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into my ear; and what I say wrong, correct— and what I say well, approve of.
Now, I have heard many men of my acquaintance unblushingly aver that their wedding-day was the most unhappy one of their lives; and this in cases in which everything was favourable—where beauty and wealth went hand in hand; when Erycina—fair, laughing goddess— was radiant in her favour; when Plutus smiled his substantial approval; and iu cases where the after wedded life was as happy as a child's dream.
Let me try and explain this seeming paradox as best I may, and tremble the while lest an eye of heavenly blue gleam with scorn and contempt when it lights on this ill-fated page. Now why, let me ask the question—why on this auspicious day does every performer in the play think it exceeding proper to come down to the ceremony with a face of exceeding dolour, as if about to proceed to his immediate execution? 'L'o wit, the "father of the bride "—generally a very genial, pleasant man, with no great wit certainly, but "a merry man," like the Nurse's husband—is this morning as gruff and unpleasant as though he were going to act the chief character in one of those fatal "marriages of the Loire," spoken of in "Enoch Arden." In common life he can speak tolerably well, his words, though not eloquent, are to the point; this morning he essays a speech, and after a few melancholy grunts, breaks down, and subsides into the most abject misery. Then '•'the mother of the bride," dissolved in tears, crying when everyone expects her, and it is her bounden duty, to make merry, seeing that she has got rid of one more of her well-trained flock. As for the principal actors, who more nervous, and timid, and generally miserable than the bridegroom i It is the greatest trouble in the world to make bim "come early," if in time at all; and then, so great his trepidation is, that he uniformly drops the ring, and produces an excitement of the least agreeable order, when Paterfamilias, utterly regardless of the sacred building, relieves bis bursting mind with a few hearty anathemas. Who more tearful and fainting than the bride? Instead of celebrating her victory and capture of the prize with drums and trumpets, she inevitably hangs out signals of distress, and sheds tears enough to quench the torch of Hymen and all his attendants. The " best men " are in a state of comatose wretchedness: they flutter an' they were even birds under the eye of the serpent, for they know, each man of them, that the bridesmaids are speculating on the not remote contingency of a marriage with them, if wind and tide favours. The latter, I will do them the credit to say, are somewhat festive: they are attired gorgeously, and dress certainly hath charms to soothe the minds of women, and suffers them not to be fierce; and they are assisting at a suggestive ceremony, and women always like to be important. Even the funny man, on these wretched occasions', seems under a cloud; his jokes fall flat as eharupagne with
the froth off. He who, like Armado, has when he likes "a quick venew of wit, aye by the salt wave of the Mediterranean," becomes now a hapless idiot, and his funny speeches somehow are transformed into funeral dirges. The only persons who take things merrily are the servants, who swoop on the remains of the marriage bakemeats, and get well drunken thereon; and the postboys, who do the same thing.
There must be something uncomfortable and wretched, then, in the ceremony. That's my deduction from the text, and I will only add one example more. 'Tis a well-known fact that in the land of Fluellen and his leek, it takes a whole company of men to chase the flying bridegroom, to hold him tight whilst the ceremony is being performed, otherwise he would certainly fly as far as he could from the Temple of Hymen.
A truce to all this empty gibing. There are cases where in real earnest the wedding-day is miserable, from the rising of the sun to its going down in the west. An old dotard of eighty winters "leads to the altar," so the fashionable cant of the day puts it, a bloomingvictim of twenty summers, and people cry "God bless them!" over the happy pair, and the clergyman invokes the benison of heaven on their heads, and enjoins the hoary old man to love and cherish (ah, hideous mockery !) the shrinking girl at his side. "Love and cherish I"— the words keep ringing in the victim's ears, as she helps her husband out of the sacred portal. Love and cherish!—aye, to be tied, Mezentius-like, the dead to the living, the young to the old, the strong to the imbecile, till Death (merciful Death) do them part. What joy and merrymaking in the halls of that demon who presides over unequal marriages, as he beholds the sacrificial victim all tricked out with silk and jewels—the price of the sacrifice—led to the altar! for well knows he that there will be another couple enchained in his bondage, wherein lurks deep secret treachery, disgust too strong for words; where children grow unloving between parents with whom there has never been the empty pretence of love, and infants are reared;'and nourished amid an atmosphere of false lies and deadly domestic vice. But we must still cry "Hymen, 6 Hy menace!" and wish the happy ct'iple all the joy in life, and throw the lucky sli[ ver a8 tne carriage is whirled away, and affords another refutation to the text, " Crabbed Age a id Youth cannot live together."
