A Marriage By Capture
How a Summer Tourist Became Entangled With a Determined Heiress and a Big Auto Car Which Resulted in his Being Carried Off an Unwilling Victim.
E. R. Punshon in the Idler Magazine.
LAWRENCE SAXBY had ridden his bicycle up to the top of the hill; at the summit he dismounted, partly to
rest and partly to enjoy the view. In front of him stretched the wide, solitary moor, with not a soul or a habitation in sight, only the white, winding track of the road going endlessly on and on till it became lost in the misty distance. Behind him at the foot of the hill, and almost hidden by a fold in the ground, was the comfortable little Scotch hotel where he had already spent a pleasant three weeks’ holiday, fishing and sketching. The only other dwelling visible was Horn House, some distance across the moor on his left. This was a small modern building, at present in the occupation of Miss Egmont, a South African heiress. Saxby had seen her on different occasions rushing about the moors in the great white motor-car which she always drove herself. Whenever he had met her Saxby noticed that she always seemed to survey him with peculiarly marked disapproval. He fancied this might be because he had done some sketching near her house, when she might possibly have considered her privacy intruded upon. He decided that, for his part, he did not like big. fair women, and made up his mind that when he married he would choose a small, dark girl.
While he lingered admiring the view, he saw Miss Egmont’s big car issue from Horn House. It seemed to be coming his way, and not being particularly anxious to meet the scowling regard of its young owner, Saxby mounted his bicycle and rode away.
• The approaching clamor of the big car warned him that he was being rapidly over-
taken. Glancing carelessly over his shoulder, he noticed the car contained, as usual, Miss Egmont and her elderly companion. Miss Carton. To his complete amazement, as it neared him, the car suddenly left the track, and, swerving to the right, circled twice round him, thundering over the level moor like a war chariot of old. Lawrence slowed down, and, balancing himself on his cycle, gaped at the circling car, turning his head to follow its swoop as it rushed round him. His first idea was that Miss Egmont had lost control of the machine, and he wondered what he could do to be of assistance ; but when the car came to a standstill at a little distance, he realized that he was wrong in this surmise. Miss Egmont called out to him :
“Mr. Lawrence Saxby, I believe?”
“That is my name,” the young man answered. much bewildered, and mechanically raised his cap.
“You are wanted at Horn House,” continued the lady.
“Wanted?” queried Lawrence. “May I ask what I am wanted for?”
“To be married,” she replied, in a calm, even voice.
“I beg your pardon,” said Lawrence, smiling politely, and certain he had not heard aright.
“To be married,” she repeated. “I think you understand very well what I said.”
Saxbv gazed round him. lie surveyed the silent moor and lie blinked at the uninterested sky.
“But. my dear young lady.” he said, softly and patiently, as one would speak to an unreasonable child, “I assure you I have not the least wish to be married.”
“Very likely not,” she answered, in the
same matter-of-fact tone, “but, you see it is not a question of what you want, but of what I want.”
The young man fairly fell from his bicycle in astonishment. He had been holding his machine at a standstill during this brief conversation ; and now in sheer bewilderment at the extraordinary observation of this most extraordinary young woman, he lost his balance and he and the bicycle went over in a heap. When he had picked himself up, he said, feebly:
“If this is intended for a joke-”
“I \?as never more in earnest,” said Aliss Egmont grimly ; “and you may as well consent with a good grace-”
“Do you intend—if I may venture to inquire,” said Saxby, with irony, “to marry me whether I like it or not?”
“Whether you like it or not,” said Aliss Egmont, echoing his words. She spoke seriously and seemed very much in earnest. “Fortunately, we are in Scotland, and a simple declaration before witnesses is all that is needed. That declaration you will return with me to Horn House and make before the proper witnesses.”
“I shall do nothing of the sort,” affirmed Saxby, becoming nettled.
“I have fully made up my mind,” said Aliss Egmont, grimly. “I shall listen to no excuse or refusal.”
“Good heavens !” groaned the young man in desperation. “She's certainly mad.” “Alad or not mad,” observed Aliss Egmont, cheerfully, “it doesn't affect the present question. Are you coming, or will you compel me to use force, for come you must ?”
“I am sorry,” said Saxby, regretfully : “but I have no time to spare just now, and I must therefore bid you good-day with my best wishes for your speedy recovery.” “You choose to be insolent,” said Aliss Egmont, coldly, “but I warn you I'm not to be trifled with.”
