Celebrations Feb 7, 2014
The gentleman watched the spectacle from a quiet corner of the chapel. It was a familiar chapel in a familiar town. But many things had changed since he had last known it. There were many new shops, new inns, and new neighborhoods which had sprung up during the interim of his absence. And now, as he sat in the back corner of this crowded chapel he knew just why.
At this moment, a magnificent lady bejeweled in the finest apparel appeared beneath the colourful stained glass windows of the chapel entrance. Collectively the congregation took in a breath at her appearance. She was stunning. She was the most beautiful creature any had ever beheld. Dressed in a fine satin gown, gilded with lace and studded with pearls, the lady’s beauty elicited the best of feelings from every onlooker.
She had stopped just behind the last pew of the room. From the gentleman’s vantage point he could see her perfectly. In the moments before the music began, he observed her profile carefully. He studied her beautiful features eagerly that he might remember and keep this moment for eternity. Sunlight caught her veil and made it sparkle in the entrance of the venerable church. Her dark hair fell in perfect ringlets placed neatly up in the shimmering veil. Her delicate hands gently held a bouquet of white lilies beaded with pearls to match the pearls which sequined her dress. The fabric was of the purest white with gold trim accenting the lace gathered at the bodice and on the shoulders. Each layer of her dress flowed expertly and fell seamlessly into the simple train that gathered behind her feet at the floor. In the midst of the dark, old chapel the lady shone like a bright star.
The only regret the gentleman had as he sat gazing from his pew was that he could not see her countenance. Guarded by the beautiful veil, the lady’s face remained hidden as she gazed out over her audience. He could not look into her bright eyes to read her emotions or comprehend her thoughts. She remained a mystery to every onlooker as she stood there glimmering in the sunlight.
After a moment of stillness, the music began and the spell was broken. The congregation released the breath it was holding and the lady deftly took the first steps toward her new future. She gracefully advanced down the isle in time to the steady rhythms of the dignified processional. She bowed her head meekly as she made her way past the dear friends and family gathered together to celebrate this delightful day.
Across from her at the other end of the church stood a man of no mean consequence facing out toward the congregation. Sir Elsey was his name, the gentleman recalled astutely. Happily, the exquisite elegance of the groom matched that of his bride’s in every way. He was finely dressed with not a hair out of place. He stood straight and tall, yet there was an ease in his manners which the gentleman perceived from across the large room. Sir Elsey stood relaxed and confident in front of the large crowd and he watched every movement of his beautiful bride with admiration and tenderness. There was an unmistakable pride in his eyes. A good pride, acknowledged the gentleman, a kind pride; one that assured every being present that his love and admiration for their dear lady exceeded all expectations and hopes. He was a good man with a kind soul, and the loved ones of the lady could not approve more of the match.
As the lady approached the altar with her father at her side, the groom greeted her with an affectionate smile. This smile turned into an animated grin as she returned the greeting. No one could see her face, yet the gentleman could imagine the exact picture of her fair countenance. He could imagine her gentle blue eyes sparkling through her veil, bright and excited and probably even a little impatient for the moments ahead. He could imagine her lips, her soft, lovely lips as they curled into a jubilant smile. He could imagine the blush of her modest cheeks, and the pulse of her stout heart as it quickened with excitement and anticipation on this momentous occasion. Though none could see, the gentleman could tell that the lady gazed steadily into her groom’s eyes. She could have been gazing into his own. He knew that look so well. For a reason the gentleman could not quite articulate, he felt his own heartbeat quicken. He stiffened in his seat and his palms grew sweaty as the bride and groom turned together towards the priest at the wedding altar.
He planted his feet firmly on the ground and clasped his hands tightly together so as not to disturb those along the pew where he was seated. As the minister began to speak, the gentleman closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm himself and his body’s strange reaction to the transpiring events. He settled back into his seat and attempted to listen to the sacred recitations of the minister.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God and in the face of this company of witnesses to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.”
