“The wedding must take place at once. I suppose the farce is really necessary. But there must be no more delay. Only the unsparing use of a husband’s authority can save her now. I shall take her away. I must be with her day and night. In France there is a place I know, beautiful, isolated. I shall take her there. If all else fails there is the treatment of hypnotic suggestion. But—I shall not fail, I dare not!”
Blindly she put out her hand—he clasped it gently—yet not as if he knew whose hand it was. Then, laying it aside, he passed by, and, leaving her sobbing in the dusk, went on into the house and up the stairs to the closed room.
It became quickly known in Coombe that, owing to Mrs. Coombe’s delicate health, the wedding would take place much sooner than had been expected. A sea voyage, it was conceded, was the necessary thing and as Dr. Callandar would not allow his fiancee to go away alone it seemed only fair that he should make haste to go with her. Comment on all these points was much more restrained than usual because, just at this time, Coombe withstood the shock of finding out that Dr. Callandar was no less than Dr. Henry Chedridge Callandar of Montreal. No, not his brother, nor his cousin, but the man himself!
Of course Coombe had suspected this all along. Never for a moment had it been really deceived. Over and over again it had said: “My dear, that young man is not a mere local practitioner, mark my words!” From the first, Coombe had observed the marks of true distinction in him. He was so odd! He seemed to care nothing at all for appearances, and, as everybody knows, this comfortable attitude of mind is the privilege of the famous few. Besides, there was the matter of the marriage. Coombe had been right in thinking that Mary Coombe had not gone into the matter blindfold. She had known very well upon which side her bread was buttered, and as to her giving way to his whims in the absurd way she did—that, too, was understandable under the circumstances.
What puzzled Coombe, now, was how she had managed it. She was not pretty, at least not very pretty. She was not young, at least only comparatively young. And goodness knows, she was not clever! Hardly a mother in Coombe but had at least one daughter prettier, younger and cleverer; a daughter, in fact, who could give Mary Coombe aces and kings and still win out. Why had the doctor not been attached to one of these? It was incomprehensible. Even if, through a misplaced devotion to his profession, he had determined to marry into a doctor’s family—there was Esther! Esther Coombe was a fine girl and quite nice looking before she had begun to “go off.” Even as it was she had more to recommend her than her step-mother. There seemed to be a general impression that all men are fools.
“If they would only let some woman with sense choose their wives for them,” declared the eldest Miss Sinclair in a burst of confidence, “they might get along fairly well. But if ever a man gets married to the right woman, it happens by accident.”