Deciding to waste no further time with this fair madwoman, Lawrence lifted his cap again.
“Aladam,” he said, “I have the honor to inform vou that I am a confirmed bachelor.”
With that he mounted his bicycle and proceeded to ride away. Without speaking, Aliss Egmont put her huge machine in motion and thundered down on him. Fiad he not leaped from his saddle with consider-
able agility, Lawrence would certainly have been run down ; as it was, his bicycle was smashed into fragments. For several yards the giant machine rushed on. Then it swerved, turned, and came roaring back like some fierce monster seeking its prey. Saxby had to jump and leap his quickest to avoid it, or he would have shared the fate of his bicycle ; as it was the mudguard knocked him over, without seriously hurting him, however, for the car seemed to swerve away from him at the critical moment. Then it rushed on and came to a standstill at a little distance. Saxby, in a rage of fear and bewilderment, stood in the middle of the road, and shook his fist at his assailant, while he shouted :
“Alad, mad ! You are quite mad, madam, quite-”
"No,'' Aliss Egmont answered, in level tones, “I am not at all mad. I am only determined you shall marry.”
Saxby looked around him helplessly. He felt the situation was much too dangerous to trifle with, although it was absurd, unheard of, and so preposterous that he had an idea he was dreaming; in truth, his mind seemed in such chaos that he felt it was a mere toss-up which of the two, he or Aliss Egmont, was really sane. That one or other was demented he had now no doubt whatever.
“Are you coming?” Aliss Egmont asked.
Saxby made up his mind to shut his eyes and count fifty. To do this in comfort he sat down by the side of his shattered bicycle. The manoeuvre appeared to puzzle Aliss Egmont, who looked at him doubtfully. Fier companion, Aliss Carton, said to her :
“Kate, you must be careful; do not go too far. Suppose you drive the poor man out of his senses?”
“No fear of that,” returned Aliss Egmont ; yet a certain uneasiness had become apparent in her manner, which Saxby was quick to recognize.
“A mad husband would be a terrible calamity for any woman,” remarked Aliss Carton.
“Fie is not mad.” returned Aliss Egmont. “At any rate, mad or sane, I mean to see the affair through,” she concluded.
“But will it be le 'al?” Aliss Carton persisted. “Will the i^arriage be legal if you force him into it like this?”
“Oh, perfectly,” returned Aliss Egmont,
with decision. “I have had legal opinion on it, you know.”
“Well, I suppose you are right,” murmured Miss Carton, irresolutely, “but it seems highly irregular. I wouldn’t care to marry a man in such a way. ’
Saxby, his counting finished, rose to his feet. He felt calmer now, though just a trifle disappointed to lind Miss Egmont and her white car still palpable, living realities. Having made up his mind that this incomprehensible, unparalleled situation must be dealt with coolly, he turned to AI iss Egmont, and said, politely:
“I beg your pardon.”
There he halted, unable to continue, his mind blank of the convincing words it had held ready a moment before.
“Have you made up your mind to come and be married without any more fuss?” inquired Miss Egmont, briskly, “for married this day you must be,” said this astounding woman.
Lawrence gasped ; then he shouted at the top of his voice :
‘T11 see you hanged before I marry you !”
“What are you saying?” exclaimed Miss Egmont excitely, now gasping in her turn, as if she also experienced a disagreeable sensation.
Saxby began to fear he had spoken too abruptly and harshly. After all, her situation demanded some sympathy, and he felt he should have been less emphatic. Falling back on reason once again, he said in a mild and gentle voice.
“My dear young lady, I am really sorry that it is impossible for me to accept the high honor you so graciously offered me. Believe me, no one could appreciate better —if I may so far venture—the true kindness of your heart. The fortunate' man who will be so happy as to win your hand will be the object of my deepest envy.”
“If that doesn’t fetch her, nothing will,” said Lawrence to himself, when he had finished.
Miss Egmont listened to him with eyes that opened slowly to their widest. By the time he ceased speaking, she might have been fairly described as all eyes. Suddenly she snapped out:
“Are you mad or merely insolent?”
“That is what I have been trying to decide about you,” exclaimed Saxby, pleased
to have hit upon some common ground of intercourse.
“What—what do you mean?” stammered Miss Egmont, with much less composure.
