Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - In the Slums, by the Rev. D. Rice-Jones, 1884 - Chapter 9 - A Novel Wedding

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As this district has not yet been raised to the dignity of a parish, my "surplice duties," as they are sometimes called, are, as a rule, confined to baptism and the churching of women. But the first of such duties which I was called upon to undertake after coming to the mission, happened to be a marriage, which had, of course, to be celebrated in the parish church - St. Giles's. It came about in this way. A young man and a young woman were found to be living together as husband and wife without having been married, a not uncommon thing, unhappily, in this and in much more "genteel" neighbourhoods. The only surprising part of the story was, that the man, instead of being, as might have been expected, of dissipated habits, was a steady, hard-working fellow, and that the women also was a person of modest demeanour, except in the relationship in which she lived with the partner of her sin. The most unfortunate part [-36-] of it was, that she had a little baby, born to inherit its mother's shame. And yet perhaps that was also a most fortunate thing for the woman; because the Young man, not being as yet wholly hardened in sin, had still some good left in his nature; and instead of hating his child, as men often hate the victims of their lust, he loved it. So, after having been kindly spoken to, and made to see the dreadful injury he was doing to his own child by living in open concubinage with its mother, he at last consented to marry the latter. But although he was. at that time in regular employment, his wages were so small and the rent of the room in which they lived so high, that they had no blanket on their bed, and the woman scarcely any clothes on her back. It was, therefore, quite out of the man's power to pay the wedding fees; and I am inclined to think that this must have had something to do with their not having got married at the first. The difficulty respecting the fees, however, was now soon solved, and the young people agreed to meet me at St. Giles's Church at eight o'clock on a certain morning. The morning arrived, and I took care to be at the church at the appointed time. But there was no sign of any wedding party for more than half an hour. At last, after having been fetched, the woman arrived, accompanied by her father, and carrying her baby in her arms; but no bridegroom appeared.
    [-37-] Then I got a person to go and look for him; and after much delay, he turned up. He said he had been to the church long before eight o'clock, and finding the gates shut and no one there, he had gone back to his work, as he had only been able to get half an hour, the usual time allowed for breakfast, and had not even had time to go to his lodgings to fetch the bride or to let her know his movements.
    Then I married them, the bride's father giving her away, while the bride held her baby in her arms. Thus the baby was present as a witness at the marriage of its own parents, and the bride was married and churched at the same time.