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Osborn was pleased with his reflection in the glass. For his wedding
he had bought his first morning-coat and silk hat. He had been as
excited as a girl. He had a new dress-suit, too, and a dinner-jacket
from the best tailor in town, ready packed for travelling. He had been
finicking over his coloured shirts, handkerchiefs, and socks; a set of
mauve, a set of blue, a set of grey; the brown set with the striped
shirt; they were all awf'ly smart. Marie was so dainty, she liked a
man to be smart, too. All he wanted was to please her.

Rokeby came early, as quiet and lacklustre as ever. He sat down in the
obvious lodging-house bedroom, lighted a cigarette and looked at
Osborn without a smile. He prepared himself to be bored and amazed;
weddings, tiresome as they were, always amazed him. And he was
prepared, too, for a settled insanity in Osborn until -

"I wonder how long _he'll_ be?" Rokeby thought.

"I've finished packing," said Osborn, clapping his old brushes
together; the new ones lay among the new suits. "It's time we started,
almost, isn't it?"

"Not by an hour," Rokeby answered, consulting a wrist watch. "Have you
breakfasted?"

"Not yet."

"You'd better, hadn't you?"

Osborn was concerned with the set of the new coat over his fine
shoulders.

"Breakfast was on the table when I came through," added Rokeby.

"Was it?" replied Osborn absently.

Rokeby took his friend's arm, piloted him with patient firmness into
the sitting-room, and pulled out a chair.

Osborn ate and drank spasmodically. Between the spasms he hummed under
his breath:

"And - when - I - tell - them,
And I'm certainly going to tell them,
That I'm the man whose wife you're one day going to be,
They'll never believe me - "

Rokeby smoked several cigarettes.

"How long'll it take us to get to the church?" Osborn asked presently,
with his eye on the clock.

"Ten minutes, about. We'll walk."

"Desmond, I say, I wouldn't like to be late."

"I'll look after that. I've escorted a good many fellows to the
tumbril."

"Desmond, that nonsense of yours gets boring."

"All right! Sorry."

"Let's start," said Osborn.

So they started on their short walk. The pale gold sun of a splendid
crisp morning hailed them and the streets were bright. Already, though
they arrived early at the church, several pews were full of whispering
guests who turned and looked and smiled, with nods that beckoned, at
the two young men.

"What'll we do?" Osborn whispered.

"Hide," said Rokeby.

They hid in a cold, stony little place which Rokeby said was a vestry,
and there they waited while interminable minutes drifted by. Osborn
fell into a dream from which he was only fully roused by finding
himself paraded side by side at the chancel steps with a dazzling
apparition, robed in white clouds, veiled and wreathed. She carried a
great bouquet. He stole a look at her entrancing profile and thought
that never had she looked so lovely. She had a flush on her cheeks,
her gay eyes were serious, and her little bare left hand, when, under
whispered instructions, he took it, startled him by being tremulous
and cold as ice. He pressed it and felt tremendously protective.

An irrevocable Act had taken place without fuss or difficulty, or any
abnormal signs and wonders; the gold circle was on Marie's finger and
they were married. For a moment or two, while they knelt and a strange
clergyman was addressing them, Osborn was surprised at the ease, the
speed and simplicity with which two people gave each other their
lives. He did not know what else he had expected, but how simple it
all was! This was their day of days; their wedding. He stole another
look at Marie and found her rapt, calm.

He began to be annoyed with the presence of the clergyman, of Desmond,
and Julia, who waited disapprovingly upon the bride, of Marie's mother
and the small horde of friends and relations; he began to think, "If
only it was over and I had her to myself! In another hour, surely,
we'll be away."

* * * * *

They had chosen one of the most fashionable seaside resorts as an
idyllic honeymoon setting. The journey was not long, only long enough
to enjoy the amenities of luxurious travelling. Rokeby had seen to the
tea-basket and the foot-warmers, as he had to the magazines. Marie
repeated what she had said to Julia:

"Oh, isn't it nice, getting married!"

"Being married is nicer," said Osborn ardently. "I'll come and sit
beside you. Let's take off your hat. Now, put your head on my
shoulder. Isn't it jolly? I want to tell you how beautiful you looked
in church. I was half scared."

"So was I at first."

"But you're not now? You're not scared with me?"

"No - no," said Marie with bated breath.

