Given in Marriage
The love story of a girl who had to choose between parental discipline and the risks of revolt
SHE WAS twenty when she fell in love, without benefit of a single previous experience to help her through the shock of it. It had hold of her before she knew, and, once in her heart, it crept into all the empty places that should have been filled long ago by normal fundamental things like love of home and love of family. Where there was nothing one day, there was suddenly everything.
She had been too long without anyone or anything that mattered. All through her little girlhood she had needed something to cling to and believe in with all her heart. She needed this even more than most girls, because she was that kind. But they had not given it to her. Not Aunt Margaret, furiously busy with the exciting trivialities of her trivial social life. Not her father, engrossed with his own success, who had bothered to come to England only twice in the eighteen years she had lived abroad. And not her teachers irT a half dozen schools throughout Europe, none of whom had had her long enough to leave a mark. She had grown up strong and lithe and lovely, and they let it go at that. Her father's money had accomplished all the surface effects; she was impeccably turned out with all the required charm, and she could wear the clothes they bought her as such clothes should be worn. But no one bothered really to know her; to help her when her mind grew up and led her into strange places full of shadows.
This was the way she was, then, when she met Bill Everett. It hit her too hard, and she staked everything on him. She had no reserves to fall back on if it turned out wrong.
It was a large order for a lighthearted youngster such as Bill. At twenty-two, he was tramping the world while his money lasted, aiming vaguely at a cosmopolite's viewpoint, which, he had decided, would help him later on when he found a spot in the publishing field or perhaps took a shot at writing himself. He had no thought of settling down, and he’d been in and out of love as often as any young man his age. There was no reason why this should last any longer than the others. Not at first. Then he came to know her better and found how much she needed him. Following this came a more amazing discovery. I le needed her even more.
Yes, she found the right young fellow for herself, and it was her good luck, or providence, or something, because the wrong guess at this stage would have hurt her more than you’d like to think. Bill Everett was too young, but he was a pleasant, clean-cut, nice-looking lad; a run-of-the-
mill, college-degree-and-now-what? type of boy, who worshipped Theo and would keep on worshipping her. Theo, short for Theodora; Theodora, meaning given by God. Even her name lifted it above a casual romance.
But there was this about Bill: his money was almost gone, he hadn’t a job or a prospect, and in the life he had planned there was no room for a wife for years to come. This last changed after he knew he Joved Theo. But all the love in the world couldn’t change the money part. And Theo was used to fine living; Mr. Frederick Gale, her father, had been busy these many years making a lot of money and sending plenty to Aunt Margaret and Theo in England while he lived his own life where he made his money. On the face of it, therefore, the answer seemed to lie somewhere with this father, this stranger whom she scarcely knew.
T-TER FATHER, but a stranger. That was the way it was. He had failed her from the beginning. Her earliest memory was of her need for him. a need that was never filled. When she w as very small and Aunt Margaret punished her—often unreasonably, for Aunt Margaret had no children of her own and her patience was short and her anger quick—Theo could remember sobbing in her pink and white nursery and jxniring out her need to the Mother Goose parade on the egg-shell wall beside her bed. “If my father were only here!” she would cry. It was to be the recurring theme throughout the years of her childhood, whenever life with Aunt Margaret seemed unbearably empty and dull. “If my father would only understand!” “If I could only talk to my father !” Until finally, when she grew older, the longing for him dried up inside her. She realized at last she didn’t love her father. He was a strange man whose name she bore, a man whose love for a woman long dead had given her life. She felt as remote from him as she knew he must feel from the wife he’d once had.
But she had pictures of her father in her room. The first was of a young man, his second lieutenant’s uniform spickand-span, his gold shoulder-bar shiny and new. This was her father, the bridegroom. Her father, the young hero of 1917, who couldn't wait to get into the thick of the War. and who couldn’t wait till he came back to marry the fragile blond girl who loved him. Theo had other pictures of him in uniform, showing him leaner and harder, with service stripes on his arm and an overseas cap slantwise over one eve and a Sam Browne belt tight across his broad
chest. But she liked the bridegroom picture best. This was the way he was when her mother first loved him. Theo felt she must be quite like her mother.
