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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part One - Chapter 3
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Together - Part One - Chapter 3 Post by :endbay Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :2978

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Together - Part One - Chapter 3


Meanwhile inside the great tent the commotion was at its height, most of the guests--those who had escaped the fascination of the punch-bowl--having found their way thither. Perspiring waiters rushed back and forth with salad and champagne bottles, which were seized by the men and borne off to the women waiting suitably to be fed by the men whom they had attached. Near the entrance the Colonel, with his old friends Beals and Senator Thomas, was surveying the breakfast scene, a contented smile on his kind face, as he murmured assentingly, "So--so." He and the Senator had served in the same regiment during the War, Price retiring as Colonel and the Senator as Captain; while the bridegroom's father, Tyringham Lane, had been the regimental surgeon.

"What a good fellow Tyringham was, and how he would have liked to be here!" the Senator was saying sentimentally, as he held out a glass to be refilled. "Poor fellow!--he never got much out of his life; didn't know how to make the most of things,--went out there to that Iowa prairie after the War. You say he left his widow badly off?"

The Colonel nodded, and added with pride, "But John has made that right now."

The Senator, who had settled in Indianapolis and practised railroad law until his clients had elevated him to the Senate, considered complacently the various dispensations of Providence towards men. He said generously:--

"Well, Tyringham's son has good blood, and it will tell. He will make his way. We'll see to that, eh, Beals?" and the Senator sauntered over to a livelier group dominated by Cornelia Pallanton's waving black plumes.

"Oh, marriage!" Conny chaffed, "it's the easiest thing a woman can do, isn't it? Why should one be in a hurry when it's so hard to go back?"

"Matrimony," Fosdick remarked, "is an experiment where nobody's experience counts but your own." He had been torn from the punch-bowl and thus returned to his previous train of thought.

"Is that why some repeat it so often?" Elsie Beals inquired. She had broken her engagement the previous winter and had spent the summer hunting with Indian guides among the Canadian Rockies. She regarded herself as unusual, and turned sympathetically to Fosdick, who also had a reputation for being odd.

"So let us eat and be merry," that young man said, seizing a pate and glass of champagne, "though I never could see why good people should make such an unholy rumpus when two poor souls decide to attempt the great experiment of converting illusion into reality."

"Some succeed," an earnest young man suggested.

Conny, who had turned from the constant Woodyard to the voluble fat man, who might be a Somebody, remarked:--

"I suppose you don't see the puddles when you are in their condition. It's always the belief that we are going to escape 'em that drives us all into your arms."

"What I object to," Fosdick persisted, feeding himself prodigiously, "is not the fact, but this savage glee over it. It's as though a lot of caged animals set up a howl of delight every time the cage door was opened and a new pair was introduced into the pen. They ought to perform the wedding ceremony in sackcloth and ashes, after duly fasting, accompanied by a few faithful friends garbed in black with torches."

Conny gave him a cold, surface smile, setting down his talk as "young" and beamed at the approaching Senator.

"Oh, what an idea!" giggled a little woman. "If you can't dance at your own wedding, you may never have another chance."

Conny, though intent upon the Senator, kept an eye upon Woodyard, introducing him to the distinguished man, thinking, no doubt, that the Chairman of the A. and P. Board might be useful to the young lawyer. For whatever she might be to women, this large blond creature with white neck, voluptuous lips, and slow gaze from childlike eyes had the power of drawing males to her, a power despised and also envied by women. Those simple eyes seemed always to seek information about obvious matters. But behind the eyes Conny was thinking, 'It's rather queer, this crowd. And these Prices with all their money might do so much better. That Fosdick is a silly fellow. The Senator is worn of course, but still important!' And yet Conny, with all her sureness, did not know all her own mental processes. For she, too, was really looking for a mate, weighing, estimating men to that end, and some day she would come to a conclusion,--would take a man, Woodyard or another, giving him her very handsome person, and her intelligence, in exchange for certain definite powers of brain and will.

The bride and groom entered the tent at last. Isabelle, in a renewed glow of triumph, stepped over to the table and with her husband's assistance plunged a knife into the huge cake, while her health was being drunk with cheers. As she firmly cut out a tiny piece, she exposed a thin but beautifully moulded arm.

"Handsome girl," the Senator murmured in Conny's ear. "Must be some sore hearts here to-day. I don't see how such a beauty could escape until she was twenty-six. But girls want their fling these days, same as the men!"

"Toast! Toast the bride!" came voices from all sides, while the waiters hurried here and there slopping the wine into empty glasses.

As the bride left the tent to get ready for departure, she caught sight of Margaret Lawton in a corner of the veranda with Hollenby, who was bending towards her, his eyes fastened on her face. Margaret was looking far away, across the fields to where Dog Mountain rose in the summer haze. Was Margaret deciding _her fate at this moment,--attracted, repulsed, waiting for the deciding thrill, while her eyes searched for the ideal of happiness on the distant mountain? She turned to look at the man, drawing back as his hand reached forward. So little, so much--woman's fate was in the making this June day, all about the old house,--attracting, repulsing, weighing,--unconsciously moulding destiny that might easily be momentous in the outcome of the years....

When the bride came down, a few couples had already begun to dance, but they followed the other guests to the north side where the carriage stood ready. Isabelle looked very smart in her new gown, a round travelling hat just framing her brilliant eyes and dark hair. Mrs. Price followed her daughter closely, her brows puckered in nervous fear lest something should be forgotten. She was especially anxious about a certain small bag, and had the maid take out all the hand luggage to make sure it had not been mislaid.

