William was of straight up-and-down build, with a plain and serious face but wore a striking moustache curled at the ends, his one and only vanity. Because this was his wedding day, he wore a look of plain working-man’s happiness – a look he wore most days, along with the same brown suit and celluloid collar. There was also a worried crease above his eyebrows and this the hotel maids attributed, mistakenly, to the effort of the climb.

Despite his lack of romantic bearing, he scaled the stairs with ease. William Scott possessed an inner reserve that few suspected. And his wife, whom he carried high against his chest, was hardly bigger than a child and weighed less than her petticoats. She carried her bonnet in her hands and her face was lost against his shoulder, a gesture the maids put down to love, when in truth was she exhausted, almost faint.

Zara had been married in a dress of neat poplin, lent to her by a cousin, who whispered at the wedding, “You look so beautiful in that dress, Zara, I want you to keep it.” It was blue with pink roses, their petals having the same sharp color as her cheeks. She was married reclining on a chaise lounge in the front parlor of her parents’ home, the priest agreeing under the circumstances to perform the wedding outside of church.

“Though it in no way de-sanctifies the ceremony,” he said, “or makes the vows less binding.” Stern in his black cassock, he impressed this upon all parties, especially the taciturn young groom.

William Scott was twenty-six, Zara O’Mear nineteen, and why a robust young man was marrying a dying girl was beyond anyone’s ken. In both the kind and unkind corners of his heart the priest sought for reasons. Perhaps the fellow was incomplete for marriage. Or hoped for an inheritance or reward. The O’Mear’s indulgences – a pianoforte and a gramophone in the same room – could have been interpreted as portents of wealth. Or was the young man marrying for respectability, to hide a twisted way of life?

The priest discerned there was more to this plain, meek fellow than met the eye, but he had to be content with God and William alone knowing William’s motives. Unable to find due cause against the union, the priest agreed to sanctify it with as much orthodoxy as could be observed in a stifling parlor, crammed with cousins, aunts and various friends.

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