She was born while her father was in France, at a time when the War Department listed him erroneously as missing. If he had not been away, Theo thought years later, everything might have been different. If he had been there beside his wife, as other men are, holding her hand at the beginning of it and waiting in torment in a hospital corridor at the end—then he might have loved his daughter. If he had seen her when she was twenty minutes old, if he had watched her mother’s eyes grow soft when the nurse brought her into the room the first time—then there might have been some tie between them to hold them, even though loosely, together.
But he was far away when she was born, somewhere amid the mud and muck of war and too busy dealing out death to think of the new life that was starting. It was weeks before he heard the news, and he was to remember her birthday from then on as the day on which he had led a raiding party that netted him eventually a Croix de Guerre. He wrote a brief, hurried letter, and it arrived the day she was christened. Christened Theodora. “Meaning gift of a god,” Aunt Margaret had said. “Mars, god of war.”
Theo never saw that letter, though she thought of it often as proof that her father loved her. He was welcoming her into the world and she could imagine all the tender things he said. She wished he had saved that letter. But when he returned early in 1919 and found his young wife dead of the influenza, he reclaimed and destroyed it. He destroyed everything he could find that would remind him of his dead wife. Except, of course, Theo.
What he did after the War was the only thing he could do. Everyone told Theo this. They dinned it into her ears as soon as she was old enough to understand, until finally she knew it perfectly and could repeat it defensively to her little friends in school w'hen they asked about her home. “And what else could he do?” she would say, her small chin firm and her eyes brave. “He wanted to keep me, naturally. But there was no way to take care of me. He was just starting out to be a lawyer, and he didn't have nearly as much money then, you see. And there weren’t any sisters to help—just a couple of brothers, and what good are they with a tiny baby? And a nurse or a governess isn’t like one of your own. So, of course, it had to be Aunt Margaret, who was mother’s sister-in-law. And when Aunt Margaret’s
husband—my uncle, that is—died and she married again and came to England to live -well, I just came along.” Then she would be sure to add, “My father’s very fond of me. He writes—oh, real often. And he’s very generous, now that he’s rich. I expect he’ll be sending for me soon to come home.” She carried it off very well, really, for a little girl of her age.
THE SECOND picture of her father was a postcard photo, made in 1924 at some catchpenny place in an amusement park. He had sent it to Aunt Margaret as a joke, and Theo, at the age of six, had appropriated it. He looked very gay and handsome and comical, sitting astride a grotesque wooden horse. But Theo wanted it chiefly because of the woman with the large, heavy-lidded eyes and wide smiling mouth who stood beside her father. “Will she be my new mother?” Theo asked Aunt Margaret.
Aunt Margaret looked at the picture again. “Would you want her to be?” she said. “That one?”
“It would be nice to have a mother,” the little girl said solemnly. “Perhaps then I could go home.”
“This is the only home you’ll have,” Aunt Margaret said sharply. “Your father won’t marry again. He’s content the way things are. Wives are a responsibility.” “What’s that mean, auntie?”
“A bother, my dear. Wives are a bother.”
“Oh,” Theo said, nodding gravely. “Like children.” “Precisely,” Aunt Margaret agreed. “Go to the nurserynow, Theo. I’m dressing for dinner.”
She turned away and Theo was able to take the photo from the table unnoticed. Later, in her room, she decided she didn’t want the woman for her mother, after all. There was something indefinably not nice about her smile and the clothes she wore. Theo cut her off the picture, trimmed the edges neatly, and saved what was left. Her father was only thirty then, but he already had that look and air of importance.
