VW: Second Life
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2020-04-24
The last of the servants to leave was Anna, having packed up all of her Lady's belongings in numerous trunks. She had no earthly idea of what would become of the estate but heard tell of a distant relation who would be taking the reins; they had already sent word that the entirety of the house staff should be dismissed. They would be bringing their own.
Her heels echoed in the grand marble foyer and she glanced backward, seeing a flash -- perhaps the ghost of her Ladyship, perhaps just her own imagination.
It seemed impossible that she was gone, but despite the best efforts of physicians, and Anna's own contributions, the fever had won in the end.
Anna would go to the estate's chapel and say a prayer before leaving, both for Lady Olivia and for herself and all of the remaining tenants. She could not see past this, but was comforted in the knowledge that the Lord would provide.
[[OOC: I've had a grand old time in 18c. but it's time to move on. Thanks for the memories. Feel free to delete this account if it's beneficial to you. ~O]]
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2020-04-11
The carriage rolled along fairly smoothly. The rains had ceased, finally, and the roads were fine. I sat gazing out the window and smiled at the day's events.
The cafe at Rocca had been quite busy, and good fortune, as Signora Aph received a medal I had produced for her in front of an audience. I dare say I glimpsed a blush on the lady as it was pinned to her dress. But well earned -- her tireless care of all who enter is beyond the scope of what any of we, who impose upon her, could reasonably perform.
The ball had been very well attended, and the couples were lovely, swaying to the lute music filling the greenhouse. I found it a bit warm, but did enjoy myself. Local artists had assembled, as well, as there was a competition, and many of the entrants, despite any means for formal instruction, had done quite well.
A familiar sharp lean of the box told me that we were nearing the estate, and as it came to a halt, I stepped out, grateful to be home and near my bed after such a diverting, but terribly wearying day. I was set upon a cold meal and an early night but my messages had other plans for me.
I stepped in, handing Anne my gloves and wrap when she reciprocated with a sealed letter and a concerned expression "It's from Mister Warren. He said it is important, milady. I know the solicitor doesn't come often. I hope that..." I cut her off, "Thank you, Anne... that will be all for now." Anne was a very good maid, even by my standards, but the rare habit of speaking to me as if I were a school friend left me irritated. I would speak with Mrs. Rawley about it; I did rely on her, but if our roles could not be defined, perhaps she would be best found a more suitable arrangement.
I cracked the seal and opened the paper to scan the letter as I ascended the stairs, and it was as I feared. Mister Warren had been charged with a matter of import, and was writing to avail me of the knowledge he had thus far discovered.
Some years past, it came to be known to me that my father's title had been handed down, generation after generation -- which wasn't at all odd -- but that it had been created in the time of Queen Elizabeth, which was. It came to light whence I found a letter kept in a book, that his ancestor had informed the Queen of a plot by a Sir Antony Babbington to have her assassinated; a plot which he had discovered quite by chance, and that he had almost certainly almost been bribed to ignore it.
I certainly had my own good fortune to thank for his moral fibre.
I did not, however, hold the title, and should it become extinct with no one to claim it, I should also most certainly not have the property. And that would not do.
The original discovery that my status was based on the generosity of a monarch, rather than what I had - up until then - believed to be a connection to royalty, left me very ill at ease. I had relied upon that supposed status and wondered how it might affect my social connections, should it become known. I knew that Mama had descended from royalty, but that was Spanish blood; a match which, ironically, would likely not have been met with favor by the monarch who had first bestowed the title.
The second matter had become whether there were letters patent somewhere and more importantly, what they stated about inheritance.
If it were a matter of male lineage, which was almost certainly the case, I would be back to the hunt for a husband and to secure an heir; at 25, I was well aware that this was possible, but not having issue from my brief and distasteful encounter with my dead husband, the Baron, I was also well aware that I might not be able to produce one.
The other aspect to all of this was that created Dukedoms were few and far between and with the rebellion in the colonies, and another brewing in France, it was clearly becoming apparent that the commoners had come to the conclusion "the less nobility the better." I could not risk losing everything should the title and properties be revoked. And without knowledge of the terms of the patent, I couldn't determine down which road I should travel. And with great haste.
Mister Warren's letter was dry, as was the norm. He had arrived in London, and engaged a Lord with whom he was acquainted and whom he trusted, to assist him (with some manner of discretion) on his little expedition.
I flipped the page over in the hopes that some postscript provided more information, but alas, it was merely a report that the roads were dry, and that an effort to find the copy had resulted in excuses of lost documents due to this fire, that flood or these historical moves.
