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Chapter 25 – The First Wedding

Louisa May AlcottJun 22, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The June roses over the porch were awake bright and early on that
morning, rejoicing with all their hearts in the cloudless sunshine,
like friendly little neighbors, as they were. Quite flushed with
excitement were their ruddy faces, as they swung in the wind,
whispering to one another what they had seen, for some peeped in at
the dining room windows where the feast was spread, some climbed up
to nod and smile at the sisters as they dressed the bride, others
waved a welcome to those who came and went on various errands in
garden, porch, and hall, and all, from the rosiest full-blown flower
to the palest baby bud, offered their tribute of beauty and
fragrance to the gentle mistress who had loved and tended them so
long.

Meg looked very like a rose herself, for all that was best and
sweetest in heart and soul seemed to bloom into her face that day,
making it fair and tender, with a charm more beautiful than beauty.
Neither silk, lace, nor orange flowers would she have. "I don’t
want a fashionable wedding, but only those about me whom I love,
and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self."

So she made her wedding gown herself, sewing into it the tender
hopes and innocent romances of a girlish heart. Her sisters braided
up her pretty hair, and the only ornaments she wore were the lilies
of the valley, which ‘her John’ liked best of all the flowers that
grew.

"You do look just like our own dear Meg, only so very sweet
and lovely that I should hug you if it wouldn’t crumple your dress,"
cried Amy, surveying her with delight when all was done.

"Then I am satisfied. But please hug and kiss me, everyone,
and don’t mind my dress. I want a great many crumples of this
sort put into it today," and Meg opened her arms to her sisters,
who clung about her with April faces for a minute, feeling that
the new love had not changed the old.

"Now I’m going to tie John’s cravat for him, and then to stay
a few minutes with Father quietly in the study," and Meg ran
down to perform these little ceremonies, and then to follow her
mother wherever she went, conscious that in spite of the smiles
on the motherly face, there was a secret sorrow hid in the motherly
heart at the flight of the first bird from the nest.

As the younger girls stand together, giving the last touches
to their simple toilet, it may be a good time to tell of a few
changes which three years have wrought in their appearance, for
all are looking their best just now.

Jo’s angles are much softened, she has learned to carry herself
with ease, if not grace. The curly crop has lengthened into
a thick coil, more becoming to the small head atop of the tall
figure. There is a fresh color in her brown cheeks, a soft shine
in her eyes, and only gentle words fall from her sharp tongue today.

Beth has grown slender, pale, and more quiet than ever. The
beautiful, kind eyes are larger, and in them lies an expression
that saddens one, although it is not sad itself. It is the shadow
of pain which touches the young face with such pathetic patience,
but Beth seldom complains and always speaks hopefully of ‘being
better soon’.

Amy is with truth considered ‘the flower of the family’, for
at sixteen she has the air and bearing of a full-grown woman, not
beautiful, but possessed of that indescribable charm called grace.
One saw it in the lines of her figure, the make and motion of her
hands, the flow of her dress, the droop of her hair, unconscious
yet harmonious, and as attractive to many as beauty itself. Amy’s
nose still afflicted her, for it never would grow Grecian, so did
her mouth, being too wide, and having a decided chin. These offending
features gave character to her whole face, but she never could see it,
and consoled herself with her wonderfully fair complexion,
keen blue eyes, and curls more golden and abundant than ever.

All three wore suits of thin silver gray (their best gowns for
the summer), with blush roses in hair and bosom, and all three
looked just what they were, fresh-faced, happy-hearted girls, pausing
a moment in their busy lives to read with wistful eyes the sweetest
chapter in the romance of womanhood.

There were to be no ceremonious performances, everything was to be
as natural and homelike as possible, so when Aunt March arrived, she
was scandalized to see the bride come running to welcome and lead
her in, to find the bridegroom fastening up a garland that had
fallen down, and to catch a glimpse of the paternal minister
marching upstairs with a grave countenance and a wine bottle under
each arm.