Osborn smiled. "I'm going to make you very happy. You shall be the
happiest girl in town. You're going to have absolutely all you want.
But first, before we go back to town, there's our honeymoon, the best
holiday of our lives. That's joyful to think of, isn't it, darling?"

"It's lovely!"

"Glad you think so, too, Mrs. Kerr."

"Osborn, now tell me how my frock looked."

"I _couldn't!_" he cried in some awe. He sighed as if at a
beautiful memory.

"Ah!" said Marie, satisfied, "you liked it?"

She lay against his shoulder supremely content. The winter landscape,
which had lost its morning sun, was rushing by them and it looked
cold. But inside the honeymoon carriage all was warm, love-lit and
glowing. There was no dusk. Marie reviewed the day in her light, clear
mind, and it had been very good. Hers had been a wedding such as she
had always wanted. Osborn had looked so fine. She reviewed the details
so carefully thought out and arranged for by herself and her mother.
With the unthinking selfishness of a young gay girl, she discounted
the strain on the mother's purse and heart. The favours had been
exactly the right thing; the cake was good; the little rooms hadn't
seemed at all bad; Aunt Toppy's new gown was an unexpected concession
to the occasion; Mrs. Amber had been really almost distinguished; the
country cousins hadn't looked too dreadfully rural. People hadn't been
stiff, or awkward, or dull. As for Mr. Rokeby - that was a very
graceful speech he made. He was rather a gifted man; worth knowing.

But Osborn had very nice friends.

With the agility of woman, her mind jumped ahead to those little
dinner-parties. Soup one prepared well beforehand; a chicken, _en
casserole_....

Perhaps Osborn saw the abstraction of her mind and was jealous of it;
at the moment she must think of nothing save him, as he could think of
nothing but her. He put his hand under her chin, to lift her dreamy
face, and he kissed her lips possessively.

"Here," he demanded, against them, "what are you thinking about? We're
not going to think of anything or anyone but just ourselves. We're
going to live entirely in the next glorious fortnight, for a whole
fortnight. Have you any objection to that programme, Mrs. Kerr?"

"No, no," said Marie sighing, "no, no! It's beautiful."




CHAPTER III

BEAUTIFUL


The young Kerrs gave themselves a fine time; an amazing time. A dozen
times a day they used to tell each other with a solemn delight how
amazing it all was. When they awoke in the mornings, in a sleeping
apartment far more splendid than any they could ever sanely hope - not
that they were sane - to rent for themselves, when an interested if
_blasée_ chambermaid entered with early tea, finding Marie in one
of the pink caps and a pink matinée over a miraculously frail
nightdress, with Osborn hopelessly surprised and admiring, they used
to say to each other, while the bride dispensed the tea:

"Isn't it all _nice_? Did you ever imagine anything _could_
be so nice?"

When they descended to breakfast, very fresh and spruce, under the
eyes of such servants as they could never expect to hire themselves,
they looked at each other across the table for two, and touched each
other's foot under it and asked: "Doesn't it seem extraordinary to be
breakfasting together like this?"

And when one of the cars from the hotel garage was ordered round to
take them for a run, and they snuggled side by side on well-sprung
cushions such as they would probably never ride upon again, they held
hands and exclaimed under their breath: "This is fine, isn't it? I
wish this could last for ever! Some day, when our ship comes in, we'll
have this make of car."

And when they walked the length of the pier together, two well-clad
and well-looking young people, they would gaze out to sea with the
same vision, see the infinite prospects of the horizon and say
profoundly: "We're out at last on the big voyage. Didn't our
engagement seem endless? But now - we're off!"

For dinner, in the great dining-room, with the orchestra playing dimly
in the adjacent Palm Court, Mrs. Osborn Kerr would put on the
ineffable wedding gown, and all the other guests and the servants,
with experienced eyes, would know it for what it was; and Mr. Osborn
Kerr wore the dinner jacket from the best tailor in town, and after
they had progressed a little with their wine - they had a half-bottle
_every_ night; what would the bill be? - they would look into each
other's eyes of wonder and murmur: "I always knew we'd have a
beautiful honeymoon; but I never imagined it could be so beautiful as
this."

Later, much later, when the evening's delights had gone by in soft
procession, they went to other delights. Osborn brushed Marie's hair
with the tortoise shell-back brushes he had given her for a wedding
gift, and compared it with the Golden Fleece, the wealth of Sheba, the
dust of stars, till she was arrogant with the homage of man and he was
drunk with love of her.

