Chapter XLI

Of the events which followed this scene, we are happy to give our readers more minute and graphic details than we ourselves could furnish, by transcribing for their edification an autograph letter of Miss Prissy’s, still preserved in a black oaken cabinet of our great-grandmother’s, and with which we take no further liberties than the correction of a somewhat peculiar orthography.

It is written to that sister ‘Martha’ in Boston, of whom she made such frequent mention, and who, it appears, it was her custom to keep posted up in all the gossip of her immediate sphere.

‘My Dear Sister,

‘You wonder, I s’pose, why I haven’t written you; but the fact is, I’ve been run just off my feet and worked till the flesh aches so, it seems as if it would drop off my bones with this wedding of Mary Scudder’s. And, after all, you’ll be astonished to hear that she ha’n’t married the Doctor, but that Jim Marvyn that I told you about, who had such a wonderful escape from shipwreck. You see, he came home a week before the wedding was to be, and Mary, she was so conscientious, she thought ’twa’n’t right to break off with the Doctor, and so she was for going right on with it; and Mrs. Scudder, she was for going on more yet; and the poor young man, he couldn’t get a word in edgeways; and there wouldn’t anybody tell the Doctor a word about it, and there ’twas drifting along, and both on ’em feeling dreadfully; and so I thought to myself I’ll just take my life in my hand like Queen Esther, and go in and tell the Doctor all about it. And so I did. I’m scared to death always when I think of it. But that dear, blessed man! he took it like a saint. He just gave her up as serene and calm as a psalm-book, and called James in and told him to take her. Jim was fairly over-crowed—it really made him feel small, and he says he’ll agree that there is more in the Doctor’s religion than most men’s, which shows how important it is for professing Christians to bear testimony in their works—as I was telling Cerinthy Ann Twitchel, and she said there wa’n’t anything made her want to be a Christian so much, if that was what religion would do for people. Well, you see, when this came out, it wanted just three days of the wedding, which was to be Thursday; and that wedding-dress I told you about, that had lilies of the valley on a white ground, was pretty much made, except puffing the gauze round the neck, which I do with white satin piping cord, and it looks beautiful too. And so Mrs. Scudder and I, we were thinking ’twould do just as well, when in came Jim Marvyn bringing the sweetest thing you ever saw, that he had got in China, and I think I never did see anything lovelier. It was a white silk, as thick as a board, and so stiff that it would stand alone, and overshot with little fine dots of silver, so that it shone when you moved it just like frost-work. And when I saw it I just clapped my hands and jumped up from the floor; and says I, “If I have to sit up all night that dress shall be made, and made well too.” For, you know, I thought I could get Miss Ollodine Hocum to run the breadth and do such parts, so that I could devote myself to the fine work; and that French woman I told you about, she said she’d help, and she’s a master-hand for touching things up. There seems to be work provided for all kinds of people, and French people seem to have a gift in all sorts of dressy things, and ’tisn’t a bad gift either. Well, as I was saying, we agreed that this was to be cut open with a train, and a petticoat of just the palest, sweetest, loveliest, blue that ever you saw, and gauze puffings down the edgings each side, fastened in, every once in a while, with lilies of the valley; and ’twas cut square in the neck, with puffing and flowers to match; and then, tight sleeves with full ruffles of that old Mechlin lace that you remember Mrs. Katy Scudder showed you once in that great camphor-wood trunk. Well, you see, come to get all things together that were to be done, we concluded to put off the wedding till Tuesday; and Madame de Frontignac she would dress the best room for it herself, and she spent nobody knows what time in going round and getting evergreens, and making wreaths, and putting up green boughs over the pictures, so that the room looked just like the Episcopal Church at Christmas. In fact, Mrs. Scudder said if it had been Christmas she wouldn’t have felt it right, because it would be like encouraging prelacy; but as it was, she didn’t think anybody would think it any harm. Well, Tuesday night I and Madame de Frontignac we dressed Mary ourselves, and I tell you the dress fitted as if ’twas grown on her; and Madame de Frontignac she dressed her hair, and she had on a wreath of lilies of the valley, and a gauze veil that came a’most down to her feet and came all around her like a cloud, and you could see her white shining dress through it every time she moved. And she looked just as white as a snowberry; but there were two little pink spots that came coming and going in her cheeks, that kind o’ lightened up when she smiled, and then faded down again. And the French lady put a string of real pearls round her neck, with a cross of pearls, which went down and lay hid in her bosom. She was mighty calm-like while she was being dressed; but just as I was putting in the last pin, she started, for she heard the rumbling of a coach down stairs, for Jim Marvyn had got a real elegant carriage to carry her over to his father’s in, and so she knew he was come; and pretty soon Mrs. Marvyn came in the room, and when she saw Mary, her brown eyes kind o’ danced, and she lifted up both hands to see how beautiful she looked; and Jim Marvyn he was standing at the door, and they told him it wasn’t proper that he should see till the time come.

‘But he begged so hard that he might just have one peep, that I let him come in, and he looked at her as if she was something he wouldn’t dare to touch, and he said to me softly, says he, “I’m ’most afraid she has got wings somewhere that will fly away from me, or that I shall wake up and find it is a dream.”

‘Well, Cerinthy Ann Twitchel was the bridesmaid, and she came next with that young man she is engaged to. It is all out now that she is engaged, and she don’t deny it.

‘And Cerinthy, she looked handsomer than I ever saw her, in a white brocade with rosebuds on it, which I guess she got in reference to the future, for they say she is going to be married next month.