The third picture was a formal portrait study her father presented to her when he came to England for a visit in 1929. Theo was almost twelve. Already she had been at a succession of schools—two in Switzerland, one in Paris, and a fourth in Surrey. Aunt Margaret didn’t believe in keeping a child too long in one place. Besides, her own life was uncertain at this time. She had divorced her English husband, and was travelling quite a bit. and sometimes it proved inconvenient to have her niece and ward too close at
hand. The year Aunt Margaret spent in Lausanne,
Theo was in Paris. The season Aunt Margaret spent in France, off on some new and exciting social-tangent,
Theo was shifted abruptly to England.
Her father arrived during one of those rare interludes in Theo's life when she and Aunt Margaret were living together in the old house at Dorking. The house was the only tangible asset of her ex-husband that Aunt Margaret could lay her hands on at the time of the divorce, and it was this that Theo considered her home. Her father appeared late in the afternoon, driving all the way from London in a fine motor car. He stayed for dinner, and immediately afterward he had a nice polite talk with his daughter Theo and presented her with his photograph.
But Theo was too excited to sleep that night. The talk hadn’t been nearly long enough. She sat on her bed admiring the portrait, which was all highlight and shadow and made her father terribly handsome. Finally, when it was quite late, she crept downstairs in the hope he might still be in the library. He was there, but he wasn’t alone, and Theo held back in the darkened hallway. She listened only a minute, but that minute was long enough to make her realize a number of things.
“A scrawny child, Margaret,” she heard her father say. “Are you sure she’s well?”
“It’s the awkward age,” Aunt Margaret answered. “She’s perfectly fit. I don’t skimp on her. Fred.”
“You don’t have to, my dear.” her father said, and laughed. “Not on what 1 send you. There’s enough for you both.”
“I thought we understood each other, Fred,” Aunt Margaret said stiffly. “I could hardly give her everything and live shabbily myself. She must have nice surroundings. She can’t live in schools forever. Some day she’ll marry.”
It didn't seem wrong to Theo, crouching in the hall, to listen. It couldn’t lxvery wrong to want to know your own father. She couldn’t see him, but she could smell his big cigar as thin smoke layers drifted toward her.
There was a pause while he smoked. Then he said, “When she’s old enough to marry. I may send for her.”
“You!" Aunt Margaret said, laughing. “You send for her?”
Even Theo, at twelve, could understand the derision in that laugh.
“She may be a beautiful girl when she's older," her father said.
“She will be.”
“I’ll need her, then. I plan my life, Margaret. I’m going up fast. I’m bound to. And my kind of success involves social obligations. It’ll be difficult without some kind of hostess to act for me. A man can’t do those things well, living alone.”
“Will you be living alone, Fred?” Aunt Margaret said, her voice thin with sarcasm. “From what I hear—”
“You know' w'hat I mean,” he broke in roughly. “Theo w'ould be accepted. She’s my daughter.”
Aunt Margaret, was humble again. “I’ll have her ready when you need her,” she said.
That was all Theo heard. In another minute she was in her owm room, her eyes red and swollen with a sudden flood of tears, facing the elegant portrait study of her father that made him look so profound and important and w’ise. She’d be ready when he needed her, Aunt Margaret had said. Like having his motor car ready when he was going out, or his clothes pressed and cleaned in time for dinner! She waited until her sobs lessened, and then leaned close to the photo. “I’ll ne.ver go back to you, father,” she said. “Never as long as I live. You gave me away when I was a baby, you didn’t w-ant me. Now you can’t have me back !”
THIS WAS when she was a little girl of twelve. She meant it. then, with all her heart. She was through wfith her father, who had let her down. But at twenty she was in love with Bill Everett, who couldn’t marry her until heaven knew when. Together they faced an endless waiting for that which should have been t heirs, which was almost within their grasp.
They both knew the answer. It lay somewhere with Theo’s father if she would go to him. This was never sjxjken of between them, but they both knew. Until finally it came to a head and they talked it out. that last evening as they had dinner together in Soho.
It was the first anniversary of the day they had met, and an occasion. Bill Everett had stayed on in London, against all good
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judgment, living more and more cheaply as the months flew by. There would have been something irrevocable about breaking clean and separating himself by three thousand miles. He couldn’t have done it, and she couldn’t have let him. Here at least, in the continual nearness to each other, was some feeble security, some shadow of happiness.
