Epilogue: the wedding. When I wrote this, I didn’t realize that Regency weddings were organized very differently from post-Victorian ones. But I still like the scene.
July 24th, 1815. Cornwall.
“So, did Prinny really arrange an annulment for the Thorn in exchange for Mother’s almond-pear tartlet recipe?” Elijah asked as they walked up the winding path to the simple Cornish church.
“He did indeed,” Solomon confirmed. “I think he’d have given me a whole lot more if I’d asked.” He gave a final tug to his cravat. “Are you sure I don’t look an idiot?” He was wearing cream-colored pantaloons, top boots, a bottle-green coat, and a peacock blue waistcoat embroidered all over with peacock feathers by his bride’s own hand. “I mean, peacock feathers. Do you think she’s trying to say something about me?”
Elijah punched his shoulder. “You look dashing and you know it. You should let the Thorn pick your clothes more often. You can’t blame her for noticing that bottle green is our best color.” He eyed the peacock feathers critically. “Have you talked to her about doing piecework for Uncle Hathaway?”
Solomon opened the doors a crack and peeked inside. Serena was sitting in the front pew, talking to a rapt Susannah. She was waving her hands over her breasts and thighs and making shooting gestures with her right hand. Solomon puzzled over that for a moment before realizing that she was likely describing exactly what she had been wearing during the shooting match with Byron. Beside them, Mrs. Hathaway was happily sniffling into a Ravenshaw Arms handkerchief. Serena looked almost like one of the family.
If Serena had ever imagined her wedding–which she hadn’t–she wouldn’t have imagined the Dewingtons as guests.
“I never would have suggested he ask her for help if I had known this would happen,” Lord Dewington was grumbling to Mrs. Hathaway. “My own nephew marrying the Siren. Dashed bad ton. Told you no good could come of running off with a dashed divinity student, Lydia.”
“Oh, Jamie, cut line,” Mrs. Hathaway said, looking up from Serena’s handkerchief with a smile. “You always say that, but I don’t remember you raising the house when you caught me eloping with him.” She turned misty eyes to where Mr. Hathaway was arranging his notes and grumbling about dust on the lecturn.
Serena smiled and looked at the other side of the aisle–her side, the one without a full complement of Dewingtons and Hathaways. She had invited her mother, but she had received a short note of congratulation in reply saying that Lady Ravenshaw was not feeling well enough to come. So it was just Sophy and René and Antoine and–well, apparently it wasn’t a full complement of Hathaways on the other side, because there was Arthur, leaning over the back of the pew and saying something sotto voce that was making Sophy laugh.
She was glad René was here to give her away. He had arranged with some friends for passage to the Cornwall coast and back; they were waiting not far off in case he needed to leave in a hurry. Serena hadn’t inquired very closely about what sort of friends they were. The war was over now, and if former French spies wanted to help with her wedding, she wasn’t going to complain.
She smoothed her skirts for perhaps the thousandth time. She was wearing blue, because she might not be pure, but she would always be true to Solomon. It was a lovely blue, the color of a summer evening. A Hathaway earring was a comforting weight in her left ear. She put a hand up to make sure her artfully arranged curls were still hiding where the other ought to be. She glanced over at René and saw that he was nervously rubbing his waistcoat pocket, where the second earring was concealed. Elijah was a Hathaway too, after all.
The doors swung up open and Solomon and Elijah walked up the aisle, their yellow hair all on end from the Cornish wind.
“Ready to get married?” Solomon said.
“She’s not the one who was almost late,” Mr. Hathaway said disapprovingly.
Serena looked at her soon-to-be husband. Shouldn’t she be afraid? Shouldn’t she be having cold feet or wedding nerves or whatever it was brides were supposed to have? Shouldn’t she feel the ring already constricting around her finger and cutting off her circulation?
Solomon’s eyes were shining, and all she knew was that the ceremony couldn’t come fast enough.
And if, slipping the ring on her finger, he flushed a deep, Hathaway red and stuttered a little over “with my body, I thee worship,” well, Serena thought it was sweet.
When it was over, Solomon announced to everyone that they would be hosting a reception at the Hart’s Head. When they’d received nearly everyone’s congratulations, he took Serena’s hand and began tugging her down the aisle.
“In that much of a hurry to get to the reception, are you?” Serena asked. “You’re just eager to collect on your wager when Sophy drinks René under the table. Elijah was an idiot to bet against her. I know you Hathaways are foolishly loyal, but–“
Solomon’s eyes glinted golden as he smiled, and heat flickered in Serena’s belly. “Do you think anyone will mind if we’re a little late?” he asked.
The flicker of heat kindled into a blaze, but Solomon’s entire family was here. Besides, she’d found a spider in her bed last night. “But Solomon, that inn doesn’t air its sheets properly, I don’t know that I want to get naked on them. We’ll be back in London tomorrow, don’t you think–“
“–I can wait? No. The walls seemed clean enough if you don’t like the look of the sheets.”
Serena didn’t find that idea wholly unappealing, but she leaned in to whisper, “I don’t think it’s any different when you’re married.”
He stopped, and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. “Have you ever tried?”
“No,” she said softly. “I never have.” She looked down at the ring on her finger. She was married to Solomon, and that, she suspected, could make everything new. “Forget the inn. Have you gone down to the cliffs yet?”
“I haven’t had time.”
She smiled. “Come along, then. I want to show you the sea.” They walked down the aisle and out into the fresh salt air.