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The Law and the Lady

1. The Bride's Mistake
"FOR after this manner in the old time the holy women also who trusted in God adorned
themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands; even as Sarah obeyed Abraham,
calling him lord; whose daughters ye are as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with
any amazement."
Concluding the Marriage Service of the Church of England in those well-known words,
my uncle Starkweather shut up his book, and looked at me across the altar rails with a
hearty expression of interest on his broad, red face. At the same time my aunt, Mrs.
Starkweather, standing by my side, tapped me smartly on the shoulder, and said,
"Valeria, you are married!"
Where were my thoughts? What had become of my attention? I was too bewildered to
know. I started and looked at my new husband. He seemed to be almost as much
bewildered as I was. The same thought had, as I believe, occurred to us both at the same
moment. Was it really possible--in spite of his mother's opposition to our marriage--that
we were Man and Wife? My aunt Starkweather settled the question by a second tap on
my shoulder.
"Take his arm!" she whispered, in the tone of a woman who had lost all patience with me.
I took his arm.
"Follow your uncle."
Holding fast by my husband's arm, I followed my uncle and the curate who had assisted
him at the marriage.
The two clergymen led us into the vestry. The church was in one of the dreary quarters of
London, situated between the City and the West End; the day was dull; the atmosphere
was heavy and damp. We were a melancholy little wedding party, worthy of the dreary
neighborhood and the dull day. No relatives or friends of my husband's were present; his
family, as I have already hinted, disapproved of his marriage. Except my uncle and my
aunt, no other relations appeared on my side. I had lost both my parents, and I had but
few friends. My dear father's faithful old clerk, Benjamin, attended the wedding to "give
me away," as the phrase is. He had known me from a child, and, in my forlorn position,
he was as good as a father to me.
The last ceremony left to be performed was, as usual, the signing of the marriage register.
In the confusion of the moment (and in the absence of any information to guide me) I
 
 
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