Original Short Story: "Frawling Manor and Disney World"
Powderham Castle in Devonshire
Lady Susanne took her tea after Oliver had swept off the veranda. While sitting in her favorite old Victorian chair, sipping delicately from her favorite old Victorian tea cup . . .
"Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts." —Paramahansa Yogananda
Text of Story
Oliver stood by the zinnias holding an umbrella, hoping the rain did not begin before he had completed his pruning off all browned blooms. Mrs. Bronsly stepped out of the house, spied Oliver and went back inside to fetch a broom.
"Oliver, here, sweep off the veranda! Lady Susanne will be taking her tea our there momentarily," said Maggie.
"I thought Callie had already broomed off the veranda and the kitchen pantries as well," retorted Oliver.
"No, she has not! Now skip to it. Time is getting short!" Mrs. Bronsly, the head house matron, was never shy in shouting orders to her whopping team of three: Oliver, butler and footman, Callie, kitchen maid, and Mrs. Donwell, lady's maid to Lady Susanne.
On a Shoestring
The little household was held together on a shoestring. But Lady Susanne, last living member of the Frawling earldom, was determined to finish out her days as her ancestors has done. When offered three times more than what her 1500 measly acres were worth, she literally spit and cried, "I'll never sell my inheritance for a pittance." Thus, she pushed on with a pension that somehow still managed to support her acreage and small house staff, if only barely.
After being ceremoniously dressed in her finest tea frock by Mrs. Donwell, Lady Susanne took her tea after Oliver had swept off the veranda. While sitting in her favorite old Victorian chair, sipping delicately from her favorite old Victorian tea cup, she spied off into the distance a motorcar crossing the bridge onto her estate. Startled at first, she searched her memory: "Was I expecting guests today? I do not seem to recall arranging for visitors on this fine afternoon. Who, on earth, could that be? Likely another relative! Ha, relative, indeed!"
Mrs. Bronsly also had seen the motorcar and immediately called for Oliver. It had been foreordained that Oliver would greet any visitor to the estate. Being the only man on the premises, the other women deemed it right that Oliver should be the first to inspect whoever might be accosting the serenity of Frawling Manor.
Oliver in Charge
Oliver stepped out of the front door and approached the vehicle. Out from the vehicle alighted a very young woman, and it appeared that no one else was accompanying her.
"Hello there!" said the young woman. "You must be the butler. I'm Estelle Frawling, and I've come for a visit with my Aunt Susanne."
"Oh, really? I was not aware that anyone had arranged a visit with Lady Susanne for today," replied Oliver.
"Well, I didn't arrange anything. I'm here from America, and I did an ancestry search and discovered that I am related to the Frawlings of Devonshire. That's this place, right?'
"Yes, ma'am, this is Frawling Manor of Devonshire, but . . . " replied Oliver.
"Oh, I'm so sorry if I've made a faux pas," said Estelle. "I don't know anything about the ways of the British, and I was just flabbergasted to learn I was related to them. But, dude, here I am, warts and all. And I'd really like to see my aunt. Can you take me to her?"
"I'll see what I can do, miss! Please wait here!" As usual, Oliver went into a lather about this development. So he sped off to find out what happens next. He had encountered such inquiries before but they all seemed to end differently, from a call to the local magistrate to actually planning a ball to entertain the latest claim to relationship.
Only Lady Susanne could get to the bottom of things, and Oliver suspected she would do so again promptly.
"Mrs. Bronsly, there is a young lady outside who claims that she is Lady Susanne's cousin or something. What am I to do with her?" a flustered Oliver sputtered.
The Usual Relative from America
"A relative of Lady Susanne? Oh, well, let her in. We'll see how this goes. As usual, I suppose," responded Mrs. Bronsly.
"Yes, ma'am, right away, ma'am!" said Oliver, speeding off the fetch the new arrival.
Oliver bounded outside to fetch Estelle, only to find her picking daisies from the front garden. He was unsure how to approach, but he decided to let drop the impropriety of such a move.
"Miss Estelle, please do come inside," said Oliver.
"Thank you! Thank you so much!" responded Estelle.
Once inside, Mrs. Bronsly welcomed Estelle and asked her to wait in the library while she went to inform Lady Susanne of the guest's arrival. Estelle entered the library, which was very small, she thought, having been influenced by the libraries she had seen in British films and the TV series Downton Abbey.
Interestingly Eclectic Library
Nevertheless, the library was interestingly eclectic, with titles such as Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories and Turtle Woman and Other Poems, both American independently published tomes, standing along side such classics as Autobiography of a Yogi and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and Sonnets from the Portuguese.
Estelle had never read such works, but she knew American published works and recognized that paperbacks were an oddity in these British libraries.
"My dear, may I welcome you to Frawling Estate Manor," Lady Susanne announced, making her grand entrance into the library.
"Oh, hello, Aunt Susanne, I am Estelle Frawling," said Estelle. "It is so good to meet you. I've come from America. I've been researching my ancestry which has led me to you. I do hope I am not intruding."
Tea and Biscuits for the Guest
"Sit, sit with me a spell, and we shall see how intrusive you have been," said Lady Susanne, who rang for Mrs. Bronsly and requested Callie prepare tea and biscuits for the guest.
"So, now tell me all about it. Why you believe us be related?" Lady Susanne cut to the quick.
"Well, I did a search on my ancestry and that's what I found. My mother's father's brother had twelve children. One of those children is you. That makes you my aunt,—actually grandaunt."
"Oh, I see. But there we have slight problem. I have only one sibling, who died in infancy. I am not one of thirteen. How would you explain that?" queried Lady Susanne.
"Easily! My father's brother had a number of illegitimate children. You are the only one who is legitimate. That's why you don't know about the others, but an ancestry search will reveal all that," returned Estelle.
"The only difficulty with that is that my father also was an only child. He had no brother!" responded Lady Susanne.
"Again, your father was the only legitimate child of his father. The brother was illegitimate, that is legally. I'm not interested in legal shit, I'm interested only in blood! You are my blood. Don't you see that?" responded Estelle.
"What I see before me, young lady, is what the Americans call a 'gold digger'. You think you can come in here and convinced me of a relationship that does not exist in order to acquire some of what you think you might inherit. Miss Estelle Frawling, if that is your name, I entertain guests like you in abundance. And I have yet to find one who is even minimally credible. I know my own ancestry like the back of my hand. We British estate owners learned very early on the necessity of such knowledge."
"But surely you can see that we could be related?" offered Estelle.
"Sorry, Miss Estelle, I have my entire family tree on file at the Records Office in Devonshire. And that is the only legal, official record for purposes of inheritance. If you'd care to travel there to inspect it, I'd be happy to accompany you," responded Lady Susanne.
"Oh, I see! Well, I wonder if I can get my money back from the ancestry research company!" said Estelle, stabbing at one last chance.
"That you will have to find out for yourself, Miss Estelle," said Lady Susanne.
Lady Susanne continued to receive such guests, claiming relationship with her. She decided that Americans, Albanians, the French, the Italian, and even the Zimbabweans would continue to try to feed off the British Empire, though that Empire had long ceased to exist.
Lady Susanne did finally sell her estate and to an American, who planned to build a Disney World. Her life closed with her still wondering what a Disney World was, never condescending to visit one—or even ask about it.
Photo of Powderham Caste
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes