NP8 – Storm Clouds

Previously in Who Will Make Your Path Strait?:

Ella Middleton, a seamstress in Victorian England in the late 1800s, is working hard in the peek of “the season.” She has a new wealthy client, Juliet Middleton. In addition to this pressure her mother has introduced a suitor and many of her friends are pushing her to accept him, though the relationship is hardly even under way.

“That’s enough!” I gasped as Isabella, my understudy, pulled my corset tight.

“Alright,” she tied the strings.

I let go of the bed rail and slipped into my crinoline. “Are you ready for me to tighten yours?”

Isabella took my place holding the bed rail and I wrapped the cords about my hands and began the yanking process. “Are you excited to go out today?”

“Yes,” she spoke with a strained breath. “But I’m a little sad. I’d wanted to get hair ribbons for my sisters.”

“And you can’t?” I wondered why she shouldn’t manage it.

“Oh, the pay dropped this past week. Mrs. Middleton says we have to cut back this season.”

“What?” I found this hard to take in. Why would we be cutting back now? “But. . . she just extended the hours as well.”

“Well, it is her dress shop. She decides the rules. Stop! That’s enough!” Isabella took a sharp breath.

I tied the corset strings. “I’ll have to chat with her about that. The wages were low enough before. We can’t ethically deal this way.”

After breakfast Juliet and I headed toward the fabric shop several block away. “So,” Isabella braved enough to ask a question. “How are things going with this suitor?”

I laughed and blushed a little bit, not sure if I was annoyed or happy. “Um… well he wrote me another letter last night. He told me a lot of his life story.” I spoke as we strode down the sidewalk. “He seems to be quite an interesting fellow. He was engaged a year back. Apparently she broke off the engagement after it had been long held and he said he’s been devastated ever since. I confess I’m beginning to like him some. But really it’s far too early to tell.”

“Oh, my sister met someone and they were engage within a week,” She spoke as if that were completely a good thing.

“Well. . .” I couldn’t decide what I should say to that. “This fellow does seem quite eager. I certainly hope he’ll have the sense to wait more than a week to propose!”

“Oh you should go for it!” She was talking excitedly now. “You are plenty old enough and this could be your last sewing season if you took his hand.”

I tried not to roll my eyes at the dreamy talk of a fifteen-year-old girl. Surely she meant well. “I prefer to go about it with discretion rather than speed.”

“Well, it’s a fine match,” She said as she pushed open the door of the fabric shop.

“Hullo Miss Ella! Hullo Miss Isabella!” The shop keeper’s son greeted us with his usual bright smile. “Good to see you this morning!”

“Hello Sandy,” a smile of relief swelled over my face. Sandy was one of those people who relaxes the spirit.

“What can I get for you?” He beamed.

“Well, I’m looking for finishing materials, what do you have by way of lace trim?”

We glanced through spools of trim on a shelf as Isabella wandered about looking for her own things.

“How have you been?” Sandy always wanted to know.

“Oh, I’ve been well enough. A bit in an odd place really. My mother threw another gentleman at me. I’m not sure what I should do.”

“Pray and follow your conscience,” he replied as he pulled out a spool of lace. “Will this do for what you are making?”

“You make it sound easy,” I laughed as I inspected the fine crochet. “I think this will match.” I pulled out a scrap of the blue silk from the I was working on.

“Well, often the hardest questions have the simplest answers. Trust God. He will make your path straight.” Sandy surveyed the lace against the blue cloth. “You might want something a shade lighter,” he offered another type of lace.

“Hmm,” I picked a lace. “I try so hard to do the right thing, sometimes I don’t think I have the strength.”

“Ella,” Sandy laid his hand on my shoulder. “Stop trying to live by your own strength. ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.’ It is God who gives you strength, not Him demanding strength out of you.”

“Thank you,” I smiled gratefully. “I shall try and use that advice.”

“Just pray,” he walked with me to the counter. “Is that all you need?”

“Two yards of that and some beads.” I went off in search of my last details, now remembering that upon returning home I should speak with my mother. Why was she reducing wages and lengthening hours? Our business had not declined, had it? Were fabric prices really climbing so high? I tried to breathe deeply to feel better, but each thing that happened in those past few weeks seemed to add another layer of stress. I had taken on a wealthy client by myself, I was introduced to a new suitor, I had to confront my mother about business dealings, and the anniversary of father’s death was just a few days away. What on earth was the world coming to?

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2 thoughts on “NP8 – Storm Clouds

  1. nice job, myra-frances! i’m really enjoying your story. the opening scene with corsets was nicely effective. it really drew me in to the old-fashioned existence of the women in that period. nice job on the last paragraph too. thought i haven’t been exactly in that position, i can definitely relate to all the excitement flurrying around in her mind!

    i had a couple of things to point out. at the beginning when ella is pulling isabella’s corset tighter isabella says “ok”. that seemed a little out of place to me. maybe too modern of a phrase for the late 1800’s? and i’m assuming isabella is a fellow seamstress? i totally might have missed something at the beginning but it seemed like she just kind of showed up without having an introduction. but actually now i’m kind of remembering something about her in the beginning.

    anyway, great job overall! =)

  2. I think I’ve mentioned Isabella before, though I’m not completely certain I used her name. I can go back and check that. Briefly in the first sentence of this chapter I said, “my understudy” which is pretty easy to miss.

    And I can fix the “ok” I think that originated during the 1920s. It was a campaign slogan for a presidential candidate. Funny, I remember noticing that as rather out of place in Eragon. I thought, “ha, they wouldn’t know about him in a different universe!”

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