Leading up to this chapter Ella Middleton, a seamstress of 20 in London, Spring 1840, has taken on a new client for the season. Juliet Willingham is a young lady who is just going out this season and has bonded with Ella. Mrs. Middleton has been trying to get Ella married to any wealthy man so that Ella can have the time to raise a family instead of being trapped in the sewing trade her whole life. Ella looks for much more than money in a gentleman and has resisted every pressure of her mother. This last Sunday she introduced a Mr. Frederick Williamson to Ella. He is wealthy and charming and Ella’s resolve to not marry the men chosen by her mother is now threatened. What will she decide?
Before I knew it, I found myself in another fitting with Juliet.
“I’m so glad to have found a seamstress close to my age.” Juliet said softly, and I wondered again if she felt nervous. “You see, I don’t have any sisters. As much as I love my brothers, it’s just not the same.”
I poked a needle carefully through the blue silk of her bodice as I replied, “I don’t even have brothers. It’s just me. I’ve sort of had sisters all my life because we’ve boarded seamstresses as long as I can remember. But it hasn’t been quite the same. They come and go. But I’d love to have a brother.”
“It’s nice. Lawrence and I are close.”
“Ever since my father died I’ve always wished I had a brother.”
“You were close to him?”
“Yes,” I tried to swallow back tears I felt coming. “I could come to him about anything. What I miss the most was just being able to fall apart when I was with him, and he wouldn’t condemn me or make fun of me. He would give me a long warm hug. And tell me all would be right in time.”
“Oh I know!” Juliet exclaimed. “So often you have to pretend everything is dandy in your life when you are around others, while you just feel like honestly admitting your heartbreak.”
“What I hate the most is that gentlemen will ask to call on you and woo you and you just wonder, will you be able to trust them with the saddest part of you? I have begun to realize that when someone is asking to know me closely, they are asking to know my heartbreak, to know the darkest part of me. Do gentleman expect that? Or do they expect a pretty girl to flirt with and look good on their arm? How do you make a judgement call when deciding over suitors? How do you know if they will care about you?” I unconciously began spilling myself over the subject.
“I know.” Juliet fidgeted with her fingers as she spoke. “I think that is why my brother has never shown much interest in marriage. He is protective of me too, and we’ve talked long about what I should be looking for in a gentleman. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever find a man as worthy as my brother.”
“And I wonder if I will find a man as worthy as my father,” I stood back and surveyed her dress. “He was the best of men and I remember once when I was very small he rescued a little boy from a gang of young men who were beating him. Could I find a man as admirable as that? It’s not so much that I want to marry. I’m content working, but I’m lonely. With my father I could just speak, but now if I want to talk to a gentleman, unless it is romantic, it becomes awkward. I can’t confide much in anyone but girls without making a mess.”
“I guess I’ve never considered how blessed I am in that regard.” Juliet smiled endearingly at me. “But take heart. I’m sure you’ll find someone as worthy as you deserve.”
I began adjusting her dress again for a better fitting at the waist as I wondered if Frederick had any of the virtues we discussed. “Well, the only way to know is to risk showing your heart for what it is.” I sighed. “I’ve done that a few times and have been laughed at for ‘being emotional’ and yet I’ve never met a man who is less emotional than I. Every boy or man I have ever known has caused as much or more drama in our friendship than any girl I have known.”
Juliet laughed. “My brothers squabbled just as much as my friends and their sisters do. I have to be their go-between.”
“Do they still live at home?” I wondered their ages.
“Well, the oldest is married, so he and Lawrence only fight if his family visits for a while.” Juliet shifted and scratched her head as I unpinned the dress. “But James and William are younger than I am and I have to manage them too.”
“It’s complicated having siblings then?” I again could only wonder.
“Oh yes. Yes. And being an older sister is a job in and of itself,” She began dressing again as I folded up the fabric of the new gown. “But, changing the subject, you mentioned a suitor you were to meet, how did it go?”
I blushed a little. “Well… I think it went well. I don’t know anything about him really, but he was very kind.”
She smiled, “I hope it turns out well.”
“We shall see.”