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Let's Misbehave: Chapter 4
Let's Misbehave: Chapter 4

Let's Misbehave: Chapter 4

Mitzi1776Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

After the morning pleasantries, I decided to set myself to the task of extracting some information about Grace Legare from Nell, the woman which even the first page of her diary mentioned. Nell had, as ever, made herself impossible to find; it was as if she had heard our little discussion in the drawing room and had decided then and there that she would not be answering any questions whatsoever about anything. I tracked her down eventually by stationing myself outside her chamber.

“Nell,” I called through the door.

“Yes Mistess.” the voice said with a sigh.

“I need to ask you something.”

“Do you?” she replied, emerging.

“Yes,” I said “Its urgent.”

“What could be so urgent that it couldn’t wait until after lunch?” she asked. “She’s been dead, God rest her soul, for twenty years, she won’t not still bed dead after lunch.”

“What?” I asked in surprise “How did you know who I wanted to ask you about?”

“Well it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? For someone so clever, you’re not half uncurious about this place, well, anyway, I won’t be saying anything that might upset Ainsley, poor boy has been through enough.”

“I just want to know what she was like, you know, when you first met her.” I pleaded.

“There’s little I can tell you.” she said.

“Because there’s little you know or because you are not willing?” I asked.

“Both.” she said bluntly.

“I just want to know what kind of person she was.”

“Well I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Well was she more like me or more like Helena?”

“She started off, that is to say, when I first met her when she was first married to Viscount Legare she was like you and Helena in equal parts, but, by 1900 as she was approaching the end she was also like you and Helena in equal parts but in different ways.”

“Well that’s not very helpful.” I said incredulously. “At least tell me what she was called before she was married.”

“Okay, before she was married she was Grace Chevallier.”

“Good, thank you, so she was French?” I asked.

“Well you are called Legare, are you French?”

“No, but that was not what I was born, was it?” I said.

“Well, if you were a man like her husband, you would say that your marriage to Ainsley had made you French.” she said “It didn’t matter who or what she was before, when Grace married him, she became his in every way.”

“Did she like that?” I asked.

“I don’t think she knew of her opinion on it. She just wrote whatever she felt, or whatever she thought she might be feeling in that book of hers.”

“Oh, won’t you tell me anything else, Nell?”

“No, all I will tell you is to read that book, keep reading until the end.” and with that she disappeared off into her chamber once more, leaving me standing alone in a darkened corridor of the manor with only the whisperings of the velveteen curtains and the ghostly glow of half burnt out candles for warm companionship. Returning to the conservatory, one thing did strike me, however; Grace Legare or Chevallier, whoever and whatever she was was clearly a likable or at least not entirely unlikable individual for Nell, even twenty years after her departure from this world was anxious to keep her secrets for her even from me, the new resident at the manor who could do nothing about them. But perhaps she, like me, was merely an observer to the strange goings on of this ancient place.

I didn’t tell Ainsley that I had been pursuing this story, no, I allowed him to exist quietly in that odd space be inhabited between gentility and civility in company and rough masculinity in private. It was a space he had enjoyed for all of the six years I had known him and I wasn’t going to rob him of it now.

Sleep came strangely to me that night. It swam around me for hours as if it were some strange dust caught in some unfelt updraft from a window left cracked open or something else. I didn’t know what it was, but it felt somehow delightfully morbid; somehow perfect in its own monstrosity.

I awoke late the next day to encounter the first coppery whisperings of October in the air. Adjusting my eyes to the sharp ray of light that pierced the room, I scanned around lightly, regarding my surroundings tentatively as if they were something alive. As my eyes came to the open door, I found Helena peering in from around the corner.

“Ainsley!” I called, startled by her presence.

“Sorry, I just followed her into here.” Helena whispered vaguely.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Following the lady.” she whispered.

“Right. Well, please don’t.” I said, “Ainsley!” I repeated “Can you come here?” A few seconds later, the unmistakable sound of Ainsley’s feet clattered up the stairs and he placed his slightly pink face around the door frame.

“Don’t you see her?” Helena asked tentatively.

“What?” Ainsley asked.

“Mother; don’t you see her?” she repeated.

“Helena, she’s been dead twenty years.” he replied.

“Then why can I see her?”

“I don’t know. Nell!” he shouted. “I think you’re dreaming, you should go to bed.” he said.

“I’m not!” she shouted. Nell appeared hurriedly and, having seen the look upon Ainsley’s face removed Helena from the bed chamber just as hurriedly as she had appeared.

