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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

January 28, 2019 05:00PM
PART TWENTY-SEVEN

The wedding breakfast was being held in the smallish house O’Brian had rented for Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Since Mary, in her chaperone role, had been staying with Jane, the Bennets’d had the place to themselves, though, since Jane had moved out of her guest house that very morning, Mary would be moving in with her parents for the remainder of their stay in Edinburgh. While not large, it was more than sufficient to accommodate the expected guests.

Mrs. Bennet, who prided herself on her hospitality skills, had, of course, laid on a sumptuous feast. Bacon, ham, sausages, buttered rolls, fresh fruit, and a huge frosted wedding cake.

After Bishop Cameron offered a brief grace, everyone enthusiastically filled their plates and tucked in.

O’Brian had taken it upon himself to provide the beverage, two dozen bottles of chilled sparkling wine.

“California champagne,” he said. “Can’t tell you how I got it here, but I assure you it was all legal.”

In fact, California wouldn’t start producing champagne for another half-century or so, but O’Brian doubted anyone was going to check that.

When everyone’s glass was filled, Jack Grant offered the first toast.

“To my good friend and colleague, Mike O’Brian, and ‘is lovely bride, the new Mrs. Jane O’Brian. And to the two wonderful children of ‘oom Mike is now the father. Mike, many men would have regarded a lady ‘oo came with a ready-made family as a lady ‘oo came with a burden, but I know you regarded Tommy and Beth as wonderful and welcome bonuses. May you both ‘ave many more children, and may they all reflect the gentle, sweet kindliness and loveliness of their mother, and the courage and spirit of their father.”

Several responded with “here, here,” and the toast was enthusiastically drunk.

O’Brian got up to respond.

“Thank you, Jack, and thank you for standing up with me. And, to my new sister who I can now call Lizzy, thank you for standing up with Jane.”

He took a sip of his wine, and the crowd followed suit.

Then he turned toward a table in the corner where the eight Marines who had provided him and Jane with an honor guard were seated.

“Marines,” he said. “Atten- . . . tion.”

The eight Marines all stood and snapped to attention.

“Present . . . glasses.”

They all picked up their wineglasses from the table and raised them.

“First, to our ancestral service, the service our United States Marine Corps used as a model. Officially, the Royal Marines were formed in 1755, but your roots go back all the way to 1664 when the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot was first formed as part of the Honorable Artillery Company. Britain is an island nation, and your role, combining infantry fighting on land with marksmanship in sea engagements is crucial to your country’s military security. I salute you all with the Royal Marines motto, Pere Mare. Pere Tarum.”

They all enthusiastically responded, “Pere Mare! Pere Tarum!”

He then turned to the bluecoats. “Back in March of 1779, William Jones, a captain in what was then called the Continental Marines, put a recruiting advertisement in the local paper in a Rhode Island newspaper for ‘a few good men’ willing to enlist as Marines on the USS Providence. You Marines are now carrying on the tradition of ‘a few good men,’ your nation’s warrior elite, standing, as the poem has it. ‘between your loved homes and the foe’s desolation.’ But always remember that your service has its roots in the Royal Marines, and remember, also, that most of the things that make the United States a country worth defending, and fighting and dying for are direct bequests from Great Britain. There’d be no Declaration of Independence nor a Bill of Rights in our Constitution, if there hadn’t’ve first been a Magna Carta. There’d be no Senate or House of Representative, nor any state legislatures, if there hadn’t’ve first been a British Parliament. Fair play. Trial by jury. The whole tradition of liberty under the law. The very language we speak and write in. They all come to us direct from the land in which you’re now guests. Just a few short years ago, you might’ve been trading shots with the men sitting across from you. That’s why it does my heart such good to see you all sitting at the same table and breaking bread with each other. If, in such a short time, we can put aside the differences that led us to war, it says something good and hopeful about humanity. So to my brother US Marines, I salute you with our proud motto, adopted just four years ago, ‘Fortitude.’”

The bluecoats all raised their glasses and said, “Fortitude!”

He then turned to his new parents-in-law, and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, my own folks passed some years back, and my late wife, who was, like me, an only child, was also an orphan. So it makes me very happy to suddenly be part of such a large and vibrant family. Thank you both for raising such a wonderful daughter. And, Mrs. Bennet, I want to particularly thank you for giving me a preview of how beautiful your daughter will still be twenty years from now. Ladies and gentlemen, to the Bennet and Gardner families.”

Another enthusiastic rounds of sips as the assembled guests responded, “The Bennets and Gardners.”

Mrs. Bennet responded to the compliment with typical fluttery mannerisms and comments about how the “Irish were all such flatterers.”

“We have one more toast to go, and, as I understand it, it’s traditionally offered by the youngest person present. Tommy, that’s you, so come on up here, and say it like I told you to.”

Tommy Bennet came up to O’Brian and Jane’s table, stood up on top of O’Brian’s chair, raised his watered-down glass of sweet wine, and said, “Ladieth and Gentoo-men, the King!”

Everybody stood up repeated, “The King!” with gusto, and took a sip of their drinks.

Finally, Michael said, “Now, that takes care of the toasts. Where I come from, you don’t need the excuse of a toast to enjoy a nice glass of wine. So, everybody, thank you all for coming. Now let’s all do like it says in the Good Book, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry.’”

