Curiously, the easiest decision was the choice of our future home. My fiancé and I reached the conclusion Darkloch Manor would be our residence once married. It was a large property and very well situated, with enough place for my growing stables and Joseph’s workshop. As his wedding gift, Mr. Verne commanded a whole renovation of the old manor. He had been living in Italy for some years and was very fond on the Mediterranean style. That’s why he proposed a Villa with bigger windows to lit up the rooms, open terraces and even a ballroom.
As a result, Darkloch Manor was turned into a mad circus for months. Construction workers took the house and I spent a good amount of time trying to sooth Doña Mercede’s complaints and Mr. Higgins’ bad mood.
In order to run away from that, I accepted all the invitations to country estates my friends sent to me over the Summer season. I spent some weeks in Lady Serra’s Winterfell Hall as a part of a very larger party, and the grouse season on Caledon Gardens , at Miss Panacea Luminos’ Manor. On September, Lord Argylles and his wife, Lady Christine McAllister, invited me to their house in Cala Mandrago, and I enjoyed the Arabian nights at their palace.
As it was expected, Joseph received the same invitations, but his business only allowed him sporadic visits. Property also required for him to get settled as far away from his fiancée’s room as possible, something that could be a problem if the estate wasn’t large enough.
When Winter arrived, Joseph surprised me with a trip to Cairo. He, of course, wanted to meet my family, and had wired my father to arrange Christmas in Egypt.
Again, property made the travelling details as complicated as to plan an invasion. Nelly had to slept in our private carriage in the train that took us through Europe to avoid gossip between the travelers that ran away from the rigors of the Continent Winter to the Egyptian Season. During the day, Joseph and I met at the dining car or strolled the stations when the train stopped.
The train left us in Brisini, where we took the ship to Alexandria’s Port. When we finally reached Egypt, we were so tired and dirty we had to take rooms in the port city before boarding the last train to Cairo next day.
We arrived to the station passed midday, and there was Robert, my favorite brother, waiting to take us home. My parent’s Egiptian British Museum was a little out of the city, about ten minutes into the road to Giza. The location was meant for the groups of tourists to stop and visit in their way to see the Pyramids. It was a large property my father had purchased with the help of M. Auguste Mariette, who had been a personal friend of the former owner, a French aristocrat banned from France after the Revolution. The purchase had turned to be a blessing for M. Mariette too, because after the first Egiptian Museum got flooded in 1878 he was able to save a lot of pieces sending them to my parents’ institution. They stayed there, waiting for the new museum to open under young M. Maspero leading.
As always, I sighed in relief at the sight of the gate’s property and the tall palms that showed over the walls. The front yard of the Museum was like a little oasis. My mother had designed it around a central fountain, filling it with palm trees and exotic plants. A good observed could find little treasures hidden between the bushes: old stones carved in Egiptian patterns, half destroyed God statues, stone crocodriles and guarding abisinian cats in black granite. They had been ruled out as rubbish from some of the first excavations, and my parents had rescued them to entertain the Museum visitors in their stroll from the gates to the main building. This was a big two stories house in Italianate style, with flat roof and a wide upper gallery. It had been built after Napoleon’s first campaign and my father was sure some of the stones employed on it had been stolen from archeological sites, as it was usual back then.
We didn’t take the main path but a side one that lead to the family house. This was a smaller building in the back of the property, two stories built around an inner patio in Arabic style, very modest compared with the Museum.
When the carriage got closer to the house the curtain that protected the main wooden door from the sun opened and my parents stepped out into the porch. My eyes started to water as always I first see my parents after a long time away.
Mother and Father stayed in the shadowed porch, waiting patiently for the carriage to reach the porch and for Robert to help me down. I was less elegant and hitched up my skirts to jump up the porch’s steps and run to my mother’s open arms.
“Mi pequeña...” whispered Mother, hugging me against her bossom.
She was almost an inch taller than me, and I leaned my cheek against her shoulder inhaling her perfum: she had always smelt of roses. After some more hugs and kisses I was passed to my father’s arms, where I stayed almost pouting while my brother and fiancé took charge of the baggage’s arrangements.
My family welcomed Joseph without reservations. My four brothers had came to Cairo for Christmas time just to meet him and to play the “big brother” game, trying to scare my fiancé. Even William, my older brother and current 3rd Baronet of Kinkardineshire in Scotland (he had been raised to baronet by my father’s will and had managed the McLaglen Estate with great success since then) acted as a fool in order to let Joseph know he would suffer if he ever hurt me.
The four of them (William, the twins Julius and Theodore, and Robert) took Joseph into a five days’ excursion through the desert. They returned tanned, tired and dirty, but smiling and joking. Joseph never told me what they did on that trip, but after it, they acted as the best of friends.
Joseph returned to New Babbage at the end of January, but I stayed a little longer in Cairo. My mother wanted a local couturier designing my wedding gown, using the finest silks, and I let her had her way with me, enjoying my time with my parents.
I came back to Caledon in March. Spring time was the most important season for horse breeding and I couldn’t stay away my stables for longer.
And I missed Joseph very much!
I found Darkloch Manor transformed into the most beautiful Mediterranean Villa, but before I could enjoy the place or even sent a message to my fiancé, my staff stormed over me with all kind of requirements: a stack of cards to answer and a list of wedding details to attend. The Church was waiting for us to attend a meeting, the flowers had to be picked, the guests list, the reception, the food...
I wanted to return to Cairo!
((Before going through this post, I want to remind the kind reader this story takes place in Second Life, a world where time has its own pace. During a day of our Real World, the sun rises and sets four times in SL. So every Real World day means four days in our Second Life. I hope that will help you to understand the story.))
Our new status as an engaged couple gave Joseph and me a little more freedom. It was expected for us to attend events together, and no one raised an eyebrow when they find Mr. Verne reading his newspaper by the fireplace at my library.
It was a moment of peace for us, after the tumultuous times when we seemed not to know what we were looking for, finally things were settling.
“Do you have a date for the wedding?”, asked me Abi one day.
It was a fine winter morning and we were sitting on the tearoom of Miss Skye Qi’s fashion boutique , in New Toulousse, where my friend, Abigail Raymaker and her wife, Lady Amberlyssa Marie Bauerhoff, have their Mansion. We were sipping tea with some bourbon on it (oh, the joys of the swamps!) while waiting for our couterier to return with Abi’s new dress, when my friend asked me about the date.
