Fantasy Fiction posted January 25, 2022 Chapters:  ...4 5 -6- 7... 

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A long day at the dress shop.

A chapter in the book The Maid of Bitmore Swamp


by Shirley McLain

Bethelda, the Bitmore Swamp Witch, and her daughter, Anya, have left the swamp and are now residing at the Candlewick Inn. Bethelda is acting as if she is Duchess Bethlynn DeCrecy, a widow from France
“Mother, get out of bed. We are going shopping today, remember. The sun had been up long, and Anya’s voice broadcasted her excitement.

“Leave me alone, Anya. I want to sleep longer. I don’t want to go shopping now,” Bethelda moaned.

“We have the dinner tonight with the Viscount, and we need clothing.

“A seamstress could not have two dresses by this evening. We will make do with the extra dresses in our valises. From what I remember, we pick out the material and patterns for what we want, and then they are made and sent to us. I’m getting up since you have kept me talking.”

“Let’s get dressed and go down for breakfast, and then we can go to Failsworth for our shopping,” Anya said.

Bethelda dreaded going to the larger town of Failsworth because of all the people. Plus, it was where the castle of the King and Queen of Valdoria, not to mention his sister Adele, is Queen of Overton, along with her husband King Anthony. They are frequently here in Valdoria."

Bethelda and Anya arrived downstairs at their private dining room. A burly-looking man with a slick head, wearing little round glasses on his nose, sat at the table having a cup of coffee. “Excuse me, Duchess. Let me vacate the premises for you. I know you want your meals in private.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Do I know you?” Bethelda asked.

“I beg your pardon, Madam. My name is Master Brian Seymore, and I am the proprietor of this fine establishment.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Bethelda said sweetly. This is my daughter, Anya. Please stay and join us in breaking our fast.” Anya curtsied as her mother spoke.

“My apologies, Duchess, but I broke my fast several hours ago, and now I must return to work. Thank you for the invitation. I will send the waiter in and enjoy your meal. Have a pleasant day Madam.”

“Thank you, Mr. Seymore. You have a lovely day yourself.”
After breakfast, the pair inquired at the front desk about a coach to take them to Failsworth for their shopping excursion. The desk clerk said the public coach left Candlewick in about an hour. The place to catch it was in front of the stables.

“That will be perfect, sir. Thank you for the information. I appreciate it,” Bethelda said.

The pair made the coach with plenty of time to spare and enjoyed their ride, talking and observing the scenery of wooded areas and rolling hills. They marveled at the large estates as they went past. The gardens displaying hedgerows and assorted colors of roses brightened up the expanse of green lawns. Both Bethelda and Anya were transfixed as they rode by the estates. In their minds, they were palatial.

Bethelda reminded Anya they were now ladies and had to behave as such. “How do ladies behave, Mother?”

“I’m not entirely sure. We just do what we see other prosperous women doing and go from there. I will find someone who may know of a teacher for us, and I also want to check if any estates are for sale in Candlewick. Look, Anya. There is a dressmaker’s shop. Let us start in there.”

“This is so exciting, Mother. I can hardly contain my joy,” Anya said gleefully.

The shop was large, with the walls on three sides full of bolts of materials in every color one could imagine. The fourth wall was where the front door opened onto the street, with large glass windows on each side. A Large table underneath the window on the left contained buttons and threads. The floor-to-ceiling window on the right displayed dresses showing the latest style and color.

In the center of the room sat another large table with chairs for the patrons. On one end of the table were stacked pattern books to pick out dress patterns.

Bethelda and Anya wandered around, looking at all the shop offered. A woman looking about Bethelda’s age came out of a back room and saw them.

“Pardon my delay, ladies. I did not realize anyone was in the store. My name is Mrs. Jenkins, and I am the owner and seamstress. How may I help you?”

Bethelda looked at the woman, not knowing what to say. She made a silent prayer to the Great Mother. Good morning, madam. "To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what we need. I had a personal shopper until recently, and I’ve not been shopping in many years. My name is Duchess DeCrecy, and this is my daughter Anya. We were robbed of our belongings while traveling two days ago, and we must replace everything.”

“Oh, my Your Grace, that is dreadful. I will be happy to assist you in every way possible.”

“I appreciate your offer; Mrs. Jenkins and I accept. We have limited space now for clothes, so I wish to start with three dresses and all the appropriate accouterments for my daughter and myself.”

“Yes, of course. May I suggest two-day dresses and an evening gown? Let us start by looking at patterns. Right now, we have a strong influence of Spanish and Asian styles in our clothing. I like the loose freedom from the Asian world adapted to our styles here at home,” Mrs. Jenkins remarked.

“Mother, this is wonderful. I’m all for the Asian-style dress. I want to be as loose and comfortable as possible.”

“I think that is what every woman wants, darling.” Bethelda and Mrs. Jenkins both laughed aloud at the remark.

The doorbell rattled loudly as the front door opened. “Mrs. Jenkins, I want, oh, please excuse me. I see you have other customers.” The woman began speaking before she found Mrs. Jenkins with Bethelda and Anya.

“Please come in, Bethany. I would like to introduce you to the Duchess and her daughter. Duchess DeCrecy and Anya, may I introduce you to Bethany Nightshade? She is a healer. Bethany, this is Duchess DeCrecy and her daughter.”

Bethany’s eyes pleaded with her sister not to give them away. “How do you do, Duchess and Anya, is it?”

“How do you do, Mrs. Nightshade? It is a pleasure to meet you,” Bethelda said. “So you are the local healer?”

“Actually, I’m not local. I am from a small town about five miles from here called Candlewick.”

“We know where Candlewick is. We’re staying at the Inn there,” Anya said.

“Wonderful. Just ask anyone, and they will know where I am located. Please feel free to drop in anytime, and I’ll be happy to fix a mixture for you. I am Miss Nightshade, but you may call me Beth, as all my friends do. In fact, why don’t you and your daughter drop by when you finish here, and I will get you taken care of before a headache strikes,” Bethany said?

“We will do that very thing. Thank you, and it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” Bethelda said.

Anya looked from one woman to the other, determining what was happening. She could see this was her mother’s twin. She knew instinctively not to say anything.

“Mrs. Jenkins, I will come back later when you’re not so busy. Since I have an appointment this afternoon,” Bethany said, it may be tomorrow. She left the shop without another word to Bethelda.

“All right, ladies, do you have the patterns you want? Now let’s pick out materials. I have cotton, wool, linen, silk, muslin, and chintz. For the day dresses, let me suggest one wool and the other a soft cotton from India. I would make the evening gown of silk. Let us look, ladies.”

When finished picking out materials and all the other supplies, arrangements were made for delivery to the Inn. Mrs. Jenkins determined she needed three weeks to complete the order.

All three ladies were exhausted when Bethelda and Anya left the dress shop. There was one more stop at the counselor's office about the property for sale around Candlewick.

It was a wasted effort because the office was closed. The timing was perfect. A coach headed towards Candlewick in 30 minutes. It would have to wait until next time.



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