Lady Amelia Blackwell continued to pack. The Marquess of Blackwell’s family had left the hustle and bustle of a soon-to-end London season to prepare for the upcoming nuptials of Amelia and Lord Morgan Barrington. After they had been home but a sennight, being less than a week before the nuptials, her soon-to-be-husband came and invited Amelia to see her prospective new home. Included in the invitation were her mother, the Marchioness of Blackwell, and her sister, Lady Patience, for unspoken but deeply borne was the desire for his Amelia to be content living at Chase Abbey. He hoped that inviting the women to come and see what he had done so far in preparing Amelia’s new home for occupancy would please them. If there were any changes or decisions, she would have that opportunity for input, thereby making his home her home even before she resided officially there. Chase Abbey was the traditional country estate for the ducal heirs to reign and work from while waiting to take the family reins as Duke of Rossington. Often creating their families there, acquiring and tending to all manner of business from the study of that fair estate, for London was not truly home, it was a place of convenience and entertainment only.
?They could take some of Amelia’s things over to be put away when she came to see the changes. She would have to bring and leave her maid, Maggie, for a few days at Chase Abbey, but Barrington promised he would send her back soon enough to finish the packing. That would be plenty of time to prepare Amelia for the wedding day and final departure from her parents’ home.
The Marchioness and Amelia’s excitement was barely contained as they rode to see the improvements that had been accomplished since Lord Barrington had left several weeks ago to prepare for his new bride and their new life together. Lady Patience, Amelia’s only sister, was quiet as always and went along, so it seemed, merely for the diversion. All that the women knew was where Chase Abbey was located. They did not know what treasures the inside held, for none of them had ever entered Chase Abbey. It had been left with the bare minimum of maintenance for over twenty years and the Marquess was sure that Barrington would have quite a bit to work on. A chore all men of his standing embarked upon with relish, for to bring their bride home to anything less than a solid canvas with which to entice them to create would not be borne.
As they were traveling towards her new home, Amelia became a bit apprehensive in fear that it would be more than she could handle in bringing it back to its previous glory. She felt she needed to disclose her concerns with her mother near to ensure Barrington would not be vexed with her as far as to raise his voice in the expression of his vexation. She knew not what his level of expectation concerning her skill was, and indeed she did not know the degree of skill she possessed, having not had to put them to the test thus far.
Amelia tentatively broached the subject. “Lord Barrington, there could be more work than I’m able to handle. How much help shall I have in bringing the inside back to its former beauty?”
Lord Barrington looked for a moment and then said, “I’m not sure how much you will need, but you will have what you need. You have only to tell me how many, and I will find them for you. Actually, it isn’t a matter of bringing it back to look the way the manor did formerly, as it has to do with putting it in the way that you would like it to be. Nor are you to do the work, you are to oversee that task, my lady.” That was the answer that Amelia received, much to her continued chagrin.
Lady Patience, the Marchioness, Amelia, and Lord Barrington continued the conversation as to what colors they thought were the best for a country home, and Barrington stated he felt that seeing would help the decisions. They enjoyed the conversations about gardens and ponds, drawing rooms versus parlor d?cor. Barrington answered questions as the women discussed their ideas. He stated he cared not how Amelia desired the rooms so long as they were appropriate and not hideous. Barrington identified that in contrast to other places in the manor, there was one room that was off limits to his wife’s ministrations, and that was his study. To which Amelia laughed and stated she would not think to invade his space if he allowed her the library. The deal was struck.
The women continued to discuss how little or much help was needed to do a minimal job and what determined the need, such as the amount of family at home and the amount of entertaining. To which question Barrington answered he would not think they would need any more than a cook, two downstairs maids, and one chambermaid for about the first year. That was in addition to their personal attendants, the butler, housekeeper, and the groundskeepers.
“If we entertain, we will hire in temporary help.”
“I am not so sure you have the right of it, but let us look and make a recommendation, shall we?” offered the Marchioness. “Has Her Grace been to survey its state?”
“No, she said she would leave Lady Amelia to sort it out. His Grace has, though.”
The conversation quickly changed to the discussion of how much she should spend on changes to the home and what brought the most appeal, to which Amelia reminded them that it was Barrington’s decision on that.? The Marchioness had different tastes than Amelia, but she offered her thoughts on the hierarchy of need to run an efficient home.
Amelia said, “What I would actually love is to have a well-appointed formal dining room as is necessary. Then have a less formal, much less formal, dining room for the family to be able to have their meals. When the only ones we entertain are ourselves.”?