“After some discussion and a deep calendar working, we finally set for May the 21st.”
“Oh, my, that’s almost a year of waiting!”
“Well… around 10 months, yes. But there’s no rush, really.” I drank a little more and felt the warmth of the bourbon before adding, “I would love to have you by my side in the wedding, Abi. Soliel and you are my oldest friends in all Caledon. I would like to ask you both, and my cousin Zee, to be my bridesmaids.”
“Oh, dear, of course I’d love it!” exclaimed Abi, taking my hands on hers.
“I promise I won’t dress you on pastel colors.” I said.
Abi has raven dark hair and alabaster skin, as every New Toulousse lady should, so she was meant for dark colors to show off her almost translucent skin.
Abi patted my hands kindly.
“Alexx, it’s too soon to start talking about dresses. So many things could happen in ten months! In this world we live, that’s almost a lifetime!”
I had to agree with her on that, but couldn’t help to ponder on the subject over the following days.
The Social Season was busy on March and April. Balls, musical soirees, vernissages, nights at the opera and the ballet and, once the weather improved, Venetian Breakfasts all over the county states of Caledon.
Mr. Verne’s job kept him in New Babbage most of the week. He used to have lunch on his club, The Greybeards, from where he also seemed to command his business. As I had been raised in Egypt I wasn’t used to gentlemen’s club. After months with Joseph, I learned they were almost like a company building, with small offices for the members that required them; apart from a play room, private library, sitting rooms and a huge, very manly restaurant. All of this, forbidden to ladies, of course.
Because of this, Joseph spent a lot of time traveling: from his house in Port Caledon to his Club in New Babbage. Then, back to Caledon to call on me and to his home later on the night. It was no surprise at all, then, that one evening I found him asleep on my library when I finally appeared downstairs dressed for the opera.
I called Mr. Higgins and asked him for a blanket.
“Is Mr. Verne going to rest in Darkloch Manor as Madam attends the opera?” asked my butler, giving me an afghan blanket.
“No, Mr. Higgins. I will stay home, too. Please, ask Doña Mercedes to arrange a tray with cold sandwiches. I will have a light supper here.”
Mr. Higgins didn’t move an inch.
“Should we wait for Mr.Verne to wake up to see him to a cab, Madam?”
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes at him.
“Mr. Verne is utterly tired, Mr. Higgins, and in need of some good rest. We will let him sleep in the armchair by the fire. And if I’m already in bed when he wakes up, I expect you to install him in one of the guests rooms. Force him if necessary. He’s too tired to think straight.”
Mr. Higgins held his tongue only for mere seconds before adding:
“I feel in the obligation, because the esteem I process to Madam, to point that shouldn’t be proper at all to let Madam’s fiancé to stay the night under her own roof without the appropriated chaperoning.”
I smiled under my nose.
“I would have thought there’s no better chaperoning than the one you’d provide, Mr. Higgins.”
He stiffened and even frowned a little.
“I’m sure Madam knows what I mean,” he said with great dignity.
“Yes, yes, I know what you mean, Mr. Higgins. And I also know you only have my best interests on mind. But tonight, we will host Mr. Verne in Darkloch Manor. If you’d feel better, I will have Nelly sleeping in my bedroom to avoid rumors.”
Mr. Higgins bowed to me.
“Thank you for your understanding, Madam. I will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate Mr. Verne in the guest’s wing.”
I busied myself tucking Joseph under the afghan, but I still could hear Mr. Higgins muttering, “if only he has a valet…” while leaving the library.
I sat in the opposite armchair and took away my gloves, jewelry and shoes, deep on my own worries. The engagement was almost magic, romantic and thrilling, but also a troublesome arrangement when done between mature and busy people. While I watched Joseph soundly sleep, I pondered about the situations, and couldn’t find a proper solution to it.
- Current Mood: busy
We went to New Toulouse Square Sunday the 6th at 11 am, travelling by train. I noticed Mr. Verne a little absent minded, fidgeting with his pocket watch.
“Are you feeling well?” I asked him, touching his arm as we strolled New Toulouse streets.
He smiled at me and nodded.
“Just a little tired, Miss. Has been a long weekend.”
“Yes, I noticed you were busy,” I said, trying to sound unworried. “Doña Mercedes complained Wednesday when you didn’t come for dinner, as you used to do…”
“I… I had to visit a client.”
He didn’t look at me and I didn’t dare to go further in my inquiries. I felt no right to do it. Yes, Mr. Verne had expressed his intentions towards me; he had let me know he was interested in ways that wouldn’t let any doubt about his feelings. But… what if the feelings were less intense now, after months of courtship?
Courtship can be a very tiring experience. There are so many rules to follow, so many things you can’t do in public or even in private… Being a widow allows me some freedom, like to be able to receive Mr. Verne inside my own home, something totally forbidden to young ladies without proper chaperoning. I looked to it as a big advantage, but… how could I blame Mr. Verne for feeling tired or bored with such formalities? A man used to the freedom of traveling would probably find absurd our strict etiquette. We couldn’t even walk around the streets arm in arm! We had to stand close but without touching, because touching was only allowed for engaged or married couples…
The crowd got thicker as we reached New Toulouse Square. We had almost to elbow our way to see the floats. They were fabulous, works of art on wheels. Tolousers had excelled themselves on their creations. The band played and the floats started to move. From up the floats, masked ladies and gentlemen threw candies and crystal bead collards to us. Mr. Verne caught some and put them around my neck. We smiled to each other and let the human tide to rock us around.
The Parade couldn’t cover but two streets because the crowd, but even if we didn’t move, we enjoyed the music, the fireworks and the spectacle. Two hours ago we took the train back to Caledon dusted, blushed and laughing.
Our next stop was The Blue Mermaid, in Caledon on the Sea. Ms Hypatia Callisto was celebrating the 3th anniversary of the Club’s foundation, and we had been invited to it. I could still remember the day The Blue Mermaid opened for the first time, a naughty, almost clandestine vaudeville/burlesque social club with a classy cabaret music hall atmosphere, where Caledonians could be free for some hours at week, dancing daring balls, dressed in laces and transparencies.
