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- A Duet - 1/46 -


Transcribed from the 1899 Grant Richards edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

A DUET WITH AN OCCASIONAL CHORUS

TO MRS. MAUDE CROSSE

Dear Maude,--All the little two-oared boats which put out into the great ocean have need of some chart which will show them how to lay their course. Each starts full of happiness and confidence, and yet we know how many founder, for it is no easy voyage, and there are rocks and sandbanks upon the way. So I give a few pages of your own private log, which tell of days of peace, and days of storm--such storms as seem very petty from the deck of a high ship, but are serious for the two-oared boats. If your peace should help another to peace, or your storm console another who is storm-tossed, then I know that you will feel repaid for this intrusion upon your privacy. May all your voyage be like the outset, and when at last the oars fall from your hands, and those of Frank, may other loving ones be ready to take their turn of toil--and so, bon voyage!

Ever your friend, THE AUTHOR. Jan. 20, 1899.

CHAPTER I--THE OVERTURE--ABOUT THAT DATE

These are the beginnings of some of the letters which they wrote about that time.

Woking, May 20th.

My Dearest Maude,--You know that your mother suggested, and we agreed, that we should be married about the beginning of September. Don't you think that we might say the 3rd of August? It is a Wednesday, and in every sense suitable. Do try to change the date, for it would in many ways be preferable to the other. I shall be eager to hear from you about it. And now, dearest Maude . . . (The rest is irrelevant.)

St. Albans, May 22nd.

My Dearest Frank,--Mother sees no objection to the 3rd of August, and I am ready to do anything which will please you and her. Of course there are the guests to be considered, and the dressmakers and other arrangements, but I have no doubt that we shall be able to change the date all right. O Frank . . . (What follows is beside the point.)

Woking, May 25th.

My Dearest Maude,--I have been thinking over that change of date, and I see one objection which had not occurred to me when I suggested it. August the 1st is Bank holiday, and travelling is not very pleasant about that time. My idea now is that we should bring it off before that date. Fancy, for example, how unpleasant it would be for your Uncle Joseph if he had to travel all the way from Edinburgh with a Bank-holiday crowd. It would be selfish of us if we did not fit in our plans so as to save our relatives from inconvenience. I think therefore, taking everything into consideration, that the 20th of July, a Wednesday, would be the very best day that we could select. I do hope that you will strain every nerve, my darling, to get your mother to consent to this change. When I think . . . (A digression follows.)

St. Albans, May 27th.

My Dearest Frank,--I think that what you say about the date is very reasonable, and it is so sweet and unselfish of you to think about Uncle Joseph. Of course it would be very unpleasant for him to have to travel at such a time, and we must strain every nerve to prevent it. There is only one serious objection which my mother can see. Uncle Percival (that is my mother's second brother) comes back from Rangoon about the end of July, and will miss the wedding (O Frank, think of its being OUR wedding!) unless we delay it. He has always been very fond of me, and he might be hurt if we were married so immediately before his arrival. Don't you think it would be as well to wait? Mother leaves it all in your hands, and we shall do exactly as you advise. O Frank . . . (The rest is confidential.)

Woking, May 29th.

My Own Dearest,--I think that it would be unreasonable upon the part of your Uncle Percival to think that we ought to have changed the date of a matter so important to ourselves, simply in order that he should be present. I am sure that on second thoughts your mother and yourself will see the thing in this light. I must say, however, that in one point I think you both show great judgment. It would certainly be invidious to be married IMMEDIATELY before his arrival. I really think that he would have some cause for complaint if we did that. To prevent any chance of hurting his feelings, I think that it would be far best, if your mother and you agree with me, that we should be married upon July 7th. I see that it is a Thursday, and in every way suitable. When I read your last letter . . . (The remainder is unimportant.)

St. Albans, June 1st.

