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Experiences of a Backwoods Preacher
Chapter XIII. At Weddings

“Do you intend to say anything about weddings that you have attended?” This question was put to me by a person I was conversing with concerning my “book.”

My answer was: “Well, I had not intended to do so, but if I thought I could make it interesting I would write a chapter on weddings.”

“No doubt,” said my interrogator, "you ministers sometimes meet with amusing incidents on those occasions.”

“Yes, that is so,” I said. “I have met with some laughable things at weddings. And I have seen other things that were not very amusing.”

“If I were you,” said my friend, “ I think I would have something to say about weddings. It would interest the young people, at all events.”

The young people are a very large and important part of the population, and they are worthy of all consideration. I shall therefore try to act on my friend’s advice, and say something about those occasions to which the young look forward, if not with fear and trembling, yet with a great deal of anxiety.

My First and Only Wedding.

By this I do not mean the first one where I officiated as minister. But I mean the one where I and another person were “the observed of all observers”— the two most conspicuous persons present on the occasion. I will try to present the scene as it comes back to my memory over the graves of forty-three years. And in doing this I ask the assistance, gentle reader, of your own imagination to give vividness and colour to the picture.

Now, just fancy yourself standing or sitting, whichever you prefer, in the best room of a rural home. There are fifty or sixty present, who are all waiting the entrance of the parties most interested in the day’s proceedings.

Presently a door opens and four young people enter and take their positions in the usual way.

Now, take a look at the two who are about to slip their heads into the matrimonial noose. The young man who is anxious to become a son-in-law is about twenty-five years old. He is above medium height. He has dark brown hair, very fine and a little inclined to curl, but not parted in the middle; eyes a dark hazel, and eyebrows heavy, giving a cross look to the features, which are coarse but not repulsive. The nose and mouth indicate a quick temper and an inclination to stubbornness. A close observer would likely say: “Lam not just sure about that little girl being able to manage that fellow. She may possibly lead him, but it is certain she will never drive him.”

Now, take a look at the bride. You see she could stand up under the young man’s arm. Take a fair look at her; she will bear inspection, she is good-looking. Some Seay that she is handsome. Do you ask how she was dressed? I cannot tell; I never was good at describing ladies’ dresses ; besides, on that particular day I had so many other things to think about that I am not able to answer your question; but I presume she was well dressed, since I never heard anything to the contrary. The ceremony was over in a short time; but while the minister was performing it, a sort of petty persecution was going on in the room. An aunt of the bride got a looking-glass and, standing behind the minister, held it up before the parties so that they could see themselves in it; and a cousin of the groom, who got himself where his face could be seen in the mirror, stood and made all sorts of faces at them to make them laugh but in this he failed—the one was too much vexed to laugh and the other was too much frightened.

Now, T am going to take the risk of being dubbed a poetic failure, or being called a clumsy rider of Pegasus. I give the following as a tribute to the little woman who stood by me on that day:—


How well do I remember now,
The day that we were wed;
When auburn locks adorned her brow,
And beautified her head.
When first I took her to my side,
And claimed her as my wife,
Her youthful beauty was the pride
And treasure of my life.

Now, when I see some silver lines
Run through her golden hair,
It seems to me her goodness shines
More beautiful and rare
Than when I took her by the hand,
So many years ago,
And promised by her side to stand
Through long-life weal or woe.

These whitening tresses on her head
Speak of the fading past,
And tell of tears of sadness shed,
Of sorrows that have cast
Their lengthening shadows o’er the way
That led us on through life,
And tell of many a gloomy day
Since first I called her wife.

The hardships we together shared,
The ills that we have met,
Have not her faithfulness impaired,
Or caused her to forget
Her duty as a good true wife,
When tossed upon the tide,
Or in the battle’s fiercest strife,
She never left my side.

What though the touch of time may leave
Some wrinkles on her brow,
What though beneath the weight of years
Her step becomes more slow;
Yet still her eye seems just as bright,
Her voice sounds just as sweet,
While onward to the world of light
She moves with willing feet.

Three Frightened Ones.