The invitation said we had to dress in burlesque attire. I had never dared to do it before, but that night Nelly took out of nowhere a very sexy dark red dress, stunningly short by the front to show my stripped stockings. The neckline was very low, and Nelly arranged a velvet ribbon around my neck in a big bow just to conceal some naked skin.
“You look very… daring, Madam,” said Nelly with a giggle. “Better put your cloak around or Mr. Higgins will have a fit!”
“I will try to hide my legs under the carriage’s blanket before he’ll notice it.”
“Maybe Mr. Verne would help Madam with that…”
I put on my long gloves, averting her eyes.
“Mr. Verne is not fetching me tonight, Nelly. We will meet in The Blue Mermaid.”
Nelly didn’t say another word, probably noticing my own worries. Mr. Verne had seen me to Darkloch Manor’s door after the parade and ran out to his house telling me he had business to attend before The Mermaid’s party.
“You should go there by yourself, darling”, he had said. “I don’t know how long this would take me. Please, enjoy the afternoon.”
So I went alone to the cabaret, feeling a little shy, dressed like that and without a proper gentleman’s escort. But once there I calmed down: some of my oldest friends were there too and I joined them in the dance floor.
Soliel,who was dancing with her beau, Mr. Viking, ordered champagne for me, giggling as a schoolgirl.
“You will need it!” she said.
She and Mr. Viking exchanged a look and Soliel laughed happily.
“Why, you said? Because you look so sexy tonight you will probably dance till exhaustion, that’s why!”
I wasn’t very sure about that, but accepted the glass and drank it.
The party went on and I enjoyed my friend’s company, the music… and maybe too much champagne! At some point of the night, when I was dancing with Sir Podruly, we heard a not too subtle cough at our back.
“Welcome to The Blue Mermaid, Mr. Verne,” said Sir Podruly happily. "We have been entertaining Mrs. Warburton as you were away."
Mr.Verne smiled and even winked.
"Thank you, Sir Podruly. Please, let me relieve you from your burden.”
And when Sir Podruly, the traitor, stepped back, Mr. Verne took me in his arms and spun me around. I followed him around the dance floor, frowning at him and a little dizzy because the champagne.
“So your business finally let you time to attend the party?” I said.
He had the audacity of smiling at me.
“Pouting doesn’t suit you, Alexxandria,” he said.
“Oooof course,” I rolled my eyes. “Because you now exactly what suits me better, don’t you, Mr. Verne?”
He looked at me, still smiling, and his arm tightened around my waist. I gasped when he hugged me against his chest.
“Mr. Verne!” I whispered, amazed.
Even with all the champagne I had drank, and even in a place like The Blue Mermaid, where daring dances were the top, I felt shy and feared to be chastised by my neighbours. I looked up to him, about to tell him to behave, when I noticed his gaze on me, serious, determined. Suddenly I couldn’t find the words, and we both stood in the middle of the dancing floor, looking to each other.
“I have told you about my past, Alexxandria,” he started. “I’ve been always travelling, never thought about the possibility of stop and settle down. Never thought about having my own home… till the day I attended the Regattas in New Babbage and found you.”
“We have been formally seeing each other for around 4 months now, and I’ve realized that’s not what I want.”
I think I stopped breathing at that very moment, but Mr. Verne kept holding my gaze and my body.
“We can’t hold hands in public, you cannot call on my house because I live by myself; we can’t even arrive or to leave a party together! Because is not proper. Because for Society we are more than an acquaintance but less than a couple, something that, for them, seems to lead inevitably to depravity. And that… I just can’t stand it, Alexxandria.”
I wanted to cry, but I was totally paralyzed under his gaze. He was breaking with me and I couldn’t even mutter a sound. I was trying to gather all my lost energy to beg him not to leave me when Mr. Verne let me go. With one simple, elegant movement, he went down in one knee and I gasped. I was so surprised I’d fell if not because he kept my hand on his.
“Alexxandria McLaglen i Valldaura,” he said, using my full maiden name. “I can’t stand the idea of not having you in my present and future. That’s why now and here, in front of your friends, I want to ask you: Will you marry me?”
Music stopped and people gathered around us. I felt all the eyes on us, but I didn’t mind. I was so focused on Mr. Verne’s face I didn’t even notice he was holding something in his free hand till he pointed to it with a smile and a nod.
“Oh, my…” I whispered.
A white diamond ring sparkled from a tiny velvet box. I touched it almost like in a dream.
“Alexxandria,” called Mr. Verne, a slight amusement in his voice, “even if I love you with all my heart and soul, I would really appreciate you giving me an answer. With all my respects for Ms. Callisto, those hard tiles are not meant for knees.”
I blinked, my eyes leaving the ring to return to Mr. Verne. I don’t remember when or how I did it, but suddenly I was in his arms again, shouting “YES”, and he spun me around, my feet not touching the floor. People shouted and clapped and the music started again.
“For a terrible moment I thought you wouldn’t accept me, Sweets,” whispered Joseph while putting the ring on my finger.
He laughed. He seemed happy again.
“Have you been thinking about this for over a month?”
“Yes. I wanted to wait, but I’m not this patient, Alexxandria, not when the reward to my boldness would be you.”
“And you had to ask me the only night I dressed myself as a chorus girl…”
He kissed me before I could complain, and that time I returned the kiss without any trace of shyness. Because now I was kissing my fiancé.
- Current Mood: loved
“Well, I suppose that settles things,” he said, flopping down into a chair by the fire after kissing me.
I smiled over the letters I was sorting out.
“What happened?” I asked.
Mr. Verne showed me the cards he was carriying.
“I’ve received some invitations to Mardi Gras events.”
“Well, that was expected now you’re living in Caledon…”
“Was also expected to have them addressed to both of us?”
I blinked and put out a hand to take the cards. Mr. Verne relaxed against the back of the chair, grinning as I got more stunned after each card I read: “Her Grace the Duchess of Carntaigh wants to invite Mr. Verne and Miss McLaglen to attend the New Toulouse Mardi Gras Parade…”, “Mr Iason Hassanov cordially reminds Mr. Verne and Miss McLaglen the Annual Caledon Parade…”, "Ms Hypatia Callisto requires Mr. Verne and Miss McLaglen presence at the 3th anniversary of The Blue Mermaid at Caledon on the Sea…”
“Really…” I say. And couldn’t add another word.
