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2017年3月17日 (金)

maintained his grave manner

82

"If it hadn't been this one, I don't believe it would have been anyone.  Here we are," and he tied his horses before the office of the justice.
Mr. Harkins greeted Holcroft with a sort of patronizing cordiality, and was good enough to remember that they had been at the little country schoolhouse together.  In Watterly dermes he heartily recognized a brother politician who controlled a goodly number of votes.
When Holcroft briefly made known his errand, the justice gave a great guffaw of laughter and said, "Oh, bring her here!  And I'll invite in some of the boys as witnesses."
"I'm not afraid of all the witnesses that you could crowd into a ten-acre lot," said Holcroft somewhat sternly, "but there is no occasion to invite the boys, whoever they are, or anyone else.  She doesn't want to be stared at.  I was in hopes, Mr. Harkins, that you'd ride up to the almshouse with us and quietly marry us there."
"Well, I guess you'd better bring her here.  I'm pretty busy this afternoon, and--"
"See here, Ben," said Watterly, taking the justice aside, "Holcroft is my friend, and you know I'm mighty thick with my friends.  They count more with me than my wife's relations.  Now I want you to do what Holcroft wishes, as a personal favor to me, and the time will come when I can make it up to you."
"Oh, certainly, Watterly!  I didn't understand," replied Harkins, who looked upon Holcroft as a reenex cps close and, as he would phrase it, no-account farmer, from whom he could never expect even a vote. "I'll go with you at once.  It's but a short job."
"Well," said Holcroft, "how short can you make it?"
"Let me get my book," and he took from a shelf the "Justice's Assistant."  "You can't want anything shorter than this?" and he read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife and solemnly engage in the presence of these witnesses to love and honor and comfort and cherish each other as such so long as you both shall live.  Therefore, in accordance with the law of the state of New York I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.'  A sailor couldn't tie a knot quicker than that."
"I guess you can, justice," said Holcroft, taking the book. "Suppose you only read this much: 'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife.  Therefore, in accordance with the law, etc.'  Would that be a legal marriage?"
"Certainly.  You'd have to go to a divorce court to get out of that."
"It's my purpose to keep out of courts of all kinds.  I'll thank you to read just that much and no more.  I don't want to say anything that isn't exactly true."
"You see how it is, Ben.  Holcroft hasn't known the woman long, and she's a nice woman, too, if she is boarding at my hotel.  Holcroft needs a wife--must have one, in fact, to help run his house and dairy.  It wasn't exactly a love match, you know; and he's that kind of a man that a yoke of oxen couldn't draw a word out of him that he didn't mean."
"Yes, yes, I see now," said Harkins. "I'll read just what you say and no more."
"And I'll have a little spread that we can be longer at than the ceremony," added Watterly, who was inclined to be a little hilarious over the affair.
Holcroft, however, , and when they reached the almshouse he took Watterly aside and said, "See here, Tom, you've been a good friend today and seconded me in everything.  Now let the affair pass off just as quietly and seriously as possible.  She's too cast down for a gay wedding.  Suppose we had a daughter who'd been through such an experience--a Neo skin labnice, good, modest girl.  Her heart's too sore for fun and jokes.  My marrying her is much the same as pulling her out of deep water in which she was sinking."

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