From the Relief Society Magazine, June 1953 –
We Wished Aunt Ruth Would Marry
By Amy Viau
We all hoped and prayed that Aunt Ruth would marry. We knew she must be very lonely in the big old home place, at the edge of town, now that Grandmother had gone. She had given years of devotion and care to grandmother – and believe me, Grandmother was a care, adamant in her decisions and wants.
Aunt Ruth deserved some happiness in life and companionship. I asked her outright why she didn’t marry John Hennesy, a bachelor banker in town, who not only seemed nice but had asked her to marry him.
“Really, Betty! why would I marry John, even though I am forty and never likely to get another chance?”
“But he’s nice looking – tall and polite, Aunt Ruth.”
Aunt Ruth was tall, too.
“I know, Betty, but his height hasn’t much with it that I’d want. Say, Tom looked nice in that brown shirt he wore Sunday when you stopped by. It matched his eyes.”
When she changed the subject to my husband that way, I had to stop talking of John Hennesy.
Tom and I had planned to take a trip back to his old home in Canada in early march, and after I was home, thinking over my visit with Aunt Ruth, I had a sudden gleam which I felt would lighten the whole situation, if I could work my plan. Tom and I decided to take Aunt Ruth to Canada with us and see what might happen. Getting her to go we figured would be the first and biggest hurdle, perhaps.
While visiting Tom’s home on the farm the previous year, Tom had introduced me to a neighbor farmer – a bachelor of English descent. This Ronald Ross had lived as a neighbor to the French farmers long enough to have acquired some of their joviality and love of fun. My husband, French Canadian himself, liked Ross as well as I did, and was eye-to-eye with me as to making a match between him and Aunt Ruth. Because I liked him so much, and because Aunt Ruth and I were somewhat alike in our tastes, I was excited and hopeful about our plan.
I approached Aunt Ruth on the subject of going as though the idea had just struck me.
“Say – Aunt Ruth, you haven’t ever traveled on a plane, have you? Why, I don’t believe you’ve even gone on a trip farther than five hundred miles from home.”
“You needn’t beat around the bush, Betty. If you and Tom want me to take the trip to Canada with you, I’d be delighted to go – and pay my own expenses.”
Those blue eyes of hers looked calm enough int heir expression as she looked at me, but I wondered if Aunt Ruth didn’t know me and my inner thought processes much better than I knew hers.
Aunt Ruth bought new clothes, visited the beauty salon, and revived her youthfulness to a degree that worried me a little. Maybe she wouldn’t look at Farmer Ross.
“Of course they don’t go in for too much style, there on the farm, Aunt Ruth,” I remarked casually.
‘What’s to keep me from going into Montreal, once in a while? I’ve always thought that was quite a place for shows, concerts, and the like.”
“Well, maybe you’re right. Seems to me I did hear Mr. Ross, a neighbor to Tom’s folks, speak of going into Montreal to some sort of concert, last winter. He’s a bachelor, too.”
She was trying on the jacket to the dark blue suit she had just bought, and it did a lot for her. Aunt Ruth was rather a jacket-suit type, though she was feminine and dainty.
“If that suit doesn’t draw you a man, Auntie, men aren’t what I think they are.”
“I’m not going on a ‘drawing’ trip of that kind or any special kind. I’m just going to enjoy myself,” she retorted.
Tom’s brother met us in Montreal. He drove a horse hitched to a two-seat sleigh, for Canada was snowbound. I had ridden in the sleigh the year before, and was delighted with it. Aunt Ruth was as pleased as I. She had never before ridden in a sleigh, nor behind a horse, for that matter.
When we reached the old home and went inside, Aunt Ruth was too delighted to keep back her exclamations of praise. She exclaimed over the rag carpets, hand-woven by Tom’s mother, and the spinning wheel beside the large wood stove in the big kitchen.
“I can just see what Aunt Ruth will do to that house of Ronald’s,” I remarked to my husband that night.
“I wouldn’t count too much on that, yet, honey.”
“But I am counting on it, so there!”
“He may not take to her, you know, being set and English as he is.”
“Take to her! Say, Tommy Beteau, any old bachelor would be tickled to get a chance to take her. But I’m not too sure she’ll look at him. That’s my worry.”
Both of us meant it, and that’s why we laughed so hard after we’d stated our hopes and fears for Ronald and Ruth.
A party was planned for Saturday night. Tom’s folks always asked the whole neighborhood in, when we visited. They would sit up and play games until late at night, and then serve refreshments and finish the evening with music and conversation.
Aunt Ruth put on her best black dress, with her pearl necklace and earrings for the occasion. She looked almost too formal, I feared, for the eyes of plain country folks, but I hadn’t the heart to suggest it to her. And when Ronald Ross came in, just an hour ahead of the assembling time, I was upset.
When I introduced them, I was expecting her attitude to be one of polite indifference. But it wasn’t at all. Instead, she treated him as though he were the gentleman of her voice. As for him, it was evident that he was taken with Aunt Ruth.
