If novels are to be considered true pictures of real life we must believe that the fall from wealth to poverty is a less serious evil in America than in any other known quarter of the world.

In English novels the failure of a millionaire is represented as bringing results much the same as the commission of an infamous crime. Poor old Mr. Sedley fails and forthwith all his acquaintances cut him; nobody calls on his wife or knows her in the street; the family who have all along been courting his daughter for their son and kissing the ground at her feet, now command the son to break with her, and turn him out of doors for marrying her.

In America it is quite otherwise. A man fails without losing friends, neighbors, and the consideration of society. He moves into a modest house, finds some means of honest livelihood, and everybody calls on his wife as before. Friends and neighbors as they have opportunity are glad to stretch forth a helping hand, and a young fellow who should break his engagement with the daughter at such a crisis would simply be scouted as infamous.

Americans have been called worshipers of the almighty dollar, and they certainly are not backward in that species of devotion, but still these well-known facts show that our worship is not, after all, so absolute as that of other quarters of the world.

Mr. Van Arsdel commanded the respect and sympathy of the influential men of New York. The inflexible honesty and honor with which he gave up all things to his creditors won sympathy, and there was a united effort made to procure for him an appointment in the Custom House, which would give him a comfortable income. In short, by the time that my wedding-day arrived, the family might be held as having fallen from wealth into competence. The splendid establishment on Fifth Avenue was to be sold. It was, in fact, already advertised, and our wedding was to be the last act of the family drama in it. After that we were to go to my mother's, in the mountains of New Hampshire, and Mr. Van Arsdel's family were to spend the summer at the old farm-homestead where his aged parents yet kept house.

Our wedding preparations therefore went forward with a good degree of geniality on the part of the family, and with many demonstrations of sympathy and interest on the part of friends and relations. A genuine love-marriage always and everywhere evokes a sort of instinctive warmth and sympathy. The most worldly are fond of patronizing it as a delightful folly, and as Eva had been one of the most popular girls of her set she was flooded with presents.

And now the day of days was at hand, and for the last time I went up the steps of the Van Arsdel mansion to spend a last evening with Eva Van Arsdel.

She met me at the door of her boudoir: "Harry, here you are! oh, I have no end of things to tell you!—the door bell has been ringing all day, and a perfect storm of presents. We have duplicates of all the things that nobody can do without. I believe we have six pie-knives and four sugar-sifters and three egg-boilers and three china hens to sit on eggs, and a perfect meteoric shower of salt-cellars. I couldn't even count them."

"Oh well! Salt is the symbol of hospitality," said I, "so we can't have too many."

"And look here, Harry, the wedding-dress has come home. Think of the unheard-of incomprehensible virtue of Tullegig! I don't think she ever had a thing done in time before in her life. Behold now!"

Sure enough! before me, arranged on a chair was a misty and visionary pageant of vapory tulle and shimmering satin.

"All this is Ida's gift. She insisted that she alone would dress me for my wedding, and poor Tullegig actually has outdone herself and worked over it with tears in her eyes. Good soul! she has a heart behind all her finery, and really seems to take to me especially, perhaps because I've been such a model of patience in waiting at her doors, and never scolded her for any of her tricks. In fact, we girls have been as good as an annuity to Tullegig; no wonder she mourns over us. Do you know, Harry, the poor old thing actually kissed me!"

"I'm not in the least surprised at her wanting that privilege," said I.

"Well, I felt rather tender toward her. I believe it's Dr. Johnson or somebody else who says there are few things, not purely evil, of which we can say without emotion, 'This is the last!' And Tullegig is by no means a pure evil. This is probably the last of her—with me. But come, you don't say what you think of it. What is it like?"

"Like a vision, like the clouds of morning, like the translation robes of saints, like impossible undreamed mysteries of bliss. I feel as if they might all dissolve away and be gone before to-morrow."

