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Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part One)

May 22, 2018 07:40PM
Sofia-Elisabete, the illegitimate child of Colonel Fitzwilliam (from P&P), is a little firecracker with a true heart and an irrepressible spirit. Last year, we learned a bit about her mysterious beginnings as a foundling in Portugal and the strange goings on in the tangled-up world of her troubled father who adores her. She runs away from home, lured by the mysterious Doña Marisa, to search for the perfect world in the moon, which she believes will cure her ailing father. What happens to her after that is related in her story, I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon.

In this novella, Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost, Sofia-Elisabete, the narrator, is thirteen years old, and she’s recollecting something that happened to her at Rosings when she was eight. What happens when she and Lady Catherine clash? Who is the naughty ghost that plagues our little girl? How does Colonel Fitzwilliam help his daughter navigate the prejudices of this world?

Part One begins…

*******

Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost
A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale

FIVE YEARS AGO, when I was a mere child of eight years, I was plagued by a naughty ghost. It happened when papai and I sojourned in the land of Kent during the Christmas of 1818-19. There, my cousin Anne de Bourgh lived with her mother, Lady Catherine, on an estate called Rosings, its manor-house boasting over a hundred glazed windows, its grounds bedecked with parterres and curiously clipt hedges.

‘I suppose you’re looking forward to hoydening with our crazy country cousin again,’ papai spoke between jolts of the carriage.

‘Oh, papai, she’s not crazy,’ I shook my finger at him.

Cousin Annie was my first true friend. Once upon a time, she had escaped to – or rather, run away to – Scarborough, the place I call home and where I live with my parents and my pug-dog. It was then that my older cousin taught me, a tiny and fearless girl, how to turn a somersault, how to stand on my head and how to cross my toes. Together we did many a hoydenish thing, much to papai’s despair.

‘Don’t you remember how she goaded me to madness with her puppets?’

‘Oh yes, papai, and you strangled her puppet.’

‘And with good reason…’

I shrugged. ‘I think Annie is warm-hearted and eccentric.’

This gave him a start. ‘Who taught you the word “eccentric”?’

‘Mamãe did.’

Papai’s countenance turned sad, for he always pined for my step-mother whenever they were separated. ‘Well, now, your mamãe is all politeness and goodness.’

‘Mamãe says I must needs practise my etiquette at Rosings, as do you.’

‘O, ho! You see before you a true gentleman, honourable and manly, and wholly devoted to his ancient aunt, Lady Catherine.’

I wrinkled my brow. ‘You said your aunt was an old tabby. I heard you say so once.’

Papai’s short horse-laugh turned into a fit of coughing. He drew from his pocket a silver flask, whereupon he took a manly gulp of French courage.

‘Papai, what of your cagg?’ He had promised not to touch a drop of brandy for six months.

‘Don’t you know – I, being a colonel on half-pay, am excused from my cagg during visits to Rosings?’ He indulged in another manly gulp of brandy.

I kept a watchful eye on him as I always do, the truth being that I worried he would get ill and that I might lose him again, just like I did several years ago when I took a freak in my head to run away from home, far away from home, to search for the perfect world in the moon. I wished for this moon world to cure what ailed him, but it turned out to be a fanciful world, a dazzling lie. Papai must have sensed my anxiety. He patted my hand as if to say, ‘I’m still here, my girl.’ Soon, he closed his eyes to doze, but after a minute or two, he squinted at me to determine if I still watched him, which I did and earnestly so.

Papai sighed, and he lifted me to his knee to console me. There, perched on his lap, I observed him closely, because I’m a big observer of people – a real gazer I am – most particularly of my handsome papai. I often imagine what he looked like as a mischievous boy, what he looked like as a brave officer commanding a battalion and what he might look like as a grumpy old man. Sometimes I imagine his waking dreams when he’s thinking those great thoughts of his while he sits beneath our Scots pine in the garden, listening to his wind music. He is the most fascinating person on earth; for, no one is so well-informed, so devoted to instructing me when he is at home, so best beloved and so amusingly disagreeable ever and anon.

