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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (24th Installment)

January 10, 2019 11:13AM
PART TWENTY-FIVE

As he promised all those weeks ago (weeks ago, subjectively; objectively it was only minutes ago), O’Brian stayed to dinner. Tommy usually ate with his mother, but generally ate away from the main dining room with his nurse when company was dining. Tonight, though, he got the very great treat of being able to share a meal with the company. And, that the company was O’Brian made him all the more pleased with this special privilege.

What pleased him most of all, of course, was that he was the first to be informed of the betrothal between his mother and O’Brian.

“Then you will be my papa?” he asked O’Brian.

“Sure will.”

“Will I call you ‘papa’ now?”

“I’d be very proud if you did, sport. But let me ask you something. When you’re talking to your first father, up in Heaven, what do you call him?”

“Papa,” said Tommy as if that was obvious.

“Well, if you want to call me ‘papa,’ too, I think that would be fine. But maybe that should be your special name for your first father, and we should come up with something else for you to call me.”

“But papas are called papas,” said Tommy, again with a note of spelling out what should be plain and clear.

“That’s true,” said O’Brian. “But there are other names for fathers, too. I used to call my father ‘Dad.’ It’s a very common name for fathers in America. Maybe you could save ‘Papa’ for Mr. Bingley, and call me ‘Dad.’ But it’s up to you. If you want to call me ‘Papa,’ too, that would make me very proud.”

Tommy looked thoughtful, and indicated that he would have to spend some time pondering the question.

*


Over the next few days, letters were written to Longbourn to advise Jane’s parents of the engagement, which were quickly followed by responding letters to Jane approving the step.

O’Brian, Jane, and the children traveled to Longbourn a few days later, and spent some time with Mr. Bennet hammering out specific details of the marriage articles that had been broadly dealt with in the rough draft that had been presented when O’Brian had first sought the approval of the Bennets.

When Jane, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (for O’Brian insisted that she should have input, too), and O’Brian had finalized an agreement in principle, Jane’s uncle, Mr. Phillips was then given that agreement and contracted to write it up in proper legal fashion, and arrange for four clean copies.

Michael also arranged for the banns to be announced at St. George’s Church in Hanover Square, where Jane worshipped when she was staying at her Mayfair townhouse, and at St. James, Spanish Place, where Catholic members of the various diplomatic staffs worshiped. She also had Jane write to her parish church in Kimberton and arrange for the banns to be announced there.

“But if we are marrying in Scotland, Michael, why do we need the banns announced?”

“That’s just the point, darlin’,” replied O’Brian. “Marrying in Scotland has a taint to it, as you know. If we have the banns announced down here, at both of your churches, and at mine, and then also have ‘em called at the church where we marry in Scotland, plus have it announced in the papers ahead of time, there’s no way our wedding can be construed as an elopement. Plus, if you decide you want to renew your vows down here, the banns having already been called will make it possible for us to do it, either at Kimberton or London, without jumping through hoops to get a license.”

Accordingly, shortly after the banns were called for the first time at the two London churches, the following announcement appeared in several of the London and national dailies.

“The first banns of marriage were called on Sunday last for Major Michael O’Brian, naval attaché at the United States Ministry, and Mrs. Jane Bingley, widow of Mr. Charles Bingley. The banns were called at two London Churches, St. George’s, where Mrs. Bingley worships when she is staying in London, and St. James, which is attended by Major O’Brian. The banns were also announced at the local parish in Kimberton, Nottinghamshire, Mrs. Bingley’s country estate. Owing to certain circumstances arising from Major O’Brian’s diplomatic and family connections, the actual wedding ceremony will take place several weeks from now in Scotland. The bride is connected to the Earl Fitzwilliam though her brother by marriage, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire, the earl’s nephew.”

*


One of the many people who read the announcement was the murderer of Charles Bingley. To say he was displeased would be an understatement of Olympian proportions. Moreover, the recent unsuccessful attempt on O’Brian’s life had had the effect of making him even more alert and cautions. Future attempts on his life would be even less likely to succeed. He would have to wait (something he was getting almighty tired of doing) until O’Brian was in more relaxed state. Perhaps after the wedding in Scotland. After all, a man, even a policeman, is not thinking of life or death issues on his wedding night. And if he was taken out then, there would be the added advantage of Jane’s already being in Scotland. He would not to transport her up there, against her will, as had been his original plan.

This would require strategy and tactics, which would, in turn, depend upon the gathering of intelligence.

