Chapter 28

Screenshot-13“Miss Murphy, a Mr Cressingham is waiting for you in the green parlour.”

Estelle almost jumped out of her skin when a footman appeared, seemingly from nowhere.

“He offers his apologies for seeking you out here, but it appears he has urgent business that cannot wait. Will you follow me please?”

Screenshot-16Estelle’s stomach dropped, her heart thudding to a stop as she recalled.

The solicitor.

She had completely forgotten about the calling card he’d left in the front hall a week back.

Screenshot-14As the governess followed him, an icy dread took her veins.

Solicitors never brought good news, not in Moonlight Falls, where death, debt and damning gossip were understood to be daily perils.

Screenshot-21_zps5ba6a8d6Estelle racked her brains for who on earth she knew in Moonlight Falls that could be in trouble (besides Liddy). She prayed her friend was safe. Perhaps it was Marielle’s parents?

Dear lord, she prayed everyone was safe.

Screenshot-71The first thing she saw, other than the dark mahogany walls and green furniture, was  the low table in the centre of the room. Behind a towering pile of books sat a balding man.

“Miss Murphy? Angus Cressingham, at your service.”

Screenshot-29Estelle moved to the chaise longue wordlessly, a sense of foreboding gnawing its way into her gut.

“I am sorry to trouble you like this,” the solicitor continued, “However I have urgent matters I must discuss with you.”

Screenshot-52The solicitor took her silence as a sign to continue. “Before we begin, would it be possible for you to please state the name of your Father?”

That took Estelle by surprise. “My Father?”

“If you please.”

Screenshot-33The governess swallowed, wondering what on earth her Father had to do with anything. Normally she wouldn’t divulge his name to anybody, but since this solicitor clearly had some business with her, it became apparent that she hadn’t a choice.

“Venture…  Lord Edmure Venture.”

Screenshot-54She woke her from a dreamless slumber with a start.

She had been so exhausted after her ordeal that day that Estelle had practically collapsed as soon as the household maids had finished making her ‘presentable’.

Screenshot-29She sprung from the bed to find Lord Venture sat on a chair nearby, her mother’s pendant in his palm, staring at it as if it would disappear at any moment.

His gaze was strangely empty and confused.

Screenshot-32“…Where is Luminista?”

Estelle swallowed the dryness in her mouth, but she could only shake her head at the question in his eyes. She did not know why, but her words simply refused to fall in the august presence of this man.

Screenshot-48Lord Edmure Venture turned away. Silence thundered through the room for several minutes.

He only stared outside, his face pale and sombre as the clouds hanging ominously beyond the glass pane.

Screenshot-26He murmured her mother’s name, but the ensuing words did not seem for Estelle’s ears, only his own.

“Nothing God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, but you, of your own will, did it! You loved me — then what right had you to leave me? What right?! I never even told you—“

Screenshot-23And then the air around them seemed to snap. In an instant, inside a fraction of a second, something changed within him and he stood and turned to her, gaze harsh.

I take it that gypsy wench left you behind, too. It seems that she expected me to believe I am your… father.”

Screenshot-51He sneered at the brand.

“Well, while it’s entirely possible that I am your father by blood, I am not by name and that’s all that matters in this world. I suppose she had dozens of bastard brats running around the country. Well, know this: I have not one word of comfort for you.”

Screenshot-37Estelle felt a weighty darkness settle in the room.

In her own heart.

Screenshot-45He approached her, his figure imposing and frightening to Estelle. She stole a step backward, a meagre protection from the onslaught of his words.

“What is your name?”

“E-Estellise.”

Screenshot-18Lord Venture blinked. Then, without warning, he gave the ceiling a long-suffering glance and muttered:

“A gypsy name for a gypsy bastard. How cruel you’ve been — cruel and false!”

Screenshot-16The ceiling made no reply.

He laughed bitterly before continuing to shout at the inanimate surface.

“And I suppose you’ll want me to educate her too, you hateful gypsy bluestocking!”

Screenshot-53Estelle was slightly terrified that the man had gone quite mad.

Fortunately, he seemed to come to his senses almost immediately.

Screenshot-19Fine. You will remain here.”

The Lord finally conceded.

“But only as a house-maid. You shall have your lessons in secret. Do not presume to tell the household staff who you are, child, or, I assure you, the consequences will be grievous.”

Screenshot-21“You are nobody, girl, nothing – a motherless gypsy foundling I pulled from the roadside on which you were begging. That is who you are and what you will tell anyone who asks. You are not my daughter, I am not your father, and we will never speak of this again.”

Screenshot-56And that was that. Estelle had gone back to sleep that night, knowing she would awake to a new life. She would be a new person. A better person.

No one would ever think to leave her behind again.

screenshot-811_zps15f74ee3And she had spent the next twenty years of her life trying to become just that: new.

