Open main menu

 

CHAPTER THE LAST.

MR. VERDANT GREEN IS MARRIED AND DONE FOR.

Lasthope's ruined Church, since it had become a ruin—which was many a long year ago—had never held within its mouldering walls so numerous a congregation as was assembled therein on one particular September morning, somewhere about the middle of the present century. It must be confessed that this unusual assemblage had not been drawn together to see and hear the officiating Clergyman (who had never, at any time, been a special attraction), although that ecclesiastical Ruin was present, and looked almost picturesque in the unwonted glories of a clean surplice and white kid gloves. But, this decorative appearance of the Ruin, coupled with the fact that it was made on a week day, was a sufficient proof that no ordinary circumstance had brought about this goodly assemblage.

At length, after much expectant waiting, those on the outside of the Church discerned the figure of small Jock Muir mounted on his highly-trained donkey, and galloping along at a tearing pace from the direction of Honeywood Hall. It soon became evident that he was the advance guard of two carriages that were being rapidly whirled along the rough road that led by the rocky banks of the Swirl. Before small Jock drew rein, he had struggled to relieve his own excitement, and that of the crowd, by pointing to the carriages and shouting, "Yon's the greums, wi' the t'other priest!" the correctness of which assertion was speedily manifested by the arrival of the "grooms" in question, who were none other than Mr. Verdant Green and Mr. Frederick Delaval, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Larkyns (who was to "assist" at the ceremony) and their "best men," who were Mr. Bouncer and a cousin of Frederick Delaval's. Which quintet of gentlemen at once went into the Church, and commenced a whispered conversation with the ecclesiastical Ruin. These circumstances, taken in conjunction with the gorgeous attire of the gentlemen, their white gloves, their waistcoats "equal to any emergency" (as Mr. Bouncer had observed), and the bows of white satin ribbon that gave a festive appearance to themselves, their carriage-horses, and postilions—sufficiently proclaimed the fact that a wedding—and that, too, a double one—was at hand.

The assembled crowd had now sufficient to engage their attention, by the approach of a very special train of carriages, that was brought to a grand termination by two travelling-carriages, respectively drawn by four greys, which were decorated with flowers and white ribbons, and were bestridden by gay postilions in gold-tasseled caps and scarlet jackets. No wonder that so unusual a procession should have attracted such an assemblage; no wonder that Old Andrew Graham (who was there with his well-favoured daughters) should pronounce it "a brae sight for weak een."

As the clatter of the carriages announced their near approach to Lasthope Church, Mr. Verdant Green—who had been in the highest state of excitement, and had distractedly occupied himself in looking at his watch to see if it was twelve o'clock; in arranging his Oxford-blue tie; in futilely endeavouring to button his gloves; in getting ready, for the fiftieth time, the gratuity that should make the Ruin's heart to leap for joy; in longing for brandy and water; and in attending to the highly-out-of-place advice of Mr. Bouncer, relative to the sustaining of his "pecker"—Mr. Verdant Green was thereupon seized with the fearful apprehension that he had lost the ring; and, after an agonizing and trembling search in all his pockets, was only relieved by finding it in his glove (where he had put it for safety) just as the double bridal procession entered the church.

Of the proceedings of the next hour or two, Mr. Verdant Green never had a clear perception. He had a dreamy idea of seeing a bevy of ladies and gentlemen pouring into the church, in a mingled stream of bright-coloured silks and satins, and dark-coloured broadcloths, and lace, and ribbons, and mantles, and opera cloaks, and bouquets; and, that this bright stream, followed by a rush of dark shepherd's-plaid waves, surged up the aisle, and, dividing confusedly, shot out from their centre a blue coat and brass buttons (in which, by the way, was Mr. Honeywood), on the arms of which were hanging two white-robed figures, partially shrouded with Honiton-lace veils, and crowned with orange blossoms.

