July 27, 1894
The squawk of seagulls and fishy smells across the harbor contrasted with the heavy winds that sprang over the beach and glided into town. Despite everything, it was still a beautiful day and the sun rose high over their heads. Adrienne and Christian piled into a hackney to explore Aberdeen.
After it headed off, Christian informed her that he was taking her to a dressmaker’s shop on Loch Street.
“Obviously, we won’t be able to order anything for your wardrobe just yet, but they should still have some items on hand. The driver assures me Mrs. Allan has the finest dressmaker’s shop in Aberdeen.”
“Oh, all right,” she managed, though some of her initial joy at the excursion faded. But, her husband couldn’t know how uncomfortable those shops made her feel so she feigned enthusiasm.
“Perhaps you can find a nice cloak or a fine riding habit for your outings with Persephone as well.”
“Yes, of course.”
“We’ll look at the town afterward. I’ve heard there are many fine sights to see.”
“You are fairly quiet,” he observed beside her. “Perhaps you are weary from our travels thus far?”
Adrienne shook her head. “I am well enough.”
Soon, the hackney stopped before a line of brick buildings. Christian hopped out then lifted her down from the vehicle. She shook out the wrinkles in the skirt of her plum colored, silk, day gown and took his arm. They headed inside the shop with the bright blue awning. Immediately, her dread began to ease. Madame Allan, a petite woman with a full head of orange, curly hair, was garbed in a navy blue dress, had a pleasant smile and she chattered happily as Adrienne browsed through the store. Also, the faint aroma of cinnamon permeated her senses, creating a warm impression.
“What exactly are ye looking for, Misses?” the owner asked.
“Oh, all of it is quite lovely,” Adrienne breathed, her fingers tracing the array of colors in silk, satin, taffeta and cotton.
Christian cleared his throat. “Our ship is only in port today so as you can imagine, we won’t be able to place a lengthy order.”
The woman’s blue eyes lit up. “Oh! Then I have just the thing. And with your coloring, I do believe it would look fine on ye, lassie.” The proprietor’s thick accent rained down upon her, but she managed to comprehend her. Besides, she could understand Samson well enough on board La Voyageur. The woman grasped at Adrienne’s hand and led her to a small, back room. An evening gown hung there in an interesting shade, a coral silk. An accent of silver fabric ran throughout it and she noticed scrolled embroidery in silver thread on both the bodice and skirt.
She couldn’t help but touch the fine fabric, the softness a strange enticement.
“It is beautiful.”
“And it will look just as well on ye.”
“Are you certain?”
The woman nodded. “Would ye like to try it on?”
She nodded as well, unable to resist.
Twenty minutes later, as she was bundled into the new gown while Madame Allan fussed with her tresses, showing her different hairstyles that would go well with the ensemble. She also pointed out a set of similarly shaded gloves.
“I’ll need to let the hem out as you are fairly tall. I can have the dress delivered to your ship by this evening. Is that satisfactory?”
She nodded. “Perhaps we should consult my husband?”
The woman lifted a brow. “What do men know of such things?”
“I, I think he should still see.”
The shop owner eyed her for a moment. “Doona’ fash yerself, lass. He’ll see it soon enough. Come out, and you can show him.”
She left her hair down as she followed Madame Allan out into the main shop. Christian stood in the center of the room, looking around at the female apparel, but instead of appearing out of his element like her, he didn’t seem bothered by it at all.
“She’d not be easy until ye saw the dress, ye ken?” the woman informed him.
Adrienne sent her a stricken look as the dressmaker had made her sound like a fool. Honestly, as a woman she should be more confident about her clothing, shouldn’t she? Wary eyes moved to Christian.
His gaze swung back to them as they approached. He smiled, his dark eyes moving slowly over the silk fabric. She shivered at the predatory look there.
“It will, of course, be altered for her height,” the woman offered.
Adrienne had to look away for she was too unnerved by the performance. She took in the array of fine materials in the room, and felt oddly out of place. She never sought anyone’s approval on anything, but this made her a bit uncertain. She didn’t know what was proper on such occasions. She’d been scolded by enough modistes during her travels over the years that she often left the wardrobe decisions to her parents or Selene. Only in situations like this did she wish she was another kind of woman; she hated that these excursions forced her to feel awkward and less feminine.
“Chére, did you hear me?”
Her head swiveled back to him. “No, I’m sorry. What did you say?”
Christian approached her then, smiling. “I said there is no cause for concern. I think it is a fine gown, and you look ravishing in it. But, if anything, I believe it is you who complements the dress.”
Her breath caught. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“I have to agree, lad. It is made for her coloring.”
