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A short story by A. A. Milne

Getting Married

Title:     Getting Married
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]


Probably you thought that getting married was quite a simple business. So did I. We were both wrong; it is the very dickens. Of course, I am not going to draw back now. As I keep telling Celia, her Ronald is a man of powerful fibre, and when he says he will do a thing he does it--eventually. She shall have her wedding all right; I have sworn it. But I do wish that there weren't so many things to be arranged first.

The fact that we had to fix a day was broken to me one afternoon when Celia was showing me to some relatives of hers in the Addison Road. I got entangled with an elderly cousin on the hearth-rug; and though I know nothing about motor-bicycles I talked about them for several hours under the impression that they were his subject. It turned out afterwards that he was equally ignorant of them, but thought they were mine. Perhaps we shall get on better at a second meeting. However, just when we were both thoroughly sick of each other, Celia broke off her gay chat with an aunt to say to me:

"By the way, Ronald, we did settle on the eleventh, didn't we?"

I looked at her blankly, my mind naturally full of motor-bicycles.

"The wedding," smiled Celia.

"Right-o," I said with enthusiasm. I was glad to be assured that I should not go on talking about motor-bicycles for ever, and that on the eleventh, anyhow, there would be a short interruption for the ceremony. Feeling almost friendly to the cousin, I plunged into his favourite subject again.

On the way home Celia returned to the matter.

"Or you would rather it was the twelfth?" she asked.

"I've never heard a word about this before," I said. "It all comes as a surprise to me."

"Why, I'm _always_ asking you."

"Well, it's very forward of you, and I don't know what young people are coming to nowadays. Celia, what's the _good_ of my talking to your cousin for three hours about motor-bicycling? Surely one can get married just as well without that?"

"One can't get married without settling the day," said Celia, coming cleverly back to the point.

Well, I suppose one can't. But somehow I had expected to be spared all this bother. I think my idea was that Celia would say to me suddenly one evening, "By the way, Ronald, don't forget we're being married to-morrow," and I should have said "Where?" And on being told the time and place, I should have turned up pretty punctually; and after my best man had told me where to stand, and the clergyman had told me what to say, and my solicitor had told me where to sign my name, we should have driven from the church a happy married couple ... and in the carriage Celia would have told me where we were spending the honeymoon.

However, it was not to be so.

"All right, the eleventh," I said. "Any particular month?"

"No," smiled Celia, "just any month. Or, if you like, every month."

"The eleventh of June," I surmised. "It is probably the one day in the year on which my Uncle Thomas cannot come. But no matter. The eleventh let it be."

"Then that's settled. And at St. Miriam's?"

For some reason Celia has set her heart on St. Miriam's. Personally I have no feeling about it. St. Andrew's-by-the-Wardrobe or St. Bartholomew's-Without would suit me equally well.

"All right," I said, "St. Miriam's."

There, you might suppose, the matter would have ended; but no.

"Then you will see about it to-morrow?" said Celia persuasively.

I was appalled at the idea.

"Surely," I said, "this is for you, or your father, or--or somebody to arrange."

"Of _course_ it's for the bridegroom," protested Celia.

"In theory, perhaps. But anyhow not the bridegroom personally. His best man ... or his solicitor ... or ... I mean, you're not suggesting that I myself---- Oh, well, if you insist. Still, I must say I don't see what's the good of having a best man _and_ a solicitor if---- Oh, all right, Celia, I'll go to-morrow."

So I went. For half an hour I padded round St. Miriam's nervously, and then summoning up all my courage, I knocked my pipe out and entered.

"I want," I said jauntily to a sexton or a sacristan or something--"I want--er--a wedding." And I added, "For two."

He didn't seem as nervous as I was. He enquired quite calmly when I wanted it.

"The eleventh of June," I said. "It's probably the one day in the year on which my Uncle Thomas---- However, that wouldn't interest you. The point is that it's the eleventh."

