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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (25th Installment)

January 21, 2019 03:46PM

On the Tuesday following the third reading of the Banns at St. Mary’s Chapel, O’Brian rose very early, took the bath he had prearranged the night before, and dressed in the USMC uniform he’d had Jack Grant bring up with him from London.

Grant had brought his own Royal Marines uniform up as well, but he was enjoying a bit of lie-in since the actual ceremony wasn’t until ten.

O’Brian walked the short distance from his inn to St. Mary’s Chapel. Opened in 1814, it had been designed by the famous Scottish ecclesiastical architect, James Gillespie Graham. Designated a “chapel” in deference to the law mandating that only the worship centers of the Established Church could be designated as actual “churches,” it lacked both a steeple and a bell tower, since those accoutrements were, at this time, only allowed in similarly affiliated churches per that same law. Over the next six decades or so, it would be embellished and renovated. In 1878, when the Lowland District would officially be designated the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, St. Mary’s would, in turn, be redesignated as a Cathedral.

For now, though, it was still a chapel. But an active enough chapel, that it had regularly scheduled morning Mass at 6:30 AM. A Mass that O’Brian had decided to attend. He arrived at six, and sought out the priest who was preparing for the service.

“Father,” he said. “Got time for a short confession?”

“Certainly. Please come in. Do you wish to step down to the confessional?”

“Not necessary. This won’t take long. I’m getting married later this morning. My intended’s not Catholic, so we can’t have a Nuptial Mass. I thought I’d take in the sunrise service, and, since marriage is the beginning of a new life for me, it seemed like a good idea to make a quick confession first.”

“Very sound. You and your intended are the couple that the Bishop is marrying today?”

“That’s right,” replied O’Brian

With that he made a quick Sign of the Cross and said, “Bless me, Father, for I’ve sinned. Last time I went to confession was in March.”

With that, he rattled off some the rather ordinary, and fairly venial, offenses that had accumulated since then, professed his hearty regrets, and recited the Act of the Contrition while the priest recited the words of Absolution.

When the ritual was completed, the priest said, “There did not seem to be anything particularly pressing that would necessitate receiving the sacrament today, sir.”

“Just that I’m getting married, as I mentioned before,” said O’Brian. “Wanted to go into it with as clear a slate as possible.”

With that, he shook the priest’s hand, and thanked him, went out to the pews, knelt down, and said the prayers the priest had given him as a penance.


A half-hour later, the Mass completed, O’Brian left St. Mary’s and returned to his inn. Grant was in the dining area, sitting down to a quick breakfast. O’Brian joined him.

“Don’t tuck in, too much, mate,” said Grant. “Mrs. Bennet’s likely to ‘ave quite a feast prepared after you and Mrs. Jane are spliced. You’ll want to be able to do it justice.”

“No worries there. Tell you what I am worried about though.”

“What’s that?”

“Church might end up lopsided. Everyone who’s coming is from Jane’s side. My side of the church is going to be empty.”

“Never you fear, mate. Ain’t I your best man? ‘Aven’t I got that covered? A couple of other Runners came north with me, so you’ll ‘ave two mates from work to support your. And the chairman of the Board of Edinburgh Police Commissioners’ll be coming. So will the Moderator of the Society of ‘Igh Constables of Edinburgh. And their ladies. Aside from that, I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you when we get to the church.”

“What’s that?”

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, now, would it? Let’s just say you’ll ‘ave some ushers attending you as well as a best man.”


When O’Brian and Grant arrived at the chapel entrance at about 9:30, there were eight men in military uniforms waiting for them. Four were in the red coats of the Royal Marines. The other four were wearing the blue coats of the US Marine Corps.

“What’s all this?” said O’Brian.

“There’s a Royal Navy ship of the line, the HMS Crown Prince, and an American Naval frigate, the US Cumberland Falls, both docked at the New’aven ‘Arbor,” said Grant. “With the permission of the captains of both vessels, these Marines ‘ave been allowed to act as the honor guard for you and your bride. Y’said some pomp and circumstance would please Mrs. Bennet. Well, mate, these blokes are your pomp and circumstance.”

“I’ll be damned!” said O’Brian.

