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In My Youth by  James Baldwin
Table of Contents


 

 

THE LONG WAY ABOUT IT

I. "THE GIVIN' IN"

[461]

G
ETTING married in meetin', my dear Leonidas and Leona, was a serious and long-protracted affair, requiring much deliberation and courage on the part of the two persons most interested therein. It was an ordeal through which very few young people were likely to venture without due consideration of the consequences and an heroic determination to endure unflinchingly the bonds of wedlock which they were thus voluntarily assuming.

The first step in the process was the "givin' in," and our Jonathan performed it with becoming dignity and grace. It was on a Fifth-day morning in the latter part of that month which worldly people vulgarly call March in honor of a heathenish god of war as unlovely as he was unchristian. In the woods where snow-drifts had lately been heaped up, the grass was already growing green. The johnny-jump-ups were beginning to bloom in sunny places, robins and bluebirds were mating in the orchard, the spring lambs were frisking in the woods pasture. The smell of the soil was in one's nostrils, the music of nature thrilled the senses.

It was such a morning as sends the red blood joyously coursing through your veins, filling your heart with gladness and your whole body with strength. It was just [462] the kind of morning to be thinking of pilgrimages, of marriage, of nest-building and of the infinitude of love.

But within the somber walls of the meetin'-house at Dry Forks, there was little of spring-time, and even the sunshine which struggled through the dust-covered windows was tempered with solemnity. The monthly meeting was in session, and the "shetters were shet," effectually separating the sexes. In one of the compartments the men were deliberating upon various weighty matters of church and state; in the other the women were giving their mites to charity and vigorously denouncing the fashions and the flippant tendencies of the times. The solemn faces of the men, shaded by the brims of their ample hats, seemed surcharged with a sense of the tremendous seriousness of life. The weary but kindly countenances of the women, half-concealed in the depths of their dove-colored bonnets, gave evidence of saintly resignation and faith too deep for words. Very few of all that were assembled there on that well-remembered Fifth-day morning had seen the johnny-jump-ups, or the frisking lambs, or the birds in the tree-tops; fewer still, having seen them, could have derived aught of inspiration or joy therefrom. The vain things of this world were put far away, and the thoughts of the faithful were centered upon the grim realities of life and the grimmer possibilities of immortality.

Suddenly, there was a perceptible stir of expectancy in the men's end of the meetin'. At a well-understood signal from one of the overseers, our Jonathan rose from his place on one of the middle benches and with no uncertain steps went up the aisle and handed a folded slip of paper to the clerk, who, as both moderator and secre- [463] tary of the meeting, was sitting behind a little desk at the top of the gallery.

"Say, Bobby!" whispered Ikey Bright, leaning over from the seat behind me and punching me sharply in the ribs. "Say, Bobby, it's goin' to be a splicin' at your house, ain't it? It'll be lots of fun to see Jont and the Lamb girl a-standin' up in meetin' together. Jist wait and see."

I dared not make any response, for father's eyes were upon me. The young man who was committing the act of "givin' in" was returning with downcast eyes and measured tread to his accustomed place. A profound silence filled the room, as though every person was duly impressed with the awfulness of the undertaking upon which he was about to embark; and then the solemnity was rudely disturbed by an accident without parallel in the annals of the meetin'. For, in his great perturbation of mind miscalculating the place and the distance, our Jonathan missed his bench and sat forcibly down on the floor. Despite most vivid visions of mother's hickory and father's dire displeasure, I gave way to a fit of suppressed laughter that no effort of the will could restrain; Jake Dobson actually snickered in an audible and most disgraceful fashion; and I was led to suspect that he and Little Enick Fox, who sat near by, had perpetrated a miserable and most sinful joke by tipping the bench just at the psychological moment when Jonathan was off his balance. The minister and elders moved uneasily in their seats, and the overseers glanced sharply about the room and thereby silently quelled any further exhibition of hilarity.

