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

June 15, 2018 01:31PM
And now, the exciting conclusion of the tale of the Rosings Ghost. If you like the character of Sofia-Elisabete and want to know her history and how she found and lost her father, Colonel Fitzwilliam, while searching for Utopia in a post-Napoleonic Europe, see I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon.

In Part Eight, our hero, Sofia-Elisabete, takes matters into her hands…

*******

–ooooo–


Have you ever roamed inside a manor-house at night? In the dark? With a ghost set loose in it? Well, now, I don’t recommend it. I could swear that a thousand ghosts and goblins lodged in the nooks or hid in the corners and shadows, ready to pounce on unsuspecting and unwelcomed visitors and tender eight-year-olds. By the dim light of a candle, papai and I crept down the great staircase. Having made our way below stairs to the kitchen, papai came to an abrupt halt – I, crashing into him, for I had been following him too closely.

‘A ha!’ cried papai. ‘I see it all now. The renegade daughter is the real culprit, the Rosings Ghost.’

Annie, who sat in a high-backed oaken settle near the kitchen hearth, calmly puffed on a pipe. ‘What a blockhead you are, cousin Fizzy (puff).’

‘Stop calling me Fizzy. You’re a pitiful, meddlesome ghost and rude to boot,’ said he in an angry tone.

‘I’ve heard it said that civility towards a lady is the mark of a true gentleman.’

Papai humphed. ‘The maxim doesn’t apply to eccentrics like you.’

Annie took the pipe out of her mouth, and she knocked out the ashes. ‘Well, then, I might as well repeat myself: What a blockhead you are, cousin Fizzy.’

‘Do you deny it then?’

With a defiant air, Annie rose from the settle. ‘Stand out of my way, you idiot. I’m waiting for the ghost in the pastry-room where I’ve already set a trap, and then I’m going to pounce on it.’

‘You’ll do no such thing. I’ll do the manly pouncing here. You women are weak, delicate creatures.’

Annie scoffed at him. ‘Weak and delicate? Mrs Fitzwilliam will be quite displeased to hear this when I write her next.’

‘You daren’t write such a thing to her,’ threatened papai.

Of a sudden, Annie’s eyes bulged. ‘Shush, someone is coming.’

Seconds later, a big, lumpy shadowy figure tiptoed into the kitchen. Papai crept up to it, and he pounced on it in a manly fashion just as he said he would.

‘I have you!’ Papai seized the startled man by the scruff of his neck.

‘Colonel Fitzwilliam? Oh, my goodness.’ Pierce clutched at his heart, breathing heavily.

‘Why, you old sneak. Is this my father’s doing? Come, come, out with it, then.’

‘I confess I murdered the brawn under his lordship’s orders, but I swear to you, Colonel, I didn’t touch the mince pie or the twelfth cake. The Rosings Ghost did it.’

Annie groaned with disgust. ‘You stupid men!’

This confused me. ‘My avô is the ghost?’

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

Annie held up her hand. ‘Shush, I hear someone on the stairs.’

Click. Clack. Click. Clack. The ghost had a wooden leg – I was sure of it.

We hastened to the pastry-room, bumping into each other as we had only one lit candle to guide us there. Oh, how my hands turned to ice in my panic and excitement! We hid on the yonder side of a cupboard, waiting-waiting-waiting for ever, while that awful noise terrorised us. Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

The raps came closer and closer, louder and louder. Click. CLACK. Click. CLACK. With mingled feelings of dread and anger, I clung to papai. I shuddered to think what the ghost’s sinister secret could be and why it had lost a leg. Would the ghost hurt us by making us fall into holes? Would it blast us with holes using a rifle-gun? But I didn’t want to live my life in terror, all because of a bully like the Rosings Ghost. My ire heightened just thinking on it.

Click. CLACK. Click. CLACK. I held my breath. At the exact moment when I felt my lungs and my brain and my heart would explode into a million pieces, a ghostly figure draped in white from head to toe shuffled rather clumsily into the pastry-room, rapping the floor with a rifle-gun, ready to blast us. Why, oh, why hadn’t papai brought a rifle-gun to protect us? There was nothing for it but to charge at the Rosings Ghost. I willed myself to move, yet I could not, when papai held onto me with an iron grip.

