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The Warp

Wedding (1)

London was looking good with the sun on its pinnacles and spires. At the church Patrick and various other ushers had been waiting for me. I went through the already filling church to the sacristy. Thirty camelias lay, delicate and beautiful, in their little box, hedged round with clouds of foamy paper. I put one in my button hole. The organist asked to speak to me and said he couldn’t read the pencil manuscript of the ‘prelude’ I had written. I edited it so that he had a shortened and easier version.

My father took me back to say hello to someone at the west end of the church. Around these parts everything felt joyous and flowery and filled with people like a continental church.

Serena rushed up and threw her arms round me and said, ‘Jeremy, I’m most terribly pleased, I really am.’

Nell’s mother Mary entered in a cloud of blue through the shafting sun from the door. I went to sit at the front of the church beside Patrick.

A tough voice from behind, ‘Give me a race card,’ from Uncle Michael.

An assistant came across and said, ‘Groom and best man wanted in the sacristy please.’

Because Nell was in theory a Catholic and it was to be a Catholic wedding, the registrar was waiting for me. He asked me a long number of what appeared to be nonsensical questions, until I said, ‘Oughtn’t I to be back in the church?’ At that moment my march struck up so back I rushed. Father Creese beckoned me forward and I stood looking forward over the altar rail, and at length percieved by a sort of zone of excitement on my left, rather than felt, that Nell had arrived beside me wearing, as she had rightly described it to me, a very exotic sort of felt muslin tent. My throat was dry and I was glad to find that I had enough voice to say loudly, ‘I will.’

Nell told me later, ‘I was going to say ‘I will’ quietly, but then when I heard you shout it out, I thought I’d better shout it out loud as well.’

I felt as if in a numb haze, cold and pure like standing under a cataract. This lasted until we went out into the sacristy where the registrar, a wet blanket indeed, asked us to repeat the words that had already been said in church and Nell began laughing and couldn’t repeat them. Mary cut Nell’s veil across and Nell said, ‘Careful, Mum!’

Aunt Rob commented, ‘Those scissors could be deadly to fringes.’ Upon which the registrar broke in saying, ‘May we get the ceremony over first please?’

Mary ignored him saying, ‘I want to finish this so that I can kiss her.’ I heard a quartet of singers back in the church singing, ‘The voice of the turtle is heard in our land.’ A photographer meanwhile was manoeuvring round us with his camera, photographing us and the four pages and Victoria Rodd looking wonderful in a late Victorian while bridesmaid’s dress.

The rest of the people in the sacristy went back into church leaving Nell, me and the pages, and we waited hand in hand, like a train parked in a station waiting for the green signal. The quartet ended and I strode and she glided back, festively, arm in arm, and knelt down while the choir sang something like ‘God with honour bang your head.’

The wedding march by Hans Selig struck up, and we went smiling down the aisle. Outside the west door there stood a number of newspaper cameramen, perched on the gate, round the balustrade, in front of the car we were to go away in. They were interested because we had announced that we would be spending our honeymoon in a balloon, to be made by Thomas Pakenham, and launched from London’s Green Park. That idea had been abandoned but the press were still expecting something unusual. Not knowing what to do next, we kissed as they flashed, then again, while the cameramen shouted coarse encouragement. We advanced towards our car, through the crowd.

Nell looked unsure of what was going to happen. I shouted, ‘Keep smiling, love!’ She smiled back.

A couple of the ushers, David Gillet and Gerald Campbell, hurled themselves against the crowd of cameramen and pushed them back as policemen do. Through this scrum of people we reached the Bentley which took us to the Ritz Hotel and in the suite which had been provided for us to change Nell said, ‘What’s this letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Sandford?’ We both realised with a shock a moment later that this was us. A page arrived with a salver loaded with telegrams, and another with champagne. One of the telegrams, from Martin Romilly, asked ‘Is Nell Dunn Well Done, Stop.’

We went down to the reception, a mass of handshaking, and Tremayne told me, ‘In the middle of the service an old man came with three pennies which he tried to put into a box for candles, dropped with a great clatter, picked up, dropped again, erected a candle on the altar, and walked out.’

In the middle of the reception three friends appeared staggering under the weight of a vast clock taken from a suite upstairs.

I overheard the Baronessa von Störer saying to Aunt Rob, ‘Hello Rob, dear, where is Peggy?’

‘I suppose that she couldn’t afford to come.’

‘But if only I had known. I would have sent her a ticket.’

To me, the Baronessa said, ‘I had never thought, Jeremy, to have seen you being married here.’ Later she said, ‘It is a curious thing about these British islanders, all they want is just one thing, to get to know me personally.’


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