The clerk himself seemed somewhat perturbed by the [464] unusual occurrence. He unfolded the bit of paper very deliberately, turned it over and viewed it from every angle, coughed nervously, and then rose to a standing position beside his little desk.

"I have here a communication from two of our young friends which I will now proceed to read," he announced.

The silence was audible, as he paused before beginning, and I glanced once more at our poor Jonathan, cowering on his bench and making himself as small as possible.

"The communication is as follows," continued the clerk:


     "To Dry Forks Monthly Meeting, to be held at Dry Forks Indiana, on the twenty-fifth day of the Third-month.


"Dear Friends:

     "This is to certify that we the undersigned intend marriage with each other.

"JONATHAN DUDLEY,
"ESTHER LAMB."


There was a perceptible hum of satisfaction among the younger men and boys as he finished the brief reading, but the ministers and elders, in deep meditation, sat immovable as marble statues. The clerk slowly refolded the paper, returned it to his desk, and then in formal tones inquired,—

"What is the feeling of the meeting with reference to this communication from our young friends?"

After a short pauses, as if for consultation with the spirit, Levi T. Jay rose from his top-gallery seat and gave expression to his thoughts:

"My mind is free to suggest the appointment of a committee to unite with a like committee of women friends [465] in examining into the relations and conduct of the young couple, and if no obstacles appear, to report the same to our next monthly meeting."

"My mind is free also," said Abner Jones, the first overseer.

"Mine is also," sang out old Joel Sparker.

"Mine, also!" echoed a chorus of voices from all parts of the room.

The committee was accordingly appointed, with Levi T. as its chairman.

Then, at the clerk's suggestion, the communication was sent by a special messenger to the women's meeting on the other side of the "shetters." There it was read with all due solemnity, and the requisite committee was named to act, jointly or independently as the case might require, with the men's committee already appointed.

Thus the "givin' in" was accomplished.

When the meeting "broke," and even before the elders in the top gallery had finished shaking hands, our Jonathan fled incontinently out by the nearest door, and with unseemly speed betook himself to the spot where his filly was tethered. He paused not to hear the congratulations of his friends or to reply to the jibes of unmannerly boys who pursued him. He cast not even a glance backward toward the women's end of the meetin'-house where he might have seen Esther Lamb, in blue sunbonnet and white apron, shaking hands with our Cousin Sally and other well-wishing friends. But, in evident agitation, he mounted his steed, cantered out into the big road and hurried homeward.

"Well, Jonathan, how does thee like 'givin' in'?" inquired Cousin Mandy Jane.

[466] "It's the tarnalest thing I ever tackled. I wouldn't never do it ag'in for the purtiest gal on airth!"


II. "THE PASSIN' "

It was the last Fifth-day morning in the Fourth month, otherwise called the month of April. The field had been plowed for corn, the oats had already been sown and were springing up thick and green in the sun-warmed soil, the birds had finished their love-making and were keeping house. Our dear old log cabin had been erected anew on Jonathan's forty-acre piece, and was ready for occupancy. It looked very snug and comfortable under its brand-new roof of shaved shingles and it seemed very grand with its painted door and the shining "chany" door-knob which had taken the place of the ancient latch-string.

As I have said, it was Fifth-day morning, and at Dry Forks the monthly meeting was again in session, with the "shetters shet" and the men and women gravely deliberating in their respective "ends." There was a large attendance of the curious and irreverent, for the ceremony of "passin' meeting' " was to be performed, and next to a real wedding, it would afford the rarest entertainment known to the people of the New Settlement.

The clerk opened the meeting with the usual formal reading of a "minute" announcing that event. A few minor items of business were disposed of, and a season of silent waiting ensued which seemed greatly to refresh the impatient souls of the seekers for diversion. Then the clerk, standing up beside his desk, inquired if it was the mind of the meeting to consider the case of the [467] young friends who at the preceding meeting had given in their intentions of marriage.

In answer thereto, Levi T. Jay arose and announced that "The committees appointed to have this matter under advisement are ready to make their report."

