As Ted's and my fateful hour approached, everybody showered and dressed up in the finest outfits we could devise for the jungle mugginess of a July afternoon in the extreme northern reaches of tidewater Virginia. We piled in to Madine's brown Ford four-door and drove to Burgess, a tiny village at the crossroads of the only two roads that actually go anywhere in Northumberland County.
Burgess was the home of the magistrate who would perform our marriage ceremony. His name was Llewellyn Beatley, of the far-flung Virginia Beatleys, whose members included such nobility as a mayor of Alexandria, who was said to resemble a rooster in speech and manner. Llewellyn Beatley was a portly fellow whose brick house was set back from the highway and was fronted by one of those weedy, patchy, brown lawns that characterize a climate totally unsuited for turf grass.
Mr. Beatley was waiting for us in the garage attached to his house and waved us in, which was a thoughtful gesture since the afternoon rain was hammering down in umbrella-piercing drops, capable of stripping the wedding finery right off our backs.
Once inside the Beatley residence, Madine assessed the situation for its flirtatious potential. She saw a shelf full of porcelain gimcracks (right down her alley) and asked, "Does your wife collect these?", which was her coy way of finding out if Mr. Beatley was married. He replied that his wife passed on the year before. Madine assumed an expression of appropriate sorrow, while simultaneously batting her eyes. It was all I could do to keep from snorting.
Mr. Beatley opened his book and performed our ceremony, which I gather he must have memorized because he kept looking through the window at the rainy racket outside while he spoke those sacred civil words.
The deed was done. We signed the papers and headed back to Heathsville for a wedding dinner. The venue was a formerly dignified two-story frame house on the verge of falling to ruin but not bad enough to invalidate its occupancy permit. It was operated by the sister-in-law of our electrician, Chris Bliley (of the Richmond funeral-home Blileys and the charming alcoholic nephew of Virginia senator Tom Bliley). Chris's sister-in-law had spent a year or two in England and flaunted a fake British accent while she served as waitstaff, chef, and cashier for her restaurant, which was open on an unpredictable schedule. Ted had made reservations at Chris's suggestion, and the lady put on a very nice meal for us, her only customers for the evening.