Ethel looked excitedly around the church. "Look Collin," she whispered, "Do ya see the pretty windows?"
The baby yawned and closed his eyes.
"Guess he ain't as excited as the rest of us." Ethel smiled at Maudie who sat in he pew next to her.
"This is thrillin'." Maudie grinned. "I can't believe we're at a weddin'."
"Ain't ya never been to a weddin' before?" Ethel asked.
"No." Maudie shook her head. "Have you?"
"No." Ethel giggled. She noticed Mrs. Pepper glance at her from the pew in front of them and quickly quieted down.
"I'm so glad Gamilla and Gerard are finally gettin' married." Maudie said. "I know I ain't been in the house as long as all of you, but, I love everyone so. And, it's clear there ain't two people who should be married more than Gamilla and Gerard."
"He don't even look nervous," Ethel smiled, looking toward Gerard who stood at the front of the church with Robert and Charles.
"Not a bit. He looks 'appy." Maudie replied.
"Ya know, I'm glad there ain't no one here but us folk from the household." Ethel said. "Think if the whole church was full like on a Sunday. Gerry'd be sweatin' with all them eyes on 'im. I know I would."
"No, it's best it's just us. I think it's fine how we're sittin' all together. His Grace is gonna sit just ahead of us. All of us in one spot. Like a real family." Maudie sighed happily. "Here, do we get to stay with the baby the whole time?"
"His Grace'll fetch him before he sits."
"Too bad. I like bein' 'round the baby." Maudie said. "Even though I'll miss ya in the kitchens, I'm 'appy you're gonna be up in the nursery with the sweet lad."
"Me, too. But, I'll be 'round. Ain't like I'm goin' to a different 'ouse. And, I'll still be in our room at night."
"I know." Maudie nodded.
"Here," Ethel changed the subject, "read me the invitation again. It's so pretty."
"Right." Maudie nodded, picking up the invitations to the wedding which Punch had printed as mementos for the household. "But, ya know, my readin' ain't so good."
"Better'n mine." Ethel smiled.
"His Grace the Duke of Fallbridge and the Much Honourable Baron of Colinshire request the honour of your presence..." Maudie began.
"Ain't it fine..." Ethel nodded. "The masters request the honor of OUR presence. Imagine."
"It's a pretty thing, ain't it?" Maudie sniffed.
"Them animals and such." Maudie continued, running her finger over the Fallbridge crest. "All must mean somethin'."
"Must. Dunno." Ethel shrugged.
"Excuse me, but I couldn't help overhear." Matthew said, he turned from his spot, two pews ahead of Maudie and Ethel, just in front of Mrs. Pepper and Georgie.
"Oh, dear. We're bein' too loud." Maudie covered her mouth.
"Not at all," The Earl answered. "I just thought I'd explain the Fallbridge arms to you. If you'd like."
"Oh, please." Ethel chirped.
"I'd like to know, too, if you please, Lord Cleaversworth." Georgie spoke up.
Matthew looked at Mrs. Pepper, who nodded cheerfully.
"I'm something of a heraldry enthusiast." Matthew smiled shyly, looking at the crest. "A laurel wreath Vert and an antelope head erased of the same. horned Gules and collared Azur, a chief of the same cotised Vert, an antelope Argent horned, hoofed or holding halberd between the Forepaws between two antelopes sejant reguardant Argent horned and hoofed."
They all looked at him with wide eyes.
"I say, terribly sorry." Matthew blushed. "The shield in the middle is his Grace's arms. They animals symbolize Unity, Harmony and Courage. These are supported by the symbols of our land, the lion and unicorn. The shield sits on a green ground, representing England and above it is the ducal coronet, meaning that your master is a Duke. Above that is a knight's helmet, an homage to His Grace's late father, Sir Colin. The shield is surrounded by the blue garter which means that His Grace belongs to the Queen's Order of the Garter. In short, simply that the Queen favors your master."
"Oh my!" Mrs. Pepper nodded. "I always wondered what it all meant."
"Thank you, Lord Cleaversworth." Ethel said.
"Well, then," Matthew nodded awkwardly. "Always glad to help."
"Oh, the music!" Maudie exclaimed.
All rose as the organ began to play.
They turned to see Fern, dressed in her fine, rose-colored silk, her hair swept up, walk down the aisle first. She tossed, from a white basket, rose petals on the stone floor. Oddly enough, she bore an unfamiliar expression--a combination of pride, happiness and excitement.
Even Robert couldn't help but smile.
Next came Laddy Fallbridge. Lennie, too, looked beautiful in a celery green gown and wearing a dramatic necklace of demantoid garnets and diamonds.
Matthew gasped when he saw her.
Lennie was followed by Violet in the special gown with which Gamilla had surprised her earlier that day. Pale blue silk, the gown off-set Violet's deep blue eyes. Her blonde hair, still short, had been braided into a crown upon her head and dotted with fresh daisies.
For the first time since they'd known one another, Charles really took notice of Violet. So much so that his knees felt a little weak. Robert noticed this and quickly smiled at the blushing valet.
Gerard, however, saw no one. He waited only for Gamilla, and wished the others would make their way to the altar so he could catch his first sight of his beloved.
Finally, Gamilla appeared on the arm of the Duke of Fallbridge/Mr. Punch.
Gerard gasped along with the others in attendance.
The sunlight suddenly seemed brighter in St. Peter's of Eaton Square, as if the clouds all parted as Gamilla entered and allowed the sun to pierce through the tall windows of the sanctuary, in order to illiminate Gamilla's golden gown, the diamonds in her hair and the blooms she carried. But, all paled in comparison to the smile she wore on her face.
She looked only at Gerard and he only at her.
As Gamilla walked down the aisle, Mrs. Pepper, Maudie, Ethel and, even Georgie, wept happy tears, the tears that fall when a body is overwhelmed by joy and beauty. She seemed to float as if a vision only, one without flesh, a creation purely of light.
Mrs. Pepper looked away for a moment to dab her eyes and thought, just for a second, she caught sight of Jenny seated in the choir. She blinked and Jenny was gone, but Mrs. Pepper knew she had been there, and knew she approved.
Gerard reached a hand back and Robert took the man's arm to steady him.
"She looks lovely." Robert whispered to Gerard.
"Never was there anyone more beautiful." Gerard choked back tears. "I wish I could take her in my arms right now."
Finally, Punch and Gamilla reached the altar.
The vicar stood before them, and spoke:
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace."
Mr. Punch turned slightly and cast a warning look. No one spoke.
With that, Punch stepped away, lingering to squeeze Gamilla's hand once more, and, taking Colin from Ethel, joined Matthew in the front pew.
Gerard stepped forward and stood next to Gamilla, whispering. "You are beautiful."
She whispered back, "So are you."
The vicar cleared his throat and continued.
"Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health ; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
Gerard grinned, "I will."
The vicar turned to Gamilla.
"Wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband,to live together after Gods ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?"
Gamilla answered happily. "I will."
"Who giveth this woman to marry this man?" The vicar asked.
Mr. Punch rose, holding Colin. "I, Julian, Ninth Duke of Fallbridge, and, The Lord Baron Colinshire do." He spoke in Julian's voice, but added quickly in his own, "And, we're very happy about it."
The congregation, minus the vicar, laughed.
And, so, the couple began to exchange their vows.
Come back tomorrow for the marriage breakfast and a lot more fun with Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.