Garrison Fields

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Chapter 39 - The wedding

The following day came all but too soon. Derek would meet Jane on the steps of the Town Hall at the appointed time. Mrs Dunbar had come in specially that morning to help and had been busy the previous day enlisting one of the Managers Bob Jenkins from the Royal Oak to look after the General Wolf today.

‘Where is he’ remarked Mrs Dunbar, ‘Where’s who?’ replied Jane.

‘Why Bob Jenkins from the Royal Oak... I asked him to be up here for opening so that we could be ready in good time, and, oh here’s Sarah now...’ The door downstairs slammed behind her and they heard the heavy step of a fully laden Sarah coming up the stairs. She was laden with a number of the items, mainly luxury ones that Mrs Dunbar had asked her to pick up from Turpin’s, on her way in that morning. As she came in the kitchen door, she heaved the string bags she was carrying onto the table.

‘Just look at my hands, the strap has bitten right into them’ Mrs Dunbar took hold of one of her hands giving it a firm rub.

‘That’ll get the circulation going, now did they have everything that I asked for?’ She retrieved her hands now fully invigorated from Mrs Dunbar and began to unpack the shopping.

‘Yes, Mrs Dunbar, everything and I stopped in at Milburns the baker as well. They’ll have the cake and pastries delivered just after one o’clock’. Just as she finished, there was a knock on the back door.

’Who can that be stated Jane ‘we’re not expecting any orders today?’ Mrs Dunbar pulled up the sash window in the kitchen and leaned out.

‘I’ll be down in a second,’ with that she was gone, hurrying down the stairs. In a minute she was back, with a box of flowers a tray of roses made up as button holes and a corsage made of roses, sweat peas and white gysphphilia, all wrapped in a beautiful silk bow of white and yellow.

‘There. No bride should be without flowers on her wedding day,’ she stated. Jane and Sarah looked in the box, Jane was flabbergasted.

‘How... Where did you find the time to do all this, I don’t know how I can repay you.’ Mrs Dunbar chuckled like a cat purring.

‘Don’t be silly I’m enjoying every minute of it’. They all had their orders, there were three bars in the General Wolf, the public, the salon and the lounge. Mrs Dunbar had closed off the lounge and it was this that would be used for the Wedding Tea. She had already let Bob Jenkins know how to lay it out, with Trestle tables and white bed sheets to cover them. Sarah would prepare the tea and ensure that everything was laid out according to Mrs Dunbar’s wishes.

She was revelling in the activity and buzzing around like an old hen clucking and bossing everyone who stood too close. It was Bob Jenkins turn next when he arrived. He was setting up the lounge with Mr Dunbar while Mrs Dunbar served the regulars shouting instructions through the door which joined the two bars. Upstairs Jane and Sarah cut sandwiches filled with the slices of fresh ham, which Sarah had brought back that morning, they talked about everything and nothing as the time passed, at last Jane turned to Sarah.

‘You don’t mind if I stop helping now, I need to get Ted Cleaned up.’ She yelled down the stairs for him, he was as usual in the bar helping Mr Jenkins!’

He rushed upstairs to Mr Jenkins relief and within twenty minutes was returned washed and dressed in his sailor’s outfit. Mrs Dunbar was now also nearly dressed and fastened a buttonhole to Ted. Who protested emphatically.

‘Only girls where flowers!’ She laughed.

‘We’ve grown up all of a sudden, well you just listen to me. Everyone will be wearing them today and you’ll look silly without one.’ He looked at her unconvinced.

‘Then I’ll look silly’. She took it off and made to put it in the box.

‘That’s a shame as I have Matt’s and Luke’s in the box, and they’ll look so smart with their buttonholes, like real gentleman.’ she sighed.

‘Well, no odds young man, if you don’t want to wear it you don’t have to, but you’ll look silly when your brothers have theirs on!’

‘Ok, I’ll wear it,’ came the low response, before any other words were uttered she pinned it on him. The conversation was over, she pulled him off the chair and gave him a slap on his backside to chivvy him along.

‘Off you go downstairs and wait for us with Mr Jenkins, we’ll be down in a minute.’