The clerk consulted his wedding-book. Then he made the surprising announcement that the only day he could offer me in June was the seventeenth. I was amazed.

"I am a very old customer," I said reproachfully. "I mean, I have often been to your church in my time. Surely----"

"We've weddings fixed on all the other days."

"Yes, yes, but you could persuade somebody to change his day, couldn't you? Or if he is very much set on being married on the eleventh you might recommend some other church to him. I daresay you know of some good ones. You see, Celia--my--that is, we're particularly keen, for some reason, on St. Miriam's."

The clerk didn't appreciate my suggestion. He insisted that the seventeenth was the only day.

"Then will you have the seventeenth?" he asked.

"My dear fellow, I can't possibly say off-hand," I protested. "I am not alone in this. I have a friend with me. I will go back and tell her what you say. She may decide to withdraw her offer altogether."

I went back and told Celia.

"Bother," she said. "What shall we do?"

"There are other churches. There's your own, for example."

"Yes, but you know I don't like that. Why _shouldn't_ we be married on the seventeenth?"

"I don't know at all. It seems an excellent day; it lets in my Uncle Thomas. Of course, it may exclude my Uncle William, but one can't have everything."

"Then will you go and fix it for the seventeenth to-morrow?"

"Can't I send my solicitor this time?" I asked. "Of course, if you particularly want me to go myself, I will. But really, dear, I seem to be living at St. Miriam's nowadays."

And even that wasn't the end of the business. For, just as I was leaving her, Celia broke it to me that St. Miriam's was neither in her parish nor in mine, and that, in order to qualify as a bridegroom, I should have to hire a room somewhere near.

"But I am very comfortable where I am," I assured her.

"You needn't live there, Ronald. You only want to leave a hat there, you know."

"Oh, very well," I sighed.

She came to the hall with me; and, having said good-bye to her, I repeated my lesson.

"The seventeenth, fix it up to-morrow, take a room near St. Miriam's, and leave a hat there. Good-bye."

"Good-bye.... And oh, Ronald!" She looked at me critically as I stood in the doorway. "You might leave _that_ one," she said.



"By the way," said Celia suddenly, "what have you done about the fixtures?"

"Nothing," I replied truthfully.

"Well, we must do _something_ about them."

"Yes. My solicitor--he shall do something about them. Don't let's talk about them now. I've only got three hours more with you, and then I must dash back to my work."

I must say that any mention of fixtures has always bored me intensely. When it was a matter of getting a house to live in I was all energy. As soon as Celia had found it, I put my solicitor on to it; and within a month I had signed my name in two places, and was the owner of a highly residential flat in the best part of the neighbourhood. But my effort so exhausted me that I have felt utterly unable since to cope with the question of the curtain-rod in the bathroom or whatever it is that Celia means by fixtures. These things will arrange themselves somehow, I feel confident.

Meanwhile the decorators are hard at work. A thrill of pride inflates me when I think of the decorators at work. I don't know how they got there; I suppose I must have ordered them. Celia says that _she_ ordered them and chose all the papers herself, and that all I did was to say that the papers she had chosen were very pretty; but this doesn't sound like me in the least. I am convinced that I was the man of action when it came to ordering decorators.

"And now," said Celia one day, "we can go and choose the electric-light fittings."

"Celia," I said in admiration, "you're a wonderful person. I should have forgotten all about them."

"Why, they're about the most important thing in the flat."

"Somehow I never regarded anybody as choosing them. I thought they just grew in the wall. From bulbs."

When we got into the shop Celia became businesslike at once.

"We'd better start with the hall," she told the man.

"Everybody else will have to," I said, "so we may as well."

"What sort of a light did you want there?" he asked.

"A strong one," I said; "so as to be able to watch our guests carefully when they pass the umbrella-stand."

Celia waved me away and explained that we wanted a hanging lantern. It appeared that this shop made a speciality not so much of the voltage as of the lamps enclosing it.

