Status: Very Active [Camp Nanowrimo 2018]

La Douleur Exquise

Chapter Four

The ride back to Cassiobury house was filled with an awkward silence that had Henrietta set in a sense of discomfort that made her want to scream and demand Alice, Isabella and Susan settle their argument with all apologising. She knew it was unrealistic for them to reconcile their different perspectives so swiftly, but arguing always set her on edge. In a home where arguments led to more than raised voices it was only natural that she feared disagreements, especially among her close friends.

The sky had darkened rapidly and a soft misting of rain began to fall. Usually Alice would complain of the water messing her hair but her stubbornness bid her to silence. Instead, she simply clicked the reigns and urged Percival to trot along faster and reach the homestead quicker; her mouth firmly shut in a straight line.

Through the mist Cassiobury house became a towering structure, the lights glowing golden; a lighthouse directing them home safely. In the safety of those red bricks Henrietta knew she could persuade them all to settle their argument easily, especially once tea was in their stomachs and they no longer shivered in the uncomfortable autumn weather.

Alice was the first to arrive at the stable, hopping off her horse without the aid of the stable boy.

"Make sure they are well fed. The weather has caused them great stress." Alice said as she handed him the reigns. The stable boy responded with a curt nod.

"Yes, my lady." Alice turned to leave but he continued. "The Earl returned during your ride and wishes to see you."

Alice paused in her tracks and swallowed, refraining the urge to sigh in annoyance at the disagreeable time her father had returned home. "He has returned early. Thank you for informing me."

The other girls rode in as Alice waited, her discomfort at the approaching discussion with her father rising in her stomach. Returning early could mean either good or bad fortunes from his trip to London, and she was not sure which she would prefer.

The three girls quickly departed their horses, politely thanking the stable boy for his hand. As they all went to leave and return to Cassiobury House, Alice quickly grabbed at Isabella's sleeve, pulling her aside once outside the stable.

"Wha-" Isabella started but was quickly cut off by a hug from Alice.

"I am sorry for being disagreeable, Isabella. My stubbornness oft makes me misunderstand what is right. I should not have treated you so harsh." Alice murmured into Isabella's shoulder as she hugged her tight. "I cannot bear the weight of your unhappiness on my shoulders."

Isabella hugged Alice back, gripping at the back of Alice's jacket. "And I should not have played you so cruelly. We both were stubborn and I should have seen the middle ground too, it was childish of me. I enjoy the Devil's advocate to a fault."

From behind them Henrietta gave a high pitched squeal of joy at the exchange.

"Finally." Susan exclaimed.

"Do not act innocent." Alice said with a giggle, pointing a finger towards Susan as she untangled herself from Isabella's arms. "You were the fire starter in this situation."

Susan shrugged but her face was bright with a wide smile. "I do not know what you are talking about."

Alice had the underlying urge to snap at Susan but quickly diminished it with a deep sigh. Susan had been one to poke the flames, and though she did not speak cruelly as Isabella had done, she still sought to make Alice unhappy.

"I'm unhappy with you, but I will do well to forgive." Alice settled on, looping her arm through Susan.

Susan glanced downwards, finding interest in their feet in order to not feel the weight of Alice's gaze. The will to be defensive and deny any wrong doing was strong, but like Alice, Susan realised there was no use in holding a grudge. Though she did not voice an apology Susan knew Alice would understand.

"My father has sadly returned home whilst we were out riding. Let us make ourselves presentable before he declares us witches for running round the forests in such unladylike states."


The many years they had spent within Alice's home meant all of them knew the corridors of the great house well. Quickly and quietly they ran up the staff staircases towards the bedrooms. Corsets would be timely to dress in so they swiftly changed into loose day dresses, tying their hair into up-dos to hide the dampness from the rain.

Alice returned down to the sitting room as swift as she could, her three friends following suit.

"Alice!" The Earl of Essex, George Capell, stood by the fireplace, his arm rested on the mantelpiece. He was dressed in his usual dark suit with his equally dark hair neatly cut short.

He made no move to great Alice more than an exclamation of her name. His usual stern structure remained evident with his immovable posture, though Alice had not expected him to change over his short trip to London.

He gave a small nod towards Susan, Henrietta and Isabella as they walked in which they returned with a polite smiles and greetings. Throughout the time they'd known Isabella's father he'd always be a man of rigorous nature; stern and sometimes distant. After the death of Alice's mother, Ellenor, his distant become more prominent. His business became the forefront of his mind, his daughter and two sons slipping to the background. Any sign of affection became more subdued and Alice learnt to deal with her fathers nature though it became easy for her to miss the family life she want had.

