potter."
"Not a bad turn-off," remarked Miss Lavender. "He's too much for you.
But I'm glad, anyhow, you've got your tongues, for it was too much like
a buryin' before, and me fixed up like King Solomon, what for, I'd like
to know? and the day made o' purpose for a weddin', and true-love all
right for once't--I'd like just to holler and sing and make merry to my
heart's content, with a nice young man alongside o' me, too, a thing
that don't often happen!"
They were heartily, but not boisterously, merry after this; but as they
reached the New-Garden road, there came a wild yell from the rear, and
the noise of galloping hoofs. Before the first shock of surprise had
subsided, the Fairthorn gray mare thundered up, with Joe and Jake upon
her back, the scarlet lining of their blue cloaks flying to the wind,
their breeches covered with white hair from the mare's hide, and their
faces wild with delight. They yelled again as they drew rein at the head
of the procession.
"Why, what upon earth"--began Sally; but Joe saved her the necessity of
"Daddy said we shouldn't go!" he cried. "But we _would_,--we got Bonnie
out o' the field, and put off! Cousin Martha, you'll let us go along and
see you get married; won't you, now? Maybe we'll never have another
This incident produced great amusement. The boys received the permission
they coveted, but were ordered to the rear Mark reminding them that as
he was soon to be their uncle, they must learn, betimes, to give heed to
"Be quiet, Mark!" exclaimed Sally, with a gentle slap.
"Well, I don't begrudge it to 'em," said Miss Lavender. "It's somethin'
for 'em to remember when they're men-grown; and they belong to the
fam'ly, which I don't; but never mind, all the same, no more do you, Mr.
Pratt; and I wish I was younger, to do credit to you!"
Merrily trotted the horses along the bit of level upland; and then, as
the land began to fall towards the western branch of Redley Creek, they
saw the Squire's house on a green knoll to the north, and Dr. Deane's
new chair already resting in the shade of the gigantic sycamore at the
door. The lane-gates were open, the Squire's parlor was arranged for
their reception; and after the ladies had put themselves to rights, in
the upper rooms, the company gathered together for the ceremony.
Sunshine, and hum of bees, and murmur of winds, and scent of flowers,
came in through the open windows, and the bridal pair seemed to stand in
the heart of the perfect spring-time. Yet tears were shed by all the
women except the bride; and Sally Fairthorn was so absorbed by the rush
of her emotions, that she came within an ace of saying "I will!" when
the Squire put the question to Martha. The ceremony was brief and plain,
but the previous history of the parties made it very impressive. When
they had been pronounced man and wife, and the certificate of marriage
had been duly signed and witnessed by all present, Mary Barton stepped
forward and kissed her son and daughter with a solemn tenderness. Then
the pent-up feelings of all the others broke loose, and the amount of
embracing which followed was something quite unusual for Kennett. Betsy
Lavender was not cheated out of her due share; on the contrary, it was
ever afterwards reported that she received more salutes than even the
bride. She was kissed by Gilbert, by Mark, by her young partner, by Dr.
Deane, and lastly by the jolly Squire himself,--to say nothing of the
feminine kisses, which, indeed, being very imperfect gifts, hardly
deserve to be recorded.
"Well!" she exclaimed, pushing her ruffled hair behind her ears, and
smoothing down her purple skirt, "to think o' my bein' kissed by so many
men, in my old days!--but why not?--it may be my last chance, as Joe
Fairthorn says, and laugh if you please, I've got the best of it; and I
don't belie my natur', for twistin' your head away and screechin' is
only make-believe, and the more some screeches the more they want to be
kissed; but fair and square, say I,--if you want it take it, and that's
just what I've done!"
There was a fresh rush for Miss Lavender after this, and she stood her
ground with commendable patience, until Mark ventured to fold her in a
good-natured hug, when she pushed him away, saying,--
"For the Lord's sake, don't spile my new things! There--go 'way, now!
I've had enough to last me ten year!"
Dr. Deane soon set out with Mary Barton, in the chair, and the rest of
the company mounted their horses, to ride back to Kennett Square by the
other road, past the quarries and across Tuffkenamon.