“I mean,” declared the goaded Lawrence, "that I won’t marry you at any price—that I'll be shot before I marry you!” he concluded, becoming angry again.
Miss Egmont shrieked, while Miss Carton showed signs of extreme agitation.
The young man was aware of this and felt glad he had at last made his position clear. He even began to be conscious of a feeling of something like sympathy. Miss Egmont, undoubtedly, was very handsome; very rich, too, he supposed, tie wondered whether lie had been quite wise or even gentlemanly in his refusal. Ought one to refuse a lady anything? But when the lady’s methods were so energetic, what could one do? Lawrence had heard of marriage by capture, but he had understood the capturing was always on the other side, which seemed to him an infinitely preferable arrangement. At this stage in his musing, küss Egmont cried out shrilly:
“Do you dare to pretend to believe I was asking you to marry me?”
“Well,” said the young man, pacifically, “I cannot imagine the question put in plainer language.’
“Wretch !” shrieked AI iss Egmont, wildly. “I didn't mean myself. Oh, you horrid creature! You know quite well I never meant myself !”
“Well,” said Lawrence, in half-amused tones, “were you asking me home to tea?”
“Xo,” said AI iss Egmont, in a freezing voice, “but you knew I did not mean you were to marry nie, but——”
“Whom, then, did you mean me to marry?” Lawrence asked curiously as she paused.
“Elizabeth,” she answered.
“And who, pray, is Elizabeth?” Lawrence pursued.
“Mv cook,” said Miss Egmont sternly, recovering her previous calm.
“Thank von so much.” replied Lawrence, now pale with fury. “I do not, however, wish to marry your cook.”
He experienced a passing wonder as to why Miss Egmont should wish him to marrv her cook, but he disdained to ask further explanations, so lifted his cap once more.
“I have the honor to wisih you good day,”
he said. “You shall hear through my solicitor concerning the destruction of my bicycle."
He turned to walk away. Miss Egmont called to him. but he took no notice. She called again, and he still walked on. Then she set her great machine in motion and once more thundered down upon him. He tried to ignore her, but it required more nerve than Saxby possessed to pretend indifference to a forty horse-power car charging full tilt upon him. He jumped aside and the steel monster rushed over the ground where he had been. Then Miss Egmont sent the car leaping back at him. Evidently. it was her intention to so rush and charge him that he would be forced to move in the direction of Horn House; she meant, it was plain, to hustle him there as a sheep-dog drives poor silly sheep in the right direction. But Lawrence was as grimly determined he would not go, and the third charge he tried to face without swerving, confident she would not deliberately strike him. The car did swerve, but Lawrence still found it singularly unpleasant to have the thing rush past him so near that the mere wind of it nearly upset him. The car stopped again, and Miss Egmont called out to him once more:
“Are you coming to marry Elizabeth?”
“Xo!” cried Lawrence again, shaking his fist, and thoroughly enraged at the girl. “I am not coming,” he shouted furiously.
Miss Egmont smiled grimly and charged him once more. Turning, he set off to run, but almost the first step he took was into a rabbit-hole, and he rolled over, striking his head a severe blow.
Saxby realized that he had been unconscious only when he became aware of a curious pain in his head. Then he realized a restraint about his hands that made him unable to raise them as he wished. He lay for some minutes quietly blinking at the sky; then he felt his head lifted very softly and gently, while something cool and refreshing was laid upon his brow. Beginning to see more clearly, he thought the face of an angel was tenderly bent over him, until, with a shock, he realized this face was Miss Egmont’s. By an effort he sat upright, and, gazing round, saw the great white car with Miss Carton still sitting impassively in it. Then he discovered that his hands were tightly bound together
with strong cord, the ends of which were
secured to his ankles. He had scarcely assimilated this discovery when lie found that another and stouter cord attached him to the motor car.
“Oh. I say!" he protested, struggling to free himself. “This is going too far!”
“Perhaps,” observed Miss Egmont, watching his struggles with satisfied interest, “perhaps you realize you would have done better to come quietly.”
“Undo me, woman! Do you hear?” he shouted. “This is an outrage! Undo me, or—or I'll-''
“Yes?" she asked with quiet concern and such a pitying smile for his helplessness that Saxby hated her more than ever.
“How I should enjoy shaking you,” said Lawrence, yearningly, still struggling with his bonds.
“Are you certain,” inquired Miss Egmont's companion, in a frightened whisper, “that he is quite secure?”
