Shae hadn’t seen herself dressed in any colors, other than brown and grey, since she was a young girl. Her mother had urged her to pick out whatever fabric she wanted for her wedding dress. When Shae had asked her if Father had agreed to this, her mother merely laughed.
So they made a trip to a store in a larger city, and went through what seemed to be hundreds of bolts of cloth. She still had to be sensible though, as this dress was to be used on other occasions. Or maybe she was just being practical out of habit. She had finally settled on a velvet in emerald green. The dress that the local seamstress made had a high modest neck with tiny black velvet buttons that went down her front from her neck down to her waist. The dress had a modest bustle and no train. It was quite lovely to Shae though, because she hadn’t had any colors in her wardrobe, except brown or grey for years. The velvet seemed a bit insensible to her, but her mother had insisted on her not choosing any wool fabric. Shae was nervous about the dress and appearing too “put on” for her wedding.
“The color looks delightful on you, dear,” her mother said, her eyes misting. “I’ve never seen you lovelier.”
“Thank you, Mother,” she murmured as she had also noticed how the color brought out the tiniest bits of pink to her cheeks.
Perhaps she was worrying for little reason. Regardless, it was far too late to change her mind now. It was her wedding day, and Mr. Matheson would arrive soon to accompany them all to the courthouse. She glanced a look at her mother who was wringing her hands. The pleading look in her mother’s eyes gave Shae pause.
“Are you sure about this, Shae? You’ve only met Mr. Matheson. While I don’t doubt that he is a fine, upstanding gentleman, you’ll have a great many years with someone who has no intention of falling in love with you. I’m afraid you’ll be neglected.”
Shae looked at her mother from the mirror, while she straightened the pleats on her dress and picked off a piece of lint.
“I have no intention of falling in love with him, Mother.”
“Dear, I know that you are relentlessly practical, but sometimes the heart cannot help these things. And… and you look so lovely in that dress. Perhaps I should have insisted sooner that Gerald allow you to wear something less straight-laced and dull before now. You really do have quite a lovely figure, and that color brings some life to your face.”
“Nonsense, Mother,” Shae laughed. “We both know that I am plain of face and rather average. I’m also on the short side. There is nothing remarkable about me, except for my mind. We both know how useless that attribute is to our society.”
Her mother looked at her with a mixture of sadness and pride.
“That has always seemed such a pity to me.”
The admittance from her Mother surprised Shae. Had her Mother’s objections been only because she feared the community’s opinion? Maybe her Mother had been right. Shae also wondered if her Mother had been more opinionated about her wardrobe, then she would have found true love. Her Father was obstinate, though, and usually unwavering. So here they were.
“It is the way it is,” Shae stated, matter-of-factly.
Her mother merely nodded, and reached for Shae’s bonnet, made of black taffeta and tulle. It was another frivolity that her mother had insisted upon. Her mother had tears in her eyes as she put the bonnet on Shae’s head. As they were finishing with the hat, they heard a carriage pull up their drive. Shae put on her black net gloves, and grabbed her reticule.
“Shall we go?” she asked her mother, with a determined smile.
Her mother didn’t say anything, just held onto her arm as they made their way down the staircase. Mr. Matheson was down in the entryway talking with her father. As the two women stepped down to their level, Mr. Matheson gave her a small smile. Her father looked at her with incredulity.
“Shaelene, you look lovely,” her father complemented her, tears in his eyes as he kissed her cheek.
“Thank you, Father.”
“Shall we go?” he asked, offering his arm to his wife.
“Yes,” Shae answered, taking Mr. Matheson’s proffered arm. “Let’s go.”
As they neared the carriage, her father suggested that Mr. Matheson go alone in his carriage, so that he and Mrs. Findlay could have the last few minutes before the ceremony with their daughter. Mr. Matheson willingly agreed, and after bowing to them strode off to his carriage. Shae and her Mother were escorted into the Findlay family carriage. Her Father followed them in and sat by her Mother across from Shae. He didn’t say anything for a minute. He just looked at her, his thoughts running across the expressions on his face. His stepping away from his usual stoicism worried Shae a bit, although she didn’t show it. Finally, he spoke.
“I’m afraid your mother is right. I shouldn’t have agreed to this. I should have listened to her.”
“Oh, Gerald! You wait until now to say so!” Her Mother exclaimed, bursting into tears.
“Better late than never,” her Father growled. “Seeing you walking down in that dress made me realize how right your mother was about me being too practical with your clothing all these years. I didn’t realize… Why didn’t you insist more, Rose?”
“Gerald! I was most insistent on many occasions, but you and I both know how bull-headed you are. It is impossible to sway you when you’ve set your mind to something. So many times! I tried so many times…”
She started weeping into her lace handkerchief. Her father looked bewildered. Shae felt that the entire situation was ridiculous.
“Now, I’ll hear no more of it. I think that once we get to the courthouse, we’ll tell Mr. Matheson that we have changed our minds.”
“We’ll do no such thing,” Shae insisted. “We gave him our word and we won’t back out.”
“But your mother is right, you aren’t in love with him now, but I fear you will be someday.”
“I suppose that it would be a terrible thing to be in love with one’s husband,” Shae retorted.
“It would be if he didn’t love you in return.”