Dearest Frank,--I am sure that you are right in thinking that it would be as well not to have the ceremony too near the date of Uncle Percival's arrival in England. We should be so sorry to hurt his feelings in any way. Mother has been down to Madame Mortimer's about the dresses, and she thinks that everything could be hurried up so as to be ready by July 7th. She is so obliging, and her skirts DO hang so beautifully. O Frank, it is only a few weeks' time, and then . . .

Woking, June 3rd.

My Own Darling Maude,--How good you are--and your mother also--in falling in with my suggestions! Please, please don't bother your dear self about dresses. You only want the one travelling-dress to be married in, and the rest we can pick up as we go. I am sure that white dress with the black stripe--the one you were playing tennis with at the Arlingtons'--would do splendidly. You looked simply splendid that day. I am inclined to think that it is my favourite of all your dresses, with the exception of the dark one with the light- green front. That shows off your figure so splendidly. I am very fond also of the grey Quaker-like alpaca dress. What a little dove you do look in it! I think those dresses, and of course your satin evening-dress, are my favourites. On second thoughts, they are the only dresses I have ever seen you in. But I like the grey best, because you wore it the first time I ever--you remember! You must NEVER get rid of those dresses. They are too full of associations. I want to see you in them for years, and years, and years.

What I wanted to say was that you have so many charming dresses, that we may consider ourselves independent of Madame Mortimer. If her things should be late, they will come in very usefully afterwards. I don't want to be selfish or inconsiderate, my own dearest girlie, but it would be rather too much if we allowed my tailor or your dressmaker to be obstacles to our union. I just want you--your dainty little self--if you had only your 'wee coatie,' as Burns says. Now look here! I want you to bring your influence to bear upon your mother, and so make a small change in our plans. The earlier we can have our honeymoon, the more pleasant the hotels will be. I do want your first experiences with me to be without a shadow of discomfort. In July half the world starts for its holiday. If we could get away at the end of this mouth, we should just be ahead of them. This month, this very month! Oh, do try to manage this, my own dearest girl. The 30th of June is a Tuesday, and in every way suitable. They could spare me from the office most excellently. This would just give us time to have the banns three times, beginning with next Sunday. I leave it in your hands, dear. Do try to work it.

St. Albans, June 4th.

My Dearest Frank,--We nearly called in the doctor after your dear old preposterous letter. My mother gasped upon the sofa while I read her some extracts. That I, the daughter of the house, should be married in my old black and white tennis-dress, which I wore at the Arlingtons' to save my nice one! Oh, you are simply splendid sometimes! And the learned way in which you alluded to my alpaca. As a matter of fact, it's a merino, but that doesn't matter. Fancy your remembering my wardrobe like that! And wanting me to wear them all for years! So I shall, dear, secretly, when we are quite quite alone. But they are all out of date already, and if in a year or so you saw your poor dowdy wife with tight sleeves among a roomful of puff-shouldered young ladies, you would not be consoled even by the memory that it was in that dress that you first . . . you know!

As a matter of fact, I MUST have my dress to be married in. I don't think mother would regard it as a legal marriage if I hadn't, and if you knew how nice it will be, you would not have the heart to interfere with it. Try to picture it, silver-grey--I know how fond you are of greys--a little white chiffon at neck and wrists, and the prettiest pearl trimming. Then the hat en suite, pale-grey lisse, white feather and brilliant buckle. All these details are wasted upon you, sir, but you will like it when you see it. It fulfils your ideal of tasteful simplicity, which men always imagine to be an economical method of dressing, until they have wives and milliners' bills of their own.

And now I have kept the biggest news to the last. Mother has been to Madame, and she says that if she works all night, she will have everything ready for the 30th. O Frank, does it not seem incredible! Next Tuesday three weeks. And the banns! Oh my goodness, I am frightened when I think about it! Dear old boy, you won't tire of me, will you? Whatever should I do if I thought you had tired of me! And the worst of it is, that you don't know me a bit. I have a hundred thousand faults, and you arc blinded by your love and cannot


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