Read The Wedding Dress Online

Authors: Rachel Hauck

Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance, #ebook, #book

The Wedding Dress (6 page)

BOOK: The Wedding Dress
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“I didn’t weep, Molly. Where do you get such ideas?”

“I got ears, don’t I? And Big Mike can hear a bird chewing on a worm, don’t you know.” Molly took her knife to the first tomato, cutting it into quarters and tossing the slices into a bowl.

Molly’s room was just below Emily’s. And Big Mike, Father’s liveryman, came into the stable one afternoon when she’d gone up to the loft to hide her tears in the hay.

“He said he wrote letters,” Emily said, sinking slowly down to the kitchen stool. “He came here today to tell me he’d quit baseball and had secured a job and an apartment.”

“Letters, you say? Ah, look at me mess.” Molly motioned to the soupy tomato juice on the cutting board as she added the slices to a bowl. “This knife must be dull as—”

“There’s nothing wrong with that knife, Molly.” Emily put her hand on the woman’s arm. “Don’t you get the mail every day?”

“Miss, if you want a rundown of my household chores, speak to yer mother. I must be getting to this supper.” Molly averted her gaze, twisting her arm out from Emily’s hand. “What your father won’t say to me if his summer salad and tomato pie isn’t on the table.”

“Molly, spill it.”

She sliced another tomato with quick motion, her lips tight and pale.

“What happened to Daniel’s letters?”

Slice, slice, slice. “Ain’t nothing like a lovely salad on a hot summer evening. I ordered ice cream from the iceman for tonight. Mr. Saltonstall is coming to dinner, you know. In fact, I believe he—”

“Where are they, Molly?”

Molly whacked the next poor innocent tomato.

“Oh—” Emily pressed her hand to her chest. “Father. Did he—tell me he didn’t toss them into the incinerator?”

Now Molly gazed at her, a bit of spit-and-vinegar in her eye. “Think of your father, Emily. Would he do such a thing?”

“I’d think not, but then why did he take them in the first place? Or was it Mother?”

“Blessed saints, no. Not your mother. She’ll be a saint one day for saving me.”

Emily fussed with her slipping pompadour, removing the long hairpins, letting her hair fall free, controlling her ire at Father for hiding her personal property. It wasn’t like him. “Molly, the letters.”

The kitchen door swung open and Father’s man, Jefferson, entered. “Miss Emily, there you are.” Jefferson wore a light-colored suit with a string tie. Perspiration dotted his limp white shirt and bled through his vest. “Your father is asking for you. He’s in his library.”

Emily slid off the stool. “All right. What kind of mood is Father in, Jefferson?” She pinched a slice of tomato off the salad, eyeing Molly.

“Quite jolly, Miss Emily. Has a spark in his eye.”

“Good. I’ll be right there.” Emily turned to Molly as Jefferson backed out of the room with a bow. “I’m not done with you.”

“Let it go, miss.” Molly clutched her arm. “It’s spilt milk. Think of Mr. Saltonstall.” Her tone waxed soft and dreamy. “He’s a fI He’ine, handsome man who is suited to you and your station. He adores you, clings to your every word. Mr. Ludlow is also fine, I’m sure, but your father worked hard to give you this life, the very best of everything. Why marry a common man like Daniel Ludlow when Phillip Saltonstall is after your affections? Love only lasts so long when there’s no food on the table or money in the bank and the children are crying. Trust me, I know.”

Emily considered Molly’s words, reaching for the door. “It is better to marry Phillip, isn’t it? He’s kind and charming . . . educated.” As was Daniel, on all counts.

“Educated at a fancy northern university too. Yale.”

“Phillip is handsome and witty.” As was Daniel. But it helped to list Phillip’s wonderful attributes. What a short memory she had. “He’ll make an excellent father.” But Daniel, too, would be a strong, loving father. “Our parents adore one another.” Emily built her argument. “We’ll have his parents’ house up on Red Mountain.”

“I think ye know what to do, miss.”

Yes, yes, she did.

Daniel’s mother had died when he was fifteen. His father was a police officer in Birmingham and often left Daniel and his brother to fend for themselves. But he’d done well. Gone to college, played baseball, secured a teaching position at the city’s most prestigious school, and now rented an apartment at the very reputable Ridley House.

