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Four Weddings and
a Sort of Funeral

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[bab] With infinite caution, Jack raised his nose about the surface and blinked the warm water from his eyes - ah, good, Stephen was helping Sir Joseph Blaine from the Room. Perhaps his friend's unexpected appearance in Bath had to do with matters of state, or possibly it concerned the vermin that he and Sir Joseph were breeding for the purpose of experiment. An optimistic mind could even hope that Stephen had not yet announced himself at Laura Place; had not obliged poor Sophie to gratify him with the intelligence that there had, after all, been something in his long, wearisome lectures about fleshly indulgence and gout.

There was just room for a contented Rear Admiral to relax his fibres further by a gentle movement of the arms while lying on his back. Such a clear blue September sky to be seen above and such green, green water to float in. It rather put him in mind of the Nile, without crocodiles to be sure, but with a charming fleet of his peers bobbing around in it like so many, so many, ... in short, excellent fellows and many of them not yet raised to flag rank – how he felt for them; he would ask Heneage Dundas to accompany him home to dinner directly. They would go by the milliner's; with luck it might still be open and there had been some frippery he had been instructed to collect...


"Fanny, Charlotte, I am ashamed of you for a couple of silly, excitable girls, of course your gowns look short. You are to consider that you are wearing boots and that papa is bringing your satin slippers. They will make all the difference. You will look perfect tonight."

"Oh, you look perfect already! I have never seen such perfectly beautiful gowns! When I attend my first ball I shall wear a gown exactly the same!" Brigid touched the silk tulle with reverence. "Cousin Sophie, have you ever, ever seen such elegance? Surely there was nothing so fine back in the olden days, when you were a girl."

Sophie brushed a strand of the unfaded gold from her brow and turned to her cousin with a serious smile: "Child, you are forgetting that I knew your dear mother who was the most elegant woman of this or any age. Why, I still see quite clearly the gown she wore to..." A little quiver of Brigid's lip and tears in her eyes but Sophie knew that there was nothing the girl wished for more than the painful bliss of hearing about a mother she could barely remember. Her cousins had carefully unpinned their sashes, softly shaken out the shimmering fabric and, in their dressing gowns , demurely joined their cousin on the sofa: "Tell us again, mama, tell us about when you first danced with dear, dear papa".


"As I find I must leave off being young," said Miss Wesley, I console myself with the douceurs which come with chaperoning my relations; after all, we are put on a sofa near the fire and can drink as much wine as we like."

"Mmm," replied Sophie. Patricia Wesley was a retired sea-officer's daughter and a most amiable creature, but she did rattle on so... With great satifaction she stared after Charlotte as she and her partner — one of the Christy boys — reached the top and swept back down the lines made by the other dancers in the quadrille. She looked uncommonly lovely, flushed with uncomplicated joy and moving with a natural, youthful grace. The fact that she was wearing Sophie's second best slippers (Fanny had been quicker off the mark and bagged her newest pair), the toes stuffed with tissue paper, seemed to matter little. Jack's remarks about the milliner shutting up shop shockingly early — that it would be the ruin of the country if tradesmen just did as they pleased — had been received in a cold silence... but that did not signify now.

She caught sight of a uniformed figure standing to her left. "Do you not choose to dance, Philip?" she asked gently.

Lieutenant Aubrey smiled. "Since I was a boy, I have spent most of my time afloat. When I was at home, my mother did not care for informal parties. I have a little book 'wherein are displayed all the figures ever used in dances, in a way so easy and familiar, that persons of the meanest capacity may in a short time acquire a complete knowledge of that rational and polite amusement'. I do not think, however, that the author conceived of such a mean capacity as mine."

"Nonsense!" cried Sophie, with unusual vehemence. "Just follow what the others do. Fanny or Charlotte will see you right — their dancing master declared that they had 'prodigious natural abilities'... though he might have merely been currying favour to justify his fees."

