“What means this veil?” cried Sir Giles, gazing suspiciously at Gillian as she emerged from the inner room, followed cautiously by Aveline, who was wrapped in the muffler. “Why are the bride’s features thus hidden?”
“A mere whim, Sir Giles—a pleasant fancy,” replied the old usurer. “But she must have her way. I mean to indulge her in everything.”
“You are wrong,” rejoined the extortioner. “Make her feel you will be her master. Bid her take it off.”
“On no account whatever, Sir Giles. I have only won her by submission, and shall I spoil all at the last moment, by opposing her inclinations? Of a truth not.”
“Who is the maiden with her?” demanded Sir Giles, scrutinizing Aveline, with a keen glance. “Why does she wear a muffler? Is that a whim, likewise?”
“Perchance it is,” replied Sir Francis; “but I have given no consent to it. She is only the tire-woman.”
“Come, mistress, unmuffle. Let us see your face,” cried Sir Giles, striding towards the terrified maiden, who thought discovery was now inevitable.
But Luke Hatton interposed to save her.
“Prevent this rudeness,” he whispered, plucking Sir Francis’s cloak. “Prevent it instantly. If her whim be thwarted, I will not answer for the consequences.”
“Desist, Sir Giles—desist, I pray you!” cried the old usurer, in alarm. “It is my bride’s wish that her attendant be not interfered with—and mine too.”
“Well, be it as you will,” replied the extortioner, testily. “But I would not permit the impertinence were I in your case. The bride must raise her veil when she stands before the priest.”
“She shall do as she pleases,” replied Sir Francis, gallantly. “If she desires to hide her blushes, I will not put any compulsion upon her to disclose them. Come, fair mistress,” he added, taking the trembling hand of the veiled maiden, “the priest awaits us in the further chamber, where the ceremony is to take place, and where several of the noble and illustrious guests who have consented to grace our nuptials are already assembled. Some of the most illustrious personages in the land will be present—the Marquis of Buckingham, and perhaps Prince Charles himself. His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador has promised to come. Let us on, then. Yet, ere we proceed further, I have to request your acceptance of that silver coffer. The thirty thousand marks within it constitute your dowry.”
As he spoke Luke Hatton advanced, and, holding the coffer towards the veiled damsel, so that she could touch it, said—“Place your hand upon this silver box, and take possession of it, fair mistress. I am a witness that Sir Francis Mitchell has freely bestowed it, with its contents, upon you. It will remain in my custody till you require me to deliver it up to you.”
How the Marriage was interrupted.