Even if Jonathan would be tolerable to live with, sixteen was far too young to be getting married. She had seen the effects of marriage on young girls; they slowly turned to old crones with the burden of raising children and keeping house. It was the same for almost all women whose lives were designated exclusively to domesticity.
Before long, her mother opened the door just far enough to stick her head through. Emily pulled herself up and followed her family to the wagon outside. Throughout the trip to Seaton, she remained silent. The trip progressed slowly, but it led inexorably toward the event she dreaded.
After they had finished their lunch, they reached the city limits of Seaton. When they came to the cathedral, her mother escorted her to the rear of building. Emily stopped in front of the door to the bridal suite. Emily closed the door and looked at the small, stuffy room around her. There was only one small window opened for ventilation, and the gray, drab bricks trapped almost enough heat to roast her.
She sat down at a small desk and stared at her reflection in a mirror.
She knew she only had a few minutes of precious freedom left, but she wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Her eyes wandered away from the mirror and fixed on the hanging wall clock. She watched the hands on the clock tick slowly toward five. She now had a scarce half hour left.
She had to get ready. As she stood, another wave of fatigue washed over her.
She removed her faded black dress and stood wearing nothing but a tattered, dusty cotton slip. She looked over her wedding gown. Despite her feelings about the marriage, she had to admit the dress was stunning, and it took her breath away to think that she could ever wear something so beautiful.
The gown was as white and pure as porcelain. The corset was made of sleek, shiny satin. A line of finely tailored velvet roses crossed the breast and ran back from the left arm to the right side, and a short white lace strap would just barely cover her shoulders. The skirt itself was actually three skirts. The innermost layer was a made from a delicate dark purple lace that would be almost completely obscured from view, except for a small length just above her ankles that would jut out when the outer skirt cut away.
The second skirt was lavender and made from imported silk. The outer skirt was made of a thick bridal satin with a white lace trim and was garnished with small, delicate lavender bows. Along the back, the satin clustered together in a small, tight bustle. Emily opened the door a crack and called for her mother. Her mother entered the room and shut the door behind her. Her mother turned around, and Emily removed the dusty slip from her body. She pulled on delicate lace pantalets and then stepped into the corset and pulled it around her chest.
She had never worn a corset before, and the tightness she felt in her chest made it hard to breathe. The corset slimmed her waist, giving her straight figure subtle, gentle curves. Around her waist, Julia tied a small horsehair tournure so that it rested gently on her bottom.
The pillow would give prominence to her bustle and add even greater emphasis to her new curves. Her mother picked up a small package from the desk. She opened it to reveal the most beautiful treasure Emily had ever seen—delicate white silk stockings. She reached out and carefully lifted them from their box. Her eyes swam with hot tears. Emily knew her parents had gone to great lengths to procure the stockings for her. She felt her heart breaking as she slid the stockings up her legs.
Would anyone ever show her this kind of loving gesture again? Once the undergarments were in place and the corset was tied, she stepped into the skirts one by one and slowly pulled them over her small, boyish hips. As quickly as she could, her mother fastened the skirts together by the series of hooks that were sewn into the fabric.
The pieces of her bridal outfit had come together.
Emily looked back into the mirror and noticed how disheveled her hair was. She sat back in the chair, and her mother brushed through the snarls and tangles. Her mother was midway through brushing her hair, when she suddenly stopped. Emily turned around and looked at mother.
She threw her arms around her mother and cried. I still believe that. I know this day is so hard for you to bear. That, coupled with being married to someone who despised her, was far more than she could ever bear. And turn Fate's chariot backward by thy rein! Unto all France shalt thou deliverance bring,. And, freeing Rheims, in triumph crown the King!
The Heavenly Spirit promised me a sign,. He sends the helmet, for it comes from Him!
Beneath thy kiss the honey ripes,. With humble pride I chant thy praise,.
The yellow sunflower turns to thee. Thou mak'st a rare enamelled thing. Glory to thee upon the fields,. Thy mandate, Sun, has called to life,. I worship thee: thy holy light.
THE breeze that stirs in yonder tree. And as he loosed a golden strand. Surely no tale beneath the sun.
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