But the wedding chimes, as they ring their silvery peals o'er land and 'ea, this heavenly morning at Turlminster, seem to teach no such lesson as this, and the faces of all the people at the hall augur no such wretched results as we have been prosing over.
It is the day on which Ella is to take, "for better for worse," the husband of her choice, v/iioni she loves as only a girl of pure, unstained heart, in the full blush of maidenhood, can love—devoted entirely to his every nod and beck, the slave of her love, wilfully blind to his every fault, walking along the enchanted valley
hand in hand with her true knight. It is no
intention of mine to describe minutely this
wedding ceremony; oft has it been done before,
and by better hands. Let me linger for a little
while at Grantley's side this morning, and
assist at lii9 meditations.
Tor a man about to be made so happy, surely hie face is strangely clouded and overcast, and the tenor of bis thoughts seem not to be brightened by anything like exultation. Perhaps he is thinking of a certain morning long long ago—so long that the memory of it is but dim and uncertain—when he stood at a mock altar, before a mock clergyman, and did, in the tight of heaven and in cool blood, wilfully perjure biQself, and did promise to love and cherish a ronan, whom he knew he was devoting to a lite-Jong misery. All the actors in that crutl ceremony are dead now, save himself and iVathalie; and, horrible thought! she lives only for vengeance—all her love for him curdled into hate, unrelenting, savage hate—all the energies of her mind fully employed in working destruction of his own future happiness, and that of the poor girl whom he was so soon to link with himself in misery. Me has had no chance to repent, he thinks—no "golden grace of opportunity" has been presented to bim. Remorse, with its scourge, has tortured bim foil sorely; conscience has never been at re3t within his breast. Long ago he learnt that the brother-officer, who acted the clergyman's part in this Masque of Death, bad committed suicide, but be had previously received a letter from him, beseeching him to redress this foul wrong, and do justice to the injured woman, whose life be had thus cruelly blighted. And now the burden rang in bis ears, "Too late, too late!" He had commenced a new career, he had made another's innocent happiness dependent on bim, and he must go on with it to the end.
Not very happy reflections for a wedding morning—an evil omen for the voyage of Life, when the sky is thus overcast so early in the morning. But there is no help for it, thinks the Captain; and with this philosophy steeling his heart, he dons the wedding finery, and goes to meet the bride—the perfect type of a bandsome, well-dressed, English gentleman.
"A proper man," say the bystanders, as ihey behold him. "A braw husband for the wetty mistress!" chime in the servants, in all iaar wedding appointments; all but the footsun, J tames, who keeps a discreet silence, and, iiie the proverbial monkey, thinks the more.
Round Ella are gathered a most bewitching coterie of bridesmaids, each rivalling the other in good looks and gay dress; but she stands there, the fairest flower of them all—a flower well worth the wooing and the winning, and not a girl there but envies her lot, and would fain be in her place, little recking of the misery in store for her.
The curate is to assist, as it is impossible that a couple can be married now-a-days without at
least half-a-dozen clergymen to help one another in the service which begins with "Dearlybeloved" and ends with "amazement." He, too, perchance, is thinking of some not far distant day when he will play chief part in a ceremony like this, and, accordingly, is very angelic in his demeanour, and interchanges subdued repartee with the bevy of bridesmaids.
