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Deirdre looked down on the city as from a great height. Below her the river Thames flowed silently, serenely to the sea. To her right she recognized the ancient Tower of London, and the magnificent dome of St. Paul's. Ahead of her she saw the spires of the city's many churches thrusting into the clear sky.
The rich scent of roses permeated the air.
She drew nearer, swooping down as a bird might, passing over the boats plying the river, looking down on the imposing Houses of Parliament with the summer green of St. James' Park a short distance beyond. There was no sound, the silence absolute and everywhere.
Now Mayfair lay spread out below her with its ordered squares and stately homes. As she came closer still, she somehow knew the imposing redbrick house with the slate roof and the proliferation of chimneys must be her destination. Fashionably garbed ladies and gentlemen of the ton were gathered in the garden under a blue June sky. All about them roses bloomed in a profusion of reds and whites. This gathering, Deirdre knew with absolute certainty, was not merely a wedding party, but a very special one.
She noticed a short, unprepossessing man among the guests, a man she had never seen before. Though garbed in the height of unfashion, he seemed to be the center of considerable attention. As she watched in rapt fascination, the bridegroom appeared–how could she fail to recognize dark-eyed, dark-haired, handsome Clive Chadbourne? Yet he bore a scar on his left temple. Strange, since he'd had no such scar when she last saw him. Clive bowed to the unprepossessing gentleman. The man's lips moved, butDeirdre could hear nothing of what either man said.
The two men turned as the bride appeared on the arm of Mr. Roger Darrington, Dierdre's father. The bride, her face and hair concealed by a white veil, wore a flowing white gown beaded with pearls. She carried a bouquet of fragrant pink roses. Clive strode to his bride, murmured in her ear, and then scooped her into his arms and carried her up onto the terrace. The bride reached up, obviously intended to kiss her beloved.
Deirdre waited, heart pounding, for the identity of the bride to be revealed. It must be, it had to be, surely it could be no other than her…
Deirdre opened her eyes to sunlight suffusing her bed chamber, warning her that she had overslept. She sat up with the memory of her dream vivid in her mind. How real the wedding had been! Or had this been more than a dream? Was it a foreseeing, a vision of the future, of her future?
As she hurriedly dressed, the certainty grew in her mind that she, Deirdre Darrington, had been the bride in her dream. Though she had never seen the redbrick mansion in Mayfair before and though her family had never been even on the outermost fringes of the Regent's court, in her dream her father had escorted the bride and the groom had been Clive Chadbourne.
Clive. Her pulses raced as she pictured him in her mind's eye. He was so handsome, so dashing; she loved him more than she could say, she had always loved him. Not with a selfish love, she assured herself, since she desired nothing for herself, she only wanted him to be happy.
Deirdre frowned as she recalled the scar she had glimpsed on his left forehead, wincing as she imagined the wound he must have suffered to cause such a scar. Perhaps she had been mistaken, she told herself, perhaps there had been no scar after all.
"You must take the good with the bad and the bad with the good," her grandmother, whose given name was also Deirdre, often chided her.
Should she tell Grandmama about her dream? Deirdre wondered. No, this would be her secret, a secret to be locked away in her heart ready to be taken out and savored as often as she pleased. Besides, telling Grandmama of the dream would only serve to discomfit her. Deirdre wanted nothing more than to protect the now elderly woman who had raised her following the death of her mother.
"Dreams are messages from the devil," her grandmother had often said, "as my own mother had occasion to warn me more than once. At first I refused to believe her, much to my regret."
Yet her dream, Deirdre told herself, had been no missive from the devil. Quite the opposite. Her fondest hopes would be realized and her impossible wish would become a reality if she, Deirdre Darrington, was really destined to be the bride of the Honorable Clive Chadbourne. There was little doubt in her mind that the promise of the dream would be fulfilled. It mattered not at all that she had last seen Clive more than twelve months ago. She had wished for this so long, so devoutly and with such unwavering intensity, that her vision must be true.
"Clive Chadbourne is like the brother you never had," her grandmother had said years before.
And Clive had, she was forced to admit, always treated her as a brother might treat a favorite sister. Though she was six years younger than Clive, he had encouraged her to go with him on his rambles over the countryside when he came down from London to stay for the summer at nearby Chadbourne House, had even shown her the hidden entrance to the glen and the path to the knoll overlooking a secluded pool beneath the waterfall that became their special place, their secret place. He had taught her to ride and, risking the displeasure of her grandmother, to shoot.
"Disgraceful!" her grandmother had said when Deirdre told her. A moment later, however, her grandmother was smiling indulgently, for who could fail to offer forgiveness to the charming Clive Chadbourne? Even Roger Darrington, her father, admitted to having a grudging admiration for her grandmother's sometime neighbor, praising Clive for being proud without becoming arrogant, for being an idealist while never becoming a prig.
Reluctantly setting aside her thoughts of Clive, Deirdre hastened down the stairs while the long-case clock in the hall chimed nine times.
"Here you are and the day half gone," Deirdre imagined her grandmother saying as soon as she joined her in the breakfast room. Her grandmother invariably rose well before seven. Breakfasts at the customary hour of ten in the morning were not for her.
But her grandmother was not in the breakfast room. She had finished eating, Agnes told her, more than an hour before. "And then the boy comes with the letter," the maid added.
"The letter?" Deirdre paused with her cup of tea halfway to her lips.
Agnes glanced right and left before leaning forward and lowering her voice. "From your father in London, I expect."
Deirdre caught her breath, frowning in dismay as she recalled her dream. The arrival of her father's unexpected letter–he wrote faithfully once a fortnight and his last letter had arrived less than a week before. This letter must be thought of as unexpected, so coinciding with her dream of a wedding could hardly be a coincidence. His letter must bring startling news, perhaps ominous news, and what could be more startling or ominous than the announcement of the impending marriage of the Honorable Clive Chadbourne.
Pushing away her plate, even though the fact that it still contained a goodly portion of her breakfast ham gave Deirdre a twinge of guilt. "Waste not, want not," was her grandmother's oft-repeated admonition.
Copyright © 2006 by Jane Toombs.
Posted November 23, 2010
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