They had their great wild happy moment to which every human being has
the right, and no one and nothing robbed them of it. It flowed to its
close like a summer's day, and the sun set upon it with great promise
of a like to-morrow.

But although the most darling dolly home waited for them in a suburb
of the great city where Osborn was to work away his young life like
other men, although each saw and recognised the promise of the sunset,
they were sad at leaving the palace which, for so short a time, they
had made-believe was theirs. A reason was present in the mind of each,
though, an irrefutable, hard-and-fast reason, why the stay could not
be prolonged, even though Osborn might beg, with success, for another
week's holiday. Each knew what the now mutual purse held; each, day by
day, had privately been adding the price of the half-bottle, and the
hire of the car, to the sum of "everything inclusive." Each had, of
necessity, a hard young head.

So they went home very punctually.

The hall-porter at the flats knew how newly married they were. So
there was a smile upon the face of the tiger and fires burning in
Number Thirty; and he carried up the luggage with a kind alacrity; for
newly married people were his prey. They thanked him profusely,
touched by his native charm, and they gave him five shillings.

They sat down and looked at each other.

"I think it is lovely to be at home," said Marie.

"There's a comfort about one's own place," Osborn answered, "that you
don't get anywhere else."

The hall-porter had even wound up the clocks, which Mrs. Amber and
Julia had brought, among other wedding presents, a day or two before,
and now four strokes sounded from a silvery-voiced pet of a timepiece
on the mantelshelf. The owners looked at it, arrested and pleased.

"It is really the prettiest clock I have ever seen," said Marie.

"I like the tone," said Osborn, "I can't bear a harsh clock. Darling,
that's four. You want tea. I'll get it."

"We'll both get it."

"But you're tired with travelling, pretty cat. You'll just sit there
and I'll take your boots off and unpack your slippers; and I'll make
your tea."

Marie let Osborn do all this, and he enjoyed his activity for her sake
as much as she enjoyed her inactivity. He unpinned her hat, took off
her coat as a nurse removes a child's coat, kneeled down to unlace her
boots, kissed each slim instep, and carried all the things neatly away
to their bedroom. Joyfully he unlocked the suit-case where he knew her
slippers reposed, for had he not packed them himself, for her, that
morning? He returned to the sitting-room and put them on.

"Mrs. Osborn Kerr at home!" he cried, standing to look down upon her.

"I do want my tea!" said Marie.

"I'll get it now, darling. You sit still. I adore waiting upon you,"
said Osborn, hurrying away.

It was fine to be in his own place, with his own wife, with the world
shut out and snubbed. As Osborn strode along the short and narrow
corridor to the kitchen he admired everything he saw. He confirmed his
own good taste and Marie's. The cream walls with black and white
etchings - more wedding presents - upon them, and the strip of plain
rose felt along the floor, could not be bettered. The kitchen was a
spotless little place, up-to-date in the matter of cupboards.
Everything was as up-to-date as he and Marie were. There was nothing
equal to this fresh and modern comfort.

Osborn looked in a cupboard and there he saw foods, enough to begin
on, placed there by the thoughtful Mrs. Amber. Upon the kitchen table
was a furnished tea-tray, the one woman knowing by instinct what the
other woman would first require after her day's journey. Osborn
lighted one of the jets of the gas-stove. What a neat stove! A kettle
was handy. What a 'cute kettle! Aluminium, wasn't it? None of those
common tin things. He filled the kettle from a tap which was a great
improvement on any tap which he had ever seen.

They were all his own.

He cut bread-and-butter.

He lighted the grill of the gas-stove and made toast. They had a
handsome hot-toast dish.

He hunted for sugary dainties such as Marie loved. Mrs. Amber had
provided them in a tin. He arranged them with thought and care.

Wasn't there any cream for his love? There was a tin of it. He emptied
the cream out lavishly.

All the while the petted bride rested by the fire in her little chintz
room. Life had petted her, her employers had wanted to, and her mother
had petted her, but never had she revelled in such supreme petting as
the last fortnight's.

Where did all these fierce, man-hating young women whom one met quite
often get their ideas from? If only they knew, if only they could be
told, could be forced to open their eyes and see, how perfect the
right sort of marriage really was!

Why, a man, poor dear, was abject! A girl had things all her own way.
Secretly and sweetly Marie smiled over Osborn's devotion.

