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2017年7月14日 (金)

found her ensconced in one of the large

In an instant he was kneeling by her side, his whole soul in his eyes and on his lips. It was the very first time in his life that Royal Ainsley's heart was ever stirred with love.

"A gentleman, miss," he said. "I told him you were not at home, as you requeste

Florence St. John held the card in her white fingers.

"You see, it was not a lady," she said, half amused at his agitation.

He drew a breath of intense relief.

This was exactly what Mrs. St. John did not wish to happen. The gilded youth before her was too good a catch in the matrimonial market to lose.

Every mother is always glad to have her daughter make a good match. She was no exception to the rule.

And when she read in the paper, a few months later, of that uncle's death, and that he had left his vast wealth to his nephew, Royal Ainsley, she was determined that no effort should be spared to make him fall in love with her daughter.

He grew eloquent in his pleading. Ere ten minutes[97] more had elapsed, he had drawn from Mrs. St. John's lips the promise that the wedding should take place in four months' time at the very latest.

The great bough creaked with its unaccustomed weight, slight as it was, then shot downward.

She felt that she must draw her mind into another channel.

"Say that you will be more composed when I see you again," she replied, earnestly, "though it may not be for some days."

"I am going to my niece's wedding," answered Miss Fernly. "I may remain a few days after at the house."

"Then by that confidence do as I bid you," repeated Miss Fernly. "I will send some clothing for you to[110] wear. Wrap about you the long, dark cloak you wore in coming here, and be in readiness."

With these words, Miss Fernly fairly flew from the cottage.

Ida May sunk back in her chair, pale and excited.

"Why should the announcement that he is to be married to-morrow have shocked me?" she moaned. "I had every reason to expect that would occur any day after I read it myself in the paper."

She did not sob or cry out. It seemed to Ida that the very heart within her was crushed. She had borne so much that it appeared there was nothing more left for her to endure.

Miss Fernly was thankful beyond words that she had not brought her maid with her on her last visit.

She spoke hurriedly to the coachman, and with a bow, he drove quickly away.

"The minister has been called suddenly away to a sick person," said the girl who admitted them to the parsonage. "He has begged me to say that he would return within the hour."

The young man wondered what business she had with the parson; but he made no comment, but followed her into the parsonage. The reception room into which they were shown was dimly lighted. Miss Fernly seemed to be well acquainted there.

Mr. Mallard took the seat Miss Fernly indicated.

"Yes," answered Eugene Mallard, promptly.

"Yes," said Miss Fernly, speaking for the bride-elect.

The marriage ceremony was begun. Then came the question solemnly, warningly, from the minister's lips: "If any one knows aught why this man or woman should not be united in holy wedlock, let him now speak, or forever hold his peace!"

There was an ominous silence. Miss Fernly trembled. She was doing a noble action in righting a terrible wrong, she told herself, and there was no response to the clergyman's appeal.

In a voice which seemed still more solemn, he pronounced the two before him man and wife.

He did not tell her that he had written a note to an old minister, living two miles out of the village, asking him to remain at home to marry them. No name had been signed to the note; but he had argued to himself that the minister, who probably was sadly in need of making an extra dollar, would stay at home to perform the ceremony. If his plans matured well, all well and good; if they miscarried, well, no one would be the wiser as to who sent the letter.

He assisted her to mount her wheel, and, as if in a dream, they went speeding down the boulevard.

"We must make quicker time, my darling," he said.

He turned away with a royal air. Already he felt as if the May millions were in his pocket, that he was a man to be envied, that he was of great importance.

Royal Ainsley immediately joined Ida in the parlor. He  velvet easy-chairs, looking out of the window, with something very like fright in her great dark eyes.

"Oh, Royal, are you sure it is quite right?" she sobbed. "Did you want me to marry you so very much?"

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