As the third Viscount Lipton was brought to his home, his thoughts were filled with reminders of how strange and yet how familiar were these roads. It had been some thirty years or so since he had last been in this area, and yet he could still remember how it was like to travel to Orient Hall as a child when his parents made the trek during this time of year when there were many events to make the family feel together and whole. It made him somewhat sad to think that almost all of those people were now dead. He wondered how the servants of the house would feel about him inheriting, if they were afraid that things would change from what they were used to, and how many of them even knew or remembered him at all. He wondered if they would judge him for not having returned home sooner, having missed the death of his grandfather by several months, and the death of his uncle by a year or more.
He had been told, from whose account he did not know for sure, that his grandfather’s death had been a lingering one. It was not hard for him to imagine the scene, even if he had not been there personally. He saw his grandfather lying in bed, gradually wasting away with no appetite. He saw his grandfather’s lips feebly begging for some orange juice and fried eggs, the juice coming from his orangery, as he tried to keep from starving over the course of the long illness. He saw many of the servants hanging back, seeing that their master was still alive but trying to avoid the threat of contagion themselves, for the illness was said to have been contagious. Eventually he wasted away, coughing and croaking until one day there was a stillness as the will to live had been exhausted by the long illness. No one had been around to record any final words. And since both of the Viscount’s sons had predeceased him in death, and the elder brother had no legitimate children of his own, the title and property had come to him, elevating him at once from a mere Mister Hartley to the third Viscount Lipton.
Eventually the carriage left the main road and entered the grounds of Orient Hall. A small, snug village of cottages along with the parish church could be seen before too long, as well as some pleasant woods with paths and the occasional meadow. After a sweeping curve the prospect opened up and Orient Hall could be seen on a natural hill of some local consequence looking over the grounds, which included a greenhouse stocked with tropical trees and plants, a pleasant English garden, a stables, areas for chickens to run free, as well as an icehouse in the Persian model to provide plenty of ice for drinks all through the year. The Viscount nodded his approval to what he saw as the chaise and four pulled up to the front door. A footman opened the door and Lord Lipton nodded to him in approval. The door of his house was then opened and he stepped inside to see his servants standing before him at attention.
“This is a welcome surprise,” Lord Lipton said politely to his household staff. Besides his carriage driver and footman, who had ridden hard, it seemed, to pick him up once he had made his presence onshore known, he could see the staff arranged according to seniority. There were a few chief servants, including a husband and wife pair who presided over the male and female servants, respectively, as well as a chief cook and various assistants and various maids who had likely had a lot of down time over the past few months who would have to spring into labor to make beds and fill bathtubs and wash clothes and the like. He thanked them for their loyal service to his family and said that he expected the same loyal service to himself and the family that he hoped to have in good time, inquired as to their names and duties, filing them away in his memory, hoping that their families were doing well, and giving each of them a bonus for having entered into his own service.
He was then given a tour of the house as well as the grounds by the chief servants of the house. He chose as his own master’s suite a suitable place on the first floor that was not too far from an entrance into the garden near the stables, and that was also close to the library and dining room. It was judged to be a good choice for someone who quite obviously walked with a bit of a limp and needed a walking stick for support. The upstairs suites were set aside for guests, though who would want to visit such a stranger as this was not known to anyone. Lord Lipton had much to say about being pleased in his new home, and his gardener was quite happy to know that while he appreciated a good garden, had no defined ideas of what a garden should be except that he liked a place that was pleasant to view and to show to others and that also contained a great deal of useful and edible herbs and vegetables. The new Viscount’s practical turn of mind, his desire for beauty that was combined with use, and his appreciation of simple pleasures without the need for fanciness, ostentatious display, or continual novelty was pleasing for all to hear.
Before too long Lord Lipton spoke about the menu of the house. There were two main meals as well as an early afternoon tea. Lord Lipton discussed his own breakfast plans, which were pretty similar every morning, thus making for a simple setup in the morning for the first meal. He discussed his interest in iced tea, something that the servants had never heard of, but which Lord Lipton showed them how to make with jars in the windowsill looking out at the kitchen’s south exposure, and the servants, being relatively swift to catch on to Lord Lipton’s experience in the drink from his time in the late Southern colonies, promised that they would have this drink available with plenty of cubes of white sugar for his enjoyment in the future during the early afternoons, along with some tasty pastries of which the Lord was fond, along with some light meats. He then discussed his interests in dinner and looked into the supplies that they had, and noting that he would not eat any pork and only a little beef on account of his gout, pronounced the lamb and poultry to be excellent and that he would enjoy these in moderation throughout the week, cooked with vegetables and also provided daily with seasonal greens along with a dressing of oil and vinegar and herbs and bowls of tasty soup with chicken and vegetables in a pleasant and slightly salty chicken broth. The servants noted with approval that he wished the meals to be large enough for the whole household to share in, but without any waste, and that if there ended up being extras that some could be saved for the servants to eat later on if they so wished. A menu for the week that was judged to be a good cycle that he wanted to continue more or less indefinitely was chosen, and everyone went about to their tasks. Lord Lipton’s chest of clothes that he had brought with him was placed in the room, and it was decided that his lordship probably needed more clothes to fill out his wardrobe, seeing as he was of a taller build than his grandfather and not quite so stout.