As she smiled, looking tender and lovely, in the firelight, the door
opened, and Osborn came in, perilously balancing his tray on one hand
like a waiter. He meant her to laugh at his dexterity; he felt a
first-class drawing-room comedian with his domestic attainments. Over
one arm he had slung a brand-new teacloth. He intoned unctuously:

"I think I have all you want, madam."

Marie laughed as Osborn wanted her to do.

"Sit still," he urged, "I'll arrange it all. The toast in the fender;
the cloth on the table; the tray on the cloth. I understand
everything. See, Mrs. Kerr? You won't be the only know-all in this
establishment."

Then he waited upon her; but he let her pour out the tea, because he
wanted to see her do it, in her own home, for the first time. The
situation thrilled both, after a fortnight of thrills.

"I wish Desmond could see us now!" said Osborn.

"I wish Julia could."

"I think we should convert 'em."

Osborn sat on the hearthrug with shoulders against Marie's knees. One
of her hands stole round his neck and he held it there; he knew it was
the softest small hand in the world; he had no misgivings about it and
its tasks. The hour seemed ineffably rosy.

"And to-morrow," he stated, "I go back to work."

"My poor boy," said Marie, "and I shan't work any more."

"Thank heaven, no." Osborn kissed the hand he held.

"This must always stay as soft as rose-leaves," he said fondly.

"You may count on my doing my best for it," said Marie laughing, "I
like nice hands. No woman can look well-dressed without nicely-kept
hands. And that reminds me, Osborn, I want some more cream for my
nails - cuticle-cream it's called. Any good cuticle-cream will do."

He hastened to jot it down in a notebook. His first little commission
for his wife! For Miss Amber there had been many, but this was almost
epoch-making as being for Mrs. Osborn Kerr. "I'll get it in the
dinner-hour, or on my way home. Can't you think of anything else you
want?"

"I have everything else."

"You always shall have."

"What was the kitchen like?" Marie asked. "Was it tidy?"

"It's the smartest little place."

"I'll see it presently, when we wash-up."

"_You're_ not going to wash-up."

"But, Osborn, I shall have to, often. Every day, you know."

He looked a trifle unhappy over this, knitting his brows. Of course,
they had both known that the moment would come when Marie would handle
a dishcloth in the best interests of Number Thirty, but it had seemed
somewhat remote in those queer, forgotten unmarried days more than a
fortnight ago; more than ever remote during the stay in an hotel
palace.

"Yes, yes," he said, "I suppose so. I wish you needn't, though."

"I shan't mind. A little housework is very simple; people make such a
fuss about it; mother makes a horrible fuss. I shall always wear
gloves."

"That partly solves it," said Osborn nodding eagerly, "rubber gloves
for wet work, and housemaid's gloves for dry, eh, dearest? You will
always, won't you? You must let me buy you all the gloves you want."

"I have enough to begin with."

"You are a thoughtful little genius."

"We'll have to cook dinner to-night."

"Oh, great work!" cried Osborn.

"I intend to run this flat in a thoroughly up-to-date way," Marie
explained; "that's the secret of a comfortable household without help,
you know - to be entirely up-to-date."

The husband looked immensely impressed.

"I believe you," he said.

The clock struck five, and six, before they rose reluctantly. It would
have been rather nice, of course, just to press a bell and give one's
orders, but....

On her way to the kitchen, Marie peeped into the bedroom. She switched
up the light and looked it over, well pleased. Soon, when she had
unpacked, her dressing-table would be furnished with all her pretty
things, tortoiseshell and silver, big glass powder-puff bowl, big
glass bowl and spoon with scented salts for her bath, and the manicure
set of super-luxury which a girl friend had given her on her marriage.
She was really adorably equipped; she was starting so very, very well.
Her glance fell upon the two beds, side by side, much-pillowed,
pink-quilted.

It would be rather nice if there was a housemaid to whip in every
evening and turn down the sheets and lay out the night wear; but....

One can't have everything.

"I think we're quite all right here?" said Osborn over her shoulder,
with pride in his voice.

"Isn't it all adorable?" she exclaimed.

"You aren't going to put on The Frock, are you, dear girl, to do the
cooking?"

"I'll put it on afterwards, just before we dish up."

"I'll dress, too," said Osborn.

