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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 32. The Night Before The Wedding
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The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 32. The Night Before The Wedding Post by :shine4789 Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :2229

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The Honorable Miss: A Story Of An Old-fashioned Town - Chapter 32. The Night Before The Wedding


Mrs. Meadowsweet wondered why Beatrice did not come home. It was the night before the wedding. Surely on that night the bride ought to come early to sleep under her mother's roof.

Mrs. Meadowsweet had a good deal to say to her girl. She had made up her mind to give her a nice little domestic lecture. She thought it her duty to reveal to her innocent Beatrice some of the pitfalls into which young married girls are so apt to fall.

"Jane," she said to her handmaid, "Miss Beatrice is late."

"Eh, so she is," responded Jane. Jane was a woman of very few words. Her remarks generally took the form of an echo. Mrs. Meadowsweet thought her a very comfortable kind of body to confide in. Jane was taking away the supper things.

"We were married ourselves, Jane, and we know what it means," continued Mrs. Meadowsweet.

Jane was a widow--her husband had been a drunkard, and she had gone through a terrible time with him.

She shook her head now with awful solemnity.

"We do that," she said. "It's an awful responsibility, is marriage--it's not meant for the young."

"I don't agree with you there, Jane. How could elderly people bring up their families?"

"It's not meant for the young," repeated Jane. "It's a careful thing, and a troubling thing and a worreting thing is marriage, and it's not meant for the young. Shall I leave the peaches on the table, ma'am, and shall I make fresh cocoa for Miss Beatrice when she comes in?"

"Make the cocoa with all milk, Jane, it's more supporting. I always made it a rule to sustain Beatrice a good deal. She wears herself out--she's a great girl for wearing herself out, and it's my duty in life to repair her. I used to repair her poor father, and now I repair her. It seems to me that a woman's province in life is to repair--first the husband, and then the children. Jane, I was thinking of giving Beatrice a little lecture to-night on the duties that lie before her."

"Good sakes, ma'am, I'd leave her alone. She'll find out her worrits fast enough."

"I don't agree with you, Jane. It seems to me as if the whole of a married woman's bliss consists in this--be tidy in your dress, don't answer back, and give your husband a good dinner. That's what I did--I repaired Meadowsweet, and I never riled him, and we hadn't a word, no, not a word."

"All aren't like your blessed husband, Mrs Meadowsweet. Well, ma'am, I'll go now and get the milk on for the cocoa."

She left the room, and Mrs. Meadowsweet sat on by the fire.

Presently there came a ring to the front door bell. Mrs. Meadowsweet started up. Bee had some--no, it wasn't Bee--it was Mrs. Morris.

Her bronchitis was almost gone to-night; her voice was high, sharp and quick.

"Well, my poor friend, and how are you?" she said.

"I wish you wouldn't call me your poor friend, Jessie," answered Mrs. Meadowsweet, with almost irritation. "I don't know what has come to the good folks here of late--'Poor dearing,' and 'poor friending' till I'm sick of the sound of it. When I was married, people didn't look like boiled vinegar over it; neighbors were chirpy and cheery about a wedding in those days."

Mrs. Morris made no reply at all to this tirade. She sat down solemnly, and looked around her.

"Is Beatrice in?" she asked.

"No, she's not; she went to the Manor some hours ago--I'm expecting my girl back every minute. I've several things to say to her when she does come in, so you won't take it amiss, Jessie, if I ask you not to stay."

"No, my dear neighbor, I won't take anything amiss, from you at present, only, if I were you, I wouldn't worry Beatrice with advice to-night. Yon have time enough for that. Time and to spare for that, poor dear."

"There you are with your 'poor dear,' again, Jessie. Now whose ring is that at the bell? Oh, it's Bee, of course; come back at last, my girl has. Well, Jessie Morris, I wish you good-night."

"Stay a minute, neighbor--that isn't Bee's voice." The door was opened, and Miss Peters came in.

"How are you, Mrs. Meadowsweet," she said, running up to the good lady and giving her a kiss, which resembled the peck of an eager bird, on her cheek. "I ran on first, and Martha is following. I came to know how you are, and how you're bearing up--and is Beatrice in?"

"I do declare," said Mrs. Meadowsweet. She rose from her easy-chair. "You mean to be good-natured, neighbors, but really you're enough to deave one. How am I bearing up? Am I the woman to bring ill-luck to my child by crying at her wedding? No, she's not in--she's at the Bertrams. But there's her ring now at the hall-door. Good-night, neighbors both. You mean it kindly, but don't stay just now. I have a word or two to say to the girl in private to-night."

"I think that's Martha's voice," said Miss Peters. "Don't say that I told you anything, Mrs. Meadowsweet."

The door was opened, and Mrs. Butler came in.

This good woman, who led the army of the Beatricites, had now attained to all the airs of a victorious general. Her bonnet-strings were thrown back, her face was flushed, and her throat, conspicuous by the absence of her large white brooch, was bared to view.

"Well, my friend," she said. "Well, the time is near."

She took Mrs. Meadowsweet's fat hand, squeezed it hard, and looked with awful solemnity into her eyes.

"Good gracious," said the poor woman. "I never felt more exasperated in all my life. Any one would suppose that my girl was drowned in the harbor from the faces you one and all bring me."

"Mrs. Meadowsweet," said Mrs. Butler, "there is such a thing as having the body safe and well, and the character drowned."

Mrs. Meadowsweet's cheeks flushed deeply.

"I'll thank you to explain yourself, Martha Butler," she said. "Whose character is drowned?"

"No one's," said Mrs. Butler. "Or at least, no one who belongs to us."

Here she waved one of her arms in theatrical style.

"I have fought for that girl," she said, "as my sister Maria can bear testimony, and my friend Mrs. Morris can vouch---I have fought for her, and I may truly say I have brought her through a sea of slander--yes, through a sea of slander--victorious. Now, who's that? Who's coming to interrupt us?"

"It's only me, Mrs. Butler," said Beatrice. She came quietly into the room. Her face was white, but its expression was serene, and almost happy.

"It's you, Bee, at last," said her mother.

She went straight up to the girl, and taking one of her hands raised it to her lips.

"You have come, Bee," she said in a purring cone of delight and content. "My girl has come at last, neighbors, and now I'll wish you, every one, a very good-night. I'm obliged for all sympathy, and if I don't understand these new-fashioned ways about weddings with their poor dears, and their poor friends, and drowning of somebody's character, and saving of somebody else's character, it's because I'm old-fashioned, and belong to an ancient school. Good-night, friends. Is that you, Jane?"

Jane appeared, bearing in a cup of cocoa for Beatrice.

"Jane, show these ladies out."

They all went. They hated to go, but they went, for the mantle of innocence and ignorance in which Mrs. Meadowsweet was so securely wrapped gave her a certain dignity which they could not resist. Jane shut the door on them, and they stood still outside the house, and wrangled, and talked, and worked themselves into a perfect rage of excitement and curiosity and longing. "Well, well, all surmises would soon be at rest. Who would win, Beatrice or Josephine? Who would be to-morrow's bride."

"Mother," said Beatrice, when the ladies had left--she looked into her old mother's face. There was an expression in her eyes which made Mrs. Meadowsweet cry out:

"Bee, you have got a hunger at your heart. Oh, child, you want your mammy--I never saw that look in your eyes since long, long ago, when you were a little tot, and wanted your mammy more than anything else in all the wide world."

"I want her now," said Beatrice.

She put her arms about her mother, and wept on her shoulder.

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