Mr. Verdant Green has a dim remembrance of the party being marshalled to their places by a confused clerk, who assigned the wrong brides to the wrong bridegrooms, and appeared excessively anxious that his mistake should not be corrected. Mr. Verdant Green also had an idea that he himself was in that state of mind in which he would passively have allowed himself to be united to Miss Kitty Honeywood, or to Miss Letitia Jane Morkin (who was one of Miss Patty's bridesmaids), or to Mrs. Hannah More, or to the Hottentot Venus, or to any one in the female shape who might have thought proper to take his bride's place. Mr. Verdant Green also had a general recollection of making responses, and feeling much as he did when in for his vivâ voce examination at college; and of experiencing a difficulty when called upon to place the ring on one of the fingers of the white hand held forth to him, and of his probable selection of the thumb for the ring's resting place, had not the bride considerately poked out the proper finger, and assisted him to place the golden circlet in its assigned position. Mr. Verdant Green had also a misty idea that the service terminated with kisses, tears, and congratulations; and, that there was a great deal of writing and signing of names in two documentary-looking books; and that he had mingled feelings that it was all over, that he was made very happy, and that he wished he could forthwith project himself into the middle of the next week.

Mr. Verdant Green had also a dozy idea that he was guided into a carriage by a hand that lay lovingly upon his arm; and, that he shook a variety of less delicate hands that there were thrust out to him in hearty northern fashion; and, that the two cracked old bells of Lasthope Church made a lunatic attempt to ring a wedding peal, and only succeeded in producing music like to that which attends the hiving of bees; and, that he jumped into the carriage, amid a burst of cheering and God-blessings; and, that he heard the carriage-steps and door shut to with a clang; and that he felt a sensation of being whirled on by moving figures, and sliding scenery; and, that he found the carriage tenanted by one other person, and that person, his wife.

"My darling wife! My dearest wife! My own wife!" It was all that his heart could find to say. It was sufficient, for the present, to ring the tuneful changes on that novel word, and to clasp the little hand that trembled under its load of happiness, and to press that little magic circle, out of which the necromancy of Marriage should conjure such wonders and delights.

The wedding breakfast—which was attended, among others, by Mr. and Mrs. Poletiss (née Morkins), and by Charles Larkyns and his wife, who was now


"The mother of the sweetest little maid
That ever crow'd for kisses,"—

the wedding breakfast, notwithstanding that it was such a substantial reality, appeared to Mr. Verdant Green's bewildered mind to resemble somewhat the pageant of a dream. There was the usual spasmodic gaiety of conversation that is inherent to bridal banquets, and toasts were proclaimed and honoured, and speeches were made—indeed, he himself made one, of which he could not recall a word. Sufficient let it be for our present purpose, therefore, to briefly record the speech of Mr. Bouncer, who was deputed to return thanks for the duplicate bodies of bridesmaids.

Mr. Bouncer (who with some difficulty checked his propensity to indulge in Oriental figurativeness of expression) was understood to observe, that on interesting occasions like the present, it was the custom for the youngest groomsman to return thanks on behalf of the bridesmaids; and that he, not being the youngest, had considered himself safe from this onerous duty. For though the task was a pleasing one, yet it was one of fearful responsibility. It was usually regarded as a sufficiently difficult and hazardous experiment, when one single gentleman attempted to express the sentiments of one single lady; but when, as in the present case, there were ten single ladies, whose unknown opinions had to be conveyed through the medium of one single gentleman, then the experiment became one from which the boldest heart might well shrink. He confessed that he experienced these emotions of timidity on the present occasion. (Cries of "Oh!") He felt, that to adequately discharge the duties entrusted would require the might of an engine of ten-bridesmaid power. He would say more, but his feelings overcame him. (Renewed cries of "Oh!") Under these circumstances he thought that he had better take his leave of the subject, convinced that the reply to the toast would be most eloquently conveyed by the speaking eyes of the ten blooming bridesmaids. (Mr. Bouncer resumes his seat amid great approbation.)