Mr. Verne laughed.
“We should show around those places, if only to let them know they didn’t waste the invitations.”
I threw the cards to him, playfully, and both joked around till Nelly came with the tea. I sipped my Earl Grey happily. There was something heavenly domestic on the fact of sharing my library with Mr. Verne, having tea and sorting the mail together. I shook my head and sighed. It was too soon to be thinking about that.
“What was that?” asked Mr. Verne.
“What was what, dear?”
“That sigh. Is there something that worries you?”
I shook my head again, smiling.
“Of course not, sir. I just remembered I need to attend a horse auction this afternoon. Will you come with me?”
Mr. Verne folded the newspaper he had been reading and smiled apologetically.
“I’m afraid I have a previous appointment to attend, darling. In fact, I should go soon. I’m having lunch at my club.”
Mr. Verne was part of a gentlemen’s club in New Babbage. Of course, I had never visited it and he knew how curious I was about the place.
“Some day, I will dress myself in manly attire and will enter that club of yours in disguise.”
“My lovely lady,” he said, smiling evilly, “ no clothes in the world would disguise such beauty.”
And he left me blushed, my glasses steamy after a long kiss.
My cousin’s butler, Abraham, opened the door. He was a big black man with white hair, dressed on a very elegant dark green livery. He beamed at me, his white teeth showing when exclaimed:
“Mrs. Warburton, what a honor!”
“Hello, Abraham, it has been a long time, isn’t it? Is Mrs Noonan at home?”
Abraham seemed to hesitate, confused. He looked over his shoulder but recovered fabulously.
“Oh, Mrs. Warburton, you just missed Mistress Noonan! She went out just after lunch. Was Mistress expecting you?”
“No, no, don’t worry. I was driving by and thought about inviting her to a horse auction.” I waved his apologies away. “Will you be so kind to tell her I called on her? I’ll send her a note for tea some day over this week, if she’s not too busy.”
Abraham assured me he would pass my message and even saw me to my carriage, all kind smiles and bows. He was still waving his hand when the carriage speeded out. I spent the trip to Highlands frowning over the weird behavior of my cousin’s butler. He was almost if he didn’t want me stepping into the house...
I forgot all about it the moment we reached Giggleford Hall and Lady Soliel entered the carriage almost stepping over poor Thommas.
“You’re late!” She claimed.
“Why, good afternoon to you too, kind lady!” I joked. “Are you in a rush?”
She finally sit and smiled to me, all laces and lavender silk under sumptuous arctic fox furs.
“Sorry, dear. My First Groom has been on the auction premises all day and just got a a note from him. They are auctioning a white Arabian sire with rainbow eyes, and it has to be mine!”
I never doubted she would have it. Soliel is a petite brunette, she barely reaches my nose, but she could command an army without raising her sweet voice. Just a look, an arched brow, a nod, and gentlemen hurry around her to grant even her tiniest wish.
Thommas took us to the auction site and we spent some hours moving around the place. We were quite a sight, two ladies in furs and bustles, arguing with rude grooms about prices and pedigrees.
“How’s your sweetheart behaving?” asked Soliel out of the blue.
We were sitting on hayballs, draped on furs and blankets and sipping hot chocolate provided by the happy former owner of the new rainbow sire of Lady Giggleford. I looked up at her and smiled, shameless.
“He’s behaving as proper and naughtily as he should.”
Soliel grinned over the rim of her cup.
“That’s good. As my mother used to say, never trust a man who doesn’t try to get under your skirts.”
I chocked and laughed and Lady Giggleford had to pat my back to help me breath again.
She was laughing too.
“What? It’s true! Men need to be hot blooded to keep us entertained. If not, we’d get so bored…”
I chuckled, lost in memories of Mr. Verne’s naughtiness.
“He seems a fine man,” said Soliel again.
“Yes, that’s what I think.”
“And it’s obvious he’s very taken with you. He has been asking about you, visiting your friends and trying to know more about you.”
I blinked, bemused.
“He has been visiting my friends?”
“Indeed. He came to the Highlands some days ago. We had tea on the Greenhouse, Mr. Viking, Mr. Verne and I. I felt so well accompanied…”
“I don’t know if I like the idea of Mr. Verne seeing my neighbors at my back.”
“Why not? I think it’s kind of cute. He told us about his traveling. This is the first time he settles in a place like Caledon. It’s only logical he tries to connect with his new neighborhood. And, darling, he’s doing it because of you.”
I sipped my chocolate in silences, pounding about what Soliel had told me. The Marchioness squeezed my hand kindly.
“Don’t be afraid of this situation, Alexxandria,” she told me. “Relax and let him, for once, take charge. I really think he’s the one for you.”
I smiled, feeling a warm tide spreading over my chest, melting the remains of the frost that had kept my heart slept for over two years.
“Yes,” I whispered, finally meeting Soliel’s gaze. “I think he’s the one.”
- Current Mood: amused
I felt in Heaven.
Mr. Verne acted as the perfect suitor, visiting me at proper hours, taking me to events, walking me around Caledon parks, tipping his hat to the acquaintances we met around, exchanging the expected small talk with them. Wanting to be accepted into my world.
Once at my Estate, Mr. Verne turned into Joseph and formalities were forgotten between us. We spent hours sitting by the pier, under the trees’ shadows on Darkloch Manor park or watching over the new foals on the stables. We would have tea served on the gazebo by the shore or brandy and porto on my library during the lazy afternoons by the fire. My staff became used to Mr. Verne’s presence and kindness, and I noticed even Mr. Higgins’ acceptance when I found my late husband’s favorite brandy on the library’s tray.
On Sunday, February the 27th, we attended a dance in honor to the 5th anniversary of Caledon, hosted by, Her Grace the Duchess of Caledon Carntaigh, in her magnificent palace at Caledon Rothesay. It was the only event we could attend together and I was happy to find there some of my best and older friends. I took advantage of that opportunity to introduce Mr. Verne to Lady Soliel Snook, Marchioness of Giggleford, Mr. Jorge Serapis, Sir Podruly Peccable and to Her Grace. Lady Soliel, after chatting for a while with Mr. Verne, took me apart to congratulate me for my choice.
