by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Providence, Rhode Island, The August Family home, July 3, 1874...
“Penny? Can you come help me?“ Aggie cried from the top of the stairs.
“Oh, do be a dear and get Catherine to help? I’ve got my hands full with wool yarn since you know Dana can’t get that sweater done without my assistance. I’ll be along shortly, if that’s alright with you.”
“Oh, very well, my dear sister. I merely wanted some company whilst I try on some new frocks that Aunt Margaret sent along with Mother from Boston.” The voice was deep and throaty; Aggie was getting over a very bad cold.
“Why didn’t you say so?” Penny shouted back, and a moment later she and Catherine were standing in Aggie’s doorway, staring gladly at the nice dress being held up for review by the eldest of the August girls.
“Will you be wearing any of these to the Independence Ball, dearest of dears?” Catherine had waltzed over to the bed and had draped a green satin gown over herself in pose, while simultaneously eying the blue silk gown still draped across the bed.
“Oh…I don’t know. I only wish I could wear them all, like an actress on stage with so many changes of dress?? I rather do like the green gown myself, but I suppose I could be persuaded to entrust it to someone?” She began to giggle, and the act was contagious as all three of the August sisters began to laugh. In a short while Catherine, Aggie, and Penny were all vying for time in front of the full mirror by the foot of the bed. Dana, however, sat almost forlornly in the rocker in the corner.
“Oh, don’t be such a fussbudget, Dana! You know that Martin Vanderhoof will be at the dance” Aggie teased. The child looked downcast and even a bit left out, for that is what the youngest of the August children was.
“Mother may yet agree to an appearance by the runt of the litter, don’t you think, Aggie?” Catherine teased as she took the silk opera glove and slapped Dana’s arm.
“Oh, don’t be so cruel, Catherine? Can’t you see how much Dana wants to join?” Penny laughed, but caught herself when Dana began to tear up.
“Look! We’ve made the runt cry!” Aggie said. Her voice was playful but still evoked a sad look; her words being accompanied by a squeeze of Dana’s hand.
"Please stop, Ag...it's too much...please? I want to join you so much!" Dana looked through sad eyes and spoke in a near whisper.
"Pretty please don't make fun?"
“I’m sorry, dear little one, and I am so sorry, but we can’t include you tomorrow, either. You know that wouldn’t do, and Mother would be just so worried for the rest of the summer. I’m afraid you’ll just have to be the odd one out.” Aggie shook her head in sympathy.
"But tomorrow of all days!" Penny cried. "It just isn't fair!" Dana's sisters all nodded, but there was nothing to be done. That is until Catherine began to wave her hands vigorously; the words she wanted to say stuck to her teeth like so much taffy after a day at the beach.
“I think I know what she’s onto!” Penny half-whispered even as she put her finger to her lips to mark the secret she was about to share. In a few moments, the door to the bedroom was closed and the siblings set about in a flurry of transformation as all four children from eldest to youngest began to dress as if the dance was to be held that evening. And in minutes all four of them were decked out in the loveliest of finery this side of the Atlantic.
“Oh I do think Mother will be pleased, even if it causes her to fret!” Penny said. She looked over at Aggie, who was dressed in a Baby Blue gown with six contrasting white satin streamers down the length of the skirt. She added to the look with dark blue wrist length gloves. Her outfit was a near match to the green dress that Catherine had admired and was wearing with a great deal of glee. Penny wore a modest cream colored gown, which matched her soft and reserved personality.
But all eyes then turned to the youngest August child once again. She wore a pristine white gown that might have gained her attention as a bride; complete with pearl-studded elbow-length satin gloves, the bridal visage was belied only just so by a very bright but thin blue sash. Alice blue, by the looks of it, and very pretty.
"Since Dana mustn't attend the Ball, than I suppose the Ball will have to attend to Dana," Penny giggled.
“This is the most beautiful of all the August children. I am sure mother will indeed be pleased!" Catherine said.
"I gather even father might agree if he were still alive?” Aggie replied in a sarcastic tone. If ‘father’ were alive he most certainly would not agree, and would likely have protested the arrangement with the back of his hand. But life can be kind and fair and just, and Dana August, Senior would never get the chance to hurt his youngest child any more, having lost his life in a bar fight in Hartford the previous October. Dana sighed at Aggie's remark.
"Oh what is to be done for dear Dana?" Catherine lamented.
All three of Dana’s sisters smiled through loving but tearful eyes, wondering why the goddess would be so cruel as to give such deep blue sensitive eyes and dark luscious lips to the youngest of the four. A tender and almost angelic personality who was destined to be lost amidst propriety and convention. But then they realized that they had the means to ensure that the youngest would somehow find happiness.
Dana Phillip August, Jr. passed away the following year on his thirteenth birthday, July 4th, 1875; mourned by many and buried next to his father. His mother and his sisters, loving as they had been, did not fall into grief and stop living, but celebrated life as they always had, welcoming with wonder every moment of every day, and welcoming each challenge and each blessing with the same tenacity and resolve and sagacity as ever. And they also welcomed their long-lost cousin Elizabeth Louise March from Boston, Massachusetts. She became in time the darling of the August girls, and it was as if she had always been the apple of her family's eye.
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