The Sterley's of Oakland Park

Chapter 5
A death in the family

 “Mamma come quickly, it seems as if George has come to visit” said Mary as she looked out the window below in the yard George Parker was handing the reins of his mount to a groom.

“It would seem that he might have some business with Lydia,” said Lady Ann “Indeed Mamma you have no way of knowing that?” Replied Mary “I do indeed know this I have had a note from him this very morning requesting a moment with Lydia” said Lady Ann

“Go and find Lydia,” said Lady Ann”

George Parker entered the drawing room after been announced by the butler.


“Good day Lady Ann I trust this morning finds you well? Said George Parker, Good day George I am in the best of health pray how is your dear Mamma I should pay you Mamma a visit shortly.” Said Lady Ann


“”Mamma and papa are exceedingly well and send there regards,” said George the sound of excited female voices could be heard in the hall Lydia, Sophia and Mary entered the drawing room.


“Why George we seldom see you of late I quite believe that your father keeps you quite busy with his rents and business,” said Lydia. “All affairs are in hand my dear Lydia,” said George. “Pray Lady Ann I beg that you would excuse me if I took Lydia for a round in the garden”  said George “Indeed young Mr. Parker you may Sophia, Mary pray come with me to the kitchen I fancy we will need to address cook” said Lady Ann.


“Oh Mamma must we would rather go with George and Lydia” answered Mary “No my dear child there are things that I believe George will want to talk to Lydia about that are not for your ears” said Lady Ann sternly.


A while later George and Lydia were making there rounds in the garden, they chanced to stop under one of the great oaks that stood in front of the house. “Lydia I have some thing of importance to impart to you of the greatest significance and a matter of how I feel about you” Said George. “Pray George please speak plainly tell me what you have on your mind” said Lydia. “Madam I have long been one of your most ardent admirers, I have long held the hope within my heart, that one day that you would do me the very great honor of becoming my wife,” said George. “


“George, I can only consent if you speak to Papa I would be very happy to marry you to become your wife but I cannot do it with out the blessings of my father” said Lydia


Lydia I will this instant speak to your papa for I have long held the idea that he and my father have had this marriage in mind. for they are old friends with the estates of my father coming to me one day I will be able to care for you in the manner in which you are accustom” said George.


Turning now once more to the house the two young people proceeded at an advanced pace for they were in a hurry to have George speak with Sir Thomas. Unknown to them Sir Thomas and Lady Ann watched from the window of the study. A look of profound pleasure rested upon there brows for they were well aware of the mission upon which George had set out that morning to accomplish at Oakland Park... “You had better return to the drawing room lest the young people become alarmed and think some thing is amiss,” said Sir Thomas. “Yes my dear husband,” said Lady Ann” You will of course remember to be stern at first with young George?” said the good lady...


“Indeed madam I am well aware of the attitude of a prospective father-in-law are, I would ask that you make haste and take up your former occupation in the withdrawing room,” said Sir Thomas.


It was not long before George Parker was closeted with Sir Thomas in the drawing room the females of the household whispered softly to each other of the events that had transpired in the garden between Lydia and George Park. Lydia in the mean time found herself in a highly agitated state of nerves for she imagined on occasion she heard the voice of her father then George voice could be heard raised in some thing, which did not sound like pleasant communication.


Shortly the door of the study was flung open, George Parker stepped out for a moment he took hold of the hand of Lydia then letting go walked off to the withdrawing room.


Lydia hurried into the study looking up from his desk Sir Thomas addressed his eldest daughter. “Well my girl I hope you will be happy if you love him then remember. That he will always turn to you for advice and comfort. Now go to him before your Mamma smothers him in caresses for I am sure that this is a happy occasion for which she has long been waiting,” he concluded.


“Dearest lovable Papa I give you my thanks,” said Lydia before leaving the study. From the drawing room, the sound of happy voices could be heard. “Pray Sophia fetch your Papa from the study for he should be here to celebrate this good news,” said Lady Ann.


“Mary send one of the servants to find Tom and John so they might also share in this happy occasion,” she continued.


“So George you are to be our son-in–law pray that when things go ill with you that you will always remember that you can speak plainly without fear of retribution. for I know my daughter and I am sure that there will be occasions when you will want the advice of a mother-n-law” said Lady Ann. “My dear wife do not scare the boy so you will have him running home to his parents err long. If you continue in this vain,” said Sir Thomas.



