"With this ring I thee wed"
I stood and listened, lost in wonder.
Then came the prayer prescribed,
after which the clergyman joined their
hands together, saying:
"Those whom God hath joined to
gether let no man put asunder."
I heard no more. I sat down on the
nearest bench. What was the mean
ing of this sudden change? Remember
that I had left Molly only a few hours
before this fully resolved that she
would demand an inquiry into the
statements and charges made in the
two lettersresolved that she would
not keep the engagement, her admira
tion for the proud, brave, noble crea
ture, her lover, turned into loathing.
And now, now, in the early morning,
with her letter in my pocket stating
her change of purpose, I found her at
the altar and actually married.
"Whom God hath joined together let
not man put asunder."
What if the man Purden was all that
he was described? The priestly office
confers rights and powers which are
independent of the man who holds that
office. Whatever his private wicked
ness, Purden was a clergyman, and
therefore he could marry people.
Molly stood before the altar, as had
been arranged. She wore a black silk
domino she had on a pink silk cloak
with a hood drawn over her head, so
that she was quite covered up and con
cealed. But I knew her by her stature,
which wins taller than the common,
and by her dress, which had been
Then the bridegroom offered his
hand and led the bride into the vestry.
They were to sign the marriage regis
And here I rose and slunk away. I
say that I slunk away. If you like it
better, I crawled away, for I was
sick at heart. The thing which I most
dreaded, the marriage of our girl to a
rake and a gamester, had been actual
ly accomplished. Misery and ruin
would be her lot. And in my pocket
was her letter asking lor explanation
and withdrawing her promise for the
morrow. Could one believe one's
I crawled away, ashamed for the
first time in my life of the girl I loved.
Women, I said to myself, are pooi\
weak creatures. They believe every
thing. Lord Fylingdale must have
been with her early. He had but to
deny the whole she accepted the de
nial. Despite her resolution she walk
ed with him to the church as the lamb
goes to the shambles. Oh. Molly! Who
could haAe believed it of you?
I left the church and went away. 1
thought of going to the captain of
telling my father: of telling the vicar,
but it seemed like treachery, and I re
Instead, I walked back to the quay
and paddled to the ship, where pres
ently the barges came alongside and
the day's work began. Fortunate it is
for a man that at moments of great
unhappiness his work has to be done
and he is desirous to put aside his sor
row and to think upon his duty. But
alas! Poor Molly! Who could have
believed it possible?
Well, you see, I did not follow this
wedding to an end. Had I gone into
the vestry I should have been witness
of something very unexpected.
The clergyman had the registers ly
ing on the table open. He took a pen
and filled in the forms. He then offer
ed the pen to the bride.
"My lady," he said, "I must ask your
ladyship to sign the registerin dupli
cate, if you please."
The bride sat down and in a large,
bold hand wrote her nameMary Mil
Then the bridegroom took the pen
and sign?a "Fylingdale."
The clergyman sprinkled the pounce
box over the names and shut up the
books, which he gave to the clerk
This officer took the books and locked
them in the great trunk which held the
papers and books of the church, put
ting the key in his pocket.
"And now," said Mr. Purden, "let me
congratulate my noble patron and the
newly made countess on this auspi
cious event. I haie brought with me
a bottle of the finest port the Crown
possesses, and I venture to drink
health, happiness and prosperity." So
saying he produced a bottle and glass-
By SIR WALTER BESANT
Copyright, 1900, by Sir Walter Besant
es. The bride, without saying a word,
inclined her head to the bridegroom
and drank off her glass. Lord Fyling
dale, who looked, if one may say so of
a bridegroom, peevish and ill at ease,
raised his glass. "To your happiness,
Molly," he said.
So all was finished. "You are going
home, Molly?" he asked. "For the
presentthat is to say, for a day or
twoit will be best. I shall claim you
very soon. There is no one but our
selves in the vestry." (For the clerk,
having locked the box and accepted the
guinea bestowed upon him by the bride
groom, was now tramping down the
church and through the porch. No one
but themselves was in the vestry or
the church.) "You may therefore take
off your domino."
"As your lordship pleases." Lord
Fylingdale started. Whose voice was
that? "As you order I obey." So the
bride removed her domino and threw
back the hood.
