My husband and I are heading out to our favorite campsite down at Lake Patagonia. We are looking forward to a weekend to disconnect, since there is no Internet, no cell service, or DirectTV available, only hiking, boating, reading, campfires, and sleeping in a hammock! I love these annual trips back to nature and slowing the pace of life. It is the perfect time to de-stress before the Christmas holiday rush!
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Here is part 2 of the love story of Etienne Gayneau and Lydia Mestereau. If you missed part 1 you can find it here.
The image below is of Elizabeth Murry, Countess of Dysart with her first husband, Sir Lionel Tollemache and her sister, attributed to artist, Joan Palmer.
Etienne and Lydia: A Love Story, part 2
March 1653, La Rochelle, France
Lydia hurried up the street rounding the corner and as she approached the garden gate to her home. She saw it standing ajar, slowed her pace, and approached it cautiously. Suddenly, the gap widened, and her sister poked her head out.
“Ella, what are you doing here?” Lydia asked.
“I’ve been watching for you. Maman knows.”
“What does she know?”
“She had Bibi follow you. As soon as she saw Etienne join you down at the harbor, she hurried back and told Maman. She is waiting for you in the parlor.”
Lydia signed and hugged her sister, who had the same bright blue eyes she did and golden-brown hair. “Thank you for warning me. I will go and see her.”
Lydia entered the house through the back door and slowly made her way to the front of the house, her heals clicking softly over the polished wood floors. She paused as she entered the ornately decorated parlor room with its colorful Turkish rungs, heavy velvet curtains, and elegantly carved chairs with plush padded seat cushions. A large painting of her father, dressed in his finest court attire hung on the back wall above the fireplace. His commanding stance and stern expression achieved its intended purpose in portraying him as powerful and influential to visitors entering their home. Lydia quickly scanned the room, as she removed her gloves, and found her mother siting in an oversized chair near the hearth.
“There you are, Lydia. Please come and join me,” her mother said and looked up from her stitching.
Lydia crossed over and sat on the edge of the brocaded couch to face her. “Emma said you were looking for me?” She asked, innocently.
“I was. Bibi saw you talking to that Huguenot boy down by the harbor while she was doing the shopping this morning. I thought I’d told you to stay away from him?”
“You did, Maman,” Lydia replied simply.
“Then why did you disobey me?” Her mother’s tone was stern and reproachful.
“I love him, Maman. And he loves me. He wants to marry me.”
“Does he?” The words were spat out more like a statement, than a question. “And how will he provide for you? “
“He is taking an apprenticeship with a … stove-maker merchant.”
Her mother heard the hesitation and tremble in her voice as she said the last words and pounced.
“So, not even the elevated status of a respected shopkeeper for the imports store? His own father is casting him out. And you want this prole for a husband? You are willing to give up your title and status for this? Have you lost your senses entirely?” Her mother’s words fell with thud and a heavy silence filled the room.
Lydia clasped her hands together firmly in her lap and tried to keep her lower lip from trembling. She truly loved Etienne; she had no doubt of that. He was kind and saw her for who she truly was, not as a means to wealth and power, as all of her other suitors had. He treated her as an equal, valuing her intellect and input. No one else had ever treated her that way. But doubt crept into her thoughts. Was she willing to give up all she had for him?
Her mother glared at her, waiting for a response.
She looked up at her papa’s image so imposing. His eyes also seemed to glare down at her in a dominating stare. She squared her shoulders and looked over to her mother. She smiled. It was better to be loved for who she was, than to continue to live as a mere prop in someone else’s play. “I will marry Etienne, with or without your blessing or Papa’s.”
Saying the words made her feel lighter and freer than she’d ever felt in her whole life. Nervous butterflies fluttered in her stomach, but she brushed them aside. Life might be harder, but God would provide for them. Everything would be alright.
When her mother didn’t respond, Lydia rose and turned to leave.
“Where are you going? I have not dismissed you yet!”
“Is there anything more to say?” Lydia asked, and turned back to face her mother.
Her mother stared at her stone-faced and studied her. After a long moment, she sighed heavily and waved her away.
