At the Top of the Slippery Slope

Started by Fredegund von Epp, at Jul 18, 2020 7:14 AM
January 15, 1924
102 Views
7 Posts

Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
240
?Years Young
15 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


She was very lucky indeed not to have broken her neck, but sitting there soaking in a stream full of wet watery water and painful rocks and pebbles, listening to her brother, still astride his horse, laughing his head off, she didn’t feel particularly blessed by the goddess Fortuna. The landing had winded her and given her a good whack to the posterior where she’d landed, to boot. But her aches and pains weren’t her main concern.

Twisting where she sat, she looked all about. Saracen was nowhere to be seen.

“He’ll be miles away by now. I’ll find him and take him back to the stables.” stated her brother, barely suppressing his chuckles. “Look, we’re near that mansion with the ruined vineyards, hobble up there and see if you can use their telephone, get Ho to come over in the machine and take you home.”

He made a clicking sound and his big grey took off, leaving the fallen rider alone to gingerly clamber to her feet, and drag herself out of the quagmire. So much for brotherly love!

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Hives took a little longer than expected to reach the door, not because he was getting on in years, but because he did everything with the cool measured pace that befitted his station. As a young footman of fifteen, some fifty five years ago, in the service of the Earl of Barchester, he had scurried and scampered around like a monkey, until instructed by his lordship’s butler of the time, a Mr. Hudson, in the correct deportment, attitude and skills suitable for a gentleman’s gentleman. The fact that he now filled that capacity in the service of a young lady in no way diminished his zeal in performing it correctly.

Therefore, the bell on the large, ornate, and quite impressive front door to the Carver Mansion had been rung several times, and with increased impatience, by the time that massive portal was opened with a lugubrious creak. The perfectly dressed, if somewhat superannuated, Butler looked with no little disdain at the wet mess that presented itself, dripping, on the doorstep. He was about to suggest that the woman might make her way to the servant’s entrance at the back of the house, when she spoke and Hives, with an expert ear and eye for the nuances of voice and deportment in his betters, decided that, all appearances to the contrary, this was a lady.

“Oh, at last! Look here, my man, I fell off my horse and I’m all wet, can I use your telephone? You do have a telephone?!” she demanded imperiously.

Hives opened the door wordlessly, allowing the aristocratic mermaid to squelch in.

“I shall inform the Lady of the House. What name shall I give, Madame?” Just from her accent, or rather lack of accent, the experienced Hives could tell that she was not English, as most Americans assumed, but foreign to that land, probably a continental European who had been taught that language to a very high standard.

“Tell her it’s Mrs von Epp, Freda von Epp. If she knows anything about anybody, she’s probably heard of me.” she barked.

Hives found Miss Vera in the main drawing room, where he expected her to be, and gave a small bow.

“There is a wet Mrs von Epp in the hall, Miss. What would you like me to do with her?”


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Vera Carver

Heiress
14
?Years Young
3 Posts

It wasn't often that there were visitors to the vineyard manse. Especially in the time since Vera received the property from her parents, considering that it had been around four years since the farm produced anything of worth. It was little more than a lovely, baroque style manor that looked out over sprawling acres of nothingness. The one good thing about its decrepit state though, and the fact that the Carvers had seemingly been eager to let it fall into a state of disuses, was that its wine cellar had been left untouched. That is, until Vera officially made it her residence.

The manor began its renovations the moment its deed was transferred, and though some of the wings were still under construction, the main part of the estate was finished and, as of only a couple months ago, inhabited once more. It was a lonely place to reside though, with Vera being outnumbered five to one by her own staff: the butler, the groundskeeper, the chef, and two servants were the only other living souls inside the house. Except for Vera's unexpected guest, of course.

She was considering the thought of obtaining a dog or a cat when Hives entered the drawing room, a glass of wine held gently in the palm of her hand, its stem betwixt index and middle finger. Her oceanic gaze appeared fixed on the tannins of the dark red liquid as she swirled it around in the glass, wondering to herself why it was that she was sitting here, alone, with absolutely no company.

“There is a wet Mrs von Epp in the hall, Miss. What would you like me to do with her?” the butler asked, and Vera's gaze lifted.