"Oh, shocking, Harry! you mustn't take such indefinite cloudy views of things. You must learn to appreciate details. Open your eyes, and learn now that Tullegig out of special love and grace has adorned my dress with a new style of trimming that not one of the girls has ever had or seen before. It is an original composition of her own. Isn't it blissful, now?"

"Extremely blissful," said I, obediently.

"You don't admire,—you are not half awake."

"I do admire—wonder—adore—anything else that you like—but I can't help feeling that it is all a vision, and that when those cloud wreaths float around you, you will dissolve away and be gone."

"Poh! poh! You will find me very visible and present, as a sharp little thorn in your side. Now, see, here are the slippers!" and therewith she set down before me a pair of pert little delicious white satin absurdities, with high heels and tiny toes, and great bows glistening with bugles.

Nothing fascinates a man like a woman's slipper, from its utter incomprehensibility, its astonishing unlikeness to any article subserving the same purpose for his own sex. Eva's slippers always seemed to have a character of their own,—a prankish elfin grace, and these as they stood there seemed instinct with life as two white kittens just ready for a spring.

I put two fingers into each of the little wretches and made them caper and dance, and we laughed gayly.

"Let me see your boots, Harry?"

"There," said I, putting best foot forward, a brand new pair bought for the occasion. "I am wearing them to get used to them, so as to give my whole mind to the solemn services to-morrow."

"Oh, you enormous creature!" she said, "you are a perfect behemoth. Fancy now my slippers peeping over the table here and wondering at your boots. I can imagine the woman question discussed between the slippers and the boots."

"And I can fancy," said I, "the poor, stumping, well-meaning old boots being utterly perplexed and routed by the elfin slippers. What can poor boots do? They cannot follow them, cannot catch or control them, and if they come down hard on them they ruin them altogether."

"And the good old boots nevertheless," said she, "are worth forty pairs of slippers. They can stamp through wet and mud and rain, and come out afterward good as new; and lift the slippers over impossible places. Dear old patient long-suffering boots, let the slippers respect them! But come, Harry, this is the last evening now, and do you know I've some anxiety about our little programme to-morrow? You were not bred in the Church, and you never were married before, and so you ought to be well up in your part beforehand."

"I confess," said I, "I feel ignorant and a bit nervous."

"Now, I've been a bridesmaid no end of times, and seen all the possibles that may happen under those interesting circumstances, and men are so awkward—their great feet are always sure to step somewhere where they shouldn't, and then they thumb and fumble about the ring, and their gloves always stick to their hands, and it's uncomfortable generally. Now don't, I beg you, disgrace me by any such enormities."

"This is what the slippers say to the boots," said I.

"Exactly. And here is where the boots do well to take a lesson of the slippers. They are 'on their native heath,' here."

"Well, then," said I, "get down the Prayer-book and teach me my proprieties. I will learn my lesson thoroughly."

"Well, now, we have the thing all arranged for to-morrow; the carriages are to be here at ten; ceremony at eleven. The procession will form at the church door; first, Jim Fellows and Alice, then you and mamma, then papa and me, and when we meet at the altar be sure to mind where you step, and don't tread on my veil or any of my tulle clouds, because, though it may look like vapor, you can't very well set your foot through it; and be sure you have a well-disciplined glove that you can slip off without a fuss; and have the ring just where you can lay your hand on it. And now let's read over the service and responses and all that."

We went through them creditably till Eva, putting her finger on one word, looked me straight in the eye.

"Obey, Harry, isn't that a droll word between you and me? I can't conceive of it. Now up to this time you have always obeyed me."

"And 'turn about, is fair play,' the proverb says," said I, "you see, Eva, since Adam took the apple from Eve men have obeyed women nem. con.—there was no need of putting the 'obey' into their part. The only puzzle is how to constrain the subtle, imponderable, ethereal essence of womanhood under some law; so the obey is our helpless attempt."

