Book weddings: Miss Lavendar

The next wedding in my Weddings by L. M. Montgomery series is the one between Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving. Childhood friends and (the early 20th century Canada equivalent of) high school sweethearts, Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving had a “foolish argument” in their youth, after which the dude stomped off in a huff and Miss Lavendar lived by herself in a cottage pretending the clouds were the fairies’ handkerchiefs for the next decade or two.

Anne meets Miss Lavendar in Anne of Avonlea and they hit it off because they’re both the kind of people who like anthropomorphising scenery.

Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving have a tiny, charming backyard wedding: “in the garden under the honeysuckle trellis … where Mr. Irving proposed to her twenty-five years ago.

There was no formality about the marriage. Miss Lavendar came down the stairs to meet her bridegroom at the foot, and as he took her hand she lifted her big brown eyes to his with a look that made Charlotta the Fourth, who intercepted it, feel queerer than ever. They went out to the honeysuckle arbor, where Mr. Allan was awaiting them. The guests grouped themselves as they pleased. Anne and Diana stood by the old stone bench, with Charlotta the Fourth between them, desperately clutching their hands in her cold, tremulous little paws.

Mr. Allan opened his blue book and the ceremony proceeded. Just as Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving were pronounced man and wife a very beautiful and symbolic thing happened. The sun suddenly burst through the gray and poured a flood of radiance on the happy bride. Instantly the garden was alive with dancing shadows and flickering lights.

“What a lovely omen,” thought Anne, as she ran to kiss the bride. Then the three girls left the rest of the guests laughing around the bridal pair while they flew into the house to see that all was in readiness for the feast.

“Thanks be to goodness, it’s over, Miss Shirley, ma’am,” breathed Charlotta the Fourth, “and they’re married safe and sound, no matter what happens now. The bags of rice are in the pantry, ma’am, and the old shoes are behind the door, and the cream for whipping is on the sullar steps.”

At half past two Mr. and Mrs. Irving left, and everybody went to Bright River to see them off on the afternoon train. As Miss Lavendar … I beg her pardon, Mrs. Irving … stepped from the door of her old home Gilbert and the girls threw the rice and Charlotta the Fourth hurled an old shoe with such excellent aim that she struck Mr. Allan squarely on the head. But it was reserved for Paul to give the prettiest send-off. He popped out of the porch ringing furiously a huge old brass dinner bell which had adorned the dining room mantel. Paul’s only motive was to make a joyful noise; but as the clangor died away, from point and curve and hill across the river came the chime of “fairy wedding bells,” ringing clearly, sweetly, faintly and more faint, as if Miss Lavendar’s beloved echoes were bidding her greeting and farewell. And so, amid this benediction of sweet sounds, Miss Lavendar drove away from the old life of dreams and make-believes to a fuller life of realities in the busy world beyond.

People seem to have done away with the ancient tradition of hurling old shoes at the newlyweds.

So far as fantasy weddings go, I think this is a very charming one. Not counting the minister, there are only five guests, all of whom know and love the couple. Gilbert is kind of a random addition – as far as I can recall, he wasn’t that close to Miss Lavendar – but he was probably included because everyone in Avonlea ships Anne and Gilbert. They have a home-cooked meal and in a couple of hours the new family is off to begin their new life together. The way this is set up is especially convenient because Mr. and Mrs. Irving don’t have to do any of the cleaning up, or even pay for it – Charlotta the Fourth, Anne and Diana are left to do it.

What’s interesting about this is the implication in the last line that Miss Lavendar’s single life was not, in some sense, a real life; she needed to get married for her real life to begin. Montgomery was probably not intending to suggest that Miss Lavendar was going to stop daydreaming once she got married, so the idea is probably more that Miss Lavendar’s life plan or career was aborted when she failed to marry at an early age, and that all is set right and things can get going again.

It’s an interesting question how much Miss Lavendar will enjoy the “realities” of the world outside her cottage. She did live in stasis before Anne arrived in her life, Anne serving as a kind of catalyst (as she does for many other characters throughout the series – the prime example is, of course, Marilla, the woman who adopted her). But to an extent it seems to have been a stasis Miss Lavendar wanted – see e.g. her closest friend and servant, who is the last in a series of sisters, all of whom worked for Miss Lavendar and were called Charlotta by her, regardless of their actual name.

Of course, the idea is that she deliberately kept out of society in part because her life’s hopes were invested in Stephen Irving, and maybe that stasis is a way for her to deal with losing him. So now that he’s back she can get going again. But you wonder whether she’ll miss being alone.


One thought on “Book weddings: Miss Lavendar

  1. Pingback: Book weddings: Anne Shirley | Hobbits vs. Elves

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