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His Other Engagement
by [?]

The situation was a little peculiar, I grant you, and somewhat embarrassing to the rest of the family, including Chichester. But he took it like a man, and backed Ethel up with the utmost decision, just as if her idea was what he had always thought of and determined to do. What was his chin for, if he could not give her a firm support in a thing like this? As a matter of fact he did not care in the least where the wedding might be. A man never does. It does not seem to be his business. Ethel’s paternal parent, however, had some misgivings which must be satisfied.

“Is it a church?” he growled; “none of your dusty, shabby little Higher Light shrines, eh?”

“Yes, it’s a church,” said Ethel solemnly, “and a very old and beautiful church.”

“And a Christian ceremony,” he insisted; “parson, robes, prayer-book–regular thing–no sideshow performance, eh?”

“Of course,” said she, “what do you think? Do you suppose that just because I see things in an original way, I don’t know what’s proper? I like to hear the Swami Abikadanda talk; and I don’t want a regular cut-and-dried wedding; but I’m not going to take any risks about a thing like that. The clergyman will be there, and you will give me away, and Gladys and Victoria will be the bridesmaids, and Arthur will be the best man, and Howard and Willis—-“

“Well, well,” grunted her father, with his chuckling laugh, “it’s all right, I suppose, seeing that it’s your wedding. Have it your own way while you can.” For the old man had formed his idea of the significance of Chichester’s chin.

So it was settled that the affair should remain unsettled for every one except Ethel; and the whole family was plunged into a cheerful state of evasion, prevarication, and downright falsification; and Chichester grinned and smoothed the left side of his chin with his forefinger and said, “What do I care for that? It’s all right, I know,” and everybody predicted that Ethel Asham was about to do something very original.

In the middle of June she marshalled her party for a little Canadian giro. There were her father and mother; and the inseparable twins, Gladys and Victoria, one of whom always laughed when the other was amused; and the three preternaturally important brothers, representing the triple-x output of Harvard, Yale and Columbia; and Aunt Euphemia van Benschoten, who had inherited the van Benschoten nose, a block on Fifth Avenue, and a pew in St. Mark’s church (two of which possessions she was entitled to devise by will); and Miss Nancy Bangs, Ethel’s most intimate friend; and the Reverend Oriel Bellingham Jenks, her favourite clergyman of the period; and–oh, yes! of course–there was Bolton Chichester.

It was quite a large party. They went first to Niagara, which Pop Wilson said was “premature, if not improper.” Then they went down through the Thousand Islands, where Ethel pointed out the inhuman and cruel expression of the many fishermen, to which Chichester answered, “I don’t know that it’s cruel to catch pickerel, but it’s certainly childish.”

Then they descended the ridiculous rapids of Lachine, which splashed and murmured around them like a very mild surf at Shelter Island. They spent a couple of days in looking for the antiquities of Montreal, trying to find the romantic atmosphere of New France under the ancien regime. Then they went to Quebec, and found it.

Dear, delightful old Quebec, with her gray walls and shining tin roofs; her precipitous, headlong streets and sleepy squares and esplanades; her narrow alleys and peaceful convents; her harmless antique cannon on the parapets and her sweet-toned bells in the spires; her towering chateau on the heights and her long, low, queer-smelling warehouses in the lower town; her spick-and-span caleches and her dingy trolley-cars; her sprinkling of soldiers and sailors with Scotch accent and Irish brogue and Cockney twang, on a background of petite bourgeoisie speaking the quaintest of French dialects; her memories of an adventurous, glittering past and her placid contentment with the tranquil grayness of the present; her glorious daylight outlook over the vale of the St. Charles, the level shore of Montmorenci, the green Isle d’Orleans dividing the shining reaches of the broad St. Lawrence, and the blue Laurentian Mountains rolling far to the eastward–and at night, the dark bulk of the Citadel outlined against the starry blue, the trampling of many feet up and down the wooden pavement of the terrace, the chattering and the laughter, the music of the military band, and far below, the huddled housetops, the silent wharves, the lights of the great warships swinging with the tide, the intermittent ferry-boats plying to and fro, the twinkling lamps of Levis rising along the dim southern shore and reflected in the lapsing, curling, seaward-sliding waves of the great river! What city of the New World keeps so much of the charm of the Old?