The first couple that I married after I was ordained was in Listowel. The "room was a young man somewhere between early manhood and what would be called old bachelorhood. He was a very quiet, sober-minded man, who had a great amount of self-command. The bride was a young lady somewhere in the latter ’teens. She was shy and timid, having been brought up by a very strict and careful mother. She had never been allowed to go into company very much. The appointed day came round; I went to the house of the parents of the girl. A few of the relatives on both sides were present. When the time came the bride-elect and her mother were in a room by themselves. They were called, but they did not come; then they were sent for, but do what we would the mother could not be got to come out. I enquired if she was opposed to the marriage, and I was told that she was well pleased about that; but she would not come out. So we proceeded. I was just about as much frightened myself as any one need to be : I was afraid of making mistakes. When the bride came out and I saw her, I could not see what she had to be ashamed of.

I have not, since then, seen a prettier or neater bride. The mother came out after the ceremony was over and attended the table all right. We have often talked the matter over since then, and we concluded that we all acted more like children than anything else.’'

In Too Much of a Hurry.

When I lived in Mount Forest I was called to go out into the township of Minto to attend a wedding. The distance was ten miles, the day was all that a cold, blustering winter day could well be. When I got to the place I found the house—which consisted of one large room—full of people. A large cooking-stove stood in the room, and it was literally covered with the preparations for dinner. Such a display of fowl roasting I have never seen anywhere since then.

Turkeys within the stove,
Turkeys without the stove,
Turkeys about the stove,
Seemed moaning and muttering.
Turkeys above the stove,
Turkeys below the stove,
Turkeys around the stove,
Were hissing and sputtering.
Maidens with eyes so bright,
Old men with failing sight,
Children with hearts so light,
Sat down and pondered.
Matrons with queenly grace,
Young men with smiling face,
All of them in their place,
Looked on and wondered.

After everything was ready, the parties took their places and the ceremony was commenced. The whole company seemed to be in a mood for any amount of fun and frolic. I thought there was a little too much levity to harmonize with an occasion of so much inu portance. I resolved to check it if an opportunity offered. When the bride had responded to the usual questions, the young man darted in front of me, and, putting his arm around her neck, gave her a smack that could be heard all through the house. I placed my hand on his shoulder and pushed him back to his place, saying, “ Look here, my friend, this transaction is something more than a farce. You will find it so before you are as old as I am. I will tell you when it is time to do the kissing.”

“Well, all right,” he said, “but I like to be a little ahead of time.”

I answered, “That may be all right, but it don’t do to get ahead of time in everything.”

When all was over and I was about to leave, I said to the young couple: “Next time you make a ‘bee’ to eat roasted turkeys and chickens, try and select a more reasonable day than this, if you have to wait a month to get it.”

He Bought Her a Thimble.

When I was living in Thornbury I was called upon, one very cold and stormy night, to marry a couple who came in from the country a distance of eight or ten miles. I offered to go to the hotel where the parties were staying. This the young man objected to, saying that they would drive in with the team, as my house was some distance from the main road. He went away about nine o’clock in the evening, saying that they would be on hand in a few minutes.

We waited till nearly eleven o’clock, and heard nothing of the wedding party. My wife said to me, “I think you are fooled this time. It is likely that young chap just came for a lark.” It certainly looked like it. At eleven we retired. We had just got into bed when the parties came and rapped at the door. We got up and let them in, and in a few minutes the twain were made one.

When I asked them what had detained them, they told me that they had been wandering about for an hour or more, having lost the way. They had started to come on foot from the hotel and the track being drifted full they missed it. The girls were nearly tired out. I gave the men a bit of wholesome counsel, and made them promise never to drag their women through the snow like that again. When all was over the young man was going of! without offering me any fee. When he had his hand on the door I said to him, “Are you not forgetting something?” He felt for his mitts, looked at his muffler and at his hat and then said, “No, I think not.”

“Well,” said I, “do you think that it is just the thing to be called out of bed at this time of night for nothing?”

“Well, now, is it not strange that I should have forgotten that?” said he; “how much will it be?”

I told him that two dollars would do.

“Can you change a ten?” was his next question.

I told him I could not, but I would go with him to the hotel and get the landlord to change it. This was done, and I never saw the parties since; but I heard from them.

Next morning the bridegroom went into a store and said to the merchant: “I was married last night. You know yesterday was Christmas. Now, I want to buy my wife a Christmas box and a wedding gift all in one.”

“Well,” said the merchant, “I can supply you with the very thing you want. Only tell me the kind of goods you want.”

“Well,” said" the other, “I am not very particular what it is, only I must have something nice.”