They sat quite late, without speaking much, over their coffee. There wasn’t a great deal any more that they could talk of, for the one topic that really mattered— the life they would some day have together —was banned by common consent. Planning your life is next best to living it, but plans must have some hope, some substance behind them.
Bill smoked slowly and let his glance move about the almost deserted room. His eyes had hardened lately and had a way of moving restlessly. Life had made him over in a year; his boyishness was gone before it should. What was going on inside him showed on the surface more and more. Soon the change would be complete and he would show it in everything he did and said, in brief passing irritation at trivialities, in callous indifference to things that should have stirred and warmed him and shown how young he was.
Their eyes met unexpectedly. It was a long, unsmiling look; it was numbness after a quick flash of desire. They both knew, at that moment, that it must be settled soon.
“I had a letter from my father,” Theo said.
“An annual event,” Bill replied. “So he’s aware that you’re alive?” And he sat there waiting, not knowing what to expect, but suspecting.
“It was a long letter,” Theo said quietly. “He sent a newspaper clipping about himself. He’s done something big—some kind of investigation for the government. ” “I’ve seen the papers from home,” he told her. “He’s aiming at politics.” His eyelids flickered a moment. “He wants you to come back to him, doesn’t he?” “Yes. He wants me now,” Theo said. Bill nodded. “A man needs a front in politics,” he said. “An ornamental one is best. Your picture will be with his in the papers. He’ll be holding your hand, or he’ll have his arm around you. Theodora, God’s gift to her poor lone father.” He stirred angrily. “I have twelve shillings left on me. Shall we send a cable?”
“That I’m coming?”
“That you’ll never come! How much will twelve shillings say? Tell him he doesn’t care a hoot about you and never has—but there’s another guy who does. He doesn’t amount to much, this other guy. But he cares. Tell him that, Theo.” “I’m sailing next week,” she said simply. The fire and the life went out of him. “Because of us?” he asked dully.
“Because of us,” she answered, and reached swiftly for his hand. “Oh, Bill, young people these days all need a little help. Just at the start. It isn’t wrong to take it.”
“From him it is,” Bill said.
“All you need is a start at something. My father must know people who could help. You can find the sort of thing you want. We’ll live on your salary, whatever it is. Bill, don’t you see? We can’t—we just can’t—”
He nodded slowly. “Can’t go on like this,” he said. His hand dipped to his inside pocket and an envelope fell flatly on the table. “Don’t you think I know that?” he said. “These are my tickets. I’m sailing Monday. I’ve been a fool, staying here.” “Bill, you’ve been trying! You—” “I’ve been afraid to leave you. Afraid I’d lose you if I did. That’s the real truth. I’m set on this, Theo. I’m going.”
“I’m going with you, Bill,” she said.
His eyes flashed angrily. “You can’t! I
couldn’t take care of you. You'd be going back to him. I won’t let you do that— you promised you never would.”
“That was long ago,” she said quickly. “I was a child. I can break that promise.” “You don’t want to break it. You’ve told me too much, darling. You’ve talked about your father for hours and I’ve listened, and I’ve seen the hurt in your eyes. It’s way down deep, that hurt. He never wanted you, and he got rid of you as he could, because the excuse looked good.” “He was a young widower. He couldn’t, then.”
“Later he could. It’s no good. Theo. I see through you like thin fragile glass.” His eyes softened. “It’s lovely, what I see. It’s swell. You’d come running as soon as he whistles—because it’s a way out for us. But I won’t let you.”
SHE WAS silent then, studying her hands, not daring to meet the brown depths of his eyes. And finally she said, “But when will you send for me?”
He answered bluntly, “I don’t know.” “It mustn’t be too long, Bill,” she said. “It mustn’t.”
