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The Flower Brides
By Grace Livingston Hill
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Grace Livingston Hill
All rights reserved.
Marigold brought the big white box into her mother's bedroom and put it on the bed. Her eyes were shining, and her lovely red-gold hair caught the sunlight and flamed gloriously, lighting up her happy brown eyes with topaz glints.
"Come, Mother, and look. I brought it home with me. I couldn't wait to have it sent up; I wanted so much to have you see it at once."
The mother came and stood beside the bed smiling, with just a bit of a troubled look in the deeps of her eyes. "It's a lovely box, anyway, satin smooth, and looks as if it ought to hold a wedding dress at least," she said wistfully.
"Yes, isn't it!" said Marigold brightly. "And to think I have a dress in the house from that wonderful shop! I never thought that would happen to me! The best part of the box to me is that magic name on the top, 'François.' I've dreamed of having that happen!"
"Dear child!" said her mother, with a sad little smile. "But, do you think it is so much better than other places that aren't so expensive? I've always thought we had some lovely things made for you here at home."
"Of course you have, you dear! I never discounted them. It's only that I wanted this one to be, well, different from anything ever. I wanted it to have a big name behind it. And then there's always some little touch that can't be achieved except by those great designers. You know that, Mother. Oh, Mother dear! Don't look so grieved. The things you've always made for me have been wonderful, and some of them much, much prettier than any I ever saw from the great dressmakers of the earth. Some of those are positively ugly, I think, and yet they do have that something about them that nobody else can quite achieve and only the knowledgeable recognize."
The mother smiled.
"I suppose so," she said with a sigh. "But go on and open your box. I'm curious to see the garment that is worth a whole hundred and fifty dollars. I hope it lives up to my idea of what it ought to be."
"I'm sure you'll think it does," said the girl with happy eagerness in her face. "It's wonderful!"
She lifted the lid slowly, such a happy light in her face that her mother was busy looking at her instead of watching for the first glimpse of the Paris garment.
Marigold put the lid down on the floor and turned back the satiny folds of tissue paper. Even the tissue paper seemed to have a rare quality. Then she stood back and watched her mother's face.
"There!" she said. "Isn't that gorgeous?"
The dress lay folded carefully, showing its lovely quality even at the first glance — rich, glistening, thick white taffeta, memories of yesterday woven into its texture and silvery finish. At the slender waistline was knotted a supple velvet sash, soft as thistledown, in deep vivid crimson, with long silken fringe at the ends, and on one shoulder was a dark, deep velvet rose to match.
Marigold's eyes were like a child's with a new doll she was exhibiting.
Mrs. Brooke caught her breath in a soft exclamation of admiration.
"It is very lovely," she said. "It looks — almost regal!" And she gave a quick glance at her daughter and then back to the dress, as if trying to harmonize them. "You've never worn that deep shade of crimson. I'm wondering —" She studied her daughter's vivid face and then turned back to the dress.
"How will it go with my red hair?" asked the girl joyously. "Wait till you see it on me. I'm some sight!"
"Your hair is not really red, Marigold, only reddish-gold," answered the mother. "It really goes with anything."
"Well, you ought to have heard the saleslady rave over the combination," laughed the girl. "She positively waxed eloquent."
"She probably wanted to sell the dress!" said the mother wisely. "But put it on. You can't always tell beforehand. Wait! Let me spread a sheet down on the floor! You mustn't run any risks with that lovely thing!"
When the sheet was spread Marigold slipped out of her little green knitted dress and into the rich, shimmering evening gown and turned excitedly to face her mother.
The mother stood studying her daughter critically.
"Yes, it's good," she assented. "I hadn't realized that you could wear that color before, but it's rather wonderful. It does something to you, makes you look as if the light of the sunset were shining on your face."
"I thought you'd like it," said the girl in satisfaction.
"Yes, it's very beautiful, and very attractive," said Mrs. Brooke. "Turn around and let me see the back."
Half shamed, the girl laughed.
"I'm afraid you won't like the back so well," she apologized, twisting her head to look over her shoulder at her mother. "It's a low back, of course, but I couldn't get any other. Everybody, simply everybody wears them. I couldn't find one without. And really, Mother, this was the most conservative back they had!"