"How do you like that?" asked the man, pointing to a magnificent affair in brass. He wandered off to a switch, and turned it on.

"Dare you ask him the price?" I asked Celia. "It looks to me about a thousand pounds. If it is, say that you don't like the style. Don't let him think we can't afford it."

"Yes," said Celia, in a careless sort of way. "I'm not sure that I care about that. How much is it?"

"Two pounds."

I was not going to show my relief. "Without the light, of course?" I said disparagingly.

"How do you think it would look in the hall?" said Celia to me.

"I think our guests would be encouraged to proceed. They'd see that we were pretty good people."

"I don't like it. It's too ornate."

"Then show us something less ornate," I told the man sternly.

He showed us things less ornate. At the end of an hour Celia said she thought we'd better get on to another room, and come back to the hall afterwards. We decided to proceed to the drawing-room.

"We must go all out over these," said Celia; "I want these to be really beautiful."

At the end of another hour Celia said she thought we'd better get on to my workroom. My workroom, as the name implies, is the room to which I am to retire when I want complete quiet. Sometimes I shall go there after lunch ... and have it.

"We can come back to the drawing-room afterwards," she said. "It's really very important that we should get the right ones for that. Your room won't be so difficult, but, of course, you must have awfully nice ones."

I looked at my watch.

"It's a quarter to one," I said. "At 2.15 on the seventeenth of June we are due at St. Miriam's. If you think we shall have bought anything by then, let's go on. If, as seems to me, there is no hope at all, then let's have lunch to-day anyhow. After lunch we may be able to find some way out of the _impasse_."

After lunch I had an idea.

"This afternoon," I said, "we will begin to get some furniture together."

"But what about the electric fittings? We must finish off those."

"This is an experiment. I want to see if we can buy a chest of drawers. It may just be our day for it."

"And we settle the fittings to-morrow. Yes?"

"I don't know. We may not want them. It all depends on whether we can buy a chest of drawers this afternoon. If we can't, then I don't see how we can ever be married on the seventeenth of June. Somebody's got to be, because I've engaged the church. The question is whether it's going to be us. Let's go and buy a chest of drawers this afternoon, and see."

The old gentleman in the little shop Celia knew of was delighted to see us.

"Chestesses? Ah, you _'ave_ come to the right place." He led the way into the depths. "There now. There's a chest--real old, that is." He gave it a hearty smack. "You don't see a chest like that nowadays. They can't _make_ 'em. Three pound ten. You couldn't have got that to-morrer. I'd have sold it for four pound to-morrer."

"I knew it was our day," I said.

"Real old, that is. Spanish me'ogany, all oak lined. That's right, sir, pull the drawers out and see for yourself. Let the lady see. There's no imitation there, lady. A real old chest, that is. Come in 'ere in a week and you'd have to pay five pounds for it. Me'ogany's going up, you see, that's how."

"Well?" I said to Celia.

"It's perfectly sweet. Hadn't we better see some more?"

We saw two more. Both of them Spanish me'ogany, oak lined, pull-the-drawers-out-and-see-for-yourself-lady. Half an hour passed rapidly.

"Well?" I said.

"I really don't know which I like best. Which do you?"

"The first; it's nearer the door."

"There's another shop just over the way. We'd better just look there too, and then we can come back to decide to-morrow."

We went out. I glanced at my watch. It was 3.30, and we were being married at 2.15 on the seventeenth of June.

"Wait a moment," I said, "I've forgotten my gloves."

I may be a slow starter, but I am very firm when roused. I went into the shop, wrote a cheque for the three chests of drawers, and told the man where to send them. When I returned, Celia was at the shop opposite, pulling the drawers out of a real old mahogany chest which was standing on the pavement outside.

"This is even better," she said. "It's perfectly adorable. I wonder if it's more expensive."

"I'll just ask," I said.

I went in and, without an unnecessary word, bought that chest too. Then I came back to Celia. It was 3.45, and on the seventeenth of June at 2.15---- Well, we had four chests of drawers towards it.