But Phillip was heir to the Saltonstall fortune. He’d be a captain of industry, a leader in Birmingham. Emily would be involved with the women’s league or whatever charity or cause she chose. She’d have her heart’s desire, including an estate up on Red Mountain the size of four or five Ridley house apartments.

“Yes,” she said out loud. “Phillip is the logical choice. The best choice for overall harmony.”

“Good, glad we cleared that up. Now, go see what your father be a-wanting and get out of my kitchen. You’re distracting me, and your mother will want to know why dinner is not ready.” Hazel tears glistened in Molly’s eyes. “I’m happy for you, miss.”

At the hall mirror, Emily paused to smooth her hair over her shoulders and clip the stray hairpins to her waistband. She tucked in her shirtwaist and dusted her hands over her skirt, satisfied that the evidence of her tears was gone. After she visited Father, she’d wash and change for dinner.

Molly’s weepy smile boomeranged in her mind.
I’m happy for you, miss
. But so much emotion over Emily deciding Phillip was the better choice? She had no time to ponder. She was at Father’s library door.

“Afternoon, Father.” Emily entered the grand, cool room without knocking. Father spent his mornings at his exchange office, returning home in the afternoons to work in lip to worthe comfort of his library. Beyond the large windows, a stand of cottonwoods shielded the windows from the sun’s setting summer rays.

“Emily, my dear.” Father rose from his chair, but he was not alone in the room. Phillip also rose as Emily entered.

“Phillip, you’re here.” She gathered her hair at the nape of her neck. She must look a sight. After seeing him in the city, she rode the dusty trolley home. “I didn’t expect you so soon.” She glared at Father. “Why didn’t you have Jefferson tell me?”

“I arrived early to speak with your father.” Phillip was handsome and fragrant, poised and confident with a constant glint of merriment in his eyes. He crossed over to her and kissed her cheek in a gentlemanly fashion—one he did not observe when they were in his carriage alone.

Emily leaned into him, though Daniel’s soapy scent and brawny strength flashed across her mind. She lifted her head as her fingers squeezed Phillip’s narrow arms and cleared her throat. “You smell like the fancy perfume shops.”

“A fragrance I bought when I was in Paris last year. Do you like it?”

“It’s you, Phillip. Very rich.” Though she preferred the single clean scent of Daniel’s lye soap.

“Well”—Father cleared his throat and came from around his desk—“I need to place a call to the office. Excuse me.”

Emily watched Father leave, a sinking sensation dragging her heart through her stomach. Once the library door clapped closed, Phillip hooked Emily to him, tilting her chin up and kissing her lips. When he lifted his head, he nodded toward Father’s desk. “Shall we tell him the telephone is in here?”

Emily squeezed his hand. “I think he knows.” What was going on? Father leaving her alone with Phillip. His ardent kiss . . .

Leading her to the window seat, Phillip brushed his fingers lightly along Emily’s jaw. “You are so beautiful.”

“I’m a sight. I planned to change my dress and redo my hair before you arrived.” She leaned away from his hand, which sent waves of shivers coursing through her. It was as if he knew,
knew
, how to touch her.

“I like your hair down. You must wear it like that for me.” Phillip trailed his finger over her chin and down her neck, stoking the small flame he ignited. “I never asked you, how was the suffrage meeting?”

“It was—” Emily swallowed, scooting an inch away from his fingertip. What if Father returned to find her flushed and panting? Besides, all Phillip’s touching . . . kissing her nose . . . and the side of her lips. His movements were calculated and cunning.

“The meeting was . . . splendid. Yes, splendid.” She jumped up, shoving the perspiration on her forehead into her hair. “It’s . . . it’s warm today, is it not?” If he continued touching her that way, she’d melt into a passion puddle on the floor.

Mother had raised her to be a controlled, reserved gentlewoman. What would Phillip think of her if she surrendered so easily to his advances?

“I’m sorry, I’m making you nervous.”

“You’re terrifying me, Phillip. I’m trying to be a lady, but even a cultured Christian woman can only stand so much.”