“Mmm.” He swept a fingertip down her cheek, then leaned forward and kissed Adrienne on the lips. “We shall, of course, add it to your wardrobe. Did you see anything else you might like?”
She shook her head. “I will look again.”
When they were back in the dressing room, Madame Allan helped her into her other gown, and pinned her hair up once more. She murmured a thank you.
“Misses, I have a similar gown in a medium blue if ye would be interested?”
“Why, yes. That sounds lovely as well.”
She nodded. “I will add it to your order. If you see an item in the shop I should put in the shipment, let me know. We have a new selection of silk undergarments if that suits your fancy.”
Adrienne thanked the woman once more, and went into the main section of the shop. She noticed Christian was gone and wondered if he’d stepped outside for some air. To pass the time more than anything, she browsed the shop once more. She fingered the plaids, but knew she wouldn’t have the courage to pull any of them off. In the area of undergarments and nightgowns, which Madame Allan had pointed out to her, she opened a wooden drawer and when the sunlight streamed in through the shop windows, illuminating its contents, she inhaled sharply, unable to prevent herself from exploring the material.
“Misses? Are you all right?”
She nodded. “This is for sale?” she gestured to the lovely, lavender fabric dangling from her fingertips.
“Of course. That came in yesterday so I’ve scarce had time to look at it.”
She began to ruminate on the possibility; it was her honeymoon after all. “I will take this as well, but my husband must not know about it yet.”
The woman smiled knowingly. “It’ll be our secret.” “How long have ye been married?”
Her cheeks burned. “Not so long, and yet I feel as if I’ve known him for lifetimes.”
The woman smiled. “Sounds like a match made in heaven. I’ll add this to the others.” She took the material from her and spirited it away to the back room.
The bell on the door signaled the arrival of a new customer. Adrienne turned and smiled as Christian came in, his heavy boots clicking on the hard wood floor. She went up to him, caught the smell of the forest upon him.
“I believe we are almost finished.”
“Ah, good. I… made some arrangements.”
He shook his head. “I’ll tell you later.”
When the dressmaker returned, Christian settled up payment with her.
“I shall have your purchases delivered to….”
“La Voyageur,” he confirmed. “It is a fine clipper ship in port. You can’t miss it.”
“La Voyageur it is. Someone will be able to retrieve them?”
“Ah, yes, of course. Just leave the name Du Plessis on the delivery slip.”
“That’s good then. Thank you both for stopping by.”
“Oh, it’s our pleasure, to be sure. You have quite an impressive collection here.”
Misses Allan blushed, and Adrienne shook her head, amazed at her husband’s ability to charm anyone.
“Come, chérie.” Christian kissed her cheek, and then rested one hand on the small of her back as they began to leave the establishment. She caught the dressmaker’s wink and smiled with a short wave.
Outside, the early afternoon sun was high in the sky, and she lifted her face to its warmth for a moment.
“Are you ready?”
She nodded, allowing him to boost her into the hackney at the curb. She heard him give instructions to the driver.
They went to Victoria Park, an area located in the northwest of the city. The park was well-landscaped with numerous gardens of pink rhododendrons, heather, bright gold trefoils, bluebells, and white and purple crocuses. In the southeast corner of the park sat a fairly, large conservatory and greenhouse for visitors to amble inside whenever they wished. Also, in the center of the park stood a granite fountain, where guests would throw coins for good fortune.
The smell of the flowers and the fresh breeze lifted Adrienne’s spirits. A trip to the dressmaker was always quite a challenge for her, but here in nature, she felt at peace.
“You appeared somewhat nonplussed in the shop,” Christian murmured, as they walked casually, arm in arm, around the grounds.
“Oh, I was. I never know what to choose and I fear it’s best if I rely on a more experienced person with regards to my wardrobe.”
“I see, chérie. I am happy to help you in any way I can. And when I cannot, I am sure your Maman or your aunt, even your nursemaid Selene can assist you.”
“Yes, you are right.” She grinned. “Often my father accompanies us, you see, and he has impeccable taste in women’s fashion. Mademoiselle Ernestine is quite impressed with his talents, and I daresay Maman is amused by it as well.”
“Gabriel inherited it as well. It seems that talent skipped me,” she added, as an afterthought.
He patted her hand. “It is all right, you know. I believe you do not have that skill for a reason, Adrienne.”
“And why is that?”
“Your quick-wittedness is better reserved for other pursuits.” He smiled. “I fear you are a warrior trapped in a woman’s body.”
She almost forgot to breathe. He’d touched on the notion she’d always had for herself, bound by her circumstances, with the dread that she’d always be seen as an awkward sort of female.
“I know who are you, chére.”
His assurance warmed her from within and she tipped her head to rest it against the shoulder of his suit jacket.