“Ainsley,” I gasped. “What was that?”

“She’s tired. She just needs rest.” he replied, turning away and leaving the chamber. Ah! How hard it must be for those men who seek to preserve their proper manhood in face of all these tragedies; what does one do when one does not dare speak of illnesses of the mind? That was why none of us here at Radley Manor dared speak of was happening to Lawrence in Littlemore as we all called it; Littlemore which, from the name, one could almost miss what that place was and think it just another name slipped in to my innocuous ramblings about times gone by in this strange place. The Ashurt War Hospital as it had been known until 1918 was a hospital in Oxford primarily treating shell shock. There, I said it, Lawrence Walters has shell shock.

Was it any wonder?

For King and Country he - a nineteen year old - was sent into the trenches to die. He didn’t even sign up. They just took him like so many of the others.

The day rolled on as it always did. Ainsley confined Helena to her chamber after the incident that morning and so I felt that I had the house to myself, somewhat at least. So, with that in mind, I decided to read the next instalment of Grace’s diary.

The 10th day of October, 1893

Dear Diary,

These halls confuse me; three times now I have been unable to find my way to bed. But once I am in bed, Gideon seems to find no difficulty in finding me. He is unreachable at all other times of the day, except when I am in our bed where I think I will have to resolve to be less and less. He likes hunting, he says, he says his favourite kill is a beautiful virgin amd that now I am his forever. H e says I’m lucky and I suppose that’s true, for my ancestors had to do much worse to survive once they arrived in England, I mean, they had to make much worse matches, I imagine, in pursuit of lands.

I questioned her words, which ancestors did she mean? Her life seemed so utterly thrilling and I desired to know so much more, so I took myself to the portraits hung along the main hall, but found nothing there. Nothing of her family, anyway. I was resolved that I would uncover all of her secrets, even if just for the sake of not forgetting her life in these halls.

I lay in bed awake for some time. Ainsley found his way to me and climbed in beside me.

“Ainlsey, “ I whispered.

“Yes?” he replied breathlessly.

“Do you know anything about your mother’s family?” I asked tentatively.

“Not really, I just know they came here in 1793 from France.”

“Ah!” I exclaimed “So they escaped the French Revolution for Britain?”

“I suppose. I know a lot more about my father’s side.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Oh, yes, Barrett called, he says he’s seeing Lawrence in the next few days and if he wants to, he might even bring him here.”

“Ainlsey,” I whispered “Why is everyone we know dying?”

“Because everyone in the world deserves to die except us.” he laughed. I laughed in return; what a delightfully morbid thought! And it was with that thought that we made love again. “But Lawrence isn’t dying.”

“Ha! Its so deliously innocent of you to think that just because someone’s not dead on the outside that they aren’t held in a living death on the inside.”

“The inside?” he whispered.

“Yes, Ainsley, your inside scares me more than anything.”

“Why?” he laughed.

“Because you remind me of that poor doctor I read about; Dr Jeykll, that was him.”

“Oh, Adelaide, you know he was just a fiction created by Mr Stevenson.”

“I still feel for him,” I smiled “He’s like you; so hopelessly caught up in the fiction of a real English Gentleman that he has forgotten that he is a man and is therefore reduced to only brief moments of true manhood which are invariably destructive and violent.”

“Destructive and violent? Me?” he asked.

“Only in brief moments, no, don’t worry, its utterly charming.” I laughed. “I just feel sorry for the lot of you, that’s all. I feel so sad that all you gentleman must be so hopelessly repressed.”

“And what about women?” he asked.

“Ah!” I laughed “Imagine what it’d be like if we could remove this imposed facade of proper-ness and just live as we would have in nature. Imagine if we could run wild and untamed. What would humanity be like?”

“Oh, Adalaide, I feel that you will learn that the further you delve into this mess that is all of us, which, for some bizarre reason you seem determined to do even though it can’t lead anywhere good, the more you will find of untamed and secret humanity - the private self, if you will - the less you will like it.”

“It probably won’t lead anywhere good, but it will lead somewhere true and as Mr Keats says ‘truth is beauty’ and I dream of beauty, you know me, I live eternally in this fantasy that we all exist in some gothic fairytale where we all actually attempt to live while we die slowly.” I laughed.

“A gothic fairytale?” he asked. I nodded. “I’m sure that you could find one of those if you looked in the mirror, you don’t need to read secret diaries, just look at your story.” he smiled “You are the poster girl for the gothic fairytale.”

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About The Author
Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
About This Story
23 Apr, 2023
Read Time
9 mins
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