“And a man can only stand so much. ’Tis why I’ve come.” He reached for her and drew her back down to the bench seat, cupping her face, searching her eyes. “I’ve asked your father for your hand.” He bent down to one knee.

“Oh, Phillip.” Emily pressed her hands to her chest, anticipation surging through her veins. “I’m wearing an ordinary day gown and—”

“I found this in a Paris shop last fall. The moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it would be for my intended. But I didn’t know who yet.” Phillip retrieved a small wooden box from his jacket pocket. “Then I escorted you to the Black and White Ball. By evening’s end, I knew I’d marry you.”

Nestled in the silk bed was a square-cut solitaire surrounded by smaller diamonds. The setting was an intricate, sparkling lattice weave.

“Platinum, my dear. The diamond is an Edwardian cut surrounded by solitaires.” Phillip held up the ring. The extravagant stones soaked up the light and splashed a rainbow against the wall. And over Emily’s heart.

“I can barely breathe.”

“Emily Canton, will you marry me?” Phillip slipped his ring of promise onto her finger.

“Yes, oh yes, Phillip.” She fell against him, and when he lifted her up in his arms, all the doubts, all the memories of Daniel, escaped through her heart’s open door.

 

The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed the last moments of midnight. Emily leaned against the front door as it clicked closed, a bit of stardust in her eyes.

She was engaged. To Phillip Saltonstall. He was so sweet and charming tonight, never leaving her side, sneaking kisses while Mother played the piano and sang, while Father glanced the other way.

Then he danced with her on the front porch as the moon lit the sublime night, and when the clock chimed midnight, he held her face in his hands and kissed hn>

Emily raised her ring hand into the glow of the gaslight. It was exquisite. More than she ever imagined. My, wasn’t Father merry all evening? Mother, so gay and lighthearted.

When the Saltonstalls arrived for a family celebration and dessert, Emily thought she might explode with happiness. This evening paled even her favorite Christmas when her brother, Howard Jr., returned home from his first year at Harvard.

The Saltonstalls appeared content and proud. “Phillip chose well,” Mr. Saltonstall had boasted. “Very well.”

An engagement party was already in the planning.

But Father’s rolling laughter was Emily’s favorite sound of the evening. He showed his pleasure in the whole arrangement. Especially after he and Mr. Saltonstall vanished into the library, only to come out shaking hands. “Good to do business with family, Howard.”

Father’s exchange company would benefit from a man like Cameron Saltonstall.

Emily moseyed up the stairs just as a door creaked at the end of the hall. She leaned to see Molly tiptoeing out of the kitchen.

“Molly, what are you doing up?” Emily laughed when the maid jumped, clutching her robe together at her throat. Her thick hair was tied up in rags that stuck out of her head every which way.

“Checking on you, miss. I couldn’t sleep until he left.” Molly whispered her way toward Emily and the stairs. “Tell me, did he give you a beautiful ring?”

“See for yourself.” Emily descended the stairs, holding our her hand. “He said he bought the ring when he was in Paris. After the Black and White Ball he knew the ring belonged to me.”

“Saints and all the angels. I could buy a village back home with such a thing.” Molly peered at the ring, then Emily. “Perhaps he’ll take you to Paris for your honeymoon, miss.”

“Yes, perhaps.” Emily drew her hand back, examining her diamond. “We’ll stay for a month.” She shifted her attention back to Molly. Their eyes locked for a long moment. “What? Tell me.”

“The week of the Black and White you wept in your room over Daniel Ludlow.” Molly turned slowly for the kitchen.

“I still loved him. But that’s changed.” Emily scurried after her. “What are you trying to say, you wicked maid?”

“Just that I heard you weeping. Care for some milk, miss?” Molly popped open the icebox.

“Milk? Why would I want milk?” Molly acted so strangely at times.

“Are you sure you don’t care for milk?” Molly set the milk bottle on the worktable, then went to the cupboard for glasses.

“If I wanted milk I’d get it myself. What are you up to, Molly? You don’t like milk. I’ve heard you say it a hundred times.”

“But you like milk.”

In the dark kitchen Emily could only perceive Molly’s expression in the pale light of the moon. “It’s Daniel’s letters. Where are they? In Father’s den?”

BOOK: The Wedding Dress
6.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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