She sat on a silken chair, and gazed out into the wide expanse of frozen landscape and picturesque frost that had drawn itself onto the window, absentmindedly rocking back and forth to the gentle music her sister played. Slowly her head began to droop and she leaned back into the soft upholstery of the chair. Her sleep must have been heavy for she didn’t notice the abrupt halt of the music, nor did she stir at the sound of heavy footfalls rapidly approaching, but slumber vanished as a large cold hand grasped her shoulder and an even colder voice hissed “Come with me.”
It wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t a question, she looked up, terrified, unsure of what to expect. The figure standing before her was tall, taller than many men she’d met, he was clothed entirely in dark grey, (a misty foggy color). He wore a heavy cloak and a large hood that nearly hid his face, only two eyes, encircled by a dark mask, were visible. “Who are you?” she croaked; her body so rigid that speech was difficult.
“Come,” was all he said as he grabbed her arm and forcefully pulled her from her chair. Her thoughts were so confused and fear had seized every inch of her body that she no longer made sense,
“That isn’t very gentlemanly to pull a lady from her chair.”
The figure said nothing but continued to lead her out of the room. Instead of walking into the adjoining parlor she found herself somewhere completely different.
It was as if she was outside, but in no countryside that was familiar to her, the air seemed different and the sky was an orangey red as if the sun was setting, moreover there was no chill in the air at all. They hadn’t walked long before she noticed they were going by what seemed to be large buildings, all of them beautiful mansions. Then suddenly her kidnapper stopped at the front gate to a beautiful manor. Giant white pillars held up the front and beautiful purple sashes could be seen in the windows.
As she gazed at her peculiar but lovely surroundings, she almost forgot that she was terrified and began almost to relax. Then as if from nowhere another figure appeared, he seemed rather tall as well but was clad in tan instead of grey and seemed much more normal. He wore tan shoes with white stockings, tan breeches covered his legs, on his torso her sported a cream vest over a light brown shirt, and a tan cap covered his head. By all dress and looks he appeared to be some sort of shop owner.
“Ah, and here is the young lady I was informed of,” he was speaking to the man in grey
“Thank you, your assistance shall not be required for a spell.” After giving him a quick bow, He turned toward Alice and said, “Come along then, follow me” He talked in a clear energetic voice and had a sort of cheerfulness about him that heightened after the dark figure’s departure. ‘No wonder’ she thought ‘That dark kidnapper has such a awful cold about him.’ The shopkeeper took her by the arm and led her toward the mansion door. To her surprise she wasn’t at all scared or even nervous, but rather felt perfectly safe in the company of this stranger.
It was such a lovely place, just stepping though the door and seeing for the first time the inside was enough to take her breath away. Yet her guide did not allow her much time to look commenting only “It is lovely” Before leading her on.
As they climbed the staircase, she thought it was good she had been wearing one of her nicer dresses, but wished that she had worn the dark pink one with all the pretty red trim. But instead she had been ill prepared, not that someone ever could be prepared for such things, but as always, she was and was wearing only her pastel purple dress with the long-billowed arms and white undersleeves. Was her corset pulled tight enough she wondered, and ‘oh I hope I didn’t track in any dirt on this lovely cream carpet.’ Afterall such a fine mansion must be in possession of a rich aristocrat.
Alice’s thoughts were put to a halt when they came to the top of the staircase and her guide brought her down the hall, now her moment of reprieve ended, and fear began to take over, still her companion seemed to have a naturel trust about him that, against her best efforts, seemed to put her at ease. He led her down a long corridor then stopped and turning abruptly led her into a large room, there were doors everywhere and each had a sign above it. For some reason she could not quite make out what they said. Then he brought her near one and as they entered, she was able to read the sign it said Alice.
This seemed odd to her, but everything about this day was peculiar so she followed him with some curiosity. As they entered the room, she first off noticed all the dresses, the room was full of them and directly in front of her a cluster of them stood with a sign that read Friendships. They were such pretty dresses, all different colors. Though, she had to say, she wasn’t very found of the one with those large red checks on it. The guide pointed a sign above a delicate blue dress and she read Maribelle, why that was the name of her dear friend. Soon she realized that there were signs on each of the dresses and each was familiar and dear to her heart. She read with delight the names of all her friends there was Nelly, and Priscilla, and Barbara, and all the rest of them even dear old Mrs. Billard. She smiled and couldn’t help blushing a little when she read above half-made dress the name William. So intent was she on reading that she nearly forgot to ask her guide what they all meant.
“What do they mean.” He repeated in a quiet thoughtful tone. Each dress signifies how well your relationship is with each person. She looked quizzical and he pointed and said “For instance do you see that fine golden dress over there?” Alice nodded “That goes to show that you have a fine relationship with Mrs. Billard one that has taken time and diligence to create. While that only partially made dress with the name William above it shows, that, well, the friendship is only just beginning.” She looked on now eagerly seeing the condition and value of each gown, before her host gently led her to the next cluster.