*


When Jane and Michael had cleaned their plates and emptied their glasses, they got up from their table and started visiting the guests at the other tables. Since most of the guests were known to Jane, most of the introductions were made by her.

Louisa Hurst, sister to the late Charles Bingley, and therefore a sister by marriage to Jane, and her husband, Gilbert Hurst, were the first of the introductions she made.

“We’re very happy for you, Jane dear,” said Mrs. Hurst.

“Indeed. Indeed,” averred Hurst gruffly.

Both shook hands with Michael, and told him how pleased they were to meet him. Jane looked around for Charles’s other sister, Caroline.

Mrs. Hurst, looking a bit embarrassed, said, “Caro decided not to come, Jane. She’s . . . well . . . she had many commitments in London, and the trip takes so long, even though your new husband was so generous as to offer to pay all the travel expenses, and . . . ”

“She didn’t approve, did she, Louisa?”

“Well . . . ,” said an obviously uncomfortable Mrs. Hurst.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Mrs. Hurst,” said Michael with that charming, somewhat shy smile. “I can understand how she felt. An American. A Catholic. Stepping into her own brother’s place. We may be renewing our vows in one of Jane’s parishes down south. Perhaps we can persuade her to come to that one. If Jane decides that’s what she wants to do. It’s not required legally, you understand. Since we married in Scotland, the Catholic rite is lawful and valid.”

“I see,” said Mrs. Hurst.

“In any case,” said Michael, “we’re both very happy that the two of you came to share our special day. And it’s a real pleasure to meet you both.”

“As it is for us, Mr. O’Brian,” she replied.

“‘Mike.’ Or at least ‘Michael.’ We’re brother and sister, now, after a fashion. A little attenuated, I grant you, but close enough to go by first names, I think.”

Mrs. and Mrs. Hurst both nodded, and she said, “I quite agree, Michael. Thank you.”

*


At the table shared by the Earl Fitzwilliam and his family, O’Brian was surprised to see Lieutenant Carter seated next to General Fitzwilliam. Carter started to come to attention as O’Brian approached.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” said O’Brian. “Remember, this uniform is just a disguise with which to fool the Enemy. Underneath it beats the heart of a civilian.”

The younger officer was a bit nonplussed, but managed to stammer out his congratulations to the couple, who both thanked him.

He and Jane then turned toward the Earl and his Countess, and thanked them for coming.

“Felt I had a downright obligation,” replied His Lordship. “Like to think your romance started at my house party all those months ago.”

“And so it did,” said O’Brian. “And I think I speak for Jane when I say we’re both very grateful.”

“Indeed we are,” Jane agreed, smiling up at O’Brian.

*


Jane had found Lieutenant Carter’s presence almost as big a surprise as had Michael. But she was absolutely flabbergasted when she found Sir Gilbert Clifford, Bart., sharing a table with Townsend and Adkins, the two Bow Street Runners, the local leaders of Edinburgh law enforcement, and the Assistant Magistrate at Bow Street.

“Thank you all for coming today,” said Michael. “I was a bit afraid that my side of the church was going to tilt up given that just about everyone coming seemed to be Jane’s family or friends. It meant a lot to me to have brother law officers come and wish me well. Especially you, Mr. Stenhouse,” he said to the Moderator of the Society of Edigburgh High Constables, “and you, Mr. Brown,” he said to the Superintendent in command of the Edinburgh City Police. “It was most gracious of both of you to attend a wedding of a couple you didn’t even know, just to show support to a brother law officer.”

Then to Mrs. Stenhouse and Mrs. Brown he added, “Your presence was also a wonderful surprise, ladies. It’s one thing to support your husbands in their work as peacekeepers, but support a perfect stranger is graciousness well above and beyond the call of duty. I truly appreciated your presence today.”

They all made the expected comments about being happy to come.

“Surprised to see you here, Sir Gilbert,” said Michael.

“I would not have missed it for worlds,” replied the baronet. “My congratulations to you, Major. I tried to win her with poems all those years ago. You won her with heroic deeds. Still, I hope your new bride recalls my poor verses with some pleasure, at least.”

Jane, ever sympathetic to another’s pain or discomfort, responded to what seemed a forlorn plea for praise, and said, “I remember your poems with great pleasure, Sir Gilbert. There was one in particular that I recall with fondness, since it seemed to have been written especially for me. ‘I Dream of Janey.’”

Michael looked at her, “‘I Dream of Jeannie?’”

Sir Gilbert looked a bit troubled, rather than pleased that his poem was remembered, as Jane had hoped he would.

“No,” she corrected. “‘I Dream of Janey.’”

“Sounds like it was heartfelt,” said Michael.

“Indeed it was, Major,” said Sir Gilbert. “Indeed it was.”

*


Upon returning to their table, O’Brian asked Jane, “That poem you and Clifford were talking about. Was there a line in it about ‘light brown hair?’”

“It was ‘burnished gold hair,’” she replied. “How did you know he mentioned my hair?”

“It sparked an old memory,” he said looking at the baronet.
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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

Jim D.January 28, 2019 05:00PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

btroisiApril 11, 2019 12:04AM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

Jim D.April 25, 2019 12:45AM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

Shannon KJanuary 29, 2019 03:43PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

KarenteaJanuary 28, 2019 05:34PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

Jim D.January 28, 2019 05:56PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (26th Installment)

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