At the Inlet: October, Part 1 (More surprises at the Bishop’s Palace)

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Note: this part of At the Inlet is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth C. “Betty” Montgomery, long time dance teacher in Palm Beach, for reasons that will be obvious.

The first Sunday of the month usually meant Holy Communion at the Cathedral; however, the Bishop was with his Alemaran counterpart in Drago for a special event. Since he preferred to celebrate Communion himself and then go out on his visitations the rest of the month, Desmond celebrated Morning Prayer.  When Terry first came to Serelia, she sat behind the royal section, but as her relationship with the Queen progressed, she found herself sitting in the royal box, usually next to Darlene.  This Sunday, Darlene insisted that Terry share her prayer book and read along with it diligently.  Terry didn’t understand why but went along.

As they went through all of the petitions, the pages that included the General Thanksgiving unfolded.  On top of this was a handwritten note: “Terry: Will you marry me?  Love, Julian.”  It was another time for Terry to skip a breath or two, which Darlene couldn’t help but pick up on.”

“Well, silly, are you going to say yes or aren’t you?” Darlene whispered.

“Yes, I will,” Terry barely got out.  “But I can’t tell him now.”

“Leave that up to us,” Darlene answered.  She discreetly gave the high sign to the King, who turned to his lackey.  The lackey went up to Desmond just as he was finishing up the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom and handed him a note.  Opening the note, Desmond looked at the King with a suppressed horror; the King nodded yes back to him.

“Before we conclude,” Desmond began, “I have just been handed a note from His Majesty. I publish the Banns of Marriage between the Very Reverend Julian Stephen Lewis of Serelia and Miss Theresa Anne Marlowe of the same. If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is the first time of asking.”  He then concluded the service with the customary bidding: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen.”

Julian launched into the recessional.  By that time Terry had slipped out from her pew and went through the hallway behind the organ and was tearfully at Julian’s side.  Julian’s sense of duty got him through the recessional but after that it was purely romantic at the organ until they both got up and went down to greet the royal family, along with Terry’s relatives.  Terry had to put off their invitation to lunch; she wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.

They hugged everyone; Desmond had recessed to the narthex but made his escape as soon as most of the congregation was gone.  The royal family lingered at their section.

“I would like the honour of directing your wedding,” the Queen announced to the two of them.  “We will also bear its expense—we were underwhelmed with the Foreign Ministry’s rental rate on your property, to be frank.”

“Thank you very much,” the newly engaged said.  “It would be our honour,” Julian added.

“We’ll also work with you on the ring,” George whispered to Julian.

“The Bishop is away today,” the King said.  Would you two join us for lunch?”

“We would be honoured,” Julian said.  The King and Queen started out first, but Darlene pulled Terry aside.

“Do you realise what’s going on here?”

“I know—I’m engaged,” Terry replied.

“Not that—the Queen’s request.  The only weddings that Kings and Queens direct—to say nothing of finance—are those for their princes and princesses.  Terry, she’s treating you like her own child.”

It took a second for the significance of this to sink in to Terry.  “She never had any daughters, did she?” Terry asked.

“Yes, she did,” Darlene answered, “both of them before Prince Arthur was born.  The first was a miscarriage and the second was stillborn.  Their little graves are in the palace cemetery by the lake.  Before you came, she would go out there and cry at least once a week.  I don’t think she’s been out there this month.”

“You never know what impact you have on people, do you?” Terry asked.

“Do you wish you mother could come and see all this?” Darlene queried Terry.

“Sometimes I do,” Terry responded remotely, “and sometimes I don’t.”  She turned to Darlene with a pained look on her face.  “It’s my father I miss the most.  But at least I have his mother and family now.”

Darlene thought for a second.  She turned back to Terry and said, “I guess you’ll want Princess Catherine to be your matron of honour, since you grew up together.”

“Not really,” Terry replied.  “I wanted you to be my matron of honour, if you think it’s appropriate.”

“Looking like this?” Darlene shot back, noting by gestures her pregnancy.

“You’re my friend,” Terry said.  “None of this would have happened if not for you.”

Darlene looked away blankly then re-established eye contact with Terry.  “Terry, I’ve never been anyone’s maid of honour, let alone matron.”

