Once again, we started back towards Ceasebury atop Hermes. We galloped fast through the fields, but this time I felt a lesser sense of urgency. As we rode, I become more and more aware of the many, many packed plantations, squeezed into the land. They were rolling green fields full of enslaved people pulling carts and harvesting crops who moved dimly and already crumbling through the humid Virginian summer air. I wondered if they knew about the revolution, I wondered if they even cared about the bloodshed which was occurring even now, sometimes even within Virginia itself. Seeing all of this reminded me that I still had not decided where my loyalties lie- British or ‘American’?
Neither of them had said they would abolish slavery. But, then again, almost nowhere had abolished slavery. How do you maintain an economy (particularly one such as ours) without slave labour? And if we got rid of slavery and learnt to live without it here in the South, our way of life would be lost. This land where men and girls in beautiful summer cotton shirts and dresses married and came and went from the balls and the dinners like moths to flames, hovering wistfully as if they had caught sight of some vague light. Our life, this great endless summer whose light maintained our colony would end. But we would have to agree to it. But this glorias world that is as we know it would be gone forever.
“Come one.” Valentine said to Hermes. “We have a wedding to plan.” He smiled, turning behind him slightly to catch my eye. I smiled back. I had completely forgotten about the wedding.
When Hermes eventually halted at Ceasebury, it was to see my mother standing outside the door. She had looked alarmed, until she had seen I was accompanied by Valentine, who dismounted Hermes with a slight flourish which appeared almost self-congratulatory (after all, we had just managed to secure Gabriella’s safety). My mother’s face melted when she saw him, almost as if she had forgotten Gabriella’s disappearance and had turned her mind completely to the wedding – and the new found social status which it would provide her with. My mother was going to be the mother of Marchioness Ravenswood. Valentine helped me off Hermes after him and no sooner had I planted both feet on the ground had my mother come bounding up to be like a dog that had just seen a ball.
“Theodosia!” she called “I have set the wedding for the 13th of July at the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg.” She beamed. “We will have to get you fitted for a dress right away.” I turned to Valentine to see his smiling. I detected a vague sense of total joy beneath his secret smile, almost as if he were truly excited to become my husband. It was strange to think of a man feeling like that about a woman in these parts. He looked at me the way every woman wanted to be looked at; with a gaze of virtue that promised there was no one in the whole of the colonies he would rather wed.
“Good.” He said with an almost defiant glory. “I will prepare myself and prepare my estate to have a lady living upon it.” I turned to him and smiled, knowing I was looking at the man I would marry. She brought us into the drawing room and we began to discuss all of the thins one must consider for the wedding of the season. Flowers, dresses, bridesmaids (which we had to forget, seeing as the only female I had any dealings with was Gabriella and she was supposed to be missing and my mother wouldn’t allow me to choose Cheyenne), a list of guests, invitations and a best man (which we decided would have to be Dorian because, like me, Valentine didn’t really know anyone else). My mother had a tailor come to our manor and sketch out my wedding gown, a vast white lace hoop dress with diamonds on the bodice. My veil was to trail all down the aisle of Bruton Parish Church and I would have no one to carry it, which filled me with a kind of joy, knowing I would be the only one walking down the aisle. And then we decided that my father wouldn’t be walking me down the aisle as he wouldn’t fit. Cheyenne hurried into the drawing room with a newspaper clasped in her hand.
“Ma’am, here is the newspaper you asked for.” She said, placing it down on the table.
“Thank you, Cheyenne.” My mother said with a veneer of decorum, only to grab the paper up after Cheyenne had departed the room. “Its here!” she shouted in joy, flinging the paper across the table. And there it was. An announcement of the engagement and subsequent wedding date. It was truly happening. Under the table, I took Valentine’s hand in mine and clutched it tightly against my leg. It felt good to have him close.
It really didn’t take long to plan the whole event. All of the decisions had been made in a matter of hours (which seemed to befit a wedding which was to occur in a matter of days) and once my mother had written things down, taking notes here and there questioned things when she thought it necessary and beamed at the Marquess over and over again, she shouted the choices around the manor and hurried servants here and there and sent Cheyenne to Williamsburg to give the relevant details to the milliners, I felt a real sense of relief. For the first time since Gabriella had moved into the chamber across the hall from mine five years ago, things were beginning to seem as well they should be. But I knew it couldn’t last, the revolution was here and soon Red Coats would be sent to the next battlefield.