"Oh, my dear!" said her mother sorrowfully. "I couldn't think of you wearing a back like that! Your father would have objected to it seriously. He hated such nakedness. There was a woman in our congregation who used sometimes to put on an evening dress for church socials, quite out of place, of course, and he disliked it so. But even that wasn't low like this. I can hear him now comically saying: 'Mrs. Butler had her dress trimmed with real vertebrae, didn't she?'"
Marigold laughed half-heartedly.
"Oh, but Mother, that was a long while ago. He wouldn't have felt that way now. Why, you even see low sun-backs in the daytime, and on the beach, and everywhere. And nobody has evening dresses made high in the back."
"Yes, I suppose so," sighed the mother, troubled. "But couldn't we fit in a piece of real lace, or perhaps get some of the material and do something with that back?"
"Mother! How simply dreadful! You would take all the style away and ruin it! Everybody would be laughing at me behind my back. No, Mother dear, you'll have to get used to such things. Nobody thinks anything about backs today. What's a back, anyway? Just a back."
"Well, but backs are ugly!" said the mother, with a troubled gaze. "I don't see why they do it! And it makes me ashamed to think of my girl going around in front of a lot of people unclothed that way."
The color rolled up impatiently into Marigold's lovely cheeks. "Mother, how ridiculous! You don't realize that everybody wears such things nowadays, and nobody thinks a thing about it! If Father had been alive today, he would have had to change some of his ideas. In those days it wasn't done, but it is now. I'm sure Father wouldn't think a thing of it if he were alive today."
"I wonder —" said Mrs. Brook, with a troubled frown.
Marigold turned to face her mother again. "Mother, isn't that thin line of crimson just exquisite, falling down against the thick white silk? I think that fringe is adorable the way it falls down the skirt. You do like the dress, don't you, Mother?"
She lifted a charming face eager for approval, and her mother's anxious face relaxed.
"Yes, it is indeed beautiful, and surprisingly flattering."
But there was something in her mother's tone that did not quite satisfy Marigold.
"Mother! You don't quite like it! What is it that you don't like besides the low back? I knew you wouldn't like that, but any dress I could buy that would be suitable would have had that objection. But there's something else; come, own up! I know your tone of approval, and this isn't just hearty."
"Oh, my dear!" said the mother, with a trembling little smile. "No, child, I find nothing else to criticize. It is very beautiful and very distinguished-looking. I'm only questioning whether a quiet little Christian girl — I suppose you still call yourself that, don't you? — has the right to spend all her money on one dress that is so perishable and at most can only be worn half a dozen times. You couldn't possibly get enough others of the same quality to make up a whole wardrobe."
"Mother!" said the girl, her sweet face suddenly shadowed. "You are spoiling the whole thing! I shall never want to wear it now!"
She turned abruptly toward the window, a quick flush mounting over her fair skin to her forehead.
"My dear! I didn't mean to hurt you! But doesn't it seem too bad to spend almost everything you have in a lump sum this way? The dress is wonderful, but I'm quite sure we could have copied it and made it just as lovely. I even know how to put fringe like that on the sash. I've often done it. I'm afraid you'll be sorry afterward that the money is all gone."
"No, Mother, you don't understand. I had to have something that was as good as anybody's; that is, if I'm to go to this party at all. I have to have it for sort of 'moral support,' you know, this first time among Laurie's friends. It isn't as if they were my friends whom I have always known. Those people on the north side of the city are total strangers to me and rather inclined to be snobbish. Laurie isn't, of course, or he wouldn't be going with me. But his mother has never called or recognized me in the slightest way till now, and I feel as if I want to show her that I know what is fitting for such an occasion as well as she does. I don't want to let Laurie down. His mother is not like him. She's very aristocratic and exclusive, and I don't want Laurie to be ashamed of me. I don't want his family pitying me and saying what a shabby girl he goes with. I want his mother to see that I know how to dress just as well as she does."
"Oh, my dear! That's not a very good motive to admit to, is it? She with her millions and you with your two hundred dollars! If Laurie's mother's admiration is worth winning, I'm quite sure she would think far more of you for dressing within your means than for aping millionaires, especially since you can't keep up this style of dressing."
Marigold was silent and troubled for a moment.
