The Queen of Hearts HTML version

Brother Owen's Story Of The Parson's Scruple
IF you had been in the far West of England about thirteen years since, and if you had
happened to take up one of the Cornish newspapers on a certain day of the month, which
need not be specially mentioned, you would have seen this notice of a marriage at the top
of a column:
On the third instant, at the parish church, the Reverend Alfred Carling, Rector of
Penliddy, to Emily Harriet, relict of the late Fergus Duncan, Esq., of Glendarn, N. B.
The rector's marriage did not produce a very favorable impression in the town, solely in
consequence of the unaccountable private and unpretending manner in which the
ceremony had been performed. The middle-aged bride and bridegroom had walked
quietly to church one morning, had been married by the curate before any one was aware
of it, and had embarked immediately afterward in the steamer for Tenby, where they
proposed to pass their honeymoon. The bride being a stranger at Penliddy, all inquiries
about her previous history were fruitless, and the townspeople had no alternative but to
trust to their own investigations for enlightenment when the rector and his wife came
home to settle among their friends.
After six weeks' absence Mr. and Mrs. Carling returned, and the simple story of the
rector's courtship and marriage was gathered together in fragments, by inquisitive friends,
from his own lips and from the lips of his wife.
Mr. Carling and Mrs. Duncan had met at Torquay. The rector, who had exchanged houses
and duties for the season with a brother clergyman settled at Torquay, had called on Mrs.
Duncan in his clerical capacity, and had come away from the interview deeply impressed
and interested by the widow's manners and conversation. The visits were repeated; the
acquaintance grew into friendship, and the friendship into love--ardent, devoted love on
both sides.
Middle-aged man though he was, this was Mr. Carling's first attachment, and it was met
by the same freshness of feeling on the lady's part. Her life with her first husband had not
been a happy one. She had made the fatal mistake of marrying to please her parents rather
than herself, and had repented it ever afterward. On her husband's death his family had
not behaved well to her, and she had passed her widowhood, with her only child, a
daughter, in the retirement of a small Scotch town many miles away from the home of
her married life. After a time the little girl's health had begun to fail, and, by the doctor's
advice, she had migrated southward to the mild climate of Torquay. The change had
proved to be of no avail; and, rather more than a year since, the child had died. The place
where her darling was buried was a sacred place to her and she remained a resident at
Torquay. Her position in the world was now a lonely one. She was herself an only child;