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CHAPTER XIV


POMONA TAKES A BRIDAL TRIP


Our life at Rudder Grange seemed to be in no way materially changed by my becoming a vestry-man. The cow gave about as much milk as before, and the hens laid the usual number of eggs. Euphemia went to church with a little more of an air, perhaps, but as the wardens were never absent, and I was never, therefore, called upon to assist in taking up the collection, her sense of my position was not inordinately manifested.

For a year or two, indeed, there was no radical change in anything about Rudder Grange, except in Pomona. In her there was a change. She grew up.

She performed this feat quite suddenly. She was a young girl when she first came to us, and we had never considered her as anything else, when one evening she had a young man to see her. Then we knew she had grown up.

We made no objections to her visitors—she had several from time to time—"for," said Euphemia, "suppose my parents had objected to your visits." I could not consider the mere possibility of anything like this, and we gave Pomona all the ordinary opportunities for entertaining her visitors. To tell the truth, I think we gave her more than the ordinary opportunities. I know that Euphemia would wait on herself to almost any extent rather than call upon Pomona, when the latter was entertaining an evening visitor in the kitchen or on the back porch.

"Suppose my mother," she once remarked, in answer to a mild remonstrance from me in regard to a circumstance of this nature—"suppose my mother had rushed into our presence when we were plighting our vows, and had told me to go down into the cellar and crack ice!"

It was of no use to talk to Euphemia on such subjects; she always had an answer ready.

"You don't want Pomona to go off and be married, do you?" I asked, one day as she was putting up some new muslin curtains in the kitchen. "You seem to be helping her to do this all you can, and yet I don't know where on earth you will get another girl who will suit you so well."

"I don't know either," replied Euphemia, with a tack in her mouth, "and I'm sure I don't want her to go. But neither do I want winter to come, or to have to wear spectacles; but I suppose both of these will happen, whether I like it or not."

For some time after this Pomona had very little company, and we began to think that there was no danger of any present matrimonial engagement on her part—a thought which was very gratifying to us, although we did not wish in any way to interfere with her prospects—when, one afternoon, she quietly went up into the village and was married.

Her husband was a tall young fellow, a son of a farmer in the country, who had occasionally been to see her, but whom she must have frequently met on her "afternoons out."

When Pomona came home and told us this news we were certainly well surprised.

"What on earth are we to do for a girl?" cried Euphemia.

"You're to have me till you can get another one," said Pomona, quietly. "I hope you don't think I'd go 'way and leave you without anybody."

"But a wife ought to go to her husband," said Euphemia, "especially so recent a bride. Why didn't you let me know all about it? I would have helped to fit you out. We would have given you the nicest kind of a little wedding."

"I know that," said Pomona; "you're jus' good enough. But I didn't want to put you to all that trouble—right in preserving-time, too. An' he wanted it quiet, for he's awful backward about shows. An' as I'm to go to live with his folks—at least in a little house on the farm—I might as well stay here as anywhere, even if I didn't want to, for I can't go there till after frost."

"Why not?" I asked.

"The chills and fever," said she. "They have it awful down in that valley. Why, he had a chill while we was bein' married, right at the bridal altar."

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Euphemia. "How dreadful!"

"Yes, indeed," said Pomona. "He must 'a' forgot it was his chill-day, and he didn't take his quinine, and so it come on him jus' as he was a-promisin' to love an' perfect. But he stuck it out, at the minister's house, and walked home by hisself to finish his chill."

"And you didn't go with him?" cried Euphemia indignantly.

"He said no. It was better thus. He felt it weren't the right thing to mingle the agur with his marriage vows. He promised to take sixteen grains to-morrow, and so I came away. He'll be all right in a month or so, an' then we'll go an' keep house. You see it ain't likely I could help him any by goin' there an' gettin' it myself."

"Pomona," said Euphemia, "this is dreadful. You ought to go and take a bridal tour, and get him rid of those fearful chills."

"I never thought of that," said Pomona, her face lighting up wonderfully.

Now that Euphemia had fallen upon this happy idea, she never dropped it until she had made all the necessary plans, and had put them into execution. In the course of a week she had engaged another servant, and had started Pomona and her husband off on a bridal-tour, stipulating nothing but that they should take plenty of quinine in their trunk.

It was about three weeks after this, and Euphemia and I were sitting on our front steps—I had come home early, and we had been potting some of the tenderest plants—when Pomona walked in at the gate. She looked well, and had on a very bright new dress. Euphemia noticed this the moment she came in. We welcomed her warmly, for we felt a great interest in this girl, who had grown up in our family, and under our care.

"Have you had your bridal trip?" asked Euphemia.

"Oh, yes!" said Pomona. "It's all over an' done with, an' we're settled in our house."

