Once I had drawn my own patent conclusions about that strange vision that had been planted in my mind and played out before me like some improvised play, I realised I had truly nothing to do. And so it was that I spent the next half hour walking around the manor which was a colossal castle compared with what I had imagined it to be from all those days spent sitting out on that little rowing boat at the Creek staring upstream and – knowing that that led to the White Woods – turning my vision downstream where the trees grew taller and where the river collected in the mouth which I know knew the be Valentine's Lake.
I wondered up so many flights of crimson carpeted stairs that I lost track of where I began and eventually just began to open random wooden doors which lined the corridors. Very few of them held anything of any remote interest behind them; extra bedrooms, a few empty rooms and then I came to the room at the end of the corridor. The hinges of the door were rusty, and I had to pull on the raven's beak knocker with all my force until it eventually came open with a noisy clatter. This was a strange room: almost everything was covered in dusty white sheets, and even the windowpane was protected from the Virginian sunlight by thick white material. I made my way around this chamber gingerly, being too careful not to disrupt anything that may have dwelled there. I found myself on the far side of the room to the door I had entered by and attempted to figure out what all these covered pieces of furniture had actually been in their life before they had been consigned to this silent room. I came to the conclusion that I was in a bed-chamber; there was a very tall, covered thing which sounded hollow when I knocked on its edge was a wardrobe; there was a towering structure which I believed to be a four-poster bed and across from that, there was a fireplace with a picture hanging over it. Unable to resist, after a brutally long pause, I pulled on the white cloth which covered the picture, desperate to see what lay beneath it. With just a gentle tug, it fluttered to the floor lightly and came to a silent stop on the silk carpeted floor.
The picture that had been concealed by the white sheet was a portrait in a gilded gold frame. The portrait was of a young lady with raven curls that fell to her waist. She wore a beautiful white dress and a wedding ring that seemed to sparkle at the same time as her eyes. While her eyes were the purest blue, filled with hope, I could detect a distinct fear hidden behind her pupils. And it was her eyes that told me who she was. She was the last Duchess Ravenswood; she was Valentine's mother. I suppose this oil painting of her had been painted on her wedding day. I closed my eyes for a moment, wondering how she must have felt to marry such a powerful man.
It was then that my thoughts were interrupted by a sudden shout from down the corridor.
"Duchess!" a voice called from beyond the door. I switched around, even though it came as a shock to me to be referred to as Duchess.
"Duchess, come quickly!" it continued. Cantering down the corridor towards me was a maid. She was red-faced and flustered and looked as if she had just uncovered something alarming.
"What is it?" I asked.
"It's your maid." She tried to catch her breath "Your maid from Ceasebury is here."
"Cheyenne?" I asked. "What does she want?"
"She says something about the people have got Gabriella."
"What?" I asked in alarm, half in awe of the maid's total lack of understanding of the colossal significance of what she had just uttered. "Where is she?"
"Your maid is down in the hallway." I barely let the maid finish her sentence before I grabbed handfuls of my huge blue skirt and ran back down the corridor towards the main hallway. Such a feeling of terror came over me as I ran, almost as if it had been me that had been caught, not Gabriella. I could only imagine exactly what had happened to get Gabriella caught by that most gentile of mobs. As I cascaded myself down the final flight of stairs towards the entrance, which had been closed now as the wind and rain had begun, I caught sight of Cheyenne standing, soaking in the front porch.
"What on earth has happened?" I shouted down to her.
"Miss Theodosia!" she shouted with a kind of jubilance. "No, sorry, Duchess Ravenswood. They've got Gabriella!" she shouted. I stood beside her. "I was in Williamsburg when I saw a huge crowd of people around the brothel, I went to go and see what the issue was, and then I heard Gabriella shouting and Captain LeBolt trying to protect her, and so I ran straight here to tell you. Your mother is down there." My heart sank with such brutal speed. I knew a few things; that Gabriella's location would be exposed to her father, which would compromise her safety; that her marriage to Charles wouldn't be upheld because she didn't have her father's permission and that - even if both of the other potential disasters didn't strike straight at the heart – the society of Virginia would outcast all her family so that Dorian would never forgive her. Or me.
"Where is she now?" I asked Cheyenne.
"She was at the brothel when I left her."
"Right, we need to go there now; I'll get Valentine."
"Where is he?" she asked.
"Out in the plantation somewhere, he's wherever it is men go in the daytime."
"But Duchess, the plantation is acres and acres large; how will we find him in time?"
"I don't know." I said in exasperation. Then a spark of brilliance ignited in my mind. Hermes. "Cheyenne. Can you help me get this dress off?" I asked.
"What?" she said in surprise.
"I need you to help me get this dress off; I won't be able to ride in this skirt."
"Ride, Duchess?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm going to ride Hermes out into the plantation and find Valentine, but I can't ride in this skirt."
"Alright." She nodded, running behind me, her fingers finding the laces that held my skirt up. My hoop skirt dropped to the floor, and I stepped out of it. I was standing in the middle of the hallway in my underwear, half petticoat and corset.
"Right, Cheyenne, you stay here; I'll go to the brothel." I said, running out of the double doors in my now undressed state. I grabbed Hermes' bridal as he wandered aimlessly around the area at the front of the manor, drinking from the lake now and then. I mounted him as steadily as I could, only after I had positioned myself with both my half-bare legs to the side, I noticed that Valentine's saddle wasn't for riding side saddle – it was a man's saddle, for straddling. And so, I did just that; I swung my leg over the other side of Hermes and lent forward, holding tightly onto the reigns. "Take me to Valentine." I whispered.
Author Notes: I don't know why this has duplicated so many times, all the copies are exactly the same.