The gentleman watched the lady at the altar. He watched her every movement with admiration. She was the perfect creature. And she had done well. She had built a secure and distinguished life for herself through her artwork and her talents. She had traveled the world and back and had seen things he had only read about in books. Little did she realize it, nor would her modesty ever own to it, but the gentleman knew that this lady alone had brought prosperity and prestige to her small town, and through her reputation had opened up the doors of success to all her acquaintance. In a very short time, she had, for the better, changed the face of the entire world around her. She had and would continue to make a difference in the world and be a great influence for good in the challenging times to come.
The gentleman knew all this and was proud of her. She had become exactly who he knew she would be. She had done it. And now she would be rewarded with a worthy husband and companion to love and cherish her, who would support her in all her endeavors.
“…therefore, let this estate be not entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, discreetly, soberly and in the fear of God.”
The gentleman was glad for it, and yet all the gladness in the world could not ease the ache that came suddenly and acutely to his weary heart.
“Into this Holy Estate these two persons present come now to be joined.”
O that he might be the man! The man to love her, to hold her. To make her laugh and to take away her sorrows! To know her most intimate feelings, hopes, passions, and fears. To make a family, to make a life together all their own. He had known and loved her since their childhood. The memory of the night he had ended their friendship—had cut off her connection—filled his heart with grief. That night and every day since he had been friend to anguish of the meanest sort. He wished with all his might that he could erase that painful distress. O, that he might be the one to heal her hurts, to secure her hopes, to prosper her joy!
“If any man can show just cause, why these two may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
His heart raced, his palms sweat, his feet locked in rigid defense to the desires that welled up in him now.
It was not his place.
She was not his, nor had she ever been. All the love in the world could not make her his, nor bind their lives together in such a way. It was not to be. It was not his place.
Silence filled the chapel. It lingered for a long moment. Then quietly it passed and was gone.
The minister continued to administer the wedding vows to the peerless couple at the altar.
“Do you Sir Elsey take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife…” And again, “…will you have this man to be your lawful wedded husband? Do you… Do you… To have and to hold... For better, for worse…For richer, for poorer…In sickness and in health…As long as you both shall live…shall live?”
“I do.” And again, “I do.”
“Forasmuch as these two have consented together in Holy Wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company of witnesses, and there to have given their pledge, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining hands; by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
And just like that, the deed was complete. At long last the veil was lifted from the bride’s darling face. She was just as the gentleman had imagined, though in his recall, he had not accounted for the maturity that had filled out her features over the last six years. It did not detract from her beauty, however. In his esteem it simply augmented her natural grace and pristine perfection with added wisdom and strength. As she gazed at her groom, triumph shone in her bright eyes and unblemished joy radiated from her countenance. The gentleman released a breath he had not realized he had been holding. To finally see her face was relief indeed. She had found true happiness. At this moment, that knowledge to him was worth more than gold. As he watched them, he saw the their eyes meet affectionately. Then, at the minister’s cue, the groom took his bride and kissed her tenderly in front of the delighted audience.
To the congregation the minister concluded, “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you Sir and Lady Elsey!”
The audience applauded gaily. The blissful couple turned to face front and received the attentions graciously. Led by the groom, the couple joyfully made their way down the isle. Their guests crowded in behind them and followed them through the chapel doors with cheers of approbation. Almost as quickly as it ended, the chapel was cleared leaving the gentleman alone on his pew. From where he remained, he could hear the blithe send-off from all the merry crowd outside.
It was a lively and momentous occasion and would be the talk of all the nearby towns for many months to come. It was a superb match. A happy ending for a sparkling couple.
The gentleman remained in the restful quiet of the empty chapel until the crowds outside dispersed. When only a few voices lingered, he stood, adorned his hat, and made his way to the chapel doors. There he met the minister to whom he tipped his hat with a respectful nod. The minister returned the nod and a look of faint recognition crossed his face. He couldn’t quite place the gentleman, but he seemed vaguely familiar. The gentleman acknowledged the minister’s greeting politely, and without a word stepped out from the venerable church’s shadows into the soft afternoon light.