Our carriage rumbled through the market-town of Westerham ere it entered ‘no man’s land’, or what papai called the miserable country road that stretched for two long miles. ‘The dickens take that rut!’ thundered papai, whenever we hit the cruellest of ruts. The drought this past summer had left deep ruts everywhere, and the rains for the last two months had turned those ruts into muddy ones, making the road treacherous indeed. Once, when I nearly fell from the seat, papai seized me by the back of my lucky scarlet cloak to save me from injury. Thereafter, I clung to him with all my might, taking comfort in his familiar scent of cloves and cinnamon and heavy dew and bark and musty earth.

Ere long, the ruts ended, as did papai’s droll curses, for he would often substitute bad words with silly ones to protect my tender ears – ‘Oh, figs and fritters!’ being my favourite. By and by, we reached the village of Hunsford. As we drove past the parsonage, the rector waved his hat at us, while his wife stood obediently by his side, cradling a chubby-faced baby with a single curl sprouting at its crown, which brought to mind a turnip, a really bland turnip. We stared with curiosity at the baby. ‘Zounds,’ muttered papai. Very soon after, we came upon a tract of park with dark fir-trees, which place papai called Rosings Park, and he inclined his head towards mine, speaking to me in a confidential tone.

‘My dear child, you shall be introduced to Lady Catherine, and a grand lady she is. You must be polite and respectful, no matter what she says to you.’

I considered this for a moment, having recalled a visit or two with my grumpy grand-mamma. ‘Is she cross and peppery like Lady Matlock?’

‘To be sure she is.’

‘Will she cut me up and call me a love brat?’

‘Let us hope not.’ Papai bit his lip. ‘You must be a brave little soldier-girl.’

Having sensed a skirmish ahead, I became seized with a real fit of the fidgets, tug-tug-tugging at my irksome white frock with its silly pantalettes underneath.

‘Papai, methinks I could be much braver if I wore my breeches and jacket.’

Papai humphed because he never could understand my desire to dress as a boy whenever I wished to romp about, playing and pranking. I dare say he has never tried to climb over a stile or swing from a tree branch or slide down a haystack wearing a white frock with pinafore.

‘I shan’t forget your promise, you know.’

‘What promise?’ the imp in me asked.

Papai looked upon me with a suspicious eye. ‘Why, you promised to be a proper young lady, one that’s dressed in girl’s clothes. That’s how you and your mamãe cozened me into taking you to Rosings.’

I waved him off. ‘Oh, stuff and nonsense.’

‘Oh, stuff?’ Papai arched a brow at me. ‘It’s ridiculous stuff is it, to wear girl’s clothes and act proper-like?’

‘Papai, I was funning you about your being cozened.’ To cheer him, I placed my arms round his neck and planted a big, wet gooseberry kiss on his cheek – hoooooooonk.

‘Silly gooseberry,’ cried papai, and he teased me by rubbing his cold nose with mine.

We alighted at the entrance of a great and stately manor-house. Pierce, he being the butler, led us into a marble hall and from there to a red drawing room, where he announced us to Lady Catherine. Mother and daughter sat at the tea-table near a bright coal fire. With her sharp, long nose, her ladyship sniffed the air, her nostrils flaring.

‘Fitzwilliam, you have come at last, have you?’ Her ladyship held out her pale, ghostly hand.

Papai gave a refined laugh. ‘My dearest aunt, how do you do?’ He bowed most gentleman-like, kissing her hand.

‘I am quite put out of humour, nephew.’ Her ladyship began to arrange the tea-things. ‘How late you are.’

Papai, with a devious twinkle in his eye, kissed Annie’s outstretched hand. ‘Ah, my dearest cousin Anne – you’re in good looks to-day. Surely this sudden rosiness of complexion is not a trick of the candlelight?’

Annie growled out, ‘How kind you are, cousin Fizzy.’

Papai twisted his lips, for vex him she did by calling him Fizzy. I know this to be true, that my papai hated to be called Fizzy, and he would say so again and again to Annie but to no purpose. It seemed to me, though, that papai loved to tease his cousin and that she, in turn, loved to tease and torment him. While those two were funning each other, Lady Catherine turned to me clearly annoyed, making a kind of smack with her mouth, as if I were a common house fly which she must needs devour.

‘Is she the little brown one, the erstwhile foundling from Portugal?’

‘This is my daughter, Sofia-Elisabete.’ Papai nodded at me.

I wished to behave well. Mustering up my courage, I curtseyed to her ladyship all proper-like and respectful.

