The Reverend John Hennessey swallowed his hot tea, munched his toast and marmalade and looked at his wife. “Three small weddings here today. If you would be so kind my dear, I would like you to be there for all three.”
“A typical Saturday, then?” said Janice. “Who have we got today?”
“First couple are from the country. Just came down to Melbourne with the parents because they want it quiet – not a big church wedding. She’s eighteen, he’s twenty two. I’d say they’ll be a family of three shortly.”
“The next two are not your usual couple. He’s forty six and she’s twenty three! Would you believe, he’s old enough to be her father but they seem determined to go ahead. He’s from Williamstown and comes from a large family. Parents are drapers in the main street. He’s been employed since he was fifteen at the Workshops near there where they build and service the trains.”
“Do you think he will be kind to her? Janice asked with concern.
“He seemed genuine enough. His first wife died of cancer six years ago. They had no children which was just as well I suppose.”
“What about the young woman? You don’t think she was just after his money or a house?”
“That my dear, I can’t tell you.” He thought back to the interview he had with the couple some weeks before.
He had questioned Ruby about her homelife and found she was concerned about leaving her brother Theo.
“He’s slow, you know, and can’t read or write even though he’s eleven. He hardly went to school because he was always sick. I’m worried what will happen to him with me gone because I was always there for him up until I started my job with Madame Chanel. My mother’s not so well either so I had to do a lot of the work around the house. My sister Maud was very good at avoiding the jobs and made herself scarce when anything had to be done. My other brother James – well he was always helping my father outside.”
“What does your father do for a living?” asked the Reverend.
“He and my mother used to be fishmongers and then greengrocers. They moved around all over Victoria. When I left home in Stawell last year Father was buying and selling second hand goods. It was a bit easier on my mother as she only had to do the books.”
“Will your parents be coming to the wedding?”
“No.” She looked at Walter. “They don’t approve of our marriage.” Then she looked defiantly at John. “I’m 23 so I don’t need anyone’s permission to marry Walter.”
“No, of course not.”
The Congregational Church in Richmond was conveniently situated on a tramline. The first young couple, plainly dressed, arrived at 10 o’clock accompanied by two sets of parents and a friend. They were ushered into the church where John performed a short and simple ceremony pronouncing them man and wife. Janice took them into the annexe where the photographer waited to preserve the couple’s happiness for eternity.
At a quarter to eleven Walter and Ruby arrived, accompanied by a friend from Walter’s work. The bride wore a sensible dark skirt which partially covered black booted ankles. From a knee length cream silk coat peeped a white blouse with ruffled collar and a black velvet neck band. On her head sat a large white hat leaning jauntily to one side, a blob of cream silk decorating its crown.
Walter, looking handsome in his dark suit, stood pensively beside his bride. John thought back to the meeting with this mismatched couple. Their age difference worried him, not only because Ruby seemed so young and vivacious but Walter truly did seem like her father in his actions and speech. Ruby had been living as a companion and housekeeper for his Aunt Lilian in Melbourne. He wondered if that is where they met.
Walter sat on the chair, one arm leaning on a table, while Ruby stood beside him, her arm on his shoulder. The photographer covered the camera and himself with a black cloth while the two stood frozen waiting for the signal to relax.
Janice ushered them out the side door and welcomed in group number three. A day’s work nearly over and one more happy couple to send off into the world.