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By Jane Peart
ZondervanCopyright © 1993 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe door to Blythe's bedroom inched open and a child's face peeked around the edge. Taking a quick look inside, she turned to her companion and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, "Come on, Kitty, coast's clear."
A minute later two little girls tiptoed into the room. They were about ten, dressed in matching blue striped pinafores.
"Oh, Cara, look what Mama's going to wear tonight!" exclaimed one softly as she went over to the canopied bed where an emerald green satin dress was spread. Kitty's small hand smoothed its lustrous surface, fingered the heavy black lace overlaid on the bodice.
But her sister was busy at the dressing table taking the stoppers out of the assortment of crystal perfume bottles, first passing them under her pert little nose, then running them along the inside of her wrist.
"Mmmm, smell this, Kitty!" Cara closed her eyes ecstatically.
Kitty joined her and sniffed appreciatively.
Just then they heard their names being called from down the hall, and they both looked up startled. Their images reflected in the large gilt-framed mirror were identical-red-gold curls; wide, dark eyes; small straight noses and rosy cheeks.
"Uh-oh! That's Lily." Kitty's mouth made a round O. "She's looking for us. If she finds us in here going through Mama's things ..."
"Let's wait and see if she goes by-" was Cara's advice. "Maybe she'll think we went down to the kitchen."
Both held their breath as they heard footsteps outside their mothers door, then their nurse's voice talking to herself. "Now where did those two git to whilst I was laying out their party dresses?"
Cara clapped one chubby hand over her mouth stifling a giggle. But Kitty looked worried. "We better scoot, Cara."
Cara rolled her eyes and gave an elaborate shrug. "Oh, what can Lily do but fuss? She won't upset Mama by telling on us. Not tonight anyway with the party and guests coming." She started to lift the lid of the velvet jewel box when her twin grabbed her arm and jerked it away.
"No, Cara, don't! I don't want to get into trouble tonight with Meredith and Kip coming-"
"Oh, all right." Cara sighed. Impatient but persuaded, she reluctantly turned from her fascinating exploration to follow her twin. Kitty opened the door and cautiously peered into the hallway. Seeing that no one was about, she motioned with her hand to Cara and the two scampered back to their own bedroom.
A half hour later, Blythe, wrapped in a silk quilted robe, came from her bath in a mist of fragrant rose-scented talcum. She paused briefly outside the twins' door. From behind it she heard the sound of children's voices and laughter punctuated by another scolding adult one. Lily was in charge, she could tell. Blythe smiled and hurried down the hall toward her own bedroom.
She settled herself at the dressing table to do her hair. She liked doing it herself, knowing just how to twist its heavy length into a Roman knot, a trick her maid, Tisha, had never quite mastered. After slipping in the ornate amber shell comb at just the right angle, Blythe opened her jewel case and took from it the double strand pearl choker Rod had given her on their wedding day. Could it really be thirteen years ago this October? They had been the happiest and richest years of her life. Rod was still as devoted, as much in love with her as ever and the children, their son Scott and the twins-what angels they were and how blessed she was in her family.
She fastened in matching pearl drop earrings, then opened one of the dressing table drawers to replace the jewel box. There she saw another jewel case at the bottom. Involuntarily she shivered, feeling a sudden chill. It contained the Montrose bridal set, a ruby and diamond necklace and earrings. Of course, she had never worn them, had never wanted to. She rarely opened that box. Even looking at the jewels now brought back unhappy images of her ill-fated first marriage to Malcolm Montrose.
Seeing them brought to mind her recurrent conflict about the jewels. Since the 1700's Montrose men had gifted their brides with the magnificent set, with the understanding that it should be passed down from generation to generation.
A flood of memories swirled through her mind-the loss of Montclair, her first home in Virginia, to Randall Bondurant in payment of her first husband's gambling debts; Malcolm's subsequent death; her odyssey in England, where she had fled to escape that turbulent time; Jeffs birth there-
For a moment, Blythe thought again of Jonathan-Malcolm's other son by his first wife. Blythe herself had not met the young man until her marriage to Rod Cameron when she had come to live here at Cameron Hall, but now they were neighbors. Jonathan had inherited Montclair and now lived there with his wife, Davida Carpenter.
Just as she had attempted to forget her brief and tragic first marriage, so Blythe sometimes almost forgot about this intricate web of relationships woven by Malcolm's passion and pride. She knew that as a young man he had married Rose Meredith, a young New Englander he had brought as a bride to Virginia. But the Malcolm of her memory was a dark and brooding man. When she met him in California so many years ago, he was broken in spirit by his young wife's tragic death and the bitter years of war that he had endured.
Under unusual circumstances Blythe had married Malcolm Montrose. Eager for a life of her own, she had followed him gladly to his world-Virginia ... and Montclair.
Hesitantly, almost with aversion, Blythe now pressed the little button that sprung the lock, opening the long velvet box in her hand. The Montrose rubies and diamonds lay against the satin lining, winking and gleaming as if to spite her. To whom did they rightfully belong? To the wife of Malcolm and Rose's son ... or to her son's wife?
With a sigh, Blythe closed the jewel box and put it away. She would have to give the matter more consideration It wasn't something that she could decide now. But soon she really should.
At that moment, Blythe heard the sound of the children's voices coming down the hall from the nursery wing. Not that it was actually a nursery any longer. The children were growing up fast-too fast, she thought with regret. She had been overjoyed to have a second family with Rod-first, a son, Scott, to carry on the Cameron name and preserve the family dynasty; then two years later, the twins.
She could hear Cara's voice above the others, raised in a perennial argument of some kind. This child was always at the center of any storm, and Blythe wondered if having been born in the worst storm in the history of Mayfield County had anything to do with her temperament. She rose and hurried to the bedroom door to see what her little daughter was making a fuss about now.
Opening the door to investigate the ruckus, Blythe saw the girls running down the carpeted hallway. They were already dressed in their new party dresses-royal blue velvet with wide bertha collars of Irish lace. Lily, hairbrush in hand, was following them as fast as her girth would allow. Cara's rosy face was screwed into a stubborn protest and she was shaking her head from side to side. Blythe could not tell whether Lily was trying to use the brush on the child's mass of russet curls, or to apply it to her derriere for chastening.
"Now, looka hyah, missy," Lily scolded. "You stand still and doan gib me no nonsense! Them Montrose chillen ain't come yet, and you doan hab to be out on de veranda waitin' for 'em, neither."
Catching sight of her mother standing at the bedroom door with a reproachful expression on her face brought Cara to a standstill.
Excerpted from Mirror Bride by Jane Peart Copyright © 1993 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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