Avindian: I use admirals for story purposes, and I am tempted to agree. However, since their manoeuvre stat helps with positioning I was able to have good admirals most of the game and I never lost a naval battle in 420 years. Are they related? Maybe...but the key point I guess is that since my mod gives constant tradition based on the ruler's MIL stat you might as well use it.
Sather: Yes, I was fortunate with my Castille alliance here. The first dividends of that alliance bore fruit, distracting the French so they charged into Navarra and got beaten. Stilll, it was mainly because I put my full strength into this war and didn't hold back. I hope you like this story update...it's long!
Dewirix: Indeed! The French and more importantly Burgundy are not done yet!
Arakhor: Yes, I reduced the size of the picture significantly - by default it would have taken the entire screen. I guess I wanted to get the broad perspective across. If you think I should I'll make it bigger.
Chapter 5 – Dinner and a Tour
“I didn’t want to go anyway,” George said, though his sulky look said otherwise, as did the fact he was waiting in the hall with his younger siblings.
“Her Ladyship said I could only bring one guest,” John lied.
Alexandra, who knew he was lying, smiled angelically. “I shall be sure to tell you what a fantastic time we had,” she said, rubbing salt into the wound.
“Bah! Father has arranged me an appointment with Colonel White regardless, so I couldn’t have come even if I was invited.” With that he turned and stomped up the stairs.
“John, that was so wicked, yet so funny!” Alexandra said, leaning on him to steady herself while she stopped laughing.
Alexandra was perhaps overdressed in an elegant gown which she had been bought for her 18th birthday. Pearl earrings and a gold bracelet was complimented by an expensive silk shawl. She was trying to make the best impression she could for their host when they arrived.
The sound of a carriage outside summoned them out to the street, and while Anne closed the door behind them John led his sister to the waiting carriage. Christian was there as before, and helped both of them up and then cracked his whip to spur the horses away.
When they arrived at Three Oaks they found that the guards at the gate were there, and that several maids and servants were waiting near the entrance of the house.
Alexandra was clearly awed by what she saw, and even though it was his second time, John was impressed.
Tempest appeared and introduced herself to Alexandra before leading them into the house. They were taken to a different study from where John had gone two nights before, and there Lady Mendenhall waited. This time she wore a dress of blue and silver in the same slim cut as the previous time, but little jewellery except for her ring.
When the two of them entered she rose gracefully and graciously accepted Alexandra’s curtsey with a smile.
“Thank you for coming, John. And I suppose this is your sister?” she asked.
“Alexandra,” John introduced, realising he should have done it before the Lady asked.
“Charmed. You are a most beautiful young lady, Alexandra, and a lovely name to match.”
“Thank you, Your Grace,” Alexandra said.
“Please, my dear, ‘my Lady’, or ‘Lady’ will be quite sufficient. Please, be seated.”
Flushed a little, Alexandra sat, and John took a seat also.
When Tempest had delivered wine for John and watered wine for Alexandra, Lady Mendenhall put down her water glass.
“May I ask how the meeting with her Majesty went?” John asked.
“It went very well. The Queen was most gracious as always.” Her Ladyship paused, mulling something. “If I am not mistaken, you are related to her, are you not?”
“I believe she is our third cousin. The late King married an Adams.”
“Yes, as I suspected.” She looked to Alexandra. “May I say that you look very much like your mother, Alexandra. I was very sorry to hear about what happened,” Lady Mendenhall said softly.
John frowned slightly. “You knew mother?” he asked, surprised.
“Only passing, I’m afraid. After the detestable rebels were defeated I did what I could for the people of Hartford. Sadly I was luckier than your mother, who I had been introduced to just before the rebellion.”
John bowed his head slightly. Even six years later he had not fully processed the loss his family felt.
Lady Mendenhall leaned forward slightly. “I am sorry for bringing up such a painful memory, but your mother was a beautiful, intelligent woman, and I am sure she would be very proud of both of you. Now, I had hoped to show the both of you around this house if you were interested.”
