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    A Marriage

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    Chapter 9
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    The wedding of the farmer's daughter has taken place. We had hoped
    it would have been in the little chapel of our house, but it seems
    some special permission was necessary, and they applied for it too
    late. They all said, "This is the Constitution. There would have
    been no difficulty before!" the lower classes making the poor
    Constitution the scapegoat for everything they don't like. So as it
    was impossible for us to climb up to the church where the wedding
    was to be, we contented ourselves with seeing the procession pass.
    It was not a very large one, for, it requiring some activity to go
    up, all the old people remained at home. It is not etiquette for
    the bride's mother to go, and no unmarried woman can go to a
    wedding--I suppose for fear of its making her discontented with her
    own position. The procession stopped at our door, for the bride to
    receive our congratulations. She was dressed in a shot silk, with a
    yellow handkerchief, and rows of a large gold chain. In the
    afternoon they sent to request us to go there. On our arrival we
    found them dancing out of doors, and a most melancholy affair it
    was. All the bride's sisters were not to be recognised, they had
    cried so. The mother sat in the house, and could not appear. And
    the bride was sobbing so, she could hardly stand! The most
    melancholy spectacle of all to my mind was, that the bridegroom was
    decidedly tipsy. He seemed rather affronted at all the distress.
    We danced a Monferrino; I with the bridegroom; and the bride crying
    the whole time. The company did their utmost to enliven her by
    firing pistols, but without success, and at last they began a series
    of yells, which reminded me of a set of savages. But even this
    delicate method of consolation failed, and the wishing good-bye
    began. It was altogether so melancholy an affair that Madame B.
    dropped a few tears, and I was very near it, particularly when the
    poor mother came out to see the last of her daughter, who was
    finally dragged off between her brother and uncle, with a last
    explosion of pistols. As she lives quite near, makes an excellent
    match, and is one of nine children, it really was a most desirable
    marriage, in spite of all the show of distress. Albert was so
    discomfited by it, that he forgot to kiss the bride as he had
    intended to do, and therefore went to call upon her yesterday, and
    found her very smiling in her new house, and supplied the omission.
    The cook came home from the wedding, declaring she was cured of any
    wish to marry--but I would not recommend any man to act upon that
    threat and make her an offer. In a couple of days we had some rolls
    of the bride's first baking, which they call Madonnas. The
    musicians, it seems, were in the same state as the bridegroom, for,
    in escorting her home, they all fell down in the mud. My wrath
    against the bridegroom is somewhat calmed by finding that it is
    considered bad luck if he does not get tipsy at his wedding."

    Those readers of Miss Procter's poems who should suppose from their
    tone that her mind was of a gloomy or despondent cast, would be
    curiously mistaken. She was exceedingly humorous, and had a great
    delight in humour. Cheerfulness was habitual with her, she was very
    ready at a sally or a reply, and in her laugh (as I remember well)
    there was an unusual vivacity, enjoyment, and sense of drollery.
    She was perfectly unconstrained and unaffected: as modestly silent
    about her productions, as she was generous with their pecuniary
    results. She was a friend who inspired the strongest attachments;
    she was a finely sympathetic woman, with a great accordant heart and
    a sterling noble nature. No claim can be set up for her, thank God,
    to the possession of any of the conventional poetical qualities.
    She never by any means held the opinion that she was among the
    greatest of human beings; she never suspected the existence of a
    conspiracy on the part of mankind against her; she never recognised
    in her best friends, her worst enemies; she never cultivated the
    luxury of being misunderstood and unappreciated; she would far
    rather have died without seeing a line of her composition in print,
    than that I should have maundered about her, here, as "the Poet", or
    "the Poetess".

    With the recollection of Miss Procter as a mere child and as a
    woman, fresh upon me, it is natural that I should linger on my way
    to the close of this brief record, avoiding its end. But, even as
    the close came upon her, so must it come here.

    Always impelled by an intense conviction that her life must not be
    dreamed away, and that her indulgence in her favourite pursuits must
    be balanced by action in the real world around her, she was
    indefatigable in her endeavours to do some good. Naturally
    enthusiastic, and conscientiously impressed with a deep sense of her
    Christian duty to her neighbour, she devoted herself to a variety of
    benevolent objects. Now, it was the visitation of the sick, that
    had possession of her; now, it was the sheltering of the houseless;
    now, it was the elementary teaching of the densely ignorant; now, it
    was the raising up of those who had wandered and got trodden under
    foot; now, it was the wider employment of her own sex in the general
    business of life; now, it was all these things at once. Perfectly
    unselfish, swift to sympathise and eager to relieve, she wrought at
    such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season,
    weather, time of day or night, food, rest. Under such a hurry of
    the spirits, and such incessant occupation, the strongest
    constitution will commonly go down. Hers, neither of the strongest
    nor the weakest, yielded to the burden, and began to sink.

    To have saved her life, then, by taking action on the warning that
    shone in her eyes and sounded in her voice, would have been
    impossible, without changing her nature. As long as the power of
    moving about in the old way was left to her, she must exercise it,
    or be killed by the restraint. And so the time came when she could
    move about no longer, and took to her bed.

    All the restlessness gone then, and all the sweet patience of her
    natural disposition purified by the resignation of her soul, she lay
    upon her bed through the whole round of changes of the seasons. She
    lay upon her bed through fifteen months. In all that time, her old
    cheerfulness never quitted her. In all that time, not an impatient
    or a querulous minute can be remembered.

    At length, at midnight on the second of February, 1864, she turned
    down a leaf of a little book she was reading, and shut it up.

    The ministering hand that had copied the verses into the tiny album
    was soon around her neck, and she quietly asked, as the clock was on
    the stroke of one:

    "Do you think I am dying, mamma?"

    "I think you are very, very ill to-night, my dear!"

    "Send for my sister. My feet are so cold. Lift me up?"

    Her sister entering as they raised her, she said: "It has come at
    last!" And with a bright and happy smile, looked upward, and
    departed.

    Well had she written:

    Why shouldst thou fear the beautiful angel, Death,
    Who waits thee at the portals of the skies,
    Ready to kiss away thy struggling breath,
    Ready with gentle hand to close thine eyes?

    Oh what were life, if life were all? Thine eyes
    Are blinded by their tears, or thou wouldst see
    Thy treasures wait thee in the far-off skies,
    And Death, thy friend, will give them all to thee.
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