Soon are the carriages arranged, and off to Turlminster, where everybody seems keeping holiday, and on the look-out for the wedding cortege, for the Stewarts are one of the first families of the neighbourhood, and great favourites with the lower classes, and many a Stewart ere this had been returned for Turlminster without opposition. "God bless them!" is the unanimous cry from the crowd who wait round the church; and "God bless them!" seem the bells to say in their most festive tones, for the ringers have been allowed unlimited beer, and are doing unheard-of feats in the bellringing art. Surely the wedding, under such auspices as these, cannot fail from being a very happy one.
Our friend of the " Black Lion " is in great form to-day — hilariously festive in bis demeanour, and willing to stand drink to any amount to those doubtful customers, to whose scores he would on any other day point with sternly-reproving finger. And many officers, drill over, stroll into the cathedral to see the ceremony, or, as Robson profanely expresses himself, "to see the happy man turned off! How festive the fellow looks! People always look that way before they are married, you know, but after"
The bishop, with his genial smile and hearty welcome, is there too. Old Stewart is a fast friend of his, and many were the wild bouts they enjoyed at Corpus together when lads, ere that the matrimonial bonds bad confined the dignitary of the Church within due order; and, for the matter of that, he hopes to get a good breakfast to-day, at his old friend's house, and to be emancipated for a short season from the thrall of the wife of his bosom. Even the organist seems inspired to-day, and plays the "Wedding March," as the procession streams on to the altar, with sonorous effect, making the grand old organ discourse Mendelssohn's jubilant music in the most impressive manner. And, to crown all, the glorious sun streams in through the beautiful memorial window, and plays like a many-coloured halo of purple and gold and amethystine rays round the fair head of the trembling bride, as she kneels by Grantley's side, and utters the response in a sweet, low whisper. Would she obey him i would she honour him i Aye, until the grave should open for one or both of them, for "Love is strong as Death." Would she be faithful to him, come weal come woe?—would she cherish him in sickness, in suffering? Aye, her every thought, her every wish, should be for his happiness. As the sweet devotional face looked up through the veil of tears, and rested on the "chief of men to her," vows like these were hers—"uttered not, yet comprehended," was that dear spirit's silent prayer; and the roan by her side felt for one moment supremely, triumphantly happy, and resolutely closed his eyes to the dark future, and lived but for the happy present.
And the congregation—they entered into the spirit of the thing completely, and the tears gushed from the faded, worn eyes of many an old maid, who attended there, and watched the ceremony from some dark, remote pew. I have often wondered what the fascination is that impels the hopeless sisterhood to such regular attendance at weddings. No matter where the nuptials are celebrated, there are the devoted spinsters to be found, with sympathising looks and eyes filled with tears, and in their hearts, perhaps, just one little touch of envy at the bride's happy lot (and who may blame them? They are but women, and, though their hearts be soured by disappointment and broken vows, have something womanly lingering about them still). Often do they fee the pew-openers liberally to be enabled to get a good view of the happy event; it seems to do them good, poor hearts, and who would grudge them that? I don't know whether the blacksmith at GretnaGreen has a maiden sister living; if so, I warrant you she never misses one wedding.
The Curate, I am afraid, assisted extremely ill at this ceremony. It was rather a trial to have to read the solemn words of the Church's benisonjover the nuptials of another, when they might have been his own. And with this they must be taken into consideration that he could not keep his eyes off Katie, and when Bhe cried his eyes got dim too, and produced altogether many blunders. And now the last blessing is pronounced, in the good old Bishop's sonorous voice, and the injunction, "Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder," and the happy pair, joined for ever and aye, make their way into the vestry, where the Bishop bestows on the pale bride a fatherly kiss, with a relish which would have done his wife's heart good to see, and then the signatures are placed in the great registry, and once more the great organ breaks out with a solemn march of Spohr's, and, once more answering the music, pealed out the mad jingle of the cathedral bells, with "Health and happiness to the bride and bridegroom !" in their silvery tones, ringing as many changes as could be produced out of the six labouring ringers. And sweeter far than the bells and the organ comes a heart-felt English cheer from the assembled crowd, led by sturdy John Smith. And so, amidst pealing of bells and sturdy cheers, the wedding party returns to Oakland's Hall, to be graced for the last time by the sweet blossom that bloomed the fairest there.