The bridegroom started. "What is
this?" he cried, furious with certain
words which were out of place in a.
"Lady Anastasia!" cried Mr. Purden.
"Good Lord! Then we are all undone!"
"What does it mean? Tell me, she
devil! What does it mean? Where is
Molly? But this is play acting. This
is not a marriage."
"I fear, my lord," said the parson,
"that it is a marriage. The registers
are in the strong box. They cannot
"Go after the clerk, man. Order him
to give up the keys. Tear the pages
out of the registers."
"I cannot," said Mr. Purden. "I dare
not. The man is a witness of this
marriage. He has seen the entry in
the register. I dare not alter them or
destroy a single page. I have done a
great deal for your lordship, but this
thing I cannot do. It is a marriage, I
say. You are married to the Lady An
"Talk! Talk! Go after the man.
Bring back the man. Tear the keys
from him. Silence the man. Buy his
silence. By heaven, I will murder him
in order to stop his tongue!"
"Your lordship forgets your bride*
your happy, smiling, innocent bride."
He cursed her. He raised his hand
as if to strike her down, but forbore.
"I told you," she continued, "that in
everything I was at your serviceex
cept in one thing. Tear the registers
murder the clerkbut the bride will be
left. And if you murder her as well
you will be no nearer the possession of
the lovely Molly."
The bridegroom sank into a chair.
He was terrible to look at, for his
wrath and disappointment deprived
him of the power of speech. Where
was now the cold and haughty front?
It was. gone. He sat in the chair, up
right, his face purple, his eyes starting
from his head, as one who hath some
kind of fit.
The clergyman, still in his white sur
plice, looked on and trembled, for his
old pupil was in a murderous frame of
mind. There was no knowing whom
he might murder. Besides, he had be
fore this divined the true meaning of
the visit to Lynn, and he foresaw ruin
to himself as well as his patron.
Lord Fylingdale turned upon him
suddenly and cursed him for a fool, an
ass, a villain, a traitor. "You are in
the plot," he said. "You knew all along
You have been suborned."
"My lord, my lord, have patience.
What could I know? I was bidden to
be here at to marry you. I supposed
that the bride was the fair Miss Molly
I could hot tell. I know nothing. The
lady was in a domino. It is irregular
to be married in a domino, but your
lordship wished it. What could I do?"
"Send for the key, then, and destroy
"Alas, my lord, it is now, you may be
sure, all over the town that you have
been married, and to Miss Molly."
"Where is Molly? Where is Molly
then? Why did she keep away?"
The bride looked on with her mock
ing smile of triumph. "You may mur
der me," she said, "but you will not
undo the marriage. I have been mar
ried, it is true, under a false name, but
I am married none the less."
"You have brought ruin upon us all,"
her husband said, "ruin, headlong
ruin. I am at my last guinea. I can
raise no more money. I have no more
credit You yourself are as much dis
"If you are ruined." the lady replied,
"you are rightly punished. How many
vows have you made to me? How
many lies have you invented to keep
"With submission, my lord," Mr.
Purden stammered, for terror and be
wilderment held him. "This is a bad
morning's work. Let me advise that
before the town is awake we leave the
church and talk over the business in
her ladyship's rooms or elsewhere. We
must be private. To curse and to
swear helps nothing, nor does it help
to talk of a jealous revenge. Let us
It was with a tottering step, as if he
was smitten with palsy, that the brides
groom walked down the aisle. The
bride put up her domino and threw her
hood over her head and so, with the
parson. In silence, walked away from
the church to her lodging, leaving the
THE PBIKCETQy UNION: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10,
bridegroom to follow by himself. As
yet the market people had not heard
But the news spread. The clerk told
his wife. "I come from the church,"
he said. "7 have witnessed the mar
riage of Mis MollyCaptain Crowle's
Mollywith the noble lord, who wears
the star and looks so grand. A private
wedding it was. I know not why. The
parson was the Rev. Mr. Purden, he
who reads the morning prayers and
preaches on Sunday."
Then the clerk's wife, slipping on her
apronfor such folk find the shelter of
the apron for their hands necessary in
conversationran round to the pump
room. No one was there as yet but
the two dippers. To them she com
municated the news.
Then she went on to the market and
told all the people of the town who
were chaffering there.
