Jenny sank into a chair in the corner of Thea’s room and Emily looked up from the neglige she was folding.
“Get up, Jenny! We have to finish packing Miss Allbright’s – I mean the Countess’s – trunk and you haven’t begun your own packing. And we must remember to call her Lady Witney now.”
“I’m so exhausted I can hardly remember my own name.”
“I’m tired, too. But the reception is about to begin and we must be on hand for any disasters. I’m worried about the second bridesmaid. Did you see that loose seam at the back of her gown when they left for the church? Thank heavens we weren’t responsible for their dresses, let alone the wedding gown. We can blame any rips or popping hooks on that Frenchman Mr Allbright insisted on hiring. That seam is surely going to give way, especially if she explodes into another of those deafening laughs.”
“Those ladies from America seem so different from Lady Witney. Could they really be her close friends?”
“I wonder if perhaps she’s rather lonely.”
“Yes.” Jenny slowly put her head back against the chair but Emily pulled her to her feet.
“We must get on, and you’re going to the seaside this evening! Aren’t you excited?”
Jenny pulled a face.
“I would be, if it weren’t for the company of Lord Witney’s valet. What a limp rag Phillip is! He’s about as far from Will as . . .” She stopped herself, biting her lip. “Oh, Em, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” She sighed. “Will is gone, Jenny. I’ll never see him again.”
“You don’t know that for certain. Perhaps . . .”
“No, Jenny. It was over before it began. I was a silly child.”
“You’ve never been silly, Em, I’m the one. When I think that I might still be in that factory, stitching the same seam on glove after glove, and too proud to admit I was miserable! Only Ben knew the truth.”
“You told him how you felt? I thought you didn’t like him.”
“I suppose we got to know each other, going back and forth to town.” She fiddled with a piece of lace, remembering how easily she had spilled out her feelings and dreams to Ben. “But all those things are in the past, Em.” She struck a pose with her nose in the air. “After all, we are now couturiers, exclusive to the House of Farrington!”
Emily smiled, and her mood lightened. But then the door flew open and both girls stopped in their tracks as Thea swept in on a rustle of ivory silk.
“My special handkerchief, where is it? I must have it!”
“I beg your pardon, Lady Witney. Which handkerchief do you . . .?”
“You know, Emily, the commemorative one that Bert bought for me at the Fair.”
“I’ll find it, my lady. And may we say many congratulations to you and his Lordship.”
There was a muffled gasp from the doorway and Emily and Jenny looked up to see Alice.
“Oh, Miss Allbright – I mean your ladyship – you look ever so beautiful, like a fairy princess!”
Thea looked up absently.
“Thank you, dear.”
“Begging your pardon, my lady,” Alice continued breathlessly, “but Mr Runciman said that the staff are allowed to watch the festivities from the top of the stairs, if we stay out of sight and if it’s all right with you.”
“What? Yes, go on. But Emily must stay and help me.”
“Of course, my lady,” Emily said. “Go with Alice, Jenny.” She shooed them off, whispering that she hoped to join them soon.