Frustrated and still without answers, I continued my walk up the stairs to my apartments. The longer I waited for an answer, the more time lost in determining which option was most sensible. A husband seemed the path of least resistance, and as I opened the doors to my bedchamber, I let out a shaky breath and moved to my dressing table. Not another Baron at least, I mused, at least this time, it would be my choosing. . . but if I must endure it, I must choose quickly.
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2020-04-08
After an early evening meal, I planned to walk to my old retreat; a small structure just south of the main house on the hillside that, at one time, may have been a small orangery. It was a cool evening but I chose to continue on rather than go back for a shawl. Climbing the old stone steps to the surface of the hill and entering, I saw the chaise no worse for the wear, and settled back onto it, looking about.
There were canvases stacked against the far wall, untouched by paint or brush, and the plaster was peeling in places. The evening sun made the dusty windows almost ethereal, and a small spider spun its web in a ceiling corner. I had asked that some refreshment be brought up. Wine and some fruit were laid out on the old wood table.
Rising and walking over, I ran my hand over the surface. So old and weathered, so smooth from the daily beating of the sun. My hand rested on a plum and then retreated. I regarded the fruit and thought of all who may have shared this moment who were no longer with me. My dear Papa; the loss of his humor and protection left a gaping hole in my heart. Mama, whose sweetness and undying love for her family were both her shield and her sword. And my Gianni. I sighed aloud "... oh, dearheart"
I stood there, regarding all that had occurred, all that I had endured, and still, what was that compared to the suffering of the world? A small speck of paint on a far larger canvas. But what was I, a lone woman, to do about all of that? I could, in truth, only tend to my own affairs.
The time drew long like an evening shadow, and I stood there, silent and unmoving, while thoughts, memories and regrets marched through my mind like an invading army. The matter of Edward, and my foolish belief in him, the Baron and his treachery, and the Earl, which I had at one time regarded as a lost opportunity but now found just as well left undone.
The last of the daylight was slipping out the window like a thief and I realized, while I stood in front of these empty canvases, and this bowl of untouched fruit, that I was, in fact, a still life. No movement, no momentum. No mission, no achievement. I was an adornment. First to be painted, then framed and hung on a wall. I had no need of a husband, but longed for the companionship. I wanted for nothing, yet yearned for a goal.
Again, my fingertips gently brushed the old wood table, "perhaps it's enough to be what we are."
The sound of my own voice startled me back into reality and I pulled the soft blanket from the chaise, wrapping it around my shoulders and walked to the doorway. After glancing back, I stepped through and descended the stairs, committed to adding some motion to my life.
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2020-04-07
The ocean's salted kiss alighted on my brow before I ever saw the sea. The dust from the hooves ahead swirled about the curtained window of the carriage like fairies, beckoning me homeward. To be home...
So much had happened in Spain. My mother's family never took much interest in remaining in contact with me after Mama's death, but my dear cousin was the lighthouse off the shore of their sealed continent. His illness and resulting death had left me battle-weary and nearly laid my soul to waste as his body was lain to rest.
After a period of mourning both my cousin and the void that was what was left of my mother's family, I escaped to our northern estate for months. Each time I thought I might make the journey to Hatchford, I felt the cracks deepen and knew I was as yet too fragile.
But now, the carriage jostled as it made that all-too-familiar curve toward Hatchford. I found myself pressed to the glass, until finally it came into view and my breath returned. I knew that I should find it nearly impossible to maintain a serene countenance until I could finally lock myself away in my apartments while, inwardly, my heart danced a reel.
Snorting and whinnying the horses settled down. The carriage stopped rattling my bones and the door swept open. Thomas and William were there, hands out, to help me debark. I stepped inside, handing Anne my gloves and although she offered tea, I ascended the stairs, calling over my shoulder that wine be brought up.
After shrugging off yards of silk and settling onto the chaise in my muslin, the wine was set on a table along with letters I had left unanswered. I pulled the crystal stop from the decanter and poured, the red twine creating a claret pool in my glass as I shuffled through the communications from this one or that, until I came upon an invitation for an Easter ball.
I read the date and as my wine glass was set on the table my hand was on the bell. So near, all of my gowns wrinkled and nothing on the steamstresses' tables being worked on! Anne entered, and halfway into her curtsey and pleasantries I rattled off, "Send for Mrs. Hartwell and that other... Margaret? Margory? The one with the blonde curls... " Anne barely made it out the door before I called again "And send word that I'd like Mister Prentice in the library at eight!"
Whether it was the invigorating sea air, the joy of being home, or the prospect of merry company, I found that I was finally crawling out from beneath the weighty stone of grief.
