How One Looks – Chapter 6

Chapter Six

On the way home from luncheon, Lucy was bewildered to find that Shae had been correct in her prediction for snow.  As they were heading into the Matheson home, the first large flakes began to fall.

“I’m going to have to head directly back to town,” her husband said to her. “It doesn’t look like it is going to be a light snow.  I must be at work in the morning.  There is an important case I must attend to.  I apologize that I won’t be able to talk to you tonight.  And really, I guess that it will be difficult to travel all week. Until we move into the mansion, I will be staying in town at the office. I will speak with you over the weekends though, I give you my word.”

He seemed earnest as he told her this.  Shae had many questions about Neva Langley, who seemed to have wanted to marry Mr. Matheson.  However, his safety was paramount.

“I understand,” Shae said, smiling at him in her proper way.

“On Friday, there will be a ball at the town hall to celebrate the harvest.  We’ve been invited.  We’ll leave Lucy with Mrs. Klein.  I’ll have the driver take our carriage to my office to pick me up, where I will meet you.  From there we’ll go to the ball.”

“Very well,” Shae agreed.

“I must hurry before the snow accumulates too much. Again, I’m sorry,” he told her.

He paused before her.  Snow was catching on her eyelashes, and making wet spots on his buff colored top hat.

“Please, hurry and go.  I don’t want you to get caught in a blizzard and harmed.”

“Thank you,” he said, as he escorted her into the house.

The butler took her coat and hat, as Mr. Matheson rushed up the stairs to gather his things.

“The young miss is having hot chocolate in the kitchen, if you are wondering where she went,” the butler informed her.  “If you would excuse me, Ma’am, I must attend to Mr. Matheson.”

“But, of course,” Shae replied.

Shae had been shown the kitchens this morning before their trip into Davies. Finding her own way there, she saw Lucy perched on a stool sipping hot chocolate from a thick porcelain mug.

“That looks good,” Shae said as she entered.

“Would you like one, Mrs.?” asked the cook.

“Could I, please? I am a bit chilled.”

“Certainly, just have a seat by the little miss.”

As Shae sat next to Lucy, the girl scooted her chair a little bit away from her.

“It’s nice to have a hot chocolate after a cold ride, isn’t it?”

Lucy didn’t reply, but instead took a long, slow slurp.  Miss Heath, the cook, set a hot mug of hot chocolate in front of Shae.

“Here you go, Mrs. Matheson. Would you like a cookie with that? And Miss Lucy, would you?”

“No, thank you,” Shae declined. “But Lucy may have one if she likes.”

Lucy peeked over at Shae, as she grabbed a cookie off of the plate between them.  She had enough manners to not open her mouth as she chewed.  At least Shae wouldn’t have to work on that also with her.

“Tomorrow morning we will start on your schooling.”

No response.

“Although, tomorrow will be more along the lines of seeing where you are at in your education.  Then from there, we will work out a curriculum to suit us both.”

Lucy ignored her still.  Mr. Matheson strode quickly into the room.

“The snow is accumulating much faster than I anticipated.  I must leave immediately.  I’ll see you on Saturday, Lucy,” he said, giving her a kiss on her hair.

Lucy ignored her father too.  Apparently she was mad at both of them for whatever reason.  Mr. Matheson looked at his daughter for a few seconds, but due to time restrictions, made his way to Shae.

“I’ll see you on Friday.  Thank you again, Wife.”

With that he bowed to her and left briskly out the back entrance.  A few minutes later, he galloped out of the barn and off to town on a giant, black stallion.  Shae prayed that he would make it safely to his office in Davies.

When she had finished her hot chocolate, she handed the mug to Miss Heath.  Leaving Lucy to herself, she made her way up to her room.  Wondering after Mr. Matheson’s safety made her think of the new mansion and how convenient it would be for them to live there in Davies. Then, thinking about the new mansion reminded her of the journal that the former Mrs. Matheson had started.

Shae got the book off of the top of her dresser, where she had left it the night before.  Sitting in the plush blue velvet chair in the corner, Shae flipped through the journal.  There were many detailed ideas, but also many options for the décor.  It seems that the former wife of Randolph Matheson couldn’t make up her mind on what she wanted for the new residence.  Her writing at some points seemed steady and sure, but occasionally would become looser and erratic scrawling.  All of her ideas were lovely though and well thought out in theme.  Shae was glad for this, because decorating the mansion was a huge undertaking, and Shae was hopelessly unfeminine in this area.

After perusing the journal for nearly an hour, Shae went to find Mrs. Klein.  Looking at the journal to decorate the mansion, she had come to the page where Claire Matheson had written out her ideas for the ballroom on the third floor.  This made Shae think about the ball in Davies on Friday, which in turn made her wonder what she should wear.  She wanted to make a good impression on the public for her husband’s sake.  After all, one reason why he married her was to help him seem like a stable man with a family to be proud of.  But Shae supposed that Mr. Matheson didn’t know how colorless her wardrobe was or just how far Gerald Findlay’s practicality had went.

All Shae had for dresses were quite a bit of grey and brown wool for the winter.  She didn’t even own a ball gown, as she hadn’t attended a ball since she was 19.  Now she had found out about this ball almost last minute, and with the weather keeping her in the country, Shae found herself in a difficult situation of needing a new gown and with no way to procure one.  So, she must find Mrs. Klein and inquire after her help.