"How inconvenient," the young Miss Carver remarked. "What does she want?"

She drained the glass in one long gulp, the movement of her throat as she chugged the liquid indicative of exactly how unladylike her actions were. She rose from the sofa and approached the corner of the room, setting the glass into an open dumbwaiter. She tugged on the rope to a bell affixed to the inside of the box before closing its door and turning back toward Hives.

"She fell from her horse and requests to use your telephone, Miss."

"Well, invite her in! I'll ring for Gertrude to fetch the woman some dry clothes. Don't lead her over any carpet," Vera said. This time, she maneuvered toward where a phone hung on the wall. One might say Vera was spoiled by her parents wealth, and they weren't wrong. Part of the renovations taking place at the Vineyard included an inter-house telephone system. She rang Gertrude's quarters.

"Yes, Miss Carver?" came the elderly woman's voice. 

"Fetch a change of clothes and towels to one of the finished guest rooms and come to the foyer. Hives says Mrs. von Epp is dripping water all over the new flooring in the entryway," Vera ordered.

"Of course," Gertrude answered. Vera heard the sound of the receiver being returned to its cradle and mirrored the servant's actions. Finally, after what likely seemed like ages to her guest, Vera left the drawing room and made her way toward the foyer.

Mrs. von Epp would hear Vera's heels clicking against the new floors before she'd see her, but when the young woman rounded the corner, she greeted her guest with a smile. If it were forced, she'd aced its execution. She reached to clasp the woman's hand.

"How do you do, Mrs. von Epp! Gertrude will be here shortly to guide you to one of the guest rooms, where she'll assist you with a change of clothes and some towels. Hives tells me you've fallen from your horse and need to use a telephone--there's one in the room that you're more than welcome to use. Would you like for me to call for a doctor?"


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Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
240
?Years Young
15 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


Freda had discarded what she could of her sopping clothes and accoutrements while she was waiting; off came hat and gloves, to be placed along with her riding crop on a hall side table. She got her jacket off and dangled it on a handy brass coat hanger which jutted out proudly from the wall. This left her clad in her waterlogged riding boots and jodhpurs, and a blouse which cold and damp had rendered clinging and translucent, leaving little to the imagination. It did occur to her that should the ancient butler return, the sight might be too much and that she might be responsible for the death of a much-loved family retainer: no fit payment for the hospitality that she was hoping to receive.

A redheaded girl rounded the corner into the hallway. She was not only incredibly beautiful and poised, as well as exquisitely dressed, but also a few years younger and a few pounds lighter than herself. Still, as her host, she would have to forgive her that. The soggy rider returned the sophisticated flapper’s smile and held out a hand to give her opposite number a firm shake.

“Hello, I’m Freda von Epp. Thanks for taking in a drowned rat.” she offered, her soft brown eyes meeting Vera’s almost aquamarine blue.

"How do you do, Mrs. von Epp! Gertrude will be here shortly to guide you to one of the guest rooms, where she'll assist you with a change of clothes and some towels. Hives tells me you've fallen from your horse and need to use a telephone--there's one in the room that you're more than welcome to use. Would you like for me to call for a doctor?"

“That’s all right, thanks, I landed on my well padded backside” grinned Freda, rubbing the affected area by way of illustration “The only thing hurt is my pride. My horse refused at the brook and threw me. Do you ride?” she asked. She didn't like the term 'fell' - it made her sound like an incompetent horsewoman, which she most certainly was not. Then Freda realized that she was making a puddle on the hall floor.

“Oh look, these boots are soaking. I don’t want to drip all over anything tasteful. If you’ve got a boot-jack I’ll take them off here.” she offered.


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Vera Carver

Heiress
14
?Years Young
3 Posts

Vera glanced in Hives direction, and that was all it took. He walked to a closet located off to the side and opened it, producing both a stool and a boot jack for Freda to make use of. A second trip presented a bucket for her to place the wet items in. Gertrude would take it down to be washed and dried shortly after. 

