The rest of the journey was relatively quiet, but not uncomfortably so. They had stopped for the midday meal at an inn on the way to Davies. Mr. Matheson informed her that he didn’t actually live in town at the moment, but a handful of miles from the city. He finally told her that they were only a few miles away from his property, she decided to take in the landscape near it. There was a lot of rolling farmland and pastureland. It was quite picturesque. At last, they pulled into a long drive leading up to a large two-story red brick house with straight lines, but little imagination. It was still lovely though, with plenty of windows.
Mr. Matheson helped her down from the carriage and escorted her into his house, the butler having opened the door for them. As they entered the home, there was a tall woman standing in the entryway, along with a petite blonde girl about 10 years old. The blonde she knew must be Lucy. Shae guessed that the tall woman was the housekeeper, as she had a chatelaine.
“Welcome home, Mr. Matheson,” the woman said, warmly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Klein,” he greeted, as he patted Lucy on the head, “Hello, Lucy.”
Lucy scowled at him, but gave him a greeting back, while curtsying. Then she cast her vivid green eyes in Shae’s direction. Mr. Matheson turned to look at what had Lucy’s attention- Shae.
“Who is that?” she asked a bit disdainfully.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Davis, Mrs. Klein…. Lucy, I’d like you to meet, Miss Findlay. “
Four pairs of eyes were set on her. No one said a word.
“Why is she here?” Lucy was the first to ask, “Is she another new governess? I don’t need one.”
“Why no, Lucy, we talked about this. I told you that I was getting married again.”
While Mr. Matheson looked at Lucy, everyone else looked between Shae and Mr. Matheson in bewilderment. Shae was trying to piece the puzzle together, when Lucy finally solved it for her.
“But Father, you said you were getting married. Did you change your mind? You said her name was Miss Findlay. “
With that, Mr. Matheson straightened up tall, and looked at Shae. It seemed that a bit of remorse was in his eyes. Shae herself was a bit mortified also, since not only he had forgotten to call her Mrs. Matheson, but also Shae hadn’t even noticed his slip-of-tongue.
“Ah, well, we haven’t been married long enough to get used to that,” she said to Lucy. “We only were married this morning. There is no harm done, at all.”
Lucy only looked at her with disgust. Shae had a lot of work cut out for her, in order to win this girl’s heart.
“Yes,” Mr. Matheson added, “we aren’t quite used to it yet, are we, Mrs…. Matheson?”
It sounded like it pained him to use that moniker for her. Shae supposed it must be difficult for him, to give her a name that he had once given to the woman he had loved. She was just the substitute wife.
“Shall I show Mrs. Matheson to your room, sir?” asked Mrs. Klein.
“No,” Mr. Matheson said tersely, “she will be sleeping in the east bedroom. The one that used to be my mother’s, right next to Lucy’s.”
“Very well. Mr. Canton, if you would be so good as to take Mrs. Matheson’s things to the east bedroom, I’d appreciate it. I’ll show her the way.”
Mrs. Klein hadn’t skip a beat with the entire ordeal. Shae supposed that she should be embarrassed by it all, but fatigue was winning out against any of those types of feelings. She followed Mrs. Klein up the staircase and down the hallway to what was to be her bedroom.
“Here you are, ma’am,” Mrs. Klein said, opening the door for her.
Inside, the walls were a rich blue and the woodwork was maple. There was a large maple four-poster bed with rich, blue velvet bed-coverings. The rest of the room was done up in matching maple furniture. They were fine furnishings. Her new husband wasn’t lying to her father about his wealth. That was a relief to know that he could truly provide for her, and hadn’t made it up in order to get at her father’s savings. He hadn’t seemed that type of man to Shae, but sometimes people could be very good at deceit.
“I’ll have a bath brought up. Supper is at 6 o’clock.”
“That sounds lovely. Thank you.”
Mrs. Klein left, as Mr. Canton was bringing up the first of her trunks. A maid came in to help her unpack. Shae took off her gloves and hat, and worked alongside her to get it done before she bathed.
During supper, it was mainly silent, apart from Mr. Matheson informing Lucy of Shae’s new part in her life. Lucy listened with a belligerent look on her face as she was informed that Shae was her new mother, as well as tutor. In response, Lucy told Shae in French that she thought her to be a fat cow. Lucy replied back in German that young ladies shouldn’t be so rude. Since Lucy didn’t have any knowledge of German, she didn’t say anything in return, only scowled, looking down into her soup.
As the rest of the meal was eaten in silence, Shae took in her surroundings. The dining room was large with a maize color on the walls, and there were thick wheat colored drapes on the large window. The woodwork was oak, as was the dining table, seats, and buffet. The candlelit chandelier cast a lovely ambient light in the room. Mr. Matheson had a lovely, albeit functional and practical home.
“Shae,” he stated as the meal was finished, “after you get Lucy to bed, please come down to the parlor to talk, if you please.”
“Very well,” Shae replied, “Come along, Lucy. I need you to show me to your room.”