Now the shock was lobbed back to Terry.  “Not even Theresa’s?”

“I was considered too young—she got our cousin Marguerite van Bokhoven to do it.  Same problem with Allison and Edward’s wife Melissa—they wanted their relatives and friends anyway.  No one else has asked me.  Some of the help wanted me, and I’d have done it but my father wouldn’t permit it…you don’t know what this means.”

“His Highness informs me that we’re to dine at the palace,” Julian interrupted.  “Are we ready to go there?”

“Very,” Terry confidently answered.  With that Julian took Terry right hand.  Darlene wrapped her right arm around Terry’s left and together they made their way down the aisle and out of the Cathedral.

Early the next day Julian and Terry were called to the Bishop’s Palace.  They were ushered directly into his office.

“I understand, dear Julian, that you finally got the nerve up to ask for her hand in marriage, albeit in a highly irregular way,” the Bishop began.

“I had some assistance from the royal family and others,” Julian admitted.

“Yes, I understand that,” the Bishop said.  “In any event, congratulations are in order.  Do you have a date in mind?”

“We would like to be wed on All Saints’ Day,” Terry answered.  “It expresses our desires for each other better than anything else.”

“That’s rather unusual,” the Bishop commented, “but then again nothing else about this affair has been normal.  I assume that you are making some preparations for this, Miss Marlowe?”

“Her Majesty is handling the arrangements,” Julian informed the Bishop, who raised his eyebrows at this.

“That’s delightful,” the Bishop said unenthusiastically.  “However, there is one item that needs to be established from the beginning.  It is the inviolable custom of the Cathedral that only virgin brides wear white.  Since you are obviously not—and not principally because of your previous marriage—you must choose another colour for your wedding gown.  Moreover I must insist that there be no veil—there’s nothing much to conceal after all that.  I have no intention of negotiating these matters.”

“But—“ Julian said.

“The Queen has anticipated these things, and we will comply with your request fully,” Terry said.

“Thank you,” the Bishop replied.  Neither he nor Julian were fully prepared for her ready capitulation on this issue.  “I would like to discuss this matter further, but the King and Prince have an urgent matter to take up with Desmond and myself.”

“Thank you very much,” Julian said, and they left his office.  The two were hand in hand, almost skipping as they walked into the narthex and then the nave of the Cathedral.  They stopped in nearly the centre of the nave.

“I’m sorry the Bishop has imposed this requirement about your gown,” Julian said.

“You don’t have to apologise for the Bishop,” Terry replied.  “Besides, before this is over with, he may be the sorriest one of all about this.”  She closed in one of those intense embraces that Julian found both thrilling and dreadful.  “I love you so much,” she told Julian.

“I love you too, but may I ask a question?”

“Yes, dearest Julian, what is it?”

“Why is it that you always seem to be at your most—your most—sensuous while in God’s Cathedral?”

Terry had to think about that.  Then she looked at Julian and said, “This is a very sensuous place.”  Julian was ambushed by that remark.  “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

“Well…”

“I’ll show you.”  She took Julian by her left hand and with a sweeping motion of her right pointed to all the stained glass windows that surrounded them.  “All of these people—with one exception—came into this world, and then to Christ’s service, because two people loved each other very, very much.  The one exception”—she pointed to a window with Jesus fishing hapless Peter out of the drink—“came because God loved us all very, very much, and wanted us to spend eternity with Him if we would respond to that love.”

She then walked briskly up towards the altar, almost dragging Julian behind.  They stopped right in front of the communion rail, where they had exchanged their first kiss and just about in the same relative positions.  “When we stand here in less than a month and exchange our vows to be man and wife for life, we’ll do it not just before the Bishop, or the King, or everyone else, but before God Himself.  But all the while God will honour our union by using it as an illustration of another wedding that will come at an altar far more beautiful than this, a wedding that the Father Himself will preside at, just as he did for Adam and Eve.  This time however, you—and I and everyone else who bears the death of Jesus in his or her body—will be standing where I am, and Jesus Christ Himself will be standing where you are, and Christ and His Church will be united forever, and God will be all in all.”  She paused for a second.  “My greatest desire for our life together is that I’ll get to the point where I won’t know where my love of you stops and my love of God starts.”

“With God’s help, I’ll do everything I can to make that a reality for both of us,” Julian replied.