"If that is the case and there are no objections on the part of friends," said father, "I think that we might proceed with the matter in the usual way."

As he resumed his seat, the door nearest to the facin' bench was thrown open and the two persons who were the center of interest entered. There was a bustle of excitement among the irreverent, and some of the ruder small boys tittered audibly as the pair of intenders, holding each other's right hands, advanced and stood up in front of the facin' bench which had been vacated for their accommodation. Scarcely had this unseemly interruption subsided when an unexpected air was observed in the gallery, with a general rising among the elders and a removing of hats. Good old Joel Sparker had dropped upon his knees, being suddenly moved to offer supplication in behalf of the adventurous couple who were seeking to embark on the uncertain sea of matrimony.

Of course, we were all obliged to rise and turn our backs toward the supplicator lest we might see his attendant angel (as in my former days of innocence I had supposed). But I had now grown hardened with respect to the ways of angels—having had no little experience in that direction—and skepticism had already taken deep root in my heart. Therefore, while Joel was valiantly wrestling with the Lord and earnestly pleading for blessings on the heads of our dear young friends, I [468] turned half-way about and busied myself with taking a mental photograph of them.

Our Jonathan was to me the central figure in the whole assemblage, and I felt that by his present action he was bringing great distinction to our household. He was fixed up in a style which must have made him feel uncomfortable. He wore a starched shirt with a stand-up collar which sawed the bottoms of his ears. His trousers of home-made brown stuff were much too large for him, having been made by our Aunt Rachel, who believed in always giving good measure. He wore no coat, for the day was warm; but his shirt-sleeves were spotlessly clean, and his galluses, which had been bought in Nopplis, were beautiful to see. His face was smoothly shaven, and his hair, oozing with bear's grease, was smoothly plastered down on his forehead. His eyes were directed straight before him, and he seemed scarcely conscious of the presence of buxom Esther who stood, trembling and blushing, by his side.

And she—she had never appeared so charming. She had exchanged her usual coarse garb of homespun for a handsome gray gown of store-goods material; and instead of her much-worm pasteboard sunbonnet, she wore the daintiest little turtle-shell of brown silk that had ever been seen in the Dry Forks meetin'-house. Furthermore—but here my furtive observations were suddenly terminated by hearing the "forever and ever amen" with which Friend Joel always ended his supplications. With much unnecessary shuffling of feet, the men and boys resumed their places, and the business of the meeting proceeded in the usual established order.

"The meeting will now listen to the reports of the committees to which I alluded a few moments ago," an- [469] nounced the clerk; and taking up a half-sheet of foolscap he read the following:


     "To the Dry Forks Monthly Meeting, to be held on Fifth-day, the twenty-ninth of the Fourth-month.


     "We the undersigned appointed to inquire concerning the conduct and outward relations of Jonathan Dudley and Esther Lamb, do hereby report that we find no obstacles to prevent them from proceeding with their intentions of marriage, their parents and guardians being favorably disposed toward the same.

"Signed by the COMMITTEE."


"Is it the mind of the meeting to accept this report?" inquired the clerk.

"I unite with the report," answered 'Lihu Bright.

"I do also," responded various voices in the gallery.

The clerk accordingly declared that the meeting was in entire agreement with the committee; and the report was ordered to be copied in the "minutes." Then father, as the official head of the meeting, arose in his place and made announcement:

"I think that if the mind of the meeting is clear and no obstruction appears in the way, our young friends might now reaffirm their intentions and pass into the women's meeting to repeat the same."

A deep and solemn silence followed. Then the crucial point in the proceedings arrived as the bustling little clerk behind his little desk and addressed himself to the "intenders":

"Jonathan and Esther, do you still continue your intentions of marriage with one another?"

"We do," bravely asserted Jonathan.

"We do," sweetly echoed Esther.

"Your answers will be recorded in the minutes of the [470] monthly meeting," said the clerk. "You may now pass into the women's meeting and there make the same avowals."

