A Colonial Wooing/Chapter 20
All's Well that ends Well.
"Are they going to allow you any special privileges, John," asked Robert Pearson, "about this passing meeting? You can do so, next Thursday, if you choose, but what about Ruth? she will not leave the house, she says, until she is married; so there's a nice kettle of fish for you. It's a blessed good thing I didn't have any of this bother in my day, or perhaps I'd been a bachelor still."
"There is want of unity in the meeting, and I am sorry to be the cause of it. Ruth has chosen her birthday, and I think she has suffered enough, and I am not willing to disappoint her. Surely she has been sorely tried of late—"
"And, John, my man," remarked Robert, interrupting his friend, "she'll never drop in meekness sufficient to give in, or I'm wrong. If they want to keep her in meeting, they'll have to knuckle down just a little to her, for this once, anyhow. There isn't another like her in the whole province."
"Yes, Robert; her mother."
"Cousin Anne; well, I don't know. She's a noble woman to go through with what she has had to and yet show up with a smiling face at times. I don't know how it is with you Quakers, some are so good and nice and some not so taking," replied Robert, in a way that showed he was talking as much to himself as to John Bishop.
"Is it not so with other people than the Friends? Where can you go and not find both saints and sinners?" asked John.
"It is easier to find the sinners, John, all times and everywhere. I never saw a saint, a real saint, but Ruth and her mother come as near to it as any this province is blessed with."
John smiled at Robert's enthusiasm, and remarked, "Although alike, yet they are very different."
"On the surface, yes, but they're of the same sort here." And Robert placed his hand over his heart. "But this is not time for one of Matthew Watson's idle gatherings," continued Robert; "you'll be married at my house, of course, since her loving step-father won't let her go home."
"That is Ruth's wish; but there are Friends who object and say it will promote discord. I am sorely puzzled."
"Well, John, I wish I was the king for half a day. I'd settle the matter and shut up mouths at the same time," said Robert, impatiently.
"Thee would not make it a case of hasty marriage and leisurely repentance, I hope."
"You're not to be argued with to-day, that's certain. I'll consult with Ruth, and you can do as we decide or not; but there's no danger as to what your decision will be. If you don't mind your words, John, pretty closely, the neighbors will say, 'John's wife is more clever than her husband.'"
John laughed at this and said, "Why, I have always said Ruth was more clever than any one I knew."
"Yes, but that is excepting yourself, and that won't do. Anyhow, I see I'm not through with this business yet. I'll see Ruth and arrange particulars."
As John Bishop had said, the proposed wedding had caused a dissension, and several members of the meeting expressed themselves so freely that serious trouble was feared. John did not attend, even on First day, but calmly awaited the decision of a new committee to whom the whole matter was referred. What he feared would be the case resulted. There was a division; and if he and Ruth were married on the chosen date and at Pearson's they would be subject to discipline, and then the question of legality might arise: was the wedding in accordance with the customs of the Friends? And if not, and no magistrate was present, or hireling priest performed the ceremony, might not trouble be the outcome, and their opponents triumph in a manner to blight their whole lives? John could stand anything for her sake, but was powerless to alter the decision of constituted authorities. No wonder he was sorely troubled.
"Please don't set me wild by all this law and custom and so on," said Ruth, when Robert placed the matter before her. "What does John say? How should I know? But oh, dear, I did want it to be on my birthday, as John and I planned. And if it's wrong one day, why not another?" And Ruth threatened to treat the Pearsons to an hysterical scene, which her cousin Robert neatly avoided by saying,—
"There is a difference of opinion in the matter."
"Is there? Do some think it would be right? Then tell John I side with them, and let the matter 'go to court,' do you call it? afterwards," exclaimed Ruth, with more enthusiasm than calm judgment; and added, "But what do you think, Cousin Robert? tell me that."
"That it will come out all right, Fairie; but I'm not a judge or man of the law."
"You're enough of a one for me, if John's willing." And with this decision, preparations for the wedding rapidly proceeded.
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The day was perfect; such a one as, in this region, can only come in the month of May. Pearson's orchard and the apple-trees that lined his lane were in full bloom, and the huge wild crab-tree, with its wealth of roseate blossoms, perfumed the air for a long distance. Millions of busy bees were humming among the flowers, and the birds that through the winter had been far away were now again in their summer homes and rejoicing as these returned wanderers always do. The best features of the year were spread in profusion, and with the clear blue sky, with peaceful clouds floating leisurely across it, combined to make a most fitting background for the ending of long weeks of anxiety and pain and the beginning of a lifetime, let us hope, of unalloyed pleasure.
By noon the neighbors generally had congregated about the Pearson mansion, and after the usual greetings and comments they gathered in the spacious parlor, that needed to-day no interior decoration, though this was not lacking, as every window was open and the flowers were peeping in, and the merriest birds posted themselves on the nearest bushes. When the guests were seated, a short silence ensued, and then was heard footsteps and the rustling of silk and satin. John Bishop and Ruth entered the room, and, occupying the chairs reserved for them, sat facing the company. Then silence again, only broken at last by John rising and holding out his hand to Ruth, who also rose and said those words of mighty import that forever bound him to her. She made like promises to him, and they were married.
- * * * * * *
The marriage certificate, brought under protest and not likely to be accepted, was signed by those present, but lacked the one signature Ruth most highly prized,—her mother's. Then the restraint of formality and of solemnity fell away, and the buzz and hum of many voices filled the room. There was now an end to the mystery, and the good people of the valley must find some other subject for discussion and wondering. While the excitement was at its height and every one talking at if not to his fellow, a little incident caused a momentary pause. For reasons she alone could explain, but many correctly surmised, the Watsons had not been present. Now, her daughter married, she was free to come to her cousin's house, and as she entered the room, Ruth saw her mother for the first time since the day of her departure for England.
There was a quick exclamation of joy, and in another moment, the words "Mother," "Ruth," heard only by those nearest, they were in each other's arms. John Bishop stood by with arms folded and a look of triumph lighting his handsome face, the proudest and happiest man in the province.
Soon the guests began to disperse, but there was a rumor current among all the little gatherings of two or three in the Pearson yard to the effect that Thomas Gardiner had spent the morning at the Watson house, and had declared as his conviction that Matthew's mind was unbalanced.