Then, ever so slowly, the ghost lifted its white veil, thereby revealing itself. What a fright! Papai covered my gaping mouth with his hand, and it was fortunate he did, because my audible gasp might have frightened the ghost away.

‘A sleep-walker,’ uttered he in astonishment.

‘Good heavens,’ Annie half-whispered.

The sleep-walker approached the wood table, where three of the twelfth cakes had been set down as a trap to lure the ghost. By the light of a candle on the table, we could see our sleep-walker lick her fingers and thumbs. She stuck the first cake, plunging her thumb into the centre of it. What a shock! She licked her fingers again, and she stuck the second cake and then the third, each time giving us a violent start. But the queerest thing she did, was to smear the cake icing onto her face. The sleep-walker turned round, and she shuffled away, her walking-stick clattering on the floor.

Click. Clack. Click. Clack.

Papai turned to us with a grave look. ‘I shall follow my aunt in case she stumbles on the stairs.’

Meanwhile, Pierce set about to clean up the mess her ladyship had made with the three cakes.

I peered at my cousin, wholly bewildered. ‘Annie, why are you crying?’

‘My mamma is getting very old, and I fear she’s unwell and she’ll be taken from me.’ Two big tears tumbled down her cheeks.

This touched me to the quick, having never known Annie to cry much. My very best friend in the world was suffering, and I didn’t know enough etiquette and the properest thing to do. And so I wept along with her as any young child would have done in such a state of sadness and confusion. Hand in hand, we cousins slowly climbed the staircase. Papai, on seeing Annie’s fragile state, escorted her to her bedchamber, where he bid her good-night. She nodded silently, and once she withdrew into her bedchamber, she sobbed aloud. It was an awful moment.

Papai said not a word and neither did I as he led me up to the nursery. Tucked up in bed now, I pondered the meaning of this, the great tangle of it all, but my wee brain disappointed me, and no answers were forthcoming. I passed the night in a dreamless sleep, a big nothing of a dream landscape. But then, at the break of dawn, I awoke with a start. I suffered the uneasy sensation that my troubled waking dream last night had blended – nay, collided – with my nightmare about the Rosings Ghost.

–ooooo–


Each day I remind myself to go rightly in this world. Yes, yes – my degree of success is quite low given that I’m a hoyden and impudent to boot. Truly, though, I cannot help myself. But on this particular morning, I dare say I surprised everyone, including myself.

My resolve unbroken, I marched straight into the breakfast room, with my chin raised and my arms swinging. Papai cast me a stern look, whereupon I stumbled to a halt. With a deep breath, I mustered up these things known as modest comportment and gracious countenance, and I curtseyed proper-like to Lady Catherine. I grasped her hand to kiss it and to bless her in the Portuguese way.

‘A bênção minha Senhora.’

My foreign pleasantries rendered her speechless.

‘I beg you a million pardons, your ladyship. I’m a sleep-walker, and ’twas me that stuck my thumb into the twelfth cakes. I woke up this morning with cake-y stuff on my fingers and face. Will you forgive me?’

I hear you cry, ‘You bold girl! Why did you take the blame on yourself?’

Don’t you know – it doesn’t always feel good to be in the right? The glow that comes from vindication doesn’t last long. And there’s the rub. I said to myself, enough was enough, and I’m going to help my cousin Annie, whom I liked hugeously, so that she needn’t worry about her mamma becoming ill. The truth is, a part of me really didn’t want Lady Catherine to feel sad about being old and, oh yes, a bit crazy. I may not know much about etiquette stuff like my mamãe and being noble and honourable like my papai, but I do know something about kindness. I cared not a jot if her ladyship blamed me for having stuck the cakes. Why not confess, then, before the all-knowing grown-ups began to bawl and argue and get upset, and they never resolved anything?

Her ladyship appeared thunderstruck. ‘Indeed? A…a…sleep-walker?’

‘Oh yes,’ I nodded.

Her lips quivered, whereupon she touched her face. Had she seen herself in the looking-glass this morning, her cheeks besmeared with cake icing?

‘My lady, I am prepared for my court martial.’

Papai crossed his arms and groaned.

