On Monday morning, Margaret entered the neatly arranged, quiet atmosphere of her mother’s sitting room at her usual time. It was not often that Dixon was absent from her mother’s side, and Margaret rejoiced to feel that she was drawing closer to her mother during the portions of the day during which they were alone together.

“Margaret, dear,” Mrs. Hale called out, giving her daughter a faltering smile. A pale, dainty hand reached to pat the empty sofa space next to her own skirts while her gaze drifted to the floor.

“Good morning, Mother,” Margaret returned as she seated herself at her mother’s side, feeling a faint tingling of apprehension at her mother’s manner.

Mrs. Hale studied her daughter’s youthful complexion with bittersweet affection. Her child was just beginning her life’s journey, while her own was rapidly coming to an end. “In another week, you shall be married,” she declared with reverence.

Margaret nodded as the corners of her mouth turned upward.

“You are a good girl, Margaret,” Mrs. Hale began, dropping her gaze to her lap where she wrung her hands impatiently. “You can be quite spirited and very…strong-minded. Sometimes you remind me of Frederick. He was always so full of life, fervent in feeling and not always careful in uttering his opinions,” she added with trace of affection for her long-absent son.

“I know that you have had differences of opinion with Mr. Thornton in the past," her mother stated with solemn purpose. "I trust they have been resolved since. You know well, of course, all the Biblical instruction we are given concerning marriage.”

Margaret felt creeping trepidation tighten in her stomach. “Yes, Mother,” she answered dutifully.

“I wish only to remind you that he will be husband over you, and you must submit to him in all things….wholly to him,” she emphasized, glancing nervously at her daughter to discern whether she understood the import of her final utterance.

“Yes, Mother,” Margaret repeated with bowed head, scarcely able to breathe as she comprehended the implication of her mother's words.

“You will share his bed on your wedding trip,” the elder woman posed to make certain her daughter understood her obligations, her own face nearly as flushed as that of her daughter.

Margaret could not answer, but kept her head bowed as a furious blush warmed her face and made her pulse quicken in uncertain apprehension. Questions she would fain have asked her mother swirled within, but the notion of uttering them stifled her with painful mortification.

Relieved to have discharged this vague counsel to her daughter, Mrs. Hale took a long breath. “The Thornton house is quite grand for Milton standards. I’m certain you will be given your own bedchambers upon your return, my dear,” she added, wishing to relieve the girl of any undue anxiety.

Margaret could only nod, as a baffling melange of thrilling thoughts and startling images constricted her ability to speak.

“Now then, hand me my sewing. We must finish our work before your aunt comes to town,” she commented, putting the uncomfortable discussion firmly behind them.


By Wednesday, Margaret longed for a day of reprieve from the sedentary task of sewing and the endless talk of her wedding. Eager to find some freedom before her London relations arrived and the preparations took a dizzying pace, Margaret determined to go out of doors as soon as her mother took her first rest.

Having decided to exert herself with purpose, she carefully folded one of her older dresses, a simple muslin dress of faded lilac, to take to Mary Higgins. Although she could have given the gift to the quiet girl on any of the days which she came to the house as a servant, Margaret wished to present it to her when the distinction between them was less in evidence.

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