"Celia," I said, "we may just do it yet."



"I know I oughtn't to be dallying here," I said; "I ought to be doing something strenuous in preparation for the wedding. Counting the bells at St. Miriam's, or varnishing the floors in the flat, or---- Tell me what I ought to be doing, Celia, and I'll go on not doing it for a bit."

"There's the honeymoon," said Celia.

"I knew there was something."

"Do tell me what you're doing about it?"

"Thinking about it."

"You haven't written to any one about rooms yet?"

"Celia," I said reproachfully, "you seem to have forgotten why I am marrying you."

When Celia was browbeaten into her present engagement, she said frankly that she was only consenting to marry me because of my pianola, which she had always coveted. In return I pointed out that I was only asking her to marry me because I wanted somebody to write my letters. There opened before me, in that glad moment, a vista of invitations and accounts-rendered all answered promptly by Celia, instead of put off till next month by me. It was a wonderful vision to one who (very properly) detests letter-writing. And yet, here she was, even before the ceremony, expecting me to enter into a deliberate correspondence with all sorts of strange people who as yet had not come into my life at all. It was too much.

"We will get," I said, "your father to write some letters for us."

"But what's he got to do with it?"

"I don't want to complain of your father, Celia, but it seems to me that he is not doing his fair share. There ought to be a certain give-and-take in the matter. _I_ find you a nice church to be married in--good. _He_ finds you a nice place to honeymoon in--excellent. After all, you are still his daughter."

"All right," said Celia, "I'll ask father to do it. 'Dear Mrs. Bunn, my little boy wants to spend his holidays with you in June. I am writing to ask you if you will take care of him and see that he doesn't do anything dangerous. He has a nice disposition, but wants watching.'" She patted my head gently. "Something like that."

I got up and went to the writing-desk.

"I can see I shall have to do it myself," I sighed. "Give me the address and I'll begin."

"But we haven't quite settled where we're going yet, have we?"

I put the pen down thankfully and went back to the sofa.

"Good! Then I needn't write to-day, anyhow. It is wonderful, dear, how difficulties roll away when you face them. Almost at once we arrive at the conclusion that I needn't write to-day. Splendid! Well, where shall we go? This will want a lot of thought. Perhaps," I added, "I needn't write to-morrow."

"We had almost fixed on England, hadn't we?"

"Somebody was telling me that Lynton was very beautiful. I should like to go to Lynton."

"But _every one_ goes to Lynton for their honeymoon."

"Then let's be original and go to Birmingham. 'The happy couple left for Birmingham, where the honeymoon will be spent.' Sensation."

"'The bride left the train at Ealing.' More sensation."

"I think the great thing," I said, trying to be businesslike, "is to fix the county first. If we fixed on Rutland, then the rest would probably be easy."

"The great thing," said Celia, "is to decide what we want. Sea, or river, or mountains, or--or golf."

At the word golf I coughed and looked out of the window.

Now I am very fond of Celia--I mean of golf, and--what I really mean, of course, is that I am very fond of both of them. But I do think that on a honeymoon Celia should come first. After all, I shall have plenty of other holidays for golf ... although, of course, three weeks in the summer without any golf at all---- Still, I think Celia should come first.

"Our trouble," I said to her, "is that neither of us has ever been on a honeymoon before, and so we've no idea what it will be like. After all, why should we get bored with each other? Surely we don't depend on golf to amuse us?"

"All the same, I think your golf _would_ amuse me," said Celia. "Besides, I want you to be as happy as you possibly can be."

"Yes, but supposing I was slicing my drives all the time, I should be miserable. I should be torn between the desire to go back to London and have a lesson with the professional and the desire to stay on honeymooning with you. One can't be happy in a quandary like that."

"Very well then, no golf. Settled?"

"Quite. Now then, let's decide about the scenery. What sort of soil do you prefer?"