"Upon my word, here’s a state of things!" cried the old lady,
taking the seat of honor prepared for her, and settling the folds
of her lavender moire with a great rustle. "You oughtn’t to be
seen till the last minute, child."

"I’m not a show, Aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me,
to criticize my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I’m too
happy to care what anyone says or thinks, and I’m going to have
my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, here’s your
hammer." And away went Meg to help ‘that man’ in his highly
improper employment.

Mr. Brooke didn’t even say, "Thank you," but as he stooped
for the unromantic tool, he kissed his little bride behind the
folding door, with a look that made Aunt March whisk out her
pocket handkerchief with a sudden dew in her sharp old eyes.

A crash, a cry, and a laugh from Laurie, accompanied by the
indecorous exclamation, "Jupiter Ammon! Jo’s upset the cake again!"
caused a momentary flurry, which was hardly over when a flock of
cousins arrived, and ‘the party came in’, as Beth used to say when
a child.

"Don’t let that young giant come near me, he worries me worse
than mosquitoes," whispered the old lady to Amy, as the rooms filled
and Laurie’s black head towered above the rest.

"He has promised to be very good today, and he can be perfectly
elegant if he likes," returned Amy, and gliding away to warn
Hercules to beware of the dragon, which warning caused him to haunt
the old lady with a devotion that nearly distracted her.

There was no bridal procession, but a sudden silence fell upon
the room as Mr. March and the young couple took their places under
the green arch. Mother and sisters gathered close, as if loath to
give Meg up. The fatherly voice broke more than once, which only
seemed to make the service more beautiful and solemn. The bridegroom’s
hand trembled visibly, and no one heard his replies. But Meg
looked straight up in her husband’s eyes, and said, "I will!"
with such tender trust in her own face and voice that her mother’s
heart rejoiced and Aunt March sniffed audibly.

Jo did not cry, though she was very near it once, and was only
saved from a demonstration by the consciousness that Laurie was
staring fixedly at her, with a comical mixture of merriment and
emotion in his wicked black eyes. Beth kept her face hidden on her
mother’s shoulder, but Amy stood like a graceful statue, with a
most becoming ray of sunshine touching her white forehead and the
flower in her hair.

It wasn’t at all the thing, I’m afraid, but the minute she was
fairly married, Meg cried, "The first kiss for Marmee!" and turning,
gave it with her heart on her lips. During the next fifteen minutes
she looked more like a rose than ever, for everyone availed themselves
of their privileges to the fullest extent, from Mr. Laurence
to old Hannah, who, adorned with a headdress fearfully and
wonderfully made, fell upon her in the hall, crying with a sob
and a chuckle, "Bless you, deary, a hundred times! The cake ain’t
hurt a mite, and everything looks lovely."

Everybody cleared up after that, and said something brilliant,
or tried to, which did just as well, for laughter is ready when
hearts are light. There was no display of gifts, for they were
already in the little house, nor was there an elaborate breakfast,
but a plentiful lunch of cake and fruit, dressed with flowers.
Mr. Laurence and Aunt March shrugged and smiled at one another when
water, lemonade, and coffee were found to be to only sorts of
nectar which the three Hebes carried round. No one said anything,
till Laurie, who insisted on serving the bride, appeared before her,
with a loaded salver in his hand and a puzzled expression on his face.

"Has Jo smashed all the bottles by accident?" he whispered,
"or am I merely laboring under a delusion that I saw some lying
about loose this morning?"

"No, your grandfather kindly offered us his best, and Aunt
March actually sent some, but Father put away a little for Beth,
and dispatched the rest to the Soldier’s Home. You know he thinks
that wine should be used only in illness, and Mother says that
neither she nor her daughters will ever offer it to any young man
under her roof."

Meg spoke seriously and expected to see Laurie frown or laugh,
but he did neither, for after a quick look at her, he said, in
his impetuous way, "I like that! For I’ve seen enough harm done
to wish other women would think as you do."

"You are not made wise by experience, I hope?" and there was
an anxious accent in Meg’s voice.