It was all Lydia could do not to skip from the room. She had never felt so powerful, so … in control of her own destiny before. She felt light as a dove! She hurried to her room. She must get word to Etienne. She’d told him to meet her in two days, but she couldn’t wait to give him the news!
She ran up the stairs and down the carpeted hallway to her room. She hurried into the room and closed the door behind her. She crossed the floor, sat down at her writing desk, and drew paper out of the drawer. She reached for the quill, dipped it into the ink well, and quickly scratched a few words down. She signed her name with a flourish, blotted the page, and then reread it carefully.
I have told Maman. She was not happy, but I told her. I will marry you no matter the consequences. I love you! I know that God will provide for us.
All my love,
Then she reached into her music box and found the small parcel she’d hidden there. She took it out and opened the lid. Inside was a gold locket. She lifted it out and opened it. Inside was a small painting of herself. The locket had been her grandmother’s. Her grandmother had given it to her on her sixteenth birthday. It had once held a small piece of paper containing the Lord’s Prayer, but Lydia had taken it to a portraitist where she had commissioned her image to be painted and fitted inside. She dug around in the music box again and found the folded bit of paper with the Lord’s Prayer, returned it to its place in the locket, and closed it. She set the locket on the note she’d just written and carefully folded all four sides of the note in toward the center, so that the locket could not slip out. Then she lit a candle and as the wax melted, let if drip onto the overlapping edges. As the wax cooled, she pressed her cameo ring into the wax. Then she rose, picked up the note, went in search of her sister.
Lydia found Emma still in the garden sitting in a swing her father had hung from an old oak tree when they were young girls.
“Emma, darling. Would you take this letter to Etienne for me? I need him to receive it right away before Papa returns.”
Emma accepted the letter, studying her sister’s face. “You’ve decided to marry him, haven’t you?”
Lydia nodded and smiled.
“You know that Papa won’t agree to it?”
“I know. Will you carry the letter for me?”
Emma slipped off the swing and hugged her. “I’ll go now.”
Lydia watched her slip through the garden gate and then hurried back up to her room. There was much to do. She hurried to her room and shut the door behind her. Then she went directly to her armoire de mariage standing along the wall across from her bed. It was large and elegantly carved dark mahogany. She ran her hand lightly over carved baskets of flowers and opened the doors. She stared at the stacks of linens folded there – napkins, tablecloths, dish towels, bed sheets, night gowns, petticoats, and lingerie. Her trousseau was nearly completed. Her wedding dress was not yet finished, and her mother’s heirloom jewelry had not been added, nor her own fine dresses and shoes.
She paced the room, walked to the window, and stared outside. February was coming to an and a cold winter rain made everything look gloomy, but the azaleas were budding along the front walk bringing the promise of spring. She started to pace again. The waiting! How much longer could she bare it?
After what seemed an interminable period, she heard a small rap at the door and hurried to open it. Emma slipped inside, her face beaming. She held out a small package. Lydia took it and unwrapped it. She gasped as she discovered its contents. There lay the fine pearl necklace she’d so admired in the Gayneau import shop earlier that day. She unfolded the note with trembling hands as Emma clasped the necklace around her neck.
I am so pleased to hear of your response! There are many preparations to be made before we can be wed. I beg that you will grant me a few weeks to establish myself in the new work and to ready our home. I will send word when all is ready.
With all my love,
Now that the decision had been made she’d expected him to come immediately to claim her hand. How would she possibly be able to wait so long?
“We too have much to do,” Emma said after reading the note. “We must persuade the seamstress to finish your dress without Maman knowing its immanent purpose. You must be good and stay home. Do not be tempted to visit him or his father’s shop. It must appear that you have let him go. Do you understand, Lydia?” Emma stared at her face earnestly.
“But I have already told Maman I would marry him!”
“I will tell her that you have reconsidered. Promise me you will stay and wait?”
Lydia sighed and nodded. “These will have to be hidden away.” She said and fingered the pearls around her neck. She tried to remove the necklace, but her hands were shaking so badly she could not undo the clasp.
Emma came to assist her.
Lydia slipped the strand back in the box and placed it in the armoire. However, had he afforded it?
(To be continued)
No matter where your journey takes you, may you always enjoy the adventure!
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