At length the bell,
With booming sound,
Sends forth, resounding round,
Its hymeneal peal o’er rock and down the dell.
It is broad day, with sunshine and with rain;
And yet the guests delay not long,
For soon arrives the bridal train,
And with it brings the village throng.

Angela makes a beautiful bride. Margaret knows this, because everyone around her is saying so. They are also looking at her askance as she takes her place beside Angela, as bridesmaid and witness to the wedding. She knows this because once again the villagers appear to have forgotten that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with her hearing. The murmurs of speculation are so loud that the priest himself has three times asked the congregation to be quiet.

The hymns have been sung, and the readings read. The homily is spoken, and the priest takes the hands of Angela and of Baptiste. Then his voice falters, as he turns the page to where the name of bride and groom should be written, for the name on his notes is not Angela, but Margaret.

The congregation holds its breath, but none more so than Margaret herself.

Then Angela takes her hand, draws her forward. Her hand is warm, and she kisses Margaret on the cheek as she places her hand in Baptiste’s.

“And so I surrender my claim to you, my dearest friend, in recognition of your prior one.”

There is a surprising steel in her voice as she turns to the priest. “Father, I would have you wed these two, who are already bound together with the bonds of love that no man can put asunder. Yet even if you will not, I will not be wed this day, unless it be to my own true love.”

The congregation’s murmurs have turned to cries of shock and outrage, with Baptiste’s father foremost among them. Baptiste holds Margaret’s hand in a strong grip, as they wait for the priest’s response.

“It is true,” he says at last, “That these two were duly betrothed, and in the course of time should have been truly wed, yet their families were against it. What say the families now?”

Paul’s voice, high and excited, speaks out before anyone else could. “Well, I have no objection!”

There is laughter, but not from Baptiste’s father. “But I do,” he says firmly. “I forbade this marriage, and for good reason. My son deserves better than a blind woman, who can never be his true helpmeet, but will always be a burden to him, needing his aid daily for every task. Hear me, son: if you marry this woman, you will no longer be a son of mine.”

Margaret tenses, but Baptiste speaks firmly and without hesitation. “It is written in the marriage service that a man shall leave his family and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. I would be sorry to leave my family forever, sir, but if you will insult my Margaret, who is as much my wife now as if we had been wed a year, then I will count you no loss.”

Not a sound is heard in the church.

Angela speaks. “Sir, Margaret was struck with fever not three days before her first wedding day. You forbade the wedding then, because of her blindness – would you have forced her divorce, had the fever happened a week later? We all may be victims of illness or accident at any time, and in any marriage, there will be seasons when one spouse must care for the other. We do not know when they will come. Margaret is no burden, nor is she without resource – she planned this day and persuaded us to it, and all without anyone else knowing. Could you have done so much?”

There are tears rolling down Margaret’s cheeks, but she does not care. She reaches out to clasp Angela’s hand with the hand that did not hold Baptiste’s. “Thank you,”, she whispers. Angela squeezes her hand in return.

Another voice is heard – Angela’s father. “Love is a beautiful thing, I am sure, and none should insult Margaret’s good heart or fine mind. But what of my Angela? Father, I arranged this marriage to provide for my daughter after my death, which cannot be far away. What of the promise made to her? She must not be left standing at the altar.”

Margaret finally finds her voice. “Good sir, I promise you that whatever may come to pass, Angela will always have a home with me, as her beloved sister. Everything I bring to this marriage will be hers, should she desire it.”

Angela’s father snorts. “A tiny cottage, which you will need yourselves if Master Baptiste is to be disowned. A fine protection you offer her, blind girl.”

“Then she will have mine.”

The voice that speaks is unfamiliar – a pleasant baritone, with the accents of nobility. Booted footsteps approach the front of the church, and the voice speaks again, close at hand. “I am Sir Henry, and I am the lord of these lands. Will you marry me, lovely Angela? I did not come here today to find a bride, but a lady who shows such loyalty to her friends, such courage and wisdom in her speech, and such kindness in her actions, is a wife that any lord might be proud of.”

Angela’s hand trembles in Margaret’s, but her voice is steady.

“Sir Henry, I am honoured by your offer, but I have vowed today not to marry unless it be to my own true love, and I never saw you before this hour.”

Sir Henry laughed. It is a nice laugh, Margaret thinks. “So be it, then. But I will court you, if I may, and perhaps in time you will give me that honour.”

“Perhaps in time I will.” There is a smile in Angela’s voice. “But for today, if your lordship pleases, we have a wedding to celebrate, between Margaret and Baptiste.”

Sir Henry laughs again. “Indeed we do. And as the lord of this domain, I shall stand in the place of Margaret’s father, and any objections to the match may be addressed to me.”

There are no objections.

The roads should blossom, the roads should bloom,
So fair a bride shall leave her home!
Should blossom and bloom with garlands gay,
So fair a bride shall pass to-day!

[What is this, a fairy tale? Take me back!]

[Take me back to the start]


Jacques Jasmin, Poetry, and Railway stations

Jasmin is the name of a station on the Paris Metro 9 line, in the 16th arondissement, not far from the Bois de  Boulogne.  It was built in 1922, and is named for the Rue de Jasmin, which in turn is named for the 19th century Occitan poet and barber, Jacques Jansemin (or Jasmin, as he is known in French).  Occitan was the language of the troubadours in the middle ages, and Jansemin’s poetry was credited with reviving this poetic tradition (though he himself felt that his own poems were far superior to those of the troubadours).  Occitan, or langue d’oc, is the dialect spoken in the south of France, particularly Provence and Gascony, as well as parts of Italy and Spain.  Modern French derives from the sister dialect, langue d’oïl, and most of those who now speak Occitan use French as their official language. I suspect that Jansemin’s use of Occitan to write poetry was in some ways a political statement, given its association both with the south and with rural peasantry.

Jansemin wrote a variety of poems, of which L’Abuglo de Castèl Cuillè (The Blind Girl of Castel Cuille) is one of the better known.  His poetry was popular with the English romantic and pastoral poets, and the translation I have used in this story is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  You can read the original Occitan here, and Longfellow’s translation can be found here. The translation seems to be a fairly accurate one – while I do not speak Occitan, it is similar enough to French and Italian that I can follow it in the English translation, and I saw no obvious dissimilarities.

I found the poetry lovely but the story immensely frustrating, and kind of awful about disability. I wanted to give Margaret some agency in her life, and the opportunity to make better (if perhaps less romantic) choices… and perhaps some worse ones, too. I hope I have achieved a less infuriating result on this score than Jasmin did.

I would like to thank Alison Uren for beta reading and Loki Carbis for help with coding. Any problems that still remain in the story are entirely my fault!


Michel-Ange – Auteuil fleur9left Jasmin fleur9right Ranelagh

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