‘Well, we all filled up the room pretty well, till Mrs. Scudder came in to tell us that the company were all together, and then they took hold of arms, and they had a little time practising how they must stand; and Cerinthy Ann’s beau would always get her on the wrong side, ’cause he’s rather bashful, and don’t know very well what he’s about; and Cerinthy Ann declared she was afraid that she should laugh out in prayer-time, ’cause she always did laugh when she knew she mus’n’t.

‘But, finally, Mrs. Scudder told us we must go in, and looked so reprovingly at Cerinthy that she had to hold her mouth with her pocket-handkerchief.

‘Well, the old Doctor was standing there in the very silk gown that the ladies gave him to be married in himself, poor, dear man! and he smiled kind o’ peaceful on ’em when they came in and walked up to a kind o’ bower of evergreens and flowers that Madame de Frontignac had fixed for them to stand in. Mary grew rather white as if she was going to faint; but Jim Marvyn stood up just as firm and looked as proud and handsome as a prince, and he kind o’ looked down at her, ’cause you know he is a great deal taller, kind o’ wondering as if he wanted to know if it was really so. Well, when they got all placed, they let the doors stand open, and Cato and Candace came and stood in the door. And Candace had on her great splendid Mogadore turban, and a crimson and yellow shawl that she seemed to take comfort in wearing, although it was pretty hot.

‘Well, so when they were all fixed, the Doctor he began his prayer; and as most all of us knew what a great sacrifice he had made, I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the room; and when he had done there was a great time—people blowing their noses and wiping their eyes as if it had been a funeral.

‘Then Cerinthy Ann she pulled off Mary’s glove pretty quick; but that poor beau of hers, he made such work of James’s that he had to pull it off himself after all, and Cerinthy Ann she like to have laughed out loud.

‘And so, when the Doctor told them to join hands, Jim took hold of Mary’s hand as if he didn’t mean to let go very soon; and so they were married, and I was the first one that kissed the bride after Mrs. Scudder. I got that promise out of Mary when I was making the dress. And Jim Marvyn he insisted upon kissing me, ’cause, says he, Miss Prissy, you are as young and handsome as any of them. And I told him he was a saucy fellow, and I’d box his ears if I could reach them.

‘That French lady looked lovely, dressed in pale pink silk, with long pink wreaths of flowers in her hair; and she came up and kissed Mary, and said something to her in French.

‘And, after a while, old Candace came up, and Mary kissed her; and then Candace put her arms round Jim’s neck and gave him a real hearty smack, so that everybody laughed.

‘And then the cake and the wine was passed round, and everybody had good times till we heard the nine-o’clock bell ring. And then the coach came up to the door, and Mrs. Scudder she wrapped Mary up, kissing her and crying over her; while Mrs. Marvyn stood stretching her arms out of the coach after her.

‘And then Cato and Candace went after in the waggon behind, and so they all went off together, and that was the end of the wedding. And ever since then we ha’n’t any of us done much but rest, for we were pretty much tired out. So no more at present from your affectionate sister


‘P.S. (to Miss Prissy’s letter).—I forgot to tell you that Jim Marvyn has come home quite rich. He fell in with a man in China who was at the head of one of their great merchant-houses, whom he nursed through a long fever, and took care of his business, and so when he got well nothing would do but he must have him for a partner, and now he is going to live in this country and attend to the business of the house here. They say he is going to build a house as grand as the Vernons’; and we hope he has experienced religion, and he means to join our church, which is a providence, for he is twice as rich and generous as that old Simon Brown that snapped me up so about my wages. I never believed in him for all his talk. I was down to Miss Scudder’s when the Doctor examined Jim about his evidences. At first the Doctor seemed a little anxious ’cause he didn’t talk in the regular way, for you know Jim always did have his own way of talking, and never could say things in other people’s words; and sometimes he makes folks laugh when he himself don’t know what they laugh at, because he hits the nail on the head in some strange way they ar’n’t expecting. If I was to have died I couldn’t help laughing at some things he said, and yet I don’t think I ever felt more solemnized. He sat up there in a sort o’ grand, straightforward, noble way, and told us all the way the Lord had been leading of him, and all the exercises of his mind; and all about the dreadful shipwreck, and how he was saved, and the loving-kindness of the Lord, till the Doctor’s spectacles got all blinded with tears, and he couldn’t see the notes he made to examine him by; and we all cried, Miss Scudder, and Mary, and I; and as to Miss Marvyn, she just sat with her hands clasped, looking into her son’s eyes, like a picture of the Virgin Mary; and when Jim got through there wa’n’t nothing to be heard for some minutes, and the Doctor he wiped his eyes and wiped his glasses, and he looked over his papers, but he couldn’t bring out a word, and at last, says he, “Let us pray,” for that was all there was to be said, for I think sometimes things so kind o’ fills folks up that there a’n’t nothin’ to be done but pray, which the Lord be praised we are privileged to do always. Between you and I, Martha, I never could understand all the distinctions our dear, blessed Doctor sets up; and when he publishes his system, if I work my fingers to the bone, I mean to buy one and study it out, because he is such a blessed man; though after all’s said I have to come back to my old place, and trust in the loving-kindness of the Lord, who takes care of the sparrow on the house-top and all small, lone creatures like me; though I can’t say I’m lone either, because nobody need say that so long as there’s folks to be done for; so if I don’t understand the Doctor’s theology, or don’t get eyes to read it on account of the fine stitching on his shirt ruffles I’ve been trying to do, still I hope I may be accepted on account of the Lord’s great goodness; for if we can’t trust that, it’s all over with us all.’

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