They proceeded to the kitchen and played with all their new toys
there. There was not so much to do, after all, because Mrs. Amber,
wise woman, had provided one of those ready-made but expensive little
meals from the Stores. You just added this to the soup and heated it;
you put that in a casserole dish and shoved it in the oven; you
whipped some cream; and you made a savoury out of tinned things. You
got out the plated vegetable dish which wasn't to be used except on
great occasions - but this was one - and put the potatoes in it. You
laid the table with every blessed silver thing you had, till it looked
like a wedding-present show, as indeed it was. You lighted four
candles and put rose shades over them, almost like those at the hotel
palace. You ranged the dessert on the sideboard, for you must have
dessert, to use those tiptop finger-bowls. In each finger-bowl you
floated a flower to match the table decorations. You placed the coffee
apparatus - quite smart to make your own, you know - on the sideboard,
too.

Thus you had a swagger little dinner; most delectable.

Then you put on the frock of frocks, and cooled your rather sorched
hands with somebody else's gentlest kisses, the healing brand, and
with some pinkish powder as smooth as silk. Then somebody else put on
his dinner-clothes and looked the finest man in the world. Then you
dished up the hot part of the dinner, and the creamy sweet was all
ready at the other end of the table - so easy to arrange these things
gracefully without a parlourmaid, you know - and absolutely
_everything_ was accomplished.

You sat down.

Love was about and around you.

What delicious soup by a clever wee cook!

Was there happiness at table? There was not greater happiness in
heaven.




CHAPTER IV

DREAMS


"You'll lie still, Mrs. Kerr," said Osborn, when they awoke for the
first time in their own flat, "and I shall bring you a cup of tea."

"But," said the drowsy Marie, raising herself on an elbow, with all
her shining hair - far prettier than any one of the pinky caps with
which she loved to cover it - falling over her childish white
shoulders, "I must get up; Osborn, really I must; there's breakfast to
cook - and you mustn't be late."

"Lie still, Mrs. Kerr," cried the young husband from the doorway.

It was cold in the kitchen, very cold, when a fellow went out clad
only in pyjamas, but Osborn briskly lighted that very superior
gas-stove and put the super-kettle on. It was extraordinary how
completely they were equipped; there was even an extra little set for
morning tea for two. He made toast under the grill, with whose
abilities he now felt really familiar, and furnished the tray. He was
glad he could have everything so pretty and cosy for Marie. He would
never be like some men he knew, utterly careless - to all appearance at
least - as to how their wives fared.

He had his cold tub quickly, while the kettle boiled, and lighted the
geyser in the bathroom for Marie. What an awfully decent bathroom it
was!

It was jolly sitting on the edge of Marie's bed, drinking tea, and
admiring her. Fellows who weren't married never really knew how pretty
a girl could look. Or at least they ought not. Her nightdress beat any
mere suit or frock simply hollow.

"Your bath'll be ready when you are, pretty cat," said Osborn, "and
I've left the kettle on and made enough toast for breakfast."

And Julia inferred that husbands were mere brutes!

Before Marie stepped out of bed, Osborn lighted the gas-fire in the
bedroom; she mustn't get cold. She went into the bathroom, and he
began to shave, in cold water. As he shaved, he remembered - Great
Scott!

The dining-room fire. The dining-room grate in ashes.

Wiping the lather hastily from his face, Osborn hastened out once
more. It was all right for her to put a match to a gas-fire, but ashes
and coals ... he hadn't thought of it.

He did the dining-room grate almost as successfully as a housemaid,
cleared the debris, wondering where one put it, coaxed the fire to
blaze and hurried back to dress.

Marie dressed, too.

"I'm not going to be a breakfast-wrapper woman," she said, as she slid
into her garments. "They're sluts, aren't they? I'm going to look as
nice in the mornings as at any other part of the day."

"Bravo, kiddie!" he cried admiringly.

There was still time in hand when both were dressed for the cooking of
breakfast, but there seemed quite a lot of things to do yet; and they
made rather a rush of them. One couldn't sit down to a meal in a dusty
room, so one had to sweep and dust it. And there was, undoubtedly,
some trick about eggs and bacon which one had yet to learn.

How easily and quickly one would learn everything, though. Method was
the thing.

He asked her many times if she wouldn't come into town and lunch, or
have tea, and they would go home together; but she explained
convincingly if mysteriously:

"You see, dear, this first day, I'll have to _get straight_," and
he went off alone.

Marie fell to work in the greatest spirits. She was armoured with the
rubber gloves and the housemaid's gloves and a chic pinafore. As she
worked she sang. Of course, a woman must have something to occupy a
little of her day. Marie hastened about these tasks cheerfully, and
before she was through them her mother came.


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