The Importance of Correct Punctuation to Marital Happiness: 1898

A MISLEADING TELEGRAM.

How It Mixed Up a Wedding.

Jane was going to be married. The contract was all ready to be signed that very evening, and the notary with her fiance were to come down from town by the same train in time for dinner (Jane’s father lived in the country) ; but as the happy groom-elect was never known to be on time in any of his appointments, Jane’s papa had privately sent off a telegraphic dispatch half an hour ago, saying to the young man : “Do not come too late,” so now all was in readiness.

The eventful night had come, the guests for the ceremony of signing the contract had arrived, and all was prepared. The little bride-to-be began to feel nervous as the hour drew near for Jean’s arrival. Wheels on the drive! She flew to the door. The notary alone had come by the six-o’clock train — no Jean. Twenty times at least she had gone to the end of the long terrace to catch a glimpse of his approach, but nothing met her view.

“Bah,” said her father, “do not fidget so, my child; he will come by the eight train ; he is very charming, this lover of yours, but he is always late.”

“Oh, papa!”

“Yes, yes, always behind time.”

At eight o’clock they sent again to the station, but no Jean was there. Dinner was served without him, Jane trying bravely to be cheerful with her guests, but as the hours passed and no lover appeared, she could bear it no longer. She left the room and ran to the end of the terrace, where she could weep in solitude, but a young cousin — a fine-looking fellow — had followed her and said, gently: “You weep, Jane.” Jane sobbed out: “Oh, think what an affront — how can I face all these people!”

“Do you love him so much?”

“No, not so much now; but I was happy in being married; all my schoolmates at the convent are married already.”

Jacques smiled. “Never mind,” said he, “we’ll find another husband for you.”

“You think that so easy? Papa was a long time selecting Jean.”

“But suppose I know of another; eh, little cousin?”

Jane answered joyously: “Ah, then I should quickly give Jean his dismissal; but, oh dear, when I think that all the arrangements are made, that to-morrow the wedding guests will be here — I feel as if I should die with shame, I wish I could.”

“Foolish girl, there is no need for that ; to-morrow you shall be a bride ; there will be no excuses to make to the guests ; the bridegroom of whom I speak will ask nothing better than to marry you at once, for he loves you; he has loved you for years, but did not dare to tell his love, because he believed that you loved the other, and if you marry him to-morrow, he will be the happiest of men.” Struggling with emotion, he ceased for a moment, then said, softly: “Little cousin.”

“Jacques.”

“Well?”

“Well, I do not regret this Jean. I will not give him another thought. Bring your friend here.”

Jacques took her hand. “Have you not divined that it is I who love, who adore you, who has loved you for years; I know I am not a sentimental fellow like the other, but my heart is yours alone.”

Jane thought for a moment, then said, quietly: “Jacques, I believe it is you I have loved, after all, without knowing it, for as you spoke just now my heart beat with joy. But come, let us go to papa — the notary is here; there is nothing to do but change the name in the contract, and tomorrow we will be married. We will leave directly after the wedding-breakfast, and when the other comes, he will find me gone.”

They laughed together like children, and ran to explain matters to her father, who was not quite so ready to accept the situation.

“Why, you stupid fellow, did you never speak before?”

“Because Jane was rich and I poor.”

“But now….”

“Now I, too, am rich. A distant relative has left me all his fortune of two hundred thousand francs, which enables me to ask the hand of Jane without being regarded as fortune-hunter.”

The father speedily became reconciled to the change of bridegrooms, saying : “All is prepared; the priest will be here to-morrow, and the marriage will take place after all —and when the other comes, how furious he will be! But he will be as he always is — too late.”

The happy couple had just driven away from the house next morning, when a note was brought to the old gentleman, with which was inclosed a telegraphic blank. It was his own dispatch.

He read the letter accompanying it, and rubbed his hands, “No wonder he is furious, poor fellow! I sent him a message thus: ‘Do not come too late,’ and the operator made it read thus: ‘Do not come, too late.’ ”

Adapted for the Argonaut from the French of Marie-Louise Neron, French journalist The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 2 May 1898

 

 

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