Then the brides disappeared, and after a time made their re-appearance in travelling dresses. Then there were tears and "doubtful joys," and blessings, and farewells, and the departure of the two carriages-and-four (under a brisk fire of old shoes) to the nearest railway station, from whence the happy couples set out, the one for Paris, the other for the Cumberland Lakes; and it was amid those romantic lakes, with their mountains and waterfalls, that Mr. Verdant Green sipped the sweets of the honeymoon, and realized the stupendous fact that he was a married man.


 
The honeymoon had barely passed, and November had come, when Mr. Verdant Green was again to be seen in Oxford—a bachelor only in the University sense of the term, for his wife was with him, and they had rooms in the High Street. Mr. Bouncer was also there, and had prevailed upon Verdant to invite his sister Fanny to join them and be properly chaperoned by Mrs. Verdant. For, that wedding-day in Northumberland had put an effectual stop to the little gentleman's determination to refrain from the wedded state, and he could now say with Benedick, "When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married." But Miss Fanny Green had looked so particularly charming in her bridesmaid's dress, that little Mr. Bouncer was inspired with the notable idea, that he should like to see her playing first fiddle, and attired in the still more interesting costume of a bride. On communicating this inspiration (couched, it must be confessed, in rather extraordinary language) to Miss Fanny, he found that the young lady was far from averse to assisting him to carry out his idea; and in further conversation with her, it was settled that she should follow the example of her sister Helen (who was "engaged" to the Rev. Josiah Meek, now the rector of a Worcestershire parish), and consider herself as "engaged" to Mr. Bouncer. Which facetious idea of the little gentleman's was rendered the more amusing from its being accepted and agreed to by the young lady's parents and "the Mum." So here was Mr. Bouncer again in Oxford, an "engaged" man, in company with the object of his affections, both being prepared as soon as possible to follow the example of Mr. and Mrs. Verdant Green.

Before Verdant could "put on his gown," certain preliminaries had to be observed. First, he had to call, as a matter of courtesy, on the head of his College, to whom he had to show his Testamur, and whose formal permission he requested that he might put on his gown.

"Oh yes!" replied Dr. Portman, in his monosyllabic tones, as though he were reading aloud from a child's primer; "oh yes, cer-tain-ly! I was de-light-ed to know that you had pass-ed and that you have been such a cred-it to your col-lege. You will o-blige me, if you please, by pre-sent-ing your-self to the Dean of Arts." And then Dr. Portman shook hands with Verdant, wished him good morning, and resumed his favourite study of the Greek particles.

Then, at an appointed hour in the evening, Verdant, in company with other men of his college, went to the Dean of Arts, who heard them read through the Thirty-nine Articles, and dismissed them with this parting intimation—"Now, gentlemen! I shall expect to see you at the Divinity School in the morning at ten o'clock. You must come with your bands and gown, and fees; and be sure, gentlemen, that you do not forget the fees!"


Pg 109--Mr Verdant Green married and done for.png


So in the morning Verdant takes Patty to the Schools, and commits her to the charge of Mr. Bouncer, who conducts her and Miss Fanny to one of the raised seats in the Convocation House, from whence they will have a good view of the conferring of Degrees. Mr. Verdant Green finds the precincts of the Schools tenanted by droves of college Butlers, Porters, and Scouts, hanging about for the usual fees and old gowns, and carrying blue bags, in which are the new gowns. Then—having seen that Mr. Robert Filcher is in attendance with his own particular gown—he struggles through the Pig-market, [1] thronged with bustling Bedels and University Marshals, and other officials. Then, as opportunity offers, he presents himself to the senior Squire Bedel in Arts, George Valentine Cox, Esq., who sits behind a table, and, in his polite and scholarly manner, puts the usual questions to him, and permits him, on the due payment of all the fees, to write his name in a large book, and to place "Fil. Gen." [2] after his autograph. Then he has to wait some time until the superior Degrees are conferred, and the Doctors and Masters have taken their seats, and the Proctors have made their apparently insane promenade. [3]