While the efforts were made to tend to the elder woman, Vera's lips turned upward at the corners in a practiced smile. It was warm enough, considering the general demeanor of the young woman. She was a bit too privileged. A moment later, it dipped in the opposite direction in a show of empathy for being thrown from a horse.

"That sounds dreadful," Vera said, and as her painted mouth opened again for speech, Helen, a much younger servant than Gertrude, came around the corner.

"Miss Vera, dinner will be ready shortly. Will your guest be joining us?" It was quite convenient, that telephone system. Vera's gaze returned to Mrs. von Epp as Helen continued. "We are having roasted duck broiled potatoes, peas, and caesar salad. For dessert, Charles has prepared a pineapple upside down cake."

Vera spoke again, "Would you care to join us? After you've changed and made your call of course. I have no desire to rush you. I will have Helen fetch you a drink. Would you prefer hot tea or a cold glass of water?"

It was a way of boasting, without outright doing it. The offer of cold water meant that she had refrigeration, and given the amount of money clearly put into restoring the baroque mansion meant that it was likely she had the latest model of Frigidaire's new self-contained unit. Perhaps she even had two.


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Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
240
?Years Young
15 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


Freda took in the boot jack and the stool. She didn’t really need the latter but would play along, it would be rude not to use what was offered. With a jolly cry of “Thanks , Hives, you’re a brick!” she put the sole of her right boot down on the jack to steady it, then jammed the heel of the left into the open U at the front and pulled her boot off with ease. Then reversed the process to remove the right, finally sitting down on the stool to peel off her wet argyle socks.

“Yes, I was lucky to land in the stream really, if it’d been dry land I’ve have broken my neck.” She continued her tale with a smile, it was that sort of danger that made a good steeplechase in the countryside, on top of a big horse, such a grand thrill.

"That sounds dreadful," Vera said, and as her painted mouth opened again for speech, Helen, a much younger servant than Gertrude, came around the corner.

"Miss Vera, dinner will be ready shortly. Will your guest be joining us?" It was quite convenient, that telephone system. Vera's gaze returned to Mrs. von Epp as Helen continued. "We are having roasted duck broiled potatoes, peas, and caesar salad. For dessert, Charles has prepared a pineapple upside down cake."

Freda thought it was somewhat infra dig for the young woman to tell her the exact details of the meal, one simply invited a person for a meal and they would trust that one possessed a chef who could turn out something decent. As for ‘upsidedown cake’ : she could only presume that the girl was referring to some kind of tart tatin. “Sounds wonderful!” she gushed.

Vera spoke again, "Would you care to join us? After you've changed and made your call of course. I have no desire to rush you.

“Oh, that’d be grand, I’m starving, and the car was being repaired when we set out, I think it’ll be a while before they can come and fetch me.” Grinned Freda as she stood back up, in just her breeches and shirt, her pale bare feet sticking out below. Her hair was a mess and she looked more like a ragamuffin than ever.

“I will have Helen fetch you a drink. Would you prefer hot tea or a cold glass of water?"

 “I think I’ve had enough cold water for today!” laughed Freda lightly at the suggestion, pulling at her diaphanous wet blouse. The idea that cold water wouldn’t be on hand didn’t even enter her head.  

“I’m frozen, I’d much prefer a hot toddy if you’ve got one.” she informed Vera cheerfully.

Hives put his oar in the water at this point.

“We do have a little Whiskey in the pantry, Miss, for medicinal purposes of course.” He informed the Lady of the House. He certainly wouldn’t be wasting the good single malt scotch in a hot toddy, though, he would use that terrible vulgar American bourbon variety. Both of which, it had to be said, were the real, pre-Volstead, McCoy, not tainted bootleg stuff.

“Oh!” Freda suddenly asked “Do you dress for dinner?” She was assuming that the girl, who had yet to introduce herself, was part of a wider family, and if gentlemen were to be present in formal black tie, she herself would need a proper evening gown, silk stockings, heeled shoes, and jewelry.


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Vera Carver

Heiress
14
?Years Young
3 Posts

It was worse than that: her actions weren't an intentional attempt at affronting her guest. They were more the result of an intoxicated mind attempting to function in a manner that was passing for prohibition. It was a front she quickly dropped the moment Mrs. von Epp requested a hot toddy. It wasn't a request that was high on the list of drinks she could offer, but it was met with a gentle incline of her head.