“That’s all I ask,” she replied.  They stood staring at each other for a moment.

“We do have one immediate problem we need to address, Terry.  It’s about our wedding reception,” Julian said.

“You mean the wine?  We solved that yesterday—we’ll bring in the non-alcoholic kind for us.  I’m still not comfortable about drinking alcohol—other than communion, and I’m not real thrilled about that—and Darlene isn’t drinking while she’s pregnant.”

“No, not that.  It’s about the dancing.  Every wedding reception of note in this country has dancing.”

“I can go along with that—you’re thinking about ballroom dancing, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but I’ve not danced since my last engagement was broken,” Julian noted.  “Every reception, the bride and groom must get up and dance in front of everyone—the King, Queen, Prince, Princess, diplomatic corps, Chancellor, ministers, everyone.  Do you know how?”

“I took ballroom dancing in my early teens, but I haven’t danced in about as long as you have,” Terry replied.  The gravity of the situation was finally sinking in.

“We must practice,” Julian declared.

“But where?” They looked at the chancel, but feared it wasn’t wide enough or they would fall off of the stairs.  “The courtyard!” Terry finally exclaimed.  Without thinking about the ramifications, they tore out of the cathedral and went to the very centre of the courtyard.

They had no music, but Julian’s sure sense of timing as a musician served them well as he set the rhythm.  Their first steps were clumsy, with big feet mauling each other, but soon their memories and their coordination were sufficiently activated that in no time they were gracefully waltzing around the courtyard.

When they stopped they heard applause and cheering around them; they turned and saw the children and teachers from the Cathedral school clapping for their performance.  They took their bow together and then exited to the colonnade.

They were stopped dead by the sight of Desmond emerging from the Bishop’s palace and heading around the side of the Cathedral towards his residence.  He was in the company of two Serelian policemen and Kyle.  Their countenance turned from joy to horror as they watched this little parade.

“I think you’d better go and tell your brother goodbye now,” Terry told him.  “You may not have another chance.”  Julian took off towards his brother, leaving Terry standing in the colonnade.

While she was trying to figure out what to do next, the Bishop’s lackey came up to her and said, “The Bishop would like to see you in his office immediately.”  With that they departed.

It was less than five minutes from the time Julian and Terry had left the Bishop’s office to the time that the King, Prince and Ruel Collingswood arrived.  Just behind them Desmond came in.  He was surprised when he saw the party assembled before him.

“To what do I owe the honour of this assemblage,” Desmond asked.

“This,” Ruel answered, handing him a piece of paper.  He also handed an identical copy to the Bishop.  Both Bishop and Canon were horrified when they has perused the contents.

“This is impossible,” Desmond said.  “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“I don’t think we’ve missed this time,” the King informed Desmond gravely.

“This is a sample of the sort of thing you’ve been shipping to the Verecundans all of this time,” Ruel said, again handing both Desmond and the Bishop about ten pages of military information stamped with various degrees of classification.  “Moreover, we have the sexton’s confession—we arrested him last night.”

Desmond turned to George.  “Can’t you do anything about this?”

“At this point, I’ve lost any desire to,” George replied.  “You’ve betrayed me, and not only that you’ve made me look like an idiot in front of my own family and country.”

“I want a trial!  Even in this place, people have some rights,” Desmond declared.

“Maybe you do and maybe you don’t,” the King said.  “As I see it, you have two choices.  You can have your trial; if you lose, you realise that espionage—to say nothing of treason—is a capital offence.  Or, if you go ahead and confess”—he handed him a confession—“you can go into exile.  The choice is yours.”

Desmond stared at the floor for a second.  “Verecunda was our ally until you let that wench from Barlin get to you,” he said, looking at George.

“Don’t blame her,” George replied.  “And it doesn’t matter if they were our ally or not—this information wasn’t their business.  That’s why we have a classification system.  That’s our prerogative.”

“This Island would be a better place if we’d drag it into the modern world, like the Verecundans tried,” Desmond set forth.

“At this point, I wouldn’t worry about this Island as much as I would worry about those nearest to you,” George responded.  “Seems to me that you should take your dear wife and lovely children and leave—there are all kinds of people in our Communion that think like you.”

