Maudie (The Line of Passion Trilogy - book 1)
The Line of Passion Trilogy is a series of novellas written about three generations of women who gamble everything they possess for the sake of passion. When rich woman, Maudie manages to fall hopelessly in love with a poet, she risks the loss of not only her marriage and fortune, but most of all the daughter she adores. obooko.
Celia Barrie was quite possibly the most annoying person Maudie had ever met. These monthly afternoon teas in the drawing room of Redlands were supposed to be a chance for the women of the 'Cheshire Set' to mix and discuss up and coming social events, and arrange whatever charity functions they were involved in. Celia, however, used them as nothing more than an excuse to hold court, boasting of the dinner party she'd recently held that had been attended by none other than Nancy Mitford and her intended, the Rt Hon Peter Rodd. In all fairness, it was the ambition of many a young woman of a certain class, to actually meet one of the Mitfords, and while Celia's story had started off as quite interesting, on it's third re-telling, it was starting to grate. All of the women here were far too polite to tell her to shut up, but glanced at one another, wishing one of them was brave enough to actually say it.
As hostess, it was up to Maudie to conduct the proceedings, but she was otherwise engaged, too busy staring out the window, idly looking at the grounds, thinking how bleak everything looked with that dull, February mist covering it.
The snow had cleared, but the plants were now ruined, and the brickwork on the perimeter wall was starting to crack. Even the grass had lost its lustre and she longed for spring to come, when things would start coming back to life.
Maudie wondered if she climbed to the top of the house, she'd be able to see Liverpool. It was only twenty miles away, and old Mrs Addenbrook, who worked in kitchen, reckoned that when she started here at Redlands back in 1885, if she went up onto the roof, she was able to see the sailing ships heading out of the Mersey. Maudie didn't know if this was true or not - she was afraid of heights and had never tried; but her home city was featuring heavily in her thoughts today.
She'd sent a letter to her mother this morning, telling her it was okay for her cousin Daisy to hold her wedding reception here at Redlands. With Julian down in London, and Agnes visiting family in Ireland, she'd not run the decision past anyone and dreaded the response she was going to get from her husband and mother-in-law when they returned.
Suddenly, she was awoken from her reverie by a voice.
'Do you think you could help me with that Maudie?'
Snapping from her trance, she saw Ethel Dunmore was looking at her, her big blue eyes blinking expectantly from behind her bottle top glasses, her saucer and cup held in mid-air.
'I'm sorry?' Maudie asked.
'I was rather hoping you'd help me choose a selection of outfits to take to the Duke of Cumberland's. We do all so rate your fashion choices Maudie.'
'Yes of course,' she smiled. 'It would be a pleasure. When are you going?'
'Oh you really are a Dolly Daydream aren't you?' Celia berated, looking around the room for support. 'Ethel's just spent the past five minutes talking about it. They're going there for Easter.'
'I thought maybe we could go shopping in London Maudie,' Ethel suggested. 'We could go to Harrods and perhaps stay at The Ritz. I would rather like to go and see Private Lives as well, Noel Coward is so terribly cheeky.'
'That sounds wonderful,' Maudie smiled politely, although the thought of being marooned in London with the terminally dull Mrs Dunmore did not exactly fill her with inspiration. 'Although of course I'll have to check with Julian first.'
The women started chattering about something else, and Maudie found herself drifting off once more, wishing they would all go away. When she'd first married Julian and entered the social scene, she'd found her peers' fascination with her good looks quite flattering, and had played upon it. She always made sure she had fashion magazines sent over from France, so she could instruct her dress-maker of the latest trends, and make her friends envious when she wore clothes and hairstyles they'd never seen before. The rather pasty, in-bred Cheshire wives were fascinated by her black hair, olive skin and ebony eyes. Of course they never spoke of the real reason she looked so exotic - to admit that one of their circle was the daughter of Irish peasants was anathema to them. They preferred just to treat her like a glamorous trophy, something to show off at parties - after all, no one would really know that she was common, she'd been brought up to be such a lady.
She laughed at how all her so-called friends had copied her hairstyle. She'd let the neat bob she'd sported in the twenties grow a little, and with extra length, her natural waves had taken shape, and to finish it off, she'd had a very short fringe cut in. Julian had said she now looked like Joan of Arc, but Maudie didn't care. She took pleasure in watching as gradually one by one, her friends would turn up, sporting some variation. They were all so pathetic; and while she enjoyed being a
'star', among them, sometimes she longed to do something interesting and worthwhile, rather than sit around drinking coffee and talking about other equally pathetic women and their boring lives.
There was a knock on the door and Lucy, the youngest housemaid entered, doing a little courtesy to Maudie and her friends.
'Mrs Gilbert-Wood is here to see you ma'am,' she said politely, doing all she could to soften her Scouse accent.
'Send her in Lucy,' Maudie said. 'And fetch us some more coffee, thank you.'
She looked around and saw her friends visibly bristling at the prospect of spending time in the company of Grace Gilbert-Wood. Unlike them, Grace refused to bow to convention. She eschewed the boring social duties and instead, despite having a huge personal fortune and a husband who was almost as rich, chose to throw herself into various causes - some of which were unsavoury to the good ladies of Cheshire. Maudie had known Grace all her life and adored her - she embodied the spirit she once thought she had, but had got lost along the way.
The drawing room door opened and Grace strode in. She had obviously come from tinkering with Isabella, her little aeroplane, as her grey slacks were splattered with engine oil, as was one of the cuffs of her Aran sweater.
'Hello ladies,' she chuckled, in that big, booming voice of hers. 'How is everyone?'
There were lots of mumbled 'fine thank yous' and theatrical looking at watches before Celia picked up her bag.
'I think it's time I was heading off, I've a lunch appointment in Chester.'
There was a chorus of 'me toos' from the likes of Ethel Dunmore, Judith Rutland, and Edwina Forbes-Campbell. Trying not to laugh, Maudie rang for Holmes, the butler, to fetch the ladies', coats and respective drivers, who would all be gathered in the Lodge, drinking tea and playing cards while they waited for their employers to leave. Grace sat down next to Maudie and watched the nice ladies leave, and as each one did, commented on her appearance, saying how pretty she looked in that dress, or asking if she'd taken a lover because she was glowing.
Grace knew the rumours that circulated about her, and how uncomfortable it made the other women when she spoke in this manner, so she did it all the more, just to annoy them.
Once they were all gone, Maudie sighed in relief and flopped back on Agnes' beloved French tapestry sofa.
'Thanks for rescuing me,' she said. 'I thought I was about to die of boredom.'
'Ethel was looking quite saucy,' Grace laughed. 'What's got her gander up?'
'She's going to the Duke of Cumberland's for Easter and she wants me to help her choose a wardrobe. She thinks I'm going to transform her into Greta Garbo!'
'Well, I come here also requiring your services,' Grace said, pushing a lock of her wild, blonde hair off her face and smearing oil all over her forehead in the process. 'I was wondering if you fancied coming to Liverpool next Thursday.'