A groom always looks at the altar to see if the bride is located there. Of course, I did, and sure enough, she wasn’t.
Brides deserve the chance of making a grand entrance, and Daphne was not to be denied that privilege.
I removed my hat, and as I began to walk down the aisle to my position next to a person in robes, who I deduced was the preacher, John Lee turned to go elsewhere.
I stopped and asked, “Where ya going?”
“Up to the loft,” he said with a ‘ya should know that’ look.
I realized that the church was segregated. I had read history books that this was the case in most areas in the South. I just nodded my head in realization.
He trooped to the stairway leading to the loft and disappeared.
Without any supporting males in my corner, I let out a sigh and began walking to the front of the church. I felt self-conscious, because suddenly I comprehended that the church was already half-full, and people were filing in behind me to find seats for the ceremony. I was red as a beet by the time I had walked to the front of the church.
The preacher smiled at my discomposure and motioned me to his left. I nodded, laid my hat on the front row pew, and followed his orders. Understanding suddenly hit me like a sledgehammer. I had no ring and no best man. I panicked. I was about to turn to the preacher and explain my deficiencies, when out of the side door at the front of the church, walked Tom Newcomer.
I gasped, not only because he was attending the wedding, but because he was wearing a private’s Confederate cavalry uniform.
He walked over to me and held out his hand. In a daze, I took it and looked at him like an addled fool. He smiled and said, “I hope ya don’t have a problem with me being yar best man.”
Gathering my wits about me and then clutching his hand in earnest, I said, “Not in the least. Thank you for coming.”
He smiled and I returned it with pure bonhomie. We released our hands, and he took up his position to my left. I looked him up and down and marveled at how much he had matured in the short time since we had met. I was about to ask him how he got permission to join up when a small choir of four women and two men walked out of the same door that had emitted Tom and took up the front row of pews on the opposite side of the auditorium that faced the audience.
I was so mesmerized by all the unexpected events that I hadn’t noticed that the congregation had constantly been increasing, and that there had been a lot of hubbub from the assembly. However, once the choir had taken their position, the crowd quieted and the choir began to quietly sing, a cappella, “Abide with Me.“
I was flabbergasted. I had sung this hymn numerous times while attending church services in my universe. However, I didn’t know that it had been published so far back in time that it was sung in 1862. The choir’s harmony was amazing. I recognized two altos, two sopranos and two bass voices. Their blend of parts would make the angels smile. I was caught up in their enchantment, and for the first time, relaxed and enjoyed the festivities.
I actually closed my eyes for a second in rapt attention to the heavenly voices. When I opened them, a woman was half way down the aisle. She was carrying a small bouquet of red roses and wearing a full length gown of what appeared to be white satin. My jaw dropped at the extravagance of her gown. Serenaded by the choir, the woman, who I didn’t recognize, took her place to the right of the preacher and turned to look up the aisle toward the back of the church.
Suddenly, the choir ceased their divine singing and an organ boomed out the beginning strands of “The Wedding March.”
I jumped a little due to the eruption of the famed refrain. Quickly, I searched for the location of the organ, and looking up into the loft, I spied a man seated at the instrument while a young boy was pumping a handle that provided the energy to the massive pipes located directly behind the organ.
Immediately, the congregation came to their feet and looked at the center aisle toward the back of the church. My position was such that I couldn’t see if anyone had entered the aisle, but momentarily Daphne came into view as she walked toward the church altar. I literally had chills run up and down my spine. She was a vision of loveliness. Her long ebony locks hung in curls highlighting a perfect oval face. Her lips were red and her cheeks were lightly rouged. She gave me a demure smile that promised love and passion from the depth of her soul. I had to fight back tears. I was still astounded that this wonderful and beautiful young woman loved such an undeserving person as me.
I came out of my trance to actually focus on her wardrobe. Her head was festooned with a crown of red roses entwined with white daisies. Her neck was bare except for a pearl necklace. The top part of her gown featured a décolleté design. It began at the top of her shoulders and plunged to a point that was not revealing or indelicate. The waistline was snug against her body with the lower part of the gown flaring into a bell shape produced by many layers of petticoats. The gown material was white satin, which I estimated was very rare for this part of Virginia during 1862. In her left hand, she carried a bouquet of what appeared to be white gardenias.
But the crowning achievement was the person escorting her down the aisle. It was none other than Major John Singleton Mosby. You could tell that he was still recovering from his wound because of his slow progress, but he had a huge smile of pride on his face. Once a majority of the congregation saw that he was the person to present the bride, they began to clap and cheer. The response from the crowd made him and Daphne began to laugh in what appeared to be sheer delight.
Tom and I joined in the clapping. I have to say that I have never been so moved in my life. I finally had to do some cheering to keep from crying. The fact that I was about to be wed to the most beautiful woman in the world, plus having a hero of the Confederacy and my own personal hero come from his recovery bed to give her in matrimony, was mind-boggling.
When the pair reached the front of the church, the crowd quieted and the preacher issued those initial words of the ceremony, “Who gives this woman in holy matrimony?”
Major Mosby uttered loudly, “I do.”
Before he handed Daphne to me, I gratefully shook his hand, and observing how tired he was, I helped him to the front row pew. He smiled at me in appreciation.
I turned to Daphne. She looked at me with a look of love and respect that melted my heart. I smiled from ear to ear, and it took all my self-restraint to keep from taking her in my arms at that point in the service. She must have read my mind because she chuckled, and to prevent any passionate move on my part, entwined her arm in mine. Then she pulled me around so we faced the preacher.