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Sometimes Johnny and I wonder what would really have happened if we had never started for Cousin Pamelia's wedding. I think that Ted would have come back some time; but Johnny says he doesn't believe he ever would, and Johnny ought to know, because Johnny's a boy. Anyhow, he couldn't have come back for four years. However, we did start for the wedding and so things came out all right, and Ted said we were a pair of twin special Providences.
Johnny and I fully expected to go to Cousin Pamelia's wedding because we had always been such chums with her. And she did write to Mother to be sure and bring us, but Father and Mother didn't want to be bothered with us. That is the plain truth of the matter. They are good parents, as parents go in this world; I don't think we could have picked out much better, all things considered; but Johnny and I have always known that they never want to take us with them anywhere if they can get out of it. Uncle Fred says that it is no wonder, since we are a pair of holy terrors for getting into mischief and keeping everybody in hot water. But I think we are pretty good, considering all the temptations we have to be otherwise. And, of course, twins have just twice as many as ordinary children.
Anyway, Father and Mother said we would have to stay home with Hannah Jane. This decision came upon us, as Johnny says, like a bolt from the blue. At first we couldn't believe they were not joking. Why, we felt that we simply had to go to Pamelia's wedding. We had never been to a wedding in our lives and we were just aching to see what it would be like. Besides, we had written a marriage ode to Pamelia and we wanted to present it to her. Johnny was to recite it, and he had been practising it out behind the carriage house for a week. I wrote the most of it. I can write poetry as slick as anything. Johnny helped me hunt out the rhymes. That is the hardest thing about writing poetry, it is so difficult to find rhymes. Johnny would find me a rhyme and then I would write a line to suit it, and we got on swimmingly.
When we realized that Father and Mother meant what they said we were just too miserable to live. When I went to bed that night I simply pulled the clothes over my face and howled quietly. I couldn't help it when I thought of Pamelia's white silk dress and tulle veil and flower girls and all the rest. Johnny said it was the wedding dinner he thought about. Boys are like that, you know.
Father and Mother went away on the early morning train, telling us to be good twins and not bother Hannah Jane. It would have been more to the point if they had told Hannah Jane not to bother us. She worries more about our bringing up than Mother does.
I was sitting on the front doorstep after they had gone when Johnny came around the corner, looking so mysterious and determined that I knew he had thought of something splendid.
"Sue," said Johnny impressively, "if you have any real sporting blood in you now is the time to show it. If you've enough grit we'll get to Pamelia's wedding after all."
"How?" I said as soon as I was able to say anything.
"We'll just go. We'll take the ten o'clock train. It will get to Marsden by eleven-thirty and that'll be in plenty of time. The wedding isn't until twelve."
"But we've never been on the train alone, and we've never been to Marsden at all!" I gasped.
"Oh, of course, if you're going to hatch up all sorts of difficulties!" said Johnny scornfully. "I thought you had more spunk!"
"Oh, I have, Johnny," I said eagerly. "I'm all spunk. And I'll do anything you'll do. But won't Father and Mother be perfectly savage?"
"Of course. But we'll be there and they can't send us home again, so we'll see the wedding. We'll be punished afterwards all right, but we'll have had the fun, don't you see?"
I saw. I went right upstairs to dress, trusting everything blindly to Johnny. I put on my best pale blue shirred silk hat and my blue organdie dress and my high-heeled slippers. Johnny whistled when he saw me, but he never said a word; there are times when Johnny is a duck.
We slipped away when Hannah Jane was feeding the hens.
"I'll buy the tickets," explained Johnny. "I've got enough money left out of my last month's allowance because I didn't waste it all on candy as you did. You'll have to pay me back when you get your next month's jink, remember. I'll ask the conductor to tell us when we get to Marsden. Uncle Fred's house isn't far from the station, and we'll be sure to know it by all the cherry trees round it."
It sounded easy, and it was easy. We had a jolly ride, and finally the conductor came along and said, "Here's your jumping-off place, kiddies."
Johnny didn't like being called a kiddy, but I saw the conductor's eye resting admiringly on my blue silk hat and I forgave him.
Marsden was a pretty little village, and away up the road we saw Uncle Fred's place, for it was fairly smothered in cherry trees all white with lovely bloom. We started for it as fast as we could go, for we knew we had no time to lose. It is perfectly dreadful trying to hurry when you have on high-heeled shoes, but I said nothing and just tore along, for I knew Johnny would have no sympathy for me. We finally reached the house and turned in at the open gate of the lawn. I thought everything looked very peaceful and quiet for a wedding to be under way and I had a sickening idea that it was too late and it was all over.