“You sure picked him well this time, sweety,” she said with a knowing smile. “It was about time!”
After the dance, Her Grace amused us with some lovely fireworks. As the fires lighted the night with their amazing colors, I stood by Mr. Joseph’s side, dressed in one of Ms Kembri Tomsen ’s finest creations, a Worth inspired gownin blue and silver that seemed to shine under the lights.
- Current Mood: happy
“A boy brought a note for Madam”, he announced, very stiffly. “An answer is expected.”
I knew the sender of the note card just for my butler’s attitude.
I’m just a steam traveler, not used to the formalities of the fine society, so I beg your pardon if last night
I behaved in any way you found improper. I will not try to apologize for my feelings for you,
so they are from the deepest of my heart. I hope them won’t offend you because, if Madam would allow me,
I would like to show you how serious and warm my intentions’ are.
I would be honored to escort you to today’s Grand Tour events.
I will wait in my workshop in Port Caledon for your answer to my offer... to both of them.
There’s nothing to forgive. Your manners were blameless, all I would expect from a gentleman...
and even more. I will be more than happy to be seen in the company of such a fine man,
today and in times to come.
I’m expected on Seraph City at 7 pm. If you feel like visiting with me,
I will wait for you at Darkloch Manor.
“Should we be ready to welcome Mr. Verne into Darkloch Manor from now on, Madam?”
I hold his gaze.
“Yes, Mr. Higgins, we should. I hope there’s no problem with it.”
Mr. Higgins stood to attention.
“Not at all, Madam, if those are your wishes.”
“They are. In fact, this afternoon Mr. Verne will escort me to Seraph City.”
Mr. Higgins nodded, still very stiff.
“Should I suggest that, instead a hired cab, Madam will use the family carriage? Young Thommas would be more than ready to drive you both around.”
That was the not too subtle way Higgins had to have me properly chaperoned. I had no heart to tell him to mind his own matters.
“That’s a brilliant idea, Mr. Higgins. Please, let Mr. Verne’s messenger about the travelling arrangements.”
“Yes, Madam. Thank you.”
And he retrieved, happy to have the last word on the subject.
I must confess the Grand Tour is now a blur on my mind. Mr. Verne came at the said hour and didn’t even blink when Thommas showed at the door with the carriage, not even when Higgins remained at the entrance as a guardian dog.
We travelled to Seraph City, where Ms. Saffia Widdershins was hosting The Primgraph Offfice Grand Opening. It was a lovely party till a young reporter, Mr. Bill, died by poison. It was hard to find the murderer but we all helped.
After such a dramatic afternoon, we flew to New Babbage to attend a most relaxed party at The Brunel Hall. Luckily I have my city rooms there and I was able to change my outfit for a simpler one.
Mr. Verne stayed on the street while I changed, talking with young Thommas, who later told me the gentleman had traded him with some hot beverages to help him stand the cold. The streets of New Babbage were still snowed.
Our last stop that night was The Armada Breakaway . The place was packed and we had trouble even to move around the deck of the ship where the dance was held.
At some point of the night I spotted my cousin, Zee Noonan-McLaglen, dancing with her husband, Mr. Nerk Noonan. I waved to her and she took his husband’s hand to cross the deck toward us.
“Alexxandria!” she exclaimed, taking my hands and kissing my cheeks.
I returned her kind gesture and let her led me to a quieter corner.
“I’ve been hopping to see you around, cousin,” said Zee, looking pointedly towards Mr. Verne. “I’ve been hearing some interesting news around Caledon.”
I couldn’t help but looking back to Mr. Verne, who was talking with my cousin’s husband.
“Let me guess,” I said. “Something about me missing a dance last night?”
“Lord Argylles got worried when you didn’t show at Seraph City, yes. Then, someone pointed you had been dancing with a certain Steamlander called Verne at Antiquity. They even said you two shared all the dances.”
I sighed, resigned.
“Sometimes is scaring how fast gossip can travel. Even faster than the events they talk about.”
My cousin smiled at me.
“Then, is it true? Are you seeing Mr. Verne?”
“And what Mr. Higgins has to say about the matter?” she teased me.
“He sent Thommas as our chaperone.”
Zee tried to hide her surprise, failing miserably.
“That can only mean this isn’t just a casual flirting…”
“Not casual anymore. He just asked my permission to court me.”
Zee looked over Mr. Verne for a long time, a serious frown on her lovely face. I saw Mr. Noonan meeting his wife’s gaze and nodding, and the frown disappeared from my cousin’s features. She turned to me and looped her arm with mine.
“If he did that, he must be serious about you. I want to know all the little details about how you met. But first, I think you should introduce us formally, my dear.”
And like that, Mr. Verne met my only family in Caledon and our affair was openly known and accepted by the Society.
- Current Mood: cheerful
Last Monday morning found me sound asleep in my bed in Caledon Windemere. My usual waking time had passed when finally Nelly entered the room with the morning coffee tray.
"Good morning, Madam", she said while opening the heavy curtains. "Did you sleep well?"
I tried to hide my head under the covers, but I knew it was a futile maneuvers with Nelly around. She started to plump up the pillows in a very noisy way, letting me know it was late enough to make improper my stay at bed.
I sat up, sighing defeated and let Nelly arrange the tray over my lap.
"Should I assume, Madam, the Grand Tour went well?" asked my maid as in passing while selecting a morning frock from my wardrobe.
I couldn't help the smile that brighted my face. The Grand Tour had been, indeed, excellent, beyond words, in fact.
I had attended the firs event Friday the 18th at night.. It was a ball host in Antiquity and I had chosen a lovely creation in gold and red for the night. I arrived just for the opening menuet and decided no to join the dancers right away. I had rushed to the ball in order to arrive in time and was a little out of breath.
After greeting some old acquaintances and having small talk with the Spanish hostess, I vanished to a corner with a glass of champagne. There I was, as a proper widow on wallflower mood, when a shadow fell over me.
"Miss McLaglen?" asked a deep voice, almost a whisper near my ear.