"I have good news, Alice." George began, "My discussions with David Grant went much as planned and there is much to speak on."

"Much to speak on?" Alice was confused. The work her father did was not for her knowledge, she knew little on what his work entailed and was shunned when she tried to talk on the matter.

"Yes, yes." He waved his hand, dismissing Alice's question to move onto what he had to say. "David Grant has a daughter, an Adele Capell, and I called upon her father to discuss a proposal."

"A..." Alice was stunned; her words vanishing into nothing as they tried to slip out from her mouth. "A proposal?"
Her mind filled with a whole new bought of worry and fear that threatened to fall from her eyes in a monsoon of tears.

George Capell nodded. "Between Adele Grant and myself. She's a good woman, raised in New York and quite the beauty."

"A proposal?" Alice repeated her words the statement still not fully processing. The sense of relief that it was not her to be wed was quickly overshadowed by the weight of what her father just said.

"Yes, Alice." He sighed in annoyance, stepping away from the mantelpiece and towards Alice. "Are you not hearing what I am saying, damned girl?"

With a swallow Alice turned away. Her eyes darted to her three friends stood by the doorway to the sitting room, all with faces pulled tight in emotionless expressions. Isabella exhaled and gave a slight nod to Alice. It was that silent moment that gave Alice the moment of clarification she needed.

"I will see you tomorrow, father. I am retiring."

"Alice, don't be so..."

Before Alice could here the end of his sentence, she had left the room, Susan and Henrietta rushing behind her already aware of what had upset Alice so whilst her father remained bewildered, cursing his daughter angrily under his breath.

Isabella had chose to stay, taking a step forwards towards the Earl with her chin tilted upward.

"I apologise on behalf of Alice." Isabella stated curtly with a lack of emotion in her voice though she wished she could make her words sharp as daggers.

Although obviously shocked by his daughters outburst George kept his composer sharp. "She is still a child, I oft forget that. Set her calm, if you would, Miss Blackmore."

Isabella nodded in response. "Of course, sir."

"You may leave." With that, George turned away and walked towards the windows at the far end of the sitting room; observing the rain that had begun to fall heavily from the thick clouds.

Isabella had the urge to throw arms; to question his insensitivity towards his daughter that once seemed so dear to him. Alice's unhappiness was warranted. She was allowed to feel this sense of misery and betrayal at her father so quickly moving to marry another when the wound of her mother's death obviously burned so fresh. Though five years had passed, for a girl whose mother represented her universe, this was but recent. She was still young and the turn of time had yet to whittle away at her thoughts and memories.

Isabella felt the burn too. She remembered nights by Alice's side, silently sharing her tears and staying awake for days on end to comfort her and save her from the encroaching nightmares. Even now the letters she shared with Alice always spoke of her mother; how she missed her, how she'd respond to Alice's questions, how she'd keep her father tied to his family and keep them smiling. It felt insensitive to move on towards a new marriage, no matter how prestigious and beautiful Adele Grant may be.

But Isabella could say nothing, so she turned towards the door and rushed up the closest staircase that led to Alice's room.


Alice had thrown herself to her bed, her eyes freeing the tears that she had tried hard to keep within her in the presence of her father. Henrietta was instantly by her side, hand stroking Alice's blonde waves and whispering comforting nothings in an attempt to keep Alice calm.

As soon as Isabella returned to the room, Susan shut the door behind her and began pulling the stockings back around the door frame to block the sound.

"There, there, Alice." Henrietta softly spoke.

"Oh Alice." Isabella sat upon the ottoman at the end of the four poster where Alice heartily cried, her tears becoming choked out in broken sobs. "I cannot explain how sorry I am."

"Your apologies matter not, my Isabella." The broken, muffled reply came from Alice. "My father is the one who has wronged me!"

Isabella sighed. Her sympathy would accomplish nothing, but it was all she could offer to her crying friend. The girls sat in silence as Alice let the tears fall and her wails shake her body. Her body heaved; her distraught so obvious. They let her cry though. It was unlikely that she would get to express her feelings like this again, and the release would help her greatly. They could talk with her once she was all cried out.

Though it was a dark day, it was not until the night had become near black that Alice was finally ready to speak. Isabella had called for a tray of tea and biscuits, which Alice quietly chewed on, regaining the energy she needed to speak. Her head ached and everything was still blurry from the tears.

With a sniffle, she began to talk.