Her voice frightened him. That was the way it was so often—the depth and power of her love for him frightened him more than his love for her. But it would be kinder in the end not to pretend, not to hold out false hopes. “I haven’t many prospects,” he said. “Not many friends, and most of them as fiat as I am. I thought I had time, darling, to work it out my own way. I didn’t think I’d be hit so young. Twenty-two is young. I thought when I was twenty-eight or -nine I’d meet a girl and—but that’s over the dam. It happens when it happens no matter what you plan.”
“We won’t need much at first, Bill,” she said, her eyes never leaving his.
There was a dry clutching ache in his throat for a moment. “How far does five pounds go in London?” he said bitterly. “It doesn’t go any farther at home. You might as well understand it all.”
“But it doesn’t matter if—”
“It matters plenty, to me. I’ll never let you, after all you’ve had, grub along on pennies.”
They were silent awhile and the waiter hovered, the check hopefully in his hand. After a minute, because they did not see him, he moved away.
“You’re still afraid, aren’t you. Bill?” she asked suddenly. “Afraid to leave me?” He nodded at her helplessly and at that moment he was very young again. He was a bewildered little boy. “So many things can happen,” he said. “You and somebody else—”
“Don’t, Bill !”
“Not that, then. But something. Something we can’t foresee can jump out at us, and before we realize—”
“I know. That’s why we stayed together. For safety. Like two kids.” Her hand moved across the table and touched his lightly. “I’m afraid, too,” she said.
He drew his hand away, and raised it, beckoning the waiter. “We’ll say good-by tonight,” he said gruffly. “I don't want you seeing me off. I’ll get myself set and send for you. I’ll move a couple of mountains. We mustn’t be scared.”
Though he had said he did not want her to come, he was disappointed when she did not appear. First at Waterloo station, where he took the boat train, and again at the dock, as the liner slipped from its berth. He stood on the tourist deck, his eyes roving ceaselessly over the mass of upturned faces, scanning them all and seeing none. Mustn’t be scared, he told himself again. Mustn’t be panicky. This wasn’t the end, but only an interlude. Distance wasn’t anything any more.
He didn’t know a soul on the crowded dock. But he grinned and waved his hand.
“See you after a while.” he said to himself. Then he turned away, and found her standing beside him on the deck, her eyes shining in anticipation of his surprise.
“I couldn’t help it, Bill,” she said. “1 had to come.”
He kissed her, and for a moment they stood there smiling. Then Bill frowned. “You’re going back to your father,” he said dully.
‘T haven’t thought that far. You were leaving me and I couldn’t let vou. That’s all.”
“Your Aunt Margaret will cable. He’ll be there to meet you.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
They faced each other helplessly, their hearts pounding. ‘‘What are we going to do, Theo?” Bill asked.
‘‘We’ll find a way,” she answered. “We’ll work it out by ourselves. We have five days to plan.”
But they didn’t plan. They forgot, or pretended to forget, the future, which some people can do and be content. But not these two. Today was no good without the certainty of tomorrow, and next year, and forever as long as they lived. And though there were lazy mornings in the sun, bracing afternoons, and evenings filled with music when the stars above their heads were within their reach and everything else was a million miles away, the shadow of tomorrow, like an intruding third party, never left them to themselves.
In the end they stopped pretending. With their bags packed and waiting down below, they leaned on the rail and watched the shoreline, shadowy behind bluish haze. It was the moment before surrender. Theo’s father had won. Bill had known it, and she had known it, during all these past days that had sharpened their need for each other to a knifelike edge. Surrender it must be, and be glad of such terms as are offered. Bow down to the power and the glory—most especially the power. Bow down to Frederick Gale. wrho always got what he wanted and who wanted now a lovely daughter to adorn his home and household. Bow down, son-in-law—if and when you make it. You marry by the grace of Frederick Gale if you marry at all.
He turned to her abruptly. “We’ll be separated at. the dock,” he said. “When shall I call?”
She did not turn to look at him. “Wednesday will be best,” she answered. “I’ll have told him by then.”
