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Chapter XXVIII. The Double Marriage.

THE young men continued to pay their visits to the same cottage, and the young ladies continued to take pleasure in such visits.

The next step was a visit across between the respective friends. The mother of Horace was decidedly

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pleased with the mother of the Tasmanian Lily, and cordially adopted Annie as her daughter prospective. The parents of the young man had some private conversation about the future.

‘But you know, my dear,’ said the captain, ‘That Horace is only a little over two and twenty, and I was a dozen years older when I married you.’

‘And better, perhaps, if you had been married a dozen years before,’ was the lady's reply.

‘Then in that case you would not have been the unfortunate victim, as eight is too young even in India. But I suppose the lad must do as he likes. He has no service to forbid the banns, as I had.’

‘You forget, also, my dear John, that Horace has positively no ambition, and this country is so cheap to live in. He will never want, you know; and if he should have a family, and need do more, he will not have the difficulty here in increasing his store. He has given proof that he is not an idler even now, when there is no occasion for his labour, by his plan drawing engagements half the week in Hobart Town.’

‘You are right there, my dear; a young man who finds himself occupation suitable to his talents, when there is no absolute need for it, is not likely to be wanting when urgency pleads.’

‘Then you have no objection to his early marriage?’

‘I should object in England or in India, but not here. Public feeling is in favour of the thing in the colonies, as bread and butter are easier procured, and

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young folks are not supposed to set up a palace at starting.’

‘And a great deal better for all parties. There would be more happiness as well as virtue if the same system were adopted at home.’

‘But that cannot be, my dear, as Mrs Grundy lives there. I suppose your boy and you have had all this matter over between you.’

‘He asked my opinion about an early marriage, but supposed you would laugh at the thing. The young lady's mother and I have talked together, and we have but one wish, that of seeing our children happy.’

‘Yet there's another pair; how are matters there?’

‘O, Mr Tom Turner and Julia first started the idea. The young man declared he never meant courting on an indefinite period to please other people. In his own jocular style he said that, having hooked a fish, it was absurd to keep it dangling in the water till somebody else had hooked one, or till it was thought proper to land it in the boat.’

‘Just like Tom. He is an independent fellow, doing well, and having no occasion to tremble before Mrs Grundy. Then that fellow has got our Horace over to his way of thinking I suppose.’

‘Very likely; though, when I spoke to Annie upon the subject, I saw her mind had been made up.’

‘Ha, ha! like Tom, she saw no necessity to keep the flatfish she had caught dangling on the hook, but preferred having it in her own keeping.’

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‘She never said that, John. But, in her laughing way, she pitied me for having evidently lost all control over the wayward young man; and, out of concern for me, was willing to try her own hand at discipline.’

‘That is like her merry soul. I'll tell you what, wife, she has more sense than most girls. She will help to keep us old folks alive, my dear.’

‘I quite expect you two will get on merrily enough together.’

‘Yes, I am so set upon having as much of her company as I can, that I am thinking of adopting the system of some Indian Islanders, by putting up a hut on the top of ours for the young folks to live in.’

‘Really, how you do talk. But I have had that subject over with Annie. There is a sweet little cottage to let, on the road to town. It has four rooms and a lean-to kitchen. There is a pretty little garden and a snug little arbour.’

‘I see how the cat is going to jump. Now, have you not, you two, bespoken that cottage? Out with the truth.’

‘Well, we have seen the landlord.’

‘Then I can make another guess. The day is already fixed, and pretty near too.’

It was in vain that the good woman tried to keep the secret. The captain had solved the enigma. He laughed heartily at his wife's good-humoured confusion,—but said—

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‘I am perfectly disgusted with your duplicity, madam. And what can I think of Annie after this? It is a dark conspiracy against the future peace of your husband and son.’

When, however, the said Annie dropped in at Rosebank half-an-hour after, the salute of the old gentleman, and his boisterous mirth, did not betray a revengeful spirit on his part. On the contrary, he appeared to enter enthusiastically into the conspiracy.

The cottage was taken, for the day was now approaching.

It will be regarded as an unheard of thing, that two lovers should have passed through no dreadful trials, should have encountered no hideous monsters in human shape,—escaping, in short, the perils of poison, murder, adultery, abduction, suicide, and bigamy,—during the whole course of their courtship. Everybody knows that one, two, or the whole, of the half-dozen evils ought to have been endured, to have made the marriage delightful, and the story interesting to the world.

Yet so it was. Horace had not been ambitious for a sensational courtship; though Annie declared herself perfectly disappointed, for she had not even enjoyed the small consolation of a lovers' quarrel.

Tom took higher ground. He was not going to be imposed upon. He wanted no theatrical scene. If another lady, jealous of his Julia, had waylaid him, and threatened him with any of the aforesaid six misfortunes,

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and even with an addition to that number, he meant, he said, to defend himself like a man and a Tasmanian.

A Colonial marriage is conducted upon the British model. At anyrate, there is a bridegroom, and there is a bride. There is the inevitable cake, and the inevitable fun. The carriages may not have quite an equal style in Tasmania, and yet not be far behind it.

But what a profusion of flowers! The orange blossom is not forgotten, but is duly honoured there.

Of course the two couples were arraigned together, and at the common bar. It is worthy of remark, that all the victims were resigned to their fate, and submitted to the bonds of matrimony without a struggle.

The wedding breakfast was had on the lawn in front of Captain Douglas's cottage. How could such bounding spirits be kept within four stiff walls! Then only think how many had to be accommodated! There were the immediate connections of the couples in question, the friends of the couples, the neighbours of the couples, and the children of almost everybody for miles around. Only a lawn, and such a lawn,—could have served for the spread.

But how thankful everybody was that everybody else had been invited!

Speeches there were, songs there were, and jokes there were. But there was no jealousy, envy, malice, or other sort of uncharitableness. All came to be happy, and were so. Only one critical remark was

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made upon ladies' dresses;—always excepting the encomiums upon the lovely appearance of the lovely brides.

Tom's speech was the crack one of the day, and made a deep impression upon the susceptible breasts of Tasmanian young fellows. He closed an eloquent oration by the touching appeal of—


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