Then the Deans come into the ante-chamber to see if the men of their respective Colleges are duly present, properly dressed, and have faithfully paid the fees. Then, when the Deans, having satisfactorily ascertained these facts, have gone back again into the Convocation House, the Yeoman Bedel rushes forth with his silver "poker," and summons all the Bachelors, in a very precipitate and far from impressive manner, with "Now, then, gentlemen! please all of you to come in! you're wanted!" Then the Bachelors enter the Convocation House in a troop, and stand in the area, in front of the Vice-Chancellor and the two Proctors. Then are these young men duly quizzed by the strangers present, especially by the young ladies, who, besides noticing their own friends, amuse themselves by picking out such as they suppose to have been reading men, fast men, or slow men—taking the face as the index of the mind. We may be sure that there is a young married lady present who does not indulge in futile speculations of this sort, but fixes her whole attention on the figure of Mr. Verdant Green.

Then the Bedel comes with a pile of Testaments, and gives one to each man; Dr. Bliss, the Registrar of the University, administers to them the oath, and they kiss the book. Then the Deans present them to the Vice-Chancellor in a short Latin form; and then the Vice-Chancellor, standing up uncovered, with the Proctors standing on either side, addresses them in these words: "Domini, ego admitto vos ad lectionem cujuslibet libri Logices Aristotelis; et insuper earum Artium, quas et quatenus per Statuta audivisse tenemini; insuper autoritate mea et totius universitatis, do vobis potestatem intrandi scholas, legendi, disputandi, et reliqua omnia faciendi, quae ad gradum Baccalaurei in Artibus spectant."

When the Vice-Chancellor has spoken these remarkable words which, after three years of university reading and expense, grant so much that has not been asked or wished for, the newly-made Bachelors rush out of the Convocation House in wild confusion, and stand on one side to allow the Vice-Chancellarian procession to pass. Then, on emerging from the Pig-market, they hear St. Mary's bells, which sound to them sweeter than ever.


Pg 111--Mr Verdant Green married and done for.png


Mrs. Verdant Green is especially delighted with her husband's voluminous bachelor's gown and white-furred hood (articles which Mr. Robert Filcher, when helping to put them on his master in the ante-chamber, had declared to be "the most becomingest things as was ever wore on a gentleman's shoulders"), and forthwith carries him off to be photographed while the gloss of his new glory is yet upon him. Of course, Mr. Verdant Green and all the new Bachelors are most profusely "capped;" and, of course, all this servile homage—although appreciated at its full worth, and repaid by shillings and quarts of buttery beer—of course it is most grateful to the feelings, and is as delightfully intoxicating to the imagination as any incense of flattery can be.

What a pride does Mr. Verdant Green feel as he takes his bride through the streets of his beautiful Oxford! how complacently he conducts her to lunch at the confectioner's who had supplied their wedding-cake! how he escorts her (under the pretence of making purchases) to every shop at which he has dealt, that he may gratify his innocent vanity in showing off his charming bride! how boldly he catches at the merest college acquaintance, solely that he may have the proud pleasure of introducing "My wife!"

But what said Mrs. Tester, the bed-maker? "Law bless you, sir!" said that estimable lady, dabbing her curtseys where there were stops, like the beats of a conductor's baton—"Law bless you, sir! I've bin a wife meself, sir. And I knows your feelings."

And what said Mr. Robert Filcher? "Mr. Verdant Green," said he, "I'm sorry as how you've done with Oxford, sir, and that we're agoing to lose you. And this I will say, sir! if ever there was a gentleman I were sorry to part with, it's you, sir. But I hopes, sir, that you've got a wife as'll be a good wife to you, sir; and make you ten times happier than you've been in Oxford, sir!"

And so say we.


Pg 112--Mr Verdant Green married and done for.png
 

London: Printed by Seacombe & Jack, 16a Great Windmill Street


  1. The derivation of this word has already been given. See Part I, p. 40.
  2. i.e., Filius Generosi—the son of a gentleman of independent means.
  3. See Part I, p. 100