The day of her marriage arrived, and Jeanne nervously paced back and forth behind the chapel. She was excited to marry Antoine but worried about what came after the ceremony. Her mother never talked about such things. She asked Jean’s wife, Therese, to send Marguerite to her as soon as she arrived.
Her friend had married a week earlier, and she would attend the wedding with her husband, Etienne Grandin. The man was a storekeeper in Sainte Anne-de-la-Perade, not far from Antoine’s farm. The two friends rejoiced that they remained close to each other.
“Hurry up, Marguerite. I need you,” Jeanne spoke out loud.
On cue, Marguerite rounded the corner and heard her friend’ s words.
When Jeanne spun round to face her friend, Marguerite stopped and gasped. In her mother’s dress, Jeanne looked stunning. Her friend glowed, and the soft color accentuated her exquisiteness. Her coiffure and ringlets framed her lovely face, and Jeanne wore the earrings that Marguerite loaned her friend, a gift from her grandmother.
“You look like an angel, and your mother’s dress is beautiful. This will be a treasure to hand down to your daughters.”
Still, Marguerite saw the look of distraught on Jeanne’s face. “What is it? Why are you troubled? If you have doubts, you do not have to marry him. You can live with me.”
“No, no. I’m not having second thoughts. Ahh. I don’t know what to do after the wedding,” the blushing bride confided.
Smiling, Marguerite grabbed her friend’s hand and pulled away from the church, so no one could overhear their conversation.
“Do not worry, my sister. He will be nervous too. And you will…like this part of marriage.” Now, it was time for Marguerite to blush after her confession.
Jeanne relaxed after talking to her friend, and the two walked to the church, laughing and holding hands.
At last, the couple stood in the little church in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Perade. While they shared their vows, Antoine could not take eyes away from his bride. Even the priest’s voice faded as he looked at her. All he could think about was taking her to their home; he wanted her all to himself. Still, he knew this was an important day for her, so he quietly endured the ceremony.
As the celebration began to slow, the couple decided to take leave. A crowd gathered and started shouting blessings to the newlyweds as they went outdoors and climbed into their wagon. Before heading home, Father Charles wanted to give the groom some parting advice. “Remember to put her needs before your own and serve her as Christ served the church. You have a rare gift, Antoine, even her name means ‘God is Gracious.’”
On the ride to their home, the nervous couple tried to make small talk, and the two finally started to laugh at their awkward behavior. “Slide over, ma belle mariee,” Antoine told his lovely bride. He wrapped one arm around her and took the reins in the other.
As the couple rode together, it seemed as if even the land celebrated and rejoiced with them. Autumn had arrived, and the countryside was ablaze in color. “This land is so beautiful,” Jeanne contentedly sighed.
“Not as beautiful as you.”
For the remainder of the ride, the newlyweds rode in silence, relishing in the closeness they felt for one another. In the distance, the cedars and pines blanketed the hillside. An eagle soared in the open sky following the Rivière du Canada, hoping to catch a meal. The fall afternoon brought a chill, and the bride snuggled closer to her husband.
When they rode onto their land, Jeanne took in the scene before her and wished her mother could see her home. Bursts of golden yellow, orange, and red covered the hillside behind their log house. Once their cabin came into view, smoke drifted from the chimney, and the comforting scent of burning pine filled the air.
“Aw, it looks like Jean and Therese have been busy, but I did not see them sneak away from the party,” Antoine told his bride.
Pulling up to the cabin, the man helped his bride from the wagon. Their friend and neighbor came into sight as he around the corner of the cabin, “I will take care of your beast and move the wagon. And tomorrow Therese and I will take care of the farming chores. Enjoy some peace and quiet while you can.”
The couple thanked Jean for his kind generosity before they stepped into their home as man and wife. Finally, alone in their house, Antoine embraced his bride and softly kissed her.
Stepping back, Antoine took Jeanne’s hand as they gazed around their home. Therese had also made her presence known; for earlier, she delivered a roasted chicken, a loaf of bread, a bowl of butter, and corn adorned the kitchen table, along with a pitcher of wine.
As their eyes locked, the bride shyly smiled.
“Are you hungry?” Antoine asked his wife.
“No, but I will have some wine,” the nervous bride laughed.
Antoine poured two glasses and handed one to Jeanne before he led her to their bedroom. At that moment, he had forgotten the area women, and her friend Marguerite added some feminine touches. He had even forgotten about his gift that he had made for her, a large armoire to hold her clothes and personal necessities.
“What is this?” she cried when she saw the presents in their room.
Turning around, she noticed the lovely armor in the corner for the first time. Gasping at this extravagant luxury for her wilderness home, she walked to the gift. She ran her hands over the beautifully detailed work of the white oak. The relief on the door included two intertwining hearts.
“Black Feather has been teaching me how to carve, and he helped work on this gift for you.”
As he watched his wife, her face glowed with love and pride, but her eyes filled with tears. At first, the man was concerned until his bride turned and ran into his embrace. “It’s lovely. Merci mon mari.”
“You have more to see, mon epouse. “ Some of the wives, with Marguerite in charge, wanted to welcome you, so they took over the arrangements for our bedroom. They told me it needed le toucher d’une femme, a woman’s touch, and I agreed.”
A quilt spread across their bed. Someone had lovingly stitched together this coverlet. Gently, Jeanne lifted a corner, running her fingers along the edge while noting the delicate stitching. The soft, muted colors added warmth to the room, and the thoughtfulness of this gift warmed her heart.
Jeanne’s eyes continued to wander around the room; a wreath of dried flowers adorned one wall. Here and there, precious homemade gifts from her new friends could be found around this comfortable space. A rocking chair graced one corner with a creamy white wool blanket enticingly draped over its front, and she knew she would love to sew and mend in this cozy corner. She blushed when she thought about rocking and nursing their future children. On a bedside table next to the candlestick from her mother, a small carving of a doe and her fawn caught her attention. Gasping at its beauty, she picked it up and marveled at the delicate work.
“A gift from Black Feather,” her husband explained.
“Our room is perfect,” she whispered.
“Well, I do have a question about this gift. Not sure about this one.” He picked up a shallow bowl filled with sand and seashells.
Smiling, Jeanne took the bowl from her husband, remembering the day she spent on the beach with a Marguerite. “It’s a touch of home.”
Taking the bowl, Antoine set it back on the nightstand. He looked into his wife’s face and kissed her, and then taking her by the hand, he slowly led her to the bed. “May I?” He whispered to his wife as he began to untie the laces and unbutton her dress.
Not able to speak, Jeanne could only nod as her husband continued to undress his bride. Once undressed, he carefully draped her wedding gown over the rocking chair. Antoine gently took his fingers and traced her cheekbones before finding the contours of her graceful neck and delicate collar bone. When he stopped, she gasped in protest until he returned with his affections, pleasuring her with soft kisses across her shoulders. When his attentions traveled lower, he teased her with his lips. Her body trembled to his response. Picking her up into his arms, he carried her to their bed, an altar to their vows.
That night, the couple shared their love while discovering the intimate details and needs of one another. Their first passionate night together lasted late into the night until they fell asleep in each other’s arms.