But even to this day she had never been able to sit through a storm without crying out for her mother in fear.

Screenshot-57_zpsc951f337Because every time thunder crashed or lightning shot through the sky, she would re-live the despair she had felt the night her mother had abandoned her on the dark steps of the orphanage, alone and afraid.

Screenshot-76Yet despite all those years of hardwork and self-discipline, it seemed that she and her mother had not led lives too dissimilar, afterall. No more so than now, when she was sat here, terrified at the possibility of being with child.

screenshot-221-1_zps712ba42dAt once, Estelle remembered what the Venture’s old housemistress used to mutter under her breath, whenever she was displeased with Estelle’s work.

Bad blood breeds bad blood.

Those words haunted her now, more than ever.

Screenshot-34Mr. Cressingham made a thoughtful sound, bringing her thoughts back to reality. Crushing reality.

“Thank you,” he said. “It is just a formality that I ask you, however one must be certain of these things.”

“What… things?”

Screenshot-73“Miss Murphy.”

His tone betrayed a gravity she had not experienced personally.

“I am sorry to be the bearer of such grave news. I am afraid Lord Venture passed away last night.”

Screenshot-78Estelle’s mind froze. Her breath stopped. She saw the solicitor’s mouth moving.

Words. He was saying words.

And yet she heard nothing.

Screenshot-52“…several weeks of suffering. You have my utmost condolences.”

She blinked. Focused.

Suffering?”

Screenshot-54Mr. Cressingham nodded, as if he were aware of a set pattern to their meeting.

“He took ill last month. It was thought to be consumption, though the doctors could do nothing. It took him very quickly. More quickly than most.”

Screenshot-32“… or so I heard, my Lady.”

“I— I see.”

The title bewildered had her, but Estelle’s mind was too stunned to form a response more complicated than that.

Screenshot-37She wasn’t surprised she hadn’t been sent for. Wasn’t surprised he hadn’t thought of her in his dying moments.

Why would he?

He hadn’t thought of her for the last ten years. He had rarely thought of her when she had lived in his house.

Screenshot-50“Well, thank you for coming to tell me.”

She said, after she had collected herself once more.

“Is there anything… anything I can do?”

Screenshot-69It was at this moment that Mr Cressingham finally gestured to the pile of papers lying in between them.

“I must own that sharing the news of your father’s untimely death is not the only reason for the hastiness of my visit today. There is… another pressing matter.”

Screenshot-65Estelle’s eyes were drawn up to his again. Her mouth went dry. What more was there?

What more could there possibly be?

Her father was dead. She was… alone. Completely alone in the world.

screenshot-521_zps40ff2becEdmure Venture had been a cold man. Indeed, he had been cold to her for a large portion of the time she had lived in his household; he had refused to discuss any memories of her mother, refused to acknowledge her as his daughter for her entire life.

Screenshot-84But, regardless of all of this, she was grateful. He had given her a bed, an education. A chance.

She owed him everything.

She owed him her life.

Screenshot-35Now he was gone, and she had never even thanked him. The governess was shocked to feel the sting of tears behind her eyes.

She was… deeply saddened.

Screenshot-26Mr Cressingham cleared his throat again.

“After going through Lord Venture’s will and testament several times, I have come to the unmistakable conclusion that he… well, Miss Murphy, he has left his entire estate and considerable fortune to his closet living relative.”

Screenshot-27He paused and looked directly at her.

“That is to say, you, Miss Murphy.

Screenshot-24Estelle gaped. “I beg your pardon?”

“Please understand, Miss Murphy, this has come as quite a shock to me as well. I had no idea Lord Venture even had a daughter, and I have been his solicitor for over thirty years!”

Screenshot-44“What shocked me more, Miss Murphy, was the fact that you are not even illegitimate!”

Estelle almost choked.

“There must be some mis—”

Screenshot-31He pushed a rather large tome over the desk, toward her.

“This hereby decrees the honourable marriage of Miss Luminista Murphy to Lord Edmure Venture on January 4th, year of our Lord 1815. There is a marriage license, also.”

Screenshot-42“Your parents were clearly in a rush to get married. May I ask for your date of birth?”

“I… July 12th 1815.”

“Thank you. Now, I must inform you that I have found no trace of a record of a divorce.”

Screenshot-70“You are, therefore, legitimate.”

The solicitor continued.

“You are a Venture by both blood and name. Since the latter is all that matters legally, there is absolutely no problem.”

Screenshot-79But Estelle was hardly listening. Her father’s voice. Her father’s words. She didn’t understand. Surely if he had married her mother, he should have known Estelle wasn’t his bastard child. He should have known she was his daughter.

So why had he refused to admit it?

Screenshot-55Mr Cressingham’s voice drew her attention back.

