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The Waiting Supper
by [?]

While Nicholas Long was packing his bag in an upper room of this dwelling, Miss Christine Everard sat at a desk in her own chamber at Froom-Everard manor-house, looking with pale fixed countenance at the candles.

‘I ought–I must now!’ she whispered to herself. ‘I should not have begun it if I had not meant to carry it through! It runs in the blood of us, I suppose.’ She alluded to a fact unknown to her lover, the clandestine marriage of an aunt under circumstances somewhat similar to the present. In a few minutes she had penned the following note:-

October 13, 183-.

DEAR MR. BEALAND–Can you make it convenient to yourself
to meet me at the Church to-morrow morning at eight?
I name the early hour because it would suit me better
than later on in the day. You will find me in the
chancel, if you can come. An answer yes or no by the
bearer of this will be sufficient.


She sent the note to the rector immediately, waiting at a small side-door of the house till she heard the servant’s footsteps returning along the lane, when she went round and met him in the passage. The rector had taken the trouble to write a line, and answered that he would meet her with pleasure.

A dripping fog which ushered in the next morning was highly favourable to the scheme of the pair. At that time of the century Froom-Everard House had not been altered and enlarged; the public lane passed close under its walls; and there was a door opening directly from one of the old parlours–the south parlour, as it was called–into the lane which led to the village. Christine came out this way, and after following the lane for a short distance entered upon a path within a belt of plantation, by which the church could be reached privately. She even avoided the churchyard gate, walking along to a place where the turf without the low wall rose into a mound, enabling her to mount upon the coping and spring down inside. She crossed the wet graves, and so glided round to the door. He was there, with his bag in his hand. He kissed her with a sort of surprise, as if he had expected that at the last moment her heart would fail her.

Though it had not failed her, there was, nevertheless, no great ardour in Christine’s bearing–merely the momentum of an antecedent impulse. They went up the aisle together, the bottle-green glass of the old lead quarries admitting but little light at that hour, and under such an atmosphere. They stood by the altar-rail in silence, Christine’s skirt visibly quivering at each beat of her heart.

Presently a quick step ground upon the gravel, and Mr. Bealand came round by the front. He was a quiet bachelor, courteous towards Christine, and not at first recognizing in Nicholas a neighbouring yeoman (for he lived aloofly in the next parish), advanced to her without revealing any surprise at her unusual request. But in truth he was surprised, the keen interest taken by many country young women at the present day in church decoration and festivals being then unknown.

‘Good morning,’ he said; and repeated the same words to Nicholas more mechanically.

‘Good morning,’ she replied gravely. ‘Mr. Bealand, I have a serious reason for asking you to meet me–us, I may say. We wish you to marry us.’

The rector’s gaze hardened to fixity, rather between than upon either of them, and he neither moved nor replied for some time.

‘Ah!’ he said at last.

‘And we are quite ready.’

‘I had no idea–‘

‘It has been kept rather private,’ she said calmly.

‘Where are your witnesses?’

‘They are outside in the meadow, sir. I can call them in a moment,’ said Nicholas.

‘Oh–I see it is–Mr. Nicholas Long,’ said Mr. Bealand, and turning again to Christine, ‘Does your father know of this?’