"But, Mother, I shan't need to," she said with a quick-drawn breath. "It isn't in the least likely there will be more invitations like this. Besides, I can put away a little money now and then for another occasion that might come up. And, too, Mother, I'm not going beyond my means getting this one dress. Aunt Carolyn told me to spend it on something I really wanted — some luxury, something frivolous if I liked — and this is the thing I wanted with all my heart. This was only a hundred and fifty dollars, and there'll be enough left for gloves and shoes and maybe an evening wrap. Oh, Mother, you're spoiling it all! You don't understand! It's sort of an if-I-perish-I-perish state of mind I'm in. I've got to go dressed so that Laurie's mother can't criticize me, or I won't go at all. If I don't pass inspection, well, she'll never be bothered with me again, that's all; but I'm going right or not at all."
The mother sighed and studied her daughter's flushed, lovely face a moment, a compassionate look in her own eyes. "Dear! Don't look that way! In a way I do understand how you feel, of course, but I'm afraid it's not right. I'm only sorry for you that you seem to be tangled up in a situation that makes you feel you must step out of your natural way of living. You know your fortune in life has not been set by God in the environment of a millionaire's daughter. Your father was a plain minister of the Gospel, and when he was called away from earth suddenly, he had no millions, nor even thousands to leave behind. All this grandeur just doesn't seem to be consistent with your sensible life so far. But there! Don't look so sorrowful! One dress isn't going to wreck your fortune, even though it does take all you have, and perhaps the experience will be worth a good deal to you. Come, since the dress is bought we might as well enjoy it. Forget what I said and be happy."
But Marigold stood staring out the window at the bare brown trees, unseeing, her eyes filling with sudden tears.
"Oh, child!" said her mother in dismay. "You mustn't cry! You'll ruin that dress. Here! Wait, I have a handkerchief. Let me mop you up, and then for pity's sake take off the dress. We can't have it ruined before it's ever worn. That would be disastrous. I never meant to make you feel that way, dearest. Forgive me!"
As she talked, Mrs. Brooke was dabbing Marigold's eyes softly with her own handkerchief. "There! Take it off quickly before I start you off again! Wait! I'll help you!"
Marigold began to giggle hysterically as she emerged from the enveloping silk.
When the dress was hung on the softest hanger the house afforded, swinging from the rod in the open closet, and Marigold had donned her plain little knit dress again, they stood back and looked at it.
"I so wanted to have you like it!" sighed the girl as she looked at it wistfully. "It seemed to me the prettiest evening dress I had ever seen."
"But I do like it, dear. It's a gorgeous garment, the grandest I have ever laid eyes on. It wasn't a question of like; it was a question of wisdom and suitability."
"I know," said the girl, her lips quivering just a tiny bit again, "but, Mother, I thought it was wise and suitable. There's no question about its suitability for the occasion, Mother. I've read a number of times in the society columns the kind of clothes they wear at Mrs. Trescott's parties."
"I didn't mean suitable for Mrs. Trescott, Marigold; I meant suitable for you, a plain little girl who has to earn her living. Won't even Mrs. Trescott question the suitability of such a dress for you?"
"Well, but Mother, if I'm going there at all, oughtn't I to go right? And if I'm going with Laurie to things, I've got to be dressed the way he would want to see me."
The mother's brows drew together with a trouble frown again. "Why, Marigold? Does he mean so much to you? Dear, are you planning to marry Laurie?"
"Mother!" said Marigold, her cheeks flaming suddenly into brilliant color. "Why, Mother! He hasn't even asked me to — yet!"
"Yet? Then you're expecting him to? Dear, I hate to force your confidence, but a good deal depends on your attitude toward the question. If he does ask you, are you wanting to say yes?"
"Oh, Mother!" said the girl, with quick panic in her eyes. "I haven't got as far as that yet. I'm only having a good time."
"Well, that's what I was afraid of."
"Why, Mother, you don't think a girl should go ahead and plan things like that, do you, not till she's been asked?"
"A girl ought to know whether she could love a man before she lets him go too far in falling in love with her. She has no right to lead him on if she knows she cannot care for him. You know, dear, you have been going pretty steadily with Laurie for several months now and people are beginning to couple your names and to question and to take things for granted. I only want you to know yourself. When it comes to spending a hundred and fifty dollars for one dress, it seems to me you must be pretty sure of yourself."
The dear eyes were clouded again, and this time the tears really came.