At 7 o'clock, the captain, walking in
his garden, was surprised by the ar
rival of the horns, who stood before
the house and performed a noble flour
ish. "What the devil is that for?" said
the captain. Then there arrived the
butchers with their marrowbones and
cleavers and began to make their mu
sic with zeal. The captain went out to
them. Up went their hats.
"Huzza for Miss Molly and her hus-
"Her husband What do you mean
"Her husband, his lordship married
"What?" The captain stared in
amazement. Then he rushed into the
house. Molly was in the kitchen.
"What is this?" he asked. "The butch
ers are here and the horns, and they
swear you were married this morning
"Why, captain, I have not been out
side the door. I am not married, I as
sure you, and I begin to think now
that I never shall be married."
The captain went out and dismissed
the musicians, but the thing troubled
him, and he was already sick at heart
on account of the last night's discourse
and its discoveries.
A NEW COMPACT.
HAT followed, by in
vention and design of
the pious ecclesiastic
Mr. Purden, was a vil
lainy even greater
than that at first de
signed, more daring,
more cruel. The bride,
accompanied by the minister officiat
ing in the late ceremony, walked
back to her lodging. She was still
exultant in the first glow and tri
umph of her revenge. He, on the oth
er hand, walked downcast, stealthily
glancing at his companion, his big head
moving sideways like the head of a
bear, his sallow cheeks paler than was
customary. The bridegroom, for his
part, flung himself into his chair and
was carried to the lady's lodging A
strange wedding procession!
She threw off her cloak and her domi
no and stood before her newly made
lord, her eyes bright, her face flushed,
her lips quivering. She was filled with
revenge half satiated, but revenge can
never be wholly satisfied, and with the
triumph of victory.
"I have won," she said. "You tried
to deceive me again, Ludovic, but I
have won. You have been caught in
your own toils."
He took the nearest chair, sitting
down in silence, but his face was dark.
As she looked upbn him some of the
triumph died out of her eyes her
cheek lost its glow she began to be
frightened. What would he say or do
next? As for his reverence, he stood
within the door as if ready for instant
flight. Indeed there was cause for un
certainty because the man was desper
ate, and his sword was at his side.
"Silence," he said, "or I may kill
Then there was silence. The other
two did not speak. The lady threw
herself upon the sofa, twisting her fin
"You have married me, ycu say. You
shall be a happy wife. You cannot im
agine how happy you will be."
In a contest of tongues the woman
has the best of it.
"So long as you, my lord, enjoy the
same happiness or even greater I shall
not repine. You intended my happi
ness in another way."
"You have destroyed my last chance.
It is a good beginning."
"And ending, my lord. The fond
mistress whom you have fooled so long
becomes the wife. It is not the duty
of a wife to provide for her husband.
Nor will the Countess of Fylingdale al
low the earl to enter her house. She
will want the proceeds of her bank her
self. In a word, my lord, you are not
only my husband, but you are now
privileged to provide for yourself."
He sprang to his feet and fell to
common and violent cursing, invoking
the immediate and miraculous inter
vention of that Power which he had
all his life insulted and defied. The
lady received the torrent without a
word. What can one say in reply to a
man who only curses? But she was
afraid of him his words were like
blows. The headlong rage of the man
cowed her she bent her head and cov
ered her face with her hands.
Then Mr. Purden ventured to inter
fere. "Let me speak," he said. "The
thing is done. It cannot be undone.
Would it not be better to make the
best of it? Does it help any of us
does it help your lordshipto revile
and to "threaten?"
The bridegroom turned upon him
savagely. "You to speak!" he said.
"You are too mealy mouthed and too
virtuous even to tear up a page from
"I do not wish to be unfrocked or to
be sent to the plantations, my lord.
Meantime it would be doing you the
worst service in the world if I were to
tear out that page."
"Oh. you talk! You always talk!"
"Of old, n*y lord, I have sometimes
talked to some purpose."
"Talk again then. What do you
mean by disservice? You will say
next, ,1 suppose, that this play acting
was fortunate for me."
"We may sometimes turn disasters
into victories. If your lordship will
His patron sat down again, the late
storm leaving its trace in a scowling
face and twitching lips.
"Why the dickens wasn't Molly there?
