A Nest of Magpies by Sybil Marshall
published 1993 ch 49 set in the 1960s
I slipped up to my own private bathroom en suite with my bedroom. I put my dressing gown over my summer nightie, and looked at myself in the long mirror. That housecoat really was rather a gorgeous garment! It was a Jaeger creation of the finest black wool, embroidered all over with flowers of multi-coloured real silk. I had bought it in a mad, flush moment years ago, and it had cost so much that I felt guilty (as usual), so I had put it away and forgotten it, until it had come to light again by chance a week or two ago. But I adored it, because it made me feel expensive and exclusive, like itself…
‘That’s a wonderfully becoming garment you’re wearing,’ he said. ‘Come closer, so that I can see it properly.’
Clasping the bundle of clean sheets in my arms, I pirouetted in front of him to show off the full skirt, but he caught me and pulled me down beside him. I dropped the linen on the floor as I responded to his kiss.
observations: This follows on (hundreds of pages later) from the flirtatious carryon in this entry. Fran and William’s rather excruciating romance is about to be consummated, and those of us who are fed up and bored with their shilly-shallying and dithering and holy talk about morals and adultery – well, we’re glad (SPOILER) that it’s going to come to an end. Ms Marshall was writing 30 years after these events were set, but presumably was confident that the endless discussions of the new ways of permissiveness were convincing. Fran is surely a Mary Sue character for the author, so it is a pity she is shown as a snobbish Lady Bountiful (though she is very cross when one character describes her as such), when Sybil Marshall sounds quite nice herself.
Links up with: Miss Marple, of all unlikely people, visits a man in the middle of the night wearing her dressing gown. Sylvia Plath’s Esther takes a keen interest in people’s nightwear here. Jane Eyre bizarrely tells Mr Rochester to make himself a dressing-gown out of the rich fabrics she rejects for her wedding-dress.
The picture is Caprice in Purple and Gold by Whistler, and is in the Freer Gallery of Art, part of the Smithsonian. The image is available via the Google Art Project