The door between the two compartments was silently opened, and the passing was promptly and creditably performed. The intending couple disappeared, the door was closed by an unseen hand, and we could only guess what was occurring on the other side of the shetters.

Nothing more remained to be done by the men's meeting, save to appoint a committee of three to attend the marriage ceremony and wedding festivities, to see that everything was performed in accordance with our Discipline, decently and in an orderly manner, and to report thereon at the next monthly meeting.

Such was the ceremony of "passin' meetin'," as I remember seeing it once, and only once, in my lifetime. (But, O Leona, what tricks your memory will play you at the end of sixty years!) The custom was perhaps a vestigial relic handed down to our fathers from the God-fearing days and saintly practices of George Fox and his disciples. It was designed to be one of several safeguards against hasty and ill-advised marriages, and in those remote times of non-haste and simple living, it no doubt served a good purpose. But when the hydra of progress began to lift its hundred heads, our people soon caught the fever of impatience (and in matters of marriage that fever is sometimes intense) and this awkward old practice of stopping, looking, and listening before taking the irretrievable step was voted foolish and unnecessary; and, at about the time of which I am writing, it was abandoned and the rule was expunged from the Discipline.

[471] "Well, Jonathan, how does thee like passin' meetin'?" inquired Cousin Sally.

"I like it right smart," he answered; "and I wouldn't mind doin' it ag'in if I had to."


III. "THE SPLICIN' "

Again it is a Fifth-day morning—it is the first Fifth-day in the Fifth-month, commonly called May. Again, in the solemn old meetin'-house the people are gathered. A meeting is in progress—not the monthly nor the quart'ly, but the usual week-day meeting for worship. The shetters are opened, and men and women are worshiping together, each sex in its own part of the great dingy room.

There is a much larger attendance than usual, and every bench is filled. Many worldly people and many strangers from distant parts have assembled with us, some drawn by feelings of friendship and good will, but more, it is feared, by motives of idle curiosity. For to-day there is to be a marryin' in meetin'. Yes, the anxious young people, who have been dallying with intentions for lo! these six weeks, are finally about to accomplish those intentions and be duly "spliced" in the good old-fashioned way of the Discipline.

And there you may see them, sitting on the women's facin' bench, erect and motionless as dead statues, their eyes fixed on vacancy, their thoughts centered upon the ceremony that is so soon to take place. They are the center of attraction to a vast multitude, and they know it; and this fact gives them much additional concern, for they are by no means used to notoriety.

By the side of the bride sits her "waiter," her dearest [472] and most trusted young woman friend, even our Cousin Sally, blushing all over like a rose in summer. The groom is also flanked by his "waiter" in the person of—would you believe it?—his brother David!

"I don't keer to go out of the fambly for any help," he said, when twitted on account of his choice of best man. "Th' ain't no man livin' that knows how to wait on me better'n our David; and th' ain't no other man livin' that I'd resk to stand up with me when I'm sure to be so tarnal skeered and likely to forgit what I ought to say."

And David had long demurred chiefly on account of his great bashfulness in the presence of women. "I'll do it for thee, Jonathan," he said, finally consenting, " 'cause I don't so awfully mind it to walk alongside of Cousin Sally, anyhow. Everybody knows that her and me's kinder half-way kin, and I guess they won't be a-thinkin' that we are getting' sweet on one another. Yes, I'll stand up with thee, Jonathan, if it skeers all my toenails clean out'n my boots."

How very stiff and uncomfortable they are, sitting there on the facin' bench and waiting for the hour of doom! Jonathan is resplendent in a broad-brimmed beaver hat, of the natural color, and David looks scarcely less becoming under his last year's home-made straw, now newly pressed and bleached for the occasion. The hands of both are sadly in the way, and their feet, so large and cumbersome, give them much additional concern. The day being warm, they have worn their coats under protest; and their red cotton bandannas are frequently drawn from their hat crowns in order to mop the sweat from their troubled brows. What a fearful experience it must be, and how abashed they must feel, [473] sitting there in the women's end of the meetin', with Esther Lamb and Cousin Sally so close beside them, and women all around!

