Authors: Linda Lee Chaikin
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Historical, #book, #ebook
She must not delay. It behooved her to impress the English queen with the Dushane-Macquinet-Hudson enterprise, that the queen may smile upon the Hudson family and give their business special favors in London and at the English court.
Rachelle readied her own sewing equipage and began the tedious work of attaching the pearls, using a pair of pince-nez to magnify her vision so every prick of her needle, polished with beeswax, was precise.
She was hard at work when she heard the doors open. She glanced up to see Sir James Hudson enter with his usual smile. In the days following her return from Paris, she had found him both comfortable and safe for her wounded heart.
“Bonjour,” he said, using one of the few French words he could say correctly.
Rachelle was thankful she and her sisters had learned English when children, at Père Arnaut’s insistence, otherwise James’s amusing attempts at communication would have ended in hilarious disaster. He knew it as well and often laughed at himself.
Leaning on his crutch, he joined her at the table, as he had each day since her return. Thankfully, his leg was not broken as was first believed, and his injury was now thought to be a slow-healing sprain.
“How you will manage on your own on such a long journey, I cannot imagine,” she said. “If only your père were not ill, you might stay a little longer. Nenette will be sad to see you go,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. For it was no secret that her grisette had become attached during his stay there.
“I daresay that if Pasteur Bertrand can make it to Spitalfields, then I, a hearty young Englishman, surely can. I’m glad Nenette will miss me, at least.”
“We shall all miss you. But I am sure you will be most delighted to be home in London again.”
“What was meant to be a two-week visit to Lyon has become two months. I can’t say I’m disheartened. I’ve come to know the Macquinet family as true friends,” he said. “I only wish the circumstances had been happier.” She tried to mask her feelings of loss as he continued.
“I wish you and Idelette were coming to London with me. After all, this gown is mainly your work, and your sister’s.”
“And your design,” she said with a firm nod. “I admit I would give much to be at St. James Court when you present this gown to Queen Elizabeth.”
“You should be there, Rachelle.”
The friendship that bound James Hudson to her family had seen such sorrow, suffering, and loss that they had dispensed with most formalities and called one another by their given names. She did not mind, though, for even Andelot addressed her as Mademoiselle Rachelle.
“Perhaps someday I shall come to England, if not with Père Arnaut, then with Cousin Bertrand. His work, as you know, demands travel between the two countries.”
is as much as I can possibly hope to receive now. I tell you, Rachelle, this gown will dazzle many great ladies at Court and make your name and Idelette’s a topic for fashion. You will find it a necessity to come to London.”
“And do not forget your own,” she said with a smile. “The ladies will surely desire a Hudson design after your queen wears this one.”
His dark eyes twinkled. He had a pleasant smile, and though he could not be said to be as dashingly beau as the marquis, he was handsome enough for any woman, and his love of silk and designs made him interesting.
During his stay he had looked over her sketchbook of designs, complimented her talent, and offered suggestions. In the weeks since her return as they had worked together on the queen’s gown, the time had gone by quickly. There were no emotional demands placed upon her, and he never once intimated strong romantic interest, which made it easy to be in his company throughout the day. She found she could talk to him as easily as she could Andelot. She did see him watching her on occasion, but always, he behaved as an ami. Perhaps he was wise enough to know her heart was already bound, and any attempt to crash the boundary would end with more harm than good.
At least James appeared to be content to have it so. He was one of the most patient men she had met.
When the gown was at last finished and packed as carefully as a shipment of gold, he made arrangements for his journey to Calais where he would catch a ship to England.
“I’ll look up Pasteur Bertrand at Spitalfields when I get back. I’ll do all I can to have him convince your parents he needs to bring you and Idelette with him on his next return from France.”
On the morning James Hudson departed from the Château de Silk, Idelette did not come down to bid him adieu for she claimed to have a headache. James produced a lettre addressed to Idelette, his expression showing compassion and understanding that she had chosen to remain in her chamber.
For once he wore no smile. His dark eyes were somber.
“Please see that your sister has my lettre.”
She took it from him. “Oui, bien sûr.”
His smile returned. “Good-bye, Rachelle. Merci for your kind hospitality these months. The Lord keep you all in His care until we meet again, with hope, in London.”
She smiled and watched him walk with his crutch to the carriage.
The box with the belle gown for the queen was stored inside with greater care than James received.
He grinned and called back to her as the driver, with a steadying arm, helped him step up and into the carriage. “Next time you see me I’ll be as fit as these horses.”
She laughed. “I will not be surprised.”
“Au revoir. God speed. Give our greetings to Bertrand.”
“I shall. Adieu, Rachelle, adieu, Nenette!” He waved to Nenette who lingered behind on the porch. Rachelle watched from the front veranda with her grisette until the coach was out of sight. She would miss James.
The château felt a new silence.
Weeks later, one of Duchesse Dushane’s horsemen arrived after a long ride on the route from Paris to Lyon to deliver a message from Madame Clair. Rachelle opened the lettre quickly and read. Breaking into a delighted smile, she then hurried inside and dashed up the stairs to find Idelette.
