Twice Told Tales HTML version

The Wedding-Knell
There is a certain church, in the city of New York which I have always regarded with
peculiar interest on account of a marriage there solemnized under very singular
circumstances in my grandmother's girlhood. That venerable lady chanced to be a
spectator of the scene, and ever after made it her favorite narrative. Whether the edifice
now standing on the same site be the identical one to which she referred I am not
antiquarian enough to know, nor would it be worth while to correct myself, perhaps, of an
agreeable error by reading the date of its erection on the tablet over the door. It is a
stately church surrounded by an enclosure of the loveliest green, within which appear
urns, pillars, obelisks, and other forms of monumental marble, the tributes of private
affection or more splendid memorials of historic dust. With such a place, though the
tumult of the city rolls beneath its tower, one would be willing to connect some legendary
The marriage might be considered as the result of an early engagement, though there had
been two intermediate weddings on the lady's part and forty years of celibacy on that of
the gentleman. At sixty-five Mr. Ellenwood was a shy but not quite a secluded man;
selfish, like all men who brood over their own hearts, yet manifesting on rare occasions a
vein of generous sentiment; a scholar throughout life, though always an indolent one,
because his studies had no definite object either of public advantage or personal
ambition; a gentleman, high-bred and fastidiously delicate, yet sometimes requiring a
considerable relaxation in his behalf of the common rules of society. In truth, there were
so many anomalies in his character, and, though shrinking with diseased sensibility from
public notice, it had been his fatality so often to become the topic of the day by some
wild eccentricity of conduct, that people searched his lineage for a hereditary taint of
insanity. But there was no need of this. His caprices had their origin in a mind that lacked
the support of an engrossing purpose, and in feelings that preyed upon themselves for
want of other food. If he were mad, it was the consequence, and not the cause, of an
aimless and abortive life.
The widow was as complete a contrast to her third bridegroom in everything but age as
can well be conceived. Compelled to relinquish her first engagement, she had been united
to a man of twice her own years, to whom she became an exemplary wife, and by whose
death she was left in possession of a splendid fortune. A Southern gentleman
considerably younger than herself succeeded to her hand and carried her to Charleston,
where after many uncomfortable years she found herself again a widow. It would have
been singular if any uncommon delicacy of feeling had survived through such a life as
Mrs. Dabney's; it could not but be crushed and killed by her early disappointment, the
cold duty of her first marriage, the dislocation of the heart's principles consequent on a
second union, and the unkindness of her Southern husband, which had inevitably driven
her to connect the idea of his death with that of her comfort. To be brief, she was that
wisest but unloveliest variety of woman, a philosopher, bearing troubles of the heart with
equanimity, dispensing with all that should have been her happiness and making the best
of what remained. Sage in most matters, the widow was perhaps the more amiable for the