Some of the younger ones led by Vickers pelted the couple with rice, while this delay occurred. It was a silly custom that they felt bound to follow. There was no longer any meaning in the symbol of fertility. Multiply and be fruitful, the Bible might urge, following an ancient economic ideal of happiness. But the end of marriage no longer being this gross purpose, the sterile woman has at last come into honor! ...

The bride was busy kissing a group of young women who had clustered about her,--Elsie Beals, Aline, Alice Johnston, Conny. Avoiding Nannie Lawton's wide open arms, she jumped laughingly into the carriage, then turned for a last kiss from the Colonel.

"Here, out with you Joe," Vickers exclaimed to the coachman. "I'll drive them down to the station. Quick now,--they mustn't lose the express!"

He bundled the old man from the seat, gathered up the reins with a flourish, and whipped the fresh horses. The bride's last look, as the carriage shot through the bunch of oleanders at the gate, gathered in the group of waving, gesticulating men and women, and above them on the steps the Colonel, with his sweet, half-humorous smile, her mother at his side, already greatly relieved, and behind all the serious face of Alice Johnston, the one who knew the mysteries both tender and harsh, and who could still call it all good! ...

Vickers whisked them to the station in a trice, soothing his excitement by driving diabolically, cutting corners and speeding down hill. At the platform President Beals's own car was standing ready for them, the two porters at the steps. The engine of the special was to take them to the junction where the "Bellefleur" would be attached to the night express,--a special favor for the President of the A. and P. The Senator had insisted on their having his camp in the Adirondacks for a month. Isabelle would have preferred her own little log hut in the firs of Dog Mountain, which she and Vickers had built. There they could be really quite alone, forced to care for themselves. But the Colonel could not understand her bit of sentiment, and John thought they ought not to offend the amiable Senator, who had shown himself distinctly friendly. So they were to enter upon their new life enjoying these luxuries of powerful friends.

The porters made haste to put the bags in the car, and the engine snorted.

"Good-by, Mr. Gerrish," Isabelle called to the station agent, who was watching them at a respectful distance. Suddenly he seemed to be an old friend, a part of all that she was leaving behind.

"Good-by, Miss Price--Mrs. Lane," he called back. "Good luck to you!"

"Dear old Vick," Isabelle murmured caressingly, "I hate most to leave you behind."

"Better stay, then,--it isn't too late," he joked. "We could elope with the ponies,--you always said you would run off with me!"

She hugged him more tightly, burying her head in his neck, shaking him gently. "Dear old Vick! Don't be a fool! And be good to Dad, won't you?"

"I'll try not to abuse him."

"You know what I mean--about staying over for the summer. Oh dear, dear!" There was a queer sob in her voice, as if now for the first time she knew what it was. The old life was all over. Vick had been so much of that! And she had seen little or nothing of him since his return from Europe, so absorbed had she been in the bustle of her marriage. Up there on Dog Mountain which swam in the haze of the June afternoon they had walked on snowshoes one cold January night, over the new snow by moonlight, talking marvellously of all that life was to be. She believed then that she should never marry, but remain always Vick's comrade,--to guide him, to share his triumphs. Now she was abandoning that child's plan. She shook with nervous sobs.

"The engineer says we must start, dear," Lane suggested. "We have only just time to make the connection."

Vickers untwisted his sister's arms from his neck and placed them gently in her husband's hands.

"Good-by, girl," he called.

Sinking into a chair near the open door, Isabelle gazed back at the hills of Grafton until the car plunged into a cut. She gave a long sigh. "We're off!" her husband said joyously. He was standing beside her, one hand resting on her shoulder.

"Yes, dear!" She took his strong, muscled hand in hers. But when he tried to draw her to him, she shrank back involuntarily, startled, and looked at him with wide-open eyes as if she would read Destiny in him,--the Man, her husband.

For this was marriage, not the pantomime they had lived through all that day. That was demanded by custom; but now, alone with this man, his eyes alight with love and desire, his lips caressing her hair, his hands drawing her to him,--this was marriage!

Her eyes closed as if to shut out his face,--"Don't, don't!" she murmured vaguely. Suddenly she started to her feet, her eyes wide open, and she held him away from her, looking into him, looking deep into his soul.

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PART ONE CHAPTER IVIt was a hot, close night. After the Bellefleur had been coupled to the Western express at the junction, Lane had the porters make up a bed for Isabelle on the floor of the little parlor next the observation platform, and here at the rear of the long train, with the door open, she lay sleepless through the night hours, listening to the rattle of the trucks, the thud of heavy wheels on the rails, disturbed only when the car was shifted to the Adirondack train by the blue glare of arc lights and phantom figures rushing to

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Together - Part One - Chapter 2
PART ONE CHAPTER IIThe company gathered within the chapel for the wedding now moved and talked with evident relief, each one expressing his feeling of the solemn service. "Very well done, very lovely!" the Senator was murmuring to the bride's mother, just as he might give an opinion of a good dinner or some neat business transaction or of a smartly dressed woman. It was a function of life successfully performed--and he nodded gayly to a pretty woman three rows away. He was handsome and gray-haired, long a widower, and evidently considered weddings to be an attractive, ornamental feature of social