"But now, really and truly, Harry, I want to talk seriously about this. The girls are so foolish! Jane Seymour said she said 'be gay' instead of 'obey'—and Maria Elmore said she didn't say it at all. But really and truly, that is God's altar—and it is a religious service, and if I go there at all, I must understand what I mean, and say it from my heart."

"My dear, if you have any hesitancy you know that you can leave it out. In various modern wedding services it is often omitted. We could easily avoid it."

"Oh nonsense, Harry! Marry out of the Church! What are you thinking of? Not I, indeed! I shouldn't think myself really married."

"Well, then, my princess, it is your own affair. If you choose to promise to obey me, I can only be grateful for the honor; if it gives any power, it is of your giving, not my seeking."

"But what does a woman promise when she promises at the altar to obey?"

"Well, evidently, she promises to obey her husband in every case where he commands, and a higher duty to God does not forbid."

"But does this mean that all through life in every case where there arises a difference of opinion or taste between a husband and wife she is to give up to him?"

"If," said I, "she has been so unwise as to make this promise to a man without common sense or gentlemanly honor, who chooses to have his own will prevail in all cases of differences of taste, I don't see but she must."

"But between people like you and me, Harry?"

"Between people like you and me, darling, I can't see that the word can make any earthly difference. There can be no obeying where there never is any commanding, and as to commanding you I should as soon think of commanding the sun and moon."

"Well; but you know we shall not always think alike or want the same thing."

"Then we will talk matters over, and the one that gives the best reasons shall prevail. You and I will be like any other two dear friends who agree to carry on any enterprise together, we shall discuss matters, and sometimes one and sometimes the other will prevail."

"But, Harry, this matter puzzles me. Why is there a command in the Bible that wives should always obey? Very many times in domestic affairs, certainly, the woman knows the most and has altogether the best judgment."

"It appears to me that it is one of those very general precepts that require to be largely interpreted by common sense. Taking the whole race of man together, for all stages of society and all degrees of development, I suppose it is the safest general direction for the weaker party. In low stages of society where brute force rules, man has woman wholly in his power, and she can win peace and protection only by submission. But where society rises into those higher forms where husbands and wives are intelligent companions and equals, the direction does no harm because it confers a prerogative that no cultivated man would think of asserting any more than he would think of using his superior physical strength to enforce it."

"I suppose," said Eva, "it is just like the command that children should obey parents. When children are grown up and married and settled, parents never think of it."

"Precisely," said I, "and you and I are the grown-up children of the Christian era—all that talk of obedience is the old calyx of the perfect flower of love—'when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.'"

"So, then, it appears you and I shall have a free field of discussion, Harry, and may be I shall croquet your ball off the ground sometimes, as I did once before, you know."

"I dare say you will. There was an incipient spice of matrimonial virulence, my fair Eva, in the way you played that game! In fact, I began to hope I was not indifferent to you from the zeal with which you pursued and routed me on that occasion."

"I must confess it did my heart good to set your ball spinning,—and that puts me in mind. I have the greatest piece of news to tell you. If you'll believe me, Sydney and Sophie are engaged already!She came here this morning with her present, this lovely amethyst cross—and it seems funny to me, but she is just as dead in love with Sydney as she can be, and do you know he is so delighted with the compliment, that he has informed her that he has made the discovery that he never was in love before."

"The scamp! what does he mean?" said I.

"Oh, he said that little witch Eva Van Arsdel had dazzled him—and he had really supposed himself in love, but that she never had 'excited the profound,' etc., etc., he feels for Sophie."

"So 'all's well that ends well,'" said I.

"And to show his entire pacification toward me," said Eva, "he has sent me this whole set of mantel bronzes—clock, vases, candlesticks, match-box and all. Aren't they superb?"

"Magnificent!" said I. "What an air they will give our room! On the whole, dear, I think rejected lovers are not so bad an article."