“Sebastien is free, sister. Listen to this — ” she waved the message — “it just arrived by the duchesse’s carrier.” Rachelle read aloud:
My daughters, we have long waited for some bonne news after
all that has occurred recently! Your brother-in-law, Sebastien, was
released from the Bastille today. He is ill and recovering, but alive,
pardoned by the king, and after recovery, will be in ser vice again
to the Queen Mother. Needless to say, we have all laughed with joy
and also wept many tears in our reunion, but thanks to our God,
Sebastien lives to be with Madeleine and his daughter. Your père is
the most pleased I have seen him in months, but sober-minded as well. He and Sebastien have spent much time together alone, speaking of
the fiery trial. Your père is considering another trip to Spitalfields
when Monsieur James Hudson arrives here.
As ever, your mère.
Rachelle tossed the message into the air, laughing, and met Idelette in the middle of the chamber. They held each other, laughing and crying at the same time.
Afterward, Idelette brought out her French Bible from its secret place and sat down. She found the Scripture verse that Madame Clair had listed.
Idelette read aloud: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the
, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
Idelette stared across the chamber to the window, seeming lost in her musings. “I hope I can depend on such a promise as this.”
Rachelle walked up to her and placed her palms on her shoulders.
“Oui, bien sûr,” she said gently. “You are loved, ma soeur, by God, by all of us.”
Idelette remained silent.
FROM MADAME CLAIR
came within three weeks, keeping them informed of Sebastien’s recovery, their sister Madeleine’s improving health, and the growth of petite Joan. There were inquiries about Idelette and about matters at the château.
Madame Clair went on to write that she was aware that by the time her lettre was received at the château, the gown would probably be finished and Monsieur Hudson would be on his way back to England, stopping along the way in Paris to meet with their père on some business matters concerning Dushane-Macquinet-Hudson.
Idelette went on winding purple and gold thread onto smooth ash wood spools, while Rachelle read the last sentence of the lettre aloud:
“Our God took Grandmère to be with Himself, but He sent a balm for our wounded hearts by blessing us with a granddaughter.”
Rachelle looked across at Idelette. Her bruises were healing, but discoloration remained, and there was a certain wariness in her attitude, or was it worry?
Rachelle folded the lettre, putting it aside. “I wonder what Joan will be like when she grows up? I know Madeleine has turned fearful about a future for her here in France.”
Idelette’s mouth tightened. “I understand Madeleine’s concerns for petite Joan very well, believe me.” Then she stood and went off by herself again.
Later that day, Rachelle noticed Nenette shaking coins from the pink jar on the hall table.
“La, la, whatever are you doing, Nenette?”
Nenette looked over her shoulder.
“It is at the request of Mademoiselle Idelette.” Nenette held up a sealed lettre. “She tells me to see that the messenger-rider is paid extra to deliver her message posthaste.”
Rachelle saw that it was addressed to Madame Clair at the Louvre. Feeling uneasy, she glanced toward the empty stairway.
Nenette pushed her unruly red curls from her neck and back under her lace coif cap. “I am worried about her,” she whispered.
Rachelle was grim.
Something was wrong. Idelette seemed frightened.
As the next weeks passed, Rachelle’s concerns kept her in a state of mental turmoil, neither did Idelette’s silence encourage her. Then Madame Clair’s third lettre arrived.
Rachelle watched tensely as her sister read the lettre in silence. Then a look of relief crossed her pale face.
“Père and Mère are both returning here to the château, not that I wished to take them from the side of Madeleine. I was hoping Madeleine would come also, but Mère says Madeleine will not leave Paris no matter the consequence . . .” She read on to herself, then added, “There is no further news on Sebastien’s health.”
Rachelle was not surprised that Arnaut and Clair were coming home if what she suspected about Idelette were true. Their parents would rally to Idelette’s need, just as they had for Madeleine.
Idelette read on in silence for another moment, folded the lettre, but did not hand it over to Rachelle as she usually did. Rachelle respected her sister’s privacy, realizing their mère must have written some personal admonitions for Idelette alone.
Idelette looked at her soberly, then sighing, she stood up from the settee. With shoulders back, her face so pale and young, she licked her lips. “There is something I have not wished to tell you, sister. I find it shameful to even speak of it, but Mère tells me I must be honest with myself and others, and that it is not my shame, but even so . . . But I think you already understand anyway.”
Rachelle nodded in silence, hands clasped tightly on her lap, and she looked down at the toes of her slippers.
With a toneless voice, Idelette admitted what Rachelle had already guessed: she was pregnant.
Rachelle had never told her about the night Marquis Fabien and Gallaudet had ridden to the inn — that they had learned the identity of those who had led the attack on the barn. Rachelle suspected that one of the two soldiers they dueled from Duc de Guise’s group was Idelette’s attacker. Perhaps one day if Idelette ever wished to discuss the matter, Rachelle would tell her.
Idelette went up to her bedchamber, closing the door. Rachelle knew better than to run after her with sympathy in her voice. Idelette had always been more isolated in her feelings than either of her two chatty sisters, Madeleine and Avril, and was closer to their mère.