"Nonsense!" said Johnny, cross as a bear, because he was really afraid of it too. "I suppose everybody is inside the house. No, there are two people over there by that bench. Let us go and ask them if this is the right place, because if it isn't we have no time to lose."
We ran across the lawn to the two people. One of them was a young lady, the very prettiest young lady I had ever seen. She was tall and stately, just like the heroine in a book, and she had lovely curly brown hair and big blue eyes and the most dazzling complexion. But she looked very cross and disdainful and I knew the minute I saw her that she had been quarrelling with the young man. He was standing in front of her and he was as handsome as a prince. But he looked angry too. Altogether, you never saw a crosser-looking couple. Just as we came up we heard the young lady say, "What you ask is ridiculous and impossible, Ted. I can't get married at two days' notice and I don't mean to be."
And he said, "Very well, Una, I am sorry you think so. You would not think so if you really cared anything for me. It is just as well I have found out you don't. I am going away in two days' time and I shall not return in a hurry, Una."
"I do not care if you never return," she said.
That was a fib and well I knew it. But the young man didn't—men are so stupid at times. He swung around on one foot without replying and he would have gone in another second if he had not nearly fallen over Johnny and me.
"Please, sir," said Johnny respectfully, but hurriedly. "We're looking for Mr. Frederick Murray's place. Is this it?"
"No," said the young man a little gruffly. "This is Mrs. Franklin's place. Frederick Murray lives at Marsden, ten miles away."
My heart gave a jump and then stopped beating. I know it did, although Johnny says it is impossible.
"Isn't this Marsden?" cried Johnny chokily.
"No, this is Harrowsdeane," said the young man, a little more mildly.
I couldn't help it. I was tired and warm and so disappointed. I sat right down on the rustic seat behind me and burst into tears, as the story-books say.
"Oh, don't cry, dearie," said the young lady in a very different voice from the one she had used before. She sat down beside me and put her arms around me. "We'll take you over to Marsden if you've got off at the wrong station."
"But it will be too late," I sobbed wildly. "The wedding is to be at twelve—and it's nearly that now—and oh, Johnny, I do think you might try to comfort me!"
For Johnny had stuck his hands in his pockets and turned his back squarely on me. I thought it so unkind of him. I didn't know then that it was because he was afraid he was going to cry right there before everybody, and I felt deserted by all the world.
"Tell me all about it," said the young lady.
So I told her as well as I could all about the wedding and how wild we were to see it and why we were running away to it.
"And now it's all no use," I wailed. "And we'll be punished when they find out just the same. I wouldn't mind being punished if we hadn't missed the wedding. We've never seen a wedding—and Pamelia was to wear a white silk dress—and have flower girls—and oh, my heart is just broken. I shall never get over this—never—if I live to be as old as Methuselah."
"What can we do for them?" said the young lady, looking up at the young man and smiling a little. She seemed to have forgotten that they had just quarrelled. "I can't bear to see children disappointed. I remember my own childhood too well."
"I really don't know what we can do," said the young man, smiling back, "unless we get married right here and now for their sakes. If it is a wedding they want to see and nothing else will do them, that is the only idea I can suggest."
"Nonsense!" said the young lady. But she said it as if she would rather like to be persuaded it wasn't nonsense.
I looked up at her. "Oh, if you have any notion of being married I wish you would right off," I said eagerly. "Any wedding would do just as well as Pamelia's. Please do."
The young lady laughed.
"One might just as well be married at two hours' notice as two days'," she said.
"Una," said the young man, bending towards her, "will you marry me here and now? Don't send me away alone to the other side of the world, Una."
"What on earth would Auntie say?" said Una helplessly.
"Mrs. Franklin wouldn't object if you told her you were going to be married in a balloon."
"I don't see how we could arrange—oh, Ted, it's absurd."
"'Tisn't. It's highly sensible. I'll go straight to town on my wheel for the licence and ring and I'll be back in an hour. You can be ready by that time."
For a moment Una hesitated. Then she said suddenly to me, "What is your name, dearie?"
"Sue Murray," I said, "and this is my brother, Johnny. We're twins. We've been twins for ten years."