"There is a young man approaching us with some determination," broke in Miss Wesley. "I will not say that he is drunk, but I am afraid he is not sober."

"Aubrey!" exclaimed the young man, loudly. "I saw you arrive with those sisters — they must be twins — the loveliest girls in the Assembly Rooms. You must introduce me to them."

"You are referring to my nieces, I collect. I shall first introduce you to their mother. Mrs Aubrey, Mr Hugo Babbington. Mr Babbington is reading for the bar. I believe you are acquainted with his elder brother."

[pgb-w] Miss Wesley thought Mr Hugo Babbington an entirely suitable figure. He had the insouciant charm of his brother, and a smile made more delightful by a full set of teeth. If he did not share the Babbington trait in teeth, perhaps he was free of some of the other attitudes and habits of the elder brother, those habits that, even among ladies of such an age that amongst each other frankness could be practiced without censure, would not be openly described, merely nodded and winked, and left to delicious imagination.

"Mr Babbington, how pleasant to make your acquaintance at last," Mrs Aubrey said. "And are you in Bath for the season, Sir?"

"No, my dear Mrs Aubrey, I am afraid that I stay here but a week, and then am expected in Dorset by my good friend, Mr Wilson-Scott. He has recently purchased Trinque Hall, don't you know. He and his widowed sister, Mrs Baker, are anxious to entertain the county, and I am to provide a useful dinner partner for the unattached ladies that inevitably must be invited."

Miss Wesley's eyes had widened fractionally at the name Wilson-Scott. Could that be Emperson Wilson-Scott, she wondered? Had he not inherited a distant relative's fortune, one that would modestly be deemed as excessively large?

Miss Wesley's parents had been impecunious, in terms relative to the financial standing of those whose company they felt entitled to keep. Her usually half-pay father had been unwise in his shore-going expenditures, and her mother had needed medicinal spirits to such an extent that management of the household economy had been a harsh task for the daughter. By careful practices she had assembled some resources. The Funds provided just enough for her to appear in decent array in the season, but little more.

Thus she had become a devotee of the Notices of Wills and Estates, always carried in such estimable detail in the Times of London. Her circle of ladies who were placed similarly to herself was a veritable Spring brook of information on estates, inheritances, bequests, entailments, and prospects. Her cousin Eustace, a clerk well-placed in a City counting house, provided most reliable knowledge about the flow of what she believed was called "smart money" — and what a ring of delicious danger that word 'smart' had. In fact, Miss Wesley had a reputation in her discreet circle as the person to speak with quietly when the prospects and choices of sons and daughters of the county gentry were under consideration.

"Why then, we shall be neighbours of a sort," Sophie declared. "Perhaps when you are settled and we are back at Ashgrove you will ride over and stay a few days. My husband would be pleased to have your opinions on some of his legal affairs, as a friend, of course, Mr Babbington, as a disinterested party, may I say?"

Mr Hugo Babbington had noticed the nieces. He had the Babbington eye, if not the "lay along side" propensity of his brother, and the pair of handsomely set-up and finely rigged young ladies certainly required a closer look. Their Mother was the source of their fine features and figures, that could be told in an instant. Their Father was the famous Jack Aubrey — Lucky Jack — now a Rear-Admiral, and a wealthy one, and a Tory of standing. This cake was iced close to perfection, he thought. The hazard was Miss Wesley. Even for a chaperone she had a cool and steely gaze, one that seemed to disassemble a young man into his parts, one that in an instant would detect a young man "on the make", as the phrase was today.

Voices across the Assembly Room had grown louder in the last few moments. Sophie Aubrey realised of a sudden that one of the trumpeting tones was that of her husband. A shower of spearing "Sir!", and "So you say, Sir!", and "The Devil take it, Sir" flew through the air. Glances flashed between ladies as urgent as signals before a fleet action. Anchors were hauled, hawsers let go, and small boats hurriedly called and hoisted. Sophie and the girls and Miss Wesley, and similarly constituted small convoys, matronly admirals leading the lines, made for the safe harbour of the Supper Room as the gale increased.