"You don't like Laurie, do you, Mother?" she charged unexpectedly, whirling around and facing her mother with beseeching eyes. "He's so merry and — dear, I don't see how you can help liking him!" And the tears poured down with unexpected swiftness.
"I didn't say I didn't like him, dear child!" said the mother, distressed. "Oh, I never meant to make you feel badly. I just wanted to warn you. Of course Laurie is likable. He certainly is merry — yes, and dear in his ways — I understand how you feel. But I scarcely know him well enough to judge whether he is suitable for my precious girl. He drops in here, has a pleasant word, flashes his handsome eyes, smiles charmingly, smoothes his beautiful dark hair; and he's courteous and delightful in every way for the five minutes while he is waiting for you. Then you flit off together, and hours later I hear him linger at the door a minute when he brings you back. How can I know?"
"Oh, Mother! I didn't realize! Of course you don't really know him, do you? Couldn't we ask him here to dinner some night?"
"We could," said the mother thoughtfully. "Are you sure he would want to come? Of course, now since his mother has invited you, it will be easier for us to invite him — perhaps. But, dear, I want you to face the future, be sure of every step you take, and not rush into something that will bring you sorrow after the glamour has departed."
"Mother! Isn't there any real love in the world that lasts? All glamour doesn't depart, does it?"
"There certainly is a true love that lasts, and that's what I want you to have, dear. That's why I'm daring to invade the privacy of your heart and warn you."
Marigold pondered this, perplexed. "But why are you especially worried about Laurie, Mother? When Eastman Hunter and Earle Browning used to come here a good deal, you never said anything, nor when John Potter came. You seemed to take it all perfectly naturally and counted them my good friends. You didn't probe me to see if I was going to get married right away. I wasn't so much younger than I am now. It was only a little over a year ago. Did you like any of them better than Laurie?"
"No, not as well," said the mother frankly, "but, dear, Laurie is of another class. It is always a serious question when young people of different classes try to come together. Once in a great while such a marriage is a happy one, but too often it is not. I want you to be really happy, darling!"
Excerpted from The Flower Brides by Grace Livingston Hill. Copyright © 2015 Grace Livingston Hill. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyed them all once again.
Marigold What I love most about Marigold is the things her mother tells her about life, falling in love, and about God’s love for us. I believe this book is perfect for Christian teens. The romance they desire is shown within Marigold’s pages while still reminding readers that we need to be patient for God’s gifts – they can’t be forced. Mystery Flowers What I liked: I thoroughly enjoyed Mystery Flowers! It was completely about trusting the Lord with our lives and letting go of pride and worldly things. Diana is one of my favorite characters in all of the Grace Livingston Hill books I’ve read. She’s a strong person who, even when she’s not familiar with God, has a strong knowledge of right and wrong, and who refuses to compromise even for someone she loves. What I didn’t like: It’s a great lesson, but may be misinterpreted… White Orchids What I liked: I believe this is my favorite. Even though I’ve read White Orchids previously, I loved every word. There is so much in this book to make you feel like God’s speaking to your heart that you just can’t put it down. Plus, it’s just a great story & romance! What I didn’t like: I’m sorry that I can’t make all young ladies read this!
Timeless romance! As a teenager, Grace Livingston Hill was one of my first favorite authors. I started collecting her books where ever I could find them. I remembered reading one of the books in this set, but not the other two, so reading this was like coming home to me. I just love the grace of the characters in her books (no pun intended). There is always one character who has a strong Christian background, and usually their mothers are involved one way or another. Something that she felt very strongly about was the mode of dress and wayward way of life of the "modern" society, and those things are still very much true today. One thing is for sure, you will feel comforting love come through in each story. I highly recommend this book set for women of all ages, but especially for young adults. From the publishers: Beloved author Grace Livingston Hill has been delighting romance readers for generations. This collection of three full-length novels is sure to sweetly satisfy. In Marigold, the lovely Marigold Brooke travels to Washington, DC, where one man sweeps her off her feet, but another helps her see what real love—and faith—are all about. In Mystery Flowers, Diana Disston is heartbroken and comforted only by anonymous and mysterious gifts of flowers. In White Orchids, Camilla Chrystie is joined by a handsome stranger in a desperate effort to save her mother’s life. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Barbour Publishing - Netgalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html
Can anyone post the names of the three books included in this volume? I don't want to purchase it if I already have them in separate books.