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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWatersprings - Chapter 23. The Wedding
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Watersprings - Chapter 23. The Wedding Post by :lordg Category :Long Stories Author :Arthur C. Benson Date :May 2012 Read :2683

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Watersprings - Chapter 23. The Wedding

CHAPTER XXIII. THE WEDDING

The way in which the people at Windlow took the news was very characteristic. Howard frankly did not care how they regarded it. Mr. Sandys was frankly and hugely delighted. He apologised to Howard for having mentioned the subject of Guthrie to him.

"The way you took it, Howard," he said, "was a perfect model of delicacy and highmindedness! Why, if I had dreamed that you cared for my little girl, I would have said, and truly said, that the dearest wish of my heart had been fulfilled. But one is blind, a parent is blind; and I had somehow imagined you as too sedate, as altogether too much advanced in thought and experience, for such a thing. I would rather have bitten out my tongue than spoken as I did to you. It is exactly what my dear girl needs, some one who is older and wiser than herself--she needs some one to look up to, to revere; she is thoughtful and anxious beyond her years, and she is made to repose confidence in a mind more mature. I do not deny, of course, that your position at Windlow makes the arrangement a still more comfortable one; but I have always said that my children must marry whom they would; and I should have welcomed you, my dear Howard, as a son-in-law, under any circumstances."

Jack, on the contrary, was rather more cautious in his congratulations. "I am all for things being fixed up as people like," he said, "and I am sure it's a good match for Maud, and all that. But I can't put the two ends together. I never supposed that you would fall in love, any more than that my father would marry again; and when it comes to your falling in love with Maud--well, if you knew that girl as I do, you would think twice! I can't conceive what you will ever have to talk about, unless you make her do essays. It is really rather embarrassing to have a Don for a brother-in-law. I feel as if I should have to say 'we' when I talked to the other Dons, and I shall be regarded with suspicion by the rest of the men. But of course you have my blessing, if you will do it; though if you like to cry off, even now, I will try to keep the peace. I feel rather an ass to have said that about Fred Guthrie; but of course he is hard hit, and I can't think how I shall ever be able to look him in the face. What bothers me is that I never saw how things were going. Well, may it be long before I find myself in the same position! But you are welcome to Missy, if you think you can make anything of her."

Mrs. Graves did little more than express her delight. "It was what I somehow hoped from the first for both of you," she said.

"Well," said Howard, "the only thing that puzzles me is that when you saw--yes, I am sure you saw--what was happening, you didn't make a sign."

"No," said Mrs. Graves, "that is just what one can't do! I didn't doubt that it would come right, I guessed what Maud felt; but you had to find the way to her yourself. I was sure of Maud, you see; but I was not quite sure of you. It does not do to try experiments, dear Howard, with forces as strong as love; I knew that if I told you how things stood, you would have felt bound out of courtesy and kindness to speak, and that would have been no good. If it is illegal to help a man to commit suicide, it is worse, it is wicked to push a man into marriage; but I am a very happy woman now--so happy that I am almost afraid."

Howard talked over his plans with Mrs. Graves; there seemed no sort of reason to defer his wedding. He told her, too, that he had a further plan. There was a system at Beaufort by which, after a certain number of years' service, a Fellow could take a year off duty, without affecting his seniority or his position. "I am going to do this," he said. "I do not think it is unwise. I am too old, I think, both to make Maud's acquaintance as I wish, and to keep my work going at the same time. It would be impossible. So I will settle down here, if you will let me, and try to understand the place and the people; and then if it seems well, I will go back to Cambridge in October year, and go on with my work. I hope you will approve of that?"

"I do entirely approve," said Mrs. Graves. "I will make over to you at once what you will in any case ultimately inherit--and I believe your young lady is not penniless either? Well, money has its uses sometimes."

Howard did this. Mr. Redmayne wrote him a letter in which affection and cynicism were curiously mingled.

"There will be two to please now instead of one," he wrote. "I do not, of course, approve of Dons marrying. The tender passion is, I believe, inimical to solid work; this I judge from observation rather than from experience. But you will get over all that when you are settled; and then if you decide to return--and we can ill spare you--I hope you will return to work in a reasonable frame of mind. Pray give my respects to the young lady, and say that if she would like a testimonial to your honesty and sobriety, I shall be happy to send her one."

All these experiences, shared by Maud, were absurdly delightful to Howard. She was rather alarmed by Redmayne's letter.

"I feel as if I were doing rather an awful thing," she said, "in taking you away like this. I feel like Hotspur's wife and Enid rolled into one. I shouldn't DARE to go with you at once to Cambridge--I should feel like a Pomeranian dog on a lead."

And so it came to pass that on a certain Monday in the month of September a very quiet little wedding took place at Windlow. The bells were rung, and a hideous object of brushwood and bunting, that looked like the work of a bower-bird, was erected in the road, and called a triumphal arch. Mr. Redmayne insisted on coming, and escorted Monica from Cambridge, "without in any way compromising my honour and virtue," he said: "it must be plainly understood that I have no INTENTIONS." He made a charming speech at the subsequent luncheon, in which he said that, though he personally regretted the turn that affairs had taken, he could not honestly say that, if matrimony were to be regarded as advisable, his friends could have done better.

The strange thing to Howard was the contrast between his own acute and intolerable nervousness, and the entire and radiant self-possession of Maud. He had a bad hour on the morning of the wedding-day itself. He had a sort of hideous fear that he had done selfishly and perversely, and that it was impossible that Maud could really continue to love him; that he had sacrificed her youth to his fancy, and his vivid imagination saw himself being wheeled in a bath-chair along the Parade of a health-resort, with Maud in melancholy attendance.

But when he saw his child enter the church, and look up to catch his eye, his fears melted like a vapour on glass; and his love seemed to him to pour down in a sudden cataract, too strong for a human heart to hold, to meet the exquisite trustfulness and sweetness of his bride, who looked as though the gates of heaven were ajar. After that he saw and heard nothing but Maud. They went off together in the afternoon to a little house in Dorsetshire by a lonely sea-cove, which Mr. Sandys had spent many glorious and important hours in securing and arranging. It was only an hour's journey. If Howard had needed reassuring he had his desire; for as they drove away from Windlow among the thin cries of the village children, Howard put his arm round Maud, and said "Well, child?" upon which she took his other hand in both of her own, and dropping her head on his shoulder, said, "Utterly and entirely and absolutely proud and happy and content!" And then they sate in silence.

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