Five minutes later Mrs Dunbar was standing in the hall, Mr Dunbar was looking very elegant, in his best summer suit and Mrs Dunbar was pinning his buttonhole on him, Mr Jenkins was his amusing self and was keeping all occupied while they waited. The top step creaked on the staircase, an annoyance that Mrs Dunbar would never have fixed. It would prevent them being murdered in their beds one night, if a burglary took place, but today its purpose was served by making them look up the stairs towards Jane and Sarah who had just helped her with the finishing touches to her hair. Her hand barely touched the banister as she glided down, in her other hand she held her wedding bouquet and, on her suit, a beautiful gardenia corsage was pinned.

‘By God... Look at our Jane.’

‘You can say that again,’ affirmed Bob to Mr Dunbar.

‘Why she’s as pretty as any oil painting in the gallery.’ The two men continued to wax lyrically about her until she reached the bottom rung, it seldom happened, but Mrs Dunbar was lost for words, it was perhaps the emotion of the moment, she could not have looked happier if it had been the daughter she never had. Instead, she gave her a quick hug and regained her composure.

‘Is the cab here?’

Mr Dunbar interrupted. ‘Your chariot is outside my sugar dumpling.’ she glared at him.

‘And this before he’s even had a drink.’ He winked at Bob Jenkins.

‘Let’s be off then.’ They followed her through the salon bar as Jane emerged the few regulars who were present burst into applause and shouted congratulatory statements to her. They emerged outside onto the pavement, where a chimney sweep had also been found, the custom was that it would bring good luck and so just before she mounted the cab, he stepped forward, brush and all and took off his cap, she knew the custom, and quickly she gave him a peck on the cheek. He was quite embarrassed, as she was, but the Dunbar’s had done her proud. Mr Dunbar shook hands with the chimney sweep, and to the discerning eye it might have been noticed that a little something was slid into the sweeps hand as he did. This was a little sideline that the sweeps had, and a far easier way to make a few bob than cleaning out chimneys.

The driver helped the ladies mount the taxi cart, it had a rear step and seats on each side. It was a clear day and the fact that the cart had no covering, was of no importance. They seated themselves quickly and around the cart several people from the surrounding houses had come out and were standing on their doorsteps, a number of children were milling around the cart, and a few of the regulars had now come out of the General. The driver mounted the cart and confirmed with Mr Dunbar that all were present. He then let the break off and slapped the reins lightly on the horses back, the strain was taken by the horse and after a few steps it began to pick up a small amount of speed, its horseshoes striking the cobbles. The local children ran behind it shrieking in delight and the ladies on their doorsteps shouted words of encouragement to the bridal party.

Mr Dunbar reached in his pocket and retrieved a small coin bag in which he had placed a number of coins of small denomination. He handed a few to both of the ladies who threw them to the children who were chasing the cart. There were screams of delight, as the few coins bounced on the cobbles and the pursuing children leapt on them. Within seconds they had rounded the corner and left the children waving at them, the horse pranced along, and they made good time to the town hall; the driver bringing the cart to a halt outside.

The driver applied the brake and getting down from the cart he pulled a wedge out from underneath his seat and kicked it under the front wheel. He then went to the back and pulled out the step, offering his hand for them to dismount. There were several people outside including Mr Gregson and the boys, they went to the cart and greeted their mother. Ted who had thoroughly enjoyed his adventure in the cart was beaming all over.

‘Is Derek here yet?’ Jane enquired.

‘Ay ma’, he’s gone up to wait in the clerk’s office. Everyone said he shouldn’t wait here as it’s bad luck.’ She looked at Matt.

‘I forgot to ask him yesterday with everything being in such a rush, but has he brought a best man with him?’

‘Ay ma’, it’s George Hopkins.’

‘That’s good’, she was pleased with his choice, a better best man could not have been chosen. It was the same when she had married Albert, it was his partner Derek who had been the best man that day, and now George was his partner, it was only right.

A swift call to them all was issued by Mr Dunbar on consulting his pocket watch, ‘we’re due, there’s only five minutes outstanding. Best be off.’ Matt turned to his mother.

‘Who’s giving you away?’ she hadn’t really thought about it, there really wasn’t the same requirements as you would have in a church wedding.

‘Well… No one,’ he smiled.

‘Would you like to take my arm mother?’ She did it was a beautiful thought and one that made her feel special, here were her sons, the ones she was so proud of. Luke followed suit and Ted not to be outdone by anyone also rushed in and grabbed Matts other hand. She walked into the town hall to be given away by all three of her sons.

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