“I’m not being loved by any man at the moment. What will it matter once I’m married?”
“To love and not be loved back is a terrible thing to endure,” her Father returned.
“How would you know?” Shae shot back, demurely, but with icy determination in her voice, “I do know that I can’t stay with you and Mother any longer. It is time for me to leave.”
“But Shaelene, you will be alone!!!” her Mother interjected, tearfully.
“I most certainly will not. I will have a husband that I hope will be a good friend, and a child that needs me. Neither of you need me. You think that loving without being loved in return is a terrible thing? I have to watch you two every day being very much in love, knowing that I will never have such a thing for myself. At least marrying Mr. Matheson, I will have a house of my own to run, a man to protect me, and a child to invest my love in. I will be marrying him this morning, and that is the end of it.”
The carriage came to a halt right as Shae was finishing her speech to her parents, who were shocked at her vehemence.
“I am resolute,” she reiterated. “We are here at the courthouse. Shall we go in, so I can get married?”
Her mother blew her nose. Her father shakily nodded his head, and got out. Helping Shae down, he waited for his wife to compose herself. Outside, the wind was cold and biting. Mr. Matheson was waiting for them beside his carriage. Once he noticed her, he came over and offered her his arm. By this time, her mother had gotten out of the carriage. Both couples made their way into the courthouse. As they got inside, her father took Mr. Matheson aside. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but she could guess what the matter was about. After a few words, Mr. Matheson straightened to his full height, clenched his jaw, and looked her way. Her father was still talking, but Matheson, not losing eye contact with Shae, walked away from her father and came to her.
“Shall we get married, Miss Findlay?” his eyes searched hers intently.
“Yes, Mr. Matheson. I am resolved in this matter.”
He looked down at her for ten seconds, searching for any crack in her professed resolve. When he found none, he held out his arm to her. She willingly took it.
After the short ceremony was over, the newly wed Mr. and Mrs. Randolph Matheson made their way outside.
“You will come over to the house for refreshments?” Mrs. Findlay asked them.
“I hate to reject your offer, but we must be on our way. There seems to be a chill in the air that soon promises snow,” Mr. Matheson said. “For safety in travel, I must insist on our immediate departure.”
There was an awkward silence in the air, as well. Her Mother pressed closer to her husband as a big gust of wind blew about them. The only sound was the leaves swirling around, while her Father and her new husband measured each other. It was if they were seeing each other again for the first time. It brought about great discomfort. Shae came to the rescue.
“Yes, it does seem like it might snow. We also have a long day of travel ahead of us. I will write as soon as I am settled.”
She went over and gave her mother a hug, who was again crying into her handkerchief. She got up on tiptoe and kissed her father on her cheek.
“I love you both. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine,” she whispered to them before walking to the Matheson carriage. “Goodbye.”
Mr. Matheson joined her inside, but sat in the seat opposite her. Once again, he studied her. She pretended to not notice and looked out the window at her parents who were sending her off, waving. Or rather, her mother was crying and her father was solemnly waving. Shae’s lips twitched a bit, longing to curl into a smile. But steady, she remained. She continued to watch out the window at the landscape, even after the town was no longer in view.
“Miss Findlay, your father told me of his doubts of our marriage right before the ceremony. Tell me, did you have the same fears?”
“Not at all. I am honest in all things. I told you that I was resolute. This marriage was beneficial for the both of us.”
He was quiet for a moment, but she could tell he had more on his mind. For him, he seemed nervous. His fingers were slightly restless on his knees.
“What is on your mind, Mr. Matheson? Something is making you nervous.”
He froze at that, stilling his entire body.
“How did you know I was nervous? I am always good at hiding my feelings.”
“Your face was passive, but your fingers were shifting about.”
“Thank you. I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time something is making me feel so,” he complemented, after a pause, “You’re very observant.”
“I suppose. You’re very good at diverting attention. What was on your mind that unnerved you?”
“The agreements we made concerning provisions to the marriage. The stipulation I had…”
Shae blushed slightly, as she was rather innocent in such matters. She put his mind to ease immediately though.
“I have not changed my mind in that either. I am perfectly willing to agree to your wishes in that regard.”
“Your father—“ he stopped.
“Do not worry about anything my father said, Mr. Matheson. His opinions are not my own. And you? You are still willing to have conversations every evening, such as we are now?” she paused, a bit embarrassed, before she continued softly. “I know that you will never love me. I have no intention of falling in love with you. I- I just want a companion. I’ve been very lonely. It isn’t easy being who I am. People don’t understand me.”
In the course of her talking, Matheson went from tense to concerned.
“Who you are? Do you mean that people are willing to accept your intelligence?” he asked.
“Yes, you know how society is.”
“Yes, certainly,” he agreed. “As I stated last week, I’ll be happy to have nightly discussions with you when I am home to.”
“Thank you. It will make the monotony of having tea with other women less tortuous.”
“Speaking of which, I have to warn you about my aunt. She wanted me to marry someone else. This someone else is wholly unsuited for me, as well as for Lucy. Aunt Martha will not be kind to you, but I hope that someday she’ll warm up to you. She will probably make things rather difficult for you in the meantime.”
“Oh, I think I shall be all right,” Shae answered. “I shall be just fine.”
She meant it.