Into the deep discourse between Dr Maturin and Sir Joseph taking place on the Terrace, came reverberations of the storm within.

'Oh, Jack, Jack — what bilious flux has seized you now?' Stephen wondered.

"Sir Joseph, a moment, I beg you, I must mount a rescue operation. I fear our newest Rear-Admiral has engaged a veritable squadron, and may well be outgunned".

[bab] In the Supper Room, Fanny was concerned. "What is the matter with dear papa? Of late his expression has sometimes been almost cross."

"Pained", her sister corrected her, "Sometimes he appears as if suffering from some nameless pain befitting a solitary sorrow and antheming a lonely grief."

Sophie made a not-in-front-of-Miss-Wesley moue and, tucking in an errant lock of Charlotte's hair, whispered: "Gout. But you are not to mention it to Cousin Stephen. Have you been reading poetry again?"

Charlotte was distracted in mid-nod by the flashing, perfect teeth of Mr Hugo Babbington who had come into the Supper Room expressly to reassure the ladies that Doctor Maturin had all in hand, had seen seven officers of Skinner's 14th Heavy Dragoons off the premises, had persuaded the Admiral to join him and Sir Joseph Blaine, all three now being comfortably seated at a table on the Terrace and to enjoy their supper there. "Perhaps", he added winningly, "we may be fortunate enough to have our refreshment augmented by hearing the Misses Aubrey perform? Let me open the lid of the pianoforte for you. What music have we here? Ah! 'La ci darem la mano'! Miss Charlotte, shall we attempt it, if your sister would be so kind as to accompany us? Mr Christy, I do not believe that we are in need of of a page turner."


"This is what happens to us when we pay no heed to doctor's orders. 'Belay the punch' he said, but did we listen? oh no, and what poor bugger has to rouse out the article for us to put our foot on?" So saying, Killick insinuated a dwarvish stool under the right foot of the bashful Jack before exiting intent on depriving the Supper Room of its finest tureen of white soup.

"I tell you what it is, Stephen, some scoundrel of a Heavy Dragoon stood on my foot. I do not absolutely assert that he did it on purpose but I never could abide anybody standing on my foot, not if I should happen to be wearing dancing pumps, that is, and he booted and spurred. It is of no consequence, brother, mere bruising only. Pray do not touch it! Tell me, Sir Joseph, how do your rats at Trinque Hall come along? Fine breeders, I trust? My brother Philip and I have been intending to ride across and pay our compliments to our new neighbour just as soon as my foot, that is to say just as soon as we return to Ashgrove."

"My dear Admiral Aubrey, let me advise you against...

[js] excessive exertion before your gout is quite cured; I speak as one who has suffered himself," said Sir Joseph, who recognised the signs of the affliction all too well and was blithely unaware of the effect of his words.

"Caught by the lee," thought Jack to himself, turning a shade of red unbecoming in a flag officer... in an officer of any rank. He stared covertly but intently at Stephen, with an expression of ludicrous apprehension. This transformed a face nature had intended to be open and cheerful into one bearing a more than passing resemblance to an anxious sheep.

After a pause in which Stephen reflected upon the nature of moral advantage; how it could eat away at the fundamental equality which was the basis of a successful friendship — or indeed a successful marriage — he merely remarked: "The gout is it now? I would advise that you rest the injured member and eat and drink in moderation." It came as some relief to no longer have to pretend ignorance of Jack's condition when presented with symptoms which the most blockheaded of boys at the Apothecaries' Hall could have recognised with ease. "You were asking about our rodents at Trinque Hall, brother," he continued. "Mr Wilson-Scott has been kind enough to give us the use of an outlying barn to set up our cages, which is perhaps for the best as..."


