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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Southern Marriage

By Nathaniel Beverley Tucker (1784–1851)

[From The Partisan Leader. Secretly printed in 1836, and afterwards suppressed. Published, and again suppressed, in 1861.]

WHEN they met again at breakfast, the swimming eye and changing cheek of Delia told that she had been made acquainted with all that had passed. The countenance of Douglas beamed with high excitement, at once pleasant and painful. A glance of triumphant encouragement to Delia, and her answering tearful smile, showed that they perfectly understood each other. Indeed, it was time they should, for it had been settled that B——, who was a resident and justice of the peace of the county, should perform the marriage ceremony, according to the unceremonious law of North Carolina, immediately after breakfast.

As soon as it was over they adjourned to the parlor, where B——, drawing Delia to him, seated her on his knee. “I don’t half like this business,” said he. “I have no mind to take an active part in giving up my own little girl to this young fellow. I am too old to think of loving and fighting all in a breath, as he does, and I thought to wait till the wars were over, and here he comes and cuts me out. But I am determined to do nothing in prejudice of my claim, until I find that I have no chance.” “Young man,” added he, in a tone gradually changing from playful to serious, “do you love this dear girl with that faithful single-hearted love, which man owes to a woman who gives him all her heart, and intrusts to him all her happiness, and all her hopes?”

As he said this, he took the hand of Douglas, and went on: “Do you thus love her, and will you in good faith manifest this love, by being to her a true and devoted husband in every change and vicissitude of life, so long as life shall last? Answer me Douglas,” he continued, with a voice approaching to sternness, and a fixed and searching look, while he strongly grasped the young man’s hand.

“Assuredly, I will,” said Douglas, somewhat hurt.

“And you, dear,” said B——, resuming his kind and playful tone, “do you love this young fellow in like sort, and will you, on your part, be to him thus faithful as his wife?”

While B—— said this, the blushing Delia tried to disengage herself. But he detained her, and caught the hand with which she endeavored to loosen his from her waist, and held it fast. At length she hid her face on his neck, whispering: “You know I do. You know I will.” “Then God bless you, my children,” said B——, bringing their hands together and grasping both firmly in one of his, “for you are married as fast as the law can tie you.”

In a moment the whole party were on their feet, each expressing a different variety of surprise. Douglas was the first to understand his situation fully, as appeared by his springing forward and catching his bride to his bosom, imprinting on her pure cheek the kiss that holy nature prompts, and that all the caprices of fashion (thank God!) can never shame. From him she escaped into the arms of her mother, who, caressing her with murmured tenderness, looked half reproachfully at B——. Then smiling through the tear that filled her large blue eye, she shook her finger at him, and said, “Just like you! Just like you!”

“Fairly cheated you of your scene, Margaret. All the matronly airs, and maidenly airs, that you and Delia have been rehearsing this morning, gone for nothing. And there is dear little Lucia crying as if to break her heart, because sister Delia was married before she could fix her pretty little face for the occasion. Never mind, dear! When your turn comes there will be less hurry, and you shall have a ceremony as long as the whole liturgy. Well, Douglas, you will not quarrel with me, I am sure; and I think Delia will forgive me for the trick I played her. You have but an hour to stay together, and where was the sense of giving that up to the flutter and agitation of a deferred ceremony? I suspect if I were always to manage the matter in this way, I should have my hands as full of business as the dentist that used to conjure people’s teeth out of their mouths without their knowing it, while he was pretending just to fix his instrument. But go, my children. Empty your full hearts into each other’s bosoms, and thank me for the privilege.”