Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tea With The Kingsleys

I met a little boy of three running down the hill from where John had told me to meet him.

"Now who are you?" I asked, as he slowed to a halt.

"I'm Freddy Kingsley. Papa sent me to find Miss Rose," said the boy, smiling at me sweetly. His eyes were John's, but his hair was that of another.

"Well, you're in luck, dear," I said. "For I am Miss Rose."

"Then you are to come with me. Papa is waiting for you at Uncle Peter's house."

Freddy grabbed my hand and we made our way up the hill, his little voice chattering and telling me about his Uncle Edmond and Peter and his Grandpapa George.

"And sometimes Papa takes me with them to see the fair in London--it happens once a year!" he said as we neared Peter Kingsley's house.

"Rosie!" Came the well-known voice of Lilian Kingsley.

She rushed forward to meet me.

"I have concluded I shall be an old maid," she said. Her brown curls were falling out of their bun, and her eyes looked as though the merriment in them had been firmly pushed away.

"Oh really? What about Herbert Peters?" I said teasingly.

Her cheeks turned red.

"You noticed? Oh dear, Mama doesn't think Herbert a good husband--just because he's a lawyer!" she said angrily. "As if I cared about all that!" Then she imitated Lady Kingsley's voice: "He is not right for you, Lily. You deserve better! Sometimes I think your head is empty by the way you think."

"Talking about Mama?" asked Peter, walking across the lawn towards us. He was followed by John, who smiled at me.

"Lily, when I first told her about my marriage to Helene..." Join trailed off. "She was most upset at me because Helene was a maid. But she eventually warmed to Helene, but Helene was so dear--who could not have warmed to her?" A wistful look came into his eyes, and then he turned to the matter at hand. "Don't worry, Lily, she will soon be used to Herbert."

"Shall we go in?"

"Yes, let's go or the tea will be cold."

I was escorted by John and gallant little Freddy to the sitting room.

"Even though Mama can be determined when she decides who is and who is not an eligible husband, we all love her," said Peter, looking sternly at Lily, who blushed profusely.

"Of course, Peter, of course," she said quickly. "But she still hasn't found your perfect match yet, has she?" 

"No, and thank goodness! I don't want to end up like Uncle Rupert and Aunt Hilda--their marriage wasn't a very happy one at all. Uncle Rupert married Hilda because his mother had wanted a lady in the house... he was five and thirty when he married her, and she was but seventeen," said Peter, pointing at a portrait of a grim-looking couple. "I had met them once, before Hilda's death, and he had been the most violent husband you could imagine. Hilda was sad until her death; she used to come to our house until Rupert Roberts forbade his wife ever to enter our threshold again. You see, Father had bought his dream home, and Rupert was terribly jealous."

"Yes, they were very sad," I reminisced. "I wish Miss Hilda was still around to calm Mr. Roberts down."

"Yes dearest, it would make living here much more easy," John said. "Did you hear he-"

"Shh, not in front of Fredrick!" Peter said, casting an anxious look at the sleeping boy. "Lily, take him to Fanny. She'll take care of him."

"Are you sure Fanny won't be too tired, Peter? Your housekeeper does do a lot..."

"No, Fanny enjoys Freddy as much as I do."

And with that, Lily and Freddy exited the room. Peter continued:

"Well, as I was saying, Uncle Rupert burnt down the small grain mill, since they didn't have enough for him to take home."

"And what happened to the miller and his workers?"

"Robert burnt his foot really bad. Harold lost his eye brows--he does look really comical now. And the miller was all right, except for a bruised ankle from Rupert's walking cane."

The horrors of what Mr. Rupert Roberts did always had an affect on Lady Kingsley, for he was her brother. She went into hysterics every time his antics were mentioned. At this moment, she proceeded to do so, and our attention was distracted from Peter's story for the time being.