A BRIDE BY TELEGRAM
“Send me down bride in full dress for Friday evening.
H. Smith, Walkley Station.”
That was the tenor of the telegram, Miss Betsey Blythe knew, because she read it, over forty times, if she read it once. She picked it up on the step of the telegraph office, where the lucky recipient thereof must have dropped it —and, unluckily, the address was torn off the northeast corner of the folded paper.
But Miss Betsey Blythe had not been engaged in looking after her neighbors’ business all her life to be foiled now. She wiped the street mud off the telegram with her pocket-handkerchief, put it safely into her reticule and carried it home to her sisters, Miss Arethusa and Miss Pamela Blythe.
“There,” she said, “didn’t I tell you Harold Smith was going to be married on the sly.”
“Goodness me!” said Arethusa.
“It can’t be possible,” piped Pamela. “But who can the bride be?”
“That’s the question,” declared Miss Betsey, staring back at the poll-parrot’s cage in the window. “And Friday is to be the wedding day.”
“Which Friday, I wonder?” said Miss Arethusa.
“Why, this Friday, of course!” pronounced Miss Pamela. “The day after to-morrow, of course; or it would have been a deal easier and cheaper to write instead of telegraphing. Don’t you see?”
“Friday’s an unlucky day for a wedding,” groaned Miss Betsey.
“Just like Harold Smith to get married on a Friday,” said Miss Pamela. “He’s always making fun of what he calls ‘superstitious observances.’”
“Well, I never!” said Miss Arethusa. “Who is the bride, anyhow?”
“If she’s a girl of any spirit whatever,” whatever,” tartly observed Miss Betsey, “she won’t allow herself to be telegraphed around the country like a package of dry goods.”
“Some girls will do anything to get married,” said Arethusa, with vicious emphasis.
“It’s Jessie Mordaunt. of course.” decided Pamela. “She’s been flirting on and off with Harold Smith for these three years, but I didn’t suppose he was foolish enough to fall into her trap!”
“Or perhaps it’s Marian Shelton,” added Miss Betsey. “I know they’ve been making up a new white silk dress with tablier fronts and a trained skirt at Shelton’s. Miss Needlepoint told me so herself. And I can believe any amount of folly of the Shelton family since they changed that girl’s name from Mary Ann to Marian.”
“There’s the three Misses MacKenzie, every one of ’em crazy,” suggested Miss Arethusa.
“No,” said Miss Pamela, decidedly. ”You may be quite certain it’s Jessie! Jessie’s flighty enough for anything! I think she’d rather enjoy an escapade like that!”
“And I dare say,” vindictively added Miss Arethusa, who was the eldest sister of the three, and the least addicted to favorable views of human nature, “they think it’s an unfathomable secret!”
“Walkley Station is only three-quarters of an hour from New York,” said Betsey. “Let’s go to the wedding!”
“And,” added Miss Pamela, in a chuckle, “let’s notify all our friends to go!” For the three Misses Blythe were not pleased that Harold Smith should presume to take so important a step as that of matrimony without their consent and advice. Hadn’t they known him as a curly-headed lad before he ever went into college? Hadn’t he played many a practical joke upon them, in his wild, rollicking way—and didn’t they know perfectly well that he regarded them as three sour, ridiculous, disappointed old spinsters?
And now that they had come into possession of one of his choicest, dearest secrets, it was scarcely in human nature not to be revenged, fully and entirely.
“Do you suppose she’ll go out in the cars?” asked Arethusa.
“In full dress! What nonsense,” retorted Pamela. “She’ll drive, of course, in a carriage!”
“She’ll get her death of cold.” said Miss Betsey, with a shiver. “Driving fifteen miles in ‘full dress!'”
“The idea of Harold Smith ordering her around in that majestic fashion!” cried Arethusa. “But, girls, I’ll tell you what we will do; we’ll go and call on the Mordaunts.”
Mrs. Mordaunt, a pretty, full-blown rose style of matron, was doing crewelwork. crewelwork. Jessie, her daughter, who corresponded with the rosebud in the family, was painting a vase of purple pansies in watercolors. They did not appear in the least like custodians of an important secret; looked surprised when Miss Betsey alluded to the subject of impending marriages, and said they had heard of no wedding in the neighborhood; and they stared when Miss Arethusa asked if they hadn’t had a dressmaker in the house lately.