“Sad to say, that’s true,” the Bishop agreed, finally getting into the conversation.  “I should inform you, though, that if you sign the confession, under our canon law, you are automatically defrocked, as this is triggered by conviction or confession of any major criminal offence.”

Desmond once again stared at the floor, then out the window in thought.  He finally said, “All right, you win.  I’ll sign your confession.”  He slammed it down on the Bishop’s desk and signed it; they made him sign another original to boot.  He turned to the King and said, “Someday, it will be you who will be hauled into the dock for what you’ve done—this world is changing.”

“Show him the door, Ruel,” the Bishop ordered his brother.  Ruel complied, escorting him out.

Adam turned to the Bishop.  “I’m sorry it ended up in this way.”

“So am I,” George said.  “I suppose you can go ahead and have Algernon to be Dean.”

“Thank you, Your Highness,” the Bishop said. “I really take no joy in your sadness.  I know you thought highly of him.”

“Too highly, it seems,” George replied.

“We have one more matter that needs to be settled here today,” Adam said, handing the Bishop yet another envelope.  The Bishop opened it; reading it produced a look of shock almost comparable to Desmond’s just a few minutes earlier.

“This is impossible,” the Bishop declared, looking at Adam.

“No, it’s not, and you know it,” Adam calmly replied.

“We don’t ordain women in this church—it’s against the laws of God.  Besides, we would have to change our canon law at our Convention.”

“I’m not asking for a change in canon law, if you would read the document carefully,” Adam replied. “I’m issuing a waiver so that Terry can fully be the chaplain to the Crown Prince and Princess.  It is well within my rights as head of this Church to issue such a waiver, which includes skipping making her a deacon, to save you a ceremony.”

“A diaconate would have been a far better solution to the problem,” the Bishop noted.

“That’s what you get for opposing a permanent diaconate,” George said.  “I should also note that this is only the second time in my father’s reign that he has issued a canon law waiver—his father was much more active in this field, if you remember.”

“I certainly do,” the Bishop reminisced.  “But I would hope that you would extend the courtesy of allowing me to consult with at least the rectors of our church, to say nothing of all of those who come to Convention.”

“Consult all you want,” Adam replied.  “I want this done.  I don’t care what they say.  This is a very sensitive position.  We can’t afford to have another minister who rots like Desmond did.”

“The way I see it,” George added, “if the daughter and sister of two active members of the Verecundan Committee of Personal Liberty won’t give in to them, she won’t give in to anyone else.”  George turned to his father.  “Darlene wants Terry to be ordained so badly she can taste it.”

“So does your mother,” Adam added.

“Darlene also tells that the first woman to be ordained a minister in the Anglican Communion was Chinese,” George added.  “Maybe it’s in the blood.”

“You mean like Darlene for war?” Adam asked his son.

“Kind of like that,” George responded.

“I don’t find this very comforting.  When do you want this done?” the Bishop asked, almost afraid of their answer.

“Before they’re married, of course!” George merrily exclaimed.  The Bishop buried his head in his hands at this.

“I think you’d best get started on a this, so we will take our leave,” Adam said, and with that they left the office.

Once alone again the Bishop asked his secretary to summon Terry.  His lackey brought her in shortly.

“Did you have any prior notice of this?” he asked her, handing him the waiver declaration.  She started to read it.  The contagious shock now spread to her.

“No, I didn’t,” she said.  “Not at all.”

“I would ask you if you were accepting this, but our sovereign isn’t in the mood to take no for an answer these days.”

“I do accept this.  With God’s help, I’ll try to be the best Anglican minister I can, just as I was a Pentecostal one for the last fifteen years.  I’ll try to make this as easy for you as possible.  There’s just one thing I want to say.”

“And that is?” the Bishop asked, almost afraid for her answer.

“Jesus told Nicodemus that ‘the wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes, or where it goes; it is the same with every one that owes his birth to the Spirit.’  I always believed that ‘everything be done in a proper and orderly manner.’  And I know that your order is different from what I have been accustomed to.  But where the Spirit of God blows, there I will follow.”

“I think we are all in for a unique experience,” the Bishop observed.  “I have many things to take care of now.  I will be in touch with you about this.  We don’t have much time to prepare.”

“What do you mean?” Terry asked.

