We must pass over three more years and a half, and take up the scene in the cloistered court of a Moorish house in Algeria, adapted to European habits. The slender columns supporting the horse-shoe arches were trained with crimson passion-flower and bougainvillia, while orange and gardenia blossom scented the air, and in the midst of a pavement of mosaic marbles was a fountain, tinkling coolness to the air which was already heated enough to make it impossible to cross the court without protection from the sunshine even at nine o’clock in the morning.
Mrs. Brownlow had a black lace veil thrown over her head; and both she and the clergyman with her, in muslin-veiled hat, had large white sunshades.
“Little did we think where we should meet again, and why, Mr. Ogilvie. Do you feel as if you had got into ‘Tales of the Alhambra,’ or into the ’Tempest’?”
“I hope not to continue in the ‘Tempest,’ at any rate, after this Algier wedding.”
“Though no doubt you feel, as I do, that the world goes very like a game at consequences. Who would ever have put together The Vicar of Benneton and Mary Ogilvie in the amphitheatre at Constantina, eating lion-steaks. Consequence was, an engaged ring. What the world said, ‘Who would have thought it?’”
“The world in my person should say you have been Mary’s kindest friend, Mrs. Brownlow. Little did I think, when I persuaded Charles Morgan to give himself six months’ rest from his parish by reading with Armine, that this was to be the end of it, though I am sure there is not a man in the world to whom I am so glad to give my sister.”
“And is it not delightful to see dear old Mary? She looks younger now than ever she did in her whole life, and has broken out of all her primmy governessy crust. Oh! it has been such fun to watch it, so entirely unconscious as both of them were. Mrs. Evelyn and I gloated over it together, all the more that the children had not a suspicion. I don’t think Babie and Sydney realise any one being in love nearer our own times than ‘Waverley’ at the very latest. They received the intelligence quite as a shock. Allen said, as if they had heard that the Greek lexicon was engaged to the French grammar! It will be their first bridesmaid experience.”
“Did they miss the wedding at Kenminster?”
“Yes; Jessie’s old General chose to marry her in the depth of winter, when we could not think of going home. You know I have not been at Belforest for four years.”
“Four years! I suppose I knew, but I did not realise it.”
“Yes. You know there was the first summer, when, just as we got back to London after our Italian winter, poor Armie had such a dreadful attack on the lungs, that Dr. Medlicott said he was in more danger than when he was at Schwarenbach; and, as soon as he could move, we had to take him to Bournemouth, to get strength for going to the Riviera. I can say now that I never did expect to bring him back again! But I am thankful to say he has been getting stronger ever since, and has scarcely had a real drawback.”