And Esther and Sally are as unconcerned as though nothing were going to happen. How handsome are their neatly fitting gowns, innocent of all flounces and furbelows; and how becoming are their new little bonnets of light brown silk half concealing their blushful cheeks! From my accustomed seat I can gaze at them undisturbed. If I were older by twenty years and should I be choosing a wife, I don't know which one of the two I would take—Ah! I wouldn't give a snap for either;  for there, just beyond the partition, I see a third face which makes my heart thump loudly and my whole being quiver with joy. It is the face of my Angel, grown a little older, a littler more sedate, but none the less beautiful.

A half-hour passes in awful silence. I try my best to be good and to meditate on the good place and the best method of getting there—as mother had often told me to do. Nevertheless, in spite of all my efforts, my eyes and my thoughts will wander to the women's end of the meetin'—to the occupants of the facin' bench, but most often to the angelic creature who is but partially visible by reason of the plainly dressed maids and matrons who block the women's aisle and obscure the view. The spirit is quiescent to-day, for it moves no one to speak—no, not even Joel Sparker or Margot Duberry. The elders, male and female, sit in their respective galleries, absorbed in contemplation, oblivious of the things of time and sense, waiting for the divine fire. But among the undevout, on the black benches of the two apartments, symptoms of impatience are begin- [474] ning to be manifested. The silence is being interrupted by the shuffling of feet, the rustle of garments, even the whispering of ill-mannered boys and the giggling of scatter-pated girls. And yet the elders heed none of these tokens of unrest.

The minutes drag on by leaden wings. The suspense becomes unbearable, the silence becomes a mockery. Even I, Robert Dudley, am becoming infected with the general nervousness, the growing feeling of impatience and hilarity. I look to see if my Angel is among the undevout disturbers of the peace, and she has disappeared. I fidget in my seat. Is it possible that we must remain quiet through the whole of another half-hour?

I see father slyly nudging Levi T. with his elbow. The sun has reached the noon mark on the window-jamb just before their eyes. The period of silent waiting is at last ended. Levi T., in his capacity as assistant head of the meeting, rises, slowly and with becoming dignity. From his lofty place in the top gallery he surveys the impatient assemblage before him; then, as a profound silence ensues, he makes his official announcement:

"I think that, if the minds of all seem clear, the time has arrived for the marriage of our young friends to be duly and properly performed."

As he resumes his seat there is a hum of mingled satisfaction and anticipation. The elders, awakened from their meditations, raise their heads and look beneficently happy. There is a general craning forward of necks, a manifestation of the intensest interest. Some of the boys stand up on the benches, thus obstructing the view of the more mannerly people behind them. The young mothers on the other side of the partition lift their babies very high in their arms, perhaps to enable them to see [475] the marryin', perhaps to encourage the faltering souls who are about to embark on the perilous voyage of matrimony.

Another minute elapses. The bustling little clerk of the men's meetin' hurries down the aisle with a roll of parchment in his hand. He takes a position in full view of the occupants of the facin' bench; he raises the hand with the parchment roll a very little—a very little, but the signal is seen and understood by those for whom it is intended. Our Jonathan and his Esther join hands and, with their respective waiters, rise solemnly in the presence of the meetin'. There is an awesome hush as the four stand up in a stiff row with the facin' bench behind them. The eyes of the groom and bride are directed vacantly forward, their faces flush quickly and then turn pale, their hearts are in a tumult. The supreme moment has arrived.

The clerk raises the parchment roll again—a very little, but how tremendous the event that it signals! Our Jonathan, holding the plump little hand of Esther in his long lank palm, speaks up in strong but tremulous tones, repeating the formula prescribed by the Discipline:

"Friends, in the presence of the Lord and her before you all, I take this my friend, Esther Lamb, to be my wife, promising with divine assistance to be unto her a loving and faithful husband until death shall separate us."