"Well, here, I must show you Bolton's present, which came in this afternoon," with which she led me to a pair of elegantly carved book-racks enriched with the complete works of Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, Holmes, and Hawthorne. They were elegantly gotten up in a uniform style of binding.

"Isn't that lovely?" said she, "and so thoughtful! For how many happy hours he has provided here!"

"Good fellow!" said I, feeling the tears start in my eyes. "Eva, if there is a mortal absolutely without selfishness, it is Bolton."

"Oh, Harry, why couldn't he marry and be as happy as we are?"

"Perhaps some day he may," said I, "but dear me! who gave that comical bronze inkstand? It's enough to make one laugh to look at it."

"Don't you know at once? Why, that's Jim Fellows' present. Isn't it just like him?"

"I might have known it was Jim," said I, "it's so decidedly frisky."

"Well, really, Harry do you know that I am in deadly fear that that wicked Jim will catch my eye to-morrow in the ceremony or do something to set me off, and I'm always perfectly hysterical when I'm excited, and if I look his way there'll be no hope for me."

"We must trust to Providence," said I; "if I should say a word of remonstrance it would make it ten times worse. The creature is possessed of a frisky spirit and can't help it."

"Alice was lecturing him about it last night, and the only result was we nearly killed ourselves laughing. After all, Harry, who can help liking Jim? Since our troubles he has been the kindest of mortals; so really delicate and thoughtful in his attentions. It was something I shouldn't have expected of him. Harry, what do you think? Should you want Alice to like him, supposing you knew that he would like her? Is there stability enough in him?"

"Jim is a queer fellow," said I. "On a slight view he looks a mere bundle of comicalities and caprices, and he takes a singular delight in shocking respectable prejudices and making himself out worse than he is, or ever thinks of being. But after all, as young men go, Jim is quite free from bad habits. He does not drink, and he doesn't even smoke. He is the most faithful assiduous worker in his line of work among the newspaper-men of New York. He is a good son; a kind brother."

"But, somehow, he doesn't seem to me to have real deep firm principle."

"Jim is a child of modern New York—an élève of her school. A good wife and a good home, with good friends, might do much for him, but he will always be one that will act more from kindly impulses than from principle. He will be very apt to go as his friends go."

"You know," she said, "in old times, when Alice was in full career, I never thought of anything serious as possible. It is only since our trouble and his great kindness to us that I have thought of the thing as at all likely."

"We may as well leave it to the good powers," said I, "we can't do much to help or hinder, only, if they should come together I shall be glad for Jim's sake, for I love him. And now, my dear Eva, have you any more orders, counsels, or commands for the fateful to-morrow?" said I, "for it waxes late, and you ought to get a beauty-sleep to-night."

"Oh, I forgot to tell you I'm not going to wear either my new traveling dress or hat, or anything to mark me out as a bride; and look here, Harry, you must try and study the old staid married man's demeanor. Don't let's disgrace ourselves by being discovered at once."

"Shall I turn my back on you and read the newspaper? I observe that some married men do that."

"Yes, and if you could conjugally wipe your boots on my dress, it would have an extremely old married effect. You can read the paper first, and then pass it to me—that is another delicate little point."

"I'm afraid that in your zeal you will drive me to excesses of boorishness that will overshoot the mark" said I. "You wouldn't want me to be so negligent of 'that pretty girl,' that some other gentleman would feel a disposition to befriend her?"

"Well, dear, but there's a happy medium. We can appear like two relatives traveling together."

"I am afraid," said I "after all, we shall be detected; but if we are, we shall be in good company. Our first day's journey lies in the regular bridal route, and I expect that every third or fourth seat will show an enraptured pair, of whom we can take lessons—after all, dear, you know there is no sin in being just married."

"No, only in acting silly about it as I hope we shan't. I want us to be models of rationality and decorum."

Here the clock striking twelve warned me that the last day of Eva Van Arsdel's life was numbered.

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