Lord Lipton then went into the library and looked with some alarm at the unopened and unanswered correspondence that piled high on his desk. He resolved to engage in triage, deciding whether the correspondence was urgent, important, or neither, and then writing such notes as was necessary that would be sent to respond to the tardy letters that had been sent. He found a great many letters of solace and concern about the state of the family, some bills that needed to be paid but which were of no trouble, written with an apology for their tardiness and a slight bit of extra money for the delay, and the task of paring down the mountain of letters took him the remainder of the afternoon until it was almost time for dinner, which most of the letters having been written that needed to be written in response. His servants saw him read and write and ponder over what to say and what was being written, and they took him for a man of both sense and feeling, a man who knew his business and was not inclined to interfere with the business of others, and they filed away his facial expressions and the frequent pursing of lips and rubbing of his left wrist and hand to deal with writer’s cramp along with his walking stick.
Finally, it came time for dinner, and having tackled the mountain of correspondence that had not been handled now for months, with a great variety of franked notes readied to send out in the morning, including various notes of welcome to the local gentry who would now be called upon to recognize Lord Lipton as a leader in the affairs of the region, and particular notes to a few tenants who were concerned about the raising of their rents and a few other figures whom he wished to better acquaint himself with soon, Lord Lipton got up from his main desk and went to the dining room nearby, where he saw with approval that there was another, smaller desk there for writing when he wanted to both eat and read or write, which he was certainly inclined to do on occasion.
He sat down and began his meal by eating a tasty salad of greens and dressing and then started eating his first bowl of soup. He figured he might have two, as this was an excellent soup. As he was eating his soup, though, he heard the door of the house opened and a guest was announced and brought into him. He looked up from his bowl and saw standing before him the breathless and somewhat timid form of his young cousin, whom he had met earlier in the day.
“Welcome, cousin,” he said solemnly, standing up from the table. He saw a manservant besides her. “Do you have a letter or some other form of communication for me from my uncle?”
The manservant replied that his master’s sons had not taken very well to their rebuke earlier in the morning and it was thought better for her safety and well-being that the young lady be sent to be taken care of by him, seeing as by his concern for her earlier that he was judged by their father to be well-disposed to her. Lord Lipton pursed his lips and thought for a minute, and said that he would accept her into his house and that he would want to discuss the terms and conditions later on at her father’s leisure. He asked if either the young lady or the servant had eaten anything and the manservant indicated that they had not eaten anything since breakfast. Frowning a bit, Lord Lipton invited his cousin to sit at the table and eat, and said that the manservant was free to stay until the meal was done, at which point he could return home with a letter for his master. This seemed to please both of them greatly, and the girl sat at the table and was provided her own dishes and silverware by one of the servants along with a salad and a bowl of soup, which she hungrily ate.
While she was eating, Lord Lipton had finished his first bowl of soup and had begun writing a letter to his uncle. He politely thanked his uncle for the trust of taking care of his daughter, and gave some terms he thought proper to her upkeep, seeing as if she was going to be raised in his household that she would be raised as a lady, and he did not think that the cost of her upbringing would be a problem to a man of such substantial means as her father was. Politely, though, he asked as to her mother’s name and status, as he figured he needed to know the circumstances of her birth and why it was that her older half-brothers were set upon tormenting her so much when she appeared to be as affectionate and tender-hearted as she was cute and adorable. He set these queries and concerns to paper in his even and slightly labored script, folded and addressed and sealed the letter, and then returned to his meal.
While eating he had a pleasant conversation with his young cousin, and he said that she could choose what room she wanted to stay in upstairs and that her small trunk would be brought up to her room. He asked his chief servants if a suitably young and industrious lady’s maid could be chosen or found for his cousin, who was to be admitted as a member of the house, and one of the existing servants commented that one of her own nieces needed a place and would be happy to serve a well-behaved member of the family. With this Lord Lipton was pleased, and it was decided that not only did he need some clothing but that his cousin did as well, and they arranged for the cousin to choose among what colors she wanted for some garments that would be made for her without too much trouble and expense that would be suitable as a young lady. With that, Lord Lipton realized he needed to write another letter, and he dashed off a note to Lord Sydney saying that while he did not wish to trouble His Lordship about personal matters, he had suddenly been thrust upon with the guardianship of a young cousin and did not know who could be recommended or chosen as a governess for the young lady. He understood such a charge to be an important one but had no expertise or knowledge of who would be best suited for such a role, but figured that Lord Sydney would at least be better equipped to give him some assistance. With that note written and addressed and sealed and franked, Lord Lipton finished his meal and his conversation with his delightful cousin, who warmed up easily when she realized that she would be safe and appreciated here by a kind relative. After the meal, Lord Lipton retired to his library for a bit of reading and thought about what would need to be done tomorrow.