How did this woman find out? How
did she knpw that Molly was not com-
"I can answer these questions," said
the lady "Molly would not come be-
cause she learned last night, just in
time, certain facts in the private life
of the bridegroom."
"What?" Lord Fylingdale betrayed
his terror. "She has heard? What has
He had not received Molly's letter
nor had he opened the captain's.
"More than enough. You have lost
your bride and her fortune. I might
have warned you, but I preferred to
take her place."
"What has she heard?"
"Apparently all that there is to be
heard. Not, of course, all that could
be told if Mr. Purden and I were to
speak. Merely things of public noto
riety. That you are a gambler and a
rake that you have ruined many that
you are ruined yourselfquite enough
for a girl of her class to learn. In our
rank we want much more before we
turn our back upon a man. I myself
know much more. Yet I have married
"She has heard," Lord Fylingdale re
"Dear, dear!" said the parson. "All
this is most unfortunatemost unfor
tunate. Your lordship had already lost
your bridelost her," he repeated.
"Lost her and Jier fortune. Is there no
"Who brought these reports? Show
me the man!"
"Ta-ta-ta! You need not bluster, Lu
dovic. Reports of this kind are in the
air they cling to your name they
travel with you. What? The notori
ous Lord Fylingdale? They have come,
you see, at last, even to this unfashion
able corner of the island. They are
here, although we have done so much
to declare your virtues. Acknowledge
that you have been fortunate so far."
"Are these reports your doing, mad
am? Is this a part of your infernal
"I do not know who put them about.
It is not likely that I should start such
reports, especially after the scandal at
Bath. I am, in fact, like his reverence
here, too much involved myself. Oh,
we have beautiful charactersall three
"Who told Molly?"
"I say that I know nothing. She has
been warned. That is all I can tell
you, and she has been advised to take
no further steps until full explanations
have been made in answer to these ru-
"Full explanations," repeated Mr.
Purden. "Dear, dear! Most unfortu
"Your lordship can refer to his rev
erence here, or to the admirable Sem
ple, or to the immaculate Sir Harry, or
to the colonel, that man of nice and
well known honor, for your character.
But who will give them a character?
Understand," she said, facing him,
"you had lost your bride before you get
out of bed this morning. Your only
chance is to imitate the example of
Tom Rising and to carry her off, and
she will then stick a knife between
your ribs, as she intended to do to that
worthy gentleman. But, no I forgot.
You cannot do that. You are already
His revefence again interposed. "With
submission, my lord, some explana
tions will be asked. It will not cer
tainly be convenient to offer any. There
is, however, one way, and only one,
that I can suggest." He looked at
the Lady Anastasia. "It will be per
haps at first distasteful to her lady
ship. It has, however, the very great
advantage of securing the fortune,
which, I take it, is what your lordship
chiefly desires. As regards the girl,
she is, in point of manners and appear
ance, so far beneath your lordship's no
tice that we need not consider her in
"I care nothing about the girl. But
hang me if I understand one single syl
lable of what you meanor how you
can secure the fortune vdlthout the
"A moment. Madam saw her way
to the revenge of jealousy. She took
the place of the bride, and she was
married as Miss Molly. She signed the
name of Molly Miller the license was
In that name. The clerk who was
present has, I am sure, already carried
the news all over the place. We have
the evidence, therefore, of the bride
groom, the parson, the clerk, the li
cense and the registers. Who is to
prove that the real Molly was at home
ail the time? Captain Crowle, perhaps,
though I doubt The girl herself But
who will believe her? My lord, you
have married Miss Molly and not the
"You have only to claim your bride."
"Sir, you forget that I am the bride,'*
Lady Anastasia interposed quickly.
Mr. Purden bowed and smiled, rub
bing his hands softly. "With submis
sion, madam. I do not advise that his
lordship should carry her off nor that
he should claim her ad mensam' et tho
rum, as we scholars say. His princi
ples would not, I am sure, allow that
he should carry off an unmarried wom
an. Not at all. He will leave her with
her friends. Indeed he would prefer to
do so. I suggest only that we should
proclaim the marriage and lay hands
upon the fortune."
"And what am I to be?"
"His lordship's best friend. You will
rescue him in his deepest need you
will restore him to affluence. It will
be a service, madam, of the purest and
most disinterested affection, instead of
an ugly and ruinous revenge. Heav
ens, can you hesitate?"
