“You were merciless to me, Mollie Dane.”
“But I am only a girl—only a silly, flirting girl of sixteen! Oh, forget and forgive, and let me go!”
“I can not, Mollie, for—I love you!”
“Love me?” Mollie repeated, scorn and anguish in her voice. “Love me, and torture me like this!”
“It is because I love you. I torture you because you shall be my wife. Mine, Mollie, mine! Because you would never consent of your own free will. It goes to my heart to hear you plead; but I love you with my whole heart and soul, and I can not yield.”
“I shall plead no more,” said Mollie, proudly, turning away; “your heart is of stone.”
“Will you consent to marry me, Mollie? Remember the terms. One week from the hour that makes you my wife will see you going forth free, if you wish it.”
“Free! wish it!” she repeated, with unutterable scorn. “Free, and bound to you! Wish it, when for that privilege I sacrifice myself forever! Oh, you know well I love my liberty dearly, when I can not lie here and rot sooner than leave my prison your wife! But, man—demon—whatever you are,” she cried, with a sort of frenzy, “I do consent—I will become your wife, since my only chance of quitting this horrible dungeon lies that way!”
If Mollie could have seen the face behind the mask, she would have seen the red glow of triumph that overspread it at the words; but aloud he spoke calmly.
“My happiness is complete,” he said. “But remember, Mollie, it will be no sham marriage, that you will be at liberty to break. A real clergyman shall unite us, and you must promise me to make no appeal to his sympathy—to make no attempt to converse with him. The attempt would be quite useless, but you must promise.”
“I promise,” she said, haughtily; “and Mollie Dane keeps her word.”
“And I keep mine! A week from the ceremony you go forth free, never to be disturbed by me again. I love you, and I marry you for love and for revenge. It sounds inconsistent, but it is true. Yet, my promise of vengeance fulfilled, I shall retain you against your will no longer. I will love you always, and you will be my wife—my wife, Mollie. Nothing can ever alter that. I can always say hereafter, come what will, I have been blessed!”
There was a tremor in the steady voice. He paused an instant, and then went on:
“To-night the clergyman will be here. You will be ready? You will not retract your word?”
“I never retract my word,” Mollie said, abruptly turning her back upon him. “I will not now. Go!”
The midnight marriage.
The Reverend Raymond Rashleigh sat before a blazing sea-coal fire, in his cozy study, in comfortable, after-dinner mood. He lay back in his cushioned and carved arm-chair, a florid, portly, urbane prelate, with iron-gray hair and patriarchal whiskers, a steaming glass of wine punch at his elbow, that day’s paper open upon his lap, an overfed pussy purring at his knee, the genius of comfort personified in his own portly person.