|Chapter Title||A PROXY WEDDING.|
|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||Half Round the World to Find a Husband. A Comedy of Errors|
Chapter IL— A Proxy Wedding.
The hours flew by that winter day with breathless qnickneu. Before she could realise that she was chief actor in a fraud, Nan found herself dressed in a new blue silk gown, belonging to Anita, with a thick lace mantilla thrown over her head and face, after the fashion of an English bride. Being a right-minded girl, she had tried to realise the situation ; but only the old refrain chimed in her ears : -** Something new, some thine blue ? '
What was the third thing of the rhyme f It worried Nan among other and important thoughts that she could not remember it. Miss MacTagne, who was dressing the bride, giggled. ' I can't see your nose even. It is lucky that I chose this blue dress, for white would attract more attention, and it is better after all to keep this little wedding quiet. Now, people will only think you are a young lady going to the theatre. How I wish I couldsee the fun* too. ' ?' It is too bad of you to back out of being bridesmaid,' expostulated Nan, frightened at her fellow conspirator's desertion in the hoar of trial. ' Indeed, dear, I am so sorry,' lamented Anita, though with sparkling eyes, 'but otherwise it would be too great a risk. If we stood together the difference might be noticed in our figures. Even ? the Bishop * might see. Hush ! . . Here she comes.' Miss Ward entered at that moment, peering before her blindly as usual. The lady, indeed, looked not unlike a dignitary of the Church, for she wore a remarkably short and skimped dark skirt, high black gaitera, and a wide hat. 'Now, my dear Miss MacTague, it is time to start for the ceremony. Are yon quite ready ? Miss Montague, I regret to bear of your severe headache.' Anita had prostrated herself with prompti tude on the bed, and laid her handkerchief over her eyes. ' She ia steel eel,' murmured Nan, blushing at her own first frightful attempt at deception, and tiembling in her blue satin shoes. ' Lei us not be late,' A quarter of an hour later, the false bride and her caretaker entered the hotel sitting room, where a little group awaited them. Captain Goodman, of the s-s. Yarrow, came forward with a fatherly air. ' And how are you, Senorita. I am proud to be commissioned by ray old friend, Don Pedro, your father, to give you away first, and then to take care of you u'l) I hand you over to the safe keeping of Don Edoardo, your husband.' He added apologetically, ' As to the proxy husband, my own officers ureall so busy, you see, and enjoying themselves on shore with their friends. I meam to ask the doctor aa & steady married man, but he Uas thrown me over, so at the last moment I bave got a passenger, a very nice fellow. He uas promised not to Bay a word, as yoq do not wish to travel as a married lady. Mr. Bryan, let me introduce you.1' Nan bowed, and through her thick veil
distinguished a pair of eager eyes, trying vainly to dart their gaze through the meshes of the Spanish lace. ' If I may have the honour, I hope £ am enough of a gentleman to keep a lady's secret,' said the passenger in a deep-cheated voice, that echoed from the furniture around. The thought flashed through Nan's con fused brain, that it was tike the sound pro duced by tapping on a drum with the tips of one's fingers ; she also had an impression that her proxy husband was a tall supple young man, never quiet a Bectmd, bat continually smiling, turning, bowing, or shooting glances at the bystanders. Then the priest came forward, and eome kind of ceremony began. To her dying day Ann Montague could not remember a word ox those that pattered against her eara like hail, though the sense never reached her brats. How terribly cold it was ! She quaked from head to foot, and felt rather sick. Then her icy hand was taken in a warm clwp, and her fingers were, yes, sorely eqaoezed. The pseudo bride blushed hotly under her shelter ing veO, and modestly tried to withdraw from the touch, which she was ashamedly con scious produced a pleasing sense in her terrified mind. Now came the last and worst moment of the ordeal. 'Senorita, will yon please sign your name here 1' said Captain Goodman, in a ringing voice, wbich being used to make itBelf beard among winds and waves, was audible through the storm buttling in Ann's souL ' Why, how your hand is trembliDg. The last a in your name *»?«., might be nothing bot a twist, and the Mac loots very queer. There, there ! Never mind ; it will do ; a stifled sob was audible from the veiled bride. (' Oh ! my goodness, is it a forgery ?' the on happy Nan was asking herself in bitter dismay. Well, the had really written Ann Montague, her own name ; and not Anna MacTague.) Then followed some congratulations ; an awkwardly playfol attempt on Hiss Ward's part to raise the bride's veil, which the Utter firmly resisted ; a kind hand-shake from the Captain ; a longer respectful pressure of her fingers by the passenger, Mr. Biyan— and it was over. Mi' Ward, having conducted her charge op- otaire, to a handsome hotel bedroom, embraced the supposed Chilian ^wtntml with a secret sense of deliverance, wished her farewell, a good voyage, and much happiness ; uttering a Quasi fpiscopal blessinfi!. Ann was left alone ; but not for long. The door opened and Anita danced ingailv. ' Bless you '. bless you !' she cried, kissing her friend on either cheek, anil folding her in a delighted hug. ?? Oh ! I have such a secret to tell you. Can you guess? I have just been married, too.' 'Married, bit how conld you! Why, you told me that to-morrow—— 'Yes! yes! but we could not wait. Weellie and I thought it would be such fun, so we havej os t got married too at the Registrar's Office. He is waiting for me outside ; I thought I must just come in and say good-bye to my dear Nanicita, and to bless yon. Only fancy oar both being married at the same time.' Anita executed a caper. 'Both of us married 1 But I am not '.' 'Yea I yes ! you are. When you see Don. Edoardo, please tell him to bless me forgiving him a better wife than I should have been.' ' I am not going to Chili ! And I shall dot see Don Edoardo ! and**— with a cry of en treaty and apprehension ? ** and what do you mean ?' '? 1 -iptpn, my dear Ann,' said Anita, suddenly composing herself to an air of intense earnestness. ' I am going to speak to you seriously, like youi best friend. Yon are handsome, even handsomer than I am, and sympathetic ; but poor, and too gentle to Ret on in life, onlessyoa are well taken care of. You think to return to your aunt's house, who will tyrannise over yon, and starve you. And yon will never meet anyone in that dull country life, bnt a fat farmer, or a hungry corate, so that you will wither away. Now I tell you that a rich hus band is far better ; and I, I, I have got you one, besides getting a handsome young one for my* self.' (Anita flipped out her handkerchief and waved it while executing some steps, forgetting gravity. ) ' Your passage ia paid to Chili, and there are the dressess ! I will make you a handsooie gift of all of them, except the white satin, dearest, and thatdiickofafeather bonnet. Do not thank me, it is not much considering what you have done for me, besides they are made with high necks, and I want mine low cut for the Indies. The boxes are going on board, all marked witb your new name. Farewell ! Senorita Fullmer.' Anita frail tj Hl^ur n ti«n nnd .tibIiai? tsi rha
door. ** Bnt wait— listen — Anita ! AuiU *.' Nan, recovering from a dazed state of astonishment, sprang wildly after the retreating fieute. But the door closed in her face, and the key tnrned in the lock outside. Then Anita's laughing voice sounded in * whisper through the key-hole. ' Adieu, dearest ! So sorry to leave you