The conversation continued in that vein as they were approaching the property. Lord Barrington, glad to change the topic for he had grown tired of the tediousness of it, brought everyone’s attention to the entrance and the way that it looked at this point. Then he began to speak to what its appearance would be once they had added more shrubbery, greenery, and flowers. His pride was apparent and with excellent reason.
As they were about to pull into the drive proper, the Marchioness leaned over to point out parts of the architecture that stood out to her. The first thing that she saw was a quarter of the front driveway that had yet to be cleared away. Amelia whispered about the lack of good taste in pointing that feature out. Odd that she had to take her mother to task and it was a bit of a thrill to be able to do so.
?Overall, it still had a splendid outline of a full circular drive to go in front of the large main entryway. Finally, the drive emptied back out onto its entrance point, creating the full circle. It could accommodate quite an impressive amount of carriages, she noted. To the far right, as she was coming down the drive, she saw it was lined with pink cherry trees that would be amazing in full bloom. Amelia pointed out the carriage houses.
One shelter already had another carriage in it, so she turned to Lord Barrington and asked, “My lord, do you have two carriages for just one person?”
Barrington looked over at his soon-to-be-wife and smiled. “Lady Amelia, I have four conveyances. Two are coaches, this one, and a smaller coach. Then the barouche you see there, one for town, and I have some travel carriers that bring my luggage back and forth. They soon will be carrying your luggage back and forth to London and to other places that we need to go. I had thought the smaller carriage to give to you for your personal needs or for our needs. This larger one to accommodate more persons as today, and in the coming years, a family will require more room.”
Amelia seemed to be slightly overtaken with that information for she had not actually given thought as to how wealthy her soon-to-be-husband truly was. Even though her own father had considerable wealth, of which she could not fathom the depths, he was not just starting out. But she corrected her thoughts. Barrington had yet to begin his family and did not possess years of estate work behind him as her father, but he had been at it for nearly a decade, which was no small time itself. Still and all, it did not make a difference to Amelia as to whether Barrington had the money or not but her mother had the right of it?having it was much better than not having it. Of course, she knew that it would make life much easier than if he did not have any. That being said, she did not know that he considered three carriages an essential need and she wondered what else he did that she might consider excess. Ducal heirs with their own additional titles may be more extravagant than she was prepared.
?Amelia responded, “I would like to use the smaller coach, but that looks rather impressive. It would be an adventure to try it. It sits so high, I wonder if I should not like it above half.”
“Nor shall you be able to use it without accompanying me, for it is not for you to drive. Ah, my dear Lady Amelia, I beg you heed my words. I see your wheels turning so before you think further, be advised, I would sell it before allowing you to drive it. It takes great practice and you are not to obtain that practice. My wife and the mother of my children will not be driving atop a phaeton. So, do I sell it tomorrow or shall you remain off?”
“Keep it, for I care not a whit about it.” Amelia responded with slight irritation at being denied a possible pleasure but quickly diverted his pique. “Shall you show me how to drive the carriage?”
“That request I would be most happy to oblige. When you are ready, then I shall practice with you. But be warned, if you even attempt to climb atop of the phaeton, you shall pay a steep price, my dear.”
Amelia chose to ignore his statement, not wanting her sister and mother to know the value of that price. She continued the conversation along to other topics to the knowing smile of her affianced.
“And Lord Barrington, where do you ride? Can I see it from here? Can we see your stables?”
“Our stables are around back and we won’t have time today to show them or the riding trails, but we can ride anywhere you wish to go.”
“I do have my own mount and a saddle I prefer to ride. Shall I have them sent over just before I come?”
“I will send over one of my stable hands for it and any other tack you desire will be here at your disposal.”
“But the saddle, I may keep my own?”
Barrington nodded agreement.
Lady Blackwell warned, “You may rue the day you agreed, my lord.”
“How is that, my lady?”
Amelia cut her mother off. “Because I love to ride a bit too recklessly. But I will not continue to do so as Lady Barrington, my lord.”
Barrington looked long and hard at Amelia, seemingly piercing her soul with his stare, and then he released her gaze as though he had decided not to pursue the issue. Amelia let out her breath in relief and it was not lost on Barrington. As they began to drive down the front circular drive, she could see the home in full view. As they rounded the bend, carriage houses having been passed, there in front of her was a beautiful stone home.
The front face of the manor had a dozen largish windows that lined up next to each other in sections of six on either side of the door. There was a large oak tree on either side of the end of the house. It was obvious that they had been planted a goodly distance from the manor, but time had allowed it to fill in the space between the tree trunks and outer walls. The house having been built in a horseshoe shape, as they approached the manor, they stopped in front of the door to experience what was quite a scene.