“Although you will now live in his home, have access to all his land and estates in the country and, under my supervision, be given an extremely generous allowance each month, there is one… issue.”

Screenshot-87Estelle waited for him to continue. She had no idea what was going on. She had no idea who in hell she was. No idea how to go about processing all the information she had been told in the last five minutes. So she just waited.

Screenshot-22“Your father’s fortune cannot be secured indefinitely. As his solicitor, I can only handle his finances for the next six months. Not a day more.”

He attempted to gauge her reaction. She sat motionless.

Screenshot-48“Miss Murphy, if you are not married within these six months, all of Lord Ventures’s estates, and his money, will be passed over to the nearest male relative. The grandson of Lord Venture’s great-paternal uncle.”

Screenshot-81“Live… in his house?”

The governess could only shake her head. The thought of going back to that house… the thought of running that house after she had practically been a servant there for ten years….

Screenshot-77She stood up.

“I— I don’t want it. I don’t want any of it! I never… I never asked for this.”

Screenshot-89The solicitor blinked.

“It is rare to see somebody so upset by the thought of an inheritance. But please do not despair. I will make all the arrangements as far as I am able. I will do my best to help you in any way I can, Lady Venture.”

Screenshot-74Estelle shook her head again. Her father was dead.

No…”

“It’s going to be fine—”

Screenshot-94She had inherited a fortune.

Her head spun.

No!

Screenshot-90“Lady Venture, please sit down—!”

“You are mistaken, sir! I am not who you think I am, there is —there has to be— a mistake!”

“Madam, you are beginning to look quite ill, please—”

Screenshot-86The world began to fade and sudden Estelle couldn’t quite raise her head enough to focus.

“Somebody has made a mistake! I can’t— I’m not… I’m not…”

screenshot-521_zps40ff2becEverything turned black, and she crumpled to the floor.

Her last thoughts were of those papers, those damning papers, fluttering around her.

A/N: I know what you’re thinking… I’m officially obsessed with flashbacks. And also – I mentioned the solicitor in chapter 23, for those who had forgotten! 


9 responses to “Chapter 28

  • simplyspriggy

    This was amazing. I need explanations. Butnow Estelle can marry without the pressure of class difference, now only marielle stands in her way.

  • LilyParker

    First, I must admit that when I saw you had updated The Suitor, I literally gasped/yelped! (Embarrassing, but true. :P) I stopped in the middle of proofreading my own blog update to read yours. I love this story THAT much!

    I’m beyond myself with excitement. Finally, there won’t be any reason why Vaughn & Estelle can’t get married! Your photo effects were stunning, BTW. Love, love, love! 😀

    • Becki

      Haha, Lily you really make me laugh 😀 But I’m glad you’re still loving Suitor, even with the slowest chapter progression/publishing in existence!

      Yup! Now the prejudice is no longer an issue, only pride stands in their way… (yes… Jane Austin – I just went there).

  • marsar2

    Somehow, I was thinking something along those lines when I heard (read) the word “solicitor”.

    Well, well, so now she HAS to marry if she wants to keep her inheritance, that’s interesting… such deadlines are always a great way to trigger some drama ;). I just want to know where this goes from here.

    Your pics are, as usual, awesome. And, as for your “obsessive” use of flashbacks… that would never scare *me* away ;).

    • Becki

      Yes, the time constraint will produce plenty of drama… since you’re so good at guessing what may happen, perhaps you’ll figure out what I’ve got planned when I submit the next chapter 😉

      I’m glad to hear it! A few flashbacks will be along shortly… ;P

  • Tiff

    Poor Estelle..She must be so confused. She went her whole life thinking she was an illegitimate child and that her father never loved her. I wonder did he treat her that way out of fear what others would think? But he had married her mother so…I’m still confused on that end. Such a pity, she HAS to get married and the one man she wants is going to marry someone else.

    • Becki

      Hey Tiff, sorry for the long wait in reply, I seemed to have missed your comment somehow!

      It was a mix of both what others would think and taking out old resentments of her mother who left him. So he’s punishing Estelle for the sins of the mother. Hope that clears things up?

      x

  • LilyShadowWriter

    Oh my! I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

    I have to admit I’m a little bit disappointed though. Not because Estelle has just been declared legitimate and has an entire estate to call her own, but because the romantic in me still wanted Vaughn to come sweep her off her feet and marry her, titles be damned. I know though that, given the times, this would have been extraordinarily unrealistic.

    Thus, in the end, I’m happy about this because this now puts Estelle in a position where she COULD marry Vaughn and it would not be a so-called “disgraceful act.” Not to mention all the opportunities in general that such a title affords her.

    It’s kind of heart-warming to see that, despite how cold Lord Venture was to Estelle, he did ensure that she was well looked after, even after his death.

    Fantastic chapter!

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