Dress goods, shawls, bonnets and various other articles of feminine choice were shown, but none of them would suit. The merchant began to fear that his stock of goods was not up to the requirement of the trade in that locality. While he was revolving in his mind whether he could have a special order filled in time to satisfy his fastidious customer, the young man gave him a sort of knowing wink and asked if he had any thimbles.

“O, yes, how strange that I did not think of that before,” said the man behind the counter, as he handed the new benedict a three-cent thimble.

A Question of Finance.

Some time while I had charge of the Kincardine Circuit I went out to marry a couple near Armow. I called at Brother Joseph Shier’s on my way. When I was starting Mrs. Shier said to me: “Mr. Hilts, how much will you get to-day for tying the knot?”

“Well, that depends on two or three things,” I said. She asked me what I meant. I answered by saying, “Some depends on his liberality, some on ability, but more depends on the question of his being a bachelor or widower.”

“Why,” said my questioner, “what has bachelorhood or widowerhood got to do with it?”

“I cannot tell you just where the cause is to be sought for, but, as a matter of fact and experience, I have found out that men pay more for the second wife than for the first, and more for the third than either of the other two.”

“Well, now, I did not think there was so much nonsense in you as all that,” she said.

“My good woman,” said I, “it is not nonsense but fact, account for it as we may. Now, if this man is a bachelor and in pretty good circumstances, I will get somewhere from two to five dollars; but if he is a widower in pretty fair circumstances, I will get somewhere from four to ten dollars.”

“Well, that beats all. Will you call when you come back and tell me how much you got?” said she.

I promised to do so, and went on to the place where the wedding was to be. After the ceremony was over, and I began to take the usual statistics for registration, I found that the man had been married before. I felt a little curious to find out whether his contribution on the altar of Hymen would harmonize with what I had been saying to Mrs. Shier. When he handed me the money rolled up in a bit of paper, I put it in my pocket. Shortly after I took my leave I called at Mr. Shier’s, When Mrs. Shier asked me about the wedding I told her the man had been a widower. Then she wanted to know how much he gave me. I took out of my pocket the little roll, and when I opened it out it proved to be between four and ten dollars, as I said it would be if the man had been married before.

“Why is it,” said the questioner, “that you get a larger fee for second marriages than for first?”

“I think,” said I, “that there are sound reasons for it. In the first place, men are older at the second marriage than they were at the first, and therefore they ought to be in better circumstances; and in the second place, we never know how to prize a good thing until we have lost it; and the Bible tells us that ‘whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing.’”

A Tangled Question.

Once I was employed to join together an old couple whose united ages would span about a century and a half. When the old gentleman came to ask me to marry him he seemed to be a little embarrassed. Young men are almost always embarrassed under similar circumstances, but one would hardly expect an old man to be very much disturbed. This old man, however, was somewhat in the condition described by an old Irish friend of mine—“he was all through other.” When he told me who was the bride-elect I could hardly believe my ears. I was acquainted with the old lady, and I had so often heard her say that she “wadna hae the bonniest man that ever got himseT intil a pair o’ breeks,” I could hardly believe that she would change her mind so much and so soon.

When the day came I went to the house of the widow, and found the old gentleman already there. I said to the old lady, “How is this? You must have changed your mind since you told me that you would not have anybody.”

She answered, “Weel, weel; that callant ca’d here twa or three times, and by his cannie moods an’ winsome ways he just thro’d me aff my guard. Then he asked me tae be his ane guidwife, and he gaed and tangled up the question sae that I couldna tell which was yes or which was no. I thocht to say no, but I must have said yes, for he takit me at the word, an’ noo I canna gang back on’t.”

“O, the old fox,” said I, “to go and corner up a poor young innocent thing like that, and in the excitement and confusion of one so young and inexperienced to extort a promise to be his, and then hold her to that promise. He ought to be ashamed of himself.”

At this mock tirade of mine they both laughed heartily. We soon got through with the ceremony. When I was about to leave I said to them: “Will you two young people take some advice from an elderly man? But no, on second thought, I will keep my advice to myself, for it would be useless to give it, because, no doubt, like other youngsters, you would choose to learn by experience rather than take anybody’s advice.” At this they had another laugh, and I left them.

A Strange Bridegroom.

I was once called on by a man who lived in the town where I resided. He came to engage me to marry a couple. The young man, he said, worked for him, and the young woman was the daughter of a neighbour. I promised to attend to the matter. Before leaving, the man said to me: “Perhaps the young fellow may not have any funds to pay you, but let that go; I will see that you get your pay.” I told him that was all right.

