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Constance Stanley
Wyrmling
Wyrmling


Joined: 17 May 2017
Posts: 6
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Can Be Found: Stanhope House, or Arden Manor
550.00 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 6:03 am    Post subject: No Choice Reply with quote

February 1887: Arden Manor

Arden Manor in the wilds of Warwickshire seemed, on the face of it, the perfect English country house, the seat of the Grey family since they first took ownership of Arden and its surrounding lands. Sadly, it was only on the face of it. The whole countryside for several miles around was aware that the family fortune was gone, squandered by the former Lord Arden in gambling dens; indeed, a good part of London society also knew it. The current Lord Arden had managed to claw back some semblance of wealth through a well-chosen marriage, but alas, much of the young lady's dowry had been demanded back by her family when she died not long after their wedding. Still, nobility commands a certain respect, and that respect was still evident, even in the demands from creditors for payment.

Lady Constance Stanley, the sister of the current lord of the manor, swept into her brother's study with a heavy sigh. "This cannot go on, Lawry," she said, without preamble. "It is bad enough that we are becoming laughable among our peers, but now even the local butcher is beginning to demand payment for services. We have to do something."

His sister could not have had more perfect timing than to find him in his study going over the ledger and the mound of bills that were piled up on the desk around him. He had already sold many of the family's treasures, save the furniture, their mother's silver the most recent item to have gone to auction to pay the latest round of bills. There wasn't much else he could do really, but either find another rich wife or gainful employment. He was currently leaning toward employment, but he wasn't even sure if that would save them from their creditors at this point. It was sad that things had come to this, and through no fault of his own.

Lord Lawrence Grey, known to friends and family affectionately as "Lawry", quietly sighed before setting down his pen, folding his hands, and lifting his gaze to his sister with what he hoped was infinite patience. "What would you have me do, Connie? Hold a ball and hope Cinderella leaves behind a glass slipper at midnight?" Marrying for money had always felt wrong to him, and though he'd had nothing to do with it, he'd always felt guilty about Adelaide's death.

She moved to sit in the chair across from him in a swish of skirts. "Go to London for the Season," she told him, hoping he was prepared to listen to her this time. "It was a terrible tragedy, what happened to Adelaide, but it was not your fault. No one could have predicted that she would be so weak to a simple fever. No one blames you. Indeed, you are still highly eligible; there are matrons all over the country who would burst their stays with delight if you chose to wed their daughter. But the only way to find a wife with a handsome dowry is to be a part of society again."

They had been over this more than once, and from the look on his face, it wasn't a topic of conversation he was very open to discussing again. He had his pride, after all, and he didn't like the idea of whoring himself out just for money, and yet, it was a fairly commonplace occurrence among those of his rank. "We've talked about this already. It's too soon," he said, dismissing her argument with a wave of his hand. "Tell me, where is your beloved husband these days? Surely he has enough money to support the two of you."

Constance's expression flickered - only for a moment, but there was a suggestion of pain in her eyes that she hoped her brother did not see. "Edmund is in York, on business," she told Lawrence. "I believe he will be there for several months, so you shall simply have to endure my pestering, or act upon it. I shall not give up so easily, Lawry."

"Of course he is," Lawry muttered beneath his breath. He did not have the highest opinion of Edmund Stanley, but as the man was married to his sister, there wasn't much he could do about it. Lawry tapped his fingers against the leather blotter on his desk, his expression both pensive and annoyed. "I suppose I will not hear the end of this until I do as you ask," he said, obviously not happy about her request, but what choice did he have?

"No, you will not," Constance assured him, but her lips were quirking into a faint smile of triumph. "And as your only female relative, I shall simply have to join you in London. You cannot simply call upon any lady that meets your need; I, however, can." And it would get her back among the people they'd known when they were younger, when their family name had not been dragged through the mud by their father's gambling debts.

He wondered if she really cared about what he wanted or needed at all, or if this was just about her own needs and desires. Still, he wanted to redeem the family name as much as she did and prove that he was a better man than his father. And saving the estate wasn't just about them, but about all those who worked for them and depended on them for income, as well as those in the surrounding villages. Was it really so much to ask that he consider a second marriage? He sighed, knowing there was no point in fighting it. "Very well. But the lady will be one of my own choosing." After all, he was the one who was ultimately going to look at her every day.

"I am not our father, Lawry," she reminded him, for a moment her tone and expression stern. "How could you possibly think that I would seek to force you into a marriage that was not of your choosing? I know this is not the way you would wish to seek a companion in life, but it is your only choice. And you will not frighten the mothers half so much if you have your sister at your side."