"So, you are come at last!" said Sophie as Miss Wesley stepped down from the curricle. "I am heartily glad of it. When I heard you were visiting relations in Dorset, I was determined that you should stay with us afterwards." The other servants being occupied in preparing the dining room for the evening's dinner, Miss Wesley's baggage was left the to mercy of Killick. She gazed after him apprehensively as he scuttled towards the house, a small trunk jammed under one arm and assorted bags under the other; she feared for her best bonnet... Neither lady chose to hear the mutters of "so many bleedin' clothes — setting up for a laundress, is she?" which preceded them into the house.

"I would be glad of your advice, Patricia," said Sophie later, as they stood admiring what they could see of Jack's roses beneath the blackfly. "Admiral Aubrey rode over to Trinque Hall some weeks ago, and, since then, Mr Wilson-Scott's ease and cheerfulness have made him a valuable addition to our acquaintance — he has an exceedingly good address... He is nephew to Sir Critchley Scott, you know... He and his friend Mr Hugo Babbington are to be of the party at dinner tonight. As is his sister, Mrs Baker. I am glad you are here to help deal with her. She can be..."

"Difficult," finished Miss Wesley.

"Indeed," said Sophie soberly. They both considered Mrs Baker for a while and then Sophie continued: "Mr Hugo Babbington seems fond of both my daughters; he stood up with each of them three times at the Assembly Rooms. And I have noticed that Mr Wilson-Scott has been somewhat distinguishing Charlotte. That is to say... he thinks he is."

"How so?"

"It became apparent that he cannot tell the girls apart; he seems to address whichever one speaks to him first as 'Charlotte', and then is quite convinced that he has the right of it. The girls are too polite to correct him; I honour their forbearance."

"That, or they find the whole situation amusing," commented Miss Wesley dryly.

[pgb-w] 'Dear, dear Emperson, why, did he not recite to me some of Mr Wordsworth's lines last night when we went out to look at the moon rising over Father's Observatory — Miss Wesley, alas, not more than three paces behind! —

"She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition sent
To be a moment's ornament."

And the Dear Man (!) said he dared to hope (!!) that it might be that his life would be lit for much more than a moment by my radiance (Oh! Oh!, that I could have fainted at that moment: so exquisite an impression that would have made!!!).

Cruel Miss Wesley, to step to offer me a shawl against the falling vapours: Right! – At !— That! — Moment! O, but she is a tiresome, dried up, horrible old woman. She has never, dear diary, NEVER had a sonnet declaimed to her in the moonlight!'

Charlotte re-read her entry in the silk-bound diary, the very secret diary with the darling little swallow embossed on the cover, whilst her pen of its own accord embellished in the margin a flowery heart-shape around the entwined letters EWS and CSA. What a thrilling evening it had been — and Fanny must not know of the turn it had taken, so the diary must be well-hidden from a sister's inquisitive rummaging — and from dear Mama, too. Oh, the burden of secrets on a young woman's heart — so delicious!


"Maturin, are you sure you will not reconsider these breeding experiments?" Sir Joseph asked, taking a third cup of Mr Wilson-Scott's excellent Java at the breakfast table.

"I will not," said Stephen. "Surely we have not come this far, have risked the moral censure of our peers, the strictures of the Church — not to say the strain upon our host's good nature and nose — thus journeyed to yet end for ignominious lack of courage? I do not accuse you, Sir Joseph, of cowardice, naturally".

Sir Joseph would have been outraged if any other than his old friend had addressed such a remark to him, but he had long been used to Maturin's sharp tongue, to his want, on occasion, of caution in his phrasing. As the Doctor had aged, Sir Joseph mused, so that natural discretion that had made him one of the great secret agents of the late Napoleonic Wars eroded to a shrewish and self-righteous snappiness.

"But again, is this enterprise worth the risks we are talking, the risks you yourself have just described? Consider: a universal peace has descended on Europe now the Corsican Adventurer is safely under lock and key in the far South Atlantic. Navies are everywhere being reduced. See the friends of our dear Aubrey that are now "on the shore" as they say, for want of any ship at all."

