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Wedding Bells
by [?]

This is, perhaps, the worst part of the ceremony, this three hundred yards or so from the hymn-sheets to the champagne. All London is now gazing at my old top-hat. When the war went on and on and on, and it seemed as though it were going on for ever, I looked back on peace much as those old retired warriors at the end of last century looked back on their happy Crimean days; and in the same spirit as that in which they hung their swords over the baronial fireplace, I decided to suspend my old top-hat above the mantel-piece in the drawing-room. In the years to come I would take my grandchildren on my knee and tell them stories of the old days when grandfather was a civilian, of desperate charges by church-wardens and organists, and warm receptions; and sometimes I would hold the old top-hat reverently in my hands, and a sudden gleam would come into my eyes, so that those watching me would say to each other, “He is thinking of that tea-fight at Rutland Gate in 1912.” So I pictured the future for my top-hat, never dreaming that in 1920 it would take the air again.

For I went into the war in order to make the world safe for democracy, which I understood to mean (and was distinctly informed so by the press) a world safe for those of us who prefer soft hats with a dent in the middle. “The war,” said the press, “has killed the top-hat.” Apparently it failed to do this, as it failed to do so many of the things which we hoped from it. So the old veteran of 1912 dares the sunlight again. We are arrived, and I am greeted warmly by the bride’s parents. I look at the mother closely so that I shall know her again when I come to say good-bye, and give her a smile which tells her that I was determined to come down to this wedding although I had a good deal of work to do. I linger with the idea of pursuing this point, for I want them to know that they nearly missed me, but I am pushed on by the crowd behind me. The bride and bridegroom salute me cordially but show no desire for intimate gossip. A horrible feeling goes through me that my absence would not have been commented upon by them at any inordinate length. It would not have spoilt the honeymoon, for instance.

I move on and look at the presents. The presents are numerous and costly. Having discovered my own I stand a little way back and listen to the opinions of my neighbours upon it. On the whole the reception is favourable. The detective, I am horrified to discover, is on the other side of the room, apparently callous as to the fate of my egg stand. I cannot help feeling that if he knew his business he would be standing where I am standing now; or else there should be two detectives. It is a question now whether it is safe for me to leave my post and search for food… Now he is coming round; I can trust it to him.

On my way to the refreshments I have met an old friend. I like to meet my friends at weddings, but I wish I had not met this one. She has sowed the seeds of disquiet in my mind by telling me that it is not etiquette to begin to eat until the bride has cut the cake. I answer, “Then why doesn’t somebody tell the bride to cut the cake?” but the bride, it seems, is busy. I wish now that I had not met my friend. Who but a woman would know the etiquette of these things, and who but a woman would bother about it?

The bride is cutting the cake. The bridegroom has lent her his sword, or his fountain-pen, whatever is the emblem of his trade–he is a stockbroker–and as she cuts, we buzz round her, hoping for one of the marzipan pieces. I wish to leave now, before I am sorry, but my friend tells me that it is not etiquette to leave until the bride and bridegroom have gone. Besides, I must drink the bride’s health. I drink her health; hers, not mine.

Time rolls on. I was wrong to have had champagne. It doesn’t suit me at tea. However, for the moment life is bright enough. I have looked at the presents and my own is still there. And I have been given a bagful of confetti. The weary weeks one lives through without a handful of anything to throw at anybody. How good to be young again. I take up a strong position in the hall.

They come… Got him–got him! Now a long shot–got him! I feel slightly better, and begin the search for my hostess….

I have shaken hands with all the bride’s aunts and all the bridegroom’s aunts, and in fact all the aunts of everybody here. Each one seems to me more like my hostess than the last. “Good-bye!” Fool–of course–there she is. “Good-Bye!”

My hat and I take the air again. A pleasant afternoon; and yet to-morrow morning I shall see things more clearly, and I shall know that the bridegroom has married the wrong girl. But it will be too late then to save him.