“’Ope not!” said Grant. “We’re about t’enter a church, y’know.”


O’Brian and Grant were followed by the eight Marines, all of whom divested themselves of their ceremonial sabres before entering the nave of the chapel. O’Brian paused to dip his right hand in the Holy Water font and make a quick Sign of the Cross. Two of the US Marines and one of the Royal Marines followed suit.

The Marines then lined up in the rear, USMC to the groom’s side, and Royals to the bride’s side, ready to escort any arriving guests to their pews.

Like most Catholic churches, the floor plan of St. Mary’s was set up so that it resembled a cross if observed from a bird’s-eye-view. O’Brian and Grant continued to the “crossbeam” of the cross. O’Brian genuflected, and took his position, Grant standing to the right of him.

Over the next twenty minutes or so, guests filed in. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their daughters, Mary and Kitty. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the Darcy children, and Miss Darcy, holding little Beth Bingley. The Gardners and their children, whom O’Brian had met while in London. Surprisingly, the Earl Fitzwilliam and his Countess, along with their second son, General Fitzwilliam, in full uniform, were also seated on the bride’s side.

Two Bow Street Runners, both of whom O’Brian knew in the line of duty, were present. John Townsend was one of the senior Runners who usually served as a bodyguard to the Royal Family. Harry Adkins was almost as famous, a small but tough thieftaker, commonly referred to by the London underworld as the “Little Ferret.” They were joined by one of Bow Street’s assistant magistrates, and two gentlemen, accompanied by ladies, presumably their wives, with whom O’Brian was not familiar, but whom he supposed to be the local law enforcement officials Grant had mentioned. Not family, but at least they kept the church from seeming unbalanced.

Sooner then expected the Bishop joined them, stepping down from the altar sanctuary to the nave side of the Communion rail. Since it was a mixed marriage, the couple would not be able to be married within the altar area. Generally, in fact, such marriages were usually performed in the rectory rather than in the church, but the bishop had stretched a point, partly because he was so charmed by Jane, and partly because he was favorably impressed at a couple who would go to so much trouble to have a Catholic ceremony that would be regarded as legally valid in England.

Shortly after the bishop’s appearance, the organist started up the chosen processional music, Clarke’s famous trumpet voluntary, “The Prince of Denmark’s March.” Music, too, was, if not absolutely forbidden, discouraged at mixed marriages, but, again, Bishop Campbell had decided to stretch a point.

Elizabeth Darcy entered from the back of the Church and made her way to the front, followed by little Tommy Bennet, holding a pillow on which the bride’s ring was resting. Ring bearers were not common in the Regency era, but O’Brian had wanted Tommy to have a role in the service, and Jane eagerly agreed.

Tommy was followed by his mother, escorted by Mr. Bennet. O’Brian thought she had never looked lovelier, in a light blue satin gown with puffed sleeves she’d had made especially for the event. She was not wearing a veil, which rather disappointed O’Brian, but he knew that bridal veils were not the fashion in Britain in this era of history.

At O’Brian’s request, the Bishop had agreed to read three selections from Scripture. He started out with one of the less racy sequence of verses from the Canticle of Canticles, then a short selection from the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians on the meaning of love. He then asked the congregation to stand, and finished off with four verses from the tenth chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, in which the meaning of marriage was described.

The Bishop then looked up at O’Brian and Jane and said, “Have you both come here to enter into the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”

Both he and Jane answer, “We have.”

“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage, to love and honor each other as long you both shall live?”

“We are,” they replied in unision.

“Are you prepared to accept any children from God and to bring them up according to the Law of Christ and His Church?”

Again, they replied, “We are.”

He then had O’Brian take Jane by the hand, turn toward her and repeat the marriage vow, “I, Michael, take thee, Jane, to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, until death do us part.”

Jane then repeated the vow back to O’Brian, notably using the word “cherish,” rather than “obey,” at O’Brian’s insistence.

Then the Bishop called Tommy forward, took the ring from the pillow, patted Tommy on the head and said, “Good job, laddie.”

Tommy beamed at the clergyman’s praise.

