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4 A Wardrobe and Making a Delivery

    At the modiste's the next day, Kateri's entire small wardrobe was laid out for display. The modiste was made aware that the two ladies did not have unlimited funds. Kateri's heavy woolen pellise, matching bonnet and worsted gloves of dark green were approved. Her spencer of sky blue, was also approved, but the matching gloves were discarded, and the bonnet hadn't even made it past Amelia's inspection to come to London. Silk gloves and silk bonnet were ordered to replace them. Two more pairs of kid gloves in white were added to the tally, one long and one short pair. New silk stockings and matching garters were added as well.

    Mrs. Gregson discarded Lady Norwen's suggestion that the necklines of the two white worked muslins be lowered to fit the current town fashion. She pointed out that Miss Norwen was sufficiently well endowed that it did not need to be emphasized in every garment. Instead, a silk gown of deep rose and a satin gown of sky blue were ordered and designed with fashionable necklines, and minimal decoration. The modiste suggested that these could be worn beneath the muslins with their higher necklines, in place of or layered atop her usual chemise for warmth, to create pastel hues. And later in the season, when bolder colors were more acceptable, they could be worn as evening gowns with the addition of a new short corset, for her current one would show beneath the wider necklines currently popular.

    The wheat colored walking dress that had been criticised gently by Sir Blackwell, was to be left to have its collar lines modified and a touch of decoration added after a second walking dress of soft blue grey was finished. Mrs. Gregson suggested strongly an expensive, thin, loose woven, silvershot muslin with Grecian knots, as the final gown. She pointed out that it could also be layered over the two colored gowns to good effect. Kateri imagined that this kind of material was where rumors of transparent gowns were coming from.

    Kateri had declined having any of the fashionable morning gown designs made up, pointing out reasonably that the practical hemlines on her current gowns did nothing to prevent her from wearing them in the morning. And that since no one outside the household would normally see her in the morning, she might even wear the silk and satin gowns if needed.

    "What of a riding habit?" inquired Mrs. Gregson.

    "It was left behind, to be sent along with my horse, if uncle Andrew can arrange stabling," answered Kateri. "But I think, that it will suffice."

    --

    The afternoon that Lady Norwen had planned to make calls and deliver supper invitations, she found herself laying abed with an aching hip, under the fussy ministrations of her elderly maid. Miss Bobbins had returned home at last, and joined in on the plans for Kateri's introduction to London society with enthusiasm. She took great delight in putting up young miss Norwen's hair in the morning, and had great plans. Kateri's natural blonde ringlets lent themselves to a number of the grecian styles currently popular. She chided the pair for not adding bandeaus to their list of accessories, and sent a note off to the modiste herself.

    Lady Norwen fussed about the undelivered invitations. She worried that if the invitees were not notified in plenty of time, that they might not be able to accept. This early in the season there weren't many things going on, but it would rapidly become busier. Kateri asked if she mightn't see that they were delivered. Miss Bobbin's encouraged the plan, and Lady Norwen conceded when the gig showed up, for no one had thought to cancel it.

    The elderly Mr. Worthing was a little concerned when informed of the plan, and offered to go instead, but Kateri refused. And so, he drew up a list of careful addresses for the delivery, and spoke quietly with the elderly coachman before letting her set off.

    Kateri was excited to be out of the house and under the tolerant eye of the elderly coachman, who drove ever so much more sedately than the cab driver who had delivered her. She watched the London street scenes with great delight. But the smell! My god! Even in her grandmama's house, the pungent aromas of London could not be escaped. But out on the streets on a warm afternoon, it was nearly indescribable. Rather like an untended privy burning down near a mouldering stable. It had not taken Kateri more than a day in town to take up her grandmama's habit of soaking a napkin in fragrant oils to carry, though she hadn't yet descended to carrying smelling salts on her person.

    At the first four houses, Kateri simply carried the invitations up to the doors, and was each time met by an officious servant who took the invitation from her at the door.

    At the fifth house the butler, an intimidating older man with a long scar across his cheek, eyed her dubiously and inquired if she had a card? She presented him with one of the ivory wafers her grandmother had helped her prepare for going out to make calls. He glanced at it, and invited her in immediately. She followed him uncertainly into a pretty sitting room, where several people were seated and chatting idly until her entrance. "Miss Norwen," he announced. Then he withdrew, leaving her facing the strangers, one of whom she presumed to be the Lady Amberley named on the invitation she carried.

    Lady Amberley stood to greet her young guest. She recognized the girl from Lady Sefton's card party a few days before, though they hadn't been introduced. "Are you visiting alone without your grandmother?" she asked the girl curiously.

    Kateri, realizing that she must be doing something improper, blushed, and decided to throw herself on the mercy of her hosts. "I'm terribly sorry," she apologized, "grandmama was feeling unwell this afternoon, but worried that our invitations might not be delivered in time, and so, I didn't really intend to make an unaccompanied call, but just to deliver this," she extended the sealed invitation. "At the other houses," she added uncertainly, "they didn't invite me in, but just accepted the letters at the door?"

    "They probably took you for a servant!" exclaimed the tall young woman with sandy hair, who was seated in one of the pretty chairs.

    "Sam!" Lady Amberley scolded her daughter.

    "In that dress, it does seem likely," added a dark haired older woman from a couch.

    Lady Amberley noted her young guest's embarrassment and confusion and took her by the arm gently, and presented her to the assembled company. Her daughter Miss Samantha Amberley, the tall young woman who had spoken out, and her son the Honorable Mr. Robert Amberley, a couple of years younger than his sister. Her visitors, Mrs. Hartwell, the dark haired lady on the couch, and Lady Bethford, a plump, pink cheeked woman dressed in a froth of unfashionable pink ruffles.

    By the end of the introductions, Kateri had deduced the identity of her hostess, and was able to address her properly. The company made her welcome, offering her tea, and expounding upon her outfit in a frank but friendly way.

    "I've been told that the lines of this dress are a little out of fashion, but no one has indicated that it looked like a servant's before?" Kateri enquired ruefully.

    "That's just it," explained Miss Amberley. "It's just that bit outdated and touch severe, that make it look like something you might hand down to a servant in a rich household."

    Suggestions were made by the ladies for adding trim or other alterations, and when Kateri told them of the alterations proposed by the modiste, these were approved of. Though the youngest Amberley was inclined to roll his eyes.

    "Your butler was very clever and subtle in asking if I had a card to present then, to determine if I were a servant," Kateri said.

    "Jasper is a treasure indeed," nodded Lady Amberley happily, "don't be fooled by his piratical facade!" The Amberley family chuckled together over this verbal sally.

    Miss Norwen was quizzed about herself, and her other relations. Robbie, as the youngest Amberley persuaded her to call him with the support of his mother and sister, after a few uncomfortable Mr. Amberleys had been assayed, was shocked to learn that she was almost half a year his elder. Miss Amberley insisted that if Miss Norwen were going to call her little brother Robbie, Miss Norwen must address her as Sam. Miss Norwen insisted in return that her new friends must call her Kateri, to the amusement of the older ladies.

    Finally Kateri managed to take her leave, a little regretfully reminding her new friends that she had one more invitation to deliver, and that the gig was still waiting outside.
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