TJTER FATHER was forty-five now. a little grey at the temples, but still straight and lean. You noticed his eyes first of all—and sometimes you noticed nothing but his eyes. They held you and you kept searching into them for some softness, some friendly laughter hidden behind them to match his insistent gracious smile. Theo looked evenly into his eyes as he drew away from kissing her lightly that morning on the dock. They were appraising her. sizing her up. They were eyes that matched the hard calculating voice she had heard eight years before as she hid in a darkened hall. “I may need her.” the voice said then. “She’ll do nicely," the eyes said now. “She’ll be useful.”
He lived in a penthouse apartment that overwhelmed you with its grandeur and overdone modernity and ostentatious comfort. From its lofty terrace you saw the river and the ships, and fiat acres of roofs, and spires like inverted obelisks, mushrooming out of a square foot of earth.
He lived alone. At least he was so living when Theo arrived, though there was evidence--small feminine things left forgotten in odd corners that it was not always so. Two houseboys and a cook supplied his needs. And, with Theo’s coming, there appeared a maid for her personal use. “I want you looking your best,” he said, “when you meet my friends.”
Theo understood. His friends must be charmed. His friends must be touched to find him. after all, such a devoted family man. His friends must be impressed and
disarmed, so that the word would go out and win him prestige when prestige was needed, now at the beginning of his political career. Rumors of his life these past years must be dispelled by her filial devotion. This was all part of the bargain. She was the final ingredient in the formula; through her his success would achieve a new and distinctive flavor.
He heard the story of Bill Everett calmly, but with a small frown of disapproval. “Your Aunt Margaret warned me,” he said. “You are still very young.”
“Bill and I are going to marry—somehow,” she said. “Just as soon as we can.”
He looked at her thoughtfully. And finally he nodded. He knew when to yield a little and still attain his ends. “I’m sure he’s a fine young fellow,” he said. “His family, I suppose—well, you understand what I mean. A man in my position—”
“His family is unimportant but respectable. Will that do, father?”
“That will do very nicely,” he said, and smiled. “And he is not yet ready to marry?”
“He’ll have something soon. He wants to—-”
“Perhaps I can help. I want to, of course.”
“Something in the publishing field. He wants—”
“Really? A highly specialized young man. I’m afraid I can’t help him there. But,” he added quickly, “there’s a spot I have in mind. A large corporation in the cable and wire field. I happen to serve on the board. It would be useful to have my own man, someone I can trust—”
“But, father, he wants—”
“He can hardly afford to be choosy, my dear. We’ll talk it over later. After I’ve looked him over.”
AND SO Bill Everett came and was ***■ looked over. He answered many questions which were always politely prefaced by, “You don’t mind, my boy? As her father I’d like to know—” Or, “Her social position demands, and I’m sure you will agree —” And eventually Bill made the grade, though no more than that. Mr. Gale preferred a more humble surrender. He was used to men who were easy to handle and not squeamish about it. But in the end his terms were gracious. He arranged for Bill’s job, at a salary of five thousand. He fixed the date for Bill’s wedding—some time in November so there would be time for enough dinners and receptions before. And he settled where Bill should live—not with his father-in-law exactly, but in an apartment directly underneath. “You see,” he explained, “I want to see a little of my daughter myself.”
Bill bowed, as he said he would bow. “We’ll share her, of course.” he said.
The job was to start after the honeymoon. In the meantime Bill lived uptown on his own money, sharing a room with someone he’d known in college. When he had time he did the things he wanted to do. But he had very little time. There were so many people Mr. Gale said he must meet, so many places where he and Theo must be seen. They were seldom alone now, and when they were they reverted to their practice of not talking of things that mattered. It was only bearable if they did not consider the price. But one night they talked.
It was early in November and the invitations were out, and the florist who was to do the church had his contract, and the caterer for the reception afterward had his. They had found a small restaurant, not unlike the ones they had known in London. Bill’s eyes flashed and his cheeks were flushed. He pushed back his plate, held the edges of the table with both hands and looked at her evenly. “We must love each other,” he said. “Going through with this!”