A devilish smirk tilted on one side of Lucy’s face. Shae knew that something ornery was in the works. She didn’t give Shae any trouble as they made their way to the nursery. Once they arrived, Lucy dressed in her nightgown calmly, while Shae looked through the nursery’s books in order to find a book to read to her. As she was perusing the second row, something slowly slithered down her arm. She started a bit, as she realized it was a garter snake. A snicker directly behind her revealed why Lucy had been so docile. She had been planning on introducing Shae to the first of her practical jokes. Grabbing the snake behind the head, she turned around facing a shocked 10-year old, who no doubt was expecting her to react in terror, screaming.
“Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis,” she said holding out the snake to Lucy.
“Wh-what?” Lucy whispered hoarsely, realizing her prank had been debunked.
“Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis– a common garter snake. They love living in the garden, where it is wet, and there is plenty to eat. Most snakes are hibernating by now, how did you come across this one?”
“It- it’s mine. I have a terrarium for him.”
“Why don’t you take him to it?”
Lucy sheepishly took her pet, and crossed the room to where a small terrarium sat on a table. After her snake was safely secured in his habitat, Lucy wordlessly padded over to her bed and got into it. Shae went to sit in the oaken chair beside Lucy’s bed. She had grabbed a poetry book by Christina Rossetti. Finding the poem she desired to read to Lucy about harming no living thing, she read it demurely and closed the book.
“You must be careful of what is yours, Lucy. What if your snake had been harmed if I were to have been frightened enough to throw him or stomp on him? “
When she got no response from Lucy, who shockingly looked quite recalcitrant, Shae got up.
“I have no desire to replace your mother, Lucy, but I hope one day that we will be close. Good night.”
Lucy said nothing, but turned over on her side with her back facing the door where Shae was standing. Shae made her way downstairs. She traversed the rooms, looking for the library. Since the house was fairly rectangular, it wasn’t too hard to find. Mr. Matheson reading in a large chair near the fireplace. He rose when she entered the room.
“Mrs. Matheson,” he said with a small smile, “have a seat.”
Shae smiled in return, and took a seat on an ivory settee next to his chair.
“I must apologize for not attributing you correctly when introducing Lucy to you.”
“Please don’t feel a need to apologize. I am embarrassed myself, as I didn’t even notice you calling me by my maiden name.”
“It seems that we are in the same state of guilt then. I truly am sorry.”
“I am also, Mr. Matheson.”
They were silent for a minute, Shae inspecting her hands while thinking over the day. Mr. Matheson taking on a solemn look as he stared intently across the room at the wall opposite him. He took a deep breath and began speaking, still keeping his gaze at the wall.
“Tell me how Lucy was tonight after supper.”
“She is… adjusting. Obviously, there is a lot going on inside of her. I don’t think she fully understands life right now.”
“She isn’t the only one, I’m afraid.”
Shae merely nodded once. She took in all of the sounds in the room, as neither one of them talked for another extended period of time. The fire crackled in the fireplace. The wind blew against the frosted panes of glass in the window. Mr. Matheson’s chair creaked as he shifted in his seat. Finally, Shae decided to break the silence.
“You have a lovely home here, Mr. Matheson.”
At first, he didn’t register that she was talking to him; he was so lost in his thoughts. Then with a shake of his head, he looked at her. A glimpse of the pain she saw that once when he asked her to marry him, was evident for a split second before his normal shuttered look came into his stormy eyes.
“Thank you. We won’t be living here for long though. There is a place inside the city of Davies that is in the middle of construction. The exterior is built, but the interior is being plastered, at the moment. We should be able to move in by springtime.”
“What made you decide to move to town?”
“Since I work in town, I sleep in my office during the week. I come home on Saturday and Sunday. As you know, I have political aspirations. I need a home in town to establish stronger connections. I need a place to hold societal functions within easy traveling distance for those connections.”
“I see,” Shae replied.
“I—my wife—” he stopped for a moment, “my first wife, Claire, picked out the house plans, and had many ideas of how she wanted to decorate it. She put her ideas into a book- an album, of sorts. I do not want to make the decisions concerning the interior décor. Would you mind taking a look at it? I’ll take you into town tomorrow to see the house. We’ve been working on it for two years.“
“Certainly. I’ll be glad to be of help to you.”
Mr. Matheson got up and walked to a small table in another corner. He picked up a large journal and handed it to Shea. She could see bits of fabric and paper sticking out at various places. She put it in her lap. Her husband didn’t sit down again.
“Tomorrow, I’m also paying a visit to my Aunt and cousin. They want to meet you. Do you remember that my Aunt did not want our marriage to occur?”
“Yes,” Shae replied, standing up in front of him, holding the book to her chest.
“Very well. Shall I escort you to your room?”
“If you wish.”
She took his arm, as he guided her through the house and up to her door. He paused a moment, and then took her hand and kissed the top of it, like the gentleman he was. Then he left her and she went into her room. Placing the book on the top of her dresser, she readied for bed. It wasn’t until she was nearly asleep on her feather pillow that she remembered tonight was her wedding night.
“What a strange day…” she murmured, as sleep overtook her.