This group had the sign Family above it and it was with some reluctance that she examined the dresses. The one with her younger sister’s name above it had a nasty tear in the skirt and a small stain of the blouse. Bringing fresh to mind the argument that had left them both so angry. The one that read Mama was a beautiful navy blue with a delicate rose brooch around the caller. Yet, her fathers, had a poorly mended rip along the shoulder and part of the hem had come undone. With each discovery she felt like her eyes had been opened whether she wanted it or not. But, soon her guide told her it was time to go on.
He brought her from group to group with names like Relatives, Enemies, Neighbors, Strangers and so on. But it was to a must beautiful dress that he brought her next indeed so beautiful it was that she didn’t bother to read its label. It was a rich ruby red with intricate lace and an off the shoulder fit, the waist met the skirt at a beautiful gather and reached to the floor. It was silk, real silk, something she had never bought. It had accessory’s and all the appropriate underpinnings, there was a soft chemise and layers of almost stiff opaque petticoats that fitted over a beautiful hoop skirt. The shoes were golden with delicate crimson bows. The hat was decorated in red roses and had a black veil that partially covered the face.
Her ecstasy was halted when she heard the gentle rapping of her guides cain against the sign. Alice only partially took her eyes off the royal dress to glance at the title and then suddenly she stopped. Alice was all it read and in that five-letter word rested such a sting that Alice almost swooned. Surely, she was mistaken, and looked again and again willing the words to change. Not even her closest friendships with Maribelle and Nelly produced a dress that beautiful or even half that lovely. That dress that bore the name Alice was the only one with a ruby necklace and other special gems. In her shock and indignation, she turned to her host and implored “Surly this dress does no signify all the time a bestow to myself? Please I beg you make it not so.” Her hosts smile was gone and he only nodded his head to confirm her fears.
While she stood there trying to reconcile such an account, she felt herself being pulled away to the last corner where stood another single dress, oh but how different this one was. It was brown and plain more of a work dress then anything else, it was stained and torn in many places and around the collar rested some lace yellowed grown grimy from time. No hat, or shoes, or gems, only a single rusted chain that rested on the dirty brown bodice. She recoiled from the old dress; it wasn’t even fit for a maid. This must be some enemy she thought and looked toward the sign, ashamed at her unforgiveness, already calculating a name it might read. Yet had it said Maribelle or even William, Alice would have been less surprised then she was, one her eyes lit open the word God her stomach lurched and she looked quickly to her guide, he only nodded his head with a solemnity that put her to shame.
The feeling of guilt that had enveloped her at seeing her selfishness only magnified as it mixed with horror, regret, and surprise. Surely this was some kind of lie, but although her pride came to defend her it was no match for the other feelings growing stronger every moment. Her guide looked at her and spoke, his voice pained “The yellowed lace around the collar was once white, that time you decided to get to know Him better, He was so pleased. That chain was once sparkling silver till you gave up trying. Truly,” he said, his face a forlorn, tired expression so different then before “The only thing keeping the seams together is your daily duty.”
She grasped at an excuse, “I do read my Bible I do!”
“Yes, that is the ‘daily duty’ for, is their any love in reading it? Or is it just something you do before picking up another book to read.” She turned away, tears streaming down her face, a thousand arguments forming and dissolving just as rapidly in her mind.
The room suddenly darkened and a feeling of cold settled over it, as often settles over a town when the thick evening fog settles. It was the figure clad in grey, and he spoke “The hour is over, she must come with me.” Alice looked up, and all of a sudden, she felt something familiar in that dark figure. It was him who stood at the bedside when her grandmother died, and him who attended the day of little Ethan’s passing. It was the death angel.
“No” she pleaded “Please I am not ready to die, I beg you please give me another chance, now I know, I will change. You can’t show me this then take me away. How can I stand before my maker with a wardrobe like this? I know he shall pardon me, but how shameful how wrong to bring this to the throne.” While her tears still fell down her face, she looked up to see her guide as something quite different.
He two was familiar but in a different way, he was there at her nephew’s and Niece’s births. He was there in the spring time, he was an angel of life. His garment had changed to a long cream robe and wings rested upon his broad shoulders. “The Lord Whom I serve has granted your request,” then turning to the death angel he said “You have down your job well, but your service is no longer required. he bowed and left. Then turning to Alice, the angel gently took her hand and helped her off the ground to which she had collapsed. “Remember he said you are forgiven and have been given the privilege of seeing your heart”
Alice felt an odd feeling as if they were floating then suddenly, she was on the ground looking into the parlor. “I will” was all she said, He pointed her two her house. Then Alice lifting up her skirts petticoats and all and she ran into her house and called out “Dear sister I’m back.”
Her sister looked up from the piano, “What do you mean your back?” Alice stuttered and looked around her feeling the familiar cushion of the chair, Then quickly said “I mean I woke up, and well I would like to say I’m sorry, really……….”
It had been so good to talk with her sister and now as she sat down in her bed she gently set her novel to the side and picked up her Bible, silly how she pictured herself washing a dress and mending it as she hungrily read the words of the Lord, But after all her father had always called her a silly girl.