Circling about the Hawthorne courtyard, the four-horse barouche sent down from Wadleigh Park glides to an elegant stop as Patience glances out the drawing room window.
Its grand presence is an obvious honor. She races up the backstairs to fetch her cousins, disapproving; such largesse from Lord Wadleigh seems unnecessary when the family coach is more than adequate. She rushes into the boudoir.
“The carriage is here!” she gasps, holding her sides.
“Patience,” exclaims Lily, “Where have you been?”
“We wondered where you were,” Juliet gushes, pushing Patience to the dressing table. “Make haste for Wadleigh Park! Molly must frizz your front curls and topknot.”
“Look,” Lily bubbles, pointing to the gown draped over the boudoir chair. “We have already selected your dress!”
It is Juliet’s, the yellow gauze with a satin petticoat.
“We had your best slippers and stockings brought down from your room,” Lily said, her side curls bouncing.
Patience is astonished. “How did this happen?”
“Lady Wadleigh’s invitation was delivered sometime after noonday,” Lily advises, “The note was on the hall table, in the salver, and no one noticed until after Papa came home. Why did you not admit you were not invited? We would not have been in such high spirits or so foolishly admiring of ourselves.”
After donning her stockings and slippers, Patience hurriedly washes her arms and neck, buffing them dry while the twins flit about the room gathering her clothes.
What would they say if they knew her invitation was at Albert’s prompting? She resolves not to mention it, especially because of what it might suggest to their romantic minds. She knows Sir Albert’s concerns are prompted by a friendship of long standing and nothing else.
“What will I put in my hair?” She is nearly out of breath as she steps into the satin petticoat and tightens the strings about her waist. Molly slides the sheer muslin dress over Patience’s head. She wriggles into it. Seven rows of tucking she so admires decorate the dress hem. Beneath the empire bosom is a lovely band of lilac ribbon.
Her lovely feather ornament, lost during the tussle in the conservatory with Sir Albert on Monday last, is sorely missed.
“How acceptable is my appearance?” she asks, “I am in doubt of it.”
Juliet advises, “Pale yellow is the perfect foil...”
Lily finishes her sentence, “...for an ivory complexion.”
This dress is much nicer than anything Patience owns at present. Her mother’s wardrobe contains clothing of far greater value. However, it is all out of fashion and needs expert alterations of the kind obtained only from a mantua maker in a large city like London or Bath.
“Let’s braid lilac ribbon around your chignon,” Lily suggests, “and add a few wax flower sprigs, too.”
Additional time for Patience to dress for dinner was allowed by the fact the Wadleigh barouche must first deliver her two cousins, Sir Godfrey and Mrs. Parmeter up to the great house. It is just as well. She is relieved; she is not prepared to face her uncle just yet. He will surely resent her presence.
When the barouche bounces up the long driveway, Patience is the only passenger. She wears her own black gauze cape over Juliet’s ensemble and her mother’s pearl necklace and earrings retrieved from the locked drawer in her attic bedroom.
Her fears about this evening are many; however, her first concern is immediate. Will Albert think she has applied rouge when her cheeks turn red at the sight of him?
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