A Belle among the Mormons {Based on a True Story}

"I, Mary Lee Bland Ewell, was left to bear the responsibility of providing for and rearing my family; too proud to ask assistance from my wealthy Father by whom I had been disinherited because I had married a "Mormon" and had affiliated with the "Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints", and disobeyed his mandate that I marry the man of his choice; son of his friend and neighbor whose plantation and estate adjoined ours."

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1. Chapter 1

It is said that God gives us trials as punishment for being imperfect but I don’t see how this can be true. For it is the trials given to us that change our imperfect nature over time into a more clear and perfect version of our true selves. For some, this is easily understood. But for others it takes years of trial and error to come to this understanding. For me, Mary Lee Bland, trials were unknown. But my near future had no intention of remaining that way. 
     The October afternoon of 1833 carried a familiar misty and fresh air. There was never much to do but read and gossip on days as these in Cumberland, Virginia. The sky was becoming a rich orange and pale pink as the sun sunk lower. The cotton fields on the opposite side of the home couldn’t be seen from Mary’s upstairs window. They stretched for miles with over a hundred slaves to tend to them. 
But Mary’s thoughts weren’t on the cotton fields or her father’s wealthy estate. She kept her eyes strained far down the winding dirt road as she stood in only her undergarments. There was to be a large party tonight in honor of her sixteenth birthday and nearly everyone in the county would attend. If only the sun would set faster. 
“Miss Mary step away from that window and get some clothes on! Suppose someone were to walk by and see you?” Mammy Chloe strode into the room with Mary’s gown draped over one arm and pulled the curtain closed with the other. 
“Nonsense, no one’s here yet.” Mary leaned against her bedpost and sighed while her slave finished tying up her corset. “Mammy Chloe, suppose I make a fool of myself.” 
“No Miss Mary, you’ll be doin’ just fine.” Mammy put the gown over Mary’s head and began to tie the back. She had worked for weeks to recreate a gown Mary had seen in The Court Magazine. 
“Blue watered silk faconne with tulle and satin folds falling all around,” Mary had read. “Oh Mammy Chloe I must have it for my first ball. The lace collar has such elegance. Look at how the round sleeves hang from her shoulders, her skin is beautiful.” Mary tapped her finger on the drawing and the older woman smiled. 
“Yes’m  she’s looking mighty lovely.” 
“Won’t you make it for me?” Mary asked.
Mammy Chloe crossed her arms above her large stomach and frowned. “Now Miss Mary, what about that pink dress?” 
“I would be mortified if I had to wear that old thing to the ball next month.” Mary threw herself onto the bed, crushing her brown curls. “Every other girl there will have something new. Why I know for a fact that Amanda Ruth will. She told me so just yesterday how excited she was for the party and how gorgeous her new gown is going to be. When she asked me what I’d be wearing I thought I might as well die.” 
“Now Amanda Ruth is no reason to go ‘round sulkin’ for new silks and laces. Your pink dress ’ll suit you just fine. Besides, Dale Randolph doesn’t mind pink dresses.”
Mary sat up with wide eyes. “Dale Randolph? What’s he got to do with anything? Last I saw him he was off to law school and hardly gave me a second glance.” 
“Ah now Miss Mary, don’t get smart.” Mammy Chloe shook a finger at her young white mistress. “Dale Randolph is a nice, worthy gentleman. Your father invited him to the party next month.” 
“He what?” 
“Yes’m. Dale Randolph is gonna be home for the holidays so your father invited him to your party.” 
“What did he say?” 
“Well, with his reply to your father he had a couple words left to you.” Mammy Chloe pulled a folded sheet of paper out of her apron and Mary sprang to her feet.
“Give it here! What did he say?” She snached the letter from Mammy Chloe’s hand and opened it. “It was cruel of you to keep this from me….” Mary was saying as she read the first few lines. “He’s coming.” Mary whispered as she read over the letter’s short contains. “Dearest Mary, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be home at the same time as your birthday. It has been a privilege to grow up with a free spirit like yourself, and though I’m sure you’re more of a lady now than when I left for law school, I would be delighted to attend your party and be entertained in your company once more. Your friend, Dale.” Mary folded the letter and tucked it under her pillow to read again when she was alone. “Mammy I must have a new dress.” 
“Calm down Miss Mary, I thought the two of you was just playmates.”
“We are. I mean, we were, but…” Mary blushed.
“Uh, huh.” Mammy Chloe picked up the magazine, “Alright I’ll make you that new dress but I don’t want and backtalkin’ for a month.” 
“I promise.” 

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