Chapter 82503788

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Chapter NumberIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82503788
Full Date1899-11-03
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1410
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleAn Astounding Marriage
article text

Pan astounding i1;-1-. maebiagi :,;.

BY A. CORALIE STANTON,; ittthor of 'A Jealous Woman's Plot,' 'The Other Woman,' 'His Enemy's Eand.' ' : ' ''?

)c' ' ' GHAPTERnLV ? ;;

Awakening to the world again she heard '. footsteps on the stairs. The door, was ? liurst open, and Mary rushed into the Doom ; but what a Mary ! Her face was . 'White as death, her lovely hair tumbled. Trembling in every limib, she threw her self into her cousin's arms. '-??.- ? - - 'Oh, Irma, Irma, such an awful thing ihas happened! I can hardly believe

that it is the same world that I went out into!' . ' ' ??'-? 'My dear, dearest child, -what is the i matter? Wag it an accident?'' The girl stumbled to her feetj sweep ; ing her bat fromi her sunny hair. She began to pace the room, and the words fcame rushing, scarcely coherent, from ;ht;r trembling lips: ? .' : ''? 'Inna* I can scarcely think! I don't inow how to tell you. You'll never bfr - Iieve it. You will say I'm mad — dreaming! When I gob to the house ? I -was shown into ihe room — such a lovely room, all oak, black with age — { -«nd on the table was a mountain of gardenias. I was just admiring them, :breathing in their lovely scent, when ?someone seized me from behind, and, ?before I could move or scream, tied something1 over my eyes and caught hold of both my arms. I was helpless, K though I nearly tore my arms out '; struggling with him!' A-.'/ ''It was a man?' Irma breathed. ' 'A. man, yes. And then another ?; came into the room. I could not see /his face, of course, and I was too horri ]; ned to notice his voice. He told me -'they did not want to hurt ine. They ? only wanted my presence — my voice for ' ? a few minutes. They wanted, Irma — listen — they wanted to marry me to some one!' j -: 'What did you do, poor child?' \ '1 defied' them, laughed at them, told them we didn't live in the Middle Ages- and every other foolish and useless y thing that came into my head. They were very courteous. The clergyman was waiting, they said. They refused tc give me any reasons for their actions. I should not lose by it. I should never see the man again after the ceremony. 'Then I stormed, raged,, implored, threatened; but it was no good. They .dragged me into another room, and a man, I suppose he was al -clergyman, read the service. I appealed to him, but 'hte took no notice. I reminded '-'? them of their manhood, but in vain. I

refused to say the words allotted to me in -the-servkje, but they held a pistol to my head. I don't suppose they would luwefeed, but I was terribly frightened. : I spoke the responses. Irma, what Jronid yonhave done?' **i dcm't.know. I can't think, dear.' 'If- was- very soon! over. Still, with tfcc revolver held to my lead, they :it.ade jds sign my name in a boot. It ' 'wk tk- use signing a false one. They 'knevrme, it- appeared. Then they lud \JHst-inixf&s& mother room1; again, removed iftjjeHbandfcge, and put metiinto~ai-calb.' ;. 'But the man?' Irma said, With par ctoria'ble excitement. r'I didift-see him. His voice was Snaffled — I isardly heard it. I did not tee? one4 -of them!. - I 'don't rememiber *herr voices. I believe they might 1 Btarod' beside me, and I shouldn't know them!. Oh, Irma, what shall I do?

' Wky areanen so horrible — so cruel?' 'Three to one — and a clergyman;!' Inna«aid!indignantly. She raised her consinfa left hand. A! plain gold band gEtterecB on? the wedding* fmger. 'Great heavens! It isnot a dream!' sbe- eschumedi. Something white was peeping out of Jtfary's Jacket-pocket. It wag ai piece . of paper. On it yas written : - . 'Tou are free as air. You will never see me again. Do not attempt to marry againc Do: not attempt to breathe to ai soul the secret of to-day. I swear to you on my honor as a gentle man, although you; will think I have forfeited all claim to the title, that the ceremony was pferfeotly legal The clergyman) was a clergyman. He was in my power, that is all. Nothing but , . a court of law can1 annul our marriage. Farewell, beautiful unknown. You have brought freedom, to a man's soul. For the first and last time,— Your Hus band.' , ..???; i . :??-/ ' 'The brute !' was Irma's forcible com ment.'1 ' ' ?? ?? ? ./.???:'-- ? ? ? ??/'.^??v1:' ^ 'Oh, what shall I do— what can I do?' Mary wailed.' ''To W married—legally,; / married^-to^ a stfanger/'a'man I have' never seen! To have to go into court?

to rake it all out before the public, to see my name in the newspapers! I can never do it. What did he mean? Why did he do it? Why did he not choose any woman in the world but me?' 'The first thing to do is to go to the house,' Irmai said practically, stroking her cousin's fahining hair. 'Dear, what he says may not be true. I don't see' how the ceremony can be legal when you were forced into it. It is most mys terious:! The biggest ? puzzle I ever came across! Cheer up, childie: we!ll

get to the bottom of it!' ' / . But they did notv Irma -went straight to Eaton Place, aad found what she had half-expected — that No. 17 was shut up. A violent peal of the bell brought an old butler to the door, who announced solemnly that the house be-, longed to Mr. John Smith, who was away in America. ?' ; 'Shall I inform the police at once?', she asked oni her return, in her practical way, perhaps not realising the vista of humiliating horrors her proposal opened out before her abnormally sensitive cousin. ? . 'No, no; I couldn't bear it!'. Mary cried almost irritably. 'Every time I opened a newspaper I should expect- to see my own name staring me in the face, '?. with some horrible details about a 'Ro mantic Mystery of the Nineteenth Cen tury.' I should have all my friends pitying me. No; I couldn't!' , 'Then you had better forget all about it,' Irma suggested, in her most matter-of-fact tone. 'Arid always re member that a thing which never was can stand in no need of annulment. ' I shall put a fancy ease before John, and I am certain what his answer will be. He will 'say that a marriage—even if licensed by the Archbishop of Canter bury, and performed by a clergyman—, is no marriage if one of the contracting parties was the victim of force.' '? That was exactly what John Howitt did say, embellished with some legal technicalities; and he added that the perpetrator of such an elaborate prac-;

tical joke would make himself liable to a considerable term of penal servitude. 'So, you see,' Irma said to her cousin, 'the man is a liar, as well as a brute and an unconvicted felon. , Do you want to take any steps* to find out and punish him.r . ' ???' : .,. 'I never want to hear of him again.!' Mary said emphatically. 'I should die of shame if I were to meet him, face to face!' ? . ? . ?': 'Above all things, don't. make, the mistake of imagining yourself tied in any way,' Irma advised strenuously.' 'If you ever want to marry, do it. and I should like to see M. the Practical'. Joker try to offer any resistance,'; she added' belligerently. . ' . 'I shall never forget it,' Mary said despairingly. 'I shall never be happy again.' But she was young and in the pos session of the fairest gift this world-has to giye — health! and liberty, and tho. happy faculty of taking an unbounded interest in every little commonplace of life. So it was on the whole not to be wondered at, that in a month's time the extraordinary occurrence had faded into something very like a nightmare in her mind. ?