After a few minutes of searching, she found Mrs. Klein mending a shirt of Mr. Matheson’s in the parlor.  She looked up in surprise as Shae entered.

“Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs. Matheson?” Mrs. Klein asked.

“Actually, I need your help.”

Shae continued to tell the housekeeper of her problem.  Mrs. Klein also seemed concerned as Shae was explaining the situation and her desire to make a good impression on the community for Mr. Matheson’s sake.

“Could you show me your wardrobe, just in case I might be able to find something of yours to work with?  I might be able to use something by simply altering it.”

They made their way to the east bedroom closet where Shae’s brown and grey wardrobe looked like a row of sparrows on a bare branch in winter.  The green velvet dress she was married in stood out like a bird of paradise among them.

“What a strange wardrobe,” Mrs. Klein murmured.

“Yes,” Shae agreed, “as I mentioned, my father was incredibly practical.”

Mrs. Klein looked wide-eyed at the row of dresses and then blinked at Shae.

“Why, there is only one dress that is even worth wearing,” she said, pointing at Shae’s wedding dress.

“That is the only time I was allowed to pick my own material for a dress.  It was for the wedding.”

Mrs. Klein tsk’ed at the dresses and picked up the green one, holding it up to Shae’s face.

“We must do something about this. I don’t suppose you want to go through the former Mrs. Matheson’s clothing to find something, do you?”

“No—no, that wouldn’t seem appropriate.”

“I agree,” conceded Mrs. Klein.

The wheels were obviously turning in the housekeeper’s head, as Shae waited for some sort of answer to her dilemma.

“I’ve got it!” Mrs. Klein exclaimed, rushing from the closet. 

After calling for the maid, she rushed back into it and started grabbing Shae’s old clothing.

“Hold these for a moment,” she said, throwing a couple of the dresses into Shae’s arms.

Mrs. Klein grabbed the rest of them, minus the emerald gown, and hurried out of the closet again.  The maid, Maggie,  came in just as Shae came out of the closet too.  Mrs. Klein threw her armful of clothing into a startled Maggie’s arms.  Then she grabbed the dresses in Shae’s arms and threw them on top of the maid too.

“Burn all of these, or take them for your family.”

A pile of clothing curtsied to them both and left the room.

“Come with me, Mrs. Matheson,” Mrs. Klein directed, smiling at Shae.

She led them up a flight of stairs to the attic space, where she made her way to a large trunk. Flipping the lid, inside were many bolts of different colored cloth.

“What are these from?” Shae gasped.

“Some of them are from Mr. Matheson’s mother.  She liked having spare cloth from her trips to St. Louis with her husband.  The others are from the former Mrs. Matheson.  She had ordered the cloth delivered from Chicago right before she died.”

Shae only nodded at Mrs. Klein, as the headmistress pulled some patterns out of the trunk.

“You are even more fortuitous in that she also ordered some patterns.  You are similar in build, even if you are a handful of inches shorter than she was.”

Mrs. Klein sniffed as she looked at the packages in her hands, her eyes tearing up. Shae reached out and touched the older woman’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry.  Were you close to her?”

“We were close once,” she said. “Now, shall we look through this trunk then?  You and the former Mrs. Matheson were of different coloring, but she loved dark blue.  I think that color would suit you well. Plus, Mr. Matheson’s mother had coloring like yours- dark hair and fair skin.”

Shae smiled her agreement to Mrs. Klein.  After many minutes perusal, they selected 10 bolts of cloth, grabbed the dress patterns, and made their way to the front sitting room.     

“First of all, you will need to have a ball gown started immediately. There are two patterns for ball gowns here.  We’ll use both, as you will need at least two with as many functions as Mr. Matheson attends.  Pick your favorite and then we’ll pick the material to go with it.”

Handing Mrs. Klein her choice, the housekeeper gave a nod of approval.  Then she picked up a shimmery navy blue taffeta bolt and a deep indigo satin, indicating for her to choose one.  Shae pointed to the blue taffeta.

“That would be lovely as the material draped over this material for the underskirt.”

She pointed at a black and navy brocade with floral pattern of roses embroidered into it.  The draping and pleating on the gown was much fancier than any dress Shae had ever owned.  It would also have more skin showing than Shae was used to, having only worn high-necked dresses.  The neckline was still elegant and modest though, draping just under the collarbone and had princess sleeves.

“Do you think we will have time to complete it?  I still have to tutor Lucy.”

“Leave it to Maggie and me.  We’ll get this one done and another besides. If we’re lucky, we may even get a third done. After all, we have a machine that used to belong to the former Mrs. Matheson.  Now let’s choose the rest of the dresses.”

And so they spent the next hour making decisions on what material for which pattern, and what trim to put on each dress.  Shae had never gotten a chance to delve into this part of the feminine life before and found she liked it.  If only her mother would have known her interest, she probably would have had the opportunity to do this before now.

Smiling, Shae made her way to the evening meal.  During it she ignored Lucy ignoring her. She told Lucy what all of the elements around them were in French. And so ended her second day as Mrs. Randolph Matheson.

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