“Now that the story makes sense,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCXXXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, “we can proceed with the thorny business of annulling Lady Margo Cargo’s accidental marriage to Constable Chumley.” Meanwhile, her editor has failed to inform her that she has entirely skipped Chapter CCXXXIV. This omission will surely come back to haunt her.
The problem is not the constable, who has forgotten all about the marriage, but Lady Margo herself, who believes she is with child by the constable–which the doctor insists is medically impossible, the marriage never having been consummated. There is doubt that Chumley knows what “consummated” means.”I gae frather in a fairn!” he asserts.
Johnno the Merry Minstrel thinks he has the solution.
“That fool of an assistant justice of the peace, Master Roger Addlepate, my lord, who brainlessly performed the marriage, must be persuaded to un-perform it.”
“How is he to do that?” Lord Jeremy wonders. He needs to marry wealthy Lady Margo to save his ancestral home, Coldsore Hall, from a growing army of creditors.
“We must re-stage the ceremony,” Johnno explains, “and do the whole thing backwards. All the words must be spoken backwards, in reverse order from that in which they were originally spoken. So we start at ‘I do,’ which must be spoken as ‘do I,’ and work our way, backwards, all the way back to the beginning, when the A.J.P. will say, ‘God of sight the in together gathered are we.’ And then you declare the whole business undone and annulled!”
“Dontcha think that’ll be kinda complicated for the poor idjit who has to do it?” asks Lord Jeremy’s friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. “Might be a far sight easier if I jist shoot him.”
“Let’s try the sane way first, old boy,” says Lord Jeremy. Happily, Lady Margo gives her consent to the procedure.
There is some trouble getting Chumley to participate, but a few tankards of rich brown ale do the trick. “He never said anything the first time out, anyhow,” Lord Jeremy remarks.
The backwards ceremony takes all day, owing to the participants getting confused about the word order, and Twombley suffers from an increasingly itchy trigger finger. Finally Addlepate is able to utter the words, ‘Wife wedded lawful your for woman this take do you?’, and the business is concluded. Imagine how much easier it would have been, had rewind buttons been invented in the 19th century.
Lady Margo jumps up and cheers, which causes her upholstered wooden leg to fall off. She doesn’t care. “I’m not with child by the constable anymore!” she exults. “Thank you, Johnno!” But Johnno already has his harmonica out, playing and singing (at the same time) “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean.”
Ms. Crepuscular concludes with a gentle reminder that the movie rights to Oy, Rodney are still for sale.