Chapter Five

The next day, as they were traveling together towards town, Shae found herself excited about seeing the new house being built in Davies.  Lucy was wiggling beside her on the carriage bench. Across the way, Mr. Matheson seemed preoccupied with his thoughts.  Shae turned her attention to Lucy.

“Lucy, do sit still.  Otherwise, I would think that ants were in your pants.”

“Ants in my pants?” Lucy retorted snidely.  “How silly!”

“Be still, Lucy,” her father interjected, coming out of his deliberations.

In response, Lucy folded her arms across her chest and pouted.  Shae looked to distract her, rather than reprimand again.  One battle at a time was better.

“Lucy, I do believe it is going to snow soon.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, for one, the temperature is much colder than it was a couple of days ago.  Secondly, the wind smells crisp.  Can you smell it too?”

“One can’t smell snow,” Lucy disagreed.

“One most certainly can,” Shae insisted. “I tell you that it will snow by late afternoon.”

“One cannot smell snow,” Lucy repeated. “How silly!  Father, did you hear that woman?  She thinks you can smell snow coming on.”

“Lucy, you mustn’t call your new mother, “that woman”.  And yes, I did hear her.  More so, I agree with her.”

“She isn’t my mother!” Lucy cried, tempestuously.

“Lucy,” was all Mr. Matheson said, although firmly.

It seemed to Shae that her life this past week was to be filled with awkward silences.  She touched Lucy on the knee.

“You don’t have to call me “Mother”, Lucy. You can call me Shae, if you would like, and if your father doesn’t mind.”

Lucy didn’t respond, except to turn her body completely toward her window.  Mr. Matheson merely nodded at Shae, as to say that Lucy calling her by her given name was acceptable to him.

“I’m taking you to see the house first,” he directed at Shae. “Then we’ll go over to Aunt Martha’s.”

“Aunt Martha’s!” Lucy exclaimed.  “I thought we were only going over to see the new house.”

“Lucy,” her father replied calmly. “I assumed you knew since we visit every time we go to town.”

Lucy sighed, and continued to look out the window.  Apparently she didn’t like Aunt Martha.  Shae had a feeling they would finally find something they could agree upon.

After another 45 minutes of quiet travel, they reached the city of Davies.  Mr. Matheson got out and held out his hand to first Lucy, and then Shae.  As Shae stepped down, she found herself awestruck at the visage of a very large brick mansion.  The brick the mansion was made of was a lovely taupe color.  The roof was copper, as were the gutters, which over time would turn green.  The house was three stories, mostly rectangular in angles, but with a rounded cupola on the front left-hand corner that extended up all three stories, ending in a turret for the roofline.  The mansion had three chimneys and a large front porch that extended all the way across the front.  It was trimmed with elaborate, white gingerbread.

“What a magnificent house!” Shae exclaimed, looking up at it.

“Quite,” was all that Mr. Matheson returned.

Holding onto Mr. Matheson’s arm, the trio made their way up to the porch.  Lucy went on ahead, excitedly stomping up the porch steps.  The newlywed couple followed behind, at a much slower pace.  Entering through huge double oak doors, they made their way into the entryway. The floors were unfinished and the walls were only lathed.  The entryway was immense with a winding staircase.  Lucy had disappeared up them, almost immediately.

“Much of the inside isn’t finished, but I wanted you to get an idea of the layout of the house.”

To the right of the entryway was a large room with two large windows, one on each side.

“This will be the sitting room,” Mr. Matheson said, “and off of it will be the library.”

As they entered the library, it also had two large windows, but the window facing the backyard was larger than the other ones and had the framework for what looked like a large window seat.  There was a second door that led back into the entryway.  Mr. Matheson led her out of that and across to the other side of the entry.

They entered another large room with large windows.  But in the corner was the cupola with the floor raised up by a couple of steps.

“This room is our dining room, with a breakfast nook in the cupola.”

“Very clever,” Shae remarked.

“It was Claire’s idea.”

Shae smiled up at him, but he was off again in his thoughts.  After a few moments, he looked down at her.

“Shall we move on to the rest of the house?”

The rest of the tour revealed a very large kitchen, with the servant’s quarters in a separate building in the back.  Upstairs, on the second floor, there were 6 bedrooms.  On the third level, Mr. Matheson explained that the entire floor would be open, in case they wished to host a dance at the mansion.  Seeing everything made Shae realize how wealthy her new husband was, and how prominent of a citizen in Davies.  On a practical note, the tour of the new mansion helped her with ideas for the decorating.  It would be a huge undertaking, but would give her something to do.  And that was a change in her life that she felt was most wanted.