Then Mr. Ross explained that he had not come to stay for the party and wanted the party to come to his house, instead. he said his sister had died a year ago and his brother-in-law had just arrived at his house with the three children. They were all too young to take to a party. He had had a hard time to find a good housekeeper, so Ronald was going to try and help him by taking some care of the children.
“Quite a considerate man – that Ronald Ross! It isn’t many who would help a brother-in-law with his children, that way,” Aunt Ruth remarked as we were putting on our coats.
“That’s right, Aunt Ruth. Tom says Ross is an all-around fine fellow.” I added my bit of praise gladly.
The party, with the pies and cakes we transferred over to the Ross place, was a success. Though Aunt Ruth didn’t speak nor understand a word of French, she seemed to love the broken English the neighbors tried to speak in their friendliness toward her. She even tried to pronounce a few French words herself and laughed a great deal, especially at the french Brother-in-law’s mix-up of French and English words.
“My sister could speak French as well as the English,” Ronald explained, “so Jean is still mastering the English, as you see.”
It was a lovely party, and Aunt Ruth was anxious to talk about it when we got back.
“Ronald is so kind and helpful to that man, Betty. And poor Jean seems almost helpless about caring for the children. Really, he doesn’t appear nearly as old as Ronald – but Ronald says he is.”
She sighed as she glanced at me.
“But, you’ll have to admit, Aunt Ruth, Ross is exceptional, and don’t be too hard on poor Jean,” I added, looking at her doubtfully.
During the ten days of our visit, Ronald Ross came for Aunt Ruth, sometime during each day, and drove her over to his house in his sleigh. But he never left his brother-in-law and the children alone for any length of time. and Ruth was always ready to go with him, dressed in neat, good clothes, but in none of the new ones she had bought. The new clothes hung neatly over the back of a chair in her bedroom, upstairs. but she had never looked prettier, even in her old clothes. When I suggested that we all take a trip into Montreal, Aunt Ruth refused without the least apology.
“Have you ever seen a plan work more successfully than this one of ours about marrying Aunt Ruth to Ronald Ross?’ I asked my husband one evening near the end of our visit.
Tom answered skeptically – to tease me, I thought.
“Don’t plan on a wedding just yet, honey, you may be disappointed.”
“Well, if there isn’t a wedding, I’ll decide I’ve been a failure, but the compass of love is pointing that way.”
“Failures aren’t the worst people to live with, I’ve heard,” he answered, without further explanation.
A few days later Tom helped Aunt Ruth and me into the plane, for we were starting for home. After the plane had taken off, I remarked to Aunt Ruth that I imagined she hated to leave Canada and her new friends so soon.
“Yes, Betty, I really do. They’re such honest, sincere people. and I want you and Tom to know I think Ronald Ross is as fine as you said – maybe finer.”
I didn’t try questioning her, though I was dying to know if she was engaged to Ronald, for she was uncommunicative always about her personal affairs. But I glanced at the third finger on her left hand just the same. It would have been possible that Ronald had given her a family ring, his mother’s, perhaps, to seal the promise. But her finger was free of a ring.
However, the third day, after we were home, Aunt Ruth phoned and asked me over to her house for lunch.
“I have something rather important to talk with you about, Betty.”
I hadn’t the least doubt as to what she wanted to say. It would be about her marriage, of course.
After I had arrived at Aunt Ruth’s, it was all I could do to restrain my eager inquiry, but Aunt Ruth liked restraint.
We had hardly more than sat down to lunch before she told me, “Betty, I’m going to be married.”
“Oh, Aunt Ruth, that’s wonderful! We’ll all be so glad. And I think he’s just wonderful, too.”
“Well, he’s pretty nice, and I’ll try to make him a good wife.”
“Oh, you will, Aunt Ruth, you will.” There was no need for me to conceal my happiness. My plan had worked out, after all.
“Thanks, Betty. I hope everything has turned out as you planned and wanted it.”
She smiled at me with tenderness, and I felt very guilty, somehow, but immensely successful.
“But Aunt Ruth, all that we – that I ever wanted was for you to be happily married as you deserve to be.”
“Well – since it’s turned out that way, we are all going to be happy. Now tell me how I can fix this old house and make it livable.”
I was so surprised I wondered if she had really said “This old house.” Surely she must have worked some magic to pull that Englishman from his roots for transplanting out here. Or – of course, she probably meant to condition the house for renting.
“You – you mean you’re going to rent this place, Aunt Ruth?”
“No, I’m going to live here, of course. I think we’ll all be quite comfortable here.”
“‘Well, maybe he’ll have some suggestions. but how on earth did you ever get that Englishman to decide to forsake his acres for this country?”
Aunt Ruth, for a moment, looked as astonished as I felt. Then she settled back in her chair contentedly.
“Oh, my goodness, Betty, you’re all mixed up. It’s Jean I’m marrying, not Ronald. And it will be much better for the children here.”
Almost – almost, I wished we had never planned to marry off Aunt Ruth!