VW: Second Life
Category: Storyline update 1774
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.