The amulet . . .
Rebecca’s next chapter:
“Annabelle, my dear, how charming to see you again.” Sarina sank gracefully into a beautifully polished bergère covered in straw colored satin. Following her into the room, a footman deposited her package on a nearby table.
Bella blushed, slightly awed to be entertaining such a distinguished guest. A Sponsor of the Masked Ball! “Contessa, you honour me with your kind visit.”
“Am I so old, then? Please, I insist you call me Sarina . And may I call you Bella? I have heard Vittoria do so, and it is a charming name.” Sarina smiled, teasingly.
Bella nodded her assent. “Thank you, S-Sarina. May I offer you tea?”
“Thank you dear. Perhaps you would like to look at the silk I have brought. I do think it will be splendid on you. I hope you like it.” So saying, she walked over to the package and unwrapped it. Holding up the glowing lengths of material, she asked, “What do you think? Will it do for you?” A look at Bella’s delighted face gave her the answer she’d hoped for.
“I had planned to wear this little pearl tiara and necklet with it, but they do not go well with my new gown. Would you like to borrow them for the ball?”
Bella received the pretty baubles that were placed into her hands and sighed with pleasure. “Oh, how lovely! I will look like a fairy princess in such a beautiful ensemble. How can I thank you!”
“Nonsense, my dear. It will be a pleasure to see them so charmingly worn.” She sighed. “If only I could find the right necklace to wear with my gown. I have a beautiful parure from my grandmother. Gold set with opals. It is what inspired my costume. Unfortunately, if the set ever had a neckpiece, it is long gone. And the décolletage of my gown really does require a necklace. I’m beginning to fear I will have to choose some other jewels. A pity, because nothing will become my gown quite so well.” She shook her head. “Oh my, I had not meant to tell you my poor little troubles!”
Bella pondered for a moment and then, evidently reaching a decision, got to her feet. “Con – Sarina, strange as this may sound, I might possess what you are looking for. Will you excuse me? I need to fetch something.” She hurried out of the room.
Sarina sat back in the chair, a small smile on her face. It would appear that her plan was working!
How exciting it would be to present Hugh with the amulet! And she was growing very fond of Bella, so the thought that she would be protecting her from harm made Sarina even more certain that she was following the right course.
Bella returned, holding a small velvet box. Dragging a chair close to Sarina’s, she opened the box with trembling hands. In a low voice, she explained, “I have kept this hidden since I discovered it among Grandmama’s trunks in the attic. I do not know why, but I am strangely drawn to it. Mama told me I might have anything from those trunks – except the extremely risqué dress I found…” her slight pout betrayed how very young she was. “Perhaps it would match your gown.” She reached into the box and placed the pendant (the amulet!) into Sarina’s gloved palm.
Set into an intricately worked gold frame, the beautifully carved opal glowed with delicate, swirling fire. The colors were predominantly pale yellows, soft pinks, and delicate greens and they perfectly set off the carving of a young woman and a swan. (An elusive memory of an old Veniche story about a swan maiden floated through Sarina’s mind…)
“How lovely!” she exclaimed, with genuine delight. “And the colors are absolutely perfect for my gown! My dear Bella, are you certain you wish to lend such a treasure?”
Bella flushed with pleasure. “I am so happy to know I can do something for you after all you have done for me. Yes, please. I would love for you to wear it.”
Sarina carefully place the pendant back in its box and slipped it into her reticule. Standing, she embraced Bella and said, “I am truly grateful, my dear. It is a special bond between us.” She moved to the door, “I must go – I have already outstayed my time. Please let me know how you go on with the dressmaking. I shall look forward to seeing the finished result at the ball.” Flushed with excitement, Sarina took her leave.