“Oh. lie's secure enough,” answered Miss Egmont, as she took her seat in the car. “We used to tie Kaffirs who turned nasty in that way.”
“You madwoman!" shouted Lawrence, suddenly ceasing his struggles. “What are you going to do?"
“I am going to start the car," said Miss Egmont, quietly. “You can run behind, ride, or be towed along, as you prefer.”
Saxby decided to ride.
When they reached Horn House, a stout voung woman with red hair and a freckled face stood at the door. She watched the approaching car with considerable interest.
“Well, Elizabeth,” said Miss Egmont cheerily, as she drew up, “you see' I’ve got him.”
“Yes, Miss,” the girl said, dropping a curtsey. “Thank you kindly, miss, for all your trouble.”
“And you still wish to marry him?” Miss Egmont questioned.
“If you’ve no objection, Miss,” replied Elizabeth, with another curtsey.
“Then the sooner the better,” said Miss Egmont benevolently.
Saxby thought it time to protest again. Lie was not yet so reduced in spirit as to submit in silence to be married to a stout, red-haired young woman in this summary way.
“The sooner this ridiculous farce is ended-" he began.
“It is not a ridiculous farce,” interrupted
Miss Egrnont, looking pained; “il is solemn earnest. Isn’t it, Elizabeth?”
“Indeed it is, Miss,” said Elizabeth, “which, the minister says, as marriage always is.”
In a fresh access of fury Lawrence tried once more to free his hands, but his efforts were in vain; Miss Egrnont had not spent the early years of her life on the veldt for nothing; she bade him remain quiet as his efforts would prove fruitless.
“Are you going to be sensible?" she asked, “or must I resort to still more drastic measures to bring you to reason?” As the young man made no answer, she added : “Turning sulky, are you? That won’t help you. You have been making love to Elizabeth for three months.”
“Does it amuse you to make so untruthful a statement?” Saxby asked. “Of course, you know I have never seen the woman in my life before.
For a moment Miss Egrnont looked doubtful.
"You are Lawrence Saxby,” she affirmed, rather than asked. Then she turned to Elizabeth. “This is the man? You are sure it is the man, Elizabeth?"
“Yes, Miss,” said Elizabeth, with another curtsey.
“Do you dare deny”—here Miss Egmont turned savagely on Lawrence—“that for three months you have been promising marriage to Elizabeth, and that, on the strength of your promises, you have borrowed all her savings ?”
“Go on, woman, go on ! Let me hear some more,” roared Lawrence.
€40 16s. 4jjd.," said Elizabeth, mournfully, “not to mention a gold brooch and a necklace of coral beads.”
“You are mad to believe such nonsense, such utter nonsense.” said Lawrence, as composedly as he could.
“Now, what is the use of keeping up this pretence?” cried Miss Egrnont. “I have seen you myself hanging about. I inquired at tbe hotel and they told me Lawrence Saxby was staying there. If you think you can treat any woman, especially one I am interested in. in that wav, you are mistaken, Mr. Lawrence Saxby. You promised to marry her, and marry her you shall.”
“I shall not marry her,” said Saxbv, pale and determined. “Títere is only one worse fate I can imagine.”
“What is that?” incautiously asked Miss Egrnont.
“ l'o marry you," said Lawrence, with a shudder.
Miss Egrnont raised her head very high and went very red. Then she started her car. Lawrence had a wild desire to resist, but a forty horse-power motor is not to be denied, and Miss Egrnont drove it into the garage, taking no further notice of her unhappy prisoner. She left him there alone with the car, carefully locking the door behind her as she went out.
Lawrence sat in the car and wondered what would be the end of his adventure. Miss Egrnont was undoubtedly a very determined young woman, but he laughed at the possibility of her success in marrying him to Elizabeth. He was deep in consideration of the situation, when the door was unlocked and Elizabeth herself came in.
“She says,” observed tbe girl, after she had locked the door and sat down opposite Saxby, “she says as I’m to try to get you into a more willing frame of mind.”
“You know I never took your money or promised to marry you; you Jezebel!”
“Oh, of course,” said Elizabeth, composedly, “but another young man did, and it’s all one to me as long as someone pays.”
“Who was the man?” Saxhy demanded, containing his fury as best he could.