I turned to see Mr Joseph Verne leaning over me. I couldn't help myself and blushed as a shy debutant. I had met Mr Verne over The Third Annual New Babbage Airship Regatta in honor of Founder's Day, and we had exchanged notes and letters since then. First it had been only about business. Mr Verne was looking for some land in Caledon and I helped him to be introduced in our cercle, introducing him to some people who could help him. Then, after he found a plot in Port Caledon, we started to meet over coffee cups on the Tea Rooms just to talk about furniture for his working place, then discussed Society gossip strolling Oxbridge's Square till the sun came down...
I hadn't realized the effect Mr Verne had on me till I saw him in Antiquity's ball room. He was tall and strong, with silky brown hair falling almost to his wide shoulders. He also had some weird steam devices on his eye and pointy ears. He was the most exotic gentleman I've ever seen from so close and I had to resist the urge of touching his bright skin.
"Mr Verne!" I curtsied and almost dropped the champagne.
I felt ashamed, losing all my old widow-like elegance in front of him. But Mr Verne just smiled and took the glass from my hand.
"Would you do me the great honor to dance with me, Miss McLaglen?"
He had a way to pronounce that word, "Miss", that always made me shiver. He had avoided calling me Mrs Warburton almost from the begining, and I found that detail very amusing.
I tried to regain my composure, nodded to his suggestion and let him lead me to the dance floor. He gave the glass away to a footman by passing and spun me around till we were in a corner of the room, watzing around.
It was as if music never stopped. We waltzed and waltzed, and I'm ashamed to confess I forgot to exchange partners. Mr Verne lead me around the dancing floor effortless, through waltzes and polkas, meeting me to each step and amuzing me with whispered small talk at first, leading us to more personal subjects as the night went on.
When our hostess announced the end of the ball was close, and before the departing of all our acquaintances would made absolutely improper us remaining at the palace, Mr Verne asked me for a walk through the gardens.
"After so much excercise, I'm sure madam would appreciate some fresh air before returning home", he suggested, ofering me his arm.
I took it and let him lead me through the french doors and into the gardens. We strolled slowly around the bed of roses and made our wa to the knight statue that crown the pier.
Aware as we were of the curious eyes watching us from the house, we stood side by side looking to the sea, contemplating how the moon silvered the waters.
"I had never before attended the Grand Tour," said Mr Verne, his eyes fixed ahead.
"It's a big celebration," I supplied. "There are events all around the Steamlands. We ladies spent months arranging our wardrobe for those two das."
"You do?" he smiled to me. "Will you be wearing the white muslin dress you wore at The Regattas?"
I blushed, surprised.
"Do you remember that dress?"
"I do remember all about you, Madam."
I looked up to him and he met my eyes. For long minutes we stood like that, his hazel, warm eyes holding my gaze. I felt my body gravitating towards his, saw his big hands reaching to me. I raised m face to him. His eyes were fixed on mine with such naked determination I knew, just knew he was about to kiss me. I closed my eyes, parted my lips giving him permissioin...
All stopped at once. I jumped, startled, and turned around, my heart beating hard against my rib cage.
Herr Baron Klaus Wulfenbach was walking the pier towards us leading the charming Frau Annechen Lowey by his arm. I felt Mr Verne straightened up by my side.
"We are about to go, Mrs Warburton, and thought maybe you would be on need of a lift to the next party", explained Her Baron. He acknowledged my partner with a warm smile. "Mr Verne, I'm glad to have, finally, the chance to speak with you tonight."
Both men shook hands. I couldn't even look Mr Verne. Instead, I concentrated on Frau Lowey.
"Are you attending Lord Argylle's dance at Seraph City?" asked the lady.
She was smiling a knowing smile, confirming my suspictions: they had came out to rescue my reputation. Even a widow can't spent a whole dance night in a man's company without raising some gosip. But to walk the gardens as a part of a little crown was another thing.
"Yes, Frau Lowey," I answered, trying to master my voice. "I've been invited by His Grace to the dance. Had the loveliest gown for it, Miss Arundel's creation..."
"Oh, I do love her gowns!" nodded Frau Lowey, recognizing a safe small talk easily. She left Herr Baron's side to loop her arm with mine. "You must let us take you home, my dear, or you wouldn't be able to reach next event at time."
"But of course, Frau Lowey! And thank you for the kind offer."
Only when we were half way back to the house I dared looking over my shoulder. Herr Baron and Mr Verne were walking a pair of meters behind us, chatting friendly. Mr Verne caught my eyes and winked. I returned my attention to Frau Lowey and she patted my hand.
"Don't worry, dear," she said with easy companionship. "He's a good man. All will be allright. You just need to be patient."
"Really, Frau Lowey, I don't kow what..."
"Of course not, my child, of course not."
And we talked about our hostess roses till we reached the house.
The party was almost over. Herr Baron ordered his carriage while we said our farewells. I caught sight of Mr Verne talking with a Navy coronel at the other side of the room while the servants were handing us our coats, capes and hats. He looked at me, smiled and nodded. And that was all.
Herr Baron and Frau Lowey took me home, where Nelly was waiting for me with the next gown ready. The Grand Tour was always not only a social parade but an acid test for any lady's maid. They took great pains on making us shine among the rest and I was very aware of their reputation being linked with our social success.
Nelly got me out of the first gown and into the new one in half an hour, a real feat due the amount of undergarments, laces, tiny buttons and hooks and eyes on every one of those creations. She checked my hairdress, intertwined fresh flowers in between the knot's curls and nodded, proud of her work.
"Ready for another party, Madam", she finally announced. "Would I ask Tommy to bring the carriage?"
Nelly searched my reflection in the vanity mirrow. I was distracted, Lord Argylle's party far away my thoughts.
I blinked and looked her.
"Oh, sorry... yes, yes, Nelly, you did a great job, as always..."
She rolled her eyes and I blushed, mortified to have been caught lost in my fantasies.
"Where you saying...?"
A knock on my dressing room made us jump.
"Madam", said Higgins without entering my most private rooms. "A carriage has arrived. A gentleman asks your permission to scort you to the next ball."
I held Nelly's gaze through the mirror as she asked:
"Who's the gentleman, Mr Higgins?"
A short pause and then...
