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La Belle Christiane
2011 Copyright Lyn Cote
All rights reserved
Chapter Seventeen Scene 1
Christiane stretched and gave an indistinct, “Mmmmm.” The spell wrought by the feather bed and pillows would not quite release her. Then the fact of today’s important sparked her mind. Her eyes flashed open.
John already leaned upon one elbow, observing her. “What startles you, my love?” He traced her cheekbone lightly with his index finger.
A warm feeling blushed through her. Reaching up, she tangled her fingers in his straight brown locks and pulled his face down to hers. His lips played upon hers and then sought her neck leisurely. “Today is the day, John,” she murmured the thought that had wakened her.
“I know,” he replied. They lay still, letting the importance of the day sink in. After his morning meeting was completed, John would tender his letter of resignation to general Howe himself. They had spent last night, writing it together. Then they would pack, bid Lord Hazelton farewell, and leave for New Jersey. On the way out of town, they would stop at a church and be married. They planned to stay with the Richardsons for the winter and then book passage on a suitable vessel out of New York harbor in the spring. That would give all parties: the old couple, the child and the two of them, time to adjust to the change. Besides sailing on the Atlantic in the winter storms was more than chancy, it could be dangerous.
The British colony at Bermuda would their destination. The rest of their days would be spent in sunshine, love, and warmth. He kissed her again. “My sweet, my heart, my own,” he whispered.
“I love you, John.” Her joy was almost too much to be contained and suddenly she became tremulous.
“No tears, my darling,” he coaxed, “None today. Only happiness for us. Remember?”
She brushed the few tears away. “Yes, I remember.” They pressed their warm bodies close together. She sighed and smiled.
From beyond the drawn bed curtains, they heard Alfred enter and stir the dying fire, making it blaze to temper the chilliness that hung around the feather bed.
Hearing his man leave, John said, Our morning is begun,”
“The first morning of our new life, John?”
“No, the last morning of our old. Tomorrow will be our new beginning.” John kissed her and slid out of the bed to dress in the cold room. “When this day is over, I shall be the happiest man in the known world.”
“And I will be the happiest woman.” The morning routine passed before her eyes in a kind of daze. They breakfasted; he read her the morning news; he dressed. She stayed abed, dreaming of barefoot mornings. Then he leaned over her. “It’s time I go, Slugabed. Are you planning to spend the day ensconced here?” he asked in mock rebuke.
She laughed for indeed they had spent much of the last two days thus. “No, my lord, not all day,” she answered coyly. “I believe I will give Penny a bit of a run.”
“Then I bid you au revoir.” He bent and kissed her hand and left. She heard him whistling as he stepped briskly down the hallway. She grinned.
Contemplating the golden tropical sun had made facing Philadelphia’s frigid, winter sun even more difficult. But it was time to be hardy. And of all days, she wanted this one to go most rapidly of all. Penny needed a good gallop and the day would go more quickly if Christiane busied herself.
Throwing back the covers, she leaped onto the glacial floor and raced to the rug by the fire. Speedily she groomed and dressed herself. John had promised her a maid in the future, but for now she was still on her own. Soon she stood before the full length mirror.
Monsieur Langeaux’s riding habit was a rust-colored velvet with delicate golden embroidery which covered the whole bodice. A matching hooded cape for winter completed the ensemble. Alone she admired her reflection frankly. John had pronounced her a picture in it and she enjoyed his flattery. All these years she realized a part of her had been starved for pretty clothes and loving compliments. Maybe she was no different from her mother or any other woman in this respect.
It would be an interesting question to put to Tildy or Mrs. Washington. Two women she had counted as friends. Most likely she would never see or communicate with them again. By its very nature, her future could not include them. She felt no qualms about her commitment to John, but doors would close to her. Maybe she was being melodramatic. In the future when the Revolution had been won….her thoughts broke off.
“I’m off to ride, Alfred. I’ll be back for luncheon!” she called.
Outside the front doors the cold air struck her. Instead of daunting her, it invigorated her. Just as she reached the stable door, she looked down at her hands. Her riding gloves, Lord Hazelton’s gift, she had left them up in the room.
Swiftly she returned to the room and began looking for them. She stepped behind the dressing screen to search and she heard Alfred’s interior door open.
A strange voice asked jovially, “So his lordship finally won her over then?” Heavy footsteps headed toward the hallway door.
“Yes,” came Alfred’s cheerful response, “I am most pleased.”
“Well, has the major told her about his wife and daughter in London yet?” The stranger laughed boisterously.
Wife and daughter? Where did they come from?