Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
TITLE: Elizabeth's First Reading of a Genteel Lady's Guide
By Betty Castleberry
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The older woman nodded. “Read this, love. Although your father and I have raised you to be a proper young lady, this book will explain the finer points of etiquette. Please ask me if you have questions.”
She reached up and released her daughter’s long braid. “You’ll need to stop wearing your hair like this. No suitor would find it attractive. A nice upsweep would be far more proper.”
“ I’ll leave you alone while you read.”
Elizabeth sat in the wing back chair near her bedroom window and opened the book. At fourteen, she knew it was time to behave like a lady, but it wasn’t really what she wanted.
She watched through the window as her older brother William, and his friend Lee, tossed a ball back and forth. She longed to join them, but her mother would frown on such behavior at her age. Instead, she did as her mother requested and began reading.
<I> A lady’s skirt should be long enough to hide her feet. Anything shorter, and especially anything exposing the ankle, is considered vulgar. </I>
Elizabeth sighed. Long skirts were terribly hot and uncomfortable, but she supposed she would have to endure them. More than once, when her mother was not aware, she had snuck out to play ball with William and Lee. She had hiked her skirt up past her ankles so she could run. If she was to be a dutiful daughter and a respectable lady, that would have to stop.
<I> Despite how well a young lady may personally know a gentleman, it is never proper to address him by his first name in public. </I>
She giggled and watched as Lee chased the ball past the magnolia tree in the front yard. She had known him since he was seven and she was four. Perhaps she would call him Mr. Hooper only if there were others around to hear.
<I> Speak in a clear, pleasing tone. A harsh voice and loud laughter is the mark of those who are socially inept. </I>
Her mind wandered to the summer before when she had sat in the tree house with William and Lee. They told her stories that made her guffaw. Her mother would not have approved.
<I> A lady’s gait should be smooth and gliding, with small steps. Long strides are considered manly and uncomely. </I>
Elizabeth frowned. That would mean the end of chasing William and Lee up and down the stairs.
After reading a few more pages, Elizabeth decided being a genteel lady didn’t sound like much fun. Putting on such a show would be a chore, but her mother expected her to behave like a well-bred young lady.
Studying her reflection in the mirror, she combed out her braid and practiced sweeping her auburn hair up high on her head. She thought it looked silly, but she was not prepared to disobey her mother. When she had it just right, she fastened it with the tortoise shell comb her mother had given her.
The beaded parasol, also a gift from her mother, added to the grown-up picture she wanted to present. She stepped outside where William and Lee were still playing pitch and catch. She cleared her throat, getting Lee’s attention. He stopped his pitch in mid-throw and stared at her as if seeing her for the first time.
“Hello.” He touched his hand to the brim of his hat.
He tossed the ball on the ground and approached her. “Would you care to go for a stroll?”
The child in Elizabeth took over momentarily and she almost said no. It would be much more fun to play ball with him and William. It was at that moment her mother decided to bring her tea out to the porch. Not wanting to disappoint her, Elizabeth kept up the pretense and answered, “I’d be delighted, Mr. Hooper.”
He deferred to her mother. “Is it all right then, Mrs. Long?”
Her mother smiled. “A short walk will be fine.”
Lee entertained Elizabeth with amusing stories as they walked. She was very careful to modulate her laughter, although a horse laugh threatened to erupt at any moment. She was unconvinced she was going to like being a proper young lady, but the sacrifice would have to be made. After all, a good daughter did not disappoint her mother.
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