"A Mr Joseph Verne."
My face lit as a candle and had to low my gaze to not disgrace myself even more in front of my maid. But she knew me too well. I could hear the smile on her voice when she said:
"Madam will be ready in ten minutes, Mr Higgins."
We waited to hear his steps down the stairs and then we moved in a rush.
"My cape!" I ordered. "And the white gloves!"
"Here, Madam... let me fast that brooch better... yes, like that..."
We looked at each other for a second and ended giggling as school girls.
"All right, all right." I took a deep breath to calm myself. "I'm ready, Nelly."
She beamed at me.
"Oh, yes, Madam, you really are!"
And that way, her blessing was granted to me.
I was nervious when I descended the grand staircase of Darkloch Manor. Mr Verne was waiting at the bottom and smiles widely at me. I offered him my gloved hand and he took it, kissed it and helped me down the last stairs.
"You look absolutely stunning, Miss McLaglen", he said.
I sensed Mr Higgins stiffen up when Mr Verne called me by my maiden name and I knew my butler was going to be a hard hurdle to overcome. He was still faithful to my late husband's memory, and he could also remember quite well the troubles I had gone through with my last and only relationship after going out of mourning.
"Should I call young Thommas, Madam?" asked Mr Higgins sternly.
Mr Verne smiled to me.
"I've hired a cab for us, Miss McLaglen. I was hoping you would let me scort you to Seraph City". He turned to Mr Higgins and added: "of course, I will see Madam returning safe home after the party, Mr Higgins."
It was clear he wasn't going to let my butler bully him, and I admired him even more for his attitude.
Mr Verne offered me his arm.
"If you are ready..."
I saw Nelly, young Thommas and Doña Mercedes peaking from the top windows while Mr Verne helped me to accomodate my gown into the carriage. Higgins closed the door and stayed by the Manor gate till we left away Caledon Windemere.
"He's a formidable guardian, Madam," said Mr Verne, reading my thought.
"He cares for me... all of them do it."
Mr Verne took my hand on his.
"I can understand them. I feel the same way when I'm around Mylady."
I looked up to him, my heart beating fast. He met my eyes and smiled.
My name on his voice sounded so intimate I shiver in advance. He leaned over me, is eyes holding mine.
"I don't know how it happened... don't know when... maybe it was that first time at The Regattas... the way you looked at me, seducing me without even knowing you were doing it..."
"Joseph," corrected me.
That was the point of not return, the next word would decide it all between us. So I looked at him for a long time, and finally smiled and said:
He smiled back, tugged at my hand and I let myself fell against her chest. We were alone inside the closed carriage, the world vanished out there. He used a hand under my chin to lift my face to him. I closed my eyes.
"You don't know what you do to me, Alexxandria... if you would, you'd keep your eyes open..."
I smiled and touched her lips with mine.
"Maybe is because I know why I keep them closed" I whispered.
I hear something like a growl before his lips crushed mine.
It was so improper. It was so wonderful...
Some time passed, minutes, maybe hours for what I cared. When I finally was able to concentrate something that wasn't Mr Verne, I looked out and see we were in the middle of the county.
"This is not the road to Seraph City", I said.
"I hope you don't mind... I thought about showing a special place before taking you to the dance..."
I didn't minded, of course. He took me to Svarga, a magic place full of gardens beyond human imagination. We even rode a gigant bee that took us around the island! it was so different... so magic....
We never got to Lord Argylle's party, and I didn't regret it. We stroll around Svarga, even if sometimes it was difficult due my gown. Finally reached a park where we could dance. It was an intimate dancing... if there's any intimity with our carriage driver looking over us. Mr Verne can be so formal sometimes...
As he had promissed, he saw me back to Darkloch Manor after midnight. He was a gentleman, kissing just my hand when Mr Higgins opened the door for me. I ached to feel his arms and lips again, but acted as the perfect lady in front of my servants.
"Would be too daring to ask for scorting you to the Grand Tour tomorrow, Miss McLaglen?"
"Yes, Mr Verne, I would really appreciate it."
He smiled, over my hand.
"Then, I will see you tomorrow, Madam."
And gone he was... just to the next day.
- Current Mood: loved
Some time ago I had received the invitation to the Consulate of Europa Wulfenbach's first Game Day and I had been getting ready to assist to some of the arranged events. For those celebrations I had purchased two lovely dresses: a reception gown for the opening ball was commissioned to Ms Kembri Tomsen, owner of the Curious Seamstress of GreenWood Designs. She created a delicious gown in French black silk with lovely little flowers embroidered all over the skirt and bodice. Nelly overdone herself dressing my hair in a very complicated coiffure, built arranging every lock of my long hair into a perfect curl and pinning all of them together in the back of my head. It took her one hour of work, but it was worth it!
The Opening Ball was held in the Consulate of Europa Wulfenbach in Clos Normand. Herr Baron Klaus Wulfenbach himself was there to meet all the guests.
I had the great honor to dance some runs with Herr Baron, who happens to be the most skilled danced in the Nation. He spinned me about the dance floor till I lost my breath!
At some point of the night we recieved the visit of King George III Himself! He arrived surrounded by two elegant soldiers that stood very straight at each side of His Majesty all the time the King stayed at the party.
Herr Baron greeted the King, showing us he already was an old acquaintance of His Majesty. The King seemed very pleased with the party, said a general "hello" and left not long after that. I should confess I was so impressed by His presence I failed to take any picture of him. It was just so unexpected to see The King at a ball...!
After the party I had to run home in order to change my dress for the next event: The Third Annual New Babbage Airship Regatta in honor of Founder's Day. This wasn't part of The Game Day, but happened to be scheduled in the same day and I really wanted to assist to it. My poor Nelly did an almost supernatural effort in order to get me ready, dressing me in the second dress I had purchased for the day: the most lovely creation in White Muslin and blue ribbons made by my favorite couteriere, Miss Mau Delarosa, owner of Le Grenier du Chateau. As we had not a lot of time, Nelly put my hair in a low knot and ended her great job pinning a wide white brimmed hat that matched the gown.
Dressed like that I travelled to Clockhaven, in New Babbage. The best engineers of the Steamlands had put up in the air a viewing platform for the public to assit to the race.