When I left Celia that day we had agreed on this much: that we wouldn't bother about golf, and that the mountains, rivers, valleys, and so on should be left entirely to nature. All we were to enquire for was (in the words of an advertisement Celia had seen) "a perfect spot for a honeymoon."

In the course of the next day I heard of seven spots; varying from a spot in Surrey "dotted with firs," to a dot in the Pacific spotted with--I forget what, natives probably. Taken together they were the seven only possible spots for a honeymoon.

"We shall have to have seven honeymoons," I said to Celia when I had told her my news. "One honeymoon, one spot."

"Wait," she said. "I have heard of an ideal spot."

"Speaking as a spot expert, I don't think that's necessarily better than an only possible spot," I objected. "Still, tell me about it."

"Well, to begin with, it's close to the sea."

"So we can bathe when we're bored. Good."

"And it's got a river, if you want to fish----"

"I don't. I should hate to catch a fish who was perhaps on his honeymoon too. Still, I like the idea of a river."

"And quite a good mountain, and lovely walks, and, in fact, everything. Except a picture-palace, luckily."

"It sounds all right," I said doubtfully. "We might just spend the next day or two thinking about my seven spots, and then I might ... possibly ... feel strong enough to write."

"Oh, I nearly forgot. I _have_ written, Ronald."

"You have?" I cried. "Then, my dear, what else matters? It's a perfect spot." I lay back in relief. "And there, thank 'evings, is another thing settled. Bless you."

"Yes. And, by the way, there _is_ golf quite close too. But that," she smiled, "needn't prevent us going there."

"Of course not. We shall just ignore the course."

"Perhaps, so as to be on the safe side, you'd better leave your clubs behind."

"Perhaps I'd better," I said carelessly.

All the same I don't think I will. One never knows what may happen ... and at the outset of one's matrimonial career to have to go to the expense of an entirely new set of clubs would be a most regrettable business.



"I suppose," I said, "it's too late to cancel this wedding now?"

"Well," said Celia, "the invitations are out, and the presents are pouring in, and mother's just ordered the most melting dress for herself that you ever saw. Besides, who's to live in the flat if we don't?"

"There's a good deal in what you say. Still, I am alarmed, seriously alarmed. Look here." I drew out a printed slip and flourished it before her.

"Not a writ? My poor Ronald!"

"Worse than that. This is the St. Miriam's bill of fare for weddings. Celia, I had no idea marriage was so expensive. I thought one rolled-gold ring would practically see it."

It was a formidable document. Starting with "full choir and organ" which came to a million pounds, and working down through "boys' voices only," and "red carpet" to "policemen for controlling traffic--per policeman, 5s.," it included altogether some two dozen ways of disposing of my savings.

"If we have the whole _menu_," I said, "I shall be ruined. You wouldn't like to have a ruined husband."

Celia took the list and went through it carefully.

"I might say 'Season,'" I suggested, "or 'Press.'"

"Well, to begin with," said Celia, "we needn't have a full choir."

"Need we have an organ or a choir at all? In thanking people for their kind presents you might add, 'By the way, do you sing?' Then we could arrange to have all the warblers in the front. My best man or my solicitor could give the note."

"Boys' voices only," decided Celia. "Then what about bells?"

"I should like some nice bells. If the price is 'per bell' we might give an order for five good ones."

"Let's do without bells. You see, they don't begin to ring till we've left the church, so they won't be any good to _us_."

This seemed to me an extraordinary line to take.

"My dear child," I remonstrated, "the whole thing is being got up not for ourselves, but for our guests. We shall be much too preoccupied to appreciate any of the good things we provide--the texture of the red carpet or the quality of the singing. I dreamt last night that I quite forgot about the wedding-ring till 1.30 on the actual day, and the only cab I could find to take me to a jeweller's was drawn by a camel. Of course, it may not turn out to be as bad as that, but it will certainly be an anxious afternoon for both of us. And so we must consider the entertainment entirely from the point of view of our guests. Whether their craving is for champagne or bells, it must be satisfied."

