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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOne Woman's Life - Part Two. Getting Married - Chapter 10. Milly Marries
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One Woman's Life - Part Two. Getting Married - Chapter 10. Milly Marries Post by :Paperboy Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :811

Click below to download : One Woman's Life - Part Two. Getting Married - Chapter 10. Milly Marries (Format : PDF)

One Woman's Life - Part Two. Getting Married - Chapter 10. Milly Marries

PART TWO. GETTING MARRIED
CHAPTER X. MILLY MARRIES

She awoke with a sensation of bliss--a never ending happiness to be hers. Yet there were some disagreeable episodes before this bliss could be perfected. For one thing Horatio took the announcement of the new engagement very hard,--unexpectedly so. Grandma Ridge received it in stony silence with a sarcastic curve to her wrinkled lips, as if to say,--"Hope you know your mind this time!" But Horatio spluttered:--

"What? You don't mean that la-di-da newspaper pup who parts his hair in the middle?"

(To part one's hair in the middle instead of upon the slope of the head was Horatio's aversion--it indicated to him a lack of serious, masculine purpose in a young man.)

"I thought you would do better than that, Milly.... What's he making with his newspaper pictures?"

"I don't know," Milly replied loftily.

She might guess that it was in the neighborhood of thirty dollars a week, sometimes increased by a few dollars through a magazine cover or commercial poster. But in her present exalted mood it was completely indifferent to Milly whether her lover was earning twenty dollars or two thousand a week. They would live somehow--of course: all young lovers did.... And was he not a genius? Milly had every confidence.

"You might just as well have married Ted Donovan," Horatio groaned. (Donovan was the young man at Hoppers' whom Milly had disdained early in her West Side career.) "I saw him on the street the other day, and he's doing finely--got a rise last January."

"He's not fashionable enough for Milly," Grandma commented.

"I must say you treated that Mr. Duncan pretty badly," Horatio continued with unusual severity.

"I should say so!" Grandma interposed.

Milly might think so too, but she was serenely indifferent to all the defeated prospects, the bleeding hearts over which she must pass to the fulfilment of her being. It was useless to explain to her father and her grandmother the imperious call of "the real, right thing," and how immeasurably Jack differed from Ted Donovan, Clarence Albert, or even Edgar Duncan, and how indifferent to a true woman must be all the pain in the world, once she had found her Ideal.

Horatio and his mother might feel the waste of all their efforts in behalf of Milly,--the costly removal from the West Side home, the disastrous venture in the tea and coffee business, and all the rest,--to result in _this_, her engagement to a "mere newspaper feller who parts his hair in the middle." It was another example of the mournful experience of age,--the pouring forth of heart's blood in useless sacrifice to Youth. But Milly saw that her artist lover,--and the flame in her heart, the song in her ears,--could not have been without all the devious turnings of her small career. Each step had been needed to bring her at last into Jack's arms, and therefore the toil of the road was nothing--in her eyes. That was the way Milly looked at it.

Could one blame her, remembering her sentimental education, the sentimental ideals that for centuries upon centuries men have imposed upon the more imitative sex? She could not see the simple selfishness of her life,--not then, perhaps later when she too became a mother.

* * * * *

The catastrophe of her first engagement had cut Milly off from her more fashionable friends and the world outside, and this second emotional crisis cut her off from the sympathy of her family. After that first wail Horatio was glumly silent, as if his cup of sorrow was now filled, and Grandma Ridge went her way in stern oblivion of Milly. The girl was so happy--and so much away from home--that she hardly felt the cold domestic atmosphere.

A few short weeks afterwards, however, Mrs. Ridge announced to her that a tenant having been found for the house they should move the first of the month.

"Where are you going?" Milly asked, a trifle bewildered.

"Your father and I are going to board on the West Side," her grandmother replied shortly, implying that Milly could do as she pleased, now that she was her own mistress.

"Why over there?"

"Your father has secured a place in his old business."

From the few further details offered by her grandmother Milly inferred that it was a very humble place indeed, and that only dire necessity had forced Horatio to accept it,--to sit at the gate in the great establishment where once he had held some authority.

"Poor papa!" Milly sighed.

"It's rather late for you to be sorry, now," the old lady retorted pitilessly. She was of the puritan temper that loves to scatter irrefutable moral logic.

It was not until long afterward that Milly learned all the part the indomitable old lady had played in this crisis of her son's affairs. She had not only gone to see Mr. Baxter, one of the Hopper partners who attended the Second Presbyterian Church, and begged him to give her son employment once more, but she had humbled herself to appeal personally to their enemy Henry Snowden and entreat him, for old friendship's sake, to be magnanimous to a broken man. In these painful interviews she had not spared Milly. She had succeeded.

* * * * *

Sometime during the last hurried weeks of their occupancy of the Acacia Street house, Milly managed to have her lover come to Sunday supper and make formal announcement of their intentions to the old people. For long years afterwards she would remember the final scene of her emotional career in the little front room when her father had to shake hands with the young artist on the exact spot where Clarence's glittering diamond had lain disdained, where the faithful ranchman had received his blow, standing, full in the face.