When the time came I went to the house pointed out to me. 1 found a number of people there, but the bridegroom was not there. I was told that he had been there, but he had gone out somewhere about town to be back in a few minutes. We waited for him till long past the time appointed, but he did not come. Then two men went out to hunt him up. After a while they found him and brought him with them. When I saw the parties standing on the floor together two facts flashed upon my mind. It was evident that they ought to have been married before, and it was equally evident that the girl was throwing herself away. This may seem like a paradox, but most people will understand what I mean.

When I commenced the ceremony the man evidently was ill at ease. I thought once or twice, by his actions, that he would bolt and run; but he stood like one who was just where he did not like to be. The ring was used to please the old people, but when we came to that part where the ring is used, it seemed to me that he cared no more for the hand he was putting the ring on than he would for the hand of an Eskimo.

After the ceremony was over I started to go out. He followed me and said, “ I can’t pay you to-day, but I will before long.” I told him that would be all right. The next week he went off and left his wife. No one knew where he went to. Some time after I met the man who had engaged me to marry them. He said to me: “That young man that you married has gone off and left his wife already, but I kept back enough to pay you when I settled up with him.”

I said to him: “Well, sir, I am glad you kept it, but I do not want it. You give it to his wife. She, poor thing, will need it before long; give it to her, for I don’t want it.”

A Queer Bridegroom.

I was leading a prayer-meeting one evening in the church in Kincardine, when a middle-aged man came up to me, as I was giving out a hymn, and asked me to step to the door for a minute. When we got outside, he said: “I am sorry to interrupt you, but my business is urgent. I want to get married this evening, and, on my inquiring at the hotel for a minister, I was sent to you.”

“Very well, sir,” I answered, “I can attend to you as soon as this service is over, which will be in half an hour. Where will I find you?”

He said: “We will come to your house if you have no objections. The lady does not like to be married at a hotel,”

I showed him my house and told him to come along as soon after nine o’clock as they could.

He went away saying they would be on hand. They were a little late, but they came alone. When I saw the woman I was a little surprised that she should marry the man, but on inquiry it came out that they had been lovers in their young days, but something had come in their way. She had been married to another, and moved west from Ottawa to the new country, and with her husband had settled in the bush. They had succeeded in making a good home. Then her husband had died and left her and her family in comfortable circumstances. The two had lost track of each other for more than twenty years, but that day they had met on an excursion train coming to Kincardine. The man had never married. But he had also come to the new country some years ago. When they met on the train that day, and renewed old acquaintance and talked of the past and found that both were free, the old dame was rekindled. And they resolved to be united before they returned home. But there was something a little strange about the man that I could not fathom. He was either very shallow or very deep, and I could not make out which.

When they stood up and I asked him the usual question, instead of answering he gave me a queer kind of a look that I did not like. It was a sort of a compromise between a grin and a sneer.

I looked him in the eye and said: “Mister, I want a distinct answer to that question.”

“Well, what do you want me to say?” He spoke with some emphasis.

“I want you to say whether you will take this woman to be your wife or not?”

“Why, of course I will. That is just what I am here for.

I said that would do and went on with the service.

They were both past fifty years old. The woman was a fine-looking lady of her age and very respectably dressed. After they were married the man told me that not expecting anything of the kind when he left home, he had not much money with him, but he would pay me a part of the fee, and take my address and send the rest of it.

I told him that would do. So he took the address, but I fear he lost it, as I never heard from him since.

Manly Hotel-keepers.

Some young men have strange notions of true manliness. They will pride themselves on their ability to fool and deceive any over-confiding young woman who is silly enough to trust them. They will boast of their conquests and glory in what is really their shame.

I called them men. I wish, for the credit of real manhood, to take that back. They are not men. They are simply animals with breeches on. There are no manly feelings in any one who can take pleasure in wronging one who is weaker than himself.

I once knew a case where one of this class was brought to the scratch in a way that he little expected.

He had been keeping company for a long time with a very clever, industrious young girl, who was entirely respectable. But her people were poor. She was working at a hotel in the village where I lived at the time.

After a while the young deceiver made up his mind to go oft' and leave the poor girl to bear, as best she could, the result of her over-confidence in him.

The man for whose wife the girl was working was a constable. When he learned from his wife the state of affairs, he started to where the young fellow was. He found him at another hotel and just ready to take the stage for parts unknown.

