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A Marriage

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

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.

Charles Dickens

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