John nodded, touched by this almost unknown woman’s compassion. He had to ask one more question. “I would like that, but before we do. Was it you who laid the rose on her grave? When father and I arrived there the mausoleum had a red rose on it.”
Lady Mendenhall seemed to hesitate for just a second, and then nodded. “It was I. I am sorry if it was inappropriate.”
John shook his head. “It wasn’t. Thank you.”
Her Ladyship rose and headed for a door. Tempest opened it for them and they filed into a long gallery. A crystal chandelier shone down on valuable paintings and other objects.
John saw what seemed to be an original portrait of King Edward VII by Du Cane, symbolically receiving the symbols of authority from parliament, showing the restoration of the monarchy. There were also other valuable items such as an antique minature showing the marriage of Henry VI to Elizabeth Mason in 1740.
As a man interested in history he couldn’t help but be astonished by the variety and value of the items displayed here. They were all, as far as he could tell, genuine and well maintained.
“This is astonishing,” he said.
Alexandra, not usually one interested in the past, had been fascinated by a magnificent diamond necklace. The central stone was large enough to be worth a thousand pounds or more!
“That diamond is from the court of King Sanga of Vijayanagar, and was worn at the marriage of King Henry and Elizabeth Mason.” Lady Mendenhall laid aside her stick, which she barely seemed to need anyway. “Would you like to try it on?”
Alexandra stared at her. “C-could I?” she asked, breathless.
“Of course.” Lady Mendenhall deftly removed Alexandra’s current necklace and placed the more valuable one in its place. “Gold and adamantine – the two things that do not tarnish with time, I am told,” her Ladyship commented.
Alexandra was lost for words, and could only stammer a thank you.
“Think nothing of it, dear. This is but a small fraction of my collection in the north.”
With apparent noiselessness Tempest appeared. “My Lady, dinner is served.”
“Excellent. Now, let us go.”
The dining room, which John had passed through briefly on his previous visit, was now even more grand. The vast table was laid at one end for them, leaving three dozen places empty. An array of cutlery and glasses was laid out, but John and Alexandra were fortunate enough to have been to many such dinners before, and knew which knife to use, and which glass to take when.
The meal was of exceptional quality, with fowl, venison and fish supplemented with vegetables from the New and the Old World.
Lady Mendenhall ate well, especially enjoying the venison. However she was a very fastidious diner, and did not interrupt her guests until the final course had been cleared away.
“So John, have you thought more on my proposal?” she asked once the desert had been finished. She had drunk water through the meal, but now accepted a small nip of a dark Armagnac brandy. John turned it down in favour of a cup of coffee. Alexandra meanwhile had accepted tea.
“I have, my Lady, and I accept,” he said. “At the least I wish to see Kirkwall and your residence there, and make my decision then.”
“Of course. You should feel under no compulsion to stay if you do not wish to. A steamer runs to Edinburgh every four days, so you are certainly not limited or isolated. If you wish to go with me when I depart, I have my own private vessel which will take us north. I have some minor business the finish up here, so on the thirteenth of January we shall depart. We leave from Portsmouth, the ship is named the Persephone, a very nice steamer. Please try to arrive in the morning so we can leave in the afternoon.”
John nodded. “I will be there. If there is any change of plans I will send you a letter.”
“Thank you.” Lady Mendenhall raised her glass. “To a long life,” she said with a small smile. “And God save the Queen.”
John repeated the slightly strange toast and rose.
“Regretfully I must ask for the necklace back,” her Ladyship told Alexandra. “But, I do have something perhaps of less value, but hopefully you will see it as a good gift.”
She gestured at Tempest who came forward and offered a velvet lined wooden box to Alexandra. Inside was a gold necklace with a smaller, less historically significant, stone.
Alexandra could barely speak. “Thank you, my Lady,” she said finally.
“You are welcome, Alexandra. And now, I must bid you goodnight. John, I will see you at Portsmouth, unless something changes.”
John bowed and Alexandra curtseyed and they soon left. More intrigued by this strange, yet dynamic woman, John could not help but think about his coming day of destiny.