Hatchford Park is open and I welcome guests. If I am not at home, do avail yourself of the tray on the table in the entry and leave your calling card. Anne will see to your needs if you require a respite after a long journey.
I'm hoping to be able to hold a party where all can attend, but am also considering weeknight activities such as whist and ladies' tea/sewing & gossip hours, both of which will not only allow for all of us to catch up on the goings on, in person, as well as the ability to share information about news and events, (which I am also happy to either pass along or see in chat, in the Hatchford Park group) but also, to add some 'social' to our distancing.
Interested in taking part? I'm happy to partner up. Need a home? Send a note.
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2018-06-15
The morning had begun.
The Duke and Duchess of Whippen boarded The Persephone under clear skies, and set sail for the colonies. It was a special voyage; the Duchess' first of this greath length and one which held many adventures for them both. Olivia bade them farewell and traveled to Hatchford Park, the family seat, to run the estate and await their return.
Much time passed with no letter, and Olivia contacted one of her father's most trusted merchant sailors, to give her a better idea of why that might be. She sat at the desk in the library sipping tea while Captain Alford stood with his weather-beaten hand resting on the back of a chair, the other held his tricorn to his side. "Depending upon the time of year, there may be storms," and noting her alarmed expression, added "but when a gentleman with His Grace's experience takes to the sea, there should be no need for concern, m'lady."
A map was unrolled and he showed her the route that they had most likely taken. He spoke of knots and nautical miles and things she knew nothing of. She had been on a ship several times, but her only concerns were whether her stomach would cooperate and if her gowns might be better off laid out, to prevent wrinkling, than in a trunk .
The Captain left, confident that he had provided all the information that she might need and still she sat at the desk, watching the sun slowly descend, and one question ceaselessly pulled at her mind, like a pup nipping at a skirt hem: What could be taking so long to send a letter?
Two more months passed and finally Olivia summoned the courage to send her father's other ships to look for them. It would leave her without passage to Sorrentina, but her pleasure was secondary to her concern. She consoled herself when winter came, imagining her mother's demure pleasure and her father's quick temper at her usurping his ships and crew.
Time passed slowly. Conversations with various servants about household matters transformed from useful to their being unable to gain her full attention. She slept fitfully, if at all. The maids did their best to look after her, but with all this time passing, worry crept into their minds as well.
Nearly six months since they had set sail, Olivia sat trying to focus on her needlework when the rattling of a carriage approaching brought her to her feet. At last she would get the letter she had been waiting for! Her heels scuffed against the wooden floorboards and her hand almost failed to get the door open before the clattering came to a halt. Before she could utter the words "At last!" an ashen Captain Alford stepped from the carriage onto the dry ground.
The two found their way back to the desk in the library. She, again sitting. He again standing, though his grip on the back of the same chair left his hand white-knuckled, as if he were hoping to inflict more pain on the inanimate object than the lady before him.
He spoke words like "never arrived" and "evidence of a shipwreck" and "no-one could have survived," but Olivia just heard white noise. She remembered standing, and then fainted dead away. For weeks, she was bed-ridden, overcome by grief, but unable to shed a single tear.
A month later, just as Summer began to embrace the northern estate, a memorial was held for the Duke and Duchess, there being no bodies for a proper burial. Orphaned, and alone, Lady Olivia Chapman managed to endure the service, the condolences from the villagers, servants and pastor. She said she would like to remain alone to say additional prayers and was obliged. Once assured that all had gone, she looked at the altar and the light streaming in the windows, and muttered "What sort of God allows His children to suffer so?"
Her slight figure, clad in black, descended the chapel steps. She walked into the small family plot that sat beside the church and walked past the stones of some of her ancestors. Her gloved hand brushed across the top of each of them as she passed them, as if to greet the souls of the departed.
She was exhausted. Her entire being ached. She sat on one of the stone benches and looked at the two stones that had been set forward of the others. No ground was overturned, no evidence of recent burial. A bird began to sing in an overhead branch, and finally the tears came, burning trails down her cheeks.
The mourning had begun.
((Note: Since both of my RP parents decided that FL > SL, I thought it was an opportunity for more writing. Getting back into the swing of 18th Century RP ))
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2017-02-28
In the cool, crisp morning, the chamber maid set about lighting the fire as Lady Olivia lay in her bed, staring up at the canopy above her, contemplating yet another marriage to a man who was a stranger to her. She had modern ideas about marriage; mostly that she should know and love the person to whom she would be tied for the balance of her life. Her father felt otherwise.