‘Your court martial?’ Her ladyship gasped in shock.

‘Oh yes, and my bread-and-water solitary confinement.’

Lady Catherine scowled at papai. ‘Nephew, how dare you punish your own child that way.’

‘Madam, I assure you I have not.’

‘Savage man!’

‘Huuu, huuu, huu-huu,’ Annie sobbed into her serviette.

‘Tears for breakfast? Anne, do you wish me to suffer head-ache?’ Her ladyship shook her head disapprovingly. ‘Listen to me, one and all of you. I’ve already spoken to Mrs Buxton, who calmed down Le Claire this morning. There shall be no more cake attacks at Rosings. Agreed?’

‘Oh yes,’ we replied together.

‘And be it said, there is no Rosings Ghost.’

‘Nothing of the sort. Absolutely no ghost. Nothing doing here at Rosings,’ we talked all at once.

Her ladyship cast a half-suspicious, half-concerned look at me. ‘I dare say you shall eat gruel for breakfast, given your…your…nocturnal rambling and eating habits.’

With an inward groan, I sank into my chair.

‘But seeing how I am well known in these parts as a benevolent lady, I shall allow you treacle and currants with it this time.’

‘Hurrah!’ cheered I.

Her ladyship motioned to the butler. ‘Pierce, a basin of gruel for Sofia-Elisabete.’

It was the first time this grand lady had called me by my name, pronouncing it correctly in Portuguese. Pierce winked at me while he spooned a goodly amount of treacle onto my gruel. To be sure, never did a basin of gruel taste better than on that bright winter’s morning at Rosings.

–ooooo–


Be it said, Annie’s twelfth cakes created a sensation with the tenants, and it became a new Rosings tradition. The children of the tenants were wild for the sugary well – the hole filled with the white sugar paste – in the centre of the cake, while the grown-ups were wild for the lucky coin hidden at the bottom of this well.

The eve of Epiphany having arrived, something singular happened. After we supped, the tenant farmers came round to Rosings to wish health and happiness to their benevolent landlady, the lady of the manor. Farmer Pennyman surprised us by singing the verses of ‘Twelfth Night’ accompanied by fife and tambourine. I’ve committed the verses to memory because they’re about twelfth cake; at least I thought so. Papai assured me that when I got older, I would understand them better.

Now the jovial girls and boys,
Struggling for the cake and plumbs,
Testify their eager joys,
And lick their fingers and their thumbs.


Statesmen like, they struggle still,
Scarcely hands kept out of dishes,
And yet, when they have had their fill,
Still anxious for the loaves and fishes.


Kings and Queens, in petty state,
Now their sovereign will declare,
But other sovereigns’ plans they hate,
Full fond of peace—detesting war.


One moral from this tale appears,
Worth notice when a world’s at stake;
That all our hopes and all our fears,
Are but a struggling for the Cake.


Lady Catherine had condescended to greet her tenants at the entrance of the manor-house, her arm linked with papai’s, while the footmen stood like sentries on the balustraded steps, they each of them holding a lantern. Her ladyship stood erect, her chin raised, her countenance cool, but I detected something different, something odd in her phiz. Hold, hold – could those actually be tears in her shiny eyes, or was it a trick of the lantern light? I suppose I’ll never really know. I was just a mere child of eight years then.

Papai once said that happiness divided is double happiness, and someone who seizes happiness for himself and doesn’t share it with others must be a lonely and pitiful creature. On Twelfth Night I thought we would burst from happiness quadrupled, because Annie and her mamma were happy, and papai and I were happy. Would it be too greedy to want happiness quintupled?

In the Servants’ Hall that evening, I romped with the other Twelfth Night revellers, having disguised myself as a unicorn because that’s what I wanted to be and no one could change my mind. How smartly unicorn-ish I looked! I wore a gold paper horn atop my head since papai wouldn’t let me wear a real horn, although he did let me wear my nankeen breeches and red jacket. Having gobbled down another hugeous slice of twelfth cake, I set off on a trot, teasing everyone with my silly neighs and nickers, when my brain began to tingle.