Little Horatio looked gray and old; his lips trembled and his hand shook as he greeted Bragdon.

"Well, sir, so you and Milly have made up your minds to get married?"

"Yes, sir."

"Hope you'll make each other happy."

"We shall!" both chorused.

"And I hope you'll be able to support her."

"We'll live on nothing," Milly bubbled gayly.

"First time then I've known you to," Horatio retorted sourly.

It was the only bitter thing the little man ever said to his daughter, and it was the bitterness of disappointed hopes for her that forced the words from him then. Perhaps, too, Horatio had permitted himself to dream of Hesperidian apples of gold in eternal sunshine on the slopes of the Ventura hills and a peaceful old age far from the roaring, dirty city where he had failed. But when he spoke he was not thinking of himself, only of the dangers for his one loved child.

The meeting was hardly a cheerful one. Milly, in the exuberance of her new joy, could see no reason why everybody should not be as happy and hopeful as she was. But the older people, although they were scrupulously polite to the young artist, let their aloofness be felt in a chilly manner. This was Milly's affair, they implied: she was running her life to suit herself, as American children were wont to do, without advice from her elders. The young man was obviously ill at ease.

Milly felt that he was too large for the picture. She had never been ashamed of her humble home,--not with all her fashionable friends, not with her rich lover. But now she was conscious of the poor impression it must make upon the artist youth, who was so immeasurably superior to it in culture. When the old people had withdrawn after supper, leaving the lovers to themselves in the little front parlor, there were several moments of awkward silence between them. Milly was distressed for him, but she did not try to apologize. She said in her heart that she would make it up to him,--all that she lacked in family background. A woman could, she was convinced.

Possibly she did not fully realize how depressingly his situation had been brought home to him by this first contact with the Ridge household. He knew quite well how far thirty dollars a week went, with one man, and, as has been said, the last intention of his soul was to induce any woman to share it with him. Nor had he meant to seek out a rich wife, although having brought good introductions he had made his way easily into pleasant circles in his new home. Marriage had no part in his scheme of things. But he had been snared by the same tricksy sprite of blood and youth that had inflamed Milly. Now his was the main responsibility, and he must envisage the future he had chosen soberly. No more pleasant dallying in rich drawing-rooms, no more daydreaming over the varied paths of an entertaining career. It was Matrimony! No wonder--and no discredit to him--that the young man was somewhat overwhelmed when he contemplated what that meant in material terms. Never for the fraction of a moment, it should be said, did he think of evading the responsibility. His American chivalry would have made that impossible, even if he had desired it. And Milly had his heart and his senses completely enthralled.

"Dearest," she said to him that evening, divining the sombre course of his thoughts, "it will be so different with us when we are married. We'll have everything pretty, even if it's only two rooms, won't we?" And her yielding lips sealed his bondage firmer than ever, though he might know that beauty, even in two rooms, costs money. He shut his eyes and hoped--which is the only way in such cases.

Milly did not tell him that within a fortnight she should be without even this home.

* * * * *

"There's going to be no engagement this time," Milly reported briskly to Sally Norton, when she announced her news, "for I had enough of that before, with all the fuss. Jack and I are both perfectly free. We're just going to be married some day--that's all."

"Milly! Well I never!" Sally gasped, amid shrieks of laughter. "Not really? You don't mean that kid?"

(Sally was conducting a serious affair herself, with a wary old bachelor, whom ultimately she led in triumph to the altar. Ever after she referred to Mr. John Bragdon as Milly's "kid lover").

"I think it splendid!" Vivie pronounced in a burst of appreciation. "It's the real thing, dear. You are both young and brave. You are willing to make sacrifices for your hearts."

Milly was not yet conscious of making any tremendous sacrifice. Nevertheless, she adopted easily this sentimentalized view of her marriage. And Vivie Norton went about among their friends proclaiming Milly's heroism. Some people were amused; some were sceptical; a few pitied the young man. "Milly, a poor man's wife--never! For he _is poor, isn't he, a newspaper artist?"

"He has a great deal of talent," Vivie Norton asserted with assurance. Milly had so informed her.

"But an artist!" and Chicago shrugged its shoulders dubiously. An artist, at least a resident specimen of the craft, might be a drawing-room lap-dog, unmarried, but married he soon became a seedy member of society, somewhere between a clerk and a college professor in social standing. One of the smarter women Milly knew, Mrs. James Lamereux, exclaimed when she heard the news,--"It's beautiful,--these days when the women as well as the men are so keen for the main chance in everything." It was rumored there had been a sentimental episode in this lady's past, the fragrance of which still lay in her heart. Meeting Milly on the street she congratulated the girl heartily,--"And, my dear, you'll have such an interesting life--you'll know lots of clever people and do unconventional things,--be free, you know, as WE are not".... But Mrs. Jonas Haggenash remarked when some one told her the news,--"The little fool! Now she's gone and done it."