My Dear Ann you must try this chicken it is the most flavorsome bird I have ever tasted” said Lady Sarah. “Yes I dare say that cook has out done herself this evening,” said Lady Ann

“Ill warrant that you had some thing to do with the flavor for did I not see you in the kitchen earlier today?” asked Lady Sarah. “It was but a sham to get Sophia and Mary away from George and Lydia while he proposed” said Lady Ann. “Ah yes it is indeed a good day when ones eldest daughter is made a marriage proposal from such an agreeable young gentleman. 


Sir Thomas entering the dinning room remarked, “We just got the lambs of the higher pasture the weather is bound to turn cold this night,” he said as he seated himself at the table. “Indeed there is a bracing of the elements,” said Lady Sarah as she dug into another helping of potatoes.


“One wonders what we would do with out the humble potatoes said Sir Thomas as he helped himself to a serving of the same. “I have more then a passing fancy for that vegetable” said Lady Sarah as sweat bead began appearing upon her forehead. “The French of course will eat all manner of things but I prefer the humble boiled potatoes of old England over any foreign concoction,” said Sir Thomas


“I believe that I have never dinned so well in all my life Ann your cook has really out done herself this evening,” said Lady Sarah.  "Sarah you talk as if you are starved pray have we not always made sure there is enough upon the table have I stopped you from eating any thing” asked Lady Ann. Some what concerned   at the strange behavior of Lady Sarah who at that instant had broken off a piece of bread and was mopping the last of her mashed potato. With butter into her mouth “My dear Ann I merely mention this in passing as this evenings meal is uncommon in its wonderful flavor and aroma” said Lady Sarah.


After dinner, the company returned to the drawing room where a great fire had been build in the fireplace. it was around this warmth that the Sterley’s and there guests George Parker Lady Sarah and Arabella gathered for it was one of those evenings which comes at the end of an English autumn which all men long for hearth and home.


A while later Lady Sarah said, “I am exceedingly tired I will bid you all a good night” as she rose taking a candle to light her way. Her good night was greeted by various members of the assembled company wishing her a good nights rest. “Till the morrow dear Sarah” said Lady Ann. At ten o’clock Lady Ann and Sir Thomas retired to there bed chamber the wind blew with out as a tempest began to build.


Later in the night Arabella woke Lady Ann “Come quickly my dear Aunt for Mamma is in some distress I fear for her she seems most ill,” said the young woman as lady Ann pulled on a gown for the night was cold and there was frost upon the windowpane.

Upon arriving at the bedchamber, the Fitz-Gibbon’s shared Ann took in immediately that some thing of a serious nature had occurred for her dear cousin lay upon the bed her color gone deadly grey her breathing labouredly. “I must wake Sir Thomas immediately” said Lady Ann “Dear Arabella pray go and wake Lydia and bid her come this instant  to watch with you over your dear Mamma” said Lady Ann.



Upon been awakened and made aware of his guests distress Sir Thomas roused Tom and together father and son rode to Notheringay to fetch doctor Booth away from his slumber and contentment in the arms of morpius


Doctor Booth leaned once more over Lady Sarah took her pulse shook his head and laid her hand down. Taking up a mirror he placed it before the patents nose for a full minute he remain in this position then  his hand he closed her eyes. I fear Lady Sarah is no more a sudden change in temperature a shock of sorts a sudden stopping of the heart I believe has taken her from this world. If her constitution had been stronger she might have lived but the sudden change in weather and a heavy meal of sorts has put her beyond our help.” He concluded.


“The sobbing that burst from Arabella was like a fountain which had long been bottled up for as a child she had been in the most fortunate position of been doted upon by both her parents. Lady Sarah who had known what it was like to be ignored as a child had devoted a large amount of time to the bringing up of her daughter. thus her sudden passing was felt more acutely by Arabella then would normally have been the case Lady Ann came to the young woman embraced he and led her away saying as she did “ There, there poor child she is quite in a state of nerves. Lydia dear bring some brandy for her” she shall spend the rest of the night in my chamber” Ann concluded



The first snow was upon the ground Sophia lifted the hem of her dress as she moved across the steps in front  of the house, it had been only a few short hours since Lady Sarah Fitz-Gibbon had passed away yet so much had already happened since then. Lord Charles Fitz-Gibbon had arrived this morning Papa had greeted the nobleman with as much tenderness as one would expect on such a sad occasion.