They both looked at Anastasia, who
made no response, her eyes in her lap.
"The trick will lie with us three,"
the tempter went on. "Neither of us
will reveal it."
"As regards jealousy, Anastasia,"
said Fylingdale, "the girl will be here,
and everything will continue just as
She threw up her arms and sprang to
her feet. "Oh," she cried, "it is the
most monstrous villainy!"
"We need not think of the girl. We
must think of ourselves."
"The fortune is immense, Anastasia.
It is ridiculous that the girl should
have so much. We will leave her a
competence, and there are the jewels."
Lady Anastasia gasped, and Fyling
"You yourself will adorn these jew
els. It wiff be my greatest pleasure to
atone for my ill judged deception by
giving you all those jewelsthe dia
monds, the rubies, the chains of pearls
and all the rest of the pretty, glittering
things." He took her hands, the par
son looking on all the time as a physi
cian looks on at a bloodletting or an
operation. "What ean that girl do
with the jewels? They shall all be
yours. Forgive me, Anastasia, and let
us again work together, as we have al
ready done, you and I, with no more
jealousy and no more suspicions."
He kissed her hand. His manner
was changed almost suddenly he be
came soft, caressing and persuasive.
It was the old charm, which the poor
lady could never resist. She suffered
him to hold her hand she allowed him
to kiss her her eyes grew humid.
"Oh," she murmured, "I must do ev
erything you ask, Ludovie, if you are
"How can I be anything but kind?"
he replied, with a smile. "You must
forget and forgive. The thought that
all I had schemed and planned for was
torn from me, and by youAnastasia,
by youwas too much. My mind
was upset I knew not what I said.
"Oh, Ludovic, I forgive!"
"And the jewels shall atone, the love
ly jewels. You shall have them all."
"You will truly give me the jewels?"
"Truly, my Anastasia. After all, we
are man and wife. Henceforth we
shall only live for each other. Your
happiness shall be mine. The jewels
shall be yours."
She yielded. She fell into his arms.
There was a complete, a touching, rec
Lord Fylingdale was going to declare
that it was Molly and none other who
was married that morning at o'clock
and to assume the lights and powers
of a husband. So that the news of his
evil reputation came, after all, too late
to be of any use. And as for explana
tions, who would have the right to ask
any explanations of a married man on
behalf of his wife?
The counsel learned in the law ga^
his written opinion that, considering
that the marriage ceremony was fixed
for a. in., the bridegroom had no
knowledge of the bride's intention not
to present herself that he left his
lodgings a few minutes before that
a few minutes after 6 one Pentecrosse,
well known to the lady, witnessed the
marriage ceremony and believed the
bride to be the lady in question, dress
ed as she was accustomed to dress, al
though he did not see her face that
the parish clerk also recognized the
lady that the clergyman was ready to
swear that the bride was the lady, and
that the registers showed her signa
ture, there could be no chance what
ever of success in disputing or denying
A DAY OP" FATE.
HIS was the day when
all the villainy came
to a head and did its
worst and met with
the first installment
of exposure. I have
told you what was
done at the church
and what was our own bewilder
ment, not knowing what to believe or
how to explain things. For my own
part, though I might have guessed be
cause I had discovered the jealousy of
Lady Anastasia, yet the truth, even the
possibility of the truth, never came into
my head. I had no manner of doubt in
my own mind but it was Molly herself
and none other whom I saw standing
as a bride at the altar rail with Lord
Fylingdale for a bridegroom. The fact,
I say, admitted of no dispute. Yet why
should Molly change her mind? And
why should she deny the fact?
I sought her at the house. I begged
her to come into the garden and to talk
with me privately. Then I asked those
two questions. Her answer to both of
them was most amazing.
"Jack," she said, "I know not what
you mean. I have not changed my
mind. It is impossible for me to marry
a man of whom such things can be
aid unless he can prove that they are
false. How can you think that I have
changed my mind? As regards this
talk about an early wedding, what do
I know about it? At o'clock I was
in the kitchen with my mother and Ni
gra. I have not been out of the house
Then I persisted. I asked her if she
could have gone out and had perhaps
"Forgotten!" she repeated scornful
ly. "Do you suppose that a woman
could by any possibility forget her own
wedding? But what is it, Jack? What
is in your mind?"