Once he said it. the gates were down. She gave a small cry. “We mustn’t go through with it!” she whispered. “I’m afraid of him. Bill. He’s taking something away from us—something that ought to be
ours. Oh. can’t we be brave enough?” Bill’s voice was thick. “To wait? How long?”
“If you could only find your own chance!”
“Me?” He laughed harshly. ‘‘I have my chance. Five thousand smackers. Broad flat desk, all shiny and new. I’m the envy of millions. Sitting around in one department after another, learning the business from the ground up. What business? I forget sometimes.”
“Bill, don’t! Don’t talk that way!”
He sobered then. The hurt in her voice and eyes cleared his head and he leaned back in his chair, looking at her. Hard lines around his mouth softened. “I’m rotten,” he said. “It’s just as hard on you. Social mannequin stuff. You’ll hate it. I keep forgetting that.”
Her eyes glistened. “We’ll walk out on him, Bill. We’ll live our own kind of life—” “Malnutrition, sometimes known as slow starvation. Is that our kind of life?” His hands dropped heavily to the table. “Oh, I could land something soon. Prospects are good. Prospects of thirty a week.” “That part doesn’t matter !”
“I couldn’t do it, lady,” he said. “Not to you.”
“But if I’m willing—”
“Selling my soul is easier,” he said. “Let’s not talk any more. It’s your father’s way or nothing.”
HER FATHER’S way was the big way, the grand way. Endless fittings and shopping, and posing at photographers so that the newspapers could have everything they needed. Answering piles of mail that meant nothing. Luncheons and bridge with bridesmaids she scarcely knew, but whose fathers were important. And finally a last rehearsal in the huge empty church.
They rehearsed every part of it. The wait at the back until Bill and his best man were in their places at the foot of the long aisle. The sudden thundering burst of Lohengrin. The bridesmaids doing their step-sway-step-sway, like six incongruous dolls. And finally her own march on her father’s arm. She kept her eyes straight ahead on Bill, waiting there at the altar, and tried to think only of him. “I’ll be his wife,” she said over and over with every step. “His wife. His wife.” The aisle was a mile long. But finally she was there beside him, and her father stepped back, smiling his small, wellmannered smile, and she was standing with Bill. And then Bill was saying, turning sharply to her father, blurting it out, bringing all eyes to him questioningly, “Are we all right, sir? Do you think, we’ll do?”
She saw the anger flash in her father’s eye. Quick anger that came and passed. His lips never stopped smiling. “Splendid, my boy.” he said. He drew in his breath before he finished. “Quite satisfactory— so far.”
There were crowds in front of the apartment that morning of her wedding. She could look down on them from the penthouse terrace. Her picture had been in the paper three times and her father had warned her, quite proudly she thought, that there would be a crowd. At eleventhirty he knocked at her door. Did she know the time and would she be ready? The car would be waiting at the door at exactly eleven-fifty-five, and an elevator would be waiting in the corridor. It would make no stops, naturally. The two doormen would see her to the car and there would be extra police outside. He had seen to everything and he wanted no hitch.
And there was no hitch. She sped alone in the big car to the church that stretched its canopied arm to draw' her in. Her father came hurrying to help her from the car. He held her back a moment while men with cameras clustered about. Once inside, the bridesmaids threw her approving smiles from beneath wide-brimmed floppy hats. They fussed with her veil and laid it straight behind her and took their places. Only then was there the smallest slip-up. Bill and his best man were slow coming
from the sacristy, and the organ played meaningless chords aimlessly. But in just a moment the bridal march would start. In the meantime she stood beside her father, who was going to give her away. ^
And suddenly she laughed—a low,^uncontrollable, queer little laugh that brought her father’s glance to her sharply. Giving her away ! Of course, that was what he was doing! It had been in all the papers -“The bride will be given away by her father, Mr. Frederick G. Gale.” She hadn’t thought of it that way before, and it was really quite funny. For the second time in his life, he was giving his daughter away !