"Have you not told me in times past that the best defence is a strong and steady watchfulness? And am I not merely preparing for future conflicts — for there will be such things, perhaps not in our lifetimes, for the weariness of a war of some five and twenty years is not lightly cast off — preparing, I say, in a prudent way?" Stephen drained his fourth cup of Trinque Hall coffee, and reached for the pot once more.

"Maturin: breeding ship's rats to carry rare and awful disease, rats that bred to eat only garlic, and thus with an abnormal propinquity for French ships — is this" (Sir Joseph inwardly prayed: please God that I may have found the one phrase that will not get me skewered by either his wounding tongue or his equally sharp sword) " is this, my dear friend, quite Cricket?"

[bab] The nights were drawing in and only the previous evening, in the smokey comfort of The Jolly Oyster, local opinion makers had turned their attention from the subject of the cricket season past to that of the day's rats – quantities of tiny rats observed morosely leaving barns ; contents of barns barely nibbled at; terriers not inclined to give chase...

After a night of restorative sleep and reflection, Killick had got his poor aching head over early to Trinque Hall where he had the satisfaction of thoroughly ruining the rest of the morning for Sir Joseph by revealing what he had heard at the Oyster. Stephen, who had found the introduction of cricket into the conversation personally offensive, would already have covered the distance to Ashgrove on his mule. "We must after him!" cried Sir Joseph calling for his landau.

Amongst the still dewladen leaves of the Ashgrove shrubbery, Emperson Wilson-Scott was in the act of ruining his own morning by tenderly intimating to Fanny that he had first been attracted to her by her nimbleness in the dance, by her satin slippered feet that

"like tiny mice
beneath her petticoat
crept in and out".

Something about the way she had received his overture had almost deterred him from proceding with the full, rehearsed proposal of marriage. Almost but not sufficiently, alas. Was it the mice (he had been in two minds about them but he had been at a loss for what to say and had thought that poetry might meet the case) or his offering of his heart that had made Charlotte weep so with laughter? How blue her eyes became and how red she her face! Suddenly she ressembled her father – her large, not always amiable father, who could be seen hurrying towards them with determination from the direction of the stables in company with Miss Wesley (was the woman everywhere?), his brother, Babbington, Sir Joseph, Killick and a deeply disgusted cat. All were armed with rifles or pitchforks and the cat had something in its mouth. Oh, that he had followed convention and proposed to the father first!

But the armed party swept by them by with merely a nod, and a "Have you seen the Doctor?" before stumbling to a halt as Stephen himself and his mule rounded the corner of an outlying building and drew up to them. "Stephen! There you are! At last! And what have you to say to this? Eh? Eh?" and Jack extracted a small and slightly ruffled rat from Puss's mouth.

"It is only a rattus rattus", observed Stephen,"somewhat undersized".

"Only a rattus? Is that all you have to say? Only a rattus? Stephen, roaming bands of your vermin have been terrorising the neighbourhood, no farm has been spared, no...No! Do not dismount, Stephen, but take this rifle and join us. We are applying to the village for reinforcements and dogs. Perhaps we may call in the Sea Fencibles".

"Here give me that animal!" waving it. " Look how starved it is and forlorn. For shame! All of you! Did I not promise you, on the head of St Brendan himself, that my rats would have no taste for unseasoned food? Sure and didn't I just pass the main body of them heading back for their cages, ravening for garlic, the creatures?

You are making a great todo about nothing. It has been the making of a mountain out of a molehill, out of a molehill, I say. Not even a mole, a mere rat. And you, Joseph, who have some pretentions to being a natural philosopher! I am particularly disappointed in you . Such bluster, such grandiloquence as you have employed, ultimately bringing cricket into the argument for all love! I cannot, I cannot find the words...I am reduced to poetry – "parturiunt montes et nascetur ridiculus "! (*)


"Oh ma'am, if you please, the master is still shutting himself away in his room. He refused to come out when Finlay said all them rats was coming back and should they be locked up again... They are climbing back into their cages as I live and breathe, ma'am. The master said he was crossed in love and couldn't contemplate rodents at such a time as this."