But in the end, he would have her. That much he was absolutely determined on. That uch he had been determined on for more than a decade.

*


When the clean copies of the Marriage Articles had been completed, and paid for by O’Brian, and the required stamps had been affixed, and paid for by Mr. Bennet (“I’m not paying for any damned government stamps on a private contract,” insisted O’Brian. “Maybe you’ve forgotten, but that damned Stamp Act is one of the reason the United States is now an independent nation!”), there was a signing ceremony at Longbourn.

Jane signed first, then O’Brian. Technically, since Jane was over 21, and a widow, it was not necessary for her father to sign, but for the sake of documenting their approval, O’Brian insisted that both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet add their signatures as well. Then he turned to little Thomas Bennet who was watching the proceedings intently.

“Tommy,” said O’Brian, “you ready for your part?”

“Yeth, Dad,” he said solemnly. O’Brian beamed at being addressed as “Dad.”

He handed Tommy the pen and said, “Make your mark, just the way I showed you.”

Tommy carefully made an “X” on each copy then handed the pen back to O’Brian, who carefully printed the words, “THOMAS” above each “X” and “BINGLEY” below, then “HIS” to the left of each “X” and “MARK” to right.

O’Brian then turned to Mr. Desmond, the loyal Bingley family retainer, who was standing unobtrusively in the rear of the room, and said, “Mr. Desmond, would you please sign each copy underneath where Master Bingley has made his mark, as witness that it is his mark.”

“An honor, sir,” said Desmond, and complied.

Then to Mr. Phillips, “Would you sign each document as the legal counsel who prepared them in proper legal fashion?”

Jane’s uncle did as requested.

Finally he turned to where Sir William and Lady Lucas were standing, and holding up the pen, said, “Sir William, as the local magistrate, will you sign each copy attesting to your having witnessed all signatures and marks?”

Sir William, proud to have been asked to participate in the family celebration, did so with enthusiasm.

Then O’Brian turned to Jane, picked up her hand and kissed it.

“I’m afraid there’s no going back now, darlin’,” he said. “The banns have started and the articles have been signed. You’re stuck me with now.”

She smiled, indicating that she was pleased to be so stuck.

The signing ceremony completed, O’Brian turned toward all the assembled guests and said, “Let’s head into the dining room. We all know that Mrs. Bennet spreads one of the finest tables in Hertfordshire, and I understand she’s outdone herself tonight.”

*


On the Monday following the second reading of the banns at St. George’s and St. James’s, Jane heard a knock on the front door of her townhouse, to which she and the children had returned a few days after the signing ceremony. Moments later, Michael was escorted into her sitting room by one of the footman.

“We’ve got an appointment with Bishop Cameron later this week. It’s a little loose, since he knows we have to travel from London. He’s agreed to start the banns this Sunday at St. Mary’s Chapel, but he’s going to need to talk to us personally before he approves our getting married.”

“Why does he have to approve?”

“’Cause you’re not Catholic, darlin’. We’re a little persnickety about mixed marriages, too. Any that take place in a Catholic church have to be approved by the local bishop. Basically, you’ll just have to agree to what you’ve already agreed to in the Articles, raising any kids we have as Catholic. You’ll also have to promise to consider converting, or at least look into the possibility with an open mind. You don’t have to promise to actually convert, though. These things are a little easier in my time, so I’m not sure what hoops we’re going to have to jump through in 1817, but I don’t imagine they’ll be too onerous.”

“Where will we stay?”

“I’ll stay at a local inn. I’ve already arranged to rent a small house for you and a couple of servants. You might want to bring your sister, Mary, along to act as a chaperone.”

Jane, who was, by nature, gentle-natured, nevertheless felt that she and Michael were on the verge of their first fight. She shouldn’t be surprised by his tendency to take charge and arrange things, and then to inform her after all arrangements had been made. It actually reminded her a bit of her brother, Darcy. But Lizzy had always found that to be her husband’s least attractive quality, and now Jane could see why.

Charles had always discussed things with her first.

“Did you not think to inform me of all these arrangements before making them?”

“I was just trying to save you some worry and trouble. Things move a lot slower in this era, and having things worked out in advance saves some time. But nothing’s written in stone. If you have any objections to the way I’ve arranged things, just tell me, and I’ll have ‘em changed to whatever way you want ‘em done.”

“The arrangements are fine,” said Jane, with a note of weary resignation. “But please try to refrain from making such arrangements in the future without telling me about them first.”

“Noted,” he said quickly. “Sorry about that. Just used to doing for myself.”

