Johanna jumped, her eyes suddenly wide, and she exclaimed to Christina, "What if killing your uncle doesn't kill the dead boy?"
"Clearly Gabriel hasn't done it yet," said Christina, though she was frowning.
"Ah!" said Trelawny. "This would be the phantasm who intends to marry you?"
Father Cyprian's eyebrows were halfway up to his hairline.
Johanna was very pale, and Crawford took a firm hold of her upper arm.
"Where is he now?" she asked.
"I showed him a pistol and he climbed away fast like a monkey up the side of this building. His arms stretch like gray rubber, don't they?"
Christina's lips were sucked in and her eyes were almost as wide as Johanna's, but she nodded jerkily. "Yes," she whispered, "they do."
"You all here for last rites?" asked Trelawny.
"A wedding," said Christina in a reproving tone.
"I'm marrying Medicus," said McKee.
"You could do worse, I suppose." He looked around the nearly empty church. "Who's to give away the bride?"
"Nobody," said McKee. "Ghosts."
"I'd be happy to do it."
Crawford and McKee both stared at the dark-faced, white-bearded old man with his permanently sneering scarred lips, and then they looked at each other.
"I suppose I have no substantial objection," said Crawford.
"I'd be pleased, thank you," said McKee.
"And," said Father Cyprian, "if any dead boy should try to interfere in the ceremony, you can show him your pistol again."
"I do that once," said Trelawny cheerfully. "Next time I blow his grinning head off."
"Don't miss," said Johanna.
"Miss!" said Trelawny, almost spitting. "Girl, I - "
"Dearly beloved!" interrupted the priest loudly; and then he went on in a conversational tone, "we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and" - with a wave toward Christabel - "in the face of this congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony."
Crawford stood up straighter and smoothed his damp hair and beard.
ALGERNON SWINBURNE HAD SEARCHED the whole of Tudor House, as well as he could - he had looked inside all the lacquered Japanese and Indian brass boxes that seemed to occupy every shelf, and peered behind all the stacked canvases, and stirred the salt and sugar jars with a knife. He had gone through every item in the drawers of the Elizabethan Spanish oak armoire in which Gabriel had once, as a joke, hidden a prized Nankin dish of Howell's. But the statue the Rossetti siblings had talked about was not to be found. He wondered fretfully how big it might be - not too big to clog an old man's throat, according to their story.
Gabriel must have it in his bedroom.
Swinburne glanced nervously toward the stairs. Gabriel suffered from insomnia, but in the mornings he did seem to be newly awake - blinking, distracted, grumpy. Perhaps he did all his actual sleeping in the few hours just before he got up, which was generally about noon.
I've got to risk it, Swinburne thought as he started up the stairs. If he awakens while I'm in his room, I'll think of some excuse for being there.
It had been a full week since horrible old Trelawny had knocked Swinburne unconscious after their hasty sword fight, and Swinburne had had no contact with Miss B. since then. He was sure the ghastly old man had succeeded in capturing her in his mirrored box - and so Swinburne needed a new patron. For these last seven days, no verses at all had sprung into his mind, and it was like being color-blind, or ... or insomniac. And there were physical effects too - during these last several days, his forehead seemed always to be damp with sweat, and his vision seemed blurred, and his hands shook no matter how much brandy he drank.
At the top of the stairs he took off his shoes and tiptoed in his stocking feet to Gabriel's bedroom door, where he very slowly turned the knob; he lifted the door against the hinges as he swung it open.
The air was stuffy and stale. The windows that overlooked the back garden were heavily curtained, and the only light was a gray radiance through a closed window in the opposite wall. Swinburne could make out the vast mantelpiece, with its ivory-and-ebony crucifix, facing the mirror on a chest of drawers on the other side of the room and, between them on the broad figured carpet, the enormous old four-post bedstead.
Gabriel's balding head could be dimly seen above the blankets, and he was breathing audibly enough for Swinburne to be confident that he was in fact asleep. Swinburne stole forward silently, peering about for Gabriel's trousers or cloak so that he could rifle the pockets.
FATHER CYPRIAN LOOKED UP from his Book of Common Prayer and said, in a stern voice that echoed among the beams of the high ceiling, "I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it."
Crawford couldn't remember if his wedding to Veronica twenty-five years ago had included this order; possibly Father Cyprian had added it specially after having dispensed with the three-week announcement of the banns.
Crawford hoped Trelawny wouldn't do anything irresponsible; but the old man made no sound.
After what Crawford thought was a rudely prolonged pause, the priest went on, "John, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?"
"I will," said Crawford strongly.
The priest turned to McKee. "Adelaide, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?"
Crawford was reassured to hear happy firmness in McKee's voice when she answered, "I will."
The priest smiled. "And," he went on, "who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"
Peripherally, Crawford saw Trelawny take McKee's arm and step forward.
"Take her from the hand of an unrepentant sinner," Trelawny whispered to Crawford.
The priest cocked an eyebrow at the old man, and Crawford restrained himself from rolling his eyes. Shut up, he thought intensely.
It occurred to him that Trelawny's statement was just reflexive bravado at finding himself on this rainy morning participating in a ritual in a Christian church; but he had mentioned sending his daughter and grandchildren to America, and seven years ago, in the cassowary cage at the London Zoo, he had said, I've been making amends for things I did in Greece, in Euboea and on Mount Parnassus, forty years ago.
And he baptized all the Mud Larks.
I don't believe, thought Crawford, that you're as unrepentant as you'd like us all to suppose, old man.