There, on the yonder side of the hall, standing near the wassail bowl, papai was drinking down a monstrous amount of lamb’s-wool. He had disguised himself as a nobleman, a Duke Orsino. Of a sudden, papai flung his cloak from him, as if he had been placed under enchantment. He embraced a moustachioed page boy, and they began to kiss in the romantick-y way.

I shook my finger at him. ‘Olha maroto! You rogue! I shall tell mamãe about this.’

Papai laughed at me. ‘My Viola already knows about it.’

‘Viola?’

The page with the girlish name turned round to grin at me.

I goggled at him, or rather, her.

‘Mamãe! You have come at last.’ I rushed towards her, blubbering and slobbering like a namby-pamby baby, because the weight of our separation during the Christmas season had been cruel and unbearable at times, and oh, how I sorely missed her. I thought I had been a brave little soldier-girl in her absence, but now, for some reason, my courage sank to my toes, and I couldn’t hold out anymore. I collapsed into her arms, a heap of childish mess, for I had been too long from home.

‘You poor thing!’ Mamãe kissed me, one cheek after another.

Smothered in her arms, I wept a thousand – nay, a million – hot tears. I knew not how long it took her to soothe me. When, finally, she set me to rights and wiped away my tears, she called me her courageous girl, and she awarded me her moustache to wear for the remainder of the evening. I whinnied my gratitude, which made her laugh, and thus I resumed my happy romping, all show-off as a moustachioed unicorn. Nevertheless, I kept a watchful eye on her out of fear that the magic of the evening would end and she, my beloved Fairy Queen, would disappear.

Oh, to be at home once more in Scarbro’. ‘I wish for home, I wish for home,’ I chanted the next morning. Alas, it was not to be. Mamãe insisted on a stay until Thursday sennight to make her point. I’m not sure what the point was since she and Lady Catherine spent a great deal of their time staring at each other and uttering not a word. One afternoon, while we ladies sat in the blue sitting room, I saw papai come to the doorway, where he made a hasty about-face, and go off like a flash he did, he having observed the silent war going on within.

Be it said that every little girl needs a strong mother to protect her and love her and guide her, and oh yes, to coddle her. Mamãe insisted that I eat a proper breakfast instead of thin, watery gruel. Mamãe insisted that I be allowed to drink chocolate at breakfast (hurrah!). Mamãe insisted that a lump-less bed be placed in the nursery for me. Mamãe insisted that I be allowed to sit up to supper (hurrah!).

All of mamãe’s insisting gave Lady Catherine head-ache. When we took our leave of Rosings, her ladyship, with a melancholy Annie by her side, stood like a queen outside the entrance, insisting we go; at least that was how it seemed to me, for her ladyship’s eyes shone with happiness that we intruders would finally quit Rosings.

Lady Catherine cleared her throat. ‘Well, nephew, I have no doubt that she will be the making of you.’

Papai rolled his lovey-dovey eyes at mamãe. ‘Madam, I do believe you’re right, and I’m certain Mrs Fitzwilliam thanks you for the compliment.’

‘Waggish man,’ grumbled her ladyship.

Papai grinned at his aunt as if he had said something clever.

This bewildered me. I assumed that Lady Catherine had praised my mamãe, who could reason with and encourage and influence my best beloved papai. I wonder now if her ladyship meant me instead? Pooh, nonsense. How could I, an insignificant little girl, inspire my papai? How could I make a difference in this world?

When I think on it, her ladyship never bid me good-bye, nor did she tell me I was a charming and clever child, nor did she say any mawkish stuff as grown-ups are wont to do when taking leave of each other. Her last words to me, before papai handed me into the carriage, were, ‘I suppose you would like to visit Rosings again, now that you’re not afraid of a ghost?’ I peered into her bright eyes ere I replied, ‘Would I!’, as though I had a won a prize. I hear you cry, ‘Why on earth would you do that?’ To be sure, it has the makings of another good tale. But papai doesn’t approve of my writing in my journal so much when I should be studying and getting myself educated.

Finis


© Copyright 2018 Robin Elizabeth Kobayashi. All rights reserved.
SubjectAuthorPosted

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

RobinElizabethJune 15, 2018 01:31PM

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

LorenaJune 17, 2018 12:43AM

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

RobinElizabethJune 17, 2018 03:27AM

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

LorenaJune 16, 2018 08:42PM



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