Then I told. her. "Molly," I said,
"last night I forgot your letter. There
was so much to think and talk about
with these disclosures that I forgot.
This morning I remembered. Then I
hurried ashore. I ran to the Crown. It
was just upon 6. I was too late. His
lordship had gone out in a chair. I
ran to the church. It was just after
6. The doors were open. I heard
voices. I went in, Molly. Do not say
that I am dreaming. I saw youyou.
I sayyou yourself, with your pink
silk cloak, the hood pulled over your
head, a domino to hide your face, just
as had been arranged."
"Ycm saw me, Jack? You saw me?
How could you see me?"
"And your hand was in Lord Fyling
dale's, and Mr. Purden was pronounc
ing the words which made you his
wifei, 'Whom God hath joined together
let not man put asunder.'
She stared at me with blank amaze
"In my pink silk cloak? Jack, are
you in your right mind, or is it I my
self who am gone distraught?"
"Indeed I know not which."
"Did you speak to me? Did you con
gratulate the bride, Jack?"
"No I was sick and sorry, Molly. I
went out of the church. I had seen
enough. The clerk, however, has been
telling the story of this private mar
riage all over the town. Everybody
knows it. The marriage is d\ily enter
ed in the registers. It was a marriaga
by the archbishop's license. The man
Purden may be all that the vicar's let
ter exposed, but the marriage was in
Molly said nothing for awhile then
she said gently: "The letter from the
bookseller, your cousin, spoke of Lord
Fylingdale as ruined. If he were to
marry a woman with money, it would
"I believe that there are sometimes
lettersbills of lading or whatever they
'are called which give the wife the
control of her own property otherwise
everything becomes her husband's."
"Why did he wish to marry me?
There was never a gleam of love in his
eye nor a note of love in his voice.
Why, except that he might get my
"That is, I am convinced, the rea-
"Villainy, villainy, villainy! Jack,
this is a conspiracy. Some woman has
been made to play my part. Then he
will claim me as his wife and lay
hands upon all that I have."
"No, Molly he shall not while you
"Friends cannot help where the law
orders otherwise. So much I know,
Jack. Yet you can do one thing for
me. You can protect me from the
man He must not take me away."
"All Lynn will fight for you."
"Jack, I want more. I want all Lynn
to believe me. You have known me' all
my life. Am I capable of such a change
of mind? Am I capable of so mon
strous a falsehood as to steal out to
marry the man and then to declare that
I ha^e never left the house? Oh, tne
villain, the villain!" Her cheek was
aflame her eyes flashed.
I seized her hand. "Molly," I cried,
"they shall all believe you. I will tell
the truth everywhere."
Just then the garden door was thrown
open, and Sam Semple appeared. With
a smiling face and a bending knee he
advanced, bowing low.
"Permit me to offer congratulations
to the Countess of Fylingdale."
"I am not a countess. I am plain
Sam looked disconcerted and puzzled.
I perceived that, plot or no plot, he had
no hand in it.
"I am come," he said, "from his lord
"I have nothing to do with his lord-
"Surely, madam surely, my lady,
there is some misunderstanding. I am
sent by his lordship with his compli
ments to ask when it will be conven
ient for the countess to receive him."
"You have been informed, I suppose,
that I was married to him this morn-
"Certainly, my lady."
"Then go back to Lord Fylingdale
and tell him that he is a villain and a
liar, that I have learned his true char
acter, that I am not married to him
and that if he ventures to molest me
my friends will protect me. Give him
that message, sir, word for word."
"I believe, Sam," I said, for his dis
comfiture and bewilderment made him
reel and stagger, "that you have no
hand in this new villainy. It was you,
however, who brought that man to
Lynn, knowing his true character and
his antecedents. Let us never see your
face here again. Go. If I thought you
were in the plot, I would serve you
again as the captain served you three
He went away without another word.
Then the captain came home, his
"I know not," he said, "what has
happened in this place. I have seen
Lord Fylingdale. I told him of the
charges and accusations."
"Well, did he deny them?"
"He denied nothing, and he admit
ted nothing. He says that you married
him this morning, Molly."
"I know. He has sent Sam Semple
here with the same story. Captain,
you believe me, do you not?"
"Believe you, Molly? Why, if I did
xml | txt