Hives's affirmation that there was medicinal whiskey among their stores was met with another nearly imperceptible tilt of her chin. If anything, Vera was unprepared for company and it was clear in her mannerisms. An awkward silence hung in the air as Helen, without a word, disappeared to prepare a hot toddy for Mrs. von Epp. 

"Yes, Miss Vera?" Gertrude said. Her arrival was so quiet that when she spoke from behind Vera, it startled the young woman. 

"Please take our guest to her room, and make sure she is brought fresh towels and anything else she might need," the heiress said, and again that smile teased the corner of her mouth--almost mischievously. Her gaze turned back to Mrs. von Epp. "If there is anything you need, simply ask. I'll be returning to the drawing room."

She walked away from her guest, ready for another glass of wine. She felt it was a safe enough bet, considering that Fredegund asked for a hot toddy. Vera couldn't blame her. She hated the feeling of being soaking wet in clothing. The way it clung to the body was terrifying; it always felt like her clothes were trying to strangle her in those instances.

Gertrude watched as her mistress departed and turned her gaze to the guest, a gentle smile creasing wrinkled cheeks and deepening the crows feet at the corner of her eyes. She was a pleasant woman, short and plump and not unhappy with her position in life. Though Vera could be awfully demanding at times, the Carver family saw to it that their servants lived with surprising comfort--when the Carvers were hiring help, it was never a problem to find willing and able bodies.

"Come with me, if you will," Gertrude said softly, and when Mrs. von Epp was ready, she'd guide her to one of the guest rooms.


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Fredegund von Epp,

Wife of the International Arms Dealer, Gustav Adolph, Graf von Epp
240
?Years Young
15 Posts

"We can all feather our nests, Herr Ambassador, but its not just anyone who can lay an egg."


"Come with me, if you will," Gertrude said softly, and when Mrs. von Epp was ready, she'd guide her to one of the guest rooms.

Gertrude led the visitor to a beautifully, and recently decorated guest room and together they started the transformation process: from drowned rat to society lady. Where Vera had been unforthcoming, with a little gentle coaxing, Gertrude had given Freda everything she needed to know about the forthcoming supper: so that she could dress accordingly. The woman was a useful help, not only in helping the unexpected visitor to undress, bathe and redress her hair, but in helping her to choose some borrowed clothes and even a little jewelry. In fact, the only contribution that Freda herself could make to her ensemble that evening would be a little emergency makeup that she always kept in the jodhpurs pocket. Even out riding it was important to be able to touch yourself up if necessary.

She was just out of the bath, wrapped in towels when Hives had brought the hot toddy, which revived her greatly. She took the opportunity to give the Methuselah-like butler her correct form of address, in case he needed to announce her for dinner. He seemed rather more interested in ogling her bosom as it peaked over her towel than listening, but the wily old bird had indeed taken it in.

Feeling a lot cleaner and dryer, she now looked at the clothes that Gertrude had brought with as much interest as if she were choosing what to wear for a night out at the Savoy, London, or the Ritz-Carlton in New York. She quickly decided that anything of Vera’s would be too small for her – she didn’t want to appear at table looking like an over-stuffed polish sausage. There were a few old things of Vera’s mother’s there which, though ludicrously out of fashion by about ten years, were both beautiful and hardly worn. Freda chose a few items of underwear, hose and footwear and had Gertrude dress her.

All in all they accomplished all this in record time, and it was less than two hours later that Freda, looking every inch the Grande Dame, descended the main staircase and entered the living room to greet Vera again. Hives proceeded her, and announced her in true old world style:

“Fredegund, Gräfin von Epp” he pronounced the countess’ title in impeccable German.

Freda swept into the room, looking like something from a picture book.

“Oh my dear, I’ve borrowed one of your mother’s old frocks, I hope I don’t look too outré for your guests. The last time I wore a number like this was at Maxim’s in Paris during the war.” she gushed.

She assumed that there would be other guests. Surely the two of them weren’t going to dine alone?