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!