*


In the event, it turned out to be the beginning of the following week when Jane accompanied Michael into the office Bishop Alexander Cameron, Vicar Apostolic of Scotland’s Lowland District, at his home in 6 James Place, Edinburgh. “Vicar Apostolic” meant that the geographic area over which he presided was not officially a diocese.

“Come in. Come in,” he said getting up and welcoming them. Jane, upon crossing the threshold, went into a very proper, perhaps even exaggerated curtsey, but Michael outdid her, genuflecting on his left knee, taking the bishop’s right hand in his, and kissing the ring on the bishop’s finger.

She must have looked a little surprised, since the bishop said, in a soft Scottish burr, “You’re not familiar with some of our customs, lass?”

“I’ve heard of it, M’Lord,” she replied. “In fact, I understand many high church bishops in our Established Church follow that custom. But I grew up in a less overtly liturgical parish. I’ve never actually seen the custom enacted before. Is it required of me, M’Lord? I should not wish to offend by refraining, nor by taking a liberty to which I am not entitled as a member of another faith.”

“That lovely curtsey o’ yours’ll more’n suffice, Mrs. Bingley. Please have a seat, the two of you. Ye’ll be happy to know that the first of your banns was called yesterday in St. Mary’s Chapel.”

“I heard ‘em called at Mass, Your Excellency,” said Michael. “Jane attended services at the other St. Mary’s and had to rely on my report.”

“Just so,” said the bishop. “Now ye’re here to ask my permission to actually get married once the banns are complete, am I correct?”

“Exactly, sir,” said Michael.

“Well, I’ve examined the case, based on your letters and the documentation ye’ve submitted, and I’m inclined to approve. It often takes a lot of time, but since ye’re visitors, and so intent on havin’ a Catholic ceremony that the Sassanechs down south’ll have to recognize as legal, and yer betrothed is willing, I think we can have all the details attended to by the time the third reading of the banns occurs. I have to say this is a lot o’ trouble to go to just to avoid havin’ a ceremony in the Church of England.”

“It’s not so much that I wanted to avoid it, as that I resented the fact that I didn’t have a choice. And the reason I didn’t have a choice was because of an unjust law that denigrates my faith. That kinda got my Irish up. I’ve told Jane, and I guess you should know, too, that I’m willing to renew the vows in her church. I just don’t like being muscled into it.”

“Just so.”

“We’ve also had the banns called down in England, at my church in London, and at Jane’s churches in London and at her estate in Nottinghamshire. I’ve got written statements from the pastors of all three churches, so, with them being read up here as well, there should be no questions.

“Excellent, Mr. O’Brian. Ye’re a man who likes to take care of the details, I see.”

“Attending to details is often the difference between success and failure, Excellency. Remember that proverb about the kingdom that was lost for want of a nail.”

“Ye’re a soldier then?”

“I have been. Officially, I guess I still am, at the moment. My commission was reactivated so that, in addition to my regular duties, I could be Mr. Adams’s naval attaché.”

“Will y’be married in uniform?”

“Hadn’t planned on it. But I guess I could ask Jack to bring my dress blues up when he makes the trip. Jack Grant’s my colleague at the Bow Street Magistrate’s Office. He’s coming here to stand up with me. He was a captain in the Royal Marines. If I wear my uniform, maybe he could wear his, too.” He turned to Jane and said. “It’s up to you, darlin’. Would you like a military wedding?”

“I hadn’t thought of it, Michael,” said Jane. “But it would add some dash and pomp to the ceremony. Mama would like that. So would Tommy.”

Turning to the bishop she said, “I suppose we should discuss it with the clergyman who will be officiating?”

“Well, lass, unless ‘ye’ve an objection, I thought I might see to that m’self.”

“That would be wonderful, M’Lord! My mother would be especially pleased to have me getting married by a bishop, even - . . . ,” she stopped abruptly.

“Even a Catholic one,” finished the bishop.

“My parents have not objected, M’Lord. And Michael made sure they had plenty of opportunity to. But it is somewhat beyond the pale in the eyes of many.”

“Understood, lass. No offense taken. But as for the ceremony itself, y’both think I’ll come up to snuff, then?”

“Absolutely, Excellency!” said Michael enthusiastically.

“Then let’s regard it as settled.”

And with that, he poured them both a glass of wine, and one for himself, and they had a drink on it.

***
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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (24th Installment)

Jim D.January 10, 2019 11:13AM

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Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (24th Installment)

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Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (24th Installment)

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