Arabella was with her father now both giving a measure of comfort to each other at


The distance to the estate of Lord Fitz-Gibbon been great it was decided to lay the mortal remains of Lady Sarah to rest in the vault of  the Notheringay Church in the tomb of Sterley family. This was done that it might not distress Arabella and Charles Fits-Gibbon who had been very close to his lately departed wife.



The snow began to fall as the parson intoned the words from the Book of Common Prayer when His Lordship and Arabella left the church the snow was thick upon the ground. The wheels of the carriage leaving long tell tale signs in the earth as it moved off. Sir Thomas and Lady Ann followed in there own carriage back to Oakland park the two carriages went the occupants of both silent in there reflection at the sorry and speed at which one of there number had been snatched away.


 “I trust that I can leave Arabella in your care Ann” said Lord Charles Fitz-Gibbon “Of late there is much to keep me busy in the north and I will have little time to comfort her  as you know Sarah and Arabella where exceptionally close” he continued. “It would indeed be a pleasure to care for her Charles” said Lady Ann. “I know this is a trying time for you and for dear sweet Arabella it must simply be the worst but have no fear cousin I will take very good care of her” she ended.


“May I offer you a glass of brandy” enquired Sir Thomas of Lord Charles “Capital idea sir capital” said his lordship as he took the offered glass. The two men stood watching the weather outside from the large bay window that was a feature of the study. The ground was already covered with snow it seemed as if it might snow again Sir Thomas had tried to make his guest stay another day. However, Lord Charles pleaded urgent business and could not delay for he would have to return to his estates to put Lady Sarah’s affairs in order. The death of his wife had come as a shock to every one including him for he had always believed that Sarah had been of a very robust nature. Seldom sickened but he knew of old that when indeed she did sicken it was usually of a serious nature for Lady Sarah had loved the outdoors and could not bear to be abed unless she was exceptionally ill or in childbirth.


Sir Charles took leave of his daughter and Oakland Park on a dreary wet morning in October. Now the inhabitants of Oakland Park returned to there various occupations Sir Thomas to his study where he once more took up his pen and continued his to work on his study of the bird life of Southern England. Lady Ann and her daughters found themselves once more in the withdrawing room stitching various objects of needlework. For it was the season when the house was fully occupied with preparations for the Yuletide and thus much work was to be done.


The young men of the family found themselves busying themselves with games of cards, reading  and writing  for it was a slow time of the year for them Young Tom begun once more to write verse for he had in mind a number of things he wished to share with the family on certain winter evenings. John found his time occupied by the study and cataloging of various seeds for next spring’s plantings.


“Arabella dear do take some tea with me” said Lady Ann who was doing her best to relive the sadness that beset the heart of her young relative. “Lydia pray play an air for us the air is so oppressive I fear that winter has come to stay for quite a long spell and needs to be dispersed with a country air, Mary please accompany your sister you have such a fine voice” said Lady Ann.


While Lydia played lady Ann began to consider the forthcoming nuptials of her daughter and George Parker, she began to plan in detail the wedding for according to her the wedding should take place in the spring when the first blossoms began to show.


Lydia stopped playing the last strains of the music lingering for a moment “Mamma I believe that it will be the grandest wedding that Notheringay has seen in a long time” she said. “Yes my dear in a while we will begin to stitch your wedding robes I think that we know enough to make it quite a dress one that will make the county gasp at your beauty” said Lady Ann. “Oh Mamma you do say the strangest things” laughed Lydia who considered herself quite plan. “Oh do I indeed daughter pray are you not one of the prettiest of the Sterley’s? Asked Lady Ann. “If you say so Mamma” said Lydia quite giving in to her mother for she had learned a long time ago that to gainsay her mother was a battle that she would not and could not win.


“Sir Thomas entered the drawing room and poured a cup of tea, I believe that it will get a lot colder before the day ends,” he said. “Dearest husband you do have a way of putting a damper on our every occasion” said Lady Ann


“Do I my dear?” he asked a little taken aback for he had always considered himself a rather lighthearted person.


The light of a number of candles burned brightly in the dinning room of Oakland Park the inhabitants of Oakland Park and there guests the Parkers where sitting down to dinner upon the table was a number of dishes of the smell of roast pork and beef filled the room


Sir Thomas said Grace there after the company fell to a various attack upon the various dishes. “I would like to know what profound course has set your cook to make such fine dishes said Emily Parker.


“Ah the cooking of Mrs. Murphy she is the best cook we have ever had recently come over with her whole family at Thomas’s insistence” said Lady Ann. “Why Sir Thomas I had no idea that you had such feelings for the Irish poor” said Mr Parker. “Indeed I do not know much of the Irish poor but of Mr Murphy I know a great deal,” said Sir Thomas.


