It would be vain to describe Betty's emotion as from the windows of the Verplanck mansion she watched the troops and the civil concourse, and realized that at last, after long years of heroic endurance, of gallant fighting, of many privations, the freedom of the Colonies was an accomplished fact. Miss Moppet and Peter flew from one window to another and cheered and shouted to their hearts' content. Even Grandma Effingham and Clarissa waved their handkerchiefs, while Gulian, on the doorstep, raised his cocked hat in courtly salute to General Washington. Gulian was beginning to learn that perhaps one might find something to be proud of in America, even if we were lacking in the rank and titles he so admired.
Oliver's wedding, which was set for six o'clock, to allow the commander-in-chief to be present before the banquet at Fraunces's Tavern, was to be on as grand a scale as Madam Cruger's ideas could make it; for having consented to her daughter's marriage, that stately dame proposed to yield in her most gracious fashion. It took some time to dress Miss Moppet in the silken petticoat and puffed skirt, the tiny mobcap and white ribbons, which Kitty had considered proper for the occasion, and Betty found she must hasten her own toilet, or be late herself. Moppet followed her up to the old room where Betty had spent so many hours of varied experience, and assisted to spread out once again the flowered brocade, which had not seen the light of day since the De Lancey ball.
"Here are your slippers, Betty; how nicely they fit your foot."
"Yes," said Betty, her thoughts far across the sea, as she slipped on one of them.
"I hope those are wedlock shoes," quoth Moppet, with a queer, mischievous glance, as she tied the slipper strings around the slender ankle. But Betty did not heed her; she was busy undoing the knots of rose-colored ribbon on the waist, which she had once placed there with such coquettish pride.
"What are you about?" cried Moppet, seizing her sister's hand as she was in the act of snipping off one with the scissors. "Oh, Betty, the gown will not be half so pretty without them."
"Nay, child, rose-colored ribbons are not for me to-day; I am grown too old and sad," said Betty softly, looking with tender eyes into Moppet's face.
"Did ever I hear such fal-lal nonsense," and Moppet's foot came down in a genuine hot-tempered stamp which made Betty start, "Betty, Betty, I will not have it—pray put them back this moment;" then in the coaxing voice which she knew always carried her point, "What would Oliver and Kitty say if you were not as gay as possible to grace their wedding? Oh, fie, Betty dear!"
As usual Moppet had her way, and when the pair alighted at the Cruder door Betty's knots of rose-color were in their accustomed place.
Within the mansion all was light and gay. Weddings in those times were conducted with even more pomp and ceremony than in our day, and the entertainments, though not upon the present scale, were fully as lavish. Wax candles shone at every possible point, and lit up the broad reception-hall, the polished floors and high ceilings, while mirrors on mantels and walls reflected back many times the stately figures which passed and repassed before them. And then there came a pause, when voices were hushed, and down the oak staircase came Kitty, led by Gulian Verplanck (her nearest male relative), wearing a white satin petticoat (though somewhat scanty to our ideas in width and length), and over it a, train of silver brocade, stiff and rustling, while a long scarf of Mechlin lace covered her pretty dark head and hung in soft folds down her back. The high-heeled slippers, the long lace mitts, with their white bows at the elbow, completed her toilet. She stood before the assembled company a fair young bride of the olden days, and behind her came Miss Moppet and Peter Provoost, holding her silver train with the tips of their fingers. Oliver, in full Continental uniform, his cocked hat under his arm, awaited her at the end of the great drawing-room, and with somewhat shortened service, the rector of old St. Paul's said the words which made the pair man and wife.
Betty was standing near the mantel, laughing and chatting gayly with several of her former New York gallants, when she beheld her father advancing toward her on the arm of a gentleman. Surely she knew that tall, elegant figure, that erect, graceful carriage? But the scarlet uniform which was so familiar was absent; this was the satin coat, small-clothes, and powdered hair of a civilian. Betty's head swam, her brilliant color came and went, as her father said quietly!—
"My daughter, an old acquaintance desires that I should recall him to your recollection; I trust it is not necessary for me to present to your favor my friend, Mr. Geoffrey Yorke."
Betty's knees shook as she executed her most elaborate courtesy, and as if in a dream she heard General Wolcott say to Yorke, with a somewhat quizzical smile, "Perhaps you will kindly take Betty to the library, where I will myself join you later after escorting General Washington to the banquet."
Betty never knew how she crossed that room; every effort of her mind was concentrated in the thought that she must not betray herself. What did all this mean? Such a blaze of sunshine had fallen upon her that she did not dare look at it; she only realized that her hand was in Geoffrey's until they reached the quiet and deserted library, and then he was at her feet.
"Sweetheart, sweetheart," he said, "you will not refuse to hear me now? I have resigned the army, I have left England forever (unless you yourself will some day accompany me there to meet my people), I have thrown in my fortunes with the United States, and doubt not I will prove as faithful a servant to your Commonwealth as I ever was to King George," and kissing her hand, he, laid in it the faded knot of rose-colored ribbon.
"But, Geoffrey" she faltered, "my father"—
"Did not General Wolcott himself bid me fetch you here? Ah. Betty, the conditions are all fulfilled, and you are still unwilling."
She looked at him for a moment in silence, and then her most mischievous smile dawned in Betty's eyes as she hid Geoffery's little knot of ribbon in her gown.
"My heart but not my will, consents," she said, "Dare you take such a naughty, perverse rebel in hand for life?"
"I dare all for love of Betty Wolcott," cried the triumphant lover, while from the door a small person In mobcap surveyed the pair with very round and most enraptured eyes.
"It's just like a fairy tale," quoth Miss Moppet, "and I'm in it!"