As they halted in the broad, shallow bed of the creek, letting their
horses drink from the sparkling water, while the wind rollicked among
the meadow bloom of golden saxifrage and scarlet painted-cup and blue
spiderwort before them, the only accident of the day occurred; but it
was not of a character to disturb their joyous mood.
The old Fairthorn mare stretched her neck to its utmost length before
she bent it to drink, obliging Joe to lean forwards over her shoulder,
to retain his hold of the short rein. Jake, holding on to Joe, leaned
with him, and they waited in this painful posture till the mare slowly
filled herself from the stream. Finally she seemed to be satisfied; she
paused, snorted, and then, with wide nostrils, drank an equal amount of
air. Her old sides swelled; the saddle-girth, broken in two places long
before, and mended with tow-strings, suddenly parted, and Joe, Jake,
saddle and all, tumbled down her neck into the water. They scrambled out
in a lamentable plight, soused and dripping, amid the endless laughter
of the company, and were glad to keep to the rear for the remainder of
In Dr. Deane's house, meanwhile, there were great preparations for the
wedding-dinner. A cook had been brought from Wilmington, at an
unheard-of expense, and the village was filled with rumors of the
marvellous dishes she was to produce. There were pippins encased in
orange-peel and baked; a roasted peacock, with tail spread; a stuffed
rock-fish; a whole ham enveloped in dough, like a loaf of bread, and set
in the oven; and a wilderness of the richest and rarest pies, tarts, and
Whether all these rumors were justified by the dinner, we will not
undertake to say; it is certain that the meal, which was spread in the
large sitting-room, was most bountiful. No one was then shocked by the
decanters of Port and Canary wine upon the sideboard, or refused to
partake of the glasses of foamy egg-nog offered to them from time to
time, through the afternoon. The bride-cake was considered a miracle of
art, and the fact that Martha divided it with a steady hand, making the
neatest and cleanest of cuts, was considered a good omen for her married
life. Bits of the cake were afterwards in great demand throughout the
neighborhood, not so much to eat, as to dream upon.
The afternoon passed away rapidly, with mirth and noise, in the
adjoining parlor. Sally Fairthorn found a peculiar pleasure in calling
her friend "Martha Barton!" whereupon Mark said,--
"Wait a bit, Martha, and you can pay her back. Daddy Fairthorn promised
this morning to give me a buildin' lot off the field back o' the corner,
and just as soon as Rudd's house is up, I'm goin' to work at mine."
"Mark, do hush!" Sally exclaimed, reddening, "and before everybody!"
Miss Lavender sat in the midst, stately, purple, and so transformed that
she professed she no longer knew her own self. She was, nevertheless,
the life of the company; the sense of what she had done to bring on the
marriage was a continual source of inspiration. Therefore, when songs
were proposed and sung, and Mark finally called upon her, uproariously
seconded by all the rest, she was moved, for the last time in her life,
"I dunno what you mean, expectin' such a thing o' me," she said. "Tears
to me I'm fool enough already, settin' here in purple and fine linen,
like the Queen o' Rome,--not that I don't like singin', but the
contrary, quite the reverse; but with me it'd be a squawk and nothin'
else; and fine feathers may make fine birds for what I care, more like a
poll-parrot than a nightingale, and they say you must stick thorns into
'em to make 'em sing; but I guess it'll be t' other way, and my
singin'll stick thorns into you!"
They would take no denial; she could and must sing them a song. She held
out until Martha said, "for my wedding-day, Betsy!" and Gilbert added,
"and mine, too." Then she declared, "Well, if I must, I s'pose I must
But as for weddin'-songs, such as I've heerd in my younger days, I
dunno one of 'em, and my head's pretty much cleared o' such things,
savin' and exceptin' one that might be a sort o' warnin' for Mark Deane,
who knows?--not that there's sea-farin' men about these parts; but never
mind, all the same; if you don't like it, Mark, you've brung it onto
Thereupon, after shaking herself, gravely composing her face, and
clearing her throat, she began, in a high, shrill, piercing voice,
rocking her head to the peculiar lilt of the words, and interpolating
short explanatory remarks, to sing--
THE BALLAD OF THE HOUSE-CARPENTER.