"Oh, how one's heart aches for a dejected mind of one and twenty," said Mrs Baker, with a remarkable lack of sincerity. "Mr Babbington, as my brother persists in being afflicted, would you be so kind as to deal with the vermin?" There was no refusing Mrs Baker when she set her mind to something, so Hugo repressed some reflections on officious young widows and left meekly for the barn.

"I admire that young man for his style and dash," thought Mrs Baker, "but I cannot admit of a more tender sentiment. For he is lacking in some vital quality, lacking... about a thousand a year. A black shame; he cuts such a splendid figure in breeches ...and possesses the finest teeth in Dorset."

The barn housing the experimental rats was on the very edge of Wilson-Scott's property, so near as to be almost part of the Ashgrove estate. A few of the more elderly and slow rats were creeping towards it to join their fellows, their ears drooping and meagre tails dragged mournfully behind them; the very picture of murine dejection.

The breeches which had excited such admiration were splattered with mud and the winning teeth hidden beneath a linen handkerchief as Hugo finally reached the barn door. The smell was overpowering — the handkerchief did little to stifle it — rat bodies, rat ordure and... something else.

As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Hugo could make out a slim figure actually sitting amongst the vermin. The animals inside the barn seemed more contented than those he had seen outside; their bellies full, their fur sleek and their whiskers gleaming. They had arrayed themselves into a tremendous circle, and sat gazing up affectionately at the individual in its centre.

At the same time, Hugo finally placed the other odour — garlic — and recognised the person sitting before him. "Fanny!" he cried. "Miss Aubrey, I mean. Whatever are you doing?"

"I could not stand to see these creatures suffer so," replied Fanny, hanging her head. "I fed them as much garlic as I could buy in town... I hope you do not think too ill of me, sir; rats are not really quite the thing, I know."

"My dear Miss Aubrey," cried Hugo. Oblivious to his surroundings, he rushed to kneel beside her, the rats parting to make a path for him. "You are so good, so kind, so tender-hearted. I ..."

The barn door slammed open. Emperson Wilson-Scott took in the scene with prodigious dismay. He cried "Charlotte!" in a choked voice and stumbled out of the door.

"Charlotte?" wondered Hugo.

Fanny blushed.

[pgb-w] Fanny wormed closer to the broad back of her husband, "laying alongside" as father would have it, seeking the warmth and comfort of the dear man. There were so many pleasures in marriage, and a place to put one's cold feet in the night was not to be forgotten amongst them.

The curtains of the bedroom stirred in the night breeze, and washes of silver light flickered on the ceiling. Somewhere an owl hooted, a rabbit cried as a badger made a catch, a faint whinny came from the horses in the stables, and the soft sighs of the evening's wind underlay all. Oh, Marriage and all its discoveries — married life and its many, many delights — a delicious content spread, with the masculine warmth, through Fanny's relaxed form.

Was it only six months since that moment in Uncle Stephen's barn, surrounded by the grey, sleek horde, when Hugo had fallen at her feet and proposed? And was it only six months since a quite shattered Emperson had been coaxed by Mrs Baker into talking to Miss Wesley who talked to Mama who talked to Charlotte who left off weeping (with most unnecessary drama, thought Fanny) and agreed to talk to Emperson which led Emperson to talk to Papa which led, of course, to another marriage.

In the comings and goings hadn't Miss Wesley employed Sir Joseph as an intermediary from time to time, and hadn't they arranged in the City for dear Hugo to speculate in the Funds and do so well and make a lot of money from the moleskin hat craze so as to be able to persuade Papa that he was a perfectly suitable petitioner for one of his daughters?