She looked at her father. He was impeccable in striped trousers and morning coat and immaculate morning tie. But Theo, her eyes intent upon him, did not see him as he was at all. Instead she saw a young man in uniform, hard and brown and lean. She saw him, remembering things she couldn’t possibly remember. Somehow, in a way she would never understand, her memory was reaching back an impossible distance to her infancy, to the day of the first giving away. His eyes were the same as he bent over her crib. They were hard and cold and appraising. His voice was the same, benign and regretful on the surface, but with an undercurrent of something else that frightened you. “Poor baby,” he was saying. “Poor, poor baby ! What a pity—what a terrible pity! I’ll have to give her to someone.”
Then the vision changed. The young man was gone, and in his place was a little girl with long bronze curls lying on a nursery bed and sobbing. A very lonely little girl who wranted to be wanted. And next, that same little girl, older now, pressing a snub nose against a window in a strange school in a strange country and watching cars drive up to the wide steps. Men stepped from the cars and little girls her own age threw themselves into strong arms opened wide to welcome them, and laughter rang out that seemed to the child in the window to be the happiest laughter in all the world. Then, finally, another change, and the girl was fourteen. She was sitting in a dreary library of a great empty English house across from a governess who eyed her reprovingly as she read, for the tenth time, a letter. Her annual letter that said she was not to visit America on her holiday this year. That her father was much too busy. That perhaps later, when she was older . . .
A hand was touching her arm and she heard a voice far away. “Now, my dear. They’re ready. Bill’s waiting.”
SHE TURNED full upon him, and, as their eyes met, she saw his face change as he felt the heat of her scorn. Her mind
raced . . . Waiting, father? Bill’s waiting? Oh, for a long time—longer than you could understand, because you never loved as we love. But not waiting for this. Not quite this. Nor for a life ordered and arranged by you for your own self-esteem, dear father. Father! Why do I call you that? It’s such a lovely word. You speak of God as Father. Our Father Who art in Heaven. Thine be the power and the glory—why. Bill said that once, about you ! Thine be the power and—no, not the glory ! Just the power to buy anything and everything. Anything and everything in the world—except Bilí and me !
“Theo!” His voice was anxious now. “Don’t you understand? It’s time !”
She turned away, bent low, and swept the long veil up under her arm. Heads were turning now. Again the organ thundered the opening chord. “Yes, father,” she said. “It’s time.”
“Theo ! Where are you going?”
She smiled then. “To Bill. To marry Bill. Did you think I was running out? Oh, never on Bill, father. Never on Bill !” His face was dark with anger. “Take my arm, please!” he whispered.
“But why, father?” she said calmly. “It’s much too late for that. Don’t you really remember?”
He leaned quite close and she saw that his lips were white and trembling. “You little fool! Take my arm, if you expect to see another penny !”
And again she laughed, and this time many people turned to look, for it was such a young and happy laugh. Her voice rang clear. “But you did give me away, father,” she said. “It was many years ago.”
She turned from him. The bridesmaids drew back with shocked murmurs as she swept between them. She was moving down the aisle, alone. She was hurrying, with swift eager strides, past the crowded pews. But she saw no people. She heard none of the disapproving whispers. Her eyes and her mind and heart were searching for Bill. He was somewhere ahead of her, standing stiff and rigid beside his best man. Soon he would see her. He would wonder a moment, then he would understand. He’d know that, with much or little, it was to be their kind of life. That she’d meant it when she said they’d find a way, and work it out themselves.
Now, she thought. He sees me now. He isn’t sure—but now he is! He’s stepping forward. He wants it this way, as much as I. He’s smiling now. Oh, Bill!
She was quite close to him. Their eyes clung. He held out his hand, waiting for hers. There wasn’t anybody then, but just the two of them. There wasn’t even the minister, waiting with his book. Just Theo and Bill. Theo, short for Theodora. Theodora, meaning given by God.