“One of the waiters as was at the hotel,” replied Elizabeth. “He took your name, thinking it smarter like than his own, what was jimmy Pigg. P>ut she thinks as he was you, and she’s terrible fixed once she gets anything into her head.”
“But you can explain—you must tell the truth !” cried Lawrence firmly.
“T was never one to make a fuss,” said Elizabeth, “and it’s—as T said—all one to me. whether it’s you or him, so long as it’s some one.”
This appeared to be a state of mind that required less of argument and more of dogmatism, the young man thought, so he
“Well, I won't marry you, and that’s flat.”
“She says you will,” mused Elizabeth, “and it’s fair astonishing how she do manage to get her own way; it’s very like she’ll manage this, little as you may think it at present.”
“What sent your mistress racing after me in that mad way this morning?V
“ Twas he,” answered Elizabeth. “Jimmy Pigg sent me a letter saying as he was leaving me for ever, an’ it was no use my followin’ of ’im, and just as I was a-reading it I saw you on your bicycle at the top of the hill. I thought you was Pigg, so I went off into hysterics and she went oft" to fetch you—which seemingly she did,” Elizabeth added, thoughtfully. “Ah, she’s a rare one to get her own way,” continued the girl. “What shall I tell her about us? As how you're willin’? It’s the simplest way,” argued Elizabeth.
“No,” §houted Saxby, “it is not the simplest way, but I’ll give you a sovereign to tell her I’m not the genuine Pigg.”
“Well, a sovereign’s a sovereign,” observed Elizabeth, philosophically; “but I hate contradicting her when she’s set on a thing.”
While she still hesitated, the door opened again, and Miss Egmont came in.
“Well,” she inquired pleasantly, “have you two come to an agreement yet?”
“I’ll make it two sovereigns,” said Saxby, in a low voice.
“All right,” agreed Elizabeth, placidly. Then, raising her voice to address her mistress, she continued, “Begging your pardon, Miss, he says as I’m to tell you as he ain’t the genuine Pigg.”
“What do you mean?” inquired Miss Egmont.
Elizabeth explained, and Saxby soon began to reap satisfaction for some of his wrongs, as he witnessed the varying emotions of horror and dismay chase each other over Miss Egmont’s expressive countenance.
“Why didn’t you tell me this at once?” she faltered.
“Lor’ Miss,” said the girl, reproachfully, “it wasn’t for the likes o’ me to contradice the likes o’ you.”
“Oh !” said Miss Egmont, faintly.
“Besides,” added Elizabeth, with a magnificent neutrality, “it was all one to me.”
“Go!” said Miss Egmont; and something in her tone caused Elizabeth to vanish swiftly.
Turning to Saxby, she stammered, “I don’t know what to-” and then she col-
lapsed into silence.
“Please, Miss Egmont, you won’t insist on mv marrying Elizabeth now,” begged the young man, with a touch of humor in his inflection.
"Of course not,” said Miss Egmont, quite humbly. “You have the right to say anything to me,” she added, leaning against the car in confusion.
“Should you mind undoing me?” Lawrence asked.
She began to loosen his bonds. Her proximity the young man foundso unexpectedly pleasant that he was glad the knots about his wrists proved obstinate. He noticed how great was her agitation and how valiantly she fought to control it, so he said, somewhat awkwardly:
“You mustn't think I mind, really, Miss Egmont. Now that it’s all cleared up, I shall think of it as merely a good joke, you know.”
Miss Egmont answered nothing, but when she had freed his hands, she suddenly burst into tears.
“Don’t—please don’t !” entreated Lawrence, rising from his seat to console her, but he astonished himself by pitching forward on his hands and knees.
“Oh, I say,” he exclaimed ; “my ankle is hurt.”
“What is it?” cried Miss Egmont, starting up.
“I must have hurt my ' ankle when I stepped into the rabbit-hole,” he said ruefully; “it has been painful ever since. It’s just a strain, you know, but I’m afraid I can’t walk.”
It was a fortnight before he could set his foot to ground again, and during that time no man ever had a more penitent, devoted nurse.
The details concern no one, but six months later the cards were out for the wedding. “An’ to think it might ha’ been me !” Elizabeth sighed, reflectively.
Miss Egmont nearly broke the engagement when Lawrence suggested that it would be symbolical, if on their wedding morning she drove to the church in her car with himself bound by cords beside her. And sometimes he teases his wife by declaring that his was a “Marriage by Capture.”'