‘Yes, yes – but who is her real mother? Who are her people?’ Lady Catherine eyed me with disdain.

‘My real mother was born at Lisbon,’ explained I, for I was a bold child who spoke her mind. ‘She married Don Rafael, a wealthy Span—’

Her ladyship silenced me with a toss of her lace handkerchief. ‘Speaks English, does she? Why, she bears a shocking resemblance to Lady Matlock, a very brown version of Lady Matlock. I have often said Lady Matlock was a beauty as a youth, but this one here, with her brown skin, is no great shakes in looks. She must use Warren’s Milk of Roses. Only then will her complexion improve.’

I examined my hands, wondering why she called me brown. They didn’t seem all that brown to me. Truthfully, I had never thought of myself being an actual colour. This piece of news both pleased me and disturbed me for some reason, and I wished to question my papai about my sudden brown-ness.

Papai cleared his throat. ‘‘Tis true. She resembles my dear mamma, and a beauty she will become someday, blooming into an English-Portuguese rose.’

I shot a glance at papai, wondering what he was about, because he so much disliked his mother. He, however, avoided my gaze. He cast down his eyes as he sipped his milky, sugary tea, which I knew he disliked as well. ‘Très bon, très bon,’ papai lied about the tea to please his hostess.

When we had done drinking our milky tea and eating cakes, Lady Catherine rang the bell. She advised papai that I would stay in the nursery and that if I behaved I could walk out with the maid-servant Betsy for half-an-hour every morning and every afternoon, and I could join everyone for breakfast and tea, and come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I could dine at table with the grown-ups.

‘She will not be in anyone’s way shut up in the attic, in the old nursery…’

‘Mamma,’ Annie interrupted her. ‘Sofia-Elisabete shall be my bedfellow.’

‘What folly is this?’

‘I am determined in this, mamma. Besides, she’ll be the best of companions to me while Mrs Jenkinson visits her relations for the Christmas season.’

‘The best of companions? At your age? What nonsense. A child belongs in a nursery,’ declared she.

‘I shall sleep with cousin Annie,’ announced I, because an attic-dweller I didn’t wish to be.

‘Saucy girl!’ Lady Catherine rapped the floor with her walking-stick. ‘Nephew, I will not abide this child giving Anne some foul, foreign disease or infesting her room with fleas. Did you not say that Mrs Fitzwilliam contracted disease from her?’

Papai assured her ladyship that I removed from Portugal to England five years ago, that I was free of disease and fleas and that his wife, out of an abundance of care, had lately quarantined herself after visiting her girls school in Hackness where a pupil had been laid low with a suspicious fever. And that is why my mamãe could not come with us and pay her respects to her ladyship. She arranged for me to travel with papai to Rosings and thereby keep me and everyone else safe from fever. Many years ago, she lost her only son to illness, and the sorrow of it made her doubly anxious about me.

While the all-knowing grown-ups debated the state of my health, Annie made a sign to me to join her, and thus we stole out of the drawing room. Her eyes sparkling with mischief, she cried out, ‘One – two – three – fire!’ We shot the length of the passage at a mad pace, making a great deal of noise with our squeals and giggles, then up-up-up the stairs we climbed, our destination being her bedchamber, where she claimed victory by tossing herself onto the bed. We hoydens had no sooner caught our breath, than papai knocked at the half-opened door.

‘I dare say your introduction to Lady Catherine went very well.’ Papai winked at me. ‘My dear girl, you shall soon overtake me as her ladyship’s second most favourite relation.’

I scratched my head. ‘Who’s her first favourite relation?’

‘Well, now, that would be your cousin Darcy.’

‘Guuhhhh,’ Annie uttered a low, monstrous groan. Methinks she wasn’t fond of cousin Darcy, and I wondered why.

‘Papai, why are you second best when everyone says you’re a first-rate officer and gentleman?’ My papai, being a second son of an earl, would often remind me of his second-ness.

Papai gave a hearty laugh. ‘That’s what I wish to know.’
SubjectAuthorPosted

Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part One)

RobinElizabethMay 22, 2018 07:40PM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part One)

DorisMay 24, 2018 05:33PM

Re: Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost: A Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam Tale (Part One)

RobinElizabethMay 25, 2018 03:40PM



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