She rose up, and walked, with a tear-stained face toward the cabinet. She lent against it, closing her eyes and letting out long, quavering breaths. Then she ceased to lean, and stood, trembling, while she pulled out a drawer of the cabinet. She reached in, and drew it out, springs of thyme and other herbs falling away as she did so. It was a dress – long and silken, of colours that had clearly once been bright and shimmering – changing in the different lights from green to turquoise to blue – but now it was very faded. She smoothed the folds of silk and felt the gown, reverently, against her cheek. Then she took off her white nightgown, and, as though indulging in a great pleasure, slipped into the faded gown. It was of a soft silk balmy on the skin, and it fitted her perfectly – or almost perfectly – it was perhaps a shade small. The sleeves made her slender arms and waist seem slenderer still, and it hung down in graceful waves from the latter.
She took the band off her soft dark hair so it fell about her, and stepped out into the light of the early morning. The air was cool and dewy, and balmy as the silk of the gown, and her misery was soothed a little by its calmness.
The dew was still upon the shrubs – and she shook some drops onto her hand – dipped a finger in it and spread it, sparingly, upon her face as though it was some rich perfume. She thought of the countless mornings when, as a child, she had risen at about this time or earlier, and come into the garden to bathe her face in the dew and gain beauty for the coming year. She considered how little beauty would do for her now – and thought her child-self foolish in wanting to attain it. Beauty was a poisonous thing – she knew that now. Again she sighed – and little stronger than she had done earlier. Perhaps she would not do what she had come out to do – or not yet.
This entry was inspired by the Tennyson poem, Enid – especially the lines;
‘Then she bethought her of a faded silk,
A faded mantle and a faded veil,
And moving toward cedarn cabinet,
Wherein she kept them folded reverently,
With springs of Summer laid between the folds,
She took them, and array’d herself therein,
Remembering when first he came on her,
Dress in that dress, and how he loved her in it … ‘
– and also a detail of a picture in my copy of the book.