“His Highness wants this done before you’re married.”

“Let it be done,” Terry replied, almost in a daze.  She then bowed to the Bishop and took her leave.

Late morning at the beach was fine, but Julian was agitated as he ran up from his apartment.  He had been looking for Terry since he departed from Desmond, who was busy packing in the midst of the tears of his wife and children.  One of the staff thought they saw her on the beach; Julian arrived at the usual spot to find her beach towel, robe and sandals but not her.  He looked out into the water and spotted her.  Coming closer to the water, he cried, “Terry! Terry!”  She turned around and spotted him.  Standing up, she came up out of the water and up to him.

“I had to be alone somehow,” Terry said to him.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Julian replied.

“I need to be here for you—I’m the one who should be apologising,” she answered.  “Let’s talk.”  They went to the beach towel and sat down.  She could see the pain in his face.  “I am very sad for you about Desmond.”  So was he; Julian broke down and cried like a baby in her arms.  He finally looked up at her.

“Did you know what was going on?” he asked her.

“I’m not going to start our life together in a lie,” she answered.  “I knew something was wrong when the Woolseys came into town.  I shared this with Darlene and Annette.  I told them I thought he ought to be investigated.  I also was the one that found out that Thor was a Druid and used to be in the Inland Police.  After that they didn’t discuss it with me until Desmond’s arrest.”  Julian started to look away.  “Look at me, Julian.  If you think I’ve betrayed you in any way, that you can no longer trust me, let’s just end it now, and go our separate ways.”

Julian’s first emotion was anger, but then he began to think.  His first thought was to Norman Cameron’s statement about his duty to the King.  His mind then turned to all of the little snide remarks his brother made about him, Terry and her beliefs, especially recently.  Finally he thought of George and Darlene’s account of Terry’s brother being shot in front of her during the trip, how she became grief stricken and hysterical that her own brother, who hunted her like a wild animal, was dead.

“Before you say anything,” Terry said, interrupting Julian’s train of thought, “I know where you’re at.  You know about my own brother.  The problem with people like that is that, if they triumph, people like us will experience unbearable pain, and I’ve experienced enough of that.”

Julian looked once again at his fiancée’s deep black eyes.  “I’m with you, Terry,” he replied.  “I don’t have anywhere else to go.  I don’t want to go anywhere else either.”

“Neither do I,” she replied.  “Did they tell you about me?”

“What do you mean?” Julian asked.

“I’m to be ordained a minister in the Church of Serelia before we wed,” Terry answered.  “I’ll take Desmond’s place as George and Darlene’s chaplain.”

“Our canon law doesn’t permit this,” Julian said.

“It’s not a change in canon law,” she explained.  “It’s a waiver by royal decree.  So how do you feel about becoming the first husband of a Church of Serelia minister?”

Julian thought for a second.  “It will take a lot of getting used to,” he sighed.  “I know we talked about this at length relative to your last church, but I had no idea we would do it ourselves.”

“Neither did I,” Terry agreed.

“I’m glad you two are happy after all this,” they heard a voice say from the Sea Garden.  They turned around and saw it was George.  “Come and join me—we have a lot to discuss.”  Terry put on her robe and sandals and the two walked up into the Sea Garden.  They sat down at one of the tables that directly faced the ocean.

“I’m sorry about Desmond,” George said to Julian.

“I am too,” Julian replied.  “I know he meant a lot to you.”

“Well, I guess we have a new chaplain,” George said, turning to Terry.  “It seems that, everywhere you go, things are never the same again.”

“I’d like to think it’s always for the best,” Terry said.  “I am honoured that you and Darlene want me for your chaplain.”

“I can’t think of any one else I would want,” George replied.  “And of course you have a great companion too.”  He turned to Julian.  “You’ve been dumped on long enough around here.”

“Since I am to be your chaplain,” Terry said, interrupting, “there’s something right up front we need to discuss.”

“Oh?  What’s that?” George asked, a little puzzled.

“Do you like your new wife, George?” Terry asked.

“New wife…oh, yes, I’ve known her all her life, but she has changed since the trip.”

“Don’t you think that the premier heiress to Beran deserves a new husband?”

George looked at her intently.  “I think I know what you’re about to tell me.”

He turned out to be right about that.

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