SWINBURNE FINALLY SAW GABRIEL'S trousers crumpled in the shadows by the foot of the bed - but as he began to crouch and reach for them, he saw the glass of water on the bedside table.
Something like a short black cigar was sunk in it.
He straightened very slowly, willing his knees not to pop, and took another long step forward and reached out with two fingers. The water was cold and faintly caustic, but he pinched the top of the thing - it did appear to be made of stone - and lifted it out of the glass.
And immediately he knew he had found the described statue, for he felt an alien eagerness and desperation in his mind.
Drops of water fell from it back into the glass with a sound like lightly plucked violin strings, and Swinburne closed his fist around the thing.
As carefully as he had made his way into the room, Swinburne began retracing his steps across the carpet. Now that he had hold of the thing, he was sweating with fear that Gabriel might awaken and take it away from him; but he was able to slide out through the doorway silently, and he turned and hurried down the stairs.
CRAWFORD TOOK HIS MOTHER'S ring out of his waistcoat pocket and slid it onto the fourth finger of McKee's left hand, and then, prompted by the priest, he said, "With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Trelawny yawned audibly, but when Crawford glanced at him, the old man looked away, as if interested in the framed stations of the cross paintings mounted high on the wall.
The priest was intoning some long prayer involving Isaac and Rebecca now, but Crawford was remembering Christina Rossetti saying that Trelawny had apparently "stopped in a box of mirrors" the woman he had met by moonlight in the Roman ruins of Watling Street years ago, and whom he had traveled with ever since.
Were the words of the wedding affecting him? Perhaps the love of those creatures for their victims, Crawford thought, is not always entirely unrequited.
The priest finished the prayer with "through Jesus Christ our Lord," and Crawford said "Amen" along with McKee and the priest and Christina in a pew behind them.
Father Cyprian now took Crawford's right hand and put McKee's right hand into it; she laced her warm fingers through his.
"Those whom God hath joined together," said Father Cyprian, "let no man put asunder. Forasmuch as John and Adelaide have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining of hands; I pronounce that they be man and wife together, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Crawford, McKee, Johanna, and Christina all echoed, "Amen."
"That's it," said Father Cyprian, closing his book with a snap. "Since this is a somewhat rushed ceremony, I put the parish record book and the marriage certificate in the first pew."
Crawford and McKee both signed the book, and Trelawny and Christina signed as witnesses, and when Crawford tucked the folded certificate into his waistcoat pocket, he remembered to give the priest fourteen shillings.
"Thank you," said Father Cyprian, smiling crookedly. "Bless yourselves with holy water on the way out," he advised, stepping back. "It might discourage your dead boy."
Trelawny snorted. "I'll bless him, with a silver bullet." He turned to the others. "Where do you go from here?"
"Well," said Christina a bit stiffly, "I'm going to go to my brother's house, to make sure the statue is destroyed. Thank you, uh, Reverend!" she added, speaking past him.
The four of them had begun walking down the aisle toward the doors, but Trelawny stopped and caught Christina's shoulder. "You people got it? The Polidori?"
"Yes," said Christina, frowning as she glanced at his hand. "My brother retrieved it last night. And - "
"And you want to make sure it's destroyed? It might not be?"
"Well, he ... as Adelaide noted, my brother does sleep late..."
Trelawny started for the doors again, moving faster now but still clutching Christina's shoulder.
"Where is it?" he barked as they stepped into the puddled vestibule. "Now?"
Everyone except Trelawny was snatching up coats and hats and umbrellas.
"At - at my brother's house. Really, Mr. Trelawny, I must ask you to - "
Trelawny pushed one of the doors open and pulled Christina out into the cold alley air, with Crawford and McKee and Johanna following, tugging at hats and coat sleeves.
"Are there other people at that house?"
Stray drops of rain were finding their way down between the close-set buildings, and Christina blinked and tried to open her umbrella. "My brother William slept there last night - and Algernon Swinburne may be there, he often is - "
"Swinburne!" The name was an obscenity when Trelawny spat it out. "Does he know about this, about the statue?" Trelawny was marching them up the cobbles of Bozier's Court toward the gray daylight of Oxford Street.
"No, I - " Christina hesitated. "Yes, I think he may. He was eavesdropping - "
"We're all going to that house right now," Trelawny pronounced, stepping right out into the street with Christina stumbling along beside him. She still hadn't got her umbrella open, and the rain was coming down harder than before.
Trelawny flagged a passing clarence cab by practically blocking its way, and though the driver was making some protest about being engaged to pick up some other party, Trelawny released Christina to hop up beside the man and give him some money and say something to him, and the driver grimaced unhappily but nodded.
Trelawny glanced down, his eyes blazing above his white beard. "Where is your brother's house?"
"16 Ch-Cheyne Walk, in Chelsea!"
Trelawny relayed the address to the driver, then sprang down to the pavement, yelling, "In, in!"
Johanna was the first one to scramble into the cab, and she seemed to share Trelawny's sense of urgency - she reached out to grab her father's hand and tug on it until he was sitting beside her. Trelawny was the last to step up into the cab, pushing McKee and Christina ahead of him.
The cab surged ahead as he pulled the door closed and sat down next to Crawford. Already the interior of the cab was steamy, and Trelawny smelled of cigar smoke.
"Swinburne!" Trelawny exclaimed again. "He needs it, needs your damned uncle - he's been without a vampire patron for a week."
"Swinburne?" exclaimed Christina. "He's one of - the victim of one of these - "