Her eyes drifted, falling on the letter that had sent her to her father's estate. She had thought perhaps that it would simply be to visit with her, but he had gotten straight to the point after dinner, as they sat sipping sherry, bespeaking great things of this gentleman who claims he had been introduced at a ball just this past summer and who, to her father's glee, had attested to her beauty and charm, making it clear that he simply would not leave her father's home without coming to some agreement.
The flattering tale did leave her with some hopes, at least. He was young, had her father's approval in terms of wealth, title and station, and yet she could not quell her curiosity. Did he have dark eyes? Was he ill-tempered? Did he love her? Her father went on and on about the match, and then on to a hunt that he had recently attended as she sat quietly, hands in her lap atop her gown and thought through the dance partners she had had this past season. There had been some handsome, some who stepped on her toes, some who had been quite diverting and then her thoughts settled on one in particular.
His manner had been somewhat unrefined, though certainly not unpleasant. He had complimented her throughout the evening, though not to an uncomfortable degree and he had been quite handsome. Could he have been the gentleman in question? She thought as her father prattled on about foxes and dogs and horses. A muddy business, apparently. He got to his roundabout point and finally came to its conclusion "So you see, it turns out that I'd known his father. Good man, Maitland. Pity about his elder son. But quite a good man, James... much like his father, bless his soul."
"Maitland" she uttered and it came to her. 'So it was...' she smiled, sitting up a bit straighter and summoned the footman to pour her father another glass of sherry. "Papa... tell me more about the Earl..."
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2016-12-04
I settled back into the heavy leather chair, sighing softly at the warmth the sun had bestowed upon it, and looked across the desk at the young man seated before me.
"Angel," I began "I have read your letter of introduction and I understand that you are highly qualified for the position..."
The young man nodded, confidently, sitting upright. He was handsome and well built. His frame was slightly larger that what might have been a perfect form, but that was just being picky. He had all of the attributes and experience that made him quite suitable.
And yet, and as always, the past stood beside me, whispering wise counsel into my ear. "Do not forget.... Katie...." I accepted the ethereal advisement of the years gone by and shifted his letter atop my journal, and willed my countenance expressionless, though a shadow of that great betrayal swept across my features in the warm afternoon light.
"One thing I expect, beyond the impeccable attention to your duties, is that you are steadfast in your loyalty to me. I will not hesitate to end your employment should you fail to do so. While I do appreciate that you have come at my father's recommendation, you are under my employ, not his. Is that understood...?"
I hoped that he did. I had plenty of servants, but none beyond my maid who might accompany me in travels; and who might be my constant companion, and hear my private and intimate conversation... and if he were to breathe one word of it to Papa...
I watched as the young man nodded, his brow threatening to knit in concern and then soften "I do understand, m'Lady," he responded "your confidence is well kept with me."
Assured, at least for the moment, I nodded sharply and reached for the small bell on the desk, lifting it to summon the house maid.
Standing and brushing my skirts of imaginary dust, I gestured to Anne as she entered "Please show Angel to his quarters, and see to it that the tailor is fetched. The livery will likely need to be let out a bit."
I turned and walked to the windows as Anne curtsied and departed with my new footman, surveying the park.
It was good to be home again.
By RIP Lady Olivia, 2014-09-21
Weeks and months had passed since laying eyes upon the Estate and finally I had everything nearly in place. I had received a letter from Mama and Papa advising me of the death of two of my dear cousins from smallpox, and thought a visit to the chapel in the house a good idea. I also had much to be thankful for in my own good health and good fortune.
I walked into the dark, paneled room and was immediately touched by the faint scent of incense, from a mass long past, undoubtedly. The evening sun streamed through the stained windows in the front of the room, each one bedecked with an image of Faith, Hope and Charity. Place such as this had always touched me deeply. The knowledge that so many prayers had been said here in this very room, for so many different things. Prayers for grace, for healing, for safe travels for a loved one. I am not a very pious person, I never have been, but churches and chapels always turned my mood somber and serious.
I clutched my prayer book to my chest and walked to the kneeling bench. My heels seemed too loud for such a silent room.
Kneeling, I felt my heart overflow with the things I had done which had cause offense to others, and to God. I pressed my palms together and began to pray, silently petitioning for the repose of my cousins, the good health of my Mama and Papa, and all of my friends, for more grace and modesty and for the King. I rose and walked to a pew to watch the rays of sun travel down the long windows. Sitting wordlessly, I imagined the weddings and funerals that the previous owner must have had here. I had never considered a home with a chapel before, but now I thought it a very good thing indeed.
Sighing deeply, I rose, straightening my skirts and walked across the floor giving one last glance to the day's last light as it sliced through the glass and landed squarely on the cross on the altar. I walked through the doors, closing them as quietly as possible, allowing nature and God to say 'good night' in peace.