Excerpt from The Bridal Quilt
New York City, November 1889
“But Samuel, you can’t leave me alone tonight.” Ada stood within the warmth of his arms and fingered his diamond tie tack. “My
evenings are empty when we’re not together.”
Samuel took her busy hands captive. “I agree, my love. Your companionship is always my first choice.”
“My friends are well aware of our devotion to each other. So much so, that they insist I pull myself away for a Friday evening in their
dubious male-only company.”
Ada knew the young men in their set didn’t like how she’d plucked Samuel out of their circle. She imagined they were a bit uneasy to
witness the effects of true love, especially when they would rather concentrate on flirtation, frivolity, and fun. They were mere boys,
while her Samuel was a man.
The clock on the parlor’s mantel struck eight, causing Samuel to press his lips to hers before gathering his hat and cloak. “I’ll call on
you tomorrow at one. Would you like to go to the Met? We could dine afterward.”
That sounded delightful. But Ada didn’t want to let him off so easily. “Are you certain one is late enough after your night carousing
with the boys?”
He volleyed her teasing right back at her. “One fifteen then.” With a wink he left her.
The room was empty without him.
But before Ada could brood, she heard the tinkle of a bell coming from upstairs. Nana needed her.
Ada met her mother in the upper hallway, also on the way to answer the summons. “I’ll go, Mother.”
“But Samuel. . .”
“He left.” Mother looked taken aback, so Ada explained. “He had another engagement.” When her mother’s eyebrows rose, she
added, “We aren’t engaged yet, Mother. So Samuel is free to. . .to. . .”
“He’s been so attentive, Ada. You must see to it this match is made. The Alcott banking fortune is huge and—”
“I wouldn’t be marrying Samuel for his money. We love each other.”
“All the better. But you really must—”
Her grandmother’s bell saved her. “If you’ll excuse me.”
“Get him to propose, dear,” Mother said. “Samuel Alcott is an excellent catch.”
Ada was glad she was walking away so she could roll her eyes without fear of a reprimand. Yes, yes, she knew Samuel was an
excellent catch, and yes, she would like nothing better than for him to propose. But her mother’s words cheapened the feelings
they had for each other. For this wasn’t some arranged match, it was true love. Samuel could have been a peddler on the street
and she wouldn’t love him less. They were soul mates.
She cherished any time they spent together, whether it was going to the opera, enjoying dinner at the Vanderbilt’s, or sitting before
the fire reading to each other. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. . .
Ada couldn’t count the ways she loved Samuel. Each smile, each word, each wink, each touch left her feeling—knowing—that their
love was a gift from God.
A proposal would come soon. Samuel had hinted at a special surprise he had planned for her at Christmas, which was just a month
away. Marriage was inevitable, and a lifetime together was a dream that would come true.
Ada knocked softly on the door to her grandmother’s room then entered. The gas sconces were unlit, the only light coming from an
oil lamp on the bedside table. Ada sought Nana’s face. She could always tell how she was feeling by her expression. This evening
there was an absence of discomfort, but her brow was furrowed. “What’s wrong?” Ada asked, taking her hand. “You seem worried.”
“I heard the front door open then close in only thirty minutes’ time. Why did Samuel leave you so soon?”
Ada smiled. Although loss of hearing was a normal result of age, Nana’s hearing was finely tuned. Even though she often felt poorly,
she knew the comings and goings in the Wallace household almost better than those who experienced them firsthand.
“Samuel’s friends are jealous of the time he spends with me and insist he spend time with them tonight.” Ada perched on the chair
beside the bed, her bustle preventing her from sitting back.
“Can you blame them?” Nana said. “They know they’re losing one of their own to the matrimonial yoke.”
“That’s a horrible term, Nana.”
She shrugged. “To men it fits. To most men, anyway. They mourn the loss of their freedom, even as they seek marriage for its social
advantages, and the private. . .benefits”
Ada felt herself blush. Her mother would never even elude to the intimate side of marriage, so she was glad for Nan’s more direct
manner. “Samuel’s not like that.”
“Oh, I guarantee you, he is—and be glad for it. For without those advantages and benefits—especially the private ones—marriage is
as shallow as a pond in a dry spell.”
Ada was glad her mother wasn’t in the room to cringe at Nana’s down-home sayings. Nana had married well and had risen from her
meager station to become a matriarch within New York society’s “Four Hundred”—the elite of the elite. Mother seemed to have
forgotten that fact, and that most of their friends—including the Vanderbilts and the Astors—had also started low and ended high
after they came to America. Nana said that having dirt on your shoes didn’t matter if you were on the right path.
Her proverbs always made Ada smile. Mother, on the other hand, wished there’d been an additional generation between their current
wealth and Nana’s humble beginnings.
Nana pointed to Ada’s sewing basket. “Go gather your quilt-work, and let’s have a good talk..." (continued)
Copyright 2012 Nancy Moser