All the while, hadn't Mrs Baker been quietly investigating through Miss Wesley and her sources the true financial state of Uncle Philip, and hadn't the discovery of how well he had done with prizes at the end of the war, and how sensibly he had shepherded his stake into a most adequate amount, helped Mrs Baker see that Lieutenant Aubrey did look, from some perspectives, most elegant in breeches, and that teeth did not always make the man?

And sly, sly Miss Wesley, Fanny mused, moving her back closer to her husband, up and down to London, accepting rides in Sir Joseph's carriage, staying at the Grapes but dining regularly in Shepherd's Market, admiring Sir Joseph's beetles — and what had happened? And who could claim with a clear conscience that it had not been all planned by Mama and Miss Patricia and even with a nudge or two at critical moments from Uncle Stephen?

Oh, but there had been that sadness! Poor dear Uncle Stephen had been persuaded by Papa ("Ordered by a tyrant that put the Great Khan to shame as a sorry fellow," Uncle said) that the rats must go. A decent burial he had demanded, so hadn't they all packed off to Shelmerston with casks of rats that the good Doctor, with almost tender care, had put down — and off for a short sail on the dear Surprise to witness a most unusual burial at sea, Papa reading, in a voice that quite caught in his throat, an Article or Two — for the Reverend Martin had advised no blasphemy when the question of a psalm had been raised — all with the gravity and correctness and dignity that only the Navy did so well.

Then the great day: everyone Fanny had ever known seeming to be in and out of Trinque Hall (for there were so many wedding guests that poor Ashgrove would have quite collapsed under them) and the bridesmaids flitting like wonderful butterflies (Brigid and Emily and Sarah amongst them, glowing and giggling and dancing with impatience to get to the church) and Mrs Broad fussing over the wedding feast, flapping her hands at Mr Killick and ordering him about, and Mr Killick pretending to be outraged, and — as a soon-to-be-married lady, and therefore soon to be wise — Fanny realising he was liking it secretly, for all love.

The Trinque family church decorated by the Surprises with flowers and garlands, and all polished to a dazzle, and Mr Martin standing at the altar waiting and Mama glowing in the front pew, with George next to her, clean and combed and still for once. Papa as self-appointed Marshal for the day had the coaches on the road from Trinque Hall at just the right intervals, and all the guests had been deposited and the Captains had ushered them all to seats and then the bridal coaches arriving each on Papa's appointed dot of time, Mr Bonden springing out to fling open the doors and hand the ladies down, each on the arm of a Captain or a Rear Admiral or an Admiral, for all love, for her shining moment of solemn procession up the aisle.

And one by one Mr Martin had married them (in an order drawn by Purity Skinner, the Trinque housekeeper): Fanny and Hugo — then Charlotte and Emperson — then Patricia and Sir Joseph (oh! how she had simpered when Mr Martin presented "Sir Joseph and Lady Blaine" to the congregation) — and last Mrs Baker and Uncle Philip. Why even Uncle Stephen had a small tear in his eye. A glorious week of four weddings, with the rat funeral like a little pinch of salt to contrast and sweeten the joy.

Triumphal parading out of the church, couple by couple, through a great file of officers with their sabres aloft, and on through another arch of Surprises with oars crossed overhead — and the bells ringing and the distant sound of the Surprise's great guns (another display of Papa's naval timing) booming out and out — to the carriages and to Trinque for the feast of feasts, and the party of the whole world, and the speeches and the gifts and the dancing and the wedding nights and the honeymoons and the settling into married life, settling so warm and replete and cosy, Fanny thought, yes it was cosy and he was the man of her life and they were all happy and it is so late yes and my eyes are heavy yes marriage yes it was so yes he's so handsome and yes so loving and yes and yes. . .

(*) Q HORATIUS FLACCUS: The mountain labours and a ridiculous mouse is born.

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