the second, the Colonel cried, tiptoeing down the aisle.
the Colonel babbled. My fiancée didnt have the proper
attire. She is not much for fashion. Bit of a Jenny-One-Note. Simple girl
really. Love and pity spring from the same root, I often think. Found
her on the street corner, I did. But enough of that. A diamond in the
rough. Several hundred diamonds, I should say, how much she is worth,
Finch said, are you all right? You seem very excited.
Well I am! I
am! Its the...culmination! He found the word, Lord knows how
long it had lain there, and held it up triumphantly. The culmination
of my entire life.
And what am
I to do?
Stand by my
side. The Colonel came to attention. Here, take the ring.
Just a bauble I found, a trinket, until we pass a proper jewellers.
They slide along
curtain rods, dont they? I used to work holidays in my uncles
Yes, well just
hand it to me at the proper moment, the Colonel whispered hastily,
seeing the door to the right of the altar open. Wouldnt have
a bottle of spirits in your pocket, would you? No? Just as well.
There was no music.
The vicar, after having been introduced to Lutwidge, in turn presented
his daughter, who was to act as the other witness. The party assembled
themselves, then looked expectantly to the vestry.
vicar called gently.
A tall, thin woman
in an ill-fitting home-sewn wedding gown emerged. She held a simple bouquet.
Though she wore a veil, her features were quite visible beneath the gauze.
With hesitant, uncertain steps, she walked down the transept and took
her place beside the Colonel.
the vicar began. We have come together this day to witness and bless
the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony, a state
not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, deliberately,
and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
I have never been
so envious of another man, Lutwidge discovered, looking at the Colonel,
imagining his happiness. I would be him, if given the chance.
As he listened, the
creaking of the churchs front door made him glance back ever so
briefly. Inspector Jenkins had been following him. He sat in the last
pew, unobtrusive as always, like those spiders who wait on the outskirts,
rather than the center, of their web.
Do you, Jonathan,
take this woman to be your wife, to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, all the days of your life?
the Colonel said.
Finch turned his attention
to the bride. Nan. The same name as the Reverend Belchers
missing sweetheart. Could she be...? So much had happened to him today.
The letter, its perfumed barb working its way deeper and deeper into his
heart. Then the irony of being present at anothers wedding. The
black carriage. Inspector Jenkins suspicious reappearance...
And do you,
Nan, take this man to be your husband, to honor and obey him from this
day forward, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and
in health, to love and to cherish, all the days of your life?
...now this strange
apparition of a bride, who looked remarkably like...
he said without thinking.
She turned and frowned.
It was as if a key had been inserted, the tumblers lined up, and the bolt
suddenly clicked back. Her posture, manner, regard, all changed in the
blink of an eye.
she said, in a voice perhaps half an octave lower.
You are not
Am I? I suppose
If you dont
mind, the Colonel said, we are right in the middle of something
Nan looked at the
balding, portly man standing opposite her, then at the bouquet of posies
she held, and, by natural progression, her own dress.
Sweet Lord Jesus
Christ, he said--for it was, in fact, Bradley Ghoulrich, --what
am I doing in white muslin?
Finch could not help but smile, despite the shock.
The hell you
say! Not to this cretin, surely?
Could we take
that for a yes? the Colonel asked hopefully, sensing
the collapse of his plans.
My dear young
lady, the vicar scolded.I will not have the name of the Savior
taken in vain, particularly on Holy Ground.
It is Mr. Young
Lady to you, Ghoulrich said haughtily, letting his bouquet drop.
the Colonel tried explaining, mopping his brow. Shell be all
right. Perhaps if you gave us a minute alone.
And who is he?
Ghoulrich demanded, noting Inspector Jenkins, curious at the commotion,
now coming up the aisle.
Finch said, is the man who told me you were dead. He has been asking
all sorts of questions about you, about your activities and associates.
said, dispensing with the veil as well. I remember everything now.
If he finds me, I fear I will be far worse off than dead. There is real
evil afoot in the land, Lutwidge.
we should leave it.
Colonel cried, as Finch and Ghoulrich ran through the chancel and out
the side door of the church. Dont go, Nan! I love you!
to be continued . . .