"Well, sit right down here on the steps and tell us all about it," said Euphemia, in a glow of delightful expectancy, and Pomona, nothing loath, sat down and told her tale.

"You see," said she, untying her bonnet-strings, to give an easier movement to her chin, "we didn't say where we was goin' when we started out, for the truth was we didn't know. We couldn't afford to take no big trip, and yet we wanted to do the thing up jus' as right as we could, seein' as you had set your heart on it, an' as we had, too, for that matter. Niagery Fall was what I wanted, but he said that it cost so much to see the sights there that he hadn't money to spare to take us there, and pay for all the sight-seein' too. We might go, he said, without seein' the sights, or, if there was any way of seein' the sights without goin', that might do, but he couldn't do both. So we gave that up, and after thinkin' a good deal, we agreed to go to some other falls, which might come cheaper, an' maybe be jus' as good to begin on. So we thought of Passaic Falls, up to Paterson, an' we went there, an' took a room at a little hotel, an' walked over to the falls. But they wasn't no good, after all, for there wasn't no water runnin' over 'em. There was rocks and precipicers, an' direful depths, and everything for a good falls, except water, and that was all bein' used at the mills. 'Well, Miguel,' says I, 'this is about as nice a place for a falls as ever I see,' but—"

"Miguel!" cried Euphemia. "Is that your husband's name?"

"Well, no," said Pomona. "It isn't. His given name is Jonas, but I hated to call him Jonas, an' on a bridal trip too. He might jus' as well have had a more romantic-er name, if his parents had 'a' thought of it. So I determined I'd give him a better one, while we was on our journey anyhow, an' I changed his name to Miguel, which was the name of a Spanish count. He wanted me to call him Jiguel, because, he said, that would have a kind of a floating smell of his old name, but I didn't never do it. Well, neither of us didn't care to stay about no dry falls, so we went back to the hotel and got our supper, and begun to wonder what we should do next day. He said we'd better put it off and dream about it, and make up our minds nex' mornin', which I agreed to, an' that evenin' as we was sittin' in our room I asked Miguel to tell me the story of his life. He said, at first, it hadn't none, but when I seemed a kinder put out at this, he told me I mustn't mind, an' he would reveal the whole. So he told me this story—

"'My grandfather,' said he, 'was a rich and powerful Portugee, a-livin' on the island of Jamaica. He had heaps o' slaves, an' owned a black brigantine, that he sailed in on secret voyages, an', when he come back, the decks and the gunnels was often bloody, but nobody knew why or wherefore. He was a big man, with black hair, an' very violent. He could never have kept no help, if he hadn't owned 'em, but he was so rich, that people respected him in spite of all his crimes. My grandmother was a native o' the Isle o' Wight. She was a frail and tender woman, with yeller hair, and deep blue eyes, an' gentle, an' soft, and good to the poor. She used to take baskits of vittles aroun' to sick folks, an' set down on the side o' their beds and read "The Shepherd o' Salisbury Plains" to 'em. She hardly ever speaked above her breath, an' always wore white gowns with a silk kerchief a-folded placidly aroun' her neck.' 'Them was awful different kind o' people,' I says to him, 'I wonder how they ever come to be married.' 'They never was married,' says he. 'Never married' I hollers, a-jumpin' up from my chair, 'and you sit there carmly and look me in the eye.' 'Yes,' says he, 'they was never married. They never met: one was my mother's father, and the other one my father's mother, 'Twas well they did not wed.' 'I should think so,' said I, 'an' now, what's the good of tellin' me a thing like that?'

"'It's about as near the mark as most of the stories of people's lives, I reckon,' says he, 'an', besides, I'd only jus' begun it.'

"'Well, I don't want no more,' says I, an' I jus' tell this story of his to show what kind of stories he told about that time. He said they was pleasant fictions, but I told him that if he didn't look out he'd hear 'em called by a good deal of a worse kind of a name than that. The nex' mornin' he asked me what was my dream, and I told him I didn't have exactly no dream about it, but my idea was to have somethin' real romantic for the rest of our bridal days.

"'Well,' says he, 'what would you like? I had a dream, but it wasn't no ways romantic, and I'll jus' fall in with whatever you'd like best.'

"'All right,' says I, 'an' the most romanticest thing that I can think of is for us to make-believe for the rest of this trip. We can make-believe we're anything we please, an' if we think so in real earnest it will be pretty much the same thing as if we really was. We ain't likely to have no chance ag'in of being jus' what we've a mind to, an' so let's try it now.'

"'What would you have a mind to be?' says he.

"'Well,' says I, 'let's be an earl an' a earless.'

"'Earl-ess?' says he, 'there's no such a person.'

"'Why, yes, there is, of course,' I says to him: 'what's a she-earl if she isn't a earl-ess?'

"'Well, I don't know,' says he, 'never havin' lived with any of 'em, but we'll let it go at that. An' how do you want to work the thing out?'