There was an enormous entryway and seven steps to the landing leading to the door. The entry door itself was built of massive oak with large panes of glass above it. As they pulled into the front, the large windows were spaced about ten feet apart from each other on the second floor and they spanned the whole of that level. Then above that, in what could be a third level, were four enormous windows with guest rooms, Amelia assumed. These were far greater in size than the two rows of six windows below on the ground floor. They appeared as though they could be opened from the inside. Above that seemed to be the servants quarters, or attics, or both. Four levels of living made an impressive showing. Again Amelia wondered at the expanse of her husband’s holdings and responsibilities. And she was sure he underestimated the staffing needs.
As they were alighting from the carriage with the help of Barrington, he took the opportunity to advise them to stay close to him and not to wander off. He admonished that there were many things around the house that would not be deemed safe as yet. Not the structure itself he assured the ladies, but the debris and chaotic placement of the furniture in various stages of cleaning.
“Amelia, do not wander off, my dear. I do not want you to take to your bed over an accident just as we are about to be wed.” Barrington wanted to curb his lady’s more curious tendencies today.
“I assure you I am quite tame, my lord.”
“Of course,” he responded appropriately, but the smile was still on his lips and hers when they entered the enormous wooden doors.
Entering the home, the front entryway was grand. There was a massive chandelier greeting her as she walked into the foyer. Amelia gloried in the sight of it. On the entryway wall, lined up majestically, and if one were fanciful, judgmentally, hung large portraits of people she had never met before. Obviously they were from another time, most likely they were Barrington’s relatives, but she did not want to ask at that moment. Walking further on the right side was a grand stairwell going to the second floor and Amelia immediately began to giggle.
Barrington looked at her and said, “What is it that is made you laugh, my dear?”
Amelia turned to him and pointed to the stairwell.
She said, “This is a perfect place for children to slide down the banisters, just as I said I would teach them to do.”
The Marchioness gasped as she thought about her grandchildren sliding down the banisters of the grand stairwell.
Barrington tweaked Amelia’s curls and whispered his admonishment, calling her a minx while he reassured the Marchioness that none of her grandchildren would be found sliding down the banister of this staircase. He winked conspiratorially at Amelia as he reached for her gloved hand. He decided to keep her close at hand for a bit to ease and temper the shock value his hellion enjoyed delivering to her audience.
Walking further into the room, there was a floor covering but Amelia did not care for it, and she mentally noted that when she was mistress of this house that piece would be removed.? The carpet took away from the grandeur of the rich red highlights of the wood that seem to build up the whole entryway into a grand announcement. Furnishings were found here and there amongst the room and the walls wore a rich rusty tan color, a more rustic and homey atmosphere that she enjoyed.
The Marchioness turned and asked her daughters as they stood taking in the opulence of the room, “Don’t you think some beautiful satin drapes would look excellent on these walls, Amelia?”
“I don’t believe so, Mother. I quite like the walls as they are. I like the more original design. I have never liked silk wall coverings. However, if Lord Barrington prefers those, we may indeed put them on, but I hope he does not.”
Amelia looked at Barrington as though to say, if I am mistress of this house, we will not have satin wall coverings. ?Barrington smiled and walked on, content that she was taking ownership.
As they traversed further into the home, there were pieces of the architecture that stood out to the women. The sitting room had large double doors. Amelia believed they were French doors of a kind that opened out to what must be a small garden and she intended to explore that later. This was a large spacious area and she could see comfortable couches and settees and an ornate table to set her tea tray. She believed that this would be a very comfortable room, however, a little more formal than she wanted her family to spend their time. Patience noted that the room had a perfect niche in which to put a pianoforte, if Amelia so desired.
“I would love to have a pianoforte to teach the children how to play and to have my lovely sister come and grace us with her talent.”
“You employ a teacher, Amelia,” instructed the Marchioness.
“But, what if I want to teach them the foundational lessons myself, Mother?”
“Women of your class do not teach their children to play instruments. Do I not have the right of it, Lord Barrington?”
Amelia looked at Barrington who appeared to be picking his words carefully.
“Mind your answer, my lord,” cautioned Amelia. “Mother, I promise to not embarrass you or bring shame to the family name, either of them.”
“May I have that in writing, my lady?” inquired Barrington.
“Absolutely, my lord. I shall put it in the same contract as we have for number of children and attempts thereof.”