"Thank you." She whispered, her voice cracking.

"We did but nothing." Henrietta replied, moving to sit on the bed next to her friend.

Alice coughed to relieve the croak that her voice, strained from sobs. "Your comfort is enough. It is more than my father would ever offer."

She took a deep drink of tea before continuing. "I do not know how he could do such a thing! It is as if he has forgotten my mother already! What great need could he have to remarry? We have no need for another woman in this house, everything is simply fine."

"Sometimes things happen beyond our understanding." Henrietta said with sympathy, "Your father is difficult to read and it is unlikely we will ever know his intentions. The best in this situation is to accept that this may be something you will not know."

With an annoyed sigh, Alice nodded. "Though I do wish I could know!"

"The poor punishment of weak woman! We are too fragile to learn of men's true intentions." Isabella exclaimed with a sarcastic air that made Alice smile through her drying tears.

"If only we were born men." Henrietta added, her heart heavy. "Then things would be considerably easier."

Her friends muttered displeased agreement, unaware of the true meaning behind the words Henrietta spoke. But there was something in Henrietta that lightened at their response. Maybe a confessional of how she internally felt would not be as badly received as she thought. A feeling of comfort in her skin may never be attainable but a slight comfort within her mind and amongst friends could be just a conversation away.

She glanced towards Alice who was beginning to warm up, the tone of her skin returning to normal though her eyes remained puffy. The time for that conversation was not now. Someone else's trauma deserved attention more.

"Have you sent message to your parents about your whereabouts?" Alice asked, still considerate of her friends even whilst her head was a mess of emotions.

Susan shrugged, "I told my father I would be staying with the Capell family for a while when I left. He does not expect me back anytime soon." She paused, "Except for Sunday church service."

"I doubt they have noticed I've been gone." Henrietta answered, her tone disinterested.

Alice smiled weakly, "I guess we are fine to spend another night together then."


Instead of returning to their bed chambers, the four girls spent their night squeezed into Alice's four poster. Though a large bed, it did not comfortably sleep four people easily. It sent a sense of calm through Alice as her friends whispered quietly, snuggled together under thick duvets of down. Just the other night Henrietta had seemed so nervous about this level of vulnerability yet she put that behind her tonight to comfort Alice.

Alice rolled onto her side, facing towards Henrietta who lay to the side closest to the door. She'd been twirling her hair between her fingers occasionally laughing at the whispered remarks Susan and Isabella made as they laid next to each other to the right of Alice.

"Thank you, Henrietta." Alice whispered.

"You thanked me earlier." Henrietta replied with a soft smile.

"No, no." Alice continued, "For being so kind when you truly deserve the capacity to be selfish."

Henrietta tilted her head, turning to face Alice more head on. "What do you mean?"

Alice reached out and took a few strands of Henrietta's auburn hair, braiding them loosely as she continued to speak. "Your home life is often hard, yet you remain so quiet about it. You persevere when I so easily let myself fall to fragility and allow emotions to control me."

Henrietta shrugged, "It is what I must do. There is little else to it."

Alice silently observed Henrietta, her fingers still moving through Henrietta's locks.

"We are from different lives." Henrietta continued, "You've had the opportunity to let emotions to flow. To speak to those who will listen and have a family, though often difficult, who you can depend on. It has made you who you are, and that is not something you should feel weakness about."

Alice went to speak her disagreement, but Henrietta shushed her politely and continued once more. "You are good, Alice. You are caring, intelligent, and so beautiful on the inside and out. Do not feel that your sorrowful moments make you a bad person, my dear. You are Alice Capell, and you are wonderful."

It took until the tear hit her cheek to realise that she was crying. Henrietta reached up and wiped the small teardrop from Alice's cheek.

"Why are you crying?" Henrietta said, her voice weighted with worry.

Alice laughed lightly, "No! I am happy! You are such a sweet friend and I do not deserve the luxury of your companionship."

"Silly girl!" Henrietta laughed, pulling Alice towards her in a tight hug. "We are most deserving of each other, and I love you dearly!"

From behind her, Alice felt the arms of Isabella wrap around her waist and the hand of Susan, gently rest on her hip.

"We all love you, Alice." Isabella whispered into Alice's back, squeezing her tightly.

It had been so long since Alice had felt such happiness.
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I'm actually up to about Chapter Ten but it's taking me so long to go back and make sure I'm happy enough to post the chapters on Mibba. I've also realised that the 30,000 goal I set for Camp Nano will only cover about a quarter of my plans for this book which is both terrifying and exciting.