"'This way,' says I. 'You, Miguel—'

"'Jiguel,' says he.

"'The earl,' says I, not mindin' his interruption, 'an' me, your noble earless, will go to some good place or other—it don't matter much jus' where, and whatever house we live in we'll call our castle, an' we'll consider it's got drawbridges an' portcullises an' moats an' secrit dungeons, an' we'll remember our noble ancestors, an' behave accordin'. An' the people we meet we can make into counts and dukes and princes, without their knowin' anything about it; an' we can think our clothes is silk an' satin an' velwet, all covered with dimuns an' precious stones, jus' as well as not.'

"'Jus' as well,' says he.

"'An' then,' I went on, 'we can go an' have chi-val-rous adventures—or make believe we're havin' 'em—an' build up a atmosphere of romanticness aroun' us that'll carry us back—'

"'To ole Virginny,' says he.

"'No,' says I, 'for thousands of years, or at least enough back for the times of tournaments and chi-val-ry.'

"'An' so your idea is that we make believe all these things, an' don't pay for none of 'em, is it?' says he.

"'Yes,' says I; 'an' you, Miguel—'

"'Jiguel,' says he.

"'Can ask me, if you don't know what chi-val-ric or romantic thing you ought to do or to say so as to feel yourself truly an' reely a earl, for I've read a lot about these people, an' know jus' what ought to be did.'

"Well, he set himself down an' thought a while, an' then he says, 'All right. We'll do that an' we'll begin to-morrow mornin', for I've got a little business to do in the city which wouldn't be exactly the right thing for me to stoop to after I'm a earl, so I'll go in an' do it while I'm a common person, an' come back this afternoon, an' you can walk about an' look at the dry falls, an' amuse yourself gen'rally, till I come back.'

"'All right,' says I, an' off he goes.

"He came back afore dark, an' the nex' mornin' we got ready to start off.

"'Have you any particular place to go?' says he.

"'No,' says I, 'one place is as likely to be as good as another for our style o' thing. If it don't suit, we can imagine it does.'

"'That'll do,' says he, an' we had our trunk sent to the station, and walked ourselves. When we got there, he says to me—

"'Which number will you have, five or seven?'

"'Either one will suit me. Earl Miguel,' says I.

"'Jiguel,' says he, 'an' we'll make it seven. An' now I'll go an' look at the time-table, an' we'll buy tickets for the seventh station from here. The seventh station,' says he, comin' back, 'is Pokus. We'll go to Pokus.'

"So when the train come we got in, an' got out at Pokus. It was a pretty sort of a place, out in the country, with the houses scattered a long ways apart, like stingy chicken-feed.

"'Let's walk down this road,' says he, 'till we come to a good house for a castle, an' then we can ask 'em to take us to board, an' if they won't do it we'll go to the next, an' so on.'

"'All right,' says I, glad enough to see how pat he entered into the thing.

"We walked a good ways, an' passed some little houses that neither of us thought would do, without more imaginin' than would pay, till we came to a pretty big house near the river, which struck our fancy in a minute. It was a stone house, an' it had trees aroun' it, there was a garden with a wall, an' things seemed to suit first-rate, so we made up our minds right off that we'd try this place.

"'You wait here under this tree,' says he, 'an' I'll go an' ask 'em if they'll take us to board for a while.'

"So I waits, an' he goes up to the gate, an' pretty soon he comes out an' says, "All right, they'll take us, an' they'll send a man with a wheelbarrer to the station for our trunk." So in we goes. The man was a country-like lookin' man, an' his wife was a very pleasant woman. The house wasn't furnished very fine, but we didn't care for that, an' they gave us a big room that had rafters instid of a ceilin', an' a big fireplace, an' that, I said, was jus' exac'ly what we wanted. The room was almos' like a donjon itself, which he said he reckoned had once been a kitchin, but I told him that a earl hadn't nothin' to do with kitchins, an' that this was a tapestry chamber, an' I'd tell him all about the strange figgers on the embroidered hangin's, when the shadders begun to fall.

"It rained a little that afternoon, an' we stayed in our room, an' hung our clothes an' things about on nails an' hooks, an' made believe they was armour an' ancient trophies an' portraits of a long line of ancestors. I did most of the make-believin'; but he agreed to ev'rything. The man who kep' the house's wife brought us our supper about dark, because she said she thought we might like to have it together cosy, an' so we did, an' was glad enough of it; an' after supper we sat before the fire-place, where we made-believe the flames was a-roarin' an' cracklin' an' a-lightin' up the bright places on the armour a-hangin' aroun', while the storm—which we made-believe—was a-ragin' an' whirlin' outside. I told him a long story about a lord an' a lady, which was too or three stories I had read run together, an' we had a splendid time. It all seemed real to me."