Why linger over the details of the breakfast? As many good things, and foolish things too, were said there as at any other—as much champagne was drunk from the tall crystal glasses, and as many healths and blessings bestowed upon the handsome bride and manly bride
groom; so much that the good Bishop got very husky and maudlin as he rose to propose just one toast more—it might have been his feelings, all the same. I shall trespass too far on the province of the Turlminster Herald, and my dear friend Snarler will say that I write very much in the "penny book" style, if I dwell any more on these details. Let me only say that when that breakfast was ended, and the travelling-carriage ready, everybody was fully primed to the expression point, and those " uninvited guests," tears, were in greater request than ever.
A sturdy hand-clasp from the Squire made Grantley's hand tingle, as he said, "God bless you, my boy! You have won a jewel; treat her kindly."
'* So help me, God, I will!" answered Grantley, fervently.
With Mrs. Stewart the parting was sore. Ella had been the light of her eyes, and she would not be comforted.
"There, there, don't cry," said the old Squire kindly; "if they live as happily as we have done, 1 am not afraid for their future."
Once more a hearty cheer, and the carriage is whirled away and lost in a cloud of dust, bearing the bridegroom with his precious charge to the fair Rhineland, where they had elected to spend the honeymoon,
Let them be happy now, in Heaven's name! Let them revel in the blissful dream for the present: the time will come when the sun will have set on their happiness, and the bleak, cold moorland stretch its weary length before them— when the bride, who now looks up with trusting love into her husband's face, will dread the sound of his footsteps, and cease not to moan the live-long day, " I am aweary, aweary, and I would that I were dead." Let them go on lotos-eating for the present: let the wife of an hour hug the semblance of happiness to her heart, for "the end is not yet;" and let the good people who are left behind return to the marriage feast, and make exceeding merry over the remnants thereof, and deem that they have caught some reflection of the happiness that is taken away from them. Let them utter pretty sayings about the bride's good looks and her partner's life of happiness—surely for them, "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." Let them cry *' O Hymensee!" then, with all their might; and whilst their elders drink the red wine and make well-meaning, incoherent speeches, let the youngsters bill and coo to their hearts' content, and whisper pretty things about the late affair, and wish that the time was come for them to go and do likewise.
In the servants' hall there is high festivity, and later in the day a dance will be proposed, when Jeami s Jones will lead forth the fascinating Melia, the housemaid, and induct her into the mysteries of "Thread the Needle;" and there will be much meat eaten, and much strong drink quaffed, and many things sung and said peculiar to the servants' hall. But don't imagine that, for all this, the Captain's perturbation has escaped the eyes of Jeames Jones.
"l'U tell you what it is, Miss Melia," said he, confidentially, "there is something not right with the Capting. This blessed morning as ever was, when I takes up his hot water, there was he, bless you, looking much more like a man going to be 'ung than to marry Miss Ella. 'Bottles 'ere, of course,' he says: 'I am a fool,' says he. But mark my words, there will be trouble some of these days, and all through that woman. T'aint often ladies comes promiscuous-like, and pays visits to gents as is going to be married, and makes 'em cuss and sweat wfnl."
To which Miss Melia, who was much given to tie reading of penny novels—" Mary the Fs'itesa; or, the Haunted Murderer!" and 1Kb like—nor completely innocent of studious poring over the "Book of Fate," made answer, "Well, to be sure, now, Mr. Jeames, it is a bad omen when gentlemen is savage on their wedding mornings!"
Tre lesson I would draw from this is—that nothing escapes the attention of servants. Because you have some skeleton deeply hidden in the cupboard—because you have some secret sorrow preying at your heart—it follows not that it is hidden from the valet who brings your hot water, or the footman who stands behind your chair. Veil your sins, your foibles, your misfortunes, from your friends and intimates, from your family, as you may, you will not do so from the observant eyes of Martha, or John Thomas, or Eliza the cook. You drink a little more wine than is your wont at dinner—you push away your plate somewhat sharply—a sharp, contracted spasm contorts your mouth— these things have been noticed, and will be talked of the same night, and furnish agreeable pabulum for the servants' eupper-table.
