Bless the Bride
Westchester County, New York, September 1903
“I think I may be in a spot of trouble,” I said.
Mrs. Sullivan looked up sharply from her needlework. I read a succession of expressions pass over her face—shock, dismay, disgust—then finally she said, “Oh, well, these things happen, I suppose. Luckily you have your wedding date planned and it wouldn’t be the first baby to arrive remarkably early.”
“What?” It took a moment for the penny to drop, then I started laughing. “No, it’s nothing like that. Actually I only meant that I think I’ve sewn the wrong sides of this bodice together.” I held up the offending handiwork.
She took it from me, examined it, then sighed. “Goodness, child. However did you manage to grow up without learning the rudiments of sewing? Did your mother not teach you anything?”
“If you remember, my mother died when I was ten,” I said. “After that I had to do my share of darning and patching, but that was about it. I’ve certainly never had to sew fine fabrics like this.”
“Then it’s fortunate that we’ve no bridesmaids’ dresses to make as well, isn’t it?” she muttered, not looking up as she started unpicking stitches. “Although it’s a shame we’ve no little flower girl. I always think they add something special to a wedding. I did suggest that we ask the Van Kempers’ granddaughter…”
“I don’t know the Van Kempers’ granddaughter,” I said. “I’d feel awkward having a stranger as part of my wedding procession. There was one little girl I was very fond of—little Bridie. I believe I told you about the child I brought across from Ireland who lived with me for a while. I did send an invitation to her family, but I’ve received no response, so I can only assume that they’ve moved on.” I sighed. Or that they thought a wedding in Westchester County sounded too grand for them, being the simplest of Irish peasants.
Mrs. Sullivan nodded and looked at me with genuine sympathy for once. “’Tis a shame that you’ll have hardly any guests of your own at the wedding, and no family at all—except those two brothers. Fugitives from the law, didn’t you say?”
“With the Irish republican freedom fighters,” I corrected her, although I suspected she remembered well what I had told her. “I don’t even know where they are anymore.” I stared out across the dewy lawn. A mockingbird was singing its heart out in the plum tree. It was so peaceful and safe here, while my brothers were off somewhere, still fighting for the Irish republican cause.
Daniel’s mother and I had been sitting on her porch swing, enjoying the sweet morning air before the day became too hot, while we worked on making my trousseau. At least, she had been doing most of the making while I did a lot of unpicking, each set of removed stitches leaving a trail of little dots on the creamy white silk.
It hadn’t been my idea, believe me. I already knew my lack of prowess with the needle and would have been quite happy to have left my wedding gown to a Manhattan dressmaker. This was Daniel’s idea. He thought it would be a great way for me to get to know my future mother-in-law better and to learn some housewifely skills from her at the same time. Actually I knew what his real reason was: he wanted me safely out of the city so that I wouldn’t be tempted to take on any more detective assignments.
In theory I had no objections to spending a couple of weeks in the pleasant leafy atmosphere of Westchester County while the city sizzled in the muggy August heat. I had looked forward to having nothing to worry about except finishing my trousseau on time for my September wedding. I had had my fill of danger and was ready to admit that had I been a cat, I would have used at least eight of my nine lives. The reality of my current situation wasn’t exactly as sweet as I had imagined. While Daniel’s mother had welcomed me politely for Daniel’s sake, she had also made it perfectly clear that I didn’t measure up to her expectations for her only son. She and Daniel’s recently departed father had scrimped and saved to give Daniel a good education. They had moved out to Westchester County so that he could mix with the best families. He had fulfilled their dreams by becoming the youngest captain in the New York police. He had been engaged to the daughter of one of those rich families, but then he had broken it off in favor of marrying me—Molly Murphy,
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