It was obvious that topic was not to be touched at this juncture. And as Lord Barrington himself had put a moratorium on the conversation until marriage there was little he could say that would not scandalize his soon to be mother-in-law. Amelia had done a fair job of that so far. She was working hard towards a spanking and he was settling into the reality that it would be a common occurrence in their home in response to his lady’s quips. For now, Barrington chuckled in response and was thankful that the Marchioness did not seem to hear, or at least decided not to acknowledge the comment. Barrington led them to the next area quickly.
As they continued into the home, just across the way from the sitting room, they entered into a cozier space Amelia saw immediately as the family dining room. This hall was not previously used for a dining room, but more of a staging room. However, Amelia said this was perfect for her needs. This was close, but not too close, to the kitchen and would easily seat ten intimately.? It also was not too close to the front door, so it would meet her requirements for their family and it could still be used as a staging room for the formal dining room when needed.
“Morgan, this is the room I want for our family to dine when no one is at home with us and to have breakfast in.”
Barrington smiled again, for all that he had wanted from this visit was coming to fruition. He was able to see Amelia’s reaction to the home, the fact that she was taking ownership of it, and he loved her for it. The fact that she was emotional and used his Christian name also did not escape him. He could see their children in the room breaking fast and sliding down the banisters of the great hall. He could also see his spanking hand would be in use often for his lady was quite openly opinionated and he would have it no other way, predominately.
The formal dining room was located down the hall and it was indeed a large formal dining room as it had an immense table that held twelve chairs on either side. The table had one large ornate chair at the head and one at the foot of the table. Amelia asked Lord Barrington if they should use this table when they were at cross-purposes, that way they would be able to keep their distance until all was mended.
To which he replied, “That would not work at all. I will require my wife to sit next to me so I may keep an eye on her and she is close enough to hear my chastisement.”?
“And what if I was not in the wrong, but you, my lord?”
“Then you will want the same, my dear.”
?Amelia laughed.? The Marchioness appeared a bit dismayed, but Patience grinned for the vision it produced.
?Amelia was rather taken with the feel of the room because it seemed elegant and simple as well.? The Marchioness then offered her suggestion of having wall coverings, maybe brocade, or something as heavy.
Amelia answered, “I don’t think so, Mother. I think what I truly like about this room is the furniture is solid. To put something heavy on the walls would make this room oppressive.”
The windows on either side looked out on another angle of the garden and made Amelia appreciate the beauty that would be here when the work was complete.
As they walked into the parlor, there was something cozy and warm about the room. Amelia decided this would be the room where she spent her evenings with Lord Barrington. There was great stone fireplace on the left-hand side. She wondered why it would be on the inside wall and asked Lord Barrington that same question. His response was that it was close enough to the outside wall that it could be fluted out so as not to be a problem. Amelia pondered that until she saw the leather furniture already sitting in the room. She nearly squealed with delight. It would make the room considerably more comfortable and make the fireplace infinitely more inviting. She would have them clean it well.
The doorways opened out to another part of the garden, which seemed as though it would go on forever, but unlike the earlier views, this portion had a secluded element about it. There were tangles of bushes that had not been kept up. A narrow arbor was ahead with vines and flowers that were in disarray and beautiful plants that she had never seen before. She could imagine manicuring it back just enough so that they would have a lovely secluded area to enjoy their time together in the evening. She blushed when she recalled the spanking she had endured in the gardens in her father’s London home and wondered how long before Barrington would catch her in this one.
Leaving that room, they walked into the library, which was quite immense. Amelia looked at the rows and rows of books and could imagine spending whole days in there just trying to gaze and take inventory in her mind of what there was. She walked over and handled some of the books which were timeworn. Some of them were very, very old and all extremely dusty she noted as she began to sneeze when wiping off some of the books.
“I shouldn’t pick them up were I you,” Barrington said laughingly. “I am not sure that is something you should be doing at this point and that is also not something that I expect my wife to do. Put them back, dear, and we will have a maid come to transform the room for you. This will be her whole job, to bring the library back to its former glory, with plenty of beeswax and lemon.”
Amelia started to protest but thought this was not the time or the place; I will have my time while he is out working on the property. I will come in and lovingly take care of this room. She loved books and missed the time she often spent in them. It was time she had been forced to sacrifice to the London season and the prepping of the wedding. While the Marchioness could only voice her agreement of Barrington’s edict, Patience was stumped as to why there was no protest from Amelia. Barrington also did not miss the expected storm’s delay and knew that was all it was, a delay. He knew this subject would be addressed again at a later time with not as quiet of a conclusion. He smiled at a future spanking his wife would earn, for he felt positive the little minx was up to something. He loved this woman and the feel of her bare bottom under his hand gave him exquisite joy.