As they finished the tour, Mr. Matheson had a worker bring Lucy to them.  It turned out that she was learning how to plaster a wall from one of the older workers.  She had gotten a bit of plaster on the sleeve of her blue gown. In the carriage, on the way to luncheon at Aunt Martha’s, Shae attempted to get it off.  She was mostly successful, but there was still a bit engrained in the fabric.

It took the entire trip to Aunt Martha’s to get out what they could of the plaster.  As the carriage pulled in front of an austere home the color of puce, Lucy was in a tiff because of Shae’s fussing over her sleeve.  Shae was nonplussed, however, and comported herself gracefully into the home of a woman that she knew hated her without having met her.  It would be good practice for the political events she would someday attend with Mr. Matheson.

A tired-looking butler greeted them and sent them into the sitting room, where a woman who was as austere as her home sat in a faded rose-colored chair. She didn’t come to her feet as they entered, but instead commanded them to stand in front of her.

“Let me see my nephew and his new wife,” she instructed with pursed lips.

After a few minutes of silent observation, Lucy started squirming.  Shae didn’t blame her, but said nothing to her.

“Hold still, child!  I cannot abide a child who cannot comport themselves with dignity.  And what is that on you dress sleeve?  Proper ladies aren’t slovenly.”

Lucy said nothing, but the look on her face showed her disregard for the old woman.

“Such a wild thing, just like her mother.  I was expecting another lovely wife of lively character, but you have married quite the opposite, Randolph.  What is your name, girl?” Aunt Martha demanded.

“Mrs. Randolph Matheson,” Shae replied.

“As you are properly called, but what does Randolph call you?”

He had called her nothing, but Mrs. Matheson since they were married.  However, Shae knew that he couldn’t show the lack of love in their marriage by revealing that fact to his aunt.

“Wife,” is what he simply said.

“You were always impertinent, Randolph. I feared it would be the death of me while raising you,” she said without any affection in her voice, as if his impertinence were truly a trial that she suffered. “Mrs. Matheson, what is your given name?”

“My name is Shaelene, but many people call me Shae.”

“That will not do,” Aunt Martha remarked, “that is too frivolous and flighty a name.  I believe that you will tell people your name is Lena.  It’s a rather practical name.  You seem like a very practical girl.  What say you?”

“If that is what you wish to call me, then please do so,” Shae answered.

“I will,” the old bat said as she shakily stood up, using her cane. “Beatrice is conversing with a friend in the other drawing room. Let’s go greet them and then proceed to our midday meal.”

They followed Aunt Martha into an adjoining room where two women were sitting close together on a settee.  They were in an excited conversation that Shae guessed had to do with Mr. Matheson’s newly-gained wife— her.  The women stood as the four of them entered the room.

“Beatrice, Miss Langley, let me introduce my nephew’s new wife, Lena.  Lena, this is Beatrice, my daughter, and her friend, Miss Neva Langley.”

Beatrice and Neva both smiled, but had ice in their eyes as they nodded at Shae. Their smiles had a hint of wickedness and an air of cunning about them.  Beatrice was of average height, with chestnut hair and hazel eyes.  She was quite lovely, but her loveliness was dimmed by her friend’s blatantly ravishing beauty.  Neva was tall, blonde, and voluptuous, as well as exquisitely beautiful.

“Oh, yes,” said Miss Langley, seemingly sweetly to Shae, “we were just conversing about the prospect of meeting you. We were trying to guess what you would look like. Now we that we have, we couldn’t be more surprised.”

“Thank you,” Shae returned, showing no emotion and with a calm voice despite the barbed salutation from Neva, “I must also express my surprise as I’ve never been told about you by my husband.”

Shae turned to Beatrice, catching Neva fisting her hands out of her peripheral vision.

“And Beatrice, it is nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too,” was all that Beatrice said, also noticing her friend’s barely suppressed ire.

The butler entered the drawing room and bowed, while telling them that luncheon was ready.  Mr. Matheson held out his right arm for his aunt.  Neva flipped her violet skirts about her and walked towards Shae’s husband as if she would take his left arm.  However, before she could achieve such ends, Mr. Matheson turned to Shae, offering her his arm.

“Wife?” was all he needed to say to put Neva into her place.

Shae took his arm, thinking that there had to be more to the situation that she hadn’t been informed of.  She would ask her husband tonight about it.  For now, she needed to be on her toes.  She would have to be quick-witted to thwart Neva’s well-aimed barbs, and stalwart against Aunt Martha’s criticisms.  As for the meal, she really wasn’t very hungry.

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