"I'm sure they'll be better without bells. Because when the policemen call out 'Mr. Spifkins' carriage,' Mr. Spifkins mightn't hear if there were a lot of bells clashing about."

"Very well, no bells. But, mind you," I said sternly, "I shall insist on a clergyman."

We went through the rest of the _menu_, course by course.

"I know what I shall do," I said at last. "I shall call on my friend the Clerk again, and I shall speak to him quite frankly. I shall say, 'Here is a cheque for a thousand pounds. It is all I can afford--and, by the way, you'd better pay it in quickly or it will be dishonoured. Can you do us up a nice wedding for a thousand inclusive?'"

"Like the Christmas hampers at the stores."

"Exactly. A dozen boys' voices, a half-dozen of bells, ten yards of awning, and twenty-four oranges, or vergers, or whatever it is. We ought to get a nice parcel for a thousand pounds."

"Or," said Celia, "we might send the list round to our friends as suggestions for wedding presents. I'm sure Jane would love to give us a couple of policemen."

"We'd much better leave the whole thing to your father. I incline more and more to the opinion that it is _his_ business to provide the wedding. I must ask my solicitor about it."

"He's providing the bride."

"Yes, but I think he might go further. I can't help feeling that the bells would come very well from him. 'Bride's father to bridegroom--A peal of bells.' People would think it was something in silver for the hall. It would do him a lot of good in business circles."

"And that reminds me," smiled Celia, "there's been some talk about a present from Miss Popley."

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get married decently unless one's life is ordered on some sort of system. Mine never has been; and the result is that I make terrible mistakes--particularly in the case of Miss Popley. At the beginning of the business, when the news got round to Miss Popley, I received from her a sweet letter of congratulation. Knowing that she was rather particular in these matters I braced myself up and thanked her heartily by return of post. Three days later, when looking for a cheque I had lost, I accidentally came across her letter. "Help, help!" I cried. "This came days ago, and I haven't answered yet." I sat down at once and thanked her enthusiastically. Another week passed and I began to feel that I must really make an effort to catch my correspondence up; so I got out all my letters of congratulation of the last ten days and devoted an afternoon to answering them. I used much the same form of thanks in all of them ... with the exception of Miss Popley's, which was phrased particularly warmly.

So much for that. But Miss Popley is Celia's dear friend also. When I made out my list of guests I included Miss Popley; so, in her list, did Celia. The result was that Miss Popley received two invitations to the wedding.... Sometimes I fear she must think we are pursuing her.

"What does she say about a present?" I asked.

"She wants us to tell her what we want."

"What _are_ we to say? If we said an elephant----"

"With a small card tied on to his ear, and 'Best wishes from Miss Popley' on it. It would look heavenly among the other presents."

"You see what I mean, Celia. Are we to suggest something worth a thousand pounds, or something worth ninepence? It's awfully kind of her, but it makes it jolly difficult for us."

"Something that might cost anything from ninepence to a thousand pounds," suggested Celia.

"Then that washes out the elephant."

"Can't you get the ninepenny ones now?"

"I suppose," I said, reverting to the subject which most weighed on me, "she wouldn't like to give the men's voices for the choir?"

"No, I think a clock," said Celia. "A clock can cost anything you like--or don't like."

"Right-o. And perhaps we'd better settle now. When it comes, how many times shall we write and thank her for it?"

Celia considered. "Four times, I think," she said.

. . . . .

Well, as Celia says, it's too late to draw back now. But I shall be glad when it's all over. As I began by saying, there's too much "arranging" and "settling" and "fixing" about the thing for me. In the necessary negotiations and preparations I fear I have not shone. And so I shall be truly glad when we have settled down in our flat ... and Celia can restore my confidence in myself once more by talking loudly to her domestic staff about "The Master."

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Getting Married