Read CHAPTER IX - BLUE AND GOLD of The Triflers , free online book, by Frederick Orin Bartlett, on ReadCentral.com.

Marjory was to be married on June eighteenth, at eleven o’clock, in the chapel of the English Congregational Church. At ten o’clock of that day she was in her room before the mirror, trying to account for her heightened color. Marie had just left her in despair and bewilderment, after trying to make her look as bridelike as possible when she did not wish to look bridelike. Marie had wished to do her hair in some absurd new fashion for the occasion.

“But, Marie,” she had explained, “nothing is to be changed. Therefore why should I change my appearance?”

“Mademoiselle to be a bride and nothing changed?” Marie had cried.

“Nothing about me; nothing about Mr. Covington. We are merely to be married, that is all as a matter of convenience.”

“Mademoiselle will see,” Marie had answered cryptically.

“You will see yourself,” Marjory had laughed.

Eh bien! something was changed already, as she had only to look in the mirror to observe. There was a deep flush upon her cheeks and her eyes did not look quite natural. She saw, and seeing only made it worse. Manifestly it was absurd of her to become excited now over a matter that up to this point she had been able to handle so reasonably. It was scarcely loyal to Monte. He had a right to expect her to be more sensible.

He had put it well last night when he had remarked that for her to go to a chapel to be married was no more serious than to go to an embassy for a passport. She was merely to share with him the freedom that was his as a birthright of his sex. In no other respect whatever was she to be under any obligations to him. With ample means of her own, he was simply giving her an opportunity to enjoy them unmolested a privilege which the world denied her as long as she remained unmarried. In no way was he to be responsible for her or to her. He understood this fully, and it was exactly what he himself desired.

She, in return for this privilege, was to make herself as entertaining a traveling companion as possible. She was to be what she had been these last few weeks.

Neither was making any sacrifice. That was precisely what they were avoiding. That was the beauty of the arrangement. Instead of multiplying cares and responsibilities, as ordinary folk did, thereby defeating the very object for which they married, a fuller and wider freedom, each was to do away with the few they already had as individuals.

Therefore it seemed scarcely decent for Marie to speak of her as a bride. Perhaps that accounted for the color. No sentiment was involved here. This was what made the arrangement possible. Sentiment involved caring; and, as Monte had once said, “It’s the caring that seems to make the trouble.” That was the trouble with the Warrens. How she cared from morning till night, with her whole heart and soul in a flutter for Chic and the children. In a different way, Marjory supposed, Teddy cared. This was the one thing that made him so impossible. In another way, Peter Noyes cared.

She gave a quick start as she thought of Peter Noyes. She turned away from the mirror as if as if ashamed. She sprang to her feet, with an odd, tense expression about her mouth. It was as if she were looking into his dark, earnest eyes. Peter had always been so intensely in earnest about everything. In college he had worked himself thin to lead his class. In the law school he had graduated among the first five, though he came out almost half blind. His record, however, had won for him a place with a leading law firm in New York, where in his earnest way he was already making himself felt. It was just this quality that had frightened her. He had made love to her with his lips set as if love were some great responsibility. He had talked of duty and the joy of sacrifice until she had run away from him.

That had been her privilege. That had been her right. She had been under no obligation to him then; she was under no obligation to him now. Her life was hers, to do with as she saw fit. He had no business to intrude himself, at this of all times, upon her.

Not daring to look in the mirror again, she called Marie to adjust her hat and veil.

“It is half past ten, Marie,” she announced nervously. “I I think Monsieur Covington must be waiting for us.”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

Her ears caught at the word.

“Marie.”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“I wish even after this to have you always address me as mademoiselle.”

“But that ”

“It is my wish.”

It was a blue-and-gold morning, with the city looking as if it had received a scrubbing during the night. So too did Monte, who was waiting below for her. Clean-shaven and ruddy, in a dark-gray morning coat and top hat, he looked very handsome, even with his crippled arm. And quite like a bridegroom! For a moment he made her wish she had taken Marie’s advice about her hair. She was in a brown traveling suit with a piquant hat that made her look quite Parisienne though her low tan shoes, tied with big silk bows at her trim ankles, were distinctly American.

Monte was smiling.

“You are n’t afraid?” he asked.

“Of what, Monte?”

“I don’t know. We ’re on our way.”

She took a long look at his steady blue eyes. They braced her like wine.

“You must never let me be afraid,” she answered.

“Then en avant!” he called.

In a way, it was a pity that they could not have been married out of doors. They should have gone into a garden for the ceremony instead of into the subdued light of the chapel. Then, too, it would have been much better had the Reverend Alexander Gordon been younger. He was a gentle, saintly-looking man of sixty, but serious terribly serious. He had lived long in Paris, but instead of learning to be gay he had become like those sad-faced priests at Notre Dame. Perhaps if he had understood better the present circumstances he would have entered into the occasion instead of remaining so very solemn.

As Marjory shook hands with him she lost her bright color. Then, too, he had a voice that made her think again of Peter Noyes. In sudden terror she clung to Monte’s arm, and during the brief ceremony gave her responses in a whisper.

Peter Noyes himself could not have made of this journey to the embassy a more trying ordeal. A ring was slipped upon the fourth finger of her left hand. A short prayer followed, and an earnest “God bless you, my children,” which left her feeling suffocated. She thought Monte would never finish talking with him would never get out into the sunshine again. When he did, she shrank away from the glare of the living day.

Monte gave a sigh of relief.

“That’s over, anyhow,” he said.

Hearing a queer noise behind him, he turned. There stood Marie, sniffling and wiping her eyes.

