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To Love and to Honor

By Octavus Roy Cohen

It was rather surprising to discover a deep vein of sentiment in little George Potter. I had been his friend and his lawyer for many years and had watched the always fat and once alert little man settle into a domestic routine. He had been moderately successful in business, sufficiently successful to permit him to retire from business and to travel about the world a little if he had wanted to do so. But instead he and Esther were content to sit night after night in their pleasant living room; she was busy with her sewing or reading, he passing the time with his excellent collection of postage stamps.

Looking back over the years of my friendship with Potter, I can see that the vein of romance had probably been there all the time. There was, for instance, his romantic love-affair with Althea Deane—an affair which almost became a scandal. But just when people began to gossip about them, George married her.

That marriage appeared to extinguish George Potter’s last spark of romanticism. It never had a chance to be successful, and when Althea left him suddenly, George’s friends thought that he was fortunate to lose her. Later came the news of Althea’s death while living abroad, and a couple of years later George began to call upon Esther seriously. The people of our group were only slightly interested—it is difficult to become greatly excited over a possible marriage when both the man and the woman are equally rather dull and uninteresting.

The marriage was a very nice affair. There followed the usual series of parties for the newly married couple. Then it seemed that George and Esther retired from life. Even his business affairs ran so well that there was little need on George'’ part for my services as his lawyer--and while I never ceased to like him, we found less and less in common as the years passed. I couldn’t imagine that they were happy; perhaps they were contented, but not really happy. There wasn’t enough sentiment that’s the way I figured George. And nothing happened to change my opinion until a few weeks before their twenty-fifth anniversary.

It was then that he came into my office his fat little face shining with enthusiasm, and told me of his unusual plans for the silver anniversary. His bright eyes shone as he explained the thing, and I’ll confess that I was pretty well confused; not alone because his plan was very sentimental and profoundly impressive, but mainly because it was quiet, dull, old George Potter who was planning this thing—the very George Potter who had lived a quiet life since his second marriage and who had avoided social contacts.

According to what George told me, he was doing this thing for Esther’s sake. "It’ll please her," he explained. "Women like that sort of thing, you know—and this seems to me a real idea. You have to be a part of it, because you were the best man when Esther and I were married. It’s just a gesture on my part—a sort of sacrifice to please the old lady."

I’ll say this to George; he didn’t do things halfway. Instead of the usual party, he presented a perfect duplication of his marriage to Esther twenty-five years before. There was even the same minister—very old now—and the same violinist who had played "Oh, Promise Me" at the other ceremony. A good many of the original guests were there: most of us rather gray-haired now. But the thing was very impressive: Esther in the same bridal dress she had worn twenty-five years before—let out around the hips perhaps—and carrying a bouquet of bride roses; even a person to carry the ring. It was great fun and very impressive where one might have expected it to be absurd.

As for Esther, I never saw a woman look more beautiful. She took on an aura of genuine beauty. Of course she would have been less than human and far from feminine to have failed to respond to this magnificent exhibition of husbandly devotion. George himself was as frightened as he had been on the occasion of their first wedding.

But finally the ceremony was finished and the guests went to the dining room for the rich supper which had been prepared by special cooks employed for this occasion. George and I were left alone and he sank exhausted into a chair. I placed my hand on his shoulder and congratulated him on the success of his party.

"You really think it was a success?"

"Wonderful! And," jokingly, "you certainly should feel completely married."

"Yes, I do." He became silent for a moment or two, and when he spoke again it was in a deeply serious tone. "There’s something I’ve got to explain to you as my friend and my lawyer." He stopped for a second, and the asked suddenly: "You remember my first wife?"

"Althea?" I was surprised by the question. "Certainly."

"Did you know," he went on in a strange voice, "that she died only the last year?"

"Good Lord! I thought she died twenty-seven years ago."

"So did I," he said quietly. "And when I married Esther, I thought I was a widower. But I wasn’t—and in case anything ever comes up—well, I want you to understand that affair tonight was a real wedding for Esther and me."