Id the same way, if you are in business, the secret of a coming smash you may successfully hide from the world of your acquaintance—to them you may appear just the same well-to-do, warm man they have always known you, and they entertain not the slightest suspicion of the coming storm; but all these things are known to the boy who carries your letters, or sweeps out your counting-house—to the very humblest of your clerks. They have noticed the change in your face when the fatal letters have arrived; they have speculated on your anxiety to know ibether a certain person has called at the office; ffid thus, when the final smash comes, and iwse, and furniture, and servants, and everything go to the dogs—when the rest of the world is thunderstruck, these people simply say, "Ah, always knew he could not last long." Little do you think that when the slightest change takes place in your countenance, or the least taste in life of a curse escapes the barrier of your teeth, that these things are carefully and minutely noted by the liveried menial who takes your money for service done, and that he does bis best to propagate and make known generally the state of affairs. Easily, too, is it
done, and the whole world made aufait with your secret doings. For John Tummas tells Miss Eliza in confidence, and when she skips over to the general shop to buy a bit of ribbon she tells the shopkeeper in confidence, and the latter, in turn, tells her customers in confidence, till the whole thing, like Samson's foxes, is blazing all round the place.
Such is the penalty of polite civilized life — having to keep a set of people around us, who are spies on our most hidden conduct, and telegraph our every saying to the world at large. "Save me from my friends!" should now be translated into " Save me from my servants!"
"royal Thespian Theatre. 200M Night of the exciting Drama of The Wipe's Trials. Engagement of Madame CoraLine Brabazon, from the Continental and American Theatres. Free-list entirely suspended. Lessee and Manager, Mr. Lawrence Hilton.
To this effect was the announcement, which was posted all over London in posters of all the colours of the rainbow—on omnibuses, on dead walls, or gigantic waggons; for Lawrence Hilton understood the magic art of advertising thoroughly, and knew that the man who would succeed in these days of competition must have for his motto, "Advertise 1 Advertise!" The little rib about the Continental and American theatres he reconciled to his conscience by arguing that a novelty would not draw the public did it not bring credentials from the Continental theatres, and he was very right. In these days, when people go into raptures over "the part of the Dane," played by a German, and the sweet love-story of Juliet, rendered with much impassioned gesture and much display of exuberant charm, by a Stella Colas, when the theatre—goers have wept by the hour over the miseries and death of a persecuted Leah, as played by that wondrous daughter of America Miss Bateman, he was fully aware that to take, a new actress lost nothing by being foreign; still he thought it a pitiable thing that the days of native British talent were gone by, and that people could listen no longer to the marvellous Shykck of Edmund Kean, nor shudder as they beheld the wondrous acting of Mrs. Siddons as Lady Macbeth. But so it is. He that wishes to prosper must please the public taste; and, should the public taste be depraved, the manager must heave a sigh over departed glory, and turn "to fresh fields and pastures new."
Meanwhile, the famous actress who was to startle the playgoing Londoners was settled comfortably in lodgings of the kind manager's choice in a quiet street adjoining the Thespian, so that she might lose no time and incur no trouble in attending the frequent rehearsals. And here for awhile, in the iresh excitement and amid the hurly-burly of London life, she forgot for a short time the trouble that was haunting her, just as one forgets the excruciating pain of a toothache, or heart-ache for the matter of that, in the perusal of some engrossing story; but in the silent watchings of the night, when the day's excitement was over, then came back the furies to tear her heart and howl around her bed—to her as to Orestes, haunted by the grim Erinnyes. The sweet restorer sleep brought no cessation from care: as the body was relaxed from occupation, the mind became more exposed to the terrors of grief and remorse. Times methinks are changed, since Oliver Goldsmith penned those stanzas of his— "When lovely woman stoops to folly," or, in his own sweet unworldly simplicity, he saw not actual but ideal life; for certainly, in this our day, the "lovely woman" tries every art to wring her lover's bosom but dying.