“Good Heavens,” he demanded, “what’s this?”

Marjory instantly moved to the girl’s side.

“There there,” she soothed her gently; “it’s only the excitement, n’est ce pas?”

“Yes, madame; and you know I wish you all happiness.”

“And me also?” put in Monte.

“It goes without saying that monsieur will be happy.”

He thrust some gold-pieces into her hand.

“Then drink to our good health with your friends,” he suggested.

Calling a taxicab, he assisted her in; but before the door closed Marjory leaned toward her and whispered in her ear:

“You will come back to the hotel at six?”

“Yes, madame.”

So Marie went off to her cousins, looking in some ways more like a bride than her mistress.

Marjory preferred to walk. She wanted to get back again to the mood of half an hour ago. She must in some way get Peter Noyes out of her mind. So quite aimlessly they moved down the Avenue Montaigne, and Monte waved his hand at the passing people.

“Now,” he announced, “you are none of anybody’s business.”

“Is that true, Monte?” Marjory asked eagerly.

“True as preaching.”

“And no one has any right to scold me?”

“Not the slightest. If any one tries it, turn him over to me.”

“That might not always be possible.”

“You don’t mean to say any one has begun this soon?”

He glared about as if to find the culprit.

“Don’t look so fierce, Monte,” she protested, with a laugh.

“Then don’t you look so worried,” he retorted.

Already, by his side, she was beginning to recover. A Parisian dandy coming toward them stared rather overlong at her. An hour ago it would have made her uneasy; now she felt like making a face at him.

She laughed a little.

“The minister was terribly serious, was n’t he, Monte?”

“Too darned serious,” he nodded. “But, you see, he did n’t know. I suppose the cross-your-throat, hope-to-die kind of marriage is serious. That’s the trouble with it.”

“Yes; that’s the trouble with it.”

“I can see Chic coming down the aisle now, with his face chalk-white and ”

“Don’t,” she broke in.

He looked down at her surprised that she herself was taking this so seriously.

“My comrade,” he said, “what you need is to play a little.”

“Yes,” she agreed eagerly.

“Then where shall we go? The world is before you.”

He was in exactly the mood to which she herself had looked forward a mood of springtime and irresponsibility. That was what he should be. It was her right to feel like that also.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “I’d like to go to all the places I could n’t go alone! Take me.”

“To the Cafe de Paris for lunch?”

She nodded.

“To the races afterward and to the Riche for dinner?”

“Yes, yes.”

“So to the theater and to Maxim’s?”

Her face was flushed as she nodded again.

“We’re off!” he exclaimed, taking her arm.

It was an afternoon that left her no time to think. She was caught up by the gay, care-free crowd and swept around in a dizzy circle. Yet always Monte was by her side. She could take his arm if she became too confused, and that always steadied her.

Then she was whirled back to the hotel and to Marie, with no more time than was necessary to dress for dinner. She was glad there was no more time. For at least to-day there must be no unfilled intervals. She felt refreshed after her bath, and, to Marie’s delight, consented to attire herself in one of her newest evening gowns, a costume of silk and lace that revealed her neck and arms. Also she allowed Marie to do her hair as she pleased. That was a good sign, but Marie thought madame’s cheeks did not look like a good sign.

“I hope madame ”

“Have you so soon forgotten what I asked of you?” Marjory interrupted.

“I hope mademoiselle,” Marie corrected herself, “has not caught a fever.”

“I should hope not,” exclaimed Marjory. “What put that into your head?”

“Mademoiselle’s cheeks are very hot.”

Marjory brought her hand to her face. It did not feel hot, because her hands were equally hot.

“It is nothing but the excitement that brings the color,” she informed Marie. “I have been living almost like a nun; and now to get out all at once takes away one’s breath.

“Also being a bride.”

“Marie!”

“Eh bien, madame mademoiselle was married only this morning.”

“You do not seem to understand,” Marjory explained; “but it is necessary that you should understand. Monsieur Covington is to me only like like a big brother. It is in order that he might be with me as a big brother we went through the ceremony. People about here talk a great deal, and I have taken his name to prevent that. That is all. And you are to remain with me and everything is to go on exactly as before, he in his apartments and we in ours. You understand now?”

At least, Marie heard.

“It is rather an amusing situation, is it not?” demanded Marjory.

“I I do not know,” replied Marie.

“Then in time you shall see. In the mean while, you might smile. Why do you not smile?”

“I I do not know,” Marie replied honestly.

“You must learn how. It is necessary. It is necessary even to laugh. Monsieur Covington laughed a great deal this afternoon.”

“He he is a man,” observed Marie, as if that were some explanation.

“Eh bien is it men alone who have the privilege of laughing?”

“I do not know,” answered Marie; “but I have noticed that men laugh a great deal more about some things than women.”

“Then that is because women are fools,” affirmed Marjory petulantly.

Though Marie was by no means convinced, she was ready to drop the matter in her admiration of the picture her mistress made when properly gowned. Whether she wished or not, madame, when she was done with her this evening, looked as a bride should look. And monsieur, waiting below, was worthy of her.

In his evening clothes he looked at least a foot taller than usual. Marie saw his eyes warm as he slipped over madame’s beautiful white shoulders her evening wrap.

Before madame left she turned and whispered in Marie’s ear.

“I may be late,” she said; “but you will be here when I return.”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

“Without fail?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.”

Marie watched monsieur take his bride’s arm as they went out the door, and the thing she whispered to herself had nothing to do with madame at all.

“Poor monsieur!” she said.