The Reunion

The next day being Christmas, Mr. Seymour gave a dinner party for twelve, the guests of honor being Miss Betty and Uncle Job. Such things were common with the landlord of the Dragon, and this, too, notwithstanding the marked disapproval of many good people in Appletop, who looked upon them as frivolous innovations, and therefore likely to lead to harm. Mr. Seymour, however, maintained that the practice was a good one, and this in the face of all, on the ground that the custom was old, and one, moreover, he had been used to in his own country. It was his habit to celebrate every notable event with a dinner, in which more or less formality was observed. It was this last feature, the outgrowth of Effete and Worn-out Usages of the Old World, that threatened, it was believed, to bring our Institutions into Disrepute, if not Open Ridicule, among the Young and Thoughtless. As 4Mr. Seymour was greatly beloved, however, this displeasure did not go to the length of any formal protest, but confined itself to furtive remarks and other expressions more or less open.
Outside these special events, it was also his habit to give a dinner on all the great days of the year, such as Christmas and the like, but usually not more than two or three guests were invited on such occasions. The dinner now to be given, however, was intended to surpass all others in the number of guests, if not in its other appointments, and this because of the conjunction of notable events it was designed to commemorate. Thus, the day being Christmas, it was one of feasting, and then, too, it was intended to fittingly celebrate Uncle Job’s reëntry into the world. Moreover, the announcement of his betrothal to Miss Betty Singleton was here to be made for the first time. This last not all the guests knew about in advance, so that it came to them in the nature of a happy surprise. Altogether the dinner was on a great scale for Appletop, and considering, too, the limited time allowed for its preparation. In the new country, however, wild game of every kind and delicacy was plentiful, and this was made the chief feature of the occasion. Other necessary things more difficult to obtain Mr. Seymour was in the habit of collecting at his leisure and unknown to the purveyors of the town. These supplemented the substantial things I have mentioned, and in extent and delicacy were such as one would hardly have believed possible in so remote a country. It fell out, therefore, and because every resource was taxed to the utmost that the event was a notable one, as our host intended it should be. This, however, was not by any means trumpeted abroad lest it should increase the growing Unrest, as I have said, in respect to such Trivial Matters.
Another thing I may mention that added to the disquiet with which Mr. Seymour’s dinners were viewed was the fact that Wine was served, although sparingly, it was claimed, by the more conservative among his friends. The practice, however was thought to be Bacchanalian in Its Tendency and likely to encourage Habits of Intemperance in the Young, and because of this ought to be Frowned upon by Every One. These objections I could never understand, because of the great quantities of whisky and poor liquors of all kinds that were openly consumed in the country. This, too, in reckless disregard of health and the peace of the community, which latter was often grievously disturbed thereby. In view of these complainings, and it may be with some reference to their effect upon the patronage of the Dragon, such circumspection was observed by the host as was possible without interfering with the festivities the dinners were designed to celebrate.
We received the Singletons in a body, every one being glad to see Miss Betty in such fine color and without trace of tears or weariness of any kind to cloud her fair face. Contrary to her habit, she was now demure—nay, blushing and shy; at which Constance and I looked at each other in surprise. This being the first time I had seen Mr. Singleton since the happenings on the steamboat, I was greatly interested to know what kind of a person he was, and in this was pleasantly surprised. For he proved to be a man of great good sense and sprightliness of manner, in which love of his family was plainly apparent. This not strangely, for men of correct lives and most lovable traits, I have since come to know, are often led astray as he had been. Usually, too, in such cases it needs some shock such as he had received to make them conscious of the outcome that sooner or later overtakes all who give themselves up unreservedly to play.
Since the great trial, Uncle Job had done nothing but stand about the common room of the Dragon and receive the congratulations of the community, now as outspoken in its good wishes as it was for the moment evasive and cold. On the present occasion he bore himself like the fine gentleman he was, and when he offered Mrs. Singleton his arm to take her out to dinner I thought there was not a handsomer man in the world, nor one who made so little of it, either. In this belief I was sure others of the company shared, and more especially Miss Betty, who could hardly keep her eyes off him, so great was her admiration. Seated about the table the faces of all present, and more particularly Uncle Job’s and Miss Betty’s, evinced the utmost contentment and happiness, and such altogether as befitted an occasion so rare in their lives. Seeing which, every one smiled their approval and satisfaction.