Some prefer to play "the lovely and accomplished victim" part in the Divorce Court, and to obtain heavy damages; others prefer nursing their wrath, till they can be revenged, and of this kind was Nathalie Duprez. With her, as with Charlotte Corday, the idea of revenge had become almost a religion; she clung to and worshipped the faint hope of distant revenge, and she hoped to make it as signal and as celebrated as that of the simple country girl, who rid the world of the detestable tiger Marat. ".1 ealousy is cruel as the grave, if love is strong as death." In a man the passion for revenge sometimes dies out; he has not the intensity of purpose which a woman possesses: she never forgets and never forgives. At present, however, the winning of daily bread was the chief object, and Nathalie bestowed all the power of her mind on the piece she was to play in, to such purpose that she really thought that she had been born an actress, and that the manager's idea was a correct one. She mastered the conception thoroughly; and though the play was nothing very extraordinary in its plot, the most that could be said for it was that it was somewhat painfully true to life, and that was all; the language was of the regular tragedy style, very turgid and very nonsensical: it had been written for effect—stage effect simply—and some of the positions were startling and dramatic enough.
Nathalie's predecessor—a gay voluble, but excessively handsome woman—had not rendered the part of the wife much justice; she relied principally on the very liberal exposure of her charms (which pleased the stalls) and a continental reputation. The first rehearsal which Nathalie attended was a nervous thing for her. All the theatrical jargon was so strange to her, the stage directions so complicated and puzzling, that she wondered she did not break down before the enquiring gaze of the company, who scanned her every movement; but, like many other things, theatrical puzzles may be solved by patient observation; and when the
first rehearsal was over she had the satisfaction of knowing that she played as "though to the manner born," and several of the actors who were to play with her—Algernon Montfort, the heavy tragedian, who played the false husband's part, and Miss Travers, who was the second wife—warmly complimented her on her acting, and assured her that she was quite a relief after Madame Vertot, who never let a rehearsal end without a shindy with them all round. From these people Nathalie shrank instinctively, not that she deemed them anything but quiet, unassuming persons enough; but they were not the slightest use to her in the grand object of her life—simply those upon whom her lot was just now cast, and were not deserving of notice, and as they have nothing to do with the story I shall spare the reader a detailed account of tbe various actors, their appearance and peculiarities. If it be true that "all the world's a stage," it holds good that every stage is a little world in itself, and people quarrel and make up their quarrels, fraternize and cut one another, very much the same as they do in real society. For the manager, Lawrence Hilton, her regard increased every day; there was so much real kindness in his conduct towards her, so much of gentlemanly courtesy in his dealings with his company, that her heart began insensibly to recognize the presence of an equal. Well she knew that he had accepted the engagement at very great risk—the risk almost of his good name with the public—and she honoured the large-hearted man for his kindness. Had it not been for him, she might at that moment have been reduced to beg her bread in the cold streets, or, worse still, might have been compelled to have had recourse to that little phial of colourless liquid which the Obeah woman hod given her, and rushed into her Maker's presence "unhouselled, unannealed." There was a large fountain of gratitude still in her woman's heart, which sorrow and despair had not completely crushed out, and this with true foreign warmth she lavished upon her benefactor, her saviour—for so she called him, much to Hilton's wonderment, who could not conceive what all the mystery was about. On the Sunday preceding her first appearance before the public he had invited her to dinner at Dayswater, and, though hesitatingly, she did accept the kindlymeant offer; for it was wearying to sit in her solitary room, the prey of her own reflection, with nothing to distract her but, ever and anon, the cry of " Watercreases," in the street below, or the monotonous cry of the milkman. Hilton called for her himself, in his carriage, and people wondered whether this dark, handsome lady, who looked so sad, was the new actress, as tbey bowed their acknowledgments to the wellknown manager. That Sunday's dinner at the Bayswater Cottage was an event in Nathalie's life, so peaceful and refined, it seemed that she bad found rest at last, and, as it were, a firm place for the sole of her foot, after battling with the sea of troubles. Two gentler, tenderer creatures than Jane and Harriet Hilton never