Holding the ring in his left hand, he made a Sign of the Cross over it with his right while he said, “Bless and sanctify your servants in their love, O Lord, and let this ring, a sign of their faithfulness, remind them of their love for one another. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Then he handed the ring to O’Brian, who slipped it onto Jane’s finger with the words, “Jane, receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

The bishop then put his hands over the joined hands of O’Brian and Jane and said, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.”

Then he looked up at the assembled congregation, and said, “Now let us humbly invoke God’s blessing upon this bride and groom, that in His kindness He may favor with His help those on whom He has bestowed the bond of Marriage.”

He bowed his head and prayed for a few moments, while the congregation, at least those so inclined, did the same, then continued with the final Nuptial Blessing, “Holy Father, maker of the whole world, who created man and woman in Thine own image and willed that their union be crowned with Thy blessing, we humbly beseech Thee for these Thy servants, who are joined today in the Marriage covenant. May Thine abundant blessing, Lord, come down upon this bride, Jane, and upon Michael, her companion for life, and may the power of the Holy Ghost set their hearts aflame from on high, so that, living out together the gift of Matrimony, they may be known for the integrity of their conduct (and be recognized as virtuous parents). In happiness may they praise Thee, O Lord, in sorrow may they seek Thee out; may they have the joy of Thy Presence to assist them in their toil, and know that Thou art near to comfort them in their need; and after a happy old age, together with the circle of friends that surrounds them, may they come to the Kingdom of Heaven. Through Christ our Lord.”

To which the members of the Congregation all (or at least most) responded, “Amen!”

The ceremony completed, the Bishop then said, a little more informally, “My good people, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you all to Major and Mrs. Michael O’Brian.”

With that, Michael kissed his newly married wife.

The congregation applauded happily.


The congregation filtered out of the chapel while O’Brian and Jane went off to sign the Wedding Register, and Jane was given the certificate that attested to her being a respectably married woman.

When the newlyweds exited the chapel, they saw the eight marines, Royals to the right, USMC to the left, covers back on their heads, sword scabbards replaced at their waists, standing at a position of ease, with their sabres pointed at the ground in the “order arms” position.

Grant, facing them called out, “Detail, ten-HUT!”

The eight Marines snapped to attention.

“Shoulder . . . arms!” ordered Grant.

The sabres were, in unison, raised the right shoulder of each marine.

“Present . . . arms!”

The Marines all extended their arms at approximately a forty-five degree angle from their shoulders, the tips of the sabres on the right almost meeting with those on the left, forming a ceremonial archway under which O'Brian and Jane would proceed.

As O’Brian and Jane started forward, the Marines in the first row lowered their sabres to block them.

The red-coated Marine then said, “The Royal Marines require a kiss to pass.”

O’Brian and Jane gave each other a quick kiss, and continued.

The ritual was repeated in the second row, only this time, the blue-coated Marine said, “The United States Marine Corps requires a kiss to pass.”

Again, the newlyweds happily paid the toll.

At the third row they were told by the redcoat that, “The Royal Navy requires a kiss to pass.”

The toll paid again, the were blocked at the final row, the blue-coated Marine informed them that, “The US Navy requires a kiss to pass.”

Again the toll was paid, but, as they passed, the blue-coated sergeant lowered his sabre, and gave Jane a light tap on her bottom with the flat of the blade, startling her, for she had not been warned to expect it.

“Welcome to the United States Marine Corps, Mrs. O’Brian,” said the blue-coated Marine, completing the ritual.

Having successfully run the gauntlet, O’Brian turned to the Honor Guard, and said, “Thank you all, both my brother US Marines,” saluting them, “and my respected cousin Marines from the Mother Country,” snapping an equally sharp salute at them, “for making our special day even more special. I hope you’ll all join us for what I’m sure will be an absolutely wonderful wedding breakfast that’s been planned by my brand new mother by marriage, Mrs. Bennet.”


The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (25th Installment)

Jim D.January 21, 2019 03:46PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (25th Installment)

EmelynJanuary 23, 2019 10:27PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (25th Installment)

Shannon KJanuary 22, 2019 03:26AM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (25th Installment)

KarenteaJanuary 21, 2019 06:54PM


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