Further on, they found a gallery, which had seen the day of many more portraits than were in it now and Amelia could imagine what it would look like with paintings on the wall again. The Marchioness did not care for this room very much and Patience wondered where they would put their new family portraits, Amelia and Barrington’s. Amelia had decided that as soon as she was able, she would find the first lord, put him back in his rightful place next to his mistress of the house. There was still a lot of dust and cobwebs with damp areas. There needed to be much wall cleaning and places for some pieces d’art.?
Amelia began to wander off into her own world while everyone else was listening to Lord Barrington explain the gallery and the history of each item. Amelia had already pictured the place in its restored glory and did not need to sit and listen to it any longer. She would follow Lord Barrington later and get more details, but now she had other rooms to explore. Leaving the three standing in the gallery once she had identified the first lord and lady, she wandered off into another room. She had completely forgotten Barrington’s admonition to stay close to him. She would have reason to recall his words later.
The next room she saw was her husband’s study. It appeared that he had already begun using the large oak desk and bookcase. It also seemed that he had his own way of stacking papers, and they were not dusty. The room was clean, orderly and smelled of Barrington.
The room was definitely a man’s domain. The furniture was massive. It had a no-nonsense atmosphere with outlying chairs that were not hard, but certainly not cuddle comfortable except for one chair that seemed out of place for its comfort. She would soon find out that her fianc? had just purchased it for delivery simply for her comfort. There was a well-made fireplace with straight lines in a very simple design. It was definitely not a place to put women’s artwork and certainly not a room to put brocade or any other type of wall covering. There was a small door that opened out into a private area. No garden here, just grass, and a little rock area in front of a small fountain. This fit Amelia’s idea of Lord Barrington when he needed to concentrate on business.
The chair behind the desk was strong and sturdy and not frivolous. This was certainly not a woman’s desk or chair, and yet she felt the urge to sit in it and to run her hands along the desk’s lines, to take in the room. Closing her eyes, she imagined Lord Barrington in his possessive and strong way deciding the matters of his household, his properties, his business endeavors, and those people that relied on him for their living. She imagined their errant children having to stand before him in this room to explain their actions and Amelia smiled for she imagined that to be a rather often event for both mother and her offspring.
There was a less massive staircase apparently not used for the front parlor or for guests, but certainly something that would be used for family, children or staff. She walked up the stairs to the second floor. At the left of the landing, across from the stairs was a door and she opened it. It was a beautiful room for balls, for parties, for entertaining and certainly for dancing. These walls did have beautiful maroon and gold brocade on them.? The two large chandeliers, not yet clean, were reigning over the room, dusty and unable to reflect the goings on in the grand room. But soon, very soon, their brilliance would be restored and thereby their omnipotence. There was a piano in the corner and a dais for musicians was near the piano.
There appeared to be three doors leaving this grand room that seemed to span the whole of one side of the main second-floor wing. When she walked in, there was another door, which was in the same position on the opposite end of the enormous room. The final door was in the corner behind the musician’s dais, and the square pianoforte and the often accompanying harp. She shook her head at the need for a thorough cleaning of both instruments. She vowed she would take the hide off of her son if he left the place in such disarray after she made it a lovely home. Neither would she allow Morgan to just abandon the home as the Duke and Duchess had done. That settled in her mind, she continued her exploration.
Amelia knew the two doors exited to the hallway being the entrances. The third oddly placed door must be for the musicians to enter and exit. The thought of a door leading to some place she had never ventured before was a bit exciting and certainly enticing. Not one to deny her own curiosity, she went through the entry.? It was a little dustier in this room, a little colder and much darker.? She could not quite figure out what the difference was. Why it was so dark and cold until she realized the window was covered very heavily with a canvas-like material that barely admitted light.
It took some effort for her to open the curtain that covered the large window, but she finally succeeded. When she did, it took her a moment to adjust her eyes. She took another minute to get the dust out of her hair and face the best she could. She looked around to see a surprising sight. This room did not appear to be a child’s room, nor an adult’s room. It seemed to be a young man’s of approximately twelve to sixteen or seventeen years of age. The items in the room were not those of a child and not those of a man. The young man would have, for instance, had larger hunting gear whereas there were two guns on the wall. Everything appeared to be things that a boy in his teen years would have used to practice with or work on.