“Stop! I forbid the marriage!”
Carl Walraven whirled round aghast. The bride shrieked; the bride-maids echoed the bride in every note of the gamut—all save Mollie; and she, like the bridegroom, had recognized the intruder.
For, tall and gaunt as one of Macbeth’s witches, there stood the woman Miriam!
There was a blank pause; every eye fixed on the towering form of the specter-like woman.
“I forbid the marriage!” exclaimed Miriam. “Clergyman, on your peril you unite those two!”
“The woman is mad!” cried Carl Walraven, white with rage. “Men, turn her out!”
“Stop!” said Mollie—“stop one moment I know this woman, and will see what she means.”
No one interfered; every one gazed in breathless interest as Miss Dane quitted her post and confronted the haggard apparition. The woman uttered a cry at sight of her, and caught her impetuously by the arm.
“Mad girl! have you forgotten what I told you? Would you marry that man?”
“Marry what man? What do you mean? I am not going to marry any man to-day. It is you who have gone mad, I think.”
“Why, then, do you wear those bridal robes?”
“Bride-maid robes, if you please. Gracious me, Miriam, you didn’t think I was going to marry Mr. Walraven, did you?”
Miriam passed her hand over her brow with a bewildered air.
“Whom, then, is it, if not you?”
“Miss Blanche Oleander, of course, as anyone could have told you, if you had taken the trouble to ask before rushing in here and making a scene.”
“I only heard last night he was to be married,” Miriam said, with a bewildered face, “and took it for granted that it must be you.”
“Then you must have had a poorer opinion of my taste than I should have thought it possible for you to have. Come in and beg everybody’s pardon, and tell them it was all a shocking mistake.”
“One word first: Are you well and happy?”
“Perfectly well, and happy as a queen. Come on; there is no time to lose. People are staring dreadfully, and the bride is glaring with rage. Quick—come!”
She flitted back to her place, and Miriam, stepping forward, addressed the assembly:
“I ask your pardon, ladies and gentlemen. I have made a mistake. I thought the bride was Miss Dane. I beg the ceremony will proceed.”
She pulled a veil she wore down over her gaunt face, and with the last word hurried out and disappeared. Mr. Walraven, suppressing his rage, turned to the minister.
“Proceed!” he said, impatiently, “and make haste.”
The bride, very white with anger and mortification, resumed her place; the ceremony recommenced. This time there was no interruption, and in ten minutes the twain were one flesh.