“We always do our own sewing,” said Mrs. Mordaunt. “Jessie can fit a dress as well as Madam Mondini herself.”
“But for such a very, very important occasion as this,” smirked Miss Arethusa.
“We never have any important occasions,” laughed Jessie. “Look, Miss Blythe, do you think my pansy petal as deep a purple as the original?” And when the three old maids had, last, taken their departure, Jessie looked at her mother in amazement mingled with mirth.
“”Mamma,” said she, “what do those old women mean?”
“I think, dear,” said Mrs. Mordaunt, “that they are the least bit unsettled in their minds–just a little crazy, you know.”
And the Misses Blythe went away, ex changing mysterious glances, and whispering to each other—
“They cannot deceive us!”
The Misses Blythe told everybody they could think of always in strict confidence, of course. Everybody repeated it to everybody else, and by Friday evening the train to Walkley Station was full.
To Miss Betsey Blythe’s infinite disappointment, the Smith house, a pretty, old-fashioned mansion with a pillared front, a garden full of clipped box monstrosities, and an octagonal conservatory, built out from the south end, was not lighted up after any extraordinary fashion. Mrs. Smith, Harold’s mother, a dimpled old lady, in a white lace cap and gleaming gold spectacle-glasses, was knitting, half asleep, when the three Misses Blythe were ushered in, followed by a crowd of other acquaintances.
“Oh!” said she, rubbing her eyes to make sure that it was not a dream, “this is a surprise party, is it? I’m sure I’m delighted to see you! Only it’s a pity Harry isn’t at home!”
“My good soul,” said Miss Arethusa Blythe, shaking her finger, “it’s no use trying to deceive us. We know all about it!”
“All about what?” said Mrs. Smith.
“About the wedding!” cried out the company in chorus.
“Whose wedding?” demanded Mrs. Smith.
“Why, Harold’s, to be sure!” they responded.
“But Harold isn’t going to be married,” said Mrs. Smith. “He isn’t even engaged! Good gracious! What can have put such a thing into people’s heads?”
“It’s the telegram,” said Miss Pamela.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Mrs. Smith in despair.
“Well, if you won’t believe me, you will, perhaps, believe your own eyes,” said Miss Betsey Blythe, with dignity, as she drew the telegram from her pocket, and, carefully straightening out its creases, held it up before Mrs. Smith’s spectacle glasses.
“Dear me!” cried Mrs. Smith, at last comprehending a little of this curious network of cross-purposes, “it’s Bella Smith’s big doll!”
“What!” shrieked Miss Arethusa, Miss Pamela and Miss Betsy in chorus.
“What!” more wildly echoed the rest of the assemblage, crowding eagerly around.
“Mrs. Helena Smith’s little daughter across the street,” explained Mrs. Smith. “It’s her birth-night party, and an immense doll, dressed as a bride was forwarded by express this afternoon! I saw it myself –a perfect beauty, with veil and wreath, white satin boots, buttoned by knobs of pearl, and long-wristed white kid gloves, entirely complete! And you thought–you really imagined that my Harold was going to be married secretly and had telegraphed to New York for his bride!”
The old lady broke out into a fit of soft, sweet-sounding laughter, which shook her as if she had been a mold of jelly. Everybody else laughed, too, except the three Misses Blythes. They only looked blank.
“But now that you’re here,” added hospitable Mrs. Smith, “you’ll stay to tea, all of you? But you must! The down train doesn’t leave until ten, and you’ll be half starved, now that there is no wedding feast for you. Oh! I insist upon your staying to tea.”
The biggest tea-kettle in the house was put over to boil at once; seven pounds of coffee were put into the pot, and the maids ran, one to the muffle and crumpet store and cake bakery, the other to the oyster stand, which, luckily, was not yet shut up for the night. And kind Mrs. Smith entertained her unexpected guests with gracious politeness. But there was no wedding and no bride, except little Bella Smith’s wax bride across the street, and the three Misses Blythe went back to New York sadder and wiser women. And what was perhaps the most desirable result, they resolved to adhere, thenceforth, to the eleventh commandment.
The Daily Herald [Delphos OH] 21 September 1899: p. 7
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Eleventh Commandment, in case Mrs Daffodil’s readers’ theological educations have been neglected, is “for every one to mind his (or, more aptly, her) own business.”
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.