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Written on Silk
By Linda Lee Chaikin
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Linda Chaikin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Gown for the English Queen
CHÂTEAU DE SILK, LYON, FRANCE
Beneath the upper window of the renowned Château de Silk's atelier, crimson blossoms on bougainvillea vines sprawled with languid grace along a wall that secluded the inner courtyard's garden. The wind swept through the mulberry orchard, rallying the verdant green leaves into a chorus of praise. Roses, amorously tended to by the stooped gardener, Monsieur Jolon, offered their fragrance to the wind's promise as it flowed over the wall, through the open balustrade to the window of the Dushane-Macquinet Silk House.
A burst of activity erupted as a scurry of voices announced the approach of horsemen. Mademoiselle Rachelle Dushane-Macquinet, who was unwinding a wooden spool of golden thread, looked across the atelier to Nenette, her grisette in training and her amie.
"Who is coming, Nenette?"
Nenette was already at the widow, drawing aside the Alençon lace curtains.
"A carriage, Mademoiselle. It is most dusty and ugly - ooh, but a most handsome man is stepping down. La, la!"
"You are at heart, most assuredly, a hopeless flirt, Nenette." Idelette spoke wearily from her position at the cutting table, where she was measuring pink silk for the finishing touches on the surprise birthday dress for her mignon sister, Avril.
Rachellelaughed and looked over at Nenette. "I think you should marry Andelot Dangeau, a most fine and honorable young man."
Nenette flushed until her freckles blended into her pert face.
Idelette, who was two years older than Rachelle, looked at her dourly. "Andelot is a most serious young monsieur; he has no thoughts of marriage at this stage of his life."
Rachelle covered a smile. She was almost certain her sister concealed an interest in Andelot.
"He wants to attend the University of Paris and become a scholar," Idelette said, slipping her gold thimble on with artistic flair.
"How do you know?" Rachelle asked with feigned innocence. "Has he been sharing his heart with you again?"
One of the other grisettes snickered, and then quickly ducked her head when Idelette gave a sharp turn of her fair head in the girl's direction.
Rachelle set the wooden spool aside on the long cutting table and stood. "Do you suppose the arrival in the carriage is Sir James Hudson at last?"
"The monsieur did look very English," Nenette said, tapping her small chin.
Idelette jabbed her silver needle into her velvet pin cushion and also stood, shaking out her dark blue skirts. "Such nonsense. One does not look very anything. How are the English supposed to look?"
"I beg to differ, Mademoiselle, but I can tell a Spaniard anywhere," Nenette piped, pursing her lips.
Idelette's mouth tightened.
Rachelle looked at her sister, sobering. Idelette had not been with her at Amboise when over two thousand Huguenots were butchered to the satisfaction of Spain, though Rachelle had told her family what happened there, as well as the gruesome scene Andelot had unwittingly attended.
"If it is Monsieur Hudson," Idelette continued, "ma mère will be most upset, I assure you. He was to arrive yesterday, as you know. In another hour it will be dusk and tomorrow is Sunday. That means Scripture reading tonight."
It was the family custom to prepare their hearts for Sunday worship with a simple supper followed by an evening of prayer and Bible reading from the secret French Bible her parents kept hidden like gold coins in a treasure chest.
"If it is Sir James Hudson, he will simply need to adjust to the household," Rachelle said, shrugging lightly. "I hope so; I can think of a hundred questions to ask him about the Huguenot immigrants at Spitalfields. I do hope Père agrees to open a dress shop there with the Hudson family."
"I have reason to believe he will. There is even talk of transporting silkworms and mulberry cuttings by ship to Hudson land."
"I wonder if the weather of the English countryside is warm enough."
From outside the atelier door they heard hurried footsteps climbing the flight of stairs.
Rachelle whipped around to Idelette. "Hide the dress."
Idelette snatched the pink dress and held it behind her as the door flew open.
Avril, who would turn fourteen in two weeks, rushed breathlessly into the room. She was almost a twin in appearance to her eldest married sister, Madeleine, in Paris, who was married to Comte Sebastien Dangeau.
Avril's hair was dark and glossy, her eyes a deeper shade of brown. She looked jubilantly from Idelette to Rachelle.
"The Englishman is here. He told Mère his driver became ill yesterday and that is why he is so late. He was obliged to stop at an inn overnight. He has a new driver. He is coming up now with Mère. He has a satchel with a Hudson dress pattern and he asked specifically to meet the 'Daughters of Silk.'"
Rachelle clasped her hands together and turned to Idelette.
"He has inquired of us?"
"Our reputation grows, sister, even apart from Grandmère - not that I wished it so."
"You see?" Rachelle took hold of her shoulders and whirled her around the atelier until Idelette burst into a rare display of laughter.
"Cease, you sotte sister!"
Excerpted from Written on Silk by Linda Lee Chaikin Copyright © 2007 by Linda Chaikin. Excerpted by permission.
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