"'Well-met, well-met, my own true-love!'
"'Well-met, well-met, cried _he_;
For't is I have returned from the salt, salt sea,
And it's all for the love of thee!'
"'It's I might ha' married a king's daughter fair,'
"_He_ goes on sayin',--
"'And fain would she ha' married me,
But it's I have refused those crowns of gold,
And it's all for the love of thee!'
"'If you might ha' married a king's daughter fair,'
I think you are for to blame;
For it's I have married a house-carpenter,
And I think he's a fine young man!'
"So look out, Mark! and remember, all o' you, that they're
talkin' turn about; and he begins--
"'If you'll forsake your house-carpenter
And go along with me,
I'll take you to where the grass grows green
On the banks of the sweet Wil-lee!'
"'If I forsake my house-carpenter.
And go along with thee,
It's what have you got for to maintain me upon,
And to keep me from slave-ree?'
"'It's I have sixteen ships at sea,
All sailing for dry land,
And four-and-twenty sailors all on board
Shall be at your command!'
"She then took up her lovely little babe,
And she gave it kisses three;
'Lie still, lie still, my lovely little babe,
And keep thy father compa-nee!'
"She dressed herself in rich array,
And she walked in high degree,
And the four-and-twenty sailors took 'em on board.
And they sailed for the open sea!
"They had not been at sea two weeks,
And I'm sure it was not three,
Before this maid she began for to weep,
And she wept most bitter-lee.
"'It's do you weep for your gold?' cries he;
'Or do you weep for your store,
Or do you weep for your house-carpenter
You never shall see any more?'
"'I do not weep for my gold,' cries she,
'Nor I do not weep for my store,
But it's I do weep for my lovely little babe,
I never shall see any more!'
"They had not been at sea three weeks,
And I'm sure it was not four,
When the vessel it did spring a leak,
And it sank to rise no more!"
"Now, Mark, here comes the Moral:
"Oh, cruel be ye, sea-farin' men,
Oh, cruel be your lives,--
A-robbing of the house-carpenters,
And a-taking of their wives!"
The shouts and laughter which greeted the conclusion of Miss Lavender's
song brought Dr. Deane into the room. He was a little alarmed lest his
standing in the Society might be damaged by so much and such
unrestrained merriment under his roof. Still he had scarcely the courage
to reprimand the bright, joyous faces before him; he only smiled, shook
his head, and turned to leave.
"I'm a-goin', too," said Miss Lavender, rising. "The sun's not an hour
high, and the Doctor, or somebody, must take Mary Barton home; and it's
about time the rest o' you was makin' ready; though they've gone on with
the supper, there's enough to do when you get there!"
The chair rolled away again, and the bridal party remounted their horses
in the warm, level light of the sinking sun. They were all in their
saddles except Gilbert and Martha.
"Go on!" he cried, in answer to their calls; "we will follow."
"It won't be half a home-comin', without you're along," said Mark; "but
I see you want it so. Come on, boys and girls!"
Gilbert returned to the house and met Martha, descending the stairs in
her plain riding-dress. She descended into his open arms, and rested
there, silent, peaceful, filled with happy rest.
"My wife at last, and forever!" he whispered.
They mounted and rode out of the village. The fields were already
beginning to grow gray under the rosy amber of the western sky. The
breeze had died away, but the odors it had winnowed from orchard and
meadow still hung in the air. Faint cheeps and chirps of nestling life
came from the hedges and grassy nooks of bank and thicket, but they
deepened, not disturbed, the delicious repose settling upon the land.
Husband and wife rode slowly, and their friendly horses pressed nearer
to each other, and there was none to see how their eyes grew deeper and
darker with perfect tenderness, their lips more sweetly soft and warm,
with the unspoken, because unspeakable, fortune of love. In the breath
of that happy twilight all the pangs of the Past melted away; disgrace,
danger, poverty, trial, were behind them; and before them, nestling yet
unseen in the green dell which divided the glimmering landscape, lay the
peace, the shelter, the life-long blessing of Home.