"No. I give you my word for it. Don’t think too well of me,
either, this is not one of my temptations. Being brought up where
wine is as common as water and almost as harmless, I don’t care for
it, but when a pretty girl offers it, one doesn’t like to refuse,
you see."

"But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your own.
Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more reason to call this the
happiest day of my life."

A demand so sudden and so serious made the young man hesitate
a moment, for ridicule is often harder to bear than self-denial.
Meg knew that if he gave the promise he would keep it at all costs,
and feeling her power, used it as a woman may for her friend’s good.
She did not speak, but she looked up at him with a face made very
eloquent by happiness, and a smile which said, "No one can refuse
me anything today."

Laurie certainly could not, and with an answering smile, he
gave her his hand, saying heartily, "I promise, Mrs. Brooke!"

"I thank you, very, very much."

"And I drink ‘long life to your resolution’, Teddy," cried Jo,
baptizing him with a splash of lemonade, as she waved her glass and
beamed approvingly upon him.

So the toast was drunk, the pledge made and loyally kept in
spite of many temptations, for with instinctive wisdom, the girls
seized a happy moment to do their friend a service, for which he
thanked them all his life.

After lunch, people strolled about, by twos and threes, through
the house and garden, enjoying the sunshine without and within. Meg
and John happened to be standing together in the middle of the grass
plot, when Laurie was seized with an inspiration which put the
finishing touch to this unfashionable wedding.

"All the married people take hands and dance round the new-made
husband and wife, as the Germans do, while we bachelors and
spinsters prance in couples outside!" cried Laurie, promenading down
the path with Amy, with such infectious spirit and skill that
everyone else followed their example without a murmur. Mr. and Mrs.
March, Aunt and Uncle Carrol began it, others rapidly joined in,
even Sallie Moffat, after a moment’s hesitation, threw her train
over her arm and whisked Ned into the ring. But the crowning joke
was Mr. Laurence and Aunt March, for when the stately old gentleman
chasseed solemnly up to the old lady, she just tucked her cane under
her arm, and hopped briskly away to join hands with the rest and
dance about the bridal pair, while the young folks pervaded the
garden like butterflies on a midsummer day.

Want of breath brought the impromptu ball to a close, and then
people began to go.

"I wish you well, my dear, I heartily wish you well, but I think
you’ll be sorry for it," said Aunt March to Meg, adding to the
bridegroom, as he led her to the carriage, "You’ve got a treasure,
young man, see that you deserve it."

"That is the prettiest wedding I’ve been to for an age, Ned, and
I don’t see why, for there wasn’t a bit of style about it," observed
Mrs. Moffat to her husband, as they drove away.

"Laurie, my lad, if you ever want to indulge in this sort of
thing, get one of those little girls to help you, and I shall be
perfectly satisfied," said Mr. Laurence, settling himself in his
easy chair to rest after the excitement of the morning.

"I’ll do my best to gratify you, Sir," was Laurie’s unusually
dutiful reply, as he carefully unpinned the posy Jo had put in his
buttonhole.

The little house was not far away, and the only bridal journey
Meg had was the quiet walk with John from the old home to the new.
When she came down, looking like a pretty Quakeress in her
dove-colored suit and straw bonnet tied with white, they all gathered
about her to say ‘good-by’, as tenderly as if she had been going to
make the grand tour.

"Don’t feel that I am separated from you, Marmee dear, or that
I love you any the less for loving John so much," she said, clinging
to her mother, with full eyes for a moment. "I shall come every day,
Father, and expect to keep my old place in all your hearts, though I
am married. Beth is going to be with me a great deal, and the other
girls will drop in now and then to laugh at my housekeeping struggles.
Thank you all for my happy wedding day. Goodby, goodby!"

They stood watching her, with faces full of love and hope and
tender pride as she walked away, leaning on her husband’s arm, with
her hands full of flowers and the June sunshine brightening her happy
face – and so Meg’s married life began.

 

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