Their reappearance was eagerly expected; in silence at first, but presently in loud and multitudinous whispers.
At this moment a young lady, with almost perfect features and sylph-like figure, modestly dressed in dove-coloured silk, but with a new chip bonnet and white gloves, entered a pew near the west door, and said a little prayer; then proceeded up the aisle, and exchanged a word with the clerk, then into the vestry.
"Cheep! cheep! cheep!" went fifty female tongues, and the arrival of the bridegroom's sister became public news.
The bride welcomed her in the vestry with a sweet guttural of surprise and delight, and they kissed one another like little tigers.
"Oh, my darling Jane, how kind of you! have I got you back to make my happiness complete?"
Now none of her own party had thought it wise to tell Julia there was any hitch: but Miss Hardie blurted out naturally enough, "But where's Alfred?"
"I don't know, dear," said Julia innocently. "Are not he and Edward in another part of the church? I thought we were waiting till twelve o'clock, perhaps. Mamma dear, you know everything; I suppose this is all right?"
Then, looking round at her friends' faces, she saw in a moment that it was all wrong. Sampson's, in particular, was burning with manly indignation, and even her mother's discomposed, and trying to smile.