Telling Tales 210
What to Do
It was one thing to accept betrothal to Conomor under duress, but it was another altogether to face her wedding gown. The gown made her fate real and it stoked the scream in her belly to shiver and shake. She was accustomed to sewing and she knew what she needed. In something of a daze, she requested from the silent servant linen, ribbon, lace, gauze for a veil, and silk. Her words, at first halting, became more fluid as she considered her list. Each new item would be more difficult to procure than the last. Each one would take time and each delay would put off her wedding with the beastly lord of the palace. “Whalebone and soft leather for the corset. Silk thread. All in white, of course, and they must match. Lord Conomor would never want me to be in mismatched whites. The dress might as well be piebald!”
Her strategy was less successful than she imagined. The very next morning a wide bolt of linen lay on the table next to her bed, and shortly after lunch the servant arrived with gauze and lace. The silk and bone were next to appear, and the bone had already been crafted into the stays for the corset! Thread was next on the following morning, a day later the ribbon, and a day after that the leather. It was all meticulously, almost sparklingly white, each piece of material the same color as the next.
Her maid bowed her head and produced a piece of string with which she evidently intended to measure Belle for the fabric. For all that the young woman could not or did not speak (and Entendtout’s description echoed in Belle’s mind), she made her intentions known with quick gestures and the demonstrations of props – the string for measuring, a brush in the morning for Belle’s hair, a pulled curtain to reveal a drawn bath. She was a faster seamstress than Belle as well. With precise and fluid movement she noted Belle’s body – her waist, bust, and hips, her legs to her elbows and elbows to wrist, and waist to ankle. In nearly as little time as it took her to make her measurements, she sketched out quick lines in thin charcoal across the glowing white fabric. Not a stroke was out of place, no matter how loose her hand, and even though the pieces that she drew showed only the individual panels of the dress, Belle could already imagine its shape in her mind’s eye.
“No!” she said in sudden inspiration. She held up one conciliatory hand to the surprised young woman. “It is beautiful indeed, but this is not the style that I would like. It is to be my only wedding, and I would like it to be exactly as I imagined it when I was a girl.” She swept her hand over the fabric. “Let us not throw this away, but clearly we cannot make my dress from this fabric any longer. Another bolt of the linen, please.”
And just like that, she found her strategy. She would slow everything down. “It must be perfect, Lord Conomor,” she told him that night at dinner. “It was not her fault, but mine, for I neglected to tell her any style and she seemed so sure of what to do. I was unprepared for her speed. If you must punish someone, punish me.”
Conomor growled through his blue beard but he did not raise a hand to her. Instead, he tore into his meat as though it were still a living creature.