It is observed by those who sit nearest that he gives Esther's hand an assuring squeeze, perhaps as a mere signal that her time has come, perhaps to emphasize the meaning of his words in a special manner. She raises her expressive eyes and looks squarely at the audience [476] and at her grim old grandfather who sits facing her on this side of the partition. Then, in a low clear voice, which not half the people can hear, she repeats the similar formula:

"Friends, in the presence of the Lord and here before you all, I take this my friend, Jonathan Dudley, to be my husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto him a loving and faithful wife until death shall separate us."

This is all. The two have proclaimed their vows and they are now man and wife. No priest has mumbled his meaningless prayers in their presence; no magistrate has read to them the questions prescribed by the state; there has been no formal presentation of the wedding ring; the bride, poor thing, has not been given away by her nearest relative—and yet they henceforth, "until death shall separate them," belong irrevocably to each other. They, with their waiters, resume their seats on the facin' bench, and the ceremony of declaring and attesting follows.

The clerk of the men's meeting is having the greatest day of his life. He comes forward briskly, carrying his little official desk, which he places in the aisle quite near the newly married. Then standing up behind it, he unrolls the precious parchment, which he has all along held in his hand. It is the marriage certificate of Jonathan Dudley and Esther Dudley, his wife. He proceeds to read it aloud to the assembled audience, and his tones are so clear and distinct that the loafers who are whittling around the door of the post-office, a hundred yards away, hear every word of it. It is a long and wonderful document, bristling with "saids" and "aforesaids" and "wherefores" and "therefores," and giving a full his- [477] tory of the marriage from the "givin' in" to its culmination at the conclusion of to-day's meeting for worship. As the little man finishes the reading and lays the unrolled, unfolded certificate down flat on his desk (with the inkstand upon it to keep it in place), he looks around at his audience with an air of triumph and superiority. It is hard to say which of the two men is to be most envied, the self-important little clerk or the trembling bridegroom upon the facin' bench.

But hark! The little man raises his hand, he is about to speak. Let everybody listen.

"Friends," he says, "this certificate of marriage is now ready for the signatures of witnesses. Members of the two families and special friends of the two young people, who may desire to subscribe their names to the document, may come forward and do so."

He pushes his little desk a trifle nearer to the vacant end of the facin' bench, he dips his best goose-quill pen into the ink, and with a genteel flourish of his left hand, stands waiting to serve the signing witnesses as they come. Custom and good manners have decreed that the waiters shall have the precedence in this last act of the little drama, and therefore Cousin Sally is the first to affix her name to the immortal document. Her signature is as round and plump as herself, but she would have written it a little better if the ink had been pokeberry juice instead of the plain black liquid that it is. Then David with supreme awkwardness attempts to wield the stubborn pen. He has been practicing his name for the last two weeks, but when at length the difficult feat is accomplished he leaves at the bottom of the certificate only an indistinguishable scrawl that looks like the trail of a thousand-legged worm through a sea of darkness.

[478] Other friends and relatives now come forward, and the signing proceeds briskly and without interruption. Meanwhile, there is a general movement and more or less disorder among the spectators on the back benches. Many of them, realizing that the entertainment is at an end, are withdrawing from the house, before the meeting is formally "broke" by the shaking of hands. Others have left their seats and are crowding forward in the aisles to get a closer view of the newly married. The minutes glide by with accelerated speed; the excitement is at high tide. Then the little clerk, with dripping pen in hand, makes his final announcement:

"There is still room for three more names as witnesses to this certificate. If there are any other near friends or relatives who would like to sign, now is the time for them to come forward."

There is a slight stir on the other side of the partition near the spot where I saw my Angel a little while ago. A well-dressed woman has risen and is going forward to sign her name. I recognize her as the stately lady who was so kind to me that day when I was in Dashville and in Paradise. And Edith is with her! She is going down the aisle toward the facin' bench; she is actually taking her seat beside the clerk's desk! She is truly writing her blessed name at the bottom of that parchment roll—writing it with those of the other witnesses to the marriage. She has surely grown taller since that day in her father's library, she looks more womanly but every bit as angelic, she is the same merry Edith—but with additions and improvements.