When the more serious business of the dinner was over, Mr. Seymour toasted the bride to be, and with so much delicacy of manner and expertness of speech that we could not take our eyes off him for the surprise of it. What he said was attended with many happy blushes on the part of Miss Betty, and afterward by much hilarity on the part of the company, in which Uncle Job joined, and with such spirit, too, as I had never seen in him before. Surely, I thought, you are in great luck, Miss Betty, to get so fine a man for a husband. Then Uncle Job was toasted by Mr. Seymour, and this with such elaboration of compliment and prolixity of happy discourse that we thought he would never let go the opportunity to felicitate the company and Uncle Job on the event we were celebrating. This greatly increased the good feeling of all present, and for a time there was such a bedlam of voices and clinking of glasses that I tiptoed to the door lest some inkling of it should come to the ears of the sleeping village. When quiet had been secured, though this was not possible for a long time, Mr. Seymour turned to where I sat, with much solemnity of manner, as if amid all our joy some discordant note had been struck, saying:
“Having drunk to the health and happiness of our guests of honor, I desire in the most kindly way to condole with our young friend and Knight of the Road, Mr. Gilbert Holmes.”
At this every one looked up in surprise, not knowing what he meant, and for a time all conversation ceased, but Mrs. Singleton, presently regaining her voice, cried out: NORFLOXACIN HCL
“Pray, why should you condole with my young sweetheart, Mr. Seymour? What has he done, or what misfortune hangs over him? I am sure he looks as happy as any one here.”
“That is true, Mrs. Singleton; but the mercenary element in our nature never shows itself till we have had some experience of life. Gilbert is no exception to the rule, and so his dreams are still undisturbed. Give him time, Mrs. Singleton, give him time, and then you will see how his face will furrow with anxiety and the unhappiness that accompanies a discontented mind,” Mr. Seymour answered, in his grave, stately way.
“We don’t understand at all the drift of what you are saying, Mr. Seymour,” Mrs. Singleton went on. “Surely we should all of us be unhappy if a cloud were to come between Gilbert and the sun, no matter how small it might be.”
“What is it, papa? Don’t you see you have put a stop to all the pleasantry by what you are saying?” Constance spoke up, and with some irritation of manner, too, I thought.
“It is a serious matter, Doll, and one that calls for sympathy if not active aid, and in this I know all will agree,” Mr. Seymour went on, stopping as if the better to engage attention.
“What is it, Henry, if you are at all in earnest,” Uncle Job now spoke up, “that can possibly threaten the happiness of one I love more than any one on earth, except—”
“Except Miss Betty, of course,” Mr. Seymour responded, quietly. “There, don’t blush, sweet lady. It was a slip of the tongue, and excusable, I am sure. I must believe, however, from what you say, Job, that you are something of a dissembler,” Mr. Seymour went on; “for is it a light thing to cut off a young man without a settled income or hopes of any kind, as you are preparing to do? Yesterday Gilbert was an heir, your expectant heir; now how does it stand? Gilbert, you are undone, and by your uncle of all men!”
At this foolish ending there was a roar of laughter, in which I joined more heartily than any one else, for of the need of money I then knew nothing. I therefore cried out with great cheerfulness:
“I’m glad to give up my prospects to Miss Betty, for I shouldn’t know what to do with money if I had it. Besides, the ladies, it is said, are less able to get on without it than the rest of us.”
“There is another fling at women!” Miss Betty cried, gayly. “Fie, Gilbert, for you to slur us when you know I have always admired you next to—to—”
“Out with it, Miss Betty—next to Job, of course. How slyly they compliment each other, and properly, too; but it’s a toss-up between Job and Gilbert, don’t you think, Constance?” Mr. Seymour asked, turning to her.
“Yes, I’m sure it is, for I have always admired Mr. Throckmorton next to—to—Gilbert,” Constance replied, with great pertness, looking at Miss Betty and laughing.
“Well, to straighten it out and make every one happy again, I propose, Betty, that we make him our joint heir, thus doubling his prospects,” Uncle Job broke in, turning to her.
“I agree to that with all my heart,” she cried in response, “and propose we toast him as such”; and this every one at once proceeded to do.
“That ought to be satisfactory, but still I very much fear Gilbert’s prospects are in the dumps,” Mr. Seymour responded, with mock gravity.
In this way, and with much similar talk and hilarity, the evening passed to the great enjoyment of every one present. Mr. Seymour, mindful of decorum, had named an early hour for the dinner, so that it was over in time not to shock the more staid of the community, who were ever of the opinion, in the infancy of the republic, that respectability and good hours went hand in hand.