In general the verdict of friends seemed to be suspended: they would wait and see, preserving meantime an attitude of amiable neutrality and good-will towards this outbreak of idealism. But Milly was not troubling herself about what people thought or said. This time she had the full courage of her convictions. The only one of her old friends she cared to confide in deeply was Eleanor Kemp. That lady listened with troubled, yet sympathetic eyes. "Oh, my dear," she murmured, kissing Milly many times. "My dear! My dear!" she repeated as if she did not trust herself to say more. "I so hope you'll be happy--that it will be right this time."

"Of course it _is_," Milly retorted, hurt by the shadow of doubt implied.

"You know it takes so much for two people to live together always, even when they have plenty of money."

"But when they love," Milly rejoined, according to her creed.

"Even when they love," the older woman affirmed gravely.

She could see beyond the immediate glamor those monotonous years of commonplace living,--struggle and effort. She knew from experience how much of life has nothing to do with the emotions and the soul, but merely with the stomach and other vulgar functions of the body.

"I haven't a doubt,--not one!" Milly affirmed.

"That's right--and I oughtn't to suggest any.... You must bring Mr. Bragdon to dinner Sunday. Walter and I want to see him.... When are you to be married?"

"Soon," Milly replied vaguely.

"That's best, too."

Then Milly confessed to her old friend the dark condition of the Ridge fortunes, with the uncomfortable fact that very shortly she herself would be without a home.

"I must find some place to stay--but it won't be for long."

"You must come here and stay with us as long as you will," Mrs. Kemp promptly said with true kindliness. "I insist! Walter would want it, if I didn't--he's very fond of you, too."

Thus fortune smiled again upon Milly, and the two friends plunged into feminine details of dress and domestic contrivance. Eleanor Kemp, who had a gift lying unused of being a capable manager, a poor man's helpmate, tried her best to interest Milly in the little methods of economizing and doing by which dollars are pushed to their utmost usefulness. Milly listened politely, but she felt sure that "all that would work out right in time." She could not believe that Jack would be poor always.... The older woman smiled at her confidence, and after she had gone shook her head.

* * * * *

The young artist had his due share of pride. When he realized that the woman he loved and meant to marry was staying with the Kemps because she had no other refuge, he urged their immediate marriage, though he also had a fair-sized package of bills in his desk drawer and needed a few months in which to straighten out his affairs. Milly was eager to be married,--"When all would come right somehow." So she opposed no objection.

Indeed as she let her lover understand, she was indifferent about the mere ceremony. She would go and live with him any time, anywhere, if it weren't for the talk it would make and hurting her father's feelings. Milly was, of course, an essentially monogamic creature, like any normal, healthy woman. She meant simply that, once united with the man she really loved, the thing was eternal. If he should cease to love her, it would be the end of everything for her, no matter whether she had the legal bond or not. However flattered her lover may have been by this exhibition of trust, Bragdon was too American in instinct to entertain the proposal seriously. "What's the use of that, anyway?" he said. "We mean to stick--we might as well get the certificate."

So, as Milly confided to Eleanor Kemp, they determined "just to go somewhere and have it done as quickly as possible, without fuss and feathers."

And Mrs. Kemp, realizing what a sacrifice this sort of marriage must mean to any girl,--without the pomp and ceremony,--felt that it was a good sign for the couple's future, showing a real desire to seek the essentials and dispense with the frills. She and her husband had planned to give the young adventurers a quiet but conventional home wedding, with friends and a reception. But she readily acquiesced in Milly's idea, and one bleak Saturday in January slipped off with the lovers to a neighboring church, and after seeing them lawfully wedded by a parson left them to their two days' holiday, which was all the honeymoon they allowed themselves at this time....

Milly was a fresh and blooming bride in a becoming gray broadcloth suit, and as she stood before the faded parson beside her chosen man to take the eternal vows of fidelity, no woman ever gave herself more completely to the one of her heart. The wonderful song of bliss that had been singing inside her all these last weeks burst into a triumphal poem. She felt curiously exalted, scarcely herself. Was she not giving everything she had as a woman to her loved one, without one doubt? Had she not been true to woman's highest instinct, to her heart? She had rejected all the bribes of worldliness in order to obtain "the real, right thing," and she felt purified, ennobled, having thus fulfilled the ideals of her creed.... She turned to her husband a radiant face to be kissed,--a face in which shone pride, confidence, happiness.

As the older woman, with tear-dimmed eyes, watched the two bind themselves together for the long journey, she murmured to herself like a prayer,--"She's such a woman! Such a dear woman! She MUST be happy."

That was the secret of Milly's hold upon all her women friends: they felt the woman in her, the pure character of their sex more highly expressed in her than in any one else they knew. She was the unconscious champion of their hearts.

Again the older woman murmured prayerfully,--"What will she do with life? What _will she do?"

For like the wise woman she was she knew that in most cases it is the woman who makes marriage sing like a perpetual song or become a sullen silence. All the way to her home she kept repeating to herself,--

"What will she make of it? Milly!"

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