“I wonder sir if you had occasion while in Ireland to do any hunting?” asked Mr Parker “I did not have much occasion to hunt on the estates of my Lord of Waterford” said Sir Thomas. “Murphy is now one of my best servants I have gained two pearls of great price in the Murphy’s,” said Sir Thomas.


“Pray pass the gravy Lydia dear,” said Lady Ann who was busy addressing a vast lump of steaming beef and roast potatoes. “Taking a bit of a piece of roast pork Sir Thomas contemplated a heap of green peas. “I wonder where she learned to cook for surely the Irish did not have a great deal in the way of food to feed themselves,” said Sir Thomas. ‘I believe she spent a number of years in service to the Earl of Waterford,” said Lady Ann.


“I think before to long we will have to start planning the wedding my dear Emily” said Lady Ann. “That it seems is the only thing my dear wife has been thinking of these past few days’ said Sir Thomas. “Have no fear Sir Thomas for Emily has been confounding me with all her suggestions. I am right glad that we have this occasion to visit for they can now lie along side like two old warship and have a battle of it,” said Mr Parker.


“Oh William how else is a mother to behave when her first born son is to be married?” asked Emily Parker off her husband. “I quite agree said Lady Ann the first marriage is always the most important for it is the one which counts all further marriages in a house are judged on the first one, to marry well is a young lady’s highest priority” she continued.


Dinner now at an end the woman with drew to one of the warmer chambers of the house while Sir Thomas and Mr Parker went into the study to draw a pipe or two. “Well William I believe we will soon be calling one another brother-in-law” said Sir Thomas. “It would appear so I have decided to settle three thousand pounds on George annually,” said Mr Parker. “That is a most generous annuity indeed I will of course settle a generous dowry on Lydia and a thousand pounds on the first born child of there union” said Sir Thomas.


“I think that three thousand should be enough for them to start with find a house of there own, it has come to my attention that Morton Grange is vacant I will look into it and see if the grange will make a suitable home for them” said William Parker. “Yes it is tragic how that house became available," remarked Sir Thomas who was thinking of the former owner Lord John Morton who for his sins had tried but failed to keep a wife. “I do not think that poor Lord John could have done any thing else after Elizabeth deserted him” said Mr Parker.


The story of Morton Grange was a curiosity for Lord John Morton had returned from India after many years in the service of the Honorable East India Company.  Taken a young wife the marriage from all accounts was not a happy one for the young woman in question had been brought up in India and by all accounts was given to wild and reckless behavior.  The previous year in the spring of 1812, she had commenced a liaison with an officer of the continental army. Abandoning Lord John in a moment of madness Elizabeth had fled to be with her continental nobleman. Lord John an old veteran of love and war seeming no future for himself at the grange and having contemplated getting his wife back came to a decision there after  he wrote a note and then shot himself after consuming a vast amount of brandy. Thus, once the executor of the Morton family had settled the estate of Lord John they had put up the grange for sale for Lord John was the last of his line. It had remained untaken since it had been closed this was the house that the future parents of the happy couple began to think of a suitable home for there respective children.


“George will you read for us?” asked Lady Ann “ It would give me pleasure to do so dearest Lady Ann” said George Parker “Please George you must begin to call me Mamma for what would the parson think if on your wedding day you addressed me as Lady Ann? Come my boy from now on I am your Mamma Lydia you will address Aunt Emily no longer as aunt but as Mamma do I make myself clear?” said Lady Ann. “Yes Mamma” Lydia for it had been the young woman’s intention to do exactly as her mother had specified. Having come to this conclusion some time earlier in the afternoon but until this very moment had not yet found occasion to address Mrs. Parker directly.


“Tom please so good as to go and find your father and Mr Parker pray that I beg to inform them that they should not tarry overlong in the study with those despicable pipes. Return directly and be of good company to us,” said Lady Ann “Tom rose from his occupation and proceeded to the study to deliver the message. Returned and resumed his seat next to Arabella for they had of late become engaged in a discussion on various matters of poetry and the new work by a young lady of genteel birth, which they were currently reading.


For Thomas held there was no greater writer then Sir Walter Scott while Arabella contended that the young lady of genteel was one of the best literary lights of the current age. Tom confessed that he did enjoy somewhat the work of  the anonymous young lady of genteel birth but if one wished to read seriously then the works of Sir Walter were exactly the right thing.



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