I was woken before eight o'clock, again by Annie, who told me that I was to come and dress immediately in my Sunday Best. This was a dress that Grace had passed on to me the night before. It was made of dark green silk, with ruffles in the skirt and lace on the sleeves and at the hem. Although I insisted that I couldn't possibly accept it, Grace pointed out that as it was too tight for her she would be giving it away anyway, and so I accepted it.
But I was beginning to wish I hadn't when I saw just how many petticoats I was expected to wear, and when Annie tried to tighten the waist cincher, then the dress itself, and then the black bodice that was worn on top of it, I gasped out loud. "How tight is this thing?" I asked. She didn't answer.
When at last it was all laced and I was squeezed to within an inch of my life, she sat me down in front of the dresser and proceeded to do my hair, hauling the comb through the knots and separating it into several sections so that she could braid it, twisting each plait up and holding them in place until they were all ready, when she slipped in a slide to hold them in place. Looking in the mirror, I didn't recognise myself, not with the hair and beautiful dress that made my figure look much nicer than it really was.
"Is that everything?" I asked, but Annie had disappeared. When she returned she insisted on adding a little powder to my cheeks and staining my lips with some juice. It seemed like a lot of fuss to me and I wasn't sure it was worth it, since I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I remarked on this to Annie, who looked at me like I was crazy.
"We eat afterwards," she said. "The service starts at half past eight and although the church is only a five minute drive, we must not be late." She led me downstairs, where Grace was waiting.
"Elizabeth, haven't you a coat? Oh, but of course you don't." She hurriedly took one of her own shawls and put it around my shoulders, tucking it in so that I was not cold. "You do look grown up in that dress. Now we only have to wait for Marie and William." The children arrived just a minute or so later, William in a smart little suit and Marie in one of her adorable little dresses.
" 'Lizabeth!" she cried when she saw me, running over. "You look pretty." I gave her a hug and she beamed, showing her white teeth. But it was time to leave, and affections had to wait until later. My stomach was rumbling, and although I tried to ignore it Marie heard the low sound and laughed, despite my eyes imploring her not to.
When we arrived at the church it was almost full, but we seemed to have a reserved pew and so there was no struggle to find seats as there would have been in my church. The service began with a dreary hymn and continued with another, so depressing it sounded like a funeral dirge, before the vicar got up to talk. And oh, what a sermon! It was the most miserable talk I had ever heard a church. I longed to shout out, to tell him that this was good news, but I could not.
This went on for a good hour, and I was almost asleep when he finished, but we finished triumphantly with a slightly more cheerful hymn. Feeling rather gloomy, we filed out of our pew and made our way back to the carriage which had returned to pick us up.
"One of his best sermons in a long time, didn't you think?" said Alexander to his wife, as we sat down and prepared to return home. Was he joking? It was hard to tell, and I stared at him hard.
"Indeed," replied Grace, confounding me completely. They actually thought the sermon had been good ... well, as long as they enjoyed it, I supposed. With a hardly audible sigh I turned to Marie, who was peering out of the window, and asked her what she thought the most beautiful thing in nature was. At least I could talk to someone.