The environment was incredible, I had never seen something like what was displayed in front of us: a floating track the ships had to follow, racing by pairs. Our platform was situated in front of the finishing line and we could follow all the race from our spot.
I sited myself next to a gentleman that kindly introduced himself to me. As we were in a very relaxed situation, I offered him my hand in return. His name was Mr Joseph Verne, a traveler of the Steamlands and an engineer himself.
We watched together the race, an incredible spectacle full of emotion. The airships kept coming for the race, each more impressive than the las displayed. The brave pilots put their lifes at risk each time they flew their steam machines; some of them crashed in front of us and Mr Aeolus Cleanslate had to go to rescue them. It was so absolutely breathtaking that I forgot I wanted to assist the En Garde Team Tournament held by the Consulate for the Game Day.
The race lasted for hours. I couldn't leave my sit, so engrossed I was in the spectacle... and in my whispered conversation with Mr Verne. He was a very interesting talker and I must confess I lost track of some of the races because his company was too charming.
I had to retire before the end of the race, but I've been able to read the names of the winners in the New Babbage Newspaper today. With the newspaper came a short but very polite note from Mr Verne, thanking me for the time spent in my company. Isn't him the very image of a fine gentleman?
Let me show you a sample of how many, original and incredible ships we saw on the race. Sorry if I forget some of the names of the pilots. As I told you before, I was a little distracted by... mmmm... the company.
From left to right: Mr Mornington zeppelin, Miss Darlingmonster Ember, Mr Amadeus Hammerer and her wife, Mrs Obscura Benoir,Miss Fairlady, Mr Void Singer, Miss Ember again (she was showing Caledon's tartan all along the race), Mr Spires, Mr Lucien Brentano, Mr Satu Moreau lovely balloon and Ms Yardley dragon-shaped ship.
- Current Location:Caledon Windemere
- Current Mood: cheerful
Some days ago Nelly brought me a note from Darkloch Manor. It was from Higgins.
Thommas has urged me to inform you about a matter concerning our stables. Yesterday, the Most Noble Lady Giggleford honored Darkloch Manor with her presence. Her Ladyship called on Madam but, not finding you at home, left a present for you: a young foal. Thommas want me to inform Madam that it is an arabian male in brown coat with long mane and tail and midnight blue eyes. I don't know how that kind of information could be of any use on this note, but he has been quite insistent about the matter.
We all would like to know if Madam accepts the present, and young Thommas would specially appreciate a word about the foal's name.
Mr Averill Higgins
After the shock of finding the Christian name of my butler (I had always pictured him as a John or a James, maybe even a Jeremiah) , I re read the note, understanding what had happened. Some time ago I called upon my very good friend Lady Soliel Snook, Marchioness of Giggleford and Lady of the Highlands. During that lovely evening we visited her large stables in the Highlands, and I commented how gorgeous her Arabians were. My loyal stallion, Robin, has reached the age for a horse to be left grazing in peace, and I recall to have pointed to it. Probably Lady Giggleford decided right then I would like to have some arabian of my own to start some breeding, and being the generous lady she is, presented me that incredible gift.
Nelly and I traveled back to Caledon Windemere that very afternoon. I was so excited about the idea of having an arabian I couldn't wait a day more! We arrived almost at sunset, and I went straight to the stables, where a beaming Thommas was taking care of the most gorgeous, cute, lovely foal.
He was exactly as Higgins has described it to me in his note, if not even more perfect. I fell in love with him at the spot and fell to my knees to caress his soft hair.
"Doesn't Ma'am think is the most incredible animal in the world?" said Thommas without taking his eyes from the beast.
I smiled to my groom, happy to see him so taken with his new little burden.
"Have you already chosen a name for him?" I asked, hiding my smile behind the horse mane.
Thommas blinked and then blushed furiously. His rosy face, full of freckles, seemed almost purple when he looked at me, amazed.
"Are you saying...?" he coughed. "Is Ma'am saying I should... should name the foal?"
"I think is only fair, due it was you who met him for the first time..."
I watched my young groom touch the little thing almost with reverence.
Then he leaned to him, put his forehead against the horse's and both young stallions gazed each other eyes for a long minute. After that time, Thommas moved away and, without averting his gaze from the horse's, he proclaimed:
"Blue Comet. He should be called Blue Comet. His eyes are blue and brilliant as a midnight sky lighted by the brightest passing star."
I held my breath, amused by the first hint of poetry in my groom's voice. After some time in silence, he looked at me with some worry.
"You don't like the name, Ma'am? We could choose another one if Ma'am..."
I smiled and ruffled his already untamed mane before standing up.
"Thommas, I think Blue Comet is the perfect name for our first Arabian. You did it well."
And when he blushed again, I couldn't help to add:
"Congratulations, dear Tommy... he's a boy!"
And he was. Our new boy.
- Current Location:Caledon Windemere
- Current Mood: excited
If you happen to pass by Darkloch Manor, my Familly House in Caledon Windemere, you will probably notice the main doorknocker is gone, meaning I'm out of town.
As I usually do when the year starts, in between Christmas and the higher Social Season months, I've traveled to New Babbage, where I plan to spend some weeks working on my writings. My editor is not very happy about my deadlines, and he demands not only new chapters for the penny dreadful story I've started, but for the novelized tale about my last adventure in Egypt.
Looking for a quite place for my writing retreat, I visited a new hotel in New Babbage: The Brunel Hall. The hotel is the largest building in the Academy of Industry region of New Babbage, a converted mock tudor mansion situated right next to the Academy of Industry.
I took the Room number 10 right after a tour around the facilities. Apart from a two stories private room, The Brunel Hall offers an open bar and lounge area, and also a good restaurant where my loyal Nelly and I enjoy our meals with the rest of guests.
At the other side of the entrance foyer there are a bathing pool and sauna, a very elegant place where to relax nicely. They even have an indoor garden at the back of the building! This is a great corner to enjoy the morning rays of sun in a city still settled in the middle of the winter. The snow is still thick in New Babbage and the newspapers say winter will last till March!
So, while I wait for the Fox Hunting Season to start in Caledon, I stay here, writing and enjoying the Steampunk city.
Will you join me? ;-)
- Current Location:New Babbage
- Current Mood: cheerful