The constable laid his hand on him and said, “I want you to come with me.”

“Where to?” said the other.

“To my house.”

“What for?”

“To marry Bessie.”

“Oh, nonsense! I won’t do that.”

“Yes, you will, and that before the sun goes down, and before you get out of my sight.”

“I have no money to buy the license or to pay the minister.”

The other hotel man now spoke up and said, “I will furnish the money. Come along and get the license. You have got to marry that girl before you are one day older.”

And he did, and I was called in to tie the knot. Shortly after they went away to live on some land given to him by his father. She made him a good wife, and he made her a passably good husband. He might have said to her one day when he came in to dinner:

Dear Bessie, I am sorry now
That I was going away to leave you.
So to my fate I meekly bow,
And hope I nevermore may grieve you.

A Wife for Six Brooms.

About the most unique affair that I ever knew took place in a village where I once lived. Though I had no personal connection with the transaction I knew all the parties. I can vouch for the substantial truthfulness for the statements here presented.

A young couple made up their minds to travel life’s pathway together. They were both very poor, and neither of them had any wit to spare.

The young man made an apology for a livelihood by manufacturing splint brooms and axe-handles. He went to a Wesleyan Methodist minister to engage him to do the splicing. At that time the banns were published instead of getting license in many cases.

After all the arrangements had been made as to time and place the young man said:

“Mr. Blank, I have no money. Won’t you take your pay in brooms?”

“O, yes; anything to accommodate you,” said the minister, who was a lively Irishman and fond of a joke.

“Well,” said the other, “how many brooms will I fetch you?”

“About a half a dozen.”

“Will that be enough?”

“Yes; you bring along your girl and six good brooms, and I will marry you just as good as I would if you were the richest man in the county.”

When the day appointed came, the people along the leading street of the village witnessed a spectacle that elicited not a little merriment.

There was the young prospective benedict with his girl fondly clinging to one of his arms, and on the other shoulder he carried half a dozen new splint brooms of excellent design and finish.

He marched on with as much self-importance as a coloured captain of militia, with as much pride as a six-year-old boy with a new top, and as much solicitude as an old hen with one chicken. The tune that they marched to would suit these words or something like them,

Clear the track, for we are here,
Brooms and all, as you may see;
We’ll be married, never fear,
For I love her and she loves me.

And they did get married, and the minister got the brooms.

Matrimonial Blunders.

There are a great many foolish marriages in this world. Even sensible people in other things make some strange mistakes in this important matter. If men would exercise as much caution and common sense in selecting a wife as they do in picking out a horse ; and if women would be as particular in choosing a husband as in picking out a dress or a bonnet, one half of the bad matches would never have been made.

Some marry without considering the importance of such a step. They think it is a grand thing to have some one they can call their own.

I knew a man once that married a woman the second time that he ever saw her, and within a week of the first time of seeing her. He wanted another and could not get her, and to show her that he could get a wife, he married with less than a week’s acquaintance. He lived with his bride just seven days, and then went away, and she never heard from him for three years. He came back to her then, and stayed till he died, which was a number of years after. Some marry for the sake of a housekeeper, and others for the sake of a home. Some marry for money, and others for social position.

But in all these motives for marrying, the question of adaptation is generally overlooked, as when a man wants some one to look after his home, and takes the first eligible woman that comes in his way; or when a woman wants a home, and accepts the first man that offers her one.

Now, they may or they may not be adapted to each other. There may be incongruities of temperament, differences in religious sentiment, educational biasses of the mind, a want of harmony in tastes and pursuits, and many other peculiarities in one or both that render them unfit companions for each other.

And although two persons may not be adapted to each other, that does not prove that they are not worthy of good companions. It only shows that they have not made the right selection, that is all.

God never intended that men and women should be disposed of like cattle or horses, for the amount of work that they could do, or for the convenience of the buyer or the gain of the seller.

Mutual respect, confidence, esteem and affection should draw people together. While I am no admirer of lovesick lunies, either male or female, I do insist upon it that the affinities that bring people together into this closest of all human bonds should be something more refined, pure and exalted, than mere material considerations.

I have known people who, while living with their first spouses, were entirely happy and contented. The man lost his wife and the woman her husband. The two survivors married, and they quarrelled like cats and dogs, making each other perfectly unhappy. They could not agree to live together, and would not consent to live apart.

My advice to all who are thinking of marrying is, Be sure that you are adapted for each other, then go ahead.

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