She rises from the desk after writing her signatures, she turns her face for one moment toward the spot where I am sitting. I fancy that there is a look of recognition [479] in her eyes; but the next moment she has turned away and is lost to sight among the women who are now crowding down into the aisle.

A sudden impulse comes upon me to write my name underneath hers on that certificate of Jonathan's. I slip off my bench and make a brief movement toward the aisle; but my timidity restrains and prevents me. Every eye in that vast company seems to be looking directly at me; and I shrink back, trembling and abashed.

"It's too late now, Bobby," whispers Ikey Bright, gently punching me with his big fist. "Meetin' 's broke."

I look up at the top gallery, and see father and the elders shaking hands. The married couple with their waiters have risen and are pushing their way down the women's aisle, briefly responding to congratulations as they pass. The little clerk has folded the marriage certificate very accurately and neatly, and is tying a bit of red tape around the parchment, preparatory to delivering it to the proper authorities for record. Yes, "meetin' is broke," and nothing remains to be done but to glide bashfully out-of-doors and prepare to ride with father and mother to the weddin' dinner at Old Enoch's.

The marryin' in meetin' is at last accomplished.


IV. THE INFARE

And what of the wedding dinner? I have father's word for it that it surpassed his expectations; but beyond that, the less said of it the better.

"Well, Lochinvar," inquired the twin teachers, "how does thee like getting spliced according to Discipline?"

"I like it right smart," he answered. "I like it so well that I don't never aim to git spliced ag'in as long as I live."

[480] And Esther remarked that she felt much the same way.

"It was turble tryin' to have the business a-hangin' fire so long," added Jonathan; "but I reckon the long cut was right smart better nor the short one might 'a' been, after all."

"That's so," she smilingly agreed.

Jonathan's infare, which occurred the following day, was an event long to be remembered; for it celebrated not only his home-coming after the wedding but also the completion and full occupancy of our grand new house. It marked so, in a certain sense, the end of the era of innocence in our Settlement and the inevitable triumph of social progress and worldly ambitions.

The dinner on that occasion was an affair worthy to be talked about by generations yet unborn. It had been prepared under the supervision of our Cousin Sally, and while it was not better than might have been expected, it evened up the festal matters most wonderfully, leaving a large balance on our side of the account.

There were many guests present from near and far, and among them were our friends, the Wilsons and the Merediths, from Dashville. That is was possible for so celestial a being as merry Edith Meredith to become a visitor in our own home surpassed all my wildest flights of fancy. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw her alight from her grandmother's carriage and, under mother's pilotage, enter our respectable but unworthy dwelling. And when, in response to my timid, awkward greeting, she held out her hand and, smiling sweetly, said "Good morning, Robert!" my soul was lifted into Paradise. From that hour and moment, our front door was a hallowed place at which I always paused to repeat [481] a little prayer; and never afterward, so long as that home was ours, did I cross the threshold (which her dear feet has passed) without first pronouncing her name.

The day was glorious and all nature seemed rejoicing. The cherry trees were white with blossoms, the . . .

[Note.—These are believed to be the last words ever penned by the hand of Robert Dudley. The sheet on which they were written, with the ink not yet dry, was found on his desk beneath his nerveless arm, when the housekeeper, coming in and, thinking him asleep, attempted gently to rouse him. What were his intentions regarding the continuation of his narrative, it is impossible to say; but there are reasons for believing that he did not contemplate carrying it beyond the story of his boyhood. Among his miscellaneous writings, however, a number of random sketches and brief notes, throwing light on different periods of his life, have been discovered—some scribbled on little scraps of paper and some jotted down in a vest-pocket memorandum. Among these are the three little fragments included in the following chapter, which, if properly interpreted, will go far toward bridging the chasm between childhood and age, and completing the story of a long and not uneventful life.

—EDITOR.]


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