"Well, Sue, I'm going to let you decide for me. This gentleman here, whose name is Theodore Prentice, has to start for Japan in two days and will have to remain there for four years. He received his orders only yesterday. He wants me to marry him and go with him. Now, I shall leave it to you to consent or refuse for me. Shall I marry him or shall I not?"
"Marry him, of course," said I promptly. Johnny says she knew I would say that when she left it to me.
"Very well," said Una calmly. "Ted, you may go for the necessaries. Sue, you must be my bridesmaid and Johnny shall be best man. Come, we'll go into the house and break the news to Auntie."
I never felt so interested and excited in my life. It seemed too good to be true. Una and I went into the house and there we found the sweetest, pinkest, plumpest old lady asleep in an easy-chair. Una wakened her and said, "Auntie, I'm going to be married to Mr. Prentice in an hour's time."
That was a most wonderful old lady! All she said was, "Dear me!" You'd have thought Una had simply told her she was going out for a walk.
"Ted has gone for licence and ring and minister," Una went on. "We shall be married out under the cherry trees and I'll wear my new white organdie. We shall leave for Japan in two days. These children are Sue and Johnny Murray who have come out to see a wedding—any wedding. Ted and I are getting married just to please them."
"Dear me!" said the old lady again. "This is rather sudden. Still—if you must. Well, I'll go and see what there is in the house to eat."
She toddled away, smiling, and Una turned to me. She was laughing, but there were tears in her eyes.
"You blessed accidents!" she said, with a little tremble in her voice. "If you hadn't happened just then Ted would have gone away in a rage and I might never have seen him again. Come now, Sue, and help me dress."
Johnny stayed in the hall and I went upstairs with Una. We had such an exciting time getting her dressed. She had the sweetest white organdie you ever saw, all frills and laces. I'm sure Pamelia's silk couldn't have been half so pretty. But she had no veil, and I felt rather disappointed about that. Then there was a knock at the door and Mrs. Franklin came in, with her arms full of something all fine and misty like a lacy cobweb.
"I've brought you my wedding veil, dearie," she said. "I wore it forty years ago. And God bless you, dearie. I can't stop a minute. The boy is killing the chickens and Bridget is getting ready to broil them. Mrs. Jenner's son across the road has just gone down to the bakery for a wedding cake."
With that she toddled off again. She was certainly a wonderful old lady. I just thought of Mother in her place. Well, Mother would simply have gone wild entirely.
When Una was dressed she looked as beautiful as a dream. The boy had finished killing the chickens, and Mrs. Franklin had sent him up with a basket of roses for us, and we had each the loveliest bouquet. Before long Ted came back with the minister, and the next thing we knew we were all standing out on the lawn under the cherry trees and Una and Ted were being married.
I was too happy to speak. I had never thought of being a bridesmaid in my wildest dreams and here I was one. How thankful I was that I had put on my blue organdie and my shirred hat! I wasn't a bit nervous and I don't believe Una was either. Mrs. Franklin stood at one side with a smudge of flour on her nose, and she had forgotten to take off her apron. Bridget and the boy watched us from the kitchen garden. It was all like a beautiful, bewildering dream. But the ceremony was horribly solemn. I am sure I shall never have the courage to go through with anything of the sort, but Johnny says I will change my mind when I grow up.
When it was all over I nudged Johnny and said "Ode" in a fierce whisper. Johnny immediately stepped out before Una and recited it. Pamelia's name was mentioned three times and of course he should have put Una in place of it, but he forgot. You can't remember everything.
"You dear funny darlings!" said Una, kissing us both. Johnny didn't like that, but he said he didn't mind it in a bride.
Then we had dinner, and I thought Mrs. Franklin more wonderful than ever. I couldn't have believed any woman could have got up such a spread at two hours' notice. Of course, some credit must be given to Bridget and the boy. Johnny and I were hungry enough by this time and we enjoyed that repast to the full.
We went home on the evening train. Ted and Una came to the station with us, and Una said she would write me when she got to Japan, and Ted said he would be obliged to us forever and ever.
When we got home we found Hannah Jane and Father and Mother—who had arrived there an hour before us—simply distracted. They were so glad to see us safe and sound that they didn't even scold us, and when Father heard our story he laughed until the tears came into his eyes.
"Some are born to luck, some achieve luck, and some have luck thrust upon them," he said.
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