"I know," he admitted, not taking her scolding too much to heart. His sister had been forced to become the maternal head of the household after their mother's death, and he knew she meant well. The estate had been in their family for generations and neither of them wanted to lose it, but he was the one who was expected to marry for money in order to save it. "It's just ... After what happened to Adelaide ..." he started, trailing off and leaving the rest of that thought unsaid. His sister should be able to fill in the blanks easily enough.

"Dear heart ..." She reached across the desk to clasp his hand in her own. "Adelaide was a sweet girl, but hardly robust. You did everything you could possibly have done to care for her. Indeed, her family did not blame you for her death at all, though I hardly think it was in good taste to demand the return of the dowry before you had even had time to mourn her. We shall simply have to find you a young lady who is not quite so delicate."
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Constance Stanley
Wyrmling
Wyrmling


Joined: 17 May 2017
Posts: 6
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Can Be Found: Stanhope House, or Arden Manor
550.00 Silver Crowns

Items

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 6:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"And one with a dowry large enough to pay off Father's debt, no doubt," he added with a distraught frown. So much for marrying for love, but if he wanted that, he should have been born a commoner. "Will Edmund be coming, too?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral, as if he didn't care either way, when nothing could be further from the truth.

"I doubt he will have the time," Constance said, though that was not a yes or a no. She had long ago learned never to expect her husband's whims to be all that predictable. "Perhaps he may visit town for Ascot, perhaps not. He is fond of sport, but not of balls and receptions." She held her brother's gaze for a long moment. "I will not make your decision for you, Lawry, but will you permit me to ask a few friends whom we should learn more about?"

Though his expression didn't change, he felt relieved that his sister's husband would most likely not be accompanying them. His sister knew him well enough to know he wasn't overly fond of her husband, though he did his best to be cordial, if only for her sake. "Of course. You know more about these things than I do," he admitted, still feeling a little bit like a stuffed goose that's gone up for auction to the highest bidder.

"Then you should write to our cousin, Albert, and ask for permission to trespass on his goodwill as house guests for the Season," Connie told him gently. It had been decades since the Grey family held a house in Mayfair, and it was the only address to be had if you wished to be an active participant in the ton. "And I shall begin the process of procuring invitations and tickets to the opera."

"When do you wish this visit to take place?" he asked, plucking a piece of stationery from a drawer in his desk and taking up a pen. He assumed she'd want to be there when the season started in May, but he wanted to be sure. At least, that would still give them a few months to make all the proper arrangements.

"We should arrive perhaps a week before May," she suggested. "Time enough for the news of our imminent arrival to travel ahead of us, and time enough to circulate before the Derby." She chuckled at the resigned look on his face. "Do not be so grumpy, Lawry. It may even be fun."

"You are not the one who is going to be gawked at like a prize goose," he replied, though he supposed there was no way around it. If he had to marry again, he thought he might as well marry someone who had a decent dowry, so long as she was pleasant enough to be around. He and his first wife might not have been in love, but at least they'd become friends. There was no way of knowing now whether that friendship might have grown into something more.

"Oh, do not be such a grouch about it," Connie laughed, shaking her head in his direction. "You, at least, will be able to escape to your club of an afternoon while I will be expected to call upon every lady of consequence in the British Isles." She smiled at him. "Thank you for not insisting I remain behind," she added softly. "I am quite content to chaperone you as much as you like."

"Yes, I'm sure you will be delighted to pick out prospective brides for me," he remarked with just a hint of amusement as he dipped the pen in a bottle of ink and started to scrawl a letter. "I'm afraid the trip would be rather boring alone," he added. "And it will do you good to get away for a while."

"I can tell when I am being dismissed," she laughed, rising to her feet. "I have letters of my own to write. Do try and join me for dinner this evening, Lawry. It's terribly intimidating to sit in that enormous dining room all alone through four courses."

He looked up from his letter writing a moment to eye her with a single brow arched in curiosity. Was she really as lonely as she seemed? It was that husband of hers he held at fault. A man should be there for his wife, not off doing whatever it was Edmund was off doing. His expression softened into a repentant frown. "I'm sorry. I know I've been a selfish oaf since Adelaide died."

"With good reason," she allowed him gently. "But you will have to shake off your tendency to spend so much time alone. Women like to be in the company of their husbands, you know, especially if that husband has gone to so much trouble just to find them in the first place." She laughed once more, bending to kiss his hair. "Write your letters, dear heart, and I shall do the same. Let us set London a-buzz with anticipation."

If there was a woman he enjoyed spending time with, he might actually be tempted to do so, but lately he was far too busy tending to business matters and trying to keep the estate afloat whatever way he could. What his sister was really telling him was that it was time to shake off his grief and depression and move on, before things got even more dire than they already were.

And what better way to do that, than to find a new wife to bring some more life into Arden Manor?
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